Maybe Baffert should just take the blinkers off all his horses. Except poor Irish Gypsy, who never stood a chance today… and we’ll come to these things in a second.

Saratoga has been playing like a conveyer belt all weekend, though it was more pronounced today than yesterday. Tizway won the Whitney from a perfect stalking position while long shot Friend or Foe looked for a while like he would go all the way on the lead; tons of respect to Giant Oak, who seemed to be the only powerful closer of the weekend at the Spa, nipping the pacesetter for third. Still, it does look like we have something of a division leader now in Tizway, who ran his GI win streak to two. Meanwhile, Turbulent Descent rated just behind three long shots including Pomeroys Pistol, who stayed on for second. There was really no beating Turbulent Descent on that day.

Prayer For Relief, a Baffert horse who does not run with blinkers, won the West Virginia Derby in convincing fashion after looking like he’d flattened out on the stretch. Maybe a light bulb just flipped on in his head, because right around the sixteenth pole, he put on a hell of a lunge for the wire. Runner-up Rush Now, a beautiful white-faced son of Tiznow, ran very well for the place, but Prayer For Relief found another gear and looked like he was in another league.

Give it up for both Ultra Blend and Zazu (and the classy-as-hell Switch while we’re at it), who put on a spectacular stretch drive in the Clement Hirsch and proved yet again that the fillies and mares are still the ones with the magic on this continent. Zazu, who was attempting to become the first three-year-old ever to win the GI Hirsch, was stopped at the rail at the top of the stretch only to come flying down the rail at the end, very nearly wresting the lead from Ultra Blend, whose sweeping bid on the far outside seemed a tribute to the great mare who won the previous three runnings of this race. Garrett Gomez, who rode Zazu, feels the order of the top two might have been reversed if the daughter of Tapit had gotten out just a little bit sooner. Hopefully we’ll find out if he’s right the next time these talented racehorses–and Switch, too, for that matter–meet again.

Now, on to the matter of Baffert and blinkers. He took them off Coil, and suddenly Coil turned into Point Given. Brigand, who ran the first poor race of his young career today, seems to be exhibiting a similar pattern. He was very keen early in the Best Pal, ran up to challenge for the lead and had little to give late when the closers came flying. I would take the blinkers off this son of Flatter and see if he can rate; he has the pedigree for distance and displayed a ton of talent in his first two starts.

Finally, back to Saratoga and its weekend-long love affair with speed, which murdered the chances of closers Champagne d’Oro and Irish Gypsy in the Honorable Miss Handicap (and gave front-running 9-5 shot Tar Heel Mom a free pass to the winner’s circle) and no doubt resulted in the heartbreaking result of the Vanderbilt.

Trappe Shot ran his heart out. He never stopped to take a breath once during the long run from turn to wire, and at the finish looked like he might even have caught long shot Sean Avery, who set quick fractions but was never pressed on the lead. The final time of 1:09.71 was spectacular for the tough, heavy condition of the track, which was playing easier on the rail…where Trappe Shot never set foot and where Sean Avery spent the whole race. There is no doubt in my mind that Trappe Shot was the best horse in that race. The racing gods placed their favour on the wrong nose.

And yet… do you know, I’ve seen Sean Avery in person before? At Saratoga, too. He was in the maiden race won by Munnings. SMALL WORLD

 

In auction type news, the Saratoga yearling sale opens tomorrow with session one. After compulsively staring at pedigrees and videos and TrueNicks reports, I narrowed down the list from 160 to 17, with six favourites: hips 56, 68, 90, 98, 122 and 140.

56: Superfection
Bay colt, April 11
Medaglia d’Oro x Supercharger (A.P. Indy)
Yeah, that’s right: a half-brother to Super Saver and Brethren, by Medaglia d’Oro. To make matters worse, he Nicks an A++. The pocketbooks of millionaires everywhere are doomed.

68:
Grey colt, March 21
Distorted Humor x Wait a While (Maria’s Mon)
The first foal of multiple GI-winning champion Wait a While is sure to bring a huge price, especially when the sire is the might Distorted Humor, a perpetual force on the sire lists (4th so far this year) and responsible for the likes of Funny Cide, Flower Alley, Hystericalady and Commentator among his seven millionaire offspring. First reports from the sale ground indicate that he moves like a friggin’ cloud.

90:
Bay colt, March 14
Hard Spun x Campionessa (A.P. Indy)
A hunch pick, more than anything. Campionessa comes from a relatively modest family, though she has her fair share of stakes-winning relatives and her dam is GI winner Pacific Squall. But my adoration stems more from his good balance, strong shoulder and topline, sprightly walk and overall kind demeanour; you can see from his “virtual inspection” video that he is easily led with no chains despite being very alert, and stands willingly for his tiny female handler despite his attention obviously being all over the place. He would be my bargain buy, a probably lower-priced individual who I’m sure would pay dividends. And if not… he looks like he’d make a brilliant jumper. xD

98:
Chestnut filly, January 15
Curlin x Collect Call (Meadowlake)
Half to Old Fashioned. One of Curlin’s first born. Huge, perfectly balanced, with shoulder and leg imported directly from daddy. Nineteen months old and looks four. Years old, that is. And she is the love of my life.

122:
Gray filly, March 25
Macho Uno x Freedom Come (Lit de Justice)
A full sister to Harlem Rocker, this one’s just the prettiest thing. A slim filly with a huge walk, she looks almost identical in structure to her big brother, only on a less-developed scale. Very excited to watch this one grow into her bones.

140:
Brown filly, January 30
Medaglia d’Oro x Intangaroo (Orientate)
The first foal of GI winner Intangaroo gets an A++ nick and… is basically a Medaglia filly through and through. Her walk is elegant, her topline looks like one long, flat line, and her shoulder and front legs are perfect. She may be faulted for very slight sickle hocks, but honestly that’s just being excessively picky.

 

Anybody got a yearling they’d jump on if they had too much money?


Curlin. I love him so. I will always love him so. He is perfect.

His babies are also perfect.

For the record, those three are, in order: a half-brother to Secret Status, out of an Argentinean GI winner, and a half-sister to Old Fashioned. The third one is my new favourite thing ever. I mean it. I want her.


Zazu and Switch. Together. Gah.

Also Trappe Shot in the Vanderbilt and Brigand in the Best Pal I think somebody out there thought it was my birthday. Alas, no, my birthday is in September. In exactly one month less a day, in fact.

The whole field for the Vanderbilt is pretty good, come to think of it. Trappe Shot is joined by Noble’s Promise, Atta Boy Roy, Hamazing Destiny and Calibrachoa, among others, though on talent Trappe Shot appears about a furlong the best. Noble’s Promise on his best day can make it interesting, but the imposing chestnut by Tapit will be a deserving favourite to take his first GI.

And who is Brigand, you ask? Remember when Bob Baffert and Khaleem Shah shelled out $925,000 in March for the fastest damn son of Flatter anyone had ever seen? Remember the quarter mile in :20 3/5? Well, after flying through 5.5 furlongs in 1:04.94 in his July 3rd debut, he came back fourteen days later to finish second to Majestic City in the GIII Hollywood Juvenile Championship. In this, his third race, he returns a mere twenty-one days later to stretch out slightly to 6.5 furlongs in the GII Best Pal Stakes. Remember, this is a son of Flatter–a stallion bred on the cross of A.P. Indy and Mr. Prospector, route horses both–out of a mare by the old warrior Quiet American. This pedigree screams distance at the top of its blue-blooded lungs. His 3×4 inbreeding to Mr. Prospector would seem to work against precocious development. And yet, Brigand scorched a twenty-second quarter when he’d barely turned two (he’s a march foal), won an early July debut at five and a half furlongs and, just five weeks after his first start, will be competing in his second graded stakes and going off as the favourite.

Give it to Bob Baffert, ladies and gentlemen. He knows how to pick ’em, and he sure as hell knows how to train ’em. To hell with light schedules. Go, Brigand, go.


Everywhere I look, I see racing journalists whining about how wide-open and muddied the three-year-old championship race is this year. Call me crazy, but I think we saw our winner yesterday afternoon, and he’s a big red son of a big red stallion named Point Given. In fact, I’ve thought so for a while, as you’ll recall I made him my nutty long-shot pick for the Eclipse a month ago. Nothing has changed, except that I may now actually like him more.

Before the Haskell, Coil had been more or less one-dimensional, winning his races on or near the lead and growing impatient if the pace wasn’t fast enough. Jockey Martin Garcia, quickly becoming a bit of a horse whisperer for Bob Baffert, told the boss he wanted to rate the horse. After running rank in the Swaps at Hollywood and getting nipped at the wire, Garcia convinced Baffert to remove Coil’s blinkers for the Haskell. Off they came, and when the gate opened at Monmouth, the red horse was in the middle of taking a step backwards.

He broke walking, and almost immediately spotted the entire field. Baffert was heard in the stands, wondering aloud why they’d even bothered coming.

A good horse can overcome a little adversity. But when suddenly he is taken out of every comfort zone at once–when he is racing not only on dirt but away from Hollywood Park for the first time in his life, when he has just undergone an equipment change, when he is forced to take back last when in every single race before he has been within two lengths of the lead, when the earth is pounding him mercilessly between the eyes and when the only path to victory is so wide he might as well be running on the apron–that’s when the spark of a great horse may be struck. No, I can’t yet claim greatness for Coil, but boy, does he ever show the signs.

It was another extraordinary race for Shackleford who, as ever, never stopped trying over the entirety of the nine furlong race. Trainer Dale Romans is considering pointing him to the Woodward Stakes against older males rather than the Travers vs. Coil and Stay Thirsty, which is an intriguing possibility. Given the aforementioned murky quality of both the three-year-old and handicap divisions, Shack’s performance against his elders might offer some valuable clarity. He is, after all, one of the more consistent runners of the crop, with a third, a win and a fourth in the Triple Crown races and a second in the Haskell.

Plus, should he step up and win the Woodward, I will suddenly hold great hope for Coil in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

And since I can’t stop talking about Coil for more than ten minutes at a time this past day or so, another note: he was awarded a preliminary Beyer figure of 96 for the Haskell, while Stay Thirsty’s Jim Dandy performance earned him a 106. I can’t shake the feeling that’s all backwards. Yeah, Stay Thirsty won by open lengths, but he wasn’t beating much. That, and Coil’s final time of 1:48 1/5 was nearly identical to Big Brown’s in 2008, and he was running on a very slow track, and he beat not one, but two winners of Triple Crown races. I hope the prelim will be revised upward, or I will be forced to ignore speed figures even more than I already do.

So, Coil. Coil. Yep, Coil. In conclusion, Coil.


YEAH. THAT’S WHAT I THOUGHT.

Most of you will probably remember what a frothing fangirl I was while Curlin was running. Care to experience that again? Because I think I have an incurable soft spot for enormous chestnut colts with names that start with C.

Please to be going to the Travers now so I can see you in person, you beautiful thing.

Gimme.

I will try to post a more organized post with actual thoughts and things and stuff later, after my brain recovers from having exploded into giddy mush.


Yes, I am a bad blogger. Sh.

Before I dive into the Haskell and other things that make the gears in my head turn, let’s talk about Stay Thirsty’s brilliant breakout in the Jim Dandy yesterday. This is the son of Bernardini we thought we might see after his sneaky-good juvenile season. In fact, not only did he finally build on his two-year-old form, but made a huge leap forward from his second-place finish to Ruler On Ice in the Belmont. And given how well he ran in the third jewel of the Triple Crown, we know that the mile and a quarter of the Travers won’t be too long for him, and therefore that he’s got a great honking chance at winning the summer derby should he keep this form.

In the Haskell, give me Coil any day of the week. Why take a horse who lost last time out over the winners of two Triple Crown races? I’ve never been much into speed figures, but in this case I have to mention them: in his last three races, dating back to the optional-claimer tour de force he staged in May, this magnificent son of Point Given has run consecutive E figures of over 100. By comparison, the only other horses in the field to have run three 100+ figures total are Pants On Fire and J J’s Lucky Train, and only J J’s Lucky Train has ever run a figure (108) higher than the lowest (105) of Coil’s three most recent races. Yes, that includes Shackleford’s Preakness (101) and Ruler On Ice’s Belmont (103). Coil’s peak of 114 (and even the 109 he earned in the Affirmed Handicap) is so much better than the rest of these horses that I had to stare at it for a while to wrap my mind around what we might be looking at.

But that’s not all. Trainer Bob Baffert hasn’t lost the Haskell in his last four tries at it, a win streak he began with Coil’s sire Point Given. He’s also a master at transferring horses from synthetic surfaces, especially at Hollywood (where Coil has made all five of his starts so far), onto conventional dirt. So much the better when it’s a horse with front-running zeal and the receiving track is traditionally speed-favouring, as Monmouth Park most certainly is. Basically the only knock against him is the rail position and that it might force him to go too fast early, thereby making the task of holding off Shackleford, Pants On Fire and Ruler On Ice much more difficult… but then, he’s kind of got practice in exactly this kind of situation. He drew the rail in the Affirmed, ran up to challenge the Awesome Patriot on the backstretch, destroyed that one at the top of the stretch and held off the powerful charge of Runflatout with gas left in the tank. It was his first try at two turns, and he ran a 109 E fig. His Beyer for that effort was a 106, officially the second-highest Beyer earned by any three-year-old this year.

So, yeah, the draw might work against him. Orrrr it might not.

Also Baffert called Coil’s final breeze, six in 1:11.20, his “best work ever.” He went in company with Iowa Derby winner Prayer For Relief, who was Baffert’s other Haskell possible and whom he destroyed by almost a full second. SO THERE’S THAT.

OTHER THINGS:

Bourbon Bay has always been a sentimental favourite of mine (and not only because his sire Sligo Bay stands in Canada), so it was every flavour of awesome when he not only won the Cougar II but smashed the track record while he was at it. The Pacific Classic has been mentioned as a possible goal. When I have too much money, Bourbon Bay is one of those lovely geldings I would just love to buy and re-train and turn into a happy little pleasure horse.

Also Al Khali. I want to buy him and geld him and make him a jumper. Just look at this. Nom nom nom.

Jerry Hollendorfer has mentioned that he may send Blind Luck to the Pacific Classic rather than the Personal Ensign. As awesome as that might be, I really want her to go the Saratoga on the 28th, because I’m planning on going there for Travers weekend (27-28) and Mr. Hollendorfer please give me Blind Luck I love her. Havre de Grace would be nice, too, Mr. Jones. Nudge nudge. In my perfect world I would get a King’s Bishop with Uncle Mo, Flashpoint and The Factor, a Travers with Stay Thirsty and Coil, and a Personal Ensign with Blind Luck and Havre de Grace. Nnnnnngggggg

I also want to mention that my early pick for champion three-year-old filly has switched from Zazu to Winter Memories, who I believe may be the best turf horse on the continent, period. Her stunning victory in the Lake George was nothing short of a heroic effort, and a final time of 1:41.57 on “good” turf is exquisite. The turn of foot on this filly may well become legend should she continue to employ it with such casual regularity. Fifteen years ago, her mother, Memories of Silver, won this race by diving into a space between horses that simply had not been there before she created it; the daughter has proven as brave as the dam. In short: what a filly.

AND FINALLY the Haskell will be broadcast on ABC from 5-6pm EST this evening. Join me in boosting their ratings and making them broadcast moar ponyraces.


Honestly, when these fillies go neck and neck, I don’t think it matters how much they’re carrying or even really what the split is. Blind Luck beat Grace at equal weights in the Alabama, and was beaten only a neck by the same in the Cotillion while giving away ten pounds. Combined with the narrowest of nose victories at Delaware yesterday, these facts simply do not support any hypothesis that weight will seriously affect these horses’ performances. They’re that good.

If anything, the Philadelphia secretaries were the ones that made the mistake last year by giving Havre de Grace ten pounds fewer to carry in the Cotillion. Delaware might have shot itself in the foot a little with the two-pound relief to Blind Luck, which given the circumstances (Lucky six GIs, Grace one, Lucky up 3-2 in their rivalry so far, etc) is admittedly bizaare, but I will personally put the greater fault on everyone who is flipping the hell out. Oh my god: the racing secretaries gave Hollendorfer two pounds so that they could ensure one of the great duels in recent racing memory, everybody panic.

I should probably mention that this is in no way a cheap shot at Larry Jones. I have every respect for him and he had every right to grouse publicly about said weight spread. However, I will bet a great deal of money that he’ll go back to doing what he does best and send his star filly out wherever the pickings are lush and the competition is fierce. Trainers bickering with racing secretaries about weights is as old as handicap races. Hell, half of the drama in Laura Hillenbrand’s biography of Seabiscuit was about Tom Smith vs. the secretaries.

But to all the other flapping jaws: shut up.


Your Horse of the Year?

Sure could be.


Who do you think is going to end up on top come the end of the year? My projected winners would probably go something like this for the major categories:

Horse of the Year: Blind Luck

Older Male: Twirling Candy

Older Female: Blind Luck

3yo Male: Coil

3yo Female: Zazu

It’s really difficult to separate Blind Luck and Havre de Grace in both the Older Female and Horse of the Year categories. Grace beat Lucky in the Azeri, but the rivalry is fairly even on the whole. Plus, Lucky seemed to be having a bit a of a slump and has since roared back with that spectacular run in the Vanity. That, and her connections are considering the Hollywood Gold Cup. Should they go for it, and win, that will put Fox Hill and Larry Jones in a difficult position with Grace, because Blind Luck will have earned the advantage in the Eclipse race. That could touch off an “arms race” of a kind to keep outdoing the other until the next time they meet.

All of which, of course, makes me crazy happy.

Some might say that Coil is a bit of a reach in the 3yo Male division, but having watched his races, especially his magnificent backstretch blitz in the Affirmed to dispose of Awesome Patriot and second wind in the homestretch to turn away the dangerous bid of Runflatout, I am more or less convinced that this horse could be miles the best of his crop (excepting maybe Uncle Mo, but who knows when he’s coming back).

Zazu just seems to be aging like fine wine, improving as she goes along. Her defeat of Plum Pretty was the third time she finished ahead of the Kentucky Oaks winner in four meetings (the Kentucky Oaks itself being the only exception), and her fearlessness and determination in the stretch make her difficult to beat when she’s given a chance to run her best race. She might not be as good as older fillies and mares like Blind Luck, Havre de Grace, Awesome Maria and Switch, but boy, is she good.


I WANT THIS TO HAPPEN.

DESPERATELY.

Calendar of Nerdisms

July 2017
M T W T F S S
« Nov    
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
31