Sunday, September 29, 2013
A Super Saturday Night
SARATOGA SPRINGS, September 29, 2013---I had a racing dilemma Saturday night. Just when I thought I knew everything, they ran some Grade 1 races in California.
So I decided to sleep on the results, only to awaken knowing that I was as confused as I was the night before. It’s going to take a few days to shake all these things out in my head.
One of the issues I’m pondering—and you might as well throw Churchill Downs in there, too—is trying to figure what impressed the most.
Was it the Macho Man’s first Grade 1—which could not have come at a better time, or over a better racetrack?
Was it Beholder, just when you thought you knew everything you needed to know about the three-year-old filly division?
Was it Bond Holder, from maiden to Grade 1 winner overnight, a colt that seemed to get stronger with every inch of ground he covered?
(It can’t be Secret Compass, not because of anything she did wrong but because I really didn’t know she existed until I looked at her past performances).
However, in the case of the two-year-olds, at least there’s next weekend’s Frizette and, for that matter, the Champagne; today, the short, one-turn Futurity and the Matron.
And, I digress, wasn’t that a hellacious turn of late foot as demonstrated by Tiz Flirtatious?
Just when I thought that Jose Lezcano was the Man of the Day, winning two Grade 1s on his very first day back from an injury, along comes Gary Stevens, returning from a long, extended vacation.
It could not have been retirement: No 50-year-old graybeard returns off a seven year layoff a better Hall of Fame rider than he was when last seen in 2006.
He couldn’t have learned all he knows now from sitting next to Jeff Siegel, could he?
And what was that from Fort Larned? Was he getting tired, or bored? Need to see the video again but he sure appreciated his Homecoming to Churchill, and dominated the competition with his noted speed.
Ian Wilkes later said the design was to get him tired and move forward from the race. I'm going to drink that Kool Aid; it makes sense, having missed the Woodward.
Mucho Macho Man, speaking of Stevens, sure loves to hear his feet rattle. Everybody knows he doesn’t like it wet but that’s two straight excellent performances at Santa Anita, even if it was a year between drinks.
Too good not to have won a Grade 1 before last night, he loves to run fresh, like all modern race horses.
Will five weeks provide enough down time for another peak performance from the late developing, late foal? Fort Larned had better hope not.
Speaking of Stevens, again, Beholder now has three Grade 1s on the year, a half-length defeat in the Oaks standing between her and Princess of Sylmar’s four Grade 1s.
And just when the book was closed (it still might be) because the Princess beat the mighty Queen of the Turf, Beholder gave actual weight to older mares and embarrassed them with the help of Stevens who coaxed moderating fractions.
Beholder sure loves Santa Anita. Question: Can Princess of Sylmar afford to rest on her Grade 1 laurels? The Oaks, Coaching Club, Alabama and Beldame sure are quite a package.
But if a champion defends her Breeders’ Cup Eclipse title for her fourth Grade 1 of the year, will she defend her Eclipse title as well?
Parenthetically, that’s why the Breeders’ Cup never again should be held at one track back to back, no matter how attractive the venue!
Horse racing will always feature Thoroughbreds owning a home court advantage. But not when potential championships are involved.
As for Bond Holder, he will likely get another strong pace to run at in five weeks and he certainly looks the part of a two-turn racehorse, but will he be the same sans Lasix?
Will any of the two-year-olds be?
Anyway, the Champagne horses will prove much tougher foes.
A Breeders’ Cup victory by Tiz Flirtatious may not be enough to depose the divisional leader, but her ability is no laughing matter.
It’s hard to know how good Secret Compass is, but thus far there have been no Ruffians on the radar screen and the juvenile filly title likely will come down to one race, as it often does.
Stevens nearly won his third Grade 1 of the day on She’s a Tiger but appeared to push her button prematurely, trying to steal the Chandelier.
But Bob Baffert had Secret Compass all wound up, Rosie Napravnik gave her a perfect trip and, after finally getting the filly to change to her correct lead, caught a tiger by the nose.
(As far as these two fillies are concerned, anyway, I’d be surprised if Secret Compass beats She’s a Tiger next time).
But that’s only an opinion and as Darrell Wayne Lukas once, or should have, said, horses will take charge.