Saturday, February 16, 2013
HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla., February 16, 2013---If you check the trainer statistics at the current Gulfstream Park and note that Bill Mott is batting 35 percent from 61 starters through Thursday, if you didn’t know better you’d think the calendar was wrong; it must be October, not February.
Based at Payson Park, most years Mott treats Gulfstream almost as a second thought, preferring instead to freshen much of his stock, relying on his trademark patience and Hall of Fame horsemanship to prepare for the big races later in the year, especially during the fall championship season.
But something’s gotten into Mott at this meet, like a bunch of terrific new stock, some of which have been provided by the Juddmonte folks, the outfit that seemingly is always among Eclipse finalists in the Breeder of the Year category.
What he’s also not known for is his debut types yet, at this stand, he brought two three-year-old fillies out for their debuts, and all Calistoga and Close Hatches did was to run holes in the wind. Just like contemporary Flashy Lady did in a preliminary allowances here last weekend.
Calistoga did the job while demonstrating brilliant zip; Close Hatches just the opposite, launching the kind of wide, sweeping turn move—what the New York wise guys call the Belmont Balcony move-- that almost never wins a one-turn race at less than a mile in Hallandale.
On the turf side meanwhile, a surface upon which Mott’s horses always seem to be at home, there’s Tapicat, who shipped north to Oldsmar and took the Grade 3 Florida Oaks impressively for her third straight victory.
And, as everyone knows, good things come in threes, like it did today when Emollient—yet another three-year-old filly, won a conditioned race but that was only a prelude.
Mott scored the hat trick yesterday, ending the day with a graded stakes double header as Starformer making a successful season’s debut in the G3 The Very One and Amira’s Prince the G2 Mac Diarmida in high style.
Has Mott had rolls like this before? “We’ve been doing this for 40 years so of course we’ve had runs like this. But there’ve been some long dry spells in between. It’s the horses. It’s like [Wayne] Lukas says: ‘You’ve got to have the right set’.”
And a hands-on horseman calling the shots.
In Starformer, Mott has a highly consistent graded performer who hadn’t run since winning the G3 Long Island Handicap over soft ground at 1-1/2 miles last November at the Big A.
So the 11 furlong trip, the fact that Mott is 22% efficient with 90-days + trainees, there was cut in the ground given nearly two inches of rainfall Thursday and Friday and the presence of Edgar Prado, having a resurgent meet and on the Juddmonte filly for each of her last four victories.
“With it raining hard for the last few days they kept the track in good shape. We ran on fresh ground,” said Prado. “I sat right behind the lead and waited. She gave me a nice, beautiful move as we tried to find the best part of the track.”
“She fell into a good position third,” Mott said. We stretched her out to 11 furlongs or more and she seems to like that a lot better [than shorter trips]. The Orchid is here [Grade 3, March 30] and I guess that will be her next start.”
Amira’s Prince has been somewhat of a pleasant surprise. “We had no idea [how good he would be]. My owner Edam Wachtel is very proactive buying horses. He was the one who bought Ron the Greek and Al Khali.
“They sent him over for the Jamaica last fall but he looked like he needed more time. So we brought him down here and freshened him up. This is the result.”
The upshot was his third straight victory over this course, today’s a comprehensive 3-3/4 length score at the same 11-furlong trip as The Very One, the colt’s 2:17.14 falling right in line with the mare’s 2:18.03.
Mott earlier scratched Newsdad when the course, rated good, came up decidedly less than firm.
[Amira’s Prince] hasn’t put a foot wrong, he’s 3-for-3 for us [at Gulfstream]. It seems like he keeps improving. The plan originally was not to run him in this race. But he was doing so well I said to the owners ‘it would be a shame to keep this horse in the barn as well as he’s doing.
“They run the Pan American here [March 23]. Whether it would be too much to run him one more time here I don’t know. I guess you’ve got to be careful this early in the year.”
Good thing for Mott he doesn’t heed his own advice. His champion Royal Delta runs in the Sabin Sunday, her prep for the $10 million Dubai World Cup March 30. Will she make it three graded stakes wins on the weekend?
“I’m not going to say that.” So far, his horses have done all the talking.
Written by John Pricci
Sunday, February 10, 2013
Two Potential Stars Emerge from the Donn
HALLANDALE BEACH, FLA., February 10, 2013—Very much lost in the shuffle on Donn Day was the Grade 1 itself, overshadowed by the turf battle of Breeders’ Cup runners-up, Animal Kingdom and Point of Entry.
And there was another, probably more persuasive reason for the meet’s top handicap race for older horses--and one of this country’s most compelling race for older horses—the lack of star power.
But that won’t be the case the next time Graydar steps onto a racetrack. Over a main track that admittedly was kind to inside speed all afternoon, the big gray son of Unbridled’s Song simply overpowered the assembled group.
Since the Donn was Graydar’s entrée into stakes company, filling in more than ably for stablemate El Padrino, originally scheduled for the nine furlong event until trainer Todd Pletcher called an audible.
The Donn was only the big gray’s fourth lifetime start and first around two turns. Edgar Prado, having a resurgent 2013 after his business hadn’t fallen off markedly the last two years, quarter-horsed him into the first turn for a clear lead, essentially ending the drama.
The horse was brilliant no doubt, but he was brilliantly rated, too. Every time a challenger attempted to cut into the advantage, Prado let out another notch on the reins and the colt spurted away.
It appeared momentarily approaching midstretch that the ralliers might have a chance but, once again, Graydar spurted away for a three length advantage at the line in 1:48.25, the final furlong in a worthy-enough :12.89.
“He ran an enormous race,” said Pletcher of the winner. “We weren’t really sure what the pace scenario was. The last thing I said [to Prado] leaving the paddock was ‘If [the early lead] works out and you’re there...don’t take it away.
“He was laying down serious racehorse fractions. It wasn’t like he was walking the dog. He got into a nice comfortable rhythm.
“You see horses win Grade 1s early in their careers, like 2-year-olds, with not very many starts. But I’d say it’s extremely rare for a horse in his fourth lifetime start against seasoned horses like this to be able to do it. It’s a real tribute to the horse.”
“He broke nice and was very relaxed and happy in the front,” said Prado. “He was moving along, but that's the way he runs. We didn't need to go head to head with anyone…I asked him to pick it up he gave me more, I was very happy with him.” I was just hoping he'd be able to hold on to the lead."
Runnerup Bourbon Courage ran huge as well. Racing in midpack throughout, he rallied three wide on the final turn showing an electric turn of foot that loomed him a threat as the field straightened away before the winner-re-broke and opened out the advantage once again. He finished five lengths clear of show finisher Take Charge Indy, winner of last year’s Florida Derby.
“We thought the speed might come back to us a little but Graydar kept on going,” said trainer Kellyn Gorder. “We are very happy with how he performed.”
Indeed, the connections should be happy enough to take another crack at Graydar, or whichever horse is lined up to face him. His top effort in the Grade 1 Clark behind Shackleford apparently was a hint of what was to come.
It was another eight lengths back to race favorite Flat Out. “Joel Rosario] tried to put him in race but he wasn’t taking the rider there,” said trainer Bill Mott.
Pletcher said had no idea where and when Graydar will race next. Given the colt’s spotty past performance charts, why not just wait for the Breeders’ Cup Classic?
Written by John Pricci
Saturday, February 09, 2013
“The Derby Winner Runs Today”
HALLANDALE BEACH, FLA., February 9, 2013—Even if you had entered Gulfstream Park two hours before first post, you would have sensed this day was a little different.
The energy was palpable, parking spaces close to the building non-existent and the prepping Animal Kingdom was waiting in the wings.
And the crowd waited until about 3:46 p.m., 15 minutes prior to the Grade 1 Kittens Joy Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap until the first horse Film Making walked into the ring.
Next up was 2012’s Almost Horse of the Year, the unlucky Point of Entry, whose string of Grade 1s was snapped when he ran out of racetrack, a half-length behind Little Mike, at the end of the mile and a half Breeders’ Cup Turf.
Finally, Animal Kingdom entered the ring and fans actually moved into position along the walking ring fence, four to five deep, obstructing the view of the seated, but not caring in the least.
The Derby winner runs today.
Management knew what it had. The Donn, one of the more important handicaps run in this country, is known and anticipated by savvy horseplayers but means little to the crowd Gulfstream is trying to attract.
So the day was packaged on TV and in other media as “Super Saturday featuring Animal Kingdom” and it worked--it worked big time.
All-sources handle was $17.5 million, compared to the 2012 Donn program’s $15 million.
On-track fans, estimated at just under 10,000 but appearing larger than opening day, wagered over $2 million, compared to $1.5 million last year.
A significant part of the wagering was the seven million dimes that was bet into the Rainbow Six pool chasing a carryover of $1.8 million.
Photo by Toni Pricci
For Team Valor's Barry Irwin the Next Stop is Meydan Racecourse on March 30
There was more than one winner of Rainbow Six and Sunday’s carryover is a shade over $2 million. Saturday’s total pool, including carryover, was $2.45 million. There hasn’t been a single winner of Rainbow Six since Dec. 29.
The horses made three turns of the ring--two is a little unusual; I can say I’ve never seen three—and each time the crowd greeted the Derby champion with applause.
Meanwhile, Point of Entry, which if he could talk would have wanted to send a message, was all business, full of controlled energy, with John Velazquez already in game-face mode.
Track announcer Larry Collmus introduced the field and the buzz from the walking ring had moved to the apron, the largest cheers reserved for the last horse in the parade.
The star was still making his entrance and, at once, an exit. Animal Kingdom has run his last race in America.
The Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap was, after all, “only” a prep for the $10-milllion Dubai World Cup run on the synthetic Tapeta surface, ground over which he’s trained all his life at his Fair Hill base.
If he runs well there, it’s on to Ascot in June and then on to the Southern Hemisphere for the breeding season in September.
If there was any message yesterday it’s that a Derby winner, especially one with a cool name, is magic. All the Derby winner needs to do is to keep racing.
And Animal Kingdom has done that despite two interruptions because of injury.
But Point of Entry ruined his day the way Little Mike ruined Point of Entry’s more than three months ago. But all Animal Kingdom lost was a horse race.
Replays will show that yesterday’s run was a perfect mid-moving speed prep for Dubai.
Having one horse beaten after an opening half-mile in a pokey :50.52, Joel Rosario shot up the fence with Animal Kingdom to join the pacesetter with Point of Entry sitting right off the pair three wide.
Velazquez had his mount keep pace while losing ground on the turn but asked Point of Entry for run at headstretch and the 5-year-old Dynaformer obliged in a big way, taking the lead in mid-stretch and drawing out to a 1-1/4 length win.
Both these top class runners put on quite a show in the stretch. Turf fractions, always suspect when the temporary rail is out—set at 108 feet—the final three furlongs were run in an astounding :33.76. However, seeing was believing.
Photo by: Toni Pricci
...Meanwhile, Shug McGaughey Made His Point in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap
Point of Entry stopped the timer at 1:47 for the 1-1/8 miles. “It was quite a race,” said winning trainer Shug McGaughey. We had our tactics. We thought Todd’s horse [Salto] would be in front and we hoped to lay second.
“It was kind of fun to watch. The race was getting publicity and [although] we had to push a little on the far turn.”
Did I make up a little for last fall’s Breeders’ Cup disappointment? “I’ve had of few [disappointing results], like Easy Goer at this track in the Breeders’ Cup.
“But I’m very pleased with the horse, winning a grade one at a mile and an eighth is good for his career. I’m very glad to be here today.”
Most people were.
Coming Sunday the Donn wrap: A Star Is Born
Written by John Pricci