It turned out to be anything but a two horse race. It was a three-horse race! And one hell of a three-horse race it was.
The prep season has only begun to get serious and the rest of the members of the 2014 class will be hard pressed to put on a show like the one seen yesterday at the Big A.
It’s not often you get a three-horse battle at any age from the quarter-pole home, with each of the horses at some point looking like it might win.
In Trouble, who should have name changed to in close, battled fiercely from the fence in an excellent sophomore and two turn debut. It was a modest, albeit realistic pace, and he was pressured throughout.
Uncle Sigh, who did the hardest work in the 50-pointer, chased the leader, battled between rivals on the turn and didn’t given an inch through the lane, succumbing grudgingly in the final strides.
One day, he’s going find himself outside his arch rival and he just might reverse both recent hard-fought defeats. But then why should he beat Samraat at all? No one else has, and they tried to do it five times. He just refuses to be beaten.
This year’s Vyjack? Could be, could be not. And I don’t want to consider the 10 furlongs question for this trio. It’s hoped they all come out of the race in good order and take the next step, logically the Wood Memorial, but at nine furlongs, wherever it is.
Turfway Park featured the Battaglia Memorial, an excellent betting race going in, but one that was dominated by one man, Wayne Catalano, who saddled the first two finishers that left serious daylight between themselves and all others.
Solitary Ranger took the lead from along the inside going into the first turn of the mile and a sixteenth, was pressured throughout and, instead weakening, drew off with authority at headstretch beneath Florent Geroux, winning by 4-3/4 lengths.
Stablemate Poker Player, favored at 8-5, erased all but 4-3/4s of an 18-length deficit after the first half mile, most of that during an explosive, wide turn move that was strong enough to catch and defeat third finisher Harry’s Holiday by five.
The winner returned a very generous $21.80 considering he was coming off victories in two of his last three starts, which began with the G3 Arlington Washington Futurity at 2.
Catalano is concerned that the graded Spiral Stakes might be a sixteenth of a mile too far but that the nine furlongs would be within Poker Player’s wheelhouse. That certainly was the case for Spiral/Derby doubling Animal Kingdom three years ago.
Making his first start for trainer Nick Zito, Spot rallied strongly into the stretch and ran down the heavily hyped No Nay Never to win the Grade 2 Swale at Gulfstream in 1.22.44 under a well-judged ride by Jose Lezcano.
No Nay Never, making his first start since August and debut on dirt after breaking his maiden at Keeneland, before shipping to Europe to win two group stakes including the G1 Prix Morny at Deauville.
Zito will be enjoying this one for a while and thinks running back in the Florida Derby in four weeks might be a bit ambitious. He deserves to enjoy this one for a while.
There were two defections from the HRI Power 10 that debuted last week with Havana, who scratched from the Swale having popped a quarter-crack, and Shared Belief, whose tender tootsies have kept him out of training for several weeks, is currently convalescing in Northern California.
Undefeated Gotham winner Samraat earned his way into the Power 10 at #9 and undefeated and promising Bayern, one of next Saturday’s San Felipe serious contenders, rounds out the group.
HRI Power 10 Week 2
1. Cairo (28)
2. Tapiture (26)
3. Candy Boy (21)
4. Honor Code (20)
5. 5-tie Top Billing (17)
6. 5-tie Wildcat Red (17)
7. Strong Mandate (14)
8. Intense Holiday (10)
9. Samraat (7)
10. Bayern (5)