Monday, January 21, 2019

Racing’s Waiting for Gadot

January 21, 2019--As international racing fans await Saturday’s Pegasus World Cup and Pegasus Turf, both to be drawn Tuesday and, of course, the big Horse of the Year reveal, this weekend provided a glimpse back at a defending Sprint champion and a look forward on the classics trail. Going round and round in the circle game:

AQUEDUCT: SoCal speed—and now a SoCal closer—came East to dominate his rivals when Solid Wager, happy to make the mini-stretch to his preferred 7 furlong distance, roared home in deep stretch under a well-judged ride from Jose Lezcano.

In taking the G3 Toboggan and improving his record at the trip to (11) 6-1-0, the gelded 8-year-old ran well enough to stick around for the Tom Fool, next up on NYRA’s graded sprint calendar, according to trainer Chris Englehart, who was happy to act as Peter Miller’s New York deputy. Speaking of Miller…

It was welcome back, champ, and this just might be Roy H’s year to take Dubai’s Golden Shaheen. There will be no Mind Your Biscuits to run him down this time, nor might there be a sudden X Y Jet to chase, certainly not the version that showed up in Gulfstream’s Sunshine Millions Sprint earlier.

Roy H, last seen winning the Breeders’ Cup Sprint back to back last November, showed absolutely no rust off the layup, tracking mate Conquest Tsunami through a half mile in 44.35, took over when ready entering headstretch, and galloped through the lane, stopping the timer in 1:08.89 eased up beneath Paco Lopez. “He’s a bullet,” said Lopez. “He’s the LeBron James of sprinters,” said Miller, closer to truth than hyperbole.

Earlier, Bob Baffert debuted a 2019 version of Justify called Dessman. Now that might be hyperbole but make no mistake, this Forego-sized 3-year-old can run. Yes, it is one race at 6 furlongs but after breaking flat-footed, he cruised up to the leaders, put them away, then drew out by 7-1/2 lengths, Flavien Prat more passenger than pilot. Stable mail, please.

GULFSTREAM PARK: …Speaking of the Sunshine Millions Sprint, the ever-dangerous Midwest Thoroughbreds outfit picked up all the pieces for trainer Georgina Baxter and Irad Ortiz Jr. when Quijote launched through the stretch after X Y Jet and Ray’swarrior committed pace suicide with splits of 21.09 and 43.54. Not even the perfect trip winner could keep up that pace, needing 1:09.98 to get 6 furlongs.

Javier Castellano showed why he is one of the world’s best grass riders, taking Sunshine Millions Turf with gelded 7-year-old Big Changes and Sunshine Millions Filly Turf with Gulfstream turf grass machine, Starship Jubilee.

With Big Changes (Brad Cox), he kept the race favorite in the clear throughout, set him down with vigorous urging to pass main rival Class and Cash on his outside and drifted a few paths thereafter to intimidate and show his mount that there was more left to do.

But the Starship Jubilee (Kevin Attard) ride was magical. It has to be when he start from the 13 slip with a short run to the first turn. He sent him early, decided to back off but was caught five-wide and between horses mid-turn then curled into the backstretch in the 3 or 4 path, the best that could be achieved under the conditions. After straightening away, the filly devastated her state-bred rivals.

Not to be outdone, Johnny Velazquez was tactically brilliant to take the Sunshine Millions Classic astride Souper Tapit for Mark Casse, who enjoyed quite the Saturday...more on that later.

With Jay’s Way setting a controlled but pressured pace, Velazquez established a comfortable 3-wide stalking trip but, more importantly, kept the dangerous Dalmore and Irad Ortiz boxed in on the fence a long way, long enough to get the jump at headstretch while Ortiz waited for room.

Dalmore could not sustain his rally after tipping outside but Jay’s Way was a tiger on the fence, coming again to loom a late threat. But Souper Tapit dug in to secure the win in a good horse race.

Don’t know how fast the Oldsmar surface was yesterday but a pair of sprinting 3-year-olds, one of each sex, sure made it look that way with visually impressive scores at 7 furlongs in the Pasco and Gasparilla Stakes, respectively.

Michael Trombetta-trained colt Win Win Win is fast fast fast. After breaking slowly from the No. 2 post, Win Win Win was taken in hand, allowed a fast pace to develop in front of him,

On the turn Win Win Win gathered momentum beneath Julian Pimentel, was in full stride at headstretch and absolutely powered home in 1:20.89, final three furlongs in 36.37, winning by 7-1/4 lengths in track record time. It’s very likely that the G3 Sam F. Davis at 1-1/16th miles is up next.

After Molto Bella raced virtually head-and-head during the early stages in swift fractions of 22.61 seconds for the ¼-mile and 45.12 for the half, it seemed unrealistic that either would make it to the wire without a pit-stop. Then there was Molto Bella.

A Grade I winner, she sustained and recorded a 6-1/2 length win over Into Trouble. Her time of 1:22.20 broke the former five year old stakes mark of 1:22.41 Ian Wilkes, currently racing on three fronts, was the winning trainer, Luca Panici coming up Alligator Alley from Hallandale for the ride.

Tapa Tapa Tapa
won the Wayward Lass by five in yet another stakes record performance, this one on turf, stopping the timer in 1:43.27 for 1-1/16 miles beneath Antonio Gallardo, who bagged a triple on the day.

It appears that a recent maiden graduate likely has zoomed into everyone’s Kentucky Derby Top 10, such was the commanding victory by War of Will in the one mile, 70-yard Lecomte, the Mark Casse trainee’s stakes debut.

After breaking sharply from mid-gate in the huge field, Tyler Gaffalione kept his mount out in the clear, the 4-path throughout and possibly wider on turns, and his words rang true when he said he was in command throughout.

"I was just worried about moving too soon." Gaffalione said. "He was carrying me so well. He's something special. You just put him wherever and he handles the rest." Casse said it another way in a post-race TV interview after checking the video.

“I was telling some friends that I think I have the Kentucky Derby this year--and I never say things like that.”

Parenthetically, I have known Casse for perhaps 40 years, from the time he was the young trainer for Calumet Farm in New York. I’ve never heard him utter a hyperbolic word, so I wouldn’t categorize this as the usual trainer-speak.

Of course, Derby questions remain: Dirt in his face; getting jostled about between rivals; continued development; peaking too soon. But the ability to handle 10 furlongs shouldn’t be one of them.

While his two-sided pedigree screams turf: War Front from the Sadler’s Wells mare, Visions of Clarity, the average winning distance for the offspring of this mating is 7.3 furlongs and 10.7, respectively. After four grass races to begin his career, including CAN G1 Summer Stakes, he’s two-for-two going long on dirt.

Needs Supervision
also won her stakes debut, taking Silverbulletday Stakes for trainer Jeremiah O’Dwyer, holding off a strong-rally late finishing Eres Tu beneath Joe Rocco Jr. "I more or less stayed out of her way," said Rocco Jr. "She stumbled leaving the gate and I was a little worried, but she picked herself up right away and put us in a good spot."

Of note: Victories by First Premio in the Col Bradley under hot-riding Brian Hernandez Jr., giving Casse a stakes double; Dubara in the Krantz Memorial beneath visiting fireman Jamie Spencer, and well-named Wynn Time in oft-entertaining Kenner under Marcelino Pedroza. The gelded 5-year-old improved his lifetime mark to (11) 8-2-1.

Written by John Pricci

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