Sunday, February 18, 2018

Through a Simo Saturday Notebook…

For obvious reasons, it was not a great weekend in South Florida, what with the events that transpired on Valentine’s Day at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

The 3,000 student campus is located about 40 minutes to the north and west of Gulfstream Park, where flags were flown at half-staff and where wall-to-wall and cover-to-cover reporting has dominated the media. Like mainstream media these days, for all the wrong reasons.

The racetrack community was fortunate, relieved to learn that in the aftermath of 17 murdered students, two of its own were spared. Senior Nicholas Vaccarezza and sophomore Michael Vaccarezza.

Vaccarezza the younger is better known to racetrackers and fans as Little Mike. The two pupils are the sons of Carlo and Priscilla Vaccarezza. Carlo, of course, is the South Florida-based trainer; Priscilla campaigned the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Turf winner a.k.a. Little Mike.

On Sunday, February 25, Carlo will close his restaurant, Frank & Dino’s, from mid-afternoon into the evening. The Boca Raton space will be opened to raise funds for the families affected by the senseless use of an assault rifle on promising young lives.

The public is invited. There is no charge for food and drink; just bring your checkbooks. For those not in the area wishing to help, the Marjory Stoneham Douglas Victims Fund has been established

It is with profound humility and anger that we suggest the funds immediately be disbursed and shared among Washington legislators that they may become beholden to family victims of mass murder and all U.S. citizens, not the National Rifle Association.


Actually, maybe there wasn’t enough chaos but more on the Risen Star results later. Suffice it to say that with the exception of the Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra featuring a strong pace, the four remaining two-turn dirt races were won by the speed, all getting away with modest early fractions--seemingly a routine race shape in Fair Grounds routes.

Special weight maiden three year-old fillies went an opening quarter in 23.05. In a ‘two-other-than’ allowances, featuring the return of 2017 classics campaigner Lookin At Lee, two horses hooked up from the jump, one lasting for the win. The other finished fourth, losing by a neck and two noses. ‘Lee’ never got out of a gallop and finished “absolutely.”

In the G3 Mineshaft, The Player, sporting a new set of blinkers, wired an otherwise outclassed group by 4-1/4 confident lengths following an opening gambit in 24.27, looking ready for bigger game next time out.

Monomoy Girl proved much the best filly in the Rachel Alexander after Classy Act set what turned out to be, for the day, a blistering pace of 23.58 and 46.8, but ‘Monomoy’s’ battle with Wonder Gadot never materialized, the pacesetter easily holding the place.

The Demoiselle winner was a one-paced third, appearing better off galloping on or near a moderate pace at longer distances. The Oaks trip will prove to be more to her liking than the winner’s. Can’t say that winner’s drifting out late was an encouraging sign.

Completing the day’s track profile, rock bottom maiden claimers closed out the Pick 4—of course, as all tracks must stick it to rank and file horizontal players—with Two Date wiring this two-turn bunch, never seriously threatened at 19-1.

The Risen Star was a rare four-speed number as the first four runners raced around the oval, positions virtually unchanged. Snapper Sinclair, a laughable overlay at 41.70-to-1, led the way in 24.15 and 47.96. With winning Bravazo on his hip, the duo remained that way until the last jump in a head-bobbing thriller.

Noble Indy ran spottily in a somewhat disappointing performance but redeemed himself somewhat upon video review. Racing between/behind horses throughout, he got his first taste of dirt in three lifetime starts. His late rail rally looked one-paced but was actually a tad better as he galloped out ahead of the near dead-heaters.

The time of 1:42.96 given the opening quarter-mile was solid, and the final five-sixteenths was completed in a worthy 30.10 seconds. Favorite Instilled Regard raced outside Noble Indy throughout in a flat effort; Principe Guilherme lost ground throughout in a dull performance.


Michael Stidham, enjoying an excellent early season, did a marvelous job getting his five-year-old set for best in his 9-furlong return from a lengthy layup. Confident handled by turf ace Joe Bravo, he stormed home to deny the streaking favorite Mr. Misunderstood a successful four year old debut.

Roughed at the break, he settled nicely inside, making a sharp turn move from 10th that carried him 7 deep into the lane. He was two lengths in front in midstretch and held the favorite safe, never threatened for the win. The time was a snappy 1:48.82, the last three furlongs in a sharp 36.35 with final sixteenth in 11.41.


And they both won! On a card featuring 12 starter races for various price levels for both sexes, the seven year old mate Chella won for the sixth time in 10 starts at 7 furlongs, improving her lifetime mark to 26-for-41. It wasn’t easy, having to overcome a wide draw on a surface that carried speed on the inside throughout the afternoon.

In the nominal feature, the $60,000 Old Hickory at 1-1/16th miles, old pro Page McKenney, who has earned his money the hard way on the mid-Atlantic circuit, swept to command into the stretch and raced away from a hearty bunch with authority. It was the gelded eight year-old’s 21st win in 54 lifetime starts, adding to his career earnings of $1.7 million.


Eschewing President’s Day in deference to a Simo Saturday that aside from the Fair Grounds Louisiana Derby Preview program, three storied Laurel fixtures highlighted racing on the East Coast the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie, G3 General George and the storied but now ungraded John B. Campbell Stakes, nee Handicap.

Afleet Willy won an uninspiring edition of the Campbell, wiring four horses as the odds-on choice. But Fritchie winner Ms Locust Point is starting to act like a serious filly, so much so that the connections are going to take a hard look at Keeneland’s G1 Madison, where the waters will be much deeper.

Something Awesome won the General George in a neck thriller over Fellowship, both taking advantage of a hotly contested pace duel. The “house hose” was bred at Adena Springs and campaigned under the Stronach Stable flag…XY Jet won the Pelican in a laugher at Tampa Bay Downs. He’s now all dressed up and ready for his trip to Dubai’s Golden Shaheen.

Written by John Pricci

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