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Tuesday, October 09, 2012


Quick Hits From the Big Weekend


SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, October 9, 2012—Back home for a bit so it’s time to catch up with a couple of quick takes on what’s been happening during one of the racing’s busiest time of the year:

Dan’s #1…Dan’s #1: And it would be unwise to think that positions on the NTRA National Poll will change until Nov. 5, a.k.a. Election Eve. Wise Dan, despite returning on unaccustomed-for-him short rest, dominated the Shadwell Turf Mile.

That’s three straight Mile wins on turf and 4-of-5 under those conditions dating back to July 4, 2011. But I agree with the Racing Post writer who recently stated Wise Dan should run in the Classic.

We believe that for two reasons: While trainer Charlie Lopresti and owner Morton Fink say publicly that a Horse of the Year title for their gelding is not all that crucial, then why--money notwithstanding--are you in the horse business?

Further, a look at his Equiform figures as he approaches Breeders’ Cup weekend, tell the same story they did before the Shadwell; Wise Dan owns better Energy Figures on both dirt and synthetic surfaces. If the Santa Anita dirt surface tightens up significantly, the connections could change their minds. That’s a big if.

SoCal, By Way of Shanghai: Kudos to the connections of protem Juvenile champion Shanghai Bobby for deciding on a go in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, after first planting seeds of doubt following his Champagne tour de force.

Whether it’s because last year’s Juvenile turned out to be a good Kentucky Derby barometer--in terms of participation in the 2012 Derby, or because they believe their colt had done enough, or feared no-show voter reprisals, or worried that a Lasix-less ‘Bobby’ would somehow be less than in the warm and sunny Arcadia environment, doesn’t matter now.

Starlight Racing is doing the game a good turn. And to be favored to earn the winner’s share of a $2 million pot ain’t so bad, either. Good for them.

Vote Your Conscience: My colleague Steve Haskin of Bloodhorse.com had it right Saturday afternoon at Belmont Park. If you want to make a statement and leave I’ll Have Another off your NTRA or Eclipse ballot for whatever reason, fine.

But if you rank him somewhere in the Top 10, how could he be anything other than the leading Horse of the Year candidate at this juncture. His 2012 slate: (4) 4-0-0, including a Grade 2, the G1 Santa Anita Derby and, of course, a Dual Classics winner. Until Nov. 3, anyway, it’s the sport’s most compelling resume.

A Mulligan For All My Friends: With apologies to Bukowski, I have awarded Breeders’ Cup do-overs to Ron The Greek, To Honor And Serve, and now Dullahan and St. Nicholas Abbey. Wherever you think they belong in racing’s pecking order is fine.

But each is better—much better—than their Jockey Club Gold Cup, Kelso, Jamaica and Arc say that they are. Not saying they will win at this juncture, only that they cannot be dismissed out of hand.

Now defending champion Amazombie has run well off poor efforts in the past, but he may be a Sprint throw-out this time. Have to think about this guy for a while; stay tuned.

Yes or No Answer, Please: Should Keeneland runner-up Exothermic, mistakenly administered Lasix on last Friday’s opening day program, have run for “purse money only?”

Absolutely. It was the right—and only fair thing---to do. This way, no one gets hurt.

Did Christophe Soumillon move too soon in the Arc? It certainly looked that way. Star Japanese filly Orfevre swept to command into the straight at Longchamp Sunday and appeared on her way to certain victory when Solemia, beneath Olivier Peslier, re-rallied and nailed Orfevre in the final strides. Taking nothing away from the victress, Orfevre ran too good to lose.

Will Todd Pletcher Be the Most Prolific Earner Ever? It certainly looks that way. Only 16 years ago, Pletcher saddled his first winner. Over the weekend, he became the second all-time leading trainer in money won, surpassing the late Hall of Famer Bobby Frankel.

What your attitude towards Pletcher, earnings of nearly a quarter-billion dollars (yes, with a b) in 16 years is an amazing achievement. Latest figures have him trailing his mentor, D. Wayne Lukas, by approximately $32 million, after saddling about half the number of runners. As of last Saturday, $228 million and climbing.

Was Groupie Doll More Dominating than Wise Dan? In her fashion, yes. Rajiv Maragh rode her with arrogant confidence, believing all he needed was running room and a dream.

Despite mid-post position, Maragh decided to save ground and entering the stretch was fortunate to find daylight between rivals. He knuckled on her and she was gone, powering away effortlessly. And like Dan, she doesn’t have to carry her surface around with her.

Name That Tune: Facing winners for the first time off a single start, Noble Tune, just as he had in his debut, was most impressive, demonstrating a turn of foot uncommon with juveniles, especially over yielding ground, a grass star in the making.

Racing sixth as the Pilgrim horses entered the far turn, Ramon Dominguez elected to shift inside toward the hedge, angled outside approaching headstretch with push button acceleration, blew the race open, and then was idled down late. Surface notwithstanding, was every bit as impressive as Shanghai Bobby.

Written by John Pricci

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