Sunday, July 31, 2011
From the Mountains to the Shore; Great Horsemanship on Display
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, July 31, 2011--What a weekend for jockey Javier Castellano--and not a bad weekend for trainer Marty Wolfson as it turns out.
Say this about Castellano; he can finish, he can position himself in the sweep spot of the race. But his best game consistently has been going aggressive at the right time.
Which is to say when his rivals are not being aggressive at all.
And a check of the fractions of the Grade 1 Ruffian Handicap--if you can call it a handicap anymore--is proof positive that Castellano absolutely stole the lion’s share of a quarter-million dollar pot.
Taking advantage of his rail position, Castellano sent his filly to the lead rounding the first turn in a very legitimate :23.60 then raised the ante with a half mile in :46.92 and three-quarters in 1:10.83.
Little by little, the rest of the race started to fall apart. Don’t know what happened with Dynazaper, hung up wide on the first turn and continuing that way through the backstretch run.
Then, just as you expected her to begin challenging, she completely and utterly stopped. It’s highly likely a physical excuse will be forthcoming.
The race favorite, Payton D’oro--who later would be moved up to third following the disqualification of an obstreperous Tiz Miz Sue who forced Gabriel Saez to check and alter course--was in good position throughout but a one-paced, non threat to the finish.
Second favorite Super Espresso, racing a bit dully in the early stages, would later mount a too-late rally to gain the place. If any of her rivals ran their race, it’s doubtful Ask The Moon would have hung on.
The quarter mile from the 6-furlong mark to the eighth pole was a pedestrian :25.61 and the filly absolutely walked her final furlong in :14 seconds, bobbing and weaving through the lane like Mike Tyson in his prime.
As it turns out, Wolfson is as astute a handicapper as he is a horseman. Not only did he take over the training of this Grade 1 winner following her most recent start at Belmont but he cross-entered her in the Ruffian and the listed $100,000 Lady’s Secret on the Haskell undercard.
Wolfson stayed at Monmouth Park for the day but sent his mare north. “She’s a beautiful mare, that’s why I claimed her,” said Wolfson by phone from Monmouth Park. “I came up [to Saratoga] two years ago with Icon Project to win the [G1] Personal Ensign. I’d like to do it again.”
If his rivals allow the Wolfson mare to take the lead uncontested in that 10 furlong test, he just might steal another Grade 1.
Baffert Wins Fifth Haskell Invitational
There were three winners at the Jersey Shore yesterday: Coil, who overcame a poor start but got a terrific ride from the gifted Martin Garcia to win Monmouth Park’s signature event; Stay Thirsty, the impressive winner of the Jim Dandy at Saratoga 24 hours earlier and the likely Travers favorite, and the storied Spa, who will get a gateful of runners for the storied Midsummer Derby.
The victory of Coil was a training masterpiece by the Hall of Fame horseman. The colt by Point Given, from the Theatrical mare Eversmile, was making his first start ever on dirt, and clearly made the best of it, coming from last after his troubles at the gate.
Interestingly, this was a horse that raced close to the pace on synthetic tracks in California but demonstrated a turn of foot heretofore unseen but Baffert must have had a notion. No trainer has been as successful as Bullet Bob shipping out of state.
According to the latest BRIS statistics, Baffert wins with one of every three horses that leave SoCal, and that’s from a sample of 176 horses through Thursday.
Further, after Coil’s career debut on October, Baffert slapped on a pair of blinkers the first time he started Coil after a private purchase from the breeder Glen Hill Farm.
With the blinkers, Coil broke his maiden, won a preliminary allowances, the G3 Affirmed before finishing second to Dreamy Kid in the G2 Swaps.
Without them Sunday, he overcame a poor start, circled the field, and improved in another statistical category, winning at better than 30% of the time after taking off the hood.
Coil won the Haskell at the direct expense of Preakness winner Shackleford, who chased the pace, inherited the lead, surged to command and fought back gamely when it appeared that Coil was about to blow right on by. It was a very good effort considering the turnback off the mile and a half Belmont.
Both colts will be shipped to Saratoga, the presumption being they will be Travers starters, where Stay Thirsty will be waiting. And so will Mike Repole, who’ll be waiting for Mike Pegram, the majority owner of Coil to come to town.
Let the trash talking begin. The old Spa might never be the same.