We’re looking forward to racing’s second season which begins in earnest with next month’s Midsummer Derby, and the racing offered today through Sunday’s Haskell should provide a good line on what the fall will look like and whether this sophomore class will prove the equal of their elders.
The two local preps, Friday’s Curlin and Saturday’s Grade 2 Jim Dandy, are both open events. Horses are returning off layups, shipping in from different precincts and doubtlessly are prepping for the big dance. But some will need to run very well to prove to their connections and everyone else that they are legitimate Travers contenders.
Sunday’s G1 Haskell is all about Verrazano, who many still believe is America’s most talented three-year-old. But even if he wins the million-dollar nine furlongs in a big way, he won’t get that kind of lofty respect until he takes on the division’s best at 10 furlongs.
Here are some long overdue impressions on what has happened between the fences in the last fortnight. Time has finally come for us to fire up the stable mail and dive headlong into Saratoga 150:
SATURDAY, JULY 13: That’s no typo; this was the final Saturday of racing at Belmont Park. BALANCE THE BOOKS earned his path to my inbox with an excellent performance in the Solar Splendor overnight stakes. Chad Brown trainee was forced to angle out sharply at headstretch and finished strongly down the middle of the course. Some of the Chad Brown 2012 babies have not developed as hoped but this guy could reverse that trend.
FRIDAY, JULY 19: Saratoga opens. Luis Saez won the first race of the historic meet with an amazingly artful run from last in a huge field on the Mellon Turf with Hardest Core after breaking from post 12...A high-class run from state-bred turf mare HESSONITE, running over the top of rivals with humongous strides for Donk-Velazquez team. Not that it was going to matter but SHAKEIRA was absolutely eliminated, sawed off on the fence several times through the stretch; note… BRAZEN PERSUASION and BAHNAH put on an exciting dead heat show in the Schuylerville. The latter, with dead aim, was somewhat disappointing, but not so Brazen Persuasion who took on all comers and still gutted it out for the shared victory. See replay: Race 9.
SATURDAY, JULY 20: John Kimmel removed STRIKE ACCORD’s blinkers and she finished like a runaway rocket through the lane; likely to leave this condition next out; bet back… Late developer SCAM certainly has a big late engine. Trailing 11 rivals, he leveled off beneath Javier Castellano and came roaring down the center to save the show in a remarkable effort. Follow closely… Todd Pletcher, who swept all three stakes on the program, was correct in that it’s unlikely that PRINCESS OF SYLMAR will be disrespected again. She overpowered her Coaching Club Oaks rivals despite a soft pace that favored runnerup My Happy Face, a game but not- in-same-league as the Kentucky Oaks winner over a distance of ground.
MONDAY, JULY 22: A couple of interesting baby fillies going a mile and a sixteenth on the Inner Turf. KITTEN KABOODLE has quite a bit of size but weaved her way nimbly through fillies in the lane; all Wayne Catalano’s filly needs is experience. CANDY KITTY was going very well down the center of the course late and won’t remain a maiden for long; note.
WEDNESDAY, JULY 24: MUCH STRONGER was a perfect trip winner of the opener but was a powerhouse through the lane. Colt is likely to handle a class rise for Jacobson barn that has not shown signs of slowing down at this stand. We’ll see if that trend continues… The two sophomore fillies with the best kick put on a show in the G2 Lake George. WATSDACHANCES got the drop on stretch beast KITTEN’S DUMPLINGS but her rider never took advantage of that. It might not have mattered since she was no match for her rival’s late momentum, Joel Rosario timing it perfectly. It was a good try by TAPICAT, taken out of her speed game when runoff Midnight Watch did just that; Bill Mott-trained filly will benefit and should be a tough out next time; bet back… Reports of MOMENT IN DIXIE’s demise were premature. Old schooler Jimmy Toner deserves credit for getting her ready to tackle stakes company once again; likely to do just that in G1 Ballerina next month.
THURSDAY, JULY 25: The only one word to describe debuting OUR AMAZING ROSE’S performance: freaky. After getting outrun from the gate by the well named ZIP ON, Johnny Velazquez asked Pletcher trainee to make contact with the leader. As Tom Durkin said, Our Amazing Rose inhaled her rival under no pressure approaching headstretch, drawing out with long, professional strides. She’s certainly no one-race speed wonder; this is one top class baby. She ran 3/5s of a second faster than male stablemate CORFU, who took on all comers and repulsed a final stretch bid in an uber game performance… Little Al Stall gets Trainer of the Day props for having CENTRAL BANKER ready for his return in the Quick Call turf sprint. The colt is the fourth horse to win next time out of the Delta Jackpot. “He doesn't break that great,” said Stall [but] “he sure got on his feet pretty quickly after that."
FRIDAY, July 26: The Johnny Velazquez all-time Saratoga record breaker must await another day. JR was blanked in three rides, none of which were favored to win.