Had one of those deals today while I was tooling around on the West Side doing some shopping and my betting partner called to say: “I don’t know what happened, but two Pick Four races are off the grass and the turf is now yielding.”
“Huh? Guess that takes us out of the Pick Four today,” I said. Tomorrow’s Saturday and maybe we’ll find something really worthwhile.”
My partner was on the money. I pulled up right alongside the racetrack, puddles were nowhere to be seen, but when I went upstairs and turned on the TV there was the surface, in all its sloppy and yielding glory.
In my travels today, someone stopped me to make the observation: “Hey, George Weaver’s horses are running great.”
“Where’ve you been,” I smirked. “He’s been doing good work all year, it started at Gulfstream.”
“Yeah, well he’s still going strong.”
And how. By the time I returned home, Weaver had saddled two more winners; including Lemon Splendor, a courageous come-again winner in an off-the-turf two turner 30 minutes before the 4th running of the Curlin.
The filly certainly didn’t mind the wet track--her second victory under those conditions—and she gave Weaver his fourth win of the young meet.
But now there was nothing left but to wait for the Curlin and see how the rest of the day shakes out.
This is a big weekend for 3-year-olds, in case you hadn’t noticed. In the Curlin, even after two program scratches, there still were Easter Gift and Love To Run, two colts on the make, trying the solid favorites, Street Life and Ever So Lucky.
The crowd didn’t necessarily agree. Street Life and Ever So Lucky was favored after a fashion, but both, as well as Reload and Easter Gift were all 5-2 on the opening flash.
Guess they liked the wet track form on the latter and weren’t about to let the white hot McGaughey out of their sights, either. He had two wins on Thursday and Reload is, as stated, on the come.
On Saturday, Alpha, who was totally eliminated in the Kentucky Derby, will make his first start since May and is the early line Jim Dandy favorite. He’s no layover, however, not if Teeth Of The Dog and Liaison, among others, have anything to say.
Alpha’s been training up a storm here and, while every outfit points toward Saratoga, Godolphin blue has been mighty photogenic in races with names on them. Perhaps he can rescue his reputation in the Jim Dandy.
Liaison is intriguing. His profile is, in the main, disappointing, but his sixth in the Derby, in which he was beaten 7 lengths, was sneaky good, and his Equiform energy figures have improved subsequently in the G3 Affirmed and G2 Swaps on Hollywood’s Cushion Track.
He sure looks like he has dirt track style over a distance of ground the conditions he gets here, and Mr. Baffert is always dangerous whenever his runners step off the plane.
Meanwhile, Ahmed Zayat has the talented Belmont Stakes runnerup, as an able substitute in Sunday’s Haskell while stablemate Bodemeister is briefly sidelined and getting ready to reappear somewhere. Where, only Baffert and Zayat know for sure.
More on the Haskell tomorrow because, for the moment at least, Chad Brown and Street Life are in the Travers driver’s seat.
Benefitting from a solid and contested pace, Street Life, who has been threatening to break through since early summer, finally got his graded stakes win.
A strong, wide finish third in the Peter Pan, he came back to race very well in the Belmont, fourth, but going in the right direction at the finish.
Freshened until today, Brown had him fit and ready and Jose Lezcano rode him with extreme confidence. Going down the backside, he didn’t seem concerned when Ever So Lucky was sitting a good trip in front of him, highly like to get first run when the sprinting began.
Lezcano began his move three furlongs from home, Johnny Velazquez on Ever So Lucky sensed it, made his move but clearly Street Life was going the better of the two.
The pair entered the stretch as a team, five and six wide respectively, they bumped at headstretch for a stride, Street Life went on with it and Ever So Lucky didn’t. “When I asked him at the quarter pole to swing out, he gave me a good run," Lezcano said. "It doesn’t matter how wide he goes. He likes to be outside more than being inside.”
"Jose executed it perfectly," said Brown. "I was optimistic he would handle the mud. “As long as the horse is OK and doing well, he’ll be ready for the Travers.”
Street Life handled the wet track very well, indeed; Five Sixteen rallied very nicely while in the clear along the inside. Ever So Lucky continued willingly but was clearly no match.
The extra furlong of the Travers should, as the racetrackers say, hit Street Life right between the eyes.