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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


If you didn’t enjoy the events of yesterday, from morning till NCAA pre-game, you are not the racing fan you claim to be. Even the losses were interesting, raising questions and other possibilities.

How do you like them Japanese horses?

The racing world took particular notice of American sport about a half century ago and a game plan developed. First came the British bookmakers, then Arab sheikhs, then the Japanese, who quietly were building a broodmare dam. And thank you St. Sunday Silence.

Fans of class-in-the-dam have a lot to brag about, mostly with respect to the Japanese breeding program.

The island nation had a wonderful 2021 Breeders’ Cup, knocked them out this winter in Saudi Arabia, and all of it was building to World Festival Day. Their good horses ran good; their top horses better, even in defeat, amassing a total of five wins on the day.

They kept their noses on and around the finish line virtually throughout the Dubai day and night. Barns going off is commonplace, but don’t recall seeing an entire country go on a roll.

In the end, the Dubai World Cup was fun to watch unless, of course, you are Todd Pletcher. Walden ultimately had a smile to break his star’s fall from grace, Mr. Pletcher had to be frightfully disappointed.

No excuses, just reality: Night racing, a strange, dull surface, a faraway land, stiffer competition, and 10 furlongs all had an impact, one way or another.

But I’m sure Pletcher will admit that, for whatever reason, Life is Good wasn’t on Saturday. Forget there was some early pressure, aggressively pushing the speed but he always looked loaded, Irad Ortiz in complete control. Until reaching headstretch.

Just after straightening away, Life is Good separated himself a bit in upper stretch but Ortiz had been shaking the reins to do so. From seemingly loaded to beginning to empty out. Life was not very good.

In keeping with the handicap division theme, enter Olympiad, who once again seriously looked the part of a serious horse. “You can tell by the way [Olympiad] was maturing, getter strong and faster, we always knew [the talent] was there, said trainer Bill Mott. After yesterday, I think the racing world believes.

One final note, I wrote and told people that Life Is Good should go to the Met Mile route, followed by a Saratoga summer, an Elmont or Lexington fall, and then 10 furlongs of Classic.

Then what does Hyman Roth know, anyway?

It’s Official, Epicenter the Real Deal

Until Messier does or does not do his thing, and until the filly meets the boys in the Arkansas Derby, and unless something extraordinary occurs at Santa Anita, Oaklawn Park or Aqueduct Racetrack, Epicenter is the leader in the Derby clubhouse.

Google defines epicenter as “the point on the Earth’s surface directly above the focus. When energy is released at the focus, seismic waves travel outward from that point in all directions.”

Make no mistake, that was a warning shot yesterday at Fair Grounds, from one sophomore to all other three-year-olds.

The Louisiana Derby even eclipsed Epicenter’s Risen Star performance for the new dimension displayed and the manner of victory. He rated kindly, kicked clear and won with reserves, giving the impression that another sixteenth of a mile won’t scare him. And neither will the conquered Churchill Downs surface.

Bets ‘N Pieces

Zozos and Pioneer of Medina both preformed very well and have significant upside… Echo Zulu needed every once of her championship class to remain undefeated, just outlasting a much improved, maturing Hidden Connection. Had to be impressed that FG Oaks show finisher Favor never stopped trying; another with upside needs to get a little faster…

Two Emmys‘ speed was more worthy of the respect he was shown in the Muniz Memorial… It bears repeating, Olympiad is one of America’s very best race horses; looking forward to the next one… That was one impressive maiden score by Marsalis–one of Asmussen’s five winners on the card–the way he took pressure and lengthened with authority late, winning with reserves…

Don’t know if there was a better feel good story from Meydan than Lord North, returning from death’s door to be a repeat winner of the Dubai Turf, sharing the victory in a dead heat that actually involved three horses separated by inches…

Cool to see old pros like Switzerland beat younger with authority… Crown Pride, one of Japan’s five winners, went to the bottom to win the UAE Derby and is in the big dance if connections opt in. If nominated, game runnerup Summer Is Tomorrow might be better suited for the Derby’s dynamics…

Big Invasion took an impressive next step following graduation, winning his stakes debut by three dominating lengths, the Texas Glitter at Gulfstream Park.

this is a live column and will be updated periodically

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9 Responses

  1. They spoke to Pletcher before the race and he said something to the effect that they thought he’d get the distance, but that Life Is Good was going to need a ‘breather’ at some point during the race. So they kinda suspected that he might not have the 10f in him -and being an Into Mischief on top and Distorted Humor underneath, it was certainly a possibility that added distance would not be kind. Ortiz putting the crop away with 300m to go really spoke volumes – the tank was already empty. This is a horse born to run in the Met Mile, no question about it now. I’d be very surprised if he doesn’t spend every moment of the next three months in Elmont with Todd and Malathaat, whose upcoming target is the Ogden Phipps. The Met Mile really couldn’t be a more perfect situation for him.

    Echo Zulu’s season debut could be excused as a race where she might be a bit short, but even given that allowance, I don’t think it pushes Secret Oath from the top of the 3yo filly board.

  2. I believe you’re right on all counts re Life is Good. There should be enough time to the Met Mile but not necessarily optimal. Guess the best thing that could happen to his chances was that he surely didn’t overextend himself Saturday.

    Now there is a possibility that Echo Zulu was less than 100% but reading between the lines, I do think they are concerned about the nine furlong Oaks. But she has every right to improve and show she’s made the transition from 2 to 3. So curious to see the filly on Saturday. Do believe the race was drawn yesterday.

    Always a pleasure to chat with someone who honors the sport while betting on it. Good job Doc.

  3. So,[yawn] Dylan Davis and R Rodriguez won the big a winter meet titles as top jockey and trainer. Wonder if it still is a secondary competition since most big name jocks ,and trainers, usually are more involved in the Florida , and other parts ,races. Will Robbie Davis son be able to remain as a top Five jockey in the Belmont and Saratoga competitions ? I have always stated the RR bread and butter has always been Aqueduct even if he’s getting more horses from richer outfits. This year ,so far ,i have not changed my mind. Good meet for me even if i only played in about 1/3 of the races,, closing in with an over $ 30 pick in the fifth race yesterday, Sunday. Take time off to re check my #s,spots and all around humble gloating. Next time ,my basic bottom bet will definitely increase its ‘base’. Frankie Dettori ,congrats, even if i refuse to bet on those synthetic track environments. Everything feels forced, stoic, systematically stiff .Maybe it is just me but “It Just Don’t Feel Right” !

    1. Forgot to mention that Matthews hit the 4th race $ 140 plus Exacta with a $ 45 plus pick on top ,,,,now if only i had Not made my bet in advance in a smelly ,dark bar joint i could have used his pick for a possible ,worthwhile PK 3,but sometimes ,esp. on Sundays, in a very busy sporting events and Family Day ,there are good enough reasons Not to enter and stay at a legal betting parlor for hours especially if the program does Not offer many ” innterestink ” races on a cold afternoon and your favorite sister is doing the home cooking ! Oh yeah,it is Only 14 F a few feet away from the American Venice of the South Bay. Even the ducks are shivering ….

  4. It was not meteoric like Steve Cauthen’s ascendency, or, say Tyler Gaffalione more recently, in terms of making the transition. But given the depth of riding talent working today, and the amount of time it took young Dylan to win his first riding title ass a journeyman is remarkable. Like a horse, you can only beat what’s lined up against you.

    Can Dylan win Saratoga? Ask the trainers who will name the Ortiz’s, and Luis, and now Prat, Rispoli, Johnny will be back. That, everything else being equal, gives Dylan like eighth call. Dylan has raised his game dramatically, a very quick learner, and there will be more titles in his future.

    New York racing is divided into two parts: Belmont/Saratoga and Aqueduct, which races mostly out of the spotlight’s glare. That’s not the fault of Davis, Rodriguez, or anyone else who makes a living while the snow flies…

    1. I look at how its taken time for Gaffalione (a flat out great jockey) to really get anything going at Saratoga, and would think Dylan will face that similar situation. He does have the added edge of having relationships with the Belmont barns which should help, though Tyler did ride in KY and FLA for a number of the barns that set up shop at Saratoga as well. In terms of getting top 3 choices in races the way he does at Aqueduct, that is going to rarely happen so expectations should be set differently. The Aqueduct & Belmont spring meets will be a lot tougher as well, as the big guns come home.

      1. My reference to Tyler was how quickly and effectively he made the transition from apprentice to journey. Matt has managed his career brilliantly, raises in class at the right time. Then his star began to rise, but Tyler was showing signs of potential greatness at the end of his apprentice days.

        As stated Doc, Aqueduct in separate from “NY racing” at Belmont and Saratoga, brief spring and fall periods notwithstanding. Meanwhile, how about I forget to mention the rider I voted for in Eclipse and one of America’s top five, Joel. Time catches all of us, on and off the field…

  5. It really is a ridiculous jockey colony to do battle with at Belmont, and Saratoga gets just impossible when you add Prat and Gaffalione to the mix. I.Ortiz/Rosario/Prat/Saez are the top 4 jockeys in the game, then you add Jose Ortiz, Velazquez, Gaffalione, Javier Castellano, Jose Lezcano, Manny Franco, Junior Alvarado. Now you are throwing Rispoli into the mix who is a turf riding wizard. And on top of all that – Ricardo Santana gets all the Asmussen top calls, so there are 28-34 more wins off the board between the 18-20 Asmussen wins and the handful of other wins Santana will pick up.

    There just aren’t that many available wins to go around after the sharks get theirs.

  6. Very busy week with three preps but want to get to a piece on jockeys. The premise? On balance, talent level of jockeys as a group at an all time high. Back in the day, three of four riders would dominate a meet–mostly one, really, Arcaro, Shoemaker, Pincay, etc.–but today many times you can go six deep before the talent level drops a notch…

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