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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing

TRIPPING THROUGH THE FIRST BIG WEEKEND ON THE ROAD TO THE TRIPLE CROWN AND MIDEAST

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, January 23, 2022 – There wasn’t much hype going into this weekend’s festivities in the Crescent City, nor was there very much coming out, but there sure was a lot to consider after some standout performances. Here’s a look, in descending order of significance:

The Lecomte was a great horse race! Five jumps from the finish line three horses were in with a chance. Show finisher Pappacap was not 100 percent ready for his season’s debut but will be much tighter for throw-downs to come.

Joe Bravo, keenly aware that pacesetter Epicenter was the horse to beat, urged Pappacap to get closer to the leader leaving the five-eighths pole. The inside run continued around the turn and engaged the pace horse at headstretch.

Pappacap continued on well but finished as if a tad short of top condition, third by a head to runnerup Epicenter, who was a narrow head behind the perfectly-timed late run made by 28.50-1 overlay Call Me Midnight.

Pappacap is expected to move forward from this; will be interested to see what’s next.

Epicenter probably was the most deserving as he did the dirty work by setting a lively tempo, too lively as it turned out. But he earned much respect by validating his most recent Gun Runner tour de force.

Trainer Keith Desormeaux played his upstart charge like a violin. After breaking maiden, he ran him back in two weeks, hiking him into the G2 Jockey Club Stakes, in which he raced wide, wider, and widest in an apparent non-effort.

Reuniting with James Graham yesterday, the colt saved some ground early from a wide draw, swung out into the 5-path for the drive, and finished determinedly down the center of the strip, up just in time.

In addition to Epicenter’s “winning race,” Steve Asmussen presented himself with a dilemma any trainer would envy, keeping the freakish protem juvenile champion Echo Zulu and La Crete separated: La Crete might not be her barn mate’s equal, but may be more Oaks suited than the certain champion.

In winning her Silverbulletday stakes debut, the daughter of Medaglia d’Or from Cavorting, showed her early brilliance once again then took everything the experienced and talented Fannie and Freddie threw her way, indeed losing the lead in midstretch. But battle back she did.

What impressed most is that La Crete, outrun in midstretch by a half-length, re-broke after Joel Rosario switched to a life-handed crop. Not only did she re-rally for the win but actually was drawing out at the finish and continued to gallop out well into the lower clubhouse turn in a remarkable effort.

Two of last year’s top three-year-olds, Mandaloun and Midnight Bourbon, put on quite a show in their seasonal bows, the G3 Louisville Stakes. They battled the length of the stretch, an the issue that appeared in doubt until Mandaloun asserted himself late from the outside.

These top handicappers are quite familiar with each other, having met often and involved in several close finishes. But with four victories in five starts now, one via the Haskell demotion, Mandaloun has proven the better of the two. It was a finish that didn’t deserve a loser.

Both ran well enough to suggest they made the transition from 3 to 4. Now the connections of each must decide whether to race for 20-million blood dollars in Saudi Arabia in late February. Along with a top international cast, it rates to be a killer of a contest.

Tripping Out

Three-year-old Gunfighter broke maiden going 1-1/16 miles in the second race but Fully Connected showed blazing early speed and Art Heist appeared to receive educational handling; follow…

Peaceful Waters broke maiden after getting loose in 48.03, holding on to win while failing to switch leads. Runnerup Pioneering Spirit showed more promise as he rallied wide for over a half-mile, was a bit late changing leads himself, but eventually did. Should not be a maiden for long…

Could have thrown a blanket over the first four finishers in the grassy sixth; two noses and a head separating the first four, the nod eventually going to Tiz of Thee. As the race was run, runnerup Hogslayers R I P may have been best, forced to alter course between rivals in deep stretch; note…

I understand the Kenner disqualification. Just Might did drift in carelessly and severely crowded two inside rivals. But had the stewards taken a longer look, they might have observed Cowan attempting to savage Sir Alfred James a split second before Just Might did his damage. If curious, check out the head-on replay of the day’s eighth race…

Yet another fantastic finish in the Colonel E R Bradley, a three-way photo in which any would have been a deserving winner. Mr. D winner Two Emmys made all in season’s debut and fought on tenaciously, out-bobbed for place at a trip short of his best. Will be double-tough on the stretch-out.

Halo Again just missed in a very good change-of-pace, from-behind runnerup effort, Forty Under getting up between horses late at a seriously inflated 16.40-1.

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4 Responses

  1. Looking at the results,too many winning favs,and it’s short fields,it is very Evident that Aquaduct should take a yearly break this time of the year while being almost hidden in the Sports pages and betting interests. Ok,you may hit a $ 400 Pick Six,wow,and how much I it cost you ?Value? Prices? Interesting races? Quality product ? Not there,not In these frigid,grey, pitiful conditions ! Why bother ? Give everyone involved a friggin break !

    1. The sport was forced into a smaller, stronger position in 2020. Unfortunately in 2021, it was back to business as usual.

      2021 Wagering on U.S. Races: $12,218,407,637.00
      2021 U.S. Races: 33,567
      2021 Average Field Size: 7.37
      2021 Average Wagering per Race: $364,000.59

      2020 Wagering on U.S. Races: $10,922,936,290.00
      2020 U.S. Races: 27,700
      2020 Average Field Size: 7.94
      2020 Average Wagering per Race: $394,329.83

      1. Thanks Dan, the numbers were to be expected. Most comparisons you see are made to 2019, pre-Covid.

        That would seem a better, fairer barometer. And I can’t remember an instance when I saw 2021 was down from 2019.

  2. You can simply play simulcasts. Horsemen who don’t have the kind of horses that can win in tougher southern circuits have to eat, too. You’ve written this before NY winter racing is here to stay. Turn the page on this storyline. I did 20 years ago.

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