HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, July 18, 2021– It was, from morning to late night, one of those Box of Chocolate days of racing. Not only didn’t fans know what they were going to get but didn’t often get what was expected.
The day…er morning…began with one of the most impressive efforts in a European classic.
If, indeed, Irish Derby winner Hurricane Lane is to run back in next week’s prestigious King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes punters have to wonder if his Irish Derby’s Category 5 performance left anything in the tank.
The sophomore son of Frankel roared home through deep stretch winning in full stride while ridden out to the finish.
In the end, it was a mere prelude to the Godolphin/Appleby Grade 1 sweep as Anthiqa and Summer Romance finished 1-2, again, in an American Grade 1, adding the 9-furlong Diana to their most recent Just A Game mile. The connections think that the winner is getting stronger and wiser with each start; scary.
DAY 3: Prior to the Diana, Saratoga staged the 105 year old Sanford which newly minted Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher won for the eighth time with Wit, undefeated in two ultra impressive performances.
Wit, a son of Practical Joke, of course, is no precocious baby. In fact, he’s slow to begin, but when the rider asks in earnest, he delivers turn moves rarely seen in juveniles.
Time will tell whether Wit’s an accomplished miler one-turn type, or whether he is more. Seems scopey enough to think there’s more development there. I rarely, if ever, put Spa juveniles together in the same sentence with Kentucky Derby but may make an exception here.
Put another way by jockey Irad Ortiz: “He’s a nice horse. For a 2-year-old, that was very impressive.” As for the slow starts, eventually “he’ll figure that out,” added Ortiz, a scary thought for the rest of the division.
Sunday’s feature is the 5-1/2 furlong grassy Coronation Cup Stakes. At the price, we’re taking Illegal Smile (9-2) to win at 4-1 or greater and boxing an exacta with Goin’ Good (5-2). [Coronation Cup has been taken off the grass–Goin’ Good now looms a prohibitive favorite]…
Steve Asmussen tripled Saturday, leaving him 16 wins short of Dale Baird’s 9,445 career victories. Considering that Asmussen has not won a preponderance of his races at Mountaineer Park, as did the legendary Baird who led that meet 15 times, the feat would be even more remarkable.
Noteworthy Stable Mail Potential: Neuro won the opener but War Smoke was probably best: Broke slowly 2 to 3 lengths, raced behind horses 3-4 at the turn in this 5.5 maiden allowances on turf, angled into the 6-path entering the lane and roared down the center of the track; won’t be a maiden for long…
New Mott acquisition Baby Yoda, bet from the bell, broke like a shot, rated comfortably while showing excellent speed throughout under a light pull, drew off as much the best. Mott excitedly ran out onto the track to meet the colt; methinks he likes this guy, who won with speed in reserve.
Love and Money was entirely too fresh and lost all good chance as a run-off going down the backside, virtually leaving nothing in the tank. Three-year-old filly deserves another chance. Third Draft suffered through a no-chance very-wide-throughout trip and still finished well enough to win in an excellent performance.
Interesting maiden allowances in the 5th for juvenile colts: Well bet Chattalot, for Asmussen/Santana, ran to his sales works and showed some class to win debut gamely after stalking three-wide throughout; had a right to hang but didn’t; stakes bound… Carpe All Day was a hickory game second despite remaining on incorrect lead to the post and Seal Beach got jammed up, appeared to resent the kickback, raced greenly after recovering and was resolute enough to gain the show; note.
Portfolio Company got Chad off the duck, juvenile turf router bet from the bell and winning beneath extremely confident Irad handling. James Aloysius had an eventful journey while racing quite greenly and finished very well for place.
To Whip Or Not To Whip, Back In The News
First the big Haskell stuff: The fact there’s a chance that a three-year-old could be elevated in two Grade 1s, not to mention it’s the Kentucky Derby and Haskell.
Paco Lopez extremely lucky after being thrown from a stumbling Midnight Bourbon in that it could have been much worse, especially since he was nicked by a trailer. The head-bob exacta finishers, Hot Rod Charlie and runnerup Mandaloun, both gave terrific efforts in racehorse time.
And credit ‘Bourbon’s’ athleticism in that he was able to protect himself from serious injury and appeared to gallop back soundly. But the big takeaway on social media was all about the no-whip rule at Monmouth Park.
It is totally reasonable to assume that had Flavien Prat been allowed to straighten his mount with the help of a left-handed crop he might have been able to correct a veering in Hot Rod Charlie, avoiding both the contact and subsequent disqualification.
But that’s what it is; an assumption. A crop might have helped but the result is not guaranteed. Horses lug in under left-handed urging every day. The idea that he would have been corrected is not knowable. Personally, we appreciated the no-nonsense, no-brainer, automatic DQ did not take 20 minutes to adjudicate.
I’m one of those observers who do not see a obvious difference between races run this year and all the decades past. Monmouth is still Monmouth. I do buy into that whips are missed most getting out of the gate, especially the need-the-lead types that require quarter-horsing and perhaps in incidences such as yesterday’s. But…
I feel the same way about whips as I do the Lasix ban. Trainers have to adjust their training regimens to compensate and so do riders not bearing crops. As far as finishing races without whipping and slashing, riders need to study Joel Rosario race rides and learn how to finish with heels and hands.
I argued on Twitter that running free of race-day medication and riding crops is more about what the sport was intended to be: horse racing. No doubt it will be a process, but the world is not perfect. Indeed, the world, including this small part of it, is as far from perfect as one can stray.
Day 2… Sometimes the good guys win. Twice. Jim Bond started the 2021 Spa meet the way started–and finished in 2020, winning with three of ever 10 starters. Giacosa was perfectly ridden by Luis Saez, a comfortable stalk from close range before setting sail.
The 007 filly was a bit lucky considering how unlucky the favorite was. Chocolate Cookie stumbled at the break, sat far behind a slow pace, and still came running as the pace was heating up. Tough to beat a poor start and the race shape. Next time…
As it turns out, the Bond family had a day, winning the G3 Forbidden Apple with New York-bred Rinaldi. Brilliantly rated on the engine–Saez again–the connections got lucky when speedster Flying Scotsman was a program scratch, leaving Rinaldi potentially loose on the lead. And that’s the way it played out.
Runnerup Value Proposition veered in badly through the lane when it appeared he might mount a serious challenge. Behind the winner, Chad Brown horses finished 2-3-4, both Delaware and Scared Life being compromised by the tepid pace.
Opening Day… There were some impressive runs and several next-time trip runners that demand attention. Check it for yourselves:
Juvenile filly Microbiome was a never-in debut debut winner by 5-1/2 on 1:05.60 while the other division was won by Echo Zulu by the exact same margin but needed only 1:04.69 to stop the timer beneath a supremely confident Ricardo Santana Jr.
Steve Asmussen needs 19 more winners to enter Dale Baird rarified air and, by the way, how about them Gun Runner’s?
Check out show finisher Outfoxed and Treason’s turf trip in the third. Speaking of grass, check out winning Five Alarm Robin and wide-tripping Two Cent Tootsie. Need to see the Bourbon Thunder horror from post 11 in the seventh event.
Golden Pal is back–with a vengeance. Turned out he had the Quick Call bunch at his mercy. He looked a picture, ran a blinder, as Ward’s Euro friends might say, and finished well in hand, in 1.02.99, 3 lengths the best of it. It will take a heck of a Euro to beat this guy.
There were other fillies in the Schuylerville who showed impressive speed winning on debut, as did Pretty Birdie, who made them look slow after she popped out of there immediately and established control with her speed.
She, too, appeared a winner in upper stretch but stayed on her left lead and was tired at the end. Norm Casse promised she would be better in the Spinaway, a man with a plan and confidence in his filly. She’s by Bird Song from Bird Sense, a Whitney production all the way, a perfect cap on the day.
Friday’s G3 Forbidden Apple features three from Chad Brown going one mile on the inner course and we opted for Sacred Life (3-1) on the distance and class angle.
Post 9 doesn’t help the cause but Rosario should, and Sacred Life has been training purposefully in Saratoga since early June. That price may hold with the Brown favorite, Value Proposition (5-2), breaking from post #3.
Del Mar opens Friday with the overstuffed Oceanside, a great betting race for 3-year-olds going two turns on the grass, and of course Saturday is Haskell by the Sea. All know the major players from the Triple Crown:
Hot Rod Charlie, the very game Belmont runnerup, drew right in the middle of the group and was established 6-5 early line favorite; Derby runnerup is immediately inside the favorite and is 2-1 second choice and Preakness runnerup Midnight Bourbon has drawn post #6 and listed at 9-2.
Haskell analysis forthcoming as well as both graded stakes from the Spa, the Sanford for the juvenile colts and the Diana, the first Grade 1 of Saratoga 2021, a race Brown will try to win for the seventh time.
G3 FORBIDDEN APPLE RED BOARD: Well, indeed, the program scratch of speedy Flying Scotsman left the above Rinaldi loose on the early lead–a clear choice under those circumstances. Hopefully the Faithful made the last minute adjustment. Getting 2-1 on lone speed with Saez from the pole on the sharp-turned inner, despite the longer stretch run, was fair value. It’s been my experience that unless your selection is declared, scratches hurt more than they help. But that’s just me.
This is a live column that will be updated continually. Saratoga Stakes Skinnies every day with a Red Board review after races of note comprise the annual Saratoga Diary, initiated in 1978.