The victory may have been more workmanlike than impressive; the margin relatively narrow. Going in, we knew about Thousand Words, Authentic and all the rest of three-year-olds.
But there’s something about Nadal that’s, like, scary.
First, he’s a big boy, which speaks to his belated debut. Second, there was the experience he gave away–to two talented rivals in particular, one a generational champion. Third, there was the trip. He was tested every step of the seven furlongs while making a rise in class and distance.
And did we mention that he was returning in an un-Bob Baffert-like 21? But “the horse told him” after a recent workout, indicating that nadal was fit enough for the challenge of the G2 San Vicente Stakes, a launching pad for many top Derby candidates, points be damned.
As for the workmanlike trip, he broke from mid-gate and was surrounded immediately; Party Town inside and the talented, fast working Ginobili on his outside. Riding to instructions–“I told Joel [Rosario] don’t get cute, just go,” and so he did.
After about a quarter-mile, Nadal and Ginobili went on with it, separating themselves from the group, Ginobili ratcheting up the pressure while pinning Nadal to the fence, a good tactic as it forced Nadal to reach down a bit to maintain a slight lead.
It was the kind of trip that under similar circumstances will get most horses beaten.
There was a time or two when it appeared that the outside horse would prevail, but Nadal reached down deeper and was not found wanting. When he reached the line after a 21.81 and 44.09 pace battle, he was doing his best , seven-eighths in 1:22.59. I have a nagging feeling there’s more to come.
“I was never worried about it,” Rosario said afterward. “I could feel I had a lot of horse under me… He ran very fast, and he runs like he’ll like two turns… But you never know until they do it.”
“We can rate him some other day,” Baffert added, “now I can fine tune him.” And that likely will come before his next start, Oaklawn Park’s Rebel Stakes, million-dollar prep for another million-dollar race. It’s this path to Kentucky that Baffert seems to own.
Frightening to think that it’s mid-February and this big boy still has some growing and fine-tuning to do. He has scope to handle whatever comes his way. And that will be two turns and a tougher test. That will come on MAR 14 in Hot Springs. The Rebel’s a 50-pointer, a virtual win and you’re in.
Another Transparent Turf Writer Ballot
Is is our custom, we go public with our choices when voting for anything and everything Thoroughbred racing. This exercise is more regional than national, but as a native New Yorker who is living in South Florida at the moment, here’s one man’s ballot for potential New York-bred champions.
A majority of the divisions were far less defined than last year’s Eclipse nominees; far fewer Grade 1 class separators to choose from though there was a notable one, our choice for New York-bred of the Year.
In several divisions, I could have resorted to a coin toss. Probably many wish that I had.
Votes are tabulated on a 10-5-1 basis and are limited to 2019 performances.
1. TIZ THE LAW 2. CLEON JONES 3.CITY MAN
1. CRITICAL VALUE 2. NAKED AVENGER 3. MY ITALIAN RABBI
1. SOMELIKEITHOTBROWN 2. FUNNY GUY 3. DUGOUT
1. NEWLY MINTED 2. KID IS FROSTY 3. PAT’S NO FOOL
1. MR. BUFF 2. PAT ON THE BACK 3. HONOR UP
1. PAUSEFORTHECAUSE 2. OUR SUPER NOVA 3. MRS. ORB
1. GUCCI FACTOR 2. DOT MATRIX 3. RED KNIGHT
1. FIFTY FIVE 2. KID IS FROSTY 3. FIRE KEY
1. BUILD TO SUIT 2. DUGOUT 3. MY BOY TATE
1. NEWLY MINTED 2. PAUSEFORTHECAUSE 3. CARRERA CAT
NEW YORK-BRED OF THE YEAR: TIZ THE LAW