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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing

ANOTHER TRIPLE CROWN CHASE AND YET ANOTHER DERBY WITH BAFFERT’S NAME ON IT?

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.

2YO MALE:
1. TIZ THE LAW 2. CLEON JONES 3.CITY MAN
2YO FEMALE:
1. CRITICAL VALUE 2. NAKED AVENGER 3. MY ITALIAN RABBI
3YO MALE:
1. SOMELIKEITHOTBROWN 2. FUNNY GUY 3. DUGOUT
3YO FEMALE:
1. NEWLY MINTED 2. KID IS FROSTY 3. PAT’S NO FOOL

OLDER MALE:
1. MR. BUFF 2. PAT ON THE BACK 3. HONOR UP

OLDER FEMALE:
1. PAUSEFORTHECAUSE 2. OUR SUPER NOVA 3. MRS. ORB
MALE TURF:
1. GUCCI FACTOR 2. DOT MATRIX 3. RED KNIGHT
FEMALE TURF:

1. FIFTY FIVE 2. KID IS FROSTY 3. FIRE KEY
MALE SPRINTER:
1. BUILD TO SUIT 2. DUGOUT 3. MY BOY TATE
FILLY SPRINTER
1. NEWLY MINTED 2. PAUSEFORTHECAUSE 3. CARRERA CAT


NEW YORK-BRED OF THE YEAR: TIZ THE LAW

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11 Responses

  1. Eric, absolutely right, my bad. Thanks for the heads up! Corrected the copy.

    Meanwhile, a race with some history should be worth something, don’t you think? I know it’s a sprint, but a lot of great 3YOs came out for their debuts at 7 furlongs.

  2. My friend in Big A Player’s Club thought Nadal would need a rest after that fast San Vicente. He said the race would take something out of both horses who ran 1, 2. But then, he is not Bob Baffert and JP may be on to another Derby contender, BIG TIME! Very strong race, IMO.

  3. C, your friend could be right, too, but it was BB who, after the race, said now that he has a foundation he can fine tune him. Sometimes races catch up, sometimes not, but given BB’s Arkansas prep record, I trust he knows his horse. And like I said, he’s a big boy, he’s built for this…

    BTW: not saying I like him, just saying he’s a player.

    1. Thanks. This is shaping up to be an interesting crop of 3 yr old horses. It’s starting to look, as you have suggested, that a “dark” horse might emerge late and win it all. I remember Creator with Irad coming from the clouds in a Derby Prep and he won Belmont. I know, I had him. Now you would never get that price w/Irad aboard. This is one great rider.

  4. Irad, one great rider? Geez. To date this year Irad has been up on 231 platers; he has found the winner’s circle with 59 of ’em, or a win percentage of 26%. Golly, I have a better win percentage than he does. Bet him to win and you lose with three-quarters of your wagers.
    Paco wins with 17% of his mounts; Jose with 15% of his mounts; and Luis with 17%.

    Betting on jocks won’t get one to the promised land, nor will spending hours reading the past performances, nor wagering on the FRA here at HRI. What to do, what to do. Bet the favorite determined by all bettors? Yesterday, only two favorites won at Gulf. Maybe hang the PP’s on a wall and toss darts? Or, hang around and wait for Baffert or Pletcher to enter horses in stake races? Maybe bet dime supers? I dunno, never bet beyond an occasional pick three when a heavy favorite is involved.

    Sure would like to find a geek with his/her algorithm that is winning all the money by betting, I’ve read, after the gates open.

  5. Fair point (s) but how do you explain certain players at NHC finding their way into the final table each year. The guy who won the 800k this year only uses the Form and no other tools. Irad put on a clinic at The Breeder’s Cup a few months back but I kinda agree w/you that you need the horse to get there first. On the other hand, a not so good jockey can, and does, lose with horses that are mortal locks. Nothing worse than losing with one of these due to no fault of the runner but rather the rider. I resorted to playing the outside horse with the two, or three, to the inside of him/her. Now I play ping pong balls (state lottery).

  6. Interesting that you should mention NHC. I made it to the inaugural NHC held at the MGM in Vegas. How did I get their? Down to my last bet and about in 10th place, behind ‘cappers who had bet ‘bombs’ of course, I bet $200 on a plodder in a sprint at Santa Anita named Knoxville. The horse paid $34 and I finished 3rd and was on my way to Vegas thanks to my handicapping skills – harrumpt! Yup, I sat in a
    plane headed for the NHC, having qualified by being an ‘expert’ handicapper, just as all the other qualifiers got their – luck not skill!

    That ole saw ‘it’s better to be lucky than good’ is apropos when gambling on the ponies.

  7. WMC,

    As the HRI Faithful know, you and I have been on opposite ends many, many times–but on this we agree. I do as much research as anyone has ever done to formulate an opinion. But too often, luck trumps expertise.

    Famous last words: That’s why they call it gambling!

  8. John, Marty Blum won inaugural WSH at Penn National. How? An ol’ timer at Belmont knew his stuff and told Marty to bet on Jeffrey Lloyd. May have been the best jockey in Harrisburg area at that time. Last race of three day contest Blum empty’s out on Lloyd horse in finale and horse wires field at 5-1. Blum wins. Steve Davidowitz claims foul as Blum split his wager on two horses. Rules were unclear but after a one hour “inquiry” (even longer than CD with MAX last year) Marty’s “number” stayed up. Scientific? No. Just lucky.

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