HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, October 11, 2021 – Whatever the official designation, today is Columbus Day as far as I’m concerned, which begs but one question for this audience: Is the weekend series of Championship Season prep races really over now?
It had better be, I’m all out of Visine. I watched at least 16 races that will have a direct bearing on the activities at Del Mar the weekend of November 5-6. I’m not sure but there probably were even more. Here’s the skinny on the races we did see this weekend, starting Friday:
G2 Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix: Special Reserve caught a flyer out of the gate, put the competition away by giving them the slip entering the home straight and survived the furious finish of Aloha West in fast time. Neither gave the impression they can manage the “good Jackie’s Warrior.”
G1 Darley Alcibiades: She might not be quite as brilliant as divisional leader Echo Zulu but the very impressive Juju’s Map has the benefit of two turn experience. Echo Zulu is no run-off, coming back to her rider nicely in the Frizette. However, you’ve got to go out there and prove it on the racetrack.
G2 Vosburgh: Like we said, Jackie’s Warrior has answered all the questions. But Following Sea, like Special Reserve, caught a flyer and is now 2-for-2 at the Sprint trip. Further, we’re guessing she might be a little better with a target. But, as stated, it needs to be done between the fences.
G3 Matron: Bubble Rock showed class wearing down her nine rivals going six furlongs but the Juvenile Turf Sprint on Future Stars Friday is at five-eighths. Did you see Averly Jane at Keeneland Sunday? If not, better find that video. She has formidable speed and will take a lot of catching.
G2 TVG Woodford Stakes: Golden Pal was amazingly game in his come-again victory at 5-1/2 furlongs and is 2-for-3 in turf sprints at 3, his only loss coming at York. And speaking of Europeans, it’s difficult to imagine that they won’t ship over a classier rival than the ones vanquished at Keeneland.
G1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic: Race dynamics and position dictated that Joel Rosario move prematurely instead of making customary last run aboard Gufo while second favorite Japan ran his way out of Turf contention. Sorry but the Euros are likely to have a big class edge over Rockemperor.
G2 Thoroughbred Club of America: Bell’s the One is a sweetheart, game and genuine and Neil Pessin is right when he says she doesn’t get enough respect. We have our doubts that her best will be good enough to manage divisional-leading champion Gamine and several others.
G1 First Lady: Blowout and Regal Glory were very good completing the Chad Brown exacta when Althiqa didn’t bother to show up. If Flavien Prat, or anyone else, gets the call on the in the Filly & Mare Turf, they are going to have to be much better than they were at Keeneland.
G1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity: Ken McPeek makes a solid point of skipping the Juvenile with Rattle N Roll if the colt’s ultimate target is the 2022 Kentucky Derby. Either that or he finds classy speed such as Brown’s Jack Christopher worrisome over the Del Mar strip. No problem, whoever loses can claim the race was rigged.
G1 Keeneland Turf Mile: Can’t get over the fact that Order of Australia finished last. Parenthetically, thought long and hard about In Love— computer mob sending it from 20-1 to 12-1 late–but lamentably did not pull the trigger. Loved his turf stride inside final sixteenth but hard to imagine a repeat vs. potentially high-class Euros, but intriguing…
Indian Summer Stakes: As hinted above, filly Averly Jane is a speed freak—in a good way. At five furlongs, she is highly likely to remain undefeated in career start number five. Three of her four scores have come over three different courses. She’s beaten the boys. No reason to think Del Mar will be any different.
G1 Juddmonte Spinster: Had to review video as the remarkable Letruska seemed to be snaking down the lane. She just lost a little focus and needed some reminding from Irad Ortiz Jr. Her ears were straight up entering the lower first turn, she set a moderate pace then scooted home, the final three-eighths in 36.49 for her fourth Grade 1 of the year.
G2 Castle & Key Bourbon Stakes: Reiterating, can’t get over the fact that Tiz the Bomb broke through the gate before the start, reloaded, broke cleanly but then squeezed between rivals on first turn. After that, it all went perfectly. The Hit It a Bomb bay is a serious turf specialist in a deep division. Will be a major player, Euros, or no Euros.
G3 Futurity: Paraphrasing Tina Turner, we’re going to do it easy but first we’re going to do it rough. Slipstream was buffeted about between rivals leaving the gate, was restrained, became rank, then tipped for clearance before slipping back inside where Rosario, as usual, found a seam. This is a nice colt but will need to raise his game in Oceanside.
G2 Beldame Stakes: Royal Flag is no Letruska but she’s not that far away providing she gets clear sailing on the outside and allowed to power home, which is exactly what she did as Horologist was a solid pick-up-the-pieces runnerup. Nice mare but she’s still not Letruska. She’ll need the big mare to get seriously pressured at some point to have any chance.
G3 Knickerbocker Stakes: Sacred Life finally put it all together and came with a furious late rally to nail a very well rated lone-speed Field Pass. Perhaps his best chance would be to turn back into the Breeders’ Cup Mile where a torrid pace would be to his benefit. As for the talent level of his future rivals, that’s a different conversation.