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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing

SIGNIFICANT TRIPLE CROWN STEPPING STONE, THE G3 SOUTHWEST, AT OAKLAWN PARK SATURDAY

Hallandale Beach, FL, January 27, 2022 — Friday and Saturday will be all-Gulfstream-all-the-time, especially Saturday when the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational, the lynchpin of a 12-race program that features six other graded events, us renewed for the sixth time.

In Hot Springs, meanwhile, Bob Baffert –remember him?– will send undefeated Newgrange (2-1) to one of his favorite destination haunts in search of the lion’s share of the $750,000 purse.

All other Southwest three-year-olds will be looking for that cash, too, in addition to 10 Kentucky Derby eligibility points. Until it is determined otherwise, however, Baffert will be barred from competing in America’s Race after his Medina Spirit tested positive for Betamethazone.

It has been been eight months since the offense yet the Kentucky Racing Commission has failed to issue a ruling as to whether the disqualification will stand or be reversed.

As for Saturday, 11 other three-year-olds were entered in the 1-1/16 miles event and, while Newgrange does not enjoy a significant edge on the Thoro-Graph scale, he sure passed the eyeball test in his races.

The following are trip notations on HRI’s four top contenders, starting with the favorite:

NEWGRANGE (2-1) has won twice going from a six furlong sprint in which he ran down another newcomer, Got Thunder, sold at auction for $1.25 million. And he did it with something in reserve.

Showing confidence, Baffert entered him back in the G3 Sham, a two-turn mile. Not only did it result in a repeat score but he broke like a shot for the second consecutive time, yet came back to Johnny Velasquez kindly before reaching mid-first turn.

Further, he slowly separated himself from the group at mid-far turn and entered the stretch in complete control. Three sharp Baffert-type drills since and he will be set for another big run. He leaves from post 10, Velazquez on the re-ride.

DASH ATTACK (7-2) has the benefit of experience and is also undefeated, 2-for-2 lifetime, including a drawing out win after having the table set with fast, contested Smarty Jones fractions. The surface was wet on both occasions.

Following a tardy break, David Cohen saved ground and saved horse, taking some dirt before tipping out 6-wide at headstretch and almost immediately blew the race wide open. Both horses pay the price Saturday, lugging 122 pounds, giving 10 of his rivals five pounds and three to Vivar.

VIVAR (12-1) likely will be half those odds ante post given the Brad Cox-Florent Geroux connections, the addition of blinkers–25% effective for this barn–and his most recent trip behind Dash Attack in the ‘Smarty’.

If Vivar were able to switch trips with the three horses that separated him from Dash Attack, he could have finished up second best. Fanned into the 7-path entering, he finished strongly late down the center of the wet course.

IGNITIS (10-1) finished very well for show in that same race, entering the stretch 6-wide while in close between horses, then outsprinted all but Barber Road, who had a less taxing journey. Luis Contreras gets the return call from ‘Coach’ Lukas.

If Newgrange replicates the speed shown in his first two starts, he will be a tough out. Dash Attack has a big late engine and could easily repeat.

Vivar should be in the game earlier with the blinkers added but Ignitis could provide the most value at post time.

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2 Responses

  1. Posted via personal email message, comment from Indulto

    JP,
    KG’s Met Mile suggests to me he can’t match proven sprinter speed early, and that’s what LIG has. Unless LIG misses the break, I think he’ll either prevail, or else get them both beaten.

    This renewal reminds me of the inaugural running of the Pegasus billed as the rematch between California Chrome and Arrogate. Unfortunately that anticipated duel never materialized, and the race was won by 9-10 favorite, Arrogate, with the 4th, 5th, and 3rd choices finishing 2nd, 3rd, and 4th at win odds of 19.80, 23.40, and 16.30, respectively. The dime super paid only $46.39, even with the 1.20 2nd choice finishing 9th.

    I’m considering the following superfecta against KG:
    1) 4-Life Is Good, 3-Stilletto Boy, 6-Sir Winston
    2) 1-Knicks Go, 4-Life Is Good, 3-Stilletto Boy, 6-Sir Winston, 8-Endorsed
    3) 1-Knicks Go, 4-Life Is Good, 3-Stilletto Boy, 6-Sir Winston, 8-Endorsed
    4) 1-Knicks Go, 4-Life Is Good, 3-Stilletto Boy, 6-Sir Winston, 8-Endorsed
    (3x4x3x2=72)

    RESPONSE:

    I,

    For a perceived match race within a race, this is one of the most vexing handicapping puzzles I have seen. KG is proven faster on recent Thoro-Graph figures. LIG has a figure to run back to that puts him at equals, but that was sprinting, so there’s even more guesswork. And no one knows anything, including the connections, until the latch is sprung and the race begins to take shape. The figures say KG; the mind sees a scenario in which LIG is better equipped to survive a head-to-head battle.

    Championship Weekend the media is calling it. Damn right; in Thoroughbred racing. too.

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