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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, September 25, 2022 – When turf writers sat down with their weekly NTRA ballots Monday morning, one of the riddles that needed solving was ranking the nation’s top three-year-old, namely, do victories in the Santa Anita Derby and Pennsylvania Derby equal one Travers?

Of course, Epicenter is more than a one-hit Grade 1 Travers wonder. He did win two Grade 2s previously, the Louisiana Derby and Jim Dandy, in which he beat the winners of the Preakness and Blue Grass Stakes. Those Saratoga victories were as stylish as Taiba’s score on Saturday.

If Flightline remains undefeated in the Classic, the three-year-old who finishes closest to the magnificent four-year-old could get the nod. Or it could be decided in the final Grade 1 of the three-year-old season, the Grade 1 Malibu at Santa Anita. If that “playoff” is needed, home track and style advantage to Taiba.

Pennsylvania Derby day was about a lot more than its signature event. A new three-year-old filly star emerged in Society, who not only improved her lifetime mark to 5-for-6 but and so with a jaw-dropping display of speed.

Going in, she was the main speed on paper. But leaving the gate she left nothing to chance as Florent Geroux blew the Grade 1 Cotillion wide open with sprinter-type speed. At the finish, the Gun Runner second-season sophomore did her best impression of a divisional leader not named Nest.

A solid #2 going into the Cotillion was Secret Oath, who may have had some of the starch taken out of her by Nest in Saratoga, or was more of an early season sensation that did not continue developing, or is badly in need of a freshening; perhaps all three. When it counted most, she again was one-paced.

We completely underestimated Society as we give less credence to big-figure winners at bullring tracks such as Charles Town. Instead it turns out that Steve Asmussen has another good one to play with. She was one of five winners by her sire on Saturday.

As stated in a comment to one of the HRI Faithful over the weekend, I have not seen a more dominant young stallion since Mr. Prospector changed the face of breeding back in the day; soft-boned but fast offspring! The Gun Runners, in our view , have shown precocity and stoutness early on. We shall see as more evidence is compiled.

A total of 59 horses were entered in the Big Philly 5 races, all stakes, helping to cap a 13-race program of well endowed races which included nods to the Pennsylvania state-bred program. In all, $18.8 million were wagered from all sources, a staggering sum for the Bensalem venue.

I never thought I’d see this day but as we keep reiterating here, good horses are good business.

Speaking of state-breds, Buy Land and See showed his class against his peers once again, easily blowing the Alphabet Soup apart when given his cue turning for home. Mychel Sanchez rode him as if he were astride the best horse—and he was.

That’s Right made a big impression taking the 5-furlong G3 Turf Monster. A video review indicated that he likely was the best speed in a race loaded with it. He proved it and never weakened, winning as much the best.

Trainer Michael Moore and jockey Andy Hernandez gained their first lifetime graded scores. Good on them.

Alas, racing isn’t perfect, is it? According to Bill Finley’s report in Sunday’s Thoroughbred Daily News, several cars were searched as they entered the grounds this weekend and illegal paraphernalia, including several syringes and an electrical devise, were uncovered.

The discoveries resulted in immediate suspensions of “at least two trainers and one jockey.” This reportedly was the second such incident within a three-month period. It would appear that people are dropping dimes to Pennsylvania racing officials in advance.

There was no mention whether the reaction was the result of Racing Commission internal security or whether the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act’s see-something, say-something mantra is bearing fruit. In either case, this was good policing.

HRI’s position on whistleblowers is, whatever the context, they provide information that generally works in the public’s best interests.

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