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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing

SEVERAL HOT TAKES FROM BREEDERS’ CUP XXXVII SATURDAY PROGRAM

We’ve set it before and there’s no good reason to stop now. As a Thoroughbred racing event, the Breeders’ Cup never fails to fire. Off the top…

HORSE OF THE YEAR

Had to put my first instinct on pause and review the past performances. If the Horse of the Year can be anything–which is how the late, great Joe Hirsch put it back in the day; who is more worthy, Authentic or Monomoy Girl?

On paper, Authentic has the most coveted wins in America, a Kentucky Derby, and a comprehensive win over older horses in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The Haskell was just a warm-up act. Authentic is the favorite in the clubhouse. But…

The mare’s 2020 resume into the Distaff, the Ruffian and La Troienne may not be as imposing, but what of the intangibles? She did go 4-for-4 this season and defended her Distaff and Eclipse titles, with a mere 18-month gap in between after dealing with colic and a subsequent gluteal strain.

JOHNNY… FINALLY 

The year started with Johnny Velazquez parting ways with long-time mentor, friend, father figure and agent, Angel Cordero Jr., which was unfathomable at the time.

Then for the rider to go on to win the Derby and Classic, finishing ahead of now Cordero-guided Manny Franco is, some might say, a cold dish served. But we all know better; it’s just horse racing.

Who cannot be happy for a classy Hall of Famer, a 46-year-old family man who happens to be the highest purse-earning rider of all time, getting the prize he’d been “chasing” for 19 years?

TIZ THE LAW, WHAT WAS THAT?

One can argue with some certitude that the race was lost into the lower first turn. After having broken sharply away from the barrier, the colt’s pilot was passive in not seeking a wider path into the bend and getting some separation to that he eventually could take back and get to the outside of his Derby nemesis.

Instead, Tiz the Law got surrounded inside, filled with pent-up energy and nowhere to set it free. It was a tactical error that seriously compromised his chances. When he reappears, it might be with a different partner.

Through the lane, however, Tiz the Law must accept some of the blame. Considering how he was training; how could he offer so little? The only surmise left is that he was an early developer who peaked and had not developed further. Time will tell.

But Tiz the Law is better than this; maybe not as good as the promising signals of winter and spring, a time when he might have won the Derby and perhaps the whole damn thing in June. But 2020 had different plans.

The good news is that he gets to atone for these disappointments at 4. It would be good if Authentic returned, too. Wouldn’t it be nice if Saratoga’s Whitney were circled on both their calendars?

POOR GAMINE??

“After what she had been through…?” What? Did the filly inject herself? Twice?

The remark was embarrassing, withering moment of the weekend and as another Hall of Famer, Jerry Bailey, noted on the NBC broadcast, Gamine’s Hall of Fame trainer should have addressed the positives issue sooner. Good call.

As for the Filly and Mare Sprint itself, it was more like ‘poor-rest-of-the-field’. Johnny was both pilot and passenger aboard Gamine, which is french for nasty. Can’t speak for her temperament but she’s wickedly fast.

Meanwhile, thank you Serengeti Empress for some unforgettable career moments. You are at once very fast and uncommonly brave.

IS BRAD COX FOR REAL?

Until proven otherwise, apparently so. His work with Monomoy Girl is reminiscent of Chad Brown’s healing powers and training prowess that enabled the great Lady Eli to return to the highest levels off a similarly long layoff.

As everyone knows, horses mature significantly from 2 to 3 and from 3 to 4. In making his first start in this outfit after a relatively successful three-year-old season that was aborted due to a physical issue, Knicks Go made progress.

Cox was able to find approximately 2 lengths in the colt’s 4-year-old debut, which is fairly routine, improving from a ‘4’ to a ‘3’ on the Thoro-Graph scale. Eight months later he found about another 10 lengths, going from a lifetime best ‘3’ to a negative-4. Not so common.

In the Dirt Mile, not only did he not regress but returned with a freakishly fast performance. He went out licking in 21.98, 44.40, 1:08.25 and went right on ticking, stopping the timer in 1:33.85, “geared down,” according to the official chart. Yes, the surface was lightning fast. But still…

Knicks Go was one of four Cox winners over two days of Breeders’ Cup.

WHO HAD A BETTER WEEK, PIERRE-CHARLES BOUDOT OR STEVE KORNACKI?

I’m just going to come right out and say it, Audarya and Order of Australia were the two greatest pickup mounts on a single card in the history of the Thoroughbred world.

We’ve been following international racing a bit more in 2020 and in doing our Breeders’ Cup video work we made a mental note that this relatively new guy Boudot could ride a little bit. But I was wrong. He can ride a lot.

With 73-1 Order of Australia from post 14, Boudot recovered following a slow start, showed confidence while aggressively seeking an attending position and got it. too. He then sat, moved slowly but deliberately into contention at headstretch and staved off the closers after taking the lead in the Mile.

In doing so, the Frenchman helped an Irish legend, Aidan O’Brien, get off the Mile duck in a big way by also finishing second with Circus Maximus and third with outsider Lope Y Fernandez. The 50-Cent O’Brien trifecta, the old 15-1-3, returned a worthy $4,393.

An hour earlier, Boudot’s ride on Audarya was time capsule stuff. After breaking alertly, he guided his filly into the three path, securing cover briefly, then, after seeing an opportunity, darted to the rail seizing the day and the race by securing a perfect ground-saving turf journey.

Boudot tipped his filly out into the 3-path into the lane and drove her home for the win, grinding by a very game Rushing Fall, who herself withstood the hard-charging Harvey’s Lil Goil for place.

The only unfortunate race note was that remarkable Starship Jubilee lost any chance after stumbling at the start, unseating Florent Geroux who would later return to ride Monomoy Girl.

The Canadian-based 7-year-old ‘Starship’ never got a chance to improve on her remarkable (38) 19-5-3 lifetime slate. Not a bad claim, eh?

If you don’t understand the Kornacki reference, the assumption is you did not watch election returns on the same family of networks that hosted the Breeders’ Cup.

 FEEL GOOD STORY WHITMORE, BUT WHAT IF NASHVILLE HAD RUN?

There’s no denying Whitmore’s class and try, not given a lifetime mark of (37) 14-11-3 with over $3.2 million in earnings. The fourth time proved the charm for gelded Pleasantly Perfect 7-year-old. Whitmore, a picture in the paddock, is conditioned by Ron Moquett and was expertly ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr.

But class matters, of course, and even Moquett admitted that this was not the deepest of Sprint fields. So the question becomes whether lightly raced Nashville would have replicated his Perryville form in the G1 Sprint which took 1:08.61 to complete.

Nashville won a listed event by a geared down 3-1/2 lengths in 1:07.89, like breaking so many sticks. And it’s not only a question of class. There is the matter of 13 older, grittier and battle-proven rivals, as compared to a half-dozen lighter-raced sophomores. Long term, Nashville’s connections probably made the correct call.

Tuesday looking back at European participation and Future Stars Friday

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Our staff likes nothing better than to engage with the HRI Faithful and provide a forum for interaction on horseracing and sports. In that spirit, please be kind and reasonable; keep the language clean, and the tone civil. Comments from those who cannot comply will be deleted. Thank you.

38 Responses

  1. Some replies to your Hot cakes,I mean takes: Bet theAuthentic/JV combo three times and I’m glad that it reaffirmed to the overhauled Ortiz-Cordero-Franco clan that he did not deserve such insult and that the Latino Irish accented Hall of Famer is a first class person and jockey Unlike M Franco ,a small winning percenter from Saratoga to Florida to Kentucky and all ” parts unknown” in between. Finally,even yourself are admitting that he made,once again,errors in riding This, a former unbeatable ” Horse of the Year”. Respect Authentic beating the best of them once again BUT Monomoy deserves respect coming off the bench and easily winning.How about a split ? Tiz the Law : Head scratching situation.Guess that after winning a future big time race,should go on that long Honeymoon before the price might come down from the Star Galactica.No matter what,get MF off his back! Brad Cox: Kind of surprised everyone,more than Barrett’s cold exacta with the $6 mil$ race. Still skeptical about him because (1) Is he such a good young trainer or will he remind us of the Asmussens,Garrett’s of the trade school ?? Of course,a note about the so called televised pickers: Unless they pick the favorite they do not look like they know what they are talking about,especially the former hockey guy.Stick to the Stick play ! Ps: At the Big A the final last race payoffs of the Pick 6 only had one horse qualifying for the money,Only one,the odds on fav who won easily and getting an easy,small triple. Never seen that happen before as someone collected over $ 94 K playing the multilevel vertical gimmick.Wonder how many combos were needed with those long bombs ! Hey,it’s s Aquaduct,not Belmont and what happens there nobody really knows…. How did JP ‘ s picks do on such a day? What happened to KP ‘s longshot picks ? Just curious,,.

    1. Re: Television Pickers
      I don’t know if anyone caught the discussion Jerry Bailey was having with one of his co announcers before the Audayra race. He was talking about Rushing Fall and Mean Mary. Soon after the person (didn’t get his name) walking the paddock for NBC, passed the stall with Audayra getting saddled stated that “Jerry likes him”.
      I quickly threw a saver on him.

      1. Yes, Manny is a top class rider but not quite elite status. I couldn’t do what jockeys do but I’ve forgotten more races than young Manny has seen in his lifetime. Jocks make great and poor rides every day. He did not executive well on Saturday but don’t believe it cost him the race. For all his great training, Tiz was empty in the lane–partly because he was ‘muzzled and suppressed’ inside…

        1. Andy Serling was also puzzled by what he termed the “snatch and grab” tactics used in BC Classic at the start. He said Javier is an aggressive rider and did not do much with MAX and Manny restrained TIZ like you mention above. He did not knock Authentic in any way but said it was odd the way the race was run. Rushing Fall was sold last night at Fasig Tipton’s Night of the Stars sale, along with Monomoy Girl. MG will continue to train and race next year.

  2. John, Can’t thank you enough for all the effort you put into all of this. I didn’t cash on your recent 2K SF call a few days back, but I was guilty and caught “sins of omition” buck naked on the trifecta counsel, as on 9 out of 10 of your Bartleby, the Scrivener takes on a tri, I cover the bet. Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda, said thanks anyway. You completed your part. My bad is all. Mea Culpa my friend. Always another day, another race to tomorrow, right Loughlin?

    As for yesterday, I caught a few small payouts along the way early, and then off your read, hit a nice exotica in races 7, 10 and 11. Went into race 12 well ahead, plus $ 200 and then some for the two days. Decided that with house chips in hand, I would double down and press on your Classic analysis. Swinging for the fences…I only do it with house money. Only change I added however, I decided the only horse that could blow the tickets up was Authentic. Added a few exacta tickets with Authentic on top. The winning exacta payout ended up bringing me back half the press. A God wink? Think so. Ended up a buck and a half to the good. I’ll keep the half, and in your honor, as a way of saying thanks, I’ll donate $100 to the local outreach food program. You’re a good man Pricci. Your parents and Bishop Laughlin would be proud of your actions. Time has a way of evaluating us all my friend. Keep winding the watch, and keep on is all.

    I like Lincoln’s Angels in the third. Don’t know the track yet, but I think the program starts on 1/20. Riders Up!

    P.S. HOY? Wish it could end a DH, just like with Blame and Zenyatta. Trophies are for kids anyway. Much enjoyed the Walfred Solorzano piece. A True Fan Remembrance is truly a wonderful read. Regarding family man ’46, could be JV age 46, or BH # 46? Works for both of ’em. Peace Out.

    1. McD, Haven’t promoted Bishop Loughlin much since Rudy Colluty started to embarrass himself in recent years…

      I thought so, too. That was nice of one of the HRI Faithful to share his love of the game with the rest of us…

      If I’m supposed to chide you, the Audarya, Rushing Fall $1 exacta was worth a C-Note, and that should have kept the wolf away from the door.

      1. Think I collected $93 on that ex John. Didn’t even see it however. Took a break in the action and went for a bike ride with my five year old grandson. Had to get some air. Can’t last too many hours in front of the TV.

        Not limited to Loughlin alumni John. I am a Brooklyn Prep grad, Nostrand and Carroll, and my read is that all of Brooklyn was equally embarrassed. Caught Americas Mayor when he ran his private escort down into the Vesey and the West Side Hwy area back in the first WTC bombing recovery. He provided escort to the rich and famous into lower Manhattan on a daily basis. Also remember he and Al D’amato working a drug enforcement photo op once in thhe downtown area a few years earlier as well. Anything for a shot at the papers or the nightly news. Mr. Ego. The man was a fraud just like his corrections buddy Bernard K. Turning the page.

  3. I watched with great anticipation the 2010 Eclipse Awards show. Zenyatta won HOY in a photo over Blame. Blame DID win American Champion Older Male Horse while Zenyatta also picked up ACOFH for that year. She also was named American Champion Older Female Horse in 2008 and 2009. It was widely believed that even though Blame won BC Classic with Zenyatta a close second the HOY award would go to her since she was retiring and had at record of 19 wins in 20 starts. Also just heard that Authentic’s mother, Flawless, is being supplemented into the same November Fasig Tipton sale as Monomoy Girl. Authentic wired the field. Johnny V’s first BC Classic in 19 tries. He won with Gamine but had never won a Classic. Read this in Joe Drape NYT’s Sunday column.

  4. C, I wrote about Johnny above, “Johnny Finally”

    ???

    And BTW, I posted commentary on Tiz and Franco before Barclay made his feelings public later on. Makes me think I should have slept in instead…

    1. Yes, just re-read your piece. I get NYT on Sunday and the Drape article was solely on BC Classic and Johnny V. with a nod to his mother-in-law (Mrs. Leo O’Brien). She told Johnny she had a strong feeling he was going to win Classic. And the way he won it. Coast to coast. I was happy Tacitus got 4th. Do you think Tacitus will retire now? And please let us know what the plans are for Authentic. Thanks.

      1. I love the O’Brien family from my early days at Newsday. First met them through Leona, their daughter and Johnny’s wife, when she was an intern in the NYRA press office many moons ago. Raised a few pints back in the day. Enjoyed hearing Johnny’s reference, but not the reason for it. Only good thoughts for the O’Brien family at this time …

        1. I go to your site multiple times a day, JP. Some “regulars” have gone missing and some “newbies” are now here. Did not mean to offend mentioning NYT’s BC Classic article featuring Johnny, etc. Not sure what you are referencing because you know the players and I don’t. I should have read your article more closely before going to the comments section, I guess. Also would have learned about Authentic retirement in the Newswriter column. Gamine is unclear as to what the future holds for her. A dominant win the other day, IMO. As for Authentic’s “time” being the fastest since 2004 I am wondering if some of this can be attributed to a fast track which saw track record after track record broken. Not a knock on Authentic but just a thought. Also enjoyed your “rebuttal” to writer who wondered about your selections arriving AFTER the races were run, ha, ha. BTW, I do not wager anymore on ANY platform and did not even know there was a way to purchase your picks. I’m not looking for a freebie, just enjoy the commentary and your writing.

          1. No offense taken and no apology required. But generally the comments refer to something some has posted, that’s why I didn’t understand.

            I consider Joe Drape a good friend so I certainly was not offended. In fact, he is the racing media person I respect most because he breaks stories, much of them unfavorable to the 1%. I have much respect for him and “the failing NYT.”

  5. My one take away from Breeders Cup Day is how much racing has declined. Besides horses having fewer starts coming in to the Breeders Cup,jockeys are content to let a horse loose on the lead in a $6000,000 race. Sometimes you have to change your running style to have a chance. In the past Forego went after Wajima. Alydar tried to run with Affirmed.Wasn’t Jerry Bailey criticized for preventing a Triple Crown. In today’s racing it seems all you have to be is a top trainer with your magic potion and you are allowed to do what you want. Racing writers give Baffert a free ride. Brad Cox is the new miracle man. If racing cared about the horses there would have to be explanations. Explain how you improve your horses. What is your regimen? Most people in racing defend Richard Dutrow, yet ask no questions about the dozen or so miracle makers.

    1. Several good points,AS. We used to comment on any topic, including sports and also horse racing but now most newspapers don’t offer such freedom to their readers thus most minds and lips are shut down. Usually sports mouthpieces exaggerate with their annoyingly ” kool kids ” compliments as if they had never seen a sporting event before,no matter which is it and when..Alydar vs Affirmed would be talked about as much as they daily repeat Lebron,Russell Wilson ,Mahomes at al passing the nauseating level. Those who,as adults,disagree are ” Trolls” .Even in racing seems that most winning jocks are ” great riders”,well,at least for that day.Same with trainers about whom I always wonder how can One Person take care,
      Delegate for hundreds,if not more,racing animals spread out in several states.I mean, how much can you really know what’s going on with any of them? We criticize them all..until one of them brings in our winning tickets. Then, we look ourselves in front of the mirror and wonder when could we cash it again and again. Juice,magic shake or special creams ? Do not bother me with that theory Nonsense while I’m trying to include the suspects into my bets….. We are just as guilty. No ” MSG ” into my Chinese food ? Ok,but really,how can I prove it otherwise while I’m devouring this splendid Shrimp Subgum ? In a small way,this note reminds me of when stupidly I was betting innocent,and maybe hungry, doctored up,Greyhounds chasing a fake Rabbit while us,degenerates,were betting on those poor animals close to soon being slaughtered if they failed to make $ for their miserable owners and trainers. Crime accomplices ?

      1. Congrats to Mr Lawrence for picking 3 out of 3 football games. From now on I Will be paying more attention to his props.Most pickers of the King of all Sports cannot pick their own boogers .This weekend was a disaster for most of them !! Some of them should be hiding out for ever..No,I never paid a Turkish lyra nor half a penny for any of their picks !

        1. Marc Lawrence has been doing this sort of thing for years, many more winning seasons than losing ones and that’s documented.

          An honest family man in a game of scoundrels, I have written this often. I’ve never seen a database on sports as comprehensive as his. Picking winners is no accident.

      2. Good analysis about the drugs and betting. As the game as been strutured,when I bet it is a top trainer or a trainer pattern that I take into consideration. We have been playing this way for some many years it is just another part of the puzzle like speed figures. Doesn’t make it right, but that is how the game is played.

          1. Agree,very annoying. Every now and then I catch something with these types of horses, but it just bothers me to use,I don’t like.

  6. John: Once upon a time in America, we had trainers who didn’t cheat or mince words. In a “real” championship race, in September of ’67, at the good old Big A, both Eddie Neloy and Frank Whiteley, made bold announcements that they would each run a “rabbit” at the speed horse of all speed horses, the great Dr. Fager. Indeed, both Ron Turcotte, on Hedevar, and Bobby Ussery, on Great Power, whipped and drove their mounts from the gate and drained Dr. Fager of any chance of winning the Woodward of 67.
    What is the point of bringing up THE RACE of the 20th Century? While the trainers of both Damascus and Buckpasser announced their intentions, prey tell, when did Bob Baffert even hint this past week, that the reigning 3yo champ, to wit, Maximum Security, would just be running interference for Authentic, and not even attempting to win the race? Its completely disingenuous, and at least, negligent misrepresentation, to the world’s bettors, that not all 3 of Baffert’s horses would be trying to win the Classic. It has become popular to denigrate entries but they do protect the public from nefarious circumstances, such as one trainer running three horses as separate entries but not all trying to win. In this regard, its pretty unfair to put all of the blame on Manny Franco, since he had to compete against the Baffert tag-team tactics. However, it might be fair criticism to put some of the blame on Barclay Tagg, since he should have surmised that Baffert had something up his sleeve. Moreover, what happened to Tom’s D’etat? I don’t see any blame heaped upon Rosario, but I would not ever expect to hear that from Al Stall, Jr. He is a gentlemen in the same vein as Mack Miller or Frank Wright. Class always reveals itself in both horses and their human trainers!

    1. I was sitting with my fiance, now my wife of 51 years, in the second floor clubhouse and when they came by us into the turn for the first turn, the building literally shook for an instant. I was a big Fager fan and was upset with the rabbit strategy.

      Now I watched the race of course and noticed that Max had Tiz boxed in: Two points; Tiz never should have been in the spot in the first place. Tiz broke quickly, per usual, but Manny was passive and not aggressive into the turn where he might have made something happen, forcing Johnny to use his mount more aggressively. It might not have mattered but you must try.

      More importantly, Max was running his race; the close-up stalking style is how he won most of his races, and since he had the far outside post. Personally, I expected him to be right where he was; just didn’t think Manny would allow himself to be put in that position at that point in the race.

      We can go round and round on this and whatever the tactics, the winner probably would have won anyway. But Tiz must take some blame too, as it were. He offered nothing in the lane which, BTW, might have been the result of being choked down in the backstretch run…

    2. Framarco,
      What do you call a “Rabbit” that wins?

      I’m no Baffert fan, but I genuinely believe all of his runners in the Classic (as opposed to Justify’s Belmont) were all well-meant (and medicated accordingly). Those who played Authentic and Improbable would have been penalized by coupling the entries.

      Another owner and trainer might not have run Maximum Security after his loss to Improbable. Those who played him on top in the BC Classic won’t get my sympathy. He beat nothing in the Pacific Classic .

      Do you think Tiz the Law would still have been favored had Swiss Skydiver turned in a better performance in the BC Distaff thereby bolstering Authentic’s performance in the Preakness? Perhaps Tagg and Franco should have focused on engaging Authentic from the beginning given the lightening fast dirt surface that contributed to multiple track records earlier on the card.

      1. … Or at the very least take some of the starch out of Authentic early. When the filly eyeballed Authentic in the Preakness, she won. What ifm at least for the first half mile, Tiz eyeballed Authentic while saving ground on the fence, the way the filly did.

        1. Soften him up for whom, JP?

          Improbable would probably have won in that scenario, but Tiz had already shown he couldn’t beat Authentic left alone on the lead and a non-tiring surface would only reinforce his advantage. Has Franco been interviewed?

          1. When did TIZ meet Authentic prior to Classic? Swiss Sky Diver won Preakness and I just don’t remember Authentic meeting TIZ before. MAX usually is up close but on this day Authentic had it all his own way. MAX is also trained by BB, just sayin’.

          2. Not to my knowledge. I have something of an insider’s perspective. In over 40 years, whenever I’ve given a stakeholder an opportunity to respond to even the mildest of criticisms, the number of times I haven’t spun can be counted on one hand. I know what I saw, I.

          3. I have one philosophy I, one that most jockeys and trainers would adhere to. If you believe you’re on the best horse, you ride him like he’s the best horse…

  7. Marc Lawrence Football Playbook is an incredibly detailed and comprehensive analysis which includes trends, historical records and coaching patterns on each game.
    Marc and his staff work very hard to identify the right side in an industry as John said above is full of scoundrels.

  8. John & Indulto: I certainly respect what you have said. However, the Maximum Security that we all saw win the Cigar Mile would have easily taken the lead in the Classic. He outrun Spun to Run to the lead in the Cigar. “Max” is not a stalker. His best races, i.e., the Florida Derby, The Ky Derby, the Cigar, were all won on the lead. Moreover, if anything was true about the Keeneland track this weekend is that it was very kind
    to inside speed-see, Knicks Go. If Servis was still training the horse ( without considering illegal PED), you know that Luis Saez would have been on the lead. Anyway, I tend to agree with the Mig, who said on TV on Sunday, that Manny was most likely guilty of getting too many instructions. My point is that Tagg should have realized, especially with two Baffert speed horses on his outside, that the only way Tiz could have won the race was by going to the lead. Andy Serling has been shouting about the NY jockeys grabbing and holding for years now. Maybe the NY trainers can learn a few lessons from Mr. Baffert, to wit, it never hurts to put the fastest horse on the lead!

  9. Fram, since I’m now a septuagenarian, I can claim that Andy was not the first analyst to decry all the clutching and grabbing done by New York jockeys on NYRA broadcasts. As for the Mig’s reasoning, it sounds more like an apology and if not, Manny should have known the only way to beat lone speed is to challenge it, especially if you think you’re riding the best horse.

    Once, in fact, it got me a year’s worth of days on “Thoroughbred Action.” But I served my time and went back on after Harvey and I shared cocktails at some party or another in Saratoga.

    Alas, those were the days my friend, too bad they had to end…

    As for Maximum Security, I did not care for his final workouts. I thought he might have been “easy-raced” in his prep and that the good Max would show up for the Classic. After the workouts, I decided that that race might be Max now and that retirement is calling. It’s the best run a $16,000 maiden claimer has ever had.

  10. You talk about cheating and I’m thinking about Oscar Barrera Jr and later on when NY State was the last big stage that would be against using Lasix .. Also when an Entry would mean that one horse would fight for the lead while the other would come off the pace .So much indelible sports history into that Time Tunnel called Memory!!! Alydar-Affirmed ? Would watch it again with horses switching jocks and positions. Was J Velasquez as good sprinting as he was in routes ? Always questioned it…

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