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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


Horses break from the gate at Saratoga Race Course
photo Toni Pricci

JULY 18, 2019—At long last, we’re coming to that portion of the Spa season that makes Saratoga the Thoroughbred Race Place to Be. Prime time main track racing begins Saturday’s with Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks.

And it features a budding super star.

We’re old enough to remember the day when the CCAO was a grueling mile and a half and completed the bygone filly triple crown. (Mr. Hirsch said Filly Triple Crown should be lower case so as not to confuse it with the real deal).

Anyway, the race is no longer 12 furlongs, sadly, it’s nine, and it’s not the Belmont Park summer fixture it was back in the day when it completed the triad with the Acorn (mile) and Mother Goose (mile and-an-eighth).

Obviously, the dynamics of the Acorn have remained the same. The Mother Goose is still run at Belmont Park, shortened to at a mile and-a-sixteenth around one turn. The discontinued former series now concludes in Saratoga, at the latter day “marathon distance” of nine furlongs.

If form holds, Saturday’s small-field CCAO will not be competitive at the end. This time, a small field is justified. I fanaticize that I could own a race horse worthy enough to compete at the highest levels. If I did, and if it were a 3-year-old filly, I too would be ducking Guarana.

I have no idea how good she is; maybe not even Chad Brown knows. She broke maiden on debut at Keeneland by a neck shy of 15 lengths. All she did next out was jump into a Grade 1, winning the Acorn by six over Kentucky Oaks winner Serengeti Empress.

That filly, who obviously won at nine furlongs when dominating the Oaks field, could have run back Saturday. But she’s targeting the G1 Test at seven furlongs as her main Spa objective, Tom Amoss making the prudent choice.

Guarana drew the rail Saturday and will be partnered with Jose Ortiz, an advantage she didn’t need with the short run into the clubhouse turn. But the race is no walkover thanks to the presence of Ian Wilkes trainee, Champagne Anyone.

A daughter of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, Champagne Anyone finished fourth in the Kentucky Oaks after leaving South Florida with hardware she earned in the G2 Gulfstream Park Oaks.

Beating Guarana, the most visually impressive winner on Long Island Belmont Stakes day—that includes Mitole–will be a completely different ballgame. “I freshened her up, backed off, and just was trying to get her ready for this race.”

No doubt Champagne Anyone will be set to go. To win the race, however, she’ll need to step up. Same story for another good CCAO performer, G2 Black-Eyed Susan winner, the promising Point of Honor. Completing the short field are Boxwood and Off Topic.

Resultantly, the CCAO will be run at the third race on Saturday’s 11-race card. The Caress, for older sprinting turf mares at 5-1/2 furlongs, attracted nine entrants. Significant Form and Morticia are the likely favorites.

Decisions, Decisions…

Jason Servis will have all his attention focused on Maximum Security in Saturday’s Grade 1 Haskell Invitational. The million-dollar event also offers a free pass into the Breeders’ Cup Classic. But he has another Grade 1 to look forward to next weekend with Firenze Fire in the six-furlong Vanderbilt.

“He’s cutting back to a sprint after running in the Met Mile,” said Servis. “If you look at his race in the [six furlong] Runhappy, he ran a huge. [Met Mile winner] Mitole will be in there and it looks like we’re getting another crack at him.” Firenze Fire won Saratoga’s Sanford as a 2017 juvenile.

Careful what you wish for.

Another possible Vanderbilt rival is defending Vanderbilt titlist Imperial Hint, who ran off the screen winning the 2018 renewal, earning a huge figure on everyone’s speed scale.

However, trainer Luis Carvajal, Jr. is not certain he will be fit enough to take on Mitole, Firenze Fire and all the rest. Imperial Hint worked a bullet five-eighths in 1:00.40 at Monmouth Park Wednesday morning – the fastest of 17 recorded works at the distance.

“That’s him…he always works fast,” Carvajal said. “I think I’m a little short on time and I want to make sure he’s fit enough. I need to discuss with the owner, so I’m not 100 percent sure where we’ll run.” There’s a much softer Spa spot in the condition book, August 9.

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14 Responses

  1. Better safe, always, one of three tracks that will be shuttered on a Saturday. Ironically, I very likely will be able to watch live racing here in South Florida. In so many ways, this world is upside down.

  2. P.S. A little ironic that this column was filed a few hours prior to the announcement. I thought the headline was clever, referencing the song. Didn’t know its meaning turn out to be so literal.

    1. Proximity to the ocean at Monmouth will make it feel like only 99 degrees for Haskel. Wonder if they’ll run?

  3. Regarding CCAO, I saw Mom’s Command romp at Belmont and remember Angel Cordero replacing Abigail Fuller (owner’s daughter and rider at Suffolk Downs). Yet, if you check the result now so many years later it shows Abby as being aboard this monster. Can you clarify? The horse had romped in Mother Goose and Acorn and, just to be on the safe side, Angel was given the mount to almost guarantee a win in the Filly Triple Crown. Is my memory wrong and was Peter Fuller’s daughter really the rider? Thanks.

    1. Apologize for gremlins and welcome aboard Mal.

      To my memory, Abby rode in all three legs of filly triple crown. Rather than look it up, I will ask her when I see her. I don’t know if it’s only during Championship Meet, but Abigail works at Gulfstream Park as a racing ambassador and gives tour guides to fans in the mornings, following in the footsteps of the great Sandy Bruno, Woody Stephens’ long time assistant.
      Meanwhile I’ll try to find out more tomorrow when I’m at the track. Horses in South Florida are used to the heat and it will be a ‘reasonable’ 92 degrees on Saturday–chance of thunder storms, of course!

  4. The Saturday cancellation is absurd. Like you said, they’ll be racing in South Florida where every summer day is like the Spa is expected to be Saturday.

    What a kick in the ass to fans who shelled out hundreds for a motel room (non refundable) for a Spa weekend, as I’ve done for next weekend. But fans are never a consideration.

    When racing dies, the autopsy will rule it suicide.

    1. I’m sure you’ll be shocked, TJ, but I couldn’t disagree more. You can’t be that tone deaf to the microscope placed on the game after what happened at Santa Anita this winter.

      Surely everyone must be aware that racing can’t be too careful re public perception and must err on the side of caution.

      And if you can afford to visit Saratoga in the first place, find another vacation activity. Go to the lake for a picnic, take a ride up to Lake George, go sit on the porch at the Adelphi and have a cocktail or whatever your favorite watering hole, forgodsakes.

      Delaware canceled their Saturday card Thursday. Laurel Park canceled Saturday and Sunday two days prior. Charles Town moved post time back to7:45 pm.

      Monmouth is rolling the dice but that’s OK; they said they have taken extraordinary safety precautions for Haskell day; hopefully they won’t need the emergency measures.

      And what about the older race fans in Saratoga that cannot afford the reported $120 per for the buffet at the new 1863 CLUB structure, the only place air conditioned structure on track.

      If the gambling jones is too strong, go to the air conditioned harness track and play the simulcasts. Horseplayers in Saratoga will find enough things to do for 24 hours.

  5. Mal, the curiosity was killing me. I looked it up and it was Abigail. And doubt whether her dad would have taken her off Mom’s Command.

    However, next time I see her or Angel Cordero Jr., I’ll ask whether or not that was “a thing” at that time.

  6. I don’t have to drive 1500 miles and spend a couple of thousand dollars to sit on a porch. I can sipcool drinks in Florida.

    As far as the other cancellations, it’s monkey see, monkey do.

    By most forecasts it’s going to be 2 or 3 degrees warmer Saturday than today and all tomorrows cancellations are racing today.

    As far as being tone deaf, nothing is going to appease racing’s opponents, so it’s a waste of time and effort to try.

  7. For one day it wouldn’t kill anyone to miss a day of racing, and most people don’t drive 1500 miles and spend thousands to go racing for one day. Saturday’s horseplayers have a 5-day week to get to the races and the canceled Saturday card, including CCAO, will be run on Sunday.

  8. You’re right. Most non-locals come up for the weekends at considerable expense. Now it’s one day of racing.

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