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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing

WHEN VERY GOOD RACEHORSES STILL SHOW POTENTIAL, GREATNESS MAY BE IN STORE

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, March 14, 2021 —  When horsemen say that the break is very important, believe them. Yes, in the end it all comes down to projecting what will happen and executing a plan. Both elements were evident Saturday in stakes at Oaklawn Park and Santa Anita.

Workouts are very important, too, and it’s not necessarily about how fast but how well the drill and the plan were executed. Saturday’s Rebel Stakes was an excellent example of the above.

The latter day Santa Anita surface is safer than your father’s concrete highway, and it’s more demanding which is a boon to sharpness and conditioning, especially the latter.

So it wasn’t Concert Tour’s six furlongs in 1:11 before shipping to Oaklawn so that Mr. Baffert could win his eighth Rebel title. Rather, it was the style in which the move was designed. In the end, it was a page from Baffert’s old Nadal Playbook, a program that was executed perfectly:

Break maiden on debut, take the 7-furlong Grade 2 San Vicente and ship to Hot Springs for a two-turn debut. No worries, especially when you’re saddling the best horse, have the brilliance to win a match race on paper and, most of all, break running.

And credit to the rider, Joel Rosario, for his execution into the lower turn and through the backside.

The 1:11 breeze was a head scratcher, a company workout unusually designed. The reason we’re questioning the tack is because the workmate isn’t usually given a 10-length head start.

Nevertheless, Concert Tour went after his mate and ran him down, galloping strongly around a second turn to complete the move as if a change of tactics were in the offing. After all, company works by definition are meant to be in company!

So we’re thinking a different tack was a distinct possibility; Rosario would sit back until time came to push the button and whoosh, right on by. Instead, he brought the race to the speedy house horse and beat the favorite at his own game.

In the end, Concert Tour and Rosario turned the Rebel into a romp, the rider sneaking peaks back leaving the furlong pole. Caddo River tired, bore out into Big Lake and likely cost that one a placing. Since he finished behind him, there was no need for a demotion, but a fine seems appropriate for an attempted race-ride that went badly.

Today it will be back to the drawing board for Caddo River, who still needs Derby points. Keepmeinmind should benefit from a brief loomed-hung effort, his preparation clearly hurt by weather delays but still never really fired a shot. He might be a cut below these We’ll see, as he needs points, too.

Where will Concert Tour go next? Will he stay home for the last one? ‘Mr. Rebel’ will let us know soon enough, but as to the training regimen for that final Derby prep? Beats me.

DEFENDING CHAMPION BACK IN A FLASH

We believed that Swiss Skydiver might need her four-year-old debut given only five published workouts, that a two-turn mile leaving from the pole would mean a pressured trip throughout, and that an unintended 5-furlong bullet in a too-fast 58-flat would have her too fresh. Wrong, times three!

After breaking with her field, Swiss Skydiver settled comfortably behind the leaders, rating kindly all the way, tipped three wide into the stretch and dominated her Santa Anita rivals with her class. The late scratch of Sanenus probably helped her cause but might not have mattered all that much, too.  

It was not the toughest Grade 1 Beholder field ever assembled, but that’s not the point either. Ken McPeek did his job, Robby Albarado guided her with extreme confidence and the filly did her job in high style. “Maybe we’ll go hunt Monomoy Girl,” said McPeek post-race. Yes, please.

SHEDARESTHEDEVIL BEST IN G2 AZERI, OR WAS SHE?

We were hoping that the Azeri exacta finished in reverse, but don’t take my slanted view for it. Instead, accept the explanations offered by winning jockey Florent Geroux and runnerup Joel Rosario:

“We caught a flyer out of the gate,” Geroux told the Oaklawn press staff: “I was expecting Letruska to lead all the way… but we inherited the lead and I just took it from there. My filly is extremely talented… She maybe got a little bit tired down the lane but it was good for her first race off the break. I don’t think she was 100% cranked up for this.”

Confirmed Rosario: “The plan was to go to the lead but she kind of hesitated a little bit when everybody got in [the starting gate]. She was a little nervous in there… Kind of missed the break right away. She ran a tremendous race, had to stay out wide, outside… Look at how far we got beat?”

The official margin was a head and both jocks gave great rides. Geroux rated his filly beautifully, at once nursing speed while discouraging rivals. Rosario did the only thing he could do, sit three wide all the way around and wisely went a bit wider in the lane, thinking maybe his filly would gain more confidence if she were alone. His tack almost worked.

The Azeri was strongly run. We realize we’re comparing a four-year-old to a three-year-old, but also female vs. male, albeit a geared down one, but Shedaresthedevil completed 1-1/16 miles in 1:42.57, as opposed to Concert Tour’s 1.43.18 and four-year-old male Silver State’s 1:42.73.

HOW GOOD WAS SILVER STATE YESTERDAY?

He might not be Gun Runner redux for Steve Asmussen, but he may be getting closer. If any favorite had a right to be beaten at Oaklawn Park yesterday it was this son of Hard Spun from the Empire Maker mare, Supreme, a mating that has late-developer written all over it.

He appeared to lose any good chance leaving the barrier and the task looked unwinnable throughout, forced to chase a very moderate pace. Then when he rallied into the far turn, he did so at a considerable loss of ground as late runner Rated R Superstar tried to swoop by him and three others.

At this point, Silver State had to battle relatively fresh speedsters, given soft fractions, and a relentless late-running sweeper but he simply out-willed his competition to the end. Silver State passed Saturday’s class rise and is deserving of a chance at the next level, a comer in more ways than one.

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6 Responses

  1. Tony C. Palmisano says:
    March 14, 2021 at 9:15 am Edit (reprinted from earlier post)

    Sunday morning recap after another exciting day of racing. Baffert Baffert Baffert, we begin with Rebel Stakes and the eye catching performance by Concert Tour. Nothing new here, Baffert ships East and wins another graded stakes race. Except, this was suppose to be a lot tougher win for Concert Tour. You had the quick and fast Caddo River breaking from post 1 so you assumed he’d get the early lead. Not so fast my friend. Clearly jockey Rosario was given clear instruction to break for the lead. He did and once he cleared the first turn, the race was virtually over. I mean OVER.

    Concert Tour handled his first time around two turns in only his third career start perfectly. Just for spite, Baffert’s other lightly raced shipper Hozier finished second. Where does Concert Tour stack up in the Baffert barn? I’d say he is now hitting second behind Life is Good. Indeed life is good these days in the Baffert barn.

    Let’s turn our attention to race favorite Caddo River. He appeared to be a bit rank going into the first turn. And he never really settled into stride. It looked like he did not like being rated. Jockey Geroux had his hands full trying to control him. When asked, he was empty. I suspect you’ll see Caddo River on the lead in his next start.

    Keepmeinmind in his first start as a three-year-old made a brief run on the turn but flattened out in the stretch. He looked like a horse who needed a race. I except him to be ready and primed to fir a winning shot in his next start.

    Swiss Skydiver return was a perfect 10 at Santa Anita. Ultra professional effort which will set her up for her next start in her march to Eclipse Award.

  2. T, If Keepmeinmind wants a Derby run, he had better be ready for best next time. Agreed, he ran like a short horse.

    I’m not convinced the outfit was hell bent on the lead, pressure Caddo River yes, but when C Tour broke so quickly, Joel went on with it… properly.

    Good racing, good tactics, except for Saez’ handling on the 1-1/2 miles turfer. Looked like he wasn’t sure what to do the entire race. And if you lose ground throughout, you won’t win many marathons.

  3. It’s mid March, and I’m already Baffert-ed out for the year. Don’t know if I have 9 more months of endless Baffert in me for 2021.

  4. No one said you had to root for the guy Doc, but if you had my job, you cannot ignore him. And just got a note that he’s coming to the Florida with Spielberg. What is he, the third string Baffert?

    1. Oh yeah, I’m not saying you can ignore him, He’s got big guns in races, you have to discuss them. I’m just ready to move on from the Baffert era. I’m sure the way he skates away from every test positive his barn gets has a lot to do with my feelings for him.

  5. Doc, so ironic that the game, fighting for its survival and beyond, has as its face someone whose presence is a lightning rod for controversy. The perception, and the reality, is that Teflon Bob alienates as many people as he attracts to the sport…

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