SPA DIARY DAY 3: FROM THE MOUNTAINS TO THE SHORE, GRADE 1s TOO CLOSE TO CALL

SARATOGA Race 1: The babies of Saratoga were on the march and Momos turned it into just that in the stretch, a parade, opening daylight as Manny Franco looked back for competition that never came; talented colt is stakes bound… No excuses for odds-on Mo Mischief who battled the winner but was no match… Repo Rocks loomed a threat on the turn but tired as if short of condition; note.

Race 2: ”Honk if you like Donk,” New York handicappers like to say but you’ll never hear the trainer blowing his own horn. But he has a right to, turning Winning Factor into a consistent, handling a class rise as much the best as Jose Ortiz was winning his fifth race at the meet. “He was a little keen and I had to go outside,” Ortiz said. “It wasn’t a very good ride but I was on the best horse.” We disagree, given the pace dynamics, Ortiz did well to avoid any jackpots. Can repeat if not pitched too high.

GRADE 2 HALL OF FAME STAKES: Strange race because of unusual tactics from Jose Ortiz, rating lone speed Get Smokin along in the 4-5 path all the way around, forcing other rider, including Rosario on odds-on Decorated Warrior, to change their strategy. The loose leader held well but Decorated Warrior was too much race horse. It was more professional than wow but there was plenty in the tank. Strong second favorite Domestic Spending loomed a threat in midstretch but styed one-paced. He wasn’t beating the winner but had no excuse for the place.

Race 5: Beautiful job of rating by Javier Castellano and preparation by “Little Al” Stall, getting favored Oak Hill to break maiden in two-turn debut off a Kentucky sprint prep. The Angry Man put in a solid run all through the lane behind the loose leader; follow.

Race 6:  Johnny slipped up the fence with Zippy Baby as juvenile broke maiden going a mile and a sixteenth on the Mellon Course but it’s Pivotal Mission who’s the bet-back for us. Breaking from extreme outside in field of 10, he never saw the fence, rallied up 4-wide on the far turn to make his run, the momentum carrying him 7-8 wide into the lane. He continued gamely—ridden out, not driving, late.

Race 7: Yaupon was the most likely winner on paper going into a preliminary allowance sprint but… wow! He dueled in fast fractions from the jump and had company into the lane. But just when it appeared that Cucina could run them both down in upper stretch, Yaupon found more and drew away late, taken in hand inside the final sixteenth by Joel Rosario, stopping the timer in 109:33. Stakes next stop.

GRADE 1 COACHING CLUB AMERICAN OAKS:

No, it wasn’t Abel Tasman and Elate, and this time it was a Mott filly on the outside of a Baffert filly. Those roles were reversed and so was the result, only with Bill Mott’s Paris Lights out-finishing Crystal Ball at the end of a taxing nine furlongs.

Clearly, Saffie Joseph Jr. would love to get a mulligan for his invasion on Saratoga as the added blinkers were, off a recent win, were a colossal failure. Tonalist’s Shape was too keen and when Irad Jr. reached up and grabbed her, allowed the outside fillies to go on with it, she resented the position she was put in.

Trying to get her into any kind of rhythm, he had no choice but to shift outside and if it weren’t for the restraint, she would have run off. For them, the CCAO was over about a quarter-mile after it began.

Paris Lights passed a big class test in her fourth lifetime start and her lone rival was almost as good, making only her second start. There will be other days for both, some big days possibly, but they must keep developing.

MONMOUTH PARK

GRADE 1 UNITED NATIONS STAKES

Trips are always a key to turf racing success and it was no different at the Shore, and so are recent Mike Maker claims that become graded stakes turf winners. This time it was Grade 1. So much for the class on the grass angle.

Ensuring a perfect turf trip is reaching out for a rider who knows how to execute them. Enter ‘Jersey Joe’ Bravo, who saved ground throughout the three-turn 11-furlong marathon, tipping off the hedge in the straight, pushing Aquaphobia past the pacesetter one path wide of the hedge.

It helps, too, when the big favorite, Arklow, never lifts a hoof.

GRADE I HASKELL STAKES

Authentic won the Haskell by a desperate head over a gritty Ny Traffic after getting everything his own way, crossing the line in a pokey 1:50.45, striking mile-and-a-quarter Derby fears into the heart of no one.

Both winning jockey Mike Smith and trainer Bob Baffert talked about the colt’s gawkiness through the stretch, and we’ll take them at their word. A sixteenth from home Authentic was well in complete control then appeared to lose interest.

“He may need a little blinker on him,” said Baffert post-race. A little blinker but perhaps a bigger engine, too, if he wants to get the Derby done.

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2 Responses

  1. I’m not sure if this is just anecdotal thinking, but doesn’t it seem like more horses at this SAR meet so far have re-rallied from the rail in the stretch on the dirt after being headed than you usually see in about a month of a meeting?

  2. Doc, have to agree with you, but I’ve also noticed that be the case elsewhere something that never happened in the past, outside momentum usually winning the day. I like it: Eye to eye is how you determine class and heart.

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