HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, December 11, 2022 — While awaiting the first of year–actually New Year’s Eve when Gulfstream Park offers a graded stakes doubleheader to launch its championship meet in earnest–there’s some unfinished 2022 business, namely the three-year-old championship.
The majority opinion throughout the year was that if Epicenter held his own with a competitive effort against older handicappers in the BC Classic, the Travers winner would lock up the title.
Unfortunately, he went wrong during the running, throwing the entire division into chaos. So the 7-furlong G1 Malibu on opening day at Santa Anita, December 26, presents Taibu with an opportunity to win his third Grade 1 of the year.
Combined with a highly representative third behind Flightline and Olympiad in the Classic, he should nail down an Eclipse championship.
Apparently, Bob Baffert don’t need no stinking classics to see one of his sophomores wind up atop racing’s glamour division.
Speaking of Baffert, Faiza gave him a sixth straight Grade 1 Scarlet win and ninth overall, even if the performance was a underwhelming. The race featured a rough-house finish in which both the winner and runnerup, Pride of the Nile, appeared equally culpable.
Considering she was up in class, distance, and going a second turn off a lone maiden-breaking sprint, it appears she has considerable upside and deserves a chance to show her true ability. We’ll wait before passing judgment.
On the East Coast, meanwhile, Todd Pletcher had a training triple, including co-features Pulpit and Wait A While Stakes for juveniles going 7-1/2 furlongs on the reconstituted Gulfstream turf, which is getting faster by the day under the South Florida sun.
The Wait A While for fillies was deeper in talent than its male counterpart, and in a mild upset Pletcher’s Junipermarshmallow proved much the best, racing 4-5 deep throughout the two-turner yet had more than enough foot to separate herself from 10 rivals soon after entering the straight.
And she needed all that advantage as late-starting Malleymoo, making her first start since a private purchase after a winning debut over Dundalk synth, broke slowly, was outrun, finally settling into stride then rallying wide at the turn and into the lane, finishing strongly late for the place.
Show finisher Stephanie’s Charm roared home very late for third and galloped out super strongly.
Meanwhile, it’s Todd colt, Ari Gold, we’re looking forward to as he’s 2-for-2 and yet to be seriously tested. He has enjoyed soft early leads, but drew our attention two-move effort racing on the lead to win on turf debut. Takes a good youngster to show that kind of turn of foot virtually all on his own.
Graded stakes are in his future for sure. Let’s see how he handles tougher, more seasoned rivals.
Late Night Racing TV
I confess. I bought into the hype. The Japan Cup is certainly a world class Grade 1 but while awaiting that event, the Galaxy Stakes popped up, a race in which the runnerup was best, thanks to overconfident handling by the rider of talented three-year-old Battle Cry.
The favorite launched well before reaching the final bend, a long sustained run that carried him to an embattled lead which he held to the final few jumps. That’s when the older Denko Riziere jumped up to tag him right at the line.
The ride on Battle Cry was in stalk contrast to the show put on by Ryan Moore in the Japan Cup. Moore, who traveled over from Great Britain to ride for main client Aidan O’Brien, picked up a great local mount, Galaxy favorite Vela Azul.
Riding with his customary patience and confidence, Moore waited for a seam to open with less than a sixteen of a mile remaining, split two rivals and was going going away at the end of a narrow-margin victory.
Going into December, Moore was ranked the world’s number one jockey in an era that boasts several all-time greats–Irad, Frankie and Flavien quickly leap to mind–and his Galaxy performance did nothing to belie that rating.
Empressum Romps in Champion of Champions
When Quarter-Horse racing came to an end at Suffolk Meadows on Long Island in 1986, I can’t say I was very disappointed. I had a few nights out with the boys back in the day, but that’s all it was; a thing to do.
But with all the hyperbole associated with Saturday night’s Champion of Champions at Los Alamitos, I thought why not take a look? I’m glad I did.
I’m not saying that Empressum is another Dash for Cash, who won back-to-back editions of this race, but given the nature of 440-yards dynamics, his 1-1/4 length score represents domination.
Battling for the lead throughout as jockey Rodrigo Vallejo efforted to keep him straight rather than continuing to drift in from his outside post, he put two speed rivals away and finished in full stride, drawing out at the finish as if he could do that all over again. #Cool