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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, July 2, 2023 – I must say we were overcome with a sense of nostalgia with respect to Saturday’s racing. For 15 minutes, I felt an old-time sensibility. Maybe it was a holiday moment.

We’ve been supporting the Smile Sprint Stakes since the Summit of Speed was inaugurated at Calder Race Course back in the ’90s.

Our first live Smile came in 2008. Benny the Bull won it for Edgar Prado, who retired this year, and trainer Rick Dutrow, who returned this year from an unjust decade-long suspension.

Parenthetically, Dutrow won yesterday’s eighth race at Belmont with Timbuktu, owned by Karen Murphy Esq, who represented Dutrow during that period. Both had this one coming.

Saturday at Gulfstream Park, Dean Delivers continued his winning ways beneath Emisael Jaramillo with a dominating frontend score, giving Jaramillo his third victory to lead all active Smile riders.

In New York, Fort Bragg and Saudi Crown put on a show in the G3 Dwyer, and the mile should prove a useful prep for the Grade 1s of summer to come.

Saudi Crown set a rapid pace the entire flat mile, indeed battling back gamely on the fence in a head to head struggle with the perfect-tripping Bob Baffert-trained favorite to his outside.

But it seems Johnny Velazquez doesn’t lose head-bob nose photos anymore—Crimson Advocate’s recent Queen Anne victory at Royal Ascot leaps to mind.

The final time was a solid 1:35.37, but the pair came home in exhausted 26.53. But run fast early; can’t run fast late. Saudi Crown past the five furlong maker in 56.53 seconds and three-quarters of a mile in 1:08.84.

On balance, the day belonged to the Churchill-at-Ellis Stephen Foster program, the first Grade I in the history of the Pea Patch.

The All-Graded Stakes Pick 3 started off disappointedly as five late scratches reduced the field to three, won by perfect trip Pauline’s Pearl.

The G2 Wise Dan was more like it. The 10-horse field was won in shocking style by Stitched at 46-1 beneath a pickup rider. Martin Pedroza’s loss was Flavien Prat’s gain.

As it turned out, it was Prat’s warmup act, guiding West Will Power to a half-length victory over bullish closer Rattle N Roll in the nine furlong Foster 30 minutes later..

The race was strongly run throughout, the final time of 1:47.93 with the final eighth-eighths in a very solid 37.10.

A tactical runner, West Will Power is by Bernardini which will stand him in good stead now that he’s won and is in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

But runnerup Rattle N Roll was very good as his development continues. With him, it appears that more ground will be even better. We’ll see.

Smile Happy, obstreperous pre-race per usual, paid the price late as he finished up one-paced in a disappointing effort.

Over There

Hard to believe that Ryan Moore, one of the world’s premier jockeys ,was winless in the Irish Derby, especially since top client Aidan O’Brien was winning the 15th with the magnificent Auguste Rodin.

In winning the Irish Classic, Auguste Rodin completed the rare Epsom Derby-Irish Derby double, the victory O’Brien 100th in the Classic.

Yes, he gets the highest quality stock to work with… but then you have to win.

O’Brien loves the Breeders’ Cup and has enjoyed much success in the event. Auguste Rodin is valuable commercial property and will be handled carefully. But it would be great if Auguste Rodin shipped over for The Turf, 12 furlongs being his best trip.

Lamentably, however, the race was marred when San Antonio went wrong entering the straight.

HISA Makes First Backstretch Bust

Trainer Ray Handal has been suspended by HISA’s Horse Racing Welfare and Integrity Unit pending an investigation into a positive finding for the banned substance, Zeranol, in the horse Barrage at Belmont Park.

Escorted off the grounds of Belmont Park on Friday, he returned to work yesterday only to be informed he was unwelcome on the Belmont backstretch.

Zeranol is a synthetic nonsteroidal estrogen, generally used to promote growth in animals. Zeranol is banned because it mimics anabolic steroids.

“According to HISA rule [3212], Handal is now under a provisional suspension nationally and cannot participate at NYRA tracks effective today.” said a NYRA spokesman Saturday.  

A first-offense violation of rule 3212 carries up to two years suspension and up to $25,000 or 25% of the total purse, plus some or all adjudication and legal costs.

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