HALLANDALE BEACH FL, February 28, 2021 – There was so much going on Saturday that it’s difficult to know just where to begin: If you speak Godfather, you probably insist on hearing the bad news immediately:
It’s only February and thus far the demotion of Spanish Loveaffair from first to fourth in the G3 Herecomesthebride Stakes was the worst we’ve seen this year. To categorize the decision, it was overthinking at best, amateur hour at worst.
Veteran observers guessed what the result would be when the stewards needed about to dozen takes to know just what to do. If memory serves, the video was split about 50% between the head-on and pan views.
The pan shot shows that the horse elevated to third, I Get It, was already on even terms between the fence and Spanish Loveaffair right at the start of the bend on the far turn. Both turned left and the unofficial winner drifted in forcing I Get It to check.
But here’s what matters: Jockey Miguel Vasquez, loaded with horse, should not have gone up in there in the first place. It was a very tight fit and what happened was very likely to happen. There was room for about 3/4s of a horse.
The deal is that if you’re stuck behind horses and are forced to wait, you wait. Vasquez panicked and decided not to wait for a seam, something that happens virtually in every race, every day, especially on grass.
Further, when I Get It reached even terms, the rider appeared to push ‘Loveaffair’ out of his way. Forget that the winner was much the best, drawing off impressively to win by 2-3/4 lengths going away. Vasquez went up where he didn’t belong.
Beaten a nose for show, the incident likely did cost I Get It a placing. But the point is that an argument can be made that I Get It, because of his rider’s tactics, made his own trouble and in a fashion was the aggressor, not the aggressed.
Full disclosure: I bet Spanish Loveaffair to win including an exacta with the runnerup, who was awarded the win. But that doesn’t matter either. The owners, trainer and jockey had a Grade 3 title and winner’s share of the $100,000 purse stripped away.
After the race, trainer Mark Casse told Marty McGee of Daily Racing Form: “I haven’t appealed a steward’s decision in 10 years but I’m going to appeal this one.”
The feeling here is that, like the public who made Casse’s filly the 8-5 favorite, they won’t find a cashier’s window to pay off on #1 in Saturday’s third race at Gulfstream Park.
A Tale of Two Champions
Eventually we will get to the undefeated Essential Quality who added sloppy footing to his third surface which improved his resume to 4-for-4. But filly champion Vequist, what was that?
Trainer ‘Butch’ Reid told the Gulfstream Park press staff last week that he didn’t have the screws completely tightened, that the one-turn mile of the G2 Davona Dale was a good place to begin his filly’s Kentucky Oaks campaign.
However, whatever bolts there were became undone when the real running began at the turn.
Irad Ortiz Jr. tried to motivate her leaving the three-eighths pole but got no response. The alarming aspect was Ortiz easing her with a furlong remaining, all nine rivals finishing in front of her.
The good news is that she will live to fight another day, Reid announcing Sunday morning that the filly came back in good condition after the race.
Millefeuille also appeared in need of a run, and Curlin’s Catch put in a dull effort despite getting a vigorous warmup. Each suffered minor incidences during the running but both fillies should have run better.
There are more than a few drawing boards to go back to, but none for Juan Carlos Avila and Edgard Zayas. In a different context, what was up with Wholebodemeister? She made a nice bunch of fillies look really bad, whipping them by 6-1/2 ridden-out lengths.
This Champ IS Back
The combination of superior talent, heads-up handling from Luis Saez and the notion brilliant Jackie’s Warrior again was found wanting in a race involving a second turn, allowed 2020 juvenile champion Essential Quality to remain undefeated in a dominant performance.
Unrelenting rain for a sustained period rendered Oaklawn Park a quagmire which required most winners to demonstrate stamina throughout the day providing, of course, they were nowhere near the inside portion of the wet surface.
From the jump, it appeared that the winner had the Southwest field over a barrel after Saez deftly guided the champ off the fence to take a comfortable 3-path position as the field rounded into the lower first turn.
Racing comfortably outside of rivals throughout, Saez asked the question on the second turn and got the response he was seeking.
Essential Quality assumed command soon after straightening away and for such a long striding individual handed the going extremely well. He crossed the line in full stride with speed in reserve.
To win a seasonal debut with something in the tank on the road to Louisville is an enviable position, indeed.
Back Tuesday with a look back at the G2 Fountain of Youth, Gulfstream Park’s deep undercard, and a glimpse ahead to next weekend’s important (G2) San Felipe and (G2) Tampa Bay Derby