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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing

PREAKNESS PLANS, DERBY FINAL, FANS FOR SARATOGA AND POSSIBLE ARLINGTON LIFELINE

Hallandale Beach, FL, May 4, 2021 – If you think Medina Spirit was fast in Louisville, you can bet Concert Tour will be faster in Baltimore. The question will be whether he’s made of that same gallant stock that the Bob Baffert stand-in demonstrated in Derby-147.

The Derby record-setting trainer, who rolled a ‘7’ on Saturday, got another bullet for his Preakness holster when owner Gary West decided that he “wants to take a shot” in the Triple Crown’s second leg with Concert Tour, according to Jay Privman of Daily Racing Form.

We’re sure Baffert won’t mind having two chances that could bring him a record eighth Preakness victory.

Whatever the horsemen decide, nothing will be set in stone until this weekend when several will either work or gallop their way into the race; that’s when final plans firm up. What we do know is that the geared-down Rebel winner and Arkansas Derby third will have no pre-race excuses.

Caddo River, forced to miss the Derby, will enter the Classics picture at this juncture. His speedy style fits the Pimlico oval and all have learned he is best when allowed to run freely, and he’s fast enough to outrun anyone for the early lead.

This would set up Mandaloun perfectly. With the mini-turnback and an anticipated lively race, he would be able to race without restraint early, settle into a rhythm and, if he repeats his Derby run, the Preakness table could be set beautifully for him.

No trainer wants to run back at this level with two weeks spacing but until there’s a schedule change, if you want a piece of history and no part of a mile and a half, this is the only opportunity left. It’s the timing a hard race that keeps Essential Quality in the barn for this one.

We’re betting that Cox will point to Derby favorite to New York, where the colt’s tactical speed, rhythmic style and stamina should serve him very well in a race that always has suited speedy gallopers with endurance.

The Crowded Trade scenario is reminiscent of Cloud Computing, Chad Brown’s 2017 Preakness winner. Lightly raced with three starts, he’s shown good developmental signs with each run.

Crowded Start missed by a head-bobbing nose in his pace-chasing G3 Gotham next out, one of the fastest Derby preps this year, prior to his wide- stretch-entering third in the Wood, 2021’s slowest Triple Crown prep. Still a tad green, he showed versatility with a solid late finish.

Other possible starters are Derby sixth finisher Midnight Bourbon, who missed the break and lost any serious chance; late-developing Ram from D Wayne Lukas, looking for his seventh score at Old Hilltop, and Rombauer, more than a filler as a winner the El Camino Real then a tough-trip Blue Grass third.

Lexington runnerup Unbridled Honor is a possibility to the list but Japanese import and France Go de Ina is expected to start. This handle generator is hard to take seriously after being embarrassed in Dubai last time out.

Like the Derby, the Preakness is shaping up as another good betting race and interesting handicapping puzzle. It’s only 11 days until the race but there will be much more to shake out now once the picture is completed.

 Arlington Park Lives?

Happy to note that within the last 24 hours, the Village of Arlington Heights passed an ordinance preventing Churchill Downs Inc, from placing restrictive covenants on the future sale of the Arlington property to a racetrack owner wishing to seek alternate forms of gambling to fund purses.

CDI caught the racing world off guard when it announced earlier this year that it would offer the property for sale but use the existing racing license somewhere else in Illinois, reneging on its promise to pursue a casino license for Arlington.

Churchill Downs already owns a casino property in the area, Rivers Casino, a short 17-mile drive from Arlington International, and reasoned that by doing so they would put CDI in competition with itself, jeopardizing its majority ownership in the casino property.

In sum, the Village of Arlington Heights wants all the options for any future owner available that would continue Arlington’s use as a horse racing facility and/or part of a grander design as an Arlington International Village development that presumable would include a hotel, shops, and perhaps even a new stadium for the Chicago Bears.

To affect all this, zoning laws and existing regulations would need to be revised to ensure the area serves the best interests of the community and preserve one of the structures that lends prestige and a sense of tradition to the greater Chicago area. It will be interesting to see how CDI responds.

Fans at Saratoga

WNYT, the NBC-TV affiliate in Albany, NY, reported this week that Saratoga Race Course announced official capacity of 17,000 fans, a number that clearly reflects the number of seats available.

With current restrictions limited to 20 percent capacity for businesses serving the public, Saratoga Race Course has the right to sell 3,400 seats based on social-distancing guidelines.

On May 18, New York City, once Ground Zero of the Covid-19 pandemic, will be fully operational again.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to accelerate openings of public facilities throughout the state, so that Spa number could increase if current trends continue favorably.


 

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⚠ Before you comment

Our staff likes nothing better than to engage with the HRI Faithful and provide a forum for interaction on horseracing and sports. In that spirit, please be kind and reasonable; keep the language clean, and the tone civil. Comments from those who cannot comply will be deleted. Thank you.

17 Responses

  1. Lukas tried this gambit in 2013 Preakness with Oxbow (Gary Stephens). Ran 2nd in Belmont and retired after Haskell (4th) with soft tissue injury. Front running style suited him to win the 2nd jewel in Triple Crown that year. Liked your opinion on EQ being suited to Belmont next month. I will be pulling for him. Mr. Romano’s trip down “Memory Lane” reminded me of Temperance Hill splashing home at long odds (53-1) with Steady Eddie Maple for Joe Cantey. The Test of the Champion has been won by some real good ones. Remember when Woody Stephens won FIVE IN A ROW? That same year (1980) TH won The Travers, JCGC (beat John Henry) and the inaugural Louisiana Super Derby. Named Champion Three Year Old Horse that same year.

    1. C, Essential Quality’s connects say their main target this summer is the Travers and that they will plan back from that target. This could preclude a run at Belmont Park. After the Derby, I saw Brad Cox say that after his first breeze, he turned to his assistant and said “that’s my Belmont horse.” The Belmont would be a perfect spot given his Derby trip, five weeks, running style and pedigree. Guessing that in Godolphin’s mind, a Travers win is more “valuable” for stud purposes than the Belmont? Can’t help myself I suppose, always thinking sport first…

      1. Thanks. An HRI follower, JGR, mentioned an article in SI which I looked for and read. Your friend Paul Cornman is named briefly and it’s a good read. You may want to check it out. All about John Campo, Pleasant Colony and a vet who passed away. I remember it from when it happened. Should be easy enough to find online. Weird tale. Also mentions Dr. Mark Gerard who was involved with Lebon (or was it Cinzano?) ringer case. He cashed for more than 80k on that beauty. Then someone in Cinzano’s native country in S. America saw the win photo and said, of Lebon, “That’s Cinzano” and notified the authorities. Busted! Check it out.

        1. Good stuff, and a good memory, C.

          Maybe we should both try to find a life outside the racetrack…

        2. Thanks,Mr C. Man does not live by bread ,or betting,alone ! Reading about the backdrops of racing,or any other sport,many times is more reflective,interesting than what is shown,or put onto our faces,under our noses. The connections,favors between all of them in and out of the paddock is always interesting read.Same with boxing rings, basketball courts,etc. Pricci has the final say of what gets printed in this one person operation and this does Not change any other contributor’s mind on Any subjects or picks. Like he used to say many times in his days as a Newsday handicapper/ horse picker : The Ball is in Your Court( brain). Use it !

  2. Unfortunately, it appears that Hot Rod Charlie will not run in the Preakness. He has three Preakness winners in his bloodline (Oxbow, Northern Dancer, Seattle Slew).

    1. Dan, the sport and do what it wants, and will because that’s what they do. I’ve been preaching first Saturday in May, Memorial Day and Fourth of July before anyone–a source of pride but something that won’t happen until at least after I’m dead. If you don’t win the Derby or run eighth or 10th, no trainer wants to run back in two weeks, period, end of story…

      1. That is discouraging from my view as a fan. Hard to believe that in 2021, Pimlico survives.

        2019: 4 horses ran in the Preakness who had their previous start in the Kentucky Derby. 19 horses ran in the Kentucky Derby.
        2018: 4 horses ran in the Preakness who had their previous start in the Kentucky Derby. 20 horses ran in the Kentucky Derby.
        2017: 5 horses ran in the Preakness who had their previous start in the Kentucky Derby. 20 horses ran in the Kentucky Derby.
        2016: 3 horses ran in the Preakness who had their previous start in the Kentucky Derby. 20 horses ran in the Kentucky Derby.
        2015: 5 horses ran in the Preakness who had their previous start in the Kentucky Derby. 18 horses ran in the Kentucky Derby.

        Fun Fact for today:
        17 horses ran in the 1988 Kentucky Derby, 7 of them went on to run in the Preakness.

        9 horses ran in the 1988 Preakness. The top 7 finishers were the 7 Derby runners (Risen Star, Brian’s Time, Winning Colors, Private Terms, Cefis, Regal Classic, Forty Niner). 2 Garden State shippers finished 8th and 9th.

        1. Due Diligence Dan, thank you. Will use as the hook to Preakness advance column Sunday. Love the HRI Faithful!

  3. It is not surprising that with all his fast horses that Baffert wouldn’t want to have to 2 runners in the next leg in Baltimore. I would think that one if not both of his runners would be compromised by their running styles. Guess he will give the owner’s of Concert Tour the choice.
    BTW..I am thrilled Belmont is finally opened but astonished and annoyed why everyone entering the track is safe due to the restrictions, still have to wear masks when sitting on a bench handicapping.

    1. Mark, It was the same thing in Florida until hideous Gov. Wannabe eliminated all restrictions on everything yesterday. I do agree, however, if you’re outdoors and socially distanced that you wouldn’t be required to wear a mask. In truth, I still do and I’m long since vaccinated. The only gamble I want to take is on horses and a little sports, otherwise I take the safe-than-sorry tack.

      To your Preakness point, I believe the barn’s speed call would defer to Concert Tour, but the scenario I see is everyone chasing Caddo River…

  4. So, it seems from the commentary above that only Midnight Bourbon and Mandaloun (maybe) will go on to the Preakness to challenge Medina Spirit. The vast majority of the other sixteen so-called blue bloods who ran in the Derby, as is the case year-after-year, packing it in probably never to race again.

    True handicappers will tell you that a blue blood who has the class will overcome diversity during a race (broke in tangle, bumped, blocked Alice) not wilt . Kindly note that Midnight Bourbon did not gain an inch on Medina Spirit down the stretch and Mandaloun continued to lose substantial ground all through the stretch.

    We sure are at opposite ends of the spectrum as I find your writing ‘Like the Derby, the Preakness is shaping up as another good betting race . . . . . ‘ leaves me totally nonplussed.

  5. I said before the race that I fully expected either Highly Motivated or Known Agenda to win. I don’t think either one of them had a single call during the race. The rail didn’t cost KA- he got out nicely and was never compromised by being down inside- he simply did absolutely no running.As for Highly Motivated, if you hadn’t bet on him, you probably had no idea he ever made it into the starting gate.

    When you’re wrong, you’re wrong.

    1. This is true. Of my top four, only Hot Rod Charlie and Essential Quality showed up.

      At least Highly Motivated did a little running in the lane, never a threat, of course. But to me, Known Agenda, after establishing surprisingly good position first time by the stands, never picked up his feet thereafter in an extremely disappointment effort.

      1. Any thoughts on Malathaat in Preakness. I heard Todd say after Oaks he was considering Belmont but now it seems the 2nd jewel is in play for this filly. I think she has a chance but would like to know your opinion. Thanks.

  6. C, two weeks is not his jam, I find it hard to believe but…

    If anything, I’d bet Belmont, but just an educated guess.

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