HALLANDALE BEACH, January 4, 2021 – The first prep races of the 2021 Triple Crown season came and went over the weekend. Perhaps the term should be experimental preps, performances that indicate whether or not the dream owners and trainers are chasing is a realistic one.
In that context, reviews of the performances we’ve seen or heard post-race were either a little harsh or misses the point completely.
The only horses we assumed to be going all out were those who were up against it on past performance lines going in. For them, these races were a prize unto themselves, not stepping stones to anywhere. Some had excuses, some failed miserably; that’s horse racing.
There was nothing not to like about the performances of any of the winners.
In New York, proving that he was more than a “Parx horse” was enough for Capo Kane to accomplish. and that he did, taking pressure throughout after breaking from the rail going a flat mile, and not only withstood that but shrugged off two challengers.
The Street Sense colt’s stride lengthened at the end of a final quarter-mile in a very solid 25.40. Dylan Davis brought him to the outside at headstretch, but he did drift out late after being shown the crop on his left side.
He drifted out for the third consecutive race which begs a question; is it greenness or something else? Remember when everyone said Tiz the Law was “green,” having a “lug-in tendency?”
Actually, given his retirement, as unexpectedly sudden as it was premature, maybe Tiz the Law was trying to tell us something else. Was the barn managing issues all along? Who knows? Saying as a little as possible is as much a part of horse racing as the starting gate.
I’m looking forward to his next start, the mile and-one-eighth Withers. Trainer Harold Wyner mentioned Fair Grounds as a possibility for Capo Kane, but the connections ultimately decided to take advantage of a surface that their horse likes. They kept an open mind, and we’re doing the same.
Mutasaabeq is now a stakes winner on two surfaces and his win, also at a flat mile, was workmanlike. Accomplishing what he did was not the easiest thing to do; switching surfaces and turning back to a livelier pace challenge in an elongated dirt sprint. He required urging from Luis Saez.
To our eye to looks to be more of a turf type. Saez warmed him up fairly vigorously prior to loading, efforting to put his head and body into the race. And he did just that, coming back to Saez when encouraged to do so, but also responding when encouraged to re-engage.
Through the stretch, he wore down a determined rival, getting stronger the farther he went. Interesting to see how far he will go next time. He’s from a Scat Daddy mare, and he was Downside Scenario’s first foal so she’s off to a good start. Turf or dirt, two turns would seem to be a better fit.
Will it be the Holy Bull or await the Fountain of Youth? It could be neither. Maybe he’ll stay on the trail by first stepping on a van and head north to Tampa. Nice to have options, especially this early in the season. We saw nothing negative, to the contrary in fact.
As for the only graded stakes for three-year-olds last weekend, the disappointing aspect to the victory by Life Is Good in the Sham Stakes is that it didn’t live up to the hype. Then how could it?
Too much was expected from a two-turn debut. The important thing is that he won despite not getting the sharpest of starts away from the barrier. But Mike Smith looped him around into the lead midway of the first turn, and that was that.
Life Is Good entered the stretch in hand, just as Authentic did in last year’s Sham. And just like Authentic’s Haskell, a disinterested colt tried to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, forcing Smith to save the colt from himself and a talented onrushing stablemate, Medina Spirit.
As Authentic benefitted from the Sham, and later from the Haskell, Life Is Good is sure to benefit from the experience.
Trainer Bob Baffert said he will separate the two next time, one will stay home and the other put on a plane. The problem for Baffert is that once again he has too many cards to shuffle, not knowing exactly how to keep them out of each other’s way. He’s been there. and has done that very well.