Hallandale Beach, FL — Keeping up with racing on a daily basis often results in the kind of relentless frustration that could wear Job down to a tiny nub.
But then you walk into a venue with live racing and are reminded instantly you suffer from “manure syndrome.”
The back-sides and front-sides, each with a rhythm of their own, are accompanied by familiar sights, sounds and, yes, aromas, too. The pace is deliberate but charged with cerebral energy that conjures up scores.
And down the stretch they come, the flared nostrils and thundering hooves of equines rush by in search of a finish line, a day of never-ending ebbs and flows.
For horse players, opening weekend provides time travel to racing days passed; like brand new no matter how many times you’ve watched your favorite horses turn left.
What made Saturday special for us was the great sense of anticipation for another yearly Thoroughbred excursion on the road to the Classics. So much time, so many races until spring.
With sunshine and an ever-present Gulfstream breeze, there were six stakes and one maiden allowances for the babies to see, 73 runners in all.
And on closed circuit, at the track that hosts America’s greatest race, there were 12 gates full of nothing but youngsters. all the ding-dong day. The only one not suitably impressed by this glutenous display of youth was the Deity.
It rained in Louisville, early and often, straight down and sideways, so dark it required lights to see it, right in the middle of the afternoon.
And the Stars of Tomorrow program certainly brought the Kentucky horsemen out, with or without their Lasix–entering 178 horses overnight, 251 babies in all. If you box them up for a buck, it would cost $62.750.
Four Headline Performers:
Of the half-dozen juvenile stakes on Gulfstream’s first Saturday program, we’ll review three in ascending order:
The crowd made the Todd Pletcher trained $1.1 million baby a heavy favorite to win the Smooth Air Stakes off his five length maiden romp– Pletcher already had two wins on the card, The favorite was very disappointing but not the colt he beat last time, n’t up to the task.
Soros, with Hall of Famer Edgar Prado in the boot, made the last run the rest run, drawing out late to win the 1-1/16 miles as if distance will continue to be his friend.
The bad news for the maiden breaker is he needed 1:38.10 to win his flat mile while filly Tonalist’s Shape took the Hut Hut by nine in 1:36.62. They say fillies mature faster than colt’s; proof positive here. She galloped out very well, widening with every late step.
Solo Volante, who gave Patrick Biancone a training double, was as impressive taking the Pulpit Stakes as he was breaking maiden on debut at Gulfstream West, sweeping to command beneath Jairo Rendon, separated herself leaving plenty of daylight to hold strong-rally runnerup Irish Mias safe.
Two sprint races of note: The Big Kahuna was just that, breaking maiden on debut, taking early pressure and holding sway for Pletcher/Saez. Jorge Navarro’s well bet Sag Harbor looked badly in need of the race, rallying very wide through the stretch and galloping out strongly; follow.
Shivaree and Went West put on quite a stretch show and while the margin was a long neck, Shivaree was much the best horse as he took 44-change pressure and came again in 1:09.42 vs. perfect-tripping runnerup.
Said announcer Pete: “it was a Buffalo Man we won’t soon forget.” Indeed. The win gave Ralph Nicks a training double and was Jaramillo’s second of five wins on the day.
All Tiz The Law Lost Was a Race
The Churchill Downs card lost all its luster for us because of the conditions. Per usual, the wet surface helped some, hindered others, not allowing handicappers to know if it were the conditions or animals who impressed or disappointed. But we watched the Jockey Club Stakes with interest.
Odds-on Tiz The Law might still be a Derby heir apparent to Funny Cide, after all his New York-bred brother wasn’t undefeated going into the Kentucky Derby either. The key is not to overreact one way or another. The trip was not good but he had his chance in mid-stretch but was outrun late.
I tend to give him legitimate excuses. Through no fault of Manny Franco, the favorite had a target on his back and the competition never gave him a chance to get outside for a clear run. Ad the inside path was not the best portion of the Churchill surface.
Soon after entering the straight, Franco found a seam and to his credit, Tiz The Law broke through while racing in very tight quarters. But his inexperience showed late as he failed to change over to his correct right lead, giving him every right to tire.
For the second time, he took a little stutter step at the break. Just needs a little more gate experience so that he doesn’t try to catch his own flyer coming out of the gate. Outbreaking the start is not a good thing; see Dennis’ Moment.
Asmussen, Paco and Miller: Rollin’, Rollin’, Rollin’…
Between his work with Mitole and Midnight Bisou, and training titles at venues far and wide, Steve Asmussen, who upset the the Jockey Club with Silver Prospector after taking the Golden Rod with Finite, her third straight score, is deserving of an Eclipse Award. Right now, he and Chad Brown are leading the category…
Who does Paco Lopez think he is, Chad Brown? It’s not often when horsemen ship 3,000 miles and go 3-for-3 in graded states. But Paco pulled that off Saturday with undefeated Alms in the Jimmy Durante, 23-1 Zuzanna in the Red Carpet, saving best for last, Mo Forza in the G1 Hollywood Derby for white hot Peter Miller.
Bets N’ Pieces…
Performer took the G3 Discovery for McGaughey/Rosario, his fourth straight victory but his stakes debut, the Phipps broodmare band doing their job. Late developing three-year-old should continue his development.
It appeared that Tax had him coming off the turn with momentum but the-black-and-cherry would not be denied. Tax, too, will benefit and Saturday’s race and could set him up nicely for the Pegasus at January’s end if the connections decide to go that way.
We referred to the quickly run Hut Hut earlier, won impressively by Tonalist’s Shape—Tonalist‘s first stakes winner–but was not the favorite. That distinction went to Shug ship-in Power Move who appeared to have difficultly handling the Hallandale surface. She’s certainly better than she showed yesterday.
Si Que Es Buena took the G3 Long Island Stakes with a rail-skimmer, giving Rosario a stakes double and some redemption for trainer Graham Motion, whose filly had a very rough trip in her previous start but saved all the ground and remarkably had no traffic to negotiate in the bulky field.