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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, July 25, 2021 – It is said that style makes prize fights. The same can be said about horse racing.

Before the Coaching Club American Oaks, handicappers would have been hard pressed to predict that Malathaat would be on the pace taking pressure. Lots of pressure.

First challenge came from the eventual winner, Maracuja, who caught a flyer from the gate, forcing Johnny Velazquez to maintain his pole position into and rounding the clubhouse turn.

Undefeated in five starts, none of those victories came wire to wire. After three furlongs, Irad Ortiz Jr. on strong second-favorite Clairiere moved up outside, hoping to pressure Ricardo Santana Jr. aboard the winner to apply even more pressure on Malathaat.

Almost simultaneously, Santana backed off and allowed Clairiere and Ortiz to be the presser. The CCAO, billed as a two-horse race between the favorites, became just that approaching the half-mile pole where the two fillies began to slug it out.

Meanwhile, Santana found a spot in the catbird seat, waiting until the quarter-pole was in his sights, pushed his filly into the 4-path where she took dead aim and ultimately proved best on the day.

All Malathaat lost yesterday was a horse race.

She met three challenges, couldn’t hold off the final one after posting realistic early fractions–23.75 and 47.13–but kept punching to the finish where the winner’s late momentum paid dividends in 1.49.29 for the nine furlongs.

Malathaat rates to move forward in a big way following her first race in 86 days. The Alabama fillies had better be tied on tight.

Babies-R-Us Stable Mail

Interesting week for the young ones. In Wednesday’s Rick Violette Stakes, Run Curtis Run got the money but when he meets Ready A.P. again, give me the latter. No knocks on ‘Curtis,’ who is now 2-for-2 lifetime and likely headed to the Hopeful.

Like Malathaat, Ready A.P. was taken out of the style that made her such an impressive winner of her debut making a sustained run of nearly three-eighths of a mile, unusual for any maiden, much less a young filly. She’s likely is headed to the Spinaway…

Thursday, July 22:  A pair of juvenile fillies going 1-1/16 miles on grass caught the eye in race 5. Beyond the Map saved absolutely no ground at any time—not the way to win turf races. Well bet filly made a strong, wide-turn rally and continued gamely right to the end… Pizza Bianca, covered up nicely throughout, roared home to win it; future stakes player.

Derrynane finished like a wild horse! Considering it was a Clement trainee ridden by Rosario in a maiden turf sprint, no one was surprised; follow. Quick Power Nap was second best, but very good. For Lovely Lucky to finish as gamely and as well as she did at 11 furlongs indicates she’s a genuine stayer, a true marathoner…

Friday, July 23:  Juvenile maiden Big Scully raced wide throughout from his outside draw in this sprint, hard-chased on the turn, and finished gamely in the 5-path through while swerving about greenly. Scopey type should go long. Sailor Speed was going very well at the finish in this same heat.

Big Everest had excellent energy in inner-turf mile, demonstrating a big turn of foot; note…

Saturday, July 24: Another 3 and up group of maidens going a mile on the inner turf; Freedomofthepress angled 6-7 wide into the lane and had every right to remain one-paced but kept chugging along. Grinder type will benefit. Eventually, Pathique settled into a rhythm but running off for the first half-mile didn’t help her chances any.

More maiden turfers going a mile on inner turf and when Ego Trip got going, he made the finish much tighter than one would have thought at headstretch; he won’t be a maiden for long.

The efforts of the CCAO exacta finishers notwithstanding, the best efforts of the day came in races nine and 10. Now that Bill Mott has her where he wants her, it’s clear that Caramel Swirl is a stakes winner in waiting. Her seven furlong allowance score caught the eye in a big way, finishing in hand through the final sixteenth in fast time. Extremely capable.

The camera shot of trainer Elizabeth Merryman was quite revealing as she watched her Caravel decimate turf sprinters in the G3 Caress.

After purchasing a major interest, new owner Bobby Flay will turn the horse over to Graham Motion, who will effort to get her into the BC Turf Sprint. Merryman retained part interest.

We’ve never seen tears of joy and sadness revealed in one expression. As a fan, I felt, at once, happy and sad for her. If you can find a replay of the Saratoga Live broadcast somewhere, why not see for yourself?

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11 Responses

  1. Hi John!

    Maracujá deserved more respect than she got yesterday. The fact that she was higher odds than “Rock” was insane. She’s been improving all along – she ran a terrific race in the Gazelle and a sneaky good race in the KY Oaks. Going into CCAO, I was confident of two things : 1) Mara would run well and 2) Clairiere wouldn’t be there. I love the latter’s dam, Cavorting, but IMO Clairiere hasn’t developed much at all since earlier in the year, and somehow excuses are always made for her. If I’m Steve, I shorten her up for this year and then try longer next – Cavorting flourished around two turns as a 4 year old, but she was pretty much a sprinter early on.

    About CCAO, I am all for crediting Malathaat for running a huge race. My issue is Maracujá not getting the kudos she deserved in a strongly run race. It’s not like she took advantage of a favorite who didn’t have anything. She was running against her usual style as well – brilliant ride by Santana, but all for naught if Mara wasn’t willing or able. She pressed the early pace – couldn’t be further from her closing style – and could still make another move when asked, wide throughout.

    Sometimes (not directing this to you) I think pundits and handicappers don’t know what to do with long shots who win; they feel it necessary to over praise the loser and chalk the winner’s win up to sheer luck. It’s unfair in this case.

    IMO, Mala should be the favorite for the Alabama, but I expect Maracujá to be a formidable foe.

    1. Excellent, knowledgeable. First, I agree that Maracuja was a deserving third choice and that her race in the Gazelle was first rate. But she had never earned performance figures the equal of the two favorites.

      Also, totally agree about Clairiere, she has not developed as expected — and I’m sure Mr. Asmussen would agree, off the record, of course. Your opinion of Cavorting was spot on as was the suggestion to turn her back to one turn.

      Do you think the Test makes sense? I do. She has uber-conditioning and will get early heat to close into. Or maybe freshen her a bit and point for the F & M BC Sprint?

      Am I shocked that Maracuja won? No. Am I shocked that Malathaat lost? Absolutely! It’s the reason, as they say, why they run the races.

      1. Oh yeah, she had to improve in the CCAO, but I felt she would………. did I think she’d win? Not really, but I didn’t think about that as much as I just hoped she’d run well. As long as she did that, the sky was the limit.

        Honestly, Clairiere showed a lot more speed than I thought she was capable of, so if she came out of it ok, then yes, I think the Test makes sense… or other sprints. She hasn’t exactly run badly, but when others are progressing, it looks like you’re standing still. I expect they’ll still point her for the Alabama because obviously the CCAO was a weirdly run race…..I wouldn’t blame them for that, but unless she runs a big race, I think perhaps some time off might do her some good. She’s a big filly and I’m sure she’ll be better next year.

        LOL true! I get that McPeek had two horses he couldn’t enter because of the quarantine issue, and they don’t want to stretch Search Results out again (I guess) yet………but Army Wife? Where was she? That’s just one example. Everyone wants to win, but a horse that runs well in a losing effort often gets much respect…and, they pay you for the effort.

        1. Agreed Betsy.

          In racing philosophy and observation, I suspect we may be joined at the hip.

  2. Oh and I felt sorry for Elizabeth Merryman. I’m glad at least that she’s keeping part ownership. I loved the way the filly kicked up her heels in the post parade, lol.

    1. I picked ‘Sparkles’ but knew I was dead–twice. I saw her groom leading her around the shed, and when I got a good look at her, she looked like a bear. Wow.

      And then the post parade; an old-fashioned buck-kick, as in, about to kick ass! Caravel was terrific…

    2. I know business is business, but where is the advantage in changing trainers? She conditioned this horse perfectly and the horses responded with big efforts.

      1. Probably none…..I don’t see what Motion can do with the filly that EM couldn’t, but I think big name owners like big name trainers

        1. Agreed, like seeks like. If this filly improves, it will be, IMO, her continued late development that will be responsible. Neither can I see how any other trainer could do a better job in this instance.

      2. Exactly, the difference, according to Merryman, is that Graham Motion has had a history of turf success in the Breeders’ Cup. And since their barns at Fair Hill are right next to each other, I’m sure Motion would welcome any input which Merryman would be happy to share.

  3. It’s a rare occurrence but occasionally a commenter here at HRI writes something that I copy and paste to my Hall of Fame wall, which already has three comments by Mr. Pricci in prominent locations. Above is written ‘. . . .pundits and handicappers don’t know what to do with long shots who win, they feel it necessary to over praise the loser and chalk the winner’s win up to sheer luck. It’s unfair . . . .’. Boy, this comment is not a factoid but a truth of the first magnitude.

    I’ve read following day commentary by Mr. Pricci over the years where the winner of a stake race, not given any consideration prior to the race, is not even mentioned! The commentary, though, filled with excuses why the blue blood odds-on favorite didn’t win.

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