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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, March 28, 2023 – Last weekend was quite the display of extraordinary talent both on the equine and horsemanship side. Taking these in chronological order on a Mother of All Saturdays:

Dubai Sheema Classic: In five decades, I’m sure I probably have seen a more extraordinary turf run, or not, but until then the performance by Equinox in Dubai sent me scurrying for a second cup of coffee, the television remote, and my hype machine.

Or, as the late, great Jack Buck might have said: “I can’t believe what I just saw.”

But no, I saw it correctly. It wasn’t so much that the Japanese superstar went to the front and improved his position, it was the manner in which he did so.

Equinox was not encouraged the least bit by regular ride Christophe Lemaire at any point in the race, and it was not exactly like he re-broke to increase his advantage. Instead, it was as if he just glided faster.

A gorgeous individual from the little we’ve seen of him, his action was perfect as he opened an insurmountable lead before Lemaire began gearing him down, and he still smashed the course record. In doing so, he completely outclassed Breeders’ Cup champion Rebel’s Romance and all the rest.

Not long after the official, oddsmakers installed as the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe favorite at Longchamp where, more often than not, the ground is unforgivingly soft, making it more about endurance than speed. So a possible oversees option could be the Breeders’ Cup Turf.

Please, please let it be the first weekend in November, and it would be simply a hop, skip and flawless strides across the Pacific to Santa Anita Park.

UAE DERBY: It wasquite the opening act for Lemaire who guided Derma Sotogake to a totally comprehensive 5-1/2 length score over Dura Erede and Japanese shippers wept the superfecta. Judging by his effort, it was hard to know the 1-3/16 miles Grade 2 was his debut run on dirt.

Lemaire explained after that the colt, by New York-bred, Japan-based sire Mind Your Biscuits, doesn’t usually break sharply but he did this day, taking pressure all the way before widening at the turn and opening an insurmountable lead in midstretch.

The connections indicated he would ship to Churchill Downs and prepare for the Derby. If he trains well, he would probably run given his 100-point qualifying win. The way Japanese horses have been conquering the world stage in recent years, his presence could make things interesting.

LOUISIANA DERBY: Go ahead, go knock Kingsbarns for whatever the reason, but it’s against my religion to dismiss any undefeated horse until he gets exposed.

Yes, the fractions were soft and speed horses went against type at the Fair Grounds but if he were not talented, he could not have made a very solid collection of three-year-olds look bad, and that’s what he did.

Indeed, favorite Instant Coffee was left with too much to do and tried to make his customary late run down the center of the track but was one-paced flat. He’s better than that, but then so might be the winner. He has ability, upside and in the right hands. He doesn’t need to lead to win.

Lightly raced Disarm went very well, going in the right direction in his stakes debut and his runnerup finish likely will be enough to qualify. He appears to have a future but it’s about ‘now’ horses at tis point of the prep season, so we shall see. If he’s not ready to tackle, he may be when the circus arrives in Baltimore.

JEFF RUBY STEAKS: Larry Rivelli has been an ‘A’-list trainer for some time and knows his way around good horses, too, it’s just that we don’t see enough of him on the East-side of the country. But he can be found virtually everywhere else. Take his horse Two Phil’s for example.

Based in the Midwest, this homebred son of Hard Spun made debut at Churchill Downs before breaking maiden in second start at his Hawthorne base. In his next start, he broke his stakes maiden at Canterbury then had an extremely wide trip at Keeneland in the G1 Breeders’ Futurity.

Undaunted, he won Churchill’s G3 Street Sense in his next start and this winter was second and third, respectively, in Instant Coffee’s G3 Lecomte and Angel of Empire’s G2 Risen Star. He needed to get faster and has at 3, incrementally, a plus.

There’s no data yet, only a favorable visual impression left by his dominant-finish G3 Jeff Ruby victory. There are no stats on this but Rivelli must be the most accomplished horses when making a surface switch from Dirt to All-Weather.

According to Equibase pre-Ruby data, Rivelli is 34% effective from 129 starters, 66% in-the-money, no small sample. And interesting that he left Fair Grounds, where he was effective, trained at home, shipped to Turfway for a Ruby blowout and bang!

He is a proven commodity at Churchill, obviously, and now hopes to follow in the synthetic footsteps of Animal Kingdom and Rich Strike. Wonder what Rivelli’s AW-to-Dirt numbers are? But that may not matter.; the Midwest horseman has himself a worthy Derby player.

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