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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, July 22-23 — The four-horse Shuvee, which matched up two brilliant race mares, a race within a race, turned out to be more one-side than expected.

Going in, Clairiere was at tops. Going in, Nest had the pace advantage, but what about that transition from 3 to 4. Again, this time rhetorically, what about that transition from 3 to 4?

Coming out of the 9 furlong Grade 2 Shuvee, there were no more questions.

Nest was best.

Both winning rider Irad Ortiz Jr. and Joel Rosario rode great races tactically. But the fillies settled it between themselves. Just as Clairiere made her move inside–and she has won races down on the inside before, Nest, who surged to the lead at headstretch, found another gear.

But that’s what the good ones do.

So what happens when they meet next time, when the pace possibly is more suitable to Clairiere’s style. The 4-year-old Nest looked like a bigger, better individual who dominated the three year olds of 2022.

If yesterday was an example of matchups to come, it won’t matter, Nest will always have a tactical advantage and appears even stronger. What a mare. What a training performance from a Hall of Famer, the leading money-winning trainer of all time.


The essence of Saratoga racing is two-year-old racing and the day’s seventh was the featured event for babies.

The race was loaded with babies and chuck full of big time outfits and money showed all over from many. The winner, and the next four finishers, certainly have next starts to look forward to, perhaps even those in the back. In order, here’s how the first five finishers fared today–and what the future might hold:

VALENTINE CANDY closed at 3-1 in the late wagering and the money was right. Racecaller Frank Mirahmadi had it right, too: “Valentine Candy had it won right out of the gate,” or something to that effect, opening three lengths in a blink without being asked as many well bred and well bet newcomers frantically hustled to catch up. Ricardo Santana Jr. showed confidence on the turn, allowing the handsome chestnut to cruise out front, sneaking a peek back later on in a sign of confidence. Understandably, he tired in the final yards but the issue was never in doubt. He was a consummate professional out there.

PROTECTIVE ran super. Leading the second pack, Irad Ortiz stayed inside saving ground at the turn showing him the crop left-handed. Approaching headstretch, Ortiz wheeled him out into the 6-path and the colt finished strongly all the way down the lane, looking very much like a next out winner. Added ground will be his friend.

ANOINTED, like the runnerup a Todd Pletcher trainee, also has his best races in front of him. He was hustled up and raced between horses early, dropped back. at the half-mile pole, remained outside at the turn racing a bit greenly, was carried seven wide into the stretch and finished courageously for third in an excellent educational run.

GENERAL PARTNER was hustled to chase the winner from the inside in a bid to maintain forward position which he did through the turn, tipped out to make a bid and ran strongly to the eighth pole but stayed one-paced thereafter but tired from those early exertions. Should get a lot out of this run.

DIVE BOMBER attracted the most attention on the tote board and perhaps indicated he might be the most exciting prospect of all. He raced head to head between three rivals at various points on the backstretch, appeared to shy away from the fence entering the far turn, was taken out to the 5-path approaching midstretch, battled with a rival soon after entering the straight, altered course again to the inside and ran strongly to the furlong pole, tiring late, but he kept chugging to the wire. I’m exhausted just writing about it…

WAR PAINT was so good wining the CCAO and ran herself squarely into the picture for a divisional title. Coming from last behind lazy fractions, she angled out widest of all entering the lane, and just when it appeared that a very good Sacred Wish would steal the 8 furlong Grade 1, the Godolphin blue color-bearer lengthened stride and nail the lead right on the money.

Don’t know what it is with these latter-day superstar West Coast riders who eventually come east. First it was Joel Rosario, now it’s Flavien Prat, but someone ought to test them. Their blood runs cold when astride talented late runners; they never rattle. Amazing timing mixed with power, It’s a treat to watch them at work.


Good news about Jose Ortiz, who was unseated from his mount Same Old Fears after the filly clipped heels and fell at the finish line in Friday’s first race.

Tested at Albany Medical Friday afternoon, it was learned Ortiz suffered no serious injuries beyond sustaining sore ribs from the incident and his return as of Friday evening was reported as “day to day.”

The Saratoga racing office reported that Ortiz will be off all his mounts Saturday according to the Clerk of Scales. His status for Sunday is unknown as of this posting. Will update as further news becomes available.


Sunday’s Grade 2 Shuvee features last year’s heroine Clairiere vs. three rivals. Before thinking such is the state of the game’s dearth of racing stock, ask yourself, as a supposed owner of an older mare, whether you’d been filling the entry box to take on 2023’s divisional leader and 2022’s 3-year-old filly champion.

Me neither–even if it is Nest’s first run since November.’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff.

As for her Shuvee chances, she’s been in steady training since May, is 2-for-2 over today’s surface, and 3-for-5 with one placing at today’s trip.

Meanwhile, Clairiere is seeking a Shuvee repeat, is riding a two race Grade 1 winning streak and has a huge recency edge . For those looking to upset the imposing favorite, her Spa and distance records are not imposing as she brings a (4) 1-1-1 Spa slate and a (6) 1-0-2 mark at nine furlongs to the dance. So there is that.

As for the other rivals, both appear to be in for shares of the $200,000 pot. Here is the lineup, such as it is, with HRI Trip Notes of interest with early line odds.

SKRATCH KAT (20-1) outrun backstretch behind dominant speed rival, made rally move on turn, no match while lugging in on left lead through stretch.

NEST (4-5) [2022 Coaching Club Oaks] was very keen entering first turn, restrained speed backstretch between horses in two-rival attack, shook off Secret Oath’s turn challenge, driven out, in hand deep stretch.

PISTOL LIZ ABLAZEN (15-1) restrained speed between rivals first turn, still between in close quarters 3/4 pole and took back behind subsequent duel, 4-wide rally move approaching headstretch, ridden out, taken in hand late stretch.

CLAIRIERE (3-5) [2022 Shuvee] restrained speed leaving gate, allowed to drop back backstretch, steadied inside approaching headstretch, got through on fence, strong finish on rail through stretch (second straight win over Malathaat).

The Skinny: Recency angle too much to overcome. Taking what’s given. Obvious single for horizontal-pool players.

this is a live column, updated throughout the day

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26 Responses

  1. Some of your followers have to be surprised,disappointed that so far there are no mentions of today’s big races, especially at Monmouth. I find it intriguing that one horse is the favorite ML while another of the same race gets most thumbs up, maybe favoring some New Jersey Intrabetting, if that is what it is called, for pre race aficionados, like me, at better odds. Going against the Arabian Nights connections.

  2. We indicated in yesterday’s Diary that Tapit Trice is our choice to win the Haskell with Mage to complete the exacta. We believe there will be enough pace to hinder Bob Baffert’s chances of winning a 10th Haskell with Arabian Knight. We’ll be using Extra Anejo and Geaux Rocket Ride in exotics. Indeed, in “Fixed Odds” wagering, Mage is the early favorite as of this a.m.

    1. I like Tapit Trice also except with Salute the Stars, back and forth to get the exotic cash. Howgreatisnate is interesting underneath also.

  3. Vincent, I am now officially off the Tapit Trice bandwagon, he’s just not gone forward. Needs to be recycled. Without seeing figures of any kind and after seeing the race but once, the horse I want out of the Haskell next time is Mage. Meanwhile, considering lack of experience, Mandella’s colt is pretty damn good.

  4. Extra Anjeo never given a chance today as he was kept in the three and four path the entire race. Very well may light up the board up on the Northway in August at 10f. Asmussen was extremely high on this runner in the early spring before incurring a set back that keep him off the Derby trail. He may still prove Asmussen’s assessment correct, but not with the type of ride he had today. EA never had a shot today.

    1. McD, I know the saga of Extra Anejo, as I too am a big Lisa De Dosage fan. You are correct, Extra Anejo lost ground–too much ground– throughout, and it was encouraging to see him make a decent effort all through the stretch when he could have chucked it all.

      Given the class hike and the trip, he certainly is one to follow closely. However, asking him to win the Travers, if the prospects for the race remain in place, is still a very big ask. He should be thinking Pa Derby, not Midsummer Derby.

  5. I lean the opposite way John. It must be the constant draw for the underdog in my DNA. It is “The Sport of Kings” after all. And for the three year class, the “Prime Time” marquee races are just so limited. The Pa Derby though logical, is kind of like Joe Namath’s comment of old…”kind of like kissing your sister”. I would prefer Asmussen stay “fast and firm” for the Travers. The lives of the three year olds are just so short. The Sportman in me says go for it. Destiny is all. I would rather come up short, than pass on the chance of Greatness.

    I would like to share with you an undated post I spotted on the wall in a shop Greenport, New York that caught my attention several years back. So much so that I snapped a picture of the verse. It works for horsemen as well as for the life of a man at sea.

    Holding Fast and Staying True

    All Hands,

    Hardened Sailors Have Tattooed Hold Fast On Their Knuckles AS A Reminder That They Can Conquer Any Storm But They Must Hold Fast.

    It Represents The Remarkable Physical Resolve We Must Show. To Bear Down AND Fight Through The Weather. Mentally We Have To Continue To Believe. It Means To Stand With Your Convictions. Your Truths, Your Gut, And Your Heart.

    Stay True.

    We Must Not Be Swayed From Our Course, Nor Turn On Backs On What We Know To Be True. That We Have The Strength And Grit Down Deep To Weather Anything.

    Hold Fast

    Stay True

    Greenport, New York

    Mentally John, I have to continue to believe in Extra Anjeo. If nothing else, I am indeed stubborn Irish. Like Billy Conn vs Joe Louis back in their day. Billy Conn had easily outpointed Joe Lewis in their first fight when he decided to go for the knockout. That was his fatal mistake. Anyhoot, I too will not be swayed from my course, nor turn on back on what I know to be true. In The Sport of Kings, I will go for the knockout much like Billy Conn attempted. My two bucks will stay with Extra Anjeo in the Travers. Win or lose, I will have fun trying and am going for the WIN. Thinking Carly Simon right about now. Anticipation.

    Ain’t life grand? A couple of bucks in our pockets, and we get to live like Kings. Reminds me of the days I used to read Pricci’s selections for a nickle when he was back at Newsday. Those were the days my friend. We just didn’t know at the time, just how grand life as and is.

    Fast and True. Hicksville, NY

    1. Dear Fast and True, I went on record — ESPN Radio, Albany — before Saratoga started telling host Rodger Wyland that this Travers has the earmarks of being one of the most contentious in my memory, all things being equal, and to remember than name Extra Anejo. So I am a fan.
      Secondly, would never talk anyone out of backing a non-favorite. As my dear friend the late Cary counselled, it’s about price, not about horse.
      And I wish analysts would give Mr. Fotias credit. He was the first speed handicapper to talk seriously about condition using energy distribution as a barometer. A little off-topic, but just wanted to remember and thank my friend for the lessons he taught me, and apparently countless others.
      And, finally, while the Pa Derby is a road less coveted on the prestige scale, it might be useful to think that the lightly raced colt could benefit greatly from a winning experience, it is a Grade 1, and it would be, timing wise, a great springboard to the BC Classic.
      Finally, consider this. If a horse other than Forte or Mage wins the Travers, the division is still in chaos.
      Meaning, the divisional title would likely be secured with a victory over elders and the best of the division at Santa Anita in November. I too want to see ‘Anejo’ race 10 furlongs.
      Steve Asmussen is smarter than both of us McD. He will make the decision based on how the lead group shakes out, and how his colt is doing at that time.
      Meanwhile, this is all good for the game: Healthy controversy involving horses and what happens between the fences.

      1. “Eyes Wide Open” and “Curbing My Ethusiasm”, I will patiently follow your learnerd counsel and await Steve Asmussen’s actions. The target will be the BC, and he will indeed decide the best course of action to get there. What a tough game racing must be for all the 1% invested connections. I noticed that Skip Mahoney, who won the second race yesterday at Saratoga had been gelded. Only a few months back he was mentioned in the Derby Futures. All those bloodlines simply no mas. What a strange game. Might it have been wiser to just retire him to keep the bloodline extended?

        I will also now look for Barry Meadow’s last work that you cited further down in your comments to JGR. I know that you years back were a student also of Dr. Quirrin and his computerized analysis of winning at the races and “The Skeptical Handicapper” I will search the library system for. “Using Data and Brains to Win at the Racetrack.” It goes beyond ‘handicapping how-to’ by using large samples of statistical data to unearth profitable scenarios that withstood the test of time.

        Wasn’t it Cary Fotias who you so often quoted as stating, “Most good bets lose.”? I know you had such great respect for him.

        1. Yes, Cary said that, and what character it takes to withstand long losing streaks for that one play that makes it all worthwhile pocket-wise!

          McD, I know you’re inquiring mind wants to know. Originally, the book was a heavy lift, I think something like $37.95 in 2019. But worth it for the statistical data and wisdom contained therein…

  6. Once again, just watched the 1978 Travers with Alydar, Affirmed and two other horses, somewhat similar to the Big Race won by Nest. Not that i would compare that old, unforgettable rivalry to this one, but it leaves me thinking how good Alydar would have been in that victory thru disqualification if the horse would not have been hampered and slowed down by at least some eight lengths and just to , temporarily, lose by a short length. Pincay rode a la Irad Ortiz, and now it seems the other way around, Ortiz riding like Cordero and Pincay. Forty Five years later and i still wonder if… about that unforgettable rivalry. I really liked the mud lover Alydar… Had Mage to win, boxing him and Tapit T. with the other two horses, with Arabian N. third in triples. Not much, but it beats the alternative results. After having charted Monmouth a few days, Brad Thomas does not pass my test. Still looking for another track besides Saratoga… slim picking days upstate. The price to pay when one tries to be disciplined, diligent like on Saturday when only Four Saratoga races got my attention. Of all the books on racing that you have come across thru your decades of horse playing, watching, observing and picking, any one of them that could still be worthwhile to look again? Just wondering if most of them are obsolete…

  7. IMO, the best reference I ever read, and still consult from time to time, is Barry Meadow’s last work, “The Skeptical Handicapper., Using Data and Brains to Win at the Racetrack.” It goes beyond ‘handicapping how-to’ by using large samples of statistical data to unearth profitable scenarios that withstood the test of time.

    1. I shall check it out. Thanks! As long as it’s Not a fictional book. I only read non fiction. Just the presumed Facts!

  8. Barry Meadow’s career as a professional player and contributor to all media is well documented. I assure you, this is not fiction. I predict you will be writing in the margins, if indeed you’re serious about this…

    1. There isn’t a single handicapping writer that had more influence on my play than Barry Meadow (and to an almost equal degree Dick Mitchell and Mark Cramer). I absolutely digested and re-digested over and over their books.

      Couple of random notes:
      – this is going to be a great trainer’s race. Linda has all those horses that had to sit out BEL after she claimed at CD. Chad and Todd obviously will do what they do.
      – Irad Ortiz riding right up to – but not over the line – is on the short list of the best that have ever ridden a horse – period. Flavien Prat is the 2nd best jockey in the game, and though there are a lot of excellent riders out there right now, I think the gap from Prat to #3 is significantly larger than a lot of people realize; these two guys are just THAT good.
      – I’m going to need your opinion on that DMR DQ last night.

  9. Doc, outstanding authors, all!

    Linda has numbers too, though obviously not at the same level as her well endowed rivals. It will be interesting. Chad has come out firing and Todd starting to heat up; great job yesterday and it appeared there more in that considerable tank.

    I understand that Irad and Flavien are difference makers on horseback but don’t believe the talent margin is a wide as you think. Among my other favorites to back are Jose, Joel and Tyler.

    I don’t watch enough California racing to have a worthy qualitative opinion.

    Since it’s a dark day, will check that DQ and DMR. Still fuming over the non-DQ on turf at Spa — last Thursday or Friday. Superfectas don’t grow on trees…

    1. Fair enough – I might be (slightly to moderately) overstating the gap between Prat and the Jose, Joel, Saez, Tylers of the world. Great jockeys are great jockeys, and those other 5-6 or so guys right after Prat are all great jockeys too. There is no doubt. And Castellano is defying father time right now and showing he is STILL in that group somewhere. My statement was meant more as a compliment to Flavien Prat than it was a shot at Jose Ortiz, Joel, and those other few guys. I’d be happy as hell to have any one of them on my horse.

      1. No worries, I’m sure no one took offense. Agree with you. Any one of the Top 10 in this room would do. Would rival the glory tays of old in terms of depth of talent. As you say, a great rider is a great rider…

  10. To all who might be interested, I was able to access “The Skeptical Handicapper” ebook via my local library using I was going to buy a used copy on ebay and then discovered that the ebook is available through the library at no charge in an ebook format. Works for me. Thanks for the heads up John and also Dr. Disaster and JGR for your comments. Not familiar with Dick Mitchell, but I had read a non-fact fiction book by Mark Cramer that kept my interest. Mark’s work had been sent to me by his friend Susan Sweeney Bain (spouse of the late Handicapper Ed Bain. Now I have some summer reading in hand now with Barry Meadow’s work. Thank you to all the HRI Faithful. Riders Up!

      1. You mean, one used a Pen de Plume, when you write AKA ? Ainslie was Mitchell, and vice versa ? One wrote about several “Betting Systems” while the other pen wrote something totally different ? You Got Me !! ( Who knew!?!) .It happens in writing novels ,fables, etcc but never thought that one horse racing scribe would change name….like a disc jockey…….

        1. In ye days of old, George Ryall, longtime racing columnist for the New Yorker. wrote his stories as Audax Minor. Hell of a wordsmith, you can look it up (Casey Stengel)…

    1. enjoy – Skeptical Handicapper is an absolute difference maker. The cold statistical facts will definitely be something you will find being positively absorbed into handicapping without even realizing it. It is an incredible piece of work.

  11. Doc, haven’t checked that DMR race, ran out of racetrack, perhaps tomorrow, have lots of dishes up in the air at the moment…

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