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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


Before we get into the heart of this week’s racing — virtually all Saratoga all the time, with stopovers at the Jersey Shore for the and a trip out west for Maximum Security’s return in the San Diego — a look back at the past weekend around the country:


There was one particular race of note, even if I can’t get used to the idea of a one mile Grade 1 Ruffian around one turn. Then, again, it’s 2020 so nothing should come as a surprise.

Monomoy Girl did what she was supposed to and did it the right way. She stalked the speed, won under intermittent urging for virtually the final three-eighths of a mile, getting stronger the farther she ran.

It was far from a wow performance but that’s why the Ruffian was chosen, a mile run in her second start following an 18-month break. The Ruffian was a bridge on the long road to Lexington in the fall, and so the connections played it safe.

Next Stop will be Churchill’s La Troienne on Oaks Day then perhaps one more pre-Distaff run. With that announcement, it will be interesting to see where Midnight Bisou goes next. Have a feeling this match-up might have to wait until November.

Chad Brown and Irad Ortiz Jr. won Belmont’s training and riding titles, respectively–Brown’s fifth straight–and loom the choices to keep rolling all the way through the North Country, especially with so much Kentucky-based talent staying put.

Wagering was strong at the meet, as it has been virtually throughout the racing year in the sports-starved environment and given this year’s truncated schedules.

With the spring-summer meet reduced to 25 days, daily handle averaged $15.4 million, up 42% year over year, thanks to field size that swelled to 8.61 per race, a 23% increase, proving less can mean more.

Belmont Day handle was $67.7 million and a total of $386 million was wagered on the meet, compared to last year’s $524 million for 48 live race cards taken from all sources.


The highlights of the historic 5-day July meet are obvious:

Art Collector and the filly put on quite a stretch battle in the G2 Blue Grass, as she affirmed her current status as divisional leader as the Kentucky Derby added a new high profile colt.

Michael McCarthy displayed great horsemanship and handicapping skill, nixing the shorter Beaumont for the prestigious Ashland, and took a huge step up after her placing in Swiss Skwalker in Santa Anita’s Oaks.

She is now a divisional player, whereas Venetian Harbor can concentrate on Saratoga’s G1 7-furlong Test, a sprint which would suit her more at this stage. Precosity will get you two turns early; later on, not so much.

When Rushing Fall took the Jenny Wiley, it was her fifth lifetime win at Keeneland. She will have a chance to win her sixth come November. She trails only Hall of Famer Wise Dan for number of career victories at the Lexington track.

Further, Chad Brown’s turf specialist became only the third horse to win a Grade 1 stakes from ages two through five. The two others were all-time greats Beholder and Lady Eli.

It took all of Guarana’s class, rebreaking to defeat the good Mia Mischief to take the Madison and give Brown his 100th Grade 1 win. Brown got his 101st 30 minutes later with Rushing Fall.

Credit Mark Casse, Tyler Gaffalione and especially War of Will for winning the Maker’s Mark Mile, making the Preakness winner a Grade 1 victor on both dirt and turf.

Gaffalione’s handling, a sweet blend of finesse and strength, is what got the colt to drop his nose on the line in the final jump.

Finally, it appears that Shug McGaughey has a budding turf star on his hands with Appalachian winner Enola Gay, getting up in the last jump with cold-blooded handling from Julien Leparoux.

While breaking turf maiden last fall at Kentucky Downs, the rangy filly displayed an electric turn of foot. She did so again Saturday, turning a five-length mid-stretch deficit into a going- away-late victory. It was quite the seasonal debut.

Keeneland also killed at the box office. Wagering from all sources topped $63.2 million. The five day meet averaged $12.6 million per day, topped by Blue Grass Day when more than $23.8 million was wagered, including a record $1.3 million on an All-Stakes Pick Five.

All-sources wagering at the Summer Meet totaled $63,299,331. Average daily all-sources handle was $12,659,866, a figure that includes limited on-site wagering at Keeneland and the Red Mile.


Opening without fans, the traditional lid-lifter Oceanside for three year turf runners went formfully with Hit The Road, deftly prepared by Dan Blacker and ridden quite well by new Star on the SoCal horizon, Umberto Rispoli.

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7 Responses

  1. Any updates on 1.8m 3-yr old filly, Gamine? Entered in CCAO at Spa but I remember reading about her testing positive along with stablemate, Charlatan. Baffert trainee ran fastest Acorn ever and appears to be a superstar. Thanks. Wouldn’t the positive prohibit her from the CCAO this week? I’m sure she’ll be in KY Oaks later on this year. Why would you give a banned substance to a horse you paid almost two million for in a two-yr olds in training sale? I don’t get it.

    1. Just saw that Gamine in not entered in CCAO at Saratoga. Something is not right here. Baffert has Crystal Ball going with Javier.

  2. Only thing I heard was Charlatan would not not be prevented from racing and Gamine already ran after OP positive. I think that’s your answer…

  3. John,

    While I certainly appreciate Swiss Skydiver’s gutsy performance in the Blue Grass I’m concerned that she didn’t empty the tank in that race. How often do we hear about horses that are never the same or, at best take a year or more to recover from such a trying effort? An admission here: I’m well invested in SS in Oaks Future Book exactas. I was on her from her first start last fall and did very well playing her in the Gulfstream Oaks, followed by her win in the Fantasy when she defeated Venetian Harbor and paid $34 to win. SS and “all others” are on all my tickets along with Finite and several others who have fallen by the wayside. Right now Speech looks pretty good as part of “all others.”

    On other matters: Like many others I find TVG at times to be close to intolerable. Don’t want to mention names, but when certain personalities come on air, my TV mute button goes into action. That said, to me they are the only TV entity in it for the long run. As much as I enjoy America’s Day at the Races in FL it was a daily guessing game whether the program would be on FoxSports 1, FoxSports 2 or FoxFlorida. At least in NY I can expect to regularly watch the races on the Madison Square Garden Network. Maybe after four or five seasons I should be convinced, but I always wonder how firm Fox’s horse racing commitment is if something else were to come along that would boost their ratings and revenue. Last notes on subject of TV: I’m pleasantly surprised to see how much Richard Migliore has improved as a broadcaster over the past few years. He’s knowledgeable, has a sly sense of humor and is much more articulate than he was when he started out. Finally on this subject, do you know what became of Paul Lo Duca on the NYRA broadcasts?

    As the NBA and WNBA enter their respective bubbles and NFL and MLB remain in a quandary, isn’t it interesting how jockeys, who fly all over the country for lucrative assignments, are falling victim of the virus. I thought I read some speculation that very soon future jockeys may have to remain at their home tracks. Try to tell them this whole thing is a hoax! And I’m posting this while in the midst of a 14 day self-quarantine in Manhattan after flying here to escape what I now refer to as that nuthouse/hothouse known as Florida.


  4. Nuthouse/hothouse. At least for one of those conditions, there’s conditioned air.

    Don’t know what happened with LoDuca. He may be back for Saratoga, along with a recuperated Gary Stevens. I believe the Mig will be sitting out Saratoga … lots of politics, per usual.

    I really don’t care for the NYRA/Fox deal and, trust me, NYRA will be better-dealt in a heartbeat if more money walked in the door–the way of the world, of course.

    New York racing has two things going for it now: the Saratoga brand and, given the lack of a mainstream sports landscape, being the only game in town.

    1. I’m not sure, Tony, I’ve only read comments from the connections, and since there’s common ownership in both fillies, is doesn’t make sense they would meet until it’s for all the marbles. But I really can’t say, thanks!

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