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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


Hallandale Beach, FL, February 26 2023 — Handicappers can look at wet track results several ways. The first rule when assessing true ability is the horseman’s dictum that a good horse doesn’t need to carry his track around with him.

Beyond that, it’s how the animal handles nature’s adversity. If they did, was it strictly their affinity for the surface, or did class carry the day?

Interestingly, poor wet track performances are more easily forgiven going forward–whereby improvement is generally expected–as opposed to good wet track performances being harbingers of future success.

After that, it’s a return to Handicapping 101: Did a track bias exist and was it a factor? Did the horse elude trouble along the way, enjoying a favorable trip, or did pilot error cost the horse a victory?

Video review of the Rebel revealed that the top three finishers all ran very well. What it means going forward is the question.

Confidence Game made his two-sided wet-track pedigree look prescient. He was the second horse exiting the G3 Lecomte to win its subsequent start.

The pace was very strong–the opening half-mile went in 46:17–and James Graham found the perfect spot, settling into fifth on the backside behind two sets of dueling rivals.

Graham timed his mount’s run perfectly, too, going after the leaders 4-wide at mid-turn, his momentum fanning him into the 6-path, enabling him to finish resolutely. And he did not appear spent when crossing the line.

The second and third horses ran great. Red Route One, second to the fastest three-year-old to date, Arabian Knight, in the G3 Southwest, appeared to move forward perceptibly from the one mile event.

Red Route One was out of the frame at mid-turn, launched from 11th and last, 8-to-10 lengths behind the 10th runner, his move carrying him 5-6 wide entering the lane, pushing a rival aside before making a wild-horse finish. Distance clearly will be his friend.

We believe Reincarnate had the toughest trip in his first race outside California. While settling off the hot pace helped, rallying up the fence on the turn did not, as the #1 path appeared tiring.

Eventually, Reincarnate tipped out from close quarters, got sandwiched badly in upper stretch, but showed class to make a strong re-rally for third, flattering his wet track pedigree.

One race prior to the Rebel, the winner of the Honeybee improved her lifetime slate to a worthy (5) 3-1-0 but has yet to race on fast, dry surface. She’s 3-for-3 in the wet and was second on Turfway synth, but Wet Paint strongly hinted that she might be a lot more than a mud-lark.

The moderate pace was against her–three-quarters in 1:13.51, and she was 10th at that juncture. In midstretch she was fifth with four-soft-pace leaders up front that weren’t coming back to her. So the Blame filly lowered her body, found another gear and finished her final sixteenth in less than six seconds.

As if to underscore the point, the second and third finishers, Condensation and Grand Love, raced first and third, respectively, all the way around. Beyond the winner, we don’t know how to assess yesterday’s group as a whole. What we do know is that Wet Paint belongs in the upper echelon of Oaks fillies.


Led by the return of juvenile champion Forte (9-5), the three-time Grade 1 winner makes his three-year-old debut, along with Chad Brown’s G1 Champagne winner and BC Juvenile fourth, Blazing Sevens (7-2). But both will have their work cut out on Saturday.

Swale winner General Jim (6-1) drew the pole position for Shug McGaughey and Luis Saez, and Bill Mott will run two; stoutly-bred Holy Bull winner Rocket Can (7-2) and tough-tripping stablemate Shadow Dragon (12-1). Both should make their presence felt.

Throw in newcomer Mage (8-1), a very fast seven-furlong winner on debut, and the result is a compelling 10-horse event, the lynchpin of a 14-race program comprised of eight stakes. All but one are graded. To date, the Fountain of Youth is the deepest prep for this year’s three year olds; the program also the best offered in 2023…

In other Derby developments, the Los Angeles Times reported this weekend that the balance of the three-year-olds remaining in Bob Baffert’s barn will be moved to that of Tim Yakteen prior to the FEB 28 deadline after which none of the Baffert horses could earn Derby eligibility points.


 1.Confidence Game57Don’t Tell My Wife Stables (Kirk Godby)Keith Desormeaux$610,480
2.Angel of Empire54Albaugh Family Stables LLC (Dennis Albaugh)Brad Cox$287,000
3.Forte40Repole Stable (Mike Repole) & St. Elias Stable (Vincent Viola)Todd Pletcher$1,545,650
4.Red Route One33Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC (Ron Winchell)Steve Asmussen$398,375
5.Instant Coffee32Gold Square LLC (Al Gold)Brad Cox$385,065
6.Sun Thunder24R.T Racing Stable (Ramon Tallaj) & Cypress Creek Equine (Kevin Moody)Kenny McPeek$115,250
7.Two Phil’s23Patricia’s Hope LLC (Vince Foglia) & Phillip SaganLarry Rivelli$235,850
8.Rocket Can20Frank Fletcher Racing Operations Inc.Bill Mott$150,350
9.Hit Show20Gary & Mary WestBrad Cox$137,500
10.Litigate20Centennial Farms (Don Little Jr.)Todd Pletcher$120,000
11.Curly Jack17Michael McLoughlinTom Amoss$352,120
12.Blazing Sevens16Rodeo Creek Racing LLC (John Capek)Chad Brown$411,000
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