HALLANDALE BEACH, FL. December 4, 2022 — Gulfstream Park’s championship meet is scheduled to begin December 26 but Friday’s first South Florida turf race in six months over a pristine turf course jump-started winter’s premier racing venue.
We had to see the course for ourselves and are pleased to report that it looked as good live as it does on television. Better, it played fairly, as a well-meant leader held gamely right to end, finishing second, while several late ralliers finished with gusto.
The verdict went to the tactical Kohiko under well judged handling from Miguel Vasquez, the mare proving she likes the “new” course as much as the old one over which he had won four races.
The same no-bias scenario played out exactly the same in Saturday’s grass opener as a front runner again stayed on for place while the winner was ninth and last after the first half-mile had been run.
The new footing has gotten good reports from the horsemen,, both coaches and players, and we also are initially encouraged that the new timing system is working well. Of course, all races are hand-timed as a verifying precaution.
We’re curious to see how the course will hold up and play out in March, but so far, so good.
Forget the Time, Malathaat’s Sister a Star
We realize that the 1:53.05 required by Julia Shining to win the Demoiselle does not compare favorably to Remsen winner Dubyuhnell, who ran his nine furlongs in 1:50.88. Obviously, that’s a significant difference.
Whether “pace makes the race” is a dictum that can be subject to debate, what is incontrovertible is that early fractions do affect the final time.
The Remsen boys raced three-quarters of a mile in 1:12.33, the Demoiselle fillies went six furlongs in 1:14.31. The pace differential proportionally matches up very well with the comparative final times.
Julia Dreaming had to be a star to win the Demoiselle in her second lifetime start, after breaking maiden 48 days earlier at Keeneland on debut at seven furlongs over fast footing. Here’s why:
See the Demoiselle video and note that the long striding filly was climbing badly as she struggled to get into a rhythmic stride soon after entering the backstretch.
And thanks to a timely head-on camera switch, you will briefly see Luis Saez angling her out into the 6-path on the straightaway, brilliantly getting her away from the heavy, wet kickback.
While the paths off the rail played best over a track that was sealed throughout the day, it was also kinder to tactical speed than late finishers. Julia Dreaming was 5-1/4 lengths behind the dawdling six furlongs noted above. At no time did it appear she could win the race.
She gained momentum while rallying wide at the turn, her forward progress carrying her into the 6-7 path at headstretch. She was moving faster than any of her rivals, but it took uncommon class to finish the job.
“[She was] not handling it,” Saez said of the surface post-race… “She doesn’t know how to act… The whole way she was not interested, she doesn’t like it. I feel like the track was a no, but when everybody started running at the top of the stretch, she just got by and stayed.”
That she did, with all the elements and inexperience against her. It takes a young horse of uncommon talent to win given the circumstances. Her three-year-old debut will be eagerly anticipated.
FEEL GOOD STORY OF THE DAY
If it wasn’t Mind Control, there is a hole in your racing soul. To win Grade 1 races at 2, 3, and a career finale at 6 it just not seen in the modern era. Much of that has to do with early retirements, of course, but that would miss the point.
Well managed by Greg Sacco early in his career, he flourished at the end in the Pletcher program. Like Julia Dreaming, he was uncomfortable in wet footing, running in spots on the backside, before Johnny Velazquez pushed the button at the five-sixteenths marker, a brilliantly timed tack.
Parenthetically, Saez and Velazquez doubtlessly were astride good horses, but it was their talent that proved the difference in both narrow victories in our view.
Get Her Number had Mind Control’s number soon after straightening away, poking his head in front, but as Mr. Durkin said it first, and best, Mind Control would not be denied, absolutely refusing to allow the SoCal shipper finish in front of him in thSEe final strides.
Cigar Mile Favorite Zandon was a non-threatening third. While it’s true that the three-year-old could have had a smoother journey, he simply didn’t fire his best late shot. The effort does appear to set him up nicely for the Pegasus World Cup Invitational if that’s what his connections decide to do next.
Mind Control, who retired with 12 wins in 29 career starts, will go on to a second career and stand at stud in the Empire State, a big win for the New York-bred program.
TAMPA TWO YEAR OLDS
Tampa Bay Downs kicked off its juvenile program with its traditional sprint doubleheader, the Sandpiper Stakes for fillies and the Inaugural Stakes for males. Dorth Vader set a stakes record of 1:09.35 beneath Marcos Menses, underscoring a strong visual impression taking the 45th Sandpiper by 2-1/4 lengths. She is likely to return in the seven furlong Gasparilla next month. Super Chow took the 37th Inaugural by 2-1/2 lengths beneath Chantal Sutherland in 1:09.60. The seven furlong Pasco, run on the same day as the Gasparilla, is penciled in at this posting.
ANOTHER SIX YEAR OLD GOES OUT IN STYLE
Like Mind Control, Regal Glory won her Grade 1 finale, Del Mar’s Matriarch, but unlike Mind Control, there wasn’t much drama, not when you win by 5-1/4 lengths, completing one mile in 1:33.60. Regal Glory, beneath Flavien Prat–his fifth score on a six-win afternoon–retired with 13 victories in 23 career starts. The Matriarch was her fourth Grade 1.
IRAD ORTIZ JR SETS NORTH AMERICAN SINGLE SEASON STAKES RECORD
Unaware that he was within range of a single season record until Breeders’ Cup weekend, Ortiz finally nailed down number 77 by winning the G3 Go for Wand aboard the speedy Dr B, surpassing the record set 15 years ago by the late, great Garrett Gomez.
Ortiz has won three Eclipse titles as Outstanding Jockey and is pace for his fourth. Through Saturday, Ortiz has won 304 races on the year, with earnings of nearly $36 million.
DOWN IS UP, UP IS DOWN
Year over year, handle is flat at -0.40% at $11.36 million, but U.S. average purses, with two more racing days in 2022, us up nearly 11% at 10.91%. Riddle me that. Must be a case of the dole keep rolling on in.
So where is the motivation to improve the game for horseplayers and fans, HRI asks rhetorically?