So, how was your Belmont Day? Mine was fine, thank you. I was safe and warm, wasn’t even in LA, and happy not to be hailing cabs in the rain on Hempstead Turnpike Saturday evening, with or without curfew.
Honestly, I think that the racing and the horses that competed yesterday from coast to coast as every bit the equal of what a Belmont stakes-laden would have given that card a run for its money.
Here were some of the tremendous highlights, listed in a personally prejudicial order of favorite scenes as provided by some really top notch racehorses, both former and would-be champions:
But don’t ask me to rate the top performance of the day–there were so many to choose from. That doesn’t stop the HRI Faithful from weighing in with theirs, so have at it if its important to you.
Honor A. P. was worth the wait, wasn’t he? John Shirreffs finally got him to where he needed to be–such a great old-school horseman–and his magnificent beast delivered in the storied Santa Anita Derby.
Did he have the table set for him? Of course, but then you still have to perform and he did. Ridden confidentally by Mike Smith, he looked the part of a winner once Authentic was hung out wide, the team swooping the group at headstretch.
He lengthened stride as he reached the finish post in 1:48.97 as he he was looking for the 10th furlong. If all goes well, he’ll get that chance on SEP 5. He’s in any conversation on which member of this deep and talented sophomore class is best.
Could it be that after all the accolades for Swiss Skydiver pre-Santa Anita Oaks, she was being underrated? Agreed, it wasn’t a stellar field she handled, but Mike Smith, handling her as if she was much the best, took it to his three rivals from the jump.
Her four lifetime victories have come over different tracks beneath four different riders. Like the man in that auto-repair insurance commercial asks, “who does that?”
She completed 1-1/16 miles in 1:43.20 and “really wants to go farther,” her trainer said.
The divisional leader, that’s who, but she could be even more than that, closing in on “one of the ones” territory with each victory. With her versatility, anything’s possible. She probably makes Ken McPeek a little nervous–in a good way, of course.
Improbable finally delivered the kind of performance he had been promising throughout his enigmatic career, putting it all together in the Hollywood Gold Cup with the aid of a good setup. (Ever notice how often the best horse works out the best trip)?
He easily stalked a longshot throughout at a very moderate tempo and exploded when allowed to run approaching headstretch.
In front after a mile in 1:36.26, he raced the final quarter in a highly respectable 25.43, winning with some energy in reserve by 3-1/4 lengths. “He’s only going to get better,” trainer Baffert promised.
Can you believe that Cezanne was 18-1 in the Derby Futures before his first start yesterday? Must be all those sports bettors that don’t understand horse odds.
Anyway, I thought it was a very good debut. Agreed that it wasn’t impressive given all that hype, but there were several things to like:
He won, running to his good looks and obscene purchase price, getting a great education from between-horses speed battle, probably forced to move sooner than all connections had hoped. But wait, there’s more.
Classy response to repel sweeping rival at headstretch; hybrid 6-1/2 furlong debut a trying trip and, finally, lengthened stride racing through the wire as if wanting more ground, just as HAP would do, after getting no breathers. May justify $3.6M tab yet.
Before heading East, a quick stopover in the Midwest. How quick? Would you believe 1:07.67, which was as long as it took Volatile to reach the finish line in Churchill’s Aristedes.
If anything was more impressive than his winning margin–earning consecutive victories by a combined 15-1/2 lengths–it was his turn of foot at headstretch. For an instant, it looked like it might be a battle. I blinked, and he was three in front.
What a good coincidence that track maintenance harrowed the sealed, wet Belmont surface prior to the G3 Westchester just in time for the return of late-finishing, almost-2019-three-year-old champion Code of Honor.
Unfortunately the skies opened, the track was down-graded to sloppy and, having been opened up, it needed to be squeegeed but the damage had been done and with more rain was very wet the rest of the day.
The bottom line is that Code of Honor, ridden smartly and confidently by Johnny Velazquez, was fresh and relatively close, swept into contention and confidently wore down the leader, Endorsed, who slipped through on the fence.
It was a great race to build on and Shug McGaughey has made it clear he has two primary goals; the Whitney at Saratoga and Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland. With steady development and now a four year-old, he could get that 2020 championship.
Many fans, disappointed with her last year, have been awaiting the four-year-old debut of Newspaperofrecord. With a little help from a soggy course, she ran the G3 Interborough fillies off their feet but had to work hard early to do so. Grade 1s next.
Not long after Volatile did his thing in Kentucky, here comes Vekoma to blow out a terrific sprint field in the seven furlong G1 Carter, skipping over the slop in 1:21.02 and winning by a widening 7-1/4 lengths. Terrific preparation by George Weaver.
The four year old is a star in the making and rates to be a major player in the sprint division up to one mile. While the race comes up relatively quickly given the effort, Weaver said he is considering the Met Mile. Talent indicates that he belongs.
And now, this: At a place called Laurel Brown Racetrack, yesterday’s ‘Eye On Corona Virus Futurity’ was won by a filly over colts named, wait for it … Political Bedlam. For real, saw the chart on Twitter, courtesy of TVG’s Mike Joyce.