July, 28, 2019–If it was brilliance you were seeking at the races on Saturday, you needed to look no further than Imperial Hint.
If it was a prep performance portending the future, the Jim Dandy served that purpose nicely.
Looking for grit? That was Channel Cat’s would-not-be-denied Sword Dancer triumph.
If it was potential you sought, you needed to be at a summer getaway, Henderson Kentucky to be precise, to see Dennis’ Moment break his juvenile maiden.
However, if it was equine greatness combined with extraordinary circumstance and performance, then your search could have ended at 10:45 EDT: Her name is Enable and she is the world’s greatest active racehorse.
So what was she doing so far back in the early stages of the King George and Queen Elizabeth Stakes after breaking so sharply? Was the ground hindering her? Was it an overly confident Frankie Dettori?
Whatever harmonic convergence occurred in Ascot’s prestigious mile and a half Group 1 was, in the final analysis, a performance for the ages.
It was John Gosden’s all-everything five-year-old mare exiting the Gr. 1 Coral Eclipse vs. Sir Michael Stoute’s Crystal Ocean, the Gr. 1 Prince of Wales winner at Royal Ascot who was seeking to extend his unbeaten five-year-old season for four.
Jaipur v Ridan, Affirmed v Alydar, Easy Goer v Sunday Silence move over and say hello to your little friends, Enable v Crystal Ocean. It was that good.
Crystal Ocean was fresher, it being his second race in six weeks; it was her second start in 21 days. Advantage Crystal Ocean. Better trip? Once again, advantage Crystal Ocean.
The stars were aligned for him to avenge his narrow defeat in last year’s renewal, turning the table on the filly who beat him when last they met in the 2018 September Stakes.
Talk about not wanting to be denied: The mare broke sharply before the rabbit Norway took up the running, setting a demanding pace. But early on Frankie had a decision to make.
He decided to ease Enable back, then, taking another hold, he dropped back to near last but keeping Crystal Ocean in his sights as he desperately sought to get his mare covered up, which he accomplished by the half-way mark.
When the field entered the straight, Norway was out of breathe and Crystal Ocean moved toward the lead from perfect position. Enable powered up wide to join him and within strides hit the front briefly, demonstrating both power and a remarkable turn of foot.
At the juncture, however, Crystal Ocean re-surged and a head-to-head battle ensued. Neither gave an inch. She had it won then, just a quickly, it was Crystal Ocean with the winning momentum. Who would it be?
The team raced fetlock to fetlock through the final furlong and, at the end, Enable willed her way to victory. The mare was in receipt of three pounds from her male rival and needed every single one of them to prevail.
Enable joined Swain and Dahlia as the only dual winners of this fixture and improved her lifetime mark to (13) 12-0-1. The only question that remained after she reached the finish line in front is how did she ever get beat?
Racing does not get any better than what was on display in the London suburb but back in the New World they would try and very favorable impressions were made:
As it turned out, seven weeks wasn’t enough recovery time for Mitole after what apparently was a bottom-reaching effort in the Met Mile. The concern for his rail draw in the G1 A G Vanderbilt was justified.
Mitole broke with his field but needed to be rushed to maintain his position, racing on a part of the surface that wasn’t the fastest place Saturday.
The speed duel did him in but even if it hadn’t, he was flat and suffered his first defeat dating back to FEB 24, 2018. His win streak ended at seven and he’ll probably pay the price in this week’s NTRA Poll rankings.
But even the best Mitole might not have been able to handle the best Imperial Hint on display yesterday. He defended his Vanderbilt title by racing six furlongs faster than anyone ever had at the old Spa: 1:07.92.
Pace not only makes the race, it makes track records, too. Add to that a pluperfect setup behind embattled leaders and voila; the leader of the sprint division emerges. It was a powerhouse performance.
Excellent work by Luis Carvajal Jr. this year. The trainer ran a short horse at Tampa prepping for Dubai, where he eventually finished a game third, beaten two lengths. Yesterday was his first start after a 119-day freshening.
It might not have been the prettiest victory but Channel Cat’s win was a very brave one. Luis Saez, riding in great form, seized the initiative. He was hounded throughout, albeit comfortably, and he repelled all challengers through the straight.
Channel Maker had dead aim pulled a world class hang job, while first-time Chad, first-time in U.S. Ya Primo was unable to sprint home quickly enough despite tripping out and reaching even terms. A seeming winner, he was outpaced at the end.
Chilean-bred Ya Primo gave the impression he might be a very tough out in the G1 Sword Dancer on the Travers undercard, AUG 24. Speaking of the Midsummer Derby:
Tax was overdue for a good trip and got one in the Jim Dandy. But victory was handed to him, he earned it. And since he’s a gelding, he just now might be getting good.
While Tax might not be quite as glamorous as some of his Travers rivals, he might have plenty to say about the outcome.
As the race was run, Tacitus probably was the best horse, Stumbling badly at the break, he lost all position. Down the backside, Jose Ortiz put Tacitus in the race, moving boldly up the fence into contention.
But the gambit backfired. Ortiz had to steady his mount at mid-turn or run up on heels. He waited, got through in the straight, momentarily loomed a winner but tired from the two-move effort.
Tacitus, too, has not been the luckiest three-year-old in America. But all he lost Saturday was a horse race, not his stature as being considered among the best of his generation.
Out West, I can’t remember seeing a weaker renewal of the G1 Bing Crosby, the second Breeders’ Cup Sprint win-and-inner of the afternoon. It was won by Cistron wire to wire in 22.10, 45.16 and 1:09.95.
Interesting to note the number of BCup Sprints won by such a clocking: zero The Vosburgh, Phoenix and Santa Anita Sprint Championship are the final WAYI divisional trials.
Veteran observers know enough not to go ga-ga over two-year-olds that break maiden impressively going to wire to wire. But they might reconsider in the case of Dennis’ Moment.
For openers, the race was at seven-eighths; unusual this early in the juvenile season. Also unusual was the time–1:21.95. The Ellis Park track record belongs to three-year-old Josh’s Madelyn 1:21.37, set 15 years ago. Completing a trifecta of the unusual was the margin of 19-1/4 lengths.
Dennis’ Moment is a son of Tiznow, not considered to be an early sire. This was start number two. He clipped heels in debut, unseating Robbie Albarado, sending the veteran rider to the hospital with a broken wrist.
After the colt’s victory over 11 rivals, trainer Dale Romans said that Albarado would retain the mount on his return.
Speaking of Romans, he, too, is due some good fortune. Romans has had a number of Derby prospects over the years, some of his best overcome by physical setbacks. Maybe this is the horse; maybe 2020 will be his year.