HALLANDALE BEACH, FL., February 21, 2021 – I’m happy I tuned into the cablecast of “The Big Race” from King Abdulaziz Racetrack from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia Saturday morning. If I hadn’t, I would have missed a great day of racing.
The obscene petro-dollars offered to the winner of the day’s feature race makes it possible to say that young jockey David Egan, reunited with Mishriff for the incomparable John Gosden, gave his mount a million-dollar ride.
There were two immediate surprises that became apparent after the start of the one turn mile and-an-eighth. It wasn’t that Mike Smith and Charlatan took the race to Joel Rosario and Knicks Go; there’s always a chance that Smith will put his colleagues on the defensive.
The surprise was how easily he was able to take the early advantage, pinning his rival down on the fence, not the very best part of a drying-out surface. It never is.
Finally, someone had the temerity to challenge Knicks Go for the first time since becoming a Brad Cox speed freak.
The second development, which might have been even more startling, was that Mishriff was able to sit right there, two or three lengths behind the leaders in perfect position, and did so easily. It was his speed that was really surprising.
The other development is that Egan did not allow the two American speedsters to separate themselves approaching headstretch. He got after Mishriff and gave his horse a target to shoot for.
And then finally, Egan kept Mishriff’s rally alive despite not changing over to his correct right lead. Egan and Gosden cannot get enough credit for what they pulled off on a damp night in the desert.
Mishriff is a late developer and probably still has some maturing to do. Now that he is proven on dirt, suddenly the Breeders’ Cup Classic is in play.
Mishriff beat a very good Charlatan, a not so great Knicks Go. Should all three show up with the ‘A’ game for the BC Classic, an additional furlong is likely to produce the same result.
In the hands of one of the best horsemen we’ve ever been around, Mishriff, given his good race over the same course last year, wound up a distinct overlay. To those who might have cashed at an absurd 19-1, say “thank you Tacitus.”
The Undercard: Surprises, Pleasant and Otherwise
With the exception of crack sprinter Space Rules ($3.00) and the formful Albathaly ($7.40), the mutuels for the remaining card were $24.60, 93.40, 54.60, 63.20 and 31.60. Not quite sure I’ve seen a string of prices quite like that on one world class program…
Godolphin starting 2021 right where it left off in 2020 with a double on the Riyadh program, and the feeling is Space Rules is not done making headlines this year… Japanese horses also doubled up, back-to-back; the old 11-2 double returning $1110.80 for $2.
Speaking of “the old” combination references, Maythehorsebewithu won on the Laurel Sprintfest undercard. God bless you, Harvey, wherever you are…
Always wondered whatever happened to jockey Wigberto Ramos but now I know: He moved his tack to the Middle East, changed his name to Wiggy and made locals happy on their big day with his popular victory aboard Albathaly…
The $1 All-Grays Trifecta in the pure-bred Arabian race returned $4,428.00. Nothing wrong at all with the payoff, but the idea of three grays finishing 1-2-3 in a full field? What are the odds…?
Can’t decide if British riding sensation Holly Doyle, who drove home eight-year-old mare True Self over heavy favorite Channel Maker in the opener, reminds me more of Julie Krone or Rosie Napravnik. Maybe both; Rosie’s finesse, Julie’s strength?
Bad Start to Fountain of Youth Week: Gulfstream Park certainly didn’t envision the third biggest day of its Championship Meet to be greeted with Sun-Sentinel headlines that read “Horse Deaths at Racetrack Alarm Officials.”
But that was the way this weekend started when it was learned that 113 horses sustained fatal injuries in racing or training since 2019, 58 that year and 55 in 2020. There has been one so far this year.
“We run way more,” The Stronach Group CEO Aidan Butler told the Sun Sentinel. “When you run more, the more injuries you have.” Butler fronted racing reforms at Santa Anita following 38 horse deaths in the winter of 2019 that made national headlines.
“We made the Santa Anita track one of the safest in the country in two years.” Butler, sent here by TSG several months ago to deal with troublesome issues, said at a Hallandale Beach commission hearing this week. “We’re going to do the same thing at Gulfstream Park.”
Gulfstream has hired more veterinarians to oversee the horses and has tightened medication rules on their own, in the absence of a Racing Commission in a state with a proud history of deregulation.
Of course, horse racing lacks a national body to regulate rules and impose sanctions, but that patchwork is going to change when the Horse Racing Integrity and Safety Act takes effect in July 2022. Butler is intent on making it happen sooner:
“The new bill will give us a chance to reshape the future of horse racing… we’re at the forefront of improving the sport.”
Here’s wishing Butler a barnful of good fortune. He’s going to need plenty of that in the state of Florida.
Jockey Club Gold Cup to Saratoga
We’re on record that New York Racing Association Vice-President of Racing Martin Panza has done a good job shuffling the stakes deck, creating popular new turf series, and growing the concept of mega-race days and racing festivals.
But it has been no secret that NYRA’s preeminence has been seriously threatened in recent years, brought on by exigent circumstances. The Breeders’ Cup has been around forever now and has wagged the tail of all fall racing jurisdictions everywhere, not just New York’s.
With horses racing less often, either by necessity or design, the problem is exacerbated. The Jockey Club Gold Cup and other traditional fall events at Belmont Park have suffered consequently in both quality and quantity.
Further, Kentucky has thrown lots of money at their purse structures. Churchill Downs and Keeneland are formidable, and Kentucky Downs has become another featured “good horse circuit” session. NYRA had to take action, and is doing so.
Spacing is everything these days, and the more time between significant Grade 1 events in all divisions the better, within reason. So pushing back the Jockey Club Gold Cup made good sense.
September 4, the last Saturday of the Saratoga meet and date of this year’s JCGC renewal, is nine weeks before the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Wouldn’t eight weeks have accomplished the same goal? September 11 is the first Saturday of the Belmont Park fall meet.
We’re aware that arguably the Saratoga brand is the strongest in all of racing; it didn’t need the JCGC.
Downstate, “Beautiful Belmont Park” could have used a signature event on its initial autumn Saturday. The metropolitan area doesn’t need two Aqueducts. Belmont Park’s history deserved more respect than what it was shown.