HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, September 3, 2023 – The racing weekend rolls on and normally this would be a synopsis of the Saratoga meet. But there’s too much to look forward to, the babies taking center stage.
If Ways and Means can in some small way duplicate the professionalism and brilliance demonstrated in her debut, it won’t be too much longer before analysts start drawing comparisons to Ruffian, Rachel, Go for Wand, Zenyatta.
But she needs to show that in Sunday’s G1 Spinaway over a deep and talented field.
Ditto Labor Day when boys take center stage in the G1 Hopeful. Of the 11 entered, Muth and Timberlake are particularly interesting. We shall see. But it’s already been a good weekend for established runners.
TODD SHOWS HIS HALL OF FAME CREDENTIALS…
It’s true that Saturday’s renewal of the Jockey Club Gold Cup did not feature an elegant group of handicap runners. Such is the state of the older male division in 2023. So, yes, the division was hungry for a new shooter.
Todd Pletcher is not known for spotting his horses too aggressively in terms of class and recency.
Bright Future won an optional allowances at the beginning of the meet, going nine furlongs on July 21. The performance figure was good, forward looking, and Pletcher knew it.
Assessing the competition, his horse, and knowing that the four-year-old chestnut is by Curlin, from a Bellamy Road mare, Sophie’s Song, a mile and a quarter should be within his scope. What better place would there be to win a Grade 1 but in Saratoga.
Bright Future needed every bit of pedigree and a perfect ride FROM Javier Castellano to get home by a nose of Proxy who had every chance in the final furlong but fell a nose short of catching Bright Future.
From allowances to a Grade 1 win and now gets a free ride to Santa Anita in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Good horse, brilliant management.
AND THREE-YEAR-OLDS SHALL LEAD THEM…
Underscoring the dearth of talent in the handicap division, Arabian Knight became only the sixth three-year-old to win in 33 renewals of the Pacific Classic.
Flavien Prat lead them on a merry chase all the way to the wire. Haskell winner and race favorite Geaux Rocket Ride was a neck farther back.
The final time was left wanting. Three-year-old sprinter Dr. Venkman won a secondary allowances in 1:22.57. Three year old fillies raced a mile in 1:37.41 in the G3 Torrie Pines Stakes.
Arabian Knight ran 10 furlongs in 2:03.19, getting his final quarter mile in a pokey 26.36 and Geaux Rocket Ride couldn’t run him down whose rally started a bit late.
By way of comparison, Saratoga’s JCGC went in 2:03-flat with a final quarter mile in a very solid 24.41, a race that featured even splits in 12s and change after an opening quarter of 23:35.
AN ALL-DAVIS 4-9-10-7 SUPERFECTA, $26.35 FOR A DIME…
The second race Sunday at the Spa might have set some kind of human record for accomplishment on a racetrack. Katie Davis rated Bon Adieu and Katie waved goodbye to Dylan on the favorite.
Katie’s husband Trevor McCarthy—hence Robbie’s son-in-law—finished third on longshot Embraceable Gal, who edged out Sweet Liberty for third, with older sister Jackie in the boot. Very cool.
THE HORSE WAS WITH THEM … AND SOMEWHERE HARVEY IS SMILING…
Trite and fanciful for a Hollywood script perhaps, but just another magical result at the racetrack when Thin White Duke won the inaugural running of the Harvey Pack Stakes for co-owners Steve Crist and former trainer and bloodstock adviser Phil Gleaves.
Interviewed post-race, Crist acknowledged what Harvey did to help him in his early days at the New York Times and the impact Pack had on racing as the quintessential horseplayer advocate and influence on the handicapping and race replay shows to follow.
Thin White Duke was awesome, coming from last off moderate fractions, winning going away as much the best, his second straight win in this stakes, having taken the former Lucky Coin Stakes in 2022.
Analyst Richard Migliore talked about the Woody Stephens connection as trainer David Donk learned his craft as a Woody assistants with Gleaves as the barn’s premier exercise rider. Gleaves was dual classics winner Swale’s partner in morning trials.
We exchanged emails and Steve is thrilled, writing “that was some sublime racetrack magic.” I wrote of Mig’s Woody reference and stated “all you need now is to win the Pack three more consecutive years,” completing the Woody cycle.