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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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⚠ Before you comment

Our staff likes nothing better than to engage with the HRI Faithful and provide a forum for interaction on horseracing and sports. In that spirit, please be kind and reasonable; keep the language clean, and the tone civil. Comments from those who cannot comply will be deleted. Thank you.

13 Responses

  1. I knew you would write about this race. It was the first time in a long time,I actually rooted for a horse to win without a bet.Imagine Crist horse wins with the two Andy’s in attendance and Harvey looking down. One of the gifts of the racetrack for the old timers. Might be time for your nostalgia article.

  2. Aaron, already have given the Harvey Pack Stakes more column inches than the JCGC and Pacific Classic combined. Trying to look forward these days, not feeling very nostalgic given the state of the game these days. I’m sure there will be looks back when the spirit moves… But thanks for the thought, truly. Have a happy holiday…

    1. Have a happy holiday ! Thanks for your columns. I really don’t know how the state of the game improves, when every move seems to be the wrong move. Hopefully,there will be a common sense move somewhere a long the line, but appreciate you fighting, the good fight.

      1. I really appreciate the encouragement, not easy to maintain a positive attitude in the light of recent events, especially when out of the box ideas are met with such resistance. The status quo is very strong in this game making it difficult to break through, but we”ll keep doing our job, trying to find do-able ideas that make sense. Again, much thanks..

  3. The Flag is up on my front lawn and I am going for the Gold today with Johnny Loughlin. Wishing you and Photos by Toni a great Labor Day John. I will tip my (NA) beverage your way as they head for the post.

    P.S. I also did not have a wager down on the Harvey Pack, but nonetheless, it was a fun race to watch.

  4. The Hopeful is wide open and chock full of top prospects. Trip notes demanded that Gold Sweep had to be the choice, but thought long and hard over Timberlake, very, very impressive and a winner at the trip at the Pea Patch. Muth is faster than fast early and Be You looks like one of Pletcher’s top prospects. A great renewal.

    A Happy Labor Day to you my friend and to all the HRI Faithful, and may all our equine friends have speedy and safe journeys…

  5. As for the current status of racing, and given that today is the Hopeful Stakes, win or lose, let’s continue with the glass is still half full. Riders up my friend. Two bucks still in our pockets, and content with a few like minded friends to converse with, life ain’t so bad afterall. Half Full it is. Sunshine, wisdom, and generosity, McD

  6. Thanks John. Ten cent Super Box with all four it is. Indulto in play for Labor Day. I know that somewhere, somehow, he is still following everything written at HRI. Riders Up Indulto!

  7. Closing shots on this Saratoga meet : First about the ‘ talent’ which Pricci tries to defend. Mr Pincay deserves a bigger, better exposure in sports since so many stiffed shirts with free sneakers are boring puppets who are just going through the motions not emotions. Stevens looked bored in most telecasts, as if could not wait until he could leave for his next assignment as a full time jock agent. Sterling? Serling ? Which ever, talking too much, especially about Beyers and disliking favorites has run its course already! How many winners did you have going against favorites Is it too much to ask JK about wearing a jacket once in a while? Maybe, just on big Saturdays? It does not look cool, closer to cheap. Migliore, every time I watched the program I learned or was aware of something about horseracing and some of its past characters, mostly from the past, like few trainers tell a hot jockey how to run the upcoming race .. let him ride.. The ladies? Good fillers as we got to see the winning interviews with both husbands. Racecaller made me forget about J. Imbriale. Whatever happened to him. Maybe in Belmont races? Irad, first name only a la Michael, Shaq and Brady. Too good albeit with many ready Chad Brown and his Stable’s favorites who won all but a couple of Chad Brown’s mounts. That is quite an average! Linda Rice: got to respect her and her notebook with just as many wins as Brown but with a much better ROI. A loud Brava to a couple of (female) trainers, Antonucci, Gargiulo , among them. It felt good even if their horses beat your tickets. Lezcano, Castellano, Alvarado, Gaffalione fared well against the toughest colony of which they’re members with several mid to double digit odds horses, and isn’t that what we like to win with Me? My best Saratoga meet even if I skipped the last two days grilling and charting Kentucky Downs with its uneven turf track (can’t they fix that last quarter mile?) which I believe surprised some equine athletes on the stretch.. Oh yes, kept on thinking about staying in my lane, well, at Kentucky Downs I was 0-13, with only a winner, or two. No gimmicks ,no exactas, and gave up watching it . It felt like being an amateur, on his early days of ”Shooting in the Dark” ! Stick with what you know and stay away from ” Buffet Offerings ” whose food looks, smells ‘ different’. It ain’t for me! Arrivederci!

  8. Well JG you raised the level of rambling run-on sentences to an art form. I don’t mind but some of the Faithful might and please watch your spelling of people’s names. I’d like to spend time responding to your observations instead of editing.

    Anyhow, I would suggest you listen more closely to what the handicappers actually say, they are not here for us only but for bettors who might not be a sophisticated as the regulars. Don’t think some of your critiques are fair, but will say that Mr. Stevens often seems mails in his analyses [now I’m equivocating].

    The idea of the production is to walk the line between teaching the neophytes without putting the regular to sleep. On balance, they do a very good job at serving two audiences–I have some experience in this area; it’s not as easy as it looks from the living room.

    The only thing that makes me crazy is the constant equivocating, as if analysts are afraid to speak their minds lest some one-percenter complain to upper management–and they must bend over backwards with horsemen because they need access to do their jobs.

    It would be nice to see an independent production but the tracks won’t ever do that in their zeal to control the narrative.

    As for KY Downs, I try to pick my spots. I wanted to play every race with money back guarantees for in the money finishes. I can’t because the computer outfits are rocking the tote board–one glaring instance was when 8-5 became 3-5 in the last apparent flash. Exactas are coming up light a little too often for my tastes.

    The stretch at Ky Downs is not broken and doesn’t need fixing. It’s a European style course, meaning there are undulations. Jockeys need races over the course, not just the horses. The best race courses in Europe also finish on an incline, catering to stamina, not speed. WIsh there were more of that in the American game…

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