THE GOOD NEWS, AND THE HITS, KEPT COMING OVER THE WEEKEND

HALLANDALE BEACH — We might be huge Godfather fans but we don’t insist on hearing bad news immediately. So, we start this Sunday on a happier note.

As one watched the races at Gulfstream Park develop on Saturday, it was clear that “Championship Season” was on, and at just about every levels.

Ralph Nicks was up first and he swept the early double with two first-time starters. Winning on debut is not exactly a news flash when it comes to this outfit.

The first winner was with a maiden claimer going a two-turn mile on turf, stable rider Tyler Gaffalione in the boot.

But the second winner was better, a special weights maiden named Untitled. Yes, speed was holding in Hallandale Saturday but this performance was special. Time will whether whether the colt is, too.

In the opener, given that Just A Bit Sassy was out of a Hard Spun mare whose only other foal was a stakes winner on turf, it was a gamble to enter the filly for at the $25K level. That’s unlikely to happen when she reappears.

If things don’t pan out for her, however, there’s always the December 2020 Claiming Crown.

As for Untitled, who knows? Prepared in Ocala before shipping to Gulfstream for a NOV 2 workout, this fast Florida homebred, from a dam that’s produced two winners from two starters, also completed a double for Distorted Humor’s young son, Khozan.

Untitled went to the front under a white hot Emisael Jaramillo and improved his position. Reaching the half in 45.96, he completed the final quarter-mile in an impressive 24.21, turning a 2-1/2 length lead at headstretch into an 11-length victory margin in 1:10.17.

The stakes action began with G3 Sugar Swirl and two terrific females–filly Lady’s Island and trainer Georgina Baxter. It was the 5-year-old’s ninth start this year and eighth win, not bad after starting in optional claimers. It was speed and Jaramillo all over again.

Mitchell Road was just too much filly in the listed My Charmer. Bill Mott had her fresh and fit and needed to be all that, taking Take These Chains and Luis Saez’ stern pressure throughout. But Jose Ortiz kept her live and she’s looks set to re-enter graded company.

Cookie Dough ran too good to lose the G3 Rampart. Just like Mitchell Road was hounded all the way, so was Stanley Gold’s 3-year-old, but Shug McGaughey’s older Pink Sands ran great, coming from the clouds against the grain to give Ortiz a natural double.

Pink Sands loves this ground, improving her local slate to (4) 3-1-0. McGaughey thought Aqueduct’s Pumpkin Pie was a good race and set her up well for Saturday. He thinks the pace in the 7-furlong Inside Information should be hit enough to set up her rally once again.

I didn’t care for Instilled Regard turf form in the G2 Ft. Lauderdale but knew I was in trouble when she entered the ring, out-looking all her rivals including class dropper Channel Cat, who we needed to keep our Rainbow dream alive. The race shape didn’t suit either but no matter; she ran flat.

Old pro War Story took advantage of a wild early pace for the distance, a perfectly timed ride by Saez, and gained his first win at Gulfstream for new trainer, Elizabeth Dobles. In doing so, he punched his ticket to the Pegasus World Cup Invitational via a problematic G3 Harlan’s Holiday.

The race was marred when favorite Prince Lucky was pulled up quickly by Johnny Velazquez, a tack that just might have saved his the colt’s life. As it was, Prince Lucky fractured both sesamoids in his right front ankle. Mike Welsch reported that he will be shipped to Ocala for surgery.

However the surgery turns out, Prince Lucky has raced his last; hopefully all goes well.

Meanwhile, it also is hoped that maturity–or an equine psychologist–can help Bodexpress become more professional. His gate antics forced Paco Lopez out of the saddle twice and although he broke sharply, he was too keyed up to rate kindly. Mentally, he remains not ready for prime time.

What’s Happening On the East and West Coasts?

There’s something happening here and what it is ain’t exactly clear… there’s a man with a lock over there, telling trainers they’ve got to beware.

The New York Racing Association has made a decision to end winter training at Aqueduct racetrack effective Jan. 1 in response to a petition by horsemen that expressed concerns for safety during afternoon races.

The horsemen are saying the decision is short sighted and based on economics, not safety. Horses stabled at Aqueduct will be shipped to Belmont and work over the training track in Elmont. One wonders if this is the first step that ends racing in Queens for good. We shall see…

A total of 11 trainers there have been investigated by the State of New York and U.S. Department of Labor for a possible violation of minimum wage requirements. One, Kiaran McLaughlin, is weighing his options and in April will decide where his top class operation will be based.

Labor law in New York is a three-headed animal. NYRA races in three counties in the state; Queens, Nassau and Saratoga, each with its own standards.

Cumbersome H2B visa-program laws state that backstretch personnel cannot travel on horse vans because of the unavailability of seat belts. Further, workmen’s compensation insurance premiums are off the charts.

“We take good care of our help; we wouldn’t have them if we didn’t,” McLaughlin told various industry publications. His employees told investigators as much. McLaughlin, who has called New York home since 1992, has possible options in Florida, Kentucky and New Jersey.

On the Left Coast, meanwhile, trouble-plagued Santa Anita will lose half of one of its mainstay’s supporters. Doug O’Neill will send some of his best stock to Dubai. Much of the remainder will go to purse-enhanced Oaklawn Park.

It is said that change is inevitable and that change is good. From here, it’s difficult to tell in which direction those particular windmills are tilting. I only know say the gut is uneasy.

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9 Responses

  1. Thanks for the happenings over the weekend, will be following much more closely again as I’ve decided that I’ve had enough of Harness Racing for now.

    Wish I had a direct line to you in the paddock at Gulfstream, observations such as the one about Instilled Regard are invaluable to a horseplayer. It’s a great gift that you have such a keen eye John.

    Have a new Twitter devoted only to thoroughbred horseracing primarily and sports in general. I’ll tweet you from that ID one day… Might not follow you though, as am trying to avoid politics completely there.

    Will be visiting HRI daily again. Never left completely anyway. Lol

  2. John: The skies are getting dark and very ominous. While California racing is seemingly on double secret probation, all is definitely not well here on the Hempstead Plain. I’m glad that you mentioned the McLaughlin story because, with all the sturm and drang about California, what is happening to Chad Brown, Kiaran, and the other NY trainers, will probably have more drastic ramifications than the whip rule. If the cost of doing business becomes too prohibitive, then what is the point of having a business? Both the State and the City are warning of huge deficits, to wit, in the Billions, and the political class in NY never fails to pick the pockets of the average middle income taxpayer from Nassau, Suffolk or Westchester counties ( Rockland and Dutchess are also not exempt). If NYRA hasn’t yet noticed, the purse structure at Churchill now readily exceeds that of the structure at Saratoga, let alone Belmont and Aqueduct. If something isn’t done to alleviate the onerous tax, insurance and even living costs, in NYS, there will be a large caravan of horses vans heading over the Verrazano for points south and west. The question of whip use and drug administration will be mere footnotes in the story of the demise of racing in the first place to host it on American soil.

  3. What was that Fram, the Hempstead Plains in like 1645? If that’s wrong, I’m close, so when I show my respect for racing’s history, the sport has earned it.

    Your take is to the point, on point and perceptive. You are exactly right about horsemen, no matter how big, doing business in New York. Have no damn idea how the little guy survives. Passion drives us all.

    I have privately been telling friends for a few weeks that Kentucky is going to replace New York as the sport’s premier circuit, Saratoga notwithstanding, of course. Then again, they do have Keeneland–and all those pretty soft-boned sires.

    Will be keeping an eye on happenings in New York, still home in my heart of hearts. I’ll be rooting, but I’m not overly optimistic…

  4. D, I had a feeling you were lurking out there. This time, let’s be good to one another; promise.

    Anyway, you might be interested to learn that I have an intern, an older, mature college student who loves to take pictures and has an interest in video production. Why knows what might come out of that? We’ll see. But I’ve never been busier, so things might be on the back-burner.

    I may be joining you on the political sidelines. The more crimes Drumpf commits, the more popular he gets. Probably will be re-elected.

    This certainly is not the country I grew up in. The apathetic, under-informed, and malignant greedy are turning the Constitution into a quaint piece of parchment.

    Glad you’ll be back on a regular basis; let’s try to do some good.

  5. Fram, forgot to mention that the first person I’ll be looking for Sunday morning when I visit Palm Meadows is Mr. Kiaran. Hope he has some time to chat…

  6. TTT – Handicapper to the Starlets

    Sadly, a few months back, had enough of the nonsense in California and the knee-jerk reaction by leftists to the happenings there, and divorced myself from all affiliation unless and until they take a new path. For years, looked forward to the time difference, and the later races, but as you said JP, things change. Perhaps will have a little more time now to focus on personal hygiene. Racing is not immune to the greed that has infected the rest of the country, and we are living in a real world version of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” There is no doubt in this truth-seeking reprobate’s mind that the only thing that will save racing is a radical change in policy, beginning with the TOTAL ban on Lasix. With respect to Gulfstream calling itself the “Championship Meet,” their prerogative; from now on please refer to me as “Peter Pan.”

    1. Dear Pete,
      Indeed California has become the “Never Never land” of racing.

      I sometimes envision the TOC as Captain Hook and the CHRB as Mr. Smee in a row boat with no oars being pursued by Andy Asaro as the crocodile who swallowed an alarm clock. LOL.

      I’m sure you already know who plays Tinkerbelle.

  7. If you liked the time difference may I suggest Australia. Or Hong Kong. The miracle of simulcasting brings all this, and more, to your nearest SAM machine. There’s one problem: Hard to hit, ha, ha. Used to take a flyer on Peru or Uruguay courtesy of Pimlico. Like Rodney would say, “I’ve got no luck, no luck at all!”

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