When the sports world stopped in the wake of the pandemic, and with bigger fish to fry, sports media was caught up in the overload, too. The result was that some stories fell between the cracks of daily news.
As Justify was attempting to win his Triple Crown and dating back to when Curlin came on the scene, racing media made all aware of “The Curse of Apollo,” that no horse unraced at 2 had won the Kentucky Derby since 1882.
But unless I missed the memo, it wasn’t until NBC’s Mike Tirico informed a national television audience on Saturday that a New York-Bred hadn’t won the Belmont Stakes since Forester, also in 1882.
Now isn’t that some kind of weird, bitchy karma.
But conquer the curse he did and there’s no telling how good Tiz the Law is now and can be later this year. And if it weren’t for his getting trapped on a wet, dead rail at Churchill Downs, he would be undefeated, but there’s no “Curse of O’Connell” to deal with in Louisville, only voter suppression.
First, however, there’s a “Derby of Midsummer” to win. (After all, August 8 still qualifies as midsummer and the Travers is a race exclusively for three-year-olds. So there’s no reason to fool with that sobriquet in 2020.
There will be plenty of time later to wax on the colt and his beloved and well- respected old-school connections; Barclay, Robin, and Jack, in the lead-up to Travers and Derby.
Posit: Can anyone name a single race card not named Breeders’ Cup that offered as many great performances as Saturday’s at Belmont Park? To wit:
In the Grade 1 Woody Stephens, No Parole did for Louisiana-breds what Tiz the Law did for New York-breds. His performances would be described by Charles Hatton as “sheer zip.”
No Parole had only four rivals but they had quality and he made them look bad. Even if the surface was kind to inside speed, 1:21.41 is impressive at Belmont Park and the victory never looked in doubt. Now looking forward to the G1 “Chief” at the Spa.
Indian Pride proved to be a serious filly sprint player, taking a 6-1/2-furlong allowances with authority in 1:15.84, her final sixteenth in 6.29. While not in danger of catching up, Mrs. Danvers was an impressive runnerup.
Presuming good health, graded stakes victories await both fillies; make note.
Decorated Invader, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf tough-tripper of 2019, was awesome taking the G2 Pennine Ridge, delivering on the high promise he showed at 2.
Closer to the pace than ever before, he needed to hold position from the pole slip while awaiting a seam at the moment Joel Rosario would ask for run. That opportunity came approaching headstretch.
The Declaration of War colt lowered his body, extended his stride and whoosh he was gone, a 4-3/4 length victory after racing away from quality lone-speed Proven Strategies in 1:33.66, and sprinting his final quarter-mile in :23.05. Next stop, Saratoga.
A 7-furlong maiden allowances for three-year-olds produced a sensational debut score by Super Saver colt Happy Saver. Irad Ortiz clearly had horse and extreme confidence into the lane, eventually drawing off to win by 5-1/2, ridden out in 1:21.51, only 1/10th of a second slower than No Parole.
The prolific Pletcher will always tell you something about his horses but he is no hype machine. When he says that he expected to colt to run well, but not as impressively as he did, you can believe him. I did.
The manner of victory so surprised the equine chess master that he couldn’t even hint at what’s in play next, saying only that he needs to think about it and go wherever the colt leads him. Not yet a household name, he’s a stable mailer.
The fifth consecutive impressive performance of the day was delivered by Sweet Melania in the G3 Wonder Again. It was her first start since finishing third to Sharing in the Juvenile Fillies Turf. Sharing was a good runnerup that morning in Royal Ascot’s Gr.1 Coronation Stakes.
Given the soft-pace dynamics it would have been disappointing if Sweet Melania hadn’t won, which is neither her fault nor that of her rivals in the one-mile Widener event. She ran away powerfully at the end.
Post-race, Pletcher said he was uncertain about her ability to handle 10 furlongs, but that she had sufficient class to get a mile and a eighth. We’ll all find out at Saratoga.
But the Stable Mail Award in this event goes to runnerup Highland Glory, who was pace-compromised and wanting more ground. Tagg Team can look forward to Saratoga with this one, too.
Can’t you just watch Oleksandra kick home all day? And it turns out New Yorkers will get that chance as she’s staying in the East. She’s won at Saratoga where there will be turf sprints aplenty, and the fall at Belmont where she’s undefeated will be a prelude to Keeneland’s BC Turf Sprint. That’s the plan.
I will not diminish Tiz the Law’s victory, so I must make Gamine’s Acorn a Co-Performance of the Day winner. As the youngins’ might say, her performance was sick.
It wasn’t so much she completed a mile in 1:32.55, blowing up the stakes record by a bunch. But her final quarter-mile in 23.22 was so fast that she bore out, Johnny said. Simultaneously, I was thinking lidocaine off maybe?
For me, it was more about the running line at the points of call: 1 by 1, 1 by 1-1/2, 1 by 3-1/2, 1 by 9-1/2 and, finally, 1 by 18-3/4s. And those were no equine tomato cans behind her. She has size and scope, so who knows what her limits might be?
Classiest Raceday Ever Began in Ascot, Berkshire
Actually, Saturday morning was a culmination of the five days of Royal Ascot. Highlights and personal favorite moments:
Finally saw what all this “Battaash is the best sprinter in the world” talk is all about. He sure looked the part by taking the King’s Stand. He broke like a shot and was on cruise control throughout.
Don’t know if Battaash’s connections regularly support the Breeders’ Cup. The hope is this year they will, pandemics notwithstanding.
There were, for us, three performances that made us go wow. Circus Maximus was all class winning the Queen Anne. Alpine Star was stellar winning the Coronation Stakes and Palace Piper stayed undefeated in four starts despite a rise to the Gr. 1 level.
Wesley Ward continued to represent America very well as Campanelle, first-time blinkers and Frankie, showed her class to win the Queen Mary. Stradavarius was amazing in taking his third straight Gold Cup. He don’t need no stinkin’ hot pace!
Personal favorite scenes were the John Gosden-Frankie Dettori show; great looking horses so well prepared and thoughtfully ridden. Jim Crowley’s six winners and his leading-jockey battle with Dettori.
Proud of Graham Motion who tweeted that he never got so many congratulatory messages for finishing second. Sharing is really special and should have a great U.S. campaign with a possible repeat in the Breeders’ Cup.
Loved seeing history made when Nanda Parrado won the G2 Coventry at 150-1, the largest priced winner in Royal Ascot history and while I’m not a Royalsphobe I was happy for the 94-year-old breeder of Tactical, winner of the Windsor Castle.
Of course, she missed her first Royal Ascot race meet. Queen Elizabeth had her watch party at home, a.k.a. Windsor Castle. It was her first win at Royal Ascot in four years.