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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


We have stated this previously: On a day like Saturday I feel sorry for all sports fans who don’t get it about thoroughbred racing. And while a month from now yesterday’s events might lose their impact, the memories created will not.

Dramatic finishes, many of which required digital proof to determine the winners, kept coming at the viewers, wave after wave after wave. And when the finishes weren’t dramatic, individual performances were stunning.

The list of notables is long and, showing no partiality, will list them alphabetically by region.  Appropriately, California led the way because when it wasn’t supplying drama of its own, it shipped its horses all over the map, winning anywhere and everywhere.

Man-O-Mandella, as christened by race caller Tom Durkin after the Hall of Famer’s Breeders’ Cup four-peat day in 2003, did what Richard Mandella does best; point for races and win them.

So now Omaha Beach, his unlucky pre-race Kentucky Derby favorite, is a Grade 1 winner from six to nine furlongs.

What impressed most was the fact that Shancelot broke like the bullet that he is, comfortably controlled a fast tempo of 44.38, fought back as Omaha Beach slipped by on the fence, came home in 24.41 at the end of three-quarters in 1:08.79–all the more worthy considering his fastest-of-2019 performance figure gained winning Saratoga’s Amsterdam.

But the real story is the start-and-stop season of Omaha Beach, finally entering the gate after two failed attempts to return. The fact that he was in hand, perfect-tripping on the fence just behind the fast pace at headstretch, looming a possible winner, stretched to imagination.

Shancelot did not stop; Omaha Beach just went on and got him, equal to the eyeball-to-eyeball challenge. The BC Dirt Mile makes the most sense now that Omaha Beach is back in the game. Hey, whatever Mr. Mandella decides for this equine star.

The top three finishers in the G2 Woodford Stakes: Stubbins, Leinster and Imprimis all ran well enough to be considered BC Turf Sprint contenders, European heavy-heads notwithstanding. Of those, Imprimis should benefit the most from Saturday’s run.

Spiced Perfection made in two straight SoCal shippers into Lexington, taking the G2 Thoroughbred Club of America despite some turbulence leaving the gate and losing position.

Both filly and Javier Castellano showed their class and courage, knifing between rivals in deep stretch and holding a flying Dawn the Destroyer safe at the end. Can’t fathom any runner coming out of the TCA that would seriously challenge the established F & M Sprint favorites.

Another superb training job, this from Simon Callahan who won the G2 City of Hope with True Valour, making his first start in seven months. However, it’s hard to envision the BC Mile winner exiting this race, even if the dynamics a month from now will be exactly the same.

The BC Mile gained a contender in Chad Brown’s Uni who improved her record at the trip to (7) 6-0-1. She came with the last, best run beneath Joel Rosario, doing her best Miesque impression with an eye-catching final furlong in 11.60. But the Euros will be formidable, per usual.

The first superstar of the day appeared in the G1 Breeders’ Futurity. Godolphin campaigns him, Brendan Walsh trainers him, and Jose Ortiz rides. And yesterday, Ortiz rode Maxfield with arrogant confidence.

A leggy individual with plenty of scope to match, this lean running machine made a five-wide balcony run on the turn, blowing to the lead soon after entering the straight, and drew off, ridden out. Not quite Arazi but close enough, given a final sixteenth in 06.35.

The G1 Shadwell Turf Mile is almost always a Breeders’ Cup factor but given the way this group was bunched at the finish, it would be hard to imagine this race will be strong enough to produce a contender equal to the world’s best.

In New York, it’s difficult to know whether Alms, winner of the G3 Matron, will be capable of replicating her form, especially going farther, but her finish was devastating beneath a patient, chilly and very confident Jose Lezcano.

It was nice to see hard-trying Arklow break through after four straight close-up finishes to win the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, but you had to feel badly for Sadler’s Joy who, because of the lack of pace, was forced to chase throughout, not close to his best game.

‘Sadler’ settled for third as Channel Maker, who set the glacial pace, held grimly for place. Exaggerated reference to a slow pace? Well, Johnny Velazquez engineered an opening half-mile in 50.85, the kind of opening gambit that makes a final half of 47.03 do-able.

The storied Champagne Stakes for juvenile colts, the lynchpin of Saturday’s Belmont Park program, produced the day’s second star on a significant day of preps. We’ll let the official Equibase chart of Danny Kulchisky tell the tale:

“Tiz the Law left the post parade early, then dropped back after stumbling out of the starting gate on the front end, worked out a tuck into the two path approaching the conclusion of the backstretch, closed the gap while racing between opponents, was on hold while caught in traffic for a sixteenth beginning at the quarter pole, angled sharply toward a seam into the three path in the general area of the three-sixteenths pole and into clearance, kicked in when given his cue, exploded to the lead during the run leading up to and through the furlong grounds, had lengthened away to a comfortable advantage when geared down in the final seventy yards.”

The final time of 1:35.41, with a final quarter-mile of 24.59, will have him set for his two-turn debut at Santa Anita in a month’s time.

In terms of performance figures, I cannot recall a juvenile that earned a debut figure as fast as 3-1/4 ever take a major rise in class and distance and not only replicate that brilliance but go on to win impressively.

The Breeders’ Cup provides 14 wow opportunities following the running of any race by any horse in any division over any surface and distance, but if Tiz the Law vs. Maxfield vs. Dennis’ Moment is not the most anticipated matchup of NOV 1-2, I don’t know what it could be–unless Omaha Beach goes Classic.

Ed. Note: After this story was written, the connections of Tiz the Law indicated they are likely to skip the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and run in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs or the Remsen at Aqueduct. It did appear, however, that they left a crack in the door. More on this in subsequent posts

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9 Responses

  1. I would like to remind Tiz the Law’s people about Instagrand He was put away early to prepare for his 3YO campaign. How did that work out?

  2. Noted, TJ. I remember a few years ago it was popular for “Derby horses” to skip the Juvenile as only Street Sense had completed that double at the time.

    Thing is purses are so high that you can duck horses like Dennis’ Moment and Maxfield and hopefully meet the for all the marbles in the spring.

    Can you imagine any group of owners fortunate enough to have two state-breds be worthy of serious Derby consideration? If it were me, my arm would be black and blue from pinching myself over and over…

  3. Mal, you having a flashback? Don’t understand the reference. But I too have a warm place in my heart for him. HRI was six days old in 2007, when I picked him to win the Derby. It was a ‘Born To Run’ arm pump that meant more than money!

  4. Loved that horse and having Carl Nafzger as trainer an added bonus. Remember him telling elderly woman owner, “He’s going to win (Derby).” Class act all around. This was a horse that left an impression, that’s for sure. Then Curlin came along. No shame in losing Preakness to that one. Both super horses. I don’t think Nafzger was referring to Street Sense in above-referenced goldie oldie memory with owner at Derby but that was pretty special, also.

  5. Horse in question was Unbridled (1990). Worth going to GOOGLE to see Carl Nafzger watching race with owner and the look on her face as he calls the deep stretch run for her. Tartan Stable. What a racehorse!

  6. Actually Mal, it was Frances A Genter, owner of Unbridled, to whom Carl Nafzger directed those famous words, “Mrs. Genter, you won the Kentucky Derby.” It is an indelible a piece of racing video history as you will ever see. [I cried watching it, anyway].

    Also lucky that I was on Unbridled before Street Sense came along 17 years later. Still relatively young and still learning, it was a Derby week workout that helped the horse turn the corner towards Kentucky Derby victory.

    I put up right up there with the Whittingham training miles in 1:38 and change, or “The Chief” working a horse nine furlong in 1:56. Clues that you were on a live one.

    Good memories…

    1. Yes, very emotional video and you’ve got to give props to ABC crew who isolated Carl Nafzger and Mrs. Genter. I know his son, Unbridle’s Song has produced multiple stars and heard Steve Byk today talk about how many of the top offspring were fillies because he was bred to top mares. Called him a sire of broodmares as opposed to a sire of sires. I think I have that right. May have been talking about Unbridled but I think it was Unbridle’s Song. When I saw Street Sense win in California before Derby I kinda knew this was a good one. Best of luck in Breeder’s Cup. The track handicapper at Santa Anita told Byk that he thought Omaha Beach could win the BC Classic. My guess is he will go in the Sprint and let the speedballs do their thing on the front end and then try and run them down late. I would never bet against Mitole.

  7. Mal, Street Sense won at Tampa before he won Derby…

    My guess is that OB will go in Dirt Mile, but if horse is primed, would love to see him take a shot a history. That sequence of distances at the Grade 1 level probably never will be attempted again, much less duplicated if OB successful.

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