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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


Say this for Spanish Mission: To overcome his handling yesterday, he has to be a good horse.

It appeared as if Pedro Cara had an insurmountable lead in the $1 millionJockey Club Derby Invitational with a sixteenth of a mile remaining in the nominal feature at Belmont Park.

But Spanish Mission was coming strong in deep stretch after finally angling out into the clear at the head of the lane. And then jockey Jamie Spencer dropped the reins!

Spencer deserves credit for keeping the three year old alive while literally out of control. With heads bobbing up and down, Spanish Mission got the fortuitous nod at just the right instant.

Already a group winner in England, Spanish Mission won his U.S. debut for trainer David Simcock and in winning gets an all expenses paid trip into the Breeders’ Cup Turf on November 2 at Santa Anita Park.

A Thread of Blue, who led throughout, tired abruptly in midstretch which is where Pedro Cara beneath Tony Piccone took over. Spencer was back in last place and waited to make his move. He finally did before everything that could go wrong in the midst of a stretch drive did.

But the colt got the job done as the 2-1 favorite and completed the 12 furlongs in 2:27.58. I doing so, the Noble Mission colt improved his lifetime mark to (7) 3-1-2.

“He’s a good horse ad I think he’ll get better with age,” said Barry Irwin post race, founder co-winning owner Team Valor along with Earle Mack.

Interestingly, the Breeders’ Cup Turf is not the major goal. “We’re looking at the Melbourne Cup with this horse. Earle would rather win that race than anything and I’d like to win it as well.”

Meanwhile, Spencer described the proceedings this way: “Going into the final turn he was giving me all he had. I dropped my right rein and even though I was using the crop, when you drop your reins in a race, it typically signals to the horse that the race is over,” explained Spencer.

“I would’ve been mad with myself had we lost but he got back on his game and finished strong. He was a very game horse today.” He needed to be.

David Simcock assistant Ian Russell described the events this way: “As the race developed it was just beautiful to watch. “The further he went the better he got into it and he just gets his head down.

“Jamie dropped his rein but the horse stayed on and kept to his job. He knows his job and the further he goes, the better he’s going to be. He’s a lovely horse for the future.”

If that’s true, he just might be able to handle the grueling demands of theMelbourne Cup. Based on Saturday’s scenario, the question is whether Spencer can.

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9 Responses

  1. Barry,

    First, kudos on a hard-earned and deserved score. Million dollar nose bob; wow!

    Will miss Spanish Mission this fall but will look forward to his winter campaign.

    May he have safe and speedy journeys the rest of the way!

  2. John, I googled Spencer and saw that he has won races all over the world. Are you just joking when you end your post wondering if he can handle the next big race? One screw up does not a race rider make. How do you explain Ortiz’s ride on Tacitus in Belmont? It was a joke yet he dominated, along with his brother, at Saratoga (as writtten about earlier, Alice). Also liked owner’s remark about waiting for next start. What’s the rush? This horse is a monster. As you can tell, we scrutinize what you write and look for an opening, ha, ha.

  3. That you do, look for the opening that is. No worries, goes with the job.

    In this case Mal, you were right. I tried to be funny and it didn’t work; it happens.

    Either way, Spencer to me is a cut above journeyman and not elite class.

    But I’ve been on the Ortiz Bros. bandwagon long time, especially Ortiz the Younger. He put on a clinic at KY Downs Sunday–and that ain’t easy, given course dynamics, etc…

  4. I, too, think you are short-changing Spencer. He has established himself as world class over several years.

    Willie Shoemaker–who I think we agree is one of the greatest ever–blew the Kentucky Derby, America, if not the world’s, most coveted prize.

    Stuff happens.

  5. TJ,

    I admitted to using a line that failed to elicit the desired effect; mea culpa–again.

    But I will agree to disagree on Spencer’s status as an elite rider.

    (Wendell, this isn’t your wizardry behind a curtain, is it? C’mon, you can tell me).

  6. Funny. Wendell busy with PARX as it is a dark day in NY and CA. The allure of “mid-Atlantic” tracks escapes me. I lost a bundle at Penn National which, although nowhere near the mighty Atlantic, is still much smaller than major league tracks in NY and CA. Ok, throw in Gulfstream also. I kinda knew you were just joshing us with remark about Spencer but wanted to mention just the same. Also, can you tell me why there are three different trainers listed for Forego and why “Shoe” and Gustines shared mount? If I was a rider on this horse there is no way I would allow another jock to replace me. I told friend that Whiteley was trainer of record and he said it was Sherrill Ward. Also, any relation to Wesley Ward? Sorry to pepper you with so many questions. Thanks. I am old and keep going to “the vault” to conjure up memories of these equine superstars (Forego, Slew, Ruffian, et al).

  7. You’re both right. Gustines rode him from debut at Hialeah in JAN ’73 through MET MILE in ’76, which he won and the horse did start out with Sherrill Ward. He rode him twice more, book-ended by Jacinto Vasquez, who rode Ruffian for Frank Whiteley.

    Hence, am going to assume that Whiteley took over in JUN ’76 and was trainer of record until Forego’s last race, the 1978 Suburban.

    What a bum; only earned $1.9 in his career!

    However, he did do it the old fashioned way. Career slate: (57) 34-9-7. Unbelievable!

    Now, if I can go back to my day job, please…

    1. Thank you for clarification. Gelding so no babies after running down horses in stretch. Unbelievable is right. Marlboro Cup was pretty cool. Remember big crowds, too. A monster.

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