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Sunday, April 24, 2005

Sunday Morning Notes - April 24

- The sloppy track at Keeneland likely proved to be the final cruel twist of bad fortune to befall John Servis and Rockport Harbor, and it’s hard to imagine they would possibly consider the Derby now. "I told Mr. Porter I don't recommend it," [Servis] said he told owner Rick Porter about continuing on to Louisville. "And he agreed." [Herald-Leader] Stewart Elliot confirmed that Rocky didn’t handle the going.

"He warmed up good, he was acting good, he broke good. Around the first turn, I ....I said, 'He's struggling already.' He just never took to the track."

According to Servis, Elliott told him: "He was just spinning his wheels, switching leads back and forth. He couldn't get comfortable."

... afterward, the jockey also said: "He was so exhausted that he almost collapsed after the race." [Philadelphia Inquirer]
One might say, well, luck evens out, and Servis had everything go well with Smarty Jones last year; but some other trainers have enjoyed long strings of talented horses that hold together and make it to the big race.

In Bob Baffert’s case, it took nearly a decade for his luck to run out when he missed the Derby last year. Now, partly because of Rocky’s misfortune, he may make it back to the starting gate - he needs just one defection for Sort It Out to slide into the number 20 spot on the graded earnings list. I think the colt, who has been racing straight through since August, and who would be making his 7th start of 2005 in the Derby, would prefer a trip to a nice farm somewhere instead.

- As for Coin Silver, Pletcher spoke about initially being disappointed after he finished third in an allowance in his last at Gulfstream on Florida Derby day: "But later on we looked at the race and the fractions, and the final time stacked up very favorably with the Florida Derby. We thought maybe it's not as bad a race as we first thought." [Courier-Journal]

For Pletcher, it was another day of ridiculous success; the Lexington was just one of three graded stakes he won in about a half an hour. At Hawthorne, his Chilean mare Isola Piui Bella (Rich Man’s Gold) rebounded from her loss to D’Wildcat Speed in the Rampart to take the G3 Sixty Sails.

Also at Hawthorne, in the G3 National Jockey Club, Pletcher and jockey John Velasquez again teamed up for the win, taking advantage of a perfect trip for Pollard’s Vision (Carson City), who sat behind favored Badge of Silver as the latter was engaged by Lord of the Game into some quick early fractions, including a 22.83 second quarter.

- Marty Wygod was cleared of any wrongdoing as the stewards at Hollywood Park dismissed the CHRB's complaint against him yesterday. (Why would Hollywood Park stewards be deciding this?) There was no evidence that he had falsified the papers allowing Sweet Catomine to be transferred off the grounds, so it’s obvious that the van driver will take the fall.
Wygod's attorney blasted the press for rushing to judgment and the CHRB for being less than thorough in their investigation; in fact, their investigator never even questioned Wygod.

As far as absolving him of any wrongdoing regarding his sunny comments in the week leading up to the race, it seems to me that some kind of a reprimand was in order, perhaps nothing more, but certainly nothing less. What is this ruling saying, that it’s OK for any owner to tout their horse no matter what? Of course, that may actually be preferable to owners saying that their horse is less than 100% in order to create an overlay in the odds. It’s a tough call, and the stewards here took the easy way out for sure. Bettors should probably be more discerning when evaluating statements by egotistical owners when handicapping races. If betting Sweet Catomine at 4-5 in the race wasn’t such an awful bet, I may have more sympathy now for the guy who sued them over his lost wager.

This also allows Wygod to cast himself as a victim.
"My name was dragged through the mud in 20 to 30 newspapers.....Charges were brought against me that were unfounded. It's had an impact on my wife and my kids. I have to make some hard decision on whether I want to continue." [Daily Racing Form]
Personally, I’m not going to be spending much time crying for this extremely successful, wealthy and lucky guy. Reading this quote, you’d think he’d been accused of being a child molester. He really brought it all on by himself.