- It’s a distaff weekend as fillies and mares of all ages take center stage in stakes action around the country. Here in New York, it’s the Grade 1 Acorn for 3 yo’s. For the older set, Hollywood has the G2 Milady BC Handicap and Churchill has the G3 Early Times Mint Julep on the turf. The last several years the Acorn has been run on the Friday before the Belmont, and there was a weak attempt to couple it with the Belmont a la the Kentucky Oaks, but that has quietly gone by the wayside along with the crowds. Also gone is any talk of a “filly Triple Crown,” which is what the Acorn, Mother Goose, and Coaching Club American Oaks (once run at a mile and a half) used to be before it became known as the NYRA Triple Tiara; and now apparently they’re just three more stakes races on the program.
Only six are going in the Acorn, but it’s a wide-open affair, and you can really make a case for any of the six. The morning line favorite is Splendid Blended, who has not been seen since a G1 win in the Hollywood Starlet last December. Her trainer Neil Drysdale hits at 24% in this layoff category, and is happy with the way she’s progressed. "She's filled out and strengthened and has matured all around." [Daily Racing Form] Her only loss was to some filly named Sweet Catomine, over whom she was actually favored last October. However, it is her first race in over 5 months and she faces some sharp fillies here; she figures to get hooked early by Seek a Star, and all her races have been around 2 turns. Any one of these reasons would be enough for me to take a shot against her, so I can do so enthusiastically here.
Anticipating that she should be the 4th or 5th choice, I like the Phipps-bred Smuggler for Shug McGaughey; in fact she reminds me a bit of Oratory going into the Peter Pan. She hasn’t faced the quality some of the others have, but she comes off her 3yo debut, in which she beat the nice Bayou Breeze (more on her later) right here at Belmont at the same mile distance as the Acorn, jumping 20 Beyer points from her 2 yo best to 91. This despite the fact that Shug said that he "hadn't pounded on her for her first race back....I think she'll move up.". She’s by Unbridled, out of the great filly Inside Information, who won the Acorn by 11 lengths (more on her later too). She can sit a couple of lengths off the pace and should be really tough at a decent price.
In the Gold comes off her fine second to Summerly in the Oaks. What I like about her here is that her best races have been around 1 turn; most recently her tied for field-best 98 Beyer in the G2 Beaumont at *7f at Keeneland. Round Pond goes for Rockport Harbor’s connections (not Smarty’s, as I mistakenly wrote the other day), and she’s won her last three in impressive fashion, including a solid win in the G2 Fantasy over R Lady Joy, who ran a fine second in the Black Eyed Susan.
- Meanwhile down at Monmouth, another top 2yo filly from last year surfaces for her 3yo debut in the Revidere. Sense of Style (Thunder Gulch) took the G2 Spinaway and the G1 Matron with some impressive Beyers, but then faltered in her last 2, including a 9th in the BC Juvenile Fillies. She’s another from that popular combo of Michael Tabor and Patrick Biancone, who I hold in around the same esteem these days as Bill Frist and Tom DeLay. She’s listed at 4-5 morning line in a compact field of five, and I think she’s a solid bet-against here. She’s 0-2 around 2 turns, and though she had excuses, I’d instead take a shot with the sharp and improving Bayou Breeze (A.P. Indy) for Kiaran McLaughlin. She ran second to the aforementioned Smuggler at Belmont, and returns to 2 turns, at which she won her previous two easily. Devine Will has shown big improvement in maiden and entry-level allowances her last two, but will have to prove she can excel around two turns. (It may be worth checking out the results of this race, the 5th at Monmouth, to see how Bayou Breeze runs if you’re thinking about Smuggler in the Acorn.)
- Nick Kling of the Troy Record is not happy about the new Hall of Fame election rules, and he uses the previously mentioned Inside Information as an example of what the problem is.
Exhibit No. 1 is the failure of the brilliant Inside Information to be selected in the Contemporary Female category…..Inside Information captured 14 of 17 career starts. She bankrolled more than $1.6 million in the process. Inside Information never finished worse than third. Two of the three races she lost were won by sensational race horses in their own right - Lakeway and Classy Mirage. The Private Account filly earned six Grade 1 victories, closing out her career with three in succession. Perhaps most startling was Inside Information's 13-length rout of nine rivals in the 1995 Breeders' Cup Distaff…..I read that logic there in the last paragraph, and it makes me thankful for presidential term limits.
Unfortunately for Inside Information, she was nominated to the hall one year too late. Under the old rules, she almost surely would have been selected. Unless and until another once-in-a-decade Thoroughbred like Ruffian comes along, the same five Contemporary Female nominees could return on the ballot for many years. Why is there any reason to believe voters would change their ballot so that any of this quintet can be enshrined? [Troy Record]
- Owner Kenneth Ramsey is once again subjecting himself to possible ridicule over his stallion Catienus. Check out this explanation for his running a maiden in the Belmont Stakes.
"I really don't think we have a shot of winning, but he's by our own sire, and I've got the mother, the brother, and the sister, and even if he can finish third it would really improve the family. I would consider that a success. If he's worse than third then we shouldn't have run him. I don't think he can beat Afleet Alex, who was my pick to win the Derby, and even though his final times by our system puts him even with Giacomo, we probably can't beat him either, based on his class advantage.” [Bloodhorse]It was also because of Catienus that Ramsey got in trouble for offering a bribe to another owner to scratch her horse late last year so that his Ken Cat could draw in. It seems perhaps that Catienus has some inside information on Ramsey and is threatening to do a Deep Throat imitation.
The motive was to increase the chances of Ken's Cat's sire, Catienus, which Ramsey owns, being the leading first-year sire in the nation for 2004. [SignonSanDiego]Well, I believe this article mispoke - he had less chance of being the leading first-year sire than Michael Jackson; but he was close to a million in earnings so perhaps that was the issue. Regardless, contrast Robert Bailes' agonizing over whether the Belmont would adversely effect the future of Scrappy T, a legitimate Belmont contender, to an owner that would throw his winless horse into a 12 furlong race against the best 3 yo in training just so he could maybe finish 3rd and make out some on his sire and siblings. Can we take back this guy's Eclipse award now?