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Friday, June 17, 2005

Short Fields, Short Day

- Short fields continue at Belmont, and now, in an effort to attract more horse flesh, NYRA has announced an increase in purses for claiming races.

In some categories, Belmont was offering less money than Monmouth and Delaware.

"These increases will help to provide a better product for our fans and adjust our purse structure to give a more equitable distribution to owners and trainers of claiming horses," said Mike Lakow, NYRA's racing secretary/handicapper. [Daily Racing Form]
Though New Jersey has no slots, purses are supplemented by money from Atlantic City casinos, part of their effort to forestall installation of the machines. And man, the field situation at Belmont is pretty bleak. I was looking at Friday’s card, considering taking the afternoon off for the 3 PM first post time, and the races start out mediocre and go downhill from there. Three out of the last four races are state-bred races, and bad ones at that; and the feature has a five horse field for the second day in a row. It’s enough to make one go to see Batman Begins instead.

- Letgomyecho, the nice 3 yo filly by Menifee, has been retired and is in foal to Elusive Quality, according to trainer George Arnold. Wow, that was fast, it must have been on the first date. She fractured a sesamoid while running 5th in the Ashland Stakes, dealing a blow to her trainer. "She was the best horse I had since Victory Ride ....She just was talented. She really, really was, and I thought her best was in front of her.” [DRF-same article]

- At Belmont yesterday, trainers Juan Rodriguez and Christophe Clement continued their winning ways with a victory apiece, and Edgar Prado rode four winners. Clement sent out Storm Creek Rising, a 3 yo half brother to champion Ashado, who is expected to be favored in the Phipps on Saturday (another five horse feature). It was the colt’s second win in 7 lifetime starts in which he’s finished in the money each time. Rodriguez, subbing for suspended Richard Dutrow, announced that in the finest tradition of his boss, he’ll wheel Slew Motion, who won the feature on Wednesday, right back in a minor stakes tomorrow.

The Phipps is a ponderous affair – only five entrants, and not a legitimate speed horse to be found. Ashado found herself on the lead in her last effort, the Pimlico BC Distaff, set a slow pace in the slop but succumbed late to finish second. Pletcher says "The Apple Blossom was my fault, the Pimlico race was Mother Nature's fault….She's training better than she's trained her whole life. She could very well win this race, but it's a very tough race." [DRF] She’s likely to find herself on the lead again, followed closely by Daydreaming. Society Selection generally needs a hot pace to close into, and may not get one here.

- Godolphin announced that UAE Derby winner Blues and Royals has been euthanized due to colitis. He was stabled at Belmont. His half brother Limehouse won the Brooklyn Handicap last weekend.

- I would just love to bet against Don’t Get Mad in the G3 Northern Dancer at Churchill tomorrow. Yes, he’s 3 for 4 at Churchill, but those wins, which account for all his career wins, were all around 1 turn. And don’t tell me about his “closing” 4th in the Kentucky Derby; take a look at his running line and you’ll see that he actually lost ground from the stretch call as they were walking home. Whatsmore, trainer Ron Ellis is worried about his training having been interrupted by the quarantine at Churchill.
"I'm just a little concerned with the quarantine…that interrupted our training quite a bit....But running in the Derby Trial and Derby, he was as fit as he could be. We got three works in him, but I'd have liked to have been on a more regular pattern." [Courier-Journal]
He should be the favorite tomorrow and I think he's a solid bet-against. Unbridled Energy won the G3 (Can) Marine at Woodbine in his last with a lifetime best 87 Beyer and ships in for Elliot Walden. That was his first two turn try, and he’s eligible to improve. Crimson Stag comes off a lifetime best Beyer in a 6 furlong stakes at Churchill; and he’s 2-2 at two turns – a restricted stake at Fair Grounds and another at 7 furlongs around the Delta Downs bullring. But First Word is definitely the most intriguing entrant here. He’s improved up to a lifetime best 92 Beyer in his last, a 9 furlong entry-level allowance at Belmont in which he won by 5 with the comment “When ready, ridden out.” If you follow the Tomlinson distance numbers, he should have no problem with two turns as he has a gaudy 428. Whatsmore, his pedigree is absolutely fascinating - He’s by Empire Maker’s brother Chester House out of Harpia, a graded stakes-winning full sister to all-world stallion Danehill (Danzig). He has inbreeding to Northern Dancer (twice) and his dam Natalma (thrice), Native Dancer, and Buckpasser. And he has Bobby Frankel, Jerry Bailey, and a :58 3/5 work for this. In fact, given all of this, he may very well not be much value, but I’ll key him in exactas with the previous two mentioned.

- Great day tomorrow with lots of stakes action and that national Pick 4, which has a $400,000 guarantee. I’d love to do more handicapping of the races, but until this becomes my full time work, things like day jobs and teenage daughters gone wild get in the way... I guess the latter won’t go away for another couple of years no matter what! Despite my earlier complaints about the card, I intend to go and escape to today’s twilight card at Belmont (as if there was ever a chance I wouldn’t given the opportunity on a nice day like this), and will try to take a look at some other of the stakes tonight or tomorrow morning.

- Oh yeah, one more thing; thanks to reader Jillian for filling us in on Vic Stauffer's "shaky" call at Hollywood yesterday; more details here, it's quite a riot.