- It looks like I’m not the only one in the skeptic camp regarding Lava Man, as a full field of 12 was entered for the Pacific Classic, the signature race of the Del Mar meeting, including Bruce Headley’s 3 yo Surf Cat. Apparently, it wasn’t just a mere excuse when Headley blamed transportation problems on their not coming east for the Haskell after Afleet Alex defected.
The plan snagged when the commercial shipping company transporting Surf Cat refused to let groom Juan Soto fly because he doesn't have a passport. Headley said it was explained to him as a post-9/11 aviation-security thing.Perfect Drift had the benefit of the rail when he broke his long losing schneid on the dirt in the Washington Park Handicap, but he’ll break from the outside 12 post on Sunday, and only one horse, Gentlemen, in a five-horse field in 1997, has won the race from the outermost stall. "It could be a blessing," [trainer Murray] Johnson said. "He loads last, and if somebody along the line acts up, he won't be standing there a long time" [LA Times] That sounds like a man trying very hard to put a good face on things. Mark Guidry rides, but Johnson sounds as if the horse would do better on auto-pilot. "The horse knows what he's doing....The less the jockey does the better." [Houston Chronicle]
Headley decided not to pack his prized horse off to the other side of the country without his trusted handler.
"Bleeping Bin Laden," Headley said this week, "if you want to put it in a few words."
"Everything has gone perfect (in training)," Headley said Thursday morning on the phone from his barn at Del Mar in San Diego County. "The only thing now is whether he can take on the big boys. He's like a bull stag. That's a word for when they're maturing into bulls. That's when they try to take over the herd." [LA Daily News]
As for Lava Man, the former claimer comes in off his huge 8 length, 120 Beyer win in the Hollywood Gold Cup, where he has done his best racing. Funny, when I did my search for stories on this race, everything came up Surf Cat or Perfect Drift or Borrego; it seems he’s being overlooked again, at least by the press. Not by the morning oddsmaker though, who has him at 9-5. Another good performance will earn him a trip to the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont on October 1, a prelude to the BC Classic there on the 29th.
- The G1 Alabama at Saratoga tomorrow drew a field of 7, and with Smuggler and Round Pond out of action for now, Sis City may find easier going as she tries to rebound from two extremely disappointing 4th place finishes at 3-5 and 6-5, ouch.
"She's training good, but she's been training good in every race we've headed her towards," [trainer Richard] Dutrow said. "The Kentucky Oaks was a little bit puzzling. I can see her not running good in the (Delaware Oaks) because of the track, so that's okay. She seems like she is back to her old form." [NY Daily News]He told the Form, "This filly is going to come back and run big. She's sitting on a race." John Ward’s For All We Know is also trying to rebound from a 4th place finish, that coming in the CCA Oaks. Ward thinks he’s in better position for this race.
"I couldn't get her to Belmont before the race because of the strangles outbreak (in Kentucky)....I knew going into the Coaching Club that I was going to have to give something up because I had not trained there." [Albany Times Union]Too bad the betting public didn’t know, as they hammered her to 5-2 despite it being just her 4th race and first in stakes. "We have circled the Alabama the whole time," Ward said. "She is doing good now and we are going to hold our course."
Spun Sugar goes for Pletcher from the outside 7 post, and the now-slumping trainer was pleased with the post. "Perfect....We should be able to allow things to happen." [Daily Racing Form] l George Steinbrenner has his undefeated filly Sweet Symphony going in the race off of a maiden and two allowance wins– a similar scenario to when For All We Know tried the Oaks.
- David Grening reports in the Form that the Bellamy Road team has indeed decided between the Travers and the King’s Bishop, and are just keeping the decision to themselves.
Ed Sexton, the racing manager for George Steinbrenner's Kinsman Stable, said he is trying to avoid the media hype the horse received prior to the Kentucky Derby, where he finished seventh as the favorite. Still, Sexton dropped hints Thursday that Bellamy Road is more likely to run against Lost in the Fog in the $250,000 King's Bishop at seven furlongs than the $1 million Travers at 1 1/4 miles.Can you imagine that field – they’ll be three horses toward the front end with the other three about a half mile behind, hoping for the front runners to come back to them.
"If there's one horse that can beat Lost in the Fog, we got him," Sexton said. "It's like a boxer; everybody meets their match. We're hoping we are his match. If we run against him, he'll have to run harder than he's ever run to beat us."
Sexton didn't rule out the Travers. As of Thursday, the Travers only had six confirmed starters: Andromeda's Hero, Chekhov, Don't Get Mad, Flower Alley, Reverberate, and Roman Ruler. [Daily Racing Form]
- Tim Ritchey got his first win of the Saratoga meet Thursday with Always Noble in the third, and today, Afleet Alex will have his surgically repaired left foreleg X-rayed and examined....by one of the country's leading veterinarians, Dr. Larry Bramlage.
"He's the guru of surgeons," said trainer Tim Ritchey, watching as the Preakness and Belmont winner took one of his four-a-day walks around the barn yesterday. "I feel very happy to have him on this case. After the X-rays, we'll come up with a strategy as to what we can do next."- I'll next be reporting once again from beautiful Saratoga. See you later.
Ritchey said that Afleet Alex has never experienced any soreness from the injury, a hairline condylar fracture at the bottom of his cannon bone that was repaired July 27.
"He's walking very confidently," Ritchey said. "He's very playful, and his attitude is great."[NY Daily News]