- Interesting situation with Noble Causeway on Saturday, as he was scratched while on the track warming up for the Jim Dandy when Jerry Bailey sensed something was wrong. "It felt to me that he was not extending himself…..I kept trying but he got no better. I felt that I could not let him run like that.”
Zito was angry at first because when Noble Causeway went back to the barn, he was not in any apparent discomfort and no one could find anything wrong with him.Zito still hopes to have the colt ready for the Travers. Todd Pletcher will be going for his first Travers win with Flower Alley, his third Jim Dandy winner in a row. He figures to be a heavy favorite unless someone comes out of Sunday’s Haskell with a big performance and an inclination to run just three weeks later.
But for a few moments on the racetrack Saturday, the colt just wasn't himself.
"I recommended that he be scratched," [acting track vet Dr. Anthony] Verderosa said. "The horse was moving somewhat stiff but he was not sore or lame. He was just not loosening up."
Zito and Bailey chatted for 15 minutes Sunday, during which Zito showed the jockey Noble Causeway's training chart for the past two months. The colt did not miss a day, had free breezes over that time, and showed no ailments.
"Jerry said to me, 'Nick, I'm sorry, but I could not make the horse run,' " Zito said. "He said he did not feel right and he did not want to take a chance. Obviously, it's a drag because it's news and it puts me in a funny position. I mean, the last thing my owners want is for any of their horses to get hurt. But they are upset." [Albany Times-Union]
"Ah, I would love to win a Travers, it would be all right," Pletcher said. "I was kidding with Angel Cordero: I said, 'Man, you only won one Travers with all the races you won here,' and he said to me, 'Yeah, but you haven't won any.' [Albany Times-Union]It was more than 5 legnths back to runner-up Reverberate, and another 6 to Andromeda’s Hero, but they are both likely to return for the Travers. It was another 23 back to King of Jazz, and 11 more to Mr. Congeniality, yuck.
As for the Haskell, it now looks like Surf Cat will make the trip east, as he is awaiting final shipping arrangements.
"Everyone of his races is good," [trainer Bruce] Headley said over the weekend from his Del Mar headquarters. "He ran a spectacular race in the Swaps. He came out great: stronger, wiser and more seasoned." [NY Daily News]Zito is deciding amongst Sun King, Indy Storm and Pinpoint; High Limit is a possibility as is Golden Man.
- Nice to see the 6 yo gelding Perfect Drift get back on track with his first stakes win in almost 2 years in taking the G2 Washington Park Handicap at Arlington Saturday. He’s being aimed for the Pacific Classic at Del Mar.
- Pletcher’s winners continue to present decent betting value. Willard Straight paid $6.30 in the 4th on Sunday, despite the fact that he easily had the best last-out Beyer when he was necked by Mr. Light in the Poker Handicap. In making Mott’s Old Forester 4-5, perhaps the fans noted that he’d been beaten just a length by Kitten’s Joy iin his last. Even Ashado ($4.30) seems like a bit of an overlay in retrospect of her dominating 9 length win. Velasquez said that she seemed to relax a bit after passing Andujar. "She hesitated a little bit, and I said, 'No, Mommy, you're going to have to stay busy; these are the big girls.” [NY Times] Did you notice how hard Velasquez rode her out to the finish?
- First time 2 yo filly Halo Hunter took the money and the win in Sunday’s 5th for Steve Asmussen; Bailey rode the daughter of Distorted Humor. According to the Form, that sire was 19-99 with first time 2 yo’s coming into the race. Watch for another first-timer, the third place finisher Ex Caelis, who broke slow and was extremely wide on the turn before closing well for third for Lukas, who rarely wins with first timers these days; she went off at 16-1. She sold as a yearling for $470,000 and is by Fusaichi Pegasus, out of a Nijinsky half sister to stakes winner Fantastic Look (the dam of G1 Designed for Luck).
And I wouldn’t put too much into Lukas’ AP Arrow rallying for second on Saturday. Most of the main contenders, including the winner, Pletcher’s Desert Breeze, were trying 2 turns for the first time, and none of them seemed to like it - it took almost 39 seconds for them to get the last three furlongs.
NY-bred Mayo Post won again Sunday for Jimmy Jerkins; I had mentioned him last month when he came off a layoff after awful form (and a trainer switch from Leo O’Brien), got pounded to 5-1 and won off by 9. Yesterday, he was 4-5 and won by an easy 5.
- The defection of Afleet Alex from the Haskell was not the only bad break for New Jersey racing in the last week. On Saturday night, the Hambletonian lost a lot of its luster as Ken Warkentin shockingly broke stride in the stretch – he had dead aim on eventual winner Vivid Photo, and his elimination from the final deprives us of what would have been a compelling matchup with the easy second heat winner, and now Hambo favorite Classic Photo. What a bummer for trainer Jimmy Takter and driver David Miller.
“His whole life he’s been flawless,” Miller noted. “He’s never, ever done anything wrong and today for some reason he takes a bad step. I really believe he was going to go right by that horse. I didn’t do anything different than I’ve ever done with him, and he just took a bad step. I want to puke. I’m very, very disappointed.” [Meadowlands press release]Vivid Photo’s heat was actually a fifth faster than Classic Photo’s. Vivid Photo won his 8th race in a row; he’s raced at small tracks like Pocono and Scioto Downs, and the Meadows, and was making his Meadowlands debut. Both “Photo” horses (Vivid Photo is a gelding) are by a $6500 sire named SJ's Photo; I imagine that will be going up.