- Sorry for the light posting the last couple of days, but I'm getting ready to go on a little trip this week; so it will be intermittent here for the next few days as the sport pauses anyway to catch its breath and get ready for the World Thoroughbred Championships.
Afleet Alex’s unlikely return for the Breeders’ Cup was nixed despite the recent bullet half mile work. Tim Ritchey said he’s not quite ready after X-rays revealed that he’s “99% there.” "Two weeks ago there was a faint line which they figured would've been gone by now...Most of it is, but it's not completely gone." [NY Daily News] The Cash is King crew should be commended for giving it a shot, and commended even more so for pulling back and keeping the big picture in mind, which hopefully means a four-year old campaign. The big breeding bucks are in the bag and Horse of the Year honors may be too. so there was no reason to take any chance. To run him twice in two weeks before he’s 100% healed would be risky, both from a physical standpoint and, in my opinion, from a competitive one in the Classic as well. He could still return later in the year – the Cigar Mile on Nov 26 was mentioned as a possibility – to put an exclamation point on his Horse of the Year title, or perhaps to take it back from a horse that particularly distinguishes himself on Oct 29. (I’m not being sexist here. I don’t see any fillies or mares as contenders for Horse of the Year for 2005.)
- Captain Squire’s co-owner Bob Bone does not sound like a man who’s anxious to take on Lost in the Fog in the Sprint, and that would be a disappointment to connections of contenders that are looking for someone to run early with him.
"I've done the math," Bone said. "Between shipping, fees, everything else, if you win the Breeders' Cup Sprint you make about $350,000. I don't mean to sound negative, but unless you have a breeding prospect - and we don't - that's not a lot of money to win the toughest sprint in the world."Jeff Mullins trains Captain Squire as well as Wild Fit, a filly I'm very much interested in for the Juvenile Fillies. She worked five furlongs in 1:00.60 Monday at Santa Anita, and Mullins takes the blame for her second in the Oak Leaf Stakes.
Bone is looking at the seven-furlong Sport Page Handicap on the Breeders' Cup undercard as a viable option, while reserving the right to change his mind. Looming large over his decision, of course, will be the ongoing health and welfare of the prerace favorite for the Breeders' Cup Sprint.
"I don't see any dimension that Lost in the Fog doesn't have," Bone said. "That's the trouble. Do you go after him early? Do you wait and make a run? It looks like no matter what you do, that horse can adjust." [Daily Racing Form]
"I was too easy on her....She only had 13 days between her races at Del Mar (winning a maiden race on Aug. 14 and the Del Mar Debutante on Aug. 27). I lightened up on her a little bit and she was a little fresh, a little rank early (in the Oak Leaf) and it cost me." [Whittier Daily News]It's also possible that the filly simply prefers the one-turn distance she will see on Breeders' Cup day; the way she closed in the 7 furlong Del Mar Debutante makes me think she'll love the Belmont route.
- There seems to be this idea that Columbus Day is a holiday. When’s the last time any of you had the day off? Yet there was racing at Belmont on a usual dark day, and a look at the charts make me ask ‘why bother?’ The fields were short and the stands empty, with less than 4,000 on hand. Belmont this fall very much has the feel of a place that is about to become insolvent. Standing amidst the vast emptiness there, one could picture them wheeling out a lot more than just paintings to the auction block - like maybe around half of the unused infrastructure.
However, there were a couple of nice horses in action. Allan Jerkins has a dynamic looking three year old developing late in the season in War Front, who won his third laugher in a row, this time by eight in the Princelet Stakes in a snappy 1:41.3 for the mile and a sixteenth. That makes his combined victory margin total 25 ½ lengths. Not only is he fast, but he shows the ability to sit a bit off the lead. The fact that the track was a bit wet still probably didn’t hurt either, as he won in the slop by 11 1/2 at Saratoga. War Front is by Danzig out of Starry Dreamer (so why the name War Front? How about Peace Front?), a stakes winning Rubiano mare. He's a half brother to Ecclesiastic (Pulpit), a graded stakes winner on the turf for Jerkins this year, so don't be surprised to see this one turn up on the lawn as well.
Shug McGaughey's Chili Cat went down at odds-on for the second straight time, as John Ward’s Play Ballado (Saint Ballado), a beaten 3-5 favorite at Saratoga in his last, made amends for that defeat. The winner's second dam is the multiple Grade 1 winner Family Style, who ran second to her stablemate Twilight Tear in the 1985 Juvenile Fillies at the Big A.
Channing Hill has gotten off to a fairly slow start since he came back from injury a few weeks ago, but watch out for this kid. His winner in the 9th, Remorse, is typical of the form reversals that I started to notice during Saratoga – not until after he was hurt, of course, left at the gate again. In five races for Jean-Luc Samyn, Remorse was serviceable, picking up three non-threatening thirds, but with Hill on Monday, he challenged the pace while three wide, dug in to duel the race favorite down the stretch and come out a neck ahead at 22-1.
- Besides light posting, it was a light betting weekend for me; in fact, there was Highland Cat and that was about it. OK, maybe one or two other losers - do I have to own up to everything here? We were there just for a few races on Sunday, but I wanted to mention the 4th, a two year old state-bred maiden affair in which Primary Motive (Prime Timber), 8-1 in the morning line, got hammered squarely on the nose in the win pool just as I like to see, going off at 4-1 for Gary Contessa. Not in a betting mode, I just stood and watched as she recovered from a shaky start to post a dominating win. Oddly, it was the second race in a row won by an offspring of Prime Timber, as his daughter Dancing Timber took the third; and that makes four winners for the $3500 Florida-based first year sire at this Belmont meeting, after just one prior (he also had a winner at the Meadowlands last week). The stallion son of Sultry Song won just four times in 17 starts, and is one of only two sires, along with Rizzi, based at Sez Who Thoroughbreds in Ocala.