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Sunday, October 09, 2005

Highland Cat - A Pretty Good Shoe

- OK, so there I am, somewhere in this picture of the scene in the paddock before Highland Cat’s debut race at Belmont today.

The Castle Village contingent represented the majority of people in the paddock today so it seemed, but it’s possible I’d shut everything and everyone else out, such was the cloud I was floating on. The Head Chef was on hand along with our two younger kids. Billy Turner’s wife Pat informed me that Highland Cat handled the detention barn without a problem, and he seemed calm and professional in the paddock before the race. He opened at 7-1, but as we left the paddock to head for the owners boxes, he’d been bet down to 5-1. However, he drifted up steadily from there, as the two first timers that figured to get bet, Zito's Great Point and Dutrow's Nothing But K's, did. By post time Highland Cat was 10.70 – 1.

“Don’t get left, don’t get left,” I muttered as we awaited the start. And though he broke in the middle of the pack, it wasn’t long before he had retreated to last, not looking particularly smooth nor comfortable. By the quarter pole, he was three lengths behind the second-to-last horse, around seven or eight from the front. This was a disappointment, because if nothing else, we thought the colt had some good early pop out of the gate.

He passed third choice Electrical Storm as they went around the turn and swung into the stretch pretty wide. In the meantime, Great Point, the $450,000 Point Given colt, had taken command of the race and was on his way to a dominant 8 ¾ length win. Castellano took Highland Cat towards the rail (or perhaps it was the other way around) and he started to gain, passing tiring horses; by midstretch it seemed like a piece of the purse was possible. He drove up on the inside of Folk Festival as I urged him to “get third, get third.” The girls were into it too, and when he passed the tiring third choice, they were jumping up and down as if we’d won instead of finishing some 14 lengths back. The Head Chef had Highland Cat across the board, and thought she was going to win some money.

The Castle Village group wasn’t quite as ecstatic, happy to get a piece of the purse and to see him display some fine competitive spirit, but glum over the lack of speed, and searching for an excuse or explanation in the replay. Nothing was immediately apparent, but it was later revealed that the colt threw a front shoe at the start of the race, which perhaps accounted for the race chart comment that he broke awkwardly, and certainly cost him any chance to win.

So all in all, it was a pretty great day. Highland Cat got the racing experience that Turner generally uses debut races for and showed some grit under adverse circumstances racing without a shoe. The $4300 slice of the purse, less the jockey fee, less the trainer fee, less the managing partner fee, less the 1% that Castle Village always donates to thoroughbred retirement causes, should be enough to pay expenses for a month, perhaps. It was a memorable day for the girls as well as for me. Here’s a few more photos:

Highland Cat arrives under the watchful eye of trainer Billy Turner.

Turner tells Javier Castellano "whatever you do, don't let him throw a front shoe at the start."

Highland Cat shows his poise in the paddock despite the big weekend crowd at Belmont


Anonymous said...

Congrats on the 3rd place finish. To my untrained eye (w/o knowing about the tossed shoe), it seemed like HC was uncomfortable early on, which i chalked up to inexperience. But then there seemed to be a point where HC realized what this was about, and started running a bit. Sure, as you note, those horses in front were tiring, but still nice to see HC demonstrate the will to pass them and get up for 3rd.

thecalicocat said...

Highland Cat is cute as a button.
Looks like he has Philly Park potential.

Anonymous said...

In the money!! Woohooo!

Anonymous said...

Alan, sounds like you had a nice family day at Belmont, despite the rain, for Highland Cat's debut. Keep us posted on how he came out of the race and his future training/racing schedule! Good luck with your future plans- winner's circle next time!

Anonymous said...

Mazel tov and best of luck in the new year.

Alan Mann said...

Thanks everyone for the kind words!

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cm said...

HE'S GORGEOUS!!!!!!!!!

He did an awesome job.

Yessirree there are PLENTY of expenses involved in racing a horse, but there is no other thrill like it.

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