- Highland Cat (Tactical Cat) worked five furlongs in 1:03.82 Wednesday morning, the 11th fastest of 14 works at the distance. That’s his second slowish work since a couple of quick half mile breezes last month. Turner decided not to enter him last Saturday as scheduled after the last one, but was much happier with the colt over the weekend. We’ll have to see what he thought about this work. There are two year-old maiden special races written for the 12th and the 15th, and a turf race on the 20th. If he runs next Wednesday, the 12th, I’ll have to look up the results on the web the next day. Let’s just say that day doesn’t really work for me.
Taking a look back at the race that he was supposed to run in last Saturday, the field featured the kind of blue-bloods that had some of the Castle Village partners, including the head honcho (but not yours truly), in favor of finding a high claiming tag spot. Sunriver is a full brother to Ashado trained by Pletcher. There was also Miner's Lamp, a half-brother to Grand Slam by $125,000 sire Seeking the Gold. The favorite was Absolute Return, a $300,000 Keeneland yearling purchase and a half-brother to stakes winners Indy Five Hundred and Delta Princess.
But the winner was 23-1 Ever A Friend, who sold for $35,000 and won off by 5 lengths. His trainer Christophe Clement sends out 2 year old first time winners about as often as Billy Turner does, at least on the dirt. A look at Formulator shows that for Clement, it was his first two year-old first time starter on the dirt at a NYRA track in five years. The time was a sluggish 1:17 4/5 for the 6 ½ furlongs, so one can’t help but wonder about what might have been.
On Wednesday, Clement was on more familiar ground as his first time two year-old filly Categorize (Menifee) took the Belmont opener on the turf. It was a maiden claiming affair, and this one was indeed claimed, as Richard Dutrow haltered her for $75,000, the same figure that was being considered for Highland Cat.
Categorize was purchased for $40,000 at the same 2004 Keeneland September sale at which we bought Highland Cat for the same price. In addition to the $75,000 claim price, the owners of Categorize won $20,400 in purse money for the win. So I imagine that after all the fees and commissions in addition to one year’s expenses, they may have made a little money; break-even at worst I would think, yes? Now, pretend for a moment that her owners
are were folks like you or me rather than the actual owners Arthur B. Hancock III and James H. Stone. We got to the winner’s circle, perhaps made a little money (though not much on the $7.80 win payoff), and, most importantly, we get to play the game again. So while I’m sure we’d be sad to lose the horse, I suppose it would a pretty good result on balance.
- Two year olds take center stage this weekend, with the Grade 1 Champagne for colts and Frizette for fillies at Belmont, and the Grade 2 Breeders’ Futurity and Darley Alcibiades on opening weekend at Keeneland. Some people consider the baseball post-season as the surest sign of fall, but I look to the Keeneland meet.
Henny Hughes and First Samurai will hook up again in the Champagne. If you missed it the other day, I’ll reprint this assessment of a workout Henny Hughes had up at the Spa last week:
Freddie Bond, the clocker at Saratoga, called it "the most impressive gate work since I've been here, which has been since 1985.''Note that he didn’t qualify it as being “the most impressive gate work from a two year-old;” that's quite a statement!
First Samurai has been working well too, most recently last Saturday, a bullet five furlongs in :58.44. It sounds like trainer Frank Brothers is working all the angles to get the colt to run straight down the stretch this time.
"He's had four breezes, and he had four pace horses in each of his breezes......We made him go around, inside, go right on by, go by slow. We changed the bit on him and he's been very good in the mornings..... In his first three races he's done a couple of little quirky things. Hopefully, as he goes down the line he will learn his lessons and run straight." [Daily Racing Form]If you take that Saratoga clocker's word at face value, First Samurai will have to run straight and do better than the 14 seconds it took him to get the final eighth in the Hopeful.