- I must admit that when I got home from work this evening, rather than check out the late Pick 3 from Santa Anita, I went right to CNBC for the final of the men’s curling. After watching for the last week, I was just starting to finally understand the game when Canada scored six in a single end to bury Finland, who conceded after the eighth. I’m hooked, I have to admit it. And apparently they are in Newfoundland too.
The last shot in each “end” (think innings) is called the hammer, and it’s considered to be such an advantage that teams will sometimes sacrifice a point to have it in the next end (a team that scores a point in an end sacrifices the hammer for the subsequent one). Similarly, trainers of the Derby hopefuls want to have the “hammer” on May 6, even if it means settling for some minor shares in March or April. This year, the idea of “less is better” in terms of the number of preps and/or career starts seems to be advancing, with several horses considered contenders mapping courses that will leave them light on experience and foundation. Private Vow hasn’t even started yet, and neither has Your Tent Or Mine, who from the sound of it has been spending his mornings on Laguna Beach instead of on the racetrack.
On the other hand, I wonder how horses like Brother Derek and Lawyer Ron (Langfuhr) can maintain their top form over a period of several months, and contemplate whether they’re using their hammer now. The latter has been racing without a layoff line since last August, and will be making his 12th career start when he goes off as the favorite in the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn. Only his last three races have been on fast dirt (non-synthetic), and, while he may not have faced too much, his form could be considered downright spectacular, if not a bit freakish, improving from a 92 to 97 to a 106 Beyer. But if he’s really going to run in all three Oaklawn preps, you would think that at some point, they not going to want him to run a 106. How many 106's can a horse run and still have enough in the tank for three Triple Crown races in five weeks?
Yet his workouts for the Southwest have been sensational, the most recent a five furlong move in a flat minute (2/40); he seems good to go, and I have no particular reason to want to take a stand against him, in this case anyway.
If not for the hype and his close relation to champion Mineshaft, Music School (A.P. Indy) would probably be considered a middling contender in this race. He showed some class to be sure when he came back with a win around two turns in his first race since June (and second in his career), but it was nothing special - an 89 Beyer with a :26 2/5 final quarter. Neil Howard expects him to improve. "The way he's eating, and the way he looks and the way he's been training, all signs are indicating that he should be able to add a little bit to that last effort.." [Daily Racing Form] But if he’s bet down to second choice as he very well may be, I’ll check out the exacta prices with the favorite and Steppenwolfer (Aptitude), who improved nicely in his last and should run well if he continues to progress. His trainer Dan Peitz, however, isn’t looking for the hammer in this mile race, and feels he’ll continue to improve as the distances do. “I might be wrong, but I can’t get to a mile and an eighth and farther fast enough..” [Arkansas Democrat Gazette]
- Brad Free in the Form points out that, though last year’s successful juveniles have generally been showing sharp form thus far at three, one area of the country has been a notable exception.
The exception to significance of 2-year-old stakes has been in the Midwest; top autumn races in Chicago and Kentucky have had negligible national impact. Sorcerer's Stone was brilliant in the Grade 3 Arlington-Washington Futurity on Sept. 18, but he could not be found one month later in the Breeders' Cup. It prefaced a trend.- Please feel free to email me with comments, questions, suggestions, links, or whatever.
Away from home, Midwest horses have been foiled. High Cotton, runner-up twice last fall in graded stakes at Churchill Downs, was eased in a Wednesday allowance at Gulfstream. Catcominatcha, winner of the Grade 3 Iroquois Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs, has been a non-factor twice this winter at Gulfstream. [Daily Racing Form, sub. only]