- It was a rousing return to the races for Rockport Harbor; he showed the speed and the grittiness that had so many pulling for him to come back from his injury last year. The well-bet Cougar Cat, stretching out on the dirt for the first time, poked a nose in front in the stretch according to the race chart, but Rocky repulsed the challenge and pulled away in the stretch for a 2 ¼ length win.
“He’s not dead fit, but he was fit enough that I thought he would run very well,” [John] Servis said. “But the big thing with him is mentally. This race is going to move this horse way up.”The one question I have is this: How is it that his time of 1:47.68 was a quarter of a second slower than the three-year old who graduated on his fifth try in a maiden race run just before? I’m not raising that point to try and diminish Rocky’s performance in any way....just seems kinda strange, doesn’t it?
“I mean, we’ve still got more work to do with him. Although this track today, as deep and tiring as it was, I’m sure this race will do a ton for him.” [Arkansas Democrat Gazette]
Jonesboro was completely empty in the drive and came in last; that’s the last time I listen to the “local wiseguys” at Oaklawn; perhaps they should stick to Instant Racing instead.
- Nice trip for Balance (Thunder Gulch) in her Grade 1 win in the Las Virgenes; the race set up perfectly with Diplomat Lady and a dull-on-the-board Meetmeinthewoods dueling for the lead through a brisk half mile of :45.72. That allowed Balance to sit behind and, according to Victor Espinoza, the filly was more willing to do so than she was in the Hollywood Startlet. "I think the last time I took too much hold and, when I tried to go, she resented it. But today she was perfect." [Bloodhorse] Itty Bitty Pretty was right beside her but as Walter correctly predicted, out blogging me on my own blog, it was Balance who was the strong horse in the stretch. Favored Wild Fit was along for second in a creditable comeback in a race that Patrick Biancone said she would need; guess the bettors don’t read the editorial section of the Form. Itty Bitty Pretty was third, so if I was selling a tout sheet, I could say that I had the triple.
And did you see Martin Pedroza trying to pull up Star Parade (Parade Marshall) after her Grade 1 win in the Santa Maria? Man, he had a handful, and as he finally got her to come back, she passed Proposed, who she had repelled in the stretch, and she seemed to shake her head and scoff at the notion that it was Proposed who was sent off as the 8-5 favorite. It’s been an up and down career for this seven year old mare – she won this race in 2004, but finished dead last in last year’s running – but she seems to be at her peak now. Or at least at Santa Anita, where she has three wins and two seconds in six lifetime tries.
- Achilles of Troy (Notebook) will step up into the thick of the Derby prep pictures when he ships to Gulfstream for the Fountain of Youth on March 4, his tentative next start. Ramon Dominguez showed the patience that owner Ernie Paragello cited as the reason for replacing Alan Garcia, as he sat behind pace-setting One Way Flight. The fans at the Big A were getting a little nervous, and apparently, so was Dominguez. "He's just very deceiving. He covers a lot of ground with ease....I got to the three-eighths pole and even got a little concerned because he was so relaxed. I wasn't sure if he was going to fire." [NY Daily News] Well, he fired alright; enough so that Dominguez was able to ease up on him in the final sixteenth.
It’s a little scary to think that both Paragello and his trainer Jennifer Pederson, who apparently don’t agree on much, think that their Scanlon’s Song (Partner’s Hero), being pointed for the Wood, is actually a better colt.