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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Thinking of Gulfstream and Maiden Turf Races

- A couple more columnists weigh in with criticism of Gulstream. The key issue for me is, as Dave Joseph wrote in the Sun-Sentinal, is that the whole concept defeats the purpose for tourists coming to the track. I suppose I’ll go down there some day, but I have no desire really to resume my annual trips there. I love horse racing to be sure as you know, but I'm a tourist too. The relaxing out back in the backyard sun and shade was an important part of those trips. I looked forward to the races I took off as much as the ones that I was running around before. I never ever imagined that the backyard would become a thing of the past! I just figured they were going to stick a new building in front of it. I used to want to kiss the grass when I'd come in through the backyard clubhouse entrance for the first time each year after arriving from New York; I never had the proper chance to kiss it goodbye.

There are times when I look at the Gulfstream past performances, and see the type of race that transports me back there, to the old Gulfstream. I can practically smell the suntan lotion, and picture the stains on the Racing Form if I dripped some, or sweated on it. I can feel the breeze in the shade of the outdoor rooftop bar/restaurant, and visualize the asshole who stole my table the last time I was there. I picture the palm trees against the deep blue late afternoon sky as the sun set behind the paddock tote board. And then I realize it’s not the same place, not even the same track, which was replaced by the nine furlong oval that is costing the track important Derby prospects.

There were a couple of such races there on Thursday, Gulfstream races to be sure – two divisions of a maiden special route on the grass, and boy, do we like to bet on these races. Look at the handle amounts for the ten races; these two seem to have the largest ones of the day. These are two races during which you can be sure you wouldn’t have found me sitting in the sun. Many maiden grass races are merely guessing games, with first-timers, first-time turfers, and, this time of year, horses coming off layoffs - why do we love to bet these? They can test all of our handicapping skills, involving form and class, pedigree, knowledge of trainer patterns and tendencies, and, critically, watching the tote board. I’m often drawn to races that involve the latter; it’s a special kind of ego trip when I catch a live one. Besides the satisfaction of getting in on a good thing, it makes me feel that I was a real smart guy, able to interpret the subtle inflections of the tote board.

In the 6th, the bettors made Coburn (Pivotal), a British import who was making his second U.S. start, the 2-1 choice despite his horrible outside post. His trainer Graham Motion has just two wins and a second in 31 starts at the meeting; and this one settled for third. The winner, Noble Deeds (Old Trieste) was 6-1 in the morning line, but the 7-2 second choice at post time, over entries from Mott and Pletcher. He’s trained by Stanley Hough, who has been sharp the last couple of weeks. It was his fifth winner from his last ten starters, with a second and three thirds. Noble Deeds is out of a Argentinean stakes winner by Southern Halo who is a half sister to Brunilda, a grassy stakes winner last year at Monmouth.

There was a hot horse in the 10th; Lima Papa was 12-1 in the morning line; his two prior races were on the dirt, and he lost both badly by a combined 26 lengths. He was sent out by the hot Jimmy Jerkins barn, and man this guy can be streaky; he’d won with five out of his previous nine starters. Lima Papa is by Unbridled’s Song, out of Dynasty (Time for a Change), who won the Lake George stakes on the grass at Saratoga; she’s a half to a winner in Ireland, and this is also the family of Epsom Derby winner Benny the Dip. 12-1 morning line became 4-1, and sure enough, Lima Papa popped out of the gate, set a quick pace, and held on for a good third.

Rallying impressively for the win was morning line and post time favorite Devil’s Preacher. This is a nice looking three-year old son of Pulpit; a $475,000 yearling who always fires and graduated here in his 4th career start. His dam, by Chief’s Crown, is a half-sister to Santa Anita Derby winner Personal Hope, 4th in the Derby and Preakness. Devil’s Preacher’s 5th dam is Rare Perfume, the dam of Belmont winner Jaipur, and Rare Perfume. He's inbred 4x4 to Secretariat and Raise A Native. This was a stylish win; he rallied from second to last and seemed to just glide past the field while widest of all on the turn. Then, after seeming to stall midstretch, he kicked it into high gear, getting up for the win over longshot Swift Strike in a final furlong of 11.90 seconds. I'm adding this one to the watch list.

- Speaking of Stanley Hough, I remember touting him for his prowess with two year-olds during the Saratoga meet. He ended up with three such winners there. I honestly had to look back to recall the name Discreet Cat (Forestry); remember him? His debut appearance was a win with a Beyer of 106; how many two-year olds ran faster than that in 2005? Walter probably would have found him at 12-1 in the Derby futures after that race. He was sold shortly thereafter to Godolphin for who-knows-how many million, and has anyone heard anything about him of late? He must be all the way up to, like, 35-1 now.

Another of Hough’s Saratoga juvenile winners was Sensation (Dixie Union), the filly who went on to take the Astarita, but disappoint in the Juvenile Fillies. She closed at 35-1 in Pool One of the Oaks futures pool, but still hasn’t started since the Breeders Cup.

His third winner was Mystic Ruler, who took his debut on the turf. He’s by Fusaichi Pegasus, out of a grassy stakes winner in Buffalo Berry (Sri Pekan), and a half brother to turf stakes winner Chattahoochee War. However, like Discreet Cat, this colt has not been seen since his debut win.

1 Comment:

Anonymous said...

...with regard to Discreet Cat (50/1 @ Wynn), it's about this time of year that i begin reading the Euro websites on a daily basis...Godolphin is no doubt gearing him up for the UAE Derby, assuming he's still in one piece...i'll relay whatever news i find on him, along with any other colts who might come over for the Derby...