- Racing lives as a live spectator sport, at least in places like Saratoga, Lexington, and Hot Springs, Arkansas. Over 21,000 turned out at Keeneland on Saturday for the Ashland Stakes, and nearly 30,000 fans showed up at Oaklawn for that track’s two big stakes for older horses and mares. Imagine what kind of crowds will come to see the Blue Grass and Arkansas Derby next week!
I must say that I liked Spun Sugar in the G1 Apple Blossom at Oaklawn on Saturday. I wanted to play favorite Happy Ticket to bounce a bit from her duel with Round Pond, and as for Star Parade.…well, I had no real reason to bet against her, really. If anything, she may have been an overlay as the 9-5 second choice. Spun Sugar would need to move up Beyer-wise about ten points to compete with these, but she just seemed like a typical Pletcher horse getting ready to take the big step forward into stakes company. Plus, as Patrick at PHBH pointed out, she was getting bet. If I hadn’t gotten distracted at home and forgot to bet, I would have lost the triple by virtue of 44-1 La Reason getting third; as I did want to use the 4th place finisher Platinum Ballet. Sometimes distraction can pay off.
What a race though; looked like Happy Ticket was going to make up for her tough loss in the Azeri, but instead, she suffered her second straight heartbreaking defeat. Nice confident ride by Mike Luzzi on the winner, allowing Star Parade to edge in front down the backstretch.
“I think [Pedroza’s ] horse [Star Parade] kind of got away with him a little bit down the backstretch, so I didn’t want to go yet. So I just cut my legs in there, and I had my eye on Robby on the outside.And the Stronach-bred was ready when called, as she outdueled the unlucky runner-up in final fractions of 24.51 and 6.11 seconds for the final quarter and eighth respectively. Another Grade 1 winner for Pletcher, what else is new?
“ I was just waiting to call on her.” [Arkansas Democrat Gazette]
Also scintillating, but for a different reason, was the G2 Oaklawn Handicap. Buzzard’s Bay was totally dominating in drawing away to win by a record 6 1/2 lengths. He got to the mile marker a full second faster than the fillies in the Apple Blossom did, and just cruised home in a final furlong of 12.78 seconds for a crisp final time of 1:48.22 on an Oaklawn track that has produced sluggish times all year. According to Robert Yates in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, it was the first and only appearance at Oaklawn by trainer Ron Ellis since he won the Apple Blossom ten years ago with Twice the Vice. Talk about picking your spots!
- The Green Monkey is stabled at Churchill Downs with Pletcher, and in what may be an understatement considering his $16 million price tag, the trainer said "I would say he's certainly the most anticipated arrival we've ever had." [Bloodhorse]
At Santa Anita, Mr. Sekiguchi the son of Storm Cat who cost only half as much as The Green Monkey, graduated in his second attempt on Saturday at Santa Anita.
- In an unbelievable bit of news even for New York, the Thoroughbred Times is reporting that the State Division of the Lottery has STILL not approved NYRA’s $190-million contract with MGM Mirage to build and operate a video lottery terminal casino at Aqueduct. But I’m sure we’ll be reading an editorial or two blasting NYRA for lagging behind. If and when the contract is finally approved, it will still have to be approved by both the State Comptroller and Attorney General before construction can begin. It's wouldn't take many more delays to mean that the racino won't be ready until after NYRA's franchise expires at the end of 2007. As it is, now we're talking summer of 2007 as a best case. Do you get the feeling that someone, somewhere wants it that way?