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Monday, August 14, 2006

Nailing the Million

- I had a major thrill on Saturday when, in my professional public handicapping debut, I nailed the Arlington Million, picking The Tin Man and Cacique one-two on the nose. (And I actually bet it myself too.) Along with my picks for the Beverly D (in which I didn't do quite as well picking 4th place finisher Honey Ryder...but still had Gorella second, and the longshot Love Live third....that may qualify as hitting the triple in tout-sheet land), I had a full page in the print edition of the Saratoga Special. So I was rooting for more than just some money during the races....it was like my virtually non-existent reputation was on the line.

So I was greeted with congratulations at the backstretch Sunday morning, with the promise of more assignments to come. We'll see. The thing is, it will be hard to top a $70 cold exacta in my debut, and I'll be feeling much pressure next time.

As far as the race goes, not only did I pick the winner, but I pretty much laid out exactly the race was going to go. I think it was pretty flawless if I say so myself! You can check it out here.

If racing was a major sport, this could be a major story. The Tin Man seemed to be on the decline in 2004, racing just three times with just an allowance third place finish to show. He then missed 15 months with a bum ankle. Now, at the age of 8, Richard Mandella has this horse as sharp as nails, man; he's just a second place finish to David Junior at Dubai away from undefeated in five races since his return.

Victor Espinoza was allowed to set a slow pace, to put it mildly, though I (obviously) didn't think that should have been a huge surprise given his inside post, and the outside posts for Cacique and English Channel. Mandella said: "I couldn't believe they let him do that (a half in :50 1/5). I had it in my mind that someone will press him a little bit." After six furlongs in 1:15.18, he sprinted home – and I mean sprinted – in 23.46 and then, unless my eyes are deceiving me, 22.71 for the final quarter – are you kidding me? Is this horse smokin' or what? The rest of the field had no shot....Espinoza said "This was the second easiest win I've ever had – the first was the (2002) Kentucky Derby (gr. I) on War Emblem." [Bloodhorse]

(Just to contrast, the half in the Beverly D went in 46.82, and pacesetter Live Life, also with Espinoza aboard, managed to hold on for third.)

The British press had their own take on the proceedings; check out this article from the Independent Online:

The Tin Man was foaled some time around Prohibition, but he was granted such an easy lead that his rivals seemed stricken by a misplaced respect for the elderly. The fractions might sooner have been measured with a sundial than a stopwatch. By the time the other jockeys woke up to what was happening, Victor Espinoza and an eight-year-old gelding had stolen a million dollars in broad daylight. Chicago has seen nothing like it since the days of Al Capone.
Mandella told the BBC that he'll point The Tin Man to the BC Turf, where you can be sure he won't be walking unattended on the lead. Where's Shake the Bank when you need him?

- Showing Up remained undefeated on the turf with his win in the Secretariat. He didn't need to set a crawling pace, getting his half in 47.83 and six furlongs in 1.11.19, and was under just mild pressure from midstretch to hold off Ivan Denisovich. The final time of 2:00.09 (final quarter in 24.30) was a full 1.35 seconds faster than the Grade 1 older animals in the Million. ''I cannot believe how well he ran,'' trainer Barclay Tagg said. ''He ran much better than even I expected, and I expected him to run very well.'' [Chicago Sun-Times]

And the most impressive visual move of the day was that of Gorella in the Beverly D. Julien Leparoux "produced" her (seems to be a new favorite track announcer expression) wide from second to last at the top of the stretch, and she mowed the field down effortlessly. Biancone said: "She's a machine, and my jockey is the coolest guy, waiting for the last quarter-mile for her to explode." He also spoke about her getting the longer distance, though it was just a sixteenth longer than the mile and an eighth that she's won at before. I would think she's a more likely candidate for the BC Mile than the Turf if they're inclined to run her against the boys again....but wouldn't it be cool to see all three winners – Showing Up, The Tin Man, and Gorella – face each other on Breeders Cup day?

- The connections of David Junior took note of The Tin Man's win.
"It's always nice when the form works out, so we are obviously very happy with the Arlington result," said Eamonn Connolly, racing manager to David Junior's owners Roldvale Ltd.

David Junior is reported to be on top of his game and is likely to take in the Juddmonte International Stakes at York or the Baileys Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown before a possible crack at the Breeders' Cup Classic. [The Herald (UK)]
- AP Warrior won the G3 LaJolla Handicap at Del Mar on Saturday in a thrilling stretch duel, outlasting the 6-5 favorite Porto Santo. He was pretty dead on the board at 5.50 to 1 (3-1 morning line). But a look at his pedigree could have been a tipoff. By AP Indy, he's out of Warrior Queen (Quiet American), a stakes winner on the grass in Ireland. If you go back to his third dam, you'll find a host of Euro stakes winners, including Grade 1 winners Green Tune and Pas De Response. John Shirreffs has some options with this colt now, and it will be interesting to see which way he goes.

3 Comments:

Tote Board Brad said...

It's like the great Dizzy Dean said, "It ain't bragging if you can do it."

Well done with the picks, Alan!

Walter said...

Gorella in the Turf? No way. The F&M Turf might be on her agenda after Saturday, but I'm not sure Biancone will be anxious to take on Ouija Board (and possibly Alexandrova as well). I think she's still more likely for the Mile. Call it 70/30, at least for now.

As for the Million, I took a very small shot with The Tin Man myself, keying him in a trifecta with Cacique, English Channel, and Ace. Just got nosed out for third. Ugh. And yes, they were really motoring in that last quarter mile. Prado (aboard Cacique) was quoted after the race as saying, "when i asked him, he gave it to me" which sounds strange because he wasn't really gaining on The Tin Man. But since The Tin Man was moving so fast, it created the illusion that Cacique wasn't really making a move. Indeed he was.

As for Showing Up, no doubt he ran well, but the fact that his final time was so much faster than The Tin Man's was completely an effect of the Million's dawdling pace. I think it'd be much more effective comparing him against Gorella, adding 6 seconds to her final time (though i'm guessing she would've shaded that).

Interesting development on the West Coast yesterday. Principle Secret took the Best Pal in a stunning display, winning off impressively despite stumbling badly and being bumped at the start. Up close throughout in his sparkling maiden win, this time he spotted his foes 5 or 6 lengths. Unfazed, he moved up boldly approaching the turn, and simply outran his rivals through the stretch, stopping the timer in an excellent 1:16, which obviously could've been faster if not for the gate incident. Also of note, he was able to hold off Great Hunter with ease, as that one duplicated his fine 2nd-place effort vs. EZ Warrior in the Hollywood Juvenile. And here's something that caught my eye. I read BEFORE the race that Paasch would run Principle Secret in either the Del Mar Furity or the Belmont Futurity next time out. Now, at the time of that comment, Principle Secret had won a maiden race @ 5 1/2 furlongs, that's it. And Paasch was already making plans to ship him cross-country for the Belmont Futurity? Obviously this horse is regarded in the highest terms. Going further, the 2nd-place finisher from his maiden race, Horse Greeley, returned to win on Saturday. And perhaps most importantly, on July 1st, Principle Secret was involved in a 3-horse team drill from the gate, with barnmates Baltimore Drive and Prime Ruler. Principle Secret was best in that drill, and Baltimore Drive/Prime Ruler each emerged from that drill to win their respective debuts. In fact, those 3 horses are now a combined 4-for-4. Incidentally, Paasch said after the race that Principle Secret would likely head to Belmont because Prime Ruler is aiming at the Del Mar Futurity, and he doesn't want to run them against each other (except in workouts, i guess). This colt is going places, folks. Btw, EZ Warrior is currently out of action with sore shins, but Baffert said it's nothing too major, and he might look at the Belmont stakes program for him when he gets back (perhaps looking to protect EZ Warrior's shins on the deeper East Coast surfaces?). It's quite conceivable that those two could be knocking heads in Alan's neck of the woods later this year.

Have a look at Principle Secret's workout reports, from the July 1 team drill, and also from his pre-Best Pal drill.

PRINCIPLE SECRET (July 1 @ HOL, 58.4)

Showed speed between barnmates Baltimore Drive (59.0) and Prime Ruler (47.0) tracking Baltimore' early in 22.4, 34.2 doggedly chasing that one around the turn, inching clear late while pushed out near the end in 58.4 (1 up). Good looking spoeedy move and clearly has some fight in him. Grade B

PRINCIPLE SECRET (Aug 5 @ DMR, 100.0)

Stylish moving Paasch colt clicked off solid splits early 34.4 without being asked and then put it in cruise control the final eighth coasting by the wire in 100.0. Continues to impress. Grade B+

Stalusk said...

He's got an interesting pedigree. His sire hasn't really set the world on fire, and the stallions on his dam's side are an obscure lot. Both dam and great grand dam were tough honest runners though.