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Sunday, October 08, 2006

Nonchalantly Brilliant

- Bernardini is still untested, and according to Darley's racing manager John Ferguson, he seemed to be having fun while taking the Jockey Club Gold Cup. "He was able to just pick it up and in the end it looked like they all rather enjoyed themselves, which is nice to see in a Grade One." [Sporting Life] And if some were looking for the colt to get tested before the Breeders Cup Classic, trainer Tom Albertrani is happy to have a fresh horse. And besides, "I don’t know if anyone can give him the kind of race where he has to fight," he said. [NY Times]

Certainly not from the three he faced here. Wanderin Boy provided the easy target, as well as some schooling for the big day four weeks hence.

“I didn’t want him on the lead today,” his jockey, Javier Castellano, said, “because I want him to be focused for his next race.”

"In the Breeders' Cup someone may want to go for the lead. There is more pressure and more pace in that kind of a race. [Sporting Life]
So it was another easy cruise down the stretch for Castellano and Bernardini, and many in the crowd of nearly 17,000 applauded their latest tour de force. Even Nick Zito, the trainer of Wanderin Boy...well, almost. "I almost clapped for a horse that beat me....He's a brilliant, brilliant horse, no question. You're looking at something really special." [USA Today] C'mon Nick, you can clap, it's OK!

I doubt that we're going to see Dylan Thomas in the Classic. The Irish Derby champ had nothing to offer in his dirt track debut. John Velazquez said: "He just didn't have the wheels." [Channel 4 (UK)]

Bernardini tracked a slow first quarter of 25.03, demonstrating that rating behind a slow pace is no issue at all. Then Wanderin Boy picked things up, going 48.13 to the half, and 1:11.81 to six furlongs, but Bernardini was unfazed, following easily, taking over at the quarter pole, and, once again, gliding home effortlessly in a final time of 2:01.02; final quarter 25.16 under wraps.

- On the West Coast, Lava Man solidified has status as the main contender to Bernardini with an impressive win in the Goodwood at Santa Anita. He put the field away with three sub-24 second quarters to start the race, and drew away on the turn. Brother Derek ran very well for second; he was three wide into the first turn, and wide turning for home as well. This colt doesn't seem to get much racing luck...or perhaps he's just not quite talented enough to create it for himself. Lava Man was under urging coming home in 13.23 seconds. Visually, it was not a performance that will strike fear into the hearts of Bernardini's camp; but Lava Man will no doubt be a more difficult foe to run down if able to establish the lead in the Classic.

The question remains, however, if Lava Man can run well outside of his home state. Doug O'Neill said:
"We're very proud and excited to take on horses outside California again....Nothing against the horses he has been running against here, but this is a new challenge and we've got to prove ourselves." [LA Times]
- Obviously, there were a lot more big stakes on Saturday, and don't mean to harp on this theme, but these super stakes days are a problem, in my opinion, in that there's barely enough space devoted in the press for one big stakes; the others are lucky to get a sentence worth of mention. There were scintillating performances at Belmont by Fleet Indian, English Channel, and, especially, Henny Hughes, who came home in 11.92 seconds to post a final time of 1:08.13 to take the Vosburgh. Good job there by reader Mister Ed; Silver Train did not fire on this day. I, of course will have more to say about these races. But it'll have to wait until after the Head Chef and I return from a day trip upstate on a gorgeous autumn day.

- Nearly 17,000 at Belmont for the big day, a bit more than I anticipated. I don't know what NYRA was anticipating, but if you didn't know better, you'd think, based on the parking situation, that there were around 77,000. NYRA has sold or leased off a huge area of the parking lots, and having gotten there late myself, I had to circle the entire property looking for a spot. When I finally settled for one on the outskirts, I had to ride a bus to the entrance. I can tell you that if the franchise decision was being made by those on that bus, NYRA would have come in dead last. Though, at the risk of sounding condescending, I must say that this particular crew was not one that was going to come up with an idea for world peace. Then again, it was probably on par with the level of conversation on board Air Force One these days.


Anonymous said...

With all that was going on yesterday, I somehow was able to see the races of Bernardini and Lava Man. Looking ahead, here's my question for the Classic: if it turns out that Lava Man is a stubborn foe on the lead, and Bernardini actually has to work earlier and harder than he's used to before he reels him in (which he will eventually do), is there another Classic entrant who might be able to close into this battle and take advantage of an enervated Bernardini late? That's the only way I can see him getting beaten.

Anonymous said...

I was thinking exactly what you were thinking as soon as Lava Man show that brilliant turn of foot around the turn.

Lava Man and Bernardini's biggest strength is also their biggest liability. If the immovable object meets the irrisistable force on the far turn at Churchill Downs, I'll be looking for someone in deep stretch to come and get them.

Perfect Drift, anyone? He seems like the only logical possibility.

Anonymous said...

I try not to talk in absbolutes, because anything is possible, but i feel safe in saying that Perfect Drift can't win the Classic. He's had ample oppurtunity, and the old guy ain't getting any better. He does like Churchill, and i guess i could see him clunking up for third should the oppurtunity present itself, but i just don't think he's good enough to win. Not anymore. My initial take, upon reading Throwaway's theory, was that perhaps David Junior could capitalize. Generally he's pretty close to the pace, but as Dylan Thomas can tell you, American racing is a little different. That had more to do with Dylan Thomas not handling the dirt, i think, but clearly even if he had, he was gonna be farther off the pace than usual. If David Junior can handle the dirt, i don't have much question that he can make his presence felt at some point during the race. Simply put, he's one of the best 10-furlong horses in the world. And there aren't too many 10-furlong specialists around, particularly in the States. Now, whether he's good enough to run down Bernardini (or Lava Man, for that matter) remains to be seen. But i think he's one of the more logical possibilities, should those two falter. Coincidentally, i was just reading about him earlier today. He's flying way under the radar right now, one because he's overseas and two because he hasn't run in so long, but reportedly he's in fine fettle and the trainer seems pretty happy with him. Despite his talents, and despite his ridiculously short price in the Vegas future book (8/1 last time i looked), i could see David Junior going off at quite the price on raceday. I think he'll be virtually ignored, particularly on the heels of Dylan Thomas' non-performance in the JCGC. You can't bet him with much confidence because of the unknown dirt factor, but if you're looking for a longshot i'd start with him. He may be a Hawk Wing or Galileo, but he might also be a Sakhee or Giant's Causeway. No way to tell. One thing i do know, i'd rather bet a horse who's extremely talented but might not handle dirt, rather than betting a horse who isn't all that good and is simply overmatched. At least with the former you've got a chance.

Alan Mann said...

I don't know that Castellano will feel compelled to engage Lava Man until they turn for home. We haven't seen Bernardini asked for any run in the stretch since the Preakness, but I'd assume that there's a lot left in the tank for that long stretch run at Churchill.

But if Throwaway's theory comes to pass, dare I suggest......Sun King?? :-0

Patrick J Patten said...

If they go head and head on the front I think you'll see a quicker (or alteast more challenging pace) than either the JCGC or the Goodwood, which means Brother Derek will be able to relax at his own pace behind these leaders (rather than have teh life strangled out of him by Asshole Solis) and turning for him, he'll be in the Garden Spot, then everyone who loved BroDer, then hated BroDer, would be back on the bandwagon again.

Anonymous said...

Anyone remember Invasor? As for D Jr. his pedigree indicates he is much more suited for dirt than Dylan Thomas and is a real possibility if the race falls apart, not that I think anyone is going to get close to Berny.