- 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.”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!
"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]
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.