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Monday, October 09, 2006

Super Saturday for Henny and Pletcher

- A couple of things caught my attention looking back at Henny Hughes' win in the Vosburgh on Saturday. For one thing, I was surprised when I was reminded that this was only his third start of the year. He's caused such a stir that I'd forgotten that he'd made so few starts. Funny that Lost in the Fog's connections were getting skewered this time last year for things like 'ducking competition;' he had run seven times by now. But we don't hear a peep of criticism against the Henny Hughes camp.

Perhaps that's because of the spectacular fashion in which he's won, and the fact that he's faced imposing sprinters such as Songster and Silver Train. Skeptics could argue that neither of those really showed up for these races, but that's not Henny's fault. (Though perhaps it was his doing.)

The other thing that I noticed is just how easily he won the Vosburgh. He didn't really break well, but settled easily behind Attila's Storm, attending a fairly quick pace, before easily moving up to challenge. After John Velazquez took a quick peek behind, he drew off against a tough older sprinter in War Front in a spectacular run through the stretch. After collaring the leader at the quarter pole, he sprinted home (and shouldn't a true sprinter sprint home?) in 23.31 seconds - the furlong splits were 11.39 and 11.92 seconds. Johnny V said: "Around the quarter pole I just let him go, and he responded right away." [Louisville Courier-Journal] While LITF put the hammer down against his opponents in the first half mile, Henny crushes them in the final quarter. It would have been an interesting matchup had last year's Sprint champ stayed healthy; who do you think would have won at six furlongs?

So Henny, of course, is headed to the Sprint, and we'll see how many show up to face him. Silver Train wouldn't have gone even if he'd won the Vosburgh; now, his trainer Richard Dutrow was left to mutter the usual: "We'll check him out." I thought it was a rather shockingly dull performance, especially after he earned ooohs and aaaahs from his appearance in the paddock.

Attila's Storm may be headed to the Sprint, as his trainer Richard Schosberg was quite pleased with his horse's first race since January. Ancient Title winner Bordonaro may not be, however; he would have to be supplemented, and that's a lot of money to pay for the right to face Henny Hughes.

- As great as Henny was, I think that Fleet Indian deserves a rather large mention as well for her win in the Beldame. She had rated a bit against much lesser in the past, but this race confirmed that coming off the pace is not a problem. But far more impressive was the way she dug in and fought off the challenge of Balleto. A second quarter of 22.47 helped to doom the front runners in the Beldame; Fleet Indian kept up with that pace not too far behind. Jose Santos had to angle her sharply wide on the turn, and she entered the stretch a good 4-5 wide. As far as Balleto was concerned, this race could not have been scripted better for her late run, but Fleet Indian just would not let her past. She's obviously a major contender for the Distaff now.

- And yeah, it was a pretty nice day for Pletcher, who, besides sending out Fleet Indian, also took the Flower Bowl with Honey Ryder, and the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic with English Channel. The latter's "rabbit," Icy Atlantic, didn't have to run fast, he just had to be out there so there English Channel had a target to run at, and he did his job well. Pletcher said: "This horse has a heavy argument for being champion turf horse. His record stacks up with anyone's in the division." [Thoroughbred Times] But he'll have to beat Cacique and The Tin Man in the Turf in order to take the championship for the turf division.

Overlooked in the excitement of Pletcher's big day, in which he broke his own single season earnings record, was the effort of his three-year old filly Jade Queen in the Flower Bowl. Sent off at 17-1 as the only sophomore in the field, she tried to steal the race, setting the pace to a half of 50.36 seconds. From there, she and Johnny V. almost did so with impressive subsequent quarters of 24.50 and 24.22. She looked like she could hold on until the final strides, succumbling late to the older Honey Ryder and Film Maker. Certainly no disgrace in that. She joins Wait a While and Magnificent Song in a powerful trio of grass running three-year old fillies for Pletcher.

- Star Dabbler, second to Henny in the King's Bishop, dead-heated for first in the Indiana Derby.

- Aidan O'Brien told the Racing Post, of Dylan Thomas: "This horse is a possible for the Breeders' Cup Turf, but definitely not the Classic." O'Brien's weekend wasn't a total loss, as Aussie Rules took the Grade 1 Shadwell Mile at Keeneland.

- Pletcher also took the Grade 2 Cotillion at Philly Park with India; and his two-year old Circular Quay put in a fine performance to run second to Great Hunter in the Breeders Futurity in his first try around two turns.

1 Comment:

Walter said...

All East Coast, All The Time, huh??? Sheesh!

Let's talk about my favorite 2yo (at least while EZ Warrior is out of action), Christopher Paasch's Principle Secret. I walked into the book yesterday with about 15 minutes to post, and lo-and-behold, Principle Secret was 2/1 while Horse Greeley was getting pounded down to even-money. Not that 2/1 is a big price or anything (especially in a two-turn debut), but considering i felt Principle Secret was the best 2yo in training (at least until we get another look @ Nobiz Like Shobiz next weekend), i thought it was a pretty good price. He certainly deserved to be favored over Horse Greeley, i thought. So i made my bet, and was happy to see Principle Secret break well and assume command fromn the rail. I was even happier when i saw Horse Greeley blow the first turn, so much for him. Principle Secret seemed to be moving just fine down the backstretch, ears pricked and well within himself, though looking at the fractions he appeared to be moving a little fast. He was also being pressured a little bit, though i was confident he'd turn them all back. Turning for home, he shook loose and opened up a couple of lengths. Looked like he was on his way to another fine win, when all of a sudden, about mid-stretch, i saw it. You know, "It". That thing we've all seen a million times, when your horse is on the lead but seems to be having trouble changing leads, and you can tell that he's starting to tire. And right then, Stormello, who had broken from the extreme outside but mananged to procure a nice stalking position from 3rd, started coming at him. I looked at his legs, and Stormello had changed leads and was striding out noticeably well. He looked damned determined, also. But Principle Secret had yet to give in, and dug in as best he could. You could tell it was gonna be real close. In the end, Stormello got there by the smallest of margins. I thought both horses ran extremely well, especially for their two-turn debuts. Despite getting "pipped" on the wire, Principle Secret had done all the dirty work up front through some pretty fast route fractions. I don't think the layoff did him any favors either, as Stormello's participation in the Del Mar Futurity probably had him a bit more ready for a stretch throwdown than Principle Secret was. They got the final sixteenth in 6 4/5 for a final time of 1:43 flat, probably not as quick as you'd like, but again, i think the earlier fractions took their toll, particularly on Principle Secret. He should be much tighter for the next one, and ready to move forward. Stormello certainly appreciated the stretchout in distance, as he was no match for Principle Secret in the Best Pal (nor Horse Greeley/Great Hunter in the Futurity), and i think you can expect him to move forward as well. Both horses look like prime contenders in the two-turn Juvenile. Incidentally, i think perhaps Principle Secret was compromised by his rail draw. That forced him to gun right away and set the pace, something he's definitely capable of, but it's certainly possible he would've finished out a little better if he had been able to take it a little easier in the early going, and had a target to run at. He certainly proved in the Best Pal that he can fire big from off the pace. And i think he's also proven over his three races that he can adapt to whatever running style the situation calls for (much like Bernardini). Not a lot of horses can say that. Hopefully he'll lose some luster with the loss, and go off at a good price on Breeders Cup Day. Not sure he'll be my pick for the race, but he's definitely in the mix. Stormello too. As for Horse Greeley, reportedly he's heading for the Breeders Cup as well. Ugh. Hard to like him off this rank performance, but on the other hand, he's a very fine animal and now figures to go off at a big price. Stranger things have happened.