- It was the day after Xmas, with no work nor HRTV in sight, and kids hanging around the house. So what better day for a late afternoon excursion to the Meadowlands to catch opening day from Santa Anita? It's another sign of how behind the times New York is that there is no off-day simulcasting available at NYRA tracks. Nor, apparently, at Yonkers.
But it was definitely worth the trip. For one thing, an extra two bucks got me my own little workstation and TV in the Raceworld room, and you just can't beat that. Plus, I was all hepped up about Kip Deville, and this time, for a change, I played it exactly the right way. It started with the 4th race, a $20,000 claiming race featuring one of the worst favorites one could possibly encounter. Number Juan won his last race for a 40K tag, earning a Beyer of 102. But that race came back in January, and here, Number Juan was returning for 20K and was a steady 2-1 on the board, before being sent off at 9-5. I think you just gotta bet against horses like this. It was almost like a Division Fourteen race.
So I settled on 8-1 Fantasmin, cutting back to a six furlong distance at which he was 4 for 6, tossed the favorite entirely and used a couple others in exactas. I haven't had much success of late, so when Fantasmin started to drop back on the turn, it seemed like just another loss, and I started to already mentally move on. I actually gave up and stopped watching him, but as they came past midstretch, I looked and there he was, revitalized and closing in determinedly on the outside with Chavez. It seemed quite miraculous, actually, and he surged past Cat of Fifty Seven just before the wire, and held on despite an unfavorable head bob, giving me an exacta payoff of $120.
Whatsmore, I'd put five bucks on him to win with the express intention of parlaying the winnings on Kip Deville. Thus, when that one, after enjoying a perfect inside trip, found a spot while in severe traffic midstretch and slipped through to win for the Mig at an extremely generous 7.10-to-1, it made for a extremely nice day! Had I instead played the race with my usual exactas and triples, I no doubt would have been crushed by the second place finish of 23-1 Awesome Gem.
In the Malibu, Brother Derek, amazingly (to me) the 5-2 favorite, had a trip that was similar to that of Kip Deville, except that when it came time for a path to fortuitously to open up in the stretch, Garrett Gomez did not enjoy the same good fortune. You can see the horse's head going back and forth, desperately seeking a way through, but it was not to be. Once again, you must give him an excuse and another shot, though given the way he's been campaigned, his next race will likely be another spot in which he's unlikely to win. Perhaps that race on the grass they tried to give him recently. As Pete mentioned in the comments, there wasn't really that much made of the trouble he had in the newspaper accounts of the race. The Santa Anita notes quote Gomez as saying: "He wasn't liking it down there, and I couldn't do anything with him;" but it looked as if the colt was just crying for room to run.
Latent Heat was a very impressive winner. He showed himself to be quite handy, as after taking an early lead, Edgar Prado sold to Da Stoops and Sailors Sunset, who went on to engage in a pace duel. In his past winning races, Latent Heat had always been either on the lead or within a head of it at the half mile pole, but here, Prado was able to sit a good length off the pace, and rally three wide turning for home take the lead midstretch and draw off to a two length win in 1:21.39; final furlong an impressive 12.3. Spring At Last rallied nicely for second, and Da Stoops confirmed his affinity for Santa Anita by holding on well for 4th.
Walter is quite entitled to be upset about Frankel's pre-race comments that the horse was sick going in to his Keeneland race and that he probably shouldn't have run him. That's the same kind of issue over which an ultimately unsuccessful lawsuit was filed against the connections of Sweet Catomine last year. Afterwards, Frankel changed his tune a bit and made it seem as if any illness wasn't totally apparent until after the race, telling the LA Times:
"I wasn't back there and he wasn't eating well before the race and they were saying he was going to be all right, but his white [blood cell] count was 13,000 after the race....He had to have some sort of infection in his system. He had been training well, and he performed like he was supposed to today."