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Friday, December 22, 2006

Odds and Ends

- Here's another vote for Barbaro for the three-year old award, courtesy of Fox Sports' Jerry Klein:

Racing is fortunate when it has one standout 3-year-old but last year was one of those rare occurrences when it had two. Alas, they competed against each other for about eight seconds in the Preakness, before unbeaten Barbaro was pulled up with a career-ending injury. Bernardini won that day and established his own measure of greatness in the Travers before finishing second in the BC Classic, making the choice a very difficult one but, for better or worse, the first demand of the racing world is that 3-year-olds be at their best on the first Saturday of May. Barbaro was and he met that challenge with a performance for the ages.
While I don't have a problem with giving extra weight to a Derby win, I don't know if I agree that it should be the absolute defining factor. How much does a non-Derby winner have to do to overcome? I wonder if Klein would still feel the same way had Bernardini prevailed in the Classic?

- Dick Powell, writing on, notes that one major industry player sees synthetic surfaces as a safe haven from dirt.
Belgravia is a modern-day Thoroughbred that has spent his entire racetrack life training and racing over synthetic surfaces. Team Coolmore wants as many of its juveniles to be stabled at tracks with synthetic racing and training surfaces as possible, and with a $2 million investment in Belgravia, they were taking no chances by running him on dirt. At least, not yet.
Interesting to hear the dirt surfaces over which our thoroughbreds have been running for decades referred to as being such a treacherous hazard. Powell was writing of last week's Hollywood Futurity, in which Belgravia ran 4th, and he has a theory regarding Stormello's game comeback win.
If you notice BRIS' Post Bias of the races run at this distance over Cushion Track, inside horses had a decided advantage over outside horses at this meet -- especially as it went on -- so maybe Stormello's gallant finish was the result of being on the best part of the track.
- Gary West of the Dallas-Ft Worth Star Telegram, is not yet on the Hard Spun bandwagon, though he seems to be interested in reserving a spot.
He won Monday's Pennsylvania Nursery Stakes at Philadelphia Park by nearly eight lengths, and it was his third victory in as many starts. But his winning time Monday, 1:23.87, was mediocre; it was just the sort of clocking that ensures a modest number.

But Hard Spun's a baby. A late foal (May), he only now is starting to learn the meaning of running in circles. In his first two starts, he led throughout, and the plan Monday was to take him back early, teach him to control his natural speed, explained his trainer, Larry Jones.

But Hard Spun was simply so superior that he had a two-length lead after a half-mile. In the stretch, with no rivals to interest him, he became distracted by windblown debris and wandered in and out. But he won handily, moved powerfully but gracefully and galloped out strongly, all suggestive of a horse that could improve dramatically.
-'s Jay Cronley has another reason to lament the onslaught of racinos - they attract too many of what he calls the regular horse player's greatest natural asset, the dummy.
So smarter people now frequent the horse races, live and remote, in a greater percentage than has ever been the case. Small meet, small pools, all the dummies are punching and grinning at the casino, now you can usually get the money in your pockets. I was in the local simulcast hall the other night and only counted three dummies in non-smoking, four, if you threw in a teller.

That what frequently benefits our sport the most, the slots, has made it tougher to win a bag of money, is fortified irony.
- Jockey Alex Beitia is the latest rider to be banned from track grounds, this time from Philadelphia Park. However, Beitia will be permitted to continue riding at Laurel.
"We're letting him ride," [track Sr. VP Lou Raffetto said. "I know Philly barred him, but I haven't been told by anyone what this investigation is about, and no one has made me aware of any details of what is going on. I don't think it's right to ban someone just because of someone else's opinion." [Daily Racing Form]