- Storm in May (Tiger Ridge) proved to be quite adaptable in winning the Millions Dash. He'd been running in turf routes, and, except for an ill-fated try in the slop, had never been more than a couple of lengths from the lead. This time, he was 9 1/2 lengths back in 10th after a half mile. But that's a good place to be when they're going 43.96 to the half up front, and a quarter mile (run in 26.24 seconds) he was under the wire first, and having his part-owner and trainer Bill Kaplan thinking big. "He may end up on the Derby trail." Oh man, it's that time of the year again.
I liked Bayou's Lassie in the one race I really got into handicapping, the Millions Filly and Mare Turf, especially after the speedy Woodbine shipper inside her scratched. I was on the same wavelength as a friend I met at an OTB/restaurant, and we negotiated on which horses to key in some superfecta wagers.
We felt that our choice could be lone speed, but worried about Charmsil, 8-1 morning line from the 12 post, but favored in the doubles over the morning line favorite Rich In Spirit, and the betting favorite as they came on the track. We talked about how sometimes, you see a horse you don't care for takes money, but you ignore it even as you get that nagging feeling that you shouldn't. And how it sucks when that's exactly what happens. In this case, the money was telling me that Charmsil would try and gun from his outside post and spoil our little lone speed fantasy.
And sure enough, Charmsil, who drifted up to the 9-2 second choice, had gotten good position going into the turn, and was there to turn up the heat on the backstretch. After Bayou's Lassie got away with a moderate first half of 48.81, Charmsil pressed the leader into a third quarter of 23.16, and a subsequent 23.28. Still, they both held pretty well while yielding late to winner Miss Shop, who closed into a final three eighths time of 34.72 seconds, and good-trip runner-up Memorette.
Battaglia also picked this one on NBC, though I'm just so tired of hearing about Prove Out and Onion every single time someone picks a Jerkins horse that isn't favored. Hobeau Farm's Miss Shop (Deputy Minister) was a 5-1 shot, and wasn't exactly facing Secretariat in this field. Whatsmore, Battaglia brought it up again during the post-race interview with the trainer. A better moment was when Jerkins was asked about the winning ride by Rafael Bajarano, who was standing right next to him. He replied that he was "where he should be most of the time" with what seemed like a pointed emphasis on most. Some trainers are never happy.
Sweetnorthernsaint was virtually eliminated when he got caught a good five wide going into the first turn. He moved to challenge on the second turn, but you could see Frankie Alvarado riding along easily on McCann's Mojave, as Ramon Dominguez worked hard on the 9-5 favorite, who faded to 5th, and Edgar Prado labored three wide on Silver Wagon. McCann's Mojave returned a big mutuel, and he's a nice story in its own right for owner Mike Willman. But they walked home in a final three eights of nearly 39 seconds, last eighth in 13.43. So I don't think that Lava Man or Invasor should be too worried.
- Before the Distaff, Donna Brothers didn't like the way Take D'Tour looked on the track. I've never been a huge fan, though she did finally get a couple of two turn wins in her last two at Calder. Here, as the 6-5 favorite, she had the lead to herself, and had no real excuse other than her washy appearance on the track.
- Here come the comparisons to Lost in the Fog for Smokey Stover. Greg Gilchrist picked this one for owner Harry Aleo for $140,000 as a juvenile in 2005. He's by Put it Back (Honour and Glory), a stakes winner for Hobeau around the turn of the century, and he actually has some interesting grass influence in his pedigree. He's out of a half-sister, by Jolie's Halo, to the graded turf winner Galic Boy, and the dam of the popular multiple graded turf winner Dreadnaught. The second dam of Smokey Stover is a half-sister to the Canadian International winner Great Neck.
- Tom Durkin sounded to me like a guy who dropped into the office while in the middle of a long, relaxing vacation. Which is basically what he did. He sounded fresh and eager, and handled his races with aplomb, though you could clearly hear Collmus' track call in the background during the first and last races. Trevor Denman was just Trevor Denman, and stuck with the things that have made him one of the best in the business....though he didn't have much to work with in three uncompetitive finishes.
- NBC did a quick, but upsetting segment on Barbaro. Besides showing the accident in the Preakness which we don't really need to see anymore, they showed a video clip of Barbaro grazing on December 20. This was before his recent troubles, and I have to say that I was startled and disturbed at his appearance. Besides the expected diminishing of his physical stature, his lower right hind leg was badly deformed; it looked like a club leg. Considering that we were at one point hearing that he was on the verge of leaving the hospital, I was taken aback at how bad he looked.
And as I said, that was back a few weeks ago, when things were relatively OK. Simon Bray, on TVG today, interviewed Dr. Larry Bramlage, the vet who appeared on NBC's Preakness coverage, about today's grim developments. Dr. Bramlage described the latest surgery as "buying time," and called it a corrective procedure, as opposed to those in the past intended to move the colt forward. Frank Lyons wondered how much more the horse can take. It all made me think back to Vic Zast's recent column, as the once unthinkable seems to become a liklihood.
The Barbaro tragedy and its subsequent medical saga have focused our attention on competence and compassion — qualities in rare supply in today's world. As a result, Barbaro may now be better remembered for the courage he showed during his long battle against his injuries than what he accomplished in May.
But despite his valiant struggle, eventually, and regrettably, the ode to Barbaro – now a folk song — may become a requiem.
We should not be afraid of that. Euthanasia, under the right circumstances, is the right call. And if and when that time comes, sentiment must not obscure what is important, which is to give Barbaro a decent end. [MSNBC.com]