- Getting back for a moment to Notional, who I picked to win when he ran 6th in the Hollywood Futurity. They were talking in the Form as if the blinkers were the magic elixir for his improved performance. "If we keep his attention focused in races where the field size is bigger, that will be a little more important," said Doug O'Neill. But at some point down the line, handicappers will have to decide whether his two disappointing runs at Hollywood were really because he just didn't care for the Cushion Track. After all, he ran a 105 in his debut at Santa Anita, so he obviously seems to prefer that track. And he didn't show early speed, often the sign of a horse moving up with blinkers on. I know there are those who fear that the artificial surfaces will homogenize racing, but for now, it's a new piece of the puzzle that we're going to have to deal with in 2007 and beyond.
I saw some mention of the fast finish by Grapelli for third, but Watchmaker wasn't that impressed:
Given how fast Grapelli seemed to be motoring at the wire, you might have expected him to get close to Notional on the gallop-out past the wire. The gallop-out is worth looking at in most races, but especially so in Derby preps, where you're looking for horses who demonstrate a desire for more distance. Grapelli didn't get anywhere near Notional during the gallop-out, which tells you one of two things: the horses Grapelli was inhaling in the stretch weren't very good, or Notional was only getting warmed up at the one-mile distance of the San Rafael. [Daily Racing Form, sub. only]Didn't look to me that Notional was just getting warmed up, so I'll go with the former.
- Got another workout report on High Limit, so it seems that he's serious about his comeback. Reader Tigers1901 was nice enough to post a link to this article from the US Trotting Association site about harness horses that continue to race after they start to breed, noting that many horses at the highest level of harness racing in Europe do double duty. Of course, many of our young stallions have been retired due to "injury," and couldn't possibly continue to race. Besides, artificial insemination is permitted with standardbreds, so a horse could conceivably be serving mares (and himself) while on the Road to the Breeders Crown.
- I see that Brother Derek ran third on Saturday; it's the second time in a row he's been beaten as the favorite, 8-5 in this case. No real excuse this time. He's becoming one of the top money burners in the sport. That was quite the rousing rally by the winner Awesome Gem (Awesome Again); man, he was flying! He's three for three at Santa Anita, and lost by a nose in his only other dirt race, at Del Mar. He's out of a Pentelicus half-sister to the multiple graded winner JJ's Dream, and this is the female family of Preakness winner Louis Quartorze. Maybe we'll see him against High Limit at some point soon.