- Not a good day for Godolphin at Belmont on Friday, especially in the 6th, when the bin entry ran 2nd and 4th, at odds of 2-5 in a race taken off the grass. 2-5!!! Minefield was two-for-two for Pletcher last year, but I guess the Sheikh came a calling. This was his Godolphin debut, and his first race since November, not generally a problem for this outfit. But he was a nowhere 4th after a bobbling start and a wide trip. Leo was second, but I'm sure that he was not the horse that was the main object of the chalk players' affections. Out Of Gwedda, another ex-Pletcher runner, had looked like he'd never win again, especially at seven furlongs; but he was live on the board and a pretty easy winner.
That was it for my Pick Fours, which I proceeded with as planned despite the 6th race surface change and against my better judgment. Not that it would have mattered anyway; the only winner I had on the ticket was the 3-2 favorite Party Jones, who won the 9th. The only close call I had on the day was in the 8th at Arlington, when my top horse ran 4th, and my underneath horses first through third. That's kinda close, right? But it was another lively late Friday afternoon at Belmont, though the crowd of 5,531 was about 600 less than last week on a cloudy, but mostly dry day. Ernie Munick was thankfully back in the tent, where he posed for photos with Spiderman, and was accompanied on vocals during All the Young Dudes by a rabid female fan. I won a hat and two T-shirts answering trivia.
I didn't get there until the 5th, and missed the third, a baby race for fillies. They were all first-timers, and Frankel suffered his first of two losses with favorites on the day with Loving Vindication. As you may have surmised, she's by the first-year sire Vindication, who commands $60,000 based on his four-for-four championship campaign at two, after which he never raced again. I mean, why even bother bringing them back at all at three? (I shouldn't ask that too loudly.)
A buddy had emailed me earlier that he liked the eventual winner According to Plan. She'd worked a quick quarter of 21.2 at the April Ocala sale; that was tied with two others for the quickest of the session. A daughter of the $7,500 sire Out of Place, she sold for $80,000; and looking for first-time juveniles that sold at big multiples (even bigger than that, actually) of the stallion fee after the under tack breeze was a method that proved successful last year. So we'll be keeping an eye on such two-year olds in training graduates, especially as the good ones start to come out over the next few months.
Trained by Barclay Tagg, According to Plan was the second longest shot on the board at 8-1. She wired the field, and drew off by four, earning the chart comment: drew clear when shaken up and ran promptly to the man while being shown the whip from the left side. I must admit I've never heard that expression before, and don't really know what it means. But my buddy ran promptly to the man at the window to collect!
The Godolphin entry in the 8th was even worse than Leo/Minefield, running 6th and 7th at 9-5, so it seems as if the law of averages is catching up to the stable here. Frankel's Giant Basil was second at 3-2, as the horses in the race that I said I didn't like ran 1-2-3.
As I mentioned, I'll be taking off shortly for the rest of the weekend and won't be back home until Monday, but I'll have the laptop and will check in when possible. The retirement of Invasor has of course put a big damper on the Suburban today. People seemed to be really excited about Corinthian when he won his debut at Gulfstream. That faded when he was life and death to beat Hesanoldsalt, and then dwelt at the start of the Excelsior. His win in the Met Mile doesn't seem to have raised the excitement level too much. Looking back at that Met Mile field in retrospect, it doesn't seem as strong as it did prior, especially after Lawyer Ron got himself beat at 1-10! The only other horse in this field with a stakes win higher than a Grade 3 is Evening Attire, and you have to go back to 2004 to find that.
Not to much to say about the four horse Mother Goose, except that Octave seems a highly vulnerable favorite given her propensity to run second, as well as the presence here of Carl Nafzger and Calvin Borel. Their Lady Joanne comes up to this race off a very similar pattern to that of Street Sense, with this being her third start of the season after two useful preps. She looks like she could be sitting on a big effort here.
- NYRA announced big purse increases - an average of 13.6% - for the Saratoga meeting.
At Saratoga this summer, for example, the purse for an open allowance race at a mile and an eighth will increase $17,000 from current levels to $68,000, while a similar event for New York Breds will increase $11,000 to $62,000. The purse for an open maiden sprint will climb $15,000 to $62,000 while the same race restricted to New York Breds will rise $9,000 to $56,000. [NYRA Press Release]Purses will also rise, to the order of 12%, over the last three weeks of the Belmont meeting. The approximately $2 million comes from money saved from purses this winter compared to last year. [NY Daily News]
Remember, Lava Man goes for his third straight Hollywood Gold Cup later today, and - egads - the race will actually be televised nationally, on ESPN2 beginning at 7PM Eastern time. They'll also show, on tape, the Suburban as well as the American Invitational, which features The Tin Man. Have a great day.