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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Saturday News and Notes - Sept 22

- Silver Tree had his three race win streak broken in the G3 Cliff Hanger at the Meadowlands last night, and at considerable expense to those who backed him at 2-5, as well as to those who piled it on in the show pool. Mott's son of Hennessy was off a bit slowly, and taken three wide around the first turn by Kent D. He got to the lead turning for home, and hung on gamely for awhile. But he got gobbled up in deep stretch, and faded to 5th, creating some nice show payoffs. Presious Passion (Royal Anthem) got the win for trainer Mary Hartmann and Alan Garcia.

Pletcher got a win in the finale at Belmont with Sibley, cutting back from route to sprint. I actually used him in the Pick Threes just by process of elimination, but didn't get past the middle leg anyhoo. Garrett Gomez rode, as Johnny V hopped off to ride 8th place finisher Queen of Protocol. Velazquez continues to scramble to pick up winning mounts as his main benefactor looks to get back on track, and rode 17-1 Cannonball to victory for Wesley Ward in the 4th, a result which went a long way to creating a carryover for Saturday's 11 race card.

A couple of Dubai-related runners ran their U.S. records to two-for-two. Zabeel Racing International, owned by the Sheikh's oldest son, took the second with National Captain, who surprised up at Saratoga at 8-1. Juror has to be a rarity as a Godolphin-owned NY bred. He's by Royal Academy, out of a Flying Paster half-sister to the graded stakes winners On Target and the ill-fated Sea Cadet. He's been quite impressive in both of his wins; on Friday, he overcame a poor start, a wide trip around the first turn, and some traffic on the backstretch, but easily glided to victory after going wide around the field. Nice colt.

- Turfway Park and Hawthorne have both added incentives to the purses of the races that Carl Nafzger is considering for Street Sense's final scripted appearance before the Classic. But the latter comes in higher at $700,000 for its Hawthorne Gold Cup, should a horse with multiple Grade 1 wins be entered.

The entire complexion of the Gold Cup hinges on Street Sense, according to stakes coordinator Debbie Lindsay. His presence would just about guarantee a short field; his absence could open the door to any number of possible starters. [DRF]
I know it's some added prestige should a Derby winner run at your track, but I wonder if it really pays off financially? It will cost them an extra $200,000 in purse money, and the possibility of big handle on a wide-open contentious field. With Street Sense there, they'll certainly sell a few more beers with, perhaps, some extra people in attendance. But they'll probably end up paying out on a minus show pool....if they permit the wager.

- Another fatal breakdown at Presque Isle Downs, the third one that I know of to occur during racing hours.

- Interesting that Barclay Tagg told the Form that his NY-bred juvenile Big Truck could be even better than Tale of Ekati. Speaking of the colt's debut at Saratoga, Tagg told the Form: "I thought he'd win easy, I really did...I'm not trying to be a smart-ass, but he does things too effortlessly" The trainer wasn't the only smart-ass, as the horse was punched down to .65-to-1. He's scheduled to go next in the state-bred Bertram Bongard on Sunday.

Big Truck is a son of the $6,000 sire Hook and Ladder, out of a Go For Gin mare, who sold for $90,000 at Timonium in May. Not a sale where one expects to find their big two-year old, but if he's comparing him favorably to Tale of Ekati, then he's a colt we need to keep an eye on.

- NYRA and the NY horsemen have agreed to a new procedure regarding the maintenance of the dirt tracks at all three venues. The horsemen felt that the tracks were too hard in the morning due to track superintendent John Passero's practice of sealing and rolling them each evening regardless of the weather forecast. The tracks will now not be rolled unless the forecast indicates a greater than 30% chance of rain. The horsemen seem satisfied; Richard Violette, the president of the NYTHA, told the NY Daily News: "Communication has been very good with the NYRA. They addressed the horsemen's concerns and they're taking that concern seriously." But Charles Hayward's statement had the duel-edged tone of a politician's.
"What we're doing now is putting a little more risk that if we get caught with rain we're going to be in a tougher spot on race day. But the benefit is, at least in the mind of trainers, the track is going to be better for horses training in the morning." [Daily Racing Form]
Three horses have suffered fatal breakdowns during racing at the meeting thus far, with a 4th victim being claimed as a result of one incident; and Tiz Wonderful suffered a critical injury as well. And those incidents were not merely in anybody's mind.

- Churchill Downs finally opened its first slots parlor when a temporary facility opened at the Fair Grounds on Friday.