- Reader Bank Check wrote: Highland Cat......the new Jacques Who????? As you may know, Jacques Who is a horse who raced in the early 70's and acquired a reputation for finishing second....to the point where his name has become a catch phrase for horses who display the same tendency. Actually, looking back at his career record of 117-6-24-18, maybe he should also be known for running out of the money a lot. However, in the fall of 1973, he had a winless streak of 30 races over two years, and had run second 13 times just that year.
So when he finally won, on September 27th of that year, a Thursday with 23,144 in attendance at Belmont, it merited the headline of the NY Times' At the Race Tracks column, by Michael Strauss. Angel Cordero was on board for the first time (probably not a coincidence), and said that the horse was of a "friendly nature....that he apparently didn't like to part company with other horses in a field.
"After we took the lead in the stretch," said Cordero, "Jacques Who seemed unhappy to stay up front."Not as unhappy as those of us who bet on him. Indeed, the Jacques Who label generally implies that the horse "doesn't like to win;" that he/she's a "cheater," as a friend once called them. No heart.
I've always considered these horses to be prime targets to bet against - almost automatic - especially those who are tantalizingly close enough to get bet every time; Jacques Who paid just $6.60. However, I've noticed that I've been losing consistently to these types lately. A few who come to mind are Deputy Indy and Holiday Trip from the Stanley Hough barn; Good Request, from Frankel; and Joppa Flat's, who was 30-1 in
I've noticed this to the point that I've adjusted my attitude, and become more open-minded towards betting them on top. The fact is that even the least combative horse will, if he's around the top consistently, win on occasion. Sometimes it just can't but help find a race in which there simply aren't any others as fast. Or it may have genuinely improved.
Other horses with cases of 'seconditis' may be falling short simply because of circumstance, and not due to any inherent attitude problem or need for company. I think Highland Cat belongs in this category. It's not that he doesn't wanna win. However, as cute as he may be, he doesn't have much tactical speed, and often finds himself wide. He doesn't really rocket off the turn, but rather takes a little bit to get himself going. So he usually falls a bit short.
But if you have any doubt about his desire to win, try to check out his race on Sunday (unfortunately, not available on Cal Racing). This was truly a great finish - two thoroughbreds obviously straining with all their will to try to get to the finish first. (Don't know how fast they were coming home since the fractional times are unavailable; later grass races were switched to the main track....anyone know why?). As reader onecalicocat pointed out, Approved By Dylan is a horse with a fair amount of back class. So I think that, given the right circumstances, Highland Cat will be visiting the winner's circle some time soon.
- Really interesting little tidbit I ran across in the Times article referenced above. It was written for the Friday edition, the day before the 1973 Woodward, run at a mile and a half at that time. Trainer Lucien Laurin intended to start only one of Secretariat and Riva Ridge. Eddie Maple was hoping to pick up the mount should the latter start. Unfortunately for him, the weather wasn't cooperating.
"If the track comes up fast, we'll wait until the Man O'War a week from Monday [with Secretariat]. In any event, I'm only going to run one."Indeed, it rained, Riva Ridge scratched, Secretariat ran, Prove Out upset him with Velasquez aboard. Here's one classic race that I can't find on You Tube....though you can watch the stretch run here.
This decision came as bad news to Maple, who ordinarily has the leg up on Riva Ridge when the two Meadow stars compete in one race. Had not Maple been hoping to ride Riva Ridge, he probably could have had the mount on Hobeau's Prove Out. But now it appears that Jorge Velasquez will draw that assignment.
And, oh yeah, Secretariat ran in the Man O'War nine days later anyway. And Maple got some consolation when he rode Big Red in his final race.