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Monday, August 25, 2008

Odds and Ends

- Trainer Ken McPeek continued his incredible recent streak at Saratoga with Sandstorm Cat taking Sunday's 8th, and at 6-1! Some consolation for me after a mostly rough day on Saturday. McPeek was second on Travers day with Tizzy at 11-1 in the 5th, a race I missed betting because I was at Jones Beach and forgot that post time had been moved up to noon. So when I called into the phone account, I was startled to hear that the race was closed. I would have had at least the 5th-6th race double as a saver, and it's sure possible I could have had that 5th exacta with Weaver's Rogue Victory on top. Of course, I was in time to bet, and lose, the 6th. At least I got a solid run for third out of Schosberg's Hammock at fair odds of 8-1.

McPeek, currently on a run of 9-5-1-2, starts Bounissimo (15-1) on the grass in the 7th on Monday. This two-year old son of Cherokee Run showed nothing in his debut, on the dirt at 17-1. His Tomlinson is just 283; but his second dam, the late Chelsey Flower, was a G1 winner (Flower Bowl) on grass.

- I initially thought Visionaire an unlikely winner of the King's Bishop. However, looking back at the pp's after the race (when they so often seem to make perfect sense), you can see that all of his prior races around one turn had been good ones in which he closed strongly from far back. That includes his prior race, a second over the track, though in the slop. He equaled his career best Beyer of 98 in that race, a sign that he could perhaps be ready to move forward. I discounted it, figuring that it was due to the slop, as in the Gotham. However, he had two excellent wins on fast tracks in one-turn mile races at Laurel and Gulfstream. .

So it seems as if Michael Matz has found a niche for this horse. Perhaps the connections of Tale of Ekati may want to take a look and consider a similar strategy for theirs, who has not shown himself to be worthy of this level since his seven furlong Futurity. (And yes, I'm intentionally including his win in the Woeful Wood.) He's been making mid-race moves that suggest that a cutback in distance is in order.....and a drop to a NW3x allowance race wouldn't hurt either, to give the poor horse a little confidence at the least. Kodiak Kowboy was a dull 5th - good pre-race reporting by Jeannine Edwards on ESPN there, telling us how the horse was hard to handle while saddling, and noting that Larry Jones had specifically told her that this wouldn't be the case, as opposed to Hard Spun before last year's edition.

Jerry Bailey, on the ball as usual, immediately picked up on the way that the wide journey to victory by Shakis in the Bernard Baruch contrasted with the inside route taken by he and Alan Garcia when winning the race last year. This attempt at substance came as Joe Tessitore was making sure to loudly proclaim that he told us all that Garcia would be a star. Tessitore seemed particularly ramped up this weekend, putting extra emphasis into the hype, making Todd Schrupp seem like he's on quaaludes by comparison. He opened the Travers telecast by defending the prestige of the race even without Big Brown by comparing it to the Rose Bowl without the Heisman Trophy winner. Er, nice try there Joe. I wonder how he'll explain away the absence of division leaders such as Curlin, Ginger Punch, and Benny the Bull should they not show up at the Breeders' Cup.

ESPN shipped all three commentators cross country to Del Mar for the Pacific Classic telecast to join Randy Moss, who, for some reason, had been sent ahead. Perhaps they realize that he's the ace of the rotation and wanted to give him extra rest. The NFL Network apparently realizes that too. I thought that perhaps Moss' on-set presence combined with jet lag would have calmed Tessitore down. But it was not to be, and I was reaching for the mute button by the time he started talking about how Go Between's victory in the Pac Classic "clarified the Classic picture."

Huh? What exactly does it clarify? That Go Between is the best of the Polyhorses out west? That there's a clear divide in the handicap division between "dirt horses" and "synthetic horses?" Considering my past, and continuing support for the synthetics experiment, you may be surprised to hear me admit that I'm looking down condescendingly at this horse as a decent turf stakes horse who has merely found a new home on a new surface. I just can't get the least bit excited about him. And I think he's making it clearer than ever before that the Breeders' Cup has made a bad decision to conduct this year's event on synthetics (and then compounded it twice over). There, I said it, OK?

- What if Curlin wins the Jockey Club Gold Cup and calls it quits...and Go Between wins the Classic? Who, then, is Horse of the Year?

- After more subdued presentations of the races at Saratoga, ESPN returned to the multiple cuts out west that can make their telecasts so confusing. During the Pacific Classic, we went from closeup to pan to overhead and back again, and I didn't really know where they were until I saw the virtual yard marker in the stretch. Ugh.

However, at least Bailey got to do his immediate post-race jockey interviews this time. Sometimes, I wonder if the jockeys, Garrett Gomez in this case, are really affirming what Bailey has said beforehand, or if Bailey just puts his thoughts into their mouths. "Garrett, did you have Go Between closer than usual because you thought the pace wasn't as fast as you expected it to be?" "Uh, yeah, Jerry, I guess so." OK, I made those quotes up, but you get my point?

- Bailey criticized Solis for moving Daytona too soon in the Del Mar Mile.

- Best line of the weekend goes to Randy Moss, who commented that Zappa would have to be a "mother of invention" to get the lead.

- During a tribute to Genuine Risk during Saturday's telecast, a video of the late Derby winner with one of her foals was accompanied by the fact that she had not been successful as a broodmare. "NOT SUCCESSFUL?" cried the Head Chef. "LOOK, SHE HAD A CUTE BAAABY!!" We all have different standards to be sure.


Anonymous said...

Joe Tesatore makes me long more than ever for Kenny Mayne. I may be alone on this, but I enjoy Kenny's irreverent approach. He may not be a horse racing "insider," but at least he's entertaining.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the decision whether to interview the winning jockey on horseback doesn't hinge on the jockey's command of English.


Anonymous said...

Alan, you're finally coming 'round to realizing that the BC is not the be-all, end all of racing; it's a scheme cooked up by the KY breeders to boost stud fees- and they have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. It's been a nice ride for 20+ years but "... the times they are 'a changin'", as Dylan said of the '60's.

Markets change, times change, and I think we are entering a new phase where racing must return to it's roots of rewarding on track performance over time rather than one hit wonders in a Super Bowl knock off. We need a "Racehorse Cup" to be determined by a point system over the course of a season, just like NASCAR, and not some Super Bowl, winner-take-all set-up.

And, you are growing skeptical of kitty litter as well it seems. Looks like a two tier system is emerging- dirt or poly, and never the twain shall meet? It's quite a test of the market and as always the customer- the horsemen in this case- will determine the fate of the two very different products. Joe Bruno Sighting at The Spa on Travers Day: Lo and behold who turned up at the Spa on Travers Day but Joe Bruno who was a guest of his old pal, the Guv! Ol' pols never die, they don't even fade away, they just stop "running" for office. /S/Green Mtn Punter

Anonymous said...

Joe Tessatore could be Tony Little selling me an exercise program and barking at me "You can DO IT!"...

...and he would still be likable compared to Todd Schrupp and the other clowns at TVG. Because he's enthusiastic, something that racing needs as a cheerleader. Todd always seems to believe, no matter how many races at Los Alamitos and Yonkers they throw at us, that TVG is "America's Horse Racing Network", flying in the face of all logic when their coverage is generally a lot of amateur-hour handicapping and analysis.

Give me an excited newbie like Tessatore any day. His excitement can get more than a little over the top, but racing could always use excessive enthusiasm over the jaded cynicism that is the sport's raison d'etre.