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Monday, September 08, 2008

Just Third Again

- Another solid third for Just Zip It on Sunday, good for a 10% share of the $107,370 purse for the Schenectady Stakes. Castle Village's four-year old daughter of City Zip, now twice stakes-placed, still has not been out of the money, in ten starts now. She's a pretty solid racehorse, eh? She's earned just about $140,000, all but $5200 of that this year. She seemed to be in a decent spot approaching the turn, in the two path right behind the two dueling favorites. But she got blind-switched when Street Sass ranged up on the outside, putting her in a box, and causing her to be steadied throughout the turn and lose momentum. Once Jose Espinoza eased her out for the stretch drive, she actually came back and passed Street Sass, and for a fleeting moment it looked like she had dead aim on the leader. She put away favored Light Tactic but then made little progress on winning Under Serviced. And as at Saratoga, she couldn't quite hang on to the place spot either, as Street Sass came on again.

Baffert's filly looked quite grand in the paddock; so much so, that the Head Chef wanted to use her on top. Yeah, I put a stop to that nonsense alright. She was the only three-year old in the field, a daughter of Hook and Ladder out of a Thirty Six Red mare. The stallion stands in NY for $10,000, and is 12th on the second crop sire list. Light Tactic faded to last after disputing the pace, a disappointing result for trainer Richard Schosberg I'm sure. We were sitting in the box right next to him, and his body language before the race was not good, unless of course he looks like that before every race. He'd had a winner in the 7th with Pennylove. Nice weekend for Baffert, who won the sloppy G1 Ruffian with Tiz's Tough Sis...another horse who has shown that it can run well on synthetics and on dirt...and had that debut winner on Friday.

NYRA cleverly got the Garden City in on the turf by scheduling the Grade 1 event as Saturday's third race, before the rains really came later on. The early post and gloomy weather weren't the only reason why the race didn't have the flair that last year's edition did. Nothing against Backseat Rhythm, who seems like a nice enough filly taking her second straight stakes. But I don't think of her as highly as I did the ill-fated Alexander Tango, who shipped in from Ireland and staged a scintillating winning rally. That was a Win And You're In race, and to be perfectly frank and honest, I have no idea if this year's race was as well. The Breeders' Cup Challenge has not been a part of the conversation this year at all, I believe because there are just too many of them.

Seems funny that there would be a bigger crowd at Belmont on Saturday than on Sunday, when the weather was as perfect as could be, man! Announced crowds anyway - though spinning is not the phenomenon downstate as it is at Saratoga, I would still guess that at least a few patrons on Saturday decided to take home more than one T-shirt. Still, anyone who was there on Saturday must have really wanted that shirt, or is a lot more hardcore than me! They would have had to be giving out Brooks Brothers suits to have gotten me out there - and then, only if they threw in an umbrella.

Seeing the track so empty on such a perfect day on Sunday (we came just for the race - the Head Chef liked the idea of swooping in and out like that, noting that it made her feel like a celebrity), is a large part of what makes this fall meeting so depressing to me at times. Another of course is the diminution of the signature races. I got a press release from NYRA today hyping Curlin's upcoming appearance in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, and noting that he'd had his first workout since the Woodward. The release notes:

Among the others who won the Jockey Club Gold Cup on the way to Horse of the Year honors are Mineshaft (2003), John Henry (1981), Affirmed (1979), Forego (1974), Kelso (1960-64) and Whirlaway (1942).
Of course, Forego won the race, run at two miles, shortly after winning the seven furlong Vosburgh, soon after he won the mile and a half Woodward. Affirmed had to hold off a persistent Spectacular Bid under Willie Shoemaker. John Henry defeated a field which included prior year's winner Temperance Hill and Belmont winner Summing. The Jockey Club Gold Cup was a determining factor in those most deserving championships, and not just a prelude or a prep.

Curlin may face a Belmont winner too, except it could be Da'Tara, as well as a few more bodies that Zito and Zayat may throw in. He doesn't figure to face much or prove much either.

Meanwhile, I wonder if Team IEAH had this in mind when they wrote their own turf stakes at Monmouth this weekend. DiscreetCat had a jolly ho-ho-ho regarding the fact that Red Rocks may run; among others I've also seen mentioned are Shakis, Shake the Bank, Icy Atlantic, Proudinsky, Silver Tree and Independent George. Some of these may run at Philly instead.

Well, perhaps laughter will turn out to be appropriate, but I'm more intrigued than humored. From a PR perspective, Big Brown has little to lose here as long as he doesn't pull another Belmont. It is after all, as we'd hear if he checks in second or third, just a prep for the Classic. But if he were to beat a field that included Red Rocks, then I believe that he would then merit Horse of the Year honors unless Curlin comes to the Classic and defeats him in that race. And that's no matter how easily the defending champ might beat whatever shows up to face him at Belmont.

- Here's that 1979 Jockey Club Gold Cup. Sorry about the audio...

3 Comments:

dc said...

I'm excited about the Monmouth Stakes now, because you KNOW that Big Brown will be way overbet vs. a horse with Red Rocks' kind of credentials. Regarding the other horses that Alan mentioned, i hadn't heard about them yet, but in retrospect i guess this shouldn't have come as quite a shock. A $500k turf race that's open to older stakes winners would figure to attract a crowd. I'm a little surprised that the race isn't restricted to 3yo colts (i doubt that IEAH would've even liked to see Pure Clan in the race), but perhaps Monmouth insisted. They ARE the ones laying out the half-mill.

Regarding Red Rocks, what i find most surprising about his appearance is the distamnce of the race. It's 1 1/8 miles, right? I'd have to go back and check his record, but i think it's been quite a long time since he's run that short. He even ran in the St. Leger (1 3/4 miles) before his Breeders Cup win, so i believe he's fancied as more of a stayer.

Regarding Alan's assertion that it's pretty much a "no-lose" proposition for Big Brown and IEAH, i did consider that, and i think it has some merit. I don't think many would hold it against him if he lost to high-level older stakes winners on grass, except that i doubt very much IEAH wants to see him lose AT ALL, and of course there's the "undefeated on turf" thing to consider. From their perspective, anyway. If he DOES win, of course we'll never hear the end of it.

PS - Duke of Marmalade is being strongly considered for the BC Classic. And if he does run there, i think it's rather unlikely that his barnmate Henrythenavigator would turn up in the same race. I'm currently of the opinion that Henrythenavigator is more likely for the Mile, something i've suspected ever since i learned that there was no scheduled stretch-out attempt before the Classic. He just ran in the one-mile Prix du Moulin (his first loss), and they're talking about the Queen Elizabeth now. O'Brien did run George Washington in the Classic coming out of a win in the QE, so who knows, but right now i think it's more likely The Duke will try the Classic. And i think he'd stand a heckuva chance.

dc said...

Regarding Henrythenavigator, i should've said "first loss THIS YEAR". My bad.

El Angelo said...

The paltry crowd on Sunday was for an infinitely more important reason: it was first the Sunday of the NFL season. Racing just can't compete with the NFL.