What I particularly liked about the wins by Friesan Fire, Pioneerof the Nile, and Stardom Bound is that each one ran in a field which was, at the least, decently sized, and in one case downright overflowing; each got a little dirt, or whatever, kicked in the face, each had to overcome a moment around the turn for home in which he, or she, didn't have a clear path home; and each one stormed to victory with class and authority. We sometimes see horses come into the spring with some solid preps, but in races that did not present any of the challenges that these horses dealt with on Saturday.
Pioneerof the Nile has the worst name amongst the three, but I thought he was the most impressive, as wide as he was when he straightened away for home with Garrett Gomez in the Robert Lewis at Santa Anita. The chart says five wide and I'd say that's a conservative estimate. As we're wont to see on synthetic tracks, Baffert's son of Empire Maker saved his fastest burst for the end of the race, the way races should be run. You may have seen Steve Crist's entry on his Cristblog, in which he wrote:
Evaluating these efforts is part of the brave new world of synthetic-track racing, where races are run more like turf than dirt events, final times may be less important than come-home times, and the usual blend of speed and stamina may be changing.If that's indeed the case regarding come-home times, than Pioneerof the Nile won the day with closing splits of 23.46 and 5.52 for the last two and a half furlongs. If it matters, his Beyer was 94.
Friesan Fire, the high Beyer of the trio at 96, was also very impressive, bulling his way out of traffic and charging home in 24.56 and 6.53 to take the Risen Star at Fair Grounds. While those splits aren't nearly as quick as Pioneerof the Nile, it's always been the case on traditional tracks that any prospective Classic horses closing in anywhere below 25 seconds this time of year would earn my attention. So this is another way in which it's difficult to make comparisons between races run on the different surfaces. But regardless, this was a very nice race, and one which again makes Michael Iavarone look very smart.
Speaking of which, Stardom Bound may have run the slowest in Beyer terms with a figure of 84, but she also found herself in a box, and that after a fairly leisurely pace up front which may call the relevance of the Beyer into question. Still she swung out and did her thing as usual, completing her last-to-first journey in 24.20 seconds. I see now that Frankel is hedging about her next race.