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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sunday News and Notes

Amongst all the happy talk described in the last post, I did hear a little grumbling about the quality of the racing.  That's a familiar refrain the last few years, and generally with good reason.  My impression though - mostly from a distance - is that the racing has actually held up a bit better than it has the last 2-3 years.

And again, the discussion is based largely on what one considers to be quality racing these days.  For example, some may not have like seeing maiden claimers, cheap conditional claimers, and state-bred races on Alabama day on Saturday.  But, other than the prohibitive Alabama favorite Princess of Sylmar ($3), there was not a single horse that went off at odds of less than $1.60-to-1; and only four of the 12 races included a horse that was less than $1.95-to-1.  So that seems pretty competitive to me, and that's what I generally base my assessment of 'quality' these days.

Princess of Sylmar did get the job done in the Alabama.  I'd characterize it as dominant, especially the way she circled the field around the turn with no seeming effort at all.  Would have ultimately been more visually pleasing though had the race ended shortly thereafter.  As is usually the case in mile and a quarter races on the dirt in this country, I wouldn't exactly characterize her final eighth or so as "sizzling," or "bounding home."  But she got the job done, under urging, in a final quarter of 25.30 which qualifies as pretty good these days.  We may or may not see her again this year according to owner Ed Stanco; but I suspect we will should she come out in good order.

Ken Ramsey won the Sword Dancer with Big Blue Kitten ($7.90), part of a pretty good day hour that the owner enjoyed.  Shortly afterwards, he dispensed with a little pocket change to claim Tiu for $25,000 out of a maiden claiming race at Saratoga.  Gotta love that.  (And a bit overlooked was trainer Chad Brown, who trained two of those winners.)

Up and down day for Wayne Lukas.  Took the second with Strong Mandate ($34), a two-year old son of Tiznow who ran rather poorly in his debut, over the track, last month.  Maybe that nice five furlong workout on Aug 7 was a tip off.  Or maybe a son of a two-time Classic winner out of a three-time Grade 1 winner (Clear Mandate) deserves a second chance.  Later, the barn's Optimizer was eased, as the 7-1 4th betting choice - in the Sword Dancer.  Reported to have had a breathing issue, and to be OK.  Or maybe he's just really excited and distracted about the upcoming new MGMT album and tour.

Not to be too outdone, two more winners for Pletcher, who is now 27-for-74, for a whopping percentage of 37%.  Those investigators must be lurking around his barn, right?  In the 4th, Midnight Taboo ($8.70) got the money this time after bobbling at the break at even money in his first try after losing the Belmont by 49 lengths. 

Amongst mere mortal trainers, Dominic Galluscio continues his fine run, with Westside Corral $12.40) taking the 5th.  He has eight winners from 29 starters (28%).

Anthony Dutrow took the 12th and final race - and I wonder how many of the 34,951 on hand were still around for that one - with first timer and aptly-named Summer Place to Be ($9.80).  Haven't seen too much of this barn this summer; but he's made the most of it with four winners from 15 starters, two of them debut runners.  This one was plucked out of a two-year old in training sale last May for $100,000; so you know the owners didn't have an August, 2013 debut in mind.  Doubt that the $42,000 that the owners earned comes close to paying for the expenses since then!  Summer Place to Be is by Corinthian out of a winless Smart Strike mare.  Second dam is graded winner Ziggy's Act; third dam is the Grade 1 winner Comedy Act.

And back to the question of "quality."  Given the choice of watching a potential champion semi-labor home in a Grade 1 against four tiring rivals, and a flying finish in a $35,000 optional claiming contest, like yesterday's 8th, you know where I line up.  Best of luck on Sunday and have a great day!