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Saturday, July 16, 2005

Looking Better Than Me

- Another day of short fields and short-priced favorites at Belmont on the second to last Friday twilight card of the meet, can Saratoga come soon enough? The 7th and 8th races both had 4 horse fields, no show or triple betting. A couple of names from the Triple Crown fringe got wins. Vicarage took the feature, and Papi Chullo, who ran last in the Florida Derby, got his maiden win at 3-5. Another prohibitive favorite went down the tubes - this time a .35 to 1 shot, Crunch the Numbers, for Richard Violette. The winner, Looking Best, was one of two winners for trainer Allan Jerkins, and Tom Bush had a pair as well. One of those was a 3 yo first time NY bred filly named Chamonix; she was 9-2 morning line, but got punched down to 6-5. According to the chart she broke awkwardly, was steadied, raced greenly early on, rallied four wide approaching the stretch, dug in gamely outside and prevailed after a long drive. It’s a great game, isn’t it?? Chamonix is a half-sister to a couple of state-bred stakes winners, Sherpa Guide and Fait Accompli, and seems destined to follow in their footsteps.

- Colonial Downs has three stakes today, including the G3 $750,000 Virginia Derby for 3 year olds. Pletcher has the probable favorite English Channel, but it looks like a competitive race with Rush Bay, Spring House, and Rey de Cafe. Prince Rahy oddly is entered just 6 days after running 3rd in the Lexington. But I love 3 yo filly turf races, and we also have at Colonial the $200,000 Virginia Oaks. Rich in Spirit figures to be the favorite after her G3 win in the Regret in a field high Beyer of 92. But there are some interesting contenders. Masseuse tries stakes company for Jimmy Toner after going 2 for 2 on the turf with easy wins and improving figs. She’s by Dynaformer, and is a half to grass stakes winner Second Performance.

Dynamist is another daughter of Dynaformer; she got her first stakes win in the Rhudy Memorial at Delaware two weeks ago. It’s a short turnaround to this race, but who’s to question trainer Michael Dickinson? Then there’s My Typhoon for Bill Mott and Jerry Bailey. She has Melhor Ainda in two of her four lifetime running lines, and she’s won the other two, including the Hilltop on Preakness day, in which she was bet down to 7-10 in her first race in 7 months. Her last was a 3rd to the abovementioned turf star in the Sands Point, and she’ll find no one like her in here. She’s by Giant’s Causeway out of Arc de Triomphe winner Urban Sea and is a half to several European graded winners including English and Irish Derby winner Galileo, so wow; with her connections you could do a lot worse than backing her.

- If the trotter you bet breaks before the race actually starts as my selection Diesel Don did in the Stanley Dancer Trot last night, instead of the old Abbott and Costello line “They’re off, You lose!”, it’s instead “You lose, They’re off!” Talk about left at the gate! Never mind that he didn’t have any breaks whatsoever in his PP lines! But it was doubtful that anyone was beating the winner Classic Photo anyway. He showed versatility by this time rallying from three deep on the outside and getting the win in 1:53.4. This established him as the favorite for the Hambletonian. For about two hours anyway.

Ken Warkentin, the consensus Hambo favorite until his disappointing 3rd in his last race, had the outside 10 post in an open trot later on the card (he’d missed the Dancer eliminations with a cough). Del Miller did a great job of leaving and establishing position on the rail in 5th. As they approached the final turn, he eased him out first over, moved him up to second, and took a brief pause on the rail. Then when Miller tipped him out, he motored home powerfully for a 2 length win. Ken Warkentin, the track announcer, called this race, and according to the chatter on HRTV, it was the first time he’d done so when his namesake was running. The Meadowlands has 2 or 3 race callers, and they seem to switch back and forth between calling races and doing pre-race analysis. As Ken Warkentin (the horse) approached the finish, Ken Warkentin (the man) called “The real Ken Warkentin shows up tonight, and he looks better than me!” Then he almost fell out of the booth when he announced the time of “1:52.3! A shocking mile there!”

Tonight’s Meadowlands Pace is a showdown between Rocknroll Hanover, the horse widely considered the top 3 yo pacer, and Stonebridge Regal, who upset him in the elminations last week. Rocknroll Hanover was parked to a :53 .2 half while the eventual winner was able to establish rail position second and force his rival to the top. Last month, Rocknroll Hanover beat Stonebridge Regal by a length in the North America Cup at Woodbine, so the rivalry is on. It’s a million dollar purse and a big night at the track - last year over 22,000 people turned out.