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Sunday, July 03, 2005

Saturday Stakes

- A couple of pretty crazy stakes races on Saturday. A few minutes before the New York Handicap, Kurt Hoover on ESPN wondered aloud about who would set the pace and suggested that Wend could find herself on the lead. An awkward start nixed that, and as Jerry Bailey told Hoover after the race, “I’m sure that you along with millions knew that I’d be last going into the first turn and a half in :52.” Billy Mott said: "When I saw the fractions and where she was, I wanted to throw up."[Daily Racing Form] She crept up to the lead and was game holding off Wonder Again late as they sprinted home in :23 1/5. I don’t know what happened to Film Maker, who I bet on top of Wend in a cold exacta, phoning in the bet from Jones Beach. John Velasquez suddenly went into a drive as they approached the final turn, but she dropped back to last and out of the picture before a fast but fruitless rally for third, beaten just two necks. The chart says that she was “shuffled back” and “steadied,” but I don’t know, it was just a weird trip. Given Wend's trip, I can't say that Film Maker was best, but she certainly could have gotten the win with a smoother journey. Good job on ESPN after the race going back to show Wend being backed into the starting gate as Randy Moss expalined that the filly had developed “claustrophobia” in the gate. In fact, great telecast all around; these ESPN productions are like racing for adults; it's clearly assumed that all of us watching know the sport pretty well and don't need much explanation. (And unfortunately, that's the case. No new or prospective fans are watching these I'm sure.)

Better Talk Now’s win in the The United Nations Handicap was even nuttier, with the rabbit Shake the Bank running off to a 15 length lead. Those leads can look so insurmountable some times; I’m sure the bettors who had the horse at 107-1 were all excited. Even trainer Graham Motion said, "I got a little nervous at the quarter-pole when it looked like the rabbit would keep going. But our plan couldn't have worked out any better.” [Bloodhorse] I’m sure Motion was frustrated after watching Film Maker’s trip, and wishing he’d had a rabbit for that race as well. The trip for Better Talk Now was perfect too, as jockey Ramon Dominguez explained: "If you watch the head-on (angle), you could see that I planned on going outside, but once (the hole opened up) I knew I had to go inside." [Asbury Park Press] I made a small beach bet using License To Run, my only real bad pick of the day, on top in some exactas. He was way overbet at 7-2, and if I'd known that I'd probably have gone another way (which still would have resulted in me losing most likely), which is why I don’t generally bet on horses while sitting at the beach.

And of course, I did not have Offlee Wild in the Suburban; and I probably wouldn’t have had any exactas with the second place finisher Tap Day anyway. It was a depressing effort for Funny Cide, who I wouldn’t be surprised to see turn up in a state-bred stakes to try and get him back on track. I just can’t believe that they made him 5-2; never has a horse been as overbet as this one has his last three starts. "I have no answers for you," [trainer Barclay] Tagg said. "He was training well up to the race.” [NY Daily News] Despite the win, I don’t think a mile and a quarter is really up Offlee Wild’s alley, as he tired noticeably in the final yards. He had a perfect setup as well, as Record Buster - also overbet at 7-2 - set a quick pace for the rest of the field to run at, and it took nearly 26 seconds for him to get home on a lightning fast track. Nonetheless, it’s a Grade 1 win, and an excellent job by the connections spotting him in this relatively soft grade 1 spot after Eddington retired earlier in the week. He was originally going to ship out to California for the Hollywood Gold Cup next week.

For Dutrow’s pinch-trainer Juan Rodriguez, it was one of two wins at Belmont on the day. The barn hasn’t missed a beat since Dutrow's suspension - it’s like when the manager is tossed out of the game but lurks in the shadows of the dugout directing the action. In the second, he sent Silver Train in a N1X allowance to win in a track record tying 1:07 3/5 - actually one hundredth of a second off the record by Artax. This is a 3 yo who hasn’t been close since last August, but who improved in his first start for Dutrow. This was his second for the barn, and with red-hot Edgar Prado, he beat 1-2 shot Ingot by almost 6.

Now Todd Pletcher has been slapped with a 45-day suspension over that drug positive (mepivacaine) from last year’s Saratoga meet. But it’s unlikely that the suspension, if upheld after appeal, will begin anytime soon.

The appeals process can take a while, as trainer Richard Dutrow only recently began serving time for a similar offense that occurred on April 27, 2003. Dutrow also was given 45 days and fined $3,000. [NY Daily News]
As we’ve seen, that action hasn’t taken any wind out of Dutrow’s sails. In fact, nor has it seemed to do anything whatsoever to tarnish his reputation. He’s still spoken of highly, and he apparently isn’t losing any prominent horses that I know of. Mepivacaine is considered a a Class 2 drug, meaning it has "a high potential to affect performance," so this is sure to provide some ammunition to those who have long been suspicious of Pletcher, but it doesn’t seem to be that big of a news item on this holiday weekend. Only the Thoroughbred Times amongst the racing trades has the story on their website as of this writing.

- I’m not touching the G1 American Oaks today. That’s not to say it’s not a fabulous idea and a fascinating collection of 3 yo fillies from around the world, but I’m not going to try and figure out all the horses coming over from Europe and Japan. Frankel’s Melhor Ainda looks like the best of the American-based horses, though the connections of Three Degrees would probably argue that. Four more stakes there, including the Grade 1 Triple Bend at 7 furlongs, Andujar headlines the Vanity Handicap, and two more turf stakes as well. As for me, I got nothing on these races today, sorry; it’s a busy holiday weekend and I need a break. Though I do seem to have a shot of making it to Belmont today, though that would be with the Head Chef and two kids. "Who do you like? Do you like the 3? Is it time to bet? Can we see the horses? Is it time to bet? Where can we watch the race? Is it time to bet? Can we get some ice cream? Don't we have to bet? DADDY, THERE'S ONLY EIGHT MINUTES LEFT, DON'T WE HAVE TO BET?"

- Trainer James Jerkins is certainly one to keep an eye on at Belmont these days. The son of hall of famer Allan Jerkins has ten wins in 35 starters at this meeting, and he pulled one over in the third yesterday. Mayo Post was making his first start since last November, and had compiled a miserable record for former trainer Leo O’Brien, consistently finishing double-digit lengths behind at double-digit odds. But in this, his first start for Jerkins and off that layoff, he took the money at 5-1 and romped by 9 1/4 lengths in 1:08.89, breaking his maiden at age 5, what a riot.

First two year old turf race of the season was taken by Baur Au Lac, a Pletcher first timer by Tiznow, out of a mare by Soy Numero Uno, and how often do we see that name in pedigrees nowadays? Two more winners for Elbar Coa, including a 16-1 bomb in the 10th. Yes, NYRA was able to fill 10 races, and there are full fields again today.