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Thursday, July 14, 2005

Slow Week, but Not Dead Yet

- Relatively light posting continues this week. Pretty slow time anyway and I’m a little burnt. Worse yet, with many state legislatures out of session for the summer, there’s little in the way of juicy slots and political stuff. However, we do have the big races at Delaware this weekend – Sunday’s Leonard Richards attracted the most interesting 3 yo race yet of the post-Triple Crown season, at least for those who actually participated in the series. Preakness runner-up Scrappy T is the 9-5 morning line favorite, and faces 6, including Sun King, a bit surprisingly to me as I haven’t heard much about the horse that was ultimately perhaps the most disappointing of all the early spring Derby contenders. High Limit returns for Frankel off of a series of fine workouts, and gets Edgar Prado – recall that Scrappy T’s rider Ramon Dominguez was High Limit’s rider prior to the Preakness and seemed to have a falling out with Frankel. We’ll see if Dominguez goes to the big windmill windup if High Limit pulls alongside! Baffert reappears with the overraced Sort It Out - oh man, and Golden Man, who was excluded from the full Preakness field due to insufficient earnings, will make an appearance as well.

Also Sunday is the $1 million, but just Grade 2 Delaware Handicap for fillies and mares; Iso Piu Bella and Two Trail Sioux head a big field of 12.

- Up in Canada, it’s the second leg of the Canadian Triple Crown - the Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie, and Queen’s Plate winner Wild Desert and fifth place finisher Ablo are the only horses still standing after that race. The headline in the Form says Only Five Foes Willing to Face Wild Desert, but maybe it should say “able” instead. In fact, you may recall that the Plate favorite Dance With Ravens is out for the year with a bone chip.

The unusually tiring, deep, dry and cuppy track at Woodbine the day of the Queen's Plate has taken its toll. There are few survivors left. The race had front runners staggering, and one of the slowest running times in Plate history, when Wild Desert ran the 1 1/4 miles in 2:07 1/5.

“The track was a disaster,'' said Dan Borislow, majority owner of Wild Desert. “I don't think it's happenstance that a lot of those horses didn't make it back to this race [Prince of Wales.] These horses were lugging at the end. It was like a cornfield. It [the dirt] was up to their knees.''
It sounds like Wild Desert could be pretty tired too.
Wild Desert tuned up for the race by working five furlongs on 1:07 4/5 at the Saratoga training track on Tuesday. Borislow wasn't impressed. “I could run faster than my horse,'' he said. “That's slower than a two-minute lick. Maybe the wrong exercise rider was on the horse.”

“You're always worried,'' he said. “But this horse does like to run fresh. He doesn't need a lot of work. If it was one of my other horses, I'd be up there inspecting the horse myself.'' [Toronto Globe and Mail]
- It’s bad enough making a poor selection in a race, worse when you publish it beforehand on the internet for scores of readers, and now the Form’s Dick Jerardi is rubbing it in.
Can somebody please explain how Don't Get Mad was 6-5 [in the Swaps]? This overhyped colt has never hit 100 on the Beyer scale. His running style so eliminated him from contention that Gary Stevens had to take him out of his game and ask for run far earlier than he wanted, just hoping the colt would get into the race. It never happened, and the horse finished fifth.

The winner, Surf Cat, did not offer much value at 8-5. Don't Get Mad offered none at any price. He had no chance on the Beyers and no chance on the speed-favoring track. I did not really know who was going to win the race, although many sharpies obviously did. I did know who was not going to win it. [Daily Racing Form, sub only]
OK, OK, so I’m an idiot I guess. Jerardi is part of the Beyer fig-making crew, so I guess he puts a lot more credence in them than in watching a horse make a move as devastating as the one Don’t Get Mad had made in his previous race. I won’t be betting on him anytime soon in any race outside of Louisville, Kentucky, that's for sure. Jerardi also writes, in hindsight, of how Reputation-Induced Phenomenon (RIP) helped make Lava Man 6-1 and Limehouse 6-5 despite having earned the same fig in their prior races. Again, I fell victim to visual inspection; I’d watched a tape of the Californian before last weekend and saw Lava Man and Anziyan Royalty stagger to the finish with no one making a single move behind them, and I figured they weren’t really that good. Lava Man’s 120 Beyer in the Gold Cup indicates otherwise, but regardless of whether he backs that up, which I am personally still skeptical of (Jerardi notes: The speed-favoring nature of the track certainly helped carry Lava Man), don’t expect to see him in the Breeders Cup. He’s not nominated (nor, by the way, is Surf Cat), and in Lava Man's case, it would cost a prohibitive $800,000 for him to run in the $4-million Breeders' Cup Classic on Oct. 29 at Belmont Park.
The winner's share of the Classic is more than $2 million, but reaping less than 4-1 on an investment is not any horse owner's idea of a legitimate risk.

Should Lava Man continue to excel — his next start probably will be the $1-million Pacific Classic on Aug. 21 at Del Mar — racing could be in the embarrassing position of not having one of its stars around for its showcase day.

"The supplement is a lot of money for any horse," said Doug O'Neill, who trains Lava Man, "but this horse is a gelding, and anything he does on the track doesn't translate into added value as a stallion. That makes it even harder to think about supplementing for the Breeders' Cup." [LA Times]
- I’ll be back later to catch up on the last couple of days at Belmont and my day at Monmouth yesterday. Plus, I have a big tout for tomorrow night’s Stanley Dancer Trot at the Meadowlands. Last week on this blog, I had Dancer killed off, referring to the race as the Stanley Dancer Memorial Trot; in fact, the legendary horseman is still alive, but is unfortunately presently ailing. This reminds me of something I once heard the Mets’ broadcaster Ralph Kiner say. Kiner is an original Mets announcer, which means he’s been at it since 1962. He looks older than Senator Byrd now, and he’s been difficult to listen to since suffering Bell’s Palsy a few years ago. But even in his prime, he was always famous for his mis-statements – "Kinerisms" – and I was listening in the mid-70s one day when he relayed a quote and attributed it to “the late Jack Brickhouse.” He paused, realizing that Brickhouse, the long time Cubs and Bears' announcer, was still amongst the living and added, “Well, he’s not dead yet!” In fact, Brickhouse didn’t pass away until 1998. Stanley Dancer is 78 and won the Hambletonian, for which the trot named after him is the final prep, four times as the trainer and driver, and a 5th time just as the pilot.