RSS Feed for this Blog

Friday, July 01, 2005

The United Nations Handicap

- It’s 4th of July weekend, and that means the United Nations Handicap at Monmouth. It was also thought that perhaps the president would give John Bolton a recess appointment to the U.N., but with the retirement of Justice O’Connor, I’m sure his attention will be focused on that. So Better Talk Now about the coming nomination battle, and David NYC at Daily Kos has at least five things you can do right away. Another thing you can do is handicap this race. Better Talk Now, last year’s BC Turf winner, comes off an even 4th in the G2 Dixie at Pimlico, a race in which he was victimized by an absurdly slow pace; 51 4/5, 1:16 4/5. Trainer Graham Motion is not going to let that happen again, and has entered a rabbit. Unlike Spanish Chestnut’s connections, he is at least up front about it, as he told the Newark Star-Ledger:

"Better Talk Now needs an honest pace," Motion said. "Looking at his past performances, you might think he is inconsistent, but unless he gets a good pace to run at, it's hard for him to run his best race. I think he is a genuine horse, but he can be compromised by a slow pace."

"This is a pretty common practice in Europe," the English-born horseman said. "Over there, everyone tends to take back coming out of the gate, so you don't have that fast early pace. In the U.S., that scenario doesn't play out as often, but I have an abundance of long-distance horses and it seems to me that the lack of early pace is more noticeable."
"We bought [Shake the Bank] for the specific purpose of providing an honest pace for Better Talk Now," the conditioner said. "It could be just a one-race deal -- we'll see how it goes and decide whether to do it again. But (Better Talk Now) is only going to run four more times this year and we can't afford to waste a race with him."
He’s not exactly Lost in the Fog, but here he figures to hook up with Spruce Run and at least be able to get around 1:12, and given that he faded to 11 lengths back in his last at a mile, you could be looking at Going Wild type numbers at the finish here. But does an honest pace guarantee a win for Better Talk Now? He hasn’t shown much, really, since the BC Turf win, sandwiching two sub-100 Beyer out of the money finishes around a life and death win at 4-5 with an inside trip against four horses at the Big A. He hasn’t come close to the 111 he earned at 27-1 at Lone Star that day, and those subsequent figures bring him down closer to the level of other contenders in this field. He should be closing here but I’m going to take a shot against him. As someone, I think it was Todd Pletcher, said before the Derby, the rabbit is there for all the closers in the race.

Cool Conductor is also a closer, and he was within close proximity of Better Talk Now in the early stages of the Dixie, yet he was able to rally for the win, sprinting home in :11 4/5. He’s never been this far, but should certainly have an honest pace to run at.

Silverfoot is 2 for 2 at this distance, including his last, the G3 Louisville Handicap, in which he showed adaptability by altering his closing style to stalk a pace that crawled even slower than the Dixie. He ran a decent 5th in his only Grade 1 try, checking in 5 lengths behind Better Talk Now at Saratoga last year in the Sword Dancer. He’s sharp, but may be a cut below others.

Brazilian Grade 1 winner License To Run made his first U.S. start last December off a 6 month layoff to run 3rd in the G1 Hollywood Turf Cup, missing by two heads to Megahertz with a U.S. high 101 Beyer. He disappointed in his next race, the G2 San Marcos, and after that race, jockey Garrett Gomez said "I'm going to let Bobby talk to him, and see if Bobby can convince him to be a race horse." But apparently the horse instead told him to replace Gomez with Patrick Valenzuela, and the happy couple romped in the off the turf San Luis Obispo. That was February, and he’s been out since then. He has steady works, culminating with a 2nd best of 16 6f in 1:13 3/5 last week. Frankel is 30% with 61-180 day layoff horses, and Valenzuela travels to New Jersey for the mount.

Exterior also goes for Frankel. This one is a British import who won his allowance debut in March, than ran a close second and third in two graded stakes in California at longer distances than this (12 and 14 furlongs); missing just a length and a half to TH Approval in the G2 San Juan Capistrano. He’s ultra-consistent and is another one who should benefit from a quick pace.

Navesink River either likes firm turf surfaces or Gulfstream Park. Any of his three fine efforts in graded stakes at the Gulf this past meet could put him in the thick of things here. He won the G2 Pan Am, and finished 4th, just 3/4 of a length back of the winner Prince Arch in the G1 Gulfstream BC Handicap. But since leaving south Florida, he’s faltered on a yielding turf at Keeneland, and, more alarmingly, again at 9-5 at Belmont on a good surface in an 100K optional claiming allowance. He did however, tangle with Salic Law in that one; Salic Law crushed Dreadnaught in his subsequent effort and looks like an emerging star for Tom Albertrani. There were no turf races scheduled at Monmouth today, and if the area avoids a storm tonight before the expected gorgeous weekend, the course should be in good shape. He seemed to move a bit early in his last two with John Velasquez, and he gets Chris De Carlo here, winning at a 22% clip at the meet, and at 27% when he rides for Pletcher (though I suppose Tom Cruise could win his share for that barn). He may be overlooked in the betting and could be worth a shot.

License to Run
Navesink River
Better Talk Now