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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Notes - August 23

- Lava Man is OK after getting “rubber-legged near the wire” after Sunday’s Pacific Classic. Pat Valenzuela commented that he “just fell apart the last 20 yards….He lost his air. I was concerned about him. I didn't know if he was hurt or not, but I didn't want any weight on him if he was." [AP] It’s certainly understandable that the horse would be so tired. He was pushed by Surf Cat to blistering fractions, and it’s a wonder he held as well as he did. Trainer Doug O’Neill said that he “looks fantastic,” and that "He didn't need the van to get back to the barn…..But we put him on just to be on the conservative side." [LA Times] I can generally use a van ride home too after a full day at Saratoga, but, hey, I’m not a Grade 1 stakes winner. His fine third place finish earns him a trip to Belmont for the Jockey Club Gold Cup on October 1.

As for the 4 yo Borrego (El Prado), he’s a consistent sort who in this case got the pace up front he needs and finally got the top spot, his first graded stakes win, just his second victory since his 2 yo season, and only the 6th this year for trainer Beau Greeley. He may be considered a hanger, but he’s hung around enough to now have earned nearly $1.5 million. He’s out of a mare by Kentucky Derby winner Strike the Gold, who you rarely see in pedigrees.

- Valenzuela was involved in a fight on Monday with Corey Naktani. He overheard a comment Nakatani made after the second race, and the fireworks began.

The fight's ignition point, Nakatani said, was when Valenzuela threw his riding helmet at him. They grappled, fell to the floor, punches and kicks were thrown before security personnel separated the 42-year-old Valenzuela, a 26-year riding veteran, and the 34-year-old Nakatani, a 16-year veteran.

Valenzuela emerged with a gouge on his left ear that required stitches. Early rumors at the track were that it was the result of a bite – giving it a Mike Tyson-Evander Holyfield aura – but both combatants said that was not true. [SignOnSanDiego]
The two riders were then involved in an incident in the 7th which was reviewed by the stewards, and when they took no action against Nakatani, Valenzuela shouted obscenities at the stewards' booth, six floors up in the grandstand, as he headed for the archway leading to the jockeys' room.

- Bellamy Road will run in the Travers, and that is just excellent news! The race was shaping up as a truly lackluster affair with just six entries, including plodders Andromeda's Hero and Don't Get Mad. I don’t think anyone was excited over a “showdown” between Roman Ruler and Flower Alley. And I personally can always do without Don’t Get Mad, who I find particularly confounding.
"Right now, he's ready to run, he looks absolutely beautiful and I'm going to take my shot," said Zito, who last year's Travers with Birdstone off a 12-week layoff. "That's my story and I'm sticking to it."

Zito believes that the Travers may actually be a better race to build on for the future for Bellamy Road than having to run a hard seven furlongs against Lost in the Fog, arguably the best sprinter in the country.

"That's what we're thinking too," Zito said. "Which race really builds? I'm thinking in a way if he comes out of that race good and everything so be it, we just keep going forward. The Breeders' Cup Classic [on Oct. 29] is still our main thing." [Daily Racing Form]
- Todd Pletcher comments on his current Saratoga meet.
"I think you've got to put it in perspective….Three years ago, if we would have won 15 races and $1.2 million in purses, everyone would be saying, 'Man, you're having an awesome meet.' When you win 35 races two years in a row, and all of a sudden you have 15 wins at the three-week barrier, everyone acts like you're having a (terrible) meet." [NY Daily News]
Pletcher now has 16 wins, Dutrow 11, and Asmussen 10, the latter two with about a third as many starters as Pletcher. Indeed, how many trainers will even achieve 15 winners for the entire meet?