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Friday, June 23, 2006

No Highland Cat on Saturday

- Highland Cat is fine, but he’s out of Saturday’s ten furlong race; it’s trainer Bill Turner’s decision. According to the barn reporter: His thinking was that the turf was pretty hard and with a lot of rain in the forecast for the next 6 days, it would be best for HC to wait a week and shoot for the race on Saturday, July 1 [one mile on the turf].

Well, that’s actually good for me, because I’m leaving to visit my daughter in Vermont tomorrow morning and won’t be back until Sunday. And anyway, there are supposed to be some strong storms over the next couple of days, and chances are they won’t run on the grass.

Meanwhile, Castle Village Farm continues to the partnerships that I’m not in. One of them in which I had a chance to buy a share last year and decided to pass was Bagavond, a NY-bred three-year old gelding by Abaginone (Devil’s Bag) out of a Groovy mare. He debuted in April and his first two races, on the dirt, were nothing special. Then, switched to the grass at a mile and a sixteenth, he suddenly showed keen speed, and led by six lengths in 1:09 before fading to 4th.

Then, last Friday, Turner cut him back to six furlongs, and to me, he looked like the typical horse that gets overbet when he cuts back to a sprint after leading in a route. But when they turned for home, he accelerated away from the field to bury the undistinguished state-bred maiden test by six in 1:08.89, final eighth in 11.74. The winner’s share was 60% of the $41,000 purse that was almost twice of that which Highland Cat ran for in open maiden claimers. Then, I get an email from someone I know in that partnership that says: [Turner] said he never had a faster horse and that includes Slew. Slew never ran 6 F in eight and change. I just can't explain how I felt hearing him talk about Baggy. I still have goose bumps.

Well, that looks like a great decision on my part. This was a $20,000 Saratoga yearling in 2004, and actually I’m not sure if Castle Village purchased him there or if they bought him privately. I’ll have to get back to you on that.

On Thursday, Castle Village and Turner sent out Ty’s Ridge for his first turf race after two dirt races that were poor enough to cause him to go off at 46-1. He’s a $43,000 two-year old purchase for Castle Village and EQB; pretty high by CVF standards. While his breeding, Quaker Ridge (Forty Niner) out of an Ogygian mare may not scream ‘turf” on first glance, a look deeper into his pedgiree shows that he’s inbred thrice to Ribot (5x4x5), through His Majesty and Tom Rolfe; and broodmare sire Ogygian is a son of Damascus. So there was definitely some grass influence there, and indeed, he almost pulled off the upset, sitting close all the way, and rallying for third, missing by just a neck and a nose. He’s also a state-bred running for rich purses, and he earned as much finishing third as Highland Cat did for running second.

So, two lessons here for me; one, again, don’t hesitate to pull the trigger on a horse that has some grass pedigree that you love even if the horse isn’t bet. And, despite what the trainer stats say for Bill Turner first time turf, that’s three recent cases – Highland Cat, Bagavond, and Ty’s Ridge – that the horse has improved drastically over his dirt form in his grass debut.

- Minister’s Bid got the job done at 3-5 at Belmont on Thursday. He was “rank in the gate” according to the race chart, but wore down Frankel’s Racketeer to win by two for John Ward, the trainer's third winner in a row. Ward also caught a break with Strong Contender in the Dwyer with Discreet Cat out of the race.