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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Saturday Sophomore Action

- Notional (In Excess) is now three-for-three on real dirt; he was o-for-two on the Cushion Track, so I don't expect to see him in the Blue Grass. Notional was three-four wide going into the first turn and just wide enough turning for home to avoid the spill that took Circular Quay out of the race. That was a pretty exciting burst of speed he showed after having to search for a seam in the stretch.

Circular Quay wasn't as fortunate, but in recovering and finishing fifth, I wouldn't be surprised if he's bet lower than the race winner when the futures pool closes on Sunday. (Am I misreading something, or is Notional 37-1?) I'm checking in today from Manchester, Vermont, where I've only been able to see the race on the small screen available on the Fair Grounds website. But I was able to see Circular Quay stopped cold when Slew's Tizzy went down, and was as amazed as anyone else when I saw him crossing the wire fifth. John Velazquez said: “I said my prayers. I didn’t go down. That’s what I’ve got to say about this race.

Todd Pletcher, who won his first race back from his suspension when Master Command won the Mineshaft, had more to say about the effort:

He was flying by everybody at the end,” said Todd Pletcher, who will be Circular Quay’s trainer of record for his next start. “Obviously, we were very unlucky today, but I wouldn’t trade places with anybody now.

“There are troubled trips – but it would be hard to categorize exactly what this was today. The horse looks fine, and the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) would be likely (as a next start).” [Bloodhorse]
I would agree that it's hard to categorize, but in a more cautious sense. It's hard to project what really would have happened with a clean trip. He broke slowly, saved a lot of ground both turns, and didn't do all that much real running until after the incident, passing tired horses. We know he has a lot of ability, but I'm not going to get too carried away as of yet.

Bill Kaplan did it again; the trainer of Holy Bull runner up Drums of Thunder, his Imawildandcrazyguy rallied for second.

- Three year old fillies were in action as well, and Pletcher would seem to have a new major player in this category as well after Rags to Riches took the Grade 1 Las Virgenes at Santa Anita. It really is unbelievable, isn't it? This one is a half-sister, by AP Indy, to Jazil, so at least one foal of their dam Better Than Honour will win a graded stakes (or any race at all) this year. So like Jazil, Rags to Riches traces directly back to Best In Show and thus descends from an extraordinary distaff line.

But unlike Jazil, this filly has shown some versatility, pressing a quick pace when graduating in a seven furlong maiden special in her last. This time, going directly to a Grade 1 race, making her two-turn debut, facing no less than four graded stakes winners, Rags to Riches was sent off as the 5-2 favorite. She was second to last, rallied widest of all, a good 5-6 wide around the turn, looked absolutely beaten at the sixteenth pole, but managed to surge late for the win. You gotta love this game. "I had to put her in a drive at the three-eighths pole," [Garrett Gomez] said. "I thought, 'If she can still win from here...'" [DRF] She had a lot to overcome." Of course, it helped that Baroness Thacher was tiring at the end of a 26 second final quarter.

So, given the shocking defeat of Dreaming of Anna in the Old Hat at Gulfstream, Pletcher has the current, as of this writing, favorite individual entry in the lightly-bet Pool 1 of the Oaks futures.

Appealing Zophie (Successful Appeal) had been o-for-three around two turns, but got the nod from the bettors, going off as the 9-5 favorite in the Silverbulletday at Fair Grounds, and wiring the field after getting away with an extremely slow pace - 48.93 to the half and 1:13.60 to three quarters. That allowed her and jockey John Velazquez to lay down a subsequent quarter of 23.99 and draw away from Total, who got second and ran OK in her two-turn debut.


Green Mtn Punter said...

Alan, remembering that you and/or the Head Chef are interested in art, I hope that you made a stop at the Southern Vermont Arts Center while in Manchester VT. If you go again, please introduce yourselves to a good friend of mine, Ms. Jo Grayson, who is head of exhibitions and sales at SVAC, I'm sure she would be happy to show you around. Also on the subject of art, did you ever visit the Hyde Collection in Glens Falls when vacationing at Spa? Also well worth a visit. My tips on art collections and galleries are much more reliable than my tips on horses ready to win at long odds!

Anonymous said...

I was very impressed with Notional (not that i'd consider him @ 37/1). Not only has he demonstrated considerable talent, but he's now shown he can perform well on a non-California surface. That can't be overstated when considering the Derby. Many West Coast horses simply don't perform well over a deeper surface, for whatever reason. I think that's what happened to Spanky Come Home, btw. Also, Notional's win flatters Exhale, who i believe could be a major factor on the Derby Trail if he were able to get some experience. Time seems to be running out on that, however. And speaking of time running out, EZ Warrior was forced to miss the San Vicente today with "foot problems". I think you can stick a fork in that one as far as the Derby is concerned.

As for Rags to Riches, i was VERY impressed with her. Although she was exiting a maiden win, and making her first start around two turns (vs. multiple stakes winners, no less), she had shown the ability to lay close to a reasonably fast pace, and then finish well. She had also been working head-up with Circular Quay, which is pretty good company for a lightly-raced filly such as this. In the race, she broke awkwardly and appeared to be climbing a bit while racing greenly. She was then forced about 7 wide around the first turn, which resyulted in her falling way off the pace. She started making good progress approaching the second turn, but then was forced 8-wide again into the lane. I thought she showed a lot of determination (not to mention a nice late kick) in running down the leader to win going away. The time of the race was slow, but i don't think that can be held against her due to the fact she wasn't responsible for the slow pace. Plus she lost a ton of ground. I put her final furlong at roughly 12 4/5, not very fast but ceratinly respectable for a young filly making her two-turn debut. She seems to enjoy running long, and obviously has oodles of talent. Should be a big factor in the Kentucky Oaks, assuming she can get there in one piece. I checked her odds in the pari-mutuel Oaks pool, and she was already a ridiculous 6/1 about an hour after her win. Those things have got to go. Don't even get me started on the Derby prices...