Sunday, May 20, 2007
The Best Horse Won...This Day
I too may be in the minority, but I do believe the best horse won the Preakness. While repeatedly saying there was no excuse, Borel did note that Street Sense seems to lose focus about 40 yards from the finish line, maybe due to the crowd. Ramon Dominguez said exactly the same thing about Chelokee in the Barbaro Stakes: "He lost focus a bit on the turn, so I had to get after him a little bit to get his attention." Even Nafzger said, "When my horse gets to the lead, he's just sort of happy. He won't quit running, but he's not intense." I don’t think you blame that on the jockey, entirely. Yes, maybe Street Sense sensed that cocky assurance that Borel and Nafzger felt that their horse was unbeatable, and maybe Borel assumed Curlin and every other horse in the field was beaten before he took a quick peek back, but I don’t think that Curlin was going to be denied this day. A gutsy performance proved this colt has stepped up his game to a new level. I do think Mario Pino took Hard Spun to the lead too early and thus too wide at the far turn. Not that he would have won this day…
I love the physicality of Curlin and his jockey Robby Albarado is a nice guy, but it pisses me off to no end that a trainer like Steve Asmussen is reaping the benefits of Helen Pitts’ labor. After the race, he said, “I think that I was the right person for this horse at this time, and I think (jockey) Robby (Albarado) was the right rider for this horse at this time. It fell together that well, just as his career did from his first race. We were just the right people at the right time and very fortunate to be sitting up here after winning a classic." Yea, the right trainer who was given this horse by owners who had the biggest purse to buy their way into a winner. Like my fellow TBA blogger Superfecta, I agree with Andy Beyer that it will be difficult to root for Curlin with such an unlikable supporting cast around him, but I’m not going to hold that against him. He's a very good horse who may be a great horse...that remains to be seen.
In the Maryland BC Sprint, Diabolical held off Talent Search and Semaphore Man. Flashy Bull put a head in front of Hesanoldsalt to win the Schaefer, with Ryan’s For Real getting show. The Dixie Handicap saw the most tragic result of the day, as leader Mending Fences broke down as they entered the far turn, causing Einstein’s jockey Robbie Albarado to jump off his mount. Remarkable News avoided the fallen horse to win by less than one length over Cosmonaut who literally had to jump the fallen Mending Fences, and was gaining as the race ended. Outperformance got show. Despite the accident, Remarkable News (with Ramon Dominguez up) set a course-record time of 1:46 1/5 for the 1 1/8 miles on grass. Mending Fences was euthanized after suffering a compound fracture of his right front ankle.
In the Hirsch Jacobs (photo above), Southwestern Heat blazed out to the lead, set impressive fractions (22.66, 45.17 and 57.59) before Rafael Bejarano brought Street Magician up, tight to the rail, they bumped, and then, as the Equibase Footnotes say, Southwestern Heat “gave way grudgingly.” Even though he finished second (2-1/2 lengths ahead of Hobbitontherocks), Southwestern Heat continues to impress me, in his first stakes attempt. Geez, he is only one race removed from a maiden, and nearly beats a horse that won the Aventura Stakes in March, and last ran in the G3 Withers! Where we will see SW Heat next? It is probably too much to see him back in two weeks for the G3 Aristides BC (6f) on June 2 at Churchill Downs, but the 6-furlong Rumson Stakes at Monmouth on June 10 and the G3 Jersey Shore BC Stakes on July 4 might be a good fit. Watch the Hirsch Jacobs here (video)
The most touching moment of the day was Michael Matz winning the inaugural Barbaro Stakes with Chelokee, and tearing up after the race, and while receiving congratulations from Roy and Gretchen Jackson. A dignified and apropos recognition of Barbaro's memory.