On Saturday, Zanjero—who recently has been the workout companion of Pyro—starts his four-year-old campaign in the G3 Razorback BC Handicap at Oaklawn Park. He looks well positioned here, with his chief competition probably being last year’s Razorback third-place finisher Jonesboro who is coming in off a strong second-place showing in the Essex Handicap and two bullet workouts. I’d be surprised if Essex winner Spotsgone won again as he appears more of a miler, but third-place runner Gouldings Green should get a piece. Zanjero was one of my Derby favorites last year, even though he was obviously a notch below the best. After the Derby, I begrudgingly admit (one of my least favorite trainers) Steve Asmussen did a marvelous job of properly placing him in races he could be competitive in—he ran a close second to Chelokee in the G3 Northern Dancer, won the G3 West Virginia Derby, finished third in the G2 Pennsylvania Derby, then completed the year with a solid win in the G2 Indiana Derby. I’ll be rooting for a big effort from him.
At virtually the exact same post time, Asmussen is sending out Zanjero’s baby full-sister Acacia (coming off a maiden victory) in the G2 Fair Grounds Oaks against the REALLY big girls—Indian Blessing and Proud Spell. Let’s be frank: Acacia is completely overmatched in this race and, as much as I like her, she cannot compete at this level yet. Still, with only four entries, she should be able to get third (and 10% of the $400,000 purse). I’ll take a closer look at the weekend’s other big races tomorrow.
Curlin isn’t the only American horse running well in Dubai these days. Jalil, a $9.7 million full-brother to multiple-G1 winner After Market (out of multiple-G1 victress Tranquility Lake, by Storm Cat), won the G2 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 on Super Thursday; Kandidate lost his rider coming out of the gate. Godolphin’s Elusive Warning (who won twice at Aqueduct last year before shipping off to Dubai) beat Asiatic Boy in the G3 Burj Nahaar; Godolphin also took the G3 Mahab al Shimaal with former American sprint phenom Diabolical. In the most impressive performance of the card, Pennsylvania-bred Lord Admiral rallied from dead-last to win the G2 Jebel Hatta. For video replays of the entire card click here.
Finally, I couldn’t let this day pass without mentioning that it was exactly one year ago today that I first began writing this blog. I was on sabbatical, ostensibly writing a book on Pittsburgh’s skyscapers (a project that actually will finally reach fruition this summer). Looking back over those early posts now I can tell just how much free time I had on my hands! Boy, I can’t believe I have to wait six years for another sabbatical :( Still, it took about a month for Patrick over at Handride to notice me and I still feel privileged to have been asked to join the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance—a wonderful and diverse group of horse racing aficionados whose writings I enjoy reading each and every day. I’ve also had the opportunity to hear from a range of fascinating people via email and enjoy their continued friendships. So, thanks for reading!