Alan has one opinion on Casino Drive and the Belmont Stakes—I have another. The lack of racing experience doesn’t bother me, and neither does his defying “the rules” regarding the path a Classic winner should follow. Instead, I see a win by Casino Drive as a victory of nature over man—proof that a superior broodmare and good breeding plays a significant role in producing good horses, not artificial medicinal enhancements or blow-hard trainers or disingenuous (on so many levels) corporate owners. That Better Than Honour has already produced two consecutive Belmont Stakes winners (Jazil and Rags to Riches) is an incredible feat; that she would produce three consecutive Belmont Stakes winners is statistically-improbable, and thus phenomenal. That makes more sense to me than a horse with known hoof-problems dominating every horse he has ever faced, with nary breathing hard. Something about that just ain't right.
Hall of Fame jockey Edgar Prado gets the ride on Casino Drive—a wise choice, as Prado has plenty of experience and success in the Belmont, with victories on Sarava (2002) and Birdstone (2004). For a rather-inexperienced colt like Casino Drive, Prado should be a calming influence. The switch from Cornelio Velasquez to Peruvian Alan Garcia on Tomcito also thrills me. Garcia is on a hot-streak these days, with Divine Park’s victory in the Met Mile, and Wild Gams winning the My Juliet. He’s currently the third-leading jockey at Belmont, behind only Eibar Coa and Rajiv Maragh.
Devastating news about Nashoba’s Key—the notoriously ill-tempered filly kicked the wall of her pen, breaking her left hind leg, and was euthanized on Wednesday morning. Winner of 8 of 10 races, including three G1 races, on turf and all-weather surfaces (Yellow Ribbon, Vanity Invitational, Santa Margarita), this daughter of Silver Hawk didn’t begin racing until age 4, but, boy, could she run! My favorite race of hers was the G2 Milady BC Handicap where she came four wide to pass Balance, Ballado’s Thunder and Hystericalady to win her first graded stakes; my second favorite was probably the G1 Vanity, when the rail opened and Joe Talamo took her right to the front coming into the final stretch. My sincerest condolences to her trainer Carla Gaines and owner-breeder Warren Williamson.
While Darley either passed on or wasn’t considered for the Big Brown stud deal, they did make a major purchase in France on Wednesday—Democrate, recent maiden victor and one of the favorites for Saturday’s G1 Prix du Jockey-Club (French Derby). His dam Aiglonne is by Silver Hawk, sire of Nashoba’s Key—just thought that was an odd coincidence.