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Monday, August 25, 2008

Weekend Reflections (and Rants)

With the start of school (and thus the end of my four-month vacation) around the corner, I relished the excellent weekend racing, starting with Ginger Punch and Lemon Drop Mom’s ding-dong battle down the stretch in the G1 Personal Ensign. Unfortunately, my money was on Lemon Drop Mom, but my admiration for Ginger Punch continues to grow. Why is it, though, that great horses these days have complete asses for owners? Frank Stronach’s prancing in the winner’s circle was uncouth, to say the least.

Alan Garcia is king! Anything he rode on Saturday was live, that’s why I put a win bet on Shakis ($14.80) in the G2 Bernard Baruch, but like an idiot ignored Visionaire ($15.60) in the G1 King’s Bishop. Seriously, I’m an idiot! I touted Visionaire all spring, including for the Derby...and then gave up on him. Ditto for Colonel John ($10.40) who I also pegged in the Derby, but not in the G1 Travers.

I wasn’t impressed overall with the running of the Travers, especially as the field rounded the turn for home. I thought, “Boy, they’re slow.” It looked like a slough of horses, pinballing off one another and no one really demonstrating a brilliant turn of foot. The photo finish between Colonel John and Mambo in Seattle was interesting, but didn't strike me as any more than simply the two horses who tired the least. That’s why I don’t trust Beyer figures. How does Colonel John get 106 while Ginger Punch 104? Visionaire gets a 103 in a much faster run race?

For all the bluster and complaints about California’s artificial surfaces, you can’t deny their horses are fit and talented when they run on dirt. First, Colonel John and then, on Sunday, Intangaroo ($12.20) came flying late to whip the best female sprinters in the G1 Ballerina. It’s her third grade 1 victory this year in as many tries, including the Humana Distaff on Kentucky Derby day. I think we definitely have the odds-on favorite for the BC Filly & Mare sprint. Then again, what about Indian Blessing?

Sadly, I had to actually go to work on Monday, so missed the big performance by 3-year-old Driven by Success at Saratoga in race 1. Not only did he win wire-to-wire by nearly 16 lengths, but the final time (1:14.97) was just fractions off the 6.5f track record (1:14.40) set by Topsider back in 1979.

On Thursday, in race 5 at Presque Isle, 8-year-old gelding Shake the Bank looks to be odds-on to win his first race in, well, years. Breaking from post 2, the early speedster tries Tapeta for the first time in an allowance race for non-winners of 4 lifetime going one mile. Given that he trains at Fair Hill, the surface shouldn’t be a concern, especially as he’s reeled off four straight 5f bullet works there in the month of August. Go Shake the Bank!

And here we go again! 4-year-old Elite Squadron—last seen finishing a close second to Street Boss in the G1 Triple Bend—has suffered a soft tissue injury, but rather than taking a few months off and put him back in training, his owner Tom Walters is retiring him: “Because of the interest shown in the horse (for a stud career), I made the decision to retire him now.”

How disingenuous! Just admit, “Some one is willing to throw big bucks at me for my rather promising yet mildly underachieving son of a young stallion who also hasn’t set the racing world afire, so I took the cash and ran laughing.”

Finally, isn’t it a bit “ironic” that John Sadler—who last week had his barn raided, and has, according to the California Horse Racing Board, accounted for 18 of 38 positive tests for anabolic steroids since testing began July 1—won two BC Win and You’re In races at Del Mar on Sunday? Whatsthescript who won the G2 Del Mar Mile couldn’t win a G3 when under the care of Doug O’Neill, but he wins the G2 American Handicap at first asking for Sadler, and then narrowly loses the G1 Eddie Read. And G3 Rancho Bernardo winner Dearest Trickski was claimed by Sadler for $32,000 last year, yet has won 7 of 8 starts since. Go figure!