A few comments on today’s racing and on-track experience before I settle into handicapping Saturday’s card.
In the Marathon, I was disappointed by both Bright Horizon and Million Seller who never looked to be contenders, while the disqualification of Prince Will I Am was severely booed in my entire seating section (near the first turn). We didn’t see any of the post-race brawl between Javier Castellano and A U Miner’s Calvin Borel (thankfully, I suppose), but what I observed after-the-fact online doesn’t exactly enhance the event’s ambiance.
Surprise, surprise! The Euro fillies didn’t make an impact in the Juvenile Fillies Turf. How in the heck did a Todd Pletcher youngster like More Than Real go off at 13.60-1? Congratulations to Bobby Flay, the kind of celebrity owner whose genuine exuberance at winning certainly ran counter to the Marathon’s ugly aftermath. Disappointed that Jimmy Toner’s Winter Memories didn’t win, though, and Kathmanblu ran a game race.
Of all the races, the Fillies’ and Mares’ Sprint disappointed me most. Not because Dubai Majesty won, as she has been in good form and knows this track well. What bugs me about this “sprint” race is that both Switch and Evening Jewel (who, incidentally, I did wager a losing exacta box on) have both raced in nothing but route races this year, and far outperformed the so-called sprinters like Champagne d’Oro, Sara Louise and (poor) Informed Decision. Part of the problem may be that the Fillies and Mares Sprint is 7-furlongs, and not 6-furlongs. Is there no such thing as a pure sprinter any longer, or are they just fast horses that can't run route distances?
Florida-raced Awesome Feather won the Juvenile Fillies, which led to goodly number of cheers on-track. As I feared, A Z Warrior proved to be the daughter and sister of sprinters—she barely made it 100 feet beyond the finish line after the race (finishing dead-last) before she was pulled up exhausted. Damn shame. With the scratch of Indian Gracey, Theyskens’ Theory broke on the rail, and Frankie Dettori had to send her early on the lead—not her usual pattern, as she’s done best running just off the pace. Nice to see Believe in A.P. get up for fourth, though—one to watch next year.
In the Fillies’ and Mares’ Turf, you could literally hear everyone sharply inhale, surprised when Shared Account was announced the winner. Tough day for Midday in losing by a neck, but she and others destroyed Plumania’s chances by squeezing her back as they began the stretch run. Plumania looked very strong on the lead as they entered the first turn, well in hand, which boded well for her—or so I thought. Alas, the best laid plans!
Blind Luck and Havre de Grace demonstrated their great rivalry and did the 3-year-old crop proud by beating all of their elders—save for Unrivaled Belle. Obviously, I loved this result, as I’m a huge Bill Mott fan (and I swear he was standing in front of us, chatting with someone, for several races before it got dark). By the time this race went off, the purported crowd of 41,614 had whittled down to probably half of that, which for what is billed as the “Ladies’ Classic” is a damnable shame! Talk about regulating a race to complete obscurity! Those watching it on television may not have gotten that impression, but on track, when the crowd is thinned out to what you might find running on a typical Saturday night at Charles Town...it left a bad taste in my mouth, to be sure. Anyways, by the last race, we left our assigned seats and got right up to the rail. Life At Ten looked horrible from the beginning, and after the race, in the excitement of Unrivaled Belle winning, it took me a while to realize that Life At Ten never crossed the finish line. I asked one of the track photographers if he had seen her, what had happened, but he didn’t know either. Before the rest of the field even came back to be unsaddled, she had her saddle off, blanket on and was walking past us—and the returning field. Only later did I read about Velazquez’s voiced concerns before the race. Thus, as Teresa noted in her excellent wrap-up at Brooklyn Backstretch, Breeders’ Cup Day 1 ended much as it begun, on a sour note (my term) that didn’t exactly make a favorable impression on race fans, on racing’s most ballyhooed day.
• Rather than the recommended parking at Papa John’ Stadium we took a chance and got lucky, paying $20 to park unobstructed in a yard just one block over from the main gate. SERIOUSLY felt lucky as it was freaking COLD, and had no problems getting in and out.
• Generally polite, the crowd certainly exhibited a higher degree of alcohol inebriation than I’ve experienced at most athletic events—and that includes Flyers games at the old Spectrum. They weren’t nasty drunks, and I didn’t spot any fights or other typical macho bullshit—in fact, on the walk out, a very Southern drunk inquired of me “Honey, did you have a good time?” and proceed to tell me how he won $176 dollars on one race. Hopefully he remembers where he put that money in the morning.
• The ladies’ restroom on the far end of the second floor clubhouse is spectacular! My niece raved about the wide array of complimentary beauty products (hair spray, bobby pins, talc powder, etc.), sprays, cigarettes (don’t think those were free, but they were available), and various hard candies and chocolates. Of course, most impressively: no line!
• While the interior public areas (cafes, betting windows, etc.) were generally impressive, the outdoor seating areas of Churchill Downs are in need of a good cleaning and repainting. The white paint is not only dirty but chipped away on much of the steel girders in the old grandstand areas, where leaching rust spots are also visible. Maybe a little more spit and polish on the old place is needed before next year.