A family function occupied much of my weekend, so I spent Sunday evening catching up on Saturday’s results. Happily, a number of personal favorites won, including St. John’s River who captured the G2 Delaware Oaks. With Jose Lezcano riding for the injured Rosie Napravnik (who will be out two to three months), the filly overcame a dawdling early pace to close with a rush for the win (it must have been prophetic with the track announcer repeatedly calling her “St. John’s Victory” for much of the race). This full-sister to Panty Raid will love the G1 Alabama’s greater distance and, indeed, that’s where she is headed next. Talk about a race worth looking forward to! With Queen’s Plate victress Inglorious already confirmed, as well as G2 Hollywood Oaks winner Zazu and runner-up (not to mention G1 Kentucky Oaks winner) Plum Pretty, everyone should clear their social calendar for August 20 because the action at Saratoga promises to be epic.
While that have been my favorite result, arguably the most impressive Saturday performance was by Sassy Image in the G1 Princess Rooney, coming from dead-last and an impossible distance back to win. Since shortening her up and winning the G1 Humana Distaff, this Dale Romans trainee looks like the best dirt sprinter in America—and, yes, I’m including males. The more I think about it, the more I’m infatuated with Conquistador Cielo in a horse’s damside (he’s the second damsire of Sassy Image). Oh, how I still remember him winning, as a 3-year-old, the G1 Met Mile (against older horses) and the G1 Belmont—less than a week apart! Sassy Image is also related to Maggie Moss’ hard-knocking claimer (and Prairie Meadows track record holder) Apak who is a half-brother to her dam.
Next weekend’s feature will be the G2 Delaware Handicap with Havre de Grace and Blind Luck set for their sixth meeting. Interesting that Havre de Grace totes two more pounds than her rival, but at least she’s on home turf. Apparently, Life at Ten will also start—when she once again loses, will her connections please retire her?
At his blog EquiSpace, Gene Kershner (one of an ever-growing number of amateur bloggers transitioning to professional writing gigs these days) poses the legitimate question: “which horse is going to step forward and save the thoroughbred racing season?” We’ve had Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta to carry racing’s story to the masses in recent years, but who will step forward this year? The Triple Crown proved the 3-year-old males are too inconsistent (not to mention slow), and I just can’t get thrilled by the “California Dudes.”
Personally, I think it is (once again) all about the fillies and mares. Havre de Grace and Blind Luck have developed a rivalry we old-timers like to compare to Affirmed and Alydar, or Sunday Silence and Easy Goer. If both stay healthy—and add into the mix Inglorious and St. John’s River—the Breeders’ Cup Classic (not the “Ladies” version, which rightly should be re-dubbed the Distaff) could be a filly-and-mare race. Sure, it’s highly unlike that their connections will take that route, even though the 10-furlong Classic distance suits each of them much better than the 9-furlong Distaff, but a girl can dream, can’t she?