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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Who Are the Unsung Stars?

As if the point of my last post needed further bolstering, another blue-collar horse made the news on Monday—Rapid Redux captured his 15th straight race, an 8.5 furlong starter allowance event at Thistledown. Only a 5-year-old, this Pleasantly Perfect gelding has now run at 11 different tracks in his 35 starts—and as recent as last year, you could have claimed him for $5,000. In fact, he was claimed for $6,250 at Penn National in October; since then, he’s won 16 of 17 starts for new owner Robert L. Cole, Jr. Not bad for the one-time stablemate and running partner for G2 Remsen runner-up Atomic Rain.
Maybe it’s because as a child I was enthralled by Mildred Pace’s Old Bones the Wonder Horse, which chronicled the life of hard-knocking Exterminator—winner of 50 races in 99 starts, from age 2 to 9—but I’ve always had a soft-spot for older geldings who keep plugging away. And we should celebrate them, even if they aren’t the greatest or fastest horses running on the planet, because they win consistently against all who challenge them. They’re not sitting in the barn for extended periods of time, barely raced, or rushed off to stud like so many others. They seem almost like a throwback to another time, a better era for racing, and I’m sure there are more of them out there than I’ve heard of, so chime in with your candidates, maybe from your local track, that people should talk about.
In the previous post’s comments, Nicholas mentioned Star Guitar, a 6-year-old Louisiana-bred son of Quiet American who has been tearing up state-bred stakes for five years now, including a current 5-race win streak dating back to December. In all, he’s won 19 of 25 starts for owner/breeder Maurice and Evelyn Benoit, with total earnings nearly $1.4 million—almost all of which was earned in Louisiana. He finished fourth in the 2010 G3 Texas Mile at Lone Star, but even more impressive was his third-place finish in the 2009 G3 Alysheba at Churchill Downs behind subsequent G1 Whitney victor Bullsbay and G1-placed Cool Coal Man. Not a bad performance considering among those he defeated were next-out G2 Californian winner Informed, G1 Travers runner-up Mambo in Seattle, and next-out G1 Stephen Foster winner Macho Again. According to Mary Rampellini at DRF, his next three targets are the $100k Delta Downs Gold Cup (November 5), the $150k Louisiana Champions Day Classic (December 10), and the $200k Delta Premiere Night Championship (February 4).
What I particularly find fascinating (not to mention compelling) is how many of these blue-collar horses are bred and/or owned by the same connections for their entire career—like Star Guitar. Nine-year-old New Jersey-bred Joey P—a G3 winner early in his career—has now raced 48 times for owner/breeder John Petrini. Owner Mark E. Russell’s 5-year-old West Virginia-bred Russell Road has won 17 of 29 starts, mostly at Charles Town; his sole excursion to Aqueduct saw him finish fifth in the 2009 G3 Gotham—behind the likes of G1 Wood Memorial winner I Want Revenge, G2 Peter Pan runner-up Imperial Council and next-out G3 Withers victor Mr. Fantasy, but ahead of subsequent G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Haynesfield. In Washington State, 9-year-old Cahill Road gelding Wasserman is still plying his trade for owner/breeder Howard Belvoir. In his most recent start (the 63rd of his career), he finished a respectable fifth of 11 runners in the G3 Longacres Mile won by Awesome Gem—a race Wasserman won back in 2008.
So, let’s hear it. From Woodbine to Golden Gate, Suffolk to Canterbury, Calder to Sunland, who are the local or regional heroes—male or female—that we rarely hear about in the mainstream press?
Edited to add: I've begun a Facebook page dedicated to these blue collar warriors; friend us here.


Cindy said...

I am visiting Mr. Fantasy Friday morning. Have followed him since his first race in winter of 2009 which I drove 4.5 hours to see. Watch for him next month at Belmont.

Great article - I love it!


Deltalady said...

Valerie, you might be surprised at the fractions that Rapid Redux has posted...

Here are fractions for RR in a race he ran in April and the recent Woodward, leaving out for the moment track conditions:

RR: 4/25/11 at PEN, 1 1/8 mi: 23.75, 47.73, 1:11.92, 1:37.52, and 150.9

9/3 Woodward: at SAR, 1 1/8 mi: 23.93, 48.09, 1:11.95, 1:36.29, and 149.18.

My question is, if Ask The Moon can rise out of the weeds to graded stakes territory, would it be possible for this horse?

Thanks for spotlighting these 'blue collar' horses...I'm like you, I have a soft spot especially for the geldings who just labor away for small purses, hardly enough to pay their feed or transportation bills!

Ann Maree/Facebook