Weekend Recap: Boys only in this game

On what is normally a slow weekend in the racing world, there was clearly a need for a Mothers’ Day kick-start.  It came via Mark Allen, a part owner of Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, and Ahmed Zayat, owner of Derby runner-up Pioneerof the Nile.  In appearanced on HRTV this morning both were asked a number of question about their respective horses and the upcoming Preakness Stakes.  The hottest topic was not their horses but the expected inclusion of the popular filly Rachel Alexandra. 

Allen discussed including a hopeless maiden that he owns with trainer Joe Merrick in an effort to exclude Rachel Alexandra from the field of 14.  Zayat discussed being approached by multiple entities, including Marylou Whitney, to enter a horse in order to keep the filly out.  Between comments Zayat made on HRTV to what he repeated to TVG by 2:00 PM CDT it sounded like an exclusive game at the Pimlico sandlot and the two captains were conspiring to make sure the girl couldn’t play.

Luckily by the end of the day thanks to the assuage of angst on behalf of the racing community, Whitney, Zayat and Allen all denied that they were planning on entering horses to exclude Rachel Alexandra.  However, the whole story made me think- wouldn’t it be appropriate for someone or some group to do something that would keep racing from getting an incredible amount of attention, if only for a day?  I mean, in a game plagued by steroids, inconsistent rules on medication, lack of a unified front and a commissioner, wouldn’t there be a way for a great opportunity to get the spotlight to be squandered?  Hopefully not and at least at the moment it seems like things will work out and we will be in for one of the most anticipated races in years.  Let’s take a look at some of the biggest races of the weekend:

PETER PAN

While the Preakness may be hot on everyone’s mind, the Belmont is shaping up as a terrific race in itself with a few Derby runners pointing there along with the Peter Pan victor, Charitable Man.  This well-bred son of Lemon Drop Kid was making only his 2nd start of 2009 after trying the Blue Grass at Keeneland four weeks prior.  He faced a field whose main contenders were Triple Crown castaways who had failed to reach high expectations.  His trip was basically perfect as jockey Alan Garcia rated him behind the runaway leader, Hello Broadway, who could not be slowed down by jockey Garrett Gomez and sped clear to a huge lead through an unrealistic opening half mile. 

Once in front Charitable Man staved off Imperial Council who looked like a runaway leader at the quarter pole before he completely hung.  Going forward Charitable Man seems to be unfazed by facing top competition in his first two efforts of the year and he clearly stamped himself a contender for the summer and fall in the 3YO division.

Click here to view the Peter Pan

LONE STAR DERBY

The Sunland Derby has now produced graded stakes winners in consecutive weeks though the Lone Star Derby doesn’t quite stack up to the Kentucky Derby.  Mythical Power, who rallied gamely in New Mexico to finish second, capitalized on a terrific pace setup to take over at the quarter pole and draw away powerfully.  He is another horse to watch in the 2nd half as he has moved forward significantly since moving to conventional dirt.

Click here to watch the Lone Star Derby

RAILBIRD

Witty, a well-bred daughter of Distorted Humor out of the mare Well Dressed, smartly stalked the pace and pounced in the stretch to score her first stakes win.  Luckily this gal has taken after Well Armed more than full brother Helsinki, as both are also by Well Dressed. 

They didn’t exactly finish up with remarkable speed in the Railbird but the effort from a filly facing stakes company for the first time was sharp and showed that she has a bright future.  Here’s to hoping we get to see her prowess on conventional dirt.

Click here to watch Witty’s Railbird triumph

Stop by this week for daily updates on the road to Saturday’s Preakness Stakes including updated contender profiles for the 14 participants.  Until then, let’s all bask in the Kentucky Oaks victory of Rachel Alexandra.

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