What a weekend from A (Arlington Matron) to Z (Zenyatta)

First, let me apologize for being a no show over the long holiday weekend.  After returning from a brief racing respite, I had a full slate which included 16 graded stakes races.  The most noteworthy performances lasted from Saturday through Monday so let’s take a look at a few:


Of all the feats that are very impressive yet have been completely overlooked this year, isn’t Tom Albertrani’s 12 graded stakes the most significant?  Sure, he has had some very good horses in his barn in the past, including 2006 Eclipse Award winner Bernardini, however, Albertrani has been on a nice roll this year.  One of the most consistent horses in his barn is Criticism, a daughter of Machiavellian who closed 2008 with a win in the Long Island Handicap at Aqueduct.  Going into Saturday she had scored in the Very One and La Prevoyante and now added the Sheepshead Bay in impressive fashion.  Some are dismissing her as opportunistic but she has the versatility to win from off the pace as well.
Click here to watch the Sheepshead Bay


The champ is back.  Zenyatta, the undefeated super-mare, made her heavily anticipated 2009 debut in this field of six and picked up right where she left off.  After having to check briefly on the backstretch, the massive mare was angled out and promptly gathered in her rivals.  She pulled clear late to score sharply with her stablemate Life Is Sweet grabbing the place dough.  The most unfortunate aspect of Zenyatta’s victory was the ridiculously conservative plan laid out by trainer John Shirreffs, as he all but removed any chance we’d see her against males.  Here’s to hoping Shirreffs has a change of heart.
Click here to watch the Milady


Unfortunately, few are ever going to remember that Euphony won a stirring stretch battle with Kiss With a Twist to score her first graded stakes win.  It was the fall of Born to Be turning for home, which included jockey Rene Douglas getting pinned underneath his mount that has left him paralyzed at the moment which will be remembered.  Douglas is not only an accomplished jockey who’s won both a Triple Crown and a Breeders’ Cup race, but he’s been the leading rider at Arlington Park on multiple occasions.  My thoughts and prayers are with his family as we all hope Rene gets well soon.
Click here to watch the Arlington Matron


Sometimes when you bill a race as another showdown in a long rivalry you’re left completely disappointed and this event went just that way.  Game Face and Any Limit, who had traded decisions three times over the winter at Gulfstream, were the two favorites and were expected to easily outfinish their three rivals.  Of course, they ended up finishing 4th and 5th in the quintet as Carolyn’s Cat was hustled to the lead, set all the pace and kicked clear late.  A daughter of Forestry and graded stakes winner in 2008, Carolyn’s Cat looms a dangerous horse for the future.  However, it would seem wise to keep an eye on Porte Bonheur, a filly who has never run well fresh, who put in a solid late run to finish 2nd.  Her trainer has been atrocious at this meet, so there’s reason to believe better things are ahead.
Click here to watch the Vagrancy


The richest race of the weekend and arguably one of the best in NY year in and year out drew a field of 12 after Mr. Fantasy was scratched.  The bulky field had a good mixture of speed, stalkers, and closers and looked to offer a terrific amount of value.  In the end, it was the two favorites slugging it out late, as the six year-old gelding Bribon narrowly edged Smooth Air to score his first Grade I victory.  It was the 2nd straight year that the Westchester winner came back to win the Met Mile, proving once again that there’s plenty of validity in prepping locally.
Click here to watch the Met Mile


The crown jewel of the biggest day of the Lone Star Park meet was won by the Floridian It’s a Bird, who picked up his third stakes win of 2009.  He broke through in the Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream in late January then atoned for a poor effort at Fair Grounds with an authoritative win in the Oaklawn Handicap.  His win in Grand Prairie was workmanlike but plenty fast and proved he is a force to be reckoned with going forward in the handicap division.
Click here to watch the Lone Star Park Handicap


With Hyperbaric making his first start since coming back from Dubai and Storm Military looking like more of a stalker, it did seem like Thorn Song might be the one to catch in this event.  He was able to get clear and was never headed despite being confronted at the eighth pole.  He held gamely and showed that when able to get clear on a very firm turf course he is extremely tough to beat.  If trainer Dale Romans can keep him on hard courses, he can string together a decent year.
Click here to watch the Shoemaker Mile

If Memorial Day is the unofficial start to summer and with the Belmont Stakes only eleven days away, now’s the time when we’re treated to great racing week in and week out.  The featured events nationwide this week are the Gamely (G1) at Hollywood for older fillies and mares going 9 furlongs on the Hollywood lawn and the Sands Point (G2) for 3YO fillies going nine furlongs on the inner turf at Belmont.  We’ll be back tomorrow to talk about the weekday Belmont cards.

Here’s our 05-26 version of thumbs up and thumbs down:

Thumbs UP:

1. Chris Block– Doing the right thing with his horse Giant Oak has already paid off as he scored in the Arlington Classic on Saturday after being held out of the first two Triple Crown events.

2. Brass Hat– The old man had at least one more big effort in him as he thundered down the center of the Matt Winn turf course to take the Louisville Handicap. 

3. Indian Way– The best performance that everyone missed over the weekend was from this daughter of Indian Charlie in the My Juliet at Philadelphia Park.  She broke the track record while stopping the clock in 1:07.61 for six panels.

Thumbs DOWN:

1. John Shirreffs– Congratulations for going 1-2 in the Milady, Mr. Shirreffs!  However, what is running Zenyatta in the Vanity, Clement Hirsch, Lady’s Secret, and Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic going to accomplish?  She’s won each of those races already and has proven time and again that she’s so much better than the older fillies and mares on the west coast that she simply has to run against males.  For all the talk about sportsmanship vis-a-vis the decision to run Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness, is it really sportsmanlike for Zenyatta to mop up on the same horses in the same races this year?

2. Jamie Theriot- A rise to stardom that began almost two years could be temporarily de-railed as Theriot was given a 30-day suspension for being responsible for the fall that may have left jockey Rene Douglas paralyzed from the waist down.  A tearful Theriot apologized and said, “Every time we put these boots on, all of us don’t know what’s in store, but I never thought I would be part of something like this. I really, really hurt inside over what happened.”

3. Game Face– It’s never good when a horse has to bring his/her racetrack with them and this gal is getting to be that way when it comes to Gulfstream Park.  She is now 0 for 2 at Belmont, a far cry from her record of 5: 3-2-0 in Hallandale.  Her early season races are now a distant memory.

See you tomorrow and until then have a look at the 2007 Belmont Stakes as we’re now only 11 days away from the Test of the Champion.


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