15 things we learned this weekend

Of the three major summer holidays (Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day) the Independence Day racing might come in a respectable third but we were all privy to a few solid performances from Friday to today.  Here’s a look at some of what we learned:

1.) It was nice to see Smarty Jones get his first stakes winner as Backtalk scored in the Bashford Manor.  He’s out of the Affirmed mare Apasionata Sonata, making him a half to multiple stakes winner Bsharpsonata.  Look for this guy in a Saratoga stakes race later this month.  His Beyer in the Bashford Manor was 78.

2.) The transferring of the 10th race to the main track on Friday afternoon came as a bit of a surprise but it seems like more of a surprise nowadays when they don’t have to move at least one turf race to the main track.

3.) Kensei looked great winning the Dwyer as he took a leap forward that few could have forecasted.  He was given a perfectly patient ride while stalking the pace and he moved at exactly the right time.  His Beyer was 107.

4.) Wake up award #1 goes to Calvin Borel.  I know Warrior’s Reward broke poorly in the Dwyer, but what made Borel think he could drop 18 lengths out and still be successful.  It’s time for Warrior’s Reward to get cut back to sprint distances.

5.) Edward Evans looked like he had a stranglehold on the Prioress and while it wasn’t the half of the entry that everyone expected, Cat Moves was along in time to score.  It was a bit of an ugly horse race from the quarter pole home as no horse really made a meaningful late run, save Luster, who was too far behind early. Cat Moves’ Beyer figure was a 96.

6.) Kudos to Barclay Tagg for opting to run Dry Martini in the Suburban rather than the Cornhusker Handicap last week at Prairie Meadows.  The old gray gelding by Slew Gin Fizz rated beautifully at the back of the pack for jockey Edgar Prado and every time he needed to move he was ready.  The very professional effort stamped this guy a contender for the Whitney and other late season handicap events.  He earned a Beyer figure of 105.

7.) If you didn’t love Presious Passion prior to yesterday’s U.N. Handicap at Monmouth I hope  you do now.  He did his thing and wound up scoring decisively after opening a 20 length lead.  He just seems to gallop his rivals into the ground each and every time he goes to the post and his tenacity is infectious.  He earned a Beyer figure of 106.

8.) It was nice to see Coal Play get the graded stakes tally he so deserved with a wire-to-wire tour de force in the Salvator Mile.  He clearly loves Monmouth Park, though don’t be upset if I’m still smarting from him getting caught late in last year’s Haskell.  He earned a Beyer figure of 109.

9.) There was a reason why Julien Leparoux opted to ride Informed Decision in the Chicago BC Handicap rather than It’s A Bird in the Suburban.  The gray filly scored by a pole at Arlington Park and is clearly among the favorites for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. 

10.) Is Whatsthescript over the hill?  Or is Monterey Jazz just THAT good when he’s on his game?  I’d opt for both after watching the American Handicap.  The former could not make up any serious ground late and checked in a well-beaten third while the latter took it to his five rivals Presious Passion style.  He showed why he’s one of the best around going a mile on the weeds and should now be back in the conversation for the Breeders’ Cup Mile.

11.) Munnings validated his Belmont Stakes Day triumph in the Woody Stephens with a handy win in the Tom Fool.  The thing is, I’m just not sure how good he is now.  After Fabulous Strike was scratched Munnings looked like the best horse in the race quite easily.  He got the perfect pace setup, enjoyed an ideal inside trip and kicked clear impressively in upper stretch.  The thing is he never really exploded away in the manner that looked like he was going to as his advantage stayed the same through the stretch.  Perhaps he just did his job and I’m nit-picking but I think he’s had too many perfect trips in a row and his luck will soon change.

12.) Gozzip Girl is good.  If you had any doubts they should have been removed by her huge score in the American Oaks as she pulled clear with authority once she struck the front in midstretch.  I hope trainer Tom Albertrani forgets that he even thought about running her in the Alabama.  Here’s to hoping she stays on the weeds and ends up in the Beverly D. against older fillies and mares at Arlington.

13.) Zensational may be worthy of all the hype after all.  He’s a complete lunatic, as evidenced by Victor Espinoza having to fight him the entire way in the Triple Bend, but he can clearly fly when it counts.  He’s worthy of a try against the best of his generation on dirt and we may get to see that if he ends up in the King’s Bishop. 

14.) Churchill’s spring-summer racing season went out with a whimper but it was quite a meet.  The gigantic upset in the Ky Derby, the dramatic victory by Macho Again in the Foster, a number of impressive 2YOs, and the successful advent of night racing.  Even if the slots aren’t coming soon, Churchill Downs Incorporated is doing more than enough to position themselves for a strong future.

15.) Summer is in full swing as we have next Saturday to look forward to with the Summit of Speed and Million Preview Day on tap.  The Man O’ War may have as many as seven Grade I winners, so next Saturday’s slate looks quite full.  Until then, good luck and let’s take one more look at the United Nations Handicap victory of Presious Passion.

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