Back as the door swings shut

The rigors of a power-packed six day per week meet took their toll on me as I’ve been remiss in not updating this little blog, so let’s clear up some of what has happened in the past two weeks.  Here are a dozen thoughts from the last few weeks.

1.) Careless Jewel was smashing in the Alabama, leveling a decent field that was missing only one “other” 3YO filly.  It is nice to see a versatile, dual threat like Careless Jewel who can win on dirt and synthetics and has won in both Canada and the US.  She is definitely being pointed to the Breeders’ Cup and would be a respectable replacement to the best 3YO filly in the land.  Watch the Alabama.

2.) One of the more remarkable yet universally missed efforts of the meet was Nehantic Kat’s in the Yaddo.  She was in the midst of a big move around the far turn before being stopped by a tiring frontrunner.  Jockey Rajiv Maragh was forced to check this gal then re-rallied in time to grab the lead late and edge away.

3.) There was no Big Apple Triple candidate this year but Fiddlers Afleet still ran a very game race to take the field coast to coast.  He is one of the more talented NY bred 3YO and is obviously back at home on the conventional dirt in NY.

4.) One of the best performances of Travers week came from Justenuff Humor, who lengthened his stride and ran down a game pacesetter in Cowboy Cal.  He has proven to be a dynamo on turf with six consecutive victories, including two straight Grade 2 scores.  Look for this guy to be a force in the Shadwell Turf Mile and perhaps the Breeders’ Cup Mile.  Watch the Bernard Baruch.

5.) Travers Day was drastically changed by the horrible weather and that rendered the main track sloppy and the turf course yielding.  The first stakes winner was a bona fide shocker as Salve Germania ran down the favorite, Rutherienne, as she received a perfect ride from Javier Castellano.  She will remain in America in the care of trainer Todd Pletcher, so look for her in a graded stake on turf near you.  Watch the Ballston Spa.

6.) Remember when I trashed Music Note and the ridiculously terrible ride she received in the Ogden Phipps?  She atoned for that effort in a big way as she rode the rail (which was not the best part of the track) to a powerful win in the Ballerina.  That effort was enough for Godolphin racing to state that the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint is her ultimate goal as 7 furlong races are her new game.  Watch the Ballerina.

7.) The best finish of the Travers Day graded stakes races came in the King’s Bishop as Vineyard Haven, off of a gigantic layoff, desperately tried to hold off multiple graded stakes winner Capt. Candyman Can.  It was a terrific effort from both but the former really ran his lungs out.  After a poor effort in Dubai, many considered Vineyard Haven to be a flash in the pan that had peaked too early.  He is clearly back in a big way and in position to make some noise in late-season sprints/middle distance races.  Watch the King’s Bishop.

8.) The Travers had the makings of a marquee race ten days out as there was still hope that Mine That Bird and Rachel Alexandra would be in the field, which meant that all three Triple Crown race winners would be present.  Alas, it was only the Belmont winner who showed up for Race 12 on the marathon program but his impression was strong.  Summer Bird backed up his Belmont win and Haskell runner-up finish with a strong showing against Quality Road, Kensei, and a couple of other stakes winners.  He is clearly getting better with every start and will be very tough in the Jockey Club Gold Cup next month at Belmont.  Watch the Travers.

9.) Wondering where Icon Project’s huge win in the Personal Ensign came from?  Granted, she cruised in the off the turf New York Handicap but that was attributed to the scratch-reduced field and sloppy conditions.  She had a tough trip in the Delaware Handicap when compared to that of the winner but she reversed that decision in a big way drawing off with every stride in the 10 furlong event.  She, like Careless Jewel, proved that girl power was alive and well at Saratoga for the duration of this meet and you can count on this gal being a force in the Beldame on October 3.  Watch the Personal Ensign.

10.) Good for Pyro.  I was always a fan and hats off to Godolphin for recognizing what might be his comfort zone and shortening him up to one-turn sprints.  He finished best of all in the Forego to earn his elusive first Grade I win and now has all the credentials to become a stallion.  A couple of horses were gallant in defeat in here including My Pal Charlie, who has a nose for the money but can’t quite get the job done, and Riley Tucker, who fought it out gamely before weakening late.  Watch the Forego.

11.) What can you say about what Linda Rice has done at this meet?  Here are her numbers in a bit more detail:

Record: 71-20-4-8
Turf: 53-18-2-5
Turf races less than one mile: 32-9-0-3
Maidens: 18-5-3-1
2YOs: 11-2-2-1

After perusing those numbers it’s quite clear that she’s done very well on turf but it’s not quite right to attribute her success to the preponderance of turf sprints we’ve seen at this meet.  The fact of the matter is that Linda Rice’s barn has been hot from start to finish, she’s had incredibly good luck (as evidenced by her wins vs. ITM finishes) and has had a variety of different horses ready to go.  Hats off to her in her quest for a training title at the toughest meet in the country.

12.) Rachel, Rachel, Rachel!  The racing world got exactly what it dreamed of in the Woodward as Rachel Alexandra battled with older males tooth and nail and came out victorious.  She set all the pace, buried all of the pace-pressers who were within striking distance early and had enough to hold on late.  She is truly a once in a lifetime, special filly and thank God we were able to see her complete a truly ambitious campaign that was undoubtedly worthy of a horse of her mettle.  Watch the Woodward.

Well, that gets us caught up for the last couple of weeks.  I’ll be back later today with thoughts on the closing day card and to hand out some meet long awards tonight or tomorrow.  Good luck today!

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