I started compiling these weekend recap thoughts on Sunday, then got sidetracked and finally finished them today. Anyway, some random / not-so-random thoughts on a Wednesday:
- The Jockey Club Tour on FOX added a race yesterday - the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap. Per the Jockey Club:
FOX Sports 1 and The Jockey Club announced today that the network will provide live coverage of the $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap from Santa Anita Park on Saturday, March 8. The telecast, as part of The Jockey Club Tour on FOX, will air from 7 to 7:30 p.m. ET.
The 77th edition of the Big 'Cap is expected to feature leading handicap horses Game On Dude, Mucho Macho Man and Will Take Charge. Game On Dude won the historic race in 2011 and 2013 and Mucho Macho Man beat Will Take Charge by a nose in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita last November 2.
- I've always had a bit of a love/hate relationship with Prayer for Relief. On the one hand, he's a horse that's banked over $1.5 million in his career, he's won over multiple tracks across the U.S., he travels well, and he's simply a really nice horse that's had an excellent career. On the other hand, he's not a top class, graded stakes quality horse. Most of his wins come versus Grade 3 or ungraded competition and, unfortunately, he has a habit of throwing in the towel if the race doesn't set up perfectly for him in the early stages.
Last Saturday's Mineshaft looked like a race that Prayer for Relief should dominate; it was a Grade 3 level race but, on paper, most of the horses were probably more suited for a level just below. Prayer for Relief should have been able to press the pace and blow by that field in the stretch for a relatively easy victory. Instead, we got the disaster that was Prayer for Relief's Mineshaft.
He seemed to break cleanly from the gate but didn't show nearly enough speed (and wasn't really asked by Cory Nakatani), so he ended up sitting almost four lengths back of the leading trio as the field made their way to the backstretch. At about the halfway point on the backstretch I said to myself, "this horse is done", and that was pretty much the case. He made a mild move on the turn but never passed any of the leading trio and then essentially threw in the towel at the top of the stretch en route to a really poor sixth place finish.
I didn't bet the Mineshaft and I'm happy I didn't because I likely would have bet on Prayer for Relief and that would have made my Saturday night really awful.
- There is a lot I could write about yesterday's results at the Fair Grounds, but perhaps this sums it up the best of any: Untapable's victory in the Rachel Alexandra was the best performance of the day.
There are plenty of different systems to analyze the performance or speed of a horse in a single race, and pretty much all of them agreed that Untapable was clearly the best. In this case, the analysis was easy: the Rachel Alexandra, Risen Star and Mineshaft were all run on the dirt at the same distance of a mile and a sixteenth, and Untapable stopped the teletimer a good fifth of a second faster than the winners of the other two races.
Below are the comparisons of the three dirt graded stakes races at the Fair Grounds on Saturday:
- Turning to the Fountain of Youth, after looking at the charts and the replay a few times, I came to the following impressions:
Commissioner either didn't like being penned in down at the rail, or he simply threw in a major clunker. I'm leaning towards the former as the horse he beat last time out, Top Billing, ran a solid race. That doesn't mean I'm willing to give Commissioner a pass; any horse with serious Derby aspirations has to learn how to race in uncomfortable or tight quarters or simply hope everything goes perfectly. I know which one I'd feel better about betting on.
- The connections of the Fountain of Youth winner, Wildcat Red, are quickly growing on me. From the race recap at Brisnet:
Co-owner Josie Delfino was delighted.
"This feels great -- it's so emotional," Delfino said. "We've been in racing for two years. We're what you call newcomers. We had a good friend from Venezuela introduce us to Jose. We always wanted a horse -- we rescue animals in Venezuela -- but didn't know it would be a racehorse until after we met Jose. We didn't think we'd get this far so quick, but after we got Red we thought we'd go far. He has the heart of a winner."