Well, no need to strain the brain to think of talking points for today’s blog. For it’s Resorts Casino Hotel Haskell Invitational week! Let’s light this candle:
A promotion for those of you on-site Haskell Day: the Breeders’ Cup Classic Ownership Challenge. Simply come to Haskell Day, fill out an entry form (it’s all free, no gimmicks), and drop it off at the Breeders’ Cup tent (located next to the Haskell hat redemption area north of the Grandstand). By doing so, you will become a “virtual owner” of the horse that wins this year’s Haskell – a Win & You’re In race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Should the Haskell winner go on to capture the BC Classic, you and whoever else signed up Haskell Day will share $250,000. That’s pretty cool!!
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Lots of good races from around the country this weekend and already this week. It may, however, be hard-pressing for a horse to be more impressive than Winter Memories was in Wednesday’s Grade 2 Lake George. She was under a hammerlock all the way around, checked off heels on the far turn (while still super-restrained), then looped the field and won as easy as possible under a hand ride. Can you say beast?
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A look ahead to Saturday’s card at Saratoga reveals the Grade 1 Diana on the turf for older fillies and mares. Maybe it’s just me, but doesn’t every horse’s PP’s in this race look very similar? Some of the horse’s names even sound/look alike – Zagora, Aruna, Aviate. Ok, maybe it’s just my brain acting up after a long week. Anyway, not that I play superfectas, but a horse that would be a must-use for me in such bets would be #2 Justaroundmidnight. L-O-V-E LOVE the fact that Joe Bravo goes up to ride. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that all three of Ms. Midnight’s wins – including a G3 score at 26-1 – have come with Bravo in the irons.
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One of my favorite parts of Haskell Day is always seeing the nation’s best 3-year-olds in the paddock. Seeing Rachel Alexandra was great. Seeing Rock Hard Ten nearly bump his head on the roof of the saddling area was awesome. This year, I’m really looking forward to it. Preakness winner Shackleford could pass for a Roman warhorse. At today’s press conference, Astrology was described as “regal-looking.” And trainer Bob Baffert says Coil is a looker as well. Should be an attractive walking ring. (PS – I’ll make sure I place myself prominently to even things out a little.)
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We’re three days out, and I’m giving it my first glance now, but don’t we have to do a little Haskell Day handicapping? Here goes:
In Race 4, #3 Kippers n’ Eggs gets back on turf and gets a big rider switch to Jose Valdivia, Jr. Watch out!
In Race 5, the Regret Stakes, #8 Bronx City Girl gets the service of Luis Saez, who ships up from Calder to ride for trainer Marty Wolfson. If memory serves, he had significant trouble coming out of the gate last time. #3 Hour Glass has the best company lines in the field.
In Race 6, the Jersey Derby, really, really, really like #2 Breathless Storm. He was a complete powerhouse last out and who was that horse that finished second in his race three back? Animal who? In a race that appears to have a lot of early speed, he – along with #7 Rustler Hustler and #8 Beachcombing – seems likely to benefit.
In Race 7, the Majestic Light, #5 Motovato is back and I’m back on him. He had some traffic trouble of his own last out in the Salvator Mile and will be ridden by Luis Saez – aboard for his most-recent stakes win.
In Race 8, the Lady’s Secret, #10 Quiet Giant finished behind who last time? Blind who?
The pace looks like it will be a fast one in Race 9, the Oceanport. #11 Straight Story is posted perfectly to sit and pounce on the expected front runners. #7 Violon Sacre may be the most talented horse in the race – he hasn’t run in eight months, however.
Race 10, the Teddy Drone, appears to be a blazer as well. #8 Roaring Lion and #10 Partyallnightlong may be position to get the desired stalking journey.
In Race 11, the Taylor Made Matchmaker, #3 Unbridled Essence is the defending champion and is re-united with Paco Lopez. Cha-ching! #11 Christine Daae tries the turf and keeps Joe Bravo. Interesting…very interesting.
In Race 12, the Resorts Casino Hotel Haskell, #1 Coil – if he can work out a trip from the rail – appears ready to burst onto the 3-year-old picture. #7 J J’s Lucky Train has the look of a live longshot (the horse he finished second to on Feb. 5 at Aqueduct came back to win the Wood Memorial). Either of the Kelly Breen entry is a big root for. How about a cold trifecta of Coil, Shackleford, Pants On Fire…with J J’s Lucky Train in the fourth spot for supers?
In Race 14, the finale, #4 Mata Keranjang has run against some good ones in his two U.S. starts. He moves way, way up if Breathless Storm wins the Jersey Derby. #8 Hariolus has very solid company lines.
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And lastly, we mentioned it last week, but a special final shout-out and good luck to Sophia Mangalee who heads to Mongolia this weekend for the world’s longest horse race (630 miles). We all wish her a safe journey and hope she has the time of her life. She probably won’t know who wins the Haskell until sometime in late August so nobody spoil it for her.
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Here’s hoping all of you have a fun and profitable Resorts Casino Hotel Haskell Day. Be sure to leave us a comment and tell us about it.
Brad Thomas’ Thursday Theories
Race 2 – Check out jockey Carlos Marquez’s adroit extrication of rail-posted first-timer Zulbaby from untenable position inside pacesetter Crafty Kisses early on the backstretch. He gave the filly every chance on a strip favoring outside paths, but Zulbaby simply lacked the foundation to hold off Just Do It Please (10 lifetime starts; four of them in 2011) late.
3rd-finishing firster Strategic Command was a bit slow to settle, green, altered course to the dullish inside while rallying near mid-stretch, and pulled up very well after the wire. Trainer Russell Cash’s recent second-timers have been improving big time.
Race 3 – Todd Pletcher-trained firster Space Traveler was honed to a super-fit edge with numerous five-furlong Churchill drills while facing a field made up entirely of firsters who had worked many furlongs fewer than he. It will be interesting to see how much more room for improvement the son of Malibu Moon possesses.
3rd-finsiher Tripendicular did not seem to relish being rushed early to maintain striking position in this abbreviated sprint, managed several subtle runs, and held position gamely through the stretch despite not changing leads. He’s all about slower, rhythmic paces and steady, sustained runs. Tripendicular can leap forward with a stretch to two turns.
4th-finishing True Awakening lost ground, but rode the outside flow while making his good middle move, finished decently, and pulled up well. Like all of trainer Gregg Sacco’s newcomers, he’ll advance with continued experience.
Last-of-eight Montbrooksoregal rushed up on the dull rail following a slow start from his inside draw and disputed the average pace for almost a half-mile. Maiden claimers could prove an interesting fit.
Race 4 – 6th-finishing I Did It His Way took the appropriate drop to the basement, but drew into a field full of speed. The gelding rated and made a decent move when employing that strategy for the first time in his life. Still, I suspect his true calling is to be alone and in control.
7th-finishing Fly Straight is moving around class and distancewise in classic trainer Trish Farro fashion after breaking his maiden in June when aided by a race set-up devoid of serious early foot. He dueled with, and finished in front of, two much more heavily-bet pace rivals (including the 7/5 favorite) on the stretch-out here despite battling on the dull inside. Where he truly fits, I really don’t know and I bet Farro isn’t quite sure either – especially since Monmouth has no seven-furlong chute.
Race 6 – 4th-finishing Our Friend Harvey (second race in about this class after a drop) ran deceptively decently while compromised by ground loss and a hidden (no fractional times available) soft pace. (How close Matt’s A Giant and Beacon Beach were early is the dead giveaway, but don’t tell anyone!) He loves the inside or inside-out Bravo trip-masterpieces that can be derived from better post position draws.
Last of nine Beacon Beach scored twice in 2010 for $7,500 claiming tags (once vs. New Jersey-breds) when going six furlongs on dirt. He should get seriously, really seriously, competitive when he races under those conditions – or even takes a conditioned claiming plunge to a nickel.
Race 7 – Compare and contrast via race replay the professionalism levels of winner, and 10th-time starter, D’Cats Meow and 4th-finishing, 4th-timer My Place Anytime. The former came off a fast-paced wire-to-wire score, broke on top, but instantaneously accepted jockey Paco Lopez’s command to take back, relax and rate in complete rhythmic comfort off the embattled leaders. The latter broke slowly after stumbling, reacted with high and head-bobbing amazement to dirt being kicked in her face, and tired from the effort of rushing into fast fractions while running like a giraffe.
Race 8 – 4th-finishing P J’s Back flushed such a brilliant turn of foot stretching out in his turf debut that its odds-on trainer Joe Orseno already is thumbing through a condition book looking for a conditioned claiming turf sprint. Heck, Orseno could even be looking at an allowance race considering how gamely the son of underrated but superb grass influence Put It Back fought the perfect-trip closers when they came to him in the stretch.
Race 9 – 3rd-finishing, 19-1 Believe In Dancing discovered the benefits of lasix in her 10th-career start at age four. Next time, hopefully for her, she’ll discover the benefits of a tactical-trip-enabling outside draw.
Race 12 – Does the ghost of Eddie Arcaro want a piece of him? What about retired great Laffit Pincay? I don’t think so. Jockey Francisco Maysonett is one tough dude to beat when he’s on a game horse in a stretch fight. Witness the performance of the grim, gritty duo of Maysonett and gelding Oh Oh Bama in holding off the cavalry here.
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Longing for the days when the Resorts Casino Hotel Haskell Invitational was a handicap that assigned real weights to the entrants? Me, too. Well, if the year was 1976, this is how I’d assign the packages:
Pants On Fire 122
Ruler On Ice 121
Joe Vann 117
Concealed Identity 116
J J’s Lucky Train 115
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Watch the replays of the Grade 1 Man O’ War (Belmont, July 9, Race 9) and the Grade 2 Royal Heroine (Hollywood, July 4, Race 8) – especially noting the stretch runs when respective winners Cape Blanco and Celtic Princess can be fully observed in all their physical glory. The former is a product of generations of Irish and English breeding stock and the latter, while having a couple of grandparents from the United States, mostly descends from Brazilian antecedents. Both horses clearly are built more sturdily than their North American-bred competition with thicker bone and more substantial skeletal frames. Each animal simply overpowered – and out-stayed – its more physically-refined rivals. Neither Cape Blanco or Celtic Princess would be competitive in a beauty contest for horses conducted in this country – indeed both likely would have been totally shunned by American designer trainers and their slick advisors if they had been offered up at a yearling sale. Why would anyone want a horse built to improve with maturity, carry steady speed over a route of ground, and designed to thrive in major races for older animals? What would anyone want with an athlete designed to be a race horse rather than a sales horse? Even now, as accomplished as they are, the combined “paper” worth of Cape Blanco and Celtic Princess in the United States is likely substantially less than that of dozens of speed-figure-fast-in-one-or-two-sprints juveniles and 3-year-olds that will appear in carefully-managed, perfectly-timed spots between now and next year’s big sophomore events. There are many problems in this game and one of the biggest is the destructively devolutionary focus, enabled by some end-users, of far too many commercial breeders.