Discover more from Going In Circles Digest
Real Writing on Racing 💯
A beautiful Wednesday to kick off Travers week that was unfortunately marred by a fatal cardiac event (heart attack) that struck Burning Bright midway through the John’s Call stakes, resulting in jockey Luis Saez being injured after hitting the ground very hard as he came off his stricken mount. Saez suffered a dislocated collarbone and fractured wrist and while neither issue requires surgery to fix, he will be sidelined for an unknown period of time. Just another reminder of the occupational dangers that jockeys face daily and the harsh reality that unsoundness isn’t the only cause of the hazards that imperils our human athletes.
🏆 Race one was the Jonathon Sheppard Steeplechase (Gr I) and without getting into too many details….I had the winner! You may not be aware of how long that it’s been since I held a winning ticket on a jumps race but let’s say it’s been awhile. The winner, a Curlin gelding named Awakened, rallied from the back of the pack early to grab the lead mid-stretch and held on gamely for trainer Jack Fisher, who won his second Sheppard and jockey Thomas Garner who now has four wins in the race (out of the last five years). Congrats to Sean Clancy (Riverdee Stable) who purchased and is co-owner of Awakened with Ten Strike Racing.
🥇The second was a NY bred $25,000 claimer going six furlongs on the main track. The race featured an in-form Bustin Shout moving up in class off of an easy win for $16,000 earlier in the meet for Bruce Levine vs Perfect Munnings, a Munnings horse who was last seen running third in the Alex Robb stakes in late December for Todd Pletcher, now in the barn of Linda Rice. If this had been a fight rather than a race they’d have stopped it at the top of the stretch. Under Jose Ortiz, Perfect Munnings spun off the turn, rolled past early leader Lohengrin Two and just drop kicked this field down the lane, 14 1/2 lengths clear at the finishline. Bustin Shout chased but had no punch late winding up third while Bronx Bomber rallied to grab the place spot. Perfect Munnings was claimed from the race by trainer Steve Asmussen for owner Steve Asmussen.
🤬 Unless you had a crystal ball I’m not sure you could have seen how race three was going to be run or how many of the logical horses wouldn’t fire (turf sprints 🤷🏼♂️). Apparently the CAW teams did though as the unlikely exacta combo of winner Arzak at 17-1 and runner up Coppola at 15-1, got buried late going from $131.75 at 2:21.26 to $75:25 at 2:21.37 with the race going off at 2:22. There was plenty of hand-wringing on social media about the exacta price and the fact is that they are correct to squawk. Despite the attempts by some of the TV personalities to explain why it’s ok, this is an unsustainable situation, not because the math is faulty or some sort of corruption has occurred but because it FEELS wrong to the CUSTOMERS who aren’t CAW teams. When an exacta combo is slashed almost in half in 11 seconds…an instant before the race goes off…that is simply not okay as the actual people who are trying to enjoy wagering on races find it makes the game a lot less enjoyable. Yes NYRA has taken small steps to combat the CAW’s overbearing presence in some of the pools but to be frank, it’s not enough and the entire manner in which many pools are turned upside down at the very last second is unseemly and destructive to the credibility of racing as a whole.
🎖️The John’s Call was drawn with a nine horse field and a MTO but the scratches of Serifos, The Reds and morning line favorite, Pioneering Spirit reduced the group to six. Of those left, the public was torn between Sy Dog, Tawny Port, Good Skate or British Royalty for favoritism. As they left the starting gate from its backside position in the three turn race, Sy Dog was a slight fav at 5-2 over Tawny Port also at 5-2 with the other two at 3-1 and 7-2. Tide of the Sea was sent hard from the gate to try to grab the early lead but Tawny Port under Joel Rosario also left the gate strong and forced JJ Castellano to perhaps go a bit quicker than he wanted, hitting the half mile marker in 46.85 which is fast for a 13 furlong race. Rosario got Tawny Port to settle in second while the ill-fated Burning Bright tracked in third, Good Skate took the rail route in fourth with British Royalty and Sy Dog bringing up the rear. In the second turn Burning Bright went bad about halfway around the bend, forcing British Royalty to veer right to avoid his stricken rival, meanwhile Tawny Port was creeping up on Tide of the Sea who was done by the third and final turn. Rosario confidently moved to the front midway around the final turn and drew away in the stretch as Good Skate made a brief run before weakening and finishing 3rd as Sy Dog rallied late to pick up the pieces for the place spot. Tawny Port, 4yo son of Pioneer of the Nile trained by Chris Clement, has improvement left to do before being a major factor in any of the big fall turf stakes but he seems to be on the right track and it isn’t exactly a bunch of hall of famers that he will have to deal with. Read the DRF recap here.
🆓 The DRF Race of the Day is the Ballston Spa(Gr II) from the Spa.
🇫🇷 Flavian Prat will replace Luis Saez on Mage in the Travers. Pretty good guy to be able to get off the bench.
🏇🏻 DRF’s David Aragona analyzes the Ballston Spa here.
🇬🇧 The Yorkshire Oaks (Gr I) is today and you might see some BC F/M Turf fillies in that event. Post is 10:35 ⬇️
😡 California breeders speak out in this piece by TDN’s Dan Ross.
🏇🏻 Be sure to vote in our early Travers poll below 👇🏻
Ballston Spa(Gr II) $300,000 4&up F/M 1 1/16 Inner Turf
Jumbly (GB) - Euro shippers always dangerous though the rain isn’t expected today and the course won’t be the softer version she may prefer. Joe O’Brien hasn’t had quite the success that his father has when shipping to the US, he and Johnny V are 0-8 as a team. Yet as stated, we have seen way too many European horses run right past our domestic runners in recent memory to simply disregard their chances.
Consumer Spending - has the classic Chad Brown pattern of being lightly raced (3-4 races a year) but almost always fires her best shot. Has improved this year to where she is now running TG 5.5 which is solid though not particularly fast for this group. That said she could take a forward step again especially as she is nicely drawn under Rosario but like most Brownies, she will likely be an underlaid price.
Evvie Jets - will need a rider as Saez will be out for several weeks with injuries sustained yesterday (Franco?). Was disappointed last start when Castellano conceded the lead and race to Technical Analysis (Ire) allowing that one to dictate terms while chasing and fading late. Hopefully the new pilot will be much more aggressive and use her early speed to her advantage as she did when upsetting that rival in the Perfect Sting at Belmont in the prior race. She is still a little suspect past a mile though her only shot is on the lead, regardless she was still a hell of a claim by the eye chart man Kantarmaci who is having a solid Spa meet.
Fluffy Socks - acted up in the gate prior to no-show clunker in the Diana (Gr I), cuts back in distance here and adds Irad to the mix. Feels like there is enough early pace in here to flatter her late running style but this riding colony can be a tough read with a distinct lack of grass course aggressiveness at times too. Don’t love her chances but I wouldn’t try to talk you out of her if you landed here.
Surprisingly - finally broke through TG 6.5 when earning a 4.25 when second in Matchmaker (Gr III) to Consumer Spending last out at Monmouth. In that race Joel Rosario gave the winner an absolute masterclass of a ride while Paco on the Mastery filly rode fine but did lose a little more ground on the turns than her rival. Castellano takes the call today and with the post draw, a similar scenario where she loses a little more ground than her rivals could happen again. That said I’d take her all day long at 8-1 vs 3-1 on Consumer Spending.
Speak of the Devil (Fr) - looked like a potential star when capturing the Distaff Turf Mile (Gr II) at Churchill last year’s Derby weekend (the course was not firm that day btw) but has never come close to regaining that form since. Perhaps she just requires ground softer than what we typically get in North America and the irony of this spot is that there have been more less than firm turf races run at this meet than any in recent memory….yet todays will be on a firm course. That said her figs aren’t out of line with most of the other contenders and if Prat can workout some sort of trip she might sneak on the board at a long price.
Sister Bridget (Ire) - curious spot for what looks to be a ‘no hoper’ but adds blinkers after showing speed several times and may be part of the early pace scenario as her only contribution to this race. Hopefully doesn’t impede anyone when she starts to run out of gas. Much prefer her older sibling Sister Cristian.
Technical Analysis (Ire) - the deserved morning line favorite was gifted the De La Rose earlier in the meet when allowed to stroll on the lead uncontested. She has a stellar record at the Spa (5-4-1-0) and is the fastest in here on TG but she hasn’t been as good this season as last, comes back on short rest (22 days) for a Brown trainee and isn’t likely to be on an easy lead like she was last time or last years Ballston Spa either. She clearly can win but at a short price we will be looking to beat her,
Gam’s Mission - late runner can be compromised by a lack of early speed though it seems like the pace here should at least be honest. Back to her fav distance (6-3-2-0) going 1 1/16 and while she wasn’t particularly sharp last out, Monmouth doesn’t really suit her running style well. She needs some help with the early fractions but another that might be able to finish up strong and sneak on the board at a long price.
Into Happiness - (MTO) - doubtful this comes off but she may win in a walkover if it does. Sharp claim by an outfit not known for dabbling in those waters.
📽️ Salve Germania (Ire) wins the 2009 Ballston Spa (GrII) over a soft course