Real Writing on Racing 💯
🎪 Sunday was another steamy afternoon at the Spa, one that saw an upset in the featured Shuvee (Gr II) and later in the card, a rare ‘no contest’ after a starting gate tractor mishap and the resulting confusion. A Monday morning rainstorm for the second consecutive week cooled things down and the temps should be more seasonable this week though rain is a possibility on Thursday.
🏆 Clairiere and Malathaat have squared off six times in their careers, which when you consider that they have 14 and 11 starts total, is a modern day rivalry. The first four times they entered the same starting gate, Malathaat got the better of the late closing Clairiere, including by a scant head when third and fourth in the 2021 Breeders Cup Distaff, their final race as three year olds. After beginning the new year on divergent paths, they met again on the Belmont Stakes undercard in the Phipps (Gr I) with Clairiere finally getting the best of her fellow daughter of Curlin, getting to the wire a neck in front. The conventional wisdom leading up to the Shuvee (Gr II) was that a newly blinkered Malathaat, who had been showing increased vigor in the mornings with the equipment added, would have a tactical speed advantage in the small, paceless field. No one appeared to tell Clairiere this was the case as she flashed improved speed leaving the gate, with jockey Joel Rosario not letting her drop back in her usual style. Eventually Rosario tucked her inside, behind the three others in the first turn, but not letting her lag behind tepid fractions set by longshot Exotic West. They remained in the pocket till passing the 3/8’s when the leader began to tire with Crazy Beautiful taking the lead, Malathaat racing right off of her flank, leaving Rosario with a decision to make. He chose to try to squeeze up the inside and when Crazy Beautiful drifted slightly turning for home, he got a narrow seam to run through and Clairiere responded. Johnny Velazquez on Malathaat turned the big filly loose but she couldn’t keep pace with her rival late and Clairiere inched clear in deep stretch. Post race comments by trainer Pletcher indicated that perhaps Malathaat had been affected negatively by the heat as he noted she was a bit dull in the paddock prior to the race. However there is also the possibility that Clairiere is just in better form at this stage of their careers when most of last season she appeared about a half-step behind last year’s champion three year old filly. Hopefully they meet once again in the Personal Ensign (Gr I) on Travers Day with Search Results, who cruised in the Molly Pitcher (Gr III) on the Monmouth Parkway Saturday, and a couple others joining them.
🔥 The temperature wasn’t the only thing hot this weekend at Saratoga. Curlin, who was 1 for 1 at the Spa in his Hall of Fame racing career (2008 Woodward with 112 Beyer), sired the one-two finishers in the Shuvee (Gr II) as noted above, is also the sire of Nest who was a blowout winner of the CCA Oaks (Gr I). He almost swept the Saratoga stakes Saturday as his Souper Sensational came up one jump short, just missing by a head when second in the Caress (Gr III) going 5.5 furlongs on the grass in co-feature. The 18 year old son of Smart Strike stands at Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm in Kentucky and his 2022 fee was a cool $175,000.
🎪 Couple of two year olds with promise broke their maidens in races 1 and 6 Sunday. The first race was taken by Blazing Sevens, a Good Magic colt that scored by 6 1/4 for Chad Brown, Manny Franco and Rodeo Creek Racing. The time was slow (1:13.34) but the track was clearly on the heavy side. I’m not convinced that this was the best group he beat, three of the first timers were equipped with blinkers and literally everyone in the race broke slow. The sixth race was won by Kaling, a Practical Joke filly that showed speed from the start, edging away late to register a 2 3/4 length win for Pletcher, Prat and Eclipse Tb Partners. She set faster fractions and recorded a quicker final time than the colt race (1:12.69).
🎪 The 7th race Sunday was not something that you see often, a race that wasn’t actually a race. The ‘race that wasn’t’ was a maiden special weight race for two year old fillies going 8.5 furlongs on the inner turf. The field left the gate without much mishap yet unbeknownst to most watching, the tractor that pulls that starting gate off of the turf course, malfunctioned. That broken tractor set off a chain of events that ultimately wound up being disruptive enough that the stewards correctly determined that they should designate the race as a ‘no contest’. In doing so they essentially said that nothing that happened, including a pretty good stretch duel, counted. From what we can piece together from various reports is that the outrider on the backside was alerted to the issue with the tractor and since they weren’t aware that the backup tractor had quickly been called into service, waved the field off, trying to alert the jockeys that something was amiss with the gate. It seems that as he was making that signal, the gate was finally moving off the turf, as a frantic crew of maintenance workers and assistant starters got the rail closed off and made passage safe for the field that would soon be charging past. Replays show that about midway down the backside, the jockeys definitely saw something happening and some of the ones near the back of the pack didn’t persevere with their mounts, while virtually all of them hesitated to some degree. After a lengthy post-race delay, the decision to make the race a ‘no contest’ came down, effectively canceling the 7th after the fact with pick 4 wagers that started with that ‘race that wasn’t’ refunded as well as all the other single 7th race bets (WPS-Exacta-etc.). For the purposes of the other horizontal wagers, it was considered an “all” race which made that twice within a few days that an “all” was called.
📁 You might want to keep this BRIS chart ⬇️ as a record of what actually did happen during that non-happening at as it doesn’t exist on the official industry database, Equibase.
🎪 RIP to legendary blacksmith Ray Amato, Sr. who passed away this weekend at the age of 88. He started shoeing horses at Aqueduct in 1949 and just recently stopped working. His son Ray Jr., who was a good friend and excellent blacksmith as well, died last January at 62. Rest easy men 😔
🚬 A good look at the smoky, grimy, crazy OTB’s we used to have to endure to play this crazy game here!
🎪 In an era where the vast majority of business comes from somewhere other than the clubhouse and grandstands of racetracks, the Saratoga meet is an excellent reminder of how great the social aspect of the game is. Just this past week I saw so many old friends, family and colleagues (Matt & Eileen, Ramon, Dave & Cameron, Brian, Mike, Joey, Big A, Rudy, etc) that I haven’t seen in so long plus met a bunch of people that had been strictly social media friends (@SPNnation74 and @Rennietime among others). Too often we get so tied up in the various vagrancies of the industry and arguments about inane approaches to wagering or rules or determining who is or isn’t “good for racing” that we forget to enjoy the ride.
🎪 Wednesdays first race is the second Steeplechase event of the season, though this one isn’t a stakes race like last Wednesday’s. We like Ancient Times for our guy Arch Kingsley and M. ‘Slick’ Watts, though Welshman and Freddy Flintshire are other solid contenders.
Day 10 (30 racing days to go)
Honorable Miss Hdcp. Grade II $200,000 6f dirt F/M
Frank’s Rockette - consistent Into Mischief mare looks to go over $1 million dollar mark here in this compact running of the Honorable Miss. When last seen back in May in the Vagrancy (Gr III) at Belmont, she got out-bobbed by the favorite in here, Bella Sophia, after stalking a quick pace going 6.5 furlongs. Guessing Prat will try similar tactics as the presence of speedy Ohio shipper, Amadevil, ensures that there will be some early pace pressure on Bella Sophia. These short field stakes often become chess matches between riders as evidenced by this past weekend’s big filly races at Saratoga and Prat might have to call an audible if something odd happens. She possesses some tactical speed if needed but the rail post is tricky one in sprints.
Bella Sofia - game as they come, she was gifted a slow first quarter in the Bed o’ Roses (Gr II) getting past the quarter in 23.3 before sprinting home to fend off the late running Obligatory, getting the 7 furlongs in a rapid 1:21.1. Awesome Patriot filly cuts back to six furlongs for trainer Rudy Rodriguez who has not found the winners circle yet this meet. With Amadevil likely forcing the pace from post three, it will be up to jockey Saez to decide to run with her or take back and try to get outside of the other speed. She’s the one to beat but this could be a tricky race and 1/2 is a difficult price to accept.
Amadevil - Ohio-bred ventures out of the Buckeye state for the first time after winning seven of her first eight starts there. She has won three stakes but all in restricted events against state-breds at Thistledowns and Belterra so needless to say the grade 2 company is a huge step up in class for her. She does have high speed and I’d imagine that new jock Jose Ortiz will be sending from the word go though these fillies won’t be just giving up like the overmatched Ohio breds do. Give props to owner/trainer Wolochuk for taking a shot here. He rarely ventures outside of Ohio, his last non-Ohio track win was in September of 2020 in a conditioned 4k claimer at Mountaineer Park. This race is a handicap and if you dialed back the clock 🕰 you have to believe this filly would be carrying around 112 instead of 117.
Kimari - five year old mare cuts back to 6 furlongs, a distance that she has only run one other time (on the dirt) in her 14 race career that has been spent exclusively sprinting. The Munnings mare did win that other six panel race, beating Frank’s Rockette in the Purple Mountain though that race was over two year ago. Rosario will likely let the race unfold in front of him while maintaining position in the case of a speed duel between the other three participants.
🤔 As a rule we aren’t all that enthused by four horse races but in this case it doesn’t look (at least on paper) like the huge morning line favorite is going to scare the others into submission. As short fields go, this quartet does have some intrigue to it and while Bella Sophia deserves to be the favorite, she is probably as shaky of a proposition that you’ll see for a horse with a morning line of 1/2.
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Our first poll result from Saturday BEFORE the Haskell. Let’s ask that question again and see what the new results look like? ⬇️
A look back to Local Tv coverage of Saratoga from the 1980’s 📺