What We Learned This Weekend
For the second times in 10 years, the first horse across the wire in the Arlington Million ducked out, causing an incident resulting in a disqualification. In 2003, Storming Home got out at nearly the exact same point in the race that The Apache did on Saturday. Christophe Soumillon, rider of The Apache, said it was the infield video board that spooked his horse. In 2003, we never learned exactly what spooked Storming Home, as his rider, Gary Stevens, was rushed to the hospital with a collapsed lung, fractured vertebra and no memory of his fall.
There’s no doubt that The Apache had to be disqualified. When you come out that many paths into another horse, and the margin is that close, it’s an easy call and the right thing to do. But you hate to see the best horse taken down.
Fortunately, the other big races were without controversy and the most deserving horses got the money. When I watch a big race and don’t have a wager riding on it, there are two things I want to see: 1) all horses and riders come back safe and 2) a winner that appears to simply be the best horse in the race on that day, as opposed to one who wins because of circumstances relating to pace, strategy, traffic, track condition or any of the hundreds of other factors that can contribute to the outcome. To me, the most satisfying results – aside from profitable ones – are those that don’t leave much room for doubt.
Dandino’s win in the American St. Leger was impressive for all of the traffic he overcame. He won by a half-length, but without the trouble in upper stretch and having to check in deep stretch, it could have been four or five lengths.
Admiral Kitten in the Secretariat and Dank in the Beverly D. put forth performances that not only were clear-cut, but got me excited about seeing what they’ll do the rest of the year. Dank, especially, demonstrated a devastating turn of foot that we don’t see often enough in American turf racing. I love jockeys like Ryan Moore, one of many Europeans who get so busy in the saddle they look like they’re on an elliptical machine. In America the epitome of a triumphant rider is one that is perfectly still in the final furlong, showing that his horse is so superior the jockey can be nothing more than a passive passenger on his commuter rail. The Euros, though, aspire to move in harmony with the horse, so that even if it looks to us like they’re having a seizure, the animal might forget that the rider is even there. I don’t have any clue if one method is better than the other; I just enjoy watching guys like Moore getting busy since it’s a bit of a novelty here.
If you just want racing stuff and don’t give a hoot what Jim Mulvihill did in Chicago, just skip this section. This part’s probably not that interesting to anyone but me so I really wouldn’t blame you.
The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago has a standout exhibition on view that I highly recommend. Homebodies is a group show that examines – I’ll just quote the Museum website here – “the space of the home, both literally and metaphorically, as an integral site for making art.” Most memorable was the Rodney McMillian installation of an old carpet, ripped out of his own apartment after a severe breakup and worn in specific areas from years of him and his partner traversing the same paths. When first seen from across the gallery, it has the look of a nice modernist painting, like a Barnett Newman, with its deep red color. I can’t find an image online, but here’s another work of his in a similar vein:
Meet the Press
Notable quotes from last week’s NTRA National Media Teleconference…
Princess of Sylmar principal owner Eddie Stancko (King of Prussia Stable) on his homebred filly’s early conditioning with trainer Todd Pletcher: “When I sent her to Todd I said, ‘Look, Todd, one of the problems is a lot of people that own two-year olds try to push them too far and too fast. I don't want that. I know that’s what happens … I want you to take as long as you possibly can. I want her perfect when she goes to the track. I don't have to make the Saratoga meet. I don't care if she doesn't even start until she’s three-years-old. You just wait until you think she’s absolutely perfect.’ And his response was, ‘I know, she's a handcrafted filly.’ Which she is.”
Maryland-based private trainer Larry Murray on his relationship with longtime clients, Howard Bender and the late Sondra Bender of Glade Valley Farm: “I started training for them May of ’88 and had known them prior to that by managing the farm … it's an unheard of thing for owners and trainers to stay together this long. But the Benders are the nicest people you’d ever want to meet, they’re the greatest owners, they never second guess you, they’re just the greatest people in the world. Unfortunately, Mrs. Bender passed away February of last year, so we lost her, which is a big blow, and Mr. Bender is not quite as interested as he was when the two of them were involved. I talked to them every day for 20 years, same time every day, seven days a week and it's been a big blow to have lost her.”
Trainer Dale Romans on the Arlington Million: “I think it’s our premier turf race in the country. I mean, I remember as a kid watching John Henry and The Bart hit the wire in the first million-dollar race ever in America … It's really a young race, as far as the world’s concerned, but it’s already had a lot of great moments and for me it was always the second-biggest race I wanted to win outside of the Derby and I was fortunate enough to do it last year and it was pretty amazing.”
Louisiana Legs and Texas Gold
Last week I mentioned that Saratoga’s Grade II Adirondack heroine Designer Legs was the first Louisiana-bred winner at Saratoga since Happy Ticket won the Ballerina in 2005. Just to be certain, though, I checked with Roger Heitzmann, secretary/treasurer at the Louisiana Thoroughbred Breeders Association, who later informed me that, shockingly, Designer Legs is the first Louisiana-bred graded stakes winner anywhere since Happy Ticket. Hard to believe it’s been that long for a state that produces the third-most Thoroughbreds in the country, behind only Kentucky and Florida, accounting for more than 9% of all the Thoroughbreds bred in the United States.
The odds-on favorite that Designer Legs beat in the Adirondack was Fiftyshadesofgold, who was similarly looking to make a statement for her homeland. That 2-year-old, owned and bred by Clarence Scharbauer Jr. of Alysheba fame, would have been the first Texas-bred graded stakes winner since Got Koko swept the three-race La Cañada series for three-turning-four-year-old fillies at Santa Anita in the winter of 2002-2003. This week it was announced that Fiftyshadesofgold was injured and is out the rest of the year as a result of the bumping that got Who’s in Town disqualified from first and resulted in a seven-day suspension for jockey Joel Rosario. Of course, Rosario can appeal that suspension to postpone it until after the Saratoga meet so that his punishment isn’t too much of a punishment.
My Current Favorite Tweet
Another eye-catching drill for Game On Dude, best in company, monster gallop out. Definitely ready. #delmar— Jay Privman (@DRFPrivman) August 19, 2013
From the media reports to the clocker comments to this week’s Media Teleconference with Bob Baffert, everything I’ve heard about Game On Dude coming into the Pacific Classic has me giddy about the performance we’ll see on Sunday.