Jeff Siegel puts the microscope on the previous week’s racing at Santa Anita and identifies significant trips and trouble while also zeroing in on key performances and horses to watch. It’s nothing but opinion – but at least its his. Updated every Tuesday.
POST MORTEM – SUNDAY, OCTOBER 14, 2018 – SANTA ANITA
No matter what she accomplishes on the racetrack, Chasing Yesterday first and foremost always will be known as Triple Crown winner American Pharoah’s half-sister. But the juvenile daughter of Tapit has a chance make a name for herself and then some after becoming a listed stakes winner in just her third career start. So far, the Bob Baffert-trained chestnut filly has done nothing but sprint, a highly-rated and visually pleasing maiden tally at Del Mar, a seventh-place finish following an ill-advised ship across the country for the Spinaway Stakes at Saratoga, and then in today’s six-furlong Anoakia Stakes when she wore down recent hot-shot maiden winner It’sjustanillusion to win by a half-length. Chasing Yesterday earned a superb 89 Beyer figure in victory while giving every indication that she’ll do nothing but improve with distance, maturity, and experience. In fact, she would have had a reasonable chance of hitting the board – at the very least – if sent to Kentucky for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in 19 days but, according to reports, she’s not going anywhere, at least for now.
Surfing Star was supposed to run well – he was the favorite – when returning off a nearly six-month layoff in a first-level allowance sprint at Del Mar in August but had the misfortune of drawing inside (the two-hole) in the six-furlong sprint and never had a prayer. The Bruce Headley-trained colt broke awkwardly and stumbled to lose his position and then attempted to advance along the rail in the gooiest part of the track. He wound up sixth, beaten four lengths. Most sharp handicappers recognized that the disappointing performance could be tossed, which is why the son of Surf Cat left as the strong second choice in today’s eighth race in his first try over a mile. Drawing the rail and permitted to establish the running through a relatively soft opening quarter (:23 flat), Surfing Star controlled the pace and then bravely fought off even-money favorite Avanti Bello before drawing clear by more than three lengths in the final furlong. A 3-year-old with just four career starts, Surfing Star has a chance to be a good colt, but he still has plenty to prove it and it will be interesting to see how far up the ladder he can climb. Remember the old axiom: horses who don’t really want to route WILL route the first time they try it.
POST MORTEM – SATURDAY, OCTOBER 13, 2018 – SANTA ANITA
Due to an unexpected overnight rain and lightning storm, the main track was sealed tight early Friday evening and then harrowed just before first post time. The result was an extremely pro-speed race track that carried front-runners to great lengths and gave deep closers virtually no chance. Just Kidding isn’t 11 lengths better than the $16,000 claiming group he destroyed in the opener; at least trainer Steve Knapp hopes he isn’t, because the Florida-bred gelding now resides in Jerry Hollendorfer’s barn following a claim. Looking forward to seeing how ambitious the new connections get with their new merchandise.
Class dropper Copper Fever appeared to be the goods in the third when showing up in $25,000 claimer that originally was carded for the Hillside course but was taken off the turf. This almost looked like a logical spot – she was still a maiden as a 4-year-old and her high-profile breeders don’t need horses like her – but Richard Mandella doesn’t give anything away and his droppers always must be viewed with some degree of suspicion. Copper Fever was never going well at 6/5 and wound up fourth after being within striking range to the head of the lane. She goes to Peter Miller, who can raise her, drop her, or run her just about anywhere he wants to next time. At least she passed the vet; third-place finisher Gone to Town was a voided claim and was sent back to Hector Palma.
The whole world knew about Cruel Intention, so if you took the debuting Smiling Tiger colt in the straight pool in the fourth for state-bred juveniles you got 20 cents on the dollar. On the lead throughout and winning with something left, the Bob Baffert-trained colt eventually checked in 5 ½ lengths in front of Teacher’s Treasure, who was 15 ½ lengths clear of the others. The Beyer number of 81 was good – especially for a Cal-bred – but at this time of the year graded stakes winning 2-year-olds usually achieve numbers in the 90’s. No matter, ‘Intention will stick to state-bred company for the time being and likely will reappear in the $200,000 Golden State Juvenile over seven furlongs at Santa Anita Nov. 3.
Similar to Just Kidding’s runaway romp in the opener, Mo See Cal’s front-running 10 ½ length win in the fifth was obviously biased aided, so her 94 Beyer speed figure – 17 points higher than her previous career top – must be viewed with a degree of skepticism. She’s a state-bred Uncle Mo filly and that’s a good thing, but this first-level allowance field lacked depth, so be careful when she’s raised a level or into state-bred stakes company next time out. Also, before you give Queen Shelly Ann extra credit for rallying wide from mid-pack to win a maiden claiming sprint for older fillies and mares in the sixth race, be aware that her winning Beyer number was 48. That’s not good enough to beat winners at any level on this circuit.
Not sure what to make of Into Rissa’s performance in the sixth race, a weak state-bred maiden special weight sprint for older fillies and mares that was won by the normally faint-hearted Coco Kisses, who clearly benefitted from the pro-speed bias. Into Rissa hesitated at the start and fell almost 15 lengths back after the opening quarter, then remarkably made up a ton of ground to wind up second, beaten just over two lengths. On paper, the effort looks highly-commendable but then you realize she’s now had 12 chances and is still winless. Also, the Beyer figure (68) was modest at best.
S Y Sky was extremely well-meant in the featured off-the-turf five-furlong California Distaff Handicap and went off as the 2-1 favorite despite being away since July of 2017. The daughter of Grazen ran her race but Love a Honeybadger got the jump on her early and – with the help of the bias – gamely held sway. These two will meet again somewhere down the road.
POST MORTEM – FRIDAY, OCTOBER 13, 2018 – SANTA ANITA
Booliscious stood in the gate from the rail, raced greenly, fell far back, then suddenly figured out what she was expected to do and finished with interest to rally from more than 15 lengths back to wind up sixth, beaten just five, in her racing debut vs. maiden $50,000 juvenile Cal-bred fillies. The daughter of Ghostzapper was listed as having been purchased for $125,000 at the Barretts April Sale but apparently hadn’t shown a thing in the morning, so she was entered for the modest-by-comparison tag by trainer Craig Lewis and received no action at 15-1. Yeah, they crawled home, and the Beyer number assigned to winner All Tea All Shade of 41 hardly inspires, but if anything is worth following from today’s opener it is Booliscious.
Fourth in her debut last July two-turning on grass at Del Mar, Amuse returned for her second career start sprinting on dirt (usually it’s done the other way around) and drew off in convincingly fashion to graduate by more than five lengths in the fourth while earning a better-than-par 82 Beyer speed figure. Clearly, she can sprint, but we suspect the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro eventually will be just as effective routing (which is why Mandella ran her long to begin with). Based on pedigree alone, she should improve with maturity and could still wind up being a very nice sort. Her dam, also trained by Mandella, won her first four career starts including the Railbird Stakes-G3 at Hollywood Park, and also produced Bombard, an excellent turf sprinter who won the down-the-hill Siren Lure Stakes in July.
POST MORTEM – MONDAY, OCTOBER 8, 2018 – SANTA ANITA
Two horses that had been voided claims in their previous starts – Allaboutaction and Junior Gilliam – finished one-two in the fourth race, but not in the order the punters expected. Allaboutaction left at the ridiculously low price of 30 cents on the dollar but couldn’t quite hang on. However, this time he passed the state’s post-race examinations and went to trainer Javier Sierra for $32,000. Good claim. No, not really. Junior Gilliam has his issues, too, but on the same day that the Dodgers advanced to the National League Championship Series the team’s former second baseman’s namesake could have been played on that factor alone.
Something more than an allegiance to a local home team might have been required to back Lakerball in the Surfer Girl Stakes. A maiden claiming winner with Beyers in the 50’s and making her first start around two turns and her first on grass, Lakerball was quickly sent to establish the running and somehow managed to keep going, holding on by a desperate head at 33-1 over Lady Prancealot, who had her chance, kept to her task, but was simply held at bay. As for the unbeaten odds-on favorite Summering, she was buried on the rail (or in some form of traffic) throughout most of the race yet was beaten less than two lengths. That said, there’s some doubt as to how much run she would have produced if she had ever gotten clear. Her connections certain can justify tossing out the race, but our eyes tell us that, trouble or not, she was far below the form she had displayed at Del Mar and in our mind now clearly ranks well below her New York counterpart, Newspaperofrecord, among North American-based two-year-old fillies on grass.
The boys’ turn in the 2-year-old turf division came in the eighth race, the Zuma Beach Stakes, which was clocked in 1:34.35, a time .88 seconds faster than the Surfer Girl. King of Speed, winner of the Del Mar Juvenile Turf in his last outing, duplicated that performance by producing the final run inside, just as he had done last time out. He’s a big colt and not terrible handy, but Gary Stevens knows him well and fits him perfectly, and the son of Jimmy Creed was able to wear down the pace-pressing favorite Much Better in the final sixteenth to win by more than a length. The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf in Kentucky is next, but we don’t suppose that Aidan O’Brien is too concerned. As for Baffert’s colt, we were expecting a bit more fight from Much Better when he was challenged late. The distance shouldn’t have been an issue; the son of Pioneerof the Nile, who is bred for dirt on both sides, probably will go back to the main track and stay there.
POST MORTEM – SUNDAY, OCTOBER 7, 2018 – SANTA ANITA
The Sunday opener – a nine-furlong optional claimer on turf for fillies and mares – projected to be slowly run early, and if you identified Jazaalah as the controlling speed you probably cashed a ticket at $9.80. Exiting a series of quick, shorter races, she certainly looked capable of making the running but even those who backed her probably didn’t expect to see her completely loose on the lead through an opening half in 50 4/5 seconds. Still, favored Siberian Iris had every chance from the top of the lane to the wire but was never going to get by; she’s now been favored in five of her 11 career starts and has failed every time. Meanwhile, Lynn’s Legacy, wrangled back after the break by Rafael Bejarano, was given an impossible task considering the race shape and ran the best race of all when closing against the grain to wind up fourth, beaten just over a length. On our watch, the Doug O’Neill-trained mare came the final quarter in 22 3/5 seconds and deserved better.
It was great to see Skye Diamonds regain her winning form in the L. A. Woman; she had spun her wheels over the deep, tiring Del Mar surface and failed to launch a rally in the Rancho Bernardo when essentially facing the same group. Today she got her traction and had little difficultly wearing down heavily-favored Anonymity in the final sixteenth. The Bill Spawr-trained daughter of First Dude is scheduled to be sold in Kentucky next month but could make her next and perhaps final start in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint just a couple of days before that. Anonymity certainly has talent, but this is the third time in six career starts that she’s been beaten at odds-on. Looks like it’s time to accept that she’s not as good as we thought she was going to be.
Just Grazed Me had an excuse when she finishing a well-beaten second in the Torrey Pines Stakes, a graded-stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Del Mar in her first try around two turns. The daughter of Grazen lost a considerable amount of ground in that race and then flattened out late when beaten more than three lengths by True Royalty while seeing her Beyer speed figure drop 10 points off her previous stakes winning sprint score. But after finishing second again – this time in a first-level allowance main track miler while beaten more than 11 lengths by the highly impressive (and arguably vastly improved) Secret Spice with no visual excuse, it’s time to concede that she is much, much better around one turn and should return to sprinting for good. Grazen could stay a middle-distance and has sired good middle-distance winners, but Just Graze Me is out of a Cuvee mare. You’re not going to run too far with that bottom line.
POST MORTEM – SATURDAY, OCTOBER 6, 2018 – SANTA ANITA
Emtech had worked well enough to win at first asking if properly spotted, and the son of Concord Point certainly was in the proper race in the third, a maiden $75,000 claimer for juveniles. The Kaleem Shah homebred dug down deep and found more when bravely holding off Haydens Havoc, who had the length of the lane to get by but never could. Somebody though Emtech was worth the money but the claim was voided when Emtech failed to pass the state vet’s post-race inspection.
It’s Gonna Hurt just won a high-priced maiden claimer with a moderate speed number over the Del Mar main track, but The Speakeasy Stakes was a five-furlong grass test, so with City Zip on the bottom side of the pedigree trainer Brian Koriner figured why not give the son of Violence a chance? After all, a 2-year-old who breaks his maiden this time of the year on this circuit doesn’t have many choices. An $80,000 2-year-old in training buy in Ocala in April, It’s Gonna Hurt showed good gate speed from the rail to establish the running and then fought off Los Alamitos maiden winner Whooping Jay, who rallied inside, and the Wesley Ward filly Mae Never No (who had every chance outside) to hold sway gamely. The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint mostly likely is next. Well-backed Hartel, who had a couple of hard races at Del Mar, was flat and uninterested, winding up a dull fifth in the six-runner field.
It was Roy H’s turn this time in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship, with the veteran gelding wearing down stable mate and pacesetter Distinctive B, while main rival Ransom the Moon was making no impression in the final furlong to settle for a non-threatening third. All three reportedly are headed to Kentucky for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, and while the defending BC champion Roy H has a history of rising to the occasion, none of these are going to worry Imperial Hint if that Eastern-based horse shows up with his “A” game. Last year, Roy H earned a 115 Beyer figure when winning the BC Sprint; by way of comparison he was assigned 100 for today’s victory. What’s 15 points at six furlongs on the Beyer scale? Six lengths.
It’s a good thing the photo finish camera was invented 80 years ago, otherwise, the stewards might have declared Fly to Mars the winner of the City of Hope Mile, a valuable win-and-you’re in Breeders’ Cup race, rather than Sharp Samurai, whose rider (Gary Stevens) dropped his whip inside the furlong pole. No matter to Sharp Samurai, who kept on bravely and got the money nonetheless thanks to a well-timed head bob. Both could meet again in the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Churchill Downs but despite each being thoroughly genuine, consistent, admirable, we’ll doubt they’ll be any match for whatever six horses the Europeans choose to send over for the race.
POST MORTEM – FRIDAY, OCTOBER 5, 2018 – SANTA ANITA
We rarely see Australian horses migrate to North America – the form is sometimes difficult to classify, purse money is very strong, and you can’t buy them cheap – but good ones can come from anywhere and Oleksandra, who’d had a couple of runs down under, certainly caught the eye in her U.S. debut in the second race. The daughter of Animal Kingdom from the good race mare Alexandra Rose was foaled on Southern Hemisphere time – she’s an October foal so she’s actually just turning four – and still has plenty of upside. Knocked back hard at the start and all but eliminated in this downhill turf sprint, the Neil Drysdale-trained filly under Mike Smith bided her time until inside the furlong pole and then produced an impressive turn of foot to be up in time by a neck. There probably wasn’t much behind her but she did gallop out far in front as if to indicate that with added distance she can be highly competitive on the raise.
In the featured seventh race, a first-level nine-furlong turf allowance restricted to 3-year-olds, Andesh was a very pleasing winner while leaving his previous form far behind, just as trainer Phil D’Amato expected him to. Second to Mendelssohn in his debut at The Curragh last August and never off the board in five starts in Ireland as a 2-year-old, the son of Medicean failed to make any real impression in a pair of Del Mar races (most recently in the Del Mar Derby when he was buried inside and couldn’t mount a rally) but got a confidence building score here against a reasonable group while flying home the final furlong in 11 2/5 seconds. One would assume the Twilight Derby-G2 Nov. 4 will be next.
POST MORTEM – THURSDAY, OCTOBER 4, 2018 – SANTA ANITA
Jockey Tyler Baze was riding Subic Bay for the first time in the Thursday opener, a $20,000 claiming miler on grass for fillies and mares. He probably was expecting a bit more turn of foot from the veteran mare when a small hole appeared to open a furlong from home. But Subic Bay, a prototype grinder, couldn’t quicken when asked and instead got locked in behind the traffic before being forced to steady sharply when the hole closed completely. The Jeff Mullins-trained mare wound up fourth, beaten just over two lengths, after which Baze claimed foul against the second and third place finishers, but the stewards ruled that Subic Bay was trying to find room when none really existed and made no change. If Baze rides her back, he’ll most likely change tactics and ask the mare to commence her rally earlier while taking the overland route to produce a longer, steady move. It might work.
Pitino, a Union Rags colt that brought $950,000 at the OBS March sale last year, was making just his third career start in the second race, a main track miler for older maidens. He’d shown a bit of promise in his first two outings, a troubled sixth last November at Del Mar and then, in his comeback, a runner-up effort (though subsequently disqualified for drifting out) in a five-furlong turf sprint in late August. Much better was expected when stretching out for the first and returning to dirt while facing what appeared to a modest field. But after establishing a very easy lead through crawling splits, the Doug O’Neill-trained colt waved the white flag at the head of the lane and faded readily, winding up third, beaten almost six lengths. At this stage of his career, he’s heading nowhere. The winner turned out to be Pleasant d’Oro, who appreciated stalking tactics before kicking clear with authority while earning a career top 84 Beyer speed figure. This was just his fifth career start for the $350,000 yearling purchase by Medaglia d’Oro, so it appears trainer Simon Callaghan has something to work with.
After finished an excellent second in the Generous Portion Stakes in her racing debut at Del Mar in late August, Mucho Unusual dropped into a maiden state-bred sprint for easy pickings in the third and demolished her out-classed foes by more than eight lengths. The margin could have been considerably more had Flavien Prat not eased up the daughter of Mucho Macho Man inside the sixteenth pole. She’s certainly bred to run long and, being out of an Unusual Heat mare, handle turf, so trainer Tim Yakteen has a few options. There’s a whole lot money to be made when sticking with state-bred competition with this type of filly.
POST MORTEM – SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2018 – SANTA ANITA
Today’s third race was supposed to be a hot maiden sprint for juvenile fillies primarily due to the presence of the debuting Inshannity, a daughter of Ghostzopper who had been impressive in the morning for a barn (Baffert) that in recent months pretty much never loses with well-meant first-timers. However, Inshannity turned up a vet scratch in the morning – there’s a flu bug going around Baffert’s barn – leaving the race to two other highly-regarded newcomers, It’sjustanillusion and Enamored. The former, a daughter of Uncle Mo from the Jerry Hollendorfer barn left at 4/5 and never looked like losing after quickly establishing the lead in hand and dominating throughout while earning a strong speed figure. Meanwhile, the Richard Mandella-trained Enamored (Curlin) didn’t get the clearest of runs inside and but kept on steadily to be second, beaten just under three lengths. It was a promising effort for a filly who isn’t bred to sprint and really doesn’t want to. Good things can be expected from both down the road.
As if we needed a reminder, there is no such thing as a sure thing in thoroughbred racing. Now, with that disclaimer out of the way, it was truly shocking to see how poorly 10-cents-on-the-dollar Abel Tasman performed in the Zenyatta Stakes, a Breeders’ Cup win-and-you’re-in prep for the BC Distaff that was in somewhat embarrassing fashion won by her stablemate, Vale Dori (herself a beaten favorite in her last pair). As brilliant as she can be when she’s in the mood, Abel Tasman simply didn’t feel like competing today, and nobody – most notably jockey Mike Smith – was going to have any luck changing her mind. First, she didn’t want to be loaded into the gate. Then, once loaded, she didn’t want to come out. When she was asked to join the party, she never really did, falling behind by 10 lengths during the early stages despite slow early fractions and then pretty much staying there throughout. While it’s entirely possible that she went into race sick (tests were taken but have yet to be disclosed), this marked the fourth time in her 15-race career that she’s failed to win as an odds-on favorite and it makes one wonder which version of Abel Tasman we’ll see next month’s BC Distaff at Churchill Downs, where she finished off the boards at 3/5 in the La Troienne Stakes in May.
Liam the Charmer made it two-for-two since being gelded with his win in the 10f John Henry Turf Championship Stakes, rallying against the grain to be up in time in a race that lost the likely heavy favorite, Fashion Business, who came up with a problem after entries were taken and reportedly is done for the year. The Mike McCarthy-trained son of Smart Strike – fittingly bred by John Henry’s trainer Ron McAnally and his wife, Debbie – originally sold as a yearling for $500,000 and then went through the auction ring again for $200,000 last November as a “racing or stallion” prospect. McCarthy, who has trained Liam the Charmer all along, said after the race that the Breeders’ Cup Turf – which clearly would be a mammoth step up competition, will be given some consideration.
POST MORTEM – SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2018 – SANTA ANITA
Improbable was this week’s “Baffert’s best 2-year-old” appointee and was bet accordingly (2/5) in the six-furlong opener that also featured another hot first-timer, the Simon Callaghan trained, Stretford End, plus the recent Eclipse Thoroughbred private purchase Gray Magician, who’d had a couple prior decent runs. This could easily wind up being the most productive juvenile races this meeting. Improbable had to be ridden early to stay within range of the lead and then was put to a drive at the quarter pole, but close home he exerted his superiority to win by a measured neck while giving every indication that he’ll need a route of ground before truly showing his best. “I was thinking about running him on the turf going a mile (as a precursor to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf),” Baffert said after the race, owning to the colt’s sire, City Zip. “But Elliott (Walden) said that was too crazy.” What’s next? We’ll just play it by ear. Stretford End (Will Take Charge) lost little in defeat, has the benefit of facing maidens again next time to gain added experience (he’ll be odds-on), and has a chance to win an important race or two down the road himself.
The first five-furlong turf race beginning on the backstretch of the course proper was taken by the class dropper Forest Chatter, who had won five previous Hillside turf sprints. The veteran gelding rallied from about five lengths back at the 3/8ths pole to win the second race going away. We’ll need a lot more than just one race to determine if this course produces any kind of pace bias, but It was good to see that a closer will have a chance to win in these newly-created abbreviated turf sprints.
In the fourth race, a decent maiden juvenile turf miler, second-timer Omaha Beach was a beaten favorite again, this time failing to capitalize on a dream run when unable to get past Flying Scotsman despite having the length of the lane to do so. If you’re going to be a good horse, you must win when the race is handed to you on a silver platter, though to be fair Flying Scotsman – featured in a Black Book segment following a promising Del Mar sprint debut – has a chance to be more than useful. Galloping out, the son of English Channel never did allow Omaha Beach to get by him. Baffert’s first-timer Power Player hadn’t shown a thing in the morning on dirt, but his dam (Cambiocorsa) was a turf terror around these parts in her day and is the granddam of the top European 3-year-old Roaring Lion, so it made sense to debut the Distorted Humor colt on turf. Outrun early, he made a mild move into the lane and finished evenly to be third, beaten just over three lengths, without posing a threat. As debut runs go, it wasn’t the best, but not the worst, either.
Game Winner has put together a rather impressive three-race resume. Following a smart debut maiden sprint win, the son of Candy Ride took full advantage of a favorable draw to take the Del Mar Futurity over seven eighths and then was even more impressive when stretching out for the first time in the American Pharoah Stakes, winning by more than four while doing to pacesetter Rowayton pretty much the same thing he had done to him at Del Mar. His Beyer numbers have risen from 83 to 93 to 97, so on paper, he looks terrific, and there’s a strong likelihood he’ll be the favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. But is he Baffert’s next American Pharoah or Justify, or even Mastery? Not ready to go there just yet.
It took Bellafina 28 seconds to complete the final quarter mile in the 7f Del Mar Debutante (she still won!), so her prospects of improving with added distance didn’t seem particularly bright. But give full credit to trainer Simon Callaghan, who removed blinkers in hopes that it would help the high-strung daughter of Quality Road to relax. Switching leads – something she failed to do in both of her graded stakes winning races at Del Mar – came naturally this time and she couldn’t have looked better winning the mile and one-sixteenth Chandelier Stakes by 6 ½ lengths from a very nice filly, the pacesetting Vibrance, who was more than four lengths clear of the others. A scopey, lengthy sort, Bellafina looks very much like what a top-quality filly is supposed to and earned a legitimate speed figure while coming home mostly in hand. She will take some beating in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile fillies.
First Vasilika had to wear down the high-quality Cambodia, who had taken a clear lead entering the lane, and then she had to withstand the strong late kick from the talented 3-year-old filly Paved. A six-race winning streak appeared in jeopardy, but Vasilika would have none of it, holding sway by a half-length in the win-and-your-in Rodeo Drive Stakes over 10 furlongs on turf. Claimed for $40,000 last February by trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, Vasilika now has won nine of her last 10 but wasn’t nominated to the Breeders’ Cup and is no sure thing to be given the chance in the BC Filly & Mare Turf. “We’ll think about it, explore our options,” said Hollendorfer after the race.
Accelerate seems certain to be the favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Classic after he overcame a slow start and a wide trip to win the Awesome Again Stakes from the obviously dead-short West Coast. On pure form, the 5-year-old son of Lookin at Lucky is impossible to fault, though West Coast, who was second in the BC Classic last year, has a chance to produce a significant forward move in Kentucky. What is concerning, though, is the proximity of 57-1 third place finisher Isotherm (beaten less than three lengths) and the sluggish final furlong (13 3/5 seconds) that puts the strength of the race in question. Furthermore, the assigned Beyer figure of 100 was the lowest of the three major BC Classic preps run today when compared with the 108 achieved by Mind Your Biscuits in the Lukas Classic and the 103 earned by Discreet Lover in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Something to chew on.
POST MORTEM – FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2018 – SANTA ANITA
Stormy Liberal captured his third straight added money event when nosing out his Peter Miller-trained stablemate Conquest Tsunami in the Eddie D. Stakes down the Hillside Course. Stormy Liberal now has won his last three races by a combined total of about 12 inches, and that’s not an exaggeration. Both Miller sprinters should be headed to Kentucky for the Breeders’ Cup in peak form but be aware the sand-based grass course at Churchill Downs is an entirely different surface than the pool table tops they’re used to competing over in California. Stormy Liberal has never won outside of California and has finished off the board in three of four starts away from home.
Captivate had to come down in the eighth race. The Mike Puype-trained sprinter clearly drifted over at least a lane to take the path of Saratoga Morning approaching the sixteenth pole, forcing that one to steady sharply, and although Captivate’s margin of victory was more than two lengths it was impossible to state that the incident did not impact the order of finish. This was in direct contrast to the stewards’ inexcusable decision to disqualify 40-1 Gray Admiral, a “much-the-best” winner of the first race. It’s true that Gray Admiral, under low profile jockey Ruben Fuentes, angled out sharply to avoid clipping heels in the upper stretch causing a chain reaction that somewhat bothered Iron Alex (who finished second, anyway, and was never going to win) and Point Guard who was “brushed” (the comment in Equibase) and then had every chance with more than a furlong out but simply got out-finished. The vote in the booth was 2-1.