Somehow it’s been two weeks since I’ve last added to the Horses to Watch list. I’ve been keeping track of the races and who’s had bad trips during that period of time, I just haven’t gotten around to writing about them until now. So let’s go through them:
Frisky Cat (#7) received his second bad trip in a row in this race, but this time it was not the jockey’s fault. He broke a step slowly and spotted the field about three lengths out of the gate. In his previous three starts Frisky Cat had not really shown much of an ability to pass horses, but this time Ariel Smith elected to settle at the back of the back and make a late run. He moved up along the rail around the turn, had to briefly wait for room at the head of the stretch, and then was angled to the far outside to make his run. He came with a flying finish to just miss getting up. This horse may not be a big price next time after his impressive showing, but I think he may have a future in some better races down the line. His dam is a full-sister to Fox Ridge Farm’s star mare Riskaverse so Frisky Cat should improve with more distance and experience.
Love to Run (#3) was making his second start of the year last Saturday after finishing second to the impressive and highly regarded Street Brawl, who is now 2-for-2, in April. Love to Run broke alertly in this seven furlong contest, but soon found himself in a difficult position trapped on the inside in behind the first flight of horses. Although he has settled off the pace in the past, Love to Run became very rank as his jockey tried to get him to settle early in the race. After stopping him from running up on the heels of the horses in front of him jockey Mike Luzzi took a strong hold of him and wrangled him back a few places. Love to Run continued to lose position around the turn and by the time the field hit the top of the stretch, he was near the back of the pack and looked hopelessly beaten. Luzzi steered him down to the inside and really began to get into him at around the three-sixteenths pole. Still running with his head held fairly high, Love to Run accelerated and, once switched back outside at the eighth pole, put in a furious late run to just miss third. He was surely best in this spot and looks poised to break out of the maiden ranks very soon.
May 20th – Belmont Park, Race 1: Claiming $14,000 at six furlongs
Sasta Go Lucky was completely eliminated at the start of this race as she got squeezed between the two horses adjacent to her. Although she is normally a closer, she found herself farther back than you would have wanted her in a race that was completely dominated by the frontrunners. Sasta Go Lucky actually recovered nicely to make a late run for third only beaten by just over two lengths. She fits quite nicely at this level and would be very dangerous running back versus a similar group.
Margano (#2) is the youngest full brother to Barbaro that is currently running. He broke his maiden in December at Gulfstream in impressive fashion beating future top three-year-old turfer Silver Max in the process. He then came back to disappoint as the favorite in an allowance race in January and was not seen again until last Saturday’s Tiller Stakes. It was a sign of confidence from Barclay Tagg to bypass the N1X allowance condition and go straight into a stakes, yet despite this and his breeding, he went off at odds of 5-1. Meanwhile Summer Breezing was made the odds-on favorite off a 10 length allowance romp at Keeneland. Margano broke a step slowly from the gate and found himself near the back of the pack early. Sensing a slow pace, Ramon Dominguez gradually allowed him to improve his position down the backstretch and around the turn as Summer Breezing moved into the lead. As the field straightened away for the stretch, Summer Breezing set off sprinting for the wire after the soft fractions. Margano briefly appeared to be hanging in third, but after a couple smacks from Dominguez, he visibly lengthened his stride and came with a late spurt to just miss by half a length. After the wire, Margano blew past the favorite and galloped out well ahead of the field. I’m not sure where this horse will show up next, but I think he could turn out to be very good. He would be a short price in an allowance race, but I’m interested in him when he steps up into graded stakes company.
May 20th – Belmont Park, Race 3: State-bred maiden claiming $20,000 at six furlongs
Ibid was making her debut in this race for trainer Linda Rice and she basically ran as green as a first time starting horse can run. After breaking inward very slightly at the start, she attained a decent position in about fifth place early. However, about a furlong or so into the race, she apparently became intimidated by the two horses just in front of her tightening things up a bit and she threw her head up and backed up through the field. Jockey Cornelio Velasquez was not trying to take her up, but the filly lost her momentum and dropped back to share last place. Velasquez then maneuvered her to the outside and asked her for some run around the five-sixteenths pole. Ibid picked up the pace and made a decent late run through the stretch to get up for third. Her trouble early in the race was significant and hopefully, if she can be more professional next time, she should be good enough to beat a group like this.
Andy Serling and Eric Donovan do an excellent job discussing this race on this week’s edition of NYRA’s Trips and Traps. Sissy Wells (#3) was tracking a runaway leader through most of the race under Julien Leparoux. Leparoux was trying his best to be patient and not go after the leader too early, but inadvertently let another rival come up alongside him just as the leader was stopping. He tried to steer Sissy Wells around that tiring frontrunner, but the rival to his outside kept him in and Sissy Wells essentially ran right into the back of the spent leader. Leparoux was forced to steady severely as the horse nearly turned sideways trying to avoid a horse who was running much, much slower than her. Sissy Wells lost all of her momentum and was never able to regain her stride. She wound up second to last, only beating runoff leader by about a length in the end. I’m not saying she would have necessarily won this race, but she could have likely finished in the money rather than now showing a 15-20 length defeat on her past performances. This one is a gamble because she may not be that good. Still, I’m not sure that everyone will know the severity of this trouble and she’s worth inclusion on the list.
This was the first turf race of the year for two-year-olds in New York. Bye Bye Bernie (#1) was making his debut here for trainer Kelly Breen with Rosie Napravnik aboard. His trouble doesn’t occur until the field is making their way towards the top of the stretch when he gets blocked in behind the tiring leaders. Rosie attempts to angle him to the outside, but he is stymied again and not able to extricate himself from traffic until the sixteenth pole, at which point he accelerates nicely to run into third. This horse could have attained a much higher placing with a clean trip and looks to have some ability. I’ll look to bet him back in another of these races fairly soon.