West Side Glory
The second race this past Wednesday, a $35,000 maiden claimer at 1 1/16 miles on turf, was worth remembering for me not just because I selected the 70-1 winner, but also for the performance of third place finisher West Side Glory (#5), who was clearly the best horse. Pablo Morales sent his filly right to the front from post five, but a few others had the same idea and it appeared as if a speed duel was going to develop. However it soon became clear that no one was willing to run fast enough to go with West Side Glory and she continued to accelerate into the backstretch while clicking off her first quarter in an unreasonable 22 2/5 seconds. She maintained a large lead down the backstretch and around the far turn and was still in front by three lengths in midstretch. Clearly tired from her early exertions, she stopped in the final furlong and allowed longshot My Four Rewards to blow by her late. Her trainer, Joe Orseno, usually moves his stable to Gulfstream for the winter, so I’d imagine we’ll see this filly turn up there based on the way she handled turf in this race.
After the Bell
Closers on the turf course this week were plagued by slow paces and under-aggressive riding, but no pace was slower than the one Ruthless Alley was allowed to set in the fourth race on Thursday, a maiden special weight at 1 1/16 miles on the turf. The winner barely proved best despite having everything his own way and there can be no doubt that the three horses who were involved in the photo with him all ran better races. However, I’m going a little further back in the field to the seventh place finisher for the horse I want to bet out of this race. After the Bell (#3) was making his turf debut and appeared to have a decent chance to move forward given his strong pedigree for the surface. Yet because of the way the race set up, he just never had a chance to get involved. Taken back to last early, he rode the rail the entire way and, while he never had to check or steady, the race just completely got away from him. As the leaders quickened coming out of the far turn After the Bell was trying to mount a rally on the rail, but the horses in front of him had just as much energy in reserve as he did and he could make no impact. I don’t really know if this horse has much ability, but he also hasn’t yet had a fair chance to tell us. I’ll be looking to bet him back on turf next time.
Ya Gotta Have Soul
I documented my reasons for picking Ya Gotta Have Soul (#4) in Friday’s eighth race, an Optional claiming $50,000/N2X at one mile on turf, pretty extensively and, while I can’t necessarily say that I was right, I don’t believe I was wholly wrong either. Rather, I think we have to wait until next time to see if Ya Gotta Have Soul is a turf horse because he did not have the best of trips on this day. After some minor bumping at the start, he assumed a position just in behind the leader and eventual winner Dominant Jeannes. As the field progressed into the clubhouse turn, Karakorum Legend, the runner just outside of Ya Gotta Have Soul crossed over into the two-path and Wilmer Garcia was forced to check his mount sharply by nearly standing in the stirrups. Once he got settled back down in the saddle, Ya Gotta Have Soul was running up outside the leaders three-wide. He got him back to a stalking position soon thereafter, but this was another one of those races, like the one previously discussed, in which the winner was allowed to set slow fractions and spurt away at the top of the stretch. Ya Gotta Have Soul and the others were largely caught off guard and only Hangover Kid, who had gained momentum by slipping through on the rail, could make a serious late bid. I’m taking the results of this race with a grain of salt and hoping Ya Gotta Have Soul goes to Florida with the rest of Barclay Tagg’s turf string and is not retired since, after all, he is getting up there in age.
A couple races prior on Friday in the sixth, a NY-bred Optional Claiming $25,000/N2X at one mile on turf, Idle American (#3) became one of the only closers all week to overcome the nature of the way the turf races were being ridden. Again, a similar scenario developed: Quick Money was allowed to walk along on the front end with Kharafa in a stalking position but applying no pressure. When the field turned for home, those two had plenty left and spurted clear of the field. Idle American, meanwhile, had been rating near the back of the pack for all of the running and was still in that position at the top of the stretch. Alan Garcia seemed to be having trouble finding a clear path for him and he looked like a longshot to even hit the board at the eighth pole. But in the final 200 yards, he finally found daylight to the outside and came charging past the leaders with an electrifying turn of foot. It must be remembered that he had not run since Wood Memorial day back in April and his trainer, Pat Kelly, is not really known for having his horses ready to fire off a layoff. Idle American obviously has a lot of ability, perhaps even more than what his past performances show on paper. I think New York bred stakes lie in his one’s future.
There was again a slow pace in this turf affair, the second race from Saturday, a NY-bred Allowance N1X at 1 1/16 miles on the turf. However, in this case it was largely due to the main speed, Owen Rico, failing to get out of the gate, which left longshot Mr. Rosenthal alone on the lead. Powerful Instinct (#9), who was one of many trying to close into the race, cut the corner at the top of the stretch and seemingly had plenty left under Ramon Dominguez. However, the leaders came together and Powerful Instinct was left with no clear path. Dominguez had just sit there holding his horse and waiting while the other started to make their rallies. It was not until the sixteenth pole that Powerful Instinct extricated himself from that position by wheeling out around the three leaders. Dominguez began to niggle at him, but he had already lost too much momentum and could only get within a half-length by the finish. Powerful Instinct would have won this race, probably by daylight, if he had not encountered that trouble. His form coming into this race was less than stellar and it appears that he may just be in excellent form right now. I wonder if the turf season will last long enough for him to try once more at this level. If not, look for him to turn up at Gulfstream with the rest of trainer Justin Sallusto’s string of horses.
There isn’t very much to say about this one. Merely watch the second race on Sunday, a NY-bred Maiden special weight at one mile on turf, in which Unbelievable Dream (#6) breaks last in the field and proceeds to pass every horse while barely being asked to run by Ramon Dominguez. I had liked this horse beforehand for her decent turf pedigree but she appears to be much better than I could have even imagined. Barclay Tagg usually gives them a race, but this filly ran like an old pro. I don’t know whether there’s much money to be made on this horse in New York, but she’s definitely worth watching because she may be good enough to step outside New York bred company at Gulfstream this winter.
We’ll travel outside New York for the last race I need to discuss, Saturday’s Commonwealth Turf from Churchill Downs. Skyring (#12) is already on the “Horse to Watch” list and was actually my selection in this race, but I feel the need to talk about his trip this time because it is much worse than the one that earned him his spot originally. I had been impressed by his pace-setting second place finish in the Saranac Stakes at Saratoga and decided I thought he was a horse who had a lot more ability than a glance at his past performances might suggest. The next time he ran he was placed way over his head in the Shadwell Turf Mile running against Wise Dan and it was no surprise than he didn’t show up that day. On Saturday he was back in with his own age group as part of a 14-horse field in this one mile turf stakes. Unfortunately his post position got the best of him. John Court probably should have had the foresight to try and send the speedy Skyring to the front early because it would have at least resulted in an opportunity to save ground. He decided to take back and the results were disastrous. Skyring was forced to go five-wide around most of the clubhouse turn, ran wide down the backstretch and then made a move towards the leaders four-wide on the far turn. Coming into the stretch, he had managed to move into second place, but running farther than his competitors eventually took its toll and he tired late to finish fourth. Overall it was a very encouraging effort and I think you can make a serious case that he ran the best race of anyone. I’m not sure what Lukas is going to do with this horse over the winter since Oaklawn Park, his winter base, does not have a turf course. In any event, I greatly look forward to this horse’s next turf stakes appearance.