I have nine new horses to add to the list this week:
Harvest King was making his sixth career start versus $16,000 maiden claimers in Wednesday’s second race. After being held in abeyance early, he appeared to be ready to pounce coming to the top of the stretch. However, as the eventual winner, Tricky Slam, was revving up on the outside, Harvest King was forced to check in behind the tiring leaders. Pablo Morales took him up and wheeled to the outside, but he had lost some valuable momentum and Tricky Slam was long gone. Harvest King was able to re-rally between horses to secure second place, but he likely could have been much closer without the trouble he encountered. This horse has had quite a few chances now, but I feel like he may be ready to win a race like this next time so long as there are no class droppers like Tricky Slam participating.
Baffle Me and Pianist ran against each other in Wednesday’s fourth race, the Stardusk Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on the turf. Baffle Me (#4) has run her best races when sent to the lead and allowed to control the pace, but after she was bumped off stride coming out of the gate she found herself stalking in third during the first quarter mile. Baffle Me was clearly not content with this positioning and she accelerated into the clubhouse turn to engage the leader, Pianist (#3), who had broken sharply and was in front. Joel Rosario attempted to contain her enthusiasm, but she wanted to go and ended up nearly bolting going into the bend. She continued to run eagerly pressing Pianist through a very quick pace of 22 2/5 and 46 4/5 seconds. Both of them looked weary by the top of the stretch, especially Baffle Me, who had been fighting Rosario for most of the race. She threw in the towel quickly, but Pianist continued to battle down to the wire before succumbing late and fading to fourth.
You probably won’t get much of a price on Pianist next time since she’s popular and trained by Chad Brown, although she did run the best race on this day. Baffle Me finished far back and may be a nice price wherever she shows up next. She is equally adept on dirt and turf and was flattered when Sea Island, who she beat two races back, came on to finish second in the Gazelle Stakes (G1).
Mischief Maker (#2) was making her turf debut in Aqueduct’s sixth race, an Optional claiming $35,000/N2X at one mile on the turf. I thought that Kibosh laid over the field on paper and that proved to be the case as she found room along the inside and spurted away in the stretch to win easily. She proved much the best despite rating off a very slow early pace and others who were racing behind her were not so lucky. Inimitable Romanee was able to get in gear early from the outside so she ran up into second, but Reach for a Peach and Mischief Maker both had to switch outside to mount their late runs in the stretch. Reach for a Peach just bettered the latter filly in a blanket finish photo for third, but she didn’t necessarily run a better race. I was going to place Reach for a Peach on the list, but as a Chad Brown trainee, she won’t be much price next time. And anyway, Mischief Maker ran just as well and her past performance line may not reflect the fact that she handled the turf just fine in this race. I don’t know if she’s going to get a chance to compete on the turf again anytime in the near future, but it’s something to keep in mind when she runs back.
Lady Banks (#1) was making her career debut in Aqueduct’s seventh race, a maiden special weight at six furlongs, on Friday after registering some quick works down at the Fair Hill training center. She was assigned the tough rail post position and, like many firsters breaking from that slot, she was away slowly. However, after that she was a picture of professionalism. The early pace was quick and eventual winner Live Lively sat a perfect trip rating just off the pace. Lady Banks followed her around the far turn and then took to the inside in the stretch as Live Lively swung outside to run by the leaders. Lady Banks deftly split horses at the eighth pole and continued to chase Live Lively to the finish line in a promising effort. Her trainer, James Lawrence, isn’t really known for winning with firsters and she should move forward next time.
I’m not really sure if Economic Summit would have had anything to offer if he was not bothered by the incident going into the clubhouse turn of Friday’s eighth race, a Claiming $30,000-$25,000 at 1 1/16 miles on the turf, but it’s worth discussing. As the field was crossing under the wire for the first time, Rajiv Maragh steered his mount, Runaway Jim towards the rail to save ground for the turn and clipped heels with Irish Lion and Irad Ortiz, Jr., who was dumped from his mount. The loose horse continued to run on and essentially took half the field completely out of the race as the riders of the trailing five horses rode cautiously to avoid the unpiloted Irish Lion. I’m mentioning Economic Summit in particular because the other horses who were bothered were long shots whereas he was one of the favorites and expected to run much better than he did. I’m sure there will be some comment in the running line about the incident, but I have to think that this was not a truly run race and should not be considered in evaluating Economic Summit’s form next time.
Upon my initial viewing of Saturday’s Remsen Stakes (G2) at 1 1/8 miles for two year-olds, I was very impressed by Overanalyze’s game victory as he fended off challenges from both sides in the stretch. However, upon closer examination of the pace, I must come to the conclusion that Normandy Invasion (#9) ran the best race and is the horse you really want going into the Triple Crown prep races next year.
The pace was relatively slow and the early leaders, Delhomme and Overanalyze, were able to pull well clear of the rest of the field around the turn because they had plenty left in reserve. Normandy Invasion, despite having shown more speed in previous races, was taken back to last early. Jose Lezcano began to try to motivate him around the half mile pole and once Normandy Invasion got the message that it was time to go, he absolutely took off, making up five lengths in the blink of an eye. He pulled even with the leaders at the eighth pole and looked poised to go on to an easy victory. However, Overanalyze seemed to be emboldened by the challenge and fought back to win. Yet Normandy Invasion had every right to get a bit tired in the final furlong. To catch up the leaders, he had to run from the three-eighths pole to the eighth pole in roughly 23 2/5 seconds, a remarkable split for a 1 1/8 mile dirt race. This horse has some serious ability and has shown the sort of early patience and instant acceleration that makes Kentucky Derby winners.
Twin Cities was making her first start for trainer Juan Carlos Guerrero in Aqueduct’s third race on Sunday, a Claiming $30,000-$25,000 at six furlongs. She entered the race with a very consistent career record, having finished in the money in nine of her 10 starts while winning four. She had also not been farther back than a couple lengths off the early pace in her last seven starts, often chasing half-mile splits within the vicinity of 44 seconds and change. So then she was at a distinct disadvantage when she was slammed from both sides at the start and was left five lengths behind the rest of the field. Most horses would just throw in the towel, but Twin Cities took up the role of a deep closer and launched a furious rally at the top of the stretch to pass most of the field and sneak into fourth place at the finish. She was sent off at 8-1 in what was a very competitive field for the claiming level and one could argue that this was one of the better races she’s run in her career. Perhaps she’s improved for the new barn and we can catch her at an inflated price next time.
La Bella Valeria (#8) encountered a similar scenario to the one Twin Cities had to deal with, breaking well behind the field, except she completely overcame her trouble and made a last-to-first run in the stretch to get up to win. A rare filly registered as a true “black,” La Bella Valeria’s performance in Sunday’s seventh race, a NY-bred Optional claiming $14,000/N1X at six furlongs, is even more remarkable due to her inexperience. This was only her third lifetime start and the first time she had been forced to pass more than a couple of horses during a race. I know that they came home the final furlong in just over 26 seconds, but it isn’t as if the race completely collapsed late. La Bella Valeria was the only horse to make up such a significant amount of ground in the stretch. Her trip is no secret as Tom Durkin astutely alluded to the impressive manner of her victory in his race call, but I think she may have a bright future and wouldn’t be surprised to see her turn up versus open or stakes company soon.