Before I go on to talk about the new additions to the Horses to Watch list, let me give a quick mention to the most impressive winner of this past week. In case you haven’t seen the video, check out Pure Fun’s devastating last-to-first rush to take the Hollywood Starlet:
I am such a sucker for horses with her style. Pure Fun seems to have really turned the corner here at the end of her two year-old season and I’m really excited to see what she can do next year on the road to the Kentucky Oaks. She’s also interesting from a pedigree perspective because she has some old-world bloodlines prominently featured on her maternal side. Her broodmare sire is Key to the Mint, the 1972 Champion Three Year-Old Colt, who won 14 of 29 starts in three seasons of racing. Pure Fun seems to have inherited some of that durability as she has never raced on Lasix and is now better than ever after an eight-race two year-old campaign.
Stone Rocks (#5) was making his debut in Thursday’s seventh race, a NY-bred Maiden Special Weight at six furlongs. Sent out from the low-profile barn of Steven Jerkens, he was dismissed at 46-1. He seemed ready to run to those odds when they sprang the latch and he came out of the gate a good three or four lengths behind the field. He continued to be slow to get into stride and soon found himself more than 15 lengths behind the leader and eventual winner, Dr. Figawi. That horse ran off the screen and appears to be a very promising sprinter, but Stone Rocks wasn’t about to completely throw in the towel. Despite coming into the stretch still in last place, he commended a rally between horses and was actually really running at the finish to get up for fourth. He was probably only a few jumps shy of completing the exacta given his momentum in the stretch. Still, he did lose the race by over 13 lengths and we may get a decent price on him next time due to his connections. I think this horse has some ability and I don’t foresee him staying a maiden for too long.
Lost Decade was making his first start for new connections of owner Midwest Thoroughbreds and trainer Jamie Ness in Friday’s first race, a Claiming $15,000 at six furlongs. This is an example of a jockey making an early race decision that eventually costs his mount any chance of winning. Lost Decade broke very sharply from the rail in Friday’s first race and had every opportunity to seize control of the race early. He’s a horse who has 44 and change speed so it’s not like he was out of his comfort zone. But apparently jockey Pablo Morales did not want to be in front and dragged him back off the pace. Lost Decade then found himself in a pocket on the rail behind a wall of horses. While he never really had to check or steady, it’s just not a spot you want to get stuck in especially when the field is so compact. In the stretch, Lost Decade actually still had plenty left but could never quite find a clear and comfortable path to run. Again, Morales never stopped riding, but this horse should have been in front turning for home. I’ll admit that I didn’t like him at all in this spot, but in retrospect he probably would have won this race if Morales had been decisive early.
I’m adding Praetorian Guard (#7) to the list as sort of a preemptive strike with a horse who can prove to be very dangerous for some sharp connections on the inner track. I was a big fan of this horse when he broke his maiden for $16,000 on November 14th, but thought he was completely over-matched in Friday’s third race, an Optional Claiming $25,000/N1X at 1 1/8 miles. There appeared to be very little speed on paper and that was how the race developed. Despite the fact that the opening fractions were run in 25 and 50 1/5 seconds, apprentice Jose Ortiz took Praetorian Guard to the back of the six horse field. He certainly has the speed to be close early, but Ortiz was feeling no sense of urgency. The same could not be said of his brother Irad, who astutely made an early blitz to the lead with Cinnamon Beach at the three-eighths pole when the opportunity presented itself. It turned out to be a winning decision as everyone else was playing catch up. Praetorian Guard, despite being more pace compromised than anyone, actually made a late run up the rail to grab third in an effort that was better than it may look on paper. This is a horse who seems be improving now that he’s focused on dirt racing and he should love the steady diet of two-turn races on the inner track.
I really don’t have to go into that much detail about this one. Just watch the video of Saturday’s second race, a NY-bred Maiden special weight at one mile, and you’ll see that Night Editor (#1) should have been a clear winner. This was not one of jockey Junior Alvarado’s prouder moments. Entering the far turn, he basically rode his mount right into the back of the fading frontrunner, Grand Award, thus checking severely and losing probably between six and eight lengths of position not to mention all of his momentum. Night Editor somehow regathers himself and makes a big, wide rally to get back into the race and finish a clear second. I have no doubt that he would have won otherwise and he should demolish a similar group next time.