I couldn’t find too many “Horses to Watch” from the races at Aqueduct this past week so I decided to include two from Gulfstream as well. One of those is a pick of mine that I felt never got a fair chance and the other had a trip so rough that it warranted a Daily Racing Form article. In total, I have four trips to discuss:
Bigger Is Bettor
Bigger Is Bettor (#4) started as one of three logical contenders in Thursday’s seventh race, an Optional Claiming $25,000/N2X at one mile and 70 yards. After getting away from the gate awkwardly, he found himself at the back of the pack as Readthebyline got to cut out pedestrian fractions up front. It also didn’t help that he had one of the worst jockeys to pilot a closer on his back in Eddie Castro. I don’t want to keep criticizing Eddie, but he really needs to learn some patience. It’s as if he gets nervous being so far back in the pack and ends up hustling his mounts down the backstretch into making a premature move. It would be one thing if it happened only a few times, but it’s a daily occurrence. Anyway, in the case of Bigger Is Bettor, his running style made him a victim of the pace, but Castro’s decision to swing him out at the three-eighths pole to make a four-wide move certainly didn’t help matters. If he had stayed inside and followed Ramon on Readtheprospectus I think he would have finished much closer.
Don’t get me wrong–I think Eddie Castro is a good rider and some horses really respond to his handling (watch Lady Banks in the Ruthless last Saturday, for instance). He just needs to add some versatility to his tactical repertoire and learn from these mistakes to succeed on the inner track where trip is of the utmost importance. If Bigger Is Bettor lands in a similar spot with even a little more pace, I think he can beat this group next time.
Bwana Booyah finished last, more than 20 lengths behind the winner in Friday’s fourth race, a Maiden Claiming $16,000 at six furlongs, but I’m willing to excuse the effort. He was the longest shot on the board breaking from the outside post and he threw his head at the start leaving him a few lengths behind the pack. This is a horse whose only good effort came when he was up on the pace, so of course Guillermo Rodriguez rushed him up. Unfortunately, he had to go three and four-wide around the turn and his race was over. In his previous start he had been compromised by that gold rail of December 26th, so I’m hoping he’s actually as good as his 39 Beyer performance three starts back. He would need to take a step forward off that sort of race to compete at this level, but given how weak these bottom level maiden claimers have been coming up, I’ll give him a shot next time.
Brown Eyes Blue
I wrote this about Brown Eyes Blue’s (#3) turf pedigree prior to picking her in Gulfstream Park’s seventh race on Friday, an Optional Claiming $75,000/N1X at five furlongs on the turf.
“Big Brown’s offspring have been remarkably versatile with perhaps a slight preference for turf, but the real grass pedigree comes from her dam’s side. Her dam, Golden Lips, never won a race, but she’s a half-sister to two excellent turf horses: Hotstufanthensome was a multiple graded stakes winner on turf who banked over $750,000 and Silver Charades was a G3 winner on grass who earned $250,000. Going deeper into her pedigree, this is the same extended female family of Sunshine Forever, Memories of Silver, and Dynaformer. Conclusion: Brown Eyes Blue should LOVE the turf.”
I thought a turf sprint might be perfect for her and that still might be the case, but she just never got a chance to show what she can do on the grass in this race. These five furlong sprints at Gulfstream are notoriously won by horses who get the trip and Brown Eyes Blue just didn’t. After being uncharacteristically slow out of the gate, she found herself in behind a wall of horses for basically the entire race. This if a filly whose weapon is her early speed, but she didn’t get to show it after that start. Based on her pedigree, she may even prefer a route of ground on the turf eventually. I’m adding her to the list hoping that trainer Dale Romans gives her another chance on the lawn.
The DRF article I mentioned at the beginning of this post is, of course, in reference to this horse and his trip in the Fort Lauderdale Stakes on Saturday. Sky Blazer (#7), who has a habit of breaking badly, actually got out of the gate well in this race and obtained a nice position on the rail in the middle of the pack. However, when the real running began coming to the top of the stretch, nothing went right for this poor horse. Joel Rosario (on Sky Blazer in the pink cap) obviously has tons of horse, but can’t find room to run at any point in the stretch drive. He steadies at the top of the stretch and then is forced to send his horse right into the rumps of the fading leaders past the eighth pole. He just continues to steady with nowhere to go from there to the wire and eases Sky Blazer across the line in eighth place, but as likely the best horse. What a shame for him and Barclay Tagg who needless to say is terribly frustrated with this horse. He had this to say in the DRF article:
“The horse has a ton of talent, he just gets himself into trouble and things go wrong for him, which is a shame because he’s such a nice horse and the owners are such nice people. He also ran well in the Bernard Baruch this summer at Saratoga after breaking poorly. He does have a tendency to get a little too far back in his races, but he actually was in a pretty good spot the other day. They were all in really tight coming down the stretch. Everybody was just bunched and stacked right in front of him on the rail, and he had nowhere to go. It just didn’t look like he had any chance to get out at all.”
I’ve always thought Sky Blazer had the potential to be in the upper echelon of older turf horses and I wonder if Tagg will still take a shot in the Gulfstream Park Handicap (G1) next month, a race that is coming up extremely tough with Animal Kingdom, Point of Entry, and Unbridled Command all listed as possible entrants. I’m not sure if he’s quite that good, but it would certainly be interesting to see him trip in a smaller, more select field with a clean trip.