I have slacked off a bit in my duty to post weekly updates to the “Horses to Watch” list. I’ll try to remedy that this week by adding updates for this week plus the past two weeks prior, which I’ve missed. Given the volume of races to discuss, I’ll just supply a few quick notes which I’ve jotted down about each one. I’ve also added a link to each race so you can watch for yourself.
Quiet Sunshine (March 14, Race 2) – Pace runner who broke slowly and steadied at the start, forcing her to rate behind a very slow pace. She attempted to make a four-wide run around the turn and was finished. With a proper ride, she probably could have wired this field on the front end.
Forest Jingles (March 15, Race 8) – Much like the above performance, but even moreso, this frontrunner broke a half-step slowly, but then was badly squeezed back a few strides out of the gate causing him to lose many lengths of position. This was a slow pace that held together pretty well and Forest Jingles ran an excellent race to get as close as he did at the finish.
Ghareeb (March 16, Race 6) – This second time starter was stretching out around two turns for the first time. Due to his greenness, he was forced to run five-wide around the clubhouse turn causing him to lose position for the backstretch run. He tucked in to save ground for the run around the clubhouse turn and came out in the stretch as if he was going to mount a serious rally. However, greenness got the best of him again as he drifted all over the racetrack and lost momentum. When this horse figures out how to run a proper race, he may be okay.
Here He Fitz (March 16, Race 7) – Due to me posting this entry a few weeks late, Here He Fitz has already run back and was an underwhelming fifth when stretching out to a mile. Yet I still think this debut performance makes him worth another shot. He was off slowly and trailed while running greenly near the back of the pack. In the stretch, he made up quite a bit of ground while sticking to the rail and proceeded to gallop out past the winner by the time the field hit the clubhouse turn.
Queen Nine (March 17, Race 6) – Queen Nine was steadied very badly at the start of this race and really lost all chance. The fact that she was able to run up into a stalking position by the time the field hit the far turn and that she was able to hold on for third at the finish is truly amazing. She’ll certainly be stepped up in class off this effort. [Update: Queen Nine ran back last week and finished a good second to a runaway odds-on favorite. She’ll stay on the list.]
Note: March 21st on the inner track was a day when the rail was absolutely golden and it was very difficult to come from off the pace. It was not as strong as the gold rail from December 26th-27th, 2012, but it was still very difficult for horses to rally wide. The following five races highlight horses who were compromised on this day I’ll summarize:
Navy Guard (March 21, Race 2) – Chased wide off the rail the entire way and was still finishing with interest at the end. This full brother to Midshipman, the 2008 Champion Two Year Old, ran deceptively well in here and may yet have a bit of a future.
Al Aqsa and Puget Sound (March 21, Race 3) – Both of these horses attempted to make wide rallies in the stretch. Al Aqsa, in particular, was able to save a bit of ground early in the race and was running on very strongly at the finish while Puget Sound didn’t finish up quite as well, but was consistently wide for the entire trip.
Dynamic Host (March 21, Race 6) – This is one of two horses on the card who truly overcame his three-wide trip to win from off the pace. He has since run back on the turf last week, but didn’t have much chance in that spot based on how the pace developed. I’ll be watching for him next time he runs.
Verbosity (March 21, Race 7) – There is no doubt in my mind that Verbosity would have own this race if it were not for the rail bias. He is in excellent form exiting the inner track meet.
Awesome Vision (March 21, Race 8) – He ran the most remarkable race of anyone on March 21st, since not only overcame a wide trip, but rallied from last to get up and dead heat with a loose on the lead Saginaw, one of the top New York-breds. Awesome Vision may have a real future ahead of him in graded open company stakes.
Polaris Dream (March 28, Race 7) – He is more of a turf type, but likely would have broken his maiden against this soft group of maiden claimers on the dirt with a clean trip. He was in great position coming off the turn, but could just never find a clear path to run until swung to the far outside late in the stretch. He’s a very interesting prospect getting back to turf this spring.
Hot Roots (March 28, Race 8) – This is an off the pace runner who got a baffling ride here as she was sent up into a speed duel that completely collapsed the race. She may not be as good as she once was, but she’s better than this showing.
Commanding Officer (March 29, Race 5) – Everyone probably saw this one. Commanding Officer’s rider lost his irons out of the gate and was forced to come from last. It briefly appeared that he might be pulled up, so the fact that he got up to photo for third is truly remarkable. One word of caution, however, is that these antics are part of a pattern as this horse has had gate issues in the past.
Jonrah (March 30, Race 5) – Andy Serling and Eric Donovan did a great job of discussing this race on Trips & Traps last week. Jonrah had a much tougher trip than eventual winner Anaphylaxis as he was hard ridden to make a four-wide rally around the far turn while probably moving prematurely. He’s very interesting if he turns back to a one-turn mile on the main track next time.
Vexor (March 30, Race 8) – He was hard-ridden out of the gate to duel with the very speedy Readytodefer through suicidal early fractions. He refused to let that foe by him at any point in the running, but played a strong role in eventually collapsing the pace. Night Maneuver took over, but even he got leg weary late after chasing that pace was run down by a deep closing long shot.