I’m pretty late with this entry but I suppose it’s better late than never. Fortunately none of these horses have run back yet.
Warrior James (April 27, Race 2) – He vied for the lead through a hotly contested early pace and was the only early player to be involved in the finish. It looked like he would finish off the board at multiple times during the stretch drive but he continued on valiantly to secure the place. He really responded to the turnback in distance here and may be an improved horse sprinting.
Mr. Cowboy (April 27, Race 5) – In this, his first start of the year, Mr. Cowboy was bumped at the start and subsequently taken back to last well behind an honest early pace. However, Jose Lezcano was apparently unhappy with this position because he motivated Mr. Cowboy to make a very early move from last all the way up the rail to be right behind the leaders by the time the field hit the far turn. By the quarter pole, Lezcano was still getting after Mr. Cowboy to go up after the leader but he was understandably tired after make a sustained run for a half-mile. He actually did well to save fourth and should benefit from this race.
Effie Trinket (May 2, Race 8) – Effie Trinket was also coming off a long layoff here and was immediately put at a disadvantage when she broke a half-step slowly and was squeezed back to race in last place. To make matters worse there was an odds-on favorite who was allowed to assume an easy lead and, since he was riding a filly with tactical speed, Luis Saez was in a difficult position. He elected to sit back in last place and wait until the three-eighths pole to start his run. Effie Trinket swung four-wide and tried to make up ground, but dynamics were against her and she couldn’t make a dent in the leader’s margin while finishing a good third. She ran better than it looks in this race and should take a step forward next time for Richard Violette.
Ballybrit (May 3, Race 5) – Andy Serling turned me onto this one on NYRA’s Trips and Traps. Ballybrit was making his turf debut in this spot and broke slowly from the rail. He launched an early, wide rally on the far turn to reach contention and kept coming through the stretch to get up for third in a race where the early leaders dominated on the front end. He was a huge price in this race and will be much shorter odds next time, but has obviously found a home sprinting on the turf.
Porvoo (May 3, Race 7) – Porvoo was placed in a difficult position in this race. She’s a filly with tactical speed who runs best when she’s allowed to fight it out on the front end the entire way. However on this day Simplistic, a long shot, ran off on her rider early in the race to record some quick interior fractions. Porvoo’s rider tried to do the right thing by sticking with that foe, but his filly soon became eager and she ran off to the front, essentially breaking the race open on the far turn. Porvoo was understandably tired in the lane, but stayed on decently in a race that was dominated by closers who launched rallies from far back. She ran a lot better than it looks on this day and will be an interesting long shot next time she shows up for this condition.
Kharafa (May 3, Race 9) – This is an unfortunate example of a jockey trying to do the right thing by being patient as a hot pace unfolds in front of him, but ultimately getting himself into trouble as he loses his advantageous early position. Watch the video from about the half-mile pole until the top of the stretch as horses surrounded Kharafa and he found himself stymied behind a wall of horses at the quarter pole. He was obviously still full of run in the stretch and was probably best here.
Thunder Brew (May 3, Race 10) – It’s probably best to watch the head-on of this one because it best illustrates how much the best Thunder Brew was in this spot. After breaking slowly from the outside post he found himself last far behind the leaders for the run down the backstretch. He was guided into the center of the turf course for the run around the far turn and continued wide all the way around the bend before fanning six or seven-wide for the run into the stretch. He ultimately lost by under a length but was quite obviously much the best on this day. I’m not sure what price we’ll get on him next time, but I would think his connections would have to step him up in class off such a huge effort.
In Rocky’s Honor (May 4, Race 3) – In Rocky’s Honor was a first time starter who was breaking for the rail on this day. He was off about a length slowly, ducked in after the start, and was hustled along by his rider to get up into a position in mid-pack. Pick up the replay again as the field rounds the far turn. It’s hard to tell on the head-on shot, but In Rocky’s Honor and actually bounces off the rail coming to the top of the stretch. In the lane he’s trying to mount a rally, but is racing in behind horses and doesn’t really hit his best stride until very late in the game. It was a promising debut for a horse who has the pedigree to be a grass monster. His dam was a multiple stakes winner on turf and is a half-sister to the dam of Japanese G1-winning miler and top U.S. turf sire Hat Trick. He should run a lot better next time.
Love to Run (May 5, Race 6) – There was plenty of speed on paper in this race, but most wouldn’t have thought Love to Run would be the one setting the pace. I don’t know if they increased the cup on his blinkers, but he was very eager on this day and was intent on getting to the lead. He ran the half-mile in a ridiculous 44 2/5 seconds and essentially caused the race to collapse late allowing closer Keep Me Informed to win. Despite setting those grueling fractions Love to Run finished clear of the other pace horses as he checked in third. This was an excellent effort, but I hope the connections remove the blinkers for his next start.
Make Your Move (May 8, Race 7) – This was another race that featured a fast pace which eventually collapsed, but one of the horses who should have been able to take advantage of the scenario was hampered by taking the path of most resistance. Make Your Move enters the frame at the three-eighths pole as he tries to rally up the rail. It appears that this move will carry him on to the front, but his rider decides to try and sneak through inside the leaders at the top of the stretch. The hole was still there as the field entered the straight but the rider on Talk Therapy quickly shut the door on Make Your Move and he lost all of his momentum. It’s hard to pick up steam again on an off-track like that and Make Your Move ended up finishing well back. I believe he could have at least been second if he had been able to get outside sooner.
Wise Guide (May 11, Race 5) – May 11th was a day when it was very advantageous to be in the couple of paths nearest the rail. Wise Guide raced about five-wide the whole way around the far turn and was predictably spent by the time the field hit the top of the stretch. He can do much better than this and deserves another chance.
Howie’s Tiz (May 11, Race 6) – Also on May 11th, Howie’s Tiz was a good second in this maiden race, but was probably best after being forced to make a wide-rally on the far turn while the winner set the pace on the inside.