Horse players from around the globe waited for the big weekend of racing. Just like Christmas, we waited so long and went very quickly. But we have plenty of memories until the next one rolls around. So, if your sitting around thinking when will the next big day of Thoroughbred racing, it is only 180 days until the Kentucky Derby.
Santa Anita provided the perfect backdrop for the weekend. The skies were clear, the horses were ready, and menu of racing was bettor friendly. Now all we had to do is get down our bets and wait for the gate to spring open!
There were 14 races to appease your appetite for racing, and Friday began the feast in fine fashion. I could hear groaning of players from around the world talking about a killer speed bias. Now, I have always waited for something like this to erupt so that my handicapping could be adjusted. But after watching Beholder stalk just off of the pace and stay in the three path around the first turn, I was starting to think this may have been exaggerated a bit. When she reeled in Authenticity around the final turn and inhaled the gals. I started to filter out the grandstand groans.
The Juvenile gave me a glimpse of what might be for that first Saturday in May. New Year’s Day ran from off the pace and chased down the quick Havana. Right now I would bet that Bob Baffert is making all of his dinner reservations for Louisville during Derby week. His runner was three wide early on, and came moving like a good thing.
The Fugue caught my eye last year, and I never forgot. The way she was trapped down along the rail with William Buick made that much happier for days ahead. I have always been a fan of John Gosden and his cool matter-of-fact interview made me even hungrier. When she turned for home in the turf, there were no excuses. This gal is top-notch quality as she fanned just outside the pace as to not be trapped again. At the top of the lane when she opened up a bit on the field, I was sure she would give her all to hold off the cavalry. The Fugue did her job, and ran a solid effort. But the oncoming group could not be held back any longer. Magician did a super job of closing like a blast of wind in the shadow of the wire. I am still a fan, and John Gosden is as tough as they come. But, I think my money will find another runner. Maybe it is the weight I brought to the table…
The Classic looked like the Game on Dude show, and everyone else was just invited to take part. Funny thing, I never felt that way from the very beginning. I fell in love with Mucho Macho Man early on. I felt it may be time to turn the tables, and he was just the guy to get it done. When Hall of Fame rider Gary Stevens took to the saddle, it became evident these were the horses he came back from retirement to ride. Stevens dug in like a man fighting in the 12th round. Will Take Charge was coming like train downhill, and Declaration of War looked like he was doing just that. Gary Stevens is the kind of rider that gets you that last jump at the wire. He holds just enough to keep the wolves away. He has been doing it for years, and I sure hope to see him continue for some time to come. These are the kind of races that makes the game so great.
In sports, there are some moments that leave us wanting more, and some that make us hold our breath. Here is a little sampling of both:
- Ever Rider being vanned off in the Marathon after being sent off as the $4.80 – 1 chalk
- Bobby’s Kitten setting blazing fractions in the Juvenile Turf to set up Outstrip
- Ken Ramsey going off on Javier Castellano, and claiming he would never ride him again on Bobby’s Kitten
- Goldencents finally gest some payback in the Dirt Mile
- She’s a Tiger getting DQ’ed in the Juvenile Fillies – This may have cost more folks the pick five than all years combined by drifting out a bit nearing the wire. Tough call. Makes me glad I am not a steward on this day.
- Dank proved that the Euros came loaded in the BC F&M Turf – Nice ride!
- Groupie Doll repeating in the BC Filly & Mare Sprint. -Nice to see her back in the winner’s circle.
- Mizdirection on a repeat for Jim Rome and the Clones in the BC Turf Sprint
- Wise Dan back for another. They wanted to keep him undefeated, but that soaked poly at Keeneland may not have been to his liking. – HOTY?
- The weather was perfect!
- I liked the reduced menu with 50-cent trifectas and 10-cent supers. The wagering was up a bit.
- The attendance was 35,833, and that was up just a bit from 2012 with 34,619. I think more folks would make the trek with economical trip packages and maybe a special bonus of getting an invite to a gala event for the first 1,000 to make reservations for the BC. Make it easier to come, and people will show. Sometimes we can price ourselves out of the game. Just a thought…
- John Velasquez has had a mixed year. He will be sidelined for the rest of the year after having his spleen removed. His agent Angel Cordero said it is not life threatening, but I won’t feel the same until he is home with family. His mount Secret Compass broke down at the three-eighths in the B.C. Juvenile Fillies. This year he took down the honors of being the winningest rider in purse money. In July, he notched win number 5,000, and became the all-time leading rider at Saratoga with wins. On behalf of fans around the world. Heal up, take some well deserved time down and come back strong. Racing needs heroes, and we wait with anticipation until you come back to the saddle. Best wishes from your friends at Winning Ponies.