Learning at the Foot of the Master

What a weekend for showing the ups and downs of Thoroughbred racing. Arrogate has the racing world scratching their head and the bridges around the country had standing room only as he tossed in a clunker. – Fast forward to the next day at the Spa. Bob Baffert still hurting from Arrogates lack of interest sent Kentucky Oaks winner Abel Tasman to Saratoga for the Coaching Club Oaks. – Abel won this day by a slim margin and survived an inquiry and objection. Jose Ortiz had claimed a foul against the “Money Man” Mike Smith. I drew a breath at the thought and then came to my senses. Jose Ortiz is the next up and coming bad boy on the scene and wins more races than the law allows everywhere he goes. – Before we get into any type of guessing, take another look at the race that had gamblers talking.



This YouTube clip showed the Arrogate race prior and the commentary at Saratoga. – Fast forward to 2:17 and then again to 2:21. This will show the race and an up-close down the stretch view. You may want to stop and go back and watch a few times. – After I watched 8 times it took me back to a retired rider who had some sage-like advice. His name is Homero Hidalgo and he rode on the Ohio circuit and about every other in the country. He was a masterful tactician back in the day and knew the little tricks of the trade. – Homero would tell stories of locking horns with the biggest names of the era. There was little to no video coverage then, and riders knew where the cameras could not see them for a few seconds.

Mr. Hidalgo was a plethora of knowledge. He would tell you how riders would reach down gently and pull your boot out of the stirrup. Keeping your runners head pointed toward the rail not allowing the chaser to skim the rail and nail you at the wire.- Using the whip to sting another rider’s hand and having just enough to get up at the wire. – The stories were incredible of how the game allowed riders to intimidate and use anything possible to win.

After hearing about every story, claim, and wisdom. It took me back to one of Homer’s stories. – He was a stalwart rider who won every meet in the area while staying close to home. – “Riders would get close down the lane and get close enough to where their boot was in front of the other rider.” – Sounds simple, and when the boot was in front of the other rider he couldn’t pass unless he pulled his boot out of the irons losing ground and getting beat, or trying to fight back where he would be taken down. – Mike Smith is the best money rider bar none. Jose Ortiz is going to be the next name shooting up the list of the all-time greats in time. – At the break, Elate stumbled to his knees and Ortiz gathered her up and made a perfect rail skimming ride. Smith had Abel Tasman moving early sensing he was going to face dawdling fractions. – Go back to 2:21 and watch his left boot stick out a few inches.  If you’re still not sold, remember how Elate was rolling and when things got tight neither moved an inch further than the other the last 70 yards. Just watch the boot, the head of the horses not making ground and remember it was Homer Hidalgo who mentioned this to me in his many years of stories of real race riding.

I am sorry for Ortiz, but he’ll surpass many in his years to come. But Smith gave a clinic on race riding and doing what it takes to get the money. – Afterall, you didn’t think he was going to get beat on two favorites on both coasts, did you ?