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Brown on the Green
I bet against him at 3-5, but there isn't much to knock about Big Brown's narrow but solid victory over legitimate older stakes horses on the turf today in the Monmouth Stakes. While the race probably won't get as good a winning figure as his Haskell, he looked like a stronger and fitter horse today, and while his margin of victory was smaller he was beating better horses -- and older ones for the first time.
Big Brown somewhat surprisingly sprinted clear early in what looked like a speed-packed field on paper, as only Get Serious was close to him early. Desormeaux settled him down nicely midrace, and he had fresh leghs turning for home as Get Serious made a brief bid and the closers started their late bids. Proudisnky made the strongest move while Shakis flattened out after going very wide, and Proudinsky was at Big Brown's neck in the final furlong, but couldn't get past him. The winner's fractions were 23.46, 46.83 1:11.21, 1:35.39 nd 1:47.41, meaning he ran splits of 23.46, 23.37, 24.38, 24.18 and 12.01.
The outcome probably won't settle any debates over just how good Big Brown is or how he stacks up against Curlin, even if you confine the latter discussion to turf. Curlin finished second in his only grass start but was sandwiched between two Breeders' Cup Turf winners in Red Rocks and Better Talk Now, either of whom would have been favored over Proudinsky today. The Monmouth Stakes field was a combined 0 for 15 in Grade 1 races. Still, the tally remains Big Brown 2-for-2 on grass in his career, Curlin 0-for-1. A victory over three nice Grade 2 horses (Proudinsky, Shakis, Silver Tree) adds to Big Brown's resume, but like Curlin, he would be considered a 20-1 no-hoper in a race like the Arc de Triomphe against the world's best grass horses.
Big Brown won the equivalent of a G2 grass race by a neck. Curlin lost a legit G1 by a length. While it's nice for their breeding careers that they're proficient on grass, their places in history rest on their dirt performances.
Twenty minutes later at Belmont, an uncompetitive five-filly G1 Gazelle became a virtual walkover for Music Note when Country Star reared and bucked at the gate and was a late scratch as the 4-1 second choice. That lowered Music Note's odds from 2-5 to 1-20 as she faced only two N1x winners and a maiden-claiming graduate. The scratch also forced refunds of the trifecta pool and the show pool, where bridgejumpers had poured in about $700k on Music Note
After the field was backed out and reloaded, Music Note sat third behind mild fractions, cruised to the lead at will, and won by 8 1/2 lengths under a hold in 1:50.20. "One could say this was a very good effort," Tom Durkin announced as she romped home under a motionless Castellano, "if it was any effort at all."
Earlier at Belmont:
*The G2 Futurity was run in bunched-up fashion, with 7-5 Charitable Man prevailing by a length over 19-1 Flying Pegasus in a moderate 1:24.30 for six furlongs. The winner, now 2-for-2, didn't look as impressive as he did earning a Beyer 96 winning his Saratoga debut by 11 1/2 lengths, but unlike some of the division's other early leaders, figures to stretch out nicely, being a son of Lemon Drop Kid and a Saint Ballado mare. Charitable Man got a nice outside trip, moving five-wide on the turn and gradually wearing down the leaders.
Flying Pegasus, who went well winning the pace battle and holding second, was the only starter in the field to have won two races or to have run in anything but a maiden race, having won a Delaware allowance race Aug. 9 after scoring in his debut at Churchill. Of the other favorites, promising debut winner Girolamo had no apparent excuse (nor did Romp, second to him in their debuts and a bad fourth in a maiden race earlier on the card) but I'd give another chance to Gone Astray, who was stuck at the rail and blocked under an indecisive ride.
*One race later, Doremifasollatido ($8.80) won the G2 Matron in 1:24.74, about 2 1/2 lengths slower than the Futurity, by two diminishing lengths over late-running Persistently. The winner, a New York-bred daughter of Bernstein(Storm Cat), was second beaten 7 lengths by Mani Bhavan in the Adirondack Aug. 13. Today she stalked the leaders from the rail, sliced between them under Coa in upper stretch, and pulled clear while Persistently closed in after trailing by 9 early as Durkin sang the winner's name once she was safely clear.
*Criminologist ($4.40), the lone graded stakes winner (and a three-time G3 winner) in the G3 Noble Damsel for turf fillies, got up in the final jump to run down Waquoit's Love in 1:37.91 in the day's only grass race. She seemed to be laboring around the turn with a lot left to do, but showed her superiority grinding out the victory and could be headed for the G1 First Lady at Keeneland Oct. 11.
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Steve, if the challenge intrigues you, what might be the odds on the following sequence?: Losing three photos, two of which involved races in which my selection ended up in a dead heat with another horse, within 48 hours? Even though the two DH photos meant that two of the three bets weren't a total loss, they did result in "real money" losses (compared to what each bet would have paid had either/both horse gotten his nose up first). But not complaining; the amounts bet were small; and the odds involved were all under 5-1. Comments from others regarding the mathematical probabilities of this phenomena are also invited, and encouraged (other than I'm jinxed. I KNOW that!). Also: Try to catch the Delaware County Ohio harness racing this week (hopefully, today - Tuesday 09/16/08 - wasn't the last day. The regular race caller is fantastic! Sorry I didn't catch his name (he's not the esteemed Roger Huston, who also called a race). Least Appreciated: Hearing a race caller from the Meadowlands Harness on the in-between-races panel. Nothing wrong with him, but the mere sound of his voice brought in the most unwelcome emotional reminder of a track that has gone downhill faster than AIG. We need a filly racing next year named Madame Stael...
Take it to the bank. The Polycrap classic will be won by a former Claimer.
Slew, You are right on about Kent D. On many occasions it truly looks like he is not trying. He is the Robby Cano of jockeys and I hate to have to use him. As far as Banrock though, I'm not getting why it was a "foolish" ride. He put Banrock on the lead and slowed the pace to a crawl although he doesn't exactly finish with alot of energy these days. In his defense maybe he is not 100% physically?.
Jeff Moss, Would it be the best race ever? Not even close. The surface is a big unknown, and there are a lot of other questions surrounding this Classic. Curlin versus Big Brown would be great, but I'm not sure that that matchup is any better than Curlin versus last year's 3YOs plus Lawyer Ron, or Bernardini versus Invasor the year before. Tiznow versus Shakhee is another. Still, Curlin versus Big Brown would be nice... I just wish it wasn't contested on an unknown surface which neither has ever raced on. It DOES take away from the matchup in my opinion. The others you mentioned: Duke of Marmalade had chronic bridesmaid syndrome until this year; Henrythenavigator is a very good 3YO miler (on firm turf) but we don't know what he'll do at 1 1/4 on dirt, I mean, ProRide; New Approach has already been whipped by the former 2 in Europe; and who in the world is Casino Drive? Many were blown away by his Peter Pan, but I am not one of them. Quick-- name one other horse he beat in that race. For the Euros, they've only run on turf and I'm not fully convinced that any of them, including the Duke, are that special. Henrythenavigator is probably not even as imposing as George Washington was last year, IMO. A strong field, but not the best race, or even Classic, I've seen. Just my opinion.
I thought the best race in recent years was Ghostzapper's BC Classic. That race was stacked with quality horses. I think Big Brown and Curlin belong with those horses. Affirmed probably faced the most great horses. He ran against Spectacular Bid, Seattle Slew, and all those races against Alydar. The Affirmed/Alydar crop was great, and some of those fields were deep with quality. And when great horses meet, often the results don't tell who's better. Exceller beat Slew&Affirmed.
Jeff Moss: Pinnacle Race Course is also my home track! I live in the Ypsilanti/Ann Arbor area, having moved to se Michigan from southern California 10 years ago. Although Pinnacle is not completed, it's great to finally have thoroughbred racing in the area, and the track itself seems safe and fair. I've been to the track for every stakes race except opening day when the track was overflowing and thousands were turned away. For me, the moment of the meet came this past Monday when 3 time Michigan bred Horse of the Year, Rockem Sockem, held off Meadow Vespers to win the Frontier Cap'. I've been a fan of the old boy since 2004 when I was at Great Lakes Downs and he won the Spartan Stakes by 6 lengths. The race was extra special for me because I had a little money on the Rockem Sockem - Meadow Vespers exacta, which paid a generous $66. In general, however, I'm not a big gambler, having learned the hard way that there is a big difference between being conversant in racing and being able to handicap and, similarly, between handicapping and betting; I know the sport well, I am an ok handicapper, but a terrible bettor. How about yourself? Fan, handicapper, gambler?
C, ,,,Maybe it wouldn't be the greatest race of all-time. That was meant as hyperbole. BUT, if all of those horses showed up, it would be the greatest and deepest Classic field ever. That isn't even debatable. You COULD have a match-up of: The reigning Breeders' Cup Classic winner, Dubai World Cup winner and Horse of the Year. The reigning Kentucky Derby winner. The winner of the Irish 2,000 Guineas, St. James's Palace Stakes and Sussex Stakes. The winner of the Whitney. The winner of the Pacific Classic. The winner of the Tattersalls Millions. The winner of the Tattersalls Gold Cup, Prince of Wales's Stakes, King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes and the International Stakes. You would have a lightly raced horse from Japan with exceptional breeding who earned a lot of buzz this past summer. And while I despise synthetic tracks, it would be a more level playing field for the European turf horses. To compare Henrythenavigator's current form to George Washington's post brief retirement form is an insult... It would be the best and most compelling Classic EVER ...
Eric- I honestly have no idea how good BB is compared to some of horses I mentioned, all I was saying it wasn't life & death, his rider had plenty in reserve and probabbly trying to leave as much in the tank as possible. BTW one of my all time favorites in the last 20 years was Easy Goer. I got to meet his trainer Shug McGaughey, and play pool with him at little bar in Hollywood Beach Fl. Le Tub,(best hamburger in USA according to Ohpara) He invited us to be in the win picture of Polish Navy in an Alw. race the next day at Gulfstream Park the next day. There we were, 5 of us from Buffalo, going to get in the picture with Dinny Phipps whos was in attendance that day, but alas 2nd at 3/5. Let me tell you at that time Shug could drink some beer, and so could my brother-in-law. They kept buying each other drinks and playing pool wild the rest of us feel by the wayside, at nights end my brother-in-law could barely stand, and was telling him of our 3 horses we had in training in Canada, he told Shug they were cheap claimers but if we got ever got a good one he could trainer it for us. Shug shook his hand and agreed to train for us and we teased my brother-in-law for years after, he would grin from ear to ear when we tell people at the track he was a personal friend of Shug.
Big Brown is like the Dallas Cowboys, you either hate em or love him, But for all the people that have bet him and love him ever time, even money doesn't add up, I can't wait till Breeders Cup day and bet against him, he race was a nice one but impressive, not really. Big Brown has earned some praise but by no means is he a super horse, in the next 2 years there won't be 1 3 yo we are talking about like the quality of Curlin, He has faced no one and did what he is suppose to do when asked, Win, nothing wrong with that but he has beat no one. Good luck on your 4/5 in the Breeders Cup race, I can't wait. My opinion is if a horse would have hooked him, he would have finished 3rd, he just ran even all the way around. Kudos to him though. Keep loving him and hammer him at the windows come Oct 25. I will thank you when I collect at the windows.