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The Cigar Mile at Aqueduct is the lone Grade 1 race around the country today, but there's something for everyone on today's stakes menu. Like juveniles? There's a quartet (Remsen, Demoiselle, Ky. Jockey Club, Golden Rod) of Grade 2 dirt stakes for 2-year-olds at Aqueduct and Churchill. Like grass? Hollywood's got the G3 Turf Express for sprinters and G3 Generous for 2-year-olds, while Churchill's got the ungraded Grand Canyon and Caressing for 2-year-olds. Like big wheels? It's Breeders' Crown night at The Meadowlands. Still hungry? Stay up until 1:20 a.m. ET for the Japan Cup.
Closer to home, this is the toniest day of the Aqueduct fall meeting but the three big stakes came up a mixed bag.
The Demoiselle looks like a virtual walkover for Sky Diva, the Frizette winner who was a strong third to Stardom Bound in the BC Juvenile Fillies. The only other stakes-winner is the longest shot in the field of six, 15-1 Stormy's Smile, who won a statebred stakes at 75-1 last time out. I'll stand alone with Sky Diva on 80 percent of my multirace bets, backing up with a dash of Springside and Bluegrass Princess, the two closers who could benefit from a lively pace among the three frontrunners drawn to the inside.
I've never seen a Remsen quite like today's: Not a single entrant has ever even run in a stakes race! No one's returning from the Nashua (which was unnecessarily boosted from a G3 to a G2 for next year), and you've got four maiden winners and three N1x winners -- and those N1x victories were at Delaware, Keeneland and Philadelphia, since they apparently can't make a N1x for 2-year-olds fill in New York anymore. Five of the seven entrants are making their third career start including logical favorite Old Fashioned, a 15-length winner at Delaware last out with a field-high 96 Beyer.
The Cigar Mile, however, is as tough a race to handicap as you'll find all year and perhaps the only Grade 1 stakes where the only previous G1 winners (Tale of Ekati and Visionnaire) are both 12-1 on the line. You've got sprinters like Kodiak Kowboy stretching out, grizzled routers like Wanderin Boy turning back, big-figure winners like Bribon and Storm Play making their graded-stakes debuts, and Monterey Jazz coming in off a seven-month layoff. Nor are Harlem Rocker and Arson Squad impossible. Sheesh. Figure this one out, which I can't, and you'll get paid at a square price.
The Cigar is the last Grade 1 race in New York until the Wood Memorial/Carter card in April, and the inner track is scheduled to open Wednesday. It's that time of year: The 2nd at Aqueduct, a statebred MSW, just went to 7-1 Giant Ryan, giving trainer Bisnath Parboo what looks like his first victory as a trainer after a 0-for-60 run in 2008. Parboo had finished first in a race once, when Western Decision appeared to score by a head back on April 26 at Aqueduct, but was disqualified and placed second that day.
6:00 pm: Turned out to be far from a festive Holidayfest card at Aqueduct, as the popular 7-year-old Wanderin Boy had to be put down after breaking down during the Cigar Mile and the 2-year-old filly Springside is facing surgery after breaking a bone moments after winning the Demoiselle by 9 1/2 lengths.
In between, Old Fashioned won the Remsen by 7 1/4 lengths under a hold, stamping himself a leading classic prospect for 2009 for owner Rick Porter and trainer Larry Jones, second in the last two Kentucky Derbies with Hard Spun and Eight Belles.
Springside came roaring from off a solid pace after 1-5 (0.35-1) Sky Diva couldn't get past frontrunner Ain't Love Grand and got leg-weary in upper stretch. Springside, a Canadian-based Awesome Again filly, blew past them and stopped the timer in 1:51.71 but appeared to take a bad step just past the wire.
Old Fashioned went right to the front in the Remsen, was all alone through a pokey 1:14.18 (vs.1:12.65 in the Demoiselle 30 minutes earlier), got one whack from Dominguez in midstretch and won in a laugher. The gray son of Unbridled's Song from the Meadowlake mare Collect Call sold for $800k as a yearling in 2007.
The Cigar Mile ended in controversy as Harlem Rocker reached the wire a nose to the good of Tale of Ekati after a mile in 1:35.01, but was disqualified and placed second for dropping over on the runner-up in the stretch. It wasn't a clear-cut takedown and horses have stayed up after committing greater sins. No question that Harlem Rocker did come over, but it's debatable whether he was clear of Tale of Ekati when he did.
As expected, the public was all over the place in the Cigar Mile, sending 6 of the 9 starters off at between 7-1 and 9.70-1 (Harlem Rocker, the longest shot in the field.) Monterey Jazz, who set the pace of 1:09.42, faded to sixth as the 3.10-1 favorite.
Earlier on the card, the Elusive Quality 2-year-old Quality Road made a splashy debuty, winning by 2 3/4 lengths in 1:16.11 for 6.5f, which is going to come up a fast number on a somewhat dull track. The two races preceding it, also for 2-year-old maidens (albeit statebreds and $75k maiden claimers) were timed in 1:11.86 and 1:11.74.
Wanderin Boy, a Stone Farm homebred by Seeking the Gold, won 9 of 25 starts and $1.2 million during five seasons of racing including the 2006 Ben Ali and Brooklyn. He also ran second to four different champions in Grade 1 races: to Invasor in the 2006 Pimlico Special, to Bernardini in the 2006 Jockey Club Gold Cup, to Lawyer Ron in the 2007 Whitney and to Curlin in the Jockey Club Gold Cup eight weeks ago.
hey steve: belated congrats on your recent pk 6 successes. great stuff. i was wondering what the beyer was for quality road? i watched his race as well last weekend, and thought it was easily one of the better debuts i have sen this year. i think he is a real runner. thanks
Dehere: The Mountaineer race caller is Pete Berry. I enjoy his calls as well. Thought Churchill Downs should have included him in their recent auditions.
Machouno, There are some posters on Del Mar's website who are saying that Mighty Beau didn't make it. Very sad if true. If you Google "Mighty Beau Penn National", the first link that comes up should take you to their discussion.
Steve, Nice tribute to Wanderin Boy. Always so sad to see any of these beautiful animals have to be put down. He was a cool dude, Wanderin Boy. On a totally different topic, a buddy of mine mentioned something to me tonight that purely coincidentally happened to cross my mind last night as I was squinting at a monitor in a sports bar that was showing the races from Mountaineer. (Yes, I know, Mountaineer on a Monday night in December - does it get any more desperate than that?) Anyway, without the benefit of an audible race call, I was having difficulty determining which horses were fighting for the win in deep stretch. The numbers appeared blurry on the screen, and even after all horses had crossed the wire, I had no clue who had won. The point - and the question my friend and I pondered tonight - is why haven't the racetracks across the country upgraded to simulcasts in HD? It certainly would have made my experience more enjoyable last night, and I can only imagine that many, many others feel the same way. Intuitively, it doesn't seem like something that would be a major expense / hassle to implement, but perhaps there is more to it than I realize. I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject. If you have already had this discussion on this board, then please accept my apologies. But I immediately thought of you when this topic arose, because you are a perpetual proponent of improving the game for the average fan. (Perpetual Proponent - that sounds like the name of a future Derby winner to me!) Any thoughts you care to share would be greatly appreciated. And on one quick semi-related subject: How good is the race-caller at Mountaineer? Do you enjoy his calls as much as I do? I don't know his name, but he is tremendous - second only to Durkin I believe. It's a shame that he works in relative obscurity in West Virginia. Also, if anyone on the board has any thoughts on any of the above, I welcome hearing them. Ok - this novel is over!
Was thinking about entering the CD/Twinspires contest when it occured to me that with 500 players @ $250 each that equals $125,000. They "guaranteed", I believe, $10,000. to the winner. Anyone know where the other $100K or so goes??? As for the internet betting sites on a big day, NYRA can't be much worse. BC day was a complete disaster. After all that handicapping, then to watch as the site froze over & over. Brought back memories of the dreaded dial-up. We're such schmucks.
I had WB w/ Lawyer Ron for a $5 exacta for the 2007 Whitney. Paid $959. Fell in love w/ Saratoga that weekend. Came home, used the winnings to throw a party for friends and family. Rest in peace Wanderin Boy.
The Cigar Mile ended in controversy as Harlem Rocker reached the wire a nose to the good of Tale of Ekati after a mile in 1:35.01, but was disqualified and placed second for dropping over on the runner-up in the stretch. It wasn't a clear-cut takedown and horses have stayed up after committing greater sins. No question that Harlem Rocker did come over, but it's debatable whether he was clear of Tale of Ekati when he did Well, it looks like us peons were pretty divided on this DQ, maybe more *justified* than not. What about you, Mr. Crist? Is the above writing all you have to say about it??? We who "idolize" your opinion need to know....
There wasn't a DQ at Hollywood because Bejerano's horse cut off the #9 horse who was backing up and wasn't hitting the board anyway. Should he have come down?? He committed an obvious foul, so yes, I think he should have. But the prevailing atttitude seems to be,if the foul didn't affect the order of finish, the horse doesn't get DQ'd. As for the Cigar Mile, I agree with an earlier comment, that had Harlem Rocker won by a greater margin, his number stays up. The stewards probably felt, if Tale of Ekati didn't alter course, he wins the race.
Sorry to post twice, but what jock Frankie Torres did in R1 at FG on Sunday was amazing. As he was mounting his horse in the paddock he gets kicked full on in the ribs/side. Lays motionless for 3 mins. Medics sit him up and he slumps over again. Stewards wanna scratch his horse, but the trainer (Sturges Ducoing) vehemently objects. Long story short: Torres gets up off the canvas and wins at 19-1. He can barely stand for the photo in the winners circle. WOW!
I can't believe all these people complaining about the DQ (which I think was justified) when the real loss in that race was the death of Wanderin Boy - What a wonderful horse he was and what a sad way to end a remarkable career. Yet, he is mostly being ignored. Without the horses, there are no horse races to bet one