01/30/2011 4:58PM

Fair Grounds: 3yo Machen just as good the second time around

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In a word -- wow.

Machen had just four foes, only one of whom, Don Dulce, looked remotely worthy, but I still was blown away by his just-completed performance in race 5, an N1X two-turn dirt allowance for 3yos. I doubt Machen will be getting anything like the flashy 95 Beyer speed figure he earned in a brilliant 6fs sprint debut, but don't be fooled by the number, if its low. This was an impressive performance, and there really was no way Machen could post a fast time, given the circumstances.

Away slowly in his debut, Machen broke even more flat-footed this time, spotting the early leaders about two lengths, then getting pretty rank into the first turn as jockey J. Theriot let him range up inside and behind horses. No wonder Machen was so keen: The first quarter-mile went in a snail's pace, 25.58 seconds, and the half was only slightly faster, 50.68. But by the time Machen had run a half-mile he had settled in nicely and was no longer pulling. He remained inside around the far turn, was briefly shuffled back to last just before the quarter pole, but was in the bridle and ready to roll whenever a seam would appear. That happened at about the three-sixteenths pole. Theriot put Machen's nose up into the opening, the colt went through willingly and then exploded once he was in the clear. Machen briefly drifted out but responded to Theriot's correction with the reins, and continued to widen his advantage over Don Dulce to the wire. Final time for one mile 70 yards was just 1:44.60, while only one race earlier $17.5K off-the-turf claimers had gone the distance in 1:43.02. But the half-mile split in that claimer was more than two seconds faster, the mile fraction about seven lengths quicker, and believe me, Machen finished plenty fast. Think trainer Neil Howard and owner Donald Adam have a legit Triple Crown hope on their hands. Time will tell.