05/29/2012 9:36AM

Memorial Day Stakes Thoughts

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Without taking anything away from the way Shackleford refused to concede late in the Met Mile, Caleb’s Posse’s inability this year to close the deal has become an issue. Although Shackleford is a classic winner (since he is excelling in one turn races these days, it might be forgotten that he won last year’s Preakness) with a strong will to win, and while it is true he is in much better form right now than he was when he was trounced by Caleb’s Posse in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile last fall, let’s be real: Caleb’s Posse still looked like he was one-to-a-million to catch Shackleford late in the Metropolitan even if he was going against the grain of a track kind to speed, and didn’t. And now, after three straight narrow defeats to start his 2012 campaign, I think what Caleb’s Posse needs more than anything else is a softer assignment to boost his confidence.

As for To Honor and Serve, the surprising favorite in the Met Mile over Caleb’s Posse, and who finished third, I thought there was a moment very early in the race when the door was open for him to get off the rail and get into a much better outside stalking trip. The opportunity wasn’t taken, and To Honor and Serve remained bottled up to upper stretch. Make no mistake, To Honor and Serve wasn’t good enough, certainly on Monday, anyway. But that also wasn’t his trip.

That was a fine win by It’s Tricky in the Ogden Phipps, but I don’t think it at all proves she’s a better horse than Awesome Maria, who finished third at just under 4-5. Trainer Todd Pletcher took responsibility for Awesome Maria’s loss right after the Phipps, saying in a most candid way that he did a bad job preparing his mare for this assignment. But I believe a huge contributing factor to her loss was the strategy used by jockey John Velazquez. Awesome Maria likes to be close up early, but she was allowed to drop farther off the early lead than she is normally comfortable with. Yes, the pace was quick (22.68, 45.78), but that’s no excuse for the tactics taken. A couple of races earlier, we all saw Buffum, in his first start in more than eight months, win off impressively going a mile after being close to early splits of 22.46 and 44.90. That should have been noticed.

It’s Tricky, meanwhile, capped a nice Monday at Belmont for Sheikh Mohammed. He also owns, in one fashion or another, Buffum, and Better Lucky, winner of the Sands Point Stakes.

Uncontested would have been a more appropriate name Monday for Contested as she ran off to an easy, unchallenged lead almost immediately in the Acorn Stakes, and remained well clear to make it her fourth straight lopsided score. Yes, Contested got a huge base on balls, but she is also a very good filly. I do still think Acorn runner up Zo Impressive will win a big race with a better set up. I also think that On Fire Baby’s empty fourth place finish combined with Mamma Kimbo’s recent flop in the Black Eyed Susan brings into question the strength of the Oaklawn 3-year-old filly form.

The female turf division in Southern California is uncharacteristically soft this year, but it looks like a compelling figure has finally stepped forward. Belle Royale was very good winning Monday’s Gamely to make it two straight here in the U.S. Belle Royale produced a powerful late kick without really being asked for much, and was a far more decisive winner than her half-length win margin would suggest.

One race before the Gamely, Roman Threat was clearly the best winning the Los Angeles Handicap over a capable group of seasoned sprinters. What Roman Threat has done so far is very interesting. The 4-year-old gelding made his belated racing debut last March, beating a compact field at an ice-cold 6-1 in fast time. He then made a big class jump up to the Grade 2 Potrero Grande and finished a narrowly beaten second to Amazombie, who is only last year’s champion male sprinter. And Monday was just his third start. Imagine what Roman Threat might accomplish when he actually figures this game out.

James Romano More than 1 year ago
Todd Pletchers "candid admission" is just another reason to detest him. After what happened with Life At Ten you would think he would he would never send out an unfit horse but now he admits he did!!?? Only An obsessed Todd Pletcher fan could ever truly root for this guy.
stewie More than 1 year ago
There is no way your getting 8/1 on union rags..He will be the 2nd choice at around 7/2. c'mon mikey.
Bobby Yasinow More than 1 year ago
If Caleb's Posse had Joel Rosario aboard, he'd be three for three this year. Maragh is not the strong rider needed for this type of closer. Change jocks and win
Grass Is Greener More than 1 year ago
Then why was it that Caleb's Posse's top BSF was 92 and as soon as Rajiv got on him, it became 105 and 106, then dropped back to 92 with Albarado, and back to 111, 109, 110 and 115 with Rajiv? If you're targeting New York races like the Vanderbilt, Forego and Vosburgh, why would you hire a California jockey who has never won any G1 or G2 races in New York? I quoted Vanderbilt and Vosburgh because Caleb's Posse is likely to be pointed to the BC Sprint due to the Dirt Mile being run at 2 turns at Santa Anita.
riconap More than 1 year ago
When "speed" wins almost every race on the card (despite the front runners going exceedingly fast and running eye to eye) and lesser quality horses set fractional and final times that are not expected fromtheir level - the track condition is "carrying these horses home" - not their ability alone. Track speed bias is almost universal these days because owners want fast times for future breeding reference and racetrack management wrongly believe that fast times are selling points for racing where fractional times are completely over emphasized. While better horses generally run faster than inferior ones on a given day, the track condition as well as all other external forces (pace conestation, wind direction, amount of moisture, depth of harrowing or sealing etc.) are the final determining factors - along with racing luck - as to how fast a winner runs.
HorseToWatch More than 1 year ago
I'd love to see Caleb's Posse show up in the James Marvin the first week at Saratoga.
jttf More than 1 year ago
just like dan said earlier, horses were not closing any ground in the stretch that day. shackleford ran very well. shack just beat the breeders cup sprint champion at 7 furlongs. why would anyone say there is a problem with losing by a nose in the met mile ? shack was carrying 2 less pounds than calebs posse this time. i am sure that would have made a difference in the order of finish. when they carried the same weight in the b.c. mile, calebs easily won and was the most impressive b.c. winner.
Yuwipi More than 1 year ago
Can only disagree with your take on Caleb's Posse, Mike. Thought he came running and lost the close photo. He is a championship level horse and should be campaigned against the best. In one turn races he takes a back seat to no one. I will say that I thought the fan out was a little wider than it needed to be and cost him some ground. Still, and I singled him in a 1x2x2x1 P4, win or lose it was a phenomenal edition of the Met Mile and a great day of racing. I really like NYRA's taking the holiday and making it a stake heavy card, apparently the numbers came back good. Enjoyed the write up.
frank2036 More than 1 year ago
Awesome Maria had front bandages dont recall her ever wearing them
Morris More than 1 year ago
i have tried for 2 days to find out who was the jockey on calebs posse, to no avil. who rode him?
Paul_Tuon More than 1 year ago
"Trainer Todd Pletcher took responsibility for Awesome Maria’s loss right after the Phipps, saying in a most candid way that he did a bad job preparing his mare for this assignment. " [????] Now why didn't he say that before the race so that we all can make a better judgement on whether to back Awesome Maria or not? Trainers do this sort of things all the time and it really bother me.