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Weekend Stakes Thoughts
Chantal Sutherland’s winning ride on Game On Dude in the Hollywood Gold Cup was flawless. She did not fight Game On Dude when he wanted to pull himself up to the pacesetter Spud Spivens in the second and third quarter miles, which were the first and third fastest quarters of the race. Sutherland also resisted the natural temptation of setting Game On Dude down turning for home. She instead waited, and waited a bit longer, so that Game On Dude would have something left for the final stages if needed. Sure enough, when Sutherland asked for something late, it was there. And it should also be noted that while the repatriated runner up Richard’s Kid impressed with his big move on the far turn and the way he gained late, Game On Dude was still in front of him in the immediate gallop out past the wire.
But while I believe Game On Dude is currently the best older male we have, and though his Gold Cup win was the second time he has won going 10 furlongs (from six career attempts, which also includes a second in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Classic), I still think this distance is beyond his best. Even though he likes the dirt surface at Santa Anita, site of this year’s Breeders’ Cup, I’m skeptical of Game On Dude in a Breeders’ Cup Classic context. Saturday’s set up was ideal for success; Game On Dude, after all, was 2-5. No Breeders’ Cup set up figures to be as favorable.
Mucho Macho Man was never better than he was beating a very solid field in the Suburban at Belmont. It seems clear that trainer Kathy Ritvo has hit on the right combination for her colt, which is lots of time between starts, and a running style that, in contrast to most of his outings last year, has him a forward early factor. That said, I would have liked to have seen what might have happened had Suburban runner up Hymn Book not been so far back early.
As for beaten Suburban favorite To Honor and Serve, he was totally empty finishing a soundly beaten fourth. At this point, maybe he needs to take a page out of Shackleford’s book and focus on seven furlong and one mile races. Ironically, Shackleford is abandoning the approach that has worked so well for him this year, at least temporarily, to go in the nine furlong Whitney next month. But the Whitney is one of those races you can make exceptions for.
There was one other notable race for the handicap division Saturday, that being the Monmouth Cup. Although Rule deserves credit for winning off a nine month layoff and for being the honest, hard hitter he is, we also know Rule has a well-defined ceiling. So for me, the interesting horse here was runner up Flat Out. It looked to me as though Flat Out, making his first start for trainer Bill Mott, only truly found his best stride very late. Flat Out’s performance offered hope that his slump could be over, and that he again might be the major player in the handicap division that he was last year.
Also at Monmouth, Turbo Compressor continued his emergence as a factor in the male turf division winning the United Nations in the same front running fashion he used to win last month’s Colonial Turf Cup. But I’m not getting too excited here just yet. On Saturday, Turbo Compressor was an in-form horse allowed to walk on the lead over the sort of baked turf course we’ve had in the Northeast lately, which is not exactly tough stuff. As an aside, I counted Joe Bravo, who rode Turbo Compressor, taking eight long looks behind him for competition down the backstretch and on the far turn the final time. Maybe it’s just me, but I really don’t like it when jockeys do that.
At Calder, Musical Romance got her Princess Rooney win, but it does seem as though Princess Rooney runner up Nicole H has developed an aversion to winning that she did not have a couple of years back. And I have been waiting all year to see what would happen if someone actually kept Trinniberg busy early instead of allowing him the easy leads he has had in his stakes wins this year. Fort Loudon gamely took up the challenge and did just that in the Carry Back, and he engineered the upset.
Agree that Flat Out could be formidable next out. Richard's Kid should win the Pacific Classic off of his very nice effort in the Hollywood Gold Cup. Hard to tell with Mucho Macho Man. He either runs huge or not. Thought Agave Kiss was compromised by the terrible Belmont Rail as were Baffert's filly and Jones' filly the week before in the Mother Goose. Moreover, like Trinniberg if a horse can make Agave work for the lead she is beatable obviously, but the rail really did her in imho.
In reply to Anonymous the reason supers are always hit at EVD is if you don't like the favorites and you have big money to play even in a 14 horse field say you play 2 middle of the road shots 1st and 2nd then go all -all for a dime that will only cost you $13.20 which to be honest isn't that much they also have .50cent tri's there so again you can take a shot at the huge payoff for much less money. EVD by the way does have pretty good sized handled in all there exoctic polls so I think your completly off base with your thoughts. Bob in pa
Agree completely about Chantal's ride. To be honest, I had doubts going in; riding for history, on the 2-5 favorite. Just think how often jockeys misjudge the pace in the Kentucky Derby with all the adrenaline flowing. The first challenge she faced was immediate, and that was Spud Spivens surprisingly being sent up to the front. She chose to basically let that horse grab the early lead. This move could have backfired had Chantal inocrrectly judged the pace, and Spud was able to set a pace of 49+, 113+; in that case, Chantal would have denied Game on Dude his best weapon, his speed. This is precisely the scenario that played out in the 2010 Hollywood Gold Cup when Bejarano took heavy favorite Rail Trip back to last behind a 1:15 pace(for 6 furlongs). As it turned out, Chantal made the right choice not forcing Game on Dude to the early lead at all costs because the first half in 47 and change was brisk for a Hollywood Cushion Track that has been playing as a dead as Saratoga last year. Had Chantal been insistent on the lead, she easily could have burned out Game on Dude early, like Pedroza did on Ultimate Eagle in the Big Cap. So, by correctly judging the pace to be legit, and allowing Game on Dude to find his stride and avoid forcing the issue to get the lead from Spud, Chantal got through the first big test. Then, as you point out Mike, once they got on the backstretch and Game on Dude started to want to go, she didn't fight him. She didn't force the horse to the lead early, then didn't force the horse to remain off the lead down the backstretch. Then, and this is a key point as you mention, Chantal didn't try to break the race open going into the far turn like she had on Game on Dude in the Goodwood, San Antonio, and Californian. She correctly recognized that at 10 furlongs, and with the track so slow/heavy, a premature move could leave Game on Dude vulnerable in the stretch. Talamo had made just such a move on Include Me Out in the gr.1 Vanity a few weeks back, opening a big lead in upper stretch before stopping and getting caught the final sixteenth. Watching the race live and on-track, I wasn't sure she had saved enough horse as Richard's Kid came flying up to her. But she had. As dangerous as Richard's Kid looked coming into the stretch, in the end Chantal had him measured and Game on Dude won by a controled length and a half. As for Game on Dude's chances in the BC Classic, he'll benefit from getting to run the 10 furlongs at his home track. Whether this will be enough to prevent a repeat of last year, when he was caught in deep stretch, I don't know. What I do feel more confident about is that any horse that tries to run with him early will not finish in front of him. Game on Dude doesn't always win his races, but he almost always wins the pace battle, often running the other speed into the ground. The only time in the last 2 years I can think of when Game on Dude finished behind another speed horse was in the Pacific Classic with Acclamation. But that was on a type of synthetic that Game on Dude does not appear to like.
As Don Passidomo mentions you didn't go near the fry job on Agave Kiss. I've never been able to understand why show plungers continue to wager on an angle that requires you to cash 19 out of 20 times to avoid a very large red number. Didn't touch the race but what a good feeling to see Allen Jerkens in the winner's circle after a stake race. Many more.
Mike any comments regarding Agave Kiss? A shocker to me.
Mike, have question that hopefully you can answer: what happens if longshots come in a sequence on trifectas or superfectas, whereas nobody has a winning ticket out there? what does the track do if no win ticket for tri or super pools? I always see a payout price posted, no matter how unusual the longshot combination may be. hope you can clarify. thanks
I agree with your statement about the ease of his trip and the speed-favoring nature of the turf this past weekend at Monmouth, but I still think Turbo Compressor could be a major factor in the New York G1s on the turf this summer-fall. I'm thinking back to the case of Gio Ponti. Despite being one of North America's most talented turf performers in recent memory, he seemed to always be compromised by an excruciatingly slow early pace in NYRA turf races. It seems that more often than not, there is a complete hesitancy to send horses to the front in these races, turning them into 5 furlong sprints where the leaders are at a distinct advantage. Turbo Compressor has the running style, and is good enough, to take charge and lead these races the whole way.
It's just you Mike. We harp on jockey's consistently for not giving a horse the right ride, even in victory, so therefore it stands to reason we should have no problem with a Jockey assessing just how much the horse is winning by. How else should a jock know how much he needs to ask of a horse in order to win the race but not completely empty the tank? Great writeup though Mike your weekend assessment was dead on this week.