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Look who's on the Triple Crown trail! Though Buddy's Saint's 82 Beyer Speed Figure made him the second-slowest Remsen winner since the figures became available in 1991, you've got to love the multiple moves put in by the Bruce Levine-trained 2-year-old; plus, any juvenile capable of running a 101 in the fall, as he did as a second-time starter in the Nashua, will conceivably have some 110 horsepower under the hood somewhere down the line.
"Believe me, I wouldn't trade places with anyone in America," Levine said after the race. "I don't think you've seen the best of him yet."
The next day, Buddy's Song, third back from a layoff with blinkers off, got his maiden win after the $2.4 million colt Keep Thinking was disqualified for drifting out in deep stretch.
Later Sunday, The Mailet upset the Grade 3 Miesque on the turf at Hollywood Park for Levine, the best trainer no one outside of New York has heard of . . . yet.
Just one-for-the-meet heading into last weekend, Persaud's return on investment at The Big A this fall skyrocketed to $4.80 after wins by Theartofcompromise ($17.80) on Saturday and Indy's Forum ($124) on Sunday.
Indy's Forum, a need-to-lead sprinter, won twice on the inner-dirt track last winter.
And of course, no "who's hot" section in New York is complete these days without mentioning Ramon Dominguez, who completed a sweep of all six NYRA meets, taking the fall session, 38-24, over John Velazquez, who had the most wins on turf with seven.
Among trainers, Todd Pletcher kept the momentum going from Belmont and took the title over Mark Hennig, 13-8. Hennig's $14.90 average mutuel was tops among all trainers with at least five victories.
Who says there's no value betting horses with the best last-out figure? Several of them got the money recently, including Wild Conga ($8.50), who had a 14-point edge; Mr. Unstoppable ($10.20); Midwatch ($8.40); and none other than Kodiak Kowboy ($8.70), who notched his seventh graded stakes victory in the Hill 'n' Dale Cigar Mile.
Moreover, in the Fall Highweight, only two runners had hit triple-digits in any of their recent starts - Go Go Shoot, the 134-pound topweight, who was dueled into submission; and Cherokee Country ($26.20), who rallied from eighth to get up in time.
It's noteworthy that Cherokee Country was aided by a torrid early pace on a track that strongly favored closers. According to The Plod Boys at Racing Flow, who distill things down to a numerical bias rating, the 161 rating on Thanksgiving Day made it one of the three worst days at the fall meet for speed horses on the main track, along with Nov. 13 and Nov. 20.
Go Go Shoot was expected to set the pace - after all, he had outsprinted Fabulous Strike through the opening five furlongs of the A.G. Vanderbilt in his most recent start on a fast track - but it was Hatfield, at 43-1 the longest shot on the tote board, who got the jump on him through splits of 21.80 seconds and 44.31 and actually opened up a daylight lead after five furlongs in 56.28 before settling for third.
Hatfield, by the way, began his career with two wins on the inner dirt last winter.
There were no other apparent trends regarding bias on the main track, though the surface was quite slow on Black Friday - so much so that Sara Louise, who last November won the one-mile Pocahontas over Rachel Alexandra in 1:34 and change, needed 1:38.94 to edge second choice Justwhistledixie in the Grade 2 Top Flight.
On the turf course, early speed horses fared better in direct proportion to the placement of the temporary rails.
With the rails at 0 feet during the first two weeks, Oct. 28-Nov. 1 and Nov. 4-8, only 2 of 22 races (9 percent) were won wire to wire, and both of those winners were favored. Only two others were as close as second in the early going, one of them being 1-2 shot Criticism in the Long Island.
With the rails at 9 feet for the next two weeks, Nov. 11-15 and Nov. 18-22, 3 of 17 races (17 percent) were won wire to wire, and six others went to horses within two lengths of the early leader.
With the rails at 18 feet for the week of Nov. 25-29, 4 of 12 races (33 percent) were won wire to wire, and five others prompted the pace from second position. Only one winner among the dozen rallied from the rear half of the field, and that was Thunder Chief ($4.90), a favorite who got a dream run rallying along the rail around the far turn under Eddie Castro.
Castro, whose five turf wins were exceeded only by Velazquez (7) and Jose Lezcano (6), also had the top average mutuel ($13.80) among journeyman riders for the meet.
With the exception of next Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Queens County, the last graded stakes of the year in New York, all the weekend stakes in December are of the $65,000 variety, including Saturday's Garland of Roses at six furlongs for fillies and mares, and Sunday's pair of the Damon Runyon and East View for 2-year-old New York-breds at a mile and 70 yards.
As of Tuesday night, Awesome Ashley and Distorted Passion, who each won a pair of overnight stakes on the inner track last winter for Todd Pletcher, were among those expected for the Garland of Roses.
City Trooper, the Sleepy Hollow runner-up at Belmont on New York Showcase Day and a booming allowance winner with a 92 Beyer on the main track here last out, headed a list of probable starters for the Damon Runyon, along with Don't Blame the Cat, Golly Day, Ibboyee, Most Happy Fella, Shrimp Dancer, and Vital Argument.
The East View for fillies was expected to attract Embrace Change, Opus A, Our Lady Liberty, Primed to Be Ready, and Rogue's Jewel, with several others listed as possible starters.
PROPOSITION OF THE WEEK
How slow can they go? What do you think will wind up as the lowest winning Beyer for the four-month-long winter stand?
The number to shoot for is 24, which was all We're Hooked needed to win her career debut March 12 in a $15,000 sprint for 3-year-old New York-bred fillies.
On that fateful afternoon, We're Hooked, who was then trained by Linda Rice, steadied at the break, raced in next-to-last position for a half-mile, then closed relentlessly (okay, pretty well) to win her debut as the 9-5 favorite, running six furlongs in 1:16 and change over the frozen tundra.
She's 0 for 9 since then but did run Beyers of 32 and 30 in two November starts at Finger Lakes, finishing out of the money in $4,000 claimers for nonwinners of two lifetime.
Maybe she will return to defend her crown as slowest of the slow and have the coveted Mud Turtle Trophy bestowed yet again.
One can only dream.
HORSES TO WATCH
Trainer: Barclay Tagg
Last race: Nov. 21, 9th
Finish: 1st by 8
After runner-up finishes sprinting on turf and Polytrack to begin his career, this 3-year-old gelding by 1990 Breeders' Cup Mile winner Royal Academy stretched out to a mile for a fast maiden graduation. Indeed, his 96 Beyer was just a point below what was required to win the Grade 2 Red Smith a couple weeks earlier.
Trainer: John Terranova
Last race: Nov. 21, 7th
Finish: 1st by nose
This 5-year-old was announced as a gelding for his first start back from a 15-month layoff, and staged an upset over the Grade 2-placed Thou Swell in a competitive optional claiming route on the turf. He may resurface at Gulfstream Park, and has run well there in the past.
Trainer: David Duggan
Last race: Nov. 27, 5th
Finish: 1st by 5 3/4
Juvenile colt by Forest Wildcat improved 20 points on the Beyer scale with blinkers added for his second lifetime start, and then improved 14 more for a decisive maiden graduation at six furlongs.
Trainer: Nick Zito
Last race: Nov. 29, 5th
Finish: 1st by 1 1/4
Purchased as a 2-year-old for $400K, this Yankee Gentleman colt finished far back in his first two starts at Saratoga as a 3-year-old. The late bloomer returned from over 14 months on the sidelines to win both of his starts at the fall meet, breaking alertly and wiring maiden and first-level allowance sprinters.
Trainer: Bill Badgett Jr.
Last race: Nov. 19, 1st
Finish: 1st by 1 1/2
Currently riding a three-race winning streak after following up a maiden win in the slop at Belmont with a pair of victories over restricted claiming sprinters on tracks labeled good and fast at Aqueduct's fall meet. He ran well in two starts on the inner dirt last winter.