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Jockey Antonio Gallardo won three races Friday, July 9, his biggest day here this meet. Elvis Trujillo, a former local favorite who has gone on to bigger and better things up north the last several summers, had himself a nice homecoming Saturday, July 10. He posted a hat trick that included a couple of stakes wins, topped by his victory with Jessica Is Back in the Grade 1 Princess Rooney Handicap. Another former Calder riding champion, Eibar Coa, was a double stakes winner Saturday for trainer David Fawkes aboard Little Drama and Big Drama. Defending jockey champ Manny Cruz was the only rider to win as many as four races during the abbreviated three-day week, topped by his victory aboard Pica Slew in the Grade 3 Azalea.
Although he still holds a commanding lead in the jockey standings, Luis Saez managed just one winner last week, aboard Rollbaby on July 10, and he began the current week on the sidelines serving out a riding suspension. He has struggled a bit since losing his apprentice allowance earlier this month.
Friday, July 9: The main track was fast, and the turf was called "good" for the first of three races on the grass, then upgraded to "firm" for the last pair. For my money, it was firm all day, considering older maidens ran a 21-second opening quarter-mile in the fourth event. The temporary rail was set at 20 feet.
It was a mix of speed and closers on the main track that included a late-running shocker by the 28-1 Sumphin in the opener.
Saturday, July 10: The main track was fast but very cuppy, the turf course firm with no rail. Although speed had some success during the early portion of the card on the dirt, front-runners began to struggle later in the afternoon, with nary a wire-to-wire winner in the four graded stakes, including the 1-9 D' Funnybone, who led most of the way but could not close the deal in the Grade 2 Carry Back Stakes.
Sunday, July 11: Main track fast, turf firm. The unseasonably dry weather continues to keep the main course a little on the slow side, once again bogging down speed horses through the stretch. Only two wire-to-wire winners on the card, including the odds-on Gun Drawn, with the majority of the dirt races won by horses racing midpack and beyond entering the far turn.
SUMMIT OF SPEED: FINAL THOUGHTS
There were a lot of stars to hand out on Summit of Speed day, particularly to trainers Marty Wolfson and David Fawkes, who captured two stakes apiece on the outstanding card.
For my money, the top equine star goes to Pica Slew, a 3-year-old filly who comfortably won the Azalea. Her final time of 1:11.12 was seconds faster than Coffee Boy (1:11.55) and Jessica Is Back (1:11.48) covered the same distance in their victories in the Carry Back and Princess Rooney Handicap.
The No. 2 star goes to half-brothers Big Drama and Little Drama, both of whom posted impressive wins. Big Drama was the only horse to shade 1:11 over the cupping-out track, posting a 1:10.93 clocking to capture the Grade 2 Smile over Mambo Meister, who also deserves plenty of credit for finishing a fast-closing second despite having to alter course some near midstretch. Little Drama stamped himself the clear-cut leader of the local 2-year-old division with his one-sided domination of the Frank Gomez Memorial.
It was not surprising that first-time starter Too Experience returned $30.20 off the two published workouts listed under his r sum for the second race Friday, July 9. A close check of the work tabs and clockers sheets, however, revealed that Too Experience had not actually worked on either of those mornings. What came to light after further scrutiny of the workout tabs was a couple of decent, albeit not spectacular, gate works for Too Experience that were reported to the gate crew only under the name of the dam. Unfortunately, it was the dam of another horse, which is why those works were never properly credited to Too Experience before his debut.
Anybody who backed Almuraad in the fourth race Sunday, July 11, caught a real break when the Irish-bred was awarded a dead heat for the win with Andalusian. After taking nearly 10 minutes to decide, the placing judges awarded both horses a share of the victory, primarily because the mirror image that helps them see the reverse angle of the finish apparently malfunctioned. The original photo clearly shows Andalusian's nose down on the wire, with Almuraad's nose blocked off in the picture. It also shows Andalusian's head and body clearly in front of his rival when the horses hit the final post. It is a good bet Andalusian won the race outright, although without a mirror image to help with their decision, the placing judges had little recourse but to declare the result a dead heat.
Some impressions of recent workouts for horses racing in maiden races on Saturday's card.
B L's Big Fish: He might be the best of the five first-time starters in the race off the July 3 work in which he beat a pair of stablemates, including Crimson Streak, under little pressure. Crimson Streak also makes his debut in this spot.
Sweet Lizzie: She enters her debut with a limited work tab, although she had a pair of bullets, including a 1:03.01 five-furlong drill over a wet-fast track July 5, when she finished with interest without much urging. She was also fast early Tuesday, July 13, going in 36.04 seconds for her opening three-eighths, before tiring to finish a half-mile in 49.60 over a deeper strip.
Luna Grande: One of four in a killer set that included two very good maidens from the Fawkes barn and another from the Benny Stutts stable Sunday, July 11. Each showed high early speed from the gate. She is capable of bouncing back off a troubled and disappointing effort last time.
Floatnpastya: She finished several lengths behind stablemate Fly Bye Wildcat from the gate June 20 but flashed some improved speed before galloping out three-eighths in 37.36 seconds out of the gate while breezing by herself one week later.
It's a Wild Season: She was second-best in her June 29 gate work but came back to show some improved speed the following week before faltering in the run around the turn to complete a half in 50 and change.
Beso Grande: She has woken up a bit since that slow June 8 gate drill. Looked impressive finishing up the last half-mile of her five-furlong pole drill in 48.98 seconds and galloping out nicely July 3. She also finished well over a deep track in her final tune-up in the morning July 13.
Exley: He has looked sharp on several occasions in the morning. He flashed an extremely high turn of foot in his July 1 gate work, easily winning a set of five, shading 36 seconds for his opening three furlongs before tiring. Staying six furlongs at first asking is the big question.
Chon: Another member of that aforementioned killer set from the gate July 11 along with Luna Grande. He also showed a high turn of early foot in preparation for his second career start.
Mucho Macho Man: He was well backed when scratched at the gate last weekend. At press time, his July 4 gate move was the best of his three published workouts showing. Easily outdistanced a stablemate after ripping off a 35.50-second opening three-eighths and 48.82-second half under only moderate late pressure.
HORSES TO WATCH
Trainer: Marty Wolfson
Last race: July 9, 4th
Finish: 4th by 2 1/2
A son of Trippi, he made his debut on the turf and lost all chance when he broke several lengths behind the field. He showed some late interest and may be better served if switched over to the main track for his next start.
Trainer: David Fawkes
Last race: July 10, 7th
Finish: 1st by 9
The victim of a bad trip when second-best in his debut, this promising juvenile colt returned to demolish the horse that defeated him. He also beat the track bias on the Summit of Speed program. He might follow in the footsteps of big brother Big Drama, who two years ago competed in the Florida Stallion series.
Trainer: Joe Calascibetta
Last race: July 10, 8th
Finish: 1st by 2
This is a serious racehorse. She proved she is not one-dimensional by rallying off the pace to post her first graded stakes victory in her fourth career start. She ran faster than both 3-year-old boys in the Carry Back and older fillies and mares in the Grade 1 Princess Rooney on Saturday's Summit of Speed card. She is already in Saratoga preparing for the Test.
Trainer: Saul Matos
Last race: July 11, 2nd
Finish: 2nd by 1 1/4
This lightly raced 2-year-old should improve with experience. She could not match strides with the winner in her last start, in which she raced very greenly through the stretch, ducking in and out before straightening away to take second money. It should not be long before she earns her diploma.