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After recording one victory the previous week, in the Grade 2 Mac Diarmida with Presious Passion, jockey Elvis Trujillo led all riders in this power-packed colony with a half-dozen winners last week and extended his winning streak to six programs through Sunday. Trujillo's most important tally came aboard the up-and-coming grass filly Speak Easy Gal, who parlayed a perfect trip into a narrow victory over graded stakes winner Salve Germania.
Four other riders - Paco Lopez, Joe Bravo, Jesus Castanon, and leading jockey Javier Castellano - rode four winners last week. Each of Castellano's four wins came on the grass, including two for Barclay Tagg. Tagg and Nick Zito were the only trainers to visit the winner's circle three times.
Speed horses and stalkers continue to thrive on the main track, which is no surprise. That speed horses began dominating on the grass, no matter the position of the rail, was a little more shocking. Front-runners won 10 of the 22 races decided over the rock-hard turf course from March 3 to March 7, five with the rail set at 24 feet and five with the rail out 96 feet. Stalkers won seven of the other 12 grass races run in the same period.
The daily breakdown:
Wednesday, March 3: A strong headwind down the backstretch. All five main-track winners came from either on or just off the lead, and inside paths seemingly were not a disadvantage. Three of the four grass races were run with the rail out 24 feet and were won either from on or just off the front end. The lone outer course event was decided at five furlongs and went to the 25-1 Givonna Alyssa, who rallied from far back to pull the upset.
Thursday, March 4: A mixed bag on the main with a couple of late-running, outside closers actually getting to the winner's circle. Three of the four grass races were won on the lead, two at 24 feet and a third over the outer course at 96 feet.
Friday, March 5: Three of the five main-track events were won on the lead, a fourth was won from just off the pace, and the fifth from a little farther back by the odds-on Sheik's Serenade, who overcame a slow start and was clearly the best horse in the field. Stalkers captured the two inner-course turf races; the two outer-course races were won by Sakakawea, who raced on the front end (five furlongs) and longshot Weekend Fantasy, who used a rail-skimming rally from off the pace.
Saturday, March 6: A deep rail on the main track. Wide-running closers won three of the five dirt races; stalkers won the other two with outside trips. Dead-rail runners worth upgrading next time include Guns Drawn, W W's Lady Man, Forward Observer, My Enticement, and Three Rudys. Three front-running winners, including two on the outer course, and two closers on the grass.
Sunday, March 7: The rail was better than expected on the main track as speed and stalkers again dominated all five dirt events. The grass was similarly productive for horses on or near the front end; Blazen's triumph in the nightcap was the lone exception, albeit in a race skewed by White Shoes, who ran off to about a 12-length lead after the opening half-mile before predictably stopping to a walk.
SURPRISE OF THE WEEK
You know something is up when a horse who pays $325 to win does not garner the top rating in this category. Unfortunately, for Alke Green, his 161-1 shocker Sunday must play second fiddle to the stewards' unfathomable decision to not disqualify 9-5 favorite Otomai from second position. The decision was made even though Otomai racked up about half the field when she angled in sharply about 50 yards after the start of the one-mile turf race for 3-year-old fillies. The non-call not only sent a bad message to riders for future indiscretions leaving the gate, it also had the fans hooting when the result was made official. How often do you see horseplayers unhappy when a favorite's number does not come down?
1. Eskendereya, 2. Rule, 3. Super Saver, 4. Radiohead, 5. Odysseus, 6. Jackson Bend, 7. Noble's Promise, 8. Fly Down, 9. Discreetly Mine, 10. Tempted To Tapit
There were only two races of any consequence for 3-year-olds last week, both March 6. The Grade 3 Palm Beach Stakes on the grass was won by the former maiden Paddy O'Prado, who earned $90,000 in important graded stakes money and probably one shot at a berth in the Derby if he can produce a similar effort in the Blue Grass. On the maiden front, a pair of New York-bred first timers, Friend Or Foe and Green Monster, showed promise when finishing first and second at 5 1/2 furlongs, albeit in a relatively slow race. Green Monster has already drawn considerable interest from potential buyers after breaking slowly, looping the field, and galloping out well past the winner shortly past the wire. A well-bred son of Songandaprayer, Green Monster earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 66 but likely got a much better number from the sheet boys, considering the huge ground loss on the turn.
The top 10 remains virtually the same. I did move Super Saver up a few positions after watching him turn in an impressive five-furlong work in company with his Grade 1-winning stablemate Munnings on Sunday at Palm Meadows. I flip-flopped Radiohead and Odysseus after watching the tape of Radiohead's recent allowance win. The difference between the two is negligible and likely to change substantially after Odysseus and Super Saver square off up in Tampa on Saturday.
Not much cooking in recent local workouts for Saturday's card at Gulfstream Park. The only two maiden special weight races on the program are on the turf, with the majority of those fields training at Palm Meadows, Calder, Payson Park, and even Palm Beach Downs.
True Glory: He encountered trouble at the gate in his only two previous starts at 2, so it was encouraging to see him break out of the gate well and breeze an easy half-mile in company into a mild headwind in 48.17 seconds without need of urging Feb. 18.
Unbridled Sheik: He has worked fast on occasion in preparation for his debut. His last published work was a pressured half-mile in 47.91 seconds Feb. 26. He was also all out to drill four furlongs in 47.43 from the gate two weeks earlier. Will debut in blinkers.
L J's Way: He breezed five furlongs in 1:00.31 into a pretty solid headwind and galloped out six furlongs in 1:13.40, a notable work, considering the conditions Feb. 26.
Sweet Bernie: He was under pressure most of the way to complete five furlongs in 1:02.82 from the gate Feb. 26, albeit into the same strong headwind L J's Way encountered that morning.
I did make it up to Palm Meadows on Sunday, where the most impressive work of the morning was turned in by Super Saver, who started and finished in front of Grade 1 winner Munnings without need of urging, breezing five furlongs in 1:00.70 over a somewhat cuppy track in preparation for Saturday's Tampa Bay Derby.
HORSES TO WATCH
Trainer: Roger Attfield
Last race: March 7, 8th
Finish: 2nd by 2 1/4
Regally bred 3-year-old filly is a kin to three graded stakes winners, including Grade 1 winner Shakespeare, and she may be headed in that direction herself if her promising debut is any indication of what's to come. She raced within easy striking distance of the leaders while saving ground and then was steadied along awaiting clearance from the quarter to the eighth pole as the leader drew off to an insurmountable advantage. She did well to make up several lengths to finish in front of 10 other rivals over a speed-favoring turf course.
Trainer: Marty Wolfson
Last race: March 6, 6th
Finish: 2nd by 2
New York-bred daughter of Songandaprayer was just getting warmed up when she hit the wire flying at the end of her career debut, which came in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special weight dash. She then proceeded to gallop out well past the winner into the turn and should only get better the farther she goes.
Trainer: Graham Motion
Last race: March 6, 7th
Finish: 2nd by 1/2
Unlucky filly may have been best in the Herecomesthebride after enduring an eventful trip from start to finish over a speed-biased course. Took up, dropped to the rear of the pack in the opening sixteenth of a mile, and nearly went down after clipping heels and stumbling while attempting to commence her rally approaching the stretch. Finished best of all behind a front-running winner once she was finally able to gather herself up and hit her best stride.