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Updated on 03/19/2013 1:32PM
Trip Notes: Rebel, Santa Margarita, Inside Information, and more
Saturday, March 16, 2013
Honey Fox (race 10)
Centre Court put her name in the ring as potentially the leading light in the turf-distaff division with a powerful seasonal debut. She had already proved to be top class last year at 3, with multiple graded stakes wins. She returned here, and her versatility led to another dream trip as she stalked in fourth as Frontside set the pace, moved up easily on the turn, took over into the lane, edged clear and never had a nervous moment thereafter. The Grade 1 Jenny Wiley at Keeneland on April 13 reportedly will be next, and she’ll be awfully tough there since this was a strong field. Samitar, a Group 1 winner in Ireland, Group 1-placed in England and the winner of the Grade 1 Garden City at Belmont Park last summer, sat a few lengths behind Centre Court while saving ground, didn’t accelerate as quickly as that foe, finally found her best stride late and came on smartly between horses, but it was far too late, and she never really scared the winner. That was an encouraging seasonal bow, though it’s worth noting that she’s now finished behind Centre Court in each of their three meetings. She may be destined for the Jenny Wiley as well. Frontside set the pace, tried to battle back when hooked into the lane, was no match for the winner, but kept on gamely and only lost second in the final strides. Channel Lady, the game winner of the Grade 3 Suwanee River here last month, sat midpack, was just to the outside of Centre Court and tried to move with that rival on the turn but couldn’t keep up. These waters may be a smidge too deep. Pianist, an impressive allowance winner here last month, chased pacesetter Frontside and made a threatening move on the turn but flattened out.
Azeri (race 9)
Tiz Miz Sue won this race last year but was ignored in the wagering after being soundly defeated by Don’t Tell Sophia in the Bayakoa and having to face that gal again as well as champion My Miss Aurelia. But she showed her affinity for this track and that she likely needed the Bayakoa, her first start in four months, as she bounced back to form. She sat in third early while Songs and Sonnets ran off to a big early lead, bided her time as that gal came back to the field going to the far turn, was asked for run in the lane to go after Don’t Tell Sophia and rolled right past that rival in the final half-furlong. The Grade 1 Apple Blossom here April 12 figures next for her. She ran third in it last year. Don’t Tell Sophia, who romped over the winner in the Bayakoa, didn’t repeat that huge effort but certainly ran well, as she was just in front of Tiz Miz Sue down the backside and looked like the winner when she surged to the lead into the lane but was no match for Tiz Miz Sue late while much the best of the rest (4 1/4 lengths). My Miss Aurelia, the heavy favorite making her first start of the year, sat in second, allowing Songs and Sonnets to clear off early, bided her time, had no trouble reeling in that rival on the turn and looked dangerous into the lane but couldn’t sustain her run. It was disappointing not so much that she got beat but that she wasn’t really a factor in the final half-furlong. Both she and Don’t Tell Sophia still figure to come back in the Apple Blossom. She’s All In, second in the Bayakoa between Don’t Tell Sophia and Tiz Miz Sue, was last early and swung very wide into the lane but never mustered a run.
Rebel (race 10)
Just when you thought he was gone, trainer D. Wayne Lukas, so dominant in Triple Crown races and preps for years but fairly quiet the past few seasons, grabbed the spotlight here, as he not only saddled Will Take Charge to a $58 upset but also runner-up Oxbow. Will Take Charge won the Smarty Jones here but was dull when sixth in the Grade 3 Southwest in the slop. Maybe the footing was the culprit that day, as on fast going here, he sat midpack early, steadily advanced but was stuck in traffic going to the far turn, found room to move out and surged home in the final strides for the win. The Grade 1 Blue Grass at Keeneland on April 13 may be next. Oxbow, the big winner of the Grade 3 LeComte and a close-up fourth in the Grade 2 Risen Star, stalked the pace, moved up nicely to take the lead into the lane and looked like the winner before Will Take Charge surged to edge him on the line. The Grade 1 Arkansas Derby here April 13 may be next. Den’s Legacy buoyed the West Coast form some as, after chasing Flashback and Goldencents in his last two, he sat back while saving ground and came with a nice run to get third, though he never really was a threat to the top two. He may try the Arkansas Derby too. Super Ninety Nine, the romping winner of the Grade 3 Southwest here, showed speed from his outside slot to dog the pacesetting Title Contender but was done by the top of the lane. He was in tight and had to steady in midstretch, yes, but he was already retreating. It could be that this exposed his distance limitations. Treasury Bill, much ballyhooed from Southern California but shipping and routing for the first time, got squeezed back at the start and never got involved. This likely takes him off the Derby trail. Delhomme was unruly in the saddling area and was rank and aggressive early to press the pace but gave way badly. This hardly was a representative run, to be sure, but it still may mean he’s off the Derby trail, as he likely got nothing out of this.
Santa Margarita (race 7)
Joyful Victory backed up her smashing Houston Ladies Classic win with another smart performance, hinting that she may be in the best form of her life. She popped right out to set the pace, took pressure from Great Hot, forcing her into some snappy splits, but showed no ill effects from that as she dispatched with Great Hot into the lane and opened up to win easily. Trainer Larry Jones said she might now get a freshening, with her ultimate goal the Grade 1 Breeders’ Ladies’ Classic here in the fall. More Chocolate stalked in fourth while saving ground and came with a nice run in the lane, but the winner was already long gone. She was much the best of the rest (5 1/4 lengths clear of third). Brushed by a Star, who had beaten the winner a few times before, was last early in the small field but never really mustered a run. She kept on for third, but the two gals she beat were Great Hot (weakened badly) and Snow Fall (pulled up). Snow Fall stalked in third early but was pulled up after her rider thought she took a couple of bad steps, but she was reportedly fine after the race.
San Luis Rey (race 8)
More proof that if you let a nice horse have his way up front, you’re asking for trouble. And the way Bright Thought won said he’s indeed a nice horse, as he broke a 23-year-old course record (and a world record, no less) and earned his third win in as many starts on turf. He went right out to the lead but was taken on immediately by Slim Shadey. The two volleyed back and forth, but Bright Thought put Slim Shadey away in midstretch and bounded clear for the easy win. He’s really blossomed into a top horse, and this win was very much an Acclamation or Little Mike-ish performance. Trainer Jorge Gutierrez said that after three straight big efforts, he’ll skip the Grade 2 San Juan Capistrano here April 21 and point for the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve at Churchill Downs on the Kentucky Derby undercard May 4, which figures to be a very tough race. All Squared Away stalked in the fourth, moved closer to the two pacesetters turning for home and kept on well but was no match for the winner. Fire With Fire raced with All Squared Away from the bell and stayed on nicely. Interaction, the favorite, bided his time early but could make only modest headway. Slim Shadey dueled with the winner but weakened. Bourbon Bay, a two-time San Luis Rey winner, was very slow into stride and never made a move. He’s just not the same horse.
Sunday, March 17, 2013
Inside Information (race 10)
Aubby K, making her first start since finishing eighth in the Grade 1 Test on Aug. 25, came back firing, as she beat elders in smart fashion. She stalked pacesetter Spectacular Sky from the start, moved up to challenge that foe into the lane, got the better of her and drew off to win smartly. The Grade 1 Humana Distaff on the Kentucky Derby undercard May 4 may be next. Spectacular Sky, coming off a game win in the Manatee at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 9, bounced right out to set the pace and tried to fight back when hooked by the winner into the lane but couldn’t stay with that foe in the final furlong while holding second. Emma’s Encore, well beaten by Golden Mystery in her last two here, bided her time early and finished with good energy to get third. Golden Mystery, the heavy favorite off big wins in the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint and the Grade 3 Hurricane Bertie, was inexplicably dull, as she seemed to be in a good spot midpack but fell apart and actually faded to last, as if something went awry. Her connections originally had plans for the Humana Distaff but may have to rethink those notions after this.
Correction: A previous version of this article listed the wrong trainer for Rebel Stakes runner Title Contender. He is trained by Wayne Catalano, and is not a stablemate to the Bob Baffert-trained Super Ninety Nine.
ive been around for 55 years and lukas is a son of a gun when you cout him out.
This column is called "Trip Notes," and yet NO mention of the very wide trip that Oxbow had in the Rebel, which might have cost him the race. Isn't that at least worth noting? Also, please check the current trainer on Title Contender - he has not been Den's Legacy's stablemate for a while now, since the Wests moved him to Catalano's barn. Finally, Pletcher has already stated that Delhomme is, in fact, off the Derby Trail, not that he "may be." Please try to keep more up-to-date, Michael.