Opinion Columns

Hovdey: Daddys Lil Darling a two-letter filly

Barbara D. Livingston
Daddys Lil Darling (left) finishes second in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks.

On Sunday, separated by a continent, 16 fillies from the foal crop of 2014 will conform to the demands of either the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga or the Grade 2 San Clemente Handicap at Del Mar. The Eastern race calls for nine furlongs on dirt, while out West they will race 8 1/2 furlongs on grass.

Hovdey: Defeat always lurks, even for the great ones

A dual classic winner to that point, Damascus was 1-5 in the 1967 William duPont Handicap at Delaware Park, but was upset by the decidedly inferior Exceedingly.

Trainer Louis Feustel did not wake up on the morning of Aug. 13, 1919, thinking it was possible for Man o’ War to lose the Sanford Stakes that afternoon at Saratoga. But he did, to a horse named Upset, and never lost again.

Trainer Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons had Triple Crown winner Gallant Fox in good form for the Travers Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 16, 1930. The muddy track was a concern, but who was going to beat the dominating favorite? Jim Dandy, a loser of 14 straight races? Yep.

Hovdey: With Proctor back, seems like old times

The Best Horse in America slipped quietly into the Del Mar backstretch early Sunday morning with nary a network TV crew in sight, and by 9 o’clock, he was thrashing around at the front of his stall in the Bob Baffert barn, demanding attention.

“He’s saying you’d better not come around here without a carrot,” said Jim Barnes, Baffert’s man for all seasons, as Arrogate made his considerable presence known behind American Pharoah’s old Triple Crown webbing. Barnes sees nothing wrong with the mixed metaphor.

Hovdey: Old-time flicks always had the horse right here

Since horse racing is no longer a significant part of the American sporting conversation, treated more like a novelty item from a lonely shelf of cultural curios, it comes as a pleasant surprise to hear the game mentioned at all.

Oh, sure, the locals here on the San Diego coast are revving up for Del Mar, but the attention is skin deep, evaporating after the summer meet ends, just as national interest dies when the Derby winner fails to take the Preakness. Yes, the meet starts on July 19. And, yes, I can get you passes.

Hovdey: Klimt exemplifies Shah's gold standard

Benoit & Associates
Del Mar Futurity winner Klimt returns in the Los Alamitos Derby for owner Kaleem Shah.

Just for a change of pace, Kaleem Shah got to see his name associated with a pair of sharp recent stakes winners rather than the usual headline fare, which had amounted to variations on “Shah Changes Trainers” or “Shah Changes Trainers Again.”

On July 3, Shah’s colt Run Away did just that to win the Santa Anita Juvenile. Then, last Sunday, his American Gal powered home by nearly five lengths to win the Victory Ride Stakes at Belmont Park. Both winners are trained by Simon Callaghan.

Brown's success goes across the board

Alternate title: 
Hovdey: Brown's success goes across the board
Barbara D. Livingston
New Money Honey (right) and Sistercharlie (left) topped a Chad Brown trifecta with Uni (not pictured) in the Belmont Oaks.

Before the events of last weekend are swallowed by the burning need to find out what’s next, two achievements should not be overlooked.

Chad Brown’s victory with New Money Honey in the Belmont Oaks was one of those “dog bites man” headlines. The trainer’s ability to have the right horse at the right time for such major grass events is becoming as reliable as the dawn, especially in the Oaks, which he now has won five times in six years.

Watchmaker: Lack of honest paces frustrates bettors

ELMONT, N. Y. – Horseplayers are prone to endless frustrations, from onerous takeouts to odd betting menus, and short fields to uninspiring cards, to name just a few. But nothing is getting the goat of horseplayers more these days than races that look like they will have honest paces devolving into paceless processions.

If you can’t depend on Horse B to go up and keep Horse A honest on the front end like he’s supposed to, then how do you handicap? When this happens, how can racing distinguish itself as an intellectual form of gambling?

Hovdey: No time to lollygag even after seven-win day

Tyler Gaffalione is getting all the ink this week, and rightfully so since he did something no one had done for 22 years by winning seven races at Gulfstream Park on the Fourth of July. If you guessed that Jerry Bailey was the last jock to win seven at Gulfstream, give yourself a point.

Hovdey: In Suburban, Follow Me Crev emulating best of the West

Barbara D. Livingston
Follow Me Crev has ventured east in search of a big payday in the Grade 2 Suburban.

California racing is an island – at least, that’s what we are led to believe – but sometimes the natives screw up their courage and push out to sea, venturing forth past the protective reef to confront the terrors of the great beyond.

Man, I shouldn’t have had that third helping of “Moana” with the young one.

Hovdey: Dickinson goes once more unto the breach

Michael Dickinson is forgiven if he did not enjoy last Sunday’s Queen’s Plate program from Woodbine quite as much as the rest of the audience, thrilled as they were by the performance of the filly Holy Helena against the boys.

Earlier on the card, Dickinson had to watch helplessly from his Tapeta Farm command post in Maryland as Giovanna Blues, a daughter of Gio Ponti, went through the motions in the Grade 2 Dance Smartly Stakes to finish last of the eight going 1 1/4 miles on the grass.

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