Lake Placid recap: Back to the Front

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Jerry McKlenin said it.

“Breed her to Big Brown.”

Pat Reynolds seconded it.

“That’d be fun. It wouldn’t cost Pompa nothing either. How about that?”

McKlenin and Reynolds celebrated – and planned the future for – Paul Pompa’s Backseat Rhythm, winner of Friday’s Lake Placid Stakes.

The 3-year-old daughter of El Corredor lagged near the back of the eight-horse field before looping widest of all (she was closer to the inside hedge of the Mellon Turf than the inside rail of the inner turf) to win the Grade II stakes by 3 1/4 lengths under Javier Castellano.

The mating to Pompa’s co-owned Big Brown will have to wait. Backseat Rhythm has plenty more to do.  

“Man, she earned it,” Reynolds said. “A normal horse doesn’t do that. She’s straight as a pin, ears pricked. She’s got a stride like a big horse.”

Opinions landed all over the Lake Placid field. Virginia Oaks winner I Lost My Choo eventually went off the tepid favorite, with second choice going to Canadian shipper Much Obliged. Sands Point winner Raw Silk collected enough votes to be third choice. Bettors sent off Backseat Rhythm as the fourth choice. She ran like she was offended.

Calder shipper Encanto Park broke sharply and led the field of 3-year-old fillies through a quarter-mile in 23.79 seconds  and a half in 49.21. Behind her, Raw Silk pulled on Alan Garcia in second while Namaste’s Wish, Zaskar, I Lost My Choo and Much Obliged bunched into a rumble. All the while, Castellano had Backseat Rhythm relaxed on her own, off the fence and waiting.

Finally, he decided he only had one option and pulled Backseat Rhythm to the outside. The closer she got, the farther out she had to travel. Swinging into the turn, she looked like she was the end of a roller-derby whip. No matter, once straightened, she took aim on Raw Silk who had opened up a clear lead passing the furlong pole. Backseat Rhythm jumped to her left lead, then back to her right, then back to her left and back to her right – all the while she gained ground like a strip-mall developer. She finished 9 furlongs in 1:50.69.

“I figured she’d come running no matter what today, I just didn’t know she was going to be that impressive. I knew she’d be one-two, I was going to bet $2,000 to place on her because I figured she’d be right there,” Reynolds said. “They were bunching up which I like, I was only seven lengths out of it. How many horses can do that? She’s back to last and by the eighth pole she’s back in it. You don’t finish like this after going that wide.”

Backseat Rhythm made her career debut here last summer, finishing fourth behind eventual Spinaway winner Irish Smoke. She rallied in her second start but wound up fifth on the dirt. Switched to the turf, she quelled eventual Alcibiades and Hollywood Starlet winner Country Star in a maiden turf at Belmont. Switched back to the dirt, she ran hard against champion Indian Blessing, finishing second in the Grade I Frizette and third in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. This year, she missed in her first three starts, then won a turf allowance at Belmont in May. Reynolds sent Backseat Rhythm to Hollywood Park earlier this summer. She sat just off the pace and faded to seventh in the Grade I American Oaks. Reynolds returned disgusted by the instructions to Castellano.

 “Everybody said you need speed, well why didn’t we bring a speed horse, why did we bring her? If you watched that race, she kept trying to re-rally, but she had no steam. We tried to mold her to fit what we thought,” Reynolds said. “You got to give credit to the jockeys. They ride the horses. I’ve only ridden a pony. A pony gets running off with you, you see the ground moving pretty fast, you can’t give them all this detail. “

Reynolds discussed the Hollywood trip with Castellano and decided to not give him any instructions for the Lake Placid.

“He knew that’s what we didn’t want to do,” Reynolds said. “All you have to do is drop her head and get her to relax, when you can close like that, who’s beating her? She went nine wide like it was walk in the park, usually they go out that wide and disappear.”

Castellano was afraid of that, but more afraid of getting stopped trying to weave through traffic. He’s ridden Backseat Rhythm in 10 of her 11 starts and decided to take the over-land route and hoped for the best.

“I thought it was the best way to do it. I always had confidence in her, she came out of a very tough race last time, we rode her different, they wanted me close to the pace and she didn’t finish,” Castellano said. “Today, they didn’t give me any instructions, perfect. She missed the break, but that’s the best way, she settled behind horses, I had a beautiful trip, it looked like everybody was stopping so I said, ‘you’ve got the best horse, go around.’ ”