Over at Sports Illustrated, and pretty much any NFL-related media, they call it Monday Morning Quarterback. Since we’re racing, let’s call it Monday morning Trainer.
This weekend’s racing included major stops in New York, Canada, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Delaware, surely a few more. What did we see? What did we learn? How did it all go?
Wise at Woodbine. And people want Wise Dan to run on the dirt. The reigning Horse of the Year made that thought look pointless with another wildly good performance on turf. Morton Fink’s gelding looked like a winner at every step in Sunday’s $1 million Ricoh Woodbine Mile, especially when roaring away from the field in the stretch. He stopped the clock in 1:31.75, which is fast anywhere. John Velazquez slowed him down on the long run up the backstretch, sat motionless while behind horses on the turn, then shook the reins a few times. Wise Dan did the rest, winning by 3 ½ lengths over Za Approval with Trade Storm third. Trained by Charlie LoPresti, Wise Dan ran his winning streak to nine (all Grade 1 or 2) and served notice to all but the bravest who might challenge him at Keeneland, the Breeders’ Cup, Hong Kong, Australia, anywhere they want to go.
“He shows up every time. The team has done a marvelous, great job. For him to come back every time and he shows up every single time,” Velazquez said. “With that alone, it’s just special to be a part of the team. He’s special. It’s incredible. e team has done a marvelous, great job. For him to come back every time and he shows up every single time. With that alone, it’s just special to be a part of the team. He’s special. It’s incredible.”
LoPresti couldn’t agree more.
“They come once in a lifetime. The biggest thing is to stay out of the way. Just try to watch the horses and stay out of the way,” LoPresti said. “I was trying to make him be what I wanted him to be when he was young, when I started to figure it out, that he needs to gallop 13, 14 to the furlong. Anything other than that, you’re making him mad, once I got by all that, when I realized that’s the way this horse trains, I don’t have to rain him that hard, he can have two jog days a week, maybe three jog days a week when he’s fit. He’s so far superior to other horses, that he can train like that, he’s bottled up any other way. I’d rather shorten his gallops up and put jog days in between because I know how much he’s going to get out of his gallop days. If I can keep him one piece until the end of the year, stay undefeated…”
While we’re in Canada. Woodbine also hosted distance specialists in the $300,000 Northern Dancer, where trainer Roger Attfield swept the top two spots with Forte Dei Marmi and Perfect Timber. The favorite got the win, by a neck, over the 16-1 shot. Stormy Len finished three-quarters of a length back in third and had a nose on Irish Mission in fourth. Bred in England, the winner scored for the third time in six starts this year for owner Stella Perdomo. All three wins have come at Woodbine, in the Singspiel, Sky Classic and now Northern Dancer. Not to be outdone by Atfield, Fair Hill, Md.-based trainer Michael Matz went 1-2 in the $300,000 Canadian. The Grade 2 for fillies and mares turned into an intra-stable match as Minakshi outlasted Colonial Flag by a half-length. Both came from well off the pace with French import Minakshi getting her first win in five American starts for Northern Bloodstock.
Up at Kentucky Downs. Trainer Tom Proctor won Saturday’s $400,000 Kentucky Cup Turf with favorite Temeraine, who carried Gary Stevens up the rail to a neck victory as the 2-1 favorite. Olympic Thunder set the pace throughout, and held on until the final yards before settling for second. Suntracer wound up third while New York shipper Side Road faded to sixth for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. The winner, owned by Niall Racing, came off a fifth in the Grade 1 Arlington Million.
“They used to call me a Quarter Horse trainer,” Proctor said from Keeneland. “Now, I’m a mile and a half trainer. That’s fine with me, they come out of the longer races better than the shorter races.”
Dreamy Distaffers at Belmont. Small field, big price. Or something like that. Trainer Todd Pletcher sent out Peace Preserver at 16-1 in Saturday’s Noble Damsel at Belmont Park. Alto Racing’s charge was last of six at every call – except the last – and won by a half-length over Hungry Island in the Grade 3 at a mile on the turf. Irad Ortiz rode the winner, who kicked last of all to collect her first win of 2013. The daughter of War Front – a full-sister to stakes horse Jack Milton – finished last of seven in a Saratoga optional claimer in her most recent start. In Saturday’s feature, the Grade 1 Garden City for 3-year-old turf fillies, newcomer Alterite prevailed by 1 ½ lengths over favorite Discreet Marq, who was a nose in front of Concise at the wire. Another French import for Martin Schwartz and trainer Chad Brown, the winner was making her American debut off back-to-back Group 1 tries in her home country. John Velazquez rode the winner. Caroline Thomas wound up seventh in the 10-horse field.
1-2-3-4-5. Bettors ought to get a prize for Saturday’s 11th race at Parx as the first five betting choices finished in that order in the $250,000 PTHA President’s Cup. Odds-on Swift Warrior prevailed by 1 ¼ lengths over late-running second choice Reflecting, who was a half-length in front of third choice Change Of Command. General Logan, fourth and fifth choices, occupied those spots in the chart too. Trained by John Terranova for James Covello and James Dolan, the winner collected his seventh career win (third this year).
Sire Power. Claiborne Farm had a big weekend with stakes wins for Arch (Temeraine), First Samurai (Swift Warrior) and War Front (Peace Preserver).
Looking Ahead. Thursday, yes Thursday, at Belmont Park offers a rare chance for punters as two jump races kick off the Pick Five on the first five races. The lineup starts with a 2 ¼-mile novice hurdle stakes with a field of 11, moves to the Grade 1 Lonesome Glory at 2 ½ miles and 10 runners. The flat races include the $100,000 Parlo Stakes with five, a 6-furlong claimer for fillies/mares and the Spite The Devil Stakes with eight. Tentatively, use Martini Brother and Dr. Skip in the first, Demonstrative and Gustavian in the second. You’re on your own from there. Still on the steeplechase theme for a minute, Saratoga winner Bluegrass Summer goes jump to turf in a Kentucky Downs allowance Wednesday – shortening up more than a half-mile and dropping 35 pounds to take on Kentucky Derby runner-up Golden Soul in a 1 ½-mile race.