The Monday Special – June 4

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Less than a week now to see if racing will be blessed with another Triple Crown winner, the second in four years, and a quick recap of the first weekend in June for this week’s edition of The Monday Special.

The star of the weekend was not Justify – although he steals the show for Monday with another strong breeze at Churchill Downs (see below) – but another guy north of the border with a win streak nearly twice as long.

Pink Lloyd racked up his 11th straight win Sunday in the Achievement Stakes at Woodbine, surpassing the $1 million earnings mark in Canadian dollars. With the conversion rate The Jockey Club uses that’s $817,284 here in the U.S. Not shabby whatsoever for the 6-year-old son of Old Forester. Pink Lloyd is now 14-for-16 and get this, he didn’t even make it to the races until August of his 4-year-old season.


Final Workout

The following edited report is from the publicity department at Churchill Downs:

Under sunny skies and a comfortable 63 degrees, undefeated Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Justify completed his serious preparations for Saturday’s $1.5 million Belmont Stakes with a 5-furlong breeze over a fast Churchill Downs track in 1:01.40 with Martin Garcia in the saddle.

With a few hundred spectators on hand, Justify came onto the track at 7:30 a.m.  during a special 10-minute training period for locally-based Belmont contenders. Justify broke away from the stable pony Sunny and trainer Bob Baffert’s chief assistant Jimmy Barnes at the 4 1/2-furlong pole and began his breeze at the half-mile marker through splits of :12.80, :24.80, :37 and :48.80 before galloping out six furlongs in 1:13.60 and seven-eighths of a mile in 1:27.20.

“It was a really nice breeze and exactly what we were looking for,” Baffert said. “He relaxed nicely and seemed very happy. Martin was very happy with him as well so I was happy, too. He was a little fresh earlier in the week so it was good to see him relax nicely.”

Immediately following Justify’s work, stablemate and fellow Belmont Stakes contender, Wood Memorial third Restoring Hope, breezed 6 furlongs in 1:13 under jockey Florent Geroux (splits: :12.60, :24.40, :36.20, :48.40 and 1:00.20 with a gallop out of 1:26.40).

“Restoring Hope went really well,” Baffert said. “He’s always been a really good work horse. He’s sort of a one-paced horse. He went a little faster than Justify but I thought overall the work was very good.”

Justify and Restoring Hope are scheduled to make the two-hour flight to New York Wednesday from Louisville and will leave Churchill Downs’ Barn 33 between 8-8:30 a.m.

Only 12 horses have swept the Triple Crown: Sir Barton (1919), Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault(1946), Citation (1948), Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977), Affirmed (1978) and, most recently, the Baffert-trained American Pharoah (2015).

“The Triple Crown brings a lot more people into the game,” Baffert said. “It also brings a lot of new owners. I saw a lot of new faces in the game after Pharoah won the Triple Crown. It’s no walk in the park to win but it’s very important to our sport when we have a Triple Crown possibility on the line.”

Regular jockey Mike Smith is scheduled to ride Justify in the Belmont Stakes while Geroux has the call on Restoring Hope.

“Mike, just like any other rider, has to have the horse underneath him to succeed,” Baffert said. “A good rider’s job is to keep the horse out of trouble and make split-second decisions if he needs to. Really the biggest part of the race is breaking cleanly from the gate. With Pharoah, he broke about 1 length slower than the field. It could’ve been a bad situation but he got into a good position early. After the gate break, you just have to see how the race plays out.”

In other local Belmont Stakes news, Preakness runner-up Bravazo left trainer D. Wayne Lukas’ Barn 44 early Monday morning via van to New York while Preakness third Tenfold jogged 1 mile following his 5-furlong breeze in 1:01.60 Saturday at Churchill. Breeders’ Futurity winner Free Drop Billy walked trainer Dale Romans’ Barn 4 shedrow following his five-furlong move in :59.20 Sunday at Churchill.

Tenfold is scheduled to fly to New York  Tuesday and leave Churchill Downs at approximately 10:30 a.m. while Free Drop Billy is scheduled to join Justify and Restoring Hope on Wednesday’s flight.


Live stream of Graves’ Celebration of Life

From Fasig-Tipton:

Monday’s celebration of the life of longtime Fasig-Tipton Senior Vice President William E. “Bill” Graves will be streamed live on The program, which will be conducted in Fasig-Tipton’s Kentucky sales pavilion, will begin at 2:30 pm. EDT.

The event will begin with opening remarks from Fasig-Tipton’s Terence Collier, and followed by tributes from Bill’s friends and colleagues Walt Robertson, Dennis Lynch, John Williams, Boyd Browning, Michael Levy and Bayne Welker.

Read more about Graves’ life in our piece “Legend Lost: All-star horseman Bill Graves dies” posted last week.


Worth Repeating

“He’s half freak, this horse. He’s half horse, half freak.”
Trainer Robert Tiller on Canadian Horse of the Yeaer Pink Lloyd after his 11th straight victory in Sunday’s Achievement Stakes at Woodbine

“She’s very temperamental and you’ve really got to get along with her. Even if I am getting along with her, something else could set her off. The gate could set her off, the ponies tale could swish and hit her…so, you’ve just got to hope everything goes well. They (the gate crew) know here really well here. She’s very unique…Bella.”
Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith on Grade 1 Beholder Mile winner Unique Bella

“He’s a Cadillac.”
Jockey Mike Luzzi after breezing Belmont Stakes contender Blended Citizen 5 furlongs in 1:00.64 before the first race Saturday at Belmont Park

“He’s smarter, or we’re learning little things about him all the time. He’s teaching us how he wants to be trained.”
Trainer Ron Moquett on multiple graded stakes winner Whitmore, headed next to Friday’s Grade 2 True North at Belmont

“Everyone’s going to be coming here for Justify, but we plan on putting on a show.”
Trainer Chad Summers on the Met Mile-bound Mind Your Biscuits


Best of The Saturday Special (Double dose)

We wroteWoodbine. Race 5. 3:20. Subsidiary, 2-year-old first-time starter from first crop of New York-based stallion Central Banker, makes debut for Mark Casse. He also sends out the Sligo Bay firster Sailing By in 4 1/2-furlong maiden on the synthetic.
Subsidiary proved ready for his debut, taking the lead early and rolling to 1 1/2-length victory and return $22.30.

We wrotePenn National. Race 3. 4:40. First stakes of the day is $100,000 New Start for state-bred 3-year-old fillies going 6 furlongs. John Velazquez takes call on Bronx Beauty, the winner of three of four and in small stakes last November in most recent appearance.
Bronx Beauty fired fresh off more than six-month layoff, winning the New Start under Velazquez by 2 lengths. Pennsylvania-bred daughter of Liaison returned $14.40 as the fourth choice in the field of seven.


Worst of The Saturday Special (Double dose)

We wroteChurchill. Race 9. 10:11. Coupled entry of Solomini and Mississippi look formidable in two-turn optional on the main track. The former was runner-up in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and placed in two graded stakes this year before splitting field in the Kentucky Derby, while the latter returns to allowance-optional level after two tries in Florida Derby and Pat Day Mile.
Thankfully it was late on the card and into the evening; Solomini scratched for a spot back home in California while Mississippi bobbled at the break and raced in sixth the entire trip at 1-2. Mr. Freeze won it at 9-1 and keyed a $194.60 exacta and $268 trifecta (for 50 cents).

We wroteArlington Park. Race 5. 4:21. Recount chased the likes of Wilbo and Ivan Fallunovalot this winter in Hot Springs, returned home a winner against state-breds last time at Hawthorne and make second straight Illinois-bred stakes appearance in $75,000 Addison Cammack Memorial. Goneghost will keep him honest, the winner of four straight against state-bred competition.
The field was reduced to five with a scratch and neither Recount (fourth at 5-2) or Goneghost (second at 7-10) got it done. Devileye rolled to 1 3/4-length victory as the third choice in 1:09.23.


Tweet of the Week

Chad Summers (@horsesummers): Well deserved, and thanks to the current Tom Law for being so kind and welcoming to a 18yo who wanted to make a living in this great game!!
Summers’ response to comment from two-time Joe Hirsch Memorial Writing Award winner Tom Law.


Good or bad publicity?

It seems comedian Jim Gaffigan riled up racing’s biggest supporters and fans over the weekend with a bit about the Triple Crown that poked fun at gamblers, people who dress up for the Kentucky Derby and others. The video below appeared during CBS Sunday Morning, less than a week before Justify goes for a sweep of the Triple Crown. What do you think? Is this so bad, or a case of there’s no such thing as bad publicity?