David Letterman’s been doing it for years, here is TIHR’s Top 10 Stories from last weekend. As always, the sport offered the good, the bad, the sad and the comical.
1. Flat Out. Still going strong at 7, Flat Out stopped Last Gunfighter’s win streak with a comfortable win in the Grade II Suburban for trainer Bill Mott and jockey Junior Alvarado. Travers winner Alpha returned from a winter in Dubai to finish a dull fourth after breaking through the gate prior to the start. Mott took over the training of Flat Out last spring, asked about his first impression, Mott summed him up quick, “Big, strong, good-looking horse, handsome, good race record.” And getting better.
2. Russell Baze. Still going strong at 54, the all-time American leader picked up a spare ride in the final race of the Alameda County Fair to reach 12,00 for his career. Dennis Carr took off Handful Of Pearls in the $4,000 claimer, providing Baze a front-running nose victory. Baze won four races on the card, adding to his insurmountable lead atop the American list. Worldwide, Baze is still chasing South American Jorge Ricardo, who surpassed the milestone earlier this year. In 1999, after being inducted into the Hall of Fame, I asked Baze how much more he had in him, “Oh, I don’t know. Right now, as good as I feel. It’s not unreasonable to think I could ride until I’m 50,” Baze said. “The hardest part is the injuries, which I really haven’t had that many (touch wood), beside that, the dieting, to have to watch the weight all the time. I guess I would stop either because I’m physically unable to do the job the horses deserve or I’ll just get tired of doing it. I’m sure I will get to an age that it will be difficult to get psyched up and hopefully I’ll be smart enough to know when that day comes.”
3. Midnight Aria. For $35,000, you could have had a Queen’s Plate winner. Nick Gonzalez and Tucci Stable claimed the son of Midnight Lute from a $35,000 maiden claimer at Gulfstream in January. Six races later, the 3-year-old colt stretched his stamina to 10 furlongs, winning Canada’s race. When he broke from the gate and melted into his long, rhythmical stride, he became the fulcrum of the 12-horse field. Watch the replay and watch his stride, that’s how it’s meant to be done.
4. Danny Mullins. God love the Irish. Stewards slapped the jockey with a 14-day ban after he drove the ambulance back to the jocks’ room after pulling up a horse at Bellewstown Friday night. Stewards cited rule 272 which governs “behavior which is prejudicial to the integrity, conduct and good reputation of racing.” Hey, he just wanted to ride the next race. In our book, that’s good for the good reputation of racing.
5. Al Kazeem. won the Group I Coral-Eclipse Stakes at Sandown with another dour run, closing relentlessly to collar Mukhadram and hold off Declaration Of War. After starting his career 2-for-7, Al Kazeem has now won five in a row. The 5-year-old son of Dubawi drifted right, hampering Mukhadram. Stewards handed a five-day ban to jockey James Doyle, but allowed the result to stand. Good call.
6. David Johnson. The venerable British steeplechase owner died at age 67. The definition of a sportsman, he put up his money and took good times and bad times with the same sense of professionalism. Sometimes, in this game, you forget about the investment that makes the game go. Johnson put a lot of money in a lot of pockets, enjoying the sport and supporting the players. Comply Or Die and Timmy Murphy rewarded this support, winning the Grand National in 2008. British jump racing won’t be the same without the blue jacket, green sleeves and spotted cap.
7. Moreno. Three-year-old has begun to run to his looks. A stunning looking son of Ghostzapper, he broke his maiden June 8 at Belmont Park, and returned to win the Dwyer, wire-to-wire. Perhaps, trainer Eric Guillot will fire up the crawfish boil at Saratoga.
8. Brian Toomey. The conditional jockey suffered a serious head injury when falling from Solway Dandy at Perth. He underwent surgery and is an induced coma. After all these years, knowing the reality of the job, it still shocks when a young man goes down. The epitome of youthful abandon struck down with a cold cut. Prayers for Brian and his family.
9. Mentor Cane. The 3-year-old easily won a maiden at Belmont Park for trainer John Shirreffs and owners Jerry and Ann Moss. The son of Mizzen Mast won by 5 lengths and was so fresh, he dumped jockey Edgar Prado on the way back to the winner’s circle. Undeterred, Prado climbed back aboard after the homebred was collared by the outrider and posed for the photo. Nice horse. Could be fun to see at Saratoga.
10. Game On Dude. Ah yes, Game On Dude won another race, another California Grade I stakes, taking the Hollywood Gold Cup for the second time. He’s now 5-for-5 since Mike Smith took over the front-running duties.
– And the rest…Touchofstarquality broke his maiden at Belmont Park at first asking and could play a role in the 3-year-old division before the year is over…David Jacobson eclipsed Todd Pletcher’s win record for a Belmont Spring Meet, winning 41 races, with four cards still to go…Joe Bravo watched Optimizer soften up Little Mike in the United Nations before sending Big Blue Kitten through on the rail to win Monmouth’s turf stakes…Jockey Sheldon Russell won three Virginia-bred stakes Saturday night…Roger Attfield won another Singspiel Stakes at Woodbine…Ben’s Cat wins again…Bahamian Squall, Trinniberg and veteran Jackson Bend finished 1-2-3 in Calder’s Smile Stakes.
Watch Flat Out win the Suburban.
Watch Russell Baze win number 12,000.
Watch the highlights of Comply Or Die’s win in the Grand National.
Watch Game On Dude win the final running of the Hollywood Gold Cup.