Since I wrote about the embarrassing scenario among Jamaica’s jockey colony as exposed by 54-year-old Gary Richards (published June 4) the Old Master has ridden 7 winners from 34 rides (21% win percentage) which is bettered by only one (Shane Ellis; 22%) of the top ten jockeys. He rounded things off on Lotto Classic day with a sparkling 28/1 treble including Lotto Classic winner Drummer Boy at 5/1 as predicted by your humble scribe the evening before on Nationwide radio.
Jamaican politics has coined an irritating phrase: “unattached youth”. It makes no sense to me since nobody says to what these unemployed persons ought to be “attached”. But I couldn’t help thinking of the expression when, as happens at the start of every year, uninformed turfites obsessively “attached” to trainers trying to defeat the 17-time Champion Trainer started another synchronized chant that THIS was the year he’d be dethroned.
The noise grew louder as his main rival established an early, apparently significant lead and even managed to win an early Classic (the Oaks with Fayrouz – again predicted by ye Olde Touty on his Twitter feed) which only provided the anti-DaCosta propaganda team with additional energy. Well, in a flash, the iconic Wayne DaCosta has shrugged off what may have appeared to some to be an early season slump and is currently heading towards his 18th trainers’ Championship (sickness or Act of God excepted) leading by over $4,000,000.00 in stakes. Cream always rises to the top.
Two horses came out of the Lotto Classic with their Derby credentials boosted. They were the all-the-way winner Drummer Boy and staying on 2nd, Marquesas. The fillies are just not good enough and, barring some Balladier or Legal Light-type popping up in the next two weeks, the Blue Riband event should be a humdinger between these two.
This regular review of local performances is based on REAL times.
Abbreviations: CT = “Corrected Time”; TV = “Track Variant” (a calculation of the effect of track conditions on official times to arrive at “real” or “corrected” times); TVs are in fifths of a second; “minus” means a fast track; “plus” a slow track (e.g -2 means fast by 2/5ths of a second). Variants beside horse’s names represent the difference between its official time and the grade standard.
The Labour Day race meet was very informative:
May 23, 2018 [TV +0.4/200m (Rd); +3 (straight)]
Master Of Hall (-9) was impressive on debut (Race 2; 3yo maiden condition; 1500m; TV+3) winning as he liked and showing a nice, fluent, far-striding action in clocking 1:34.0! His CT (1:33.2) is 2/5ths second faster than 3yonw3 average so he’s to be followed. The 2nd Sendamessagetomama (-3’), earned a CT of 1:34.2’ which is a second faster than maiden special weight so losses are only lent.
Princess Caula/Party Princess (-4) finished 2nd/3rd behind Hologram Shadow (+1) in a mixed conditions event (Race 5; $350,000 Claimers/5yonw3; 1300m; TV+3). Both ran well above their restricted allowance standard in clocking 1:22.2 (CT 1:21.4!) which translates to 1 2/5ths second faster than 5yonw3. Both are winners-in-waiting returned to that level.
Loose Cannon (-6) made all effortlessly (Race 8; $600,000 Claimers; 1200m; TV+2) to beat Little Big Horn (-2) in 1:12.2! The winner’s CT (1:12.0) is 3/5ths second faster than Open Allowance average and 4/5ths second faster than Overnight Allowance so he’s going places. The 2nd’s CT (1:12.4) equals Overnight Allowance standard and is 4/5ths second faster than this grade so he can be found a suitable spot soon.
Overseas Betting Opportunities (OBOs)
Justify took advantage of a second consecutive sloppy track to defeat a small field in the Preakness. However, his effort looked to me to be an improvement on his Kentucky Derby win as he disputed a hot early gallop for the first mile (with Good Magic – a length 4th in the Kentucky Derby) before showing admirable courage and stamina to keep on final furlong eventually winning somewhat cheekily by ½ length from a staying on Bravazo. Good Magic gave up the ghost and lost two places in the final furlong to end up one length 4th.
USA “experts” are conducting a head-scratching contest to see who can best undervalue Justify’s Preakness effort. Entries include: the race produced the slowest Beyer Speed Figure of any Preakness (Mike Watchmaker); Justify barely scraped home; and, my personal favourite, he’s suspect over 12 furlongs. DWL! With the greatest of respect to these noisemakers, Andy Beyer himself would be the first to acknowledge that his speed figures don’t mean much at 9f+ where pace, that most difficult of intangible tangibles which makes every race, is all important. What Justify did in mixing it up in a speed duel for a mile and still keeping on well enough to win (while dueller Good Magic faded) was phenomenal especially considering he was unraced as a 2yo and running only his fifth lifetime start.
If Justify (by Scat Daddy out of the Ghostzapper mare, Stage Magic) is beaten in the Belmont (June 9), it’s unlikely to be due to his suspect breeding for the trip and more likely his feeling the effects of two strenuous races in testing conditions. He ran really hard only two weeks earlier to win the Kentucky Derby, after which he had a bruised left-hind heel, and then was made to work all the way for this as well. Trust me on this, the Good Magic he put away in the Preakness is a high class colt and Justify looked to me as if he still had something in the tank.
The US Triple Crown is run in 5 weeks and this is why there are so few Triple Crown winners. The final leg is usually won by a horse that skipped at least one of the two earlier legs and can be freshened up for this ultimate stamina test. At this early stage, there appears to be two possible candidates namely UK raced Gronkowski and Derby 7th Hofburg.
Interest in the former is mainly driven by the acquisition of a share by New England Patriots’ star tight-end Rob Gronkowski just before the Kentucky Derby which he promptly missed through injury but his form on UK synthetics isn’t up to scratch and his breeding (by Australian speedball Lonhro out of the Lookin At Lucky mare Four Sugars) doesn’t inspire confidence at 12f. On the other hand Hofburg, when last raced on a fast track, was a keeping on 3l 2nd to Audible in the Florida Derby. Audible was a staying on 3rd in the Kentucky Derby (nearly snatched 2nd) and would be a perfect fit for the Belmont save that he’s owned by the same owners as Justify who have (not unexpectedly) decided not to oppose their triple crown seeking entry so Audible swerves the race. Hofburg, much more stoutly and appropriately bred (by Tapit out of Belmont winner Touch Gold’s mare Soothing Touch) flopped in the mud at Churchill Downs then declined another yacht race at Pimlico so fits the profile of a likely Belmont winner if the rains stay away.
Before we meet again, Golf’s second Major Championship, the US Open will be contested at Shinnecock. I can’t help seeing Rickie Fowler, perfectly suited by the course and in the form of his life, winning his first Major at last but, for once, I shall allow my heart to rule my head and select another Shinnecock specialist, 47 year old Phil Mickelson, whose six second places in this Major tells the most heartbreaking story of the Tiger Woods era. Surely this is Phil the Thrill’s very last opportunity to close the career slam and nobody will be happier if it happens than moi.
Finally, the first entry in our Royal Ascot ante-post portfolio, Gilgamesh, won a seven furlong handicap at York on Saturday at 5/1 thus ensuring a handicap mark that qualifies him for the Hunt Cup. Another one for the Royal Ascot portfolio:
Sioux Nation [(3yo b.c. Scat Daddy – Dream the Blues (Oasis Dream)] USA sire Scat Daddy has an outstanding record at recent Royal Ascot festivals so it was odd when Sioux Nation went off at 14/1 for the Norfolk Stakes there last June. Maybe punters were fooled by two under par efforts on softish ground. After that win, he closed off 2017 with a creditable 3¾ lengths 6th to US Navy Flag in the Group 1 Middle Park (good to soft). He flopped on reappearance (again on soft) before holding on well (good to firm) to win a Group 3 at Naas on May 20. There’s no better candidate for the Commonwealth Cup at the Royal meeting this year.