Opinions & Observations: After An Amazing Weekend of Racing All Over the Globe

(Blare the horn. It’s time for some announcements and observations / Photo by Holly M. Smith)

What a wonderful weekend of horse racing. Graded Stakes all over the globe. Great horses running all over the place. Grand races all over, now. And, we are left with some horses and thoughts moving. Forward. Upward. Onward.

Some horses are moving up in consideration.

Some are moving on to bigger, and, perhaps, better things ahead.

Some are moving along. No longer in consideration for the Breeders’ Cup, and no longer to continue racing.

We are also left with some impressions and observations.

Some ideas are good.

Some thoughts are, well, let’s just say, not so much.

Some impressions are lasting. Some are telling. And, some will have some impact as we move on towards racing’s Championship Days.

Here’s some our views and reviews:

(Maxfield drew attention as he drew away to win the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity / Photos by Holly M. Smith)

Moving Up:

Maxfield was the talk of the town in and around Lexington after the colt’s sweeping, looping, and eye-popping win in the G1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland on Saturday.

And, is there any wonder?

The colt, by the stallion Street Sense and trained by Brendan Walsh, is now a perfect 2-for-2 after breaking the maiden on debut at Churchill Downs on Sept. 14, and, now becoming a G1 winner in just his second start on Saturday.

Maxfield has that look.

He is bigger than some of his counterparts. Perhaps that is due to being an early, February foal and that he is truly older than most of his competition. Maybe it is due to his breeding. Maybe it is the fact that he has just matured a bit quicker and faster.

No matter the reason, Maxfield has the mature physique that makes you stop. Makes you look. Again. And, makes you take notice. He kind of reminds me of Catholic Boy, who was a striking 2YO in his own right, a couple of years ago.

But is Maxfield now ready to take on some of the world’s best 2YOs?

Great question.

After all, the horse that Maxfield beat by less than a length in his career debut – Ghostlore – was a huge disappointment on Saturday at Keeneland. As one of the favorites at Keeneland on Saturday, Ghostlore spit the bit rather early in the 11/16-race, and struggled home a disappointing 8th.

Not a good sign.

Yet, on the other hand, the winner of that Maiden Special Weight race was Sprawl – a son of City Zip and owned by Claiborne Farm. Just two starts ago, Sprawl ran 6thbehind, guess who? That’s right. Maxfield.

On Saturday, Sprawl – who was the Post Time favorite to win that race against Maxfield – ran like the horse that many expected two races back. He rolled late. He sprinted in the stretch. And, he pulled away to win. Impressively.

Now, that’s a very good sign.

So?

So, now, Maxfield will have to up his name and game to face the likes of Eight Rings – who just won the G1 American Pharoah Stakes at Santa Anita by a whopping 6 lengths. Eight Rings now has 2 wins in 3 starts and is going to be running over his home dirt for trainer Bob Baffert. Heady company. No doubt.

And, Maxfield will have to face the likes of Dennis’ Moment. And, I don’t care if they sneak Omaha Beach (not really) into this field, I think this son of Tiznow is the winner of this year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. In short, Dennis’ Moment is a monster talent.

A. Monster. Talent.

Two starts ago, Dennis’ Moment broke his maiden at Ellis Park by nearly 20 lengths. Behind him that day was? Well, let’s see. Some 30 lengths back was this horse by the name of Ghostlore. You know the one. The horse that ran second to Maxfield at Churchill Downs.

In his last start, Dennis’ Moment won the G3 Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs by an easy, pulled-up, relaxing 13/4-lengths.

So?

Maxfield was impressive on Saturday. And, 2-year-olds can make major improvements and strides forward each time they hit the racetrack.

But in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile?

Let’s toss in a dash of reality, and perspective.

Hmmm.

I’ll take Dennis’ Moment.

Every single time.

Every. Single. Time.

As a bettor, I hope racing fans do jump on Eight Rings.

As a player, I sure hope that more peeps will now favor Maxfield.

As a true believer, I am on Dennis’ Moment.

Before the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity. Before the American Pharoah.

And, afterwards?

Even more so.

(Could the great Enable stick around for one more race? Like the Breeders’ Cup Turf? / Photo by Holly M. Smith)

Moving Along (?):

For a brief moment in time, it looked like the great mare Enable was going to do it. For a brief period of time, it certainly appeared that the grand one was going to win the Arc de’ Triomphe for an unprecedented third time in a row. For awhile, it looked like Enable was going to roll into the record books as one of the sport’s all-time greatest.

And, then stroll into retirement — with applause and grandeur.

Like the rest of the horse world, I was standing in my office.

I was cheering like hell.

I was riding as hard as Frankie.

Until that damn Waldgeist starting rolling on the outside.

Until that damn Waldgeist came from the back.

Until that damn Waldgeist went to the front near the finish line.

Enable’s 12-race winning streak was over. Her bid to become the first horse to ever win the prestigious Arc three years in a row was history. And, her brilliant race career – which undoubtedly will go down in history as one of the best ever – was done. Just like that. Over.

Or is it?

Could the connections now really consider another race?

Hope does spring eternal.

But should we hope? And, pray? And beg? And, get our hopes hoping?

Can we?

After the race, Teddy Grimthorpe, the racing manager for owner, Price Khalid Abdullah, told reporters that the final decision will be forthcoming.

He said that the owner “…will want to reflect and give it some thought.”

OMG.

Could we get this mare back in the States?

Could we get her to run one more time?

Could she finish the brilliance in the Breeders’ Cup Turf – which she won just a year ago at Churchill Downs?

Could she?

OMG.

Please?

Please, with sugar on top?

Please save this year’s Breeders’ Cup from itself and come here to win your last race, Enable.

Please.

We will start a “Go Fund Me Page.”

(Yes, Omaha Beach is magnificent. He proved it again this weekend. / Photos by Holly M. Smith)

Moving On?

Omaha Beach. Omaha Beach. Omaha Beach.

Wasn’t it just a few days ago that the dapper Pat Forde, that astute author of all things he can dream-up bad about the horse industry, questioned why this magnificent runner has not returned to racing, and speculated aloud if he ever would?

Well, glad you asked.

Yes, it was.

It was Sept. 12 that Forde wrote – for Yahoo Sports — the following:

“The sport staggered into the Triple Crown series in the spring after two dozen horses died at Santa Anita during the winter. The excitement of the Triple Crown is a strong annual tonic, but this year it only provided more upheaval and disillusionment:

“* Derby pre-race favorite Omaha Beach was scratched with a breathing issue that was believed to be minor, but the colt still has not raced since last April.”

Well, Patty, Omaha Beach ran on Saturday at Santa Anita.

In his first race since he won the G1 Arkansas Derby, Omaha Beach returned to run at a distance that many considered way too short for him and against a horse that set a track record at Saratoga.

And, guess what Patty?

Omaha Beach won.

(Not that you would know it, if you only read the crap that Patty Forde spews out. He hasn’t written a word about the colt’s amazing victory. Not a single word. Yet, back to our regular programming.)

Amazingly. Wonderfully. Beautifully.

And, healthy.

Now, the ownership connections will get to decide if the 3YO son of War Front will run in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, the Breeders’ Cup Mile, or the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Are you kidding me?

To be honest, I don’t know if I have ever, ever, ever heard tell that one horse was being considered for any and all of those three racing Classics?

What kind of horse could do that?

What kind of superhorse could be that good, talented, versatile?

What type of horse could be the world’s best Sprinter; the best Miler; and the best “Horse in the World” overall?

Omaha Beach.

He just may be.

And, he may just prove it.

And, in doing so, he may just make us all wonder what a wonderful world the Triple Crown truly could and would have been if not for an entrapped epiglottis that forced the horse to undergo throat surgery and miss the Spring Classics.

May want to tune into the Breeders’ Cup now, Patty.

Omaha Beach is back. Back healthy. Back running. Back winning. Back impressing.

You may want to take a look at why horses and the industry is so resilient, and will forever overcome.

Omaha Beach is a living example.

He is our “Motto” wrapped into a massive, muscular, running specimen that only breeders and horsemen/horsewomen can dream of raising, owning, running and watching.

Or will you be trying to keep your job after another suspension at that time, Patty?

Just wondering.

(Kimari was super. Kimari was impressive. Kimari was super impressive. / Photos by Holly M. Smith)

Impressions:

There is Kimari:

Kimari’s win in the Indian Summer Stakes at Keeneland on Sunday was and is one of the most amazing races of the year. Bar none.

The 2YO daughter of Munnings – who is known for her pure, unadulterated speed – dropped to absolute last in the 5.5-furlong Indian Summer.

Last.

By many.

Until Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith – riding the filly for the first time — steered the gal to the outside at the top of the stretch. Just for fun.

Until the rider and horse launched a rally that will burn an impression forever. Just for fun.

Until the filly whipped the colts.

For fun.

Look out. This filly is the real deal.

(Sistercharlie, when she won the Jenny Wiley Stakes at Keeneland / Photo Courtesy of Keeneland)

There is Sistercharlie:

Speaking of real deals?

She is one.

Amazing what a great rider and a great horse can team up to do.

Great things.

On Sunday, they did it again.

John Velazquez on top.

Sistercharlie on the muscle.

Again.

Here they come, world. Here they come.

(British Idiom / Photos by Holly M. Smith)

There is British Idiom:

The 2YO Flashback filly has raced twice in her career, so far.

She broke the maiden on debut at Saratoga, running off to a 31/2-length win when running 6 furlongs.

On Friday, she ran in the G1 Darley Alcibiades at Keeneland, drawing off to win by an easy 61/2 furlongs over some of the most highly-accomplished and rated juvenile fillies in the entire racing world.

Now?

Well, trainer Brad Cox – who also has trained the likes of fillies Monomoy Girl and Covfefe – may have another great gal in the barn.

She might not be favored come California time.

But she very well may deserve to be.

(Rushing Fall schooling at Keeneland. She got a clean trip doing that on Friday / Photo by Holly M. Smith)

(Dunbar Road schooling at Keeneland. She got a better trip doing that on Friday / Photo by Holly M. Smith)

There is Rushing Fall, Valid Point, Dunbar Road:

Both of the highly talented and rated grass runners, and the very blessed 3YO dirt-running filly – all from the barn of Chad Brown – ran poorly and/or disappointly on Saturday and Sunday at Keeneland. And, now the connections may be left both concerned and wondering what to do and where to go next.

Rushing Fall, who was a perfect 4-for-4 at Keeneland prior to Saturday, was a well-beaten and a non-threatening 4th in the G1 First Lady Stakes.

Valid Point, coming off a super impressive win in the G1 Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park in the race before, was even worse on Saturday. Going into the G1 Shadwell Turf Mile, Valid Point was undefeated in 3 starts. He exited the Stakes beaten. Well beaten. He finished 10th.

Dunbar Road, one of the best 3YO fillies in the world, was supposed to give the grand Elate everything she could handle – and, perhaps, more – in the G1 Spinster Stakes on Sunday. Yet, she had to settle for a non-threatening 3rd without much of a push in the deep stretch, as the long shot Blue Prize upset the apple cart and the much-ballyhooed Elate.

But…

I wouldn’t be so harsh in judging any of these runners.

Not so soon.

To be honest?

From my point of view, both in the stands and in review?

Rider Javier Castellano never gave any one of the three horses a shot.

Nary a chance.

Not even close.

Three of the worst rides that I have seen in a long, long time.

Rushing Fall, who is normally on or close to the lead, was wrangled back and drug into the mid-pack of the First Lady. A spot that she didn’t relish. A spot that she obviously never liked. A spot where she could not control either the speed or her own destiny.

The result was dismal.

Valid Point, on the other hand, was allowed to move a bit prematurely and lodged himself along the rail throughout the race. In truth, he never had a chance to escape. And, in truth, he ran a race that included more starts and stops than traffic on Nicholasville Road in Lexington during rush hour. (For those unfamiliar with Lexington traffic patterns? It’s like driving in Boston. At rush hour.)

The result was dismal.

Dunbar Road, in the end, was Javier-ed, as well. The lovely gal was stuck on a dead rail from the get-go to what became a very bitter end.

In the first 3 days, nearly every rider has said that the place not to be was along the fence.

Yet, that is exactly where Castellano put Dunbar Road. Right from the break of the gate. All the way to the wire. Never moved an inch.

Don’t know what the connections will do moving forward, but I would still consider a trip West.

For all 3 of them.

But I would do so with another jockey in mind, and on my horses.

(Elate, with the blue silks, stalks She’s a Julie in the early stages of the Spinster Stakes / Photo by Holly M. Smith)

There’s Elate:

Guess the Spinster ends any more discussion about her running in the Classic, right?

Trainer Bill Mott is reportedly saying that she still may try the boys in her next outing.

But truth be told?

Elate’s not even the best filly  or mare in the country, much less capable of running against the best colts.

Period.

(Bowies Hero, with the green hat cover / Photo by Holly M. Smith)

(Spiced Perfection sneaks up the rail to win the TCA Stakes at Keeneland / Photo by Holly M. Smith)

As for Bowies Hero and Spiced Perfection:

The winner of the Shadwell Turf Mile and the Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes and their respective chances to win in the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita?

HMMM.

No thank you.

Not for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The horse broke well today,” Gaffalione said. “I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn’t want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane but I kept him at task and there was plenty of horse there.”

“Mark (Casse, the trainer) and his team have done a great job,” Gaffalione said. “They’ve had a ton of confidence in this horse the whole way. It’s just an honor to be able to ride the horse. He’s just so professional, trains great and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

Tyler Gaffalione, Rode of War of Will to victory in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds
  • Gene McLean

    Gene McLean

    Gene McLean began his professional career in 1977 as a sportswriter and columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader in Lexington, Ky., and was recognized as one of the state’s best writers, winning the prestigious “Sportswriter of the Year” honor in 1985. Now the President and Publisher of The Pressbox, McLean sets ...

    Full Bio >

More From Gene McLean