(Malathaat after winning the G1 Spinster Stakes on Sunday / Coady Photography)
What a weekend in the whacky world of Thoroughbred racing in the middle of God’s Country. (For the unlearned, that would be Kentucky.)
Some great, great races, to be sure.
Some fantastic weather, to boot, even though we could certainly use a little rain.
Some sights and sounds that turn each stride to stardom into living color that matches the turning leaves and the crunch of Fall.
Some thrilling finishes, without a doubt.
Some really awful Stewards’ decisions, OMG. Not bad, mind you. Awful. Terrible. Disgusting. So bad, in fact, they make you want to quit betting. So bad, in fact, it makes you wonder what in the hell is going on.
Some of this. Some of that. Some kind of weekend.
Here’s some of our thoughts:
(Malathaat / Photos by Coady Photography)
Don’t know exactly what the quality of the field in Sunday’s G1 Spinster Stakes was like, now that the great “Champ” Letruska has once again proven that she is not nearly as good as she once was. And, with all due credit to Toby Keith, I don’t think Letruska is even as good once as she ever was, either.
But there are two glaring facts that one can extract from one of the world’s most respected and historic Stakes races.
One, Malathaat sure does love this Keeneland track. On Sunday, she raced over the main track for the third time in her career. And, for the third time, she won a Graded Stakes. This time by a whopping 51/4 lengths.
In previous runs in Lexington, the 4YO daughter of Curlin — who is trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher for Shadwell Farm — won the G3 Doubledogdare Stakes here this past April and the G1 Ashland Stakes in the Spring of 2021 on her way to victory in the Kentucky Oaks.
Two, Malathaat sure does look like a handful as we approach this year’s version of the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, which will be held over this same racetrack. When jockey John Velazquez asked her for her best on Sunday, she turned out in her Sunday best. She certainly didn’t balk when asked to stalk. She went from pounce to trounce in the matter of a few strides. She went from a threat to win this year’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff to favorite.
In five starts this year now, she has 3 wins and 2 seconds — both to the grand Clairiere.
But she has now won two Grade 1s in a row and appears to be at our best at just the right time. And, she is right at home at home.
(Trainer Bob Baffert / Photo by Gene McLean)
Baffling Baffert & Breeders’ Cup:
It will be interesting to see if the embattled Bob Baffert, who is not allowed to step foot on any Churchill Downs property for another year or so, shows up for this year’s Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland.
Although he apparently didn’t make the trip to Kentucky this past weekend, Keeneland did take entries from the guy. Both Carmel Road and Newgate ran in the G1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity on Saturday, finishing 13th and 5th.
If he does show at Breeders’ Cup, the questions and responses may be interesting:
How will he be received by the public?
How will his horses be perceived by the public?
Whom will be in tow?
Oh, I’m sure Jimmy Barnes will do all the work, per usual.
And, I’m sure there will be some folks from Starlight Racing and Zedan Racing close by.
Oh, I’m sure Baffert will send Taiba — who recently won the G1 Pennsylvania Derby by an impressive 3 lengths. In 5 career starts, the son of Gun Runner now has 3 wins and a 2nd. (He was 12th in this year’s Kentucky Derby, when saddled by another trainer.)
And, I’m sure he will send some of his 2YOs, as well. After all, he just saddled the first four finishers in the American Pharoah Stakes at Santa Anita this weekend. Cave Rock, at odds of 2-5, won the Stakes, followed by his barn mates of National Treasure, Hejazi, Gandolfini.
But how will the public respond? Will they bet his steeds like they did in the past? With the same fervor? Will there be any hangover? Will there be any skepticism?
How will the horses respond?
Since the debacle, chaos and court proceedings that arose after Baffert’s Medina Spirit was disqualified for a positive test result following the 2021 Kentucky Derby, Baffert has served his suspension and is still suing to regain access to Churchill Downs. And, he is back to training horses in California and winning races, too, at about the same level of expertise as before.
Since returning, Baffert’s horses have made 381 starts in California. They have won 119 times; run second 71 times; and have been third another 61 times. His win percentage is over .31%. His horses have been “In the Money” a whopping .65.88% of the time.
Big numbers. No matter how you count them.
Outside of California, Baffert’s horses have made 22 starts. He has gone 5-5-1. His win percentage is approximately 22.73%. His horses have been “In the Money” .50% of the time.
In Kentucky, Baffert got his first two starts this weekend at Keeneland. He went 0-0-0.
It will be interesting. But, then again, isn’t horse racing always interesting?
(Forte and Loggins battle it out to the wire in the G1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity / Coady Photography)
Forte vs. Loggins…Can’t Wait Till Round 2:
The absolute throw down showdown between 2YO colts Forte and Loggins in the G1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland on Saturday was a beauty to behold.
The two talented 2YOs hooked each other in the short stretch at Keeneland and the race to the first wire was intense, to say the least.
One stride, Loggins was in front.
The next, Forte was able to inch ahead.
Then the two combatants seemed to exchange a bump or two and the world grimaced as Forte’s rider, Irad Ortiz, Jr., and his whip appeared to threaten, if not strike, the opponent.
The inquiry sign lit. Or did it? The objection sign lit. Or did it? The Stewards examined the footage. Or did they?
At the end, Forte won and the withstood the review, which seemed to last longer than the race itself.
And, immediately, the questions arose.
Who did what to whom? Did “whatever did happen” make a difference? Should there have been a disqualification or not? Did the winner really win or not?
That debate still rages. Seriously.
But the good thing is that these two horses appear to be headed for another battle in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in just a few weeks. And, that should be a lot of fun. A. Lot. Of. Fun.
But my money is on Loggins.
(Forte, on the outside, and Loggins, on the inside, in the final stages of the G1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity / Coady Photography)
It was not a good opening weekend for the Stewards at Keeneland.
Let’s back up and review that statement from several angles.
We have a disqualification on that sentence.
It was an awful weekend for the Stewards at Keeneland.
Awful. Terrible. Disgusting.
At least three times, the Stewards either lit up the inquiry sign or listened to serious jockey objections. Three times, the Stewards finally, exhaustingly issued a final adjudication — although it took them longer than what a normal race would take.
And, IMO, the Stewards failed each time.
On Friday, the Stewards disqualified the winner of the 5th race, Olga Isabel, for drifting out in the stretch and apparently compromising the efforts of runner-up Jag Warrior. Never mind that the winner was clear in front. Never mind that the two horses never exchanged a bump or blow. Never mind that the leader of any race can go as wide as they want on any turn, as long as they do not collide with another foe. Olga was in front. Clear. The horse had earned its’ spot on the track. Never mind that the rider of the runner-up, Martin Garcia, could have and eventually did go to an inside path. These Stewards found enough, in their view, to make a DQ.
On Saturday, the Stewards failed to disqualify the winner of the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity, Forte, for actions deep in the stretch that may have compromised the runner-up, Loggins. Never mind that the video appeared to show that the winner moved to the inside and seemed to make contact. Never mind that the video appeared to show that the rider of the winner, Irad Ortiz, Jr., may have made contact with Loggins. Never mind that Ortiz may have used his whip in an inappropriate way. These Stewards didn’t find enough, in their view, to make a DQ.
And, then again, on Sunday, the Stewards failed to disqualify the winner of the 7th race — a Maiden Special Weight event — when it was clear that the eventual winner — Raise Cain and ridden by Gerardo Corrales — came over on the eventual runner-up — Fashion King and rider Tyler Gaffalione — and nearly caused a spill in the stretch. Only because Gaffalione was able to snatch up his horse, abruptly, was an accident avoided.
Uh. What’s up? Seriously?
To make matters even worse, the Stewards announced on Sunday that they were issuing riding suspension against three jockeys for violations during the races this weekend.
Truth be known? The Stewards are the ones that should be facing a hearing and possible suspensions.
Seriously. The Commission should be reviewing the actions in the Stewards room. Immediately. And, they may want to issue a ruling. After all, the integrity of this great sport does not stop on the racetrack. It includes all those involved.
Drone Should Be Required At All Racetracks:
A couple of years ago, Eric Halstrom — the GM at Horseshoe Indianapolis — brought in a drone to offer both the fans and the Stewards views from atop the action.
It was innovative. It was fun. It was exciting. It was a new look at how the races are run and how the action unfolds.
It was also a way to see if there was a possible foul that incurred in the running of a race, too.
Now, it has become painfully obvious that every racetrack in America should have a drone to offer this angle and this view to give Stewards a better review of what may or may not occur in the conduct of a race.
This weekend, the Stewards at Keeneland surely needed every tool that is possible and at their disposal. In addition, they may need a new pair of glasses and a rule book.
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