Monday, August 18, 2008

Weekend Review

Weekend Overview: Back from vacation and glad to be back for the end of summer and the build up to the Breeders' Cup. Aside from the Alabama it was not a very memorable weekend. It left a few people wondering what conclusions they could draw. The answer is not many. The scratch of Red Rocks seemingly left the Sword Dancer to Dancing Forever but he was quite terrible and one wonders if he has not been overrated from the start. None of the principles did any running in the Del Mar Oaks and the supposedly unbeatable Bold Union looked second rate in the Adirondack. As for the Alabama I think it turned out poorly for Music Note who had the rougher trip. This result likely means Proud Spell gets the Eclipse but in terms of ability they're very close.

Performance of the Week: Grand Couturier obviously loves to spend his summers in Saratoga. He's run in the Sword Dancer three times and he has two wins and a third to show for it. This was his best performance yet. Despite the fact that the field was much weaker than in other renewals it's easy to see why this was his best race. He settled nicely and had no impact in the early running. Things got interesting as Garcia brought him right up the rail and onto the heels of the pace setter Presious Passion who had previously won the United Nations after setting a similar slow pace. Grand Couturier had tried to slip to his inside but got shut off hard. The late runners were coming on the outside as well led by champion Better Talk Now. So when when Grand Couturier regathered himself and shot to the front, this time outside the pacesetter, it was quite shocking to see him not only claim the lead but continue to widen his advantage to the line. He was far and away the best horse in the race.

Race of the Week: The Alabama will be a solid contender for race of the year to date. It was exactly what racing craved. The two best routing fillies of the generation going head to head all the way down the lane. Proud Spell had the better trip and about halfway through the race I wondered if Music Note might fire at all. But she came with a determined run and Proud Spell did extremely well to hold on. In both match up's the filly got first run had the advantage. If we're lucky enough to see them face off again you can bet both riders will want the initiative. the one sour note is that they don't seem like they're on course to meet again. The Proud Spell camp definitely seems to be of the opinion that this should be the defining race for divisional honours. Going to the Cotillion and skipping the BC instead of contesting the G-1's at Belmont and showing up on championship day is definitely a weaker schedule than I'd like to see.

Flop of the Week: Dancing Forever was simply terrible in the Sword Dancer. It's hard to find an excuse for him. Surely ground was not all to blame, maybe you can say he needed the race. However you look at it he ran well below expectations. It might make his price in the Joe Hirsch better but he showed a worrying lack of vigor.

TCR Movers and Shakers:
The Three Year Old Female Division saw a pivotal contest take place in the Alabama. Proud Spell retook the lead from Indian Blessing and distanced herself a bit from Music Note. She'll need the lead too because all indications are that she is not going to the Breeders' Cup and the Cotillion (G-2) will be her next start. Meanwhile Music Note will head back to Belmont for the Gazelle (G-1) and likely the Beldame (G-1). Run Away And Hide is narrowly edging Azul Leon at the head of the Two Year Old Male Division. He looks like a solid colt but not one that needs to be feared.

A look at the TC Power Rankings reveals that a no less than four divisions have new leaders. Dancing Forever fell from the pinnacle of power in the Turf Male division. The Arlington Million winner Spirit One takes over. Both Saratoga juvenile winners Run Away And Hide and Mani Bhavan sit atop their divisional power rankings and Proud Spell upset Music Note to reclaim top spot. Proud Spell, Music Note and Indian Blessing are all closely ranked and any one of the three could still grab the unofficial title of "best" Three Year Old Female.

Tip O'the Cap: It actually happened last Monday but I wanted to raise my cap to Ferocious Fires and his connections. Unless you follow New York racing closely you likely don't know who this horse is but Ferocious Fires is a 5 year old Lite The Fuse entire who recently won 8th career race from 9 starts. He has run almost exclusively in NY bred races but he now has 4 restricted stakes wins and is undefeated on the dirt. He has obviously had an abundance of physical issues as he has managed just 4 starts since October of 2006. But they've taken their time with him and he's rewarded them with two facile restricted stakes victories at Saratoga this summer. He's in great form right now and they might even squeeze a third start out of him before racing goes back to Belmont.

KC Handicapping: Since I was on vacation I did not manage any picks or analysis aside from continuing my attempt at public handicapping. It's going rather badly if you haven't been following. I'm well behind the recognized pro's. I guess that's why they get paid to publish their picks. Still I have a good time doing it and it helps me stay involved with the Saratoga meet.

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