Weekend Overview: Holiday weekends always make it seem as if there were two weekends in one. Zenyatta, Brass Hat, Giant Oak and Criticism all took major steps forward in their campaigns on Saturday but by the time Monday rolled around it was horses like Bribon, It's a Bird and Thorn Song that were on every one's minds. The Met Mile field seemed a bit unaccomplished going into the race but that didn't detract from the drama of actually watching it. Bribon is the best Belmont specialist since Silver Train and Smooth Air did extremely well to run him all the way to the line. Seaspeak displayed some very fine form in the Dallas Turf Cup to remain undefeated this year. He only came to hand late last year as he finished ahead of Cowboy Cal at the Keeneland Fall Meet (only to be disqualified) but he has been a monster so far this year. Get out your future wager tickets for the Arlington Million. Finallymadeit has to be one of the hardest working Graded Stakes winners around. He made his 8th start of the year and won the G-3 Memorial Day handicap at Calder. Meanwhile Giant Oak finally got the conditions fans have been waiting for. He has looked a turf horse from top to bottom since he began but this was just his first try on the sod as a three year old. There are good things to come from Giant Oak.
Thoroughbred Championship Rankings: It's a Bird and Bribon both broke into the top 10 overall and It's a Bird at least seems to have a great chance of becoming a fixture there. He really has turned into a top class two turn horse. His rise from obscurity is reminiscent of Miesque's Approvals in 2006 for the same conditioner. Zenyatta finally got off the mark in 2009 but still has plenty of ground to close on the other more accomplished females in her division. Sadly her proposed campaign means that she has no chance of being the overall #1. Criticism is the benchmark for consistency in the Turf Female division. 3 Graded Stakes wins from 4 starts has seen her climb to the head of her group and into 18th overall. She is perhaps not championship class but she does give the division a nice base of quality.
Power Rankings: The big loser this week was Game Face. She simply failed to show up in the Vagrancy and that has cost her a place in the top 5 among Female Sprinters. Evita Argentina was the recipient of her spot. Thorn Song was the only other new edition to any divisional top 5. The Graded Stakes this weekend did little to change the overall impression of who the best horses are.
Performance of the Week: With all the action at Belmont, Hollywood and Lone Star on Monday it almost seems as if Zenyatta's 2009 bow in Saturday's Milady is a distant memory. It's a race worth recalling if it's not fresh in your mind. It seemed like an odd decision for John Sherriffs to put his two best fillies in the same race. Life Is Sweet had been the best Older Female in action so far this year but obviously their trainer wasn't worried one bit. Zenyatta had some trouble on the backside and you could almost hear the apprehension. Would this be the moment that she finally got beat? In the end it seemed as if the whole race was much ado about nothing. Nothing that went on in the first 3/4 of the race seemed to matter. Zenyatta was in touching distance at the head of the stretch and once again she easily galloped her rivals into submission without being asked. Life Is Sweet is no slouch but she was also no match.
Race of the Week: I've always said that I love mile races on the grass. The Shoemaker Mile was an excellent example why. You're not going to find a race with a more bitter struggle down the stretch. Thorn Song is a very tough horse on his day and this was certainly his day. Hyperbaric and Storm Military both gave it everything they had but just could not get by the plucky gray. There were several horses with speed in this race but Smith was insistent on the lead with Thorn Song and the others backed off. That was the winning move as Thorn Song got brave around the far turn and had enough to hold off the others. Hyperbaric ran a winners race but just seemed not to have to the same desire to win. I thought he was probably more horse but was intimidated by Thorn Song. Whatsthescript was a disappointment but was ridden too close to the pace. He should have been taken back and made one run. The photo was as tight as any you'll see and Frankel's Storm Military was only a neck further behind.
Flop of the Week: As quickly as the juices of sportsmanship have been brought to a boil over the past few weeks they seem to have cooled completely with the news that Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta are unlikely to meet. Rachel Alexandra still may have a swashbuckling campaign against males in the east but Jackson is horrendously anti-synthetic and does not plan to send his star to Racing's championship day. So much for "Champions belong against champions". Zenyatta meanwhile will have a light campaign against all the older females who fail to flee California. Her final career race will be the Ladies Classic. This essentially amounts to a concession of the Horse of the Year title. It's a shame to see what is likely the best horse in racing not even try to win the ultimate title.
Tip O'the Cap: I'm a sucker for an old warrior that is still out there giving his best. You'd be hard pressed to find a horse with more hard luck than Brass Hat but he keeps coming back from the setbacks and now he's found the winners circle again. The eight year old Brass Hat was win-less since Sept of 2007 but he came from the back and nailed the classy Spice Route in the final furlong to take the Louisville Handicap. Brass Hat is closing in on $2 million in earnings and now has a stakes win on all three surfaces.
KC Handicapping: My tough week at the windows was pretty much summed up by the results of my selections on Monday. Two losing photo finishes and an ambulance ride were the sum total of my selections accomplishments. My goal is to pick winners but from 5 races this weekend I actually had two horses finish last! There were some tough breaks though, both Smooth Air and Hyperbaric ran well enough to win.
At least I managed to stay alive in Monmouth's online contest Survival At The Shore. If you're playing as well and would like to keep an eye on my progress you can add me to your "My Friends" list. My identity is predictably "Kennedy". Best of luck to everyone playing.
Weekly Record: 6(5)-0-2-1 (-$12.00 -100.00% ROI)
Overall Record: 761(420)-131-123-99 (-$134.70 -8.85% ROI)