Photo: Eclipse Sportswire - Liz Lamont
Groupie Doll bids farewell in high style
What can you say about Groupie Doll? She may have lost some races in her career, but she was always able to bounce back and demonstrate her extreme class, and that’s precisely what she did in her career finale. I cannot think of a better way to say goodbye to racing than her last-to-first move, followed by a waltz down the Gulfstream Park lane. It gave all her fans the ideal last chance to celebrate in both her ability and her career. Personally, my goosebumps began about midway on the far turn, and peaked around the sixteenth pole. The Hurricane Bertie performance was so impressive, in fact, that I’m sure that I’m not the only one who wondered if new owner Mandy Pope would not give the OK to one more start. Probably not, this was the way a champion should go out.
Lea: Dirt Monster
It’s happened before and it may happen again. Lea wouldn’t be the first turf horse to transition into a major winner on dirt. The most notable, of course, being the great Cigar, and just like Lea, he was also moved into Bill Mott’s barn well into his career. Lea has done absolutely everything right into his two starts this winter at Gulfstream Park. Clearly for real, it will be interesting to see if Mott is willing to stretch him out to ten furlongs, with the Breeders’ Cup Classic ultimately in mind. For now, I fully expect this track record breaking Donn Handicap winner to continue his excellent form in middle distance races on the dirt.
Candy Boy can do
Kentucky Derby mania … catch it! So, I spent countless hours last week on watching every replay I could find of every horse even remotely thought of as a 2014 Kentucky Derby contender. Guess what I found? Well, I wrote about it here, but in summary: Candy Boy was the one horse who impressed me more than any other. I liked what I saw in his physicality, his wind, and his push button acceleration. In short, he was the one three-year-old that I had not previously loved as a possible Kentucky Derby winner, that I now did. All that enjoyable work paid off in the short term, when on Saturday, Candy Boy looked like a real pro in his second run under Gary Stevens, powering by Chitu and Midnight Hawk to win the Robert B. Lewis. Look to see just how much I like him tomorrow when my brand new Down and Derby Sweet 16 comes out.
No shame for Will Take Charge
It may show up as a loss on his career record, but if I were the connections of the reigning three-year-old champ, I would be tickled to death with the way he kicked-off his four-year-old season. For many reasons, I thought him to be vulnerable in the Donn. It turns out he was, but he almost still won. As D.Wayne said after the race, it took a track record to beat him. I would also point to the speed favoring surface of the sealed Gulfstream Park main track, and a little traffic the big horse encountered along the way. The winner deserves credit for a bang-up race, but for Will Take Charge, the Donn marked his sixth consecutive excellent performance. All in all, I would say the older horse career of Will Take Charge is right on track.
Down goes The Dude!
It wasn’t quite the sudden thud of Frazier vs. Foreman circa 1973, but Game On Dude’s 5th place performance in Saturday’s San Antonio was met with a resounding flurry of negative comments throughout the online horse racing community. Gimme a break. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought Game On Dude was some claiming horse the way people are talking, rather than a winner of 15-of-30 lifetime and $5.7 million. One disappointing race in a row does not mean that he is done, a bum, or should be retired immediately. I wonder if the people that say things like that ever have a bad day themselves?
Big thinking is unique in racing
Speaking of things that make me frown, I was a little surprised to see the consensus thumbs down over NYRA’s decision to create a gigantic race card on Belmont Stakes Day. Sure there are reasons why you will miss the Met Mile on Memorial Day, or why you think ten stakes in one day is overkill. I look at it another way. A mid-season Super Bowl of racing held in New York sounds pretty good to me. I think it has the potential to create a stir, and attract new fans. Big thinking like this, and the cojones to follow through on it, is so lacking in horse racing that it makes my head hurt. The alternative is to keep things the way they are now, and practice and repeat the “Woe is me” mantra. No thanks … Good for NYRA!
Longshots come through at Gulfstream
The toteboard was lit up in graded stakes this weekend at Gulfstream Park. First a 1,600 plus dollar exacta of 14-1 Falling Sky and 139-1 Narvaez came rolling home in the Gulfstream Park Sprint on Saturday, and then 39-1 shot, Lochte put a charge into a national television audience in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap. And you know what? These bombs were gettable to anyone truly paying attention. *wink-wink*