Dude did what the Dude does
It always bothers me when some racing fans are so quick to figuratively bury our stars. It’s almost like they enjoy seeing the mighty fall. These horses are not machines, and 99.9% of them have their bad days. Case in point, Game On Dude. The California gelding has had a fantastic career, but when two of his last three races were off his high standard, I saw more epitaphs written for him than Princess Diana. I wonder what those people are thinking now. Game On Dude, as he has done so many times in his career, threw down the gauntlet early and often in yesterday’s Big Cap, and when the real running began on the far turn, some of the best horses in the world had no answers for the free-wheeling seven-year-old. All I can say is good for him. Let me add this as well … It’s not nice to bury anyone who still has so much life in them.
Palace Malice displays True Grit
As a May foal, Palace Malice was among the youngest of his generation, but by the time the Belmont Stakes rolled around, the striking son of Curlin was putting it all together. Don’t forget, he followed that classic win up by beating Will Take Charge on the square in the Jim Dandy, and then he was very unlucky not to win the Travers. The trip out west for the BC Classic proved to be a bit much for him after a long hard campaign, but keep in mind that his unfortunate start took him out of his game that day. So, I was very much looking forward to see what a freshened, and more mature Palace Malice would look like. To tell you the truth, I saw even more than I expected. In a field loaded with talented milers, the favorite son of Aiken, South Carolina went after a blistering pace, before re-rallying down the lane to rebuke strong rallies from Uncaptured and then Golden Ticket. It was as classy, as it was gritty. I think lovable old Cot Campbell is going to have a lot of fun with this one in 2014.
Chrome shines in the California sun
Anyone who still questions the class and talent of the California-bred California Chrome, is simply not watching the same last three races of his that I am. This horse is the real deal as sure as the nose on my face, and you know what, I will no longer qualify his name with the obligatory ‘California-bred’ tag. He is too good for that. There is nothing wrong with wondering whether or not he can get it done in a totally different type of race - ten furlongs at Churchill Downs, but after dispatching open company in the San Felipe, there can no longer be any excuse for underestimating the obvious ability of California Chrome.
Three-year-old turf fillies impress
Not many horses can go from a maiden sprint in their lifetime debut to win a mile race against a full field of toughies in their second lifetime race, but that is exactly what Diversy Harbor did in the China Doll, and she did it in the exact same freight train closing style that she did in the maiden. She may have a misspelled name, I’ve given golf lessons at Diversey Harbor, but this daughter of Curlin looks like a running fool. However, she was not the most impressive 3yo turf filly of Saturday. That honor goes to Testa Rossi. In making her first start since finishing a good second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Fillies, the daughter of Dr. Fong cleaned, pressed, fluffed, and folded a full field of 12 in the Florida Oaks at Tampa Bay Downs. Her explosive move on the far turn was a turn of foot not often seen on this side of the Atlantic. I cannot wait to see what she does next.
Daniel Centeno gives riding lesson at Tampa Bay Downs
I’m not entirely sure which three-year-old from the Tampa Bay Derby will turn out to be the best in the long run, but what I am sure of is that Daniel Centeno rode rings around all those better known riders coming in from Gulfstream and other bigger tracks than little old Tampa Bay Downs. What started out as a question as to who would go to the early lead, turned into a riding gem from the local jock. Five times the champion rider at the Oldsmar oval, Centeno took the initiative with the 14-1, St. Elias Stable and West Point Thoroughbreds longshot, and the rest, as they say, is history. The 1:11.41 first three-quarters in a route race at Tampa is solid, but I’m not sure what the other riders were thinking letting Ring Weekend open up about eight lengths heading into the far turn. Clearly, Ring Weekend had the needed class to sprint home to the three length win, but much of the credit needs to go to the 42-year-old Centeno. Consider his home turf more than defended.
Sahara Sky is back on track
With wins last year in the Palos Verdes, San Carlos, and Met Mile, we already knew that Sahara Sky was a serious racehorse, but with more than eight months off due to physical setbacks, and then a less than stellar return race, I don’t think I was alone in questioning whether Sahara Sky could handle a strong field in defense of his San Carlos crown. How silly of me. Still eighth in early stretch, the six-year-old son of Pleasant Tap (an old favorite of mine), turned on the afterburners and inhaled the seven horses in front of him to win the fast seven furlong race by a half-length. Don’t let the small winning margin fool you - this was impressive. I’m already looking forward to seeing him in what I am anticipating could be the best edition of the Met Mile in a long time.
I believe he still Will Take Charge
One way of looking at it is that Will Take Charge is 0-for-2 in 2014. I don’t it see that way. Sure, technically he has finished second in both his starts as an older horse, but I’m here to tell you that there should be no shame in either performance. Two tracks souped up to produce blazing times certainly did not help, but more than that, neither the Big Cap, nor the Donn gave him as fair a shot to win as the winner of each race. Nothing away from either Lea, or obviously Game On Dude, but there will come a time in the near future, when both the track, and the race set-up will be much more favorable for the big late-running son of Unbridled’s Song. When that happens, don’t look for Will Take Charge after the race anywhere but in the winner’s circle.