Moonshine Mullin is Reformed and Then Some
Who says there are no real bargains left in the world? Last August, and just days after Will Take Charge won a thrilling edition of the Grade 1 Travers, Moonshine Mullin was claimed for a measly $25,000 at Remington Park. A few months after that, and only one day after Will Take Charge clinched an Eclipse Award with a victory in the Grade 1 Clark, Moonshine Mullin was claimed by his current connections for $40,000 at the same Oklahoma oval. Recent history would suggest that the pair had little in common, although interestingly, they had both finished as the runner-up in Saratoga’s Jim Dandy Stakes, albeit two years apart. On Saturday the pair would meet at Churchill Downs, and the the Grade 1 Stephen Foster result would go decidedly to the older upstart. Winning his first grade 1, and his fifth straight race, Moonshine Mullin, under an energy conserving ride by Calvin Borel, rebuked a strong challenge from Departing, before spurting clear in mid-stretch to win Saturday night’s feature in convincing style. Coming off a gutsy win in Grade 2 Alysheba on Kentucky Oaks Day, the six-year-old son of Albert the Great has now sufficiently proven that he belongs with the elite older males in the nation. As for Will Take Charge, he rebounded from a lackluster finish in the Alysheba to be along for second on the far outside. My question is; will D. Wayne ever give him a rest?
A Fleet Iotapa
I’ve always thought of Iotapa as a two-turn filly. In her previous race, the daughter of Afleet Alex was thrown to the seven furlong wolves in the Grade 1 Humana Distaff, or one wolf in particular, in Midnight Lucky. The result for the California invader was not pretty. It probably was a good race to draw a line through. I know, I should've told you all this before the race, right? Going right to the front from her rail post position under one of my favorite speed riders, Joe Talamo, the John Sadler trained miss controlled the race from the outset. The rest, including Eastern invader, Grace Hall, tried to stay with her, but to no avail. She opened up on the far turn, and proceeded to pour it on the lane. Iotapa reached the wire just better than ten lengths in front to build upon a solid lifetime record of 11-5-4-1. The Vanity might not have been particularly strong for a grade 1, but her performance sure was, as was the final time of 1:47.64 for the nine furlongs. Iotapa now should join the likes of Close Hatches, Princess of Sylmar, Beholder, and Untapable, and move into everyone’s list of Breeders’ Cup Distaff contenders. A race at the same track and distance as Saturday’s Vanity. ZATT’s Star of the Week, is … Iotapa!
Obviously He's Back
There was a point last fall when I wondered whether the five-year-old gelding, Obviously, had lost a step. Umm, no. Now six, he was sensational in winning the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile on Saturday. Flaunting the kind of speed that he is well known for, the Irish-bred son of Choisir (Aus) made a top notch Santa Anita grass field look rather average. Making every pole a winning one, Obviously threw down a 1:08 flat to maintain his advantage through three-quarters of the turf test, before unleashing his patented early stretch spurt out. Despite having a number of good horses like Summer Front, Tom’s Tribute, Silentio, Jack Milton, and Winning Prize in the rearview mirror, the race was as good as over by the eighth pole. From the eighth pole to the wire, he only needed to stay upright to hit the wire an unthreatened winner. The particulars of the race show a 1 ½ length victory and a final time of 1:32.66 over the firm turf, but more importantly than that, it was clear that one of the best turf milers over the last few years is back. Now 10-of-18 lifetime on grass, Obviously is unlucky to have come around at the same time as Wise Dan, but now perfect in two starts in 2014, he only needs to maintain this type of form into November, to once more represent a legitimate threat to the two-time Horse of the Year.
Tapiture Drops Down to Dominate
Tapiture finished 15th of 19 in the Kentucky Derby, but as is the case of so many that test their talents in the Run for the Roses, there was more to the story than his ultimate poor placing. Truth be told, I didn’t like his chances going into the Derby, but after studying the film of the California Chrome victory, Tapiture was one that I identified as running significantly better than his result. Forced out wide most of the race, the son of Tapit lost serious ground, but was still able to launch a strong move on the outside to be in contention on the far turn. It is no wonder that a very tough first mile took all the starch out of his finish. Back against an easier bunch, and at a more favorable distance, Tapiture seemed well placed in Saturday’s Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs. Sure enough, the Winchell runner had a relatively easy time with the grade 3 competition. The even money chalk took over the race at the head of the stretch and coasted home to a facile two-length score under Rosie Napravnik. Now a three-time graded stakes winner, Tapiture might not fit in with the top handful of three-year-olds in this crop, but after that, he is as good as anyone.
Captain L. Albano
Speaking of other good three-year-olds, this is one I had been waiting for ever since the trip I saw him receive on my spring sojourn to the Big Easy. Albano was knocked out at a key time in the Louisiana Derby, and could do no better than fifth place that day, but I just knew there was a whole lot more under the hood of the Brereton Jones and Larry Jones charge than that placing represented. I had to wait awhile, but finally the son of Istan returned in Sunday’s Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park. Unfortunately, the odds I hoped for didn’t materialize after the scratch of Uncle Sigh, as he went off as a virtual co-favorite with the Tampa Bay Derby winner, Ring Weekend. Still, the 13-10 odds looked like a bargain, after the blocky shaped bay blew up the field with a decisive move on the turn. By the time the Pegasus runners hit the straightaway, it was clear that his main competition of Encryption and Ring Weekend would have absolutely no answers for Albano on this day. Neither would anyone else as Albano cruised home the easiest of winners. The final margin was 6 ½, and the final time for the 8 ½ panels was 1:44.17. Look for Mark Valeski’s little half brother to come back for the million dollar Haskell Invitational late next month, and if today’s result is any indication, he will be in with a legitimate shot to win the signature race at Monmouth Park.
Rocket Time the Rocket Man
Yesterday’s cover boy, Irish You Well, was not the only large and in charge maiden winner this weekend. Back in Louisville, Kentucky on the afternoon following the big evening card of Foster Night, a strapping son of Tiz Wonderful made mincemeat of the seventh race at Churchill Downs. After a promising debut in which he rallied for third, Rocket Time was well backed in the maiden special weight at odds of even money in the field of eight. Showing much more early go than in his first, six weeks after his debut, and donning new blinkers, Rocket Time went right to the lead this time. Carving out uncontested fractions of :22.94, :46.02, and 1:10.61, while not being asked by the previous night’s hero, Calvin Borel, the race favorite started to leave the field behind entering the stretch and proceeded to lengthen his advantage under the famed twin spires. By the time the after burners were switched off, Rocket Time was 6 ¼ lengths clear of a well intended son of Empire Maker, named Act of Heroism. Asked for very little late, the winner stopped the clock in a rocket time of 1:35.65 for the flat mile. Produced by the Pulpit mare, Schism, the Frank Fletcher owned, and Al Stall, Jr. trained sophomore was a $150,000 2yo in training purchase last March. Look for him in a stakes race near you in the not too distant future.