Lexie Lou does it for Females everywhere
Add another one to the list: Makybe Diva, Ouija Board, Rags to Riches, Goldikova, Zarkava, Vodka, Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, Black Caviar, Treve, etc… In the past decade, the list of females to win big races over the boys is an impressive one, and yesterday in Canada’s oldest and most prestigious race, the Queen’s Plate, a new female star emerged from the Suburban Toronto pack to etch her name in the record books. Breaking from an outside post position in the large field, Lexie Lou was able to gain a nice position in the middle of the pack before pouncing on the turn. Down the Woodbine stretch, the Oaks winner was brave and resolute to earn the win by 1 ½ lengths under Patrick Husbands. As the second choice, it came as no great surprise that Lexie Lou won, but coming from the 14-hole in a field of 14 males, and one female, it was impressive just the same. Personally, it always makes me happy to see a female win a big race, and I know it excites the masses as well. Whether Lexie Lou will be able to build upon this win to become a true star remains to be seen, but her last two races points to a big future. It should be noted that another filly, Inglorious, won the Queen’s Plate just a few years ago, but was never able to run back to that performance. Going a little farther back, though, we remember the large hoofprints left behind by the great Dance Smartly, and her Queen’s Plate winning daughter Dancethruthedawn was no slouch either. One thing is for sure, the fillies and mares keep on keeping on. Add Lexie Lou’s name to the list … can Untapable be far behind?
Shared Belief makes a statement
I couldn’t care less whether or not you think Shared Belief has earned the right to be mentioned in the same breath as the Derby and Preakness winner, California Chrome, as one of the top three-year-olds in the nation, because at this point of his season, it does not matter. My truth says he is unbeaten in five starts, untested in all of them, and on a short list of the most exciting horses in the United States. Looking every bit the champion that he was last year, Shared Belief on Saturday did what he has done in each of his five lifetime starts … came home an effortless looking, romping winner. In the Los Alamitos Derby, he came in with very little as far as a sophomore foundation, having only an allowance sprint on his 2014 resume. It made no matter, as he waited for his cue from his new pilot Mike Smith, and when the button was pushed, he simply sprinted clear from the rest with ease. I realize it is a popular refrain right now to say that he hasn’t beaten anything, but I happen to think that Saturday’s runner-up is a nice horse. The Robert Lewis winner, Candy Boy tried hard, but had no chance to do any better than second best against Shared Belief. The final time of 1:47.01 for the nine furlongs was further validation that this is a horse we should be excited about. Just think what he might do with a little more experience under his girth. I, for one, cannot wait to see what he does next.
I can see Clearly Now
Speaking of fast times … 1:19.96. I repeat, 1:19.96. Sure the track was fast, but horses just don’t run seven-eighths of a mile that fast very often. On Saturday at Belmont, Clearly Now did just that in the $400,000 Belmont Sprint Championship, and it was every bit as impressive as it sounded. After breaking a beat slow, the four-year-old son of Horse Greeley moved up on the inside through a solid half in 45.55. When the field of nine came spinning out of the turn, a small opening was all Clearly Now would need to explode to the lead and take command. He poured it on down the lane on his way to a 6 ¼ length victory. All this despite never switching leads in the stretch. For most of last year I considered Clearly Now one of the elite sophomore sprinters in the land. Unfortunately, not much had gone right since his Bold Ruler victory last October. Clearly Now had been 0-for-4 since, but none of his performances in the Cigar Mile, Carter, Churchill Downs Handicap, or Met Mile were poor, but rather mostly unlucky. All that was swept away in less than a minute and twenty seconds on Saturday. After this breakthrough performance, I expect nothing less than to see him move forward full steam ahead towards either the Breeders’ Cup Sprint or the Dirt Mile. Either way, I consider this brand new track record holder a serious threat.
Mr Speaker of the Derby
Sometimes horses just have bad days. We can all commiserate, but yet bettors are often not all that forgiving. One bad race, and horses are quickly dismissed. That was the case for Mr Speaker, who was considered one hot turf horse just two starts back. Failure at 9-10 in Belmont’s Pennine Ridge left the son of Pulpit as a forgotten longshot at 23-1 in the inaugural $1.25 million Belmont Derby Invitational. Shame on any of us not willing to look past the last race and give the Phipps-McGaughey runner another chance at great odds. Ridden by the streaking Jose Lezcano, Mr Speaker was allowed to settle at the rear of the pack as solid fractions were carved out up front. As the field came out of the far turn, the speed was packing it in and Mr Speaker and the classy Irish invader Adelaide, were rolling. As the Irishman took the outside path to grab the lead, Mr Speaker found room on the rail. With full momentum, it looked like he might sprint away, but Adelaide still had a ton of horse, and Mr Speaker needed everything he had to fight off the game European. It was an excellent first Belmont Derby. It was brave, and it was Mr Speaker’s third graded stakes win in his last six starts. It was also a victory for American turf horses, and for a horse who should never have been let go at 23-1.
It’s Not Luck
Since running a huge 2nd in last year’s Preakness, it seems that no one talks about Itsmyluckyday anymore. I wonder why. Maybe because he was injured in the Pegasus, or maybe because he lost his first race back after the injury. Don’t look now, but Itsmyluckyday is back, and I think he is too good to be ignored for much longer. Yesterday’s facile score in the Grade Salvator Mile on United Nations Day at Monmouth Park was his third straight, and it reminded me more than a little of the really good horse we saw dominate the Gulfstream Park Derby and Holy Bull Stakes early last year. Granted he has yet to race against grade 1 competition since the aforementioned strong run at Pimlico, but I think it only a matter of time before the son of Lawyer Ron is back in the deep end of the pool. As of now, it looks like the Grade 2 Monmouth Cup at the end of the month will be next. Perhaps it is the best possible thing for the seven-time stakes winner that his trainer, Eddie Plesa, Jr. is more than willing to bring him back against less than the best for now, building his confidence until he is completely ready to strike. When that time comes, I look for Itsmyluckyday to look more like a shark than a guppie.
Chad Brown two times
It may have not rivaled the incredible card on Belmont Stakes Day, but the second huge afternoon of the grand NYRA experiment, the Stars and Stripes card on July 5, was another successful day of racing at Belmont. With 5 stakes races on the program, there were plenty of big winners, but perhaps none more so than the baby faced assassin, Chad Brown. In consecutive races the top trainer took home the big prize with two horses that could not have much less in common. First, in the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap, it was the confirmed statebred, Zivo, who made his first foray into open stakes company an amazing success. Taking full advantage of an opening on the rail, the five-year-old son of the little known sire, True Direction, swept to a surprisingly easy three length victory over a full field of eleven. Despite having won five in a row going in, only the most astute (not me) handicapper saw this one coming, as Zivo paid a healthy $29.40 for the win. In the next race, it was a well intended, young Kentucky bred filly, by way of Ireland, who would get the job done against a full field for Chad Brown. Minorette may have been 0-for-2 since arriving on American turf this year, but she had shown enough promise to gain solid support at 6-1 in the million dollar race. Taking full advantage of slow early splits, Minorette stalked and pounced, and despite a game effort from the pacesetter, Sea Queen, she powered away to win by two lengths. A solid performance that now qualifies her for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf.