All hail the Illinois Breeding program!
Give me turf or give me death!
Bring on the Breeders’ Cup!
OK, so sometimes I get a bit overly excited about the horses I like, but there are worse faults to have I think. What’s the reason for my latest bit of racing giddiness? Illinois breds on the turf of course, and what a day yesterday proved to be for the Land of Lincoln runners. Not only did the key 3yo filly turf affair, the Grade 3 Pucker Up, go to state-bred runner Leading Astray, but a pair of my new favorites continued to impress on the sod. While Ioya Bigtime offered further proof that he is one of the top turf distance runners in the nation, The Pizza Man delivered against a salty group of turfing veterans.
Ioya Bigtime is for real, Jack. Any doubts of this should now be long gone after yesterday’s half-length victory over 2011 winner Rahystrada in the $200,000 Kentucky Turf Cup over the European-style course of Kentucky Downs. Keep in mind, this is the same Rahystrada that was coming off a big third place finish in the Arlington Million. As for Ioya Bigtime, the 5-year-old son of the great sire, Dynaformer, seems to have found his game in a big way since trainer Chris Block has looked to run his star long and on the grass.
First it was an easy win Arlington Park’s Grade 3 Stars and Stripes (above) at twelve panels in July. Then came a bang-up second in the inaugural $400,000 American St. Leger at 1 11/16 miles in August. Finally yesterday’s wire job in southern Kentucky may have been his best yet. Call me a dreamer, but considering the dearth of long distance turf stars in the U.S., I think strong consideration should be given for Ioya Bigtime, now 6-2-3 in 17 lifetime starts, to head west for a date in the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Turf.
Meanwhile, and back closer to home, fans of turf racing were hungry for some big performances yesterday, and The Pizza Man delivered. The good-looking and well bred son of English Channel made his sixth lifetime start on the grass yesterday and was giving up oodles of experience to his older foes in the Tex’s Zing Handicap. It mattered not though when rider Seth Martinez swung the bay gelding out wide for the drive for home, and the three-year-old gelding had the field well measured from there, eventually driving to a hard-fought victory over the game and multiple stakes winning six-year-old, Tazz.
A homebred for Midwest Thoroughbreds, and trained by Roger Brueggeman, The Pizza Man has now won five times in his six turf starts, with the only loss coming when he was way back and wide off the ridiculously slow pace of the Grade 3 American Derby. After yesterday, I only feel more strongly that this one will prove that 3 ½ length defeat was due to unfortunate circumstance rather than a lack of ability to handle graded stakes types. In fact, you can mark my words right now … look for The Pizza Man to deliver once again in next month’s Hawthorne Derby.
Photos courtesy of Four Footed Fotos