It was a wild weekend, filled to the brim with excitement in the industry of Thoroughbred Racing. Uncle Mo was the talk of the town at Saratoga, even though the spotlight was centered on the track’s premier event, the Travers Stakes. Sunday it was The Factor’s day to prove he was over his minor ankle injury and for Twirling Candy to show he could be just as brilliant at 10 furlongs as he is at nine and below.
All races impressed this writer, even though two horses came up slightly short, if you could call their courageous finishes such. Stay Thirsty proved his dominance when he took a strangle hold of his division with a gutsy win in the Travers, after his 4 length romp in the Jim Dandy. The Factor ran his older rival, Smiling Tiger into submission in the Pat O’Brien, finishing only a couple of ticks off the track record. Twirling Candy rated beautifully in the early stages of the Pacific Classic, before closing like a monster only to fall a nose short of Acclamation, who now owns the track record for 10 furlongs. Uncle Mo also showed a new dimension in the Kings Bishop, rating off the pace before displaying push button acceleration in the stretch. He ran too good a race to lose, but Caleb’s Posse still found a way to stick his nose down first.
The question I have is whose performance was the best over the weekend? Was it one of the tough luck runner-ups, or the showcased winners? Fourth on my list would have to be Twirling Candy. I love the son of Candy Ride and think he is a huge talent that is finally starting to put it all together. I think the rider may have gotten him beat in this spot, not the distance. A distance challenged horse would not have been closing so gamely, coming only a nose short of being the track record holder. It was his best effort yet at the distance, and hopefully next time he ends up on the winning side of that short margin.
The Factor was a brilliant as could be in the Pat O’Brien, showing that he had lost none of the spark that made him one of the most scintillating three year olds this spring. He broke running and so did the formidable Smiling Tiger and the Factor simply ran him into submission. The fact that he was able to conquer his elders off a layoff and come so close to a track record is simply brilliant. The only thing that may hold this win from top spot is the shortness of the field, with the only true challenge coming from Smiling Tiger. Others faced multiple challengers and much more adversity through their races.
Second is Stay Thirsty’s Travers Stakes. He was up against the Preakness, Belmont and Haskell winners along with several other very promising three year olds. Right from the gate he engaged the Preakness winner Shackleford for the lead, floating his rival four wide in a quarter 23 and 2. He then settled beautifully only to begin to get hemmed in behind that rival by Moonshine Mullen who loomed to his outside. Around the turn the colt was asked for his run and he gave it, looking like he was home free when he made easy work of Shackleford. He was not done yet, the improving Rattlesnake Bridge took aim and was charging hard, but no matter how many gears he found Stay Thirsty found another. In the end Stay Thirsty staved his rival off by just over a length. It was a gritty performance, and though not dazzling, one cannot deny this colt ran huge.
Number one was Uncle Mo. Nobody had the odds more stack against him than this colt. He was coming back from a liver disease that sidelined him for over four months, and his comeback was in the most prestigious sprint race for his peers, the King's Bishop. The race contained the winners of the Hutcheson, Jersey Shore, Woody Stephens, and Amsterdam. Uncle Mo broke well but dropped back, nearly five lengths off a furious speed duel before assuming command at the quarter pole. He had a good lead, but Caleb’s Posse came flying at the end to nab him. Uncle Mo received a 106 BSF, had run the fastest seven furlongs on the card, not counting Caleb, showed a new dimension in rating, and ran his final eighth in 12.38 seconds. He was able to do all this while running the entire race without his right hind shoe.
It was a great weekend where we saw the rise of a star and a comeback of two more. They all ran their hearts out and all ran like champions, but Mo took the cake. He showed brilliance and at the same time grit and determination. He still remains number one.