Elate ran the kind of race this writer needed to see in the 1 ¼-mile Delaware Handicap (G2) yesterday. The 5-year-old mare turned in the best performance of her campaign, winning by 4 ½ lengths without effort.
After an uneventful opening half, jockey Jose Ortiz did not want to take any chances this time, and he let Elate go early with a wide move approaching the far turn. By the top of the stretch, she had secured the lead.
Under little urging in the final strides, Elate coasted home to victory.
Without a doubt, this mare loves 1 ¼ miles. But within her division, most major female dirt races are set at nine furlongs.
What if the connections forget about facing females and go for the classic distance races against males? With the older horse route division in disarray after Preservationist won the Suburban Stakes (G2) over Catholic Boy the other week, the timing is right to take a chance.
Elate will not face any monsters if she aims for the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Classic to close out her campaign. From a numbers standpoint, Elate will need to improve a few points if goes this route, as Preservationist earned a 127 TimeformUS Speed Figure in the Suburban and she earned a 122 in the Delaware, but Elate might rise to the challenge.
It is worth a shot anyway.
If Elate sticks to the Distaff division and settles for shorter races, she runs the risk of taking too long to rally and letting other horses get the jump. For runners such as Escape Clause, Blue Prize and Midnight Bisou, nine furlongs or shorter is their game, but the grinding Elate needs a longer distance.
Trainer Bill Mott is no stronger to putting a good female against males either, as he ran Royal Delta twice in the Dubai World Cup.
Also, females who win against males are remembered better. Look at Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta’s legacies. Both of them ran superb races against their own gender, but the two specific races everyone remembers are the 2009 Woodward Stakes (G1) and the Breeders’ Cup Classic in the same year.
As a 5-year-old mare, the clock is ticking on Elate to take chances.
The riderless horse
The Indiana Derby Odds & Analysis piece gave away the $33.40 exacta for $2, as the heavy favorite Mr. Money won over the 8-1 Gray Magician.
In fairness, Gray Magician was lucky to finish second because Math Wizard got blocked on the far turn at a critical point by the riderless Eskenforit.
To rewind, Eskenforit lost his jockey Julien Leparoux around the start. In some cases, this means the loose horse will run to the outside and get caught by the outrider. But, Eskenforit surprisingly kept himself in the race.
He made an early move approaching the far turn and went slightly wide, allowing Mr. Money to take the lead inside. But when Math Wizard ranged up outside on the far turn for a bid, Eskenforit took his path. In the stretch run, Math Wizard also seemed hesitant to move because of Eskenforit in his way.
Meanwhile, Eskenforit crossed the wire first ahead of Mr. Money in a game performance, albeit without the jockey’s weight slowing him down.
If nothing else, the incident shows that some horses love to run and compete, even without the jockey’s guidance.
As for Mr. Money, at 4-5 he ran the race everyone expected him to run. It is questionable whether he can handle the 1 ¼-mile Travers (G1) distance, but if the connections wish to take a shot, it is hard to argue with them.
Nothing to learn at Los Alamitos
The runner-up Parsimony is still a maiden. Not only that, but he got drowned by 47 lengths in the Blue Grass Stakes (G2) and 13 ¾ lengths in the Rebel Stakes (G2). Why is he not in maiden races?
Third-place Kingly had recently faded to fifth by 5 ¾ lengths in the Affirmed Stakes (G3) and had possible distance limitations coming into this race.
Last-place Feeling Strong won a Cal-bred optional claimer in his prior start.
Any top 3-year-old would drown the same field that Game Winner defeated. For example, put horses such as Maximum Security or King for a Day against those same horses, and they might win by more than five lengths.
On paper, the field was that bad. But the weak field does not mean Game Winner cannot win the Travers next month. It only means there is nothing to learn from the Los Alamitos Derby from a handicapping perspective.
Great return in Diana Stakes
Homerique looked poised to pick up second in the stretch, but the late lug in proved costly. In the long run though, it is still probable this filly will become a star.