What we learned: Covfefe remains exciting even in defeat

June 24, 2019 10:12am
Covfefe finished a fading third in Saturday's Roxelana Overnight Stakes at Churchill Downs, but with the strong effort, she reaffirmed her status as the best 3-year-old filly sprinter around. She ran an excellent race in defeat.

Also, Mia Mischief benefited from a pressing trip and won. While she ran great as well and may use this as a stepping stone toward further graded stakes wins this year, Covfefe remains an exciting prospect given her age.

Plus, Covfefe endured more under Saturday's pace scenario.

As expected, Covfefe burst out to the early lead, with Classy Act pressing her and Mia Mischief to their outside. Jockey Shaun Bridgmohan kept Covfefe a bit wide in the initial stages, possibly to help her maintain some breathing room. But she still had the worst spot with two horses outside. 

Covfefe continued on the lead into the turn and raced closer to the rail, while Mia Mischief moved alongside and Classy Act folded. The leading pair hit the half-mile mark in 44.41 seconds.

Mia Mischief needed to work hard, but she eventually got the better of Covfefe, while Awestruck took advantage of the pace and stole the runner-up spot.

The field initially split into two groups separated by 4 ½ lengths, indicative of a fast pace. Otherwise, Awestruck and Honey Bunny are not going to come into the picture late. Because the pace was contested with three horses up front racing next to each other, it also helped those two closers rally.

At worst, Covfefe was second best, even though she finished third. For a 3-year-old filly making her debut against older rivals -- especially Mia Mischief, who just won the Humana Distaff (G1) -- that was a great effort.

Covfefe remains the top filly in the 3-year-old sprint division, and it will take an extreme pace meltdown to stop her in the Test Stakes (G1) later this summer at Saratoga.

Are the Ohio Derby numbers right?

Owendale slipped up the rail to take the Ohio Derby (G3) at Thistledown after a somewhat surprising stretch battle with Math Wizard.

As expected, the pace set up for Owendale and Math Wizard with Dare Day bursting to the lead, and Bethlehem Road and Going for Gold following him.

Long Range Toddy chased the trio in fourth, while Math Wizard saved ground in fifth and Owendale trailed. Dare Day opened in 22.66 and 47.62.

TimeformUS didn't mark the pace as fast, but those numbers appear at least moderate or faster. With three speed horses who needed the lead up front, it makes more sense that they set the table up for the classier trio. 

Eventually the speed folded and Math Wizard took command at the top of the stretch. Long Range Toddy ranged up outside and Owendale geared up inside. But Math Wizard figured to hang just a little bit, and Owendale fought him off for the win. Long Range Toddy came up empty and faded.

TimeformUS awarded Owendale a 124 figure and Math Wizard a 122. But Math Wizard earned a 110 in the Wood Memorial Stakes (G2) and 114 in the Oaklawn Invitational when losing against weaker, making it questionable he is that good moving forward. The same line goes for Owendale, who ran his career-best.

On TimeformUS, Owendale and Math Wizard ran faster numbers than King for a Day and Maximum Security in the Pegasus Stakes. But if Owendale and Math Wizard met those two horses as well as Tacitus, Game Winner and War of Will, would anyone consider Owendale or Math Wizard the favorite?

Only two more months until the Travers Stakes (G1) at Saratoga. Owendale's now in the mix. 

This United Nations nothing special

Hunter O’Riley won the United Nations Handicap (G1) at Monmouth Park in a snoozer. Zulu Alpha finished second and Channel Cat ran third.

If the name of the race was taken out and people only read the first three horses’ names, no one would suggest it was a Grade 1-quality field. Look at the winner’s record. Hunter O’Riley’s previous biggest win came in the 2017 Bowling Green Stakes (G2), and after that point he lost six straight races.

Zulu Alpha won the W.L. McKnight Stakes (G3) and Mac Diarmida Stakes (G2) earlier this year at Gulfstream. But when he faced a field with substance in the Man o’War Stakes (G1), he ran seventh.

Channel Cat is average. In the Manhattan Handicap (G1) earlier this month, he produced a mild bid and finished a closing fifth by 3 ¾ lengths.

No one will remember the United Nations a month from now.

Arizona Downs' struggles continue

I intended to help Arizona Downs, if only slightly, by highlighting one of the recently re-opened track's races in my Friday picks column. But the race was canceled due to a power outage Saturday. This track can't catch a break right now.

One of the struggles revolves around out-of-state signals. According to Arizona Downs owner and partner Tom Auther, their “OTBs need access to the same robust network of signals that Turf Paradise offers at its OTBs.”

Thus, Arizona Downs suspends racing after Sunday.

Hopefully the situation works for them, as it is not good for one track -- in this case, Turf Paradise -- to dominate in a state as large as Arizona.


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