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TrackNotes: At The Top Of A Supremely Tasty Pipe

Do we love our four seasons in Chicago?

When you can't live in Palm Springs, that's what you say.

We're in the middle of the baseball season, which will soon turn into a race. What am I here? George Carlin? The football season is right around the corner. And our Blackhawks are already preparing for their season.

Tangent: Not to step on the Beachwood baseball turf of Marty or Roger, but why do the MLB morons not have the Cubs and Sox play an odd number of games so as to allow bragger's rights? Screw Padres at Red Sox. But when it come to Cubs-Sox or Yankees-Mets, have they no meaning? And don't get me started on the umpiring.

Simply put, it's always Thoroughbred horse racing season, 364 every year, with cleansing on Christmas Day.

But you'd miss out if you didn't know or feel the rhythms, nuances, sine and cosign of the waves of racing. And right now, we are on the very top of a supremely tasty one, a Banzai pipe, East and West. Hang on. It's Duke Kahanamoku time.

The preparation races and the Triple Crown itself seem like a long time ago. Why, Ragin' Rajon and D-Wade came to Chicago, Chris Sale perfected his tailoring skills and Rahm Emanuel is hanging on for dear life to the undercarriage of the #126 on Harrison on the way to Austin Boulevard. A lot has happened since the Belmont.

Del Mar is running strong. Saratoga is, as always, in stride. As jim dandy of a day Jim Dandy Day is today, it's also just a prelude to Travers Day, the Summer Derby.

We had a couple for the ages just last week.

Songbird, the jaw-dropping and most-beautiful-in-every-way bestest filly in the land got it started Sunday in the prestigious Coaching Club American Oaks - 99th edition - at Saratoga.

Class willed out as 'Bird and the fine Carina Mia battled into the last furlong-plus, Songbird looking to me like she may have needed the race, although it was her second off the layoff. But our darling found much, much more and ran away from Carina to win by more than 5. Did I mention jaw dropping? She's only 3-years-old.

Good gosh, California Chrome is good and nice smart and man, do people like him more and more.

'Chrome is not America's horse just because his connections say he is, but those in the know understand he's as compelling a horse and a story as America has.

Chilling since his thrilling victory in the Dubai World Cup in March, our 'Chrome was set to go in the 75th San Diego Handicap, the one where Native Diver made enough bones to have a race named after him.

His chief rival figured to be Dortmund and that's exactly how it turned out. Triple Crown performer in 2015, appearances in the Kentucky Derby (third) and Preakness Stakes (distant fourth) and off since that very same Native Diver Stakes in November, it didn't show much as he and 'Chrome, in the two and one holes, respectively, hooked up from the git go and duked it out all the eight-and-a-half furlongs.

Boy oh boy does that California Chrome have heart. He never does it or makes it looks easy - or does he? - and in one of the best races of 2016, he finally repelled Dortmund to cross the wire a neck and short shoulder ahead. Next stop? The Pacific Classic.

Now we're talkin'. The surf is still up so grab some board and paddle to the 53rd Jim Dandy, nine furlongs from Saratoga.

With the stars Creator, winner of June's Belmont Stakes; chronic, mediocre wiseguy Laoban; talented but stumbling, Nyquist foil Mohaymen; and Destin, needing one since a win in the Tampa Bay Derby and a very tough nose beat in that same Belmont.

We'll also see at The Spa super distancer Flintshire in the 10.5-furlong Bowling Green on the turf. As good as he is, he brexited from Europe - second in both the Dubai Sheema Classic and Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in 2015 - to dominate in America in the 2014 Breeders' Cup Turf and the Manhattan Stakes six weeks ago.

Saturday's nightcap will feature the ladies in the 46th Clement L. Hirsch, Grade I, mile-and-a-sixteenth from Del Mar.

We'll have another marvelous opportunity to see Beholder, the six-year-old wonder mare, who seeks her ninth straight win. She comes in off a win over rival Stellar Wind, who runs here too, in Santa Anita's Vanity Mile June 4th.

Trainer Richard Mandella is very cautious with his superstar; she's only run twice this year. But all she does is win. Who am I to say?

You right-coasters hang tight down the Hudson, jump on the turnpike and land at Jersey Shore's Monmouth Park on Sunday for the weekend's best race, the 49th Haskell Invitational.

Coming off a Kentucky Derby win and a puzzling third in the Preakness, Nyquist leads the way, albeit with some what-have-you-done-lately curiosity from the fans. Breeders' Cup Juvenile, San Vicente and the Florida Derby also in his saddle bags, Nyquist drew the words "Triple Crown" from the mouth vapor of the knuckleheads who believe the fans "deserved" a Triple Crown winner back-to-back off the legendary American Pharoah.

You've never seen so many Conestoga Bandwagoneers jump so fast in your life. Ward Bond, I mean Doug O'Neill, has to be seeking vindication or revenge, or something, but he has to be at least a little worried over the chance of slop over that New Jersey ridge up ahead.

Nyquist still has a chance to be Horse of the Year in 2016, but he'll have to earn it, starting Sunday.

Lo and behold, who's that in the six hole? None other than Exaggerator, who broke through in the Santa Anita Derby slop and won in the Preakness slop. Oh, look, Curley said. There's a chance of slop in Springsteen Country on Sunday.

And there's also Gun Runner, winner over not much, but talented nonetheless. He finished third to these previous two in the Derby. This is a must-break-through race for him.

One more thing, Columbo. Watch out for American Freedom. Coming off a win in the Iowa Derby - don't laugh, that's called spotting a horse - he wheels back in 11 days under the tutelage of Bob Baffert, who has won this race eight times! Including 2015 with, what's his name? American Pharoah. The silver-haired one knows how to win this race.

Yes, these are the days, and races, of our 2016 lives. The drama only promises to build from here.

Gold Note
It's a sad note, but he's worth remembering.

Seeking the Gold, a great runner and a great sire, passed away Thursday at Claiborne Farm. A stately 31 years old, he was euthanized due to the infirmities of old age.

Talking about pedigree, he was the son of Mr. Prospector out of the Buckpasser mare Con Game; 'Gold won the Dwyer, Peter Pan and Swale Stakes, and was a bridegroom second in the Travers Stakes, Wood Memorial, Haskell, Metropolitan Handicap (Met Mile), and the Gotham Stakes. He ran second to the legendary Alysheba in the 1988 Breeders' Cup Classic. He won more than $2.3 million racing.

Some of whom I remember, he sired Dubai Millenium, Seeking the Pearl, Heavenly Prize, Flanders, Catch the Ring, Bob and John, Cape Town and Jazil.

He more than earned his keep in the breeding shed, demanding as much as $250,000 per foal. He was pensioned (retired) in 2008.


Tom Chambers is our man on the rail. He welcomes your comments.

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