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In our past week or so of shows, the passwords were "Wow," "Dammit," "Uh-Oh," "Splash," and "Delicious!"
It started on July 30th, Jim Dandy Day, with an audible "Oh my god" that levitated me off the couch and sent the cats running when distance/turf wonder Flintshire, having Fibber McGee's closet thrown at him by three others, rallied in the final three furlongs for a scintillating 1 3/4-length win over Grand Tito.
The SportsNet New York crew had said the plan for the others had to be the old three-man trap. They did, with only partial results, futile in a small four-horse race.
Rounding the turn and looking for a checkout lane, Flintshire just went wide and, with barely a snap of leather from JJ Castellano, ran away. The chart says it all: "before being tipped four wide three-sixteenths from home, got roused under a hand ride and given a single tap to the off side shoulder at that station, rallied inhaling the compact field to take over inside the sixteenth marker and prevailed comfortably as the rider pleased in hand to the finish."
On to the Jim Dandy, I can honestly say I didn't like many, or maybe any of them.
Winstar/Bobby Flay hypester Creator had survived to nip up for the Belmont Stakes win and his beaten foe that day, Destin, also made it to the Dandy. Mohaymen, fourth in the Derby, showed up, as did Governor Malibu, fourth in the Belmont. It didn't even turn out to be a good betting race as the odds dipped on all of them.
And then came Laoban, a frickin' maiden. His best had been a lose-the-lead second in the Gotham in March and he couldn't get out of the gate cleanly in the Blue Grass, Preakness or Dwyer.
But this time, it was Mohaymen, just inside Laoban, who stumbled from the gate and nearly went down. Laoban shot for the lead and never looked back, but not in a heroic way. With middling fractions of :24.56 for a quarter-mile and :49.07 for the first half, Laoban was setting a pace that wasn't a pace. Fast enough to stay ahead and keep the other off him, but not so blistering for him to fall apart and let others clunk up. Mohaymen lost it in the first strides and Creator finished last. Laoban paid $56.00, $17.20 and $5.60.
Later that Saturday, Beholder, winner of her previous eight and 11 out of 12, met her match in Stellar Wind in a thrilling Clement L. Hirsch at Del Mar.
It became a two-horse race, Divina Comedia finished nearly 10 lengths behind, as Beholder and 'Wind hooked up and battled all the way. Exchanging leads all the way, Beholder on the inside could not repel Stellar Wind, surrendered and finished only a half-length back.
Now six years old, the first thing you wonder about is Beholder's near future. Winner of 17 races, just two fewer than Zenyatta, she beat the boys in near-record time in last year's Pacific Classic. While we would always love to see her in a Breeders' Cup Classic, the BC Distaff now seems more logical. Mares her age have been known to simply tire of racing, and the Hirsch was an all-out effort. Let's just hope she finishes out this season in good form.
The next day, our mystery guest chalked in "Exaggerator," with the panel challenged to guess the occupation "I only run well in the mud."
As speculated last time, it came up a delicacy for the Haskell Invitational at the Jersey Shore's Monmouth Park, as if Mother Nature began her Sunday gravy on Saturday night, so as to have just the right consistency for tomorrow afternoon when everybody got to the house.
We all kept saying it seemed like yesterday when Mama put on the wedding soup and mud pies for dessert at Monmouth back in November '07 when Curlin was the guest. The weather was frightful, but he quietly spooned the soup and finished the whole bowl. Everybody agreed, he was a real go-getter.
Probably hating the slop, Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist and Mario Gutierrez, still being criticized for his ride aboard Nyquist in the sloppy Preakness, took off at the start along with American Freedom, Awesome Slew and Gun Runner. With the first three fractions in :22 and three, :46 and three and 1:11, the quick pace developed into a duel between Nyquist and Bob Baffert's American Freedom, Rafael Bejarano aboard. Exaggerator seemed well behind, but always had the leaders hooked, and steadily began reeling them in on the far side. Waiting for the leaders to tire, he came spinning out of the turn, went wide and hit the Slip'N Slide on the stretch and prevailed by a growing length-and-a-half.
Bejarano filed an objection that Exaggerator cut in front of him in the stretch, which he did, but the stewards ruled Kent Desormeaux's horse was well past.
In a variation of the no-leg-to-stand-on argument, Desormeaux said in the winner's circle "Bejarano knew, but like he said, it's a million-dollar race. He had to (object)." Deliciously, Desormeaux pushed himself away from the table.
But race fans are still stumped: Can Exaggerator win like this on a dry track? He, and many of those we've talked about today, figure to get off the Pullman Palace Car at The Spa for Saratoga's Travers Stakes. Like any vacation in the north woods, some years it's just plain rainy up there the whole time. Why, I saw a Travers once where it got so dark, I almost thought they'd have to have a standing start before the lightning came. It will be fun to guess what's in the head of Exaggerator trainer Keith Desormeaux. And us pari-mutuel participants.
There was one more.
Frosted. The Whitney. Grade I. $1.25 million.
Kate bar the door, we got a horse, and what he did and might do?
I dunno, I'm not a horseman, but they say a horse knows when another might have his number. They also say a horse matures at four. Does a horse get ticked off?
Beaten in the Florida chain Holy Bull and Fountain of Youth, he did an 18-point Beyer Speed Figure improvement in winning the Wood Memorial 15-plus months ago. Then he ran into, guess who, American Pharoah in the Kentucky Derby and Belmont in 2015.
Ungodly losses to Texas Red and Keen Ice in the Jim Dandy and Travers - which 'Pharoah lost too - Frosted, the son of Tapit (Pulpit) and Deputy Minister mare Fast Cookie must have been wondering.
So he goes to Dubai, wins the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 (G2) but loses (fifth) to California Chrome in the Dubai World Cup.
That was late March. So Frosted comes back in early June at Belmont and annihilates the Metropolitan Handicap (Met Mile), recording a 123 Beyer Speed Figure. I immediately thought of Ghostzapper, 128 and 124 in 2004, and American Pharoah's 120 in 2015. And so many others. Today? 115+ is wonderful.
We were all amazed.
Daily Racing Form national handicapper Mike Watchmaker still puts California Chrome ahead of Frosted because of Chrome's performance in the Dubai World Cup, but, boy, are we looking forward to those two in the Breeders' Cup Classic.
Exaggerator? American Freedom?
If they want to make this fight, it will be a spectacular.
Area Track Hosts Big Race
Not to forget, but it's Arlington Million Day on Saturday.
To be honest, you look at the Europeans and you don't see standouts. Some of them who've been running in America.
One Mean Man in The Secretariat looks good, winning the American Derby prep here for this race.
In The Secretariat, Al's Gal been running a lot of races. Marypop, Elusive Million?
The Million? The Pizza Man is back. He won this last year but is a disrespected 10-1 morning line. He beat Big Blue Kitten last year, but the Kitten has scratched this year. You gotta go Euros like Decorated Knight or Wake Forest, who's been running in America, and very well. He'll be the favorite.
Betting? Include a favorite and also a longshot. Sorry, I don't know any better either.
It'll be on local Comcast SportsNet, and I'm also seeing it on an East Coast feed. If you have it in your heart or ability, avoid Howard Sudberry, Dan Roan or any of those local guys.
It's a shame. Arlington is barking at a moon that only they see, and it's sad. But it's only sad if they care. And they do not.
But that doesn't help me.
Tom Chambers is our man on the rail. He welcomes your comments.
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