Barbaro Updates: 229
Updates are now here.
Update 1590: Dubai World Cup day (March 31) may have another star: Lava Man takes aim at turf race in Dubai. This would be a bold move for a horse who has yet to win outside of California.
Update 1589: A little more insight into the seemingly bizarre decision to retire a perfectly healthy 3yo at this early time of year: Holy Roman Emperor retired to stud as fill-in, excerpt:
The retirement of an apparently healthy horse as promising as Holy Roman Emperor in March of his 3-year-old season is virtually unprecedented in the history of racing and is emblematic of the emphasis Coolmore places on breeding. That was evident at last year's Breeders' Cup, when Coolmore decided to run George Washington on dirt for the first time in his career in the Breeders' Cup Classic, even though, as Europe's best miler, he would have started a prohibitive favorite in the Breeders' Cup Mile. George Washington finished sixth in the Classic and was immediately retired.
It is good to hear Smarty Jones is doing well this year at stud despite a slow start: Six of First Seven Mares in Foal to Smarty Jones.
Update 1588: A little chilly first thing this morning, but it warmed up nicely once the sun got up. Moving to day light savings time three weeks early is a little odd!
I only had five to ride today. Hawty Creek had the day off after her open gallop yesterday. I took her out for a pick of grass and a good currying after I was done riding. She enjoyed the sunshine, and her coat was literally falling off.
First set was Nautical Agent, Tim was on Who's Happy. They both galloped a mile and a quarter. Coming to the track we were talking a little about the future pool for the Kentucky Derby. Tim has had a bet, 30 - 1 on Adore The Gold (Field Narrowly Favored as Derby Future Pool Closes). Not a bad bet I guess, we will see. Second set I was on Grandma, Tim was on Quick Quest. We took them both to the gate and just had them stand in the gate so they learn to relax a little more. They seemed to be pretty relaxed about it. They then galloped a mile (having galloped a little before going to the gate). The other three I rode also all went nicely. One galloped out of the gate, I picked up company with one of Jim McGreevey's. Coming to the track on one of them I was chatting away with another exercise rider who was lamenting the fact he would not be at Cheltenham this week, and instead had to go to Penn National for a race! A stark contrasts of events for sure. Quite a few riders at Fair Hill have connections to the Cheltenham festival so they will try to watch it on some cable channel I guess. Talking about jumping, it seems the first meet for the American jump circuit was relatively incident free (a few fallers but no harm done I think). Jody Petty won the stakes race so I guess that makes him current leading rider. He has been galloping at Fair Hill a lot lately and is originally from Elkton, just down the road.
Update 1587: Sue McMullen sent this e-mail that previews Cheltenham (worldwide mecca of jump racing) and some additional insight into the decision to retire Holy Roman Emperor:
It's the Sunday before the Cheltenham Festival, which means that Ireland is slowly emptying. Last one to leave switch off the lights. Cheltenham without the Irish would be like salad without a dressing, the ingredients are there but there is something vitally important missing.
The hotels, guest houses, pubs or basically just about anybody with a floor to sleep on within a 50 mile radius is now filling up and they come in all shapes and sizes. Rich, poor, priest or bookmaker, all come together for what is now four days' racing at jump racing's Headquarters, scene of so many dramatic, emotional, heart-wrenching finishes. Trainers' nerves are now frayed almost to breaking point, just another couple of days before their precious cargo is unleashed around Cheltenham's undulating track and unforgiving fences. Cheltenham Festival is to jump racing what Royal Ascot is to the Flat. But where Ascot is glitz, glamour, designer frocks and women wearing such big hats they 'lock horns' trying to walk into the bathroom together, Cheltenham is thermal underwear, tweeds, caps and iron-clad bladders as there aren't enough bathrooms for the 50,000 visitors. Forget Mecca, Cheltenham is an annual pilgrimage for jump racing's keenest fans who flock to pay homage to the finest of the horses dubbed 'the winter kings'. Only the best get to run at Cheltenham and it is the ambition of every trainer to have a runner here and as for winning, it is the stuff of dreams. Rivalry between the Brits and the Irish is friendly as everybody in this sport appreciates the nerve and skill of the jockeys but most of all, the bravery, courage and heart of the horses. These are the true superstars, much admired and sometimes even adored and if we are very lucky, they stay with us season after season.
Around 230,000 people will attend over the four days, paying from 20 to 80 pounds for tickets and they will consume 20,000 bottles of champagne, 30,000 bottles of wine, 240,000 bottles of beer or lager and, naturally enough, 225,000 pints of Guinness. Prize money for the 24 races stands at 3,185,000 pounds with the largest purse for Friday's Gold Cup (425,000 pounds), followed by the first big clash of the hurdling Titans, Tuesday's Champion Hurdle (360,000 pounds) and on Wednesday the two mile championship, the Queen Mother Champion Chase (310,000 pounds) and finally, Thursday's Ladbroke World Hurdle (250,000 pounds). These are the feature races on the four days but the supporting cast are all very high profile races.
There is a unique atmosphere at Cheltenham racecourse, the drama played out within its natural amphitheatre surrounded by hills that resound with 70,000 cheering, urging voices when the winner of each race emerges victorious up the gruelling run-in. Many a horse has been going like the proverbial train but when they face that climb, it sorts the men from the boys, sapping the vestiges of energy from weary legs. Irish victories are particularly enjoyed with the crowd giving wonderful, impromptu songs around the winners' circle. Some very fine horses have been welcomed back to that hallowed ground, like returning gladiators fresh from battle. There is nowhere quite like it and the fervent, heart-felt wish for this year is for all horses to return safely.
News that George Washington is having fertility problems and has been replaced in the Coolmore stallion line-up by Holy Roman Emperor, who was waiting to make his assault on the Classic season, has set tongues wagging here. Aiden O'Brien was shell-shocked by the speed with which it happened. In the morning, Holy Roman Emperor worked on the gallops, by lunchtime he'd left the yard. It is at first glance unusual, but the cynics would say that as Coolmore race to breed, not the other way around, it is perhaps understandable. Holy Roman Emperor looked, to some, like the finished article at two and we have no real idea how he might have emerged for his Classic bid but we do know that he was beaten by another very good two year-old in Teofilo who heads the betting for the first Classic of the year, the 2,000 Guineas and as a two year-old looked like a horse who might improve physically over the winter. Holy Roman Emperor is undoubtedly a very fine individual, a Group One winner, well furnished, bred in the purple and like George, a Danehill so he is sure to attract mare owners, but whichever way you look at it, it is a highly unusual decision and sadly typical of an operation for which commercial decisions appear paramount. You have only to look at the way George was campaigned by throwing him in the BC Classic and just hoping he wouldn't object to getting dirt kicked in his face so could add this to his resume to see the thinking behind the operation. Suggestions that George might return to the track are mere conjecture at this time.
This is Cheltenham's web-site and Sue McMullen writes about the favourite for the Gold Cup for the Sunday Herald: The star and gripes.