Barbaro Updates: 817
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Update 4673: Railbird here, with your weekly update.
A quiet(er) racing weekend ahead, which is a bit of a relief after getting hit with 13 graded stakes last Saturday. Even Steven Crist had to make a chart to keep track of all that was happening coast-to-coast.
This Saturday, focus shifts to Turfway Park, the little northern Kentucky racecourse known as the first to install Polytrack. Since that surface change, the Lane's End has become an uncertain Derby prep. While Hard Spun emerged victorious from the race to finish second to Street Sense in the 2007 Kentucky Derby, Adriano followed a year later by finishing 19th at Churchill Downs. With a large enough purse to guarantee this year's winner a spot in the starting gate come the first Saturday in May, it's a certainty we'll be talking about one of the dozen entered as a Derby contender for the next six weeks. But which, and how seriously?
Likely favorite Bittel Road may be ready to move forward exiting a fourth-place finish to Pioneerof the Nile, Papa Clem, and I Want Revenge in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes last month, and I do like that Garrett Gomez is named to ride, but he seems a cut below recent company. His running lines suggest Bittel Road prefers to race mid-pack and lacks much speed early or late -- hardly signs of Derby dominance. An obvious alternative is West Side Bernie, winner of the Kentucky Cup Juvenile at Turfway last September and third in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream in January. Jack Spratt, overmatched in the Fountain of Youth, starts for trainer Michael Maker, winning at a 41% clip, and is reunited with rider Julien Leparoux. He seems like more of a turf horse, as does Orthodox, a name you might recognize from "Jockeys," renewed for a second season, on which he appeared as rider Jon Court's Breeders' Cup hope. While the colt has done his best over grass, he did win his last and is making his second start off a layoff here. If you're interested in watching the race, note that ESPN2 will air the Rushaway and Lane's End Stakes starting at 5:00 p.m. EDT.
Two races earlier in the card, 3-year-old fillies prep for the Kentucky Oaks in the Bourbonette Stakes. This is a race with a standout in speedy Fitz Just Right, starting off a record-setting win in the OBS Championship Stakes for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. Also entered is Step Out Smarty, winner of the Gowell Stakes at Turfway last December, and the intriguing Instrumentalist, undefeated in two starts and stretching out to a mile for trainer Tom Drury. Gomez picks up the mount on the filly.
At Santa Anita, older horses line up for the San Luis Rey Handicap, a competitive turf marathon featuring Spring House, attempting to put together back-to-back stakes wins, and Artiste Royal, fifth in the Kilroe Mile after winning the San Marcos in January. The presence of Medici Code, winless since the 2007 Del Mar Derby, Midships, making his third North American start for trainer Bobby Frankel, and Bonjour, likely to be up front early, make this race especially interesting -- expect one of those close finishes in which a scrum of horses forms at the sixteenth pole with one edging away to win in the final yards.
Update 4672: A gorgeous morning this morning at Oaklawn Park. We had seven sets at Steve's. Five before the break and two after the break. All mine galloped nicely. A pleasure to be at work!
After work I called the Governor's office in the State of Montana, requesting the Governor veto HB 418. A simple, straightforward and pleasant phone call. I then called a couple of friends to do the same thing. (Phone: 406 444-3111). My understanding is the Governor may sign the Bill by lunchtime. We shall see.
On my way out of the track I stopped by to see Rachel Alexandra. She is very cute. I got to chatting with Brett, who works there. It does appear they are not planning to go to the Derby, so I will have to remove her from my PDI list. Oh well. An honor to see her though and made for a great end to a wonderful morning's work. That and the free coffee from the gas station on my way back to the flat.
Update 4671: Hollywood Park, which has long been threatened with closure, will run its fall/winter meet this year: Hollywood Park to Race Through 2009.
The Montana Senate voted 27 - 23 for horse slaughter. The Bill is now on its way to the Govenor.