STAKES RECAP: BLOOD AND GUTS: They ran three graded stakes over the weekend and all three had strong fields with plenty of entries. It would be hard to top the Grade 1 Bing Crosby on Saturday as they had 12 strong sprinters go six furlongs on the main track and it was a Win and You’re In for the Breeders Cup Sprint, providing you were nominated. In the end, three hard knocking sprinters laid it all down the final furlong in a thrilling finish in which you could have thrown a blanket over all three of them at the wire. And if it was going to be close, you really wanted your money on The Chosen Vron, because all he does is WIN. When you look at the trip he had on the back side, having to check twice because Todo Vino stopped in front of him, and then to re-rally and still be in the thick of it late, you know the best horse won. Even coming down the lane, he was stuck inside with both Anarchist and Dr. Schivel to his outside, and those were the better lanes to be traveling, he still prevailed. That’s how you win 8 straight and 13 out of 17 races. Just like General George Armstrong Patton, The Chosen Vron is all Blood and Guts. It doesn’t matter if it’s only Cal bred competition, you have to be some kind of race horse to show up every time and win 8 in a row. The $11.00 mutuel that he paid was one of the few gifts you get in racing, and by the way, he was a Turfdom Best Bet on the day. He is not nominated to the B/C, but I hope that the owners put up the money, because they won’t beat this horse on his home track in November. His trainer is on the conservative side (Eric Kruljac) and is part owner to boot, so we will have to wait and see. Dr. Schivel went off as the 9/5 favorite, had the perfect post outside, and also had the perfect trip. He just doesn’t have that “will to win” that the winner possesses. Anarchist ran huge to get 2nd but he doesn’t quite have that nose for the wire either. Spirit of Makena, the 2nd choice in the wagering, got eliminated when Todo Vino backed up at the 3/8 pole and ended up last. It’s been a long time since California has had 12 runners in a Grade 1 sprint for older horses if it wasn’t a Breeders Cup race.
THE SAN DIEGO HANDICAP: The Grade 2 San Diego Handicap, a prep for the Pacific Classic in early September, was run two races earlier in the Saturday program. Defunded looked awfully hard to beat in this field of 9 older horses, but he hadn’t run in awhile and was giving weight to the other 8 runners in this 9 furlong test on the main track. He was off at 4/5 for Baffert and leading rider J.J. Hernandez and was well placed in 4th down the back side, but when the jock asked him for run, he did not respond. He finished a well beaten fourth. With the quick sprinter Brickyard Ride setting the pace, you knew the fractions would be quick and that there was a good chance he would be coming back to the field. And that he did. With Mario Gutierrez choking 2nd choice Slow Down Andy all the way down the back side and trying to save him for the stretch, the race really set up for something from far back. And sure enough, the New Mexico invader, who was dead last most of the way, responded for journeyman Geovanni Franco, who guided Senor Buscador to the good outside lanes, and he rolled the final furlong to get the money and paid $29.00. He won by a little more than a length over Slow Down Andy who ran a bang up 2nd at 7/2. The winner tipped his mitt with a good close up 4th in the Oaklawn Handicap just two races back, in a field that was much stronger than he faced on Saturday. Nonetheless, he was still hard to find in this field that had many graded stakes winners including Royal Ship, Defunded, and pace setting Brickyard Ride. The latter held on for third and was only beaten 3 lengths, and if Craig Lewis returns him to Cal bred route stakes races, he still has more wins in his body. Todd Fincher trains the winner and is the leading trainer in the state of New Mexico. He will probably try the Pacific Classic next.
THE EDDIE READ STAKES: 9 went to the post in the Eddie Read at 9 furlongs on the turf and trainer Phil D’Amato had 44% of the horses. All four had some chance of winning and wouldn’t you know it, he ran 1-2-3-4 with Gold Phoenix getting the money with a $11.00 mutuel (shades of Whittingham in the 70’s). The superfecta came back at $521 for a $1 ticket. Masteroffoxhounds set a very moderate pace under Maldonado and with fractions of 24.54 and 49.20 for the half, he looked like the winner at the top of the lane. But the other D’Amato stretch runners were uncorked and “Phoenix” got the jump on Balnikhov to hold him safe by a length at the wire. It was just another case of jockey Hector Berrios being in the right place at the right time on this turf course. Count Again went off as the 9/5 choice and finished fourth. The winner boosted his payroll up to $837,757 in just 14 starts for the racing syndicate, Little Red Feather, who looked like they had half the grandstand in the Winners Circle.