I wanted to take a brief moment to say goodbye to Wanderin Boy, who had to be euthanized yesterday after the Cigar Mile, as well as look at some of the races on the Hollywood Card as we wrap up the 2008 Turf Festival.
- Wanderin Boy is to me one of the “Rodney Dangerfields” of thoroughbred racing. He never got the respect he deserved. In fact, his name was even touted around earlier in the year as evidence that Curlin had not been beating the toughest fields over the dirt since returning to the U.S. “Experts” would scoff that beating Wanderin Boy wasn’t much to brag about. Perhaps we should all look again, as it bears mention that in his career Wanderin Boy not only banged heads with, but ran close seconds to Curlin, Invasor, Bernardini, and Lawyer Ron. That’s quite a resume when you think about it. Sadly he will run no more following his death on Saturday. Folks may not realize it on the surface, but we just lost a good one. Of course, it matters not how good the horse was, losing him is always too much. Hopefully this will reignite the quest to drastically improve conditions in horse racing for human and equine athletes alike. I’ll be honest and say that it was almost too much for me to even look at racing today. There was a feeling of needing a day off after that. Almost…and with each one there’s a sensation that it hurts a little more and the punch hits your gut a little deeper. Rest in peace, Wanderin Boy. You earned your stripes and then some.
- Moving on with the ceaseless procession of time, let’s look at the feature races on the Hollywood card today. The 27th running of the Grade 1 Matriarch looks like a good one in what may be the final race of Precious Kitten’s career. ‘Kitten is dropping in from having faced the boys in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, but may well find herself out in front of an otherwise paceless race. While ‘Kitten merits great respect and deserves to go out on top, I’m just not seeing it today. I’ll cheer for her, but my wagers will lean elsewhere. The most logical play against Precious Kitten would seem to be Visit. This just looks like a horse that is in prime form coming off a game 4th (beaten only 1 1/2 lengths) in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf. I expect she’ll take a lot of action at the windows for that. Remember though, that she was able to dodge facing both Precious Kitten and Goldikova, who opted for the Breeders’ Cup Mile instead. For that reason, I’ll look for a little value and turn to Cocoa Beach. Cocoa Beach has improved in each of the last 3 races and ran well in a bigger race than any of todays rivals, the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic, finishing 2nd behind the slow-cheetah herself, Zenyatta. She’s got amazing versatility as demonstrated by her ability to run big over any surface. I’ve got a feeling she’s on top of her game coming into this. I’ll use ‘Kitten, Visit, and Rosinka underneath, and toss in Black Mamba and Roshani for show. As of this writing, my bets would look like this:
- $20 Win #9 Cocoa Beach
- $1 Tri; 9/3,5,7/1,3,5,7,8 ($12)
- The feature of the day is the 67th running of the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby. The main story here is the rematch between Gio Ponti and Court Vision who have battled it out splitting the Virginia Derby and Jamaica Handicap between them. I get at least one Lee Corso impression a day with my picks, so here it is: “Not so fast!!!” I think the two favorites are vulnerable here. Court Vision because he just shipped in this week, and I’m always weary of “east coast” horses shipping west (would love to see an actual stat on how they fare, but from memory it can’t be good), and Gio Ponti because he’s been run down by Court Vision and Madeo in his most recent two. Gio Ponti I actually think has the better shot of them, as his typical race puts him in a high 90′s Beyer area that ought to be good enough to win this, but I’ll play against his odds and guess that he’s eligible to be passed in the stretch. But whom do we choose? How about either Cowboy Cal or Albahri? Cowboy Cal is a hit or miss type that is capable on his best stuff. We saw yesterday what can happen with a similar hit or miss type in Tale of Ekati. Albahri is a bit more stable if you don’t mind the “fresh off the plane” angle. He exits back to back scores in France and should be in a nice stalking position off expected pace setter Muny. Underneath I’ll keep Muny around a 8/1,
- $10 Win 3,4 ($20) Cowboy Cal/Albahri
- $1 Tri: 3/4,7,9/2,4,5,7,9 ($12)
- Not only will you be tantalizingly close to seeing the best filly in North America when the horses go to post in race 4 (Zenyatta is rumored to be paraded into the winner’s circle at some point on the card during the day of racing being held in her honor), but you’ll also get a very interesting rematch between two of the better three-year-olds on the SoCal circuit. Gayego and El Gato Malo, once Kentucky Derby hopefuls earlier in the year, will face off against each other in an $80k optional claimer going 6 1/2 furlongs over the main track. I love Gayego, but he’s going to need to show me he’s had no ill effects from the sudden and dramatic downward spiral his career has taken since winning the Arkansas Derby. El Gato Malo looks to be the one to beat here, although there is value in looking at either Talkin to Mom Roo or Peace Chant. Neither of those runners will make it easy for the more well known duo.
- $10 Win #3 El Gato Malo
- $2 Tri: 3/2,4,6/2,4,6 ($12)
Best of luck to all!
Oh yes, and if you haven’t already done so, be sure to check out my Zenyatta tribute video: “Slow Cheetah.” It is “Zenyatta Day” after all! Oh what the heck…I’ll just post it down here below again as well. Why not?