Rail Runner

The Observations of a Horse Racing Enthusiast

Tuscan Evening, Blame, Concord Point, Majesticperfection and Zenyatta

Posted by Brian Appleton on August 9, 2010

This weekend began as one of the most exciting examples of the great sport of horse racing and sadly ends with soaring highs marred by a tragic low.

At Del Mar on Sunday one of the most spectacular stories of the year came to a devastating end when the nations overwhelming female turf division leader, Tuscan Evening, collapsed dead immediately after a six furlong work over the turf course. The apparent cause of death seemed to be a sudden heart attack but no official cause has yet been released.

The 6-year-old mare who was in the midst of a spectacular undefeated 6-for-6 2010 racing season was training in preparation for a start in the Beverly D. Lewis Stakes (gr.1) at Arlington Park on August 21st. Her presence in the female turf division will be sorely missed. This year alone Tuscan Evening won 6 consecutive graded stakes including the Monrovia (gr. IIIT), Buena Vista (gr. IIT), Santa Ana (gr. IIT),  Santa Barbara (gr. IIT), Gamely and Modesty handicaps. All her 2010 starts came in races raging in distance from 6 1/2 furlongs to 1 1/4 miles, proving that she was one of the most versatile throwbacks in years to race across the American turf.

I will sorely miss the presence of this consistently tough and talented mare on the racetrack.

The Whitney Handicap (Gr.1) more than lived up to its billing as one of the most exciting races of the year on Saturday at glittering old Saratoga as the top two older males in the nation battled it out head and head down the stretch.

After setting slower fractions all down the backstretch Quality Road swept into the last turn in complete control and looking every bit a winner. Blame, tracking the leaders closer than usual due to the slower pace began to close with a late rush that could make even Zenyatta blush. Rocketing off the turn with a vengeance, the 4-year-old colt set his sights squarely on the leader as jockey Garrett Gomez urged him on frantically.

Pounding past the stands it was all Quality Road, leading a tough-as-nails Musket Man through the lane as Blame came charging hard on the outside. Waves of sound came crashing over the field as the crowd went wild, the longed for match-up coming to fruiting before their eyes. Stride upon stride Blame closed swiftly, slashing into the impressive lead Quality Road was now struggling to maintain. In a vigorous hand ride, Blame got up in the final few jumps to surge past a game Quality Road and stamp himself as the uncontested leader of the older male division. With his victory in the Whitney Blame has now extended his winning streak to five races and also earned a starting berth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Bob Baffert could have two of the leading 3-year-olds by the end of the year if Concord Point’s impressive West Virginia Derby (gr. 2) win over the talented Exhi is any indication of how the colt will continue to perform. He already has divisional leader Lookin At Lucky under his care and now it appears he has another ace in his hand. Entering the Derby off a record setting win in the Iowa Derby (gr.3) Concord Point took control of the race at the break and never looked back in winning by one length over Exhi. Up next for the striking grey colt could be the Travers Stakes (gr.1) at Saratoga but no concrete decisions have been made yet.

In what turned out to be the most impressive sprinting victory of the year, Majesticperfection literally ran his talented,

grade 1 winning foes off their feet. Taking the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (gr.1) field gate-to-wire in the swift time of 1:08.63 Majesticperfection looked in complete control from start to finish. In the stretch graded stakes winners Big Drama, Bribon and Gayego could make up no ground on the winner as the 4 year old colt streaked under the wire with contemptuous ease.

Watching Majesticperfection in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt the thought immediately popped into my head that we could very well be looking at this year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one thinking that.

Zenyatta did it again, the gargantuan 6-year-old mare is now undefeated in 18 lifetime starts after taking her third consecutive Clement L. Hirsch stakes (gr.1) against a very weak field. No gratifying measure of credit can possibly be

given to the great race mare and the incredible streak of accomplishments she continues to assemble but the fact remains that she is not facing the competition required of a Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, much less an undefeated Classic winner.

Her starting in the Hirsch would have been forgivable if it had not been for the comments dropped after the race by trainer John Shirreffs that Zenyatta will most likely not come to New York for the Beldame Stakes and will instead be considered for the Zenyatta Stakes, formerly known as the the Lady’s Secret Stakes, at Santa Anita Park in October. I guess when the Mosses brought Zenyatta out of retirement they didn’t really mean it when they said they wanted to travel with Zenyatta, and also the one about gender not being a factor. What a joke.

Failing to give any real reasons why Zenyatta will not face males or at least travel East, Shirreffs said that Zenyatta will have only one more start before the Breeders’ Cup Classic. That is pitiful; once again the great mare’s legacy is being completely flattened in favor of one single race. She is capable of so much more than 6 measly starts a year and I for one am tired of seeing trainers and owners treat horses with superior ability and charisma like fine china that can only be taken out in prime conditions for show only.

The bottom line is that there are no excuses for Zenyatta not to run in at least the Beldame but that she should in reality be showing up in the Jockey Club Gold Cup or Woodward Stakes. I wonder how the Mosses will feel if their star loses the Horse of the Year title once again to a rising star like Blame all because they once again failed to seek out the challenges their mare deserved until that one race in November?

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8 Responses to “Tuscan Evening, Blame, Concord Point, Majesticperfection and Zenyatta”

  1. Brian,

    What a terrific recap of the weekend’s action. I’m on vacation and missed pretty much all the racing. It was equal parts melancholy, excitement, and disappointment that I read the blog. Really, terrific stuff.

    RE: TUSCAN EVENING…what a blow! I have been enamored with her ability for a few years now. Is is possible that she was being stretched in her training and races to do something she wasn’t bred for? Was it all just terrible luck? Truly, this is a big loss for racing.

    RE: Whitney results…I am so done with John Velazquez’ peeking behind for his competition riding QUALITY ROAD. The pace was dawdling and he should have put away the field with a decisive move to the mile marker instead of hand riding him and doing his rear-view mirror antics instead of thinking QR is the equal of BLAME in deep stretch. Garrett Gomez proved that he’s much more jockey than Velazquez will ever be…take a look at the Flordia Derby replay when QUALITY ROAD almost go beat by inferior/inexperienced DUNKIRK because Velazquez looked under the wrong shoulder more than a few times, nearly getting the sneak attack from Gomez. The Whitney was a repeat with BLAME much more talented than DUNKIRK finishing the job. Speed horses need to use their best assests…that brings me to the WV Derby.

    RE: WV Derby and CONCORD POINT…if only that colt was more forward earlier in his career. My Road to the Roses stables would have been much higher ranked. Garcia did what John Velazquez should have in the Whitney…he ran as hard and as fast as he could, taking the track from EXHI. Baffert is showing that he’s the best trainer in the land. When he’s got the stock, he very rarely makes a mistake…that includes making a major jock switch from Gomez to hot riding and hungry Garcia.

    RE: MAJESTICPERFECTION…I’ve yet to see the Vanderbilt replay, but my money’s on ATTA BOY ROY to turn the tables on the younger sprinter who will be on everyone’s radar now. Reverse of the Prairie Meadows Sprint right now for me.

    RE: ZENYATTA…it is very disappointing to hear she won’t go to New York. Personally, I think the Jockey Club Gold Cup would have been an ideal spot and I’ve long felt the huge, sweeeping configuration at Belmont would have showcased her very best. I agree, the fact that it was a veiled promise that the Moss/Shirreffs/Ingordo camp would campaign her more liberally than what has come to reality will sour many people on the east coast. I remind you that when the Breeders’ Cup was at Santa Anita in ’03, Will Farish and Neil Howard never brought MINESHAFT out here, skipping the Cup altogether. It seems that even when it was dirt out here, it wasn’t good enough to bring a HOY to California. I do believe ZENYATTA will compete in the BC Classic…that is the only race it seems the ZENYATTA camp is going to gamble her unbeaten streak with. The only way she doesn’t run is if she should lose the Zenyatta at Oak Tree. What a race this is shaping up to be…QR, BLAME, ZENYATTA, RACHEL, LOOKIN AT LUCKY, and RAIL TRIP! That’s quite a sextet.

    Later,

    Rob

    • Thank you very much Rob, I always look forward to your insight and responses!

      Tuscan Evening was a shock, what a talented filly. She was one of my favorites in racing this year, it’s hard not to like a mare that tough and one that can sprint or sustain her run is incredible in this day and age.

      John Valasquez was turning his head more than Calvin Borel usually does, and that’s saying something. I agree, he rode an overconfident race on Quality Road but I believe Blame would have got to Quality Road however he was ridden. What a huge step-up for Blame, he defeated the horse everyone was mentioning in the same breath as Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra quite handily.

      Bob Baffert has been my favorite trainer for years. He always gets his horses to their races in great shape and he talks straight when asked a question, no dancing around the issue. I hope there is enough time between this win and the Travers to run Concord Point, I think he can give most of the colts in this country a run for their money.

      I’ll be interested to hear your take on the Vanderbilt after you see the replay, it was both a visually and statistically impressive performance I thought. Majesticperfection had run a 117 Beyer in his previous start which is phenomenal!

      Belmont looks like a perfect fit for Zenyatta absolutely, and the 1 1/4 miles she would get in the Jockey Club Gold Cup is right up her alley. Some people are beginning to think that she will not show for the Classic at Churchill Downs but I disagree, I think the Mosses have had that race as their year-end goal all along and are trying their best to maintain her perfect record in the mean time. It’s strange how we get East and West coast bias in this nation, there doesn’t seem to be a problem like that in European racing.
      I am definitely looking forward to this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic and I fervently hope that Rachel Alexandra runs.

  2. Hi Brian~

    Great recap of the weekend.

    In regard to Zenyatta, I continue to be thrilled with her racing. (I am so happy to be alive during her career!)

    As for Tuscan Evening, the world lost a great horse. There is a race- the Redondo Stakes – where Tuscan Evening jumped across four shadows created by the light post from the infield while leading the race wire-to-wire. I’ll never forget that. (Along with all the rest of her amazing record!)

    • Thank you Jennifer,

      I am a huge fan of Zenyatta and am also always thrilled to see her run. The problem is that in the her 2010 racing campaign she has not faced any new challenges which to me, and many other fans too I’m sure, takes a lot of the excitement away, especially for a horse of her imposing caliber.

      I remembered the Redondo Stakes from last year as soon as you started talking about her jumping the shadows! I had to watch it right away, thank you for the reminder. That was such a remarkable win after taking all those “jumps”, she didn’t even seem to lose her stride when she was jumping the shadows! Such a shame to lose her so suddenly like that.

  3. While disappointing, I can understand Zenyatta’s connections taking this route.
    Besides her win in the BC Classic, her entire legacy centers on her remaining unbeaten, and her connections may be finding that a double edged sword.
    While they may WANT to see what she can do, they DON’T want to give up the unbeaten record.

    Only the BC Classic and history will determine if their decision is the right one or not.

    • Very true, being undefeated at this level (even if the competition isn’t always strong) is still admirable and I can’t really say that I might do differently if I was in their shoes. At this point it would be devastating for them to see her lose!

  4. Someone once commented under one of my posts that the point of horse racing is to, “run ’em where they can win”. While I’m disappointed with the competition, Team Zenyatta are doing an excellent job of getting results on the track. I would be shocked to see them leave the west coast before their run at defending the BC Classic.

    What’s sad about this is that the depth of her legacy, for some folks, might rest on winning or losing that race and Blame proved this weekend that he will be an admirable foe.

    I sure hope Rachel Alexandra proves capable of ten furlongs. At least our last look at Zenyatta would be one for the ages!

    • Hi Keith,

      I agree, the reason people run their horses is to win. Zenyatta may be getting results on the track, but we all know that she “can win” against most likely any field that could be assembled in America. It’s a disservice to Zenyatta at this point to run her in the low-level competition races that she has faced so far this year. With the exception of racing the classy St. Trinians she has really had no exceptional competition in 2010.

      I’m still looking forward to seeing her in the Classic especially if Rachel Alexandra, Blame, Quality Road and Lookin At Lucky all make it in. Should be a race for the ages!

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