Rail Runner

The Observations of a Horse Racing Enthusiast

The Weekend: Recap and Preview

Posted by Brian Appleton on September 29, 2010

Which race of the weekend produced the most impressive performance by an equine athlete? Was it Morning Line’s incredibly gritty and courageous Pennsylvania Derby (gr.1) victory? Apart’s super-slow Super Derby? Rose Catherine’s Turf Amazon? My Jen’s Gallant Bloom? Or was it Grand Rapport’s Kent Stakes?

I think the greatest performance of the weekend was the sensation Frankel’s tour de force in the Royal Lodge Stakes (Eng-II) in which the power-house juvenile blasted to a 10 length victory

Weekend Recaps:

As for American races the Pennsylvania Derby lived up to its billing and then some, producing one of the most exciting renditions the nation has ever seen and thrusting a brand new star into the spotlight. At first glance Morning Line shows all the signs of a battle tested warrior who has the strength, agility and experience of a seasoned fighter. In reality Morning Line is a late-developing young colt who is quickly turning the racing game into a rout. He entered the Pennsylvania Derby having only raced five times, his last effort coming in the form of an eye-popping 11 length rout in an allowance race at Saratoga. When all the dust had settled Morning Line emerged victorious and highly respected.

After leading the field through reasonable fractions around the first turn and down the backstretch with First Dude glued to his flank, Morning Line swept into the turn, a half length in front of Jim Dandy winner A Little Warm and First Dude, who was squeezed between those two.

Into the stretch A Little Warm took over the lead while First Dude languished more than a length behind and Morning Line struggled to rally. Charging down the stretch A Little Warm beginning to tire as both Morning Line and First Dude found a fresh reserve of energy and surged forward. First Dude closed the fastest, using his gigantic strides to sweep past A Little Warm just before the wire while Morning Line re-rallied on the inside to fight back to the lead.

All three colts turned in spectacular efforts but First Dude and Morning Line shone brightest. Once again the tough as nails First Dude was denied the fist graded stakes victory of his career making this the 7th consecutive time he has finished second or third in a graded stakes race, the last 6 coming exclusively in Grade 1 company. Morning Line looks to have a very bright future ahead of himself and with his sights set on a possible start in the Breeders’ Cup Classic who knows where the story will end?

The Kent Stakes offered an exciting lineup of talented sophomore runners this year and I had the privilege of

handicapping the race for ThoroFan website. God must have wanted to be merciful with me this past weekend because I somehow called the correct exacta and trifecta in the race which thrilled me to no end because I spent hours studying the Past Performances of each of the contenders before writing my analysis.

Grand Rapport ran his foes off their hooves in the Kent, coming from far back as is his custom, the chestnut colt threaded his way through traffic at the top of the stretch and then blasted to the lead with a stunning turn of foot. His final margin of victory was deceivingly close, winning by only a half length, as he was much the best. Working for Hops finished second while long shot Stormy Lord was another half length back in third.

If a list of the top three turf sophomore runners in the nation was compiled right now the names should read; Paddy O’Prado, Sidney’s Candy and Grand Rapport. I really hope Grand Rapport takes a stab at one of the Breeders’ Cup races, though he has never gone farther than the 1 1/8 mile distance it would be great to see him take a shot at the either the Turf or Mile.

Weekend Preview:

The Weekend of October 2nd is a weekend prepared to blow the doors off all imaginings as practically every high profile race horse in the nation takes to the track to prove themselves against their division’s best and brightest.

For three year old fillies we have Blind Luck, the nation’s overwhelming divisional leader, taking to the track in the Fitz Dixon Cotillion Stakes (gr.2) at Philadelphia Park on Saturday to attempt to solidify her divisional standing. Facing the Kentucky Oaks victor is the highly capable Havre de Grace who has finished second by a neck, a nose and a neck in three graded stakes including a neck loss to Blind Luck in the Alabama Stakes. She has come as close to beating Blind Luck as any filly, which in Blind Luck’s case really doesn’t mean that much as margin of victory means little to the talented filly. Getting to the wire first seems to be the only thing that concerns Blind Luck and she is very good at doing just that. This year alone the star filly owns 4 Grade 1 wins in the Kentucky Oaks, Las Virgenes, Oak Leaf and Alabama Stakes.

Lookin at Lucky is ready, as he always is, to run his competition off their feet in the Indiana Derby (gr.2) on Saturday as

he indicated with a bullet 6 furlong move in 1:11 1/5 on September 20th. After a streak of very bad “luck” earlier in the year the stunning son of Smart Strike has exploded into the win column once again with a vengeance, compiling wins in the Rebel Stakes (gr.2), Preakness Stakes (gr.1) and Haskell Invitational (gr.1). The undisputed leader of the three-year-old male division as things stand, Lookin At Lucky will essentially be running against himself on Saturday.

Undefeated super-star mare Zenyatta will be making her 19th appearance on the track this Saturday in an attempt to run her unprecedented streak of wins to 19, a feat which would tie her with Peppers Pride, though the great mare surpassed that one in terms of prestige and significance many months back and is now in a league all her own. Zenyatta is already one of the greatest, perhaps the greatest female race horse of all time, the only question now is how much greater she can become and with Zenyatta you never want to presume the bar is raised to its greatest height. Each and every time she has visited the winners circle she has raised the bar higher every time. The tougher the competition ,the more impressive the win it matters little to Zenyatta, all she does is win.

After winning five races-in-a-row you would think a horse would give it a rest and be content to call it a day, but not Blame. Sitting comfortably atop the nations older male standing after soundly defeating Quality Road in the Whitney Stakes (gr.1) at Saratoga last out, Blame is now in pursuit of his third Grade 1 win and his 6th consecutive graded stakes win overall in Belmont’s October 2nd Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr.1).

Much, much more high quality racing is taking place this weekend and I could take up more than 5 full pages just making mention of them but two bits of news deserve mention before ending.

2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra has been retired from racing and will be bred to two-time Horse of the Year Curlin. Stating that she has been unable to return to her spectacular form of 2009 that saw her go undefeated through 8 historically-defying starts, majority owner Jess Jackson announced the champion filly would be retired and bred to Curlin in the spring of next year.

It really is a love hate relationship when it comes to Jess Jackson and racing fans. He has the most annoying habit of retiring his champions on a losing note when they are far too good for that to be happening. First he did it with Curlin and now with Rachel Alexandra. With Curlin he at least completed his sensational season of racing, and while Rachel Alexandra’s 2010 campaign has been less than stellar she has still been performing well at the higher levels and there should have been no problem finishing up the year with a run in the Breeders’ Cup.

1999 Champion three-year-old male Real Quiet not only came the closest of any horse since Triple Crown winner Affirmed in 1978 to winning the Triple Crown, he only lost the series by a heart wrenching nose. Sadly the champion had to be euthanized after suffering an accident in his paddock on the morning of September 29th.

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