Rail Runner

The Observations of a Horse Racing Enthusiast

Review: The Weekend’s Biggest Performances

Posted by Brian Appleton on January 24, 2011

If you had to choose between the Sweetest Chant Stakes, Palos Verdes Stakes, LeComte Stakes and Soldat’s Allowance win which performance would you call the most impressive?

When last we saw Kathmanblu she was flashing across the finish line at Churchill Downs, more than 8 lengths ahead of her closest rival in the Golden Rod Stakes. That performance had her placed on everyone’s Kentucky Oaks radar and trainer Kenny McPeek made it clear that it was his star filly’s goal to run in the spring classic. On Saturday, January 22nd, Kathmanblu did absolutely nothing to sway those aspirations, giving McPeek and thousands of fans a huge boost of confidence with a sparkling victory in the Sweetest Chant Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

Breaking cleanly from the gate in the Sweetest Chant, Kathmanblu was held well off the pace by jockey Julien Leparoux in 5th position into the first turn and down the backstretch. On the front end War Prospector was winging it over the turf, opening up an 8 length lead down the backside. Approaching the final turn Leparoux got to work on Kathmanblu who responded immediately, moving up on the outside to edge into fourth position. Halfway around the turn Kathmanblu rushed up to third right off the flank of Excited, both fillies closing in quickly on War Prospector. Into the stretch Kathmanblu surged to the lead , opening up two lengths on Excited in a matter of strides. The final margin of victory was 1 ¼ lengths in a hand ride as Leparoux wrapped up on his filly approaching the wire, coasting under the line with ears pricked, the easiest of winners.

This filly makes running look fun and easy. Now she just needs to stay solid and healthy through early May to prove her worth in the Oaks.

Is it just me or does it looks like this year is shaping up to be the year of trainer Bob Baffert? On Saturday Bob Baffert sent out Euroears to capture a dazzling edition of the Palos Verdes Stakes (gr. 2) at Santa Anita Park. Breaking from the gate like a rocket, the 7-year-old athlete surged to the lead, outrunning heavily favored Smiling Tiger to the front end. From there it was pretty much over as Euroears blazed the way with sizzling fractions of :21.56 for the first quarter and :43.47 for the opening half. Entering the stretch  Euroears continued to pour it on, outrunning Captain Cherokee to the wire by 2 ¼ lengths in a winning time of 1:07.23 for the six furlongs.

A very impressive performance for sure especially when you looks at the fractions he set throughout the run. The Santa Anita main track has been playing extremely fast this meet with multiple records falling in the first month so it’s hard to gauge how much is the actual horse’s ability and how much is the tracks contribution. Regardless of those factors Euroears turned in a strong performance and will not go off as a 9-1 shot anytime soon again.

Wilkinson is the newest face on the Triple Crown trail and personally I think it’s a pretty good addition to the already

Wilkinson

talent-laden roster. Entering the Lecomte off a second place finish behind race favorite Justin Philips, Wilkinson showed incredible strength and determination to turn almost certain defeat into a rousing victory.

Pants On Fire lead the field almost gate to wire in the Lecomte, breaking like a shot and seizing the lead down the backstretch while Wilkinson rated just off the pace in fourth. Coming off the turn it was Pants On Fire still holding the lead and running strong with Wilkinson moving into second place on the rail. As they entered the homestretch jockey Garrett Gomez began working on Wilkinson, urging him on for all he was worth, just a length behind Pants On Fire. Inch by inch he worked his way up to Pants On Fire’s flank but seemed to be struggling to gain more ground. With just a matter of strides left to reach the wire Wilkinson suddenly found a new gear and rushed to the lead, winning by a head over Pants On Fire. Past the wire he galloped out more than a length ahead of his rival, looking fresh and full of run.

When a horse shows that much grit this early on in the year I take notice. He may not have beat a stellar field in the Lecomte but it was solid the way he looked in winning tells me he wants to go longer and is capable of giving some top sophomores a run for their money.

Soldat

It may not have been a Graded Stakes race or even a plain old ungraded stakes race, but when 3-year-old colt Soldat ran away from the field in the 9th race at Gulfstream Park on Friday to win by more than 10 lengths, it was a stakes caliber winning performance. A performance that has now pushed the colt squarely into the Kentucky Derby trail spotlight.

Last year Soldat won the Grade 3 With Anticipation Stakes before finishing a weakening second in the Pilgrim Stakes (gr.3) over a yielding turf. In his next start Soldat turned in a gritty second place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf behind Pluck after fighting through on the rail to briefly gain the lead.

After his striking 9 furlong allowance victory on a sloppy track Soldat proved he is just as capable of handling the dirt as he is the turf. Now he just needs to prove himself over a dry track against a stronger field and he should get just that in his next planned start, the Fountain of Youth Stakes.

The colt earned an impressive 102 Beyer for his victory at Gulfstream. He has good speed, is able to run on dirt and turf and can go 9 furlongs with ease. Sounds good so far, I can’t wait to see him step up in the Fountain of Youth.

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2 Responses to “Review: The Weekend’s Biggest Performances”

  1. Hey B!

    Good thoughts on KATHMANBLU. As you said, WILKINSON may not have beaten much but I don’t like he was life/death to do it. SOLDAT reminds me of a turf/dirt colt of the past. Check out my post to see who it is (http://amateurcapper.blogspot.com/2011/01/sunday-notes.html).

    • Hey Rob,

      I really liked your thoughts on Soldat, it’s an interesting comparison. I’ve heard some people doubting his ability because he won over a sloppy track but it was such an easy, effortless win for him I think he’ll be able to take the step up in class. Maybe not win against the likes of Uncle Mo, Boys At Tosconova or To Honor and Serve yet, but certainly be competitive.

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