Rail Runner

The Observations of a Horse Racing Enthusiast

Mission Possible: Burning Pants and the hero of Japan

Posted by Brian Appleton on March 28, 2011

If someone had wanted to write the perfect heart-warming, emotional and uplifting ending to the 2011 Dubai World Cup they could not have thought of a better scenario than the beautiful display of love, encouragement and affection shown for the first ever victory by a Japanese horse on March 26th. Coming just two weeks after the devastating tsunami hit Japan and left more than 27,000 dead or missing, Victoire Pisa flew down the Meydan home stretch to post the first ever victory by a Japanese-bred horse in the 16 year history of the Dubai World Cup. To complete the magic Transcend held on gamely after setting most of the fractions on the front end to finish a close second by half a length, making it a 1-2 punch for Japan. Winning jockey Mirco Demuro tearfully told reporters afterward: “It’s unbelievable. It’s like I woke up.”

The slow pace of :26.7 for the 400 meters and :53.1 for the 800 meters completely shot down the closing kicks of American hopes Gio Ponti and Fly Down who finished 5th and 13th respectively. Fly Down received a very rough trip and was twice bumped into the rail according to jockey Julien Leparoux. The final time for the race was a snail-like 2:05.94 for the 2,000 meter race (about 1 ¼ miles).

Pants On Fire - Hodges Photography/Chris Bennett

The heat was cranked way up on the Kentucky Derby trail as Pant’s On Fire led the $1 million Louisiana Derby (gr.2) field on a merry chase as Fair Grounds on Saturday en route to a stubborn neck victory. Liondrive was quickest into stride as the gates flew open, striding out to take the lead over Pants On Fire who swiftly moved up to his outside with Mucho Macho Man 1 ½ lengths behind. The field moved into the turn with positions staying virtually the same, Elite Alex took up the rear of the 12 horse field as the opening quarter went in a :23.43. Down the backside Nehro moved up on along the rail to take second with Mucho Macho Man right at his throatlatch, up front Pant’s On Fire was lapped just a length off of Liondrive who ran the opening half in :47.53. From there Pants On Fire began to make his move, coming up to Liondrive as the field approached the far turn and taking command as the homestretch loomed ahead. From behind Mucho Macho Man launched his move, overtaking Nehro for third and charging for the leaders. Far back Elite Alex was also mounting his bid, coming about 10 paths wide into the stretch as the field strung out. Down the stretch Pants On Fire withstood the final challenge from Mucho Mach Man under a strong drive as Nehro came up on the rail to snatch second.

Mucho Macho Man finished a length behind the front two in third while Elite Alex ran a very good race to secure 4th after circling the entire field coming off the turn. Pants On Fire started the year with a third place finish in the Count Fleet Stakes before just missing by a head to Wilkinson in the LeComte Stakes (gr.3). It was nice to see the winner rating off the pace for most of the race and he showed a fierce determination in the homestretch to hold off the two closing finishes of Nehro and Mucho Macho Man. Both Pants On Fire and Mucho Macho Man will be heading to the Kentucky Derby.

Mission Impazible - Hodges Photography/Lou Hodges, Jr.

Mission Impazible announced his imminent return to the ranks of the Graded stakes winners in a big way in Fair Grounds Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap. Exactly one year after his Louisiana Derby win, Mission Impazible hit the jackpot once again at Fair Grounds as he contested the early lead in the New Orleans Handicap before disposing of his rivals and running off to a 1 ½ length victory over Apart with Grade 1 winner Giant Oak a nose back in third.

Mission Impazzible started his year with a second place finish in a 1 mile allowance race at Gulfstream Park before just missing to Demarcation in the Mineshaft Handicap (gr.3) by a neck. He finished 9th in the Kentucky Derby last year and was sidelined until his allowance runner-up effort with a knee injury. His effort here was stellar against a strong field and the most encouraging thing about his win was that every single horse was mounting a rally in the homestretch and moving forward and he still held on well to win. I think this was one of the strongest wins of the weekend and I can’t wait to see what Mission Impazible can do if he gets to run for an entire year.

Check out my latest Kentucky Oaks post on Kentucky Oaks Rail Runner on Horse Racing Nation.

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