Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Price at Del Mar

I caught a big price last Saturday at Del Mar when Om wired the field of 2 year-olds at 6 and 1/2 furlongs. Om, a Dan Hendricks charge, was 15-1 in the morning line and went off at 22-1. The fact that Bob Baffert had a first timer from Zayat named American Pharoah had a lot to do with Om's odds (American Pharoah, coming off some typically fast works for the trainer was the morning line favorite at 5-2 and was bet down to 7-5).

Om had run one race and finished fifth, beaten by 11 and 1/4 lengths; to the casual handicapper, this looked like a horse to take a pass on. However, the race he ran was a 5 furlong sprint run in June at Santa Anita in a very fast time of 57.2. Om showed some speed out of the 6 hole, but couldn't keep up with the winner, as he was 3 wide into the stretch, as noted in the form. Also, while Om did finish 11 and 1/4 lengths behind the winner (BadReadSanchez), that horse won by 10 lengths, so Om really turned in a fine performance the first time out. The fact that he was sent off at 5-2 was another positive sign.

Om, out of the three hole, did grab the lead right away in last Saturday's race with American Pharoah stalking him to his outside. It was those two horses on the lead all the way down the backstretch, but by the time the horses entered the lane, Om had put away American Pharoah and all of his challengers, winning by 7 and 1/4 lengths. Thankfully, I made a $2 exacta with a few horses, so I collected $227.60, as the second favorite Iron Fist, trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, got the place spot.

Today could be a similar story for the 6th race at Del Mar, a 5 and 1/2 furlong sprint for 2-year olds. Once again, there's a talented Baffert firster, this one named Abusive Power, co-owned by Mike Pegram. He's had some fast works and is ridden by Baffert's go-to jock Martin Garcia. All systems are go, as they say (he's 4-1 morning line).

The favorite is #8, Kantune, trained by Mark Casse. Kantune ran an excellent first race at Del Mar on July 19, a 5-furlong dash in 58 seconds flat. He just missed, finishing second by a half-length when bet down to 7-2. No doubt a deserving favorite today at 3-1.

However, inside speed has been very good at Del Mar lately, so look out for the #1, American Sailor, a Cody Autrey trainee. He also had a fine first race at Del Mar on July 19, that was run in a very quick 57.4. American Sailor showed early speed, but according to the notes in the form, was three wide in the lane and weakened; he finished ninth, beaten by eleven lengths. The fact that he was sent off at 5-2 is a positive sign for today, as is the fact that he has the one hole, so his early speed should mean a great deal in this race.

To complicate things even more, there's the #7, Discreet Prince, conditioned by Robertino Diodoro. This horse ran in the same race as American Sailor, but was not favored by the public, going off a tick shy of 40-1. However, this horse beat American Sailor that day, also showing speed, finishing 5th, beaten by 5 and 3/4 lengths;  his morning line is a much more reasonable 5-1.

Add to the mix some beautifully bred firsters such as #2 Pappou (Tapit, out of a Saint Ballado mare, trained by John Sadler and #5 Film Freak (Fusaichi Pegasus, out of a Dynaformer mare), trained by Tommy Proctor and you've got a pretty contentious race. How I love these two-year old races at Del Mar!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Mr. D

Richard L. Duchossois with jockey Kent Desormeaux and trainer Bill Mott at the trophy presentation for the 2009 Beverly D stakes, won by Dyanforce (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

This weekend the 32nd running of the Arlington Million will take place at Arlington Park, in the northwest-Chicago suburb of Arlington Heights. The Million is one of three Grade 1 races that day; the others being the Beverly D for fillies and mares, 3 year old and up, run at one mile and three-sixteenths on the turf and the Secretariat Stakes, for three-year olds on the turf at the same distance. These three races are the cornerstone of the Arlington Festival of Racing, the biggest day each year for racing in the state of Illinois.

The brainchild behind the Million- the first thoroughbred race in America to offer a $1,000,000 purse when it was first run in 1981- was Richard L. Duchossois, chairman of Arlington Park. The finish of that race, with the great John Henry making a furious rally to nip The Bart by a nose at the wire, was tremendously thrilling and would immediately stamp this race as one of the best of the year.

Duchossois has been the face of Illinois racing for three decades, rebuilding Arlington park after a powerful fire destroyed the grandstands in 1985. The new facility that was built at the same location is today one of America's - and the world's - most beautiful race tracks.

In Tuesday's, Claire Novak, who grew up not far from the racetrack, writes a superb piece on Duchossois (read here). Novak beautifully describes this facility as she details the life of the chairman, now a spright 92 years young, from his time in the Army during World War II through his initial interest in purchasing the track up until today.

It's a well written piece, complete with streaming video, that captures the spirit of this man, one who puts the bettor first; he comments that if you don't take care of your clients, you won't have a product.

There certainly has been a lot of bad publicity about thoroughbred racing as of late, so how nice to read this marvelous article.