Clear weather and fast tracks set this weekend’s racing schedule off on a high note, but that didn’t stop certain heartbreaking results from happening. I ventured into my first foray at a pick 4 (I had only done one pick 3 before, which I’d won), and while I succeeded in lasting all four races, the payout was lower than my investment due to all but one of the lower-odds entries winning— lucky for me I had gambled free credit money, so I didn’t technically lose anything. BUT STILL!
It has become extraordinarily evident to me over time that Mike Smith has Chantal Sutherland figured out. Blame part of his genius on riding closers, part of it on her using all the tricks he’s taught her. Nevertheless, there was little fear figuring out the winner of Sunday’s San Antonio Stakes (II) at Santa Anita, as Breeders’ Cup Classic (I) runner-up Game On Dude would make his 2012 debut with Chantal against Mike Smith on recent San Pasqual (II) winner Uh Oh Bango. “He didn’t really break,” Sutherland would comment later to HRTV, as the gelding had to make an uncharacteristic hike from the back early as opposed to his usual immediate pace-setting. Once clear of the rear, “the Dude” began coasting easily along the backstretch, appearing to beg Chantal to give him his head… and she did, as the backstretch ran out, letting the Dude grab a two-length advantage which he kept widening and widening. Mike Smith got up for the show, but there was absolutely no beating Game On Dude that day. I think we’ve seen our first Horse of the Year contender already by the way he ran that 1 1/8 mile race so easily! Watch partial replay/interviews below (why aren’t tracks updating their videos lately?!)
The three-year-old Derby prep season continued with a few good, eye-opening races in the Withers (III) (won easily by Alpha… perhaps a little too easily suggesting he’s not being tested appropriately), the Sam F. Davis (III) (won by the talented maiden Battle Hardened, watch out for this guy!), and then the Round 2 race of the Derby Handicap Contest, the messy Robert B. Lewis (II) over at Santa Anita. I think it was too mucked-up to really count, honestly, as there was too much of a jumble at the end while allowing longshot winner I’ll Have Another to coast to an easy win. The excellent runners in the race— Liasion, Sky Kingdom, and Rousing Sermon— never got their running room arranged with Liasion losing rider Rafael Bejarano mid-stretch. Joel Rosario figured out Empire Way well enough to put him up for second, which I was very pleased to see, but still… I’m throwing this race out, as I’m sure others are doing as well. Watch replay