by Jeff Siegel
October 30, 2018
RECAP – SUNDAY, OCTOBER 28, 2018 – SANTA ANITA
Goren brought $1.1 million at the 2017 Fasig-Tipton March Sale but in two previous outings last summer the son of More Than Ready looked very much like a bust, finishing sixth of eight in his sprint debut (beaten 12 lengths) and then last of 12 (beaten 15 lengths) two-turning on grass. And nobody was expecting anything, since he took no money in either start. If it weren’t for his purchase price he’d been a strong candidate to show up in a maiden-twenty. But given the initial investment trainer Jerry Hollendorfer had no choice but to stay the course and hope that the 3-year-old colt would eventually figure things out. Well, finally, he did, in today’s third race, flashing surprising early speed to press the pace and then coming away in powerful fashion in the final furlong to register a 21-1 upset (surprised he was that low) when graduating by more than four lengths. The Beyer number wasn’t spectacular (81) bit it was good enough for the level. It’ll be interesting to see if this colt has another forward move or two in him and perhaps become at least useful down the road. As for earning back his purchase price, let’s just say that’ll be a steep hill to climb.
For a partnership that included his own account, Hollendorfer may have made a timely claim 30 minutes later when he haltered gate-to-wire winner Rapid Red for $25,000 out of the fourth race. The pace flow (very slow early, very fast late) is typical for a front-running winner on grass and this veteran gelding took full advantage of the situation to hold sway over The Big Train, who rallied against the grain for second, but was subsequently a voided claim for unsoundness. Rapid Red, while clearly capable of taking advantage of a “lone f” trip, has never really been a need-the-lead type. Logically, his new connections would be seeking a $32,000 claimer at Del Mar, but races for that level are rarely carded over the Del Mar turf course and none appear in the first condition book. However, there is one at Golden Gate Fields November 18 and that’s where we expect to see him next.
While we’re still on the Hollendorfer kick, let’s mention that we fully expected Getaloadofthis to win the fifth race, a bottom-rung maiden claimer over a mile, so much so that we thought 9/5 was a reasonable price to take. With the classic two-sprints-and-a-stretch pattern combined with a recent “Best of the Morning” workout, the Graydar gelding was expected to have a comfortable trip up front. Indeed, he cleared quickly without need of urging to establish the lead through manageable splits, but over a race track that was slow, deep and anti-speed, he had little to give under pressure and was worn down late by 23-1 Smokin B. Getaloadofthis subsequently was a voided claim, which may explain his failure to finish the job.
To add further evidence that today’s track was very unkind to the speed types, the first three finishers in the middle-distance seventh race (Hard Arch, Original Intent, and Topgallant) rallied from seventh-eighth-ninth, respectively, in a race in which the final time of 1:46.91 was slow, but not untypically so over a main track that has played that way for more than a year, if not longer. Because many horses seem to struggle over the deep track, the margins between runners at the wire have become skewed; often stretch drives in Santa Anita route races are ugly and resemble the end of Aintree’s Grand National.
Battle of Midway isn’t all the way back – remember, he won the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile last year – but his victory in the overnight Comma to the Top Stakes was a step in the right direction. The Beyer number of 99 was okay but was still nine points below his career top. The long-term goal is the Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park January 26, but the son of Smart Strike, who returned to racing in August after being proven sterile at stud during the spring, is expected to have at least a couple of runs before that, including the Native Diver Handicap at Del Mar Nov. 25. The disappointment in the race was the always well-regarded Tatters to Riches, who checked in next-to-last, beaten almost 14 lengths. All four of his prior starts had come at Del Mar, so maybe that’s his track. the son of Union Rags was laboring throughout and might not have cared for the deep, loose, racetrack. Hopefully, it was nothing more than that.
RECAP – SATURDAY, OCTOBER 27, 2018 – SANTA ANITA
Given his easy front-running trip, Impression should have won today’s seventh race, a restricted (nw-3) $35,000 claimer over a mile on turf. Fresh from a facile gate-to-wire score on dirt at Los Alamitos, the Billy Morey-trained gelding had been assigned “Best of the Morning” status following a sharp workout October 8. Yes, he had never won on turf, but he’d hit the board in five of six career starts on grass, so we didn’t expect the surface switch to be an issue. As anticipated, Impression made the running in hand, but when push came to shove, second-choice Acker rolled on by to prove clearly best by a bit more than a length, with Impression more than two clear of the others. It was one of those, “how did he lose?” moments, but when Impression returned unsound and was a voided claim, his failure to seal the deal made more sense.
In the ninth race, the 2-year-old filly Honeyfromthesouth – another afforded “Best of the Morning” status following an exceptional drill Oct. 16 – opened up a two-length advantage into the stretch and appeared headed for her maiden win when she hit the wall – no, not the one supposedly being built in Tijuana but the imaginary (or invisible) one that all fading front-runners seem to confront inside the eighth pole – and eventually wound up off the board at 2/5 in a race won by second-timer Madame Vestal. In her debut when trained by Dave Hofmans, Honeyfromthesouth had finished a promising second to the Bob Baffert-trained Chasing Yesterday at Del Mar, after which she was purchased privately by Phoenix Thoroughbreds and transferred to Baffert (presumably on at least some recommendation from the trainer). Since then, Honeyfromthesouth has trained like you’d expect, but in the afternoon, she has been a major disappointment, first failing at 50 cents on the dollar when nosed out in a five-runner race by Fighting Mad, and then today when she put up no resistance when it mattered the most. The winner, a daughter of Into Mischief, produced the forward move that you always like to see from a second-time starter and should be more than useful as she continues to develop, but the one that really caught the eye was runner-up Slewgoodtobetrue, who was allowed to settle early and then finish, and seems certain to improve a bunch with a more serious effort next time out for the Peter Eurton barn.
RECAP – FRIDAY, OCTOBER 26, 2018 – SANTA ANITA
Divine Dhama won today’s seventh, a maiden $30,000 dirt track miler, by more than 15 lengths in a race that was clocked in 1:39.54. Now, that’s a slow final time on the face of it, but the Beyer number of 70 – which takes into consideration how deep and sluggish the track was playing – represented a massive improvement of 41 points for the 2-year-old daughter of Paynter, who had in her past performance chart the two-sprints-and-a-stretch out pattern. Bred to improve not only with distance but with experience and maturity, the John Sadler-trained filly may have had nothing behind her, but she was quite pleasing visually and may have a future. No, she’s not going to going and win a black-type race anytime soon on this circuit, but she has starter’s and first-level allowance conditions still available and options up north as well. It’s also worth noting that Easy Peasy finished fourth and was beaten 24 lengths. Great Salvation finished last and checked in 68 lengths behind the winner. Now, I’m as much of a proponent for a safe racetrack as the next guy, but not when the surface is so deep that half the field can’t cope with it. There must be a happy medium.
RECAP – THURSDAY, OCTOBER 25, 2018 – SANTA ANITA
There could be no visible excuse for the failure at 3/5 by the promising Claudelle in the second race - a maiden special weight miler for juvenile fillies, other than the racetrack, which was officially listed as “fast.” Dry, yes, fast, no. The final time of the race was 1:40.78, approximately four full seconds (20 lengths?) slower than what fillies of this class used to run at Santa Anita. The turf course, on the other hand, is smooth and firm, so the best advice I’d give horsemen who have horses that struggle mightily over the current main track is simply to look for a race on grass. Most will get over it much better.
He may not turn out to be the male equivalent of Vasilika, but Awesome Anywhere has the makings of another spectacular claim by Jerry Hollendorfer. Taken at Golden Gate Fields for $32,000 out of a winning race in mid-September, the son of Awesome of Course has since captured a first-level allowance at Santa Anita and then in today’s fourth race stepped up another level to earn a career top (100) Beyer speed figure in a 7 ¼ length romp. Awesome Anywhere didn’t make it to the post until January of this year when he showed up in a bottom-rung maiden $20,000 event, so clearly, the 4-year-olds has had his issues. But this was his 11th career start this year (with six wins), so whatever problem he may have had seems no longer worth worrying about.