It’s been — literally — a wild ride so far in Laurel’s fall meet. To wit:
- For the second time in three days, a horse broke a track record on the turf yesterday. In the ninth, Saint Pierre — a 53-1 bomber — held off Schoolyard Dreams by a head in a third-level allowance, stopping the clock in 1:33.30 for the mile over firm turf. Two races before that, Southern Region missed the track record at 5 1/2 furlongs by four-hundredths of a second.
- You should check out the video, on Youtube, of Thursday’s ninth from Laurel. Kildare gave jockey Forest Boyce a wild ride, dragging her all the way to the outer rail in the lane — and still won! I’d share the video with you here, but the folks who maintain the Youtube channel have disabled embedding. Just sayin’.
- Laurel’s one-for-two on innovations this meet, and the one that works is a really good one. The one that doesn’t work so well is the track’s new logo, which looks fine on the page but not so much on the TV screen, where the colors are too dark and too similar and the design too cramped. The innovation that works is the new “virtual finish line,” which superimposes a finish line and a series of “yards to go to finish” markers on the screen so that viewers know how close they are to victory (or defeat). It’s a big step forward for the viewers, rather like the first-down markers now commonplace in football broadcasts. Well done, guys.
- Our Race o’ yesterday was the ninth, and we sure didn’t see Saint Pierre winning; then again, at 53-1, not too many other people did either. Our foursome occupied second (Schoolyard Dreams), third (Bad Debt), and fifth (a nose from fourth for Silver Tie Affair). Thunder Lord, our other selection, may still be running for all we know; he made no impact on the race.
For today’s Race o’, let’s turn to the 10th, the $125,000 Japan Racing Association Stakes, which will be contested at 1 1/16 miles over the grass. Don’t be surprised if another course record falls in this race, and one of the leading contenders to knock it down is morning line favorite Action Andy, who already owns the 6 1/2 furlong dirt record at Tampa Bay at 1:15 2/5. This is one versatile horse, though, and he’s won a pair of grass stakes in his career. In June, he won the Da Hoss at a flat mile on the grass at Colonial and followed that up with a tough-luck second in the Kitten’s Joy, in which he made all the pace but got nipped at the wire. His works since have been pretty moderate, and it’ll be interesting to see what that means (if anything). Eighttofasttocatch is the second choice at 9-2, but he feels like a horse to stand against today; grass is not his best surface, and like Alex Ovechkin, the hockey player who inspired the horse’s name, this one feels like he’s not quite the athlete he was — still a good horse, but maybe an inch less good. An intriguing prospect in this race is Mr. Irons, who finished third in the Kitten’s Joy, beaten just 1 1/14 lengths for all the money. That day, the horse had the chance to make a rail run but appeared timid about going through the hole and then had to steady; had he gone through, he might well have gotten the money. On the other hand, he appears to like softer going than he’ll see today, and his trainer hasn’t won in 16 tries at bringing a horse back after more than 30 days off — so demand value, which, at a 10-1 morning line, may be available. Boy, El Commodore has been keeping some good company: second in the G3 Red Bank to Get Serious, third in the Henry S. Clark to Hudson Steele, second in the G3 Tampa Bay to Roman Tiger. He didn’t run all that well in his last, but
he had the worst of the trip, too, and spent a long time with no place to go. He’s got the right to run better today. See Tobe is a horse moving in the right direction, and with just 11 starts to his credit, that can certainly continue. He’s turned in two straight good efforts on turf, and in his last closed like a freight train but just missed nailing 1-2 Smart Bid on the wire. He’s been first or second in all three tries at this distance on turf, and look for another good one today.