There has been a lot of travel for me. It is the Fourth of July in the US and every racetrack has an evening set aside for a fireworks display. It is a quintessential American tradition. I watched a 20 minute-long fireworks show at Hazel Park, a harness raceway just outside of Detroit, on Friday.
Racing in Michigan is going through a difficult period. There is one thoroughbred course and several harness tracks. Attendance is down and the wagering is way off. The racing industry is on life support in Michigan with financial assistance from the State Government. There is a ‘petition movement’ to place a proposition in the November (election) ballot. If approved, the State legislature will take up a measure to authorize five casinos at different tracks. Racing in Michigan hangs in the balance.
Mawatheeq was reluctant to get stalled and a field of five left the gate in the 2000-metre Coral Eclipse Stakes at Sandown Park. The Saturday card at Sandown was sponsored by Coral, one of the three bookmaking giants in the UK. Twice Over was the 13-8 favorite. Dar Re Mi was the 3-1 second choice. Mawatheeq’s (a 5-1 chance) withdrawal resulted in a 15-pence reduction on the winner’s payout. This is what is called ‘Rule 4’ in England. The odds offered on the withdrawn horse determine the deduction.
Twice Over disputed the lead with Dar Re Mi early and went ahead to set a strong gallop. Dar Re Mi began a retreat as the pace quickened. Viscount Nelson and Zacinto were not making progress. Twice Over’s lead widened to four lengths with 300 metres to go. As the favorite’s supporters were getting ready to celebrate, Sri Putra, ridden by Philip Robinson and a 33-1 chance, came out of the pack. Sri Putra put in a burst of speed and for a moment or two, caused a modicum of anxiety as the line loomed large but Twice Over had built a long-enough advantage. The winning margin was one half length. Viscount Nelson took third and Dar Re Mi finished fourth. The race was run in 2 minutes and 4.64 seconds. Prince Khalid Abdullah added 283,850 pounds to his racing account.
As the Eclipse was being run at Sandown, in the neighboring town of Wimbledon, Serena Williams was cruising to victory in the ladies’ singles final. The 29 year-old American beat Vera Zvonareva in straight sets, 6-3 and 6-2. That was the 13th Grand Slam win for Serena Williams. Sandown (close to Esher station) is on the same line as Wimbledon on trains that can be boarded at London Waterloo. The tennis match began at 2 PM London time and the Eclipse was run at 3 10 PM.
Twice Over, a five year-old, is by Observatory out of Double Crossed by Caerleon. In his most recent start, Twice Over chased Byword (another Abdullah horse) in Royal Ascot’s Prince of Wales. Henry Cecil’s trainee was third to Zenyatta in the BC Classic last year at Santa Anita. It was the second Group I win for Twice Over. He was victorious in the Champion Stakes at Newmarket last October. In the 2009 Eclipse won by Sea The Stars, Twice Over ran seventh. Sir Cecil’s last win in the Eclipse came in 1978 with Gunner B.
Sir Henry Cecil paid tribute to jockey and horse. “Tom (Queally) rode a brilliant race. He had been in front too long but he did enough in the end. He lost a shoe-he has to have stick-on shoes. It was great to see him win. I think he was unlucky in the Prince of Wales. We will consider the Juddmonte, the Champion Stakes and the Dubai World Cup next year. Prince Abdullah will decide if we’ll take another tilt at the Breeders’ Cup.”
Jockey Queally, getting the recognition he deserves, said, “he’s a real stable star. He is a wonderful character of a horse and he deserves it. He stayed very well. We used different tactics at Ascot. It was a smaller field today and going to the lead seemed a good option.”
Jockey Richard Hughes was slapped with a two-day ban after his ride on Jehanbux, the second place finisher in a maiden race at Sandown Park on Friday. Hughes explained, “we jumped out and went toward the rail. There was interference inside and because I was outside, they (stewards) have blamed me. There was a gap between me and the horse causing it but the stewards said that I influenced him in moving over. What should I have done! Talk to him. I did not push him and did not intimidate him. I’ll definitely appeal.”
In Australia, jockey Danny Nikolic has fought the good fight against the charges that could have derailed his career. Nikolic faced two charges related to improper practices in connection with racing. Two other charges were instances of conduct prejudicial to racing. Nikolic and his associates were accused of using Betfair (using phones) to lay some of his (beaten) rides.
Jockey Nikolic, one of Australia’s riding stars, pleaded not guilty. The Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board agreed.
“I am very happy with the end result. I got a fair hearing. I can get on with things and try to rebuild what I like to do and that is to ride the big winners. I was quietly confident. I knew I had done nothing wrong so I hoped the Board would see it my way.”
A note on the $100,000 Beverly Hills Handicap run at Hollywood Park last week. The race went to Turning Top, trained by Simon Callaghan and ridden by Brice Blanc. It was a Grade III race over 2000 metres run on the grass. Turning Top tracked the leader and struck the front soon after entering the homestretch. It was the fourth consecutive win for the four year-old Pivotal filly. Turning Top’s mother is Pietra Dura who is by Cadeaux Genereux.
Turning Top ran the 2000 metres in 2 01.69 seconds and won by a length. She returned $10.40. It was the first graded win for the 26 year-old Simon Callaghan who moved to the US from the UK last winter. It was the first graded victory for the 37 year-old Brice Blanc. It was confirmed that Turning Top will race next in the $250,000 John Mabee Stakes.
A thought or two about the Northumberland Plate. It is a race over two miles and 19 yards and was contested at Newcastle (UK) last week. There were 19 runners. Overturn, Eddie Ahern up, had post 19 but showed enough alacrity and early foot to hit the front quickly. The Don McCain, Jr, pupil set the pace and drew off when it mattered to win by two and three quarter lengths. The time was three minutes and 28.05 seconds. Overturn was a 14-1 chance. Four places were paid out because of the size of the field and the fact that the race was a handicap. Overturn was at 14-1 and 15-1 in places but paid 18.60 (Pounds) on a one pound wager. Deauville Flyer, the 3-1 public choice, salvaged fifth.
Overturn, it must be pointed out, has been racing over the jumps over the past six months. Would you believe that the winning owner and the trainer could not reach the course on time because of a flat tire? However, they listened to the radio call. Jockey Ahern accepted the trophy.
Jockey Ahern commented, “Plan A was getting out from my wide draw and go to the rail. I managed to do that. What I wanted was an easy lead and that’s what happened and nobody took me on. He was always going well and picked up in the straight.”
Here are some jockey numbers from England. I do not know what the cutoff date is. Paul Hanaghan is enjoying a double digit lead over his closest pursuer. Hanaghan rides for Richard Fahey and has 93 wins from 524 rides. The remarkable thing is that if you had bet one pound on every one of Hanaghan’s rides, you will have a profit of 22.30.
In second is Joe Fanning who rides primarily for Mark Johnston. Jockey Fanning is 73 from 475 mounts. Ryan Moore has 72 wins from 363 rides. Richard Hughes has 72 from 417. Frankie Dettori has ridden 57 winners from 269 rides. Martin Dwyer has 41 from 272. Dwyer, who came in for a lot of criticism for his ride on Becket in the Indian Derby, has a 158.34 profit and this is out of the ordinary.
Here are guys who were in India the past winter. Adrian Nicholls has 36 from 170. David Allan is 34 from 232. Silvestre de Sousa, who has a wide fan base in India, is 27 from 210. Paul Mulrennan, who had his first Royal Ascot winner last month, is 20 from 256. Mickey Fenton has 12 wins from 158 rides. Tom McLaughlin is 11 from 94. Duran Fentiman has eight from 156 rides.
Two other riders must be mentioned. Tom Queally has 49 from 370 and shows a 41.44 profit. Graham Gibbons has won 48 races from 356 rides and has a 132.34 profit.