Friday and Saturday were busy days. I handicap the harness races for the Chicago area tracks. My selections and comments on the top three picks appear in the Chicago Sun-Times. Friday’s Maywood Park card has 14 races. Balmoral Park’s Saturday card has 14 races. I make selections for three (harness) simulcast tracks. You can watch and wager on the simulcast tracks. Northfield in Cleveland, Ohio, is one of them. Northfield is the first American racetrack I stepped into in September 1975. Meadowlands in East Rutherford, New Jersey, is another in my menu. Meadowlands is the biggest harness market in North America. The future of racing at the Meadowlands is in jeopardy, thanks to the troubled economy. Mohawk, outside of Toronto, is the third simulcast track on my plate.
Racing in Illinois is in trouble. Neighboring States like Michigan and Indiana have what are called ‘racinos.’ It is a combination of the words, race and casino. Illinois tracks are desperately trying to get slot machines and the State legislature is balking. The casino owners are against the idea. Purses have dropped precipitously and harness racing is on life support. Thoroughbred racing in Illinois is not what it was five or ten years ago. Big jockeys and trainers have taken their business elsewhere. Arlington Park is the flagship track. The fields are small and the quality has suffered.
Please take heart. Racing in America is in as much trouble as it is in India. Things may not have struck bottom yet. The state of racing is not healthy in Europe at the moment. I am an optimist and let us hope for our best.
There are three big races that I want to write about. However, I will take them up in the next blog. Telling got an encore in the Sword Dancer at Saratoga on Saturday. Sidney’s Candy put on an exhibition in Del Mar’s La Jolla that had to be seen to be believed. Makfi lowered the colors of Goldikova and Paco Boy in the Jacques le Marois at Deauville on Sunday.
There is a Group I race, the 2400-metre Rheinland-Pokal, at Cologne, Germany, on Sunday. It is a seven-runner field and the going is likely to be soft. We will report on this German race tomorrow.
Deauville’s Group II Prix de Pomone (fillies and mares) was run on Saturday. Rain made the grass extra soft. Therefore, it is safe to assume that Sunday’s conditions will be testing when Goldikova goes for her eleventh Group I win in the Jacques le Marois. Peinture, Anthony Crastus up, won the 2500-metre Pomone by a length from High Heeled, William Buck aboard, who finished with a flourish. A 11-1 chance in the French tote, Peinture Rare, a daughter of Saddler’s Wells, is trained by Elie Lellouche. Eastern Aria saw her streak end when running fourth. Aga Khan-owned Daryakana was scratched because of (very) soft ground.
Trainer Lellouche spoke about his filly. “Today, she had her surface. She really enjoyed it and is in good form. Next is Prix Vermeille. Distances of a mile and up to a mile and a half are perfect for her.”
Saturday at Deauville marked the triumphant return of Vision d’Etat. The race was the Prix Gontaut-Biron over 2000 metres. The soft turf held no terrors and the Eric Libaud trainee won with a measure of comfort in the hands of Olivier Peslier.
Trainer Eric Libaud commented on his success. “It was a very satisfactory reintroduction. I am absolutely delighted. He is back to his best form. I am thinking of the Champion Stakes at Newmarket.”
Jockey Peslier won the 2 05 PM race with Vision d’Etat. The French reinsman connected with Dansant in the 4 55 PM race at Deauville. A 17/5 favorite, Dansant justified favoritism in the 2400-metre race. It was the perfect warm up for Peslier who is on Goldikova in Sunday’s Jacques le Marois.
Let us take a look at the happenings in England. At Ripon on Saturday, David Allan won the first race with Mariachi Man, a 5/1 chance. He won the second with Emerald Glade, the 3/1 favorite. The winning trainer was T D Easterby for whom Allan rides.
Paul Hanaghan is making hay while the sun shines. Ryan Moore is not in action. Hanaghan had two winners in Saturday’s card at Ripon. Mayson, the 5/4 chalk, was Hanaghan’s first winner. The second was the 15/2 Starla Dancer. Richard Fahey trains them both.
However, a race at Ripon on Saturday is worth looking at. Tajneed, ridden by Adrian Nicholls and trained by David Nicholls, was the subject of a nation-wide gamble in the 17-runner field in the 1200-metre William Hill Great St Wilfrid Heritage Handicap. Tajneed’s starting price (called SP in the UK) was 3-1. The race carried a 40,000-pound purse. Tajneed was being hailed the winner when Damika, a 18-1 outsider, came calling. With Michael Stainton, an apprentice claiming a three-pound allowance, Damika caught Tajneed in the waning yards. Tajneed’s loss put a dent in the hopes of those chasing a Scoop6 pool of over 500,000 pounds. There were seven tickets going into the sixth leg, a race at Newbury. Richard Hughes, riding the 5/1 Fleeting Echo who was not nominated in the surviving wagers, landed the knockout blow.
Jockey Hughes is a busy man these days. He rode a double at Newbury on Saturday. He won the 1 25 PM race with Attracted To You, a 100/30 chance, trained by Richard Hannon. In the 3 40 P M race, Hughes guided Fleeting Echo, another Hannon pupil, to victory. He goes to Paris on Sunday to rode Paco Boy in the le Marois.
Godolphin’s fortunes are taking a turn for the better. At Newmarket, Ted Durcan won with two horses trained by Saeed bin Suroor. Signs in the Sand, at evens, won with jockey Durcan who also won the 3 20 PM race with Daffef, who was sent off at 8-1.
Frankie Dettori was plying his trade at Newbury. He won two races for what he calls his ‘boss.’ If my memory serves me right, is not Dr MAM called the boss? The boss Dettori refers to is Sheikh Mohammed. Dettori won the 2 00 PM race with the 2/1 Janood. The 3 05 PM race was the CGA Hungerford Stakes, a class I affair over 1400 metres. Shakespearean, well held at 3/1, made it all. The race was worth 51,000 pounds to the winner. Shakespearean is a three year-old colt by Shamardal. Paimpolaise by Priolo is the dam. That was four wins for Sheikh Mohammed on a highly productive Saturday.
The Group III CGA Geoffrey Freer Stakes was contested on the same card on Saturday. John Murtagh won the race with the Jeremy Noseda-trained Sans Frontieres. The 3/1 Sans Frontieres, a Galileo progeny, ran 2700 metres in 2 52.22 seconds. Lila is the dam and she is by the peerless Shirley Heights. The going was good to soft.
The Ebor meeting opens at York on Tuesday. It is a four-day affair. Ryan Moore will miss opening day. The Juddmonte International is the feature on the first day. The Yorkshire Oaks holds center stage on Thursday. Sariska, beaten in the race last year by Dar Re Mi, is back and is the 2-1 favorite. She is opposed by Mid Day who is coming off a win in the Nassau Stakes at Glorious Goodwood. If you talk of a mouth-watering race, here you have it. The dual-Oaks winning Snow Fairy is in. She is at 5/2. Profound Beauty is a possibility. Dar Re Mi is conspicuous by her absence.
I have a morning ceremony to go to on Monday. Mrs Vatsala and Dr Janakiraman are friends of ours for a long time. They live in a suburb of Chicago. They visit India- five to six months- every year and are based in Chennai. Dr Janakiraman’s 80th birthday is being celebrated at a temple in Lemont, about 35 miles south of Chicago. My wife and will be greeting the Janakiramans on Monday.