Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Charlie Swan wins Legends Charity race: Todd Pletcher wins Saratoga training title

I am typing this report late Wednesday in Chicago. It is 10 25 PM and hardly two hours ago ( California is two hours behind Illinois) at Del Mar in San Diego, J P’s Gusto made it four for four when winning the 1400-metre Grade I Del Mar Futurity. Wednesday’s racing was the last card in the summer meeting at Del Mar. Pat Valenzuela rode the David Hoffmans-trained freshman. We will have more on J P’s Gusto in our next report.

Charlie Swan is 42. A ten-time champion in Ireland in National Hunt competition, jockey Swan is now a ‘jumps’ trainer and he was aboard the 9/2 Miami Gator in the 1600-metre Leger Legends Stakes at Doncaster on Wednesday. The St Leger festival began in dry weather. Miami Gator, trained by Elaine Burke, took the lead early and would not relent. Swan and Miami Gator won by a length and three quarters. Sixteen ran.

The race was run to raise money for an institution to care for retired jockeys and help those who seek rehabilitation. Swan, who retired in 2003, received the winner’s trophy from Lester Piggott. Ernie Johnson was fourth. Jockey Francome finished seventh. Pat Eddery, second only to Sir Richards in number of wins, was 14th of 16 runners.

“He was the form horse in the race so I suppose he was entitled to win. I’m pretty fit but race riding is obviously different. I am glad it was only one mile and not two,” jockey Swan joked.

I am sure you know that an earthquake struck New Zealand last week. Christchurch is a cricket test venue and is also home to two racecourses, Riccarton Park and Addington Raceway. There was damage of a minor kind. Fortunately, neither track suffered structural damage. We are losing tracks all over the world. The news from Kiwi land is heartening.

The St Leger, the final classic in the English racing season, will be run on Saturday at Doncaster. You can take a train from King’s Cross. Rewilding, a Godolphin runner, is the favorite in the 2800-metre race. The St Leger is the oldest Classic in England.

Paul Hanaghan celebrated his 30th birthday by winning two races at Doncaster on Wednesday. Paul clicked with Barefoot Lady, a 3/1 chance. Myplacelater, Hanaghan’s other winner, got up in the waning yards to win a 2100-metre race from Wigmore Hall. Myplacelater was at 22/1 and gave Hanaghan a 91/1 double. Chicago fans will remember that Wigmore Hall ran second in Arlington’s (Grade I) Secretariat Stakes on August 21.

Wigmore Hall appeared a clear cut winner and jockey Jamie Spencer seemed to ease and not whip his mount close home. The stewards questioned jockey Spencer and were satisfied with the explanation. Spencer said that if he had resorted to whipping, he would have interfered with another runner. Spencer also said that Wigmore Hall was getting tired toward the end and the race had come too soon after the Arlington trip.

On Wednesday, Kieren Fallon was in cracking form at Epsom Downs. He won with the 7/2 Epic, then with the 11/4 Music City and the 11/4 Sailorman. All the three are trained by Mark Johnston.

Despite the defense of the riding title getting away from him, Ryan Moore’s enthusiasm has not diminished. He had one winner at the Surrey track.

There are two equine deaths to report. Lost Soldier was found dead on September 7 in Versallies, Kentucky. A heart attack, it is believed, is the cause. Lost Soldier was by Danzing out of Lady Winborne who was by Secretariat. With 11 wins from 45 starts, Lost Soldier earned $434,089. Lost In The Fog, Lost Soldier’s most illustrious son, won eight stakes races in 2005. In the Breeders’ Cup Sprint that year, Lost In The Fog failed to sustain his speed.

Celtic Swing, 18, died of complications from colitis in Italy. In 1994, Celtic Swing won all his three starts as a freshman and was voted champion two year-old in Europe. The Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster was won by Celtic Swing in 1994 and the margin was 12 lengths. Celtic Swing was beaten in a photo in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket and went on to win the French Derby at Chantilly. The Epsom Derby was taken off the table. In the Irish Derby at the Curragh, Celtic Swing was unplaced. Celtic Swing suffered from a case of torn ligaments and was retired. There were five wins from seven races and Celtic Swing earned $777,299. Damister ( by Mr Prospector) is the sire of Celtic Swing. The dam is Celtic Ring who is by Welsh Pageant. The two very famous children of Celtic Swing are Takeover Target, the renowned sprinter, and Six Perfections, owned by the Niarchos family, who won the Breeders’ Cup Turf Mile with Jerry Bailey.

I will devote a paragraph to the Grade II Del Mar Derby run on Sunday. The $300,000 turf (1800 metres) race had six runners. Twirling Candy, the 20/100 favorite, won by three lengths in 1 46.96. John Sadler trains Twirling Candy who was ridden by Joel Rosario. Winner of all his four career starts, Twirling Candy is by Candy Ride out of House of Danzig by Chester House. About 1000 metres to go, Twirling Candy bolted and seemed out of control. Summer Movie was seriously interfered with and was out of contention. After an inquiry, the result stood. The stewards said that given Twirling Candy’s superiority, disqualifying him would have been ‘unjust.’

We will see what happened in the Grade I Spinaway Stakes on Sunday at Saratoga. Eight freshman girls ran in the 1400-metre race that carried a $250,000 purse. Four of them came from Todd Pletcher’s yard. Least fancied among the Pletcher quartet, R Heat Lightning, Garrett Gomez up, ralled from last at the top of the bend to win by four lengths. The time was 1 25.23 and the win payoff was $10.40. Bob Baffert’s Alienation ran second after being caught in a duel for the lead. R Heat Lightning is by Trippi by End Sweep. The dam is Yellow Heat who’s by Gold Fever.

The Spinaway was the first Grade I win this summer for jockey Gomez. “When we first started to turn for home, I waited on her. We came off the turn and I looked up and Bob’s filly (Alienation) came right back to us. My filly stayed on and ran a really good race.”

It was a great Saratoga campaign for Todd Pletcher. He had 36 wins during the meeting. The Spinaway was his fifth Grade I win at Saratoga and the fourth win in that race. Pletcher won 13 Graded events during the meeting.

Pletcher commented on the Spinaway. “The track is not playing that fast. Those were torrid fractions. We had a lot to do turning for home, so, I’m glad she was able to find more. Her next race will be the Frizette (Grade I October 9) at Belmont Park.”

The 40-day Saratoga meeting ended on Monday. Freshmen were in the spotlight in the Grade I 1400-metre Hopeful Stakes on the main track. Boys At Tosconova, trained by Richard Dutrow, Jr, was the 55/100 favorite and justified the public confidence, A Flag Officer colt, Boys At Tosconova sat third as a duel developed, surged three-wide into the lane and scored by almost two lengths. The time was 1 23.27 and four ran in the Hopeful.

Boys At Tosconova is out of Little Bonnet by Coronado’s Quest. In his debut, Boys At Tosconova was second in the Grade III Kentucky Juvenile over 1000 metres at Churchill Downs on April 30. Then came a 12-length romp in late June when the duck was broken. The Hopeful came 66 days later.

Trainer Dutrow said, “he was good enough to get this job done the right way. He has no limits and keeps running and running. The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile is a serious option.”

Winning rider Ramon Dominguez explained the ride. “Rick (trainer) was so confident that he said there was no need to be in front and asked me to play it by the ear. They outbroke me and I put him where he was comfortable and I got him to the outside when I wanted.”

We will preview the St Leger in the next blog or two. I am buoyed by news about Bangalore. I believe I set foot on the Bangalore course in the summer of 1958. Bangalore would race for six-seven weeks beginning second week of June. It was in 1973 that Bangalore began a winter meeting. I have fond memories.

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