Friday, August 28, 2015

American Pharoah tries to add the Travers feather to his glittering cap

Despite living abroad, thanks to the technological marvel called the internet, I have been able to follow horse racing in India. It was perhaps about 15 years ago that Indian racing began its world wide web journey.


America provided a good platform for me to see all the big events in the US racing calendar. It also made it convenient for me to travel to Europe, Japan and Dubai. The Melbourne Cup is the one glaring omission from the list of places I have visited. I made a seven-day trip to Trinidad in December 2006 to see racing at Santa Rosa racecourse.


My winter sojourns in India  (since 2000) have helped me make friends and develop contacts. I contributed to Indiarace in a big way for five years. RWITC carried a lot my stories and that gave me considerable exposure.


Given my interest in Indian racing and the time I spend understanding it, I believe that the time has come for me to venture into the ‘handicapping’ arena. I will make a beginning in this piece.


There are two meetings on Saturday, August 29, 2015. Let us deal with Pune first.


I like the chances of Lord Jim in the fourth race. Pesi Shroff trains Lord Jim, an Iffraaj progeny. Lord Jim was an eye-catching second in his debut. An odds on chance in his next start, Lord Jim delivered in impressive fashion. On February 28, 2015, Lord Jim, Richard Hughes up, ran listlessly in an 1800-metre race. Shivalik Showers won easily making it all and franked that form climbing to greater heights. Lord Jim, without question, did not perform up to his potential. Officially, no explanation has been given. Exactly six months later, the Shroff trainee sets foot on the track. The freshening should have done Lord Jim a world of good. Trevor Patel gets the call. Lord Him finds eminently manageable opposition.


There is another horse that I like in the Pune card. It is Jupiter in the fifth race.   In his first race in a handicap, Jupiter was ridden aggressively by Yash Narredu. Stalking the pacesetter until the final turn, Jupiter bounded forward when asked the question. I feel that there is more to come. Yes, jockey Sunil rides but claims a three and one half kilo allowance. Sunil is unlikely to hurt Jupiter’s chances. Christmas Eve, a filly with speed, will attempt start to finish tactics. Once looked in the eye, from what I have seen, she throws in the towel.


I have three in Kolkata that I strongly recommend. Real Presence, Shailesh Shibde up, went down fighting in a photo finish as  the 65/100 favorite. It is time for Real Presence to make a winner’s circle visit.


In the third, Torero,  who was touched off in his last outing, is ready. P S Chouhan has the mount.


The sixth race is the Kolkata  Monsoon Sprint. Deserving Visit has the most appeal. The China Visit filly has a record good as gold. Returning from a layoff, Deserving Visit, in the hands of C Alford, roared thru the short Kolkata stretch to win in her Monsoon debut. She is in cracking form and it is difficult to oppose her.


Here is news from England. Richard Hughes has been granted a trainer’s license. He will train in a yard located in Hampshire. British bookmakers are offering even money that Hughes will have a winner (as a trainer) at Glorious Goodwood in 2016. Richard Hughes has had  remarkable numbers as a jockey at the Chicester course.


American Pharoah will leave from post two in the Travers on Saturday. . The Travers (dirt 2000 metres) has a 10-horse field. The Bob Baffert pupil is the 1/5 morning line favorite. Coral, the UK bookmaker, is offering 2/7. It is about 29/100.


Texas Red, winner of the Breeders Cup Juvenile in 2014 and the Jim Dandy winner at Belmont this year as a sophomore, will oppose American Pharoah. Frosted, second in the Belmont Stakes and again second in the Jim Dandy, is also in the Travers line up.


Two facts about Saratoga this year. The inside has not been productive. Favorites have been falling like nine pins.  Will the Triple Crown champion overcome these  two trends?


Only three Triple Crown winners have raced in the Travers. Gallant Fox was the runner-up in 1930. Whirlaway won in 1941. Affirmed, who had beaten Alydar in the Triple Crown races in 1978, won the Travers but was disqualified and placed second behind Alydar.


On Thursday, American Pharoah made a five-minute appearance for a gallop at Saratoga. Jorge Alvarez, the regular exercise rider, was aboard. He said, “you want to make sure that they handle the track the first time on it. He has been to numerous tracks. He handled it really well.”


American Pharoah will have another gallop on Friday and Bob Baffert will supervise the work.


Saturday’s Saratoga has an abundance of Grade I contests. The Travers is the centerpiece. There is the Ballerina, the King’s Bishop, the Forego, the Sword Dancer and the Personal Ensign.


When the Arc weekend racing is completed on October 4, Longchamp, the storied Paris course, will be demolished and reconstruction will begin. The plan calls for an all-weather track too. Longhcamp will not be ready until 2017. It is not known where the 2016 Arc De Triomphe will be run. Either Maisons Laffite or Saint Cloud, both Paris tracks, will face the axe. The decision will come soon.


I have great memories of Saint Cloud, It is left handed and it is beautiful.


I have been going to Longchamp for close to 20 years. The Arc weekend is one of the best organized meetings. The viewing area, the transportation, the press facilities and the general ambience are unparalleled.


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