Tuesday, 30 August 2016 10:28

Post Derby Doldrums

Written by Norm Castiglione
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It was a slow 3 days of racing at Northlands this past week. We could start off by giving Riversedge’s 2 y o colt accolades for his performance in the Sales Stakes this past Friday at Hastings but we have been trumped by some late breaking news that will top off this week’s column.

One of our highly informed sources who shall remain anonymous (Mat Monaco) is convinced that as a tribute to him, the partnership that owns a $1.3 million 2 year old colt by Uncle Mo, named the horse “Monaco”. Although the human Monaco came clean that he really has never met owners Michael Tabor, John Magnier and Derrick Smith from England, the fourth partner Mike Repole is a countryman so the obvious connection. It can only be assumed that these guys who play the game at the highest level are aware of Monaco’s reputation as that of a living legend (in his own mind) thus bestowed this great honor upon him. The colt debuted in the first race on Travers day at Saratoga and while duking it out with the leaders and in second place turning for home he could do no better than a retreating 6th. Big disappointment for MM but not as much as the guys who laid out a significant chunk of change with the first return on investment being a paltry $372. Let’s not run the numbers to see how many of these placings the steed needs to achieve payout. However, the price paid for this colt pales in comparison with another rather large purchase these English lads made in 2006 for The Green Monkey – add $14.7 mm to “Monaco’s” cost. BTW the race winner cost $70,000 and the second place finisher $200,000. This is why we we continue to invest in the business – you can buy a dream for much less than $16 or $1.3 million.

Now for real racing news, Riversedge Racing’s 2 year old colt named Strate Remark (who spells Strate like this?) ran his record to 2 wins from 3 starts on Friday night by capturing the Sales Stakes at Hastings Park restricted to yearling colts purchased at CTHS Sales in Western Canada. The colt was pressured every step of the way but prevailed by ¾ of a length at the wire. To date he has earned a little over $40,000 so has basically paid himself out. In a rather embarrassing moment for your scribe and the Riversedge connection, when asked for post-race comments, all that was mustered was that we will be back again and again and again”. Still trying to figure out we were getting at – we can hold our own one on one but not so much in front of a mike or camera!

The result of the Filly division of the BC Sales Stake was somewhat disappointing for her Alberta connections – Danard, Landry & Trainer G. Tracy. Something Better who won rather easily on BC Cup Day thus deserving of her 3/5 favoritism in this race. She could do no better than 4th after heading home a length in front. Interesting item about this race, the winner Yukon Belle is owned by Edmonton Oiler star center, Ryan Nugent Hopkins. To win an inaugural stake in a horse’s first lifetime start is definitely noteworthy. The filly by Belmont winner Drosselmeyer went off at odds of 12/1. One would think that RNH’s preference for BC thoroughbred racing where the family stable currently totals 3, is that he hails from Burnaby.

Searching high and low for local newsworthy items this week, we have come up with what’s in a name? According to HBPA President Dr. Steve Smith, one of the more cleverly named horses racing at Northlands is Grapes of Math. The fellow responsible for coming up with this gem is extremely bright and shall remain nameless (Chris Roberts). He was tasked with arriving at something out of the ordinary for the yearling colt purchased at the 2013 CTHS Alberta Sale who is by Einstein out of the mare Valpolicella. Understanding that Vapolicella is a wine region in the Verona area in northern Italy producing wines second only to Toscana, and that the real Einstein was among other things a brilliant mathematician, the name Grapes of Math (a play on Grapes of Wrath) emerged. If you look at the connections of this horse, you can understand that wine and numbers live in these people’s DNA which must have been abundantly clear to the author.

Again searching for any type of track news we are thankful that Diodoro Assistant Trainer,  Rob Atras has left town for the friendly confines of Remington Park in Oklahoma City. He managed to rack up 3 traffic violations from August 1 – 12 by driving a borrowed vehicle from Northlands to the Coliseum which can’t be more than a stone’s throw from the track. This begs the question – why did he not walk? The bigger question is how many more of these things are in the mail since he did not depart until August 21 - there or thereabouts.

Speaking of numbers, for the firstforty-seven (47) days of the meet, wagering on the live product totaled $13,301,465 compared to $14,491,280 for the similar period last year. Wagering continues to trend downward and year to date is down $1,189,815 or 8.25%. Recently the weather and poor track conditions have certainly taken a toll on business. Next week we will provide all relevant statistical information as it pertains to purses paid, races carded, starters per race, AB bred bonus, and winter incentive bonuses paid to date.

Racing at the Big Time

Saturday’s card at Saratoga had to be the best racing product offered anywhere this year. A little over $5.6 million (you read that right) was given away in purse money. Total wagering on the 13 race card amounted to a little over $45.5 million. To put this in prospective, during the first 47 days of our meet we have wagered around 30% of what Saratoga did during their marquee day of racing. No one is suggesting we should be comparing our product with Saratoga’s but the numbers are truly staggering. To recap all of five (5) Grade 1 & one (1) Grade 2 races would be a monumental task so we will only select a few highlights.

In the King Bishop many of us were rooting for Dany Dion’s Noholdingback Bear who ran a very credible 3rd in the Grade 1 at odds of 25/1. A consistent sort racing exclusively at Woodbine, he was able to step up in class and put in a top notch performance. As a matter of fact the field included 11th place finisher Mohaymen who earlier in the spring was the favorite for the Ky. Derby.

The return of Lady Eli after a near brush with death coupled with a 16 month absence from the races was an amazing feat in itself. She can be excused for not winning but running second to longshot Strike Charmer after what she’s gone through was by no means embarrassing.

We really don’t know if anyone can beat Flintshire going a mile and ½ on turf. Two years ago he got beat ½ of a length in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita. Since then he’s not been beaten on US Turf. Lifetime, he has raced in the top three 19/22 times and raced all over the world. You heard it here first, assuming he makes it to the Breeders’ Cup he will not lose.

The more things change the more they stay the same. To ask a rhetorical question, where does Bob Baffert get all these fast horses? A winner of a maiden race and 2 allowance races on the west coast, there was no indication that Arrogate would turn in a lifetime performance at 11/1 in the Travers winning by 13 lengths in track record time of 1.59.2 for the mile and ¼. Whereas the current thinking was that there would be no challengers awaiting California Chrome in the Breeders’ Cup Classic one would have to seriously reconsider. The only issue could be that Arrogate could possibly bounce off this performance.

Lastly it seems obvious to the trained eye that Exaggerator does not like a fast track or New York or both as he has now recorded two 11th place finishes in Belmont and Saratoga. With Nyquist’s star fading there is no obvious 3 y o of the year at this point. Should Arrogate win the Classic he will be the best 3 year old in the land.

Next up locally will be two Stake races for 2 yos – The Birdcatcher and Bird of Pay & the mile and 3/8 Speed to Spare for older horses going on Labor Day Monday. See you at the track.

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