Monday, February 18, 2013

Weekend Recap: Filly & Mare Edition

The weekend was full of fillies and mares, which I loved! I enjoy watching horses of either gender run, but as racehorses, breeding stock, and personal horses, the girls will always have a very special place in my heart.

Undefeated super-mare Black Caviar raced in the Black Caviar Lightning Stakes (Group I) Saturday afternoon in Australia, which translated to 11:30pm central time Friday night for us. Racing for the first time since her win in the Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot last June, a part of me had some questions about this race. Namely: is she still mentally sharp, after so many months off? If yes, is she fit enough to carry out her will to win? And is it bad luck for her to attempt to extend her undefeated streak to 23 in a race named after her? I did not have to wait long for her answer.
Black Caviar blazing
"Don't be ridiculous, for I am Black Caviar, Queen of all the Sprinters in the World!" she declared as she floated over the turf with her great, gliding strides, handily breaking the quarter-century old Flemington Racecourse record for 1,000 meters. She had essentially run 5 furlongs in :55.42. There were no more questions to be asked--Black Caviar had returned.

The weekend began with one superstar mare and ended with another. Royal Delta raced in the Sabin (Gr. III) yesterday (Sunday) afternoon for her first start since winning the Breeder's Cup Distaff Ladies Classic last fall. Royal Delta has been riding a peak since last spring (I like to think it began with her romp in the Fleur de Lis at Churchill Downs last June, which my husband and I were fortunate enough to see in person) and I was hoping that she was still riding this peak for the Sabin.

Royal Delta in the paddock before the June 2012 Fleur de Lis

Royal Delta nearing the finish in the Fleur de Lis

Standing tall, she is a long-bodied mare, finely sculpted, with a slender Edward Troye neck and high, beautiful head with a broad flat forehead, straight profile, and eyes bright with intelligence. She is well composed within herself, except when sneaking playful nips to her pony in the post parade. She has matured since 2011, her three-year-old year, and now clearly sees the sport for the game it is. She can stalk or she can speed, and she glides along with a low-slung, ground-eating gallop, her knees bounding high, her neck straight, her ears pricking at the sight of the long, empty homestretch before her. Does she know the roar of the crowd, the shaking of the grandstand, is for her? I have no doubt.
To Royal Delta, racing is an art, and she has fast become my favorite artist to watch. Yesterday she looped Gulfstream Park with that long, low-slung gallop of hers as if going for a pleasure stroll through the park. But one only had to look five lengths back to her hard-driving competitors to realize that Royal Delta was not out for a stroll, but in a race. It was also a relief that she won, for she is now headed to Dubai for another crack at the World Cup, following the same path she took last year. The only difference is, a not-yet-mature Royal Delta lost last year's Sabin to the very good Awesome Maria before finishing 9th in the World Cup. Hopefully this year's trip across the ocean will yield better results.

Most racing fans are familiar with Baffert's 1998 Triple Crown contender, Real Quiet. By Quiet American, out of Really Blue (by Believe It, a son of In Reality), Real Quiet is heavily influenced by Tartan Farm's masterful breeding. He also came closer than any other horse since 1979 to winning the Triple Crown. Unfortunately, he died in 2010, but not before siring the brilliant sprinter Midnight Lute (out of the Dehere mare Candytuft), who was also trained by Bob Baffert. Racing fans from the 1998 era are also familiar with Baffert's champion filly, Silverbulletday. Her wins include the Breeder's Cup Juvenile Fillies, Ashland Stakes, Kentucky Oaks, Black Eyed Susans, Monmouth Oaks, and Alabama Stakes. Retiring with 15 wins from 23 starts, she was hailed as one of the top fillies of the 1990s.

These horses are three of the better ones that Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has had in his barns, and over the weekend they came together to produce a trio of three-year-olds to watch--all also trained by Mr. Baffert. Midnight Lucky, by Midnight Lute (out of Citiview, by Citidancer) impressively broke her maiden upon her first try on Saturday. Then yesterday--Sunday--two horses by Midnight Lute and out of daughters of Silverbulletday won at Santa Anita. Govenor Charlie (yes, that is spelled accurately) broke his maiden in his second try--his dam is the unraced Silverbulletway, by Storm Cat. Two races later, Shake It Up won the San Vicente (Gr. II), a Kentucky Derby prep race. Shake It Up is out of the unraced Silver Bullet Moon, by Vindication (a gone-too-soon son of Seattle Slew).

It's been nearly 15 years since I heard much about Silverbulletday, and to have her announce her presence so clearly over the weekend brought back memories. You can see her page on the Hall of Fame here.

 Lastly, Rachel Alexandra has remained in serious but stable condition over the weekend, which is as good news as you can expect. Her veterinarians are encouraged by her progress. I hope she can continue on the upswing and eventually make a complete recovery.

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