Monday, April 1, 2013

Weekend Recap: Bittersweet

From the Dubai World Cup races to the Florida Derby card overflowing with stakes races at Gulfstream Park and the Louisiana Derby (and undercard) at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans, Saturday had fine horse racing from early morning to evening. Despite the abundant quality of all the races, however, it was something of a bittersweet day.

Dubai World Cup: The richest race in the world was run on Saturday, and although technically an American horse—2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom—won, for me his victory was both bittersweet and disappointing.

The disappointment was largely due to the uncharacteristic performance of Royal Delta, who had been (literally) rearing to go while training at Meydan Racecourse in the days leading up to the race. Leading early, she set very modest fractions (roughly 50 seconds for the first half mile) and led going into the final turn. But she appeared to hit a wall at the top of the stretch and faded to 10th. It was a big surprise and a disappointment. Anyone that reads this blog regularly will know that I'm a big fan of Royal Delta, and it always hurts when one of "your" horses performs very poorly.

On the other hand, an American horse hasn’t won the Dubai World Cup since the race moved from Nad Al Sheba Racecourse’s dirt track to Meydan’s Tapeta surface in 2010. Animal Kingdom conquered this obstacle; however, as he will not return to the United States and will stand stud in Australia this fall, he isn’t truly an American horse anymore, is he? Hence, the bittersweet flavoring of his victory. 

As a bonus, here's a video of Cigar's 1996 Dubai World Cup win in the inaugural running of the race. For those held spellbound by the great Cigar, early 1995 through late 1996 was a magical run for racing, and no moment of this time was more defined than Cigar's win in Dubai. That day, after flying halfway around the world to an exotic land to conquer all that was thrown at him, Cigar truly became America's horse.

Gulfstream Park: Gulfstream Park had seven stakes on the card for Saturday, including the Florida Derby (Gr. I), Gulfstream Oaks (Gr. II), Sir Shackleton Stakes, and Orchid Stakes (Gr. III), which were of particular interest to me. Click each aforementioned race for a video. Overall, the day of racing here was also bittersweet.

Giving Capt. Candyman Can a peppermint

The Sir Shackleton Stakes was run by a horse Shannon and I like a lot--Capt. Candyman Can. He failed to fire and trailed the field. Since he finished last in his previous race, the Super Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on February 23, I wondered if it was time to retire Capt.

As it turns out, I was correct. The Daily Racing Form released an article today announcing Capt.'s retirement.

The three-year-olds of 2009 have proven to be some of the more memorable for me. Rachel Alexandra, Giant Oak, Musket Man, Quality Road, Mine that Bird, Mr. Hot Stuff, and Capt. Candyman Can. It was April 4, 2009; my husband and I were at Hawthorne for the Illinois Derby. It was clear but cold outside and I wasn't adequately dressed for the weather so we spent most of our time inside, watching races across the country on the televisions while we awaited the Illinois Derby.

On these televisions, two horses in particular caught my eye--the beautifully handsome, appropriately-named Mr. Hot Stuff in the Santa Anita Derby, and the oddly-named Capt. Candyman Can in the Bay Shore Stakes at Aqueduct (click here for video). That oddly-named horse won his race drawing away and the next day, I put him in my virtual stable. Little did I know that we would meet him three years and six months later.

Racing fans become attached to the horses they follow, particularly as the years flow on and the horse continues to race. Naturally, one becomes more attached to particular individuals, for one reason or the other. Capt. Candyman Can became such a horse for my husband and I, and we are happy that he is retiring safe and sound, with a bright new career on the horizon. Thanks for everything, Capt., it was a great few years.

Capt., his personality, and a corgi.

The Orchid Stakes was a few races later but I missed watching it live. It was recording while I was at the barn, riding Limerick. I wasn't having the best of days up to my ride, but was in a better mood after (as riding can do), and was in an even better mood once I returned home and watched the recording of this race.

I posted a few weeks ago that it was a huge thrill to watch Regalo Mia nab her first stakes win. Well, it's an even bigger thrill to see her accomplish the coveted title of graded stakes winner. Yeah! The lovely Sligo Bay - Shake It Up mare unleashed a good closing drive over the Gulfstream turf to win the Orchid with room to spare. Regalo Mia appears to be improved this year; I hope to see her get her first grade I win later in the year. Here's a good Blood-Horse article on her win.

The Gulfstream Oaks was the most impressive race of the day. Dreaming of Julia (A.P. Indy - Dream Rush, by Wild Rush) took command of the lead over the final turn and won by over 20 lengths, handily. The final time for the 1-1/8 mile race was 1:48.97. Several races later, Orb won the Florida Derby--also 1-1/8 miles--in 1:50.87. It's not often that you see a filly so dominate her race that she wins in a time nearly two seconds faster than the time for a Kentucky Derby prep worth 100 points. 

Orb himself is interesting and has become one of my Kentucky Derby picks. His fourth dam, Laughter (Bold Ruler - Shenanigans) is a very close relative to the great Ruffian. Orb himself is also owned by the Janney family and races under the same silks that Ruffian herself raced in. Maybe it's just me, but amongst the three-year-old colts this year I see so many signs from our trip to New York last year. I spotted Oxbow in the paddock at Saratoga before his first race, Verrazano is named for the Verrazano-Narrows bridge, which we crossed to get to Belmont Park, and Orb is owned by the Janney family and descends from the family of Ruffian. It's kind of surreal, but it's also cool.

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