It’s now summer racing time, and that’s a great time of year for racing fans. Saratoga and Del Mar are slices of heaven. One backs up to the Adirondack Mountains in the Capital Region of New York, the other is a solid five-iron shot from the Pacific Ocean. The best trainers, jockeys and horses spend the summer at the two tracks, and life is good. (And, for those in the middle of the country, Ellis Park is a nice summer place to be, too. The Pea Patch is scenic, don’t let anyone say otherwise.)
Arrogate returns this Saturday, his first race since his amazing Dubai World Cup. Remind yourself here of that performance. He broke last, spotted the field eight lengths, and…yeah. Arrogate in Dubai He faces three solid, but ultimately overmatched rivals, and should win the San Diego Handicap (Gr. 2) by many lengths. Breeders’ Cup champ Lady Eli highlights the Diana (Gr. 1) at Saratoga, and looks the class, but her stablemate Antonoe has been on fire lately. Great race. Two-year-colts take the next step in the Sanford (Gr.3) and on Sunday, Abel Tasman and Mike Smith fly in to try for their third straight win together, this time in the Coaching Club American Oaks (Gr. 1). In the San Clemente (Gr. 2) at Del Mar on Sunday, Sircat Sally will try to stay unbeaten, but faces her toughest class test yet. She’s 8/5 on the morning line, and should win, but it’s racing, and you know what that means.
Quick review of graded stakes races from last week: Songbird won the Delaware Handicap, giving away eight pounds to the runner-up and eleven pounds to third place. It wasn’t a “blow them away” type of performance that we’ve gotten used to with Songbird, but she showed a ton of heart and a win is a win. It’s worth a watch if you haven’t seen it. Songbird in Delaware We’ll see her at the end of September against Vale Dori and Stellar Wind in the Zenyatta at Santa Anita, with weights a little more reasonable and all at their home track. Count out Songbird at your own risk.
In the three-year-old colt division, West Coast won pretty comfortably in the Los Al Derby, and will head next to the Travers at the end of August, where he’ll meet, among others, Indiana Derby winner Irap. Like a lot of other people, I had some crow for dinner after Irap won in Indiana by five lengths. He’s an improving, maturing colt, and not that 31-1 maiden who shocked the Blue Grass in April at Keeneland. Say what you want about the competition he’s faced in his last two, but he’s coming into the Travers as well as anyone, and he’s legit. The Travers will be a fun betting race, and may have each winner of this spring’s Triple Crown races, the two-year-old champ, and a host of other nice colts. It’s the Mid-Summer Derby, after all.
Finally, I wanted to tell some stories from my racing history. Racing has been in my blood since, oh, seven or eight years old? Maybe younger? I put together a Kentucky Derby mural for my local library, and I was Steve Cauthen for elementary school career day. (I quickly learned the ideal weight for a jockey is about 120 pounds, and I passed that a while ago) I would scrawl out letters to Kentucky farms, asking for promotional and marketing items, and man, that was better than Christmas Day when they would come through in the mail. In middle school, my family would go to the Jim Beam Stakes at Turfway Park in northern Kentucky while I was on spring break. I met Pay Day, Wayne Lukas there, saw future Kentucky Derby winner Lil E. Tee there. We would go to Keeneland auctions, I had my picture taken in front of world-famous Claiborne Farm for my birthday often, and then eventually my family bought a few mares, and we raised the foals from them. Those foals would grow up, and I worked at the farm they were kept at in Lexington, while I was going to school at UK. I was there when Fusaichi Pegasus lit up the sales board for $4 million, then we met up again when he won the Kentucky Derby, and I bet the money I got for my freshman year books on him. A lot more stories where those came from, but that’s a good start. Enjoy the racing this weekend, and I’ll leave some photos of yours truly from the home of Secretariat.