Journey with us (won’t you?) on a Simulated trip to The Big Apple, home to a scintillating card of fake horse races on Saturday, March 17, 2018, St. Patrick’s Day.
As regular railbirds of Sim New York know, anytime a day of live racing is scheduled on this holiday, the day everybody is Irish, it is known as “Get in Green” Day. No, you do not gain free admittance by wearing a green shirt with the words “Kiss Me, I’m Irish.” Instead, any patron who can blow above a .10 blood-alcohol level into one of the many breathalyzers being operated by track employees at the gate, is excused the price of admission.
So, yes, the answer seems obvious.
Yes, this writer did get into the track free of charge today. (I also had a press pass.)
The subject of our study this week is the Grade 2, $375,000 Long Island Sprint, a six-furlong, main-track dash for older fillies and mares. The race serves as a prep for two Grade 1 marathon races on the main track. The Sprint goes to post at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, and the two marathon races both at 3 p.m. Both The Thumb Route and The Cayuga Lake Special carry identical purses of $750,000. We are going to see three races on Saturday in New York with combined purses of nearly $2 million.
Our solid work at the BTB continues this week, with Pointguard covering The Thumb Route, and Abcde covering the Cayuga Lake Special. I am proud to be a colleague of both these fine reporters. They give the kind of insightful, thorough previews that any Simulated trainer would hope for when their horse makes a graded race. We seem to have picked up momentum at the BTB since the Equinics Explosion issue. I dig it.
There surely has been a lot come and gone in the 20-year history of this great game. One thing remains the same: Dixiedotco is the Greatest Sim Trainer of All Times. The legend has the top qualifier for the Long Island Sprint with MALIBU TEMPEST, a Grade 1-winning 4yo daughter of Malibu Moon, based on the Grade 2-winning King Alonso (Street Cry X Storm Cat). Malibu Tempest has racked up very nearly three-quarters of a million in earnings while winning half of her 16 career starts. She has developed a definite good race-bad race pattern in her recent form. This sort of spotty form may be expected when you have a filly racing at the high class which Malibu Tempest has visited in her last eight starts, all of the graded variety. Lest the writer give the mistaken impression that Malibu Tempest has been left wanting of consistency in those races, note that she’s missed the board only three times. She has had huge days, too, winning the Grade 1 A Time For Speed on Dec. 15 in South Africa. She also has wins in Grade 2 and Grade 3 company, and that kind of success earns stakes points. She is ranked No. 4 in the division! This is one of the best Simulated female dirt sprinters on the planet. She drops down into a Grade 2 here off three straight starts at Grade 1. It’s a class drop, and perhaps bad news for her opposition. After all, Malibu Tempest never has missed the board in a Grade 2 or Grade 3 race. She is four for four! On top of all that, her aforementioned good race-bad race pattern is in her favor in the Long Island Sprint. If the pattern holds, she is due for a win off her sixth-place run last ou tin the Grade 1 Everclear. The morning-line oddsmaker in New York has discounted the top qualifier, dismissing Malibu Tempest at a ridiculously inflated price of 11-1. She breaks from post No. 3.
The trainer KF manages 16 stables, two of which represent the Northwest Racing Circuit. PR is one of those two, and thus the NRC colors will be flying on Saturday for SLEW OF SMART, a 5yo scratch-bred bay daughter of of Smart Strike (Seattle Slew X War Front). Slew of Smart is a classy mare on a big hot streak. She has won four in a row! This is an impressive mare who has been the subject of an impressive training job by KF. The mare has recovered from an uncharacteristic 11th-place finish in a Grade 3 back in October, a race in which something must have gone wrong with the mare. KF nursed her back to health and confidence with a two-race winning streak in listed before wading back into graded company. When KF brought this mare back to graded racing, she was ready for it! She has won two Grade 3 sprints this exact distance. This is an impressive race mare in more ways than one. She has earned more than half a million and knows her way to the winner’s circle, finishing first 11 times. She also has distance versatility, a rare commodity in the Sim. Most Sim horses are extremely distance-specific, but not this talented scratch-bred mare. She rebuilt her confidence in listed races going seven furlongs then a flat mile. Then, she cut back to six furlongs for her two Grade 3 victories. It’s one thing for a Sim horse to be stakes quality at one distance. To be able to win stakes at different distances is more impressive. She is certainly a worthy challenger to the top qualifier. The morning-line oddsmaker in New York thinks she is an extremely worthy challenger, sending her to post No. 10 as the 9-2 favorite. The price on Slew of Smart is less than half that of Malibu Tempest, which is a bad line.
Master Matt knows how to handle a sprint champion, so when he enters two horses in a graded sprint, opposing trainers are bound to pay attention. MasterM, representing the GR Simsters, has two in the Long Island Sprint. The first is SAPPHIRE ETERNITY, a 4yo roan daughter of Speightstown, and is the first foal out of Matty’s 8ty gray Tapit mare, STARS OF ETERNITY. The mare is officially hitting at 100 percent, and is a perfect 1 for 1, with the graded-winning Sapphire Eternity. She won the Grade 3 Kept Safely in October in Maryland, proving victorious in her graded debut. She very nearly parlayed that huge win into an even bigger Grade 1 win, finishing a close up third in the Grade 1 Time For Speed in December in South Africa. Those two huge efforts apparently took their toll in the filly’s most recent race. She was a shocking 11th in the Grade 1 Everclear Handicap. In the interest of fair-minded assessment, let us draw a line through that race. We will make an excuse for Matty’s filly that day. The race was at seven furlongs and may have been beyond the distance capability of this filly. She closes nicely at six furlongs or 6.5, but has shown she does not like going a mile, and apparently does not like seven furlongs, either. She’s back in a six-furlong race Saturday, and drop from two straight Grade 1 races into a Grade 2 test. So, this mare shows highly questionable current form, versus helpul drops in class and distance. Will the cutback to six furlongs and a drop in class allow her to forget about that 11th-place run last out? That’s the question handicappers will have to ask themselves when assessing the chance of Sapphire Eternity. She will break from post No. 4 at the overlaid price of 15-1.
Now we start to get into the Empire State flavor of this New York race. It can only make sense that a stakes race at the home track of the powerful ESR might feature some of the rezzy’s top trainers. They base many of their horses in New York. The Duke is our first of several ESR trainers with a runner in the Long Island Sprint. He will carry the colors with SHACKLED IN DRAWN, a 5yo bay daughter of Shackleford. This mare has had a wonderful Sim career in only 19 starts, earning nearly $1 million. This back-class mare has seen more stakes points expire than most of the runners in this field have earned in their lifetimes. She won three straight graded races this distance back in 2016, but all of those points were gone by the end of 2017. Shackled In Drawn was a starter in the 2015 Breeders’ Bowl F and M Sprint, setting the pace before fading to eighth. We can only suspect that she may have held on better if the F and M Sprint were held at Saturday’s distance of six furlongs. Shackled In Drawn has won two listed stakes at seven furlongs, but it is this writer’s guess that she is slightly better at six furlongs. This mare has fired a lot of big shots in her career, but she does not seem to be done yet. She is in very sharp form currently, and could really use another good finish here to build on her divisional ranking. The stakes points that she earned from a second-place run in May 2017 will be expiring fairly quickly. She needs to replace those. This will be her second race back off a long layoff, and The Duke will be eager to see his mare get her 2018 stakes schedule off to a good start. She also has the opportunity to become a million-dollar earner in Saturday’s race. Any graded start is important, but the Long Island Sprint seems especially critical to this mare. The morning-line oddsmaker in New York fancies her chances. He makes Shackled In Drawn the second choice at 5-1. She breaks down on the rail from post No. 1.
The second half of the entry for Master Matt is the only 6yo mare in the field. DECEMBER SONG is a 6yo scratch-bred brown daughter of Smart Strike (Monsun X A.P. Indy). She has earned about two-thirds of a million, a sure indicator of back class. This is a very speedy mare who normally breaks forwardly. It’s been a long time since she’s been entered in a graded stake. Since her sixth-place finish in the Grade 1 Chestnut Stakes in June 2015, December Song has raced in either listed or allowance races. She was only a 3yo when she last faced a graded field. This mare was very well meant as a 3yo filly. She earned a place in the starting gate of the Bluegrass Oaks that year, although she faltered badly to be 14th. Now, as a 6yo, December Song makes her return to graded competition, almost three years since her latest try. She must be taken seriously, as Master Matt has plenty of experience at winning graded sprints. If he says it’s time for December Song to return to graded competition, we have to believe him. The morning-line oddsmaker in New York certainly likes her chances, despite the fact that she draws a poor post on the far outside in post No. 14. Undeterred, the New York linemaker pegs December Song as the third choice in the field at 6-1. To be honest, that sounds like a bit of an underlay for a mare who has not been in a graded race since 2015. Look for December Song to be prominent early. She has just won two straight listed stakes at 5.5 furlongs, setting the pace in both.
Nickesyd represents the European Racing Organization in the Long Island Sprint with ORB’S COMEBACK. This is an appropriate name for this scratch-bred 5yo bay daughter of Orb (Seattle Slew X Alydar). This mare is a comback story in more way than one. First of all, her late-running style means that most of her races are come-from-behind stories. Secondly, she has twice in her career come back successfully from very poor races. Truly, Nickesyd has done a tremendous job of training with this mare. Orb’s Comeback collapsed in her graded debut, back on Christmas Eve of 2016. Going off as an impossible longshot at 78-1, Orb’s Comeback was crushed that day, finishing 13th. The poor race threw her off her game for the early months of 2017. Nickesyd had a problem horse on his hands when Orb’s Comeback missed the board in consecutive races at the allowance level. He solved the problem by cutting back in distance. Orb’s Comeback woke up nicely in June of last year when cutting back to 7.5 furlongs. She made a big late move to win, earning her lifetime-best speed figure of 110. It looked like her troubles were behind her. But, not so fast. Something went wrong in her next race, when she could manage only an 83 speed figure when last of 10 in a listed stake going seven furlongs. Wisely, Nickesyd sent his mare to the farm, and gave her a break of three months before her next race. When Nickesyd brought hr back, he shortened her up even more, cutting all the way back to 5.5 furlongs for two good runs in listed company. After a first and a second at 5.5 furlongs, Orb’s Comeback came running last out to be a close-up second at Saturday’s distance of six furlongs, again in a listed stake. Nickesyd liked what he saw in that race, and has decided to give Orb’s Comeback another try in graded company in the Long Island Sprint. She breaks from post No. 6 and is 15-1.
An old rule of thumb this writer has learned in many years of BTB work is this: Beware of the horse that goes off at a short price despite failing to qualify near the top. Our angle play this time is SACHET, a 5yo light gray daughter of Point of Entry, who goes to post at 6-1 despite qualifying behind six other racers. Frankster will represent ESR with Sachet, a late-running sprinter who has earned more than $700,000. Besides being trained by one of the sharpest trainers at ESR, what might be the reason the New York oddsmaker likes Sachet? It is quite likely her habit of running top-notch speed figures. Frankster has done a great job of having this mare ready to run anytime she hits the track. The result has been a long string of triple-digit speed figures. Sachet has run 100 or better in 15 straight races! This is a remarkable show of consistency, especially considering that Sachet ran in five straight Grade 1 races as a 3yo. Of the several fillies in the Long Island Sprint that have back class, Sachet has the most. She was third in the 2016 running of the Grade 1 Breeders’ Bowl F and M Sprint. What an honor. It’s one thing to be stakes placed, and another thing to be graded placed. To be BB-placed is another level entirely. Normally, five straight Grade 1 races are bound to take something out of a horse, but not Sachet. She has never really had a letdown, even as her trainer experimented with longer races. She ran her lifetime-best speed figure of 114 at 8.5 furlongs. Since then however, Frankster has cut back in distance. To be fair, the short price on Sachet probably is not parimutuelly acceptable, considering the fact that she has won only 3 of her past 18 races.
Speaking of ESR, none other than the boss himself has a horse in the Long Island Sprint. It’s Trotter at the controls of ZIVSATIONAL. Mr. Pete confided in this writer during a recent chat session that he is trying to be a little more aggressive in race selection for his horses. Throughout his career, Trotter has favored a more conservative approach, preferring to protect his horses and keep them in good form by finding softer spots. He intends to throw caution to the wind in 2018, and appears to be well on his way in the Grade 2 Long Island Sprint. Zivsational, a 4yo gray daughter of Zivo out of Trotter’s Grade 2-winning Zensational mare I’M A ZENSATION, has been competing in New York-bred allowances. And not winning every time, either! She jumps to a Grade 2 off a third-place finish last out in a 5.5-furlong state dash. “I love my NY breds,” Trotter said. “They seem to be my best runners.” That being said, Trotter knows he’s reaching with this race selection. “Lol,” he said. “I just looked and was wondering what the heck I was thinking entering her in a Grade 2. It’s a reach, and if she runs fourth, I’ll be thrilled.” Zivsational had not so much as run a triple-digit speed figure until she finally cracked the barrier in her state-bred allowance win three back. “She’s been carefully placed and I think much less of her than her past performances indicate,” Trotter said. “This is just me saying what the heck. I am trying to break away from my conservation approach.” Zivsational is the second-longest shot in the field at 20-1. She will break from post No. 11.
WINNING BLUE is the longest price in the field at 24-1. Oldmoonfarms will represent the Only Stayers residency with this 4yo brown daughter of Union Rags, out of the Grade 1-winning Forest Wildcat mare, HOLLYWOOD CATFIGHT. While Winning Blue might be 24-1 in a six-furlong race, she would be about 8-5 if we took bets on who might be in front after the first quarter mile of Saturday’s race. This little gal is fast! This writer can only guess that the presence of a true speedball like Winning Blue may set up the Long Island Sprint for a winner to come from off the pace. Winning Blue normally flashes and fades, especially in stakes competition. However, she sure is improving lately. Until she earned a 100 speed figure for winning an N3L allowance two back, Winning Blue had never cracked the triple-digit speed-figure barrier. Last out, she took a big jump in class all the way up to a Grade 3, but she still was fastest from the gate. Winning Blue led the Hurricane Ben Handicap early, and was in front by three lengths at the head of the lane before settling for a close-up fourth. She also earned a fat 108 speed figure. It looks like she’s at least a live longshot at 24-1. I guess it’s ironic that a filly like this with so much speed and questionable stamina would represent a residency called Only Stayers. Maybe it’s Only Stayers and Winning Blue. She breaks down toward the rail from post No. 2.
The highly accomplished Tees will represent the Sim Junkies in the Long Island Sprint with WHITE WISP. Anytime you see a trainer as good as Tees with a longshot runner, it’s time to take notice. White Wisp is 16-1, and is interesting at that price if only because of her trainer. Is there more to like? Indeed, there is. For starters, White Wisp is the most lightly raced filly or mare in the field. She’s only been to post seven times. This gives her an inherent advantage, because it gives her the greatest right to improve. Personally, this writer is absolutely addicted to having the horse in the race with the fewest starts. By simple math, your horse should have more left in the tank than any other horse in the race. Other handicapping factors in the favor of White Wisp are that she is impeccably well bred, and is a horse for the New York course. This scratch-bred daughter of Tapit (A.P. Indy X Kingmambo) has never raced outside of the Big Apple. She will make her eighth lifetime start on Saturday, and like the previous seven, it will be run in New York. She likes the track, too, having hit the exacta in five of her seven races. She is a deep closer, and is slow out of the gate. Look for her to break at the back and try to make one run. She jumps all the way from allowance company to a Grade 2 on Saturday. She’ll be walking out of post No. 5.
Fastnfirm will represent the Megalopolis Racing Circuit with GOLDENEN ZITRONEN. Specifically, she races out of Fastnfirm’s barn known as widest. While Goldenen Pitronen will not break widest of all, she is close to it in post No. 12 at 12-1. When you see a name like this, you have to know it means something. Go to work, Google! OK, a quick search reveals that this 4yo light gray daughter of Medaglia D’Oro is named for a German rock band. Translated to English, the name means The Golden Lemons. Aha! This Google search is all coming together now. It is only through our translator button that we know the filly is named for her broodmare. Golden Zitronen is out of the Grade 2-winning mare LEMONY FRESH, by Lemon Drop Kid, naturally. Now, all that is left to do is visit Youtube and see what we think of Goldenen Zitronen, the band. As a fan of The Ramones, this writer has no choice but to choose the song Fur Immer Punk as our listening sample. I like it! The song has a good sound derivative of the great band The Clash. It sets up a good thrashing guitar nicely with a slower part to start the song. The video also shows some messages we can agree with, like opposition to Nazis and white supremacists. Thanks a lot for that, Fastnfirm. By golly, you never know what rabbit hole you might go down on this BTB job.
Gatetowire will represent the Universal Racing Club with ZERO STORM. While some of the fillies and mares down here toward the bottom of the qualifying order are trying to make their way up the divisional rankings for the first time, Zero Storm is trying to earn her way back. She has already been near the top once, as evidenced by her badge showing a Grade 2 win and her career earnings of more than $540,000. This mare took down her Grade 2 win in only her second graded try. The Bob Barker Stakes went Saturday’s distance of six furlongs back in May 2016. Since then, Zero Storm has lost 14 races in a row. She still has her speed, but long ago lost her ability to finish her races. With a couple of flash-and-fade types entered, it looks more and more like we’re going to see a wild rush at the finish line on Saturday. Even if Zero Storm is unable to reverse a longtime trend of hanging in the lane, she still has had a heck of a career. She banked more than half a million, won a Grade 2, and hit the board in three other graded races. She has been a very nice one for Gatetowire.
We have now entered the Rocky zone. Only you, my friend! Only Rocky could run an entry in a Grade 2, and have both the 13th and 14th qualifiers. It’s true, Simulated race fans. The Long Island Sprint will feature a training demonstration of daring-do by the great Rocky, who may be trying to pull a bigger upset here than Balboa tried to pull over on Apollo Creed. “Sure,” Rocky said after chasing Burgess Meredith out of his downtrodden apartment. “Sure, I’ll fight the big fight. I got the big fight. That’s great. Sure I’ll fight him. I’ll fight the big fight. And I’ll get my head kicked in.” But, as all fans of Sylvester Stallone are well aware, Creed did not know what hit him in the cinematic ring that night in Philadelphia. Upsets happen, both on the movie screen and in real life. They happen on the NCAA basketball court, and on racetracks around the world. Rocky represents the brethren at ESR with ICE POWERS. This 5yo bay daughter of the British sire Power is a deep closer on an eight-race winning streak. She is probably underlaid at 14-1, and breaks from post No. 13.
IMPERSONATE is the second half of the dark horse entry for Rocky, trainer of the greatest dark horse of them all, DARK MANDU. Visitors to the chat room have heard this story many times, but this writer had a horse in the race that fateful day when Rocky almost wired an Equinics race with a 180-1 shot. Dark Mandu, who one day would make the Hall of Fame, had very few races under his belt before the Master of the Unconventional pulled his greatest stunt. He entered the horse in Equinics. I had a deep closer in the race, who promptly fell behind by about 30 lengths to Rocky’s wild longshot. When you hear Sim trainers say stranger things have happened, they are referring to Dark Mandu. Rocky did not enter Impersonate until just before entries were drawn. This is a man of opportunity! Even though this 4yo bay daughter of Hussonet was a last-minute addition to the field, and even though she is only 2 for 13 lifetime, she is not without a chance. She finished a close-up fourth two races ago in a Grade 1. She’s the second-longest shot in the field at 22-1, and breaks from post No. 7. She represents the Megalopolis Racing Circuit.
GOOD LUCK EVERYBODY!!!!!!