Can he do it again?
For two years in a row, MTK has proudly represented Blazing Saddles in the winner’s circle of all winner’s circles. All of our $6 million races are coveted prizes, but for this writer, the ultimate race is the Breeders’ Bowl Classic.
To even run a horse in this race is a milestone. To win it? I cannot imagine. To win it twice in a row? Unfathomable.
Yet, MTK goes for a mind-numbing third Classic victory in a row on Saturday in Simulated Louisville. He will run three: OUGHT TO PREVAIL, BUSINESS ETIQUETTE and MIGHTY TO SAVE.
In the past two years, MTK has made sure that the Classic was a Blazing Saddles kind of party. Which residency will get to fly its flag over the Classic winner’s circle this year? Eight residencies have entries. Empire State Racing has the most, with four. Both Blazing Saddles and the Universal Racing Club have three apiece. Three have two each: Graded Racing Simsters, All-Stars Racing and Pastures of Green. DelPenn and MIDAS have one runner each.
There are two entrants in the Classic who are unaffiliated. These racers may be considered Simulated Nihilists.
On the other hand, perhaps Nihilism is the correct approach when it comes to the Classic. Certainly this year, there is no one breeding location which earns a railbird’s faith. Take a look at the breeding locations of the top five qualifiers. They are, in order, Australia, Kentucky, Germany, Great Britain and Maryland. While it’s true that Kentucky takes over after that, there certainly was more than one way to breed a Classic runner in 2018.
With a 20-horse field drawing entrants from multiple divisions, there often is some intrigue with late entrants. The Classic intrigue this year was the Scratch Option chosen by Adschus for FINKE MYTH. With a 45 percent chance of rain, there also was a 45 percent chance that Finke Myth would be withdrawn. If it rained, MTK would have three horses in the Classic instead of two.
And so, it rained.
The track in Simulated Louisville on Saturday will be one rated “good.”
All of the trainers in the Classic who were doing a rain dance got what they wanted. There will be an off track for the Saturday portion of the Breeders’ Bowl 2018. The track is fast on Friday.
Another observation is that it’s no longer fashionable to be elderly in the Sim. Perhaps something snuck right by this writer, which is entirely possible. Perhaps it’s been true for years that no horses older than age five are able to make the Classic. There are no 6yo horses in this year’s field.
Let’s take a walk down Simulated Memory Lane and look at the history of the Breeders’ Bowl Classic.
2017: MTK won his second-straight BB Classic last year, with BIGGEST IMPACT ($18.40), a bay son of Deep Impact. Now a 6yo, Biggest Impact was very recently retired after a 12th-place finish in the Grade 1 Jockey Guild Gold Cup. MTK took his one and only shot at breeding a BB Classic champion with Tapit, and so far, so good. CLASSIC IMPACT made his debut on Oct. 13 in Kentucky, closing impressively to win by a head in a race going 8.5 furlongs on the main track. It was a very impressive run for the son of a BB Classic champion. To race so effectively going two turns in his first race? And earn an 84 speed figure? This writer has to wonder if maybe we might see Classic Impact on a future Breeders’ Bowl Day.
2016: It’s going to be hard for this year’s running of the Classic to match the excitement at the finish line in the race two years ago. MTK’s VOLUMINOUS ($25) won by a scant .03 of a length, barely hitting the line ahead of Pointblank’s late-rushing MISSION INTHE RAIN. If ever there was a suspenseful finish in the Sim, this was it! I cannot imagine what it must have felt like for MTK and Pointblank as their great horses reached for history and hit the line together. Voluminous had made a big move with three furlongs to go, spurting to what seemed like an insurmountable three-length lead in the stretch. Just when it appeared the race was over, it was just beginning. Mission Inthe Rain came flying up the rail with a huge late rally. He was coming so fast it looked like no horse could hold him off. One more jump and he flies right by Voluminous. But, one more jump, he had not. Voluminous stayed up somehow, and Mission Inthe Rain suffered one of the toughest losses any Sim horse ever took. Whatever happens in the 2018 running of the Breeders’ Bowl Classic, it is unlikely to have such a close finish as we witnessed in 2016. Like Biggest Impact, Voluminous mostly lost his form after winning the Classic, but is not yet retired. He is now racing in allowance races for non-winners of a race in a year, and retaining his eligibility.
2015: Lenny’s FAKE HONEYMOON ($37.90) was much the best three years ago, becoming part of a trend that the rail may be the place to be in the BB Classic. Fake Honeymoon wore the No. 1 blanket in winning the 2015 Classic. Two years ago, Pointblank’s Mission Inthe Rain just missed winning from the far inside post. Now retired, Fake Honeymoon validated his victory in 2015 with a third-place run in the 2017 Classic. That is an impressive feat by both trainer and horse. There have been a handful of horses hit the board in more than one Classic. These are all-time great-type horses.
2014: Four years ago, MrLucky’s I WON’T LOOK BACK ($20.80) was the best 3yo in a Classic dominated by the younger set. Both of the top two finishers were 3yos. Of the first five finishers, four of them were 3yos. I Won’t Look Back was on his way to a Hall of Fame career when he was much the best in the 2014 Classic. And, guess what post he broke from? That’s right, he, too broke from the No. 1 post. This is a trend. In the last four runnings of the Classic, two of the winners broke from the far inside and the third missed by an extremely scant margin, .03 of a length. I Won’t Look Back is an all-time great horse in the Sim. His list of badges is lovely.
2013: The No. 1 horse did not win this time. Tees’ ELLO GUVNOR ($20.50) broke from post No. 8 and was the best 3yo in the race, and thus the best horse in the race. This was another Classic that was utterly dominated by 3yo horses. The top four finishers were all 3yo! All three runnings of the Classic from 2013-2015 were won by 3yos. That streak was snapped two years ago when Voluminous won. Trainers of the 3yos hope to start a new streak in 2018.
2012: The rail does not fail. Well, it may have failed in 2013. And in 2012, it was not the far inside post, but the one next to it that held the magic. Otistaylor’s amazing Hall of Famer TOO MANY LARRY ($17) put the icing on the cake of his brilliant $10 million career with the final Grade 1 victory in the 2012 running of the Breeders’ Bowl Classic. The big gray son of Unbridled’s Song had a huge stride and huge late kick, and when he hit his highest gear, there was no resisting him. He fell back to 12th by the second call in 2012, but by the finish, he was the only horse in the race. He won going away by two lengths. This was one of the greatest performers in the history of the Classic. After all, before winning the race as a 6yo, Too Many Larry had been third twice, as a 4yo and 5yo. In terms of what he did in the Classic, he is second only to the greatest, SOLAR SONG.
2011: We go back to 2011 before we find a winner of the Classic that broke from what would be considered an outside post. Willyam’s TWIST TWIST ($15.80) was the No. 14 when he proved best in a very close finish over JUST VENGEANCE. This was in the days before the Classic was expanded to 20 runners, so No. 14 was the widest you could be. It was a great race that day, with only a quarter length between the top two finishers at the wire. Twist Twist came back the next year to set the pace in the Classic before settling for third.
2010: My golly, what an impressive display of badges for the 2010 winner, Latinlover’s DISTORTED STORM ($20.40). How about HOF, Horse of Year, End of Year, Grade 1 winner, earner of $10 million and once won 10 in a row? Wow. The brown son of Distorted Humor was much the best in the 2010 Classic, blowing by the Super Stables’ JEEPSTER to win going away, by two and a half lengths. Jeepster had won the year before, and was going for two straight Classic victories. Distorted Storm was amazing. He won 44 races and $13.3 million!
2009: As stated, the Super Stables’ amazing JEEPSTER ($33) was going for two in a row in 2010 after winning the 2009 Classic as a 3yo. Unlike later years in which 3yos dominated, Jeepster was by far the best 3yo in the 2009 Classic. He won, and the next 3yo finisher was in eighth place. So, there was no huge advantage for the 3yos in the year Jeepster won. He was just that good. In holding off the late charge of Texasace’s ALYDAR AGAIN, Jeepster spoiled what would have otherwise been one of the greatest Breeders’ Bowl training triumphs. Texasace trained both Alydar Again and fourth-place finisher, the defending champion DEMECO. If there had been no such thing as a Jeepster, Texasace would have been first and third.
2008: As mentioned, Texasace had won the Classic with DEMECO in 2008. It was his third-straight Grade 1 victory as a 3yo colt. This scratch-bred chestnut son of Awesome Again was a late-developing 3yo, not making the starting gate of any Triple Crown race. He made his Grade 1 debut in the Travelers, and what a debut it was! Demeco won going away, and all of a sudden, he was the best horse in the Sim. Nobody could beat him at 10 furlongs! After smashing the Travers, he rolled home in the LA Derby and then the Classic. Whatever the rules may be, it seems a shame to this writer that Demeco is not in the Hall of Fame. He won five Grade 1 races, and was second and third in a handful of other Grade 1 races. In addition to capturing the Classic, Demeco’s second-greatest accomplishment was winning the Grade 1 Movieland Shiny Cup two years in a row. The question of the moment was proposed to Squirrel the other day in chat: How is Demeco not in the Hall of Fame? Answer: He comes up short of either one G1 win or G2 plus G3 wins. Demeco has only 89.2 points of the 96 required on the Hall of Fame scale. “That sixth Grade 1 is the hardest,” Squirrel said. So, there you have it. Sure seems like a Hall of Fame horse to me.
2007: The great SOLAR SONG ($14) came flying with a wild late kick, getting up by a half-length to win his second-straight Breeders’ Bowl Classic. This huge win helped propel Squirrel’s champion to the all-time earnings record. Solar Song held the record for more than 10 years, and only lost it in October when Given’s SPICED TURTLE won the Ark de ComicDog for the second time, and vaulted into first place in lifetime earnings. In an unfortunate bit of timing, Squirrel did not know Solar Song’s record had fallen until a personal message from one of her Black Type Bugler reporters. “Sorry Itchy, I just saw this,” Tracy said. “And you broke the horrible news! My comment? #%$@#@$#%##%^&*$@#!!!!!. I think that says it all, right?” Nobody could blame Squirrel for her disappointment, but she was quick to give credit to the new all-time earnings champion. “Seriously though, the Turtle has well earned the new record. Would I have liked to kept it? Sure. It stood for over a decade though, and that’s a darn long time. Every record falls eventually. May the Turtle keep this one himself for at least the next decade.” Squirrel suggests a new badge may be in order, one which would be held by only two horses. Only Solar Song and Spiced Turtle have earned more than $15 million. “What I want to know is, now that we have two over $15 million, when is Mike going to get us custom badges instead of leaving them at $10 million? ”
2006: Solar Song’s first victory in the Breeders’ Bowl Classic was far less suspenseful than his second. The great horse, the earner of more than $16 million (still the Sim record), was 10 lengths back at the third call of the 2007 Classic before unleashing a wild late run to get up late. There were no such theatrics the year before. Solar Song dominated, after being only two lengths back at the head of lane before galloping home to win easily. No wonder Squirrel’s all-time favorite sire always will be Deputy Minister. Like Muhammad Ali, this horse was simply the greatest.
2005: In one of the slowest runnings of the Classic, Gipper’s CALL OF THE WILD II ($13.80), was unchallenged late despite winning in the slow time of 2:01.20. He earned only a 108 speed figure for the victory, but still won by almost three lengths.
2004: Here is another name for the Sim ages. In 2004, Ladysierra’s TUFF ENUFF ($17.40) won as a 3yo in one of the several Classics that have timed out at 2:00.00 even. The Harzheim brothers pulled off an amazing riding double that day, finishing one-two in the Classic. H. Harzheim was aboard the winner, while R. Harzheim rode BIRCHWOOD MEDWAY to a second-place finish for Slax.
2003: It sure is fun to visit these great, old Sim names. In 2003, the great SILVERWORE ($17.40) finally turned the tables on his arch-nemesis, the Sim’s only Triple Crown winner, the great I SEEK U. If it were not for I Seek U, Silverwore would have won two Triple Crown races. Instead, he ran second in two. He was behind I Seek U again in the Travelers before finally getting the best of the big horse in the Classic. The famed rivalry between I Seek U and Silverwore was kind of like the Sim version of Affirmed and Alydar.
2002: In yet another running of the Classic that finished in exactly two minutes flat was the 2002 victory by HORN KNEE SAL, trained by Chas. There were three future Hall of Famers in the field that day: WESTERN GROOM, DUSTY DANCE and STORMY PROSPECTOR. None of them could catch Horn Knee Sal. Interestingly, not one of the three future HOF horses in the 2002 running of the Classic even hit the board. Talk about a tough race!
2001: What happened in the 2001 Breeders’ Bowl Classic probably never could happen today. A 7yo won it! Unbridled’s MINE FOREST was in the twilight of his Hall of Fame career when he won the 2001 Classic.
2000: Fernando’s STORMY PROSPECTOR ($17) is another example of the early days of the Sim, a era before the severe wear-and-tear on today’s top horses. Stormy Prospector just kept going and going and going. He was an iron horse of all iron horses, and a Hall of Famer. This horse was the picture of both durability and versatility. He won many Grade 1 races on the turf. He also won the Classic going away in 2001.
1999: When 3yos were dominating the Classic a few years ago, it was not the first time it had happened in the history of the Sim. The first running of the race showed the top five finishers to all be 3yo. Billg51′s GATLING PROSPECTOR ($27) became the game’s first Classic winner those many years ago.
So there it is, Sim racing fans. A complete history of the Breeders’ Bowl Classic.
What trends did you spot?
For me, I am reminded of an old-time track bum I knew named George. I would often buy George a cup of coffee in the old Simulcast room at Wheeling Downs. One time I buy him a cup. I do not bring cream. “What?!,” he was incredulous. “NO MILK???” I laughed and laughed. He would whisper information in my ear which often came with spittle. “Bet the one with the big ass, bossy,” he confided. If it was a dog race, he would say “bet the one, bossy.” So, if George was betting the BB Classic over the past decade, he might have done very well. The No. 1 has been on a roll.
Secondly, and far more historically significant, is the fact that many of the winners of the BB Classic have been great horses. There have not been so many fluke winners as there have been great horses proving their greatness. There have not been many flashes in the pan in the Classic.
It’s a great trend for the trainers in Saturday’s Classic. If they can win, they may have a great horse on their hands. I guess that stands to reason. Maybe what I’m trying to say is that the winner of the Classic may stand a chance of repeating his success.
Mostly, I wanted to revisit all the past runnings of the Classic to give trainers a chance to consider the history they are joining by running in this great race.
How about those names? Solar Song, Silverwore, Stormy Prospector, Gatling Prospector.
For those of us who have been playing for a long time, those names are like the pixelated versions of Secretariat, Affirmed, Spectacular Bid and Dr. Fager.
So good luck to all the conditioners and congratulations on making this race, the Grand Daddy of them all, the Classic.
Last year, Hall of Fame trainer Lenny was seen doing a believable impression of Todd Pletcher in the BB Classic. He ran a three-horse entry: NOTHING BUT RAGE, MALAQUO and WIDOW’S EMPIRE. The good news was, the Lenny horses all finished together. The bad news was, the best of them was sixth. This year, the historically powerful GR Simsters will have two Lenny horses for which to root. The first is top qualifier NUKA DEATHMARCH. I don’t know if radioactive fallout is known to cause rain, but the trainer was hoping the 45-percent chance of an off track on BB Saturday would come up wet. He got his wish: It rained, and the track will be rated “good.” Nuka Deathmarch, a 4yo scratch-bred son of Hussonet (Deputy Minister X Giant’s Causeway) has won two Grade 1 races on off tracks. Both the Hit Me Handicap and the Japan Dirt Cup were contested on sloppy tracks going nine furlongs, which may not be the optimal distance for Nuka Deathmarch. “He is a nice horse, but I am praying for rain as I really think it elevates his win chances,” said Mr. Steinbrenner himself, the manager of the Erstwhile Evil Empire, Lenny. It’s hard to believe a horse that won a Grade 1 and scored a 122 speed figure could be better at another distance, but Lenny has revealed his hand with the way he played his cards leading up to the Classic. In his famous training gambit “short-long-yahtzee,” the yahtzee is the preferred distance. (D’Oh!!!!!) Lenny was kind enough to share the history behind the No. 1 qualifier for the 2018 running of the Classic: “I bred him in Hussonet’s last season in the sim. He was pretty solid after a few allowance starts so I took a shot in the Louisiana Derby and he stepped it up. I knew he had a chance to be a decent runner. He snuck in the Japan Cup and the rest is history.” Indeed. Since winning his Grade 1 debut, Nuka Deathmarch went on to claim huge prizes in both the $6 million Sand Castle Classic and the Equinics. “He had a huge spring, but his first two back after a layoff were terrible and then the off track in the Hit Me seemed to get him back on track.” Nuka Deathmarch loved that wet feeling under his hoofs two back, earning a career-high speed figure of 122 while winning the Grade 1 Hit Me Handicap. Handicappers who may or may not fall into the “rube” category may take a look at that poor race last out going 11 furlongs on turf and assume incorrectly that the trainer does not know what to do with the horse. On the contrary. The seemingly out-of-place allowance prep going longer on the wrong surface fits Lenny’s old standby: “short-long-yahtzee.” Notice two races ago, Nuka Deathmarch raced at a furlong shorter than Saturday’s distance of 10 furlongs. “I’ve had a lot of success with the short-long-yahtzee move and the 11-furlong turf prep helps the angle a bit. Maybe? We’ll see. I’f I’m in with a chance I’m pretty psyched.” Anybody who has been playing the Sim at least 10 years always has to suspect Lenny can win any Breeders’ Bowl race he enters. If you were playing in 2008, no doubt you remember that Lenny won five Breeders’ Bowl races that year! FIVE! “I’ve had a lot of luck in the Breeders’ Bowl,” Lenny said. “My first win was in the inaugural turf sprint with I MAKE STUFF UP in 2006. I got wins two through six in 2008 in easily the coolest thing I’ve done in the game. I had one horse with two BB races (CLARK COUNTY in the F&M Sprint ’08 and ’09) and won the Classic in 2015 with FAKE HONEYMOON.” Nuka Deathmarch will break down on the inside from post No. 2, and is 12-1.
GOLD WAR FRONT, a scratch-bred bay son of War Front, is the No. 1 3yo colt in the dirt route division. As such, he rates the same kind of headline status on the Sim’s Horse Ratings page as Nuka Deathmarch. What a pair of 3yo colts we have in the 2018 Breeders’ Bowl Classic from the same trainer, Stockswami. Not only does Stockswami have the top-rated 3yo in Gold War Front, he also has KING KAM SEPOY, the No. 3-ranked 3yo and the fourth qualifier for the Classic. This is a tremendous accomplishment by Stockswami, to train two of the top four qualifiers for the Classic. For this writer, the Classic in the past several years has become a story about trainers dominating the upper echelons of the game. Of course, MTK is the top story, winning the past two runnings of the Classic. Lenny always is a force. But in the past couple of years, other names are rising to the top. Last year, Baggio had the top two qualifiers: SOLDIER OF HONOR and HELLO OTTO. Now, we have the unaffiliated Stockswami adding to his growing list of Sim training accomplishments by dominating the 3yo division with Gold War Front and King Kam Sepoy. Gold War Front was a fast-closing second in the Bluegrass Derby, two and a quarter lengths behind Punter’s Bluegrass champion, GODBLESS THIS MESS. Since the first Saturday in May, however, fortunes have turned for the 1-2 runners in the Derby. Godbless This Mess has gone south, losing his bid for a Triple Crown while fourth in the Middle Jewel, then watching Gold War Front beat him in the Grade 1 Travelers. Then, Godbless This Mess became a real mess in the Grade 1 Jockey Guild Gold Cup, finishing last of all 14. Punter has a problem horse on his hands now, while the horse he beat to win the Derby is flourishing. Gold War Front smashed them in the Travelers, and comes to the Classic with the look of a robust, well-rested colt ready for a prime effort. He’s shown he can win in Grade 1 company going the Classic distance of 10 furlongs. Now, he’ll have a chance to prove he can do it against the best older horses in the game. This will be Gold War Front’s second career race on an off track. His graded debut, in which he finished second, was over a sloppy track. All of the 3yo runners have been given inflated prices, as happens every year in the Classic. Gold War Front will break from the rail at post No. 1 and is 40-1. Those bettors who are like my old racetrack pal Georgie and bet the one horse will be happy if Gold War Front comes in.
Baggio’s SOLDIER OF HONOR, one of two co-favorites at 6-1, prepped for this year’s running of the Classic the same way he prepped for it last year: by winning the Grade 1 Bob Woodward Memorial. This scratch-bred 5yo bay son of Soldier Hollow (Saint Ballado X Nureyev) rules the Woodward. It is very cool to see a Sim horse defend a championship in a Grade 1 race and very rare indeed. Congratulations to Baggio on this tremendous accomplishment, and better luck in this year’s Classic. Last year, Soldier of Honor was coupled with Hello Otto to represent a very powerful entry, the top two qualifiers. However, Baggio’s strong entry could not cash in on its advantageous position. Soldier of Honor came fourth, and Hello Otto was 11th. This year, Soldier of Honor will go it alone as Hello Otto has fallen badly off form. The form on Soldier of Honor is razor sharp, however. If he was impressive in winning the Woodward by two and three-quarters, how about his smashing victory two back in the Grade 1 Barry Foster? Soldier of Honor crushed them by more than five lengths on June 10 in Kentucky. Consecutive Grade 1 victories sound like a perfect way to go into Classic. However, Baggio knows the caveat. Both of those wins were at nine furlongs. Soldier of Honor is two different horses at a mile and and eighth and a mile and a quarter. At nine furlongs, Soldier of Honor is an irresistible machine. He has won four of five Grade 1 tries at a mile and an eighth. He’s just not the same at a mile and a quarter. Maybe his razor sharp form at the moment can help him overcome a clear distance preference. However, there remains a confidence-shaking long-term trend of efforts below his best at 10 furlongs. Soldier of Honor has hit the board in a couple of 10-furlong Grade 1 races, but shows no wins in four tries. No matter the distance of the Classic, this is a great horse. The horse has drawn widest of all, post No. 20. This will be Soldier of Honor’s first career race over an off track.
If Sim residencies recruited trainers like they do in college football, Stockswami would be a five-star blue chipper coveted by the likes of the Alabama Crimson Tide. He has become an unaffiliated force in Simulated graded racing in recent years, as evidenced by his strong entry of two top 3yo colts in the Classic. The first was Travelers champion and Derby runner-up Gold War Front. The second is KING KAM SEPOY, a German-bred son of Sepoy who won both the Grade 1 Wooden Indian and the Grade 1 Eddie Haskell. His prep last out on the turf coupled with a poor run in his only try at Saturday’s distance of 10 furlongs give him the look of an oddball candidate despite his lofty ranking in the 3yo division. Veteran handicappers will put a large question mark next to “distance ability” when it comes to assessment of this bay son of the Grade 1-winning and End of Year Award-winning King Kamehameha mare QUEEN KAM. If he could run at 10 furlongs the way he ran at nine furlongs in winning the Haskell, he would be a serious Classic contender. However, the only piece of evidence we have at 10 furlongs for King Kam Sepoy is his dismal run in the Bluegrass Derby. He was a disinterested 13th on the first Saturday in May, reporting home late while his stablemate charged up to the place money. A wise, old Sim trainer once told me that one try at a distance should bear the same weight of evidence as no races. In other words, they all deserve a second try. That’s what we will have to give King Kam Sepoy. He did not run so good in his only race at 10 furlongs, but that was the Derby and who knows what might have gone wrong in that mad scramble of a race. King Kam Sepoy will break from post No. 8 and is 32-1. This will be his first race over an off track.
The fifth in our quintet of “Top Qualifiers Bred Around the Globe” is SUPER STORMS, a Maryland bred. This 4yo bay son of the Pulpit sire Super Ninety Nine completes the Top Five qualifiers for the Classic, each from a different breeding location. Represented are Australia, Kentucky, Germany, Great Britain and Maryland. Super Ninety Nine was available for only 81 BPs on a recent Tuesday. Super Storms is one of only two graded winners by the sire. As you surely suspected, yes, Super Storms is the best Sim horse ever sired by Super Ninety Nine. Despite rising to the lofty status of qualifying near the top of the Classic, Rbokie says this horse has not been easy to train. “Super Storms is a bit of an enigma,” said Rbokie. “His dam was not all that special. She had a nice stretch where she was first or second for nine races in a row, all at the sprint allowance level. Super Ninety Nine throws mostly sprinters. It made sense to try and crate that 6.5-7.5-furlong specialist that could get you a mile from time to time. That’s what I thought Super Storms was.” After a dozen starts, however, it became apparent that something new was in order. “I couldn’t find any races for him one week, so I threw him into a 9.5-furlong stake race for literally no reason,” Rbokie said. “He won easily and would go on to then win back-to-back nine-furlong races at the Grade 2 level. I never thought he would be able to get that kind of distance.” Super Storms ran so well, Rbokie shot for the moon, entering his Maryland-bred in consecutive Grade 1 races. Neither the Movieland Shiny Cup nor The Hit Me Handicap were to the liking of Super Storms. He finished 10th in California, then seventh in New York. “After two failures in Grade 1 races where he just didn’t kick soon enough, I decided to throw him back in the Grade 2 level to see if he was able to regain his prior form. Well, the 120 speed rating said it all. So here we are in the BB Classic.” A rapid victory in the Grade 2 Brookline Handicap made it three Grade 2 wins in one year for Super Storms. To contend in the Classic, he will have to prove he can compete at both the class and distance. Super Storms has failed to hit the board in both his Grade 1 tries. One of those was at Saturday’s distance of 10 furlongs. However, we do have another piece of evidence in the horse’s listed victory at 9.5 furlongs, which may be enough to acquit him. “Do I think he can get 10 furlongs?” Rbokie said. “Yes. Do I think he can get 10 furlongs fast enough? I’m not so sure.” At the time of our interview, the trainer was still debating jockey instructions. “He likes to get pretty far behind before he kicks in his gear,” Rbokie said. “I might try to manually set the jockey instructions for this one.” Rbokie grew up in a real racing family. “We had some minor stakes winners in the Midwest, most notably in Chicago,” he said. “After my parents stopped racing, my wife and I picked up the reins. We didn’t fare as well and it got to be too expensive once we had to race outside of Michigan in order to try to make money. I’m completely out of horse racing in real life now. Fake horse racing is way cheaper.” You would think a horse named Super Storms would love an off track, but you might be wrong. Then again, you might be right. Super Storms has raced only once on an off track, two back in the Grade 1 Hit Me Handicap. True, he was only seventh in the Hit Me, but beaten only five lengths, and with a good speed figure in 116. I don’t think we can say conclusively off that one race that this horse is no mudder. He may be a mudder. We do know for sure he is 9-1, and will break from post No. 15.
A lot of trainers make it to the Classic but with an oh-so-serious caveat: They know their horse may not like the mile and a quarter. The majority of Grade 1 racing in this division is done at a mile and an eighth. There are a lot of Classic trainers, and they know all too well who they are, whose good horses have earned their trips to the Breeders’ Bowl at nine furlongs. Maybe they have failed before at 10 furlongs. Maybe they have not tried it too often (which is probably the case if they’ve been making hay at nine). All of that applies not at all to MENSA TACTICS, Smokeglack’s scratch-bred 5yo bay son of Smart Strike (Nureyev X Kris S). This horse has been very good for a long time now, and mostly at or near Saturday’s Classic distance. Mensa Tactics very nearly made the Classic last year, after finishing a close-up third in the Jockey Guild Gold Cup, his Grade 1 debut. Smokeglack’s horse came up only a length short of making the Classic, as victory would have earned a ticket. You can tell Smokeglack had high hopes, because the rezzy race he had to settle for was run on Nov. 4, the same weekend as the BB. However, anytime a Sim trainer suffers the disappointment of failing to make a big race, he inherits the silver lining of dodging the wear and tear associated with $6 million, 20-horse races. Mensa Tactics just missed the Classic last year as a 4yo, but that left plenty of petrol in the tank for a brilliant 5yo campaign. He’s in the Classic now, baby! And not only that. Mensa Tactics rates the look of a serious contender based off his very strong recent form at this class and distance. He won the Grade 1 Western Ocean CA Classic two back, then settled for second last out behind Kody’s sparkling 3yo, DOUBTFUL TROUBLE, in the Grade 1 Gold Cup. He earned twin speed figures of 114 in those good races, and has found razor-sharp form in time to look very serious in the 2018 running of the BB Classic. Smokeglack’s residency mates at All-Stars Racing have good reason to believe their flag may fly. Mensa Tactics has wisely drawn post No. 10, and is 10-1. Symmetry. This will be his first career track over an off track.
Only one horse in the field has fewer career starts than Jacklad’s FRANKING MAMBO, a lightly raced 3yo bay son of Giant’s Causeway, out of the Frankel mare, FRANKING THE SLEW. Jacklad has only sent his talented, blueblood colt to the post 10 times. The horse has shown lovely consistency, never missing the exacta in nine career starts on the main track. The only time Franking Mambo ever missed the board was in his debut, a seven-furlong turf sprint. Little did Jacklad’s mates at All-Stars Racing know at the time that the 2yo that finished a non-threatening fifth in a rezzy-restricted maiden race would someday earn his way into the BB Classic. Yet, that’s just what has happened for Franking Mambo and Jacklad. Franking Mambo was not quite ready for primetime back in spring and early summer when the Triple Crown races were going on. Starting in July, however, the horse has turned on his talent and proven just how fast he is. Franking Mambo has won consecutive Grade 2 races at nine furlongs leading into the Classic, and was second in a Grade 2 three back. It’s been a stakes-points bonanza in late summer and early fall for a horse that has blossomed in the speed-figure department as well, coming into the Classic with four straight numbers of 110 or better. That’s all the good news. And now, the rest of the story. Franking Mambo has done all his earning at least one notch below Saturday’s race in class, distance and age restriction. The horse has never raced in a Grade 1. The horse has never raced past nine furlongs. The horse has never faced older foes. That’s a lot of nevers! Conventional wisdom would say this is an awful lot to ask of this 3yo. Most handicappers seem liable to side with horses that have check marks where Franking Mambo is missing them. However, while there exists no proof that the horse can handle all these new circumstances, there also exists no proof that he cannot do it, either. Also to consider, Franking Mambo is the only 3yo in the Classic rated by the Capper Bar as that scary fire-engine red. Most of the nine 3yos in the Classic are a shade of orange. For Franking Mambo to be rated by the game as the best 3yo is certainly a feather in his cap. Accordingly, Franking Mambo is the shortest price among the eight 3yos entered in the Classic. He will break from post No. 9. This will be the horse’s first start over an off track.
Nepenthe will represent the Universal Racing Club with UNSUBTLE, our runner-up in this year’s running of the Grade 1 Middle Jewel. Unsubtle ran great as a new shooter in the Middle Jewel, as the second leg of the Triple Crown was dominated by 3yos who did not make the Bluegrass Derby. Only four runners from the 20-horse Bluegrass Derby field returned to action in the Middle Jewel. None of them hit the board, not even the Derby winner, GODBLESS THIS MESS, who was fourth in Simulated Baltimore. Also missing the board were Derby starters ION MY WAY, INDEPENDENT UNION and THROUGH THE WOODS. Unsubtle, a light gray colt by Medaglia D’Oro out of the Giant’s Causeway mare EDGE OF THE DAY, closed with a fine burst of late speed to be second by a length and a half. That’s the good news. The bad news is that even with missing the Derby, this colt appears to be suffering from some wear and tear from his Triple Crown effort. He came back after the Middle Jewel to run respectably in the Grade 1 Eddie Haskell, getting up for show money, albeit five lengths back of the winner. However, the last two race represent serious regression. Unsubtle was not heard from in either the Grade 1 Travelers Stakes or the Grade 1 Jockey Guild Gold Cup. He missed the board in both while finishing fifth and seventh. The Gold Cup was his first race against older horses, and the tote board reflected the precipitous jump in competition. He went to post a longshot at 33-1. Based on his last two, the price should be just as high in the Classic, and it is. Unsubtle will break from post No. 4 at 39-1. He is, after all, only 3 for 13 lifetime, which is the lowest winning percentage of any horse in the Classic field. This will be the horse’s first start over an off track.
MTK’s attempt at three Classics in a row has to be the top story, but the story of the trainer of the next two runners makes for an excellent sidebar. Kody, a new member of ESR, has been playing the game for many years but never had a Grade 1 winner. Then, lightning struck. Or, perhaps more accurate to say, it struck twice! Let’s just say that September 29 was a heck of a day for our chat room friend Kody. LOOKIN AT NUREY won the Grade 1 Goody Good, and DOUBTFUL TROUBLE won the Grade 1 Jockey Guild Gold Cup. In one amazing day, Kody went from never having won a Grade 1, to winning the two main preps for the Breeders’ Bowl Classic. In chat, he wondered what to do. Run them both! Came the emphatic reply from this correspondent. In one day, Kody had gone from never running a horse in the Breeders’ Bowl to having two legitimate contenders in the Classic. After all, the winners of either the Goody Good or the Gold Cup automatically become logical contenders for the Classic. These are the two main prep races, and Kody won them both! You would never have guessed Kody was going to have a Classic contender on his hands if you saw Lookin at Nurey as a 3yo. This son of Lookin at Lucky, out of a stakes-placed Nureyev mare, was struggling to bring home good finishes as a 3yo. Then, Kody shrewdly sent him to the farm in October, and did not bring him back until January. Voila! Looking at Nurey blossomed on his rest, and shot all the way up to a lifetime-best speed figure of 117 in his return race. He has not slowed down all year, dominating allowance, then listed fields before taking a shot in the Goody Good. Kody had been nervous that either of his runners would have enough points to make either the Goody Good or the Gold Cup. First they both in. Then, they both won! Lookin at Nurey broke into a nice, open spot in fourth in the Goody Good, then spurted into second to take first run at a formidable leader, WICKEDSENSEOF HUMOR. Nobody else was coming! All Lookin at Nurey had to do was run down the speed. But, the speed was not giving it up. He fought on but so did Lookin at Nurey, and he caught and passed him about 100 yards from the wire. On to the Classic! Normally, winners of the nine-furlong Goody Good face a distance question in the 10-furlong Classic. It just does not feel that way for Lookin at Nurey. This horse has run impressively at 10 furlongs with a big 113 speed figure. It feels like the distance is well within his grasp. Lookin’ At Nurey will break from post No. 3 and is 9-1. This will be his first start over an off track.
As much as I like Lookin at Nurey, I like the second half of Kody’s powerful entry better. DOUBTFUL TROUBLE is an up-and-coming 3yo bay son of Tale of the Cat, out of the Silver Deputy mare SILVER MACH ONE. Doubtful Trouble’s powerful victory in the Grade 1 Gold Cup made it six in a row for the colt who looks as good as anybody in the Classic. And, he’s 26-1! If there is one horse I would have to bet in the Classic it would have to be this one. I really think he has a solid shot and the price is inflated dramatically as it is every year for the 3yos in the Classic. This horse was a powerful winner last out in the Grade 1 Jockey Guild Gold Cup, the gold standard prep race for the Classic. The more I have thought about it, the more excited I get for my new chatroom friend Kody, who has joined us at Empire State Racing. Right after joining, Kody does our residency a tremendous honor by winning those two Grade 1 races, then bringing what this writer considers to be a very strong entry in the Classic. Don’t get me wrong, I like Lookin At Nurey. I liked him ever since Kody linked him in chat, and I was glad he pointed him to a Grade 1. However, I love Doubtful Trouble! He won the Gold Cup with plenty of gas left in that big tank of his! He win that race easy, and it says here he should have plenty more left for the Classic. Doubtful Trouble handicaps terrifically well in the Classic off that dominant performance in the Gold Cup. In that race, he beat four horses that he meets again on Saturday. About the only knock on Doubtful Trouble you might try to make is that he has never raced over an off track. However, you can look at his breeding and see he’s inbred to Mr. Prospector in the sire and DD-sire line, with Deputy Minister underneath in the middle. There is no such thing as better mud blood than that. So, my confidence remains in the horse despite the off track. I do not make picks in my BTB articles, but it must be clear by now that I love this horse. Good luck, Kody, give ‘em heck and Skoal Vikes.
MY TWISTED LOVE is the second half of the Lenny entry. It’s hard to know what to make of this 4yo gelding, a son of Awesome Again out of Lenny’s Hall of Fame mare, BLACK TUESDAY. By Storm Cat, Black Tuesday won four Grade 1 races. While she excelled fairly early in her Sim racing career as a 3yo, Black Tuesday got off to a painfully slow start in the breeding shed. Lenny invested heavily in her first two foals back in 2008 and 2009, ponying up for Sadler’s Wells and Distorted Humor. Neither foal could run a lick. Neither broke maiden. But, what could Lenny do? She was an HOF mare, and he could not give up on her. Truth be told, if Black Tuesday was not in the Hall of Fame, we may never have seen the breeding of My Twisted Love. It took her a long time to produce a stakes winner. None of her first five foals won a stake, and it’s not like Mr. Lenny was sending his mare to bargain sires. It was not until 2013, when Lenny sent Black Tuesday to Cape Cross, that she finally produced a stake winner. In 2015, a War Front filly brought a Grade 2. Then, My Twisted Love was bred in 2014, and became Black Tuesday’s first Grade 1 winner when he flew home from last at the head of the stretch to win the Grade 1 Movieland Shiny Cup. That was a wild race. There had been a lone frontrunner named BLAME MISCHIEF, who ran off under his jockey to a seemingly insurmountable lead. Meanwhile, My Twisted Love plummeted, falling almost seven lengths behind the horse in next-to-last place. Then, in the run for home, Blame Mischief threw out the anchor, and the Movieland Shiny Cup became a mad scramble as the whole field seemed to run into contention. Just as Blame Mischief was stopping, My Twisted Love shot through a hole on the far outside and got up easily, by two lengths. In his last three, however, My Twisted Love has failed to fire. If the sad lines of his last three races could be removed from his past performances, a bettor might back My Twisted Love with confidence. As it stands now, the Hall of Fame trainer does not have anything to say about his gelding. In his generous email, Lenny spoke quite a bit about Nuka, but not a word about My Twisted Love, who had not been entered yet. If this horse comes running, it will not be until very late. My Twisted Love is 16-1 and breaks from post No. 5. He shows two career starts over off tracks, but neither race holds any handicapping value here. One was a turf race, and the other was a maiden race very early in the horse’s career.
If there had been zero chance of an off track for the Breeders’ Bowl, ZAP IT OUT would not have been entered in the Classic. My Empire State Racing residency mate, chatroom pal and fellow Ohio State fan LBailey freely admitted that he only entered this scratch-bred bay son of Ghostzapper because there was a chance it might rain. “Most definitely,” he said. “He was actually in the barn, and I did not plan to bring him back until next year. The wet possibility definitely changed my decision.” After all, Zap It Out’s career race was on an off track. “He made up over 10 and a quarter lengths in winning the Grade 1 Florida Derby. And it was his best race to date.” The Florida Derby, of course, was raced over an off track. It was the same kind of “good” track that Zap It out catches on Saturday in the Classic. Even if the off track moves him up though, it’s going to have to move him up a ton. This is a horse that was on the farm, spelled for very poor form, that has been dismissed as an impossible longshot at 71-1. All that said, it probably does not surprise you, then, when I admit this was my Bluegrass Derby pick. I have to apologize to LBailey again, who is a nice fellow who did not deserve such poor treatment. There was a big chance for an off track in Louisville on the first Saturday in May. Unlike this weekend, the rain held off back in May, much to the chagrine of LBailey, who saw Zap It Out languish in the back for most of the Derby before making a rally to be seventh. That was not a good race, but not the worst race ever. But then, Zap It Out refused to participate in both the Grade 1 New Yorker and the Grade 1 Travelers. He went to the back and stayed there. As such, he’s earned the look of a longshot. LBailey just kept looking at that huge run on the off track in Florida and decided he needed to take his shot. Hard to blame a man for having a run at the Classic, especially when he can catch his track. “He’ll be on vacation after the Breeders’ Bowl,” said LBailey. “Pending the BB outcome, I may be looking around for wet track races.” Zap It Out ran a lot better when seventh by less than six lengths in the Bluegrass Derby than he did in his last two, dismal up-the-track finishes in both the New Yorker and the Travelers. “Yes, his last two were disappointing. But, he’s gotten plenty of rest leading up to this.” Zap It Out breaks from post No. 13. He’s the lightliest-raced horse in the field with only nine starts, but the only one with that cautious shade of yellow in the handicapper bar.
WELL STRUCK seems like a cool name for a horse. It sure as heck does not describe my golf shots lately. This 5yo bay son of Point of Entry, out of a Smart Strike mare named BOSSY LYNN, has risen into the Top 20 of the handicap division after hitting the board in consecutive Grade 1 races this summer going Saturday’s distance. Normally, I would be falling in love with a horse like this. However, I cannot take my eyes off that thudding 11th-place run last out in the Grade 1 Jockey Guild Gold Cup. I am sure Davarto and his mates at MIDAS were horrified to see the normally reliable Well Struck beaten 16 lengths in his prep for the Classic. Davarto has no choice but to hope the saddle slipped in the Gold Cup. He has known since those two Grade 1 runs that he’s going in the Classic, and must forge ahead even though his final prep was a disaster. After all, it’s not like he’s run too many times this year. After patiently keeping Well Struck to allowance company as a 4yo, Davarto gave his horse a nice, long break before his 5yo campaign. Resting for more than three months over the winter, Well Struck came back strong and won his first listed allowance. Then, he went hunting big prizes and acquitted himself very respectable in his first two career Grade 1 starts. If it were not for the Gold Cup, I would be ready to say that this is a horse that makes perfect sense. Perhaps the fact that he has not raced all that many times this year will allow him to snap right back to form. If he can, Well Struck makes handicapping sense in this spot, gaining check marks for both class and distance. He has run well in Grade 1 races going 10 furlongs in his recent history. Well Struck is 14-1 and breaks from post No. 12. The horse shows a perfect one-for-one record on off tracks. Now, the one example was a long time ago, when Well Struck was still a 3yo just off breaking maiden. After having struggled to break maiden, not winning until his eighth start, Well Struck caught a good track in his first race against winners. It seemed to move him up. He won easily while clear by more than two, earning an increased speed figure. Normally, I do not like to go back that far for handicapping evidence, but maybe an exception this time because it was the same “good” track and it certainly seemed to move the horse up back then. Will the “good” track move Well Struck forward in the Classic? There are quite a few runners in the race with no wet record at all. There are handicapping factors that favor this horse, but that poor run in the Gold Cup probably sends your money to another number.
MTK goes for his third Classic victory in a row with a three-horse entry. The first is OUGHT TO PREVAIL, a bay 3yo who was not quite ready for the Triple Crown trail, but was raring to go in the Grade 1 Travelers, when he closed to be second to the No. 1 3yo, Gold War Front. “I have high opes for this talented, late-peaking son of Malibu Moon,” said his trainer. “He is from a distinguished family. His brother won the Derby, and another earned over a million dollars.” The mare of Ought to Prevail has been nothing short of sensational in five breeding seasons so far. DISTORTED REVENGE, a 9yo chestnut daughter of Distorted Humor, hit the jackpot with her very first foal. By Mineshaft, SWINGING BIG SHAFT won the 2015 Bluegrass Derby. Swinging Big Shaft was retired in the spring, and MTK took his one and only breeding shot with Awesome Again. The resulting 2yo colt is named AWESOME SWING and his hit the board in two of three career races so far without winning. Distorted Revenge’s million-dollar earner to which his trainer refers is ALMOST AN OUTLAW, a 5yo light gray son of Tapit. The versatile Almost an Outlaw has hit the board in Grade 1 company on both turf and dirt. In 20 dirt starts, Almost an Outlaw has earned $740,000, whilst gaining $373,000 in seven turf starts. Ought to Prevail is the third top-class foal out of this dynamite mare. If he can win the Classic? Wow. Not only would he be pushing his mare toward a potential Hall of Fame career in the shed, he also would be making history for his trainer. Nobody ever thought a trainer could win two straight Classics. If MTK somehow wins a third consecutive Classic, it shall have been a feat never to be matched again. And, despite a disinterested eighth-place run last out in a Grade 2, MTK remains confident in Ought to Prevail. “With some racing luck, I can see him doing well and running a lifetime best.” So far, Ought to Prevail’s lifetime best race at 10 furlongs was his aforementioned place run in the Travelers. However, it was not his only good race at a mile and a quarter, so the distance should suit. The off track is an unknown influence at this point, as the Classic will be the horse’s first race over an off track. As a 3yo he’s going to be dismissed in the morning line and, as such, is silly at 40-1. Ought to Prevail breaks from post No. 11.
Think it’s impossible to purchase a quality Simulated animal in the auction? Consider, if you will, the case of EUCLA OPEL, a 5yo bay son of Giant’s Causeway, out of the graded-placed Ghostzapper mare, OUTBACK OPEL II. After five races, Eucla Opel’s original owner had seen enough. The horse had broken maiden in its fourth start, earning a much-improved speed figure of 95 while winning around two dirt turns on an off track. But, after he missed the board his first try against winners, on the auction block he went. Rbokie saw that fast race on the off track, and placed his bid on a horse he thought would be a mudder. Little did he know, he was that and so much more. Seventeen starts later, Eucla Opel will run in the Breeders’ Bowl Classic. “Eucla Opel is a horse that I bought at auction,” Rbokie said. “I liked the bloodlines and realized that it would probably take a little while to mature. The previous owner was probably frustrated, given the fact that Eucla is based on a male horse and simply wasn’t performing.” Once the gavel sounded and the auction sale completed, the fortunes of Eucla Opel immediately took a dramatic change for the better. Rbokie went looking for off tracks, and miraculously, had the dice fall his way eight races in a row. Even if the chance of an off track was 80 percent for every race, it still would be fortunate for a horse to catch its track eight times in a row. “I saw that the horse’s only win was on an off track, so I entered him on an off track eight races in a row,” Rbokie said. “You can see from the results that it was the right decision.” Eucla Opel is the second half of a Classic entry for Rbokie. He will break from post No. 7 and is one of the co-favorites at 6-1.
The second part of the MTK entry is BUSINESS ETIQUETTE. No matter what I may discover in researching this horse, I must give him the benefit of the doubt for his connections alone. This is the trainer who has won two of these in a row, we cannot forget. And last year, It would have been hard to make a strong case for the eventual winner, the MTK-trained Biggest Impact. Last year’s champ came into the race off several spotty efforts, but MTK had him ready for the big day. He won, then went back to even spottier form. Business Etiquette is not like that at all. He comes to the Classic in sharp recent form, carding twin 116 speed figures in his two most recent starts, both of them effective runs going shorter in Grade 2 competition. This 4yo bay is a late-running sonofagun. He shows etiquette at the break, you might say, turning to his competitors and insisting “you first.” This is a true downtown closer who plods in the early stages of his races, allowing his rivals to build seemingly insurmountable advantages. Then, he comes with a blinding late rush. Business Etiquette was 16 lengths in arrears last out, before turning on the jets and eventually pulling away to a win of more than two lengths. However, Business Etiquette has a lot to prove in the Classic both in terms of class and distance. His late-running heroics have taken place on a different stage, entirely. It’s a long way from a mile and an eighth against Grade 2 to the Classic mile and a quarter against the best the Grade 1 game has to offer. “It’s questionable if he can really get the distance, but he hasn’t tried it too often, and he is by Classic champion Awesome Again,” said two-time Classic champion MTK. “So, one can hope.” Business Etiquette is 9-1 and breaks from post No. 5. This will be his second career race over an off track. Five races ago, he spun his wheels on a sloppy track to be seventh in a Grade 2 going nine furlongs.
Nothing that happens on Saturday can dull the luster that is a fine career for THE ELECTRIC CITY, Pointblank’s 5yo light gray son of Tapit, out of his graded-placed Dynaformer mare, ATHORNINMYSIDE. This is a two-time Grade 1 winner. Last year, The Electric City won both the California Handicap and Sand Castle Classic. When he rallied for place money in the Grade 1 I Believe in Christmas Stake, his present was a lovely End of Year Award badge. This is a horse that likely has benefited from the new automated points system for EOY awards. In previous years when it was left up to voters, they may not have been so forgiving for his poor form in the middle part of the year, when he missed the board in five straight. Normally, EOY-winning horses do not have a five-race losing streak in the middle of their campaigns. Highly unusual, to say the least, but they can never take it away from Pointblank’s horse. Due to my membership at ESR and long career at the BTB, I am well aware of just how good a trainer we have in Pointblank. At this point, THE ELECTRIC CITY rates the look of an outsider with multiple poor races in a row. But, take a closer look and see how Pointblank is trying to help his horse. After a bad run in the Cosmopolitan Handicap in May, Pointblank gave the horse more than four months off before the Gold Cup. Now, he comes to the Classic in his second race back off a long layoff. It’s going to be hard to convince you to bet a horse that has only hit one exacta in its last 11 starts, but at least we can see that Pointblank is trying to give him a chance to run an improved race. Look for him to take back and try to make one run. The only horse in the field to have won an End of Year award breaks from post No. 19 at 13-1. The horse’s only race on an off track was a very poor effort.
Where have you gone, Joe Di(MAGIO)? Why, to the Breeders’ Bowl Classic, of course. Magio, the horse, who has one less “G” in his name than the Yankee Clipper, is a 3yo bay son of Giant’s Causeway, out of the stakes-placed Frankel mare, FRANBO. Ldyssecret represents Pastures of Green with this 40-1 shot. Magio faces a massive class test on Saturday, as he faces older horses for only the second time. It was all good for Magio until he started hanging around with the older kids. Ldyssecret had a hot horse on her hands for much of this year. Like Joltin’ Joe, Magio got hot. Well, maybe not hitting in 56 straight games hot, but he did win five in a row from February to June. All of the wins were in allowance company, and all were at 8.25 furlongs. Two back, Magio ran the race of his life to win his graded debut. Stepping up both in class and distance, Magio showed a huge late kick to get up by a length in the Grade 2 State Penn Derby. To that point, Magio never had faced older horses. It was time for him to face that difficult test. He failed. Magio saw a year-long streak of very good finishes snapped with an ugly race last out in the Grade 2 Hoffa Cup. Like that race’s namesake, Magio came up missing. Unlike Hoffa, he eventually was found, and led back to the barn. From there, he got on truck and was driven from New Jersey to Kentucky. Joe DiMaggio always played it cool, but it’s going to be awfully difficult for Magio to do the same on Saturday. He faces multiple huge “firsts.” This is is first race at 10 furlongs, first race on an off track, and first Grade 1. He would stun veteran Simulated railbirds, put it that way.
And now, the last of eight 3yos in the Classic. This one is different. She is a she! The great Dixie will represent Pastures of Green with UNLIMITED FORCE, the only non-male in the race. This 3yo bay daughter of Dubawi, out of Dixie’s Hall of Fame Kingmambo mare, DANGEROUS REWARD, is your reigning champion of the Grade 1 Birmingham Stakes, which was run at Saturday’s distance of 10 furlongs. When this Hall of Fame trainer was nice enough to send a message about Unlimited Force, he was not sure she would make the race. She survived a long bubble in the 20th qualifying position, then ended up the No. 19 qualifier when the off track automatically scratched Finke Myth. “Technicallly I have entered Unlimited Force (a 3yo filly) in there,” Dixie said. “She probably won’t get in, and I kind of hope she doesn’t because it’s a really stupid spot.” This trainer pulls no punches. “I threw her in there once I realized she wouldn’t get into the Distaff and I know she can run 10 furlongs. I thought she was deserving of running on the big day.” Unlimited Force never has faced the boys before. “If she somehow gets in, let’s hope the race doesn’t ruin her. She’s a half-sister to my all-time best horse, TITLE DEFENSE, ou tof my best Hall of Fame mare, Dangerous Reward. So, she clearly has the potential. But outside of that, it’s probably not a great decision.” The filly is 39-1 and will break from post No. 18. She’s never raced on an off track.
Finally, we have the third and final runner for the man going for the historical threepeat. MIGHTY TO SAVE made the Classic and gave MTK three chances instead of two when the off track automatically scratched Finke Myth. This 4yo son of Awesome Again, out of MTK’s Grade 3-winning Empire Maker mare, MEETING YOUR MAKER, did not disappear in the Grade 3 Hoffa Cup last out. While the infamous union leader got into a car outside the Red Fox restaurant in a Detroit suburb on July 30, 1975, and never was seen again, Mighty to Save was easy to spot in the Hoffa horse race. He was the one jogging happily in front of the field by two lengths at the wire. Mighty to Save dominated the race named in his honor the way Hoffa used to dominate the Teamsters pension fund. He took it all. After five straight off-the-board finishes on the main track, Mighty to Save suddenly found his feet again in his most recent race. His late run was much better timed, and he won going away. Before that, Mighty to Save had run some good races, but his late move came too late when he did fire, like in the Grade 2 Cornhusker Handicap three back. Mighty to Save ran well and kicked hard in the stretch, but all he got for it was a hard-luck, close-up fourth. The one and only off-track race for this horse is an enigma. On the one hand, Mighty to Save finished fourth in April in the Grade 1 Charles Town Classic, beaten more than five lengths. On the other hand, the 118 speed figure he earned that day represents a lifetime best. So, does he like the off track or doesn’t he? I am going to take the position that he does, based on the speed figure. Mighty to Save is 12-1 and breaks from post No. 17.
GOOD LUCK EVERYBODY!!!!!!