Normally, the track is no place for dancing.
A vision conjures of elderly men of Greek heritage, sullenly studying their racing forms and alternately eyeballing each other with contempt as they shuffle back and forth from the betting windows.
Only on the rarest occasion, like say, Saratoga in the summer time, do the worlds of equine and ethnochoreology collide. To enter the looking-glass door into the world of this wild experience, you may need a guide, like I did. His name is Donny.
Just as singer Jimmy Ellis described in The Trammps’ 1974 hit “Disco Inferno,” Donny Beisbol and I heard music up above our heads. It let us know there was a party somewhere.
The party this Sim weekend is in Sweden. The $375,000 Grade 2 Disco Inferno Stakes goes 11 furlongs on the main track for older fillies and mares.
Like the real disco floors of the 1970s, the Disco Inferno Stakes looks like a good place to score. With its unusual distance and timing in the dead of winter, it is no surprise that the race has failed to draw any fillies or mares from the Top 20 of the division.
It holds with a longstanding Simulated tradition that Lenny holds a strong hand with the top qualifier. SHADOWSIGNALS, a 4yo light gray daughter of Tapit, has risen to No. 25 in the dirt long division for fillies and mares in only 11 starts. The fact that only one filly in the field has fewer starts than Shadowsignals, and she’s already amassed more stakes points than any of them, clearly indicates her class edge. Shadowsignals cuts back almost half a mile here off a fading third-place run last out while stretching all the way out to 14 furlongs in the Grade 1 Empire State Stayer. Lenny took a shot in that race, jumping all the way to Grade 1 for Shadowsignals’ graded debut. She did not embarrass herself, hanging on for third, but she faded seriously late to be beaten eight lengths. Lenny makes a very reasonable move here with relief for the filly both in terms of class and distance. She had been running very well at 12 furlongs, carrying sharp form through allowance ranks and sharp form in two listed runs. The fact that Lenny found his filly a Grade 2 spot in which she’ll start as top qualifier is yet another sharp play from a Sim master. You can guess he likes the spot because he shipped Shadowsignals over from the states for this. All 11 of her career races have taken place stateside. Shadowsignals is only the top card off the deck for the powerful GR Simsters in this Grade 2. Lenny’s rezzy mate Kaner runs a strong entry. Apparently, the morning-line oddsmaker in Sweden ate too many meatballs. Has he never heard of the Evil Empire? In a case of parimutuel perplexity, Shadowsignals is dismissed at 13-1. She will break from post No. 6.
Surely one of the traits of a top-level orchestra must be to deliver a consistently high level of music. Just as surely, consistency is not one of the traits any handicapper can assign to Shaggy’s Equinics champion. ST LOUIS ORCHESTRA, a 5yo bay daughter of Arch, out of the stakes-placed Stravinsky mare VIOLIN RIDGE, has earned more than $1 million despite winning only three of her 20 career races. She remains eligible for non-winners of four lifetime. However, one of those three wins was a dandy! St Louis Orchestra went to post as a 13-1 longshot on Feb. 24 of last year, in a 10-furlong Grade 1 for older fillies and mares on the dirt. Before Equinics, St Louis Orchestra had yet to face graded competition. She had managed only twin third-place runs in her only two stakes starts, both listed events. Could a filly that could not hit the exacta in two listed tries really contend in the Grade 1 Equinics? Yes, she could. St Louis Orchestra enjoyed a perfect rail-skimming trip on her way to Equinics Gold, taking first run and catching a lonely leader before easily holding off Kingab’s FIRST SPIN GOLD, who had to settle for silver. Since then, St Louis Orchestra has been hitting some sour notes. In six consecutive graded races since her Equinics triumph, St Louis Orchestra hit the board only once, when third three back in New York in the Grade 1 Personal Sign. On Saturday, she will be making her eighth-straight graded start while stretching out to 11 furlongs. Shaggy did give his Equinics champ a bit of her rest before her most recent race, a sixth-place effort over an off track. She may have a little more life in those wheels on her return to a dry track. The morning-oddsmaker sure likes the sounds of St Louis Orchestra. He makes her the second favorite at 5-1 and she breaks from post No. 7.
I waited until after entries were drawn to write this paragraph. Why? Because there was a 10-percent chance of an off track. Trainer Chilimac, representing the Racing HQ, has the scratch option checked for SHADY SONG, a 4yo light gray daughter of Galileo. Out of the stakes-winning Unbridled’s Song mare HARBOR TOWN, Shady Song ran the worst race of her life two back when she was last of 14 and beaten almost 24 lengths in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Bowl F and M Turf. The track that day in Kentucky was labeled “good,” and when Chili saw that his filly hated the soft footing, he decided to scratch Shady Song automatically anytime she would run on an off track. It’s hard to blame a trainer for wanting to protect a huge investment like Shady Song. She is the product of an expensive breeding, and has risen to No. 11 in the turf long division. In May and July of last year, Shady Song was second in consecutive Grade 1 races going long on the turf. Those two nifty runs pushed her toward the top of her division, but she could not keep it going. Three subsequent races got worse each time, culminating in the disappointing last-place run in the Breeders’ Bowl. Chili knew he had to make a move, and more than just checking the “S/O” box. He switched Shady Song to the main track for a listed try and boom! She won with a 110 speed figure, the best of her career. This filly holds a class edge on this field by virtue of running second twice in Grade 1 company. Now, she did that on the turf, but she showed last out she can run even faster on the main track. The distance hits her wheelhouse, too. Earning a handicapper’s check marks for class, distance and recent form, Shady Song is outlandishly overlaid at 17-1, and breaks from post No. 12.
In poker, you can tell a good player when he gets his money in good. He knows when to make a play, at the moment when his opponent is weak. It’s not much different from a horse trainer, Simulated or otherwise. The good ones get their horses into spots where they face reduced opposition. Gowans fits the bill here. As a pillar of Blazing Saddles, Ben used to organize a residency-wide domination of the old 3-man contest. As a handicapper and player of real races, Ben is highly knowledgeable and strategic. At Gulfstream Park, for instance, he limits his action to his specialty races, which happen to be cheap claiming contests. In placing his Sim horses, Ben is sharp, and it is no surprise that he would land in a likely spot like the Disco Inferno. The distance and off-season timing of the race mean the field is likely to be softer than a normal Grade 2. It’s a chance to contend in a graded spot for BEZZERIDES, his 6yo roan daughter of Oasis Dream, out of the stakes-winning Deep Impact hemare, GET THE DEAL DONE. Despite her advanced age, Bezzerides still seems a like a mare with gas in the tank. Let’s just draw a line through that last start, forgiving Bezzerides her fourth-place finish because nine furlongs just is not enough ground for this capable racemare. In retracing her past performances to find races comparable to Saturday’s 11-furlong Grade 2, we have to look to the back-to-back victories last year in two listed stakes going 10.5 furlongs, close enough to 11. Bezzerides was smashing in those two victories, and went fast again two back at 10 furlongs when second in a listed. Now, she missed the board in two straight graded attempts last year, but the first was the dreaded double jump in distance and class and she has nothing left at 12 furlongs. While class remains a question mark, we have to remember that the Disco Inferno is probably a notch or two below the average strength of a Grade 2 field. Bezzerides seems well placed here, which is no surprise from the capable Gowans. She breaks down on the rail from post No. 1 as the third betting choice at 6-1.
Word in the chatroom is that the great GR Simsters may be tottering on the brink of dissolution. What a bummer. Who else is the rest of the Sim going to hold up as the gold standard now? Say it ain’t so, Given. Say it ain’t so, Lenny. We sure hope there is some kind of revival, a sentiment likely shared by our next trainer, Kaner. Without this conditioner, the GR Simsters would not have scored yet another team gold in the latest running of the Equinics. It was Kaner who came through with the victory that put the GR Simsters over the top. The ability to make such a serious contribution to an outfit as classy as the GR Simsters shows that Kaner is running a top-notch operation. He will run a strong two-horse entry in the Disco Inferno. Why not? I am sure there were hundreds of John Travolta types who may have taken more than one date to Studio 54. The first is PRO CRAZY, a 5yo light gray daughter of Medaglia D’Oro, out of the stakes-placed Unbridled’s Song mare, PRO’S SONG. It’s been quite a while since Pro Crazy entered the starting gate in a graded race. Her latest start above the listed stake level was back on Aug. 20, 2017. Pro Crazy was a 3yo back then, when ninth in the Grade 3 Chicago Oaks. The highlight of Pro Crazy’s career came earlier in her 3yo season, in May, when she took the lead at the head of the stretch in the Grade 3 Timber Stakes in Pennsylvania before settling for second. Ever since her ninth-place finish in the Chicago Oaks, Pro Crazy has been content to chase minor awards in listed events. The shrewd Kaner has built a fine career for his mare with reasonable placement. Pro Crazy showed throughout her 4yo season that she could keep her form against listed company going longer on the main track. She almost always manages to hit the board, and three back, won a listed going Saturday’s exact distance of 11 furlongs. Kaner keeps some awfully fast company at GR Simsters and it seems that their expertise has rubbed off on him. Kaner is very tough, and, like we say, GR Simsters would not have won the last Equinics without him. He has picked the Disco Inferno as the right race for Pro Crazy’s return to graded competition. She will break from post No. 8 at 8-1.
The 11-furlong Disco Inferno is a freaky kind of race, so it might take some kind of freak to win it. Raise your hand now, please Rocky, and step forth to represent Empire State Racing with PETAL SPIRIT, a 4yo bay daughter of the Irish sire Charm Spirit, out of the Touch Gold mare PETALS OF GOLD. Always the master of the unconventional, Rocky again defies prevailing wisdom by transferring a Grade 1 winner on the turf to the main track. While most of the contenders in the Disco Inferno show aggressive shades of red and orange on the capper bar, Petal Spirit displays a cautious yellow. Along with Shaggy’s Equinics champion, St Louis Orchestra, Petal Spirit is one of two earners of more than $1 million in the race. What’s weird about that is that neither of these gals can find her way to the winner’s circle with any sort of regularity. While St. Louis Orchestra has won only three from 20, Petal Spirit has won only three of 16. Not only does Petal Spirit find first place elusive, she also misses the board most of the time. She only has three wins, but even fewer in-the-money finishes, two. Petal Spirit has only been second once, and third once. (These may serve as words of caution to place and show bettors.) It’s all or nothing for Petal Spirit, and more often than not, nothing. Can Rocky do it? Can he turn this filly around? Normally, it might be considered unorthodox to switch to dirt after winning a Grade 1 on turf, but maybe not with Petal Spirit. After all, she ran three poor races after her surprising win five back in the Grade 1 Japanese Oaks. Rocky made the move to the main track last out in a listed going 10.5 furlongs. Petal Spirit was third in a race for the first time. Right now, evidence suggests that Petal Spirit may need an off track to run her best. Her Grade 1 score in Japan was over a course labeled good. Petal Spirit loved it, closing very strongly to romp by more than three lengths at 18-1. Rocky’s filly is one of only two in the field to have earned at least $1 million, and is one of only two Grade 1 winners. A lot of respect that earned from the wacky Swedish morning-line oddsmaker. She is the longest shot in the field by 14 points at 38-1, and breaks from post No. 13. Even a 7yo mare with 0.13 stakes points entered at the last minute as the final qualifier gets more respect than Rocky’s filly. As far as I know, he’s never been to Sweden, so I do not know how he offended the guy.
The second half of the Kaner entry is the favorite in the race at 7-2. STELLA ALLURE, a 6yo roan daughter of the Texas sire Silver City, has earned over half a million while winning 11 of 26 career starts. You might not think it possible that a mare with such a stellar career record could have an ugly statistic hidden anywhere in her past performances, but it’s true. Before her rousing late run last out to be second in the Grade 3 Girls Cap over an off track going 10 furlongs, Stella Allure never had hit the board in seven graded starts. While winning 11 of her 26 starts, Stella Allure has proven a hit-or-miss commodity, as witnessed by her only ever placing three times, and showing only three times. Over her career, she has been a lousy place or show bet. She either runs good enough to win, or poorly enough to miss the board, most of the time, anyway. What version of Stella Allure will show up in Sweden on Saturday? Will she be like John Travolta’s Tony Manero flashing incredible disco dance moves to the adoration of the crowd? Or the sullen, soul-searching Tony, looking in the mirror at his ugly black eye? Before her smashing run last out, a handicapper would have to decide that the Grade 2 class of the Disco Inferno likely would be too much for her. But, in her eighth try, Stella Allure finally earned her graded chops. She earned a fat speed figure of 117 while flying from 14 lengths back at the second call to be beaten less than a length for all the money. So, Stella Allure now holds a check mark for graded class. Now, she must earn another check mark, for ability at the 11-furlong distance. The Girls Cap last out was 10 furlongs over a good track. On Saturday, Stella Allure will be asked to make the same move going a furlong further. She breaks from post No. 10.
Zampatelo2 represents Hispano Parlante with AMAITE, a 5yo brown scratch-bred daughter of American Pharoah with a gigantic back end (Seattle Slew X Deputy Minister.) Both the DS and DDS just scream class on the main track. Amaite appears to hold a serious advantage over her competition on Saturday: She is the only runner in the field to have earned that desirable fire-engine red color in the Capper bar while racing in this division. She is the only fire-engine red with the notation “DL,” for dirt long. Amaite also holds a second advantage for having only been to post 11 times. She is one of the lightliest-raced mares in the field and, as such, holds as much right to improve as anybody. Until now, Zampatelo has been content to race Amaite exclusively in allowance company. She has never started in so much as a listed stake. So, her stakes debut will take place way, way up in Grade 2 company. If her trainer were a rube, such a precipitous class jump might seem folly. However, if you think the gentlemen at Hispano Parlante are rubes, then you have not been playing this game for very long. Our Spanish-speaking friends know their caballos. Looking at the past performances of Amaite, one may get the idea that Zampatelo has been pointing toward this race for a while. After all, he has started this American Pharoah mare three straight times at the exact distance of 11 furlongs. She has won all three in equally dominant fashion. Two back, she earned a giant speed figure of 114 while winning by more than three lengths. While the distance of Saturday’s race will be perfectly familiar to Amaite, the track itself will not. This will be Amaite’s first career start outside of Berkshire, which has served as her exclusive home track so far. She will break near the rail from post No. 2, and is 9-1.
DALI’S MOUSTACHE is an absurdist humorous book by the surrealist artist Salvador Dali and his friend, the photographer Philippe Halsman. The first edition was published in 1954. The idea for the book came from Dick Simon, one of the founders of Simon & Schuster, when Halsman showed him photographs of Dali, which were intended for Life magazine. While this writer never has read the book, it appears that at least one member of the Super Stables has read it. They named this 5yo bay daughter of the Irish sire Dawn Approach for it. The first thing that jumps out at a Simulated handicapper about Dali’s Moustache is the fact that the capper bar still lists her best division as the turf sprint division. That sure seems odd for a mare that’s entered in a Grade 2 going 11 furlongs on the main track. Lest you think the Super Stables are conducting some sort of wild experiment, Dali’s Moustache left turf sprinting behind a while ago. She’s run four times at 11 furlongs on the dirt, and has done well, winning twice while second once. Both of the wins were romps in which she came running from far back to win going away. The distance of the Disco Inferno is not a problem. However, the class of the race seems like one. Dali’s Moustache has yet to prove herself as anything more than an allowance runner. She has only tried stakes racing three times in her 19 career races, and has missed the board in all three races. To make matters worse, those were all listed stakes, and Saturday’s race is a Grade 2. The morning-line oddsmaker in Sweden has dismissed Dali’s Moustache as a longshot at 23-1. While he’s made some wildly inaccurate lines on several of the runners here, it’s hard to argue with him on the long odds for this mare. The only thing we can figure is that the Super trainers felt like taking a shot based on the 11-furlong distance, which Dali’s Moustache has proven to appreciate.
Tempstable represents WorldWide Racing with WINGZ T, the first of three former platers to be found toward the bottom of the qualifying order in the Disco Inferno. Wingz T is by the obscure New Zealand sire Zed, who has been used only sparingly by Sim breeders in five years of availability. Last year was the first time Zed ever was ranked in the Top 1,500 Sim sires. No matter what happens on Saturday, Wingz T already has established herself as the best Sim horse ever by Zed. He’s never gotten a stake winner, let alone a graded winner. A victory on Sunday by Wingz T would be immense for Zed, who is not dead, which you really cannot tell from his Sim career. In yet another piece of evidence that the morning-line oddsmaker in Sweden may be drinking on the job, there are five runners in the Disco Inferno going to post at longer odds than Wingz T. She has built a respectable record in allowance competition, winning five of six, but is taking leaps on Saturday in terms of both class and distance. This will be her first stake race, and it doubles as her graded debut. She also never has raced at Saturday’s distance of 11 furlongs, although she looked good last out going 10.5 furlongs while knocking over a short-field allowance. Even if she gets clobbered on Saturday, she’s been doing a nice job of earning despite her meager breeding. She has won nine of 16 career starts and that’s certainly respectable.
RAINBOLT is interesting to me right off the top because she is the only filly in the Disco Inferno with fewer than 10 starts. She’s only started seven times. That turns your head, kind of like it might have in the 1970s if a nice-looking gal in her 20s walked into a disco jammed with older, more experienced gals. This is only the eighth start for this impeccable scratch-bred, a 4yo bay daughter of Awesome Again, with Seattle Slew and Unbridled behind. Trainer 3away will represent the Universal Racing Club with Rainbolt, who likely holds the greatest right to improve of any of the 14 in the Disco Inferno. Though dismissed at 21-1, a longer price than some of the cheaper fillies and mares at the bottom of the qualifying order, Rainbolt has very powerful breeding and a huge late kick. Last out, she came flying with a huge late run to be a close-up third in her graded debut. And now, we see a big reason why Rainbolt has only seven starts. That impressive run last out was a long time ago, back in August of last year. This will be Rainbolt’s first start in five months. It may be a little bit too much to expect of what might be a talented horse to contend in a Grade 2 off such a long layoff. However, while the five months off may not work in her favor on Saturday, there could be a gigantic silver lining as she races herself back into shape as a 4yo. Rainbolt could be a filly to watch in 2019.
Anybody who has been overcome with the dancing spirit to the flammable degree described in The Trammps’ “Disco Inferno” can attest from experience that the boogie can reach a point where stamina comes into play. Sure, sure, you got the double-timing boogie when your spark gets hot, but how long can you take satisfaction in a chain reaction? And, heaven forbid you happen to be a fan of the Grateful Dead, with whom the boogie lasts more than one night. Forget lung capacity. How is your stamina on the last night of a week-long haul? The long 11 furlongs of the Disco Inferno are going to be too much for a lot of the highly rated contenders in here. You have five fillies and mares who burn brightly with that fire-engine shade of red on the capper bar, but notice it says “D R” and not “D L.” That means, of course, they are most highly rated in the “dirt route” division, spanning from a flat mile to 10 furlongs. There are only two fillies and mares in the Disco Inferno which show “DL.” They are the only two who are best in the “dirt long” division, spanning from 10.5 furlongs to two miles. So, the Disco Inferno’s 11 furlongs are short for the division, but long for the route division, and long for most of the contending fillies and mares here. The last of five runners in the Disco Inferno that shows the preferable bright red in the capper bar, but with the perhaps not preferable “D R” distinction is BLAME THE TURF. This 5yo brown daughter of Blame, out of the Grade 1-winning AP Indy mare Surf the Turf, breaks from the far outside in post No. 14 and is well regarded parimutually speaking at 7-1. That’s a short price for a mare who has only 3.13 stakes points and who has won only three of 19 lifetime. Can there be any justification? Blame the Turf has missed the board in both of her graded tries, but has fared better in four listed stakes. She won a listed going 10 furlongs two back with an impressive 111 speed figure. Davarto represents MIDAS with Blame the Turf, who has improved as an older horse after Davarto send her to the farm for a nice, long rest to start last year. Blame the Turf’s final race of her 3yo season was in December of 2017, and she did not return to the races until May of 2018. It was a successful move by Davarto, as Blame the Turf previously had missed the board in two listed attempts. After the long break, she ran very well in two listed races, winning one of them. On Saturday, she’ll try to get over that graded hurdle that has proven elusive in two tries thus far. She’s stretching out to her first race beyond 10 furlongs.
Our penultimate qualifier is STORY BEHIND, a bargain-bred former claimer made good. Story Behind, a 5yo bay mare, is the only Sim runner by her sire to earn a graded placing. She is by Black Tide, a Sunday Silence sire available at this writing for only 31 BPs. No matter what happens on Saturday, Story Behind already is the best Sim horse ever by her sire. To be honest, calling her a former plater may be a bit disingenuous. While technically true, as Story Behind did appear in a maiden claimer in her second start, it was for the maximum of $150,000. She rose the class ranks rather quickly, and has spent the vast majority of her career in fast company, on both turf and dirt. This is a terrific little filly and a heck of a success story for trainer Planoaxius, who represents the Bargain Bred Racing Series. Story Behind is just the kind of rags-to-riches story that the members of the Bargain Bred Racing Series are hoping to find. She has run far, far beyond her affordable breeding. Story Behind was good on the main track, winning two listed stakes as a 3yo before switching to the turf. She was good on the dirt but even better on the turf, earning her graded placing on the lawn and taking down five more listed stakes. This is a mare who has dominated in listed company, and rather obviously deserves the chance to take part in a suspect Grade 2. She switches back to the main track, but she proved when she was a 3yo that she could win over the dirt going Saturday’s distance of 11 furlongs. I guess it’s fair to say that this writer has fallen in love with the Story Behind this mare. She breaks from post No. 3 at 12-1.
Finally, we have BUZZING HERO’S, an elderly Turkish bred who was entered just before closing when the race had drawn only 13 runners. Hey, the chance was there, so why not take a shot? That’s the dice that will roll for Knackery, who has three barns representing the Oz Racing Stables. Buzzing Hero’s will break from post No. 5 at 24-1, the second-longest price on the board. I think she has to be considered as the favorite to run last. This old gal has not run since April of 2018. She never ran in a stakes race, and had gone off form in allowance company before being sent to the shelf last spring. She never has started beyond nine furlongs, and it certainly looked like a mile and an eighth was too far when she failed to hit the board in her last three races, all at that distance. Perhaps this race will serve as a tightener for Buzzing Hero’s. She cannot be given any kind of serious consideration here considering her history and limitations. Why the morning line oddsmaker made her only 24-1 is beyond the pale.
GOOD LUCK EVERYBODY!!!!!