A Pfc. is standing at attention in the orderly room of a quartermaster company at Ft. Knox in Kentucky. A reservist, he is wearing civilian clothes. His company commander says to him. “I’m giving you a direct order to put on your uniform and report for duty.” The young soldier says, “I cannot, for reasons of conscience.” The company commander orders the soldier taken to the post stockade, where he is stripped and put in a steel isolation cell…
Across the country such scenes are taking place nearly every day. “Open resistance to the draft,” says columnist Clayton Fritchey, “is greater than at any time since the Civil War.”
(From “Hell, No, We Won’t Go!” The Saturday Evening Post, January 27, 1968)
Our ESR residency chief and BTB scribe extraordinaire, Trotter, is taking a well-deserved break this week. Filling in is… myself, a guy who occasionally writes stuff. Now I know Pete a little bit, Pete is a great guy. I’ve been to the races with Pete. So even though I am going to write in the ESR Pete preview format, Senator, I am no Pete.
(Please do not contact BTB management for refunds. They will laugh, right in your face.)
An uncharacteristically overflowing field of fifteen older male sprinters signed up for the $100,000 ESR Hell No We Won’t Go Stakes. It’s not a ‘full’ field because 20 horses are permitted in these restricted joints, as opposed to a limit of 14 entrants for the unrestricted plebian contests. Let’s call it a “fuller field”; they’re going 6 furlongs on the dirt in New York.
WE’VE GOT MAGIC is finding new life as a one-turn specialist for the spinround operation, notching his 3rd lifetime win in a 6.5 furlong allowance race in December… his shortest effort since debuting with a win at 1100 meters. Today’s competition may be on par with the listed group he tangled with last time (beaten less than 5 lengths). Shortening up another 1/8th of a mile may be to his benefit… legitimate shot at a piece.
MIDSUMMER’S PARTY placed in a Grade 3 at two and won a listed race at three, but like many precocious performers has struggled to find a place in the older ranks. Trotter got him recalibrated at four after a lengthy eight month hiatus, scoring in consecutive “since a date” allowance races. The other 14 runners will not be intimidated by his resume, but the horse is in fine form and has an expert at the helm calling his shots. Arrow pointing up, but will need a lifetime best effort for a placing.
FOUND BEN LUCKY is a seven furlong specialist who’s been sparingly campaigned by kingab for an ESR debut in his 15th start. The 5yo gelding has started only four times in the last 16 months, and utilized that most significant of equipment changes for his victory last out in Cali. His record at 6.5 furlongs is a healthy 4-3-0-1, but something about his running style makes me think he’s not going to love the shorter run to the stretch. Still, the talent is there and there should be plenty of juice in thelemon, figuratively speaking. Dangerous.
HE’S A HARD KID is the 4th stakes winner from a stakes winning Lemon Drop Kid mare who loved 6 furlongs. It wasn’t hard for kingab to figure out this guy likes that distance, too. Well entrenched in the 3yo listed sprint scene, the 4yo was unplaced in his only try vs. older, but that was 6 months ago. Those older siblings ran on at 4 and 5, so no reason for me to think he won’t do the same. He’s a hard one to bet, but I wouldn’t bet against him (or Larry). Toss at your peril.
RAISE THE FOREST raised some eyebrows with his front-running romp last out in Massachusetts. The 4yo Flatter colt makes an ambitious leap up to stakes company from that first level condition, but seems to have benefitted from a significant maturity boost in his last two starts (speed figure progression in dirt sprints – 88, 89, 101, 103). Kingman has him on the move after some time on the sidelines, but the difficulty of the task at hand certainly matches the 55-1 pessimism of the CPU oddsmaker. Pace factor for your watch list.
GET SMOKED has made the most of his prodigious early speed; he is more often the smoker and not the smokee. Robscoobi’s 4yo son of TRIPPI and G1 sprinter SMOKED YA has won four straight and found a reasonable spot for a stakes debut in his 10th lifetime start. His 6 furlong loss last February looks like an anomaly, but you never know until they step up to the big time… or win without getting an early lead. His stalk, pounce, and hang-on late effort last out, at today’s distance, looks pretty good against these. Smoke ‘em if you’ve got ‘em.
PUNKIN’S A HERO should be twice as good as his dam (HALF A HERO) if ace’s naming scheme is to believed; the Constitution colt took the unusual path of ultra-short sprint allowances in Michigan as his stepping stone to stakes company. Despite what looked like modest speed figures and suspect company (100 SP and fields of 7 or less), the 4yo transitioned seamlessly to stakes company and continues to knock on the door at this level. The return to 6 furlongs should do him some good, and I expect some saltiness at an overlaid 20-1. Longshot with a shot.
RUNZIG continues the trend of lightly raced 4yo showing up to contest more seasoned elders. The smartly bred irisharse charge took the entire summer off in 2018, having won 4 of his first 6 starts shortly after turning 3. He scored with a solid 106 SP off the bench in November, but is unproven against older horses and has little experience at this exact distance. Lots to like, but an equal number of questions marks as well. Definitely maybe.
CHEYENNE RAIDER has the unlikeliest pedigree for this spot (OASIS DREAM x STREET CRY x GIANT’S CAUSEWAY) but is in fact a stakes winning dirt sprinter, albeit at 1500 meters. Nextbonus has him firing on all cylinders, with 6 consecutive races of 108 SP or more, including a solid 112 last out in the ESR Tune In, Turn On, Drop Out Stakes. He closed from far back to be beaten only 3 ½ in that two turn affair (assuming the NY track is simulated Aqueduct and not Belmont), so if you are looking for a class horse who may enjoy a turnback, look no further. He’s never won at 6f, but his dam broke her maiden and won… 11 hot races at the distance. I guess Bills will be Bills.
DAVID ANTONIO is another who had a solid 3yo sprint career and has yet to achieve 4yo success. Don’t be quick to judge the ivanyamil trainee who has simply been off since a good 3rd in a listed stake in November. The Distorted Humor colt comes in fresh and is pretty much out of allowance conditions, so why not take a shot in this spot? Speed figures are a hair below the top contenders, but never underestimate the maturity bump and the healing powers of voluntary layoffs. Muy posible, creo que si.
TIZIG is bristolred’s exciting 7yo Tiznow beast, not to be confused with RUNZIG who is by Runhappy (but also out of a Danzig mare). TIZIG is a win machine, getting his photo taken nearly 50% of the time (10 for 21). This includes two stakes wins at today’s distance, including his last start in Illinois where he clocked an impressive 112 SP. What’s not to like? The rightful 9/2 favorite looks like he’ll be right there, but Father Time looms as his toughest foe. His previous stakes win was followed by a heavy bounce, and you never know when the computer code dictates that you’ve reached the edge of the proverbial performance ‘cliff’. Likely winner / risky bet.
TOO SOON CADET will test exactly that premise today for hard-to-identify-which-horses-belong-to-him trainer cadet. The 4yo Distorted Humor gelding has been nearly flawless since his gender reassignment surgery, including a frontrunning victory versus 3yo ESR sprinters in December. Robby gave him the DAVID ANTONIO treatment and treated him to 4 months of simulated turnout, so he’s similarly fresh and untested for today’s spot. His dam won a G3 sprint at 4, so if I were an opposing trainer here, I’d be more than a little wary of this guy. Solid credentials throughout.
THE FLYING LOBO comes to us by way of New Mexico and the casino outfit, where he has been roughing up State Bred sprinters with regularity, and in rapid fashion – 112 SP lifetime best and nearly half a mil in cash money. The 5yo has exactly one start in unrestricted company – a turf sprint as a 2yo – which tells us exactly nothing about how he will handle the temporary relocation to NYC. He’s in excellent form but faces a group where almost everyone is really good as well. Could be part of a massive blanket finish. Your guess ≥ mine.
MR. MISTERIOSO is the younger of the two trotter entries (second from the inside, second from the outside) and perhaps the brighter future as well. The well-travelled 4yo Quality Road colt broke through with a stakes victory in his 15 start, defeating older horses in December. A non-threatening 4th in his next effort under similar conditions in February; he should be a little tighter today than he was with a 60 day break. There is a little mystery surrounding this one’s ceiling, but expect a solid effort nonetheless. Trotter’s tag-team anchor.
THIRSTY AFLEET is kody’s Afleet Alex banger who is as solid as they come, amassing 16 placings in 22 sprint attempts at the toughest North American tracks. He has not been seen in stakes company since respectable 3yo efforts more than 24 months ago, but his recent allowance jaunts of 107 and 108 SP are lifetime bests. He’s another poised for a big effort off a last race that was less than optimal (in his case, a two-turn lung opener). The outside post may be too much to overcome, but he definitely fits with this bunch. Speedy sleeper for the next ESR sprint.
Handicapping the Field
Seriously, you think I am going to be able to provide more insight on this race beyond what you see in the PP’s or what I’ve already clumsily laid out? No chance! I will, for the sake of completion, sort through my notes and come up with a prediction that is likely worse than a monkey throwing darts at a typewriter. Please do not equate my selections as an indictment of your training abilities… or celebrate too much when I am laughably wrong.
There’s a lot of speed in the race – it is a sprint, after all – but not a lot of “need the lead” types. FOREST DANGER, THIRSTY AFLEET, and TOO SOON CADET all figure to be amongst the first pack of pacesetters, with GET SMOKED looking like he will gun for the front. WE’VE GOT MAGIC, MIDSUMMER’S PARTY, HE’S A HARD KID, RUNZIG, DAVID ANTONIO, TIZIG, THE FLYING LOBO… that’s seven horses who all want to sit just a few lengths off the pace and make a move at the top of the stretch. CHEYENE RAIDER, MR. MISTERIOSO, PUNKIN’S A HERO, and FOUND BEN LUCKY all prefer to be in the third flight and would benefit most from a zippy middle quarter mile.
This is the first time in a long time where I’ve seen a race of this quality without a single obvious ‘pitch’ – you cannot discount the chances of any of the runners, or be surprised somehow if they finish in the top three. Kudos to you ESR trainers for quality and well-spotted entries through the various campaigns.
This task is tougher than a two-dollar steak (remember Ponderosa Steak House? I remember a $2.99 ribeye) but here’s what the monkey tossed at the wall:
FOUND BEN LUCKY – when in doubt, bet on the Master(ab). Closer may like the cutback and expected hot pace.
GET SMOKED – has the look of a future star & could get brave on the front.
TOO SOON CADET – literally one of 13 who could figure, but upside is undeniable & looks to usurp the King.
Hunch bet supreme – PUNKIN’S A HERO – better than you think, AND he’s a horse named after a dog.