By the time Jimi Hendrix took the stage at 9 a.m. on Aug. 18, 1969 at the Woodstock Music Festival, those who remained in attendance were burned out worse than Trotter after 50 straight BTB articles.
“Is it tomorrow? Or just the end of time?” Hendrix asked lyrically in “Purple Haze,” one of his most popular songs and the namesake for Saturday’s event at Empire State Racing. The $100,000 listed stake for New York-bred older fillies and mares will go to post at 2:10 p.m. It’s a six-furlong sprint on the turf.
It is most unusual for this writer to go anywhere near the Black Type Bugler office when his credit account reflects a recent payday. However, with Trotter taking a well earned break, I thought I would follow the lead of Donny Beisbol and pinch-hit.
There is no chance I will do it every week. I never will understand how Pete does that, churning out such great pieces week after week after week. Not to mention the fact that most of the time, his horse was getting beat. On behalf of all members of our great residency, I want to thank Trotter for every single minute he has worked on our behalf. Pete, you have built a great rez that adds to the enjoyment of all of us members. We all thank you very much for that and wish you the best. Personally, I remain very appreciative of how kind you and Frank have treated me when we have been together at Saratoga.
Kingab has put his foot down in our ESR stakes competition, and left everybody else scrambling for the rare chance to win one of these races. Many of our top trainers are suffering with very poor records in the ESR races, which have been brutally difficult for some time now.
Checking the current ESR standings, we see Kingab in first place, with four wins from 13 starts. He also has four places and two shows, for remarkable records of 8 for 13 in the exacta and 10 for 13 in the money. These statistics make it easy to understand why there is not much meat left on the bone for the rest of us after Larry gets done. His is not the only high-class, large operation at work at ESR. Yet, these other big players cannot make a dent in Kingab’s big lead.
Tied for second place is my man Kody, who has two wins from eight starts. Special well wishes to my chat room pal as he recovers from a very serious health issue, a brain hemmorage. I suspected something was wrong when Kody was not in chat before the Sand Castle Classic, where he ran back his 1-2 finishers from the Breeders Bowl Classic, LOOKIN AT NUREY and DOUBTFUL TROUBLE. I think all of my fellow trainers at ESR will join me in wishing a complete recovery for Kody, who is improving but still faces a few more weeks of therapy away from home.
Also tied for second is Ivanymil, who has two wins from four starters. It is really neat to see a faithful competitor like Ivanymil rewarded with a couple of elusive victories right out of the gate in 2019.
Just to show you how brutally difficult the competition is at ESR, we see that highly skilled trainers like Cadet, Casino, Spinround, Trotter and Donny Beis, among all of us others, struggling to score. We are all like Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles, the unmighty Casey who kept striking out.
And yet, we keep trying, don’t we? LOL.
Let’s try it again!
My chat buddy Spinround has the top qualifier for the Purple Haze. MOST PECULIAR is a 5yo bay daughter of Big Brown, and describes the feeling that patrons of the Simulated New York track may experience should they participate in Saturday’s track promotion. As a salute to the timing of the race, on April 20, and the fact that there is a high-quality strain of marijuana also named Purple Haze, track management will re-sod the turf course with actual Purple Haze grass for the running of Saturday’s race. At the conclusion of racing, patrons are invited to walk the course and sample from it, and fill complimentary trash bags handed out at the admission gate on Saturday morning. There may or may not be any truth to the rumor that extra bags are being stored in the press box. Unlike many ESR stakes races, there are not a lot of stakes points to go around among the entrants this week. Spinny’s Most Peculiar tops the qualifying order with only 4.13. Through her 26 starts, Most Peculiar has shown appreciable consistency, hitting the board 20 times. She has earned $336,000 for a fine career if she doesn’t do another thing. Her trainer suspects that she has lost some of her edge. “I think she is getting old,” Spinny said. “She’s been a great earner for me but I’m not sure turf is her best surface.” Most Peculiar has been versatile in addition to consistent. While running mostly in the main track, 18 times, she also has started on turf eight times. She actually has made more money per start on turf. Most Peculiar’s average earnings per start on the lawn are $4,000 higher than her average on dirt. Her win percentage is higher, too. She has won two from eight on turf, and only three from 18 on dirt. So, even at her best, Most Peculiar is not a mare who has shown any particular affinity for visiting the winner’s circle. Even if you like her in this spot, you are bound to hesitate before placing a win wager. “Lately, she hasn’t been as fast as she was at her peak, but I think she could play a part here,” Spinround said. “Her last start was solid and it was her first off a three-month holiday, so you never know.” Indeed, Most Peculiar broke a string of five slower races with speed figures south of 100 last out with a big, late run to get up for second in a state-bred allowance going seven furlongs on the dirt. She is third choice at 4-1 and breaks from the rail in post No. 1.
Our faithful leader Trotter has the second qualifier in MY F N X, a 4yo brown daughter of Effinex out of the stakes-placed Giant’s Causeway mare, TRAGIC EVENT. That mare, bred and raced by Pointblank, had a racing career that was maybe a little bit sad, but her career as a broodmare has been less tragic. She was not terrible on the track, earning more than $150,000, but she never reached the height that Pointblank surely was hoping for back in 2008 when he created the expensive scratch-bred (Mr. Prospector X Danzig). She got off to a great start, first or second in each of her first four races, but by her 4yo season had lost interest in competition. She was retired and moved onto the next phase of her Sim career, which has been better. Tragic Event has dropped eight foals, and five of them are at least stakes-placed. Every one of her first four foals to race at least hit the board in stakes company. She was sent to some expensive sires, including Monson, Tapit and Pulpit. Her Tapit foal was her best. UNSTABLE GROUND, a roan 7yo, hit the board in four graded races. My F N X is one of only three foals out of his mare which have not hit the board in a stakes race, and she will be looking to fix that on Saturday. Trotter was sure he had a turf router in My F N X, but has adjusted his plan after the filly ran a disappointing eighth in an ESR stake going 8.5 furlongs on Dec. 29. In two races since then, Trotter has chosen to cut back on distance with My F N X. She won her first race at six furlongs two back, in another state-bred conditioned allowance, but came up short and missed the board last out in open company. Knowing how Trotter prepares his horses, we can surmise that the ESR boss saw this race on the schedule and chose to point My F N X toward it. He has tried to get her geared toward the six-furlong distance with two prep races. It is a testament to Pete’s training abilities that a limited filly like My F N X has managed to earn more than $200,000 in his care. She has only broken the triple-digit speed figure barrier once! Still, she earns for Pete. This filly has only missed the exacta in three of her 13 career races. She missed the board in her debut, which was on dirt, then was very consistent on turf as she rose up the state-bred allowance condition ladder. Now, she has missed the board in two of her last three. They were just too fast for her three back in an ESR stake going 8.5 furlongs. The top three finishers in the Dayatthespa Stakes all earned speed figures of at least 105, which is out of the range of My F N X for now. The race on Saturday is a much easier spot, and there is no time like the present for My F N X to earn a stakes placing. She is 8-1 and breaks from post No. 6.
And now, the King. Or, as I like to call him, the Big Buckeye. Both Kingab and Itchy are lifelong fans of Ohio State, and we often can be found in the chat room discussing the latest fortunes of the Scarlet and Gray. Larry calls me Little Buck, which is an honor for me. It was that moniker that former Ohio State great Jack Tatum used when addressing Ron Springs, a running back for Ohio State. Springs was a rookie for the Dallas Cowboys when he made his first violent encounter with Tatum. The Cowboys were playing against Tatum’s Raiders, and early in the game, Tatum compressed Springs with a hard tackle. As he got up, he offered a warning. “Careful Little Buck,” Tatum said, “you could get hurt out here.” Just as it was dangerous to oppose Tatum on a football field, it also sends shivers down the collective spine of Simulated trainers at ESR when they have to face Kingab’s horses. We all know just what I am saying. Repeat after me: “If it wasn’t for Larry’s horse, I would have won.” It happened to this writer twice last year in dramatic fashion, and by the same horse! Twice I had very good fillies that were seemingly home free in ESR races, and twice they got caught by Kingab’s FROZEN HEART. I both love and hate Frozen Heart, and our rivalry will renew next week when Larry brings that dazzling filly from the turf to the dirt to meet my AFROBEATNIK. If she beats me this time, I am really going to feel bad. But that’s next week. This week, Larry goes to post with ALL PEARLS, a 4yo bay daughter of Big Brown, out of the Grade 3-winning Fusaichi Pegasus mare, GEORGIA PEARL. One of Kingab’s several advantages in the ESR stakes races is in these state-bred races, due to his powerful broodmare band. While many of his colleagues at ESR share similar resources, none have any advantage over Kingab in that department and many are at a considerable disadvantage. The key to breeding a top runner by a New York sire is to give it a stout back end, which Kingab has done with Georgia Pearl, whom he has used every year since she was retired in 2004. In the early part of her breeding career, Georgia Pearl got dates with the likes of Storm Cat, AP Indy, Rahy and Pivotal. Lately, Kingab has dialed back on how much he spends with her, using more affordable sires. However, it is crystal clear how much he likes this mare, because he keeps using her year in and year out. All Pearls is her first stake winner in six years. This filly has competed in three residency stakes, and has hit the board in all three, winning one. As he will do again next week with Frozen Heart, Kingab switches surfaces with All Pearls. While the great Frozen Heart goes turf to dirt, All Pearls does the opposite. She prepped for her new task last out with a win in her first-ever turf race. This filly has the class and speed figures over this field in the Purple Haze. It will surprise nobody if Kingab wins another. However, All Pearls is not the favorite. She is the second choice at 7-2 and breaks from post No. 2.
Can a claim off my main man Bonk really be an angle? That’s what another chat room pal of ours, Sremel, is trying to put into play on Saturday. She claimed THERE IS KALI from Bonk last summer, on July 28 out of a $10,000 conditioned state-bred claimer. Generally speaking, I am not sure Bonk fits the profile of a trainer you want to shop for claims. Chances are, Bonk already is highly likely to be getting all that can be got from the horse. It’s going to be hard to move a horse up when you take it from Bonk. However, there are exceptions to every rule! There Is Kali certainly has moved forward for Sremel. After going two-for-two for Bonk (big shock, I know), There Is Khali has hit the exacta every time in four races for Sremel. She has won two and been second twice for her. Also, she’s taken steps forward both in class and speed figures. While Bonk played her short, running her back for a similar price to which he paid, Sremel has been more ambitious in her placement with this 4yo brown daughter of Al Khali, out of a stakes-placed Best of the Bests mare named THE BEST THERE IS. There is not much family history to speak of here, as the mare has dropped only one stakes-placed foal of five, while never getting a date with a top stud. There Is Kali is potentially a gem in the rough here as she continues to improve for Sremel. She ran second twice in open N1X allowance company going 7.5 furlongs, then stretched all the way out to 9.5 to win against a short field of four in a starter allowance. Sremel is to be commended for finding an easy spot for her filly there, then saw her win again in impressive fashion last out when she finally got to meet state-bred foes. This filly has won three of four times she has had the chance to face her own kind, that is, New York breds. This is only her fifth try in that company, and she may relish the chance to earn a stakes placing. The cut back to six furlongs is a cause for concern, but she did run well at the sprint distance of 7.5 furlongs on the turf, and won going six for Bonk. I have a good feeling about this filly. It says here she can do. I like her even better after I saw the odds. There Is Kali is the second-longest shot in the field at 14-1. She breaks from post No. 7.
GO BALLISTIC is what Liddleski used to do in the boxing ring. Or, maybe he kept his cool. I never saw him fight. But, I do enjoy the stories. Liddy was no professional pugilist, but a very good amateur with a lot of wins. He only lost five times, and only three of those were outside the family. You see? Liddy’s brother was a good fighter, too, and good enough to lick Liddy twice. That’s right. Liddy was beaten only five times, and twice by the same man. And, that man was his brother. Liddy’s brother passed away a few years ago, and Liddy himself paid his own price for years in the ring, surviving a severe, life-threatening illness. Liddleski survived operations and long hospital stays, which meant long vacations from the Sim. When he came back, he had a friend waiting on him: Kimugle. The Sim is a beautiful thing and never more so when you consider the story of Liddleski and Kimugle. These are two men who have developed a lifelong friendship over a Simulated horseracing game. Liddleski credits Kimugle with helping him learn how to train his horses again. Training his Sim horses has been a beneficial mental exercise for Liddleski. And, as Balata well knows, a long vacation can be just the thing for some Sim horses. Many of Liddy’s horses have come back strong from long layoffs. Go Ballistic got her long break between October 2017 and February 2018. Unfortunately, she is not one of Liddy’s horses who has benefited from long rest. She was racing effectively as a 2yo before she hit the shelf, running second in an ESR stake. Since then, she has struggled to get any better. Never once has she topped the triple digit speed figure barrier. That’s bad, because she probably will have to figure out a way to go that fast to win on Saturday. In addition to finding a newfound ability to go faster, Go Ballistic also is going to have to find a way to turn the tables on Trotter’s My F N X, who beat her last out in a prep race going Saturday’s distance on the turf. Go Ballistic is the longest shot in the field at 17-1, and breaks from post No. 4.
I wish I had better skills with cell phones. There were some great pictures of my pal Donny Beisbol on my latest burner, but there is no retrieving them. In my disposable photographic study of Donny, he was hard at work at a self-service betting terminal last summer at Saratoga. Calculating algorhythms in his head, my racetrack pal looked like a man trying to figure out a way to destroy the German army before post time. If you know my man Mr. Beisbol, you know he always has a reason for whatever he may be doing. In the case of INTEREST SHARED, he made no secret of his intentions. He named the filly that because he intended to run in CVBear’s Shared Interest Stakes. “In December 2017, I scratch-bred Interest Shared as a late 3yo in a selfish attempt to have an entrant in as many of CVBear’s New York-Bred Showcase races as possible,” Donny explained. The plan worked. Interest Shared would run in the stake as an unraced maiden. That was the good news. The bad news was her price was laughably long. “She was entered and went off a healthy 789-1!,” Donny recalled. “With a bunch of pace in the race and no real world beater, I instructed the jock to take back, hoping she might pass some tired horses late. Instead, she ended up running last despite a modest close, and only 6 1/2 lengths behind the winner. A 92 speed figure was not too shabby for a first-time starter of modest means.” Interest Shared is a scratch-bred by Teuflesberg, with Runaway Groom and Tabasco Cat behind. For the filly to keep up with the pack, albeit while passing none of them, in her highly challenging debut was impressive. “Since then, I’ve mostly run her where she belongs and at her whim,” Donny said. “She likes the front end of state-restricted allowance fields. I tried the Shared Interest again last year, where she faded to fourth after some early foot.” The turkey was really on the table last out for Interest Shared in the ESR Power to the People Stakes. In her 5yo debut, Interest Shared was in front by three at the head of the stretch. Kingab’s All Pearl was coming up the rail, while Cadet’s Alphabet Cadet split horses with a strong late move. The closers were coming quick, but so was the wire. Try as he may, jockey F Rankster could not get the mare to the wire, and he got beat by only 0.16 of a length while third. It was a tough beat, but at least the mare became stakes-placed. “There’s not much mystery to her,” Donny said. “She is fast, cheap and needs a field of New York-bred fillies and mares to be competitive. Wouldn’t it be great if the other ESR trainers were kind enough to let her get loose on a long lead and let the little guy win one for a change? (Little meant figuratively; I need to drop 20 pounds before this next Saratoga jaunt.)” Now, Interest Shared will have a rematch with both All Pearls and Alphabet Cadet. How is her speedy nature going to translate to the turf? Her trainer is not optimistic. “Do I think she’ll like turf? Not really,” Donny said. “Teuflesberg earns about 44 percent of his offspring’s cash on the green, and Runaway Groom (dam sire) is no better at 43 percent. However, I do not see any other dyed-in-the-wool turf sprinters in the field, so everyone else in ESR can go suck an egg.” Interest Shared is a lot shorter price than 789-1 this time. She is 9-2 and breaks from post No. 8.
And now, things start to get really weird. Two of the three horses in the Purple Haze that have won stake races qualify not at the top, but at the bottom. The first is our race favorite, Cadet’s ALPHABET CADET, a 5yo bay daughter of Alpha, out of Robby’s 21yo Grade 1-winning Danzig mare, KATIE’S SCAB. The Scab was picked for the last time in 2018, sent to the Japanese sire Epiphaneia. Perhaps due to the ugliness of her name, and the abhorrent condition it tends to imply, that Katie’s Scab never got a date with a big-time stud. I suppose if you called up Coolmore and asked if Galileo would like to pick a scab, the next thing you would hear would be a dial tone. Nevertheless, Katie’s Scab has done just fine, thank you, with the boyfriends she’s been allowed to meet. Her best foal was MISTER DREAM, who rose to be a Grade 2 winner despite his sire’s availability for only 10 points. My Favorite Dream is a son of Runaway Groom who stood in Puerto Rico. (At least, I’m assuming that’s what “PR” stands for.) He never came close to anything near as good as Mister Dream in the Sim, who was a major player in the dirt sprint scene in 2016. He was second in both the Grade 1 Breeders’ Bowl Sprint and the Grade 1 Sand Castle Golden Sprint. With a lifetime-best speed figure of 121, Mister Dream may be the fastest bargain-bred horse who ever ran in the Sim. There cannot have been a horse much faster, put it that way. Alphabet Cadet is not nearly as fast, but she’s not bad. She would appear to have an edge over this field, at least according to the Handicapper Bar. While every other filly shows a cautious shade of yellow, Alphabet Cadet is featured in orange. However, please note the letters “DS,” meaning she has done most of her earning in dirt sprints. There are a few shooters in here playing the dirt-to-turf angle, and Alphabet Cadet is one of them. She has competed successfully in a grand total of seven ESR races. Of those seven, Alphabet Cadet has won two and been second twice, all on the dirt. The only ESR race that Alphabet Cadet has contested on the turf was the Giant Ryan last year, when she was beaten nine lengths. Take that with a grain of salt, however, and do not condemn Alpabet Cadet as a poor turf runner yet. She was meeting Kingab’s Frozen Heart that day, who ran a huge 114 in winning the race. Alphabet Cadet faces no such monsters here on Saturday. She is the shortest price of them all at 2-1, and breaks from post No. 3.
I don’t know, Rocky. Looks like another dark horse to me! Were we in the chat room right now, my old pal Rocky would be typing in LOL and a laughing Emoji. Long known as the Master of the Unconventional, Rocky tries another trick on Saturday with DARK EVIL ALPHA. (Get the dark joke?) This 5yo bay daughter of Alpha, out of a Pivotal mare named APPROACHING EVIL, will contest a six-furlong turf sprint on Saturday after racing at distances as far as 14.5 furlongs for most of her career. Dark Evil Alpha has not raced in a race this short since 2016, when she was a 2yo. Dark Evil Alpha has not raced this short in 25 starts. Get the picture? Rocky is trying something crazy again that almost nobody else would think to do. This is a long-established pattern, going way back to the days when he was one of the top greyhound trainers in the United States. Rocky served as trainer for both Downing and Joe Dump. In a bold move, Downing made his racing debut in a stakes race, and won! So, this trainer has known for a long time that an exceptional individual can bend the normal laws of the class ladder. Joe Dump once won 32 straight races in Alabama, where he became a legend rivaling that of Bear Bryant, coach of the Crimson Tide. In the Sim, much of Rocky’s legend grew with the career of DARK MANDU, that Hall of Fame turf champion. Of course, the Equinics race which Dark Mandu almost wired at 180-1 remains one of my favorite Sim stories to tell. I had a horse in that race, a deep closer. The longer the race went, the more I wondered, what in the heck is that horse doing on the lead at 180-1. And he’s not stopping! Look for Dark Evil Alpha to have the exact opposite trip on Saturday. In all likelihood, this race is far too short for her to get her motor running. She will take far back and probably never fire. Of course, you never know with Rocky! Dark Evil Alpha is 6-1 and breaks from post No. 5.
GOOD LUCK EVERYBODY!!!!!