Let’s get this out in the open right away. Although I have always attempted to be as objective as possible whenever covering a race, that streak ends here. I bought this race for the best horse I have ever trained in my 19 years here. So much for objectivity.
I was blessed with a monster two year old turf sprinter last year. His name is Battlefield Hero. While attempting to plot his sophomore campaign, I encountered pitfalls. It seemed easy at first. His 2019 debut was a no brainer. The Grade 2 Railroad on New Year’s Day. Battlefield Hero’s pilot, the International French riding star Jacques Stivers, employed stalk and pounce tactics. It worked to perfection as the big Dansili colt ran down Desert Dog’s ultra tough Choice Gold who stayed for the place after dueling the speedy Excel Home into exhaustion.
What next? I looked for 3YO only Grade 1 turf sprints for 2019. There were 8 route G-1s and a few 12f classics also. But no sprints. Not one. Nada. Zilch. What to do? I don’t believe in racing 3YOs against older until Breeders’ Bowl time. I don’t even like to do it then. So I bought a G-1 for him. I hadn’t purchased a stakes race of any kind in a very long time. I forgot you can name these races so it embarrassingly carried the distinctly non creative title Purchased Race for nextbonus. UGH! But B H didn’t care about the name and closed like a freight train from mid pack to defeat Jakematt’s Babs Gabba Gol and the aforementioned Choice Gold.
So now I figure I will buy him races until the earliest of a) he gets beat or b) Breeders’ Bowl Turf Sprint. I will buy them a month or more in advance so anyone who wants to take a shot at B H has that opportunity. And I will actually name the races!
Next up came the Chicago Cubs Turf Sprint. Spring = baseball for me and I’ve been bleeding Cubbie blue since my Dad and Grandpa took me to Wrigley Field when I was nine years old. Hero looked hopelessly beaten close to home and I almost closed the viewer window. If you watch the replay you’ll see why. But he miraculously snatched victory from the jaws of defeat to record his fourth lifetime G-1 win.
His older full brother, multiple G-1 winner Battle Dream, was best at seven furlongs. So I figured it was time to test Battlefield Hero at the distance. And here we are. Only a few days away from the G-1 Austin Tigers. The race is named for my high school football days. I was a pretty good player for dear old Austin High School on the west side of Chicago. Got my picture in the Chicago Daily News. Was told by legendary prep football coach Bill Heiland that I was “the quickest big man I ever coached.” And Coach Heiland developed a bunch of great players over the years including NFL stars Abe Woodson and Pete Pihos. He coached Austin to multiple City Championships including 1937 when he led Austin to a 26-0 thrashing of Catholic League champion Leo High School in front of 120,000 spectators at Soldier Field. The largest crowd ever to witness a football game.
Lets look at the field for the Austin Tigers in qualifying order:
Battlefield Hero has won eight of ten career starts including four G-1s and a G-2. His only defeats were over an off track in his career debut and an ill advised Breeders’ Bowl Turf Juvy attempt on short rest over a trip he clearly wanted no part of. He’ll get beat again one of these days. Maybe this week. There are several in here with credentials to slay the Hero.
Babs Gabba Gol is a dual G-2 winner and finished second to B H in a G-1. He is by Lohengrin and is the final foal of multiple graded producer Nijinsky Western. Stubbed his toe last time out but a return to previous form puts him squarely in the picture.
Snorky’s Moon Rock Magic (Rock Hard Ten x More Than The Moon) finished a scant head behind B H in the Chicago Cubs. Last year was beaten less than a length in a G-1 at seven furlongs so is proven at both the class and distance. No surprise if he gets his picture taken.
The good news for Subway Fix (Exceed and Excel x String Theorist) is that he is a dual graded winner, including a seven panel G-2, and is trained by one of the best conditioners in the world, the crafty Foxon. The bad news is that he failed to raise a gallop in a dismal effort last time out. Could win if Foxon finds a quick fix.
Wreakful (Speightstown x Vindication x Nureyev) likes to run as fast as he can as far as he can. That simple formula has produced four wins and two seconds from just six starts. Last time out, Kingdamo’s speedster dueled Cian from beginning to end before succumbing to Battlefield Hero’s last desperate lunge. Blazing speed combined with great determination makes him an obvious threat if he handles the added distance.
Choice Gold is by Choisir out of the G-1 winning Stay Gold mare, Vendetta Danehill. Desertdog’s gelding likes it up front and will hopefully keep Wreakful company early. Stayed for second and third against B H two and three back and can last for a good part here if he brings his A game.
Ryans Choice is trained by my long time friend and fellow poet, R. Bennet Okerstrom. R.Ben helped me with breeding back in the day being a real life thoroughbred breeder in Michigan until the legislators there sold out the horsemen. He is also an accomplished SIM breeder. Last year his Ryan’s Speaker won an Eclipse. His Redoute’s Choice colt has paired up 105 speed numbers. The first was in a 7.5f listed win and the latest a 7f G-3 victory. Definitely the NOW horse. Probably wins this if he can run trip 105s.
Kingab is a perennial top ten trainer when it comes to stakes wins. The Buckeye, as he’s fondly known in ESR, has also owned many real life thoroughbreds. His War In The Streets (Deep Impact x Forever A War) was on a roll until faltering over a wet track last time out. No such worries this week so the versatile G-3 winner should have a great chance at redemption. Major threat.
Speaking of top level stakes trainers, Ben Gowans has been a top 5 finisher the last three years and currently sits at number 4 this year. The Blazing Saddles stalwart sends out his Shirouma for the Austin Tigers. The rangy son of Kodiac from he-mare Takayama (Street Cry x Dynaformer x Danzig) won a listed stake two back and finished a mere half length shy of Battlefield Hero in the Cubs. One of several with a legit shot.
The first of two Tyedye entrants is A Giant Among Us. He’s by I Am Invincible from the blue blooded slowpoke Giant Market Move (Giant’s Causeway x Unbridled Song). GMM was so slow, Andy put her in a 2K claimer and she was taken while finishing 3rd. Thankfully she’s a better broodmare than racehorse. A Giant Among Us likes to be near the lead. Finished a close second last time out in a G-3 after winning his previous three including a listed win two back. Connections cannot be ignored.
Dochman saddles Lasso The Sun. The handsome Air Force Blue colt popped a 102 speed figure two back winning a listed stake. Didn’t seem to care for the added distance last time out. Mom is
a well bred (Street Cry x Danzig x Sir Ivor ) G-2 winning millionaire. Not out of this.
The second Tyedye entrant is also by I Am Invincible. Izzy Invincible is from long time Tyedye broodmare A.P. Rizz Kid (A.P. Indy x Donnie Rizzo). Seven of her last eight offspring have won stakes races. Two are graded winners. So Izzy has every right to be a good one. Seeks to build on his initial stakes win last time out.
Foxon also has a second entry in Loudermilks. The son of young sire Classic Empire is the first stakes credit for his royally bred (Storm Cat x Mr. Propector x Theatrical) dam Storm Force. He started off on the dirt with mixed results. But he is undefeated in six tries since switching surfaces. Seven in a row?
Atthewire trains our final entrant. Earning My Keep was not the lowest qualifier but he was the final horse entered. The aptly named colt by I’ll Have Another is a dual stakes winner. He hasn’t won since November and exits a pair of allowance races in which he finished second. Needs to take a big step forward to compete here.