Somebody’s about to win their first Grade 1.
Not a player, mind you, although let’s hope we have another thread like Ivanymil’s about his first Grade 1 win. That was fantastic, right?
Not a player, but one of the 10 fillies and mares entered in Sunday’s $750,000 Grade 1 Superfilly Handicap in Simulated New York, going 8.5 furlongs on the main track. None of them ever won a Grade 1 race.
With no Grade 1 winners and a short field of 10, the 2019 running of the Superfilly Handicap has come up soft, without question. There are liable to be several strong up-and-coming contenders in the race, but no matter how good they may look, the field is short for a Grade 1 and must be considered an excellent opportunity for the trainers who are entered. Even if there is a filly or mare entered in here who looks tough to beat, other trainers may enjoy the increased chance of hitting the board in a short field. Add to that the fact that the bottom three qualifiers have only eight total stakes points between them, and we really only have seven serious contenders in the Superfilly Handicap, only half of what you normally have to beat to win a Grade 1.
Before we get to handicapping Sunday’s race, which is a bit tricky with the weatherman predicting a 40-percent chance of an off track, let’s revisit this writer’s account of a real visit to New York.
Reprinted here with permission from the author (me), here is the original account of the 2015 trip to Saratoga via Buffalo which became known as the Freedom Tour:
I am starting to get the feeling that I’m going to have to start sparing my friends at home in West Virginia from all my Saratoga stories at some point.
They might not be so interested in stories about people they’ve never met, and a place they’ve never been.
But I’ve met you: Ace, Spinround, Pete, Frank, Robby, Dan, Lenny, MTK, Kingab, AFC and Despie.
While my friends here at home may be spared at some point, this writer will take a guess that there are a few of us out there in the Sim who would like to hear the inside story of what really happened at the wild Saratoga Sim Gathering of 2015.
Itchy’s Freedom Tour 2015 began on Tuesday, Aug. 11, when I left Point Pleasant in the morning, new cell phone and cooler in hand. The cell phone was to contact my new friends once I made it to my destinations. The cooler was to keep Lenny’s wings cold on the long trip across Interstate 90. (A second, convenient use was discovered later: cold Heinekens.)
There I sat on a bench in front of the famous Duff’s in Buffalo, home of the world’s greatest wings. The menu says: “medium is hot, medium hot is very hot, and hot is very, very hot.”
Sensitive to threat, I was intimidated. While the seasoned Miss Buffalo ordered some spice on her wings, I panicked and ordered mild. It was great chicken, but was completely free of the famous Duff’s wing sauce.
That would be the last time this writer played it safe during Freedom Tour 2015.
From Duff’s we went back across Sheridan Drive, safely depositing Lenny’s wings in the hotel room fridge. I hopped in the car with Ace and we proceeded to Tonawanda Bowl, which was a real blast for me.
Ally and I bowled three leisurely games in the 42-lane house, and I could not escape the feeling that my late father had been there. My dad, Jack Maloney, passed away in 2011, and had grown up in Niagara Falls, right next to Buffalo. My dad was a terrific bowler, and with the historic feel of the Tonawanda lanes, it seemed like a reasonable possibility that my father had bowled there as a young man.
Ace and I had a wonderful time getting to know each other a little bit, chatting between frames as we took our time. We both bowled our best in the third game, when a move left on the approach (as recommended by her new bowling coach) resulted in several strong pocket strikes by Miss Buff. I am proud of my friend Ally as she rolls a 15-pound ball, too heavy for many women bowlers. But not for Ally! She’s seasoned on the lanes and was the high-scorer later in the week at a charity bowling event. Nice going Ally, you deserve it!
The alarm clock was set early the next morning, but I was so excited, I woke up before it activated.
It was time to go to Saratoga!
The plan was to drive to the track, find the Paddock Bar, and call Pete on my new cell phone. It worked perfectly!
Before I knew it, there I was, sitting in a wonderful spot right next to the Saratoga paddock with Pete, Frank, Robby and Eliza (Spinround.) Dan came by soon to welcome us all, and the game was on. It was the most fun I ever had losing money. Guess I shoulda listened to Eliza and backed that 9 horse in the last race which her Facebook friend said was a lock.
The only winners I had Wednesday were a horse Frank gave to me based on looks, and when I walked into the bar at the Saratoga harness track and noticed Del Mar was about to go off and blindly bet the 1.
The funniest part of the night at the harness races was this strange bartender with an untraceable accent who took offense at Frank asking for a cube of ice in his wine. “Reeeaaaaaaaaaallllly,” and he rolled his eyes.
Pete and I were in stitches.
“Please,” said Frank, an expert on Italian cuisine and wines. “If it was good wine, I sure as hell wouldn’t be putting an ice cube in it.”
Soon after the last standard-bred race of the day, I felt myself hitting the wall as the long day was demanding rest.
Robby was on his way to the casino, but I could not wait. I was too tired. I bid Pete and Frank goodnight, and headed back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.
I would need it.
Thursday was wild!
As I was standing at the paddock bar early Thursday handicapping a race, a guy came up behind me and said, “You can’t hide from us.”
It was Pete. The game was on again!
Robby scored us all tickets to a new area at Saratoga, the Carousel Bar. It was a swanky setup with a big, round wooden table.
Seven of us settled in: Pete, Frank, Ryan (aka Lenny), Robby, MTK and myself. Ryan got off to a great start by hitting a big daily double, catching the longest shot of the field in the opening jumps race.
Another hilarious incident involving Frank and his vino. Now, understand that Frank really loves being over by the paddock, and by far his favorite thing about being at the track is taking a good, close look at each horse. So, he was making a sacrifice on what he normally would be doing by joining the crew in the new bar.
Then, the young kid that was waiting on our table brought out Frank’s “glass” of wine, which nobody but Frank noticed right away. It wasn’t a glass. It was a plastic shot glass. Pete was in stitches. Frank was not.
“You need a real drink, my friend,” I said to my new New York city friend.
We walked over to our Wednesday hangout, the Paddock Bar. I got another one of who knows how many Heinekens, and Frank got an adult serving of red wine.
As we walked back to the gang, I had an admission I had to make to Frank.
“You cannot be 48 years old and walk around this joint without feeling like a pervert,” I confessed.
Thursday was Fillies Day at Saratoga. Near as I can tell, so is every other day.
The first of the two gigantic highlights of my Saratoga trip was about to take place, thanks to MTK Mark. After asking him a question early in the day, Mark was nice enough to give me picks made by his friend, John. “He’s a pretty good handicapper, especially in turf races,” Mark said.
In the third race, Mark’s buddy liked the 3 and 8. In the fifth, he liked the 1, 3 and 6. Simple enough, I thought, pick three with all in the fourth race.
Son of a gun if the daggone thing didn’t hit for $574.
About five minutes to post before the fifth race, Frank confessed to me that he liked the four horse. “Oh crap,” I thought. (There’s no 4 on the ticket.)
I rode up the escalator to watch the race, the 4 broke on top. “Oh crap,” I thought. (Well, maybe a more severe word than that.)
But down the stretch they came, and here came a gray horse named Spectacular Me on the outside. He was my 6 horse. He won!
I let out a yell and hurried back to the table. The guys were all cheering. It was great.
Caught up in the moment, I told the waiter to bring me the tab. And now, I can confess that I have paid the largest bar tab of my life. 200 dollars!
But what the heck, it was crazy fun. Plus, when I did it, Pete nodded at me and said “all class.”
I’ll have that memory forever and the 200 bucks woulda been gone quick anyway.
Later that night, a guy I know named Jason had arranged a dinner party for our Sim group. I know Jason from internet poker and an internet poker message board. I did not know him as well as I knew all my Sim friends. One time, I gave away a few million play chips on Poker Stars to several members of the poker message board, one of whom was Jason. Apparently, the small gesture made a big impression on Jason.
I did not know what I was leading the group into. I was worried it would be a bad place. I thought maybe Jason was a waiter or something.
Little did I know!
We walked into Angelo’s in Clifton Park, and it was by far the finest restaurant this little old West Virginia country boy ever visited. Then, Jason led us into our private room. It was a board room with horse races on a big screen! Jason was not a waiter. He owned the joint, along with six other restaurants around Saratoga.
We had a terrific big group at Angelo’s and what ensued was a wild dinner party, complete with Robby swinging into action as the group’s parimutuel teller. People started throwing money at him and calling out their bets, and Robby started writing down everyone’s action and making their bets into his online account. To top it off, he went somewhere in the restaurant and printed out forms for everybody.
“Is this even legal?” Frank wondered to Pete.
I have not been around very many people in this world who are as fun as Robby, or have the beaming light of energy that makes him the life of the party. And the way he took our bets was slicker than snot. My buddy Jason must have asked for his balance 30 times, and Robby gave it to him right away every time. Robby, I had so much fun with you and I hope to be so lucky as to do it again sometime.
Once Dan and his pal from Penn National showed up, it was time for the food to start being served.
I mean, wow. We got appetizers that were far beyond the quality of any prepared food I ever ate. Then the main course of steak for me, just incredible. Even Frank was impressed.
Once again, I got the big nod of approval from Pete.
“You nailed it, Itch,” he said.
That was the last thing I got right on the Freedom Tour.
On Friday, a strong crew assembled at a picnic table Robby put a Nebraska blanket upon near the Big Red something or other sign. It was a nice landmark.
I was glad when I heard we would be sitting in the picnic area on Friday because I wanted to be there with those people. It was kind of like seeing three Grateful Dead Shows at an amphitheater. The first two shows, we had nice seats up front. But you know? When you have nice seats like that, you can’t help but notice the real party is going on on the hillside up above.
Several times during the trip, I compared the vibe at Saratoga to the vibe at a Dead show. The similarity is the communal feeling of everybody having the same kind of fun. I can remember so many times at shows, exchanging a wink or a nod or a smile at a stranger, and them grinning right back because we both were in on something good.
It was the same way at Saratoga. I drank my ass off for three straight days with thousands and thousands of people, and never once did I hear one angry word or witness anything remotely unpleasant. The atmosphere is fantastic! Everybody is having a great time, and for three memorable days, I was included.
Even though my luck ran out on Friday, it was still a blast to be with AFC and his two cool friends both named Bob, and to meet Desperado, who always has been so nice to me in chat.
By the time Robby finally hit a big one late in the Friday card, it was time for Old Itchy to make his way back home.
Here we are, safe and sound, and dreaming of big things with all these wonderful gift horses I have received in commemoration of my three days in Saratoga heaven. Thanks to Pete, Frank, Spinround, Lenny, MTK and Robby for these beatiful creatures with funny names.
Finally, I want to make special note to my friends Pete and Frank, who treated me like gold and looked out for me more than a little bit.
IT WAS A BLAST!!!!!!
So, that was it, the Freedom Tour of 2015.
Fast forward four years and there has been another trip to Saratoga, last summer, and a continued love for the game of Simulated horse racing.
That thought in mind, let’s get to the real Simulated stuff. Let’s get to the 2019 running of the Grade 1 Superfilly Handicap.
As stated, there was a 40 percent chance of an off track, and the rain did fall, enough to cause a track which will be rated good. We now must include off-track ability in our handicapping calculations.
Four of the 10 trainers in the Superfilly Handicap reside at Empire State Racing. The first is the King of Them All, the reigning dominant ESR champion trainer, the Big Buckeye himself, Kingab. Larry has the top qualifier in here with DANCE ON THE NILE, a 5yo brown daughter of Pioneerof The Nile out of the Grade 2-winning Street Cry mare, ROCK N’ ROLL BEN. Like mama, Dance on the Nile is a Grade 2 winner, the third graded winner in this mare’s first four foals to hit the Simulated ground. Kingab hit the jackpot right away with Rock N’ Roll Ben, getting a Grade 1 winner with her first foal. SONG OF BEN was by Unbridled’s Song, and is the famous colt that was retired after winning the Grade 1 Wooden Indian. We won’t get into that old saw for long, because it’s a sore subject for my friend Larry. I always thought the horse should have run in the Derby, but it’s water long under the bridge by now. It never bothered the mare, as she stayed hot. After Song of Ben came a Grade 3 winner by Tapit, named TIPTAPROCKANDROLL. After a stakes-placed runner by Ghostzapper, along came Dance on the Nile, who has now become her mare’s only $1 million earner. She can become Rock N’ Roll Ben’s only Grade 1 winner on Sunday. Ranked No. 7 in the division, Dance on the Nile has clobbered the poor rubes at ESR twice, while proving competitive in seven graded starts. Dance on the Nile won her graded debut, back in August of last year as a 4yo when she drew away from them in the Grade 2 The Pitcher Molly. That win was at Sunday’s distance of 8.5 furlongs, as were her pair of Grade 1 placings. Dance on the Nile was third in the Grade 1 Bra Snap last year, then a very competitive second two back in the Grade 1 Steadhemp / Mike Phipps Handicap. She was fourth last out in the Grade 1 Go For The Gold Stakes last out going nine furlongs, and has missed the board in her last two tries going a mile and an eighth. She makes her third-straight start in Grade 1 company in the Superfilly, and may be returning to a distance she likes better. A handicapper also may consider Dance on the Nile a horse for the Simulated New York course. She has earned a large chunk of her $1.2 million in earnings over the New York Oval. Her easy ESR triumphs were here, as was her impressive second-place run in the Steadhemp / Mike Phipps Handicap. Is there a good race/bad race pattern with this mare? If so, she would keep that pattern rolling with a good race on Sunday. It seems to this writer that there is a lot on the line for this mare on Sunday. She is a 5yo now, and is not going to keep her Grade 1 form forever. She catches a short field here on Sunday. Her last two Grade 1 tries featured the expected full fields of 14. The Superfilly probably is the last best chance for Dance on the Nile to win a Grade 1 race. She is favored at 7-2 and will break from post No. 4. This will be the first start on any dirt track labeled anything other than fast for Kingab’s filly. She made one start on a turf course labeled good, which is not the proper evidence to guess if she will like Sunday’s track. With Seattle Slew as the DDS, and a Mr. Prospector line at DS, there is lineage to suggest she may appreciate the off going.
What’s tougher than trying to beat Kingab in an ESR race? How about trying to beat both Kingab and Lenny in the same Grade 1? That’s the difficult proposition facing the trainers in the Superfilly on Sunday, as both the Big Buckeye and The Erstwhile Evil Empire have come calling. It’s kind of like having to play against both Ohio State and Michigan in the same football game. So, the good news is, you get a short field. The bad news is, you gotta go against Kingab and Lenny. Both of their runners are ranked in the Top 10 of the division. Lenny’s KIFFLOM, a 4yo bay daughter of Orb, out of the stakes-placed Distorted Humor mare DEFLECTION, is ranked No. 9, and beat the top qualifier last out in the Grade 1 Go For The Gold Stakes. Lenny chooses to cut back in distance with Kifflom here. She’s been racing mostly at nine furlongs, competing successfully (albeit not winning) in seven straight stake races, four of the graded variety, and the two most recent of the Grade 1 variety. While Kifflom has not won a race since November of last year, she has looked very good in hitting the board in her last three races, all graded events. The last two were Grade 1, in which Kifflom was third and second. Those are pretty good credentials for a handicapper to endorse, and then wonder how the cutback in distance of only half a furlong will affect the late kick of this formidable Lenny runner. One of the open secrets of the longtime powerful Sim operations is their broodmare band. Lenny has so many great ones, it’s telling that he’s kept trying with Deflection, who has really struggled by Lenny’s high standards. Very little has worked, and most of her runners have been claimers. Last year, Deflection went to Gun Runner, and the resultant runner was so slow, it’s already retired. The only good horse she’s given is this one, a Grade 2 winner. Kifflom looks to improve on her resume on Sunday, and she will never get a better chance at Grade 1 rewards than in the soft Superfilly. With several of the top qualifiers on losing skeins, and the bottom of the 10-horse race very soft, this is taking on the look of a wildly easy spot for a Grade 1. Kifflom breaks widest of all from post No. 10, and is the second choice at 9-2. She never has raced over an off track, but the standard cross of a Mr. P line to a Northern Dancer line on the back end is classic for any kind of track.
It may be another reflection of the less-than-loaded nature of the field for the Superfilly that FANCY CHANCE is the third qualifier despite losing 13 of her 17 career starts. John5539‘s 4yo bay daughter of Frankel, out of the stakes-placed Dubawi mare, COMPASS COVE, is not yet a win machine, and brings a seven-race losing streak into the Grade 1 Superfilly Handicap. Her form is similar to Lenny’s filly, Kifflom. Both Fancy Chance and Kifflom come into the Superfilly on extended losing streaks. Normally, that’s not the kind of filly you want to back in a big race. Most times, a Grade 1 is no place to break a losing skid. Those most often come on the drop down in class. However, just like with Lenny’s filly, we can make a case for Fancy Chance here based off successful competition in a Grade 1 race. She was third two back in the Grade 1 Steadhemp / Mike Phipps Handicap, earning an impressive speed figure of 112 when only two and a quarter lengths from the winner going Sunday’s distance of 8.5 furlongs. That race alone makes Fancy Chance a logical contender in the Superfilly. In the Steadhemp, Fancy Chance raced in close company throughout with our top qualifier, Kingab’s Dance on the Nile. In that race, Dance on the Nile kicked ahead of Fancy Chance, who stayed with her as they raced their way through the field. It was all good until a gray horse came flying on the far outside to nail them both. Luckily, Haack has gone elsewhere with VENEZUELA BELLA, who was second with another big late move last out in a listed, and is entered to run in another listed this month. So, no gray streak to worry about this time. Fancy Chance and Dance on the NIle are clear to renew their rivalry on their own terms, without the presence of the filly who spoiled their duel in the Steadhemp. Who will have their head in front of the other this time around? In the Steadhemp, Kingab’s filly got the jump on Fancy Chance. Hard as she chased her, Fancy Chance could not catch Dance on the Nile. What happens this time? The off track is proving to be a real X factor in the Superfilly, especially among the top three qualifiers, none of whom has started on an off dirt track. Fancy Chance is bred for the turf and there’s no way to know if she will take to an off main track. In a parimutuel oddity, the prices for the top three qualifiers match exactly with the opinion of the morning-line oddsmaker in Simulated New York. Fancy Chance is the third qualifier, and third choice in the betting at 5-1. She will break from post No. 5/
Our next ESR trainer is Cadet, who will represent Trotter’s tribute to the Empire State with POPPET CADET, a 4yo bay daughter of War Front out of Robby’s graded-placed Smart Strike mare, PLATYCERCUS CADET. This late runner ships to Simulated New York off her victory last out in the Grade 2 D Day Distaff at the Spa of the Appalachians, that Mountain Oval, that Simulated West Virginia track. In the D-Day Distaff, jockey R. Heller took back nicely out of the 3 hole, saving ground around the first turn in eighth before commencing his apporach on the turn for home. He was up to third at the head of the lane, with almost five lengths to gain. Not a problem, said Cadet. Poppet Cadet sailed home much the best, clear by almost two lengths at the wire. Can she do it again? Her victory in the Grade 2 boosted her into the Top 30 of the division, but a win in the Grade 1 Superfilly would do a lot more. Poppet Cadet can win her way into the Top 10 of the division with a victory, but she will have to do it at a distance that does not look to be her best. Handicappers are going to have to assume that nine furlongs is this filly’s honey hole, if for nothing else than her big win last out going a mile and an eighth. Maybe the distance of Sunday’s race is a slight disadvantage. She has run well at 8.5 furlongs, but in a more spotty fashion than her solid record at a mile and an eighth. Balance that against the fact that a couple of those who qualified ahead of her have not won a race in a while. Meanwhile, Poppet Cadet just won a Grade 2 last out. Cadet is good at finding edges and he may have one here in the current form of this filly. I am not going out on any limb when I say Robby would take great joy in defeating both Kingab and Lenny. In Poppet Cadet, we see yet another example of just how tough those ESR races are. This filly was only third in her lone rezzy race, then went on to win a Grade 2. Our leader Trotter can cite many examples of this shocking trend. By virtue of a third-place run in a listed stake contested on a sloppy track, Poppet Cadet becomes the first filly we’ve found in this race with any sort of proven racing record on an off main track. She will break from post No. 6 at 7-1.
Gowans says the Blazing Saddles crew needs some representation in the Grade 1 Superfilly Handicap and he brings it with CAREFUL QUEEN. This 4yo light gray daughter of Animal Kingdom, out of an allowance-winning Cozzene mare named EAST FREMANTLE, bears the same kind of handicapping look as Cadet’s filly, Poppet Cadet. Both are coming to the Grade 1 Superfilly off Grade 2 victories. That sounds lovely, but both are having to take the jump in class while making a distance adjustment. While Robby’s filly won her Grade 2 at nine furlongs, Ben’s filly won her race at a flat mile. In the Grade 2 Snownut Handicap on Aug. 4 in Spain, Careful Queen broke widest of eight and last of eight. There was a quartet in front and a quartet in back. When Careful Queen easily passed the three fillies with her at the back, the four fillies in front of her were in big trouble. She cantered by them all to win handily, by a widening length and three quarters. It was an easy win, and should not have taken much out of this filly. How good of a trainer is Gowans? He is always giving his horses their best chances, and he’s done it again with this talented filly. He found her a short field of only eight last out for her first graded victory, now finds her another short field for her Grade 1 debut. It was Haack’s gray filly Venezuela Bella who streaked by Dance on the Nile and Fancy Chance in the Steadhemp, and there is another big, gray late runner to fear in Careful Queen. As oft repeated in this BTB column over the years, it benefits any trainer to take lessons from the game’s best players, and Gowans certainly qualifies. We can see how he has nursed this filly back to good form after significant struggles in her 3yo season. After watching her gallop past them last out in Spain, it’s hard to believe that this filly once missed the board in three straight listed attempts. Gowans gave her five months off, and dropped her into time-restricted allowances when she came back. She responded with two straight wins, then gradually won back her trainer’s confidence in four more allowance starts. She got beat again in her return to listed racing two back, but Gowans had his plan and stuck to it. He fired in the Grade 2 despite the listed failure, and Careful Queen responded with a huge victory that elevated her career to a far greater class level. She shoots for another rung on Sunday in her Grade 1 debut. Careful Queen will make her first start on an off track. With Miswaki at DDS, Gowans will be hoping that huge off-track influence will shine through. Careful Queen is 6-1 and will break from post No. 3.
When we see that Pointblank’s A SPECIAL CAUSE has more career earnings than three of the fillies that have qualified in front of her, we have to suspect that she must have been good early in her 3yo season and has seen stakes points expire. Indeed, this 4yo scratch-bred bay daughter of Giant’s Causeway was second in the Grade 1 1000 Guineas, a turf race, in April of her 3yo season. Since then, A Special Cause has had more luck on the main track. Once again, Sim trainers may learn another lesson from a very fine trainer in Pointblank, who is yet another fine representative of ESR in the Superfilly Handicap. With this particular horse, the lesson is this: Be flexible! Though you may have had in mind the second coming of John Henry when you bred your horse for turf up and down, do not be surprised when your Simulated steed throws you a curveball and runs on the dirt, instead. Despite having run so well in a Grade 1 on turf, Pointblank was ready to change things up when A Special Cause clunked on the lawn a couple of times in a row. He gave her a chance on dirt, and she responded, going on to post an impressive record in versatility. She won two Grade 3 races on the main track. As impressive as this filly’s career stats may be, her current form is far less so. She has missed the board in six straight, and Pointblank now has a trouble filly on his hands. She has not been able to carry her speed through the lane lately, like she did when wiring those two Grade 3 races late last year. A Special Cause was a prominent, pace-pressing second last out in the Grade 1 Go For Gold Stakes, before fading to eighth. It sure seems like this filly needs some kind of shakeup to disrupt her habit of hanging in the lane. Perhaps that shakeup was delivered by the weatherman, who brought a good track. A Special Cause is by Giant’s Causeway, who can give horses that run on any sort of track. In the back end we see the powerful off-track influence of Fappiano. There’s not much speed in here and maybe she gets brave with a lonely lead and change of footing. The current form is lousy though and you probably want a higher price than 7-1 when you are making as many excuses as you have to make for this filly. She breaks from post No. 9.
At one time, Stockswami was looking to make the Bluegrass Derby with CURLIN’S LADY, a scratch-bred 4yo bay daughter of Curlin (Storm Cat X Mr. Prospector). After she ran second in the Grade 1 Vermont Is 4 Lovers, Stockswami rolled the dice and entered his filly against the colts in the Grade 1 All Saints Derby Lock Prep. Curlin’s Lady raced in contention throughout, before fading to seventh, beaten only three lengths at the wire. She would have to settle for the Grade 1 Bluegrass Oaks. Unfortunately, that race went even worse for Curlin’s Lady, who struggled home 12th on a sloppy track. What a relief it must have been for Stockswami when his very good filly snapped right back to form after the failed run in the Oaks. Next out, she was a sharp second in the Grade 3 Jersey Oaks, going Sunday’s distance of 8.5 furlongs. This filly has run very competitive races going the distance in graded company, but like several others in here, her current form inspires no confidence. Curlin’s Lady is having a tough year. Stockswami let her rest after her second-place run in the Grade 2 Cotton Handicap in September. She did not race again until January, and she appeared to appreciate the break. Racing fresh off a fourth-month layoff, Curlin’s Lady pressed the pace in third while breaking wide in post No. 11 in the Grade 2 Encino Man. She ran a very professional race, making her move and overtaking the two she was chasing. However, by the time she got to those two, there were two deep closers coming with too much steam to resist. It was a good race and another graded placing. How could Stockswami have known that the well was about to run dry? Curlin’s Lady has missed the board in four straight races. She’s started to slide down the divisional rankings, with her stakes points from her Grade 3 placing expiring in August, and her Grade 2 show run set to expire later this month. Curlin’s Lady needs some fresh stakes points, and she sure can earn a lot of them here in a Grade 1 race. However, there is nothing about her 2019 season that makes a handicapper think she’s going to wake up this weekend. The off track does not seem like much help, considering the 12th-place clunker in her only off track start. Curlin’s Lady breaks from post No. 2 and is 8-1.
As stated, the final three qualifiers represent a soft underbelly in the Grade 1 Superfilly Handicap. These final three runners have only eight stakes points between the three of them. All three are significantly underqualified.
The first of our trio of underachievers is SPRAY N WALK AWAY, a name that violates the Name Police Mandates in more ways than one. Not to worry, DerbyKing, that never stops horses from running fast and winning. My chat room friends enjoy deviling poor Old Itchy by offending our Name Police. Then, these horses win big races. I mean, the greatest horse in the history of the Sim is named Turtle, for Pete’s sake! Nonetheless, whether the track announcer in New York likes it or not, Spray N Walk Away will run on Sunday in the Grade 1 Superfilly Handicap. Despite her low current stakes points total of only five, Spray N Walk Away does show impressive career earnings of $443,000. She’s got some back class in there, somewhere. For this 4yo bay daughter of Lemon Drop Kid, out of the allowance-winning Americain mare CATNIP SPRAY, her best season came early, as a 2yo. Spray N Walk Away won two Grade 3 races, rising way up the division standings. She was really something as a 2yo in showing amazing distance versatility. Normally, Simulated horses have one honey hole distance and that’s it. When you see a 2yo filly get its first graded win in a 4.5-furlong sprint, you may not expect to see her do it again in a race going half a mile farther. But, that’s what Spray N Walk Away did! Six months after her triumph in the ultra-sprinty Grade 3 Unusual Circumstances Juvenile, Spray N Walk Away showed amazing range in the 8.5-furlong, Grade 3 Mistaken Soda Identity Stakes. She relaxed early in 10th while caught wide around the first turn, then burst forward between horses and rolled home much the best. It was a powerful run for an amazing 2yo filly. As is so often the case, a filly that performs brilliantly as a 2yo probably will have lost her advantage by the time she is a 4yo, and that’s clearly the case with Spray N Walk Away. Early in her 3yo season, she remained formidable even in Grade 1 company, collecting show money in two Grade 1 races. But, her flower was starting to fade, and DerbyKing experimented both going longer and on the turf. Neither worked. However, much to the filly’s credit and much to her trainer’s credit, DerbyKing has managed to keep this filly together well enough to see her hit the board in listed events. It’s hard to blame DerbyKing’s mates at the New Zealand Residency for encouraging him to take a shot here with Spray N Walk Away. When you have a filly like her with that back class, you are always wishing that you could get back to the bright lights with her. Spray N Walk Away is the only filly we’ve found so far with a win on an off track. However, that was her victory in that ultra sprint as a 2yo. Is that going to play on Sunday? We shall see. Spray N Walk Away is the second-longest shot in the field at 13-1 and breaks down on the rail from post No. 1.
Our final representative of ESR in the Grade 1 Superfilly Handicap is Irisharse with READY PROSPECTOR, a 5yo chestnut daughter of More Than Ready, out of the Grade 3-winning Mr. Prospector mare, MS. PROSPECTOR. That’s an old-timey DS for an old-timey trainer. Many of us in the Sim are familiar with the story of this marvelous horseman, and what an honor it is to Derbyfever.com to have a man like him interested in playing our game and investing in our game. Irish was a real-life trainer on the New York circuit in the 1970s, and likely has forgotten more about horse racing than most of us ever knew in the first place. Later in life, Irisharse opened a rescue farm, and his genius horsemanship allowed horses to recover from awful condition. He continues to own and operate the farm while letting younger people take care of the daily chores. One of my favorite chat-room stories about Irisharse is the day I was talking about one of my favorite horse racing writers, the late Jay Cronley. Author of the book on which the movie “Let It Ride” was based, Cronley went on to write a column for ESPN that was on par for entertainment with a sports column written for them by Hunter S. Thompson. Like the great Thompson, Cronley hid nothing in his columns. He told wild stories on himself, like the day he hit a big score early in the day, gave a teller a generous tip, lost all his money, and asked for the tip back. It turns out that Irisharse used to hang out with Cronley at old Hialeah. “Don’t you be talking bad about my friend like that,” he admonished me. I apologized and expressed surprise that Irish knew one of my heroes. Maybe there is something that Irish knows about Ready Prospector that I do not know. She’s making a gigantic leap up the class ladder, jumping all the way from allowance company to Grade 1. This will be her second start back off a long layoff of seven months. This 5yo mare has gone unraced for most of 2019, hitting the shelf after her third-straight clunker in January. Brought back in August, she was a new mare! She blasted away to a big 114 speed figure and won an allowance going 8.25 furlongs. Now, with the short field of the Superfilly Handicap presenting an opportunity, Irisharse swings for the fences with Ready Prospector. This will be her graded debut and her first-ever race over an off track. Having a DS by Mr. Prospector is a very strong wet-track influence. Ready Prospector has gotten good respect from the morning-line oddsmaker in Simulated New York and will go to post at 9-1. She breaks from post No. 7.
Finally, we have our longest shot in the field. Trainer Blackmourn must have noticed how few runners were entered in the Grade 1 Superfilly Handicap. Late on Wednesday afternoon, with entries to be drawn at 6 p.m., there were only nine set to run on Sunday. With five open spots in the race, Blackmourn decided to take a shot with DEFENCE STREET, a 4yo brown daughter of Tap to the Street, out of an allowance-winning Forestry mare named TITLE D FENCE. She will go to post at 27-1, more than twice the longest price in the field. Defence Street remains eligible for a non-winners of three lifetime allowance. She has won only two of 20 career starts. Realistically, she probably needs to face claimers who are non-winners of three. She did run improved races in her last two, managing to collect show money after missing the board in 10 straight races. This filly has been continually overmatched when misplaced in listed stake races, of which she’s contested seven. In those seven listed stake starts, no observer at any Sim track all over the Simulated racing world ever thought for one second that she was going to come anywhere close to hitting the board. In seven career listed starts, Defence Street has been defeated by a grand total of more than 90 lengths. We can only hope there will be better days ahead for trainer Blackmourn, but they are unlikely to come with this meager filly.
GOOD LUCK EVERYBODY!!!!!