October 24, 2009

An Indian Summer at Vineyard Haven

An Indian Summer is an unusual stretch of sun and balmy temperatures in the Autumn. Vineyard Haven is a beautiful section of Martha’s Vineyard. Today at Laurel, the gorgeous race horse, Vineyard Haven will be heating up the Fall Maryland landscape as he and seven older sprinters blaze 6 furlongs in the revived De Francis Dash. OK, I admit it, I am a sucker for the look of certain types of horses, ever since the days of the Lone Ranger, I have loved the appearance of a gray horse, so white, that you strain to see any pigmentation at all. Vineyard Haven is one of those horses. The strapping son of Lido Palace is also an extremely talented horse.

Vineyard Haven has been through a great deal of change, but also, has accomplished much in his young life. The record may read only three wins from six races, but there is so much more to this achromatic talent. His first race was at Calder last Summer for Lynne Scace. Both the partnership and the race were short lived as Vineyard Haven scorched the Miami oval, romped in the race, and was quickly snapped up by a Bobby Frankel partnership. After a 3rd place finish in the Sanford, the now Frankel trained Haven rattled off two monstrous efforts. He won the two most important juvenile races in New York, the Hopeful and the Champagne, and he did it in style. Those wins were so impressive that he garnered much support for the notion that he was the best 2-year-old in the nation. I was one of those people that considered him to be the top of last year’s juvenile class. Vineyard Haven’s smashing triumphs in the Hopeful and Champagne also led to an offer too good to refuse.

Godolphin made the astronomical offer, and it was off to Dubai. The trip did not help to advance the talented colt and the Spring was basically lost, with only a 4th place finish in the UAE 2000 Guineas to show for his time in Dubai. After another long layoff, Haven returned in the toughest sprint in the nation for 3-year-olds, the King’s Bishop at Saratoga, and he won. Well sort of, he ran an absolute bang-up race to finish first, but his errant path in the stretch brought his number down. Still, it was a remarkable effort, considering he had only one race this year and it was six months earlier on the other side of the globe. Today in the De Francis Dash, Vineyard Haven moves another step forward to reach his great potential. A good performance here will send him back to New York for the prestigious Cigar Mile. Today’s contest will not be a walk in the park though, as the field is littered with fast older sprinters.

Chief among his rivals today is Fleet Valid who has reeled off four straight pips at Monmouth Park and Roaring Lion, a rousing winner of the Maryland Million Sprint over this track last month. Both horses are as sharp as a tack and should not be taken lightly. In Ah Day and True Quality, Vineyard Haven will meet two horses of quality who may not be in their best form, but have that back class that always makes you worry. The horse that could well give Vineyard Haven the most worry is Ravalo. A professional sprinter who many outside of the East Coast know little about, despite this horse being as tough as nails. He has won 13 out of 27 including 10 stakes wins. Clearly, Vineyard Haven will have to run big to defeat this field, and I think he will, today at Laurel.

Maryland racing is not what it used to be; I remember a day when the D.C. International and the Laurel Futurity were as big as any races in the country. The state fights on though. The Preakness is staying at Pimlico and Laurel has come back with its’ biggest race. Let us hope that the return of the De Francis Dash, after a one year hiatus, is a real corker as we witness an Indian Summer at Vineyard Haven.


LDP said...

Nice post. Vineyard Haven is a really nice horse and should be ready to go off his last out. I'm hoping he'll get his win in this one and be off to the Cigar Mile.

Celeste said...

Great post, Brian! I missed the race this afternoon, but saw the replay at BH, which my computer does not get along with. He came through like we had hoped he could and I'm looking forward to more.

Brian Zipse said...

This is one serious race horse! No where to go for much of the race, and then like a Silver Streak up the rail against two really good older sprinters...impressive! Vineyard Haven is one horse I want to see many more times, starting with the Cigar Mile.