October 25, 2009

Talent, Kiwi and Balloons

Vineyard Haven has become one of my favorite horses. The horse I thought was the best two-year-old in the nation last year, has come back like gangbusters since his unfruitful time in Dubai. Some horses flourish with a long Winter in the Arabian wonderland, Vineyard Haven was clearly not one of those horses. One failed race in a key eleven month stretch of his career, and I am left wondering what might have been. Vineyard Haven returned to America and finally made it to the races on the last Saturday of August, where he faced the finest field of 3-year-old sprinters assembled all year. The race included Capt. Candyman Can, Munnings, and Big Drama. Vineyard Haven, without the benefit of a prep race, ran erratically down the lane and still hit the wire first. It was the kind of race that horses just don’t do off such a layoff, or at least they do not do it more than once in a blue moon. The grey horse with the blue blinkers and silks was at again yesterday with a scintillating performance at Laurel Park in the De Francis Dash. It was a race that a lesser horse would have struggled home fifth. Vineyard Haven broke from the rail, which was not a good spot with the abundance of speed in the race. He stayed up close early, but dropped back a little as the leading group blazed an opening quarter in 21 and change. He quickly found himself stuck on the rail and the holes in front of him were disappearing. Alan Garcia and Vineyard Haven waited, and they waited, until things finally cleared enough for him. Still it appeared third was about the best he would muster as Fleet Valid was still full of run and Ravalo was charging on the outside. Then it happened, the horse of superior talent kicked it in, and like a silver streak, he made a devastating burst on the fence to win the De Francis Dash by half a length. Vineyard Haven is the real deal, and I, for one, will be watching every move that he makes.

Also on Saturday, So You Think, a New Zealand bred son of High Chapparal dominated the $3 million Cox Plate at Moonee Valley Racing Club in Australia. Becoming the first 3-year-old to win the very prestigious Cox Plate in five years. In only his fifth lifetime start, So You Think stamped himself a star with the huge win. Piloted by Glen Boss, who was fined for excessive celebration, So You Think surprisingly set the early pace and when the running really started, he scampered home much the best. Final margin of victory was 2 ½ lengths for the happy supporters of the bay colt. One of his supporters is legendary trainer, Bart Cummings. Cummings had stated this inexperienced youngster had a big chance, and when he talks it is best to listen. The octogenarian is perhaps the most successful trainer in the world. This was his 4th Cox Plate winner which is dwarfed by his unbelievable 12 wins in the Melbourne Cup out of his 256 Group 1 victories. At 82, Bart Cummings is clearly still going strong and when he says that So You Think may become his best horse ever, it would be wise for everyone to listen.

The synthetic surface at Keeneland appears to be like no other racing strip in the country. I say this because time and time again form coming from other places does not hold up at the beautiful Lexington track. On this Polytrack surface, it seems that all the horses start with a clean slate. Handicapping is thrown virtually out the window. The result on the tote board is…balloons. Large win, place and show prices and monstrous payoffs on the exotics stun the crowd. An excellent example of this happened again yesterday in the feature race. The $300,000 Raven Run Stakes came down to three fillies as Don‘ttalktome desperately tried to hold off Satans Quick Chick on the rail and Slides Choice on the outside. Satans Quick Chick surged on the rail to win with Slides Choice a rallying 2nd and Don’ttalktome a near miss 3rd . The odds of these fillies? 23-1, 49-1, and 41-1. How ‘bout them apples? I will not bore you with the measly payoffs, rather I will jump right to the superfecta payout. A ten cent wager on the winning ticket returned $5,930 to the lucky few holding the ticket. Not a bad return on your investment.


Luvbarbaro said...

Great article Zipse! I most definitely agree Keeneland is like no other synthetic surface in the country unfortunately!

I'm very happy for Vineyard Haven! Many horses return from Dubai and seem to be a completely different horse!

LDP said...

Hey Brian,
Sorry it took me so long, I am not feeling good at all. So You Think was fantastic, I saw the Youtube replay you posted on FB and it was a great race. Vineyard look beaten then came out of the clouds to win, the real deal for sure. Keeneland.....I'm at a loss for words, lol.

Luvbarbaro said...

LDP- I think we are Zipse's only fans! LOL! I just looked at your profile to see if I knew you and it said you loved Curlin. I was over the top obsessed with Curlin. I fell in love with him during the Arkansas Derby and the rest was history -- of course I love, love Rachel too. : )

Brian Zipse said...

Now wait a minute...I am not sure, but I believe that I have a few more fans. But you two are my favorites...is that what you meant Luvbarbaro???

LDP said...

Lol, I think brian may have a few more fans, but I would say we are probably the most loyal. Yeah, I love both Curlin and RA, though RA is fantastic and I love her Curlin takes the number one spot of my fave horse.

Jennifer Cook said...

Hi Brian. You know I am still learning this sport. When you're talking about Vineyard Haven, why is Post 1 such a bad spot in a race with so much speed? That doesn't make logical sense to me, but I'm sure it's true... If you explain, I will do a much better job remembering! Thanks so much.

LDP, I loved Curlin from his days at Oaklawn too! Not like Rachel, but up there.

Brian Zipse said...

Jennifer, In many cases the #1 post can be an advantageous position, but often it can be the least desirable as well. In the De Francis, Haven was on the rail with speed balls just to his outside, this created a situation where he would need to run faster early and get caught up in a speed dual, or get stuck on the rail as the speed comes over in front of you. The latter was chosen and it left him with no room to run for much of the race.