JC / Railbird

Lady Giacamo

Saturday Notes

Oaklawn Park opens today. Trainer Larry Jones, refreshed by semi-retirement and recovered from aluminum poisoning, is back. So is Lady Giacamo, one of the first winners for her sire Giacomo and one of the first additions to my juvenile watchlist last year. After going 3-for-3 at Lone Star early in the summer, the filly was brought to Del Mar, where she didn’t race, and returned to the work tab at Remington in November. The six-furlong Dixie Belle Stakes will be her first start since winning the TTA Sales Futurity last June.

Square Eddie, returned to training after a year at stud, set a track record of 1:13.11 for 6 1/2 furlongs winning at Santa Anita on Friday. It’s just the latest record set over the new dirt track, prompting Brad Free to wonder, “when horses run as fast as they have been running this winter at Santa Anita, one has to ask again — at what expense?” I very much hope not at the expense of aggravating the physical issues that sent Square Eddie to the shed. “He had a high suspensory strain and I’ll be very interested to see how he looks in the morning — if he’s knocked out or body-sore,” said trainer Doug O’Neill after. “Hopefully we’ll find an empty feed tub and a bright, happy horse.”

The chipmunks are attacking! How could they not, when provoked like this? According to Santa Anita executive Scott Daruty, handle on Santa Anita was up 5% on the first official day of the horseplayers’ boycott, not down more than 15%. Numbers from the CHRIMS database — numbers not publicly available or reported by Equibase, DRF, or the California stewards, and therefore unverifiable — say so. I’m not a member of HANA, and even though I’ve bet less than $20 on Santa Anita since the meet started, I’m not boycotting. (Short fields dominated by speedballs and favorites bore me.) I’m an observer, and my interests lie in having access to accurate numbers and trying to understand what those numbers mean. If the track handle numbers reported on charts and treated as standard by every trade publication (including the one Daruty is speaking through) are inaccurate, then we have a bigger problem than trying to determine whether Thursday’s Santa Anita handle was up or down — the quality of handle data, as well as all reportage based on it, is compromised.

First-Year Sire Giacomo 2-for-2

I always think of 2005 Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo as a late bloomer, remembering his string of second-, third-, fourth-place finishes in the run-up to May, overlooking that he won his second start as a 2-year-old (by 10 lengths, going 1 1/16 mile at Hollywood in October 2004). The first-year sire’s first two offspring to hit the track have proven a touch more precocious, both winning first out. Blushing Sis, out of the unraced Carson City mare Three City Sisters, debuted on April 3 at Manor Downs and won by eight lengths as the 3-2 favorite for trainer Cash Asmussen; she returned two weeks later to finish second in the Manor Downs Futurity. At Lone Star on Saturday, Lady Giacamo, 11-1, took a maiden special weight by 4 3/4 lengths after getting bumped at the start, then running wide into the stretch (replay). She’s out of Lady Gallapiat, a winner of five races from eight starts (no stakes) and dam of three other foals, two winners; her third dam is Inreality Star, dam of Meadow Star, the 1990 juvenile filly champion, and turf stakes winner Optic Nerve.

The first starter for First Samurai, winner of the 2005 Hopeful and one of the most physically stunning juveniles I’ve seen, finished third in a maiden special weight at Hastings this afternoon. This 2-year-old caught my eye not only because of his sire, but because of his name — Hornblower, which readers of Jane Smiley’s “A Year at the Races” may remember as the registered name of her homebred, Wowie, who finally won in his 11th start. The two might share more than a tag: “Weakened in the stretch” is the chart note for Hornblower ’08’s first run. Maybe he’ll improve next out. The colt is a half-sibling to graded stakes winner Spice Island, dam of Kentucky Derby runner-up Ice Box.