JC / Railbird

Stay Thirsty

A Quiet Weekend

on the Kentucky Derby trail. Stay Thirsty gets a Beyer speed figure of 89 for winning the Gotham Stakes, Dialed In finishes second to a stablemate in a two-turn Gulfstream allowance. “I would have liked to win, but I have to be happy,” said trainer Nick Zito. At least Dialed In will get a third start before the Derby, unlike several prospects on a two-prep schedule. “It’s just interesting how in a trade to keep their charges fresh,” muses Mike Watchmaker, “several high-powered barns seem willing to operate without a safety net.”

Jaycito to Win

Steve Davidowitz (DRF+):

As good as Uncle Mo appears to be, I was more impressed by the finishing punch shown by Jaycito, who won his maiden winning the 1 1/16-mile Norfolk Stakes around two turns at Hollywood Park on Oct. 2. In that race, Jaycito caught and passed J P’s Gusto, a fast, three-time stakes winner. The image I had reviewing that race was of Jaycito doing the same to Uncle Mo on Breeders’ Cup Day.

Me too.

(Via @JaycitoHOY2011, the latest in faux racehorse tweeting.)

It may be futile, but I’m trying to resist the lure of history, in which Uncle Mo potentially figures on the basis of his stellar performance (and final time) in the Champagne Stakes. “Since the 1940 adjustment of the Champagne to one mile,” writes Nick Kling, “only five other colts have run under 1:35. They were Count Fleet (1942), Vitriolic (1967), Spectacular Bid (1978), Easy Goer (1988), and Sea Hero (1992).” That’s in addition to Champagne record-setter Devil’s Bag and second-fastest Seattle Slew. It’s good company. “The scary thing,” trainer Todd Pletcher told Tim Wilkin, “is that I think he is still learning.”

In the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, jockey Calvin Borel picks up the mount on Tell a Kelly. “He’s the man at Churchill Downs,” said trainer John Sadler.

Thursday Notes

Wait, Forever Together might not be done yet. Trainer Jonathan Sheppard, who said after the champion finished sixth in the Flower Bowl, “It’s no fun watching her run like that,” and suggested the 6-year-old mare would be retired, told Alicia Wincze Forever Together might get another race. “If we get firm ground [for the Breeders’ Cup] we might go on. We haven’t ruled anything out.”

Jaycito should have the stamina for the Kentucky Derby, and that’s the race trainer Mike Mitchell has his eye on. “The ultimate race we want to run in is the Derby,” he said after Jaycito broke his maiden in his third start, last Saturday’s Norfolk. In his two previous efforts, the juvenile finished second to JP’s Gusto in the Del Mar Futurity and second to Indian Winter, third in the Futurity, in a maiden special. Like Stay Thirsty, entered but unlikely for the Champagne unless stablemate Uncle Mo scratches, he’s a colt on the upswing. [Re: that last link, it goes to trainer Todd Pletcher’s ATR blog, on which he also mentions that Frizette starter Tap for Luck, “is probably the one that’s bred the best to get more distance. Unfortunately, she’s only had one race and it was five furlongs so we’re stretching out more than you would like.”]

With the Southern California horse population down, Santa Anita will try a less-is-more schedule this winter. The track plans four-day weeks, with racing Thursday through Sunday. The change, said track president George Haines, “should make the quality better on the weekends.” Fuller fields are something to look forward to; a shame about the takeout increase.

Kerry Thomas talks equine psychology. “Herd dynamics have an impact on a horse’s ability to maintain pace over a distance. Where they fit in a herd is where they’re naturally inclined to move in any group.” Fascinating stuff.

Someone’s having a little fun on Twitter.

Weekend Notes

Please Henry Cecil, writes Steve Dennis, run Prix Vermeille winner Midday in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe before the Breeders’ Cup: “She’s a virtual shoo-in at Churchill Downs, so why not give the Arc a crack on the way?

What makes a horse do this? As in the Yorkshire Oaks, Sariska refused to leave the starting gate in the Vermeille, compelling her connections to retire the 4-year-old filly immediately after the (non)race. “I’m proud of everything she has achieved but she does not want to play ball on the track,” said trainer Michael Bell, who reported on his website earlier in the week that Sariska had performed well in gate work at Lingfield. John Sparkman addressed the subject last month, noting that “when a horse reveals temperamental quirks, racing folk are always quick to look to the pedigree to find reasons for such behavior.” Sariska’s half-sister Gull Wing did pull the same stunt. An expression of the genes or equine will? Fascinating, either way.

At Belmont on Saturday, Heisman, a 2-year-old full-sibling to Any Given Saturday, won his first race running the final quarter in :28 seconds. That is not notable. It is though that Heisman was starting off a sixth-place finish in his debut, a six-furlong Saratoga maiden special won by Stay Thirsty, who finished second to Sovereign Default in his first start and second to Boys at Tosconova in the Hopeful Stakes. The hype was all about Boys after the Hopeful, but Stay Thirsty — a Bernardini baby, half-brother to Andromeda’s Hero and Superfly, with enough class to run well against his precocious peers — seems more likely to develop into an interesting 3-year-old.

The Keeneland September sale kicked off tonight and people in the blugrass must be relieved that big spenders are still around. The average price of the 69 yearlings sold was $347,319, up 49% over 2009, the median $250,000, up 25% (stats via Keeneland’s sortable auction results). And more good news: “The buy-back rate was 25.8%, down significantly from 41.2% in 2009.” Neither Sheikh Mohammed nor Coolmore was particularly active (the former purchased a Bernardini colt for $450,000, the latter an A.P. Indy for $600,000), but Shadwell bought six for a gross total of more than $2.8 million, including a striking Bernardini colt for $800,000. Of the young sires represented, the 2006 champion 3-year-old was the most successful both by number sold (three) and gross (almost $1.4 million).

First punch in another round of racetracks versus ADWs? TVG declined to show all but three races from opening day at Belmont Park, citing contractual obligations. “We have a plethora of tracks running today that are exclusive to TVG,” said TVG executive Tony Allevato. “NYRA is not an exclusive track.”