See You In September
SEE YOU IN SEPTEMBER
By JOHN PIESEN
Where have you gone Ramon Dominguez?
The biggest name in racing this summer has been Ramon Dominguez. And with good reason. In quick order, jockey Dominguez rode six winners on one Saratoga program, joining Johnny Velazquez as the only riders to do so in a century and a half at the Spa; wrapped up the Spa jockey title in the first 10 days of the meet, then won million-dollar races on back-to-back Saturdays -- the Arlington Million with Little Mike and the Travers (in a dead heat) with Alpha.
Historians (if not the media) will note that David Cohen (Golden Ticket) became the first Jewish jockey to win the Travers. Nope, Dave Borden never did it.
Unlike Johnny V, Ramon didn't run three-quarters in 1:11 to win a race, as one media source reported, but, where folks gathered at Saratoga watering holes, RD was pretty much Topic A.
Then poof went the magic dragon. Starting mid-Monday, Ramon went gone 0-for-17 through Thursday. That's an expensive o-fer. It's one thing when Carlos Montalvo goes 0-for-17, but quite another when Ramon Dominguez does so. That's a lot of hard-earned bread going up in flames.
So one of only two things can happen over the final four days of the meet. 1) Ramon can re-break, and win three or four a day, or 2) this slump can continue, and bury half the racing population who depend on him to pay the rent.
It won't take long to find out. Dominguez rides all nine races on Friday's twilight card, and the first 11 on Saturday. At this point, he's sitting out race 12, but presumably he'll be available in an emergency.
Coincidentally, RD will be riding double-digit longshots in all three graded stakes Saturday -- Prince Will I Am in the Bernard Baruch, Isn't He Perfect in the Forego, and Rule in the Woodward.
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Another big-name rider seeking redemption Saturday at the Spa is Mike Smith.
It's been a tough summer for Iron Mike. It's not breaking news that he was a much-criticized second with Bodemeister in the Derby and Preakness, and with Paynter in the Belmont -- and then got beat at odds-on with Hanson in the West Virginia Derby, and with Royal Delta in the Personal Ensign.
And, worst of all, Mike had to read it in the papers that long-time honey Chantal went out and got herself hitched.
Mike gets his shot at said redemption with the appropriately-named Mucho Macho Man, who will be a short price in the Woodward, which, at 750K, will be the richest race of the weekend. Consider Mike, who hates to fly, is making the 6,000-mile round-trip from Del Mar to ride Mucho Macho Man, who (can you believe?) is his only call in the six-hour marathon.
Game On Dude in the $1 million Pacific Classic was Chantal's only mount last Sunday at Del Mar, and alas, she dropped her left rein in deep stretch, and The Dude got nailed by Dullahan at even-money. But the Dude remains No. 1 in the TRA poll!
And will that be Bejarano aboard next time?
The Pacific Classic was a significant result for many reasons:
1) What does it say about the 3-year-olds when Dullahan, exiting terrible performances in the Haskell and Belmont, jumps up and beats the best horses on the planet? Is it all about the artificial flowers?
2) Coming a week after winning the Arlington Million with Little Mike, does this give trainer Dale Romans a leg up on an Eclipse Award and the one-to-one pow-wows with NBC at the Breeders' Cup? Of course Dale will have to share. He was in Saratoga all week while his partner- Wee Tammy -- handled all the Dullahan preparations on-sight.
3) Is this the end for jockey Desormeaux, Dullahan's former ex?
4) This is the same Dullahan who finished a much-the-best third as my in the Kentucky Derby...and Romans must be kicking himself for using Desormeaux that day rather than Rosario
This could be the third straight place in the sun weekend for Romans.
The same Shackleford who was once 70-1 in the Florida Derby has gone on to win the Preakness and Met Mile; and bankroll $2.7 million, will shoot for a third Grade One and $3 mill in the seven-furlong Forego.
Shack was buried from post one on a sloppy track last time in the Vanderbilt, his first race in 10 weeks, and will get the fast track he requires in the Forego. With a clean break, he should sit a stalking trip behind Pacific Ocean and Emcee, and -- hopefully for his backers -- bring his "A" race. Of course, the presence in the irons of Johnny V won't hurt his chances.
There are many reasons to like Pacific Ocean, the only one of the eight Forego runners coming off a win,
The 5-year-old is unbeaten (3-for-3) at the distance, is lightly-raced (5-for-8), has a hot trainer and rider in Dutrow and Rosario...and speed on the main has been gold this week.
Dutrow obviously isn't letting a little thing like a 10-year suspension bother him at Saratoga. He's 1-2-3 at a 50 per cent clip, he won two stakes three days apart with Willy Beamin...and on Saturday sends out the main speed in back-to-back Grade Ones with Pacific Ocean in the Forego, and Trickmeister in the Woodward.
Hey, if Rachel Alexandra can wire the Woodward, why can't Trickmeister, whom ex-trainer Larry Jones once described as the fastest horse he's ever had. The IEAH boys paid big bucks for this guy.
Mucho Macho Man blew past Trickmeister at the quarter-pole in the Suburban, but that was at one turn on a closers' track. The Woodward is two-turns on a track playing fast, and Smith is giving jockey 25 years and a head start to Ortiz.
Then again trainer Pletcher has a dangerous uncoupled entry of Stay Thirsty, the 2011 Travers winner, and Rule, and Bill Mott has a sleeping giant in To Honor and Serve.
Like the Forego, the Woodward is a good betting race with a vulnerable favorite.
On Sunday, we'll see 2-year-old fillies in the spotlight on both coasts.
Expecting to see the Mad Bomber, who made a minor score with Archwarrior on Thursday, all over Executiveprivilege in the Del Mar Debutante. The Baffert filly , favorably placed in post eight in a field of nine going seven-eighths, is 4-5 overnight, but will be closer to 1-5 at post.
The Stonestreet entry of Teen Pauline and Dreaming of Julia will be a short price in the Spinaway at the Spa, but beware So Many Ways, the off-the-pace winner of the Schuylerville on opening day. Owner Maggi Moss, the reigning queen of racing, plans to make the trip from Des Moines for the race.
Dominguez' best chance Saturday figures to be in race seven with Gulfport, a 2-year-old colt. who has been training lights out since debuting with a fast-closing second at Churchill. His breeder is the late George Steinbrenner, his trainer is Romans, he cost 775K at auction, and his pedigree is Unbridled's Song out of Dream Supreme.
And, of course, he's named for the city of Gulfport, which took a major hit from Hurricane Isaac.
Finally, a leg up on a major story. A one-time big-time trainer is planning a comeback. Won't be long.
Here are our last Horses to Watch list from Saratoga:
BELONGS TO DIXIE -- Exits a troubled closing second to She Gets It.
LIVE LIFE FAST --Serpe state-bred second as good thing in debut.
VILLANESCA -- Blew the break, and made huge outside middle move.
COMANDANTE -- Unlucky in Spa finale. Rider change?
AGILION -- Closed like a runaway freight for second in debut.
VICTORIA LYNN -- Trapped on rail as the chalk. Next time.
LET'S HAVE US ONE -- Used hard as chalk. Won't be a maiden long.
BROKEN SPELL -- Exits strong second in the Phil Johnson Stakes.
GULFPORT -- Hearing good things about this Dale Romans colt.
SLOT PLAY -- Caught a buzzsaw in the David Stakes.
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