Stayers' Watch: May-June omnibus edition · 9.06.09
Jeez I’ve been getting lazy maintaining this series. Anyways, let’s get caught up:
Louisville Handicap (May 23)
Brass Hat snapped a 10-race losing streak when he took the 1 1/2-mile Louisville Handicap (G2) on the Churchill Downs turf course. Rebounding from a game third-place finish in the Fifth Third Elkhorn in April, the 8-year-old gelding rated well for the first mile, then began his rally while swinging five-wide around the final turn. Pace-setter Thabazimbi gave way to Spice Route in deep stretch, but Brass Hat got up just before the wire to win by a half-length. Spice Route was 2 1/4 lengths better than Thabazimbi at the finish. Final time, on a “firm” turf course was 2:28.44.
Brooklyn Handicap (June 5)
Eldaafer made his graded-stakes debut a memorable one by winning the Brooklyn Handicap (G2) on a sloppy Belmont Park track. Going off a s a 17-1 longshot, the 4-year-old A.P. Indy gelding was well back for most of the 1 1/2-mile race, but came on in the stretch to nip Nite Light by a short nose. Rising Moon, who had fought for the lead with Nite Light for most of the last mile only to fade in deep stretch, finished third. Pre-race favourite Delosvientos took the lead briefly at the half-mile point, but then faded and was eventually eased. Time: 2:31.58.
Belmont Stakes (June 6)
Track maintenance staff at Belmont Park must have worked like mad fiends to dry out the track between Friday and Saturday after the rains let up. By Saturday afternoon and the Belmont Stakes (G1) the track was listed officially as “fast”. Mine That Bird was looking to follow up on his massive Kentucky Derby upset and subsequent strong second-place in the Preakness behind Rachel Alexandra. But it was another “bird”, Summer Bird — like Mine That Bird a son of 2004 Belmont winner Birdstone — who got the win. Pace-setter Dunkirk got second, while Mine That Bird, who led briefly at the head of the stretch, settled for third. Time for the 1 1/2 miles was a respectable 2:27.54.
The race has been thoroughly covered and re-hashed elsewhere, so I won’t go into further details. I will say, however, that anyone who still thinks that Mine That Bird is a “fluke” — after finishing first, second, and third in the three American “classics”, and being one of only two horses to actually run in all three — needs to give their head a shake. The little gelding may not even be the best 3-year-old in North America — Rachel Alexandra holds that distinction, while Quality Road might still take her place if he ever returns to competition — but he acquitted himself well on the biggest stage in racing to prove he is for real. I’m looking forward to seeing him race again this year, and hopefully for years to come.
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