How do you even begin to recap what we witnessed this past weekend in the world of horse racing? The Horse Of The Year was a loser, the runner-up was a winner, the Derby preps were all kinds of ridiculous, so as The Great One (Jackie Gleason) used to say, "And Away We Go!"
First, Rachel Alexandra was defeated at Fair Grounds by Zardana in the New Orleans Ladies. She still posted a 100 Beyer figure, but she still didn't win her first race in seven months. She certainly looked like a short horse in a short field and as a result of that result, her owner, Jess Jackson, has already announced that she will not be going to the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn to face Zenyatta.
Speaking of Zenyatta, how awesome was her performance this weekend in the Santa Margarita? She appeared hopelessly beaten at the top of the stretch (shades of the Breeders' Cup Classic) until Mike Smith jerked her to the only opening she had available to her at the rail and she demonstrated what a professional race horse should do. She won nicely and extended her undefeated streak to fifteen, but you have to wonder how many times will Smith get her into such predicaments before she gets into a situation she cannot get out of?
One final point on the two leading ladies is that the horse that beat Rachel Alexandra in New Orleans was trained by John Shirreffs, who also trains Zenyatta. After Jackson decided to duck Zenyatta in the Apple Blossom, which I think is a horrific decision for his camp and for racing in general, I would have loved for Shirreffs to say something like "Imagine what would have happened if we would have sent the first team over there?" A twist of the knife like that is what classic rivalries are all about. It would be great for Shirreffs to stir the pot.
On to the Derby Trail, I still have no idea how Odysseus got his nose to the wire ahead of Schoolyard Dreams in the Tampa Bay Derby. No doubt, it was an impressive performance by Odysseus to win after appearing beaten and tired at the top of the stretch, but do not discount that mammoth move made by Schoolyard Dreams on the turn to get into contention. Remember, the connections are the same as Musket Man, who They Are Off kind of liked heading to Louisville last year.
Lookin At Lucky showed exactly why he is the Juvenile Champion for 2009. His victory in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn was all kinds of magnificent. He had an issue in the backstretch where he was either impeded or jumped a shadow, but it was a clear distraction to the horse and could have cost him some position. He rallied in the stretch to overcome a relatively poor trip and just nose out the unfortunate Noble's Promise, who looked like the winner until the final five yards. I am sure the connections are wondering just what they have to do to beat Lookin At Lucky. Dublin was a disappointment in the Rebel to me and finished a well-beaten third.
Sidney's Candy all but stamped his ticket to Kentucky with a win in the San Felipe at Santa Anita on Saturday. He beat a very talented and deep field that included Interactif, Caracortado, American Lion, and Dave In Dixie. I would be led to believe that many of these will return for the Santa Anita Derby. Keep in mind, that this was Sidney's Candy's first win going around two turns. One would be led to believe that he will only improve from here.
I wonder what next weekend will have for us by way of an encore.
Tune in tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!