First, I must apologize if my look at the weekend that was is a day late. I have taken over the announcer's duties at Yavapai Downs in Prescott, Arizona and just returned to Phoenix this evening. That being said, to me, there were three events this weekend that merit a little further discussion, so here goes.
#1- The Whitney Handicap- I would like to ask anyone if they thought there was any way that Quality Road was going to get beat when he led the field into the stretch of the Whitney. I happen to think Blame might be the best horse in training this year and I didn't think he was going to get there. But, get there he did and by doing so, he seemingly turned the handicap division topsy-turvy. If Quality Road hangs on, he is the clear top male older horse and he would likely have waltzed into the Breeders' Cup as the possible favorite in the Classic (unless Zenyatta gets a lot of support for a repeat). However, he didn't hang on and now Blame can make his case through the rest of the year for the top spot. After all, Blame is now undefeated on the year and he has had to overcome Battle Plan at Churchill Downs and now Quality Road at Saratoga to keep that record intact. I think right now he is #1 on the list of older male horses.
#2- The Clement Hirsch- Zenyatta made it 18 for 18 with another come-from-behind victory. She actually closed into a nonexistent pace and took the lead at the top of the stretch and held on to defeat Rinterval by a neck. Did she toy with the opposition after taking the lead in the stretch much earlier than usual? Personally, I think so. I think she could have won that race by whatever margin she wanted. Apparently, her next start will come in the Zenyatta (formerly the Lady's Secret), which I think is taking the easy road by trainer John Shirreffs. He says he is not a telephone trainer, which I understand, but at this point, I don't feel there is any competition left for her in California and by not sending her out to face some tougher stuff, he is defeating the point of bringing her back in the first place. The connections have said all along that they want everyone to enjoy watching Zenyatta. Apparently, they mean everyone in California because she has only shipped out to race in another state once this year. It appears to me that protecting the streak is becoming the most important thing and rather than face quality opposition elsewhere, Zenyatta will simply be beating the same bunch of horses she has been beating. There is certainly no shame in this, but I would like to see her challenged a little more before going to Churchill Downs.
#3- The Alfred Vanderbilt- This was the performance of the weekend as far as I am concerned. The Vanderbilt was over as soon as the gates opened. Majesticperfection was in front by two lengths when the latch was sprung and never really looked back. His quarter and halftime fractions were nothing overwhelming, but the final time of 1:08.3 was sensational. He has catapulted himself to the top of the Sprint Division by beating quality stakes-winning competition like Big Drama and Bribon so decisively. I am reminded of 1998 when a horse named Reraise won the Kentucky Cup Sprint and used that late-season victory to propel himself to a Breeders' Cup victory in the Sprint that year.
Tune in tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!