Saturday’s racing proved a difficult day for favourite backers with very few of the favoured runners obliging in the big races. In addition, some of the eagerly anticipated clashes failed to materialise.
One such “clash” was in Laurel’s big race of the night, the $300k Barbara Fritchie. To many this appeared to be a two horse race between Lady Sabelia and Hot City Girl but the duel never materialised. Hot City Girl tried to dominate but she was a spent force by the last furlong and faded badly while Lady Sabelia put her head in front in the stretch but was outpointed by Dancing House. The latter’s run and strong finish was all the more meritorious as she had a nightmare trip.
Over at Tampa, the Sam F Davis (one of the key Tampa Bay Derby prep races) went to the 4/1 shot Destin Todd Pletcher’s gray was winning his first stakes race but looks on the upgrade. He ran a little green but still managed to record the second fastest time in the 36 year history of this race.
Morning Fire was expected to have a major chance in this race provided he stayed the extended mile trip. He set some decent fractions but tired in the final furlong. A drop back to 7 furlongs will surely see him return to the winners enclosure.
At Santa Anita, the Arcadia (the big turf race of the day) was expected to comprise another clash, this time between Obviously and Om. However, Bolo spoilt the party. He stalked the front running Obviously and closed late to win by a neck with Om 2 ¾ lengths back in third. Om was disappointingly weak at the end of the race and will need to strengthen up if he is to continue his upward curve.
Over at Golden Gates, the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby not only had a purse of $200k but there were also Kentucky Derby points up for grabs. Frank Conversation looked to be the best horse in the race but the one concern for this son of Quality Road was whether his stalking style would be affected by his wide draw. The answer was an emphatic no. He held a good position in 6th for the first 6 furlongs and then only had to be pushed to come wide and win under hand urging by ¾ length. The horse tends to over-race when asked to dominate so a stalking trip is a prerequisite of a good run. As a result, wherever he goes from now, he will always require a little luck in running, particularly in big fields.