Just a quick report on last Saturday’s racing as we eagerly anticipate next weekend’s entertainment, culminating in the $2m Kentucky Derby, ably supported by a host of valuable and informative races on the undercard.
The Grade 3 San Francisco Mile Stakes at Golden Gate attracted a maximum field of 14 runners but was reduced to 13 following the scratching of Home Run Kitten. The Brazilian bred Bal a Bali was sent off the 4/5 favorite due to his great level of consistency on turf and the drop in class. He ran well just off the pace but had to come quite wide to make his challenge but was just held.
The winner, Alert Bay (3.7/1), was highlighted in our preview as he loves the Golden Gate turf track and achieved a Beyer of 105 in a turf mile race at Santa Anita last year. He stalked the pacesetter, G G Ryder (last year’s winner), pretty much from the off before hitting the front in the stretch and just held on by an ever-diminishing head.
The eye-catcher was the second, Gabriel Charles, who finished like an express train to fill the place spot and would have won in a few more yards. The horse looks back to his best and expect to see him entered up in some decent mile plus races in the near future.
Gulfstream Park hosted the other Grade 3 race, the Miami Mile Handicap also on the turf. It was originally thought that Middleburg would go off a short priced favourite due to his many form positives. However, the market turned against him due to concerns about his fitness and the trip, which was on the short side.
In the end, the market sided with Smokem Kitten, which was highlighted in our preview as it had recently set a track record over 7 ½ furlongs and the race would be run to suit.
In the end, the market was right but only just. Smokem Kitten broke well and led from pillar to post to win by a head. However, Middleburg was finishing very well and would have got his head in front in a few yards. He was settled well off the pace and saved a lot of ground before unleashing his run in the straight and only just failed. He will strip fitter for the run and will no doubt be the focus of many a backer next time out in a similar or slighter longer race. As to the winner, I would expect him to dropped to around seven furlongs as the mile is putting maximum pressure on his stamina at this level.