Today’s feature at Aqueduct doesn’t offer nearly the same tantalizing possibilities as last week’s Paumonok, but it more than makes up for its lack of storyline in the honoring one of racing’s greats. The Whirlaway, first run in 1980, is named for Calumet Farms colt who became the fifth Triple Crown winner, and Horse of the Year in 1941 and 1942. The most distinguished winner of the Whirlaway is the 1993 winner, Prairie Bayou, who was second in the Derby and then went on to Preakness greatness before fatally breaking down in that year’s Belmont. Whirlaway himself is the only Triple Crown winner to win the Travers as well; Affirmed would have followed in those hallowed footsteps had he not been disqualified, giving the win to Alydar in 1978.
Looking at the list of past winners, it doesn’t appear that the Whirlaway is a major stop on the Triple Crown trail for three-year-olds; the connections of Achilles of Troy had hoped otherwise two years ago, before their colt came up lame in this race(?) and went off the Triple Crown trail. Has he raced since then? Achilles of Troy is one of the six horses followed in the Hennegan brothers’ excellent The First Saturday in May.
The favorite in this year’s renewal of the Whirlaway is Michael Trombetta’s Cave’s Valley, and Mario Pino comes up to ride; maybe we’ll pass each other on the Turnpike as I head to Laurel. Cave’s Valley is 5/2 on the morning line.
The ever-prudent New York jockeys, when asked about their Super Bowl picks, wisely went with Big Blue. Erick Lopez, Channing Hill, and Ramon Dominguez put hometown sentiments aside to go with the Patriots; Hill called it a 28-0 defeat for the Giants. Ouch. I hope he doesn’t have any Giants fans among his owners and trainers.
Heading to Laurel on Saturday for a day of racing at a new track. I’ll keep an eye on the monitors to see what’s happening at the Big A and of course in the Donn down at Gulfstream. Much as I like Daaher, Luzzi, and McLaughlin, I can’t help rooting for Einstein, a turf horse taking on the dirt. Interesting choice for trainer Helen Pitts, especially as it’s Einstein’s second start back after an eight-month layoff, following his injury in the Dixie Handicap.
Patrick has written an excellent review of Edgar Prado’s new book about Barbaro. Check it out.