Saturday was quiet at Aqueduct. Though warm, it was moist everywhere; even when it wasn’t raining, it was hard not feel sodden. And I was inside for most of the time; the jockeys, grooms, and horses must have felt like it was time to develop webbed feet.
Two races offered the sort of finish that makes fans cheer and bettors and trainers agonize.
The scratch-shortened field of five in the third race featured several Brooklyn Backstretch hunch betting opportunities: Captivating Cat; long price in a short field (Twenty Eight Hours); horse entered from a barn I’ve visited (Kiaran McLaughlin’s Darkside Holiday). In six previous starts, Captivating Cat hadn’t been off the board, but not even the felines in my household can get excited over an even-money favorite. The finish, though, was one of those that might have had Madison pawing at the screen (she really does this during horse races, trying to catch the horses as they run in the stretch), as Captivating Cat and Mucho Macho hooked up in the stretch and went eyeball to eyeball to the finish line, each determined to win, neither willing to give up. Mucho Macho got it by a nose.
A race later, a series of star trainers entered lightly-raced or first time starter two-year-olds. Baffert, Jerkens, Zito, and McLaughlin all sent horses, but only McLaughlin was there (OK, we know Jerkens has an excuse), and maybe that made the difference, as following another ding-dong finish, his Monk’s Creek just edged Baffert’s Mayor Marv. “I thought we lost it,” he said after the race. “Good horse, good ride.” Chalk up another for Garcia/McLaughlin.
Following these two finishes, a friend said, “How do people not get excited about that? How do people not become fans?” Almost as exciting as Chris Drury’s rifled, shoot-out, game-winning goal at the Garden last night. No, of course I wasn’t there. They won, didn’t they? In other hockey and horse racing news, Jen Morrison at Thorough-blog notes today’s running of Khabibulin in the Coronation Futurity; the colt is owned by the same person who owns Lindros, Giguere, and Pronger. There’s a joke in there somewhere…
Ernie Munick does greater justice to the Stuyvesant than I could hope to; congrats to Dry Martini and Billy Turner. Dry Martini hadn’t won since June 2007, at Prairie Meadows, but he put it away today, decisively.
By the time the last race went off, at 4:14, it was nearly dark at Aqueduct. The sky was low over Ozone Park, and Tom Durkin couldn’t make out the horses as they broke from the seven furlong chute; I don’t know how he called the race. The horses were a brown blur, their saddlecloths and silks indistinguishable in the mud and the fog. As the horses became clear in the stretch, a man, sitting high up, said to a little girl, “Sometimes, you can’t even see them until they’re just about at the finish line.”
On an entirely other note: what the heck has the world come to when I’m getting my racing news from Facebook? Got up, checked e-mail, checked Facebook, and I see that someone’s posted something about a Curlin retirement. Really? Wow! Off to the Blood-Horse…nothing. Off to the Daily Racing Form…nothing. Off to ESPN…nothing. Finally, there in the New York Times, which covers racing beautifully when it covers racing at all, which is not often enough, is the source.
Did everybody in racing media take Saturday night off, or did Finley get a whopper of an exclusive?