The laws of physics are getting in my way today. As this posts, I am at Monmouth for the day, to catch some workouts and spend the day at the races, but there’s much at Belmont that I’ll be keeping my eye on.
In the first race, That’srightofficer (Do you know how happy it makes me that the person who named him included the apostrophe, unlike the connections of This Ones for Phil?) makes his first start of 2009. This Rick Schosberg-trained New York-bred (Officer – Jerome’s Folly) had a decent 2008 for a horse who started 13 times and won only once. He was second to Tin Cup Chalice in that epic stretch duel in the Albany at Saratoga last August, the race that garnered the winner the honor of being the first horse to win the Big Apple Triple (the Mike Lee, the New York Derby, the Albany); he was second to Stud Muffin in the Empire Classic; and he was second to Wishful Tomcat in the Discovery. He returns from stakes company today to the allowance ranks, for the first time in a year.
And speaking of Wishful Tomcat and Stud Muffin, those two faced off on Friday at Belmont, with the Brooklyn Backstretch favorite dominating by more than six lengths, running his record to seven wins in sixteen starts, with three seconds and two thirds. He was purchased by IEAH last winter and promptly shipped west, where his winning ways ended in open company at Santa Anita and Fair Grounds. He’s won both starts since coming back to New York. Welcome home, indeed.
The Grade II Sheepshead Bay brings together several Backstretch favorites, including Mushka, Backseat Rhythm, and Criticism. Fillies and mares on the grass! I backed Mushka in the 2007 Demoiselle and was thrilled by her last to first move; an injury set her back for eight months and she has struggled since in stakes races, her only wins coming in allowance races at Keeneland, though she was a very good second in a Grade III at Gulfstream. I happened to be at Keeneland for her last win, and I’m grimacing at missing her start today.
Criticism put herself firmly on my radar screen in the Long Island Handicap at Aqueduct last November. After beating a good Grade III field by a length and getting her picture taken, she planted her feet and literally refused to move. Was she tying up? Her connections coaxed her, pulled her, pushed her…nothing. Not to the track, not to the barn, not to the paddock. Finally, she was persuaded to step down to the paddock, where, seemingly none the worse for this little episode, she drank the water offered to her and then calmly walked off. She’s got two wins and a third since then, her most recent victory in the La Prevoyante at Calder last month.
So I’ll be on the Jersey shore today, with a close eye at Belmont. Brian will be back on Sunday with a look at Monday’s Met Mile, and if you haven’t already, check out the latest Brooklyn Backstretch charity contest at the end of this post.