Another day, another graded stakes, another track record, another perfect weather day (OK, so that’s not something we can take for granted). Welcome to the Spa.
The fifth race was for well-bred two-year-old fillies, and it featured Dale Romans’s Tapitsfly (Tapit – Flying Marlin (Marlin)). Romans is the one who last year introduced me to his two-year-old filly Sara Louise before she made her first start; she finished second then and won her next start, and is the last horse to have beaten Rachel Alexandra.
When I saw Romans earlier this week, I asked whom he liked in his barn this summer; without hesitation, he said, “Tapitsfly.” And his confidence in the grey filly was justified when she won yesterday by 2 ¾ lengths.
Before the race, two of these lightly-raced babies dumped their riders; Edgar Prado apparently got back on Maux Money without incident, but after spooking, C.C. Coco ran off from Kent Desormeaux and was a late scratch. Desormeaux attempted to grab her but she was too fast, so he began the long walk back to the winner’s circle, where trainer Bill Mott was waiting.
The paddock was full before the Grade II Amsterdam; the return of Quality Road was no small event, and after a four month layoff, the Elusive Quality colt now trained by Todd Pletcher looked magnificent. I was apparently not the only one who thought so, as he was hammered at the windows to go to the gate odds-on.
Among those going to the post with him were Capt. Candyman Can, who broke his maiden here last year by seven lengths and who has since won the Grade II Hutcheson and the Grade III Bay Shore; and Everyday Heroes, runner-up in the Grade II Woody Stephens.
I confess that I was rooting for Capt. Candyman Can (left); I’ve been a fan since last summer, and I admire his connections for the way they handled him over the winter and through the spring; much as I like Quality Road (he was my Derby horse), I liked him more when he was still in the barn of Jimmy Jerkens.
I’m not convinced that Javier Castellano’s crazy ride of Capt. Candyman Can, especially in deep stretch, didn’t cost him the race (though I have been widely disparaged for that perspective—OK, I can take it), but Quality Road, a horse making his first start after struggling with some foot problems, set a new track record in winning by 2 ¼ lengths and making it look pretty damn easy. We’ll likely to see him next in the Travers.
Quality Road is now four for five and perfect in stakes races, having won the Grade II Fountain of Youth and Grade I Florida Derby earlier this year. One can’t help but wonder how different the three-year-old picture would be if he had stayed healthy enough to remain on the Derby trail; his absence along with that of I Want Revenge, the two strongest colts going into the Derby, have cleared a path for Rachel Alexandra to dominate her age class.
One wonders whether it would have been so easy if she’d had to contend with Quality Road.