Before I get started I would first like to express my deep condolences to the connections of Bonnie Brown Eyes. The filly was racing at Hollywood Park last night, the race immediately following the Prevue. She was leading by two in mid-stretch, when her ankle snapped, causing her to go down. It was later learned that she snapped her neck during the fall, killing her instantly. This is the rough side of horse racing, and we can only pray that we can improve it some way in order to better protect our magnificent athletes.
Now, on a more positive note, lets return to the blog topic. First I'll start off with the magnificent Quality Road. This horse, two weeks ago, was one of the big three year olds that was entering the Breeders Cup Classic, unfortunately, at the eleventh hour the big colt erased all hopes of winning, or even competing. At first it was his usual gate antics, kicking out, rearing up, balking, all to avoid loading in the gate.
Minutes passed, delaying the start, as Quality Road simply refused to load, so in the essence of time, he was blindfolded. What the assistant starters will do in this case, is of course, blindfold the horse, spin him around a couple of times in hopes that the horse will forget where he is, this did not happen, for as soon as Quality Road felt the metal confines of the starting gate he went ballistic. He began bucking and kick, and eventually broke out the front of the gate, still blindfold. Thanks to the assistant starter who was able to hold onto Quality Road, we were spared a much more horrid scene.
After the incident, Quality Road was vanned, yes, I said vanned, to Aqueduct. Ever since the Breeders Cup, trainer Todd Pletcher has been working with the horse in the gate, in hopes of getting him ready for the Cigar Mile. Quality Road has been doing wonderfully in his schooling sessions, and passed his latest test, where the conditions that Quality Road would encounter come race day, were simulated as closely as possible, with flying colors. If Quality Road loads on race day like he's been doing in schooling he will be a big threat.
Loading is just one part however, Quality Road is not facing an easy field at all in the Clark. Both Munnings and Vineyard Haven will be present and both have proven to be excellent at this distance. Munnings may be very underrated on his ability at this distance, seeing as how his last two wins were at seven furlongs. I will point out however, that in the Haskell, going 9 furlongs, he set some wicked fractions, and still was barely beaten for second by Summer Bird. Vineyard Haven, will try to return to his throne as one of the top milers in the country. He has a second and a win in his last two tries and looms a huge threat in this race.
Another horse aiming high is our talented filly Cuvee Uncorked! A couple days ago I had learned she would be racing in a stakes late this month, and thanks to some help from Brian Zipse, we found she was nominated in the the grade two Gazelle and Top Flight! This beautiful filly has but one defeat in four career starts, with her one loss being a second. She won her first stakes, the Poker Night, at this very track, and will be looking to get her first graded stakes win.
Her road to victory, in either race, however will not be easy. As I read over the list of nominees for each race I saw the names of Stardom Bound, Unbridled Belle, Flashing, Malibu Prayer, and Sara Louise. All these fillies are proven stakes winner, all with much more experience than Cuvee Uncorked. Stardom Bound is nominated for the Gazelle, which will be her first race since the Ashland. Yes, it is a very long layoff, but don't forget how great Rick Dutrow is a bring a horse back in it's first race off the self, a good example is Court Vision, two starts back.
Malibu Payer is nominated for both races, while Flashing and Sara Louise are nominated for the Top Flight. You may not remember Malibu Prayer, but she was second to Rachel Alexandra in the Mother Goose and hasn't done to badly for herself since then. Flashing was third in the Mother Goose, then came right back with a win in the Test Stakes. Sara Louise, was a distant fourth in the Breeders Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, but that was on Pro-Ride, not dirt. Her most recent race on dirt was a second place finish, by a head, to two time champion Indian Blessing, who was last years Filly & Mare Sprint Champion.
While she lacks the experience of her well seasoned foes, Cuvee Uncorked has displayed immense amounts of talent. Her jockey David Cohen recently said she was doing "awesome". She has only raced in sprints, which leads me to believe that is where she will race, but then again, why not see if she has the stamina to compete with some of the top class distaffers, by a test run in the Gazelle? Either way, both races will be both intriguing and exciting, and I look forward to seeing which way her connections choose to go.