Catching My Eye: Saratoga and Del Mar, Aug. 27-28
Saturday, Aug. 27
On paper, it might look like Verifying’s first outing was an easy frontrunner’s romp, as these two-year-old, odds-on favorites often have. But Midnight Bisou’s sibling showed much on debut.
Breaking with alacrity and not being asked through the first turn, Joel Rosario had a good hold of Verifying while the juvenile naturally held off a bid on his inside and pressure on his outside. In the stretch, a duel began with a second-time starter, and in push-button style, when Rosario wanted more as the wire neared, Verifying gave it to him.
He received a 97 Brisnet Speed figure for the effort. This son of Justify trained by Brad Cox was purchased for $775,000, and after his first run, the owners surely are feeling confident about their return on investment.
Initially Jackie’s Warrior’s loss in the Forego (G1) was disappointing, but watching back and seeing the figures come in, that was the wrong take. Cody’s Wish finished in 1:20.95, and in 39 runnings of the Forego, that is the second-fastest time behind Mitole’s 1:20.80.
It’s a thrill to know the older sprint division has a fresh face in Cody’s Wish. Yes, he got a clean trip and, yes, the track was souped up and playing fast, but still, Bill Mott has got his four-year-old in impressive form, winning six of his last seven. Stalking near the back, Cody’s Wish made his move halfway through the turn and had to pass the forward horses coming into the stretch widest of all.
Watching the rhythm he gathered in the stretch, out-moving the seemingly invincible sprint champion right next to him, there is no doubt this Godolphin homebred has what it takes to pull off the win in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1). He ran faster with every furlong, getting to the stretch in 23.05 seconds and finishing the last furlong off in 11.85 seconds—each three lengths faster than Jackie’s Warrior. My only doubt is that six furlongs is too short since he builds his run in the stretch, and the Forgo was seven furlongs.
Another sprinter who can run for days is the Pat O’Brien winner Laurel River. The Bob Baffert trainee just made his seventh start, second as a four-year-old, and he made a move past Speaker’s Corner and his barnmate Defunded that put those two to shame.
Coming out of the second turn, he split those foes and rocketed ahead, ending the race right there. In the gallop out, still no one was near. Baffert had him in two-turn races his last two tries, which he won, but this colt does not have the feel of a horse that needs 6 1/2 or seven furlongs to show his best stuff. Another dangerous Breeders' Cup Sprint possibility.
Sunday, Aug. 28
Some turf frontrunners held on by a thread for the win. Some surge at the top of the stretch and pull away, breaking the hearts of any horse who thought they had a chance. File Call Me Harry’s effort on Sunday at Saratoga in the latter file.
Trainer Joe Sharp claimed this three-time turf sprint winner back in July, took the blinkers off, stretched him out to two turns and presto—a career-best speed figure. Sharp does excellent work with the horses he claims, and as a six-year-old New York-bred gelding who just moved through the n1x condition, he’s got options on where to enter him. Doubtful we will see him back in the claiming box anytime soon.
In a statebred optional claimer on Sunday, Opening Buzz proved her debut effort was legit, even though her second race was a flop. On first asking, Jonathan Wong’s three-year-old by Stanford (who has excellent numbers with his debut foals) posted a 93 Brisnet Speed figure winning over the Tapeta surface at Golden Gate.
In her second race, a dirt stakes at Del Mar, she finished 23 lengths in the back, leaving uncertainty about how good this Cal-bred is. The bettors had a little doubt making her 2-1 at post time, and she ran a game effort over the turf, breaking well and settling inside the frontrunner who beat her to the lead, then powered home well clear of all but the late-flying Big Summer, and earned a 98.
She’s run well on all the surfaces, and I would back her accordingly going forward as long as she’s only going six furlongs or shorter.