West Coast proves he's no one-trick pony
by DICK POWELL
Well, it looks like Derby season is finally over. What begins in late winter and goes to late summer, there is a Derby run in virtually every state that conducts licensed, pari-mutuel horse racing.
Late Saturday afternoon, a solid field of 10 three-year-olds lined up to go nine furlongs in the Pennsylvania Derby (G1) on the dirt at Parx Racing for $1 million. Led by Travers Stakes (G1) winner WEST COAST (Flatter), it looked like the race would have some pace in it so he was less likely to steal the race on the front end like he did it in the Travers.
Wrong! West Coast was outrun into the clubhouse turn and was actually under early pressure. With Mike Smith aboard, even with a horse in front to his inside and some pressure applied on the outside, West Coast relaxed beautifully and showed that he is not a one-trick pony but a professional race horse that now looks like he’s even in the three-year-old male division despite not competing in any of the Triple Crown races.
His relaxed run around the far turn and the effortless acceleration he displayed turning for home were awesome, and he made some pretty good horses look average when he drew off to win by over seven lengths in the good time of 1:49.91 and now moves on to the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) in six weeks.
Trainer Bob Baffert now has some decisions to make among superstar ARROGATE (Unbridled’s Song), Pacific Classic (G1) winner COLLECTED (City Zip), and now, West Coast. One might go to the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) and the others go to the Classic but it’s anyone’s guess where it will fall.
Sunday night saw the $400,000 Oklahoma Derby (G3) run at Remington Park at nine furlongs on the dirt. Eight three-year-olds showed up and the two favorites were BATTLE OF MIDWAY (Smart Strike) at 7 to 5 followed closely by Haskell (G1) winner GIRVIN (Tale of Ekati) at 8 to 5.
Steve Asmussen has run 21 horses in the Oklahoma Derby without any success despite racing at Remington Park every year. This year, he had UNTRAPPED (Trappe Shot), who has been knocking heads against the best of the division but has not won since his maiden victory last November at Churchill Downs.
Untrapped was third in both the Ohio (G3) and Indiana Derbies (G3) in his last two starts and he sat a perfect trip with Ricardo Santana Jr., who had him down on the inside, and literally pulled the pocket in the stretch to get up in time to nail Battle of Midway by 1 3/4 lengths.
The Keeneland September yearling sale concluded last week and a couple of points need to be made.
First, three of the top four aggregate buyers were foreign even though we have been told repeatedly by our industry “leaders” that the presence of Lasix in American racing was going to turn away international buyers. You would be hard pressed to find a top yearling that did not have a sire AND a dam that raced on Lasix and it mattered little to the bidders.
Second, the gross was $307 million which is not a record but higher than recent years. Sales companies operate on a 5 percent commission so Keeneland had a good couple of weeks. The upcoming November Bloodstock Sale will do well, also.
So here’s my question? Why did they recently raise takeout? It’s not like the breeding business has been in decline. Coupled with the revenue they take in from their share of the Instant Racing machines that are housed at the Red Mile harness track, how is that the horse bettor has to pay more to play?
A business is a business and if you can’t make payroll, something has to give. But, for the life of me, I can’t see the financial reasons why Keeneland decided to raise takeout on their bettors.