Power Cap

Power cap- existential handicapping

13 July 2008

Man O' War Trip Report

The Man O' War was one of those races that further proves that racing is the greatest sport played outdoors. Even with a disappointing result the day provided a emotionally resonating roller coaster ride that I will soon not forget. It was a beautiful day weather wise and a classy, sharp and exclusive crowd of 8,400 assembled at Belmont to see Curlin try his form on the turf.

This was a different day at the races. There seemed to be quite a few fans who shipped in to town to see Curlin run. It is always nice to see new faces at Belmont where the same faces can be seen week after week. The scene around the paddock before the Man O' War was chaotic. When Curlin emerged from the security barn he was flanked by a sizable entourage of security and Jackson's people. The fans where ten deep in the paddock and completely focused on Curlin like a movie star amongst grocery store clerks. There must have been three dozen photographers snapping pictures of him while he stood quietly in his stall in the paddock. While all of Curlin's rivals had a traditional pre-race walkabout in the paddock, Curlin stood in his stall for fifteen minutes. Then he was saddled and stood there five minutes more. Curlin spent his paddock time being stroked by his owner Jess Jackson and assistant Blasi. Curlin stood calmly, ears pricked and looked well. However I have never seen a horse spend all twenty minutes of his paddock time confined to his stall with no walking. He was calm to a fault with absolutely no sweat on a fairly warm day. Was Asmussen worried about Curlin getting warm? Was that the reason he was confined to his stall. When Curlin emerged from the stall he was greeted by a rousing round of applause that traveled through the paddock like a ocean wave.

The winner Red Rocks was the polar opposite in the paddock. He walked around and around before being saddled and was quite fractious after being saddled. Red Rocks was a handful for his groom and had sweat dripping down his flank. He was fractious when mounted and quite frisky. He was a horse on edge. Even with these antics Red Rocks ran a tremendous race and came home in a blistering 11 and 3/5th seconds for the final 1/8th of a mile. This is a horse that clearly excels over American turf courses.

Better Talk Now looked great in the paddock especially for a nine year. They could have a senior horse beauty contest and it would boil down to Evening Attire and Better Talk. BTN is a tall athletic looking horse. However he had some antics in the tunnel and did not join the other horses in the parade. When he left the tunnel Better Talk Now and his pony galloped off toward the clubhouse turn away from the other horses and had a vigorous pre-race warm-up while being flanked by three lead ponies away from the other horses.

When Curlin entered the track NYRA did something never before heard at a racetrack. Curlin stepped on to the track with his own theme music! Blasted over the PA system was a hip-hop beat with the words "The Champ Is Here" over and over. Curlin made an entrance to the track like a Heavyweight boxing champion. I thought it was a bold thing for NYRA to do. Once again he received a rousing round of applause in the parade.

Curlin ran a good race in defeat and I hope that Jess Jackson and Asmussen give him one more shot on the turf before they revert to plan B. To the bold go the spoils and I am confident that Curlin can run better on the turf next time. We have all heard them say that Curlin is always better second time over a surface. This is the most dramatic surface switch he has ever encountered over a distance/surface that his rivals could run over in their sleep. It may take two races for the transition in surfaces to resonate. What if the connections of Curlin did not race in the 2007 Breeders Cup classic because of his below par effort in the Haskell over the same Monmouth dirt where he romped over in the Classic? Jackson and crew have to stay the course for one more race. At the very least this is a thrill for the hardcore fans. These are the same fans that gave Curlin yet another round of applause even in defeat while returning to be unsaddled.


Anonymous said...

I was just wondering what people mean when they say "Curlin is always better second time over a surface." He's only ever run on one other surface:dirt. And his second race on it was probably better for a variety of reasons besides the fact that he was running over it for the second time.

Besides that, doesn't it stand to reason that a lot of horses would "run better the second time over a surface."

Anonymous said...

Nice recap, cap! And I wondered what the hell that hop hop announcement track was saying, it just sounded garbled from where I was sitting.

Anon - substitute track for surface in this case. Even between 2 dirt tracks the surface will play a little differently. Curlin ran in the Haskell last year specifically for him to get a feel for the surface before the BC. Same with his prep Dubai. I would expect them to do the same at Longchamps if he goes to the Arc.

But yes, I would agree that his second races over "surfaces" have been better for a variety of reasons as well, it's never just on thing.

suebroux said...

Great thrill for many horse racing fans ... even watching the race in the simulcast facility at Lone Star, the boisterous crowd applauded Curlin in the post parade, and the cheers were wild on his stretch run.

Individuals refer to this race as a "loss". Coming in second on a new surface against some very seasoned (and turf champions, to boot) horses doesn't sound like a reason to be disappointed. Like you, I hope Jess Jackson maintains his vision and plans.