The Week in Review, by Bill Finley
As spectacular as Gamine (Into Mischief) was in the GI Longines Test S., the win failed to answer the only question that remains unanswered when it comes to a filly who shows superstar potential. She demolished her opposition, including the talented Venetian Harbor (Munnings) in the seven-furlong race, but will she be able to do the same at nine furlongs in the GI Kentucky Oaks?
Her two biggest wins, the Test and the GI Longines Acorn S., have come at a mile or less and around one turn. In her only start around two turns and racing beyond a mile, she gutted out a win in a mile-and-a-sixteenth allowance race at Oaklawn, albeit over a talented stakes horse in Speech (Mr. Speaker). Therefore the doubts.
But trainer Bob Baffert said Sunday he is not worried about stretching his filly out for the Oaks. In the Test, he saw a horse that not only was spectacular, but won the race the right way. Facing off against another horse with electric early speed in Venetian Harbor, she showed no signs of being headstrong or overeager. With John Velazquez aboard, Gamine set the pace, but did so in comfortable early fractions of 22.70 and 45.14.
“I was worried about Venetian Harbor and whether or not they would go way too fast early,” Baffert said. “Johnny V did a great job. He kept her nice and relaxed. She has always had so much quality and now she is learning to relax.”
Baffert said that he changed bits on Gamine after the Acorn, one that he hoped would help her settle down and be more manageable.
Using a seven-furlong race to prepare for a mile-and-an-eighth event is an unusual move, but Baffert said it was a priority to win major Grade I races with a filly who cost $1.8 million at the 2019 Fasig-Tipton Midatlantic 2-year-old sale.
“I wasn’t ready to stretch her out,” Baffert said. “It’s very important to get those Grade Is like the Acorn and the Test. Now, when we send her long she will be fresher.”
While Gamine won the Acorn by 18 3/4 lengths, the Test may have been her most impressive win to date. Venetian Harbor is a good horse and Gamine ran away from her with ease. Velazquez did not ask her for anything in the stretch, but she managed to pull away and win by seven lengths. Her time was 1:20.83, considerably faster than the 1:21.63 it took for Serengetti Empress (Alternation) to beat older fillies and mares in the GI Ballerina S. Her Beyer number was a 108.
“What she’s doing is crazy, just incredible,” Baffert said.
She will have to again be at her best in the Kentucky Oaks. Not only will she be running at a demanding distance but she will likely face another star filly in Swiss Skydiver (Daredevil). Another race where she runs away from the field would cement her status as one of the very best fillies of her generation.
“Her last two races have been incredible,” Baffert said. “She does it with ease. She doesn’t look like she’s going that fast. Silverbulletday was that type of filly. It’s fun to have one like that.”
Baffert said the Oaks will be next and ruled out starting Gamine against males. After the Acorn, he brought up the possibility of Gamine running in the GI Preakness S.
The Quadruple Crown
Tiz the Law (Constitution) has a chance to join a small and select group of horses that have swept the Triple Crown and also the GI Runhappy Travers S. Of the 13 Triple Crown winners only one, Whirlaway (1941), has won all four races.
The first to try it was Gallant Fox, the 1930 Triple Crown winner. Before what was then the biggest crowd in Saratoga history, his loss to Jim Dandy, a 100-1 shot, is considered one of the biggest upsets in racing history.
The next Triple Crown winner to appear in the Travers was Affirmed, who crossed the wire first but was disqualified for bothering his rival Alydar in 1978. In 2015, American Pharoah didn’t have his best stuff and finished second.
After finishing second in the Whitney H., Secretariat passed on the 1973 Travers, but was paraded before the fans prior to the race.
While anything can happen, Tiz the Law certainly looks headed for a Triple Crown sweep. He will likely be the shortest priced favorite in the Derby since Chief’s Crown went off at 6-5 when third in 1985. And if he wins the Derby, the Preakness might shape up as one of the easiest Triple Crown races ever. With the race coming four weeks before the Breeders’ Cup and if Tiz the Law has continued to dominate, the Preakness looks like a hard sell to all trainers not named Barclay Tagg.
Green Gratto Done
Things could not have gone worse for 10-year-old Green Gratto (Here’s Zealous) in his controversial return to the races Sunday at Monmouth. A Grade I winner who had not started since April 2018, he was last and eased in a $20,000 claimer for New Jersey-breds. He was not pulled up and eventually crossed the wire, 41 1/4 lengths behind the winner.
Afterward, owner Norm Wilson said the horse would go back into retirement.
“He did hurt himself a little bit but nothing serious,” Wilson said. “He did clip a heel. But I doubt that was the whole reason. Everything else checked out good. We’re just assuming he’s telling us he is done. The indication was that he didn’t want to do it.”
Wilson defended his decision to run the horse, who won the GI Carter H. in 2017.
“I have no regrets,” he said. “I’m not about to go around second-guessing myself. I made the decision and I have to live with it. I was expecting better. He was enjoying training but looked like he didn’t enjoy racing. Training and racing are two different things.”
Wilson said Green Gratto will return to his farm in Ocala, Florida and has promised that that will be his permanent home.