Chris McGrath column

This Side Up: No Proxy For The One And Only

Unfortunately, they only have one Two Phil's (Hard Spun). If they had another, presumably making Four Phils in all, then they might yet have the consolation of a proxy in the big races through the second half of the season. As it is, we can only offer our sympathy to the heartbroken team around a horse that brought us such precious cheer during what is proving a challenging year for our sport. Because that's the whole point, really. The big programs would be able to temper their disappointment, on losing...

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This Side Up: Tapping At The Door Of History

So, what's next? The plague of locusts? The only surprise is that the smoke filling the air at Belmont Park has drifted across the continent from Canadian forests, and didn't actually emerge from a widening fissure in the crust, crumbling daily, that appears to divide horsemen and their horses from the inferno. Hopefully a reprieve of the GI Belmont S. might yet be extended to some other elements in what has become too relentlessly apocalyptic a narrative. In terms of what has been definitively established, our sport's macabre run of...

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Vron Couldn't Have Chosen A Better Barn

As a junior he wound up in the same fraternity as a guy named Bob Baffert, who was already riding winners, already conspicuous. Eric Kruljac, for his part, had transferred to University of Arizona from Arizona State, where he had been on a football scholarship only to blow a knee. Then, when Baffert proceeded to stardom at the racetrack, Kruljac literally went undercover. He worked for a buddy as a private investigator until, having learned the ropes, starting an agency of his own. For several years you'd find him tailing...

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This Side Up: Why The Long Face?

As and when he finally quits riding the kids to sleep, at least John Velazquez doesn't have to worry about a next career. Because what he did in Baltimore last week showed him to have everything it takes to lead a cortege. Not just the restrained tempo, but also the way he reliably maintained all dignity and decorum while Irad Ortiz Jr. came lurching out of the procession in his usual unruly fashion. True, Velazquez wouldn't last the first week if he were to lead a funeral at the same...

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This Side Up: How To Make The Crown Fit Again

Nostalgia, they say, isn't quite what it used to be. In times past, it was not so much a wistful state of mind as an outright medical condition. The Union Army in the first two years of the Civil War reported precisely 2,588 cases, no fewer than 13 of which proved fatal. And I must admit to some concern that this may in fact be the version to which I am destined to succumb, nailed into the same coffin as the five-week Triple Crown. The whole premise of nostalgia is...

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Mage Benefits From Feet Of Clay

Mage. It's not a word you come across too often, though its roots are obviously entwined with those of "magus"--as in the three magi, the wise men who followed the star from the east-and indeed "magician." It denotes one of deep learning, sometimes to an occult degree. And if the horse bearing that name (a son of Good Magic, it hardly needs adding) should happen to win the GI Kentucky Derby, then perhaps we should view the man responsible for bringing him into the world as aptly honored. Because just...

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This Side Up: Missing The Point

They used to say that all roads lead to Rome. Now they all seem to lead to Louisville, whether you're starting from the desert or up the road in Florence, Kentucky. Some of us, even so, still miss the forgotten turnpike long favored by horsemen of the old school. In fact, there are times when I fear that we might actually have found ourselves on the road that is notoriously paved with good intentions. Saturday opens the third cycle of rehearsals offering starting points for the GI Kentucky Derby. The...

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Sadler Staying On Flight Path

As noted by colleague Bill Finley earlier in the week, we've just passed the 50th anniversary of Secretariat's sophomore debut. Yet even two years ago hardly anyone had heard of an unraced son of Tapit, meanwhile acclaimed by many as the best American Thoroughbred since. Okay, so he had been a seven-figure yearling; and everyone who had participated in his education knew that he was something special. In fact, John Sadler was so aware of the impending responsibility that he was saying nothing. For one thing, if people had any...

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Value Sires For 2023 – Part II: First Foals Due

The group we consider today for now retains a convenient gloss, still in the happy position of offering "all talk, no action." But they will actually have got as far as delivering their first flesh-and-bone foals into the straw by the time they start receiving their second book of mares. And many of the people who exploited their novelty value last year will automatically have moved on to the next intake of rookies, rather than expose themselves to the peril that the market won't like a debut crop. Foals conceived...

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The Bare Bones: a Primer with Dr. Bramlage

He hasn't got all day; nor, doubtless, do you. So let's cut to the chase. We won't dwell on the journey that has made Dr. Larry Bramlage a doyen of orthopedic science, in its daily application to the racehorse: not the alphabet soup of honors and distinctions, nor the long experience that has honed the sharpest diagnostic eye in the business through 23 years with Rood and Riddle. We have simply dropped into the clinic, on a recent visit to Lexington, to direct a brief sunbeam of his knowledge and...

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This Side Up: Baaeed News is Good News

I guess the whole point is that ours is a world apart, a sanctuary from the cares of the "real" one. But it still feels unnerving, to see a new cycle of the sales calendar open with such blithe indifference to a wider consensus that the global economy is scrabbling along the top of a precipice. Both Saratoga and Deauville benefit from a heady atmosphere that might easily induce a perilous incaution when a yearling stands there shimmering on a sale rostrum. But it was ever thus, and the market...

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This Side Up: Past Specters, Present Ghosts

How poignant that, in this of all weeks, the two most breathtaking winners on Belmont day should both have prompted comparisons with Ghostzapper, whose GI Breeders' Cup Classic at Lone Star Park in 2004 was surely the greatest Thoroughbred performance ever on Texan soil. Because while the whole racing world came to Dallas that day, it appears that there will be no reciprocal embrace when it comes to the standards sought—not just federally, but internationally—to give American horseracing credibility in the contest for public engagement in the 21st Century. It's...

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