This Side Up

This Side Up: Haskell Throwbacks to the Future

So the big question is whether the out-of-town jocks, in the heat of a $1-million battle for the GI TVG.com Haskell S., can master the instinct to reach for the whip? If any lifelong flagellants are anxious of their self-discipline, then they need only play back the 1988 running and remind themselves how Laffit Pincay, Jr. coaxed Forty Niner home, in withering heat, by a nose from Seeking the Gold. The whip is unsheathed, for sure, but so seamlessly with the horse's own efforts that the overall effect is like...

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This Side Up: Fostering a Sense of Legacy

Ours is the most nostalgic of sports, sustained by trusted cycles. And if the calendar pauses somewhat, between the end of the Triple Crown and the renewal of beloved summer rituals at Saratoga and Del Mar, that won't preclude an evocative resonance in some of the things we can enjoy Saturday. True, the idea that Letruska (Super Saver) is any kind of throwback, just because she is managing a second start in three weeks, is a measure of how effete the modern Thoroughbred has become. I've drawn attention previously to...

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This Side Up: When the Going Gets Tough…

And so the dust settles on a Triple Crown in which not a single horse showed up for all three legs, with the one awaiting promotion as "winner" of the GI Kentucky Derby instead resurfacing this weekend in a non-graded stakes at Monmouth. When they withdrew him from the Classic fray, the Mandaloun (Into Mischief) team obviously had no idea that he might abruptly find himself elevated onto the Derby roll of honor, albeit burdened with an asterisk. But they certainly captured the spirit of the age, one we deplored...

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This Side Up: Mourning Two Exceptions, Lamenting the Rule

The shocking loss this week of the young gun Laoban, preceded just days earlier by that of the venerable Malibu Moon, could not fail to renew the kind of questions we should all keep asking themselves about how a stallion can make an enduring reputation. Both had started out in a regional program, having shown only marginal eligibility for a stud career on the racetrack, before quickly earning migration to Kentucky. If that was just about all they had in common, then their different roles on two of the biggest...

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This Side Up: Like It or Not, All in this Together

This time, it's not just the Susans that have a black eye. You'll forgive me a little hesitation before addressing the 146th running of a race that can seldom have been staged in so febrile a context. Two weeks ago, I was incautious enough in this column to hope for just a nice, boring Derby, after the rancour of 2019 and the dismal postponement of 2020. Then, last week, I asked why even his own industry had been so ungenerous to a trainer who had now won four of his...

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This Side Up: If the Hardboot Fits…

Don't know about you, but I'm not really looking for a Hall of Fame horse out there. I would gladly settle for the one of those blurred snapshots of the adolescent sophomore crop, with plenty left to play for in the Preakness. Just so long as we can guarantee an evening of uncomplicated euphoria for connections of the fated horse among 20 who have already confounded the odds even to enter the gate for the GI Kentucky Derby (presented by Woodford Reserve). Because they will be able to tell you,...

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This Side Up: A Super Lesson for Racing

Sure, it's a very different game from our own. On the face of it, horse racing and soccer appear to have little more in common than the same generic umbrella as sports. But then it turns out that "soccer" is itself a very different game--or a very different industry, at least--from what the British know as "football." And if you happen to have followed an extraordinary week for its European elite, then it would be remiss not to ask whether there might actually be one or two highly pertinent lessons...

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This Side Up: A Wise Example for Every Horseman

Nobody was paying a great deal of attention to him back then, either. But before ceding the weekend headlines to those storied Oaklawn handicaps, the GI Apple Blossom and GII Oaklawn, perhaps we can all take a step back and pay an overdue tribute to a novice who came to Hot Springs in the winter of 1977. Charlie LoPresti had just turned 20 and, learning the ropes under trainer Joe Cantey, was able to count Cox's Ridge and Miss Raja among the first Thoroughbreds to stimulate the skill and devotion...

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This Side Up: Still Amending the Derby Agenda

We should have known better. The moment we deceived ourselves that we had a crossroads of perfect symmetry, with four standout colts converging inexorably on the first Saturday in May, one promptly limped off the trail and then last weekend another was beaten at odds-on. Nobody, then, will be making any assumptions when the other two complete their GI Kentucky Derby preparations, Concert Tour (Street Sense) in the GI Arkansas Derby next week and Essential Quality (Tapit) as the geographical and narrative pivot of three rehearsals staged coast to coast...

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This Side Up: Seconds Out for the Next Round

No getting away from it: even 107 previous runnings, a million bucks and 170 starting points can't dress up the recent misfortunes of the GII Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby as a springboard to the first Saturday in May. Maybe that's because it falls between stools, in terms of scheduling, the previous cycle of rehearsals having left trainers scope for one more start before the GI Kentucky Derby. Not many around, nowadays, who'd even be thinking about running again with just six weeks to go. Credit to the Fair Grounds team, then,...

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This Side Up: River Levels Rising

They used to say that when you think you have two Epsom colts in your stable, you don't have any. The axiom has long since been decommissioned, however, by the skills of Aidan O'Brien and his patrons, albeit with the inane complicity of a commercial market that is disastrously diluting competition. And it looks as though it no longer transfers to the GI Kentucky Derby, either. Having (eventually) landed running with champion Essential Quality (Tapit), and with Caddo River (Hard Spun) and Mandaloun (Into Mischief) testing their own credentials over...

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This Side Up: It's Elementary as Fire Tests Water on Dirt

On the day that the leading grass juvenile of 2020 rolls the dice on the GI Kentucky Derby trail, here's a really important question for every American horseman. Just what was it about European turf star Mishriff (Ire) that qualified him to run down as irresistible a dirt runner as Charlatan (Speightstown) for the richest prize in our sport last weekend? The answer is so straightforward that it condenses into a single word, yet the implications continue to elude almost everyone in our industry. And that word is: opportunity. There...

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