By Bill Finley
Whatever doubts there may have been as to who the best 3-year-old filly in the country is, they were put to rest in Sunday's GI Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga. Not only did Monomoy Girl (Tapizar) win decisively, she beat the only horse within her division that seemed a legitimate threat to her superiority.
Coming off an impressive six-length romp in the GI Mother Goose S., Midnight Bisou (Midnight Lute) is clearly a superior talent in her own right. But she was no match for Monomoy Girl, as the latter won by three lengths and was never seriously threatened at any time as she flew down the Saratoga stretch.
As long as Monomoy Girl remains in the form she is in, there's little chance she will lose if she stays within her own 3-year-old filly division. Obvious spots include the GI Alabama S. and GI Cotillion S. at Parx. There's a lot of money–easy money–just waiting to be added onto her card.
As for the 3-year-old championship, she clinched it Sunday. Monomoy Girl, a bargain-basement $100,000 purchase by her savvy team at Keeneland September, has won four straight at the highest level, in the GI Ashland S., the GI Kentucky Oaks, the GI Acorn S. and the CCA Oaks. There's nothing anyone can do to surpass her.
So why not find a true challenge for her?
We're in an era where not many owners like to take chances and they'll pick the obvious, easy spot just about every time. If you look at this as a business decision, sending Monomoy Girl to either the $600,000 Alabama or the $1-million Cotillion is a no-brainer. But what does that prove?
Why not test her, find out how great she truly is? Why not do something that would surely secure her a spot in the Hall of Fame someday? Why not try to emulate the true greats among fillies of recent times, like Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, Serena's Song, Winning Colors?
That can be done, and it wouldn't be that hard to pull off. Run her in the GI Travers S.
The 3-year-old male division has fallen apart. Justify (Scat Daddy) was so dominant that he pushed every rival deep into the background, and now he's had a setback and won't be running in the Travers. Good Magic (Curlin) appears to be the best 3-year-old in training and he's going next in the GI Haskell Invitational. Trainer Chad Brown hasn't revealed his Travers plans, but is on record saying he believes the horse may have some distance limitations. That probably means Haskell-GI Pennsylvania Derby for him without a stop in between in the ten-furlong Travers.
What's left is a group where there is no horse Monomoy Girl's connections need to fear. In fact, unless someone does something dazzling in either the GII Jim Dandy S. or the Haskell, she would likely be the favorite in the Travers.
Win the Alabama and she is what she currently is–a terrific, championship-caliber horse. Win the Travers and she's an immortal.
There is a flip side to the argument that needs to be acknowledged. In most any other year, if Monomoy Girl were to win the Travers, she would be Horse of the Year. In the year of Justify, Horse of the Year has already been decided.
The connections of Midnight Bisou should also keep the Travers in the back of their minds. There's no need to keep chasing Monomoy Girl. They're already 0-for-2 against her and they're not going to beat her. Wherever she goes, they should go someplace else. If Monomoy Girl goes in the Alabama, they'd probably have an easier time winning the Travers than beating her in try No. 3.
Catalina Cruiser is the Toast of Del Mar
Trainer John Sadler and Hronis Racing clearly have a star on the rise in Catalina Cruiser (Union Rags), who obliterated the competition in the GII San Diego H. Saturday at Del Mar. Though he faced only four rivals and his stablemate Accelerate (Lookin at Lucky) was scratched, he couldn't have looked more impressive while thrashing the competition in a 6 3/4-length victory. A 4-year-old, this was just his third lifetime start and his first since a May 19 allowance win at Santa Anita.
“Yes and no,” Sadler replied when asked if he expected such a dominant performance. “You don't like to go there mentally. It's not a healthy place. But we felt good about it. If you looked at the horse's numbers, he had by far the fastest numbers in the field even though he didn't have many races.”
When asked why the horse had had so few races, Sadler explained:
“He's about 1,250 pounds, 100 pounds heavier than Justify. He was kind of a late foal and we didn't get him to the races at two. There were a couple of little things that babies and young horses have, but nothing horrible. We just had to give him time. He got a little flake in his right knee that we had to take out. That pushed back his first start, which he won impressively in a fast time.”
With Accelerate considered the top older male in training, Sadler now has one of those nice problems to have, in how to keep Accelerate and Catalina Cruiser apart.
He said they will not face off against each other in the GI Pacific Classic and whichever one passes that race will likely wind up going in the GI Whitney S. at Saratoga.
An Innovative Maiden Race at Del Mar
At a time when the larger stables are dominating the sport more than ever, many racetracks are trying to find ways to help small to medium-sized stables win races. Del Mar unveiled a new concept Saturday, which has promise. It carded a $150,000 maiden claiming race for 2-year-olds that had a purse of $43,000. Maiden special weight races go for $60,000.
With any horse available for $150,000, the 2-year-old stars from the star-laden barns won't compete. The horses who will compete are decent horses, many of them from smaller stables, who will have a chance to pick up a nice check for their owners.
It didn't quite work out that way as Doug O'Neill won the race with Mason Dixon (Union Rags), one of two horses he started in the race. The other was The Creep (Twirling Candy). Perhaps they were trying to tell you something when they named him what they did. The Creep finished eighth.
But the favorite was a horse named No Treble (Maclean's Music), who came from the barn of Luis Mendez. He finished third among a field of nine. No one was claimed out of the race.
These races have promise. Maybe try a maiden with a $300,000 claiming tag or $150,000 claimers for older horses and winners.
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