There is a difference in buying into the hype on a horse and spotting what you think is going to be a real good one. While I never believe the hype, sometimes even when it’s true, I do take some degree of satisfaction when I spot a good one early on. I think most of us do. While he hasn’t exactly been a secret for a while now, Tonalist fired a loud warning shot heard all the way across the country at Los Alamitos, or at least Churchill Downs and Pimlico.
I’ve had my eye on Tonalist a while now and it is nice to see him start coming around and possibly compete in the 2014 Belmont Stakes. His easy win in the Peter Pan was a sign of good things to come for this 3-year-old Tapit colt out of a Pleasant Colony mare. After his win, there was plenty of chatter both for and against this talented colt. I don’t get those that knock him. He was full of run from the start after breaking slowly and drew off to win by a pole, re-breaking in the stretch like a good one. He ran fast and although he caught a wet and sealed track he had already run excellent over a dry strip in “the prep race” of the winter at Gulfstream Park when second to Constitution.
It does not hurt that Tonalist is trained by Christophe Clement, who is unquestionably one of the best in the game. If you think he can only train turf horses, try betting against him on the dirt or just looking up his stats in any category you choose. He can train a hungry dog to jump off a meat wagon and as such Tonalist should only get better as long as he stays sound and healthy. If he runs in the 2014 Belmont Stakes, as I anticipate he will, I suggest paying attention regardless of what may or may not be on the line. This horse has Coastal written all over him. For those who don’t know Coastal was a lightly raced Peter Pan and Belmont winner also in expert hands who beat a pretty good horse in Spectacular Bid. I’m not handicapping the 2014 Belmont Stakes on May 12th, but Tonalist is a major player going forward.
The Preakness is upon us and it’s a race with a great history of providing exciting happenings. Some of my favorites are Sunday Silence and Easy Goer dueling down the stretch and Pat Valenzuela and Pat Day giving the world a lesson in race riding, Angel Cordero and Codex introducing Wayne Lukas to the classics and showing the great Derby-winning filly Genuine Risk how it’s done, Afleet Alex almost going down at the top of the stretch after Ramon Dominquez picked a strange time to go to a left-hand whack, and the memory that was never to be. We can only imagine what kind of race we would have seen had Barbaro been able to face Bernardini that fateful day. The Preakness Stakes almost always has the inherent excitement of a potential Triple Crown run. This year is no exception as we wait and see if California Chrome can bring it one more time and get it done Saturday.
In looking at Saturday’s race it seems the Derby champ has the measure of most of these if not all if he can keep his form and avoid a step backward. His last race indicates to me that’s a legitimate concern and it looks very likely the fast pace most anticipated in Kentucky may develop in Maryland. I don’t think that helps California Chrome as much as some of the others. After watching the Derby replay several times I am inclined to think Ride on Curlin runs a much-improved race. The jockey switch and a less troublesome trip will help. In any event, Saturday should be an exciting day and can potentially set up what so many of us wait for, a shot at the Triple Crown, one of the most elusive things in sports.
I have been fortunate enough to witness three Triple Crown winners in Secretariat, Affirmed and Seattle Slew, so I know it can be done. I have also witnessed several good horses try and come up short in that long test of champions, the Belmont Stakes. The changing of the game and commercial breeding along with medications has all likely contributed to this and hopefully that will again change. I’d love to see a few more although I have my doubts about 2014.
The week between the Derby and Preakness was no lull that’s for sure. Belmont is getting back in full swing and they had some great racing on Saturday and Sunday. We saw Tonalist fire his warning shot loud and clear, Palice Malice emphasize his claim on top older horse, and Shug win his third straight Man O’ War with three different horses, no small feat.
I don’t know how many races Peter Walder won this weekend but it was a lot. Between Gulfstream Park, his home base and Calder he is tearing them up all year. He may have won three or four on Sunday alone. High five!
Pimlico, thanks for adding a nice two day pick three with the Pimlico Special, Black Eyed Susan and Preakness but driving bettors away from it with a high takeout. I don’t know why tracks don’t see sometimes less is more.
Horse to Watch
None Like Nolan, walked out of the gate in his three-year-old debut, flew home as if he was more than ready to win, next time!