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Monday, October 6, 2014

A Look Back At The Grand Circuit Meet At The Red Mile

The weather in Lexington for the Red Mile Grand Circuit meet was cool, breezy and occasionally damp, so record setting performances were kept to a minimum. And while most of the major players in all classes were racing on the same track for the first time this season, little came of it in the way of clarity. Several division races as well as the HOY balloting are even more clouded than they were going in.

While Cantab Hall and Muscle Hill wound up in a photo finish at the sale, Donato had the most stakes wins at the Grand Circuit meet. Shake It Cerry won the Filly Futurity as well as a split of the Bluegrass, and her little brother Uncle Lasse also won a Bluegrass division.  Mistery Woman was the surprise winner of the Allerage Mare for Team JC, while Bee The Queen took a split of the Bluegrass. And The Bank put it all together to win a split of the Bluegrass for Jimmy Takter. This was an excellent meet for Donato Hanover.

Muscle Hill had five winners, including the brilliant Mission Brief, who set a 1:50.3 world record in her division of the ISS for Yannick Gingras. Jolene Jolene is another brilliant filly by Muscle Hill. She won her Bluegrass division by seven lengths for David Miller. Muscle Diamond and Southwind Stryker are a couple of other winners by this stallion.

Cantab Hall’s undefeated son Billy Flynn won his Bluegrass split but was picked up by the Explosive Matter colt Pinkman in the ISS. Father Patrick also won the first week, but lost to stablemate Nuncio in the Futurity. Wild Honey got her seventh win in the Bluegrass and Walter White got his second win in the ISS.

Andover Hall also had a solid meet as Nuncio won twice, including the KY Futurity, and Creatine, last year’s Futurity winner, upset Sebastian K in the Allerage Open. Lilu Hanover was another stakes winner by Andover Hall.

Stallion wise, things were a bit more democratic on the pacing side: State Treasurer, a son of Real Desire, won the Allerage open and Yagonnakissmeornot, a mare by The Panderosa, took the open mare pace.

Always A Virgin made a big splash in Lexington, as Always B Miki won a division of the Tattersalls Pace by six lengths in 1:47.4 after taking a split of the Bluegrass last week. And his paternal sister, Nat A Virgin, beat Uffizi Hanover a nose in a division of the Garnsey.

The most accomplished pacing stallion at the meet was Art Major. NA Cup winner JK Endofanera won a split of the Tattersalls Pace; Cartoon Daddy was a Bluegrass winner; and the spectacular freshman filly JK Shesalady, a full sister to JK End, maintained her unbeaten status with a win in the ISS that was a fifth off the world record, despite rain.  

Jug winner Limelight Beach was not staked to the Tattersalls Pace and he wasn’t supplemented, but he did take a Bluegrass split. And the speedy but erratic American Ideal freshman In The Arsenal was an upset winner in the Bluegrass at 25/1 and came back and beat Arspeak and Cartoon Daddy in the ISS.

Jimmy Takter was the leading trainer of stakes winners with 13, after winning five last year. He was followed by Ron Burke with nine, after which there was a marked drop-off to five others with two wins each. Tony Alagna, whose only stakes win was with Artspeak in the Bluegrass, led the trainer list for the $10,000 late closers with six winners. Last year he also won six late closers, along with four stakes races. Tony was followed by Leigh Raymer, who had five, all with Mark MacDonald driving. Two were with the Crazed gelding, Tirade Hanover, and another two with the Bettor’s Delight filly, B Stern. The latter paid exactly $20.60 in both races. Chuck Sylvester, who has trained six winners of the Kentucky Futurity, won four late closers, as did Jimmy Takter.

Oddly enough, Ron Burke, who did so well in the stakes portion of the meet, had no winners in the late closers. And he didn’t win any last year either, although he did take four stakes. Ake Svanstedt won three late closers but drew a blank with the stakes races. In light of his investment in premium stock that had to be a major disappointment.

Erv Miller, who occupies the three slot on the trainer’s money list, won one stakes race and one late closer. Last year it was three late closers and no stakes. And sister-in-law Julie Miller, who is also high on the list, had only one stakes winner. Erv lost his dad on Saturday, so that family had more important issues to deal with.

Casie Coleman, who is number four, raced her two-year-old pacing filly Heavenly Bride to second place finishes in the Bluegrass and ISS for Brian Sears, and that was it. Her pacing colt McWicked wasn’t staked to anything in Lexington and started in a sophomore open at Yonkers instead. She always takes part in the sale, but once again left no footprint on the track.

Rene Allard’s only starter was the Allerage Mare winner Yagonnakissmeornot. Gilbert Garcia-Herrera had no starters. So, most of the top earning trainers played limited roles in the Red Mile experience.

Yannick Gingras, who is closing in on the $13 million mark, had an incredible 16 stakes wins at the meet. And he also won four late closers. Takter and Burke provided him with live drives and he was able to get most of them home. Gingras won almost one of every three stakes races. Obviously this left slimmer pickins for the rest of the drivers. For instance, last year Tim Tetrick won nine stakes and 11 late closers, but the trainers he relies on to provide him with competitive stock aren’t coming through to the same degree as in the past. In 2013 he won three for Toscano, four for Brad Maxwell and six for Tony Alagna. Toscano and Maxwell won two late closers each this year and only one of Tim’s wins was for Alagna. While Tetrick still drives for him, Zeron seems to have taken over as his go to guy. Tetrick doesn’t drive for Takter or Burke very often, and with those two and their cadre of favorite drivers—Gingras in particular—sucking all the oxygen out of the room, the numbers naturally drop for Tetrick and all the rest.

While the abundance of dominating performers led to more chalk than one would like, there were some generous payoffs. Mark MacDonald brought home Carl Jamieson’s Rocknroll Hanover freshman Cheekie at a $166 price and Ed Lohmeyer’s Western Ideal filly Ideal Nuggets paid $250 when David Miller won with her on the second day of the meet.

Joe FitzGerald

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