By Laura Pugh
Show of hands, who remembers the horse Off the Tracks? Not many? Alright then, let me refresh your memories.
Last year, the two-year-old daughter of Curlin started off her career in June by running away with a five-furlong maiden event at Gulfstream Park. There wasn’t much fanfare at that point, as most of the attention doesn’t turn to juveniles until Saratoga rolls around. Speaking of Saratoga, that is exactly where Off the Tracks traveled for her second career start, the Schuylerville Stakes.
Off the Tracks went off as the fifth choice in the race behind Positively Royal. The betting public didn’t know this filly coming from Gulfstream Park and didn’t trust her form completely, but that made little difference. When the gates opened, she took back off the pace, just off the second choice Moment is Right, before seizing the lead as they moved into the stretch. When they hit the wire, there was no doubt about it: Off the Tracks was a 3 ¼-length victor whose name would not soon be forgotten.
Unfortunately, the newly transferred Pletcher trainee never got the chance to build off that performance. She was soon sidelined, left to watch Rachel’s Valentina and Songbird dominate the division. This, however, is 2016, a new year, and Off the Tracks appears ready to make up for lost time.
For her 2016 debut, we watched Off the Tracks return to the site where it all began, Gulfstream Park. The race was a 6 ½-furlong listed stakes, where she would meet Tap to It, the runner-up in Saratoga’s Spinaway Stakes. Despite the level of talent that she looked to be facing, Off the Tracks made her return a winning one. The final time was 1:17.29 for the distance, with the winning margin measured at 4 ½ lengths.
Since her most recent victory, a majority interest in Off the Tracks has been sold to Newtown Anner Stud. Since the sale she has been transferred to the barn of Todd Pletcher, who has confirmed her next possible target as the Gulfstream Park Oaks. There she will meet an opponent like no other — Cathryn Sophia. A filly not unlike herself, Cathryn Sophia is not only unbeaten, but unchallenged.
Pletcher seems to be all about sending his best horses to face the top horses in the division this year, but is this really a smart move? Yes, Off the Tracks is unbeaten and unchallenged, but if she runs in the Gulfstream Park Oaks she will be jumping up two furlongs in distance from her latest start. She will also be facing off against the East Coast’s top Kentucky Oaks prospect. Doesn’t that seem like an awful lot to ask of a filly who just returned from a seven-month layoff?
Wanting to push for the Kentucky Oaks with a filly as talented as this is understandable, but she is short on points and foundation. Trying to take on the best in your division so quickly, while rushing to prepare for a top effort to ensure you get enough points could set her back yet again. If the Oaks is so important then why not aim for the Gazelle Stakes at Aqueduct or the Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn Park? Both are run on April 9, giving Off the Tracks another week to get ready, while also letting her face softer competition.
I simply don’t understand the rush by the new connections. This filly’s potential is limitless right now, so why rush and possibly risk ruining a good thing? There is a ton of upside to this filly, even if she weren’t to make the Oaks.
If Pletcher and company elect to wait and let her develop, she could be fresh and poised to have a huge summer and fall. Why rush to take on the two unbeaten heavyweights of the division, Songbird and Cathryn Sophia, when you can let your filly develop through the spring and face them later in the season?
I say throw aspirations of a big spring to the wind. With so much time left in the season, there is no reason to rush this filly. Remember, good things come to those who wait. Give Off the Tracks time and prepare her the right way, and I have no doubt she’ll deliver in a huge way.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Laura Pugh has been in love with horses since age five, when she took her first ride as a birthday gift. When she was nine years old she began to take riding lessons as a hunter/jumper. Her first introduction to racing was watching War Emblem’s Triple Crown attempt and, from there, she was hooked. Her knowledge of the sport was self-learned as she took to reading ever book on the topic that she could lay hands on.
In 2009 she began her own blog named Horsin’ Around, where she earned a reputation for her passionate and fiery articles. It was that recognition that soon landed her a position as author of Dead Heat Debates, one of Horse Racing Nation’s many blogs. Since then she has written for other publications such as TwinSpires.com and Lady and the Track, always demonstrating the same fiery passion that her followers have come to expect.