By Richard Rosenblatt
The good, sad, and ugly sides of horse racing struck again this past week, while top quality races from Del Mar to Saratoga — and even Arlington Park on Saturday – keep rolling along giving handicappers hundreds of opportunities to hit the big one.
The good: The Fasig-Tipton yearling sales at Saratoga this week was a welcome return to normalcy, with the sales-topper, a colt by Into Mischief, going for $2.6 million to H.V. Magnier.
The sad: Owendale, a multiple graded stakes winner who finished third in the 2019 Preakness (G1) for trainer Brad Cox, died of colic at the age of 5.
The ugly: Trainer Jorge Navarro changed his not guilty plea to guilty on Aug. 11 on charges involving the use of performance-enhancing drugs in racehorses and faces up to five years in prison and heavy fines. He and trainer Jason Servis (still pleading not guilty) are the most prominent names in a drug ring involving more than two dozen people.
Maybe one day, the sport will get it together with a national racing office and consistent rules of the game for everyone, everywhere.
For now, we move on to what looks like the final big day of racing at Arlington Park with owners Churchill Downs, Inc. on the verge of selling the track previously owned by Richard “Dick” Duchossois, who had it rebuilt after a fire, and then saw it flourish for decades.
The track that hosted the first $1 million race in the world – the Arlington Million – will be on display as TVG focuses on a Million reduced in prize money and renamed the $600,000 Mister D (G1). The card also features two other Grade 1’s and a Grade 3 – all on the turf at the track in Arlington Heights, Illinois.
In the past, the Million was a “Win and You’re In” race as part of the Breeders’ Cup challenge series, but that is no longer the case. The end of the meet is Sept. 25.
Saratoga moves forward Saturday with a pair of stakes races, the $500,000 Fourstardave (G1) – a “Win and You’re In” race for the BC Mile (G1), and the $200,000 Saratoga Special (G2) for 2-year-olds.
As usual, “Saratoga Live” on Fox Sports’ FS2 (and TVG) with televise the races from the Spa. FS2 runs from 1-7 p.m. (ET).
Weather at Arlington on Saturday calls for temperatures in the low 80s and sunny skies, with a 3% chance of rain; at the Spa, the weather calls for temperatures reaching the high 70s, with morning thunderstorm and a 57% chance of rain.
Brendan Walsh-trained Flown is the 3-1 favorite in this field of eight, with Oyster Box and Shesa Mystery each at 7-2. Shantisara, trained by Chad Brown is 4-1. Flown ran second in a local prep last time out and has a maiden win in seven career starts.
Post time: 5:49 p.m. (race 7)
This race has been owned recently by trainer Chad Brown, who sends out 5-1 choice Lemista looking for his sixth Beverly D in a row and seventh overall. It won’t be easy against 9-5 favorite Mean Mary as well as 2-1 second choice Santa Barbara, winner of the Belmont Oaks Invitational (G1) for trainer Aidan O’Brien. Mean Mary comes in off stakes wins in the Gallorette (G3) and New York (G2). Lemista looks to return to her winning form after running eighth in the Diana (G1) at Saratoga on July 17.
Tango Tango is the 2-1 favorite, with Point Me By the 3-1 second choice in a not-so-Grade 1-like field of nine. Trained by Jack Sisterson, Tango Tango won the 1 1/16-mile American Derby at Arlington on July 17 – his first win in four career starts.
Despite losing its “Win and You’re In’’ status, the race drew strong field of 10 with Domestic Spending the 6-5 favorite over the likes of Armory (9-2), Bizzee Channel (6-1), and Zulu Alpha (8-1).
Trainer Chad Brown’s Domestic Spending enters with a four-race winning streak – the last three Grade 1’s, including the Manhattan by 2 ¾ lengths last time out on June 5.
Watch for a patented rally in the stretch.
Armory is a formidable opponent for trainer Aidan O’Brien, who has regular rider Ryan Moore al opponent making the trip from Europe to ride the multiple stakes winner who last ran fourth in the York Stakes on July 24.
Among some of the top winners of the Million are 2019 Horse of the Year Bricks and Mortar, Gio Ponti, The Tin Man, and two-time winner John Henry in 1981 and 1984
Trainer Rudy Rodriguez may have the best 2-year-old in this field of 12 in 2-1 favorite Doctor Jeff, who gets the services of Joel Rosario. Doctor Jeff was an impressive winner in his first start going 6 furlongs at Belmont on July 10. Gunite is 5-1 for trainer Steve Asmussen, who also sends out 30-1 Red Run.
Raging Bull is the solid 9-5 favorite for trainer Chad Brown in a field of nine that also includes 5-2 second choice Set Piece for trainer Brad Cox. Brown also sends out 6-1 Blowout. The 6-year-old Raging Bull has a record of 16-7-4-3 and earnings of more than $1.5 million for owner Peter Brant. Raging Bull comes into the race off a win in the Maker’s Mark Mile (G1) on April 9 and second in the Poker (G3) on June 20
Over the years while working at The Associated Press, Rich Rosenblatt became a familiar name to legions of the horse racing fans and industry insiders with his award-winning articles on horse racing and his stories from the backstretch.
In addition to being an astute observer of sports, Rosenblatt is the co-author of The All-American Chili Cookbook. His work has been seen in just about every publication in the world, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and Time Magazine.