Sunday, June 21, 2009

Battle of Hastings -- barely -- in Turf Cup

Favorite Battle of Hastings took the Colonial Turf Cup-G2 Saturday, but he had to fight for it.

The Royal Applause gelding rated patiently off the pace and burst ahead to take a clear lead in mid-stretch, but was bravely challenged at the wire by Straight Story, a Giant's Causeway colt making only his fifth start. Straight Story had led early, then was forced all the way out to the eight-path by Al Khali on the turn for home and had to straighten out again before closing gamely on the eventual winner.

Battle of Hastings and Tyler Baze gritted out the victory, but only by a head, taking home the winner's share of $288,000 for owner Mike House and trainer Jeff Mullins. Straight Story collected $96,000 -- nearly double the total amount of money he'd earned in his life entering the race -- for owner Richard Santulli and trainer Alan Goldberg.

Time for the 9 1/2 furlongs was 1:57.79.

Lime Rickey, building a reputation as a bridesmaid with his fourth on-the-board finish in stakes company without yet getting a blacktype win, came home third, a length and a quarter in arrears of the throwdown at the front and just a head in front of Take The Points.

Despite taking the Turf Cup in its first year as a Grade 2 event, I'm not sure Battle of Hastings particularly advances his reputation off the race. He was already a Grade 3 winner sprinting on grass and a listed winner around two turns. And this group didn't strike me as all that strong, as it was an assortment of just-missers (Lime Rickey), colts trying the dirt to turf angle (Take The Points, Al Khali) and horses that had done little or nothing in stakes company prior. I'm surprised Battle of Hastings paid $7.40 to win, as I think his price could've been shorter.

But the race should send notice that Straight Story might have more dramatic chapters ahead in his racing saga. Coming into the race 2-for-4 lifetime with around $57,000 earned, he did much of the work on the front end, and off the rail, not the shortest way around the circuit. Then he got swept out into the center of the course by Al Khali on the turn and still overcame everyone but Battle of Hastings at the wire, and might've caught him with another jump or two.

Health willing, I'd expect them to knock heads again in the $750,000 Virginia Derby-G2 over the same Colonial Downs turf course. Battle of Hastings has positioned himself as the only horse in America this year with the chance to win the Grand Slam of Grass -- Colonial Turf Cup, VA Derby, Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park, Breeders' Cup Turf -- and the $5 million it promises in total prize money and bonuses. And Straight Story showed he liked the course and was coming on strong at nine and a half panels; shouldn't have trouble with 10.

I'm not sure who else will show up for the Derby; Lime Rickey might as well give it another try. But if only the first two from the Turf Cup are repeaters in July -- and if they repeat these performances -- the Virginia Derby will be a race quite worth watching.

1 comment:

  1. That was quite a finish yesterday! I could have sworn watching it on tv that Straight Story got the victory. Probably a bad camera angle.


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