Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Bittersweet Breeders' Cup; emphasis on 'bitter'

It's taken me a couple of days to comment on the Breeders' Cup -- that is, on the two sales-tips of mine who made that championship weekend of racing -- because from the relative high of Friday, my heart was broken on Saturday with the death of a horse I'd quickly grown to admire.

In the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies-G1 on Friday, sales-tip Delightful Mary held off a late challenge or two and salvaged third, but couldn't get to the shoo-in champion 2-year-old filly, unbeaten Awesome Feather, and runner-up R Heat Lightning.

On Saturday, I was hopeful that long-shot Rough Sailing might likewise figure in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf. But as he entered the first turn a little bit wide, the Mizzen Mast colt's feet just shot out from under him (on a grass course that had been described as slick by some) and he went crashing to the ground with jockey Rosie Napravnik.

Thankfully, Rosie escaped without any serious injuries. Rough Sailing wasn't so lucky. He got to his feet and ran down the backstretch before being caught, but after being vanned away from the course, the colt was found to have suffered a broken shoulder and was euthanized.

I was heartbroken, and I know that my disappointment is a shadow of what his connections, Jack H. Smith III thoroughbreds and trainer Mike Stidham, must have felt.

Working for the first time as a paid bloodstock advisor, I shortlisted Rough Sailing as a "Priority 1" horse for a client when he sold for $40,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Sale of 2-year-olds in Training this May. Catalogued as Hip 250, I liked the colt on paper -- his dam is a half-sister to WILD ZONE, STRIKE ZONE and Snow Eagle -- and was impressed by his 23.2/35.2 breeze over a slow dirt track that proved not to be his preferred surface. Though he was just a $12,000 yearling, I didn't figure we could afford him based on my inspection, and we couldn't, though his price was still almost 20 percent below the sale average.

I liked that the colt was described to me as "very aggressive," I took note that his front end was very impressive (though his hind a little less so), and it was impossible to miss his large hoof. I underlined the words "big feet" on his catalog page, realizing that a large hoof is considered by some to be one sign of a turf horse. Since the colt hailed from the Cozzene/Caro sireline, which most frequently produces grass horses, and was out of a Woodman mare, his turf aptitude was no surprise to me, and Rough Sailing came through with a first-out maiden-breaking win around two turns on turf at Arlington that left me quite hopeful.

His next race was the Arlington-Washington Futurity-G3 at the same racetrack, but on the Polytrack main course. I can't fault the connections for trying the race; it is a graded-stakes at the track where their colt was already in training, he was obviously sharp, and sometimes turf form translates well to synthetic. And Rough Sailing made a good bid, finishing second to Major Gain.

But after jockey Michael Baze said the colt had a better finishing kick on the grass, it surprised me that the connections elected to run him on Polytrack again in Keeneland's Dixiana Breeders' Futurity-G1. In a troubled trip, Rough Sailing came home a steady, but unsuccessful sixth.

I was excited to see him headed back to the grass. And I'm nothing short of crushed that he's gone after just four races, with one win, one Grade 3 placing, and $37,534 in earnings.

Delightful Mary, conversely, seems to still have a bright future ahead. The $500,000 sales-topper from Ocala's April sale, the Limehouse filly out of the French Deputy mare Deputy's Delight won her first two starts on synthetic at Woodbine -- one sprinting, one routing -- then was second to Wyomia in the Mazarine S.-G3. With her show finish in the Juvenile Fillies, she has earned back $310,377 of that purcahse price.

I wish good luck to her owner, John C. Oxley, and trainer, Mark Casse, as she moves forward from here.

Track the entire sales-tip class -- 187 horses -- at this former post.

1 comment:

  1. Indeed it was a bitter beginning to Sat's BC competition. Watching from the grandstands, we all hoped against hope that he was ok after scrambling to his feet and running onward, minus Rosie. Not to be, however.

    RIP, Rough Sailing.

    Thank you for remembering him.


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