One of the great things about covering the sport of kings is the fact we still have some real things to write about. Like actual events in the field of competition and not just speculation on play or political stances regarding the topsy-turvy world of today. With that in mind, let’s give a few thoughts on some current happenings in the greatest sport on earth.
MIDNIGHT STRIKES IN THE FLEUR DE LIS
Since late March, Midnight Bisou has been the top ranked older horse in the country according to the National Thoroughbred Racing Association poll. A five-year old daughter of Midnight Lute, she had been a horse that danced every dance as a four-year old (7 wins and a second in 8 starts) and always shows up ready to run. She began her 2020 campaign with a gallant runner-up finish against the boys in the Saudi Cup on February 29. So here she was on June 27 ready to tackle a talented field in the Fleur de Lis at Churchill Downs. Would she live up to her lofty ranking in the polls? In about 1:48.99 after the gates opened we got our answer.
Some of the greatest horses seem to get better with age. That can certainly be said for Midnight Bisou. Owned by one of the real winners in the game, Jeff Bloom has continued to campaign this uber talented runner. Running off a sizzling pace, Midnight bided her time under regular rider Mike Smith and struck at the most opportune time. Turning for home with authority, the champion older dirt female of 2019 proved she is every bit the race horse in 2020. Cruising to an 8 ¼ length victory, Midnight Bisou was much the best…as her ranking says.
TOM’S D’ETAT LAYS IT DOWN
Another runner that has been like fine wine has been Tom’s d’Etat. This now seven-year old son of Smart Strike has blossomed of late. Health issues limited him early on, but now with his feet firmly underneath, he has ascended to one of the most respected runners in the older dirt division.
The Stephen Foster has long been one of the big early summer races for older dirt horses. Run at the iconic Churchill Downs, this mile and an eighth jaunt is on the path to the Breeders’ Cup Classic for many. Coming into the June 27 race, the horse named for the late New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson was riding a three race winning streak. Now highly regarded within the division, this Al Stall Jr. trained runner would have to prove himself against a group of hard knockers. A look at the final race chart tells you all you need to know.
The early pace was moderate so the stalking Tom ran just off of the leading Pirate’s Punch. Understanding when it was go-time, jockey Miguel Mena surged to the lead and easily repelled all challengers in the stretch. Winning by 4 ¼ lengths, the most impressive thing about this was how easily Tom’s d’Etat did it. In dispatching a salty field, the final time (1:47.30) was just .20 off the track record…and he wasn’t pushed!
NO PAROLE IS BREAKING OUT
Sometimes, it’s not where you start, but where you finish. No Parole may have been in the hoosegow in the eyes of some simply because he is a Louisiana-bred. But recently, this Tom Amoss trained runner enjoyed a real jail-breaking win.
Brilliantly fast, this three-year old son of Violence began his career with three blistering wins in his home state against horses born on the Bayou. He jumped off into deeper water in the Rebel Stakes to find out if he could swim longer distances against top competition. Amoss got is answer as Parole finished a distant eighth and the decision was made to keep him sprinting.
After rebounding with a win in a sprint allowance race at Oaklawn Park against open company, it was time to test the big boys again. The grade 1 Woody Stephens on Belmont Stakes day was the scene of the crime and those fleet feet stole the show. Out-breaking the competition, No Parole led every step of the way in the seven-furlong dash around Big Sandy. Finishing a widening 3 ¾ lengths in front, this grandson of Bluegrass Cat let everybody know he’s a grade 1 winner from Cajun country.
“I don’t think the general public really knows how good he is yet,” says Amoss. “He’s a graceful runner with great athletic talent and that’s a fantastic combination.”
Yes Mr. Amoss, it is.
DEAN MARTINI TAKES A DRINK
One of the really cool things about the sport of kings are the names of these fabulous athletes. Striking in many ways, the common man will usually make his selection based on moniker. Not a foolproof way of handicapping, but if you play enough, you come to realize there is no absolutely right way to pick a winner.
The Ohio Derby on June 27 at Thistledown saw 13 runners squaring off for their share of a $500,000 purse. A quick perusal of the entries saw 2019 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Storm The Court running, but another horse drew my attention. Dean Martini was breaking from the one hole and listed at 11 to 1 on the morning line. Holding that old crooner in high admiration, a look at the past performances told me he was the one. Yes, this was his first try in graded stakes company, but he is Tom Amoss trained and has been in the money every time out this year. Plus with that kind of name I was going to follow my own advice… back a horse and get paid.
Breaking alertly, this three-year old son of Cairo Prince ran strong early stalking the pace in this mile and an eighth race. Three quarters of a mile in, Deano threw a couple of olives and some vermouth in the jigger. Taking command at the top of the stretch he shook loose to a three length lead. Continuing to run strong through the wire, Amoss’ pupil held off a furious charge from South Bend and earned a graded stakes win.
Going off a 14 to 1, Dean Martini returned an intoxicating $49.80 on my $2 across the board wager. In the Ohio Derby Dean Martini took a big drink…and then so did I.