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Summer Bird, Vindicated

We here at Superfecta HQ are always pleased when we pick a winner that
some have doubted; with that in mind, it was especially nice to see Summer Bird win the Travers (and earn a 110 Beyer in the process). He will most likely head to the Jockey Club Gold Cup or the Goodwood next, but the Super Derby in trainer Tim Ice’s home state of Louisiana is also an outside possibility.

Hold Me Back proved he’s not just a synthetic specialist with a creditable second-place finish, but poor Quality Road didn’t get the best of the race. While he was a bit unlucky, he didn’t look like a horse who wanted to go that distance – his performance suggested he’d be much more comfortable back somewhere between 7 furlongs and a mile. For some reason, however, Todd Pletcher still thinks that Quality Road would like to consider the Jockey Club Gold Cup, but the Goodwood seems a better fit for distance (and a more useful prep for whichever Breeders’ Cup race he aims for – I’d vote for the Sprint or Dirt Mile). Mine That Bird, now reunited with Calvin Borel, is also aiming for the Goodwood on his way to the Breeders’ Cup.

The sprinters showed they are a worthy division as well – even if it was a little rougher. Capt. Candyman Can is clearly at home in this company in his win-by-DQ in the Kings Bishop, and while I doubted Vineyard Haven’s readiness for the race, he certainly performed well – until he started shoving into Capt. Candyman Can, that is. It seemed pretty clear from the head-on replay that Vineyard Haven’s number would be taken down (and jockey Alan Garcia ended up with a seven-day suspension), but his connections must still have been pleased with the ability he showed – even if they missed the check for first place. (But with a purchase price of $12 million, it’s not as though he’s ever going to earn that back at the track). It was pleasing to see Ian Wilkes, formerly the assistant to Carl Nafzger, get his first G1 win, even if it was in slightly peculiar circumstances. The only real disappointment in the race was Munnings – but he’s probably due an off day, having most recently tried outrunning Rachel Alexandra in the Haskell (although that didn’t seem to bother Summer Bird).

Of course, the focus has now shifted squarely onto Rachel Alexandra, with NYRA declaring the events surrounding Saturday’s Woodward ‘The Rachel Alexandra Show.’ For those still keen to complain that the field for the Woodward may not present her much of a challenge (as if the Travers might have), NYRA invested in a bit of historical research (huzzah!) to further highlight how unusual her turn in the Woodward will be. In addition to noting the achievements of Twilight Tear and Busher (both featured at Colin’s Ghost previously), the few other 3-year-old fillies to beat older males in the US included greats such as Miss Woodford and Beldame – more recently, European shippers (some of them among my favorite horses ever) like Miesque, Six Perfections and Goldikova have also risen to the challenge – but it’s become even more of a rarity on dirt in recent years.

Naturally, we’ll have a lot more to say about Rachel Alexandra later this week, so for now we’ll close with trainer Steve Asmussen’s take on the press following her normal workouts receive:

“All the attention and the crowds is just part of her life,” said Asmussen. “She doesn’t know everybody else doesn’t get treated that way. She probably thinks 25 to 30 people follow everybody when they go over to run. Those kind of things might be unsettling for other horses, but it’s kind of the norm for her.”


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