Boynton Beach, Fla.
It seems like 2019 just will not end.
The year that included a first-ever, race-day disqualification from the Kentucky Derby and a rash of euthanized horses at Santa Anita has spilled into 2020 with the scratch of the top two morning-line horses from Saturday’s Pegasus World Cup Invitational.
It was déjá vu for the favorite Omaha Beach, 38 weeks to the day after he was scratched form the Derby because of throat trouble that required surgery. Again barely 48 hours before post time he was scratched from another $3 million race, this time for trouble discovered just above one of his feet Thursday morning.
“Omaha Beach had light swelling in his right hind fetlock,” trainer Richard Mandella told the Gulfstream Park media team. “While we are disappointed to have to miss the Pegasus, Omaha Beach’s safety and well-being come first. We wanted to do what was best for him.”
As Omaha Beach limps into his stud career, the only horse to defeat him in six races since early last year had already been scratched from the Pegasus. Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Spun To Run developed a case of the hives here at the Palm Meadows Training Center, about an hour’s drive north of Gulfstream Park.
“After he came here (from Aqueduct) we noticed he was a little hot,” trainer Juan Carlos Guerrero said. “So we clipped his hair. Two weeks later we noticed some hives on his body. He’s a little hot and sore. It’s unfortunate, but we want the best for him.”
So that leaves 10 horses in the field with Spun To Run inheriting the role of likely favorite as well as a more favorable start in post position 8.
“I feel horrible for the connections,” his trainer Bob Baffert said. “I feel for Richard Mandella.”
The absence of Spun To Run probably did more to impact how the race will be run. He was part of the early-speed picture that still includes Mucho Gusto, the long shot Bodexpress now in gate 10 and to a slightly lesser degree Mr. Freeze, another long shot, in post 7.
If there is still enough pace that may burn out late, Tax, breaking from post 2, could be there to pick up the pieces as he nearly did Nov. 30 when he finished second to the increasingly impressive Performer in the Grade 3 Discovery Stakes at Aqueduct.
“He breaks running,” Tax’s trainer Danny Gargan told VSiN. “We’ll break running out of there (with jockey José Ortiz) and get over to the rail. Kind of like last time I’d like to sit fourth or fifth on the inside and let those speed horses go out there. Hopefully we save ground, turn for home, come running and hopefully get lucky and win it. If we hit the board I’ll be thrilled to death.”
At this point the hope will be that the 10 horses left in the Pegasus field all get to the gate Saturday at 5:34 p.m. EST.
Bricks And Mortar dominates Eclipse Awards
After missing almost all of 2018 to recover from ligament surgery, Bricks And Mortar more than made up for lost time with an undefeated 2019 that was rewarded with the Horse of the Year trophy at Thursday night’s Eclipse Awards.
Undefeated in six starts last year, the horse sired by Giant’s Causeway won five Grade 1s including the Breeders’ Cup Turf, his last race before being retired to stud. Now 6, Bricks And Mortar was also the unanimous choice of media and racing-office voters as the male turf champion.
“We ran him against the best competition we could find. He danced every dance,” Seth Klarman said in speaking for Klaravich Stables and Bill Lawrence, who were also honored with an Eclipse for top owners. In fact, Bricks And Mortar’s connections swept the applicable awards for humans. Chad Brown won his fourth consecutive trophy as top trainer. George Strawbridge Jr. was voted the top breeder. Írad Ortiz Jr. was awarded the riding championship for the third year in a row.
Ortiz also rode to victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic aboard the now-retired Vino Rosso, named the best older dirt male.
Maximum Security, the colt that was disqualified from his apparent victory in the Kentucky Derby, was voted the top 3-year-old male for his seven victories in 2019, including three Grade 1 races. The Derby disqualification of Maximum Security was voted the National Thoroughbred Racing Association’s Moment of the Year. “I wish I hadn’t have won it,” trainer Jason Servis said, referring to the award rather than the race.
On the strength of a 7-for-7 start to 2019 that ended with a runner-up finish in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, Midnight Bisou won the award for best older dirt female.
Now 6, Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Uni went 3-for-4 in 2019 on her way to being voted the female turf champion, making Brown the first trainer in 14 years to be in charge of both turf winners.
Winner in 5 of 6 races last year, Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint winner Covfefe won both the 3-year-old female and the turf sprint championships. “As CNN said, America now knows who is the real stable genius,” said Larry Roth, owner of the horse named for a typographical error in a Tweet by President Trump.
A win over rival finalist Bast in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies earned British Idiom the award for best 2-year-old filly in spite of her racing only three times in her undefeated 2019. British Idiom is trained by Brad Cox, who also looks after Covfefe.
With six wins in seven 2019 races, Mitole earned the male sprint trophy, finishing his year with a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.
Thanks largely to his 45-1 win in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Storm The Court won the Eclipse for the best 2-year-old male.
Kazushi Kimura was voted the best apprentice jockey and Winston C the top steeplechase horse.
Ron Flatter’s weekly racing column will be posted daily through Sunday from the Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park. It usually appears every Friday morning at VSiN.com. You may also hear two episodes this week of the Ron Flatter Racing Pod at VSiN.com/podcasts. A special, pop-up currently posted includes Las Vegas horseplaying experts Vinny Magliulo, Patrick McQuiggan, Dave Tuley, Johnny Avello and Chris Andrews handicapping the Pegasus World Cup and the Pegasus Turf. The regular episode Friday features Gulfstream Park TV’s Jason Blewitt and Acacia Courtney with their preview of the Pegasus card and Tax’s trainer Danny Gargan. The RFRP is also available via Apple, Google, Spotify, Stitcher and is sponsored by Xpressbet.