Horse Racing “Backtrack”: Ron The Greek Wins Big ‘Cap; Hansen Bounces Back

Ron The Greek ran down several tiring frontrunners to capture the 2012 Santa Anita Handicap at Santa Anita Racetrack in California and Hansen sat just off the early lead before taking command down the stretch to win the 2012 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queen , New York this past Saturday in our  Horse Racing co- highlighted races of the weekend.

Other than Hansen only one other horse we (or I) expected to win, actually won this weekend. That being It’s Tricky, as she won the Top Flight Handicap in her four year old debut. She was sent off as the 3-10 favorite over the muddy Aqueduct track and, albeit tiring at the end, she won by almost three conclusive lengths.

Also at Aqueduct in the race right before the Gotham, Calibrachoa, who is 5 for 5 in his career over the Aqueduct Inner (winter) Track, held off the late running, and one of last year’s top three year olds, Caleb’s Posse to win the $200,000 Tom Fool Handicap by a neck

Calibrachoa took the lead as they turned for home but Caleb’s Posse was running at him late in a thrilling finish to the six furlong event.

“That was very exciting,” Calibrachoa’s trainer Todd Pletcher said. “I was getting very nervous when Caleb’s Posse was making his move, because we’ve seen that before. (Caleb’s Posse ran down another Pletcher horse UncleMo at Saratoga last year) So, we were happy to see the wire when we did. He’s been a great horse for us. He’s awfully consistent, loves the inner track and is a real cool horse to be around. He’s got a lot of character, and a lot of heart. If he’s doing well, we’ll look next at the Carter (April 7).”

Caleb’s Posse’s trainer Donnie Von Hemel said: “He ran a good race. He just ran out of ground. It was a big effort, and I’m very happy with him. The Carter is still the plan.”

That should prove an interesting rematch.

Elsewhere Willyconker, a former claiming horse, outran heavy betting favorite Mr. Commons by a neck to win the $300,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile on the Santa Anita turf course in the race right before the Santa Anita Handicap.

Willyconker took over in deep stretch and then held sway in the final strides as Mr. Commons was coming to him. Mr. Commons, who is expected to be a top turf horse this year, suffered some traffic issues down the stretch. Once he finally got free he just could not get there in time.

“I had an eighth of a mile to get by him, and I didn’t do it,” said Mr. Commons rider Mike Smith said. “That’s pretty much what it is. (Mr. Commons) was a bit dull on his punch. He’s got a quicker turn of foot than that. He accelerated really well for about three jumps, and then he kind of hung at that point, kind of idled”.


The Gotham:

At the start, King and Crusader took the lead with Maan, My Adonis and Dan and Sheila also close to the early pace. My Adonis and Dan and Sheila were much closer than I originally thought they were going to be.

King and Crusader set fractions of :23.3, :47.2, and 1:11.3 and all the while 2011 Two year Old Champion Hansen was surprisingly right off that pace.

On the far turn jockey Ramon Dominguez shook up Hansen and just like that, the grey horse with a beautiful stride, took over and opened up three lengths at the eighth pole. from there he absolutely cruised home.

My Adonis finished second, with 25-1 shot Finnegans Wake in third and 31–1 shot Tiger Walk for third.

“He really took the step forward as far as maturing,” Dominguez said. “He actually did it better than I expected; he was so relaxed. Coming to the three-eighths pole when he switched to his left lead and I got after him, he went on beautifully. He really did it as nice as I could expect. I was hoping that he could take the step forward, mind-wise, but he really took it further than I expected… Awesome… Galloped out like a freight train too.”

Sent off as the 4-5 favorite, Hansen paid $3.60 to win and completed the one and one sixteenth miles in 1:43.4

Pretension finished fifth, and then came Stealcase, Raconteur, King and Crusader, Side Road, Done Talking, Dan and Sheila, Suns Out Guns Out, and Maan.


2012 Santa Anita Handicap


At the start,speedster and betting favorite Ultimate Eagle went right to the front and, challenged by longshot Gladding, ripped thru fractions of :22.1, :44.2, and 1:09 flat. At that point, (the quarter pole) he finally shook loose from Gladding but the enormous toll those early fraction took on him were about to show.

Ultimate Eagle opened up on the field after a mile in a sizzling 1:34, but all the while eventual winner Ron The Greek was gathering momentum.

Setsuko was the first to catch Ultimate Eagle but Ron the Greek, on the outside, took the lead at mid-stretch and drew clear late while being hand ridden by jockey J.J. Lezcano.

Together, they cruised under the wire 3 1/2 length winners.

“I didn’t want to be on the inside so I had to use him the whole way to make him keep going,” Lezcano said. “At the half-mile pole I had a lot of horse, but I had to keep asking my horse. My horse is like a bicycle, you keep asking and he will keep running.”

“We did not expect  :44  a half mile on the lead,”  said Bill Mott’s assistant trainer Rodolphe Brisset. “That’s sprinting. (Lezcano) did very good to make a move on the backside and give him a little break on the turn and he just came running again, so it was a very good race.”

Ultimate Eagle’s trainer Michael Pender, who was clearly disappointed with the way the race unfolded, said “It’s literally impossible to handle those sort of fractions, unless you’re Secretariat.”

Setsuko was second followed by Uh Oh Bango. Holladay Road Then it was Norvsky, Boxeur des Rues, Twice the Appeal, Thirtyfirststreet, Fiddlers Afleet, Ultimate Eagle, Gladding, Prayer for Relief, and Victory Pete

The winner paid $9.20 and ran the one and one quarter miles in a quick 2:00.2

Ron The Greek winning the 2012 Santa Anita Handicap


Little Bets N’ Pieces:

*** 2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace signaled her readiness for her five year old debut with an eye catching 1:11.4 six furlong work at the Fair Grounds Monday morning.

She worked in company with multiple stakes winner Joyful Victory. “They both had terrific, yet easy works,” Fox Hill owner Rick Porter said, who owns both horsesHavre de Grace is still pointing towards the New Orleans Ladies March 17.


*** Top Kentucky Derby hopeful Out of Bounds, winner of the Sham Stakes, suffered a condylar fracture of the left front cannon bone in a workout at Hollywood Park Monday morning said trainer Eoin Harty.

“He is resting comfortably and is fine,” Harty said. “He will have surgery within the next few days. I’ll expect him to be out for at least 90 days. His prognosis is excellent”.

“I did not notice anything wrong with him until after 20 minutes into his cool out. He had an exceptional work this morning (six furlongs in 1:12.3)…a very good work. We all had high hopes for this horse. We are all very disappointed…not only for me and my staff but for the Maktoum family as well, he is a homebred.”

Out of Bounds......Out of Kentucky Derby

*** One of last years early Kentucky Derby hopefuls, Soldat, made his first start since the Kentucky Derby a winning one. The son of War Front won by three lengths in an allowance race on the turf at Gulfstream Park this past Sunday. 

“It’s nice to have him back,” said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, and that Soldat will “be pointed for a campaign in major turf stakes this year,”

The good looking Soldat had a nice return to the races

*** Pants On Fire, who was making his first start since July, drew away in the stretch for a 4 1/2-length win in a one-mile allowance race at Gulfstream park on Saturday.

The race also featured the come back of 2011 Kentucky Derby favorite Dialed In but the good looking late runner could only manage to be fourth after rallying from last under jockey Javier Castellano.

Trainer Kelly Breen said of Pants On Fire: “I thought it was very good. I watched it on television and it looked awesome. I thought he was about as ready as I could get him. I thought he was training so well I didn’t think he’d need a race. It’s always pleasant when they run like you think they should.”

Trainer Nick Zito said of Dialed In: “Javier just said he was a little too rank. They went so slow. That’s the closest he’s been in a long while (to early lead). He likes to come from way out of it and kick in, but they were going so slow” 


Dialed In did NOT have a nice return to the races

*** Next week I/we will be taking a closer look at the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita. Among the probable entrants for the race are Robert Lewis runner-up Empire Way, CashCall Futurity winner Liaison, who will be looking to bounce back from a poor performance in his last race, Midnight Transfer, the game and speedy American Act, the highly touted Fed Biz and possibly Norfolk Stakes winner Creative Cause.

Trainer Mike Harrington said that stablemates Empire Way is definite for the San Felipe while Creative Cause is “50-50”


*** On the work tab:

Secret Circle, who won division of the Southwest Stakes in his last, drilled five furlongs in 1:00 2/5 for trainer Bob Baffert in company with highly regarded Bodemeister (who was clocked with the same time).

Bodemeister, an impressive maiden winner, is a possibility for the San Felipe. Baffert wouldn’t say whether he would run Fed Biz, Liaison, or Bodemeister, saying only he would “run two in the San Felipe.”

Robert B. Lewis winner I’ll Have Another, who is waiting for the Santa Anita Derby, worked six furlongs after the seventh race at Santa Anita in an eye popping 1:10 flat.

Interesting footnote about I’ll Have Another’s work was that he  was escorted to the track by none other than two-time Santa Anita Handicap winner Lava Man, who is now 11 and working as a stable pony.


Fan favorite Lava Man made his return to the races....kind of