By Warren Eves
Sometimes it’s simply impossible to evaluate a good looking equine performance.
Here’s what I was asking after watching Medal of Courage win a starter allowance Jan., 20 at Oaklawn Park. Did this newly claimed gelding have anyone behind him? Should I downgrade the race due to a not-so-hot 13.18 final fraction? Or…..did the “sealed” muddy surface aid such a run?
To be honest? I honestly don’t know the answer. That’s the way it goes sometimes while trying to make objective observations.
Here’s how it went for Medal of Courage, coming off a third at Remington Park in his last race. He got away straight to be 2nd early on. He fell out of it readily to be last. Midway on the turn Medal of Courage was still last. That’s the point where he began mounting a big run. He rallied wide off the top.
Once to the middle of the muddy oval Medal of Courage came on strongly to win by a handy margin. It was the eighth lifetime win for the gelding.
Bottom line? I’m simply not sure of too many factors.
In case you haven’t noticed. There’s a red-hot trainer in Hot Springs these days. He moves horses up with regularity. Robertino Diodoro, quietly, has been making lots of noise. Last year he won 242 races from 933 starts. It used to be trainers like Bobby Frankel and Scott Lake of the thoros and Larry Kleve in the quarters who were the buzz words when it came to improving stock. Diodoro, with little fanfare since he’s best known in Arizona at Turf Paradise, makes mink out of possum!
A prime example would be when Mishegas won from the clouds on Jan., 21 at Oaklawn. Slow early, as usual, he launched this big run wide off he top. Once in the lead Mishegas went strongly to the finish. Diodoro claimed Mishegas off Art Sherman when finishing second in his last at Los Alamitos Race Course. Not everybody can move a horse up off the training prowess of Sherman.
Who knows what the future holds for the four-year-old gelding who has won four of 17 lifetime starts?
Notes scribbled across my official program–Lamu sure looked worth every cent of his $15K claiming price when he won the finale on day four of the current Oaklawn meet. Trained by red-hot Robertino Diodoro Lamu broke like a shot and was fifth entering the first turn over a track left soupy. Sixth to begin the run down the backside his rider was forced to wait entering the second turn. Once through on the fence he took on the favorite and then proved best in the final stages. Diodoro claimed Lamu from Dean Greenman at Del Mar for $16,000. He removed the blinkers for this winning run. Diodoro served a 15-day suspension last year for using antipsychotic human fluphenazine. It’s a substance I had not ever heard of before and it was Diodoro’s 5th medication violation since 2013. He’s best known for leading the training colony at Turf Paradise but has shipped to various venues and won a number of races. We also liked the second place run of Justin Zee for new owner-trainer Edward Ruiz. Gelded last February prior to his maiden win at Oaklawn Park for trainer Ron Moquett, his alteration may account for his last two positive runs. Justin Zee was not quick early and was ninth with a wide gap moving down the backstretch. He began his run on the second turn, rallied wide off the top and made this huge late gain to the impressive winner Lamu………..I thought Calvin Borel retired late last year. Remember the ceremony they gave him and here he is riding at the Oaklawn race meet. What’s up with that?……………..For no particular reason I made the notation after watching A Gala Day win off the claim that she was beating a weak field of $20,000 claiming fillies. She broke straight to be near the lead early, rode the fence on the turn and when wheeled outside two off the top she took the lead and won clear. The final fraction was 13.06 over the sealed muddy surface but I simply found little to be excited about with those who chased her to the wire. From time to time we merely get a feel for a particular race, and this sixth race on day five was just that. These are also the kind of observations most horse racing viewers are looking for when watching pre-race commentators from various venues…………….Sure liked the win for $20K by Borealis Beauty on Jan., 19 at Oaklawn. Four-year-old filly was off a bit awkward but sixth and wide after 50 yards. She made a run wide on the turn, was third off the top, responded to whip and finished gamely. What really caught our eye was her energy after the wire and into the turn…………..We think we discovered a nugget while doing our video tape review of race three on Jan., 20 at Oaklawn, a sprint for Arkansas-bred maiden claimers. There’s reason to consider using Surprise Suspect if owner-trainer David Whited runs him back against the same $10,000 state-bred non winners. From an outside stall Surprise Suspect broke slowly then veered sharply to the outside. He was 9th into the turn and moved wide off the top. That’s where the first time starter responded to urging to make notable process in the middle of the sealed muddy strip………………When first time starter Brave John rallied to win his debut on day five at Oaklawn, there was no hint of anything special to be found in his workouts. Steve Hobby used slow works, the last two which had “breezing” notations and the leggy son of Colonel John came running. It’s a tough read because the win was over an off track and the race saw two horses see-saw early up front to set the stage for a late run. The final fraction was a slow 13.21 so I have no clue where this maiden $40,000 claiming winner belongs. No clue!……………On Jan., 21, Chris Hartman may have made a good claim. Mesoma was dropping to $25,000 and ran a better than looked third. Mesoma broke clean and was close up early on. Fifth to the half, he was fifth to the half. He was steadied into the turn, blocked off the top and had to wait for room to the 1/8th pole……………..We believe there’s a good chance Ingrid Mason will be fitting her 3YO One Sock Mauk with blinkers next out. Here’s why. When making his third lifetime start on Jan., 21 at Oaklawn, he broke straight to be 3rd away from the barrier. He fell out readily to lag well back moving into the turn. One Sock Mauk caught hold while wide off the top, had only one foe beat at the 3/16ths pole and surged late for second. After the wire? One Sock Mauk galloped out strongly…………..Most jockeys are adept at using the right hand to urge their mounts. In watching Talk That Talk finish gamely for second Jan., 21, jockey Kevin Roman caught the eye. His left-handed urging does get results. If I were a trainer, I’d give this jock some live chances at the current Oaklawn meet………It appears, at least from this vantage point, trainer Timothy Martin has Rippin Ranger in his best form. Liked his cut back in distance second place run from the outside Jan., 22 at Oaklawn at odds of 10.40-to-1. Racing in front wraps he got away alertly from the extreme outside and despite a bump early, was racing near the lead outside two. Three-wide to the 1/2 and around the turn, Rippin Ranger led off the top to have the look of a winner. He went gamely to the wire while making only his fourth start since claiming him last March out of a $10K route from Ingrid Mason.……….Sometimes we spot what we deduce is a subtle trip–or a possible tune-up. That is what we concluded after watching Maize Road with Calvin Borel in race eight on Jan., 22 in race eight. The gelding had to be handled in the starting gate while a bit fractious prior to the break. Maize Road broke then bumped the inside foe. Moving over to the rail the gelding advanced to be second passing the half-mile marker. He lost a bit of position on the turn but continued to ride the inside lane. Once in the straight Borel did not abuse Maize Road. We feel it was a case of the connections merely getting a race into Maize Road. Stay tuned………Last but not least. When I tweeted last week that the best pre-race commentators are working for the NYRA, there were a number of factions who agreed. In the work that I do on a weekly basis, I get to listen to the various pre-race hosts at many horse racing venues. I never am critical of anyone I am certain has done the extra work to make his or her comments. But when I hear a constant drum of nothing but the obvious from someone with a microphone, it’s time to hit the mute button. In my opinion, that’s what we’re hearing at the once great race place. It’s not rocket science. Work at your trade, do the extra behind the scenes things to acquire tidbits, and bring something to the viewer they can’t find by reading the past performance lines. Linemaker Jon White was better than what we are hearing from the new pre-race female voice during the Santa Anita video feeds. At least White knows the lineage of the equines………..Speaking of video signals from racetracks? The two worst video stream formats on the internet can be found coming from Turfway Park and Sunland Park. Viewers have to guess when the horses are close to being loaded due to so many confusing camera switches, especially a side-angle shot of the gate. At Sunland Park? It might be worse. Whoever is directing, makes all these artsy camera switches at loading time. Nobody has a clue as to how many have been loaded. It’s bush league at both venues. Video from racetracks should be kept simple. Give the viewer a clear shot of horses loading. It’s simple!