Rain and scratches change the playing field . . .
How much money could an owner make with a horse with some main track ability, but not enough to win even small stakes, if he told the racing secretary to drop his name in the box for every turf race that comes up on the grass and has a good purse? And every time one of those races comes off the turf and suffers from a great many scratches, the owner's horse is a go.
It may sound strange, but think of how often a scenario pops up like with the $100,000 Wild Applause Stakes at Belmont Park on Saturday. There were six entered, but when the race came off the grass Lull and Rubilinda were scratched, leaving four to go after the $60,000 winner's check. The other splits were $20,000 for second, $10,000 for third, $5,000 for fourth, $3,000 for fifth and $2,000 to be split among the rest of the finishers.
Now, what if the owner we are talking about tells his jockey to just sit last, save his horse, and let her run the last quarter, and see what happens. The worst would be she finishes fifth and gets $3,000. But what if what happened in the Wild Applause happens?
The favorite ($1.15-1), Rum Go with Javier Castellano, decided not to assert herself early and just jogged around for the entire mile. Super Marina, with Manny Franco, edged Bellavais ($1.25-1), with John Velazquez, by a neck to account for the first two checks. The third horse, Talaaqy, finished 11 1/4 lengths behind in third, and she was 30 1/4 lengths ahead of the favorite, who never did get in gear.
So, our owner is sure to beat the favorite and get the fourth-place check of $5,000, but she has a chance to outfinish the third-place horse and get $10,000. Am I nuts? Maybe, but if I had the opportunity, I would try it.
How about Saturday's $100,000 Affirmed Stakes at Santa Anita. There were only four entered to take on 1/9 Battle of Midway and one of them, Arms runner, was scratched. An owner could have entered this one and been assured of at least $2,000 for fifth. Battle of Midway won by 4 1/4 over B Squared, who was 4 1/2 lengths ahead of Term of Art, who was 2 1/4 ahead of Quiet Dude, who lost it all by 11. Our phantom horse might have gotten home fourth and hit for $6,000. Maybe even third if he had some ability.
GIVE'EM NO QUARTER - The story of French Quarter has been told here often, but it's so unique, it continually deserves attention. Bred from the rescued 17-year-old mare Cent Nouvelles by Ocala advertising guru Kathy Taylor in 2010, the gelding by Shakespeare has been alternating races from Woodbine in the summer to Gulfstream in the winter for five years and picked up several welcomed breeder's awards for Kathy along the way. She spent a bundle caring for Frenchie and the nine she rescued when Eddie Martin Stable South went bust.
However, early in this Gulfstream meeting, owner Howard Walton and trainer John Mattine lost Frenchie in a claim for $62,500 and new trainer David Fawkes has taken him to new heights. In his last seven races at Gulfstream racing for both stables, Frenchie has won twice, been second three times and third twice, including a third on Saturday, and three of the placings were in non-graded stakes. The breeder's awards for the seven races come to nearly $18,000, and Frenchie appears to far be from ready to hang it up - he has been clocked in under 1:10 for six furlongs often. Maybe it's really true that everything comes to he (or she) who waits.