1 – Regular readers of this space probably are aware of our previously stated expectations that Messier - and not undefeated Breeders’ Cup Juvenile-G1 and slam dunk 2021 Eclipse Award winner Corniche – will eventually prove to be trainer Bob Baffert’s leading member of the stable’s Spring Classics contingent in 2022, an opinion expressed after the son of Empire Maker taunted a maiden field on Oct. 22 at Santa Anita when strolling home by more than six lengths in an eased-up victory that held value for at least twice the winning margin.
Thus, we eagerly anticipated what surely we expected to be another superior performance when he returned last weekend in the Bob Hope S.-G3 over seven furlongs at Del Mar in a four-runner affair that was designed to tick him over for next month’s Los Alamitos Futurity-G2, a middle distance event that Baffert has owned for seven consecutive years, his winners including such future stars as Improbable, McKinzie, Mastery, and Mor Spirit.
And Messier didn’t disappoint. Or did he? The 6/5 favorite settled off the pace and then rallied wide to gobble up the leaders to win going away by more than three lengths. Nothing wrong with that.
But given our high expectations, the performance was something of a letdown. Yeah, we know, tough crowd, but still.
It must be stated that we can’t verify the race’s official final time of 1:22.74. Due to Del Mar’s thoroughly erratic and untrustworthy timing system and the inability to accurately hand time a seven furlong race because a building that blocks the view of the start requires the video replay to begin with a head-on shot, there’s no way of knowing for sure whether the absurdly fast early fractions (:21.40, :43.23) are accurate. But we can manually clock the final quarter of a mile, and despite a picture perfect, in-the-clear trip behind three dueling leaders, Messier big late kick was an optical illusion, according to the watch. We caught him coming home in a mediocre :26 2/5 seconds, with a winning margin that was “only” three and one-half lengths.
A truly exceptional colt, given the pristine trip, would have annihilated his foes, not just outstayed them.
The Beyer speed figure came up 86, just two points better than what was assigned for his maiden win. The number is okay, not great, but okay. There’s still hope for better, because based on pedigree, he shouldn’t be expected to show his best stuff until he stretches out around two turns, and that opportunity presents itself at Los Alamitos Dec. 11.
We’ll be watching.
2 – Baffert also had the goods in the Bob Hope’s filly equivalent, the Desi Arnaz S.-G3, at Del Mar on Saturday, with odds-on Eda performing up to standard when winning by herself in a career top performance (83 Beyer fig) that seems likely to lead to success in bigger and better things, specifically the Starlet S.-G1 December 4. That race will be her first around two-turns, but there are expectations that the daughter of Munnings will stay, as she was produced by the Lemon Drop Kid mare Show Me, a debut winner over a distance of ground on grass during her 3-year-old season at Gulfstream Park. Additionally, from a visual standpoint, Eda gives every impression that her easy pace-stalking stalking style will translate well on the stretch-out.
She’s no Echo Zulu but nothing else in the division is either, and there will be plenty of good races for her to choose during the winter and perhaps the spring, as well.
3 – Trainer John Sadler knows what do with a good filly and he may have one with a 2-year-old daughter of Maclean’s Music named Unbridled Mary, a five-furlong debut winner on turf at Del Mar last Friday. The margin was just a nose and the assigned Beyer figure of 59 wouldn’t win some maiden claiming races on this circuit, but you can forget thr number, this might be a decent prospect. Originally a $39,000 Keeneland yearling purchase when appearing deep in the catalogue, she was pinhooked for $155,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Santa Anita two-year-old in training sale in June and had done everything asked in the a.m. leading up to her first start. After a bit of a slow break, she settled nicely in the second flight, accelerated when set down, and despite being two lengths off the lead at the furlong pole displayed a superior turn of foot after angling to the rail to be up in time in race in which the final eighth of a mile was clocked in :11.55. She had to come home in somewhere around :11 1/5.
Out of an unraced Tale of the Cat half-sister to Personal Ensign S.-G1 winner Persistently and with champion mare Heavenly Prize as her third dam, Unbridled Mary has a right to be more than just a sprinter, though we suspect Sadler will keep her around one corner for now. Her dirt works were good but not flashy (hence her overlay 4-1 closing odds), so we’re not going to pigeon-hole her as a grass-only type just yet. We suggest you put her in your stable mail and keep close tabs.
4 – Sadler’s undefeated Malibu S.-G1-bound 3-year-old Tapit colt Flightline always puts on a show in the morning and turned in another “wow” performance on Sunday at Santa Anita when working a bullet half mile in :46 3/5 seconds. The association clockers assigned the drill an “h” (handily, or maybe they really meant hammerlock) because the boys upstairs never utilize “b” for breezing, but if you haven’t checked out the workout on our website at xbtv.com, do yourself a favor and click on the following link: Flightline Workout Video
A winner of both of his career starts by a combined 26 lengths, Flightline was assigned an Equibase speed figure of 130 for his allowance win at Del Mar Sept 5. The Equibase number given to Aloha West when he won the Breeders’ Cup Sprint-G1 over that same track and distance two weeks ago was 110. Make of that whatever you will.
5 – Trainer Todd Pletcher told Daily Racing Form that Following Sea, third in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint-G1 in a much-better-than-looked performance that was discussed in this column last week, will either run next in the Cigar Mile-G1 Dec. 4 at Aqueduct or return to the West Coast for the Malibu S.-G1 at Santa Anita Dec. 26.
If he stays in New York, Following Sea will face older horses, but he’s already proven he can do that, having won the Vosburgh S.-G1 while defeating among others Firenze Fire.
“We’ll assess the fields and see how he’s doing,” said Pletcher in the article.
Here’s our assessment. Flightline runs in the Malibu. Stay home.