Saturday, May 25, 2013

Older Minn-bred Steps Up Big Time

Wally’s Choice is the last Minnesota bred that carried the standard to the winners’ circle in a graded stake, winning the Grade III Oklahoma Derby in 2004 at odds of nearly 34-1.  On Saturday at Churchill Downs, the Minnesota Thoroughbred Association’s 2012 Older Horse of the Year, Mack’s Blackhawk (Military-Morning Ride-Lear Fan) is going to give it try in the Grade III Louisville Handicap at Churchill Downs.

At first blush it doesn’t look like Mack stands a chance against the likes of Atigun and Hathcote.  But dig a little deeper and there are reasons behind the entry and some reasons for guarded optimism.

Mack has been good going long.  Very long.  The Louisville is a mile and a half and Mack has been able to be competitive at a mile and a half.  And 3/8.  And even 2 ¼!  Looking at this field, only a couple of the horses have really traveled this far regularly and several not at all.  He’s a fan of the turf and several of the more favored horses have only run on it once or twice (Atigun, Prime Cut) or not at all (Heathcote – but has been on artificial).

The best reason for optimism?  If you’re a fan of Brisnet – and I’m not saying I am, just that was what was available to me at the time – Mack ranks third in “Best Speed at Distance”, something you can’t ignore when going such an unfamiliar distance and ground for this field.

Best of luck to Mack’s this afternoon.  I’ll be watching the Canterbury races with an eye to the Churchill feed come 4:30 this afternoon.  A win would be surprising, but hitting the board would not be.  And at 34-1, no one really gave ol’ Wally much of a chance either, did they?


Mark Zamzow said...


Thanks for your post, your kind words and your optimism.

In Blackhawk's long career, he's been asked to try new territory several times and he's answered the call in a number of those instances.

You put you put a race like this in the category of "if you never try it, you'll never know".

It's quite an honor just to be mentioned with the great Wally's Choice, but I think even if Blackhawk pulls off a shocker this afternoon, all he does is take a small step toward that great runner.

We hope some day to have one like Wally. And we've had some nice horses. But, as good as some of them have been, none have come close Minnesota's all-time best.

Mark Zamzow

Mark Zamzow said...

Well, this Louisville Handicap turned into a real grinder.

Blackhawk got out on them, but could never run comfortably. Fairly quickly he had pressure from his outside and all too quickly that one covered him up. At that point we pretty much knew the water was too deep for him. Still, he hung on past the mile post. By the mile and a quarter he was 9th, but just 5 back.... that 1 1/4 time of a very fast 2:03.45. And Blackhawk finished up very tired.

The race was an amazing performance by the top three finishers. After a mile and a quarter in 2:03.45, they went the last quarter in 23.84 to stop the clock in 2:27.29. The turf monster, Tikkanen, holds the Churchill course record of 2:26.50 set in 1994. So this race was just 0.79 off the course record. The winner, Dark Cove, earned a Bris speed figure of 111. Blackhawk, who wasn't urged much the final quarter was given an 88..... pretty easily the hardest 88 he's ever run.

It's funny how differently these marathons can be run. A month ago at, Keeneland, this same Dark Cove won the Elkhorn Stakes at this same mile and a half distance. In that one the fractions were pretty reasonable: Fractional Times: 26.61 52.32 1:17.40 1:41.90 2:06.78 Final Time: 2:30.84.

Between these two races, we chose the Louisville because it's a handicap and we'd get weight. But the fractions of the Elkhorn would have been something Blackhawk could have handled... not for the win.... no horse was going to contain Dark Cove in that one as he crushed that field by 4 and a quarter.

As it was, the four horses up front early in the Louisville..... Mack's Blackhawk, Al Qsar, Heathcote and Ioya Bigtime..... finished 9th, 7th, 6th and 5th, all of the beaten 8 lengths or more.

After those fast early fractions in the Louisville,, there's that line from "The Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald" that applies to the frontrunners..... "the good ship and crew was a bone to be chewed".

Michael Deverey said...

Nice Gordon Lightfoot reference.