by Brett Sturman
Before getting into Saturday’s Delvin Miller Adios at the Meadows, I wanted to take a moment to comment from last week’s column (full story here). For those not familiar with all the latest social media terminology, the term “Ratio’d” refers to something posted online that’s so idiotic that the ratio of the number of comments it elicits far exceeds the number of “likes” or positive responses. With a couple dozen Facebook comments not to mention a 4:30 a.m. text from my father minutes after HRU came out, last week’s column falls into that category. While some understood the context of what I was saying, most did not. So, to clarify, I was by no means suggesting that rules be thrown out the window and drivers could then run amok without fear of any consequence. The column stated that “If judges determine that a driver drove inconsistent with what the rules call for, then they can fine or suspend that driver based on the violation.” This is no different than the rules drivers must abide by today and to take that point a step further, judges could ultimately suspend a driver’s license if they determine that driver is intentionally driving in a manner that could harm others. Again, the same thing they can do today. The concept of letting results stand as a way to mitigate against controversial disqualifications may still not be an idea everyone agrees with, but the implication was never to do away with rules that keep all race participants safe.
Back to racing, the Adios has always been one of my favorite races. The 2012 race that featured the sport’s best 3-year-olds in Bolt The Duer, A Rocknroll Dance and Sweet Lou when Bolt The Duer emerged victorious up the lighting lane in 1:47.4 is one of the best editions of the race in recent memory that I can recall. But for whatever the reason, there hasn’t been an Adios since that time with the same star power from top to bottom.
This is a race that since its inception in 1967, has been won by some of the sport’s all-time greatest horses. It’s still rightfully considered a highly-coveted race for 3-year-olds, though in recent times the 3-year-olds with the most mid-season accolades haven’t always shown up for the race.
As amazing as it sounds, there hasn’t been a horse that’s won both the Meadowlands Pace and the Adios in nearly a quarter of a century. David’s Pass was the last horse to accomplish that feat back in 1995. In limited instances there have been Pace winners that raced in the Adios and lost (such as A Rocknroll Dance), but more often than not it’s a case of them not showing up. It’s almost an identical story with Woodbine’s North America Cup. With the exception of Fear The Dragon two years ago who did win both the NA Cup and the Adios, you have to go back to David’s Pass again to find the last horse to win both of those races. But even as recently as the early 1990s, it was commonplace to see NA Cup and Pace winners targeting the Adios. Horses such as Beach Towel, Cam’s Card Shark and Precious Bunny all won the Adios plus the Cup and Pace in a 5-year time span.
Don’t misunderstand; there have been exceptional winners of the Adios in recent years and the horses in the race this year are talented in their own right. But should there be more of an expectation like there used to be that Pace and Cup winners target the Adios, where possible?
To help, perhaps the purse of the race could be increased back to $500,000. After a high purse of $677k in 2009, the race held a purse of $500k between 2010-2013 before being downgraded to its current standing at $400,000. The Max Hempt at Pocono that takes place about a month before the Adios carries a purse of a $500,000 and arguably draws an ever so slightly better set of horses from top to bottom.
Next, Pace or Cup winners could be incentivized to race in the Adios. A program could be put in place that gives added money to a horse if he wins the Meadowlands Pace or North America Cup (more money if won both), if that horse races in the Adios. Two years ago, the North America Cup winner won the Adios and last year the Adios was won by the Pace runner-up. It’s not that the Adios is being overlooked entirely, but it doesn’t seem either like a couple decades should go by before the Adios is the next winner’s circle stop for a horse that’s coming off a Meadowlands Pace win.
In this year’s Adios race, there’s a competitive bunch of horses that fall just a step below the very top 3-year-olds.
With many of the horses in this year’s Adios final just a step below the very top 3-year-olds, it’s entirely possible that a horse that just notched his first major stakes win of the year last week could suddenly come away with the Pace for the Orchids. PRINCE OF TIDES romped in his elimination last week and it’s fair to say exceeded all expectations even considering he was 90 cents on the dollar. The lone gelding in this race, he’s out of an exceptional race mare from about 10 years ago in Tug River Princess and was paired with Dave Palone for the first time last week. In that race, he brushed to the lead by the three-eighths and continued to keep rolling through fast fractions en route to his six-length score. Prior to that he won a conditioned race at Pocono where he bested fellow Adios finalist BRANQUINHO in the process; my top pick.
SOUTHWIND OZZI is the 2-1 program favorite and it’s hard to say if he’ll be the favorite come post time. Brian Sears’ is coming off a masterful drive with Best In Show from the Meadowlands Pace and he put an equally-good drive on Southwind Ozzie last week overcoming a difficult post time. It looked like he was gapping cover a bit down the backstretch as the two dueling leaders blazed away, but he eventually looked better as the top two came back to him and from there went onto a comfortable 1:49:3 win. His 1:48.4 mile prior to that at Philly was fast for the track and prior to that he was second to Captain Crunch. The only knock against him is having to start outside both his key rivals; I’m sure Sears will have a strategy in mind.
CAPTAIN VICTORIOUS is perhaps the biggest wildcard in here. He’s capable of ultra-high speed, but he also seems to have a hit or miss streak in him. It’s hard to envision any scenario that doesn’t involve Gingras blasting with him and it’ll be interesting to see if that forces the hand of Palone from the inside with PRINCE OF TIDES who I’m sure will also be looking for the front. Amazingly, trainer Ron Burke didn’t win this home-base race until last year with Dorsoduro Hanover (though his father won it in 2007 with May June Character) and now looks for a quick double up. I’ll reluctantly swing against, but wouldn’t be a surprise.
STAG PARTY is now somehow 0-for-8 on the season and that’s too bad considering the way his career first started out last year. He hasn’t been bad though throughout that streak and he battled bravely last week in his Adios elimination. That race may have served as a learning experience for both him and driver Dexter Dunn who gets the return call and could represent as a sneaky longshot play for a trainer that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Picks: Prince of Tides, Stag Party, Southwind Ozzi