August 30, 2009

Summer Bird canters home in Mid-Summer's Derby

Could this have been the event Summer Bird was named for? Like his sire, Birdstone, five short years ago, Summer Bird completed the most prestigious Belmont Stakes - Travers Stakes double. Another omen in the story of Summer Bird is that he was raised on Tiffany Farm near Ocala, FL by Drs. Jayaraman, who yesterday received the Tiffany trophy by the Governor of New York for capturing the Travers Stakes.

ESPN's coverage showed how statistically the Belmont Stakes winner has the advantage over Kentucky Derby winners competing in this race. Obviously, this year's Derby winner Mine That Bird, now known as "That Other Bird," was withdrawn earlier in the week from this race due to his recent throat surgery to correct an airflow blockage. But it is clear to me after Summer Bird defeated this solid group of colts, including Quality Road, that he is now at the head of the class for three year-olds; males that is.

How flattering for Rachel Alexandra that a horse she "left in the slop" in the Haskell comes back and does the same to this group? The ESPN crew of Randy Moss and Jerry Bailey were somewhat harsh in their criticism of Jess Jackson for selecting the upcoming Woodward Stakes for Rachel rather than this race. I was on record as saying how I'd love to see a Rachel - Quality Road showdown, but that wouldn't have materialized in this race. Rachel has only a couple more races in her after her demanding 2009 campaign that goes back to February, so spotting races is critical for her connections. How could you possibly fault them for committing to a Grade I race against OLDER MALES that former champions such as Curlin, Cigar, Affirmed, Seattle Slew, Forego and Kelso used to solidify their champion status? Plus, the 9 furlong distance rather than 10 furlongs will possibly keep a little fuel in the tank of Rachel if they decide to squeeze in a race against Zenyatta either before (highly doubtful) or following Zenyatta's Breeders' Cup appearance at Santa Anita.

Now more on Hot Springs, AR based owners Drs. KK and V Jayaraman, who have committed serious money to develop their breeding operation and have hit a grand slam with Summer Bird, who probably has not gotten the credit he deserves up to this point (at least from this blogger!). And how about the training job of 35 year young trainer, Tim Ice, who Kent Desormeaux gave major props to following yesterday's race? Ice developed this chestnut colt from unraced maiden at Oaklawn Park in March to multiple Grade I winner and likely colt of the year. Oaklawn Park also has to be tickled pink with yet additional success from their three year-old program, which has been more relevant than any other race track over the past decade, bar none. And feeding off that success they have upgraded their 2010 stakes program to be the richest in track history. Look for the Arkansas Derby and Rebel Stakes to be upgraded in 2010 by the American Graded Stakes Committee.

It appears that the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park is next on the race schedule for Summer Bird. Who knows, after the Woodward Stakes this Saturday at Saratoga, Rachel may be back on a collision course with the next best horse in racing, only this time that name will be Summer Bird.

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