Sunday, July 27, 2014

Luigi, in 1:52.4!

Horses improve. And they regress. That is, like life, just how it goes.
And in a lot of cases, they start out with high hopes, only to disappoint and eventually find their level.
I have a few memories of that from the late 1980's when I first started going to the races.
Concord Al was the first one I recall, although I'm sure there were many others that I don't before him. He was a good bred horse for the time, and when he first came out, he would get bet heavily and mostly fail. Eventually, after about 20 starts, he had broken his maiden and was floundering badly at nw2. That is usually the point that successful trainers and owners with aspirations to only have good horses give up on them.
I remember thinking, near the end of that run one night at Greeenwood Intertrack watching Mohawk that this horse was just a bad bet and to avoid him. As a bettor, I had given up on him as well. That night he was a heavy favorite and looked very beatable, which he did let happen that night. I couldn't see why people still were so high on him. But, there was something there. We found that out later. I think I bet him to show, and he hung on for that for dear life. I was prepared to not touch him again until he found whatever low suitable claiming level he was to drop down to. Most of them do that as a rule.
My memory is that Tony Kerwood was the trainer/driver and maybe part owner as well with the Simmonds, who were his big owners at the time. They had many pretty good horses, Just Bold and Portent being two and there were a few others. Concord Al seemed to be the one that clearly was not working out that likely should have and was expected to. 
Then he either got claimed or was sold privately ( I don't remember but I think claimed) and was in the middle of an unproductive 4yo year.
Then, for whatever reason, he snapped. He just started to win. And win. And win. The next thing you knew, the horse that couldn't beat horses who couldn't beat other horses won his way quickly up the ladder to the FFA. That was about 3 months. 
One summer night at Greenwood, he won the FFA in a track record time. It might have been on the same night as the North America Cup. I'm not sure, but that is my memory and I think John Campbell was on him. I do remember him getting a standing ovation, which is rare at the track as he came back into the winners circle. There was a very big crowd that night, for whatever the reason. 
He won for quite a while, and then one night, he backed through them while on the lead. Badly. Like the old Concord Al.
Eventually, he started to work his way back down, although he was a pretty good 60, then 40, then 20, then 15 claimer for a couple of years. Until he was cooked. 
The guy that took him, and got him to the top was Bill Budd, who was known for being able to liven up this type of horse. At least he was at that time. 
About 10 years later, I was stabled at a barn with an owner who had been with Budd for many years. He sent him a very old classy trotter named Contessa Blacky,  and he livened him up for a couple of months as well. He had some sort of magic. Not saying what that was. It is not for me to say. Lets just say many others don't have access to it. 
Concord Al ended up in the hands of David Smith, who did what he does best. He sent him to the front every week and he won many a 20 claimer for a while under those circumstances. Until he couldn't go anymore. About a year later, I saw him in a mixed sale at Mohawk, The Royal Blue I think, and his legs were horrific. White dots everywhere, and they were stovepipes. Clearly, he was never going to race again. But, from being a non performer, he rose to the top of the sport at his home track. That happens, from time to time.
Bag And Tie was a much different scenario, although pretty much the same result. From one of the first crops of Ralph Hanover, he was considered well bred at the time. In hindsight, if you view Ralph Hanover as a colossal failure as a sire (which almost everyone I know does) then he was a nickel bred. His dam was decent enough, but nothing great either. He probably cost decent money as a yearling and was one of many that Blair Burgess had each year. At that time, he had just come off some very good years in which he'd had Amity Chef and Frugal Gourmet, two horses that came out of nowhere and were among the best young horses of their crops.
Most trainers know that you will have a few like that, a few that are what they are, and then you have the Bag And Tie's. Horses that simply don't do any good, no matter what you do. Blair Burgess has a few of those every year, and at or near the end of their 3yo season, he sold pretty much all of them because he had to make room for the next crop. Many horses that were late bloomers, like Money Money Money, developed into very nice horses after they left his care. He has no problem with that. He is a colt guy, and you can only train so many.
Bag And Tie didn't look like he was ever going to be one of them that did much of anything other than become a 3 claimer at Belleville. If that.
Then somehow he was sold privately to someone who I had never heard of, and had never done much with any horse, and he exploded on a very nice run, although steadier than the rise Concord Al had, and ended up also being a decent FFA horse for some time. I think he also might have gotten the track record, or close to it. He did seem to fade off fast after that. I don't recall specifically. And that trainer, unlike Bill Budd, didn't have another one anywhere near as good as Bag And Tie, while Bill Budd went on to have some very good horses, one of them being Sir Luck, who won a big race like the Metro at 2.

Another type of horse you see from time to time at the track is the old class horse who is down on his luck for quite a while and then suddenly he finds his way again and shoots up the class ladder.
I'll Be There was just such a horse. Dr. John Hayes had him then. He had been a good horse for a while in the States, but when I first encountered him he was racing 2500 claimers at Orangeville, and at that point had start to beat them fairly handily. Still, that was a long way from even being a bottom claimer again at the OJC, which was what we called WEG before it became corporate and less about racing and more about gaming. He was a very well bred American horse who had won some decent stakes as a young horse and competed for a while in the top aged ranks.That was ancient history by the time he got to Orangeville.
Eventually, over a couple of months, he made it back to WEG, and held his own. After a few months, he had worked his way up the condition ladder and over time, made it back to the Jr FFA and won it a few times. I'm sure he went back lame and worked his way back down to a 2 claimer somewhere. I don't recall. But most of those do. 
Which brings me to last Friday. I was watching Mohawk, as I usually do on a Friday night, but also keeping my eye on Grand River for any good plays. I don't keep stats or data on Grand River, so it is simply intuitive old school handicapping when I play anything there. 
I happened to notice Luigi in the 10th race. As I looked over the program and then watched him score out, I thought he looked solid. I did know a bit about the backstory of Luigi.
Luigi has always been a very cheap horse. Raced in 3 claimers at the Western Ontario B tracks for years. He is fairly well bred, being a son of Camluck, out of a good bred mare who has produced a few good, yet unspectacular racehorses. He was probably meant to be better than he ended up turning out. Much like Concord Al and Bag And Tie. Most horses fall into this category. 
Back in early winter, Luigi got claimed from a guy who had had him for a very long time, Dominico Diccico. I know him a bit from when I used to race against him. I would say he is a competent trainer, but certainly not top shelf, even for the B tracks. Dean Nixon, who is top shelf, both at the B tracks and the big show tracks like WEG, also realizes that. So, he figured Luigi was worth a shot and claimed him out of a 5 claimer in early winter. He does that a lot, and has decent overall success with that strategy. Which he did with Luigi, and he won a few races at WEG, and then lost him in an 8 claimer. The next people that had him couldn't get him to go, and he was clearly struggling. I happened to be on the SC website and saw that Luigi was for sale. I didn't pay much attention to that, but then I saw he was racing at Grand River this night. No qualifiers. Just off those bad racelines he was bought off of by Carmen Auciello and his owners. 
He was in for $6500, which seemed reasonable enough, and his odds were very low. He was being played. He was a definite go.
I certainly wasn't born yesterday, and I have seen first time Carmen Auciello work magic before. Mego Moss and BWT Taj, Macho Chick, Barocky and many others come to mind. I caught All Chrome mid winter at 20-1 off this very angle.
In this case, it was a relatively soft bunch, and the odds were 5-2. So, I jumped in. I was just hoping he was good enough.
Good enough? That was an understatement. 

A horse who was non performing for at least a couple of months paced a front end mission, coast to coast, in 1:52.4 over Grand River. I don't know that the track record is there, but it isn't far off that. I think he had at least 2 seconds in the tank, and if he had used those, think about what that mile would be. That is simply insane. 
55.3 to the half, and then widening out with every step after than under a hard hold. 3/4 in 1:23.4 and he got one very light whip tap to I suppose keep him interested, which didn't seem to be a problem as he was on fire.I will be very interested to see where Luigi goes from here and how he does. He might level off right away. But he strikes me as the type of horse that could pull off a Concord Al or Bag And Tie run. The next start will be a big tell. If he were to even repeat that mile from last Friday, he certainly would whip 20 claimers at WEG. That is likely a 1:49 mile and he was completely by himself the whole way. 
You simply don't see horses win like that at any track, let alone the B tracks, unless they are very high caliber stakes horses who outclass their competition and are allowed to keep doing that because the stake isn't restricted. 
This was a 6500 claimer. I will say that again, in case you missed it. A 6500 claimer. At a B track.
As Gary Guy is fond of saying..giddy up!

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