Friday, April 10, 2009

Going to 'bat for the Chilean

About 14 days ago, I dug through replays of horses entered for Aqueduct's Excelsior Handicap like an old man with a metal detector at the beach. I had memorized the past performances of all eight entrants and then tried to find out more than the daily racing form could tell me. I had come to my conclusion.

Kurbat not only fit, he was live in the Grade III. Although it was just his first attempt against stakes horses in the United States.

In his first stateside start, Kurbat tore up Laurel and set a track record for 1 1/16 miles. Yes it was an Allowance race. Yes, it was at Laurel. But for a horse to run that big in his first start in 10 months, and in a different country. That's impressive.

In his native Chile, Kurbat had beaten Real Merchant twice, who was also entered for the Excelsior(and had recently finished second to the Excelsior's favorite). He also won a G I, by 10 lenghts.

As they loaded in the gate last Saturday, I was a tad nervous, eyeing the #4 stall like Tom waiting for Jerry to come out of the fox-hole. Boom. At live action it seemed like Kurbat's nose hit the ground. It didn't. But his stumble was bad enough to disguise his true ability last Saturday. The crawling pace of 25.45/50.69, on an already speed-favoring track did not help his chances.

Later today, Kurbat comes back like he forgot something- just six days later- in Keeneland's 7th race, the $100,000 Fort Harrod.

Post Time 4:05 PM.

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