Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Summer Of The Bull

On the morning of August 8, the Saratoga backstretch's buzz surrounded the 8-year-old Commentator's chances for a third Whitney title. The son of Distorted Humor merited the attention as over the years, he has stamped Saratoga as one of his favorites.

Little attention was being payed to his rivals in that day's Whitney. Among them were, Macho Again, Smooth Air, Asiatic Boy, Dry Martini, Tizway and Bullsbay.

Come post time, the fan-favorite Commentator and Smooth Air were the co-favorites, a tad over 2-1 a piece. Macho Again and Dry Martini followed them at 3-1. Tizway was 10-1, and Bullsbay was a field-high 18-1.

As the seven older horses broke in order, Commentator dictated a 46.1 half-mile as Tizway chased a length off that pace. Smooth Air sat just off Tizway as there was a long way back to Bullsbay under a confident Jeremy Rose. Dry Martini followed Bullsbay as Macho Again, like usual planned to do his running in the stretch.

After 6-furlongs, Tizway had decided that was it for him, Smooth Air soon after threw in the towel. That left the two-time Whitney winner alone on the lead. Then Bullsbay decided he wanted to keep the Nick Zito trainee a two-time winner. Bullsbay began to roll with a move that could not haven be kept up for the remainder of the race. Could it? Just after the quarter-pole, the strapping son of Tiznow collared the 8-year-old. They were at even stride for only that long. The longest shot on the board led by 2-lengths passing the eighth pole as Macho Again passed a tired Commentator for second. Bullsbay strutted under the line a winner in the Grade I $750,000 Whitney Handicap.

Written off in part due to a mediocre polytrack effort last out at Hollywood Park, Bullsbay rewarded backers with a $39.60 win profit on a $2 bet. On August 8, the public had been introduced to who the barn-employees call 'The Bull' or 'Bully' rather than Bullsbay. This was The Bull's day.

Just 28 days later, The Woodward stakes was to be run on that same Saratoga oval, at that same Whitney distance of 1 1/8 miles. The crown in the older-male division had been passed around like a baton throughout the spring and summer so why not take a stab. A win would put him at the top of a few well sought-after lists.

Then the bomb was dropped. Sensational 3-year-old filly Rachel Alexandra was to run. It was almost like the competitive and hard-trying 5-year-old horse knew she was going. He was ready to take her on. In his own way, Bullsbay told Graham, and those at Fair Hill that he wanted a crack at her. He was ready to go, just 4-weeks after a career best performance.

Once the dark bay gave his connections the green-light, it was on.

September 5 rolled around and again, the now-Whitney champion was being ignored. That does not seem to phase him. His mind was made up already, he was going to run his race- as hard as he could.

As #2, Bullsbay was led out to the historic racetrack, the cheers were loud and present, although the large-majority of them were for #3, Preakness and Haskell winner, Rachel Alexandra. Jockey Jeremy Rose set the record straight as he whispered in the muscular 5-year-old's ear, "They're cheering for you."

As Bullsbay was transferred to the pony-person, it was again up to him. Like sending your son onto the school bus-you're nervous, he's not. 31,000 fans rocked the Saratoga grandstand as Bullsbay had made it to the show. Everyone who cared a lick about racing was watching. Everyone who was a fan, was there.

As they broke the betting favorite, and crowd favorite, Rachel Alexandra hurried through a first quarter mile in 22.4 and a half in 46.4. The super-filly made it clear early, if she was going to win, she was going to run fast for 9-furlongs. She laughed at Da' Tara, and shrugged off Past The Point like he was a mosquito on the far-turn. Then came The Bull. Bullsbay collared her, as the filly dug in, never losing an inch Bullsbay was all out. The filly had some in reserve. She went to the well and found gold, more run. Bullsbay, not gaining or losing an inch was soon matched by Macho Again and they chased the winner together. Macho Again, who had again saved it all for the end squeaked passed Bullsbay for second as the Whitney winner held even for third, well ahead of the rest.

The media, the horsemen, the fans. They're calling Rachel Alexandra the best. She might be. She's a freak, that's well documented. Bullsbay, coming off a career effort, arguably matched his performance just 28 days later. Nobody can take anything away from the newest Grade I champion in the Herringswell barn.

Say what you will going into the Woodward about his sensational Whitney. 'Out of the blue' or 'a fluke', is what the media and experts flirted with. The Woodward effort showed he is this type of horse, worthy of this type of competition.


  1. His Whitney was thrilling and his Woodward even more because he truly lost nothing in defeat, at least in this fan's eyes. Thank you for a thrilling race and I'm looking forward to more great races from the Bull!

  2. Bull's Whitney run gave me goosebumps - Jeremy just sat there like a stone, and I knew it was going to be good! Watching him in the Woodward brought tears to my eyes - he was phenomenal in his run! I can't wait to see him run again!

    I'm also very happy for Cherokee Artist's win at PID this past weekend! Love that guy!!

  3. John Panagot's article about the great
    Bullsbay was beautifully written, and truly meaningful. He spoke for all of us "fans"!!!

  4. Thank you all for reading and all the nice comments.