Happy Birthday Heeshes

Charlie Zast of Queens, NY has never missed being in Saratoga on his birthday. But one of these years, August 1 will fall on a weekday and his mom and dad won't be able to drive him up the Taconic to see the "heeshes" on the date that he broke his horse racing maiden. In the meantime, he's here and he's happy.

"Heeshes" is Charlie's contraction of "horses" and the squeal that the horses utter when they're happy - "eeeeeeee." Charlie is two years old this summer. He's a little older than the yearlings that occupy the Spic ‘n Span Fasig-Tipton barns a block away and, of course, just marginally more self-reliant.  Yet, he wakes up at about the same time they start "eeeeeeee-ing."  For late sleepers, it's annoying.

Nana accompanied Charlie to the yearling grounds yesterday.  He wasn't greatly impressed with the renovated sales pavilion.  But you'll be.  For the time being, the auction organizers have the building sealed tight as a drum, wanting its unveiling tonight at the first night of sales to be jaw-dropping.  Missing about 200 seats and looking a tad "Kentucky" for its Adirondacks location, the brass-banded, green heeshshoe-shaped building nonetheless will bring raves from the public.  Can it possibly help business?

"From your lips to God's ears," remarked Craig Bandoroff when told that he might have the sale topper.  Sheik Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum was one of the many shoppers who stopped by to see Hip No. 178, the son of Smart Strike that Denali Stud is selling. Last year, to avoid being recognized, the Sheikh wore a ball cap, white long-sleeved tee-shirt and faded jeans to the auction. Still when you're a man who drools dirhams, you just can't change from your dishdashah into a costume and expect to conceal your identity.

Some very nice horses ran in races six through nine at the racecourse. In particular, Winslow Homer, a colt that many touts once thought to be a Kentucky Derby threat, made a most handy return to the races following a long convalescence.  Winslow Homer won the eighth race - the overnight Curlin Stakes - with ease despite not switching leads. It'll be on to the Travers Stakes for him.

Before the ninth race, something rarely seen in the Saratoga walking ring occurred for the featured Gr.1 $250,000 Ruffian Invitational. Trainer Bill Mott rode his pony alongside Unrivaled Belle to keep his typically unruly filly calm.  The ploy worked. But Unrivaled Belle broke poorly and lost. Victory went to Malibu Prayer, a Todd Pletcher-trained filly that's finished first, second or third in ten of her 11 lifetime starts.  

Sunday was the first time that NYRA scheduled the Ruffian for Saratoga. The 1-1/8 mile race for fillies and mares was switched to the Spa so that Rachel Alexandra would have two races to run here. Shame on someone for assuming that Jess Jackson and Steve Asmussen would honor the accommodation with their presence.


Vic Zast writes a column for HorseRaceInsider.com each Monday.  He has written the Saratoga Diary for bloodhorse.com in five of the last six years.

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