by DICK POWELL
It’s Chad Brown’s world and we just live in it. Expected to win his second straight Eclipse Award as leading trainer of 2017, he is off to a solid start in 2018 with three wins in eight starts through eight days of racing.
On Saturday, he sent out MASK in the $100,000 Mucho Macho Man at Gulfstream Park going a one-turn mile on the dirt. And we might look back and say how did we get $4.80 on him in a listed stakes race?
Mask broke his maiden on October 20 at Belmont Park going 6 1/2 furlongs. He was the second choice behind a Todd Pletcher debut runner, NAVISTAR, and he handled him by three easy lengths.
Navistar came back at Gulfstream and broke his maiden as the 2-5 favorite going a one-turn mile and here was Mask trying to win at the same distance in a listed stakes race. In his debut, Javier Castellano had him sit off the pace and then explode in the stretch. On Saturday, Castellano sent him to the front and he dominated every step of the way.
Allowed to get through the first half-mile in :48.13, Castellano raced him off the rail and kept expanding his margin. He hit the top of the stretch in 1:12.92 and, without any real encouragement, threw in a final quarter of :24.83 to win by 6 1/4 lengths. Todd Pletcher’s BAL HARBOR was second and Dale Romans’ DAK ATTACK lost his first race finishing third.
Mask is another Tapit that can run and handle anything. He cost $685K as a yearling and his dam was a stakes winner at two. Unlike some of the Tapit colts I have seen, Mask seems professional and well-behaved.
From here, Brown has numerous options. He will probably try to keep him separated from his Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) winner, GOOD MAGIC, for as long as he can. Already proven that he can rate or run on the lead, two turns should not be any problem.
Gulfstream’s main track continues to play slow but speed-favoring. The running times have been off and if you have seen the main track on the simulcast, you see a track that has a lot of cushion on it.
But speed has done well on it this meet and the metrics that are available in BRIS Ultimate Past Performance prove it. At six furlongs, 34% of the races were won going gate-to-wire and the speed bias was 71%. At seven furlongs, 35% of the races were won going gate-to-wire and the speed bias was 69%. And, at one mile, 31% of the races were won going gate to wire and the speed bias was 75%.
Bob Baffert wasted no time getting his three-year-old males on the track when he sent out MCKINZIE for the Sham (G3) going a two-turn mile at Santa Anita on Saturday. Controversially placed first in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) four weeks earlier, McKinzie was able to sit off a modest pace and strike to the front in the stretch to win by 3 1/2 lengths.
Already a Grade 1 winner, winning a Grade 3 might not seem like a big deal, but it was an educational race for the son of Street Sense since Baffert removed the blinkers that he wore in his first two starts and he relaxed beautifully. Baffert now has four months to prep and he always has the option of going to Arkansas for Oaklawn Park’s lucrative three-year-old prep races. I thought he might be considering a trip to Dubai for the $2 million UAE Derby (G2), but that doesn’t seem to be in the plans.
(Leslie Martin/Adam Coglianese Photography)