Same old Easy Goer. One day he'll drop behind the pace and come running at the end of a race, and on another he'll breathe down the neck of a speed horse, press a fast pace and take no prisoners. He was at his best in Wednesday's Suburban Handicap, an immense improvement over the Easy Goer who was third to Criminal Type and Housebuster in the Met Mile on Memorial Day. Apparently, he's still got it.
In retrospect, Easy Goer's effort in the Met may have been viewed a bit harshly. He would have won most Grade I races run a mile, which is a distance well short of his best. Certainly he was not particularly sharp, and he raced against two very fast, talented horses while conceding weight to both. Criminal Type came out of that race and upset Sunday Silence in the Hollywood Gold Cup. Housebuster won the Sheridan Stakes at Arlington International Race Course in his next start.
Far more tightly wound by trainer Shug McGaughey for his first 10-furlong engagement of the season, Easy Goer ran right to his recent works. He came to the Suburban off two strong moves -- 7 furlongs in 1:24 June 27 and a blistering 46-second half-mile, out 5 furlongs in a shade more than 58 seconds, two days before the race. The result: 1 miles in 2:00 -- the fastest 10 furlongs of a career in which he has won 14 of 20 races and almost $5 million. But winning the Suburban over De Roche will not have great historical impact.
McGaughey, who said Easy Goer came out of the Suburban without mishap, will chart the course the colt will follow to what may be the pivotal race of his career. Easy Goer's most disinterested efforts have always been reserved for the most important afternoons. As a 2-year-old, he was upset in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. At 3, Sunday Silence deprived him of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Breeders' Cup Classic. Now 4 and with only three starts remaining in his career, Easy Goer can afford no lapse in form. He will face Sunday Silence again in the Aug. 4 Arlington Challenge Cup -- 10 furlongs at level weights. He will, at the same time, have a rematch with Criminal Type. The horse who wins the Challenge Cup will be the Breeders' Cup Classic favorite.
The field at Arlington may be the best assemblage of horses for a non-Breeders' Cup Classic in at least 25 years. Invitations will be issued Tuesday, but the principal players are set. It also may be the most heavily wagered upon non-Triple Crown race ever.
The New York Racing Association expects to take the simulcast on the first Saturday of the Saratoga meeting. The simulcast also will be available at Aqueduct and all the state's OTB systems. Easy Goer may be the most popular horse to race in New York since Forego. Sunday Silence is as popular in Southern California. Chicago, where a handicap of this magnitude has never before been run, and Illinois OTB make up the third-largest racing market in the nation. The race, which will be televised by ABC, will be simulcast to virtually every racetrack conducting a meeting and the rivalry of the two central figures in the Challenge Cup is the most celebrated since Affirmed and Alydar. The numbers may be staggering.
Red Ransom's career is probably over after the 3-year-old colt suffered a fractured sesamoid bone in his left foreleg in a workout at Belmont Wednesday.
Jockey Julie Krone, sidelined since suffering a broken arm in a riding accident Nov. 24, will begin to work a horse at Monmouth Park Saturday and expects to return to competition soon.