In three of What a Rush’s first four races, he pushed the pace then faded away to finish no closer than four lengths from the winner. After a six-month layoff, trainer A.C. Avila dropped the 3-year-old gelding in class from maiden special weight to maiden $20,000.
By running against cheaper horses, What a Rush was able to sit closer to the lead, but he still lacked the toughness to gut out a close win. For example, What a Rush had a lead in deep stretch on Nov. 11, but faltered to finish third by a neck. When he came back on Dec 7, What a Rush was in second place a half length behind the leader in the stretch, but finished third again.
However, on Monday at Santa Anita, What a Rush put it all together. Instead of hustling to be on the pace, What a Rush broke midpack in the 10-horse field and was sitting in fourth as the runners entered the far turn. Jockey Chantal Sutherland had a ton of horse as she eased up the inside on the turn, cruising into third behind the leader #6 Street Titan and the second place horse #7 Siempre Mio.
But the stretch run had been where What a Rush had struggled in his career. In fact, in five of his most recent races, What a Rush ended up in a worse finishing position than before he entered the lane. What a Rush had competitive Beyer Speed Figures with the rest of Monday’s field and the 81 Beyer he ran on March 25 towered over any race run by the other horses. If What a Rush could roll another 81 Beyer, then he’d win by open lengths.
The main question, though — which was about to be answered as the field came off the turn — was had Avila and Sutherland taught What a Rush how to rate? Would he pass horses in the stretch?
If not, then it was not sensible to run him at 6-1/2 furlongs. He belonged in shorter sprints. Well, in the end, it looked like What a Rush had learned a thing or two in his seven-race career. Entering the stretch, he was just two lengths back. But with Sutherland whipping and driving in midstretch, What a Rush blew by Street Titan at the sixteenth pole, then nailed Siempre Mio on the wire.
In my betting strategy, I downgraded What a Rush because I viewed him as an early-speed type, which I was trying to avoid because only 16 percent of horses on the lead have won at this class and distance. In a cruel twist, one of the animals that I decided to bet, Street Titan, had never gotten the lead in the 10 past performances showing in the form. Yet he and jockey Joe Talamo dashed to the front when the starting gate bell rang.
Street Titan went the first quarter in a quick 21.89 seconds and got to the half in 44.53. In deep stretch, Street Titan was cooked and faded to third. My other horse, #4 Zapeye, who was coming off a long layoff, never threatened and I was quickly down $750 in imaginary betting money.
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