Going the distance at Mountaineer

CHESTER – Control and Lotto Cat are route specialists.

The former was victorious at 1 miles in starter allowance company on May 3. The latter won a 1 3/16-mile starter allowance on May 17. Both races occurred at Mountaineer Casino Racetrack and Resort, and were run at the same distances and on the same days as the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.

Next Saturday, Mountaineer’s live race card will include a starter allowance at 1 miles – the same distance California Chrome must go in the Belmont Stakes, in his quest to become the first horse to sweep the Triple Crown in 36 years. Mountaineer has its own version of a “triple crown.” Saturday’s card will feature its completion.

“Long starter allowance races are a lot of fun,” said Mark Patterson, the assistant racing secretary at Mountaineer and co-host of the track’s handicapping show. “They involve durable runners with deep careers and consistency of form. And bettors have more time to watch their money in action. This is especially true at a mile and a half.”

Going 12 furlongs at any level of competition is a demanding task for a horse, and an unusual one as well. Research done by Jay Privman of Daily Racing Form reveals the following information. In 2013 there were 46,650 Thoroughbred races run at North American tracks. Only 75, less than two-tenths of one percent, were 1-mile events.

One of them took place at Mountaineer on Belmont Stakes day, when the 5-year-old gelding Barat prevailed by 1 lengths in a time of 2:35.75. Barat was sent from the post as the 11-10 co-favorite in the field of six. Handicappers noted that Barat’s maternal grandsire was Conquistador Cielo, who was a 14-length winner of the Belmont in 1982.

Bloodlines do constitute a major factor.

Control, who scored at nearly 13-1 odds on May 3, is a grandson of the 1996 Kentucky Derby winner Grindstone. Control’s five-generation family tree also includes Northern Dancer, Chateaugay, Bold Ruler, Nashua and Native Dancer, all of whom were victorious in one or more triple Crown events.

Lotto Cat is a grandson of the 1992 Belmont winner A.P. Andy. The ‘Cat’s five-generation tree further includes a pair of Triple Crown winners, Secretariat and Seattle Slew, along with Northern Dancer and Bold Ruler. Lotto Cat was the 2-5 favorite in a field of eight for his May 17 effort. He won by a widening eight lengths.

Control and Lotto Cat are 5-year-old geldings, and neither qualifies as a speedball. Control’s final time for 10 furlongs was 2:08.85. Lotto Cat’s clocking for 9 furlongs was 2:01.11.

But both have been around for a while, and know and go about their business with adaptable skills. Control, owned and trained by Rodney Moyers, has a career record that includes 38 starts, five wins, 11 placings and purse earnings of $228,894. He has won at the 1-mile distance on the dirt and on the grass.

Lotto Cat, owned by Gene Burkholder and trained by Kim Puhl, has career stats that include 42 starts, 11 wins, 14 placings and $137,930 in purse earnings. Last September, Lotto Cat won at 1 miles on a fast track at Mountaineer. His score two weeks ago was registered on a muddy surface.

Face to face, Lotto Cat right now seems the better of the two. Control was the 5-1 second choice in the wagering on May 17, and finished a well-beaten fifth. But a reversal of that result could take place next Saturday, if both are again entered and the issue will involve 1 miles.

Or perhaps some other durable starter allowance competitor will win. One never can be sure of certainty in horse racing.

NOTES: Deshawn Parker, the perennial leading jockey at Mountaineer, has been sidelined for two weeks because of a hairline fracture in his collarbone. “But he’ll be riding again by next Wednesday,” said Parker’s longtime agent, Billy Johnson. Parker has registered 63 wins from 207 mounts at Mountaineer this season.