Photo: Shamela Hanley / Eclipse Sportswire
Pinehurst makes his return to North America in the Grade 2, $200,000 Amsterdam Stakes at Saratoga on Sunday. As one of the returning Middle East runners, the question is whether Pinehurst needs one or two more races to get back into the flow of competing.
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Besides the question of how multiple trips in the Middle East affected him, California-based 3-year-olds mostly fail when they ship east.
Nevertheless, Pinehurst is a contender in the Amsterdam.
Here is a short recap of Pinehurst’s adventures.
Similar to San Diego Handicap (G2) runner Country Grammer, Pinehurst made the long trek to Saudi Arabia in February before heading over to Dubai in March.
His first mission proved successful. Pinehurst won the $1.5 million Saudi Derby at King Abdulaziz Racetrack by half a length over Sekifu.
Only a month later though, Pinehurst ran last in the UAE Derby (G2) at Meydan by 50 lengths. Crown Pride and Summer Is Tomorrow ran 1-2.
Back in January, Pinehurst finished second to Forbidden Kingdom in the seven-furlong San Vicente Stakes (G2). Last September, he also captured the seven-furlong Del Mar Futurity (G1) to pick up an early Grade 1 victory.
Maybe Pinehurst has been a sprinter all along. After all, Pinehurst’s lifetime best TimeformUS Speed Figure came in the San Vicente when he earned a 111. Two of Pinehurst’s three career wins came at less than a mile.
As for whether Pinehurst can overcome the two Middle Eastern trips and a layoff to win the Amsterdam, the answer is yes, if his workouts are an indication.
Although workout times are not the most important factor, sometimes fast times become too frequent to ignore. Back in June, it is hard not to notice how Pinehurst posted four straight bullet workouts at Santa Anita. More recently, Pinehurst worked four furlongs on this course in 47 seconds flat, which was the third fastest workout for the distance out of 128 horses.
The four-furlong Saratoga workout is an interesting watch for those with an XBTV account. Pinehurst shows good energy by moving alongside his workmate Three Jokers on the turn. At the top of the stretch though, Pinehurst wants to come in towards Three Jokers a few times and the exercise rider corrects him. Once Pinehurst straightens out, he moves past his workmate.
What about the weakness of the California-based 3-year-olds this year? When they ship east of the Rockies, those horses seem to lose.
Well, the California-based Taiba did finish a close second in the Haskell Stakes (G1) at Monmouth last weekend. Plus, the Amsterdam is not the hardest field in the world if the expected favorite Corniche fails to fire.
Corniche was recently outworked by Nest on July 16. On the one hand, Nest stands as the top filly in her division. But Corniche just does not give a great overall impression in his two workouts shown on XBTV. Trainer Todd Pletcher suggested in a Saratoga press release that Corniche knows the difference between the mornings and afternoons.
Last fall, Corniche won three straight races under Baffert to start his career, including the American Pharoah Stakes (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. But there is no guarantee he remains at that high level. Pletcher might need more time to get to know Corniche better as well.
Pinehurst’s new trainer John Terranova shows a low 53 rating on TimeformUS for horses exiting a 95-159 day layoff. But, Pinehurst likely was not under his care at California when he posted all those bullets.
Furthermore, Pinehurst has had 12 workouts since May 9 to shake off the cobwebs. He should enter this race fit enough, even if he loses.
As a final reason to overlook the Middle East trips and layoff, the public is not eager to bet Pinehurst. He has a good chance at holding at 6-1 in live wagering, which gives the bettor some incentive to take a shot. If Pinehurst was 2-1 on the morning line off this type of layoff, then he might not look as attractive even with the fast workouts in the morning.
The presence of Flavien Prat on Pinehurst does not hurt either.
Look for a good effort from Pinehurst, even with the layoff and two Middle East trips. As long as this colt breaks sharp from the inside under Prat and secures an upfront position, he should contend for the win.