Way Too Smarte, the winner of yesterday's Arlington finale, delights me for so many reasons.
First of all, look at her jockey's silks. It may not be obvious from the side, but from the front, you can see why they're the greatest silks in Chicago: overalls, over a green shirt. How clever is that? They're specifically painter's overalls: fitting, because Way Too Smarte's trainer, owner, and breeder Dennis Hughes was a painter before going into horse racing.
Second, she's by Brave 'n Away. Brave 'n Away babies have been around for years, but they brought the overalls to the Arlington winners' circle a lot last year. If you follow Illinois racing closely (or if you've been a longtime reader of Picks and Ponderings), you might have heard of him. Otherwise, you may not have. Tim Hughes stands Brave 'n Away here in Illinois, for a modest stud fee of $1,000. His pedigree is nice -- he's by Skip Away out of 1986 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) winner Brave Raj, and stallions Fast Bullet and Eurosilver hail from the family. However, his race record did not scream stallion, as the highlight of his eight-race career was a win in a maiden claimer at Turfway. That maiden win came in 2004, before there was polytrack there. And yet, last year it seemed that Brave 'n Away babies were an overnight success over ten years in the making. Though he has babies born as early as 2006 (like Dennis Hughes's top training earner to date, B N Graced N Glory), last year Brave 'n Away grabbed everyone's notice as his progeny kept winning, and winning, and winning on the Arlington polytrack. That's what I love most about Brave 'n Away, and the phenomenon of his babies: they're an overnight success a decade in the making.
Third, who doesn't love a longshot? Way Too Smarte broke her maiden at Hawthorne on April 25, in an Illinois-bred maiden special weight. Drawing off to win by two and three quarters lengths, she won with the confidence and flair of a favourite. And yet? After being well beaten in one start at Hawthorne last fall and two at Oaklawn in the winter, the three-year-old filly went off at 87/1, the longest shot in the field of eight. I didn't have a penny on her, or on anyone in that race, but I love the mix of confusion, awe, and electricity as we all try to process a triple-digit upset.
Finally? Longshots are all delightful, but after such a colossal surprise, sometimes you wonder if they'll ever run back to it again. When a horse comes back and proves that they weren't a fluke, but were actually underestimated, it makes you want to root for them again and again. Last year, it was Chlobee: she burst onto the scene with a 104/1 upset in an Illinois maiden special weight a year ago today, and it was a delight to see her competitive in allowance company all summer and fall. This year, it's Way Too Smarte -- who followed up her surprise maiden win by winning right back in Illinois allowance company yesterday. Her maiden-breaker wasn't just one good day: the light is on, she's grown into herself, and she's not only a longshot. Way Too Smarte is a right racehorse, and that makes me grin from ear to ear.
You can take "Picks & Ponderings" with you anytime, anywhere. You can get Twitter updates @picksponderings for on-scene reports from Arlington International Racecourse. And you can get "Picks and Ponderings" in your e-mail by typing your email address in the box and clicking "Create Subscription." It's a FREE service, and you'll never get any unwanted spam.