Trainer Rick Dutrow saddled Willy Beamin on Sunday in the $125,000 Mike Lee, pulling off the upset over the heavily favorite Bob Baffert trainee Brigand, drawing clear to win by four lengths while the favorite barely held on to the runner up spot.
Dutrow claimed the gelding for $25,000 back in March and has won three races in a row with him. The gelding took a first level state bred allowance race on May 10 in a race washed off the grass, and then on June 20 he won a second level state bred optional claimer.
The first win was worth $44,640 and the second victory brought in another $38,400, and the payday for the Mike Lee win was another $75,000.
What makes his win remarkable on Sunday is he won that second level optional claimer on Wednesday, and after three days rest came back to win again on Sunday.
When I see a horse entered a couple of days after a start, 99% of the time I can draw a line through them, expecting them to be a scratch.
Not with Dutrow, who is not shy about running horses back on short rest, bucking a national trend.
What makes it even more incredible is that Dutrow was slapped with a 10-year suspension last October by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board, who decided the controversial trainer had enough violations that he deserved to be out of the game.
“As far as I’m concerned, game over,” said NYSRWB Chairman John Sabini. “Let this be a lesson to other people in the business who have had repeated, repeated violations.”
Dutrow has appealed the suspension, and shortly after that went on a tear, winning with 15 of 30 starters in New York.
It was almost as if Dutrow was saying, “In your face NYSRWB, Babe!”
Few trainers today bring horses back with less than a week break, and some probably fear a breakdown by a runner coming back so quickly would lead to a barrage of unwelcome criticism.
Going back five years Dutrow has brought back 113 horses from a 1-7 day break and won with 32 of them, a sparkling 28% win clip.
A total of 68% of the 113 starters finished first, second, or third.
If we look at just the past two years, the numbers are even better. He has won at a 35% clip (15 for 43) with 70% running in the money.
One of the most memorable quick turn arounds came back in 2005 with a horse named Golden Man, who had finished third in the Peter Pan (G3) in May.
Dutrow entered him in both the Long Branch Breeders’ Cup Stakes (G3) at Monmouth Park on July 16, and the Leonard Richards Stakes (G3) the following day at Delaware Park.
So where did he run the gelding? He ran third in the Long Branch at 6-1, losing the place spot by a nose.
The gelding was then vanned to Delaware Park and he ran the very next day in the Richards, finishing second to Sun King at 7-1.
Dutrow ran the gelding a couple of times later with just two days between races. On Dec. 1 of that year he ran second for a $40,000 tag and on Dec. 4 checked in second in an allowance race.
The gelding also made a couple of starts three days apart in January, checking in second and fourth.
Just last month Dutrow started Isn’t He Perfect to win against second level optional claimers on May 23. The colt came back on May 27 to win a third level optional claimer.
The colt made his first start for Dutrow on April 13 running second against second level optional claimers, and came back 48 hours later on April 15 to finish second and beaten just a neck in the $75,000 Action Stakes.
As a handicapper, I usually cringe when I see a Dutrow runner wheeled back on quick rest. Despite the 28% win clip going back five years, the ROI checks in at $1.85 for each $2 wagered.
Dutrow has a long list of violations over the years, has served multiple suspensions, and his violations have occurred at more than a dozen tracks.
Some horseplayers think Dutrow is cheating to win at such a high win rate and to have so many horses run well on short rest, and his future as a trainer is certainly in doubt.
Until all of the appeals are exhausted, the trainer continues to just keep on rolling, racking up wins that have horseplayers like me shaking my head.
If the ten year suspension is finally upheld and he is ruled off the grounds, just like his horses, I am expecting to see a quick turnaround.
Michael Dempsey provides his selections for Belmont Park and Churchill Downs each racing day. Mike’s Best Plays Report is available each weekend, with his strongest plays and selections including the top stakes races.