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Horse wins race after rescue from sinkhole 2 weeks earlier

Updated July 25, 2019 - 6:47 pm

After watching thousands of races (could it be millions?) and spending way too much time at racetracks over the years, I occasionally fight the temptation to say I’ve seen it all. But before I actually utter those words, something happens that leaves me gobsmacked.

This week’s entry into the “Well I never” books is a 4-year-old thoroughbred named Mr. Changue (pronounced chen-GOO, according to those who should know) who was peacefully grazing on the grounds of the Fort Erie racetrack in Ontario about two weeks ago when he was swallowed by the earth.

It seems a nearby water main break had hollowed out the ground where Mr. Changue was quietly noshing, causing a sinkhole beneath his hooves and dropping him into a 6-foot deep pit of muddy water. His handlers tried to get him to jump out, but with each attempt, poor Mr. Changue dug himself deeper in the goo.

Rescuers rushed to aid the panicked horse, who was thrashing around like a washing machine agitator. Eventually, a backhoe dug an exit path that allowed them to pull the weary steed out and take him back to his barn. He suffered cuts and scrapes but avoided serious injury.

Flash forward to Tuesday, when Mr. Changue, apparently feeling invincible, stepped onto the Fort Erie track and proceeded to conquer six rivals in a $6,250 claiming race. In winning for the seventh time in 43 starts, the Florida-bred earned almost $10,000 Canadian for his owner, Sam Passero.

A tip of the hat to former Review-Journal turf writer and handicapper Jay Richards for pointing me to this feel-good story. I haven’t been able to write about too many happy endings lately, so it’s much appreciated.

#RJhorseracing featured races

The #RJhorseracing handicappers will watch the $600,000 Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga on Saturday, which will feature a return matchup of Triple Crown rivals Tax, Tacitus and War of Will. But with just six entrants, we will test our handicapping acumen elsewhere.

We’re instead creating a bicoastal Daily Double: The $250,000 Bowling Green (Grade 2) at the Spa and the $300,000 Bing Crosby Stakes (Grade 1) at Del Mar, a “win and you’re in” race for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

The handicapping crew is about as deeply divided as I’ve seen on the Bowling Green, a 1⅜-mile test for 4-year-olds and up on the inner turf course, which drew a competitive field of 13. They narrowly favor the Chad Brown-trained Ya Primo (8-1) over Arklow (9-2) and Channel Maker (the 7-2 morning line favorite.)

These graded stakes on the turf are always tricky, as horses seem to take turns beating one another. But if you’re looking for consistency at the distance, Channel Maker seems to hold a slight edge. I’ll try to beat him, however, with Red Knight (12-1), who has been patiently brought along by trainer Bill Mott and knocking at the door at this level lately. My second pick is Channel Maker, with veteran Sadler’s Joy (6-1) in third.

In the 6-furlong Bing Crosby for 3-year-olds and up, the crowd ’cappers are again split, but favor Cistron (5-2) to fend off Line Judge (8-1) and 2-1 morning line favorite Recruiting Ready.

#Rjhorseracing handicapper CNote Nick gets the floor this week to explain what he saw in the group’s pick:

“Going 6.5 furlongs front running 2 starts ago with same jockey in a stakes he won by 5.25 (lengths) to earn life-best speed figure. Last race, going 1/8 mile longer than today, he led by 3 lengths at the stretch call (6 furlongs) only to be headed (at the finish.)”

I won’t be stunned if Cistron wins, but Recruiting Ready gets my vote, having finished a close-up third behind Catalina Cruiser last out in what was a stakes record in the True North Stakes at Belmont Park.

I’ll use Line Judge and Canterbury invader Cicatriz (12-1) to fill out the minor placings.

Mike Brunker’s horse racing column appears Fridays. He can be reached at mbrunker@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4656. Follow @mike_brunker on Twitter.

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