Sports

Commentator cruises to victory in MassCap

EAST BOSTON – The 17,712 fans who came to Suffolk Downs on Saturday for the 66th Massachusetts Handicap may not have seen a competitive race, but there is something to be said for being a witness to incomparable athletic greatness.To the surprise of no one, Commentator was in complete control of the MassCap throughout, even when he was running second for the first six furlongs of the 1 1/8th-mile race. When jockey John Velasquez game him his cue at the 3/8ths pole, Commentator unleashed an effortless surge to the lead, leaving his six overmatched competitors in his wake on the way to a record-breaking 14-length win.”It’s a wonderful blessing to have a horse like this. He ranks up there with the all-time greats,” said Nick Zito, who trains Commentator for owner Tracy Farmer.The $300,000 winner’s share brought Commentator’s total earnings to more than $1.8 million. That’s an impressive figure, but it becomes downright mind-boggling when you consider he has run out more than $1 million this year alone, with four wins and a second, at the ripe age of seven.”It means so much to keep this horse around,” Zito said. “You have to have good ownership to be able to do what I’ve done with a horse like this. You have to be able to stop for six months or nine months at a time. You need good owners to do that.”Sent off at odds of 1-10, Commentator was content to let 50-1 shot Riversrunrylee control the early pace. Velasquez said he had no desire to get into a speed duel, so he moved Commentator to the outside of Riversrunrylee and sat a half-length behind down the backstretch. From there, it was a matter of when Velasquez would hit the go button.”I got close to the other horse, then (Commentator) got serious,” said Velasquez, who made the most of his trip to Boston, also winning two of the undercard stakes.Won Awesome Dude took second, a length ahead of a fast-closing Cuba. The winning time was 1:48.97.In addition to the purse, Zito said the rich history of the MassCap played a role in the decision to send Commentator to Suffolk Downs.”I love traditional races,” the Hall of Fame trainer said. “I can’t believe the horses who have run up here in Massachusetts. To be in that league is a real honor.”With his nonpareil performance Saturday, Commentator earned a spot with the true elite of MassCap champions, including Seabiscuit (1937), Whirlaway (1942), Riva Ridge (1973), Cigar (1995, 1996) and Skip Away (1997, 1998). And Suffolk Downs earned high praise from the winning connections, for the quality of the racing surface and the no-tolerance policy for horse slaughter instituted by majority owner Richard Fields.Zito said he hopes other tracks will follow Suffolk’s lead and make it clear that any owners and trainers who are willing to send horses off to the slaughterhouse are not welcome.”I want to commend Mr. Fields and what he’s done here,” Zito said. “Hopefully, Suffolk Downs will be a leader in this department and other racetracks will follow suit.”Zito also had kudos for track superintendent Steve Pini.”I walked on this track with my four horses (Saturday) morning and I’ve never seen bounce on a track like this one has. The dirt is the most beautiful dirt I’ve ever seen,” said Zito, an outspoken critic of synthetic racing surfaces. “This guy did some job.”Zito’s aversion to synthetic tracks might keep Commentator out of the Breeders’ Cup, despite the fact that the horse earned an automatic berth in the Classic with his win in the Whitney at Saratoga. The MassCap also served as a Win and You’re In Race for the Classic.”I’m not crazy about rubber and I’m not crazy about something from your attic,” Zito said, referring to the makeup of synthetic tracks, such as the new Pro-Ride surface recently installed at Santa Anita, which will host the next two Breeders’ Cups. “It’s a tough question. It’s a long way to go all the way out there.”He did leave the door slightly ajar, however.”This is a horse who is at the top of his game. You have Curlin, Big B

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