• The week’s highest Beyer speed figure in North America
Santa Anita (March 20): San Luis Rey Stakes G3 $100,000, 1m4f, turf, 4yo+
Trainer: Richard Mandella
Jockey: Flavien Prat
Owner: LNJ Foxwoods
Pedigree: 6 ch g Giant’s Causeway – Indy Punch (Pulling Punches)
After a dismal effort in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, United returned to the shallower waters of the Californian turf scene at the start of his 2021 campaign as he recorded a straightforward victory in the San Luis Rey.
Given that he won four G2 races in 2020, the six-year-old has every right to claim top-dog status on the west-coast lawn, and three of those victories – Charlie Whittingham, Eddie Read and John Henby Turf Championship (former Clement L Hirsch) – came in contests that had G1 status until the last decade.
Mind you, they fully deserve their denuded grade given lack of competition these days, though United himself was beaten only a head by Bricks And Mortar at the 2019 Breeders’ Cup.
Significantly, that took place on home territory at Santa Anita, and this year’s Breeders’ Cup is back at Del Mar so a better showing than 2020’s eighth-placed effort at Keeneland is probable.
Sent off odds on for his seasonal debut on Saturday, United stalked the leader before kicking away in the stretch and comfortably holding dead-late closer Say The Word in a win worth more than the three-quarter-length margin. In taking his career record to 8-for-18 (5-for-7 since start of 2020), he got a 102 Beyer.
Meanwhile, following news that Kentucky Derby favourite Life Is Good has a setback and will miss the Triple Crown, we find ourselves in the unusual position of having an active three-year-old crop within which not a single horse has registered a three-digit Beyer.
Such a mark used to be considered the necessary minimum for any potential Derby winner – you could put a line through the others. That said, Hot Rod Charlie got as near as dammit in the $1m Louisiana Derby, the first of the top-table prep races. More to follow in Florida and Dubai this weekend.
• More US racing coverage at drf.com