The birth of Buddha

Oh, if only Buddha had one more start under his belt. Racing's newest 3-year-old phenom looked awesome in Saturday's 3rd at Gulfstream, destroying his field by 9 1/2 lengths in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race. The big, powerfully muscled son of Unbridled's Song streaked by the highly promising Monarchoftheglen at the quarter pole and left his opponents for dead, while stopping the clock in a swift 1:42. While some horses look awkward and sloppy down the stretch when they don't switch leads, Buddha still looked as smooth as glass, while showing great extension to his stride. He just hit that left lead and stayed on it, while building up tremendous momentum down the stretch. It was amazing how quickly his margin went from 2 lengths to 9 lengths, while finishing up under a hand ride. You could tell just by looking at him, and how quickly he got over the ground, that he was going fast, which was substantiated by his final sixteenth in :06 flat.

In his previous start, Buddha broke his maiden with a similar surge, while covering his 7-furlongs in 1:23, which was a full second and two-fifths faster than the other maiden division run that day.

Buddha is a 16.2-hand powerhouse who looks to have as much raw ability as any 3-year-old we've seen this year. Of course, he still hasn't been tested for class, and he's had only three career starts -- actually two if you discount his mere stroll around the track in his career debut last year when he was found to have an entrapped epiglottis. Turned over to Jim Bond along with the other Gary West-owned horses trained last year by Bill Mott, Buddha has developed into an impressive specimen of a racehorse.

When I first got him, I liked everything about him," Bond said. "Mentally, he's got the game down. He's not a nervous type, which makes things easier. But you don't know what his next race will tell, so we really haven't decided yet in which direction we'll go. You know, there's a race called the Travers I'm very fond of. He's the right kind of horse; very correct and with all the assets. He's a very ratable, kind horse. I watch him work and it's incredible. I say to myself, 'My god, a 3-year-old is not supposed to do these kinds of things.' He just does it with such ease. So, we'll just say a prayer and hope for the best."

Manager Ben Glass, who picked out Buddha at the Keeneland September yearling sale for $250,000, said the colt definitely will be nominated to the Triple Crown. His next race, which could come in the Wood Memorial or possibly the Arkansas Derby, will determine if they'll try to make the Derby or wait until the Preakness.

More weekend frolics

-- We have to admit, we fell in love with a horse this weekend, not as a Derby horse, but just in general. Cashel Castle, undefeated in three romps last year, was making his 2002 debut in a 6-furlong optional claiming allowance for 3- and 4-year-olds. Forget about the fact that he won by 5 1/4 lengths. His adventure in the stretch was really something to see. Reserved off the early pace, Cashel Castle was allowed to settle in behind horses in fifth. With nowhere to go, he just sat and waited for something to open, which it did after turning for home. Cashel Castle charged up on the outside and began edging clear of the field. Now is where it gets interesting.

At the start of the race, Pic's Legend unseated his rider, raced in the pack for a while, then headed to the outside fence. As soon as Cashel Castle took the lead, it was as if Pic's Legend wanted a piece of him. He came all the way from the outside fence and pulled right alongside Cashel Castle, as if to take him on. Instead of getting spooked by this wild, riderless horse, Cashel Castle never flinched. Running as straight as a horse can run, he decided he wanted no part of this intruder and actually found another gear and spurted clear. He quickly opened 2-3 lengths on Pic's Legend, and in doing so, increased his margin over the field to 5 1/2 lengths. The son of Silver Ghost is a beautifully balanced gray with an attractive, alert head. He is so engaging, we can almost understand why his connections turned down $1.5 million for him.

-- Like Buddha, if only Yankee Gentleman had two or three more starts under his belt. Where are these horses coming from all of a sudden? Making his career debut for trainer Bill Mott, the son of Storm Cat annihilated his field in a 7-furlong maiden race, winning by 11 lengths, and his time of 1:22 2/5 was only a fifth slower than the Swale Stakes earlier on the card.

Mott also saddled the former Bob Baffert-trained Strive to a nose maiden victory on Saturday. The son of Deputy Minister rallied strongly in the final eighth to just get up. He had failed to break his maiden in three attempts with Baffert before being sent East to Mott.

Ethan Man, the 3-length winner of the Swale, has the pedigree of a sprinter, being by Glitterman out of a speed-oriented female family. But Glitterman did come up with Balto Star last year, who could get 1 1/8 miles, so Ethan Man might be able to stretch out to two turns successfully. The Derby, however, is another story. Ethan Man showed no signs of slowing down at the end of the Swale, as he convincingly defeated last year's Nashua Stakes winner Listen Here, who was making his 3-year-old debut. Trainer Pat Byrne said either the Blue Grass Stakes or the Lexington will be next for Ethan Man, who has now won three of his four career starts. "If he runs well then we'll look at the Kentucky Derby," Byrne said.

--War Emblem turned in a big prep for the Illinois Derby Sunday, winning a mile allowance race by 10 3/4 lengths at Sportsman's Park.

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