Rail Runner

The Observations of a Horse Racing Enthusiast

Palace Malice: Thrills & Chills

Posted by Brian Appleton on September 5, 2014

Post Parade - 2014 Whitney Stakes

Post Parade – 2014 Whitney Stakes

Horse racing fans know there’s nothing worse than opening up your email or web browser and reading a headline announcing the injury and subsequent retirement of a favorite horse. For me the last two years have been a blast, I’ve had the privilege along with thousands of other passionate racing fans, to watch, attend and share in the joy of a special colt named Palace Malice. Today that racetrack journey has sadly come to an end and I’m once again having a hard time saying goodbye to a horse that has grown to become one of my most beloved racing stars. For me Palace Malice became the kind of horse that transformed a feature race into so much more than just a competition, he became the sole reason I wanted to watch that race. It didn’t matter who the competition was or what the “experts” were saying, I was always convinced he could emerge victorious.

I’m not sure how many people can brag that they saw him win his maiden win. I did and it endeared him to me even more. Catching a future star winning their maiden is like winning the lottery of horse racing bragging rights for fans. It makes each race all the more gripping and each high and low so much more influential. I think I was destined to love Palace Malice from the beginning, seeing as I was such a huge fan of Curlin and already carried a sense of expectancy and hope that he would produce offspring that carried his heart and talent onto the track. Palace Malice’s sophomore season seemed plagued by horrible trips and not-quite-there performances that always had him coming up short of a win, but still garnering plenty of attention for his grit and determination in the face of adversity. His 7th place finish in the Louisiana Derby (Gr.2) after getting slammed, blocked and bounced around more than a ball in a Ping-Pong tournament was one of the best off-the-board finishes I have seen in my life. When he came back two weeks later to finish second by a nose in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (Gr.1) it was obvious to everyone that he had some serious racing chops and was going to have a strong presence in the three-year-old division.

The 2013 Belmont Stakes will always be one of my favorites. The 12th place performance of Palace Malice in the derby after setting insane fractions on the front-end all the way in the far turn at Churchill Downs seemed to have convinced most people that he couldn’t handle the pressure of racing in the Classics. Not only did he handle the pressure, Palace Malice rolled to a 3 ¼ length win with jockey Mike Smith at odds of almost 14-1. I remember sitting in my apartment watching the race unfold on television and slowly realizing that Palace Malice was looking stronger than any of the other runners in the race as the field navigated the far turn. “Curlin’s son is going to win the Belmont”, I said it under my breath at first, afraid to say it too loud. I said it again and again until finally I was shouting at the top of my lungs, my roommate covering his ears as I pounded the couch to a pulp and screamed it for all I was worth, “CURLIN’S SON IS GOING TO WIN THE BELMONT!”. Those are the kinds of moments that made Palace Malice so special. I could make a complete fool of myself, screaming my head off, pumping my fists and stomping my feet, but the euphoria and ecstasy of the moment would not abate. My horse was going to win. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wd-5c4l-iKs

After the Belmont Palace Malice thrilled with a victory in the Jim Dandy before running a game 4th in the Travers Stakes, but proving once again that he would run his heart out not matter the hand dealt to him. After that he was a clear but distant second behind a monster performance from Ron the Greek in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (Gr.1). In the Breeders’ Cup it appeared the effort of his long campaign had finally caught up with him. He finished 6th after a perfect stalking trip while Mucho Macho Man ran his heart out to defeat Will Take Charge by a nose. That performance most likely cost him the three-year-old championship to Will Take Charge but, I was still convinced he was the best.

If Palace Malice was good in 2013 he was absolutely brilliant in 2014. Right off the bat he won the Gulfstream Park Handicap (Gr.2), defeating a stubborn Golden Ticket by a head after a determined stretch-duel that had me once again screaming for him to succeed. Having your favorite horse return from a layoff to ace their first race back is an incredible feeling and makes the future look so bright. I remember boldly declaring he would go on to be Horse of the Year to anyone who would listen. After Gulfstream Palace Malice shipped to Louisiana and snatched a runaway victory in the New Orleans Handicap (Gr.2), defeating Normandy Invasion by more than 4 lengths. From New Orleans Palace Malice headed to Belmont and romped by 9 ¾ lengths in the Westchester Stakes (Gr.3) over a small field. It was little more than a paid workout that received criticism from many for its lack of competitive depth, but I was just thrilled to see him still winning and doing it easily. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hA2GA2ibdbo

The Metropolitan Mile might have been Palace Malice’s finest moment. It is a race that makes a colt a stallion many say and it most definitely increases a stallion prospects value tremendously. A strong field of 12 was entered for the Met Mile but Palace Malice stood out, even with the presence of Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (Gr.1) winner Goldencents in the field. Breaking from post number one Palace Malice ran just behind the lead set by Broadway Empire and Goldencents, inside of Clearly Now and Moreno. As the field came off the turn it was apparent that Goldencents had gotten the jump on Palace Malice as Broadway Empire began to fade, cutting off the path Palace Malice was traveling. John Velazquez masterfully guided Palace Malice to the outside of Broadway Empire and then drove through the opening between the rail and an accelerating Goldencents. Once he had clear running room Palace Malice charged ahead with a vengeance and seized the lead, winning by one length over Goldencents with Romansh just back in third. I’m pretty sure I reached an unseemly decibel with my shouts and screams of encouragement and excitement once Palace Malice got into high gear, one or two of the neighborhood dogs might even be hard of hearing now, but my euphoria couldn’t be contained after that brilliant performance. Now that some time has passed the Met Mile field has proven to be an even stronger in retrospect. Moreno went on to win the Whitney and finish a close second in the Woodward, both Grade 1 events, while Goldencents romped to victory in the Pat O’Brien Stakes (Gr.2) at Del Mar, setting a track record in the process and Clearly Now won the Belmont Sprint Championship Stakes (Gr.3) over Palace by more than 6 lengths. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YoL-0tfRLic

Sadly Palace Malice finished a fading 6th in his final race, the Whitney Stakes at Saratoga Racecourse. Moreno went gate-to-wire over Itsmyluckyday and Will Take Charge to capture the Grade 1 event and while it was immensely disappointing to see such a lackluster performance from Palace Malice, it seems obvious now that he was not quite himself. Owner Cot Campbell said they performed a scintigraphy and discovered a bone bruise in his left hind cannon bone after the Whitney. Unfortunately it could endanger Palace Malice by running again so they made the courageous and appropriate decision to retire him. The Bloodhorse reported that Cambell said, “His career has been a wonderful thing at this stage of my career; I’ve enjoyed it to the utmost. I’d like it to continue, but he doesn’t owe us a thing.”
I echo the sentiments of Mr. Cambell in saying that I’d like the Palace Malice trip to keep on going and never end, but all good things must come to an end. Now he enters phase two of his career with a stellar list of accomplishments and legions of adoring fans that will never forget the thrills and chills he gave us. Maybe one day I’ll be able to visit him at stud and fawn over him in person.

Posted in Curlin, Palace Malice | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Breeders’ Cup Day 2: Live Blogging

Posted by Brian Appleton on November 2, 2013

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1) Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Grade 1 – 1 1/16 Miles
The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies will start with a field of 10 youngsters in less than 20 minutes at Santa Anita this year. This is a pretty nice field of fillies and favoritism should be bouncing around between Artemis Agrotera and Sweet Reason. They finished 1-2 respectively in their last start in the Frizette Stakes (Gr.1) and have been dominating in their 5 combined starts. Untapable, Rosalind, Secret Compass and She’s a Tiger are four fillies in with a really good shot as well. It’s 10 minutes to post time.

Results: She’s a Tiger and jockey Gary Stevens ran a strong gate-to-wire performance in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, holding off a determined Rio Antonia with Rosalind closing on the inside for third to finish ahead in the event, but after a review by stewards determined that she came out and bumped Rio Antonia her number was taken down and 32-1 Rio Antonio was declared the winner. Race favorite Artemis Agrotera was away well and had a perfect stalking trip just behind She’s a Tiger, but was unable to capitalize on her strong position, fading back as the field moved around the far turn. Meanwhile Sweet Reason appeared to be on her way to winning after launching a move from far back in the field to reach third in stretch before flattening out. Ria Antonia entered off a 5th place finish in the Frizette Stakes and this marks her first graded stakes win.

2) Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf Grade 1 – 1 ¼ Miles
Laughing is my pick here, she’s been on a roll lately, winning four graded stakes in-a-row, including two grade 1’s. She’ll have some really strong competition this time around so it won’t be a cakewalk or a “sure thing” by any means. I’m curious to see how Emollient fares in this spot and will be rooting for Marketing Mix to made a good run as well.

Results: Dank proved her 8/5 favoritism in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf today was well deserved. Running much closer to the lead than she typically does, Dank sat a very close second, just off the lead of Emollient with Laughing surprising far back running in 7th as the field moved by the stands for the first time. The field maintained positions down the backstretch with Marketing Mix moving up a bit closer into 4th as the field approached the far turn. Emollient still held a slight advantage as they began to travel into the turn but Dank moved up strongly on her outside to seize command as Marketing Mix, Romantica and Alterite all moved forward as one. Emollient hung on stubbornly in the stretch, never throwing in the towel, but Dank extended her lead under the line, winning by just over a length with a fast closing Romantica right in behind. Alterite and Emollient finished half a length in front of Marketing Mix to complete the top 5. Jockey Ryan Moore won his fifth Breeders’ Cup race with Dank and once again it looks like the Europeans are going to love the turf today.

3) The Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint Grade 1 – 7 Furlongs
Last year Groupie Doll was the undisputed queen of sprinting here in the U.S. and this year she returns to defend that title with a lot to prove and many contenders looking to take her title. After a long rest this year Groupie Doll has not quite lived up to her spectacular form of last year, but has still managed to win two of four starts and set a track record in the Presque Isle Downs Masters Stakes (Gr.2). She enters off a third to Judy the Beauty in the Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes (Gr.2). Judy the Beauty could wind up being my pick come post time, she seems to be improving at the right time and could get a really good pace to close into. Sweet Lulu, Book Review, Teddy’s Promise and Dance to Bristol are just a few of the other top class fillies looking to stake their claim to title of best female sprinter in the country. I’ll be rooting for Groupie Doll to win this again, but I’m not sure she’s as sharp as she was last year and can replicate her devastating victory.

Results: Checkout my recap on DistaffRunner at Horse Racing Nation to read all about Groupie Doll’s incredible victory!

4) The Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint Grade 1 – 6 ½ furlongs
The 14 horse field for the Turf Sprint has two fillies I’m extremely high on this year, as I was last year. Mizdirection and Reneesgotzip. Mizdirection is the defending Turf Spring winner and I fully expect she’ll be just as tough to beat this year as she was last. However I’m choosing Reneesgotzip to win this one, she’s probably the fastest filly in the nation, maybe even the fastest horse in the nation, and if she gets out to a solid lead and holds in the stretch I don’t think anyone’s going to pass her.

Results: Mizdirection went into the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint a very solid favorite to defend her title from last year and she did just that in a thrilling finish on the downhill turf course at Santa Anita. Breaking like a bolt, Reneesgotzip shot to the lead and blazed an opening quarter in :21.47 before rushing through a half in an incredible :43.36. Mizdirection broke well and rated in 4th position for jockey Mike Smith, just a few lengths off the flying pace set by Reneesgotzip. Moving into the turn the defending champion edged up to sit in third on the outside. As the field thundered into the homestretch Reneesgotzip had powered clear by two lengths, but it was clear that Mizdirection was getting ready to roll. Halfway to the wire and Reneesgotzip was still holding the lead, desperately urged on by jockey Maldonado, but Mizdirection was flying now, eating up the ground with giant strides to win by a long neck over Reneesgotzip, just a nose in front of Tightened Touchdown. Two very classy fillies brought it to the boys once again this year, after finishing 1st and 3rd last year, Mizdirection and Reneesgotzip now finished 1st and 2nd.

5) The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Grade 1 – 1 1/16 Miles
The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile looks less competitive this year than is has the last few years, mainly because Honor Code and Ride On Curlin opted not to run this year, but with Havana and Strong Mandate still in the race it’s sure to be a thriller. Strong Mandate ran a clunker in the Champagne Stakes (Gr.1) last out finishing 7th, but was the clear division leader prior to that with a dominating win in the Hopeful Stakes (Gr.1). I still like Strong Mandate and I’m going to give him another chance here in the Juvenile. It might not work out to his advantage with speed playing so well today, but Havana will surely like it. Undefeated in two starts, Havana last out captured the Champagne Stakes by a nose over Honor Code and looks to cinch up the Championship title here with a win.

Results: New Year’s Day didn’t steal any of the pre-race hype moving into the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (Gr.1), but when the dust settled this Bob Baffert trained colt was the last colt standing. He entered the Juvenile off a 1 ¾ win over Bond Holder to break his maiden and went off at odds of 10-1, but none of that mattered in the end. With jockey Martin Garcia aboard, New Year’s Day broke towards the back of the pack and settled into 9th position down the backside as Conquesttitan and Strong Mandate drove through brutal opening fractions of :22.66 for the quarter and :45.38 for the half. Approaching the far turn Strong Mandate took over and opened up by two lengths as the field began to navigate the turn, but Havana quickly closed up on the outside and stole the lead, rushing off to a two length lead into the stretch. New Year’s Day meanwhile was weaving his way through traffic to launch his bid at the rail, finally hitting his best stride halfway down the stretch to win going away by about 1 ½ lengths. It was a wonderful win for Bob Baffert who earlier on the card saw his filly Secret Compass euthanized after a terrible injury. Now the question is this; is New Year’s Day done for the year or will he try to pad up his resume for a chance to win an Eclipse as the nation’s leading 2-year-old colt.

6) The Breeders’ Cup Turf Grade 1 – 1 ½ Miles on Turf
Point of Entry has not run since winning the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap at Belmont Park on June 6th, but that wasn’t his fault. He suffered a condylar fracture in the Manhattan and trainer Shug McGaughey gave his champion plenty of time to rest up and heal. Incredibly he has made a 100% recovery and is back to try and win the Breeders’ Cup Turf after his gallant ½ length defeat by Little Mike last year. It’s always difficult for a horse to comeback from an injury and run competitively at a high level, but this presents an especially tough challenge for Point of Entry since he’ll be facing horses like European sensation The Fugue, last year’s winner Little Mike and a very strong contender in Big Blue Kitten. The consensus seems to be that The Fugue will prevail, but I’m hoping for the “fairy-tale” run by Point of Entry. This horse is all heart and always gives his very best. Big Blue Kitten could prove to be his biggest challenge today.

Results: Most of the attention was on The Fugue and Point of Entry in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, but Magician came from out of the clouds to give jockey Ryan Moore his second win at the Breeders’ Cup this year. Point of Entry coming off a long layoff was placed 3rd last by jockey Joel Rosario with The Fugue running in 7th four lengths ahead as the field left the gate and came by the stands for the first time. Teaks North led the field through a reasonable opening quarter before running the opening half in :46 4/5 to speed things up just a bit. Down the backstretch the field positions remained relatively unchanged but the minute the field hit the turn Little Mike made a swift move to seize the lead with The Fugue right in behind and Point of Entry beginning to rally back in 6th. Into the homestretch Little Mike held the lead briefly until The Fugue and Vagabond Shoes edged ahead, but from the back of the pack Magician was moving best of all, rushing past Point of Entry and nailing the win by half a length over The Fugue. Point of Entry finished well but wasn’t good enough on the day.

7) The Breeders’ Cup Sprint Grade 1 – 6 Furlongs
Little Mike was the first returning Breeders’ Cup winner not to successfully defend his title just minutes ago and in about 20 minutes it will be up to Trinniberg to prove he’s still got his moves. Last year Trinniberg turned in a thrilling and determined ¾ length win in the Breeders’ Cup, but since then he has lost all four of his concurrent starts, most recently finishing 7th in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship Stakes (Gr.1). He’ll have a lot to prove today. This one is all about Secret Circle for me. I love Bob Baffert training sprinters and this horse is just freakishly fast and talented. Justin Phillip could also be in for a good run, he seldom runs a poor race.

Results: Secret Circle might have had just one prep race for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, but he proved that favoritism was well deserved as he launched a strong move coming off the turn to hit the lead and stick it to his competition. The opening quarter went in a blistering :21.34 as a three horse battle ensued up front between Sum of the parts, Gentlemen’s Bet and Fast Bullet. Entering the homestretch Gentlemen’s Bet was just a half-length in front of Sum of the Parts as Secret Circle fanned seven wide and drove for the wire. Gentlemen’s Bet held on gallantly, but Secret Circle rolled by nearing the wire as a fast closing Laugh Track took second. That’s win number two for trainer Bob Baffert and Jockey Martin Garcia today. Many were saying it before the Sprint and they’ll continue saying it now; Secret Circle is the best sprinter in the country.

8) The Breeders’ Cup Mile Grade 1 – 1 Mile on Turf
What can you say about this race, other than that Wise Dan is just so intimidating that it’s really tough to pick against him? The reigning Horse of the Year was sensational all last year and won the Breeders’ Cup Mile in record setting style. This year he has been equally as impressive while racking up 5 consecutive wins, including three Grade 1’s and two Grade 2’s. This is his race to lose and I’m not going to try to beat him.

Results: Wise Dan has not lost a step. After finishing second in the Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes (Gr.1) in his last start, the 2012 Horse of the Year had some detractors saying that he was slowing down and his age was showing, but the only thing that showed today was how good Wise Dan is. Breaking with a small stumble out of the gate, Wise Dan picked himself up without so much as a hiccup and settled in nicely behind the leaders with Obviously blowing through an opening quarter in :21.94 and a half in :44.47 with Silver Max in second. Into the turn Obviously continued to lead as Wise Dan came under a full head of speed and set his sights towards the finish line. Charging down the middle of the stretch the champion overtook a very game Za Approval as Silentio darted to the inside. The margin of victory was just ¾ of a length, with Za Approval and Silentio finishing second and third, but this was a no-doubt-about-it winner.

8) The Breeders’ Cup Classic Grade 1 – 1 ¼ Miles
It’s the biggest racing event of the year aside from the Kentucky Derby and this year boasts a stellar field of 11 colts and geldings all vying to be called the best in America. Game On Dude has run in this race twice, finishing a game second in 2011 and a dull 7th in 2012 behind Fort Larned who returns this year to defend his title. Since finishing 7th last year Game On Dude has won 6 straight races, including three Grade 1’s and is coming into this year’s Classic fit, fresh and better than ever. The way Santa Anita’s Track has been playing both days of the Championships so far you have to believe he’s got an excellent chance to get the lead and carry it all the way to the end. Personally though, I’m going with Belmont and Jim Dandy Stakes winner, Palace Malice. He finished a very solid 2nd to Ron the Greek who absolutely freaked in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont in his last start after running 4th in the Travers, running what many consider the best performance of the race. He’s been going strong all year long and doesn’t look to be slowing up now. It’s a huge challenge for any 3-year-old to take on experienced elders such as Game One Dude and Mucho Macho Man, but if anyone can get it done I think it’s Palace Malice. It should be interesting to see how his fellow sophomore runners Will Take Charge and Moreno perform as well. Mucho Macho Man is a big favorite of mine and his last win was terrific, but my heart belongs with Palace Malice on this one.

Results: He’s got one of the most solid fan bases in the sport and has one of the most lovable and talented trainers on the planet and Saturday night at Santa Anita Park, Mucho Macho Man raced his way into Breeders’ Cup history. Breaking fastest of all Mucho Macho man was quickly flanked by Moreno on the inside and Game on Dude to his outside before dropping back to fourth as they navigated the first turn with Fort Larned moving up to lead. The opening quarter went in :23.39 as Moreno and Fort Larned battled it out on the front end. Declaration of War raced to the inside of Mucho Macho Man behind the leaders with Will Take Charge and Palace Malice running side by side three spots back. As the field approached the far turn Mucho Macho Man and jockey Gary Stevens swung to the outside of Game On Dude and took command with Palace Malice and Will Take Charge just in behind. Charging off the turn and into the stretch Mucho Macho Man began to pull away, leading by just over a length as Declaration of War came shooting to the outside, pushing Palace Malice and Will Take Charge out wide into the track. Halfway down the stretch and Mucho Macho Man was still in the lead but Declaration of War was all out to catch him. Will Take Charge began to pick up speed and unravel his customary late charge as Palace Malice faded. Those three flashed under the line to the thunderous roars of the crowd. Mucho Macho Man won, defeating Will Take Charge by a thread with Declaration of War in between, just a head back in third. Trainer Kathy Ritvo provided the most touching scene of the 2013 Breeders’ Cup when she ran out onto the track to greet her returning champion and Gary Stevens who gratefully shouted out, “You made an old man very happy”.

Posted in Breeders Cup Classic, Breeders Cup Juvenile, Breeders Cup Sprint, Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, Breeders' Cup Mile, Breeders' Cup Turf, Dank, Groupie Doll, Magician, Mizdirection, Mucho Macho Man, New Year's Day, Reneesgotzip, Ria Antonia, Secret Circle, She's a Tiger, Wise Dan | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Breeders’ Cup Day 1: Blogging By the Hour

Posted by Brian Appleton on November 1, 2013

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Hello racing fans, today is finally here…Breeders’ Cup Day One! Aside from classes in the morning, this is just about a perfect day. As soon as the horses enter the paddock I’ll be standing by to give minute-by-minute and hourly updates on all the races and contenders. I hope everyone gets to pick some winners today and we’re all able to witness the coronation of great new champions and even greater returning ones:

1) Breeders’ Cup Marathon Grade 3 – 1 ¾ Miles
It’s just under an hour to the first Breeders’ Cup race of the year, the 1 ¼ mile marathon with a field of 10 set to contest the race over Santa Anita’s dirt course. Commander is the horse I like here and with the apparent “speed bias” everyone seems to be talking about on the dirt today I think his chances have increased even more. He’s won four of his last 5 starts and in all four wins the official chart notes that he had the lead and either held of extended his advantage at the wire. Indian Jones and Pool Play seem to be getting some support on social media, but as it stands now Commander looks the best from this vantage. 37 Minutes to post for the Breeders’ Cup Marathon.
Results: London Bridge came from out of the clouds to win the Breeder’s Cup Marathon at odds of 7-1 at Santa Anita, defeating Blueskiesnrainbows with Worldy finishing third. Approaching the end of the backstretch Commander relinquished an easy lead he had maintained for the first 1 ¼ of the Marathon as a wave of contenders overcame his position. Blueskiesnrainbows took a narrow advantage into the homestretch with a swift move on the inside as Wordly loomed up on the outside with Suns Out Guns Out packed tightly between those two. It appeared briefly that Blueskiesnrainbows would open up and win by just over a length clear, but London Bridge had other plans. Closing from dead last, all-time-winningest Breeders’ Cup jockey Mike Smith guided London Bridge wide around his competition and stormed down the center of the track to catch a tiring Blueskiesnrainbows. Clearly these was no speed bias on the Santa Anita dirt surface today as some feared there might be.

2) Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Grade 1 – 1 Mile
Bobby’s Kitten looks to be much the best of this group to me, but see as I chose Commander in the Marathon who just got trampled, my opinion might not be the best. His Pilgrim Stakes (Gr.3) was ultra-impressive and he’s able to replicate the same kick he displayed there he should win this with a good trip. Bashart and Giovanni Boldini look like legitimate threats.

Results:
Bobby’s Kitten kicked out of the gate in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf like a rocket and blew through the fastest opening quarter in Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf history, going :22.27 before posting a :25.45.70. Down the backstretch Bobby’s Kitten maintained his commanding lead, rolling into the homestretch 2 lengths in front with Giovianni Boldini beginning to gain ground in second. Off the turn it was clear Bobby’s Kitten was going to have to work hard to validate his favoritism. Giovanni Boldini continued to eat into his lead, gaining momentum with each and every stride, but from the middle of the pack Outstrip streaked through an opening and gunned for the leaders. It was like watching a fresh horse jump into the race in the homestretch and mow down his two biggest opponents with ease. The margin of victory wasn’t large, but it didn’t matter, Outstrip was fantastic and proved easily the best. Mike Smith won his 2nd Breeders’ Cup race of the day. Giovanni Boldini finished second with Bobby’s Kitten in third.

3) Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile 1 – 1 Mile
If the Verrazano of the Haskell Stakes shows up here in the Dirt Mile I don’t think he’s going to have any problems winning this race. Goldencents is a bit of a question mark to me, he’s proven himself earlier in the year, but lately he’s been missing the win in races that should be right up his alley distance-wise. I think Pants On Fire is the most legitimate choice to spring a win if it’s not Verrazano.

Results:
The Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile was Verrazano’s chance to prove his losses at 1 ¼ miles in the Kentucky Derby and Travers this year were flukes and that his true talent lay in the sprints and mile distances. Goldencents had other plans. Breaking from the gate best of all, Goldencents and jockey Bajarano shot to the lead and never looked back. Blazing an opening quarter mile in :22.12 before a half in :44.75, Goldencents turned back the challenge of Broadway Empire and poured it on in the homestretch, opening up by 5 lengths on the field. Verrazano floundered in 4th, finally fading back as Golden Ticket came up on the inside to take second with Brujo de Olleros in third. Goldencents had something to prove today and he came out and really put on a show. I guess the decision for Champion 3-Year-Old Male rests solidly in the results of the Breeders’ Cup Classic tomorrow night.

4) Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf Grade 1 – 1 Mile on the Turf
This field seems a bit wide-open to me this year and I frankly wouldn’t be surprised to see a longshot win, however I do think Vorda and My Conquestadory appear to be the best on paper. Vorda has more experience than My Conquestadory who is undefeated in just two starts, including a win in the Grade 1 Darley Alcibides Stakes last out, but it’s sometimes hard to tell how well a young horse will handle travelling from Europe to America. Chrisellium seems like another filly with a good shot. If she gets a good pace to close into she’ll be right in the mix.

Results:
Chrisellium got the pace she needed and romped to victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, defeating Testa Rossi and Colonel Joan in third with My Conquestadory finishing 4th. Nesso led the field through a strong opening quarter in :22.47 with My Conquestadory tracking in 2nd on the outside. Rounding the far turn Nesso continued to lead as My Conquestadory moved up to challenge and Chrisellium and jockey Hughes slipped between horses from the middle of the pack and unleashed a devastating turn of foot. As quick as My Conquestadory took the lead Chrisellium stole it away and blazed under the line in a record setting final time of 1:33.72. European’s are having a great Breeders’ Cup so far. My Conquestadory failed as the major American hope here, but still ran her heart out and was compromised by the 14 post. She’ll be back stronger and tougher to beat next time.

5) Breeders’ Cup Distaff Grade 1 – 1 1/8 Miles
This is the race I’ve been waiting for all day. Royal Delta looks to win her third straight Breeders’ Cup Distaff (formerly Ladies Classic) today and by all accounts will face her toughest Breeders’ Cup test to date in a pair of classy, talented 3-year-old fillies. Princess of Sylmar has been unstoppable since winning the Kentucky Oaks, becoming the only filly in history to win the Oaks, Coaching Club American Oaks and Alabma Stakes in the same year. Even more impressive perhaps was the way she so easily defeated Royal Delta in her last start, the Beldame Stakes (Gr.1) at Belmont Park. Beholder rounds out the top three and is generally considered just a step below the level of Princess of Sylmar on the 3-year-old filly standings. She lost by half a length to Princess of Sylmar in the Kentucky Oaks in May and since then has won two straight, including taking the Grade 1 Zenyatta Stakes against older fillies and mares. These three fillies are an incredible trio, I don’t think Authenticity will even crack the top three in the Distaff this year, despite the fact that she is such a terrific athlete. I’m rooting for Royal Delta to win her third straight Distaff, but there will be absolutely no disappointment on my end to see either Princess of Sylmar or Beholder take the crown.

Results: In a six horse field largely considered one of the very strongest in the entire Breeders’ Cup Championships this year, Beholder romped to victory over Close Hatches on her home track of Santa Anita to become the first Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner to return and capture the Distaff. Breaking from the gate it was a three way race between Royal Delta, Authenticity and Beholder, with Authenticity eventually gaining the advantage. Running an opening quarter in a swift :22.78, Authenticity led Royal Delta by half a length down the backstretch as Beholder sat just in behind. Coming around the far turn Royal Delta began to fall back as Beholder seized the lead with Close Hatches launching a strong move to gain second. Princess of Sylmar shockingly seemed to be struggling as the field entered the homestretch, eventually fading to finish last as Beholder blitzed to victory by more than 4 lengths with Gary Stevens aboard. It was Gary Stevens first Breeders’ Cup win in 13 years since returning to riding earlier this year. What happens now with the champion filly 3-year-old picture? Royal Delta sadly was not able to replicate her past two victories in the Breeders’ Cup and finished a distant 4th.

Posted in Beholder, Breeders' Cup, Breeders' Cup Distaff, Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, Breeders' Cup Marathon, Chrisellium, Commander, Goldencents, Indian Jones, London Bridge, My Conquestadory, Oustrip, Pool Play, Princess of Sylmar, Royal Delta, Verrazano | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

144th Travers a Star-Studded Event

Posted by Brian Appleton on August 22, 2013

2013 Travers Stakes The 144th Travers Stakes presents a unique case for the die-hard racing fan this year: it is impossibly easy to promote. For those of us that spend the better part of our 365 days a year checking the Blood Horse, Daily Racing Form, and social media sites on a daily basis for news on our beloved hooved heroes, only to struggle when it comes time to explain just how amazing a race like the Travers Stakes, Alabama, Haskell or Jim Dandy Stakes are to the “fair weather fans” who have just a vague recollection of the Kentucky Derby winner, sometimes the Preakness winner and almost never the Belmont winner, the 2013 Travers Stakes is a dream come true.

The 2013 Travers features Palace Malice, Orb and Verrazano all in the same race. Now that they’re all entered in the same race, the trouble is trying to decide on a favorite, or better yet, separating the favorites and choosing just one to win. I for one am solidly behind Palace Malice yet again. Since winning the Belmont Stakes on June 8th this son of Curlin has done everything right, even going on to capture the Jim Dandy Stakes last month in the 2nd fastest running since the race was shortened to its current 1 1/8 mile distance in 1972. Trainer Todd Pletcher can’t seem to find enough praise for the bay colt these days and has been very pleased with the way he has trained since the Jim Dandy. The fact that Palace Malice comes off two straight graded stakes wins in two of the biggest 3-year-old races in the nation, is 2-for-2 at Saratoga and seems to still be improving makes him the horse to beat in my eyes. Plus the Jim Dandy has proven to be the most effective prep race for the Travers Stakes, especially in recent years.

It’s no secret that Todd Pletcher’s stable is loaded with incredible talent this year and the fact that he has both Palace Malice and Verrazano in the same year in the same race is incredible. Verrazano has only one defeat to his name, a 14th place finish in the 1 ¼ mile Kentucky Derby when he received a gash above his knee leaving the gate and then failed to mount any sort of challenge. Since beginning his career in January at Gulfstream Park, he has won his 6 races by a combined 46 ¾ lengths while racking up two Grade 1 wins, as well as a Grade 2 and a Grade 3 victory. A lot of people have expressed concern about his ability to get the distance because of his pedigree, but I firmly believe a good horse can overcome their pedigree, and Verrazano is a good horse. I just don’t think he’s as good as Palace Malice right now.

Orb has been away from the races ever since finishing third behind Palace Malice and Oxbow in the Belmont Stakes, resting up at Fair Hill before returning to the work tab in early July. After rattling off 5 straight wins earlier in the year, culminating in a Kentucky Derby romp before finishing a disappointing 4th in the Preakness Stakes we were practically ready to hand him the 3-year-old Male Championship. That has all changed now, the Kentucky Derby winner is now the underdog. That alone says a lot for how loaded the field is in the Travers. Of all the contestants lining up to take a run at Saratoga’s premier race for sophomore colts, Orb has posted the best workouts hands down. Three straight bullet works, each as impressive as the last makes me think Orb and trainer Shug McGaughey are out to prove something. If I’m being honest I’d have to say that Orb scares me more than Verrazano right now and I think he’s going to present the biggest challenge to Palace Malice.

The “Big Three” might be the ones stealing all the headlines and probably make up for about 90% of bettors selections in the Travers, but one of them winning is by no means a done deal. Will Take Charge, Moreno, War Dancer, Ramansh, Transparent and Golden Soul make up the remainder of the field and at least four of them seem capable of springing an upset. Will Take Charge seems most likely to benefit from the added distance of the 1 ¼ mile Travers while Moreno seems like the one that could most be negatively affected by the added distance. Will Take Charge ran a great race to earn second in the Jim Dandy, rallying from far back to miss catching Palace Malice by one length. He had a terrible run in the Triple Crown, but seems to have turned things around after his promising run in the Jim Dandy.

Moreno won the Dwyer Stakes impressively before finishing a tiring third as the initial pacesetting in the Jim Dandy and despite trainer Eric Guillot’s comments regarding the colts ability to win the Travers I doubt he can carry his speed over the 1 ¼ mile distance. If he couldn’t keep up at 1 1/8 miles I don’t think he’s going to stop Palace Malice, Orb, Verrazano or even Will Take Charge at 1 ¼ miles.

War Dancer seems to be the most logical longshot pick after Will Take Charge, but I think Palace Malice, Orb and Verrazano are still at the head of this class. There’s nothing we racing fans love more than a showdown of our top athletes and with three of the nation’s very best in the same starting gate on Saturday it promises to be just that. The 2013 Travers Stakes is going to be an amazing race and I’m going with Palace Malice all the way. It’s not Saturday yet, but with only three days left before the 144th running of the “Midsummers Derby” at beautiful old Saratoga, this dream lineup of champion-caliber colts is about as close to happening as you can get.

Posted in Belmont Stakes, Curlin, Kentucky Derby, Moreno, Orb, Palace Malice, Preakness Stakes, Saratoga Racetrack, Travers Stakes, Triple Crown, Verrazano, Will Take Charge | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments »

Critiquing Wise Dan

Posted by Brian Appleton on August 13, 2013

Wise Dan There were plenty of detractors eager to criticize owner Morton Fink and trainer Charlie LoPresti decision to have Wise Dan defend his title in the Fourstardave Handicap last week, mainly because it was a race run at Wise Dan’s preferred distance of 1 mile on the turf and it would be the second consecutive Grade 2 race for the defending Horse of the Year. They say a good horse does his own talking on the track and that’s exactly what Wise Dan did, winning his 8th consecutive graded stakes race and 2nd consecutive Fourstardave Handicap (Gr.2) while missing the course record at Saratoga by just 3/5 of a second. Still, the critics remain and it seems that his win has created even more hoopla over his current campaign course than before.

From what I can gather it seems the storm began brewing almost immediately after Fink announced that they would not be pointing the 3-time champion towards the Breeders’ Cup Classic (Gr.1), but will instead attempt to defend his Breeders’ Cup Mile (Gr.1) win from last year. “I don’t care what anybody says”, Fink said, further stating that he doesn’t care “at all” about winning Horse of the Year again. It seems that Fink is bound and determined to keep his striking chestnut gelding on the turf and at his preferred distance of one mile. I’ve heard my share of criticism from fans about this decision and the decision to run in the Fourstardave Handicap, but I found it very ironic when I read an article this morning by Sam Walker of the Racing Post, brought to my attention by a Facebook status from The Paulick Report.

In his article Walker brings up some relevant points about fans wanting to see Wise Dan run outside of his comfort zone by trying some of the nation’s premier dirt races, but I think he goes a little too far in his criticism of American Turf racing, calling it “second tier” and claiming that “it doesn’t take a great horse to excel in that division”. He goes on to state that “the situation is nothing like being the best miler in Europe or the best sprinter in Australia”, even insinuating that American turf runners carry no global significance. I agree with Walker that American turf racing does not carry the same status or hold the same stature as that of European or Australian racing in general, but when he says that being “the best turf horse in American is like being the best harness, quarter horse or show pony” he has gone too far. I’m sure he has plenty of pride in the fine racing of his beloved Europe, but to claim our turf racing cannot stand toe-to-toe with some of the world’s greatest turf races is absurd. The Arlington Million, Breeders’ Cup Turf, Mile and many others proves that fact. I find his article insulting and somewhat naïve. The article is mainly written as a piece to state that Wise Dan is good enough to run well and defend his Horse of the Year title on dirt, but it was tough seeing past the insults for me to enjoy the rest.

Yes, Wise Dan hasn’t faced the toughest competition this year, and his connections are steadfast in their opinion that their champion should remain on the turf and preferably race at the one mile distance, but I still think there is an element of duplicity to Mr. Walker’s words, after all the great Frankel ran in 7 straight mile races without so much as a disparaging remark from Walker. I’m not making a comparison between Wise Dan and Frankel, just stating the obvious: both horses love the 1 mile distance on the turf and both were allowed to remain in their comfort zone during championship seasons. Frankel raced those 7 time over the course of just over 14 months, Wise Dan in 12 months. Frankel certainly faced stiffer competition and remained in Grade 1 company, but I think it’s important to note that his greatness was not diminished by racing in those 7 races, it was enhanced. It would be great to see Wise Dan challenged with an outside-the-box dirt race like the Jockey Club Gold Cup or the Breeders’ Cup Classic, but if Fink and LoPresti keep him on the grass at a mile I think it’s best to just try and enjoy his campaign while he’s still with us.

Posted in Charlie LoPresti, Fourstardave Handicap, Frankel, Morton Fink, Saratoga Racetrack, Shadwell Turf Mile, Wise Dan | Tagged: , , , , , | 13 Comments »

Dan & Groupie: 2 Champs in One Day

Posted by Brian Appleton on August 8, 2013

Wise Dan Wise Dan has been the picture of perfection this year and has left little doubt that he is the deserving Horse of the Year, Champion Older Male and Champion Male Turf Horse. After Curlin became the first horse to win back-to-back Horse of the Year titles since Cigar in 1995-96 we were treated to the extraordinary historical feat of three consecutive power-house females taking home America’s top prize. Now America’s reigning Horse of the Year title is once again resting on the muscular shoulders of an alpha male among the nation’s best and fastest.

In three starts this year Wise Dan has ruled his roost, adding the Grade 1 Makers 46 Mile, Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic and the Grade 2 Firecracker Handicap to his impressive resume of wins. Now he returns to Saratoga on Saturday to attempt a repeat of his 2012 victory in the Fourstardave Handicap (Gr.2), a move that has sparked controversy due to the Grade 2 status of the race and Wise Dan’s status as defending Horse of the Year.

I personally don’t have a problem with his placement in the Fourstardave or with the fact that it’s a Grade 2 race. The race is 1 mile long, it’s run on the turf and it’s a race that Wise Dan has already won. Those are three very good things in his favor. You can’t blame his connections for placing him in a spot where he did so well last year, plus it set him up for three straight Grade 1 wins to finish out his 2012 campaign. It’s not the toughest spot to run and it’s not a Grade 1 race, but I honestly don’t have a problem with seeing the Horse of the Year running in his second consecutive Grade 2 race when we know that there are more Grade 1’s down the road where he will have a chance to face the best and defend his Horse of the Year title. By this time last year he had won a Grade 3, finished 2nd in a Grade 1 and was about to win the Grade 2 Fourstardave. This year he has won two Grade 1’s, a Grade 2 and is back to defend his Fourstardave Handicap victory, so by my estimation he’s run in tougher spots more often this year than he did at this point last year.

Two weeks ago Wise Dan turned in one of the best workouts of the Saratoga meet, blazing five furlongs in :57.38. The chestnut gelding most recently breezed an easy four furlongs in :49.59 so I think it’s safe to say he appears ready to bring his “A” game to the track once again. Last weekend we were treated to a very impressive performance by Cross Traffic to capture the Whitney Invitational Handicap (Gr.1) in front-running fashion and just two weekends ago Belmont Stakes champ Palace Malice returned to win the Jim Dandy Stakes (Gr.2) in the 2nd fastest running time since the race was changed to its current 1 1/8 mile distance 50 years ago. Now it’s Wise Dan’s turn to once again conquer the “Graveyard of Champions” and make grand old Saratoga come alive.

I can’t sign off without mentioning that Champion Female Sprinter Groupie Doll is finally making her long-awaited 2013 debut in the Grade 3 Gardenia Stakes at Ellis Park on Saturday. She absolutely towers over this field of 11 other fillies and mares and enters off two straight bullet works. If she’s ever going to be vulnerable now is the time, but I think her recent works prove that she is ready to run good enough to return to the winners circle.

Posted in Fourstardave Handicap, Gardenia Stakes, Groupie Doll, Wise Dan | Tagged: , , , , , , | 14 Comments »

Lots of Malice in the Jim Dandy

Posted by Brian Appleton on July 27, 2013

PalaceMaliceJimDandy2013_7AC298 On a day when the big favorites were failing to live up to their expectations, with Kauai Katie finishing dead-last in the Prioress Stakes (Gr.1) and Stephanie’s Kitten and Centre Court running 3rd and Last of five in the Grade 1 Diana, Palace Malice delivered a show worthy of a favorite and then some. The son of Curlin went off as the well-backed 6-5 favorite and leaped out of the gate just a half-length behind Moreno at the break. Freedom Child and Code West ran in 3rd and 4th down the backstretch, with Will Take Charge not far behind and Mylute taking up the rear. After an opening quarter in :24.06 and a half in :47.48 jockey Mike Smith moved Palace Malice smoothly up to challenge Moreno for the lead as they rounded the far turn and those two hit the stretch as one. For a moment it seemed that Moreno would give Palace Malice a run for his money, but Mike Smith gave one solid flick of the whip and the Belmont Stakes champ roared to the lead, ears pricked and striding out strong towards the wire. Will Take Charge launched an excellent challenge from well back in the field to pass Moreno mid-stretch and take second, just one length behind the winner.

Palace Malice had something to prove in the Jim Dandy Stakes (Gr.2) after falling victim to some of the worst luck in the nation along the Triple Crown trail earlier this year, prior to capturing the Belmont Stakes. This win erased any doubts as to whether or not his Belmont win was legitimate. Not only did he win the Jim Dandy decisively, but he finished in a time of 1:47.37 for the 1 1/8 miles, the 2nd fastest time in the history of the Jim Dandy and just behind the 1:47.26 stakes record set by Louis Quatorze in 1996. He is also the first horse since 1982 to capture both the Belmont and Jim Dandy Stakes. He earned a sparkling 107 Beyer Speed Figure for his thrilling victory. It surprised many when he sat a close second right behind Moreno in the Jim Dandy, but that’s one of the things that makes him such an exceptional racehorse now, he’s learning how to stay out of traffic trouble and utilize his speed at the right time. I’m sure Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith deserves a lot of the credit for such a complete turnaround.

I’m very pleased to see that Curlin is producing some truly top-class colts and fillies and watching Palace Malice this year has been exciting and truly inspiring to me. It should be very interesting to see what Oxbow and Verrazano do in the Haskell Sunday. If either one wins or runs big, the Travers Stakes will easily become one of the most highly anticipated races of the year.

Posted in Curlin, Jim Dandy, Moreno, Palace Malice, Will Take Charge | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

It’s Gonna Be a Dandy!

Posted by Brian Appleton on July 26, 2013

Palace Malice Belmont It’s been almost seven full weeks since Palace Malice won the Belmont Stakes (Gr.1) by more than 3 lengths and now finally the classic winning son of Curlin is ready to grace the track again. The Todd Pletcher trained 3-year-old colt heads a field of 9 other sophomore contenders in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes on Saturday at Saratoga and he’s looking like a very strong favorite. I’m trying not to let my “Curlin bias” cloud my better judgment here, but from all indications it seems that Palace Malice is even better and stronger than he was before winning the Belmont Stakes. Pletcher has said repeatedly since the Belmont that the striking bay colt is full of energy and improving with each passing day. He even went so far as to say that the rugged Triple Crown campaign seems to have infused Palace Malice with more energy than he had before and his last three works seem to confirm that, especially his 1:00.32 five furlong workout on July 14. If he wins the Jim Dandy rest assured the race for champion 3-year-old colt this year will heat up even more, and the fact that Oxbow and Verrazano will be facing off in the Haskell on the exact same day just adds to the drama and excitement of the weekend. This is the kind of weekend a racing fan lives for.

Of the nine other challengers set to face the Belmont champ, Matt Winn Stakes (Gr.3) victor Code West, Dwyer Stakes (Gr.2) winner Moreno, Peter Pan (Gr.2) champ Freedom Child, Midnight Lute colt Mylute and Gotham Stakes (Gr.3) winner Vyjack appear to be the toughest challengers. Vyjack is cross-entered in the Grade 1 Haskell where he drew post position #1 after drawing post #10 in the Jim Dandy. A decision on which race he will contest is expected sometime today. Trainer Rudy Rodriquez guided the bay gelding through wins in the Grade 2 Jerome Stakes and Grade 3 Gotham Stakes earlier this year before he finished a very solid third in the Wood Memorial Stakes (Gr.1). After an 18th place finish in the Derby and an 8th place finish in the Belmont, Vyjack is looking to retrieve his earlier reputation and place himself once again towards the top of the three-year-old roster.

Trainer Bob Baffert is always a staple at the nation’s biggest races and usually brings some of the best players into the game and this time he’s bringing Matt Winn Stakes (Gr.3) winner Code West. The Lemon Drop Kid colt finished second in the Risen Star Stakes (Gr.2) in February, a half-length ahead of Palace Malice, and then ran 6th in the Louisiana Derby (Gr.2) one month later. He enters the Jim Dandy off two straight wins, most recently having captured the Matt Winn Stakes by a head after holding off a very determined Uncaptured down the length of the stretch. He previously had captured a 1 1/16 mile allowance race by 6 ¾ lengths. This colt is an excellent worker, three of last five works have all earned bullet status, with his most recent being a :46.00 flat four furlong move. He’s fit, he’s talented and it looks like he’s improving so he’s going to be a big threat. My only concern with him is the distance. He’s bred to get the 1 1/8 miles, but his only two wins this year were at the 1 1/16 mile distance and he finished 6th after tiring late in the Louisiana Derby at the 1 1/8 mile distance.

Moreno looks to improve won his maiden just two starts back at Belmont Park, just a few hours before Palace Malice captured the Belmont Stakes. He won his mile maiden by more than 6 lengths that day before coming back one month later to romp by 7 lengths in the 1 1/16 mile Dwyer Stakes (Gr.2). IN both starts he broke on top and never looked back. I really like this cot a lot and the fact that he’s a son of Ghostzapper just adds to his appeal. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him take a piece of the action at Saratoga on Saturday.

Freedom Child is a tough one to figure out. After his 13 length romp in the Peter Pan Stakes (Gr.2) he became one of the well-regarded newcomers in the Belmont Stakes and then finished second to last in a 14 horse field without any obvious excuses. He’s got nice breeding and has shown flashes of brilliance, but when it comes down to it I just don’t feel confident backing him.

Mylute finished 7th in the Risen Star Stakes earlier in the year, well behind Code West and Palace Malice, but followed that up by finishing just a neck behind Revolutionary in second in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby. After finishing 5th in the Kentucky Derby, the son of Midnight Lute has yet to start after finishing third to Oxbow and Itsmyluckyday in the Preakness Stakes. He definitely has the ability to be highly competitive against the best this crop has to offer, so his chances in the Jim Dandy cannot be underestimated just because he hasn’t broken through with a win in the big leagues. That being said I don’t think he’ll upset Palace Malice.

The rest of the field is completed by Rebel Stakes (Gr.2) winner Will Take Charge who completed his triple crown season with 8th, 7th and 10th place finishes in the Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes respectively. He was one of the most physically striking colts on the triple crown trail this year in my humble opinion, but looks have not done much for him since defeating Oxbow in the Rebel. Looking Cool enters off a victory in the Iowa Derby (Gr.3) by a neck, Perfect Title enters off a 1 ¼ length allowance score at Churchill Downs and Bashaar enters off a 3rd place run in the Iowa Derby. None appear to be in the same league as the rest of the field.

It’s no secret that I’m a huge Curlin fan and as such, a huge Palace Malice fan, so I’ll be rooting with all my heart for jockey Mike Smith and the Belmont Stakes victor to make the magic happen again.

Posted in Bob Baffert, Code West, Freedom Child, Jim Dandy, Moreno, Mylute, Palace Malice, Todd Pletcher, Vyjack, Will Take Charge | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Reneesgotzip & Musings on Curlin’s Runners

Posted by Brian Appleton on July 19, 2013

Reneeesgotzip How impressive was Reneesgotzip’s win yesterday at Del Mar? Very, very impressive. The four-year-old City Zip filly absolutely romped with style in her 2013 debut and against a very strong field as well. The second the gates sprang open Reneesgotzip burst to the lead and never looked back, sizzling her first quarter in :21.75 as she began to open up on the field. Dual Grade 1 winner Executiveprivilege tracked in 4th, more than 8 lengths behind the flying leader, who by now was 4 lengths out ahead of the field. By the time she reached the stretch she’d blazed through the opening half mile in :44.48 and was homeward bound, at least 8 lengths the best. Reneesgotzip ran the 5/8ths in a staggering :56.63 before finally slowing down a bit as she approached the wire. Executiveprivilege ran an excellent race to close from well back to get second, but there was no catching the brilliant Reneesgotzip who flew home more than 5 lengths the best.

I’ve been looking forward to Reneesgotzip’s first race of 2013 with great anticipation ever since her excellent 3rd place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint last November. It was that race that caused me to closely follow her career with renewed respect. She’s not only endowed with incredible speed and class, but also has proven to be versatile, running well on the grass, dirt and synthetic surfaces.

This weekend is opening weekend at grand, historic old Saratoga Racecourse. In one weeks’ time the Jim Dandy Stakes will take off at Saratoga and we will finally get to see Palace Malice back in action along with the likes of Freedom Child and Vyjack. The son of Curlin is doing fantastic according to trainer Todd Pletcher and looks stronger than ever. Speaking of Curlin offspring, the dual-Horse of the Year had four winners in two days’ time this past weekend. Two-year-old Ride On Curlin set a new track record at Ellis Park on Saturday in just his second start, running the 5 ½ furlongs in 1:03 flat. Now word has it he could be headed for the Saratoga Special unless some buyer comes along and hands him over to another trainer with a different schedule in mind. For now though, trainer Billy Gowan seems to believe he has a pretty special colt on his hands. Stopshoppingdebbie came out Sunday to keep her perfect record intact in her 4th lifetime start, taking the Kent Handicap at Emerald Downs by a very determined head after a stretch long duel. It’s very exciting to see Curlin’s runners doing so well and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for his offspring this year.

Don’t forget to check out my post about Royal Delta defending her title in the Delaware Handicap over on Horse Racing Nation. I think the champ is ready to roll again.

Posted in Curlin, Executiveprivilege, Palace Malice, Reneesgotzip, Ride On Curlin, Royal Delta, Stopshoppingdebbie | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Optimizer Pursues His Grade 1 Win

Posted by Brian Appleton on July 11, 2013

optimizer I’ve become a much bigger fan of Optimizer this year than I ever was during his 2012 sophomore campaign. His record wasn’t the greatest that year and certainly wouldn’t have scared away any competition with only two wins and three additional on-the-board finishes in graded stakes races, but he ran 14 times in a single year. That’s more than many horses run during their entire careers at the top of this game so I think it’s fair to call Optimizer a rugged, talented and hard running throwback. He’s run 7 times already this year, beginning with two impressive back-to-back wins in the Grade 3 Colonel E.R. Bradley Handicap and Grade 3 Fair Grounds Handicap. After a 4th and 4th place finish in the Mervin H. Muniz Jr. Handicap (Gr.2) and Oaklawn Handicap (Gr.2) respectively, Optimizer came back alive with a fantastic runner-up finish to reigning horse of the year Wise Dan in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby day. After that he finished third, less than a length behind victorious Skyring in the Dixie Stakes (Gr.2) after a tight trip on the inside. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s noticed, but each time he’s faced the best this year, he’s run his best and his runner-up finish to Point of Entry in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap on June 8th was no exception.

The Grade 1 Man ‘O’ War Stakes at Belmont Park offers the perfect opportunity for Optimizer to finally seize his elusive Grade 1 win. There’s no Wise Dan or Point of Entry to contend with and what’s more I think he’s a perfect fit for the 1 1/8 mile turf distance. This should be Optimizer’s race to lose.

His biggest challenge could come from the Shug McGaughey trained Boisterous, recent winner of the Grade 2 Monmouth Stakes on June 9th and runner-up in the Bel Ali Stakes (Gr.3) to Successful Dan in his two starts this year. He finished 2012 with consecutive victories in the Knickerbocker Stakes (Gr.3) and Red Smith Handicap (Gr.2) followed by a runner-up finish in the River City Handicap (Gr.3). He seems to be improving with age and maturity and posted two good 4 furlong works in preparation for the Man ‘O’ War Stakes.

The rest of the field seems like a distant third to me. Al Khali has a resume packed with Graded stakes experience, but he hasn’t won a graded stakes race since taking the Grade 2 Bowling Green Handicap on September 11th, 2010. Finnegans Wake and Twilight Eclipse finished 4th and 5th respectively in the Manhattan Reserve Handicap (Gr.1) behind Point of Entry and Optimizer. Of the two, Twilight Eclipse is the more accomplished, having won the Pan American Stakes (Gr.2) on March 23rd and the W. L. McKnight Handicap (Gr.2) last November. Exclusive Strike enters off two straight allowance scores, but both races were run in slow times and I think he’s a bit out of his league.

Posted in Al Khali, Boisterous, Man 'O' War Stakes, Optimizer | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

 
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