Rail Runner

The Observations of a Horse Racing Enthusiast

Reflections of 2009: Part 3 and Miscellaneous Racing Updates

Posted by Brian Appleton on December 18, 2009

Rachel Alexandra winning the Woodward Stakes

Zenyatta winning the Classic

We begin with August continued because I realize I left-out/forgot a whole bunch of really good races with key players. August 1st, a day before Rachel Alexandra’s tour-de-force in the Haskell against the boys, Mine that Bird was soundly defeated in his return to the races by 23-1 long-shot Soul Warrior and runner-up Big Drama in the West Virginia Derby. Forever Together was able to enhance her illustrious standings in the filly and mare turf division with a strong repeat win in the Diana Stakes at Saratoga the same day, solidifying her shot at a second running in the Breeders’ Cup. Magical Fantasy roared to her third consecutive score in the John C. Mabee on the 16th, also making a strong case for her participation in the Breeders’ Cup. Six days later it was back to the flashy three year old filly Careless Jewel in the Alabama, a race she won by 11 lengths in true super-star form. Some began to question whether or not Careless Jewel might just be able to give Rachel Alexandra a run for her money after the Alabama win, a race in which she extended her winning streak to four. One week later Indian Blessing was back as the slight favorite against Informed Decision with Music Note the third choice in the Ballerina. But in the end it was Music Note who ran away from Indian Blessing at the top of the stretch, winning by more than 5 lengths with Informed Decision running third. That same day Sara Louise, famous for being the last horse to defeat Rachel Alexandra, returned from a nine-month layoff to win the Victory Ride Stakes at Saratoga by more than 3 lengths, signaling that she would be a major contender in the filly and mare sprint division.

September brought the undisputed queen of east coast racing back into the limelight. On the 5th, Rachel Alexandra attempted to accomplish what no filly or mare in history had been able to do before, win the prestigious Woodward Stakes. After leading the field through suicidal opening fractions and being tested constantly down the backstretch, Rachel Alexandra opened up slightly coming into the stretch, then repelled the bid of Bullsbay and held on to defeat Macho Again who came flying at the end, by a head. It was one of the most courageous, determined and miraculous performances ever witnessed in the historic race. The next day Zensational extended his grade 1 winning streak to 3 in a row when taking the Pat O’Brien Breeders’ Cup Stakes, thus assuring himself solid favoritism in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. The same day 24-1 long shot Richard’s Kid just got up in time to win the Pacific Classic over hard-knocking Einstein in front of a crowd of more than 42,000 spectators. Lookin At Lucky seized the lead in the race for leading two year old male the next day, taking down the Del Mar Futurity to remain undefeated in four races, adding a second grade 1 win onto his resume. On September 12th Informed Decision returned to her winning ways after finishing third behind Music Note and Indian Blessing at Saratoga in the Ballerina, adding the Presque Isle Downs Masters to her list of wins. With only one loss in the year, and her sights set squarely on the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, she

Indian Blessing & Sara Louise

was quickly becoming a heavily backed choice to win. On the 26th Indian Blessing also returned to her winning ways in one of the most terrific stretch battles of the decade. In the Gallant Bloom Handicap three year old Sara Louise and defending 2008 Gallant Bloom winner Indian Blessing hooked up at the top of the turn and battled the length of the stretch with Indian Blessing maintaining a slight advantage. The two fillies fought tooth and nail, neither willing to give an inch. In the end Indian Blessing emerged the victor and showed that despite having lost all her previous three races in 2009, she was back and better than ever. Sara Louise was courageous in defeat and gained far more respect for her effort than she lost.

Into October and Interpatation kicked things off with one of the most surprising upsets of the year. At odds of 43-1, after being passed at the top of the stretch by heavily favored Gio Ponti who was gunning for his 5th consecutive grade 1 win, Interpatation ran the race of his life. Gathering himself for one final surge, he burst past Gio Ponti and went on to win the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational. Despite Gio Ponti’s incredible streak of grade 1’s being snapped in two, the fighter lost little admiration from his public in crossing the line second, apparently not caring for the wet conditions. Music Note fulfilled the role of the favorite that day by winning the Beldame Stakes

Music Note

with complete ease and positioned herself nicely for a second run at the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic. The next day it was back to California and Lookin At Lucky easily winning the Norfolk Stakes in his first try around two turns, further solidifying his position as leading two year old male. On the 10th undefeated champion Zenyatta wowed the crowd with her 13th consecutive win, equaling the renowned Personal Ensign’s record and repeating in the Lady’s Secret Stakes. Informed Decision continued to roll the same day, winning the Thoroughbred Club of America over Carlsbad. Magical Fantasy also chimed

Magical Fantasy

in the same day with her third consecutive grade 1 victory in the Yellow Ribbon Stakes while the Goodwood Stakes, with Colonel John and Mine that Bird, was upset by European invader Gitano Hernando.

November this year meant one thing: the Breeders’ Cup is less than one week away…and my family was sick to death of hearing about it! On Breeders’ Cup day #1, Informed Decision slammed the door on any hopes contenders might have had of winning the Eclipse award for Champion Female Sprinter. Gunning for the wire off the turn, Informed Decision turned the tables on defending Champ Ventura and ran her record over synthetics to 7 for 7, securely sewing up the female sprint championship for herself. After having hidden behind Zenyatta for most of the year, Life is Sweet emerged in dramatic last-to-first fashion to dismantle the field in the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic. Careless Jewel led until the final turn and was swallowed up by the field, eventually finishing last. Music Note finished third for the second consecutive year while Life is Sweet rolled to an easy 2 ½ length victory. The next day Goldikova returned to duplicate her win of 2008 in the Breeders’ Cup Mile against males, but this time in



much more spectacular fashion. Trainer Freddy Head became the first person to train and ride two time winners of a Breeders’ Cup race. In 1987-88 he rode super-filly Miesque to back-to-back wins in the Mile and in 2008-09 he trained Goldikova through her Mile victories. Later that day Zenyatta became the apple of the industry’s eye with one of the most breath-taking performances in horse racing history. Second to last coming off the final turn, she confidently threaded her way through the crowd, worked her way into the clear on the outside, extended her stride and in a matter of jumps she had overtaken leader Gio Ponti and surged to victory, becoming the first filly or mare in history to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Gio Ponti made a strong statement for champion older male in running second while Summer Bird ran well for third. Twenty days later, Sara Louise returned off only 21 days rest from running 4th in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, to win the Top Flight Handicap over Justwhistledixie. Two days later Kodiak Kowboy defeated Vineyard Haven, Pyro and Bribon in the Hill ’n’ Dale Cigar Mile Handicap in what was to be the last race of his career.

December isn’t quite over yet, we still have some racing to go and then it’s on to 2010 and the Derby trail. A couple of prominent things that I wanted to bring up before I sign off here; First is that Einstein will race one more time in 2010 and if he runs well we may see him through yet another full campaign next year. I was more than excited when I heard this news. If he doesn’t run well I’ll probably drop-dead, when doesn’t he run well? Gio Ponti is heading for the Dubai World Cup in March after his incredible 2009 campaign and however he runs in Dubai will dictate where and when he’ll run back in the States. Presious Passion is running the day after Christmas in the 1 ½ mile W. L. McKnight at Calder. I’ve loved this guy since the very beginning; his name alone makes you want to pay attention. After his words-cannot-do-justice runner-up effort in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, he seems to have ascended to a

Presious Passion

Cloudy's Knight

whole new level of competing. It will be fun to see what he can do again after having won the last two editions of the McKnight. To add to the excitement, Cloudy’s Knight, the incredibly tenacious 9 year old who just missed winning the Breeders’ Cup Marathon, is also slated to run in the McKnight. It’s rare to see a duo of horses more than four years old favored in such a big race, but in this case it’s the older, the better. Also of interest, I noticed that Harlem Rocker (prominent on the 2008 Triple Crown Trail) and This Ones for Phil are returning to action in the Kenny Noe Jr. also at Calder on the 26th. This Ones for Phil still holds the highest Beyer speed figure (a 115) for races up to one mile in distance this year.

Saturday I am looking forward to seeing Lookin At Lucky and Noble’s Promise clash yet again in the CashCall Futurity. I think it’s Lookin At Lucky’s race to lose.


2 Responses to “Reflections of 2009: Part 3 and Miscellaneous Racing Updates”

  1. Steve m. said

    Enjoyed reading the 3-part recap. Glad you highlighted the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont. One of the more bizzare races I’d seen all year. It was run during a full blown thunderstorm / downpour and the track was a muddy bog. Interpatation led the field almost the whole way which was totally out of character w/ his demonstrated late running style. The only horse in the race with early speed was the German bred and he ran mid-pack for some reason (probably didn’t like the soft going). The amazing thing was that Interpatation got passed in the stretch by Gio Ponti, and just when you thought Interpatation was ready to throw in the towel, he rallies back and passes Gio Ponti to win. Very unusual race to say the least. Think Albarado was riding so he deserves some credit for taking advantage of the slow fractions and getting him in a position to win.

    Hope you have a Merry Christmas!

    • Thanks Steve Merry Christmas to you too!
      I love it when a horse refuses to lose and turns sure defeat into certain victory. It was raining so hard when they ran the race most of the pictures look blurry from all the rain-fall.

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