Rail Runner

The Observations of a Horse Racing Enthusiast

Cloud Nine

Posted by Brian Appleton on December 29, 2009

I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas and is looking forward to the New Year. I fully intended to get on her before the Christmas weekend and write a post about the up-coming races but got lost in the Christmas rush I guess, so here’s my overdue “post-Christmas” post.

We had a great weekend of racing this Christmas with a bevy of good races all loaded with high quality runners. The

Cloudy's Knight

most anticipated race was probably the W. L. McKnight Handicap and a showdown between Presious Passion and Cloudy’s Knight. Presious Passion had finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Turf on November 7 after one of the most determined and courageous performances in the races history. Cloudy’s Knight was defeated a scant nose in the Breeders’ Cup Marathon after a furious stretch battle with three year old Man of Iron. Two long distance specialists quickly padding their fan bases after terrific ’09 campaigns. I was surprised to see Winchester go off as the second favorite over 9 year-old Cloudy’s Knight. He did end up finishing second, albeit to Cloudy’s Knight in a terrific show of veteran racing. Cloudy’s Knight is on a roll this year, with the McKnight win his 2009 record stands at four wins from five starts. Presious Passion lacked his Breeders’ Cup Turf driving punch in the homestretch, finishing fourth after setting the pace. Cloudy’s Knight swept to the front coming off the turn, passing both Spice Route and Presious Passion on his way to a 1 ¼ length victory. After his ultra-successful campaign this year, he will be given a break from racing in hopes of returning to the track by the spring of next year.

                2008 was the first year I watched the La Brea Stakes, my personal favorite Indian Blessing won that year en

Evita Argentina

route to female sprint championship honors. This year another of my favorites, Evita Argentina was returning from a seventh place showing in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint to take on grade 1 winning favorite Gabby’s Golden Gal. Earlier in the year the 3 year-old Evita Argentina defeated the boys in California but had not shown quite the same amount of pizzazz since then. She has one of the most striking chestnut coats I have ever seen, kind of a cross between chestnut and soft honey colored. Wide at the top of the stretch, Evita charged to a two length victory in the La Brea. Fast charging Starlarks snagged second by a head over the beautifully named Amazed by Grace. This was Evita Argentina’s fourth win at the seven furlong distance in eight lifetime attempts. Many will be looking forward to seeing how she progresses off this win into her 4 year-old campaign.

                The race that took just as much attention as the McKnight this weekend was Santa Anita’s San Gabriel


Handicap and the return of the richest gelding in racing history, Lava Man. Lava Man was returning to the races after a 17 month layoff initially intended as a permanent retirement. Stem cell research was successful in restoring Lava Man’s damaged ankles to splendid form and so the decision was made to try running the old boy once more. He came into the San Gabriel off several promising works that seemed to herald his return to top form. 2008 San Gabriel champ Proudinsky was returning for a try at back–to-back wins. In the end Proudinsky prevailed by a neck over favored Loup Breton in the $150,000 turf event while Lava Man finished a troubling last. The race was won in a time almost two seconds faster than the 2008 running. Lava Man’s future plans have obviously had a wrench thrown into them with his last place finish, the connections will be mulling over his options for awhile before deciding on a course of action. Apparently he cut his legs leaving the gate at the start and there was some blood on both hind legs when he was examined after the race.

                I thought the Malibu Stakes was going to be a open and close case with Misremembered easily winning. It was just another instance in which my “racing expertise” was turning inside out and upside down. I love that nothing is sure in this sport, as in any other sport I suppose, but sometimes it seems less sure in racing somehow. M One Rifle, a horse I am ashamed to admit I didn’t even know was running, ran off with the win by more than two lengths over favored Misremembered with Papa Clem third. Square Eddie finished sixth here, once again lacking the brilliance he showed early this year and late last year. It is puzzling to me how a horse that was so good can be running so poorly so often. Perhaps he was just early to mature and then the crowd caught up with him this year.

                This weekend also produced the last public appearance of one of our favorite American champions, Zenyatta. She was paraded in front of more than 32,000 adoring fans at Santa Anita, there to enjoy a great day of racing, and say farewell to one of the greatest mares ever to grace the track. I look forward to seeing what the new year holds in store with the returns of Rachel Alexandra, Summer Bird, Quality Road, Mine That Bired, I Want Revenge and maybe The Pamplemouss. That is a great roster of fantastic 2009 3 year-olds, I drool at the thought of the 2009 Breeders’ Cup and the possible line-up for the Classic. Sure it’s a long way off and anything can happen, but I like to dream.

                One more thing I wanted to say: being a blog author and having several friends that author blogs I can tell you that the one thing we love above everything else for our blogs are comments. So even if you don’t have anything to say, just stop by and comment, you can even tell me: “I have nothing to say” and I’ll be happy!  You don’t even have to comment on the content of the post, just anything that comes to mind on Horse Racing. Come on, give it a try, you might even find that you like it and end up writing till you get “writer’s cramp”. (:


14 Responses to “Cloud Nine”

  1. TitleTown Matt said

    I sure hope they don’t let Lava Man go out on a last place finish. He deserves better…

    • Absolutely, I hope they give him a second shot. I know they said before he ran that they would’t settle for running in anything less than a grade 1, but I think it would be wise to bring him back first in a grade 3 or 2, give him time to adjust back to his racing schedule.

      My account blocked your comment at first, so I didn’t realize at first but you have the fist comment…congrats, thanks for stopping by!!
      Two and counting…(:

  2. Here’s a toast to great races in 2010!

    By the way, where I am staying we are only about half-an-hour south of a rather large looking horse racing track located behind Indiana Live Casino. Do you have any idea which one it is? I’ve driven by it over half-a-dozen times already and I’m getting curious.

  3. Steve M. said

    Brian, I liked Winchester quite a bit in the McKnight and thought he might turn the tables on Cloudy’s Knight from their Sycamore meeting. Just seems Cloudy is a different horse w/ Rosemary riding. A lot like when Kent D started riding Summer Bird, a noticeable improvement. Presious Passion’s had a long year with some tough races and probably needs some time off.

    Always enjoy reading. Best wishes in the new year!


    • Thanks Steve,
      Presious Passion has had a long productive year, it will be great to see what he does next year after resting up. I hadn’t realized Cloudy’s “transformation” took place after getting Rosemary, that’s pretty interesting.
      Happy New Year to you!

  4. Carla Ruth said

    Hey Brian,

    I kind of dropped the blog ball so to speak due to the hustle and bustle of the holidays too. I should post today, but you pretty much covered everything, I’ll have to think about it. Maybe I have “blog writer’s block”! Evita Argentina is also one of my favorites, but unfortunately I missed the race. My husband set a block of time to record on HRTV because I was working that weekend, but he didn’t take into consideration that extra time would be needed because of the Zenyatta tribute. Luckily I did get to watch that though, I never get tired of watching Zenyatta! As for Lava Man I also think they need to give him one more chance. After all, that was 1st time back after a really long layoff and he did look like he wanted to race in the paddock and post parade.

    • Hi Carla,
      Don’t worry about “blog writers block”, it’s almost the new year and the ball is supposed to drop! (:
      I didn’t get to watch the Zenyatta tribute, but I really wanted to see it, she’s such an incredible mare.
      I think they’ll bring Lava Man back again, they’ve put too much work into his return and he’s done well enough up until now to merit getting a second shot. I do think they should step him up in class a little slower though.

  5. Carla Ruth said

    Oh yeah and I forgot to mention that I still have my fingers crossed that Mine That Bird will make an appearance at Lone Star Park this year. If he does, I’ll take a ton of pics and post them!

  6. Shayna said

    Dear Brian…. scratch that.
    Hey Brian….. no, that don’t sound good either
    Mean Brian… mmm, that’s a little too… mean
    Nicest Brian… that’s a little too nice.
    Hi Brian….

    Okay, nevermind. I guess “I have nothing to say.” 😉

    No seriously, I’m so glad you’ve joined the blogging world. Funny thing: I actually clicked on your blog and said to myself, “I’m going to leave Brian a comment tonight, just because I haven’t left one in a real long time.” Then I started to read through your most recent post and laughed to myself when I read your spill on comments.

    I heard you were able to speak with Scott & Kelley through Skype. Way cool!! 🙂

    I hope you have a great week!!!

    • Hey Shayna,

      Thank you for stopping by and commenting, especially since I haven’t been on your blog in forever!
      It was really neat to be able to see Scott and Kelley, not as good as seeing them in person, but great nevertheless.
      Have a wonderful New Year!

  7. Bonnie said

    Hi, Brian! Your love of horseracing comes through in your writing! Your posts are very informative for those of us who don’t keep up on all the news. Great job!


  8. Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!


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