Rail Runner

The Observations of a Horse Racing Enthusiast

Out of the “Box”

Posted by Brian Appleton on March 22, 2010

The Florida Derby was a no doubt about it show-stopper this past Saturday, but I don’t think it was the most

Hot Dixie Chick

impressive performance of the day. That honor goes to a speedy 3-year-old filly, owner of the best Beyer speed figure of all juveniles regardless of sex last year and coming off a more than six month layoff. Hot Dixie Chick made a resounding return to the races at Oaklawn Park when she took down the six furlong  Prima Donna Stakes in her 3-year-old debut. Breaking a bit slow from the gate for jockey Robby Albarado, Hot Dixie Chick quickly pulled herself together and shot up to the take the lead away from Cosmo Girl before they had completed the first quarter which went in a blistering 21.47 seconds. It was easy to see that the race was pretty much over when the field made their way into the turn as Hot Dixie Chick kept pouring it on entering the stretch. With Albarado sitting still as a statue in the irons she began extending her lead with supreme ease, doing it all by herself. By the time she crossed the wire she was coasting an intimidating 5 ¾ lengths ahead of the field and it appeared the margin could just have easily been double the amount if the gifted filly had been asked for any run at all by Albarado. She completed the race in 1:10.82 for the six furlongs and absolutely blew a hole in the wind with a half in 44.90. Her half mile alone was almost 2 full seconds faster than the internal half for the Florida Derby. When you consider that the first two finishers from the Florida Derby ran approximately 2 seconds faster than they did in the Fountain Of Youth, it makes her performance all the more impressive.  I can’t wait to see where this filly is headed next. Wherever she goes, her competition better watch out.

The Florida Derby results produced an extremely entertaining renewal this year and I’m sure made many lucky bettors very happy. Heavy race favorite Rule fell victim to pace pressure as many suspected he would but held on in

Ice Box

the final run to the wire to finish a credible third. Coming straight out of the gate, Rule seized the lead and was hard pressed to hold possession over a stubborn Pulsion who most had figured to take off the pace. Eventual winner Ice Box pulled a Silky Sullivan coming out of the gate and dropped well back of the field in last, awaiting the stretch to do his true running. Up front Rule was setting decent fractions of 23.54 for the quarter and a slightly faster 46.46 for the half. Coming into the turn Rule began to extend his advantage and by the time he entered the stretch he had opened up by almost 2 lengths. Meanwhile Pleasant Prince, who had been keeping just off the pace in a perfect traveling spot, shot off the turn five wide under a full head of stream and flew by Rule to attain the lead. From far back Ice Box fired his best shot going six wide into the stretch and began to gobble up the ground with tremendous strides. Flying down the grandstand side Ice Box continued to gain ground on the speeding Pleasant Prince despite not switching his leads. At the wire he lunged past Pleasant Prince to the thrill of the crowd, registering a terrific nose victory.  Ice Box and Pleasant Prince have developed an interesting rivalry this year beginning with a one-two finish in an allowance race. After that Ice Box and Pleasant Prince both finished unplaced in the Fountain Of Youth behind Eskendereya with Ice Box finishing ahead of Pleasant Prince once again. A horse like Ice Box could prove to be devastating in the Kentucky Derby this year with his fast closing late kick. With so many high-class speed horses heading for the Kentucky Derby this year, the race will no doubt have an excellent pace for runners like Ice Box to close into, complementing his already deadly late move. Plus, who knows what he’ll look like if he actually changes leads in his next start. Barbaro’s 3-year-old brother Lentenor disappointed somewhat in his first graded stakes start, finishing fourth. He appeared to be making a good closing move into the stretch but then bobbled, darted inside of horses and seemed to flatten out. It is unclear whether or not he will be pointed for another Derby prep.


D’Funnybone continued his unstoppable march to sprinter greatness Saturday as he humiliated the Swale Stakes (gr.2) field, winning by 1 ¼ lengths while well in hand. Breaking from the gate it looked like a mad scramble for the lead, but D’Funnybone was bound and determined to have that advantage. Hear Ye Hear Ye rushed up to grab the lead from the favorite but before you could blink an eye D’Funnybone had quickly re-seized the lead. All down the back stretch it looked like D’Funnybone, Silver Craft, Hear Ye Hear Ye and Privilaged were trading turns fighting for the lead. Entering the turn D’Funnybone put an end to the games and drew away from the struggling trio. Down the homestretch he opened up by more than two lengths and crossed the wire in a hand ride. Ibboyee made a strong move from far back to close the gap to 1 ¼ lengths at the end for second place. After the race D’Funnybone’s owner Paul Pompa Jr. made it clear that the goal for the talented chestnut is not the Kentucky Derby as many would think. He will instead be pointed for the nation’s premier sprints and possibly the Preakness Stakes. Even though his connections have all but eliminated D’Funnybone’s chances of appearing in the Derby starting gate I hope they change their minds and give him a chance.

Devil May Care is back and better than she was last year it appears. In the Bonnie Miss Stakes (gr.2) at Gulfstream last

Devil May Care

Saturday Devil May Care made an emphatic move in the stretch to steal the race away from the favorite Amen Hallelujah and win going away by 2 ¾ lengths in spite of swerving badly after gaining the lead. Chritine Daae who generated a huge amount of buzz before the race faded badly after pressing the pace to finish far up the track. Devil May Care and Amen Hellelujah are both headed for the Kentucky Oaks next and both figure to be well favored.

Unrivaled Belle

Unrivaled Belle put on a good show before the Rampart Stakes (gr.3) Saturday when she forced jockey Kent Desormeaux to jump ship in order to get the big strapping filly to load in the gate. As soon as the gates sprung Unrivaled Belle took complete control of the race and never looked back, winning with ease by a front-running 1 ¾ lengths over Champagne Eyes. Venezuelan champion Bambera stumbled badly coming out of the gate at the break and then injured a tendon during the running. She came into the Rampart much like Christine Daae came into the Bonnie Miss, with very high expectations and seemingly talented enough to win easily. Word is still not out on what the plans are for the sensational race mare. As for Unrivaled Belle, she certainly lived up to her name while winning her first graded stakes race. Possible next starts for the quick-footed filly include the Apple Blossom Handicap and the La Troienne.

Overall I think the Kentucky Derby picture is becoming much clearer, and if it isn’t now, it hopefully will be after this coming weekend of preps.


8 Responses to “Out of the “Box””

  1. Hot Dixie Chick indeed ran like a “hottie”. At least someone these days is starting her campaign in a sprint race. That bodes well for her conditioning and I would like to see her attempt two turns after one more sprint race.

    Let’s see what happens.

    • Hi TKS-

      Absolutely, the Blood Horse just had an article out by Steve Haskin this year talking about how good racing foundations are established by starting young horses out in sprints instead of distance races. She looks like she wants to stretch out a little, so I’m also looking forward to seeing her go two turns.

      • Yes.
        Mr. Haskin reads my posts for ideas. 😉

        But seriously, I’ve been harping on this sprint to route foundations for years now. Today we’re seeing too many impatient horsemen and it has a telling effect on how capable the horses will be.

        Earlier this year Friesan Fire made his debut in a two turn race without a sprint prep – and failed to win. Just like Rachel Alexandra.

        The common ground? Both trained by Steven Asmussen.

  2. Hi Brian. Great recap of the last weekend’s racing. I was really impressed by Devil May Care in the Bonnie Miss. Christine Daae really faded out in the stretch. I thought she had more power in her and was looking forward to see her Bonnie Miss performance. Do you think she was out of her league or just having a bad race? 🙂

    • Hi Jennifer-Devil May Care looked great winning the Bonnie Miss. She ran right by Amen Hallelujah with ease in the stretch and considering how good a filly Amen Hallelujah it speaks volumes for her ability.
      I tend to think Christine Daae was a bit out of her league, at least for now. She definitely has room for improvement and her past two wins this year appear to be genuine classy performances. I think the connections just jumped the gun and threw her against the top-class runners too early. She looked to me like she was pushing hard the whole way to stay close to the pace and that had to really hurt her chances as well.

  3. gib. said

    Do you ever wonder if names effect wagering, even among intermediate level handicappers. I find it very difficult to pass on HOT DIXIE CHICK.

    • I know it affects how I pick the horses sometimes. Not that I pretend to be a decent handicapper by any means, but I agree, some names are almost impossible to pass-up. RAGS TO RICHES was another good one! 🙂

    • gib –

      Author Mark Cramer has a whole chapter on how horse’s names affect the wagering in his Thoroughbred Cycles.

      The same goes for trainers whose names we cannot pronounce.
      Like Mark Tsagalakis, Bill Spawr, Naipaul Chatterpaul.
      It pay$ to follow the horses from their barn.

      I’ll be sure to cover that in the future. 😀

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