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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 »

WRRB March 24th: Passion and More

Posted by Brian Appleton on March 24, 2011

The Factor has been stealing headlines line a fish takes to water since his impressive win in the Rebel Stakes on Saturday but there was a slew of other big stories this past week that can stand well on their own. For starters Havre de Grace announced she is ready to leap the proverbial barrier in 2011 and become one of the nation’s leading older female runners when she soundly defeated Blind Luck in the Azeri Stakes on Saturday. Many racing enthusiasts and industry insiders alike think she could well wind up becoming the leading older female by year’s end. She may just have caught up to her arch nemesis Blind Luck this year and looks unlikely to stop improving from here. The sky’s the limit with this impressive filly.

Hilda’s Passion took very little attention in online racing forums and media outlets over the weekend, even the bloggers were virtually silent on her blistering Inside Information Stakes (Gr.2) win at Gulfstream Park on Saturday. From start to finish the race was all about Hilda’s Passion who set swift fractions of :22.07 and :44.20 through the first half mile before shaking clear of Amen Hallelujah at the top of the stretch and romping home by more than 5 lengths. She stopped the clock in the stunning time of 1:20.45 for the 7 furlongs, breaking the track record of 1:20.88 set by Big Drama in 2009 on the dirt track. Together she, Big Drama and Tackleberry if he runs in more sprint distance races, appear to have a strangle hold on the sprint divisions this year.

Bandbox confirmed the confidence of many backers when he emerged victorious from the Private Terms Stakes on Saturday at Laurel Park by 1 ½ lengths, bringing his overall career stats to 4 wins in 6 starts. He will not be pointed to the Kentucky Derby trainer Rodney Jenkins said after the race while also stating, “We’re not going to rule the Preakness out. The horse is doing too good.” I for one hope they give his a shot. He is obviously talented but I love that he has shown the desire to fight for the win when he gets challenged in the stretch. That’s an excellent quality in any colt with his sights set on the Classics.

Kentucky Derby candidate Rogue Romance is off the Derby trail after a fracture was discovered in the colts left forefoot. In his last start the Smarty Jones colt finished third in the Risen Star Stakes on February 19th. Fortunately the injury has not been deemed career threatening and Rogue Romance should be back to run another day after approximately three months of stall rest.

For the second time in his life Square Eddie has been retired to stud duty after a tumultuous return to the races that saw him set a 6 ½ furlong track record at Santa Anita and finish unplaced in two Grade 1 races. After a stellar juvenile season in 2008 he never quite lived up to his reputation in 2009 as a 3-year-old and was shipped of for a stallion career last year.

Rigoletta, best remembered for winning the Grade 1 Oak Leaf Stakes as a juvenile, has been retired due to a tendon injury discovered after he 6th place finish in the Honeybee Stakes. She has been moved to Drew Nerdiello’s Chesapeake Farm near Lexington Kentucky until breeding plans are finalized.

Zenyatta’s historic Breeders’ Cup Classic  run continues to be one of the most compelling stories in horse racing lore and ESPN’s coverage of the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic has been chosen as one of six nominees for a Sports Emmy Award. Here’s to hoping it wins and extends the saga of Zenyatta, adding to her already enormous list of victories, let’s have one more for the ‘Queen’!

Guess what race got a makeover last week? The Grade 1 Wood Memorial will no longer be said in a single breath as Resorts World New York has become the sponsor for the pivotal sophomore race changing the official title to Resorts World New York Wood Memorial (gr.1). Try saying that 10 times fast, I guarantee this is one race that will forever be referred to as ‘Wood Memorial’ or simply the ‘Wood’. Along with the name makeover the Wood purse has been raised to a dazzling $1 million. Let’s hope that can help attract a deep field to face Uncle Mo on April 9th.

This weekend headlines the Dubai World Cup card with a very diverse field set to contest the signature event while back home in the States we’ve got the Louisiana Derby stacking up to be one of the more intriguing Derby preps of the season with the return of Risen Star winner Mucho Macho Man.

Check in tomorrow on my Horse Racing Nation blog for a breakdown of some of the Kentucky Oaks preps this weekend.

Posted in Azeri Stakes, Bandbox, Big Drama, Blame, Blind Luck, Breeders Cup Classic, Havre de Grace, Hilda's Passion, Horse Racing Nation, Inside Information Stakes, Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks, Kentucky Oaks Runner, Private Terms Stakes, Rebel Stakes, Resorts World New York Wood Memorial, Rigoletta, Rogue Romance, Smarty Jones, Square Eddie, Tackleberry, The Factor, Uncle Mo, Wood Memorial, Zenyatta | Leave a Comment »

Zenyatta Wins Horse of the Year!

Posted by Brian Appleton on January 18, 2011

History has been made, the names set in stone, the champions have all been crowned and one of the most popular and talented race mares in history has been awarded the most prestigious honor in American thoroughbred horse racing.

It was all celebration and rejoicing at the 40th Eclipse Awards Monday night, especially when Horse of the Year winner was announced. After it was all said and done there were virtually no surprises in the Eclipse Award voting.

Undefeated juvenile’s Unlce Mo and Awesome Feather both were runaway winners in their respective categories as Champion 2-Year-Old Male and Female.

Zenyatta was one vote away from being a unanimous choice for Champion Older Female as she took home the trophy for the third consecutive year. You have to wonder who that one voter was and what in the world they were thinking voting against Zenyatta.

Blame was a unanimous choice for Champion Older Male off his Breeders’ Cup Classic victory while Champion Male Turf Horse was won for the second straight year by Gio Ponti.

Big Drama seized the Male Sprinter award while Dubai Majesty took Female Sprinter, both wins helped along by their Breeders’ Cup victories in November.

For the second year in a row European super-mare Goldikova ran away with the Champion Female Turf Horse award based off her third consecutive Breeders’ Cup Mile win.

The two lucky winners in the sophomore category were no surprise as Blind Luck and Lookin At Lucky each snagged an easy win for Champion 3-Year-Old Filly and Male respectively.

For the 7th time Adena Springs walked away with a win in the Breeders category while trainer Todd Pletcher received his 5th Eclipse trophy after a banner year that saw him lead all trainers in earnings as well as win the Kentucky Derby, Belmont Stakes and 3 Breeders’ Cup races.

Ramon Dominguez won his first award as Champion Jockey while Omar Moreno won Apprentice Jockey who earned more than twice that of his closest rival for the award.

WinStar Farm won the Eclipse Award for outstanding owner after winning the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes with two different runners.

 

Zenyatta: Horse of the Year

After finishing second for two straight years in Horse of the Year voting, Champion Older Female Zenyatta finally won racing’s most prestigious award. Mere minutes after becoming Champion Older Female for the third consecutive year, the wildly popular race mare became 2010 Horse of the Year, beating out Older Male Champion and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Blame. The win marks the first time in history that the Horse of the Year award has been won by female runners in consecutive years. The 2009 award went to Champion filly Rachel Alexandra.

Zenyatta is now happily retired to Lanes End where she awaits her first breeding. She retired with 19 wins from 20 starts, the only blemish on her record coming in a heart-breaking nose loss to Blame in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic. She holds the record for the most consecutive Grade 1 wins at 9, a record that is likely to stand for a long time.

It was the one prize that had eluded her and now Zenyatta’s legacy is complete. This is beyond a doubt one of the most popular Horse of the Year wins in the history of the Eclipse Awards , not to mention one of the most hotly contested.

 

Congratulations to all the winners and their connections!

Posted in Awesome Feather, Big Drama, Blame, Blind Luck, Breeders Cup Classic, Dubai Majesty, Goldikova, Horse of the Year, Lookin at Lucky, Omar Moreno, Rachel Alexandra, Ramon Dominguez, Thorougbred Horse Racing, Todd Pletcher, Uncle Mo, Zenyatta | 2 Comments »

Back On Track

Posted by Brian Appleton on November 30, 2010

My apologies for taking such a long time in returning to post once again. Computer issues kept me from finishing my Breeders’ Cup postings and coving the Cigar Mile and Clark Handicap but I think the computer problems are behind me…or at least the majority of them I hope!

In what has become a yearly tradition a slew of champions and some of the nation’s most talented runners were retired soon after the Breeders’ Cup Championships were over. Leading the list of high profile retirees was dual Older Champion Female Zenyatta who is a cinch to win the Championship title for a third consecutive year. She is now dead-locked in a heated Horse of the Year battle with Breeders’ Cup Classic victor and arch nemesis this year, Blame. During her undefeated 2008 and 2009 campaigns Zenyatta lost the coveted title mainly due to almost exclusively racing in California. This year was beyond a doubt the year of Zenyatta but her chances are once again teetering on a precipice after a somewhat conservative 5 race campaign prior to the Breeders’ Cup Classic. For what it’s worth I am in her corner this year, after the things she achieved both on the track and in the hearts of millions of racing fans across the globe she deserves this special award. Blame may have the better record this year but more than just the black and white should be taken into account this year.

This weekend seemed to fall victim to long shots and disqualifications. Both the Clark Handicap and Japan Cup were won by solid favorites who were both taken down from the top spot for interference, while the Cigar Mile was won by a streaking Jersey Town at odds of 34-1 and the Citation was won by Victor’s Cry at odds of 11-1. On the other hand favorites ruled the board in Remsen, Gazelle and Golden Rod. To Honor and Serve served notice with his easy front-running Remsen victory that he could be a force to be reckoned with on the 2011 Triple Crown trail. Kathmanblu, fresh off a close third place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf absolutely toyed with field in the Golden Rod at Churchill Downs, romping home a winner be more than 8 lengths. Her goal for next year has already been set, the Kentucky Oaks and after her Golden Rod performance you have to think she is going to be a huge threat. Trainer Cindy Jones received the fairy tale send-off she had been dreaming of when No Such Word won the Grade 1 Gazelle as the final runner in her short, but brilliant, training career. In 2011 husband Larry Jones will come out of retirement and begin training again after a lengthy break.

More to come soon.

Posted in Blame, Breeders Cup Classic, Cigar Mile, Cindy Jones, Clark Handicap, Gazelle, Golden Rod Stakes, Kathmanblu, Lookin at Lucky, No Such Word, Quality Road, Remsen, To Honor and Serve, Victors Cry, Zenyatta | 2 Comments »

2010 Breeders’ Cup Results: Part 1

Posted by Brian Appleton on November 7, 2010

Breeders’ Cup Mile:

Two mares came into the 2010 Breeders’ Cup world championships each with the opportunity to make history by becoming the first two horses ever to win three consecutive Breeders’ Cup races. One succeeded. On Saturday November 6th, Goldikova climbed the insurmountable pinnacle of greatness and rightfully declared herself the greatest thoroughbred on the planet by right of proof, after performing flawlessly on the world’s biggest stage.

All eyes were fixed securely to the great European champion as Goldikova lined up against one of the deepest fields in history to contest the Breeders’ Cup Mile for an unprecedented third year in a row. After explosive victories in the 2008 and 2009 editions where she proved herself the worlds’ best miler, Goldikova went to a whole new level in 2010.

Breaking from the outside in post position 10, Goldikova was slow to start but quickly placed herself mid-pack with guidance from jockey Olivier Peslier. Floated about 5 wide into the first turn, Goldikova moved to sixth position down the backstretch while up front Sidneys’ Candy flew through fractions of :24.02 for the opening quarter, :47.49 for the half and 1:11.33 for the three quarters. Entering the final turn Goldikova began to slowly move forward while from the rear of the field Gio Ponti and Paco Boy both came to life with a vengeance. Sidney’s Candy roared into the stretch, lengthening his lead to two lengths as the Usual Q. T. moved to his outside from second and began to make up ground quickly. For a few seconds it appeared as if Goldikova would not make it this time and that her Breeders’ Cup 3-peat would crumble to the ground, but with a vigorous shake of the reins from jockey Peslier the titan was unleashed and Goldikova burst forward like a wall of water battering through a dam. Surging past The Usual Q. T. Goldikova kept coming faster with every stride, sweeping past Sidneys’ Candy and powering to a 1 ½ length lead as Gio Ponti and Paco Boy rushed to the fore. It was a no-doubt-about-it win, Goldikova, in a vigorous hand ride, made some of the worlds’ best milers look like children chasing an Olympic runner down the stretch and under the wire.

With the win Goldikova not only becomes the best horse in the world, but undoubtedly one of the greatest of all time, and perhaps the greatest miler of all time bar none. She has become the ruler by which all following generations must be measured.

Breeders’ Cup Classic:

“Things happen for a reason.” That has got to be one of my least favorite sayings, and to the more than 114,000 fans in attendance at Churchill Downs on Saturday night it offered little consolation as they watched their hero and undefeated idol, Zenyatta, go down in defeat after a heartbreaking stretch drive that came up a mere head short.

The 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic will go down as the most anticipated Classic to ever be run in history and all because of one great mare and the field of talented males that helped cement her legacy.

In the weeks leading up to the Breeders’ Cup Classic I was a firm and enthusiastic supporter of Lookin At Lucky. The 2009 Champion Juvenile Male, Preakness, Haskell and Indiana Derby winner and half brother to Curlin was a favorite of mine since his second race in California as a two-year-old. Anyone who would listen got an earful from me about why I liked Lookin At Lucky better than Zenyatta, and while I readily admitted that I loved Zenyatta and knew she had the best chance to win the Classic, I was very confident that Lookin At Lucky could give her a race for her money.

For some inexplicable reason I found myself unable to cheer against Zenyatta as the Classic drew near. The moment I saw her prancing and dancing her way to the paddock amidst the cheers of thousands of fans my heart melted and I began to root for her with all my strength. She seems to have that effect on many people, it is literally almost impossible not to love her and hope that she wins.

As the field broke from the gates, Zenyatta dropped back more than a dozen lengths behind the field the first time past the wire. From there things just got worse for the undefeated super-star as she eventually dropped 15 lengths off the field before moving up on the backstretch. On the front end First Dude led a tightly bunched pack of 4 that included Quality Road, Espoir City and Haynesfield. Entering the backstretch it was more than 5 lengths back to Etched and Lookin At Lucky who led the second half of the field with Zenyatta trailing badly.

Entering the far turn Zenyatta began to move up with Mike Smith angling her to the inside as Blame surged to within 4 lengths of the lead. Into the stretch Blame split horses and seized the lead with Lookin At Lucky right behind, far back Zenyatta found her every move blocked by a wall of horses as she threaded her way through to the outside. Once in the clear the crowd went wild as Zenyatta furiously turned on her patented late run, desperately gunning for Blame who was now 1 ½ lengths clear of Lookin At Lucky. Blowing past Lookin At Lucky Zenyatta continued to close the gap with gigantic strides, Blame running strongly to the wire. Zenyatta frantically closed to within a neck of Blame the 4-year-old colt visibly began to fight back and for about five strides the two powerful athletes were neck and neck, but Blame refused to budge, handing Zenyatta the first, heartbreaking defeat of her career by a head.

There were a million “what if’s” that immediately popped into my head as the gallant daughter of Street Cry galloped out past the wire behind Blame. What if Mike Smith hadn’t had her so far back? What if he hadn’t put her on the inside and blocked by traffic on the final turn? Unfortunately Zenyatta did receive a poor ride from Mike Smith, but in defeat Zenyatta seems to have lost none of her illustrious reputation that preceded her historic journey. In fact, her defeat seems to have done just the opposite and endeared her to the hearts of millions of fans around the world even more. She is still the same great mare she was before and has proved once and for all that she ranks up there with the greats of all time.

The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile:

Every once in a blue moon things in horse racing happen exactly as they are supposed to, or at least exactly we think they are supposed to, and few things offer a better illustration of those race scenarios as this years’ Breeders’ Cup Juvenile did.

It was billed as a two horse race between the speedy undefeated Uncle Mo and talented Hopeful Stakes winner Boys At Tosconova and that is exactly what it turned into, though only one of the youngsters really looked like he had to make a race of it.

Breaking from the gate with speed to spare, Unlce Mo raced in second behind Riveting Reason through the first turn, down the backstretch and into the final turn. Racing a couple lengths back, Boys At Tosconova secured a good spot for himself, relaxing nicely while off the pace in his first two-turn race.

As the field entered the final turn Boys At Tosconova moved up quickly into contention, right off the flank of Uncle Mo. It looked like a two horse race as they sped into the stretch but the scene changed in an instant.

Jockey John Velasquez on Uncle Mo came to life as they hit the stretch with a narrow lead, energetically pushing Uncle Mo to take control of the race. And take control he did, effortlessly putting Boys At Tosconova away within a few strides, the handsome bay colt came striding down the homestretch, opening up by more than four lengths as Boys At Tosconova chased him futilely, 6 lengths ahead of the rest of the field. Under the wire in a hand ride, Uncle Mo won by 4 ¼ lengths and instantly became the early favorite for the 2011 Kentucky Derby.

While his talent is absolutely undeniable, there are some questions as to whether or not Uncle Mo will be able to get a classic distance race as a son of Indian Charlie. Indian Charlie offspring tend to run their best races at shorter distances where their natural speed is most effective. I am a huge Uncle Mo fan since his first race and aside from hoping with all my heart that he will handle longer distances I truly believe that he will. He obviously loved running the two turns at Churchill Downs and won by more than 4 lengths in a hand ride, indicating that the margin could have been much more and that he could have kept going had he been required to. He didn’t even look tired after the race, bouncing and prancing his way down the back stretch to the winners circle.

This years’ Breeders’ Cup was pretty good to me. Friday was a complete toss as my picks finished second three times but none won. Saturday was much better, with five of my eight choices winning and two finishing second, one by a nose and the other by a head. The overall economy of the Breeders’ Cup was also encouraging this year as we saw a significant increase in both handle, on track and off, as well as a significant increase in on track attendance.

I will cover more of the Breeders’ Cup results in the next few days so stay tuned and let me know how your Breeders’ Cup experience turned out this year.

Posted in Blame, Boys At Tosconova, Breeders Cup Classic, Breeders Cup Juvenile, Breeders' Cup Mile, Curlin, Gio Ponti, Goldikova, Lookin at Lucky, Olivier Peslier, Paco Boy, Uncle Mo, Zenyatta | 2 Comments »

It’s A Classic for Sure!

Posted by Brian Appleton on October 26, 2010

The Breeders’ Cup World Championships are only two weeks away and some of the strongest fields in history are set to line-up in the starting gates to write their chapter in history. Two of the greatest thoroughbred race mares in history will attempt the astronomical feat of winning three consecutive Breeders’ Cup races. One undefeated in 19 lifetime starts, the other a global superstar and two-time Breeders’ Cup Mile champion.

For this blog entry we will concentrate on just the Breeders’ Cup Classic, a race that has come up so full of raw talent and ability that a single blog post can do the potential field little justice.

Undefeated phenom Zenyatta became the first filly or mare in history to win the prestigious Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr.1) last year over an international cast of males one year after capturing the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic (gr.1) at Santa Anita. She enters the 2010 renewal with more questions than ever before to answer and a much tougher field lining up to face the defending Queen.

Zenyatta has raced almost exclusively on synthetic surfaces throughout her career with only two starts on dirt when taking the 2008 and 2010 editions of the Apple Blossom Handicap (gr.1). Those two dirt starts, coming in Arkansas, were also the mare’s only races outside of California. For the past two years the Breeders’ Cup has been held in the big mare’s backyard at Santa Anita racecourse in California, this year the championship series will be held at Churchill Downs in Kentucky on a traditional dirt track.

For the first time in her lauded career, Zenyatta will be facing a world class field on a dirt track outside of California. Another factor that could add more unknown to the Zenyatta element is the chance of a wet track, another surface that is foreign to the champion mare. Even with all those points stacked against her Zenyatta will undoubtedly go off the favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. One undeniable fact is that every time she has stepped up to the plate there have been a slew of questions to answer and every single time she has answered those questions emphatically. True, the questions she faces now are all new ones and some tougher than before but each and every time she has risen to the occasion and faced new challenges head on.

When Lookin At Lucky was finally able to put things together in 2010 he virtually shoved the Eclipse award as outstanding three year old male in an airtight strong box and sealed it in high security bank vault. After a stunning juvenile season in 2009 where he lost only the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile by a whisker after breaking from the extreme outside and being floated wide on the turns, Lookin At Lucky entered 2010 as the champion juvenile male and leading contender for the Triple Crown series. He overcame an impossible trip in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes in his three year old debut to post his second consecutive graded stakes win only to fall victim to yet another bad trip in the Santa Anita Derby (gr.1), finishing third behind Sidney’s Candy in his last Kentucky Derby prep race. Credited with one of the worst Kentucky Derby (gr.1) trips of the decade after breaking form post one and getting slammed around more than a wet towel in a high-speed dryer, then being shuffled far back early on, Lookin At Lucky rallied strongly to come in a determined 6th, a remarkable recovery. Two weeks later he redeemed his image with a hard-fought ¾ length victory over a stubborn First Dude and Jackson Bend in the Preakness Stakes (gr.1). Given a rest after his arduous Triple Crown run, Lookin At Lucky returned to decimate a strong field in the Haskell Invitational (gr.1) by four lengths in early August, winning with supreme ease and a few taps of the whip. Two months later he returned to demolish another field of over-matched three year olds in the Indiana Derby (gr.2) despite having missed several workouts due to a minor illness.

If his recent works are any indication Lookin At Lucky is just getting better and better which from a purely black and white point of view is quite extraordinary. If there is one horse in the Breeders’ Cup Classic field that has the best chance of handing Zenyatta the first defeat of her career I believe strongly that it is Lookin At Lucky.

Blame enters the Classic as one of the heavily backed favorites despite losing his last start when finishing second to Haynesfield in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr.1). His record for the year up to that point was flawless. Included in his 2010 portfolio was a workmanlike win the Stephen Foster Handicap (gr.1) at Churchill Downs and a thrilling head victory over Quality Road in the Whitney Stakes (gr.1). This horse is a gritty and tough as they come, his only flaw seems to be his inability to close into a slow pace up front that kills his late kick in the stretch. Pace in the Breeders’ Cup Classic should be no problem with speedballs like Quality Road, Haynesfield and First Dude all winging it on the front end so his running style will be beautifully complimented. The only question now; is he good enough to handle Zenyatta or Lookin At Lucky?

Quality Road started the year out as the undisputed king of the racing world, reigning supreme over the older male horse division. With impressive

wins in the Hal’s Hope Stakes (gr.3), Donn Handicap (gr.1), Met Mile (gr.1) and Woodward Stakes (gr.1) Quality Road is just a nose away from being the overwhelming leader for older male as well as Horse of the Year. In the Donn Handicap Quality Road broke his own track record while winning the race by 12 ¾ lengths. In the Met Mile Quality Road won in the sparkling time of 1:33.11 while handily defeating Musket Man. If Quality Road were entered in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile instead of the Classic he would no doubt be the favorite.

His loss to Blame in the Whitney Stakes (gr.1) seemed to tarnish his image more than it should have. I personally still like Quality Road better than Blame and if rated off the pace in the Breeders’ Cup Classic I think we could see him come alive with a monster effort. He enters the Classic off a lengthy layoff having last out won the Woodward Stakes by more than 4 lengths on September 4th.

Haynesfield gave Blame and Fly Down an absolute thrashing in the Jockey Club Gold Cup on October 2nd, going gate-to-wire in the 1 ¼ mile race to flash under the line 4 lengths the best. After opening up a tremendous 7 length lead at the top of the stretch Haynesfield was geared down by jockey Ramon Dominguez to coast home easily the best. The Jockey Club Gold Cup was the third win in four 2010 starts for the 4-year-old colt who has now cast himself as a legitimate, if somewhat questionable contender in the Classic. His time for the Jockey Club Gold Cup was unimpressive, but his style was brilliant, suggesting that he could have finished up much faster had he needed to. Whether or not he can stand up to the kind of pace pressure he will face in the Classic has yet to be seen but I somehow doubt that he will be able to handle Zenyatta, Lookin At Lucky, Quality Road and Blame with a faster pace scenario.

First Dude, Fly Down, Morning Line and Paddy O’Prado help make up a strong contingent of three year old contenders after the power house solo act called

Lookin At Lucky. Paddy O’Prado finished third in the Kentucky Derby this year and went unplaced in the Preakness Stakes before stringing together a powerful run of three consecutive graded stakes wins on the turf, including the Grade 1 Secretariat. Despite his success on the turf his connections have decided to take a shot at the big cheese and aim the talented colt for the Classic. In his last start Paddy O’Prado finished second by one length in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational (gr.1) against older horses. He turned in a great effort in the Derby over the Churchill Downs surface but I seriously doubt he can handle the “big four” in the Classic.

First Dude should win an award for the toughest most consistent fighter of the year. In 6 consecutive graded stakes efforts, 5 of which were grade 1’s, First Dude was never off the board, finishing second in the Preakness Stakes and Pennsylvania Derby and third in the Blue Grass, Belmont, Haskell and Travers Stakes. Each and every race he runs he brings his A game to the table and never throws in the towel. With so many big profile horses in the Classic he could be the best valued long shot with the best shot at winning. His time will come one day and you get the feeling with him that when it comes it’s going to be big.

Musket Man was there long before First Dude. If ever there was a master of consistency that constantly runs into monster

performances and gets shut out from winning the big ones it is Musket Man. The capable colt has finished second 3 times and third 5 times in 14 lifetime starts including two third place finishes in the 2009 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. In his last start Musket Man failed to catch Etched by a neck in the Monmouth Cup (gr.2) after being blocked to the inside for most of the race and forced to race wide coming into the stretch. His form has been great all year and if things keep progressing they way they are now he could be the forgotten horse come Breeders’ Cup day which is always a dangerous thing with a runner like Musket Man.

Fly Down has had a very rocky year. After winning the Dwyer Stakes (gr.2) trainer Nick Zito sent him into deeper waters in the Belmont Stakes where his charge turned in a superb effort when finishing a hard-charging second to Drosselmeyer. In his next start Fly Down finished a sparkling second to Afleet Express in the Travers Stakes (gr.1) after a furious stretch run that fell a hair short of winning at the wire. In his most recent start Fly Down finished a respectable if somewhat uninspiring third to Haynesfield and Blame in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Chances are this colt could be right there in the Breeders’ Cup Classic if the pace is swift up front. Not enough credit has been given to the kinds of races Fly Down keeps producing each time out.

Almost every year there is some horse running in the Breeders’ Cup that seems to want to become the “wise guy” option and this

year Morning Line could fit that bill. In just 6 lifetime starts Morning Line was able to become a graded stakes winner last out when taking the Pennsylvania Derby (gr.2) over First Dude and Jim Dandy Stakes winner A Little Warm. After losing the lead to A Little Warm in the stretch, Morning Line fought back like a battle tested warrior to turn certain defeat into rousing victory in the Pennsylvania Derby. He may be inexperienced but he is also peaking at exactly the right time.

Crown of Thorns enters the Breeders’ Cup Classic as one of the more intriguing and puzzling prospects in the five million dollar race. In 2009 he finished second by a mere nose in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint and in his last start he finished runner-up to Richard’s Kid in the 1 1/8th mile Goodwood Stakes (gr.1) proving that he is as versatile as he is able.

Espoir City holds the weight and hopes of an entire nation on his shoulders as the sole Japanese contender in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Testing the Churchill Downs surface for the first time on October 23rd, Espoir City raised eyebrows with a slow 6 furlong work that produced a final time of 1:18 1/5. Jockey Tetsuzo Sato said after the work that “We are not here to pursue speed, just conditioning.” This horse is a complete wild card. With two grade/group 1 wins, including the 2009 Japan Cup, and 11 wins from 19 lifetime starts Espoir City seems highly capable. He has lost only twice since late 2008 when he switched from turf to dirt racing.

Gio Ponti has been cross entered in the Breeders’ Cup Mile and Classic with the Mile being his more likely choice after an impressive victory in the Shadwell Turf Mile last out. However if Gio Ponti does run in the Classic things will get a whole lot more interesting. For the time being I won’t cover any thoughts on his Classic chances in case he passes for the Mile but it’s good food for thought.

The Classic is filled to the very brim this year with talent and more just keeps pouring in. The final field is not yet set but when it is things will get really interesting. One thing is for sure. When all is said and done and the 2010 winner is crowned people will say this race was a Classic for sure!

Posted in Blame, Breeders Cup Classic, Crown Of Thorns, Espoir City, First Dude, Fly Down, Gio Ponti, Haynesfield, Lookin at Lucky, Morning Line, Musket Man, Paddy O'Prado, Quality Road, Zenyatta | 4 Comments »

Lookin At Perfection and Greatness

Posted by Brian Appleton on October 3, 2010

Zenyatta has literally left me at a complete loss for words. As soon as the great mare streaked to a record 19th straight victory in Saturday’s Lady’s Secret Stakes I was itching to get out my laptop and pour all the joy, excitement and enthrallment I was experiencing, watching Zenyatta, into my writing. Hours later I sat in front of a blank word document, grasping for the words with which to depict what I had witnessed yet again. The task of describing just how great the thing Zenyatta has accomplished in her career in mere words is staggering and very near impossible, but describing the reactions and emotions her amazing journey creates in the hearts of fans around the world is even harder.

There is something spectacular about not being able to find the words to describe greatness. True greatness steals the words right from your lips and stamps them into your heart and mind with such a fervor and passion that you can never fully do those feelings justice in writing or speech. Zenyatta is the kind of horse that will have parents and grandparents saying decades down the road to their children and grandchildren “I was alive when the great Zenyatta ran.”

With her 19 consecutive wins Zenyatta is now headed to the Breeders’ Cup as perfection-in-motion for an attempt at conquering history yet again. She became the first filly or mare to ever win the prestigious Breeders’ Cup Classic in 2009 and will return to defend her title against what is stacking up to be a very strong field of international male athletes. Victory in the Classic will virtually assure the grand mare Horse of the Year honors as well as a lofty place in history as one of the greatest mares to ever grace the American racing scene.

Not to be outdone by Zenyatta, Goldikova, perhaps the greatest race-mare in modern European history and best mare

in the world, turned in a rousing performance to capture the Prix de la Foret at Longchamp over a fast closing Paco Boy in what was the 11th grade/group 1 win of her stellar career.

After breaking quickly from the inside post, Goldikova and jockey Olivier Peslier went straight to the front while under a tight hold. Still on the lead nearing the halfway point in the 7 furlong race, Regal Parade rushed forward to take command from Goldikova as the classy Dick Turpin raced well back in mid-pack and Paco Boy took up the rear.

As the field flew into the homestretch Dick Turpin and Paco Boy began to charge for the lead, eating up the ground with every stride. Goldikova at the same time began to slowly gear up for her final run, angling away from the rail to swing around Regal Parade and snatch the lead again. Dick Turpin was flying up on the outside, Paco Boy hot on his heels, moving much faster than the brilliant filly and it appeared for a moment that both colts might pass the champion mare. The colts continued to close relentlessly but the moment Goldikova spotted Dick Turpin approaching the game was over. She accelerated with supreme ease and comfortably held off the furious rally of Paco Boy to get the better of that one for the third time this year, winning by half a length.

While she may not be undefeated like Zenyatta, Goldikova’s accomplishments are stunning none the less and in my humble opinion far greater. She has won races in Europe and the United States, defeating the world’s best male runners on a regular basis while making it look easy, as well as destroying fillies and mares when the occasion calls for it. The great Goldikova, back-to-back winner of the Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr.1) from 2008-2009, will return to the United States for her next start. An unprecedented third Breeders’ Cup Mile attempt. A win in the Breeders’ Cup Mile a third consecutive year will place Goldikova in an untouchable league all her own.

Lookin At Lucky was just about the only male horse that successfully pulled off the role of race favorite this weekend as the impressive 3-year-old colt splashed to a extraordinary victory in the Indian Derby (gr.2) on Saturday after being obscured behind the field for most of the race.

Sitting dead-last going into the first turn in the field of 8, Lookin At Lucky and jockey Martin Garcia sat patiently behind the pack as Indy Bull, Litigation Risk and Worldly set a hot pace up front. Rounding the far turn Theskyhasnolimit pushed his way through to the lead as Lookin At Lucky came flying from the back. Shooting off the turn 5  wide, the powerful son of Smart Strike literally dashed his opponents off their feet, bolting to the front in a matter of moments to coast under the line, ears pricked in sublime comfort, the winner by 1 ¼ lengths.

In winning the Indiana Derby Lookin At Lucky proved emphatically that he is ready for his planned trip to the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The talented colt will no doubt be one of the favorites in a highly contentions and competitive field. He is also very much in the running for Horse of the Year with his latest win. If he conquers the Classic field he should easily get the nod for Horse of the Year and could become the third Preakness champion to win Horse of the Year since 2007, joining half-brother Curlin and Rachel Alexandra. Of course this is all just speculation and hopeful thinking but a good possibility nonetheless.

Havre de Grace has finally turned the tables on Blind Luck after finishing in her shadow twice in photo finishes at the

wire. It was billed as a two horse race and that’s exactly what it turned into in Saturday’s Fitz Dixon Cotillion (gr.2) as the nation’s leading 3-year-old filly, Blind Luck, carrying 10 pounds more than her challengers, and her toughest adversary squared off in an exhilarating stretch run.

Breaking from the gate ahead of only Blind Luck, Havre de Grace settled in nicely behind the two pace setters while Blind Luck fell far back of the field in last. Down the backstretch Havre de Grace moved up to take second while Blind Luck remained far back and running comfortably. Into the far turn Havre de Grace suddenly came alive and bounded to the lead, looking strong as she aimed for the wire. Blind Luck remained at the back of the field as they came off the turn, seeming to take longer than usual to find her stride but not too long. As soon as Havre de Grace hit the homestretch Blind Luck roused with a vengeance, bolting forward, splitting horses and charging hard, the courageous filly gunned for Havre de Grace, now three lengths in the lead. Blazing down the stretch the two fillies battled it out to the wire, Blind Luck tearing away at the lead with every stride, Havre de Grace hanging tough and digging down deep. They flashed under the line, Blind Luck missing by a neck after a gritty and exciting stretch run.

Amazingly both fillies still looked well within themselves galloping out past the finish line, not even the slightest signs of fatigue from the gallant duo.

The amount of ground Blind Luck is able to make up is simply astounding and win or lose, she shone once again in her final performance before a presumed start in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic. Havre de Grace has been banging on the door for months now just waiting for her chance to shine and now she has broken the door down and is a bona fide star. She will also be making her next start in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic where the dynamic duo will once again square off.

Posted in Blind Luck, Breeders Cup Classic, Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic, Breeders' Cup Mile, Dick Turpin, Fitz Dixon Cotillion, Goldikova, Havre de Grace, Indiana Derby, Lady's Secret Stakes, Lookin at Lucky, Martin Garcia, Olivier Peslier, Paco Boy, Prix de la Foret, Zenyatta | 3 Comments »

No Ordinary Super Saturday

Posted by Brian Appleton on October 2, 2010

If ever a weekend of horse racing is to be labeled a Super Saturday it is beyond a doubt October 2nd, 2010. Not only is there a spectacular card of racing at Belmont Park that includes 5 Grade 1 races the action only begins there and spreads across the country from New York, to Pennsylvania, Indiana and finally California. You will find no less than seven divisional racing leaders taking to the track this weekend as the nation’s leading older female, older male, three-year-old male, three-year-old female, two-year-old male, two-year-old female and three-year-old turf male all seek to solidify their positions.

Even before she sets hoof on the track this Saturday to attempt an unprecedented 19th straight win to remain undefeated, Zenyatta will be stealing the show by reputation alone. By now almost every casual horse racing fan knows of the feats Zenyatta has accomplished and understands just what the fantastic mare is capable of. For the third year in a row the colossal race mare will enter the starting gate to contest the Lady’s Secret Stakes (gr.1) in what will be her final appearance at her home base of Hollywood Park. The field in the Lady’s Secret isn’t exactly weak but it isn’t what you would expect a race mare of Zenyatta’s quality to still be facing, especially this late in the year but trainer John Shirreffs and owners Jerry and Ann Moss are obviously only concerned with keeping the grand mare in good physical condition as she aims for a repeat win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs in November. If she loses here suffice it to say this would rank right up there with Man ‘O’ War’s loss to Upset and Secretariat’s loss to Onion. But I don’t think too many people honestly expect her to even come close to losing races of this caliber anymore.

The Jockey Club Gold Cup was used as a successful springboard by Curlin in 2007 to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Monmouth Park and this year Blame will attempt the same feat. After wins in the Stephen Foster and Whitney Handicap’s, the latter win coming over Quality Road, Blame has firmly established himself as the frontrunner for the older male Eclipse Award as well as Horse of the Year. With only three starts this year so far, a win in the Jockey Club Gold Cup would go a long way in boosting the talented colt’s chances of winning an award as well as giving him a great prep for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. This will be the 4-year-old colt’s first try at the 10 furlong distance but his come from behind running style suggests the distance should be a non-factor.

Facing Blame will be Grade 1 winner Rail Trip who enters the race off a three month layoff and will also be trying traditional dirt for the first time in his career. Rail Trip has won at the 10 furlong distance and also won 2 of his 3 starts this year before finishing runner-up in the Hollywood Gold Cup (gr.1). He is a legitimate contender who could easily be competitive if he handles the dirt as well as he runs over synthetics and can handle the layoff well.

The talented 3-year-old colt Fly Down will be testing new waters when he faces older horses for the first time in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Winner of the Dwyer (gr.2) over the Belmont racing strip in May, Fly Down has been unable to find the winners circle since then despite some very impressive efforts this year including a fast closing second place finish in the Belmont Stakes and a second place finish to Afleet Express in the Travers (gr.1) last out, missing by a mere nose. He could very well be the second best runner in this field but seeing that he shares a similar running style with Blame his chances are severely compromised as the elder contender produces a devastating late kick.

Haynesfield, Hold Me Back, Dry Martini, Mythical Power and Tranquil Manner complete the field. Of the remaining entrants Hanesfield and Hold Me Back stand out as well as Dry Martini.

Paddy O’Prado would almost certainly be the front-runner for eclipse award as outstanding 3-year-old male this year if not for Lookin At Lucky and if he finishes out the year undefeated on the turf he could very well end up taking the trophy home provided Lookin At Lucky trips up at some point. Paddy O’Prado enters the gate for Belmont’s Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational (gr.1) facing older male runners for the first time as well as testing the 1 ½ mile distance for the first time. Although he is facing several new and untested challenges in the Hirsch, Paddy O’Prado is already installed as the well deserving favorite after posting powerful victories in this year’s Secretariat Stakes (gr.1), Colonial Turf Cup (gr.2) and Virginia Derby (gr.2). Despite his age Paddy O’Prado is easily the class of this field.

Facing the young challenger are proven grade 1 winners Telling and Winchester as well as grade 2 winner Al Khali.

There is a newcomer on the block and he looks like he’s ready to start banging down the doors. Twirling Candy has been making waves every time he steps onto the track, and it isn’t just the fact that he is undefeated and already a graded stakes winner in just his fourth lifetime start after capturing the Del Mar Derby (gr.2) last out on the turf. It’s a certain presence and aura that radiates from the powerful colt like a brilliant flame in the dark. After watching his last race I was in awe of the sheer power and ease he displayed while running his opponents ragged on the front end. Now the sophomore talent is entered in Saturday’s Goodwood Stakes (gr.1) at Hollywood Park against such talented grade 1 winning older horses as Richard’s Kid and Awesome Gem.

While Twirling Candy will be facing a strong field that also includes Crown of Thorns, Dakota Phone, Informed and Crowded House it seems that this young, inexperienced athlete might just be special enough to win the Goodwood.

Blind Luck and Lookin At Lucky don’t just share a common “lucky” element in their names, they also happen to both be leaders of their respective age groups. This Saturday Blind Luck faces arch nemesis Havre de Grace for the third time in the Fitz Dixon Cotillion (gr.2) while carrying 10 more pounds than her 4 rivals. The incredibly talented filly has proven herself over and over this year and last to be a tough-as-nails competitor and extremely unwilling to lose. While most of her wins have come by less than a length she always seems to know just when and how to get to the wire in time to steal the prize. I don’t see her losing here, but with the break in weights Havre de Grace, a very talented filly in her own right, gets a huge advantage.

Lookin At Lucky enters the Indiana Derby (gr.2) as heavy as a favorite can be. If the field for the Indiana Derby were likened to bodies of water Lookin at Lucky would be the Atlantic and the rest would be puddles. The Champion two-year-old Male of 2009, Lookin At Lucky has remained atop his division this year with impressive wins in the Rebel Stakes (gr.2), Preakness Stakes (gr.1) and Haskell Invitational (gr.1). Out for a short time with an illness that caused the son of Smart Strike to miss the Travers Stakes, Lookin At Lucky has since trained lights-out for his final race of the year before he tries his luck in Breeders’ Cup Classic. An upset here would be almost as big a shock as a loss from Zenyatta.

J. P. Gusto and Tell A Kelly are the pro tem West Coast juvenile divisional leaders and both young stars will try to solidify their standings this weekend. J. P. Gusto has been no less than sensational this year, winning four straight stakes races including the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity last out. In Saturday’s Norfolk Stakes (gr.1) the talented 2-year-old will try two-turns for the first time but is the heavy favorite in a field of 7. The Norfolk guarantees the winner a starting berth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile this November at Churchill Downs.

Tell A Kelly enters Sunday’s Oak Leaf Stakes (gr.1) off an impressive victory in the Darley Debutante and would settle as one of the top juvenile fillies in the nation with a win.

Good luck to all this weekend and enjoy the spectacular lineup!

Posted in Afleet Express, Al Khali, Awesome Gem, Belmont Park, Belmont Stakes, Blame, Blind Luck, Breeders Cup Classic, Debutante Stakes, Dwyer Stakes, Fitz Dixon Cotillion, Fly Down, Goodwood Stakes, Havre de Grace, Indiana Derby, J. P. Gusto, Jockey Club Gold Cup, Lady's Secret Stakes, Life At Ten, Lookin at Lucky, Norfolk Stakes, Oak Leaf Stakes, Paddy O'Prado, Richard's Kid, Tell A Kelly, Telling, Twirling Candy, Zenyatta | 2 Comments »

The Sport of Kings

Posted by Brian Appleton on July 6, 2010

So many things can incite passion in people, politics, music, relationships, money and power are just a few small examples but one thing in particular can many times get a person more riled than anything else in the whole wide world. Sports. It’s the engine that drives almost every single American weekend. Whether it be Football, Baseball, Basketball or Soccer one thing is clear, Americans, and in fact a large population of the entire planet thrive off of the thrill that comes with a winning moment. Sometimes it doesn’t even take a victory to create a thrill and a defeat can provoke more passion than a win.

Thoroughbred Horse Racing is all about the passion people infuse into the industry, passion of the race, the horse, the jockey, passion of the game. By the mid to late 1970’s Thoroughbred Horse Racing began to slide from its position as the leading sport in the nation, losing its status as the most popular and watched sport in the nation. Today racing is considered a minor sport by most casual sports fans and completely ignored by others. Aside from the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, Belmont Stakes and, to a lesser degree, the Breeders’ Cup, horse racing is well hidden from the public’s eye. In contrast almost the entire first half of the century was dominated by Thoroughbred Horse Racing with the only real threats coming from Boxing and later Baseball. With three Triple Crown winners in the 1970’s the sport was veritably assured a spot in the public’s eye but entering the early 80’s things changed quickly. The 80’s were headlined mostly by Basketball thanks in many respects to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls and the 90’s-to-present have been completely ruled by Football.

Somewhere along the line racing dropped the ball and managed not to acclimate with the times. There is however always hope for a sport if the fans have passion. Ever since I could read I have digested all the reading material I could ever find in relation to racing and while I have only been following live racing since 2006 there is one thing I know beyond a doubt: we have some of the most passionate and loyal fans in the sports industry. The list of things that are wrong in the industry is certainly a long one and quite discouraging at times but I believe there is just as much reason for concern as there is for hope.

If there is one thing above all else that provides success for racing it is events. I recently read an article online that discussed the reasons for some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbuster movie successes in history. In every single case the featured movie was not just presented as a movie, it was marketed as “the” movie to see. If you are anybody you’ve seen “that” movie. A perfect recent example of this is James Cameron’s Avatar. It wasn’t the great reviews that made this movie such a winner at the box-office, it wasn’t the special effects or the actors or the music, it was the story and nearly perfect marketing campaign that for weeks put Avatar trailers and images foremost in everyone’s minds. Although it had a big opening weekend, it was the incredible longevity of the movie that made it the highest grossing film in history and the “must have-must see” aura that made it the fastest selling DVD in history. This was an event film, something everyone could talk about and marvel at.

In 2009 Thoroughbred Horse Racing created a plethora of stunning events and gave a much needed, if only temporary, shot-in-the-arm to the industry. First it was Rachel Alexandra’s record smashing Kentucky Oaks win, then Mine that Bird’s Kentucky Derby, then back to Rachel Alexandra for the Preakness, Mother Goose, Haskell and Woodward. Summer Bird helped as well, becoming the first horse since Easy Goer to win the Belmont Stakes, Travers Stakes and Jockey Club Gold Cup while Zenyatta put the exclamation point at the end of the season with a brilliant victory over an international group of males in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Churchill Downs nighttime racing has been met with great success so far and has also succeeded in bringing in a new and younger audience. I believe the key to their success is that they created an event, something that was hyped up for months in advance and effectively integrated the old ways with the new. Fans were able to attend and watch the horse races while also having the choice to listen to music, hang out with friends, wager a few dollars and buy cheap drinks and snacks. In two words: fan friendly.

While 2010 seems to be lacking the incredible “kick” given by the 2009 racing year so far, there is great potential. I am still hoping for that “event” this year and believe that it will come, that wow moment when more than just the casual racing fan will stop what they are doing for just a few minutes to witness history in the making. We can still be The Sport of Kings.

Posted in Belmont Stakes, Breeders Cup Classic, Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks, Mine That Bird, Rachel Alexandra, Summer Bird, The Sport of Kings, Thorougbred Horse Racing, Triple Crown, Zenyatta | 2 Comments »

The Great Trinity: Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra and Goldikova

Posted by Brian Appleton on June 22, 2010

My internet server has decided to take the week off apparently so I was unable to research for this post. This is mostly going to be off the top of my head and from memory so please forgive any mistakes (and feel free to point out any) you might come across.

European racing at Royal Ascot seemed to garner as much attention from American racing fans over the last couple of weeks as our own American racing due in large part to the remarkable 5-year-old mare Goldikova and her continued conquest of the world’s most accomplished runners.

Just a few days before Europe’s queen of racing dominated a stellar field of males in the Queen Anne Stakes, two towering champions on American soil made sure and certain that they received their fair amount of the chatter with two powerhouse performances.

On June 12th in Kentucky reigning Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra waltzed her way to the easiest of wins by

destroying a fairly weak field of fillies in the Fleur de Lis at Churchill Downs, winning by 10 ½ lengths despite being geared down and ridden to the wire without a touch of the whip. Notwithstanding severe criticism from many fans and sports writers alike that owner Jess Jackson was taking the easy way out with the 2009 Horse of the Year in the Fleur de Lis instead of facing the males in the Stephen Foster or even the girls at Belmont in the Ogden Phipps Handicap there is no denying that is was great to see a brilliant performance like that from Rachel Alexandra. After two consecutive losses all coming by less than a length this year it was like a powerful shot of adrenalin in the Rachel ranks as somewhat subdued and disappointed fans exploded from out of the woodwork to celebrate the return of their hero to winning form.

With Rachel Alexandra’s victorious return the inevitable torch was passed to the ever capable Zenyatta to continue the streak of brilliance that she now has stretched out over an incredible 3 year campaign. On June 13th in one of the

most unprecedented and inconceivable feats in thoroughbred horse racing history Zenyatta not only took the torch and ran with it, she turned it into a flamethrower of sorts the effects of which will be talked about for centuries to come. In her 3rd consecutive Vanity Handicap the grand mare ran her undefeated record to a perfect 17-for-17, setting a North American record for the most consecutive wins in races not restricted to state breds. Her standard is nothing less than perfection and in each and every single one of her 17 starts it has proven to be too much for her overpowered competition. Four years ago if you had asked anyone if they thought the records of the Great Citation and Cigar would fall by 2010, taken down by a mare, would anyone have believed you? The significance of what Zenyatta has accomplished cannot be over estimated.

With all three of these amazing mares all pointing towards the Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Churchill Downs this fall the 2 day championship meet takes on a whole new meaning. Zenyatta will almost certainly be going for a repeat win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic while Goldikova will shooting for a stunning 3rd consecutive Breeders’ Cup Mile victory. Rachel Alexandra is a little behind the game at this point but is finally pointing in the right direction. Which Breeders’ Cup race she will enter is anybody’s guess but the two most logical choices are the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic the Classic itself. If she takes on males successfully before the Breeders’ Cup it will probably be the Breeders’ Cup Classic over the Ladies Classic which would bring about a monumental clash between two of the most highly esteemed fillies in history with both Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra entered.

It pretty much just comes down to speculation and guesses at this point in time in the racing season because we all know that anything and everything can happen in racing, but it’s always fun to dream.

Comeback Trails: A Promising Outlook

Winslow Homer, winner of this year’s Holy Bull Stakes and prominent on the Kentucky Derby trail before being sidelined with a stress fracture is set to make his return to the races in the June 26th Iowa Derby after making incredibly rapid progress in his healing and training regimen. Trainer Tony Dutrow said the colt has come out of his recovery in fantastic shape.

Royally bred Take Control, a son of champions A. P. Indy and Azeri, who many though would be a good Kentucky Derby prospect early in the year is back to work after being sidelined from bucked shins. The Bob Baffert trainee has been closely followed since well before his impressive maiden win first out due in large part because of his famous and talented parents.

I Want Revenge has trainer Rick Dutrow feeling very confident and excited about the 4-year-old colts chances to return back to his spectacular form from early 2009 after making remarkable progress in his rehabilitation. If all goes well from this point on works the plan is to enter him in the July 3rd Suburban Handicap at Belmont Park. Last year I Want Revenge won a thrilling edition of the Wood Memorial before being scratched from the Kentucky Derby as the favorite the morning of the race.

2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine that Bird is looking like his Derby-winning-self these days after posting numerous workouts that have trainer D. Wayne Lukas glowing with anticipation of the gelding’s return to the races. His return could come as soon as July 3rd or 4th with his main goal being the Whitney Handicap (gr.1) on August 7th at Saratoga.

Who remembers The Pamplemousse? Impressive winner of both the 2009 Sham Stakes and San Rafael Stakes, the stunning colt who was sidelined by a serious tendon injury before the Santa Anita Derby is back to light training for trainer Julio Canani. Although it appears a return to the races will still be quite a ways in the future, Canani expressed his confidence that The Pamplemousse will return to his winning ways once he does return.

Posted in Bob Baffert, Breeders Cup Classic, Breeders' Cup Mile, Churchill Downs, Cigar, Citation, D Wayne Lukas, Fleur de Lis Handicap, Goldikova, Holy Bull Stakes, Horse of the Year, I Want Revenge, Jess Jackson, Mine That Bird, Rachel Alexandra, Rick Dutrow, Royal Ascot, Take Control, The Pamplemousse, Thorougbred Horse Racing, Vanity Handicap, Winslow Homer, Wood Memorial, Zenyatta | 3 Comments »

 
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