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Breeders’ Cup Day 2: Live Blogging

Posted by Brian Appleton on November 2, 2013

BC_EventLogo_2013_R1_SJC4
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”.

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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 »

2010 Breeders’ Cup: Part 2

Posted by Brian Appleton on November 9, 2010

Here we are for part two of the Breeders’ Cup results, but before I get into the races themselves I would like to cover some of the post Breeders’ Cup news.

Goldikova, three time Breeders’ Cup Mile winner and the greatest filly in Breeders’ Cup history, will remain in training in 2011 with her goal being a 4th consecutive Breeders’ Cup Mile victory. The word “unprecedented” doesn’t even come close to doing this feat justice. This is just plain brilliant and one of the greatest gestures of modern thoroughbred horse racing sportsmanship ever displayed. Brothers Alain and Gerard Wetheimer, who bred Goldikova as well as race her, made the announcement two days after the 5-year-old mare’s dazzling Mile win.

“We decided to keep her in training because she’s in great shape,” Alain said. “The other reason is that if more older horses are kept in training, it’s good for the public because they get used to seeing them and there’s a good chance of it bringing people to the racetrack. If you only keep them one year, people don’t see them enough; they don’t get attached. I think it would be good if more people were able to do that.” He continued, “When you have a big stable and have a good mare, there’s no reason not to try to keep her in training.”

Let the praises roll, I for one am beyond just excited and thrilled that Goldikova will attempt to enhance her already sparkling reputation more by winning a 4th consecutive Breeders’ Cup Mile.

Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic:

 

Blind Luck was the filly to beat entering the Ladies Classic but it was Unrivaled Belle that stole the show. After a banner year for Unrivaled Belle in which she defeated Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra by a head in the La Troienne (gr.2) in late April, Unrivaled Belle put the icing on the cake with a powerful victory in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic over a stellar field of fillies and mares.

Breaking from the gate like a shot Unrivaled Belle sat just behind the three leaders, head bobbing with Milwaukee Appeal down the backstretch for 4th and 5th position. Havre de Grace sat just behind those two while Blind Luck trailed the field with a seriously compromised Life At Ten well back in last. Entering the far turn Unrivaled Belle moved to the lead with effortless strides as Havre de Grace surged forward on the outside and Blind Luck began to come alive from the back of the pack. Into the stretch Unrivaled Belle quickly began to distance herself from Havre de Grace with little urging from jockey Kent Desormeaux as Blind Luck came widest of all under a full head of steam. In the end it was Unrivaled Belle an easy winner by 1 ¾ lengths over a gallant, but late, Blind Luck with Havre de Grace third.

The winner was great in victory but I have to admit that my heart was with Blind Luck on this one and it was a shame to see her come so close and lose. She easily sewed up three-year-old filly honors with yet another gutsy performance here. Life At Ten was the real shame in the Ladies Classic this year. After being “unusually quite” according to trainer Todd Pletcher in the saddling ring and failing to warm up according to jockey John Velasquez, Life At Ten broke sluggishly from the gate and trailed the field all the way around. It has been speculated by Todd Pletcher that she may have had an allergic reaction to Lasix and began to tie up. It’s easy to criticize when you aren’t the one in the position to make decisions but in this case Life At Ten should have been scratched as soon as they realized something was wrong with her. It was just sheer dumb luck that she came out of the race unscathed.

 

Breeders’ Cup Sprint:

 

The Breeders’ Cup Sprint is always one of the most exciting races of the year, simply because of the fantastic energy the contestants explode from the gate with that continues all the way to the finish line.

In a year where both leading sprint candidates, Majesticperfection and Discreetly Mine, were sidelined by injury, Big Drama turned what was supposed to be an evenly matched contest into an absolute rout.

Bursting from the gate in the field of 12, Big Drama aggressively rushed to the lead and the race was over from there. Cruising through rapid fractions of :21.34 for the opening quarter and :44.58 for the half with Atta Boy Roy and Cash Refund in close pursuit, Big Drama continued into the turn looking strong under jockey Eibar Coa. Flying into the stretch three-wide, Big Drama gradually eased away for a 1 ½ length victory. Finishing second by a head over Smiling Tiger was Hamazing Destiny.

Big Drama’s record for the year now stands at 4 wins in 6 tries which should be enough to win him an Eclipse Award as top sprinter.

Posted in Big Drama, Blind Luck, Breeders Cup Sprint, Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic, Breeders' Cup Mile, Eibar Coa, Goldikova, Hamazing Destiny, Havre de Grace, John Velazquez, Life At Ten, Smiling Tiger, Todd Pletcher, Unrivaled Belle | 4 Comments »

The Eclipse Awards and Baker’s Dozen

Posted by Brian Appleton on January 14, 2010

Zenyatta

Rachel Alexandra

Monday night the most hotly contested Horse of the Year vote in racing history will finally be decided. One contestant will walk away with a trophy, the ultimate champion in title, but both will walk away champions where it counts; in the hearts of legions of adoring fans who, if their horse win or lose, will further strengthen their allegiance to these great athletes by sheer love of the horse. Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta have been plowing a tremendous furrow in the field of historical achievement since their 2009 racing campaigns have ended. Not only did they achieve incredible things on the track, they shattered equally marvelous boundaries in the hearts and minds of thousands of fans the world over. True, the Horse of the Year debate rages most strongly in America, but the extreme star power of these two giants in the sport has transcended national boundaries and carried across oceans to touch the lives of fans all over the world. I’m rooting for Rachel Alexandra to win for reasons already stated, but win or lose, I’ll cheer either way and gripe later.

I think Gio Ponti is poised to pull off a miraculous championship double if the

Gio Ponti

voters vote according to true championship form. Not only is he a cinch to win the Grass Male title, but he is also the frontrunner for Older Champion Male, an honor usually bestowed upon dirt or synthetic runners. Gio Ponti raced solely on grass last year with the exception of his 2nd place finish to Zenyatta in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Summer Bird

Summer Bird will run off with the Three Year Old Male award, or at least should. Becoming the first horse since the great Easy Goer in 1989 to win the Belmont Stakes, Travers Stakes and Jockey Club Gold Cup in the same season is no small feat. Mine that Bird will garner some votes here for his historic Derby victory, but the Derby winner always gets consideration no matter how bad a year he’s had.

Rachel Alexandra should rightfully steal every single vote in the Three Year Old Filly division as should Zenyatta in the Older Mare voting. If someone votes against them here in either category, then something is seriously wrong with that voter.

Informed Decision is the clear choice for Female Sprinter although Ventura will probably steal some votes for her consistent run of races, including her victory over males last year.

Kodiak Kowboy wins the Male Sprint award most likely, having beaten Fabulous Strike on two separate occasions. Zensational could take a good amount of the voting too, but his poor finish in the Breeder’s Cup Sprint will hurt his chances a great deal.

Now, on to my very first Derby dozen list which I have decided to call my Baker’s Dozen. Baker’s Dozen, the Webster’s definition is: A group of 13; from the former custom of bakers to add an extra roll as a safeguard against the possibility of 12 weighing light. So here it is, my first Bakers Dozen:

1. Lookin At Lucky-Lucky looks like the perfect racing machine, and if not for his courageous Breeders’ Cup defeat, he would sport a perfect record. Bob Baffert has decided to add blinkers to Lookin At Lucky for his next race and see how it goes. Jockey Garrett Gomez felt the colt ran stronger through the stretch of his last work (with the blinkers on) and kept the pressure on instead of idling when he hit the top of the stretch. The San Felipe Stakes (gr. 2) on March 13 is his next probable start.

2. Buddy’s Saint-This horse looks like the “real-deal”. He wins his races with

Buddy's Saint

apparent ease each time out and is proven over a dirt track. He is headed for the Fountain Of Youth Stakes in February and a possible showdown with Todd Pletcher trainee Eskendereya. His Remsen victory was thrilling.

3. Jackson Bend-His sweep of the Florida Stallion Stakes was impressive and showed good progression each time out. He overcame a troubled start to win the In Reality Division of the series. He is targeting the Holy Bull for his 3 year old debut on January 23. His latest breeze at the 5 furlongs distance went in 1:oo flat, the fastest time at the distance. Looks like he’s fit and ready.

4. American Lion-This Winstar colt looks the part of a true Derby candidate. His Hollywood Prevue victory proved he has enough talent to win, even if he doesn’t have as much experience as some other competitors.

5. Eightyfiveinafifty-Trainer Gary Contessa is coming out very strong in his support of this young and relatively unproven colt. His 17 ¼ length maiden

Eightyfiveinafifty

victory last out was one of the most spectacular ever witnessed and if he can strut the same “stuff” next out against higher class runners then he could be a real Derby threat. He earned a 105 Beyer speed figure for his freakish maiden victory.

6. Noble’s Promise-This poor guy has had a thing for finishing behind Lookin at Lucky lately, but not that far behind. In the CashCall Futurity (gr.1) last out, he finished less than a length behind a victorious Lookin at Lucky. The Bridesmaids eventually get their turn to shine, his may come sooner than we expect.

7. Dublin-Even though he got creamed in the Champagne Stakes (gr.1) by Homeboykris while finishing 5th, Dublin’s victory in the Hopeful (gr.1) over good horses like Backtalk, Aspire and Aikenite was impressive enough to convince me that this guy can run well again. Also, Lukas knows what he’s doing when it comes to young horses.

8. D’Funnybone-His 10 1/2 length Saratoga Special, and 4 ¾ length Futurity

D’Funnybone

(gr.1) victories were just too good to be flukes in my mind. He may have finished dead last in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, but I’m willing to chalk it up to the synthetics and give him another shot.

9. Super Saver-Another WinStar colt, Super Saver won the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes in November at Churchill downs last year. Any experience over the Derby track is favorable, especially when it comes in the form of an easy 5 length victory. This one looks like he wants to run.

10. Eskendereya-I am partial to this colt, not only is he visually stunning, he runs great when shown the dirt and not he synthetics. His Pilgrim victory was a surprise to most but after his 9th place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile many began to question whether or not he was for keeps. His recent victory at Gulfstream Park in front-running style proves he’s more than a “one time wonder”.

11. Rule-He has won 3 of his 5 races to date and has earned well over $500,000. He showed guts when winning the Delta Jackpot at Delta Downs in early December and should improve off this well deserved win.

12. Aikenite-This colt has proved to be pretty consistent on the dirt and against good competition too. He finished third to Dublin in the Hopeful (gr.1) in September, second to Noble’s Promise in the Breeders’ Futurity (gr.1) in October, then finished 5th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He may be a slow mover, but has the potential to move up the ranks if he gets a good win under his belt.

13. Backtalk-He seems to be almost forgotten at this point. Back in July he

Backtalk

was “the” horse after stringing his first three races together in victorious professionalism. He finished 4th to Dublin in the Hopeful, lacking his usual kick in the stretch but hopefully he can come back with some more gusto in his 3 year old debut. Any horse that goes undefeated in his first three races against classy competition deserves a second glance.

That’s it for my Baker’s Dozen, but as always when you’re making a list, there’s more you want to add. Interactif could easily vault himself into the Derby picture with a win on dirt or synthetics. His grass form is simply splendid, but trainer Todd Pletcher has dropped hints that he may want to try his star on a different surface in the near future. Spectacular Bid winner, A Little Warm, now has two very impressive wins to his record. One more will certainly earn him a slot on many a list. Others who have proven themselves capable are: Discreetly Mine, Champagne victor Homeboykris, regally bred Take Control, Bob Baffert trainee Tiz Chrome, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Vale of York and undefeated Connemara who puts his perfect record on the line this weekend in the California Derby.

Posted in A Little Warm, Aikenite, American Lion, Aspire, Backtalk, Bob Baffert, Breeders Cup Classic, Breeders Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, Breeders Cup Juvenile, Breeders Cup Sprint, Buddy's Saint, Connemera, D'Funnybone, Discreetly Mine, Dublin, Eightfiveinafifty, Eskendereya, Fountain Of Youth Stakes, Gio Ponti, Homeboykris, Horse of the Year, Informed Decision, Interactif, Jackson Bend, Kentucky Derby, Lookin at Lucky, Mine That Bird, Noble's Promise, Rachel Alexandra, Rule, Summer Bird, Super Saver, Synthetic(s), Take Control, Thorougbred Horse Racing, Tiz Chrome, Todd Pletcher, Travers Stakes, Uncategorized, Vale of York, Ventura, Zensational, Zenyatta | 6 Comments »

Reflections of 2009: Part 3 and Miscellaneous Racing Updates

Posted by Brian Appleton on December 18, 2009

Rachel Alexandra winning the Woodward Stakes

Zenyatta winning the Classic

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

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

Indian Blessing & Sara Louise

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

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

Music Note

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

Magical Fantasy

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

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

Miesque

Goldikova

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

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

Presious Passion

Cloudy's Knight

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

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

Posted in Breeders Cup Classic, Breeders Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, Breeders Cup Juvenile, Breeders Cup Sprint, Careless Jewel, Einstein, Forever Together, Freddy Head, Gio Ponti, Goldikova, Horse of the Year, Indian Blessing, Informed Decision, Justwhistledixie, Life Is Sweet, Lookin at Lucky, Miesque, Mine That Bird, Presious Passion, Rachel Alexandra, Sara Louise, Saratoga Racetrack, Summer Bird, Synthetic(s), Thorougbred Horse Racing, Unbridled Belle, Ventura, Zensational, Zenyatta | 2 Comments »

Breeders’ Cup Day 2: League Of The Forgotten

Posted by Brian Appleton on November 11, 2009

The 26th Breeders’ Cup Championships are over, the champions have been crowned and history has been made. The hottest topic in racing is now Zenyatta vs. Rachel Alexandra for Horse of the Year award. With all the hype surrounding Zenyatta’s stunning victory against males in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, most of the other Breeders’ Cup victors seem to almost be a forgotten story.

Solid “GOLD-ikova”

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Goldikova

   In any other year Goldikova’s incredible repeat victory in the Breeders’ Cup Mile would have been the banner headline. Her accomplishment here deserves much more praise and attention than the racing world has bestowed upon her. She has done what only the great Miesque in 1987-1988 was able to do. Win two Breeders’ Cup Mile’s against the best males in the world without missing a beat. Goldikova’s trainer Freddy Head just happens to be the jockey that rode Miesque to both of her Mile victories, and is now the only person ever to train, and ride winners in the Breeders’ Cup, let alone twice in both categories.

   Breaking from the far outside in post #11, Goldikova was second to last. Pacesetting Karelian ran an opening quarter of :22.98 with Cowboy Cal rating just behind. As they approached the far turn Cowboy Cal took over briefly before long-shot Courageous Cat whizzed by, opening 1 ½ lengths on the field. With a furlong remaining in the race, Goldikova began to unleash a furious rally from the back, picking horses off one by one. Angled to the center of the course by jockey Peslier, Goldikova poured it on. Only 3 lengths from the lead, then two, one and in the blink of an eye she was home free, sailing under the line under a full head of steam. There were some questions before the race as to whether or not Goldikova was as good as she was in her spectacular three year old season last year, or if she had edged off that form somewhat. Suffice it to say, there are no questions now. She will go down as one of the greatest Breeders’ Cup champions of all time.

Passionate Repeat

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Conduit

   A second Breeders’ Cup repeat came when favored Conduit won the Breeders’ Cup Turf over an ultra impressive Precious Passion. Breaking like a bolt of lightning from the gate, Precious Passion led the field on a merry game of “catch me if you can”, while Conduit took up position in the rear of the pack. Opening up three lengths on the field from the get go, Precious Passion extended his lead to about 12 lengths down the backstretch, looking very comfortable while doing it. As the field began rounding the final turn it looked as if Precious Passion would be a candidate for last place finish. Spanish Moon and filly Dar Re Mi were closest coming off the turn, while Conduit swung wide flying up with powerful strides. Defying what appeared to be a sure defeat, Precious Passion dug in gamely when Conduit came rushing up. They dueled through the stretch before Conduit was finally able to gain the upper hand and win by half a length over the irrepressible Precious Passion. Dar Re Mi got up for third, beaten only a length.

Tough Luck

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Vale of York

   One of the most impressive efforts of the day, regardless of win or lose, was Lookin at Lucky’s runner up effort in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Made the heavy favorite due to his undefeated 4 for 4 record and regardless of his number 13 post, Lookin at Lucky looked much the best even in defeat. Piscitelli and D’Funnybone were the first two out of the gate, with Piscitelli taking the lead. Eventual winner Vale of York, tracked in third. Into the homestretch it seemed Noble’s Promise was on his way to victory, but Lookin at Lucky and Vale of York were flying from the middle of the pack. It appeared Lookin at Lucky would prevail, but Vale of York proved a determined foe. With one final surge, Vale of York caught the wire a neck ahead of a “tough luck” Lookin at Lucky.

Quick Upset

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Dancing In Silks

  The Breeders’ Cup Sprint provided one of the day’s biggest surprises, and also one of the most shocking upsets. Red-hot Zensational looked to be invincible coming into the Sprint, riding his 4 race win streak, the last 3 being grade 1’s. After one of the worst trips in memory, in which he broke from the #1 post alongside the speedy Cost Of Freedom, Zensational wound up finishing fifth behind a “blanket finish wall” of four horses at the wire. It was one of the most exciting Breeders’ Cup Sprints in history, four horses together on the line in one big photo finish. 25-1 Longshot Dancing in Silks got up to win by a nose over Crown of Thorns who finished a head in front of Cost of Freedom, with Gayego a nose back in fourth.

Flag Flying High

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California Flag

   After finishing a dismal 10th in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, California Flag seized the lead from the start in 2009 edition and never looked back. This was one of the most enjoyable races for me to watch aside from the Turf and Classic. I love a horse that can take a field from gate to wire and leave no doubt about their victory. After posting fractions of :21.50 for the opening quarter mile, and :43.09, California Flag shot off the final turn and kept roaring down the stretch, opening up on the field, before finishing a comfortable 1 ¾ lengths in the lead. His final time of 1:11.28 was a new stakes record.

“Dirt-my foot” Mile (had to throw that in)

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Furthest Land

   Mastercraftsman was one of the heaviest favorites of the day and the almost unanimous choice to win in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt (synthetic) Mile. Last year’s 2 year old Champion Male, Midshipman, was also entered. Having raced only once in 2009 when winning an allowance race, he was a question mark, but winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile over Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride synthetics in 2008 bode well for him. 21-1 longshot Furthest Land pulled the shocking upset here with fellow longshot Ready’s Echo at 24-1 getting second. Midshipman came home third after leading the field from the gate to the homestretch turn. Mastercraftsman was a non factor, finishing well behind the top three.

Pounced

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Pounced

  This was one of the best looking horses of the entire Breeders’ Cup in my opinion. The second he stepped into the paddock before the race, I dropped all other choices and made him my solid win choice for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. Bridgetown took the field through opening fractions of :23:61 while Interactif pressed the pace on the outside. Bridgetown slingshotted off the turn and extended his lead over Interactif as the field began to close in. Pounced looked to be in trouble coming into the stretch, but rider Frankie Dettori was able rouse his mount mid-stretch enough to rally a furious run. Rushing to the lead, Pounced split the frontrunners and surged ahead. It was a gritty win by the determined young colt, who seems to have a very promising future.

   The Breeder’s Cup treated me very well this year.

   On day 1 I was able to choose the winners of Ladies Classic, Juvenile Fillies

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Life Is Sweet winning the Ladies Classic

and Juvenile Fillies Turf, as well as getting beat narrowly in the Marathon with Coudy’s Knight. My Filly and Mare Sprint choice Sara Louise lacked her usual kick in the stretch and ruined my top three of Sara Louise, Informed Decision, and Ventura. I got slaughtered in the Filly and Mare Turf when Rutherienne was nowhere to be found, she must have missed the memo. My second and third picks Pure Clan and Forever Together must have received the memo though, because they finished 2,3 for me.

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Zenyatta winning the Classic

 In Day 2 my Pounced, Awesome Act, Interactif tri was upset when Awesome Act finished fourth. California Flag came through for my win choice, but my Curlin family addiction proved unfortunate when Square Eddie wound up nowhere. The Breeders’ Cup Sprint was just about the worst handicapping job I’ve ever done in my life! Zensational killed my win, and Fatal Bullet followed right behind. At least they finished 1-2 relative to each other, just in the wrong field positions!(: My Lookin at Lucky, D’Funnybone, Noble’s Promise tri pick went nowhere. Lookin at Lucky and Noble’s Promise came in second and third, but D’Funnybone was dead in the stretch. Precious Passion just ruined my tri of Precious Passion, Conduit, Dar Re Mi in the Turf, but it was so close. Goldikova was wonderful to me, but I didn’t even consider second place finisher Courageous Cat before the race. I was gunning for Mastercraftsman to lose the Dirt Mile with my Midshipman, Furthest Land, Bullsbay tri in this one. The Curlin family angle served me well here (: but it didn’t really matter as they all finished in the wrong order and one missed the top three anyway. I almost hit a homerun with the Classic, but just missed when Twice Over took third over Summer Bird by a nose. My tri was Zenyatta, Gio Ponti (he looked awesome in the post parade) and Summer Bird.

   Who did you pick in the Breeders’ Cup races and how did they run for you? Or who do you wish you had picked and didn’t? I hate it when I discard a horse for some reason, and then they go on to win or ruin your top three picks, that’s one of the most de-gratifying things ever.

   Overall, the Breeders’ Cup 2009 was a terrific experience, and one that will keep me in awe for many years to come.

   I will be doing a post of Rachel Alexandra vs. Zenyatta for Horse of the Year soon.

Posted in Bob Baffert, Breeders Cup Classic, Breeders Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, Breeders Cup Juvenile, Breeders Cup Sprint, Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, California Flag, Careless Jewel, Conduit, Cost of Freedom, Courageous Cat, Court Vision, Cowboy Cal, Crown Of Thorns, Curlin, D'Funnybone, Dancing In Silks, Dar Re Mi, Einstein, Eskendereya, Forever Together, Freddy Head, Gayego, Gio Ponti, Goldikova, Handicapping, Horse of the Year, Indian Blessing, Informed Decision, Interactif, Lethal Heat, Life Is Sweet, Lookin at Lucky, Mastercraftsman, Midshipman, Miesque, Mine That Bird, Noble's Promise, Pounce, Pounced, Preciou Passion, Pure Clan, Rachel Alexandra, Rainbow View, Rick Dutrow, Rip Van Winkle, Rutherienne, Sara Louise, Sentient Jet Breeders Cup Sprint, Spanish Moon, Square Eddie, Summer Bird, Synthetic(s), Thorougbred Horse Racing, Twice Over, Uncategorized, Vale of York, Zensational, Zenyatta | 2 Comments »

Breeders Cup Day 1: The Sweet Life

Posted by Brian Appleton on November 7, 2009

PrintThe Sweet Life

   From dead last coming into the last turn, Life is Sweet came flying into the history books and out of Zenyatta’s shadow with a powerful come-from-

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Life is Sweet wins the 2009 Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic

behind victory in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic. Against a stellar field that included last year’s third place finisher Music Note, three year old sensation Carless Jewel and European Rainbow View, Life is Sweet proved she is capable of running with the best the world has to offer, or should I say proved she can run away from the best.

   With jockey Garret Gomez aboard for the eighth consecutive time, Life is Sweet settled comfortably at the back of the pack after taking a “halfway hop” as Gomez said, breaking from the gate. Careless Jewel shot straight to the lead, appearing somewhat rank, and opened up nine lengths on the field in the backstretch. After setting fractions of :23.50 for the opening quarter mile, :45.78 for the half mile and 1:09.74 for the six furlongs, Careless Jewel was spent and quickly began to fade while the entire field closed rapidly on her position around the far turn. Coming into the homestretch it seemed wide open to all but Careless Jewel who was inhaled around the turn and wound up finishing last of eight. While Life is Sweet began flying up from the rear, Music Note, Cocoa Beach and Mushka all seemed ready to seize the lead with good positions at the head of the pack. Mushka got there first and seemed home free until the speeding Life is Sweet passed her in mid-stretch and waltzed home to a 2 ½ length victory.

   I had initially chosen Careless Jewel as my winner for the Ladies Classic but immediately changed my mind when I saw Life is Sweet in the paddock and warming up on the track. I have chosen her all three times she has run against Zenyatta this year just because I love her grit and consistency, so I decided not to jump ship so late in the game and was thrilled to have my faith in her rewarded with such a compelling performance. I was shouting her down the stretch when I caught sight of her closing from the back and gave a whoop of joy when she crossed the line in front. Then I inadvertently yelled, “Sweet!” not realizing the play on words. It was indeed a sweet victory for her connections, and a more deserving winner you will never find.

   I need to add one more thing here before I go on to the next race. My horses finished on both ends of the field for the first time ever. Life is Sweet 1st, Careless Jewel last, I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not.

An Easy Decision

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Informed Decision wins the 2009 Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint

   I had seen all the evidence; her record was a testament to flawless synthetic form, she had already defeated the favorite in a previous meeting, won five of her six races this year and finished third in her one loosing attempt, finishing behind a dual champion, yet I still didn’t choose her to win. Informed Decision had the perfect trip in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint and took full advantage of it.

   Long shot Free Flying Soul took the lead at the start with informed Decision rating just off her in second. As soon as she came out of the gate she appeared completely comfortable and relaxed, I realized right away that neither Sara Louise nor Ventura was going to be winning this time. Entering the homestretch Informed Decision willingly took the lead and poured it on while defending Sprint winner Ventura came flying from second to last with tremendous strides in the center of the track. They kept up their furious rallies the length of the stretch, but Ventura was unable to make up enough ground on a determined Informed Decision and had to settle for second. Looking the part of a winner the entire length of the race, Informed Decision has now won 11 of 14 lifetime starts and 6 of 7 starts this year. She has placed herself squarely in line to win the Eclipse award as runaway Champion Female Sprinter 2009.

Iron Man

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Man of Iron wins the 2009 Breeders' Cup Marathon

   The most exciting stretch run of the Friday Breeders Cup card came in the 2nd running of the Breeders’ Cup Marathon. I have been saying for awhile now that I am rooting for American runners to win every Breeders Cup race except for the Mile, where I am placing my allegiance with Goldikova, and although my “hope” for the “all American” finishes isn’t going to happen in every single race, I still like our chances against most of the Euro’s who are left. Cloudy’s Knight has been my pick for the Marathon ever since last month and I was thrilled with his courageous effort against the talented Euro Man Of Iron. The clear-cut favorite for the Marathon this year was Mastery, another brilliant European runner with sights on Breeders Cup glory.

   In the beginning stages of the race Man of Iron held last position for jockey Johnny Murtagh before moving to ninth of ten for the majority of the trip. Meanwhile Cloudy’s Knight was stalking the leaders in mid-pack with last year’s Marathon champ, Muhannak, in second. Approaching the homestretch turn Cloudy’s Knight swept to the lead with a three wide rally with Mastery in close pursuit, while Man of Iron closed strongly from behind. Down the homestretch Cloudy’s Knight was caught by Man of Iron inside the sixteenth pole and these two roared through the stretch, neck and neck, neither giving an inch. Man of Iron seemed to gain a barely perceptible edge a few jumps before the wire, but Cloudy’s Knight was still coming. It was Man of Iron the winner by a nose in a thrilling photo finish. Mastery finished third and last year winner Muhannak came home fifth. The Marthon distance was increased to 1 ¾ miles for this year’s running.

High Note for Midday

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Midday wins the 2009 Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf

   This year’s edition of the $2 million Emirate Airline Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf was one of the strongest fields in recent history. Last year’s winner and 2008 Champion Female Grass Horse, Forever Together, was made the slight favorite over European Midday but was unable to duplicate her effort of last year. A very slow pace was set by Visit for the first six furlongs with Dynaforce rating in second. Midday raced mid-pack through the backstretch before accelerating on the final turn and edging clear of pace-setter Visit to gain the lead before the sixteenth pole. Forever Together took up her customary position at the back of the pack, perhaps being placed too far back by jockey Julien Leparoux, and was compromised by the slow pace up front. Midday opened up a clear lead before the line and maintained a comfortable margin all the way to the wire. Pure Clan put in a late run on the inside to get up for second behind the victorious Midday, 1 ¼ lengths ahead of the late running Forever Together. Magical Fantasy was nosed out for fourth by Visit with Maram coming in sixth. Rutherienne and Dynaforce completed the order of finish. Chalk one more up for the Euro’s!

She’s Wild

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She be Wild wins the 2009 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies

  When the field for the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies came sweeping into the turn it seemed like every one of the 12 contestants had a wide open chance to win. This was one of the most evenly matched fields for the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile Fillies in recent memory. She Be Wild managed to detach herself from the pack midway through the homestretch defeating second place Beautician and third place race favorite Blind Luck. She Be Wild has now won four of her five lifetimes starts and is the most likely candidate for the Eclipse award as Champion Juvenile Filly.

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf

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Tapitsfly wins the 2009 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf

 Tapitsfly has been receiving a good amount of hype this week due to her excellent works at Santa Anita in preparation for her run in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. Apparently the hype wasn’t for nothing this time. In second place for almost the entire run behind pace setter Rose Catherine, Jockey Robby Albarado asked the filly for run in the stretch and she responded with beautiful acceleration. She gained on the leader before finally inching clear for a half length victory.

   Attendance was up from last year on the Breeders’ Cup Friday program and handle at the track was also slightly up. You can bet there will be a huge crowd coming Saturday for the chance to see the undisputed “Queen of racing”, Zenyatta take on the boys in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Sit back and enjoy the ride, there is a whole day left of races to be run, champions to be crowned, records to be attempted and excitement to experience. Brind on the Breeders Cup day 2!

Posted in Belmont Park, Breeders Cup Classic, Breeders Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, Breeders Cup Juvenile, Breeders Cup Sprint, Careless Jewel, Forever Together, Handicapping, Indian Blessing, Lethal Heat, Life Is Sweet, Rainbow View, Sentient Jet Breeders Cup Sprint, Synthetic(s), Thorougbred Horse Racing, Triple Crown, Calvin Borel, Steve Assmusen, Jess Jackson, Churchill Downs, Santa Anita, Breeders Cup, Breeders Cup Classic, Ladies Classic, Life Is Sweet, Quality Road, Macho Again, Einstien, Careless, Zenyatta | 2 Comments »

“GOLD-ikova STRIKE!”

Posted by Brian Appleton on November 4, 2009

Print   Three more days and the Breeders Cup Championship races will be underway. Things kick off on Friday with the Breeders Cup Marathon, but the headline of the day will be the Breeders Cup Ladies Classic. In between you have a bevy of mouthwatering races that include the Filly and Mare Sprint, Filly and Mare Turf, Juvenile Fillies and Juvenile Fillies Turf.

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Goldikova

    I’m going to start with the $2 million Breeders Cup Mile, which will be run on Saturday, and the defending 2008 champ Goldikova. I have been following Goldikova much more closely this year after her incredible victory in the Breeders’ Cup Mile last year and have frequently searched and viewed pictures of her recent races. This afternoon I found a picture taken a few days ago of the champ and almost caught my breath. If pictures are worth a thousand words, then this one was practically screaming the return of Goldikova. She looked magnificent! There are many obvious points in her favor, the most obvious being that she has already won this race last year, and is once again in tip top shape. I’m a sucker for fillies, especially when they can hand it to the boys, and I love stories that herald the return of the champ, so needless to say I am rooting for her to win this one again. Drawing the outside post in the field of 11 She’s just about the only European I’m supporting in the entire Breeders Cup this year, and is one of four entered in the Mile. Gladiatorus, Delegator and Zacinto are the other three.

   Gladiatorus won the $5 million Dubai Duty Free in late March in an upset, then went four straight in defeat before finding the winners circle again last out in the Group 1 Premio Vittorio di Capua at San Siro, Italy. His latest victory was against much weaker competition but his trainer isn’t worried and is hoping that it served as a confidence booster for Gladiatorus. One thing that may be in his favor is the left hand turns at Santa Anita, the same as the turns in Dubai. His four consecutive losses all came on right-handed turns or staightways.

   English stakes winning Delegator is raced by Godolphin Racing. In August he won the Group 2 Celebration Mile before finishing second to last in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at prestigious old Ascot in September.

   The third European contender is Zacinto who has yet to win a grade 1 race and must take a major step up in class for this one.

   The American runners are led by grade2 winner Cowboy Cal and grade 1 winner Court Vision. Cowboy Cal has the

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Cowboy Cal

speed to acquire the lead, the strength to sustain that speed, and the determination to hold onto that lead even in the face a head to head stretch duel. He also has the ability to rate just off the pace and fire when asked by the rider in the stretch. He could very well end up setting the pace here. He has proven extremely effective when given his own way on the lead in previous situations.

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Court Vision

 In post position 1 is Court Vision, winner of the Grade 1 Shadwell Mile at Keeneland. He is another one of those ultra consistent horses who never makes you nervous to include him in your top three. He usually sits right off the pace and will most likely be up close throughout the duration of the race, and in a good position to launch his bid when then enter the stretch.

   Another American runner, Justenuffhumor defeated Cowboy Cal in the Bernard Baruch

Justenuffhumor1

Justenuffhumor

 Handicap (gr.3) on the Saratoga turf in late August for his sixth consecutive win. He could certainly be able to spring a mild upset here if given a fair and clean run. Surprisingly he is listed at odds of 10-1 compared to Cowboy Cal’s 6-1.

   Karelian was defeated a mere nose by Cowboy Cal in the Shadwell Turf Mile (gr.1T) in October, a race in which favorite Justenuffhumor finished sixth. Goldikova is once again the favorite for the 2009 renewal.

   There is never a “sure thing” or a “guarantee” in horse racing, but if there was, Goldikova just might be both.

Some Breeders Cup Updates:

Zenyatta1

Zenyatta

 First and foremost is that Zenyatta will be taking on the boys in the Classic and has already been installed as the morning line favorite over the likes of European star Rip Van Winkle and American runners Einstein, Summer Bird, Gio Ponti and Colonel John. Finally we get to watch the undisputed, undefeated queen of American racing take on the best of the boys and prove her mettle. I have a feeling that she will emerge with her perfect record intact, and will show the world that she can handle not only the extra distance in the 1 ¼ mile classic, but also that she can run with the best of them…or should I say run away from the best of them.

   Second is the news that heavy Sprint favorite Zensational drew post position one, much to the dismay of his

Zensational1

Zensational

connections. It was the exact position trainer Bob Baffert had hoped to avoid. Cost of Freedom and Fatal Bullet drew positions two and three respectively effectively putting all three speed horses side by side. Zensational will have to go full-throttle from the moment the gates spring open to grasp the lead, and with two speed horses just outside him a taxing speed duel could easily ensue, creating a very fast pace for the closers to run into.

LookinAtLucky1

Lookin at Lucky

   Juvenile favorite and undefeated Bob Baffert trainee Lookin at Lucky drew the outside post thirteen for the race. Although Baffert said he is not as worried about that as he is about Zensational’s number one post position, you have to take it into consideration when choosing your winner. He will be attempting to become the first horse to win a 1 1/16 mile race from the 13 post since the synthetic track was installed at Santa Anita in 2007.

   In other news there has been a endless parade of works by contenders from every

Mine That Bird1

Mine That Bird

Breeders Cup division. Too many to go over them all, so I’ll just mention a few of the major ones. Kentucky Derby winner Mine that Bird had an “almost perfect” work according to Trainer “Chip” Woolley earlier in the week and is looking sharper coming into the Classic than he was for the Goodwood Stakes in which he finished sixth last out. Einstein had a fabulous work for trainer Helen Pitts and seems to be better than ever coming into the biggest race of his life. The way he has been working, looking and acting

CarelessJewel1

Careless Jewel

is, according to all accounts, exactly the way you would want a horse to be coming into the Classic against such a deep field. Careless Jewel also tested the Pro-Ride surface, looking spectacular according to bystanders. She appears to glide over any surface and is another that is coming into the Breeders Cup just when she seems to be peaking physically for the year.

   It’s only three days and counting, then the fun begins!

Posted in Bob Baffert, Breeders Cup Classic, Breeders Cup Juvenile, Breeders Cup Sprint, Careless Jewel, Einstein, Handicapping, Kentucky Derby, Mine That Bird, Sentient Jet Breeders Cup Sprint, Summer Bird, Synthetic(s), Thorougbred Horse Racing, Zenyatta | 5 Comments »

The Breeders Cup Sprint: A Kowboy, A Bullet, A Candyman and A Zensation

Posted by Brian Appleton on October 23, 2009

Zensational

Zensational

Kodiak Kowboy1

Kodiak Kowboy

 breederscup2

   Before I get into the actual topic of this post I want to go over a couple major updates that could affect the Breeders Cup. 

Macho Again1

Macho Again

Gitano Hernando1

Gitano Hernando

   First, the announcement by West Point Thoroughbreds President and CEO Terry Finley that Macho Again will bypass the Breeders Cup Classic (gr.1) after developing a cough following his breeze at Santa Anita Park October 17. He will instead be pointed towards the Clark Handicap (gr. 2) on November 27 at Churchill Downs. Another defection came when Team Valor International announced that Gitano Hernando will also bypass the Breeders Cup Classic.  The connections feel the long-shot winner of the Goodwood Stakes (gr.1) ran too hard last out to be reeled back after such a relatively short rest.  He will be sent to England in preparation for the Dubai World Cup (gr.1) but will remain in light training at Santa Anita until then.  Summer Bird tested new waters October 17 when he had his first workout over the Pro-Ride synthetics at Santa Anita. Trainer Tim Ice timed his star pupil going 1:01.96 and said he feels Summer Bird is peaking.  Summer Bird holds the distinction of being the only horse since Easy Goer in 1989 to win the Belmont stakes (gr.1), Travers Stakes (gr.1) and Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr.1) in a single year.  Chip Woolley, trainer of Mine That Bird, said the Kentucky Derby winner will have his next five furlong work on Monday.  Einstien is being touted as the somewhat forgotten horse of late heading into the Classic and trainer Helen Pitts says that’s exactly the way she likes it. “I like that he will come in fresh; he’s run some of his best races fresh. He won the ‘Big Cap’ (Santa Anita Handicap-gr.1) off of six or seven weeks (rest), the Woodford (Woodford Reserve Turf Classic-gr.1T) off two months and the Clark (Clark Handicap-gr.1) off more than three months. He’ll be ready.” Pitts also said Einstien will have one more work October 25 in Kentucky before shipping to Santa Anita with a tentatively scheduled work over the Pro-Ride on November 1.

Fabulous Strike1

Fabulous Strike

   Last month it appeared the Sentient Jet Breeders Cup Sprint could be short two of the country’s leading sprinters in Fabulous Strike and Kodiak Kowboy, however that is no longer the case.  Kodiak Kowboy is now headed for his chance at glory in the Breeders Cup Sprint where he will meet a formidable cast of contenders.

Zensational2

Zensational

   The heavy favorite in this race will most likely be Zensational, the incredibly fast, unrelenting Bob Baffert trainee who has taken the west coast sprint division by storm this year.  Zensational is on a red hot four race win streak, the last three being consecutive Grade 1’s. He turned in one of his customary powerhouse performances in the Pat O’Brien Stakes (gr. 1) at Del Mar. A little slow to come out of the gate he quickly compensated and rushed to the front. Coming to the turn he had several lengths on the field and it appeared they were closing on him. Into the turn and they were at his flanks, then in the blink of an eye, they were nowhere. Asked by jockey Victor Espinoza for more run at the top of the lane he willingly left the field behind and sauntered across the line 2 ¼ lengths the best. This horse runs like no other I have ever seen. As soon as the gate opens he shoves his head in the air and charges to the lead, looking for all the world like an equine version of Eric Lidell. This horse doesn’t want anything in front of him, and he has the raw speed to make sure it never happens. His races appear to be carbon copies of each other; rush from the gate, seize the lead, open up on the field, appear beat when the field closes in at the turn, then burst away with freakish speed yet again and he’s home free.

Fatat Bullet1

Fatal Bullet

   Last year’s Breeders Cup Sprint runner-up and Canada’s 2008 Horse of the Year and Champion Sprinter is back for another try. Fatal Bullet hasn’t had as stellar a year as he did in 2008, but he is beginning to pick up speed, and may just be at his best come Breeders Cup day. He started the year with a victory in the Bold Venture Stakes at Woodbine in Canada, followed by an uncustomary last place finish in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (gr.2) in August at Saratoga. In the Phoenix Stakes (gr.3) he outlasted the late surge of Capt. Candyman Can by half a length to achieve another victory and secure himself a spot in the Sentient Jet Breeders Cup Sprint.  He has shown an affinity for synthetic tracks and has run well over Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride so he may have something still to say.

CaptCandymanCan1

Capt. Candyman Can

   Capt. Candyman Can has one grade 1 victory to his credit in the Kings Bishop Stakes.  First place finisher Vineyard Haven was disqualified in the Kings Bishop Stakes to second for bumping in the stretch and Capt. Candyman Can was moved to first place instead. Last out the talented three year old colt was defeated by Fatal Bullet in the Phoenix Stakes (gr.3) after coming up a half length short in his bid. No matter who he faces this guy always guts it out to the end and is a top class adversary wherever he shows up.

gayego1

Gayego

   Gayego could take on the role of second favorite with his dominating win in the Ancient Title Stakes (gr.1) over Crown of Thorns. The four year old colt, prominent on last year’s Triple Crown Trail, has only one other stakes win to his credit (Group 3 Mahab Al Shimaal in Dubai) in three tries this year.  He placed second in the Godolphin Mile in March, and then won an optional claimer at Saratoga in August.  In winning the Ancient Title Stakes Gayego guaranteed himself a spot in the Sentient Jet Breeder Cup Sprint field and looks primed for a tremendous effort. He will be a force to reckon with on race day.

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Munnings

Vineyard Haven1

Vineyard Haven

   Other possible starters include Eaton’s Gift, Munnings, True Quality, Vineyard Haven and more.  Munnings is another who is not yet a confirmed starter, but his addition would expand an already sizable pool of class.  He won two consecutive stakes races including the Woody Stephens Stakes earlier in the year before placing third to Rachel Alexandra and Summer Bird on a sloppy Track in the Haskell. He runs well with the best of them, but seems to have tailed off a bit from his earlier exceptional form.  If he does enter I wouldn’t count him out.

   There are many classy horses running here, and many have a legitimate shot at winning. Zensational may be the heavy and obvious favorite off stirring wins over synthetics, but no horse is ever a lock. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, I don’t see him getting beat by anyone that shows up.

Posted in Breeders Cup Sprint, Sentient Jet Breeders Cup Sprint | 4 Comments »

 
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