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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”.

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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 »

The 143rd Belmont Stakes: Who to Choose

Posted by Brian Appleton on June 11, 2011

The 143rd Belmont Stakes may not have the pull of a Triple Crown attempt in 2011 but this year’s rendition stands on its own in sheer terms of volume and quality of competition. For the first time in history the top seven from the Kentucky Derby (gr.1) are all returning to contest the third, longest, and oldest jewel of the Triple Crown series making for a deep and competitive field. Aside from appearing on paper to be one of the most competitive fields in recent Belmont Stakes (gr.1) history the field also offers some excellent betting value to handicappers and fans alike. Kentucky Winner Animal Kingdom was installed as the 2-1 favorite with Derby runner up Nehro next at odds of 4-1. After those top two the odds jump all the way up to 10-1 on Derby third place finisher Mucho Macho Man and Derby fifth place finisher Master of Hounds. Next comes Preakness winner Shackleford at listed odds of 12-1 but you can bet he’ll be a much shorter price on Saturday.

A field of twelve has been entered for the Belmont providing an almost-full field. Breaking from the rail out here is the field; Master of Hounds, Stay Thirsty, Ruler On Ice, Santiva, Brilliant Speed, Nehro, Monzon, Prime Cut, Animal Kingdom, Mucho Macho Man, Isn’t He Perfect and Shackleford.

Animal Kingdom won the Kentucky Derby at odds of 20-1 to become the first horse to ever win the Derby having never started on dirt prior to the race. He won by Derby by 2 ¾ lengths over Nehro who finished a neck ahead of Mucho Macho Man in third with Shackleford another three parts of a length back in fourth. Two weeks later Animal Kingdom fell just half a length short of a stubborn Shackleford at Baltimore in the Preaknes Stakes. The Belmont will be his third start on dirt and only the eighth start of his career. He has looked fabulous ever since the Preakness and has trainer Graham Motion brimming with confidence.

Shackleford has not been on the national radar that long and has already done things in his career most horses can’t even dream of doing. Starting with his gutsy Florida Derby performance on April 3rd where he just missed holding off Dialed In by a head for the win, the son of Forestry then traveled to Louisville and ran fourth in the Derby after setting the pace throughout and then took the Preakness Stakes two weeks later, going almost gate-to-wire on May 21st. To sum up this colt has run three hard, impressive races and is back for his fourth consecutive start in a Grade 1 race, all in the span of two months. It would be great to see Shackleford win the Belmont but I honestly don’t think he’s going to be able to hold off so many talented colts on the front end unless he slows the tempo down to a ridiculous level.

Mucho Macho Man has had some of the worst luck of the year if you discount Uncle Mo and his problems. After winning the Risen Star Stakes (gr.2) in mid February the talented colt lost a shoe and still ran third in the Louisiana Derby (gr.2) behind Pants On Fire and Nehro and then came back to run a game third in the Kentucky Derby (gr.1). He lost yet another shoe in the Preakness Stakes (gr.1) when finishing sixth much to the chagrin of trainer Kathy Ritvo who has made a rider change from Rajiv Maragh to Ramon Dominguez for the Belmont Stakes (gr.1). Already pushing 17 hands and still not technically a three-year-old until several days after the Belmont, Mucho Macho Man has gigantic strides that will greatly appreciate the sweeping turns and long stretch at Belmont Park.

Nehro has had a bad case of the ‘Bridesmaid’ run in his three most recent starts, the Kentucky Derby, Arkansas Derby and Louisiana Derby. The Belmont Stakes will by just his seventh lifetime start and with the five weeks between the Kentucky Derby and Belmont I think there is a ton of upside for the son of Mineshaft and he could very well end his runner up status. He began his career in early December and only broke his maiden on February 21st, so the best is yet to come.

Master of Hounds is gaining a lot of support in the Belmont due to his determined fifth place finish in the Derby where he had to thread his way through serious traffic issues to make up a ton of ground in the stretch. He drew post position #1 which for any other horse might be an obstacle but for him should work perfectly with his running style of staying behind horses near the rail.

Brilliant Speed has a perfect Belmont Stakes pedigree, being the son Dynaformer out of Speed Succeeds, but I’m not convinced he’s as good as some of the others in this field. He last finished seventh in the Derby and before that was an upset winner of the Blue Grass Stakes (gr.1) on April 16th.

Santiva finished sixth in the Derby and ninth in the Blue Grass Stakes after a horrible trip and will be making his fourth start of the year in the Belmont. As a son of the very talented Giant’s Causeway you absolutely have to take him seriously. He ran a decent race in the derby but will have to really ramp things up in the Belmont if he hopes to catch a piece of the action but don’t be surprised to see him right there at the finish.

Stay Thirsty returns from a twelfth place finish in the Derby. It wasn’t that long ago he was trading blow with Uncle Mo in his morning works and winning the Gotham Stakes (gr.3) in early March. After finishing seventh in the Florida Derby and twelfth in the Kentucky Derby with seemingly little in the way of legitimate excuses there are some serious questions this colt has to answer. One thing is for sure; he certainly has a classic pedigree and as the Grandson of A. P. Indy there should be no distance limitations here. If he can continue to grind his way down the long Belmont stretch he could wind up hitting the board.

The rest of the field is made up of Prime Cut, Ruler On Ice, Monzon and Isn’t He Perfect. Of the four Prime Cut and Ruler On Ice stand out but not enough for me to use them in my picks. Hopefully that doesn’t come back to haunt me.

Mucho Macho Man will once again be my choice. I just can’t stop loving this hard-knocking colt and the fact that he is still immature, growing and running well despite his bad luck is highly impressive to me. If he keeps his running shoes on, literally and figuratively, then I think he’s the horse to beat in the Belmont. I hate to say it but I’m going with Nehro to once again some in second although I think everyone knows he’s more than capable of pulling of a victory on Saturday. He’ll have a much longer stretch to chase down any frontrunners at Belmont which will play to his advantage. Shackleford and Animal Kingdom are certainly stealing most of the spotlight with their rubber-match in the Belmont but I think Animal Kingdom gets the upper hand at this distance. For sheer heart and determination though I’m going to be rooting for Shackleford to take third here.

So there it is, I was finally able to put down a win choice for the Belmont after tons of deliberation. Part of me would love to see Shackelford win with Animal Kingdom second but it would be really nice to see Mucho Macho Man or Nehro earn their first Grade 1. If Animal Kingdom can pull off the Derby/Belmont double he will be only the 12th horse in history to accomplish that feat while a win by Shackleford would make him just the 17th horse to achieve the Preakness/Belmont double and the first since Afleet Alex in 2005. Good luck to all and may the best horse win.

Posted in Animal Kingdom, Belmont Park, Belmont Stakes, Brilliant Speed, Isn't He Perfect, Master of Hounds, Monzon, Mucho Macho Man, Nehro, Prime Cut, Ruler On Ice, Shackleford, Stay Thirsty | Leave a Comment »

Warming up to the Preakness Stakes

Posted by Brian Appleton on May 11, 2011

Sometimes leftovers can taste better than the meal and that’s the way it’s looking with the May 12st Preakness Stakes (gr.1). With the Kentucky Derby limited to 20 starters chosen by their graded stakes earnings some horses are inevitably left out and forced to wait another two weeks for the Preakness Stakes to prove their mettle. When Uncle Mo was scratched from the Derby on Friday morning Sway Away was currently sitting at number #21 on the graded stakes earnings list but was still prevented from running in the Derby because of the starters policy that will not allow another horse to be entered if one has scratched out. Churchill Downs is currently contemplating changing the policy to allow horses to enter after scratches.

This year the Preakness Stakes seems to be attracting a full, strong field of 14 starters with Sway Away being one of them. It took virtually a matter of minutes after Animal Kingdom’s Derby victory for trainer Graham Motion to declare his horse a definite Preakness Starter so the Triple Crown hopes for 2011 at least remains alive. Animal Kingdom’s final time for the Derby was a respectable 2:02.04 but it was his closing half mile in :47 1/5 which is now the second fasted closing half mile in the Derby ever, behind only Secretariat’s closing half, was brilliant. It’s hard to believe he won the Derby with such relative ease with only four prior starts. The question now is can he add the Preakness to his trophy case, and the really big question is can he win the Triple Crown? I think the ability is there but I’m not confident he can get the job done in the Triple. The Preakness seems doable even with the strong field but add the Belmont three weeks later and that’s asking an awful lot of such an inexperienced runner.

Included among the list of possible starters is Derby runner-up, Nehro, who is more likely to pass on the race than he is to run, and Derby third place finisher Mucho Macho Man as well as fourth place finisher Shackleford along with Santiva and Derby favorite Dialed In. Astrology could be headed to the Preakness fort trainer Steve Asmussen after bypassing the Derby.

Other possible Preakness starters include; Prime Cut, Dance City, Flashpoint, King Congie, Mr. Commons, Norman Asbjornson, The Factor, Isn’t He Perfect and Harlan’s Hello.

The most intriguing of these is the possibility of The Factor running. After he flipped his palate and ran seventh as the heavy favorite in the Arkansas Derby the Bob Baffert colt will be making a fairly quick turnaround after surgery to correct his problem. Flashpoint is also an interesting addition. He was last seen finishing fourth in the Florida Derby (gr.1) after winning the Hutcheson Stakes (gr.2) by more than seven lengths.

So as things stand now the Preakness appears to be shaping up as a very competitive race. The Derby is only the beginning not the end, we still have two legs of the Triple Crown left and much more room for surprises.

Uncle Mo it appears will be skipping all the three year old classics as the son of Indian Charlie has been sent to WinStar Farms in Kentucky to diagnose and receive treatment for a yet undiscovered ailment. Trainer Todd Pletcher said the goal is to get him healthy and bring him back to win Champion Three Year Old Male and Horse of the Year.

Posted in Animal Kingdom, Dialed In, Flashpoint, Kentucky Derby, Mucho Macho Man, Preakness Stakes, Santiva, Shackleford, The Factor, Triple Crown, Uncle Mo | 2 Comments »

Kentucky Derby 137 Wrap: Ruling the Kingdom

Posted by Brian Appleton on May 8, 2011

The 137th Kentucky Derby was one for the record books and in more ways than one. In front of the largest Derby crowd in history, 164,858 fans to be exact, Animal Kingdom became the first horse in history to win the world’s greatest race having never run on dirt before.

When jockey John Velasquez replaced the injured Robby Albarado on Animal Kingdom in the Derby after his mount, 2010 Champion Two Year Old Male Uncle Mo, was scratched Friday morning, it was with far lower performances expectations in mind. None of that mattered after Velazquez guided Animal Kingdom to a flawless win in the $3 million dollar race for three year olds.

Trainer Graham Motion came roaring onto the Kentucky Derby scene on April 9th when Toby’s Corner defeated Uncle Mo to win the Wood Memorial (gr.1) and stamp his ticket to the Derby. It appeared Motion was on his way to Louisville with a legitimate contender until a problem was detected in the colt’s left rear leg and he was withdrawn from race consideration. Motion was left with Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes (gr.3) Animal Kingdom as his final Derby possible but the colt had never started on dirt in his career. None of that mattered on Saturday when Animal Kingdom flew to a 2 ¾ length victory over 18 of the nation’s best colts to give Motion his first win in the Kentucky Derby.

As the field thundered from the gate to the roar from the massive Churchill Downs crowd, Animal Kingdom came out a step slow from post #17 but quickly got into stride and was guided towards the inside rail by Velazquez. Comma to the Top broke fastest of all from post six as Shackelford charged into the fore from post fourteen, quickly taking the lead by half a length passing by  the stands for the first time. Nehro surprisingly tossed his late running ways to the wind and broke sharply, placing himself just behind the leaders in sixth on the outside with Mucho Macho Man just behind and race favorite Dialed In dead last well out of it into the first turn. Animal Kingdom raced on the outside in the clear in thirteenth around the first turn and into the backstretch as Shackleford led the field through a first quarter in :23.74. Racing down the backside Shackleford continued to lead as the field’s positions remained relatively unchanged, Archarcharch ran in sixteenth after breaking awkwardly from post one as Dialed continued to trail.

As the field approached the far turn Shackleford led the field by a length and a half as Nehro moved up on the outside to take second with Pants on Fire and Comma to the Top started their rally’s, the four of them fanned out across the track. Through the turn they charged at the leaders, Pants on Fire dropping back as Animal Kingdom began to uncork his run from far back and Mucho Macho Man struggled through traffic mid pack. Into the stretch Shackleford continued to lead, running his heart out on the rail as Nehro showed a completely new dimension, coming strong from off the pace to inch his way past Shackleford. A second after Nehro took the lead Animal Kingdom literally exploded under Velasquez and came charging hard on the outside. Bursting past the leaders he flew down the stretch, Nehro struggling to keep up as Shackleford refused to give in and Mucho Macho Man finally broke through and found his best stride. Blazing under the line Animal Kingdom finished full of run with Nehro finishing second by a neck over a fast charging Mucho Macho Man with Shackleford hanging tough to finish just ¾ of a length back in fourth.

Graham Motion - Anne M. Eberhardt

Motion was shocked after the race stating that he never expected to win the Derby. “To win the Derby is not something I ever expected to do. I’m always going to be considered a Kentucky Derby winning trainer and that speaks volumes.” It was an all around feel good story that surrounded the Derby victory this year. Jockey John Velazquez has had his mounts scratched three years in-a-row now going back to 2009 when Quality Road was scratched with a quarter crack as the favorite. In 2010 Eskendereya was scratched as the probably favorite because of a leg injury. This year Uncle Mo was scratched as the second favorite and certainly the most talked about Derby contender.

Animal Kingdom was clearly the best horse in the race and has now registered three wins in five starts. His Derby move was almost identical to his Vinery Spiral win and the impressive victor has already been given the go ahead to point for the Preakness Stakes (Gr.1) on May 21st. Dialed In who never seemed to launch a serious rally in the Derby will be pointed for the Preakness as will Mucho Macho Man who ran a strong third in the Derby. Nehro, Shackleford and Santiva are also possible to return for the Preakness but it looks like Nehro could skip in favor of the Belmont Stakes (gr.1).

Shackleford turned in a terrific effort in the Derby, setting all the fractions up front and losing by less than four lengths. Archarcharch was pulled up after the race and vanned off in an ambulance. Apparently the talented colt sustained a lateral condylar fracture that is not life threatening.

I had so much fun with the Derby this year, being so involved and up to date. When the horses were walking by in the post parade I tweeted my top three choices were Mucho Macho Man, Dialed In and Shackleford. Santiva and Nehro also looked really good warming up and then at one point I turned to my sister when Animal Kingdom jogged across the screen and said “He looks like he’s ready to run big but I’m not going to tweet him because I’ll look like an idiot when he loses.” She laughed along with me and then said “Now watch him go and win.” You have to love irony.

Posted in Animal Kingdom, Dialed In, Graham Motion, John Velazquez, Mucho Macho Man, Nehro, Shackleford | 2 Comments »

Final Kentucky Derby Thoughts

Posted by Brian Appleton on May 7, 2011

KentuckyDerby.com

With the sad, but not completely unexpected news, that Uncle Mo has been scratched from the Kentucky Derby I find myself scrambling to pick another favorite. It has pretty much come down to a very even and competitive field in this year’s Derby without standout like Premier Pegasus or a 100% fit Uncle Mo so I’m going to stick my neck out there and just make a choice based on nothing but my own instincts and love of the contenders.

1)      I think I’ve decided to go with Mucho Macho Man. Not only does he have a very heart-warming story to go along with consistency, he is also the youngest contender in the field, technically still a two-year-old. You can’t fault any of his Churchill works and he had a good excuse to lose the Louisiana Derby (gr.2) after losing a shoe in the beginning of the race.

2)      Dialed In is still one of my favorites and after seeing how well Churchill played on Friday with the Oaks card to closers on the dirt track you have to think he’ll get a favorable run on a dry track. Traffic issues are always going to be a huge question mark with a closer in a 19 horse field but that’s part of the risk. To me he gives the best physical impression of all the Derby contenders.

3)      The best series of works goes hands down to Archarcharch in my eyes. You would be hard pressed to find another contender in the field that has run as often and as consistent as the colt. The Arkansas Derby allowed him to showcase one of the best rallies of the year and I think he’s still improving.

4)      Pants On Fire has several things going for him; red-hot jockey Rosie Napravnik to guide him, some very impressive works at Churchill and also get favorable post position number seven.

5)      Soldat could turn out to be the dark horse in the Derby and not only if the track comes up wet. He’s run some very impressive speed figures earlier in the year and a return to any one of hi 100+ Beyer’s would probably be enough to take down this field. He will need to relax off the pace if he hopes to survive the 1 ¼ mile journey but I don’t see a problem there.

6)      Todd Pletcher and Mike Repole still have one hope to win the Derby and judging by the last two works Stay Thirsty has posted, he’s prepared to run a much bigger race than his awful Florida Derby placing. As a son of Bernardini there’s definitely something to be said for family stamina.

So there it is, my top six choices as it stands now. I almost always change my mind last minute when I see the horses warming up and I’ll most likely be tweeting something like; “Wow, Archarcharch and Soldat look amazing in the post parade” or “Stay Thirsty looks really good!”. It all comes down to a play of the moment for me I guess, and especially in a wide open derby like this. As a side note I do have to mention Midnight Interlude has also caught my eye as have Shackelford and Nehro.

Good luck to all and may the best horse win.

Posted in Archarcharch, Dialed In, Kentucky Derby, Midnight Interlude, Mucho Macho Man, Nehro, Pants On Fire, Shackleford, Soldat, Stay Thirsty | Leave a Comment »

Derby Posts Set: Mo on the Fence

Posted by Brian Appleton on May 5, 2011

The post positions have been set for the Kentucky Derby and the dreaded #1 hole has been given to Arkansas Derby (gr.1) winner, and Churchill Downs buzz horse Archarcharch this year. Last year race favorite Lookin At Lucky endured a nightmarish trip from post position number one but still managed to finish a respectable sixth after all hope of winning was swept away in the mad rush from the gate. Archarcharch will face the heat this time around with jockey Jon Court aboard but both trainer and jockey have remained very optimistic about their colts chances despite the bad post. After rattling off a series of impressive works at Churchill Downs Archarcharch has come more into the spotlight than ever following his Arkansas Derby win at long odds. He will have some tough traffic issues to overcome but he’s one of the most seasoned and definitely the best conditioned horse in the entire field so if any colt can overcome the odds it’s probably him.

Dialed In received a beautiful post, tucked in snugly between Pants On Fire to his inside and Derby Kitten to his outside, in post number eight with Julien Leparoux set to ride. He’s another one who has been making a good impression since his arrival at Churchill Downs. The first couple visits to the track looked a little stiff but his most recent gallop was full of energy and had him stretching out beautifully on Wednesday. I suspect he likes a dry track better than a wet one which is why he looked so much better in his recent gallop than he did when going over the sloppy surface.

Uncle Mo can’t get a break it seems. Between his loss of historic proportions in the Wood Memorial, a light training schedule brought on by his GI infection, slight loss of appetite in the weeks leading up to the Derby, constant media pressure and a rumor mill that runs 24/7, it seemed the Champion had a full plate. Not full enough it seems. On Wednesday the son of Indian Charlie was slapped with post position 18, just two from the far outside, a post that will make his job a lot harder. If he hopes to run close to the pace or just behind the leaders he’s going to have to find a way to work his way through traffic and secure a spot before the first turn so as not to get hung wide. As it stands now owner Mike Repole says his champion is 50/50 to run in the Derby. He will only run if they feel he is 100% percent. A final decision will be made on Thursday evening or Friday morning after the colt is examined by a team of three veterinarians as well as trainer Todd Pletcher and Repole. I hope he passes with flying colors and takes a shot, who knows if he can win right now but I’ll still be rooting for him to wear the garland of roses.

Repole and Pletcher’s second runner, Gotham Stakes winner Stay Thirsty, was assigned post four which should offer the Bernardini colt a favorable run to settle into a comfortable position the first time past the wire. He has been trainer very well at Churchill and looks primed to turn in a much better effort than his dull Florida Derby run. Pletcher was especially pleased with the post as his first Derby winner, Super Saver, started from the four post.

Mucho Macho Man will break from post thirteen with Shackleford beside in post fourteen. The Bob Baffert trained Midnight Interlude will break from post fifteen while Soldat will break two down in post seventeen. Nehro breaks from post nineteen, but with his late running style he shouldn’t have any trouble with the post.

Dialed In was installed as race favorite at odds of 9-2 with Uncle Mo second choice at odds of 4-1. Nehro was set as the third choice at odds of 6-1 while the entire rest of the field sits at odd so 10-1 and higher. Talk about value to be played!

Posted in Archarcharch, Dialed In, Kentucky Derby, Mucho Macho Man, Nehro, Shackleford, Soldat, Stay Thirsty, Uncle Mo | Leave a Comment »

Derby Works and Frankel

Posted by Brian Appleton on May 1, 2011

The first Saturday in May quickly approaches, racing enthusiasts have just one week left and the wait is over, America’s next Kentucky Derby champion will be crowned. Amidst the flurry of Derby activity that takes place over the Churchill Downs dirt track in the week preceding the race itself, contenders come out in droves for their daily gallops and last minute works.

On Friday Archarcharch solidified his status as one of the biggest Derby threats when he blazed five furlongs in :59 2/5, tying with three year old filly Arienza for the fastest time of 58 horses working the distance. Trainer Jinks Fires described the work as “perfect” and “super”.

On Saturday Florida Derby (gr.1) runner-up Shackleford burned up the track with a :58 4/5 five furlong move, easily earning the bullet as the fastest of 36 horses working the distance. Trainer Dale Romans was very pleased with the move, especially after seeing his trainee gallop out six furlongs in 1:12 2/5 and continue pulling hard on his rider.

Mucho Macho Man also turned in a solid five furlong move on Saturday, though much more conservative than the moves posted by Archarcharch and Shackleford. With jockey Rajiv Maragh up, the son of Macho Uno went five furlongs in 1:00 2/5. According to trainer Kathy Ritvo her star pupil gallops at least two miles a day so fitness will be absolutely no concern with this colt.

I personally can’t wait to see what kind of work Uncle Mo and Stay Thirsty turn in for their joint venture on Sunday. Both colts seems to be thriving in Kentucky.

Frankel - Trevor Jones

Enough of the Kentucky Derby for now. I have become an ardently admitted Frankel super-fan. It started after his powerful romp in the Juddmonte Royal Lodge Stakes at Royal Ascot on September 25th last year, a race which he won by an astounding 10 lengths without being asked to run a single step. On Saturday Frankel stepped into the realm of super stardom when he powered home to win the QIPCO Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-1) at Newmarket by six lengths.

After finishing his juvenile season undefeated in four starts and earning honors as co-champion juvenile male, Frankel began 2011 with an easy win in the 7 furlong Greenham Stakes. He entered the Two Thousand Guineas as the lowest priced favorite since 1970 and proved his heavily backed favoritism was well grounded. Breaking from the gate Frankel was fastest into stride, opening up most than a length on the field within a matter of strides. From there the visually impressive spectacle only got better. Throughout the 1 mile journey Frankel continued to pull away under jockey Tom Queally, opening up more than 12 lengths on the field at the halfway point while under tight restraint. In the final furlong Queally finally released his mount and under a vigorous hand ride Frankel waltzed past the line, the winner by six lengths. Dubawi Gold and Native Khan made good runs to get up for second and third, finishing about 12 lengths clear of the rest of the field. The ease with which Frankel won the Two Thousand Guineas makes it almost laughable to call the prestigious event a race, it proved little more than a public display of pure dominance and speed for the Champion. The big question now is whether or not trainer Henry Cecil and owner Khalid Abdullah will send Frankel on to the 1 ½ mile Epsom Derby (Eng-1) June 4th. Up to now the three year old Galileo colt has never raced farther than 1 mile in distance and I have a sneaking suspicion that he might not be able to run his best at the classic distances. He has shown absolutely no weaknesses so far and “nothing gained, nothing ventured” so I kind of hope they take a chance and send him anyway. 

Posted in Archarcharch, Arienza, Frankel, Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks, Mucho Macho Man, Shackleford, Stay Thirsty, Two Thousand Guineas, Uncle Mo | Leave a Comment »

WRRB: A Little Bit of Everything

Posted by Brian Appleton on April 14, 2011

 

It’s recap time once again and this week was filled with headliner’s from the outset of last Thursday. To begin with Stay Thirsty and Shackleford arrived at Churchill Downs on April 7th to continue preparations for expected runs in the Kentucky Derby. Both colts seem to have exited their respective runs in the Florida Derby (gr.1) on April 3rd in excellent shape. Shackleford ran a terrific race to hold on for second by a nose after setting the pace, just failing to hold off Dialed In for the last few strides. Gotham Stakes (gr.3) winner Stay Thirsty finished a dull 7th in the Florida Derby for trainer Todd Pletcher but his connections are hopeful that with four good weeks until the Derby he will return to form.

Premier Pegasus was officially removed from Triple Crown consideration on Thursday after a hairline fracture was discovered in his left front cannon bone. This was a huge blow to the sizable PrePeg fan base after the talented colt won the Sal Felipe Stakes (gr.2) by almost 8 lengths and was scheduled to run in the Santa Anita Derby (gr.1) where he was expected to be heavily favored. The son of Fusaichi Pegasus will miss about two months of training. He has been training in spectacular fashion for the Santa Anita Derby and it’s not hard to imagine that he would have been a heavy Kentucky Derby favorite with a win after Uncle Mo’s failed Wood Memorial run.

Less than 24 hours after the announced removal of Premier Pegasus from the Derby trail came the news that graded stakes winner To Honor and Serve had strained his left foreleg’s suspensory ligament and was also out of consideration for the Kentucky Derby. Last year the son of Bernardinai won the Remsen (gr.2) and Nashua Stakes (gr.2) to become one of the early Kentucky Derby favorites. He began his three-year-old campaign with a third place finish in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr.2) and followed that up with another third place finish in the Florida Derby (gr.1) on April 3rd. I really liked To Honor and Serve last year but had strong doubts the Bernardini colt would be able to win classic distance races.

If the loss of Premier Pegasus wasn’t enough of a blow to the Santa Anita Derby this year the race lost its second straight favorite when the Bob Baffert trained Jaycito was scratched from the race after battling a foot bruise for several days. A distance second behind Premier Pegasus in the San Felipe Stakes in his three-year-old debut, Jaycito will now aim for the April 23rd Lexington Stakes (gr.2) as his final Kentucky Derby prep.

 

A. P. Indy - Anne M. Eberhardt

One of the most influential sires of the modern day, the great A. P. Indy has been pensioned after failing to impregnate any of the mares he was bred to this year. In his stellar stud career the son of Seattle Slew has sired more than 135 stakes winners. His most famous offspring include 2003 Horse of the Year Mineshaft, 2006 Three Year Old Champion Male Bernardini and Rags To Riches, 2007 Champion Three Year Old Filly and the first filly in over a century to win the Belmont Stakes. The 22 year old stallion’s legacy will be carried on through sons Bernardini, Mineshaft and Malibu Moon and his grandson Tapit, all of whom have shown great potential in the breeding shed.

 

Mucho Macho Man turned in a bullet five furlong work at Gulfstream Park on April 9th when he blazed over the track to post a final time of :58 1/5. The large bay colt lost a shoe at the start of the Louisiana Derby (gr.2) and finished third as the favorite in a decidedly uncharacteristic performance. The son of Macho Uno is looking strong less than four weeks away from the Kentucky Derby.

 

Morning Line - Coglianese Photos

Morning Line was finally able to earn his Grade 1 stakes victory on April 9th at Aqueduct in the Carter Handicap. The 4-year-old Tiznow colt has had some tough-luck finishes in his ten race career, but none as heartbreaking as his head defeat in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (gr.1) last November. In the Carter Morning Line sat just behind the blazing early pace set by Sunrise Smarty before moving up as the field entered the homestretch and running down Apriority to register a 1 ½ length victory in a splendid time of 1:21.46. Trainer Nick Zito was very happy after the race stating that Morning Line has suffered two heartbreaking defeats in the both the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and the Donn Handicap (gr.1) earlier in the year.

 

After Shakleford almost took the Florida Derby field on the front end at odds of better than 60-1 two weeks ago Lilacs and Lace did her best to produce a follow up act, taking the Grade 1 Ashland Stakes in front running fashion at odds of 48-1 in a shocking upset. Favored Kathmanblu finished third in her first try on Polytrack and Dancinginherdreams finished a shocking 9th. Versatile filly Wyomia finished a strong second. All four fillies appear to be headed for the Kentucky Oaks next.

Win Willy has an uncanny affinity for Oaklawn Park and used that affinity to his advantage on April 9th when he posted a surprising upset over favored Misremembered it the $350,000 Oaklawn Handicap (gr.2). The 5-year-old son of Monarchos came flying from last in the stretch to overtake Misremembered for a 1 length victory.

Sometime you just can’t stop a Baffert trainer horse in the Kentucky Derby preps and Baffert proved once again on April 9th that he knows better than anyone how to win the big preps when maiden winner Midnight Interlude came from far back to win the Santa Anita Derby by a head over Comma to the Top. This marks Baffert’s 6th win in the Santa Anita Derby (gr.1). The winner showed tremendous ability when he was impeded in the stretch twice by Comma to the Top drifting out into his path, but despite checking sharply both time Midnight Interlude still got up for the win.

 

Fabulous Strike is back and man and I glad to see this classy sprinter returned to his winning way once again. After more than 18 months on the sidelines during which time the 8-year-old Smart Strike gelding underwent stem cell therapy for a tendon problem, Fabulous Strike returned a winner by 2 lengths in a six furlong allowance race at Penn National Race Course on April 9th. He has won 12 stakes races to date and won or finished second in 20 of his 25 lifetime starts. I can’t wait to see what kind of season he puts together this year.

 

Toby’s Corner posted the biggest surprise of the weekend by far when he came flying late to overtake Uncle Mo and long shot Arthur’s Tale to win the Wood Memorial (Gr.1) at Aqueduct in front of a stunned crowd. Toby’s Corner is now under consideration for the Kentucky Derby needless to say. Uncle Mo had many questions to answer in his second race of the year and sadly did not produce the answers fans were expecting. With the presence of Uncle Mo in the race the Wood Memorial saw huge gains in both on-track handle and attendance. More than 12,000 came out to see the champion race, a huge increase from the 8,553 that came out for the 2010 running.

While the Wood Memorial and Santa Anita were subject to shocking results the Fantasy Stakes was run exactly as it appeared on paper. Joyful Victory looked far superior to her competition with the possible exception of Arienza and left little doubt as to who the best horse in the race was, running off to a 7 length hand-ridden victory. She will undoubtedly be one of the favorites in the Kentucky Oaks along with R Heat Lightning and Kathmanblu.

Evening Jewel returns to action today at Keeneland in the 7 furlong Vinery Madison Stakes.

Posted in A. P. Indy, Evening Jewel, Fabulous Strike, Jaycito, Kathmanblu, Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks, Lilacs and Lace, Midnight Interlude, Misremembered, Morning Line, Mucho Macho Man, Premier Pegasus, Shackleford, Stay Thirsty, To Honor and Serve, Toby's Corner, Todd Pletcher, Uncategorized, Uncle Mo, Win Willy, Wood Memorial, Wyomia | Leave a Comment »

WRRB: Good Week, or Bad Weak?

Posted by Brian Appleton on March 31, 2011

The weeks leading up to the Kentucky Derby are flying by and now there are just 6 weeks and two days until the most exciting two minutes in sports commences and racing has crowned a new Derby champion. Each and every prep race is crunch time, it’s now or never for those horses who might be on the earnings bubble with less in graded stakes earnings than the majority of their more recognized counterparts. The Florida Derby this Sunday could play a huge role in the way the 20 horse field lineups on the first Saturday in May as a deep field of colts lines up for their chance at history.

Known as the Lanes End Stakes from 2000-2010, Turfway Park’s signature event for three year olds was renamed the Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes (gr.3) this year with a purse of $500,000. For the first half mile and slightly beyond it appeared as it race favorite Positive Response might be on his way to his second consecutive stakes win but Decisive Moment dispersed any such thoughts when he moved up to challenge for the lead around the far turn and easily took command. Second choice in the betting, Animal Kingdom, raced in last through the first half before gradually moving up along the inside of horses. As the field approached the homestretch Decisive Moment continued to move strongly on the lead as Animal Kingdom came off the turn, drove to the far outside and gunned for the front runner. Those two put on a thrilling display down the stretch as Animal Kingdom moved quickly up alongside Decisive Moment and appeared as if he would pull away, but Decisive Moment tenaciously rose to the challenge and fought head and head. Animal Kingdom finally broke loose from his determined rival and shook clear for a 2 ¾ length victory.

Decisive Moment was the first horse to arrive at Churchill Downs to contest the Kentucky Derby, taking up residence in barn 41. Animal Kingdom earned $285,000 for his first graded stakes win which should be enough to earn him a spot in the Kentucky Derby. I really liked the way he looked winning the Spirol, determination is something I always prize in a young colt.

The Louisiana Derby took most of the attention this past weekend. With a $1 million jackpot ,of which $600,000 is awarded to the winner, it virtually assured the victor a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate. Pants On Fire became the colt to fill that starting position as he held on in the stretch to win the Louisiana Derby Saturday by a neck over fellow long-shot Nehro. Heavy race favorite and Risen Star winner Mucho Macho Man lost a shoe early in the race but was still able to get up for third, beaten by just one length. Both Pants On Fire and Mucho Macho Man will be heading to the Derby. Second place finisher Nehro ran a terrific race to almost get up for the win after switching leads very late in the homestretch and darting through on the rail.

Daisy Devine - Hodges Photography/Alexander Barkoff

Plum Pretty, Summer Soiree and Daisy Devine, they sound like a cheesy singing group of southern belles but in reality they comprise a trio of talented fillies that all won major stakes race en route to the Kentucky Oaks. Plum Pretty demolished the Sunland Park Oaks field for fun on Sunday, winning by 25 lengths and making Bob Baffert wish he had instead run her in the Sunland Derby against the colts. She earned a 99 Beyer for her effortless victory.

Summer Soiree wasn’t far behind with her 10 ¾ romp in the Grade 3 Bourbonette Oaks at Oaklawn Park, earning herself a career best 91 Beyer. She has won her last two race by more than 20 combined lengths and is undefeated in two starts this year.

Daisy Devine won the Fair Grounds Oaks by half a length over St. John’s River with Niji’s Grand Girl 1 ¾ lengths back in third and Inglorious in fourth. The Kafwain filly sat just off the pace set by Grandacious before taking the lead coming off the turn and held sway all down the homestretch, just holding off the furious closing rush of St. John’s River. Inglorious disappointed after finishing a strong second to Kathmanblu in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes, finishing fourth while seeming to have trouble finding her best stride until very late in the race.

Rocket Man ran his foes off their feet in the Dubai Golden Shaheen (UAE-1) when he won the premier sprint race by 2 ¼ lengths. Rating in second for the majority of the 6 furlong race behind Euroears, Rocket Man had to fight hard down the stretch to gain the lead from his stubborn rival, finally taking the lead with vigorous urging and drawing off for the win as the heavy favorite. His running style is very interesting for a sprinter. He doesn’t sprint for the wire when he gets clear running in the stretch, he grinds out his move from just off the pace.

Rahy’s Attorney and Prince Will I Am have formed a dynamic rivalry in their last two races and on Saturday Rahy’s Attorney exacted revenge on his opponent, winning his fifth graded stakes win when he captured the Pan American Stakes (gr.3) at Gulfstream Park with Prince Will I Am a close third. The win brought the 7-year-old geldings lifetime earnings up to $1,957,090, just short of the $2 million mark.

Zardana has been retired from racing after an ankle issue was discovered. The graded stakes winning filly will always best be remembered for having defeated 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra in her 2010 debut in the New Orleans Ladies.

Was it an overall strong weekend for racing or a relatively mediocre one?

Make sure to stop by Kentucky Oaks Runner on Horse Racing Nation tomorrow for my breakdown of the Gulfstream Oaks.

Posted in Daisy Devine, Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks, Kentucky Oaks Runner, Louisiana Derby, Mucho Macho Man, Nehro, Pants On Fire, Plum Pretty, Rahy's Attorney, Rocket Man, Summer Soiree, Uncategorized, Zardana | 6 Comments »

Mission Possible: Burning Pants and the hero of Japan

Posted by Brian Appleton on March 28, 2011

If someone had wanted to write the perfect heart-warming, emotional and uplifting ending to the 2011 Dubai World Cup they could not have thought of a better scenario than the beautiful display of love, encouragement and affection shown for the first ever victory by a Japanese horse on March 26th. Coming just two weeks after the devastating tsunami hit Japan and left more than 27,000 dead or missing, Victoire Pisa flew down the Meydan home stretch to post the first ever victory by a Japanese-bred horse in the 16 year history of the Dubai World Cup. To complete the magic Transcend held on gamely after setting most of the fractions on the front end to finish a close second by half a length, making it a 1-2 punch for Japan. Winning jockey Mirco Demuro tearfully told reporters afterward: “It’s unbelievable. It’s like I woke up.”

The slow pace of :26.7 for the 400 meters and :53.1 for the 800 meters completely shot down the closing kicks of American hopes Gio Ponti and Fly Down who finished 5th and 13th respectively. Fly Down received a very rough trip and was twice bumped into the rail according to jockey Julien Leparoux. The final time for the race was a snail-like 2:05.94 for the 2,000 meter race (about 1 ¼ miles).

Pants On Fire - Hodges Photography/Chris Bennett

The heat was cranked way up on the Kentucky Derby trail as Pant’s On Fire led the $1 million Louisiana Derby (gr.2) field on a merry chase as Fair Grounds on Saturday en route to a stubborn neck victory. Liondrive was quickest into stride as the gates flew open, striding out to take the lead over Pants On Fire who swiftly moved up to his outside with Mucho Macho Man 1 ½ lengths behind. The field moved into the turn with positions staying virtually the same, Elite Alex took up the rear of the 12 horse field as the opening quarter went in a :23.43. Down the backside Nehro moved up on along the rail to take second with Mucho Macho Man right at his throatlatch, up front Pant’s On Fire was lapped just a length off of Liondrive who ran the opening half in :47.53. From there Pants On Fire began to make his move, coming up to Liondrive as the field approached the far turn and taking command as the homestretch loomed ahead. From behind Mucho Macho Man launched his move, overtaking Nehro for third and charging for the leaders. Far back Elite Alex was also mounting his bid, coming about 10 paths wide into the stretch as the field strung out. Down the stretch Pants On Fire withstood the final challenge from Mucho Mach Man under a strong drive as Nehro came up on the rail to snatch second.

Mucho Macho Man finished a length behind the front two in third while Elite Alex ran a very good race to secure 4th after circling the entire field coming off the turn. Pants On Fire started the year with a third place finish in the Count Fleet Stakes before just missing by a head to Wilkinson in the LeComte Stakes (gr.3). It was nice to see the winner rating off the pace for most of the race and he showed a fierce determination in the homestretch to hold off the two closing finishes of Nehro and Mucho Macho Man. Both Pants On Fire and Mucho Macho Man will be heading to the Kentucky Derby.

Mission Impazible - Hodges Photography/Lou Hodges, Jr.

Mission Impazible announced his imminent return to the ranks of the Graded stakes winners in a big way in Fair Grounds Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap. Exactly one year after his Louisiana Derby win, Mission Impazible hit the jackpot once again at Fair Grounds as he contested the early lead in the New Orleans Handicap before disposing of his rivals and running off to a 1 ½ length victory over Apart with Grade 1 winner Giant Oak a nose back in third.

Mission Impazzible started his year with a second place finish in a 1 mile allowance race at Gulfstream Park before just missing to Demarcation in the Mineshaft Handicap (gr.3) by a neck. He finished 9th in the Kentucky Derby last year and was sidelined until his allowance runner-up effort with a knee injury. His effort here was stellar against a strong field and the most encouraging thing about his win was that every single horse was mounting a rally in the homestretch and moving forward and he still held on well to win. I think this was one of the strongest wins of the weekend and I can’t wait to see what Mission Impazible can do if he gets to run for an entire year.

Check out my latest Kentucky Oaks post on Kentucky Oaks Rail Runner on Horse Racing Nation.

Posted in Apart, Dubai World Cup, Elite Alex, Giant Oak, Kentucky Derby, Liondrive, Louisiana Derby, Mineshaft Handicap, Mission Impazible, Mucho Macho Man, Nehro, New Orleans Handicap, Pants On Fire, Transcend, Victoire Pisa | Leave a Comment »

 
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