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Archive for the ‘Orb’ Category

144th Travers a Star-Studded Event

Posted by Brian Appleton on August 22, 2013

2013 Travers Stakes The 144th Travers Stakes presents a unique case for the die-hard racing fan this year: it is impossibly easy to promote. For those of us that spend the better part of our 365 days a year checking the Blood Horse, Daily Racing Form, and social media sites on a daily basis for news on our beloved hooved heroes, only to struggle when it comes time to explain just how amazing a race like the Travers Stakes, Alabama, Haskell or Jim Dandy Stakes are to the “fair weather fans” who have just a vague recollection of the Kentucky Derby winner, sometimes the Preakness winner and almost never the Belmont winner, the 2013 Travers Stakes is a dream come true.

The 2013 Travers features Palace Malice, Orb and Verrazano all in the same race. Now that they’re all entered in the same race, the trouble is trying to decide on a favorite, or better yet, separating the favorites and choosing just one to win. I for one am solidly behind Palace Malice yet again. Since winning the Belmont Stakes on June 8th this son of Curlin has done everything right, even going on to capture the Jim Dandy Stakes last month in the 2nd fastest running since the race was shortened to its current 1 1/8 mile distance in 1972. Trainer Todd Pletcher can’t seem to find enough praise for the bay colt these days and has been very pleased with the way he has trained since the Jim Dandy. The fact that Palace Malice comes off two straight graded stakes wins in two of the biggest 3-year-old races in the nation, is 2-for-2 at Saratoga and seems to still be improving makes him the horse to beat in my eyes. Plus the Jim Dandy has proven to be the most effective prep race for the Travers Stakes, especially in recent years.

It’s no secret that Todd Pletcher’s stable is loaded with incredible talent this year and the fact that he has both Palace Malice and Verrazano in the same year in the same race is incredible. Verrazano has only one defeat to his name, a 14th place finish in the 1 ¼ mile Kentucky Derby when he received a gash above his knee leaving the gate and then failed to mount any sort of challenge. Since beginning his career in January at Gulfstream Park, he has won his 6 races by a combined 46 ¾ lengths while racking up two Grade 1 wins, as well as a Grade 2 and a Grade 3 victory. A lot of people have expressed concern about his ability to get the distance because of his pedigree, but I firmly believe a good horse can overcome their pedigree, and Verrazano is a good horse. I just don’t think he’s as good as Palace Malice right now.

Orb has been away from the races ever since finishing third behind Palace Malice and Oxbow in the Belmont Stakes, resting up at Fair Hill before returning to the work tab in early July. After rattling off 5 straight wins earlier in the year, culminating in a Kentucky Derby romp before finishing a disappointing 4th in the Preakness Stakes we were practically ready to hand him the 3-year-old Male Championship. That has all changed now, the Kentucky Derby winner is now the underdog. That alone says a lot for how loaded the field is in the Travers. Of all the contestants lining up to take a run at Saratoga’s premier race for sophomore colts, Orb has posted the best workouts hands down. Three straight bullet works, each as impressive as the last makes me think Orb and trainer Shug McGaughey are out to prove something. If I’m being honest I’d have to say that Orb scares me more than Verrazano right now and I think he’s going to present the biggest challenge to Palace Malice.

The “Big Three” might be the ones stealing all the headlines and probably make up for about 90% of bettors selections in the Travers, but one of them winning is by no means a done deal. Will Take Charge, Moreno, War Dancer, Ramansh, Transparent and Golden Soul make up the remainder of the field and at least four of them seem capable of springing an upset. Will Take Charge seems most likely to benefit from the added distance of the 1 ¼ mile Travers while Moreno seems like the one that could most be negatively affected by the added distance. Will Take Charge ran a great race to earn second in the Jim Dandy, rallying from far back to miss catching Palace Malice by one length. He had a terrible run in the Triple Crown, but seems to have turned things around after his promising run in the Jim Dandy.

Moreno won the Dwyer Stakes impressively before finishing a tiring third as the initial pacesetting in the Jim Dandy and despite trainer Eric Guillot’s comments regarding the colts ability to win the Travers I doubt he can carry his speed over the 1 ¼ mile distance. If he couldn’t keep up at 1 1/8 miles I don’t think he’s going to stop Palace Malice, Orb, Verrazano or even Will Take Charge at 1 ¼ miles.

War Dancer seems to be the most logical longshot pick after Will Take Charge, but I think Palace Malice, Orb and Verrazano are still at the head of this class. There’s nothing we racing fans love more than a showdown of our top athletes and with three of the nation’s very best in the same starting gate on Saturday it promises to be just that. The 2013 Travers Stakes is going to be an amazing race and I’m going with Palace Malice all the way. It’s not Saturday yet, but with only three days left before the 144th running of the “Midsummers Derby” at beautiful old Saratoga, this dream lineup of champion-caliber colts is about as close to happening as you can get.

Posted in Belmont Stakes, Curlin, Kentucky Derby, Moreno, Orb, Palace Malice, Preakness Stakes, Saratoga Racetrack, Travers Stakes, Triple Crown, Verrazano, Will Take Charge | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments »

Summer Campaigns Begin

Posted by Brian Appleton on June 24, 2013

verrazano Summer is here and so is the next phase of the racing season. The sophomore class of 2013 has made their Triple Crown bids and are now targeting the country’s most prestigious stakes races for their summer campaigns. As the season stands now Oxbow and Orb should be considered the leaders of the division due to their Classic wins and consistent performances throughout the year. Contrary to what many seem to think, I believe this crop is actually pretty good and has proven to be very durable. Orb and Oxbow both ran four times in 2013 before the Derby and then competed in all three legs of the Triple Crown. Even Palace Malice, who skipped the Preakness Stakes, ran four times before the Derby including just 2 weeks between his disastrous Louisiana Derby run and his strong Toyota Blue Grass Stakes runner-up effort. Running four times before the Derby isn’t a spectacular feat, but coming through the first half of the year and the Triple Crown season without any serious injuries and always performing well is admirable.

Verrazano began the summer season for this crop with a scintillating 9 ¼ length win in the Grade 3 Pegasus Stakes that was sadly marred by the injury of Itsmyluckyday. The More Than Ready colt ran the 1 1/16 mile distance in a very solid time of 1:41.72. Visually it was a very flashy win, but with Itsmyluckyday being taken out of contention with the injury it was basically a paid workout for Verrazano, so there wasn’t really a challenge to measure his worth coming off his 14th place finish in the Kentucky Derby. Still, there is the good running time to take into consideration and it was just a prep race for the Haskell Invitational Stakes on July 28th so his real test will come at the end of next month. He is a dynamic runner with a large fan base so it would be nice to see him come back with a big win in the Haskell, plus it would make the battle for leadership of the division even more intriguing.

Three of the runners from the Belmont Stakes have returned to the worktab in the past week, including Belmont victor Palace Malice who breezed an easy :49.45 half mile for trainer Todd Pletcher on Sunday at Belmont Park. Pletcher remarked that he felt that the son of Curlin was “just telling me to give [him] a breeze,” so just two weeks after his victory in the Belmont Stakes Palace Malice has begun his preparation for the Jim Dandy Stakes (Gr.2) on July 27th. This colt makes me like him more and more; he has Curlin for a sire, runs his heart out every time he hits the track and is apparently full of energy and raring to go just two weeks after the biggest race of his life. I can’t wait for the Jim Dandy Stakes to see what he’s capable of after garnering his first big win.

Dreaming of Julia failed to live up to her reputation once again on Saturday and this time there was no excuse for her distant second place finish behind the brilliant Close Hatches in the Mother Goose Stakes. The result was a huge surprise to me. Not that I doubted the talent or ability of Close Hatches, (I even remarked to a friend that if there was an upset Close Hatches was the only one I’d pick) it was just that the talent Dreaming of Julia flashed in the Gulfstream Park Oaks was so huge that my opinion of her ability was bloated beyond proportion. She ran a decent second, but Close Hatches stole the show with her powerful 7 ¼ length win. The First Defence filly proved that the undefeated record she lost in the wake of her 7th place finish in the Kentucky Oaks, was no fluke. Her final time of 1:41.36 for the 1 1/16 mile distance was very solid and the top three fillies finished 1-2-3 so I think her win is a legitimate one based on her own ability and not a factor of Dreaming of Julia’s falling short. The 3-year-old filly division is just as dynamic and confusing as the 3-year-old male division now and is shaping up for a very exciting summer season.

Posted in Belmont Park, Belmont Stakes, Close Hatches, Curlin, Dreaming of Julia, Gulfstream Park Oaks, Haskell Invitational Stakes, Itsmyluckyday, Jim Dandy, Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks, Mother Goose Stakes, Orb, Oxbow, Palace Malice, Pegasus Stakes, Preakness Stakes, Triple Crown, Verrazano | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Palace Malice Captures the 145th Belmont Stakes

Posted by Brian Appleton on June 9, 2013

Palace Malice Belmont “A SON OF CURLIN’S GOING TO WIN THE BELMONT! CURLIN’S SON IS GOING TO WIN THE BELMONT!” I’m sure the entire apartment building was aware of my allegiance during the stretch drive of the 145th Belmont Stakes, but the high-pitched decibels I was giving off was just my way of expressing my joy in its rawest form. The 145th Belmont Stakes could not have ended any better for me personally. I have made no secret of my adoration for Curlin and his offspring and watching Palace Malice capture the final jewel of the Triple Crown provided the most gratifying flow of emotions I have experienced in racing since watching Curlin and Rachel Alexandra campaigning across the nation.

Palace Malice has been on the brink of winning a big race all year long and today, at Belmont Park on the big sandy oval, he finally seized his moment to shine. The entire field of 14 broke cleanly from the gate as long-shot Frac Daddy jumped straight to the lead with fellow long-shot Freedom Child in close pursuit. Palace Malice with Hall of Fame Rider Mike Smith aboard worked his way up from the 12 post to rate patiently in fourth going into the first turn as Preaknes Stakes winner Oxbow and jockey Gary Stevens moved quickly past Freedom Child and into second. Kentucky Derby winner Orb raced second to last down the backside as Frac Daddy set blazing fractions of :23.11 for the opening quarter and :46.66 for the half mile. Oxbow took command shortly after the half mile marker with Freedom Child making a brief bid to move with him, but ultimately fading away. Mike Smite meanwhile allowed Palace Malice to edge up into third as the field approached the final turn with Oxbow still in the lead. From the back of the pack Orb began to unleash an impressive rally, moving into contention quickly as the homestretch loomed large. Palace Malice though continued to gain ground on Oxbow, moving with fluid, even strides on the outside to take command as the field came roaring into the stretch with the crowd on its feet. Down the long Belmont homestretch Palace Malice continued to slowly extend his lead, showing obvious signs of tiring as he approached the wire, but nevertheless holding on to win by more than three lengths over a very game Oxbow, with Orb another 1 ¾ lengths back in third.

So there we have it. The 145th Belmont Stakes has been written in to the history books and a son of the great Curlin snatched the win at odds of 13-1. Palace Malice has assured his place in history and I for one am very excited at what his future might hold. He has natural speed that enables him to stay close to the pace and has proven on multiple occasions now that he can run on or close to the lead with fast fractions. The final time for the Belmont was a very slow 2:30.70, but that can’t dampen my enthusiasm for his win. For Curlin to get a Grade 1 classic winner in his very first crop of foals is a huge moment of pride for me. With the Preakness winner finishing second and the Derby winner finishing third in the Belmont, I think that the top three year olds have validated their performances in the Classics this year and have shown admirable consistency. When asked directly after the running of the Belmont what he thought helped Palace Malice finally find the winners circle, Mike Smith said it was removing the blinkers. I for one was relieved when I heard he would be running without the blinkers, as I’m sure many others were too and without the extra equipment in the way the beautiful bay colt was able to rate, relax and pounce his way to a perfect Belmont score.

Posted in Belmont Park, Belmont Stakes, Curlin, Orb, Oxbow, Triple Crown | 10 Comments »

Final Belmont Stakes Thoughts

Posted by Brian Appleton on June 7, 2013

Belmont Park is fit to serve a feast of spectacular cuisine this Saturday when the running of the 145th Belmont Stakes is preceded by a embarrassment of racing riches. Beginning with race #6, the Easy Goer Stakes and followed by the Grade 2 True North Handicap with defending champion Caixa Electronica as well as Justin Phillip and Fast Bullet, which is then followed by the Grade 1 Just a Game Stakes, Grade 2 Woody Stevens Stakes and Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap. Finally racing fans will get to see the very talented Point of Entry return to the racetrack in the Manhattan Handicap after his disappointing defection from Woodford Reserve Turf Classic Stakes (Gr.1) at Churchill Downs on Derby day won by defending Horse of the Year Wise Dan. In addition the Just a Game Stakes features one of the best fields of the day with Hungry Island, Stephanie’s Kitten, Mizdirection and Centre Court all prepared to romp over the turf. But of course, the Belmont Stakes will take center stage as it should, and with a field of 13 colts and one filly entered there is little doubt in my mind that it will live up to its billing as the race of the day.

Orb has now lost his air of “invincibility” that followed him around so vigorously after the Kentucky Derby triumph and is now just one of the contestants out to prove he is the best. His record still speaks for itself, those four straight wins leading up to the Derby are just as impressive as they were before and with rain in the forecast I’m sure I’m not the only one thinking that his chances in the Belmont could be enhanced a bit, especially if there’s a solid pace up front.

Revolutionary is a deserving second in the morning line favoritism. You have to love the way he always handles trouble and tough spots. For a better or a fan wishing for consistency in a horse Revolutionary fits the bill, he has hit the board in every one of his 7 lifetime starts and was on a three-race winning streak before finishing a good third in the Kentucky Derby. He’s got A.P. Indy as his grandsire on his Dam’s side and traces back to Mr. Prospector on his Sire’s side so stamina won’t be a problem. He looks like he’s got a great shot to win the Belmont Stakes, I just hope his 4 furlong works will have him ready to run the 1 ½ miles.

Freedom Child is looking a lot better in recent days to me. Apparently he’s been making quite the impression in his visits to the track at Belmont and coming off that fantastic 13 ¼ length romp in the Peter Pan Stakes (Gr.2) over a sealed sloppy track at Belmont, I’m thinking there are a lot of positives with this son of Malibu Moon. The only question he needs to answer is whether or not he can handle the step up in class, but the only time he ran against Derby caliber horses in the Wood Memorial (Gr.1) he was taken totally out of contention when the assistant starter didn’t release him as the gates opened. His :59.87 five furlong breeze at Belmont on May 27 was excellent.

Oxbow I’m not sure what to make of yet. I’m not sure if he’s the best fit for the 1 ½ mile distance but trainer D. Wayne Lukas is very pleased with his energy level since winning the Preakness Stakes which is always a good sign. I’m still picking against him, but I can easily see him finishing in the money.

Vyjack traces back to Affirmed and Storm Cat on his Sire’s side and Northern Dancer on his Dam’s side so there’s plenty of blue-blooded stamina in his pedigree, but somehow he just didn’t fire at all in the Kentucky Derby, fading to finish 18th. He was the forgotten horse heading in the Derby and it seems that once again he’s the forgotten horse, but I think it’s for good reason. I just can’t see him winning the Belmont right now unless he shows some drastic improvement.

Palace Malice being the son of Curlin makes him an instant favorite of mine so I really hope he can pull off a surprise and win the Belmont, but if not I hope he can produce a really good showing. It seems like he’s always running a good race and just missing out on the win. What more can I say? I’m a fan.

Unlimited Budget is a puzzle to me. I just don’t think she can win the Belmont, but she’s a very intriguing entrant and it wouldn’t come as a shock to see her run competitively. As a daughter of Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense we at least know that she’s got stamina in her pedigree, now she’ll need to bring it to the track.

Golden Soul; I was pretty adamantly against him a few days ago, but with Belmont most likely being run in sloppy/wet conditions I think his chances improve a lot. His work was pretty strong and maybe the time off was what he needed to run a career best race.

Overall I’m still thinking Orb has the best shot to win, but Revolutionary, Palace Malice and Freedom Child are all up there for me.

Posted in Belmont Park, Belmont Stakes, Freedom Child, Golden Soul, Orb, Oxbow, Palace Malice, Revolutionary, Unlimited Budget, Vyjack | Leave a Comment »

Here Comes the Belmont

Posted by Brian Appleton on June 4, 2013

It’s been a long time since I last posted here, but I’m finally back and ready to talk about the 2013 Belmont Stakes and more. This year has had its fair share of excitement this year and the prospect of Champions like Wise Dan and Royal Delta racing throughout the remainder of the year is exhilarating to say the least.

The 2013 Triple Crown season has given rise to two of the most thrilling and feel-good themes in decades. There seems to be redemption around every corner this year, from Orb becoming the first Kentucky Derby winner for beloved veteran trainer Shug McGaughey to the great Gary Stevens winning the Preakness aboard Oxbow just months into his comeback year. To sum up; this season has been the stuff of legend and fairy tales. Once again there will be no Triple Crown winner, which means fans have now endured a 35 year drought, but the initial disappointment can’t diminish the achievements and luster of how special the 2013 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes victories have been.

Now the attention has shifted to the 145th running of the Belmont Stakes; the Test of Champions. As with each running the foremost question surrounding each contender regards their ability to handle the 1 ½ mile distance and in most cases it’s the breeding that many turn to. This year’s edition seems to carry plenty of stamina in the family trees so I think the winning factors will come down to talent, class and experience.

The level of excitement that accompanies the running of the Belmont Stakes usually hinges on just two questions: Is there a horse with a shot at winning the Triple Crown? If not; Will there be a rematch between the Kentucky Derby winner and the Preakness winner? Fortunately for us racing fans we are almost assured a rematch between Orb and Oxbow this year. If that’s not enough to get you excited, try the return of the 2nd and 3rd place Derby runners as well as the 3rd place finisher in the Kentucky Oaks, add to that list a son of Curlin who set some of the fastest fractions in Derby history for the first ¾ of a mile as well as Overanalyze, Vyjack and about six others and you’ve got a field worthy of Grade 1 Classic status. The prospect of a filly running in an American classic is always a popular draw among fans and with Unlimited Budget and Rosie Napravnik confirmed to run there will be great appeal.

My sentimental favorite for the Belmont is Palace Malice. Anyone who knows me knows I’m just about the biggest Curlin fan in the world. I have Curlin mugs, hats, shirts, autographed pictures…the works. To see a son of Curlin running in the Classics this year has been thrilling to say the least. I wasn’t particularly thrilled with Mike Smith’s ride on Palace Malice in the Kentucky Derby, but that’s all in the past and it’s way easier to sit on the couch and yell instructions at the jockey thinking that they should have done this or that, but the actual race is riddled with unexpected factors that sometimes can’t be controlled. That being said I don’t know if Palace Malice is good enough to win the Belmont, but he shouldn’t have an issue with the distance if he’s anything like Curlin and I’d bet anything he’s in the best shape of his life after running those crazy fractions in the Derby, plus he’s posted three nice works at Belmont since the Derby. Another thing I like about him is the fact that the blinkers come off in the Belmont, like they should have been in the Derby.

Now on to the non-sentimental favorites. I still think Orb is at the top of this class for now, despite his inexplicably dull 4th place finish in the Preakness. He just didn’t seem to be himself at all on Preakness day. He looked spectacular in the paddock and post parade and had a great position down the backstretch, but just didn’t have that aggressive punch this time that usually carries him to the front. Trainer Shug McGaughey doesn’t appear too concerned that Orb will duplicate his Preakness performance in the Belmont and neither am I. He still looks like the class of the field to me right now.

Of the contenders most likely to win the Belmont other than Orb it looks like Revolutionary, Overanalyze, Oxbow, Frac Daddy, Unlimited Budget, Vyjavk and Golden Soul are the most logical candidates. Oxbow has proven to be very versatile with his running style and with the very experienced and savvy Gary Stevens scheduled to ride again I think he has a great chance to register another strong performance. For me though I won’t be picking him as a win candidate unless he looks exceptional during the warm-up.

Revolutionary is a horse after my own heart. It doesn’t seem to matter what gets thrown at this horse, he still manages to find his way into the winners circle or the top three. He dealt with terrible traffic woes in the Derby and still finished a strong 3rd so I’m betting he’ll be right in the thick of things at the Belmont finish and I’m also really curious to see what would happen if both he and Orb bring their best races to the table and get clear running room.

Overanalyze has won the Arkansas Derby, Remsen and Futurity Stakes so we know he’s very classy, but his 11th place finish in the Derby was less than stellar. Perhaps it was the sloppy track or the traffic, but either way I’m inclined to think he has what it takes to compete with the Belmont field. He already defeated Oxbow and Frac Daddy so if he likes the 1 ½ miles we could be in for a year with 3 separate Classic winners. Vyjack seems to be a very good horse, but I think he might be just a little bit behind the likes of Orb and Oxbow.

Unlimited Budget is an exciting Belmont contender not just because she’s a filly with the nation’s hottest female jockey slated to ride her, but because she’s very, very good. I was a little bit disappointed with her performance in the Kentucky Oaks though. From a visual standpoint she didn’t make up a whole lot of ground in the home stretch and it’s going to be a whole lot longer in the Belmont homestretch. For me I’m not sure she’s ready to beat the top boys, but she’s definitely coming into this race in tiptop shape as her bullet :47.55 breeze at Belmont Sunday proves. It will be the first time since Rags to Riches won the Belmont over Curlin in 2007 that a filly enters the Belmont Stakes starting gate.

Golden Soul is a very questionable contender for me. Trainer Dallas Stewart kept the Perfect Soul colt out of the Preakness Stakes after the colt’s runner-up effort in the Derby left him more worn-out than expected. He returned to post a strong 1:00.40 five furlong work at Churchill Downs last Thursday, but I think he’s a toss for me. Frac Daddy is training very well, but I don’t think he’s ready to beat the likes of Orb, Revolutionary or Oxbow right now.

In just five days a new Belmont Stakes champion will be crowned. Will Orb or Oxbow add a second Classic trophy to their mantle or will history be made by the performance of another talented runner? I eagerly await the results.

Posted in Always in a Tiz, Belmont Stakes, Frac Daddy, Freedom Child, Giant Finish, Golden Soul, Incognito, Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks, Orb, Overanalyze, Oxbow, Palace Malice, Preakness Stakes, Revolutionary, Triple Crown, Unlimited Budget, Vyjack, Will Take Charge | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

 
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