Rail Runner

The Observations of a Horse Racing Enthusiast

Archive for the ‘Preakness Stakes’ Category

Saving Face: Preakness Stakes Taking Shape

Posted by Brian Appleton on May 9, 2010

It has been exactly one week since my glorious trip to the Kentucky Derby and since then I have had some time to evaluate and re-evaluate what transpired in the 136th running of the Derby. In my last post I believe I undervalued the significance of Super Saver’s Derby victory and also the quality of the colt. It is only 7 days away from the Preakness Stakes where Super Saver and jockey Calvin Borel will attempt to prove they are able to take a shot at winning the Triple Crown. Up to this time I have been saying that Super Saver had everything go his way in his Derby win and is over-rated to put it nicely, stating that I didn’t think he even had a chance at winning the Triple Crown or Preakness Stakes. Okay, so he did get a muddy track to run on in the Derby and he did have the best Derby jockey in recent history and he was the recipient of a perfect trip. The muddy track was just good luck, the perfect trip and good jockey, that was skill and talent. Calvin Borel is incredible, three Kentucky Derby wins in four years is one of the most sparkling feats in Triple Crown history if you ask me. His skill as a rider is staggering and his ability to keep his cool while competing at the highest level of competition under the utmost public scrutiny is astounding. Then there’s the horse, Super Saver is no slouch and no matter how sore I was (okay am) about the pounding Lookin At Lucky received in the Derby, there is no denying that the winner was very deserving.

Having already won the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (gr. 2)by five lengths last November over the Churchill Downs strip, Super Saver obviously loves the track and had proven his worth against the best Kentucky juveniles. Prior to the Kentucky Derby this year Super Saver finished close up in both his 2010 prep races. In his 2010 debut he finished a credible third, a half length behind Odysseus and Schoolyard Dreams in a thrilling rendition of the Tampa Bay Derby (gr.3). Next he finished second behind long-shot winner Line of David in the Arkansas Derby (gr.1) after steadily gaining ground in the stretch, losing by a mere neck. The signs were all there for me to see, he improved in every single start this year, had an impressive win over the Churchill Downs track to his credit and had Derby wizard Calvin Borel in the irons. His Kentucky Derby win makes complete sense.

Now that I have amended my prior poor attitude toward this year’s Derby winner we can move on to the Preakness Stakes and the intriguing field that is beginning to take shape there.

Super Saver leads the pack of confirmed Preakness starters and other familiar names are either joined, or poised to join his on the roster. Derby 7th place finisher Dublin continues down the Triple Crown trail for trainer D. Wayne Lukas in the Preakness and looks to prove that his continued hype and strong juvenile reputation is still warranted. He finished third in both his two previous Derby preps this year, the last coming a head behind Super Saver in the Arkansas Derby.

Aikenite is confirmed for the Preakness according to trainer Todd Pletcher which means he will most likely have at least two starters in the second jewel of the Triple Crown.

Kentucky Derby 3rd place finisher Paddy O’Prado is coming back in the Preakness with his connections riding high on confidence. His performance in the Derby was deceivingly good but with so much going on in the stretch run his move was primarily missed. With another effort like the one he produced in the Derby he could make a huge statement in the Preakness.

Caracortado, the gelding who was denied a run at the roses after finishing 4th in the Santa Anita Derby (gr.1), is back and looks like he is ready to run to his best form next Saturday. After winning the first 5 starts of his career Caracortado quickly became the “buzz” horse on the Derby trail earlier this year but after two losing efforts he has fallen far behind the rest of the pack. If the recent winning form of synthetic-to-dirt horses is any indication his chances in the Preakness are looking very good.

Schoolyard Dreams, Hurricane Ike, Jackson Bend, Pleasant Prince, A Little Warm, Turf Melody and Make Music for me are other possible starters for the Preakness with Schoolyard Dreams, Jackson Bend and Hurricane Ike looking the best. The connections of Schoolyard Dreams couldn’t be any more confident coming into the race, stating that they are coming to win.

Lookin At Lucky is the biggest name right now not confirmed for the Preakness Stakes with trainer Bob Baffert unwilling to commit until he is certain it is the best thing for the colt. He is 52% to go according to the latest from Baffert and it seems doubtful he will bypass the race unless something drastic happens to alter his situation. After a horrible trip in the Derby in which the talented son of Smart Strike was unable to do his true running, the 2009 Champion 2-year-old Male will be looking for redemption in the Preakness and also looks to take back the mantle of best 3-year-old colt.

Advertisements

Posted in A Little Warm, Aikenite, Arkansas Derby, Bob Baffert, Calvin Borel, Caracortado, Churchill Downs, D Wayne Lukas, Dublin, Handicapping, Hurricane Ike, Jackson Bend, Kentucky Derby, Line of David, Lookin at Lucky, Make Music For Me, Paddy O'Prado, Pleasant Prince, Preakness Stakes, Santa Anita Derby, Schoolyard Dreams, Super Saver, Synthetic(s), Tampa Bay Derby, Thorougbred Horse Racing, Todd Pletcher, Turf Melody, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Derby, Oaks and Rachel Alexandra

Posted by Brian Appleton on May 3, 2010

Calvin Borel has done it again. On Saturday May 1st Borel won the Kentucky Derby riding the rail for the third time in the last four years. Victories in 2007 aboard Street Sense, 2009 aboard long-shot Mine that Bird and now on Super Saver in 2010 instantly place Borel among the elite company of the greatest Kentucky Derby jockeys of all time.

On a track that looked like a mud slide just washed down from the mountain, Borel guided second favorite Super

Super Saver

Saver to a thrilling 2 ½ length victory in the 136th Kentucky Derby. After stalking the pace in a perfect posititon down the backstretch, Borel guided Super Saver up the rail  and burst past Noble’s Promise off the turn to seize the lead. Charging for the wire Super Saver began to gradually open up on the field while Ice Box came flying late with a terrific rally on the far outside and Paddy O’Prado surged from between horses to emerge from the pack. Down to the wire Ice Box was closing faster than any horse in the field but his amazing rally came up more than 2 lengths short of a victorious Super Saver after a nightmarish trip.

Race favorite Lookin At Lucky rallied well for sixth following the worst trip of his life in which he got jostled back to the rear of the field after breaking from the #1 hole and was the recipient of several aggressive bumping sessions. He was bashed into the fence three times before the field had gone by the wire the first time and when he finally got into gear at the top of the stretch a wall of horses provided nowhere to run. Garrett Gomez guided him inside of horses and he amazingly threaded his way through the pack and kept coming on, breaking through the field to take 6th in another amazing show of heart, courage and tenacity. Hopefully he will come back in the Preakness with a better post position and a fair trip. After watching the Derby replay multiple times I feel more than ever that this is the best three year old in the land.

Ice Box was undoubtedly the most impressive horse in the Derby this year, closing like a bolt of lightning out of nowhere with a dazzling turn of foot just like he did in the Florida Derby. After the race trainer Nick Zito expressed disappointment and hinted that he believed the best horse lost. But he added, “I have to be happy with the way he ran today.”

Super Saver is now headed to Baltimore to contest the Preakness Stakes and stake his claim at a Triple Crown attempt but something tells me this horse just isn’t good enough. He won the Derby in great style and is very talented, no doubt about that, but the wet track was his big break and he got a perfect trip from a jockey that knows Churchill Downs like the back of his hand. By the way, guess who completely left this guy off his last Derby Dozen? That’s right, I completely left out Super Saver in my final selections even though I knew Calvin Borel was riding.

In winning the Derby, Super Saver became the first Kentucky Derby champ for perennial leading trainer Todd Pletcher. The monkey is now off his back and deservingly so. After the withdrawal of his top colt Eskendereya who figured to be a heavy favorite in the Kentucky Derby, victory in the Derby must have tasted something like sweet redemption for Todd Pletcher.

Overall the Kentucky Derby proved to be a huge success this year, attracting the 6th largest attendance in history with 155,804 on hand and posting the highest TV ratings in 18 years for the NBC telecast.

The Kentucky Oaks proved to be just as much a success as the Derby with a record crowd attendance totaling  116,046 and the weather couldn’t have been better. Under blue skies, shining sun and to the roar of more than a

Blind Luck

hundred thousand cheering fans, Blind Luck prevailed in one of the most stunning Oaks victories in history.

Breaking from the gate the field of 14 fillies it was the Calvin Borel piloted Tidal Pool who was up for the lead. Behind her and glued to her side was Age of Humor with Ailalea and Evening Jewel not far behind. Going into the first turn Blind Luck was dead last. Down the backstretch the field began to bunch closer together approaching the far turn and then Blind Lucky began to roll. At the same time Evening Jewel took over the lead from Tidal Pool and began to inch away. Into the stretch they came with Blind Luck rushing up four wide, relentlessly closing the gap between her and Evening Jewel. The two fillies hit the wire together and from my vantage point it appeared Evening Jewel had the advantage. Minutes later the numbers were posted and a roar rose from the crowd as number #5, Blind Luck lit up the board.

Evening Jewel and Blind Luck have quite the rivalry going now after finishing in the exact same order by the exact same margin in the Las Virgenes Stakes (gr.1) on February 10th at Santa Anita.

What are the chances of a Zenyatta vs. Rachel Alexandra meeting after the results of the 2010 La Troienne Stakes (gr. 2)? Rachel Alexandra, making just the second start of her 4 year old year failed to win for the second consecutive time when finishing second to Unrivaled Belle.

In front of a record Kentucky Oaks day crowd at Churchill Downs Rachel Alexandra took control of the La Troienne

Unrivaled Belle

field coming off the final turn and looked poised to extend her lead at will. Entering the stretch she was in front and riding hard for the wire when Unrivaled Belle and jockey Kent Desormeaux, swinging four wide into the stretch, collared her off the turn. Showing true heart and courage, Rachel Alexandra fought back along the inside to regain the lead by a mere nose. Back and forth the two fillies fought, separated by only the bob of a nose. Charging to the wire, Unrivaled Belle inched ahead ever so slightly, desperately holding onto her slim lead. At the wire Rachel Alexandra was defeated by a nose after the most exciting stretch duel of the Churchill Downs meet to date.

What this means for her chances of meeting up with Zenyatta is anybody’s guess but, she has proved this year that no matter what is thrown her way she will not quit and that is the quality of a true champion. She did finish well ahead of Zardana who beat her last out in the New Orleans Ladies so she appears to still be improving. Now that she has lost two races Jess Jackson and Steve Assmussen should have nothing to fear facing Zenyatta. If Rachel loses again it will probably be a second place finish and losing to Zenyatta is better than losing to Zardana or Unrivaled Belle, aside from the fact that the “greater than” talk will begin.

My first trip to the Kentucky Derby and Oaks was amazing. I got some good pictures of Rachel Alexandra which I will share as soon as I get them downloaded onto my computer. Unfortunately something happened with my camera just before the Derby so I didn’t get any good pictures of the big race.

Posted in Amen Hallelujah, Blind Luck, Bob Baffert, Churchill Downs, Conveyance, Eskendereya, Evening Jewel, Florida Derby, Ice Box, Jess Jackson, Kent Desormeaux, Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks, La Troienne Stakes, Lookin at Lucky, Make Music For Me, Mine That Bird, New Orleans Ladies, Noble's Promise, Paddy O'Prado, Preakness Stakes, Rachel Alexandra, Steve Asmussen, Street Sense, Super Saver, Thorougbred Horse Racing, Todd Pletcher, Uncategorized, Unrivaled Belle, Zenyatta | 4 Comments »

Out of the “Box”

Posted by Brian Appleton on March 22, 2010

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

Hot Dixie Chick

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

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

Ice Box

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

D'Funnybone

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

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

Devil May Care

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

Unrivaled Belle

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

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

Posted in Amen Hallelujah, Bambera, Champagne Eyes, Christine Daae, D'Funnybone, Devil May Care, Eskendereya, Florida Derby, Fountain Of Youth Stakes, Handicapping, Ice Box, Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks, Lentenor, Pleasant Prince, Preakness Stakes, Pulsion, Radiohead, Rampart Stakes, Rule, Soaring Empire, Super Saver, Swale Stakes, Thorougbred Horse Racing, Todd Pletcher, Unrivaled Belle | 8 Comments »

American Quality

Posted by Brian Appleton on February 5, 2010

This weekend is shaping up to be one of the most star-studded racing spectacles so far this year and the action takes place coast to coast. A troupe of major Kentucky Derby prospects will be grappling with one another over rights to enter the immortal gate the first Saturday in May along with 19 other special 3 year olds.

Eightyfiveinafifty

To kick things off here I’ll start with the Whirlaway Stakes on Saturday at Aqueduct. There is a possibility that storms could force the race to be rescheduled, but I’m going to forge ahead anyway and hope for the best. I believe this race can be summed up in one word: Eightyfiveinafifty…or should I say 5 words in 1? Trainer Gary Contessa, a perennial leading trainer at the New York racing circuits, is very high on this young colt. In his last race Eightyfiveinafifty destroyed the field by more than 17 lengths while breaking his maiden and also earning the highest Beyer speed figure of any 3 year old this year, recording a 105. It will be his first time around two turns and he will be going from a six furlong race straight to the Whirlaway distance of 1 1/16 miles. Contessa was quoted as saying: “No doubt he’s the most talented horse I’ve ever trained.” An emphatic and profound statement from a trainer who has trained some of the best. The field for the Whirlaway also includes the more experienced Turf Melody. The Whirlaway will be Turf Melody’s 9th lifetime race at his 9th race track. He last finished 6th in the LeComte and before that won from far back the Springboard Mile Stakes at Remington Park. Peppi Knows won the Finger Lakes Juvenile before finishing second to leading Kentucky Derby contender Buddy’s Saint in the Remsen Stakes. Afleet Again, Three Day Rush and Papa’s Nice Cat complete the field. I am inclined to think Eightyfiveinafifty will run away from this field, but I’ve been fooled before by flashy maiden winners who turn out to be nothing more than sprint or lower class runners.

The Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita has all but been labeled as a match race between two talented sons of dual

American Lion

Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Tiznow. American Lion and Tiz Chrome. For the record I’m in American Lion’s corner on this one, he looked great winning the Hollywood Prevue last out and Julien Leparoux knows how to ride this colt to perfection. Tiz Chrome has the advantage of Bob Baffert’s training services, something that seems to give every Derby contender an edge no matter the circumstances. Five other 3 year old prospects are due to line up in the Lewis against the two heavy favorites. Caracortado looks to be the biggest threat here and could even end up stealing the top prize. The undefeated gelding looks to make it 5 wins in a row with the Lewis. He enters off a win in the California Breeder’s Championship, a race which is the same distance as the 1 1/16 mile Lewis. Dave in Dixie last finished 6th in the Norfolk Stakes on October 4th after breaking his maiden at Del Mar in late August. Eddie Logan victor Macias is another Bob Baffert trainee entered. Tango Tango and Domination complete the field. I love American Lion and will be rooting for him to win, but I think Caracortado may just as easily prove to be top class.

Quality Road

The Donn Handicap came up a little bit stronger than expected but it shouldn’t change the outcome all that much. Quality Road showed up in a big way when winning the Hal’s Hope at Gulfstream Park last month and I suspect the results will be very similar this time. If anything I think the son of Elusive Quality will improve off his impressive victory last out and demolish this field. Duke of Mischief, Kiss the Kid, Dry Martini, Mambo Meister, Delightful Kiss, Past the Point, Helsinki and Dubai Gold are all going to do their best to thwart Quality Road’s chances to become one of the best older horses of 2010 on Saturday when they line up in the gate to vie for the top spot. 2010 Iowa Derby victor Duke of Mischief has never found success at the 9 furlong distance but is still an undeniable threat. Kiss the Kid has been mainly a turf horse up to this point and a pretty good one so if he can translate his turf form to dirt he has as good a chance as any, except perhaps Quality Road. Delightful Kiss enters off a 3rd place finish in an optional claimer at Gulfstream after a lengthy layoff. His last victory came in the 2009 Hals Hope Stakes also at Gulfstream. This talented 6 year old has set two track records during the course of his career and if he can return to good form in the Donn he just might be the biggest threat to Quality Road’s victory aspirations. Take the Points will forever be remembered as the runner-up to dual Horse of the Year Curlin in the 2008 Woodward Stakes. He has not managed to pull anything quite that significant out of his bag of tricks since then, but anything can happen twice. I think it’s all Quality Road in the Donn with Take the Points and Delightful Kiss being his biggest challenges.

Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra

In other big new, the biggest no doubt is that Oaklawn Park has offered to raise the purse for the Apple Blossom Handicap (gr.1) to a staggering $5 million if Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta will race. Zenyatta is as close to a guarantee to run in the Apple Blossom as you can get in this sport. Trainer John Shirreffs has said that the early year goal for Zenyatta has always been the Apple Blossom, so now the ball is in Rachel’s court. Jess Jackson as usual exhibited his gift for evasive speech when stating that Rachel would enter only if she was in top condition, and they felt it was best for her. He said things would be a little tight to get her ready in time, but left the door open enough to keep many people’s hopes alive. I was inclined to believe these two mammoth athletes would not meet up until later in the year, but am now cautiously optimistic that they could meet in the Apple Blossom after all. Usually Jess Jackson will slam a door shut if he thinks the situation is not at least workable. If the race is contested, I believe it will be the most epic race in the rich annals of our sport. The $5 million purse will certainly help both parties remain open and willing to work around any problems that might come up. And with the clamor from the fans growing with every second, the excitement could prove to be too much to for either party to resist. All we can do is hope.

Musket Man

I noticed this morning that the ultra-consistent Musket Man is set to return to the races this Saturday in the Super Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs. Winner of the 2009 Tampa Bay and Illinois Derby, Musket Man is best known for his 3rd place finishes in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. If he can make a successful comeback off his long recovery-layoff he will be poised to join Quality Road among the ranks of top tier older horses this year.

Posted in American Lion, Bob Baffert, Buddy's Saint, Curlin, Eightfiveinafifty, Handicapping, Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, Quality Road, Rachel Alexandra, Synthetic(s), Thorougbred Horse Racing, Tiz Chrome, Todd Pletcher, Uncategorized, Zenyatta | 7 Comments »

Quality Road: Hope for the Older Horse Division of 2010

Posted by Brian Appleton on January 4, 2010

Is it just me, or does it seem like we could be in for one of the most spectacular years for older horses in generations? The returns of Rachel Alexandra, Mine that Bird, Quality Road, and Summer Bird (health permitting) all herald good things for the fans and horse racing as a whole. When was the last time all three winners of the Triple Crown races returned the following year to slug it out for top honors yet again? Not to mention the returns of big name horses like Gio Ponti, who rose to new heights of

Quality Road wins the Hal's Hope Stakes

prominence in 2009, and Life Is Sweet, who is now completely free of Zenyatta and, therefore, given a clear shot at the Older Female Division title for the first time. Plus I still hold out hope that Einstein could be returned for one more racing campaign. Who doesn’t like Einstein? If not for his poor showing in the Classic in November and losing the Clark by less than a length he would probably be in a dead-lock with Gio Ponti for Older Male championship honors. If there was a television sitcom/show made around this horse, it would probably be called Everybody Loves Einstein. Rail Trip is also coming back for a greater shot at glory in 2010 after a good, but somewhat short, 2009 season that ended with his 3rd place showing in the Pacific Classic.

After the Breeders’ Cup is over and most of the major horses are either put away for the year or retired, it’s hard to wait for weeks and weeks on end to watch some real “quality” racing. Watching Quality Road winning the Hal’s Hope Stakes at Gulfstream was a real “pick me up”. He kicked the year off with an exciting and thoroughly dominating victory, making an emphatic statement in the older horse ranks. If he can keep things going this way for the rest of the year, his fellow four year olds of “yester-year” will have to work very hard to slow him down.

Quality Road wins the Hal's Hope Stakes

Showing no ill effects from his traumatic Breeders’ Cup Classic gate incident, Quality Road loaded into #2 like an angel for the Hal’s Hope and waited patiently while the remainder of the field was loaded. The gates sprung and you could practically say the race was over from there. Flying to the lead, Quality Road took firm control of the pace, posting a sluggish :25.15 for the first quarter-mile. Looking the confident part of a winner, he continued to lead the field down the backstretch and around the far turn, with You and I Forever, Spin Master and Harlem Rocker right there in good striking position. Around the last turn Quality Road floated a bit wide, allowing You and I Forever to slip through on the inside. For a moment it appeared that he might be in trouble, almost conceding the lead to You and I Forever for a fraction of a second. But Jockey John Velazquez roused his mount with a vigorous shake of the reins and the contest was over. Quality Road pulled away from You and I Forever as quickly as the other had closed the gap coming off the turn, and opened up as he drove for the wire. He coasted home a widening 2 ¾ lengths with no assistance from the whip, perfectly content to lope home the easy winner. The Donn Handicap (gr.1) at Gulfstream on February 6th is now the son of Elusive Quality’s next target according to trainer Todd Pletcher. Only four more weeks and we get to see this big guy in action yet again. After a brilliant but troubled 3 year old campaign, Quality Road now appears ready to seize the moment and leave his problems behind.

As a three year old, Quality Road won the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr.2) and Florida Derby (gr.1) at Gulfstream in highly impressive fashion, making him the probable favorite for the Kentucky Derby. He unfortunately had to be withdrawn from the Derby a few days before it was to be run due to foot problems. He was put away for rest and recovery until the summer. He returned in the Amsterdam Stakes (gr.2) at Saratoga in August, winning a visually impressive race and smashing the track record for six and half furlongs. His final time of 1:13.45 was so fast it was at first believed to be a malfunction of the timer. Track announcer John Imbriale called out: “Ladies

Summer Bird wins the Jockey Club Gold Cup

and Gentlemen, we know that Quality Road is a particularly fast 3 year old, but I don’t think those times on the board are correct, but we’ll check it out.” The previous time of 1:14 2/5 was set 30 years previous by Topsider in 1979. After his overwhelming return, Quality Road next placed third to Summer Bird in the Travers Stakes and was defeated a scant length by Summer Bird in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont.

Few missed his antics in the starting gate in early November at Santa Anita for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and he was subsequently given regular gate schooling and prepared for an early return to the races in 2010. After the way he won the Hal’s Hope, you have to wonder how he would have fared in the Breeders’ Cup Classic if things had gone differently. He has never raced on synthetics before, but he also likes a dry track better than the wet ones he got in the Travers and Jockey Club Gold Cup and the Classic was a good consistency. If he makes it to the Breeders’ Cup this year, I will eagerly anticipate his performance over a dirt track with hopefully clear skies and his well-known fellow 2009 3-year old graduates hard on his heels.

Posted in Belmont Stakes, Breeders Cup Classic, Dunkirk, Einstein, Florida Derby, Fountain Of Youth Stakes, Gio Ponti, Handicapping, Horse of the Year, Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks, Life Is Sweet, Mine That Bird, Preakness Stakes, Quality Road, Rachel Alexandra, Saratoga Racetrack, Summer Bird, Synthetic(s), Thorougbred Horse Racing, Travers Stakes, Zenyatta | 8 Comments »

Reflections of 2009: Part Two

Posted by Brian Appleton on December 11, 2009

 

Rachel Alexandra winning the Haskell

Zenyatta wins the Clement L. Hirsch

Summer Bird winning the Belmont Stakes

June heralds the Belmont Stakes, the last leg of the Triple Crown (Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes & Belmont Stakes) and the only race of the three not run during May. After Rachel Alexandra’s magnificent Preakness Stakes win the first question everyone wanted answered was whether or not she would return to contest the Belmont Stakes. Her connections opted out of the Belmont, leaving Derby winner Mine that Bird as the main contender. Charitable Man was returning to action in the Belmont after having won the Peter Pan Stakes earlier in the year. Undefeated as a two year old, he was largely unproven against the best three year old colts in the nation and his connections believed he was good enough to run with the best in the Belmont. Dunkirk, the Florida Derby favorite defeated by Quality Road was also returning to action in the Belmont. On June 6, the “other bird” emerged from the shadows and pulled the upset at Belmont in electrifying style. Coming from far off the pace, Summer Bird sloshed through the mud, passing Mine that Bird and Dunkirk to win going away.  Summer Bird and Mine that Bird share the same sire in Birdstone, the horse who upset Smarty Jones in the 2004 Belmont Stakes. Earlier in the day Gio Ponti dashed his way into major prominence by winning the Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap at Belmont for his second consecutive grade 1 score. June 27 was a ladies’ day extravaganza. Arguably the two best female horses in thoroughbred racing squared off against hopelessly overmatched fields on separate coasts. In New York Rachel Alexandra destroyed the

Rachel Alexandra

Mother Goose field in stakes record time by 19 ¾ lengths, the largest margin in history. Less than half an hour later in California, Zenyatta carried 129 pounds to yet another easy repeat victory in the Vanity Handicap. Before we leave the month of June I also need to mention that my brother got married on June 6, Belmont Stakes day. I asked him to change the date the week before the wedding so that I could at least watch the race live, but to no avail. (:

Informed Decision

July, the independence month, and Informed Decision kept the ball rolling with her fifth consecutive victory in the Chicago Handicap. After her third consecutive victory people began watching, after the fourth everyone was watching, after the fifth she cemented her position as frontrunner for champion female sprinter. Zensational took center stage the next day in his stakes debut, leading gate to wire to win the Grade 1 Triple Bend Handicap at Hollywood Park, and making a bold statement in the California sprint division stakes. Bob Baffert found himself with yet another promising sprinter less than one year after saying goodbye to 2007 champion sprinter and two time winner of the Breeders Cup Sprint, Midnight Lute. July 11 and it was back to Gio Ponti and a star-studded field of runners in the Man O’ War Stakes.  Making a strong case for older male championship and entering the horse of the year picture, Gio Ponti stormed to victory, winning his third consecutive grade one race of the year. The same day trainer Bob Baffert sent out promising two year old colt

Lookin at Lucky

Lookin At Lucky to an impressive debut maiden victory at Hollywood Park. On July 18 a gorgeous gray filly by the name of Careless Jewel came flying onto the national racing scene, winning the Delaware Oaks by more than 7 lengths at odds of 10-1 in her stakes race debut. The very next day on July 19 one of the greatest moments in horse racing history occurred, I turned 21. Alright, maybe not one of the greatest, but I was thrilled nonetheless. In case anyone is interested, I asked for Curlin for my birthday.

August, the month when racing turns up the heat. Only two days into the month Rachel Alexandra, Summer Bird and newly returned Quality Road faced off against each other in the Haskell Invitational at Monouth Park. Quality Road was coming off a victory in the Amsterdam Stakes, a race which he won in record time after being on the sidelines since before May. Rachel Alexandra continued her path of unequaled brilliance, winning by more than 6 lengths on a

Gio Ponti

sloppy track over Summer Bird in second, becoming just the second filly in more than 40 years to win the prestigious race. August 8 Gio Ponti extended his incredible grade one winning streak to four in the Arlington Million. Back in California Zensational

Zensational

defeated older horses in his first try and sprinted to victory in the Bing Crosby Stakes. Zenyatta picked things up the following day with a heart-pounding repeat victory in the Clement L. Hirsch, just squeaking into the winners circle by a mere nose, the smallest margin of victory in the undefeated mares career. Bob Baffert unleashed maiden winner Lookin At Lucky to lay waste to the Best Pal Stakes earlier the same day. On the 22nd, Careless Jewel returned to the racing scene with an eye-opening 11 length romp in the Alabama Stakes. It was her fourth consecutive win, and were it not for Rachel Alexandra, she would

Careless Jewel

certainly have made a strong case for 3 year old filly honors. The August 29th Travers Stakes headlined the continued ascendency of Summer Bird as the leading 3 year old colt in the nation. Fighting back a stubborn Quality Road the length of the Saratoga stretch, Summer Bird splashed to victory with jockey Kent Desormeaux aboard.

Summer Bird

As I was writing this second part, I kept finding more and more major horses I’d left out so guess what? It’s going to be a three-parter now! Please bear with me, and if I’ve forgotten any of your favorites please share anything that comes to mind.

Posted in Belmont Stakes, Bob Baffert, Careless Jewel, Charitable Man, Dunkirk, Gio Ponti, Informed Decision, Kentucky Derby, Lookin at Lucky, Mine That Bird, Mother Goose Stakes, Preakness Stakes, Quality Road, Rachel Alexandra, Saratoga Racetrack, Summer Bird, Thorougbred Horse Racing, Travers Stakes, Uncategorized, Ventura, Zensational, Zenyatta | 10 Comments »

Reflections Of 2009: Part 1

Posted by Brian Appleton on December 4, 2009

 

Rachel Alexandra wins the 2009 Preakness Stakes

Gio Ponti wins the Frank E. Kilroe Mile over Ventura

Mine that Bird wins the 2009 Kentucky Derby at odds of 50-1

Recently I’ve been wrapped up in a web of negative thoughts regarding horse racing, especially toward the end of this year. Whenever the end of the year rolls by, it seems that all I see are retirement announcements left and right. It really isn’t fair to focus on the negative when this year became one of the greatest, record breaking seasons in history. So I’ve decided it’s time I grow up and stop whining about everything that doesn’t go my way. This doesn’t mean that I’m happy about groups of good horses being retired, I’ve just come to accept that this is the way it is, so I’d better make the best of it for now. This year started with a very dynamic group of young three year olds all stomping down the Triple Crown trail. Then came a certain three year old filly sensation that tore down all previously set boundaries and waltzed into the history books and hearts of people all across the nation. Next came one of the most intriguing Triple Crown runs fans have witnessed in many years resulting in three separate and unique winners garnering one jewel each. Lastly the 2008 undefeated Champion Older Female returned to produce a stunning finale to her career in a history-defying Breeders’ Cup. I’m going to go over as many performances from earlier in the year as I can possibly remember and hopefully spark some life into the corners of our musings. Let’s revive the best moments of this year and relive the glory from some of the most incredible performances racing fans have had the honor to witness in decades.

January represents the chance for all things to start anew with fresh beginnings. It’s also the month that lights the fuse that leads to the explosion known as; the Triple Crown and namely the Kentucky Derby. On January 10 Larry Jones sent out Friesan Fire to an impressive victory in the Lecomte Stakes in Louisiana.  This was the first step in a journey that culminated in a clean sweep of the Louisiana 3-year-old series and favoritism in the most illustrious race in

The Pamplemousse

history. On January 17 a gorgeous three year old colt with the strangest name, and visually awkward running style captured the San Rafael Stakes in California. The Pamplemousse was his name and he was commencing a terrific west coast campaign. One that would ultimately end in tremendous disappointment for all his fans and the connections. On January 18 Life is Sweet stormed to victory in the El Encino Stakes for trainer John Shirreffs. With the win in the El Encino Stakes Life is Sweet brought to light the fact that John Shirreffs now had one of the most powerful older female duo’s in history. The undefeated 2008 Champion Older Female Zenyatta and Life is Sweet in one barn.

Come February the trail to the Triple Crown becomes peppered  with eager young horses, each being guided by enthusiastic trainers, jockeys and owners, all hoping for their shot at racing immortality. Bob Baffert has become a racing legend, his Triple Crown crusades are among the most exciting and entertaining in this history of the great event. On February 7 Pioneerof The Nile won the Robert B. Lewis Stakes en rout to becoming Baffert’s newest star Triple Crown performer. Eight days later, Friesan Fire was back to win the Risen Star Stakes in Louisiana. With the win he launched himself to the top of many Derby watch lists and proved himself a serious threat. Another star was born that day, this one would go super-nova and beyond. We all know and love her, oh boy do we love her! Rachel

Rachel Alexandra

Alexandra didn’t just explode onto the racing scene in 2009, she won the Martha Washington stakes by 8 effortless lengths and propelled herself to the top of the 3 year old filly ranks and stayed there.  The very next day the undefeated 2008 two year old male Eclipe Award finalist Old Fashioned, made his three year old debut in spectacular

Old Fashioned

fashion. Running away with the Southwest Stakes, he immediately joined Friesan Fire at the top of the Derby watch lists. Many fans, including myself had him as their early pick to win the Kentucky Derby. It’s always hard to find a reason not to like an undefeated runner, and Old Fashioned was particularly enthralling, being a striking gray colt with a streamlined tail that flew free in his wake. On the 28 The Pamplemousse continued his ascent in the California ranks with a dominant win in the Sham Stakes. At the same time a stunning bay on the east coast exploded onto the Kentucky Derby scene with a powerful performance in the Fountain of Youth Stakes. When I viewed Quality Road for the first time I was struck by the depth of his chest. He looked like a three year old firecracker in a four year olds mature body. Watching him run was pure heaven, flawless strides, tactical speed and heart to spare. Add another one to the top three of most all lists.

One of the most impressive Two Year Old Champion Females of the decade made her much anticipated seasonal debut

Stardom Bound

on March 7. Whoever named Stardom Bound should win an award for the most prophetic naming of an athlete. She stormed to victory that day in the Santa Anita Oaks

I Want Revenge

and posted her 5th consecutive grade 1 score. Astonishing for such a young filly. Later that same day another new star emerged in the form of I Want Revenge winning the Gotham Stakes. He had previously finished behind Pioneerof The Nile on two occasions but emerged as a force to be reckoned with after his first victory on traditional dirt. Gio Ponti won the Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile Handicap over 2008 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint champion Ventura also on the same day, and began one of the most impressive grade 1 winning streaks in recent history. On March 9, Einstein proved to be one of the most versatile older horses in thoroughbred horse racing history by winning the Santa Anita Handicap on Santa Anita’s Pro Ride synthetic track. With the win, he became only the second horse in history to win graded stakes on dirt, turf and synthetic tracks. Pioneerof The Nile returned on the 14th to capture the San Felipe Stakes while Freisan Fire burned up the track by winning his third graded stakes score in a row, the Louisiana Derby. Rachel Alexandra captured the Fair Ground Oaks the same day and cemented her role as leading 3 year old filly. Life is Sweet also extended her repertoire that day by making it two graded stakes in a row in winning the Santa Margarita Intitational, capturing her first grade 1 race in the process. On the 27 Justwhistledixie stormed onto

Justwhistledixie

the three year old filly scene by trumping the field in the Bonnie Miss Stakes, bringing her winning streak to five consecutive. The next day Quality Road out-fought undefeated and favored Dunkirk in the Florida Derby and flew to victory, looking very much the

Quality Road

part of a Kentucky Derby favorite. The same day American dual-champion Indian Blessing took on the boys in the Dubai Golden Shaheen and finished a fast closing 2nd to Big City Man.

On April 4th the ball was back in the court of I Want Revenge, he scored a slam dunk and then some. In the most difficult trip of the entire Triple Crown trail of 2009, I Want Revenge overcame all adversity and streaked to an impressive victory in the Wood Memorial. Say hello to another strongly supported Kentucky Derby favorite. On the 9th older filly Informed Decision faced off against Ventura in the Vinery Madison and prevailed by a head. On the 15th Rachel Alexandra once again showed an unearthly dominance while running away to a more than 8 length victory in the Fantasy Stakes, the largest margin of victory in history.

May is the month we all wait for. The “First Saturday In May”, it heralds one of the biggest days of the year in sports. This year I was anticipating the Kentucky Oaks almost as much as the Kentucky Derby itself. Rachel Alexandra and Justwhistledixe were the two heavy favorites, with Rachel Alexandra getting the most support. Unfortunately

Rachel Alexandra

Justwhistledixe had to be scratched from the Kentucky Oaks the morning of the race, leaving Rachel Alexandra the overwhelming favorite. Never has a favorite justified the support of their fans and bettors so adamantly and with such overwhelming confidence as Rachel Alexandra did that day. She ran away from the best fillies in the country while being stoutly restrained the entire length of the stretch, passing under the wire 20 lengths ahead of the pack. Earlier in the day the expected return of Zenyatta was cut short when her connections decided to withdraw the great mare from the Louisville Distaff due to wet conditions. Informed Decision started things out on Derby day by winning the Humana Distaff for her fourth consecutive win. Einstein followed that up by becoming the first horse in history to win two running’s of the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic and also stamped himself as the front-runner for the Eclipse award as champion

Mine That Bird

older male. The Kentucky Derby lived up to its billing as the greatest horse race in the world when the longest shot in the field, and the second longest shot in history won at odds 50-1 from dead last. Mine That Bird, the forgotten little gelding flew up the rail, splashing through the mud to win going away by more than 6 lengths, the largest margin in over 60 years of Kentucky Derby history. Two weeks later Rachel Alexandra cranked up the excitement in a dramatic renewal of the Preakness Stakes. Under the new ownership of Jess Jackson and Harold T. McCormick, Rachel Alexandra became the first filly in 85 years to win the Preakness Stakes and the first horse ever to win from the 13 hole. A speeding Mine That Bird came from far back to finish second by 1 length. Exactly one week later Zenyatta made her triumphant return to the races with a repeat win in the Milady Hadicap.

Zenyatta

It’s taken me much longer to compile a list of the moments and races I enjoyed the most this year so I’m going to have to make this a two-parter. I even discovered some stories I’d forgotten from earlier this year and “reconnected” with some of my favorite horses like Old Fashioned who completely left the limelight along with The Pamlemousse, Quality Road and I Want Revenge due to injuries.

What were your favorite memories, races, horses or stories from January thru May this year? Please share any and all you may have, and they don’t have to be from this year.

Posted in Belmont Stakes, Bob Baffert, Breeders Cup Classic, Breeders Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, Einstein, En Encino Stakes, Fantasy Stakes, Florida Derby, Fountain Of Youth Stakes, Friersan Fire, Gio Ponti, Gotham Stakes, Horse of the Year, I Want Revenge, Indian Blessing, Informed Decision, Justwhistledixie, Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks, Larry Jones, Life Is Sweet, Louisiana Derby, Martha Washington Stakes, Milady Handicap, Mine That Bird, Old Fashioned, Pioneerof the Nile, Preakness Stakes, Quality Road, Rachel Alexandra, Southwest Stakes, Stardom Bound, Synthetic(s), The Pamplemousse, Thorougbred Horse Racing, Uncategorized, Ventura, Zenyatta | 8 Comments »

Born To Run, Denied The Fun

Posted by Brian Appleton on November 24, 2009

Curlin

   2007 produced one of the most stellar crops of

Rags To Riches

three year olds ever to grace the track, the lineup of talent included Curlin, Street Sense, Hard Spun, Any Given Saturday, Rags To Riches, Tiago and Nobiz Like Shobiz. All seven of these runners participated in at least one Triple Crown race and, as a result, the 2007 Triple Crown produced historic and exciting renewals. Street Sense became the only Breeders’ Cup Juvenile victor in history to win the Kentucky Derby

the following year. Curlin began his career in February and three months later won the Preakness in record equaling time by a head over Street Sense. Kentucky Oaks winner Rags To Riches became the first filly in over 100 years to win the Belmont Stakes,

Street Sense

beating Curlin in a stretch battle for the ages by a neck. Hard Spun placed second to Street Sense in the Derby, ran third to Curlin and Street Sense in the Preakness, and fourth to Rags To Riches and Curlin in

Hard Spun

the Belmont.  Any Given Saturday defeated Hard Spun and Curlin in the Haskell Invitational later in the year. Hard Spun won the King’s Bishop Stakes, then defeated Street Sense in Kentucky. Street Sense won the Jim Dany and Travers Stakes before running second to Hard Spun. Curlin ran down the

exceptional older horse, Lawyer Ron, in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and then defeated Hard Spun, Street Sense, Lawyer Ron and Any Given Saturday in the Breeders’ Cup

Any Given Saturday

Classic. Unfortunately Rags To Riches suffered a fracture while running in the Gazelle and never raced again.

   From this exceptional group of runners, only one was withheld from the breeding barns and returned to racing in 2008, Curlin. All others were retired. This year I have noticed an alarming acceleration in this pattern in  the racing industry. Out of curiosity, I decided to compile a “short” list of the runners retired, or being retired, this year.

  1. Zenyatta
  2. Zensational
  3. Indian Blessing
  4. Music Note
  5. Seventh Street
  6. Einstein
  7. Ventura
  8. Cocoa Beach
  9. Kip Deville
  10. Colonel John
  11. My Pal Charlie
  12. Unbridled Belle
  13. Cowboy Cal
  14. Mint Lane
  15. Cosmonaut
  16. Commentator
  17. Idiot Proof
  18. Pioneerofthe Nile
  19. Champs Elysses
  20. Icon Project
  21. Forever Together
  22. Old Fashioned
  23. Sea the Stars
  24. Conduit
  25. Mastercraftsman

   The last three mentioned are European. Did I miss any? Yes, many, many in fact. While creating this list, I discovered that I was barely scratching the surface and therefore chose only the names that were most recognized this year.

Sea The Stars

   When it was announced that Sea The Stars would be retired after his unmatched 2009 campaign, the general reaction was disappointment from thousands of star-struck fans. Disappointment, but not surprise. We fans have become used to the concept that the most talented, standout horses of the year will be retired to stud after a good three year old campaign, regardless of how badly we, and the industry, want them back for one more year. If they aren’t a filly or a gelding, it’s adios amigo! This year, Sea The Star’s connections said that he was in his element when running and in tip-top shape when they announced his retirement. In the same breath they said that it would be unfair to the horse to continue running him. To think that the fans are stupid enough to buy into that weak excuse is insulting to say the least. If they want to retire the horse fine, but be honest to the public and admit the real reason: money.

   Horses like Zensational barely got a chance to prove their talent, and with

Einstein

the time he was given he showed outstanding skill. If he was allowed to run again next year we could have witnessed a very special older sprinter.  Zenyatta and Einstein are the only two that I’m not averse to seeing retired. Both apparently love running, both are older and in terrific shape, and both have nothing left to prove. Although it would be amazing to see Zenyatta race Rachel Alexandra and face the boys more often, she has had a great career. Einstein will probably be a hot ticket at stud due to his remarkable versatility. He will attempt to go out on a high note in the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs this Friday against Macho Again and possibly Bullsbay. He has been one of the most consistent long-term, top-tier runners in recent history. Ventura will also try to end her brilliant career Saturday with a win in the Matriarch Stakes against Diamondrella and Rutherienne.

Jess Jackson

   People like Jess Jackson get a lot of flak from fans and media alike for their methods in racing. When Jackson bought Rachel Alexandra after her record setting Kentucky Oaks win, many considered it a “shortcut” to being a winner in the top echelons of the sport. Regardless of how you feel about his tactics, you must appreciate the fact that he returned Curlin, one of the best horses of the last 25 years, for a second campaign in 2008. He plans on doing the same thing with Rachel Alexandra for next year; she is already beginning her training in New Orleans. If Rachel Alexandra wins Horse of the Year, that will be two very special, not to mention much-loved, Horse of the Year champions that Jess Jackson has kept in training two consecutive years despite lucrative breeding offers. We need many more Jess Jacksons in this sport.

   People in racing, mainly owners, are in a huge hurry to rush their horses off to stud. They state the reasons that they believe their horse(s) will greatly contribute their stamina, strength, and speed to the gene pool. If the only reason they breed is to find another horse to breed, then what’s the point? Are they born to run, or breed? The real race nowadays is done in the breeding shed, not on the track. It needs to be brought back to the track.

Posted in Belmont Park, Breeders Cup Classic, Conduit, Cowboy Cal, Curlin, Einstein, Horse of the Year, Indian Blessing, Kentucky Derby, Mastercraftsman, Preakness Stakes, Rachel Alexandra, Rutherienne, Street Sense, Hard Spun, Dubai World Cup, Sea The Stars, Thorougbred Horse Racing, Unbridled Belle, Uncategorized, Zensational, Zenyatta | 16 Comments »

Rachel Alexandra Vs. Zenyatta: Battle for Horse of the Year

Posted by Brian Appleton on November 15, 2009

zenyatta13

Zenyatta

 

rachel-alexandra-calvin-borel-2009-8-2-19-10-17

Rachel Alexandra

          It has now been one week since Zenyatta’s historic Breeders’ Cup Classic victory and the euphoria is still running strong. Aside from being the most impressive Classic win in the 26 year history of the Breeders’ Cup, it was won by a gargantuan undefeated mare on her home track in front of a very enthusiastic crowd. Who doesn’t like it when the girls can beat the boys? When they defy the odds and throw out the rule book. This year has had its fair share on both accounts.

   The emotion and excitement introduced into thoroughbred horse racing this year has two incredible individuals to thank on that count. Three year old Super filly Rachel Alexandra and the undefeated five year old mare Zenyatta. Both considered by many to be possibly the best of all time depending on who you ask. In any other year these amazing two would each win the championship title of Horse of the Year by a tremendous landslide. Unfortunately for one of them, they just happen to be racing in the same year. To solve this problem I’ve come up with a fool-proof plan for Horse of the Year award: since no one seems able to choose between Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta, make Curlin Horse of the Year again! (:

zenyatta-making-her-move-jeff-mallard

Zenyatta

   As soon as Zenyatta crossed the finish line for the Classic, my mind, just like thousands of others, raced immediately to who would win Horse of the Year. In conquering the prestigious race, Zenyatta completed one of the most amazing careers in history by making the Classic a perfect number fourteen in fourteen lifetime races. She capped off a five-for-five 2009 season which included repeat a win in the Milady Handicap (gr.2) in which she defeated the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic winner, Life Is Sweet. Next she won the Vanity Handicap (gr.1) while carrying 129 pounds, 13 to 18 pounds more than her opponents, becoming the first horse since 1977 to win while carrying 129 pounds or more. The Clement L. Hirsch Handicap (gr.1) gave her the third repeat win in a row, and resulted in her closest margin of victory, a nose. In October she scored yet another

zenyatta_350x300_042509

Zenyatta

repeat in the Lady’s Secret Stakes (gr.1) and tied Personal Ensign’s record of winning 13 races while remaining undefeated. The Breeders’ Cup Classic came next, where she trounced one of the strongest fields in recent years, while at the same time bringing her undefeated record to 14 and making it four consecutive grade 1 wins. She raced only in Southern California at Del Mar, Hollywood Park and Santa Anita/Oak Tree. All her victories this year have come over fast/good surfaces, and all over synthetic tracks.

large_Rachel-Alexandra

Rachel Alexandra

   Rachel Alexandra completed one of the most incredible racing campaigns ever in 2009, regardless of age or sex. She competed at the highest level of racing competition and stepped up the game in every single start. She made it into Vogue magazine, sent ratings for the Preakness Stakes through the roof and created legions of fans in a time when horse racing desperately needed an exciting performer. She set two margin of victory records in two of the most prestigious three year old filly races in the country, set a new stakes record in one and defeated males two consecutive time, the last being against older horses. She started the year out by winning the Martha Washington Stakes and Fair Grounds Oaks against her own sex, then romped by more than 8 lengths in the Fantasy Stakes (gr2). Sent to the Kentucky Oaks to try and make history, Rachel Alexandra proved an over-achiever, winning by 20 ¼ lengths while being held back by jockey Calvin Borel the entire length of the stretch and just missing the stakes record. After being purchased by Jess Jackson and Harold T. McCormick ,Rachel Alexandra was entered in the Preakness Stakes (gr.1) and installed as the favorite. In front of a boisterous, enthusiastic crowd, she held off Kentucky Derby winner, Mine That Bird, to win by one length, becoming the only horse in history to win the coveted classic from the #13 post, and the first filly in 85 years to win. Next up, the Mother Goose Stakes (gr.1) against two over matched rivals. Crossing the line

Preakness Horse Racing

Rachel Alexandra

19 ¾ lengths clear of the second runner, Rachel Alexandra set a new stakes record and was just off the Belmont track record set by Secretariat in 1973. She then defeated the boys again in the Haskell Invitational (gr.1) by 6 widening lengths, while again just missing the track and stakes records. She defeated Belmont Stakes (gr.1) winner Summer Bird and multiple stakes winner Munnings in the Haskell and was also only the second filly to win in the last 42 years. Next out she defeated older males in Saratoga’s Woodward Stakes (gr.1) after setting suicidal

mgoose09-1a

Rachel Alexandra

fractions on the lead and holding off a fast closing Macho Again by a head. She is now the only filly/mare to ever win the prestigious Woodward Stakes. From May to September she won five consecutive grade 1’s. She raced in Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, New Jersey, Maryland and New York while running at different tracks almost every time. She ran on sloppy and fast surfaces and finished her astounding year undefeated in 8 races.

   However you look at Horse of the Year debate, a very compelling case can be made for both candidates. They have both accomplished feats that will probably never be equaled in our lifetimes, and will never be forgotten. People will be discussing this year and these amazing athletes long after we are dead and gone. What they have done this year, no male counterpart was able to do in decades of racing history. They have transcended the base meaning of courage, heart and winning, showing fans what real horse racing is. It’s that feeling you can’t describe when you see your horse come charging down the stretch, heart pounding in your chest. It’s when you know you are witnessing history and it’s all on the line. When you don’t care how loud you yell, or what people think when you jump up and down, looking for all the world like an enraged maniac, gaze fiercely fixed to your television screen. The roars from thousands of fans as Rachel Alexandra crushed the Haskell field and Zenyatta devastated a word-class field in the Classic brings shivers to your spine. These are the moments created by only the greatest athletes in history, moments created from pure love of the sport.

ZenyattaWalkoverBCClassic09MK298

Zenyatta

   If Zenyatta had won the Breeders’ Cup ladies Classic instead of running in the Classic

RachelAlexandra4_073109BDEqui_vertical

Rachel Alexandra

itself, Rachel Alexandra would still be sitting squarely atop the NTRA polls for Horse of the Year. As it is, Zenyatta could now steal away that once undisputed crown that Rachel has worn and seize the prize herself. You can bet Jess Jackson is kicking himself right about now, I don’t think he really believed the Moss’s would enter Zenyatta against the boys in the Classic.

Who should be Horse of the Year and why?

Rachel Alexandra deserves Horse of the Year.

Posted in Breeders Cup Classic, Curlin, Handicapping, Horse of the Year, Kentucky Derby, Life Is Sweet, Mine That Bird, Preakness Stakes, Rachel Alexandra, Saratoga Racetrack, Summer Bird, Synthetic(s), Thorougbred Horse Racing, Uncategorized, Zenyatta | 6 Comments »

 
%d bloggers like this: