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Archive for the ‘Synthetic(s)’ Category

Picking the Preakness

Posted by Brian Appleton on May 13, 2010

Super Saver

The contenders for the 2010 Preakness Stakes are confirmed, post positions have been drawn and a controversial advertising campaign is generating more outside interest in the race than has been shown in years. A field of twelve talented young thoroughbreds are set to face-off in the Preakness Stakes this Saturday. Of the 20 contenders to run in the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago only five are returning to contest the second jewel of the Triple Crown. Kentucky Derby champion Super Saver leads the pack this time around and enters as the deserving favorite.

On Wednesday post positions were drawn and Super Saver drew post #8 right alongside Derby favorite Lookin At Lucky in #7. Super Saver is coming into the Preakness looking fresh, full of himself and ready to run another highly competitive race. Trainer Todd Pletcher has stated that he wouldn’t want to trade places with anyone and has the utmost confidence in his Derby winning charge.

Lookin At Lucky might finally get a chance to run his race here if his #7 post position is any indication. Lucky number seven? We’ll see, but trainer Bob Baffert is certainly happy with the post his star runner has received this time around, saying that he’s just happy to see the colt get a decent post after being hung out to dry in the two biggest races of his career; the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and the Kentucky Derby. He will be ridden for the first time by jockey Martin Garcia who Bob Baffert says knows the horse better than former jockey Garrett Gomez.

Kentucky Derby third place finisher and the third choice in the Preakness Stakes, Paddy O’Prado, is coming into the race off an impressive performance in the Derby in which jockey Kent Desormeaux was severely criticized for a ride in which some thought he gave up on the horse before crossing the finish line. Both are coming into the race with something to prove. Desormeaux, who won the race in 2008 aboard race favorite Big Brown, will be looking to prove he can ride a good race on a horse some say would have finished better than third in the Derby and Paddy O’Prado will be looking to prove he can run just as good a race as he did in the Derby on fast track conditions.

Jackson Bend enters the Preakness Stakes off a twelfth place finish in the Kentucky Derby, his only start where he did not hit the board in 10 lifetime starts. Some people still don’t believe this tough little colt can get the distance but

Jackson Bend

nothing has altered the faith of trainer Nick Zito so far. And why should he have doubts about the colts ability after the way he’s been working after the Derby. Two days before leaving for Pimlico Jackson Bend sizzled a four furlong work in typical fashion, running the distance in :46 3/5ths, the fastest of 69 works at the same distance.

Dublin, coming off a seventh place finish in the Derby, looks to make a drastic step forward after missing out on every opportunity given him this year. He has loads of talent, that much is certain and respected trainer D. Wayne Lukas still has faith in the colt but nothing he has done this year has quite lived up to expectations. He has been consistent this year is nothing else, especially if given a dry track and a clear stretch run. He will be breaking from the #12 hole.

Schoolyard Dreams will come into the Preakness as the most well rested and fresh contender of them all after last having finished fourth in the Wood Memorial Stakes on April 3rd, but he will not be coming in unprepared. According to trainer Derek Ryan Schoolyard Dreams will greatly benefit from the long time in-between races and only finished so poorly in the Wood Memorial because he ran back only three weeks after finishing second in the Tampa Bay Derby.

Caracortado also enters the Preakness having last raced on April 3rd in the Santa Anita Derby, a race in which he


finished a troubled fourth after being compromised entering the stretch. This will be the California geldings first start on natural dirt and though recent synthetic-to-dirt form has been exceptional of late there is never any way to tell how a horse will take to the conditions. His works have been very good leading up to the Preakness and if there is any one horse in the field that can steal the spotlight in a magical Cinderella-styled way, it would be Caracortado.

Pleasant Prince missed getting in the Derby starting gate due to insufficient earnings and a poor showing in the Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial Stakes at Churchill Downs. Prior to a third place finish in the Derby Trial he finished an uninspiring seventh in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes. His connections have no grand belief that he will actually win the Preakness but think the colt deserves a shot at a piece of the action.

Todd Pletcher remains true to form in the Preakness by entering not only Derby victor Super Saver but also the well traveled Aikenite. Aikenite last finished second to Hurricane Ike in the Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial Stakes. His race record for the year is somewhat confusing, but his finish in the Derby Trial looked much more promising than his previous 2010 preps.

Yawanna Twist, who last finished second in the Illinois Derby on April 3rd, will be searching for another Preakness victory for trainer Richard Dutrow, Jr. after Big Brown’s victory in 2008.

Northern Giant gives trainer D. Wayne Lukas his second starter in the 2010 Preakness along with Dublin. Terry Thompson will be switching mounts from Dublin to Northern Giant after perennial leading jockey Garrett Gomez picked up the mount on Dublin.

First Dude will be the second starter for trainer Dale Romans in this year’s Preakness after his star pupil Paddy O’Prado. His odds of 20-1 say that he won’t be much of a threat but with jockey Ramon Dominguez riding him his chances could be better than they at first seem.

Much like the Derby this year, the Preakness Stakes seems like it could be pretty much anybody’s race. Lookin At Lucky retains my vote as the top pick here after failing to place in the Derby in a race which virtually deprived him

Lookin At Lucky

of any fighting chance. I’ve been a huge Jackson Bend advocate all year. Now though I’m not sure not that he can truly get this distance against this competition but for the sake of loyalty I’m taking him as my second pick. Super Saver looks too good right now to leave out of any top three picks and could easily, and not surprisingly win again, so I’m taking him as my third pick.  Schoolyard Dreams would be my fourth pick and Paddy O’Prado my fifth, but that’s just a shot in the dark.

Post time for the Preakness Stakes is set for 6:12 p.m. Enjoy the weekend’s extravaganza of racings finest and good luck to all. Who are your picks for the 2010 Preakness Stakes?


Posted in Aikenite, Bob Baffert, Calvin Borel, Caracortado, Churchill Downs, D Wayne Lukas, Derby Trial, Dublin, First Dude, Handicapping, Hurricane Ike, Illinois Derby, Jackson Bend, Kent Desormeaux, Kentucky Derby, Lookin at Lucky, Paddy O'Prado, Pleasant Prince, Preakness Stakes, Santa Anita Derby, Schoolyard Dreams, Super Saver, Synthetic(s), Tampa Bay Derby, Thorougbred Horse Racing, Todd Pletcher, Uncategorized, Wood Memorial, Ywanna Twist | Leave a Comment »

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.

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 »

Jackson Bend Is In: Derby Dozen

Posted by Brian Appleton on April 26, 2010

Jackson Bend

I decided to post my Derby Dozen selections for the first time since the beginning of the year. The plan was to keep one going throughout the year until Steve from Wire Players invited me to participate in their collaborative Derby Dozen, so I dropped my own personal dozen. Now with all the reshuffling going on the earnings list Jackson Bend enters the field due to the defections of horses like Eskendereya and Rule. I am a huge fan of Jackson Bend and was very pleased to see that he will get a well deserved chance to make a run for the roses. Pletchers filly Devil May Care is now a definite Derby starter and Interactif is, according to Pletcher, very doubtful to enter the race. If Interactif does drop out of contention that opens up one more spot for a horse like Backtalk to fill in. Noble’s Promise as expected, is now confirmed for the Kentucky Derby after showing trainer Kenny McPeek that he is in top physical form. So here, after only a 3 month break is my final Derby Dozen.

1)      Lookin At Lucky-Finally regains his well-deserved title of favorite. Baffert seems to have helped him rediscover his luck at Churchill Downs, now he just needs to hold onto it until Saturday evening.

2)      Noble’s Promise-Earned his way in through his excellent works and appears ready to finish “lookin” At Lukcy’s butt again.

3)      Jackson Bend-The bridesmaid of the year finally gets into the Derby after a slew of defections. He may be the easiest choice to fill out your exacta wager you’ll ever make.

4)      Sidney’s Candy-Made a sweet statement with his first Churchill Downs workout. His staying speed could be compromised by so many other speed horses running, but he looks very ratable.

5)      Ice Box-This guy is as cool as a cucumber and has been working very crisply for his run for the roses. His running style is the absolute perfect style to have this year and his record indicates he is quickly improving.

6)      Dublin-The luck of the Irish could still come his way, so long as it’s not too busy blessing Lookin At Lucky. His 2010 performances, while not victories were still good efforts and he only lost the Arkansas Derby by less than a length, Lukas will have him ready to run his best race you can be sure.

7)      Paddy O’Prado-Looks like one of the best live long-shots in the Derby field at this point. Churchill Downs appears to be treating him very well and he owns one of the best Kentucky Derby works to date.

8)      Devil May Care-I’m not sure if the Devil Care’s that she runs in the Derby or not, but I’m sure the boys care and the girls are probably very happy to see her leave the Oaks field.

9)      Endorsement-If he wins this one Shannon Ritter becomes the first female trainer to ever win the Derby, in 2009 that would have practically been a “lock”, not so sure it happens in 2010.

10)    Stately Victor-His Bluegrass was a better race than most people think and he looked fantastic galloping out after the win.

11)   Awesome Act-Could be the forgotten horse coming into the Derby off his un-awesome third place Wood Memorial finish. He probably won’t win but he might be good enough for 4th or even 3rd.

12)   Conveyance-Bob Baffert knows how to get a horse to the Derby better than anyone, so don’t leave him off you tickets just because he looks like the “speed” that will break coming off the backstretch. He is another one who is working beautifully over Churchill Down’s dirt surface.

Posted in Arkansas Derby, Awesome Act, Backtalk, Bob Baffert, Churchill Downs, Conveyance, D Wayne Lukas, Devil May Care, Dublin, Endorsement, Eskendereya, Handicapping, Homeboykris, Ice Box, Interactif, Jackson Bend, Kenneth McPeek, Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks, Line of David, Lookin at Lucky, Noble's Promise, Paddy O'Prado, Rule, Sidney's Candy, Stately Victor, Synthetic(s), Thorougbred Horse Racing, Todd Pletcher, Uncategorized | Tagged: | 12 Comments »

The Lexington Stakes: The Final Prep

Posted by Brian Appleton on April 16, 2010

This weekend’s Lexington Stakes will officially be the last Kentucky Derby prep of the year, although races such as the Derby Trial do present the opportunity for more horses to get some last minute earnings, the prep races officially end this weekend but the real race hasn’t even started. For months and months on end the most important, influential and wealthy people in racing dedicate themselves to finding one special horse. One horse that will forever change their lives and stamp their names in the history books alongside those of the immortals from past decades. The Kentucky Derby is the race of all races, the one that every trainer, owner and jockey desires to win. It is the Pink Panther of all diamonds, the 1968 Shelby Cobra GT 500-KR Mustang of all sports cars and the Holy Grail of thoroughbred horse racing. In short, it is probably the hardest and most coveted race in the world to win.

Two weeks from Saturday the 136th Kentucky Derby will take place and one horse will finish ahead of 19 vanquished


foes, to be immortalized forever but until the horses enter the starting gate, the game is not over yet. In the Lexington Stakes one horse has a chance of entering the Derby gate and even if he should win, his status for the Derby remains uncertain. Connemara, a horse that I quite honestly forgot about in the last month. His graded earnings currently stand at $138,500 and with the Lexington Stakes winner’s purse of $180,000 he would just make the Derby field. On February 20th, the same day that Derby favorite Eskendereya was playing “catch me” with his opponents in the Fountain Of Youth Stakes, Connemara won the El Camino Real Derby (Gr.3) by a diminishing length in California. Both colts are offspring of talented young sire Giant’s Causeway, both have stunning chestnut coats and present a tall striking image. That is where the similarities stop though. While Eskendereya runs as close to the pace as he can, Connemara does his best running from the back of the pack. Instead of launching one quick, stunning turn of foot around the turn to gain the lead, he tends to be more of a grinder.  He slowly accelerates around the turn until he gains enough speed to begin picking off his opposition in the stretch.

The Lexington Stakes will be Connemara’s first start on polytrack and he breaks from post position 10 in the field of 12. His biggest challenge appears to be Uptowncharlybrown, winner of the Pasco Stakes in the beginning of the year and 5th


place finisher behind Odysseus in the Tampa Bay Derby in March. Uptowncharlybrown will most likely take much of the support in


the race due to the fact that his trainer, Alan Seewald, passed away at the age of 62 on Monday. Connemara and Uptowncharlybrown represent the only two horses with fairly recognizable names in the race as the rest of the field is completed by one stakes winner in Exhi. The rest of the field enters the race with only allowance and maiden wins to their credit.

The Todd Pletcher trained Connemara looks like he has a class-edge over the field here assuming he takes to the dirt and is able to run his race.

Uptowncharlybrown is the obvious second choice and the hard part is trying to decide who might finish out the top three. Krypton won an allowance race by more than 6 lengths a couple weeks ago at Keenland and looks like the best shot at an upset here.

Posted in Connemara, El Camino Real Derby, Eskendereya, Exhi, Handicapping, Keeneland, Kentucky Derby, Krypton, Lexington Stakes, Synthetic(s), Tampa Bay Derby, Thorougbred Horse Racing, Todd Pletcher, Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

Shaken, Stirred and on the Rocks

Posted by Brian Appleton on April 14, 2010

A lot has happened over this past weekend in relation to the Kentucky Derby scene which has been drastically re-altered due to some very surprising race results. It seems like the line-up of horses with graded earnings for the Derby has been shaken, stirred and many contestants tossed out onto the rocks. I have had a busy weekend and beginning of the week so I wanted to just be able to step back and absorb everything before I jumped in and wrote about it all.

Stately Victor

The Toyota Blue Grass Stakes produced the biggest shocker of the weekend and what’s even more shocking is that it looks legitimate. Stately Victor, who entered the Blue Grass with only 1 win in 7 lifetime starts and his last five starts resulting in off the board finishes, showed a sustained drive in the stretch to win at odds of 40-1. If this race had been on dirt and not polytrack this son of Ghostzapper would probably be much higher on people’s Derby lists than he is right now. He currently ranks number 9 on the graded earnings list after his Blue Grass victory. Paddy O’Prado finished second to Stately Victor which gave him enough graded earnings to put him right at number 19 on the list. Finishing third in the Blue Grass was First Dude who stands zero chance of making the Derby with earning of only $97,500. Almost any other year that would have been sufficient but this year seems to be running under a full head of steam and there is no room for any competition error at this point, time is almost up.

The three top choices in the Blue Grass, Interactif, Pleasant Prince and Odysseus all finished off the board with Interactif securing 4th place. Pleasant Prince finished 7th, and Odysseus finished last of 9 after helping set a brisk pace throughout the race. It was discovered after the race that Odysseus has a bone chip in the back of his left knee which has effectively knocked him off of the Derby trail. Hopefully we’ll see this guy come back later in the year as I strongly believe we didn’t yet see the best of his talents.

The Arkansas Derby was almost as surprising as the Blue Grass Stakes, but in

Line of David

the end the results seemed to make much more sense. Front-running Line of David, making his first start on dirt led a highly-touted field of three year old colts on a merry chase around the Oaklawn Park oval to win gate-to-wire.

Entering the stretch in appeared the 17-1 shot was finished as big guns Super Saver and Dublin were breathing down his neck to the outside. Instead of folding as it appeared, Line of David fought back fiercely on the inside and maintained a neck advantage the length of the stretch over Super Saver who was neck ahead of Dublin. Those three hit the wire in exactly the same positions with Uh Oh Bango finishing fourth and race favorite, Noble’s Promise finishing 5th after a nightmarish trip. In winning the richest Derby prep in the country Line of David increased his earnings by $600,000 vaulting him to number 6 on the graded earnings list. He has now won three consecutive races, the two previous to the Arkansas Derby coming on the turf at Santa Anita. His winning streak began when trainer John Sadler decided to add blinkers to his equipment.

Fourth place finisher Uh Oh Bango fractured his left front cannon bone in the running of the Arkansas Derby and is now off the Derby trail. Aside from Buddy’s Saint and now Odysseus and Uh Oh Bango there have been far fewer injuries this year than there were last year when it seemed high-profile contenders were dropping out each week or two with an injury.

Noble's Promise

The Derby status of Noble’s Promise, who currently stands at number 2 on the graded earnings list with $738,000, is undecided. He exited the race with several cuts on his front legs and a lung infection was discovered later. Trainer Kenny McPeek seems to think he is doing much better now but will not say he is definite for the Derby yet although he is headed for Churchill Downs.

With the Coolmoore Lexington Stakes being run this weekend, more horses could be casting their lots into the earnings picture which would reshuffle the picture yet again. As of now trainer Todd Pletcher is doubtful that Interactif will make the Derby field which will make room for Jackson Bend to enter unless someone gets an earnings boost with a win in the Lexington Stakes this weekend. If a horse like Homeboykris who is undeserving of his #20 placing were to be removed that would free things up nicely. We will just have to see how things pan out this weekend and go from there.

Posted in Aikenite, Arkansas Derby, Bluegrass Stakes, Buddy's Saint, Codoy, First Dude, Homeboykris, Interactif, Jackson Bend, Kentucky Oaks, Line of David, Noble's Promise, Northern Giant, Odysseus, Paddy O'Prado, Pleasant Prince, Stately Victor, Synthetic(s), Thorougbred Horse Racing, Todd Pletcher, Uh Oh Bango | 6 Comments »

No Such Thing As Luck

Posted by Brian Appleton on April 4, 2010

Well the preps have been run and the results are in. One favorite continues his towering journey of greatness to the Kentucky Derby while another continues to plow courageously through increasingly horrible trips and still prove he is the real deal.


Eskendereya does not kid around. When he runs against good horses, he runs them into the ground and then takes off to do his real running from there. Anyone watching the live coverage of the Wood Memorial could see that Eskendereya was a breathtaking specimen of strength, presence and calm in the paddock and during the post parade. He looked the part of a winner and in this case, looks meant everything. After breaking sharply along with Most Happy Fella and Jackson Bend, he settled nicely for jockey John Velazquez behind those two into the backstretch. Gotham Stakes winner Awesome Act ran at the rear of the 6 horse field and began to move up as they came out of the backstretch. Into the final turn Eskendereya moved up eagerly with no encouragement from Valezquez and gradually took the lead with Jackson Bend right at his neck. From the rear Awesome Act flew up to be just behind the front three. Swinging into the turn, Eskenereya proceeded with the utmost ease to make a mockery of one of the finest fields assembled this year in a Derby prep. He opened up by 3 lengths, then 5, Valezques still sitting as cool as a cucumber, throwing the occasional glance back to see if there was anyone coming. There wasn’t. At the wire he finished more than 9 lengths ahead of second place finisher Jackson Bend while appearing completely at ease. There is no doubt that this horse still has a full tank, leaving plenty for the Kentucky Derby. The scary thing is that he seems to still be improving if that is possible.

Mention must be made of Jackson Bend here who earned a berth in the Kentucky Derby with his gritty second place finish. I was initially rooting for him to win the Wood, but it was impossible to be disappointed with the results. Eskendereya was stunning in victory and Jackson Bend deserves a lot of respect off his 3rd consecutive 2nd place finish. He certainly proved to me that he can get the distance. There have only been 2 horses that ever beat this colt; Eskendereya and Winslow Homer.

Is it just me, or has Lookin At Lucky been handed a lousy deck of cards this year. First off he comes out on top in the Rebel after what has to be one of the worst trips for a Kentucky Derby contender so far this year. Then he heads back

Sidney's Candy

home to California to contest the Santa Anita Derby in what should have been an easy tune up prior to his run in the Kentucky Derby. Not only was it the worst trip I have seen this entire year, it is one of the worst trips I have ever seen a young colt go through, regardless of the year. At the break Lookin At Lucky broke well and shot right out of the gate. Before he had gone halfway to the first turn, jockey Garrett Gomez took a sharp hold of Lucky and forced him to squeeze back behind Caracortado. Around the first turn Gomez finally stopped fighting him and proceeded to guide him into the worst possible spot he could find. Down on the inside in third behind Who’s Up and eventual winner and pacesetter Sidney’s Candy. Into the far turn the entire field began to close quickly and Lookin At Lucky became completely boxed in with nowhere to go. Then to make matters worse, Victor Espinoza on Who’s Up drove his mount right into Lookin At Lucky, forcing him hard into the rail. Lookin At Lucky immediately lost all momentum he had begun to gain and dropped back to 7th as the field entered the home stretch. In front Sidney’s Candy was opening up on the field and

Lookin At Lucky

charging hard for the wire. Lookin At Lucky amazingly gathered himself together again, reaccelerated and drove through an opening on the inside rail with determination. He was closing relentlessly when Sidney’s Candy hit the wire, but it wasn’t enough. He took third behind a fast-closing Setsuko. Lookin At Lucky’s “bump” from Who’s Up was so bad that jockey Paul Atkinson on Caracortado, traveling just behind Lookin At Lucky, said he thought Lucky was going to fall. The incident also ruined any chance Caracortado had of winning the race as he had to be pulled up sharply when Lookin At Lucky got bumped. Bob Baffert, trainer of Lookin At Lucky was very upset at the ride Gomez gave his colt and isn’t sure whether or not he will replace him for the Derby. Sidney’s Candy was terrific in winning after overcoming a slight stumble at the start. The second favorite led from gate-to-wire while finishing 4 ½ lengths clear of the field. My final word on the Santa Anita Derby is this: the best horse lost.

Don’t give up on Lookin At Lucky just yet. There was no possible way anyone could have expected him to win this race with the trip he received. Trainer Bob Baffert will be doing his utmost to have him in better condition than any other horse on the planet come Derby day, you can bet on that. I still believe he is the best 3 year old in the nation.

Posted in Awesome Act, Caracortado, Eskendereya, Gotham Stakes, Handicapping, Jackson Bend, Lookin at Lucky, Santa Anita Derby, Synthetic(s), Thorougbred Horse Racing, Todd Pletcher, Wood Memorial | 3 Comments »

A little bit of Luck, Backtalk and Wood

Posted by Brian Appleton on April 2, 2010


This weekend is beyond a doubt all about the nation’s best three-year-olds with a trio of important Kentucky Derby preps laden with talented youngsters each slated to be run. One of the main attractions, and the single race that will be generating the most interest, is the Wood Memorial (gr.1). With a field of six highly touted and equally talented colts entered in the Wood, it would seem strange to say that one colt will no doubt go off a heavy favorite. When you’re talking about Eskendereya though, there’s not much strange about him. After starting the year off with a jovial gate-to-wire allowance triumph, Eskendereya set the bar excruciatingly high when taking the Fountain of Youth Stakes in an 8 ½ length romp, earning a 106 speed figure, the highest Beyer for any three-year-old so far this year. The Fountain of Youth continues to be the most dominant Derby prep display of the year, thus Eskendereya’s lofty favoritism not only for the Wood Memorial but also for the Kentucky Derby.

Impressive Gotham Stakes (gr.3) winner and European invader Awesome Act looks to have the best chance of taking down the heavy favorite by most accounts. His Gotham victory was deceptively easy and although the horses he defeated in the Gotham were not the top tier of the Derby trail, it was the way in which he won that warrants respect. His huge strides propelled him from fourth at the top of the stretch, to first in a matter of seconds and with red-hot jockey Julien Leparoux aboard once again, you know he’ll have as good a chance as any other contender at a favorable trip.

The ever persistent and ultra-consistent Jackson Bend is back for another crack at Eskendereya after finishing a distant second to him in the Fountain of Youth. Although he has never finished worse than second and the only two

Jackson Bend

losses of his entire career have come against high-class colts, people still doubt that this Nick Zito trainee can get the distance with his sprint based pedigree. If there is one thing that I have learned from observing the Triple Crown races it is this; Nick Zito is a master at taking down the giants when everyone least expects it. He always lets the public know that a win is not absolutely necessary, that a prep is just what it sounds like; a race to prepare the colt for the big dance. While no one would deny that the Wood Memorial is a big dance, it is not the Kentucky Derby, and that is the ultimate goal for Jackson Bend at this point. I wouldn’t be half surprised to see Jackson Bend pull off a shocker in the Wood and I would be shocked if he didn’t finish in the top three. Calvin Borel gets the mount on Jackson Bend in the Wood.

Schoolyard Dreams looks like the fastest improving colt in the field. After his heartbreaking loss to Odysseus in the Tampa Bay Derby by the shortest nose in the history of the race, his connections decided to give him another shot in hopes of making it into the Derby field. He is another who seems unlikely to finish out of the top three and if he does, his entry in the Kentucky Derby could be in jeopardy.

Now, for the sake of safety I am going to mention the last two entries in the field because last week when I was making all my “esteemed” proclamations about who was going to win on everyone else’s blogs, I didn’t once mention any long shots and got fried for it when the likes of Dean’s Kitten, Mission Impazzible and Endorsement ran their way to glory. Carnivore and Most Happy Fella round out the Wood Memorial field. Carnivore last won a maiden race by an impressive 7 lengths and Most Happy Fella last took down an optional claimer field. It seems doubtful either one can crack the entry of the “big four”, but anything is possible. Eskendereya seems to be the invincible one here and while Awesome Act has garnered a good amount of support, I tend to like Jackson Bend and Schoolyard Dreams behind Eskendereya for the top three finish.

Lookin At Lucky

Well, we didn’t have long to wait for the return of Champion 2 year old Male Lookin At Lucky. After his incredible Rebel Stakes victory, Bob Baffert is sending Lookin At Lucky right back into the fray when he takes on 9 other contenders in the Santa Anita Derby (gr.1) this weekend. With the dirt question behind him and unarguably answered, Lucky can rest comfortably on his laurels in the Santa Anita Derby and hopefully produce yet another scintillating victory. He will be the overwhelming favorite when post time comes around and rightly so.

Previously undefeated California sensation Caracortado is back after an uncharacteristic third place finish in the San Felipe Stakes. If the pace is a little stronger than it was in the San Felipe Caracortado should be able to launch a much stronger rally in the stretch of the Santa Anita Derby and improve his chances at Kentucky Derby glory.

San Felipe victor Sidney’s Candy is also looking to stake his claim here and a win would most assuredly vault him to the top of many Derby watch lists. His front-running style has so far worked beautifully, but I have a feeling it won’t be enough to hold off the hungry pack this time.

Surprise Sham Stakes (gr.3) winner, Alphies Bet, is also entered. His shocking upset victory in the Sham looked like the real deal and judging by the fact that he previously won his maiden on the turf in the beginning of the year he seems to love synthetics. The Santa Anita Derby is the same distance as the Sham and he drew the farthest outside post for the Derby just like he did for the Sham. It remains to be seen whether or not the scenario changes from there.

The rest of the field is, suffice it to say, a group of long-shots who are led by Cardiff Giant and Skipshot. Cardiff Giant


has been beating a pattern of ever decreasing production this year in his races. He finished second in the San Rafael (gr.3), third in the Southwest (gr.3) and fifth in the Rebel last out. Skipshot took a five horse allowance field by a nose last out and has since posted a fantastic bullet 5 furlong work in :58 2/5 for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.  Another horse to keep an eye on is Setsuko, the second place finisher in the Sham Stakes behind Alphie’s Bet.

The Santa Anita Derby looks like just another Lookin At Lucky party to me, but horse races are never sure things. If the word of trainer Bob Baffert is anything to go by though, we should see a much sharper, stronger and energetic Lookin At Lucky this weekend. Imagine that.

The $500,000 Illinois Derby (gr.3) heralds the return of one of my favorite horses from last year’s two year old crop. Backtalk made a victorious return to the races this year after failing to place in his last two races of 2009, the Hopeful


Stakes and Breeders’ Futurity. The talented son of Smarty Jones will be looking to prove that he has a legitimate shot at emulating his immortal sire’s feat of winning the Kentucky Derby, but first, he has to win the Illinois Derby which is no small feat. The 9 furlong distance of the Illinois Derby will be the farthest Backtalk has traveled to date, but with a trio of good works behind him, I believe the striking Smarty Jones colt is up to the task. His last work at six furlongs came in an astounding time of 1:09.60.

American Lion makes his return to the races here in an attempt to remove some of the considerable tarnish that has gathered on his sleek coat. After starting the year off in the top ten of most every Derby watch list, the son of Tiznow has fallen out of the top tier after posting two dull efforts in California. He switches to dirt in the Illinois Derby for the first time, and some think it could prove to be a turning point for American Lion. If he shows an affinity for dirt here, it will most likely assure him a trip to the Kentucky Derby.

Dave in Dixie also returns to action in the Illinois Derby after a very poor showing on synthetics in the San Felipe. He has showed glimpses of brilliance this year with incredible late kicks in mid-stretch during his races that could prove to be very deadly at longer distances. This race is make it, or break it for the John Sadler trainee.

Two other significant contenders are Gotham second place finisher Yawanna Twist, and Turf Melody. To cover myself yet again I’ll just say this field also has a good amount of long-shots and leave it at that. Now if they win I can come back and say that I mentioned the longshots.

Backtalk was “the horse” for the Kentucky Derby earlier last year after going undefeated through the Bashford Manor (gr.3) and Sanford Stakes (gr.2). The question now is this: Is he really back, or is it all just talk?

The Fantasy Stakes will forever be remembered as the first race in which Rachel Alexandra’s true talent was recognized by the majority of racing fans. This year the cast for the Fantasy is a little more slim, but perhaps no less

Blind Luck

filled with talented and potential-laden fillies. Blind Luck turns in her final performance here before an expected start in the Kentucky Oaks and looks to bounce back from a surprising defeat last out. This filly is as tough as they come and should take this race with ease.

All Due Respect, Tidal Pool and No Such Word are the only three fillies entered against Blind Luck and of the three No Such Word looks like the biggest threat. She was last seen winning the Honeybee Stakes (gr.3) at Oaklawn. She is trained by Cindy Jones, wife of Larry Jones.

All Due Respect placed third in the Pocahontas Stakes (gr.3) last year before breaking her maiden in her fifth attempt.

Tidal Pool looks like the wild card option here. She sports a record of 3 wins, 1 second and 1 third in 9 lifetimes starts. She blew away an allowance field by 8 lengths at Oaklawn this year and is trained by D. Wayne Lukas.

Aside from all the great 3 year old races lining up this weekend, the older horses are also preparing to put on a show. The one you won’t want to miss is the showdown between Munnings and Musket Man in the Carter Handicap. Let the races begin. In closing I want to thank everyone for being so supportive of me when I was “out of contact” last weekend, it meant a lot.

Posted in Aikenite, Alphies Bet, American Lion, Awesome Act, Backtalk, Blind Luck, Bob Baffert, Caracortado, Cardiff Giant, Dave in Dixie, Eskendereya, Fantasy Stakes, Fountain Of Youth Stakes, Gotham Stakes, Handicapping, Illinois Derby, Jackson Bend, Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks, Larry Jones, Lookin at Lucky, Munnings, Musket Man, Rachel Alexandra, Rebel Stakes, Santa Anita Derby, Schoolyard Dreams, Sidney's Candy, Skipshot, Synthetic(s), Thorougbred Horse Racing, Todd Pletcher, Turf Melody, Uncategorized, Ywanna Twist | 13 Comments »

The Highs and Lows: Racing’s Big Weekend

Posted by Brian Appleton on March 15, 2010

Zardana Upsets Rachel Alexandra

For any other horse, passing the finish line only ¾ of a length behind the winner after a sustained stretch duel and finishing more than 11 lengths ahead of the 3rd place finisher in the New Orleans Ladies Stakes would warrant rave comments about the talent and potential of the contestant. Unfortunately for Rachel Alexandra, she isn’t any other horse and to millions of racing fans across the nation nothing short of perfection is expected. In her 2010 four-year-old debut dual-champion filly Rachel Alexandra threw her heart on the line and regrettably she came up short in the end. Days prior to the New Orleans Ladies trainer Steve Asmussen made a point of saying that Rachel was not yet 100% fit for her return to the races and it turns out he was right.

After breaking cleanly from the gate, jockey Calvin Borel kept Rachel Alexandra running in second place, right off pacesetting Fighter Wing. Down the backstretch it was clear to see that Borel had his hands full trying to get Rachel to settle down and relax. Approaching the far turn Borel let her loose and she eagerly took the lead. Meanwhile jockey David Flores roused John Shirreffs trained Zardana who responded by shooting up into contention at the top of the stretch. Drawing even with Rachel Alexandra coming off the turn, the two fillies fought tooth and nail the length of the stretch. On the inside Rachel Alexandra slowly began to lose ground, appearing tired and quite unlike her old self. At the wire it was Zardana in front by ¾ of a length. It was certainly not the race Rachel’s connections were hoping for and as most everyone expected majority owner Jess Jackson made the dreaded announcement on March 14th. Rachel Alexandra will not be taking on Zenyatta in the April 9th Apple Blossom Handicap. “She will tell us when her next race will be.” Jackson said in his statement.

One good thing that most likely came from her New Orleans Ladies performance, in fighting for all she was worth Rachel Alexandra has probably gained a much needed tightening for her next race. With so much effort put out this time she should be a great deal sharper next out. Up to this time the reigning Horse of the Year has presented an image made of titanium-enforced-steel, unmovable, unshakable and unbeatable. Now she has to show she can bounce right back from the defeat and progress to bigger and better things. It’s anybody’s guess when the super-star filly will return the races next.

Zenyatta remains undefeated with win #15

Amazing is a word used much too lightly in horse racing but in some cases we can unquestionably say it fits the case perfectly. Zenyatta is amazing. In one of the most impressive, intelligent and athletic displays in decades of racing history Zenyatta subdued a field of 8 other competitors and practically laughed at the history books. The fans turned out in droves at Santa Anita Park Saturday to see one thing; perfection, otherwise known as Zenyatta. Emerging from the paddock Zenyatta elicited cheers of wild enthusiasm from her fans and roars of praise as she danced her way onto the track.

Breaking from the gate slowest of all Zenyatta took her customary position at the rear of field. Entering the final turn the big mare held the same position before turning up the heat. With giant bounding strides she swept into the stretch to find herself stuck behind a wall of horses, all paths seemingly closed. Watching the race over and over I still couldn’t believe what I saw next. Without the slightest hint of hesitation Zenyatta began to swing her head from side to side looking for an opening. By now the field was well on their way to the wire and it appeared the perfect mare might be heading for the first defeat of her career, but jockey Mike Smith hung on for the ride as with lightning fast reflexes Zenyatta darted to the inside rail the instant an opening presented itself. Surging through the gap the super-star was once again blocked from a straight run by the form of front-running Dance to My Tune, in the blink of an eye Zenyatta took back to the outside, ears pricked and seized the lead in a matter of seconds. Crossing the wire 1 ¼ lengths the best Zenyatta cantered into the backstretch to cheers of ecstasy. What makes her win all the more impressive is that jockey Mike Smith never went to the whip, instead mildly urging her along with the reins. After it was all over, not a drop of sweat on her perfectly dappled coat, Zenyatta returned to the winners circle to a hero’s welcome. This race sets her up perfectly for the Apple Blossom Handicap on April 9th, a race which now will be her stepping stone immortality and 16 straight races without the entry of Rachel Alexandra. The incredible 6-year-old mare is now 15-for-15 in her perfect career and only one race away from tying the great Citation’s streak of 16 consecutive races.

Lookin At Lucky wins the Rebel Stakes

It seems this weekend just wouldn’t quit when it came to producing statistically defying performances. But for the loss of Rachel Alexandra this would have been one of the greatest weekends I have ever witnessed in racing. 2009 Champion Two Year Male Lookin At Lucky returned to the races for his 2010 3-year-old debut in a performance that showcased the kind of talent and heart that only comes around once in a lifetime. The Rebel Stakes presented one of the most talent-packed Kentucky Derby preps so far this year. Three Grade 1 winners entered the race as the top three choices and emerged the same. The race unfolded with favorite Lookin At Lucky taking up a comfortable running position in mid-pack with late running Dublin farther back and Noble’ Promise securing a good spot to the outside. Approaching the far turn Lookin At Lucky began to visibly pick up his pace and close in on the frontrunners when he suddenly got cut off and squeezed back. Taking up quickly, it looked like jockey Garrett Gomez might lose his seat as Lookin At Lucky jumped the heels of Noble’s Promise, destroying all momentum he had begun to build. As the field came out of the turn, Dublin shot up from the back, Noble’s Promise seized the lead and Lookin At Lucky came on again. Taking the turn six-wide, Lookin At Lucky dug-in, running for all he was worth and flattening out to the ground until he looked like a speeding arrow, aiming straight and true for Noble’s Promise. As he came flying down the grandstand side the more than 36,000 fans in attendance caught the move and the audience came alive with pleas and screams of encouragement. Out front Noble’s Promise opened up and looked homeward bound, his long-awaited vengeance toward Lookin At Lucky rectified it seemed. At the shadow of the wire Lookin At Lucky’s tremendous run got the job done and the best horse won.

For a horse recently turned 3 Lookin At Lucky has been through just about every racing experience and scenario you can think of and comes through smelling like a rose every time. This time he was making his first start of the year, first start with blinkers and first start on dirt yet none of those factors seemed to faze him at all. You can’t even put into words how talented this son of Smart Strike is. He has now won 6 of his 7 lifetime races with his only loss coming in one of the greatest losing efforts in Breeders’ Cup history when finishing second by a head in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile after running extremely wide and breaking from the far outside. It is on to either the Wood Memorial (gr.1) on April 3rd or the Arkansas Derby (gr.1) on April 10th for the undisputed king of the 3-year-olds now.

Sidney's Candy wins the San Felipe

The San Felipe was all about Sidney’s Candy. From gate to wire the gorgeous chestnut son of Candy Ride led a deep, talented field of 3-year-old Kentucky Derby hopefuls on a wild goose chase. Undefeated Caracortado disappointed somewhat with a dull 3rd place showing, snapping his unbeaten skein of races in the process and seeming to lack his usual closing punch. Taking second was the ever-consistent Interactif from the stable of Todd Pletcher. He was closing well towards the end, but it was always Sidney’s Candy’s race the entire trip around. I’m still not sure what to make of this colt yet. His last two wins have looked super easy and smooth but front-runners always make me cautious. Against colts like Lookin At Lucky, Odysseus, Noble’s Promise or Eskendereya I’m not sure his front-running tactics would hold up.

Odysseus takes the Tampa Bay Derby

Now, what to say about Odysseus? Well, the list of things to say about this horse is much longer than the list of things not to say. What he has accomplished in an extremely short time is unbelievable. In the Tampa Bay Derby Odysseus took on much more experienced and very talented runners such as Super Saver, Schoolyard Dreams and Uptowncharlybrown and came out on top in sensational form. He had me jumping out of my skin watching him run. Super Saver took the lead breaking from the gate and led all the way into the backstretch when Odysseus and Schoolyard Dreams began to kick it into high gear. Schoolyard Dreams, under a full head of stream, shot by Odysseus and locked into a furious duel with Super Saver over the lead. Odysseus balked after getting almost cut off at the top of the stretch by the fast moving Schoolyard Dream when under a full head of steam and I thought it was all over, but he showed he is no ordinary talent by pulling himself together like a true professional and launching another furious drive to the wire. Kevin over on The Aspiring Horseplayer first brought this phenomenal colt to my attention, before I even heard outlets such as The Blood Horse, Daily Racing Form or Thoroughbred Times mention his name. Kudos to you Kevin and nice call on making him your early Derby pick way back when, looks like you’ve got a live one!

Posted in Apple Blossom Handicap, Bob Baffert, Caracortado, Dave in Dixie, Dublin, Handicapping, Horse of the Year, Interactif, Jess Jackson, Kentucky Derby, Lookin at Lucky, New Orleans Ladies, Noble's Promise, Odysseus, Rachel Alexandra, Rebel Stakes, San Felipe Stakes, Santa Margarita Handicap, Schoolyard Dreams, Sidney's Candy, Super Saver, Synthetic(s), Tampa Bay Derby, Thorougbred Horse Racing, Todd Pletcher, Uh Oh Bango, Uncategorized, Uptowncharlybrown, Zardana, Zenyatta | 6 Comments »

Super Lookin Scar Face: The Rebel, San Felipe & Tampa Bay Derby

Posted by Brian Appleton on March 12, 2010

Lookin At Lucky

Last year one colt held the uncontested lead in the juvenile male division. After posting a record of 5 wins in 6 starts with his only loss coming by a mere head in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, this colt literally ran away with the divisional championship and took a solid lead as the favorite for the 2010 Kentucky Derby. Lookin At Lucky has slowly been losing some esteem it seems since his victory in the CashCall Futurity and subsequent long rest before returning to the work tab. It is as if people think his time away from the races has somehow allowed a little rust to spread on his shiny coat. Some of it could be the fact that he enters into his 2010 debut in about as difficult a prep race as is possible. Or it could be the fact that super-charged Kentucky Derby contenders have quickly been cropping up left and right throwing talent around more loosely than a ping-pong ball in a tournament and taking some of the attention away from the reigning champ.
The Rebel Stakes (gr.2) at Oaklawn Park is loaded with talent this year and leading the field is 2 Year Old Champion Lookin At Lucky. But for a troubled trip, an unlucky post and the distance of a nose this brilliant son of Smart Strike would be undefeated. Trainer Bob Baffert may know how to train a horse for the Kentucky Derby better than any other man alive and he has handled Lookin At Lucky’s career flawlessly so far. The 3-year-old colt faces a few new challenges this time around. The Rebel will be his first start on dirt, first time shipping and first time wearing blinkers. This is his race to lose but it will be no cakewalk. Entered against him are grade 1 winners Noble’s Promise and Dublin.
Noble’s Promise will be hoping for a different view than his last few races this

Noble's Promise

time around. In his last two starts there have only been two different horses between him and victory. In the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile he was nosed out of second place money by Lookin At Lucky and then was defeated by ¾ of a length by that one in the CashCall Futurity last out. This will also be his first start on dirt but his breeding suggests that it should not be a problem. He has been working his shoes off at Gulfstream Park and appears primed for a big effort.
Dublin carries the hopes of trainer D. Wayne Lukas into the Rebel as his best Kentucky Derby prospect in years. The venerable trainer, who trained such greats as Winning Colors to victory in the Kentucky Derby 1988, trained


Dublin to a Grade 1 victory last year before two consecutive unplaced efforts to close out his juvenile season. After having surgery to correct an entrapped epiglottis Dublin came back on February 20th to finish a strong closing second in the Southwest Stakes behind undefeated Conveyance. Lukas believes he will run a much improved race in the Rebel off his Southwest performance.
Uh Oh Bango and Cardiff Giant help complete the field. Cardiff Giant finished 3rd in the Southwest to Conveyance and Dublin last out, while Uh Oh Bango finished runner-up to Rule in the Delta Jackpot (gr.3).



The San Felipe Stakes

(gr.2) is even more full of talent than the Rebel Stakes which is hard to believe considering the Rebel line-up. Undefeated Caracortado, who’s name in Spanish means Scar Face, heads the field as the favorite off his impressive victory in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr.2). The California-bred gelding burst onto the scene by defeating highly-touted American Lion and Tiz Chrome in a ridiculously easy performance during the Lewis. A big strapping 3-year-old trained by little-known Michael Machowsky and ridden by small time jockey Paul Atkinson, Caracortado has won all five of his lifetime races with ease and authority that demand respect. He is the big cheese this time around and looks like he deserves the favoritism awarded him.
American Lion returns for a second crack at Caracortado after his

American Lion

seemingly dull 3rd place effort in the Lewis. Winner of the Hollywood Prevue Stakes last year, American Lion must improve off his last effort in order to prove he belongs in the Kentucky Derby gate.
Robert B. Lewis Stakes second place finisher Dave in Dixie also returns for another try against Caracortado here. In the Lewis Stakes his delayed late closing kick caught the eye of more than a few people and many more will be watching him this time around. If he can improve off his last effort, this race could very well end up being his party. There will be plenty of pace for him to close into with the entry of front-running Sidney’s Candy, so his running style will be perfectly suited here.
San Vicente victor Sidney’s Candy takes a major step-up in class in the San Felipe. He won the San Vicente by more than 4 lengths after leading gate-to-wire in his last start. Jockey Joe Talamo retains the mount.
From the ultra-talented stable of trainer Todd Pletcher comes the turf running Interactif. The two time grade 3 winner makes his first start on


synthetics in the San Felipe. He enters off a second place finish as the favorite in the Hallandale Beach Stakes at Gulfstream Park after being out-finished to the line by a nose. Grass form translates well in many instances to synthetics so if Interactif can reproduce his winning grass form in the Sal Felipe he stands a good chance.
Caracortado, Dave in Dixie, American Lion, Sidney’s Candy and Interactif all entering the gate together, this is no doubt one of the deepest Derby preps in recent memory.

The Tampa Bay Derby (gr.3) is yet another seemingly talented field.

Super Saver

Super Saver makes his highly-anticipated 3-year-old debut for Todd Pletcher and WinStar Farms. After his impressive five length wire-to-wire Kentucky Jockey Club victory last year, he has retained a good position on most Derby watch lists. His works leading up to the Tampa Bay Derby have been exceptional and trainer Todd Pletcher thinks he is ready to run a big effort here without peaking.
Uptowncharlybrown finished 3rd in the Sam Davis Stakes behind 2nd place finisher Schoolyard Dreams. Both look to improve their game this time around and need to if they hope to progress on toward the Kentucky Derby.
The horse many people will have their eyes on Saturday will be once-defeated Odysseus, the incredibly talented allowance winner who blew his last race open by 15 lengths. This will be his stakes debut and judging by the way he handily defeated his competitors last out, a stakes race is right up his alley. I think he could be the wild card here and might very well take the field.

This weekend is the kind of weekend most of us racing enthusiasts sit around dreaming about for half the year. Aside from the unbelievable line-up of races like the Rebel, San Felipe, Tampa Bay Derby, New Orleans Ladies Stakes and Santa Margarita, the Gulfstream Park Handicap with Cool Coal Man, Harlem Rocker and Grasshopper is also slated to be run. On top of that, 3-year-old filly Bickerson’s is running in the Cicada Stakes at Aqueduct and Champion Two Year Old Filly She Be Wild attempts to return to her winning ways in Florida. Enjoy watching the races and good luck to everyone with all your picks and favorites.

Posted in American Lion, Bob Baffert, Breeders Cup Juvenile, Caracortado, Cardiff Giant, Dave in Dixie, Dublin, Handicapping, Interactif, Lookin at Lucky, Noble's Promise, Odysseus, Rebel Stakes, San Felipe Stakes, Schoolyard Dreams, Sidney's Candy, Super Saver, Synthetic(s), Tampa Bay Derby, Thorougbred Horse Racing, Tiz Chrome, Todd Pletcher, Uh Oh Bango, Uptowncharlybrown | 1 Comment »

Rachel and Zenyatta: Racing Against Themselves

Posted by Brian Appleton on March 10, 2010

So many things in horse racing seem unsure and fragile. The economy, auctions, purses, revenue, race dates, attendance, weather and race outcome are all inhabited by the fact that nothing in this sport is a sure thing. At least, that’s what everyone thought until 2009 came along, until Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra. Until nothing seemed to matter or make a difference except winning and winning big. If racing achievements were measured by feet and inches, Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta would be about 2,000 ft. above the Empire State Building. Everyone knows what these two phenomenal females have accomplished in their careers and especially in 2009. What now begins is a new chapter, one that starts, and hopefully ends, in triumph and satisfaction.

Zenyatta winning the 2008 Apple Blossom

Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta are both slated to run their 2010 debut races this Saturday and though they enter the gate thousands of miles apart, they will ultimately be facing each other. Everything these two great athletes do from now on will forever be linked with the other. From the moment they step into the walking ring on Saturday, to the very second they arrive at Oaklawn Park to contest the April 9th Apple Blossom Handicap all eyes will be trained on Rachel and Zenyatta. The Apple Blossom Handicap has been accepted, though not formally, by both parties as the race in which the two super-stars will finally meet in what promises to be one of the most epic battles in history.

Rachel Alexandra, 2009 Horse of the Year and Champion Three Year Old Filly, makes her 2010 debut at Fair Grounds in the

Rachel Alexandra in her most recent work

$200,000 New Orleans ladies Stakes, a race pretty much tailor-made for her by the track in the hopes of luring her to stay at Fair Grounds for her debut. Having last raced six months ago when becoming the first filly in history to win the historic Woodward Stakes (gr.1), Rachel Alexandra has been cramming in the works in order to be fit for her first race of the season. Since the announcement that she would start in the Apple Blossom, Rachel has been systematically cranking up her exercise routine in order to reach her peak fitness level in time for the race. Trainer Steve Asmussen admitted that the filly is not yet 100% fit but that he is happy with where she is right now in her training. Let’s see, not 100% yet, but the way she made mincemeat of the fillies last year, this should be nothing more than a walk in the park if she is just 70%. Most people will not be concerned with her fitness level. She will no doubt be the overwhelming favorite, and not just at the betting windows. Rachel drew post position number 2, right between the two speed horses in the race, a scenario that suits trainer Steve Asmussen just fine.

Zenyatta enters the Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap (gr.1) looking better than ever before. The gargantuan


mare has been posting some of the best works of her life since December and is as razor-sharp for her 2010 debut as she’s ever been. She has been assigned a 127 pound impost for the Santa Margarita which is substantially higher than the other fillies/mares in the field, but she won with 129 pounds in the Vanity last year, so weight should not be a problem. She will be spotting her possible rivals 8 to 19 pounds which is significant, but nothing seems to have fazed her so far and I doubt this will make a difference.

Both Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta will be facing somewhat small fields it appears. Rachel is slated to take on just 4 others in

Rachel Alexandra

the New Orleans Ladies Stakes, while the final entries for the Santa Margarita have not yet been finalized. However the fields appear on race day one thing is sure; Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta will make headlines, win or lose. I think the general sentiment is that both will win and continue down the war path that eventually ends at Oaklawn Park.

Three major Kentucky Derby preps, the Rebel Stakes, San Felipe Stakes and Tampa Bay Derby, are also going to be run on Saturday. I will post on them in a separate entry later.

Posted in Apple Blossom Hadicap, Breeders Cup Classic, Jess Jackson, New Orleans Ladies, Rachel Alexandra, Santa Margarita Handicap, Synthetic(s), Thorougbred Horse Racing, Uncategorized, Zenyatta | 14 Comments »

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