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Archive for the ‘Will Take Charge’ Category

144th Travers a Star-Studded Event

Posted by Brian Appleton on August 22, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lots of Malice in the Jim Dandy

Posted by Brian Appleton on July 27, 2013

PalaceMaliceJimDandy2013_7AC298 On a day when the big favorites were failing to live up to their expectations, with Kauai Katie finishing dead-last in the Prioress Stakes (Gr.1) and Stephanie’s Kitten and Centre Court running 3rd and Last of five in the Grade 1 Diana, Palace Malice delivered a show worthy of a favorite and then some. The son of Curlin went off as the well-backed 6-5 favorite and leaped out of the gate just a half-length behind Moreno at the break. Freedom Child and Code West ran in 3rd and 4th down the backstretch, with Will Take Charge not far behind and Mylute taking up the rear. After an opening quarter in :24.06 and a half in :47.48 jockey Mike Smith moved Palace Malice smoothly up to challenge Moreno for the lead as they rounded the far turn and those two hit the stretch as one. For a moment it seemed that Moreno would give Palace Malice a run for his money, but Mike Smith gave one solid flick of the whip and the Belmont Stakes champ roared to the lead, ears pricked and striding out strong towards the wire. Will Take Charge launched an excellent challenge from well back in the field to pass Moreno mid-stretch and take second, just one length behind the winner.

Palace Malice had something to prove in the Jim Dandy Stakes (Gr.2) after falling victim to some of the worst luck in the nation along the Triple Crown trail earlier this year, prior to capturing the Belmont Stakes. This win erased any doubts as to whether or not his Belmont win was legitimate. Not only did he win the Jim Dandy decisively, but he finished in a time of 1:47.37 for the 1 1/8 miles, the 2nd fastest time in the history of the Jim Dandy and just behind the 1:47.26 stakes record set by Louis Quatorze in 1996. He is also the first horse since 1982 to capture both the Belmont and Jim Dandy Stakes. He earned a sparkling 107 Beyer Speed Figure for his thrilling victory. It surprised many when he sat a close second right behind Moreno in the Jim Dandy, but that’s one of the things that makes him such an exceptional racehorse now, he’s learning how to stay out of traffic trouble and utilize his speed at the right time. I’m sure Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith deserves a lot of the credit for such a complete turnaround.

I’m very pleased to see that Curlin is producing some truly top-class colts and fillies and watching Palace Malice this year has been exciting and truly inspiring to me. It should be very interesting to see what Oxbow and Verrazano do in the Haskell Sunday. If either one wins or runs big, the Travers Stakes will easily become one of the most highly anticipated races of the year.

Posted in Curlin, Jim Dandy, Moreno, Palace Malice, Will Take Charge | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

It’s Gonna Be a Dandy!

Posted by Brian Appleton on July 26, 2013

Palace Malice Belmont It’s been almost seven full weeks since Palace Malice won the Belmont Stakes (Gr.1) by more than 3 lengths and now finally the classic winning son of Curlin is ready to grace the track again. The Todd Pletcher trained 3-year-old colt heads a field of 9 other sophomore contenders in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes on Saturday at Saratoga and he’s looking like a very strong favorite. I’m trying not to let my “Curlin bias” cloud my better judgment here, but from all indications it seems that Palace Malice is even better and stronger than he was before winning the Belmont Stakes. Pletcher has said repeatedly since the Belmont that the striking bay colt is full of energy and improving with each passing day. He even went so far as to say that the rugged Triple Crown campaign seems to have infused Palace Malice with more energy than he had before and his last three works seem to confirm that, especially his 1:00.32 five furlong workout on July 14. If he wins the Jim Dandy rest assured the race for champion 3-year-old colt this year will heat up even more, and the fact that Oxbow and Verrazano will be facing off in the Haskell on the exact same day just adds to the drama and excitement of the weekend. This is the kind of weekend a racing fan lives for.

Of the nine other challengers set to face the Belmont champ, Matt Winn Stakes (Gr.3) victor Code West, Dwyer Stakes (Gr.2) winner Moreno, Peter Pan (Gr.2) champ Freedom Child, Midnight Lute colt Mylute and Gotham Stakes (Gr.3) winner Vyjack appear to be the toughest challengers. Vyjack is cross-entered in the Grade 1 Haskell where he drew post position #1 after drawing post #10 in the Jim Dandy. A decision on which race he will contest is expected sometime today. Trainer Rudy Rodriquez guided the bay gelding through wins in the Grade 2 Jerome Stakes and Grade 3 Gotham Stakes earlier this year before he finished a very solid third in the Wood Memorial Stakes (Gr.1). After an 18th place finish in the Derby and an 8th place finish in the Belmont, Vyjack is looking to retrieve his earlier reputation and place himself once again towards the top of the three-year-old roster.

Trainer Bob Baffert is always a staple at the nation’s biggest races and usually brings some of the best players into the game and this time he’s bringing Matt Winn Stakes (Gr.3) winner Code West. The Lemon Drop Kid colt finished second in the Risen Star Stakes (Gr.2) in February, a half-length ahead of Palace Malice, and then ran 6th in the Louisiana Derby (Gr.2) one month later. He enters the Jim Dandy off two straight wins, most recently having captured the Matt Winn Stakes by a head after holding off a very determined Uncaptured down the length of the stretch. He previously had captured a 1 1/16 mile allowance race by 6 ¾ lengths. This colt is an excellent worker, three of last five works have all earned bullet status, with his most recent being a :46.00 flat four furlong move. He’s fit, he’s talented and it looks like he’s improving so he’s going to be a big threat. My only concern with him is the distance. He’s bred to get the 1 1/8 miles, but his only two wins this year were at the 1 1/16 mile distance and he finished 6th after tiring late in the Louisiana Derby at the 1 1/8 mile distance.

Moreno looks to improve won his maiden just two starts back at Belmont Park, just a few hours before Palace Malice captured the Belmont Stakes. He won his mile maiden by more than 6 lengths that day before coming back one month later to romp by 7 lengths in the 1 1/16 mile Dwyer Stakes (Gr.2). IN both starts he broke on top and never looked back. I really like this cot a lot and the fact that he’s a son of Ghostzapper just adds to his appeal. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him take a piece of the action at Saratoga on Saturday.

Freedom Child is a tough one to figure out. After his 13 length romp in the Peter Pan Stakes (Gr.2) he became one of the well-regarded newcomers in the Belmont Stakes and then finished second to last in a 14 horse field without any obvious excuses. He’s got nice breeding and has shown flashes of brilliance, but when it comes down to it I just don’t feel confident backing him.

Mylute finished 7th in the Risen Star Stakes earlier in the year, well behind Code West and Palace Malice, but followed that up by finishing just a neck behind Revolutionary in second in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby. After finishing 5th in the Kentucky Derby, the son of Midnight Lute has yet to start after finishing third to Oxbow and Itsmyluckyday in the Preakness Stakes. He definitely has the ability to be highly competitive against the best this crop has to offer, so his chances in the Jim Dandy cannot be underestimated just because he hasn’t broken through with a win in the big leagues. That being said I don’t think he’ll upset Palace Malice.

The rest of the field is completed by Rebel Stakes (Gr.2) winner Will Take Charge who completed his triple crown season with 8th, 7th and 10th place finishes in the Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes respectively. He was one of the most physically striking colts on the triple crown trail this year in my humble opinion, but looks have not done much for him since defeating Oxbow in the Rebel. Looking Cool enters off a victory in the Iowa Derby (Gr.3) by a neck, Perfect Title enters off a 1 ¼ length allowance score at Churchill Downs and Bashaar enters off a 3rd place run in the Iowa Derby. None appear to be in the same league as the rest of the field.

It’s no secret that I’m a huge Curlin fan and as such, a huge Palace Malice fan, so I’ll be rooting with all my heart for jockey Mike Smith and the Belmont Stakes victor to make the magic happen again.

Posted in Bob Baffert, Code West, Freedom Child, Jim Dandy, Moreno, Mylute, Palace Malice, Todd Pletcher, Vyjack, Will Take Charge | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Here Comes the Belmont

Posted by Brian Appleton on June 4, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
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