Saturday, October 30, 2010

California Cup XXI

Saturday brings one of the showcase days of racing for the home team in California, the California Cup. Exclusively for California bred horses, this state-bred version of the Breeders' Cup runs for the 21st time, and one hopes that a future star can emerge from these races. With the Oak Tree being running at Hollywood Park, how will that affect the outcome of these races, or more importantly, the attendance? While the California Cup has lost some of it luster over the years, the move to Hollywood will probably hurt its attendance, which is a shame, as when else will they get to see so many of the home team's stars in one place, strutting their stuff, making connections that strengthen when they run year after year. Let's get into the action, with a review of the stakes races on the day

The card opens with the Cal Cup Sprint, going 6 furlongs on the main. This race has been won by some fast horses in the past, such as Answer Do, Big Jag and Dancing in Silks, who parlayed his win into a upset victory in the 2009 Breeders' Cup Sprint. The field is lead by a horse who just lost out to Dancing in Silks in the BC Sprint, #1 Cost of Freedom. The connections decided to pass at a chance to avenge the loss last year and run today. He is speed, speed and more speed. H will look to avoid a speed duel with the uber-quick #3 Goggles McCoy, who is cutting back after a failed attempt to stretch his speed two turns at Del Mar. Whichever manages to survive to battle will have to hold off #4 My Summer Slew, who will be coming from off the pace.

The 4th race is the John Deere Cal Cup Distaff going 6 furlongs on the grass. This race was previously run down the hill when Oak Tree was held at Santa Anita, but with the switch to Hollywood Park, the dynamics of the race definitely change. The lukewarm favorite is #8 La Nez. She is the class of the field, being multiple graded stakes placed, and winning the Cal Cup Juvenile Fillies last time out. She is trying a turf sprint for the first time. While she is at her best sprinting and the race flow is suiting, one has to wonder if this is too short for her to get up in time. The pick is #6 U Turn Me Crazy. As the favorite, she sprints on the turf for the first time, and looks to be better suited for the distance. The quick turnaround does not bother me.

The 5th is the TOC/CTT Cal Cup Matron, going 1m & 1/16th on the main track. Previous winners are multiple graded stakes winners Romance is Diane, Somethinaboutlaura and Dream of Summer. Defending champ #7 Lady Railrider returns to defend her crown and become the 2nd two-time winner, after Dream of Summer pulled the double in 2004 & 2005. She looks tough to beat right back.

The 7th is the Cal Cup Juvenile Fillies. This race has a rich recent history with such multiple graded stakes winners Romance is Diane, House of Fortune and Summer Wind Dancer. The favorite is #6 California Nectar, who won a maiden race smartly last time out. The one this blog feels will most appreciate the distance is #2 Excellent Point. This daughter of Point Given out of a Broad Brush mare broke her maiden going two turns on the bullring at Fairplex. While this is a big step up from the maiden claiming ranks, the distance should be up her alley.

The 8th is the John C. Mabee Cal Cup Mile presented by TVG going a Mile on the Grass. The top two finishers of the Oak Tree Mile, plus the 3rd place finisher of the Del Mar Mile, are all in the race. #6 Liberian Freighter held off #3 Colgan's Chip in the stretch of the Oak Tree Mile last out. Both will face #5 Bruce's Dream who ran third behind Enriched, who is in the Classic. This blog hopes that the "Freighter" takes port in the winner circle, as this blog has been a fan of his for his career.

The 9th and feature is the Cal Cup Classic. This race has featured some stakes winners in the past such as Best Pal, Sky Jack and Lava Man, who was denied the win in 2004 by Cozy Guy in a photo. The heavy favorite is #2 Enriched who is switching back to the main after being beaten in the Shadwell mile on turf at Keeneland. Lava Man's half-brother will try to do finish the job his brother couldn't do. A huge longshot worth a flyer in this blog's opinion is #6 Lodi Red. This son of Redattore is taking a big step up in class, but should appreciate the mile and an eighth more than most.

The 10th and final is the Bob Benoit Cal Cup Juvenile, which has in its past winners such as Cavonnier, Yougottawanna, Texcess and Sierra Sunset. This year's winner will carry the cross to bear to keep the streak alive of every third winner having stakes success in the future. The lukewarm favorite is #6 Slammer Time. This son of Grand Slam switches back to the main track after winning a one-mile turf event last out, breaking his maiden in the process. The one that caught this blog's eye is #5 Woodman's Luck. This son of Lucky Pulpit broke his maiden last time out stretching out to 6&1/2f. The stretchout two turns might be the key, as he is bred to get distance.

There is a rundown of stakes action on the California Cup XXI card. Can Enriched finish the job his brother started? Will Lady Railrider defend her crown? Will we see the first glimpse of a future star? This proves to be a interesting day of racing that maybe will shine the spotlight on the home team.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Few Odds and Ends - BC Style

With the announcement of pre-entries tomorrow for the Breeders' Cup, the horse racing nation waits with bated breath for them to come out. This blog just has a few thoughts to say before we start to dive into the rich, meaty juiciness that is the Breeders' Cup past performances.

  • The sale for Breeders' Cup Mile-bound Sidney's Candy still has not been finalized. One wonders what is holding it up, and whether the Craigs will still be the owners come post time.
  • The decision to put the Turf Sprint as the start of the Pick 6 still boggles the mind. Why would the powers that be put a race that looks to be easier to solve than the Dirt Mile is beyond me. Maybe this was an appeasement to those who prefer turf, now that the Pick 6 is once again evenly split between main track races and grass races.
  • How is possible that Calvin Borel aka Calvin Bo-rail aka Saint Calvin of Churchill still has not been publicly announced on a horse for the Classic? It is inconceivable to consider that he would not have a mount in the Classic, let alone every single dirt race the entire weekend.
  • This blog wonders what the track will be like, since there is no precipitation predicted to fall between now and the Breeders' Cup in Louisville. Will the track be a repeat of 2000, when it was veritable parking lot? Or maybe 2006, when the rail was a great place to be?
  • If you would like the chime on what you think the morning line would be for the Classic, post it here and join in with the others below.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Solo SoCal Shipper in for Super Saturday Weekend (Part 2)

(Forgive me for taking this long to post this, but schoolwork caught up with me in a big way, forcing this blog to step aside to address it. Here is the second half of my Belmont adventure)

Day 2 of Super Saturday weekend was an different kind of experience compared to Saturday. For one, this blog was not going to Belmont by car, but by public transportation. This blog would try to catch up with someone who he had missed on Super Saturday.. This blog would try to enjoy the majesty and wonder that is Belmont Park, something that couldn’t be done the day before with the helter-skelter schedule that end up being Super Saturday. Finally, this blog would travel the city alone in search of someone.

The day started with this blog and Connie figuring out our plan of attack on how to get all the way from Newark to Belmont Park. While this blog is well-versed in the so-so public transportation system in Los Angeles, this would be a whole other experience. With directions provided by Cory, we were off from the hotel. We took the hotel shuttle back to the airport, where we caught the bus to Newark Penn Station. From there, we caught the PATH over the river into Manhattan. After a quick trip on the LIRR and a one stop ride on the subway, it was one more bus to Belmont Park. The bus went into the track, stopping right next to where the LIRR stop is for Belmont Park. (Which sadly only is used on Belmont Stakes day.) The strangest part of the trip was the fact that you can eat on the subway and buses in New York, something you cannot do in Los Angeles. The entire system puts L.A.'s to shame.

Once Connie and this blog arrived at Belmont, we went our separate ways, only occasionally touching base with each other throughout the day. This blog ran Teresa (@bklynbckstretch) and we had a good chat and she provided me with the key piece of information on how to travel the city alone to get to that someone. I took advantage of the less-crowded conditions and walked around the facility. Belmont is such a beautiful facility. Walking around the backyard, this blog soaked in the convivial atmosphere that must exist when it is packed with people. (The weather was rather brisk and conspired against it being as full). Walking around the immense grandstand, discovering the nooks and crannies were people hang out, each with their own visible atmosphere, was a great experience.

The 3 co-features on the day were the Grade 2 Kelso at a mile on the main track, the Grade 3 Miss Grillo for 2yo fillies on the grass going a 1m & 1/16th, and the Grade 3 Pilgrim for 2yo males on the inner turf at the same 1m & 1/16th distance. Air Support won the Pilgrim, and Tizway won the Kelso. The star of the day was the winner of the Miss Grillo, Winter Memories. She won from the outside post with an impressive turn of foot, prevailing with ease. Her connections were very excited after the race and she looks like a filly with a future. After the Kelso, this blog got a chance to catch up with Joe (@Joe_Depaolo), who this blog had seen the day before but did not have a chance to talk with at length. We had a good chat, and after the last race, this blog met back up with Connie and headed back on our journey to the hotel.

After taking a bus back to the subway stop, we discovered that there was a quicker way back to the city, by taking one train all the way back to Manhattan. There this blog said my goodbye to Connie, and proceeded to kill a little time in hoping that the guy I hoped to talk to the entire trip would call me back so I could go meet up with him. After an agonizing 45 minutes, he left me a message saying to meet him. Using the tips Teresa gave me, this blog was able to get down there in no time. The person I had hoped to talk to is none other than Ernie Munick, a world-class guy, creator of a great community on Facebook called Thoroughbred Racing in New York (TRNY) and currently doing great work for with his "E Train" segments. This blog saw him several times during the day on Saturday, but was unable to get close enough to get his attention. Even though it was just a brief 20-minute conversation covering a wide swath of racing topics while under the subway awning to hide from the rain, it was worth it.

As this blog worked its way back to the hotel in the inclement weather late at night, time was taken to think about what this weekend meant, both from a horse racing standpoint and a personal standpoint. From a racing standpoint, Life At Ten solidified her spot as the second bet older female in the country; Winter Memories could be a future star in the making, and Blame ran a good race, lost, but did nothing to impair my love for him. Plus, all the loss did was help his price grow come post time for the Classic. On a personal level, this blog did several things that at this time last year would have been inconceivable. Going on a trip alone, flying cross-country, staying with someone they had never met before all were new experiences that will be cherished for until the end of time. What will the future hold for this blog? Who knows. But the journey will be the most enjoyable part.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Solo SoCal Shipper in for Super Saturday weekend (Part 1)

Last weekend was an action-packed, stakes-filled time of racing. This blog decided that it would think outside of the box about where to see all of the Breeders' Cup preps. One would assume that a huge horse racing fan who is based in Southern California would be plenty satisfied with the grade 1 extravaganza that was being offered by the Oak Tree @ Hollywood Park meet. With the venerable Zenyatta as its star attraction, why would one want to be anywhere else?

Yet this blog wanted more. This blog wanted to experience something new, somewhere new. The chance to see not one but two of "Ten's Top T-Breds" in person for the first, and maybe only, time in their racing career(s) proved to be too irresistible of a siren's call to ignore. This blog went right on by Hollywood Park to LAX and hopped on a flight headed to New York. Final destination: Belmont Park.

Now this was no ordinary trip to the track for this blog. Not only had it never been on a flight by himself, it had not been East of the Rockies nor to a race track outside of California. Plus, it would be this blog's first time meeting with large groups of people from several different forms of social media. Add in sharing a hotel room with a non-family member and all of these firsts just added to the anxiety of taking this trip.

After an easy flight across the country, this blog landed on Friday night, where it met up with Connie (aka MsVFAB on Twitter) at the airport, who flew in from Cleveland and a fellow member of Team Blame, a group of "tweeps" who believe Blame will win the Breeders' Cup Classic. We even have custom made t-shirts to show our loyalty. (Connie is also an ardent Fly Down supporter, and was crushed over his sale to Saudi owner for fear of him never returning to the U.S. after this year.) The next morning, fellow Team Blame member Derek (NJDerek), who gave us a ride to Belmont from the hotel both ways. After a smooth, traffic-free ride, we arrived at Belmont just after the gates opened. This blog had two separate groups from two sources of social media to meet that day. One was from Twitter and the other from the TVG Community (TVGC) site, which had provided hats for this blog to distribute to the other members who were scheduled to be there. (Throughout the rest of the card, I ping-ponged between the two groups, probably at a detriment to better social interaction among me and either group.)

After saying hello and looking at the horses in the paddock for the first with the TVGC group, this blog watched the first from Belmont from the apron right at the finish line. It was a winning one, as Ya Gotta Have Soul came from just off the pace to take the victory. As the card moved forward, members from both groups filed in, with this blog meeting up with fellow Team Blame members Dylan (DylanTWM), Steve (stmunday), Bryan (ghostzapper04) and Kevin (CollinsGhost). All of them were good to meet and easy to talk with. Near the midpoint of the card, I was lucky to met the wonderful Sid (SidFernando). This was one of the highlights of the trip, as Sid is such a knowledgeable person of the sport and a great guy. With him was the (as Kevin kept calling him) "World Famous" o_crunk (real name Chris), who just coming off his well-received editorial in Thoroughbred Times.

The day went on with some highs (Life At Ten returning to form) and some lows (the camera breaking as the field of the Hirsch left the paddock). Then the big race came, the Jockey Club Gold Cup. This blog finally got to see its top horse in person, and it was worth the trip. Too bad the outcome of the race wasn't as Haynesfield snuck away to a lonely lead and won, disappointing Team Blame. But the team knows that this loss was an aberration and will only lead to higher price comes Breeders' Cup Classic time.

After the card, some of us filed into the clubhouse to watch the Lady's Secret. While there, Ian (ianlozada) managed to find those who were left of Team Blame, plus Sid. Ian had promised this blog quality pizza (something that this blog knows does not exists in Los Angeles.), so after the race Connie, Sid, Ian, Derek and I went off for pizza (having said our goodbyes to Steve and Dylan, who chose to stay a little longer to watch the Goodwood). We ate at Grimaldi's (which has now completely ruined pizza for me out here, as nothing is even close). Ian took some pictures of us (with Sid taking the ones with Ian in them).

After we all said are goodbyes and Derek drove us back to the hotel, my mind started to think about what I saw that day and what laid in store tomorrow. I went to bed even more certain (if that's possible), that Blame would avenge in the Classic, that Life at Ten was back to form, and most importantly, that i made the right decision in coming. Now, how did i handle taking public transportation to Belmont from Newark? Who else did i meet? That will have to wait until tomorrow...