Friday, December 30, 2011

Last Call for A Grade 1 in 2011

New Year's Eve is a time for celebration, remembrance and ending the new year with a bang.  The national graded stakes schedule has a similar ending. The last graded stake of the 2011 calendar is the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes going 7 furlongs for three year old fillies at the Great Race Place. This the last chance for these females to run against their own age group for Grade 1 glory. The field of nine has a mix of up-and-comers, graded stakes winners and a multiple Grade 1 winner as its favorite. Here is a brief run-down of the main competitors.

(Before we get into our thoughts about the La Brea Stakes, this blog is happy to announce the return of "Ten Top's T-Bred" Capital Account. Off since March, he runs in an allowance race that is the second half of the late double with the La Brea Stakes. We wish him luck and hopefully he stays healthy enough to have a productive 2012. Also note that fellow TTT Endorsement makes his second start off his near two year layoff on New Year's Day at Gulfstream Park.)

The probable favorite figures to be Turbulent Descent. This daughter of Congrats hopes to cap off a fine year with one more Grade 1 win, her 3rd of the year to go along with a Grade 2 victory. She looks to bounce back from a disappointing effort as the favorite in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint last time out at Churchill Downs. She has worked swiftly across town since her race, including two bullets. She seemed ready to run when she schooled in the paddock on Thursday (when the picture on the right was taken). Her regular pilot David Flores will be aboard. She figures to be 2-3 lengths off the expected fast pace, stalking and pouncing on the leaders in the stretch. Any further back could be detrimental to her chances based on how the track has been playing.

Great Hot exits the same race TD does, but finished well up the track behind her. She has a graded stakes win at this distance and her North American debut over this track was a jaw-dropping effort. Her trainer has stated that he should could be a little short for this race, but her swift workouts say he could be just being conservative with his thoughts. Home Sweet Aspen is the second choice on the morning line but will probably float up in the odds. She has run well over this track, but breaking from the rail her jockey's hand could be forced to go the lead. She is another with good works over the track, and looks to put that turf experiment behind her.

May Day Rose (right) comes off a brutal loss in the Grade 3 Chilukki on the BC Saturday undercard. She has also won a Grade 3 at this distance as well as a stakes over this track. Her positional speed will allow her to attend the pace without going all out to establish herself early. She will get first jump on the favorite if the race plays out how this blog figures it will. Even though she is the 8/1 5th choice on the morning line, this blog believes her final odds will be closer to 7/2. She was on her toes when she schooled on Thursday (at the same time as Turbulent Descent) as the picture shows. She really caught the eye the entire time in the paddock, and because of that, she will be the selection for this blog.

So there is a quick look at the last Grade 1 of the year. Can Turbulent Descent rebound after flopping as the favorite? Will May Day Rose or Great Hot add to their earlier 2011 graded stakes tallies with a Grade 1? Will a new face jump up and shock the world at a price? Good luck everybody!

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Four Pack of Stakes to Open the Santa Anita Meet

Opening day at The Great Race Place brings along 4 stakes as a present to the patrons. The action will start with the first race on the card, with the filly division of the Cal Breeders' Champion Stakes. A few races later, the rest of the stakes actions starts with male division of the Cal Breeders' Champion Stakes. Then the graded action starts up with the Grade 3 Sir Beaufort. Then the Grade 1 Malibu wraps up the card and the natural stakes pick 3. Let's get to the action.

The opener on the card is the filly division of the California Breeders Champion Stakes. Six entrants make up the field going seven furlongs, with a mix of some stakes tested horses and some up and comers. The favorite figures to be Ismene. She won the Anokia Stakes last time she ran in October, defeating highly regarded Sister Moon. She has solid speed, but 7 furlongs off two months layoff is not ideal. Willa B Awesome (right) has "danced every dance" in stakes competition this year, and looks to improve on the cutback. The pick is Tangerine Tickle. This daughter of Tribal Rule (as is Ismene) won her debut on turf across-town after a slow start. She appears that she may have some tracking speed to lay closer to the pace, and should come with a good rush at the end.

The open division of the Cal Breeders Champion Stakes brings together a group of 9. The favorite figures to be Stoney Fleece (right). This son of Decarchy captured the Grade 3 Generous (over turf) last time out. He benefited from a fast pace last time out, and the cutback in distance does not figure to hurt him, as he broke his maiden going a shorter distance. The only negative might be the return to dirt, where he ran a so-so 3rd. Passing Game comes off a stakes win up north at Golden Gate. This son of Game Plan will be making his debut over dirt today, but with the expected large amount of speed to be shown, he should get a good race set-up. Motown Men (also by Decarchy) is a need-the-lead type who should appreciate the cutback to one turn. While there is other speed, he has been already battle tested in stakes company.

The graded stakes action begins with the Grade 3 Sir Beaufort going one mile on the grass. The favorite figures to be Mr. Commons. While this son of Artie Schiller has never won a graded stakes, he has run second in several stakes against older, and ran a competitive fifth in the BC Mile. The streaking Ultimate Eagle comes off his Grade 1 win in the Hollywood Derby going 10 furlongs. Cutting back two furlongs does pose a bit of difficulty, especially since he appears to be a need-the-lead type and there appears to be other speed. Venomous and Cozy Kitten also come out of that race, and they would seem to appreciate the cutback to a shorter distance. But the pick is Comma To The Top (right). This former Grade 1 winner returned to the winner's circle in an allowance race last time out, has the speed to clear Ultimate Eagle early, make a move turning for home and just hold off the closers.

The final stake on the card is the Grade 1 Malibu. This long-standing race has a rich tradition of winners, including the great Spectacular Bid. This group does not have a clear standout this year, as the morning line favorite comes off some tough losses. The Factor (right) looked to be a force in the Sprint division this year until he ran two back-to-back sub-par races this fall. He gets off the rail after being stuck down there in his last two starts, and he is working rather stoutly for this race. There also appears not to be a copious amount of raw speed either, so it is possible that, if he is right, The Factor can cross-and-clear to the front and just keep going. But he is one of four for Baffert, with each of them having a shot. Hoorayforhollywood (the pick) comes off a close second in a stakes race at Delta, Smash has always been highly regarded of in the barn, and Racing Aptitude held off his older stablemate in a fast win. Trainer Steve Asmussen sends out three entrants to counter, including the very fast Rothko and the multiple graded stakes placed Wine Police. Throw in the shipper Associate from the Dick Dutrow barn (who brings Ramon Dominguez in tow) and it is a stout betting affair.

So there is a quick look at the stakes action on opening day at the Great Race Place. The action figures to be fast and furious, with plenty of high quality racing. Good luck everybody!

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Beginning of a New Santa Anita Meet

The day after Christmas will once again bring with the beginning of a new Santa Anita meet. With the passage of time since the autumn meet ended, changes have occurred. Some are good, some are interesting and some have major repercussions.

The first big change is the actual landscape of the track grounds itself. Due to the hurricane-force winds that hit the track at the beginning of the month, several dozen trees suffered damage all over the track grounds. Along the streets that surround the track, several trees were blown clear out of the ground and uprooted. On the west side of the grandstand, three trees fell in the grassy area west of the fountain. Speaking of the grandstand, the roof was resurfaced during the off-season. The giant video board in the infield has been upgraded as well, with the new iteration several feet shorter, allowing for an unobstructed view of the backstretch for the camera.

The stakes schedule has gone some tweaks as well from previous years. The biggest change is the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks is now being run a week before the Santa Anita Derby this year. In recent times it has been run a month before the SA Derby, (on or around Big 'Cap day). The prep for the Oaks, the Las Virgenes, will slide into the Oaks spot on the calendar. The 3yo colts schedule has also been altered, with the Sham being shortened to the old San Rafael Stakes (which is now completely gone from the calendar) distance of a mile. The R.B Lewis is shortened back to 8.5 furlongs as well. Another change is that the Grade 2 Arcadia Handicap will now serve as the prep for the Grade 1 Kilroe Mile (which is run on the Big 'Cap day undercard) by being run on the Strub Stakes undercard. Other changes include the suspension of the Grade 2 San Luis Obispo (12f on the grass) and the Grade 3 Thunder Road (1 mile on turf) for this year from the stakes schedule.

One change that carries over from last year is the addition of Steve Asmussen's charges to the backside. He brings many of his big buzz horses out with him out west. The biggest name is Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner My Miss Aurelia. The division leader will look to add another Grade 1 or two this winter to her already strong resume. Others in his barn include last year's Sham winner Tapizar, up and coming 3yo colt Rothko (who runs in the Malibu) and a ton of soon-to-be-3yo talent with Kentucky Derby aspirations such as Sabercat, Hierro and Wharton.

Opening day figures to be sunny, warm, fast and firm, and filled with good racing. Which soon-to-be 3yo will step up and take control of the division, the SA Derby and head to Kentucky to break the drought? Can a horse use the Strub or La Canada series to launch themselves to older division glory? We shall see if any horse can deliver on these thoughts. Good luck everybody!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Rousing Hollywood Futurity On Tap

The last graded stakes of the Hollywood Park meet is the Grade 1 Cashcall Futurity. This race will provide an automatic ticket into the field of the 2012 Kentucky Derby, with the winner's share of the $750,000 purse providing more than enough graded stakes earnings to secure the spot. This race has been won by such Eclipse Award winners as Lookin at Lucky, Declan's Moon and Point Given. In the last decade, three horses have ran in this race and hit the board in the Kentucky Derby. Lion Heart and Pioneerof the Nile won the Futurity and then went on to run 2nd in the Derby, while Giacomo ran 2nd in the Futurity and then went on to shock the world at 50-1 in the Derby.  This year's field is sizable one of 13 runners, with a couple of new shooters mixed with in most of the best local threats. Will go over some of the contenders, starting with the rail horse.

Handsome Mike (right) comes out of a game effort in the Generous Stakes last time out. He dueled through fast fractions, won the battle but lost the war to a horse who was well off the pace, but he gamely hung on for second. He hopes to follow the same path as last year's Comma To The Top, who used the Generous as a prep for his win in this race last year. "Mike" was privately purchased after that race by J Paul Reddam (who also the sponsor of this race, CashCall) and now resides in the Doug O'Neill barn. He shows no works since the change in barns, and there is other speed in the race. Several public handicappers like him in the win spot, so no one could begrudge anyone liking him in this spot.

Brother Francis (right) is still a maiden, but has closed strongly to finish 2nd in both of his lifetime starts, his latest in the Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue. He stretches out to a route for the first time. His father won this race back in 2003. No maiden has won this race for its first win in (at least) the last 20 years. His connections are the patient type, and he does appear on paper to working in good fashion towards the race. While he is 20-1 on the morning line, this blog believes he will get bet down to the range of 12-1 or so.

Blingo is a horse who has a considerable amount of buzz behind him. He won a maiden race rallying from the back of the pack in his debut going a flat mile on the grass. He has the same famous connections of Shirreffs-Smith-Moss, and has worked well since the win. There appears to be enough pace to set-up his late kick. This blog thinks that the buzz will drive his odds down from the 8/1 morning line all the way to favoritism.

Rousing Sermon (right) ran a bang-up 2nd on two weeks rest in the Real Quiet Stakes last time out over this track. He won the Cal Cup Juvenile across town at this distance two back, and his trainer say he is going great guns in the morning during his workouts. He has been working locally since the last race. He also makes 3 consecutive starts without some start of layoff, which is always a good handicapping angle.

Liaison defeated Rousing Sermon last time out by making an early move and sustaining it to the wire. He worked across town several times since the last race in typical swift Baffert fashion. He figures to take considerable amount of money at the windows to the point he will be the favorite or second choice. Baffert has won this race 5 times, a record amount.

So there is a look at some of the contenders for the race. Others including the Grade 1 winner Drill, who appears to have gone off form; Majestic City, the morning line favorite who ran second in a Grade 1 at this distance at Keeneland two races back; and Empire Way, the full-brother of the multi-million dollar filly Royal Delta, who bounced off a 11 day layoff in his last race and looks to improve first time routing.

So who will this blog back at the windows? The pick for this blog is Rousing Sermon. He has just enough early speed that he can be close if the pace of the race is not blistering. He also figures to float up from his 6-1 morning line based on the other connections in this race attracting attention at the windows. He hopefully will avenge his loss to Liaison last out. Empire Way will be a large part of any exotics played as well.

Good luck folks!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Start of a Turf War Throwdown

Inspired by my love of Weird Al style parodies, Top 40 music, one hit-wonders and hip-hop, this post is a response to something this blog read the other day. It is sort of an attempt at something seen mainly in hip-hop. One of the mainstays of hip-hop is a "beef". This is when two rappers have a disagreement or problem with one another. The hallmark of "beefs" is battling via song. In the spirit of that, this parody is a response to "Havre De Grace" by Ed Derosa, as performed by the undefeated filly Awesome Feather. It maintains the same title as the real song, Jason Derulo's "It Girl".

For those unfamiliar with the song, here is the video (possible NSFW themes). Having the feel for the song in your head helps when reading the lyrics below:

I've been to Florida and Churchill Downs
No one can beat me
I'm training like a maniac, and now I'm back
I'm Awesome Feather
Tell them other girls, just stay in the barn
girl please....
Cause the only time you'll win is ...your dreams
Much more than an Eclipse award
That's what I mean to the sport.

I'm horse racing's it girl
You know I'm the truth girl
Lovin' me isn't a crime
You know I'm fit girl
This is it girl
I'm a gift at 1-5
I just gonna win every race
and be in the middle of the spotlight
I'm horse racing's It girl
I'll be the real big girl

Let me win it fast
Let me win it fast like...
oh oh oh oh (whistles first of "call to the post")
Let me win it fast
Let me win it fast like...
oh oh oh oh
Let me win it fast

I can't help but turn them heads, knockin' them dead.
Dropping like flies behind me
Even if you get too close not getting by
Hoping with the busboy
By some saving grace they put up your number
No chance!
They can try everything to beat me...they want
Like a race replay showing my runs
Every time I race
I'm a gonna win

I'm horse racing's It girl
You know I'm the truth girl
Lovin' me isn't a crime
You know I'm fit girl
This is it girl
I'm a gift at 1-5
I just gonna win every race
and be in the middle of the spotlight
I'm horse racing's It girl
I'll be the real big girl

Let me win it fast
Let me win it fast like...
oh oh oh oh
Let me win it fast
Let me win it fast like...
oh oh oh oh
Let me win it fast

No one can stop me from... winning, winning
all the, all the time, time
I just keep coming, coming
til I cross the line, line
I've got that something, something
You wanna bet this girl
I'm the real deal girl
An Adena Springs girl
Hey baby...
Don't you know I'm the It girl

I'm horse racing's It girl
You know I'm the truth girl
Lovin' me isn't a crime
You know I'm fit girl
This is it girl
I'm a gift at 1-5
I just gonna win every race
and be in the middle of the spotlight
I'm horse racing's It girl
I'll be the real big girl

Let me win it fast
Let me win it fast like...
oh oh oh oh
Let me win it fast
Let me win it fast like...
oh oh oh oh
Let me win it fast

Let me hear you cheer it like...
oh oh oh oh
Everybody at the track let me hear you cheer it like...
oh oh oh oh
I'm the It girl

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Hollywood Prevue to a Star?

The stakes action starts off this Thanksgiving weekend at the track of the lakes and flowers with the Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue on Turkey Day. Going seven furlongs over the synthetic main track, this race is a prep for next month's Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity. This race in its past boasted winners such as Afternoon Deelites, Lion Heart and champion 2yo Declan's Moon, along with blog favorite Premier Pegasus. A possible star could break out with a strong performance. The field is a nice mix of stakes-tried horses and new shooters with buzz surrounding them. Let go over the field of eight, based on how they figure to run their respective races.

The probable front flight will consist of Sweet Swap, Hodge and So Brilliant (right). Sweet Swap dueled on the lead but faded late last time out in the Jack Goodman Stakes. The winner, Secret Circle, won the inaugural Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint next out. This full brother of Sidney's Candy will look to clear off from the rail. Hodge broke his maiden last time in a gate-to-wire effort while under pressure the entire time. He comes back in only 19 days off that huge effort, but he does have a good work in the interim. So Brilliant dueled early and cleared off to win as a heavily bet favorite in his debut lat month at Santa Anita. He has had four strong works, though why he had one work at Hollywood, then shipped back to SA to work is a bit odd.

The horses sitting in the second flight, about 2-4 lengths back, figure to be Sheer Talent and Mucho Besos. Sheer Talent looks to bounce back after a subpar effort up at Golden Gate. His trainer Dan Hendricks brings him back off on short rest for the race and looks to be the one to "inherit" the lead if/when the speed backs up. Mucho Besos will try to jump off from an maiden claiming win to a graded stakes win. This looks like it might be too much of a step up, though he could get a slice if he gets the trip and one of the closers doesn't fire.

Galex, Empire Way and Brother Francis  are the last three in the field. Galex ran 2nd in the Jack Goodman Stakes (beating Sweet Swap in the process) by laying back and making one run. While he did pass the other 4 horses in the field, he lost ground on the winner in the last 8th. He did win his debut gate-to-wire, but he figures to sit off the pace in here. He does have several good stamina building works here. Empire Way won his maiden stylishly 11 days ago rolling by the field from the back. This full brother to multiple grade 1 winner Royal Delta appears to be in this race as more of a building block for the Hollywood Futurity according to his trainer's comments. His trainer also has a less-than-stellar record coming back on short rest (less than 14 days) with a two year old. Brother Francis started slow in his debut but closed quickly to just miss behind Hodge. He should improve with the extra distance, and does have two good works since, but he has never been over a synthetic surface either. He could show more positional speed with a clean break. "Brother" does have history working against him, as in the last twenty years no horse has broken his maiden in this race.

This is a tough race because I can see any number of these winning, but the tepid pick is Sheer Talent to pull an upset. It looks like there is enough speed for the front-runners to be softened up and allow him to "inherit" the lead in the stretch and hold off the closers.

Good luck and happy Thanksgiving everybody!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Post-BC Thoughts

Not many post-BC Thoughts for this blog, especially with a ton of disinterest in discussing year-end awards until at the earliest the first of the December. This blog did go 22-9-3-2 over the two days at Churchill Downs. (Taking early bird sign-ups for a possible BC 2012 syndicate now in the comments section!) But the lack of starting funds prevented a better outcome when it came to the wagering. So instead of some long diatribe about the weekend, this blog offers a picture of rainbow that appeared after a shower hit Santa Anita on Friday around first post.

This blog will take some time off until the Hollywood Turf Festival over the Thanksgiving Day weekend (unless something major comes up that this blog begs to require comment)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

BC Saturday Selections (Undercard Included)

Breeders' Cup Saturday comes bringing high intrigue, high drama and a high bar to top Friday's wild outcomes. After a solid 4-for-10 yesterday, can this blog keep it up? Let's get right into the action with the first race on the card.

The first race is a entry-level allowance race for females going a one-turn mile. Two horses catch the eye here. Jump Up will be the probable favorite based off a fast maiden win in her debut at Keeneland. She has worked well here at Churchill and her pedigree states that dirt will not be a problem. The other one that catches the eye is Dreamingly. While she has never been on dirt, it doesn't look like it will be a problem. These two look like they will appreciate the one-turn and will be on or near the lead.
Pick: #8 Jump Up - Others to consider: #5 Dreamingly
Confidence Rating: 8.5; 9 that one of two will win

The second is the $65k Dream Supreme Stakes. There is a very vulnerable morning line Dancinginherdreams. She has not shown much improvement from her two year old form (which included a win here) and looks to be beatable. Grandacious has a chance to gate to wire, but can pass if needed; Salty Strike is 3-for-4 over the Churchill Downs track; Splendor Town has shown occasionally ability that could win this at a big number.
Pick:  #8 Salty Strike - Others to consider: #1 Grandacious, #9 Splendor Town
Confidence Rating: 8.5; 9.6 that one of the three will win, 10 that Dancinginherdreams will not win.

BC Marathon is the first big race of the day. This blog is just taking a stab in this race, as it has no real opinion. Birdrun looks like he might be able to go gate-to-wire here in this 14 furlong race.
Pick: #1 Birdrun
Confidence Rating: 1, as the scale does not go any lower.

Next up is the Juvenile Turf. Another tough race where contention runs deep. The very tepid selection is Wrote. This son of multiple BC Turf winner High Chapparal has won two of four, with the two wins coming on courses with turns (albeit right-handed). The others this blog would use in multi-race exotics are the undefeated on turf Finale, Bourbon runner-up Coalport and another Euro in Caspar Netscher.
Pick: #5 Wrote - Others to consider: #13 Finale, #6 Coalport, #7 Caspar Netscher.
Confidence Rating: 3.3

The Sprint is another tough race, though this blog is going to take a stand. The pick is Force Freeze. He blew away the competition in first start in the U.S back in July. He valiantly tried to get to fellow runner Giant Ryan  last time out when he just could not get there while running against a speed-favoring track at Belmont. He has two nice works and looks to have first jump on the closers.
Pick: #6 Force Freeze
Confidence Rating: 6.7

The Turf Sprint starts the $3m Ultra Pick 6 with a well-matched full field of 14. The pick is Regally Ready, as he has experience over the course, a solid post, can be on the lead but does not need it. If one wants to look past him, it becomes a wide open affair with many, many options.
Pick: #8 Regally Ready
Confidence Rating: 5.5 (Turf sprints at Churchill Downs is not one of my strengths)

The BC Dirt Mile is a race that has a short history but all of its winners have one thing in common: They all ran their last race at nine furlong. The only member of the field to do that was Tres Borrachos. But his form is very suspect and he will be used only because of the above angle. The pick is Irrefutable. Coming off a good second in the Ancient Title, the "other Baffert" looks to finally get his chance at this extended sprint. With a win over the track earlier in the year, he looks primed for a big effort. The other horse being used is Trappe Shot. The whole year this son of Tapit has been running at six furlongs, and each time this blog played against him. Now he finally stretches out to a distance that allows him to use his track-and-attack skills to better use, he can get the jump on likely favorite Caleb's Posse.
Pick: #6 Irrefutable - Others to consider: #9 Trappe Shot, #4 Tres Borrachos
Confidence Rating: 6.9; 9 that one of these three is the winner.

This blog's thoughts on the Breeders' Cup Turf can summed up with one sentence: "Any European-based horse that gets beat by an American based horse isn't allowed back on the plane to Europe."
Pick: #1 St. Nicholas Abbey (because he is the 1st Euro they will load into the gate) - Others to consider: The other four Euros: #2 Sarafina, #6 Await The Dawn, #7 Sea Moon, #9 Midday
Confidence Rating: 4; 10 that a Euro will win.

The Juvenile is another Classic East-West match-up as Champagne winner Union Rags faces off vs. Norfolk winner Creative Cause. This blog is going to go out on a limb and not pick either or those or Norfolk runner-up and Del Mar Futurity winner Drill. Instead the pick is Champagne runner-up Alpha. Making his first start around two turns is a big key for a horse his trainer said is still learning the game. Along with Dullahan, this is another spread race.
Pick: #9 Alpha - Others to consider: #7 Creative Cause, #2 Dullahan, #4 Drill, #10 Union Rags
Confidence rating: 4, 9.5 that the winner is one of those five listed.

The race that the world cannot wait to see is the Mile, as Goldikova looks to win an unprecedented 4th straight Breeders' Cup Mile. Some say she has lost a step, some doubt whether she can win this, but to play against her is a dangerous proposition. However, this blog will have a different horse as its top pick while using the mare in everything. If she has traffic troubles and just can't find her way to the winner circles, Jeranimo could be the one to take advantage. He ran a monster race in the Oak Tree Mile and is coming blazing. He will be sitting just off of Sidney's Candy, and when that one loses the lead in the stretch, he will have first jump on the come-from-behind horses. At a big price, he is worth a flyer.
Pick: #7 Jeranimo - Others to consider: #1 Goldikova
Confidence rating: 4; 9 that if he doesn't pull the upset, she completes the 4-peat.

So here we are at the main event, the Classic. This blog makes no apologies for being a huge fan of Flat Out. Since the beginning, way back before this blog was even a possibility, way back in late 2008, Flat Out caught the attention of this writer. He was at one point the choice for the Derby. Thought to be another casualty of the Derby trail after he was hurt, he made his comeback off a 20 month layoff with a win in December. After a false start over the winter, he returned with a 2nd, then a flop in the Stephen Foster while stuck on a dying rail. Bouncing back with good performance after good performance, he won his last start to give his trainer the long sought after first Grade 1 win. Now it is his time to reward his connections with a win in the biggest race of the year. The only horses that can stand in the way of this goal is the globe-trotting So You Think and the stubborn front-runner Game On Dude. No one else scares this blog. Not Uncle Mo (too far, poor preparation), not Havre De Grace (too far), not To Honor and Serve (cannot pass, will not get the lead).
Pick: #2 Flat Out
Confidence Rating: 7.8 (So You Think wins if he takes to dirt.)

There you go, all...Wait, there's another race after the Classic? Why? "Traffic Considerations"? Alright. (looks over the PPs, cracks a big smile)

May Day Rose caps off a possible huge day for Bob Baffert by going gate-to-wire in what race caller and the current voice of the Breeders' Cup Trevor Denman " a stylish performance".
Pick: #9 May Day Rose
Confidence rating: 9.6

Good luck folks. Go Flat Out!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

BC Friday Selections (Undercard Included)

The biggest two days of the year is finally here, and there is some excellent racing and wagering opportunities. The card covers four allowance races as an extended warm-up to the six Breeders' Cup races. This blog thoroughly enjoys the undercard races on big days like this, especially this weekend in particular. Several poor BC's (from a wagering standpoint) were saved by nice cashes in the races that surrounded the main event. This blog will offer some thoughts on each race on the card. Some races will have more commentary than others, and each top pick will get a "Confidence Rating" for each race. (1-10; 1: "Had to pick someone.", 5: "Kinda like it.", 10: "Go to the window."

The first race is a second level allowance race, with the additional option of running for a claiming price of $62,500. The morning line favorite and the pick is Grand Traverse. This gutty 8yo gelding just shows up every single time. He figures to benefit from the expected hot pace and will be unaffected by the off track. Several of his foes are coming off a layoff, with some off several months. While he is the favorite, he figures to be no lower than 2-1. He is a great way to start your wagering weekend with a nice cash.
Pick: #5 Grand Traverse
Confidence Rating: 10 (Best Bet all weekend)

The second race for horses who not won a race other than maiden, claiming or starter allowances in their careers. Last year's Kentucky Jockey Club winner Santiva returns to the races after finishing well back in the Belmont Stakes in June. He was installed as the morning line favorite, but he looks highly vulnerable due to his lack of recency and the the fact that this is a one-turn mile, where he has been more effective at two turns. This blog like Katz My Song to go gate-to-wire. The lack of other true speed figures to let this Pletcher trainee to establish earlier position and keep going all the way to the wire. Relinquere interests some due to fact that he ran alright in his first race in over a year last out and should improve second time out in a return to dirt.
Pick: #9 Katz My Song - Others who can contend: #8 Relinquere
Confidence Rating: 8.2; 9.4 that one of the two will win)

The third is the only graded stakes on the undercard, the G3 Ack Ack Handicap. This is a competitve, evenly matched field. There are some true need the lead types in here, which should induce a solid pace. The choices are Mister Mardi Gras and Glenwood Canyon. These two are solid horses coming off good efforts. MMG cuts back from a fast-closing 4th in the Hawthorne Gold Cup. The winner of that race is headed to the Classic, while two others will head to the Marathon.  He cuts back in distance to 8.5 furlongs, which should help his late kick. Glenwood Canyon comes of a game effort getting up n the final strides.
Co-Picks: #4 Mister Mardi Gras, #5 Glenwood Canyon
Confidence rating: 7.4 that one of these two is the winner

Race 4 is the Jimmy V Stakes, and while there are some interesting longshots worthy of maybe a flyer, the lack of even a so-so opinion makes this a race where the voucher will stay in the pocket.
Picks: None
Confidence Rating: N/A

Race 5 is the 1st Breeders' Cup race of the day, the Juvenile Sprint. The newest race on the program figures to have the shortest favorite in Secret Circle. He looks unbeatable at very low odds and is the most likely winner among the 15 BC races. Maybe Blacky The Bull to spice up the exacta?
Pick:  #6 Secret Circle
Confidence Rating: 9.8

The Juvenile Fillies Turf begins the races for the females that will make up the rest of the card. A full field of 14 fillies will run. Elusive Kate figures to be the favorite based of her record in Europe. Two domestic horses worth a shot at long odds are front-runner Sweet Cat and deep closer Stephanie's Kitten. This is a very tough race to narrow down.
Pick: #5 Stephanie's Kitten - Others to use: #6 Sweet Cat, #10 Elusive Kate
Confidence Rating: 3; 5 that one of three will win

Next up is the Filly & Mare Sprint. The first and second choices on the morning line reside here in Southern California in Turbulent Descent and Switch. Along with Tanda, Irish Gypsy and Great Hot, this race looks like it could be dominated by the West Coast.
Pick: Tanda (Blog favorite, this pick definitely has some sentiment attached to it.)
Confidence Rating: 4; 9 that one of those five will win.

A classic east-wet showdown in the Juvenile Fillies with the winners of the Frizette (My Miss Auerlia) and Oak Leaf (Weemissfrankie). This blog thinks that M.M.A. is very vulnerable as the favorite and will not be on any of the tickets. Weemissfrankie will come from the back of the pack with her run. Grace Hall has a ton of buzz around her off her last win. The Euro invader Questing has a very dirt friendly pedigree. (Hard Spun out of a Seeking the Gold mare) Also pulling for Putthebabiesdown, as she is a daughter of Closing Argument.
Pick: #11 Weemissfrankie - Others to use: #5 Grace Hall, #1 Questing, #7 Putthebabiesdown
Confidence Rating:  6; 7.6 that one of those four will win

The Filly and Mare Turf is 11 furlongs due to the configuration of the Churchill Downs turf course. That additional furlong for this blog cuts down the possible winners to just four horses. Nahrain and Announce come off a ding-dong battle in the Prix de l'Opera, with Nahrain prevailing. That was a grueling effort for her coming in just her fourth start. This blog thinks that Announce can turn the tables on her and win today. The only two with a puncher's chance at victory are Stacelita and Dubawi Heights. The "home" team's beast chances ran 1-2 in the Beverly D. earlier in the year and come off wins in the respective Grade 1 preps.
Pick: #6 Announce - Others to use: #5 Nahrain, #2 Stacelita, #1 Dubawi Heights
Confidence Rating: 6.1; 8 that one of these four will win

The last race on the first day of the Breeders' Cup is the Ladies' Classic. The best dirt female is headed to the Classic, so this race is ripe for the taking. The original plan was the swing for the fences with Medaglia D'Amour, but with her becoming ill and being scratched, it is back to drawing board. The horse who was the biggest threat to her was Royal Delta. This Empire Maker filly came into her own as the season progressed, including winning the Alabama. She figures to get a good tracking trip off of Plum Pretty, then burst to the lead. Her last race (The Beldame) has been a prime prep for winning this race when it is held at Churchill.
Pick:  #6 Royal Delta
Conifdence Rating: 7.9

Here are a couple of stabs at the P5 and late P4, both .50 base:
Pick 5: 5 / 8,9 / 4,5 / ALL / 6 = $22
Pick 4: 1,2,3,6,8 / 1,5,7,11 / 1,2,5,6 / 6 = $40
So there are some picks for Friday. Coming up soon will be the thoughts on Saturday, including the Classic. Good luck folks.

Monday, October 31, 2011

A Few Random BC Post-Draw Thoughts

A few random BC post-draw thoughts:

  • Unless Tres Borrachos pulls off a major upset, this year's Dirt Mile winner will be the first to NOT have prepped in a nine furlong race in their previous start.
  • Bob Baffert will have 40% of his entrants breaking from post position number one, including three of the four dirt Sprint races, with only Secret Circle avoiding the rail in the sprints.
  • As expected, the U.S-based runners in the BC Turf are the four longest shots on the morning line. The division has fallen hard this year.
  • Medaglia DAmour has a real chance to blow up the tote in the Ladies' Classic.
  • Jackson Bend going in the Sprint instead of the Dirt Mile might have cost him a chance at the Eclipse award for Champion Sprinter. If 6 furlongs proves to be too short and someone like Caleb's Posse or The Factor wins the Dirt Mile, they could snatch the award away from him.
  • Loved the lively debate on Twitter today about why Uncle Mo will be the post-time favorite in the Classic.
  • Honestly, what was Mike Battaglia thinking when he made up the morning line for the Juvenile Fillies Turf? 134.76% is never an acceptable total for a set of odds, not even with the 20-runner Kentucky Derby!
Here are Battaglia's morning line totals for each Breeders' Cup race:

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Slow Your 'Mo

With the Breeders' Cup only days away, handicappers across the globe have started the task of dissecting the past performances of the pre-entered horses. From probable short-priced favorite Secret Circle in the Juvenile Sprint on early Friday afternoon to Uncle Mo in the Classic, the list of horses to cut through is large. The Classic is the marquee event, with the juvenile champion Uncle Mo and the filly Havre de Grace being the headliners. Others will fancy the New Zealand (by way of Australia and Europe) invader So You Think and the domestic feel-good story Flat Out. But for those who like Uncle Mo, here is another piece of information that may cause some concern. The following sheet shows the odds and the finishing place of the lowest odds three year old in the Classic for every year since the Breeders' Cup inception. (except 1985) [Now updated with 1985's result. Thanks Steve]
Only A.P. Indy has won among any of these fine three year old colts, among them five year end champions. Of the eight favorites, five have hit the board, which represents over half of the eight total on the board finishes. For those who think Uncle Mo is a standout and will win the Classic, maybe this piece of history will cool your enthusiasm just a little.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

If I Owned That Horse... (Breeders' Cup Edition)

With the Breeders' Cup a little more than 4 weeks away, some of the top name horses have some options on which race they could point to championship weekend. Some of their connections will choose the more conservative route, pointing to the easier race, while other connections will go for broke and choose the race with the bigger reward. Neither strategy is wrong, though some of the decisions are more frustrating to the average fan than others. Some fans would prefer to see certain match-ups to occur, while others would prefer a chance to play against a horse they believe has little chance at short odds. Here is are a few select horses who have some options, along with where this blog thinks they should go.

Uncle Mo
Most likely BC race: Classic
Blog's choice: Dirt Mile
The defending champion 2 year old won the Grade 2 Kelso in his last start in a fast time. But that was only his second start coming back from his illness that knocked him most of the Spring and Summer. He has only two one-turn races to build from to go ten furlongs (a distance he has never been). His trainer Todd Pletcher has a poor record in the Classic (and among his Breeders' Cup runners in general), going winless in the race from nine entrants. His owner Mike Repole is going to roll the dice and run him in the Classic. This blog think Mo should go in the Dirt Mile instead for the simple fact that he just has not had the right set-up heading into the Classic. To win a Breeders' Cup race, everything needs to go right, including the preps. Mo's races set him better up for the Dirt Mile, where he would be a heavy favorite and could win in devastating fashion.

The Factor:
The Factor 1  
Most Likely BC Race: Sprint
Blog's Choice: Dirt Mile
The "Speed Freak" runs in Saturday's Ancient Title Stakes at Santa Anita. He is listed as the 3/5 morning line favorite and figures to be tough in there. He is a fast horse without a rating gear. If he wins on Saturday, he will have a strong resume for winning the Eclipse for Champion Three Year-Old Male topped off with a Breeders' Cup win. With his style, he would appear to have an easier time establishing his forward position in the Dirt Mile than the Sprint. Both races are Grade 1, so why not take the slightly easier race and lock up the division title? (With maybe a showdown with Uncle Mo?)

Twirling Candy
Most likely BC race: Dirt Mile (Classic being considered)
Blog's Choice: Mile 
The John Sadler trainee had to miss the Goodwood Stakes last week due to a minor hiccup in his training. The connections say they will work him right up to the Breeders' Cup. He has three tries to win at the Classic distance of 10 furlongs, and while being right there, he seems to just not have the same "wow" factor he showed at shorter distances. With the BC being the location of his final start of his career, the connections are looking to add to his stallion resume with another Grade 1 win. That is why this blog should go in the Mile. While it would be a tougher race, the probable race flow for the race figures to be ideal, as he would get a dream trip behind his former stablemate Sidney's Candy. Twirling is already a graded stakes winner on the grass, and what better press could one get then the to stop the immortal Golidkova's attempt at a 4-peat?

Most likely BC race: Turf (but would go to the Classic if the turf is less than firm)
Blog's Choice: Turf
The connections of this Horse of the Year candidate has a tough decision to make with this cal-bred son of Unusual Heat. If they decide to go ahead and run in the Classic, they could throw away any chance at any year-end award. If they stay in the Turf, their fate is not in their own hands, as they will need help. This blog thinks that even if the turf comes up less-than-firm, the connections should stay in the Turf. Being a Southern California native, this blog has seen plenty of Unusual Heat's progeny run on the grass, but very few on a non-firm surface. The feeling from this blog is that UH's do not care for a grass course that has some "give" in it. However, the Churchill Downs turf course does seem to favor horses who lay closer to the pace when it is in this condition. With Acclamation's running style, he could be at an advantage.

Gio Ponti
Being pointed to: Mile
Where they should be pointed to: Classic
This son of Tale of the Cat has been second in both of his tries in the Breeders' Cup, finishing behind Zenyatta in the 2009 Classic and behind Goldikova in the 2010 Mile. He has not won in a year and appears he might just be on the downside of his career. His best may not even hit the board this year in the Mile, and it would be a sad way to end his career. Turf horses in America struggle to make it as sires unless they show some sort of dirt form (see: Giant's Causeway). That is why the connections should go for broke and run in the Classic. If he hits the board, it would be a major boost to his stud value. If he falters, it does not change the perception of him as being a turf horse.The risk surely worth the reward, no?

Speaking of Turf, this post is the the first since this blog proudly joins TURF, a collective of racing writers out to keep people informed about all aspects of the sport we all love. The driving force behind the group is the immensely talented Valerie Grash, the person behind the blogs Foolish Pleasure and Fillies First. She has put together quite an esteemed and varied group of racing scribes. Make sure to check it out at

There are some thoughts about where this blog thinks certain horses SHOULD run when it comes time to the first weekend in November. As always, the fan always knows what is best for the athlete, right?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Santa Anita Starts the Fall Meet With A "Maddy"-ing Tough Stakes

With the change in the season to fall, the Southern California circuit returns to the Great Race Place at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains. This year marks the first time in 43 years that the fall racing is not run by the Oak Tree Racing Association. Santa Anita has taken the dates from them after evicting them two years ago. Opening weekend will offer seven graded stakes spread over the three days, including five grade ones. The traditional commemorative stein given away has been replaced on the calendar by an ever popular food truck festival in the infield. With all of the changes about, the stakes schedule starts off in the same way it had in recent years, with a turf sprint. The Grade 3 race figures to produce multiple starters for the Breeders' Cup. Here is some thoughts about the first stake of the Santa Anita Fall meet.

The opening day feature is the Grade 3 Senator Ken Maddy Stakes for fillies and mares three year old and up going about six and a half furlongs down the hillside turf course. The defending champion is back in Unzip Me. This Cal-bred daughter of City Zip returns to defend her crown off a fine win at Del Mar. She is five for seven (with a second) down the hill in her career. She hopes to use this race as a springboard to the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint like last year, where she finished third. Her regular jockey Rafael Bejarano will be in the irons. While breaking from the inside posts is normally not ideal, the small field makes it less likely to have its normal negative effect.

The likely second choice figures to be blog favorite Tanda (right). This daughter of Sweetsouthernsaint finally broke her five-race losing streak in the Grade 3 Rancho Bernardo Handicap last time out, getting her first win of 2011. She moved into the Mike Mitchell barn prior to the win, and her new regular rider is Joe Talamo. It pained this blog to miss the win, but glad she made it to winner's circle.She will break to the outside of Unzip Me, hoping to get a nice stalking trip off of her. She has worked well since the win, finishing off her preparations with a bullet 5 furlong drill across town. She has a 4-2-1-0 record lifetime over this unique course. Her goal this year is the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint on the main track at seven furlongs. Under the allowance conditions of this race, she gives three lbs. to Unzip Me.

The other entrants are Separate Forest, who beat the top two back in April in the Grade 3 Las Cienagas; Broken Forest & Givine, who have traded decisions with each other and Separate Forest (All 3 finished behind Unzip Me in the Daisycutter last time out); and Waveline.

This race is the first of many Breeders' Cup preps at Santa Anita the next two weekends. This season is filled with hope from all the divisions. Who will go on to glory? Can Tanda avenge her loss from April? Will Unzip Me continue her winning ways all the way to Louisville? We shall see. Good luck everybody!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

One Thousand Dollars

This blog comes back from its unintended extended hiatus with a look at what one thousand dollars could have bought you at the 2010 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. The below spreadsheet is a list of every yearling that was purchased for $1,000 at the sale. These horses were sold as early as Book 3 all the way until the end of the sale. The sires range from the lesser-known and young sires all the way up to sires with above-average stud fees. Sixty-five horses make up the list, thirty-five colts and thirty fillies. Below is the spreadsheet listing all 65 horses. Out of the seventeen horses from the group who have made at least one start, ten have won. That is a high percentage (59%) given the stock and the cost. Even if none of the other horses in the group were to race, they would still have a collective 15% winner percentage, which is amazing considering the price. The highest earner so far Danger Storm, who is also entered in today's Grade 3 Arlington-Washington Futurity. He has made 10 starts this year, with a 1-1-2 record. This spreadsheet will be updated to keep track of this rag-tag group of horse, along with a quarterly look back at the horses to see how they progress going forward. This group looks to show that even with a small price tag, big things can happen.

Friday, July 29, 2011

A Tiger Defending His Crown

As the second week of "where the turf meets the surf" rolls on, the Grade 1 Bing Crosby Stakes is the big race of the weekend. This Sunday at Del Mar brings together of a field of seven sprinters, including the defending champ Smiling Tiger. He looks to hold off several challengers to his throne, including the horse who defeated him back in January, Euroears. This race could end up having major end-of-the-year award ramifications. With the lack of star power in the handicap and three year old male divisions, Smiling Tiger could be the first horse who is exclusively a sprinter in a long time (maybe ever) to have a chance at Older Male and Horse of The Year honors if he runs the table. Let's break down this group, starting with the favorite and defending champ.

Smiling Tiger (right) Comes off a huge win in the Grade 1 Triple Bend Handicap at Hollywood Park last month. He bounced back from a trouble-filled 6th in the Churchill Downs Handicap, which is his only off the board finish in his career. He returns to the site of his first graded stakes win of his career last year, which occurred in this race. His win last year was the earliest win by a three year old versus older horses in graded stakes competition. He was the only three year old to beat older horses multiple times in graded stakes competition. He has the rail draw, which he is winless from in his career. This race is being run under stakes conditions, which means that he is giving at most four lbs. to his competitors. The lack of weight difference plus his consistency and gameness all lead to him defending his title.

The horse who defeated him earlier this year at Santa Anita is Euroears. This son of Langfuhr has not raced since finishing 2nd in the Dubai Golden Shaheen in March, finishing a solid second to top international sprinter Rocket Man. Euroears has worked in typical swift Baffert fashion coming off the layoff, with several bullets in tow. His jockey for the last few mounts Mike Smith chooses to stay with Amazombie, so top local jock Rafael Bejarano will take over the mount. His pedigree is not great for the Del Mar Poly, with his sire's runners having only win out of nineteen tries. With his need-the-lead style he may have some trouble getting separation from the other speed, especially Smiling Tiger.

Amazombie finished 3rd in Triple Bend behind Smiling Tiger with no apparent excuse. He's had some nice easy works since that race, with his last two coming over the track. It is possible that he could just being wearing down a little, with this being his 7th start this year and him running every four weeks like clockwork since last October. Mike Smith chooses him over Euroears. His pedigree is solid for his initial try over the Del Mar Poly, with both sire and damsire having good numbers.

The others in the field are Grade 1 winner Kinsale King, who was last seen being a late scratch in Dubai; Grade 2 winner Coffee Boy, who makes his first stakes start for his new trainer Mike Mitchell; and allowance runners Carbonite who makes his first career stakes start and Color of Courage, who followed two strong allowance wins with a poor 5th in the Triple Bend.

So there are some thoughts on the Bing Crosby. Can Smiling Tiger defend his crown, avenging his defeat to Euroears? Can Amazombie get that Grade 1 win, continuing his fairytale run for his connections? Will Kinsale King regain his past form and rise to glory? We shall see. Good luck everybody!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Ten's Top T-breds - An Explanation

Today's post is a bit of a departure from the normal fare, as it is not talking about one specific race or topic, but a look inward at explaining one of the things about this blog. On the left side of this blog, beneath the TBA widgets is a sidebar know as Ten's Top T-Breds. This is a list of this blog's favorite horses currently in training around the nation. Some of these horses this blog has never seen before in person, others he has watched since the beginning of their careers. There is no set rhyme or reason why any of these horses ended up on this list, but they all have a spot in this blog's heart. There was just a moment in which this blog and the horse just clicked at some point, usually (but not always) early on in their career. Now the TTT-Bred list shows only five horses currently right now, but there are actually nine on that list. The reason only five are shown at one time is that listing nine ended up looking too cluttered to be effective. The horses are rotated in depending on whether they are starting soon or not. Only two horses have permanent spots on the list, Tanda and Premier Pegasus. Here are the nine horses, along with a quick bio of each.

Tanda [right](Sweetsouthernsaint - Docs Stormy Girl) is a four year old filly in the Dan Hendricks barn here in Southern California. This blog first joined the bandwagon after a nice allowance win in March of 2010 after first seeing her in her maiden win in the opening weeks of the Santa Anita meet. She then went on to win two Grade 3 races in the Santa Paula and Railbird Stakes before her 2010 year ended with a troubled third in the Grade 1 Acorn. She has made three starts this year, most recently a third in the Redondo Beach Stakes. She is pointing to the Grade 2 A Gleam Handicap at Hollywood Park this weekend.

Flat Out (Flatter - Cresta Lil) is a five year old horse in the Charles "Scooter" Dickey barn in Kentucky. This blog "clicked" with him after his maiden win at the Fair Grounds in December 2009. He went on to win the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park before finishing off the board in two stakes along the Derby trail. He was off the track from the 2009 Arkansas Derby to December 2010, when he won an allowance race at the Fair Grounds. This was followed by another layoff until a 2nd in the Lone Star Park Handicap on Memorial Day. After a dull effort in the Stephen Foster, he bounced back with a superb win in the Suburban Handicap. He is pointing to either the Iselin Handicap or the Woodward Stakes.

Premier Pegasus [right] (Fusaichi Pegasus - Street Hero) is a three year old colt in the M.K. Cho barn here in Southern California. He is 4-for-5 lifetime, with his only loss being a 3rd to the Factor in the San Vicente Stakes. His biggest win came in his most recent race, when he decimated the field in the San Felipe Stakes. Unfortunately, he was forced to the sidelines after that race due to an injury. He is due to return to training in a couple of weeks.

William's Kitten (Kitten's Joy - Blush) is a four year old colt in the Michael Maker barn. He (along with with the now retired multiple grade 1 winning & former inaugural TTT-bred Blame) caught the eye with his devastating win on the 2009 Super Derby undercard. After two so-so efforts over synthetics, he ran second to the eventual Kentucky Derby winner in the KJC. He started 2010 strong with a third in the Holy Bull, but was derailed with an injury that sideline him for a year. He has not shown the same spark this year, but this blog still cheers for him.

Wasted Tears (Najran - Wishes and Roses) is a six year old mare bred, owned and trained by Bart Evans. She caught the eye first in the 2010 Grade 3 Honey Fox, when this blog picked her to win even though she was a speed horse breaking from post 13 (She won). This blog has a soft spot for speed horses who have "come and catch me" speed AND tenacity in a stretch duel. She finished off the board in her last start attempting to stretch her speed 9.5 f in the Grade 3 Modesty Handicap. The connections are hoping to get her a grade 1 win, so if they do not head back to Del Mar to defend her title in the Mabee, maybe the Grade 1 Diana on 7/30 is the next target?

Might (Arch - Liable) is the full sister to 2010 BC Classic and Champion Older Male Blame. She is in the same barn and owned by the same people as Blame. She has been a TTT since the beginning of her career due to whom her brother is, but she has kept her place after some good efforts, including a nice win on the Kentucky Oaks undercard. She has not worked since an off-the-board finish in the Dogwood Stakes last month.

Chosen Miracle (Ghostzapper - Royally Chosen) is a three year old colt who is the newest addition to TTT. This blog talked about him before his off the board finish in the Iowa Derby last month. There are rumors he is coming to the West Coast and Del Mar for the Oceanside Stakes next week.

Beyond Loaded [right] (Lindsey's Roberto - Ready and Willing; 8yo) and Capt. Sparrow (General Meeting - J. T.'s Pirate; 7yo) are the last two horses on the TTT. Both are older Cal-bred lower-level claimers who have been around a long time on the Southern California circuits. Both broke their maiden in their respective debuts, paying boxcars, and have slid down the ranks over the years.. They are the kind of horse who are the lunch pail, hard hat, grinding type of claiming horses that make up the backbone of the game.

So there are the horses who make up the roster of Ten Top T-Breds. The love never stops for these fine animals nor any of the other runners. Good luck out there folks.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Hollywood Gold Cup - Swaps Thoughts

The Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup has a long, rich history that one of a field of eight hopes to add upon. Such great horses as Seabiscuit, Citation, Affirmed and Cigar have won this race in the past. The eight entrants have diverse path to get here for their chance for the win. From a former maiden claimer to a multiple graded stakes winner who looks to put it all together at the classic distance to an ageless veteran looking to defend his crown, these eight entrants all have a different path to here. The supporting stakes is the Grade 2 Swaps for three year olds, where Coil looks to add another stakes win notch to his belt before moving on to bigger and better races back east. We will start with the Swaps.

The Grade 2 Swaps Stakes (named for the California-bred winner of the 1955 Kentucky Derby and the 1956 Hollywood Gold Cup) will have a heavy favorite in Coil (right). This son of Point Given bulled his way to a win the Grade 3 Affirmed last time out over this track. He continued his strong work pattern in the interim and there seems to be no reason (at least on paper) that he will go down in defeat. His pedigree dictates the additional distance will be no problem to him, with a Belmont winner as his sire and multiple graded stakes winner at 12f as the damsire. The horse who is the most interesting prospect to upset is Boxeur Des Rues. This Doug O'Neill trainee won a first level allowance race last time out on the turf in solid time. The last time he ran over the synthetic, he bolted turning for home in his first two turn race. It looks like he has turned a corner, but this surface and the class are still major questions.

Now we turn the attention to the big one, the Hollywood Gold Cup. Twirling Candy figures to be the favorite in the race off his win in the Californian, where he rated off a dawdling pace and a tough trip to sweep to victory. (below)

Now he will stretch out another furlong once again in attempt to add to his Grade 1 win total. The expected tepid pace means that his best strategy (but one not likely employed) is to go straight to the lead from his rail draw, settle in front and then burst away in the stretch. If these tactics are not employed, Rosario could end up in an untenable position pinned down on the rail behind horses.

Many can take advantage if Twirling has a similar meltdown like the Big 'Cap. Second choice figures to be First Dude. He won the Alysheba last time out on the Kentucky Oaks undercard. He has reinvented himself as an off-the-pace type after several near misses last year. This will be the slowest pace he has to sit off since the tactics change and one has to wonder whether he has the punch to come home fast enough. He ran well over the Polytrack in the past, but until they run over the track, who knows how he will react to track. Game On Dude won the Santa Anita Handicap earlier in the year, but has had two bad losses since the win. He figures to end up on the lead (unless Twirling guns it) without any other pace in the race but who knows how he will react being in front so early. This is also his first race over the synthetic, so who knows if he will take to it, even if he has trained well over it.

There are others in the field who will take some attention. The mare Miss Match comes in off a third in the Vanity, but has never faced these types at this distance. Setsuko finished 2nd behind Twirling in the Californian and seems to do his best running as the distances increase, but is that because he is a grinder without a big kick? The old veteran and defending champ Awesome Gem ran 2nd in the Cornhusker just two weeks ago and was going so well that the connections decided to audible and run here as well. Soul Candy will try to close from the back of the pack, as will invader Dark Cove. Dark Cove has won twice over the Poly at Keeneland, but his musical chair jockeys continues with his 7th straight new pilot, this time obtaining the services of top jock Rafael Bejarano.

This blog is going with Coil and Dark Cove. Coil is the class of the field in the Swaps. Dark Cove appears to have the best kick among the closers, and with the expected slow pace, it could turn into a 1/2 mile sprint for home.

Good luck this weekend folks!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Triple Bend - Shoemaker Mile Thoughts.

Fourth of July weekend bring two grade 1 races to the track of the Lakes and Flowers. The Shoemaker Mile on the turf and the Triple Ben Handicap sprinting seven furlongs on the main track. These two stakes have a long and rich history, with both of them running their 60th+ iteration. These two stakes both each have solid fields that bring together an eclectic group of runners, from former Grade 1 winners to up-and-comers looking to make a mark. Let's start with the first one on the card, the Shoemaker Mile.

The Shoemaker Mile marks the first race since his trip to Dubai for the defending champ Victor's Cry. He won this race last year in a stunning upset at 21-1. (video of that win below) Half of his six lifetime wins, and his only two stakes wins, have come over the Hollywood Park turf course. He's won off a similar layoffs in the past. He has come back solidly on the work tab in preparation for this race. His jockey for last three start Victor Espinoza is in the irons, and it looks like he has a good chance to defend his title.

The main threat to his title defense figures to be Courageous Cat. This son of Storm Cat out of the multiple grade one winner Tranquility Lake (who won multiple stakes over the Hollywood Park turf course in her career) started his year off in a winning fashion in the Poker at Belmont Park on Belmont Stakes eve. He popped a solid dirt work in the interim. CC must be going well for his connections to ship across country on three weeks rest to annex this Grade 1, which did come up softer than expected due the injury of Ryehill Dreamer and the sale & transfer of Sidney's Candy. While he has never been over the course, he should have no problem adapting to it, especially with his mother's success over it. Others who could have an impact are likely pace-setter Liberian Freighter and perennially overbet Carcortado.

Three races later, eight hook up for the Triple Bend. The favorite and highweight is Amazombie (right), who was questionably disqualified from a win in the Grade 3 LA Handicap. He hopes to continue his strong efforts in the race with his solid workout since the last race. This would be a stamp on the strong series of races he has run since October of last year. Those looking to beat him are: Grade 1 winner M One Rifle, who was interfered in the LA but was never going to better than the third he originally finished (the DQ put him up to second); Grade 1 winner Smiling Tiger, who looks to bounce back after a so-so effort in the CD Handicap last out; and Color of Courage, who has run two monster races after a 19 month layoff and steps up for his first graded stakes try.

So there's a quick rundown of the two Grade 1's on this Fourth of July weekend at Hollywood Park. Can Victor's Cry defend his title? Will Courageous Cat do his mama proud? Can Amazombie get a Grade 1 win? Good luck everybody!

Friday, June 24, 2011

A California Spin on the Iowa Festival of Racing

The Iowa Festival of Racing always brings together an solid bunch of horses to Prairie Meadows. This year's group includes several graded stakes winners and some up-and-comers looking to make a mark. The runners ship in from throughout the Midwest, with a nice SoCal contingent to spice things up. Let start out with the Friday night action, where three stakes take center stage.

The stakes action starts with two stakes for the ladies. First off is the Saylorville Stakes for female sprinters. The Cal-bred Tornado Betty began her career in Northern California before heading to the Midwest to ply her trade. She has come back to California for the occasional stakes foray. She was beat in the local prep for this race by two of her fellow competitors. After that is Iowa Distaff Stakes for the routers. Freedom Star comes in off a long layoff of 15 months, having last raced on the 2010 Sunland Derby undercard in a victory in the Harry Hensen Handicap. She has trained in typical Baffert bullets for this race and Rafael Bejarano will have the mount. Note that while most of preparations were on cushion, her last work was on the dirt at Santa Anita.

The last stake of the night is the Iowa Sprint Handicap. The favorite is the Baffert trained Ventana, who stayed at Churchill Downs after winning a Grade 3 on the Preakness undercard. He has worked steadily, though not the same typical flashiness of Baffert's other charges. Bejarano will have the mount for the race, and he looks tough. It is a little interesting the connections chose to run him here and not the Grade 1 Triple Bend at Hollywood Park in two weeks, especially with solid efforts on synthetic tracks. Winter Camp was a hard knocking optional claimer type out here until he was claimed by his current connections when he went to Sunland. He bats 50% at this distance, with 3 wins from 6 starts. His need-the-lead style figures to be severely compromised by the presence of Atta Boy Roy (right).

Saturday brings the second day of the festival with more SoCal connections with it. Prayer for Relief ships in for the Bob Baffert barn. He brings with him jockey Rafael Bejarano for his initial start on dirt. In his first start of 2010, he won a first level allowance race at Hollywood Park last month off a 6 month layoff. This will be his first attempt in a graded stakes. While his stalking style will work well in this race, there is a serious class question with him, as he would be thought of as one of Baffert's first or second tier 3yo charges. There is another SoCal connection, though it is not as obvious. Chosen Miracle is out of the mare Royally Chosen. SoCal fans will remember her rivalry in the 2002 La Canada series with multiple Grade 1 winner Affluent and for her multiple Cal-bred stakes wins. That rivalry is one of the earlier memories of this blog's memory as a horse fan and it was a big part of how big of a fan it is to this day. Chosen Miracle has been on this blog's stable mail since he was first named. He has won his only two starts in wire-to-wire fashion, one on a sloppy track at Hawthorne and another on the Poly at Arlington. While this is a big step up in class, he looks like he has a bright future. This blog will choose him to upset the favorite Astrology and the Baffert charge.

The final stakes of the festival is the Grade 3 Cornhusker Handicap. The old road warrior Awesome Gem comes into the race off a victory in the Lone Star Park Handicap last time out. He was much closer to the pace than normal, and that helped him to get the victory. The eight-year old worked his normal solid self since the win, and he'll keep plugging along. He is the morning line favorite in the race. The other SoCal shipper is Victory Pete. This son of Sky Mesa finished 4th in the 2009 rendition after a troubled trip. He has struggled at this distance in the past. This blog thought he had a big chance to win the Californian last out, but he faded badly to last in the final 1/16th. Blog favorite Stachys is the pick in the race off his good effort last time out.

So there are some thoughts on the horses with a California connection running in the Iowa Festival of Racing. Can Awesome Gem win two in a row for the first time since 2006? Will Chosen Miracle be the next breakout star? Good luck this weekend everybody!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Fostering Thoughts of a Flat Out Upset

The older horses take the stage this weekend in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs going a mile and one-eighth. With no real leader in the older male handicap division, this is a chance for someone to seize command with a win. Eleven horses will step into the gate with the chance to get a Grade 1 win. These runners are evenly matched, with no dominate favorite among them. That is shown by the fact that the morning line favorite is at 7-2. The thoughts on this race will begin with the tepid morning line favorite Giant Oak.

#10 Giant Oak has been in the winner's circle once at Churchill Downs, but it was via the DQ in the Clark Handicap. Before that, he had a run of fourth-place finishes there, including a fourth in this race lat year. In his last start, he finished 5th in the Alysheba here 6 weeks ago, behind fellow entrants Equestrio and Regal Ransom, but ahead of Mission Impazible. He figures to make his late run from well off the pace, which could be a problem, since there is not a ton of pace. His outside post position is not an issue, and he has been training fantastically in the interim.

#6 Regal Ransom and #11 Mission Impazible figure to be the pacesetters in this race. Regal Ransom was nailed at the wire in the Alysheba by probable Hollywood Gold Cup favorite First Dude. As his passing gear is non-existent, his jockey Alan Garcia will attempt to get him to the front, then slow it down. On his flank figures to be Mission Impazible who does his best work when sitting just off the leader. He beat Giant Oak and Apart two back in the New Orleans Handicap. Other than his outside post, he figures to have a good chance. The dull effort last time out is some cause for concern though.

#2 Crown of Thorns (right) invades from the West Coast for trainer Richard Mandella with jockey Tyler Baze in tow. He won the Mervyn Leroy Handicap at Hollywood Park last out, wearing down Sidney's Candy in the final 1/16th of a mile. Mandella said that the six weeks between races was perfect timing for his charge, and he has been working steadily after his win. While he has only run on dirt once, it was off a layoff and probably a distance short then his best (at least on dirt). The way he trains over dirt and his pedigree suggests that he will be fine over it. He should have no problem with the mile and an eighth today, and figures to be sitting right behind Regal Ransom and Mission Impazible early on.

#3 Apart looks to follow the path of his stablemate last year and win the Foster after a win in the Schaefer on the Preakness undercard. Blame pulled the double for his connections, then went on to win the Breeders' Cup Classic last November. Apart won in workmanlike fashion in the Schaefer in a close finish. He was beaten multiple times over the winter by Mission Impazible and has split decisions with Giant Oak. He seems to have bounced back fine, with a couple of solid works at his Keeneland home base. This son of Flatter has all the tools to win, but the fact that he another change in rider is a bit disconcerting. His last rider, top jockey Garrett Gomez, decided to ride Blind Luck in the Vanity Handicap. While Julien Leparoux is no slouch, the fact that Gomez left

Yet none of those is the pick for the race. The pick is the co-longest shot at 30/1 on the morning line #1 Flat Out. This son of Flatter has been a blog favorite even before the existence of this blog. This blog thought that he had retired after getting hurt after the 2009 Arkansas Derby, but was pleasantly surprised when he returned to the races in December 2010. That winning effort was stymied by another layoff until Memorial Day this year, in which he ran second to the consistent old-timer Awesome Gem in the Lone Star Park Handicap, beating multiple graded stakes winners Game On Dude and Thiskyhasnolimit in the process. He popped a swift work in the interim, has a hot jockey in Corey Lanerie and figures to make his move from mid-pack. He is in light at 114 lbs., 4-9 lbs. less than any of the major contenders. While he is taking a major class hike today, and the pace set-up is not that great, at the price he figures to be, this blog is willing to take a shot.

Someone looks to take some measure of control in the handicap division with a victory in this race. A son of Flatter looks to make a mark, but not the one most think. Can Flat Out flat out cause an major upset and announce his arrival? We shall see. Good luck everybody!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Belmont Stakes Card Thoughts - There Shall Be Much Rejoicing

Belmont Stakes day is here, and even though there is no chance for a triple crown alive, it figures to be a good day of racing. Both the Preakness and the Derby winner show up to the Belmont, which is a rarity. The undercard is solid, with multiple Eclipse award winning Gio Ponti going in the Manhattan, multiple Grade 1 winner Turbulent Descent in the Acorn and some tough races to handicap. Let's get to right to the stakes action, starting with the first stake on the docket.

Grade 1 TVG Acorn Stakes - 1 mile - 3yo fillies

The only question in this blog's mind is by how many lengths will #2 Turbulent Descent (right) win. She is the classiest horse in the field, she has been training great, she can adapt to any situation and she looks to flourish at this one-turn mile. The horse she will have to catch is #3 Savvy Supreme, who will be winging on the lead. While she is fast, she is stretching out two whole furlongs and is taking a big step up in class to graded stakes for the first time. The only other graded stakes winner in the field is #5 Victoria's Wildcat, who rode the closer-friendly track and insane fractions to victory in the Grade 3 Eight Belles S. at Churchill Downs on Oaks day. Honestly, Turbulent Descent should roll over this field, with Victoria's Wildcat being the best of the rest, several lengths back.

The Play:
Exacta 2/5; Trifecta 2/5/ALL

Grade 2 True North Handicap - 6 furlongs - 3yo & up

This blog decided that this race was not for him in any way, shape or form. This race will not be played at all other than a single of the favorite #3 Trappe Shot in the "lotto" Pick 6 ticket. Trappe Shot comes into this race off a win, defeating both D'Funnybone and Rule by Night (who are also in the race). He has two steady maintenance drills since the last race and he has a good chance to get his first graded stakes win of his career. If the budget allowed it, the entry would be used, and it is the the main danger. D'Funnybone comes in third off the layoff after running second to Trappe Shot last time after setting the pace almost the hole way. He figures to be doing the same once again today, with his entry-mate This One For Phil looking to take advantage if 'D' can't finish the job. He won his first race in 14 months last time out, has put in two solid works and looks to win his first graded stakes outright, after being put up via DQ in his only other stakes start.

The Play:
For multi-race purposes only, 1/1a & 3

Grade 2 Woody Stephens S - 7 Furlongs - 3yo

Another competitive race as three year old sprinters hook up going 7/8ths. Very tepid choice top choice is #5 Arch Traveler. This son of Sky Mesa bounced back on the winning trail after a poor effort in the Florida Derby at a distance that was not his optimal. Cutting back to a one-turn race last time out, he easily won an overnight stake handily. He has two smart works since the race, and will offer a little value to the favorite as the second choice. The other being used is the favorite #1 Travelin Man, who was against a speed bias in the Derby Trial and cuts back a furlong and #7 J J's Lucky Train, who comes back after an okay 3rd in the aforementioned Derby Trial, where he may have bounced after coming back in 3 weeks while shipping to Churchill.

The Play:
For the Pick 4: #1, #5, #7

Grade 1 Foxwoods Just A Game Handicap - 1 mile (turf) - 3yo & up fillies and mares

This is where this blog takes a stand with a 12/1 shot who is the co-2nd longest shot on the board in #8 Much Rejoicing. This daughter of Distorted Humor won her turf debut last time out at 6f here at Belmont in nice fashion. Being a daughter of BC F&M Turf winner Soaring Softly, it is not much of shock she taken to the surface. She has been best around one turn in her career. This is the first time she has ever strung together three races in her career, she is training well and looks primed to cause some tote damage at long odds. The favorite will probably be #2 Aviate, who this blog like in the CD Turf Mile last time out. Her connections won this race last year with Proviso. She has had two solid works since her win and looks tough, but how will she take to the one turn? #6 Fantasia finished third in the race Aviate comes out of last time. She finished fifth in this race last year, but her only win in the states was at this distance around one turn at Woodbine on a yielding course. If the chance of rain proves true, a less-than-firm course would do her well. #1 Gypsy's Warning is the only grade one winner in the field, but she ran a flat 7th behind Fantasia in the Jenny Wiley in April. If she wins, maybe it is sign to come for her connections, the same as Animal Kingdom.

The Play:
Large percentage of bankroll win bet on #8, single in P4

Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap - 1m 1/4 (turf) - 3yo and up

Multiple Eclipse Award winner #4 Gio Ponti looks to bounce back from another close loss in the Dubai World Cup and get his second victory in the race. He won in 2009, and finished 2nd last year. He seems to have bounced back better than last year from his overseas adventure, with four good works. #6 Viscount Nelson invades from over the pond for trainer Aidan O'Brien. He won just 8 days ago in Europe, but has a class advantage over the rest, finishing last year within a handful of lengths of Twice Over and Canford Cliffs, some of the top Euro horses. #7 Prince Will I Am was one of the few three year olds to be older in a graded stakes last year. He stretches back out after a fast-closing 5th in the Woodford Reserve on the Churchill Downs undercard. Many will use him, but this blog will not because of budget constraints.

The play:
Pick 4 purposes: #4 & #6

Grade 1 Belmont Stakes - 1m & 1/2 - 3yo

The first question to figure out is whether or not #12 Shackleford can last the twelve furlongs under these conditions. While this blog will hedge and say yes, he probably cannot based on his pedigree. #1 Master of Hounds is the wiseguy horse, and has been bet down in the early wagering. #9 Animal Kingdom ran a fast-closing second to Shackleford in the Preakness after winning the Derby. He should have no problem with the distance based on his long-winded pedigree. He is another we shall use on top as more of a hedge than a pick. #2 Stay Thirsty is the pick to inherit the lead if/when Shackleford gives up the lead. All of these four will be used on top of #9 Nehro in the exacta, as he fits the pattern of other previous 2nd-place finishers in the Derby who head directly to the Belmont.

The Play:
Exacta #1, #2, #9, #12 / #6

Pick 4 ticket starting with the Woody Stephens: 1,5,7 / 8 / 4,6 / 1,2,9,12
Good luck everybody!