Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Opening Day Wrap-Up

Opening day at Santa Anita went as well one could have hoped when it came to the racing. There were fast times, large fields and most importantly, every horse came back safe and sound.

The track was lightning quick (as expected) and fast times were abound. After the first couple of races were the jockeys were feeling out the track (and riding the race like they would on the synthetic), the 4th race featured a blowout winner and maybe a future star in The Factor. He was massively hyped before his first race (down to a ridiculous 60/1 on the Kentucky Derby future books) before running off the board. He came back with a vengeance on Sunday, setting a track record for 6 furlongs. While his pedigree doesn't exactly scream a mile and a quarter, as of now, he has a tremendous upside.

After that sparkling performance, the stakes action kicked off with the Cal Breeders Champions Stakes. Heavy favorite Arresting Officer failed to run to his odds, as he was upset by Thirtyfirststreet. This Cal-bred son of freshman sire Good Journey rallied from well off the pace for the victory. Past winners have gone on to graded stakes glory, such as Preakness winner Snow Chief, multiple grade 1 winner General Challenge, both who won this race on their way to Santa Anita Derby glory, and multiple grade 1 wins after that. The winner's pedigree says that the distance will not be a problem for the SA Derby, but is the horse fast enough? The time was good, not great, for the 7 furlong distance (1:22:20). Not overly fast (compared to most of the card), but a good building block race nonetheless.

The graded stakes action kicked off with the Grade 1 La Brea. Switch came off of a strong 2nd place finish in the BC F&M Sprint in her last race. The trainer of Champagne D'Oro had been talking her up all week, and she definitely looked the part in the paddock. Malibu Pier was the buzz horse all week. But Switch turned the lights off on the field with a scintillating run to win the race by 4 widening lengths. Malibu Pier rallied for second and Champagne D'Oro finished well, well back. Her time (1:20:33) was just three tenths of the then track record, and was a harbinger for what was to come later on in the card. Switch's connections now face an interesting dilemma on what her next race will be. She could continue in the La Canada series and go next in the Grade 2 El Encino S. on 1/16, or she could stay at the distance and run in the Grade 1 Santa Monica H. on 1/30. A tough decision indeed.

In the next race, a scratched down field of five ran in the Grade 3 Sir Beaufort S. (could be reinstated back at Grade 2 depending on the GSC), which was run on the main track instead of the turf. Sidney's Candy was the heavy favorite, appeared to be the lone speed in the race, and just blew the doors off his opponents early, winning in wire-to-wire fashion. Now, while the win was visually impressive, Sidney was beating up on a field who would struggle to compete against grade 3 competition. All this race reinforced is that when Sidney is given a clear lead, he will kick on. Now, when he faces a field filled with other quality speed.pressers, can he hang on? Or will he fold quickly?

The last graded stakes race on the card was the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes. Alcindor was the hype horse, who only had two starts but did them in style. Smiling Tiger came off a 3rd in the Breeders' Cup Sprint and was looking to lock down Eclipse Award finalist status in both the Sprint and 3yo male divisions. Twirling Candy (pictured) was looking to rebound after a disastrous run in his previous start. Noble's Promise invaded from the east and would go off favored. Smiling Tiger harangued Alcindor through the first half-mile and put him away turning for home. ST dug deep, trying to hold on, but Twirling Candy loomed up and just went by him in the final few strides. In the process, they both broke Spectacular Bid's 30 year old track record. This blog is the first to admit that the track was blazing fast, and if Bid had run on it, he might have gone 1:19 flat. Still, don't take away from the effort that these two horses put up in the race. Twirling Candy looks to be a force to be reckoned with in the older male division, and he is dangerous on both dirt and turf.

What did we learn on opening day? Speed, especially run-away-and-hide speed, can and will be a usable tool once again in Southern California; Switch looks to be a major contender to vacated older female throne; Twirling Candy is a fast horse; and maybe, just maybe, we saw the arrival of a future superstar. Now let's hope the rest of the meet is this good...

P.S. This post was delayed due to computer issues, and I apologize for its tardiness.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A New Chapter for Santa Anita

On Christmas Day back in 1934, Santa Anita opened its doors for racing for the first time. Its Art Deco facade remains nearly the same it did then as it does now. Opening day is one of the marquee days of the meet, and is filled with stakes action. The always-beloved calendar will once again been given away, with this year's theme showcasing some of the many occurrences where Santa Anita served as the backdrop for featured films and television shows. With another season upon us, many ideas, hopes and dreams swirl in the air over the new surface, the end to "The Drought" and many, many more. This blog will take share some thoughts on these two, along with a few other thoughts about the meet.

The dirt - The re-installation of a new dirt surface has people buzzing. The track already handled its first major test in style with its tolerating of ten-plus inches of rain in the span of less than six days time. It has produced fast workout times and for now has handled the horse traffic with ease. Hopefully this trend continues and the fears of this blog that switch would lead to a swath of injuries will proved to be unfounded. The return to dirt has brought some new blood into the water as well. Trainer Steve Asmussen has sent a string out here to train over the track, including some of his well-thought of two year olds such as Brock, the $2.3 million yearling purchase out of the sire Distorted Humor. The switch to dirt could also help future Derby prospects in their ultimate goal. That leads me to...

"The Drought" - The drought I speak of is the 21 year gap of the Santa Anita Derby winner going on to win the Kentucky Derby. Not since Sunday Silence in 1989 has the winner gone on to claim the roses the first Saturday in May. While some have come close (Cavonnier, Pioneerof The Nile) and some who have not won have gone on to win in Kentucky ( Real Quiet, Giacomo), not one horse has pulled the double since 1989. Maybe the switch back to dirt, along with the Preakness 5.5 program, will finally give that last little oomph need to get a horse to pull the double. Maybe one of Bob Baffert's many charges will be the one to do it, including the newest horse to join the barn, Grade 1 winning Jaycito. Or it could be this blog's current choice to break the streak, Premier Pegasus. This son of 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus, out of a mare who has also produced Grade 1 winner Street Hero, is three-for-three lifetime. He won the Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue last time out, and he is being pointed to first prep on the dirt for the Derby at Santa Anita, the Grade 3 Sham.

Odds and Ends
The elimination of Wednesday cards for the first two months of the meet should help field size remain high, and avoiding the waiting game that plagued the cards towards the end of the last meet, when it took almost until Tuesday to get a Thursday card filled.

Blog favorite Tanda has still not worked after suffering a foot bruise, which caused her to miss the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes on opening day (though part of that is due to the inclement weather out here). Hopefully she will make it back to the track in time to get a prep in for what this blog hopes is a winning run in the Grade 1 Santa Monica Handicap on January 30.

While the weather may not keep them off the turf course for route races, the intense rain has knocked the downhill turf course out of action. The upper part of the course just has not had enough time to dry out so it can be used while not getting chewed up, especially since it is the beginning of the meet. Races on both the 26th and 27th were scrubbed due to this and with the rain on Saturday and the threat of rain on the Wednesday the 29th, it could realistically until 2011 until a race down the hill is run.

The new meet is a time for renewed hope. Hope that the surface is safe as possible and will hold up to the weather. Hope that "The Drought" finally ends and the Santa Anita Derby becomes a viable prep again. Hope that this sport can finally turn around out of its freefall. Hope that maybe, just maybe, a star can blossom right before our eyes that will surpass the beauty of that gorgeous backdrop of the San Gabriel Mountains. Good luck everybody.

(P.S. Thoughts about the 4 stakes on the opening day card will be offered in the comments)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Comma Drama in the CashCall

Comma To The Top won a very soggy renewing of the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity, but not without a boatload of drama. In what ended up being a half-hour delay, Comma had a shoe issue that turned into an absolute debacle. First, the farrier did not have the right tool, so he had to go back and get it. Then, once he had the right tool and started to work on Comma, he was stepped on and was injured. A second farrier then had to be summoned to finish the job. The entire time this is happening, a steady rain was falling. All of the other horses in the field had been either standing or walking around the entire time, along with all the connections. (see photo) Now, the question has to be asked, why did they not scratch Comma To The Top, especially after the first farrier went down? My thoughts on why the stewards did not scratch him is:

  • The horse was the morning line and current favorite in a Grade 1 race: I would imagine that stewards would try to avoid at all cost to scratch a favorite in this magnitude of a race. Not only would it bring some bad press to the track, it would severely affect handle on the race and the multi-race exotics on what is technically the marquee race of the meet.
  • The delay was not the horse's fault: As explained above, the series of circumstances (wrong tools, the farrier getting injured, 2nd farrier needed) all were such long odds to happen one after the other in quick succession that there was no "clean break" point to scratch the horse. It was already at least 17 minutes into the delay when the second farrier had to be called, so the stewards were committed to see out the shoe repair.
  • Carry Gulch: Who? Carry Gulch was a Peter Miller trained horse (as is Comma To The Top) who was injured during the running of the Grade 1 Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap back in June. Miller was incensed over how little time the field was given (3 minutes) to warm-up before the race. He was seething and mumbling to himself in the paddock while saddling his charge for the race after the Whittingham, and rightfully so. While Carry Gulch did survive his injuries, he will never race again. Now, while I'm not saying that the stewards were deliberately showing favoritism towards Miller, it may have been in the back of their mind when they decided not scratch the horse after the delay had gone on for some time. The coincidence that both wore the #10 saddle cloth in their respective races maybe was a fortuitous one, as it may have jogged the memory of what happened that day in June. (It did for me)
Comma To The Top put an exclamation on the drama-filled CashCall Futurity with his win. The connections dodged a bullet with his shoe issues and avoid being contracted from the race. His win gives him enough graded earnings to get into the gate the first Saturday in May. Why the stewards decided that Comma To The top deserved a chance to race no matter the length of the delay is up to debate, but it turned out to be the right one for him

Friday, December 17, 2010

Hustlin' for that Cash...Call Futurity Winner

The road to the Kentucky Derby hits one of its early destinations, the Grade 1 $750,000 CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park this Saturday. This Grade 1 race has been the stepping stone to such horses as Real Quiet, Point Given and last year's winner Lookin At Lucky. The $450,000 first place check all but guarantees a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate. The top two Southern California two year olds (Jaycito and Premier Pegasus) are skipping the race, so there is a chance for someone to take a big step forward toward the Derby dream. The locals must defend the turf from two east coast invaders. Let's get to the race.

The only Grade 1 winner in the field is #2 J P's Gusto. This winner of the G1 Del Mar Futurity comes out of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile where he was a well-beaten 6th. He finished a disappointing third in the Norfolk two races back, and appears to be beyond the scope of his abilities distance-wise. He loses his jockey to another horse in the race, and it looks like he will be nothing more than a pace factor.

The other two graded stakes winners are #7 Gourmet Dinner and #10 Comma to the Top. Each won a Grade 3 last time out, albeit on a surface different than today's race. Gourmet Dinner was a upset winner of the Delta Jackpot on dirt, while Comma To The Top was a gate-to-wire winner of the Generous. Comma has risen the class ladder all the way from the bottom (the maiden claiming ranks) to the top (Grade 1), with a 4 race win streak that includes a win over this track a part of the rise. Unfortunately, the ride ends here for him, as he will finally hit his class ceiling. As the favorite, he will take plenty of money, but with J P's Gusto and others harassing him on the lead, Comma looks very vulnerable. Gourmet Dinner had a quick blowout over the surface yesterday, and should be fine over the surface. Never finishing worst than second in his five lifetime races, he must use in the exotics. He will be coming from mid-pack under his regular jockey, who follows along from their home base of Calder (in Florida).

An interesting horse who will be a price is #8 Riveting Reason, after setting the pace (then backing up quickly) in the BC Juvenile, he came back to SoCal and broke his maiden. Before the Juvenile, he had finished third in the Norfolk and the Del Mar Futurity. He steps back up into stakes company, and should be sitting just behind the first flight of horses. He is a must use in the middle and lower rungs of the exotics. The only time he did not was the BC Juvenile. He gets the riding services of Alonzo Quinonez, who rides the other 2yo star of the barn, Premier Pegasus.

The main threat and the second choice on both the morning line and of this blog is #9 Industry Leader. This lightly raced son of Cherokee Run made his stakes debut in only his second start last time out, finishing second behind Premier Pegasus in the Hollywood Prevue. He has worked swiftly in the interim, and should have no problem with the distance. His trainer is very high on him, and he looks to set a good trip sitting in the second or third tier of runners.

The selection is #3 Rustler Hustler. This son of Ecton Park ships in from the east coast for his trainer Richard Dutrow. He has been working swiftly and steadily for his first start in 7 weeks. He won a race at this distance (but on the grass) last time out at Belmont. He manages to get top New York jockey Ramon Dominguez to take a break from his vacation to ride the horse. He should not have a problem with the synthetic, as he broke his maiden on the Tapeta at Presque Isle Downs. The only concern is that his trainer does not do will over the synthetic. (The maiden win was under a different trainer.) Rustler will be rolling from the back of the pack, and hopefully will show some 'hustle' and mow them all down.

Rustler Hustler to win; Gourmet Dinner, Industry Leader & Riveting Reason underneath.

Will we see a horse give a breakout performance and thrust himself into the forefront of the Derby discussion? Will an east coast invader take the last grade 1 route race of the year? Can anyone stop Comma To the Top from making another 'possessive' statement of a victory? This field of two year olds have only upside to the them. But will that upside be enough? We will know by Saturday night. Good luck everybody!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

I Just Can't

(Added: I wrote this in one take, no editing, only spellcheck, so if it rambles or makes no sense in parts, i apologize in advance)

I just can't say goodbye to Zenyatta. I don't want her to leave. She has meant so much to me over her three years of racing. From her debut on Thanksgiving Day, where there were, at best, 4k in the crowd until he finale at Churchill, where more than 40x as much watched her across the nation. She kept me going during the tough times of 2008 and through the good times the last two years. She got me to do things I never would have done in the past. She dragged me onto blogs and Twitter and Facebook to see if there were others like me who loved her. She helped me become a more complete person.

I just can't say goodbye to Zenyatta. Seeing her live so many times makes one "spoiled by greatness". Her debut made a miserable Thanksgiving Day a little better. Her El Encino win made the antibiotics from the illness that I was dealing with a little more tolerable. Her BC Classic win made life a little better. Her Classic loss made being a fan of hers a little better, as she silenced many of doubters about her class and her ability. Her announced retirement made it a little easier with her losing, knowing she went out with a big effort.

I just can't say goodbye to Zenyatta. Literally. While the many of my horse racing "family" and horse fans in SoCal has gone to visit her on the backside at Hollywood Park the last month, I couldn't bring myself to do it. I can't let go, nor can I face her. My heart deals with the strain of knowing i "picked a favorite amongst my children" when I picked Blame over Zenyatta in the Classic. While I know that i made the correct decision, it still hurts me. I go today to Hollywood Park with a heavy heart, knowing she is leaving us in California one final time, never to return. I know when I look her in the eye, it will be of man who doubted her. I will see her leave and have to move on. But...

I just can't say goodbye to Zenyatta.

(Adding this video of one of my favorite groups Boyz II Men's song "Yesterday", as I think it sums up how I feel)

Friday, November 26, 2010

No Need to Cry Over The Matriarch

Today begins the Hollywood Park Turf Festival, stretching three days and featuring 5 graded stakes, including the last two Grade 1 turf races this year. (For my thoughts on the rest of the turf festival, check them out in the Thorofan's Handicapper Corner) Today is the Grade 1 Matriarch for filles and mares going a flat mile on the grass. This race has fabulous fillies in its list of past winners such as Royal Heroine, Flawlessly and most recently Ventura. There is a compact field of 7, and appears to boil down to a two-horse race.

The favorite and the foreign invader:
#6 Special Duty looks to continue the dominance of Juddmonte in this race. They have been the owners of six out of the last thirteen winners, and look to have another strong entrant in this Hennessy filly. She ships in from Europe, and retains the services of top local jockey Rafael Bejarano. She brings in top form, as she finished only four and 1/4 lengths behind the world-class mare Goldikova last time out. She has not crossed the wire first this year, however, as both of her wins came via the stewards, as the winners were both disqualified from the top spot. She will be rolling late with her late kick from the back of the pack, but can she get to the pick?

The pick and the Texas invader:
#7 Wasted Tears is a hard-knocking speedball who goes to the lead and tells you to come and catch them. I have a fondness for this type of horse, especially when it is a mare on the grass. Last time out, she was uncharacteristically rated off the lead early on in the Grade 1 First Lady. She then went too swift to gain the lead going into the turn and stopped late, being defeated . Taken back to her home base, she has thrown several good works since and will problem revert to her front-running ways. Rajiv Maragh maintains the mount, and looks to atone for his mistake last time out. The field may catch her, but can they pass this game mare? This blog say "No."

This blog will have plenty of pictures for his wrap-up of the race (and the rest of the weekend races), as he is headed out to the track to finally see "Ten Top T-bred" Wasted Tears in person. Good luck this weekend everybody!

P.S. Time constraints prevented me from writing about the Grade 1 Clark Handicap, but I would be remiss if I didn't mention the pick #2 Apart aka Blame 2.0 aka Blame's successor. This son of Flatter has the same owner, trainer and breeder connections as Blame, and looks to carry the colors proudly in the Clark.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

This blog wants to wish a Happy Thanksgiving to all of its readers, and may the holiday treat you well.

A few things I am thankful for this holiday:

I am thankful for Kevin Stafford, for without him, I would not have been dragged onto a more active role on social media. This time last year I just started to interact in this two venues, and they have made my life a richer, fuller experience. He also the reason I have this blog, as I finally got sick and tired of wasting all my good material in his comments. :-)

I am thankful for the members of #TeamBlame, the twitter faction that supported with me the 2010 BC Classic winner the entire year, with t-shirts to match. Steve, Brian, J.J, Dylan, Glenn, Ed, Connie, George, Kevin and Derek, thank you all for making being a fan of him a greater experience.

I am thankful for Zenyatta and Blame, who made this year an experience I will never forget. Form the travels to the crowd the emotional rollercoaster, it was worth every single minute of it.

I am thankful for those horses who were on the triple crown trail who I have cursed with my following of them coming back to the races off a long absence. William's Kitten is steadily working for a return, while Flat Out has made a recovery from his shoulder crack suffered either in or just after the 2009 Arkansas Derby. He makes his comeback from that race in today's 10th @ Churchill Downs. May he have a long and healthy career. (Hope he runs well, but he is in tough against Wise Dan in there, so will just watch and wait.)

Most of all, I am thankful for all of you for reading this blog. without your feedback and support it wouldn't be worth it. Happy Thanksgiving!

(P.S. A little bonus pick for the day. In Hollywood Park's 5th race, I like #10 U Turn Me Crazy to win from just off the pace.)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Blame Countdown!

"Welcome back to the Blame countdown on Klay-born Radio, KLBN. If you're just joining us, here's a recap of the songs 5 through 2:

#5 "You Can Put The Blame on Me" (from the Akon song of the same name)

Im sorry that it took so long to see
They were dead wrong trying to beat me.
Im sorry for the hand that she was dealt
For the embarrassment that she felt.
Im sorry for Club Zen getting shut down
I hope they manage better next time around.
Why doesnt anybody wanna take blame
For rising back out disgracing my name.
Im just a horse trying to entertain
Because I love my fans Ill take that blame.

#4 No Blame (to the song "No Rain" by Blind Melon)

All I can say is that my life is pretty plain
I like watchin' the puddles gather rain
And all I can do is just win a race or two
and speak my point of view
But it's not sane, It's not sane
And I don't understand why I sleep all day
And they start to complain that there's no Blame
All I can say is that my life is pretty plain
ya don't like my fan's point of view
ya think their insane
Its not's not sane.

#3 Do You Really Want To Blame Me (to the song "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me" by Culture Club)

Do you really want to Blame me
Do you really want to make them cry
Precious kisses, words that burn me
Haters never ask you why
In my heart the fire's burning
Win the big race, be a star
Precious people always tell me
That's a step, a step too far.
Do you really want to Blame me
Do you really want to make them cry
Do you really want to Blame me
Just because I won and made them cry

#2 Forget About Blame (to the song "Forgot About Dre" by Dr. Dre f/Eminem)

Nowadays everybody wanna talk like they got something to say
But nothin' comes out when they move they lips
Just a bunch of gibberish
And them fans act like they forgot about Blame.

There's your recap. Here is your brand new #1, drumroll please (drumroll) to the theme of Fame, (originally sung by Irene Cara) Blame!:

Will you look at me
And tell me what you see.
You ain't seen the best of me yet
Give me time, I'll make you forget the rest.
I've got more in me, and I will set it free
I can catch the moon in my hand
Don't you know who I am?
Remember my name



I'm gonna live forever
I'm gonna learn how to fly (High)
I feel it coming together
People will see me and cry (Blame)
I'm gonna win me the photo
Light up the sky like a flame (Blame)
I'm gonna live forever
And you'll remember my name

Remember, Remember, Remember, Remember, Remember, Remember, Remember, Remember

Will you hold my reins
Cause you can control my gains
I can shoot right straight to the top
Show me the stick and take all I got to give
Baby I'll be tough
Too much is not enough
You can ride me until I break
Ooh, I got what it takes.


I'm gonna live forever
I'm gonna learn how to fly (High)
I feel it coming together
People will see me and die (Blame)
I'm gonna win me the photo
Light up the sky like a flame (Blame)
I'm gonna live forever
And you'll remember my name

Remember, Remember, Remember, Remember, Remember, Remember, Remember, Remember

(repeat chorus while fading out)

"There's your #1 right there folks. A great tribute to a horse who no one will ever forget his name. Talk to you next week folks!"

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I was SO right. Yet why do i feel SO wrong?

Let's get the bragging out of the way. I was right about the Breeders' Cup Classic. WAY right. Blame won, like I have been preaching from the mountaintops the entire year. He beat Zenyatta in a thrilling photo, just as I predicted on the previous blog post. Lookin at Lucky finished off the board (just barely), as I have repeatedly said on Twitter. I should be on the top of the world, celebrating my predictions.

Yet I am not.

I know I watched from Hollywood Park what may end being the most emotional, gut-wrenching, heart-stopping race of my life. The only two horses who have ever impelled and inspired me to go out of my comfort zone of "the greater Los Angeles area" to see them run (whether it be in San Diego or New York). The two horses who a large piece of my heart, who I would become nothing more than a shell of a man if something happened to them. Those two horses ended facing one another, and I chose sides, somehow being able to keep my emotions in check for one brief moment of clarity. Yet I hoped if I had to be wrong, I was wrong just a little. But I was right. I should be throwing money around like it was going out of style.

Yet I am not.

Why? That is for another blog. But the part that I will mention is that rumors of Blame's demise via a quarter crack was the final straw that broke my already tenuous hold on sane reasoning, caused from the combination of life, Breeders' Cup and school all asking for my time. All of that lead me not to bet, but to just watch as a spectator. That I did, wearing my Blame shirt, my Blue TVG hat and my gray shorts, in fall contrast to the sea of pink and green signifying Zenyatta's fans. I knew I was one of the few who was going against the queen. After Blame successfully usurp the BC Classic throne away from the queen, I gave a couple of fist pumps, and a couple of gloating tweets about my prognostication. But that was all I could muster before an onrush of mixed emotion enveloped me. I should be happy that I was able to at least put into words my happiness over being right, in that moment.

Yet I am not.

I had to wait several days to write this post, to even try to understand and control my thoughts into something workable for the printed page. My mind was a swirl of happiness and sadness and excitement and depression, confusing me in a such a way that it took this long to fall back into at least some sense of normalcy. This post is more or less an odd of way saying thank you to both Blame and Zenyatta, as they mean so much to me that they made me do, see, feel things that I probably would not have done. I should be happy in how much they have, indirectly as it may seems, helped me turn into a better person.

Yet I am not.

Zenyatta was the first horse in a long time that I fell hard for on more than a paper level. From witnessing her maiden win live, to leaving an ER to see her El Encino win, to helping me understand the game is more than the gambling aspect (via her 2009 BC Classic win). That win made me realize that this game was more than about the big score, the life-changing payoff, the fact that ever time you were cashing a ticket it means you defeat all of those other people, it was about the horses. Her win was a "game-changer", so to speak. So to cheer more for someone else than her hurt me more than a little. But the one who I cheered for was more than a passing fancy. So I should be happy that she ran a huge race, yet did not win.
Yet I am not.

Blame was the horse who piqued my interest in a defeat of all things. His Super Derby second caught my eye, when I all I was watching the race for was to see how the track was playing after William's Kitten snapped my attention to the TV with his win earlier on the card. I love horses who don't give in, even if they are beat. His win in the Fayette validated my initial thought on him, and the Clark victory sealed in the love. The Blame Facebook page followed in the spring, when the time drew near for his first race of the season. I tried not once, not twice, but three times to see him in person, but each time the plans fell through. Finally this blog decided that enough is enough, and made the fateful trip to Belmont. Seeing Blame in person was worth the wait, even if this blog did not get a picture of him. But the trip ended being up so much more than just the horse, it was about the people, the experiences, the change. He made me move myself to a better place personally, socially, spiritually. They both did. So I should be happy that they both ran a huge race, and ran one-two, well clear of the others.
Yet I am not.

My heart, my mind, my entire being is filled with happiness over being right in the Classic, that the fact that ran their best and that they both came back safe from the race. My heart, my mind, my entire being is also filled with sadness over their retirement, their being no chance of a rematch and that they both will never be on a track again. The joy and pain of having the two horses that occupy a place in a person's heart going against each other in combat, with only one of them being able to declare victory on the day, is a feeling that many will never experience. But I would rather suffered through all of the agony and the ecstasy of the ride than never have experienced any of it. The change in my life brought upon these two is unquantifiable. Many would be ashamed by this post, and how i have claimed ownership over two things that I have nothing more than an emotional attachment to them.
Yet I am not.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Breeders' Cup Classic

"Gates closed and they're all set for the five million Breeders' Cup Classic..... and away they go, Pleasant Prince off a bit slow.

First Dude goes right to the lead, Haynesfield broke well and moving towards the front, Quality Road taking a good position down on the rail. The Japanese invader Espoir City on the outside of that along with Etched. Behind that is Musket Man, two lengths further back to Blame. Two more lengths back to Lookin at Lucky caught three-wide, with Fly Down and Paddy O'Prado inside of him. Then Pleasant Prince and finally Zenyatta is her customary last, 7 lengths back early as the past the Churchill Downs grandstand first time around...

(opening quarter 23:67)

First Dude out on the lead, not winging, but not crawling either. Espoir City tugging his way to be second. Quality Road sitting a length and half back down at the rail, with Etched and Haynesfield on his outside. Two lengths back to Musket Man and another one to Blame. Three more to the champion two year-old Lookin at Lucky and Fly Down, Paddy O'Prado behind him. Three more to Pleasant Prince and last is still Zenyatta, Zenyatta is still dead last early...

(half-mile 47:88)

First Dude is joined by Espoir City on the front end, with Quality Road getting a perfect trip down the backside in third, a length and a half back. Etched and Haynesfield are outside of him, with Musket Man four lengths back. Blame and Garrett Gomez is moving up on the inside getting closer to that leading group. The three-year old trio of Fly Down, Paddy O'Prado and Lookin at Lucky sitting 7 lengths back, Pleasant Prince and Zenyatta last, biding her time to make her run at destiny...

(3/4 in 1:11:77)

As they reach the end of the backstretch, First Dude is still on the lead, Espoir City is struggling to keep up in second. Quality Road waiting for room down at the rail. Haynesfield, Etched, Musket Man all poised to strike. Blame just behind them, with Lookin at Lucky launching a five-wide move, Fly Down, Paddy and Zenyatta is starting to uncoil her patented charge. Mike Smith looks for a path...

(1 Mile in 1:35:67)

They reach the top of the lead and suddenly the whole picture changes. Quality Road is in front, Etched and Musket Man on his outside, with Zenyatta swinging well wide. Blame looking for room at the rail and he found it! He burst to the lead, Zenyatta is rolling home on the outside, and she has dead aim on Blame! She is gaining on him, but Blame is fighting on. Zenyatta is 1/2 length back with 70 yards to go. Blame is all heart on the rail, Zenyatta is a head, a neck, she's gaining on him, they hit the wire...

and Blame has pulled the plug on the pursuit for perfection. He holds off Zenyatta by a nose. Etched, Fly Down and Musket Man three across the track for third, then back to Quality Road, Paddy O'Prado, Haynesfield, Lookin at Lucky at Lucky who didn't fire today, Espoir City, First Dude and Pleasant Prince was last."

Breeders' Cup Saturday

The day is here. Day 2 of the Breeders' Cup brings the big show to town, with Zenyatta attempting to end her career a perfect 20-for-20. Goldikova attempts to become the first horse ever to win the same race three times, attempting the three-peat in the Mile. With a flurry of competitive fields, this day will have plenty of chances for a great payoff. Let's dive right in with the first Breeders' Cup race, the Juvenile Turf.

Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf - Grade 2 - 1 Mile - (turf)
The first BC race of the day brings together a evenly match field of thirteen. This blog does not have a great feel for this race at all. The very lukewarm selection is #9 Soldat. Last time out, he finished second as the favorite in the Grade 3 Pilgrim Stakes over a yielding Belmont turf course. Two good works in the interim and the feeling that he will improve with the return to a complete two turns. Some large prices on the morning line that catch the eye are #11 Rough Sailing and #12 Humble and Hungry. Rough Sailing returns to the turf after a failed attempt routing on the Poly in the Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland. The cut-back and the return ti turf interests this blog, along with the two steady works. With a pedigree that is very strong for the grass, he may sneak into the exotics. Humble and Hungry is interesting because his pedigree says two turns are not a problem and the presence of jockey Olivier Peslier, the rider of Goldikova, is a bit of surprise, since H&H is making his first start against winners. The best of the Euros appears to be #5 Master of Hounds. He has experience around a turn, and should be fine at the distance.

Master of Hounds
Rough Sailing / Humble and Hungry (trifecta bombs)

Breeders' Cup Sprint - Grade 1 - 6 Furlongs
This field of 12 comes in without a clear favorite, as the early and dominant leader Majesticperfection was lost to injury in September. This group has a wide variety of running styles.for everyone to have their favorite style represented. The 3-1 morning line favorite is #2 Girolamo. This son of A.P. Indy, who won the Grade 1 Vosburgh last out, is trying to give his sire a win at the shortest dirt race (6 furlongs) after winning the longest race, the Marathon (1m & 3/4) yesterday. He comes in third off the layoff and has worked well in the interim, but he will bet tossed from the win spot because he violates the "Three Furlong Rule", a cardinal sin for this blog. The choice is #7 Kinsale King. This son of Yankee Victor runs on the dirt for the first time, but did have a workout over it at the BIG Fresno Fair a few weeks back. Earlier this year, he won the Palos Verdes Handicap at Santa Anita, which he parlayed into a win in the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen. He went abroad to the UK for two prestigious grass races. Off since July, he comes in fresh and may float higher than his 8-1 morning line. #1 Big Drama is an ultra-game horse has not run since finishing second to a contender in the BC Dirt Mile Here Comes Ben. The cutback to 6 furlongs can only do good and the steady work pattern adds to the appeal. #5 Smiling Tiger has earned this blog's respect by being one of the few three year olds in the country to beat older, doing so twice in his last three starts. He also is making his first start on dirt, and popped a bullet work here last week. This blog is taking a stand against #3 Wise Dan, who seems to have picked up some "steam" this week, but is making only his 5th career start.

Kinsale King
Big Drama
Smiling Tiger /Riley Tucker

Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint - Grade 2 - 5 furlongs - (turf)
This race was quite literally impossible to figure out for this blog. The horse who we had hoped to pin our hopes on, #1 Chamberlain Bridge, popped an abscess on his foot last week and missed his last work. That does not bode well for him in this race, and he no longer the pick. Instead of offering analysis, this blog will just point out a longshot in #13 Tropic Storm. The reason we point out this horse is that the cutback in distance and the abundance of speed in the field lead this blog to believe that if he can get over into a decent spot down the backstretch, he may be able to hang on for a share. The "if you put a gun to my head" selection is #9 Rose Catherine, because of her undefeated record at the distance.

Live Horses: (not enough conviction to make them selections)
Rose Catherine, Tropic Storm, Silver Timber, Unzip Me, Bridgetown

Breeders' Cup Juvenile - Grade 1 - 1m & 1/16th
This race has the two big names from the east coast who have gathered all the headlines, #2 Boys at Tosconova and #7 Uncle Mo. These two have both put in breathtaking efforts in the most recent starts and deserve to be the first two choices in the betting. Both stretch out to two turns for the first time today, but neither should have a problem with the distance. Uncle Mo is a pure speedball, and seeing how he reacts to pace pressure is the main question with him. 'Boys' must overcome a two month layoff, but has actually passed a horse, a rare thing in this field. These two will hopefully cause the price on #10 Jaycito to climb higher than the 8-1 morning line. This son of Victory Gallop has already won going two turns (in the Norfolk), but must overcome the 1 for 18 record on the board for horses coming out of the Norfolk running in the BC Juvenile when it is held at Churchill Downs. These three are the only ones this blog feels can win.

Uncle Mo
Boys at Tosconova

Breeders' Cup Mile - Grade 1 - One Mile - (turf)
The first of the two horses attempting to win their third Breeders' Cup race is the deserving favorite and the wonderful mare #10 Goldikova. She comes in fine fashion, winning the Grade 1 Prix de la Foret against males at Longchamp. She is ultra game and there is no rela chink in her armor, Unless something unforeseen happens, she looks like a very strong candidate to make history. This blog;s crazy longshot is #8 Get Stormy. If for some reason the mare does not fire, Get Stormy looks to get a perfect trip behind speedball #9 Sidney's Candy. Whether he is good enough is completely other story, but at a healthy number, he is worth a shot.

Paco Boy (who has been chasing Goldi all summer)
Get Stormy

Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile - Grade 1 - one mile
This race took a hit when probable post time favorite #8 Crown of Thorns went down with an injury on Friday. Favoritism will either fall to #5 Here Comes Ben or #6 Gayego. This blog is going to take a chance with the horse just to their outside, #7 Thiskyhasnolimit. "This" has been running effectively at two turns, but has always stuck this blog as a one-turn miler. The only other time h did this, he won the Grade 3 Iroquois on this very track. He has worked nicely in the interim and will probably go off at or near the 10-1 morning line. The morning line favorite #10 Morning Line is a horrible favorite, with only a single Grade 2 to his name. He appears to be a two-turn horse who cannot pass, and will be up against it.

Here Comes Ben

Breeders' Cup Turf - Grade 1 - 1m & 1/2 (turf)

The big question surround this relatively compact field of 8 is whether or not 2010 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner #6 Workforce will run or not. To this blog, it does not matter, as the selection either way is #7 Behkabad. He has run will over a surface with less give in it than hat the connections of Workforce are looking for and was well-bet in the Arc, losing by only 4 lengths with a spot of trouble. The #1 Champ Pegasus is interesting because he is the only on in the field who no one knows how truly good he is, since this is first trip outside of California. He should be on or near the lead, and this may give him a fighting chance with the lack of early speed signed on.

Champ Pegasus

That leaves the Classic. But if you are a follower of this blog, you know exactly who is the selection, and who the one to fear is. (Hint, it's a she). But forhow I explain it, you will have to find out in my next post, which will be put up later this BC Saturday Morning. Good luck everybody!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Breeders' Cup Friday Thoughts

Breeders’ Cup Friday is the first day of the World Championships. Today is mostly devoted for the ladies, with the five championship races for the females, but the Cup races will start off with the Marathon. There are other races on the undercard, but this blog will mention only the one precedent the Breeders’ Cup races, the Grade 3 Ack Ack Handicap, then delve into the BC races. This blog has done well on the undercard, and cannot resist pointing out a horse that could be a future star in the making. We shall start with that race.

(Don’t forget to enter the “Off The Board” contest run by this blog. So much fun for chucking a low-odds horse it shouldn’t be legal!)

Ack Ack Handicap – Grade 3 – 1m & 1/16th
This race has some upcoming three year-olds and a couple of wily veterans. The defending champion returns in this race in #4 Demarcation, although the distance was only a mile last year. He ran alright last time out, and picks up jockey Calvin Borel. He appears to have a tough task ahead of him versus three improving three-year olds. The morning line favorite, and the selection for this blog, is #1 Apart. This son of Flatter has been training in the morning with the best horse in the Al Stall Jr. barn, Blame, who is the 2nd choice in the Breeders’ Cup Classic tomorrow. He has been holding his own in the morning and is ready for his first race against older. #2 Colizeo won last out over #6 Jackson Bend, who was returning off the layoff. Colizeo likes this track, having won 2 of 3 races at Churchill Downs. He drew off to a nice win on that day, and should be on the lead. Jackson Bend should stalk him. Both have worked well in the interim. The other two in the field are the other two elder statesmen in the race, #2 Stream Cat and #3 Silver Edition. Stream Cat comes in off a year layoff and this has all the makings of a prep race for him. Silver Edition stretches out for the first time in a while, and looks to be overmatched.

Selections: Apart / Colizeo / Jackson Bend (maybe a straight trifecta to maximize value?)

Now we hit the Breeders’ Cup races. First up is the Marathon, going a mile and three-quarters on the main track.

Breeders’ Cup Marathon – Grade 3 – 1m & ¾
The morning line favorite is the Grade 1 winning #7 Awesome Gem. This gelded son of Awesome Again always comes with the same late kick no matter that distance, and should not be affected by the increase in distance. The one they will have to catch is #6 Gabriel’s Hill. He appears to be lone speed, and will take them as far as he can go. His pedigree states that he should be fine at the distance, and several close finishes at shorter distances. The buzz horse has been #2 Prince Will I Am, who is the co-2nd choice on the morning line at 4-1. He rallies from well back in the pack, and his pedigree just begs for as much distance as you can give it. The blog’s choice is a 15-1 longshot named #11 Precision Break. This son of Silver Deputy has been racing in Europe over the turf and synthetic in races no shorter than a mile and a half recently, and has plenty of stamina built in. He races on dirt for the first time on Friday, but has an American dirt pedigree on both sides. He may not have the class as some of the field, but he is worth a shot at 15-1.

Precision Break (win/place bet)
Prince Will I Am
Gabriel’s Hill

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf – Grade 2 – 1m (turf)

This field of 14 is filled with all types of horses, and this group proved to be quite a handful to come up with a selection. I ended up on #13 Together. She is a European invader who last time out finished third in a field of 20, so the large field will not be a factor. That race was a straightaway race, and her previous races shows that she may prefer racing around a turn. While she goes two turns for the first time, she should not have a problem with the distance. The favorite is #7 Winter Memories. This daughter of international known turf sire El Prado won the Grade 3 Miss Grillo Stakes last out at Belmont in fine fashion, with a burst she blew by the field and caught the eye of this blogger. She figures to be a short price favorite to remain undefeated, and one has to worry whether she will get encounter traffic problems. #11 More Than Real comes in off a 2nd place finish in the Grade 3 Natalma at Woodbine, behind the #10 New Normal, but that race was around one turn. In her maiden win, More Than Real won a two-turn race at Saratoga rather nicely. She could spice up the exotics at 10-1. While I like Together, this race looks like a good spot to spread in the multi-race wagers if you think the favorites are vulnerable.

Winter Memories
More Than Real

Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint – Grade 1 – 7 furlongs
The first Grade 1 on the day is the Filly & Mare Sprint. This race has a full field of 14, and anyone of about 9 horses has a chance at winning this race. There are many speed types, a good amount of stalkers, and a few closers mixed in. The 7 furlongs distance is a specialist distance, and some may struggle to get that final furlong. The morning line favorite is #13 Rightly So, who hopes to continue her lifetime streak of never finishing off the board. She won the Grade 1 Ballerina last time out at Saratoga. She is a true speedball, and look to take the field wire to wire. However, her last win was over a track that was very speed-favoring, and will certainly find company on the front end. The defending champion is #4 Informed Decision. She won this race over a synthetic surface, in which is 10-12 lifetime. With the race on dirt, where she has run well, but not always her best, she looks to be vulnerable at short odds. The selection is #1 My Jen. This rapidly improving 3 year-old filly took the Grade 3 Gallant Bloom over #2 Sara Louise and #6 Moontune Missy. She relaxed a bit further off the pace than normal, and just got up. She should appreciate the extra 1/16th of a mile. At 15-1 morning line, I’m going to take chance at blowing up the toteboard. Sara Louise is another who I would use in the pick 3s & 4s, as that race was her first since November of 2009. #8 Switch and #9 Sweet August Moon ship in from Southern California, and look to maybe have a chance to add some value in the trifecta.

My Jen (WP bet)
Sara Louise
Rightly So

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies – Grade 1 – 1m & 1/16th
Another tough race on this Friday card, as an evenly matched group of 12 is entered. #1 Indian Gracey has been scratched due to heat in her hoof. The favorite is #8 A Z Warrior. Daughter of freshman sire Bernardini won her first race on dirt in style when capturing the Grade 1 Frizette at Belmont. The extra 1/16th of a mile could prove to be her undoing, but she has at least shown the ability to rate. The selection is #9 Delightful Mary. This daughter of Limehouse, who has some of his greatest victories over this very Churchill Downs track, will be running on the dirt for the first time. Losing as the favorite last time out to a loose on the lead leader, she projects to be sitting about 4th or 5th going down the backstretch. Hopefully she will kick on in the stretch. Another trying dirt for the first time is #12 Tell a Kelly. This daughter of Tapit made her two-turn debut last out when finishing second to Rigoletta in the Oak Leaf. She went straight to Churchill after the race and has put together three steady drills over the surface. With Calvin Borel as her jockey, you cannot discount her at all. Also of interest is the foreign invader #2 Theyskens’ Theory, who is also sired by Bernardini, and has a classic American distance dirt pedigree. A definite spread race. Anyone with a strong opinion in here should be handsomely rewarded if correct.

Delightful Mary
Tell a Kelly
Theyskens’ Theory

Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf – Grade 1 – 1m & 3/8 – (turf)
This field is filled with international flair, as 5 nations have a chance at claiming the title. The favorite and defending champion is #7 Midday. This daughter of Oasis Dream has won her last three races this year, and looks like a strong candidate to defend her crown. She has already won at a distance further than this, and may be the shortest favorite the entire weekend. #2 Red Desire ran an okay 3rd last out in the Grade 1 Flower Bowl last out, and looks to be the one with the best chance of upsetting the favorite. She has better acclimated to the states, and should not have a problem with the distance. The best local hope is either #2 Éclair De Lune (SoCal via Germany) or #6 Harmonious.

Red Desire
Harmonious / Éclair De Lune (box the top 2 in an exacta. Play those over the other two in a trifecta)

Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic – Grade 1 – 1m & 1/8
For a more detail analysis, visit the Thorofan Handicapper’s Corner, where I handicapped this race. But any of you who read this blog know that I have said since April that #1 Life At Ten would win this race, and here win in the Beldame certified she will be tough to beat. I also think that all the travel Blind Luck this year catches up to her, and she finishes off the board.

Life At Ten
Malibu Prayer/Unrivaled Belle/Acoma/Acting Happy (key Life at Ten on top; put these four underneath in the exacta and trifecta).

There is the rundown for Friday’s Breeders’ Cup races. Tomorrow brings thought on Saturday’s card. Until then, good capping and great betting!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Breeders' Cup Post Position & Morning Line Thoughts

This post will cover some of my thoughts about the post positions and morning line for the BC, plus a tentative schedule of my thoughts on the BC races. Let's talk about the latter first. Tentatively, this blog will share its thoughts on the first day of races on tomorrow, with thoughts on Saturday (except the Classic) on Thursday morning. On Thursday night (9 PM ET), this blog's thoughts on the Classic will be revealed.

Now onto thoughts on today's post position draws:

  • Lookin at Lucky still can't catch a break, as he ended up drawing the outside post in the Classic. He will break from the #12 hole, and will hopefully not get parked wide on both turns.
  • Others who shall be at low odds who drew poorly are Harve De Grace in the Ladies' Classic, Pluck in the Juvenile Turf, Tell A Kelly in the Juvenile Fillies and Together in the Juvenile Fillies Turf.
  • Some attractive prices on the morning line are Red Desire at 8-1 in the Filly & Mare Turf, Jaycito at 8-1 in the Juvenile and the entire field in the Filly and Mare Sprint except the favorites of Rightly So and Informed Decision.
  • Morning Line going in the Dirt Mile and not the Classic caught many off guard, but that was nowhere near the shock of when he was installed as the favorite in the race. The odds will prove to be dramatically different come post time for the race, with Crown of Thorns, Vineyard Haven and Here Comes Ben via for favoritism

This blog invites you to enter the "Off The Board" contest, where one can take a stand against low odds horses in a unique format that proves to be challenging yet fun. Don't think Lucky will hit the board? Put it on there!

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...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Putting The Horse Before The Cart? Or Without A Cart?

Earlier this month, Oak Tree released their promotional schedule for the Oak Tree at Hollywood Park meet. There are 5 giveaways at the meet, with the first three involving Zenyatta in some ways. The last two are on consecutive days on the closing weekend of the meet. A giveaway for every weekend save one. But is that too many giveaways, especially Zenyatta giveaways, for only 5 week meet?

Let us first give a rundown on what the giveaways are and when they will be handed out. Opening weekend brings “the queen’s” last competitive appearance in Southern California in the Grade 1 Lady’s Secret (soon to be re-rechristened the Zenyatta Stakes), and a Zenyatta Hat will be given away. Also on this day, 3 other Grade 1 stakes will be run. Next weekend brings 2 more Grade 1 stakes but no giveaway. Weekend #3 brings with it a Zenyatta picture, and the Grade 2 Oak Tree Derby. The 4th weekend comes with the signature stein giveaway (moved from its normal opening week position), featuring Z. The last weekend will have the only two non-Z giveaways. Cal Cup Day on Saturday will bring with a shirt, and the next day will close out the meet with a sweatshirt to be handed out.

The above sounds like a normal promotional schedule, no? Not for Oak Tree. Oak Tree in the past gave away 3 items a meet. The stein on opening day/opening weekend, another giveaway in the middle, and the ubiquitous California Cup giveaway. (From here forward, “California Cup” will be shortened to Cal Cup) That was the schedule for years. It allowed for some time to occur between each giveaway. With five giveaways this season, especially on back-to-back days on closing weekend, this blog wonders if it may not have the desired effect of boosting attendance and revenue. Why have giveaways on consecutive days, especially on closing weekend, after having 3 other giveaways in the same month? It could be that the expected drop in revenue that much with the move from Santa Anita to Hollywood Park is so much that Oak Tree must resort to a “chuck-and-pray” strategy of giving away as much free stuff as possible to lure customers to make the driver over from Arcadia.

Let this blog make it undeniably clear: It has nothing against honoring Zenyatta with multiple giveaways in a meet. This blog expected that this year’s stein would honor her and her win in the 2009 Breeders Cup Classic. This blog also expected that the first giveaway would also be Zenyatta-themed. This blog did not expect a third Zenyatta giveaway, but it is nothing but another honor to the great mare. But this blog has a problem with the giveaways. The problem this blog has is the order and number of the giveaways. Why does the order and number matter?

The order and number of the giveaways may lead to a phenomenon this blog will call “Promotional Burnout”. With so many giveaways offered this meet, this blog wonders how effective the last two giveaways will be on attendance. With the first three giveaways being Z-themed, it is a guarantee that people will come out to collect them. The first giveaway will have the highest attendance, since that is the day of the Lady’s Secret, which is the next target for Zenyatta. The next two giveaway days, which are also Z-themed, could receive a “bounce-back” effect from the first day.

The “bounce-back” effect is an issue, as Oak Tree is pandering to the existing audience. They know that her fans will come (or at least hope that they will come) out for three successive Zenyatta giveaways. Yet doing this strategy could come at a major cost. If the crowds show up for the next two giveaways. will they be able to afford to come back for Cal Cup day? If it is a struggle to get people out for those two days, what chance does Cal Cup day have? Will any of the new people (which is part of the reason these giveaways occur, so that new fans can be enticed to visit) come out for a non-Zenyatta giveaway day, given the choice of a free Zenyatta-related item or a non-Zenyatta related item?

The worry that this blog has is that Cal Cup day will be the most affected by the promotional schedule. By the time Cal Cup comes around, anyone who is using the promotion as part of the reason to come out may have used up enough of their “entertainment budget”, for lack of a better term, that they will not be able to come out that day. Furthermore, even if they have the financial ability to come, it is doubtful that they the people in Los Angeles will have the drive to go to the track for the third straight weekend. The fact that instead of two full weeks worth of advertising for Cal Cup, it will get barely a week. As of now, unless one decided to dig around Oak Tree’s Facebook page, one would not know about the giveaway on Cal Cup day. The racing site for Oak Tree is still not up, and nowhere on Hollywood Park’s website does it list a giveaway. Yet all three of the Zenyatta giveaways are seen on the home page. The missed opportunity to promote Cal Cup prominently before Zenyatta runs, when interest is at its highest is a shame, landing another blow to the already struggling California-bred program.

This edition of the Cal Cup is especially important with the closing of one of the major farms out here in California, River Edge Farm. The number of horses bred out here has plummeted the last few years. This closing hints at the tough environment that exist out here in California. The Cal Cup (and its sister Gold Rush festival at Hollywood Park in spring) are very important to the Cal-bred industry. These days show off the stars of the program, and how it is possible for the little guy to get a piece of it. These days are a chance to get the fans to come out to see and wager on the home-bred team. These days allow the fans to see a horse who might be around for the next few years, running multiple times locally. These type of horses that can be seen a few times a year without having to travel the country. This type of marketing can build loyalty that can bring fans back to the game.

Where else could you have seen Lava Man, in the infancy of his stakes career, in a thrilling loss to Cozy Guy in the 2004 Cal Cup Classic? Where else you could have seen 2002 Hollywood Gold Cup winner Sky Jack win his first stake in the 2000 Cal Cup Classic, then come back from knee surgery to win that Gold Cup? Where could you have seen the game gelding Yougottawanna give a glimpse of what would be a long, fruitful multi-year career in his upset of Officer in the 2001 Cal Cup Juvenile? Where else could you have seen Cavonnier, who was the shortest nose away from giving trainer Bob Baffert his first Kentucky Derby win, cap off his two year-old season with a win the 1995 Cal Cup Juvenile? Where else could you have found all of these Southern California stars of tomorrow at the same place but at the Cal Cup?

Zenyatta is the first horse in a very long time that that deserves to have multiple giveaways in the same meet. Once she retires though, how many of those fans will come back? Especially without someone new, that they might see for years to come? That is why it bothers me that Cal Cup gets the short end of the stick when it comes to the promotional schedule this year. The horse shortage out here will continue to be exacerbated unless horses are bred out here in California. Without enough horses being bred, the California Cup will disappear. Without the Cal Cup, another big day for the California breeder/owner/trainer is gone. It will become a downward spiral of doom. As much as love and want to celebrate Z, i just can't stand to see the Cal Cup, the breeding industry and horse racing overall in California die a painful death.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Thoughts on the Last 2 Weeks

As promised yesterday, this post is about my thoughts about the events that took place during the time i could not post. I will be starting from the day of the Travers through the Hopeful at Saratoga, then switch to the west coast for thoughts on the events from the Pacific Classic to the Del Mar Futurity.

- The stakes on the Travers undercard were underwhelming. All 3 were won by gate-to-wire winners over a speed favoring track. I'm not sure what to make of the winners of the Victory Ride and the Ballerina, but Discreetly Mine winning the King's Bishop was a bit of a disappointment. Not only did my pick D'funnybone did nothing, but DM's win inspired nothing. I question whether he will have an impact come the first Saturday in November at Churchill in either the Sprint or the Dirt Mile.

- The Travers itself was a great race to watch as Afleet Express just held off Fly Down at the wire by the slimmest of noses. Both the winner and the runner-up showed they were very game. Super Saver further cemented himself as another in the string of Derby winning one-hit wonders. Not sure how this group of three year-olds will fair against older, as most of the races have been very middling.

- As this blog thought, Rachel Alexandra did not win the Personal Ensign. However, much to the blog's dismay, Life At Ten was not the one to defeat her. Rather, it was longshot outsider Persistently. Wearing the same colors as the horse who's name graces the stake, she ground her way to victory. It appears that Rachel just cannot run a mile and quarter effectively, especially with what she has showed this year. She should be pointed to the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic, where she would be the favorite and have a much better chance of winning. But she will still have to deal with Life at Ten, who's run was very disappointing. Maybe there is some truth to the theory that Malibu Moon's at Saratoga struggle at a mile and a quarter. Let us see what Pletcher has in store for her. This blog still has faith in Life at Ten that she will prevail on November 5th.

- It was a bad time for the Asmussen barn, as not only did Rachel lose the Personal Ensign, but he lost both Kantharos and Majesticperfection to injury. Kantharos, a promising two-year-old who facilely won the Grade 2 Saratoga Special in last race, suffered a career-ending injury in training for the Grade 1 Hopeful. Majesticperfection suffered a career-ending injury on Sunday while continuing preparations for the Grade 1 Vosburgh S. at Belmont. Both leave gaping holes in their respectful divisions, and will be sorely missed. This blog thought Majesticperfection was a very strong contender for the BC Sprint. His absence leaves this blog scrambling for a selection in that race. Maybe Atta Boy Roy, the winner of the CD Sprint on Derby Day.

- With Kantharos out, heavy favorite Boys of Toscanova disposed of three overclassed rivals with ease in the Hopeful. While he won with ease, one has to question how far he will go, being a son of Officer, who failed in numerous attempts at two-turns. We shall see, but as of now, he is the de facto leader of the division.

Now off to the West Coast!

- The Pacific Classic anchored a three stake day at Del Mar. In the Del Mar Mile, Lava Man's 1/2 bro Enriched finally broke through in a stake with his gutty win. In the Pat O'Brien, Baffert's recent acquistion El Brujo made his Del Mar debut a winning one by blitzing his rivals. This charge will hopefully be pointed to the BC Dirt Mile, as he appears to like an elongated one-turn race. In the Pacific Classic, Richard's Kid defended his title under a patented Mike Smith ride from the back of the pack. He became only the third horse to defend his title, along with Tinner's Way and Skimming. His win continues the pass-the-buck nature of the older male division, where the group beats up on one another. Furthermore, while Richard's Kid has excelled over the synthetic, one wonders what the switch to dirt will bring. This blog thinks that it will not be good.

- Tell A Kelly capitalize on a hot pace set by favorite Wickedly Perfect in the Grade 1 Darley Del Mar Debutante to score the victory. Wickedly Perfect gamely held on for second. Both look to have a bright future going forward, and may have a rematch in Grade 1 Oak Leaf at Oak Tree at Hollywood Park. Both should have no problem with the added distance. Maybe this will be the beginning of another rivalry, a la Blind Luck and Evening Jewel. In the Del Mar Futurity, J P’s Gusto continue his reign over the the Southern California two year-olds with a sparkling victory. He blew apart the field after setting a solid pace, drawing off to win by 4 3/4 lengths. Jaycito closed out of the clouds to get the place spot. This blog feels that Jaycito is the one to watch going forward, as J P may have hit his limit when it comes to distance. J P’s pedigree does not really lend himself to go more than a mile.

- The last topic that shall receive comment is the situation that occurred in the Del Mar Derby. Twirling Candy won in a swift time, but not without controversy. Coming into the backstretch, he shied away from something in the infield and bolted outward several paths, carrying Summer Movie with him. Summer Movie eventually finished a well-beaten last. Yet no disqualification occurred. This blog went back-and-forth over whether Twirling Candy should have been disqualified. Both sides of the argument had merit. But this blog felt that a disqualification should have taken place. The interference inflicted upon Summer Movie not only cost him several lengths, but also how the horse would run. The jockey on Summer Movie had to ask his horse for significantly more energy to regain his previous position. The fact that the horse finished last should not obscure the fact the amount of ground lost due to the interference, plus the forced expenditure of energy to regain the position lost, is basis enough to warrant the disqualification.

Leaving the much-talked about decision aside, the field Twirling Candy beat was weak. The southern California 3 year-old turf division is one of the worst out here. It is the only division which has not had a representative hit the board in a stake outside of California. The weakness of the division means that while his win was nice, we did not learn much about him. With plans for him to head back to the main track for the Goodwood Stakes, then the dirt in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, it is fair to question how well he will fair against older. Even with the parity-filled but suspect group of older horses in SoCal, Twirling Candy would appear to be up against it once he faces older.

Why do the connections chose to move TC to the main track and point to the Breeders’ Cup Classic with him instead of his stablemate Sidney’s Candy is something to ponder. Is it that they believe that TC is that good? Or is it an indictment on whether SC cannot get the mile and a quarter? This blog feels that is more the latter. Twirling Candy’s pedigree will not have a problem with the distance, unlike SC, who showed in the Derby that he may have an issue with it..The pedigree for TC also leans considerably more to grass. This blog feels that he will not move up on the switch to dirt, something he would need to do in order to compete with the likes of Blame, Zenyatta or Quality Road.

So there is my “ten cents” on the past two weeks. As always, please comment below if you agree or disagree with anything i have said. Now that review of the past is complete, what was learned that can be used in the future? We shall see.