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!