Monday, August 30, 2010

Rachel's Diary

Dear Diary,

Well, the Personal Ensign did not go as Daddy Jess and Uncle Stevie had planned. I really did try to win another race for them, and all my fans, but, honestly, that extra furlong, did me in. I would have been ok, if it wasn’t for Shug’s filly, but hey, I guess the Racing Gods had it all planned out. Persistently blew right by me and it was almost like the spirit of Personal Ensign just took over - it was all over in the last few jumps. I mean really, when you think of it, a Phipps horse, in the Personal Ensign? You don’t see the karma in that? That just goes together like hay, oats and water. Some things are just meant to be, I guess. Calvin rode me the way he always rides me, ( he spanked me a bit more than I like), but I know Calvin has to do his job. It’s OK Calvin, we’re a good team you and I - you “ get “ me , and I like the way you don’t fool with my mouth so much. Just watch the spanking, OK, cuz, really dude, I know what to do, and I will do it if I can.

You know, I remember last year, at just about this time. It was the Woodward, right here at Saratoga. What a race that was! I beat OLDER boys! That was so cool! I think that was my most shining moment. Well, I had several great moments from last year. But, I also remember that I gave my all, in the Woodward. I gave everything I had and then some. I didn’t have a drop of try left in me that day. But I got the job done, didn’t I ? And hey, that race got me the biggest prize of them all in 2009, I was Horse of the Year. So looking back, I’m glad I threw it down that day, yes, it was so worth it!

But this year has been a whole ‘nother story. While everyone around me has been taking great care of me, what more do they want me to do? I have been saying all along, this is a different year. I’m a different horse. Yes, I am bigger and stronger, but I just really can’t seem to find that super drive I had last year. So what’s the big deal? I did it ALL last year, didn’t I?

I mean, you can’t be perfect all the time…well... let's not go there… but you know what I’m talking about…but I am doing my very best. What more can I do?

I’m hoping to have an easy week, Dear Diary, ‘cuz I was tired after Sunday’s race. But I’m Rachel and I’m honest, and no matter what the plan is, I will still try my best. I’m not sure I can ever be better than last year, I don’t think I can ever top that, and  honestly, I’m not really sure why I have to. 

Friday, August 27, 2010

Jumping Into the All Stakes Pick 4 Pool

My late Pick 4 play at Saratoga could change by post time tomorrow, depending on  any scratches,  any changes in track conditions, any track bias and at least a look at the horses before the 9th race. But I will plan on a fast track, so here goes. I usually like to make a small 2x2x2x2 $1 Pick 4 for a total of $16. I also like to pick a logical horse and then maybe something a little crazy, just ‘cuz.

In the 9th, I like both Kates. The distance of the Mother Goose was asking alot for Katy Now, so she will get a pass for that. Turning back to a sprint, she has tactical speed, and has drawn nicely, outside. Kid Kate is the other in here. She is two for two at the track. I think she will appreciate the shortening up as well. She will have to work out a trip, as she will probably be back early. She finished nearly 4 lengths in front of Persistently at Belmont, who is in the Personal Ensign on Sunday

In the Ballerina, I like Devil By Design. The Mott trainee has become very consistent since removing her blinkers, plus, she loves this distance. She had an excuse in the Bed’o Roses, and my guess is, Kent wrapped up on her. Do I dare leave out Champion, Informed Decision? She seems to prefer synthetics, she has never won at Saratoga, but I don’t think I can leave her out.

In the King’s Bishop, who is the fastest, D’Funnybone or Discreetly Mine? I don’t know, but I will go with DM as he has a better draw. And should a speed dual develop, I will throw in the ambitiously placed Bank Merger to maybe pick up the pieces.. Stranger things have happened.

And now the Travers… what to do?  I am not jumping ship on First Dude. He is my pick. He is a horse with speed , who can go a route of ground. He is game, and the blinkers might be just the thing to give him the extra focus he needs. The distance might be too far for some of the others, but I don’t think it’s an issue for him. I am confused about Trappe Shot. He has a world of talent, but does he want to run this far? But the Tapit’s are doing everything right, and there is certainly enough stamina in his pedigree.

So that’s my little jump into the Late All-Stakes Pick 4 pool. Hope everyone has a winning day!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Are You Ready?

Get ready, horseracing fans, because there will be a plethora of Saturday Afternoon horses on display at Saratoga this weekend. This is one of those unique times when a race fan can actually use the word ”plethora”. By definition, we are talking “overabundance, extreme excess”. Yes, Travers Day is here, but in addition, there are 2 more Grade I’s, the Ballerina and the King’s Bishop, and 2 Grade II’s, the Victory Ride and the Ballston Spa. In between, there are some juicy turf and maiden races, all full fields and so many betting opportunities, including a million dollar All Stakes Pick 4. And we have to somehow, somewhere, remember to watch the Pacific Classic! If that’s not enough, the hysteria of the next day and watching the 2009 HOY run in the Personal Ensign, well I may just need a few days off after that. I will be happy to be on-track for the two day extravaganza, but sometimes it’s hard to concentrate in all the insanity. To add to the chaos, I will be trying to compete in 3 ( yes 3!) on-line contests, on Saturday as well - Equibase, NHC/DRF and GradeOneRacing . I say trying, because I will have to REMEMBER to get all my picks in on time! It’s days like this that horse racing fans live for. Some fans just simply enjoy the pageantry, others enjoy witnessing very good horses winning historic races, and of course many more are excited about the prospects of winning big. I love it all. So to all the fans that will participate in any way this weekend, get ready for a very exciting two days of good horses and great racing… good luck and enjoy!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Short Money

It's nice to be reminded every now and then that you can still buy a Gr.I horse for short money. Thanks to Blind Luck and Evening Jewel, we can still dream of owning "the Big Horse" someday. Blind Luck, a daughter of Pollard's Vision, out of Lucky One, by Best of Luck, is a  Kentucky-bred, July yearling purchase costing $11,000. Yesterday's gutsy win in the Gr. I  Alabama, closing into soft fractions, boosted her earnings to roughly 1.8 million, with her 9th win, from 13 starts.This win has confirmed that Blind Luck is at the absolute top of the 3 year old filly division this year.
On the West Coast, and not far behind her, is Evening Jewel, by Northern Afleet, out of Jewel of the Night, by Giant's Causeway. She is a Cal-bred and an $8000 September yearling purchase. Winning the Gr. I Del Mar Oaks, and under a masterful ride by Victor Espinoza, she boosted her earnings to close to $900,000, giving her owners a 6th win from 12 starts. The two fillies have met twice before, with  Evening Jewel losing two nose decisions to Blind Luck. For handicappers, after watching Blind Luck take the Alabama, it was the classic and proverbial "class play", to then take Evening Jewel to win the DelMar Oaks. Yes, short money, but two very honest, game fillies to keep things exciting for the rest of the season. 

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Tap In To Some Tapit...

What a nice few days it's been for the sire,Tapit. Three maiden winners at Saratoga, between Thursday and Friday. On Thursday, Running Tap, trained by George Weaver, broke his maiden in a nice looking win, for his first time out. The next day, the filly,Tap for Luck, trained by Todd Pletcher, did the very same thing, with a wide move, to score. Both were on dirt. A little later in the card, the filly, Long Gone, broke her maiden on turf.  To add to that, and just 7 days ago, another maiden win by Tell A Kelly, this time at Del Mar on the all-weather. So they are winning everywhere, running on anything.
Tapit is the sire of  Concord Point, the wire to wire victor of the West Virginia Derby on August 7th, who had previously set a track record in the Iowa derby, last month. He is also the sire of the very talented Trappe Shot, second to Lookin at Lucky in the Haskell. He is scheduled to run this Saturday, in either the Traver's or the King's Bishop.
Tomorow's card at  Saratoga could change due to impending rain. However, if you are looking for anything by Tapit, you are in luck. The Gr. II Lake Placid is a mile and 1/8th on the inner. It is a short, but talented field of  3 year old fillies.  Triple Cream, ( by Tapit) is owned by Bobby Flay. She is trained by Jimmy Toner, a master with grass fillies. This filly has shown talent since switching to turf, and is stakes placed at Monmouth in the Gr.II Boiling Springs. And tomorrow she will be adding blinkers. This could be just what this filly needs to take it to the next level, which she needs to do, to win here. In the last race, also carded for the turf, but could  get rained off, there is another Tapit, Tapit Dancer. A first time starter, trained by Steve Asmussen, she was a $150,000 2 year old auction purchase, last February. In training at Monmouth, there are no turf works, but the way the Tapit's have been running, a win here wouldn't be a total surprise.
Tapit by Pulpit, out of the Unbridled mare, Tap Your Heels, stands at Gainesway Farm for $50,000.

Monday, August 16, 2010

No Tears and Lots of Candy

Wasted Tears is a "refuse to lose", gutsy mare. who proved her gameness once again, in the Gr.II ( formerly Gr.I) John C. Mabee at Del Mar yesterday.It was her first time at the distance of 1 mile & 1/8, and the first time over the Del Mar turf course. Her owner-breeder-trainer, Bart Evans, trucked her in himself, from their home base in Texas, more on him, here.
It was 76 days since her last start, and she proceeded to go wire-to-wire , as is her custom, holding off  the fast closing Lilly Fa Pootz, and the good mare Gotta Have Her. The latter, was full of run, but according to pilot Mike Smith, she refused to go down inside between the rail and the winner.Would it have mattered? According to a very happy Rajiv Maragh, " She got tested, truly tested. She'll do whatever it takes to win"
Wasted Tears is now 11 for 16, with 10 of those on turf, and earnings of $ 706,598. She had already defeated the 2008 Filly and Mare Turf queen, Forever Together in  the Jenny Wiley at Keeneland this spring. In winning the Mabee, she has an automatic entry to the Breeder's Cup F & M Turf, but according to her owner, that's not in the plan. Wasted Tears is by Najran, out of theGreinton (GB) mare, Wishes and Roses.

In Saturday's La Jolla, Sidney's Candy broke the  Jimmy Durante turf course record in his turf debut. His winning margin was 5 &1/2 lengths, and  while I'm not sure why the jock was so aggressive down the lane,  Sidney's Candy ran like a horse with his tail on fire. This is the second track record for Sidney's Candy. And if I counted right, between Saturday and Sunday there were 4 winners by the sire Candy Ride at Del Mar, - Clubhouse Ride and Sugarinthemorning, both 2 year old winners and Spaniard, an allowance winner.The stallion, who stands at Lane's End Farm in Kentucky, for $25,000, is an extremely versatile stallion, throwing horses that win going short and long and on any kind of surface.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Congratulations, a Grade II and the BEST ICE CREAM !

Congratulations to Don Pierce, Randy Romero, M.E. "Buster" Millerick, Azeri, Point Given, Best Pal & Harry Bassett!  The Hall of Fame Ceremony at the newly renovated Sales Pavilon on Friday was filled with memories, appreciation and emotion. If you've never attended one of these events, it's well worth the trip. In addition to acknowledging the New Members, it's a treat to see a good number of  existing  members, both trainers and jockeys, all in the same room. There's a lot of picture taking, hand shaking, and reminiscing going on. The Pavilion is the perfect  place to hold the event, you can see it all, from any seat, but I did hear there were some "technical difficulties", with the outside feed. But for those in attendance, as usual, it was another memorable event. For more information on the new inductees, see the National Museum of Racing website, here. Later in the day, in the Grade II National Museum of Racing  Hall of Fame Stakes, it came down to a 3 way photo finish. Interactif collared a game Krypton and survived  an on-rushing Grand Rapport who got up to be second. So two noses and a head separated the top three.
And if this wasn't enough , I found the BEST Ice cream at Johnny's Gourmet Italian Ices, at 382 Broadway.  formerly home of Saratoga News. Johnny's offers Handcrafted ice creams, vegan  ice creams and Italian  water ices and cream ices. If you are in the mood, you HAVE to try the "Bourbon Vanilla" cream ice, of course you have to like bourbon, but it is to die for!
 Hall of Famers, a good Grade 2 on the turf, bourbon and ice cream - it doesn't get much better than that.    

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Saratoga Bound / A Post Parade Of Some of My Racetrack Friends

This will be the first of three trips up the Northway. TheTurfqueen will be on her way to the Spa tomorrow! The good thing about going mid-week is the smaller crowd, and it's really a good time to connect with old friends. The emphasis is more on the camaraderie, and less on the racing, for at least part of the day.I haven't missed a meet in over 40 years. OUCH! But of course I was a baby then and since the early days I have made many, many great friends. About 20 some odd years ago, 2 picnic tables of  an assorted  and colorful group of horseowners, hard core and casual racing fans, together with a supporting cast, made friends and have stayed friends, to this day. So let me introduce this post parade of characters to you.
First and foremost, there's Ted.Ted never met a favorite he didn't like. Ted gets the prize, without a doubt, of attending the races more days throughout the year, than anyone I know. And Ted knows EVERYBODY ! If you are there with him on opening day, it's an all day procession of people that come by to say hello to Ted and his wife, Louise.
Then there's Greg. Greg has hot-walked 3 generations of Grade One Stakes winners for one of the Spa's premier trainers. We still don't know if he gets paid to do it, or IF HE PAYS them, to just be under that shedrow. Greg is the go-to-guy for pedigree questions. Can't sit out a race to save his life, and just watch how much he eats, after he's lost the double.
Then there's Julie. Julie bets anything that Nick Zito puts a saddle on. This could be the year Julie goes broke. But there are always those gray horses, Julie.
Then there's Henry ( also known as Bingo)  Henry came to racing about 20 years ago, and that's a  newbie  handicapper, to most of us. Henry likes his turf racing, and  bets Rick Violette, no matter what, so I look for Henry to be in good spirits, as Mr.Violette 's horses  are  hitting the board.
And then there's Dave. Dave has his "angles" and loves "first time turf".  Without  giving away any secrets, Dave has THE BEST SEAT in the house when watching live races. The one time I watched a race with him there, was Colonel John's Travers. I had CJ, Dave didn't. Guess I won't be getting invited  back there any time soon!
Then there's Dennis. Dennis is like the Starter. He gets everybody "in line", and organized. Quietly, he is  seriously prepared with all his stats, but if Dennis is on a "live" one, the always-in-control-quiet Dennis turns into a booten-scooten', program-slappen', yellin', screamin' degenerate like the rest of us.
Then there's Gayle. If NYRA had the money that Gayle spends on artwork at the kiosks, they wouldn't need a bailout. Never will you see her without a purchase in her hand. Just how many walls does she HAVE in her house??
Then there's Annie. That's "Pick Six Annie".  Annie is an astute handicapper and is not afraid to take "shots". There's another Pick Six coming your way soon, Annie, I  just know it!
So that's just a few of my "racetrack" friends, that I will see tomorrow. I would be remiss if I didn't mention the dads, siblings, and friends that we have shared Saratoga days with, who are no longer with us. It's a good time to remember them too.   

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Weekend News... the Good and the Bad

The Queen of American Racing, Zenyatta, proved once again, why she is one of the best- of- all- time racemares  that we have ever seen. Asked to "go" a little bit sooner than usual, she responded by another convincing win over a hard trying Rinterval in the Gr. 1 Clement Hirsch  at Del Mar. Now an incredible 18 for 18 , she is just $80,000 away from surpassing the great Quija Board for female earnings for a horse that has raced in North America. After the gallop out, Mike Smith took her down past the wire so her adoring fans could get a better look at her. This has become the custom after Zenyatta wins. This could very well be the last time she runs in California, as the connections may be looking to run her on dirt one time before the Breeder's Cup Classic. We can keep our fingers crossed that we may see her race, perhaps at Belmont before the showdown at Churchill.
Speaking of showdowns, Blame's close win in the Whitney shows just how good this horse has gotten. He continues to step forward with every win, he is game and he can run all day. Quality Road ran a great race as well, giving away 5 lbs. to Blame, but looked all out, and perhaps this shows that he is really a great miler and may not want to go much further than that.  
On a sad note, and on a day that we have probably witnessed the co-favorites for the Breeder's Cup Classic, one of the best horses in Europe broke down in a routine gallop. Harbinger fractured a cannon bone yesterday, and though surgery went well, his racing career is very much in question and according to the article here, a  decision and statement will be made in the next few days. Let's hope and pray for a speedy recovery for Harbinger. 
As I am writing this, word just broke that multiple Gr 1 winner,Tuscan Evening has died. She suffered a heart attack after her workout this morning. Do we always have to take the good with the bad, in this game?     

Friday, August 6, 2010

Quality...Coast to Coast

With important stakes on both coasts this Saturday, it's another fabulous weekend for racing fans. The Grade I Whitney, inaugurated in 1928, will this year feature  Edward Evans' homebred  Gr I winner Quality Road, never off the board in 10 starts, with earnings of 1.6 million. He is topweight at 126. If he should win this, he will give his owner a remarkable THIRD graded stakes win in 8 days. Mr. Evans is the owner of A Little Warm, who won the Jim Dandy last Saturday, and Malibu Prayer, who won the Ruffian on Sunday. His biggest rival is Blame, owned by Adele Dilshneider and Claiborne Farm. This  Claiborne-bred son of Arch, has won 6 out of his last 7. He is getting 5 lbs. form the morning line favorite. With this being the 100th anniversary of the famous farm, Blame winning the Whitney would be very special for Claiborne. Theses two horses have distinctively different running styles, with Quality Road you get tactical speed, and with Blame, you get a horse that appears to like to have something to run at. He usually will lay off the pace and take off around the 3/8ths pole with a  good long kick. But he has never faced a horse as good as Quality Road, so he will need to have his running shoes on. 
On the West Coast, though it is still not certain, the Queen of racing will run in the Gr. I Clement L. Hirsch. If Zenyatta runs and wins, she will be the only horse to have won this prestigious race 3 times. Inaugurated in 1973, the race was named in honor of a horse owner and businessman who was responsible for the creation of the Oak Tree Racing Association. The  inconsistant condition of the Del Mar racing surface (polytrack) would be the only reason the big mare would skip this race. She will also be attempting to keep her perfect win record unblemished, for an unprecedented 18 for 18.  Yes, racing fans, we are in for a treat this weekend, with quality on both coasts... safe trips and  good racing luck to all!

Monday, August 2, 2010

And The Cream Rises....

Maybe the cream was always at the top.  For those who doubted, including me,  Looking at Lucky's dominating performance in the Haskell, put last year's 2 year old Champion at the very top of the 3 year old crop without question. Noticeably bigger and more filled out, the Smart Strike colt looked all business in the post parade and he followed through, winning with absolute authority. Another very good ride by  the young Martin Garcia, Lucky didn't need racing luck on Sunday, just class and talent to beat the best of the current group of 3 year olds to the wire. And that he did.  What will be interesting now, is where he goes next. According to Bob Baffert ... "when he gets on dirt, he is a totally different horse. He was just floating"... So the dilemma is, take him back to home base ( west coast) and train and run on synthetics?... or keep him on dirt ( east coast) for the rest of the year in preparation for the Breeder's Cup on dirt? Does it always come back to the dirt vs. synth? East vs. West?
Whatever decision is made, it won't be hard to look for Lucky now, he's at the top.