Friday, April 29, 2011

This Week, You Need to "Read" the Horse

This week, reading "the horse" is far more important than reading "the form".

We are entering the final week of training and preparations for the Oaks and Derby - bound horses. If you are not at Churchill Downs this week, then I can’t stress enough, the importance of finding those experienced horse people that are there and reporting on how each horse looks, acts and trains. Three year olds at this time of the year can change dramatically from week to week. You hope to see horses holding their conditioning, with a blossoming, dappled out coat; galloping and working with enthusiasm, with no signs of mental or emotional stress. While their so-called "serious" training is mostly done, you want to see horses that are sharp and are looking for more to do. They are the ones that are ready to peak. They are the ones that are getting ready for the performance of their careers.

And I put the word "serious" in quotes for a good reason, but that might be for another chat, at another time.

I enjoy the boys from TCI who I have been watching for about a year now. I keep their link on this blogsite. They have a good eye for a horse and they know what they are looking at. Though I don’t know their background, it’s odds-on that they are experienced horsemen. Mike Welsh from the DRF is pretty sharp too. HRTV’s Jeff Siegel, Jill Byrne and (now Richard Migliore as well) are three more horsepeople who’s assessments I pay attention to. And Simon Bray and – just where is Frank Lyons? - from TVG are worth listening to.Yes, you can argue that these are still "opinions" but horsepeople can read a horse and that, more than reading the form, is what's critical now.

Pay attention to what your horses are doing this week. They need to have a great week if they are expected to show up with their “A+” game next Friday and Saturday.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Saturday's Bits and Pieces

Shackleford worked this morning on the sloppy Churchill surface, 5 furlongs in 1:00.20, the best of 9. Kathmanblu and Noble’s Promise worked the same distance, in a much slower 1:02.

Oatsee’s boy appears healthy, sharp, and now we know he doesn’t mind an off track. All he needs is some luck to get into the Race.

The Rainbow Pick Six will be given away today at Gulfstream. It’s like the ultimate Easter Egg Hunt for handicappers, but if you have the time to put it, Why not? Good Luck to all.

R.I.P. Jess Jackson… like his style or not, for a short time he was a big presence in the racing world and his horses gave us many memorable performances.

Can Rattlesnake Bridge make the jump into Stakes competition? Well, he IS by Tapit.

Go TEAM!!!!! in the PAIHL today.

To Twitter, or not to Twitter… that is the question.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Turf Fillies Growing Up

The feature at Keeneland today is the Grade 3 Appalachian for 3 year old fillies going a mile on turf.

There’s a full field of 12 with 2 AE’s at this time. And what nice field it is. It’s always exciting to see promising two year olds, hopefully, get even better at 3.

Winter Memories is the headliner. Her 3 starts last year were mesmerizing and though she finished second in the Breeder’s Cup Fillies Turf, she marked herself as an exciting prospect.

According to her trainer Jimmy Toner, who knows the family well...

"The filly has done everything right since the Breeders' Cup," Toner said. "We took her down to Palm Meadows and turned her out in the round pen for about a month, gave her time to fill out, unwind, and develop. She's been on a steady program since January, and knock on wood, she's been training very good. I believe she's put on some weight and matured the way you'd like to see. The main thing Thursday is to just get her started. We've got a plan for her the rest of the year, but let's get through this and let everything else take care of itself."

Winter Memories is by El Prado out of the Silver Hawk mare Memories of Silver who won the 1996 Grade 1 QE Challenge Cup at Keeneland and who amassed lifetime earnings of over 1.4 million.
Will the filly need a race?

Smart Sting is another in here who looks to have a world of talent. Undefeated in her two lifetime starts, she is by Smart Strike out of Distaff Turf Champion, Perfect Sting. Her 2011 campaign started smartly with an allowance win at Gulfstream and she had worked steadily since. She already has had that race to shake the dust off, so now the question is …
Can she step up to Stakes Company?

Ruthenia is another undefeated filly in here that is making her first start of the year. Out of Ruthian, she is a full sister to Rutherienne, a multiple Grade 1 winner on grass with earnings of 1.3 million and some of that earned at Keeneland. She has been at Payson Park all winter, and should be fit.
Is she stakes quality and can she overcome the outside post?

Parting Words deserves a look in here. She had lots of trouble in her last race, her first against Stakes Company. With a clean trip, she could be tough. Though Garcia has opted to ride Ruthenia, could there be a better replacement than JLep?

New Normal cannot be discounted either. A Courtland Farm homebred, she is already a graded stakeswinner who loves to be on the lead. She is training up a storm and could be long gone in the lane.

Could Diva Ash surprise? This Tapit filly is progressing nicely and might have an outside chance.

Almost every horse has a little bit of a “look” in this race.This will be an exciting race to watch and wager on and a great way to start  another great weekend of stakes action from Keeneland.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The 87th Blue Grass Stakes

Who would have ever thought that the Blue Grass, always a huge and important prep for the Derby would have a field of very talented turf horses? But it is now a reality since Keeneland has changed over to a synthetic track, and we are seeing more and more “turf” horses trying to build up enough earnings to get to run for the roses.

However, when this prestigious race comes up, I think, “I wish this was still on conventional dirt.” It’s just the traditionalist in me.

So much for wishes, but it’s a good race none the less. It’s no secret that I have been a big fan of Willcox Inn since the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile Turf last year. He has had good races on turf and poly. In his “off the turf” maiden breaker at Arlington he beat Animal Kingdom the winner of the Grade 3 Spiral. He then had a very nice effort, behind probable Blue Grass favorite Santiva in the Breeder’s Futurity at Keeneland.

His first race this year came at FG on yielding turf going 7/8ths, a good effort to set him up for this as running on a yielding course is more work than running on a firm course. I love a horse that can run on anything, and despite the quote from his connections, if he were to win or finish second, I think they will be “derby dreamin’”, though he would be trying dirt for the first time. But we won’t get ahead of ourselves; he looks very well spotted for this event. Even a second would get him in, if the connections elect to go. And Anna Rose has figured out where the finish line is at Keeneland, so he looks very live.

Here is his work at Keeneland last Saturday.

The probable fave, Santiva is another who has been very versatile on every surface. Also, he doesn’t seem to care who trains him or who rides him. He just goes about his job. Though he has improving numbers, he is coming off an 8 week layoff, and I wish he didn’t have so many gaps in his short career. Though maybe that’s just because he has switched barns 3 times!

Queens’platekitten, broke his maiden on polytrack, so we know he likes it.

Will King Congie like the poly? He is 3 for 3 since switching to turf and stretching out. He likes to win, so look out if he takes to the surface. He is one of 4 in here trying synthetic for the first time.

And Newsdad is an interesting horse as he finished right behind “Queen'splate” in the Palm Beach, and I will use him in my exotics. He looks like a horse that wants to run all day, so if he polytracks, look out.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Weekend Review

Lots has already been written and said about Uncle Mo’s loss in the Wood. I can’t say I am totally surprised. He has had a light- no make that – a non- existent campaign so far this year and we are 4 weeks out from the Derby. The Wood was really his only test in 5 months -I can’t count the Timely Writer - and he failed.

Either he hasn’t progressed from 2 to 3, or something is wrong in Paradise. Todd P. did not forget how to get a horse fit, I can tell you that. This is NOT a question of fitness.

Anyhow, Toby’s Corner and runner-up Arthur’s Tale both ran improved races and seem to be headed in the direction you want to see with a 3 year old this time of year. Both have the pedigrees to want to go further.

On the West Coast, ok, I don’t know what to say about how Victor rode Midnight Interlude, the winner of the Santa Anita Derby. Yes, he won, but is it me? … Did he have to ride him SO HARD from the top of the stretch to the wire, I mean, he got the job done, but for a lightly raced colt, will that effort take its toll come Derby Day?

Comma To the Top ran huge too. Has he peaked? Can he put his body on the line again, in a month?

I liked Mr. Commons’ performance. Mike Smith asked him several questions in the race, and he had the answers. He came up a little short, but that was a sneaky good ride.

The very best horse that ran this weekend could very well have been Fox Hill Farm’s 3 year old filly, Joyful Victory. A short field in the Fantasy but Arienza, made her work a little and that’s just what she needed  to set her up for the Oaks. She won with plenty left, and her win was as solid and stylish as anything I’ve seen this year.

Mike Smith has his Oaks filly, and I have my Oaks filly too. I predict a joyful victory in the Oaks for trainer Larry Jones and owner Rick Porter. I think it’s meant to be.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Comely Stakes, Then and Now

I have been blessed to be in a lot of winner’s circles. But it’s always that much sweeter when it’s on the big stage.

A childhood friend of my dad’s had a number of nice horses on the NY circuit. Avie’s Gal was one of them. Having a horse in a stake in New York meant you were wined and dined by NYRA in the Trustee’s room and that in itself was special. And winning made the day a magical one.

The Comely was run the very day after Winning Colors won the Derby. And D.Wayne Lucas was back in NY figuring he was going to win another.

NOT. We made such a racket as the race unfolded, that he was actually looking around to see just who we were and more importantly, who was this horse that just beat him.

Great memories (and a few bucks) were made that day!

A little history about the Comely Stakes… It was inaugurated in 1945, and named after a 2 year old filly, who beat older males in the first running of the Fall Highweight Like THAT would ever happen again!

Earlier winners include Best in Show, Bed o’ Roses, Lamb Chop, What a Treat, Forward Gal, Ta Wee Ruffian, Mom’s Command and the list goes on….

The 2011 version of the Comely, on the Wood Memorial card, looks like the Todd Pletcher/ E. Paul Robsham train will continue to roll along. The NY bred, Ava K (hmmm…Ava.. Avie?) looks solid in here and I wouldn’t be surprised if Royal Sighting got a piece.

There's great racing today, from coast to coast. Good luck to all that are participating!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Keeneland's Opening Day

It’s like a Holy Day of Obligation.

I’ve been fortunate to attend the Spring meet many times, though it’s doubtful I will get there this year. Even so, I will be in attendance” in spirit”. Looks like the temps will be in the 70’s with a 40% chance of showers. Even a rainy day at Keeneland is just about better than being anywhere else today. The trees are starting to bloom. The grass is lush and green, both on the turf course and also over the miles and miles of farm land that surrounds the Lexington area. Foals are frolicking, pregnant mares are lying in the sun, stallions are busy doing what they do and race goers at the track just couldn’t be happier.

It’s really the perfect time to be in Kentucky.

The first race is a baby race at 4 and ½ furlongs with a Wesley Ward entry. He is so good at winning with babies. And if anyone knows who trainer Gennadi Dorochenko is, could you please tell me?

The fifth race is a nice turf event for fillies. Senada (Pulpit x Owsley), is a half to Arthur’s Tale who is running in the Wood on Saturday against Mo. Looks like a good race to handicap.

The 7th is a nice sprint and maybe Anna Rose can help Mott out of his slump if Delano likes the polytrack.

The Transylvania on turf for three year olds is always a good race. We will see the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile winner Pluck and Air Support who was 5th behind him. In the race is another nice War Front, Great Mills, who is going for a 4-peat, Canadian invader Stormy Rush, the consistent Powhatan County, a Clement runner and a Proctor runner.

And again, who is Gennadi Dorochenko? He has one in there too.

There’s sixteen days of quality racing starting today and ending on Friday the 29. Lots of fan friendly bets too, (50 cent minimums) including the new 50 cent pick 5.

Whether you are lucky enough to be on track or not, don’t miss racing at Keeneland.

Lunch will be a bowl of burgoo and I’ll save room for some bourbon bread pudding…..

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Dial "S" for Shackleford

Just when you think the three year old picture might start to clear, it doesn't.
The head bob results of Sunday's Florida Derby left more questions than answers about just who has any talent in this group of boys that are trying to become men.

The winner, Dialed In, certainly ran the race that most hoped he would. Lagging behind early, he circled the field to get up in the final strides to beat the very game and vastly improving Shackleford. The latter ran much too good to lose.

I have heard and read several times since the race that Shackleford ran "the race of his life".  Almost as if he didn't belong.This was his 5th lifetime start with two impressive allowance wins. Three year olds, can and hopefully will, improve race to race. But a clunker in his last, made him ignored by the betting public, going off at 63-1.

At the same time that he was showing improvement, several colts were not.

Looking back, others who appeared more worthy according to what the handicappers thought, decided Sunday wasn't their day. According to the connections of  To Honor and Serve, he ran better than his last. Well at this rate, maybe they should set their sights on the Midsummer Derby instead of the one in 4 weeks.
Though they are not using it as an excuse, the blinker experiment didn't work out for Stay Thirsty. And Soldat apparently didn't appreciate being down inside and getting dirt.

This is why young horses need racing experience. You can't replicate in the a.m., what happens during a race. Young horses need to be tested and  if they have any heart and courage, raceday is when it will materialize.

To me, Shackleford ran huge. He is a big, strong horse who looks like he may be putting it together at the right time. He made all the pace and his gallop out was strong. Look back at the replay and watch the one-two finishers gallop out and jog back next to each other.
This horse will win some big races.

Dialed In, with the emotional Nick Zito is easy to root for. As big as Dialed In ran, he looked like a tired little horse.Can he move forward from Sunday to bigger and better things?

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Hallmark Moment

Check out the nearly life-size birthday card that this blog’s P.A.I.H.L team member, Anne, aka “Pick Six Annie” and her kindergarten class made and sent to Zenyatta at Lane’s End Farm.

Zenyatta celebrated her 7th birthday last Friday, with many of her “family members” from California in attendance.

Sounds like Zenyatta liked it a lot, so much so that it was shipped back to her old Barn at Hollywood Park.

Love the cotton ball blaze and hind socks!

To read more about Zenyatta's birthday celebration, click here, and check out diary entry 219.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

What Color is Your Rainbow Pick Six ?

I woke up this morning and decided that today was the day to play the 10 cent Rainbow Pick Six at Gulfstream. With the carryover of $902,000, it will be well over a million by post time of the 7th race. I am a fan of microbets but this will be the first time I try this bet. Sure, the takeout is high and it’s crazy to think I would ever end up with the lone ticket for the whole pot. But this is what people who play horses, do. It has been hit before and someone will hit it again.

I don’t often play the Pick Six. But when I have, I try to both handicap logically and, outside the box, too. Is this considered a strategy? I don’t know, but it’s the path I will take.

While I will most likely make some last minute changes, this is what I’m thinking. I will probably construct two or three tickets, with one or two singles. It looks to be a tough card today, but aren’t they all?

Race 7

Mobilizer / Storm on The Moon

Race 8

Little Mike / Asphalt

Race 9


Race 10

Soldat / Shackleford

Race 11

Krypton / Guys Reward

Race 12

White Hill / Perfect Afleet

2x2x1x2x2x2 =32 x .10 = $3.20

For a second ticket, I will stay with Colizeo as a single and also single Stay Thirsty. I will probably add a third horse in the 11th and the 12th.

2x2x1x1x3x3=36 x.10 = $3.60

So if my math is correct, that’s a lot of fun for 6 dollars and some change.

Good luck to anyone playing today. Someone is going to win that pot of gold.

Speaking of the Pick Six, Kudos ( again) to my teammates in the P.A.I.H.L over at Pace Advantage , this time it was “pick six Annie”, who broke alertly, got a good position, circled the field and pulled away to score decisively to keep us at the top of our division.

Go Team!!!!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Clarity or More Confusion after the Florida Derby?

The best Derby prep so far this season is the Florida Derby on Sunday. Which one of these three year olds will prove that they are still on the right path to the feature race at Churchill on the first Saturday in May?

The morning line favorite, Soldat, certainly looks worthy. He has handled most everything thrown at him; fast, slop, and grass. He has the most experience both on the front end, and stalking. And he has the most seasoning, with 7 races at 4 different tracks. On top of that he is coming off 2 wins and three nice works since then. He has hit the gate and been jostled around, he has been inside and outside and still he has run well. He has been somewhat battled tested and has answered the call.

But what to make of a few of the others in here?

To Honor and Serve seemed to be a short horse when last seen in the Fountain of Youth. But am I the only one that doesn’t really buy this? Mott running a “short” horse? I’ve seen Bill Mott run horses off layoffs, going a distance of ground and they win and could go around again. Now granted, his forte has always been with older horses on turf, but something tells me that whatever is going on with To Honor and Serve has nothing to do with conditioning. Mott has said that maybe “the light turned off a little “ with this colt from 2 to 3.

So the big question is, does Garret know where the switch is?????

I’m not a big fan of blinkers going on a horse after a win. But maybe, just maybe, it is just what Stay Thirsty needs to focus and take that next step up. Funny, he didn’t need blinkers keeping his friend Mo company in their morning workouts. According to Pletcher, this is an experiment they want to try, before the big dance. No telling if he has worked with them on and just how he handled it.

It’s another big question mark.

Then there’s Dialed In. That turn of foot in the Holy Bull was explosive. Even more than that, he went inside, then outside, all the while just being hand ridden with Julien throwing a few crosses here and there. It showed he was relaxed, handy and willing. Maybe the biggest sign of the horse’s talent lay in the excitement that his usually reserved jock showed after the finish. Go watch the replay. Lots of love there. Following the Holy Bull, his race back against older, was maybe just what he needed to continue moving forward mentally.

The only other one in here that’s a little interesting to me is Shackleford. And that is because of Oatsee. Oatsee is the dam of Lady Joanne who won the Grade 1 Alabama at a mile and ¼. I know the ability to go longer is within Shackleford’s reach. The trouble is, he made a little run on the outside following To Honor and Serve in the Fountain of Youth and then really just spit out the bit. The fact that he is back in here, with the same jock, makes me wonder if something went amiss. Maybe he entrapped? Or is he just not of this caliber? I may put the proverbial line through that race and use him in exotics.

I think we will have some answers after the Florida Derby is run. It may be the beginning of a little clarity on the Road to the Roses.