Saturday, June 25, 2011

Steppin' Up and Stretchin' Out

Will she or won’t she? The Iowa Oaks will be run tonight at Prairie Meadows as part of their 2011 Iowa Festival of Racing. The Grade 3 drew a short field of six 3 year old fillies and they will be going 1 & 1/16 over conventional dirt.

Already an “Oaks” winner at Fair Grounds, Daisy Devine looks to be the class of the field, though she threw in a bit of a clunker on Kentucky Oaks Day, when stepping up into a Grade 1. She’s been freshened and is working well.

Hearts on Fire is a consistent sort, never off the board in five starts, and has a race over the track.

Little Miss Holly showed a little more finish, with blinkers added, last out.

But take a look at Versailles Song. The lightly raced filly took some time to begin her campaign, but has won 2 out of 3. By Unbridled’s Song, out of the multiple Grade 1 winning mare Versailles Treaty, (Danzig) she has the pedigree to be any kind.

She will be stretching out for the first time and taking that big jump up in class. Both her winning starts have come from the one hole, once on dirt and once on poly -she seems have some tactical speed and would it surprise anyone if she can get the distance?

Is she good enough to beat these? Don’t know, but the possibility is there. And an off track could move her up. I guess we’ll know tonight about 10:15 when they are coming to the 8th pole.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Gratitude, Twitter and Some Saturday Racing

What was Mother Nature thinking? This is Churchill Downs she was messing with. Good thing the Racing Gods and the venerable ghosts of the home of the Twin Spires stepped in and took some action.  The F 1 tornado, with 105 mph winds, touched down at the mile chute at Churchill Downs, jumped around and damaged several barns. Miraculously, despite the structural devastation, no human or horse was injured.

Call it a blessing, call it a miracle, call it luck, whichever your perspective, the horse industry and its fans are all extremely thankful for the outcome. It could have been so much worse.

I have been reluctant to commit to Twitter, but I must say, it was fascinating to see the Wednesday night Tweets unfold as the weather played havoc in Louisville.

It is exactly what Twitter is good for, instant news updates from those on , or close to,  the scene. I just may have to become a tweeticipant instead of just a tweetwatcher.

The Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows on Saturday has a celebrity owner, if you are a country music fan. Sherriff Cogburn is owned by none other than Toby Keith’s Dream Walkin’ Farm and this colt can flat out run. It will be his 3rd start off a layoff, and he must step up. He will be getting a big class test in the Derby with  Astrology being the horse to beat.

But I will be rooting for The Big Dog Daddy. Celebrity owners, who find success in our game, bring a good vibe and a lot of good energy into racing.

Another man with a hat that could find himself in the Winner’s Circle Saturday is Larry Jones. Joyful Victory is my choice in the Grade 1 Mother Goose at Belmont .The daughter of Tapit is 2 for 3 at the distance and gets a rider change to Ramon Dominguez. She is a quality filly, and if she wins this, she will add her name to an illustrious group of fillies to have won this Grade 1.

The New York Stakes, for fillies and mares on the turf goes as the 6th and is at a mile and 1/4.  Maybe a tough task for her, but I like La Cloche. She does her best running at Belmont and she just might appreciate the added distance. She is coming off a win, and two very sharp works. Perhaps not as good as her half sister Winter Memories, but I am willing to give her another chance, at this distance, and at a price.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Horses and Life, It's All the Same to Me

These are the words of cowboy Buck Brannaman. Good ol’ cowboy wisdom. Ok, so Buck may not help any of us with choosing singles for a pick six carryover. But as one of the original “horse whisperers” he certainly can enlighten us on “reading “and understanding our equine friends, and how, in turn, this knowledge can richly impact our lives.

A winner at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, the documentary “Buck” will soon be coming to a theater near you. More on the film can be found at

“Buck possesses near magical abilities as he dramatically transforms horses-and people- with his understanding, compassion and respect. The animal - human relationship becomes a metaphor for facing the daily challenges of life.”

Just like the words of wisdom from Winston Churchill “There is something about the outside of a horse that’s good for the inside of a man” - we can all use a dose of that.

Tonight’s NTRA Night School IS about Pick Six Strategies, however. I haven’t participated yet, but maybe it’s worth stopping by.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Mc Peek Exacta ?

The Regret Stakes at Churchill today is a Grade 2 for 3 year old fillies, going a mile and 1/8 on the soft turf.

It could be the coming out party for the Ken Mc Peek-trained Bizzy Caroline. Breaking her maiden 2 races back at Keeneland, she was in front under a stranglehold on a very slow pace, and when asked in the lane, she cruised to an easy 2 length victory over a yielding course. Her next race against winners was not without  trouble. Breaking a half step slow from the one hole, she saved ground and was reserved in hand, early on. At the 3/8ths pole as she was starting her run, she was carried out very wide, yet still maintained her drive, and won by 7.  Manny Cruz who is riding very well, was in the irons that day, and rides her back today.

 This looks like the right time for Bizzy Caroline to step up into Stakes Company, and her ML odds (6-1) are tough to ignore.

The other McPeek filly in here, is the much more accomplished, Kathmanblu, who is a stakes winner of over a half million dollars. She seems to be able to run on any kind of turf.

 Dale Roman’s Tapit filly, Diva Ash is another one with talent. Last seen wiring the field in the Edgewood, she is also a horse to watch.

But the two Mc Peek fillies look tough to get by, and Bizzy Caroline looks to be any kind.

She looks to be a Saturday Afternoon horse.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Mud Lark

Congratulations to Ruler On Ice, the winner of the 143 Belmont Stakes, and all his connections. Yes, I am shocked, and no matter what, even with the addition of blinkers and his win on a sloppy track, I never considered this horse. Though I like the added challenge of handicapping for an “off” track, I just didn’t think this horse was good enough.

But one thing I do know, the racetrack made the difference.  I think as handicappers, we sometimes forget that horses can improve MANY, MANY lengths on a sloppy track.  

Some horses relish it and move WAY UP. Some horses hate it, and don’t run a step. Some horses ignore it and it doesn’t seem to affect them at all.

But it certainly can change the outcome of a race. And I think that was the case with Ruler On Ice. His form showed that he liked the sloppy/sealed track at Delaware, when he broke his maiden in a five horse field. His breeding is not a distance pedigree, but certainly a wet track pedigree, with the Mr. Prospector influence on top and speedball Saratoga Six, on the bottom.

This was the key I guess, and still I admit, I didn’t give him serious consideration.  When he shows up again, against the same class of horse on a dry track, I'm not sure what I will do. 

I think that the track moved Stay Thirsty up, too. I always thought that this little horse had some class if he could stay with Uncle Mo this winter in all his workouts. His connections were praying for rain and they got it. He caught his racetrack.

Shackelford ran a good race, and just ran out of gas after a mile and a quarter. Still a gallant effort as far as I’m concerned.

Brilliant Speed ran a good one too. You still have to wonder if he should go back to synthetic, grass or try dirt again.

Poor Animal Kingdom.  Talk about bad racing luck. But then you can look at it this way. It could have been so much worse.  

So we move on, with still lots of questions concerning the three year old crop. Makes the second half of the year more interesting.

Other thoughts from the day-

Trappe Shot was truly impressive yesterday winning easily in 1:08 and 4.

Congratulations to My Baby Baby winning the Early Times Mint Julep at Churchill, IN FOAL TO CURLIN.

And who’s better than Havre de Grace? The Obeah at Delaware was a ROMP for her.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Belmont Undercard / Paying Heed to My Virtual Stable

Virtual stable early-entry notifications came pouring into my email Wednesday for the Belmont Day card. I received 5 emails and they were for the races 7 through 11, so I best pay attention.

And while I may add a few here and there in my pick 3’s or pick 4’s, here they are.

The True North is a Gr. 2 sprint for 3 and up and Trappe Shot gets the nod. I have always liked this horse and connections have him in the right spot now. His prep for this was just right and he should move forward from that. He has to beat the ex-claimer Calibrochoa, who got scary good at Aqueduct and is coming off a layoff, and D’Funnybone, who on a good day, can be tough. 

The Woody Stevens is a Gr. 2 at 7/8ths of a mile for 3 year olds. My horse in here is Bold Warrior. I know, I know, he just broke his maiden. But I had him as a horse to watch as is he well bred and looks to be a talented colt. He is trained by a Master and there are no world beaters in here. I will include Arch Traveler, who is 2 for 3 at the distance, is happier back sprinting, and has a win at Belmont. So for me, I will use the “Jerkins”two.

The 9th is the Grade 1 What a Game, a one turn mile on the turf. I will play Much Rejoicing who is out of the great mare Soaring Softly. Yes, this is a big step up for her, but turf is her game and I’m willing to take a chance. You know the price will be right. She’s a single for me.

The 10th is the Manhattan. The horse in my virtual stable for this one is Al Kahli. This horse can run a big one now and then. I will also use Bold Hawk. I do love Gio Ponti but he may not be at his best after coming back from Dubai. But can I really leave him out???

In the Belmont, it’s all about Shackleford for me. (see previous post)  I have no qualms about his pedigree, I know he’s game, he’s appears to be still moving forward and he will be up front as far as he can go.

A few thoughts on the other Belmont Stakes entries:

I love MMM, but I am a bit worried about just how much he has done in a short period of time for a horse that is not even 3 yet. There will be a time when he hits a wall.

Animal Kingdom can win it all, but in my mind, he is a true turf horse, and his connections have already admitted he will be returning to the turf after the Belmont.

I will use Brilliant Speed in my exotics. He ran a good race in the Derby, comes in fresh and is by Dynaformer who can get equally good, turf and dirt horses.

Master of Hounds? Good horse, but too much travelling…it’s asking a lot…

Santiva, Stay Thirsty, Nehru, outside chances all…

 And the rest? I would be shocked.

Friday, June 10, 2011

My Belmont Pick - Made In America

Even if a horse has the breeding to go a mile and a half, it doesn’t mean they will want to do it with enthusiasm and in racehorse time. THAT takes HEART.  And that is why the Belmont Stakes is called the Test of Champions.

We should see a great race Saturday in the Belmont. The first seven finishers from the Kentucky Derby plus five new shooters will get into the gate to run once around the mile and a half oval nicknamed Big Sandy.

A lot has been made of the stamina in the bottom half of the pedigree of the Derby winner Animal Kingdom. German breeding has been inferior for years when compared to other European and North American bloodlines. Perhaps this is changing a bit, but they have a long way to go. They are predominately turf horses that run long distances, but they are, on average, a cut below the top Grade and Group 1 stakes horses, worldwide. A good horse can come from anywhere, but with a few exceptions, it’s been my experience that, German horses win German races.

Germany has the world’s finest Olympic quality dressage and jumping horses. The various Wamblood breeds; Hanoverian, Westphalean, Rhinelander, Trakhener, Holstiener, Oldenburger, all from, and named after, the different regions of Germany, have dominated the world stage for centuries, but their Thoroughbreds???? Not!

So proceed with caution when evaluating the bloodlines and stamina of the German horse. I am not saying that Animal Kingdom can’t gallop past the field and dominate the Belmont, but keep in mind, that our North American bloodlines, though more speed favoring than other countries, can still produce many a great horse that will “run all day”. ON THE DIRT.

Those who look at Preakness winner Shackleford’s pedigree as speed only, should look again. Not only is there stamina rich blood on his dam’s side through Unbridled, but his sire Forestry, though a sprinter, is out of a  Broodmare of the Year and Grade 1 winner, Shared Interest, who herself is by Pleasant Colony. This is true North American stamina breeding at its finest.

If Shackleford has the heart, he certainly has enough staying power embedded in his family tree, to get him to the finish line, in front, in the mile and a half test of champions. He has speed, which already gives him a tactical advantage, he is coming off a gutsy win and he is thriving at Belmont.

Good luck in your wagering this weekend and safe trips to all our equine friends.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

June 9th - A Great Day in Belmont History

June 9, 1973 “moving like a tremendous machine!”

June 9, 1984 “and Swale le-e-e-eads to the wire!”

June 9, 2007 “it’s going to be a filly in the Belmont!”

Looking back at the history of the Belmont Stakes,  June 9th , was a pretty special day. We had a Triple Crown winner in ’73 winning by 31 lengths, the third of Woody Steven’s 5 consecutive Belmont winners in '84 ( though that ended very sadly 8 days later) and a filly beating colts in '07 for only the third time in history, in a thrilling stretch drive.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Shackleford Works and His Sister WINS!!!!

Shackleford worked 5/8ths at Belmont yesterday for his last big work before next Saturday's mile and a half Test of Champions.He was clocked in 1:00.37.
It was a relaxed, energetic move with a nice gallop out. He looks strong, healthy and happy. According to Romans, if he comes out of the work fine, he is a "go".
Here is the link , courtesy of NYRA video.

And a BIG THANK YOU!!!  to the Preakness winner's big (1/2) sister, Afleeting Lady ( Afleet Alex x Oatsee) who broke her maiden in the 8th race yesterday at Churchill paying $41.80!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Sister Act

With a quick look at the Churchill card, two fillies stand out, not only because of what they have or haven’t done, but because of who they are related to.

Churchill’s Dogwood Stakes (Gr.3) looks like the coming out party in stakes competition for Might, the full sister to Blame. She has been brought along slowly and methodically and is a head shy of being undefeated from 3 starts. She has a win at Churchill, and though she is the same body type as her famous brother, mentally she is a lot hotter than he was. Still, she looks to have a bright future.

In the 8th, a maiden race going a mile, is Afleeting Lady. By Afleet Alex, out of Oatsee, this is Preakness winner Shackleford’s older half sister.  Though she hinted at ability last year at Gulfstream, it hasn’t been pretty since then. In her next start at Belmont, in May, something went very wrong, and she was vanned off. After almost a year off, she returned and went to the turf at Gulfstream and experienced a troubled trip. After a short break, blinkers were added, and still nothing. Then a try on the poly at Keeneland, where she showed a little life, but faded.

Since her April race at Keeneland , she has had a trainer change to Romans and has worked 3 times at Churchill, with the last being a sharp 5/8ths, the  best of 19. Is this a sign of a turn-around? Does she deserve another chance? A look at her in the paddock might give us some clues.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Will Streaker Step Up?

The Vagrancy Handicap (G2) will be run tomorrow at Big Sandy at  6 and ½ furlongs. Hilda’s Passion is the only graded stakes winner in the race and because of that, she will be toting highweight of 123. There are so many things to like about this filly. She is undefeated at the distance, loves to get out and set the pace, has earned almost a half million bucks, and is ridden by the red-hot Javier Castellano. If she can get loose on the lead, this filly could be long gone.

But you better take a look at Streaker. Could this be another in a long line of classy fillies from the Phipps breeding dynasty? A half to the brilliant, but ill fated, Pine island, Streaker could be ready to take it to the big stage. Winner of 3 out of 4 last year, her comeback race this year was a good one. Bobbling slightly at the start, she saved ground on the rail, then altered course, and kicked in nicely down the lane. Still a little green yet she won off with authority. She has come out of the race with two nice works and draws the outside post. She is in with 115, and though she loses Castellano, that could be a choice he may regret.

Matlacha Pass, the dam of Streaker, is out of Our Country Place, who is out of Maplejinsky. She is the dam of Sky Beauty who won the Vagrancy TWICE and was Distaff Champion of 1994. Sky Beauty will be inducted in the Hall of Fame this year. It is a bottom line full of both high class speed and stamina influences.

Streaker could be the next one to bring rewards to this dynamic female family. Shug is having his usual outstanding meet, with 33% in the money, and he is, and always has been, a master with the fillies. Saturday could be Streaker’s day to successfully step up into the filly and mare Stakes division.