Tuesday, November 29, 2011

2012 Derby - Who Do You Like?

While it’s much too early for me to be predicting the finish of the ’12 Derby, I’ll say it right now. Union Rags looks very much the part of a Classic winner.

He has the scope, he has the stride, he has the mind, he has the willingness, he has the style, he has the talent and he's got the game.

And by the deceased sire Dixie Union, out of a Gone West mare, he has ample ancestry to get the classic distance.

Yes he lost the big one on Breeder’s Cup Saturday. And Hanson was game to hold on to win. But Union Rags was wide all the way, ( perhaps to stay out of trouble? ) And when he drifted in the stretch he still managed to come on again to just miss.

This colt has had more lessons in his brief racing career, than most. He has been down inside, stopped behind horses, asked to wait, run in the mud, ducked from the whip, drifted when wide and run on 4 different tracks with 3 different riders. He has shown he has several gears, and always finishes willingly.

Will he get the Eclipse award for best 2 year colt? Maybe not. But is that such a bad thing? His connections won’t have to worry about the dreaded “Jinx.”

Hope he stays healthy and sound and takes the next steps forward into his three year old year. For me, right now, he’s the one I’m most excited about for next year’s Triple Crown action.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Quick Picks for the Big A

Certainly not leftovers, today’s racing coast to coast is top notch. I don’t know what has me more excited. The 4 stakes at Aqueduct or the full card of youngsters at Churchill?

Since most of my handicapping at Churchill will most certainly have to include paddock and post parade visual analysis, I will be making my choices  on a strictly race-to-race basis, there. 

But I have taken a look at Aqueduct and this is the direction I am heading in at the Big A.

Demoiselle, Grade 2, 2 year old fillies, 1&1/8

I like both of the A.P.Indy’s in here. The Darley filly, Captivating Lass has come out of her maiden win at Parx with 5 solid works, and needs to take a step forward. The other AP Indy, Indeniable, will be making her first start on dirt. She was asked to rate a little last time and I think the further she goes the better she will be.

 Remson, Grade 2, 2 year old colts, 1 & 1/8

Souper Speedy is a half to Brilliant Speed . He broke his maiden coming out of the one hole, and won convincingly. He is a big colt with a lot of upside and should love the added distance. Stephanoatsee, another AP Indy, is a half to Shackleford, and he is stepping up to the Big Stage. Still won impressively after a bad start in his last race.

Cigar Mile, Grade 1, 3& up

Just why is Hymn Book in here? He has had some very fine races on the turf, but Shug elects to switch surfaces. Look closely and you will see some sneaky good numbers on the main track. And I don’t generally like to bet horses back that have run in the Breeder’s Cup but To Honor and Serve( the lone 3 year old) had a very nice work on the training track 6 days ago, so maybe, just maybe, he is not over the top.

Gazelle, Grade 1, 3 year old Fillies, 1 & 1/8

 Champion Awesome Feather is undefeated at 7 for 7, and if all is right with her she will be very tough to run down. I do like the Tapit filly, Draw it, in here. Lots of seconds, I know, but I think she is figuring it out. The blinkers looked like they have helped, her numbers are improving and the extra distance will be the key. But again, a tough task.
Good Luck if you are wagering today!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thank Lutie for the Clark

Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr. or “Lutie,” was the primary person responsible for building America’s most famous racetrack, Churchill Downs. He was the grandson of the famous adventurer General William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. His mother was a Churchill , whose family  moved to Louisville in the 1700’s and owned 300 acres of land south of the city. The land was inherited through the family and donated for use to the Louisville Jockey Club.

Lutie had a vision of building a race track after returning from several trips to Europe where he was inspired by the 3 premier races in England; the Epsom Derby, the Epsom Oaks and the St. Leger. In the summer of 1874, Lutie and his cousins and other prominent Louisville sportsmen met at the Galt House and prepared papers of incorporation for plans to build the home of the Twin Spires.

Lutie became acting president and manager of the track and his cousins became the financial backers. The following May 17, 1875 was opening day, and Aristides became the first winner of the Kentucky Derby. 

Charismatic, yet controversial (Lutie didn’t seem to think twice about shooting people he disagreed with) ) he was instrumental in originating not only the Kentucky Derby, but he was responsible for implementing the original Stakes System.  He wrote many rules of racing which are still in effect today.

Sadly, he lost a fortune in the stock Market crash of 1893, and committed suicide, fearing a life of poverty. But his name lives on at Churchill through the Clark Handicap that has been running since the track began. It is one of the oldest stakes in North American racing. It is prominent because it was one of three races that Lutie envisioned, along with the Derby and the Oaks from the very beginning of his dream. It has been run a various distances, but since 1955 it has been at a 1&1/8 and since 1901 it has been for 3 year olds and up.

It’s being said that this year’s Clark could have Eclipse Award implications. You have two horses in here ( Flat Out -5th in the Classic, and Ruler On Ice – 3rd in the Classic) that  if they could jump up and win, would then be taken more seriously for their divisional honors. Not sure I agree with that, but that’s a conversation for another time.

I look for Wise Dan to run a big one. He likes the strip and his connections are saying he is better than ever. While the distance is a question mark, I think he will give a good account of himself.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanks + Giving

Opps... Here it is ...  A favorite Thanksgiving Day horse racing memory...

Thanks + Giving

To appreciate and be thankful for our blessings should be a daily occurance. But sometimes it's easy to forget the "giving back" part. As horsepeople and racing fans,it's important to remember horse racing charities.
There are any number of horse rescues and retirement farms. There are several charities that help disabled riders and their families. Contributions for further research in equine health is another way to participate.Other smaller organizations, be it backstretch childcare, or backstretch employee aid, tend to those in need.

Thanksgiving is a good time to remember those who need our help.

I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving with continued blessings for you and your families.

One of my most favorite Thanksgiving Day horseracing memories was 2007.
Take a look...

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Back from the Breeder's Cup

I’m just back from 5 days in God’s Country. Another Breeder’s Cup is in the books. And here are some of my thoughts.

Friday’s Zenyatta Party was a blast. I was able to chat with the Mosses and the Shirreffs and also had a quick word with Mike Smith. The unveiling of the life-size Zenyatta painting by Jaime Corum was very exciting and it is a superb work that really captures Zenyatta’s energy.

On a personal note, I got to meet Steve Haskin. I guess you could say for a few minutes I was “Hangin with Haskin”!! He is so very genuine and down to earth, just as you would expect if you follow his writings.

Though the racing was exciting, it wasn’t profitable for me. If it wasn’t for some old friends in the Red Smith back at Aqueduct (Boisterous, Bold Hawk, Harrods Creek and Grassy) it would have been a sad wagering weekend for me. Some seconds and thirds in the big races, and though some of my longshots ran well, I didn’t connect like I had hoped I would.

Speaking of Old Friends, I visited the Georgetown facility for their annual BBQ and silent & live auction. They had a perfect day, with great items for winning bidders to take home and enjoy.

More and more of the breeding farms are holding Open Houses at this time of the year. At Lane’s End, I was happy to see Quality Rd. He looks well and happy. And Rock Hard Ten is as handsome as ever.

I saw Paddy O’Prado at Spendthrift, and he looked great. I hadn’t been there for many, many years, when I worked there part-time in the broodmare barn, so it was a treat to go back. I was mesmerized by their cemetery. I think we tend to forget how many important horses came from Spendthrift when they were in their heyday.

Probably the biggest surprise for me was catching Gio Ponti at Castleton Lyons. This was my first visit to CL and it is absolutely gorgeous!  Gio Ponti had just arrived, and everyone was very happy to show him off. What a great horse! Not a big horse but extremely well balanced, and looks as sound as a bell of brass .He is certainly a future Hall of Famer.

The WinStar brunch was classy. Tiznow looks great and his light, weedy son Colonel John is almost as big as his daddy, now. Quite the transformation.

 Coolmore was our last stop. I always like seeing Fu Peg. For a Derby winner, I don’t think he ever got much respect. Uncle Mo was “on the grounds” but not showing yet.

 Speaking of Uncle Mo, I was not at all surprised at his gallant effort, yet dismal showing in the Classic. Almost dead in May, diagnosed in June and then brought back and asked to run the race of his life in November?  Come on, wasn’t that asking a lot?

I wished that Shackleford saw Caleb’s Posse coming. I hoped that Goldi would make it a fourth time. I rooted for Union Rags to get up. But that white blur that is Hanson held on gamely. Havre de Grace ran a good one. But Drosselmeyer ran them all down. Even the WinStar people were a bit surprised.

Got a pic of Royal Delta, right after her Ladies win. She had touted herself all week. She sold this afternoon at Fasig Tipton - This is what 8 & 1/2 million bucks looks like.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Breeder's Cup Bound

Once again, I’m excited to say, I am heading out to the Breeder’s Cup. I’ve missed a few here and there, but it’s always a fun time and sometimes even profitable!  It’s our country’s biggest stage for racing. This year we could see a filly win her 4th BC race in a row and we could see another filly win the Classic! Superstars are made and future superstars can be unveiled.

I will be attending Zenyatta’s Party on Breeder’s Cup Friday. It will be a change of pace for me, and a good one. I’m not a big fan of the 2- day venue, so this breaks it up a little. I am looking forward to the festivities, while I watch and wager on Friday’s races

Still have a lot of studying to do. Going in, I am looking for good efforts from Union Rags in the Juvi, (he has impressed me) Shackleford in the Mile (a good spot for him), Goldikova in the turf mile, (already an amazing filly) and Havre de Grace in the Classic. There are unlimited opportunities to make lots of money, especially on big race days. And the dime supers are a favorite of mine; it’s a small investment and can pay big.

I wrote a short analysis of the BC Turf for ThoroFan. Don’t forget take a look at their Handicapper’s Corner to read commentary and opinions on every race by some of the regular contributors to that sight.

This year I will be tweeting here and there and will try to add some pictures too. Just click on "follow @ a saturday horse" at the top right corner of the blog. If you are not on Twitter, you should be. You can participate, or not, but just “following” is interesting and fun. There is no better place to get up-to-the minute news and insights from the world of horseracing.

 Hope you have some success if you wager. Enjoy the Breeder’s Cup any way you can, and above all, as always, we wish all our equine friends a safe trip.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The 3 Million Dollar BC Turf

The second biggest prize on Breeder’s Cup weekend is the Grade 1 Emirates Turf. It is for 3 and up, at a mile and a half, and in the 28 renewals of this prestigious race, American based horses have won 10 times. It is no secret that the European based horses excel in this event.

I am delighted to analyze this Breeder’s Cup event for ThoroFan’s Handicapper’s Corner. I will be heading out to Churchill to attend my 21st BC. As a result, I will be writing this piece early so I will remind readers to pay attention to the condition of the course on race day, as weather and Mother Nature can change things up at the last minute. Also be aware of  any other changes or bits of information that will be revealed in the days that lead up to Saturday, for example, how the Euros shipped and what they looked like out on the track.

When handicapping a race like this the first thing I look at is “Who has won going the tough mile and a half distance?” Your majority of horses want no part of 12 furlongs. So pay attention to those that have already had success doing it.

Course condition is all important. Trainers have been talking a lot about the turf course this year, that it is hard, yet throws up a lot of clods. If there is any rain then you want to consider the amount of “cut” in the ground. The more water/ rain/ moisture in the track, the more “cut”, or the softer, the course is. Some horses love this, some do not.  A horse will usually not perform at their best if they are uncomfortable with the footing.

While most of the entrants in a race like this run at the highest level, sometimes you can separate them a bit, by comparing “who ran against who” and how they fared. This is a way to estimate their “class”.

St. Nicholas Abbey – Very talented colt, but is he going in the wrong direction?

Sarafina – Lots to like here, multiple Group 1winner has beaten colts before.  Seventh place finish in the Arc was not as bad as it looks, horses that run well in the Arc have done well here

Dean’s Kitten – Always tries, distance won’t be a  problem, but class hike could be

Stately Victor – One turf win on resume, big reach here.

Teaks North – great over-achieving gelding, Monmouth specialist, not sure he wants to go this far

Await The Dawn – A 4-yr old with just 7 lifetime starts. Weakened first time in Group 1, in short field, but had an excuse as he was found to not be 100%. Should like any type course, Good connections.

Sea Moon – Lightly raced, troubled trip in last, but an up- and- comer, how good is he?

Brilliant Speed – always liked this 3 year old. Turf is best surface, never off the board on the lawn, could improve with added distance. Some upside still, maybe the best US horse of this group

Midday - +3million dollar earner, got beat a neck in last year’s f &m turf. A top class mare, would be no surprise. She is the only entrant that has a run over the Churchill Turf Course.

If the Europeans ship well, then ignore the rest. I look for Sarafina, Midday and Sea Moon as the three top choices in the Emirates Turf. The fact that the fillies have other options, yet preferred to run against colts at the added distance speaks to the confidence in their connections. And Sea Moon looks to have a lot of talent. If you want a price horse, maybe it’s Brilliant Speed. The Dynaformers get better as they mature and though this colt would need to run the race of his life, maybe he can.