Saturday, March 31, 2012

State of The Union

For those of us that did not win Mega Millions, it’s on to the second most exciting event of the day, the Florida Derby. It’s a day when the early Derby favorite Union Rags could make a huge statement on his march to Louisville.

It is a small, but talented field for three year olds with Derby dreams. And it’s all about Union Rags. Not ashamed to say that I fell for this horse early on and have not wavered an inch since then. Even in his lone defeat he ran a “winning” race. But three year olds this time of year need to continue to step forward. It is the only way to be ready for the grueling Triple Crown experience.

I see no reason why this horse will not be brilliant, yet again today. He has enough tactical speed and handiness, to be put anywhere he needs to be in the race. And I believe he has the scope and stamina to wear down horse late, if he needs to. On paper, his biggest competition looks to be El Padrino. He is a classy sort and has already shown that he that he loves a fight. You have to wonder though, how much the Risen Star took out of him.
Another horse and blog favorite in here is News Pending. One of two Romans’ trained horses; he has never won on dirt, but has won at the distance. His numbers keep improving and this could be a replay of the Fountain of Youth finish.

Here is a photo of Union Rags taken by his exercise rider Peter Brette via Twitter.

HRTV‘s Zoe Cadman did a great video report 10 days ago on a day in the life of Union Rags at the tranquil Palm Meadows training facility. It’s always interesting to see how a horse handles himself in his daily routine, and it's a little insight on his "state" of mind.

Enjoy the Florida Derby and have a "winning" day!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

"Spiral"-ing Into Louisville

You have a little bit of everything in today’s Derby prep, the Grade 3 Spiral at 9 furlongs on the Turfway polytrack. It’s a $500,000 pot and the winner will take away enough graded earnings to dance the big dance in May. A nearly full field of 11 has shown up to try and get their golden ticket.
You have three- first- time- blinkered horses. The 1 horse is the North Cal shipper Russian Greek. The 8 horse, Coach Royal, is a maiden and also going turf to poly with a trainer switch. And the 11 horse is Stealcase, who has shown a sharp bullet since his last race, when breaking awkwardly.
There are two more Cal shippers, Handsome Mike and All Squared Away. The latter, not only has to ship, but is coming back in 9 days. Handsome Mike however, has had more than a month to re-coup from his OK finish in a Grade 3 and appears to have the most upside of these two, as he has a class edge.
Only two horses have ever had a race over the track. The PA –bred, Ill Conceived got beat a neck in the Battaglia, after going to the front in his first time on the stretch-out. It was a 5 horse field that day, and he will have to do more, this time. Mr. Prankster, however has shown a liking for the oval, with 2 wins from 3 starts, but he too, will have to move forward after his poor effort in the Battaglia.
Why is Red Jack in here? Well it’s the “coach” and you know how DWayne likes to be involved in the pre-Derby dances. The colt’s maiden breaker was his only start on turf (at 9 panels) and it is a longshot that he can reproduce a race like that again on poly.
The Graham Motion horse, Went The Day Well, looks interesting. Like the Proud Citizens and this horse may have a little talent. He showed he could perform well in England on various wet surfaces, and handled dirt just fine at Gulfstream. So he can run, he is versatile and, has the right connections. He IS coming in off just breaking his maiden 3 weeks ago and he will go to a synthetic track for the first time. The added distance should only help and he looks to have a good shot in here.
Tizanexpense is another interesting horse in here, if only because he has never had a clean, easy trip. Every race has had an excuse, including his maiden breaker, when the jock lost the whip. His breeding suggests he will love a little more ground, and if things finally go his way, he could be right there.
The two Pletcher horses round out the field and both look very live. Heavy Breathing has won at the distance and is coming in undefeated after winning two-for-two at Gulfstream. Not sure what was behind him though, but TP, with his arsenal of Derby types, knows exactly where to spot them.
The OTHER Pletcher horse, Holiday Promise, could be a sleeper in here. While he has run with lesser, a little more ground may suit him perfectly.
So like any Derby Prep, you have your pretenders and your contenders, everyone looking to get lucky on the right day, to catapult them into the Derby picture. Whoever wins this, will, with certainty, get a chance to go to Louisville.

Friday, March 16, 2012

From High to Low and Back Again

A little over a week ago, the long awaited event finally took place when the Horse of the Year and the Queen of Racing foaled a healthy, handsome colt by Eclipse Champion Bernadini. By all accounts, Zenyatta’s delivery was “textbook” and the 130 pound bay baby and mom bonded quickly and easily. First foals are normally not the biggest, but this colt appears leggy, and does resemble mom right down to the ermine spots on his one white leg.
Congratulations to Zenyatta. Her new job now, is to teach her son how to run.
The highs and lows of racing run like the thread through a fine tapestry. We are right in the middle of foaling season, and every hour babies are born that give their connections “derby dreams’ But , the dangers of the sport are always a constant, and unfortunately the accidents, the injuries and all the heartbreak seem to make the loudest noise. We as horsemen absorb it all, but the “public perception” of our game, already badly tarnished, again, took a few hits this week.
Much has been said lately, of the many breakdowns at the Aqueduct winter meet this year. I have always thought of the three New York tracks as very safe, reliable and consistent. Yes, not always happy with a “sealed” track, or when the track appears “souped “up for major race days. But with the mild winter that the Northeast has had- and weather not being an issue- it is very concerning that there have been so many fatalities at the Big A. One has to wonder whether the huge increase in purse money, especially for lower levels, have pushed horses into races where they don’t belong. Or maybe pushed them into racing, when they weren’t ready.
At the same time, this week, another horse had to be euthanized on the HBO set of “Luck”, forcing the end of the series. Though not “racing related”, I have not read, yet, why this horse reared and managed to destroy himself. I have made many left hand turns around a shed row and horses need a reason to go up and over. Some don’t need MUCH of a reason, but something preceded this event. Was it due to the “filming process” is anyone’s guess.
I was not ever a big fan of the show, but stuck with it. The acting was very good, just not a portrayal of the racetrack that I know and love. It showed I guess to some, only one small part of the game. Maybe to the Hollywood crowd, the degeneracy was the most interesting?? But thanks to the show, once again, the”public perception” of our sport takes another hit.
Also in the past week, our Derby Winner Animal Kingdom, has been forced to take another break with a second hind end issue. Three year olds, once Derby hopefuls, – Out of Bounds, Fed Biz, Spring Hill Farm, Algorithms, Junebugred, Empire Way and Motor City are all officially off the Derby trail.
But we move on.
The weekend’s Derby prep is The Rebel at Oaklawn tomorrow and it has a full field, with 13 entered.
And the best news is …the Run for the Roses is only 49 days away.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Can Little Mike Repeat ?

In about the same time it would take to sing “Oh Canada”, the Dale Romans – trained Little Mike could go wire to wire in the Gr.3 Canadian Turf Stakes at Gulfstream on Saturday. Going a mile on the turf, Little Mike is back to defend his title. The race drew 32 nominees, but only 8 will start.
Drawn outside, expect the Spanish Steps Florida-bred gelding to get to the front , clear the field and play his favorite game of “catch me if you can.”

Others in the field are:

1. Doubles Partner is a Gr.2, winning 5 year old well-bred son of Rock Hard Ten. He has been on the shelf for 10 months, but should come back running. He will lay mid pack and will be looking to get up in the final strides.

2. Mutual Trust is a Group 3 winner in France. His comment line for his maiden breaking win in a 15 horse field says “brilliant win.” The Juddmonte homebred came right back to win 3 more in a row and was then thrown to the wolves in a Group 1 at Deauville. In that race, where the spectacular Goldikova finished 2nd, he was “hampered” and “eased.”He was freshened and sent here, to run with Lasix and he ran in the Gr 3 Ft Lauderdale, attending a slow pace, and with trouble, still only was beaten by 1& ¾ lengths. He has worked several times since then and is a threat to spoil Little Mike’s party.

3. Beau Choix is another coming back after a 6 month break .He is working well but might be in a little tough.

4. Data Link is definitely a “horse for course”, with 3 wins from 3 starts. He is taking a step up into Stakes Company for the first time, and his trainer is good at spotting his horses. He has a good chance with his closing kick.

5. Trend is another very consistent horse entering Stakes competition for the first time. Looks like a tough spot for him.

6. Seruni ‘s connections could well be praying for rain so the race can come off the turf. This would be his best shot.

7. Perfect Footprint is a nice enough horse, but seems overmatched in here.

Little Mike (#8) is the lone speed in here, and that is always dangerous. If he clears and is not challenged early, he can certainly take them all the way. Mutual Trust, Doubles Partner and Data Link will all be coming late. But I will be hoping that Little Mike holds on. He owns the turf course at Gulfstream and another good effort should give him his second Canadian Turf Stakes win.

I am always happy to be part of ThoroFan's Handicapping Corner. As always, check the weather, the course conditions any scratches or changes and always be sure to watch the post parade before making your final wagering selections.

For a whimsical look at Little Mike, visit artist Marcy Leonard’s dailyracefunnies.