Sunday, January 30, 2011

Make Room For Machen

If your Derby list doesn’t include Machen, maybe it should. The chestnut colt by Distorted Humor out of Grade 1 winner Ready’s Gal, romped at Fair Grounds today, in his second start, and first attempt at two turns. After breaking slowly, and wanting to go, he pulled Jaime Theriot up into the pocket behind the speed. He was checked off heels, pulling and tugging with his mouth wide open. Covered up the rest of the way, he seemed to finally settle and inside the sixteenth pole, shot through the smallest of seams to draw off and win with lots left. Still a bit green, but lots of talent here.Trained by the very patient Neil Howard who is having a phenomenal Fair Grounds meet (32%), he is owned by his breeder, Courtlandt Farm.

This is the first foal of multiple Graded Stakes winner Ready’s Gal , winner of over $600,000. She has an ’09 filly by A.P. Indy and an ’10 colt by the same.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

What's Not to Like?

First Dude is back after a short freshening, in the Grade 1 Sunshine Millions Classic at a mile & 1/8 at Gulfstream Park today. While still eligible for NW 2, the big strapping colt is overdue for his second win. This is the spot. As a newly turned 4 year old, and eligible for this race because he is a Florida bred, he is returning to the sight of his only win. In addition he will be shedding his blinkers and adding Kent D. It would be nice to see him settle behind the expected early speed of Tackleberry and Birdrun, galloping along at his trademark cruising tempo and then, kick in, in the lane. The only thing not to like will be his price.

As a bit of a crazy longshot for second money is Black Hills. I know nothing about his connections. And I hope Black Hills can’t read the form, because the Dude could scare him away. But I do know one thing. This horse appears as honest as they come and never runs a bad one. He deserves a shot at some big money, and there’s no reason why he can’t get a piece of this.

Going to play around with a few horses in the 3rd at Gulfstream, a maiden event , on turf, going the tough distance of 7& ½ furlongs. I like Ghost Hill in here, a colt by Stormy Atlantic, who should like the surface switch. Also gets a rider switch and a class drop. This trainer seems to be good at getting horses ready off a layoff, so this horse should fire fresh. Two others in here to take a look at are Iwannaiwannaiwanna, getting some class relief. And Extensive, who’s recent effort first time turf at Tampa, was a good one. Both have to deal with outside posts, however. 

In the feature at Fair Grounds, for fillies and mares going 1&1/16 on the turf, I like Forest Uproar. She has only been off the board once in her life, when something surely went wrong in the Valley View at Keeneland. She needed a year off after that, but is now two for two on the lawn. And one of those was at Fair Grounds, coming out of the 11 hole. She looks very tough in here, though she could get pounded at the windows.

Good Luck if you are making an investment today!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Who's Dancing Now?

Word has it that Bernadini has been doing the happy dance all day, since word broke that Horse of the Year, Zenyatta, will be visiting him this breeding season. The son of the great AP Indy, out of SW Cara Rafaela did not seem to be on any lists of prospects that I came across, but appears to be the perfect choice.

The Eclipse Champion 3 year old of 2006 and winner of the Preakness, Jim Dandy, Travers and JC Gold Cup, Bernadini has the important mix of speed and stamina. Always on, or near the lead he had no trouble carrying his speed the classic distance.

Though a young sire, he has gotten off to a very good start with 2 Grade 1 winners ( AZ Warrior and Biondetti) in his first crop from 2010. Those horses are all newly turn 3 year olds, including To Honor and Serve, who is on the Derby trail.

Bernadini is a very handsome, plain bay who stands 16.1 &1/2. Thus bigger than his sire and probably one of the defining reasons for the choice. He has good balance with a nice walk, and a kind eye. A hypothetical nick on True Nicks with Bernadini and Zenyatta gets an A++, based on the mating of sons of AP Indy and sons of Machiavellian ( Sire of Street Cry). There are already 2 Grade One winners based on this similar”nick", Flashing ( Gr 1 Test and Gazelle) and Jilbab ( CC American Oaks.) and this is out of only 10 starters. For an enhanced version of this, click here.

Bernadini has the speed and stamina, good size, great genes and a successful ( though new) stud career. Everything he needs to compliment the great Zenyatta. Now all that’s needed, as always, is a little luck from the Racing (or would that be the Breeding ?) Gods.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Let's Thank the Colonel

The Colonel E.R Bradley at Fair Grounds tomorrow is named in honor of the owner/ breeder/ businessman and philanthropist who owned the track from 1926 to 1934. During that time he was responsible for spending a great deal of money in improving and renovating the Louisiana track. During his early life, be it fact or fiction, it is written that he was a gold miner, a steel mill worker and a cowboy ( he knew Billy the Kid). When he testified before the US Senate he described himself as a “speculator, raiser of race horses and a gambler”. Political pundits would have a ball with that one now!

Edward Riley Bradley, (1859-1946) received the title of ”Colonel” after moving to Kentucky and becoming a breeder of great racehorses. He bought Ash Grove Stock Farm in Lexington, added to it, and later renamed it Idle Hour Stock Farm. Part of that property is now Darby Dan Farm.

He owned 4 Kentucky Derby winners including Behave Yourself, Bubbling Over, Burgoo King and Broker’s Tip. And he was famous for naming all his horses staring with the letter “B.”

One of his greatest breeding accomplishments was importing the great French mare La Troienne to this country. For this we should be very grateful, as she was one of the most influential broodmares of the 20th Century. Though she never won a race, she was the granddam of the great filly Busher who was named Horse of the year in 1945. In addition she produced the Hall of Famer, Bimelech. She was also the granddam of Busanda, who was the dam of the great Buckpasser. When you see the name La Troienne in a pedigree you know there is quality there. When the Colonel died, his breeding stock was sold to a syndicate comprised of Greentree Stable, King Ranch and Ogden Phipps.

The Col. E.R Bradley is a Grade 3, for 4 and up, at a mile and 1/16 on the Fair Grounds turf. I like both the newly turned 4 year olds in this spot. Both Joinem and Red Strike seem to be both improving types. You can throw out Red Strike’s last when he stumbled. Both seem to handle the turf if it is less than fast, which will probably be the case on Saturday. Gran Estreno always hits the board and loves to win. The rider switch to Rosie might make a difference here. And although he is 8 years old, he is none the worse for wear, firing a bullet best out of 66, 4 days ago.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Reflections on Horse of The Year

Witnessing "greatness" can make your heart beat faster, it can take your breath away. It can make you cheer, it can make you weep. It can find you speechless, it can cause you to ramble. But there is no mistaking it.When you see it, or feel it, it can't be denied.

You can dissect and analyze forms, numbers, figs,sheets, replays, workouts, comments, ratings, class and professional opinions; you can look in your head, you can look in your heart. But in the end, this year was all about Zenyatta. It was about her achievements on the track, the records she crushed and on top of all that, it was about the positive light that she brought to our sport. Not only was she the deserving Horse of the Year, she WAS Horse racing for the last three years.

To so many, it was easy to see just how great she was.

Claiborne Farm is one of the most famous breeding farms in the world, and their legacy and dominance is huge. From Bold Ruler to Mr. Prospector, from Round Table to Danzig, from Secretariat to Easy Goer, the best of the best have been born and bred there.Though it was a year of celebration for the mighty farm, for Blame it was the wrong year to be a star. Because no star shone more brightly than Zenyatta's. Even in her lone defeat by inches, she elevated the sport of horse racing, reaching new fans and re-energizing old ones. She was the "gift" that kept on giving, and this year the voters finally got it right.

Congratulations to Zenyatta, the Horse of the Year and  to her owners Anne and Jerry Moss, to John and Dottie, to Mike and Steve, to Mario and Carmen and all the other members of her family.
Thank you all for sharing her with us. It's been an incredible ride. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

Speed Dating For Zenyatta

While the world anxiously awaits the outcome of HOTY and whether  Zenyatta will get her much deserved award on Monday night, I’m just as anxious to find out who Zenyatta will ultimately date when breeding season begins. Though Mike Smith contends that "no horse is worthy", some Kentucky stallion will get very lucky. Talk about "classing up".

Going with the age old axiom… breed the best to the best and hope for the best… who IS the best for Zenyatta?

Most will agree that the prospective suitor needs to have brilliant speed. The Queen has all the staying power that any of her offspring will ever need, but an infusion of some zip might make for the ultimate mix of speed and stamina for success in those Grade 1's that everyone wants to win.

When you look at the top 20 proven stallions from 2010 standing in Kentucky, ( and believe it or not A.P. Indy is not among them; he is 26th), the ones that stand out as good "nicks" are Giant’s Causeway, Distorted Humor, Malibu Moon, Medaglia D’Oro, Mineshaft and Indian Charlie. These are the ones that seem to cross well, with "A" or better  ratings according to the various hypothetical mating systems. Those ratings are based on the racing success of the combination of Zenyatta’s bloodlines with each stallions’ bloodlines. It is a very good tool to use when considering stallions. There are some awfully good stallions whose two year olds will be running this year that also nick well (like Hard Spun) but unfortunately they are unproven, so it’s not the way to go with a mare of her stature.

Another equally important factor to be considered is conformation.  Balance is key in an equine athlete, and you try to match up both the mare and the stallion with this in mind. Any slight conformational faults should be taken into consideration and minimized with the proper mate selection.

As race mares go, Zenyatta is a very big mare. And it worked in her favor on the race track. But bigger is not always better, and in many cases, in race horses it’s a negative. Sometimes the bigger they are, the harder it is too keep them sound. Again, it’s all about balance. My guess is in Zenyaytta’s case, is that size is the biggest consideration next to compatible bloodlines. Breeding to a very big stallion  would probably not be the best of ideas. You certainly don’t want to put any more size into the resulting foal. And going in the other direction ( too small ) is not ideal either. 

What would be perfect for Zenyatta is a well-balanced horse around 16.2 hands, that was brilliant at a mile and could carry that speed a little farther on a good day in top notch company. The Big Mare will take care of the rest.

The art of breeding race horses is every bit of a gamble, if not more, than racing them. Lots of effort goes into making breeding decisions. I'm sure the chosen suitor has been well vetted. We look forward to the announcement ! 

Who will it be?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

And The Winner Is....

In less than a week from now, we will know who will go into the record books with their Eclipse Awards and more importantly, who will be the Horse of the Year for 2010. We already know how many votes were cast. According to the NTRA, 251 ballots were mailed out, and 238 responded. This was "an unprecedented 94.8% rate" of voter participation. Thirteen people did not vote this year. And, it's obvious, the number of non-participants in years' past, has been higher.

Really ????

Excuse me, but unless there is an extremely good reason for not sending your ballot back in ( and there may well be) please enlighten me as to why people would not take this honor more seriously. has to wonder...will these people be allowed to vote  next year too, if they have chosen not to participate this year?

I would hope that the voters for these awards are highly knowledgeable, extremely passionate and  involved  year-round in the business of horse racing.
And I would also expect that these same voters would be grabbing the bit and running to get their voices heard and their votes counted. Though we have heard from a number of voters from DRF, NTRA and various other members of the media, they are in the minority. I have seen 50 or so, public opinions.

What about the others?

Is it asking for too much for full participation and transparency? Shouldn't we know all the names and qualifications for every member of the voting groups? Shouldn't we know where they stand, and why? Shouldn't they be penalized if they don't exercise their voting privilege?

For those that have voted and declared their choices publicly, thank you for taking a stand and taking the heat. Because this year, HOTY has been a white-hot issue. And whichever way it shakes down.... will there be more debate Tuesday morning?

You can bet on it.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Contest Results - The Classic Speed and Fade

Then first NHC Handicapping Contest was Sunday. I showed speed from the gate and was close up for the first five races with 4 wins which put me in a tie for 11th place.  Exciting to see your name  up there out of over 1500 players. But then, reality set in. The 9th at Fairgrounds was a MSW affair, with some nicely bred firsters. I decided to focus on them. I did my usual ; looked at workouts, breeding, and trainer stats with first time starters. Also waited to get a glimpse of them in the post parade. I knew that Neil Howard's horse had two sharp works going 5/8's and the dam was a runner. But this was her first foal. I then looked at the Asmussen trainee, out of a SW mare who was a 100% producer of 3 to race, all winners at two.
I decided to go with the Asmussen horse just because of  his statistics with first time starters. Though I love Neil Howard as a trainer, I could not come up with one horse I could remember that he won with first time out .
Um... so statistics don't always tell the whole story, as Machen, by Distorted Humor out of SW Ready's Gal, won off like a good thing. Neil Howard could have a very nice horse on his hands.
And that was the beginning of my downward spiral to end up 219th in the first NHC Handicapping contest of 2011.
But, if weather permits, I will venture to Boston this weekend for a contest at Suffolk Downs. Practice makes perfect, right?
I was excited to get a workout alert that Well Armed is back on the worktab. He had an easy 3/8s in 38 at Hollywood Park on Tuesday.
And it was very sad to learn that Edward Evans has passed. I have always loved following his horses. I have a good feeling about Quality Road in the breeding shed and his success will contribute in keeping Mr. Evans' memory alive for a long time to come. I will never forget that wonderful picture ( by Douglas Lees) of him with a Jack Russell puppy  in each jacket pocket. RIP Mr. Evans. There are lots of Jack Russells to enjoy up where you have gone.