Friday, July 29, 2011

Winner, Winner Chicken Dinner ?

I’m hoping at least the 8th and 9th will stay on the turf at Saratoga tomorrow. Lots of rain today, so there could very well be a little give to the ground.

The Hattie Moseley goes as the 8th and it is named in honor of the woman who started Hattie’s Chicken Shack in Saratoga Springs. Years ago, I remember dreaming about the fried chicken lunch I would be having at the track, as my dad took the exit off the thruway every August and headed towards the Spa.

Now I just dream about winning tickets.

This race is a mile on the inner, for 3 year old fillies, with a purse of $75,000.

I like the new face in here, Starformer. She is getting first time lasix, is a Juddmonte homebred by Dynaformer out of a stakes winning mare, and is Group 3 placed in France. She has a win going the distance and a sharp work over the Saratoga turf six days ago. Lots to like with this filly, and though there are some nice fillies in here, she looks like the one to beat. If there is a little cut in the ground, she won’t mind it.

Parting Words could be used in the exotics, as she is very consistent sort and I may take a look at Japanese Garden who has never turfed, but could like it. Trained by Rusty Arnold, who also trained her SW mom, Fircroft, she has some talent and will be a price.

The Grade 1 Diana is a more difficult race to analyze, simply because almost any one of the 10 fillies in here could win it. Romacaca is crossed entered in the Matchmaker on Sunday at Monmouth, but that too, is not an easy spot. Though it’s only a Grade 3, the top 3 finishers get a stallion season from Taylor Made.

I think the winner in here will be the one that works out the best trip.

If Romacaca stays in the race, she is the speed.  An 11 race winner, she is as game as they come, but she has never won at the distance. The undefeated Unbridled Humor is stepping up, and may inherit the lead. Is she good enough to win a Grade 1 after just going through her conditions?

 I’m a little interested in Bay to Bay. She seems to be rounding to form and her numbers are getting better and better. With trouble in her last, this will be her 3rd start off a slight freshening. She is a Grade 2 winner and has won on any type of ground. Garcia has been cold, so far this meet, but I don’t think he has forgotten how to ride.

Will it be winner, winner, chicken dinner, at Saratoga tomorrow???

Hoping to stay in front and improve my position in the MyTogaPicks Handicapping Contest…but I have a longggggg way to go!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Spectacular Times Two

No matter what kind of day you had, make it better by watching the replays of Winter Memories winning the Gr. 2 Lake George at Saratoga, and Frankel winning the Sussex at Goodwood.

It simple does not get any better than this.

Despite trouble at the top of the stretch, the gray filly by El Prado out of Memories of Silver, exploded at the top of the stretch, to romp by 4 & ½. She now has 5 of 6 lifetime wins and it looks like the sky’s the limit for this filly. She has a breathtaking turn of foot, and I don’t think we have seen the best of her yet. Plans are for her to run in the Lake Placid on August 21, with an eye to the Queen Elizabeth at Keeneland in the fall.
Across the pond, the sensational Frankel, went to the front and never looked back in the Sussex Stakes. The colt by Galileo, and named after the late Hall of Famer Bobby Frankel, defeated a short field that included Canford Cliffs, who recently beat the champion mare Goldikova. Frankel is being hailed as one of the best milers Europe has ever seen. Unfortunately, there is no plan to bring Frankel to the Breeder’s Cup this year.

 Watch it here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Summer Racing at Its' Finest

Opening day is here! For the West Coast, it’s today at Del Mar and for here on the East Coast is Saratoga on Friday. Without a doubt, the best overall racing in the country and it doesn’t get any better than this.

Most often I will be concentrating on the upstate New York meet. It will be challenging as my free time has just recently been taken up by an important commitment that I just could not pass up, ( I know, WHAT was I thinking???) But I am good at muliti-tasking and there’ll be a lot of that going on. I will certainly spend a few days at the Spa, but it will be a Saturday or a Sunday. Not my favorite days, but this year it will have to be.

Meanwhile I will “live vicariously” through twitter, blogs, and texts from some of my lucky friends who will be there, and a glance now and then at the post parades via TVG, HRTV,  Twin Spires TV,and this year , even NBC! Technology will keep me current, live, entertained, and enlightened. It’s not like standing at the Paddock fence, but it’s better than an “empty stall”.

The James Marvin, the first Stakes on opening day Friday looks like a good one. A full field of well matched sprinters and at first glance, I know I will be wagering on Here Comes Ben ( 5-1!) I have always liked this horse and he’s been good to me. The winner of the Grade 1 Forego at the Spa last year, I like that he has had a win over the track. He has also had a recent work over it. Another plus. He is a 7 furlong specialist winning 5 out of 7 at the distance. Lopresti is a good horseman and I also like that Ben is re-uniting with Alex Solis, who knows him well. Solis is coming off a nice Belmont meet. Not only that, he won the $600,000 Grade 2 Virginia Derby on Air Support for Shug Mc Gaughey last weekend with a very professional ride. He is getting live mounts for good outfits and I look for that momentum to continue for him.

So get tied on, and enjoy the next six weeks of the best racing in America.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Girls Get It Done

Listen up Racing Fans! For all those who have been crying for months that racing is uninspiring, the three year olds suck, the Europeans turf horses are always better, jocks can’t ride, racing is doomed, and just about everything else that people complain about, clear your head, open your eyes and watch the replay of the Delaware Handicap.

Watch it a few times and just let it sink in.

You are watching two great fillies battle down to the wire. This, my friends, is what makes horseracing the best sport in the world. Heart in a racehorse is on display here. Both these fillies gave everything they had in a stirring stretch drive, with only inches separating them at the finish. Blind Luck and Havre de Grace were tuned to perfection, by master horsemen. Blind Luck got the bob, and kudos to her, but no one can argue that both girls were remarkable. Steve Haskins writes about it here.

This rivalry is truly special to see, and don’t take it lightly. Rivalries in our sport have become rare. Fingers crossed, both stay healthy and sound and we can see this continue for a while longer.

I so wanted a dead heat on Saturday, because I am a huge fan of both horses and really didn’t want to see one of these great fillies lose. And it very nearly happened. It was close. And just what about that 2 lbs? That’s the handicapper’s job, and the owners and trainers have to make some tough decisions about whether to accept the assignment or not. After reading all the circumstances surrounding the Delaware Handicap in Mr. Haskins’ piece, I can’t blame Mr. Hollendorfer for expressing his pre-entry conditions, nor can I blame Mr. Jones for his concerns either. Both have to protect their horses in whatever way they can.

So, many thanks to all the connections for being gifted horsemen and generous sportsmen. Their commitment to the sport is outstanding. But a bigger thanks to Blind Luck and Havre de Grace for putting on the show. Thanks for reminding us, once again, how great you both are and how special our sport is.

For racing fans, it doesn’t get any better than this.

Friday, July 15, 2011

On The Turf

The biggest weekend of racing at Colonial Downs is here with some great turf racing including the Gr.3 Virginia Oaks and the Gr.2 Virginia Derby. And though they have had some rain there in the last few days, if the weather stays dry, the course should be firm.

A very nice group of 3 year old fillies get together in the Oaks.

Dynamic Holiday (love the Harlan’s Holidays on turf) is coming off a 4 win streak but has not started in 4 months. She has run well off a layoff before and is the high weight (122). And like all the fillies in here, except one, she has never run over the course. Already a winner of a Grade 3, this filly has done nothing wrong. There’s no doubt she is the class of the field, but if there’s a day to beat her it could be Saturday. The layoff, the top weight and the fact that she has never run at Colonial is enough to make me look around for something else, especially if she is the hot favorite.

The Pletcher-trained graded stakes- placed Excited is coming off a nice second to the very talented Bizzy Caroline who is entered to run in the Gr.1 American Oaks Saturday at Hollywood Park. That in itself makes this filly very interesting.  Excited has a little speed and breaking from the outside, and with no real speed in the race, she could inherit the lead.

Two fillies on the upswing are Summer Savory, undefeated on turf with two back to back victories in big fields at Arlington. And the regally bred Smart Sting who just may want a little more distance. She is coming in with some very sharp works.

There’s a bit of “buzz” on the filly Wyomia. Winless on turf, but she did more than split the field in last year’s BC Juvenile Fillies on turf, she has a “best of 11” work on the Colonial turf a week ago.

A long shot to consider in exotics is Pink Pallet. The only one to have ever started on this turf course, she is 2 for 3 over it and will be closing in the lane. Though she needs to step up against these, she is a "horse for course."

I will take a look at the post parade and conditions of the turf, but as you can see, there are several ways to go in here. It’s a nice race for a few dime super boxes.

The Virginia Derby is 1 &1/4 over the Secretariat Course, and another great betting race. It’s a full field at 12 with at least half of the field looking very “ live." Banned, of course, looks like the horse to beat. Coming off 2 graded stakes wins, he is the highweight. But like all the other 3 year old colts in here, he has to run further than he ever has.

A few of the talented colts in here that might love the extra real estate are Air Support, Street Game, Newsdad, Casino Host and longshot  Callingahardten. Some very nice recent pictures of a few of them  can be found on  the Virginia Thoroughbred blog. Callingahardten is stunning. 

The New York-bred Street Game has been getting better and better and could continue to improve.

I have been a big fan of Newsdad, and he is returning to what I think is his preferred surface.

Casino Host did not appear to like the yielding turf last time. If you put a line through the last, he’s another that could run big at a nice price. The distance should not be a problem.

If Shug thinks this is a good spot for Air Support, you have to respect that.
And how can you dismiss Benergy, who finished second to  Banned in his last?

A challenging race to bet, (well aren't they all?) Take a look at these 3 year olds in the post parade and watch the board too.
Good luck and enjoy the great grass racing this weekend.  

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Saturday Gold Star Performances

Congratulations to a couple of Saturday Afternoon horses.

Winner of the Gr. 2 American Derby, Wilcox Inn absolutely ran away and hid from the field yesterday and did it with style and ease. Running the mile and 3/8ths in stakes record time, the son of Harlan’s Holiday has come into his own, maybe with the help of blinkers, and definitely with patient handling from trainer Michael Stidham. The colt has now won 2 legs of Arlington’s Mid America Triple and will be on target for the third leg, the Gr. 1 Secretariat on August 13th.

 Another Saturday Afternoon horse, First Dude, turned in an amazing run to win the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup. He has matured in his 4 year old year, and thus has changed his running style. More of a stalker now, he is content to wait, and as a result can better utilize his enormous stride to mow them down in the lane. As a “Win & You’re In” race, First Dude has earned himself a berth in the Breeder’s Cup Classic this year.

Other notable performances yesterday worth mentioning:

Fantasia’s Gr. 3 Modesty win was a very nice effort over a good group. The daughter of Sadler’s Wells will be on her way to the Gr. 1 Beverly D on August 13, Arlington Million Day.

St. John’s River finally got herself an Oaks win. Second in both the Fair Ground Oaks and Kentucky Oaks, this fast closing daughter of Include was up in time to win by a neck over pacesetter Strike the Moon.

It is on to the Gr. 1 Alabama for St. John’s River.

And in a “Zen” like performance, Sassy Image came from last, looking like she lost contact with the field, and unleashed a furious stretch run to just get up at the wire in the Gr 1 Princess Rooney, at the Calder Summit of Speed. Mike Smith, in for the ride , said the daughter of Broken Vow did not handle the “good” going at all and though he didn’t want to be in the middle of the track, she found it more comfortable there and got down to business. And that she did. The highweight in the 8 horse field, this was her 3rd Graded Stakes win in a row.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Arlington Million Preview Day

There's lots of great racing all around the country today. Here are some of my thoughts on races 8-9-10 at Arlington.

The Modesty Gr.3 ( 1 &3/16ths TURF )

How can you bet against Wasted Tears? This mare is so game on the front end and with 12 wins from 19 starts you know she puts it on the line every time. She is the lone speed, but this is a distance she has never tried before. It will be a test to her determination and will to win. This is a group of nice fillies and there are a couple in here that might actually want more ground and will get it today. My Baby Bay can lay up close, and no one is bred any better for the distance than Fantasia. But they both have to get by the very tenacious Wasted Tears.

The American Derby Gr. 2 ( 1 & 3/16ths TURF )

It’s no secret that Wilcox Inn has been a blog favorite since last year’s BC Juvenile on Turf. This is a new distance for every horse in here, so the question is, who will be victorious? I will stick with Wilcox inn as his pedigree is loaded with distance loving turf horses. He has had a win over the track, with blinkers added, and though he speed figures aren’t the highest, that will probably mean his price might be right.

The Arlington Handicap Gr 3 ( 1 & ¼ TURF )

This race is a bit of a puzzle to me, but the fact that Dean’s Kitten was asked to run this distance as a 3 year old, twice last year, tells me that this is what they always had in mind for him. Though not successful he didn’t disgrace, and ran with some nice ones. He has rounded to form nicely this year and I look for him to sit a good trip. The only thing I like about the German horse Senagus, is that he is dropping 27 pounds from his last race! Even with his many wins, notice his earnings don’t add up to much and while the addition of Lasix might help, he’s not my type of horse. If he beats me, he beats me. Can Juniper Pass hold his form, racing out of California? Not sure about that. Proceed Bee appears overmatched, but going back to the turf, which may be his preferred surface. I have always liked this over achiever and he has a longshot look.

These three races make up an All Graded Stakes Pick 3. Good luck and have fun if you are playing.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Grade 2 Firecracker and Holiday Hunch Plays

If you are one to play hunches, here’s a few for you.

Star Spangled (Monmouth 1)

Giant Patriot (Colonial 8)

Justice for All (Les Bois Park 5)

Freedom of Expression (Chippewa Downs 6)

Ok, so I admit I’ve never played Les Bois or Chippewa Downs, but I couldn’t resist!

But I will be playing the last day of the Churchill spring meet, so here are some thoughts on the feature.

The Gr 2 Firecracker, on the turf at Churchill today is a full and contentious field of 11. The big question is, at the time of this post, how much will it rain and will it affect the grass course?

The morning line luke-warm favorite is the millionaire General Quarters. He has one win on turf, and yes, it was a Grade 1 on a yielding course. He has also had a nice prep for this and though a mile may not be his ideal distance, he certainly could get the job done.

 But there are others to like in here.

Baryshnikov has gotten so much better this year, he is hard to ignore. He seems to be stepping forward with every start, and has the services of the red- hot rider Julien Leparoux who will be riding to keep the Churchill jock’s title when the meet ends today.

A big question in here…will Wise Dan like the turf? He is a speedy Grade 3 stakes winner on poly, by Wiseman’s Ferry out of a Wolf Power mare. His sire did win on turf in Ireland and the SAF Champion, Wolf Power on his dam’s side is turf as well. The pedigree doesn’t “scream” turf, but it would be no surprise. Wise Dan worked a respectable 48.4 on the Churchill turf course on Tuesday with the dogs up. Judging by the fact that General Quarters and Mr. Mardi Gras worked over the same course in 52.2 and 51.8, Wise Dan’s move was pretty good.

(Interestingly, Flat Out worked over the course the same day, in 50.2 and shipped to New York and won the Grade 2 Suburban by 6 & ½.)

And while I’m not trying to read too much into this, the fact remains that Wise Dan could love the grass, and if so he could make his presence felt.

Strike Impact is coming into this race off two game wins. The 16 time winner is in great form and loves Churchill. While he might be a cut below, 4 wins and a second out of 6 tries on the home course makes me think of Teak North in the UN on Saturday. Do I want another" horse for course" to beat me this weekend? ‘Nuff said.

A case can be made for most in here. It should be an exciting race to watch.

Who do YOU like?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Bashford Manor

The 110th running of the Bashford Manor will take place today at Churchill Downs. This prestigious Stakes for 2 year olds was named after the ancestral home of Lord Baltimore in England. James Bennett Wilder, a relative of Lord Baltimore’s, built the estate in Kentucky and later sold it to thoroughbred breeder George Jones Long. Bashford Manor Farms was famous for producing 3 Kentucky Derby winners including, Azra (1892), Manuel (1899) and Sir Huon (1906)

With the Breeder’s Cup now offering a Cup race for 2 year old sprinters for the first time this year, a win over the track in a Graded Stakes could be a nice edge come November. And while we rarely see a classic horse emerge from this dash, Black Gold did win this and went on to win the 1924 Kentucky Derby.

A full field of 11 has been entered, but The Dale Romans trained Tarpy’s Goal has been cross entered in the Futurity at Belmont, on Sunday, which only drew 6 entrants.

The buzz horse in here is Sum of The Parts. A colt by Speightstown, out of the multiple graded stakes winner Enjoy the Moment, he earned a 94 Beyer first time out, while breaking slowly. He was visually impressive in his nearly 3 length win. With a lovely and smooth way of going, he has worked 4 times since the win in mid- May and trainer Tom Amoss is very high on him.

Another highly thought of colt is the Neil Howard- trained, Power World. Outrun early in his debut, he unleashed a furious run, circled the field and was up in time. By Distorted Humor, out of Purrfectly by Storm Cat, he is a half to the very talented multiple stakes winner Santa Catarina. He has worked twice since his June 11th win.

The only colt that has won 2 is the Brett Calhoun trained, Lil Cherokee. It will be interesting to see how this Texas bred stakes winner shows up out of town.

Al Stall has a colt coming off a win on the poly at Keeneland, but he has been working well at Churchill. Friscan, by the recently deceased Maryland sire Two Punch, just hung on in his only outing, but has had some stamina works since then.

Bernie Flint has two in here, Bonaparte and Exactor. Both look talented. Exactor finished second, first time out to Sum of the Parts, and then came back and galloped in his next start. Will having a little more seasoning, BE the “x-factor?”

Stars of the future? We will see. It’s always exciting to scope out a new Saturday Afternoon horse.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Holiday Weekend Racing / Part 1

The weather looks hot and dry, and the racing looks superb for this July 4th Holiday weekend.

Saturday’s card at Monmouth has the Salvatore Mile and the Grade 1 United Nations Stakes. The latter, being a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeder’s Cup Turf.

The Salvatore Mile could be a re-match between Rule and Morning Line. ( Still can't believe there was never a horse in recent memory with that name.) I'm looking for a better effort from Rule being back on a fast track. There looks to be a lot of speed in the race, including Motivato with Joe Bravo up.

Which could set it up nicely for Friesan Fire.

Friesan Fire has been back with Larry Jones for the last two months. He is showing some sharp works and could be ready to roll.

My thoughts on the United Nations Stakes are at the Handicapper’s Corner (courtesy of TBA) at THOROFAN.
Take a look, and tell me what you think.