Wednesday, December 24, 2008


As we come to the last major stakes weekend of the year, I would be remiss if I did not reflect on the ups and downs of 2008.

Sure, there was great sadness in Eight Belles, but there was even more depravity in how the press treated her connections. Yes, there were additional, supposedly safer, synthetic racetracks developed, but there was also a serious lack of research going into making more tracks safer dirt courses like those in Japan, or such as the Fair Grounds, Tampa Bay Downs or Hawthorne.

Now, for the simply stellar.

The real story of 2008 was Curlin. His victory in the Dubai World Cup, that made the world believe in his talent, was the first major exclamation point of 2008. His follow up victory in the Stephen Foster, a race in which so many Dubai destroyers had nobly failed before him, put him in a separate category. That race, to me, makes him Horse of the Year over the undefeated filly phenom, Zenyatta. Yes, Zenyatta was undefeated. I concede her dominance over her own sex. But, the only way a female horse wins "HOY", in my book, is if she beats the opposite sex at the top of their game, or there is simply no standout in any other division. If Curlin would have only performed on conventional dirt, he would have been undefeated with wins at Churchill, Belmont, and Saratoga in American Grade 1's, and not one, but TWO wins overseas against the best international competition. This is not a case for Curlin, but a statement of record that he annexed territory that had yet to be completed successfully.

The story of Big Brown was one that made us once again believe in an exceptional talent, and then have them revealed to be the very flesh and blood of the predecessors. Such is the life of the American Thoroughbred Superstar. In Europe, Zarkava proved to have the best kick that I have seen since Pientre Celebre. Since fillies usually peak at four, it would be incredible to see what might have been next year. I cannot fault her connections, though, for putting her away after she had won the biggest race in Europe as an undefeated sophomore. What a filly!

Horses to watch in 2008? Look no farther than this weekend's big races. The Malibu features a fantastic group, including the talented Mandella-trained Into Mischief, who will most likely go off as a slight favorite over Travers and Santa Anita Derby winner Colonel John. The horse who will come out of this race as the most likely winner, in my eyes, and possibly with the brightest future (at least on the racetrack) is Georgie Boy. If they are lined up at the eighth pole, he will out kick the entire field, hands-down (see him here at the track and distance beating Into Mischief). After this race, expect to see him lighting up the Santa Anita meet, and possibly taking his act east.

Though I am tempted to say he has been over-raced this year, Gio Ponti is a horse with a huge future if he keeps improving. He is the best horse in the Sir Beaufort field, and should only lose if he has an awful trip, again. He may have won the Hollywood Derby, had he any luck at all. Also, cutting back in distance will help this colt, whose best distance is probably 8.5 to 9 furlongs.

Indian Blessing is the star in the La Brea-G1, but do not be surprised if it is that official coronation of a new queen of racing, Country Star. This filly has had her troubles, but should keep improving with age, as she is incredibly well-bred. Her dam, the very talented Rings a Chime, was good enough to win the Ashland and place in the Kentucky Oaks, both on conventional dirt courses (beating champions Cash Run and Spain). A great deal of her talent was in her deceptively deep pedigree. Her no-name sire, Metfield, was a son of Seattle Slew out Inca Queen. The latter was, in turn, a daughter of Hail to Reason (sire of greats Roberto and Halo), out of Silver Spoon (a Citation-sired champion who is one of only two fillies to sweep both the Santa Anita Oaks and Derby).

Rings a Chime (pictured beating the ultra-fantastic producer Zaftig in the Ashland)'s dam was a gritty stakes winner named Outofthebluebell and her damsire is Red Ryder. Not familiar to you? Well, he just so happened to be the only full brother to Mr. Prospector, and was sent to South Africa in 1990. He was unraced, and his influence is few and far between in the U.S., but beware of him in pedigrees. He and his much more famous brother were bred for speed, speed, a dash of two-turn grit, and more speed.

Do not be surprised if Country Song has all her chinks patched up and is ready to eventually take on, I dare say it, Zenyatta?! I do dare.

The last star in the making to watch this weekend is Baffert's filly, Internallyflawless. This Giant's Causeway, out of a Seeking the Gold daughter of the great producer, Korveya, will have something to say about 2009. She is bred to run on everything, so do not be put off if she gives the two big IEAH/Tapit fillies a run for their money in the Las Virgenes and S.A. Oaks. Her race in the Miesque was not mind-blowing, but she just kept coming. She's a grinder who just might develop into a much more blinding closer. Seeking the Gold's influence is often just that- his horses often go from useful to flashing the closing fortitude of I Am The Game, Concern or Looming.

My biggest predictions for 2009, though, are human ones. I think Edgar Prado will take his reign back as the top jockey in America from Garrett Gomez. Rafael Bejarano will get the best rides of the year, but still will fall just short of the top two. Ramon Dominguez will be the big surprise. He will jump up into the top 3 or 4 jockeys, and may possibly win a classic race.

2009 may be the year that Bob Baffert returns to his rightful position on top of the sport. He is arguably the best all-around trainer in the game, and the most talented big-race trainer in the country. It will take a great deal to knock off the scary momentum of Steve Asmussen and Dick Dutrow. Do not be surprised if Larry Jones has an amazing year, as well. He is looking stacked for 2009, despite calling it quits at the end of the year. Proud Spell, Old Fashioned, and Solar Flare look to come back big time for the tough grass-roots trainer.

Cheers, everyone, and happy new year! Let's keep this sport together, progressing, and taking care of its people and animals.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Your $600 Worth

There was one eye-catching performance this weekend, and it was not from any winners. In Louisiana, Calder-based Big Drama won a battle with West Side Bernie for the lucrative win at Delta Downs. Though both were impressive, and both ran great numbers, the most impressive race was from third-place finisher Stimulus Plan. Launching his bid from about 15 lengths off the pace after a quarter, the Jump Start colt ran to within two lengths at the wire. More impressive was that Delta Downs has a very short stretch that all but disallows any closer from running a winning race.

If you examine Stimulus Plan's pedigree, it is no wonder that he has improved with both age and distance. His sire, Jump Start, was a star on the rise as a two-year-old until he was prematurely injured and sent to stud. Called one of D. Wayne Lukas' best juveniles ever, this son of A.P. Indy was an impressive winner of the Saratoga Special, as well as runner up behind one of the two-year-olds I have ever seen, Officer, in the Champagne. Out of a Storm Cat half sister to Miswaki, this stallion is bred to produce anything on any surface that can go a distance of ground. There is not a great deal of electrifying speed on this side, but there is on his dam's side.

Stimulus Plan's dam, Dutchess Alexandra, is by Judge Smells out of Courting Days by Bold Lad. First, it must be said that Courting Days is impeccably bred, herself. By Bold Lad, the champion juvenile and second best horse (behind Secretariat) ever produced by Bold Ruler, out of the Hail to Reason mare, Admiring, she was bred to run long and run often. Add to that the speed of Judge Smells, an undefeated pace-setting winner of the Hollywood Prevue Stakes from the blatantly speed-laden In Reality line, and you have a nice balance of a colt who will run better with age, distance, and experience. Oddly enough, there are also a great deal of horses with many starts in Stimulus Plans' pedigree, which is refreshing to see with the current fragile state of racing.

1. 1. 2. Break Water Edison
2. 2. 5. Old Fashioned
3. 3. 3. Charitable Man
4. 4. 1. Flying Pegasus
5. 5. Silver City
6. 6. Quality Road
7. 7. 7. Regal Ransom
8. 8. 7. Indygo Mountain
9. Stimulus Plan
10. 9. 8. Royal Vindication
11. 10. 9. Hello Broadway
12. West Side Bernie
13. 13. 11. Midshipman
14. 14. 12. Capt Candyman Can

This colt has raced four times and never finished worse than third. I expect big things and catapult him to #9 on my Kentucky Quatorze: Top 14 Derby Prospects. Runner-up in the Delta Jackpot, West Side Bernie, ran well enough to merit moving into the #12 spot, while Big Drama has to prove that he can win a similar race over a longer stretch and distance. Any colt by Montbrook out of a Notebook mare is new Florida speed on top of old florida sprinter speed. Any ability to go two turns is an influence from Damascus, Tom Fool, and Prince John far back in his pedigree enough to only take him 'but so far.' Also, his stride is very much a miler's stride, while those of the previously mentioned colts make us want to see them go longer.

Coming up we have the CashCall/Hollywood Futurity, as our last big juvenile race of the year. This race is being hyped as a clash between Zayat Stables' highly touted Pioneerof the Nile, whose name makes me cringe, and Sid and Jenny Craig Estate's Chocolate Candy, a son of my favorite freshman stallion, Candy Ride. The latter won the Real Quiet Stakes at the course and distance, but as a student of the game, I must say that this race is most likely going to be won by a newcomer, as neither of the top two have run numbers that make them anywhere in the vacinity of the term, 'standout.' Watch out for anyone that renowned late-developing juvenile trainers such as Neil Drysdale, Richard Mandella, Eoin Harty, Bob Baffert, or Doug O'Neill throw in this race.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Kentucky Quatorze: My Top 14 Derby Prospects

Ranking / Previous Week’s Ranking / Horse
1. 2. Break Water Edison
2. 5. Old Fashioned
3. 3. Charitable Man
4. 1. Flying Pegasus
5. Silver City
6. Quality Road
7. 7. Regal Ransom
8. 7. Indygo Mountain
9. 8. Royal Vindication
10. 9. Hello Broadway
11. 4. Skipadate
12. 10. Trinity Magic
13. 11. Midshipman
14. 12. Capt Candyman Can

On the Edge:
15. 13. Vineyard Haven
16. 14. Well Positioned

The story this week was breakout performances by horses who looked primed to do so. Old Fashioned made everyone take a second glance after his tour de force in the Remsen. I see a great deal of potential in this colt, but I do see his damsire, Meadowlake, as a liability. Meadowlake is notorious for young runners, especially juveniles, who develop early and very rarely improve after the midpoint of their sophomore years. To be fair, Unbridled’s Song’s offspring do well at younger ages as well. This makes me wonder if, despite his few races, he is simply more physically developed than his counterparts. On the other hand, we have another new gray superstar budding in Silver City, who flew Alysheba’s famed colors to a sharp victory at Churchill. Watch out for this colt and his stablemate, Indygo Mountain. Another big debut was Quality Road in an Aqueduct maiden. This Jimmy Jerkins-trained colt is beautifully bred with Elusive Quality on top and a full sister to feisty champion, Ajina, on the bottom. Ajina was a talented, tough stalker who could put up some big numbers. She was also a great deal more aggressive than her stablemate, Escena. Perhaps that is why she was a bit less consistent. In this, do not be surprised if Quality Road is equally as spotty.

I am still waiting to see what will come of the Nashua’s top three (Break Water Edison, Hello Broadway, Royal Vindication), but all three bode pedigrees that force us to take a second look at their chances in the Big Dance. I do see Break Water Edison developing really well in the future. His sire, Lemon Drop Kid, improved with age. Also, he has some great classic influence with Risen Star, Secretariat, and Ack Ack on his damside. It is also a good thing that they are giving him some time off, as he ran a great deal already this year (five times), including a quick two-week wheeling after a gritty second in the Saratoga Special.

I am still waiting to hear about Regal Ransom, but I am still a big fan of this colt with a wonderful high cruising rate. Hopefully he is still here in the U.S. and not training in the U.A.E. with the rest of Darley’s first string. I get the feeling that Charitable Man will be a late-comer in the sophomore Derby trials, as he is slated to return to training in early January.

Many of you may be wondering who in the heck Flying Pegasus is. He’s the tough once-beaten colt who finished second in the Futurity to Charitable Man. He showed so much talent that day, that I have to keep him in my top tier. He has a beautiful energy-saving stride and a great cruising rate. Do not be surprised to see Skipadate move his very game efforts from grass to dirt. He is bred for the dirt and has his sire’s signature high knee action. Trinity Magic has shown some impressive numbers, but simply has to prove that he can do it around two turns this week in the Delta Jackpot. Midshipman and Vineyard Haven are low on the list because he is going to Dubai. Captain Candyman Can ran gamely, but must run like less of a miler and more of a stayer if he is to ‘stay’ on this list. The other two colts who finished with him in the KJC, Giant Oak and winner Beethoven, both failed to truly impress me. Let us see them do it again and in faster numbers. Lastly, Well Positioned is still on here because I believe he will jump up and impress more people than myself. He is bred to get better with age and love a distance of ground.

Here’s to the Derby Trail!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Charity Break

Back in the summer I was touting two juveniles that I thought could be huge threats in subsequent months and (possibly) years. Both of these sons of Lemon Drop Kid have made their marks.

I do not believe Charitable Man, the winner of the Grade 2 Futurity Stakes, and Break Water Edison, winner of the Grade 3 Nashua Stakes, will have gone by the wayside when we recollect the crop of 2006. The former will be a force if he is healthy in 2009, and the latter will most likely win the Remsen this weekend. Let the games current Kentucky Derby Fabulous 14:

1. Flying Pegasus
2. Break Water Edison
3. Charitable Man
4. Skipadate
5. Old Fashioned
6. Regal Ransom
7. Indygo Mountain
8. Royal Vindication
9. Hello Broadway
10. Trinity Magic
11. Midshipman
12. Capt Candyman Can
13. Vineyard Haven
14. Well Positioned

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Curlin Show is Closing

Big surprise. Though it was a gesture of great sportsmanship, it was ultimately a mistake to run him in the Breeders' Cup. The interesting part is that Big Brown probably would have won that race, considering the winning speed figure of Raven's Pass and the nature of the racetrack. What might have been?

In any case, Curlin retires now as the richest Western Hemisphere racehorse in history. This is quite the feat, as he did so in only 16 starts and in a very similar purse structure to Cigar. Despite never running over a 119 Beyer, he retires as one of the most impressive animals I have seen. His races in the Dubai World Cup (where I am fairly sure a Beyer rating would have had him at about a 122-124) and Stephen Foster stick out as his most impressive. The former because of the sheer force he was while peaking, and the latter considering the shipping and curse of previous Dubai winners in that very same race. Also, the Preakness was a brilliant showing over a rival that proved to be just a notch below him, the radiant Street Sense.

Curlin was great for racing. Hopefully he adds to the sport what Jess Jackson has been hoping: strength, scope, soundness and stamina to a breed going in the opposite direction on all accounts. The Curlin show is closing, but every time a big horse leaves, an equal emerges from the dust. Here's hoping.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Sweet Departure

Despite the floundering economy’s affect on the racing industry, I remain with a smile on my face. Still, there are many horses running who are exciting and interesting. I would like to focus today on a stallion that a lot of people did not expect to do well, except me. His name is Candy Ride, and he is showing signs of very big things.

In 2002, Candy ride began his career in South America where he won three races in amazing style, including a one-mile world record in an unworldly 1:31. That is not a typo. This horse was serious business. He was snatched up by Sid and Jenny Craig and brought to America to be under the watchful eye of Ron McAnally in 2003. In the U.S. he would go on to win his first start impressively, an allowance, and then ran away much the best in the grassy All-American(G2) at Hollywood Park. This was no small feat, considering he beat one of the best milers of the last ten years, Special Ring, at his own game in the process. His winning Beyer Speed Figure was approximately a 107.

Next came an ambitious challenge for the bay son of Ride the Rails- a handicapping behemoth named Medaglia d’Oro. At the time, Medaglia d’Oro was the top-ranked older runner in America. With Jerry Bailey in the irons, Medaglia d’Oro dictated the Pacific Classic for seven furlongs until a patient Julie Krone let out what must have scared Bailey out of his stirrups. Candy Ride not only took the race to Medaglia d’Oro with over three furlongs remaining, but he waltzed past him with 3/16 to go and won easily. In a four horse race, left in the dust was Fleetstreet Dancer, who would go on to win the $2.4million Japan Cup Dirt, and Milwaukee Brew, who won consecutive Santa Anita Handicaps. Candy Ride won with a massive Beyer of 124, and did it in an effortlessly perfect style that I have only seen one horse come close to since. That horse was Ghostzapper, a mere one year later. What a match up that would have been! Alas, that’s a story for another day.

Candy Ride is the offspring of Ride the Rails, who had the misfortune of bumping heads with a very difficult crop of 1991. He beat the champion, Dehere, in an allowance race at Gulfstream Park, then went on to clash with Halo’s Image, Holy Bull, Go for Gin and Patton. In an extremely talented group of Florida-based sophomores, he held his own. He was bred for the dangerous combination of endurance and closing speed. Cryptoclearance, his sire, is famous for providing horses with a vicious turn of foot (e.g. Victory Gallop, Traitor, Crypto Star, Volponi, Strategic Maneuver, Cryptocloser and Millennium Wind) and was famous, himself, for looping entire fields with an effortless stride. He definitely passed that fluidity on to Candy Ride. Candy Ride’s female side is Candy Stripes/Blushing Groom brilliance on top of Argentinian grit. What that leaves you with, if the chemicals react perfectly, is a fluid, fast-closing, brilliant, high-cruising, gritty colt. It worked perfectly.

Candy Ride was unlucky enough to injure himself before he would have to tangle with his last expected hurdles: Congaree and Pleasantly Perfect. Those two would go on to win the last two big races for older horses, the Breeders’ Cup Classic and Cigar Mile. Though brilliant, I am fairly certain Candy Ride would have beaten both. He retired with a perfect 6-for-6 and an empty feeling of what might have been left in his awed fans, including myself.

Now a stallion, his first offspring are hitting the ground running, despite him not getting a great deal of commercial attention. What I find interesting about him is that his breeding works perfectly with the two most prolific American Stallions: Storm Cat and A.P. Indy. Actually, his current big runner (Capt Candyman Can) is out of a Storm Cat mare. With the abundance of those two lines out there, paired with Candy Ride’s fantastic outcross, I expect HUGE things in the future for this stallion.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


The Big Dance.

Here comes Curlin. He is the most accomplished horse in the field, and now he has to go against the best 10 furlong horse in Europe, over a surface that is equally novel to both. I see this race, despite all of the other accomplished, tough animals, as a match between these two beasts. Curlin is big, muscular, flowing, and graceful in his approach, while Duke of Marmalade is maneuverable, tall, and loves to outclass his rivals by many lengths.

This race may lack Big Brown, but I doubt he could have measured up to these two champions. Between them they have twelve G1 wins; Enough said.

BUT, will they take to the surface? Will they be able to hold off the brilliant synthetic specialists? Go Between will run well, but will it be good enough? The same goes for Tiago.

If I am to bet one horse in this race that will run well on the surface, it is none of the above. He has one race over the surface, and he should have won it. He is a full brother to multiple turf champions, his kick will be comparable to any horse you will see in any of these races, and comes from arguably the best stable in the world.

His name is Champs Elysees, and he is coming up to this race like the only horse capable of running down the two big champions, if traffic works in his favor. I think the distance is his best and he will give a good showing of himself.

Alas, I cannot pick against the top two. But, who will it be? If Duke of Marmalade and Curlin are lined up at the 1/8 pole, which no doubt Murtagh will make sure the former is, I cannot see the might Curlin out-kicking Duke of Marmalade. Danehills have taken quite well to the synthetics (see: Champs Elysees), and his damsire, Kingmambo, has had many offspring run well on the synthetics. He should outrun the speedy duo of stablemate Henrythenavigator and Godolphin rival Raven's Pass, and will be chased to no avail by the classy Tiago and Champs Elysees.

1. (4) Duke of Marmalade 6-1
2. (9) Curlin 8-5
3. (12) Champs Elysees 20-1
4. (4) Tiago 15-1
5. (8) Raven's Pass 10-1


Perhaps the classiest race of the day is the Breeders' Cup Turf. Soldier of Fortune will be difficult to beat in this race, given his ability to rate. If there is way to beat this horse, you have to find an animal with a strong kick. Soldier of Fortune is very similar to High Chaparral, as he is very much a grinding type. Horses with strong kicks like Red Rocks and Grand Couturier will have something to say about the last quarter mile.

Ultimately, I think this race will come down to two Europeans with huge finishing kicks: Eagle Mountain and Conduit. The latter will be tough, as Sir Michael Stoute always comes with guns loaded. For this reason, as this is a wide open race, I lean toward him. He is making his second start since July, while having a nice six week break from his classic win in the St. Leger at Doncaster, Great Britain.

Eagle Mountain's distance abilities may work against him here, and Soldier of Fortune will be nearly impossible to beat, but I think Ryan Moore will be on the best horse of the day. Red Rocks will have something to say about the race, while Grand Couturier is America's best chance at defending the homeland.

1. (9) Conduit 6-1
2. (4) Soldier of Fortune 3-1
3. (2) Red Rocks 9-2
4. (11) Eagle Mountain 6-1
5. (3) Grand Couturier 4-1


The one race that I am throwing out the synthetic book is the Sprint. I will probably eat my words, but this race is one that I am simply going to root for the horse that is the best.

This race, unlike many other Sprints, is a small field. Only eight horses line up, but there are three speed horses to watch. Black Seventeen, who beat Fabulous Strike in the slop, is a tough customer on the synthetic as well. After running a peak performance, I am expected him to bounce. Fatal Bullet has been riding up the ranks, winning races impressively, and is trained by Reade Baker, a talented conditioner. Today he will have to go well under :22 for his first quarter, so I doubt he will be ready to do that against Fabulous Strike.

Fabulous Strike is running for the second time off a layoff, should take to the synthetic, and is the fastest force of pace. He will get the jump on the other two pace-setters from the inside, and will hopefully have enough to hold off the two closers: Midnight Lute and Street Boss. Do not count out the tough conditioner, Clement, with In Summation. He will be the only true stalker with a chance here, and will take advantage of a fast pace.

So, in the end, I look for Fabulous Strike to hold off Midnight Lute and Street Boss, with In Summation being out-kicked by those two, and Black Seventeen bouncing back in fifth.

1. (3) Fabulous Strike 7-2
2. (4) Midnight Lute 5-1
3. (2) Street Boss 3-1
4. (7) In Summation 8-1
5. (6) Black Seventeen 12-1

Juvenile Turf

One of my favorite races of the day is the Juvenile Turf. This is the 2nd running of this race, and it is full of class. The best American is Skipadate, a fantastic son of champion Skip Away, who has not become the stallion force that everyone wished. Though he will be the one I am rooting for, I believe he will be outclassed by Coolmore's Westphalia.

Westphalia ran a huge race last out in the Champagne (G2) in England, a race that is well placed (6 weeks) for this one. I think this colt, given a patented Murtagh ride, will be tough and should run from the back of the pack with Bittel Road.

Another closer to watch is the Canadian, Grand Adventure. This colt ran a huge race to stay undefeated last out in the Summer, barely nipping Skipadate (see: photo). He ran a nice Beyer, and should be a tough customer if given the proper ride by Bejarano. Frostad has come to the west coast before and won a Breeders' Cup race (Chief Bearheart), so I do not doubt his training prowess.

Lastly, never underestimate ex-Californian, John Gosden. He brings Donativum, who is going to be difficult to beat under the pace-smart Dettori. Last out he beat 23 other horses under 129 lbs. He gets a rider upgrade and has run extremely well on firm turf. Like Bittel Road, I look for him to run well but be outclassed by the previously mentioned trio of Westphalia, the proverbial bridesmaid Skipadate, and Canadian champion-to-be, Grand Adventure.

1. (3) Westphalia 3-1
2. (10) Skipadate 8-1
3. (12) Grand Adventure 5-1
4. (4) Donativum 8-1
5. (11) Bittel Road 4-1


The young ones get rolling in the Bessemer Trust Juvenile. Like a great deal of the dirt races, you have to look at their pedigrees to see who will run the best.

The first pedigree that pops out at me is West Side Bernie. I believe this colt will be overlooked because of his post position, despite the fact that he has two turn experience and has had outside posts in both races. He will be under-bet.

Bushranger is the class of this field with two G1 wins in Europe and a third place in another. He's a gorgeous bay (see: photo) who is from the Danzig line (through Danetime and Danehill), who should at least be useful on this surface. He drops a few pounds in this race, which will help, and he has Murtagh, who is the Prado of Europe. He places his horses in the best possible spot, and I expect this to be no different.

Square Eddie will be tough if he repeats his last, but this field is a serious one that will give him more of a tussle than the Breeders' Futurity. Yesterday, we saw another Keeneland runaway winner 'lay an egg,' when (my choice) Carriage Trail ran a dull fourth in the Ladies Classic.

Munnings will be a question mark, considering he has yet to run over a synthetic course. He gets Velazquez back, which will help greatly. Last time, in the Champagne, he should have pushed the pace-setting winner, but DeCarlo chose to take him off the pace. I am not convinced he will take to the surface, but I could be wrong.

Lastly, we have Midshipman. This colt is a bit of a grinder, but given the right ride, could be a winner. Gomez picks up the mount, which is a huge plus. Baffert has been developing this well-bred colt progressively, and that leads me to believe he is the little-known 'horse to beat.'

1. (11) Midshipman 6-1
2. (13) West Side Bernie 12-1
3. (12) Bushranger 6-1
4. (4) Square Eddie 3-1
5. (1) Munnings 6-1


The real grass racing gets under way in the Mile. This race is full of really classy horses (and mares), but the difference between this and other Santa Anita Breeders' Cup Miles is that it is eleven will line up, not fourteen. I think the best horse will win, but it might not be who everyone is expecting.

I have been watching U.S. Ranger for over a year, and know quite well that he was regarded as Coolmore's best guineas hope of 2007. He has been kept sprinting this year, but never in five furlong races. His race in the Darley July Cup (see: photo) was huge under 131 lbs, barely losing to Europe's best (and possibly most beautiful gray; you know I love them!) sprinter, Marchand d'Or. He has been kept at longer sprints, like last out in the seven furlong G1 Prix de la Foret, where he was only 2.5 lengths behind Natagora, who is possibly the best three year old filly in Europe. He carried 6 lbs more than her that day, and today, under equal weights to most of these horses, with Murtagh in the irons, I cannot see him being denied.

A lot can be said of his chief European rival here, Goldikova. She is riding a three-race win streak, including two group ones at this distance. She is trained by Miesque's jockey, Freddie Head, who obviously knows a little about good miler fillies. The one strike here is that she is ridden by Peslier, who often poorly times his American rides (see: Freedom Cry), and will have to deal with a left-hand turn for the first time. If she does well with that, she is the filly to watch.

The Americans will not be denied a say in the outcome today, though. We bring three really tough older horses. Kip Deville will be a tough defender of his crown, but it is well known that he only has an edge on softer turf. On harder ground, he is just as tough as anyone else. The horse to catch is the ultra-classy Daytona, who has won seven of his last nine races. He loves to set a quick pace and pick it up again, which is easily possible today at a distance that is 1/8-1/4 mile shorter than his optimum.

Lastly, Whatsthescript is possibly John Sadler's best chance at an upset today. He will be closing late, but should be outpaced by the aforementioned Europeans. I am hoping for U.S. Ranger to show how classy he is, if nothing else, for being from the last crop of possibly the best Breeders' Cup stallion of all time: Danzig. Not to mention being out of a Red Ransom half-sister to Dynaformer. This colt is Coolmore at a price; Take him. Put him on top of a hugely under bet classy colt, in Daytona, and you have my boxcar exacta of the day.

1. (7) U S Ranger 20-1
2. (5) Daytona 20-1
3. (4) Goldikova 8-5
4. (2) Kip Deville 7-2
5. (11) Whatsthescript 6-1

Dirt Mile

The races keep getting better!

The Dirt Mile, in its second running, is back at an actual "mile," here. The synthetic is probably, once again, the biggest boundary and attribute to a great deal of these horses. This may be the best chance for people to make money, with many of my favorite horses looking like they are going to go off at over 10-to-1.

The two big long shots that people should take notice of are Rebellion and Two Step Salsa. They are trained by Breeders' Cup "big dance" trainers, Graham Motion and Julio Canani. These conditioners will have them ready and probably have been pointing to this race for quite some time. Rebellion will be coming late and Two Step Salsa will be trying to keep his head in front of the tough Well Armed the entire race.

Well Armed will most likely outclass most of these horses in the final 3/16th's, but I do not believe he will outclass all of them. Lewis Michael is the one colt who has run huge numbers and comes from a tough trainer who knows how to get a horse ready for any type of race. Lewis Michael is a synthetic-loving full brother to the classy turf mare and dirt champion, Dreaming of Anna, who will be sitting off of a few super-fast speedsters (Two Step Salsa, Well Armed, Slew's Tizzy, Mast Track). Sitting near Lewis Michael, I expect to see the always tough Surf Cat. Headley, once again, has a horse here who would destroy these on a regular dirt course, but is making due with a colt who is classy and tough.

I am not sure why Coa is on Lewis Michael, but I hope that he has him in the proverbial "catbird seat" at the quarter pole, alongside Surf Cat, and ready to run away from them like he did in the Pat O'Brien at Del Mar. This will put an exclamation point on a really gritty and diverse career that you would expect from any offspring of Rahy.

1. (1) Lewis Michael 8-1
2. (8) Well Armed 8-5
3. (5) Two Step Salsa 20-1
4. (2) Surf Cat 10-1
5. (10) Rebellion 15-1

Turf Sprint

One of my favorite races of the entire Breeders' Cup program is the inaugural Turf Sprint. This race is bald speedsters and bold closers clashing down the hill and into a 1/4 mile stretch that crosses over a sometimes troublesome main course. Sometimes the main course impedes a closer's momentum, and thus this course often favors speed horses.

I would not be surprised if today a track record was set. The beautiful and fast gray gelding, California Flag, along with Hero's Reward, True to Tradition and Mr. Nightlighter will all be fiercely fast out of the gate. California Flag may be the fastest, but that is something we will not know until the gates are opened.

In the meantime, I do have to admit that I am throwing them all out due to their abundance, and going toward a classy European trained by the venerable Jeremy Noseda, Fleeting Spirit. This filly, tackling the older males is a staggering closer who will finally get the insane pace she needs to be competitive at the highest level. She will have a good post (2) and will be coming at the end under the always dangerous Johnny Murtagh.

1. (2) Fleeting Spirit 6-1
2. (3) True to Tradition 8-1
3. (14) Mr. Nightlighter 3-1
4. (1) Hero's Reward 20-1
5. (10) California Flag 10-1


In the Marathon we have the match-up of Americans trying to stretch their speed vs. Europeans trying to adapt to U.S. synthetics. I am going to have to side with the latter. The Americans are not very impressive in this race, side from the ornery roan, Delightful Kiss, who has been BURNING up the track at Golden Gate since his win in the All American.

I expect Zappa to go to the front, but he will have plenty of company with Booyah and Talamo. He will be tough to catch, despite this, but I believe the Euros will be coming. Sixties Icon, if he likes the surface, is the class of this field. There are few trainers better at getting a horse to run well in America than Jeremy Noseda, who has been pointing this English classic winner to this race for a while. Alas, I do not think he will win. That money is going toward to other Euro, Muhannak. This colt is by Chester House, whose offspring really love synthetics. This makes sense, being that Chester House could run on anything, had a huge kick, and was lightly framed. Lightly framed horses have an innate advantage over a deep bouncy surface. They can recover more quickly from each step, as well as kick very strongly through the lane. Ventura was a perfect example of that.

I am looking at Muhannak over Sixties Icon in an All-Anglo exacta. Delightful Kiss is honest and coming up to a big race, but I still think his best race is a length shorter than the aforementioned. Right behind Delightful Kiss I would put pace-setter Zappa and Neil Drysdale's (whom we know is ALWAYS dangerous on Breeders' Cup day) charge, Cedar Mountain, who is 1-for-2 on synthetics. This colt is here for a reason, but I think he will fall short of a distance/synthetic star in Muhannak.

1. (5) Muhannak 15-1
2. (4) Sixties Icon 2-1
3. (3) Delightful Kiss 6-1
4. (6) Zappa 5-2
5. (8) Cedar Mountain 6-1

Friday, October 24, 2008

Ladies' Classic

For the first time in years, the Distaff becomes its own centerpiece. For all of those years it, along with the sprint, has often been the most competitive event of the day. Today, in the newly thought out Ladies Day, it has been re-coined the Ladies' Classic, which is the only stupid aspect of this.

On a day for classic performances, many believe this is going to be the crowning of a huge year for Zenyatta. She will go off as the heaviest favorite of the day, but I find flaws in this nearly flawless creature, that force me to go against the grain. Perhaps I simply want to beat a big favorite, which I am prone to, but there is a chance that the hype is too big and the opposition too poorly regarded.

I have two reasons to bet against this filly.
1.) Her worst race was at this distance. She won with a speed figure 4.5 lengths slower than her races at 8.5 furlongs. Some say it was the heat that got to her, but I think it was an overconfident jockey. Mike Smith is often overly confident, and that could be her undoing. Smith could be overconfident on a filly that could come from anywhere, like Azeri, but not here. This filly is a one-run specialist with a stride that needs to build on its own momentum. If he moves too early again, she will be prone to reason #2:
2.) Carriage Trail. This filly is going to be difficult to beat. She is trained by a Breeders' Cup master, Shug McGaughey, and is coming off a breakout race in the Spinster. The last two times McGaughey won this race were with Spinster runners: Inside Information and Pleasant Home. If he has her right, she can get the jump on Zenyatta and dare her to catch her. She is also a more maneuverable filly than the big favorite, which makes her even more dangerous.

The three big "X Factors" in this race are the one-two finishers from last year, Champion Ginger Punch and Hystericalady, along with the (destined to be highly under-bet) Santa Teresita. The latter is coming into her second race off a layoff, while also giving Zenyatta all she could handle in the Milady back in May. She regains Michael Baze, the last rider to win on her, and loves the surface. Ginger Punch likes the surface but is coming off two tough races. She seems to have lost at least a length, and is the one filly that Frankel has been surprisingly quiet about. My feeling here is that Stronach wanted to run and Frankel figured she would at least give a respectable showing in her career bow. Lastly, my favorite filly in the race is Hysteralady. On regular dirt, she is my pick in this race. On synthetics, she is merely #3. She will be tough, she will give them all she can handle, and then she will be overpowered by two well-adapted synthetic-loving fillies.

Of the two Godolphin fillies, I think Music Note will be tougher, despite going off at higher odds. She's out of a Sadler's Wells mare and should like the extra cushion. But, both of these fillies are running into a field and circumstances that are beyond their prowess. Bear Now is in way over her head. On a dirt course, she is in the top five, but that is null and void.

1. (5) Carriage Trail 6-1
2. (1) Zenyatta 4-5
3. (2) Hystericalady 10-1
4. (6) Ginger Punch 5-1
5. (7) Santa Teresita 15-1

Filly & Mare Turf

The first of the "SERIOUS" races comes in the Filly & Mare Turf. This race is the clash of the mighty grey (or roan)'s, it seems. From Ireland, we have the brilliant 3-time G1 winner, Halfway to Heaven. This filly is absolutely an absolutely gorgeous dark roan/grey and can win from anywhere.

Then we have the American combo of Wait a While and Forever Together. Both of these fillies come off smashing wins and have completely different styles. Wait a While will sit off the pace and "wait a while" until the 5/16 pole. Forever Together will come from out of the clouds and hope the stretch magically lengthens to her liking, or the fillies ahead of her all get stung by bees.

BUT, I am going to go against the grain today. Or, rather, against the grey(s). Today is the day for Mauralakana. This filly has fought all year and deserves to win this race for Christophe Clement. She has won 5 of 7 on all types of going, and will be ready to go one more time. She definitely deserves a chance here, and is my most reliable bet in this race. Wait a While will be tough to catch, Halfway to Heaven will be nearly impossible to out kick, and Forever Together will be arduous to hold off, but I put my money and kind regards on Mauralakana.

Almost more difficult than that is finding which filly will come in fifth place. In a race where I expect they all will finish within 6 lengths of one another, fifth place is no bad showing. To me, I must once again go with the turf master, Christophe Clement. I think he will have his other Charge, the ULTRA-classy Vacare ready to pounce. She may ever run better than we expect her to, so do not be afraid to throw her on top if the race falls apart. She had a poor ride and trip last out, but will get a better chance this time, as Valdivia is a highly underrated judge of pace. If she's in 3rd or 4th after a half mile, she will be tough to beat. Alas, I think she will be out-kicked late (being that 10 furlongs is a furlong beyond her best distance) by the aforementioned four fillies. I'm throwing out Dynaforce, simply because she will be over-bet due to the Mott factor, and will be slightly less of a 'force' on harder ground.

1. (7) Mauralakana 5-1
2. (5) Wait a While 7-2
3. (8) Halfway to Heaven 3-1
4. (3) Forever Together 4-1
5. (2) Vacare 12-1

Juvenile Fillies

The races just do not get any easier. Thirteen fillies line up in the Juvenile Fillies, and a case can be made for over half of them. I will narrow it down to five.

The first name that jumps out at me in this race is Persistently, who is persistently running well. She has yet to go two turns, but I have no doubts that the Phipps Stable representative will be ready to do it, despite being by a sprinter sire (Smoke Glacken). Her dam is a Deputy Minister mare out of Heavenly Prize, who relished 10 furlongs. Distance-wise, she should be just fine. Also, I cannot find a reason to think she will not do well on synthetics. I think she will be coming at the end, but will fall short to four others that I highly regard.

Pursuit of Glory is a filly from the Coolmore operation that should adore the synthetic surface. In fact, she broke her maiden at Dundalk (Ireland) on polytrack. She is jumping up 2.5 furlongs and dealing with turns (two of them) for the first time in her life, but I think she will be up for the challenge. She is the best-bred filly in the field (big surprise, Coolmore!), by Fusaichi Pegasus, out of Sophisticat, who was a multiple G1 winner on turf, but is by Storm Cat out of the great Serena's Song. Sophisticat also ran into one of the best Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies races ever when she ran a relatively close fifth respectably behind Tempera, Imperial Gesture, Bella Bellucci, and You. ALL either G1 winners or very close to it (Bella Bellucci was perhaps the most highly regarded and was a multiple G2 winner. She also is a full sister to phenomenal Japanese Champion Kurofune). The distance jump will keep Pursuit of Glory from the winner's circle, but it will not keep her out of the money.

You must respect easy breakout performances, and those are just what we got from C.S. Silk and Sky Diva in their respective one-turn mile races in the Arlington-Washington Lassie and Frizette. They were equally as impressive. The nod has to go to Sky Diva, who should take well to synthetics. Being by Pulpit-line sire, Sky Mesa, whose line has done well on the rubbery sand, as well as training over Fair Hill's Tapeta, will serve this filly well. She is the class of the field, already winning around two turns and has a genius, Ramon Dominguez, in the saddle. The filly to beat.

C.S. Silk will be on the lead, but unless she can rate off the tough Be Smart, one must throw her down the ranks. Alas, we come to the big white phenom (and probably favorite), Stardom Bound. This Christopher Paasch filly is going to be coming at the end, but whom will she catch? If Sky Diva runs her race and starts pulling away from C.S. Silk and the leg-weary duo of Be Smart and Pursuit of Glory, I do not think she will be caught.

1. (4) Sky Diva 5-1
2. (10) Stardom Bound 8-5
3. (11) Pursuit of Glory 12-1
4. (8) C.S. Silk 10-1
5. (2) Persistently 12-1

Adolphson Thoroughbred Consulting

Washington, D.C.