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!

Adolphson Thoroughbred Consulting

Washington, D.C.