The Brock Talk

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Jockey Club Gold Cup History Has Few Rivals

When it comes to history and tradition, few races compare to the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Before the inaugural Breeders' Cup in 1984, The Gold Cup was as close to a year's end championship as thoroughbred racing had. And for many years, it served that role well. The Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes stand alone certainly in making up our marquee Triple Crown; and the Breeders' Cup is one of the single greatest innovations in our sport. The Santa Anita Handicap has a colorful and rich history to be sure, as does the Woodward Stakes at Saratoga - although it's a spry 55 years old. But few races have given us as many great horses as Jockey Club Gold Cup which will be run for the 91st time this week as part of Belmont Park's Super Saturday.

To illustrate my point, I ask you to join me in trying to name the best Jockey Club Gold Cup winner of each of the 11 decades the race has been run.

There are easy ten-year spans like the 1960s when Kelso (photo) won the first five Gold Cups of the decade. And there are no arguments about Purchase in the 1910s either. He won the first Jockey Club Gold Cup (then know as the Jockey Club Stakes) in 1919 with jockey Clarence Kummer for Glen Riddle Farm.

Determining the best winner of the 1920s is fairly easy as well. Kummer and Glen Riddle Farm returned the next year with Man o' War. Thanks go to owner Harry Payne Whitney that year however, for entering his Damask and preventing a walkover for Man o' War, who still won by 15 lengths. Glen Riddle would later win the 1925 and '26 Gold Cups with Altawood and Crusader respectively and again in 1938 with War Admiral, who had won the Triple Crown the previous year.

Well that makes finding the best Jockey Club Gold Cup winner of the 1930s easy you say? Not so fast. In 1930, trainer Sonny Jim Fitzsimmons won his second Gold Cup with Gallant Fox, the second Triple Crown winner after Sir Barton in 1919. In fact, it was sportswriter Charles Hutton who coined the pharse "Triple Crown" that year in writing about Gallant Fox sweeping the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes. The Bel Air Stud-owned 3-year-old won nine of his 10 starts that year, losing only in the Travers to Jim Dandy. Gallant Fox also went on to become the only horse ever to sire a Triple Crown winner when his son Omaha won the title in 1935.

War Admiral (photo) was undefeated in 1937 and was named Horse of the Year that year - the second year the award was given. In 1938, he lost only two of his 11 starts including a fourth in the Massachusetts Handicap in June. He then won five consecutive stakes races, all wire-to-wire, concluding with the two mile Jockey Club Gold Cup Oct. 1.

His next start would be a losing one in the famous match race against Seabiscuit in the Pimlico Special.

Finding the best Jockey Club Gold Cup winner of the 1940s is also intriguing with two Triple Crown winners in Whirlaway and Citation.

Whirlaway won 32 of 60 career races including my favorite, an allowance between the 1941 Preakness and Belmont Stakes. As a 3 year old, he was second to Market Wise by a nose in the 1941 Gold Cup before winning the next year with the legendary George Wolf aboard. He was Horse of the Year in both 1941 and '42.

Citation won 32 of 45 career starts, but bested Whirlaways Triple Crown trivia note by throwing in a stakes victory at Garden State Park between the May 15 Preakness and June 12 Belmont of 1948. He was the Champion 3-Year Old Male, Champion Handicap Horse and Horse of the Year in 1948 and the last Triple Crown winner before Secretariat.

Nashua is perhaps the best horse to win the Gold Cup in the 1950s, having won it in 1955 and again in 1956 in the final race of his career. Only a runner-up finish in the Kentucky Derby away from being a Triple Crown winner, Nashua has a couple of interesting Gold Cup distinctions in that jockey Eddie Arcaro and trainer Jim Fitzsimmons are both JCGP record holders for most wins. Arcaro won the race ten times between 1935 and 1961. Fitzsimmons took home seven Gold Cups between 1929 and 1956.

Although Kelso was easily the best of the Gold Cup winners in the 1960s, four others were named Horse of The Year including Roman Ruler in 1965, Buckpasser ('66), Damascus ('67) and Arts and Letters in '69. And although it is easy to determine who was the best Gold Cup winner of the 1960s, to find the best of the 1970s is quite the challenge.

Forego, winner of the 1974 Gold Cup, won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Older Male Horse four times between 1974-'77 and was Horse of the Year for three years straight: 1974, 1975 and 1976. Yet another Triple Crown winner in Affirmed ended his 29-race career with a thrilling 1978 Gold Cup victory over Spectacular Bid and Coastal and perhaps the best Jockey Club Gold Cup of all time saw Exceller become the only horse to defeat two Triple Crown winners in the same race when he took the 1978 Gold Cup over Seattle Slew and Affirmed.

John Henry, Slew o'Gold and Easy Goer are among the Gold Cup victors in the 1980s and Cigar probably gets the nod for the best of the 1990s. Curlin won consecutive Jockey Club Gold Cups in 2007 and 2008 to be considered the best of this decade so far, but only time will actually give us that answer.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Thoughts, Comments and Questions.

Jockey Joe Talamo said on Twitter Sunday night that he will be aboard Mine That Bird Tuesday morning at Santa Anita to work the Kentucky Derby winner in preperation for the $350,000, 1-1/8 mile Goodwood (gr. 1) at Santa Anita on Oct. 10. At this time Calvin Borel has the mount aboard Mine That Bird in the Goodwood. According to an artcle in, Mine That Bird arrived in Southern California Friday morning after a 12-hour van ride from New Mexico. And yes, trainer Chip Woolley is still on crutches.

Kentucky Cup Classic (gr. 2) winner Furthest Land may be heading to the Breeders' Cup in November, but it doesn't look like it will be in the Classic. Trainer Michael Maker has instead indicated that the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (gr. 1) will be the ultimate goal with possibly the Fayette Stakes (gr. 3) at Keeneland Oct. 31 as the next step.

It's been a bad week for fans of some great stallions and a champion gelding. First El Prado and Summer Squall pass away. Then we lose Kona Gold and now Cryptoclearance. As a fan of Alysheba, I remember well the hard charging Crytoclearance who was part of that good class of 1984. Bet Twice, Lost Code, and Java Gold were among the stars of that class.

The Sunday morning work tab at Belmont Park is filled with big names preparing for the track's Super Saturday featuring five grade 1 races. In preperation for the Jockey Club Gold Cup, Travers (gr. 1) winner Summer Bird worked five furlongs in 102.40 with jockey Kent Desormeaux aboard while Florida Derby (gr.1) winner and Travers third-place finisher Quality Road also went 5/8th of a mile in 1:01.60. Asiatic Boy put in a rapid half-mile work in :47:55. The work was the fastest that morning getting the bullet notation for that distance.

Gio Ponti, in preperation for the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic and his his fifth straight grade 1 win, put in his duty on the turf course working five furlongs in 1:01.04. Belmont Park will also feature the Beldame for fillies and mares and the seven furlong Vosburgh. Expect to see grade 2 Tom Fool Handicap winner Munnings in the Vosburgh.

I wonder if it was such a good idea for Kentucky Senate President David Williams (R-Burkesville) to begin a public correspondence responding to William S. Farish with "I never cease to be amazed..."? Williams was responding to a editorial published in The Paulick Report in which Farish illustrated the benefits slot machines would bring to the state's horse industry. Farish is the owner of Lane's End Farm, but more important to Williams - I would think - is that Farish is the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom, appointed by President George W. Bush. Farish is a longtime prominent Republican needless-to-say.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Hold Me Back Has Questions To Answer in Ky. Cup

Since that November day in 2000 when Tiznow and Giant's Causeway gave us that dual down the long Churchill Downs stretch to finish one-two in the Breeders' Cup Classic, I have been a fan of both. Now that they are both retired from the track and in healthy careers as stallions, I still remain a fan. Their offspring always get a second look from me and I often like them.

One quick look at Giant's Causway's most recent photo in the Blood-Horse Stallion Register, and you'll see why one might like him as a stallion as well. With those large bones and powerful bumper-to-bumper conformation, one might expect his get to take a while to grow into such a model.

Such might to be the case with Hold Me Back, the 7-5 morning line favorite in Saturday's $200,000 Kentucky Cup Classic (gr. 2) at Turfway Park in Florence, Ky. In the spring, Hold Me Back won the Lane End Stakes (gr. 2) at Turfway and finished second in the Toyata Bluegrass Stakes (gr. 2) at Keeneland before finishing 13th in a troubled Kentucky Derby. So maybe he excels on poly-track was the thinking.

But he comes into the Kentucky Cup off of perhaps his best performance, (albeit a runner-up finish) behind Summer Bird in the Shadwell Travers Stakes over a sloppy Saratoga track Aug. 29. So now we wonder if he is just now maturing into that Giant's Causeway model of his.

Hold Me Back will be saddled the Kentucky Cup by trainer Bill Mott, who most remember as the trainer of the great Cigar. But he also has other more notable credentials as the youngest trainer to ever be inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 1998 and won back-to-back Eclipse Awards as the top trainer in 1995 and 1996. He is know for his patience with horses and may have Hold Me Back right on track to the befuddlement of us all.

Less the winner Gran Estrano, the Kentucky Cup will also feature a bit of a rematch of the grade 3 Washington Park Handicap at Arlington Park with Dubious Miss and Wicked Style coming in off their second and third-place finishes respectively. Furthest Land from the Michael Maker barn could also rebound successfully from a short vacation after finishing fourth in the Claiming Crown Jewel Stakes at Canterbury Park as the favorite.

What also make this race interesting is the surface. Like Santa Anita, the home of this year's Breeders' Cup, Turfway Park has a poly-track synthetic surface. Not many of these horses has much of a chance at the Breeders' Cup Classic, but like Regal Ransom in the Super Derby, a big performance today will at the very least deserve consideration. Anything less than a big performance by Hold Me Back may keep him out of the Classic however.

In any case, Hold Me Back has some questions to answer Saturday and I for one will be interested in his answers.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Recent Rene Douglas Updates

For the update by Jennie Rees in the Louisville Courier-Journal Click Here.

For the video update as produced by HRTV on Click Here.

To send a message to Rene on Facebook Click Here.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Ransom Received In Super Derby

We may not be looking at the next Tiznow in Super Derby winner Regal Ransom, but I like the scenerary none-the-less. True, the Super Derby was not loaded with Mine That Birds, Summer Birds and Rachel Alexandras, but it wasn't a bunch of allowance horses either as someone suggested last night in a Facebook post. It was a credible grade 2 stake with graded stakes-placed runners and winners. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Second place finisher Blame had just won the Curlin Stakes at Saratoga. Third place finisher Massone was also third in the grade 1 Bluegrass Stakes in April and grade 2 West Virginia Derby winner Soul Warrior was fourth in the Super Derby.

I'm not here to tell you that Regal Ransom (photo) is going to win the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita in November, but if he runs, I'm not leaving him out of the bottom of my trifectas either. I doubt he'll be on the top line of my trifecta, but he'll be in the bottom line for third. Maybe second.

What I saw in the Super Derby was the winner of the grade 2 UAE Derby seemingly strolling around the Bossier City oval at Louisiana Downs with apparently more concern for infield alligators than his competition. I saw a Regal Ransom break on top, go right to lead and in complete control of the pace and eventually the race. Jockey Richard Migliore probably requested his gumbo in the jock's room kitchen more aggresively than he asked Regal Ransom to run down the stretch in the Super Derby.

What I also saw was a horse making his first start since the first Saturday in May when he was eighth in the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum. That is a long vacation for a race horse and few at any level return with a win in their first start - much less return to dominate in a graded stake.

What I also see in Regal Ransom is a very nice looking, well bred, bay colt who sold for $675,000 at the 2008 Fasig-Tipton Florida Select 2-Year-Olds in Training sale. He is a son of Distorted Humor, who stood for $150,000 per breeding in 2009 and has been among North America's leading sires while producing the likes of Funny Cide, Flower Alley, Hysterical Lady and Commentator.

I also see a horse from the internationally powerful Godolphin Stable of Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum and under the care of trainer Saeed bin Suroor and North American assistant Rick Mettee. According to their web site, they've won 151 group 1 and grade 1 races in 12 countries.

I don't see the next Tiznow or Alysheba just yet, but I think Regal Ransom gives us plenty to enjoy.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Super Derby Not Super But Sometimes Surpising

This Saturday seven 3-year-olds will be racing at Louisiana Downs in the $750,000 Super Derby. Despite it's aspirational name, grade 2 status and large purse, the marquee event for the Bossier City track has long struggled to find a place among the elite Summer races for 3-year-olds such as the Jim Dandy, Travers and Haskell Invitational. And it is seldom mentioned among the key races trainers consider when preparing their sophomores for the Breeders' Cup Classic some two months later.

But every once in a while a perceived second-stringer, lesser known late bloomer, or a supposed spent Triple Crown contender wins the Super Derby on their way to bigger and better things.

The trend began 1984 when Jack Van Berg brought Gate Dancer (photo) to Louisiana Downs. After starting the year in California, Gate Dancer finished third in the Arkansas Derby behind the filly Althea, who went into the Derby as the favorite. In Kentucky, Gate Dancer finished a tiring fourth behind Swale, but was placed fifth for interference down the stretch. A trait that along with his bright white hooded earmuffs, would become his trademark.

At times, Gate Dancer seemed more fond of running over his competition than outrunning them. In perhaps the best Super Derby ever run, the great Bill Shoemaker had West Coast star Precisionist apparently cruising through blistering fractions of :46-2/5 for the half, a mile in 1:35 and alone on the lead the entire time. Meanwhile, Gate Dancer and Laffit Pincay lanquished as far as 20 lengths back down the backside. At the top of the stretch, Precisionist was still four lengths ahead of Big Pistol in second while Gate Dancer was still eight lengths behind in fifth but now moving. As Precisionist moved away from the field, Gate Dancer had by now done the same, but looked destined for second. Although he was making up ground on Precisionist, Pincay looked more like a chuck wagon pilot than a jockey as it appeared Gate Dancer was looking more for someone to run into than catch Precisionist. At the wire Gate Dancer was in front by a nose and had sliced more than two seconds off of the track record. But in his final strides, he seemingly made a point to veer harmlessly toward Precisionist. It was harmless in that he did not interfere with Precisionist, but close enough to get smacked across the chest by Shoemaker's whip.

Gate Dancer went on to finish second in the now famous inaurgural Breeders' Cup Classic won by Wild Again, but was placed third behind Slew o' Gold for interference - again running over another good 3-year-old.

Van Berg also used the Super Derby to rejuvenate Alysheba, who had lost in the Belmont, Haskell and Travers after taking the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. Alysheba won the Super Derby, then finished second to Ferdinand in the Breeders' Cup Classic by a scant nose. A year later Seeking the Gold used his Super Derby victory to prepare for a close second behind Alysheba in the Classic.

In 1989, Louisiana Downs officials raised the purse of the Super Derby to $2 million in an effort to feature the rematch if both Sunday Silence and Easy Goer ran. Sunday Silence went to Bossier City and won the $1 million Super Derby while Easy Goer stayed in New York to win the then 1-1/2 mile Jockey Club Gold Cup. They both met next in another stirring stretch in the Breeders' Cup Classic with Sunday Silence holding off another furious challenge from Easy Goer to win and take a 3-1 edge in the rivalry.

In 1990, Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled had finished second in the Preakness behind Summer Squall and finished fourth in the Belmont won by Go and Go. He reversed the trend a bit when he only managed to finish second in the Super Derby behind Home at Last, then win in the Breeders' Cup Classic in his next start.

Ten years later, trainer Jay Robbins brought a relatively obsure Tiznow to Louisiana off of two second-place finishes in the Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park and the Pacific Classic at Del Mar. He took the Super Derby then went on to suprise a stellar field that included European Champion Giant's Causeway, Belmont winner Lemon Drop Kid and Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus.

Since the Super Derby was changed from a 1-1/4 mile race to 1-1/8 miles in 2002, the race has been less impactful on the Breeders' Cup, but it has still had some very nice winners including Essence of Dubai in 2002, Ten Most Wanted a year later.

This year's Super Derby would have certainly been helped if hometown hero Summer Bird were running, but Soul Warrior and Regal Ransom certainly make the race a credibe one. Soul Warrior defeated Mine That Bird in the West Virginia Derby in his last start and is trained by national leader Steve Asmussen and ridden by John Velazquez.

Regal Ransom won the grade 2, $2 million UAE Derby March before finishing eighth in the Kentucky Derby. Although he has not started since the Derby, Regal Ransom is owned by Godolphin Racing and trained by Saeed bin Suroor, the team that won the Super Derby with Essence of Dubai.

This year's Super Derby field will do little to change the grade 2 status to a grade 1 once again, but it has a good chance to resume it's place as a race with some surprises.

Monday, September 14, 2009

You Don't Always Get What You Want, But Fillies May Give What We Need.

You can't always get what you want.
But if you try sometime, you just might find,
You get what you need.
-The Rolling Stones

When the Kentucky Derby horses step onto the Churchill Downs track, we are all accustomed to the tradition of "My Old Kentucky Home". Two weeks later "Maryland, My Maryland" rings out at Pimlico as the Preakness post parade begins and the fans at Belmont Park enjoy "New York, New York" during the introduction of the Belmont Stakes contenders.

No such musical tradition exists at the Breeders' Cup World Championships, but this might be a good year to give it a try. I suggest the Rolling Stones' "You Don't Always Get What You Want" for the $2,000,000 Bessemer Trust Juvenile Fillies on the Friday, Nov. 6 card at Santa Anita.

Despite all efforts by Breeders' Cup officials, it appears doubtful that we racing fans will get the match-up between Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra in the Classic or Ladies Classic. But the younger girls may give us what we need.

Playing the part of Rachel Alexandra would be Hot Dixie Chick. Of course Hot Dixie Chick is no Rachel Alexandra, but Charlton Heston was no Moses and he still put on a pretty good show.

Talent and accomplishments aside, Hot Dixie Chick is at least a qualified understudy as she spends her off-time in the stall next to Rachel Alexandra in the Steve Asmussen Barn. "(Her) extremely laid back... demeanor is why she's stabled next to Rachel," the trainer has said. Hot Dixie Chick also races for a similar ownership team under the name of Grace Stables owned by Barbara Banke. Banke’s husband, Jess Jackson, owns Rachel Alexandra with partner Harold McCormick.

Hot Dixie Chick also has a similar running style. She exemplified her blazing speed while setting the Churchill Downs track record for five furlongs in :56.48 seconds in her second start in June. But she has recently shown she can pace herself. In her last two victories in the grade 3 Schuylerville July 29 and the grade 1 Spinaway Sept. 6 at Saratoga, she stalked the early leaders before pulling away to win by 5-3/4 lengths and 1-3/4 lengths respectively.

Rachel has won just less than $3 million and Hot Dixie Chick has won just less than $300,000. The Saratoga fans didn't erupt in voluminous cheers for Hot Dixie Chick like they did for Rachel Alexandra either. But they did bet them both down below even money. So the similarities are there.

To play the part of Zenyatta, our casting director has offered the role to Mi Sueno. Again, she's no Zenyatta but played one on TVG Sept. 5 in the grade 1 Darley Debutante at Del Mar. Like her role model in the Clement Hirsch Stakes a few weeks earlier at Del Mar, Mi Sueno appeared beaten around the far turn of the $300,000 Debutante. She was trapped behind a wall of horses as Blind Luck and La Nez raced passed her around the outside of the pack. But when they straightened away for home, jockey Michael Baze steered Mi Sueno from behind the wall and raced to again engage Blind Luck, La Nez and by now, It Tiz in the race to the wire. Like Zenyatta, Mi Sueno slowly and deliberately edged clear of her rivals to win.

Now Zenyatta is undefeated in 12 starts and has won millions and the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic last year to rank her among some of the best of all-time. Mi Sueno has won half of her four career starts and has a long way to go to realistically be compared. Zenyatta races from far back early in a race, while Mi Sueno races a bit closer to the leaders. But both are dark bay and strikingly attractive, big boned girls. Mi Sueno so much so that her owner, Michael Moreno’s Southern Equine Stable, purchased her for $1.7 million at the 2007 Keeneland November auction when she was just a weanling.

So the Bessemer Trust Juvenile Fillies may not be the blockbuster race of the new millennium like a Rachel Alexandra v. Zenyatta showdown, but I'm guessing the young girls will give a performance that is definitely worth more than the price of admission. It may not be the race we want, but we just might find it's just what we need.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Rachel vs. The Greats

Excuse me. Ms. Zenyatta? Yes. Would you please move over just a bit? We've got to make a lot more room in the comparison to Rachel Alexandra conversation. I'm sorry, but we're no longer comparing just you to Rachel Alexandra. We're now comparing her to the greatest race fillies and mares of all time. Don't leave. You're still plenty welcome. But did you see the Woodward?

The abridged version of Rachel Alexandra's Woodward victory is that she appeared out of her comfort zone from the moment she got to the paddock until the final stride of the Woodward when she nosed out the hard-charging Macho Again - sending the Saratoga grandstand into a uproar probably seldom hear in the long and storied history of the Spa. She misbehaved in the post parade, looking like she wanted no piece of the old boys she just met. As she was walking to the starting gate, her usual confident and noble presence seemed to be in a galaxy far, far away as her ears flopped around as if she had just swallowed a bad oat.

Then Rachel Alexandra left the gate like her tail was on fire, looking as she just wanted to get away from all the ugly bastards in the race with her. When Da Tara stayed with her through a blazing first two furlongs, I said it was over for the girl. I said it again at the top of the stretch when she appeared on the verge of being swalled up by a legion of challengers. I thought she was really done then.

She then kicked in that gear that jockey Calvin Borel has been telling us about and pulled away slowly but convincing, only to be asked for more by Borel as Macho Again roared towards her only to fall short.

At that moment Rachel Alexandra erased all doubt and other weak arguments as to her greatness.

But to further the point, I thought it might be fun to actually revisit some of the great female thoroughbreds of all time and allow you to conclude her greatness for yourself. I write this with apologies to fans of Masket, Shuvee, Lady's Secret, Pebbles, Bayakoa, Paseana, Davona Dale and others including Pan Zareta with her 76 career wins.

In 1915 Regret became the first filly to win the Kentucky Derby in her 3-year-old debut after winning the Saratoga Special, Sanford Stakes and Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga against colts in her only three starts at two. She won nine of her 11 career races, having raced against fillies only twice. Her two defeats came against males in the Saratoga Handicap, finishing eighth off of an 11-month layoff, and a nose loss to Borrow in the 1917 Brooklyn Handicap at Belmont Park.

Like Rachel Alexandra, Ruffian (photo) was almost 17 hands tall with as much charisma and class as talent. Ruffian was not only undefeated in ten career starts before her fatal match race against Foolish Pleasure in 1975, but she had never been behind another horse in a race, going wire-to-wire in every victory. She won the filly Triple Tiarra at Belmont Park by winning the Acorn, the Mother Goose and the Coaching Club American Oaks, winning the Acorn by 8-1/4 lengths and the Mother Goose by 13-1/2. Her average margin of victory was more than 8-1/4 lengths before the match race, breaking and equaling track records along the way.

Personal Ensign was undefeated in 13 starts from 1986-1988 and concludied her career with one of the most stirring and memorable finishes in Breeders' Cup history when she held off Kentucky Derby winner Winning Colors to win by a fraction of a nose. Eight of her career victories were against grade 1 company including the 1988 Whitney Handicap over Gulch and a field of older males. Her popularity among fans was unquestionalble as they made her an odds-on favorite (less than even money) in every race except the 1987 Beldame when she was let go at a generous 1.30-1.

Go For Wand had also drawn comparisons to Ruffian before and after her fatal last start in the 1990 Breeders' Cup Distaff when she broke down in the midst of a stretch battle with Bayakoa. She won 10 of 12 career starts going into the Distaff, including a win in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies as a 2-year-old. Her only two losses came in against grade 1 company in 1989 Frizette and 1990 Kentucky Oaks, finishing second in both. She never races against males however.

Although Miesque raced primarly in Europe and exclusively on grass, she was the dynamite filly of the early Breeders' Cup years having taken the 1987 and 1988 Breeders' Cup Mile against older males. She won 12 of 16 career starts with three seconds and a third and unlike her American counterparts, raced primarily against the boys having started with fillies only five times. She was third the grade 1 Prix de Morny in France in her second start at two against boys, and was second in grade 1 Prix de Diane (also known as the French Oaks) in her only loss against fillies. Ironically, her only other losses came against older males in Europe in her final preps to her Breeders Cup wins.

Again the list of great fillies and mares is much, much longer than the one I've presented here. These are just a few. But they are all unquestionalbe in the place in history.

Just as Rachel Alexandra is now.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Rachel Alexandra Will Test History And Well Aged Field In Woodward

The sensational Rachel Alexandra tries to become the first female to win and only the second 3-year-old filly to ever start in $750,000 Woodward Stakes at 1-1/8 miles at Saratoga Saturday in an effort to take a significant step toward Horse of the Year honors.

To some, the Woodward may have appeared to be Rachel Alexandra owners Jess Jackson and Harold McCormick dodging fellow 3-year-olds Summer Bird, Quality Road et. al. in the Travers Stakes last Saturday for an easier spot against older horses in the Woodward. Her status as the 1-2 morning line favorite lends credence to that notion, but history, equine behavior and a cast of seven other wyle and talented competitors say otherwise.

Not only has a 3-year-old filly never won the previous 55 runnings of the Woodward, but the only sophomore female to try the Woodward was Summer Guest in 1972, who was third behind Key to the Mint and Autobiography. The last filly to start in the Woodward was the brilliant Lady's Secret in 1986, finishing second behind Precisionist during her 1986 Horse of the Year campaign as a 4-year-old. A campaign That campaign also included a victory in the grade 1 Whitney Handicap against older horses and was culminated with her easy victory in the grade 1 Breeders' Cup Distaff at Santa Anita.

According to Jason Shandler in his story, a victory in the Woodward would also make Rachel Alexandra the first 3-year-old filly to win a grade I unrestricted route race on the dirt in New York since the system of grading races began in 1973.

When Rachel Alexandra walks into the saddling paddock at Saratoga, she will not find a cast of somewhat adolescent (but talented) 3-year-old colts, but instead will meet for the first time seven old battle-tested warriors less likely to be intimidated by her royal and confident presence.

Waiting for Rachel will be this year's Whitney Handicap winner and runner-up Bullsbay and Macho Again respectively. Although the Whitney was the first grade 1 win for Bullsbay, it was an impressive victory nonetheless, having achieved a 107 Beyer number.

Asiatic Boy also brings to the Woodward hefty credentials, battle tested experience and a $3 million career bankroll. The only horse to sweep the UAE Triple Crown in 2006, the 6-year-old Asiatic Boy was also second to Curlin in the $6 million Dubai World Cup last year. More recently, he was second in the grade 1 Stephen Foster behind Macho Again at Churchill Downs and second behind Dry Martini in the grade 2 Suburban Handicap at Belmont Park since coming to the United States.

Let's just hope Asiatic Boy did not get wind of trainer Kiaran McLaughlin's comments in recent weeks when he said he wanted no part of Rachel Alexandra and considered shipping AB to Del Mar for the $1 million Pacific Classic to be run Sunday.

Cool Coal Man may not have a long list of graded stakes wins or a large bankroll to his credit, but he could pose a danger as well based on his 13-length win and a 107 Beyer in the Albert The Great Stakes at Saratoga this year. But what may make his stalking running style really dangerous is that he will have stablemate and 2008 Belmont winner Da' Tara to help execute a potential rabbit scheme against Rachel devised by their trainer Nick Zito. Although Da' Tara is infamous for not yet winning since his 38-1 Belmont upset, his speed was on display earlier this week with a :47 morning work

Rachel will also be looking to shoot down another bird in the Woodward in It's a Bird, the winner of the grade 3 Lone Star Park Handicap in Texas. It's a Bird also won the grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap in Arkansas, but was disqualified after testing postive for the prohibited substance naproxen, an anti-inflammatory medication.

Rachel Alexandra may take the Woodward with the domination she has shown in all of her races this year leaving these old boys in her wake and jockey Calvin Borel to worry only about his finish line celebration. It's just that old man history can sometimes pack an unexpectedly powerful punch. There may not be a Curlin, Cigar or Kelso in her way, but as a group, they have all the credentials to be dangerous.

And did I mention the graveyard of favorites thing?

The $750,000 Woodward Stakes
1. Da' Tara, 126, Jose Lezcano, Nick Zito, 12-1
2. Bullsbay, 126, Jeremy Rose, Graham Motion, 6-1
3. Rachel Alexandra, 118, Calvin Borel, Steve Asmussen, 1-2
4. Cool Coal Man, 126, John Velazquez, Nick Zito, 12-1
5. Macho Again, 126, Robby Albarado, Dallas Stewart, 8-1
6. It's a Bird, 126, Julien Leparoux, Marty Wolfson, 10-1
7. Asiatic Boy, 126, Alan Garcia, Kiaran McLaughlin, 10-1
8. Past the Point, 126, Edgar Prado, Eoin Harty, 15-1

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Michael Straight Update

Jockey Matthew Straight, twin brother of apprentice jockey Michael Straight who was injured in a Aug. 26 incident at Arlington Park , has issued the following statement regarding the condition of his brother.

“Mike had a minor procedure this morning to remove a little air build-up in his lungs, which the doctors tell me is common for people on a ventilator. That procedure was successful.

“He had an MRI yesterday and the results came back as expected – that there is a head injury and a spinal injury. The doctors say the head injury will heal on its own in time.

“He still has no feeling in his lower body but until the swelling around the spine goes down, we are keeping positive thoughts.

“He is responding to commands and shakes his head “Yes” and “No” when responding to questions and holding up fingers when asked."