The Brock Talk

Friday, May 28, 2010

Romero Personified Parseghian Quote

In November of 1974, the fifth-ranked Notre Dame football team traveled to the Los Angeles Coliseum to play longtime rival and number six-ranked Southern California. Notre Dame jumped out to a 24-0 lead before USC running back Anthony Davis scored a touchdown in the closing seconds of the first half to make the score 24-6. Davis opened the second half by returning the kick-off 102 yards for a touchdown and opened the floodgates to one of the most famous comebacks in college football history. USC would score 55 consecutive points and Davis ended the day with four touchdowns. Final score USC 55. Notre Dame 24.

In the Notre Dame locker room after the game, reporters asked coach Ara Parseghian about Davis and how he shredded the nation's best defense after being down 24-0 to the Fighting Irish. To which Parseghian replied "Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents that which normal circumstances may remain dormant."

When I think of people in horse racing that have achieved greatness in the face of adversity, first on my list is recent Hall of Fame inductee Randy Romero.

As a boy from Erath, Louisiana, Romero began riding Quarter Horses and thoroughbred at bush tracks around Southern Louisiana at age 8. He loved race riding and he was good so his professional riding career began as soon as he was eligible to be licensed at Evangeline Downs in 1975. He soon dominated the smaller tracks in the area such as Delta Downs in Vinton and Jefferson Downs in Kenner.

The 1978 movie Caseys Shadow was based his family's true story about a Quarter Horse running in the All-American Futurity and he had simultaneously began succeeding at larger tracks such as Oaklawn Park in Arkansas and Fair Grounds in New Orleans.

Tragedy first struck "The Rajun Cajun" in 1983 with a freak accident in the sauna of the Oaklawn Park jockeys' quarters. While trying to lose weight before the races, a light bulb exploded in the "hot box" and ignited the alcohol covering Romero's body, burning him over 65% of his body.

But just fifteen weeks later, he was back riding and was soon racking up riding titles and stakes wins while riding for some of the most powerful stables on the East Coast. In perhaps his most memorable (if not his greatest) ride, he rallied Personal Ensign past Kentucky Derby winner Winning Colors and an apparent insurmountable lead to win the 1988 Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. 1) at Churchill Downs. The victory also had historical significance as Personal Ensign was able to retire as one of the greatest race mares of all-time with a perfect 13 for 13 record.

Two years later Romero was again in a Breeders' Cup Distaff stretch battle. This time he was aboard Go For Wand at Belmont Park and they were stride-for-stride down the stretch with the great mare Bayakoa. IIn one of the darkest moments in thoroughbred racing history, Go For Wand suddenly broke a front leg, slamming to ground with Romero. (photo right) Despite breaking his shoulder and several ribs in the spill, Romero rode the next race after Go For Wand was euthanized on the track.

Three months later he returned to racing and in his second day back riding, he went down at Gulfstream Park and broke his elbow. The injury would eventually end his career as doctors were never able to set the elbow correctly. After several surgeries and years of trying to comeback, Romero retired for good in 1999.

But the race track was not yet finished battering Randy Romero and his body. The years of controlling his weight through bulimia or "flipping" as it commonly know in racing, had taken it's toll and in 2002 his kidneys failed. He later was told that he had Hepatitis C and would need a kidney and liver transplant. He never got the transplants but his liver has stabilized and he undergoes dialysis three times a week to treat his kidneys.

After a career of nearly 25,000 mounts, more than 4,000 wins, riding titles at ten different tracks and three Breeders' Cup wins, his credentials stand alone as a Hall of Famer. And he rose to that level of the sport through devastating burns, weight battles, broken arms, legs, ribs, shoulders, collarbones, who know what other bones, legiments, sprains and more than 20 surgeries.

That takes him to hero status in my book.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Funny Cide of Mine That Bird

Last year's Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands winner Mine That Bird (top photo) put in his first published work of 2010 Wednesday morning at Churchill Downs which should give racing fans yet one more reason to get a little excited. The diminutive gelding that took the Run for the Roses at 50-1 odds hasn't won since that historic victory and his bandwagon has become considerably lighter because of it. But now it appears he will make a run at returning to top level competition in a new barn at the track of his greatest victory.

Mine That Bird went three furlongs in 35.20 and is not expected to start until the Saratoga meeting begins in late July. According to reports, the work went as expected and for new trainer D. Wayne Lukas who has also indicated he is very happy with the gelding's fitness after the long lay-off.

After his Derby victory last year, Mine That Bird was a late charging second to Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness (gr. 1), then third with a rare sub-par ride from jockey Calvin Borel in the Belmont (gr. 1). He then ran a pace-challenged third in the West Virginia Derby (gr. 2) against a group of horses he should have beaten anyway before breathing problems were discovered and required throat surgery in August. Mine that Bird went to Southern California in October to finish sixth in the grade 1 Goodwood before finishing the year with another dull effort in the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. 1) in November.

To discount Mine That Bird as a one hit wonder may appear justified, but it may not be wise. The last gelding before Mine That Bird to win the Kentucky Derby was Funny Cide in 2003, who had a similar late 3-year-old campaign after Kentucky before returning to some success and much popularity in subsequent campaigns.

Funny Cide (right) won the Preakness but lost his bid for Triple Crown by running third in the Belmont behind Empire Maker and Ten Most Wanted. He then finished third, beaten nine lengths, by Peace Rules in the Haskell Invitational (gr. 1) and like Mine That Bird, concluded the season with a ninth-place finished in the Breeders Cup Classic at Santa Anita.

But unlike Funny Cide, who took just 45 days off between the 2003 and 2004 racing season, Mine That Bird is looking at returning from eight months on the shelf.

By this time in Funny Cide's 4-year-old season, trainer Barclay Tagg had already seen Funny Cide win an optional claiming race at Gulfstream Park and the grade 3 Exclesior Handicap at Aqueduct. And Funny Cide was headed for the Metropolitan Handicap on Memorial Day.

Being in the Lukas barn may or may not result in more success for Mine That Bird, but I suspect the team will get the benefit of a bit more loyalty from the jockey colony. Mine That Bird had six rider changes from eight starts in 2010.

Jockey Jose Santos rode Funny Cide in 25 of the gelding 28 career starts. Ironically, however, Santos took off Funny Cide in the 2003 Breeders' Cup Classic to ride Valponi who he had ridden to victory in the Classic the previous year at Arlington Park. Julie Krone replaced Santos on Funny Cide in the 2003 Classic.

But unlike Bennie "Chip" Woolley Jr., who trained Mine That Bird last year, Lukas has a barn full of top horses and list of accomplishments that is measured in furlongs instead of paragraphs and page numbers. Let's just say he has enough skins on the wall to cause severe anxiety to any jockey or accompanying agent who might consider walking into the immaculate green and white Lukas shed row with intentions of resignation. And Lukas is likely to be quite a bit more scrutinizing and analytical in choosing a rider for Mine That Bird's return in the first place.

There are few criticisms as to how Woolley managed Mine That Bird's sophomore season and even some denunciations regarding the loyalty of owners Mark Allen and Dr. Leonard Blach for taking the Derby winner from the trainer. But the Derby winner is now in the barn of perhaps the most famous and perhaps successful trainer of our generation and it is difficult to disparage the pursuit of oppportunity.

Before finishing his career in July of his 5-year-old year, Funny Cide would win more than $3.2 million including the grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup in October of his 4-year-old season. As a 4-year-old he was also second or third in the grade 1 Donn Handicap, New Orleans Handicap (gr. 2), Massachusetts Handicap (gr. 2), Suburban (gr. 1) and Sartoga Breeders Cup Handicap (gr. 2).

Without doubt, Mine That Bird has much work to do to measure up to his gelded counterpart in terms of accomplishments and perhaps more importantly, popularity. But it's going to be fun to watch him try and I for one will be pulling for him.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Light Beginning To Shine At End Of Belmont Tunnel

With less than two weeks until the grade 1 Belmont Stakes, there seems to be as much talk in the media and more chatter on about the potential closing of New York racing rather than the third leg in the Triple Crown. With Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver and Preakness winner Lookin at Lucky skipping the Belmont, it will be difficult for the field live up to the historical billing as the Test of Champions and to be held under such an umbrella of uncertainty doesn't make matters any better.

Although New York governor David Patterson offered the New York Racing Association, made up of Belmont Park, Saratoga and Aqueduct, a $25 million loan that would keep them in business through the Spring of 2011, the state Senate and Assembly must enact the legislation. NYRA officials have said they do not have the cash to remain open through June without the loan and has sent a lay-off warning to it's 1,300 employees so there is a great deal of urgency to the legislators necessary assistance.

Make no mistake that if Super Save had won the Preakness and was headed for a possible Triple Crown, the potential closure of NYRA would still be a significant story.

But with the absence of the Derby and Preakness winner and only three of the likely ten starters coming into the Belmont off a victory in their last race, it is not the brightest of times for the Belmont Stakes.

The most credible of the winning Belmont trio is the Nick Zito-trained Fly Down, a 6-length winner of the grade 2 Dwyer Stakes at Belmont Park May 8. Zito will be looking for his third Belmont Stakes after winning with the longshot Da'Tara in 2007 and stopping Smarty Jones' Triple Crown bid with Birdstone in 2004.

Prior to the Dwyer, Fly Down was never a factor when ninth in the Louisiana Derby and and had only an allowance and maiden wins to his credit.

The other two recent winners are Game On Dude, the Bob Baffert trainee who won a sub-par Lone Star Derby (gr. 3) May 8; and Stay Put, who won an allowance race at Churchill Downs in his last start.

Zito will come to the Belmont paddock well armed with with talent and class for the June 5 Belmont as he will also saddle probable favorite Ice Box (top photo). A hard charging second to Super Saver in the Kentucky Derby in his last race and winner of the Florida Derby (gr. 1) before that, Ice Box encountered several traffic problems in the Derby and was considered the best horse that day by many.

For those who have closely followed the Triple Crown trail throughout the Spring, Drosslemeyer will be a familiar name among this year's Belmont runners. Another in the arsenal of WinStar Farm-owned three-year-olds this year, Drosslemeyer missed qualifying for the Kentucky Derby after finishing fourth in the Risen Star Stakes and third in the Louisiana Derby, both grade 2 stakes at Fair Grounds in New Orleans before the Derby. Trainer Bill Mott has also employed the riding services of jockey Mike Smith for the Belmont replacing Kent Desormeaux. While Mott and Smith are Hall of Famers, both will be looking for their first Belmont Stakes victory.

Among others expected in the Belmont are First Dude, second in Preakness behind Lookin at Lucky; Kentucky Derby fourth-place finisher Make Music For Me and Uptowncharlybrown, third in the Lexington Stakes (gr. 2) at Keeneland in his last race. Uptowncharlybrown will be making his first start from the barn of trainer Kiaran McLaughlin after his trainer Alan Seewald passed away unexpectedly shortly be the Lexington. Longtime Seewald assistant Linda White was listed as the official trainer in the Lextingon Stakes.

Trained by Dale Romans, First Dude ran a very big race while almost stealing the Preakness Stakes in a gate to wire performance. Despite setting fast fractions while racing alone on the lead in the Preakness, he held on gamely when challenged by Lookin at Lucky, Carcortado, Jackson Bend and Yawanna Twist in the stretch. Despite the misconception that the 1-1/2 mile Belmont favors horses with a come-from-behind running style, a horse like First Dude can be dangerous alone on a slow lead.

So we head to the 142nd running of the Test of Champions under dark and uncertain skies. But before you become too disappointed in this inglorious Belmont, just remember less than a year ago when an unheralded Summer Bird came into the Belmont with a certain amount of anonymity, pulled a mild upset and went win the grade 1 Travers at Saratoga and Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. 1) over older horses. The credentials may not be attached to this field yet, but there is evidence of class.

And sometimes, that's more than enough to make a good horse race.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Neither Paradise Nor Bust, Horse Racing Presses On

Thoroughbred racing in North America is a vast industry that spans all three countries, including every state in the United States whether the home of tracks, breeders, owners and horsemen, management, manufacturing, service, agriculture or fans and gamblers. So whether you're elated by the Medaglia d' Oro filly that sold for a Maryland record $650,000 last week or prepared to take arms against the closing of Saratoga, be aware that all is not lost nor are we paradise bound.

The Triple Crown Bad News
The 2010 Triple Crown has never had much star quality momentum since the injury and departure of Fountain of Youth (gr. 2) and Wood Memorial (gr. 1) winner Eskendereya (photo right). Even before that, Looking at Lucky, who was the favorite to win the Kentucky Derby throughout most of the winter, never got untracked barely winning a troubled Rebel Stakes (gr. 3), and unlucky losses in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. 1) and the Kentucky Derby (gr. 1) presented by Yum! Brands.

Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver provided plenty of star potential coming from the barn of Todd Pletcher and having the services of public favorite Calvin Borel, but that team flattened out in the Preakness and will now skip the Belmont.

To make matters worse for racing fans, Preakness winner Lookin at Lucky will also skip the Belmont and instead be pointed toward the grade 1 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park in New Jersey on August 1. So we are left with a Belmont Stakes (gr. 1) without a Kentucky Derby or Preakness winner for the first time since 2006.

The Triple Crown Good News
The NBC telecast of the Kentucky Derby was the highest in 18 years and eclipsed the 2009 Derby telecast that was the highest in 20 years. The 10.3 overnight rating and 23 share mean that nearly one in four television sets turned on Saturday afternoon were tuned into the Kentucky Derby. In terms of comparison to other major league sports on tv, the Derby ratings were higher than the final game of the 2009 World Series, the 2009 NBA Championship final game and the Stanley Cup finals in the NHL.

While the television ratings for the Preakness fell nearly 20% from a year ago, that Preakness was bolstered by the presence of the filly Rachel Alexandra and was among the highest rated Preakness telecasts in two decades. Even with the drop in comparison to last year, the Preakness ratings were still higher than the 2008 telecast and NBC reported that the combined ratings for the two telecasts results in the highest numbers of any consecutive horse telecasts since 1989.

More Good News To Triple Crown Bad News
While the 3-year-old crop of 2010 has yet to develop a horse with much star power, the older horse division is perhaps as loaded with stars as any year in decades.

Zenyatta continues to run into the racing history books and living rooms of America with every race as she continues to add to her now undefeated record in 16 career starts. While 2009 Horse of Year Rachel Alexandra has stumbled a bit in two close losses this year, there is no doubt she will draw attention and crowds when she makes here next start. Should Rachel Alexandra develop any resemblance of her 2009 form and eventually meet Zenyatta, the race will be a significant historical event in racing.

Just below the two superstars looms the popular Quality Road, winner of the 2009 Florida Derby (gr. 1) and undefeated in two starts this year; Summer Bird, the first horse in 20 years to win Belmont, Travers (gr. 1) and Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. 1); and Rail Trip on the West coast, who looked impressive while winning the Mervyn LeRoy (gr. 2)in preparation for his defense of the Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. 1) title.

Closings on the Coasts?
For at least the last two years, Hollywood Park near Los Angeles has ended a race meet with little or no assurance that it would not be the last. In July 2005, Churchill Downs sold the track to the Bay Meadows Land Company for $260 million in cash. Under the terms of the deal, the company was to continue thoroughbred racing at Hollywood Park for at least three years and longer if favorable gaming legislation was passed in California. Five years later, there are no slots at California race tracks, Hollywood Park Race Track is still running and the Hollywood Park Tomorrow retail, commercial and residential development is still just a plan.

Across town at Santa Anita, owner Magna Entertainment appears to have survived a bankruptcy in their Roman racetrack empire that has spanned to Texas, Maryland, Michigan and various points in between. Now parent company Magna International Development has told the Oak Tree Racing Association, which has leased Santa Anita since 1969 for their non-profit Fall meeting, that they are reneging on a previous agreement and want to void the lease. But California neighbors Hollywood Park and Del Mar near San Diego quickly told Oak Tree officials they are welcome to run the meeting at their tracks. MID blinked and is expected to resume negotiations with Oak Tree Officials.

MID chief executive officer Dennis Mills has a standing offer to play poker at the Sheridan house any time. He wouldn’t last an hour at the same table as my wife.

On the East coast, New York Racing Association president and CEO Charlie Hayward said Monday that cash problems must be resolved with the state or they will not have the funds to continue the Belmont Park meeting past the Belmont Stakes nor open Saratoga. Due to a $17 million shortfall from the New York Off-Track Betting Corp., NYRA, which operates Belmont Park, Saratoga and Aqueduct race tracks, has hit a cash crisis with devastating potential.

Although New York governor David Paterson and various state legislators have pledged not to allow racing to halt in New York, those same politicians have been working nine years to approve a slot operator and allow Video Lottery Terminals to be installed at Aqueduct. Slot revenues are expected to be a large benefit to the NYRA and state bottom line just as it has in other racing jurisdictions where slots have been allowed at tracks.

East Coast Good News
Saturday, Monmouth Park will open perhaps the most anticipated racing season in their 64-year history, offering $1 million per day in purses and attracting some of the top stables from New York, California and Kentucky. The 50-day summer meet is part of a plan that has sliced live thoroughbred racing days in New Jersey to 71 total and eliminating the thoroughbred season at the Meadowlands.

The season will feature racing predominantly on a Friday through Sunday basis in an effort to boost attendance and handle at the track to subsidize the large purses. Management is also counting on full fields and 11 and 12-race cards that are likely to become more attractive to the thoroughbred players across the country.

The racing industry has for years clamored for the "less racing/larger fields" strategy to be implemented in racing jurisdictions throughout the country. But the risk of potential lost revenue due to lost racing dates has been too large for managements and states before the Monmouth experiment begins this week.

Bad Economy Blasts Breeders Too
According to, fees for advertised stallion may have fallen as much as 25% in 2009 and the 2010 season may be even worse for stallion owners and breeders. Gross sales at public auctions in North America fell from $972 million in 2008 to $659 million a year later, a decrease of some 32%. Lost revenues at sales directly and adversely affect studs fees, in particular the summer yearling market.

But the sales markets are showing signs of improvement in the early months of 2010 which will have a positive impact on stallion fees should the trend continue.

One of the leading early economic indicators for public auctions are the success of two-year-old in training sales held by public auction houses Barretts, Fasig-Tipton, Keeneland, and the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. While gross sales at these auctions have decreased at many of the sales, the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale of 2-year-olds in training Monday in Maryland saw horses sold and gross revenue increase 7.9% and 23%, respectively, from a year ago.

One segment of the industry that has done well throughout the 2-year-old season are pin-hookers. (those that purchase yearlings at summer auctions with the express intent of reselling them in 2-year-old-in-training sales the following spring.) The rate of return on investment for most pin-hookers this year has more than doubled into the 70% range according to, giving plenty of hope to the yearling market later this summer.

Good yearling sales means improved stud fees and hopefully the recovery of yet another thoroughbred racing segment from the depths of this latest recession.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Preakness Stakes, Thoughts, Comments and Questions

Any questions as to where the racing gremlins may have moved when they vacated the Baffert barn? I don't know if they moved in the family and furniture, but they were sure aboard the D. Wayne Lukas trainees for the first 110 yards of the Preakness. Dublin, starting from the outside 12 post in the Preakness, broke so far to the right that jockey Garrett Gomez spent the first 50 yards of the race keeping Dublin, first out of the Pimlico gift shop and second, from running over the track outrider stationed on the outside of the track. Northern Giant stumbled at the start and also broke to the right from the four hole and quickly took a hard bump from Yuwanna Twist to his outside. By the time jockey Terry Thompson had Northern Giant back on stride, Pleasant Prince came in front of him from the two-hole and he was quickly bumped again by Yuwanna Twist and shuffled back before the field had traveld a 1/16th of a mile out of the gate... The longest drought in Triple Crown history now continues at 32 years - seven years longer than the previous record of 25 years between Triple Crown winners Citation (1948) and Secretariat (1973)... With trainers Bob Baffert and Todd Pletcher saying neither Lookin at Lucky nor Super Saver are headed for the Belmont, it will be the first time since 2006 the Belmont Stakes will not feature a Kentucky Derby or Preakness winner, the year Barbaro won the Derby and Bernardini won the Preakness. Jazil (right) won the 2006 Belmont after finishing fourth in the Kentucky Derby and skipping the Preakness... Make Music for Me was fourth in the Derby this year and skipped the Preakness if you want an insignificant fun fact... My thoughts at the top of the Preakness stretch: "Oh darn Super Saver is done. Wow it looks like Lookin at Lucky might win it! What the hell is First Dude still doing there?"... Don't even ask me who I like in the Belmont Stakes for a while.

Zenyatta In Dodger Blue
A prominent billboard advertising the Los Angeles Dodgers located near Hollywood Park features the undefeated mare Zenyatta. The billboard is part of an advertising campaign of the major league team featuring several famous Los Angelenos and is located on the corner of Hawthorne Blvd. and 106th street... Trainer John Shirreffs was overheard on TVG this weekend to say that Zenyatta is still being pointed toward the grade 1 Vanity Stakes at Hollywood Park. The 1-1/8 Vanity will feature a $250,000 purse for fillies and mares Sunday, June 13.

"Doc" Allred Resigns At Los Alamitos
Dr. Edward Allred, a mainstay in the Quarter Horse racing industry and widely considered to be instrumental in the saving Los Alamitos in the early 1990s, has resigned as the track's President and Chairman of the Board. Allred was quoted in as saying "This decision is not based on health considerations, as I am doing well,” Allred said. “I will continue to have a very active role on the board of directors. It is on the execution of the day-to-day details and matters that I will not be involved." A statement his succession in power seems to vindicate. Longtime associate Cathy Monji has been appointed by Allred to be the new track President and serve on the board of directors while Rick English will take over as Board Chairman.

Allred still breeds and raises top-notch Quarter Horses at his Rolling A Ranch in Atascadero, California. Allred has won AQHA’s Champion Breeder title nine times and the Champion Owner award six times. In the 1990s, he led all owners in number of victories eight times, and has topped all breeders in wins from 1992 through 2004. In 2004, horses bred by Allred won 111 races and 14 stakes races while earning $1,575,685.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Preakness Betting Strategy: Bet The Obvious

The odds of any horse having significant trouble in four consecutive races have got be something famous mathematician Steven Hawking would calculate. In other words, they have to be very high. And that's what I'm banking on by staying on the Lookin at Lucky band wagon and making him my top pick in the 135th running of the Preakness Stakes (gr. 1) Saturday at Pimlico Race Course. How much of a detrimental effect all of that bumping has had on Lookin at Lucky, plus the rider change from future Hall of Famer Garrett Gomez to the 20-year-old Martin Garcia, are all legitimate questions, but I'm still all aboard the Baffert express for at least one more race.

Super Saver appeared to fall in line with what is widely considered to be a sub-par 3-year-old crop of 2010 until his victory in the biggest dance of all the Kentucky Derby (gr. 1). Yes, he had the benefit of one of the few to have a good trip around the Churchill Downs oval in the Derby, but I'm going to have to trust trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey Calvin Borel in their profession that Super Saver has greatly improved since his previous losses in the Tampa Bay (gr. 3) and Arkansas (gr. 1) Derbies. Super Saver's 104 Beyer Speed figure in the Derby also lends credibility to their statements.

Simplistic as it may seem, I see this as two-horse race and I'll have a good old fashioned $10 7-8 exacta box in the Preakness.

I'm going to run a few $1 trifectas to back up my exacta with a 7-All-8 and a 8-All-7 for $20 and hope I get a longshot to get up and split my exacta should that happen.

It's not the most adventurous betting strategy in the world, and quite frankly one in which I've left my favorite adverse comfort zone. But sometimes one just has to bet what looks to be the obvious.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Let There Be Luck

He may have developed into the Rodney Dangerfield of the race track, but Lookin at Lucky will garner my support for the Preakness. In fact, with so little pace expected in the 135th Preakness Stakes Saturday, I will not be surprised to see Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver and Lookin at Lucky together on the lead from perhaps as far back as the six furlong pole coming out of the clubhouse turn.

I hesitate to criticize an entire crop of 3-year-olds less than five months into the year, but I've now said for weeks it appears the cream of the crop are a notch or even two above the rest. In the Preakness, that cream is made up of Lookin at Lucky and Super Saver. Less than half the field are graded stakes winners and five Preakness contestants are in search of their second career victory.

1 – Aikenite: He will need continued improvement off of his second place finish in the Derby Trial to be a contender and is one of five Preakness horses also eligible for a non-winners of two condition. His last work at Churchill also does nothing to tell me he’s the one to beat the top two.

2 – Schoolyard Dreams: He defeated Super Saver in the Tampa Bay Derby in a race in which the photo finish gods deserted him as well. But he flopped in his next start by running fourth in the Wood Memorial behind Eskendereya, Jackson Bend and Awesome Act minus a shoe.

3 – Pleasant Prince: He enters the Preakness off of an unimpressive third in the Derby Trial, beaten more than nine lengths with no excuses. I’ll take all five battle-tested Derby runners over him.

4 – Northern Giant: Two things I like about this horse are sire Giant’s Causeway and five-time Preakness winning trainer D. Wayne Lukas. Having jockey Terry Thompson aboard after being taken off Dublin tells me even Lukas has this one ranked a notch lower after being beaten nearly 13 lengths by his stable mate in the Arkansas Derby.

5 – Yawanna Twist: Second to American Lion in an Illinois Derby that saw very little passing of any kind. I look for him to look prominent among the stalkers early in the race, but I have serious doubts he has the talent to pass Super Saver or Lookin at Lucky at any point inside the final half-mile.

6 – Jackson Bend: I didn’t see many excuses for him in the Derby and I’m not convinced he’s on par with Lucky and Saver. Although underestimating trainer Nick Zito is dangerous I’m not hopping on a bandwagon I was never on.

7 – Lookin at Lucky: If he gets his first clean trip in four races, I have to think he’s the winner. I look for him to be much more engaged and may in fact be on the lead with Super Saver. You can bet jockey Martin Garcia will be doing everything possible to keep a clear path in front of him and the easiest way to do that is to keep most of the field behind them.

8 – Super Saver: What’s not to like about his Kentucky Derby win, especially with the late charging Derby runner-up Ice Box passing on the Preakness. With no speedsters in the Preakness Borel may find himself on the lead which is also the easiest way to get to that rail Borel covets so much. I see Lookin at Lucky as the only horse here with the talent to muster a late challenge against a horse that has no indication of bouncing off the big Derby win.

9 – Caracortado: Has been relieved of a foot abscess since a fourth in the Santa Anita Derby in which he also got caught up in Lookin at Lucky’s trouble. His victory in the Robert Lewis Stakes in February make him one of only five graded stakes winners in what appears to be a relatively shallow Preakness field. He looks to be the best among the rest of this group behind the top two.

10 – Paddy O’Prado: Had a terrible trouble around and coming out of the far turn in the Derby when Sidney’s Candy reverse lights didn’t come on. Jockey Kent Desormeaux once ruled over the Maryland racing in his youth and has been among the hottest riders in the country over the last year which will be a plus for Paddy. But having never raced over a fast dirt surface, one has to wonder if he can repeat the Blue Grass and Derby performance at Pimlico.

11 - First Dude: Large and lumbering, First Dude reminds me of Rock Hard Ten. Who reminded me of countless 7-foot plus basketball players. When this dude figures it out, it’s over for the rest of them. I look at the start of the Blue Grass (gr. 1) and I see First Dude getting bumped and pinched at the start then came back to persevere traffic and run a very notable third. But until First Dude stops being a bumpee and becomes a bouncer he’ll remain closer to Shawn Bradley than Charles Barkley.

12 – Dublin: Matt Carothers summed up this horse great on TVG’s Morning Line Thursday by saying this horse is not good enough to win, but you can guarantee he’ll have the best ride from Lookin’ At Lucky exile Garrett Gomez. I have expected bigger things from this colt this year so I’m officially off of the Dublin bandwagon.

Selections: 7-8-9

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Preakness Field Taking Shape as Face of Triple Crown Changes

The day before entries are taken for the grade 1 Preakness Stakes, the field has been whittled down to 13 probable starters.

The field for the 1-3/16 mile Preakness (1/16 of a mile shorter than the Kentucky Derby) appears to have attracted five returnees from the Run for the Roses including the winner Super Saver, Paddy O'Prado (3rd), Lookin at Lucky (5th), Dublin (7th) and Jackson Bend (12th). The Preakness is also expected to feature the top three finishers from the Derby Trial (gr. 3) run at Churchill Downs April 24 including Hurricane Ike (1st), Aikenite (2nd) and third-place finisher Pleasant Prince.

Among the other Triple Crown invaders are Schoolyard Dreams, fourth in the Wood Memorial (gr. 1); Caracortado, fourth in the Santa Anita Derby; Northern Giant, ninth in the Arkansas Derby (gr. 1), First Dude, third in the grade 1 Blue Grass and Yawanna Twist, second in the Illionois Derby.

Perhaps the most significant development among the Derby horses is the jockey change for Lookin at Lucky. Following a series of unlucky mishaps going back to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. 1) in November, trainer Bob Baffert is expected to name Martin Garcia to ride Lookin at Lucky after releiving jockey Garrett Gomez of the riding assignment aboard the Kentucky Derby morning line favorite.

That allowed Gomez to pursue other opportunities in the Preakness and trainer D. Wayne Lukas quickly made the move to replace jockey Terry Thompson with Gomez on Dublin.

The last Kentucky Derby starter to survive a rider change and win the Preakness was Louis Quatorze in 1996. After finishing 16th in the Kentucky Derby with Chris Antley aboard, trainer Nick Zito made the change to Pat Day and won the Preakness.

That year Pat Day was also the last rider to win the Preakness in consecutive years having won on Timber Country the year before. This year, Calvin Borel will try to match that feat after winning the Preakness last year on Rachel Alexandra.

Borel is still far from matching Day's five Preakness wins which is second only to Eddie Arcaro's six Preakness wins.

It also happened just four years earlier when trainer Thomas Bohannan replaced Craig Perrett on Pine Bluff after finishing fifth in the Derby. Two weeks later, Pine Bluff came back to win the Preakness with Chris McCarron aboard.

Other than the 20 horses in the last 50 years to win both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, Derby third-place finishers have faired the best among the others with eight Preakness wins.

Derby show horses to win the Preakness include Curlin in 2007, Afleet Alex ('05), Timber Country ('95), Risen Star ('88), Elocusionist ('76), Damascus ('67), Tom Rolphe ('65) and Candy Spots in 1963. Paddy O'Prado was third in this year's Kentucky Derby.

The 2010 Preakness will have a very different look from the Derby this year in terms of pace as well. While the Kentucky Derby was loaded with speedsters such as Conveyance, Sidney's Candy and Discreetly Mine to name a few, the Preakness is void of any prominent front runner. In fact, Super Saver is the only contender to have a wire-to-wire victory on his resume having won the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes in November gate-to-finish as well as his maiden win at Belmont at a mile in September.

In fact, only three Preakness contenders have won this year after having the lead as early as the half-mile pole. Hurricane Ike won the Derby Trial after leading going into the final turn; Northern Giant broke his maiden by 11 lengths in February at Oaklawn Park after taking the lead down the backstretch; and First Dude also broke his maiden after leading with a 1/2 mile to go at Gulfstream Park in January.

It is also assumed that Baffert is going to Garcia on Lookin at Lucky in an effort to see him more engaged early. While it is doubtful Garcia will race Lookin at Lucky to the front as he did on Conveyance in the Derby, there are questions as to just how fast the young rider will want to go in the Preakness.

The Unluckiest of Luckys.
BP Oil executives have contacted Lookin at Lucky today asking what he knows about things getting shut off... Federal investigators are now saying that we're fortunate the Times Square bomber got his fertilizer from Lookin at Lucky... Lookin at Lucky has been getting plenty of fan mail lately. Breeding farms are writing to say their mares have headaches... Pedigree Humor: On Mother's Day, Private Feeling appealed to the Jockey Club for additional DNA testing... Lookin at Lucky's flight to Baltimore was delayed when the pilot learned the biggest bomb in racing was on board... When Baffert fired jockey Garrett Gomez, Lookin at Lucky asked for a second opinion. Baffert said, "Alright. You're also slow."

Trophy Trivia
Created by Tiffany and Company in 1860 as a trophy for the now defunct Woodlawn Racing Association, the Woodlawn Vase is presented each year to the owner of the Preakness owner. An assessment in 1983 of $1 million easily makes its silver design the most valuable trophy in American sports. Until 1953, winners were awarded possession of the vase until the following Preakness. That all changed when A. G. Vanderbilt’s Native Dancer won it but his wife did not want to take on the immense responsibility of the vase’s safekeeping. Now the winning owner is awarded a $30,000 sterling replica on a permanent basis while the perpetual is on display at The Baltimore Museum of Art and brought to Pimlico under guard for the annual running of the Preakness.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Baffert Made The Right Decision With Jockey Gomez

More often than not, I'm the last in line to criticize jockeys. Their split-second decisions under potentially deadly conditions simply fall into the "How do they do that?" chapter in my book. Jockey feelings aside, I am just as cautious in my support of most rider changes on good horses. Circumstances are sometimes the doom of a relationship between jockey and a given horse. And to make a rider change in the pressure cooking environment during the five weeks of the Triple Crown, to me, sounds like a risky venture at best and an all out panic or childish blame by the owner and/or trainer at worst.

But in the case of trainer Bob Baffert dimplomaticlly telling Lookin at Lucky's jockey Garrett Gomez that he should perhaps "find another mount in the Preakness", the move seems justified. Kindly saying he just wanted to change the luck of the horse and that there was nothing Gomez could have done from the one hole in Derby, Baffert and owner Karl Watson, Paul Weitman and Mike Pegram must have seen the same thing many of us saw during the the first 100 yards of the Kentucky Derby (gr. 1) presented by Yum! Brands in which Lookin at Lucky began losing any chance to win.

Just out of the gate, Lookin at Lucky broke well along the rail. As expected Ice Box dropped back from the two hole while Noble's Promise broke from the three and Calvin Borel and Super Saver broke from the four. Within a few strides, Borel began steering Super Saver toward the rail, crowding Noble's Promise, who crowded Lookin at Lucky who was forced to check.

With Noble's Promise and Super Saver in front of him, Gomez had no place go with Lookin at Lucky as the field began to converge toward the inside rail as the field passed by the twin spires for the first time. By the time Stately Victor, a closer who broke from the six post, again slammed Lookin at Lucky into the rail, again forcing him further back still, the Kentucky Derby was all but over for the Lucky camp.

Before the Kentucky Derby Baffert acknowledged the challenge Gomez would have from the inside post, saying he was going to have to ride a super race early to overcome the impending traffic. But while Calvin Borel was able to clear the trouble from just three gates further out - and even strategically causing the first problems for Looking at Lucky with his quick dash for the rail - Gomez was not able to gun Lookin at Lucky out of trouble and has now paid the price for it.

Saturday Ron Anderson, the agent for Gomez, confirmed that they would not ride Lookin at Lucky in the Preakness and would instead by aboard Dublin for trainer D. Wayne Lukas. Baffert is reportedly considering jockey Martin Garcia to take over the riding assignment aboard Lookin at Lucky. Garcia, who rides regularly for Baffert and just won the Lone Star Derby (gr. 3) for Baffert Saturday, also rode Conveyance to a 15th-place finish in the Derby for the Baffert team.

Garcia is said to be more aggressive than Gomez as exhibited in the Derby, and is very good at getting horses to engage early on in a race.

Derby Winner Puts In Final Work At Churchill
Going to the track for his only serious work before the Preakness Stakes Saturday, Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver breezed three furlongs at Churchill Downs in :36.60 with Calvin Borel aboard. After the work, Borel allowed Super Saver to gallop around the turn and was clocked in a well-paced 1:02 for five-eighths of a mile.

Trainer Todd Pletcher was very pleased with the effort by Borel and Super Saver telling Daily Racing Form that he wanted, "an easy three-eighths and gallop out an easy half. It's amazing how effortless the horse was in doing it."

I assume the work fits well into Borel's plans to win the Triple Crown with Super Saver.

Other Preakness contenders to work Monday included the D.Wayne Lukas pair of Dublin and Northern Giant. Dublin, with jockey Garrett Gomez aboard, worked a half-mile in 48.40 while Northern Giant went three-eighths of a mile in 36.40. Derby Trial (gr. 3) winner Hurricane Ike took jockey Robby Alabarado seven furlongs in 1:25.80 and Yawanna Twist went five furlongs in 1:01.60.

Rachel Alexandra Also Works
Rachel Alexandra, the 2009 Horse of Year who has finished a close second in her only two starts this year, also made the Monday work tab at Churchill Downs. In her first work since her defeat in the Le Troienne Stakes (gr. 2) April 30 at Churchill, Rachel Alexandra went an easy half-mile in :52 seconds. Trainer Steve Asmussen said no decision has been made as to her next start.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Successful Preakness Invaders Are Not Historically Prevalent

Horse racing being the fickle game that it is, makes it difficult to predict entries into a race next week, but with that being said, it looks like the Preakness Stakes (gr. 1) will feature a full 14-horse gate when they go to the post May 15. It also looks like the Preakness will be evenly represented by seven horses that started in the Kentucky Derby and by seven horses that are new to the Triple Crown. But that could change quickly.

With much being written and said over the years about the grueling North American Triple Crown and the scarcity of those that have taken all three races (there have been only 11 since 1919), it might appear to some that these Preakness invaders may have an advantage. The thinking goes, and logically so I might add, that Kentucky Derby horses are coming out of perhaps the most taxing race of their careers carrying more weight further and against more horses than they will ever again. And they must bounce back into the Preakness with only two weeks rest - or one or two weeks less than most trainers would like.

That of course contributes to the fact that 13 of the 20 Kentucky Derby starters this year are not being pointed toward the Preakness. But once a Derby runner makes it into the Preakness starting gate, they have a much better chance of winning than their invading rivals from strictly a historical perspective.

Looking at the last 50 Preakness Stakes going back to 1959, only eight Preakness winners did not start in the Kentucky Derby. The most recent being eventual Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra (photo right), who last year became the first filly since Nellie Morse in 1924 to win the Preakness and the first to ever do so after a victory in the Kentucky Oaks.

Prior to that, after an easy win in the Withers Stakes at Aqueduct in late April, Bernardini won the 2006 Preakness tragically marred by the injury to Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro.

Six years earlier Red Bullet avenged his loss in the 2000 Wood Memorial to Fusaichi Pegasus, by passing on the Derby and coming back to win the Preakness over his Kentucky Derby winning nemesis.

One has to go back 17 years to find another Preakness winner who did not start in the Derby. Both the 1982 and 1983 Preakness winners made their previous start in a race other than the Kentucky Derby. Deputed Testamony won the 1983 Preakness after taking the Federico Tesio Stakes at Pimlico. The year before, Aloma's Ruler (photo left), with jockey "Cowboy" Jack Kanel won the previous Preakness, after having won the Withers Stakes.

In one of the most famous and controversial Preakness Stakes, D. Wayne Lukas brought Codex to Baltimore in 1980 to take on the Kentucky Derby winning filly Genuine Risk. In February Lukas had not included Codex among his five Kentucky Derby nominees. So after their win in the Santa Anita Derby, they made their next stop in Baltimore for the Preakness. (Ironically, it was Lukas' son Jeff who had nominated Codex to the Preakness saying later he would pay the $100 fee because "My dad doesn't know how good Codex is.")

Nearing the top of the Pimlico stretch, Codex and Angel Cordero Jr. where in front but Genuine Risk and Jacinto Vasquez were bearing down on the outside. Just as it seemed the filly was about to pass, Cordero appeared to steer Codex wide out of the turn, taking Geneuine Risk and Vasquez with them and stopping the momentum of the charging filly.

Former jockey Eddie Arcaro, working as a analysist for the ABC telecast, told 30 million viewers that if he were a steward, he would disqualify Codex. Moments later the track stewards disallowed the claim of foul and kept Codex the winner. The Pimlico switchboard lit up within seconds and angry calls persisted at the track for weeks.

Although nominated for the Triple Crown, trainer Del Carroll chose not to run Bee Bee Bee in the 1972 Kentucky Derby. However, after winning the Survivor Stakes at Pimlico, he entered Bee Bee Bee in the Preakness only to see him go gate-to-wire at 19-1 odds over Riva Ridge on a sloppy track.

In another famous Preakness, Greek Money freshened at Pimlico while Ridan won the 1962 Kentucky Derby. The two locked strides lengths ahead of the field down the stretch of the Preakness and racing fans were given not only an exciting finish, but an unusual post race as well.

Jockey Manuel Ycaza on the second-place Ridan, claimed foul on jockey John Rotz aboard the winning Greek Money. Perhaps dismissing the new technology of film patrol in his early action and later claim, it was discovered by the eye in the sky that the hot tempered Ycaza had in fact sent an elbow directly to the chin of Rotz just before the wire. Rotz and Greek Money kept the victory and Ycaza got a 10-day suspension.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Preakness Rides To Remember

Another rail-hugging victory by jockey Calvin Borel aboard Super Saver in the Kentucky Derby (gr. 1) presented by Yum! Brands has riding accolades again being directed at the popular Cajun rider and deservedly so. But with the Preakness Stakes (gr. 1) less than two weeks away and a full field of 14 possible for the second leg of the Triple Crown, the pressure will again be on Borel to flash his navigational brilliance in Baltimore when he steps aboard Super Saver May 15.

Super Saver is now the co-leader along with Sidney' Candy in the TBA 3-Year-Old Standings sponsored by OCD Pellets.

Not that the pressure seems to bother Borel. It was he, by the way, that declared a Triple Crown for Super Saver on national television during the winner's circle celebration following the Derby. It was also Borel a year ago, who stepped off Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird to ride the filly Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness in a move defiant of pressure. But as they've been saying in Louisiana for years, "dat pressuh doan bodder "Boo" (aka Calvin Borel) and he and Rachel Alexandra rolled to a Preakness win.

A well planned, mistake free and well executed ride in the Preakness may be good enough for another Preakness win for Borel - as long as Super Saver is good enough and ol' Mr. Bad Racing Luck stays away. But should he be called upon for another "Bo-Rail" riding feat for the win, and pulls it off, it seemed appropriate to recall perhaps three of the greatest rides of Preakness past - just in case we have to compare.

Ron Turcotte - Secretariat, 1973
In 1973 Secretariat had just won the Kentucky Derby in patient come-from-off-the-pace fashion, set a track record in the processand speculation began of a possible Triple Crown. The pressure was beginning to mount for jockey Ron Turcotte in the Preakness.

The pressure continued for Turcotte shortly after the break of the Preakness when it appeared that Secretariat was having some trouble finding his stride or getting a hold of the track. But Turcotte settled "Big Red" into a seemingly comfortable position along the rail in last as they passed the grandstand for the first time.

Suddenly (and I mean in an instant), Secretariat found his stride and that's where Turcotte's piloting skills and quick thinking came into play. Heading into the Clubhouse turn, few riders would swing out from the rail and suddenly go three-wide around the turn to pass slower horses. Most riders would have been content to keep their mount on the rail and easily gallop behind the team of preceding runners and wait for a hole to open or pass to the outside down the straight backstretch.

But Turcotte steered Secretariat just to the right and outside of the horses in front of him just before the left handed turn, only to feel Secretariat begin to pass horses and then inhale them as he began running faster and faster with more than three-quarters of a mile still left to run. Other riders might panic and fight the apparent runaway Secretariat. That's when Turcotte made perhaps his second winning decision. "I wanted to slow him down," Turcotte would say later, "but he wanted to go on. So I figured... ....if he wants to go on, I'm not going to argue with him. He's pretty big."

Secretariat never slowed a step and with Turcotte now just a passenger, he hit the wire three lengths in front of Sham in track record time according to the Daily Racing Form chart.

The official time on the infield tote board lit up to 1:55.0, a full second slower than Cananero II's 1:54.0 in the Preakness two years earlier. But the track clocker had caught Secretariat in 1:54-2/5 and two Daily Racing Form clockers had timed him in an identical 1:53-2/5. The official time was listed at 1:54-2/5 everywhere but Daily Racing Form, which also published their time in the official chart.

Eddie Delahoussaye - Risen Star, 1988
In 1988 D.Wayne Lukas had just won his first Kentucky Derby with the front running filly Winning Colors with jockey Gary Stevens aboard.

Woody Stephens, the Hall of Fame trainer of fast-closing Derby runner-up Forty Niner, rued the fact that Winning Colors had been conceded an uncontested lead from the start in the Derby and held it for a neck victory.

Stephens vowed things would be different in the Preakness – that Forty Niner would strongly contest or even take the lead. “I may be last, but she'll be next-to-last,” Stephens was widely quoted as saying.

Forty Niner drew post No. 4, Winning Colors No. 5 for the Preakness. When the gates opened, Pat Day on Forty Niner established inside position, with Gary Stevens and Winning Colors immediately outside. Day took a wide path, forcing Winning Colors to go even wider. The two horses bumped several times down the backstretch while Day andStevens were both off of what they considered to be a "dead rail."

Meanwhile, Eddie Delahoussaye on Kentucky Derby third-place finisher Risen Star, apparently recognized the battling jockeys ahead of him as he stalked them down the Pimlico backstretch. Delahoussaye saw the big hole inside, disregarded the advice to stay off the slow rail, and glided through the inside path passing the battling Winning Colors and Forty Niner with ease and rolled to a victory in the Preakness.

Honorable mention goes to jockey Angel Cordero Jr. on Brian's Time who followed Delahoussaye's inside path to get up for second over Winning Colors in third. Forty Niner was seventh.

After the race, Stevens said, "At about the half-mile pole, I saw Eddie (Delahoussaye) coming up on Risen Star and it was obvious then that Pat wasn't concerned with anybody getting through or maybe even winning the race. I've said it many times – as religious as Pat Day is, he threw out his Bible at the half-mile pole in that race."

Jeremy Rose - Afleet Alex, 2005
More than 20 years later, Afleet Alex had just finished third as one of the favorites in the 2005 Kentucky Derby, less than a length behind long shot winner Giacomo. Following the Derby, jockey Jeremy Rose accepted the responsibility for the loss saying that he did not ride his best race and may have cost Afleet Alex the Derby.

Going into the Preakness, the racing public had made Afleet Alex the favorite and eyes were on Jeremy Rose at Pimlico.

Just before the half-mile pole, Rose took Afleet Alex into a crowed group tiring front runners and was forced to stop the horse's momentum. But just as soon as he stopped, Afleet Alex started rolling again round the far turn and they had the leading Scrappy T in their sites and pounced on him like a jaguar chasing a slow pig. Just as the two began to turn for home and Rose began to pass on the outside, Scrappy T suddenly veered to the right, slamming into Afleet Alex and nearly dropping him as Rose was thrown from the saddle. But in that instant when Afleet Alex jumped backed into stride, Rose somehow managed to stay balanced and aboard and swung back into the stirrups and was again riding before most could comprehend what had happened.

Before anyone could take a breath after gasping in anticipation of the wreck at the top of the Pimlico stretch, Afleet Alex and Jeremy Rose were back in stride and well on their way to one of the more amazing Preakness victories of all time.

Editorial Note: The Brock Talk will be the guest handicapper this week on handicapping the Lone Star Derby (gr. 3).

Monday, May 3, 2010

Thoughts, Comments and Questions about the Kentucky Derby

First question: Has anyone seen my Derby pick Awesome Act? He disappeared shortly after the break of the Run for the Roses and hasn’t been seen since… There are many reasons to be a happy for a trainer who just won the Kentucky Derby, but I’m glad Todd Pletcher’s 0-24 Kentucky streak is over. Whether speaking of Pletcher, golfer Greg Norman not winning the Masters, Buffalo Bill quarterback Jim Kelly not winning the Super Bowl or any other great athlete who never won the big one, it is an overplayed, sensational angle that is both unfair, statistically flawed and boring… Would anybody expect ex-jockey and current television commentator Donna Brothers to be on any horse other than Bob Baffert’s pony Cowboy for the Derby telecast? Just the day before, Cowboy dumped Brothers during a live feature on NBC’s The Today Show. Brothers bounced to her feet, continued the feature and joked about the incident with Al Roker in a later segment. (Video replay shows the wreck was Roker’s fault BTW)…

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You know you’ve got problems with the weather gods when Jim Cantore of The Weather Channel is on the broadcast team… You know you’ve done something to please the weather gods when they give you that short ray of sunshine as the horses are loading for the Derby… In Februay of 2007, I was in the racing office at Oaklawn Park listening to Calvin Borel’s agent Jerry Hissam tell me that Calvin was planning to retire at the end of the year. My how life has changed for that team three Kentucky Derby victories later…

Seperated at Birth
Churchill Downs Vice President Tom Jenkins (left) and comedian Martin Short (right). It was Jenkins who toted the gold suitcase filled with $100,000 to place the bet for NBC’s Kentucky Derby Dream Bet Sweepstakes winner Glen Fullerton of Houston… Fullerton bet Super Saver and cashed for more than $900,000… At 6.3-1 final odds, Lookin at Lucky was the longest priced favorite in Kentucky Derby history, exceeding the 6.0-1 odds of Harlans Holiday in 2002. At 31-1, Discreetly Mine had the smallest odds of any the previous longest shot in the Derby since Halo Sunshine in 1995 at 28-1. That year the Derby had 19 runners but only 12 betting interests.

One Lucky Winner
Although Looking at Lucky was anything but lucky in the Derby, Blind Luck was nothing short of spectacular in winning the Kentucky Oaks (gr.) Friday at Churchill Downs. Blind Luck did not win the Oaks by 20 lengths as Rachel Alexandra did last year, but she did finish the last sixteenth of a mile in a blazing 6 and change to get up for the nose victory… Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer now has three Kentucky Oaks wins as Blind Luck joins Pike Place Dancer (1996) and Lite Light (1991) as Oaks winners from the Hollendorfer barn… Speaking of Lady Luck, I thoroughly enjoyed Claire Novak’s report from Churchill Downs on the TVG program of the same name. Her knowledge is obvious but her enthusiasm and chemistry with hosts Christina Olivares and Nancy Ury added to an already good program and I hope the producers turn to Novak often in the future… If principal owner Jess Jackson and trainer Steve Asmussen are not going to have a knee jerk reaction to 2009 Rachel Alexandra’s second loss this year in the La Troienne Stakes Friday at Chruchill Downs, I’m not either. While there is plenty of reason for doubt, I would not be surprised if she begins to run like the old Rachel in upcoming races.