The Brock Talk

Monday, December 28, 2009

An Academic Look at Horse Racing in 2009

My late mother Joan taught second and third grade for more than 30 years and my father Phil was a successful math teacher and coach before he began training Quarter Horses full time. So I guess it's in my blood to qualify things on an A through F basis, sometimes throwing in extra credit, "works well with others" or my mom's smiley faces.

If I were to sit down at the dining room table after dinner and grade horse racing and a few factions thereof, I guess this is the logic I would follow.

I'd give a solid A to the racing with Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta giving the valedictions and the commencement with their A+ report cards throughout the year. Without having to recall a moment of any of their races, I can justify this grade with Zenyatta being named the runner-up to Serena Williams as the Associated Press Female Athlete Of The Year and Rachel Alexandra's victory in the Blackberry Preakness being ranked among the Top 10 Sports Moments of 2009 by Time Magazine.

I'd give the Triple Crown a B+, only because each race was won by a different horse and Mine That Bird never won again after taking the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum.

The diminutive gelding from New Mexico arrived at Churchill in a Sooner Trailer two-horse instead of in a custom equine van behind a Peterbuilt 389; with a trainer in Chip Woolley Jr. (photo below) donning a cast, two crutches, a big black cowboy hat and a mustache the envy of every 14-year-old bronc-rider this side of the Pecos. And dag burnit if they don't go and win the whole pumkin' rollin' at 50-to-1 odds. And they have the super charismatic Calvin Borel in the saddle to boot.

Then Rachel Alexandra comes along and steal's Mine That Bird's jockey in true TMZ fashion and wins the Preakness before a little known Summer Bird takes the Belmont. Borel, now back on Mine That Bird for the Belmont but finishing third, was denied a chance to become the first jockey to win a Triple Crown on different horses but gives the trilogy story a boost with the effort.

It was a very enjoyable Triple Crown, but I hesitate to give it a top grade.

The older horse division of 2009 gets a C minus with only Gio Ponti's A plus, a B plus for Presious Passion (top photo), Einstein, Bullsbay and a few others others pulling the group out of D range.

Frank Stronach did his best to flunk out all of track management this year with bankruptcies dominating the Magna Entertainment front, but I'm not going to give the whole bunch an F.

That would not be fair to the foot soldiers that managed these tracks with budgets and personnel slashes that had all the rational of a Lady Ga Ga hairstyle. I can only speak personally about Lone Star Park who produced some very nice events and race cards with not much more than the personal experiences, creativity and relationships built in the local and national markets when things were more profitable. I can only assume the management teams at the other tracks were faced with similar hurdles.

Pimlico management still gets my Dunce Cap of the year for their infield crowd restrictions on Preakness Day. I was the track manager at tiny Manor Downs near Austin, Texas in the mid-80's when our track infield hosted Farm Air II, numerous Grateful Dead and Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble concerts in an equine environment. Pimlico's lame justifications for crowd reduction fell on deaf ears with this blogger.

I will also give extra credit to the New York Racing Association for putting on such great racing during the Summer and Fall at Belmont Park and Saratoga and proving that good horse racing can bring good crowds and a great horse can bring a crowd to remember.

Now ending the year with the New York comptroller asking for your financial records is reason for concern, but I'll still give NYRA a passing grade this year.

Churchill Downs always gets an A plus for their Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks presentation, their racing, facility, etc. And with the installations of lights and the beginning of Friday night racing at the historic track they only solidified that grade.

Arlington Park's season was filled with highs and lows. No. I'm sorry. It was filled with highs and two tragic injuries to jockeys Rene Douglas and Michael Straight. Both Douglas and Straight are battling paralyzing injuries suffered in spills at Arlington Park. I'll give Arlington Park an A plus for their handling of both incidents both in the moments after each accident up through the following months. They have organized and produced fundraisers for both riders but more importantly, I believe, have acted professionally and compassionately.

On the West Coast Santa Anita management gets the Magna exemption and really the same thing applies to Hollywood Park which may have hosted the last meeting at the Track of Lake and Flowers. More to come on that. Del Mar? ... I give a C. How can you screw up the Pacific Ocean, Zenyatta and Bing?

The jockeys get an A plus from me this year for their performances both on and off the track. Nothing shows character like taking care of your own and the jockeys made a big stride when their Jockeys' Guild was able to close their bankruptcy case in July. That ended the two-year case and the beginning steps to repair the damage of what will go down in Guild history as the decade of darkness.

And while Douglas and Straight suffered catastrophic accidents at Arlington Park this summer, fellow riders and their wives rallied to their assistance both financially and in friendship. The Don MacBeth Memorial Jockey Fund completes their 22nd year of assisting fallen riders and the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund passed the the $2 million mark in disbursements during the year.

Calvin Borel electrified America as only "Boo" can with appearances on the network morning show and late night circuits while Mike Smith, Chantal Sutherland, Joe Talamo, Alex Solis and others opened their lives and their jocks' room in the popular Animal Planet television series Jockeys.

On the track there were standout performances like Joe Talamo's performance on I Want Revenge in the Wood Memorial, Calvin Borel on Mine That Bird in the Kentucky Derby, and that flying partnership of Elvis Trijillo and Presious Passion in a United Nations victory and a Breeders' Cup Classic runner-up.

To the fans (come on... you brought me an apple), I place you on the honor roll and you also gets my mom's smiley face at the top of your paper. I want to recognize the New York fans that wore cowboy hats on Belmont Day and gave Rachel Alexandra ovations that will be written about for years. I salute the fans of California as well for their Zenyatta signs and ovations and of course the fans that have supported the various charities of our sport.

At the end of it all, I'd say racing made it through the year with a B minus. And I give that grade on a bell curve influenced by the economy. When all is said and done, I'm sure attendance and handle will have taken significant hits and horse racing didn't have many home runs in television ratings either. But California racing didn't fall in the ocean, no mares had eight foals, Chantal Sutherland didn't hit Mike Smith's Escalade with a golf club and Chip Woolley didn't crash into the Hudson river with Mine That Bird.

As bad as 2009 was for a lot of folks, I think racing did okay. Certainly well enough to move ahead in 2010 but not quite good enough to break out the good "bubbley" tonight.

But Happy New Year everyone, nonetheless.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

'Twas the Night Before Racing

‘Twas the night before Christmas
Inside the barn area fence
Not a creature was stirring
Not track maintenance.

The hay nets were hung
From the stall doors with care
Hoping the guy with the sweet feed
Soon would be there.

The horses were all standing
Asleep in their bedding
While the grooms played the tunes
Of the Spanish Helen Redding
(Soy mujer, me oigo rugir!)

With mama closing the tack room
And I shutting light
We took a look down the shed row
Before calling it a night

When suddenly we heard
A bang and clang
It sounded as if
The starting gate rang

But the race track was closed
And the gate crew was drinking
So I turned to mama while wonderin’
What she was thinking?

Then a sudden red light
And with little alarm
I saw something land
Atop the test barn

It was the thoroughbred season!
There were no sulkies around!
So certainly this was
A sleigh that we found

I recognized the harness
And the reins were no mystery
But those were sure reindeer
“Track security is history!”

Then out from the sleigh
Jumped the driver dressed in red
He looks at me smiling
And says “Can you watch my sled?”

“I have peppermints here
Maidens and Claimers by name
Then suddenly he vanished
And I’m holding Rudolph’s reins

In less than a second
He was back and set to go
“How fast is this sleigh?”
He said, “You’ll never know!

“I use Christmas Spirit
To power this thing
For this team of reindeer
The world’s a bullring

“This is a very fast group
And this is a magical little bag
But don’t get ideas
They don’t run for a tag!”

Then a little toy trumpet
He brought to his lips
And he played Boots and Saddles
With his hands on his hips

I laughed then looked up
And he was gone in a sec
Then I looked down
And saw the win pic

As I looked at it closer
What a wonderful sight
It was Santa on the left
And me on the right

Donner was center
The rest were in back
And I don’t know who they were
But there were elves in the sack

He sprang to his sleigh
to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew
to Los Al then to Thistle.

But then I heard him say
with a laugh and a roar,
"Happy Christmas to all
And hit a pick-four!”

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Retired Racehorses Survive Island Budget Cuts

ISLAND OF MISFIT TOYS, ARCTIC CIRCLE--In a Tuesday press conference here inside the arctic circle, Island of Misfit Toys governor King Moonracer (photo below) said he will again be helping retired race horses find homes during the Christmas season.

King Moonracer is responsible for flying around the world each night in search of unwanted toys. In 1935, a deal was forged between Moonracer and Santa Claus of the North Pole to help find homes for these misfit toys.

Two years later, seven-year-old Suzy Angelino of Pawtucket, Rhode Island wrote to Claus in an official "letter to Santa" asking for help in finding a home for a thoroughbred living at Narragansett Park. Angelino, whose father owned apple and carrot distributorships near racetracks throughout the United States and thus had a certain amount of influence among the equine racing set, soon had Seabiscuit and War Admiral using their immense influence in the animal kingdom to pressure Moonracer into a deal.

The relationship has stood strong for more than 80 years now with King Moonracer and Claus helping to find homes for these racehorses. However, the recent downturn in the world economy has caused budget cuts at the Island Of Misfit Toys. Many feared these cuts would impact certain divisions on the Island including finding homes for retired racehorses. Therefore today's announcement comes as a welcome message during the holiday season.

North Pole Elves Corporation press secretary Gladys Magilicutty, whose father Spanky was a jockey, said "The Elfin community has been proud to support this effort to help retired race horses. Plus, our equine division has been slow since the demise in popularity of the rockin' horse as a Christmas toy and "horse cakes" never quite caught on like we projected."

In a jesture of appreciation, retired race horse foundations, farms and organizations have pledged to help King Moonracer and the Island of Misfit Toys in any way. If you would like to help click on any of the retired racehorse links below.

To learn more about adopting a retired race horse, click here.

To find a race horse retirement organization, foundation or farm near you:
New Vocations
California Equine Retirement Foundations
Old Friends
Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation
ReRun Adoption

Monday, December 7, 2009

Announcing The 2009 TBA Photo Contest

Announcing the annual Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance photo contest. As we used to say in the old Quarter Horse days.... Open To The World! Professional and amateur, fun, serious or pretty. The rules and where to enter are below.

Here are the rules for this year:
Can submit up to 3 photos taken this year; subject matter horse
Submissions: email the photo to
Submissions due by 12/13/2009 (sunday)
Voting for top ten will be 12/14 through 12/20 (monday through
Sunday), will be able to vote on multiple pictures, but we ask only
vote on 3.

Top 10 photos will be chosen to enter the final round.
Voting on winner will be 12/21 through 12/27
winner announced.
Prize = The picture will be featured on the photo page, and the photog
given the opportunity to link to anything they want and to say
whatever they want (provided it abides to civil discourse, and doesn't
say anything bad about the TBA ;-D ).

Friday, December 4, 2009

Derby Preps Deserve Graded Flexibility

This week the American Graded Stakes Committee released their annual list of graded stakes to be run in North America in 2010 and they have certainly grabbed the attention of racing fans in the social networking worlds of Twitter and Facebook.

Each year since 1973 the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association has appointed a committee to evaluate all major added-money Thoroughbred races in North America and "grade" them as I, II, III or ungraded with grade I representing the most prestigious, richest and most highly competitive. TOBA appoints six of their members to the committee (including the committee chairman) and each year invites six leading racing officials to also serve.

According to the TOBA website, "the purpose of the American Graded Stakes Committee is to provide owners and breeders of Thoroughbred horses a reliable guide to the relative quality of Thoroughbred bloodstock by identifying those U.S. races whose recent renewals have consistently attracted the highest quality competition." The committee has a $75,000 purse requirement for a race to be considered for grading and also considers the longevity of the race, insures adequate drug and anabolic steroid testing, and that the race be restricted only by age and gender.

It is a good process that was quickly emulated by racing jurisdictions and recognized by publications and sale companies around the world.

My criticism comes from the line "provide owners and breeders... a reliable guide". Once again the racing powers have snubbed their noses at the fans.

To be fair, the graded stakes committee at one time "unofficially" considered the public appeal of graded races and tried giving graded status to races at smaller tracks in an effort to promote those tracks. the grading system, but it was determined that granting a graded status to given race had little effect on attendance or the promotion of the given track. As a longtime marketing guy, this was very difficult for me to accept but I eventually came to realize that this was fundamentally true. Nobody was going to Brock Talk Downs to see the Sheridan Derby because it was a graded race.

The last line of the TOBA website page describing the American Graded Stakes process reads "Judgment and flexibility... must always be a part of the system." And that is the tool the committee can use to make the most appreciated changes for the fans without compromising the mission of the process as stated by TOBA.

Based on the Twitter and Facebook comments and posts I've seen since the committee announced their 2010 schedule, there is one area that garnered most of the attention of racing fans regarding graded races - Kentucky Derby prep races. Specifically, the changes made to the grading of the Illinois Derby, Sunland Derby and Arkansas Derby are getting the internet chatterers a chattering.

The Arkansas Derby has been upgraded from II to I, the Sunland Derby is grade III for the first time and the Illinois Derby was downgraded from a grade II to a grade III.

In my humble opinion, the grade I status for the Arkansas Derby is long overdue. With Triple Crown stars such as Afleet Alex, Smarty Jones and Curlin among it's last six winners, it appears it should have been a grade I a long time ago. And remember, Smarty Jones was just a Birdstone's throw away from being a Triple Crown winner.

Illinois Derby stars include Derby winner War Emblem, Ten Most Wanted and Musket Man. Not a stellar class and really the race probably deserves a grade III based on the committee's criteria, but this race has evolved during the last decade into a legitimate Derby prep. It is not on par with the Santa Anita Derby, Florida Derby or Wood Memorial, but it certainly is more significant to prospective Derby starters than the Sunland Derby, even though the Sunland race produced Mine That Bird last year.

The Louisiana Derby seems to be another Derby prep on the rise having produced last year's Derby favorite Friesan Fire as well as Pyro and Circular Quay the previous two years. Problems with scheduling the Florida Derby on a consistent basis and slot revenues have helped the Louisiana Derby quality recently and it is now a serious race to look for in the Derby past performances.

Again, I'm not saying the Louisiana Derby is on par with the big boys, but it is certainly not on the same level as the grade II Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn which is prep for a Derby prep.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that these Derby prep races are more significant to fans and horse players than perhaps the TOBA realizes. They may not be bringing people to the races, but they are important guides to the marginal fans that handicap that one race a year - The Kentucky Derby. So if there is one area where I would like the American Graded Stakes Committee use some of their judgment and flexabilty it is with these Derby Preps. It is perhaps the one group of races that the casual fan depends on the graded stakes committee to help them find a winner.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Dear Santa

(Cartoon by Remi Bellocq)

Dear Santa,
I've been a pretty good boy this year, (relatively speaking I guess), and it's early December, so I thought I better write my Christmas list and send it to you here pretty quick.

I hate to be a pain about this Santa, but I really, really want a Triple Crown winner this year. I know they're hard to make and it's not the elves specialty or area of expertise. But if they can squeeze it in during some of their down time in January and February, we really don't need delivery during the peak holiday season.

And forget the Derby exacta. I can do without the Derby exacta if you work on the Triple Crown winner for me.

Just a thought. You knew I was going to ask.

I also want a good leg for Summer Bird and if you can put a little "good will to all men" in Quality Road's stocking.... those guys on the starting gate are just trying to help. Careless Jewel could probably use a little of that stuff too, but I wouldn't waste any on Rachel Alexandra. I don't think she's going to be good will to any men, mares or foes this year and I think we both agree she has all the magic she needs.

It's been a very rough year on lots of people Santa, but we have some friends in racing that have been dealt some pretty big challenges. For them and everybody who may be needing a little extra Christmas spirit this year, put a little extra under the tree from all of us... will ya?

This gift is not quite so noble and I'm sure you don't normally stop at racetracks, but if you have any extra high definition television cameras when your making a final pass, there'd be lots of happy girls and boys in your 21 and older demo if you'd drop a few extra at a track or two. We'd sure like to see horse racing not lag too far behind in an area (television) that is so vital to our sport.

Before you go Santa, a few more small items... continued stardom for Chantal Sutherland. Regardless if she re-appears on the successful TV series Jockeys or not, she's good for racing.... A step ladder for Zenyatta's new boy friend is probably appropriate... nice homes for all the retired race horses... and peace on earth, good will to all men.

Thanks Santa and Merry Christmas,

PS: Remind Blitzin he still owes me $10 for the basketball pool.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanks In Advance

Well this is one of the better Thanksgivings we've had in horse racing and horse racing betting. So like all the other bloggers, newspaper columnists and turf writers, let me give thanks for Rachel, Chip, Mike, Tim, Zenyatta, Goldikova and the Jayaramans. Thanks to Jerry, Ann, Julian, Jess, John and Gio. Thank you Steve, Hal, Quality, Bob, Garret, Kent, Sea, Rip and Dixie. Thanks to the Birdstone boys, Mine That and Summer and without sounding like a J.R.R. Tolkien character, thanks to my Presious.

But I'm also thankful for what looks like a potentially fun 2010. Rachel Alexandra is back in training at Steve Asmussen's barn at Fair Grounds in New Orleans and Mine That Bird is a gelding, so he's not going anywhere. I don't know that Zenyatta has been officially retired and we've got Quality Road, Summer Bird and the like to look forward to in the older horse ranks next year. It appears Gio Ponti is going to be America's best representative in the rich Dubai World Cup next spring.

We may not have another Rachel Alexandra coming along but if you're not exited about the potential of She Be Wild, Blind Luck, Beautician, Biofuel and Negligee not to mention Hot Dixie Chick and Awesome Maria.

And there is a host of boys coming along led by Lookin for Lucky looking for the roses come the first Saturday in May. Others include Aspire, Dublin, D' Funnybone and Vale of York is surely planning on a Kentucky invasion from Dubai.

So thank you optimism. And thank you horse racing for the perpetual gift thereof.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Closer Look At The Breeders' Cup Juvenile Jinx

The psychiatric condition commonly referred to a PBCS (Post Breeders' Cup Syndrome) aflects thousands of racing fans each year at this time with anxiety and mild depression caused by a sudden decrease in handicapping and the placing of losing trifecta and Pick-4 tickets into a tax records shoe box.

Researchers believe the side effects of this affliction may be reduced this year due to the embattled debate over Horse of the Year, but recommend that persons suffering from PBCS be prepared for a reoccurance of symptoms once the annoncement is made as to who gets the golden Eclipse Award.

Little is know about this disease other than early handicapping of the Kentucky Derby and perscribed daily plays on Gulfstream, Hollywood Park, Santa Anita and Aqueduct winter racing have been known to ease the suffering.

I'm not a psychiatrist... I just play one on this blog.

I must warn you that my therapy begins by taking you to a very dark, dark place that many of you may have already erased from your memory due to the shock and pain you may have felt when you first experienced the event.

I'm sorry. But I think it's important that we talk about the Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile now. I know Lookin at Lucky may have been your key horse. Or if he wasn't, I doubt Vale of York was. It's painful. I know. But let's push through this together.

History tells us that Vale of York has little chance of pulling off the Breeders' Cup Juvenile-Kentucky Derby double. Only Street Sense in 2006-07 has been able to accomplish the feat of taking the Juvenile and repeating in the Kentucky Derby winner's circle some six months later.

His connections of trainer Saeed bin Suroor and Goldophin Racing certainly have a good record of getting horses to the Kentucky Derby - having been to the run for the roses with seven horses going back to Worldly Manner in 1999 who finished seventh. The problem lies in looking at their results after each respective Derby. As a team their best finish came in 2000 when China Visit finished sixth and Curule was seventh. They have also finished eighth twice with Express Tour in 2001 and Regal Ransom last year; ninth with Essence of Dubai in 2002 and 14th with Desert Party, also in 2009.

The news doesn't get much better for Juvenile runner-up Lookin at Lucky, although he races from the barn of trainer Bob Baffert who has won three Kentucky Derbies with Silver Charm, Real Quiet and War Emblem.

The historical bad news is two-fold for Lookin at Lucky however. First, none of those Baffert-trained Derby winners even started in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and never has a Juvenile runner-up come back to win the Derby. Although 10 of the Juvenile bride's maids have made to the Derby the following year, the best Derby finish by a Juvey second-place finisher goes to Easy Goer who pulled off a Juvenile-Derby runner-up/runner-up double in 1988-89.

Interestingly though, three Juvenile place horses have come back to win the Preakness. Point Given, 2nd in the 2000 Juvenile behind Macho Uno, won the 2001 Preakness and Belmont; and Afleet Alex, second behind Wilko in the 2004 Juvenile, won the Preakness in 2005. Tank's Prospect, second in the first Breeders' Cup Juvenile in 1984, got it all started when he came back to win the Preakness the following year.

Also interesting is the fact that Juvenile third-place finishers have had more success in the Derby than any of their top two finishing counterparts. Good news for Noble's Promise, but don't go racing to the future book location near you just yet.

Success for Juvy third-place finishers started with the first Breeders' Cup winner when Spend a Buck finished third in 1984 behind Chief's Crown and Tank's Prospect, then came back to win the 1985 Derby. Alysheba did the same thing two years later finishing third behind Capote and Qualify in the Juvenile, before taking the 1987 Derby.

Since then, things have been a little dry for the Juvenile bronze medalists so-to-speak. Tejano Run finished third in the 1994 Juvenile behind Timber Country and Eltish before finishing second in the Derby behind Grindstone; and Cat Thief finished third in both the 1998 Juvenile and 1999 Kentucky Derby.

Now I don't know if I've given you the winner of the 2010 Kentucky Derby or if any of this will be of much five months from now. But we've helped create an awareness for those suffering from PBCS... and I hope our time together has helped.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Hollywood Park Attracts Breeders' Cup Stars

Hollywood Park, draped in a cloud of uncertainty about their future and opening the Fall meeting on of all days Friday the 13th, has been blessed with plenty of good news this week from Breeders' Cup horsemen.

Trainer Bobby Frankel assistant Humberto Ascanio has indicated that Ventura, second in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (gr. 1) at Santa Anita, is expected to return in Hollywood Park's $300,000 Matriarch (gr. IT) on Nov. 28. Frankel, who ha been absent from the barn for sometime battling cancer, has won the one-mile turf race a record eight times.

Ventura, who is expected to retire to the breeding farm for the 2010 breeding season, won the 2008 Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint and has won two of five starts including the grade 1 Woodbine Mile in Canada this year.

The 2-year-old racing for the 27-day Autumn meeting at Hollywood Park also got a boost from Kentucky-based trainer Kenneth McPeek when he announced that his powerful group of Breeders' Cup freshmen would stay in Southern California.

The two biggest young stars, Noble's Promise and Beautician are scheduled to run in the track's premier 2-year-old races on the weekend of Dec. 19-20. Noble's Promise, third in the Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. 1), is being pointed for the $750,000 Cash Call Futurity (gr. 1) while Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. 1) runner-up Beautician is scheduled to run the next day in the $300,000 Hollywood Starlet (gr. 1).

McPeek has also said that Bridgetown (2nd in Juvenile Turf), House of Grace (3rd in Juvenile Fillies Turf) and Juvenile Fillies eighth-place finisher Connie and Michael will remain in Southern California.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Breeders' Cup Thoughts, Comments and Questions

Despite the fact that owner Jerry Moss indicated in a post-Classic press conference that Zenyatta may have run her last race, promoters and presidents are pressing on.

Gulfsteam Park new president and general manager Tim Dunn has indicated they will try to recruit the two super stars to Florida for the grade 1 Donn Handicap on Jan. 6, the day before the Super Bowl. Meanwhile, Sam Houston Race Park and Gallery Furniture have announced a $1.5 million race at 1-1/8 miles on dirt for Jan. 30 as part of their John B. Connally Turf Festival, "in the event that both parties are interested in participating,” said Andrea Young, president and chief operating officer of Sam Houston in a press release.

Zenyatta came out of the Classic in good order and remains at Santa Anita while Rachel Alexandra is in Steve Asmussen's barn at Fair Grounds in New Orleans.

Breeders' Cup Classic runner-up Gio Ponti may be pointed toward another multi-million dollar, international event as trainer Christophe Clement suggest the Dubai World Cup may be a target in late March.

Who was the last Breeders' Cup Classic winner to not be named Horse of the Year? Answer below.

Although trainer Bob Baffert was incredibly dissappointed in the second-place finish by Lookin at Lucky in the Juvenile, odds are the son of Smart Strike will be the favorite on most Kentucky Derby future books this winter. Baffert will also be losing his brilliant Sprinter Zensational, who will be retired to Hill 'n' Dale Farm in Kentucky for stallion duty where he will stand for a $25,000 fee.

What'd I tell ya about Presious Passion? Was he fun to watch or what?

A favorite Tweet:
skipaway2000 Kanye West: "Yo Rachel, Im really happy for you and Imma let you finish, but Zenyatta had one of the best races of all time!!"

I loved the Randy Moss big betting board on ESPN's Breeders' Cup telecast which allowed Moss to illustrate a wagering strategy with win and exacta bets before each race. It was entertaining and educational.

Early television ratings indicate that the Breeders' Cup telecasts on ESPN from 3:30-6:30 remained relatively flat compared to last year with a .9 rating. The 1:30-3:30 segment on ABC dropped slightly and Friday's telecast remained fairly steady. Total common pool wagering for both days dropped approximately 7% compared to last year with two fewer races carded while on-track attendance was up.

I'm not going to say I'm encouraged by these numbers, but considering the economy in general and the California economy specifically, I'd say there's more silver lining there than what it might appear.

I think Quality Road is still a little hacked about how things went at the starting gate at Santa Anita before the Breeders' Cup Classic. Scratched after refusing to load into the starting gate and superficially hurting himself in the process, the Florida Derby winner trained by Todd Pletcher was reportedly not to keen to step on his return flight to New York either. While there was no incident of any consequence at the airport, Pletcher and transportation officials decided not to push the issue with the colt. Quality Road will now travel back to New York via van with a layover and a few days rest at Churchill Downs.

Trivia Answer: Pleasantly Perfect won the 2003 Breeders' Cup Classic while Mineshaft was given the Horse of the Year title with seven wins from nine races that year including the grade 1 wins in the Pimlico Special, Suburban Handicap, Woodward and Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Breeders' Cup Turf winner Conduit will be retired to stud at Shigeyuki Okada's of Big Red Farm in Japan. Colonel John, fifth in the Breeders' Cup Classic and winner of the 2008 Santa Anita Derby (gr. 1) and Travers (gr. 1) has been retired and will stand at WinStar Farm in Kentucky.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Breeders' Cup Classic Seperates The Debate

Back in early August I wrote on this blog that if both Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta would go undefeated for the remainder of the year, that Zenyatta would have a half-game lead in the race for Horse of the Year.

I'm sticking to my guns.

Strong arguements can be made by both camps about the quality of those left in the wakes of the two greats, but for me the bottom line is Zenyatta showed up for the Breeders' Cup and Rachel stayed home.

One of the biggest marketing challenges we have as a sport, is that our Breeders' Cup World Championship is just slightly less definitive than the Bowl Championship Series in college football at determining our respective champions. Americans don't like champions with no playoff in other words. So if horse racing is going to bill the Breeders' Cup as a championship, it should at least have enough impact to act as the breaker to this apparent and future ties.

I also have to discount the "synthetics" issue. With synthetic tracks in California, Kentucky, Illionois, Canada and Europe, they are now a part of the game. Like domed stadiums, synthetic turf and night games in football and baseball - Polytrack and Pro-Ride are "unnatural". And all can affect the outcome of a game.

Everybody else plays on with no regard (other than wagering) to who won or lost on natural grass, synthetic turf or at night. So should horse racing.

I also discount the "travel" arguement. Zenyatta races in the only state where racing stays at a consistent level year around. Races, purses and weather in Kentucky, New York and Florida all force the top horses to move along with their top trainers.

Which means Rachel was in her home stall when she raced in Arkansas, Kentucky and New York. She shipped about nine hours by van from Hot Springs, Ark., to New Orleans to win the grade 2 Fairgrounds Oaks and about four hours by van from Saratoga, NY., to Monmouth Park for her grade 1 Haskell romp over Summer Bird. That doesn't exactly make Rachel a road warrior when Zenyatta twice made the three-hour van ride from her stall at Hollywood Park to Del Mar.

Rachel did race against the boys three times in the Preakness, Haskell and Woodward while Zenyatta only raced against males in the Breeders' Cup. But the Breeders' Cup was at a 1-1/4 miles, the classic distance that Rachel never attempted.

The arguements for both are strong and my intention is to no way dispare Rachel Alexandra. I just have to go back to what I said in August. All things being equal, and the debate over these two mares is about as close as you can get, the Breeders' Cup Classic winner gets the nod.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Emotions Run High During Breeders' Cup Ladies Day

It was a day of feel good stories at Santa Anita during Breeder' Cup Ladies day as European legend Henry Cecil picked up his first Breeders' Cup win from seven previous starts. Cecil has been the champion trainer in Britian nine times but fell on hard times around the new millineum with personal health problems and the loss of three major, long-standing owners who had died. So all of England must have celebrated when Midday took the Emirates Airline Filly and Mare Turf with Midday.

Trainer Dale Romans was a bit emotional after Tapitsfly won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf for owner Frank I. Jones Jr. Jones. Jones has been in horse racing for decades in the Midwest and has had only two trainers. Dale's father Jerry, who passed away in 2000, was the only other one.

Almost making the happy list was the nine-year-old Cloudy's Nite, who missed by the most narrow of margins in the Breeder' Cup Marathon. The tight photo finish also cost jockey Rosemary Homeister Jr. an opportunity to join Julie Krone as the only female to ever ride a Breeders' Cup winner. Krone won the 2003 Juvenile Fillies with Halfbridled.

Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic winner Life Is Sweet seemed happy to leave for the saddling paddock without stablemate Zenyatta along side for a change, but it appears she may have received some running instructions from the big mare. Losing to her stablemate in three of her previous four races, Life is Sweet's late running move down the middle of the Santa Anita stretch looked like a smaller version of Zenyatta coming to the wire.

We get to see the real thing Saturday.

Special get well wishes go out to Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel who has been battling cancer from his home in Southern California for the last six months while still managing his stable. Jay Privman reported on ESPN that Frankel has recently been hospitalized at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. You can send your well wishes to Frankel on Facebook on the Bobby Frankel Get Well Soon card.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Ladies Still Classic With Jewels, Music And The Beach

Now that it's official that super mare Zenyatta is running in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic on Saturday, one might think the Ladies Classic will be compromised in popularity. Certainly fewer fans will tune in to watch the Friday card on ESPN now that Zenyatta has decided to take on her male counterparts, but I still have the Ladies Classic ranked among my most anticipated of the weekend.

Morning line favorite Music Note (photo) has won seven of her 11 career starts and hasn't started outside a grade 1 race since the weekend Big Brown won the Preakness last May. She's the best of the New York mares having demolished her competition in the grade 1 Ballerina and grade 1 Beldame in her last two starts and may have given Zenyatta a run for her money if she had entered the Ladies Classic. She is trained by Saeed bin Suroor for the powerful Goldolfin Stables, who will also start Cocoa Beach in the Ladies Classic.

There are storylines galore in Ladies Classic with close second choice Careless Jewel going for her sixth straight win and the John Sherriffs-trained Life is Sweet trying to take advantage of her neighbor (Zenyatta) staying in the barn on race day for a change.

Fans of the very popular Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel have plenty reasons to not miss the Ladies Classic as well. Frankel has been absent from his barn for months battling health challenges that hasn't stopped him sending his usual arsenal to the Breeders' Cup.

Proviso will be saddled by Frankel assistants Humberto Ascanio and Sally Lundy in the Ladies Classic and comes into this race off of a victory in the grade 1 Spinster Stakes at Keeneland. She was disqualified from her Spinster win and placed second for inteference in the stretch but was still impressive considering it was her first start in the United States and she acheived a 99 Beyer speed figure in the performance.

After finishing as the runner-up to Zenyatta in this race last year, Cocoa Beach has never quite returned to her top form and has been relegated to second string status in the bin Suroor barn behind Music Note. She was a good third behind Zenyatta and Lethal Heat in the Lady's Secret at Santa Anita in her last start, but her morning work this week made one think she might be on the verge of a big race. The time was a good :59.40 for five furlongs, but she looked effortless in skipping over Pro-Ride in the pre-dawn work while her exercise ride sat motionless aboard. At 8-1 in the morning line, she's worth some consideration.

So if you've decided that you're going to work Friday now that Zenyatta is racing Saturday, you may want to consider rehearsing your flu voice. You know... when you call in sick.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Classic Opportunities

I'm not sure the robot from Lost In Space needs to be rolling around the Santa Anita barn area warning Breeders' Cup Classic trainers of danger, but the work by Mine That Bird on Monday morning should be of concern to those who have written him off.

The big smile and glowing comments after the work by trainer Chip Woolley were nice to hear, but we get that from just about all trainers after a good work. But there are two semi-hidden bits of information that are making me take a second look at the Derby winner in the Classic.

Woolley is just now revealing that Mine That Bird's throat surgery in August, while fully successful, came at a very inopportune time. Woolley said MTB was at the top of his game just before the Travers and the surgery was more detrimental to his training than originally thought. Mine That Bird just wasn't back in top form for the Goodwood, according to Woolley, hence the dissappointing sixth-place finish.

The other hidden nugget from the work is the time of the last eighth of a mile in 11 seconds flat. Is that an omen of the return of the startling late kick we saw in the Derby and the big late run we saw in Preakness from the little Birdstone colt?

Richard's Kid Classic Longshot
Zenyatta is my top choice in the Classic and one really doesn't have to look to far down the morningline to start hitting some pretty good prices on horses like Quality Road, Einstein and Gio Ponti.

But the Bob Baffert-trained Richard's Kid is my longshot choice and will be on the top line with Zenyatt on my trifecta.

He won the Pacific Classic (gr. 1) at this distance at Del Mar and was a closing third in the 1-1/8 mile Goodwood (gr. 1) over Pro-Ride in his last race. He also fits a number of profiles as outline in my Breeders' Cup handicapping bible Crushing the Cup.

According authors Jim Mazur and Peter Mallet, 56% percent of the winners in Breeders' Cup Classics on fast tracks were "rally" horses or "closers". He has a six furlong work in him from Oct. 27 and his half-mile in :47 1/5 Monday morning at Santa Anita was apparently much more impressive to watch than to read about. Of all Classic winners, 96% had a sharp last race and 86% have a grade 1 win.

I Like Gio
All throughout the year, I've thought the older turf horses have been a better lot than their counterparts running on main tracks. And for that reason Gio Ponti (photo) is another that I like an awful lot in the Classic. I would have him on top of my trifecta ticket along with Zenyatta and Richard's Kid, but it is against my betting philosophy. (If you need three tries to pick a winner, you shouldn't be betting trifectas.)

Gio Ponti went on a nationwide, grade 1 tour of turf terror this year winning the Frank Kilroe in California, the Manhattan and Man O War in New York and the Arlington Million in Chicago. If turf horses truly can transfer their turf form to Pro-Ride with no fall off, look out for Gio.

Breeders' Cup Or Bust Update
The Paulick Report and Breeders' Cup Charities are in the midst of a cross-crountry bus tour raising money for the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund and the V Foundation for Cancer Research. Their latest stop was in New Mexico at Zia Park. Click here to read the update from The Paulick Report.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Zenyatta Headed To The Classic

Jay Privman wrote in his Sunday Daily Racing Form column that trainer John Sherriffs has said that Zenyatta is headed for her first showdown against colts and geldings in the $5 Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. 1) Saturday at Santa Anita.

Zenyatta has been pre-entered into both the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic (gr. 1) which she won last year, and the Classic. Final entries will be taken Tuesday morning with post positions drawn later that day. She is expected to garner favoritism from the wagering public either race as she tries to remain undefeated in what will be her 14th career start.

There was much a buzz about Classic hopeful Einstein at Santa Anita Sunday following a half-mile work in :47-4/5 with trainer Helen Pitts aboard. Following the work, Pitts admitted that the work was faster than she wanted, but that Einstein moves deceptively fast over Santa Anita's Pro-Ride surface.

Earlier this year Einstein won the grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap at the Southern California track and later won the Grade 2 Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs.

Super Derby (gr. 1) winner Regal Ransome also had an impressive work in preperation for the Classic having clicked off five furlongs in :59.36. According to clocker reports on the work, the Goldolphin-owned 3-year-old was impressive in his accelleration late in the work and looked stong in galloping out six furlongs in 1:12.63. Stablemate Girolamo also worked five furlongs Sunday. Although his :59.28 time was faster than Regal Ransom's, it came with more urging from the exercise rider and was not as impressive.

Breeders' Cup Or Bust Update
The Paulick Report and Breeders' Cup Charities are in the midst of a cross-crountry bus tour raising money for the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund and the V Foundation for Cancer Research. Their latest stop was in Oklahomoa. Click here to read the full story.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Baffert Looks At Lucky Breeders' Cup With Zensational Four.

Trainer Saeed bin Saroor and his powerful Goldolphin Stable owned by Shiek Mohammed al Maktoum have come to te Breeders' Cup loaded for bear with a stable of 14 horses that are entered in all but three of the Breeders' Cup races. Representing the United States, trainer Todd Pletcher has his Nov. 6-7 booked with a baker's dozen group of thoroughbreds that will decend upon Santa Anita and the Breeders' Cup.

But the conditioner that may walk away with the most Eclipse statues next week might be Bob Baffert with his four Breeders' Cup entrants.

Two of the bigger favorites on the day will come from the Baffert barn with Zensational going for his fifth consecutive victory in the Sprint (gr. 1) and Lookin at Lucky trying to remain undefeated in the Juvenile (gr. 1). His Always A Princess should also be very competitive in the Juvenile Fillies (gr. 1) and I think Richard's Kid has a good chance at a price in the Classic(gr. 1).

The Californians are always tough in the Sprint, having won 8 of the last 11 runnings including the last two by the Baffert-trained Midnight Lute. It was also the Sprint that gave Baffert his first Breeders' Cup victory when Thirty Slews and jockey Eddie Delahoussaye won the $1 million race at Gulfstream Park in 1992.

Baffert seems to be using a similar preparating for the Breeders' Cup similar to the formula used for the previous three Sprint victories with Thirty Slews and Midnight Lute - thirty plus days rest between the previous race and the Sprint and a bullet work. But even without the winning pattern of training, Zensational brings in fine credentials having won three of Southern California's premier sprints this year. After winning an optional claiming race at Hollywood Park, he won the Triple Bend Handicap (gr. 1) at Hollywood, and the The Bing Crosby (gr. 1) and the Pat O'Brien (gr. 1) at Del Mar.

Most racing fans associate Bob Baffert with his silver hair and his three Kentucky Derby winners and while his hair may not get any more grey, Lookin at Lucky might be his next Derby star. Nothing has been able to stop the 2-year-old son of Smart Strike yet having won the grade 2 Best Pal and grade 1 Del Mar Futurity before coming to Santa Anita to win the grade 1 Norfolk during the current Oak Tree meeting. His Beyer Speed figures are not quite up to par for a Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner, but the home field advantage over Santa Anita's Pro-Ride surface could be enough to give him the edge.

Always a Princess only has a maiden victory and a second to probable Juvenile Fillies favorite Blind Luck in the grade 1 Oak Leaf at Santa Anita to her credit in her brief career, but will be dangerous with any kind of significant improvement or perhaps a more relaxed running style. In the Oak Leaf she sprinted to the lead, only to be caught late by Blind Luck. With wire-to-wire winners in short supply during the current Oak Tree meeting and the added distance to 1-1/16 miles in the Juvenile Fillies, a more relaxing start will be necessary for Always a Princess to have much of a chance.

Richard's Kid will certainly not be among the favorites in the Breeders' Cup Classic with the likes of possibly Zenyatta, European star Rip Van Winkle and top 3-year-old Summer Bird as likely opponents but he will definitely be on at least the bottom two rows of my trifecta and maybe even at the top by weeks end.

He won the Pacific Classic (gr. 1) defeating fellow Classic entrant Einstein at Del Mar and came back with a solid third in the Goodwood (gr. 1) at Santa Anita behind upset winner Gitano Hernando and runner-up Colonel John. Jockey Alex Solis, who won the Classic in 2003 with Pleasantly Perfect, will be aboard Richard's Kid again.

Jockey Michael Straight Update From The Paulick Report
One Day At A Time Michael

Breeders' Cup NotableNeither Mine That Bird nor Summer Bird seem to be taking to the Pro-Ride surface at Santa Anita according to several reports. That may not be surprising considering a statistic Brad Free had in his Daily Racing Form column in their Breeders' Cup Special Edition. According to Free, sons and daughters of Birdstone are 5 for 31 on artificial surfaces. Four of those wins are Mine That Bird's when he raced at Woodbine at a 2-year-old. So what sire should the bloodline handicappers look for according to Free? Tapit.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Breeders' Cup Or Bust Fundraising Drive To Benefit Cancer Research, Disabled Jockey's Fund

The Brock Talk salutes The Paulick Report and Breeders’ Cup Charities. for planning and executing a final minute fundraising effort for disabled riders and cancer research. Perhaps Ray Paulick's aerophobia and Brad Cummings' driving has never been so well placed as this 10-day BREEDERS’ CUP OR BUST FUNDRAISING ‘DRIVE’ across the United States. The ten-day trek begins on Wed., Oct. 28, at Keeneland in Lexington, Ky and concludes in Arcadia, Ca. on the even of the Breeders' Cup.

The drive will be raising money for the Permanently Disabled Jockey's Fund and the V Foundation for Cancer Research.

“We have been blessed with enough success to be able to give back to our community,” said Ray Paulick, who will be joined on the ‘drive’ by business partner Cummings. “It’s important as an industry that we show charitable leadership both inside and outside our community.”

Stopping along the way to raise money and awareness for the charities with special promotions at Keeneland, Hawthorne Race Course, Remington Park, Zia Park and Turf Paradise along with a stop at a Las Vegas sportsbook, the Paulick Report will be
chronicling its journey at The Paulick Report.

Online donations will be made directly through a secured website through Breeders’ Cup Charities. Throughout the planned 2,835-mile trip, Paulick and Cummings will be accepting donations and pledges in increments as little as one cent per mile.

Additionally, the Paulick Report is seeking individuals, businesses or charitable foundations as sponsors for each of the six segments of the drive, with 100% of the proceeds going directly to the two charities. To inquire about sponsorship opportunities, please send an email to:

Also supporting the drive is exclusive Thoroughbred media partner TVG, the
popular national horse racing television network and account wagering service. Gerard Cunningham, president of TVG‐Betfair USA, believes the fund‐raising drive will be well received by TVG’s TV audience viewers and community members. “TVG is thrilled to be partnering with the Paulick Report as the exclusive
media partner for ‘BREEDERS’ CUP OR BUST’. We hope that our media coverage will encourage viewers to also donate generously to the Breeders’ Cup charities in support of two very worthwhile organizations, the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund and The V Foundation for Cancer Research.”

Currently, there are 63 permanently disabled jockeys that need support from the horse racing community. Often with little money to support them after their careers, the PDJF works hard on behalf of these fallen athletes to help give them as normal a life as possible after racing.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Zenyatta, Goldikova Among Breeders' Cup Favorites

Mike Watchmaker with Daily Racing Form has published his most recent Breeders' Cup Top 10 With Odds Thursday as we are now just more than two weeks away from the Nov. 6-7 championships.

Producing a morning line is not only an exercise in handicapping and mathmatics but human behavior as well. A proper morning line is one individuals prediction of how the public will perceive and then wager on a race and Watchmaker is among the best at this craft. A good morning line is a very useful handicapping tool for beginner and expert handicapper alike because it offers a good starting point for the novice and an invaluable money management tool for the more experienced player.

With that in mind it is no surprise that Watchmaker has Zenyatta (photo) listed as the 6-to-5 favorite should she run in the $2 million Ladies Classic (gr. 1). The undefeated mare may even slip to even money should her connections decide to keep her in her division.

If Zenyatta runs in the Classic, Watchmaker has her as the 4-to-1 second choice behind European star and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (gr. 1) winner Rip Van Winkle who is at 7-2. Zenyatta's odds must be good news to European punters who see older mares compete against males much more frequently on the other side of the Atlantic. It will certainly be good news for those Zenyatta fans who will bet her anyway and are used to getting less than even money on the great mare. Getting 4-1 on her at Santa Anita will seem like Christmas to them.

The longest shot in the Classic according to Watchmaker's current line is none other than Mine That Bird at 15-1. The last Derby winner to take the Classic and Derby in the same year was Unbridled who pulled off the double in 1990. Interestingly, he went to post in the Classic at 6-1 with his only victory between the Derby and the Breeders' Cup coming in an allowance race at Arlington that year.

Of the fourteen Breeders' Cup races, Watchmaker gave odds of less than 2-1 to only four horses. Zenyatta in the Ladies Classic; Goldikova, at 7-5 in the Mile and Conduit in the Turf and Zensational in the Sprint, both at 8-5.

Goldikova will try to join Miesque in 1987-'88, Lure in 1992-'93 and Da Hoss in 1996 and '98 as the only two-time winners of the Breeders' Cup Mile. She will again be the strong favorite despite finishing third in her last race in the Prix de la Foret (Fr-gr. 1) on Oct. 3 at Longchamp. This year she has also won the Prix Rothschild (gr. 1) for the second conseutive year, the Prix du Haras de Fresnay-le-Buffard-Jacques Le Marois (gr. 1), and the grade 1 Etihad Airways Falmouth Stakes.

Conduit will also be looking for a Breeders' Cup repeat, having won the Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. 1) last year at Santa Anita. Only High Chaparral in 2002-'03 has won two Turfs, and even he finished in a dead with Johar the second year. In his last race he was fourth in Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (gr. 1) on Oct. 4 at Longchamp but being an also ran in the "Arc" is not necessarily a bad thing in the Breeders' Cup Turf. Daylami won the 1999 Breeders' Cup Turf after finishing ninth in the Arc de Triomphe. His victory in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes (gr. 1) and the departure of Rip Van Winkle, Mastercraftsman and Gio Ponti to the Classic will also help keep his odds low.

My sentimental favorite in the Turf, Presious Passion is the fourth choice at 8-1 behind Dar Re Mi at 5-1 and Spanish Moon at 6-1.

Zensational will not be going for a repeat in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, but his trainer Bob Baffert is going for a three-peat after winning the race the last two years with Midnight Lute. The flashy grey Zensational will be looking for his four consecutive grade 1 win however, having won the Bing Crosby Stakes (gr. 1) and Pat O'Brien (gr. 1)at Del Mar and the Triple Bend Handicap (gr. 1) at Hollywood Park this year.

Keep in mind that as horses leave and enter these races and as information changes, so to will any good morning line. Many of these races will have full gates of 14 so Watchmakers odds are technically not a morning line, but I've used the term for discussion sake. Also note that the official morning line will be made by a racing official with the Oak Tree Racing Association after entries close for these races.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sentimental Favorites

With no regard to wagering or handicapping, there are a few horses headed for the Breeders' Cup that I'm going to be pulling for. My money will probably be elsewhere, but for one reason or another, these horses have captured my affection at some point this year.

Mine That Bird, Classic: It's not that I have any affinity toward his connections although I have warmed up to trainer Chip Woolley Jr. as a trainer. I'd like to see the guy off of those darn crutches pretty soon though. I don't think repeating Unbridled's Derby/Classic will be anything historical although it would open the discussion for Champion Three-Year-Old Male which would be kind of fun.

But what I'd like to see from the little gelding is that amazing kick we saw in the Derby and got a glimse of in the Preakness. After his performance in the grade 1 Goodwood at the Oak Tree meeting recently, however, that doesn't look likely.

Presious Passion, Turf: Finding horses that can go wire-to-wire on the turf successfully and consistently at any level is a rarity. To find a horse that can do it while racing in grade 1 company is just downright a blast.

We all remember that one-mile run in high school P.E. class and the goofy kid that just started sprinting at the beginning of the race only to tire and lucky to finish. Well that's Presious Passion. Except he keeps on going just as he did in the grade 1 United Nations at Monmouth Park and recently in the $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch Memorial Turf Championship (gr. IIT) at Santa Anita Oct. 11.

The Breeders' Cup Turf at Santa Anita starts on a downhill run too, so that should be a benefit to a natural speedster like Presious Passion. I'd say exclude the "goofy" label but I'm not the one who filled out his foal papers.

Dublin, Juvenile: After winning the grade 1 Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga with Dublin, it looked like trainer D. Wayne Lukas may have plenty of amunition for a run at his sixth Breeders' Cup Juvenile in Dublin. But he ran a dull fifth, beating one horse in the Champagne (gr. 1) at Belmont and now he's a longshot.

Lukas has won 20% of all Breeders' Cup Juveniles run and took three consecutive from 1986-'88 with Capote, Success Express and Is It True. He also won with Timber County in 1984 and Boston Harbor two years later. It would be nice to see him take another.

Ventura, Filly and Mare Sprint; Proviso, Ladies Classic; Visit, Filly and Mare Turf: All horses trained by Bobby Frankel who is battling cancer at his home near Santa Anita. It took 40 starts in the Breeders' Cup before he got his first win with Squirtle Squirt in the 2001 Sprint and he only has five total victories from 72 starts so he hasn't had a great deal of luck in the Breeders' Cup. Ventura presents his best chance this year but here's hoping the Hall of Fame trainer goes three-for-three this year.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Classic Arrivals And Departures

With just under a kazillion grade 1 stakes from the last two weeks in the books, the Breeders' Cup Championship Day at Santa Anita is taking shape. With every official result and decision by trainers and owners comes news of who's going or not going in what race or the ever dissappointing news that they are not going to race in the Breeders' Cup at all. It's a head spinning amount of information about 14 races to be run in two days that has even the most astute handicappers and fans on the verge of memory overload.

Unfortunately, the top two stories about the Breeders' Cup so far are about who's not going to run. Owner Jess Jackson has said from just about the first time the question was asked that Blackberry Preakness (gr. 1), Haskell (gr. 1) and Woodward (gr. 1) winner Rachel Alexandra will not be racing "on plastic," in reference to Santa Anita's Proride synthetic track.

Now comes the news that European star Sea The Stars (photo) has been retired and will not be coming to invade the colonies. After going undefeated this year and winning the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Fr-gr. 1) Oct. 4, trainer John Oxx said from Ireland that "We feel it is unfair to keep him going any further given his unprecedented record of achievement in the last six months."

Rachel Alexandra has already been given Horse of the Year honors by many in North America and Sea The Stars is as likely to win the Cartier Horse of the Year in Europe as the Queen is to drink tea. But neither will be racing in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic on November 7.

But in the karmatic world of horse racing, good news came our way when trainer John Sherriffs said the undefeated mare Zenyatta may be considered for the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. 1) instead of trying to repeat in the Ladies Classic (gr. 1). Don't expect a definitive answer in the next few days though. Sherriffs said there is no rush for a decision. Sherriffs and Jerry and Ann Moss, the owners of Zenyatta, can enter Zenyatta in both races during the Breeders' Cup Pre-entries Oct. 26 but must make a decision by Friday, November 3 when final entries are taken.

There will likely be a number of horses pre-entered in more than one Breeders' Cup race on Oct. 26, but only one with the intentions of actually running in both races. Trainer and co-owner Barry Abrams said he considering running Lethal Heat in the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic on Friday and then again in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint the following day. Obviously, it would be the first time a horse competed in two Breeders' Cup races in the same year, but it wouldn't be the first quick turnaround for Lethal Heat.

Lethal Heat finished second to Zenyatta in the Lady’s Secret Stakes (gr. 1) on Oct. 10, just one week after finishing second in the restricted California Cup Classic Handicap against California-bred males at Santa Anita. She also finished third to Zenyatta in the Clement L. Hirsch Stakes (G1) on August 9 at Del Mar. Lethal Heat, like all horses, will undergo pre-race veterinarian inspections before each race and will be excluded from her non-preferential race should it have more than 14 entries. All horses entered in two races must be declare a preference.

With the departure of Sea The Stars and Gitano Hernando's victory in the Goodwood Stakes (gr. 1) Saturday at Santa Anita, the door has opened for other Europeans to consider the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Orginally scheduled for the $500,000 Breeders' Cup marathon Nov. 6, the upset Goodwood victory has prompted owners Team Valor International and Gary Barber to consider the Classic for Gitano Hernando. Prior to the Goodwood, Gitano Hernando had won a conditons race over Wolverhampton's Polytrack in Great Britian after a lay-off of some four months.

Other European stars that are now considering the Classic include Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Eng-gr. 1) winner Rip Van Winkle and Irish Two Thousand Guineas (Ire-gr. 1) winner Mastercraftsman.

Summer Bird, the winner of the Belmont (gr. 1), Travers (gr. 1) and Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. 1); and Quality Road, second to Summer Bird in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and the winner of the Florida Derby (gr. 1) last spring, head the list of North Americans who appear destined for the Classic.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Zenyatta, Mine That Bird Top Big Names In Big Weekend

Just as we're getting over the excitement of Super Saturday at Belmont Park, Summer Bird, Sea the Stars, Lookin at Lucky and everthing else grand last week, here we go with Zenyatta, Mine That Bird and a host of other stars and great races this weekend.

Like the Norfolk Stakes (gr. 1) last week at Santa Anita's Oak Tree, the Champagne Stakes (gr. 1) at Belmont has championship implications, Breeders' Cup Juvenile implications and alerts the CDC offices in Atlanta of the first signs of Kentucky Derby fever which hits pandamic levels each spring in America. Fans watching the 2-year-old fillies in the Frizette at Belmont and Alcibiades at Keeneland will be wondering if they might be gettng their first glimpse of the next Princess Rooney, Meadow Star or Rachel Alexandra. Grade 1 races are scattered throughout the world on turf, dirt, Polytrack and Pro-Ride.

Zenyatta has the most on the line this weekend when she tries to equal the unbeaten streak of the great Personal Ensign by winning her 13th straight in the $300,000 Ladies Secret Stakes at Santa Anita. She'll face her usual cast of challengers plus one in the Ladies Secret, but it is a cast that seems to be getting closer to pulling an upset. Zenyatta barely won her last race, the Clement L. Hirsch Stakes (gr. 1) at Del Mar, by a head over Anabaa's Creation and Lethal Heat.

But perhaps her biggest competition will come from Life Is Sweet, who lives just a few stalls down from Zenyatta in trainer John Sherriffs barn. Life Is Sweet returns to Santa Anita's Pro-Ride where she won the El Encino (gr. II), La Canada (gr. II) and Santa Margarita Handicap (gr. I) consecutively earlier this year for Shirreffs. Zenyatta defeated Life Is Sweet in both the grade 1 Milady at Hollywood Park and in the Hirsch at Del Mar. But Life Is Sweet is perhaps more comfortable on Santa Anita's Pro-Ride surface.

The "plus one" will be an old nemisis from last year's Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic when Cocao Beach returns to Southern California from New York. Although runner-up to Zenyatta in the Breeders' Cup and later the winner of the grade 1 Matriarch at Hollywood Park, Cocao Beach has since been a bit shuffled back in the Godolphin Stables behind Beldame (gr. 1) winner Music Note. Last year Cocao Beach won the Beldame, but the New York race was given to Music Note - who won the race easily last Saturday - and Cocao Beach was shipped to Santa Anita for the Ladies Secret.

Like Summer Bird last Saturday in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, Mine That Bird will be facing older horses for the first time in the $350,000 Goodwood Stakes (gr. 1) at Santa Anita Saturday. It will be his first start since finishing third in the West Virginia Derby in August. He has not won since his surprising victory in the Kentucky Derby, but was a troubled second in the Preakness behind Rachel Alexandra and third in a mistimed ride by Calvin Borel in the Belmont Stakes. Mine That Bird, the king of equine adversity, also missed the Shadwell Travers (gr. 1) due to throat surgery. Summer Bird of course, won the Travers.

Borel reunites with Mine That Bird for the second time in the Goodwood where they will face Pacific Classic (gr. 1) upset winner Richard's Kid, San Diego Handicap (gr. 1) winner Informed as well as Chocolate Candy and 2008 Santa Anita Derby (gr. 1) and Travers Stakes (gr. 1) winner Colonel John. This will be the fifth rider change among three jockeys in seven races this year for Mine That Bird.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Thoughts, Comments and Questions About Super Saturday and Such.

(Photo: Sunday Silence and Easy Goer battled in a classic Preakness)

As they like to say down here in Texas, Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Summer Bird has all the fixins of a Champion 3-Year-Old Male. He is now the first 3-year-old since Easy Goer in 1989 to win the Belmont Stakes (gr. 1), Travers (gr. 1) and Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. 1) in the same year. Although Easy Goer also had victories in the Swale, Gotham (gr. 2), Wood Memorial (gr. 1), Whitney (gr. 1) and Woodward (gr. 1) to his credit that year, Sunday Silence was named Champion 3-Year-Old Male and Horse of The Year. Sunday Silence won the Kentucky Derby (gr. 1), and Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. 1) as well as the Preakness (gr. 1), Super Derby (gr. 1), Santa Anita Derby (gr. 1) and San Felipe (gr. 2) for five grade 1 wins in 1989 compared to six for Easy Goer but still got the title with the Classic the deciding race.

Perhaps the most impressive winner of the weekend was Sea the Stars, who won his sixth consecutive group 1 race by taking the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, the marquee horse race of France. Jockey Michael Kinane had intentially placed Sea the Stars wedged among mid-pack traffic early in the race in an effort to relax the European star. But the plan nearly backfired when the congestion failed to clear and Sea the Stars looked trapped as the field raced down the straighaway of the 1-1/2 mile Arc. But a sliver of a hole opened up with less that two furlongs (1/4-mile) to run and Kinane and Sea of Stars found it, ran through it, and left it and the rest of the field on their way to a two-length victory.

No word from trainer John Oxx on whether Sea the Stars will race in the Breeders' Cup, but he said it is definitely being considered. The Buffalo Bills will have a half-time celebration this season in honor Youmzain, who finished second in the Arc de Triomphe for the third consecutive year.

Music Note was as impressive as expected in winning the grade 1 Beldame at Belmont Park Saturday. Sent off as the 1-5 favorite, she notched her second consecutive grade 1 victory after taking the Ballerina in August at Saratoga. Shortly after the Beldame, trainer Saeed bin Suroor confirmed Music Note will be going into the $2 million Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic where she will likely be the favorite. Unbridled Belle was a courageous runner-up in trying to win her second Beldame in three years, but third-place finisher Copper State may be the horse to watch. There was nothing in her Belame that I saw or in any of her previous races for that matter. It was in Crushing the Cup where I noticed that the last two winners the Ladies Classic to come out of the Beldame were Round Pond in 2006 and Ginger Punch in 2007. Both finished third in the Beldame.

It does not appear that the first two finishers in Saturday's Vosburgh (gr. 1) will be headed to the $2 Breeders' Cup Sprint but may instead meet again in the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash Nov. 28 at Laurel Park in Maryland. Winner Klassic Cowboy and runner-up Fabulous Strike have plenty of options, according to their connections, with only Klassic Kowboy considering the Cup.

Trainer Bob Baffert said his undefeated Norfolk Stakes (gr. 1) winner Lookin' at Lucky is something special. "He’s a pretty exciting horse," Baffert said after the Norfolk. "He’s got power steering. He’s not one dimensional. He has something different than my other ones, so it’s pretty exciting.” Exciting indeed, considering Baffert has won the Norfolk Stakes five times, the Breeders' Cup Juvenile twice and the Kentucky Derby three times.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Confidence From All Places At Belmont Saturday

(photo: Summer Bird and jockey Kent Desormeaux)
I would think there will be a good number of confident steps taken into the Belmont Park paddock Saturday. Certainly the competition will be coming in droves throughout the day as five grade 1 stake races dominate the card in what is known as Super Saturday in thoroughbred circles. Without any shadow of doubt, it ranks among the most important and enjoyable days of horse racing in the world. Kentucky Derby Day, Breeders' Cup Day, The Royal Ascot in Great Britian, Arc Day in France, any race day in Ireland and Super Saturday at Belmont Park.

The added money attractions start in the sixth race with the $600,000 Beldame Stakes for fillies and mares at 1-1/8 miles on a main track that is expected to be hit with rain and thundestomes tonight and tomorrow. The same weather will surely produce a yielding turf course.

But neither rain nor slop nor four other rivals look to be much of a match for Godolphin Stables' Music Note in Beldame. She who won the grade 1 Ballerina on an off track at Saratoga by 5-1/4 lengths in only her second start of the year. Not only does Music Note like an off track, but she appears to be quite comfortable on Long Island too having won the grade 1 Mother Goose, Coaching Club American Oaks and Gazelle at Belmont Park last year.

Unbridled Belle looks for her second Beldame after winning in 2007, but her only victory this year came in the grade 3 Obiah Handicap at Delaware Park. Her entry-mate Captain's Lover will try to repeat her win in the Matchmaker Stakes at Monmouth Park. While the Matchmaker was not quite this level of compition, it was the first start on dirt for Captain's Lover who may improve Saturday with that experience. But it might not take a victory the optimal preperation for the Breeders' Cup Distaff.

Both Round Punch in 2006 and Ginger Punch in 2007 won the Breeders' Cup Distaff coming out of the Beldame. Ironically though, both won the Distaff after finishing third in the Beldame.

When the sprinters parade over from the barn area for $400,000 Vosburgh the following race, confidence will not come from one, but from the group as a whole.

Fabulous Strike will be looking for his second Vosburg victory after winning in 2007 and missing only by a head while running second last year. He is also coming off of an impressive win the the grade 2 Vanderbilt Handicap Aug. 9 at Saratoga but will have no cakewalk, despite his even-money morning line odds.

Kodiak Cowboy is coming off a close second to Pyro in the Forego Handicap (gr. 1) at Saratoga and a third behind Fabulous Stike in the Vanderbilt. He defeated Fabulous Strike earlier this year in the seven furlong Carter Handicap (gr. 1) at Aqueduct. Trainer Todd Pletcher is confident Munnings can bounce back after consecutive thirds in the NetJetsKing's Bishop Stakes (gr. I) behind Capt. Candy Man and Haskell Invitational (gr. 1) behind Rachel Alexandra. Before that he was impressive in winning the grade 2 Tom Fool at Belmont Park and will adjust favorably in his return to Elmont.

Speightstown was the last Breeders' Cup Sprint winner to make his previous start in the Vosburgh. Oddly enough though, he was also third in his Breeders' Cup prep race in New York.

Last year Dynaforce won the Flower Bowl Handicap over a yielding turf course and her connections are hoping she will repeat that performance Saturday. Pure Clan, however, will be trying to repeat her race in the grade 3 Modesty Handicap at Arlington Park when Dynaforce was third.

Perhaps the most dominating individual at Belmont Saturday will be Gio Ponti (photo left) when the 4-year-old son of Tale of the Cat goes after his fifth consecutive grade 1 turf win in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at 1-1/2 miles. He started his streak with the Frank E. Kilroe at Santa Anita in March. He then went to Belmont to win the 1¼-mile Woodfood Reserve Manhattan Handicap and the Man o’ War Stakes before winning the Arlington Million in Chicago Aug. 8.

Gio Ponti is the consensus leader in the older turf horse division in North America and will be heading to California for the Breeders' Cup after the Hirsch. However, trainer Christophe Clement has not yet said if he will run the the Breeders' Cup Classic on the main track or the Breeders' Cup Turf.

When trainer Tim Ice walks into the paddock before the Jockey Club Gold Cup with Summer Bird, he may not have any more faith than before other races with the Belmont and Travers winner, but he says he's going to enjoy the additional confidence
of the fans. For the first time in Summer Bird's seven-race career, he will be the favorite.

It is doubtful that those odds will shake the resolve of trainer Todd Pletcher who will lead over Florida Derby (gr. 1) winner Quality Road. Sidelined from the Triple Crown by quarter crack problems in his hoofs, Quality road set a 6-1/2 furlong track record in the grade 2 Amsterdam Stakes at Saratoga in his first start back. Then finished third in the Shadwell Travers (gr. 1) behind Summer Bird. With two solid races under his belt since the extended Spring break, Quality Road figures to improve in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, especially if the footing at Belmont is more to his liking than the sloppy Saratoga track on Travers day.

The top of the East Coast older horse class will be represented in the Jockey Club Gold Cup as well with Macho Again and Asiatic Boy going at it again. They last met behind Rachel Alexandra in Woodward at Saratoga when Macho Again was just a head behind in second and Asiatic Boy was fourth. Asiatic Boy was also second behind Macho Again in the grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs this summer.

Curlin was the last Jockey Club Gold Cup winner to take the Breeders' Classic in his next start, having done so in 2007. In the three previous years, Breeders' Cup Classic winners Invasor ('06), Saint Liam ('05) and Ghostzapper ('04) all made their previous starts in New York, but none were in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Saint Liam and Ghostzapper came out of victories Woodward Stakes while Invasor won the Whitney just prior to the Breeders' Cup.

Regardless of the winners, however, this day will certainly have a major impact on the Breeders' Cup during the first weekend of November.

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.