The Brock Talk

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Backtalk Is Sassy In Sanford

With a bit of horse racing luck I have become a Backtalk fan. Back in mid-June when we mentioned Backtalk (photo) shortly after he broke his maiden at Churchill Downs, we mentioned he had become the first winner of his class for sire Smarty Jones.

Thursday at Saratoga the 2-year-old colt trained by Tom Amoss solidified his early popularity by remaining undefeated in winning the $150,000 Sanford Stakes (gr. 2) over the Steve Asmussen trained Enumerate.

At the top of the stretch Enumerate and Louisvilleluminary locked up and looked to be battling for the win. In the meantime, Backtalk had raced from off the pace while going six-wide around the turn and wore down the two leaders for the win.

It was the second consecutive graded stakes win for Backtalk, whose damn Apasionata Sonata is the daughter of 1978 Triple Crown winner Affirmed. After stumbling at the start, Backtalk won the grade 3 Bashford Manor at Churchill Downs Jul. 3. And again he impressed his trainer with his determination.

“ I’m very excited," Amoss said in

"I think the ability to come from that far off the pace on a day like today when it looked, to me, as the day went on that speed was a good commodity (and) the wide trip he had … I think those things were very exciting. And, I would say, a will to win. The race was not decided until very late.”

Backtalk was purchased for $250,000 as a yearling and has now won $180,0985 for GoldMark Farm owner Paul Buhlman.

The largest and perhaps the most important thoroughbred auction of the year will feature a catalogue of 5,189 yearlings at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky September 14-28. The first few days of the sale are always the most exciting as last year 12 yearlings sold for $1 million or more including an A.P. Indy filly that had the gavel drop on her at the $3.1 million mark. During the first day of the 15-day sale in 2008, 154 yearlings sold for an average of more than $363,000 and the second day saw the average climb to nearly $400,000 each. The median was $300,000 each day if your playing along on Excel at home.

Of the horses cataloged, 2,662 are colts, 2,524 are fillies, and three are geldings.

Keeneland recently announced that the commission rate on horses which fail to meet their reserve (RNAs) will be reduced from 4.5% to 2.5% for the upcoming sales season, beginning with the September sale. The fee reduction is one of several new enhancements Keeneland will debut in September.

Superstars such as Zenyatta and perhaps the nation's top turf horse so far this year, Gio Ponti, American Oaks starlet Gozzip Girl, Pioneerof The Nile, Stardom Bound and the very fast but directionaly challenged Thorn Song are among the 85 graded stakes winners this year that are all graduates of the Keeneland September yearling sale.

NYRA Photo

$1,250,000 Haskell Invitational

To be run Sunday, August 2
1 - Duke of Mischief, Eiboar Coa, 15-1
2 - Summer Bird, Kent Desormeaux, 7-2
3 - Papa Clem, Elvis Trujillo, 12-1
4 - Munnings, John Velazquez, 3-1
5 - Atomic Rain, Joe Bravo, 10-1
6 - Rachel Alexandra Calvin Borel, 4-5
7 - Bunker Hill, K. Carmouche, 30-1


$750,000 West Virginia Derby

To be run Saturday, August 1 at Mountaineer Park
1 (1) - Soul Warrior, Marcos Mena, Steve Asmussen, 15-1
1A(4) - Sunday Sunrise, Corey Lanerie, Steve Asmussen, 15-1
2 (2) - Mine That Bird, Mike Smith M E Chip Woolley Jr., 3-5
3 (3) - Awesome Rhythm, McAleney, John Ross, 12-1
4 (5) - Big Drama Eibar Coa, David Fawkes, 8-5
5 (6) - Monty's Best, E.R. Da Silva, Reade Baker, 10-1

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Preview of The Graveyard of Champions

The opening of Saratoga is indeed a hallowed day for racing enthusiasts for two most contrasting reasons. We anticipate the 36 days of great races run by some of the best horses in some of the most prestigious races. We also somehow can not surpress our facination that the Spa is also known as the Graveyard of Champions or the Graveyard of Favorites.

For it is Saratoga that gave us one of the great sports terms of all-time as Upset became the only horse to ever defeat Man O' War in the 1919 Sanford Stakes at Saratoga. Man O' War owner Samuel D. Riddle did not collect the winner's share of the $4,900 purse for the only time in the big red colt's 21 career starts.

Another big red colt suffered one of his only defeats at Saratoga when Onion defeated Secretariat in the 1973 Whitney Handicap at .10-1 odds at Saratoga and Triple Crown winner Gallant Fox lost to Jim Dandy in the 1930 Travers Stakes at odds of .50-1.

Jim Dandy is the namesake of Saturday's grade 2 stake that will act as a local prep race for the $1 million Travers Stakes on Aug. 27. The $500,000, 1-1/8 race will feature the top three finishers from the Dwyer Stakes in Kensei, Convocation, and Warrior's Reward, pllus Peter Pan winner Charitable Man and perhaps the return of Saratoga Sinner, who is making his first start since winning the grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park in January.

Although the Jim Dandy comes up light against the $1.25 Haskell at Monmouth Park this weekend with Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra and Belmont winner Summer Bird, it will in all likely hood provide a possible "upset" in the Travers should all three Triple Crown race winners meet in the Travers as expected. Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird is also running this weekend in the $750,000 West Virginia Derby in preperation for the Travers.

Should all three run, it will be the first time since 1982 that the three winners of the American Classics have run in the Travers. That year longshot Runaway Groom defeated Preakness winner Aloma's Ruler and Belmont winner Conquistador Cielo who were second and third. Derby winner Gato Del Sol was fifth.

Monday, July 27, 2009

A Closer Look At Summer Bird

It's not often a Belmont Stakes winner gets overlooked. (2008 winner Sarava excluded) With it's Triple Crown prestige and the 1-1/2 mile distance, the Belmont Stakes (gr. 1) is often truly the test of champions as evidenced by it's many 3-year-old year-end award winners. Winners such as Point Given, A.P. Indy and Risen Star have been named champions without a Derby victory. However, with the arrival of Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra on the scene for the $1.25 million Haskell Invitational Sunday, Belmont winner Summer Bird is having to take a bit of a back seat.

But's that's not uncharted territory for Summer Bird and his trainer Tim Ice. Summer Bird was overlooked at 11-1 odds before winning the Belmont; went off at 43-1 odds before finishing fifth in the Kentucky Derby (gr. 1) and was let go at 26-1 before his solid third-place finish behind fellow Haskell contender Papa Clem in the Arkansas Derby (gr. 2). Not that there was something the betting public missed at Belmont, Churchill or Oaklawn Park. Prior to those races, Summer Bird had only a maiden victory in two starts to his credit.

The highlight section in each media guide under Tim Ice is a bit sparse as well below the Belmont mention. The 35-year-old Ohio native has only managed his own training operation since 2008 after serving as an assistant for 15 years under trainers Morris Nicks, Cole Norman and Keith Desormeaux.

Summer Bird also has no lucrative auction history as he is a homebred (meaning the current owners also bred and raised the colt) for Drs. Kalarikkal and Vilasini Jayaraman, both retired physicians. They first had a farm in Arkansas but now are based in Ocala, Fla., though the colt was foaled in Kentucky. The natives of India own Tiffany Farms and about 20 broodmares. The Jayaramans have been breeding horses for more than 20 years while racing primarily in Texas, Arkansas and Louisisana.

But there are some things to like about Summer Bird. His Belmont Stakes victory was impressive as he wore down front runner Dunkirk on a speed favoring track, (although Dunkirk went through very rapid early fractions for a 1-1/2 miles) and Mine That Bird who had the advantage of racing further back early like Summer Bird. In the Kentucky Derby, Summer Bird made a good run late while wide and closed ground to finish sixth, beaten 13 lengths by Mine That Bird but only some six lengths behind second-place finisher Pioneerof The Nile.

Summer Bird will also get the return riding services of jockey Kent Desormeaux, who has been on a winning tear since taking the Belmont this year. He won the grade 1 American Oaks at Hollywood Park with Gozzip Girl, the Dixie Stakes at Belmont with Parading and the grade 2 Firecracker S. at Churchill with Mr. Sidney - not to mention his Hall of Fame credentials.

In order for Summer Bird to have a chance to catch Rachel Alexandra, he will benefit if somebody is able to challenge the speedy filly early in the race. If she is allowed to gallop along comfortably on the lead in the early stages of the race, it will be difficult for the late running Summer Bird to muster a rally. But he has been training up to the race well with two solid works at Monmouth Park since arriving from his home at Louisiana Downs July 3 and Ice has been quoted as saying he is training perfect. The added time at Monmouth should also be a benefit over Haskell contenders such as Rachel Alexandra who ship this week to Monmouth Park.

One more thing about Summer Bird that may help. According to Ice, he love's the mud and handled a sloppy Monmouth Park track well during his July 26 work. The surface was muddy and sealed after overnight rains swept through the area before the half-mile work in :49 with a first quarter in :26.

“He had a good strong work and he galloped out strong,” said Tim Ice. "Everything was great. I couldn’t be happier.”

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Wacky Read Highlights Good Opening Week At Del Mar

The grade 1 Eddie Read Handicap at Del Mar this weekend had plenty to offer looking back at the important 1-1/8 turf race, including an upset at the wire and a quick right turn during an expected left turn.

As expected Thorn Song and jockey Mike Smith went to the lead early with heavy favorite Monterey Jazz stalking in second. As the field raced around the clubhouse turn, Thorn Song suddenly and unexpectedly bolted to the outside, nearly dismounting Smith. Jockey Tyler Baze just aboard Monterey Jazz just barely missed the erractic leader then suddenly began sprinting away from the field while jockey Corey Nakatani placed eventual winner Global Hunter into a comfortable and eventually stocking position.

No reason was given for Thorn Song's sudden departure from the race by trainer Mike Mitchell only to say that Randy Moss reported on the ESPN2 telecast that the grey had a history of sudden directional changes during morning trainer under previous trainer Dale Romans.

Awesome Gem got up to run second and Whatsthescript finished third in the Read.

Del Mar racing this weekend also featured the emergence of a highly anticapted 2-year-old in Tiny Woods. In Saturday's seventh race Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert unleashed Tiny Woods to win a $53,000 Maiden race in his first try. It was the first win for the ownership team of Thoroughbred Legends who also have horses with trainers D. Wayne Lukas and Nick Zito. Tiny Woods is the eighth winner of his freshman Sire Roman Ruler and was purchased for $180,000 at Keeneland September as a yearling. He shot right to the lead and held off a late challenge of second-place finisher Sidney's Candy.

Sire Medaglia d'Oro, who has had a banner year with is daughter Rachel Alexandra, finished off yet another a big week. The 10-year-old stallion started the week on a high note with his yearlings bringing top prices at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky select yearling sale including the sale including a sale topping $425,000 filly.

The on Saturday another 3-year-old daughter, Tasty Temptation, won the $232,000 Wonder Where Stakes at Woodbine near Toronto to give the Jonabell Farm resident his 10th stakes winner of the year.

Medaglia d'Oro is the leading second-crop sire in North America, meaning it is his second oldest crop that is now racing as 2-year-olds. So far this year his progeny have earned $5,851,043 from 50 winners.

That has already been an important statistic in the yearling market this year and will be something to look for in the upcoming auctions at Saratoga and Keeneland.

The remaining top 10 second crop sires and their 2009 progeny earnings are:
2. Tapit - $5,764,899
3. Birdstone - $3,982,081
4. Lion Heart - $3,954,033
5. Speightstown - $3,948,752
6. Candy Ride (ARG) - $3,875,537
7. Chapel Royal - $2,936,461
8. Even the Score - $2,081,621
9. Peace Rules - $2,034,492
10.Congaree - $1,981,928
(Through 7-25. Source

Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird had his final serious morning work at Monmouth Park Sunday morning as he and jockey Kent Desormeaux went five furlongs (5/8 mile) in 1:01.80 over a muddy track.

Although the work was not the fastest of the morning breezes at that distance, trainer Tim Ice was pleased with the effort. "Everything went great," Ice said. "It was a good strong work and he galloped out strong. I couldn't be happier."

Summer Bird will face Blackberry Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra and five other confirmed starters in the $1.25 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park Aug. 2 including Arkansas Derby winner and Kentucky Derby fourth-place finisher Papa Clem, local hero Atomic Rain and Iowa Derby winner Duke of Mishchief.

Big Drama, who is headed to the West Virginia Derby to take on Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird on Saturday, also worked Sunday at Monmouth. He was caught in 49 seconds, the fastest of seven half-mile breezes.

Friday, July 24, 2009

A Special Tweet For Racing Fans

One of the spotlight races this weekend is the grade 1 Eddie Read Handicap at Del Mar. The $350,000 Read is 1-1/8 miles on the turf and is the premier turf race for older horses at the meeting.

But this weekend, I thought I would introduce some of you to perhaps a new way to learn about a horse race.

As most of you know, I Tweet. That is I have a Twitter account - user name: thebrocktalk. Yes, I send and read those 140-character messages throughout the day. And I fully admit that it took me awhile to appreciate it but I was compelled to give it try. Even now I know I don't fully understand all of it's benefits. But the benefits I have found I think are well worth the learning curve of a then 49-year-old maiden claimer in the tweeting ranks.

So let me introduce you to the tweets of Randy Moss (photo), the ESPN analyst who just began tweeting from Del Mar. He can be found at These were Friday tweets:

-Joe Talamo replaces injured Rafael Bejarano on Artiste Royal in Eddie Read
about 1 pm PDT

-Still mixing racing & NFL at Del Mar. Mike Tice yesterday and ran into Norv Turner this morning. He's racing fan and headed to track today
about noon PDT

-Bob Baffert bought Richard's Kid for synthetic/turf, entered Eddie Read after good grass work. Blinkers added to "keep him a little closer"
about noon PDT

-For what it's worth: trainer John Sadler told us Whatsthescript is coming up to Sat "just as good and maybe a little better" than last year
about noon PDT

-Sounds like a good old-fashioned barn burner to me. Which would seem to be a perfect scenario for Whatsthescript's stretch-running style
2:31 pm July 23rd

-Mike Mitchell on Thorn Song sitting "length and a half" off pace. He said, "We're not giving ( Jazz) that much. Maybe a half length. Maybe."
2:31 pm July 23rd

-Craig Dollase, trainer of Monterey Jazz: "He's a very fast horse and he's on his game. If anyone wants to go with him early, good luck."
2:27 pm Jul 23rd

-Speed duel in Eddie Read between Monterey Jazz and Thorn Song? Made barn rounds this morning and talked to both trainers of both horses.
12:26 pm Jul 23rd

So now we know a little more about how Moss feels about the Eddie Read and a little more about how he prepares for a telecast as the Read will be shown on ESPN2 Saturday at 8pm Eastern. That was also tweeted earlier by Moss. During the day, Moss also gave his thoughts on the opening day crowd (without any references to attendance figures I might add), Brett Favre, other NFL topics including somebody that thought he was the "other" Randy Moss, and updated jockey Rafael Bejarano's condition.

Other tweeters I like to follow are of course Blood-Horse (BloodHorse) and Thoroughbred Times (TTimes) who both tweet updates throughout the day on news that has just crossed their desks. They were also both fun to follow during the recent Fasig-Tipton Kentucky select yearling auction as they tweeted top sellers just moments after the gavel fell as well as information about under-bidders, trainers in attendance, weanling sale prices and more.

Another tweet from Blood-Horse looked like this at around 6 pm eastern Friday.
Mine That Bird Arrives at Mountaineer

Both publications also provide stallion news, maiden race developments, stakes previews and a whole host of other racing topics throughout the day.

Another great tweeter is Alex Brown (photo) who tweets under AlexBrownRacing and tweets about everything from his activity as a Woodbine exercise rider to his cause against horse slaughter to jockey Ramon Dominguez getting his record 93rd winner of the Belmont meet. Brown is a prominent voice in the blogging, tweeting, facebooking world of thoroughbred racing and is a good model for those newcommers to the next information level.

Following Ray Paulick on Twitter can also be quite interesting. Not only does he provide updates to his excellent blog The Paulick Report, but Paulick also tweets live from major horse racing events and functions throughout the year. His tweets during the Kentucky Derby trainers' dinner were fun and interesting as he provided followers with the quips being traded back and forth between Bob Baffert and Master of Ceremonies Chris Lincoln and others.

So before you completely dismiss the idea of ever being on Twitter, just think about what you may be missing about horse racing. And if you're anywhere near within the realm of the typical horse racing fan psychographics, you don't like it when somebody knows more than you.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Haskell Purse Up To $1.25 Million In Effort To Attract Mine That Bird

In an effort to attract a full field and possibly Kentucky Derby presented by Yum Brands winner Mine That Bird, Monmouth Park has increased the purse of the grade 1 Haskell Invitational by $250,000 to $1.25 million.

Currently expected for the Aug. 2 Haskell are Blackberty Preakenss (gr. 1) winner Rachel Alexandra, Arkansas Derby (gr. 2) winner Papa Clem, Tom Fool Stakes (gr. 2) winner Munnings, Longbranch Stakes winner Atomic Rain. Iowa Derby winner Duke of Mischief is also a current possibility.

However, Mine That Bird trainer Chip Woolley Jr. said Thursday morning that he will be placing the Derby winner on a van Friday headed for Mountaineer Park and the grade 2, $750,000 West Virginia Derby to be run Aug. 1.

The new purse distribution will pay $700,000 to the Haskell winner, $250,000 to the runner-up, $125,000 to third, $85,000 to fourth, $50,000 to fifth, and $20,000 to sixth through last. Typically purse money in Thoroughbred races is paid down to fifth and possibly sixth place only.

Del Mar Thoroughbred Club reported a record crowd of 44,907 for the July 22 season opener. That figure exceeded the previous all-time record crowd of 44,181 set in 1996 when Dare and Go upset Cigar in the Pacific Classic (gr. I). Attendance for last year’s Del Mar first day was 43,459.

Jay Privman reported on Thursday that injured jockey Rafael Bejarano may be back in action as early as two or three weeks. Bejarano suffered multiple fractures in his cheek and jaw when is mount Mi Rey broke down in the third race at Del Mar Wednesday and had surgery to repair the injury at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, Ca.

Bejarano's jaw was not as badly damaged as first feared. He did not need to have it wired shut, according to the post. "He'll have rubber bands holding it, so he'll be able to open his mouth and at least have soft foods, not be confined to just liquids," his agent Joe Ferrer said to Privman. "His face looked like he went 15 rounds with Mike Tyson."

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Moss Keeping Options Open With Zenyatta

(From July 22)
Jerry Moss, owner of undefeated champion Zenyatta, said July 22 that he has not made a decision on the mare’s next destination after her try in the Aug. 9 Clement Hirsch Stakes (gr. I), but he reiterated that he still wants to do “something different” with the rest of her 2009 campaign.

Zenyatta, who is perfect in 11 career starts, has already repeated in the Milady and Vanity Handicaps (both gr. I) at Hollywood Park, and will also attempt to take the Clement Hirsch for the second straight year at Del Mar.

Though Moss did not commit to racing the 5-year-old daughter of Street Cry outside of California or in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I), both of which have been bandied about, he did hint that she could race somewhere in between the Clement Hirsch and the Oct. 10 Lady’s Secret Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita, a race she also won in 2008 while prepping for the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic (gr. I).

“There might be something for her between the Clement Hirsch and the Lady’s Secret,” Moss said. “There’s two months between those races. But we haven’t made a decision past the Clement Hirsch. I don’t want to be mysterious about it, but we’re really just taking one race at a time.”

Moss admitted that losing out to Curlin for Horse of the Year honors in 2008 was disappointing and that he would “like to get it for her” in 2009. He also said although he would like to see a match-up with Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) and Preakness (gr. I) winner Rachel Alexandra, he would not take Zenyatta out-of-state just to make that happen.

“It would be a great race,” he said. “We have great appreciation for that filly and everything that she has accomplished. The race would resolve a lot. But it’s our position that the Breeders’ Cup is where those kinds of challenges are resolved. We didn’t decide that the Breeders’ Cup would be (at Santa Anita) again. We ran at Churchill Downs with Giacomo in 2005 on a speed-favoring track, and we were there with Tiago in the swamp at Monmouth Park (in the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic - Powered by Dodge, gr. I).

“Jess (Jackson) is entitled to his opinion. It’s his horse and we respect his decision to do what he feels is best for her. “
Jackson, majority owner of Rachel Alexandra, has already commented that he would likely not bring his filly to this year’s Breeders’ Cup because the main track is composed of a synthetic surface.

When asked if the Sept. 12 Ruffian Handicap (gr. I) for fillies and mares at Belmont Park might be an option for Zenyatta, Moss indicated that race would be unlikely. If Moss should choose to run Zenyatta against males while keeping her on the West Coast, the Sept. 6 Pacific Classic (gr. I) at Del Mar could be a viable option.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Shiek Mohammed Spends $425k for Medaglia d'Oro Sale Topping Filly

Tuesday it was Medaglia d'Oro who took the spotlight at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky select yearling sale with his filly out of the Argentine group 2 winner Ting a Folie (Arg) demanding $425,000.

Again it was John Ferguson, the bloodstock agent for Sheik Mohammed al Mouktoum of the United Arab Emirates signing the ticket. The purchase was a family affair of sorts as Sheik Mohammed's Darley Stud purchased Medaglia d'Oro earlier last month and the filly is a half sister (also out of Ting a Folie) to Bastakiya, a stakes-placed filly that was owned by Sheikh Mohammed’s wife Princess Haya of Jordan. Medaglia d'Oro is the sire of Blackberry Preakness winning filly Rachel Alexandra.

For the second consecutive year Kitty Taylor's Warrendale Sales and David Handley's Whitechurch Farm sold the top seller at this sale. Last year they sold an Exchange Rate filly for $375,000. Hanley pinhooked the Medaglia d'Oro filly for $85,000 out of the 2009 Keeneland January horses of all ages sale.

The expectedly sluggish sale saw good action late in the sale however. Another Medaglia d'Oro filly out of the Gilded Time mare Paridot sold for $370,000 and a colt by Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Speightstown out of the Bates Motel mare Motel Lass sold for $325,000 as part of the last 50 lots.

In all 268 horses sold for $20,823,000 which was down nearly 30% from a year ago when 305 yearlings passed hands. The avearge price of $77,716 was down only 15.% and the buy-back rate declined 2 points to 36.8% The buy-back rate is the measurement of horses that passed through the ring but did not sell because they did not meet their reserve or the consignor had a late change of heart and re-purchased the horse. In each case, the consignor must still pay the commission on the sale to the sale company. The median dropped this year to $55,000 compared to $75,000 last year.

Fasig-Tipton president Boyd Browning told that they seem to be feeling the brunt of the economy on the lower-end and that horses above the $50,000 price range seem to be holding their value.

Following the sales today on Twitter, it was reported that Kentucky Derby winnng trainer Chip Woolley Jr. was seen eyeing horses behind the sale ring while relaxing on his crutches. While taking a break from training Mine That Bird at Churchill Downs just a few hours from the Lexington, Woolley eventually purchased hip number 349, a Strong Hope colt, for $15,000.

Monday, July 20, 2009

A Letter From Natalia Douglas

(Natalia Douglas, wife of injured jockey Rene Douglas, posted this letter to the fans who supported the benefit golf tournament Jul. 20 on the Rene Douglas Get Well Card on Facebook.)

We want to thank Doreen and Allyson for the wonderful job they did putting this golf outing together. Everyone's saying how great it was and for that we are eternally grateful.
We also want to thank a few other incredible people for making this event a success and for making this past two months a little more bearable.
Hilton,Laura,Joe,Dennis,Dave,Lisa,Eddie, Jessie,Art, Alex and to all of you who contributed and attended this event. We are deeply touched by your love and generosity.
With lots of love,
The Douglas Family

Birdstone Colt Sells For $400k

When a stallion sires the winners of two of the three Triple Crown races, it is expected that he will have a good year at the following yearling auctions. That appears to be the case with Birdstone who has 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird and Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird among his first racing get. The result: his son topped the first day of the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky select yearling sale being conducted in Lexington, Kentucky.

A unnamed dark bay or brown colt by Birdstone sold Monday for $400,000 to John Ferguson, who acts as the buying agent for Sheik Mohammed al Mouktoum's Darley Stud, topping two other yearlings that each sold for $350,000 on a day that had 294 yearlings catalogued.

The colt has Triple Crown blood running thoroughout his pedigree as Birdstone won the Belmont Stakes and his sire Grindstone won the Kentucky Derby. The colt is also out of the mare Slew Smarts, who is by 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew. Both Mine That Bird and Summer Bird are part of Birdstone's first class to hit the racetrack, making him even more attractive to buyers and pinhookers who will be in the market for yearlings.

To illustrate the pinhooking concept we spoke of yesterday, Dapple Stud, who consigned the Birdstone son, paid $37,000 for him in January at a Keeneland Auction.

Slew Smarts did not make it to the track as a racehorse but as a broodmare she is experiencing more success. She has three foals that have raced with the best being Por Que, who won stakes races at Zia Park in New Mexico and Remington Park in Oklahoma.
Multiple grade 1 winner Bernardini, who is perhaps most infamous as the winner of the tragic 2006 Preakness in which Barbaro broke down, was the sire of a bay colt that sold for $350,000 Monday (photo). Bernardini, who is by Belmont winner A.P. Indy, also won the Traves Stakes, The Jockey Club Gold Cup and more than $3 million on the track. The bay yearling colt that sold Monday is out of the Lyphard mare Lyphard's Delta, who was a group 2 stakes winner in England and earned more than $150,000 during her racing career.

Rock Hard Ten, who was second in the 2004 Preakness, had the other $350,000 seller, a filly out of the Seattle Slew mare incredible story.

Mine That Bird, Rachel Alexandra, Summer Bird Have Monday Works

Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird went to the track for a serious workout Monday morning at Churchill Downs while Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra had much the same schedule from her home at Saratoga Race Course in New York.

With jockey Jamie Theriot aboard, Mine That Bird worked four furlngs (1/2 mile) in :48.20 while preparing for the $750,000 West Virginia Derby (gr. 2) to be run Aug. 1 at Mountaineer Park.

"He finished up well and he's going into the race very well," said Theriot. "You can't ask for any better. I told (trainer) Chip (Woolley Jr.) that he's going into the race fantastic."

Woolley said he was extremely pleased with the work because he wanted to lay a strong foundation in the gelding since the West Virginia Derby will be eight weeks following Mine That Bird's third-place finish in the Belmont Stakes in early June.

"I got to studying last night and told Jamie that I wanted him to start galloping out strong from the five-eighths and I want him really working when he hits the half-mile pole," Woolley said. "I told Jamie if we're going to be dead fit, we're going to have to step it out and Jamie said he was just super-strong."

Over the weekend, Mine That Bird owners Dr. Leonard Blach and Mark Allen announced that Mine That Bird will lead the post parade to the prestigious All American Futurity at Ruidoso Downs in New Mexico on labor day. Both Blach and Allen are from nearby Roswell, New Mexico and race quarter horses and thoroughbreda at Ruisoso Downs.

Meanwhile, Rachel Alexandra prepared for the $1 million Haskell Invitational to be run Aug. 2 with a bullet work over the Oklahoma Training Track at Saratoga at 6 am Monday morning.

With exercise rider Dominic Terry aboard, Rachel Alexandra breezed six furlongs in 1:13.38 which was the fastest work of the morning at that distance (hence the term bullet work.

Terry put the three-year-old daughter of Medaglia d'Oro through fractions of :13 1/5 (first eighth of a mile), :25 2/5 (first quarter), :37 2/5 (three furlongs) and :49 3/5 (four furlongs). She then galloped out seven furlongs in 1:27 2/5. The average workout time over the training track this morning was :38 2/5 for three furlongs and :50 for four furlongs.

"She looked like her usual self; she was impressive and got over the ground well," said Scott Blasi, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen. "We wanted [to give her] a nice, smooth three quarters and a long gallop."

(From Monmouth Park)
Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Summer Bird, expected to take on Preakness (gr. I) champion Rachel Alexandra in the Aug. 2 Haskell Invitational (gr. I), worked 1:13 4/5 for six furlongs at Monmouth Park July 19 as he continues to prepare for the $1 million event.

“He was perfect again,” said trainer Tim Ice, who watched the workout from the clocker’s stand on the Monmouth Park backstretch. “Everything is exactly on schedule. He’ll have his final breeze next Sunday. Kent (jockey Desormeaux) will be here for that.”

Desormeaux, who was aboard for the Belmont win, has the return call in the Haskell. He will be looking to become the first rider in Monmouth Park history to win back-to-back Haskells, having won it last year aboard Big Brown.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Yearling Sale Season Begins With Fasig-Tipton Select Yearlings

You might have had your fill of economic indicators over the last year or so, but one of the leading early measurements of the thoroughbred breeding industry begins Monday when the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July select yearling auction in Lexington. The two-day auction has 494 yearlings catalogued to pass through the sales ring and it is the first yearling auction of the year which makes it a sign of things to come for buyers and sellers this year and perhaps breeders in years to come.

Yearlings sales are ever important to breeders not only because it dictates their 2009 revenues, but yearling prices also have a direct impact on stallion fees. A young stallion's early popularity and demand are in-part set by the prices their first, second and third crops demand through the auction ring.

The bad global economy appears to have removed an important group of buyers from the thoroughbred auction market as major two-year-old sales held in the spring suffered a 30% decline according to Those are the same sales that many of yearlings will be expected to pass through next year so "pinhookers" are expected to be cautious with their check books.

Pinhookers are that segment of the thoroughbred industry who buy thoroughbreds as yearlings in the summer and give them their early race training to be sold in two-year-old auctions next year.

Officials with Fasig-Tipton have stepped up their effort to increase the sale attendance of thoroughbred trainers who also have a major influence on buyers who are looking for yearlings to race under their silks in two years.

Friday, July 17, 2009

God Speed Walter Kronkite

Please allow me to veer away from horse racing to recognize a man who set the standard for everyone in my generation of journalists.

"At every turn, he acted as if he had a responsibility to his audience. He didn't do the right thing because he thought it would help him get ahead and then one day he'd get his share. Instead, he always did the right thing because that's who he was. No sellouts, no political consulting, no false transparency.

That's the way it is.

Transparency works if it's authentic."
-Seth Godin

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Barbaro Brother Nicanor Tops Virginia Derby

One of the more interesting races this weekend will be the 12th running of the $750,000, grade 2 Virginia Derby from Colonial Downs in New Kent, Va. where Nicanor (photo) has been installed at the 7-2 morning line favorite in the 1-1/4 mile turf race.

Owned by Lael Stables and trained by Michael Matz, Nicanor did not race as a two year old, but collected a tenth and two second place finishes in his first three races of 2009, all on the dirt. After a switch to the turf, the three year old colt broke his maiden by 15 ¼ lengths at Delaware Park on May 13th and won an allowance by 1 ¾ lengths in his most recent start, also on grass. Jockey Jose Lezcano, who guided Summer Doldrums to victory in the ’07 Colonial Turf Cup, has the mount aboard Nicanor.

Trainer Jeff Mullins is returning to Colonial Downs with Battle of Hastings from his west cost base at Santa Anita. The British-bred Battle of Hastings won the grade 2, $500,000 Colonial Turf Cup in June at Colonial Downs and is the second choice in the morning line at 4-1. A double stakes winner in Great Britian before coming to the US to win the Balwin Stakes and the La Puente Stakes on the grass at Santa Anita, Battle of Hastings has won five of ten career starts and $474,592.

Trainer Bill Mott will try for his third Virginia Derby with Hold Me Back (photo), the winner of the grade 2 Lane's End Stakes at Turfway Park in mid-march and a dissapointing 12th in the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum Brands. Kent Desormeaux will ride.

As usual the Virginia Derby is deep in talent with the first two finishers in the grade 2 Jefferson Cup at Churchills Downs also making the trip. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin will saddle Jeff Cup winner Florentino and and George R. Arnold II brings El Crespo to try to avenge his runner-up finish in the Jefferson Cup.

The first and second place finishers in the June 13th Jefferson Cup (Gr. II) at Churchill Downs are next in line at 6-1. Owned by Darley Stable and trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, Florentino has been on the board in five of eight lifetime starts and has a bankroll of $167,312. Trained by George R. Arnold II, El Crespo, an A.P. Indy colt, finished second in that race by ¾ of a length behind Florentino. With an early race career that mirrors Florentino’s, El Crespo has finished on the board five times in eight starts with lifetime earnings of $167,326. Rider Alan Garcia, who won the ’08 Turf Cup atop Sailor’s Cap, will guide Florentino while Julien Leparoux, who rode Lime Rickey in this year’s Turf up, switches to El Crespo.

The second, third and fourth place finishers in the ’09 Turf Cup are back to challenge. Straight Story, Lime Rickey and Take The Points, one of two Todd Pletcher horses in the field, all seek revenge on Battle of Hastings. Straight Story missed by a head after going eight wide, while Lime Rickey and Take The Points both fell 1¼ lengths shy. Jockey Edgar Prado, who has three Virginia Derby wins, will pilot Take The Points.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Second Date: Rachel Alexandra Headed For Haskell

Well if we can't have Blackberry Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra versus the undefeated mare Zenyatta, then we got the next best thing Tuesday when Blood-Horse magazine tweeted that Rachel Alexandra (photo) is headed for the $1 million Haskell Invitational to again take on the boys.

The grade 1 Haskell Invitational is a 1-1/8 miles at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J. and is a traditional stopping point for Triple Crown contenders, late bloomers and horses returning to the ranks among the nation's best 3-year-olds. The 41 previous winners include Our Native in 1973, Deputed Testamony ('83), Skip Away ('96) and Big Brown last year. Rachel Alexandra will try to become the first filly since the D. Wayne Lukas-trained Serena's Song won the Haskell in 1985.

“Rachel Alexandra is progressing well after her stakes-record victory in the Mother Goose,” he said Jess Jackson who owns the filly with partner Harold McCormick under their Stonerstreet Stable silks. “She is in top condition. If this preparation continues, our target is to race in the Haskell Invitational in about three weeks. We are all looking forward to seeing this great athlete perform again against both colts and fillies.”

Trainer Steve Asmussen will give the Haskell riding instructions to jockey Calvin Borel for Rachel Alexandra, who was the first filly in 85 years to win the Preakness.

Although Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird will be racing in the $750,000 West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Park a day earlier, Rachel Alexandra will not have the easy task in the Haskell that she had in winning the grade 1 Mother Goose against two other fillies on June 27. She won that race in a record time by almost 20 lengths.

She will face Summer Bird for the first time as the Belmont Stakes winner has already arrived and begun training at Monmouth Park from his base at Louisiana Downs. In fact, he worked over a sealed and wet track Sunday for trainer Tim Ice going 1:01 4/5.

Also expected in the Haskell is Arkansas Derby winner Papa Clem, who finished third this past weekend in the grade 2 Longbranch Stakes at Momouth Park; and Longbranch winner Atomic Rain, trainer by local leader Kelly Breen. Others include Tom Fool Stakes (gr. 2) winner Munnings trained by Todd Pletcher.

However, the news may have already altered the plans of one trainer. "If (Rachel Alexandra) goes to the Haskell, then Big Drama will run in the West Virginia Derby," trainer David Fawkes told Daily Racing Form shortly after hearing the news.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Big Price For Yearling In Japan

Although the bad global economy has certainly hit Japan as much as the rest of the world, Shigeyuki Okada seems to be weathering the storm. Okada, a Japanese horse breeder known for buying high priced yearlings in Japan and Australia, spent $145 million yen on a colt by Rock of Gibraltar (Ire) at the Japan Racing Association July Select Sale in Hokkaido. That converts to about 1.57 million dollars for the half-brother to Japanese Horse of the Year Admire Moon (Jpn).

Rachel Alexandra Owner Buys Impressive Sibling

You know what it's like when you buy something... and you're really satisfied with it? In fact, you like it so much that you want another one that's the same brand. Well that's kinda what Thoroughbred owner and breeder Jess Jackson just did.

Jackson, who earlier this year purchased Kentucky Oaks winner Rachel Alexandra just short of two weeks prior to her victory in the the Blackberry Preakness Stakes, just bought her little sister so-to-speak. Technically, horses are only brothers or sisters if they are out of the same mare. But Rachel Alexandra is by Medaglia d'Oro and Jackson just purchased Dashing Debby, a 2-year-old filly also by Medaglia d'Oro and who won the JJ'sdream Stakes at Calder by an impressive 10-1/4 lengths in her first race.

This time trainer Gerald Pacino was happy with the transaction as Dashing Debby was also owned and bred by Pacino's New Life Farm. "The deal is done, and she's already left the barn and is on the way to Saratoga," Procino told Daily Racing Form. "Mr. Jackson asked me not to reveal the price, but I can say she sold very well." Pacino still owns the dam and a half-brother by Corithian to Dashing Debby.

Dashing Debby will likely race out of the barn of trainer Steve Asmussen who also trains Rachel Alexandra for Jackson.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Rail Trip Headed For Del Mar

Trainer Ron Ellis said his TVG/Betfair Hollywood Gold Cup winner Rail Trip will be shipping to Del Mar to training for the grade 1, $1 million Pacific Classic there Sept. 1. Ellis made the comments while serving as a commentator for TVG Sunday while also mentioning that he has plenty of options should Rail Trip not train up to par on the Del Mar surface. Ellis went on to say that he has many options for Rail Trip but that the Breeders' Cup Classic in November was the ultimate goal.

The 4-year-old gelded son of Jump Start has now won 6 of 8 career races with his only losses coming in runner-up finishes in the Mervyn Leroy Handicap in May and the Californian Stakes in June at Hollywood Park. He won the Gold Cup by tracking pacesetter Tres Borrachos then taking command at the top of the stretch and winning going away by some four lengths. Tres Borrachos rain a good second more than three lengths ahead of the filly Life is Sweet in third.

Sunday at Hollywood Park, the year of the female continued as trainer Doug O'Neil sent out the impressive filly Necessary Evil to win the grade 3 Hollywood Juvenile Stakes over four other colts. Ridden by Joel Rosario, Necessary Evil went straight to the lead and was never threatened by second-place finisher Zip Quick or Classical Slew in third. The good looking bay filly is bred to take that talent much further being by Harlan's Holiday, a multiple grade 1 winner at 1-1/8 miles.

A few races later at Hollywood Park, O'Neil took the $100,000 Landaluce Stakes for fillies with Repo who also ran a carbon copy of her stablemate's race while winning wire-to-wire.

Atomic Rain gave himself an invitatin to the $1 million Haskell Invitational with his impressive victory in the $175,000 Longbranch Stakes at Monmouth Park Saturday. The 3-year-old son of Smart Strike will have the homefield advantage and more in the Haskell on Aug. 1 as Monmouth Park is the base of trainer Kelly Breen who is the leading trainer at the current meeting. Atomic Rain was 16th in the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum Brands.

Arkansas Derby winner and Kentucky Derby four-place finisher Papa Clem finished a well beaten third in the Longbranch after battling second-place finisher Despite the Odds down the stretch.

Friday, July 10, 2009

New York Jockeys Using Padded Whips

Something to watch this weekend will be the racing at Belmont Park. But take a closer look at the jockeys as they are testing padded crops designed to be gentler on horses.

All whips used will adhere to regulations on the length and weight of the whip and the actual leather popper which comes in contact with the horse will be lengthened and have padding applied to absord the shock.

“They are softer than the regular [crops] and it’s definitely not as hard on the horses,” said jockey John Velazquez. “I rode with them at Keeneland and you just have to get used to the feeling – it’s a little bit lighter than my other [crop].”

The cushioned crops are recommended in the safety guidelines issued by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association’s Safety and Integrity Alliance and conform to new guidelines developed by the Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI). Belmont Park was fully-accredited by the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance on May 29, with NYRA’s Aqueduct Racetrack and Saratoga Race Course expected to be certified later this year.

A full explanation of the new crop specifications can be found in the ARCI Model Rules (rule 010-035), available online at:

History Continues In Hollywood Gold Cup

While this, perhaps the final edition of the TVG/Betfair $700,000 Hollywood Gold Cup may not feature any iconic runners, it is packed with plenty of story lines of interest and a full and evenly matched field of 13. The two favorites alone provide plenty of fan fodder with the 6-year-old gelding Parading shipping in from New York and the 4-year-old filly Life is Sweet moving out of the distaff division to take on the older boys.

Life is Sweet, who is trained by John Sherriffs and is a stablemate of the undefeated Zenyatta, is trying to become only the fourth female to win the Gold Cup which will be run for the 70th time Saturday. Princessnesian became the third female to win the Gold Cup in 1968, joining Happy Issue (1944) and Two Lea (1952). Not many have tried in the last three decades. Life Is Sweet, who will be ridden by two-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey Garrett Gomez, will be the first to start in the Gold Cup since Kilijaro finished seventh in 1981.

But the sentimental favorite may be Mast Track trained by Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel, who has been recovering from an undisclosed illness at his home near Los Angeles and is one of the more popular trainers in horse racing. Mast Track is also the defending champion in the Hollywood Gold Cup having won the race last year for Frankel. Frankel will be going for his third Gold Cup havig first won with Marquetry in 1991 and Aptitude in 2001.

Trainer Doug O'Neill will be trying to win his fifth Gold Cup since 2002 when he won with Sky Jack. He then took three consecutive Gold Cup from 2005-07 with Lava Man and has Informed for this year's edition. Informed. who was racing at the $25,000 claiming level a year ago, won the grade 2 Californian at 14-1 at Hollywood Park June 14 over Rail Trip, who also comes back in the Gold Cup.

O'Neill is still far from trainer Charlie Whittingham's record of eight wins in the prestigious 1-1/4 mile event. His list of Gold Cup victors reads like a Thoroughbred racing history book after winning with Ack Ack (1971), Quack ('72), Kennedy Road ('73), Tree of Knowledge ('74), Exceller ('78), Perrault ('82), Grienton ('85) and Ferdinand in 1987.

Seabiscuit and jockey George Woolf won the first Hollywood Gold Cup in 1938. Since then winner have included Citation in 1951, Swaps ('56), Round Table ('57), Gallant Man ('58), Native Diver won three times from 1965-'67, Affirmed ('79), Best Pal ('93) and Cigar in 1995.

Jockey Laffit Pincay Jr. has won the race nine times and Bill Shoemaker eight times.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

No More Nile

Kentucky Derby runner-up Pioneerof the Nile has been retired due to a soft tissue injury according to The 3-year-old son of Empire Maker trained by Bob Baffert was among the best of his class having won four consecutive graded stakes including the grade 1 Santa Anita Derby and CashCall Futurity and the grade 2 Robert B. Lewis Stakes and San Felipe Stakes earlier this year.

“We noticed a little filling in his leg when we took the bandages off and we were hoping he just rapped it,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “I’m in shock. I was getting so excited about that horse. I loved the way he had been training. He was getting stronger with age and was just starting to mature. He gave us a lot of thrills. The saddest part is that we hadn’t even seen his full potential,"

Papa Clem, the winner of the grade 2 Arkansas Derby and fourth in the grade 1 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum Brands, will be making his next start in the $175,000 Long Branch Stakes at Monmouth Park Sunday.

Trainer Gary Stute said he still has the son of Smart Strike on course for the $1 million Haskell Invitational Aug. 2 and is using the Long Branch to "get a win into him,” Stute said. “We have to build his confidence again.”

In his last start, Papa Clem was sixth in the Blackberry Preakness Stakes and has not won since taking the Arkansas Derby in April at Oaklawn Park.

Nicanor, a full brother to 2005 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro, will be making his next start in the grade 2 Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs. The $750,000 race will be run July 18 at 1-1/4 miles on the turf. Nicanor is undefeated in two starts on the grass including a maiden and an allowance victories in his last two starts.

Hollywood Park Done Deal

INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP)—The Inglewood City Council has approved a $2 billion development that would put an end to horse racing at the Hollywood Park racetrack.

City spokesman Ed Maddox said the council approved several ordinances and zoning changes Wednesday night, clearing the way for a 238-acre project called Hollywood Park Tomorrow.

Developer Wilson Meany Sullivan, who bought the track in 2005, plans to build a retail and residential complex with a casino on the site of the racetrack.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Trainer Frankel Recovering At Home

From the Bobby Frankel Get Well group on Facebook:
Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel is recovering from an undisclosed illness at his Los Angeles area home, according to several people close to him, and has stayed away from the racetrack in recent weeks, leading to widespread concern among his friends and colleagues in the sport about his long-term health. We would like to let Bobby know we are thinking about him and wish him well during this difficult time.

One of the most successful trainers in American racing, Frankel has had a major presence throughout the nation in the last two decades. He has won 26 races worth $1 million or more, including six Breeders' Cup races and the 2003 Belmont Stakes with Empire Maker.

Frankel has trained 10 national champions, including 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper, and has won 30 training titles in Southern California and New York. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995, Frankel has won five Eclipse Awards as the nation's outstanding trainer, most recently in 2003.

But it is Frankel the person, as much as the trainer, that has made him a popular figure in racing. A native of Brooklyn, Frankel is known for a quick wit, a fiery temper, and a sense of humor. But he is a man with a well-known soft spot for his horses, particularly fillies, as well as his pet dogs.

- Steve Andersen, DRF

The Brock Talk Note: Santa Anita has created a Bobby Frankel Get Well Soon card on Facebook that allows fans and friends to post messages. There is a link directly to the page on the right hand side of this page.

Hollywood Gold Cup Features Battle Of The Sexes

Kent Desormeaux had more to celebrate than the Fourth of July last weekend after winning the grade 1 American Oaks on Gozzip Girl at Hollywood Park Sunday and the grade 3, $250,000 Salvator Mile at Monmouth Park in New Jersey on Coal Play Saturday.

The New York based jockey will try to keep his hot streak alive Saturday when he is expected to be aboard 119-pound highweight Parading in the grade 1, $700,000 Hollywood Gold Cup.

Not only will he be trying to keep his own streak alive, but will try to guide Parading to his third consecutive graded stakes victory after taking the grade 3 Ben Ali Stakes at Keeneland in April and the grade 2 Dixie Stakes (photo) at Pimlico on Preakness Day in mid-May. Parading is trained by Shug McGaughey at his base in New York and said part of the reason for shipping to California was the consistently rainy weather in New York this Spring. The 6-year-old son of Pulpit is having a year consistent with a late bloomer as he never started as a 2-year-old, only started twice the next year and had an 11-month vacation before returning to the races at Keeneland in April just before the Ben Ali. He has won 7 of 17 races and has earned $405,046 in his career.

While Rachel Alexandra continues to scare away her female rivals on the East Coast, Zenyatta has forced her stablemate Life Is Sweet to switch divisions in California and challenge the boys in the Gold Cup.

Life is Sweet dominated the filly and mare division in Southern California before Zenyatta returned to defeat her in the grade 2 Milady Handicap at Hollywood Park in May. Before that she won consecutive races in the grade 2 El Encino Stakes, the grade 2 La Canada Stakes in Feb. and the grade 1 Santa Margarita Stakes during the first three months of 2009 at Santa Anita. Farret Gomes will ride Life is Sweet.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Zensational and Munnings Move To Head of Sprint Division.

Two sophomore runners went to the head of their class Sunday when 3-year-olds Munnings won the grade 2 Tom Fool Handicap at Belmont Park over older horses and Zensational (photo) took the grade 1 Triple Bend Handicap at Hollywood Park, also against the older age group.

It is somewhat uncommon for 3-year-olds to challenge their more experienced and mature rivals this early in the year, as Munnings, a son of champion sprinter Speightstown, became just the fourth 3-year-old in the 35-year history of the Tom Fool to win the race and Zensational was the first 3-year-old to take the Triple Bend in 25 years.

Zensational, has won 3 of 5 starts and $249,300 for owner Zayat Stables and is expected to face Munnings in the grade 1 King's Bishop Stakes at Saratoga in August and perhaps the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Santa Anita in November. Munnings has now won two consecutive graded sprints after winning the grade 2 Woody Stephens Stakes at Belmont on Belmont Stakes day in early June.

Zensational is trained by Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert and Munnings is trained by multiple training champion Todd Pletcher. Baffert won the last two Breeders' Cup Sprint's with Midnight Lute and Pletcher on the race in 2004 version with Speightstown, the sire of Munnings.

While the sprint division, meaning horses that race predominantly at less than one mile, may not be the most glamorous division, it is almost always the most competitive.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Presious Passion Sprints To Record UN

When I wrote a few Friday that the United Nations Stakes was going to be perhaps the most fun race to watch, quite frankly I was expecting a typical, grade 1 turf race, stampede-style charge to the final strides type race. But what we got was more entertaining and exciting and it included only one horse.

Presious Passion (photo) was looking for his second consecutive UN victory and was expected to race on the front end. He went to the front all right - like his tail was on fire. Jockey Eddie Trujillo let Presious Passion sprint away as though he had forgotton the extra lap of the 1-3/8 mile race as he led the field by as many as 20 lengths while covering the first 6 furlongs in an irrationally fast 1:09.1.

But my laughing slowed significantly when I noticed how relaxed Trujillo and Presious Passion looked while galloping along a half-mile from the finish. Just as they raced around the far turn, the field began to close the gap and Lauro and Brass Hat appeared to about to pounce when Presious Passion continued to race at a pace that made the crazy 20-length lead a two-length victory. And the final time was as stunning as each of the fractional times before it, as the 6-year-old shattered the stakes record by almost two full seconds with a final time of 2:10.97.

The $750,000 United Nations carries a "Win And Your In" tag meaning Presious Passion qualifies again for the Breeders' Cup World Championships at Santa Anita Nov. 6 and 7. Last year, owner Patricia Generazio and trainer Mary Hartmann opted not to run in the Breeders' Cup.

In the biggest Roswell reunion this weekend outside of the annual UFO Festival (photo), jockey Mike Smith has given a commitment to ride Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird for the next two races trainer Chip Woolley announced at Churchill Downs Saturday.

Smith gets the return mount after opting off Mine That Bird following a second in the Preakness because of a possible confict with his clients Jerry and Jan Moss, owners of Horse Of The Year candidate Zenyatta. Borel got back on MTB for the Belmont, finished third, then left for Warrior's Reward and his loyalty to trainer Ian Wilkes.

The "Mine That Bird and his Disloyal Jockeys" saga continues however, as Smith would only commit to the West Virginia Derby Aug. 1 and the $1 million Shadwell Travers Stakes Aug. 29 at Saratoga and not the Breeders' Cup Classic. The circle completes again with Zenyatta being a possible for the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic.

Our Sunny's Halo fans had another big day Friday when his son Backtalk became the stallion's first graded stakes winner in the United States by taking the grade 3 Bashford Manor Stakes at Churchill Downs. Flatter Than Me was second and Brassy Boy was third while continuing to outrun his expectations. Something tells me the little Arkansas-bred Brassy Boy will be a horse to watch out of the Hal Wiggins barn.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Weekend Watch

Just as every July 4 weekend since before the date became a national celebration, this summer holiday weekend is packed full of good horse races throughout the USA from Calder Race Couse in Miami to Emerald Downs near Seattle and from Belmont Park in New York to Hollywood Park in Southern California.

Perhaps the most intriguing race will be the $200,000 Dwyer Handicap Saturday at Belmont Park. The grade 2 race for 3-year-olds will feature Warrior's Reward and jockey Calvin Borel. What makes this interesting is that this is the horse to which Borel commited over Mine That Bird.

Warrior's Reward is trained by Churchill Downs based trainer Ian Wilkes whose stable has won 19 races and more than $1.3 million this year through July 2 and is among Borel's top regular clients. Following Saturday's Dwyer, Warrior's Reward is scheduled to race in the grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga Aug. 1, which would be in conflict with Mine That Bird's scheduled West Virginia Derby appearance that same day.

Belmont will also feature the $400,000 Suburban Handicap where It's A Bird will be looking for his third consecutive graded stakes victory. The Marty Wolfson trainee won the grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas in April and the grade 3 Lone Star Handicap in Texas in May. It's A Bird has become a force in graded stakes company since arriving at Wolfson's barn last year when he was running in the $40,000 - $50,000 claiming ranks and losing.

Remember that tiny three-horse field last week in the $300,000 Mother Goose Stakes that Rachel Alexandra dominated? Well one of the fillies she frightened out of that race runs Saturday at Belmont in the grade 1, $300,000 Prioress Stakes at 6 furlongs.

Gabby's Golden Gal won the grade I Acorn Stakes at Belmont at 1-1/8 miles and would have naturally progress to the 1-1/8 Mother Goose. Instead trainer Bob Baffert elected to send the daughter of Medaglia d'Oro to the Prioress with the grade 1 Test Stakes at Saratoga as the next target. Last year Baffert took the Prioress-Test staeks double with Indian Blessing.

One of the more fun races to watch will be the $750,000 United Nations Handicap at Monmouth Park in New Jersey Saturday. The 1-3/8 mile UN has a long history of tradition as one of the top turf races in North America and is one of the key springboards toward the Breeders' Cup Championships in November at Santa Anita, especially recently with it's "Win and You're In" status.

Defending champion Presious Passion heads a field on nine that include 10-year-old Better Talk Now and 9-year-old Brass Hat, who won the grade 3 Louisville Handicap at Churchill Downs in his last race. Last year's grade 1 Hollywood Derby winner Court Vision is also a top contender.

At Hollywood Park an international field of 3-year-old fillies has assembled for the grade 1, $700,000 American Oaks at 1-1/4 miles on the turf.

New York invader Gozzip Girl comes to Hollywood off a victory in the grade 2 Sands Point Stakes on the grass while Well Mistress will defend the home turf after winning the grade 2 Honeymoon Handicap at Hollywood Park. International invaders include New Zealands group 2 winner Puttanesca, and Europeans Apple Charlotte, Afternoon Stroll and Magical Affair.

In other racing news this week, Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird arrived at Monmouth Park in preperation for the $1 million Haskell Invitational. Also commited to the Haskell this week is grade 2 Arkansas Derby winner Papa Clem who also finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby.

The late Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro reportedly has a sister on the way. According to Headley Bell, an adviser to owners Roy and Gretchen Jackson who also owned Barbaro, La Ville Rouge was checked June 29 and the test showed she was carrying a healthy fetus believed to be a filly. The mare was bred to Dynaformer, the sire of Barbaro, on April 26.

Barbaro's 3-year-old full brother Nicanor is undefeated on the turf in winning his last two races and his 2-year-old brother Letenor is in training at Fair Hill Training Center with trainer Michael Matz in preperation for his first race.

Florida Derby winner Quality Road, sidelined with foot problems in the days leading up to the Kentucky Derby, is nearing his first serious morning work according to trainer Todd Pletcher. Quality Road is scheduled to run in the Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga in early August.

Friend and Quarter Horse journalist Michael Cusortelli has a new blog Handicapping the Speedhorse that can be found at Excellent coverage of the $625,000 Rainbow Futurity trials in one of his early posts.

Love Samba Fastest In Rich Rainbow

Love Samba (pictured) was the fastest qualifier in the trials for the $625,000 Rainbow Futurity at Ruidoso Downs Thursday. The New Mexico track featured a 20-race card with 192 two-year-olds, all running in the trials of the Rainbow. Love Samba is owned by Jim D. Pitts and trained by Blane Wood and covered the 400 yards in 19.542 seconds or just under 55 mph.

Favorite Trick, the now deceased thoroughbred sire, named the 1997 Horse of the Year, had two qualifiers in second-fastest qualifier Stepenos (19.632) and Favorite Cartel (19.752). The latter of which races for Mark Allen's Double Eagle Farms of Mine That Bird fame.

Favorite Trick was the first 2-year-old since Secretariat in 1972 to go undefeated in the same year that he was named Horse of the Year. Trained by Pat Byrne, Favorite Trick scored his big win in the 1997 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and was retired after his 3-year-old season with 12 wins from 16 starts and earnings of $1,726,793.

Trainer Paul Jones qualified four of the ten qualifiers and jockey Cody Jensen rode three finalists.

The Rainbow Futurity is the second leg of the Quarter Horse Triple Crown with the finals to be run July 19.

Photo courtesy of Ruidoso Downs.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Beginners Battle In Bashford Manor

ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale calls them diaper dandies. Major league baseball, the NFL, NBA, NHL and NASCAR call them rookies. They are the young and talented who have yet to prove their mettle at the next level of competition. In horse racing they are referred simply by their age - 2-year-olds. And one of the first big games of new season is Friday night at Churchill Downs in the grade 3, $100,000 Bashford Manor Stakes at 6 furlongs.

And like Walter Payton coming into the NFL out of small Jackson State or Jerry Rice out of tiny Mississippi Valley State, a top contender in the Bashford Manor does not hail from the high profile breeding farms of Kentucky nor the high powered barns of a Todd Pletcher or Bob Baffert.

Brassy Boy is a Arkansas homebred owned by Millsap Stables, and is by Storm and a Half, who stands for a paltry $2,000 in Starkman, Ark. He is trained by Hal Wiggins (photo at right), best known this year as the trainer of Rachel Alexandra before she was sold after her win in the grade 1 Kentucky Oaks and before the Preakness.

Brassy Boy comes into the Bashford Manor with a victory over maiden claimers (the lower of the two maiden race levels) and a come-from-behind allowance win at 28-1 which surprised even Wiggins. Jockey Corey Lanerie returns to ride.

On the other side of the prestige ledger in the Bashford Manor is Mission Impazible. Trained by multiple training champion Todd Pletcher, Mission Impazible is by Unbridled's Song, who stands in Kentucky for $125,000. He is ridden by two-time Jockey of the Year John Velazquez and may be the favorite Friday night coming off a troupble third place finish in the grade 3 Kentucky Juvenile Stakes at Churchill April 30.

Another contneder is Backtalk, a son of Smarty Jones who we mentioned on The Brock Talk after the colt broke his maiden in his frist race at Churchill Downs in mid-June. Backtalk is trained by Tom Amoss and will be ridden by Marcos Mena.

$100,000 Bashford Manor (gr. III, Race 10, 7:24 p.m.), 2YO, 6 Furlongs (Dirt)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Grand Slam Andre (KY), S Bridgmohan, 118, S M Asmussen
2. Westrock Gold (FL), J R Leparoux, 118, D W Lukas
3. Brassy Boy (AR), C J Lanerie, 120, H R Wiggins
4. Mission Impazible (KY), J R Velazquez, 118, T A Pletcher
5. Backtalk (FL), M Mena, 118, T M Amoss
6. Even Wilder (KY), J K Court, 116, T Veinot
7. Soundman (KY), J Theriot, 118, D W Lukas
8. Vito Filitto (KY), C H Borel, 116, B S Flint
9. Flatter Than Me (KY), R Albarado, 118, M R Scherer

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Jockey Shane Sellers Returns To Riding

Jockey Shane Seller returns to the saddle Thursday night at Evangeline Downs in Lafayette, La., after retiring from racing in December of 2004.

Sellers was one of the top riders in the country before suffering a serious knee injury in a freak accident while dismounting a fractious horse in a post parade in 2000. That injury kept him out of racing for more than a year and eventually played a part in his retirement.

Sellers has more than 4,000 career wins and rode in the Kentucky Derby 14 times with his best finish being a third on Wild Gale in 1993. His top victories include the 1996 Jockey Club Gold Cup on Skip Away defeating Cigar, the 1997 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies on Countess Diana and the 1998 Breeders' Cup Turf on Buck's Boy.

Sellers, a 43-year-old native of Earth, La., won his first race at Evangeline Downs in 1983. Sellers has long been an advocate of better health insurance and raising the weight limits for jockeys and along with former jockey Randy Romero as the subject of the HBO documentary film Jockeys.

Borel Leaves The Bird

Add another saga to the crazy story that is Mine That Bird as the Kentucky Derby winner again lost a jockey. Calvin Borel, who rode Mine That Bird in the Derby and a third-place finish in the Belmont Stakes, can not commit to riding Mine That Bird in the Aug. 1 West Virginia Derby, forcing trainer Chip Woolley to look elsewhere.

Mine That Bird is scheduled to run in the $750,000 West Virginia Derby on Aug. 1 and it was assumed Borel would ride. However, it appears Borel and agent Jerry Hissam have given a commitment to trainer Ian Wilkes, the trainer of Warrior's Revenge, an up and coming 3-year-old scheduled to run Saturday in the $200,000 Dwyer Stakes at Belmont Park. After that, Warrior's Revenge is tentatively scheduled to run in the $500,000 Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga the same day as the West Virginia Derby.

In a series on unprecedented jockey changes, the son of Birdstone will now have a change of rider in every race since winning the Kentucky Derby. After the Derby Borel decided to ride Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness and took off Mine That Bird. Mike Smith got the Preakness mount on Mine That Bird and finished second to Borel and Rachel Alexandra. Smith then decided to stay in California to ride Madeo in the grade 1 Charlie Whittingham Handicap at Hollywood Park the same day as the Belmont, taking off of Mine That Bird. Madeo is owned by Jerry and Jan Moss who also own the undefeated Zenyatta for whom Smith is the regular rider.

Mine That Bird trainer Chip Woolley Jr. then gave Borel the return mount for the Belmont. Woolley apparently assumed that Borel would ride Mine That Bird in the West Virginia Derby. What trainer wouldn't make that assumption? Then Borel and Hissam committed to Warrior's Revenge trainer Ian Wilkes. Wilkes' large stable is based at Churchill Downs and has a long association with Borel.

Woolley accepted the Borel's defection with grace saying “Calvin is in a unique position right now to have a lot of options, but his failure to commit to my horse meant I had to go a different direction. He’s just got other commitments he has to fulfill. That’s part of the game.”