The Brock Talk

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Bird Brothers Battle For Championship

Oh the competition among siblings. Following Summer Bird's "slapping in the slop" Shadwell Travers victory Saturday at Saratoga, one must wonder how voters are now leaning in the race for Champion 3-Year-Old Male. Never one to predict or at times even understand, the voters mindset in any election, I'm going out on a limb here and say they're set on that son of Birdstone. Ironically, it's two brothers - both invited to the Kentucky Derby on the same day only after other, more qualified 3-year-olds according to Derby conditions, dropped out due to last minute injuries.

On one hand we have the Kentucky Derby winner, ever popular, often troubled and maligned Mine That Bird (photo right). A star in Canada as a 2-year-old, and an also ran in El Paso early this year, Mine That Bird won the Run For The Roses at 50-1 with a late acceleration not seen in any classic in many years. Both Calvin Borel and Mike Smith have left him twice now in a bizarre year when they also ride historically good females Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra.

With four trips on Mine That Bird between them, Borel has an "A+" effort in the Derby but a kind "D" for moving Mine That Bird too early in the Belmont. Smith gets a trafffic riddled "B" for his ride on Mine That Bird in Preakness but a "C-" with a tough pace question in the easy West Virginia Derby class. Throw in a minor throat surgery, stolen papers, a trainer who can't walk but likes to drive instead of fly, the Derby announcer forgetting Mine That Bird's name in midstretch and I have to tell ya Steve Asmussen: Mine That Bird makes Kensei look like a first time starter with the Rodney Dangerfield thing.

On the other hand is Summer Bird (photo left). Bred in Kentucky and raised in Florida by his Arkansas owners orginally from India, Summer Bird was just another unraced 3-year-old in March, a maiden only winner in the grade 2 Arkansas Derby, a good six-place finisher as a longshot in the Derby, an 11-1 winner of the Belmont and no match for Rachel Alexandra in the Haskell. Trainer Tim Ice has all the name recognition of the Starlight Vocal Band but is at least no longer a one hit wonder with Summer Bird's Travers win.

Liike brother Mine That, Summer can run. He just has a different way of going about things. While Mine That Bird likes to lay back early and launch as if leaving Cape Kennedy, Summer Bird slowly orbits the track before hitting his thrusters as if using only his slower but steadier momentum for the success of the mission. Just as he did in the Travers.

Although he was much closer to the lead than jockey Kent Desormeaux had wanted, Summer Bird galloped along stalking longshot Our Edge and Kensei. Around the turn, with Desormeaux's hands remaining patiently motionless, Summer Bird seemed to widen his stride alone and had worn down the two leaders by the time Desormeaux allowed him to run at the top of the stretch.

Summer Bird became the 30th horse to win both the Belmont and the Travers, joining Birdstone who won both races in 2004. Many of those previous 29 became Champion 3-Year-Old Male including Point Given ('01), Temperence Hill ('80), Arts and Letters ('69) and Damascus in 1967. Now Summer Bird will try to join that group.

Much of that depends on his next two starts which appears to be the Jockey Club Gold Cup against older horses on October 3 at Belmont Park before the Breeders' Cup Classic in November in California.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Michael Straight Update

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

“Mike is now responsive to commands. We know it’s going to be a slow step-by-step process but we are staying optimistic and staying strong. He is scheduled to undergo a few procedures today.

“We are working on setting up a fund for those wishing to contribute and as soon as we have those details – we will pass that information along.

“Please continue to keep Mike in your thoughts and prayers.”

Note: Matthew will continue to issue updates as appropriate.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Apprentice Jockey Michael Straight Update

Apprentice jockey Michael Straight, seriously injured in an Aug. 26 spill at Chicago’s Arlington Park, undergwent surgery for four fractured vertebrae at Luther General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill. The Daily Racing Form reported Friday that Straight may be paralyzed as a result of the accident.

Following is an update from Dave Zenner, Senior Manager of Communications at Arlington Park:

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

"Mike's surgery last night was successful and everything went as planned. The doctors said it could not have gone any better. We know there is still a long way to go and now it's just a waiting game to see how good and how quick he heels up.

"He's off the majority of sedation and we're waiting for him to come out of it on his own. We know it's going to be a long road back and we're not going anywhere.

"Everybody has been so supportive with phone calls, e-mails and even Facebook messages. It hasn't gone unnoticed. Our family appreciates the support and the love. It's times like this that bring everyone together. Please keep Mike in your prayers.

"We appreciate everyone's support but also ask that you respect our family's privacy and when we feel it is the appropriate time to talk more publicly, we will do so."

There is also a link the Michael Straight Get Well Card on the right. You may send your thoughts, prayers and well wishes to the Straight family.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Travers Illustrates Difference Between Glamour And Quality

You may think that without Rachel Alexandra and Mine That Bird, the $1 Million Shadwell Travers Stakes has lost it's luster. Not so fast. It may have lost some glamour, but the Mid-Summer Derby at Saratoga Saturday has plenty to offer in terms of quality and storylines.

First, there is the 8-5 morningline favorite Quality Road. There was a time not so long ago - just before the Kentucky Derby - when the racing world was going ga-ga over Quality Road while Mine That Bird had little more noteritety than any of the thousands of other horses being pulled along in a trailer on America's highways in late April. A well documented foot problem kept Quality Road out of the Derby, but months later a track record performance in the Amsterdam Stakes at Saratoga and a daunting presence during his morning works since, now have him as a popular topic around talk of the Spa.

Then there is Kensei - the "Rodney Dangerfield" of trainer Steve Asmussen's barn, (which also houses Rachel Alexandra), and given little respect in the three-year-old ranks because of his absence in the Triple Crown. He comes into the Travers with victories in the grade 2 Dwyer at Belmont Park and the $500,000 Jim Dandy (gr. 2) over Travers foes Warrior's Reward in second, and favorite Charitable Man in third.

Charitable Man earned that favoritism off of his victory in the grade 2 Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park. He too has lit up the track in the morning at Saratoga after his bullet four-furlong work Aug. 21 in 47.45. He is also a son of Lemon Drop Kid, who won the Belmont Stakes and Travers in 1999 which may make him genetically dangerous Saturday.

And don't forget about Summer Bird for cryin' out loud. He is only the winner of the Belmont Stakes. Although a distant second to Rachel Alexandra in the grade 1 Haskell Invitational at Monomouth Park in his last race, trainer Tim Ice has said the colt's energy level and training have improved leading up to the Travers. His 100.91 work over a muddy track Aug. 22 may have been a bit slow, but the wet conditions may have dictated caution by jockey Kent Desormeaux that morning. although Summer Bird had other ideas according to Ice who said after the work that it appeared Summer Bird wanted to go faster and further that morning.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Travers History As Colorful As The Canoe

Sixty years after Kentucky and jockey Gilbert W. Patrick won the first running of the Travers Stakes at Saratoga, the track decided to start a tradition to recognize the owner of the Spa's mid-summer Derby. That year Frank Coltiletti rode Mars to victory and the colors of Walter M. Jeffords were painted on the new canoe that floated in the serene lake in the track's infield.

That was 1926. Eighty-three years later there is still a canoe in the infield lake, now painted in the white and green colors of WinStar Farms, the owners of 2008 Travers winner Colonel John. But the history of the race is perhaps even more colorful and storied.

The Travers Stakes, first run in 1864, is the oldest stakes still run annually in the United States. Although the Kentucky Derby gets the oldest "continously run" distinction because of six missed runnings of the Travers. The latest coming in 1911-12 during World War I. It is named in honor of the first president of Saratoga Race Course, William R. Travers, who was also the owner of Kentucky, the first winner of the race.

The Travers list of winners includes legends like Man o' War in 1920, Triple Crown winner Whirlaway in 1941, Native Dancer ('53), Buckpasser and Damascus in 1966-'67 respectively and Alydar in 1978.

Two of the top young sires today, Medaglia d'Oro and Birdstone, are both Travers winners as is Bernardini.

Pat Day, Eddie Arcaro and Jim McLaughlin lead all jockeys with four Travers victories each but Hall of Famers such as Eric Guerin, Bill Shoemaker, Chris McCarron and Jerry Bailey have their share of wins as well.

In 1962, the Travers produced a race for the ages as Jaipur edged out Ridan at the wire after the duo raced in tandem throughout most of the mile and one-quarer distance. Recognized as one of Horse Racing's Top 100 Moments by Blood-Horse magazine, the 1962 Travers determined the champion 3-year-old colt that year.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Rachel Out of Travers

Rachel Alexandra will not be entered into Saturday's $1 million Travers Stakes against her sophmore male counterparts, but will instead take on the older horses in the Sept. 5 Woodward Stakes at Saratoga according to a post this morning on

The announcement was made Monday morning after Rachel Alexandra worked six furlongs in 1.11.84 on a sloppy main track at Saratoga. Earlier on the worktab, her stablemate Kensie worked five furlongs in 50 seconds while preparing for the Travers. Somewhat ironically, it may be Dwyer and Jim Dandy Stakes winner Kensei, also owned by Rachel Alexandra's owner Jess Jackson, who is keeping Rachel out of the Travers.

Not that Asmussen, Jackson or the man in the moon for that matter, think Kensei may upset Rachel Alexandra in the Travers. But Asmussen indicated that he feels Kensei deserves a chance to win the Travers without Rachel. "Off of discussions with Jess and how well Kensei is doing we felt that he deserved a chance in the Travers," Asmussen said.

How sporting.

Instead Rachel Alexandra will try to now conquer the likes of Asiatic Boy, Bullsbay, Cool Coal Man, Da' Tara, and It's a Bird in the grade 1 Woodward. New York Racing Association also announced that the purse of the Woodward would be raised from $500,000 to $750,000 if Rachel should start.

An eight-horse field is now expected for the Travers including Charitable Man (Ramon Dominguez); Hold Me Back (Julien Leparoux), Kensei (Edgar Prado), Mine That Bird (Mike Smith), Our Edge (Alan Garcia) Quality Road (John Velazquez), Summer Bird (Kent Desormeaux), and Warrior's Reward (Calvin Borel).

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Bad Girl Give Impressive Performance in Alabama

If you're the kind of sports fan that lists a John McEnroe or a Terrell Owens among your favorites (you like the bad boys in other words) then the winner of the $600,000 Alabama Stakes Saturday at Saratoga may be just the horse for you. Except Careless Jewel is a three-year-old filly which makes her a bad girl. And she has more class than Tonya Harding and less controversary than a Chinese gymnast.

And if there were style points in horse racing, the like deductions Careless Jewel would have received would have eaten away at her actual 11-length victory in the grade 1 Alabama.

First, she acted up in the post parade, dancing around the pony as if she had snakes in her saddle blanket. Then, moments before the race, she appeared to be an early scratch candidate when jockey Robert Landry dismounted a Careless Jewel, who appeared to have no interest in walking to the starting gate, much less running.

As the field was dispatched at the start of the race, Careless Jewel broke from post number five and appeared to be more interested in taking a bite out of Be Fair to her outside, than getting the lead.

Be Fair sprinted to the lead around the first turn and then caused Careless Jewel to stumbled severely when the later clipped the heels of the front-runner with a mile left to run. But Landry composed Careless Jewel rather quickly, then almost casualy raced to the lead around the far turn on their way to a dominating win.

Careless Jewel, a daughter of the hot young sire Tapit, is certainly no immediate threat to Rachel Alexandra in the 3-year-old filly ranks, but she sure is fun to watch. If you like bad girls that is.

No Word On Rachel Alexandra For Travers
While trainer Steve Asmussen nor owner Jess Jackson have indicated whether Rachel Alexandra will run in the $1 million Travers Stakes at Saratoga Saturday, her sire and jockey are still scheduled to be represented and present respectively.

Sunday morning, jockey Calvin Borel worked Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. 2) runner-up Warrior's Reward, a son of Medaglia d'Oro, five furlongs in 1:00.98 over a sloppy Saratoga track.

Following the work, Borel said the colt has become more responsive in the mornings since the Jim Dandy and appears to be an improving horse. Trainer Ian Wilkes has said for months the Travers was his main target for Warrior's Reward and that he is responding right on schedule.

Florida Derby and Amsterdam Stakes winner Quality Road however, had his schedule slightly altered by trainer Todd Pletcher Sunday morning. When the Saratoga track turned muddy, Pletcher dedided to postpone the work until Monday morning. Quality Road was the likely favorite for the Kentucky Derby before a foot injury sidelined him just days before the race. He then returned from a four month lay-off to win the Amerstam in track record time.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Worstcasescenario Turns Out Okay

The young Dashing Debby did her best to impersonate her famous, older stablemate Rachel Alexandra in the grade 2 Adirondack Stakes at Saratoga Wednesday. Afterall, the 2-year-old filly, like Rachel, is by Medaglia d'Oro, trained by Steve Asmussen, and runs under the yellow silks of Jess Jackson's Stonestreet Stables. Apparently, the Saratoga crowd bought her act as she was bet down to 6-5 and then sprinted to the lead and a quick pace.

But the act ended at the top of the stretch when Worstcasescarnario and jockey Alan Garcia took the lead away from Dashing Debby on their way to an upset victory in the 6-1/2 furlong, $150,000 Adirondack. It was the second win in as many starts for the daughter of Florida stallion Forbidden Apple, who is the son of Kentucky Derby winner Pleasant Colony.

Dashing Debby faded to fifth while Sassy Image was second and Magic Appeal finished third. Beautician, the Kenneth McPeek-trained morning line favorite, was scratched after she suffered a bout of colic.

The day was not a total loss for the two-year-old filly division of McPeek's stable however, as House of Grace broke her maiden in her first try by winning a 1-1/16 maiden special weight race on the grass at Saratoga. The race is significant also for House of Grace's sire, Limehouse, who now has eight winners in this his freshman year as a sire.

That may be a significant detail when trying to find young winners and may be especially impactful when Keeneland begins their yearling auction in September.

More Stallion Fun Facts
If thoroughbred stallions had any idea of the big business surrounding their business (so to speak), Medaglia d'Oro may have had a sigh of relief when his three-year-old Iqbaal won his first race at Monmouth Park Wednesday. Not only was the Kiaran Mclaughlin trainee the 8-5 favorite, but also has the distinction of being Medaglia d'Oro's most expensive yearling of the sire's first crop selling for $675,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

Last week, a Medaglia d'Oro filly sold for $1.5 million at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sale. That's what having Rachel Alexandra and Dashing Debby on an auction catalogue page will do for a stallion.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A Summer's Mid-Week Dream

One of the great things about racing this time of year are the mid-week stakes races at Del Mar and Saratoga. Which brings us to the grade 2, $150,000 Adirondack Stakes for two-year-old fillies at 6-1/2 furlongs at Saratoga Wednesday. For those thinking ahead to the Breeders' Cup Championship, this race typically produces contenders with support in the Juvenile Fillies.

The door will be open for Beautician, a second-place finisher in her last race behind Hot Dixie Chick in the grade 3 Schuylerville at Saratoga on opening day. Hot Dixie Chick will miss the Adirondack, putting the spotlight on Beautician, a beautiful gray filly by Dehere and trained by Kenneth McPeek. She also gets the riding services of Kent Desormeaux, who has been one of the hotter stakes riders in the country this summer.

The Adirondack will also mark the first start by Dashing Debby under trainer Steven Asmussen. As we mentioned in The Brock Talk July 13, Dashing Debby (photo)was purchased by Rachel Alexanda owner Jess Jackson and sent to Asmussen following her 10-lenghth victory in her first race in the J.J.'s Dream Stakes at Calder Race Course near Miami.

The filly to watch however, will come from the D. Wayne Lukas stable in Decelerator. Lukas may never dominate 2-year-old racing again as he did in the late eighties and early nineties, but he is no doubt loaded in 2009 with Decelerator as potenially one of his main bullets. Another daughter of Dehere, Decelerator won the grade 3 Debutante at Churchill Downs in July before she stumbled badly in the Schuylerville and finished sixth. A clear trip Wednesday should result in a major improvement.

Asmussen will also saddle the undefeated filly Camile's Appeal, who has the Texas Stallion Stakes win at Lone Star Park on her resume.

Quality Road Has Impressive Work In Travers Preperation

While the casual fan may have a difficult time remembering Florida Derby winner Quality Road, who left the Kentucky Derby just days before the race with a quarter crack injury to his foot, everyone at Saratoga is taking note.

After his explosive return to the races in winning the Amersterdam Stakes (gr. 2) at Saratoga last month, the strapping son of Elusive Quality turned in a solid work stopping the clock in 1:13.19 over six furlongs. Trainer Todd Pletcher seemed extremely happy with the effort saying it was a "nice, stamina-building breeze," according to

In his last two races, Quality Road has set track records. He won the Floriday Derby in March in 1:47.72 for 1-1/8 miles, and then the Amerstam in 1:13/74 for six and one-half furlongs,

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Million Dollar Bids Of The Normal And Abnormal

The second session of the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling sale answered two questions.

Nearly everyone approached this sale with cautious optimism after the sale company invested effort and money into elevating this once glamous auction to a return among the world's elite thoroughbred auctions. The Fasig-Tipton team courted the best consignors and bloodlines in North America and some of the top buyers in the world. But how would the market respond?

The second question is not nearly as serious, but one we've all asked ourselves. What would happen if some clown wondered in off the street and just started bidding on million dollar horses?

The increase in numbers after Monday night's session partially answered the first question. But the question was answered with authority when Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas challenged Shiek Mohammed in a bidding duel on hip 204, a colt by elite sire Storm Cat, who stood for as much as $500,000 per breeding as recent as 2007. Lukas bid while confering with Scott Ford of Westrock Stable while John Ferguson conducted the bidding for Shiek Mohammed from behind the sale ring. When the hammer finally fell, $2,800,000 lit the auction board as the sale's highest priced yearling.

When the two-day sale concluded, 160 yearlings had sold for $52,549,500, up a surprising 46 percent to the immence satisfaction of all involved.

The clown made his appearance, less the make-up and the humor, when he abrubtley bid $1 million on Hip no. 151, a filly by Kingmambo, from his seat in the front row. Buddled by the apparent lunacy of the stranger, no other potential buyers even offered another bid and the filly walked out of the ring with the seven-figure price tag.

According to Daily Racing Form, the press descended on the man who signed the ticket "Josh Mann", but when asked to provide identification he declined. Fasig-Tipton executives Walt Robertson and Boyd Browning approached the as he tried to escape the pavilion but were unable to convince the man into a private meeting. Shortly after consignor Craig Bandoroff joined the conversation, the man and friend embarked on a rapid departure from the facility despite Robertson and Browning repeatedly trying to stop them according to reports. Unconfirmed reports say the friend was wearing a t-shirt that read "I'm with stupidly".

Hip No. 151 was offered again later in the evening and brought $300,000 from Sheikh Hamdan al-Maktoum's Shadwell Estate Co. The incident potentially cost Bandoroff's Denali Stud agency and Fasig-Tipton tens of thousands of dollars and was partially attributed to the man being drunk. The other part was attributed to the man being stupid.

Click here for complete sale results

Monday, August 10, 2009

First Round Features Million Dollar Draft Picks

The athletes are young and unproven. The owners have researched them on paper for months and put the candidates through rigourous physical examinations for days on end from early in the morning until twilight. Their are potential multi-million dollar contracts involved. There will be diamonds like Peyton Manning and busts like Drew Bledsoe. Such are the similarities of the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling sale going on Monday and Tuesday.

There too will be a Joe Montana, the 82nd player selected in the 1979 NFL draft who went on to win four Super Bowls. Perhaps the best parallel to Montana is 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, who earned $1.2 million on the tracks and countless more millions as a sire. In July of 1975, he was purchased by Karen and Mickey Taylor for $17,500 at a Fasig-Tipton auction in Lexington, Kentucky.

With apologies to football television analyst and former coach Mike Dikta, I present my Ricky Williams of the thoroughbred world. As the coach of the struggling New Orleans Saints, Dikta traded his entire draft board for the rights to select the Heisman Trophy winning Williams in the first round of the 1999 draft. Williams NFL career is best remembered for his early retirement after repeatedly violating the league's drug policy.

At the 2006 Fasig-Tipton Florida select sale of 2-year-olds in training at Calder Race Course, Irish agent Demi O’Byrne held off Sheikh Mohammed’s bloodstock manager, John Ferguson, in an intense bidding battle and took home The Green Monkey for $16 million. Two years later The Green Monkey had his early retirement after only three races with a third and two fourth place finishes.

The most expensive yearling ever sold was Seattle Dancer (photo) who sold for $13.1 million at 1985 Keenelend July select yearling sale to the British Bloodstock Agency of England. Although the half-brother to Seattle Slew went on to become a multiple group 2 stakes winner in Europe, his career as a stallion resembled Bledsoe's NFL multiple-stop stint. Seattle Dancer had stallion duties in Kentucky, Ireland, Japan and finally in Germany.

The top draft pick so far at Saratoga is a filly by Medaglia d'Oro who sold for $1.5 million Monday night. John Ferguson, who was the underbidder on The Green Monkey in three years ago, won the bidding for the filly acting as the agent for Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum of Dubai. Like the San Diego Charges drafting Eli Manning in the first round, bloodlines were a major consideration for Ferguson in considering the purchase. Medaglia d'Oro is also the sire of Rachel Alexandra.

Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, known for spending big money on big NFL talent, has little on Ferguson and the Shiekh in that category after Monday night in Saratoga. Ferguson signed the ticket on the other two million dollars babies as well. Both are by Preakness winner and champion Bernardini who stands at Mohammed's Darley Stud in Kentucky.

A colt out of Bird Town, the winner of the grade 1 Ketuncky Oaks on the track and a half-sister to Mine That Bird sire and Belmont winner Birdstone, sold for $1.3 million. They purchased another Bernardini colt out of Storm Beauty for $1.2 million and a colt by Belmont winner A.P. Indy for $900,000.

Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Results for Monday, Aug. 10

Friday, August 7, 2009

Two Year Old Spotlight

Today we begin a new feature that we hope will be of benefit to our readers who like a good gambling opportunity and informational for those of you who like to approach horse racing from more of a strict fan angle.

There are few things more fun in this game than finding a young 2-year-old with potential and following them through a successful racing career. Two of my favorite instances of this happened when I spotted a huge Risen Star walking through the Louisiana Downs barn area as an unraced youngster one morning in 1987. And when I saw A.P. Indy break his maiden as a first-time starter at Hollywood Park in 1991.

So I have enlisted the help of Brad Auger, a national leader in the annual Daily Racing Form Handicapping Challenge, to share some of the potential stars of tomorrow from his extensive research.

Our first installment is Depaul, a son of Dixieland Band who makes his first start in the eighth race at Calder Saturday, a 5-1/2 furlong maiden special weight race with a purse of $32,000.

By Brad Auger
One important factor in handicapping first time starters is breeding. And Depaul has just we look for in sire Dixieland Band.

Dixieland Band, who was pentioned from his stud career at Lane's End Farm at age 28 in December, has sired 115 stakes winners, who amassed progeny earnings of more than $73.7-million. A son of Norther Dancer, (the most influential thoroughbred in North America during the late 20th century), Dixieland Band also has the ever-important high win percentage with among his sons and daughter starting for the first time.

Both Dixieland Band and Depaul's dam are bred for speed, suggesting Depaul will be race ready early in his career. In combination with breeding, his workouts also hint to early speed.

If you are wagering on this race, a win bet would be in order, especially if Depaul stays near his 6-1 morning line odds. Two-year-old races at Calder are always challenging races to win, but this colt may offer some value. In having an outside post, Depaul should stay clear of trouble and sit off the early speed. If odds on Depaul are around the 5/2 – 3-1 mark, then stay clear and wait for more value from this colt in perhaps a later race.

The 28-year-old Northern Dancer horse out of Grade 1 winner Mississippi Mud, by Delta Judge, remains in good health and is fertile but is being removed from stud because of problems with arthritis, according to a press release from the farm. He was one of the original three stallions to enter stud at Lane’s End following his retirement from racing in 1985. Dixieland Band will remain at the farm.

A multiple Grade 2 winner, Dixieland Band won eight of 24 career starts with three second- and four third-place finishes, earning $441,320 during three racing seasons. He won the 1983 Pennsylvania Derby (G2) and the ’84 Massachusetts Handicap (G2) before retiring to Lane’s End.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Zenyatta Has 1/2 Game Lead in Horse of Year Race

After her brilliant race in the Haskell Invitational, Rachel Alexandra certainly deserves every accolade that has been casts upon her. She was literally impressive from the moments she left her stall at Monmouth Park that day. Most thoroughbreds walk from their stall to the saddling paddock. Rachel Alexandra made an appearance - pausing for the fans as if on the red carpet. She then gave her performance and accepted her award with all the grace Joan Rivers would just die for. I was ver clempt.

But I'm not ready to jump off the Zenyatta band wagon just yet. Not until Saturday at least, when she runs in the $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes (gr. 1). She is suppossed to win having defeated every horse in the field before and is the heavy morning line favorite to remain undefeated in 12 career starts. She is also the defending champion in the Hirsch having won the 1-1/16 mile polytrack event last year. Should she win, she'll be just one win shy of joining the legendary Personal Ensign who is long remembered for capping off her 13-0 career with a small nose victory in the 1988 Breeders' Cup Distaff.

Because controlling owner Jess Jackson has said no Breeders' Cup for Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta (photo) can probably stumble one time before the Breeders' Cup and still get the coveted Horse of the Year honor - even if Rachel stays undefeated. But Zenyatta must do two very important things. She can only falter once and maybe not very badly at that. And most important, she must win the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic at Santa Anita in November.

If Zenyatta has a loss on her record before then, she might have to win the Breeders' Cup Classic to edge out Rachel for the golden Eclipse Award given to the Horse of the Year. See undefeated Personal Engsign missing the 1988 Horse of the Year award after winning the Breeders' Cup Distaff. Of course she did lose out to a Breeders' Cup Classic winner in Alysheba too. Either way, her saves expire going into the Breeders' Cup round. Without a Championship Day victory, Zenyatta leaves with a home version of graded stakes wins.

A victory in the Breeders' Cup has proven repeatedly to be that influencial with the voters. If Zenyatta stays undefeated and wins the Breeders Cup Ladies Classic, she would be in line to join past Breeders Cup divisional winners Lady's Secret (1986), Kotashaan (1993), Favorite Trick (1997) and Azeri (1997) as Horse of The Year titlists.

With regard to the racing surface issue, it seems unjust to penalize Zenyatta because she races on the synthetic tracks in Southern California and because of the location of the Breeders' Cup. That arguement especially lost weight when Jackson announced he won't enter the filly in the Breeders' Cup because of the synthetic track.

Of course, if Zenyatta and Rachel should meet before the Breeders' Cup, or in the Breeders' Cup of course, this becomes mute. But it doesn't look like that is going to happen.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Arlington Million Again Rich With Talent

One of the premier turf races in North America will be run at Arlington Park near Chicago Saturday in the grade 1 Arlington Million. Run at 1-1/4 miles on the turf, it is traditionally a significant event for year-end championship honors, an early preview of the Breeders' Cup Turf to be run in November and a chance to also see some of Europe's brightest stars.

Great turf runners such as John Henry, who won the inaugural running in 1981 and again in 1984; Perrault (1982), Manila (1987) and Star of Cozzene (1993) have all traveled to Arlington Park to win the Arlington Million.

The list of winning trainers for the Million reads like a who's who of thoroughbred conditioners but only Ron McAnally and Charlie Whittingham have won the race multiple times - each winning the race on three occassions.

McAnally won the two Millions with John Henry and again with Tight Spot in 1991 while Whittingham won with Perrault, Estrapade (86) and Golden Pheasant in 1990.

Only four jockeys have multiple Arlington Million victories to their credit, each winning two including Laffit Pincay Jr., Jerry Bailey, Cash Asmussen and Jose Santos. Kent Desormeaux, who rides Mr. Sidney this year for trainer Bill Mott, is the only jockey to have a chance to join that group this year having won previously on Kicken Kris through the disqualification of Powerscourt (GB) for interference during the running of the 2004 running.

The Arlington Million had immediate noteriety as the first million dollar thoroughbred race in the world back in 1981 and the 2009 version certainly lives up to the high standard set by the illustrious history of the race.

World traveler Gloria de Campeao ships to Chicago after winning the Singapore Airlines International Cup, a group 1 race run in the Republic of Singapore in May. The winner of more than $1.4 million will join European invader Cima de Triomple (Ire) in challenging a stellar field of North American horses led by Gio Ponti, Einstein and Presious Passion.

In his most recent trip to the post in Sandown's Group I Coral-Eclipse July 4, Cima de Triomphe finished fourth, beaten by the winning Sea The Stars, Europe's outstanding sophomore; runner-up Rip Van Winkle, most recently winner of Goodwood's Group I Sussex Stakes; and Conduit, hero of last year's Breeders' Cup Turf and this year's Group I King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot. Regular rider Christophe Lemaire rides again Saturday.

Gio Pointi is coming off of three consecutive grade 1 turf victories in the Man o' War Stakes in July and the Manhattan Handicap in June at Belmont Park and the Frank E. Kilroe Handicap at Santa Anita in May.

Einstein has won on every type of surface during his career having taken the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. 1) on a synthetic track and the Turf Classic (gr. 1) on grass at Churchill Downs but it has been over the grass where he is perhaps most dangerous.

Precious Passion gave us perhaps one of the more dazzling performances of the year in winning the United Nations (gr. 1) at Monmouth Park on July 4 after getting out to a 20-length lead early in that race and holding on to win by two lengths for his 12th turf victory.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Rachel Alexandra Toys With Boys In Haskell

Just before the Haskell I liked Summer Bird. I thought Munnings, with his top level speed would get to the lead or race alongside Rachel Alexandra early in the race and perhaps force the other to go a little faster than desired. I thought Papa Clem might make a bid at her at the top of the stretch and Summer Bird or longshot Atomic Rain would run down a weary Rachel Alexandra.

Midway through the $1.25 million Haskell I was feeling pretty good. Munnings raced to the lead, forced Rachel Alexandra and Calvin Borel wide around the first turn and completed the first quarter of a mile in a rapid 22.99 seconds.

As they continued down the backstretch the pace remained swift and although Kent Desormeaux had Summer Bird a little closer than I would have I liked, I still felt confident.

As the three leaders raced into the far turn, I lost all confidence. I saw the hands of Desormeaux on Summer Bird and John Velasquez on Munnings begin to move back and forth. Meanwhile Borel's hands had not moved and Rachel Alexandra had. The boys were being asked to run and falling behind while Rachel was in a gallop and accelerating. In an instant she was pulling away with ease as Summer Bird, Desormeaux, Munnings and Velazquez worked in futulity trying to keep up.

As Rachel Alexandra turned for home alone, Borel twirled his stick in her view and began pumping his hands against her neck. He briefly looked back and asked her to put them away.

Which she did as if only toying with Borel and the rest of the boys on her way to joining Serena's Song as the only two fillies to ever win the prestigious Haskell.

Her final running time for the 1-1/8 mile was 1:47.21, only 1/5 of a second off of the track record set by Majestic Light in 1976 and equalled by Bet Twice in the epic 1987 Haskell over Lost Code and Alysheba.

And Rachel was again in a mere gallop by the time she approached the wire. Just as relaxed as she was in winning the Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn Park in April, The Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs in May, to a certain degree the Preakness two weeks later. Her victory in the Mother Goose at Belmont Park in July was more like a stroll.

We still may not know how good she is.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Day Of Unexpectations In West Virginia

When jockey Dale Beckner woke up this Saturday, he must have been looking forward to watching Mine That Bird run in the $750,000 West Virginia Derby from the comfort of the jockey's quarters at Mountaineer Park. But he later found himself at the top of stretch in that race aboard longshot Soul Warrior about to run down a tiring Big Drama and fighting off the heralded late kick of the Kentucky Derby winner.

Moments later he and Soul Warrior crossed the finish line in front to give trainer Steve Asmussen the first half of his stakes double and topping off was is sure to be one of the better days of his life.

But that was about it as far as jockeys in West Virginia having a good Saturday - or jockeys that never made it to West Virginia as it were.

Jockey Miguel Mena was schedule to fly from Saratoga to Chester, West Virginia to ride six races - all stakes, two for Asmussen including Soul Warrior. And as Facebook friend Ian Lozada pointed out, the other five horses Mena was scheduled to ride at Mountaineer produced two wins, a second and a third.

After getting the return mount on Mine That Bird in the West Virginia Derby - despite leaving the gelding after an admittedly sub-optimal ride in the Preakness, depite not being able to commit to ride Mine That Bird past the Travers Stakes in late August, jockey Mike Smith again has a questionable ride.

As expected Big Drama went straight to the lead in West Virginia Derby. But what was somewhat unexpected was the size of the lead and the apparent ease at which he galloped down the backside. It even appeared as though he may have extending his lead going into the far turn. Add to that the fact that Smith saw winner after winner that day run on or near the early lead so now Smith had an apparent track bias working against Mine That Bird's closing style. So he made the decision to move Mine That Bird closer to the pace than desirable, not wanting Big Drama to run away from the pack. By the time Big Drama began to tire mid-way around the turn, Mine That Bird was racing along side Soul Warrior. By the time the team passed Big Drama in the stretch, Mine That Bird was spent from the altered running style and faded to third.

"The way the racetrack played all day, whoever made the lead was winning," Smith told Daily Racing Form.

"Mine That Bird doesn't want to run that way," Smith said. "I used too much of him on the backside."

Even if Mine That Bird had raced from his usual place further back in the early stages of the race, there's no guarantee he would have been able to catch a sharp Soul Warrior. So the hard luck and strange tales of Mine That Bird continues. But I wouldn't be jumping off any bandwagons if I were a Mine That Bird fan just yet.