The Brock Talk

Friday, September 30, 2011

Let's Play!

With so many great races this weekend from Santa Anita to New York and Indiana in between, there is so much that can be written. So instead of spinning some epic saga… let’s pick some winners. The National Football League has their Play 60 program to encourage kids to exercise. The weekend horse racing has Play Saturday for adults.

Indiana Derby (gr. 2), Hoosier Park, 3-year-olds, 1-1/16 miles, $500,000
Post Time 6:15 pm EDT Saturday

Preakness Stakes (gr. 1) winner Shackleford stands on the Indiana Derby program page as the 8-to-5 morning line favorite, coupled with stable mate Friends Place as part of the Dale Romans (photo right)-trained entry. This will be the second consecutive year the Preakness winner has come to Anderson, Indiana for the Indiana Derby as Lookin at Lucky won this race last year as part of his championship season. Hoosier Park has also been a frequent stop for Romans, who is the all-time leading stakes winning trainer at the track.

None of those accolades, trends or records will be helping Shackleford Saturday night however, as the Indiana Derby has drawn a qualified cast of eight. What seperates Shackleford from the other seven is the class in which he has competed this year. After finishing second at 68-to-1 in the Florida Derby (gr. 1), Shackled hit the Triple Crown and came out, not only with a win in the Preakness, but as only one of three horses this year to competed in the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands, Preakness and Belmont Stakes.

After a short vacation, Shackleford hit the Resorts Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park in New Jersey where he was second to a Bob Baffert-trained Coil. Coil was a record 5th Haskell for Baffert, so the runner-up for Shackleford was no disgrace.

But the next race seemed to give an indication that the miles and competition may be taking an effect on the iron horse of the 2011 sophomore class of Thoroughbreds. After leading the Travers Stakes for the first three-quarters of a mile, Shackleford tired badly and finished second to last, more than 22 lengths behind winner Stay Thirsty.

Should that be the case and the Preakness winner has little left in the tank, the obvious choice is Caleb’s Posse, trained by Oklahoma/Texas mainstay Donnie Von Hemel. The homebred son of the $10,000 stallion Posse, has had a constitution testing campaign this year as well. Caleb’s Posse was perhaps the most impressive in his last race when he came from off the pace to sour the comeback of one-time Derby fave Uncle Mo in the King’s Bishop Stakes (gr. 1) at Saratoga in late August.

At one time considered a Kentucky Derby contender after finishing second in the grade 2 Rebel at Oaklawn Park in March, Calleb’s Posse skipped the Triple Crown and has spent the year winning the grade 2 Ohio Derby at Thistledown in June and the grade 2 Amsterdam, also at Saratoga. Although the King’s Bishop and Amsterdam were seven and 6-1/2 furlongs respectively, Calleb’s Posse should have no problem with the Indiana Derby distance of 1-1/16 miles having won the Ohio Derby at the same distance of eight and one-half furlongs.

Among others to watch are 4-to-1 morning line choice Wilburn, a nice winner of the $300,000 Smarty Jones over the same surface in his last race and Populist Politics, a participating third in the super slow Super Derby (gr. 2) in his last race at Louisiana Downs Sept. 10.

Indiana Derby Picks
6 - Caleb’s Posse
4 - Populist Politcs
1 – Shackleford

The Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. 1), Belmont Park, 3-year-olds and older, 1-1/4 Miles, $750,000
Post Time: 5:46 pm EDT Saturday

Like the Indiana Derby, the Jockey Club Gold Cup has a morning line with solid entry as the favorite with Flat Out and Birdrun coupled as part of the Preston Farms, Inc.-owned entry at 7-to-5. Also like the Indiana Derby, the second choice in Belmont the morning line is just one tick off favoritism, in this case at 8-to-5.

While Birdrun is no slouch, having won the grade 2 Brooklyn Handicap at Belmont Park in June, it appears Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott may have the Birdstone in the Jockey Club Gold Cup: Stay Thirsty likes to run on or near the lead. Flat Out, also trained by Mott, likes to come from off the pace. No other horse in the field appears likely to test Stay Thirsty on the lead and insure an honest pace. So instead of leaving it others, Moss has the speedy Birdrun in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Although Birdrun may keep Stay Thirsty from stealing the Gold Cup, his presence will not leave Stay Thirsty and jockey Javier Castellano without options. A son of 2006 Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Bernadini, Stay Thirsty appears to like the lead, but need it as was the case in his victory in the Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. 2) two months ago when he was as far back as fourth in the first half-mile.

Not only is this is the first race for Stay Thirsty against older horses, but he is the only 3-year-old among the seven entrants. It will be a whole new class of characters waiting for Stay Thirsty this time in the saddling paddock before the race.

Flat Out and Birdrun are both 5-year-old horses; A.U. Miner and Rodman are both 6-year-olds. Drosselmeyer and Ice Box, two veterans from the 2010 Triple Crown wars, are the youngsters here at age four. There’s not a gelding in the bunch.

We also know that consistency has been a rarity in both the 3-year-old and older ranks this year. That too works against Stay Thirsty who is coming off two consecutive wins. A.U. Miner is the only other Gold Cup starter to have won his last race having taken the $200,000 Greenwood Cup at Parx Racing near Philadelphia in July.

There is also that $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic elephant on the grandstand apron. Will trainer Todd Pletcher wind the strings tight on Stay Thirsty to win the $750,000 Gold Cup with nearly seven times that much sitting at Churchill Downs Nov. 6 waiting to be claimed?

Flat Out also comes out of a difficult summer also with a win in the grade 2 Suburban at Belmont then firing at both the Whitney Handicap and Woodward Stakes at Saratoga, running second in both to Tizway and the filly Havre de Grace respectively.

That leaves the door open enough for me to think that Rodman will have a big day at Belmont Park Saturday. Second to Tizway in the Metropolitan (gr. 2) at one mile in May and third behind Flat Out in the Suburban, he may have been set for a big race in the Woodward, but traffic trouble in the first turn quickly faded those hopes and he finished seventh. Rodman should improve significantly off that race.

Jockey Club Gold Cup Picks
3- Rodman
4-Stay Thirsty
5-Flat Out

The Vosburgh Invitational (gr. 1), Belmont Park, 3-year-olds and older, 6 furlongs, $350,000
Post Time: 3:57 pm EDT Saturday

I chose to handicap the Indiana Derby and the Jockey Club Gold Cup because of their popularity and probable influence on the richest horse racing in North America, the Breeders’ Cup Classic. With Havre de Grace in the Beldame Invitational (gr. 1) and Uncle Mo in the Kelso Handicap (gr. 2) in the two races preceding the Gold Cup and two obvious singles, find a horse with a price in the Vosburgh and I’ve got a Pick-4 ticket to bet. Havre de Grace is a better single than Uncle Mo in my opininion, so if one would want to spread a little in the Kelso, that might not be a bad idea.

The Vosburgh certainly has a horse to beat in Trappe Shot at 9-to-5 in the morning line, and quite frankly he does look tough having won two of his last three races, all at the Vosburgh distance of six furlongs. Second choice Big Drama (photo left) is also solid as the defending Breeders’ Cup Sprint champion which has easily won his only two races this year. He had a nice eight-month vacation from January to September, but since returning has done nothing but win the minor Whipleton Stakes at Calder in September and put in two very nice morning works. The most recent morning drill was a five furlong bullet and before that worked a four furlong breeze that was the second fastest of 75 that morning at Calder.

In trying to find something that might provide more return, Apriority peaks interest as one who likes to come from off the pace. Although his only two wins this year have come against optional claimers, the son of Grand Slam has shown he can compete at this level after a second in the Carter Handicap and fourth in the Vanderbuilt, both grade 1 races earlier this year in New York. He was also just a nose short of Aikenite from winning the seven furlong Churchill Downs (gr. 2) two starts back.

Giant Ryan will also be difficult to pass up at 12-to-1 coming off of five consecutive victories going back to an optional claiming race at Aqueduct in March. In his last race, he came from just off the pace to win the grade 2 Smile Sprint Handicap at Calder in Florida. That race was just more than 60 days ago, but he has been training well in the morning coming into this race.

Vosburgh Picks
3 - Apriority
6 - Big Drama
8 - Trappe Shot

Pick 4
Race 7 - 3-5-6-8
Race 8 - 3
Race 9 - 5
Race 10 - 3-4-1

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Stars Casting Healthy Glow Over Big Thoroughbred Racing Weekend

Breeders’ Cup fever will reach new heights this Saturday as Belmont Park features their Super Saturday card and Santa Anita offers five stakes with Breeders’ Cup implications during their opening weekend.

Super Saturday offers six graded stakes – five of them grade 1 – worth $2.7 million. All six of the races are “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs and will be telecast on ESPN Classic and ESPN3 from 4:30 – 7:30 pm EDT. The five grade 1s are the $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup for older horses at a 1-1/4 miles, the $350,000 Beldame at 1-1/8 miles for fillies and mares, and the $350,000 Vosburg at six furlongs; all on the main track; and the $500,000 Joe Hirsch and $500,000 Flower Bowl on grass. The $200,000 Kelso at one mile is grade 2.

Saturday Santa Anita offers the $250,000 Norfolk Stakes for 2-year-olds, the $250,000 Goodwood Stakes for older horses at 1-1/8 miles; fillies and mares at 1-1/4 miles on grass in the $250,000 Yellow Ribbon presented by Emirates Airline and the $250,000 Lady’s Secret, fillies and mares at 1-1/8 miles. The $250,000 Oak Leaf (gr. 1) for 2-year-old fillies on Sunday will round out the grade 1 action at Santa Anita. All are also “Win and You’re In” races for the Breeders’ Cup.

Typically, the Goodwood Stakes at Santa Anita and the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont are the spot light races, even during this annually star-studded weekend. Both races are in the heavy weight division of horses racing - older horses going around two turns on the main track. It is also a division that has grown to include the sophomore males, some with Triple Crown race titles, others with credentials from other major derbies and stakes this summer.

But this weekend, both tracks need to toss their spot lights and rely on the glow that will be coming off of all the stars in these races.

The Goodwood looks to be shaping up as a bit of a West Coast championship with the likes of Haskell winner Coil and Santa Anita Handicap winner Game On Dude coming from the Bob Baffert Barn. Twirling Candy, a multiple graded stakes winner that has danced all the marquee dances in Southern California this year is also set to go at it again. Pacific Classic (gr. 1) winner Acclamation, who would be favored if he runs, is also entered Sunday in the Clement Hirsch Turf Championship at Santa Anita Sunday. Trainer Don Warren and part owner Bud Johnston are still deciding whether Acclamation will run in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic or the $3 million Breeders’ Cup Turf.

Although the Goodwood boys have their Horse of the Year aspirations, perhaps the horse running at Santa Anita with the best chance at the 2011 golden Eclipse Award is a filly. Blind Luck has won three consecutive graded stakes this year including the July 16 Delaware Handicap (gr. 1) over nemesis Havre de Grace. (More on her later) Blind Luck trainer Jerry Hollendorfer has elected to keep his accomplished filly closer to home to prepare for the Breeder’s Cup and has also decided to run against fellow females in the Lady’s Secret. Although Hollendorfer has said he never considered the Goodwood, he had earlier thought of running Blind Luck against older males in the Pacific Classic.

Similar circumstances exist in New York where Travers Stakes winner Stay Thirsty is the expected favorite in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Although the race has been hit by the defection of Whitney winner Tizway, there remains and interesting and accomplished group.

Flat Out is now the most popular older horse in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, having won the Suburban (gr. 1) at Belmont Park this summer before finishing second in both the Whitney and Woodward (gr. 1) at Saratoga. There are also two stars from last year’s Triple Crown races making grade 1 comebacks in the Gold Cup. Ice Box, the Nick Zito trainee who won the Florida Derby (gr. 1) and was second in the Kentucky Derby behind winner Super Saver last year; and 2010 Belmont winner Drosselmeyer, are both entered.

Just as in California, however, the leading contender for Horse of the Year in New York, is a 4-year-old filly. Havre de Grace, who defeated the boys in the grade 1 Woodward at Saratoga in her last race, now has four wins from five starts this year, two of which are grade 1. Havre de Grace also takes her victory in the Apple Blossom (over Blind Luck BTW) into the Beldame at Belmont.

If ever there was a horse road warrior or an equine frequent flyer, Cape Blanco could easily fit the bill. Based at trainer Aidan O’Brien’s stable in Europe, the son of Galileo has come to the United States and won the Man O’ War at Belmont and the Arlington Million at Arlington Park near Chicago, two races beyond their grade 1 status in significance.

Saturday Cape Blanco will try for his American hat trick in the Joe Hirsch Memorial, where he should be favored over the five challengers that include solid stakes winners Mission Approved and Dean’s Kitten.

Uncle Mo, the brilliant champion 2-year-old last year who nearly went to the Kentucky Derby as the favorite this year before liver problems sidelined him, also makes the second start of his comeback. Last month, Uncle Mo came just a nose short of winning the King’s Bishop Stakes over eventual winner Caleb’s Posse. Despite missing the Triple Crown and all of the summer derbies, Uncle Mo will take plenty of support into the one mile Kelso, perhaps training for the $1 million Breeders Cup Dirt Mile – although the Breeders’ Cup Classic is still under consideration by trainer Todd Pletcher and owner Mike Repole.

There are more stars to ponder and more races to handicap from Saturday; plenty to keep fans happy and players a playin’.

And to think this is only a precursor…

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Brock Sheridan Racing Memorabilia Dispersal

As all who have been married before have experienced and will tell you, “You are not just marrying BLANK, you’re marring all of his/her stuff too.”

After nine years of blissful wedlock, my wife and I are finally coming to terms with that advice. Between the two of us, we just have too much stuff. She has collections of Barbie dolls and I football, basketball and hockey cards. She has a collection of tea cups. I have too much racing memorabilia. I hope you’ve got the premise because it can go on for awhile before we even get to perfume bottles versus old daily programs from my days at tracks the likes of Pikes Peak Meadows and Playfair Race Course.

So this weekend my wife and I decided to open an account on eBay and get rid of some of our stuff. I work primarily from home, so we agreed that I would manage all of the registration and listing on eBay, photography of items, maintain the listings and hopefully, mail them off to their new homes. We started with a mink jacket that my wife once purchased for a wedding; and some of her Barbies.

Then I suddenly realized a conundrum. Although I am very secure in my sexualality, I did not want to answer a bunch of questions at my next high school reunion about why I was selling mink coats and Barbie dolls on eBay.

Hence the announcement of the Brock Sheridan Racing Memorabilia Dispersal on eBay.

In the name of crawling before I walk on eBay, I’ve decided to put up just one item today. Our research also says one should use social media and other communications to market, so I’ve decided to also let you know all about my first eBay item. Call this the Dispersal preview if you will.

It is a customed framed official program and finish line photo of the 1996 Pacific Classic (gr. 1) won by Dare and Go, stopping Cigar’s record winning streak even with the legendary Citation at 16 consecutive races.

After defeating Dramatic Gold in the 1996 Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. 1) to tie Citation’s consecutive winning streak at 16 races, Cigar pulled into Del Mar Race Course under full police escort. It was the sixth running of the Pacific Classic and the $1 million race had already become a major event for older horses on the West coast.
But the 1996 version of the Pacific Classic featured the superstar Cigar, trained by Bill Mott and ridden by Jerry Bailey, both now Hall of Fame members.

But the race was not to be the record-breaker for Cigar as he was caught in a rapid early pace with Dramatic Gold and Siphon, both solid graded stakes horses. After three quarters in 1:09-1/5, Siphon and Dramamatic Gold could not stay the course as Cigar pulled away at the top of the stretch. Then came Dare and Go and the wiley Alex Solis who had waited for the front runners to tire and they passed an exhausted Cigar to pull one of the greatest upsets in Thoroughbred racing.

Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman said of Dare and Go “He will go down in history with names such as Upset and Dark Star."

This custom framed program page is 21” x 14” and includes the official program; autographed by all six participating jockeys including Jerry Bailey HOF, Alex Solis, Corey Nakatani, Brice Blanc, David Flores and Hall of Famer Eddie Delahoussaye HOF. The win photo by Jeff Coady, Coady Photography.

The bid price is $50. Buy it now for $75. Whata hear for this now!

Click hear to go directly to the item on eBay

Friday, September 23, 2011

To Honor And Win Pennsylvania Derby

Parx Racing figures to be punching some of the final tickets Saturday for a trip to Churchill Downs in for the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic to be run Nov. 5. While older horses will have their chances to prepare for the Classic in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park and the Goodward at Santa Anita, two grade 1 races to be run Oct. 2, the Pennsylvania Derby allows three-year olds an opportunity to prepare for the big race against contenders their own age.

Some of the nine Pennsylvania Derby contenders may not have the Breeders’ Cup Classic in their plans if the win Saturday, but with Horse of the Year candidate Tizway missing the Jockey Club Gold Cup and division leadership currently belonging to single grade 1 winner Stay Thirsty, it would be difficult to pass up the opportunity.

Although the Penn Derby has an impressive list of winners going back to Smarten taking the inaugural version of the race in 1979, the race has little success at producing Breeders’ Cup winners. The lack of association with the Breeders’ Cup is not so much because of quality, but rather chronology. The first eleven Penn Derbies were run on Memorial Day and the first five were run before the first Breeders’ Cup in 1984. Then from 1990 through 2009, the Pennsylvania Derby was run on Labor Day.

The race favorite this year is Ruler on Ice at 5-2 in the morning line. The Kelly Breen trainee is looking to become only the second Belmont Stakes winner to also take the Pennsylvania Derby, following Summing in 1981. Since his score in the third leg of the Triple Crown, Ruler On Ice is winless in two tries, finishing third behind winner Coit in the Haskell Inviational (gr. 1) and fourth, just four lengths behind winner Stay Thirsty in the Travers (gr. 1) Aug. 27. Breaking from the inside post, jockey Garret Gomez should have little trouble placing the son of Roman Ruler just behind the speed of the race and find a position from which to pounce turning for home.

Some of the speed may come from To Honor and Serve, once thought to be a Kentucky Derby contender before a strained suspensory ligament in the colt’s left front forced him to miss the Triple Crown. Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, To Honor and Serve has started twice since his comeback, a lackluster sixth-place finish in the Amsterdam Stakes (gr. 2) and winning an optional claiming, both at Saratoga in August.

Breaking from post position seven, jockey Jose Lezcano should have little trouble placing To Honor and Serve just to the outside of Rush Now, who figures to be on the lead immediately from post position five. Not sure if the problem is the jockeys or To Honor and Serve, but Lezcano will be the fifth different rider in as many races for the son of Bernardini.
Rush Now with number eight JW Blue are also entered in the grade 3 Kent Stakes at Delaware Park and number three Pender Harbor is cross entered in the ungraded Ontario Stakes at Woodbine.

Rush Now is the 4-to-1 third choice in the Ontario and 9-to-2 fourth choice in Pennsylvania. Second to Prayer For Relief in the West Virginia Derby Aug. 6, Rush Now also won the $81,000 Spend A Buck Stakes at Monmouth and a $40,000 claiming race at Laurel in February.

Expected to be a bit further back early but close to if not the leader at the wire is Rattlesnake Bridge breaking from the far outside. Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin the son of Tapit was four-wide in the first turn of the Travers and drifted out in the streatch as well. However, the grey Rattlesnake Bridge was still able to get up for second, just ahead of fellow Penn Derby foe JW Blue.

Brock Talk Penn Picks
To Honor and Serve has an abundance of talent over this field and could win very easily. He should have no problem sitting behind Rush Now; or taking the lead himself should the later go to Delaware.

Ruler On Ice looks to be a very beatable favorite here and it’s doubtful third choice Rush Now will get the easy lead he may need. Ruler On Ice has not looked sharp since winning the Belmont and Rush Now could also go to Delaware.

That leaves some room for some price horses to put along with To Honor and Serve in what ever exotic you may enjoy.

JW Blue finished just two lengths behind Stay Thirsty in the Travers Aug. 27 and if not for bad racing luck, may have more of a race of it. Another from the Anthony Dutrow stable, JW Blue broke slow in the Travers and was then caught five wide turning for home. He hasn’t won since an allowance victory at Oaklawn Park in January, but has only been worse than third twice in six starts, all against stakes horses.

At 12-to-1, Norman Asbjornson won his last race, (an optional claiming at Parx), by nearly five lengths. That means he likes the track at the very least and he has some back class to go with it. In March he was second to now divisional leader Stay Thirsty in Gotham (gr. 2) and a decent fourth in the grade 1 Wood Memorial a race later. He skipped the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. 1), then had a very rough trip and finished 11th in the Preakness.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Summer At Saratoga Extended Thru 2014

The National Broadcasting Company Sports Group and the New York Racing Association have agreed to terms to extend the Summer at Saratoga live series through 2014.

During it's first season this Summer, three of the hour-long programs were telecast were on NBC, with five others on the NBC Sports affiliate network Versus. Versus will become the NBC Sports Network on Jan. 2, 2012. The eight programs were telecast during a seven week span.

Extending the series another two years is a further indication of the commitment to horse racing by NBC Sports. The eight Saratoga telecasts over seven weeks were the most extensive live national broadcasts of horse racing ever.

NBC Sports is quickly becoming the home of live horse racing on network television. This year NBC became the first network since 2005 to telecast all three Triple Crown races in the same year. NBC was also the last to air all three Triple Crown races having aired the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. 1), Preakness Stakes (gr. 1) and Belmont Stakes (gr. 1) in 2005.

NBC Sports will also air a similar series from Keeneland during their 2011 Fall meeting in October.

While NBC Sports has significantly increased their coverage of live horse racing during this year, it’s not because some vice president at NBC headquarters in New York has a daughter that likes “horseys” or because The Today Show’s Matt Lauer is a big fan of the game.

Horse racing has again generated good ratings. Coverage of the Travers and King’s Bishop Stakes earned a .7 rating according to Sports Media Watch’s web site. That equates to roughly 1.054 million viewers. By comparison the U.S. Open Series Winston Salem Open Men’s Tennis final between John Isner and Julien Benneteau drew a .04 final rating on CBS the same day. Also that afternoon, the first weekend of the 2011 World Track and Field Championships earned a 1.2 final rating.

For comparison, the 2011 Kentucky Derby drew an 8.5 rating while the Preakness and Belmont earned 6.0 and 4.3 ratings this year respectively. The 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic earned a 2.5 final rating. Ratings for the live coverage of Zenyatta's only career loss in the 2010 Classic was the highest rating for a Breeders' Cup in four years and was higher than any Major League Baseball game telecast on ESPN during the 2010 season. NBC earned a 14.3 final rating Sunday for the National Football League game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons.

Brock The Horse Still Winless

Brock the horse looked like a million dollars in the post parade of Belmont's third race Wednesday and the players agreed. Going off as the 6-to-5 favorite in the field of six, the $2.3 million auction purchase again failed to break his maiden is his sixth try, finishing second to winner Steele Bridge. Even less unfortunate is that Brock almost doubled his career earnings Wednesday with the $10,200 check that boosted his career earnings to $25,920.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Brock on Brock

Every now and then I’ll receive a tweet. “He’s entered.” Or I’ll get a message on Facebook: “Looks who running at Santa Anita/Monmouth/Belmont/Saratoga tomorrow.” At the suggestion of a friend on Twitter, I finally have him registered on my Watch Mail. Got one the other day as a matter of fact.

Brock is in the third race at Belmont Park Wednesday. The race does not have much noteworthy about it. It is just a weekday maiden special weight for a purse of $51,000. Making his sixth career start for trainer Steve Asmussen (photo right), Brock has time and room for improvement to be kind.

At one point, Brock was Mr. Popularity, Joe Cool on Campus, all that and more when he sold as 2-year-old for $2,300,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Calder Sale last March in Florida. As a son of Distorted Humor, and out of the A.P. Indy daughter Tomisue’s Delight, Brock certainly had an impressive catalogue page and it showed as the next richest horse sold was a Smart Strike colt for $825,000.

Distorter Humor had already sired Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brand (gr. 1) winner Funny Cide and a host of other grade 1 stakes winners. Distorted Humor is among the leading producer of stakes winners and earners and demanded a $90,000 stallion fee the year Brock was bred.

But it was mother that brought most of the fire power to Brock’s bloodlines. Tomisue’s Delight won more than $1.2 million on the track include grade 1 stakes such as New York’s Personal Ensign and Ruffian Handicaps. She had already produced a stakes winner (Mr. Sidney) from six foals, of which three were also winners. She also produced Save Big Money, a stakes-place earner of more than $240,000, and is a full sister to 2003 Horse of the Year Mineshaft, both by Horse of the Year A.P. Indy.

Things seem to be going well for Brock after the sale and leading into his career as a race horse. He stayed on schedule with his early training and by the summer, he was in trainer Steve Asmussen’s barn at Saratoga.

Brock went off at a relatively popular 7-to-2 in his first start, but ran into a buzz saw and finished eighth of nine horses that day, more than 18 lengths behind a rookie Stay Thirsty. Stay Thirsty of course, is on a two-graded race winning streak having taken the Jim Dandy (gr. 2) and Woodward (gr. 1) at Saratoga recently. That was Brock’s only start as a 2-year-old.

More than seven months later, Brock tried another group of maidens, this time on the West coast at Santa Anita and at a farther distance of one mile. Although Brock was the second choice of the bettors again and he ran a better race, Brock finished a well beaten fourth, finishing more than 14 lengths behind the winner. Again Brock had met another steamer in Midnight Interlude, who would go on to represent trainer Bob Baffert in the Kentucky Derby on May 7, but it was time for Brock to make some progress.

Brock made his next start at Churchill Downs on May 7; except he was not running in the Kentucky Derby. Brock was still in maiden races, this one just following the Derby. Brock finished seventh, more than six lengths from the winner. The race was far from impressive, but again there was some improvement.

Brock started again at Churchill a month later, but his progress seemed to have flattened as he was fourth for the second time, this time 10 lengths from the lead. In his four career races, he had beaten by a combined 48 lengths.

Brock was not bred for a fast start and his blood dictates that he should like the longer races. But frustration must still creep into the minds of Asmussen or the team now behind Stonerstreet Stables when considering Brock. Stonerstreet, of course, was founded by the late Jess Jackson and runs under the yellow colors made famous by their Horse of the Year winners Curlin and Rachel Alexandra.

And Stonerstreet horses are not for early retirement. Both Curlin and Rachel Alexandra ran in the year following their Horse of the Year award. Certainly – even as blue as Brock’s blood - they are were not ready to give up after only four starts.

And sure enough, Brock responded in his last race, finishing second in a maiden special weight race at Monmouth Park July 11.

Wednesday Brock makes his sixth start in the third race at Belmont Park going a mile around one turn. Belmont Park line maker has Brock listed as the 2-1 favorite and if that holds, it will be the first time Brock walks into the starting gate favored.

Brock has been training well leading up to this race with five furlong bullet work at Monmouth Park in 1:01 2/5 seconds breezing a week ago Monday. Asmussen followed that with another Monday work this today at Belmont, working as easy three furlongs in :38 2/5ths.

Wednesday’s maiden race is a short field with second choice Crushing breaking from the inside post at 5-to-2 odds. The Chad Brown-trained son of Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo seems most comfortable running near the lead, similar to Brock. However, there appears to be no speedsters to lead the way for this race, which makes it a bit more unpredictable. If there is an unusually slow pace, there is every reason to believe that both or either one of those two may lead this race early.

Or any of the six contenders could try to steal the race by trying get a lone lead. On paper, nobody looks like they want the lead, but Post Ranch and RJ's Affair are making their first starts, both with 8-to-1 morning line odds.

However the race may set up or where ever Brock may finish Wednesday, we’ll still be pulling for him here at The Brock Talk.

Similar to when I followed Hall of Fame Cardinal outfielder Lou Brock during my childhood – I’ve been following Brock the horse. I use the Watch Mail to follow equine Brock now instead of the Sporting News which I used then to follow the St. Louis Cardinals. And through the miracle that is TVG I will get to see Brock race live Wednesday instead of the days old box scores on which I had to rely in the weekly Sporting News.

I don't really care about Brock Lesner and the Dallas Cowboy status disqualified Brock Marion from my favorite list. But Lou Brock is my all-time favorite baseball player.

Although he needs a win and a direction change in his career, I’ll take my support a step further with equine Brock. There will be some financial support for Brock at Belmont from Brock at Lone Star Park.

Brock on!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Woodbine Mile Has International Competition for Breeders’ Cup Invite

This Sunday Woodbine presents three graded races that should each have an impact on the Breeders’ Cup. But the race with the automatic invitation to the TVG Breeders' Cup Mile for the winner and the $1 million purse is The Ricoh Woodbine Mile (CAN- 1T).

Court Vision, winner of last year’s Woodbine Mile, has finished fourth in the last two Breeders’ Cup Miles and returns to defend his title in this race. Shoemaker Mile (gr. 1T) winner Courageous Cat has been slated as the post time favorite. Trained by Bill Mott, Courageous Cat also won the grade 3 Poker Stakes at Belmont Park in June in his only start of the year in June.

The Woodbine Mile also has quite an international representation from the likes of Irish-bred Dance and Dance; British Side Glance and Forte Dei Marmi; and Right One, who came from France last year and has been running in Florida and New York since.

Side Glance and Dance and Dance faced each other last month at Salisbury in England in the group 3 Totepool Sovereign Stakes. Side Glance won by a neck over Dance and Dance in second and the two meet again at Woodbine Sunday.

Right One has won three of four races this year including the grade 3 Jaipur at Belmont Park in July over seven furlongs on the turf. Trained by Christophe Clement, Right One also won the one mile Island Sun Stakes on the Belmont grass.

Another top contender ships in from New York in Turallure, impressive winner of the 1-1/8 mile Benard Baruch Handicap (gr. 2T) at Saratoga. Also a winner of the Opening Verse Stakes at Churchill Downs in July at 1-1/16 miles on the turf, Turallure should have no trouble shortening, having won at a mile at the end of last year.

While the Woodbine Mile has never produced a winner of the Breeders’ Cup Mile, 2009 Woodbine Mile winner Ventura went on to take the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint that year while racing for llate Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel during some of his final days.

Rahy’s Attorney won the 2008 Woodbine Mile during a Canandian Champion Male Turf Horse that year. The 2005 Woodbine Mile was won by Leroidsanimaux, the American Champion Turf Horse that year and future sire of 2011 Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. 1) winner Animal Kingdom. Soaring Free was the Canadian Horse of the Year, Champion Male Turf after winning the 2004 version of this race; and in 1996 Skip Away won the Woodbine Mile on his way to being named American Champion 3-Year-Old Male that year and eventually Horse of the Year in 2008.

The grade 1T Northern Dancer Handicap will be run before the Woodbine Mile and could also have Breeders' Cup implications. The 9-5 favortie in the Northern Dancer Sunday is the Irish-bred Wigmore Hall, fourth in the Arlington Million (gr. 1T) last month behind winner Cape Hope. The well-traveled Wigmore Hall has made starts this year in Singapore, Hong Kong and United Arab Emirates. His last three races have been against group 1 competition with his best start a third in the Dubai Duty Free Stakes (gr. 1T) at Medan in late March. Earlier that month he won the Jebel Hatta Stakes, a group 2, 1-1/8 race also at Meydan.

Southern California Hall of Fame trainer Neil Drysdale has shipped Bourbon Bay to Canada from his base in Southern California. In his last race, Bourbon Bay was second in the grade 1 Del Mar Handicap at 1-3/8 miles on the grass behind winner Celtic New Year. Before that he won the grade 2 Courgar II Handicap at Hollywood park July 29. In June, the son of Sligo Bay was a close-up third behind Horse of the Year contender Acclamation and Celtic New Year. Bourbon Bay also won the grade 2 San Marcos Stakes at Santa Anita in January.

Editors Note
The horse Brock, a 4-year-old Distorted Humor colt trained by Steve Asmussen, has been entered into the third race Saturday at Belmont Park. Maiden Special Weight going a mile on the main track.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Super Slow Derby Might Still Have Stars

Super Derby 32 was very slow. Miraculously, it was not as slow as last year's race when Apart overcame Manhattan like traffic to result in the slow time of 1:52.31. This year Prayer for Relief led the Super Derby from gate to wire, but at just over a galloping pace.

Prayer for Relief has now consecutively won the Iowa Derby (gr. III), West Virginia Derby (gr. II) and the Super Derby as part of a four-race win streak. A stalker in previous races, jockey Rafael Bejarano took Prayer for Relief directly to the lead at Louisiana Downs Saturday before slowing the pace of the 1-1/8 race to a crawl with a first quarter in :50:31, the first six furlongs in 1:15.49 and a mile in 1:40.08. The final time of 1:52.29 was not even as slow as last year’s Super Derby, but if Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (left) had been in either race, he probably would have been on the early lead. If you're not an NFL fan, Mr. Suh is listed at 307 lbs.

The pace seemed to severely handicap the two closers, Awesome Bet and Populist Politics, who finished second and third respectively. Peter Pan (gr. II) winner Alternation never seemed to find his best stride and finished fourth.

This Super Derby may or may not be able to produce winners at the grade 1 level in a normal year. However, there are no dominant runners in the older horse ranks or the now graduating sophomore class. Trainer Bob Baffert (photo above right) could, of course, keep Prayer for Relief with 3-year-olds one more time should he travel to Indiana for their grade 2 Derby Oct. 1. The Indiana Derby does offer another $500,000 that may be ripe for the pickin’ and it would be the same path taken by last year’s champion 3-year-old Lookin at Lucky, also under Baffert’s guidence. Prayer for Relief may not be another Lookin at Lucky, but he would likely be the favorite in Indiana. Another win there and the son of Jump Start strides into Churchill Downs with a significantly large heart.

A trip to New York for the Jockey Club Gold Cup is unlikely for Prayer for Relief. If Baffert wanted to challenge older horses with Prayer for Relief before a possible Breeders’ Cup Classic, he would likely stay in Southern California for the Oct. 1 Goodwood (gr. 1), a race run at his base at Santa Anita. But there he would face Pacific Classic (gr. 1) winner Acclamation and Santa Anita Handicap (gr. 1) winner and stable mate Game On Dude.

Steve Asmussen trains Awesome Bet so geography is no challenge running out of the expansive stable that reaches as far north as Canada’s Woodbine and as far south as the family operation in Laredo, Texas. He could also be headed to the Indiana Derby next, but it is often difficult to predict an Asmussen move.

Trainer Tom Amoss is based in Kentucky, so a trip across the river for the Indiana Derby may make sense for Populist Politics. Regardless of their next destination, both Awesome Bet and Populist Politics will be hoping for a more honest pace to target.

Fourth-place finisher Alternation still looks like he could take similar paths as the top three with little hesitation. Trainer Donnie Von Hemel is based at Remington Park where he could keep Alternation for the $400,000 Oklahoma Derby Oct. 16. But that 1-1/8 race is not graded and one has to think Alternation has the potential for improvement and at least stay in graded company.

The slow time will insure that the 2011 Super Derby not look that good on paper, but this group also belongs to a pretty mediocre group of grade I colts and horses running in this year’s major races around the country this year. There are remaining derbies in Indiana and Oklahoma, but at some point, I expect at least one of these Super Derby graduates to be heard from on a higher level.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Solid Cast Chase Super Derby History From A New Date And Time

For years, the Super Derby (gr. II) had the perfect spot on the calendar. It was the last major Derby of the year. It was traditionally run four weeks after the grade 1 Travers Stakes in Saratoga and five weeks or so before the Breeders’ Cup at the site de l'annĂ©e.

Although the first Super Derby was run five years before the inaugural Breeders’ Cup, by the time Gate Dancer used the 1984 Super Derby victory to prep for his eventual third-place in the first Breeders’ Cup Classic, the Super Derby had already achieved grade 1 status. Two of the first four winners of Louisiana Downs’ marquee race were champion Temperence Hill (photo above right) and Kentucky Derby winner Sunny’s Halo. In later years, horses such as Alysheba (1987), Sunday Silence (’89), Unbridled (’90) and Tiznow in 2000 had the Super Derby on their championship resumes.

But those were the days when the Super Derby was grade 1 with a $1,000,000 purse. Since 2002 the race has been grade 2 and through the years the purse has dropped to $500,000 and the distance shortened by a furlong to 1-1/8 miles.

A few years ago, the folks at Parx Racing in Pennsylvania boosted the purse of their Pennsylvania Derby (gr. 2) to $1 million, prompting officials at Louisiana Downs to surrender the once cherished spot on the calendars of 3-year-old thoroughbreds.

So Super Derby XXXII will be run Saturday instead of two weeks from now. The results, however, have been a bit unexpected as the 2011 renewal has attracted a large and competitive field of nine. Although it is not expected that the winner will be among the favorites in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, a Super Derby victory may still convince respective owners and trainers the necessity of a trip to Churchill Downs for the Breeders’ Cup.

From there, anything can happen.

In fact, Unbridled lost to Home at Last in the 1990 Super Derby, then bounced back to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic and be named champion 3-year-old colt or gelding that year. Concern was also second in the Super Derby, finishing just a nose behind Soul of the Matter in 1994. Concern would also bounce back to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic, but the class championship that year went to Holy Bull.

Blame, second to Regal Ransom in the 2009 Super Derby, will forever be the answer to the trivia question: “Who is the only horse to defeat Zenyatta” having done so in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic. More importantly, Blame was named champion older horse after that historical win in the Classic 13 months after his Super Derby appearance.

Although Alysheba won his Super Derby in 1987, it also took him a year to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Finishing second to Alysheba in the 1988 Classic was Seeking the Gold, winner of the Super Derby that year.

In 1989, Sunday Silence became the first horse to win the Super Derby and Breeder’ Cup Classic in the same year. The almost black colt trained by Hall of Famer Charlie Whittingham was later honored as champion 3-year-old male and Horse of the Year.

Like Sunday Silence, Tiznow would also win the Super Derby, Breeders’ Cup Classic, a divisional championship and Horse of the Year at age three. Also like Alysheba and Blame before, Tiznow would win the Breeders’ Cup Classic as a 4-year-old. But unlike Alysheba, Tiznow and Blame missed on Horse of the Year at age four. Point Given was named 2001 Horse of the Year over Tiznow and Blame lost his 2010 golden Eclipse to Zenyatta.

The elephant in the blog now is: Can anybody in the 2011 Super Derby become a Breeders’ Cup Classic winner and perhaps a future champion?

One of the biggest assets this group of Super Derby starters has working for them are all other 3-year-old thoroughbreds in North America this year. There are no select few that seem head and shoulders above the rest of this division. Recent Travers Stakes (gr. I) winner Stay Thirsty appears to be the leader in the division despite that he has only one grade I win this season - the Travers two weeks ago.

Before the Travers, Stay Thirsty had victories in the grade 2 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct in March and the Jim Dandy, also grade 2, at the beginning of the Saratoga meeting this year. Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner Animal Kingdom is on the sidelines. Preakness winner Shackleford is winless in three starts since. Belmont winner Ruler On Ice has also failed to win since his big victory in June leg of the Triple Crown. Resorts Casino Haskell Invitational (gr. I) winner Coil floundered in the Travers.

Super Derby starters such as the Bob Baffert-trained Prayer for Relief (photo left), the 9-5 morning line favorite, are just not so far behind the divisional leaders so as to consider them out of reach. The Prayer for Relief has won all three of his races this year including the grade 3 Iowa and grade 2 West Virginia derbies in his last two races.

Alternation is the only other Super Derby starter this year with a graded stakes win on record having won the Peter Pan (gr. II) at Belmont Park in May before finishing fourth behind Stay Thirsty in the Jim Dandy.

Awesome Bet, winner of the $103,000 Barbaro Stakes at Delaware Park; and Trubs, winner of the $100,000 Prelude Stakes – the major local prep for the Super Derby – are just stakes winners today. The only stakes won by Super Derby starter Populist Politics, has been against other Louisiana-breds. They might be long shots to be get any championship notoriety this year, but all certainly have the potential to develop into something that can attract national attention at some point in their racing future.

Nine starters highlighted by the above mentioned favorites, make this a very deep and competitive Super Derby, especially considering this version is two weeks earlier than past. The quality and quantity of this vanguard must be a refreshing result to those in Louisiana Downs management who decided to move the Super Derby and today they look pretty smart.

But the Super Derby is a race with traditions and history steeped with Triple Crown race winners, Breeders’ Cup Classic winners and champions – both of the divisional and Horse of the Year varieties. It is also a race that has seen its graded status and purses drop while competition from derbies in Pennsylvania and Indiana rise. And now its lost its place on the calendar too.

Just don’t be surprised if the winner of this race is heard from down the line. Whether in 2011 or beyond, Super Derby graduates have a way of carving their way into more prestigious winners’ circles elseware.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Injured Jockey Martin Remains Critical

If Quarter Horse racing had a Mount Rushmore, jockey Jacky Martin’s likeness would be well-placed. The 56-year-old Martin (photo right) has won the prestigious All American Futurity seven times and nearly 3,000 races. He is a member of the Ruidoso Downs Hall of Fame and considered to be among the legends of the sport.

Martin suffered a career ending accident at Ruidoso Downs Friday, Sept. 2, when his mount in a maiden claiming race broke down just passed the finish line. According to reports, Martin was thrown hard to the ground, and in an instant his life had changed.

Later Friday night, Martin was air-lifted from Lincoln County Hospital in Ruidoso to University Medical Center in El Paso, where he has been stabilizing since the accident. As in many of these types of injuries, there was early hope that paralysis would subside with the swelling, but by Saturday, the El Paso Times was reporting that wife and agent Tracey Martin had confirmed that her husband was paralyzed from the neck down.

Jacky Martin was scheduled to ride morning line favorite and eventual winner Ochoa in the $2.4 million All American Futurity at Ruidoso Downs Monday for trainer Dwayne “Sleepy” Gilbreath. "Jacky Martin told me this horse has so much potential, and when Jacky tells you that, you listen," Gilbreath said after the All American victory. "I'm thinking of Jacky; he's meant so much to our team."

According to University Medical Center staff, Martin remains in critical condition, when contacted Wednesday afternoon by The Brock Talk. The hospital spokesperson was not able to elaborate due to hospital policy, but did say that Martin is listed as a “publicity patient” and that cards, letters, flowers and plants are being accepted at the hospital.

To Send Cards and Flowers:
University Medical Center
4815 Alameda Place
c/o Jacky Martin
El Paso, Texas 79905

No floor or room information is necessary for delivery to Martin according to the hospital spokesperson.

There is also a Jacky Martin Get Well Card on Facebook, of which I am the administrator. Any updates I receive will be posted there and one can leave messages, thoughts and prayers for Mr. Martin and his family on that page as well.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Add Options to Havre de Grace Arsenal In Horse of the Year Race

Thanks to Havre de Grace (photo right) and her win over males in the $750,000 Woodward Stakes (gr. I) Saturday, we finally have a front runner for Horse of the Year.

With the Breeders’ Cup coming in 60 days or so, there are plenty of races left, especially since Havre de Grace can return to her division of fillies and mares with little else to prove. But without much doubt the Larry Jones-trained filly has jumped a big hurdle and now has a choice of paths no that she has done so.

If Havre de Grace were a colt or gelding, she would be left choosing between the two grade I races on each coast considered to be the main prep races for the $5,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Classic. Those would be the $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park and the $250,000 Goodwood Stakes at Santa Anita, both to be run Oct. 1.

Left for 3-year-old males with championship aspirations are three grade II derbies in the Super (Sept. 10 at Louisiana Downs), Pennsylvania (Sept. 24 at Parx Racing) and Indiana (Oct. 1 at Hoosier Park). Those are still options for the Coils, Shacklefords and Uncle Mos of the 2011 racing world but obviously not Havre de Grace.

But because Havre de Grace is a female – and a 4-year-old filly who has now defeated a grade 1 bunch of boys on the main track and around two turns to boot – she has additional options.

Jones has said Havre de Grace can handle 10 furlongs, but he feels she excels more at nine furlongs. Since Havre de Grace has already defeated males in Woodward, the 1-1/8 mile (9 fur.) Ladies Classic seems the most likely final race of the year. The Classic is 1-1/4 miles (10 fur.)

But what to do between now and then?

The first option for Jones and Havre de Grace is to do nothing and take her current credentials into the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs.

Why? Her resume now includes four wins, in five graded races this year. She has won the grade 1 Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park, the Woodward and two grade 3 stakes in the Azeri, also at Oaklawn; and the Obeah at Delaware Park. Her only loss this year was to Blind Luck, an arch rival she defeated in the Azeri in the grade 2 but lost to by a nose in the Delaware Handicap (gr. 2) last race. So that score is even at one apiece this year. The championships between those two will likely be decided during the Breeders’ Cup, one way or the other, so there is little gained by either before going to Churchill Downs in terms of points or credentials.

It may be all up to timing however.

Why Not? Although Havre de Grace has four wins after four career vacations of 30 days or more, trainer Jones was not happy with her performance in the Obeah this year coming off of a two-month break. The Ladies Classic and Classic are 63 and 64 days after the Woodward respectively. Doubtful Jones wants to try that two-month break again before what may be the biggest race of the St. Liam daughter's career.

The second option would be to run in the grade 1 Beldame against fillies and mares at Belmont Park on Oct. 1, the same day as the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Why? Quite frankly, Havre de Grace will need the race. Although it has been 1999 since Beautiful Pleasure last used the Beldame winner’s circle as a spring board to winning the Ladies Classic (formally the Breeders’ Cup Distaff until 2008 when the name was changed to the current moniker), the $350,000 Beldame is the most logical prep race for East Coast fillies and mares. And Havre de Grace is stabled at nearby Delaware Park. Not that travel bothers Havre de Grace; she has won in four different states. It is more of a question of why when one does not have too.

Why Not? Although trainer Jerry Hollendorfer is considering the Beldame for Blind Luck, far be it from Larry Jones to back down from her – especially on a pseudo home court as Blind Luck is stabled on the West Coast and Havre de Grace in Delaware.

In the end, however, Hollendorfer will probably opt to run Blind Luck in the Lady's Secret instead of the Beldame, for the very reason Havre de Grace will not be seriously considering the Santa Anita trip from Delaware.

The Jockey Club Gold Cup would also be an option, but Jones told the NYRA press team recently that 1-1/4 miles is not the best distance for Havre de Grace. The Beldame is at 9 furlongs, a Havre de Grace favorite. Plus, with the Woodward feather in Havre de Grace's cap, there would be little to gain by her defeating males again.

The Jockey Club Gold Cup may be easier than the Beldame should Blind Luck come east, but then again, it may very well may not be easier, regardless of who is in the Beldame.

One of the few things that stand in the way of either Blind Luck or Havre de Grace being named Horse of the Year, is an older horse such as Pacific Classic winner Acclamation or Whitney winner Tizway finishing the year by winning their respective prep race and then the Classic.

That may not be enough to stop the female that wins the Beldame and Ladies Classic, or Lady's Secret and Ladies Classic; be it Havre de Grace or Blind Luck.

Yes, Havre de Grace has taken a lead in the race for the Horse of the Year. And yes, there is still plenty of racing left in these final 60 days or so before the Breeders’ Cup. But whatever path that lay ahead for Havre de Grace, she made each a little easier by adding the Woodward to her arsenal.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Havreing Horse of the Year Aspirations

Trainer Larry Jones is quite forthcoming about the motivation behind entering Havre de Grace in Saturday’s grade 1 Woodward Stakes against the boys. “We’re trying to do something to move her closer to a championship,” Jones told the Saratoga media department. “If she does beat the boys, it puts us back in front of the pack [among older fillies and mares] and into the hunt for Horse of the Year. But we have a lot to do before the end of the year.”

That work begins in the $750,000, nine furlong Woodward, a race established in 1954 and won by only one female. “I don’t usually keep up with those kinds of things,” Jones said when asked about the history of fillies versus colts and geldings in the Woodward. “But I do remember what other filly [won the Woodward] though, I was up here [at Saratoga] and watched it,” referring to Rachel Alexandra winning the 2009 Woodward.

To further illustrate how unique it is for a filly or mare to defeat males in a major race in the Summer or Fall, consider that only five fillies or mares have won Saratoga’s other grade 1 route race on dirt, the Whitney Handicap, in the 82-year history of that race. Black Marie and the great daughter of Man o’ War, Bateau, won the first two Whitneys in 1928 and ‘29 respectively while Gallorette won the 1948 version. Two of the great mares of their generation, Lady’s Secret (’86) and Personal Ensign (’88) were also Whitney winners.

The Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I), run since 1919, has been won by only two females; Shuvee won the Gold Cup twice in 1970 and’71; and My Play won in 1924.

Further West, only three fillies have won the prestigious Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I): Happy Issue (1944), Two Lea (’52) and Princessnesian (’68) and no fillies or mares have won the Pacific Classic (gr. I) at Del Mar nor the Goodwood Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita. For all of her greatness, Zenyatta only defeated the males once. That came on the West coast when she became the only filly or mare to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr.I).

Should Havre de Grace make the run for Horse of the Year that Jones and owner Rick Porter are publicly hoping for, the Woodward may be just the first step, but it would at least be instant justification for the title. By no means does that mean a Woodward victory would solidify the Horse of the Year honor, but would very much qualify her for the discussion.

At this point, if Havre de Grace has any hope for Horse of the Year, a Woodward victory would help, but not guarantee. Remember Havre de Grace lost to nemisis Blind Luck by a nose in their last match-up in the Delaware Handicap (gr. I). It may come down to a possible match between the two at Churchill Downs in the Breeders’ Cup the first week of November assuming Blind Luck also wins her next race which may be the Lady’s Secret (gr. I) at Santa Anita Oct. 1.

Despite the last loss to Blind Luck, some may still debate that Havre de Grace has a better resume thus far in 2011. In three other starts this year, the daughter of 2005 Horse of the Year St. Liam has won the grade 3 Azeri and grade 1 Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park; and the Obeah (gr. III) at Delaware Park. Blind Luck started the year with three seconds, including one to Havre de Grace in the Azeri, before winning the grade II La Troienne at Churchill and the grade I Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park before the matchup in Delaware.

When debating Horse of the Year, it is also important not to forget Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom, Travers winner Stay Thirsty, Preakness winner Shackleford, not to mention the upcoming winners of the Woodward (assuming Havre de Grace does not win), Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park, Goodwood Stakes at Santa Anita and of course, the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

No doubt there are plenty of barriers between Havre de Grace and the Horse of the Year title. The most immediate of which are three colts, two horses and a gelding that will be waiting for Havre de Grace in the Saratoga paddock just prior to the Woodward. Those seven are also in a position to keep the 4-year-old filly from joining the list of legendary females that includes Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, Personal Ensign, Lady’s Secret and the like by keeping her out of the winner’s circle following the Woodward.

However bold or bragadocious it may be to set a goal on Labor Day weekend for Horse of the Year on Labor Day weekend, the point remains it is realistic.