The Brock Talk

Friday, January 27, 2012

Despite Training Trends, Holy Bull Remains Important Step On Kentucky Derby Trail

A couple of things about the Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III) from an historical point of view may help put this weekend’s early Derby prep into perspective. The $400,000 Holy Bull will be run Sunday at Gulfstream Park with a field of six going the one-turn mile. The lead story line for this year’s Holy Bull Stakes is the 2012 debut of Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) winner and champion 2-year-old male Hansen (photo right).

Even if Hansen is successful in his debut, there have been few Holy Bull winners who also went on to don the blanket of roses in the winners’ circle of the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. 1). The only Holy Bull winners to also win the Kentucky Derby later were Barbaro in 2006 (photo below left) and Go For Gin in 1994 but others have faired well enough at Churchill Downs.

First run in 1990 as The Preview Stakes, the Holy Bull was created to replace the Flamingo Stakes that had been run at then closed Hialeah race track. The Holy Bull has been run at three different distances in its more than 20-year history, going as far as 1-1/8 miles, to 1-1/16 miles, to its current distance of one mile in various orders and years.

The shortened distance makes the Holy Bull perhaps a more attractive prep race for horses that are considering the Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown and need or want at least three starts to prepare for and attempt to qualify for the Kentucky Derby. The Holy Bull is part of a series of graded races at Gulfstream Park for 3-year-olds that also includes the Feb. 26 Fountain of Youth (gr. II) at 1-1/16 miles and the 1-1/8 mile Florida Derby (gr. 1) on Mar. 31. This year the Kentucky Derby will be run May 5.

The 2011 Holy Bull Stakes produced two eventual Kentucky Derby starters in Dialed In and Mucho Macho Man. Dialed In gave trainer Nick Zito his record third victory in the Holy Bull Stakes last year (along with Go For Gin and Suave Prospect in 1995). Dialed In later won the Florida Derby last year before finishing a disappointing ninth in the Kentucky Derby.

Third in last year’s Holy Bull, Mucho Macho Man would go on to also run third in the Kentucky Derby and join Animal Kingdom and Shackleford as the only horses to start in all three Triple Crown races last year. Mucho Macho Man was sixth in the Preakness (gr. I) and seventh in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I).

West Side Bernie, third in the 2009 Holy Bull Stakes; and Homeboy Kris, third a year later in the Holy Bull, would both make the Kentucky Derby but neither fared well in their Run for the Roses. West Side Bernie was ninth behind Mine That Bird and Homeboy Kris was 16th in the Derby won by Super Saver.

Until last year when two Holy Bull starters made it the Kentucky Derby, the Holy Bull has not had a strong connection to the Derby. Recent Derby winning horsemen have leaned toward starting their promising sophomores only twice before the Kentucky Derby and closer to the race than the late January Holy Bull. Of the last five Kentucky Derby winners since Barbaro, all started in only two Kentucky Derby prep races with only Mine That Bird starting as early as February. The 2009 Derby winner began his 3-year-old year running second in the $100,000 Borderland Derby at Sunland Park on Feb. 28.

Animal Kingdom last year, Super Saver (2010), Big Brown (2008) and Street Sense (2007) all made their first starts of their respective years in March preceding their Kentucky Derby wins.

Despite being the expected heavy favorite, a victory in Sunday’s Holy Bull is certainly not a necessity for Hansen. His winner’s check of $600,000 in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile insures him a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate if he can stay sound and competitive. The Derby is limited to 20 starters with earnings in graded races used to determine the eligible entrants. But the competition only gets tougher as the Derby draws near and it is doubtful that trainer Mike Maker and owners Dr. Hansen Kendall and Sky Chai Racing want to go to Louisville based only on last year’s accomplishments.

A victory in the Holy Bull would be much more impactful for any of the other five starters, of which none have any graded earnings. The $240,000 first-place check in the Holy Bull would place any of the other five in the top ten on the current list of 3-year-olds with graded earnings and likely enough to eventually qualify for the Kentucky Derby. Currently $105,000 in graded earnings makes the top 20, but that is likely to be a very fluid number during the next three months before those Derby slots are awarded.

Second and third-place checks of $80,000 and $40,000 in the Holy Bull respectively will leave plenty of work for those starting this race with a zero balance in their graded stakes bankrolls – but every little bit may help. West Side Bernie, Homeboy Kris and Mucho Macho Man have proven that a third in the late January Holy Bull does not qualify nor disqualify one from making it to Kentucky for the first Saturday in May.

If nothing else, a good performance in the Holy Bull Sunday remains important in creative rose colored hopeds for these six 3-year-olds, their connections and their quest to make it the prestigious Kentucky Derby.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

New Sunshine Millions Showcases Florida Stars

The Florida Sunshine Millions takes on a new format in 2012 when the six-race event for Florida-breds highlights the Saturday card at Gulfstream Park. In year’s past, the Sunshine Million consisted of eight races run at Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita (four races at each track), with Florida-breds and California-breds competing against each other.

Whether it was the format change or not however, the $1.3 million program has attracted two Champions making their 2012 debuts in Awesome Feather and Musical Romance and the popular Mucho Macho Man, third in the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) last year behind winner Animal Kingdom.

Awesome Feather was named Champion Two-Year-Old Filly in 2010 after she finished the year undefeated in six races including winning the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. 1) at Churchill Downs. Last year, her 3-year-old campaign was stymied by tendon issues but she came back late in the year to win two stakes. She won the Le Slew Stakes at Belmont Park and the grade 1 Gazelle Stakes at Aqueduct last year before trainer Chad Brown gave her a bit of a winter break. The daughter of Awesome of Course has been at Palm Meadows Training Center where she has been preparing for her return in the $300,000 Florida Millions Distaff. A win Saturday would extend her career undefeated streak to nine wins.

Musical Romance was just named the Champion Filly or Mare Sprinter of 2011 after her year that included winning three stakes at Calder Race Course near Miami, the Presque Isle Downs Master Stakes (gr. II) and the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (gr. I) at Churchill Downs. Trained by Bill Kaplan who owns the Concorde’s Tune filly with Adam Lazarus’ Pinnacle Racing Stable, Musical Romance will likely be favored in the $150,000 Sunshine Million Filly and Mare Sprint at six furlongs.

Mucho Macho Man makes his seasonal debut at Gulfstream Park the last weekend of January for the second consecutive year having finished fourth behind Dialed In in the Holy Bull Stakes (gr. II) last year. He then won the Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) and finished third in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) at Fairgrounds in New Orleans before going on to the Kentucky Derby. Although he disappointed by finishing sixth and seventh in the Preakness and Belmont respectively, Mucho Macho Man was among only Animal Kingdom and Shackleford to start in all three legs of last year’s Triple Crown.

Mucho Macho Man was then sidelined until his successful return when easily winning an Nov. 9 allowance race at Aqueduct. The son of Macho Uno trained by Kathy Ritvo, is perhaps the pre-race star of the $400,000 Sunshine Million Classic, but figures to be well challenged by Adios Charlie and Duke of Mishchief.

Although Adios Charlie did not make it to any of the Triple Crown races last year, he had a successful 3-year-old campaign winning the Jerome (gr. II) at Aqueduct in April and finishing second in the both Peter Pan (gr. II) and Dwyer (gr. II) later in the year.

Duke of Mischief last year won the Charles Town Classic (gr. III) and was second in the Sunshine Classic to Tackleberry. The 6-year-old son of Graeme Hall is a veteran of the older horse ranks with wins in the Philip Iselin (gr. III) and Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II) and nearly $1.7 million in earnings on his resume.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Rachel Alexandra Colt Will Fight History of Mediocrity Among Peers With Horse of the Year Parents

While not making quite the buzz that Beyonce and Jay Z did with the announcement of their new daughter Blue Ivy Carter, Rachel Alexanda and Curlin have produced the newest celebrity colt in the Thoroughbred world.

According to reports, the colt was born at 2:40 pm Sunday at Stonestreet Farm near Lexington, Kentucky. The 125-pound colt has a white blaze on his face similar to his mother but will have much to live up to with his decorated parents.

Rachel Alexandra (photo right) was named Horse of the Year in 2009 after completing what many consider to be the greatest racing campaign by a 3-year-old filly in North American racing history.

A daughter of Medaglia d’Oro, Rachel Alexandra became the first filly since Nellie Morse in 1924 to win the Preakness Stakes (gr. 1) and only the fifth filly in history to win the second leg of the Triple Crown. She also became the first female to win the grade 1 Woodward Stakes at Saratoga, a feat duplicated only by 2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace.

Curlin was a two-time Horse of the Year in 2007-’08 with his most important victories coming in the Preakness and $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. 1) at age three, and the group 1 Dubai World Cup, the world’s richest race at $6 million, in 2008 at age four.

Both Curlin and Rachel Alexandra raced for the late Jess Jackson’s Stonestreet Stable with partners. Currently, Rachel Alexandra and the colt are owned by Jackson’s wife, Barbara Banke and partner Hal McCormack. While the colt would surely be of great value at public auction, Banke said in a released statement, “For me and my children, this colt represents Jess’ dream – to raise and race the best. Co-owner Hal McCormick and I look forward to watching him develop and are excited to see him carry the Stonestreet silks as his Mom and Dad did before him.”

Previous to Rachel Alexandra, the last female to be named Horse of the Year was Azeri (photo left) in 2002. After retirement, Azeri was bred to leading sire Storm Cat in 2005, but did not produce a foal. The next three years, Azeri was bred to former Horse of the Year title holders A.P. Indy, Giant’s Causeway (European Horse of the Year), and Ghostzapper.

The A.P. Indy breeding resulted in a colt that sold for $1.9 million as a 2-year-old in training at Keeneland in 2009. The colt, later named Take Control, won only a maiden race and $27,000 at Santa Anita in one career start.

The Giant’s Causeway breeding with Azeri was more successful on the track, producing a filly named Arienza that would win $112,188 from five starts and two wins (although she was purchased for $800,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale.) Arienza was also graded stakes placed, finishing second to Joyful Victory in the 2011 Fantasy Stakes (gr. 2) at Oaklawn Park.

Ghostzapper also produced a filly with Azeri who would bring $475,000 a year later in the same Keeneland September yearling sale but has never raced. Azeri currently resides in Japan after being sold at auction herself for $2.25 million to breeder Katsumi Yoshida in the 2009 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale. She also had a 2010 foal by Distorted Humor.

Lady’s Secret, the female Horse of the Year in 1986, was also never able to produce a runner any where near her caliber. She produced 13 foals before dying in 2003, with only two earning six figures and two others that won on the track. Her most successful foal was a filly by Mr. Prospector that made $516,602 and another filly by Horse of the Year and Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew. The Seattle Slew filly retired with $115,247 in career earnings. Both won all of their money while racing in Japan.

So while there are many who are excited about the arrival of the new Rachel Alexandra colt with Horse of the Year titles won by both mom and dad, history says the little fella will be fighting a trend of mediocre racing careers by those with similar credentials in their pedigrees.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Lecomte Has Kentucky Derby Opportunites For Horses and Fans

The trail to the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) passes through New Orleans Saturday as 13 aspiring young thoroughbred line up in the $175,000 Lecomte Stakes (gr. III) at Fair Grounds. The 1-mile and 70 yards Lecomte is the first serious prep race for the $1 million Louisiana Derby (gr. II) April 1, itself a major prep for the Kentucky Derby on May 5.

While some may discount races this early in the year as not having much of an impact on the Derby compared to races in March and April (tell us some more fascinating and useful information there Captain Obvious), it should be noted that the 2009 Lecomte was won by future Kentucky Derby favorite Freisan Fire and Kentucky Derby runner-up Hard Spun in 2007. Between those two, Z Fortune won the Lecomte on his way to starting in the Derby.

Last year 13 of the 20 starters in the Run for the Roses had a January race in their past performances. It should also be noted that 2011 Champion and Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Hansen makes a start next weekend at Gulfstream Park and as recent as Barbaro in 2006, the winner of America’s most prestigious horse race ran in the preceding January.

According to Daily Racing Form, Wynn Casino and Sports Book Las Vegas has given future win odds to some 320 potential Kentucky Derby starters with only 42 (13%) of those having odds of 85-1 or less. Two Lecomte starters make that group of 42. Exfactor at 5-1 in the Lecomte morning line and Hammers Terror (6-1) are both 75-1 to win the Kentucky Derby according to Watchmaker.

Interestingly, Lecomte favorite Shared Property is 4-1 to win Saturday, but has much higher Kentucky odds at 175-1 than Exfactor and Hammers Terror. If one likes to place future book wagers, there might be added value there.

Shared Property is trained by Tom Amoss (photo left) who has won two of the twelve runnings of the Lecomte. Amoss won the first Lecomte in 1999 with Some Actor and won again with Ron the Greek in 2010. Shared Property makes his third career start in the Lecomte after breaking his maiden at Ellis Park in July, winning the Arlington Washington Futurity (gr. III) in September before finishing sixth in the grade 1 Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity in his last race Oct. 8. The son of the young stallion Scat Daddy breaks from the far outside in the field of 13 but jockey Leanardo Goncalves should have less trouble getting further inside because Shared Property has preferred to win from the back of the pack in previous races.

Exfactor has won four of five career starts including the grade 3 Bashford Manor Stakes (gr. III) at Churchill Downs and more recently the $158,000 Sugar Bowl Stakes at Fairgrounds in December. Trained by Bernie Flint, Exfactor breaks from the more favorable four post with jockey Shaun Bridgmohan. Exfactor will be making his first trip around two turns in the Lecomte, so distance may still be a question for the son of Exchange Rate, himself a winner of the Risen Star Stakes (gr. III) at Fairgrounds in 2000.

Hammers Terror has already won at the mile and 70 yard distance at Fairgrounds, but that was against allowance/optional claiming company. The Michael Stidham trainee makes his stakes debut in the Lecomte after also breaking his maiden at Keeneland in his second try last year.

Seven Lively Sins is the second choice in the Lecomte morning line at 9-2 and makes his third try in stakes company after finishing second in the grade 3 Iroquois at Churchill in October and fourth Delta Downs Jackpot (gr. III) in November. Seven Lively Sins is 175-1 in the Daily Racing Form line to win the Kentucky Derby.

Of the others in the Lecomte, only Alexander Thegreat (30-1 in the Lecomte morning line) and Adena’s Chance are not listed in Watchmaker’s Daily Racing Form Derby possibilities.

The Lecomte is a solid race on its own merit, but it could easily produce a Kentucky Derby contender to follow for the next three and a-half months. It has some apparent opportunities for those who like to bet Kentucky Derby future books too.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Hansen Gets Rodney Treatment For An Eclipse Champion

Despite his victory in the prestigious Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Monday night being honored with an Eclipse Award as Champion Two-Year-Old Male, one would think Hansen (photo right) returns to training this year among a wave of popularity. After all, his eventual task now is to carry that success to Churchill Downs in May and win America’s most prestigious race, the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). Nothing in January insures victory in May of course, but with all of the accolades, one would think the reigning champ would at least be the favorite for the Derby.

Not so fast say the future book odds-makers.

Despite his last two significant accomplishments, the son of the successful young sire Tapit is not among the top three choices to the Kentucky Derby according to the Derby future book on The on-line betting service has Breeders’ Cup runner-up Union Rags as the favorite at 10-1 with Algorithms and Liason both second choice at 12-1. Hansen is co-fourth choice at 15-1 with Alpha. That’s right: Hansen can’t even eek out solo position for fourth choice in the wagering circles.

After a brief break, Hansen has returned to trainer Mike Maker’s barn at Gulfstream Park in Florida where he is expected to make his 2012 debut in a stake race there according to reports.

However, owner Dr. Kendall Hansen has indicated that the Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes (gr. III) in late March at Turfway Park in northern Kentucky is the eventual planned Kentucky Derby prep race. Hansen broke his maiden and won the $95,000 Kentucky Cup Juvenile at Turfway in 2011 before winning the prestigious Juvenile. Last year, Animal Kingdom used his victory in the Spiral Stakes as his final race before also winning the Kentucky Derby.

Union Rags was also the heavy post time favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with near even odds and an undefeated record at the time from three starts. Trained by Michael Matz who won the 2006 Kentucky Derby with the ill-fated Barbaro, Union Rags won the Saratoga Special and one mile Champagne Stakes as a 2-year-old but will need to prove he can handle the longer races leading up to and including the Triple Crown. A son of Dixie Union and out of the Gone West mare Tempo, Union Rags is currently the 10-1 favorite to win the Kentucky Derby on May 5.

Algorithms is from the large group of potential Derby horses trained by 2011 Eclipse Award nominee Todd Pletcher and is also one of many sons of the popular and productive young sire Bernardini. Although he has no stakes wins to his credit, Algorithms is undefeated in two races including a maiden win in June and then an allowance optional claiming race at Gulfstream Park in December, defeating fellow Bernardini son and Derby hopeful Consortium trained by Kairan McLaughlin.

Liason is another in a line of Indian Charlie sons trained by three-time Derby winner Bob Baffert. After losing his first start in a one mile allowance race at Del Mar in early September, Liason has won three straight including the $100,000 Real Quiet Stakes and grade 1 CashCall Futurity, both 1-1/16 mile races at Hollywood Park in the late Fall.

Along with Hansen at 15-1 in the gohorsebetting future line is Alpha, also by Bernardini. Another trained by McLaughlin, Alpha is one of the first winners on this year’s trail to the Kentucky Derby, taking Aqueduct’s Count Fleet Stakes Jan. 7.

As a 2-year-old, Alpha garnered some attention finishing second to Union Rags in the grade 1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park in preparation for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. While not among the favorites in the Juvenile, Alpha compromised his chances before the start of the Juvenile by being fractious in the gate. Alpha still broke well and raced into early competition down the backstretch in the Juvenile, but when the serious running started, Alpha didn’t and eventually finished 11th.

It is still 108 days before the Kentucky Derby which is an eternity for trainers trying to get their horses to the Run for the Roses. And the odds-makers nor their probabilities have any influence as to who will be wearing the blanket of roses at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.

Like a college football coach ranked number one in preseason polls, Maker and Dr. Hansen will probably tell you they prefer not to wear that extra target on their back as Hansen the thoroughbred begins his sophomore campaign and trip down the trail to Kentucky and beyond.

But for a champion, they they must feel a little too much like a Rodney for a Hansen.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Fat Lady Still Humming A Few Bars In Horse of the Year Race

I, and many in racing for that matter, expect history tonight at the Eclipse Awards. When they get down to giving out the golden Eclipse trophy for Horse of the Year, Havre de Grace may become the third consecutive female to be so named. Not since Hanover won the first North American Horse of the year title in 1887, has the title gone to females in three consecutive years.

Only once have females been named Horse of the Year in two consecutive years. Twilight Tear in 1944 and Busher in 1945 pulled the Horse of the Year double so-to-speak nearly 70 years ago. Havre de Grace would also be the fourth female in ten years to be Horse of the Year with Azeri getting the title in 2002. So there is certainly no female bias among the Eclipse Award voters.

Rachel Alexandra was Horse of the Year in 2010 after what many consider to be the greatest campaign ever by an American 3-year-old filly. The record setting Zenyatta was Horse of the Year last year. Both were substantially more popular and accomplished than Havre de Grace, but the now 5-year-old daughter of St. Liam (Horse of the Year himself in 2005) is still the favorite this year.

Of course this could all be for not if Acclamation is named Horse of the Year tonight by the voters at Daily Racing Form, the National Turf Writers Association and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. And that upset could very well happen. At the very least, the race may be closer than some assume.

Like Havre de Grace, Acclamation, who will likely be named champion grass horse and possibly champion handicap horse at the ceremony at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, Ca., won five graded races during the year. Havre de Grace is the heavy favorite to also take home an Eclipse for Handicap Mare.

Both won a major grade 1 race around two turns, against older horses on the main track. Acclamation won the Pacific Classic at Del Mar and Havre de Grace won the Woodward at Saratoga.

Acclamation’s four other wins included the Jim Murray Handicap (gr. IIT) at Hollywood Park, the Charles Whittingham Handicap (gr. IT) at Hollywood Park, the Eddie Read (gr. IT) at Del Mar and the Clement L. Hirsch (gr. IIT) at Santa Anita.

In addition to the Woodward, Havre de Grace won the Azeri (gr. III) and Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I) at Oaklawn Park, the Obeah Stakes (gr. III) at Delaware Park, the Beldame (gr. I) at Belmont Park.

Havre de Grace had two losses last year: losing in July by a nose in the grade 2 Delaware Handicap to finish second to her nemesis Blind Luck. She ended the year finishing sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Acclamation lost twice to start the year before rattling off his five wins in consecutive order. The then 5-year-old horse finished fifth in the Frank E. Kilroe Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita in March, then finished and last of ten in the sloppy Charles Town Classic (gr. III) in West Virginia in February before the Jim Murray.

The Charles Town trip was Acclamation’s only foray away from his base in Southern California running all of his other races at Santa Anita, Hollywood Park and Del Mar. Havre de Grace raced in four different states including Arkansas, Delaware, New York and Kentucky.

Havre de Grace ran up a 2011 bankroll of more than $1.3 million while Acclamation was also a millionaire last year with $1,126,000 in earnings.

So despite the popular notion that Havre de Grace will be named Horse of the Year tonight, it is not a certainty. Looking at the actual 2011 race records and statistics of the two horses, there are actually few things that separate them. Havre de Grace will probably get points from certain voters for her travel schedule and for continuing her rivalry with Blind Luck during the year. (The two met for the fifth and sixth time this year: each winning one while the other was second.) Acclamation may be more popular among west coast voters.

No matter where the votes come from or why, tonight's Eclispe Award announcement for Horse of the Year, may be just a little more dramatic than some assume. If not dramatic, at least the Fat Lady has not completely ended her performance.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Flat Out, Jackson Bend Make 2012 Debuts at Gulfstream Park

Three years ago this weekend, trainer Charles “Scotter” Dickey won the $50,000 Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park with a promising 3-year-old son of Flatter for owner Art Preston’s Preston Stables LLC. It was a solid three and-a-half length victory for Flat Out in only his third career start and enough to put him on the road to the 2009 Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). But feet ailments would soon begin to plague Flat Out and during a sixth-place finish in the Arkansas Derby (gr. 2) in April, a fractured shoulder was added to the colt’s injury list, ending the colt's chances to go to Kentucky for the Run for the Roses.

Disappointed but not discouraged, Dickey and Preston did not retire Flat Out, but put him on a 20-month rehabilitation that resulted in a successful return to the races in December of 2010, winning an optional claiming race at Fairgrounds. Still battling for a full recovery, it would be six months again before his next start, a second place finish to Awesome Gem in the Lone Star Park Handicap (gr. III) last May. But that was just the beginning of a year that ended with wins in the grade 2 Suburban Handicap and Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) at Belmont Park, seconds in both the Whitney Handicap (gr. I) and Woodward (gr. I) at Saratoga and perhaps the top older handicap horse in North America.

Flat Out ended the year with a disappointing sixth place finish behind winner Drosselmeyer in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. 1) at Churchill Downs in November and earned some time off for some well deserved rest. But there would be no more long rehabilitation.

Apparently Dickey figures Flat Out has missed enough racing in his career because they start 2012 quickly with his turf debut Saturday in the $100,000 Ft. Lauderdale Stakes (gr. 3T) at Gulfstream Park. The 1-1/16-mile Ft. Lauderdale will be the turf debut for Flat Out against eleven others that include grade 1 winner Teaks North and European group I winner Mutual Trust.

“We worked him on the turf here and decided on this race for a combination of reasons,” Dickey said Wednesday morning. “We still want to try him on the turf and the timing is right to get to the Donn Handicap (gr. I). If we waited and ran him in the Sunshine Millions (Classic on Jan. 28) it would probably be too quick back to make the Donn (Feb. 11).”

The Saturday card at Gulfstream Park also features the grade 3 Hal’s Hope Stakes at one mile for older horses where the popular Jackson Bend makes his first start of the year. Trained by Nick Zito, the Florida-bred Jackson Bend was last seen finishing third to Amazombie in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I) in November. Before that he was second to Uncle Mo in the grade 2 Kelso Handicap at Belmont Park and he won the grade 1 Forego at Saratoga at seven furlongs.

The Hal’s Hope has drawn a field of nine that also includes Successful Mission and Soaring Empire, both stakes winners at Monmouth Park in New Jersey in their last starts. Successful Mission is making his first start since winning the $77,000 Elkwood Stakes in May and Soaring Empire returns after winning the $100,000 Majestic Light Stakes in late July.

Filly On Fire Baby Challenges Colts in Smarty Jones
Returning to the Smarty Jones Stakes, the 2012 version runs during a special opening weekend Monday card at Oaklawn Park and is the first in a series of races for sophomores leading up to the grade I Arkansas Derby in April then Kentucky Derby in May. The $100,000 Smarty Jones this year is likely to feature the filly On Fire Baby taking on the boys in an interesting early Derby story line. Trained by Gary Hartlage, On Fire Baby won the Pocahontas Stakes (gr. II) and Golden Rod Stakes (gr. II) at Churchill Downs last Fall against fillies.

Trainer Gary Hartlage talking about On Fire Baby

Further west, early action on the Derby trail gets under way in the $100,000 California Derby Saturday at Golden Gate Fields near San Francisco where trainer Jerry Hollendorfer has two contenders. Hollendorfer will saddle Russian Greek, winner of the Dec. 10 Gold Rush Stakes at Golden Gate; and maiden race winner Reconstruction.

The California Derby will also include Southern California invader Hodge, third in the Hollywood Prevue Stakes (gr. III) in November; Blacky the Bull and Cahill Chrome, third and fourth respectively in the Gold Rush. The California Derby is the local prep race for the grade 3 El Camino Real Derby in February.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

US Stars Have Dubai World Cup In Sights

With the recent announcement by trainer Bill Mott (photo right) that Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic winner Royal Delta will be pointed to the $10 million Dubai World Cup sponsored by Emirates Airlines, it appears the United States will again be well represented in the March 31 race. Earlier this month, trainer Graham Motion told Daily Racing Form that 2011 Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands winner Animal Kingdom is also scheduled for the world’s richest horse race. The Dubai World Cup is run annually at the luxurious Meydan Race Club in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Royal Delta, purchased for $8.5 million at the Keeneland November Sale by Ben Leon’s Besilu Stables from breeder Palides Investments N. V., has been training lightly at Payson Park training Center in Florida and may make the Dubai World Cup her first start of the year. Last year as a 3-year-old, Royal Delta also won the Alabama Stakes and Black Eyed Susan Stakes in addition to her big score in the Ladies Classic. Mott will be trying for his second World Cup victory after winning the inaugural edition with Cigar in 1996.

Meanwhile, Animal Kingdom has been training more aggressively from Motion’s barn at Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland and may be headed to the Gulfstream Park Handicap on grass Feb. 11 before heading to Dubai for the World Cup. Motion also told Daily Racing Form that he has not ruled out a February turf race in Dubai either.

Two-time Dubai World Cup winning trainer Bob Baffert has also indicated that his star older horse, Game On Dude (photo left), may also make the international trip to Dubai this year. Game On Dude was last seen finishing second to Drosselmeyer in the Nov. 5 Breeders’ Cup Classic and also won the Santa Anita Handicap and Goodwood Stakes at Santa Anita last year. Baffert won the 1998 Dubai World Cup with Kentucky Derby winner Silver Charm and the 2001 World Cup with Captain Steve.

Baffert told Daily Racing Form that he is planning to start Game On Dude next in the San Antonio Stakes Feb. 5 at Santa Anita and then will decide between defending his title in the $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap or shipping to the Dubai World Cup after that.

The 10-furlong Dubai World Cup has been won by North American-based horses seven times. Others include Pleasantly Perfect in 2004 and Invasor, Curlin and Well Armed in 2007-09 respectively. Street Cry, winner of the 2002 World Cup, had raced in the United States at age two and three but was based in Dubai during the winter of his 4-year-old campaign and was owned by Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum of Dubai. Sheikh Maktoum is the Vice President of the U.A.E., ruler of Dubai and owner of Meydan Race Club.

Help Needed For Large Louisiana Thoroughbred Rescue

The Louisiana Horse Rescue, Remember Me Rescue, Sabine Humane Society and the Louisiana State school of veterinary medicine are asking for your assistance in a 60-horse seizure currently underway in Many, Louisiana.

According to the Remember Me website and reports from KSLA-TV in Shreveport, La., some 25 horses have already been found dead with others assumed buried at the farm owned by Charles Ray Ford, 46, a thoroughbred owner and breeder in the Ark-La-Tex area.

Sabine Parish District Attorney Don Burkett reportedly has been to the site where some 53 broodmares and 20 yearlings were believed to be located as recent as 2010, and has indicated that felony animal cruelty charges will be levied against Ford. KSLA-TV reports also said they were told Burkett would levy a separate charge for each horse affected, whether deceased or starving. Less than half of the broodmares and only six yearlings have been found at the farm.

Horses that are healthy enough to move are being taken to New Orleans where they will be evaluated and rehabilitated. Remember Me reports on their website that the cost to care for the horses is currently $450 per day. Remember Me is a Texas-based horse rescue operation run by Donna Keen, wife of trainer Dallas Keen who races in Texas and Louisiana.

For more information and to help financially, go to the Remember Me website.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Back and Better Than Ever

Happy New Year and my apologies for the late start. My wife and I got hit with some kind of cold/flu “this, that and the otheritis” and have been totally out of commission since Christmas. But now it's time to get started and return to the world of blogging about Thoroughbred racing and breeding.

I’m predicting a good year for horse racing with the return of many stars and a sophomore class that has yet to define their leading Kentucky Derby candidates. Five-year-old Caracortado, last seen finishing fifth to Regally Ready in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs in November, has been one of the first stars of previous years to debut the year successfully, winning the grade 3 (Turf) Daytona Stakes at Santa Anita over the weekend, defeating Really Ready (DH for third) and Victory Pete (second) in the process. Mr. Gruff was the other in the dead heat for show.

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Hansen and runner-up Union Rags are the probably the two leaders of those trying to get to Kentucky for the Derby presented by Yum! Brands, but like recent years, I’m sure there are many more anonymous stars in the class in weighting who will try to knock them off.

The Eclipse Awards nominations have been announced and I’m hoping Havre de Grace becomes the third consecutive female Horse of the Year, something that has never happened in North American racing history.

As Mike Greenburg of ESPN likes to stay, “We’re back and better than ever” and ready to hit the horse racing blogosphere again.