One night at Claiborne Farm something miraculous occurred. Two of the most influential thoroughbreds in American history were born in the same birthing barn at the historic farm just moments apart. These two horses, so near each other at birth, would go on to become the kingpins of the greatest crop of horses we have ever seen.
October 31, 2009
October 30, 2009
One week from Day 1. Breeders’ Cup is so close, I can smell the sweet fragrance of the Fall championship racing of my youth. It is true what they say, olfactory receptors can snap you back into distant memories more acutely than any of the other senses. The smell of the Autumn air fires millions of neurons, making me instantly happy and thinking horses. The early homework has been done. I have tore into the pre-entry past performances with all the voracity of a rottweiler with a new chew toy. Listed below are my top four choices for each Breeders’ Cup race…I have included the fourth horse especially for all my friends who like a little action in the superfecta.
October 29, 2009
*I was born in Maryland, became a star in New York, and passed away in Kentucky.
October 28, 2009
They’re almost here. 14 races. More than a hundred and fifty of the finest runners the world has to offer will congregate for a two-day celebration of the race. Thoroughbred horse racing is the most beautiful sport in the world and the main participants are the most honest, humble, and hardest trying athletes that you will ever find. The Breeders’ Cup is the greatest of all horse racing celebrations, as it brings together more of the world’s best than any other set of races, anywhere. Zipse at the Track illustrates the majesty and beauty of the sport through the written word, therefore thoughts of who will not be there or why the Breeders’ Cup is back for a consecutive year at Santa Anita are merely dust in the wind. This is Breeders’ Cup and I love it.
October 26, 2009
Who was the best American turf horse of the 1990s? A tough selection to be sure, but I know whom I would pick…Paradise Creek. A model of consistency, the Creek ran 24 times on the lawn spanning four marvelous seasons. Keeping the very best company, he won 14 times and finished 2nd in seven others. There was only one occasion, in these 24 turf races, where Paradise Creek did not prove a major factor. It is always a joy to root for a horse that you know will fire every time, and Paradise Creek was one of those rare horses. He was never afraid to hop on a plane and bring his A game, starting his career in upstate New York and finishing it in the Land of the Rising Sun. In between, the Creek would win stakes at eight different tracks all over the country. There was an antagonist in his story, the brilliant miler, Lure, who would get the best of my hero on more than one occasion. In the end though, Paradise Creek persevered and was never better then his final season. At 5-years-old, he was deservingly named the champion grass horse of 1994. From the beginning, I followed his career closely and I have wonderful memories of this terrific grass horse.
October 25, 2009
Vineyard Haven has become one of my favorite horses. The horse I thought was the best two-year-old in the nation last year, has come back like gangbusters since his unfruitful time in Dubai. Some horses flourish with a long Winter in the Arabian wonderland, Vineyard Haven was clearly not one of those horses. One failed race in a key eleven month stretch of his career, and I am left wondering what might have been. Vineyard Haven returned to America and finally made it to the races on the last Saturday of August, where he faced the finest field of 3-year-old sprinters assembled all year. The race included Capt. Candyman Can, Munnings, and Big Drama. Vineyard Haven, without the benefit of a prep race, ran erratically down the lane and still hit the wire first. It was the kind of race that horses just don’t do off such a layoff, or at least they do not do it more than once in a blue moon. The grey horse with the blue blinkers and silks was at again yesterday with a scintillating performance at Laurel Park in the De Francis Dash. It was a race that a lesser horse would have struggled home fifth. Vineyard Haven broke from the rail, which was not a good spot with the abundance of speed in the race. He stayed up close early, but dropped back a little as the leading group blazed an opening quarter in 21 and change. He quickly found himself stuck on the rail and the holes in front of him were disappearing. Alan Garcia and Vineyard Haven waited, and they waited, until things finally cleared enough for him. Still it appeared third was about the best he would muster as Fleet Valid was still full of run and Ravalo was charging on the outside. Then it happened, the horse of superior talent kicked it in, and like a silver streak, he made a devastating burst on the fence to win the De Francis Dash by half a length. Vineyard Haven is the real deal, and I, for one, will be watching every move that he makes.
October 24, 2009
An Indian Summer is an unusual stretch of sun and balmy temperatures in the Autumn. Vineyard Haven is a beautiful section of Martha’s Vineyard. Today at Laurel, the gorgeous race horse, Vineyard Haven will be heating up the Fall Maryland landscape as he and seven older sprinters blaze 6 furlongs in the revived De Francis Dash. OK, I admit it, I am a sucker for the look of certain types of horses, ever since the days of the Lone Ranger, I have loved the appearance of a gray horse, so white, that you strain to see any pigmentation at all. Vineyard Haven is one of those horses. The strapping son of Lido Palace is also an extremely talented horse.
October 23, 2009
G’day Mate. With a slight lull in American racing until the Breeders’ Cup, I will take this opportunity to introduce you to a little racing down under. It is the middle of Springtime in Australia and the racing season is at its’ peak. Australia is a nation of sports fanatics and racing is high on their list. The AFL, or Australian Rules Football as we know it, is the biggest of all the sports in the nation, but after that, the great sport of horse racing is right there in the hearts of the sport minded. Excitement is in the air, as tomorrow is one of the biggest days in Australian racing with the running of the Cox Plate.
October 22, 2009
*I am from Europe and my trainer from South America, but we came to the United States together.
October 21, 2009
Sixteen more days to Graceland. Time to roll up the sleeves and get down to the nitty-gritty. Presented for your amusement are my Fantastic Four in each Breeders’ Cup race. Horses are listed in the respective races which I feel they are most likely to run given the information available today. Of course, this is subject to change as new info rolls in. Do not forget to tell me who you like!
October 19, 2009
It all began well for him. In 1971 Riva Ridge was the toast of the nation as he thoroughly dominated his 2-year-old peers. After a solid start to his life of racing in which he won two of his first four starts, Riva Ridge took it to a phenomenal level. He overpowered his foes in five consecutive major stakes for juveniles. The skinny little horse seemed to just skip over the dirt as he racked up easy wins in the Flash Stakes, Futurity, Champagne, Laurel Futurity, and the rich Garden State Stakes. Meadow Stable, in Riva Ridge, had the great horse that they so dearly needed. He was an overwhelming champion and looked like a horse who could possibly win the Triple Crown. At the time, his younger stablemate was a promising, but untested yearling
As a 3-year-old, Riva got off to a flying start easily winning the Hibiscus in Florida and then the prestigious Blue Grass. In between, his six race winning streak had been broken in the muddy Everglades Stakes. Riva Ridge ended a 16 year drought by 2-year-old champions on the first Saturday of May when he won the 1972 Kentucky Derby. It was a dominating performance in the biggest race. Riva Ridge was a star. Perhaps in a foreshadowing of his luck to come, the Preakness came up sloppy, not a track condition that Riva Ridge liked. He struggled home 4th and large hopes for the first Triple Crown in 24 years were dashed. If there was any question as to whether he was the best colt in the country, Riva ended that talk quickly with a smashing score in the Belmont Stakes. He was well on his way to another Eclipse Award, but then his handlers made some mistakes. After the Triple Crown, they shipped across country to run in the Hollywood Derby. Riva won the race but was pressured every step of the way by multiple horses. Lucien Lauren, his trainer, knew he was exhausted and should have taken a long rest. Despite this, they continued to run Riva Ridge and run Riva Ridge. It was not pretty. His people kept hoping for a return to form, but Riva had nothing more to give. Five poor performances and five losses. Riva Ridge had deserved a rest and instead lost his reputation and he lost the end of the year awards. Secretariat, meanwhile had become a huge star as a juvenile and was named Horse of the Year.
Given a lengthy rest, Riva Ridge was back to his old self as a four-year-old. He consistently ran well and was throwing down some very impressive times. In the Massachusetts Handicap, Riva equaled Suffolk Down's 1 1/8 mile track record. He set a new world record, under 127 pounds, in the 1 3/16 mile Brooklyn with a 1:52 2/5 final time. Riva Ridge also set a track record in the nine furlong Stuyvesant at Aqueduct, but perhaps his best race at 4, was his 2nd place finish in the new race, the Marlboro Cup. In that race Riva Ridge broke the previous 9 furlong world record, carrying 127 pounds and giving weight to the race winner, Secretariat, who of course became the new world record holder. So even at his best, he would play second fiddle to one Secretariat. Riva won the Eclipse Award as Champion older male for 1973. He was still in the enormous shadow of his incomparable barnmate, who had become the most impressive Triple Crown winner in history, but he had earned sweet redemption after his souring at the end of the previous year.
Riva Ridge retired to stud to Claiborne Farm at the end of 1973. His final race record reads 17 wins from 30 starts, he earned over $1.1 million and two Eclipse Awards. He certainly would have been one of those rare horses to win three consecutive Eclipse Awards, had he not been terribly mismanaged in the Fall of his 3-year-old season. He was an ugly duckling who could run. Everybody who spent any time with Riva, could not help but love the horse with the kind disposition, in fact, Penny Chenery, who owned probably the most popular horse in America since Man O’ War, always considered Riva Ridge her favorite above Secretariat. He may have been overshadowed by his younger stablemate, but Riva Ridge is one horse who should never be forgotten.
October 18, 2009
Have you heard about the plans for the good 4-year-old mare from California, Lethal Heat? No? Well let me tell you what Lethal Heat and her conditioner Barry Abrams have in store for the horse racing world…
October 17, 2009
From the land of snowdrifts, and Ice Hockey, comes a serious day of grass racing from Woodbine. O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
October 16, 2009
With just three short weeks to go until the two-day horse racing bonanza that is the Breeder’s Cup, your fearless author is ready to go out on the proverbial limb and start touting some horses that will not be favored come November 6 & 7. That’s right, no odds-on chalk for this guy, only live horses with square odds and a real chance to win. The first Zipse Special comes in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.
October 15, 2009
*I won 7 out of 11 races during my championship season and 3 of 13 the rest of my career.
October 14, 2009
Do you remember what you were doing that Summer when you were 17 years old? Personally, I was an immature kid who thought I knew a lot more than I actually did. Yours truly was finishing my last year at Summer Camp, and preparing for my senior year of high school. How did I prepare for my senior year, you ask? By going to Monmouth or Belmont as much as possible, of course. Chris DeCarlo, on the other hand, had recently finished his first full year as a professional jockey. Chris had been destined to be a jockey from a very young age in large part due to his lifetime friendship with family friend and Hall of Fame rider, Angel Cordero. He is a few months older than me (sorry Chris), but in the Summer of ‘86, we were both 17 and Jersey kids who loved the horses.
October 12, 2009
It was the Summer of 1986 and something was brewing on the West Coast. There was a California bred filly who was winning races so easily and so fast that she was turning heads of even the most hard-boiled trainer on the Southern California circuit. She was a roan, 3-year-old daughter of Debonair Roger out of the stakes producing mare Melrose Nugget and her name was Melair. During a ten week span from late April to early July, she went from a maiden to the toast of the racing nation.
October 11, 2009
She did it again!
October 10, 2009
Four major stakes punctuate Oak Tree at Santa Anita’s most important day of racing leading to the Breeders‘ Cup. A Breeders’ Cup that will be hosted for the second straight year by Santa Anita. Like it or lump it, in their infinite wisdom, the good people at Breeders’ Cup have found reason to hold our biggest day of racing at the same place in consecutive years. Your storyteller makes no choice on that contentious topic today, rather I choose to celebrate in what we do have in the land of sunshine and synthetics.
October 9, 2009
Fall can be a magical time of year and that is especially true amongst the rolling bluegrass hills of Lexington, Kentucky. Lexington has long been the bucolic home for the thoroughbred horse industry and Keeneland is Lexington’s idyllic home for the races. Opening day of the Fall meet, at the national landmark that is Keeneland, gets off to a rousing start with the Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades Stakes and the Grade 3 Phoenix Stakes. Large fields and quality horses are the norm at Keeneland and today certainly does not disappoint.
October 8, 2009
*I won eight out of the ten starts that I made in the United States during my two year racing career.
October 7, 2009
Somebody asked me recently how I could call Rachel Alexandra my favorite horse of all time when I have been following the horses my entire life. He thought surely a horse of yesteryear brought me more joy than my current favorite. He asked me why I saw her as so special to place her closer to my heart than hundreds of other wonderful horses that I have loved over the years. A myriad of reasons crossed my mind, but I really had to think of the very best and most honest answer I could give my inquisitor.
October 5, 2009
I will forever remember the Haskell Invitational of 1981. It was the 1st of August and it was a showdown at the Jersey shore. In one corner you had the defending 2-year-old champion Lord Avie and in the other corner was the challenger and my favorite horse, Five Star Flight. The crowd was divided in their loyalties as they made Lord Avie a slight favorite over the 8-5 challenger. The stretch-running Lord Avie was the best juvenile of 1980 and he looked every bit the champion in winning the Florida Derby earlier in the year. Unfortunately, he came out of that race with an injury, and the early Derby favorite was off the Triple Crown trail. Returning to the races, Lord Avie had won an easy prep a few weeks before the Haskell. Five Star Flight meanwhile was a speedy Florida bred trained by Ben Perkins who had not yet fulfilled the potential that he had flashed several times in his short career. He had looked ready to take it to the next level in the aforementioned Florida Derby, but he dueled on the lead that day and backed out, he too came out of the race an injured horse.
October 4, 2009
The Top 10 Performances of the weekend. Let’s count it down.
October 3, 2009
Now if we could just have Grade 1 weather. Yes, I wake up a little disappointed this morning as much like Travers Day, it looks like another big day for NYRA is going to be wet. You never know with the weather, but right now Belmont looks likely to have a sloppy day. This changes things of course for the horses, jockeys, fans, and from my standpoint on the handicapping front. The horses that would have won on a fast track and a firm turf, may very well not win in the wet conditions. It is not often that one racetrack has five Grade 1 races in succession, so let’s still enjoy the quality horses running in big races, but…was a nice sunny day too much to ask? Oh well, at least Woodward Day was a beauty.
October 2, 2009
Aujourd'hui, nous allons discuter des grandes courses de ce week-end en France. Le Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe est l'une des courses les plus importantes au monde et se déroulera dimanche à Longchamp…the author now shifts effortlessly into the English language for the benefit of many of his readers…In the Arc, Sea the Stars will be an overwhelming favorite to add this most prestigious race to his effulgent string of accomplishments. The 3-year-old son of Cape Cross out of the amazing mare Urban Sea, is 5 for 5 this year and each of his wins was in Group 1 company. This indubitably will be Sea the Stars’ sternest test yet, though as he travels to France for the first time to take on an international field of worthy candidates. Sea the Stars has proven to be a true champion and is certainly the horse to beat, however this particular racing blogger believes that if he is to lose, Sunday may be the day. A full field of 19 horses could in itself be the downfall of the champion. He will be the horse that all the other jockeys are watching and traffic should be a major factor. If there is indeed an upset, I believe Conduit is the horse with the greatest chance to be the culprit.
October 1, 2009
*I finished first in 12 out of 18 lifetime starts over my three year racing career.