The year was 1981 and it was the first season without one of the superstars of the late 70s gracing the American racing scene. There was no Seattle Slew, Affirmed, Alydar, or Spectacular Bid to marvel us, Genuine Risk was not quite herself, and John Henry would not become an icon until later in the year. Racing was searching for a star that they had grown accustomed to the past several Springs. A star is what we got in the form of a late developing colt and his slick talking trainer.
November 30, 2009
November 29, 2009
2009 will forever be known as the Year of the Filly and the Mare. The final year of the century’s opening decade has included the greatest string of performances by the female set in the history of racing. Today in Japan, it was more of the same, as Vodka won a thrilling edition of the Japan Cup. Yet another example of female domination that has been visible everywhere you look this year.
November 28, 2009
Lightly raced Blame, ridden by Jamie Theriot, impressively rallied down the lane to win Friday's Grade 1 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs. The three-year-old son of Arch covered the 1 1/8-mile race in 1:49.39. It was only the eighth race of his life and his first attempt in racing’s elite company. Blame was given much respect by the betting public and was sent off as the second choice at 4-1 in the loaded 14 horse field. Following his career, you never would have guessed such a big win for this horse just a short time ago.
November 27, 2009
I hope you all had a turkey day filled with friends, family, and food, but do not take too long to digest that last piece of pumpkin pie, for there is a whole new feast being served up by racetracks from coast to coast.
November 26, 2009
*My best year was in my second season of racing when I won four of my nine starts.
November 25, 2009
That foul odor you smell is emanating directly from the offices of the Oak Tree Association after yesterday’s announcement that they have renamed the Grade 1 Lady’s Secret Stakes . Starting next year, the race held every Fall at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita Meeting, will now be known as the Zenyatta Stakes. Don’t get me wrong, Zenyatta is a fabulous mare and it makes perfect sense that they want to honor her by naming a race the Zenyatta. We are all familiar with her fantastic list of accomplishments the past two years. The problem is the Oak Tree Association honored her by taking away needed recognition of one of the greatest mares ever to race in the United States.
November 23, 2009
The first time I saw Holy Bull in person was the 1993 Futurity Stakes at Belmont Park. I made the foolish mistake of being there to root on a different horse. At the Saratoga meeting I had fallen in love with a talented juvenile named Dehere, who had demonstrated the qualities of a freight train rolling down the lane and mowing down his competition. I knew Dehere’s main threat in the Futurity was Holy Bull and there was plenty of reason for me to be infatuated with him. He had won both of his starts impressively for a trainer I liked, Jimmy Croll, and he began his career at my home track, Monmouth Park. None of that mattered though, I was there to see Dehere. Dehere actually ran an excellent race as he gained the entire stretch, but the race was controlled by the gray speedster. Taking it to his rivals early, Holy Bull was never in danger of being caught in the Grade 1 race. I went home that day thinking that I had just seen the best two juveniles in the nation. Holy Bull would finish his juvenile season unbeaten, making it 4 for 4 with a romping win in the In Reality Stakes at Calder.
November 22, 2009
August 30, 1981, a date that will forever be treasured in Chicago racing history. It was the inaugural running of the Arlington Million. A race that has been the biggest around these parts since it began on that Summer day. It was a coup for Arlington Park to have attracted the top horse to the nation's first million dollar race. In John Henry, you had something for everybody. He was a true rags to riches story. John Henry was son of the modest sire Old Bob Bowers and the equally unheralded Once Double. Early on John Henry was considered a foal with poor conformation and a bad attitude. Nobody would expect much from him and this was displayed for his purchase price of $1,100 at a January sale. He was sold a few more times before he made it to the races at small tracks in the Bayou. Not many champions start their career at Jefferson Downs and Evangeline Downs. Once it was noticed that he could run a bit, John Henry garnered more interest and was purchased by Sam Rubin, sight unseen. Eventually, an affinity for the grass was discovered and the horse would go from claiming races to stakes races. In the Fall of 1979 Ron McAnally would take over training and the horse would soon become a champion. By the running of the first Arlington Million, John Henry was the defending turf champion and well on his way to Horse of the Year for 1981. America identified with his ascent from meager beginnings to superstar. He was horse racing’s version of the American Dream. In the Million, he would face a soft Arlington turf and a strong field of 11 other turf runners.
November 21, 2009
If you have followed Zipse at the Track from the very beginning, you know that one of my favorite horses in training is the Phipps Stable’s Gone Astray. I liked what I saw in the bay colt last Summer at Saratoga and I have followed him ever since. Unfortunately, every time that he would try graded stakes in New York, Gone Astray would run decently, but with no real chance to win. Sometimes talented horses need time to develop or sometimes it is just time for a change. For Gone Astray, that change was entering him in two-turn races. After eight races at one-turn, with results that did not seem to match the horse’s talent, his last four tries have come in longer races and the improvement has been exciting. Today, I look for the excitement to continue
November 20, 2009
Should Quality Road run in Aqueduct’s Grade 1 Cigar Mile next Saturday? That, my fellow horse fans, is the question.
November 19, 2009
*I ran in more than 50 races, winning almost half and finishing in the money 40 times.
November 18, 2009
Last night at the Claridge Hotel in London, England, the highest honors in European Racing were presented. The 19th annual Cartier Racing Awards celebrated seven outstanding horses in eight divisions and one person for their accomplishments in one of the finest years for European Thoroughbreds in recent memory. Here are the worthy recipients:
November 16, 2009
Tom Durkin‘s words still freshly echo between my ears whenever the thought of Sunday Silence or Easy Goer comes to mind. “Easy Goer with one final acceleration and Sunday Silence holds on!!!” Everything was on the line and the two magnificent horses, forever joined in history, responded with a racing epic that day at Gulfstream Park. Beating a great horse like Easy Goer for the third time in four tries was not easy, but from a very young age things were not easy for the champion.
November 15, 2009
No, it is not too early to start talking about the 2010 Kentucky Derby. One of the things that I absolutely love about the sport of horse racing is the anticipation that it creates. There is always so much to look forward to, especially with a promising young horse. The possibility of what a horse may become, or a race that he may someday enter are limitless. There is no better race to anticipate and there is not a bigger race to dream about then the Kentucky Derby. We have five and a half months to follow, discuss, and conjecture upon the most recognized horse race in the world. The Bob Baffert trained Californian colt, Lookin at Lucky will soon be named the juvenile champion and is a deserving Winter Book favorite for the Run for the Roses. Today, I would like to showcase a horse who may not be on the radar of many, but should be. His name is Jackson Bend.
November 14, 2009
Do you enjoy non-stop action and spine-tingling excitement??? How about heart stopping thrills or cliffhanging finishes???
November 13, 2009
Horse of the Year for 2009 will be decided in about two months. Passionate followers of both Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra are at the ready to proclaim why their candidate is the more worthy. This debate has already become heated and only will become more so as the weeks pass. I write today’s column not to throw more fuel on the fire, but rather to do my job; have an opinion on topics that matter in the world of horse racing. Ask yourself why this subjective vote is so contentious. The answer is this: Two sensational horses have completed truly remarkable seasons, in the process giving their fans as much joy and rooting interest as we have seen in this sport in many years. Adding to the excitement and emotion, both horses are female. 2009 will go down as one of the greatest ever because of them. Is it OK to love them both? Absolutely. Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta are good for our sport, as is this debate.
November 12, 2009
*I won races in three different countries, but the United States was not one of them.
November 11, 2009
There were fourteen winners over the two days of Breeders’ Cup and these horses deserve all the attention and accolades they receive. Zenyatta was the biggest of winners and currently the toast of the racing world, but what about the horses that did not hit the finish line first. Losers, disappointments and afterthoughts? I think not. Many of these horse deserve some love for the outstanding races they ran in losing efforts. Here are the best of the lot:
November 9, 2009
I will never forget the very first Breeders' Cup Sprint. It was 1984 and one of my favorite horses of the time, Eillo made the cross country trip from the swamplands of New Jersey to the glitz of la-la land. It was a thrilling time. The very first Breeders’ Cup had all the promise of the most exciting event ever to come along for race fans. Some of my favorite horses were running with a big chance to win and the Jersey horse was certainly one of them. Eillo did what he always did and ran as fast as he could. You could still hear the ringing of the starting gate bell when Eillo cleared the field. He bounded along, his small chestnut body too quick for the other top sprinters. As they neared the top of the stretch, his competition closed in but Eillo had plenty left. My hopes soared as Eillo started to pull away in the stretch. The race was over. Or was it?
November 8, 2009
Santa Anita was afire with more excitement and emotion yesterday than has been seen in thoroughbred horse racing in a long, long time. If Rachel Alexandra raised the rafters when she beat older males in the Woodward at Saratoga, then Zenyatta made the earth quake in the California sun as she rumbled through and then around the best males America had to offer. Make no mistake, her win in the 26th running of the Breeders’ Cup Classic was as awesome as it was historical. The legendary mare ran a legendary race and it left every single race fan who saw the race awe inspired.
November 7, 2009
You have to feel for Life Is Sweet. The 4-year-old Storm Cat filly entered the Ladies Classic on a four race losing streak that followed dominant wins in the El Encino, La Canada, and Santa Margarita to begin the year. Her connections were not afraid to race their filly against the best, as one of the four consecutive losses came in the Hollywood Gold Cup where she finished 3rd in a field of 13, against a field of top older handicap males of California. The other three losses were at the hands of the undefeated super mare, Zenyatta. Making the situation more unfortunate is that Zenyatta is her stablemate, both horses being conditioned by John Shirreffs. This is comparable to being the 2nd best tennis player in the state, with the best player being in your own high school, or to put it into horse terms, being Riva Ridge and barnmates with Secretariat. While they are owned by different people, she could never be the star in her own barn. All that would change as Life is Sweet finally had her day in the sun yesterday taking full advantage of her biggest stage.
November 6, 2009
I share my winners with my readers, it is what I do…
November 5, 2009
*I won 16 races on the dirt and none on the turf, yet the race named in my honor is contested on the grass.
November 4, 2009
COST - 40 mythical dollars.
Wondering what the Breeders' Cup races will mean to division titles?
November 2, 2009
Up until the meteoric rise of this year’s European champion, Sea the Stars, the greatest horse sired by Cape Cross was the globetrotting mare, Ouija Board. She was a true world champion, not concerned with the time zone she was in or the competition she would face. Ouija Board simply exuded class. She was an English home bred, owned by Lord Derby, who had only one horse in training for part of her career. She handsomely carried his simple black silks, plain white cap, and a single white button below the collar, atop her elegant bay frame. Lightly raced as a two-year-old, she made only three starts with one win at 7 furlongs. At three, she wasted little time in displaying her superiority to Europe’s best 3-year-old fillies. Stretching out to distances she yearned for, Ouija Board won the prestigious English Oaks by a whopping 7 lengths in only her second run of the year. She was now a star and she would give her fans exactly what they wanted with an effortless score in the Irish Oaks, becoming only the tenth filly to win the Oaks double.