February 28, 2010

If You Don’t Like Presious Passion, Then You Don’t Like Horse Racing

He did it again. That seven year old gelding from modest beginnings, Presious Passion was back at the races and showing his speed, class, and heart once again to easily wire the field in today’s feature at Gulfstream Park. The Grade 2 Mac Diarmida Stakes was the backdrop for another Presious Passion show. As per usual, he sprinted out to a sizeable advantage, and led his competition on a merry chase. He gives the other horses a little hope as they chip away at his lead on the backstretch and the far turn. Generally this is false hope, and so it was today. When Presious Passion turned for home, jockey Elvis Trujillo knew he had a ton of horse to sprint away from his challengers. The classy turfer Winchester, in receipt of six pounds from the star of the show, gave it his all down the Gulfstream stretch, but never had a chance to catch Passion.

The final margin of 1 ¼ lengths made little matter, because Winchester was not going to go by him if they went around the track again. I have seen this same scenario, Presious Passion opening a large lead and still having plenty left to sprint home to another superlative performance, time an time again, yet it never grows old. Even as I have learned to expect the show, his performances becomes no less fascinating and thrilling. I hope I get a chance to see many more races with Presious Passion out there winging it on the front end.

A Sue Kawczynski Photo

My next opportunity should come in the $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic. That’s right, the gorgeous, chestnut gelding will soon be hobnobbing with the Sheikhs of the United Arab Emirates. Talk about a Cinderella story. The 1 ½ mile Dubai Sheema Classic will be run at the brand new Meydan Race Course on March 27. In that race, Passion will face some of the best turf horses from all over the world. I can not tell you for sure that he will win, but I can safely say he is the horse that the rest of the field will have to worry about. You can bet your bottom dollar he will be out and winging on the Meydan turf course. Today, Presious Passion showed that he is in excellent shape and all systems are go for the trip to Dubai.

Presious Passion won the Mac Diarmida Stakes for the second consecutive year. It marked the Mary Hartmann trained gelding's 14th career victory on the grass in 41 starts on the lawn. He his quickly closing in on the $3 million dollar mark in career earnings. A number that will significantly rise with a strong performance in the desert. At seven years young, Presious Passion shows absolutely no signs of slowing down, in fact he seems to be as good, if not better, than ever. His run a few races back in the Breeders’ Cup Turf was full of class, and now today he has returned to his winning ways. I can not imagine I would get any argument in saying that he is an absolute joy to watch run. I will take it one step further…If you don’t like Presious Passion, then you don’t like horse racing.

February 27, 2010

Chicago Filly Makes Good

Many of you may not know that Zipse at the Track is written daily from Metroland Chicago, thereby making beautiful Arlington Park my home track. Now knowing this pertinent piece of information, you can not blame me for keeping an extra close eye on those horses who start their careers at Arlington. It is a wonderful place to bring in an established turf runner, with their solid stakes schedule for those who prefer the green, but it also a great place for the Midwestern juvenile to start their careers away from the glitz of Southern California, and the bluebloods of New York. Each Summer I have the pleasure of seeing countless young colts and fillies begin their careers at Arlington, only to go on to bigger and better things after leaving the Windy City. Two of the recent juvenile filly champions, Dreaming of Anna, and She Be Wild began at Arlington. For whatever reason, Arlington Park attracts a steady influx of talented beginning horses. Another such horse made a name for herself in smashing fashion this afternoon at Gulfstream Park, her name is Amen Hallelujah.

Amen Hallelujah scored her biggest win to date in the Grade 2 Davona Dale Stakes. Facing the prospect of letting the betting favorite alone on the lead, Amen Hallelujah took the onus upon herself to do all the heavy lifting. She pressured the fast filly Bickersons early, and reeled her in with ease as they straightened out. From there it was a stroll in the park, as the disheartened favorite backed out. Amen Hallelujah went on about her business and cruised to a 6 ¼ length runaway. In the process she ran approximately three lengths faster than the older stakes fillies who ran the same distance in the previous race. Very impressive indeed for the Chicago filly

Why do I call her a Chicago filly? Her Chicago connection began last June when she ran fifth in her lifetime debut at Arlington. She followed that up with three more races at the Chicagoland oval. In those races, Amen Hallelujah improved with every start, breaking her maiden in her third start, before impressively running away from a field of winners in her fourth and final start at Arlington Park. I do not know if she will ever run at Arlington again, but those first four races are enough for me to always consider her a Chicago horse.

Amen Hallelujah is an attractive dark bay daughter of Montbrook, and the Concorde’s Tune mare, Sara’s Success. She is owned by the partnership of IEAH and Whizway Farms and trained by Richard Dutrow. She was ridden to victory today by Julien Leperoux, this being the first time the Eclipse Award winning jockey partnered with Amen Hallelujah. She clearly did well with her new rider, but most importantly, she did very well on a brand new surface. After seven good efforts on synthetic surfaces, Amen Hallelujah was finally given the chance to see what she could do on good old fashioned dirt. Today’s result speaks volumes, of both her versatility, but also her affinity for dirt. It was not a big surprise that she liked it, as Dutrow had predicted that she would be better on the more traditional surface, after watching her work on both surfaces.

After such a dominant win, the question becomes…what’s next? The obvious answer would be to bring her back in the Grade 2 Bonnie Miss Stakes in three weeks time. The Bonnie Miss is a 1 1/8 mile race and would represent the longest distance that Amen Hallelujah has run to date. It is also the same day as Gulfstream’s biggest race, the Florida Derby, giving the option to her connections of going for the gusto. While the Florida Derby may be a bit much for her right now, the Bonnie Miss and then the Kentucky Oaks seems like a very likely progression. Distance will be a question, but today’s romp at a mile gives me high hopes that one more furlong will be within her scope. Her future appears to be very bright, and with today’s win, she moves even higher up my ranking of the best sophomore fillies in the nation, into a top three position. Regardless of what she accomplishes in the future, it is always nice when a Chicago horse makes good. I will be watching.

February 26, 2010

Venezuelan Superstars

In 1971, Canonero II shocked the racing world with an overpowering score in the Kentucky Derby. Canonero came from way back, and swept past the leaders to win by nearly four lengths. His payoff of $19.40 might seem like no big deal, but the 9-1 odds were only because he was part of the mutuel field. He was one of six horses in the field that year, and probably would have been 100-1 or higher as a sole betting interest. The unheralded horse, very well may have been the biggest surprise in the storied history of the Run for the Roses. Canonero has something important in common with a new potential star, her name is Bambera. New and potential, are words that are true in America, but in her native Venezuela, Bambera is already an enormous star. Venezuela happens to be the same South American country that gave us Canonero.

Bambera is a Venezuelan bred, four-year-old daughter of the Sadler’s Wells sire Water Poet and has come to the States on an absolute roll. Her last race was in December, and it was her first outside of Venezuela. In that outing, Bambera romped in the biggest race in the Caribbean. It was in the Clasico Internacional del Caribe at Hipodromo Camarero in Puerto Rico. In the Clasico, otherwise known as the Caribbean Derby, Bambera defeated the best three-year-olds in Central America both male and female. The big win furthered her impressive resume. Bambera improved her overall record to 16 wins in 18 races and has now won six in a row. Amazingly she had 13 wins out of 14 starts last season. The only time she was defeated last year was a narrow loss when 2nd in one of the Triple Crown races in her native Venezuela. Bambera came that close to sweeping both the Venezuelan Triple Tiara and Triple Crown. Most of Bambera’s wins have been tour-de-force displays of overwhelming talent.

So dominant in Venezuela, and then in Puerto Rico, Her Royal Highness, as she is lovingly known as in her native land, needs to find bigger and better contests for her immense talent. This has prompted Bambera’s connections to take her on the road where they will test her against the toughest dirt competition in the world. Yesterday we learned that is likely to include a race against Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta in the Apple Blossom Invitational. If she lines up against those two in seven weeks, The Happening at Hot Springs will be a race that is even bigger than when Canonero pulled of his stunner 39 years ago.

What did the original Venezuelan sensation do after the Kentucky Derby, you ask? Proving that his Churchill romp was no fluke, Canonero came back two weeks later to win the Preakness by a length and a half and broke the track record in the process. When the Caracas Cannonball started in the Belmont Stakes, in hopes of the first Triple Crown in 23 years, he attracted what at the time was the largest Belmont crowd in history. Triple Crown glory was not to be, as Canonero, who was clearly not at the peak of health for the Belmont, finished fourth. What he accomplished in the Derby and the Preakness was memorable enough in America, but in Venezuela he was a national hero. Can Bambera make the kind of splash that Canonero did?

There is reason to be hopeful. While Canonero was promising in Venezuela, he was far from the star that Bambera is. Compare her sparkling record to Canonero’s record of six wins from ten starts in their homeland. She has proven herself to be superior, not only to the females, but also to the best males that the country has to offer. She is an outstanding horse who should be competitive at high levels in America. How competitive, and whether that will put a scare into America’s Queens is yet to be seen. One thing is for sure, her entry against Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta in the Apple Blossom adds a little spice to an already tasty dish.

February 25, 2010

Who Am I ???

*I was bred in one nation, but ran exclusively in two other countries.

*In America, I ran at eight different racetracks in four different states, but all four of my grade 1 wins were in the same state.

*My eleven career wins were split almost evenly between turf and dirt.

*I was the best horse my conditioner ever trained.

*I was a multiple stakes winner on both dirt and turf, but all of my biggest wins came on one surface.

*Did my trainer make a terrible decision? What did I know…I just ran.

*I competed for four seasons, but all but one of my victories came during my three and four-year-old years.

*My father was exiled but fast. I did not know the meaning of deprivation.

*My favorite rider looks good on television and on the big screen.

*All of my grade 1 wins came in succession.

*I have been a success at stud; my top son was favored in the Kentucky Derby.

You should know by now … Who Am I ???

February 24, 2010

Extraordinary Thoroughbred Crops

I started a poll, there on the left, a few days ago and the more I considered the votes coming in, the more I realized it required a little write-up. These are the ten crops that I have identified as the best in American racing history. To qualify, the horses did not need to be bred in America, but they did need to have made a name for themselves on American racetracks. I highlighted each year by listing the top five runners (not an easy task in many cases) of each year. The year represents the standouts' three-year-old season. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did researching it, and please let me know what you think…which year did I leave out? What horse should I have included in my top fives?

1948 - You do not need to look much farther than the roster at Calumet Farm to realize the excellence of this crop. Citation, Coaltown, and Bewitch were all Calumet runners. Throw in handicap star Noor, and the filly Miss Request, to complete a special crop.

1955 - Swaps and Nashua were true superstars of 1955. Summer Tan, Dedicate, and High Voltage round out this year’s top five.

1957 - Round Table, Bold Ruler, and Gallant Man were all Hall of Fame runners and great sires. Gen. Duke was a star before injury and Clem became a top handicap horse, making this class possibly the greatest of all time.

1967 - Dr. Fager and Damascus were two all-time greats. Include Gamely, Fort Marcy, and In Reality and you have one of the greatest crops in American history.

1969 - An underrated crop…Everyone remembers the Triple Crown match-up between Majestic Prince and Arts and Letters, but do not underestimate the greatness of a couple of fillies Gallant Bloom and Shuvee. Ack Ack gets the five spot by a whisker over Ta Wee.

1973 - Secretariat, Forego, Sham, Dahlia, and Desert Vixen…enough said.

1978 - Affirmed and Alydar will be remembered forever, but speed merchants Sensitive Prince and Dave’s Friend were members of this crop, and oh yeah, a plucky gelding named John Henry.

1987 - Depth was the word for the word this top class crop. Narrowing it to five is not easy; I will go with Alysheba, Personal Ensign, Bet Twice, Miesque, and Java Gold.

1997 - See 1987. Forced to narrow this crop down to five, I went with Silver Charm, Free House, Touch Gold, Awesome Again, and Kona Gold. Captain Bodgit loses the photo one last time.

2007 - Led by sure to be Hall of Fame runners Curlin and Zenyatta, 2007 was the best crop of the young century. Street Sense, Hard Spun, and Rags to Riches cement that standing.

February 23, 2010

News Release - 50,000 Trading Cards of Rachel Alexandra/Zenyatta to be Printed

HOT SPRINGS NATIONAL PARK, Arkansas — Fifty thousand trading cards of champions Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta will be printed Wednesday, February 24, to provide free souvenirs of the $5 million Apple Blossom Invitational at Oaklawn Racing and Gaming on April 9.

The cards — 25,000 of each horse — are being printed by the Hot Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau to help maximize the impact for Oaklawn, the city and Arkansas of this once-in-a-lifetime event, said Steve Arrison, the CVB’s CEO.

“We’ve done a series of trading cards in the past,” Arrison said. “Most of those have featured President Bill Clinton and his connection to his hometown of Hot Springs. We did a card featuring the racehorse Smarty Jones, which proved tremendously popular with the public.

“The cards carry the message that Hot Springs has a link to the subject of the cards, and they’ve gone all over the globe publicizing Hot Springs.”

The cards are being printed at a cost of $2,395, Arrison said, at Arkansas Graphics in Little Rock.

The first public distribution of the cards will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday, March 2, at the downtown Visitor Center in Hill Wheatley Plaza on Central Avenue at the southern end of Bathhouse Row. One copy of each card will be given free to all who attend, Arrison said.

Oaklawn also will distribute free copies of the cards on Saturday, March 6.

The cards will be given away as long as supplies last, Arrison said.

“The Apple Blossom Invitational has already attracted unprecedented attention around the globe for Oaklawn, Hot Springs and the state of Arkansas,” Arrison said. “These Apple Blossom trading cards will give people a free souvenir of a great time at a great racetrack in a great city in a great state.”

Calling it “one of the most important moments at Oaklawn and in Arkansas sports,” Oaklawn President Charles J. Cella announced earlier this month that Oaklawn is increasing the purse of the Grade I Apple Blossom to $5 million, the largest purse for a filly and mare race in the history of North American thoroughbred racing.

Cella said the owners of both Rachel Alexandra (Jess Jackson) and Zenyatta (Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Moss) had agreed to bring their horses to Oaklawn for the April 9 race, which will also feature eight other invited fillies and mares.

Rachel Alexandra (Three-Year-Old Filly) and Zenyatta (Older Filly or Mare) were unanimous Eclipse Award winners in their respective divisions in 2009 and were the only finalists for horse racing’s highest honor – The Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year. In one of the closest ballots in recent memory, Rachel Alexandra was named Horse of Year.

Oaklawn has long been perceived as the ideal neutral ground for the dream matchup, because both have used the Arkansas oval as a launching pad to future success.

As a lightly-raced but promising 4-year-old in 2008, Zenyatta captured her first Grade 1 victory in that year’s Apple Blossom, beating then reigning champion Ginger Punch among others in her only start outside of California and only start on a conventional dirt surface. She has since gone on to post a perfect record, highlighted by her victory in the 2008 Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic and her victory against males in the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic, in what was believed at the time to be the final race of her career. Rumblings about Zenyatta’s “un-retirement” began to be felt in December and Moss made it official Saturday, Jan. 16.

Rachel Alexandra kicked off her three-year-old campaign at Oaklawn with a pair of eye-popping stakes wins in the Martha Washington and the Fantasy Stakes. Her record victory in the Kentucky Oaks the day before the Kentucky Derby clearly stamped her as the best three-year-old filly in the nation. She proved more than that in her next start when she became the first filly to win the Preakness Stakes in 85 years. Rachel Alexandra beat three-year-old colts again in the Haskell and became the first three-year-old filly to win the prestigious Woodward Stakes against older males in September.

“We have always pursued a goal of bringing the world’s best racing to Arkansas,” Cella said. “That is what led us to create the Racing Festival of the South more than 30 years ago. We have been even more fortunate in recent years. That gives us the opportunity to fulfill the promises we continually make to our fans, our horsemen and all of our supporters — and it will most certainly fulfill every promise made.”

February 22, 2010

Remembering ... Silver Charm

A ZATT Guest Blog - by Jay Valter

This is a story about many things. It’s a story about a dingy OTB in Louisiana. About a wedding. About the only Derby I’ve missed in 25 years. About a white-haired dude from Arizona. But mostly it’s a story about the horse with the “ham sandwich price,” my favorite thoroughbred I’ve ever had the pleasure to watch.

It was early 1997, the spring semester of my first year at Tulane Law School, a Kentucky boy transplanted to New Orleans. Like any good degenerate fan of the ponies, I found a couple of kindred souls in my good friends, Adam & Chris. It wasn’t long before we were making regular trips to the track when we should be in class. At the time, the Fair Grounds was still recovering from the 1996 fire, so they only had temporary wagering tents available. We opted instead to cross the river to Gretna, and make our wagering home a converted movie theatre, one of the dumpiest venues ever. Soon we were holding Contracts II study sessions there.

I didn’t immediately fall in love with Silver Charm that Spring. I mean, I was aware of him. Bob Baffert had burst onto the national racing scene with the year before with Cavonnier, and it was obvious he was becoming a major player on the west coast. But I was more focused on a couple of east coast horses: the mighty Pulpit and a plodding closer named Jack Flash. Even a couple of weeks before the Derby, I was still focused on Jack Flash, simply based on his passing a lot of dead horses in the lane in the Bluegrass. I was trying to keep up with all the three-year old contenders, but first-year law school is time-consuming.

Everything changed sometime in mid-April sometime in the wee hours of the morning. In those days, ESPN’s Racing Across America came on at some odd times, and that included something along the lines of Thursdays at 3 a.m. They showed a replay of the Santa Anita Derby. Silver Charm went out with the speedball filly Sharp Cat, ran thru some sizzling fractions, got the lead at the head of the stretch, and was beaten barely by his main rival, Free House. Everything about the race stood out to me. He had no business being around at the end, but he was, a near-winner. Free House got the win that day, but Silver Charm won me over. I had my Derby horse.


Derby Day 1997 was going to be bittersweet for me. Law school finals were going on, and on top of that, I was engaged to be married six weeks after Derby Day (in Louisville, no less.) Logistically and financially, I could not attend the Kentucky Derby. This was like being gouged in the eye. Being away from Louisville on Derby Day; indeed, not being at Churchill Downs on Derby Day was something I had not experienced in a long time (and haven’t experienced since.) But, I was determined to make the best of it. Finals were keeping Adam and Chris close to home, but I convinced my fiancée to make the drive out to the Gretna OTB. I’m certain she hated every minute of it, and given the tight state of finances that we were experiencing this close to the wedding, I’m certain she was not happy that I was doing any wagering whatsoever. Nevertheless, I placed a small trifecta, Silver Charm & Captain Bodgit on top with Free House & Jack Flash in 2nd and3rd. A small $12 wager.

The 1997 Derby was exhilarating. Gary Stevens kept Silver Charm close to the early pace, but kept him from getting into a deadly speed duel. At the top of the stretch he made a brilliant 3-wide move, passing Free House with a furlong to run. To his outside, however, flying was the favorite, Wood Memorial champion, Captain Bodgit. It looked to all observers like the Cap’n was going to run down Charm. But then Silver Charm caught a glimpse of the Captain, and kicked into one extra gear 100 yards from the wire. Stevens got Silver Charm home first. Bob Baffert had won the Kentucky Derby. I had my first Derby winner since Winning Colors (and last before Street Sense), and also cashed a nice little trifecta. I didn’t attend the 1997 Kentucky Derby, the only such anomaly for me in the past 25 years…but it’s my favorite Derby. Go figure.

On to the Preakness. Four weeks before by wedding. Finals were now over, and that meant Adam was in for the trip to Gretna. Once again, Captain Bodgit was favored, as the betting public thought he’d flip the results on Silver Charm. Free House was back as well, and so it was that those three found themselves side by side by side deep in the stretch at Pimlico. They hit the rail whiskers apart, but in between the other two, Silver Charm got a nose in front. I went bonkers, in complete love with this colt. Adam told me later he had never heard someone scream so much during a race. Silver Charm was 2/3 of the way to the Triple Crown, in scintillating fashion. The readers of Blood-Horse magazine would later vote the 1997 Preakness as the Race of the Decade. They got it right.

Three weeks later, it was time to go for the Triple Crown. My fiancée and I were leaving for Louisville the next day, as the wedding was only one week away. She was none too happy that I was headed out to watch a horse race, but there wasn’t a chance in hell I was missing this. This was going to a coronation of a silver king!Most likely, you know what happened. Silver Charm didn’t have Captain Bodgit to worry about this time (he had suffered a minor injury and was retired), but he did have his old pal, Free House to contend with. There was also the presence of Preakness fourth-place finisher, Touch Gold, who had stumbled badly at the start, but rallied on the rail to finish only a couple of lengths behind the top 3. In the Belmont, Silver Charm appeared to have the race won in mid-stretch, having put away Free House. But Chris McCarron had Touch Gold zooming on the far outside. Baffert and Stevens insist that because Free House was in between the two, and blocking Silver Charm from seeing Touch Gold coming, that that was the only reason why McCarron could get by him. If Silver Charm locked eyeballs with him, they reason, he could never make the pass. But he did. And I was crushed. It was the most pain I’ve ever experienced watching a horse race, and it look me along time to get over it. Maybe that’s what doomed my marriage! But that’s a story for another day.

Silver Charm’s owners, Bob & Beverly Lewis, an elderly couple from California, had gotten in the race game late in their lives, and had a lot of success, Timber Country and Serena’s Song chiefly among them. But for them, Silver Charm was a whole different stratosphere of love and adulation. Following the grueling Triple Crown trail, the Lewises and Baffert made the decision that Silver Charm would definitely run as a 4-year old, with the Dubai World Cup and the Breeder’s Cup Classic the top goals. To wit, they decided to give Charm a rest until late in the year. He returned in December with a second-place finish in the Malibu Stakes. For 1997, Silver Charm finished with 3 wins and 4 seconds in 7 starts, good enough for the Eclipse Award as Champion Three-Year Old.

Silver Charm’s four-year old campaign was a roller-coaster ride, and I was watching every exciting moment. The big jewel was his trip to Dubai for the world’s richest race, which was just the third-running of the event. Cigar’s win in the initial running had put the event on the map, and Singspiel’s subsequent win evened the score for the Europeans. So it was a matchup of one of the USA’s big guns vs. Europe’s top contender, Swain in the 1998 event. At the time, the event was not televised stateside and the internet was in its infancy. I was desperate for results that Saturday morning when the race was won. I saw an ad in the Daily Racing Form that an audio replay of the race would be available shortly after the race had been run. Of course, I was on that line every other minute until finally the call was available. And while I couldn’t see the race, hearing the exhilarating stretch duel between Charm and Swain nearly stopped myheart. The gritty gray was a winner of the Dubai World Cup by a nose! Silver Charm is the only horse to win the Kentucky Derby and Dubai World Cup (in fact, before Curlin won in Dubai, he was the only horse to win in Dubai and any leg of the Triple Crown).

The ride continued that summer. He won some brilliant races --- the Kentucky Cup Classic in a dead heat with Wild Rush, the Clark Handicap, the San Pasqual; he also had some agonizingly close losses. He once again beat his old rival Free House in the Goodwood in his final prep for the Classic. For me, it all boiled down to the Breeder’s Cup Classic; not only was Churchill Downs the 1998 venue, but I was finally going to see Charm run in person!

The 1998 Classic field is probably the strongest in the event’s history --- Touch Gold was there, Swain as well. Add in Skip Away, Gentlemen, Victory Gallop, Coronado’s Quest…well, you get the picture. Beating this field was going to be tough.

I had seats at the ¼ pole, so I had a birds-eye view of what transpired in the stretch. Silver Charm seized the lead, but Swain was coming to his outside, just like Dubai. Could Stevens hold him off, I thought? Then, suddenly, Swain bore out badly under Frankie Dettori’s whip. I swear that I have never seen a horse come out that far at Churchill Downs. Silver Charm, ever the eyeballer, drifted out with Swain, though not nearly as bad. The slight drift allowed Pat Day and Awesome Again all the opening he needed, and the big payday. Once again, a year-and-a-half after breaking my heart in the Belmont, it had happened again. It was an emotional defeat, and it hurts me to write about it here.

Silver Charm raced as a five-year old; indeed Baffert sent him to Dubai to attempt to pull off the repeat. He bled and finished sixth, the worst result of his career. He just wasn’t the same. His career ended for me in depressing fashion, at the Gretna OTB, watching the 1999 renewal of the Stephen Foster Handicap. I was ready to embrace this as the spark he needed to move forward in his five-year old season. But it was clear he just wasn’t the same. A fourth-place finish signaled to me that he was finished, and apparently Baffert and the Lewises agreed; he was retired the next week.

Words can never properly describe what watching Silver Charm meant to me. I could certainly recite the stats, 12 wins in 24 lifetime starts, close to $7 million in earnings, a 2007 Hall of Fame inductee, a #63 ranking on Blood Horse’s top 100 racehorses of the 20th century. Those are all well and good, but they don’t measure how happy watching the Charm, the horse Bob Baffert described as being bought for a ham sandwich, made me feel. Those were halcyon days, those law school days. And I am damn glad I had Silver Charm to help me along.

Do I remember Silver Charm? You’re damn right I do.

February 21, 2010

Down and Derby c10

All of a sudden the Derby Trail just got a whole lot downer and derbier with several important preps being run yesterday. The theme of the day was Mr. Todd Pletcher, who scored with three Derby prep wins, topped by a scintillating score by Eskendereya. All of yesterday’s preps, and a non winner of one allowance race at Tampa Bay Downs, went a long way in rattling the cage of ZATT’s master list. I can’t wait for more days like yesterday.

The Top 20

1 Lookin at Lucky (Smart Strike - Private Feeling by Belong to Me)
Still waiting…It looks like the juvenile champ will return March 13 for the San Felipe Stakes, and he better be ready, because a California bred gelding named Caracortado certainly will be. Let’s see, who is a good trainer to have his horses ready to roll? Yes, I am talking about that Silver-haired devil.

2 Eskendereya (Giant’s Causeway - Aldebaran Light by Seattle Slew)
Took things to a new and impressive level in yesterday’s Fountain of Youth. The race set up beautifully for him and he clearly appreciates the Gulfstream Park strip, but he now has run the best race by anyone on the Derby trail and pointed himself out as one of the major players.

3 Super Saver (Maria’s Mon - Supercharger by A.P. Indy)
Part of the Pletcher brigade, he finished his juvenile campaign in style by waltzing home in Churchill Downs’ biggest race for juveniles ridden by Calvin Borel. The distance bred colt is now working well in Florida and should be set for a return in early March, in either the Gotham or the Rebel.

4 Caracortado (Cat Dreams - Mons Venus by Maria’s Mon)
All he does is win. I do not care where this horse came from, after last week’s performance, I have no doubt that this undefeated Michael Machowsky is the real deal. I can’t wait to see what he does next, because we have a major story brewing here. A meeting with Lookin at Lucky will be very interesting.

5 Connemara (Giant's Causeway - Satin Sunrise by Mr. Leader)
Yesterday’s redemption in the El Camino Real Derby carries on my faith in this attractive colt. I expect continued improvement with development, as he still shows flashes of greenness. Distance should not be a problem and look for him to get a stern class test next in the Santa Anita Derby.

6 Dublin (Afleet Alex - Classy Mirage by Storm Bird)
Maybe D. Wayne was right about this powerful colt all along. The throat surgery certainly has seemed to turn him around towards the right direction. His rally for a strong second in the Southwest was even better than it looks on paper, considering the track condition. Distance will be a bit of a question, but he looks strong.

7 Rule (Roman Ruler - Rockcide by Personal Flag)
I admit it, I was slow to come around on this speedy son of Roman Ruler, but one thing has become evident for me…this horse has more gears to go to when the real running begins. I thought his performance last week in winning at the Sam F. Davis was plenty good enough to move up into my Top 10.

8 Odysseus (Malibu Moon - Persimmon Hill by Conquistador Cielo)
This horse has the breeding, looks, and stride of a future Kentucky Derby contender. His win in a Tampa Bay allowance was electrifying, but also against inferior horses. I think he is the real deal, but until he gets tested, you just don’t know. The Tampa Bay Derby will provide that test

9 Dave in Dixie (Dixie Union - Risk by Wavering Monarch)
Well regarded since his impressive debut win last August, the John Sadler trainee returned with a fast finishing second in last week’s Robert B. Lewis. Further improvement off only his third lifetime start, and this colt will become a big threat in ten weeks. Looks to take on Lucky and Caracortado next.

10 Buddy’s Saint (St. Liam - Tuzia by Blushing John)
Anything that could go wrong, did go wrong in his sophomore debut yesterday. The nightmare on the first turn left him with no chance to beat the winner, but Buddy showed little the rest of the way. A Derby winner needs to overcome some hardship. Let’s see if this talented colt can rebound next time.

11 Awesome Act (Awesome Again - Houdini‘s Honey by Mr. Prospector)
I am taking a bit of a flyer here, as this horse has never run on dirt and is based in England, but I love the way he finished in the BC Juvenile Turf. He is headed to New York to make another assault on the U.S. beginning with the Gotham and remember, his breeding suggests dirt will be his surface.

12 Ron the Greek (Full Mandate - Flambé by Fortunate Prospect)
At first glance, his sixth place finish in yesterday’s Risen Star would seem to be a big disappointment, but when you consider that he was coming from last again in a paceless race it looks a whole lot better. He ran widest of all and was making up ground the entire stretch to be beaten just more than 4 lengths. He shouldn’t run into a pace like that again anytime soon.

13 Conveyance (Indian Charlie - Emptythetill by Holy Bull)
I have been taught to always respect the undefeated horse and he is a two-time stakes winner this year, but I can’t get past the feeling that he will start losing as the races become longer, and the final quarter time yesterday did nothing to convince me otherwise. Conveyance will get a chance to prove me right or wrong in the very near future.

14 Uptowncharlybrown (Limehouse - La Ilimunada by Langfuhr)
The Fantasy Lane Stable hope lost a bit of luster and his undefeated record by finishing third last week, but I liked the way he galloped out after Davis. The race, his first around two turns, should do him some good, and sets him up well for a return in the Tampa Bay Derby, which is setting up as a key race.

15 Schoolyard Dreams (Stephen Got Even - Hear This by Prospector‘s Music)
From the same trainer, Derek Ryan, that brought us Musket Man last year, this is a colt who appears to be developing each and every week. His Davis second was a solid effort, and he will return to the same strip to be one of the major players in the Tampa Bay Derby. I like his potential to handle 10 furlongs better than many of the others.

16 Drosselmeyer (Distorted Humor - Golden Ballet by Moscow Ballet)
Stuck on the rail with the same slow pace that Ron the Greek faced, Drosselmeyer is definitely a horse that deserves another shot. It was his first real test and the result was good enough to think that a little improvement in his next race will get him right back on the Derby radar.

17 Noble’s Promise (Cuvee - The Devil’s Trick by Clever Trick)
Full of class, last year’s excellent juvenile is working sharply for his return to the races. No races yet this year, a lack of dirt form, and breeding much more suited for sprinting keep him near the bottom of my Top 20. Oaklawn Park’s Rebel Stakes should be his first race of 2010.

18 American Lion (Tiznow - Storm Tide by Storm Cat)
His third place finish in the Robert B. Lewis was a disappointment, and I am not really sure that he can improve enough off that effort to be a Derby winner. I will keep him on this list, because I still think there is potential, but he will need to show major improvement in his next race which may happen in New Mexico.

19 Nextdoorneighbor (Lido Palace - Fencelineneighbor by Wild Rush)
I loved his maiden win at Santa Anita when stretched out for the first time. He has been absolutely tearing up the track in his morning workouts and could be quickly moving up this list. Look for him in next week’s Sham Stakes where he should be the one to beat.

T-20 Jackson Bend (Hear No Evil - Sexy Stockings by Tabasco Cat)
A hard knocking and classy horse to be sure, but I believe his distance limitations were pointed out in spades yesterday. At this point, it is hard to imagine that he will be one of the horses appreciating the 1 ¼ test of the Kentucky Derby. I think he can make mucho money at nine furlongs or less.

T-20 Sidney’s Candy (Candy Ride - Fair Exchange by Storm Cat)
An impressive bounce back for the Jenny Craig colt in running away with the San Vicente Stakes. He has run four races to date and they all have been sprints so far, because of this, I am going to keep him low on my list with a wait and see attitude. He will get a chance to stretch out a bit with a trip east for the Gotham.

February 20, 2010

One Courageous Cat

My favorite turf horse returned today at Gulfstream Park and earned a hard fought victory in the Grade 3 Canadian Turf Stakes at Gulfstream Park. His name is Courageous Cat, and he certainly lives up to his name. Last seen in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, where he ran second to the great French mare Goldikova, Courageous Cat showed no ill effects from the three and a half month layoff. He stalked a fast pace, as he normally does, pounced as the field straightened out and was very game in holding off a spirited rally by longshot Cherokee Artist to win by a head. A good enough return race for the Bill Mott trainee until you consider the final time. The one mile race on the lawn was run in 1:31.58. Horses simply can not run a flat mile much faster than that, and in fact, the race was less than one fifth of a second behind the world record for the distance. The Gulfstream Park turf course is playing fast, but for a return race, and one in which he was giving the field weight, it was most impressive.

Coglianese Photo

I first time I saw this colt, was last Summer at Belmont Park, where I was impressed with both his physical look, as well as his quick burst of speed. Courageous Cat is an attractive bay with three white stockings and a long white blaze that stretches all the way down his nose. What I saw that first day, when he broke his maiden on the grass, was a horse who could run fast early and then explode into another gear to put his competition away. He was placed directly into stakes races after the maiden score, and he continued to impress. He won an overnight stake at Belmont, shading 1:40 for a 1 1/16 in the process, before easily annexing the Grade 2 Hall of Fame Stakes at Saratoga. That day he ran 1:45.90 for the nine furlongs. His three race skein was broken in the Grade 1 Jamaica, where he steadied, when the real running began and was beaten by the classy Take the Points by ¾ of a length. In that defeat, he showed a lot of heart as he re-rallied, after he looked like he was out of the race. On Breeders’ Cup Day, Courageous Cat made a name for himself. He knocked on the door of stardom when he surged to the lead at the eighth pole before succumbing to the irresistible rush of Goldikova. Ignored that afternoon at nearly 23-1, he was the best performing of my longshot selections in the BC races, and I will be a fan of his for the duration.

Ridden for the second consecutive time by Garrett Gomez, today’s victory was Courageous Cat’s fourth win in seven career starts on the grass. It marked his third stakes win and second graded stakes tally. So far, so good for the impeccably bred son of Storm Cat and Tranquility Lake. A homebred for Pam and Martin Wygod, Courageous Cat is very lightly raced and still on the improve. If he remains healthy, he will give the American side a wonderful opportunity to reclaim the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Churchill Downs. A task made all the taller by the fact that the two-time defending champion Goldikova is preparing to begin her five-year-old season and another raid on our Breeders’ Cup. Can he beat her? Only time will tell, but now a year older and with more experience there for the offing, I think he just may be the horse to take down the French Superstar. He has courage, and he has speed. He is…One Courageous Cat.

February 19, 2010

Odysseus the Cunning

Consider this a formal warning. He is at it again. Quiet for more than 3,000 years, Odysseus the Cunning has returned to carry out a new master plan. Once again he will use the form of a horse to pull the wool over the eyes of the unobservant. A quick recap of history, or Greek mythology, whichever you prefer to call it, reminds us how Odysseus masterminded the plot that took down Troy. Seeking to gain entrance into Troy, Odysseus ordered a large wooden horse to be built. Its insides were hollow so that soldiers could hide inside. Once the horse had been built, many Greek warriors, along with Odysseus, climbed inside. The rest of the Greek fleet sailed away to deceive the Trojans. One Greek, Sinon, was left behind. When the Trojans came to marvel at the giant horse, Sinon pretended to be angry with the Greeks, saying he had been deserted. He convinced the Trojans that the wooden horse was safe and would also bring them great luck. The Trojans celebrated victory, and dragged the wooden horse into Troy. That night, after most of Troy was sleeping or drunk, Sinon let the Greek warriors out from the horse, and the Trojans were quickly defeated. He may be using a different type of horse to complete his agenda, but the end game is very much the same.

The modern day Trojan Horse is a Thoroughbred named Odysseus. Can you see the over confidence here? So sure that his deeds in the Trojan War have been long since forgotten by 21st century America, he flaunts his real name, as if to dare anyone to stop him. His current horse is every bit as impressive as the wooden horse created so many years ago.

A half brother to multiple stakes winner Once Around, Odysseus rallied for second in his debut at Aqueduct last Fall, after getting away slowly in the maiden sprint. His connections were patient with the chestnut son of Malibu Moon and he returned with a hard fought half-length win at seven furlongs in a January maiden special weight race at Gulfstream Park. It was after that maiden win that I first became very aware of the Thomas Albertrani colt and the threat which he represents. After Wednesday, I am now even more weary. The Padua Stables’ Odysseus romped home 15 lengths clear of an allowance field at Tampa Bay Downs in near-track record time. This was a field he was expected to handle, but the way he accomplished the task was eye-catching, as he stalked the leader, and then blew his doors off with mild encouragement by rider Rajiv Maragh. Notice that Odysseus the Cunning has stayed off the mainstream radar to this point, but he did not earn his moniker for nothing. He knows he will need to rack up some graded earnings before his raid on Louisville. With that end in mind, expect Odysseus to reappear at Tampa Bay Downs for their upcoming Derby. Following that, you can expect the meticulous plan to continue on, all the way to the Run for the Roses.

Will Louisville be wiped off the map, much the same way Troy was thousands of years ago? I certainly hope not, as I have many friends in greater Louisville. In the end, I believe the city on the Ohio River has nothing to worry about, it is the other fine horses and their connections that I fear for the most. Odysseus is most cunning, and much like he had his sights squarely on Troy, he now has Louisville all lined up for a sacking unlike anything seen since the last time he schemed. Does he have the horse to succeed? After Wednesday, I would not be surprised if he does. Consider yourself warned.

February 18, 2010

Who Am I ???

*I was not bred in Kentucky nor Florida, but I was still a very well bred American home bred.

*I finished first or second in 12 of my 17 lifetime starts.

*My trainer was inducted into Racing‘s Hall of Fame 33 years before my jockey entered the Hall.

*I finished in the same position in two of the three legs of the Triple Crown.

*More than half of my starts were in New York, but my final five starts came in five different states.

*My rivalry with a Hall of Fame horse was clearly one sided; however, I did get the best of him in one of my biggest wins.

*If you think you know my name, you should be sure of it.

*My most prestigious wins came in New York, but my richest win came in the Keystone State.

*I wish I had run on a sloppy track more than just that one time.

*My sire and my top son also took home the winner’s purse against distinguished members of the Hall of Fame.

*Unfortunately, I was beaten in my final career start at 3-10.

You should know by now … Who Am I ???

February 17, 2010

Lentenor Lift-Off?

Born with his own fan base, to say Lentenor has been watched closely throughout his young life would be a major understatement. The attractive bay son of Dynaformer and La Ville Rouge has yet to disappoint his throngs of followers. His latest race was a sharp maiden score over the Gulfstream Park turf course in a maiden special weight. Today the competition will get more contentious for Lentenor, as he takes on winners for the first time. Eleven other three-year-olds are entered for the race, including several promising turfers. The Kiaran McLaughlin trained pair of Saint Eligius and Krypton, and turf winners Stately Victor, Doubles Partner, and Becky‘s Kitten head the opposition. Make no mistake, though, all eyes will be on Lentenor.

Lentenor has made a solid progression in each of his three starts. He began his career last Fall with a good effort on Keeneland’s synthetic surface. At a distance probably not best suited for him, seven furlongs, Lentenor showed promise in waiting, angling out, and running on well late for a third place finish. In his second career start, he tried turf for the fist time in a 1 1/16 maiden race at Aqueduct. Despite a very testing trip, Lentenor kept trying and was second only defeated by half a length. It looked light he might blow by at the eighth pole, but he appeared to have gotten a little tired late, after taking much the worst of the racing luck during the race. Once again it may have been a defeat, but it was an improvement over the first race and was enough to keep hopes high. In his third race, Lentenor showed everything you would want to see from a future stakes horse. Closer to the pace this time, he stalked the early leader, pounced on the turn, and then turned away strong opposition as they straightened out. He won going away and the time for 1 1/16 race was solid. The win sets him up nicely for today’s race and points him out as strictly the horse to beat.

Coglianese Photo

With a winning performance today, Lentenor will likely step on to the path of his older, full brother, Barbaro, who left the comforts of the turf course to tackle bigger things on the dirt. In 2006, Barbaro used a victory in the Florida Derby to propel himself to a tour de force win in the Kentucky Derby. Lentenor’s connections of trainer Michael Matz and owner’s Roy and Gretchen Jackson are the same team who campaigned Barbaro. In Barbaro they had a wonderful horse who’s life was cut tragically short. He took them to monumental highs, and then unspeakable lows. His connections proved to be of great class throughout the saga, and millions would love to see them rewarded with another top horse. I, for one, would love to see Lentenor given a chance in the Florida Derby.

Barbaro was a beautiful horse, and I understand why so many have rooted so vociferously for his brothers Nicanor and Lentenor. I took the attitude, to wait and see what kind of horses they were before rooting too hard. I had no intention of becoming a big fan/believer only because they were brothers of Barbaro. Clearly Nicanor had talent, but has had health issues. In Lentenor, I see even more potential. I have studied the films of his first three races closely, and I really think the Jacksons and Matz are on to something here. Lentenor has the look of a horse that is getting better and better with development. If he remains healthy, I have little doubt that he will become a stakes horse. It is a little too early for me to tout him as a Derby horse yet, but I certainly can not dismiss him either. Today, I expect a victory, and after that the possibilities become a whole lot more exciting.

February 15, 2010

Remembering ... Serena's Song

When I think of the term Iron Lady, the first mare that springs to mind is the great D. Wayne Lukas horse, Lady’s Secret, and deservingly so. She was far from the only hickory mare that Lukas trained though. An almost equally tough female, as the Iron Lady, was Serena’s Song. The first time I saw this champion in person was also one of her most memorable races. The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies was the scene for what was supposed to be the coronation for the great Flanders. No one told this to the other half of the Lukas entry. Serena’s Song did not look nearly as impressive as her entry mate on paper, but horse races are not run on paper. Serena’s Song and Flanders hooked up on the lead soon after the start, and there they would remain every step of the way. The unheralded Serena’s Song ridden by Corey Nakatani on the outside and the undefeated Flanders with Pat Day on the inside battled in unison through testing fractions as the crowd roared. It is rare to see entry mates take each other on so early in the race, but Lukas had told both jockeys that they were on their own and to go for the win. As the fillies straightened out for the stretch run it looked like Serena on the outside might upstage Flanders, but the favored part of the pair was resolute with Day on the rail. It would be a head bobbing battle to the wire. Flanders got the bob, and was declared the winner by half a head, in what remains the greatest juvenile filly race I have ever seen. She claimed her year-end championship, although it was bittersweet as she returned from the race with an injury and would never race again. For the unheralded half of the entry, it was her doorway to superstardom. Never again would Serena’s Song be taken for granted.

Serena’s Song was foaled in 1992, sired by Rahy out of Imagining, by Northfields, she was bred in Kentucky by Dr. Howard Baker. At the yearling sales, Serena was not one of the hot tickets. Her small size kept many buyers away, but her athleticism caught the eye of the premier trainer in the business. Lukas would purchase Serena’s Song for $150,000 for two of his top clients, Bob and Beverly Lewis. The choice would prove to be an incredible success, although early on it was not so clear.

Serena’s Song two-year-old season was a bit inconsistent, but she did manage to win the Landaluce Stakes and Grade 1 Oak Leak Stakes on the West Coast before her epic battle with Flanders. She also displayed the toughness and durability that would make her a true star. As a juvenile, Serena’s Song started 10 times, and won 4, earning almost $600,000. After her fabulous performance in the BC Juvenile Fillies, Serena‘s Song returned in the Grade I Hollywood Starlet Stakes. She once again dueled on the lead, this time with the highly regarded Urbane, and this time she came out on top. By the end of the 1994 season, she was considered the best young filly not named Flanders. Her winning ways would continue into the Spring of her sophomore season.

Serena’s Song became dominant at age three, winning 9 of 13 starts. Her connections showed little worry in running against males, as she bested them in the Jim Beam at Turfway Park and the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park. She would also handle older females in the prestigious Beldame, in this superlative season. After an easy win in the Jim Beam, which followed impressive wins in the Las Virgenes and Santa Anita Oaks, Lukas planned on sending his star filly to the Kentucky Oaks, but was overruled by owner Bob Lewis, who had not yet won the Kentucky Derby. Lewis would have two Derby wins in his future, but it was not to be for Serena. In the Derby, Serena’s Song blistered the track with fractions of :22 2/5, :45 4/5, 1:10 1/5, and 1:35 3/5 for the mile. It proved to be too much for the great filly, as she tired and finished 16th. The Derby did not knock her out for long as she returned soon to take the Mother Goose and readied herself for another attempt against the boys. The opportunity came about in the Haskell, and yours truly watched in admiration as she beat the boys again. I remember watching her and thinking how low she held her head as she ran. Many top horses have run this way, but it especially struck me that day at Monmouth Park. It was just another way this special filly stood out. She went on to win the Gazelle and Beldame that Fall, further proving her dominance in the division. Her season ended in disappointment with a 5th place finish in a wet BC Distaff at Belmont Park, but nonetheless, Serena’s Song was rewarded for her remarkable season with an Eclipse Award as champion three-year-old filly.

As an older horse, Serena’s Song continued to rack up frequent flyer miles as well as earnings. She was entered in seemingly every big race for older females as well as several more tries against males. She did not win nearly as often as she did at three, but she still managed to further her Iron Lady reputation. At four, she won five out of fifteen races including three grade 1s and was second seven times, including the Whitney and the BC Distaff. Winless in her final seven starts, although 2nd in six of those races, it was clear that Serena’s Song was a bit of a tired horse at the end of her four-year-old season. Much discussion about her returning for a fourth season ensued, but in the end, they decided she had done enough. At retirement Serena's Song stood as the richest female racehorse in American history when she called it quits with more than $3.2 million. Just like all earnings records, it has since been broken, but to hold the record at all was a huge accomplishment. All told, Serena’s Song was victorious in an amazing 17 graded stakes and was second in many more, in only three years of racing. She received her ultimate honor when she was inducted into Racing’s Hall of Fame in 2002.

In her second career, Serena’s Song has also proven a terrific success. Upon retirement, Serena’s Song was sent to Denali Stud near Paris, Kentucky to begin life as a broodmare. Among her offspring are three stakes winners. Sophisticat and Grand Reward both by Storm Cat and Serena’s Tune by Mr. Prospector have carried on the name of Serena’s Song quite well. Of course she will always be best remembered as a runner, and for good reason. Her sophomore season may have been her most successful, but she was a model of consistent excellence throughout her career and was as durable as they come. She fell just one win short of winning half of her 38 races, and I can’t think of another horse, in the last twenty years, who danced every dance quite as often as she did. She was tough as nails. I remember you Serena’s Song.

February 14, 2010

Star Watch

I have always thought that one of the most enjoyable things about Thoroughbred horse racing is in the finding of new stars. Their potential is limitless. I daydream about future races and how good they may become. The anticipation of their next race is heightened by the newness of their fame. Horse racing parades an endless supply of future possible stars, but until you see them do something special, they are unproven. When some actually become good enough to take it to the for real level, you want to be among the first to appreciate their ability. I saw two such horses yesterday at Santa Anita Park, in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes and the Santa Maria Handicap. Neither Caracortado nor St Trinians were well known outside of Southern California before yesterday, but after respective superlative performances, they can fly under the radar no longer.

Caracortado won his first time out in a maiden claimer at Fairplex Park. Far from a common place to begin for a horse poised to become a star. His most recent win had been in the California Breeders' Champion Stakes on December 26 at Santa Anita. In between he had won a pair of allowance races at Hollywood Park, meaning that when he entered the starting gate yesterday he was perfect in four tries. Despite this, Caracortado was the fourth choice in the five horse field. The lack of respect by bettors proved to be a major mistake as Caracortado blew away a pair of highly regarded opponents in Tiz Chrome and American Lion early in the stretch. He then had more than enough to stave off the late rush of closer Dave in Dixie. The final winning margin was a 1 ¾ and he stopped the teletimer in 1:41.75, which was the fastest time for the distance at the meet. Caracortado, a California bred gelding, has been ridden by Paul Atkinson in all of his starts and is trained by Mike Machowsky for a partnership headed by Don Blahut. The son of Cat Dreams will likely run next in either the San Felipe or Santa Anita Derby, on his way to Louisville and a run for the roses.

Just two races later in the sunny California afternoon came the five-year-old English import, St Trinians. Despite starting her career in Europe, the daughter of Piccolo is far more experienced on the synthetic surfaces than the turf that is so common across the Atlantic. St Trinians came into the Santa Maria undefeated in three start since arriving in the United States, but was clearly not the headliner going in. Standing in her path was the BC Ladies Classic winner Life Is Sweet, who had four major wins over this course last year. Despite the accomplishments of Life Is Sweet, St Trinians’ recent form could not be ignored and she actually went off a slight favorite. Much like Caracortado, she exploded past her rivals at the top of the stretch, and then was strong down the lane, easily holding of the fast finish of Life Is Sweet. Also like Caracortado, she won by 1 3/4 lengths, and completed 1 1/16 miles on the Pro-Ride in 1:41.73. The time was .02 faster than Caracortado, meaning St Trinians now has the fastest time at the distance for the meet. Ridden by Joel Rosario for the third consecutive race, St Trinians is trained by Mike Mitchell and now has won seven times in eleven starts and sports an impressive seven out of ten record on a synthetic surface. After yesterday, you have to believe she will be on the invitation list for the Apple Blossom and, if she accepts, she has a meeting with Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta in her near future.

Will either St Trinians or Caracortado become champions this year? Chances are not, but as of yesterday they have proven that they deserve great respect. I know I will be watching them closely from here on in…I love the new stars of racing.

February 13, 2010

Down and Derby c11

The real running has begun and accordingly there have been some major moves up and down the big list. Especially impressive was a Cal bred gelding who began his career in a maiden claimer at Fairplex Park. It just goes to show, an excellent horse can come from anywhere. Without further adieu, ZATT gets Down and Derby…

The Top 20

1 Lookin at Lucky (Smart Strike - Private Feeling by Belong to Me)
Eagerly awaiting the return of the juvenile champion, and with a brief hole in his training, we will continue to wait. He is back on track and still should have two solid preps before the big one. I will say it again…a dirt race would be nice, but nonetheless he retains the top spot.

2 Buddy’s Saint (St. Liam - Tuzia by Blushing John)
The Fountain of Youth is on deck for the dazzling winner of Aqueduct’s Nashua and Remsen. There is not much I don’t like about the Bruce Levine trained runner and he retains the top spot in the East at this point. Reports from Miami are sparkling.

3 Super Saver (Maria’s Mon - Supercharger by A.P. Indy)
One of many for both WinStar Farm and Todd Pletcher, he finished 2009 with a bang by waltzing home in Churchill Downs’ biggest race for juveniles. The distance bred colt is now working well in Florida and should be set for a return in early March.

4 Caracortado (Cat Dreams - Mons Venus by Maria’s Mon)
All he does is win. I do not care where this horse came from, after today’s performance, I have no doubt that this undefeated Michael Machowsky is the real deal. I can’t wait to see what he does next, because we have a major story brewing here.

5 William’s Kitten (Kitten’s Joy - Blush by Menifee)
I can’t help thinking that of all the horses on this list, he might be the most likely to be passing horses in the Kentucky Derby stretch. Whether that is for seventh place or perhaps much better, remains to be seen, but I will be watching his preps with great interest.

6 Rule (Roman Ruler - Rockcide by Personal Flag)
I admit it, I was slow to come around on this speedy son of Roman Ruler, but it has now become evident to me…this horse has more gears to go to when the real running begins. I thought his performance today in winning at Tampa was plenty good enough to move up into my Top 10.

7 Ron the Greek (Full Mandate - Flambé by Fortunate Prospect)
The Unheralded winner of the LeComte closed like an absolute freight train that day, and I do not expect a regression from him in next week’s Risen Star Stakes. He remains one of the more interesting horses on this list for owner Jack Hammer.

8 Jackson Bend (Hear No Evil - Sexy Stockings by Tabasco Cat)
It is hard to knock this tough Florida sophomore, he runs well every time, and any improvement off his solid performance in the Holy Bull will make him tough to beat in the Fountain of Youth. Will he get ten furlongs? I don’t know, but having Nick Zito in his corner can’t hurt.

9 Drosselmeyer (Distorted Humor - Golden Ballet by Moscow Ballet)
It’s nice to see Bill Mott with a real Derby threat. He has yet to test the stakes waters, but this big, strong, well bred looker will be hard to handle as soon as he does. Word is he is headed to the Big Easy next to test himself at the Fair Grounds.

10 Dave in Dixie (Dixie Union - Risk by Wavering Monarch)
Well regarded since his impressive debut win last August, the John Sadler trainee returned with a fast finishing second in today’s Robert B. Lewis. Further improvement off only his third lifetime start, and this colt will become a big threat in eleven weeks.

11 Dryfly (Jump Start - Creeksider by Topsider)
I have liked this son of Jump Start since his first race at Philadelphia Park and he has looked solid in his last two victories. His owner Charles Cella is the man behind the Rachel and Zenyatta showdown, so that good karma should be worth something. Dryfly will be tested Monday in the Southwest.

12 Awesome Act (Awesome Again - Houdini‘s Honey by Mr. Prospector)
I am taking a bit of a flyer here, as this horse has never run on dirt and is based in England, but I love the way he finished in the BC Juvenile Turf. He is headed to New York to make another assault on the U.S. beginning with the Gotham and remember, his breeding suggests dirt will be his surface.

13 Connemara (Giant's Causeway - Satin Sunrise by Mr. Leader)
The half brother of 2004 Derby runner-up, Lion Heart, gets one more chance in my book after a disappointing second in Golden Gate’s California Derby. Only strong improvement will get him back squarely on the Kentucky Derby trail.

14 Dublin (Afleet Alex - Classy Mirage by Storm Bird)
Will we see the big horse who looked so very impressive at Saratoga, or the horse that disappointed at Belmont and Churchill Downs. A throat procedure and a string of solid works in Arkansas, give much hope for the former. We will find out much on Monday.

15 Eskendereya (Giant’s Causeway - Aldebaran Light by Seattle Slew)
He got off to a quick start to 2010 with a sharp win in an allowance at Gulfstream Park. Not currently my favorite of the Pletcher stable, the well bred colt has every right to improve into a top horse, and will get a good test in the Fountain of Youth.

16 Uptowncharlybrown (Limehouse - La Ilimunada by Langfuhr)
The Fantasy Lane Stable hope lost a bit of luster and his undefeated record by finishing third in the Sam F. Davis today. The race, his first around two turns, should do him some good, and sets him up well for another try in the Tampa Bay Derby.

17 Noble’s Promise (Cuvee - The Devil’s Trick by Clever Trick)
Full of class, last year’s excellent juvenile is working sharply for his return to the races. No races yet this year, a lack of dirt form, and breeding much more suited for sprinting keep him near the bottom of my Top 20.

18 Conveyance (Indian Charlie - Emptythetill by Holy Bull)
Three easy wins in fields that included no world beaters, have me wondering how good this horse really is. Distance capabilities are also a bit of a question mark. He will get his first real test in Monday’s Southwest Stakes as the likely favorite.

19 American Lion (Tiznow - Storm Tide by Storm Cat)
His third place finish in the Robert B. Lewis was a disappointment, and I am not really sure that he can improve enough off that effort to be a Derby winner. I will keep on this list, because I still think there is still potential, but…

20 Pleasant Storm (Pleasant Tap - Burning Fever by Stormin Fever)
An Oklahoma bred (remember Lady’s Secret?) who has done nothing wrong in his first three races. He still is a long way from Louisville, but another solid effort at Oaklawn on Monday puts him on the right track. The Southwest pace may set up well for his chances.

February 12, 2010

The Happening at Hot Springs

OK, we now know Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta, or should I say their owners, have graciously agreed to run against each other for the paltry sum of $5 million. Sportsmen or businessmen? It makes no matter to me, I am much more interested in seeing these two magnificent and historically significant horses square off on the Oaklawn oval, than having any further discussions about their wealthy connections. The pair’s accomplishments to this date are nothing short of phenomenal and the prospect of them testing each other, to see once and for all who is the better lady, is absolutely mouth watering. The world should be watching. Set for Friday, late afternoon on April 9, many worry that this time will not do the race, nor the sport, the justice it deserves. I have a possible solution…why not put The Happening at Hot Springs under the lights, so it can be a Friday night national celebration?

Let’s face it, if we want more people to view the race, a primetime race is far more desirable than a late afternoon post time. The Masters golf tournament will be finishing for the day and the sports fan will be compelled and ready to see racing’s great showdown. Women and girls around the nation will be tuned in to watch the battle of the babes. The excitement created last Summer at Churchill Downs was a clear indication that night racing can add excitement to the festivities of the day’s races, but in the case of The Happening at Hot Springs, the benefits could be far greater. By having the race closer to primetime throughout the nation, viewership could increase exponentially. Churchill Downs was trying to boost attendance, enthusiasm, and handle by offering night racing, and they accomplished all three in a big way with their Friday night cards. Oaklawn would be trying to do the same thing, only not on site, but rather for a national audience. To test the plan Churchill erected temporary lights through an Iowa company, Musco Lighting, who advertises rapid set-up and tear-down, and achieving desired results without breaking the budget. The plan worked so well, that Churchill has now gone to permanent lighting to continue to offer occasional night racing. It is not too late for Oaklawn to change the post times for the day and procure the temporary lighting.

Oaklawn, you did it, the spotlight is shining brightly on your track. The first ever showdown between Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta promises to be the biggest match up we have seen in Thoroughbred horse racing since most of us were born. Why not take it one step farther and shine that light just a little brighter…“Ladies and Gentleman, Friday Night at the Races starring two bona fide superstars, Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta in The Happening at Hot Springs!”

February 11, 2010

Who Am I ???

*I won more than half of my lifetime starts and only finished out of the money one time.

*My biggest victory was the perfect race to win for my owner.

*My five career stakes wins came at five different racetracks and at five different distances.

*I ran two of my finest races in my final two races, unfortunately neither produced a victory.

*Just under half of my lifetime starts were in the Garden State.

*One of my primary jockeys was easily more than double the age of my other primary rider.

*My name is 50% my mother and 50% my father.

*As a three-year-old, I was not a champion, although I bested the champ in what would be each of our final career start.

*Unfortunately, I ran ninth in the race directly following my most important win.

*I was an East Coast guy, never having raced west of Hialeah, Florida, and ending my career at the Spa.

*My undistinguished career as a stallion included time in Illinois, Maryland and Kentucky.

You should know by now … Who Am I ???

Rachel and Zenyatta ... It is On!

Oaklawn Park is set to announce that the $5 Million Apple Blossom Invitational is back on.  It will be moved from April 3 to Friday, April 9 to accomodate the request of Rachel Alexandra's connections.  Both connections have agreed to run.

February 10, 2010

Heralding Drosselmeyer

WinStar Farm is in the best position of any owner at this point on the Kentucky Derby highway. Their hand is stacked with four major players ready to march on Louisville the first of May. Three of the four secured their position as early favorites by impressively winning stakes late last year, with Super Saver winning the Kentucky Jockey Club, Rule winning the Delta Jackpot, and American Lion accounting for Hollywood’s Prevue. The final horse of their big four may not be as well known, or even run in a stakes race yet, but he just might have what it takes to be the one horse draped in roses at Churchill Downs. His name is Drosselmeyer. Named for a character from Tchaikovsky's ‘The Nutcracker’, Drosselmeyer is a chestnut colt by Distorted Humor, who has already sired a Derby winner in Funny Cide, out of the grade 1 winning mare, Golden Ballet, a daughter of Moscow Ballet. The well bred sophomore, trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, also has a stronger foundation of experience than many of the top candidates, with four two-turn races and a win over the Churchill Downs strip under his belt. He has already run on turf, synthetics, and dirt, but it was his two dirt races that really caught my attention.

After three solid, but losing, efforts on East Coast lawns and Keeneland’s synthetic course, his first try on dirt was a race at Churchill originally scheduled for the turf. In the maiden special weight, Drosselmeyer broke from the outside post and toyed with his overmatched opponents in the one mile affair to the tune of a six length tally. Ridden by Kent Desormeaux, he ran a solid time on the same strip that will host the derby, and it was one of the more visually impressive maiden scores of the year. That November 18 race would be his last of the season, and it stamped him as a horse to watch in 2010. I will admit, the maiden win was not quite enough to crack my Down and Derby Top 20 list, but he was very close, and he had my full attention for his return.

We did not need to wait too long for him to reappear. It happened on the last day of January at Gulfstream Park. The nine furlong allowance race gave Drosselmeyer another opportunity to run over a route of ground, and allowed for his first dirt race around two-turns. He passed the challenge with flying colors. Drosselmeyer, ridden again by Kent Desormeaux, had to find room on the turn and for awhile it looked like he might be in trouble. Drosselmeyer was patient and professional and when the hole opened up he showed excellent acceleration and easily edged away from the solid allowance field by 1 ¾ lengths. Once again the final time was solid, 1:49.52, and the way he did it was impressive. I always look for a horse that can be patient and maneuver through openings once presented in the Derby. Drosselmeyer appears to be that type of horse. His two dirt races are impressive enough for him to sky rocket up my list of Derby contenders, which will be out on Saturday.

All things look full steam ahead for the powerful colt. Elliott Walden, the Vice President & Racing Manager at WinStar, tells me that Drosselmeyer is doing good and his next race will most likely be the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds on February 20. If that is indeed where he runs next, it will mark his sixth race at six different tracks and his fifth race around two-turns. Along with impressive experience already at Churchill Downs, and being trained by one of our sport’s masters, you would have to think that Drosselmeyer will be one of the most well prepared horses in the Kentucky Derby starting gate. Yes, I know I might be jumping the gun a bit with that last statement, but this is one colt I really like.

February 8, 2010

Remembering ... Gallant Man

Generally in the Remembering Series, I write about horses that I followed and saw run in person. Today will not be one of those days. Gallant Man was one of the horses in American racing history that especially interests me. Remembered best for a rider’s mistake, he was also truly an excellent horse. Born in the year 1954, Gallant Man was an important member of one of the greatest crops ever. An English bred son of Migoli and Majideh, both champions in Europe, Gallant Man was born to be a top race horse. He, however, was not a hot commodity as a youngster because of his smallish size and questionable feet and ankles. When he did make it to the races for trainer Gerald Bloss, he was shown no respect at the windows and ran like it, finishing well back in his first two starts. In his third race, at odds of greater than 50-1, Gallant Man turned things around with a surprising victory. He would improve race by race and by the end of the year he was turned over to trainer John Nerud and was showing real promise, although his three wins in seven starts did not include a stakes win.

Gallant Man turned that around quickly as a sophomore with a win in the six furlong Hibiscus Stakes in Florida. After being well beaten by the brilliant Bold Ruler in the Bahamas, Nerud decided to get Gallant Man out of Florida and away from the more advanced Bold Ruler and Gen. Duke. While those two duked it out in South Florida, Gallant Man was allowed to mature and was now ready for another clash with Bold Ruler. Jamaica’s Wood Memorial was the site, and for the first time, Gallant Man would display the kind of horse he was becoming. In a thrilling stretch duel, Bold Ruler came on again and nipped him by a nose. It was a great race in the last prep for the Kentucky Derby. The two horses broke the track record for nine furlongs and would head to Louisville with obvious momentum.

In the 1957 Kentucky Derby, Gallant Man was shown a great deal of respect by the bettors at just under 4-1. In the field were rivals and future Hall of Famers, Bold Ruler and Round Table. Calumet had lost the brilliant Gen. Duke to an injury and filled his spot with the capable Iron Liege. Iron Liege and Bold Ruler stalked pacesetter Federal Hill until the field hit the quarter pole. Iron Liege surged to the lead as Federal Hill and Bold Ruler could not keep up. The Calumet runner gained a clear lead, but Gallant Man was coming up fast on the outside. Gallant Man had Iron Liege in his sight for Kentucky Derby glory when something bizarre occurred. Gallant Man’s rider Willie Shoemaker stood up in the irons. He had mistaken the sixteenth pole for the finish line. Shoemaker quickly realized his blunder and went back to work on Gallant Man, but fell agonizingly short at the wire. Iron Liege had held on by a desperate nose, with Round Table 3rd and Bold Ruler 4th. Shoemaker admitted after the race that his mistake cost his horse the Kentucky Derby. Human error had just caused Gallant Man to lose the biggest race a horse could win. Making the incident all the more unbelievable, owner Ralph Lowe had a dream two nights before the race that Gallant Man’s rider would stand up early.

After the disheartening loss in the Derby, Gallant Man refused to become a shrinking violet. Sent back to New York, he prepared for a start in the Belmont Stakes with an impressive win in the Peter Pan Stakes over the same strip. When Belmont Day arrived, Bold Ruler, the Derby favorite and Preakness winner was the star, but it was Gallant Man who stole the show. He ran right by the favored Bold Ruler and drew off in the stretch to an eight length win. In so doing he shattered the American record by running the mile and a half in 2:26 and 3/5. This record would stand for 16 more years until a horse named Secretariat came along. After the Peter Pan and Belmont wins, Gallant Man would continue to dominate in New York. Wins in the Nassau County, Travers, and Jockey Club Gold Cup set him up with an opportunity for a championship. It would not be easy though as Round Table had become a dominant force in California on dirt and turf and was successfully moving east and Bold Ruler was freshened and was coming off sharp victories. The meeting of the three would happen in the Trenton Handicap at Garden State Park. The 10 furlong test would decide the championship. Bold Ruler proved too much that day and easily wired the field on the wet track, with Gallant Man finishing 2nd and Round Table was 3rd. Bold Ruler would be named three-year-old champion and Horse of the Year. Round Table was the turf champ, and Gallant Man, despite his fantastic year was shut out from year end awards.

As a four-year-old, Gallant Man only raced five times. He was beaten by his biggest rival, Bold Ruler in the Carter, but then rebounded to win the Met Mile over Bold Ruler. A trip to the West Coast proved successful, as Gallant Man scored in the Hollywood Gold Cup and Sunset Handicap. He ran fifth in his final career start in the Sysonby Handicap and was retired soon after with a leg injury. Gallant Man finished his career with 14 wins in 26 starts. Quite a record when you consider that his career got off to a slow start, and the level of competition he regularly faced as a foal of 1954. He was a brilliant stakes winner at six furlongs as well as a extraordinary stayer, winning three major stakes at twelve furlongs or more, including the two mile Jockey Club Gold Cup. Gallant Man was truly dynamic with his speed and endurance. He may have been retired from the races at four, but his career was far from over.

Much like the greatest of his peers, Gallant Man was a big success at stud. He produced a total of 52 stakes winners, chief among them was the great race mare Gallant Bloom. He also enjoyed a very successful career as a broodmare sire. Gallant Man was pensioned from stud duty in 1981, and he lived to the ripe old age of 34 years old before passing away at the age of 1988. Would history remember Gallant Man a little differently if Shoemaker had not made the infamous gaff? Yes, but the 1957 Kentucky Derby will always be remembered as one of the more interesting ones in history, because the wrong horse won. Gallant Man will be always remembered for his Derby loss, but he was so much more than that. I remember you Gallant Man.

February 7, 2010

The Tale of Two Races

“It was the best of times, It was the worst of times…” I wonder if Charles Dickens was a fan of the horses. Yesterday’s wonderful day of racing had its ‘worst of times’ moments, with the cancellation of Santa Anita’s big card, and a broken bit that had the promising Eightyfiveinafifty looking more like a scared jackrabbit being chased by the wolves. Like a microcosm of life, with the bad came the good. The good, in this case, came in the form of two beautiful four-year-old colts named Quality Road and Musket Man. The two horses have a few things in common. Both colts won for the sixth time in their ninth lifetime start, and neither have ever finished out of the money. Both Musket Man and Quality Road winter in Florida and call the Northeast their home the rest of the year, and both colts fell just short of ultimate glory in the previous season. That is where the similarity ends.

Sticking with the Dickens theme, If Musket Man is the French peasant, than Quality Road is the English aristocrat. Greatness was expected for Quality Road from a young age. Since his smashing win in the shadow of New York City as a juvenile, this is a colt who all the experts have touted and spoke about in the most glowing terms. With his powerhouse victories at Gulfstream Park early last year, Quality Road steamed towards the Kentucky Derby as the likely favorite. Unfortunately, an ugly quarter crack kept the big, muscled son of Elusive Quality out of the Derby, and out of the entire Triple Crown for that matter. Meanwhile, no one paid much attention when a dark bay, sired by Yonaguska won his first three starts at Belmont, Philadelphia Park, and Tampa Bay Downs. Musket Man chugged along proudly wearing his blue collar and carrying his lunch pale to impressive victories in the Tampa Bay and Illinois Derbies. With Quality Road recuperating on the sidelines, Musket Man ran large, if not somewhat unlucky, races to finish 3rd in both the Derby and the Preakness. Still, Musket Man was far from a household name.

While Quality Road readied for a much anticipated return to the races, it was now Musket Man’s turn to succumb to soreness. A bone bruise would put him on the shelf for the remainder of the year. Quality Road finally returned with a blazing win in the Amsterdam Stakes at Saratoga, and the pundits dove on to his bandwagon. His mercurial rise back to the top of the division was stunted somewhat by two defeats at the hands of the champion, Summer Bird, in the Travers and Jockey Club Gold Cup. Those defeats were on messy tracks and to a horse with a great deal more bottom than the talented colt who was now trained by Todd Pletcher. His 2009 season, which was paved with both brilliance and setbacks, would have one final unusual turn. Set to contest America’s richest race, the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Quality Road balked at the starting gate. The refusal to enter the gate escalated into a scary situation and Quality Road was scratched, but avoided injury. The psychological damage from the incident was evident a few days later when Quality Road would not willingly enter the airplane ready to transport him home. Instead he hit the highway and was driven all the way across the nation back to New York. Through his struggles, Quality Road is now beloved, not only by fans of his immense talent, but also by those who feel for what he went through in November.

Unfinished business is a theme for both horses, as they passed on an early exit to the breeding shed, and returned for their third season of racing. The glamour boy, Quality Road ran an absolute monster race yesterday in winning the Grade 1 Donn Handicap. Every bit of his talent and strength was on display as he destroyed a full field of mediocre stakes horses. His winning margin was nearly 13 lengths as he broke his own track record set in last year’s Florida Derby. In just nine races, it was his third track record and preliminary reports of his Beyer number are set at a gaudy 122. Quality Road has not accomplished as much as the reigning Queens of racing, but he is unquestionably a member of the current racing aristocracy. A King in waiting. Not quite so regal, but in my opinion just as good a story, is the small town, Musket Man. Yesterday he ran a deceptively excellent race in the Super Stakes at Tampa. In his first race in nearly nine months, Musket Man showed everything you could have hoped for, as he stalked a fast pace from a wide position, and then battled with a 7 furlong specialist, who had mustered up a full head of steam, through most of the stretch. They left the rest of the field far behind, and it was a hard fought ½ length victory for the classy Musket Man. It was a perfect return race that should set him up nicely for the bigger things to come.

They come from different sides of the track to be sure, and yesterday’s races may have looked disproportionately more impressive in favor of Quality Road, but both horses are pure quality in their own ways. Each colt has an ultimate goal of the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic, and whether or not that is the venue, I hope they someday meet as two of the best handicap horses in the nation, and don’t be too surprised if the unheralded Musket Man gives the superstar Quality Road everything he wants.

February 6, 2010

Down and Derby - Female Style

How about a little love for the ladies? Today ZATT forsakes the boys and takes a look at the fairer sex, with my first Kentucky Oaks list. Although, with the recent success shown by the girls in the Triple Crown races, some of these may be looking at the Derby as well. Enjoy these talented young ladies.

The Top 10

1 Blind Luck (Pollard’s Vision - Lucky One by Best of Luck)
We will have to wait just a little bit longer for the 2010 debut of Blind Luck, as today’s card at Santa Anita has been washed away. The Jerry Hollendorfer miss finished off last year with a devastating display in the Hollywood Starlet. She has a firm hold on my number one position with a bullet and all accounts have her in fine fettle in Southern California. Let the Derby whispers begin.

2 Christine Daae (Giant’s Causeway - Descapate by Dehere)
Two races and one win, lands her this lofty position? Well, yes. Anyone who saw her return to the races in a maiden special weight at Gulfstream three weeks ago, knows that she is the real deal. Expect her ascent up the sophomore filly division to be as swift as she was in her win. She will jump right into a graded stakes next in the Davona Dale and her experienced trainer Patrick Biancone sees big things in her future.

3 Hot Dixie Chick (Dixie Union - Above Perfection by In Excess)
The unquestioned leader of the juvenile filly division through September, has been away from the races for five full months now. Her work schedule has started to gear up in New Orleans, so hopefully her three-year-old debut is not too far away. If she can reproduce her brilliance this year and carry it around two turns, she will be a force to be reckoned with in the division.

4 She Be Wild (Offlee Wild - Trappings by Seeking the Gold)
The Eclipse Award winner got off to a rocky start to her sophomore year. It was her first race since the Breeders’ Cup and her first career try on dirt, so I am willing to overlook that one, and give her another chance. One more dull effort on the dirt will make us wonder if she is more of a synthetics horse, but right now I still believe she will be able to handle the dirt and run much better next out.

5 Biofuel (Stormin Fever - Ms Cornstalk by Indian Charlie)
When last seen this Canadian based filly was closing like a freight train in the Breeders’ Cup, only to sideswiped by Negligee. Once she regained her stride, she was again flying towards the leaders, but a little too late. She has not worked yet this year, so it looks like her debut will still be a little bit down the road. She may very well appreciate the 9 furlongs and the Churchill Downs strip come Oaks Day.

6 Bickersons (Silver Deputy - Dancehall Floozy by Paramount Jet)
Who was that blur that absolutely ran away with the Forward Gal last week and in the process left champion She Be Wild in the dust? None other than the Kelly Breen trained, and well traveled, Bickersons. I like this filly a lot and she provided me with my biggest wagering score of the year so far, but I have a feeling that her best races will be at one turn. Still, her performance last week was so good, it secures a solid position on this list.

7 Negligee (Northern Afleet - Naughty Notions by Relaunch)
I easily could have ranked this daughter of the same sire who brought us Afleet Alex higher. She was a surprise winner of the Grade 1 Alcibiades last Fall and followed that up with a very good run in the Breeders’ Cup, despite running an erratic course. She is now working well in Florida for her return, and although I still rate her lower than six others, I will not make the mistake of underestimating her again.

8 Amen Hallelujah (Montbrook - Sara’s Success by Concord‘s Tune)
I am not sure about the distance capabilities of this Rick Dutrow trained filly, but she was quite impressive in her recent win in the 7 furlong Grade 2 Santa Ynez. It was her second race in Southern California after missing her expected run in the BC, and showed marked improvement over her first race back. She has yet to race on dirt, but opportunities are wide open for this improving daughter of Montbrook.

9 Devil May Care (Malibu Moon - Kelli’s Ransom by Red Ransom)
This Todd Pletcher trainee stepped up in a big way last Fall, when she won the Grade 1 Frizette after only one lifetime start. She did not do well on the synthetic surface of the Breeders’ Cup, but it was a lot to ask of such an inexperienced filly. She has been working steadily in Florida for a return to the races soon, and I see this one as a filly who should love the longer distances to come.

10 Awesome Maria (Maria’s Mon - Discreetly Awesome by Awesome Again)
The Stanley Hough trained, gray daughter of Maria’s Mon was impressive in her steady climb up the ranks of the best juvenile fillies on the East Coast last year. She won the Matron and did not have the best of it, when 2nd in the Frizette. She has not worked out at all this year, so we will have to wait and see on this talented filly who is bred to appreciate the extra ground when she stretches out.

Don’t forget, Zipse at the Track contributes to the Derby Dozen over at Steve Munday’s WirePlayers.com A consensus of ten racing experts creates the Derby Dozen, and Steve will have the list up and running every other Tuesday evening. Check out the current Derby Dozen now: http://wireplayers.com/blog/1656-derby-dozen-volume-ii.html