New York’s premier prep for the Kentucky Derby, the Wood Memorial, will celebrate its 86th edition this Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack. In its rich and storied past, the Wood has seen such winners as Gallant Fox, Count Fleet, Assault, Native Dancer, Nashua, Bold Ruler, Damascus, Foolish Pleasure, Seattle Slew, Pleasant Colony, Slew O’ Gold, Easy Goer, Unbridled’s Song, Fusaichi Pegasus, Empire Maker, Bellamy Road, and I Want Revenge. It has consistently been one of the most important springboards to the Run for the Roses, and this year’s running sets up to be a strong one. With some realistic handicapping, the Wood boils down to a four horse race. Each of the big four of Eskendereya, Awesome Act, Schoolyard Dreams, and Jackson Bend, has a chance to win Saturday and then make a big splash at Churchill Downs. Let’s take a closer look at the Wood Memorial’s fantastic four:
Trainer: Todd Pletcher Jockey: John Velazquez ZATT Odds: 6-5
Eskendereya has been freshened since his monster effort in the Fountain of Youth. In his time away, the Florida Derby finish of Ice Box and Pleasant Prince 1-2, only served to flatter the Wood Memorial favorite. Pletcher believes the beautifully bred colt will run all day, and a performance similar to his last at Gulfstream will make him one of the two choices in Louisville. He appears to be the number one bullet in Pletcher’s brigade of prospects.
He ran a big race in the Holy Bull, but will have to show improvement after running a well beaten second in the Fountain of Youth, to none other than Eskendereya. I refuse to take this one too lightly, however. He is trained by master conditioner Nick Zito, and has run well in all of his eight starts. Maybe the Fountain of Youth was not his best, he was preferred to Eskendereya by bettors that day, and maybe Zito has him geared up for the big ones. He is still a horse to fear.
March 31, 2010
March 30, 2010
My recent trip to Turfway Park for Saturday’s Lane’s End Stakes got me into a bit of a nostalgic mood. While I have been to Turfway, or Latonia as it was formerly called, many times in the past, it had been several years since I had been to the Northern Kentucky oval. It seemed smaller than I remembered, a common phenomenon I guess. Being there brought back a flood of happy memories, and in recalling visits of the past, there was one memory that stood head and shoulders above the rest. The year was 1991, and a handsome bay colt’s performance that day was the cause of my vivid memory. In fact, it was not just his huge performance in the Jim Beam, (now called the Lane’s End) but it was also the magnificent year he had following that day at Turfway.
March 29, 2010
Bob Baffert’s undefeated 3-5 shot, Conveyance, was loping along on an uncontested lead. Expected early pressure from sprinter Classical Slew was nowhere to be seen. Meanwhile, morning line second choice Tempted to Tapit chose to stalk and offered no pace bother to the heavy favorite. The closest pursuer to Conveyance’s early lead was longshot Endorsement. It appeared to be as simple as Wire-to-Wire 101, and Baffert was already preparing his victory speech, but then something funny happened. This is why they run the race my friends…Halfway through the race, you could see that Endorsement was sitting very comfortably behind Conveyance. Jockey Robby Albarado was sitting as chilly as the cartoon penguin with Endorsement, who was now cutting into Conveyance’s lead. As they turned for home, it was clear who the stronger horse was, and it was not the undefeated colt who had been so high on the Kentucky Derby list of many. Instead it was Endorsement who proved an easy winner as he drew clear down the lane. At odds of nearly 12-1, and with only a maiden win in three starts, where did this kind of overpowering performance come from?
March 28, 2010
With several rich Derby preps run yesterday, surely there was a key race pointing out one of the big contenders to wear the roses in five weeks. Was it the $2 million UAE Derby? No, the only good Northern Hemisphere three-year-old in the field, Mendip, could not handle his slightly older competition down the lane. No Derby winner there. Was it in the big race I attended, Turfway Park’s Lane’s End Stakes? No, while the winner Dean’s Kitten looked good running away from his competition, I believe he will find things much tougher Derby day both with competition and a traditional dirt surface. Then it must have come from the Louisiana Derby with its 13 horse field of Derby contenders. Sorry, While the Louisiana Derby had a bunch of good horses in the field, there were zero standouts nor Kentucky Derby winners in that field, including winner Mission Impazible. What then was yesterday’s key race? None other than the Rushaway Stakes at Turfway Park. Favored in the race was Positive Split, who had been very competitive against Ice Box and Pleasant Prince in his last two races. It was the winner Exhi, that told me the most about the Derby, however. Is Exhi a Derby horse? Absolutely not, but he is a $100,000 stakes winner after yesterday. In Exhi’s previous race he was absolutely obliterated by Odysseus. Running second that day, Exhi was left in the wake of Odysseus to the tune of a 15 length thrashing. Now that I know Exhi is of stakes quality, it makes me all the more impressed with Odysseus. By the way, the horse Odysseus beat in his maiden win in January, Forward Harch, also came back to win nicely yesterday. With this said, let’s see how it effects my latest Down and Derby…
March 27, 2010
March 26, 2010
March 25, 2010
*I won multiple stakes in each of my three seasons of racing.
*Bred in Maryland, the great Bold Ruler was my grandsire.
*I had many different riders and two different trainers. Both of my trainers are now members of the Hall of Fame.
*I was known more as a sprinter, but I did defeat a champion around two turns.
*I lost my final career start by a neck when I gave the winner, a son of Northern Dancer, 15 pounds in a stakes race at Aqueduct.
*I raced at 13 different racetracks in my 31 career starts.
*Carrying a lot of weight never bothered me, I carried more than 130 pounds in more than one of my wins.
*If you are thinking I may be a bay or a chestnut, you are way off base.
You should know by now … Who Am I ???
March 24, 2010
1 Todd Pletcher 5-2 (Eskendereya, Super Saver, Rule, Connemara, Interactif, Discreetly Mine & Aikenite)
March 23, 2010
Please do not misunderstand, I never disliked the great chestnut colt, I just happened to like his main adversaries more. No rival was more important to Affirmed than Alydar. So intense and so long running was their rivalry, that you can not possibly recall one without thinking of the other. Affirmed and Alydar. Alydar and Affirmed, and so it was in the Fall of 1977. Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew was on the shelf, and two powerful juveniles were more than willing to step up and take center stage. The big showdown at Belmont in the Champagne was not the first match up of the best two youngsters in the nation, but it was the most important to date. Affirmed had already gotten the best of his Calumet rival in three out of four meetings, including consecutive wins in the Hopeful and the Futurity with his new teenage rider Steve Cauthen. Affirmed was made the favorite, but my group and I were all there to see Alydar beat him. As the race unfolded, Affirmed was part of a four prong battle on the turn, and as he slowly pulled away from the rest, it was Alydar who swung out to the middle of the track and began to fly. Affirmed could not quicken enough to challenge Alydar’s explosive kick and the most important juvenile race of the year went to Alydar. Leaving the track that day we all felt that it was Alydar who was destined to be the great champion. Little did we know that he would never again finish ahead of Affirmed.
The colts came back a few weeks later at Laurel and Affirmed got the best of Alydar for the fourth time. Unlike the Champagne, where Alydar struck quickly and swooped by on the outside, Affirmed was ready for Alydar and outfought him to the wire. The Laurel Futurity clinched the championship for the son of Exclusive Native, out of the Crafty Admiral mare, Won’t Tell You. A Florida homebred for Louis Wolfson, Affirmed ran under Wolfson’s Harbor View Farm silks and was conditioned by Cuban born trainer, Laz Barrera. It was Barrera’s duty to have his charge ready for the big races upcoming.
The Belmont was a fitting finale to an amazing Spring. In the Belmont, Alydar hooked Affirmed early in the race and they proceeded to run around the immense Belmont oval in unison. Matching strides, heart, and will in perfect tandem, neither great colt would give an inch. An adoring Belmont crowd went crazy, as the rivals traded narrow advantages down the stretch. What led to this unforgettable encounter was right out of a Hollywood movie script. Not wanting to battle with Alydar all Winter, Barrera took Affirmed to California to prepare for the Derby. Affirmed was an easy winner in an allowance, the San Felipe, the Santa Anita Derby, and the Hollywood Derby in March and April. The juvenile champ marched to the Run for the Roses on a five race win streak. On the other side of the nation, Alydar was laying waste to his opposition. So impressive was the son of Raise a Native that he, and not Affirmed, was made the favorite in Louisville. The stage was set for an epic battle, and it was not wise to underestimate Affirmed. He earned hard fought victories in the Derby and then two weeks later in the Preakness, with Alydar not far behind in either contest. Thus setting up Affirmed’s attempt at immortality as a Triple Crown winner, and against the bravest of foes. The crowd screamed as Affirmed surged on the rail to stick his nose in front. Alydar stayed with him, but could not get by. Affirmed won by desperate inches in what may have been the greatest race ever run. The Test of Champions produced two, but only one could win, and once again it was Affirmed. He became the 11th Triple Crown champion. 32 years later we are still waiting for the 12th.
Saratoga was the site of the tenth edition of Affirmed and Alydar. I have never seen such a crowd at Saratoga, as I did that day for the Travers. Since the Belmont, Alydar destroyed an Arlington Classic field and then did the same to older horses in the Whitney. Meanwhile Affirmed was life and death to get up in the last few strides against the quality speed horse, Sensitive Prince in the Jim Dandy. Once again Alydar fans had hope that this time it could be different. Different it was. In a blink of an eye Affirmed, with replacement rider Laffit Pincay sitting in the irons, cut in front of the charging Alydar entering the far turn. The move severely hampered Alydar’s chances and when Affirmed hit the wire in front of Alydar, the inquiry signal went up immediately. The infraction had been bad enough to take down the Triple Crown winner. Alydar was declared the winner, giving him his third victory in ten tries against Affirmed. It would be the last time the two would ever meet.
Like a great team getting better as the year goes on to peak for the playoffs, the four-year-old Affirmed was building momentum for the huge races in the Fall at Belmont. After the Travers DQ, Affirmed had not been able to handle the older Seattle Slew in the Fall races as a three-year-old. The losing streak hit five when Affirmed lost his first two efforts of 1979. What was wrong with the Triple Crown winner? People did not have to wonder for long as Affirmed, now reunited with Laffit Pincay after being part of Steve Cauthen’s horrible losing streak, began winning again. Beginning with a ten length romp in the Strub Stakes, Affirmed would reel off six straight wins, including five grade 1 stakes. It was clear there was only one horse that could challenge the powerhouse that Affirmed had become. His name was Spectacular Bid, and Spectacular he was. The super sophomore became the third truly great horse to challenge Affirmed. The meeting would be the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Horse of the Year honors were on the line. Sent to the lead early, the beautiful chestnut was impossible to pass. Each time Spectacular Bid would make a run at Affirmed, the older colt would have an answer. He crossed the Belmont Park finish line ¾ of a length the best. Affirmed was the bond that tied together Seattle Slew, Alydar, Spectacular Bid, and himself. A Golden Age of racing, and more often than not, Affirmed was the victor.
The win was the great Affirmed’s final race. He was rightfully honored once again. Affirmed was the 2-year-old Champion of 1977, 3-year-old Champion of 1978, Handicap Male Champion of 1979, as well as Horse of the Year of both 1978 and 1979. Despite his outstanding competition, Affirmed finished first in 23 of his 29 lifetime starts, with a disqualification in the Travers. He became the first horse ever to earn $2 million, was an obvious induction into racing’s Hall of Fame, and was the greatest horse ever for his Hall of Fame trainer and riders.
Affirmed was syndicated at a then-record 14.4 million dollars. At stud, Affirmed became a solid and steady success. He may not have sired the immediate brilliance of Alydar or Seattle Slew, but much like he did on the track, Affirmed kept fighting on. He sired over 80 stakes winners, including nine champions. Notable offspring included Flawlessly, The Tin Man and Peteski. Affirmed’s sons and daughters were equally adept on turf as dirt and today I consider him to be one of the best broodmare sires in the world.
In a curious personal side note to the story of Affirmed, I was at Calumet Farm in the early 80’s when an older mare was to be sent to the breeding shed for an encounter with Alydar. The mare was none other than Won’t Tell You. Someone in my group coined the date, Alydar’s final revenge. Affirmed’s mom had a travel issue that day and we never saw the mating, but it was nice for us Alydar fans to know that he finally ended up on top. But I digress, Affirmed was a star by every sense of the word. The great horse’s life ended at the age of 26, when in 2001, he was euthanized after falling seriously ill with laminitis. The fight with laminitis was the champion’s first battle that he could not win. I remember you Affirmed.
March 22, 2010
March 21, 2010
|Don’t look now, but there is a sire who is quietly building a strong pair of contenders for the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks. In the past week his progeny, Odysseus and Devil May Care, scored in major preps. His name is Malibu Moon, and I consider him one of the best sires in America and he has done it under the radar of many. Regally bred, the 13-year-old sire is a son of the great A.P. Indy out of a grade 1 winning Mr. Prospector mare named Macoumba. Bred to be a standout on the track, Malibu Moon only raced two times in his career, where he displayed the precociousness of his mother by running 2nd in a maiden in April and then impressively winning a May maiden in racehorse time. Malibu Moon was clearly a horse with a big future, but it would not be on the track, as a fracture in his knee ended his career almost before it began. The big colt was sent to Country Life Farm in Maryland.|
Country Life Farm is the oldest stud farm in Maryland and is the birthplace of Hall of Fame runner Cigar. It is not a farm with the most expensive sires in the world, however. Malibu Moon took to stud life smoothly at the young age of three. Because of his lack of a racing career, he was not predicted for stardom as a sire. Despite his pedigree and good looks, he began his career at stud for the small fee of $3,000. Standing in Maryland with a small stud fee, Malibu Moon was not sent blueblood mares by any means. Yet despite of this, he was an immediate success, siring multiple stakes winners in his first two crops. In his second crop, he sired the 2004 juvenile champion Declan’s Moon. Suddenly Malibu Moon was a hot commodity. As Business Manager at Country Life Farm, Michael Pons, tells it, “He got too good to stay in the minor leagues, he had to go to the majors.” In American breeding, the majors is the bluegrass of Kentucky.
First on to Castleton Lyons in Kentucky and then on to legendary Spendthrift Farm in Lexington, Kentucky, Malibu Moon has made a steady climb up the ranks of American stallions. B. Wayne Hughes’ Spendthrift Farm is the majority owner of Malibu Moon, with both Country Life and Castleton Lyons retaining a one quarter interest in the top stud. At Spendthrift, he now stands for $40,000 and covers a high quality list of mares. Malibu Moon is that rare stud who has proved successful at every level of breeding, from the basement to the penthouse, he continues to shine.
In 2009, Malibu Moon was represented by 12 different stakes winners. This represents the fourth consecutive year he led A.P. Indy sires in number of stakes winners. He now rivals the outstanding sire Pulpit, as the leader of the great Seattle Slew-A.P. Indy line. A short list of horses sired by Malibu Moon in his first seven crops include Declan’s Moon, Malibu Mint, Life at Ten, Ah Day, Moon Catcher, Perfect Moon, Malibu Moonshine, Sara Louise, Raw Silk, Malibu Prayer, Luna Vega, By The Light, Bon Jovi Girl, and of course, current sophomore stars Odysseus and Devil May Care. In Odysseus and Devil May Care, Malibu Moon has two horses with a legitimate chance to take home the big prizes at Churchill Downs.
I am happy to report that friends of mine have ventured into thoroughbred ownership, and their first horse is a three-year-old son of Malibu Moon. Michael and Lynn Horvath bought stake in a Country Life partnership for a single horse. They were specifically looking for a Maryland based horse out of Malibu Moon. Moon was a sire they had grown to like from their trips to the races. Lacrosse Moon, out of a Temperence Hill mare, fit the bill. The colt has been working steadily and is getting close to a first career start. Look for him to make his career debut at the upcoming Pimlico meet. Considering he is a son of Malibu Moon, they may just have something there. Best of luck Lacrosse Moon.
Malibu Moon is one of those rare sires who has not seen his stud fee drop because of the economic downturn. His fee has held steady at $40,000 for several years, and he is the clear king of the heap at Spendthrift Farm. A sire I have long liked and often considered underrated, I think the secret of Malibu Moon is now completely out of the bag Come Oaks and Derby weekend, he may well be the toast of the bluegrass. One thing is for sure, Malibu Moon is a stud.
March 20, 2010
South Florida is hotter than usual today, as five graded stakes highlight a marvelous racing card at Gulfstream Park. The racetrack’s most important race, the Grade 1 Florida Derby, is the headliner, but it may be a couple of fillies who steal the spotlight. Much talked about, but not yet tested in American stakes racing, Christine Daae and Bambera take the first step to major goals this afternoon in the Bonnie Miss and Rampart Stakes respectively. Also of great interest to many will be the acid test for Lentenor in the Florida Derby. Lentenor of course is a full brother to the ill fated Barbaro and is owned and trained by the Jacksons and Michael Matz who ran the Florida and Kentucky Derby winner of 2006. How will these potential stars do in their indoctrination to graded stakes racing? Let’s take a look at their chances…
March 19, 2010
Every horse player takes a look at the morning line odds as one of the first steps in breaking down a race. A good morning line can be a useful tool by offering a general guideline as to how each respective horse will be bet by the general public, but there in lies the rub. It is, or should be, nothing else. A morning line should not represent the odds maker’s personal feelings of what will happen in the race, nor should it be a calculation of the individual’s estimation of what odds a horse deserves to be. When an odds maker utilizes one of these rationales for setting the morning line, it does an injustice to the betting public.
March 18, 2010
*I won a total six stakes races, three of them were Grade 1s, and three of them were won by at least six lengths.
*I raced in two consecutive Breeders‘ Cups and two consecutive Santa Anita Handicaps, but I won none of them.
*I raced well on turf and dirt, but dirt was my most successful surface.
*Well traveled, I raced in two different countries and my first six career starts took place in six different states.
*I earned more than two million dollars in my four year racing career.
*Trainers and jockeys came and went, I had three different trainers and I lost count after ten riders.
*Rumor has it, ZATT was there the day my dad won the Louisiana Derby.
*As a sophomore, I was victorious in stakes on opposite corners of the nation.
*Unfortunately, I finished my career on a fifteen race losing streak, most of them in Grade 1 races.
*If you are thinking I may be a bay or a chestnut, you are way off base.
You should know by now … Who Am I ???
March 17, 2010
Here is the brand new Down and Derby Top 20:
March 16, 2010
I always tell my friends who have never seen a Thoroughbred horse race in person, that it is an experience they will never forget. Horses and jockeys racing by at 40 miles per hour is a visceral wonder for the senses. It makes no difference if you are watching a $5,000 claimer or a grade 1 stakes race, the sights and sounds at the races are unlike anything else in the world. Often all it takes is one trip to the track to hook a person for life. Even more memorable is that one special horse you can simply not take your eyes off of for a second. A horse with unique characteristics, looks, or running style that beckons feelings deep within. You become an instant fan, devoting yourself to this horse in rooting spirit. Today I remember a horse that evoked these feelings in me. Although I only saw him race one time in person, Vigors was a horse that I will never forget. The day I saw Vigors up close was the inaugural running of the Turf Classic at Aqueduct Race Course.
March 15, 2010
As far as the big two, Zenyatta won and Rachel did not. While the Zenyatta juggernaut continues to roll on and on, to the tune of an amazing record of 15 wins in 15 starts, Rachel came back from a long layoff to finish 2nd by ¾ of a length to another John Shirreffs trained runner, Zardana. It was not what everyone expected for last year’s Horse of the Year. Rachel was clearly short after six months off and was not pushed too hard by rider Calvin Borel. I have little doubt that she will get a lot out of the loss, and will be much improved for her next race. Unfortunately, that will not come in the Apple Blossom on April 9. Zenyatta will be there after her typical awesome performance, but the connections of Rachel Alexandra feel she is not quite ready for the meeting. Hopefully the two superstars will get a chance to settle things on the track sometime soon.
March 14, 2010
|They are only flesh and blood. As great as they are, they have similar imperfections as any of God’s creatures. “They” of course, are the greatest of Thoroughbred race horses, a phrase that certainly best describes Rachel Alexandra. Yesterday the world caught a glimpse of an imperfection, a vulnerability which proves that she is only a horse, not an infallible machine. For that matter, even machines are imperfect. This would be the point in today’s column where I would say the words, “they all lose.” But of course, I can not. Not with Zenyatta out there. The great mare, another of the greatest of Thoroughbred race horses, is the exception to the rule. I applaud her for perfection. Nothing more needs to be said…perfection.|
This story is not about Zenyatta, though. It is about Rachel Alexandra. For without her there would not be these daily columns on Zipse at the Track. Without her, 2009 would not have been my favorite year of racing in a long, long time. Rachel has become a loved one, she has a special place in my heart. The stretch run of the New Orleans Ladies was painful to watch. Her defeat stings. It did not make me mad, it did not make me lose belief in her, it just hurt. I have been watching racing all of my life, and I know anything can happen on a given day, but you just never expect your heroes to be defeated. I am hoping the writing of this will be cathartic for me, and I realize her defeat raises many questions among her legions of fans.
Do I think Rachel will retire? No. I believe her connections know how good she still is. There is no reason to retire her now.
Does this loss mean the Horse of the Year voters got it wrong? No, yesterday’s loss takes absolutely nothing away from her championship season.
Do I think Rachel will be as good as last year? Yes, and that is saying a lot. I consider her 2009 to be the greatest season ever by a three-year old filly.
Do I think Rachel will run in the Apple Blossom? I am leaning to no. I believe her connections will decide that she has been rushed, and will decide to reconstruct her foundation to have her peaking for future races. The 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic should be the ultimate goal.
As I alluded to in Friday’s column, her loss has been repeated over and over again throughout history. In my lifetime, I saw Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Affirmed and Spectacular Bid defeated by inferior horses on multiple occasions. How can I hold this loss against Rachel, when all those legends went through the same thing.
Rachel Alexandra was defeated. It actually happened. Rachel lost yesterday for the first time in about a year and a half. There were reasons, but I offer no excuses. She was beaten fair and square by Zardana. As great as she is, Rachel Alexandra is only a horse. She is amazing, but fallible, she is beautiful, but vulnerable. I love Rachel today as much as I did 24 hours ago. She will be back. Look out world, Rachel will be back.
March 13, 2010
It looks like I picked a good day to start writing for Youbet.com. If you like the greatest of horses returning after several months on the sidelines, if you like crucial preps with countless major candidates for the first Saturday in May, if you like the thrill of many of the greatest athletes in the world giving it everything they possibly have to cross the finish line first, then friends, today is a day for you. What has Zipse at the Track (you can call me ZATT for short) so excited? Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta, the greatest female horses I have ever seen (sorry Ruffian) make their long awaited and agonizingly anticipated returns today in the New Orleans Ladies and the Santa Margarita Handicap respectively. Any day these magnificent horses hit the track it is an instant holiday, and today they both will run. Peaking the interest even more, this will be their only appearance before the big one on April 9. Not taking a backseat to the older females, are three excellent fields of prime Kentucky Derby hopefuls in the Rebel Stakes, San Felipe Stakes, and the Tampa Bay Derby. In these three major preps, no less than 13 of my personal Top 30 horses from the Kentucky Derby master list will be in action today. You may have already guessed that I am expecting Rachel and Zenyatta to win today, so let’s concentrate on the Derby preps.
March 12, 2010
The days are being crossed off the calendar with careful precision. Hopeful fingers turn the page to peek at the month of April and more specifically at the circled date. Circled many times as to highlight the magnitude of what will happen on April 9, 2010. We are only four weeks away from an affair that can reasonably be called the most anticipated race in nearly four score. Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta have transcended their contemporaries on the track both male and female, and even more telling, they each compare favorably to any female horse to ever set foot on an American racetrack. They are racehorses who have each captured the imagination of racing fans worldwide and are so popular they are attracting new fans to the game on a daily basis. In four weeks, these titans of the track, these goddesses of great racing, will collide in an epic battle that will forever be remembered by millions. Judgement Day. We are close…but not quite there yet. The main hurdle to the magnificent meeting happens tomorrow. What do you call the day before judgement day? Perhaps March 13 will suffice for now.
In the New Orleans Ladies, Rachel faces a small field of four. There are two fillies in the supporting cast that interest me. Clear Sailing is an impeccably bred and lightly raced four-year-old who has gotten better in each of her four starts. She is coming off an impressive late running win in the Pelleteri Stakes and continued improvement could see her become a major player in the older female division this year. The other contender of interest is none other than a John Shirreff’s trained six-year-old mare named Zardana. Zardana has shown marked improvement since a switch off the grass, including an easy win in the Grade 2 Bayakoa at Hollywood Park. Her connections must have high hopes for her on the dirt, to ship her cross country for this one and then probably the Apple Blossom. Real threats to Rachel? Only if the great one is not near her best.
In the Santa Margarita, Zenyatta faces a bigger field than Rachel and will also have to spot her rivals 12 pounds or more. Much as in the New Orleans Ladies, her competition appears up to be up against things, but there are a few fillies with some merit. The first three finishers in the recent Grade 2 La Canada are back to see if they can build on their recent success. Striking Dancer ran her best race to date in taking home the win in the La Canada, but it is the fillies who ran 2nd and 3rd that day, that may offer the big Z the most resistance. Second place finisher Gripsholm Castle made her first appearance stateside in the La Canada. Any improvement at all for the English import could make her the horse for Zenyatta to beat. The filly who finished third that day, Floating Heart, has yet to win a stakes race, but is still relatively lightly raced and had some traffic to deal with last time. She may be ready to run her best race yet, and against Zenyatta, they will all clearly need to their career best to have a chance at upset.
Will either of the stars lose? Highly unlikely in my experienced eyes. I expect them each to show us why we all hold them in such very high regard. Wins by both Rachel and Zenyatta would make the Happening at Hot Springs that much closer to reality. Let’s sit back and watch greatness tomorrow. My prediction: Rachel will rock and Zenyatta will roll.
March 11, 2010
*My sire was bred in Ireland, my grandsire in France…I was bred in the bluegrass.
March 10, 2010
|ZATT- You recently became the first woman ever to win the training title at Calder Race Course, would you call it the most satisfying accomplishment in your career?|
KO - I wouldn’t say it is the most satisfying, it is right up there. It is an accomplishment.
ZATT- The horse that clinched the training title was Fly by Phil, in winning the Tropical Park Derby, did that make it even more special?
KO - Yes, it did. I had been training with Mr. Campbell for 19 years. We have had a long and very successful relationship and I am appreciative that I’ve been with him that long. He raises a lot of horses.
ZATT - Where can we expect to see Fly by Phil run next?
KO - I can not say right now. We had a minor set back and he has had three weeks off and will be back in training this week.
ZATT- Is he still a potential Derby horse?
KO - It depends on how much he has lost in the three weeks he has had off. He is a very, very nice horse. I think he can run on any type of surface, which real nice horses do. Dirt, turf, broken glass…
ZATT - The first time you became well known nationally was in 1996, with Blazing Sword, what are your memories of that millionaire?
KO - He was a really, really nice horse and a really, really nice individual. It was great, considering that I had been training with Mr. Campbell for just five or 6 years. You get to know some of the mare lines and their breeding, from working Calder. Blazing Sword showed the talent at short distances, early as a baby. He gave me tremendous hope, and then as he became a rising star…there were no two ways about it.
ZATT - Was he the best horse you ever trained?
KO - Yes, probably so. He had a serous illness that kept him out for a while, but when he returned, he did a lot of good things. I also liked the filly Ivanavinalot.
ZATT - With the success of people like yourself and Linda Rice, it seems that female trainers are reaching new heights, do you consider yourself a pioneer?
KO- Not a pioneer, but I’ve been at it a long time. When I first got my license, they would not allow women to be the named trainer. I had to train under other people’s names, times have changed for the better since.
ZATT - It would seem that women as horse trainers is a natural fit, why do you think it still such a male dominated career?
KO - It’s a tough business because, it is very time consuming. Male dominated, because women still have a big part of the upbringing of children. I think that is why women are not as involved to a certain degree. It is a very devoted thing, it is 24/7 thing, it’s not like a business that you lock up and come back the next day.
ZATT - Do you have any advice for young ladies with dreams of becoming a trainer?
KO - Be willing to sacrifice a lot. I sacrificed relationships, my family…you still go through guilty periods. My mom and dad are in their 80s and I really don’t get see them as often as I Like. They are still in Michigan… I have been in Florida since 1976. Moved Lock, Stock and Barrel out of Michigan in 1984. Its been a big sacrifice. Thank God they are still in good health. Up until two years ago they drove all the way from Michigan because mom hates to fly. They spend time, but is always around racing.
ZATT - How big is your current stable?
KO - I maintain 70 head, between 60 and 70 head the last few years. Split between Tampa and Miami and then Colonial and Miami. Pretty much every Monday, I leave South Florida after training and I’m in Tampa Monday afternoon, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Thursday evening I travel back to Miami and back on Friday. When Colonial starts it is just the opposite.
ZATT - For all thoroughbred owners who read this, what do you consider to be your biggest strengths that set you apart from other trainers?
KO - I like communication. Communication is the key to any good relationship. We live in a realistic world. I try to do the best for the horses and let the owners know how they are doing. It is so important to be realistic and open. The horses, attitude wise and everything, they are flesh and bone and blood and they get injured and sick and you have to make every race count. That is such a key part of it. You don’t know when they are gong to get sick or when they are going to have a setback. You have to utilize the races that are available.
ZATT - OK, Kathleen, one more question…With the year you had in 2009, what kind of expectations do you have for 2010?
KO - Everyone has high expectations. You have to more or less deal with cards that are sent to you and take it from there. We had a great 2009 and we are having a great run in 2010. It is a great experience. I’m blessed with a solid team, owners and my parent’s work ethic. I love what I do and I love where I do it.
March 8, 2010
|The first time I ever laid eyes on Seattle Slew was October 16, 1976. It was the day of the Champagne Stakes. The Champagne was the most important juvenile race in the country in those days, and everyone was buzzing about the flashy black colt who had run away with a maiden and an allowance in his first two starts. I remember reading the form that afternoon from the front row of our grandstand seats, and thinking that For The Moment is really a nice two-year-old. This Seattle Slew character would have to be awfully good to handle him in only his third start. Following the Seattle Slew pre-race war dance, the race went pretty much as planned with the unbeaten Slew on the lead and For the Moment in close pursuit. As they straightened out, For the Moment threw his haymaker. Problem was it made absolutely no impact on the big, impressive colt. Seattle Slew commenced a runaway that I had never seen before in such a young horse. It was breathtaking. In a period of four weeks he had gone from an unraced, inexpensive juvenile to an undefeated champion and a clear favorite for next Spring’s Kentucky Derby. Where had he come from?|
Foaled in Lexington, Seattle Slew was a son of the talented, but unproven combination of Bold Reasoning and My Charmer. Taken to the Lexington auction conducted by Fasig-Tipton Company in July, Seattle Slew was bought for a bargain basement price of $17,500 by Mickey Taylor, a former lumberman from Washington, his wife Karen, and partner, Dr. Jim Hill. It was Hill who had recommended the purchase to the Taylors. Slew was sent to the Turners, first to Paula who broke the big youngster and then on to husband Billy to take over the race training.
His three-year-old season began much the way his juvenile season ended. Billy Turner waited patiently to begin his season until March 9, when he won an allowance race by nine lengths at Hialeah in track record time for seven furlongs. A few weeks later, Seattle Slew won the Flamingo Stakes by four lengths in the third fastest time in stakes history. Slew then headed back north for the Wood Memorial where he scored another easy victory in his final prep for the Kentucky Derby.
The 1977 Triple Crown would be all about Slew. The only real drama was in the first few seconds of the Kentucky Derby, when the heavy favorite was sideswiped coming out of the gate and got a way slowly. It proved no issue for the great horse. Within a quarter mile, he joined For the Moment on the lead and the drama of the Triple Crown was all but over. He crossed the wire first in the Derby over Run Dusty Run, and first in the Preakness over Iron Constitution. Neither margin was big, but it was clear that Slew was much the best. When he crossed the finish line in the Belmont Stakes four lengths ahead of Run Dusty Run, he became the tenth horse ever to win the Triple Crown and the first to do so undefeated. To this day, Seattle Slew is the only horse ever to win the Crown unbeaten. Unfortunately, in the weeks following the Belmont, The Taylors insisted that Slew be shipped to the West Coast to run in Hollywood Park’s Swaps Stakes. It was an ill conceived plan, and one that trainer Billy Turner wanted no part of. The owners won out and it resulted in Slew’s only black mark, as he was not himself in running a distant fourth to the razor sharp J.O. Tobin. This ended the relationship between the Taylors and Turner. It also ended Seattle Slew’s sophomore season, but Slew would be back.
Perhaps Seattle Slew’s greatest attribute was an amazing spirit that so few horses possess the way he did. It was never more apparent than in 1978, when he fought off a life-threatening collapsed left jugular vein at the beginning of the year, and made it successfully back to the races by May. Veterinarians were concerned for his life and had suggested that he would never race again, but Seattle Slew was simply a different kind of horse than the doctors were familiar with. During that four-year-old campaign, Slew also overcame a suspensory ligament injury, a filled ankle, and several other hurdles that would send any other horse off to retirement. Instead Slew emerged once again as a champion under the guidance of new trainer Doug Peterson and produced some of the greatest performances in his career.
After rounding back into top form, despite his ailments, Slew was ready to tackle the new hotshot in racing. Affirmed had become the new toast of racing with his Triple Crown heroics. I remember thinking youth would be served in the Marlboro Cup and surely Slew would succumb to his young challenger. I have never been so wrong. Slew dispatched Affirmed with disdainful ease in the first ever match up of Triple Crown winners. A few weeks later he won the Woodward in even easier fashion, this time he dispatched top handicap horse Exceller. There was no doubt that Seattle Slew was the greatest horse in the world after those performances. In the Jockey Club he would face his two biggest rivals again. It would prove to be the greatest challenge of his career. Here is what I wrote about the race in a previous piece:
It was on to the Jockey Club and there were some changes in store for Slew. This time both Affirmed and Exceller would challenge him and at a distance, 1 ½ miles, that both horses had proven to excel (no pun intended). To make things even more difficult, Harbor View Farm entered a rabbit into the mix. A decent handicap horse named Life’s Hope, who in the JCGC would run as fast as he could for as far as he could, was entered only to bolster the chances of their big horse, Affirmed. If you thought things were stacked against Seattle Slew before the race, it would only get worse. First Slew broke through the starting gate expending precious energy. Then one of the strangest things that I have ever seen in a big race happened. Affirmed broke like a shot and was right in the middle of what could only be called a suicidal speed dual (It was explained after the race that Affirmed‘s saddle slipped and Steve Cauthen had lost control of the great 3-year-old). Seattle Slew had to not only deal with the rabbit, but also the horse that the rabbit was designed to help. Fractions of :22 and 3, :45 and 1, and 1:09 and 2 were amazingly carved out of the Belmont dirt. Remember this was a 1 ½ mile test of endurance. Almost immediately the other three horses, including Exceller were 20 or more lengths behind. First Life’s Hope fell away and then Affirmed soon followed. Slew had sent his rivals on the front packing. But how could he possibly survive this blistering pace himself?Defeated, but still the champion, Slew went out in style. After his incredible effort in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, his connections found a fitting stakes race to make his farewell. On November 11, 1978, Seattle Slew made his final start a winning one with an easy score in the Stuyvesant Handicap at Aqueduct Race Track. It was vintage Slew, as he sprinted to the lead and rolled around the track. The appreciative crowd knew it was his swan song and they roared in approval for their hero. In 17 races, Seattle Slew won easily 14 times, ran 2nd twice in photo finishes, and was only once clearly beaten. He won eclipse awards in each of his three seasons of racing, and he was quickly ushered into Racing’s Hall of Fame after retirement. Slew was further honored by being named as one of the top ten horses in American racing history by various outlets. On my all-time list, Seattle Slew ranked #8 of the greatest of the greats.
Often the very greatest horses can not reproduce anything close to themselves. Seattle Slew was clearly an exception to this rule. A sire of well over a hundred stakes winners, Slew also became a champion Broodmare sire. Slew was so successful at stud that I have little doubt that he proved himself to be the greatest combination of runner and sire of modern American racing. He was the strongest sire of the powerful Bold Ruler line and still today, his descendants carry on the great Seattle Slew line. A very short list of champion sons or daughters sired by Slew include: A.P. Indy, Landaluce, Slew O’ Gold, Swale, and Vindication.
Seattle Slew is arguably the most unforgettable horse of my lifetime. When you consider the talent he displayed throughout his career, the heart and tenacity he displayed in his toughest races, the way he overcame physical setbacks, the flare he showed in winning race after race and the prodigious amount of top horses he produced. Seattle Slew passed in his sleep at the age of 28 on May 7, 1999. Ever the showman, Slew died on the 25th anniversary of his win in the Kentucky Derby. Slew was unforgettable the first time I saw him in the Champagne and he only got better. I remember you Seattle Slew.