I love Zenyatta, but yet I must admit there have been times in the last eleven months where I felt that some of her fans have a chip on their shoulder the size of the mighty mare that they adore. Over this period, I could not write anything positive about Rachel Alexandra without being chastised or lectured in the process. Now of course, this is not all Zen fans. Far from it. Most are wonderful admirers, gracious in victory, who do not seek to insult others, in order to build up their own rooting interest. I understand, I get it. Zenyatta was the victim of circumstance when it came time to decide Horse of the Year two years in a row. Zenyatta is a hero to millions. She has drawn in new fans in droves, and quite simply is a godsend for the sport. On the track, she is one in a million. I believe she is a fantastic race mare, hell, I think she is the best female athlete we have seen in the universe. Sorry. I did qualify that as female, seeing as I am a Chicagoan, and we had a guy a few years back named Michael.
September 30, 2010
September 29, 2010
*Well traveled, I competed in stakes races at eleven different racetracks and won stakes at seven of those tracks.
*Popular with the bettors, I was sent off as the favorite 25 times.
*Exactly one half of my lifetime victories came during my championship season.
*Dirt was my surface; I never raced on anything else.
*I won more stakes at Santa Anita than anywhere else, but was defeated by the same horse in the Big Cap who had beaten me in an early juvenile stakes.
*My stakes wins only had a three furlong spread between the shortest and the longest.
*I was a multiple graded stakes winner in each of my three years of racing.
*In the money more than 30 times, I was one victory shy of winning half of my lifetime starts .
*My longest winning streak consisted of five straight graded stakes tallies.
*One of my losses came in the Kentucky Derby, where I was considered one of the horses to beat.
You should know by now … Who Am I ???
September 28, 2010
With every heart pounding stride it was becoming painfully evident that the quest for racing’s holy grail was in jeopardy. Only seconds before, Mike Pegram’s Real Quiet had seemed home free, as he and Rider Kent Desormeaux had stormed to a commanding lead early in the stretch. He was on the verge of becoming the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed had outfought his great rival Alydar to the Belmont Stakes wire twenty years earlier. While Affirmed had to best the great Alydar in three straight classic races, Real Quiet’s foil was Victory Gallop. The late developing son of Cryptoclearance had finished second to Real Quiet in both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, and was back to challenge for a third time. The two proud colts were now in the midst of thrilling the second largest crowd to see the race in the rich history of the Belmont Stakes. The thrilling duel, down the Belmont stretch, brought the crowd first to a fever pitch, and then to an eerie silence on a gorgeous June afternoon in New York.
September 27, 2010
I tend to concentrate on the sport of thoroughbred horse racing, dealing with what’s going on, what’s coming up, and in general celebrating the stars of our sport. My esteemed colleague, Derek Simon, on the other hand, looks at the sport from a different point of view. An innovative and expert handicapper, Derek concentrates on the gambling aspect of the sport. Vive la difference! Because of this, we rarely write about handicapping the same races, but it happened this past Saturday when we both decided to concentrate on the Pennsylvania and Super Derbies for our Youbet.com columns. Derek is a heckuva nice guy, and I certainly never wish him anything but the best. On Saturday, however, my competitive juices began to flow. I wanted to win this impromptu handicapping challenge. Here is how the races unfolded …
September 26, 2010
After only three career starts, Frankel has turf writers pounding their thesauri in search of new superlatives to describe the handsome colt. Yesterday at the Ascot Festival, Frankel exceeded the hype machine by running his competition into the ground with a scintillating ten-length runaway in the Group 2 Royal Lodge Stakes. The impressive juvenile, named after the late Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel, has been much talked about before he even made his career debut, and his first three starts have more than sufficiently fueled the fire for talks of greatness. Yesterday’s romp came on the heels of a 13-length virtuoso at Doncaster. Reality rarely ever approaches hyperbole in the world of racing, but in the case of Frankel it has become quickly clear that we are looking at a young horse far from the ordinary. Frankel is trained by Henry Cecil, and was bred in England by his owner, Juddmonte Farm. Let’s take a look at those bloodlines for some clues into where this new star inherited his ability.
September 25, 2010
As Seinfeld’s George Costanza would attest, sometimes it can be fun to double dip. To dip once, enjoy, and then dip again. Taking a page from Costanza, that is exactly what I will be doing this afternoon. I’ll be looking for bigger game than chips though, as I dip twice into the Derby pool. Today’s Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Racing (formerly Philadelphia Park) and Louisiana Downs’ Super Derby offer two competitive fields mixing it up in hopes of climbing the division ladder. It will be for many running today, the last chance to get a graded stake win against their own age, as the older horses loom. Also on the line will be one final opportunity to prove that they are good enough and belong to run five weeks from now at the Breeders’ Cup. In handicapping the duo of Derbies, I found that I have strong feelings for horses that will be somewhat ignored by the bettors, which of course is always a good thing.
September 24, 2010
|A field of eight is set to do battle in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II stakes in England on Saturday afternoon. This one mile affair, run over the hallowed grounds of Ascot Racecourse, looks to be the most important race of the weekend worldwide, and could prove one of the more important miles of the year. At stake is an automatic invitation to the Breeder’s Cup Mile, but that might not be the only BC race to be targeted by the race winner. Remember this is the same race that produced Raven’s Pass and Henrythenavigator, the two English 3-year-olds who ran past our tiring champion Curlin in the Breeders’ Cup Classic of 2008. That 1-2 finish at Santa Anita matched the result at the Ascot Festival just weeks earlier. This year’s race should be another good one with, once again, major Breeders’ Cup implications.|
Two of the top colts in Europe loom the pair to beat on Saturday. The defending champion is back, as Rip Van Winkle, used a triumph last year to propel him to near favoritism in the BC Classic. He did not get it done in America, but the beautiful bay continues to be one of the glamour boys of European racing. The son of Galileo has only one win this year, but it came in impressive, late-running fashion in the Group 1 Juddmonte International two starts ago. The Aidan O’Brien trained colt is coming off a well beaten second place finish in the Irish Champion, but he should be ready to roll now that he isback at the flat mile distance in which he's performed well in the past. Rip Van Winkle will be my top pick to pull off the minor upset over his younger and favored competition.
Makfi became a sudden star when winning the English 2000 Guineas in May. The classic win came in only his third lifetime start. Enthusiasm for his potential was tempered temporarily when he ran poorly at Ascot in his next race, but that race came with an excuse of coming out of the June race worse for the wear. He confirmed the form of the Guineas win, and himself as one of the top milers in the world, when he returned to easily defeat champion Goldikova at Deauville in his last start. Should the son of Dubawi run back to that race, he will give Rip everything he wants in his quest to win back-to-back runnings. The rest of the field will all have juicy odds, with Poet's Voice looking like the most interesting of the bunch. The Godolphin entrant is likely to have his work cut out for him tomorrow against the top two from a class standpoint, but he is starting to live up to his potential that he flashed as a juvenile, and is coming off a smart score in the Celebration Mile.
Ascot Racecourse is one racecourse that I have always wanted to visit, and the QE II would be a wonderful race to witness live. It will not happen again this year, but it will someday. For now I will be content to be a most interested observer from afar. A win by Rip Van Winkle or Makfi should send them to America as one of the favorites for the Breeders‘ Cup Mile, or perhaps they will opt for the riches of the Classic instead. Or maybe a new shooter will emerge and head to the United States off a big win.
September 23, 2010
If you could pick one horse as the most likely to win on Breeders’ Cup weekend, who would it be? The obvious choices that come to mind may be Goldikova or Zenyatta, and seeing how each great mare has won in two consecutive Breeders’ Cups, it would be hard to argue with either. They do have obstacles however, in the form of the two deepest fields of the weekend. The defending Classic winner, Zenyatta, will be facing the best males in the world, and this year she will have to ship in to face them on their surface. Her greatest challenge may come from Blame, who has proven to love the Churchill strip. He is also unbeaten this year and still improving, making him a formidable road block to Zenyatta’s quest for a perfect 20. Meanwhile, Goldikova will no doubt be heavily favored to achieve an unprecedented third consecutive BC Mile victory. Coming off a loss in her latest, Goldikova is an international superstar, but things could be much tougher this time around. Top to bottom the Mile looks like the deepest field, with tigers like, Gio Ponti, Makfi, Court Vision, Sidney’s Candy, and Paco Boy, just to name a few, ready to challenge her supremacy.
September 22, 2010
*I won more than half of my starts during my four seasons on the racetrack.
*In my best season, I won an allowance by 7 ½ over a future Breeders‘ Cup winner, and then three straight grade 1 stakes.
*Popular with the bettors, I was bet below 2-1 on 17 occasions, including in each of my stakes wins.
*In my career defining victory, I was a romping winner despite spotting the runner-up twenty pounds.
*I may have been foaled in Kentucky, but I was a New Yorker, with all but one of my races taking place in the Empire State.
*My only trip outside of New York, was just across the Hudson, where I ran 4th, snapping a six-race win streak.
*The distance of my victories had a three-quarter mile spread between the shortest and longest.
*My greatest accomplishment was in doing something that only other three others could do. Unfortunately they are all in the Hall of Fame and I am not.
*As a sire, I produced a millionaire daughter, and a son who created quite a stir at Pimlico.
*I was surrounded by successful people; my owner, trainer, and regular rider are all members of racing‘s Hall of Fame.
You should know by now … Who Am I ???
When I think I about the greatest horses I have ever seen, the names of Secretariat and Spectacular Bid immediately spring to mind. They were horses from my childhood and they were too fantastic ever to forget. Over the years, there have been plenty of great horses who have come and gone since. None of them could ever quite match my exalted estimation of those two, but nonetheless were unforgettable in their own right. One of these greats was, and is, Invasor. Although he ruled racetracks all over the globe but a few years ago, I fear Invasor is somewhat underappreciated by the racing public. This is far from the case in his native land.
A true South American sensation, Invasor is a national treasure in more than one country. Although he never competed at a racetrack in Argentina, he is beloved for having been foaled there. Today he stands as the shining example of the nation’s breeding industry. And if he is considered extremely popular in Argentina, then he is an equine god in Uruguay. Almost immediately after the nation was dealt a major blow, as the national team (soccer) failed to qualify for the following year’s World Cup, Invasor stepped in to give the country something to be proud of again. Uruguay embraced him as a sports hero while he dominated their 2005 Triple Crown. In the calendar year of 2005, Invasor would begin by impressively breaking his maiden in a 5 ½ furlong race to romping home a winner in the final leg of their Triple Crown at a distance of 13 furlongs. As an undefeated winner of their most important races, Invasor was the hero of Uruguayan racing, but this would only be the beginning.
It would be Sheik Hamdan bin Rashid al-Maktoum who would give Invasor the opportunity to prove to the rest of the world what kind of horse he was. Sheik Hamdan made owners Juan Luis Vio Bado and Pablo Hernandez Trucido an offer for the son of Candy Stripes out of the Interprete mare Quendom that could not be refused. The $1.5 million sale was finalized and Invasor would be off to conquer new worlds. Uruguay may have seen their horse leave the borders, but they would soon rejoice in watching him become the best of the world.
The first time I saw Invasor race would be his first race in America, the 2006 Pimlico Special. There was a red hot speed horse in the race named Wanderin Boy who figured to control the pace. He would be a heavy favorite against the South American import who was let go at odds of 6-1. I actually bet on Invasor that day, mainly because of the chasm in odds between him and the favorite. I remember thinking that he had been placed in a very tough spot in his only loss. That loss came in the UAE Derby, where Invasor had finished 4th in a 13 horse field in his previous start. He had not been close to the ultra talented winner, Discreet Cat, but he was close to second, after traveling across the world, having a long layoff, and coming out of marathon to compete in a relative sprint. To top it off, he gave Discreet Cat nine pounds that day as a slightly older Southern Hemisphere horse.
Not that this spot would be much easier, as new trainer Kiaran McLaughlin had placed him in the grade one Maryland race off another long journey. He had been working well, and I decided he obviously had some class and was worth a shot at the odds. My expectations were exceeded. Stalking Wanderin Boy during the early part of the race, it looked like Invasor had no shot when Wanderin Boy spurted clear at the head of the stretch, but that was when the American legend of Invasor would be born. Invasor dropped to the inside and suddenly started reeling in the front runner. I was surprised as in a matter of seconds, he had gone from a horse that I wondered if he could hold second to a powerful winner. The final margin was 1 ¼ lengths, but it was a visually impressive stretch run and in fast time.
A bay colt with a tiny white star on his forehead, it has been said by many around him that Invasor is a horse with great intelligence and presence. These qualities helped him achieve things on the track seemingly out of reach. The Pimlico Special was my first understanding of this. An easy could be next out win in the Suburban Handicap placed Invasor atop the older male contingent on the East Coast. It was then on to Saratoga for another glimpse at what was inside of this horse. The Whitney Handicap assembled a strong field of nine. Among them was a good Nick Zito colt named Sun King who was about to run the race of his life. It would be to no avail. You see Invasor would not let him win. Invasor had stayed closed to the pace under teenage rider Fernando Jara and pounced to contend for the lead early in the lane. As he often did in races, he did not just blow right by his competition. It was as if he enjoyed testing the other horses for awhile before putting the hammer down. In the Whitney though, it looked to be a losing tactic, for on the outside Sun King had a full head of steam and was quickly bearing down on the leaders. Almost instantly, Invasor put it into another gear, and the rest of the field was left far behind. Sun King kept coming, but Invasor would not let him by. This was another clue for the world to discover just what he was made of, and the best was yet to come.
The $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic would be a showdown between the three leading candidates for Horse of the Year. Invasor was there, along with the West Coast star Lava Man, the new glamour boy of our sport, Bernardini, and ten other horses sporting strong credentials. Bernardini had been winning stakes races on the East Coast in scintillating fashion and was made a strong favorite. Invasor who had only won the Whitney by a nose, was relegated to third choice at 6-1. A minor setback had kept Invasor away from the races for three months, but that mattered little to this horse. Proving his superiority, Invasor unleashed a powerful closing charge down the center of the track to eyeball Bernardini at the 16th pole. Bernardini would have no answer, and the horse from Uruguay pulled away for a one length victory in the race of the year in the United States.
The win would clinch both Horse of the Year and champion older male for Invasor, and in 2007 he would pick up where he left off. Despite a troubled trip in the Donn Handicap, Invasor was an easy and ridiculously effortless winner of the first big race of the year. He looked even better than he had the previous year in racking up his 5th grade one victory in the United States in only five races. It would be on to Dubai next for the champion, where he would get a chance to avenge his only career loss.
It is the world’s richest race and the 2007 World Cup brought together top horses from all over the globe. Adding to the intrigue of the big race was the inclusion of the still highly regarded, Discreet Cat, who was the only other horse to finish first in a race entered by Invasor. The race proved to be a two-horse match, but it was the American export, Premium Tap, who would provide the drama. The drama would not last long though, as soon as Invasor loped alongside his rival, the world knew it would just be a matter of time before the inevidble would happen. For when Invasor drew eyeball to eyeball with another horse, his force proved irresistible. Premium Tap would give it everything he had, and the two would match strides for a large part of the stretch, as the rest, including Discreet Cat, were left far behind. Invasor seemingly enjoyed the test, but kicked clear late for a powerful and efficient two length score. Invasor’s return to Nad Al Sheba was a triumphant one. He was celebrated by a global audience of fans of racing, as he won the world’s richest race in front of owner Sheikh Hamdan.
There could no longer be any doubt, Invasor was the best horse in the world. He proved it everywhere he ran. He was globally recognized as the highest ranked horse all over the world, something not easily achieved in our sometimes fractured sport. Unfortunately, this affirmation of greatness would be short lived. After working a strong five furlongs on a Saturday morning in late June at Belmont Park in preparation for defense of his Suburban Handicap victory, Invasor came back injured. The problem was discovered later at McLaughlin's barn and X-rays revealed a fracture to the top of the sesamoid bone. The great horse would be retired and sent to stud at his owner’s Shadwell breeding operation in Lexington, Kentucky. His first crop are yearlings now. I am eagerly awaiting his offspring to hit the track in 2011.
You would think that a horse who won grade one races on three separate continents, was Horse of the Year in two nations, was an undefeated Triple Crown winner, and was a winner of the two richest dirt races in the world, should never suffer from an identity crisis. All of this was accomplished by a horse whose career was cut short just when he appeared to be at his most dominant. He was victorious in 11 of his 12 career starts for earnings of over $7.8 million. He was Invasor the Invader. He deserves to respected as one of the very best horses of the 21st century, if not the very best. I remember you Invasor.
photo courtesy of Rickelle Nelson
September 20, 2010
September 19, 2010
I try to temper my anticipation for the Breeders’ Cup because I know it is still almost seven weeks away, but it is not easy when I think about what will be at this year’s two-day smorgasbord. I honestly believe that this year’s Cup is shaping up as one of the best in history. Luckily, I have great racing in the meantime to help me get through the next 47 days. Speaking of great racing, with each passing day, I am becoming more excited for a day of racing only 12 days out. October 2 has always looked good on paper, but now as we move closer to the big Breeders’ Cup prep day, horses are coming out of the woodwork to make one final push towards Louisville. Decisions are still not finalized, but this is what the day will potentially look like.
September 18, 2010
If you expected this article to be about funny man John Candy and his final completed movie, I am sorry to disappoint you. Although, who can ever forget his wonderful roles in films such as Stripes, and Uncle Buck. He is missed. What an actor, how funny he was in Planes, Trains and Automobiles? But I digress, for today’s article is all about the huge weekend of racing at Woodbine Racetrack. Five graded stakes, and all of them on turf, are sure to bring back the sizzle to racing north of the border.
September 17, 2010
While the world awaits her next race at Hollywood Park, ZATT has learned some juicy information from
Tall, dark, and handsome, Charlie is an older man who still can make the girls swoon. I sincerely hope Zen knows what she is getting into because there is no doubt that Charlie has been around the block a few times. Stories of Charlie's exploits with the fairer sex have become legendary in the bluegrass. I have even obtained Jockey Club papers which list Indian Charlie as the father of children all over the world. Needless to say Queen Zen would not be his first romantic tango, and this writer for one, is quite skeptical that she will be his last.
News of this forthcoming hook-up has reached Ireland, and apparently has Sea the Stars in a bit of a tizzy. Handlers say he has barely touched his feed bucket in days. Meanwhile back in America, I have learned that Giant's Causeway is in a state of denial and refuses to believe that Zenyatta could ever be with another man.
More on this breaking story will come soon, but for now I leave you with the following questions ... Will Giant's Causeway need an equine shrink? Can Sea the Stars ever be satisfied with 150 mares next year if Zenyatta is not among them. Can Indian Charlie change his ways and become a one-woman man? Will Zenyatta play hard to get one more time, and choose to race again next year?
September 16, 2010
Driving on Route 3 to the Meadowlands that evening, I had no idea what I was about to see. Juvenile stakes are fun for just that reason, and the 1989 Morven Stakes would be a wonderful example of a star being born. Housebuster was sired by Mt. Livermore out of the Great Above mare, Big Dreams, and in his first two starts had been 3rd and then 1st in two maiden races on sloppy Meadowlands’ tracks. One of several youngsters in the field, Housebuster was to get a fast track for the first time. The result was positively explosive. Setting blazing fractions, Housebuster hit the stretch in front and widened his advantage from there to hit the wire best by seven lengths. It was but a small stakes at the Meadowlands, but in my mind, this one, was the real deal.
It would then come as no surprise when Housebuster would take Florida by storm as the 1990 racing season began. The now three-year-old had been transferred to trainer Jimmy Croll after be trained by Ronald Benshoff for his three juvenile starts. Bred in Kentucky by Blanche P. Levy, Housebuster was owned by her son, Robert. He began in January, and went on a stakes winning skein that has been seldom seen since. He won the Spectacular Bid by 2 ¼, the Hutcheson by 3, and then the Swale by 1. In the Swale he defeated one of the early Kentucky Derby favorites, Summer Squall, and by sweeping the sprint stakes at Gulfstream, the name Housebuster was now on the national map.
From Florida, the traveling road show headed to Kentucky and that is where the fun really began. In Keeneland’s Lafayette Stakes, Housebuster took things to a whole new impressive level. A small field lined up against the new star, and he in turn treated them badly, winning off by 11 lengths. It was on to the Twin Spires and Churchill Downs for a run in the prestigious Derby Trial. The Trial would be the Croll-trained sophomore’s first attempt at a flat mile. No problemo, as Housebuster proved strong down the lane to pull clear from his competition by 5 ¼ widening lengths. A star in Kentucky, his connections wisely had no illusions of grandeur, and kept their one-turn colt away from the powerful calling of the Triple Crown. No Derby for this guy, but he was shipped to New York for a possibly even bigger challenge.
Fresh off a facile win in the Withers, his seventh straight stakes score, Housebuster entered the 1990 Met Mile, for a showdown against the superstar of New York racing, Easy Goer. Also in the field was a rapidly improving Californian named Criminal Type who was coming off a big win in the Pimlico Special. With regular rider, Craig Perret in the irons, Housebuster would look his top older rivals in the eye and give them everything they could possibly want. He set all the pace, and laid down blazing fractions at that. He fought the length of the stretch with Five-year-old Criminal Type breathing down his neck, before finally succumbing in the final strides. He finished a game second, defeated by a neck, and easily beating the great Easy Goer with eventual 1991 Horse of the Year, Black Tie Affair, much farther back. Criminal Type would go on to be named Horse of the Year that year, but I was even more impressed with the young Housebuster.
In defeat, Housebuster had proven himself as one of the best horses in the nation. He would continue his amazing three-year-old season with three more overpowering victories, culminating with the Jerome Handicap in which the dark bay routed his opposition by 13 devastating lengths, with the good colt Citidancer finishing a distant second. He had certainly come a long way since I first saw him in in the Morven Stakes less than a year earlier. In his first ten races of 1990, Housebuster had nine easy wins, all stakes, with the game and narrow defeat in the Met Mile being his only blemish. The Vosburgh at Belmont would be next, but Housebuster sustained injuries in the race which he finished up the track, putting an end to his amazing season. I recall that prior to the Vosburgh, Housebuster was my choice for Horse of the Year despite being a sophomore sprinter. After the Vosburgh, that idea was no longer reality, but it goes to show just how good the young colt was.
Housebuster began his older career by not being able to hold off possibly the top two handicap horses in the nation in Unbridled and Black Tie Affair in a pair of seven furlong stakes. He quickly turned it around with an impressive victory over the latter, who would be ultimately named Horse of the Year, in Aqueduct’s Carter Handicap. Soon after, Housebuster would be assigned one of his most important tests. In the Summer of 1991, the DeFrancis Dash was billed as a dual between the last two Sprint Champions. Housebuster would face the defending Breeders’ Cup Sprint winning filly, Safely Kept. It would be no contest. In fairness to the filly, Safely Kept would have her chances compromised by a slow break, but it proved to be another dominating performance for the four-year-old colt. Housebuster would win off by five lengths and be well on his way to another championship.
Housebuster, who had missed the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Belmont the year before because of an injury, would finally get his BC chance in his final career start. Coming off wins in the DeFrancis, Forego, and Vosburgh, he was sent off as an overwhelming 2-5 favorite in the 11 horse field which included some of the best sprinters in the world. Bettors were so confident in his ability that no other horse in the field was bet below 8.8-1. Unfortunately, the race did not go well. Housebuster would contest through suicidal fractions including a :21 first quarter. He was ready to pounce as the horses straightened out, and even at the 3/16 pole it looked like the champion had a big shot to win. It was not to be. Housebuster shortened stride just as he got to the lead and dropped back quickly as the European invader Sheikh Albadou zoomed right by for an easy win. The great sprinter checked in ninth. After the race it was revealed that the whip of the rider of the front runner had bothered Housebuster in the stretch, and much worse yet, the sensational sprinter had injured his left front leg leaving the gate. He had gamely contested a blazing pace for five furlongs on three good legs. Housebuster would be retired soon after the disappointment.
All in all Housebuster won 15 of his lifetime 22 starts and as noted, many of his wins came by wide margins. He earned $1,229,696 while never racing on anything but dirt, nor ever running beyond one mile. He captured 14 stakes, and 11 of them were graded. After retirement, Housebuster became a vagabond and successful sire, with Hong Kong Horse of the Year and twice champion miler Electronic Unicorn being the best. Housebuster died in 2005 at the age of 18 after standing stud all over the world. His second career as a stallion brought him from Kentucky to Japan to New Zealand to Argentina and finally to West Virginia, where he passed away.
Can a horse who never had any Breeders’ Cup success still be considered a great horse? Housebuster is proof that the answer is yes. His outstanding record and his flare in winning made him the repeat winner of the Eclipse Award as the outstanding sprinter in 1990 and 1991. Housebuster is the only horse to do that since the great filly Ta Wee turned the trick back in 1970. She may have been a few years before my time, but I was lucky enough to follow Housebuster’s outstanding career from the beginning. I remember you Housebuster.
September 15, 2010
*My sire’s most important win came in a race no longer run, his sire was a Horse of the Year.
*I won eight stakes, all of them graded, and the first six were split equally between only two tracks.
*My best known offspring won just under three times as much in earnings as I did.
*I was a regular in the Breeders’ Cup, but unfortunately each result got progressively worse.
*I did not mind carrying a lot of weight, once winning a race with more than 130 pounds on my back.
*My first stakes win and my last stakes win were a couple of weeks shy of being exactly three years apart.
*I won greater than one-third of my more than 30 lifetime starts.
*My most regular rider was on board each time during my string of five straight stakes wins.
*The majority of my stakes wins occurred in my sophomore season, which was not my Eclipse Award winning season.
*Both my trainer and I have passed away. He is in the Hall of Fame, I am not.
You should know by now … Who Am I ???
September 13, 2010
Blocked completely for much of the stretch, the task seemed absolutely hopeless for Al Khali and new rider Alan Garcia. Leader Strike a Deal was resilient on the lead, and recent grade 1 winner Winchester was bearing down on him on the outside. Al Khali was clearly full of run, but desperately seeking racing room until Garcia found the opportunity to yank him to the outside. Within an instant of altering course, Al Khali’s rally was launched like only the folks at Cape Canaveral could appreciate, carrying him to a sudden and measured neck victory over favored Winchester.
September 12, 2010
|Did you ever see a horse in person that you know is really good, but will probably not yet be noticed by a national audience? Have you ever seen a horse that impresses you so much physically that you can’t help but become a fan? Sure you have, and yesterday I was lucky enough to see the daily double in one horse. Mark Dedomenico’s Wonderlandbynight is a gorgeous chestnut daughter of one of my favorite sires, Sky Mesa. With E. T. Baird in the irons, the juvenile filly used the Grade III $100,000 Arlington-Washington Lassie as her personal coming out party, impressively powering past her 12 rivals to win by 2 ½ lengths. The Mike Reavis trained miss covered the mile over Arlington’s Polytrack surface in 1:36.65, but then had to survive a claim of foul by the jockey of runner-up Jordy Y. The claim was correctly disallowed by the stewards and the two-year-old filly etched her name into an illustrious list of past winners including last year’s Eclipse winner, She Be Wild.|
Bred by her trainer, Wonderlandbynight kept her perfect record in tact after four starts. Interestingly, her four wins have come in two stakes races, and in two maiden races. In her first lifetime start, she rallied nicely to finish second against colts, but was later awarded the victory after the winner failed a post-race medication test. Since then she romped home an easy winner against maiden fillies, thereby giving her the rare distinction of being a two-time maiden winner, before grabbing her first stakes victory in her last effort. The Illinois bred filly was coming off that sharp score in the $150,000 Ontario Debutante over 6 ½ furlongs at Woodbine.
Watching Wonderlandbynight stroll into the winner’s circle after the official sign went up, I was struck by several attributes. Most noticeable is the sizeable white blaze that leads the way for the all copper colored filly. A copper coat that glistened in the Chicago sunshine yesterday. Both her size and her presence remind me of a much older filly, as she carries her head proudly like she already knows that she is far from average. Her conformation looked flawless to my quick inspection, and she had a very intelligent look in her alert eyes. Needless to say, I liked what I saw.
The Alcibiades Stakes at Keeneland could be next for Wonderlandbynight, as she tries to emulate the path taken to an eventual Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies victory by She Be Wild. It would be a lot to ask of the Illinois bred to complete the Lassie-BC double, but she has gained at least one new fan in yours truly. Class will be the question against grade 1 competition, but she is getting better with every start, now has a nice win at a mile, and as I have mentioned, is a real looker. Wonderlandbynight is definitely a filly to keep an eye on race fans.
September 11, 2010
Today I will be rubbing shoulders with the beautiful people at Arlington Park. Or maybe that should be, I will be rubbing shoulders with people at beautiful Arlington Park. Either way, that’s where I’ll be. It’s Arlington-Washington Day at my home track, and the Futurity and the Lassie offer the best juvenile racing of the year in Illinois. Full of history, these graded stakes have long seen some of the finest youngsters in the nation grace their respective winner’s circles. In more recent years, the races have consistently produced horses that have gone on to compete in the Breeders’ Cup, and done well. Just last year, She Be Wild used the Lassie as a springboard to victory in the BC Juvenile Fillies and an Eclipse Award. In the process she joined horses like Gilded Time, Street Sense, and Eliza who also ran in the Futurity or Lassie on their way to Breeders’ Cup victories and championship seasons.
September 10, 2010
As you all know, Hall of Fame conditioner Bobby Frankel passed away last year at the all too young age of 68, after losing a battle with lymphoma. The trainer, who worked his way up from modest beginnings in Brooklyn, became one of the most successful trainers in the nation. After becoming the American trainer for Juddmonte, the two enjoyed incredible success. Juddmonte won six Eclipse Awards as the best owner or breeder after connecting with Frankel. It looks like Mr. Abdullah has selected an outstanding young horse to be a four-legged tribute to the great trainer.
Only time will tell how far Frankel’s talent will carry him, but if he can become half the success that his namesake was, the sky will be the limit for him.
September 9, 2010
|Tiznow was his name, but he just as easily could have been called Cee’s Squared. He was a late developing son of the speedy California sire Cee’s Tizzy out of the Seattle Song mare Cee’s Song. Not exactly blessed with the pedigree of stars, he was bred in California by the late Cecilia Straub-Rubens and was owned by her Cee’s Stable and Michael Cooper. Tiznow would not make it to the races until the Spring of his three-year-old year, but by the time his career was over a year and a half later, I called him by another name … Mr. Breeders’ Cup. |
A title like that does not come easy, and so it would be for Tiznow, who earned it with each and every stride. He would not register his first victory until the last day of May. The 8 ½ length win was impressive but it came in only a maiden race. It was evident though that Tiznow was flourishing around two turns and the powerful bay colt quickly graduated from maiden winner to graded stakes winner in his very next start. After that hard earned neck victory over the highly regarded Dixie Union in the Grade 3 Affirmed, Tiznow would graduate into grade 1 racing, where he would primarily stay for the remainder of his career. He had a few game losses that Summer in second place finishes in the Swaps and Pacific Classic. Improvement for trainer Jay Robbins was happening week to week, and by the Fall he was romping in the Super Derby and beating top West Coast horses in the Goodwood. It was obvious he was a horse on the rise and the Breeder’s Cup Classic would be next.
Tiznow, from his outside post position, pressured Albert the Great every step. As the field straightened out Tiznow was moving better than his strong and speedy rival, but a new challenge was coming in the form of Irish champion Giant’s Causeway. I remember thinking the European horse on the outside was going to zoom right on by. Giant’s Causeway looked great that day, and Tiznow had been battling on the lead the whole way, so when the O‘Brien horse came right up to him, I figured Tiznow was in trouble. That is when the true heart of Tiznow appeared for the world to see. He was not the fastest horse I have ever seen, but he was quite possibly the toughest. Tiznow dug in like a bulldog protecting a steak bone. Suddenly it was apparent that there was no way that the European superstar was going to run away from him. Giant’s Causeway carried his momentum as far as it would take him, but it was now all about the heart of a soon to be American champion. Finding new gears that by right should not have been there, Tiznow looked Giant’s Causeway in the eye, which spelled doom for the European. I was in the crowd at Churchill Downs that day and was thrilled as Tiznow and his regular rider, Chris McCarron, crossed the wire first in a thrilling photo finish. A maiden less than six months before, Tiznow had earned championship honors.
Defending Horse-of-the-Year Tiznow came back in 2001 and he was strutting his stuff. In March, he made a mockery of a full field of 12 in perhaps the most important older race in California, the Big ‘Cap. The way he won at Santa Anita that day, I felt like it was a safe bet to put my money down on Tiznow for that year’s BC Classic even though it was still almost eight months away. A monkey wrench was thrown into the mix though in the form of a wrenched back. It would keep him away from the races for six months and put a big question mark on Tiznow’s readiness for the Classic. He returned to the races just seven weeks before the Breeder’s Cup, and in two races he looked competitive, but by no means, like the Tiznow we had come to know. So off these third place finishes in both the Woodward and the Goodwood, the defending Horse of the Year would head back to New York for the 2001 Breeders’ Cup, but would he be up to the immense challenge of the Classic?
Tiznow, from his outside post position, relaxed outside of Albert the Great and pounced as they straightened out. The problem was his pounce was not as sharp as Sakhee. I remember thinking the European horse on the outside was going to swoosh right on by. Sakhee looked so strong that day, and Tiznow in between horses did not look like he had the acceleration to stay with the Arc winner. That is when the true heart of Tiznow appeared for the world to see. He was not the fastest horse I have ever seen, but he was quite possibly the toughest. Tiznow dug in like a bulldog protecting a steak bone. Suddenly it was apparent that there was no way that the European superstar was going to run away from him. Sakhee carried his momentum as far as it would take him, but it was now all about the heart of the American champion. Finding new gears that by right should not have been there, Tiznow looked Sakhee in the eye, which spelled doom for the Godolphin runner. The crowd at Belmont Park went bonkers as Tiznow and Chris McCarron crossed the wire first in a thrilling photo finish. Sounds kind of familiar, doesn’t it? Tiznow had done it again.
I could now rattle of his lifetime stats, but that was not what Tiznow was all about. You can not see the heart, mind, and soul of this magnificent animal simply by reading past performances or money earned. I could also choose to rattle off the countless stakes winners he has sired since his retirement from racing. Suffice it to say as a stallion, Tiznow is a stud. He was a great example of outrunning his pedigree. These type of horses are often disappointments in the breeding shed. No one told that to Tiznow. He currently stands at WinStar Farm and is one of the best sires in the world, and one of my personal favorites. Anyone who thought that he would not be a great sire underestimated this great horse, which of course, for Tiznow, was far from the first time.
Tiznow was respected, but not expected to win either Classic by the majority of racing fans. Odds of 9-1 and then a shade under 7-1 proved that. In 2000 people doubted that a relatively new horse on the scene, and a three-year-old at that, could defeat the world’s best on the biggest stage. Tiznow proved them wrong. One year later, people doubted that he could overcome his physical problems and defeat the world’s best on the biggest stage once again. Tiznow proved them wrong. It was not until his last hurrah that the true greatness of Tiznow could be fully appreciated.
One performance like his in the Breeders’ Cup Classic would have been enough, but this hickory horse refused to stop at one. Two fantastic years and remarkably similar and equally admirable performances were turned in by the unheralded California bred that will forever mark Tiznow‘s special place in racing history. Someday another other horse will come along who has what it takes to win two Breeder’s Cup Classics, possibly even this year, but Tiznow will always be the first. Tiznow turned the century for American horse racing in grand style. He proved to be a champion in every sense of the word. He was talented yes, but it was his enormous heart and will to win that set him apart from the rest. He was Mr. Breeders’ Cup. He is a Hall of Famer. I remember you Tiznow.
Photo courtesy of Benoit Photo
September 8, 2010
*I was a multiple grade 1 winner in each of my seasons on the racetrack.
*Unfortunately both myself and my regular rider are no longer of this world.
*I did something of note in the Triple Crown that may never be done again.
*Dad‘s racing career may have been cut short, but my grandparents achieved historic accomplishments.
*I was only defeated nine times, and one of those was via disqualification in a turf stakes at Saratoga.
*Among the horses I defeated include a handicap champion, a three-year-old champion, and a sprint champion, and one of those was a Horse of the Year.
*I was also a champion, but the truth hurt in my attempt for a second.
*My first six grade 1 victories were contested at six different racetracks from coast to coast.
*The best of my offspring include a Canadian and an Englishman.
*I hold a Breeders‘ Cup distinction that can never be taken away from me.
You should know by now … Who Am I ???
September 7, 2010
59 days to go ...
September 6, 2010
Is he like Seattle Slew, the only horse ever to win the Triple Crown while still undefeated? Or maybe he is more similar to Goggles McCoy who won his first four races before going down in flames in Del Mar’s recent El Cajon Stakes. The answer likely lies somewhere in between. Only time will tell whether Twirling Candy will be closer to a great champion or simply an allowance horse who started his career off in impressive fashion, but one thing is for sure, the sophomore son of Candy Ride has the potential to be a superstar. His strong talent was certainly on display yesterday as Twirling Candy forged a less than straight path, under rider Joel Rosario, to score a very easy 3 ¼ length victory in the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby. The win maintained Twirling Candy’s unblemished record, and it also has his connections ready to shoot for the stars.
September 5, 2010
In a race full of top class sprinters and grade 1 winners, like Vineyard Haven, Big Drama, Warrior’s Reward, Bribon, and Girolamo, little attention was paid to a horse who had never before sniffed graded stakes racing and his trainer who was making his initial attempt at the highest level. Lack of experience against top competition would not matter yesterday though, as the unheralded Kentucky shipper made a strong move between horses at the three sixteenths pole, and then powered past multiple stakes winner Big Drama, to win the $250,000 Forego Handicap by three-quarters of a length. Here Comes Ben, sent off at nearly 10-1, finished the seven panels in a time of 1:22.50 over the fast Saratoga strip. The victory stamped Here Comes Ben's ticket straight to the Breeders’ Cup Sprint in two months, as he earned a respectable 104 Beyer Speed Figure for the effort.
September 4, 2010
There is nothing more exciting than discovering racing's next star. A potential Breeders’ Cup, Kentucky Oaks, or even the next Triple Crown champion could be out there. Juveniles have the world at their hooves this time of year. You never know where the next champion is going to come from, and if they happen to have flashed brilliance early on, the expectations can increase exponentially. Four horses whose potential especially fill my imagination with visions of grandeur, are running this holiday weekend in Saratoga’s prestigious, meet-ending stakes for juveniles. Monday’s Hopeful is topped by Boys at Tosconova, Wine Police, and Stay Thirsty, while tomorrow in the Spinaway, I will be watching the filly Valiant Passion closely.
September 3, 2010
|Quality Road remains an enigma. Truly a horse that demands our attention, a new chapter in his saga will unfold tomorrow afternoon in the Woodward Stakes at Saratoga. Even away from the daily grind, I find my thoughts not drifting too far away from the talented colt.|
On vacation on the shores of Lake Superior, I find peace in looking out on the majestic beast of a lake. Big and beautiful, it is also powerful and unforgiving. I lose myself as my eyes focus on the waves rising up and then crashing down. I wonder about the countless mysteries that must lie beneath the surface. As I ponder the words I use to describe the greatest of all the great lakes, I can’t help but to think about the Lake Superior of race horses. I am speaking of Quality Road, and like the lake, he is big and beautiful, and powerful and unforgiving. He is also a horse full of mystery, and much like the waves of Lake Superior, his career seems to rise and fall with each passing moment.
The wave rose with his successful career debut late in his juvenile season. The single race was impressive enough for many to have him on their early Kentucky Derby watch list.
…and then the wave crashing down as Quality Road was easily defeated in his sophomore debut, beaten in an allowance race at Gulfstream Park as the 7-10 favorite.
The wave rose quickly again in his next two starts as he gained revenge on his vanquisher in winning the Fountain of Youth, and then broke a track record in his Florida Derby triumph. The two stakes wins propelled him to be the most talked about horse on the Derby trail.
…and then the wave crashing down as Quality Road was taken out of consideration for the Run for the Roses due to troublesome quarter cracks. The soreness relented, and Quality Road would not return for his new trainer, Todd Pletcher, until August.
The wave rose again with a vengeance, as Quality Road’s long awaited return to the races produced an electrifying performance and another track record in easily taking the Amsterdam Stakes against a solid field. His bandwagon became packed almost immediately as experts called him the best sophomore male in the nation.
…and then that wave crashed down again as the real sophomore champion, Summer Bird, defeated him consecutively in the Travers and the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Quality Road‘s star took another hit when his penchant for resisting the starting gate came to a head in the BC Classic causing a frightening situation.The wave rose one more time as the son of Elusive Quality started his older career with three straight stakes wins, including a tour de force showing in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap that had the speed figure gurus falling over themselves to glorify. The bandwagon was revved up again, and the Horse of the Year talk was aplenty.
…and then the wave came crashing down again. Blame was to blame this time as heavily favored Quality Road could not hold off the improving stretch runner in last month’s Whitney. In the process, Blame snatched the mantle as the best male horse in America from the talented but enigmatic Quality Road.
September 2, 2010
Sitting in the passenger seat, as my wife drives the family truckster, I find myself admiring her driving skills. Temporarily boxed in because of a slow driver who is clearly oblivious to the stay left except when passing rule, my wife is forced to decelerate until she can swing out to the right. She finds her opening and does not hesitate. Because of the forced slow down, it takes a second for the Mazda to accelerate, but then it does, and we are gone. I can feel the pure acceleration deep inside my body, as we move to speeds that leave the offending car behind in a flash. The move sends my memory hurtling back in time to when a juvenile colt named Dehere ruled the Saratoga Summer like I had never seen before.
September 1, 2010
*My victories had a five eighths of a mile spread between the shortest and the longest.
*I was a champion who was bred and owned by a classic Kentucky farm.
*I went out with a bang, as my final career race was a victory on July the 4th.
*Despite coming within a nose of becoming a graded stakes winner in New York, I ended my juvenile season as a maiden.
*I defeated one Eclipse Award winner in all five our meetings, but in my only race against a multiple Horse of the Year, I was well beaten.
*Each of my grade 1 victories came at a distance of a mile and a quarter or more.
*I may not have been the runner that my brother was, but I did accomplish something important that he never did.
*My first five victories, four of them stakes, occurred at five different racetracks.
*I was undefeated in my final season of racing, but all my biggest victories came the year before.
*I owe a large debt of gratitude to Jeanne, as do many others.
You should know by now … Who Am I ???