December 31, 2009

Who Am I ???

*I won exactly half of my lifetime starts, in fact I won half of my starts at two, half at three and half at four.

*Each successive year I won more races, more stakes and bigger races than the previous year.

*I raced on both dirt and the grass, but I much preferred one over the other.

*I won one Derby and finished third in another Derby.

*My wins had a five furlong spread between the shortest and the longest.

*I was defeated by a Preakness winner and three different Breeders‘ Cup winners.

*I won some big races, but the biggest was my final career win and my third to last start before retirement.

*My eight stakes wins came at four different racetracks and three different distances.

*You can keep New York, Belmont Park was the sight of my poorest lifetime performance.

*My last two races were very disappointing, but I had solid excuses in those races.

*Today I am a shuttle stallion, breeding in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.

You should know by now … Who Am I ???

December 30, 2009

Juveniles of High Intrigue

No Virginia, racing is far more than the feature race on Saturday. The early races at Santa Anita on Wednesday are the ones peaking my interest. Two-year-olds of limitless potential hit the racetrack today in races number two and three. You never know when a champion will appear, but these races offer more chance than most. Horses like these, replace the staleness of Winter with a refreshing, optimistic air.

Today’s second contest marks the return of Sidney’s Candy. For those who may not know of this juvenile colt, I feel he was the most impressive youngster at Del Mar this Summer, with all due respect to Lookin at Lucky. After a very promising second place finish in his debut, he returned August 22 at the shore-side oval. In that race, Sidney's Candy was super impressive as he romped by four lengths. He moved to the top of my juvenile list off the win in which he earned an almost unheard of 99 Beyer in the maiden race. He would miss out on all the following juvenile stakes races though, due to sore shins. Owned by the Craig family trust, trained by John Sadler, and ridden by Joe Talamo, Sidney’s Candy looks primed for his return at Santa Anita. Away from the races for over four months, the son of the undefeated star Candy Ride has been firing bullets in the Southern Californian mornings. At his best, I do not see anyone in the field that will beat him, but make no mistake, this is a strong six furlong allowance field. Bob Baffert will try to sour the candy with two horses coming off losses in stakes races. The speedy Tiny Woods and the improving Indian Firewater both have the talent to force Sidney’s Candy to run a big one to get the win. I fully expect him to run a big one.

In the third race, we see the much anticipated debut of Take Control. A $7.7 million dollar buyback as a yearling, much is expected from the chestnut colt. The son of the regal mating of champions A.P. Indy and Azeri, Take Control is the first foal from his marvelous mom, and has the looks to go along with the pedigree. After not reaching his unbelievable minimum asking price as a yearling, he was sold as a two-year-old in training for $1.9 million at Keeneland’s select sale in April to his current owner Kaleem Shah. He is trained by Bob Baffert, who has been red hot with his band of juveniles of late, and word out of California is that this one is a runner. Take Control has drawn the rail in the one mile affair for maidens and is listed as the 4-1 third choice behind a couple of colts who have already run effectively without winning. There have not been many better racemares than Azeri, so his debut will be watched by many fans with great interest.

Watch the early races from Santa Anita this Wednesday afternoon and maybe, just maybe, you will be watching the colt who wins the 2010 Kentucky Derby.

December 28, 2009

Remembering ... Risen Star

“If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere, It’s up to you, New York, New York!” The lyrics bellowed from the powerful lungs of one of Risen Star’s owners, Ronnie Lamarque. The outgoing Cajon sang his heart out in the Belmont Stakes Winner’s Circle. He had every right, his horse, trained by fellow Louisianan and co-owner Louie Roussel III, had just turned the ‘test of champions’ into a stretch long runway into the stratosphere of superstardom. Risen Star had just won the Belmont by 14 ¾ lengths, with every powerful stride he effortlessly lengthened his lead on his Belmont foes. My partner in watching the Belmont was my father, and I’ll never forget what he said that day. You have to understand, this is a man who does not easily throw flowery adjectives a horses way. He has seen too many great racehorses to become overly impressed without cause. Hyperbole is simply not in his make-up, but as Risen Star cruised by the sixteenth pole, the words came out of his mouth: “He is a superhorse.”

Risen Star was a big powerful dark bay son of the immortal Secretariat. Snatched out of the Calder two-year-old in training sale by Roussel and Lamarque, he did not make it to the races until late September of his juvenile season. He wasted no time in validating his purchase by winning a stakes race first out at Louisiana Downs. He followed that by running a distant 2nd in another stakes race at Louisiana Downs to Success Express, who would go onto be one of the best two-year-olds in the nation. A good start to his career, but this long legged son of the His Majesty mare, Ribbon, would need not worry about sprinting on a dirt course ever again. A four length romp in an allowance route at the Fair Grounds closed his juvenile campaign.

Risen Star began his three-year-old season gaining confidence. He ran in one more allowance race the day after New Year’s Day, and it produced a ten length score. He followed that up with a 2nd place finish in his return to stakes competition in the Lecomte Handicap. That would be his only defeat at the Fair Grounds. Risen Star continued on the New Orleans path for three-year-olds with easy victories in their top races. His win in the Louisiana Derby Trial and the Louisiana Derby signaled his readiness to venture outside of Louisiana and onto the Kentucky Derby trail. Fair Grounds immediately honored ‘their’ horse by renaming the Louisiana Derby Trial. It has been known as the Risen Star Stakes since 1989.

When he left Louisiana he was my selection for the Kentucky Derby. His final prep was at Keeneland, and in one of the best races of the year, he would meet the juvenile champion and Derby favorite, Forty Niner, in the Lexington Stakes. Risen Star prevailed in a tough battle to win by a neck. I loved his breeding and his physicality and I now knew he could handle the nation’s best. There were people still doubted the Louisiana horse, but he arrived in Louisville as a legitimate threat.

For those of us supporting him the 1988 Derby turned out to be a disappointing renewal. Risen Star had little chance as he was shuffled far back early, swung wide, and was left way too far from the front running winner Winning Colors. She held off Forty Niner, who had not pressured her early. Meanwhile, Risen Star got things rolling late only to finish a fast closing third. The Preakness brought redemption, as Risen Star was much closer to the pace and quickly pounced on the two who had beaten him at Churchill. The 1 ¼ length score was still not proof to many people though. Risen Star, who almost didn’t run, was disrespected as fans of the filly, Winning Colors, blamed her loss on the ride of Pat Day aboard Forty Niner. Swelling in the leg before the Belmont would raise major concerns, but he was declared fit to run, so it was on to the Belmont to settle things.

Everything came into focus at the Belmont Stakes and it was spectacular. Risen Star, like many large horses, was developing and maturing seemingly by the minute. Each race was better than the last and when he crossed the finish line on June the 11th, it was clear that we were looking at something special. For the first time, a son of Secretariat was actually looking like a chip of the old block. The New Orleans guys were overjoyed and it was a pleasure to see that personality effused into the post-race proceedings. It was a grand time to be at the races and to be a fan of Risen Star. The future was bright for this horse who had made his first seven starts in the state of Louisiana. He was Louisiana through and through. Owned by Louisianans, trained by one and ridden by one of my favorite riders, Eddie Delahoussaye also a Cajon. The sky appeared to be the limit, and then…it wasn’t. He came out of the Belmont Stakes with an injury that would sideline him. I hopefully waited through the Summer, eagerly awaiting his return. It never happened. He did not recover quickly and had another setback. He was too valuable for his connections to take a chance on bringing him back at less than one hundred percent. I watched that Fall as the great Alysheba dominated the biggest races and I wondered what might have been.

I have seen many horses retire far too early, or whom have never returned to the races after the Triple Crown, but none with more potential for ultimate greatness than Risen Star. I honestly believe that he was just beginning to hit his high notes when his song was cut short. A song that would have paved the way for a career that would have led to all-time great status. I, for one, would have loved to see Ronnie Lamarque sing again. Risen Star went to stud at Walmac Farm in Kentucky where en enjoyed only moderate success as a sire. He never fathered anything near as talented as himself. Risen Star passed away on March 13, 1998 at the age of 13 after a bout with Colic. Much like his racing career, his life was ended much too quickly. I remember you Risen Star.

December 27, 2009

A Most Unusual Turf Talent

Move over Zenyatta, better beware Gio Ponti. There is a new star in California and he is also a new player on the national turf scene. If you do not follow racing in California, this might not be a horse you are familiar with yet, but you should be. I am here to tell you: The Usual Q.T. is the real deal. In a short time the gelded, California bred has become one of the best turf horses in the country. Yesterday, he did it again. The Usual Q.T. won his sixth consecutive start yesterday in the Sir Beaufort Stakes at Santa Anita’s opening day. Ridden with complete confidence by rider, Victor Espinoza, the bay son of Unusual Heat waited until the top of the lane to pounce. Given only slight urging, The Usual Q.T. ambled to the front and easily held sway his overmatched opponents. Dropping down to a mile from a 10 furlong race can give many horses trouble, but not so for this grass star. The grade 3 win was actually a step down from his sharp win in the Grade 1 win in the Hollywood Derby.

It was the Hollywood Derby that really pointed out just how good this horse was. Contested over Thanksgiving weekend, it was the race of the year for three-year-olds on the lawn. Most of the best of the division were in the race, including The Battle of Hastings, Take the Points, Al Khali, Black Bear Island, Sal the Barber, and Straight Story. No other turf race this year for his age group had near the depth of class as the Hollywood Derby, and The Usual Q.T. won. He won easy. The margin was 1 ½ lengths over the stellar field. The Hollywood Derby win also verified his victory in the Oak Tree Derby over the horse who had been the most consistent in the division this year, The Battle of Hastings. With the wins over him and multiple grade 1 winner Take the Points, it is clear, in my mind at least, that this is the best grass horse in his age group and he is fully ready to take on the best of the older turfers. The Usual Q.T. has made an astounding climb up the division from where he was less than five short months ago.

The Usual Q.T. did not break his maiden for trainer James Cassidy until August 5 of this year. It was his second try on the grass and it was an easy score. Before his first win, he had been unsuccessful in five tries. The most promising of those losses, was his first race on the turf, in which he fell one jump short of getting up at the wire. After his impressive maiden win he moved right up the class ladder, first winning an allowance race in fast time. He then took the California Cup Mile, before stepping up to the Grade 2 Oak Tree Derby. In his first race against top-notch competition, he held off The Battle of Hastings by a head. That was the only time in this six race winning streak that a horse got close to him at the wire. He now sports a grass record of six wins in seven starts, with only that narrow loss keeping him from a perfect record on the green. All of the wins have featured fast times and are especially impressive considering he was just a maiden in August. While he may not yet be a household name, I think that the days of him lacking in national respect are numbered.

I find it surprising that so few people seem to be talking about this one, maybe it is because he is a Cal bred who has not yet left the state. This lack of respect should change soon though, as he continues to beat up on good grass horses. What’s next you ask? The Usual Q.T. will most likely pointed for the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Turf in five weeks time. The 9 furlong affair is especially designed for California and Florida breds and the Turf will be run at Gulfstream Park, which will be his first start outside the state of California. I am looking forward to seeing what this turf sensation can do away from the friendly confines of Southern California. My guess is, more of the same.

December 26, 2009

A Treasure Trove of Stakes the Day After Christmas

The festivities begin at Calder Race Course where the headliner is the match up of star geldings Presious Passion and Cloudy’s Knight in the W.L. McKnight Handicap. A full field of 11 will frame the two, but all eyes will be on the speedy superstar and the ageless wonder, and a win by anyone else would be a little disappointing to the majority of fans. Provided the turf course is firm enough, I like Presious Passion as his front running prowess should prove too much, but I have great respect for Cloudy and I expect him to be the one who is closest to the winner at the wire. Presious Passion will soon be seven and Cloudy’s Knight ten, but you would be hard pressed to find a better distance horse in the country right now than either of these two.

This Ones For Phil tries to climb back up the ladder of the nation’s top sprinters and will be my selection in a very interesting edition of the Kenny Noe Jr. Handicap. The talented four-year-old, Biker Boy, is in fine fettle and should prove his chief opposition. The Stage Door Betty Handicap has two sharp locals vying for favoritism in Sweet Repent and Jessica is Back. I am looking for a class advantage though, and the Michael Matz trained Morena may fit the bill. The Peruvian import is coming off her best race in the U.S. when she was second in the Falls City, and a repeat of that performance can be enough to take this.

Opening Day at Santa Anita offers up a quartet of stakes. Of great interest is the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes, with no less than 13 possible winners in the wide open contest. Likely to be favored will be the Bob Baffert trained Misremembered who ran a huge race to be 2nd in the recent Clark Handicap. I am going in a different direction with my selection and tab Baffert’s other runner Mythical Power. Although he has been away from the races for several months, Mythical Power was on the verge of stardom after his romp in the Lone Star Derby and may prove best of all in the tough field. Baffert has always been high on him and should have him ready to roll. In the La Brea Stakes, 12 three-year-old fillies will try to get a grade 1 win and a jump start on their careers as older fillies. Gabby’s Golden Gal and Evita Argentina are the biggest names in the race, but there are several others ready to win a big race. My selection is Kays and Jays, who will use her early foot and rail position to take this field wire to wire. A tough task to be sure, but one the daughter of Macho Uno may be ready to accomplish.

In the Sir Beaufort Stakes, The Usual Q.T. towers over the field and if he can handle the cut back in distance, he will win his sixth consecutive race. He will also solidify his standing as the top three-year-old turf horse in the nation, a title he claimed with an impressive win in the Hollywood Derby. The fourth stake today is the California Breeders’ Champion Stakes featuring the undefeated Caracortado stretching out to a distance of the ground for the first time. Caracortado figures to be bet heavily, so I am looking for a little value. I am going to try and beat him with my selection Wolf Tail. The O’Neil charge is an experienced sprinter coming off his best race yet and should appreciate the two turns today.

December 25, 2009

Presious Passion Part II

Who’s that horse? This is a mile and a half marathon, and he’s opening up by ten, fifteen, twenty lengths! Has the rider lost his mind? There is no way he is going to have anything left for the stretch. Here they come, the pack is closing in, the lead is shrinking fast. They’re going to run right by him. Wait a minute, the horse is Presious Passion. They’re not going to get him. This horse has another gear and a deep reserve of heart. There he goes. Presious Passion wires them again!

Which race did this little vignette capture? Take your pick. Given good conditions and a stretch of green grass in front of him, Presious Passion is a front running demon. He is prone to breaking the collective will of his opponents, first with unheard of blazing speed and then with all the stretch courage of the king of the jungle. His most unusual style of winning major races was not always the case. It was only when he was finally paired with a partner not afraid to let the unique horse run his race, that Presious Passion metamorphosed into the star he is today.

Presious Passion built on the good start in 2006 to his turf career, as the gelded son of Royal Anthem continued to run some promising races as a four-year-old. Consistency was not quite yet his strong suit, but a solid second place finish in the quickly run mile of the Bob Harding Stakes at Monmouth Park and then a win in the Grade 3 Cliff Hanger at The Meadowlands earned Presious Passion the tag as a dangerous turfer. As a four-year-old, he was a horse who did not always threaten, but was capable of popping up and taking home the money on any given day. This was all part of the progression of Presious Passion. At two, he was a non-winner. At three, he showed an affinity for grass, and became a stakes winner. Now at four, he was a graded stakes winner, but still far from a model of consistency.

So much so, that when he entered December’s W.L. McKnight Handicap, bettors let him go at a whopping 67-1. The few fans who did back him that day went home overjoyed, as he earned a grade 2 victory over a solid field. It was in many ways, another telltale signal of the Presious Passion to come. He relished the testing 12 furlongs and came within a whisker of a new course record. Running near the lead, he pulled clear in the stretch and was much the best. In the irons that day was the successful young Panamanian jockey, Elvis Trujillo. It was the first time that Trujillo and Presious Passion came together and it would prove to be a fortuitous partnership.

Like a fine wine Presious Passion is improving with age. He has now improved in each of his five seasons of racing. As he got better, his trainer Mary Hartmann began to isolate what course condition (firm) and what distances (long) her charge preferred. Buoyed by his big win in the McKnight of 2007, Presious Passion would go on to bigger and better things in his five-year-old season.

To be continued…

Photo Courtesy and Property of Sue Kawczynski

December 24, 2009

Who Am I ???

*I was a classic Kentucky bred with two Kentucky Derby winners in my pedigree

*Well traveled, my stakes wins came at eight different racetracks and in seven different states.

*Never let go at higher than 5-2, I was clearly popular with the bettors.

*Eight of my eleven lifetime victories came in one of my three seasons of racing.

*Dirt was my surface; I never raced on anything else.

*I was once favored over a Kentucky Derby winner at Belmont, but I was not successful.

*My stakes wins had a three quarter of a mile spread between the shortest and the longest.

*I was a stakes winner in each of my three years of racing.

*My jockey and I had a monogamous relationship, or at least on my end, as he was my only lifetime race rider.

*My impressive winning streak brought me accolades and a place in history.

*One of my losses came in the Mid-Summer Derby, where I was favored to win.

You should know by now … Who Am I ???

December 23, 2009

This Ones For Phil (Dad)

One of the fastest three-year-olds of 2009 returns to stakes racing this Saturday at Calder in the Kenny Noe Jr. Handicap. This Ones For Phil, winner of the Sunshine Millions Dash and the Swale Stakes, had been away from the races since the Spring, before returning after nearly six months to win a sharp allowance at Laurel. Trained by Rick Dutrow, the chestnut son of Untuttable flourished for Dutrow in Florida last Winter. I expect This Ones For Phil, a gelding, to be a major player in the big sprints of 2010 and possibly for years to come, but today’s column is not about This Ones For Phil the racehorse.

This Ones For Phil. This column is for my Dad, Phil Zipse.

My father nearly passed away on Sunday. Fortunately, he was already at the hospital with symptoms, when his heart stopped. He was revived and diagnosed in need of bypass surgery. Sunday afternoon he underwent quadruple bypass surgery and is currently in the early stages of recovery. The prognosis is good. At this time, I can not put into words what suddenly, almost losing him felt like. Nor am I skilled enough a writer to completely explain what he means to me, so instead, I will tell you a little about our connection together with horses.

The original Zipse at the Track, my father instilled a love of horses and racing into his two sons. My brother and I were good athletes and Dad always spent time to help us improve at certain sports. We were both pitchers and I can’t tell you how many times he got into a catcher’s crouch for us, but it was the trips to the racetrack that I remember best. Because of my Dad, we went all the time. He would rarely ever go without his two boys. Many of my best childhood memories, were at Belmont, Saratoga or Monmouth Park. I love racing today, as does my brother, solely because of Phil Zipse. I remember Secretariat, Sham, and Stop the Music. I remember Forego, Wajima, and Ruffian. These horses ran when I was very young and I remember them because of my Dad.

My father did not become a fan until his late teens, but he made sure to teach his sons at a young age. He taught us how to read the Daily Racing Form. He taught us how to appreciate the horses physical attributes in the paddock. He taught us how to dismiss the underlay and how to spot the live longshot. He taught us how to appreciate the great athletes in motion through our eyes and our ears (he used to love to take us to the far turn for the day’s final race for the sound of the horses spinning out of the turn). Most of all, though he always made it special. Although we went to the races hundreds of times in my youth, It was always an event. I cherish those times.

When he was part of a small partnership that owned broodmares, we would make the long drive to the New York farm to visit and get to know our Explodent mares. Feeding carrots to a racehorse that we owned was something that small child will never forget. We never bred any stakes winners, but seeing one of our mares’ daughters win a state bred allowance race at Belmont was amazing.

To this day, horse racing is a mutual bond for the Zipse men. Something we will always have in common and something that will always bring us together in ways that I am sure many families will never know. It can be a catalyst for a family get together or just an opportunity for an extra phone call. I thank my Dad for all of this. Horse racing is only one of the things, I have to be thankful for from my father, but it is a big one.

I ask my readers, if they have any well wishes or prayers to spare, please send them on to my Dad. And to my Dad…I love you and I will forever be grateful for everything you have given me, and continue to give me throughout my lifetime. I know that you will recover and be back to yourself in no time. Get well soon Dad.

December 21, 2009

Remembering ... Point Given

He was not your average two-year-old. Far from it. Pounding the earth with every gigantic stride, Point Given now had his massive frame moving in a fluid motion. His stride was twice the length of any of the other juveniles in the 2000 Breeders’ Cup, but it would not matter, for he was left with far too much to do in the Churchill Downs stretch and was still mired back in 7th at the eighth pole. The classy Canadian colt, Macho Uno had made a winning move and had spurted clear of the rest of the pack. Still I could not take my eyes off of Point Given. He was now in full gear and it had all the look of a Cadillac chasing down a field of Yugos. So big and strong and closing so fast it reminded me of all those times I had seen Forego blistering down the Belmont Park lane. Point Given was flying like no other juvenile I had seen before. It was only a matter of how quickly the wire would arrive. Point Given was gaining half a length per stride, and when he passed Street Cry, I let myself believe for the first time that he may actually pull it off. Macho Uno was still running well, but Point Given was now billowing smoke from his nostrils. They would hit the wire together. On the line was the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and an Eclipse Award as best two-year-old. As the horses galloped past my vantage point, just past the wire, my mouth was ajar and my heart was pounding.

Did he get up? No. The photo revealed he had fallen a nose short. He had left a lasting impression though. On this day of great races, all I could think about was the Juvenile and how I had just seen next year’s Kentucky Derby winner.

It is difficult to win the Triple Crown. How’s that for understatement? No horse this decade was better in the Spring of their three-year-old year than Point Given and no horse was more dominant of his peers. Horse racing can be a fickle mistress. It is hard to believe how one horse’s fate can change so radically within the five weeks of the Triple Crown. The 133rd Belmont Stakes of 2001 was an ultra impressive display of strength and power. The son of 1995 Derby and Belmont winner Thunder Gulch romped home under his regular rider Gary Stevens, more than 12 lengths in front of A P Valentine. Point Given’s final time of 2:26 2/5 was the fourth-fastest Belmont ever. Everything that I had imagined seven months earlier at Churchill Downs, had manifested itself that day at Belmont Park. Coming on the heels of an impressive score in the Preakness Stakes, Point Given had proven himself a star. It was a crowning moment, but unfortunately, he was not crowned.

Maybe it was the hard, lightning fast track surface at Churchill that day. Maybe it was the fact that he was too close to fast early fractions. Maybe it was the heat of the Louisville Spring. Maybe it was the banging around like a pinball in the field of 17. Or maybe it was just the only day in his career, that the 17 hands horse did not feel like running. All we know for sure is that May 5, 2001 was not Point Given’s day.

T-Rex, that is what his personable conditioner Bob Baffert affectionately called him, stormed into Louisville as the big horse in more ways than one. Since the BC Juvenile, he had easily handled his competition in the Hollywood Futurity and San Felipe. With his romping win in the Santa Anita Derby, Point Given had everyone thinking he was a legitimate Triple Crown contender. And then came the race. Point Given would run his only bad race of his career and fade to a well beaten fifth in the large field. Once again, Churchill Downs was the place of great disappointment for Point Given. The twin spires oversaw both of his seasons fall just short of greatness. The Derby performance seemed so out of character, but it happened, and it happened on the world’s largest stage. It was if the Racing Gods had not allowed Point Given immortality. Monarchos was a smashing winner that day, but we were all left to wonder what had happened to the big horse. Point Given was the horse that would end the long Triple Crown drought and yet it was not meant to be. Redemption would come in the Preakness and the Belmont and the Haskell and the Travers, four consecutive million dollar races, which only made the Kentucky Derby all the more puzzling.

Though his career was cut short, Point Given collected 9 wins and 3 seconds in his 13 starts with earnings just a shade below four million dollars. The Kentucky Derby was his lone loss of 2001, a season that saw him win six major stakes before a strained tendon prompted his retirement. He was rewarded for his excellent season by being named Champion three-year-old male and Horse of the Year. Currently he is a successful young sire standing at Three Chimneys Farm in Midway, Kentucky. I wish the chestnut behemoth a long and happy career at stud. I remember you Point Given.

December 20, 2009

Presious Passion Part I

Every once in a while a horse comes along that completely captures your imagination. Their unique talent is an intellectual curiosity, their fortitude fills your heart with admiration. With each passing race, you watch with increasing anticipation and hopefulness. Ladies and Gentleman, a horse like this is distinct in every way, and I am thrilled to see that our Holiday weekend will be graced with an appearance by just such a horse. For the third consecutive year, Calder’s W.L. McKnight Handicap has attracted the singular talent that is, Presious Passion. Not many grade 2 races with a $150,000 purse become so fortunate. The soon to be seven-year-old gelding has developed into nothing short of a force of nature. Flaunting ridiculous speed in marathon turf races throughout the United States, Presious Passion has won over the most fickle of fan. How did Presious Passion rise from humble beginnings to a burgeoning national hero?

Presious Passion is a Florida bred son of International turf stakes winner Royal Anthem and was the first foal out of the unraced mare, Princesa’s Passion. He was purchased from breeders Joseph and Helen Barbazon by Patricia Generazio who along with her husband Frank, liked what they saw in Presious Passion while visiting horses they owned at the Barbazon’s Pleasant Acres Farm. Presious Passion made it to the races only twice as a juvenile and was trained by Frank Generazio. His two starts were both out of the money finishes and his dirt race was less than good. Big changes were in store for the young horse though, as the Generazios decided to get out of the training end of the business. They sent Presious Passion to Florida and trainer Mary Hartmann.

His partnership with Hartmann would become a mutually beneficial one, and under Hartmann it was decided that turf would be his new surface. With the changes came new success, and it was immediately clear that the future of Presious Passion would be on the grass. He became a solid turf runner that first Winter at Gulfstream Park and would be ready for his stakes win in the Summer of his three-year-old year. Monmouth Park’s 2006 Jersey Derby would be the first chance for fans to see what Presious Passion may someday become, as he relished the very firm turf and set a new course record on his way to collecting the winner’s trophy. From there, I would like to tell you that he would skyrocket up the American turf scene to stardom, but that would not be accurate, for it would not be all biscuits and gravy just yet.

Presious Passion was a good turf horse, but at this point in his career you could not say much more. He was still losing the majority of his races and finished his second season with only three wins in his ten starts on the lawn. He was also a horse without a clear purpose. One day he would rally, another day he would stalk, and then yet another he would flash early speed. He had no defined running style. How things have changed.

To be continued…

Photo Courtesy and Property of Sue Kawczynski

December 19, 2009

Down and Derby c19

19 weeks until the Kentucky Derby, let the countdown begin!

Zipse at the Track will fill out the Kentucky Derby starting gate with 20 horses, in three categories, to keep your anticipatory eyes on. The Big 8 will include the eight horses I feel the most likely to win come the first Saturday in May. The Hidden Dragons will include the horses laying in wait and ready to breathe fire in the near future, and the Forget Me Nots category will feature those horses that may not be currently on the forefront of anyone’s mind, but are eligible to move there, with one solid race. I will unveil the categories in the coming weeks, and after that, they will form a Top 20 list all the way to the Derby. This week, the…

Big 8

1 Connemara (Giant's Causeway - Satin Sunrise by Mr. Leader)
The half brother of 2004 Derby runner-up, Lion Heart, has yet to test the deep water, but he has all the look and tools of a future superstar. Connemara was left hopelessly at the gate in his debut at Turfway Park and still easily recovered to roll over a field that included a Pletcher stablemate who won his next out at Keeneland. Connemara showed determination in his second race, an allowance win at Santa Anita, while coming off the rail to outfinish a solid field. You could tell he was full of run after the wire of that win, and there appears to be a lot more under the tank of this one. I see big things for him as he moves into stakes company in the near future.

2 Lookin at Lucky (Smart Strike - Private Feeling by Belong to Me)
The soon to be two-year-old champion is hard to knock and even harder to keep out of the number one spot. Physically he looks the part and all he does his win stake after stake. All six of his races have been over synthetic surfaces, so the question of how he will handle dirt is still out there and there is a touch of sprint breeding in his pedigree, but being a son of the excellent sire Smart Strike causes me not to worry too much on either account. Lookin at Lucky is the horse all others will compare themselves on the early road to Louisville.

3 Buddy’s Saint (St. Liam - Tuzia by Blushing John)
The ill-fated champion, St. Liam, only sired one crop before his untimely death. How fitting that he has a top-notch horse to make a run at the Derby trail. Buddy’s Saint absolutely whistled in his two stakes wins at Aqueduct, where he will return, in the Spring for the Wood Memorial. In winning the Nashua and Remsen, he dominated with complete authority despite being under wraps. He is a fluid mover and has the look of a horse that will have no trouble getting the Derby distance for conditioner Bruce Levine.

4 Super Saver (Maria’s Mon - Supercharger by A.P. Indy)
WinStar’s first horse on the list, Super Saver is a big strong colt with quality distance breeding throughout his lineage. He has improved with each of his four starts and has quickly trended to near the top of everyone’s juvenile list. The ability to harness his early speed may be his only question mark. Super Saver also has one large advantage over any other potential Derby horse on the list, as he clearly ran the best race by any two-year-old this year at Churchill Downs, in his impressive win in the Kentucky Jockey Club.

5 Piscitelli (Victory Gallop - Rayelle by Relaunch)
With only one win in five starts, you would not expect to see this horse so highly rated, but to me, this is the most likely horse of all to relish the demanding distance of the Derby. In his last race, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, in which he finished 4th and beaten less than one length, Piscitelli fought back from the rail and was running great at the end, despite being the early pace setter. His breeding tells me he will appreciate the return to dirt, will handle an off track, and only get better as he develops.

6 Jackson Bend (Hear No Evil - Sexy Stockings by Tabasco Cat)
The King of the Calder juveniles, Jackson Bend showed courage and the ability to overcome, in winning five straight races at the South Florida oval. He has since been turned over to experienced Kentucky Derby winning trainer, Nick Zito, in preparation for a raid on Louisville. His freshman sire was a sprinter, so distance limitations are the one major concern for the very likeable horse. He has experience on the dirt and has already handled good horses, so if he can get 10 furlongs, look out.

7 American Lion (Tiznow - Storm Tide by Storm Cat)
I had a hard time keeping American Lion this far down on the list, with his royal breeding and his regal good looks. Another WinStar runner with a big upside, American Lion transferred his Keeneland form nicely in his first stakes appearance in Southern California. I have no doubt that Tiznow will someday sire a Derby winner and this colt has the potential to be the one, but right now potential is the key word, as he has yet to race farther than a 7 furlong sprint.

8 Winslow Homer (Unbridled’s Song - Summer Raven by Summer Squall)
A win in an allowance race at Philadelphia Park gets him a spot in the Big 8? Yes, when you win the race like Winslow Homer did. The double digit score was as easy as it was impressive, and it came on the heels of a smart score in a maiden race at Saratoga. He has all the looks of many of the recent brilliant Unbridled’s Song runners, such as Eight Belles and Old Fashioned. Obviously we all pray that he will prove more durable. Look for the Tony Dutrow trained gray to move with ease into stakes company in his next start.

December 18, 2009

A Little Luck and a Whole Lot of Talent

You ever get the feeling that all the luck in the world is by your side and you can not possibly lose? No…well then, maybe you should make a beeline for the left coast. This weekend at Hollywood Park, all racing fans are in store for a double dose of excellent luck.

All eyes will be on Lookin at Lucky this Saturday, as he attempts to solidify his standing as the top two-year-old in the nation. Lucky will deservingly be the heavy favorite in the field of eight lining up for the $750,000 CashCall Futurity. The Futurity is traditionally the last major race for the juvenile set, and over the years has produced an impressive roll call of victors, including Roving Boy, Snow Chief, Best Pal, A.P. Indy, Point Given and Declan‘s Moon. Lookin at Lucky is primed to become another big name on the list and clinch a 2009 Eclipse Award. The familiar pair of owner, Mike Pegram, and trainer, Bob Baffert bring the beautiful bay son of Smart Strike to Hollywood with a record of four wins and one unlucky (no pun intended) 2nd in five starts. If not for a very wide trip in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Lookin at Lucky would sport an unblemished record and be trying to complete one of the best juvenile seasons in many years. A season that already includes wins in the Best Pal, Del Mar Futurity, and Norfolk, should become even more padded with a win on Saturday.

Photo Courtesy and Property of Marti Guzman

Standing in opposition to Lookin at Lucky, will be seven other colts, led by Noble’s Promise. The Ken McPeek runner will be the clear second choice in the betting and is coming off an excellent 3rd in the BC Juvenile, where he finished right behind Lookin at Lucky. The two-time stakes winner has run consistently well in five starts and his connections still have hopes for a championship if the son of Cuvee can get the job done on Saturday. I still have doubts about his ability to be a true distance horse, but he has proven tough at the Futurity distance of 1 1/16 miles. Of the rest, longshot Wildlee Special ships in from New Jersey and may be more talented than he looks on paper. With all due respect to Noble’s Promise and the rest of the field, I see this race to be fully at Lookin at Lucky’s mercy, and would be surprised to see anyone but him and rider Garrett Gomez sauntering into the Hollywood Park winner’s circle. There will be many hurdles to clear in Lookin at Lucky’s future, but Saturday will prove no stumbling block culminating his championship season.

Sunday’s Hollywood Starlet boasts a loaded field of seven juvenile fillies. Blind Luck, just a few short months ago, was an unheralded daughter of the sight-challenged, freshman sire Pollard’s Vision, and running in a maiden claiming race at Calder. She won that race by more than 13 lengths and has been climbing the ranks of the two-year-old fillies ever since. Blind Luck was an impressive winner of her first try at two turns in the Grade 1 Oak Leaf and she followed that up with a fine performance in the Breeders’ Cup, where she steadied on the first turn and tried hard down the lane to finish 3rd, beaten less than one length. Blind Luck will have the service of top rider Rafael Bejarano for the first time, and is my pick to snare the Starlet. Her off the pace style should be well suited for the fast early fractions set by a few of her main rivals on Sunday.

Blind Luck will have to be at her very best to win though, as each of the other six fillies has the potential to be a grade 1 winner. Chief among them is Beautician, a physically impressive, gray daughter of Dehere. Beautician ran a bang-up race in the BC Juvenile Fillies, as she split horses and finished second best, while one bettering my pick Blind Luck. A non-winner since her maiden win, Beautician seems too good to have her losing streak continue for much longer. Bickersons, meanwhile was not one of the many competitive runners in the Juvenile Fillies, but she returned from that disappointing 10th place finish, with an eye-catching, front-running score in the 7 furlong Moccasin Stakes over this same strip four weeks ago. Her speed will get a better test Sunday, as the grass loving Rose Catherine figures to contest the early lead. Rose Catherine has been most impressive since switching from dirt to turf, and if she can carry that class over to Hollywood’s synthetic surface, will prove a major threat.

Good luck to all and enjoy Hollywood Park’s excellent pair of juvenile grade 1 stakes. I will be calling Hollywood to find out if I can wager on a most lucky daily double.

December 17, 2009

Who Am I ???

*I began my career racing exclusively on one coast and finished it running only on the other coast.

*My prowess earned me multiple Eclipse Awards and entry into American Racing‘s Hall of Fame.

*I finished 1st or 2nd in all but two of my races, and in both of those races I had good excuses.

*In one of my stakes wins, I set a track record at Churchill Downs.

*I was undefeated on the grass, but the majority of my racing was done on the dirt.

*You could say that I was a shoo-in to win all of my races in my final year of racing.

*In my finest season, I won races shorter than 6 furlongs and at distances up to 1 ¼ miles and won races on both dirt and turf.

*I was a stakes winner in three out of my four seasons of racing.

*As a three-year-old, I was not a champion although I did split decisions with that year’s champion.

*I won my final seven races, all of which were stakes races.

*If you can deduce the first half of my name, the second half should become much easier.

You should know by now … Who Am I ???

December 16, 2009

A Call for Help

Belize is a small country located on the Caribbean coast in northern Central America.  It is the only nation in Central America where English is the official language.  Because of its location and natural beauty, Belize is known as a tourist attraction.  The sport of horse racing is alive in Belize, but it is on life support.

I see the future of horse racing as very much a global sport.  To that end, it benefits us all, for horse racing in Belize to remain, and improve, and to grow.  A champion for that goal is a Belize native named Roger Marston.  The following is a letter I recieved from Mr. Marston:

My name is Roger Marston of Belize City, Belize Central America. I am 27 years old and have loved horses and horse racing for my entire life. I have been around horses since I was a child here in Belize. I have been actively involved in the sport of racing for about 5 years as an exercise rider, trainer, and owner. It has always been my dream to have become a jockey. I was even accepted at the Frank Garza jockey school however that dream was short lived due to the lack of finances.

Horse racing here in Belize has not made any steps forward since I was a child. Instead it has just been falling and falling and I feel that it is at its point of exhaustion. In the early 80’s the Queen of England had donated a race track, named The Belize National Stadium, to the Horse Owners of Belize to hold their race meets. There they held a lot of great races and at that time we had horses and horsemen alike coming all the way from Jamaica to participate in the local races, but that was short lived. In 1994 that land was taken away from the Horse Owners, by the then Government of Belize, and was relocated to its present location. After the track was relocated it had also changed its name to Burrel Boom Race Track and now to present day Castleton Race Track.

Currently we have about 50-60 active racing horses with about 15-20 being imported thoroughbreds. We have races once a month with our biggest days being January 1st, March 9th, April 13th, May 1st and 24th, Sept. 18th, Oct 12th, Dec 26th. Our track is small and has tight turns, it can almost be classified as “bull pen” or a “bull ring” track. It has deep beach sand which is great and tender on the horses hooves, however it has wooden rails. I must say that so far we have not had any mishaps but would love to prevent that from ever happening.

I feel that the reason the sport is dying is the fact that the local Government or the City Council does not support horse racing. We also do not have any pari-mutual betting here. If the racing fans or tourist attend a race meet they either have to bet amongst themselves, or do it with the horse owners or trainers. If we can get pari-mutual betting here it would be an asset for the Country as well as for the race track as money will be generated.

We have a grandstand at the track that hold about 75-100 people. The judges and announcer must share that little space along with the spectators, owners, trainers, etc.. There is no camera or video system in place to capture the finishes or to review the races so if there is any disqualification or interference it cannot be reviewed nor the necessary placing of position be made. There is no winners circle where the winners are awarded. There is also no jockey room . The jockeys roam and intermingle with race fans, owners, trainers and even doing betting. In the barn area, the race fans can get up close and personal with the horses, which I feel is very unsafe as there are times when horses tend to act up and people have to be scrambling for safety.

I feel that if the race program is more structured like that of the USA the fans will understand more what is going on with specifics horse identification, as well as rules, regulations and protocol. Here the program is not fully detailed so most of the fans are always asking “which horse is that?” and “who is riding?” or “who is the owner?” Even the announcer, steward and judges can become confused.
With a stallion registry in place we could keep track of horses as they are bred, and so forth. I would love to make the connection that some day we can have international racing, as well as simlucasting being done of our horse racing meets. I would love to have more horses into the country and even have a breeding farm in place so that we can produce our own horses and at some point be able to take them back to the USA and participate in races as well.

I have written all of this above in order to enlist the support of the racing industry within the USA. We are looking for assistance with the following:

• Renovate the local race track to make it a bit more safer for horses and riders.
• If possible to get a new race track bigger and better like that of the USA

• Have a stallion registry
• Have all racing horses in Belize registered
• Racing Board & Commission
• Starting Gate
• Breeding Farm• pari-mutual Betting
• Simulcasting
• Better Race Program
• Jockey School• Farrier ,Trainers, Jockey, Steward, Judge, Emergency and horse care education courses
• Licensing
• Racing Rules & Regulations  

For more information or to offer assistance, here is Mr. Marston's Contact Information:

Roger Marston
23 Barracat Street
Belize City, Belize
Central America
tel: (001) 501-623-7833

I know that many of you will feel for the plight of racing in Belize and would like to help, (and if you can help directly that would be wonderful) but are not sure what to do.  Today I ask all of my readers to use the comment page and 'sign in' as a show of support for Roger Marston's cause and for the improvement of horse racing in Belize.  This small act could lead to greater recognition, and in the end, lead to something much bigger.  Thank you.

December 14, 2009

Remembering ... Alysheba

Relentless. That was the thing about Alysheba, he may not have had the raw talent of his sire, Alydar, he was not an overly precocious juvenile, and as good as he became, Alysheba never overwhelmed his competition with romping victories, but he was relentless. In both his many fine performances on the racetrack and over his three year career, Alysheba would keep on coming with the grim determination of a true champion. By the time Alysheba arrived at the 1987 Kentucky Derby, he was an attractive and promising colt, but still eligible for ‘non winners of one other than.’ His career to that point was littered with near misses and he was coming off a recent disqualification from 1st, after a roughly run three horse stretch battle in the Blue Grass. Flash-forward 18 months later and Alysheba was America’s Horse, the all-time leading money winner, and a respected champion. The legend began with his remarkable run in the Kentucky Derby.

The Kentucky Derby that year featured an excellent field of 17 colts and geldings, many of whom had already compiled a much more impressive resume than Alysheba. Horses of note in the field included Bet Twice, Cryptoclearance, Gulch, Capote, and the betting favorite, Demon’s Begone. Alysheba was respected at 8-1, but not one of the favorites. The running of the race will forever go down in Kentucky Derby lore. As the field straightened out for the long Churchill Downs stretch, Bet Twice had secured the lead, but looked like he would soon be swallowed up by the powerful rush of Alysheba. It would not be that easy though, as Bet Twice started to bear out into his competition. The first time nearly knocked Alysheba down. Alysheba, with Chris McCarron in the irons, went down to his knees, but gracefully regained his balance and set off after the leader again. Two more times, Bet Twice would bear out and impede Alysheba’s progress, but Alysheba was too strong and determined and simply would not be denied. At the wire, he would be ¾ of a length the better of his new rival. It was one of the most eventful stretch runs in Kentucky Derby history and Alysheba was lauded for his amazing performance.

After the thrill of Alysheba’s Derby win, it was straight to Baltimore and the Preakness Stakes. This time Alysheba would be the favorite at 2-1. The result was the same as the Derby, as once again Alysheba would wear down the game Bet Twice in the lane. This race was devoid of the theatrics of two weeks before, but it once again revealed the best three-year-old in the nation. The victory, by a ½ length, put Alysheba just 1 ½ miles away from ultimate glory.

An impressive looking bay colt, Alysheba was a son of the great sire Alydar, and was out of the stakes placed Lt. Stevens mare Bel Sheba. He was bred by Preston Madden in Lexington, Kentucky, and was sold as a yearling to the Scharbauers of Texas for $500,000 at the 1985 Keeneland July yearling sale. The Scharbauers turned him over to the gruff, hardboot Jack Van Berg and now less than two years later, this young horse would try to exorcize the ghosts of Triple Crown past for his sire Alydar. Alysheba would march to the Belmont with the hopes of America on his broad shoulders. For yours truly, it would be my first opportunity to see him in person. Alysheba was supported by bettors to odds-on, despite the then rule of New York racing to not allow the anti-bleeder medication, Lasix, at their tracks. For whatever reason, some blame the lack of Lasix, some thought he was hampered by the ride and the slow pace, Alysheba was not himself that day and I, like most of the crowd, went home with disappointment. He finished worst in a three horse photo for second, with his rival, Bet Twice winning off by 14 lengths. No Triple Crown winner in 1987. I still remember how visibly upset his veteran trainer Jack Van Berg was, the world could see how much he liked his horse. Alysheba would prove to be much more than the Triple Crown though, and finished his championship season with a stirring run in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, where he just missed by a nose to the best older horse in the land, Ferdinand.

As a four year old Alysheba would take his career to the next level. He thrice defeated, the second great rival of his career, Ferdinand, in California to stake an early claim as the best horse in America. He was beaten twice in the row in the middle of the year, but big wins in the Iselin at Monmouth, defeating Bet Twice, and in the Woodward at Belmont, where he set a track record, propelled Alysheba to top of the racing world. I was in attendance for both of those races, and it was clear that Alysheba had an even greater presence than he had as a three-year-old. He knew he was the best, and he had the wherewithal to prove it to all comers.

So many of Alysheba’s races were memorable, and that is a primary reason why he became immensely popular. One of those memorable races that particularly stands out for me, might seem like an odd choice to many, but it remains in my mind to this day. It was my second year at college, and it was a treat, when on the weekends I came home, to meet up with my father and catch the evening races at the Meadowlands. The most special of that Fall was, without a doubt, the 1988 Meadowlands Cup. It was supposed to be a mere bridge between his record setting win in the Woodward and his ultimate destiny, the Breeders’ Cup Classic, but it turned out to be classic in its own right. The Meadowlands, in those days, was notorious for its ability to hold up speed and the Cup had attracted dangerous speed in the form of Slew City Slew. He was a bit of an inconsistent sort, but when he ran his race, he was almost uncatchable. In the Meadowlands Cup, Slew City Slew ran his race. It took every ounce of Alysheba’s talent and desire to run down the speedster that day and win by a desperate neck. I remember thinking there were not many horses that I had ever seen who would have been able to beat Slew City Slew that night. It was no surprise when three weeks later Alysheba returned, with his regular partner Chris McCarron, for the first time to Churchill Downs since his Kentucky Derby win, and was crowned king of the racing world with his dramatic win under the cover of darkness in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

The Breeders’ Cup Classic was the perfect ending to a marvelous career. He had become America’s richest horse of all time and Alysheba was America’s Horse. The Hall of Fame runner spent the first part of his breeding career near his birthplace in Kentucky and then was sold and shipped to breed in Saudi Arabia in 2000. In failing health, Alysheba was gifted back to the American people by King Abdullah, who shipped Alysheba in 2008, to live out his final years in his homeland. Thousands of fans visited the oldest surviving Derby winner at his home, the Kentucky Horse Park. Unfortunately, the end came sooner than anyone hoped, and Alysheba was euthanized March 27 of this year, from complications of a degenerative spine condition. He was 25 years old. Alysheba was mourned as one of America’s most popular horses. I remember you Alysheba.

December 13, 2009

Hong Kong Phooey

American runners found no pot of gold at the end of the Hong Kong rainbow, as all four of our runners failed to hit the board in the rich series of Hong Kong International races held today at Sha Tin Racecourse.

America’s best hope appeared to be in the Hong Kong Sprint, as we were represented by two quality entrants. The California bred speedster, and recent Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint champion, California Flag would contest the early pace while the Wesley Ward globetrotter, Cannonball would hope to make his presence known down the lane. Things were not made easy for California Flag and jockey Joe Talamo early on as he was pressed hard for the lead in the first three furlongs by a Japanese sprinter. California Flag spurted clear as they straightened out but had no answer for the winner’s challenge in mid-stretch and faded to 5th in the last few meters. Beaten just under two lengths, it was a good performance for California Flag, but not quite good enough. Meanwhile, Cannonball made up some ground but never threatened and finished at the back of the middle pack in 10th. The winner, Sacred Kingdom, scored in this race for the second time as he moved powerfully by California Flag at the furlong marker and was much the best. Favored in the field of 14, Sacred Kingdom, a Hong Kong local, is rated as the best sprinter in the world and did nothing to dispel that notion with the impressive win.

The Hong Kong Mile attracted one horse from our borders in the Californian, Ferneley. Unfortunately, he ran into a true Hong Kong superstar, Good Ba Ba. Ferneley actually ran a big race and was hampered by a little traffic as he uncoiled his run from the back of the pack. He did manage to get up for 5th in the 14 horse field. With more racing luck, he may well have been closer at the finish, but most likely not good enough to displace the winner and first three-time winner of a Hong Kong International race, Good Ba Ba. The former Horse of the Year in Hong Kong, made his patented late run to get up in the final 50 meters and thrill the local fans. He had not won his last few races in preparation for the Mile, but when the big race was run, Good Ba Ba once again proved himself a champion.

In the Hong Kong Vase, distance loving mare, Black Mamba was the American entrant. Hopes for a win in this one did not last long as Black Mamba had nothing, in what will likely be her final career race. She backed out early and was a distant trailer through the entire Hong Kong stretch. At the other end of the field, there may have been a new star born in the Vase, as French three-year-old filly Daryakana closed from last with a fantastic rush to get up in the shadow of the wire over recent Breeders’ Cup 4th place finisher, Spanish Moon. It was the fifth win for the undefeated daughter of Selkirk, and her first outside of her native country. Three time Arc runner-up Youmzain finished a disappointing 10th.

The French kept it going in the day’s richest race, the Hong Kong Cup. The 10 furlong affair attracted a field of ten, although no Americans. Proving best was Vision D’etat. The classy four-year-old French colt rebounded from his poor showing in the Arc, with a stylish ¾ of a length score. It was the ninth win in only 13 starts for the son of Chichicastenango. Last year’s winner and former BC Turf runner-up Eagle Mountain finished 5th.

I wish I had better news to report American race fans, but the final tally today from Hong Kong is: Hong Kong - 2, France - 2, America - 0. Better luck next year.

December 12, 2009

I've Been Everywhere

A special tribute to the Man in Black, the late, great, Johnny Cash:

I've been everywhere, man.
I've been everywhere, man.
I've seen some Triple Crowns, man.
I’ve crossed the tunnel at the Downs, man.
You know I've hit the towns, man.
I've been all around.

I've been to:
Fair Grounds, Sportsmans, River Downs,
Meadowlands, Woodlands, Woodbine, Churchill Downs,
Keeneland, Gulfstream, Emerald Downs,
Colonial Downs, and Calder Race Course, just to see the horse.

I've been to:
Ellis Park, Turfway Park, Monmouth Park,
Garden State Park, Suffolk, Philadelphia,
Hawthorne, Oaklawn, Fairmont,
Ak-Sar-Ben, and Del Mar, got there in my car.

I've been to:
Santa Anita, Santa Rosa, Saratoga,
Philadelphia, Aqueduct, Beaulah, Belmont,
Atlantic City, Delaware, Arlington,
Turf Paradise, and Thistledown, just to get around.

I've been everywhere, man.
I've been everywhere, man.
I've seen some Triple Crowns, man.
I’ve crossed the tunnel at the Downs, man.
You know I've hit the towns, man.
I've been all around.

Well, not quite everywhere…but I’m working on it!

December 11, 2009

Mark Your Calendars Rachel Maniacs

All of a sudden the city of New Orleans is the place to be for the sporting inclined. Those oft downtrodden Saints, are scoring points by the bushels and sport a spotless 12-0 record. Big news for a team who’s fans wore more paper bags over there heads than most. Across town, a quick glance down the Asmussen shedrow at New Orleans’ Fair Grounds Race Course reveals an even bigger star than Drew Brees, Who dat? None other than the Ragin Cajun, The Queen of Bourbon Street, the Grand Mistress of Mardi Gras…Rachel Alexandra.

The magnificent filly who has stormed through the racing world, with all the subtlety of dear, departed Sam Kinison, in winning the Golden Rod, Martha Washington, Fair Grounds Oaks, Fantasy, Kentucky Oaks, Preakness, Mother Goose, Haskell, and Woodward in succession, is being courted by the good people of New Orleans. If everything goes to plan, their wooing should see Rachel make her triumphant return to the races in the New Orleans Ladies. Mark your calendars and secure your plane tickets now. The date is March 13 and the place is Fair Grounds Race Course. The $200,000 New Orleans Ladies is newly created and a Rachel inspired race. It will be 1 1/16 miles on the dirt. The New Orleans Ladies should fit very nicely into the superstar’s 2010 schedule. A schedule designed to culminate at Churchill Downs on November 6, in the 27th running of the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Now we know the likely starting point for our heroine and the ultimate climax, but what shall be in between? I’d like to take a crack at that right now.

After a score in the New Orleans Ladies on March 13, Rachel will make a return trip to one of her favorite tracks, Oaklawn Park for a start in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom on April 3, also at 1 1/16 miles. The three weeks is a bit of a quick turn-around, but should set her up with a nice foundation for the bigger races to come. Rachel then will head North and take up residence at Churchill Downs. A little freshening should have her razor sharp for her first attempt against the boys in the Stephen Foster. The Grade 1 in June will be 1 1/8 miles over the same strip as the Breeders’ Cup. In July, Rachel will become the greatest horse to run at Delaware Park since Spectacular Bid, when she competes in the million dollar Delaware Handicap. This will give our star her first chance to excel at 10 furlongs.

With four major wins under her belt, it will be time for Rachel to get some more work in against the boys. She will thrill the fans on the Jersey Shore one more time as she cuts back in distance to 1 1/8 miles around two turns in the Iselin Handicap at Monmouth Park in August. From New Jersey, Rachel will make the short trip to New York, where she will use the prestigious Beldame Stakes in early October as her final prep for her date with destiny. Belmont is a track Rachel likes, and the Beldame will afford the nation’s largest market another glimpse at greatness. Rachel will then arrive at Churchill Downs as the greatest female horse in history and the most popular thoroughbred since the glorious Triple Crown runs of the 1970s. The world will be watching on November the 6th as Rachel Alexandra makes her final lifetime start.

Here is what the proposed schedule would look like laid out:

March - New Orleans Ladies
April - Apple Blossom Handicap
June - Stephen Foster Handicap
July - Delaware Handicap
August - Iselin Handicap
October - Beldame Stakes
November - Breeders’ Cup Classic

There you have it, a schedule fit for a queen. Seven races and seven more wins. Will this be the path that Rachel the Great follows to immortality? Ultimately that is up to Jess Jackson, as my proposed schedule is only conjecture of course, but isn’t it fun to imagine?

Photo Courtesy and Property of Eric Kalet

December 10, 2009

Who Am I ???

*I was born and bred in a country not known for horse racing, which is even more the case now.

*I won races in four different countries and three different continents.

*My sire was unraced, but he had the breeding of a champion and became a leading sire.

*I won my final eight races all of which were strakes races.

*In each of my defeats I finished 2nd and they were both in my native continent.

*I was undefeated in my short career in the United States.

*I won races between 5 furlongs and a 1 3/8 miles and all of my races were on the same surface.

*After my retirement, I was bred in both Europe and the United States.

*I was a champion at three in one country and then a Horse of the Year in a different country at four.

*Big things were expected of me in the United States, but minor injuries kept me away from fulfilling those goals.

*My final race was in Louisville, Kentucky under the twin spires.

You should know by now … Who Am I ???

December 9, 2009

ZATT’s Top 10 All-Time Greats

The Top 10 Horses to run on American soil according to ZATT. Let’s count it down…

10) Native Dancer - The Gray Ghost was racing’s first television star and so dominated his peers of 1952 through 1954, that he came a desperate photo away from being a perfect 22 wins in 22 starts. Unfortunately the loss came in the Kentucky Derby, as the gray hero gained with every stride, but came up just short to longshot, speed horse, Dark Star. One jump away from an undefeated Triple Crown champion, but alas, it was not to be for one of America‘s favorite horses. At stud, Native Dancer became a prolific sire, and his sire line proved to be one of the most influential in modern American racing.

9) Forego - Forego was a late developing son of Argentine great, Forli, and did not race as a two-year-old. At three, he was no match for the king of his generation, Secretariat, but he continued improving through a busy campaign and by that Winter was a major player. As an older horse, he became an all-time great, highlighted by four consecutive wins in the Woodward. Seeing Forego’s stretch run was like watching a force of nature. The gelding won 34 of his 57 career starts while running against the top competition in his era and consistently carrying hefty weight handicaps. He was named Horse of the Year three consecutive times from 1974 through 1976.

8) Seattle Slew - In a matter of weeks, Seattle Slew went from an inexpensive unknown to a juvenile champion and early Kentucky Derby favorite. In 1977, Slew did not disappoint his legions of fans as he steamrolled through derby preps in Florida and New York. The ultimate test of the Triple Crown turned into nothing more than a coronation for him as the dark bay speedster easily cantered into immortality. At four, Slew showed his tremendous talent and will to win as he handled the superb three-year-old, Affirmed, twice in the Fall. A true rags to riches story Seattle Slew remains the only horse to win the Triple Crown while still undefeated.

7) Kelso - If dominating the Horse of the Year voting year after year, was the top criteria, Kelso would be number one with a bullet. King Kelly amazingly was named America’s best horse five consecutive seasons, from 1960 to 1964. The great gelding made it to the racetrack in eight different years, won 39 times and is still the benchmark for durability at the highest level. Kelso carried great weights and won at all distances. He was probably best on dirt, but some still consider his romping win on turf, over rival Gun Bow in the 1964 D.C. International to be his finest performance. Kelly’s feat of winning five straight Jockey Club Gold Cups will never be matched.

6) Dr. Fager - No other horse was quite like the Good Doctor. He was a wild child with his flowing mane and go for broke running style. Irresistible speed and undeniable heart carried Dr. Fager to finish first in 19 out of his 22 starts between 1966 and 1968. He did not have it easy as he had a super rival in Damascus, a champion older horse to contend with in Buckpasser, rabbits to pressure his awesome speed, and great weights to carry. In 1968, Dr. Fager pulled off the unprecedented feat of being named Horse of the Year, Champion Older Horse, Champion Grass Horse, and Champion Sprinter. He set a world record for a mile of 1:32 1/5 while toting 134 pounds in Chicago and finished his career by winning the Vosburgh in 1:20 1/5 (only one fifth off another world record) while carrying 139 pounds.

5) Count Fleet - Did Count Fleet go out in style? How does winning the Triple Crown with a 25 length runaway in the 1943 Belmont Stakes sound? Count Fleet was not perfect early on, as it took him awhile to discover his best running. When he did 6 furlongs in 1:08 1/5 in a workout as a juvenile, it was clear that legendary jockey Johnny Longdon had been right. Longdon had urged his owner not to sell Count Fleet when he was still winless. Together him and The Fleet would roll to 10 wins as a juvenile and the best was yet to come. When Count Fleet arrived in Louisville, it was clear that he was the best and was sent off at 2-5. The rest is history as The Fleet rolled through the Triple Crown with amazing ease. He threw in a romp in the prestigious Withers Stakes during the Crown for good measure. Count Fleet was undefeated in six starts at three and never broke a sweat.

4) Spectacular Bid - Oh, if not for a safety pin. The Bid was a great two-year-old, a greater three-year-old, and a supreme example of the excellence of a thoroughbred at four. The Bid set multiple track records in his championship season at two. At three, he was so dominant in the lead up to the Derby, that the world thought it a foregone conclusion that he would become the third consecutive Triple Crown champion. Things were going swimmingly until the morning of the Belmont. The Bid stepped on a safety pin and lost the Belmont, finishing 3rd and having a 12 race win streak snapped. At four. Spectacular Bid trumped his first two marvelous seasons by completing one of the greatest seasons ever. He finished his career with an unbeaten season in nine starts, setting four track records, and set a career earnings record. In an ultimate sign of respect, not one horse would line up against The Bid in one of the biggest races of the year, the 1980 Woodward. It was Spectacular Bid’s final race and it was a walkover.

3) Citation - Big Cy had two separate racing careers. The first was a testament to his incredible ability and consistency, and the second to his heart and courage. In 1947 he was the top juvenile in the nation with only one loss and in 1948 he incredibly won 19 out of 20 starts in his Horse of the Year season. His Triple Crown run was a tour-de-force as he won each race easier than the previous, culminating with an eight length romp in the Belmont. The Calumet runner missed his four-year-old season due to arthritis in his fetlock joint, but in his first two remarkable seasons, Citation had 27 wins and two 2nd place finishes in 29 starts. Not the same after his arthritis problems and layoff, Citation still proved to be one of the finest handicap horses of his time in 1950 & 1951.

2) Secretariat - When Big Red was at his best, I believe he was the greatest horse that ever looked through a bridle. His win in the Belmont Stakes has never and may never be equaled. Secretariat fell short in a troubled trip in his first start of his career and thrice was stymied by his W curse in the Wood, Whitney, and Woodward as a three year old, but the sheer brilliance he displayed in the rest of his 17 races is enough to consider Secretariat one of the two greatest horses in American history. Secretariat not only ran the greatest 12 furlongs ever in the Belmont, he had already set records in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. For one horse to be so sensational in each leg of the grueling Triple Crown series is truly unbelievable. Despite a few losses after the Triple Crown, his powerhouse wins in the Marlboro Cup, Man O’ War, and Canadian International were more than enough to cement his place in racing lore.

Drum roll please, and the number one race horse of all-time is…

1) Man O’ War - The original Big Red had it all, consistency and greatness. In only two seasons of racing, the great horse won 20 out of 21 races. His only loss was as a juvenile, when he finished 2nd to Upset in the 1919 Sanford Stakes when he gave the winner 15 pounds and was said to be the victim of a horrible trip. The son of Fair Play dominated the rest of the year and was named champion juvenile. As a three-year-old Man o' War won all of his 11 races. In eight of those races he broke track records. He carried up to 138 pounds in the , he won the Belmont Stakes by 20 lengths and Man O’ War won the Lawrence Realization by an unbelievable 100 lengths breaking the track record by more than four seconds in the 1 5/8 mile race. In a match -up of stars Man o' War defeated the previous year’s Triple Crown winner Sir Barton by seventeen lengths in a match race at Kenilworth Park. At stud, Man O’ War was one of the best sires of the first half of the twentieth century.

December 7, 2009

Remembering ... Lady's Secret

Things took a dramatic turn one day in the Summer of 1985. I was with my Dad and we were getting ready to see another renewal of the prestigious Test Stakes. To be perfectly honest, I was not there to see Lady‘s Secret. I wanted to see the New England sensation and recent winner of the Triple Tiara, Mom’s Command, up close at the beautiful Saratoga paddock. I had seen many horses in the paddock before, and many since, in which I was thoroughly impressed. Looks, demeanor, and sculptured physique are all things I notice when looking at a horse and I have seen multitudes of impressive horses over the past forty years. Something was different on this day though, I admired the horse I wanted to see, but I could not keep my eyes off one of the other horses in the field. The apple of my eye was a beautiful gray filly, not a big horse by any means, Lady’s Secret was a fantastic sight of alertness, health, and physical prowess. Saying that she had a gleam in her eye and a shine to her coat was an understatement. The Lady could not have impressed me more if she started to glow. To this day, I have never changed my opinion so sharply on a horse after seeing them in the paddock. My more experienced paddock partner agreed, and we watched as Lady’s Secret turned the corner of her career that day. She easily defeated the overwhelming favorite, Mom’s Command, and scored an easy win in the Test.

From there it was onward and upward for the career of the gray speedster. She came back to score eight days later in the Ballerina, and then rolled in the Grade 1s that Fall at Belmont, dominating the Maskette, Ruffian, and Beldame. This brought her win streak to eight consecutive stakes. I was thrilled to see her meteoric rise from good three-year-old sprinter to an absolute superstar, as the Iron Lady was now showing her mettle to the world. Lady’s Secret would enter the Breeders’ Cup Distaff as the hottest thing going. She was only derailed by the stretch running power of her two-time champion, and older stablemate, Life’s Magic. Lady’s Secret settled for 2nd in that Breeders’ Cup effort, but she would have her BC glory one year later.

Bred in Oklahoma, Lady’s Secret was a daughter of the legendary Secretariat. Her dam was a stakes winning daughter of Icecapade, named Great Lady M. She was trained by Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas for owner Eugene Klein. Her amazing run in the Summer and Fall of her three-year-old year was quite enough to rest championship honors from Mom’s Command, but for Lady’s Secret, it was only a prelude to things to come. After such a busy and testing campaign at three, I wondered if she could keep it going the following year, but my worries proved unfounded. Lady’s Secret was even better as an older filly. 1986 would be a record setting season for the gray filly. She would consistently and mercilessly streak to the early lead and run her foes into submission, as they were forced to chase her tail, race after race. The marvelous season would end with her attaining the ultimate year end award in American racing.

In her Horse of the Year campaign at four, Lady's Secret won 10 of 15 races from coast to coast and never finished worse than third. I was lucky enough to see her many more times in person and marveled every time at her talent and her durability. She won a remarkable eight Grade 1 races that year including the Breeders' Cup Distaff, Beldame Stakes, Maskette Stakes, Shuvee Handicap, La Canada Stakes, Ruffian Handicap, Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap, and defeated males in the Whitney Handicap. To put that into greater perspective…Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta combined for a total of nine Grade 1 wins in 2009. The win in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff was front running poetry in motion and placed an exclamation point on her championship season. I was alone at home and never sicker with a nasty case of Mono, but seeing that race on the television made me feel like a million bucks. She truly danced every dance and was ready for every challenge. Lady’s Secret was both a champion and an iron horse. She was both durable and successful at the summits of American racing.

Her final racing stats tell only part of the story for the Iron Lady. She ended up with $3,021,425 in career earnings, which was the highest of any female horse at the time, and 25 victories from 45 starts. To me, she was so much more than the awards or anything you could see on paper. Until the amazing developments of 2009, I considered Lady’s Secret to be the finest older mare I had ever seen. Lady’s Secret was ushered into Racing’s Hall of Fame in 1992. I had been there when her career first took off and because of that, she was always special to me. From that day at Saratoga on, I was enamored with her beauty and her talent, with her class and courage, and with every exciting race she would run. You knew when you watched Lady’s Secret race, you were in for a show. Being a fan of Lady’s Secret certainly paid off handsomely in emotional investment.

Unfortunately, the Iron Lady never passed on her greatness to any of her twelve offspring. After more than ten years into her breeding career, the Great Lady was sold and transferred from Kentucky to California. The Great Lady passed away at the age of 21. She died suddenly on March 4, 2003 at Valley Creek Farm in California as a result of complications from giving birth. It is hard to believe that she has been gone now for nearly seven years, If I close my eyes, I can still clearly see the beautiful gray filly that I saw that Summer day at Saratoga. I remember you Lady’s Secret.

December 6, 2009

Look Out America

United States racing fans, consider this your warning…Beware the Venezuelan super filly. Bambera is coming!

Bambera is a Venezuelan bred, three-year-old daughter of the Sadler’s Wells sire Water Poet and comes to the States on an absolute roll after today’s smashing score in the biggest race in the Caribbean. Caribbean racing hits its peak every December with the running of the Clasico Internacional del Caribe at Hipodromo Camarero in Puerto Rico. The Clasico, otherwise known as the Caribbean Derby, brings together the best three-year-olds in Central America and offers a purse of $300,000. This year’s edition proved to be a mismatch, as Bambera raced with Mexican sensation, Vivian Record, for the first part of the race and strolled away in the stretch to an easy and emphatic win. Final time for the 1800 meters (approximately 1 1/8 miles) was 1:51.60. The victory is yet another example of global domination by females as they continue to run and win the world’s biggest races in 2009. It also only adds to the winner’s remarkable record.

Bambera improved her overall record to 16 wins in 18 races and has now won six in a row. Amazingly she has 13 wins out of 14 starts this season. The only time she was defeated this year was a narrow loss when 2nd in one of the Triple Crown races in her native Venezuela. Bambera came that close to sweeping both the Venezuelan Triple Tiara and Triple Crown. Most of Bambera’s wins have been tour-de-force displays of overwhelming talent.

So dominant in Venezuela, and today in Puerto Rico, Her Royal Highness, as she is lovingly known as in her native land, needs to find bigger and better contests for her immense talent. This has prompted Bambera’s connections to take her on the road where they will test her against the toughest dirt competition in the world.

It has been reported that the fantastic filly will continue North from Puerto Rico on to Florida, where she will be stabled at Gulfstream Park. Bambera will then prepare for her four-year-old season in the United States. Is she the female version of the Uruguayan Sensation, Invasor? Will she be a threat to our super filly, Rachel Alexandra? Only time will tell, but judging from the videos I have seen of this marvelous filly, it is clear that this is one serious racehorse. Look out America, here comes Bambera.

December 5, 2009

Sir Barton Reincarnate

90 years ago, Sir Barton made his seventh start in the Kentucky Derby. Winless in his six previous starts, the maiden won that edition of America’s most famous race, forever becoming the most notorious maiden in the history of racing. Last night, deep down in the Louisiana Delta, a young filly entered the evening a maiden. By the time the night was over, Quiet Temper had become the winner of a half million dollar graded stakes. In smashing style, the Mark Stanley owned daughter of Quiet American, dominated the nine horse field and splashed home nearly eight lengths the best. In the process she earned first prize of $300,000 and now has one win and three seconds, in her four starts. Quite an accomplishment for a maiden, OK maybe not on a scale of Sir Barton, who went on to become our first Triple Crown winner in 1919, but noteworthy nonetheless.

Jockey Robby Albarado had plenty of horse early to get into a perfect stalking position on the outside. Quiet Temper looked relaxed and ready to pounce as Truth and Justice made the early fractions. She then quickly and decisively took command on the turn and drew away with every stride in the stretch. Final time for the one mile was 1:40.05 and her winning margin was an eye catching 7 ¾ lengths. The time sounds slow, but the sealed and sloppy Delta Downs surface was playing slow all night. Her time is put into better perspective when older stakes males ran only a few lengths faster in the very next race.

Maidens have won stakes since Sir Barton, but seldom so impressively and rarely in such a rich race as Quiet Temper accomplished last night. There were plenty of signs that Quiet Temper may be up to the task. In each of her three second place finishes in New York, she ran against very good fillies. In her last two races, Quiet Temper was beaten by the fillies that came back to run 1-2 in the Tempted Stakes. She also twice defeated Protesting, who recently ran 2nd in the Grade 2 Demoiselle Stakes. While they may have been maiden races on paper, they clearly had stakes race quality. Stakes quality is exactly what Quiet Temper displayed last night and she now becomes a filly that should be on everyone’s watch list for next Spring’s Kentucky Oaks.

With her impressive win, Quiet Temper became the third two-year-old filly to win major stakes for conditioner Dale Romans this Fall, as he also trains the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner, Tapitsfly, and Sassy Image, winner of the Pocahontas and Golden Rod Stakes at Churchill Downs.

On a sad note, last night’s Delta Princess was all to clear an illustration of the incredible highs and the devastating lows of our beloved sport.

Racing is a wonderful and beautiful game, but just like anything else in our world, it is not without tragedy. While the connections and supporters of Quiet Temper were thrilled with the victory of their promising filly, it can not come close to the heartbreak and sadness felt by the connections of Truth and Justice. Ridden by Joe Bravo, and sent off as the 2-1 favorite, Truth and Justice set the early pace and was beginning to tire when she broke down at the top of the lane. The daughter of Yes It’s True sustained multiple fractures in her right knee and was euthanized. Owned by George and Lori Hall and trained by Kelly Breen, Truth and Justice had displayed excellent speed in winning three consecutive stakes in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Louisiana. Unfortunately, tragedy’s like this one are a part of racing that we all struggle to deal with. I send my condolences to everyone connected to Truth and Justice.

December 4, 2009

Making the Grade

The American Graded Stakes Committee announced their decisions for 2010. Rather than putting many of you to sleep by listing stakes that were upgraded and downgraded, let’s liven things up a bit with a little Zipse perspective on the graded stakes list. Which tracks were the winners? Which tracks were the losers?

A - Churchill Downs - A big day for the folks under the twin spires as their major Fall handicap race, the Clark Handicap finally received the Grade 1 status it has deserved. Two other stakes were upgraded, while only one was downgraded.

A - Oaklawn Park - Not much movement for the stakes run in Hot Springs, Arkansas, but what did change was big news. The Arkansas Derby moved into the elite of Derby preps with its overdue upgrading to Grade 1.

A - Sunland Park - The New Mexico track now has even more reason to attract top horses to its rich Sunland Derby as it is now a graded stakes for those horses hoping to qualify for the Kentucky Derby’s requirement for graded stakes earnings.

B+ - Prairie Meadows - The Iowa track gained a higher level of respect for its big Summer race for three-year-olds as the Iowa Derby was upgraded to Grade 3 status.

B+ - Monmouth - A good day for the Jersey Shore oval as they only had one stakes race affected with the upgrading of the Monmouth Stakes to a Grade 3 level.

B+ - Fair Grounds - The resurgence for the New Orleans oval continues as they had no races lowered and saw their Risen Star stakes upgraded to a Grade 2.

B - Saratoga - Lost one grade 1 and gained another. A wash for America’s best race meet helps keep them atop the racing world.

B- - Del Mar - The beautiful racetrack where the turf meets the surf added a graded stakes to its Summer card but lost a Grade 1 with the devaluing of the John C. Mabee for turf fillies.

C - Belmont - One of Americas most important race places had only one race changed yesterday as the Tom Fool was dropped from a Grade 2 to a Grade 3.

C - Santa Anita - The home of the last two previous Breeders’ Cups, had two races dropped, including the Santa Maria losing Grade 1 status, while they had only one of their races raised in grading.

C- - Thistledown - The Ohio Derby, which was a struggle to finance this year and Ohio’s most important race, was dropped from Grade 2 to Grade 3.

C- - Chicago Racing - Arlington Park maintained the status quo, but Hawthorne was disappointed as the Illinois Derby, for some reason, was downgraded form Grade 2 to Grade 3 status.

D - Calder Race Course - The South Florida oval did not have a good day as three of their turf races were lowered. I wonder what they are thinking about the return of Hialeah.

D - Hollywood Park - As the track fights to keep its house open, their races went 0 for 4 at the hands of the committee. Four stakes were lowered, with no upgrading which was the worst record for any single racetrack.

D - Maryland Racing - The beleaguered state of Maryland racing, unfortunately, took another hit yesterday as the DeFrancis Dash lost its Grade 1 status leaving Maryland with only two remaining Grade 1 stakes. Pimlico and Laurel each had one additional stake downgraded.

D - Aqueduct - Winter racing in New York was dealt a cold blow as the Big A had three stakes lowered including Seattle Slew’s final race, the in-limbo Stuyvesant Handicap, while none of their stakes were upgraded.

December 3, 2009

Who Am I ???

*I am a member of the Hall of Fame and was a Horse of the Year in my home country.

*My father was an Irishman, my grandfathers were French and American, and I was none of these.

*I set a world record in the United States that still stands today.

*I was a winner in more than half of my 23 races, although many remember me for my 2nd place finishes.

*I could win on turf or dirt, but I was best on the lawn.

*I was best at extended distances, but I was talented enough to be undefeated as a juvenile.

*I achieved something great in my native land that only six other horses have ever done.

*My brother ended a Triple Crown quest in America.

*I finished 2nd in my only Breeders' Cup attempt, but I am proud to say, my grandson did me one better.

*My breeding career has taken me to the Bluegrass State and then across the pond to the UK.

*As a sire, I have been a success, fathering champions on both sides of the Atlantic, and like me, horses that could run on dirt or turf.

You should know by now … Who Am I ???

December 2, 2009

The Zipse Awards - The Best of the Decade

The first decade of the 21st century is absolutely sprinting to the finish line. The decade must have set slow fractions, because it is now flying to the wire. This allows me to unveil a very special edition of ZATT. A column so big that I have already notified my server to be ready for the onslaught. A column so important, that I could not wait the final 30 days before publishing. Today I present to my millions of readers (foreshadowing the future of Zipse at the Track) the Zipse Awards. Horses of the decade in each division, I even added one category that the Eclipse Awards should recognize. These only come around every ten years or so, take a deep breath, grab a drink, and enjoy!

The Single Year Awards:

Champion Two-Year-Old Colt: Perfection is rewarded as The Zipse Award for the most outstanding juvenile of the decade goes to Vindication. The son of Seattle Slew was undefeated at two culminating with an effortless score in the 2002 BC Juvenile. He won a lot of people money through horse racing betting as he won all of his races and he traveled from California to Kentucky to Chicago in his four races. While it was not a long season for Vindication, it was the best of any juvenile of the decade.

Champion Two-Year-Old Filly: A very strong division this decade with several worthy candidates. Because there were so many similar juvenile filly resumes to consider, I went with the filly who I thought ran the best single race in her marvelous season. That filly is Halfbridled. The daughter of Unbridled sported an undefeated 4 for 4 record and overcame the adversity of having post position 14 in her biggest race of the year, the 2003 Breeder’s Cup.

Champion Three-Year-Old Colt: There were a slew of excellent three-year-olds in the decade, but for whatever reason, most were unable to complete a full season of excellence. The exception to this was Curlin, who began his career in the Spring of the season with romping wins in Florida and Arkansas and finished the year with an easy score in the BC Classic. Because of his consistency over the entire year of 2007 and the depth of his competition, Curlin nabs the Zipse Award as the three-year-old of the decade.

Champion Three-Year-Old Filly: Rachel Alexandra is my choice for champion three-year-old filly in this decade and she would be in any other decade. 8 for 8 all in stakes, winning the Kentucky Oaks and Mother Goose by 20, the first filly to win the Preakness in almost a century, the first female ever to win the Woodward…Rachel is an all-time great.

The Multi-Year Awards:

Champion Older Male Horse: There were many good candidates here, but the nod goes to the Star of Uruguay and Kenny Mayne’s favorite horse, Invasor. Invasor was undefeated as an older horse, competing in only the biggest races. He won the BC Classic to cap his perfect season in the U.S. and returned the following year to win the Dubai World Cup. Invasor is the only horse I know to be Horse of the Year in both Uruguay, where he won their triple crown, and in America.

Champion Older Female Horse: Zenyatta may have won this award before this year even began and with another undefeated season and a spectacular victory in the BC Classic, she storms by her main Zipse Award competition, Azeri, with power and ease.

Champion Sprint Horse: Another tough call, but I am going with the durability of the champion sprinter of 2000, Kona Gold. Unlike much of his competition, Kona Gold had a lengthy career that finally ended at age nine. Even at nine he was a stakes winning sprinter. I am not sure his record of running in five consecutive Breeder’s Cups will ever be broken. He only won the BC once, but he was the old man to fear in the big sprint stakes the first four years of this decade.

Champion Female Sprint Horse: Xtra Heat was a sprinting marvel. She was such a quality sprinter that she was named three-year-old filly champion of 2001, despite running exclusively in sprints. He record was remarkable, 26 wins in 35 races and the last 34 were all stakes . Enough said.

Champion Miler: While Ghostzapper only got the chance to display his talents at the flat mile one time, in an explosive win in the Met Mile, he was undoubtedly the horse who best bridged the gap between outstanding sprinter and top handicap horse. Ghostzapper was a unique talent for the late Bobby Frankel, and in my opinion he was the most outstanding miler of the decade, just ahead of a certain French filly we all know.

Champion Male Turf Horse: One of my tougher decisions. In the end I made my decision based on Breeders’ Cup brilliance. Conduit ran two spectacular races in the BC Turf and either of those races would have been good enough to win in most Breeders’ Cups of the decade. Only two races run in America were enough for Conduit to win the award in part because this division was down a little compared with previous decades.

Champion Female Turf Horse: Ouija Board was a super turf mare worldwide during her entire, illustrious career and overshadows all but one great turf mare that has run this decade. During her trips to America, Ouija Board won the BC Filly & Mare Turf twice and was second once in a three year span. This year’s BC Mile made this a very tough decision, but in the end I went with the distance mare over the miler as I feel the longer races are of slightly more importance than the one mile specialty of Goldikova.

Horse of the Decade: Drum roll please…The winner of the Zipse Award for Horse of the Decade goes to none other than the undefeated mare from California, Zenyatta. Many may think this is an odd decision, as I do not advocate her for Horse of the Year in 2009. True, but when I consider the entire body of work over the decade, Zenyatta narrowly outshines the credentials of Curlin, Invasor, Tiznow, Ghostzapper, and the horse I consider to have had the best single year, Rachel Alexandra. I commend Zenyatta and her unblemished record of 14 for 14, highlighted by impressive wins in two different Breeders’ Cup races. The Queen of California is the Horse of the Decade.