June 30, 2010

Who Am I ???

*I was beaten in my lifetime debut, and in my career finale, but never in between.

*My first stakes victory came in California, but my biggest win came at the spacious surroundings of Belmont Park.

*I gave it my all in my final career race, coming up just short, but I was still named champion.

*If you are trying to think of the great colt that I might be, you are already on the wrong track.

*I was an Eclipse Award winner in the only year that I had a chance.

*Despite the shortness of my career, (only seven races) I was a grade 1 winner on both coasts.

*I often received compliments on my name; I always liked it.

*I was always happy to make beautiful music for my owner.

*My only career losses came first when I got off to a slow start in a maiden and then when I was out battled in a Grade 1.

*I only had two jockeys in my career, and both are stars.

*All of my stakes wins came at different racetracks.

You should know by now … Who Am I ???

June 28, 2010

Bold, if not Controversial, Predictions

Prediction #1 – The three-year-old male division remains undecided until the Eclipse Awards announcement in January. In the end, the winner of the race with the strongest field of the season, takes home the hardware. The race is the August 28 Travers, and the winner is Exhi.

Prediction #2Rachel Alexandra will hustle out on the track and into the starting gate at the last second, before easily winning Saratoga‘s Ruffian Stakes. When her connections were asked why she almost missed the race, they explained that Jess Jackson had not decided where she would run until three minutes before post time.

***The remainder of today's column can be found on Youbet.com*** Click Here

June 27, 2010

Martin Garcia is White Hot

Think back about a month and a half…Garret Gomez, two-time Eclipse Award winning jockey, was being pulled off Lookin at Lucky in favor of Martin Garcia. It was not a shock, as Gomez and Lucky had found themselves in the middle of rough trips every time they hit the track together this year. To many though, the rider who picked up the mount on the about-to-be Preakness winner, was a bit of a surprise. The casual race fan knew very little about this 25-year-old jockey from Mexico. Flash forward six weeks to present day, and Martin Garcia is a bona fide star.

Winning the Preakness changed his national notoriety, but Garcia has been rising up the ranks for several years. Since emigrating to the United States in 2003 and taking a job at a deli in Pleasanton, California, Garcia has taken the fast track to the American success story. From slicing prosciutto, Garcia soon began working at the track as a stable hand and an exercise rider in Northern California. There he galloped horses for six months before starting to race ride at Golden Gate Fields. On August 17, 2005, Martin Garcia won his first race aboard Wild Daydreamer at the Bay Meadows Fair. Since then it has been a steady climb up the ranks.

Now he may be America’s hottest rider, winning stakes at an alarming rate and traveling all over the nation to win them. A quick look of major stakes around the nation this year reads like a Martin Garcia highlight reel. Kinsale King wins the Palos Verdes, Jeranimo wins the Strub, Conveyance wins the Southwest, Game on Dude wins the Lone Star Derby, Champagne d’Oro wins the Acorn, Switch wins the Hollywood Oaks. Garcia was on them all. Throw in the Preakness, and you can see that Garcia is simply having a whale of a year. Each week brings another big win, and last night at Prairie Meadows, Garcia was at it again. Riding for his number one client, Bob Baffert, he blitzed the Iowa Derby field aboard the suddenly exciting prospect Concord Point.

I am not sure who he will be on next week, but with Martin Garcia in the saddle, whoever it is, has a big chance to take home first money.

June 26, 2010

Betting Against the Favorites Hawkeye State Style

What a night to be in Iowa, and more specifically at Prairie Meadows. One night after the second biggest card of the year, in which we saw a new sprint star being born in Majesticperfection, (can’t wait to see the Beyer he gets in that one) the Midwestern track takes it up another notch. Their three biggest stakes of the year, and they will be run consecutively this evening. Starting with the Iowa Oaks and ending with the Cornhusker Handicap, Prairie Meadows will be teaming with excitement. I also see their excellent card as an opportunity to make a few dollars in the process, with vulnerable favorites throughout.
***The remainder of today's column can be found on Youbet.com*** Click Here

Also, check out the latest poll on ZATT History ... Who is your Horse of the 1960's???

June 25, 2010

Season’s Second Half Begins Now for the Fillies

Blind Luck, as evidenced by the latest ZATT poll on the left, is the clear and present leader of the three-year-old filly division today. The Jerry Hollendorfer trained miss has been solid in all five starts this year. Running in only grade 1’s and grade 2’s, Blind Luck has three wins and two respectable losses with a 2nd in a paceless Hollywood Oaks, and a close 3rd in the Santa Anita Oaks. She also has the division’s most important win to date in the Kentucky Oaks. While I have the utmost respect for the daughter of Pollard’s Vision, in fact I had her rated as the best juvenile filly last year, I am here to tell you that her lead in the race for the Eclipse Award is far from a safe one. What is the reason that I feel her hold on the division is somewhat tenuous? I have two; two apples of my eye, that I feel may soon pass the top Californian filly by. In Devil May Care and Biofuel, I see two fillies with a world of talent just waiting to strike in the years biggest filly stakes.

Adding to my interest, is their upcoming match up on Saturday in Belmont’s Grade 1 Mother Goose Stakes. Devil May Care will be making her first start since making a strong move on the Kentucky Derby turn to loom boldy before fading to finish in the middle of the pack. The daughter of one of my favorite current sires, Malibu Moon, has only won 3 of 6 lifetime starts, but I am a big believer in her overall talent and potential. She showed off her great ability by winning the Grade 1 Frizette in only her second career start last Fall, and underlined that talent with a strong win in Gulfstream’s Bonnie Miss Stakes this Spring. That win, coupled with his strong belief in her, prompted trainer Todd Pletcher to take the ultimate challenge, and place the lightly raced filly in the Run for the Roses. It did not happen that day, nor did it happen when she was shipped cross country to try the Breeders’ Cup in her third ever start. Bounced around as if in a mosh-pit, Devil May Care was left with no chance that day. With more time to develop, and more prudent race selection, I suspect the Devil will make a huge impact the rest of the season. So much so, that I consider her the horse to beat in not only the Mother Goose, but also the Coaching Club American Oaks and The Alabama. If Devil May Care is to somehow be beaten on Saturday, look for the Canadian Biofuel to be the one.

Not only is Biofuel the best three-year-old filly in Canada, she is the best three-year-old period. As a Kentucky bred, Biofuel is not eligible for the Canadian Classic, the Queens’ Plate. That’s a shame, because she would have had her peers north of the border at her mercy. With no Queens’ Plate on her horizon, it was time for the Reade Baker filly to test the big girls in America again. When last seen in the States, Biofuel was robbed from a great chance to win the Breeders’ Cup, when she was sideswiped in the stretch. And sideswiped may be an understatement. After regaining her stride, Biofuel came flying again to be a fast closing 1 ½ length loser. She was the most impressive horse in the race. A minor setback delayed her return this year, but she picked up right where she left off last Fall with two impressive come-from-behind scores in stakes at Woodbine. This will be Biofuel’s first try on dirt, but the bay daughter of Stormin Fever is bred to handle the natural surface, and she should be able to give Devil May Care everything she wants.

The Mother Goose should tell us a lot about each filly’s future in the big races coming up. Blind Luck is certainly the division leader to this point, but she better watch out. Devil May Care and Biofuel are primed and ready to challenge her position as Queen of the hill.

June 24, 2010

Horse Racing and Gambling

There are four types of racing fans. There is the fan who loves the horse and loves the thrill of the race foremost, but also enjoys to test their abilities to pick a winner and make a few bucks in the process. I happen to be that type of fan. Then there is the fan who loves the handicapping aspect, and is always looking for ways to make money betting the horses. They enjoy watching the racing, and it has proven to be their favorite form of gambling. The third type of fan, is the person who falls in love with the horses, and racing is a way to see them doing what they do so beautifully. They are only there to see their heroes, and betting is rarely, if ever, even considered. Finally the last fan is a gambler. Racing is one of a long list of ways to place a wager. This fan is more likely to know the number of a horse, rather than their name.

I ask you is one fan better than another? My answer may surprise you.

I say no. I say this because I recognize the importance of gambling to this wonderful game, and it has been this way since the beginning of the sport.

In American racing history, it was not all that long ago when horse racing truly was the only game in town. Off track betting, and state lotteries were not yet with us. The only state with legal casino gambling was Nevada. Fans poured into racetracks around the country at record rates and track handles soared to never seen before numbers. The 1960’s were a golden age for Thoroughbred horse racing, and we would be naïve not to credit gambling in large part for the success seen for the business of racing.

Things have obviously changed with so many more ways to gamble these days, but I still see racing as the greatest combination of beautiful sport, and gambling challenge that there can be found. Saying this, racing always needs to cater not only to fans of the sport, but also to the gambler. All four types of fans are vitally important to the health of the sport. By all means we should find new ways to promote our great game to the masses, but just as importantly we need to make racing a more attractive way for the gamblers to gamble.

And speaking of gambling ... Handicapping extraordinaire, Nick Borg, offers some solid advice on how to narrow your betting choices and become a better handicapper over on ZATT Technical.

June 22, 2010

Picture This: Winslow Homer is Back and He’s in Iowa

Expecting Winslow Homer to be ready for the Midsummer Derby in only two months, might seem a bit ambitious for a horse who has only made four lifetime starts, and is returning from a stress fracture in his cannon bone suffered only four months ago. Then again talent can overcome a lot, and talent is something that Winslow Homer has in spades. After convalescing, the three-year-old son of Unbridled’s Song has been working well at his home base at Delaware Park. Conditioner Tony Dutrow believes his star pupil is doing well enough to place the Iowa Derby on Saturday, the Jim Dandy on July 31, and the Travers on August 28, on the big gray’s immediate dance list.

When last seen, Winslow Homer displayed both his talent and class as he made his first try in stakes company, an impressive victory in the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes on January 23, defeating Jackson Bend in the process.  The victory thrust the sophomore colt on everyone's list of potential Kentucky Derby winners.

The win was his third in a row at three different racetracks, after being an unlucky loser in his racing debut last July. His other wins included a sharp maiden victory at Saratoga over Blue Grass winner Stately Victor, and a romping win in an allowance race at Philadelphia Park, with graded stakes winner Afleet Again far behind, that caught the attention of a national audience. Clearly not afraid of travel, Saturday’s attempt at victory at Prairie Meadow’s Iowa Derby will be the fifth different state that the long-legged colt has run in his five lifetime starts.

A $310,000 yearling purchase for owner Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farm, the Kentucky bred is out of the grade 3 winning Summer Squall mare Summer Raven. While Summer Squall is one of my favorite broodmare sires, the fragility passed on by sire Unbridled’s Song scares me. Undoubtedly, Unbridled’s Song consistently sires brilliant runners, but I honestly worry about their propensity for serious leg injuries.

Godspeed Winslow Homer, you are unique talent that we all see want to do what you were born to do; run fast, but please, stay safe and sound.

June 21, 2010

The Best Three-year-old in the Country???

Like a shot he is off. And then, he is gone again. Blink your eyes and you may miss him. I was able to catch a glimpse of him on Preakness Day, mind you, it was only a glimpse. Who is that Horse? This horse who is lighting up tracks both day and night. Zipping through sophomore stakes as if they are his own personal playgrounds. Some lucky fans in West Virginia were lucky enough to see him on Saturday night. If only briefly. The horse is Comedero, and he has done it again, routing six rivals in the $400,000 Red Legend Stakes on Saturday at Charles Town Races & Slots.
***The remainder of today's column can be found on Youbet.com*** Click Here

Also ... Can you tell I am pretty geeked up over the prospective field for the Breeders' Cup Classic?  Today I start scouting the foreign possibles by looking at the Japanese champion, Espoir City.  Read this article over on  ZATT International.

June 20, 2010

Oh Paddy O’!

I have news for you folks, the colt who came within a whisker of finishing second in the Kentucky Derby is not a dirt horse. That same horse, who finished second in the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes is also not a synthetic horse. His name is Paddy O’Prado and he is a grass horse, and oh baby, what a grass horse he may be.

After the Blue Grass, Kentucky Derby, and a 6th place finish in the Preakness in his last three starts, trainer Dale Romans had his star back on his preferred surface and it resulted in an explosive performance. Showing a turn of foot reserved for superstars of our sport, Paddy O’Prado stalked the moderate pace set by Two Notch Road and quickened to join the leading pack in what seemed like a matter of strides. From there, the American colt, with the Irish name, easily loped away from his competition to an authoritative score in yesterday‘s Colonial Turf Cup. Coasting home under rider Kent Desormeaux, he finished clear by three lengths stopping the timer in a strong 1:54.20 for 1 3/16 miles as the 3-to-2 choice. The win was Paddy’s second straight visually impressive score on the lawn as he also decimated the field in the Palm Beach Stakes in March. In that victory, he became a graded stakes winner despite entering as a maiden.

While the win in the Colonial Turf Cup was only his second win in nine starts, it is clear that Paddy O’Prado has developed into a real talent. A talent that becomes magnified on the lawn for the great looking gray colt. The son of El Prado, out of the Prized mare, Fun House, will now be pointed for the Virginia Derby and then the Secretariat Stakes in August. So turf will now be the focus for Paddy, and an ultimate destination of the Breeders’ Cup Turf in November is in the cards. American three year-olds do not have a great history in the Breeders’ Cup, but this may be a colt up to the task.

It is a rare three-year-old turf horse that looks like he will be able to compete with his older contemporaries at this point in the season, but Paddy O’Prado gives me every indication that he is becoming that type of horse. Obviously, he has a long way to go to be considered as the top turf horse in the nation of any age, but his performances on grass recently rank up there with great turf horses like Mac Diarmida, Manila and Kitten’s Joy at the same time in their career. Those three were all horses who I admired early in their turf careers who were good enough to go on and become champion turf horses at the young age of three.

Can Paddy O’Prado follow in their footsteps? I’ll be watching.

June 19, 2010

Mighty Mouse Attempts to Delay an Express Delivery

Looking at today’s Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park, I can not help but think of deceased comic Andy Kaufman. One of Kaufman’s funniest skits ever was his rendition of the Mighty Mouse theme song. As the record player played the entire theme song, Kaufman waited to belt out the key line, “Here I come to save the day!” Funny stuff. Rumor has it that the modern day Mighty Mouse, Jackson Bend, has been heard exclaiming the same thing as he uncoils his rally in major races up and down the Eastern Seaboard. Whether or not the mighty little chestnut colt actually says it, few know for sure. If he does not actually do it, maybe rider Jose Lezcano should, to strike fear in the competition…”Here I come to save the day!” I know if I was another horse in the race hearing that, I might become a little intimidated. Wouldn’t you?
***The remainder of today's column can be found on Youbet.com*** Click Here

June 18, 2010

Remembering ... Afleet Alex

Watching Thoroughbred horse racing gives the viewer continuous opportunities to see something marvelous. These athletes, with their grace and power, speed and determination, are born to thrill. When a horse exceeds all others in each quality, they are called great, and on those rarest of occasions when a great horse has the chance to display everything they have, we are left to watch in awe. I have been lucky enough to see many truly awesome performances over the years. Few, if any, were more memorable than what a plucky little bay colt was able to do on May 21, 2005.

Afleet Alex snatched classic victory from the jaws of almost certain disaster on that day. His win in the Preakness Stakes was one of the most miraculous displays of grace and power, speed and determination I have ever seen, or will ever see. As if shot out of a cannon, Afleet Alex exploded on the turn. It was the type of move destined to win a race by a shockingly large margin. But then, in a heartbeat, the unexpected happened. Managing to stay upright after being sideswiped by the bolting race leader, Scrappy T, was amazing. Regrouping to score a 4 3/4-length victory in the middle jewel of racing’s Triple Crown was perfection.

Overcoming adversity was nothing new for Afleet Alex. Likely to die as a newborn foal when his mother was unable to produce milk, Alex was bottle fed by 9-year-old Lauren Silvertand in order to have a chance to live. Displaying the heart that the world would soon see, Afleet Alex survived and grew strong. From this scary beginning a wonderful story was born. Overlooked by the big money, he was purchased for a bargain price by a group of five Philadelphia partners buying their first horse.

When Afleet Alex’s ownership heard of the heartwarming story of Alex Scott, a little girl who fought cancer for both herself and others until her death, and her lemonade stand, they thought of their friend and Alex’s breeder, John Silvertand, and his battle with cancer. They knew right away that they would utilize Afleet Alex’s talents to fight cancer. The owners announced they would donate a portion of his winnings to Alex’s Lemonade Stand, and they did much more to support the noble cause. Alex’s Lemonade Stand became almost as big a story during the 2005 Triple Crown as the horse himself. Thanks in large part to Afleet Alex, Alex Scott’s dream of raising $1 million to benefit pediatric cancer research has been long since exceeded.

There was much more to this colt than an admirable story though. On the racetrack, Afleet Alex proved to be a star from his very first race run for Cash is King Stable, trainer Tim Ritchey, and rider Jeremy Rose. In his debut, he romped by more than 11 lengths in a Delaware Park maiden special weight. Returning in a little over two weeks, Alex was once again thoroughly impressive as he destroyed Delaware allowance runners by 12 lengths, again stopping the timer in 1:03 4/5 for 5 ½ furlongs. It would be the last time Alex would be seen in anything other than a stakes race. From there he left his Delaware base for the big races of New York and Saratoga.

An easy score in the grade 2 Sanford announced Afleet Alex as one of the top juveniles in the nation. A brave score in the sloppy, grade 1 Hopeful elevated him to be the top rated two-year-old in the land. This would prove to be the highlight of his early career though, as things would not have a storybook ending for Afleet Alex for some time after his initial four victories. His first try at a distance saw Alex prove game, but come up a little short in the prestigious Champagne Stakes, finishing 2nd to Proud Accolade by a half length. A strong effort, but his winning streak had been broken. It was on to Lone Star Park for the only Breeders’ Cup to be run in Texas. The tough little colt by Northern Afleet out of the Hawkster mare Maggy Hawk would again run huge. Out wide most of the race, Afleet Alex powered to the lead in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile stretch only to succumb late to the rally of the English invader, Wilko. It was a loss that cost Afleet Alex an Eclipse Award, but still, six races and six excellent performances.

At three, Alex would prepare for the Triple Crown in Arkansas. He began with an easy score in the sprinty Mountain Valley Stakes earning a lofty 106 Beyer figure in the process. It was all systems go for a march to Louisville. His next race saw Alex be ridden for the first time by anyone other than Jeremy Rose, as his connections went with the high profile John Velazquez in the Rebel Stakes. Bet down to 3-5, Afleet Alex backed out inexplicably and finished a well beaten last. A shocking result for the model of consistency; people wondered what happened.

They would not need worry long. After bouncing back from the lung infection that caused his only less than stellar performance, and reunited with Jeremy Rose, Afleet Alex used the Arkansas Derby as a launching pad to the Kentucky Derby. Literally. Afleet Alex showed a turn of foot seldom seen in our sport to romp home in the Arkansas Derby by eight lengths. Sent off as one the favorites on Derby Day, it would prove to be his only stumbling block to becoming our twelfth Triple Crown champion. Much like the previous year’s Breeders’ Cup, Alex ran big to look like a winner off the Derby’s blistering fractions, before succumbing late to the rally of the longshot closer, Giacomo. For whatever reason he weakened late and finished 3rd beaten one length. For Afleet Alex, the best was most assuredly still to come.

If the amazing Preakness made him a star, it was the Belmont Stakes that proved the fact. Sent off as a heavy favorite, Alex would, just as he had done in the Arkansas Derby and Preakness, unleash a move on the turn that was as electrifying as it was lethal. Leaving the Derby winner behind to struggle in his wake, Afleet Alex cantered home the best by an effortless seven lengths, and there could no longer be any doubt that he was a superstar.

To the dismay of the racing world, his overpowering performance in the Belmont Stakes would be his final career race. First a hairline fracture was found in July, and then he was retired later in the year after another injury was detected, which was believed to have caused the colt's original hairline condylar fracture of the left front cannon bone. Today he stands at Gainesway Farm in Lexington, Kentucky. Five years removed from his win in the Belmont, and his breeding career has just began to roll with his first crop of racing age now three. In fact he has a couple of promising colts in Afleet Again, and Afleet Express, ready to challenge Jackson Bend in tomorrow’s Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park.

Afleet Alex’s resume of eight wins in twelve starts, earning nearly three million dollars, and an Eclipse Award as the most outstanding three-year-old male of 2005, while impressive, seems somewhat unfulfilled. He was a champion from day one in my book, and he was only getting better. He could handle any distance and his explosive rally had become irresistible. His final two races in the Preakness and the Belmont were his best ever, and performances that I can never forget. Who knows how good this horse may have become? I remember you Afleet Alex.

June 17, 2010

Future Star Watch - Dawnie Macho

This week’s future star is the juvenile filly, Dawnie Macho. The chestnut daughter of Macho Uno blazed to a track record setting performance in her first career start at Arlington Park on Saturday. Ridden by Michael Baze, Dawnie Macho led from the start and pulled clear of her eight competitors in the stretch to win the maiden special weight race by five lengths. Final time for the 4½-furlong contest was :51.16. The final time broke the existing record set by My Dominick James of :51.22 in 2008. The effort earned a lofty 90 Beyer figure which is extremely high for a first out juvenile. Bred in Florida by Maurice Miller and owned by Wayne Granger, Dawnie Macho is the first starter out of the unraced Montbrook mare Blush of Dawn. She failed to garner much interest from buyers as a yearling and even this Spring at a two-year-olds in training sale in April, but after her eye-catching debut, the potential buyers are flocking to trainer Wayne Catalano’s barn in droves. Whether or not she stays in Catalano’s barn and at Arlington Park is a big question mark, but one thing is for sure, you better keep an eye on Dawnie Macho.

Photo Courtesy of Four Footed Fotos

June 15, 2010

Zenyatta: Is She the Best Ever?

Like a steam locomotive rolling down the track, Zenyatta’s patented closing kick is as sure a thing as you can find in the world today. She has the size, power, and the ability to sprint home like Forego, only with the consistency of the rising sun. Zenyatta getting to the wire first has become as inevitable as death and taxes. 17 times she has stepped into the starting gate, and each and every time it was Zenyatta who was the one to celebrate in the winner’s circle. She has terrorized grade 1 filly and mare races on the West Coast like no one has ever before. With major tests still on the horizon, Zenyatta will have to be as great as ever to retire undefeated, but looking at her career to date, I believe it is time to ask the question…Is Zenyatta the best racehorse of all time?

Heady stuff, but a reasonable question nonetheless. The most popular choice for anyone in their 60’s or younger is Secretariat. Big Red graced the cover of Time Magazine during his heyday, and now 37 years after his retirement will be featured in a major motion picture this year. Can Zenyatta possibly stack up against Secretariat? Let’s take a look…

Secretariat officially won 16 of 21 starts, although he was disqualified once after an easy win in the Champagne Stakes, meaning that he finished first in 17 of 21 starts. A great record, but obviously Zenyatta’s unblemished record is untouchable. Consistency advantage - Zenyatta

Zenyatta has won all of her races, but often she comes along just in time to win the race in the final sixteenth. Her times are consistently strong, but track records, or even world records are not her forte. Secretariat meanwhile, on his best, ran superior times like the 1:45 2/5 in the Marlboro Cup, and the 2:24 in the Belmont Stakes. In that Belmont, Secretariat ran what I consider the greatest race in history, winning by an incredible 31 lengths. Brilliance advantage - Secretariat

While both stars announced their great ability early in their careers, it has been Zenyatta who has carried her superiority over a longer period of time. Secretariat’s racing life lasted just under a year and a half in 1972 and 1973, while Zenyatta is closing in on three years of sustained excellence. Longevity advantage - Zenyatta

Secretariat and Zenyatta both graduated quickly from the maiden and allowance ranks to run strictly in major stakes for the rest of their careers. While Zenyatta has stepped out only once from running in races restricted to females, in winning the BC Classic, Secretariat stepped up to take on older males in his final five races on both dirt and turf. Couple that with his sensational series of races in America’s Triple Crown, and you would have to say Secretariat ran against more good horses in his career than Zenyatta so far. Quality of competition advantage - Secretariat

Food for thought. Who would you favor Secretariat or Zenyatta? Neither answer is wrong, but whoever you favor is certainly in the argument for the greatest Thoroughbred racehorse of all time. Heady stuff indeed.

Zenyatta Photo by Cecilia G. Felix

June 14, 2010


Do you realize how good this year‘s Breeders‘ Cup Classic could be?

Now I understand we will be fortunate to have all of these wonderful horses line up in the starting gate at Churchill on November 6, but as of now the potential for a showdown unlike anything we have seen in a long, long time is out there. Think about the potential starters…
***The remainder of today's column can be found on Youbet.com*** Click Here

Also ... My man on the Euro scene, Ciarán De Barra, fills us in on the big doings starting tomorrow at Royal Ascot, including a strong prediction for a superstar miler over on ZATT International.

June 13, 2010

Raw Rachel Emotion

I regret that I was not at the Fair Grounds for the New Orleans Ladies, and at Churchill Downs for the La Troienne, but I was there yesterday, and it was special.

41 years of life, and I have been following this sport for all of that time, or at least that is what my parents tell me about my earliest years. After this many years of watching the horses, I should be hard-boiled, and impervious to the fanatical trappings of the sport. I am not. Rachel Alexandra has proven that to me in the most obvious and wonderful ways.

I watched her enter the paddock with a combined sense of admiration, awe, and affection. As I spoke with colleagues, only yards away from her, I could not let my eyes stray away from every little move that she made. Her tongue was out, her mane was elegantly braided, and the look in her eye was uniquely Rachel. No figure eight noseband, but Calvin was still there to answer the call for riders up. Rachel had the body language and that look in her eye that I had become so familiar with in her historical 2009. Today was the day, I was there, today would definitely be the day.

Luckily I was grabbed for conversation by a few friends leading up to the race, or surely my pounding heart would have burst through my shirt. The horses were in the gate, and the real nerves began. “Come on Rach.” “Come on Rach.” “Come on Rach.” They were my words coming from trackside, but I might as well have been floating above the Churchill Downs track. I was lost in the race. “Let her go Calvin.” “Let her go Calvin.” “Let her out Calvin.” They turned for home, and my out-of-body experience was becoming more tangible. Rachel was running away from the field. My raw nerves went from extreme nervousness, to complete joy. My entire body smiled. “Go Rachel.” “Yes.” “Go Rachel.” The race went by so quickly, but as Rachel passed in front of me, she seemed to move in slow motion. Victory yesterday was sweet.

It was beautiful and powerful. Vindication. Sublime and superior. She brings out such emotion in me, and for that, I thank her. Finally, let me express the ultimate complement on what I saw yesterday…Rachel Alexandra was Rachel Alexandra.

June 12, 2010

Churchill’s Morning After and ZATT Strikes Again

Darren Rogers, the personable media director at Churchill Downs, walked into the press room this morning a little tired, but ready for another big day at the Downs. He proclaimed to me what a huge success the previous night’s Downs after Darks had been, “A big disco party at the racetrack!” and was already grinning about the big day of racing we are in store for today. My early morning hesitation was gone, and I became more pumped for the day after our one minute conversation. It’s great to be at Churchill Downs, plus I have a little announcement….

Today is the day that the ZATT family of blogs begins. Four new blogs under the ZATT umbrella. If you liked what we have done before, I urge you to take a look at the Mag, History, International, and Technical. It is pretty, pretty good (using my best Larry David voice) if I do say so myself.

Renowned handicapper and author, Dr. William Quirin writes about racing for the first time in a long time, and he does it for ZATT Mag.

Ciarán De Barra, my European correspondent, gushes about the recent winners of the Epsom and French Derbies, and rightly so, on ZATT International.

The man who knows more about a horse’s gray matter than just about anyone in the world, Kerry Thomas, unveils his next article, Behavioral Overcompensation, for ZATT Technical.

And yours truly, celebrates the life and times of a recently passed superstar, Chinook Pass, kicking off ZATT History.

Thank you all for your continued support as ZATT continues to bring you quality stories for the love of Thoroughbred horse racing!

June 11, 2010

Figuring out the Foster

Saturday’s closing added money event of five straight graded stakes at Churchill Downs promises to be the best race of the weekend. A field of 11 solid older males is set to slug it out in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster over nine furlongs. In recent years the Foster has become one of the most important handicap races of the year, and this year’s edition will be no exception. It appears to be one of those fun races, where almost any horse in the race is good enough to win. In these types of races I generally look for some horses that will not be favored to use, but not always. If you simply like the favorites best, you should stick with them, and in a race like this, the exotics, even using the favorites, should still be worthwhile.
***The remainder of today's column can be found on ThoroFan*** Click Here

June 10, 2010

Friday Night Lights, Rachel and Blame

The Kentucky Derby may be over for 2010, but this weekend at Churchill Downs, the atmosphere will be electric. And electricity is just what the venerable Louisville oval will need to light up the night sky on Friday, as the track rolls out the first of several after dark racing cards. Last year's immense popularity of night racing, in which the track averaged over 30,000 in attendance, prompted a $4 million permanent lighting system to be erected. Friday’s theme will be Disco at the Downs, so polyester should be seen in abundance, as costume contests and dance competitions spice up the live racing. Churchill Downs will offer free parking and shuttle service, and gates will open at 4 p.m. with the last race scheduled for after 11 p.m. The on-track party will continue in the paddock past the witching hour. The partying should be over in time to welcome a daytime card on Saturday afternoon, and what a card it is.
***The remainder of today's column can be found on Youbet.com*** Click Here

June 9, 2010

Who Am I ???

*Bred in Florida, I was a son of a classic winner, but was purchased as a yearling for only $16,000.

*My five stakes victories came at five different racetracks in four different states.

*I was undefeated as a juvenile, and I won 1 more race than the year before in each of my three seasons on the track.

*My first major stakes win came after the fireworks.

*I was an East Coast horse; the only time I went west, I lost a grade 1 race in a photo finish.

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

*I was never a champion, but I defeated three of them during my career.

*My first two victories came after the sun had gone down.

*The biggest win of my career came at the same track where I once won a race by 15 lengths .

*My name was derived in equal parts from my mother and my father.

*Unfortunately, my trainer, my most regular rider, and I, have all passed away.

You should know by now … Who Am I ???

June 8, 2010

The Genesis of ZATT

It always surprises me whenever someone asks me where the name ZATT comes from. I would have thought that it would be readily apparent, but after so many occurrences of being questioned, I realize that I need to be completely transparent with my readers. Pardon me, for those who had this figured out a long time ago, but the name ZATT comes directly from the name of some of my all-time favorite horses…

Who can ever forget the top-notch runner and superior sire, Storm Zatt, or the brilliant Horse of the Year of 2004, Ghostzatter? Tale of the Zatt was a huge talent and is now the sire of a champion, while Zatt Daddy was a major winner and one of the favorites for the Kentucky Derby before his early retirement. The D. Wayne Lukas trained, Zatt Thief won the big one in the 1999 Breeders‘ Cup Classic, and Any Given Zatturday routed two-time Horse of the Year, Curlin, in the Haskell. The Haskell was also won impressively by his older stablemate, Bluegrass Zatt.

I also like to remind race fans of Zatticus, who won major races on both sides of the Atlantic, and Zatty G who was a very talented son of champion, Capote. Then there is Discreet Zatt, who may have been one of the more talented milers we have seen in recent years, and was the only other horse to win a race entered by Invasor. Still in training, I am very fond of the talented turfer, Courageous Zatt, who was second to the great Goldikova in last year’s BC Mile, and the talented old warrior, Brass Zatt, who keeps going and going. The list could go on my friends, but I think you see my point.

ZATT and racing have gone hand in hand for years, and will continue to do so. I doubt I could have possibly picked a better name.

June 7, 2010

To Rachel or not to Rachel

That is the question.  I am heading down to Churchill Downs this Saturday for two somewhat disproportionate reasons; to see what should be a strong edition of the Stephen Foster Handicap, and to get my first glimpse of Rachel Alexandra this year. Sure the Foster is a big race, but truth be told, this is a Rachel trip. But will I see her?  Trying to get info out of Jess Jackson can be tougher than hitting a two-iron to an island green. The Foster, the Fleur de Lis, (both at Churchill on Saturday) the Ogden Phipps, and the Obeah Stakes, have all been mentioned as possible starts for my heroine. Secretive to a fault, Jackson leaves us with four races, three tracks, and two regions of the nation where she may appear in five days. Come on Jess, tell me, will I see her?
***The remainder of today's column can be found on Youbet.com*** Click Here

June 6, 2010

Stopping the Madness

Play the horses long enough and you will always find new and exciting ways to be humbled. How about watching and touting a horse the entire Spring only to be disappointed time after time. Then as soon as you say, "I need to move on and stop the madness," the horse goes and wins one of the most important and historic races in the United States. Yes, my friends, this sport that we love, is quite a game! The horse of whom I speak, of course, is Drosselmeyer, and yesterday he was able to fulfill all the promise that many, including me, saw in him before he had ever run in his first stakes race.

Much like last year's winner Summer Bird, Drosselmeyer is a strikingly handsome chestnut colt who made the Test of Champions his first career stakes win. The son of Distorted Humor, out of the stakes winning Moscow Ballet mare Golden Ballet, won for the third time in nine starts with a nearly one length win yesterday at Big Sandy. In winning, Drosselmeyer gave his Hall of Fame trainer, Bill Mott, his long awaited first Triple Crown victory, and also carried his popular new rider, Mike Smith, to his first ever Belmont Stakes victory. It was nice to see two of the sport's good guys collect their first Belmont Stakes win. The win also marked the second Crown victory of the year for owner WinStar Farm, who also own Super Saver.

Wrapping up coverage of the Triple Crown, that saw three different winners, yesterday's race for 2nd place behind Drosselmeyer, saw Fly Down nip the pacesetting First Dude near the wire. Incredibly, it was the same trainer photo finish as the Kentucky Derby, in which Ice Box passed Paddy O'Prado at the wire, and the Preakness when First Dude just held off Jackson Bend for 2nd. Once again it came down to the last few jumps to see if it would be Nick Zito or Dale Romans who would train the classic's 2nd place finisher. Zito made it two photos out of three when Fly Down passed Roman's First Dude late.

June 5, 2010

Special Guest Blog/Happy Birthday

By Michael Horvath

This is a special edition of Who Am I.....

 I was born in the year that Arts and Letters denied Majestic Prince from being the first undefeated Triple Crown Winner.
 It is appropriate that my birthday is Belmont Stakes Day 2010.
 My sire is Dr. Phil
 Although I'm a NJ bred, I currently stand stud in Illinois
 And yes, I love Candie!

By now, you should know that this is the man that has provided us with horse racing memories and games since August 2009 (and yes, pronounce the "e").

I'm not going to bore you with my attempt to be a writer (Steve Haskin's job at Blood-Horse is safe) but I did want to express my sincerest thank you from me, and I'm sure from all of you, for the time and effort Brian has put into ZATT.

Brian has thrilled us with the Zipse Awards, Remembering..., Who Am I, the Video of the Day, Daily Polls and most recently ZATT the Magazine. All comments are acknowledged. Discussion is encouraged.

So today Brian, take a load off. Sit back and enjoy the celebration that Belmont Park has arranged for you today (hey, it sounds good). You deserve the day off. In addition to analyzing the racing program, be sure to play a 4-1 exacta box for every race on the card.

Happy Birthday Brian!!!!!!

June 4, 2010

Fame and Vermeer

One day before this year's Derby, Fame And Glory, last year's Epsom Derby favorite and runner-up to superstar Sea the Stars, won his third straight this season with a strong win in today's Coronation Cup.  Returning to the top form that he seemed to lose at the end of last year, the Aidan O'Brien runner has now established himself as the top older male in Europe. The four-year-old son of Montjeu was sent off as a heavy favorite, despite the presence of top older horses Youmzain, Calvaryman, and the excellent filly, Sariska.

Content to let stablemate Dixie Music set the early pace, Fame and Glory comfortably stalked and took command early in the straight.  Last year's Oaks winner, Sariska, looked to make it interesting the final quarter mile, but had no answer for the powerful stride of her male counterpart.  Fame and Glory held her at bay to win by 1 1/2 lengths.  What better way to set up this years Derby than seeing the success of the 2009 Derby 2nd place finisher.

Tomorrow's renewal of one of the most important races in the world will see 12 sophomore colts going 1 1/2 miles at the famed Epsom Downs.  Chief among the Derby hopefuls will be Aidan O'Brien's trio of horses led by Jan Vermeer.  The Michael Tabor owned son of Montjeu was a most impressive winner of the Group 1 Criterium International last Fall, and his easy debut score this season points him out as the most likely winner of the Epsom Derby.  A win by Jan Vermeer tomorrow would cap a big weekend for trainer O'Brien, jockey Johnny Murtagh, and sire Montjeu.  He appears to be another top class stayer in the O'Brien barn and will be difficult to handle.

His most like challengers include the Godolphin entrant Rewilding who is a half brother to star mare, Dar Re Mi and is coming off a sharp win at Goodwood.  Possibly the horse with the most upside is Workforce who has only run two times in his career, but has shown great promise and is bred to get the trip.

June 3, 2010

Bye Bye Birdie

Nine starts and out. Summer Bird, the finest sophomore male in the nation last year, has been retired after X-rays taken this week showed that he has not properly healed from a cannon bone fracture suffered while preparing for the Japan Cup Dirt last Fall.

The news comes just two days before the Belmont Stakes, a race that served as Summer Bird's coming out party last June. Sent off at 11-1 that day, Summer Bird impressively won the final leg of the Triple Crown in impressive style. The classic victory was followed by a 2nd place finish to horse of the Year, Rachel Alexandra, in the Haskell, before winning back to back major races in the Travers Stakes and the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Those grade 1 victories, in which he defeated Quality Road both times, cemented Summer Bird's championship season.

Summer Bird had been galloping daily for new trainer, Tim Ritchey, at Delaware Park when the news was announced. He will remain there until his owners, the Jayaramans, finalize his stud plans. Summer Bird is a son of another Belmont winner, Birdstone, out of the Summer Squall mare Hong Kong Squall. He will enter stud in the 2011 breeding season.

Like all twelve entrants in this year's Belmont, Summer Bird entered last year's Test of Champions far from a star. He had raced only four times, with only a maiden victory to his credit, but with his win in the Belmont last year, Summer Bird proved he was a horse on the rise and ready to step up to the elite level. This year's field will be trying to emulate the excellent example set by the late blooming star of 2009.

It is always sad to see a star leave the races, and in Summer Bird's case, it clearly comes far too early. He ran only nine times in his career with four wins and over $2.3 million in earnings. Who knows how good the big, strong chesnut may have become, if not for his ill-fated trip to Japan, and the early retirement that followed. Bye Bye Birdie...you will be missed.

June 2, 2010

Look to the Longshots In the Belmont Stakes

I have been watching The Test of Champions for the past four decades, and I know it takes a unique kind of horse to succeed over a mile and a half at Big Sandy. The Belmont Stakes is a race that will underscore the greatness of a champion, but it also is one that tends to point out the deficiencies of a lesser horse. Over the years, I have learned to look past the favorites who will be beaten at Belmont. The average winning payoff for the Belmont winner over the last decade is a hefty 40 dollars, and I expect more of the same this year, so my money will be on the live longshots over the clear favorite.
***The remainder of today's column can be found on Youbet.com*** Click Here

June 1, 2010

More From the Dudes

Part 2 ( Game on Dude)

ZAAT: Dude! Hey…glad I found you.

Game on Dude: “Oh, hey ZATT, how are ya? I wondered if I'd see you again.”

ZAAT: You bet Dude, It is always good to see you. How‘ve you been?

Game on Dude: “Ahh, you know. Strikes and splits, ups and downs.”

ZATT: I didn’t realize you were a bowler.

Game on Dude: “Oh yeah man. I love to roll…In a Tuesday night league and everything. We got a shot at the whole enchilada this year.”

ZATT: Nice Dude. I am sure that is fun to get away from the track sometimes. By the way, speaking of the track, congratulations on your Lone Star Derby win.

Game on Dude: “Thanks man. Texas was fun; good food. Grass was a little dry though.”

ZATT: Too bad about that Texas grass. It looks like you are enjoying the Belmont grass there.

First Dude: “New York is, well, I like it man. Lots to look at; got a new lady friend. I think we are going out for some Moo Goo Gai Pan later.”

ZATT: Uh...I see, is she a runner as well?

Game on Dude: “Not sure ZATT…that’s the difference between you and me. Your mind is always on the races.”

ZATT: Well not all the time, but I enjoy my job. My readers want to know your game plan for the Belmont.

Game on Dude: “It's a complicated race, man. Lotta ins, lotta outs. Fortunately Bobby has me adhering to a pretty strict, uh, training regimen to keep me, you know, limber.”

ZATT: Any specific plan for the race?

Game on Dude: “Yeah man.”

ZATT: Can you expand on that answer?

Game on Dude: “Huh?.”

ZATT: Your strategy for the race?

Game on Dude: “Yeah…you know, I’m just going to roll it, let it all hang out.”

ZATT: Pretty laid back, but I guess that is what you are all about.

Game on Dude: “Yeah man.”

ZATT: Best of luck in the Belmont, and take it easy, Dude.

Game on Dude: “Well, you know, the Dude abides.”

Special thanks to Joel and Ethan Coen, whose film The Big Lebowski, was a not so subtle influence on this piece, and were responsible for some of the quotes of both First Dude and Game on Dude.