October 31, 2010

Will You Survive ZATT’s Breeders’ Cup Contest???

Calling all Breeders’ Cup Players! You are all cordially invited to participate in the First Annual ZATT Breeders’ Cup Survivor Contest. We’re doing something a little different this year on Zipse at the Track … and the last person left standing will be the big winner! The rules are simple: Pick one horse in each BC race as your survivor selection, if that horse finishes 1st, 2nd, or 3rd you survive and move on to the next race. The person who survives the longest will be crowned ZATT’s 2010 Champion. To add a little strategy to this game, you are only allowed to pick the morning line favorite in one race in a row. In other words, if you pick the morning line favorite in the first race, you are prohibited from picking the morning line favorite in the next race, but could go back to the chalk in the third race, and so on. In the event of a late scratch, it is dependant on the player to have either listed an alternate choice, or submit your new survivor selection prior to post time. In the event of a tie, the player who picks the most winning horses will be declared the winner. If still tied, total payoffs for the winning horses will be the final tie-breaker. The 2010 Champion will take their deserving place on ZATT’s Hall of Champions beside last year’s King Eric Kalet. They will also have the option of authoring a guest blog on Zipse at the Track on a racing subject, and at a time, of their choosing. All entries should be made as a comment on this blog, must include your name, and be submitted by Friday at 1pm Eastern. Have fun and good luck to all!

October 30, 2010

Breeders’ Cup Singles

I am about to offer four fantastic females for the Breeders’ Cup, and Zenyatta is not one of them??? Read on … Pick 3‘s, Pick 4‘s, Pick 6‘s, not to mention trifecta and superfecta keys, it is nice to have a horse, or a few horses, that you can count on to reach the wire first at the Breeders’ Cup. Along those lines, I would like to present to you my Big 4. The four horses that I will have the most confidence in winning out of the 14 race BC smorgasbord. Oddly enough they are all females, and believe it or not, Zenyatta is nowhere to be found on this list. You all know by now that I am predicting a Blame victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, right? The four horses who I consider the closest things to locks, in order are: Midday, Goldikova, Blind Luck, and Winter Memories. Here’s why: 
 ***The remainder of today's column can be found on Youbet.com*** Click Here

October 29, 2010

Blind Luck the Praiseworthy

She came from a twinkle in her father’s one good eye. Sired by Pollard's Vision, and out of the Best of Luck mare, Lucky One, she was a meager $11,000 yearling purchase. To add a little spice to the classic rags-to-riches story, she was then was bought back by her owners for $10,000 at a two-year-old in training sale the following Spring. The inexpensive chestnut filly would begin her racing career in a lowly maiden claiming race at Calder Race Course. From these most humble beginnings, a champion was born. By all rights, Blind Luck has no business being as good as she is.

Blind Luck would win that 4 ½ furlong maiden claiming debut by 13 ¼ lengths and the rest, as they say, has been history. Purchased by trainer Jerry Hollendorfer after the impressive maiden win in Southern Florida, and taken to California, Blind Luck has never stopped flourishing in the 16 months since. She would win three more times as a juvenile, with a second, and a third, from five starts. She finished off her first season with a seven length thrashing of her competition in the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet. It was the kind of race, and the kind of juvenile season that demanded an Eclipse Award. I said as much at the conclusion of 2009. Unfortunately, she would be denied the award, but to most onlookers she entered 2010 as the best young filly in the nation.

2010 has only gotten better for Blind Luck. The upcoming Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic will be a showcase for her talent and an exclamation point on her remarkable season. Blind Luck's has run eight times in 2010 and at seven different racetracks. All of her starts this year have been in stakes of either the grade 1 or grade 2 variety. She's won on dirt in Arkansas, Kentucky, Delaware, and New York, as well as a grade 1 win on a synthetic track at Santa Anita. She‘s traveled the nation back and again. She has proven best at distances up to 10 furlongs and she has won on both fast and sloppy tracks. Blind Luck has already won America’s top race for sophomore fillies, the Kentucky Oaks, over the very track where the Breeders’ Cup is about to commence. She may be coming off a loss, but it was a performance that only furthers her stature. In the Cotillion, she conceded ten pounds to one of the top fillies in the nation in Havre de Grace. Closing like a freight train, Blind Luck got to the wire just a few strides too late. She may have been denied her 10th victory on that day, but the feeling here is that we will need not wait long for lucky number 10.

Whether or not she will be the very best horse running over the two-day celebration that is the Breeders‘ Cup, is immaterial. In an age when far too many horsemen coddle their horses, with little or no travel, and only a handful of races in an entire year, Blind Luck is a shining example of what racing used to be. From those humble beginnings, a true champion was born.

October 28, 2010

Remembering ... Bayakoa

My memories of Bayakoa encapsulate the best and the worst of thoroughbred racing. She was a mare whom I have as much respect for as just about any horse I have seen run in forty years of following the sport. In 1989 and 1990, she was simply the best. A horse who would always make her way to the early lead, and on most days, would be impossible to pass. Unfortunately, I can not possibly reflect on her career without flashing back to that fateful afternoon at Belmont Park. On that day Bayakoa would enter a battle with one of the most beautiful creatures that I ever had the pleasure of laying my eyes on, but this is a piece dedicated to the great Bayakoa, so I need to tell you about her first. Bayakoa was a global hero. Native to Argentina, she became a true American star.

Bred in South America, her breeding was full of North American influence. The Argentine-bred champion was a daughter of Consultant’s Bid by Bold Bidder out of the Argentine mare Arlucea, by the Nashua stallion Good Manners. Bayakoa made her first start in Argentina on February 15, 1987. As would become her forte, the bay filly would grab the lead quickly, but unlike so many of her future races, she would tire to finish second. Bayakoa came back to score next time out for fun. From there, she would begin her group one stakes odyssey in only her third lifetime start. She did not win, but it marked the beginning of one of the most impressive group/grade one careers that I have ever seen. In her eighth and final race in Argentina, Bayakoa rolled to a twelve length victory in the prestigious Group 1 Grand Prix Palermo Stakes on a muddy dirt surface. That would be the only race needed for top American trainer Ron McAnally to act.

McAnally brought her to California where he needed to keep the surroundings as peaceful and tranquil as possible for his new star, now owned by Frank and Janis Whitham. Serene surroundings were a necessity because Bayakoa was a bit of a headcase. Nervous and high-strung, she could rarely relax, and reportedly put herself in danger on more than one occasion. This hot-blooded behavior is detrimental to most horses, but Bayakoa made it work on the racetrack. She ran mostly on turf in her first season in America, flashing impressive speed but not consistent results. A combination of the master McAnally working with her and a switch to becoming strictly a dirt horse would work wonders for the five-year-old mare the following year in 1989.

With speed to burn and the courage to stay in front, Bayakoa began to dominate the older female stakes in Southern California. She reeled off five straight graded stakes victories in California and one in Arkansas from February through July and was now considered the top mare in the nation. After a hiccup at Del Mar, Bayakoa took her show on the road again with overpowering wins in prestigious stakes east of the Mississippi in New York’s Ruffian, and Kentucky’s Spinster Stakes. In the Spinster, she waltzed home by 11 ½ lengths over the classy Goodbye Halo. By the time the Breeders’ Cup rolled around there could be no doubt as to who was the best female runner in the nation. At Gulfstream Park‘s BC Distaff, she showed her class by stalking the early pacesetter before taking command. By the time the field had run six furlongs she was in complete control and cruised home under her regular rider, Laffit Pincay, 1 1/2 lengths of her closest competitor, Gorgeous.

Bayakoa picked up right where she left off the next year and her grade one wins continued to mount. Easy wins in the Santa Maria, Santa Margarita, Milady, and Spinster gave her 11 grade one victories over the past two seasons in the States and overshadowed a disappointing performance as the favorite against the boys in the Santa Anita Handicap. Counting her group one win in Argentina, Bayakoa was now in search of her 13th win in the most highly graded races in two continents. Reaching that total would not be easy though. The great Bayakoa, now six-years-old, would meet an outstanding young rival in three-year-old Go For Wand, who was also on the verge of being named a repeat champion.

Her second consecutive marvelous season would culminate with the win in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. On paper, the final result read as a nearly seven length win for Bayakoa, but it came in a race that will forever have a black cloud hanging above. That would be her final race at six, and age would finally catch up with the iron Argentinean the following year.  Bayakoa would go winless in three starts as a seven-year-old. The hickory mare was soon retired as a two-time champion and a rare repeat winner of the Breeders’ Cup. Her final resume include 21 victories in 39 lifetime starts and $2,861,701 in earnings. As a broodmare, she produced four well bred foals who could not come close to their mom’s racing success.  Her life came to a premature end at the age of 13 when she succumbed to the disease laminitis. Bayakoa was ultimately honored when inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame the year after her passing in 1998.

As for the tragic ending to the 1990 Breeders' Cup Distaff, seeing the victorious Hall of Fame trainer McAnally cry in sadness after the race tells the story. It was two of the greatest horses in American racing history hooked up in an epic battle. The filly nor the mare would give in. Neither had the disposition to give an inch, let alone give up. It was a contest that could have gone down as the greatest in Breeders’ Cup history … it was not to be. Bayakoa crossed the wire, Go For Wand did not.

To this day it was the most horrible thing I have ever seen in racing. I wish that I could remember Bayakoa without thinking of that race, but I can not. It is a shame, because she deserves so much more. Despite her hot temperament, she proved as sound as could be, with the speed and courage to be truly considered as an all-time great. I remember you Bayakoa.

October 27, 2010

Who Am I ???

*Bred outside of the United States, I was a grandson of one of the most important sires in American history.

*I never raced in California, and did not run in New York until my 27th start.

*I raced on both dirt and turf, but had a strong affinity for one over the other.

*No fewer than six of the racetracks where I ran, have closed, no longer offer thoroughbred racing, or have been renamed.

*I was a stakes winner in each of my four seasons of racing, and I finished in the money 33 times.

*I once had odds of longer than 130-1, but I was 8-5 or lower in my next five races.

*Better with age, I won more stakes races and earned more money each successive year.

*I was a multiple graded stakes winner at all of the following distances: 7f, 8f, 9f and 10f.

*Well traveled, I competed at nine different racetracks during my Eclipse Award winning season.

*I ran in the same million dollar race in back-to-back years and fared much better the second try.

*Two of my sons were grade one winners and millionaire earners in the United States.

*Things were seldom of a casual nature for me.

You should know by now … Who Am I ???

October 26, 2010

Everybody Loves Brass Hat

It has already been quite the career for one Mr. Brass Hat, and don’t look now, but there are no signs of him slowing down anytime soon. At an age when if he walked on two legs he may be out buying a flashy new sports car, Brass Hat continues to roll on. The cagey old veteran that he is, Brass Hat chooses rather to act out his mid-life crisis at the expense of his four-legged rivals. Last Thursday, the timeless gelding did it again, as he rallied from way back to overtake his competition late, and win the Grade 3 Sycamore Stakes at Keeneland. Ridden by Calvin Borel, the nine-year-old son of Prized proved too much for both longshot Southern Anthem and favored Musketier, rolling by the pair to win by a measured length. Brass Hat was met with a fitting greeting when he returned to Keeneland’s winner circle, as the crowd cheered in admiration. It was an ovation more for career accomplishments than a one-race victory celebration.

Brass Hat returned $11.60 to his happy supporters after covering the 12 furlongs over the turf in 2:30.73 for owner Fred Bradley. The winner‘s check of $60,000 boosted his impressive career total to $2,167,921. The win was the Kentucky homebred’s first victory at Keeneland in his sixth try. It was also the tenth win in thirty-nine lifetime starts for the battling bay gelding, as race in and race out, he has proven to be a rough and tough customer who is as much a threat in stakes races today as he was six years ago. Trained by his owner’s son, Buff Bradley, his racing career has proven to be one of the more interesting ones of any horse in recent years.

In 2004, Brass Hat was the winner of both the Ohio and Indiana Derbies seemingly out of nowhere. Missing much of his four-year-old season due to injury, Brass Hat returned in 2006 to set a track record with an easy win in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap. He then traveled across the world to run a bang-up second in the Dubai World Cup. Things would never come easy for this horse though, and Brass Hat’s large second place check was never issued after he was disqualified for having trace amounts of a banned medication in his system. More injuries would follow, but he would always be given time to recuperate back on the home farm. He would also consistently come back in strong form, running well on dirt, turf, or synthetics. Brass Hat won the Mass Cap in 2007, hit the board in the 2008 Donn, and took down the winner’s prize in the Louisville Handicap of 2009. In 2010 the saga continues.

With the Sycamore victory, Brass Hat became the second consecutive nine-year-old to win the race after Cloudy’s Knight turned the trick last year. Cloudy’s Knight wheeled right back to run second in the BC Marathon a few weeks later. When I see the BC pre-entries on Wednesday, I am hoping to see Brass Hat’s name. He would be a great addition to the mile and three-quarter Breeders’ Cup Marathon field. Hey, a nine-year-old came awfully close to winning it last year, why not Brass Hat? We already know he has the heart.

Photo by Tim Tiznow Reynolds

October 25, 2010

Zenyatta’s Revenge, or …Ten Reasons Why I Should Never Doubt the Queen

Sometimes I think I should have my head examined. Am I really picking Blame to defeat Zenyatta in this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic? I fully realize I am not going to win any popularity contests picking against the Queen of Racing. Now I know how the Grinch whole stole Christmas must have felt. Looking forward, I can only imagine what the afternoon of November 6th may have in store for me

1) Arriving at my Breeders’ Cup hotel, I am told they do not have my reservation. The desk clerk tells me I am more than welcome to a cot and to share the janitor’s closet with that guy, as he points to Andy Beyer
***The remainder of today's column can be found on Youbet.com*** Click Here

October 24, 2010

2 Miles from being Legen … wait for it … dary!

3,200 measly meters. That is all that stands in the way of So You Think from becoming a legend of the turf. He is already a superstar of Australian racing after yesterday’s convincing win in the $3 Million Cox Plate at Moonee Valley. The win in the Cox Plate, the second most prestigious race in all of Australia, was the second in a row for the son of High Chaparral, thus becoming the first horse in the history of the great race to win as both a three and a four-year-old.

So You Think now has the entire nation buzzing in admiration and anticipation. He has won each of his four races in 2010 with ease for his all-time great conditioner, 82-year-old Bart Cummings, and the best may be just around the corner. The repeat win in the Cox Plate was special, and proves that he is one of the best horses in the world, but there will be no time to rest on his laurels, for November 2 is looming.

The two miles I speak of, is of course, the demanding distance of the race that stops a nation. The $6 million Melbourne Cup is the biggest of the big down under, and it is only nine days away. So You Think will be aiming to create history by winning the Melbourne Cup. Only a handful of horses have won both the Cox Plate and Melbourne Cup, and for such an inexperienced horse to do it, would be legendary. While I have little doubt that he will be the best horse in the 24 horse field, major questions must be answered. The Melbourne Cup is after all a lot to ask for the young colt who has only raced ten times and has never run beyond 2040 meters. Can he do it? I think he can, and having 12-time Melbourne Cup winning trainer Bart Cummings in his corner can’t hurt his chances one little bit.

October 23, 2010

Longshots in the Breeders’ Cup? Youbet!

The Breeders' Cup has a long history of producing winners at big odds. Horses like Arcangues, Miss Alleged, Volponi, Lashkari, One Dreamer, Action This Day, Caressing, Miesque’s Approval, Desert Code, Vale of York, and Dancing in Silks have sent some lucky bettors home with smiles on their faces and cash filling their pockets. As approximately 200 quality horses ready to be pre-entered for the 2010 Breeders’ Cup, there is one thing you can count on, and that is great payouts in many of the races. With that in my mind, I have began my search for those horses most likely to light up the tote board on November 5 & 6.

CLASSIC - In a race dominated by the big 4 of Zenyatta, Blame, Lookin at Lucky, and Quality Road, the Classic could prove the toughest of any for a longshot to make a dent. If one does though, I believe it will be Musket Man who is as honest as they come. The son of Yonaguska is riding a five race losing streak, which should ensure high odds, but has run well every time. He has good experience over the track and distance coming in last year’s Derby, and with a little racing luck is likely to be right there at the eighth pole. I am not sure if he will win this, but at 20-1 or so, is a great play in the exotics.
***The remainder of today's column can be found on Youbet.com*** Click Here

October 22, 2010

Say It Ain’t So Paddy O

Paddy O’ Prado to the Classic? Big mistake I say.

Jerry Crawford is the manager of the Donegal Racing Partnership, the group that owns Paddy O’Prado. Yesterday Crawford announced the syndicate had decided at a recent meeting to run their colt in the Breeders’ Cup Classic rather than the Breeders‘ Cup Turf. Apparently this was a decision made after Crawford mulled over the options with trainer Dale Romans.


Paddy O‘Prado is one of the most exciting young turf horses American racing has seen in years. He has four impressive graded stakes wins on the grass in his last five tries. He is coming off a loss, but one in which he ran a big race when second in his first attempt on an off course, at 12 furlongs, and against older horses. It seemed to be the perfect prep for the biggest race on turf this nation offers.

Paddy O’Prado is a turf horse.

On dirt, Paddy O’Prado is a maiden. 7th, 3rd, and 6th. Three races on dirt and those are the results. In fairness, the third place finish was in the Kentucky Derby on the same track and the same distance as the Classic. That doesn’t mean much though, for this year’s Derby was simply not a good race. The track was sloppy and most of the best dirt horses did not run their race for various reasons. I ask you, what kind of shot would second place finisher, Ice Box, have in the Classic?

Paddy O’Prado is not a dirt horse.

Here is what trainer Romans had to say: “He ran well in the Derby on the same racetrack. It’s worth taking a shot. With the stallion potential of this horse, we’d like to see him do something big on dirt.”

Sounds like this decision was made to boost his value as a stallion. I wonder what finishing 8th in the Classic will do for his stud value. In the Turf, he had a real shot. Paddy is that good on grass. In the Classic, he has no shot. I realize that if he runs big in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, I will look foolish as the author of this column … I am not worried.

Paddy O’ Prado to the Classic? Big mistake I say.

October 21, 2010

Remembering ... Empire Maker

"Empire Maker is the best horse I have ever trained," said his trainer Bobby Frankel. "We weren't within 10 lengths of seeing this horse's best race." Strong words coming from a man who trained countless top horses in his Hall of Fame career. To understand this kind of great respect given to a horse who only raced eight times, you must start from the beginning.

I find it impossible to remember Empire Maker without first thinking of his parents. The mating of Unbridled and Toussaud was a match made in heaven. A Kentucky bred homebred for Juddmonte Farms, Toussaud, by El Gran Senor, was a top class turf female of the early 90‘s. Most notable of her American races was a win in the Grade 1 Gamely Handicap and a fantastic battle she gave the great Flawlessly, in a losing effort, in the 1993 Matriarch Stakes. Toussaud began her racing career in England, where she was also a group winner before coming to the U.S. Once in California, Toussaud was trained by Bobby Frankel. I remember her a hard knocking mare that fired every time. As a broodmare, she may have been even better. Besides Empire Maker, Toussaud produced grade I winners Chester House, Chiselling, and Honest Lady, as well as grade 2 winner Decarchy, and was named Broodmare of the Year in 2002. Her mate in 2000 was Unbridled. The winner of my all-time favorite Kentucky Derby, as well as the Breeders’ Cup Classic of 1990, Unbridled was all class. Like Toussaud, the Eclipse Award winning son of Fappiano may have been even better in the breeding shed. Despite dying of colic at a young age, Unbridled was one of the most prolific sires at the end of the 20th century with 48 stakes winners, including siring a different winner of all three legs of the Triple Crown, in Gridstone, Red Bullet, and Empire Maker.

It can be difficult to make a big impression in only eight lifetime starts but that is precisely what Empire Maker was able to do. In fact, he made an impression before he ever raced. So impressed with the beautiful bay colt, many surrounding Empire Maker placed future book wagers on him for the 2003 Kentucky Derby before he had run in his first race. It would be no surprise then when the Frankel trained juvenile made it to the track for the first time, he would be bet down in a big way. Sent off at odds of 2-5 in a maiden race at Belmont on October 20, 2002, Empire Maker cruised to an easy win under jockey Jerry Bailey. He was instantly tabbed on everyone’s short list of early Kentucky Derby contenders. The breeding, the looks, the talent, this young colt seemingly had it all. I also jumped on his bandwagon after the one race.

Flash forward to the following Spring at Gulfstream Park. Prior to the 2003 Florida Derby, Empire Maker had just a maiden victory to his credit. From the beginning, Frankel and Juddmonte had only one thing in mind for this fantastic specimen. The First Saturday in May had always been the plan. Accordingly, he was brought along slowly, and in fact had only two starts since his maiden win. Third in the Remsen, and then second in the Sham Stakes, Empire Maker had shown potential in both races, but now only seven weeks from Louisville, it was time to put up or shut up. Adding blinkers for the first time in the Florida Derby, Empire Maker proved that the plan was working, and then some. With one powerhouse quarter mile, he drew off in the grade 1 race and suddenly all of his great potential was reality. Empire Maker won the Florida Derby by 9 ¾ lengths that day, and he was now a strong favorite to give Bobby Frankel his first Kentucky Derby winner. There would be one more race before the Derby, four weeks later in the Wood Memorial.

On a muddy Aqueduct strip, Empire Maker used the Wood Memorial as the last prep for the 129th Kentucky Derby. Confidently ridden, Empire Maker hit the wire one half length ahead of new rival Funny Cide, with the rest of the field far back. I remember all the discussion after the race … had Funny Cide really given Empire Maker everything he wanted, or was the Juddmonte colt just toying with his competition and saving something for the Derby? We would soon find out in Louisville.

Unfortunately, the great plan to have Empire Maker peak at Churchill Downs developed a hitch. On Tuesday before the derby, Empire Maker would suffer a foot bruise. Sent off at the highest odds of his career, but still a clear favorite at 5-2, he would run a fine race in the Run for the Roses. Fine was not good enough as Funny Cide improved off his strong Wood Memorial effort to take home the Derby. Empire Maker was second best, 1 ¾ lengths short of glory. Was the bruise the reason for his loss? Funny Cide ran huge, but still you have to wonder knowing how good Empire Maker could be. With no Triple Crown possible, Frankel decided to rest his star and take another shot at Funny Cide in five weeks.

Empire Maker’s day in the son would come ironically on a sloppy track, as heavy rains left the Belmont Park oval sloppy for the Test of Champions. Funny Cide, who had romped at the Preakness in Empire Maker’s absence and was trying to become racing’s 12th Triple Crown champion, went out early in an attempt to lead his foes on a twelve furlong merry chase. Empire Maker would not let the favorite have an easy lead though, and sat within a length of Funny Cide. When rider Jerry Bailey asked for his charge to make his move, Empire Maker quickly moved to his rival on the far turn. The Derby and Preakness winner tried to fight back, but could offer little resistance to the talented son of Unbridled. It would be rally of the Illinois Derby winner Ten Most Wanted who would provide the only challenge to Empire Maker in the stretch. The Juddmonte homebred would have plenty left to hold off Ten Most Wanted by three-quarters of a length, while the Triple Crown hopeful finished a well beaten third. My thoughts after the race included disappointment in not having a Triple Crown winner, but also thinking the best horse had won.

After the Belmont, Empire Maker had regained most of his lofty reputation and new big plans were laid out for him. First, he would use Saratoga’s Jim Dandy as his return to the races and prep race for the Travers. Heavily favored, his only competition appeared to be streaking front runner Strong Hope. Sitting well off the early pace, Empire Maker would be left with too much to do in his first race since the marathon in the Belmont. He would come with a valiant run on the outside to finish second by a quickly diminishing neck to the resilient Strong Hope. A great prep, but it would prove to be a prep for nothing. Setbacks occurred before both the Travers and then the Jockey Club Gold Cup. As valuable as he would be as a sire, no chances were taken.

Empire Maker was retired from racing and was sent to stand for a lofty fee of $100,000 at Khalid Abdullah's Juddmonte Farms in Kentucky’s Bluegrass. Passing on his wonderful bloodlines, Empire Maker has already proven a sire of top class, siring numerous stakes winners from his first few crops, including recent winner of the Grade 1 Spinster Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic contender, Acoma. While only the sky is the limit for Empire Maker as a stallion, who knows how good he could have become as a race horse. His career was brilliant but brief, leaving fans wondering what might have been. I remember you Empire Maker.

October 20, 2010

Who Am I ???

*Bred in Kentucky, I was descendant of popular sire lines of both Northern Dancer and Raise a Native.

*I was not a consistent winner, but all but one of my victories came in graded stakes.

*The first four victories of my life came in the West, Midwest, East, and South.

*My racing career was cut short by injury, but at least I went out a winner, with a near seven length score in my finale.

*My two most important victories were the same two as my sire; we also share the same number of lifetime starts.

*I had more stakes wins in the Land of Lincoln than any other state.

*The average winning margin in my graded stakes victories was four lengths.

*I saw racing action in three different years, but 80% of my wins occurred in my second season.

*Not blessed with great racing luck, I unfortunately became known for my bad trips including in the Breeders‘ Cup.

*Right or wrong, I always felt it was my broodmare sire that sent me down a questionable path.

*Since my retirement, I have resided in New York, California, and Kentucky.

You should know by now … Who Am I ???

October 19, 2010

So You Think He’s a Super Horse

So you think America’s Zenyatta and Europe’s Goldikova have the super horse market cornered? Not so fast my friends. You only need take a quick look down under to see that there is more out there besides the two great mares. On the precipice of equine greatness is Australia’s new racing hero, So You Think. He is a four-year-old New Zealand bred son of High Chaparral, who will be out to make history when he goes for back-to-back victories in Saturday‘s $3 million Cox Plate.

The Cox Plate is regarded as the best weight-for-age race in Australia and is the second most important contest in the horse racing mad nation after only the Melbourne Cup. In recent years, The Cox Plate has featured large fields and wide open affairs. Not so this year, as only nine others have entered to challenge the heavily favored So You Think, who won last year by 2 ½ lengths. If he can send his throng of backers home happy, he will become the first horse since Northerly in 2002 to win consecutive runnings of the 2040 meter (just over 1 ¼ miles) turf race at Moonee Valley Racing Club. More impressively, with a win, So You Think would become the first horse in history to take the historic race at both three and four years old. Trained by the living legend, Bart Cummings, he has given his supporters great reason to be confident with three powerful wins leading up to the Cox Plate.

His last race was in the Group 1 Yalumba Stakes on October 9. In that race, rider Steven Arnold, who has yet to be beaten on So You Think, had the dark bay colt stalking early leader Red Ruler before quickly taking command three furlongs from the wire. From there, So You Think displayed why he is so highly regarded. Take a look.

The Yalumba victory was So You Think's third victory in a group one stakes and raised his overall record to six wins and two seconds from nine starts. Perhaps even more exciting than the prospect of winning the Cox Plate again, is news that Cummings said that the four-year-old will try to pull off the great Australian double by wheeling back in the Melbourne Cup on November 2. Cummings turned the trick once before with Saintly, who completed the Cox Plate-Melbourne Cup double back in 1996. The Melbourne Cup will present new challenges as it is contested at the demanding distance of two miles.  If So You Think is successful in both races, he will instantly become a legendary figure in Australian sports, but first things first, and the Cox Plate will not be handed to him.

Chief among his rivals will be the star mare, More Joyous. The Gai Waterhouse trained front runner is in the midst of an impressive winning streak and enters the big race as the clear second choice. Shoot Out may merit the role of third choice in the Cox Plate, but will do so with replacement rider Corey Brown, after the shocking death of Stathi Katsidis, who was found dead in his home yesterday morning. Whobegotyou and Zipping are considered the next two with the best shot to derail the So You Think train. In the end, these horses are likely only running for second money though. The 2010 should be all about So You Think.

Move over Zenyatta, step aside Goldikova, there may be a new sheriff on the racing globe, and his name is So You Think.

Photo by Su-Ann Khaw

October 18, 2010

The Breeders’ Cup Scramble is On

You know the old saying, in order to make an omelet, you need to break a few eggs. This past weekend provided the last set of races for Breeders’ Cup hopefuls to turn their connections dreams into reality and be part of the smorgasbord that is the World Championships of Racing. For some though, it proved to be the end of the BC road as hopes were cracked and left to be swept off the kitchen floor.

Keeneland’s Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup displayed the best performance of the weekend, as Harmonious sizzled home by more than four lengths in the race of the year for three-year-old turf fillies. The win sends the talented daughter of Dynaformer to the BC Filly & Mare Turf on a high note. That is hopefully, as the decision to send her has not yet been made. Meanwhile third place finisher Evening Jewel tired a bit Saturday, but may prove one of the ones to beat in the shorter distance of the Filly & Mare Sprint, and Check the Label, previously thought of as one of the division leaders, likely saw her Breeders’ Cup hopes fizzle after a dull sixth place finish.  ***The remainder of today's column can be found on Youbet.com*** Click Here

October 17, 2010

Who’s That Girl

"Breeders' Cup!," trainer Stanley Gold shouted in the winner's circle after Saturday's $350,000 My Dear Girl Stakes at Calder. Clearly flush with excitement and pride for his filly Awesome Feather, Gold has good reason to be excited about being in Louisville for the BC Juvenile Fillies on November 5. In a performance that left her rider Jeffrey Sanchez searching for competition, Awesome Feather left no doubt that she is the best juvenile in Florida as she smoked her competition yesterday by more than eight lengths. The victory in the final leg of the filly division of the Florida Stallion Series completed an authoritative sweep and sends the daughter of Awesome of Course to the Breeders’ Cup undefeated in five starts. While the rest of the nation may be wondering who’s that girl, anyone who has seen her run at the South Florida oval knows that she is the genuine article.

It was the fourth consecutive convincing stakes win for the bay filly after winning her debut in a maiden race on May 1. Awesome Feather is a Florida homebred of owner Jacks or Better Farm, the same stable that campaigned Jackson Bend to juvenile domination at Calder before selling him last Fall. The My Dear Girl win was the first at a two-turns for Awesome Feather who has progressed each race in distance from the 4 ½ furlong maiden, to wins in the J J‘s Dream, Desert Vixen, and finally the Susan‘s Girl Stakes at seven furlongs. Gold had mentioned that a good performance yesterday would earn her a trip to the Breeders’ Cup and yesterday, he got even more than he bargained for from his undefeated star.

Awesome Feather broke sharply and was content to sit right off the early pacesetter, My Precious Baby. The race never looked in doubt as her jockey Sanchez sat like a statue on the fluid moving filly. Awesome Feather eased by the speed on the far turn and quickly opened up with little or no urging. Sanchez took a few looks, but their was no one there. She effortlessly extended her advantage to reach the wire 8 ¼ lengths better than second place finisher Lily’s Hope. Awesome Feather finished the mile and one-sixteenth under wraps in 1:48.05. A time that doesn’t seem like much until you consider the winner of the male division of the Florida Stallion Series, Reprized Halo, ran almost a full 2 ½ seconds slower yesterday over the traditionally slow Calder surface.

Yesterday, she answered the distance question, next will come the class test. The competition she will face in the Breeders’ Cup will be a big step up for Awesome Feather, but she may be enough horse to prove too much for even that competition. If I was Stanley Gold, I would be excited too.

Photo by Jim Lisa

October 16, 2010

The QE II Challenge Cup is a Melting Pot of Female Grass Class

Eight horses and not a mediocre one in the bunch. This afternoon’s Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup has drawn an all-star field of three-year-old turf fillies set to stake their claim as tops in their division. Run at nine furlongs over the Keeneland turf course, the QE II has carved out a spot as the premiere race of the excellent Fall meet at the Lexington, Kentucky track, and this year is no exception. They will be coming from the East Coast, Midwest, West Coast, Canada, and France to compete, and one thing is for sure, the winner of this race will have earned a true grade one victory. Evening Jewel, a Californian, and Check the Label, based in Maryland, are the two with the most credentials and should vie for favoritism today.
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October 15, 2010

Remembering ... Ack Ack

In a career filled with the training of great horses, it may have been in the transforming of a former sprinter into a sensational Horse of the Year, which proved to be Charlie Whittingham’s greatest professional accomplishment. Ack Ack was a bay son of Battle Joined out of the Turn-To mare Fast Turn foaled in 1966, and he did not come to work with the Bald Eagle until he already had two seasons under his girth. In those first two seasons, Ack Ack displayed a penchant for winning, but also a preference for shorter distances. His racing career began the year before I was born in 1968. As a juvenile, Ack Ack managed only one win and two seconds in three starts. At the time he was trained by Frank Bonsal, for owner and breeder Harry F. Guggenheim.

His sophomore season began in South Florida and Ack Ack began to flash his talents. Three straight wins ensued, including Hialeah’s Bahamas Stakes, but he failed when trying a distance for the first time in the Everglades Stakes. Back at shorter distances, Ack Ack romped in an allowance race at Keeneland and then scored an impressive victory in the Derby Trial. In that race he broke the track record by running the mile in 1:34 2/5. The sharp time did not persuade his connections to go on the Triple Crown trail though as they knew their charge was best in one-turn races. While Majestic Prince and Arts and Letters were deservingly getting all the headlines with their series of battles in the Derby, Preakness, and Belmont, Ack Ack stayed off the major stage. He was placed first in Belmont’s Withers Stakes and then finished second in two straight distance races at Garden State Park, before ending his season with a big win in the one-turn Arlington Classic. At year end, his sparkling three-year-old record showed seven wins and three seconds in eleven starts.

Offered as part of a full stable dispersal sale due to the owner’s failing health, Ack Ack, was not sold. It was no wonder as his reserve price was rumored to be one million dollars. A huge number as the 1960‘s came to a close. Still running for his ailing owner, Ack Ack was sent to California to work with his new conditioner, Charlie Whittingham.

Ack Ack began his career as an older horse, and for his new trainer, with a troubled trip when fourth in the Premeire Handicap. He would go on to win the Los Angeles Handicap at Hollywood and the Autumn Days Handicap on the Santa Anita turf course. He also set a track record of 1:02 1/5 for 5 ½ furlongs in an easy allowance score at Del Mar. At four, he may have only raced five times, winning four of them, but it was clear that Whittingham‘s new charge was one of the fastest horses in America. Although he specialized in sprint races, his trainer saw the potential for distance racing because of the bay colt’s breeding. Whittingham mapped out a plan to test him in the biggest races on the West Coast.

Ack Ack began his fourth season of racing the day after New Year’s by finishing second in the Palos Verdes Handicap and then quickly wheeled back to win the seven furlong San Carlos Handicap easily for Guggenheim. The sickly owner would not live to see the transformation from sprinter to superstar though, as he died in January of 1971. Whittingham was able to convince friends Buddy Fogelson and his wife, actress Greer Garson, to buy a majority interest in Ack Ack for a reported $500,000, while the wily trainer retained one-third interest. It was money well spent all around as Whittingham would be correct about the horse and Ack Ack would go on a major roll for his new owners.

In his first route try in nearly two years, Ack Ack won the San Pasqual at 1 1/16 miles. Next came a win in the nine furlong San Antonio Stakes. The historic Big Cap would be next, and the former sprint specialist was assigned 130 pounds in his first try at a classic distance. He opened up a large lead and was able to hit the wire 1 ½ lengths clear of the classy Cougar II. Proving his amazing versatility, Ack Ack returned to the races, after a brief rest, to score easily in the Hollywood Express at just 5 ½ furlongs. Next would come only his second ever try on the grass, and he once again dominated from the get go in the 1 1/8 mile American Handicap, setting a course record in the process. His next test would come in the Hollywood Gold Cup. On a six-race winning streak, Ack Ack was asked to carry 134 pounds. It marked the fifth straight race where he carried rider Willie Shoemaker and enough lead to hit at least 130 pounds. The heavy impost and the ten furlongs mattered little as Ack Ack rolled home much the best.

Unfortunately, Ack Ack would not be afforded the opportunity to build on his lengthy win streak. A life-threatening bout of colic saw to that, and the speedy son of Battle Joined was retired. Despite not racing after the Gold Cup on July 17, his superlative five-year-old season earned an embarrassment of riches at the Eclipse Awards. Ack Ack was named Horse of the Year, as well as both the Champion Older Horse and Champion Sprinter awards. Ack Ack retired as a champion with a career record that displayed his marvelous consistency, 19 victories and 6 second place finishes in only 27 starts and career earnings totaling $636,641.

With his racing career behind him, Whittingham’s star project went to stud at Claiborne Farm in Kentucky where he once again was a big success. Ack Ack sired a diverse group of 55 stakes winners. Among his notable offspring was the great turf talent Youth, who won the Canadian International at 1 5/8 miles and the prestigious D C International by ten lengths, as part of Ack Ack’s first crop. He also sired a favorite of mine in Broad Brush, who inherited his sire’s consistency and toughness, and became a champion sire as well. He lived at Claiborne until his death on December 28, 1990 at the age of 24. Ack Ack was buried at Claiborne Farm. Elected into Racing’s Hall of Fame in 1986, he was truly one of a kind. Sprinting, routing, grass, or dirt, Ack Ack, with the help of his legendary trainer, did it all. I remember you Ack Ack.

October 14, 2010

International Day Gives N. America a Chance to Defend Home Turf

The match-up is set ... It’s North America versus Europe Saturday at Woodbine. Three grade 1 turf races represent the last major chance to impress before the Breeders’ Cup.  The big day also offers another turf gauge between the respective talents of grass runners on both sides of the big pond. 

The day’s biggest prize is the $2 million Canadian International over a mile and a half on Woodbine’s excellent turf course. Team Europe is represented with a four strong contingent, in Redwood, Chinchon, Joshua Tree, and Mores Wells. While the home side counters with Marsh Side, Al Khali, Fifty Proof, Simmard, and Memorial Maniac.   Redwood and Chinchon have already raided our side of the Atlantic successfully and deserve great respect, but there is one colt in the field who I feel is on the verge of something special.  His name is Al Khali, and if I am right, he is ready to make a lot of noise, not only Saturday, but also three weeks later in the Breeders' Cup Turf.  His Bowling Green performance was the tip-off, now let's see what the son of Medaglia D'oro can do with clear sailing.

For the distaff turfers, the $1 million E.P. Taylor Stakes is a race dominated by the girls from across the pond. Shalanaya, Lahaleeb, Silver Grey, Reggane, Contredanse, Gallic Star, Pachattack, Akarlina form the formidable eight-prong cast of invaders. Only trainer Roger Attfield stands alone to defend the honor of North America with his pair of Mekong Melody and Miss Keller.  With 80% of the field belonging to the Europeans, I would have to be crazy to pick against them, right?  Crazy like a fox!  Miss Keller has quickly become one of my favorite turf horses.  I always knew the four-year-old daughter of Montjeu was a consistent performer on the lawn, but with her recent performances, I am ready to call her one of the top turf fillies out there.  Come Saturday, she will be a grade 1 winner.

In the $500,000 Nearctic Stakes, North America has the advantage with nine of the twelve entries representing the home team. The locals have Fatal Bullet, Field Commission, Grand Adventure, Bridgetown, Bogue Chitto, Towzee, Signature Red, Sneaking Uponyou, and Woodbourne. The Euros counter with Amico Fritz, Serious Attitude, and Balthazaar's Gift.  My pick?  You guessed it, I am all over the home side once again.  This is the time of year when good three-year-olds can step up and defeat their elders.  That is exactly what I will be looking for in this grade 1 sprint, with the talented and lightly raced youngster Bridgetown getting the job done and proving he belongs with the top turf sprinters in the world as he runs down the speedy Fatal Bullet in the late stages.

Call me a homer, but those are my picks, and I’m sticking with them.

October 13, 2010

Who Am I ???

*Although I was bred outside the U.S., my sire, grandsire, and I are all members of America’s Hall of Fame.

*Well traveled, I competed at 12 different racetracks, winning at ten of them.

*My impressive winning streak was halted at Gulfstream Park at odds of 1-5.

*I was victorious in just shy of two-thirds of my lifetime starts, although my winning percentage was worse each progressive season.

*Saratoga was always a track I enjoyed visiting; with a record of 5 for 5 there, you can understand why.

*I was ridden by the same jockey in all of my first 23 races.

*English was my second language; Français était ma langue originale.

*In my Eclipse Award winning season, I raced more than ten times.

*Sadly, I did not survive long enough to retire from my racing career.

*I was a multiple stakes winner in two different nations.

*I set the pace at Churchill Downs on May the 4th, but I could not quite hold off my competition.

You should know by now … Who Am I ???

23 Days and Counting … ZATT’s Breeders’ Cup Rankings

1. Bright Horizon 7-2
2. Giant Oak 6-1
3. Eldaafer 6-1
4. Alcomo 8-1
5. A.U. Miner 8-1

1. Winter Memories 2-1
2. White Moonstone 3-1
3. Roxy Gap 6-1
4. New Normal 8-1
5. Together 5-1

1. Champagne D’oro 8-1
2. Evening Jewel 4-1
3. Rightly So 5-1
4. Sara Louise 6-1
5. Dubai Majesty 5-1

1. Tell a Kelly 4-1
2. Summer Laugh 8-1
3. Awesome Feather 8-1
4. A Z Warrior 7-2
5. R Heat Lightning 5-1

1. Midday 6-5
2. Red Desire 10-1
3. Éclair de Lune 8-1
4. Hibaayeb 6-1
5. Ave 8-1

1. Blind Luck 5-2
2. Havre de Grace 5-1
3. Biofuel 12-1
4. Life at Ten 7-2
5. Persistently 12-1

1. Rogue Romance 5-2
2. Soldat 6-1
3. Formosina 8-1
4. Air Support 8-1
5. Cozy Kitten 6-1

1. Fatal Bullet 8-1
2. Chamberlain Bridge 9-2
3. Rose Catherine 5-1
4. California Flag 4-1
5. Silver Timber 6-1

1. Tizway 6-1
2. Here Comes Ben 5-1
3. Crown of Thorns 4-1
4. Warrior’s Reward 10-1
5. Vineyard Haven 6-1

1. Uncle Mo 3-2
2. Stay Thirsty 15-1*
3. Boys at Tosconova 4-1
4. Jaycito 6-1
5. Pathfork 10-1

1. Goldikova 6-5
2. Gio Ponti 4-1
3. Violon Sacre 30-1
4. Paco Boy 8-1
5. Sidney’s Candy 8-1

1. Big Drama 9-2
2. Wise Dan 10-1
3. Girolamo 4-1
4. Smiling Tiger 6-1
5. Atta Boy Roy 12-1

1. Paddy O’Prado 6-1
2. Workforce 3-1
3. Al Khali 12-1
4. Fame and Glory 5-1
5. Behkabad 5-1

1. Blame 5-1
2. Zenyatta 8-5
3. Quality Road 5-1
4. Lookin at Lucky 4-1
5. Musket Man 20-1

October 12, 2010

Breeders' Cup Hunch Play

Sometimes when handicapping you just have to let the numbers go, and trust in fate.  2010 may offer the hunch play of all hunch plays ...

The Breeders’ Cup has named Dos Equis as the Official Beer Sponsor of the 2010 Breeders’ Cup World Championships.  It is the third year that Dos Equis will serve as the Official Beer of the Breeders' Cup. 

As almost everyone knows, Dos Equis is the beer behind the brilliant advertising campaign featuring The Most Interesting Man in the World

What is this international man of pure cool's tagline?  "I don't always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis.  Stay Thirsty My Friends." 

Guess who is pointing for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile?  Stay Thirsty.  My friends, that is too much coincidence to be ignored.

Stay Thirsty My Friends!

October 11, 2010

Zenyatta’s Souper Little Brother

While Zenyatta may never have tried the turf, it appears her little brother has taken to it like a fish to water. Live Oak Plantation’s Souper Spectacular kept his grass record perfect in two starts with a win in an allowance race yesterday at Keeneland. Stalking the pace from a catbird seat on the outside, the three-year-old colt took a slim advantage entering the stretch, and pulled clear for a 1 ½ length victory under rider John Velazquez. The chestnut son of Giant’s Causeway completed the nine furlongs on the firm turf in a respectable 1:49.35 to raise his overall record to 2 wins in 4 starts. Soon to be three-time champion Zenyatta is a daughter of Street Cry, but both horses share a common dam in Vertigineux, a 15-year-old broodmare sired by Kris S. Besides Zenyatta and Souper Spectacular, Vertigineux also produced the multiple grade 1 winner, Balance.
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October 10, 2010

Uncle Mo and Gio

What would Uncle Mo do for an encore after his swiftly run 14 ¼ length runaway victory when breaking his maiden in his debut at Saratoga? Winning one of the most prestigious juvenile stakes in the world with disdainful ease would do nicely. Yesterday at Belmont Park, Uncle Mo did just that, as he announced himself as the favorite for next month’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with an impressive romp in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes. With rider Johnny Velazquez acting as pilot, Uncle Mo cruised to the finish line in 1:34.51 on a fast Belmont strip. It was one of the fastest final times in the rich history of the Champagne. In fact it was the third fastest ever, behind only champions Devil’s Bag and Seattle Slew. Trained by Todd Pletcher and owned by Repole Stable, the bay son of Indian Charlie strode clear from his opposition after setting fast early fractions in tandem with longshot I’m Steppin’ It Up to waltz home 4 ¾ lengths the best. Third choice Mountain Town ran a huge race to finish second, and was nearly ten lengths clear of the rest of the field.

What has impressed me so much about Uncle Mo so far is the way he has finished off these races. Not looking like a one-turn specialist in any way, he strides out to the wire as if added distance will matter little to this talent. To run a final quarter yesterday in 24 seconds after being involved in a speed dual was simply special. After the race, Pletcher said the sky’s the limit for his charge, and I wholeheartedly agree. I’m not one for juvenile hyperbole, but Uncle Mo’s first two races are as impressive as anything I’ve seen in a long time. I remember when Seattle Slew began his career 34 years ago, and this is similar. Of course, he has 15 more great performances and a Triple Crown to go to approach the rarified air of Slew, but at the very least, I can report that Uncle Mo is the real deal.

If Uncle Mo defines equine potential, than we need only to look to another of yesterday’s top performers to understand the meaning of equine class. Gio Ponti, coming back after a tough luck loss in Arlington’s Million and dropping down to the one mile distance for the first time this year, exuded class in winning Keeneland’s $600,000 Shadwell Turf Mile. Rider Ramon Dominguez knew what he had yesterday, and he was able to sit chilly-willy on the five-year-old champion, as Gio Ponti smoothly split horses on his way to an effortless one length tally. The victory marked the sixth grade I victory for the dual Eclipse Award winner, and pushed his lifetime earnings over $4.6 million. In his four-season career to date, Gio Ponti has yet to run a bad race. The victory was his 11th in 22 starts, and should set him up perfectly for an attempt in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. Last year he ran second to the great Zenyatta in the BC Classic, but with the Classic being run on a traditional dirt surface this year, it would seem that the decision to run in the Mile instead of the Classic would be the prudent one. In the Mile, things will not get any easier though, as waiting in the wings is another great mare, two-time defending champion Goldikova. After yesterday’s sublime performance, you would have to give America’s best hope, Gio Ponti, a real chance against the great French mare.

October 9, 2010

The Legend of Secretariat - A Movie Review

America loves a winner, and Secretariat was about as big a winner as you could get. 37 years later the big red colt is further immortalized as the star, and namesake of a major motion picture. It was a movie that I enjoyed, and more importantly the non-racing crowd enjoyed. Disney’s big screen depiction of the great horse is based on historical facts mixed liberally with Hollywood script. Because it is not meant to be a documentary, I arrived at the theatre determined to detach myself from everything I knew about him. This proved to be impossible, as there were very few stretches in the film where I was not critiquing the realness of the action. But, at the same time, I was still able to fall smoothly into the intended flow of the movie, and it was fun. Disney’s version of Secretariat is more of a traditional, formulaic, feel-good movie, than a bastion of historical accuracy. Fine. I am OK with that, especially when I realize that of the millions of people that will pay to see this movie, less than one percent will be hardcore race fans. Their version left the entire crowd cheering as Secretariat drew away from Sham in his masterpiece that was the Belmont Stakes.
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October 8, 2010

Remembering … Secretariat

The legend began on July 4, 1972. It was in the 2nd race at Aqueduct, a maiden special weight at 5 ½ furlongs for the youngsters. The best horse would not win the race, but on that Independence Day 38 years ago, a beautiful reddish chestnut colt announced himself to the world. He would run fourth, beaten 1 ¼ lengths after breaking slowly, being blocked a few times, and finishing full of run on the inside. It would prove to be the only time any horse would finish in front of Secretariat in his first eleven races.

Barely older than the great horse myself, Secretariat represents my very first memories of thoroughbred racing. My strong feelings for him are honestly an amalgamation of a little boy’s hero worship, and of the way my father saw and talked about him. The two-year-old Virginia bred colt would not take long to show everyone how special he was. Secretariat broke his maiden easily in his next start, eleven days later, winning another special weight at Aqueduct by six lengths. After winning his third start impressively at 2-5, Secretariat would make his stakes debut in Saratoga’s Sanford Stakes, where he faced off with the highly regarded Linda’s Chief. It would be my first opportunity to see Big Red in person. Secretariat would not disappoint. Linda’s Chief ran a big race that day, but still was little competition for the budding star. Years later, I would study the pristine program, with my Dad’s perfectly round circle around his number, and reminisce that it was my first encounter with true equine greatness.

In a Preakness precursor, the Hopeful Stakes would take Secretariat’s fantastic Sanford performance to a whole new thrilling level. On that August afternoon at the Spa, Big Red walked out of the gate and fell far behind the rest of the nine horse field. Four furlongs from the wire it looked like it would not be his day. A quarter of a mile later, Secretariat was on the lead and at that moment, everyone knew. The move from last to first was pure electricity, and as completed the formality of cantering down the Saratoga stretch, Secretariat was already a superstar within the racing world. The rest of the world would join in due time.

Left in his wake in the Hopeful was a colt named Stop the Music, who became good enough that Fall to become a juvenile champion, if only he had been born a different year. Stop the Music would run a marvelous race in both colts next start, getting within a 1 ¾ lengths of Secretariat at the finish of the Futurity. But in what had become the norm, Secretariat was only toying with his foe. The Champagne Stakes would be next at Belmont, and my father likes to tell his story of the best laid plans, where him and his racing pals had seen enough in the Futurity to think Stop the Music actually had a shot against Secretariat at much higher odds. Apparently he was not alone, as only minutes before post time, the two colts were practically the same odds. Dad changed his mind and put his money on the better horse. Rightfully so, as the powerful chestnut roared off the final turn to prove much the best in the prestigious stakes race. In an ironic turn for my father, Secretariat was disqualified and placed second for impeding second place finisher Stop the Music early in the stretch. If there were thoughts of an emerging rivalry between the two colts, Secretariat dispatched them rather rudely with an eight length runaway in the sloppy Laurel Futurity. Secretariat would finish off his first season by hitting my home state for an easy score in the rich Garden State Futurity.

The official record may say that the son of Bold Ruler, out of the Princequillo mare Somethingroyal, ran 9 times, with seven wins as a two year-old, but those who saw him knew he was something very special. The troubled trip debut loss, and the questionable DQ in the Champagne could not detract from his sheer brilliance. The Meadow Stable homebred of Penny Tweedy Chenery would be rewarded when the Eclipse Awards were handed out, by not only winning Champion Juvenile award, but also becoming one of the few horses in history to win the Horse of the Year title at just two years old. For trainer Lucien Laurin, and regular rider Ron Turcotte, it was validation of what they believed since early on … this horse was destined for greatness.

For a thoroughbred race horse, the three-year-old season is the glamour year. The world tunes in for the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes that make up America’s Triple Crown. It is racing’s Holy Grail. A horse can become immortalized if he is outstanding enough to somehow sweep all three races. The problem was, it had not been accomplished since Citation dominated back in 1948. The early part of the sophomore season boils down to only a series of preps designed to have your horse peak for the First Saturday in May. For Secretariat, the pressure was on after his superlative juvenile season and news that he had been syndicated for stallion duty for an unheard sum of $6 million.

Secretariat’s first race at three was the Bay Shore Stakes at Aqueduct, and he was quick to show the form that had made him a star in 1972. He powered past the field in the stretch to win by nearly five lengths. His next start was the Gotham Stakes in which he was tested a bit by Champagne Charlie, before pulling clear to win by three, and setting a track record of 1:33 2/5 for the mile. The Wood Memorial was now the only race that stood between Secretariat and a glorious run for the roses. In the Wood he would be introduced to a new challenger. Sham had developed late in his juvenile season for trainer Pancho Martin and had been very impressive early that Spring in California. Secretariat, unbeknownst to most, was suffering from an abscess below his lip. The Wood proved to be completely un-Secretariat like, as the big horse struggled home in third, while his speedy entry mate narrowly held off the rally of Sham. Heading to the Derby there were many worries for the Secretariat camp. He had been beaten in the Wood, while his sire, Bold Ruler, was a great one, but questions of his ability to father a horse who could run a distance persisted, and groom Eddie Sweat was fretting daily over the condition of his star’s mouth. These worries would seem silly a few weeks later.

I now choose to let the video replays of Secretariat’s amazing run through racing’s most important series of races speak for themselves, for my mere words can not do him justice. Suffice it to say, In becoming our first Triple Crown winner in 25 years, he ran the greatest Kentucky Derby ever, ran even better in an electrifying last to first jaw-dropper in the Preakness, and then in the Belmont, Secretariat ran a race that will forever be held as the gold standard for which all great thoroughbreds will be judged.

I was lucky enough to be in the stands that fateful day at Belmont Park, and when Secretariat sprinted down the Belmont stretch, I still remember the awesome energy and feeling of the stands rocking beneath my small feet. After what I consider far and away the finest performance by a race horse in my lifetime, Secretariat did have a few setbacks, when he finished a dull second to Onion in the Whitney, and was second best to a great effort by Prove Out in the sloppy Woodward Stakes. For the most part, however, Secretariat was sensational. He took the road show to Chicago for the Arlington Invitational and won for fun. After the shocking loss in the Whitney, he ran won of his best races in winning the Marlboro Cup. It was my final opportunity to see Secretariat in person, and it was awesome. The field included Secretariat’s wonderful older stablemate, Riva Ridge, who had won the previous year’s Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes, and had been begun the revival of Penny Tweedy Chenery’s struggling Meadow Stable. Riva Ridge proved much the best of the all-star field save one, as he offered little resistance against the speed and power that was Secretariat. In winning the Marlboro, Big Red smashed another world record, running the 1 1/8 miles race in 1:45 2/5. When trainer Lucien Laurin decided to try the big horse on grass a little later that Fall, race fans were once again treated to something extraordinary. Secretariat defeated a top class field of turf horses in the Man O’ War Stakes by five lengths, in track record time of 2:24 4/5 for the 12 furlongs.

Secretariat’s last race came against older horses in the grassy Canadian International Stakes at Woodbine in Toronto, Canada. It was his second career turf start and the first time he was asked to go the demanding distance of 1 5/8 miles. It proved to be vintage Secretariat, as Big Red rolled home by 6 ½ lengths. The ease of the victory made it seem as if he could have won that day by twenty. It was a fitting way for the champ to end his career. To the surprise on no one, Secretariat was once again named Horse of the Year, as well as collecting Eclipse Awards as the Champion Three-Year-Old Male and the Champion Male Turf Horse.

Because of the syndication deal, there would be no older racing career for Big Red. After retirement, Secretariat was sent to Seth Hancock’s Claiborne Farm where he worked towards rewarding those eager backers who made him the richest syndicated horse ever, after the completion of his juvenile season. As a sire, Secretariat could not possibly live up to his superhero like racing feats, and he did not. He did, however, become a very good sire who had many top horses both here and abroad, and two of his most fabulous offspring, Lady’s Secret and Risen Star, were the ones who most closely displayed flashes of their father’s greatness. Unfortunately the great horse’s life was cut short by the debilitating disease laminitis. Secretariat was put down, to the dismay of a nation, at the age of 19 on October 4, 1989. Adding insight to what made Secretariat tick, was an autopsy that revealed that his heart weighed close to 22 pounds, more than double the size of a normal thoroughbred. With his place in history safe, the only debate is whether he was the greatest that ever lived. In reliving the Belmont Stakes, it is hard to argue against him.

My remembrance of the great horse was decidedly geared towards his racing career. For more information on the colorful people that cared for Secretariat, and the coin toss which ultimately decided his ownership, I urge you to run, not walk, to your local movie theatre to see Disney’s Secretariat. As of today, Big Red is a motion picture star. I know I will be one of the first on line. I remember you Secretariat.

October 7, 2010

I Want Mo, Mo, Mo

After a performance like this, don‘t we all want Mo, Mo, Mo ?

It’s difficult to steal the show on the biggest afternoon at Saratoga, especially if you are running in a maiden special weight, but that is precisely what a juvenile son of Indian Charlie was able to do. Uncle Mo turned in one of the most dazzling debuts of recent years, and he did it in front of a huge crowd on Travers day. The bay colt displayed his total superiority over a well bred field of ten by drawing off with each impressive stride to hit the finish line 14 ¼ lengths the best. Rider Johnny Velazquez stayed busy, but his main task was to just hold on to the $220,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase. Bettors believed in the Todd Pletcher trained juvenile right from the get go, as they hammered Uncle Mo down to 4-5 in the maiden race, and should make him even lower in the most prestigious of all two-year-old races in New York.

In fact, Pletcher and owner Mike Repole appear to have pocket aces in the hole for Saturday's Grade 1 Champagne, considering they also have entered Stay Thirsty. The son of Bernardini, who was runner-up in the recent Hopeful Stakes, looms as the one obvious threat to the Uncle. If the connections do decide to run Stay Thirsty in the same race as Uncle Mo, they should form an irresistible dynamic duo in Saturday’s race, and quite possibly again four weeks later for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. But make no mistake, the Champagne is all about Uncle Mo. How far can he go?  Can he win a grade 1 in only his second start?  How good/great will he become? Answers will soon come, but for now, I want Mo, Mo, Mo.

October 6, 2010

Who Am I ???

*A one-time champion, I was bred in Kentucky, and trained by a Hall of Famer most of my career.

*Well traveled, I competed in stakes races at ten different racetracks and on both sides of the Atlantic.

*I spent a great deal of time at a racetrack, and in a state, where I never once ran.

*Two-thirds of my lifetime victories came during my championship season.

*I always felt that my name was a mutual idea.

*I may not have been quite the horse that my sire was, but I did pretty well for myself.

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

*I won only 1 of 9 races as a juvenile, but after that, I was never off the board.

*My first win was at Aqueduct, my last win in America was at Arlington Park.

*My six stakes wins occurred at five different tracks, in four states, and in two different nations.

*The First Saturday in May proved to be my coming out party.

You should know by now … Who Am I ???

October 5, 2010

Death Threats … To a Horse???

You have to stop and wonder what’s going on in the world when a thoroughbred race horse receives death threats. This troubling circumstance came about last week when Rinterval’s life was threatened just days before she was due to run in the Lady’s Secret Stakes at Hollywood Park. Considered to be one of the top challengers to the mighty Zenyatta on Saturday, Rinterval had given the undefeated superstar a strong challenge in the Clement Hirsch Stakes, in both horses previous race.

When trainer Eric Reed arrived to his horse on Thursday he was surprised to see a group of security around the barn. He wondered if they were there keeping an eye on  him. In fact they were there to protect his horse.

The first thing that crossed my mind when I learned of the situation was the stabbing attack of Monica Seles by a rabid tennis fan named Gunter Parche in 1993. Parche was an obsessed fan of Steffi Graf who could not bear to see the object of his affection supplanted as the number one player in the world by the younger Seles. Monica Seles survived the on court attack, but her athletic career was derailed and never quite the same as before she was stabbed.

With the help of 24/7 security detail surrounding Rinterval, the five-year-old mare, owned by Jerry Jamgotchian, was kept safe until it was time to bring her over to the track for the race.

In a bizarre turn, Rinterval had to be scratched moments before the running of the grade 1 race. Apparently she became agitated by the noise and waving of signs created by the presence of Zenyatta. She banged her head in the commotion and was scratched for her safety. In the Hollywood Park paddock fans can get very close to the horses. Too close to comfort for Reed, who said he doesn't blame the fans, but would consider saddling his horses outside of the usual area in future races at Hollywood Park.

According to Reed, Rinterval was left no worse for wear after the ordeal, and in fact worked five furlongs at Hollywood Park yesterday before flying back to Kentucky, where she is being now pointed for the Spinster Stakes this coming Sunday.

Horse racing is a sport that invokes great emotion and passion. I know this fact firsthand, but to turn that fervor into even the threat of harming or killing a horse disgusts me. To the despicable person or persons who made the death threat … I urge you to get some help.

32 Days and Counting … ZATT’s Breeders’ Cup Rankings

1. Temple City
2. A.U. Miner
3. Eldaafer
4. Alcomo
5. Unusual Suspect

1. Winter Memories
2. White Moonstone
3. Roxy Gap
4. New Normal
5. Fancy Point

1. Champagne D’oro
2. Evening Jewel
3. Rightly So
4. Sara Louise
5. Sweet August Moon

1. Summer Laugh
2. Tell a Kelly
3. Wonderlandbynight
4. Awesome Feather
5. R Heat Lightning

1. Midday
2. Red Desire
3. Éclair de Lune
4. Hibaayeb
5. Ave


1. Blind Luck
2. Havre de Grace
3. Devil May Care
4. Life at Ten
5. Biofuel

1. Rough Sailing
2. Soldat
3. Major Gain
4. Air Support
5. Pluck

1. California Flag
2. Chamberlain Bridge
3. Rose Catherine
4. Fatal Bullet
5. Stradivinsky

1. Musket Man
2. Tizway
3. Here Comes Ben
4. Crown of Thorns
5. Warrior’s Reward


1. Stay Thirsty
2. Boys at Tosconova
3. Uncle Mo
4. Jaycito
5. Pathfork

1. Goldikova
2. Violon Sacre
3. Gio Ponti
4. Sidney’s Candy
5. Paco Boy

1. Discreetly Mine
2. Big Drama
3. Atta Boy Roy
4. Girolamo
5. Kinsale King

1. Paddy O’Prado
2. Workforce
3. Al Khali
4. Fame and Glory
5. Bourbon Bay

1. Blame
2. Zenyatta
3. Lookin at Lucky
4. Quality Road
5. Espoir City

October 4, 2010

Lions and Tigers and Zenyatta, Oh My!

Who doesn’t love a good cliff hanger. A film that holds you gripped in suspense until the very end when the thrilling climax is revealed. Usually the hero comes out on top, that is, if it is a typical Hollywood script. I’m here to tell you, Zenyatta is pure Hollywood. I’ve seen this film over and over again, and I can't help but be sucked in every time.
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October 3, 2010

In a New York State of Mind

What a day. Good horses, great times, and better people. Sincere thanks to all of you that made my homecoming to Belmont an unforgettable day. A man with friends is a rich man, and yesterday I felt like a billionaire.

As far as the equine stars, there was no doubt that Haynesfield stole the show. Touted to us by Sam the Bugler, the lone New York-bred in the field made every pole a winning one in the prestigious Jockey Club Gold Cup. The days headliner, on a day with five grade 1 stakes, was dominated by the four-year-old son of Speightstown. Under a heady ride by Ramon Dominguez, Haynesfield was allowed to relax on an uncontested lead, while setting early fractions that were slower than expected. Opening up by as much as seven lengths early in the stretch, he proved long gone from the rest, including heavily favored Blame. Sent off at 7-1, Haynesfield improved his lifetime record to a sparkling 9 for 13. At the wire, he was under wraps, and four lengths ahead of Blame, the 4-5 favorite, who had his five race win streak snapped. Haynesfield, proving he enjoys Belmont as much as I do, is now a whisker away from being perfect in six starts at Big Sandy.

In the day’s other big events, it was the Flower Bowl that proved to be the most exciting. English import Ave was able to split horses in deep stretch, and power to a narrow victory over Changing Skies and Red Desire. It was the first victory in America for the Roger Attfield trained miss, and announces her as a real threat for next month’s Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf. Also impressive on Belmont’s yielding turf course yesterday was Winchester. The early trailer in the nine-horse field, he uncorked a furious rally that carried him by the game favorite Paddy O'Prado who had made what looked like a winning move on the turn. The win in the $500,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic was Winchester’s second grade 1 victory on big days at Belmont this year, as he had earlier accounted for the Manhattan Handicap on Belmont Stakes day.

As a 2-1 favorite, I was not willing to place my money on Girolamo, who had never before run the distance of six furlongs. The sprint trip proved to be no problem, as the four-year-old son of A.P. Indy showed the rest of the field both his class and his heels in powering his way to an easy score in the Vosburgh Invitational. In the Grade 1 Beldame, Life At Ten, returned to her winning ways with a rather easy two length tally. Clearly enjoying no Rachel Alexandra to deal with, she won her fifth stakes race of the year in only six starts, and now will head to the Breeders’ Cup as one of the horses to beat in the Ladies Classic.

October 2, 2010

Super Saturday

It’s good to wake up on the East Coast. The air is crisp, the rain is gone, and I’m working on very little sleep which only adds to my giddiness for the day of great racing ahead. Let’s get right into the five marquee events that make up Super Saturday today at Belmont Park.

The Vosburgh Invitational kicks off the grade 1 promenade and traditionally serves as a key prep for the Breeders‘ Cup Sprint. Despite being a grade 1 affair at a sprinting distance, the Vosburgh lacks a ton of early speed, which could well give an advantage to the pacesetter. That early leader should be Wall Street Wonder who was becoming one of the top sprinters in the country before a Spring setback in the sloppy Churchill Downs Handicap. If he can shake free from the sharp New York bred, Driven by Success, as the field turns for home, Wall Street Wonder could be long gone at a distance he loves. Girolamo proved last Fall that he is a colt of quality, and had a useful prep a month ago in the Forego Stakes. If he can return to the form where he was last year at this time, he will be a major danger in here, but with only one race since last year’s Classic and running at a distance that he’s never before competed, questions abound.
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