November 30, 2010

Anatomy of a Cigar Mile Shocker

At nearly 35-1, Jersey Town was easily the longest shot on the board in Saturday’s Cigar Mile. And why not, he was one of only two horses in the deep field never to have won a single stakes race. The closest he had ever come to winning a stakes was last year when he ran second at Hastings Park. I am not sure of the statistics, but I do know not a lot of horses come from the Western Canadian track to win one of the big races in New York. Adding to his longshot status was the fact that Jersey Town had managed only one win so far in 2010, and that came in an optional claimer at Suburban Seattle’s Emerald Downs. But we all know the result, as the unheralded Jersey Town jumped up to snare the Cigar Mile in a terrific stretch battle over Jockey Club Gold Cup hero, Haynesfield. Begging the question … how on earth did the unthinkable happen?

While he deserved to be a longshot, there were some signs to recommend that Jersey Town was sitting on a big effort. He had been second or third in three successive graded stakes before the Cigar Mile and looked especially sharp in the two dirt efforts, including a second in the Longacres Mile. Most recently he had split two of his Cigar Mile foes when second in the Bold Ruler, finishing behind Bribon and ahead of Half Metal Jacket, two horses that were bet well below him on Saturday. On that day, Jersey Town had raced very wide, further pointing out his good form. There was no doubt that the lightly raced colt was on the improve for master conditioner, Barclay Tagg, but more important to the scenario may have been the clues presented by the competition.

Four of the preferred horses, Musket Man, Haynesfield, Girolamo, and Vineyard Haven were bouncing back quickly from the Breeders’ Cup. None of them had run well in Louisville after pointing for their respective races for months. The Cigar Mile while prestigious, may have been simply an afterthought for them following BC failure. Three-year-olds Friend or Foe and Soaring Empire were coming off sharp wins, but had never run well against top notch competition before. Bribon may have been the horse with the least to worry about, but had often hung in his biggest tests in the past. Jersey Town also got weight from most of the field and was about to get the perfect stalking ride from jockey Cornelio Velasquez. It all added up to a perfect storm brewing against the more established runners and in favor of the upstart Jersey Town.

If you happened to notice all the clues before the race, you must have loved the Cigar Mile payouts. Jersey Town returned $71.50, $25.80 and $9.50 across the board. The all son of Speightstown exacta with Haynesfield paid $461.50 and the trifecta with Girolamo third, cashed out for almost $2,300.00. Did I have it? No, but in reviewing my Monday morning quarterback notes … I really should have.

The victory for Jersey Town brings trainer Barclay Tagg and owner Charles Fipke their second Cigar Mile win in three years, as they teamed up to take it with Tale of Ekati in 2008 via a disqualification. Still lightly raced, it was Jersey Town’s 5th victory in 12 lifetime starts. A huge longshot on Saturday, Jersey Town is likely never to be let go at these type odds again. I am happy to report he will not be one of those top horses to add his name to the recent premature retirement list. The son of broodmare Jersey Girl, a multiple grade one winner in her own right, will return to compete next year as a five-year-old. The Breeders’ Cup Mile of 2011 being his ultimate goal. After the Cigar Mile, I have learned not to discount the chances of Jersey Town ever again.

November 29, 2010

Kathman Blu Away the Field

With a handful of graded stakes for the juvenile set this past holiday weekend, it was almost a certainty that one of the youngsters would step up and make a statement. That announcement was delivered loud and clear by a filly named Kathmanblu. Vying for favoritism with Aide, a recent 19 length winner, Kathmanblu rewarded bettors that made her the slight choice by turning the Grade 2 Golden Rod Stakes into a one horse affair. Owned by Five D Thoroughbreds and Wind River Stables, and trained by Ken McPeek, the daughter of Bluegrass Cat powered to the lead at the top of the lane and accelerated away from the rest to the tune of an 8 ½ length score.

Ridden by Julien Leparoux, Kathmanblu looked like a winner from her stalking position every step of the way. She completed the 1 1/16 miles on a fast main track in 1:44.48. The final time becomes more impressive when compared against the final time of the colts, who ran 1:45.31 in the Kentucky Jockey Club. I was not the only one who was impressed with Kathmanblu, the winning trainer also liked what he saw from his young star, and now has an eye on the future. “She is now a big time Oaks prospect,” said McPeek. His Oaks prospect won for the 3rd time in 6 races, and the Golden Rod win was the first on dirt for Kathmanblu in her second try. She had run four consecutive strong races on turf, after debuting in a 4 ½ furlong maiden dirt race in June, including an easy win in the Jessamine Stakes at Keeneland. She followed that up with a 3rd in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf despite a less than smooth trip.

Now that we know Kathmanblu can handle the dirt, and more specifically the same Churchill Downs strip that will host the Kentucky Oaks, she moves up my Oaks list. In fact, she moves way up. Kathmanblu is now third on my list of potential Oaks’ winners, behind only Dancinginherdreams and Awesome Feather. As good as she looked on the turf, Saturday’s performance has me thinking she could be even better on the dirt. Immediate plans include a trip down to Florida for the Winter, where McPeek has planned a little rest for her before getting a couple of races into her in preperation for a return to Churchill Downs. A return that could very possibly see her become our next Kentucky Oaks winner.

Photo Courtesy of Jamie Newell

November 28, 2010

To Disqualify or not to Disqualify

A huge holiday weekend of racing is near complete, and like it or not the overriding them of the big races was the unenviable decisions needed to be made by the stewards. The biggest race of the weekend worldwide was certainly the Japan Cup, and the result was a disqualification. Buena Vista was taken down after impeding the path of 2nd place finisher Rose Kingdom. Meanwhile back in the States, one of the key stakes was Friday’s Grade 1 Clark Handicap, and that one also featured a horse being handed the top spot by the stewards. Taking a closer look at the two situations reveals the difficult decisions left to the stewards.

Top European jockey Christophe Soumillion piloted the great Japanese filly Buena Vista to a seemingly easy victory in the Japan Cup. Not so fast my friends, for after the race a lengthy inquiry ensued. Eventually the review resulted in a disqualification of the impressive winner. It was determined that she had impeded the progress of Rose Kingdom, also of Japan, and ridden by Yutaka Take, as she was sweeping to the lead in the stretch. To the credit of Rose Kingdom, he did come on strong to get up for 2nd on the wire, after checking briefly from the incident. This photo became important when the inquiry sign went up. More than 100,000 on-track fans would find just how crucial some 24 minutes later when the decision was finally announced. The $5.8 million dollar race had been reversed. Rose Kingdom was declared the Japan Cup winner and favored Buena Vista was placed 2nd.

In the Clark, Successful Dan was a handful the entire race, fighting with jockey Julien Leparoux from the very beginning. Clearly he was a horse who was not happy being restrained. Eventually he would cause major trouble and he wasn’t the only one. It looked like it was going to be a fantastic finish until Demarcation, holding a slim advantage nearing the eighth pole, suddenly made a left turn. He sharply squeezed off his Paul McGee trained stablemate, Dubious Miss, causing a dangerous situation near the rail. Meanwhile, Successful Dan just behind the leading pack, and still full of run, swerved to the outside, solidly bumping Redding Colliery. Once clear, Successful Dan went on to a game win over late-running Giant Oak, best by a head at the wire. After a long delay, the stewards ruled a double DQ, and Successful Dan and Demarcation both came down. Giant Oak became the winner, Successful Dan was placed 3rd and Demarcation went to last.

Big races and tough decisions. Made tougher because the best horse hit the wire first in both the Japan Cup and the Clark. Should Successful Dan and Buena Vista have been taken down? My answer is yes and no. Successful Dan’s number should have dropped because of the rather severe bumping of Redding Colliery. I am leery of taking down a horse in a grade 1 race, when it is pretty clear the best horse won, but in this case, the infraction was obvious enough to declare Giant Oak the winner. The punishment fit the crime, and jockey Julien Leparoux has since been suspended.

In the Japan Cup, however, I am not nearly as agreeable with the steward’s decision. Did Buena Vista come over and impede Rose Kingdom to some extent? Absolutely. Was it enough to take down an easy winner of one of the biggest races in the world. Not by a long shot. If I owned Buena Vista I would be sick right now (luckily they owned the horse who was put up as well). She was much the best in the rich and prestigious Japan Cup. After 24 minutes the decision makers got it wrong. Taking Buena Vista down for her petty crime was nothing short of criminal.

November 27, 2010

ZATT Comes Alive!

Fresh off a turkey trifecta box, the best looking South African in Hollywood since Charlize Theron, and Successful Dan playing pinball like a wizard until the stewards flashed the Tilt sign, I have decided to try something completely different.  Frampton did it, why not ZATT?  Drum roll please … I give you the first ever live version of Zipse at the Track.  Live updates all day long.  Let’s go interactive.  Join in and tell me what you think.

9:55 AM - Currently getting all the homework done for a huge day of racing. Selections will come as we near the races, but here is a quick preview of what I will have my eyes on … Race of the day is the Cigar Mile at the Big A, with a side of Gazelle, more turf racing from Hollywood, but most of all, today has me stoked to see all the promising juveniles. Not limited to juvi stakes in New York and Louisville, there are excellent two-year-olds running all over the nation. Who’s with me?

10:55 AM - Starting things off early with the turf opener at Aqueduct. It looks like the #10 Gimme Credit and the #4 Midnight Billy are the class of the race. I'll box them in an exacta.

11:05 AM - 3rd & 4th. That's what I was afraid of ... lack of pace killed my chances.

11:14 AM - Not too much going on in the early races, and I need to save some money for my best bet of the day, Violon Sacre in the Citation at Hollywood ... still more than 7 hours away ;-)

11:42 AM - Back on the grass for the 3rd at Aqueduct. The #8 Westside Corral could be a standout, but I love the turf breeding of first time starter #7 Boat for trainer Thomas Bush. At 9-1, I'll place a little WPS action.

11:45 AM - Looks like Switching Gears appreciated the return to maiden company at Churchill ... impressive win.

12:00 PM - Ugly spill at Aqueduct, I hope everyone is OK. First timer, Boat rallies mildy for 4th, while the winner Westside Corral looks like a runner.

12:14 PM - It appears the word is out big time on the #1 Crossbow in the 4th at Aqueduct. Steve Haskin first told me me about this juvenile making his debut for McLaughlin. Anything above even money might be worth a win bet.

12:34 PM - Did you see that pace at Aqueduct ... why??? I'll rebound with #6 My Shepherd Girls as the play in the next at Churchill.

12:48 PM - Slow start on my first live blog ... let's turn it around with a live longshot in the 5th at Aqueduct. My buddy Bill and I both love the turf breeding of the #9 Hothersal. He's 10-1 for hot trainer Seth Benzel, play him to win and see what he can do.

1:00 PM - Uggh

1:07 PM - Getting some big help on the comment section ... special thanks to Joe Depaolo live from Aqueduct!

1:20 PM - Four betting interests in the Demoiselle ... time to jump on the pick-3. I'm using the 1,5 / 3,4,5 / 6,8.

1:30PM - Nice win for Dixie City. Prayers go out to Jason Gracia.

1:38 PM - My first impression is that there will be no Kentucky Oaks winners coming out of this year's Demoiselle.

1:43 PM - Huge exacta at Churchill. I didn't bet the race, but if I did, I do not think I would have had that one ... balloons!

1:47 PM - I'll be sitting back watching the Remsen, hoping one of the two longer ones in my live pick-3 get home first.

1:58 PM - Some early trouble there in the Remsen, but surely the best horse won. Moderately impressive win for To Honor and Serve ... methinks he would have trouble with Mo.

2:05 PM - Alive with the #6 Joanie's Catch and the #8 No Such Word in the pick-3 at Aqueduct ... One is balloons and one is peanuts. C'mon everybody root home this 6 for me in the Gazelle!

2:26 PM - No Such Word has become one of the best 3-year-old fillies in the country ... It was the small one, but at least it was a cash in the pick-3. No betting for me in the next at Churchill, but it will be interesting to see how Hailey d'Oro returns off an impressive maiden score.

2:33 PM - The Cigar Mile is next in New York. Early money is all on Musket Man ... I am liking Bribon more and more if he stays anywhere near the current 7-1. I'll play an exacta box with #3 Bribon and #7 Musket Man.

2:46 PM - Hailey d'Oro goes down in flames.

2:55PM - Jersey Town??? Oy vay!!!

3:01 PM - Well, that was certainly a shocker. Right back to work ... at Churchill I will be playing daily doubles with the #10 Disfraz / and the 1,4,5,6 in the Golden Rod.

3:08 PM - A juvenile that I am high on, Cool Blue Red Hot is running in a maiden race next at Calder. Unfortunately, he is currently at 3-5. By the way, I wasn't the only one surprised by Jersey Town ... he was the only horse on my latest poll to not receive a single vote.

3:29 PM - Easy win for Cool Blue Red Hot against Calder maidens. In the Golden Rod at Churchill, I will give big longshot #5 Suave Voir Faire a shot at 25-1. At those odds, win, place, and show will be the bet.

3:50 PM - Wow! I guess Kathmanblu likes dirt. That was the performance of the day so far, on the switch back to dirt. My longshot ambles up for a non-threatening 3rd ... the show price gets me slightly ahead for the race;-)

4:24PM - Nice win by Super Saver's little brother, Brethren in the 10th at Churchill.

4:31PM - I am taking a stand against the heavy favorite Astrology in the Kentucky Jockey Club. #3 Cane Garden Bay is the play, with #2 Santiva, #4 Major Gain, and #7 Halo's Thunder completing my main exacta bets.

4:49 PM - I knew it was a five horse race and go figure, my top pick came in 5th, but I do have a saver bet on the 10 cent superfecta ... would have been more if Major Gain could have beaten Astrology for 2nd.

5:14PM - In the Generous Stakes at Hollywood, I will use the two favorites Comma to the Top and Surrey Star to get my pick-3 rolling. My play will be 4,8/4/6

5:42 PM - Comma to the Top keeps it rolling with another easy win in the Generous.

6:22PM - Whewww, got that photo by a nose. My pick-3 remains alive to my best bet of the day. No need to bet the Citation. After all this, I will either lose for the day ($30), or if Violon Sacre comes through I will collect $294.60, and come out $264 ahead for the day.

6:46 PM - Well Violon Sacre did not have it today, nor did my picks :( If you were playing, I hope you did better than me. Thank you to everyone for visiting today ... it was great fun. Special thanks to Joe Depaolo and William McCabe for extra participation today. See you all at the track real soon.

November 26, 2010

A Texas Sized Clash in the Matriarch

Although there are several entrants from California in the mix, today’s Grade 1 Matriarch Stakes should boil down to female turf stars coming from all places Texas, South Africa, and France. The eclectic trio will do battle today at Hollywood Park in one of America’s most important filly & mare turf races. The one mile affair not only brings together their obvious class, but it also allows them to test each other at an optimal distance.

Texas is represented by Wasted Tears, who will be in search of her first grade 1 win. When last seen in Southern California, Wasted Tears was winning her seventh consecutive race, as the Bart Evans trainee scored in the Grade 2 John Mabee Stakes by a nose at Del Mar. Since then, the terrific turf mare has had her long streak snapped when beaten 1 ¼ lengths by Proviso in the Grade 1 First Lady Stakes at Keeneland last month. In the First Lady, Wasted Tears was surprisingly held in a stalking position in the early part of the race before taking the lead and then ultimately tiring. Today should be different, as Wasted Tears is expected to do what she does best, and gun for the early lead from her outside post. Setting the pace has been a tactic that has made Wasted Tears all but unbeatable in the past, and in the Matriarch it will be up to the rest to run her down.

Straight from France comes Special Duty.  The daughter of Hennessey holds the almost unbelievable distinction of being placed first in two separate classics. In both the English 1000 and French 1000 Guineas earlier this year, the three-year-old filly was given the victory after hitting the wire a nose and a head short. Special Duty was promoted to the win after the horses who narrowly finished first were disqualified for causing interference. Since those two important victories, she finished a well beaten seventh in the Group 1 Falmouth, in what was a poor effort, and then was sixth in the Group 1 Prix de la Foret last month in Paris. Her last race though may have been more like it though, despite the sixth place finish, she was beaten only 4 ¼ lengths by the best miler in the universe in Goldikova. She holds a class edge over the field, so if she takes to the firm turf of Hollywood Park, the others may be in trouble.

Unlike Special Duty, South Africa import Gypsy’s Warning has already run four times in North America. Although only victorious in her first race over here, she has run well each time while traveling from Monmouth to Woodbine to Arlington and finally to Hollywood in top level competition. A classic winner back in South Africa, she finally will get to run in the same place twice in a row today. In her last race, Gypsy’s Warning led for most of the Grade 1 Yellow Ribbon, at 1 ¼ miles, before weakening to finish third, 1 ½ lengths behind Hibaayeb. Ridden by red hot jockey Joel Rosario, the cut in distance should be welcome to the five-year-old South African bred mare, who should now be able to take back off the pace and make her late run.

Three different stars, coming from very different places, should make for a most interesting edition of the Matriarch. There are four other females set to line up today, but it should come down to one of the big three. In a race that has been won in the past by the likes of Royal Heroine, Flawlessly, Starine, Intercontinental, and Ventura; whichever of the trio wins today will add another classy name to an already impressive list of winners.  Who do you think it will be?

Photo of Wasted Tears Courtesy of Benoit Photos

November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

I am thankful to have such a wonderful and loyal group of readers and friends as you. On this day of appreciation, I wish each and every one you a very Happy Thanksgiving! I am lucky enough to be spending the day with my wife Candie, daughter Kendra, and some of our family. I will be thinking of the family I can not be with today. To them, and all of you … may your day and holiday weekend be filled with love, togetherness, and smiles.

November 24, 2010

Who Am I ???

*I was bred in Kentucky, but I did not race in the Blue Grass State until my 47th career start.

*Although I ran on the dirt more than 30 times, turf was the surface which I raced on the most.

*If you know anything about me, you would know who my two favorite characters on Grey’s Anatomy are.

*My greatest career victory came on a dirt track at Santa Anita.

*Well traveled, I won races in three of the six countries in which I competed.

*I went winless in my first season of racing, as well as my last, yet I still managed to take home a winner‘s check in six separate years.

*My Eclipse Award came right after my 6th season on the track.

*I won less than one quarter of my lifetime starts, but I finished in the money more times than most horses ever race.

*My sire won a double digit amount of stakes, with his biggest coming in the Met Mile.

*Rarely on the lead early, I was known for my closing kick.

*My trainer had two first names, one a woman’s, and one a man’s.

You should know by now … Who Am I ???

November 23, 2010

Ladies Turn ... Kentucky Oaks Countdown

The Terrific 13

1. Dancinginherdreams (Tapit) - How good were this gray filly‘s first two races? A maiden romp at Keeneland and a coasting win in the Pocahontas were both late-running poetry and visually stunning … sky’s the limit.

2. Awesome Feather (Awesome of Course ) She had the perfect year … 6 for 6, a Breeders’ Cup winner, and soon to be champion. How could I not rate her #1? That’s how impressive the top one has been in two races.

3. Turbulent Descent (Congrats) - Congrats continues to be a hot freshman sire, and this undefeated Californian might be the best of bunch. It will be interesting to see her tackle two-turns for the first time.

4. R Heat Lightning (Trippi) - I’m not sure that 9 furlongs will be her best distance, but the Todd Pletcher trainee has proven her toughness against the best of competition at several different tracks.

5. Royal Delta (Empire Maker) - The maiden win at Belmont was big, very big. Regally bred, it looks like Bill Mott has a sure fire distance star, and one that should handle any surface.

6. Summer Laugh (Distorted Humor) - My Demoiselle pick has been away for awhile, but she showed flashes of her ability this Summer at Saratoga. Her dam, Summer Colony was one of my favorites.

7. Aide (Arch) - The female version of Blame? Aide absolutely ran away and hid from an allowance field last month at Churchill Downs. The 19 3/4 length victory at Churchill Downs will send her headfirst into stakes company.

8. May Day Rose (Rockport Harbor) - Wire to wire winner of the Sharp Cat stakes is not getting a lot of ink yet, but she has already proven she can handle the distance, and may be the horse to beat in the upcoming Hollywood Starlet for trainer Bob Baffert.

9. Rigoletta (Concerto) - Dan Hendricks filly improved every start culminating with a hard fought win in the Grade 1 Oak Leaf. A splint injury kept her on the shelf for the BC, but she should return in a few months.

10. A Z Warrior (Bernardini) - The impressive winner of the Frizette did not run a lick in the Juvenile Fillies. I think that was too bad to believe, and Baffert says she came out of the race with a foot bruise. Hollywood Starlet could offer quick redemption.

11. Delightful Mary (Limehouse) - Canadian shipper for Mark Casse accounted for herself well in her first race in America with a 3rd place finish in the Breeders’ Cup. Distance could be a question.

12. Hailey d’Oro (Medaglia d’Oro) - Jackson, Asmussen, and Medaglia d’Oro have a star filly? Sounds very familiar. Her first race was a pip, but she has a long way to go to enter Rachel’s rarified air.

13. Believe in A.P. (A.P. Indy) - She was a well beaten 4th in the Juvenile Fillies, but this filly is bred to develop as she matures and run all day. Her win at Philadelphia two starts back was very impressive.

Here is Turbulent Descent‘s second lifetime start … Flores sits chilly-willy!

November 22, 2010

Social Media and Horse Racing

Hello, my name is ZATT, and I’m a social media butterfly. That’s right, yours truly is an unapologetic social media enthusiast. Not just for teenage girls any more, I utilize these platforms in many productive ways to promote thoroughbred horse racing. And now, as ZATT is on the verge of an exciting new announcement, regarding a partnership that could change the landscape of disseminating horse racing information on the Internet forever, I will rely on social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter to keep you all up to speed on the latest news. Horse racing is often left behind on current trends and new technologies. Social media can help to change all that.

Here are ten reasons why I'm a social media believer:

1) Interaction - The continuous engagement with my audience has been of great assistance in not only understanding what they want to talk about, but also in building wonderful friendships.

2) Greater Exposure - ZATT would never have been able to reach as many readers if not for the explosive word of mouth that can be rather quickly achieved on Facebook and Twitter.

3) Information Exchange - When I learn of new information, I pass it along on social media. When I am looking for new information, I look first on social media.

4) Leveling the Playing Field - When compared to the giants of horse racing media, Zipse at the Track had almost nothing in resources. Social Media has allowed me to work hard and get the info out there, just like the big boys.

5) Focusing the Message - Writing about things that hold little interest to my readers is one of the surest ways of losing readers. Through Facebook and Twitter, I better understand what my audience wants day in and day out.

6) Branding - With a name like ZATT, you better offer a quality product. Social media has not only allowed me to get the name out there, it has helped me concisely display what the name stands for.

7) Relationship Building - No matter the business, people want to work with people that they know, like, and trust and social media allows me to get my personality out there and build loyal connections.

8) It Complements My Efforts - Not only does social media allow for a pure way to promote what I am doing, but it also allows me to add greater information on top of what is already on my website.

9) Driving Traffic - My daily use of Facebook and Twitter drives traffic to my website on a daily and continuous basis. The more time I put in, the more traffic is driven to my site.

10) Low cost - Or in my case, no cost. My total expenditure from promoting Zipse at the Track on social media has been zero. You can not beat free.

Social Media has placed ZATT on the map. I am consistently interacting with a focused group of connections and friends. It has helped me get information out to the right people, and stay current and fresh with an ever changing society.

Hmmm … I wonder if any of this could be beneficial to horse racing.

If I’ve convinced you, go ahead and sign up (it’s easy), and follow ZATT today. On Facebook ... and on Twitter ... See you there!

November 21, 2010

Lookin at Lucky Poised to Join Elite Company

1905 - Sysonby
1908 - Colin
1910 - Sweep
1920 - Man O’ War
1923 - Zev
1928 - Reigh Count
1934 - Cavalcade
1940 - Bimelech
1942 - Alsab
1943 - Count Fleet
1948 - Citation
1950 - Hill Prince
1953 - Native Dancer
1955 - Nashua
1956 - Needles
1966 - Buckpasser
1973 - Secretariat
1977 - Seattle Slew
1978 - Affirmed
1979 - Spectacular Bid

20 Impressive horses. Soon you can add the name of Lookin at Lucky to that esteemed list. His accomplishments of 2010 have all but made him a shoo-in for his second Eclipse Award, thus becoming the first horse in 31 years to parlay a juvenile championship with a repeat award at three-years-old. Hard to believe, but no horse since Spectacular Bid has been able to turn the trick … until Lookin at Lucky that is. Further investigation into this list of horses who were able to wrap up the double, displays a veritable who’s who of American racing. From Man O’ War to Secretariat, from Citation to Seattle Slew, this is an accomplished group. In fact, 19 of these 20 stars also found there way into racing’s Hall of Fame, with only Sweep being denied.  In becoming lucky number 21 to complete the deal, Lookin at Lucky has carved out a place for himself in the record books, but how will he be remembered?

I believe his legacy will be one that improves over time. He was unlucky often, and he ran into a couple of older buzz saws in Blame and Zenyatta in his finale, but he proved as consistent as they come. It is hard not to like a horse who fires every shot. Did the winner of eight grade 1 or grade 2 stakes races in only 13 lifetime starts retire before his time? Yes, but that is an article for another day. For now, I will send off the son of Smart Strike to retirement with this singular thought ... Is he Hall of Fame material? Lookin at History, I say Yes to Lookin at Lucky.

November 20, 2010

24 Weeks - Down and Derby Begins … Now!

The Sweet 16

1. Uncle Mo (Indian Charlie) - Now wintering in Florida for Todd Pletcher, the soon to be champion could not have impressed me more in his first three races. The easy Breeders’ Cup winner may be the horse we’ve all been waiting a long time for.

2. To Honor and Serve (Bernardini)- Is the now horse after a sharp score in the Nashua Stakes on BC day. Trained by Bill Mott, he will get one more juvenile race under his belt, next week in the Remsen, to solidify this high ranking.

3. Cool Blue Red Hot (Harlan’s Holiday) - Sleeper numero uno. This great grandson of the last triple crown winner, Affirmed, made the kind of sustained rally in his debut that I look for in the Derby. He is still a maiden for Angel Penna Jr., but I love his upside.

4. Boys at Tosconova (Officer) - #4 might seem a tad low for the 2nd best juvenile in the nation, as he turned in another excellent effort in the BC Juvenile behind Uncle Mo. But he was no match for Mo that day, and I question whether more distance will make the task any easier for the talented son of Officer.

5. Sweet Ducky (Pulpit) - This ranking may seem silly in a few hours as the Kelly Breen trainee looks for a Jackpot today against a deep field at Delta Downs, but I love his chances. He has shown steady improvement at Monmouth, and his last race was a real eye opener.

6. Dialed In (Mineshaft) - One sprint win, and this nick Zito horse is on every wise-guy list from here to Tokyo. If you watch the race at Churchill Downs though, it is hard to argue that this horse has big potential and should relish a distance of ground.

7. Buffum (Bernardini) - He actually was the winner of the key maiden race against Cool Blue, and showed a good deal of tenacity to get the job done. He ran erratically in the stretch which could mean he was tired or maybe he has a lot to learn with plenty of room to improve.

8. Stay Thirsty (Bernardini) - Yet another good looking Bernardini, and he was actually my earliest juvenile to watch. I still like him, but the horse with the great name will need to improve a lot to catch up to his stablemate Mo, and Boys at Tosconova.

9. Jaycito (Victory Gallop) - Bred for distance, and sharp in California, the son of Victory Gallop bolted in the BC Juvenile and lost all chance. Now in the Baffert barn, I still consider the Norfolk winner one of the major players on the left coast.

10. Mountain Town (Cape Town) - From maiden claiming to a soundly beaten run in the Champagne, you may wonder why I have this Rick Dutrow colt so high, but his rally in both races impressed me as a colt for the future. We should find more about him in the Remsen.

11. Bandbox (Tapit) - The Remsen should also answer many questions about this talented son of Tapit who has looked very impressive in stakes wins at Charles Town and against New York state breds for trainer Rodney Jenkins.

12. Arresting Officer (Officer) - I am somewhat leery to have another son of Officer this high on my list, but his maiden win at Hollywood Park was impressive enough to get this spot. He might be the one to watch in December’s Hollywood Futurity.

13. Astrology (A. P. Indy) - Steve Asmussen’s new number one juvenile came back strong to win the Iroquois at Churchill Downs last time. Further improvement will be needed, but if he can prove his class in next week’s Kentucky Jockey Club, he will move even higher

14. Sway Away (Afleet Alex) - One of the more interesting colts in California, the son of Afleet Alex has been away since running a strong 2nd in the Best Pal Stakes. That day he flashed major potential, when forced well wide on the far turn before rallying relentlessly down the lane.

15. Rogue Romance (Smarty Jones) - He looked great on turf before rallying to finish 3rd in the BC Juvenile. Problem was it was a well beaten 3rd, but Ken McPeek looks like he has a lot of talent to work with on this any surface Smarty Jones colt.

16. Classic Legacy (Macho Uno) - My second pick in today’s Delta Jackpot, ran a huge race in Canada last time when 3rd in the Grey Stakes. He circled the field with a big, premature move, before being passed late. We will find more about his liking for dirt today.

Here is the debut effort of two of my top sleeper horses, Buffum and Cool Blue Red Hot:

November 19, 2010

Remembering ... Whirlaway

The name Whirlaway holds a special place in the racing world, and for good reason. He was a great American character, who came along when the nation needed one. Consistent, but eccentric, talented, but hard to teach, Whirlaway was not your average superstar. He did not win his first five starts by open lengths. He could not run a straight path down the stretch of many a race. He was a hero nonetheless. Whirlaway embodied what Americans love. He tried every time, and was able to get up, dust himself off, and win the big one. Or make that, the big one times three. Win or lose, he stuck around and gave us more than any other triple crown winner had, or has since. He even raised needed money for our critical role in World War II. In a time when thoroughbred horse racing was a national pastime, Whirlaway was a special horse who was able to become a piece of Americana.

Mr. Long Tail, as his fans would affectionately call him, was the son of English Derby winner Blenheim II. As a juvenile, Whirlaway showed flashes of his great talent, but it was a season that hardly made you believe that he was on his way to greatness. Owned and bred at Calumet Farm, the chestnut colt managed seven wins, four of them coming in stakes races, but he also went down in defeat nine times in 1940. He also began to show signs of very erratic behavior for his legendary trainer, Ben Jones. Many occasions he would take his jockey close to the outside rail before returning to his powerful closing kick. Despite the many losses, his juvenile record was actually superior to the four horses that won the triple crown before him, Sir Barton, Gallant Fox, Omaha, and War Admiral. Whirlaway did finish his two-year-old season on a high note, romping home in the Walden Stakes at Pimlico by four lengths. The win would not be enough for a championship though, as the honor went to the lightly raced Our Boots.

Whirlaway's three-year-old season picked up where his juvenile campaign left off, with inconsistency. He lost four of seven starts leading up to the Kentucky Derby, and one of those losses came in the Blue Grass where he was thrashed by Our Boots. In the Blue Grass, Whirlaway had no designs of running a straight path down the Keeneland stretch. It was time for Ben Jones to take action. He fashioned a one-eyed blinker for Mr. Long Tail to help his rider prevent him from severely bearing out. To test it, Jones sat upon a pony 10 feet off the rail as new rider Eddie Arcaro worked the colt. Thankfully it worked. Whirlaway was made a slight favorite over Our Boots in the Kentucky Derby, and in a two-minute blur, a star was born.

The scintillating rally by the Calumet homebred carried him to an eight length runaway. In the process, Whirlaway broke the Kentucky Derby record by two fifths of a second, finishing in 2:01 and 2/5. It was a record that would stand for 21 years. This magnificent win in the Run for the Roses, would not serve as a one-hit wonder for Mr. Long Tail. In the Preakness he once again dropped way back before uncorking an explosive rally that carried him from last to first by the time the horses hit the Pimlico stretch. Winning the Preakness by 5 1/2 lengths, would make Whirlaway a prohibitive favorite to become racing’s fifth winner of the triple crown. In between the Preakness and Belmont, he used an allowance race against older horses as a prep for the Test of Champions. That victory brought his winning streak to three, and on June 7 he would make it four in a row. In the Belmont Stakes, Whirlaway secured immortality by taking over the race early and opening up a big lead before coasting home for a 2 ½ length victory.

He notched a fifth consecutive victory in Aqueduct’s Dwyer Stakes marking his longest lifetime victory streak. Whirlaway was never as dominant again as that five-race stretch, but for the next season and a half, he proved to be durable, consistent, and the top horse in the nation. At Saratoga, he became the only triple crown winner ever to also win the Travers. Wins in the American Derby and Lawrence Realizational placed exclamation points on his marvelous season. Overall Mr. Long Tail won 13 races, and finished in the money in all 20 of his starts that year. Whirlaway, to no surprise, was named the Horse of the Year for 1941.

He already had 36 races under his belt, but as an older horse, Whirlaway raced even more regularly. When it was all said and done, he would finish with 60 lifetime starts. This number is far and away the most of any triple crown champion. Adding to his popularity, in his four-year-old season, he competed to help the American war effort. Raising money for war bonds, he raced 22 times and raised a reported $5 million for the cause. At four, Whirlaway was saddled with heavy weights as he was entered in all of the important handicap races east of the Mississippi. He didn’t win them all, but he was remarkably consistent winning twelve times and finishing second eight times. Once again he finished in the money in every start, and in the races that he did not win, he was closing fast. One of those narrow losses would come in a match race at Narragansett Park, where he gave the top sophomore in the nation, Alsab, seven pounds.

Even in defeat, Whirlaway did himself proud. He wasted no time avenging the nose loss, as he took on Alsab two weeks later in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. This time Mr. Long Tail got by his stubborn, younger rival, scoring a popular victory by three quarters of a length, while again giving away seven pounds. It was the race that likely clinched his second consecutive Horse of the Year honor. He finished 1943 with a walkover win in the Pimlico Special and a victory in Fair Ground’s Louisiana Handicap, helping him become racing’s all-time richest earner, and the first horse ever with more than a half million dollars earned. Unfortunately, it was in the Louisiana Handicap where Whirlaway bowed a tendon, and although he was brought back as a five-year-old, his two starts in 1943 proved unsuccessful.

Mr. Long Tail was retired with a record of 32 wins, 15 seconds and 9 thirds from his 60 starts and a bankroll of $561,161. He stood several years in Kentucky before the famous French breeder Marcel Boussac convinced Warren Wright of Calumet to let him lease Whirlaway to stand stud at his Haras Fresvay-le Bufford farm in France. Boussac later worked out arrangements to buy the great horse outright. On April 6, 1953, at the age of 15, Whirlaway died of a rupture in his nerve tissue, and was buried at Boussac's farm in France. His body was later returned to Kentucky, and he is now buried at Calumet. Whirlaway was elected to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1959. Whether or not you believe Whirlaway is one of the greatest American horses in history, his name will go down in racing lore. He had a flare that endeared him to millions. One thing for sure, Mr. Long Tail was one of a kind. I remember you Whirlaway.

November 18, 2010

Unrequited ‘Mousse


"The Pamplemousse had more raw ability than any horse I ever trained. Not only was he fast, but he could carry his speed a long way. I really believed he had classic potential. It was a travesty that he never had a chance to prove it." ~Julio Canani, trainer of The Pamplemousse.

I wondered and doubted if we would ever see this talent on the track again. When one of his owners told me last Winter that he was doing well and the plan was to get him back to the races at some point in 2010, I was cautiously optimistic. I waited, and I waited some more. Finally the good news came in, The Pamplemousse had his first workout on August 1. He worked three furlongs at Del Mar in :36 4/5. It would be the first of a dozen works, with the final one coming at Hollywood Park one week before Halloween. On that morning, The Pamplemousse zipped five furlongs in :59 3/5. I smiled when I saw the work

Today the smile is gone. My Derby pick of 2009 will never race again. The Pamplemousse has been retired. In racing, you become anesthetized to horses retiring early and never having a full chance to reach their potential. The Pamplemousse was different though. He was more than the ordinary, he was special. His magnificent run in the Sham Stakes will be how I remember him. Powerful poetry in motion. Steely gray lightning in a bottle. Goodbye 'Mousse, we hardly knew you.

Photos Courtesy of Benoit Photos & Cecilia G. Felix

November 17, 2010

Who Am I ???

*I won just under half of my lifetime starts, and I won at least twice in each of my four seasons of racing.

*I was bred in a country where I never once ran, even though I competed in four different nations.

*My mom majestically soared over the water, but my dad preferred things dry.

*I failed to be competitive and cash a check only once in my career. Unfortunately, it was in the richest race I ever ran, and also the longest.

*My last six races were all grade/group ones; I won the first, but lost the rest.

*I raced at 11 different tracks, and other than in Paris, I never raced at the same place twice in a row.

*Never afraid to carry weight, my average impost was just a shade under 127 pounds.

*It was more of the usual in my final career start, as I came running late.

*I spread out my three most important victories, with one in each of my final three seasons.

*My victories came on two different surfaces, although I won ten times as much on one surface than the other.

*Interesting tidbit on my trainer and jockey … they shared the same initials.

You should know by now … Who Am I ???

Breaking News ... Zenyatta to be Retired

Zipse at the Track has learned from very reliable sources that the racing career of the great Zenyatta will soon be officially over. She is expected to arrive in Kentucky, from California, early in December to begin her next career as a broodmare. While most of the speculation recently has centered around her likely retirement, many of her admirers held out hope that the Queen would come back for one more year, or even make a final start in Dubai for the World Cup. If she did start in the World Cup and win, Zenyatta would easily become the richest thoroughbred in history. These hopes now appear to be over. Zenyatta will retire with a record of 19 wins and 1 second in 20 lifetime starts, including two wins in the Breeders‘ Cup and the narrowest of losses in this year‘s Classic. She will win her third consecutive Older Female Eclipse Award in January, and quite possibly her first Horse of the Year title. I think I speak for everyone when I say, Zenyatta will be missed. I wish her the best in her next career at Lane's End.

November 16, 2010

Don’t Blame Me for Being a Champion

Don‘t hate me just because I won a horse race. The enormity of that victory, coming in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, with Zenyatta being the horse that I edged in a tight photo, is not lost on me. I understand that most of the millions of fans watching the Classic were on her side, rather than mine. I have no problem with that. Zenyatta is great, but I am not a villain. I am a very good horse who was able to reach the pinnacle of my sport. Nor am I an Upset, Jim Dandy, or an Onion, as some have suggested. I certainly would not argue with anyone that calls her the best mare of all-time, but hey, I wasn’t too shabby either. Take a look at my career accomplishments, and you can see that I was consistent and classy. I am a horse worthy of respect, not hatred. In fact, I am a champion.

I believe that I made a strong case for Horse of the Year this year, but whether or not I win that one, (I fully understand that Zenyatta has the credentials as well) I will be named the Outstanding Older Male of 2010. Seth Hancock and Al Stall mapped out a plan for me at the beginning of the year, and I followed it to the letter. First, I won the Grade 3 Schaffer at Pimlico, and then it was nothing but grade ones for me. I went on to score in three of the most important stakes in the nation. I won the Stephen Foster at Churchill in June, the Whitney at Saratoga in August, and the BC Classic in November. My only loss was in the prestigious Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont. That day, I was the victim of a good speed horse on the lead in a paceless race. I still managed 2nd, easily finishing ahead of Fly Down who came back to run 3rd in the Classic.

For those who think I came out of nowhere this year, keep in mind that I finished 2009 with a flourish as well. My final five races of last year match my record of this year. I won 4 times with a 2nd in the Super Derby in those five races, meaning that in my last 10 races, I had 8 wins and 2 seconds. Hardly Onion like. Additionally, much like the Jockey Club, the Super Derby was tough on me because a quality horse set a very slow pace, but I came running as I always did. I finished off my three-year-old season with impressive wins in the Fayette, on a synthetic surface at Keeneland, and the Clark over a strong field. So strong in fact, the Clark was elevated to grade 1 status for this year. Overall, I won 9 times and earned more than $4.3 million, in only 13 races. In those 13 starts, I never once finished out of the money as I improved in each of my three seasons of racing.

I hope that the voters all take the time to judge the 2010 merits of both of us fairly, and after that, let the chips fall where they mare. Sure, I want to win the award, but I also wish my esteemed competition the best of luck. It should be an interesting contest, just as I understand it was last year.

While I shift into my new career, as a stallion standing at Claiborne Farm for a fee of $35,000, I hope that true fans of racing remember me fondly. At Claiborne, I have already been introduced to my new living quarters, once formerly occupied by the great Buckpasser. It is an amazing place. I join star horses of the past like Secretariat, Bold Ruler, and Gallant Fox who made Claiborne their home after their stellar racing careers. In conclusion, I am sorry that I broke many hearts when I became the only horse ever to defeat Zenyatta, but I only did what I was asked to do … run hard, run fast, and do my best, and that is exactly what I did.

Photo Courtesy of Reed Palmer Photography

November 15, 2010

Bad Choices and Turf Championships

Paddy O’Prado lost a huge opportunity when his connections decided to run him one race too late on Breeders’ Cup Day at Churchill Downs. By choosing to run a superior turf horse on the dirt in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, they turned their back on a $3 million purse and the most important race run on turf in America. The result was a non-threatening 5th place finish to Blame and Zenyatta. Meanwhile two good horses, but far from world beaters, named Dangerous Midge and Champ Pegasus battled down the lane to finish a clear 1-2 in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. With the Eclipse Award decisions pending, I wonder if his connections not only cost him a win in the Breeders’ Cup, but also an end-of-the-year championship. O’ what might have been.

Imagine if you will Paddy O’ Prado in the Turf field.  I can.  I visualize the talented grey three-year-old in a menacing stalking position, before pouncing as the field straightens out for the stretch run. Champ Pegasus and then Dangerous Midge would have no answers for their more talented foe. Jockey Kent Desormeaux would drive Paddy to the wire a few lengths clear of his pursuers. The eruption of emotion from the large partnership group of Donegal Racing would be heard throughout the Churchill grandstand.

It did not happen. As we all know, trainer Dale Romans and managing partner Jerry Crawford went a different way. The decision still bothers me. Was it based on greed? Or arrogance? Did they really think that there horse, who has never won a race on dirt, would win the Classic? I hope their $150,000 paycheck for running 5th in the Classic provides some consolation, but then again maybe not … The 1st place check in the Turf was $1,620,000.

As for the Eclipse Award, I believe he should still receive the honor. His competition includes Gio Ponti, Winchester, Champ Pegasus, and Dangerous Midge. The latter ran only once in America, and was rather nondescript in Europe. Champ Pegasus won only two graded stakes in California. Winchester has two grade one wins, but plenty of losses including a poor performance in the BC Turf. That leaves Gio Ponti as the main competition for Paddy O‘Prado. Now I have nothing negative to say about Gio Ponti, but as marvelous a horse as he is, and as wonderful a career as he has had, he managed only 2 wins in 7 starts this year. His 2nd to Goldikova in the BC Mile did nothing to hurt his resume, but he was no match for the great mare. I prefer the resume of Paddy O’Prado, who has four graded stakes wins on the turf this year, albeit in races for three-year-olds. His only recent loss on grass was a fine 2nd place finish, when he made an early move to the lead in the Turf Classic. It was his first try against older, on soggy grass, and farther than 1 ¼ miles. It seemingly was the ideal prep for the Breeders’ Cup Turf. If only.

I believe in Paddy O’Prado. I see him as the finest grass horse in our country, and he is my choice as the most deserving horse to win the Eclipse Award as the Outstanding Male Turf Horse of 2010. Too bad his connections did not give him a chance to prove it in the Breeders‘ Cup. Now we will have to wait and wonder if their arrogance cost him a turf championship.

Photo Courtesy of Reed Palmer Photography

November 14, 2010

Death of a Father, Death of a Son

I am very saddened to report we have lost a special horse today. Buddy's Saint has been euthanized after breaking down while working this morning at Belmont Park. Buddy’s Saint was a three-year-old son of the ill-fated Saint Liam, and was a member of the only crop of the 2005 Horse of the Year. Saint Liam passed away at the young age of six-years-old, after a freak accident caused an untreatable fracture. Despite siring only one crop, Saint Liam had two excellent race horses in Buddy, and the topnotch filly Havre de Grace. Today was a sad twist of fate, as his most talented son has now joined him in dying far too young.

A colt with seemingly unlimited potential, Buddy’s Saint fractured his left shoulder while breezing on Belmont’s main track. Because of the seriousness of the injury there was no alternative but to euthanize him. Trained by Bruce Levine and owned by Kingfield Stables, he was the toast of the juvenile set last Fall after winning Aqueduct’s Grade 2 Nashua and Grade 2 Remsen Stakes in sensational fashion. The two victories, by a combined 16 ¾ lengths, made Buddy‘s Saint one of the hot favorites for the 2010 Kentucky Derby. After the Remsen, Levine was quoted as saying, “I wouldn't trade places with anyone in America." Unfortunately, the Derby would never happen, and 2010 would turn out to be a nightmare for Buddy’s Saint, Levine, and all those who cared about the bay colt.

In his 2010 debut, Buddy’s Saint finished ninth as the 9-5 favorite in the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park in February. That day, he was victimized by a nightmare trip, and to make matters worse, a bone chip was discovered in his right front ankle requiring surgery. Away from working for half of the year, Buddy had returned to the worktab on August 28 and had eleven published workouts in the past 2 ½ months. The last coming on November 8, when he worked four furlongs at Belmont in 48.67. It was expected that he was getting very close to a return to the races. A return that would have drew much interest, especially for anyone who had seen him run as a juvenile.

When Saint Liam passed away at the age of six, it was a tragedy. The racing world was robbed of a great horse and a promising young sire. Today’s horrible accident and subsequent death of Buddy’s Saint is even more tragic, and displays just how cruel fate can be. Saint Liam’s best son is gone, and much like his father, he has left us at a heartbreakingly young age. Rest in Peace Buddy’s Saint.

Photo by Eric Kalet

November 13, 2010

A Yankee in the Commonwealth

It’s hard not to like the undefeated horse, and I’m here to tell you there is a new and exciting one in town. Well, sort of. Yankee Fourtune’s lifetime record actually shows 5 wins in 6 starts, but since the son of Yankee Gentleman set foot on the lawn in his second start, he has been untouchable. With an outside post in a deep field of 13, and other speed to run with early, today’s feature at Churchill Downs presented new tests for the burgeoning turf star. The test was passed with flying colors.

Under regular rider Victor Santiago, Yankee Fourtune showed a new and desirable facet to his repertoire, by relaxing in third in the early stages of the 1 1/16 miles race. When asked, he quickly collared leader Stormy Lord on the far turn, like a very talented horse, and went on to score a deceptively easy one-length victory over late running Guys Reward. Santiago now calls him the nicest horse he has ever ridden.  The win in the seventh running of the $121,900 Commonwealth Turf was Yankee Fourtune’s second in stakes company. The grade 3 victory matched the grey gelding’s score last month in the Hawthorne Derby.

Out of the Mi Cielo mare, Madam Ann, Yankee Fourtune was bred in Kentucky by former governor Brereton C. Jones, and is owned by Harvey A. Clarke and Andrew Albstein. Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, he has yet to face a major challenge in his five grass wins. His streak has seen him win at Belmont, Saratoga, Hawthorne, and Churchill Downs, and each time in impressive fashion. This should be his final start of the season, as he is will be shipped south to Florida tomorrow. Yankee Fourtune will be pointed for turf stakes this Winter at Gulfstream Park. Today's win answered some questions, but to see how far this new turf star goes, we will need to wait until 2011.  Judging from his five starts in 2010, his future is bright. Bright green that is.

November 12, 2010

And the Horse of the Year is …

In an even more difficult decision than the one last year, I have made my choice for the 2010 Horse of the Year, and the winner is … Zenyatta.

First off, let me say that I believe the Horse of the Year to be a single year award. In no way did I let career records filter in my thinking for the 2010 honors. In the end, I only considered two horses for the award in Blame and Zenyatta.  While I believe that Goldikova and Uncle Mo were spectacular, they simply did not do enough, either in America, or against quality competition, to stack up against Zenyatta and Blame for the entire year. In selecting Zenyatta, I made a tough decision that goes against the grain for me slightly, as Blame was my pick to win the Classic, and I fully expected him to be Horse of the Year if he could win the Classic. Blame did win the Classic, but Zenyatta ran so well in defeat that I needed to rethink my position. Any less than the fantastic finish that carried her within inches of victory, and I would have stuck with Blame.

In comparison, I found many similarities between the two. Each horse was very consistent in 2010, if somewhat under tested. Both horses could have run more for my liking, but Zenyatta won 5 races with one 2nd place finish in 6 starts, while Blame took home 4 victories, also with one 2nd in 5 starts. These similar records became almost a wash for me as Zenyatta has more grade one wins, total victories, and came closer to perfection this year, but Blame took home the biggest race and was the winner in their only head-to-head contest. Zenyatta could have strengthened her portfolio with one more race against males. Blame lost points for running only five times. Zenyatta ran exclusively in grade one stakes, but this fact is tempered by the competition, or the lack there of, she faced. Blame won a big Whitney, but the race lost a little luster after seeing where the other three finished in the Classic.

Looking at their seasons on paper, I could not make enough delineation to make a decision. In most cases like this, I will side with the horse who won the biggest race. Not this time, as in my opinion, nothing was proven between the two in the Classic, other than the photo showed Blame ever so slightly ahead. If they raced again, I do not have a strong opinion as to who would win. In the Classic, they both strengthened my belief that they are the best two horses in America, and either would be a worthy Horse of the Year, but who is more worthy?

That question finally gave me the answer. As excellent as Blame was this year, he is simply not more worthy than Zenyatta. No lifetime achievement, no popularity sentiment here. In fact, I would have no problem going against the people’s choice, if I believed Blame was the more deserving. I do not. Zenyatta was the finest thoroughbred that we saw in 2010.

November 11, 2010

Goldikova Streaks Towards Immortality

How great is Goldikova? Three consecutive wins in the Breeders’ Cup Mile speaks volumes. No horse has ever done it in any BC races, and my guess is it will be a very long time before anyone can match her. Remarkably, this story does not end at three for the fanstistique French mare though. Race fans were thrilled this week with the news that Goldikova will be back in training in 2011. Even better, she will be specifically aimed for Churchill Downs and the Breeders’ Cup Mile again next year. Three Breeders’ Cup victories makes her a legend, a fourth would place her in the realm of the untouchables of sporting lore. Take a look at a list I have compiled (in no particular order) of the dozen greatest streaks in American sports history, and decide for yourself where four consecutive wins at the Breeders’ Cup would place the great Goldikova.

*Johnny Vander Meer pitched two straight no-hitters in 1938.

*Kelso won five consecutive Jockey Club Gold Cups and Horse of the Year titles from 1960-1964.

*The Boston Celtics won eight consecutive NBA titles from 1959-1966.

*Cal Ripken Jr. played in 2,632 straight MLB games from 1982-1998.

*Byron Nelson had 11 straight golf tournament wins in 1945.

*The Philadelphia Flyers completed 35 games without a loss during the 1979 NHL season.

*Brett Favre has started at Quarterback in 293 consecutive NFL games and still counting.

*UCLA took home the NCAA basketball championship in seven consecutive seasons from 1967-1973.

*Alexei Karelin had a 13-year winning streak in Greco-Roman style wrestling.

*The Miami Dolphins' completed a perfect NFL season with a 17-0 mark in 1972.

*Joe DiMaggio hit safely in 56 consecutive baseball games in 1941.

*Zenyatta won the first 19 races of her career from 2007-2010.

Photo Courtesy of Reed Palmer Photography

November 10, 2010

Who Am I ???

*Bred in Florida, I was a champion who was sired by a member of the Hall of Fame.

*I either finished 1st, 2nd or last in ever single start … 75% of them were wins.

*My winning streak of ten races was at seven different tracks and never at the same place two races in a row.

*The year I won an Eclipse Award, my conditioner also took home an award as Outstanding Trainer.

*In my first try around two-turns, I was beaten by a nose, giving ten pounds to a future Sprint Champion.

*Eleven of my wins came in stakes, three of those were of the grade 1 variety, with my first grade 1 victory coming at Monmouth Park.

*All of my wins occurred east of the Mississippi, with Arlington Park being the farthest west.

*In my championship season, I may not have been the top horse in the barn, but I did have a better record than him with 8 wins in 9 starts.

*All of my victories came in one-turn races within the range of five furlongs to one mile.

*Greatly cherished by my connections, I gave them everything I had on the track.

*I was retired after winning my final career race, unfortunately I suffered a bowed tendon in the process.

You should know by now … Who Am I ???

A Listless Life at Ten Raises Many Tough Questions

I did not bet a single dollar on Life at Ten, yet I want answers. I can only imagine how the hundreds of thousands of people who wagered money on her feel. As racing fights for every gambling dollar it can find, the last thing the sport needs now is to have an unexplained incident causing a loss of confidence in the betting on our sport. Without integrity, much is lost.

I have no financial interest in Life at Ten, yet I feared for her safety moments before the running of the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic. I can only imagine how the owner of Life At Ten may have felt. The safety of both horse and rider must come first in a sport with inherent danger.

Clearly the wagering public, and owner, Candy DeBartolo, deserve an investigation complete with a satisfactory explanation, as to why this filly was permitted to run Friday evening. Plain and simple, she needed to be scratched. As the situation stands now it is a black-eye on thoroughbred horse racing. To sweep it under the rug without a proper review and tangible changes implemented, is the worst possible direction for racing to go.

By now we’ve all seen, and we’ve all heard, the sequence of events that proceeded the Ladies’ Classic. Life At Ten was a listless horse before stepping on to the track, she was uncomfortable on the racing surface pre-race, and then when the gates opened she was eased almost immediately. Did all of this information come from some serious post-race digging by an industrious journalist? Not exactly … It was announced pre-race to a national viewing audience on ESPN.

Analyst Jerry Bailey noticed something was amiss with Life at Ten during her warm-up, and asked her rider John Velazquez about the mare‘s condition. Velazquez stated that she did not feel right. Asked a few minutes later, Velazquez reiterated his belief that Life at Ten was not herself. She was in no condition to run in the Ladies’ Classic now just moments away. It seems like a cut and dry situation, scratch her for the safety of horse, rider, and the other jockeys and horses in the race. Scratch her to protect the bettors who knew that there money was trapped on a horse that had zero chance to win.

The scratch of Life at Ten was not the chosen path, however. To tell you the truth, and this may sound a bit callous, my main concern is not what was wrong with Life at Ten on Friday night, but rather, how on earth she was permitted to run. I feel relatively confident, whether it was cramping, or an adverse reaction to Lasix, or whatever may have ailed her, that she thankfully will come out of the incident free of long-term problems. What I do have major concerns with, is whether racing will take adequate steps to make sure something like this can not happen again.

Here is what the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission had to say, “From the time Life at Ten was brought to the paddock, saddled, led to the track for the post parade, warmed up and loaded into the starting gate, neither trainer Todd Pletcher nor jockey Johnny Velasquez voiced any concerns they may have had regarding Life at Ten to any racing officials, veterinarians or the outriders prior to the running of the Ladies Classic,” Odd. Do they not get ESPN?

So who’s to blame for this fiasco?

Did Todd Pletcher ignore clear signs that Life at Ten was not right before sending his horse to the track? If he didn’t realize there was an issue, as he has basically stated, doesn’t he need to be more aware of the condition of every single horse he personally saddles?

Did John Velazquez not do enough at the starting gate to make sure the vets there would take action and make her a late scratch? By stepping in the starting gate did he endanger everyone competing in the Ladies Classic?

Did the vets at the starting gate ignore what the experienced rider was telling them about the condition of Life at Ten? Were they informed by the stewards what had been said on ESPN?

Did the stewards not have enough to go on to either order her scratched, or have her run for purse money only? Randy Moss stated that the information from the broadcast was passed along … did they choose to just ignore this information?

Did the money that the track and Breeders’ Cup would have lost from the late scratch have anything to do with the lack of action?

In the end, I blame everyone. Most likely this was a case of no one being willing to step up and make a difficult decision in the moments proceeding the big race. That’s a shame. Now is the time to step up. Investigate thoroughly and learn from mistakes ... and this was a major mistake. Everyone who loves this sport deserves an answer.  Nothing short of the integrity of racing lies in the balance.

November 9, 2010

Uncle Mo Rides the Breeders’ Cup Wake

The headlines have been written … Zenyatta and Blame. Blame and Zenyatta. What a race! Who should be Horse of the Year? As the racing world still crackles with the electricity generated by the Classic, and with Goldikova serving as a formidable sidebar, the other Breeders’ Cup stars have been somewhat pushed below the surface. Fair enough, first things first. The Classic did create a tidal wave of excitement and emotion, but there was one colt who was so spectacular that he demands attention in the here and now. Of course, the colt I speak of is Uncle Mo, the romping winner of the 27th running of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Uncle Mo controlled America‘s predominant race for two-year-olds from his stalking position and left rider John Velazquez with little to do but search for the competition. The son of Indian Charlie took the race by the throatlatch at the top of the stretch and cruised home down the Churchill Downs stretch as much the best. Uncle Mo finished 4 ¼ lengths clear of his only real competition, second choice Boys at Tosconova, who was more than 6 lengths ahead of 3rd place finisher Rogue Romance at the finish. The win confirms the hype placed on this horse from the very beginning, or at least it confirms that hype as a juvenile. Breaking his maiden by 14 ¼ lengths on Travers Day, Mo introduced himself in a big way. Running away from the Grade 1 Champagne competition in October furthered his reputation. I was one of those who gushed about this lightly raced talent, and by seeing him for the first time on Saturday, I only feel stronger that he is the best young horse I have seen in a long time. He runs fast every time and his impressive stride leaves the others hopelessly behind in the stretch.

The closest thing I have seen to Seattle Slew in 34 years, Uncle Mo not only will be named the Champion Two-year-old of 2010, he has established himself as an overwhelming early favorite for the 2011 Kentucky Derby. Pretty heady stuff for a horse who has run just three times. What road will the Good Uncle travel down on the road to glory? Pletcher’s initial plan is only two prep races for Uncle Mo before heading back to Louisville, saying he wouldn’t mind running his star around one turn in his first race as a 3-year-old. Possibilities for that first race would include two options at Gulfstream Park, the Holy Bull, a one-turn mile on January 29, or the Hutcheson, at seven furlongs on February 26. Owner Mike Repole, a native New Yorker, has already stated that he wants Mo’s final prep for the Run for the Roses to come in New York’s Wood Memorial.

With the likely retirement of Zenyatta, American racing is in need of a new hero. I give you Uncle Mo. He is the realest of deals, and while a lot can happen between now and the first Saturday in May, no one in his age group currently comes close to him.

November 8, 2010

Farewell to My Heroes

by Scott Dick  (special guest piece)

It's a few days removed from one of the most exciting finishes in Breeders Cup history and only one thought has entered my mind. What happens now? Initially, in the moment, in the excitement and the thrill of seeing Blame, the horse I picked and a lot of us picked cross the finish line a desperate nose in front of the mighty Zenyatta, I was happy I picked the winner in one of the toughest races to handicap and maybe in my ignorance a little to "proud" of myself for this feat.

Now that all the excitement has worn off and we're a few days removed from one of the most exciting Breeders Cup weekends in the history of the event, I find myself with a little remorse and a twinge in my heart. It hit me hard as soon as I watched Mike Smith's press conference. This man has given his life to this sport and he's done it with dignity and class. And when Smith uttered the words " it hurts more than I can explain just cause it was my fault she should of won it ain't hers" I literally broke down and wept and even now writing this piece tears are rolling down my face.

I have not been one of the strongest voices in Zenyatta's corner. I've had my doubts about her class and the horses she's beaten. She proved me wrong and in her only defeat she stole my heart. It's really not supposed to end like this. She's supposed to get her nose down in time.

I've been an admirer of Rachel Alexandra since the beginning of her career and I'm taking nothing away from Rachel, who will always be number #1 in my eyes. I feel guilty, maybe, I missed it? Maybe some of us missed it? Yes, I've more than enjoyed Zenyatta over the past three years and her dancing and pawing and just sure brilliance. But in the back of my mind, in my selfishness, I didn't want to accept what I was seeing. I was blessed to see Zenyatta five feet away from me with a dear horse racing friend of mine, Tim Reynolds. Friday morning we rushed to Longfield Avenue to see if the great Zenyatta would be out grazing and in a sure act of fate, she was. I was over whelmed with what I saw, she was the most amazing creature I've ever seen in person.

But now after the Classic, I'm hit with the realization I'll never see these two incredible mares run again. This is an incredibly hard fact to face. Anyone that knows me knows I'm an intense person. I take things hard and I experience this game with my heart and in quoting Mike Smith and using a little bit of my own verbiage, "It hurts more than you know, just cause it ain't her fault it's mine she deserved everyone to love her for who she is and now that it's over. I do love more now than ever and can say without a doubt the greatest race mare I've ever seen."

So back to my question, what do we do now? This sport can be a cruel and heartless mistress and just at the height of our love for a horse, they're taken away from us, never to be seen again in the same spot light they were. 2010 has been so hard for me. Financially speaking, one of the best years I've had in the game, but emotionally speaking it's been "too hard". I'm tired of goodbyes. It hurt me more than anything when Jess Jackson took Rachel away from us in the darkness of the night, with no explanation, no goodbye, no last chance to see her again. And now we have to do it again. I can't bear to say goodbye to Zenyatta, not after my new found love for her. It's just too hard! Not only that, we also have to say goodbye to Blame who was a deserving victor in the biggest race in the world and probably won't get the credit as a horse he deserves. I do not want to say goodbye.

Where does this sport go from here? What do we do if and when Gio Ponti is retired and then what if Goldikova doesn't come back to run in 2011? I'm really having a hard time with this, but maybe just maybe the future is bright. Maybe the light will be shown on this sport in the future because of a bay colt named Mo. Or maybe just maybe we'll see an Oaks win by a horse who runs light as a feather, An Awesome Feather at that. Maybe the future of our sport is being born today on a cold Monday morning some where around Lexington.

Saying goodbye is always hard, but this year has been un-bearable. So I'll leave Zenyatta, the Mosses, Mike Smith, Steve Willard, Mario with a simple apology. I'm sorry for not seeing "it" until now. But I will smile and look to the future knowing that soon, we'll have another one of these amazing creatures grab our hearts and tug and never let go.

Bob Hansan Wins the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge

“Imagine how I felt with 19 and 0 bearing down on me.”

You may think those were the words of Breeders’ Cup Classic winning rider Garrett Gomez, but rather they came from Bob Hansan. Hansan was as jubilant as the connections of Blame themselves, after the four-year-colt finished a short head clear of Zenyatta in America’s richest race. Hansan had good reason to be in a celebratory mood after winning his first National Handicapping Tour event, and clinching it in the grandest of styles. Hansan let it all ride on the Classic, placing his remaining bankroll of $7,300 on the nose of Blame, who would reward the handicapper’s faith with a thrilling win in one of the greatest races in American history.
***The remainder of today's column can be found on*** Click Here

November 7, 2010

Eclipse Awards … at First Blush

The Breeders’ Cup can make or break a horse’s quest to be named an Eclipse Award winner, and that may be especially true this year. The excitement over the past few days at Churchill Downs not only drew great emotion, it also went a long way in deciding who would be named a champion at year‘s end. With less than two months remaining in the calendar year there are several big races yet to be run. What impact any of those races may have is questionable though, as the Breeders’ Cup appears to have put most of the divisional championships firmly in the grasp of the following ten horses.

Two-Year-Old Filly - Awesome Feather left Calder unbeaten and untested, now she is an undefeated Breeders’ Cup champion and has clinched the juvenile filly championship.  As of today, she is owned by Frank Stronach.

Two-Year-Old Colt - Uncle Mo is an electrifying and undefeated Breeders’ Cup champion and has sewn up the divisional championship. He also will be a strong Winter book favorite for the Kentucky Derby.

Sprint Female Horse - Dubai Majesty was one of many who had credentials to be considered beforehand, but with her impressive win in the Filly & Mare Sprint, she zoomed to the head of the class.

Sprint Male Horse - Big Drama may have earned his first grade one victory in the BC Sprint, but the hard knocking Florida bred has been very consistent this year. Saturday’s win should wrap up the award.

Turf Female Horse - Goldikova again. The great mare won her third BC Mile, and she did it more impressively than ever. Proviso and the ill-fated Tuscan Evening racked up wins, but no one touches Goldikova in this division.

Turf Male Horse - Paddy O’Prado would have been the BC Turf winner if he only ran. Of course, he did not, but with a longshot Turf winner, and Goldikova beating Gio Ponti in the Mile, he may hold on to a slim advantage in an unspectacular division.

Three-Year-Old Filly - Blind Luck is this year’s rags to riches to story. The little filly that could fired every time, and her 2nd place finish in the Ladies’ Classic is plenty to solidify her position as the top sophomore filly in America.

Three-Year-Old Male Horse - Lookin at Lucky came up a little short in the final furlong of the Breeders’ Cup Classic, but in no way tarnished his well earned reputation. Not always the luckiest of runners, Lucky’s four stakes wins, including the Preakness and Haskell, carry the day.

Older Female Horse - Zenyatta. No need to say more.

Older Male Horse - Blame was able to fulfill the promise so many had seen in the son of Arch for a long time. His win in an epic BC Classic may have been unpopular with many, but he earned it on the track. It took a special horse to finally beat Zenyatta, and his name is Blame.

Horse of the Year - Blame was terrific this year and won the Classic, but Zenyatta was one stride short of perfection … I am going to need a little more time before I make a final decision on this one.

November 6, 2010

In Defeat, Zenyatta’s Legend Grows

There are times in life when a loss is not a loss. The 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic was such a moment.

Tonight in front of legions of devoted fans, and millions of more admirers watching from home, Zenyatta accomplished as much in defeat as she had in any of her previous wins. In a thrilling display of talent and courage, she did what some doubted she could, by storming home in the 27th edition of America’s richest race, the Breeders‘ Cup Classic. As Zenyatta and her newest rival hit the wire in unison, It was Blame, an excellent four-year-old son of Arch, who desperately held the slimmest of possible margins over the fan favorite. For many in the crowd it was a devastating and heartbreaking loss for their hero. Grown men were brought to tears when it was apparent that her furious stretch run had fallen agonizingly short. Her racing partner for the past three seasons, Mike Smith fought back the emotions to say this after the race.

“I feel like I let her down. I left her too much to do. I had to put on the brakes at the quarter pole when Quality Road started backing up. I think that cost me the race. In the beginning, she struggled with the track. She didn’t like all that dirt flying at her. I needed a little better position for her early. I just know she was the best horse in the race. It was another gallant effort for her.”

Gallant to say the least, Mike. Zenyatta is no longer undefeated, but her reputation grew leaps and bounds tonight. In Blame, she faced the best horse she had ever faced. With all due respect to the Classic winner, he was simply not the best horse in the race. As someone who selected Blame to win the race, I say without a shred of doubt that Zenyatta was the best horse in the Classic. That is how good she was, she is, and she always has been.

To no one’s surprise Zenyatta fell back to the rear of the pack immediately out of the gate, but how far behind she fell, was surprising. She was 15 lengths behind after the field was four furlongs into the Classic. Any worries about seeing the real Zenyatta were short lived as the big mare began to roll. Her rally was poetry in motion, as the crowd reached fever pitch. With every ground gobbling stride she gained on the leaders rapidly, but alas on this night there would be one horse who was resolute. Blame had burst through a small opening early in the stretch and spurted clear to take a commanding lead at the eighth pole. As Zenyatta began to reel him in, Blame gave it everything he had to the wire. The crowd was aghast and stunned. Zenyatta was one stride short of catching him and winning her 20th race in a style never before seen in Breeders’ Cup Classic history.

Zenyatta is a champion through and through, even a blind man could see that. She blew away any doubts about her greatness with the cold Louisville winds with power and grace. In the end, I feel for all her connections and true fans, but I would like to pass this one thought to them … there is no reason for anyone to hang their heads about. Zenyatta is more of a champion tonight, in defeat, than she has ever been.

Photo Courtesy of Reed Palmer Photography

Judgment Day

To Z or not to Z that is the question. 19 times she has run, and 19 times she has crossed the wire first. Whether you think that she is the greatest of all-time or not, matters little today. The mighty Zenyatta is on the precipice of history. To be perfect in 20 starts over four seasons of racing is incredible enough, but if she wins the Breeders’ Cup Classic for the second straight year, she would be alone in an uncharted territory of racing history. The world will be watching, as everyone wants to know if her furious rally will get the job done one last epic time. Number 20 looks to present the greatest challenge yet.

Standing in her way is a full field of excellent males ready to knock the Queen off her throne. Blame, Quality Road, and Looking at Lucky have each proven special enough to be no surprise if they would prove successful in their own quest for racing immortality. Zenyatta is already great, she is already a legend. Today is the day she can takes things to a different level. In order for greatness to leave all doubts behind, it needs to be tested in an ultimate manner. Today, Zenyatta has her chance. The world is in her corner.

Photo Courtesy of Rick Buckley

November 5, 2010

Ladies’ Day

It feels funny to call it Ladies Day when Zenyatta and Goldikova did not make their way to a Breeders’ Cup starting gate, but that is exactly what we had on a cool and crisp Friday card at Churchill Downs. The atmosphere was one of excitement, as day transformed into evening midway through the opening act of the World Championships of Racing.

My star of the day was Awesome Feather, who took flight today when soaring home in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. The Jacks or Better owned bay filly, easily handled her transition into grade 1 competition, winning by 2 ¼ lengths over surprise pacesetter, R Heat Lightning. In the process, the daughter of Awesome of Course completed a perfect 6 for 6 season. The Florida bred miss had never raced away from Calder Race Course previously, but the acid test proved to be no problem. Awesome Feather wrapped up the divisional championship with the win, and will now enter the auction next week at Keeneland.

Unrivaled Belle finally won the big one in the Ladies’ Classic. The grey filly, trained by Bill Mott, ran the race of her life to repel the late run of the reliable Blind Luck, to win by 1 ¾ lengths. The popular Blind Luck finished one length clear of her familiar sophomore rival Havre de Grace, who was third. Unrivaled Belle displayed a new dimension tonight as she relaxed in fifth in the early stages, before taking command as the horses were nearing the stretch. The victory broke a string of three straight seconds since running her previous best when defeating Rachel Alexandra over the Churchill Downs oval this April.

The day’s big payoff came when Shared Account shocked the crowd of over 41,000 by outfighting heavily favored Midday to take the BC Filly & Mare Turf. Under her usual rider, Edgar Prado, Shared Account relaxed off the early pace, and along with Midday, burst through from between horses on the inside. It briefly looked like the European champion would be too tough for the American longshot, but that idea was quickly squashed as it was the 46-1 who proved strongest late. She reached the wire clear by a neck over Midday in the eleven furlong race on firm turf.

Dubai Majesty is only getting better with age, and now in her 34th career start, the five-year-old Bret Calhoun trained sprinter is a Breeders’ Cup winner. Impressively sweeping by her competition turning for home and easily drawing clear to win by an impressive 2 ¼ lengths over bridesmaid Switch. Much like Awesome Feather, the win will not prevent Dubai Majesty from being up for sale. She will be enter the sales ring next Sunday in the upcoming Fasig-Tipton sale in Lexington.

More Than Real, despite running erratically, proved much the best in the Juvenile Filly Turf, serving up a tasty main dish for owner and celebrity chef, Bobby Flay. The daughter of More Than Ready registered a decisive two-length victory by easily holding off the heavily favored Winter Memories and the late running Kathmanblu in the one mile turf affair. It was only the third lifetime start for the winner, who seems to have a bright future for trainer Todd Pletcher.

Eldaafer won the race, but the real story in the Marathon was the post-race fisticuffs between riders Calvin Borel and Javier Castellano. I had the feeling that I was at the fights and a horse race broke out. If not for the rather large men pulling Borel away from Castellano, things could have turned into quite the donnybrook. Borel was incensed, while Castellano was DQ‘d from second place aboard Prince Will I Am for his dangerous maneuver entering the stretch. Martin Garcia did well to stay aboard his mount Romp after the incident.

What will tomorrow bring? My guess is everything good we saw today, times ten. Zendemonium anyone?

Photo Courtesy of Reed Palmer