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Monday, October 31, 2005

Horse of the Year

- Saint Liam’s dominating win in the Classic puts him alone at the top of the class, whether you favor a points system such as the Blog Standings, or the traditional Eclipse voting system. His dominating win in the Classic clinched the title for him, barring some unforeseen development. Such as a showdown between he and Afleet Alex, for example. But that’s not going to happen, despite Dutrow’s dare to anyone to come and meet Saint Liam after 45 days. For one thing, Dick Jerardi reports in the Philly Daily News today that Chuck Zacney, the managing partner of Cash Is King, said "it looks like this is it [for 2005]."

Zacney is talking to his trainer, Tim Ritchey, about a 2006 campaign, which might start in the Sunshine Millions (a day of races between Florida and California breds) and, in a perfect world, end in the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs, the site of Alex's heartbreaking Kentucky Derby loss.
And besides, do you really think Saint Liam would show up, having nothing whatsoever to gain and everything to lose?

But he only beat Flower Alley by a length, and what’s so special about the 112 Beyer he earned?

That may be true, but neither takes into account all the ground that he lost when he broke to the outside in a situation in which even a clean break would have resulted in lost ground.
"He broke out sharply," Bailey said, "and stayed there for 20 or 30 yards, so instead of saving ground for the first few jumps, I was losing ground."
“My horse took the worst of it, breaking out at the start, and he still was very authoritative in winning." [LA Times]
The start wasn’t the only place he lost ground. He had to swing out to pass horses on the turn, and look here at just how wide he was (that’s him in the pink).

I think it’s fair to say that he could have won by significantly more with a better trip. As far as how Afleet Alex would have done in the race, that’s something we can think about for the rest of eternity, since the two will unfortunately never square off. Reader Jerry from Philly (glad to see that somebody here had Artie Schiller!), a big Afleet Alex fan, points out that: “AA comes home in better than 49.3 I'm sure.” Quite possibly. Perhaps, given the same trip scenario for Saint Liam, Afleet Alex at his peak could have won with some racing luck; but the Afleet Alex that would have come into the race off of one prep (that was just a wacky idea from the start), I think would have been hard-pressed to win under any circumstances.

Saint Liam is a son of Saint Ballado, out of Quiet Dance, a stakes winning daughter of Quiet American. Some readers will be happy to note that the presence of Quiet American in the pedigree means that he has plenty of Dr. Fager blood, as that stallion is incestuously inbred, 2x3, to the good doctor. His second dam is a half to Misty Gallore, a multiple graded stakes winning mare who I recall racing here in New York in 1979-80.

Moral Victory: Flower Alley gave an excellent account of himself rebounding from his Gold Cup disaster with his stubborn second place finish, in which he gave way grudgingly to a superior opponent, much like Bellamy Road did to him when he won the Travers. Apparently, Pletcher was trying to hype him as champion three year-old, but Jerardi is having none of that:
It was a hollow campaign. Flower Alley ran against Alex twice, losing by a combined 15 _ lengths. After his colt was trounced in the Derby, Pletcher took him out of the Triple Crown.

The Crown decides championships. Alex was a dominant force. Flower Alley disappeared. Flower Alley's excellent summer and fall campaign is not nearly enough to unseat Alex, who followed the brilliance of Smarty Jones with brilliance of his own
The connections of Perfect Drift were ecstatic (“We feel like winners"[NY Post] ); he ran his usual close but no cigar race, but in this case it was worth over a half million dollars for the show spot.

Big loser: Besides Afleet Alex, for whom the door to HOY honors opened a bit when Lost in the Fog went down, Borrego was a huge disappointment as the close second choice, finishing a distant, no-move tenth. Garrett Gomez said: “He gave me 50 yards of run through the stretch, but then he flattened out.” [LA Times]

- Bill Handleman of the Asbury Park Press doesn’t get that warm and tingly feeling when thinking about Saint Liam:
There is nothing particularly heart-warming about the Saint Liam story, no everyman owners like the crew that owns Afleet Alex, no small-time trainer, no small-time jockey, no lemonade stand, nothing.

What you get with Saint Liam is a guy who owns an oil company, a trainer who just served a 60-day suspension, and a rider, Jerry Bailey, who has won everything there is to win, multiple times.

Still, you have to admit, Saint Liam is the best horse around, even if there aren't all that many good ones left standing.

Oh well.

Lost in the Sprint

- Besides the fatal injury suffered in the Mile by Funfair, the biggest bummer of Breeders' Cup day was certainly the defeat of Lost in the Fog in the Sprint. I know that there are some who are rejoicing over the fact that they just knew that the horse wasn’t unbeatable, but I think that even they would have to admit that the sport would be better off if he was. Though his trainer Greg Gilchrist said that "When you're winning, you don't have to make excuses, or when you're losing, you shouldn't come up with any, either,” [Times Picayune], he came up with a couple anyway.

"I think it's possible we just pushed the button one too many times," Gilchrist said. "I think traveling got to him a little bit finally. He was nervous before the race, and he has never displayed that before. He just seemed kind of irritated."

Gilchrist first noticed a difference in Lost in the Fog in the holding barn about three hours before the race, and then the colt reared up in the saddling paddock when the trainer put on the overgirth.

"He acted like he was upset about something," Gilchrist said. "It didn't look like he was real comfortable with what was happening. When horses do things like that, they use up energy and you usually don't get a good performance."[SF Gate]
I thought it looked promising when he swept past the two pacesetters Atilla’s Storm and Battle Won while three wide on the turn, but when he couldn’t put the former away, it was obvious he wasn’t going to hang on. Russell Baze said “He gave me a little punch, but after about a dozen jumps, he had nothing left.”" [LA Times]

The winner, Silver Train, who earned a 114 Beyer for his win, has been a monster ever since moving to the barn of Richard Dutrow, Jr., and for obvious reasons, not everyone is thrilled that it was the first of two winners on the day for the trainer. Silver Train is by the late Old Trieste, the second of two stallion sons of A.P. Indy to have a BC winner this day, along with Stephen Got Even (Stevie Wonderboy). His only inbreeding is a 5x5 cross of Bold Ruler through his sons Secretariat and Cornish Prince. He’s out of a stakes placed daughter of Cormorant. Since no one has taken my advice to start a “dead stallion register,” there are no statistics available to me about Old Trieste’s foal crops.

Moral Victory: Taste of Paradise certainly would have won the race had he not been impeded midstretch. His trainer Gary Mandella was frustrated: "There isn't any question in my mind my horse is the best horse today. I get beat a nose, and no question he got interfered with." [Courier-Journal]

While Taste of Paradise's second place finish is enough for him to take the Blog Standings in the sprint division, Lost in the Fog will still certainly win the Eclipse. But here's a question for you: If Taste of Paradise had won, would he have deserved the Eclipse prize based on winning arguably the two most important Grade 1 spint stakes of the year?

Big Loser: The sport of kings.

- Those of you who purchased BC merchandise at the track Saturday may not want to know about the fire sale that was held on the stuff at Belmont on Sunday….Would you believe, three T-shirts for ten bucks?

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Stevie Wonderboy

- Stevie Wonderboy was a hot horse ever since his 46 second workout on Monday, in which observers raved about how easily he did it. And he was hot on the tote board in the Juvenile too; 8-1 in the morning line, he opened at 7-2 and drifted up to 9-2. I was so out of my routine that I never got to check out the show pools, but I imagine there was some Merv Money going on the nose. Like the Juv Fillies, it was a fast pace – :45 3/5 and 1:10 3/5 - two fifths slower than the girls. Henny Hughes emerged with the lead and was strong down the lane, turning the tables on First Samurai. The final time of 1:41 3/5 was more than two seconds faster than the fillies, and the closing fractions of 31.03 for the last 2 ½ furlongs and 6.30 for the last sixteenth show that this was one impressive rally by the winner! This was not a case of the front runners dying; Henny Hughes ran an amazing race in his first start for Kiaran McLaughlin and Steve Wonderboy more so for catching him.

His jockey Garrett Gomez told the UK's Sporting Life:

"I had a decent trip early on, but a horse down on the inside swung out at the five-eighths pole, and I clipped heels with him.

"I took back a little and dropped to the inside, and from the half-mile pole on I was waiting to push the button. When I did, those other two horses (Henny Hughes & First Samurai) gave me more of a fight than I expected.

"My horse has a heckuva turn of foot, but I had trouble getting to them for a minute. When he found his best stride at the sixteenth pole, he wore them down and ran a huge race.
The winner is a son of Stephen Got Even (A.P. Indy/Seattle Slew); I wrote of his highly unusual pedigree in this post; in short, his grandparents are half-brother/sister - he’s inbred 3x3 to the mare Weekend Surprise. The dosage boys will love this one for the Derby with his 1.86; and he has stallions like Roberto, Cox’s Ridge, Seattle Slew, and Secretariat (twice by virtue of his daughter Weekend Surprise) in his first four generations.

The second year stallion Stephen Got Even seems to be coming on after a slow first year in which he had no stakes winners and just five overall. In 2005, he has three stakes winners, including multiple graded winner Don’t Get Mad, and is up to 29 winners overall. The win propels him to number three on the second year sire list by earnings, behind Fusaichi Pegasus and Giant’s Causeway. Just last week his three year old daughter For All We Know took the Grade 2 Lexus Raven Run at Keeneland.

Moral Victory: Already mentioned Henny Hughes. First Samurai was hardly disgraced in defeat. He was further back than usual after a bobble at the start, and picked up horses willingly while wide around the turn, despite the fact that he was, according to Frank Brothers, bothered by the dirt hitting him. He flattened out late from his efforts, but could very well improve when they stretch out and go around two turns. Besides, what Derby aspirant wants to win the Juvenile anyway?

Big Loser: Sorcerer's Stone, bet down to 7-1, was not a factor.


- I was way off base on Folklore, whose romp in the Matron I attributed to the futility of her opponents; I even questioned her 99 Beyer. She was pretty great winning the Juvenile Fillies, showing speed and a bit of handiness, as Edgar Prado, getting his first Breeders Cup win, was able to ease her back a bit off Knight’s Templar when that one rushed up to the lead along the inside. Still, Folklore tracked the Canadian intently through a fast half mile of :45.1, and was able to regain the lead handily as they came out of the turn, with Prado taking a peek behind to assess the competition. She tired down the stretch, but that was to be expected, and she had more than enough to hold off Wild Fit. She's a well-deserving winner in the Blog Standings and a cinch for Eclipse honors.

Folklore is from the first crop of the two-time Classic winner Tiznow, who stood for $30,000 in 2005. She’s his only stakes winner thus far; he has just four winners from 25 starters in a foal crop of 90. This is the In Reality sire line; of the eight race winners, only three are from either the Northern Dancer (Intercontinental and Artie Schiller) or Mr. Prospector (Pleasant Home) sire lines. In fact, she’s inbred to In Reality 4x4, as well as to Northern Dancer 5x5x4. She’s out of an unraced Storm Cat mare, but her second and third dams, Jeano and Basie, are both stakes winners, the latter by In Reality, so Bob and Beverly Lewis, the breeder/owners of Folklore, were following a pattern that had worked in the dam’s family before. She is to be pointed to the Kentucky Oaks.

Note: Folklore has yet to run around two turns.

Moral victory: Wild Fit closed a long way to get second, and was impeded in the process.

"She ran awesome," her trainer Jeff Mullins said. "She got steadied a little at the five-sixteenth pole. If she hadn't steadied, she might have got there. They were going fast on the lead. We probably would liked to have had her closer, but that's horseracing." [Bloodhorse]
Don’t know if he means that as criticism of Alex Solis; I thought he rode her perfectly - she could very well have been closer if not for some bad racing luck. The pace was very hot – two fifths faster than the boys mixed it up in the Juvenile – and other riders, including Bailey on Original Spin, may have moved too soon. This race is going to look good on Wild Fit's past performance lines especially with the trouble comment; but at two turns, she could be quite overbet and vulnerable in her next start. She had no excuse when she lost to Diamond Omi in the Oak Leaf, and that one finished dead last in the Juv Fillies. It may pay to follow as she prepares for a Kentucky Oaks campaign.

Big Loser: Adieu. Don’t know if “dead on the board” applies to these races with such big pools, but Adieu sure played the part on the board and on the track. Durkin noted she was going in the “wrong direction” around the turn. Many people felt she’d be favored, but she was 5-1 early, and she was barely made second choice by post time, almost reluctantly so it seemed. The Beyer boys were right again on this one.

No Schiller in Sheets

- It was halfway through the Breeders’ Cup program and the day was at a crossroads. It had been a frenetic day from the second we walked in, around 20 minutes before the Juvenile Fillies. We headed straight for the paddock, which was overflowing with a crowd dressed in preparation for the cool weather, giving it a truly World Series-type atmosphere from the moment we walked in. It was obvious that there were many visitors who had made the short hop over from the UK; the Head Chef pointed out that British men really know how to dress! From the paddock, it was off to the windows and I was right into the day without skipping a beat, and feeling a little overwhelmed - by the crowd and the lines and by the magnitude of the horses that were there and the races being run. I was running up and down, up to the seats, down to the paddock, up to the windows, back down, where I had the great pleasure of seeing Jessica again, and of meeting my other fellow bloggers Patrick, Brian, Quinella Queen, and reader Jim from Rochester, cool! I needed to calm down and drank some bourbon we had brought in, and while it provided the desired effect, in retrospect it was probably a mistake.

Now, before I knew it, the Sprint was over, Lost in the Fog had lost, and though I didn’t have any tickets still alive by the time we got to the Sprint, I found the result extremely disappointing and a big letdown. "Just inside the eighth pole he had nothing left," Russell Baze said. The shine of a potential star had been seriously doused, and we’ll be hearing the ‘I told-ya-so’s’ from all the ‘I told-ya-so’s.’ (May I point out that Battle Won finished last?) Worse yet, the race had been won by the kind of horse whose dramatic improvement since transferring to the barn of his current trainer is the sort that raises suspicions of the game’s integrity.

I’d had no luck at the windows to that point. In the Juvenile Fillies, I was immediately faced with a decision. I’d liked Wild Fit for weeks, but just before leaving I saw a note from reader Walter about a highly negative assessment of the filly’s last work by a clocker that he called ‘very, very good.’ A valuable insider tip? Or too much information? In this case, I opted for the latter, sticking to my convictions, and I was almost rewarded, as her remarkable rally from far, far back, fell just a length or so short.

Sorcerer’s Stone was disappointing in the Juvenile, Karen’s Caper tired badly in the F&M Turf, Lost in the Fog had been vanquished; now what to do? The Mile was upcoming, and a race that many had conceded to Leroidesanimaux now seemed wide open with the announcement that the favorite would be outfitted with aluminum pads. He had worn bar shoes for his last workout, but Frankel had promised he’d be reshod with regular shoes. Now, every smart guy I’d spoken to was going against him; all the bloggers, and those in the group with whom I was sitting, and sharing bourbon and having a nice time.

One of these guys at the seats, a friend of the friend I’d gotten the seats from, someone I’d never met before, was looking to partner in some dollar Pick 4’s, based on singling Saint Liam. We both agreed that Saint Liam couldn’t lose, so I was all ears. He liked Stellar Jayne and In the Gold in the Distaff; I had grown more and more in favor of the former as the day progressed. I didn’t like In the Gold at all, but I said OK, as long as we could also use Pleasant Home, who I’d picked as a longshot possibility for exotics. He was a Sheets guy, took a look, mumbled something about “forging,” and nodded in approval.

We agreed on the three foreigners Bago, Shirocco, and Azamour along with Better Talk Now and Fourty Niners Son for the Turf; and we wanted to spread the Mile to beat Leroidesanimaux in the Mile. “Who do you like?” he asked. Now, as I mentioned the other day, I never really handicapped the Mile. I was sold on the King, and once I read in several places that even the Europeans, many of whom thought they were going to win three races on the day, felt that their contingent was subpar, I didn’t even bother. So now, with time ticking down and facing lines that had been annoying all day, I started from the top – “Well, Artie Schiller, Funfair, Majors Cast....”

“No, I don’t like Artie Schiller or Funfair.”

Oh. Hmmm. O....K...., I mean, I didn’t really do the race, and here’s a smart guy with Sheets telling me these horses are no good. They sure looked good to me; how much sharper could either of them be, particularly Artie Schiller, who has never ever run a poor race? Another Sheets guy there made a disparaging comment about Funfair, like ‘oh yeah, he’s gonna have the rail open up at the right time for him again today.’ I dunno, I guess I figure if people pay forty bucks, or whatever it is, for a single day’s worth of Sheets, they must have better information than me. And though the bourbon had calmed me and was keeping me warm, it had, as usual, dulled my ability to make crisp decisions, which is why I usually prefer not drinking at the track. So I just deferred; I went along. When we did the math and figured we could include one more for the Mile, and it was left to me to add another, I wimped out and chose Leroidesanimaux, who was getting bet as if there was nothing wrong.

You can figure out the rest. The return on my share of that Pick Four would have been some $4325. This was not a handicapping failure, but instead one of my own passivity and confidence in my knowledge and handicapping skills. In the Juvenile Filles, I discarded the warning on the workout, and stuck with what I believed. In the Mile, besides being unprepared and in little condition to handicap efficiently, I showed no confidence at all, perhaps even feeling a little intimidated by someone who I thought knew more than me. What in the world could have possibly been on the freaking Sheets to convince me that Artie Schiller was not a contender in this race? Even through my alcohol-induced fog, just a glance at the Form showed that he just had to be on that ticket! Why should I, or any of you, ever think that someone else’s opinion is better than ours, whether it’s Mike Watchmaker or some guy with Sheets? Or with a blog for that matter?

So I had already blown my budget for the day, and had to borrow, or should I say, “borrow” money from the Head Chef. I can’t really explain nor recall what happened in my mind to make me NOT use Pleasant Home on top in the Distaff. I guess I just didn’t really think she was going to win the race, but at 30-1....damn! I recall my childhood racing mentor in these situations repeating over and over to me “If you really liked him, you would’ve have had him, so you didn’t have him because you didn’t really like him.”

But the smart guy with the Sheets, alerted to the longshot by yours truly, now did like her, and he did use her on top and ride it to the $2045 Pick Three. He felt bad and wanted to compensate me somehow, but the Head Chef and I had planned our prompt escape following the Classic finish and, with no IRS forms to be completed, were quickly out to the parking lot. An amazing day of racing, about which I’ll be back over the next few days with more, and another valuable lesson learned. I’m hoping to be able to sneak back to Belmont for a few races today.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Breeders Cup Day

- I imagine I haven’t made many friends in the UK with my selections for today. The only European horse I picked is Karen's Caper, and I don't know if that even counts since she ran at Keeneland in her last. Good results for the invaders are widely expected over there, and Ladbrokes offer just 6-1 against three winners for the visitors, though four or more is 25-1. That’s a pretty big difference of opinion; I think most of us here would be quite surprised if the Europeans win three of these.

They’ll be a lot of differences of opinion on the races today; even a favorite like Lost in the Fog will have plenty of opponents amongst the bettors. I can handicap these over and over and come up with different winners each time. The bottom line is that there are a lot of really good horses that are all capable of winning, and racing luck is going to play a large role in determining the outcome. So my advice is to find some live horses at nice prices, don’t go crazy, have fun, pool some money with friends for some multi-race bets, hope for a little luck, and just experience and enjoy the day. (A triple or two would be nice though.)

- Jay Cronley of writes It's Saturday night after the races. So how do we get our money back?

Penn National.

I'm looking for a cheap claiming horse over from Philadelphia Park that got obliterated and is running for the same tag, suggesting a big win here.

Talk about a full day.
- Have a great day and good luck!

- Feel free to email me with questions, comments, links or suggestions.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Will the Crowd Be Going Crazy?

- Tom Durkin had the day off on Friday - a chance to rest his voice for the big day. It was that first Breeders Cup in 1984 that Durkin came into prominence; his call of the classic first Classic was a classic! Eight guest announcers from tracks around the country and one from England called a race each in an event that is apparently conducted each year before Breeders' Cup day. It was nice to hear Dave Johnson back at his old haunt, and a rousing contest at midstretch allowed him to unleash his signature ‘down the stretch they come’ with authority.

I felt a little bad for the announcers who got stuck with short fields and/or short-priced favorites winning like short-priced favorites; they might have been thinking ‘I came all the way here for this?’ Well maybe what they really came for was to all go out together and get trashed tonight. I don't think I'd want to be hanging around nine drunk track announcers; it would probably get pretty loud.

Larry Lederman called the second race. Lederman has been calling races at various tracks in New Jersey for many years, and is currently the race caller at Freehold Raceway, an afternoon harness track. Lederman is a riot. I haven’t heard him in a while so I don’t know if he still does this, but he used to at times do impersonations of other announcers during his calls. I remember him doing Trevor Denman on several occasions, as well as a hilarious Marshall Cassidy. He also did celebrity impersonations including Jackie Mason and Rodney Dangerfield.

I recall being at the Meadowlands one weeknight, and Lederman was calling the races from Atlantic City. It was a ding-dong battle down the stretch, and in the middle of his call, Lederman exclaimed “AND THE CROWD IS GOING CRAZY!” Knowing that there were probably 700 people in the crowd I just starting cracking up, even though I was going to lose. It was the funniest race I’ve ever seen....or heard, I guess I should say. Watching and listening to Lederman call the second on Friday, I recalled that line as they turned into the stretch (“Into the highway of heroes”), and I realized that if he used the same line in this race, it would have the same ironic effect. Though the crowd of 6,216 was around twice as much as you’d usually get on a Friday in October, that’s still a tiny audience in the vast canyon of the Belmont grandstand, and I’m sure there was as little electricity in the live audience as I imagine there was that night at Atlantic City years ago.

Hopefully, the crowd really will be going crazy on Saturday, if just to keep themselves warm. Based on Friday’s crowd, you can figure that there are at least 3,000 people in town for the big day, so a crowd of at least 11,000 seems assured. Beyond that, I don’t even want to guess. But I’m afraid, very afraid...

Trevor Denman called the feature race, the Grade 3 Nashua at a mile for three year olds. And the winner was Bluegrass Cat, a Storm Cat colt who was Todd Pletcher’s third winner of the day. Richard Dutrow had the nerve to actually pass him for the lead in the trainers standings when his Make My Dayjur won the third, so Pletcher just went out and won three. Bluegrass Cat is a half brother to Lord of the Game, a pre-entry for the Classic who did not get into the race.

Pletcher’s other two winners were both two year olds and both offspring of Unbridled’s Song. The first of his winners was My Golden Song in the 4th; he was 9-2 in the morning line but went off at 11-1, so you know there was as much of a chance I would’ve bet him as me donating to Libby Lewis’ legal fund. And he was an impressive winner to boot, exploding through a hole down inside to draw away and finishing up the seven furlongs in :12 4/5 for the last eighth. Then two races later, it was Magnificent Storm at 7-10 in her second start, first on the dirt.

Unbridled Song’s stud fee for 2006 was recently raised by $25K to $150,000. He took the 1995 Juvenile here at Belmont, beating Hennessy by a neck at 5-1, with Editor’s Note third, and favored Honour and Glory 4th.

Who Do You Like Today?

Juvenile Fillies:

Wild Fit - Will appreciate the one turn route
Original Spin - Unbeaten filly took the Lassie at the one turn mile at Arlington, gets Bailey, and drew raves for her final workout.

Head2Head – Ex Caelis over Diamond Omi


Sorcerer’s Stone - Unbeaten colt impressed visually and otherwise in his Arlington-Washington Futurity win at a one turn mile, getting the final quarter in 24 seconds, and should love the route.
First Samurai - If you’re going against him, perhaps you shouldn’t take a peek at this most imposing two year old in the paddock beforehand. Has won his four starts, including two Grade 1’s, by a combined 18 1/2 lengths, but has to do more than just catch Henny Hughes this time.
Private Vow - Improved with every start, and was the easiest kind of winner in the Futurity, creating a tough decision for Jerry Bailey before he went with the favorite. Test for class today.
Stevie Wonderboy - His amazing rally in the Del Mar Futurity may have been the most visually impressive of all the Juvenile preps. Competitive on figs, and wowed the clockers Monday morning.

Head2Head – Sorcerer’s Stone over Stevie Wonderboy and Stream Cat

Filly & Mare Turf:

Karen’s Caper - Improved three year old held her own against her G1 elders in Europe, and unleashed a furious rally after being repeatedly steadied in the stretch at Keeneland. Taken to upset.
Wonder Again - Always fires, and loves the soft going.
Megahertz - Love her to death, but has to show she can win on soft going and outside of Southern Cal.
Ouija Board - Defending champ has to overcome bad post and sparse 2005 campaign.

Head2Head – Wonder Again over Film Maker and Ouija Board


Lost in the Fog - Has a couple of cheaper speedsters to contend with early, but once he disposes of them, the closers will be chasing in vain.
Wildcat Heir - Will be tracking right behind the action; first in line if the favorite falters.
Lion Tamer - No reason other than I loved what he looked like in his breeze on Monday.
Taste of Paradise - May have found a track that suits him. Be flying late.

Head2Head – Lion Tamer over Silver Train


Leroidesanimaux - Confession: I haven’t really handicapped this race in detail, I just love this horse. The experts from Europe concede that they don’t have a strong contingent, and that’s good enough for me. Lousy post and a truly soft course (as opposed to the one he ran a mile in 1:35 over at Woodbine) are both concerns, but he’s looked too impressive to go against.
Singletary - Defending champ rallied past the Oak Tree Mile field effortlessly and was being pulled up at the wire. Gets the money if the top one falters.

Head2Head – Singletary over Artie Schiller and Gorella,


Stellar Jayne - The hardest race of the day, to me anyway. A tepid vote for this filly, who may get a jump on the other ones that possess early speed and take them all the way.
Pleasant Home - Improving Phipps filly could get a piece at a big price.
Happy Ticket - Always close, tough to knock.
Sweet Symphony - Three year old looks to bounce back from her first loss, but they’re all over her in the Form for getting outworked by a two year old in her final work. I liked her before I read that stuff; too much information?

Head2Head – So of course, Sweet Symphony has to be one of these. I just don’t know.


Fourty Niners Home - Big balloons, as Harvey Pack used to say. First try at the distance makes him a stab, but he always fires, closed in :22 4/5 in his last, and if he can get the distance, watch out.
Better Talk Now - Becomes the top choice if he’s higher than his 8-1 morning line. Defending champ is in excellent form and seems to be getting overlooked.
Bago - Ultra-consistent Frenchman has never been out of the money and looks to be able to handle soft going.
Shirocco - Less than a length behind Bago in the Arc in just his second start of the year. The optimal third race of the cycle comes over a soft turf that he’s reported to love.
Head2Head – Better Talk Now over Shakespeare and Bago


Saint Liam - Damn it! There goes my fantasy of getting 7-2 with Rock Hard Ten having been scratched.
Oratorio - This year’s European Classic surprise? Three year old has made nice Timeform improvement and his 4th place finish in his last at Newmarket wasn’t shabby at all.
Choctaw Nation - Late runner may be improving about as much as Borrego has. Was just 3/4’s behind that one in the Pacific Classic, and had no chance in paceless Goodwood. May encounter that same problem again here.
Borrego - If he’s really as good as his last would suggest, at least visually, than he may not need that hot of a pace.

Head2Head – Rock Hard Ten is scratched.

Saint Liam in Classic Form

- If you don’t consider the foreign horses trying dirt for the first time in the Classic to be a threat, the BC Classic seems pretty straightforward, and I agree with the oddsmaker’s assessment that this is a three horse race. I think that Saint Liam is the best of the three, and though I’m not thrilled with him drawing the 13 post, perhaps it will, along with the notion that's out there that he can’t get a mile and a quarter, will lead to him going off at a very square price at which I’d be more than willing to bet he can overcome both obstacles.

Paul Moran of Newsday recalls the events of 30 years ago that led to the predicament faced by Saint Liam as well as the Australian invader Starcraft.

Thirty years ago, in an emotional if misguided knee-jerk reaction to the death of the great filly Ruffian, who was euthanized after breaking a leg in a match race with Foolish Pleasure, New York Racing Association officials shortened the chute that until then was used for 10-furlong races on the main track. Those, like all other races at Belmont shorter than 12 furlongs, were run around one turn. The long, straight run, they decided, contributed to Ruffian's breakdown.

Since then, 10-furlong main-track races at Belmont are few and seldom involve 14 horses. At this distance, the starting gate is positioned on the clubhouse turn, an awkward configuration that compromises horses who have drawn outside posts.
Todd Pletcher told the Newark Star-Ledger: "It's tough......You basically start out going the wrong way. You are heading toward the outside rail. If this was track and field, they would stagger the start. You have to run a lot farther than the other horses in the race.” And Saint Liam's rider Jerry Bailey said "It makes for a very unfair race.."

Dutrow downplayed the post, saying that Saint Liam doesn’t like horses outside of him, so better that than the inside, which is Rock Hard Ten’s plight, breaking from the rail. The outside posts have actually done pretty well at Belmont in the Classic – Tiznow and Cigar broke from the ten post, and Unbridled from the 14, though he broke slow and came from last. Saint Liam is going to have cover some extra ground, and get the mile and a quarter too.

And we don’t know that he can get the distance; but I don’t think that we know that he can’t either. We’ve all read many times how Saint Liam failed in his only try, the Santa Anita Handicap last March, won by Rock Hard Ten. Was it really the distance that got him beat? I went back to the accounts of the race and recalled that he was done before they even got into the turn. His ex-rider Edgar Prado was quoted as saying "I was done on the backstretch. He was lugging in and that's not him.....He wasn't comfortable. When he's right, he's push-button. He wasn't like that." So this didn’t seem to be a case of a horse hanging in the final furlong at a distance slightly beyond his capabilities. Perhaps the explanation was instead the mere 30 days since his previous race, the Donn Handicap at Gulfstream, in which he ran a huge race beating Roses in May, the favorite in the race. In a pre-race interview, Dutrow cited exactly that as his main worry.

A similar short layoff had me a bit concerned before the Woodward, having come just over a month after his grueling second to Commentator in the Whitney, but it turned out to be not only a win, but the easiest kind of prep as well. Now I get the feeling that Dutrow has his well-publicized foot problems under control, and that the horse is primed for a big race, perhaps the best of his career. He’s very well rested, fit, and looked fantastic on the track Monday. His two races at Belmont have been awesome – his second to Ghostzapper and the ridiculously easy Woodward win last month. With his two worthy opponents sure to take well-deserved money, plus the questions about the post and distance, and the last race of the day effect of bettors seeking out longshots to get even for the day, who knows, perhaps he’ll be even higher than his morning line of 3-1, and that would make him a value play to me.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Notes - Oct 27

- If you’re in the NYC area and looking for some seats for Saturday, perhaps below the outrageous face value, check out Craig’s List.

- The defending champion and morning favorite for the F&M Turf, Ouija Board, was out for a spin on the turf this morning, and her trainer Ed Dunlop had these comments for the UK’s Sporting Life:

"She is moving as well now as I have ever seen her. She's here, she's the champion and if we can win again it will be fantastic.”

"I walked the course last night and I personally thought the straights were pretty good but the bends were softer, particularly the top bend which is pretty soft and will remain that way. I know it's dry but it's cold.”

"I don't know how she will handle it but it was just on the soft side when she won at Lone Star last year and I hope it won't be a problem.”

"I personally feel the European horses will handle the turf conditions better than the Americans because they are a bit more used to running and working on it.”

"Her draw (13) isn't ideal but I don't think it is as big a concern as it would have been in the Mile or in the dirt races.

"I hope she will sit sixth or seventh in the early stages and make her move when the time comes. Jerry has ridden a Grade One winner for me here before and knows what he's doing."
He may be underrating the disadvantage of her post position. There’s a decent enough distance for Bailey to move her over, but still there’s a chance she’ll be caught wide on that first turn. The Times Online reported that her odds in the UK generally eased in the betting after being drawn 13 of 14.

- No exceptions for the European horses that had to endure quarantine upon their arrival – all Breeders’ Cup horses will be required to report to the security barn for the six hours before the race. Andy Beyer wrote in the Washington Post, also carried in the Racing Form, about how he believes the difference in the racing here since the policy was instituted is quite noticeable:
The overnight transformations of horses that appear to be the surest signs of cheating -- a la A One Rocket [the horse that sparked the NY milkshake indictments] -- are much rarer than in the past. In my opinion, only two trainers are conspicuously beating the system. For the first time in more than a decade, I felt that I could handicap and bet in New York without asking, in almost every race, "Who's got the juice?"
And NYRA’s CEO Charles Hayward concurs that despite the improvement, there still is cheating going on. "I don't pretend that the barns have stopped everyone….You look at the past performances and that's not the case."

OK, so who are the trainers, two of them according to Beyer, that he feels are still juicing their horses? I have a couple of names in mind, but I’d rather not say right here, at least until I have a chance to go back and do some research. But if Hayward is seeing this in the past performances as he says, is NYRA doing something about it?

- It took a hearing before the United States Congress, but jockeys on the board of directors are finally launching an investigation into the disputed credentials of Jockey Guild chief Dr. Wayne Gertmenian and the organization’s shady financial dealings.
"There's concern from just about everyone, whether it be from the East Coast to the West Coast and everywhere in between," California-based rider Paul Atkinson told The Blood-Horse Oct. 24. "I've spoken to riders in a lot of places who are having difficulties (with the current Guild administration). (The situation) makes me sick to my stomach, to be honest." [Bloodhorse]
John Velasquez, the co-vice chairman, reportedly called for Dr. G’s ouster, but Matt Hegarty in the Form reports that his suggestion did not receive support from at least seven members. I don’t want to jump to conclusions about those members, who may simply prefer to let the investigation run its course before taking any action; but it’s certainly hard to imagine that the guy could still have any support after he basically acknowledged to Congress that, among other things, Matrix Capital is simply a front to siphon money to himself. But then again, 41 percent of the population still approve of the president’s job performance. So go figure.

No Buzz for Cup

- I’m surprised at how little has been written about how little has been written about the Breeders Cup, at least other than the usual outlets. Racing in New York has always been covered as if it’s at least a semi-major sport by the print media. I don’t watch the local evening news, but I’d be pleasantly surprised if any of them have bothered to send any reporters out to the scene thus far. As I mentioned previously, there is no advertising as far as I’ve seen, and the buzz here has been deafening for its silence. But this columnist, John Rowe of North, seems to be the only one has noticed that nobody other than the hard core fans have noticed that there’s a major thoroughbred event in town.

Even with the World Series of thoroughbred racing in town, there is no buzz around Belmont. A cold wind rippled through the track at midday Wednesday as the usual small midday crowd moved through the turnstiles. There's little mention of the Breeders' Cup. The banners hanging from the telephone poles on the adjacent street mention this is Belmont's 100th anniversary year. No mention of the Breeders' Cup. There were two horse racing midday commercials on sports talk radio. One was the Meadowlands telling you that you can bet the Breeders' Cup there on Saturday. The other was Belmont reminding you that its racing program runs through Sunday. No mention of the Breeders' Cup.
I haven’t read any estimate from NYRA on the crowd; perhaps after the disappointments of the Belmont and Travers audiences, they’re afraid to say anything.

As far as the press nationally goes, Lost in the Fog is definitely the main topic, with features like this, this, this, this, this, and this article by the award winning columnist for the Philly Daily News, Dick Jerardi.

The articles all basically deal with the familiar story line of Lost in the Fog’s connections answering the skepticism and criticism of his supposedly soft campaign. For the most part, Greg Gilchrist patiently replies about how it’s not the horse’s fault that people didn’t want to run against him. It seems, however, that the subject of a certain columnist in the Daily Racing Form gets his dander up a bit.
“Go ask Bill Mott, go ask Kiaran McLaughlin, go ask Nick Zito or Wayne Lukas what they think of the horse….Tell me whose opinion you would accept, one of those trainers or the guy from the Form." [Albany Times Union]
The guy, of course, is Mike Watchmaker, who has only grudgingly moved LITF up to number two in his rankings, behind Battle Won, a horse that has won exactly one race this year, and that was a Grade 3 at seven furlongs. He’s not the only skeptic at the racing bible, as editor Steve Crist is firmly in that camp as well, as he affirmed in his chat the other night.
If you say anything negative about LITF's chances, people accuse you of drowning puppies in your spare time but I do think he's vulnerable. He has never faced quality early speed or quality older horses. Of course he can win -- he's a terrific little horse -- but I think he's going to be wildly overbet at 3-5.
I don’t really disagree with anything Crist says here; I’m sticking with my selection of Lost in the Fog, but I can’t say I think he’s as sure a thing as Harriet Miers' withdrawal was. However, I think the anti-LITF crowd took a hit with the scratch of Pomeroy, who at least had the potential to flash some freaky speed. Now, really, they’re depending on two allowance horses, Lifestyle and Atilla’s Storm to soften him up; they’re just the type of unproven horses that Lost in the Fog gets criticized for beating. And remember, LITF has shown that he’s perfectly capable of being behind a front-runner early.

Mike Welsch of the Form, who has some excellent commentary in his clocker’s report today, wrote:
Anybody looking for a chink in Lost in the Fog's mighty armor would be hard pressed to find one after watching the unbeaten 3-year-old sensation train this week. Looks fit enough to win the Classic the way he has been completing his daily two mile gallops.
- A couple of other observations by Welsch worth highlighting:
Sweet Symphony struggled to outfinish a workmate while also unable to keep pace with 2-year-old filly Along The Sea through the final furlong of Monday's five-eighths prep.

Original Spin has had a great week. Turned in as good a work as anybody here when teamed up with jockey Jerry Bailey for the first time, throwing down a couple of :11 and change quarters through the stretch before galloping out very willingly. She also blew out like an express train on Thursday.
I was going to include Sweet Symphony amongst my selections for the Distaff. Does this mean now that I shouldn’t? Or is it a case of knowing more than I need to know? It was a five furlong work in 1:00 2/5…how much faster did they want her to go? DAMN ALL THIS INFORMATION, IT CAN MAKE A GUY CONFUSED!!!

The Turf - Shakespeare Not to Be

- I’ve decided to take a stand against Shakespeare in the mile and a half Turf, and not because of the soft turf. He’s come a long way since returning from a 16 month layoff in a N2X allowance race on July 27, and I don’t know if how much, if any, he can improve off of what had to be an extremely taxing effort in the Turf Classic, in which he had to overcome a slow pace and a four wide trip to prevail over English Channel and Ace after a long hard drive. Now against a much better field, the 3-1 at which he’s listed in the morning line is far too cheap in my opinion.

Azamour is one for one at the mile and a half distance, having taken the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes. His last was a disappointment, a fifth at 3-2 in the Irish Champion Stakes, finishing behind Ace. That was a mile and a quarter on a course labeled ‘yielding.” While the stretchout in distance may help, the soft turf most definitely won’t, and his trainer John Oxx did not sound the least bit optimisitc: "It's very deep....You can stick your heel in as far as you'd like. We're here. We're not going to pull out." [Sporting Life]

Bago seems to like the going soft, but he may not love the distance. He’s eight for 14 lifetime, but has only one win and four thirds in five races at a mile and a half. However, he’s as consistent as can be, finishing in the money in each of his 14 starts, so he merits a spot on my exotic tickets at least.

Shirocco is getting some attention, and I think he’ll be lower than his 20-1 morning line. He has only two starts this year, most recently an OK 4th in the Arc, just ¾’s of a length behind Bago. He is reported to love the soft going, and hasn’t had it in his last two, so perhaps he’ll move up here. The fact is that all three of the contenders who last raced in Europe are coming of efforts that, while I can't exactly label disappointing except perhaps for Azamour, were let's say less than great, and the backers of each are looking for a reason for improvement - distance in Azamour's case, and turf condition for the other two.

The defending champ, Better Talk Now, comes into this off of a similar pattern and perhaps in better form than he did last year, when he upset the field at 27-1 on a course called ‘yielding’ at Lone Star. He was 4th in his final prep, the Man O'War, last year, but closed with a rush to win this year's edition. He got help from his stablerabbit Shake the Bank, with whose assistance he's two for two, but still had to close against a final three furlongs of :35 4/5. He won’t be 27-1 again, but I think he would represent excellent value at his morning line price of 8-1.

English Channel is a rapidly improving and dangerous three year old. He ran his eyeballs out in his second place finish in the Turf Classic after stalking the slow pace, giving Shakespeare all he could handle. His prior was a game second to Gun Salute, the other three year-old in the field. They both face a tough task against these older rivals, especially Gun Salute, who has not faced older horses and drew the outside 13 post. English Channel, I think, is the more likely to show enough further improvement to be competitive here.

My longshot special in the Turf is Fourty Niners Son (15-1). This Neil Drysdale-trained son of Distorted Humor has made major strides in this, his four year old season, finishing in the money in each of his four graded stakes tries, most recently closing with a rush to win the Grade 1 Clement Hirsch, his first stakes win. In that race, he was midpack in a slowly run race, rallied four wide on the turn, and flew his last quarter in an eye-popping :22 4/5. That was at a mile and a quarter, the furthest he has run, so he’ll be stretching out in the Turf. He’s out of a mare by Alleged, the two time mile and a half Arc winner, and he’s inbred to Mr. Prospector 3x4 and to champion three-year-old Tom Rolfe 4x4. He has one race over a yielding course, a third place finish in the Arlington Million, in which he encountered traffic in the stretch and finished three lengths behind Powerscourt and a nose back of champion Kitten’s Joy. He won’t find those two here, and given the way he’s been coming home, he may very well find the extra distance to his liking.

Also Ran

- Nothing doing for Highland Cat in a disappointing performance. He broke well but dropped back to sixth on the backstretch. As they approached the turn, it looked like he may make a move but he was very wide and on the road to nowhere, finishing 7th, a dismal 23 1/2 lenghts behing runaway winner Flashy Bull. He did, however, earn $176, which should cover his expenses for a few hours. We brought the girls again and went to the paddock before the race. I had a brief chat with Jerry Bailey. It was very cold. Normally, we’d already be basking in the warmth of Aqueduct, but the meet is extended a week for the Breeders’ Cup.

We went up to the owners’ boxes to watch the race. It was even colder there, and the Head Chef probed warily for more details as to exactly where we’re going to be sitting on Saturday. Todd Pletcher was with a group, I assume from the Michael Tabor group, to watch their colt Ivanonsky (Saint Ballado). They looked very, very serious. And the horse took some very, very serious money. He was 5-2 against Discreet Cat and Superfly at Saratoga, and here he got slammed on the nose from 3-1 to 9-5 in the last few minutes. But he would tire after chasing a fairly quick pace, setting up an easy win for Flashy Bull (Holy Bull), owned by the West Point Stable. It’s a big partnership, and I think they accounted for about 10% of the remnants from the crowd of 2960.

As for Highland Cat, there was no real excuse, except that he was in against too tough of a tough field. It was said that both trainer and jockey expressed optimism over racing around two turns against easier at the Big A. We’ve been told not to panic, so I’ll keep that in mind as I think about how he's going to make up those 23 1/2 lengths.

- McLaughlin scratched Foreign Minister, the Saint Ballado half brother to Vindication and Scipion. The latter makes his return on Saturday in the Discovery Handicap, the second race on the Breeders’ Cup pre-card. He suffered a fracture in his right hand leg while working out on the turf for the Santa Anita Derby. Following such a long layoff for such a significant injury, you’d think he’d return in a soft spot, but remember that he’s trained by Patrick Biancone, so this spot is anything but soft. It's a really cool race with Buzzards Bay making his return as well, along with Scrappy T, Allan Jerkins’ impressive War Front, Watchmon, and Magna Graduate.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Highland Cat Today - Yes!

- Link to the final entries and morning line odds now posted in the sidebar (or at the bottom of the page for those of you using certain browsers, like Explorer.) Well, this is it here.

- Highland Cat is indeed in, so I’m off to root him home. A couple of the more imposing looking opponents are out, but it still seems like a tough spot, we’ll see.

- Gary Mandella, the trainer of Vosburgh winner Taste of Paradise, has to be amongst those disappointed by the scratch of the potential early speed of Pomeroy (though that wasn’t a certainty given his last effort). He told who he’s pinning his hopes on.

"I'm counting on P Val (jockey Pat Valenzuela on 30-1 shot Attila's Storm) doing what he always does. I'm glad he has a horse in the race. He's notorious for sending out of the gate and attacking big favorites and riding them out of races. He does it everyday in California. If he rides the way he normally does, they'll be plenty of pace."
- Calder is shut through at least the end of the week due to damage inflicted by Hurricane Wilma; in addition, some stables had their roofs blown off and Gulfstream will accommodate them for the time being. As far as the Gulfstream construction site goes, track president Scott Savin said on the Gulfstream website:
“It may be a few days before we can give an accurate assessment of the damage but we remain optimistic that construction of the new Gulfstream Park will get back on schedule.”
They have just a bit more than two months to get it up and running. Check out the construction photos on this page; I don’t mean to doubt the word of Magna when it comes to these construction projects, but does this look like a place that will be able to accommodate a race meeting in two months?

Breeders Cup Notes - Oct 26

- Post positions are being drawn as I write this, as I’ll post links in the sidebar as soon as they are in. With full fields expected for most of the races, the post positions could cause some significant changes in the way we’re looking at these races.

Two more scratches this morning. The defection of Pomeroy from the Sprint is a big blow to those who were hoping he would run back to his race at Saratoga and thereby pressure Lost in the Fog; one less potential obstacle the favorite will have to deal with. And the scratch of Keeneland Kat from the Juvenile Fillies sends me back to the drawing board to find another upset candidate.

- Here’s what they think about us: Check this out, from the UK’s Telegraph:

"The environment is completely different for the whole week," [Alkaased/Starcraft trainer Luca] Cumani explained. "The track on which you are training and racing is different in shape and size, there are horses buzzing around everywhere in the mornings, and it has a different surface, and there is a different style of racing," he pointed out.

He is too much of an internationalist to also hammer home the biggest difference of all - the Europeans are competing against horses who have been trained and raced all season on drugs, of various dosages and descriptions, depending on where the horses are based. With all these factors conspiring against the visitors, it is a miracle they have ever managed to win a single race.
Well, that’s pretty harsh, but as you can see from this page on the website of the UK’s The Jockey Club, the drug rules there are far more restrictive. In fact, looking at that list, I'm not sure that even carrots would be permitted!
With the exception of racing in the USA, where many states permit the use of substances such as bute (painkiller) and lasix (stops internal bleeding), all recognised racing countries aim to run their sport completely drug free. In recent years several European racing authorities - primarily Britain, France & Ireland - have sought to harmonise their drug testing procedures so that whichever country a horse runs in, its dope testing sample receives exactly the same treatment.
That's all very commendable, but let’s not make it seem like nobody ever tries to cheat there, ok?

- Though track superintendent Jerry Porcelli told the NY Post that the turf would be "good to yielding” come Saturday, not everyone seems to agree.
Trainer Graham Motion, who won the $2 million Turf last year with Better Talk Now on a yielding course at Lone Star Park, is not persuaded. "After all the rain they've had, I think it's going to be heavy," he said.

The designation "heavy" is the wettest of all. Courses usually go from firm, to good, to yielding, to soft, to heavy.

Jimmy Toner, a master of the grass art, is also dubious. "I just can't see it drying out," he said. "There was a lot of give in it Monday, and Monday night we got another inch of rain." [NY Post]
Keep an eye on Camani and what he does with Alkaased, because he’s insistent on not running him if the turf is too heavy, so that could provide a clue one way or another. [BBC is reporting that Alkaased is out due to a bad blood count. Well, it was a good thought, anyway.] As for the possible favorite Azamour, one only need to look at his past performances to see that he doesn’t like it soft. The other Europeans Bago and Shirocco would seem to be OK; I read somewhere, having lost the link somewhere in the overwhelming amount of information today, that the latter has been scratched in the past when the turf was too hard. And despite his fine workout the other day, Bill Mott, citing the tendency of offspring of Theatrical to prefer firm going, still sounds uncertain about Shakespeare’s prospects.

- Check out this article from before you decide to commit too much time and money in the Pick 6. It seems you don’t have to invest that much of either to land a big score on Saturday.
In 21 years of Breeders' Cup action, 142 exactas and 84 trifectas have been offered. The average $2 exacta has returned $224. The average $1 trifecta payoff has been just over $1,420, with more than half resulting in taxable trifectas..
In fact, you can earn a nice dinner out that night just by picking the right winner.
From the 153 Breeders’ Cup races to date, how many times do you think a longshot at odds of 20-1 or higher has placed first or second? Would you believe 47 times! That’s a lot of longshots in the top two. In fact, it has happened in 30 percent of all the Breeders' Cup races.
One more fascinating tidbit in this article I wanted to highlight:
Which Breeders' Cup race offered the first trifecta wager? Not the first Cup race in 1984. Amazingly, the 1990 Classic (G1) was the first race to offer this popular wager. The first six years of the Breeders' Cup did not have a trifecta bet on the wagering menu. As strange as it sounds, it was not until 1994 that a trifecta was offered on every race.

The Breeders' Cup was a little more progressive with the exacta, offering it on the full card beginning in 1988. However, several Cup races prior to that only allowed straight wagering (win, place and show).
That seems absolutely unimagniable, doesn't it? As much so as not having any replays until after a race was official and actually having to sweat out the photo by just staring at the board and waiting for them to post the numbers.

Highland Cat Today??

- In the midst of all the Breeders’ Cup excitement, Highland Cat is entered as a main track only in the 9th today. It’s not a question of whether the race is coming off the turf – that’s a virtual certainty. Depends on how many scratch and ultimately if Bill Turner wants to take on what seems like a pretty tough group, though who knows at this point who will run or not. There are some expensive horses in here, led by Pletcher’s Ivanovsky, a $950,000 Saint Ballado colt who chased Discreet Cat and Superfly at 5-2 in his debut at Saratoga. Foreign Minister is a $700,000 yearling trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, who has popped at least a couple first timers at this meet; he’s a half to Scipion and Vindication. He’s coupled with Flashy Bull, a close second in his last, earning a field-high 80 Beyer.

Cielo Song is entered for Mott - Castellano is named but his first call is Highland Cat. He closed for third by a neck on the turf in his debut, but any offspring of Conquistador Cielo is to be feared on a sloppy track. Devil’s Preacher (Pulpit) and Blue Rider (A.P. Indy) both debuted on the turf, but have gaudy Tomlinson numbers, and the latter comes out of a race that has produced two next-out winners.

Looks like a tough spot….waiting for word. Highland Cat’s comment line reads “awkward start, greenly,” but as you all know, he also lost a front shoe before the start yet was able to get up for third.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Notes - Oct 25

- Thanks again to reader Walter from Las Vegas, endeavoring to keep us posted on the European horses, about whom I need all the help I can get. Walter has read that soft going on the turf could favor Shirocco in the Turf but hurt the possible favorite Azamour: “..just a couple of days ago, i read an article where [Azamour's] trainer and jockey BOTH mentioned that he prefers firm going...obviously, this isn't the type of ground they were hoping for..” Luca Camani, the trainer of Alkaased has gone so far as to say that he may scratch his horse if conditions don’t suit him. "He doesn't like it soft and he might not run if it is very deep….I'm hoping the mile-and-a-half here will help him and there will be a good pace. He likes to run around bends." [NYRA]

Could be wishful thinking, but with a windy, sunny day forecast for tomorrow as well as clear weather for the rest of the week, perhaps the turf won't be as deep as we fear.

Patrick at Pulling Hair and Betting Horses posted this invaluable piece about the European entries the other day – definitely worth taking a look.

- Stevie Wonderboy was one of the horses who made a big impression on the track Monday morning, flying a half mile in 46 seconds flat. Doug O’Neill told the NYRA Breeders' Cup Notes folks (who have some information on every single BC entry today - excellent job): "Visually, he looked like he was going at a 12-second clip (for an eighth). I was amazed to look at my watch and see what he was doing."

Stuck on the Distaff

- I’m a bit stuck on the Distaff, so you may have to check back with me closer to post time - perhaps at around 4:17 PM on Saturday. I don’t really have a strong feeling either way on favorite Ashado. She doesn’t seem like a lock, but I’m not itching to go against her either. She had a perfect trip stalking an easy pace in the Beldame, her final prep for this, and my immediate reaction was that I’d be trying to beat her. If you look just at her Beyers, then she’s just one of several fillies or mares with a shot. But then again, she’s a champion; she overcame some trouble to win the race last year; and she has won 11 out of 19 consecutive starts in graded stakes. On the basis of class, she pretty much towers over the field.

Still, there are horses here that will present value that I may not be able to resist. Happy Ticket will likely not be amongst those given that she could be the second choice based on her second in the Beldame. She closed to miss by a half-length to Ashado, but the race didn’t seem that close to me, and I had the feeling that had there been more ground, Ashado would have done what she’d needed to to hold her off. So if I try to beat the favorite, it will be with someone else.

Stellar Jayne made a remarkable turnaround midway through her three-year-old season in 2004. After a series of middling finishes against the best in her division, including Ashado, she won the G3 Dogwood at Churchill last June 4, and whether it was confidence or just a case of a filly maturing, her record since then looks like a mini-version of Ashado’s – eight starts – seven of those graded stakes - four wins, three of them in Grade 1’s, two seconds in Grade 1’s (beating Ashado in the sloppy CCA Oaks), and two close thirds, including an extremely difficult trip in last year’s Distaff. Come to think of it, she may very well be the second betting choice at post time, and I'd rank her ahead of Happy Ticket.

Sweet Symphony faltered in the Beldame after winning her first four starts, and Bill Mott said “She ran a dull race, but did she have any huge excuse? No.” [NYRA] Well, you don’t always need an excuse for a filly – sometimes they just throw in a bad one. A smart guy at Belmont that day was anticipating a bounce off her fast first-time Lasix win in the Alabama (something that Mott mentioned after the race), in which she earned a 104 Beyer that is amongst the tops of any of these. Her prior two at Belmont were wins, and I won’t let her go off at too big a price on Saturday without being on board.

The other three year olds, In the Gold, Nothing But Fun, and Yolanda B. Too seem a bit outclassed to me.

Society Selection is likely sick of chasing both Ashado and Stellar Jayne, but needs a contested pace to set up her late kick. It’s hard to say if she’ll get it, as all the speedy types, including California shipper Healthy Addiction, cutting back to one turn here, have shown that they can sit off the pace as well. She’s also a bit of an in-and-outer throughout her career and needs everything to go her way, but is a possibility at the right price, especially if the track turns up sloppy.

Island Fashion is a longshot I might have given more consideration to if her two races at Belmont weren’t so poor. If you throw out her try against the boys in the Pacific Classic, she’s been fast and game in her two close seconds and a third in her last three against her own kind.

My super-duper longshot possibility here is Pleasant Home (Seeking the Gold). This four year-old has been brought along slowly by Shug McGaughey, and comes off what could be her best race, a wide closing second on the speed-favoring Keeneland course in the G1 Spinster. Prior to that, she closed to finish 5 1/2 behind Happy Ticket in the Saratoga mud at seven furlongs in the Ballerina. She has good form in these long one-turn routes, getting handy wins at a mile at Gulfstream and Aqueduct earlier this year, the latter a dominating Grade 3 stakes win. She has two wins and a green third in three starts at Belmont. This is an improving filly with nice bloodlines – her second dam is Maplejinsky, winner of the Alabama and a half to Dayjur, who almost won the Sprint here in 1991, and her third is champion sprinter Gold Beauty. Looks like she could get a piece at a big price, especially if a pace duel does materialize.

Rain Soaks the Turf Courses

- The weather is bleak here; it poured overnight and the rain is supposed to pick up again as the day goes on. If you like someone in one of the turf races who you don’t think likes a soft turf, it looks like you’ll have a decision to make. It was reported on The Works yesterday that the jockeys said that the course was pretty soft and wet. John Velasquez, who breezed Leroidesanimaux on Monday, told the NY Post: "[The turf] hasn't dried out…..It won't take much more water. They shouldn't run another race over it until the Breeders' Cup. Otherwise we're in trouble." That was before last night’s rains. The Post’s Ed Fountaine speculates that it could be the most yielding turf in Cup history, probably even softer ground than in 1995 at Belmont, when it took Ridgewood Pearl 1:43.3 to win the Mile and Northern Spur 2:42 to run a mile-and-a-half in the Turf.

The good news is that today is expected to be followed a day of some sun and a lot of drying wind, as well as sunny days for Thursday, Friday, and the first part of Saturday anyway. (Yes, the ugly spectre of showers in now popping up in the forecast for Saturday afternoon.) Hopefully, the three days will allow the course to dry a bit, but there’s no doubt that the course will be soft.

With some of the turf contenders having worked on the yielding course on Monday, it may be worth reading some comments by the Form’s clocker Mike Welsch:

Shakespeare - Turned in the best final furlong clocking, 12.10, of the morning's five turf workers.

Wend - Does not appear as comfortable over soft ground, especially in comparison to Wonder Again, finishing in 25.01 after an opening three-eighths in 38.90.

Wonder Again - Loves the soft going and showed that affinity with an efficient work during which she went a very slow opening half in 26.66 before finishing full of run, getting her final quarter in less than 24.

Leroidesanimaux – [finished] up in a rousing 12.58 over the soft going. Lone caveat was that Leroidesanimaux worked with bar shoes in front.
Frankel told the Form that the bar shoes were merely for protection and that the horse will be reshod for the Mile.

- I noted last night that Lyons and Amoss on TVG dissed Adieu’s workout, and Welsch wrote that it perhaps showed a hint of vulnerability to anyone looking for a reason to bet against the likely favorite. (Who WILL be the favorite anyway, she or Folklore?) But there’s at least one person who disagrees.
"I thought Adieu worked really well, because she's not a real strong work horse," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "I thought she was up in the bridle the whole way." [Daily Racing Form]

- This rain can’t be good for the European horses, many of whom have arrived in the last day or two to do their quarantine stint. Besides the ones that are reported not to love boggy going, you gotta wonder just when and if the turf course will be open for any of them to get some exercise and experience over the course. Nevertheless, optimism reigns in Europe, and the UK’s The Guardian says:
Never in the 21 years of the Breeders' Cup have European challengers had such prospects. The Belmont climate is a close match for a Newmarket autumn, and the track itself, while hardly a grand sweep to equal York or Newbury, is as generous as American courses get. Two winners for the visitors could feel like a disappointment come Saturday night.
Let’s say Ouija Board takes the F&M Turf, and an import wins the Turf; there’s your two winners. I think that any wins by a European horse beyond those would definitely feel like a big disappointment on this side of the ocean come Saturday night, and would surely be reflected in the win prices.

- Trainer Kelly Breen will send out Keeneland Kat in the Juvenile Fillies Saturday, and he warmed up on Sunday by taking the off-the-turf Pilgrim Stakes for two year olds with Fagan’s Legacy ($13.40). Like his stablemate, he’s a lightly raced horse who has excelled at Monmouth and shown a nice closing kick; he took over on the turn and won by 3 1/4 in hand.

While the switch to dirt may have helped Fagan’s Legacy in that it would have been his turf debut, his inbreeding to Roberto (3x4) and Buckpasser (4x5) suggests that he’ll take to the lawn. He’s the second stakes winner for his sire Monarchos (Fifth Avenue, absent from the Breeders Cup, is the other), and he’s one of four winners in just 12 starters from the first crop of 59 foals from the 2001 Derby winner.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Monday Night Notes - Oct 24

- Despite my earlier assertion that I wouldn’t pay much attention to the workouts, I of course watched every step of all 21 workouts shown on The Works on TVG. A lot of nice horses worked out very nicely, none more so than Saint Liam, whose work was every bit as effortless as described by Haskin in my earlier post. Frank Lyons said that Dutrow’s reaction to the work was “his patented ‘heh heh heh heh heh.’” It was pretty impressive indeed. However, it didn’t answer the question of whether or not Saint Liam can beat Grade 1 horses such as Rock Hard Ten at a mile and a quarter.

Leroidesanimaux, Shakespeare, Ashado, Wonder Again, Borrego....hell, all the horses you’d expect to look great did. Flower Alley and Sun King, I thought, a little less so. The only one singled out for criticism by Lyons and Tom Amoss on TVG was Adieu, who didn’t change leads and failed to draw away from her stablemate. Well, I didn't like her anyway. A couple of others that caught my not-that-trained eye was Stellar Jayne, with Jerry Bailey aboard and, particularly, Lion Tamer, who looked powerful in getting a half in 49 flat under no urging whatsoever; if anything it looked like the rider was trying to restrain him.

Lyons singled out Saint Liam as the most impressive work of the day, but Amoss surprisingly went with Nick Zito's two-year old Superfly, also singled out in Haskin's column today.

- I was going to bet on the International at Woodbine yesterday. I did all my handicapping and board watching and had come up with King’s Drama until I discovered that NYC OTB was not taking the race. I saved myself a little money as well as some self-flagellation, because I most certainly would have looked back and figured if I liked King’s Drama at 5-1, shouldn’t I have considered the winner, Relaxed Gesture at 11-1? He’d been beaten by Frankel’s horse less than a length each of the last two, and here he turned the tables in a big way. Is the sound defeat of European invaders Electrocutionist and Yeats to be considered relevant to the chances of the imports that will race on Saturday?

- The Head Chef had yesterday circled as a Belmont day. Being the weekend of the New York Showcase stakes for NY-breds, I’d assumed all meet that, as usual, there would be the accompanying fall festival in the grandstand, where vendors from New York state sell their wares – wine, food delicacies (including chocolate fudge), soaps, lotions, and did I mention chocolate fudge? Having a particular affinity for the concept of buying local when it comes to food, the Head Chef had gained an appreciation for the event, and she had been asking me about it ever since they came back from Saratoga. I repeatedly assured her it would be this weekend.

Now, I didn't actually remember seeing or hearing anything about the event this year; I just assumed that it would be held as it always has been, for the last several years at least, anyway. On Sunday morning, I went online to the NYRA site just to make sure, as I knew that I wouldn’t last two races with her there with nothing but horses running. Nothing there. Of course, considering that the website never mentioned the $500,000 guaranteed pick four on Woodward day, this didn’t necessarily mean that the event wasn’t being held. I placed a phone call and received the sad news.

I wonder if perhaps it was missed by more than just us, since the crowd of 7,333 on a rainy Saturday of state-bred stakes was just a thousand less than the number that turned out on a gorgeous sunny day for the Woodward. I get the feeling there were some people there who were looking for chocolate fudge and were very disappointed.

- And that brings up the question of how many people will be at Breeders’ Cup day? Belmont owns the ignominious record for smallest crowd, the 37,246 who came on a relatively mild day in 1995. That was two years before the crowds at the Belmont Stakes started to revive with the Triple Crown runs of Silver Charm, Real Quiet, etc., In 2001, there were 52,987 on a freezing day, but I don’t know how to judge that figure. For some people, including myself, it was far too soon after 9/11 to care all that much; others may have come here in a show of support for the city. I have no idea what to expect this year. I haven’t noticed a single NYRA advertisement anywhere, but what do you expect from an organization that has said it will run out of cash sometime next month unless it can sell assets. Plus, NYRA will once again prohibit fans from bringing in alcoholic beverages (as in, coolers full of beer, wink wink), and raise admission prices. I would hope that the people coming from out of town will be enough keep the attendance comfortably above that 1995 low, but in the current environment, I have no idea what to expect.

The Works

- A bunch of workouts today, including the likely Classic favorite Saint Liam.

He broke off slowly and was in no hurry as he coasted through opening fractions of :13 2/5, :26 2/5, and :38. With [Rudy] Rodriguez still sitting virtually motionless, Saint Liam began to pour it on with his ears still cocked. He was still going so smoothly and easily, it was hard to believe he was coming home his final quarter in :23 3/5 and last eighth in :11 3/5. [Bloodhorse]
Rock Hard Ten galloped a mile and a half at Santa Anita with a new shoe on his bruised left front foot. For more details on all the works, try the links in the Breeders’ Cup section in the sidebar – Haskin, DRF Clocker Notes, NYRA BC Notes, Sporting Life, etc.,

Also, TVG is once again presenting The Works at 11 each morning, and endless replays in the early morning hours. I heard one of their guys urge us all to tune in to get a clearer picture of the Breeders’ Cup, but all I get when I see great-looking horses working out great and read or hear every trainer talk about how great their horse worked out is confused. If I had made my Derby bets according to the comments on The Works, I would have had Bandini squarely on top, used horses such as Noble Causeway and High Fly in my exotics, and had Afleet Alex and Closing Argument completely off my tickets. (That means that I would have had a similar losing result to what I ended up with anyway). I’m actually trying to NOT pay too much attention to the workouts this week, unless I read that so-and-so didn’t handle the soft turf course or something like that. These races will not be won or lost on the training track this week.

Let’s check out some of the comments from trainers of horses who worked or galloped this morning.

Paul McGee (Suave): “just fine”
Nick Zito (Sun King): “went very well”
Richard Dutrow (Saint Liam): “he’s doing good”
Murray Johnson (Perfect Drift): “he’s doing super”
Beau Greeley (Borrego): “he went very well”
Jeff Mullins (Choctaw Nation): “He's doing everything the way we want him to”
Tom Tomillo (Lord of the Game): "He looked like he finished up real good”
Bill Mott (Shakespeare): “He handled the ground well and finished nicely”
Neil Drysdale (Fourty Niners Son): “He's doing very well”

The point is that these are good horses, and they’re here because they’re doing well for the most part, so it’s expected that they will make favorable impressions in the morning. The news will be when one doesn’t, and even that has been known to lead bettors down the wrong path at times.

More Thoughts on Lost in the Fog

- I’m taking a look at the BRIS pace figures for the Sprint, and if you think they are credible, they indicate that Lost in the Fog could indeed have some company up front. Recent pace ratings for Atilla’s Storm, Battle Won, and Lifestyle are competitive with those of LITF, and the figs for Pomeroy’s effort two back at Saratoga in the Vanderbilt are off the board. He could be the key to the race – his last effort at Belmont seems too poor to believe; even with a sluggish start he showed no catch-up speed at all. Perhaps his Vanderbilt was too much to recover from?

A couple of things distinguish LITF from the abovementioned speedsters though – as opposed to the others, his late pace numbers show that he has the ability to run fast early and still have something left late. And there’s the matter of chart comments like “Never asked for best,” “Laid down pace, clear,” and “Never asked, dominated,” that indicate that he can do better if necessary. The question is whether he can softened up enough to give stalkers and closers such as Taste of Paradise, Imperialism, or Wildcat Heir a shot. The latter earned stellar figures all around for his effort in August at Monmouth.

Jockey Russell Baze told SF Gate how LITF has dealt with potential early challengers in prior races.

"He breaks quickly, and when the other guys see how easily he's doing it, they probably realize it would be suicide to try to go after him…..They think he's going to crumble, but he doesn't. I don't doubt that one or two horses in the Breeders' Cup will send hard, and we'll play it by ear. He's shown that he doesn't have to have the lead if someone else wants to go too fast."
And trainer Greg Gilchrist points to the history of the Sprint at Belmont:
At his hotel, he has the charts from the three Breeders' Cup Sprint races previously run at Belmont, which clearly show being on the lead, which is where Lost in the Fog likes to run, is a good thing.

In 1990, Safely Kept and Dayjur were one-two the whole way; in 1995, Desert Stormer led the whole way and Mr. Greeley was second the entire six furlongs; and in 2001, though Squirtle Squirt was third early, he was less than two lengths from the lead and the two leaders, Xtra Heat and Caller One, finished second and third. [Bloodhorse]
- Tim Ritchey on plans for Afleet Alex:
"I want to schedule another set of X-rays within the next five or six days to see how he's coming along. He will stay in New York and keep up the big gallops until I decide to work him. I might even look at a prep for him, but right now we want to run in the Cigar Mile [Nov 26 at the Big A] if he is 100% and then take him down to Gulfstream." [NY Daily News]

Breeders Cup Notes - Filly & Mare Turf

- I think that her abbreviated 2005 season is reason enough to try and beat Ouija Board in the Filly and Mare Turf if she is favored as expected. Value demands that she be bet against in my opinion, unless she’s significantly higher than the 3-2 that the British books have her at, a price that some over there seem to think is a bargain. If she’s in the same form as 2004 and runs back to the 108 Beyer she earned when winning the F&M Turf (or even a few points lower), she’ll likely repeat. But her single prep against questionable rivals is enough reason to take a stand against.

I’m also going to stand against the three top fillies out of the Flower Bowl here at Belmont. Wonder Again and Film Maker are wonderfully consistent mares that are always close, but neither has done much winning of late. Wonder Again hasn’t won in six tries going back to last July, and Film Maker has one win – a Grade 3 at Pimlico – in her last eight starts. I’ll certainly be using them on my tickets, but not on top. The Flower Bowl winner Riskaverse has never won two in a row, and is unlikely to get as smooth a trip this time.

So here’s three horses I’ll be looking at:

I don’t need to say much about Megahertz. She’s in the best form of her career now, and ran her race even on the yielding turf, a surface she's not supposed to care for, in the Beverly D. Still, Frankel is concerned about a possible soft course. Nonetheless, she’s so sharp and consistent now, I wouldn’t eliminate her on the basis of the turf condition if you like her otherwise.

Wend ran a race you have to see to believe when second in the G2 WinStar Galaxy at Keeneland in her last. She was very wide and last around the first turn, stayed wide the entire route, swung even wider in the stretch, yet found her best stride late in the mile affair, closing in 24 flat to miss by a neck to Intercontinental, who will have to prove she can stretch out here. Wend already has – her highest Beyer race was her win in the ten furlong New York Handicap, in which she beat the aforementioned Wonder Again and Film Maker. She was unbeaten on grass before running sixth on the yielding turf in the Beverly D, so she may prefer the turf on the firmer side, and there's certainly no guarantee of that come Saturday.

A good longshot possibility could be Karen’s Caper. Her lines in Europe don’t put her on the same level as Ouija Board if the latter is 100%, but she’s a three year old who has shown Timeform improvement throughout the season as she moved up in company to Grade 1’s against older fillies and mares. She made her US debut against her own age group just last weekend in the G1 QEII Cup at Keeneland, closing with a bold rush after being blocked repeatedly through mid-stretch to somehow miss the head-bob photo despite clearly passing the winner, while getting the final eighth in :11 1/5. For anyone who had her, it had to be an all-time tough beat at 11-1. At a mile and an eighth, it was her first race beyond a mile, and if her finish is any indication, she’ll absolutely relish the extra furlong at Belmont; she has good European distance influences on her distaff side. She's by Mile winner War Chant out of a stakes winning mare by French champion Caerleon, whose foals have an average winning distance of 10.8 furlongs; and she's inbred to Northern Dancer 3x4, and to Princequillo and Hail to Reason 5x5. The two weeks between races is definitely a concern (it’s her third race in seven weeks), but if she’s anything close to the 20-1 she’s listed at in the Form, she could definitely be worth a look.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Sunday Night Notes - Oct 23

- Magna has found a partner for its planned ‘Village’ at the new Gulfstream in New York City-based real estate developer Forest City Enterprises. While racing at the revamped facility is on for January 2006, this part of the project is planned for fall, 2007.

The 55-acre Village will offer shopping, residential and hotel units, and entertainment options, with the racetrack what MEC calls the "anchor" of the property. The first phase will incorporate 250 residential units and 400,000 square feet of retail, restaurant, and entertainment facilities.

MEC said it would be "the first lifestyle center in the country built in conjunction with a state-of-the-art Thoroughbred horse racing facility." [Bloodhorse]
Forest City is currently involved in a controversial project to build a basketball arena for the New Jersey Nets smack in the heart of downtown Brooklyn. The project, which would include a total of 17 new buildings, including Frank Gehry-designed high-rise hotels, residences, and office space in addition to the 18,000-seat arena, is meeting impassioned opposition from residents and businesses that would be displaced via eminent domain, as well as from Brooklynites opposed to such a radical alteration to their neighborhood on environmental, aesthetic, and overcrowding concerns. A public hearing the other night demonstrated the high emotions on both sides of the issue.

- In Maine, Scarborough Downs is suing Shawn Scott, a Las Vegas investor who is credited with helping to legalize slots at the state’s harness tracks. Or near them anyway. Scott’s company owned Bangor Raceway and worked to place on the 2003 state-wide ballot the referendum that would legalize slots at both Bangor and Scarborough Downs if the local residents also approved. While Bangor approved the slots which will open there in a couple of weeks, Scarborough voters declined. Scarborough looked to two other communites, Westbrook and Saco, for approval to house the casino there.

It is these local votes, which rejected slots in all of the locales, that are the subject of the lawsuit.
Scott’s original draft of the citizen’s initiative allowed the Downs a year, until December 2004, to seek local approval from Scarborough or a nearby town.

When the Downs asked Scott for an additional year, until December 2005, the lawsuit alleges, Scott then changed the wording to shorten the deadline to December 2003. That wording – and the 2003 deadline – was passed into law when the referendum was approved by Maine voters.

The suit then alleges a litany of wrongdoing by Scott, including that he backed two political action committees opposing the Downs’s efforts to get local approval in Scarborough, Saco and Westbrook, where the Downs sought to relocate; that he was behind a lawsuit trying to block the Westbrook referendum; and that he tried “to intimidate the Westbrook City Council into refusing even to hold a referendum.” []
With his slots monopoly at Bangor intact, Scott sold the track to Penn National for $51 million - $50 million more than Scott paid to acquire the track's operating company. Scarborough is seeking that much money in the suit, claiming that their track would have been worth that much if not for the illegal interference in the local referendums.
"Defendants have made millions of dollars (in) this scheme, never having invested any meaningful resources into Maine harness racing and have intentionally caused plaintiff's business, Maine's largest commercial track, to suffer and be in financial peril," the lawsuit states. [Portland Press Herald]
- Good job by Golden Gate Fields track announcer Michael Wrona today, as Good Lord Gracie and Glamorous Lacey battled head and head down the stretch in Sunday's second race. Try it yourself – fast, three times. Good Lord Gracie and Glamorous Lacey... “I’m going to have to get a new set of teeth after that one,” Wrona cracked on-mic after the race.