- Bob and John (Seeking the Gold), third in the Hollywood Futurity behind Brother Derek and Your Tent Or Mine, is entered in a mile and a sixteenth allowance race at Santa Anita on Friday. Baffert told the Form "He looks awesome right now. He's really changing." Among his opponents is Twisting Road, a $300,000 Giant’s Causeway yearling purchase with one win in four starts. His trainer Eoin Harty said "I really like this horse….If he runs bad, I'll be suicidal." Man, talk about putting a lot of pressure on a young horse!
- Oaklawn opens on Friday, and they’re anticipating a huge meet. Purses are up, thanks in part to the success of the electronic game of skill Instant Racing. Handle on the game was $150 million last year, and with more machines in place this year, the track is looking for $200-$250 million. It might be nice to see some other states try the game, since it’s actually related to horse racing and could conceivably inspire slots players to check out the live product. The problem is that the game actually requires them to use their brains, which could be a turnoff.
The feature on opening day is the Dixieland Stakes for three-year olds, and it's only 5 1/2 furlongs. John Servis sends out Fidrych, a 12 length winner of his last at the Meadowlands, albeit over an extremely weak field. He’s by Grand Slam out of a Storm Bird half-sister to multiple Grade 1 winner Judge Angelucci, as well as Blue Grass winner War. There are some fast colts in this race, including Asmussen’s Sugar Bowl Stakes winner Catonight (Katowice), Tim Ritchey’s Urban Guy (Marquetry), and Cole Norman’s Corredor de Plata (El Corredor).
- A couple of under-the-radar three year olds continue to work towards their returns. Noonmark is training in Florida for Steve Asmussen; he worked five furlongs in 1:01.60 yesterday. He won his second start by ten lengths at Belmont. Noonmark is by Unbridled’s Song out of a Storm Cat mare who is a half-sister to Woodward and Donn winner Formal Gold.
Strong Contender was an $800,000 two-year old in training purchase last year for the crafty John Ward, and he won his debut impressively at Arlington last summer. He’s also working out in Florida, and flew a half in :47.40 yesterday, the second fastest of 32 at the distance. He’s by Maria’s Mon, the sire of Ward’s Derby winner Monarchos, out of a Dynaformer mare, and is inbred 5x5x5 to Ribot. His female family is of Argentinian descent, thus there are few recognizable names in his distaff family's history, but he would seem to have the breeding to go long.
- Rockport Harbor is being pointed for the Grade 3, $100,000 Essex Handicap at Oaklawn on Feb. 11. [DRF]
- I checked out Merv’s website, and big surprise – no update on Stevie Wonderboy’s loss in the San Rafael, just a headline about how’s he expected to win the Eclipse next week. Doug O’Neill told the Form "Speed kills…..He was tired after the race, which we didn't see after his other races. He definitely got something out of that.” No doubt.…but I resist any efforts to paint the race as one in which Brother Derek loped along on a lazy lead. He was stalked by Baffert's speedy Wanna Runner through splits of :23.2, :23.2, :23.4, which ain't exactly a stroll in the park. You’d think that a presumptive Derby favorite could have made more headway into the final quarter of :25.3; but Gomez was working pretty hard on him just to keep up around the turn. We’ll know more after the March 4 rematch, which hopefully will attract a larger field.
- I like to see when racing terminology is utilized in other contexts – makes me believe that people really are aware that our game exists. Check out this passage from NY Newsday regarding the New York Jets’ hiring of their new coach.
Everyone knew the age question would come up at yesterday's introductory news conference for Eric Mangini, the Jets' new coach. But the way Jets general manager Terry Bradway and owner Woody Johnson responded by repeatedly mentioning the 34-year-old Mangini's coaching "pedigree," they sounded like a couple of dazzled horseracing moguls genially explaining their latest purchase at the Keeneland yearling sale: "Mangini, out of Parcells, by way of Belichick? We'll take him!"Mangini actually turned 35 today, so he's not on the thoroughbred January 1 birthday schedule.