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Sunday, April 30, 2006

Eliminating the Favorites

- On The Works, Gary Stevens argued with Frank Lyons and Tom Amoss about Brother Derek’s last work on April 24 at Santa Anita. Alex Solis had him in hand behind a workmate, making no attempt to pass him before the finish line. Amoss wondered aloud what the point of that was, and, indeed whether Brother Derek (Benchmark) could have passed the other horse even if he’d tried. He felt that it was “not the right kind of work.” Stevens countered that it was merely a maintenance work to teach him to rate and get dirt in the face. Amoss asked sarcastically and a little testily if they were now going to teach the horse to rate a week before the Derby? Lyons said it "wasn’t the greatest of ideas," wondering how sitting behind one horse is going to prepare him for what he’ll face in the 20 horse field.

I think Brother Derek is the least likely of the four top choices to be able to adapt the way any of them will have to in order to win. Sweetnorthernsaint has experienced some adversity and has shown ability to relax early. Barbaro overcame the outside post at Gulfstream and had to fight to beat Sharp Humor. Lawyer Ron has show versatility. Brother Derek is a horse who wants the lead - watching the Santa Catalina again on the Cal Racing site, I saw Alex Solis doing everything he could to restrain his colt just off Latent Heat - and there seems little doubt that he’s going to either be close to the fastest pace he’s ever faced, or much further behind than he’s been since his first race. (I don’t think his close in his debut means anything at this point; I’ve noticed that before, that you’ll see a horse close in a short debut sprint, and then become a confirmed early speed type. Bellamy Road is one example that comes to mind.)

Brother Derek is the consensus post-time favorite. I’d be surprised, but not shocked if he’s not. You do see unexpected developments on the tote board there sometimes. I think he’s a real nice horse, but in this Derby, as the probably favorite, he’s one I have to stand completely against. I’ll not use him anywhere on my tickets.

Mike Welsch of the Form tabbed Barbaro (Dynamormer) as the work of the day, as he zipped a half in 46 seconds. On The Works, they spoke about how hard he hits the ground, and Amoss noted that his high action was suitable for the turf. Lyons said that his action is different on the grass. His preparation – one race in 13 weeks – may be unorthodox, but everything has gone according to plan. Michael Matz said: "We've been lucky. Nothing (in his training) has wavered at all. He hasn't missed any works." [Bloodhorse]

But if you look at his running lines, there’s not a number to be found higher than 2; so he’s another horse that faces the same dilemma as Brother Derek. This doesn’t mean that he can’t be good enough to overcome, but is it worth betting him as the 2nd or 3rd choice? So while I won’t say he won’t be anywhere on my tickets, he’s definitely not going to be on top.

Lawyer Ron’s workout was the most visually impressive one to me. Talk about “visibly quickening” in the stretch, he seemed to take off like a rocket when John McKee shook him up mid-stretch. Then he eased up on him coming to wire, still completing the five furlongs in 58.90. Gary Stevens called it an “awesome workout,” and Lyons noted that “he went fast, and then he went faster.” Tom Amoss said that he galloped out another five eighths after the wire – “a big, big, nice move for a horse that’s going to be a big factor on Derby day.”

The big question to many on Lawyer Ron (Langfuhr) is, of course, the fact that his Beyer figs are significantly below the others. Hardcore Beyer guys like Dick Jerardi are not going to back this horse because of the figs. I’m usually wrong when I take a stand against the Beyers, but fortunately I have other reasons for betting against him. For one thing, again, he won’t be the right price in a race in which, in my opinion, value absolutely demands and requires that I bet a horse or horses at a big price. But seeing that he looked so uncomfortable in the Arkansas Derby when he was faced with some traffic, what’s going to happen in the Derby, especially if he gets stuck with a post towards the inside? I can see him being in the lead at some point after the speedballs fold, but I wonder if McKee will be able to save enough for the stretch run. So, like Barbaro, I’m not counting him out, but if he wins, I’ll lose.

So there you go; I’ve eliminated, from at least the top spot, the three horses expected to top the betting, zap. (Not so for Sweetnorthernsaint.) Given the pace scenario I expect, it seems easy to do so. In fact, it seems far too easy. I could certainly be wrong; maybe I’m too Giacomotized here. But I won’t have any regrets if I am; I think it’s the right approach and the right way to bet the race. Now, if I can only come up with the winner...

Sunday Morning Notes - April 30

- Luxembourg got the big money at 3-5, but Bernardini (5.70) got the win in the G3 Withers at the Big A. Looks like a nice horse for Darley, but seems like a pretty easy way to pick up a graded stakes win in just his third start. It was a four horse field with nothing resembling a stakes winner.

Nonetheless, there are no asterisks assigned to black type, and it’s another stakes winner for AP Indy, his 5th thus far in 2006. He’s out of a Quiet American mare, and that’s the same cross as the Derby contender AP Warrior. Bernardini’s dam is Cara Rafaela, a Grade 1 winner (Hollywood Starlet), and 2nd or 3rd in six others. Tom Albertrani said he’s a possibility for the Preakness.

Nice rating job on the lead by Cornelio Velasquez aboard winning Pommes Frites in the G3 Beaugay on the grass. Their ¾ split of 1:13 4/5 was a fifth slower than a maiden state-bred affair two races prior, and that allowed the daughter of Dynaformer to hold off the overlaid Naissance Royale in a driving final sixteenth of 6.07 seconds. This four-year old filly has shown excellent improvement in 2006 for Bill Mott. She’s the sixth stakes winner this year for her sire, a total which includes, of course, Barbaro.

- Pletcher’s Coach Kent (Forestry) was beaten at 7-10 in his last two starts, so the fans sent him off at 3-5 today. To me, that’s good money after bad, and I say that even though he graduated by seven lengths.

Mister Trieste rallied for third after a bad start in the Derby Trial. I figured that would be good enough for B. Wayne Hughes to send him to the Derby, but he indicated otherwise after the race, saying the chances were "very slight." If he comes out, Flashy Bull could be in and Sunriver would be #21. Flashy Bull has no shot in the Derby, and his West Point Thoroughbred owners likely know that; but what better publicity for the outfit to have a horse run in the Kentucky Derby?

Flashy Bull was just edged by his stablemate Jazil in Saturday’s workout; both were timed in 1:00.40 for five furlongs. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin was impressed enough with Jazil that he spoke on the telephone with owner Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum in England to persuade him to come for the race.

McLaughlin said Sheikh Hamdan corrected him on the pronunciation of the Seeking the Gold colt's name. Sheikh Hamdan pronounces it "Jazz-ul," as opposed to "Jazz-eel." [Thoroughbred Times]
Got that?

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Work of the Day

- Sweetnorthernsaint seemed to be the consensus choice on The Works for the most impressive one of the day. He was positioned behind a workmate down the backstretch and pretty wide around the turn. He accelerated past the other horse smoothly, and Tom Amoss spoke about the way he “visibly quickened” in the stretch, as he seems to do in his races as well. He certainly looks like a horse that will get this distance, if the way he finishes is any indication. Since graduating in that 40K maiden claimer, he’s come home in 11:4/5 at six furlongs, and :24:3/5 in the slop at Laurel after a mile. Then he closed in the Gotham as they came home in :24 2/5 and :6 2/5. And then there was the :12 1/5 final furlong in the Illinois Derby.

Avalyn Hunter wrote about Sweetnorthernsaint’s pedigree here. Most noteworthy from a stamina standpoint is his broodmare sire Waquoit, who won the Brooklyn Handicap twice and Jockey Club Gold Cup once, both of those races run at a mile and a half at the time. He’s also inbred 4x5 to distance influence Herbager, and has an extremely low dosage number of 1.33.

Kent Desormeaux, who overslept and missed the workout today, had said that it was in the Gotham Stakes that Sweetnorthernsaint “became a man.” A review of that race on the Cal Racing site shows that he broke somewhat sluggishly from the ten post, was three wide around the first turn, relaxed off the slow pace, and was three wide again around the final turn. He was never really a threat in the stretch, and his non-threatening late rally looks less visually impressive on film than it does in the Racing Form. Nonetheless, he missed by less than a length in a race in which the pace scenario was against him; Like Now finished strongly in :30 4/5 for the last 2 ½ furlongs. In the Illinois Derby too, he sat off a slow pace until ready to take control; and he achieved a field-high two turn Beyer of 109.

For these reasons – his apparent ability to rate, his strong closes, and the fact that he’s experienced some adversity - I think that this horse may be the one out of the favorites that may be best able to adapt to the pace scenario, hanging back far enough from the lead to not be going too fast, yet able to put in a middle/late run when the leaders tire, as I have little doubt that they will. If I was handicapping this race without regard to how it was going to be run, I think this would be the one. Plus, he could be the 4th choice, though I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he’s third.

Lawyer Ron’s workout also looked really good, and he really accelerated through the stretch. More on him a bit later. Steppenwolfer drew the most criticism from Tom Amoss, who said that he was “very concerned” about the way the horse bore out wide turning into the stretch.

The Works Begin

- After a week of reading useless information about the Derby horses walking the shedrow and galloping a mile and a half the wrong way around the track, the serious workouts got under way this morning. And though I’ll be glued to TVG’s The Works later today and all week long (though with most of the field having worked today, I don’t know how they’re going to fill the expanded one hour show as the week goes on....probably with horses walking the shedrow and galloping a mile and a half the wrong way), I think you have to take what you’re going to see and read for what they’re worth. These are good horses who are in the process of maturing physically and mentally, and most of them are going to work out very well. And you’re going to read a lot of comments like the ones already in the account of this mornings works:

“It was perfect" – Michael Trombetta on Sweetnorthernsaint, six furlongs in 1:11.79.

"He bounded off the you can tell he is really doing good here." – Frankie Alvarado, on Steppenwolfer, six furlongs in 1:13 1/5, final 1/8th in :12 4/5.

"...just what I wanted." – Bob Holthus on Lawyer Ron, five furlongs is :58 4/5, gallop out in 1:11.

"He could not be doing any better. He (Guidry) couldn't get him to pull up.” – Dale Romans, on Sharp Humor, five furlongs in :59 2/5.

I recall last year all the ooo’s and ah’s over how great horses like Bandini, Bellamy Road, Wilko, Noble Causeway, High Limit and Sun King all looked; as well as questions about the physical appearance of Afleet Alex. So, when you’re subjected to all the media overload, and everyone from Frank Lyons to Haskin to Mike Welsch drooling over this horse or that one, just try to keep in mind that the race will be won or lost on Saturday, and the outcome will very likely be dictated more by the pace and just plain dumb luck then anything you see or hear this week. No workout will overcome a 45 second half, or an inpenetrable wall of horses.

- I saw a comment by Andy Beyer that if anything, Sinister Minister’s Beyer for the Blue Grass might have been too low. Just keep in mind that he said the same thing last year about Bellamy Road’s number for the Wood.

- After a brief slump, Steve Asmussen won another two-year old race at Keeneland on Friday when Joangel won in her second start at 4-5. She’s a daughter of Abajo (Robyn Dancer), who now stands for $1,250 in California. You may recall Abajo; he was a moderate stakes horse in sprints at – I don’t like to say “minor” tracks, but let’s say not the ones considered the “majors.” Talk about obscure sires; there are no sire stats available on either of the stallion sites, and his stud farm doesn’t have a website.

You may have read about the 6th at Keeneland in the comments section, as Sanibel Storm tossed Julien Leparoux over the rail.

He hit the safety rail, did an acrobatic roll and hit the turf course but was on his feet in a matter of seconds. Sanibel Storm stayed on her feet and was picked up by outriders after the race. [Louisville Courier-Journal]
(Sanibel Storm’s trainer, Graham Motion, also bounced back by taking the 7th with favored General Jumbo.) The favorite was Come Together at 8-5, and it was yet another losing favorite for Garrett Gomez and Pletcher. Winner Cowgirls Don’t Cry ($52.20) was the first winner for freshman sire Pure Prize (Storm Cat).

Then, in the 9th, the G3 Fifth Third Elkhorn, Gomez/Pletcher had to settle for second with second choice Go Deputy, to longshot Pellegrino. Finally, in the final race of the meeting, as the action shifts to Churchill today, the pair got into the win column with Zinzan, a $1.3 million Grand Slam colt graduating in his third start.

- Bruce Gumer is getting his Derby tickets back, but he was also slapped with 241 additional counts of scalping, carrying potential fines of up to $60,000, based on records that listed prices for different tickets and the people he sold them to. [Courier-Journal]

Friday, April 28, 2006

News and Notes - Apr 28

- Eric Ledford’s attorney is preparing to bring his client’s case to a court of law after his appeal to the NJ Racing Commission was denied.

"My biggest problem," said [Howard] Taylor, "are the race-fixing charges. Race-fixing to the general public and to me is drivers colluding to determine the outcome by some drivers deliberately not trying to win. In Eric's case (which was about the possible use of the drug Aranesp, which was found at Ledford's stable), this is not race-fixing in any way.” [NY Daily News]
I don’t think I have to elaborate on how idiotic that comment is. Call it race-fixing or whatever, pumping horses will prohibited medications to enhance their performance is cheating, period. Taylor should stick to the fact that the evidence in the case is purely circumstantial, and that there is nothing that directly ties Ledford to the drugs found at his father’s stable. (Nothing but repeated, inexplicable form reversals, that is.) Taylor is a harness horse owner, and said that the fact that the charges have been so widely publicized is “what really kills the sport." Then he adds:
"People have been asking me if Eric is going to go to jail. And I say to them: 'Jail? I think that he'll be back driving in two weeks.'"
I’d think that anyone who really cared about the sport would be aghast to see Ledford back on the track before we know for sure that it's all a big misunderstanding and that he wasn’t involved. The sight of somebody under such a cloud of suspicion, as circumstantial as the evidence may be at this point, participating in an event that the public wagers on is what really kills the sport.

- First Samurai has been diagnosed with broken ribs, apparently suffered when he hit the starting gate in the Blue Grass.

- Jay Cronley of on the perfect betting race:
Lots of handicappers love big fields, the point being, the more horses in the race, the larger the payoffs are apt to be. But my idea of the perfect horse race is a five-horse field at Blue Ribbon Downs where the odds-on chalk can't win and two others could use a long rest.
- Bruce Gumer and Ronald Michelson pleaded guilty to charges of illegally scalping four tickets for the Derby; of that, there’s no question. But they claim that they had no intention whatsoever of doing anything illegal with the other 419 tickets that were confiscated by police, and they are suing to get them back. "He was going to dispose of these tickets in a lawful way," Gumer's attorney, Scott C. Cox, said after a court hearing Thursday. [Courier-Journal] I guess they were going to perform a public service by selling them at face value; Gumer says that they were purchased "for customers" of his jewelry store. Of course, they could have gone to Indiana, where ticket scalping is perfectly legal. A district judge will decide today whether they’ll have the chance to do so.

Friday Morning Notes - April 28

- Nick Zito is threatening to close out the Keeneland meeting the same way he started it – red hot. He had two winners on Thursday, and a third that was first under the wire only to be DQ’d to third. Wanderin Boy took the G3 Ben Ali Stakes. This son of Seeking the Gold loves Keeneland, having won all three starts there. He won in the same dominating wire-to-wire fashion as he did in his last, when he earned a stakes-quality Beyer of 113. But he’ll have to prove that he didn’t just ride the speed bias when he makes his next start. Still, it’s been an impressive return to form for this lightly raced five-year old, who impressed winning the Mineshaft last year before getting hurt. Zito’s Noble Causeway finished third.

Nick took the 5th with Prism (Albert the Great) at odds of 8-1. Finishing last was the 1-2 favorite Peig Sayers, and man, Garrett Gomez is not exactly off to a flying start for Todd Pletcher. With Bella Shambrock disappointing again as the 6-5 favorite in the 2nd, that makes four out of four big favorites that the pair have failed to connect with in Gomez’ first two days on the job. Prism is out of the stakes placed Naskra Colors (Star De Naskra), and is a half-brother to Zito’s recently retired Sir Shackleton.

- Jono (High Yield) is a ¾’s brother to our Highland Cat (Tactical Cat), and on Thursday, he finally graduated in his 9th attempt. He took the first at Pimlico, a $16,000 maiden claiming affair. Let’s hope we don’t have to drop Highland Cat to those levels. The thus far plodding gelding has been having work done on those hocks, and Bill Turner remains optimistic, expecting him to race “much better” the next time. And yes, he’s pointing him to the turf (on which Jono failed miserably in his only try, at 4-1 in a 13 horse field); it’s scheduled for May 5 at Belmont, a $45K maiden claimer going a mile and a sixteenth.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Akili Gray

- I feel awful about my last post. Talk about sloppy blogging, jeez. Thanks to Sue over at Post Parade for bringing Akili Gray's tragic death to my attention. It was reported in the Form and the Lone Star blog, and if I had spelled his name correctly on Google I wouldn't have made the careless error. I do spend a lot of time trying to get my facts straight, but at the same time, I admittedly have a kinda casual attitude, figuring that I'm not obligated to maintain professional standards here. On the other hand, I don't want to be unprofessional, and here I feel like a hack and should be more careful when it comes to serious subjects such as this.

Akili Gray was 30, and leaves behind a wife and two children.

Forgetting Jockeys, Evacuees

- High profile jockeys like John Velazquez receive a lot of press when they are injured, but not so the riders who ply their trade at smaller tracks. Guy Smith, the second leading rider at Evangeline, suffered a broken neck in a spill there on April 22. According to a Smith family spokesperson, neurosurgeons couldn't believe he wasn't instantly paralyzed in the accident. [Bloodhorse]

I’ve reported before on serious jockey injuries such as ones last July to Omar Camejo at the Finger Lakes, and Casey Lambert at Lone Star; and I know I haven’t always followed up on such reports. Not that I don’t want to, but these are not the kind of things you see on the home pages of the Form or Bloodhorse. However, in these cases, I’m happy to report that both Camejo and Lambert have recovered and returned to the saddle earlier this month.

However, my Googling turns up nothing on Akili Grey, also injured critically last July. And a rider like Shannon Campbell, who was paralyzed from the waist down in a spill that same ill-fated month, unfortunately becomes forgotten too. Hopefully, some of the money being raised by the TRA is going to help her; Charles Town’s insurance policy was only $100,000 at the time. Anyone who has information on these two riders is encouraged to let us know.

- The corks were popping at the Fair Grounds the other day. The Times Picayune reported that they drank champagne Tuesday morning in the Fair Grounds paddock. Racing will return this fall, and based on the “thriving” off-track betting and poker business going on, Fair Grounds president Randy Soth said he expects purses next season to exceed $300,000 per day. The Jazz & Heritage Festival will start at the track this weekend, and it’s hoped that it will also go to lift the spirits of the residents of the devastated city.

None of this, however, will help the thousands of evacuees in cities like Houston and Memphis who have suddenly received vague notices from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that their housing vouchers will soon expire, months before the end of the one year period that they were led to believe they'd be good for. A FEMA spokesperson said that they promised only to reimburse for "up to 12 months" of housing. [Chicago Tribune] Nice. FEMA’s response to the Katrina disaster has been such a disaster in itself that a Senate panel has recommended that it be disbanded and replaced. But knowing how government works, they’ll probably just add another layer of bureaucracy and create another agency, the FFMA (Federal FEMA Management Agency), which can provide housing vouchers for "up to 12 months" to all the FEMA employees who lose their jobs.

- Here’s some news that I know will make all fans of the sport happy – Seaside Retreat is in the Derby after a five furlong work in 59.54 seconds. Patrick Husbands flew in from Canada for the ride. Trainer Mark Casse told the Toronto Sun, "I've got Derby fever." Oh, really?

"He didn't like [Keeneland], some horses don't….Patrick said he was tired out in the post parade."
This is bad news for the connections of Sunriver and Flashy Bull, who have either suddenly flip-flopped positions in the graded earnings according to the latest list on the Downey Profile, or I've been giving you bad information by writing that Sunriver was #21, so sorry about that. Sloppy blogging, as someone noted here recently (though incorrectly in that particular case). I’ll get better now that the Rangers are (almost) eliminated and I can pay better attention. One more possible defection could be Mister Triester (#20), who is supposed to go in the Derby Trial this weekend.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Go to the Windows

- Steve Asmussen has won five of the baby races at Keeneland, but She’s Roughing It (Forest Camp), his first-timer on Wednesday, was second choice to Audacious Chloe. The favorite was a Todd Pletcher first-timer, and she had Garrett Gomez aboard, in his debut as a fill-in for the injured John Velazquez. 2-1 in the morning line, she was a solid choice at 7-10. Audacious Chloe is by More Than Ready, out of Audacious, a mare by the turf champion Manila; and the way the More Than Readys have taken to the grass, I see green in her future. Audacious is also a half-sister to Freddie Frisson, the dam of First Samurai.

Anyway, the chalk players were heading to the windows, so to speak. That expression isn’t really fully relevant anymore, since bettors who utilize vouchers and account cards generally don’t cash until the end of the day. But I recall in the old days how we would literally head to the windows immediately after the finish, if not sooner, in order to avoid long lines to cash. "Go to the windows" was a commonly heard victory cry. "I was already heading to the windows!" a familiar lament.

But I digress again. You should check out this race; when Audacious Chloe started to pull away from Asmussen’s filly midstretch, the chalk players were heading to the windows. So to speak. Pro Pink (Touch Gold) had made up a lot of ground while wide, but still looked beaten, with four lengths to make up at the sixteenth pole. But she took off from there, and ran by the favorite by a half length to score at 24-1 to become the first winner for trainer Jamie Sanders, a former exercise rider and assistant to Nick Zito.

The Pletcher/Gomez combo then failed in the 7th with Talented (Fusaichi Pegasus), the 4-5 favorite making her first start since running 4th as the choice in the Grade 1 Prioress last July. This was one Pletcher layoff horse who wasn’t ready, as she tired after battling for the lead, and lost by more than 20 lengths.

Pletcher will probably also have the favorite in Thursday’s baby race with Bella Shambrock. He had a bad start at 6-5 in her debut, and will probably be forgiven by the bettors. He’s by Grand Slam, out of a Silver Deputy mare; his third dam is the great race mare and broodmare Dahlia. This was a $200,000 two-year old in training sale at Ocala just a couple of months ago.

Derby News and Notes - Apr 26

- Mark Casse will make a decision on Seaside Retreat (#19 on the graded earnings list) after watching him work out on Thursday, as if a good workout would somehow make a horse with a lifetime best non-Polytrack Beyer of 79 worthy of competing in the Derby. He ran second in the Lane’s End to the late With A City, who was beaten by 50 in the Arkansas Derby. Seaside Retreat only lost by 32 1/2 in the Blue Grass. He’s owned by William Farish, who you’d think would have a little more respect for the game than to clutter the field with this horse.

The second most interested observer of the workout could be Todd Pletcher, whose Sunriver is still stuck at #21.

- is, for some reason, prominently running a story entitled Odds-On Favorites Are Good Bet in Derby today, even though it’s certainly odds-on that there won’t be one in the Derby this year. Easy Goer was the last favorite to go off less than even money, and was beaten at 4-5 at 1989. I think it will be some time before we see another horse go off favored like that here in the post-Giacomo era of guaranteed 20 horse fields, unless a real freak emerges.

The one on the list that really stands out is Honest Pleasure, who went to the Derby post in 1976 at 2-5 when only NINE horses competed in the race! I think it’s fair to say that we’ll never see that again in our lifetime, don’t you? Honest Pleasure was the juvenile champ, and had won the Florida Derby, Blue Grass, and the Flamingo, which was Hialeah’s big Derby prep. But he couldn’t catch Bold Forbes and Angel Cordero, who held on despite setting fractions close to what we may see this year - :22 2/5, :45 4/5, and 1:10 2/5. He came home in 26 seconds for a final time of 2:01 3/5, as Cordero pulled out all of his tricks to get the speedster home, drifting out at the top of the stretch and carrying the favorite wide. The way that Cordero somehow got Bold Forbes home in the Belmont (after getting the half in 47 seconds) remains one of the greatest riding feats you’ll ever see. Check it out here, with Dave Johnson on the mike. Runner-up MacKenzie Bridge doesn’t even get a call until deep stretch; that’s how far he came to just miss.

- Bob Holthus told the Albany Times-Union that "There have been some people who have compared (Lawyer Ron's) stride to Secretariat." Whoa, boy! One trainer is apparently not one of those people whispering sweet nothings into Holthus' ear.

Tim Ritchey, who trained Afleet Alex, said he was not impressed with Lawyer Ron's 2 3/4 -length win in the Arkansas Derby. Even though he won, Ritchey said the horse did not relax and rushed up early to seize the lead.

He got away with it in Hot Springs. He might not be so fortunate in Kentucky.

"You can't do that when you are trying to win at 1 1/4 miles (Derby distance)," Ritchey said from Delaware Park on Tuesday. "He went very early and the track was slow and the time wasn't that fast. If he isn't relaxed, it will be hard to win the Derby. But it also wouldn't surprise me at all if he won the race. He has talent." [Albany Times-Union]

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Tuesday Night Notes - April 25

- At least one person seems to be bullish on horse racing. The noted investment manager Mario Gabelli has increased his stake in Churchill Downs to 7.35% of its outstanding share, up from 6.35% last fall. This is despite the fact that Churchill has no slots nor any near-term prospects of them at any of their tracks except for the Fair Grounds.

Gabelli hasn’t been shy in the past to pressure management to take aggressive steps to boost a company’s share price.

In a conference call with analysts and investors last month, Gabelli analyst Jen Ganzi asked whether Churchill Downs had plans to buy back any of its own shares.

“If there were, I don’t think we would announce it here,” Chief Executive Tom Meeker responded. [Louisville Courier-Journal]
So do you think he’s optimistic about the horse racing business? Or perhaps it’s a NYRA/slots play? The news was also bullish at Santa Anita, where on-track attendance and handle were up 15% and 11% respectively.

- Another major newspaper cuts down on its racing coverage. New York’s Newsday, which at one time was a bastion of reporting on the sport, announced that it is eliminating the listing of tomorrow's entries at Aqueduct and Belmont, and tightening the listing of daily results. They continue to run a pretty comprehensive daily analysis of NYRA races by Steve Matthews.

In the past, Newsday has featured respected racing scribes such as John Pricci, who now has his own website,, and Bill Nack, who has won no less than seven Eclipse Awards (and recently hosted a chat on Newsday was progressive with its coverage; it was the first paper I remember that ran daily trip notes on the prior days’ races. Brad Thomas, the excellent race analyst for Monmouth and the flats at the Meadowlands, was a co-author of that column, which met its demise long ago. Though the sometimes cranky Paul Moran still pens a weekly column and provides solid coverage of big events, the shrinkage of coverage in Newsday certainly mirrors the general sad trend.

- New Jersey police may have confiscated mass quantities of the blood-doping agent Arasnerp in the Ledford scandal, but there’s apparently plenty more where that came from. A joint team – actually sounding large enough to invade a small country – of the [Ontario Racing Commission (ORC)] Investigative Unit team with the Ontario Provincial Police's Illegal Gambling Unit, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Toronto Police conducted raids in and around Toronto that turned up what was termed “large quantities” of the drug.
In a bid to snuff out horse dopers at the source, the Ontario Racing Commission has come down hard on a local outfit believed to be a drug supplier to the racing industry. [Toronto Sun]
It sounds like Elliot Ness is running this operation! I don’t think racing commissions in this country have the authority to assemble a small army and “snuff out horse dopers at the source” do they? I can’t picture any suits from the New York State Racing and Wagering Board bursting into a home waving harness racing whips and yelling “Freeze!” I guess they take this drug stuff seriously in Canada. But I’m sure this is not the last we’ll be hearing of Aranserp. Who knows how many people are using it now?


- If you missed it the other day, Walter was kind enough to put up some head-to-head propositions that he saw; this even before the post position draw, which will obviously change things.

A.P. Warrior -110
Steppenwolfer -110

Bob and John -125
Private Vow +105

Keyed Entry +125
Cause to Believe -145

Brother Derek EVEN
Lawyer Ron -120

Barbaro EVEN
Sweetnorthersaint -120

Bluegrass Cat -150
Sharp Humor +130

Sinister Minister +120
Steppenwolfer -140

Jazil -135
Deputy Glitters +115

Storm Treasure +110
Keyed Entry -130
Interesting that this linemaker has Lawyer Ron favored over Brother Derek here, isn't it? I've read a lot more people questioning the latter's preparation for the race given the short fields he's faced of late. Here's's Jay Cronley, as smug as usual:
The problem with a monster Beyer is that it can come from a four-and-a-half horse field like the recent Santa Anita Derby.

So few horses run in the big three-year old races out west, you halfway expect the announcer to say at the start: "He's off."

Take a big Beyer from a four-and-a-half horse race (a maiden ran in the Santa Anita Derby), and place it in post position 18 in a 20-horse field, the big Beyer and a quarter will get you a flip and that's about it.
Would anyone be shocked if Lawyer Ron is the favorite? Or will the Beyer figs prevail, even on a day on which many once-a-year bettors are participating?

Whoever made these odds is obviously figuring on what seems to be the obvious suicidal pace scenario; made more so by Dale Romans' comments about Sharp Humor: "I'm planning on sending him....I don't know how good Sinister Minister came out of his race (in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes-I), but I'm not going to try to change our horse's style of running and try to teach him to come from behind." [Bloodhorse] Thus, you have Steppenwolfer as a solid favorite over Sinister Minister; likewise, Cause To Believe over Keyed Entry and Bluegrass Cat over Sharp Humor. I think so little of Bluegrass Cat these days that I'd be tempted to take the 13-10 on Sharp Humor there.

My favorites of these? Bob and John over Private Vow and Sweetnorthernsaint over Barbaro. Forget the pace scenario in these cases, I just think my choices are the better horses.

- If there are any readers in Louisville who are familiar with the local bar/pub scene, I'd appreciate it if you could email me; I'm looking for some information for an article I'm working on. Thanks.

Tagg On A Strategic Mission

- Showing Up is a son of Strategic Mission (Mr. Prospector), a New York stallion who stands for $3500 at Liberty Stud in Ghent, NY. He’s part of his first crop which numbered, according to, 19 foals; but the same report says that he has just one two-year old, and three yearlings this year. Not a lot of action for Strategic Mission; must have been some cold and lonely days up there in Ghent. But he didn’t get too out of practice, and covered 29 mares last year.

Out of the stakes-winning mare Sultry Sun (Buckfinder), Strategic Mission is a half-brother to the major turf stakes winner Solar Splendor, as well as Sultry Song; and to the dam of Mass Media. He wasn’t a stakes winner until the age of six, when he took the grassy Fort Marcy Stakes; and though he got a piece in four other graded stakes, that was his only stakes win. That win was at a mile and a sixteenth, and he never won over nine furlongs. Showing Up is out of a mare by TV Commercial, a son of turf champion TV Lark; perhaps he has a future on the grass.

His immediate future is on the dirt, however, and despite a puncture wound in his right foreleg, Tagg seems more determined to run in the Derby than he did in his immediate post-race comments. "I'd like to go.....It'd be a career-builder. I'm too old to be worried about building a career, but if you have a shot at winning the Derby, you'd like to win it." [Daily Racing Form] I seem to remember Tagg being kinda laid back about the Derby back in 2003, but I guess winning it with Funny Cide has given him a taste that he wants to have again.

Showing Up got a Beyer of 99 for the Lexington, actually a point below his prior race. Watchmaker points out that the final fractions were slow.

The fourth quarter-mile of the Lexington was run in 26.96 seconds, and the last sixteenth was run in 7.38, resulting in a final five-sixteenths in 34.34. [DRF]
- More on probably Derby favorite Brother Derek’s workout on Monday.
Working in company with stablemate Littlebitofzip, Brother Derek was clocked in fractions of :28.40, :52.20, 1:03.80 and 1:16.40.

"The work was fine. He broke off nice and easy and then picked it up and cruised on home," trainer Dan Hendricks said. "Alex was happy with the work. He never looks like he is doing anything because he does it so easy." [Bloodhorse]
- Todd Pletcher told Haskin of Sunriver’s workout on Sunday, “..he and Harlington went around there head and head the whole way.” And he once again dismissed concerns about his five week layoff.
“This horse has had a series of mile and an eighth races and he has a tremendous foundation under him. He's not going to lose that foundation in five weeks, especially training the way he is right now."
With this guy, I’m not worried about the five weeks; his horses run well no matter how long they’ve been away. He also reiterated how much he liked Keyed Entry’s workout, and perhaps he'll get me to buy back into him.

- Several tracks have already contributed around $250,000 to aid permanently disabled riders even before the formal solicitation process has begun.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Notes - April 24

- Todd Pletcher is now in an interesting position with his Sunriver, as far as the graded earnings race for the Derby goes. Like Now has been declared out of the Derby, and With A City, whose owner declared that his 50 length defeat in the Arkansas Derby was “not letting it deter us at all,” is now considered unlikely after being euthanized due to an unknown disease. So Sunriver stands at #21, which means that Pletcher has a chance to control his own fate (though it won’t be necessary if Mark Casse does the right thing and withdraws Lane’s End runner-up Seaside Retreat). The trainer has Bluegrass Cat and Keyed Entry safely in the Top 20, so if he really believes strongly in Sunriver, he can get him in by withdrawing one of the others, assuming that the owners go along with him, certainly not a sure bet. Personally, I think that both of those colts have disqualified themselves from serious contention.

But it sounds like Keyed Entry will be in after a workout at Churchill yesterday that Pletcher called “dynamite.”

Keyed Entry worked six furlongs alone in 1:13, according to Pletcher's stopwatch. The Churchill clockers caught the final five-eighths of a mile in a sparkling 1:004/5.
"He was pretty relaxed, finished well and galloped out great," he said. [Louisville Courier-Journal]
With Patrick Valenzuela slated to ride, is there anyone who still thinks there won’t be a suicidal pace?

- Cause to Believe worked 6 furlongs in 1:12.55 at Golden Gate on Saturday, and finished strongly with a final eighth of a mile in 12.02 seconds. That’s the kind of closing kick that trainer Jerry Hollendorfer thinks can win the Derby. "It comes down to the way the race is shaping up…..Everybody does all the plotting and planning, and you're only making a guess, but you have to go on something. We're just saying there is a lot of speed in this rac.” [SF Chronicle]

- Derby workouts today: Bob and John went seven furlongs in 1:25 (3/6), Brother Derek the same distance in a pokey 1:28.40 (5/6), and Point Determined the quickest of all, getting the distance in 1:24.80; all at Santa Anita.

- No excuse I could see for Lost in the Fog. Sure, he got hooked up with a tough and fast sprinter, but he’s got to get used to that. There was the layoff, of course, but Greg Gilchrist didn’t use that as an excuse when he said "You have the Eclipse Award winner, you're supposed to overcome things….They both ran on the same racetrack. He wasn't the best horse today." [SF Chronicle]

- And sorry, didn’t mean to offend anyone by joking about With A City’s sudden passing, but his connections certainly didn’t seem to have the horse’s best interests in mind, which can make yours truly a little bitter. As Dan Illman said in the FormBlog today: Perhaps all he needed was a little break from the rigors of training, and a return against easier competition. This horse had been in training straight through since last May, and despite his win on Polytrack in the Lane’ End, had shown absolutely no indication that he belonged anywhere near this type of company. In looking for an explanation for his tragic death, I think the owner needs to at least take a quick peek in the mirror.

Derby Fever is Bananas

- It turns out that I did catch the Lexington Stakes live, with my beloved Rangers fading like Sinister Minister will in the tenth furlong. Showing Up (Strategic Mission) was able to achieve what the far, far more heralded, blue-blooded, and expensive Strong Contender was unable to. He stepped up into stakes company and stretched out to two turns successfully in just his third start, albeit against lesser company than John Ward's colt. It turns out too, that his name was inspired by a Woody Allen quote: Eighty percent of success is showing up.

While the time of the race may not have been impressive, he looked like a far more experienced horse the way he was able to rate, move up on the inside on the final turn, and then swing wide for his rally. Horse and jockey were both so cool and calm, reserved in 5th place going into that turn, that trainer Barclay Tagg “thought he quit.” [Louisville Courier-Journal]

"I thought he wasn't going to run and it was going to be a disaster, but Cornelio said he had plenty of horse and he was just cruising….He knew more about him than I did." [Philly Inquirer]
Another quote attributed to Woody is:
More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.
Although it’s somewhat less profound, Barclay Tagg also has to make a decision on his thrice-raced colt running in the Derby. And deep down, Tagg knows what the correct decision is. "If it were any other Grade I race besides the Derby, I wouldn't even think about going into it and I'd give him a month off.”
“The smart thing to do might be to skip the Derby and wait for the Preakness, but if you win the Derby, the horse is about 20 times more valuable afterward. If he comes out of the Lexington well, we'll probably take a chance with him." [NY Times]
What seems especially ponderous about the decision to run, which seemes to be already made, is that the horse is owned by the same folks who own Barbaro, so it’s not like they don’t already have a good shot at the roses and the money that comes with it. "But they're only 3 once. What are you going to do?" Well, Barclay, you answered that question yourself. But as Woody Allen once said: Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons. Except that no one is threatening to go broke here, except perhaps a horse pushed to the limit too soon.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

News and Notes - April 22

- Bob Baffert seems to have decided on the jockey assignments for his three Kentucky Derby starters.

"Sinister Minister is a horse whose speed can't be controlled....That's why Gomez is going with Bob and John (in the Derby), because there's so much speed. If he felt he could rate him, it might be different. But a lot could still happen. Victor Espinoza would ride Sinister Minister if Gomez rides Bob and John, and right now, Gomez is riding Bob and John because of the speed factor. If the Derby was a mile and an eighth, he probably would take Sinister Minister. But I'm going to get my positions, because I've got a speed horse, a horse that should be in the middle of the pack and one that comes from behind. I'm covered. I'm just going to have a good time." [NY Daily News]
Sounds to me like Baffert is already having a good time! In fact, he sounds positively delirious, if not nearly incoherent!

- Angel Cordero denied reports that John Velazquez has a punctured lung, and didn’t even rule him out of the Derby.
"He has no punctured lung....He has a small crack in his shoulder blade. There's a lot of soreness and bruising, but that's a good hospital and they're not going to let him go (after an overnight stay) if they think something is wrong."

As for riding in the Derby, Cordero said, "It doesn't look good, but we don't know for sure. It's too soon after the injury. [NY Post]
- Nice five furlong work for Sweetnorthernsaint at Laurel yesterday; a bullet (out of 25) five furlongs in company in a minute flat. "We put that other horse out there as a target," [trainer Mike] Trombetta said. "(Sweetnorthernsaint) went in :25, :37, :49 and then he picked it up and came home in :11. It was a good work." [Thoroughbred Times] Sounds like a pretty great work if he came home in 11 seconds, and that half mile fraction was confirmed by a clocker in the local Baltimore Sun. Jockey Mario Pino was up for the ride, and he said that the colt made an "awesome move finishing up." [Bloodhorse]

This is a serious contender, despite all my talk about an out-of-the-clouds closer. It’s always possible that one of the group considered the top contenders – Brother Derek, Lawyer Ron, Barbaro, and, to some, Sweetnorthernsaint – could just prove to be the best horse, and I’m starting to think more and more that if that’s going to be the case, it will be Sweetnorthernsaint. Perhaps at a nice price too; I'd think certainly more than 5-1, doncha think? I’ll have more to say about this horse but it will have to wait until after the Rangers game. Reader Throwaway, another horseplayer who will (hopefully) not be watching the Lexington Stakes live today, wrote about him in the comments section here.

Mario Pino lost the mount on Sweetnorthernsaint because of a hernia; what a tough break.
“I said to my doctor, 'I've got a nice mount, can we prolong this?' He said, 'I wouldn't prolong this.' I figured if I don't protect myself, I can't ride. In the long run, this is better for me." [Thoroughbred Times]
[UPDATED 2:46PM] Todd Pletcher just told Gary Stevens on TVG that Garrett Gomez will come from California to ride for him at Keeneland, Churchill, and then up in New York. He also said that Pat Valenzuela would ride Keyed Entry should that one go in the Derby.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Friday Night Notes - April 21

- Laurel reported a huge increase in total handle for their winter mmet, on the order of 44%, wow! Maryland racing officials attributed the gain to the new turf course, which allowed winter turf races which attracted an average field size of 11.6 starters. So you could say that Magna actually did something right here. The increase, along a reduction in the number of racing days (Thursday – Sunday only), allowed Pimlico to raise purses for its meet, at least for the dirt races. Apparently, the grass races don’t need an increase, so they’re spending their money wisely, and applying the increases to dirt races only. Pimlico, which averaged $173,000 in daily purses last year, now will offer approximately $215,000 per day.[Washington Post] The good news is a reprieve after a bleak winter in which saw an equine herpes viral outbreak and a quick and early, though expected death to slots legislation died in an election year. Maryland Jockey Club president Lou Raffetto issued a reminder of the big picture.

While the Maryland tracks appear to be gaining solid financial footing, Raffetto cautioned the well being could be temporary. Nearby Philadelphia Park and Penn National are expected to begin installing slot machines on their grounds sometime next year, fueling purses that likely will double those offered in Maryland. [Washington Post]
Massachusetts House Speaker Sal DiMasi was credited with killing the slots legislation there, decrying the possible social cost of expanded gambling. Now it’s been revealed that DiMasi has accepted campaign contributions from out-of-state casino executives and lobbying companies that stood to suffer losses from increased competition if the machines were approved. DiMasi got money from the CEO of Harrah’s, who is hoping to build a casino in Rhode Island, as well as from lobbyists for that gambling giant. A GOP executive, who should be well familiar with corruption, had strong words for the Speaker.
“DiMasi might as well hang out the sign Speaker For Sale.....It’s very obvious that big money from out-of-state gambling interests, who didn’t want to see more competition from Massachusetts, played a big role in the sudden vote on this issue.” [Boston Herald]
A DiMasi spokesperson issued the usual denial adding that the campaign does not "track" donations. Those quotations marks were evidently added by an AP editor with a wry sense of humor.

- The Boston Globe reports on the planned schedule for a certain $16 million colt.
Chances are The Green Monkey will make his 2-year-old debut this summer at Saratoga, maybe run once during the fall before the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, then make his 3-year-old debut next winter in Florida. After that, it will be into the Triple Crown mix, with a return to Churchill Downs next spring.
For $16 million, I suppose Coolmore is entitled to expect a lot out of the horse, but that’s sure presuming a lot, isn’t it? How about they get him to the races first?

Time To Reconsider

- I watched the Forerunner Stakes at work on the Keeneland site. The quality wasn’t very good, kinda like the old days of herky-jerky dial up video, so I didn’t really know what was going on when all of a sudden I say a horse and rider lying on the turf. The last shot I saw was of Up An Octave getting up and standing, so I thought perhaps he was OK, but I was wrong. A tragic ending to be sure. But with all the races every day, with horses routinely putting out the kind of gritty effort that Up An Octave did to win the race, it truly is a wonder and a blessing that it doesn’t happen more often. Those who say they oppose Polytrack because it might make it harder for them to profit off track biases might want to reconsider, and think instead of the welfare of the animals that make this all possible.

John Velazquez will be out three to five months with a broken right shoulder blade, bruised sternum and two cracked ribs. [AP] Bloodhorse reports that he is leaking air from a slightly injured right lung.

Willie Martinez, a fellow jockey who visited Velazquez in the hospital, said injuries come with the territory.

"That's the nature of the beast of our job," Martinez said. "How was your day? I won the race, but I broke my shoulder and had to put my horse down."
Perhaps the Kentucky state Senators who let the jockeys’ workers comp bill die should reconsider as well.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Last Chance Lexington

- Todd Pletcher will not be the decider as to whether Keyed Entry and Bluegrass Cat will run in the Derby until the Monday before the race, thus keeping other trainers who are hoping to sneak into the top 20 waiting until then. Thus, though he will not run Sunriver (#24) in Saturday’s Lexington, he may have a chance to control that colt’s fate himself if a couple others drop out. I’m starting to like Sunriver’s chances to hit the board more and more even as he doesn't run, and despite what will be a five week layoff.

A lot of people trying to get in will be rooting for Like Now (#20) in the Lexington, as he’s the only entrant who is already is assured a spot. With first prize money of over $200,000, anyone could leapfrog into the big race. David Hofmans would like to run Sacred Light in the Derby, but won’t run his closer in the Lexington for obvious reasons.

"Because of the horse's running style, even though he needs the money, it just didn't seem like the right thing to do, especially after watching First Samurai and Bluegrass Cat and Balance there." [Daily Racing Form]
As for Like Now, don’t expect the already sizzling pace scenario to dissuade his connections to run him in the Derby if he does well on Saturday. Kiaran McLaughlin said "If he were to win the race like Sinister Minister [won the Blue Grass], the heck with being smart and thinking it's too much pace." [DRF] "The heck with being smart" is a big theme when it comes to Derby Fever. As far as McLaughlin himself goes, the more speed the merrier for his dead closer Jazil, a likely beneficiary if the race really falls apart.

Dick Jerardi in the Form may be making the same mistake I did last year by thinking that the pace won't be as hot as people expect because many of the contenders being projected as speed are actually pressers. Fool me once, shame on……we won’t get fooled again. Jerardi writes: And if the jockeys hear enough times how much early speed is in this race, you can be sure they won't ride too aggressively. It is human nature. [DRF, sub. only] I would respectfully disagree with that; to me, human nature dictates that in the biggest race in the world, the jockeys aren’t going to let anyone get away; and besides, like last year, when the jockeys also heard how much early speed there was, the stalkers could be too close to a too hot pace. (I’ll try not to say that again for a couple of weeks.)

One thing we know for sure is that Sinister Minister will not be rated, as Baffert reiterated:
”He just runs off. He's just a run-off. His mouth was wide open down the backstretch (in the Blue Grass) and he went in :22, :45 and 4/5. That's not control. That's called a runaway train.” [Bloodhorse]
One horse who could definitely be within shouting distance of Sin Min is Sharp Humor. Churchill clockers got him today in 1:38 for a mile, but Dale Romans recorded him in 1:40.20.

Unbeaten Showing Up may be the favorite in the Lexington in just his third start, and Barclay Tagg is sounding a bit like John Ward before the Blue Grass: "He acts like he doesn't need much experience….He's a young horse, but he's very mature, very composed.” [Houston Chronicle] But like Strong Contender, he’ll be trying two turns and stakes company for the first time in just his third start; and though he’s not facing the same quality as Ward’s horse did in the Blue Grass, he still could be worth a bet against if he’s bet too low. Like Ward, Tagg is a guy who has a reputation for being cautious, but the heck with being smart. It's the Kentucky Derby.

Thursday Morning Notes - April 20

- So I had the late Pick Three at Keeneland yesterday, though the $55 return didn’t make me rich. Gorella was as close to a sure thing as you can find, but I thought there’d be a little value created by going against In The Gold with Pool Land in the Doubledogdare. But the fans weren’t fooled at all, and she was a decisive second choice throughout despite being 7-2 morning line, eventually drifting up just a bit to 2-1. Even with Lady Pegasus scratched, Pool Land still looked as if she’d have to improve her game; and not only did she do just that, she did a fair impression of Sinister Minister in the process as she drew off to win by 12. Throw out her poor start sixth in the Shirley Jones, and you see four wins by daylight – a total of 30 lengths – three of those around two turns. She may be by Silver Deputy, a sire whose progeny win at an average distance of 6.25 furlongs, out of a Slew City Slew half sister to BC Sprint winner Very Subtle, but she sure seems to love going a route. Pletcher mentioned the Allaire duPont BC Distaff at Pimlico as a possible next start.

In The Gold was a no-threat 4th at 4-5.

I needed a longshot in the 9th to get a price – actually the 6-1 second place finisher, Archer, would have done just fine. Making his first start on turf, the Pick 3 will-pay was $155, as opposed to $88 on 5-1 Shawnee Dancer, one of the three logical ones on grass form. I love to see that, when my selection is getting bet in the win pool like that, disproportionately to how it was bet in the multi-race wagers; same theory as the show pool system, it means to me that the horse is live. And when you're locked into the will-pay price, who cares if it gets bet down to 2-1? Unfortunately, Archer settled for second after briefly leading late, and I settled for the lower payoff, oh well.

As for Gorella, Patrick Biancone indicated that she’ll now go right back to facing the boys, this time in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on Derby Day at Churchill. "Why not.....She is very good right now." [Daily Racing Form]

- Keeneland officially OK’d the installation of Polytrack for its fall meeting in October. It was unanimous, and track president Nick Nicholson, after the track was soaked by a morning storm, called it "one of the last sloppy tracks that you'll ever see at Keeneland."

"I don't know how horsemen are going to react to the Derby," he said. "But I do know that horses are going to be safer and healthier and have fewer problems, and I know fewer riders are going to get hurt." [Louisville Courier-Journal]
If you’re already lamenting the end of the speed bias there, consider also that the track will be reconfigured to make it more symmetrical, which will result in a longer home stretch, by some 111 feet. In addition, in what is becoming a more novel idea these days, the grandstand apron will be enlarged, allowing more people to actually watch the races live.

- The Grand Slam is a new wager coming to New York when Belmont opens next month.
The idea is simple: get your picks to finish first, second or third in each of the first three legs and then get the winner of the fourth and final leg. In the first three legs, equal weight is awarded to winning selections; for example, a 10-1 winner has the same value as a 2-1 that runs second. But in the fourth and final leg, the selection must be the official race winner.

As an example of the Grand Slam's value, a bettor could construct a ticket by making two picks in the first leg; three in the second; a single one in the third and have two picks in the fourth and final leg for the $1 minimum and the total cost would only be $12 (2x3x1x2 x $1= $12). And, if all of his selections in the first three legs finish in the money and either of his fourth-leg picks wins, the bettor would be holding six winning tickets. [NY Daily News]
Seems the cost is the same as a regular Pick 4, but you could, as pointed out, be holding more winning tickets. Note that the writer said “all of his selections;” maybe he thinks the bet is too complicated for a woman. Perhaps the Quinella Queen wants to broaden her betting horizon to prove him wrong. She could be the Grand Slam Granny...the Grand Slam Thank You Ma'am...I guess Quinella Queen will still do just fine. While the bet presents more ways to win, it’s also just another way to lose. I imagine that those horses I bet on that usually finish second or third will now be finishing 4th and 5th instead.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

4th and Goal for Racino, RFPs, Legislation...

- NYRA CEO Charles Hayward, talking about the status of the Aqueduct racino construction, told a forum in Saratoga: 'We've got the ball I think on the 1 yard line.' [Saratogian] Let’s hope the state isn’t planning another goal line stand.

J. Patrick Barrett, the chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Future of Racing, dismissed speculation that politics will push back the issuance of the RFP's (requests for proposals) from interested bidders for the franchise until a new governor is elected in November. "I can't give you an exact timetable, but it's not going to be in the November or December timeframe." [Bloodhorse] Bidders who would like to see the state legislature make the laws more accommodative to running the franchise profitably are unlikely to get their wish anytime soon, as the current session expires on June 22. With Gov Pataki, suddenly a fiscal conservative as he weighs his presidential prospects, and the legislature fighting over the budget, and even over whether his vetoes can be constitutionally overridden, it seems unimaginable to think that they’ll get to horse racing by then.

(I know that my loyal reader Green Mtn Punter is patiently waiting for me to look into Empire Racing Associates, the horseman’s group interested in the franchise, so I’ll have to do that soon.)

- It’s expected that Keeneland will approve the installation of Polytrack today, and to Wayne Lukas, whose Dance Daily broke down and was euthanized there last week, it can’t come soon enough. "Keeneland has to do something…..They can't stay status quo." [Louisville Courier-Journal]

- James Scully of Brisnet asks of Sinister Minister: How many more comparisons to War Emblem will we hear over the next three weeks? But he also points out these relevant facts:

War Emblem, who displayed dismal form before emerging as a top three-year-old with a smashing 6 1/4-length win in the 2002 Illinois Derby (G2), wasn't aided by the biased Keeneland track in his final prep and set uncontested Kentucky Derby fractions in :23 1/5 and :47 en route to victory.
I have no idea who’s going to win the Derby, but I think it’s as safe a bet as was Scott McLellan’s resignation that they ain’t going no 47 seconds to the half mile, nor the 1:11.75 that War Emblem got to three-quarters.

- Patrons at Delaware Park will find some new features when the track reopens for racing, particularly a giant new indoor video screen. Bernard Daney, chairman of the Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission, said that it will be a big hit.
"They're going to be wide-eyed and they're going to love to sit there and watch the races…..It's like high-density TVs people have at home." [Delaware Online]
Sounds like he learned his lessons from Frank Stronach. Delaware is a pretty track, or at least it was around 25 years ago when I was last there, and conducts racing during the spring and summer months, but Daney apparently wants his patrons to sit inside.
Daney….. said the renovations make Delaware Park the "preeminent" horse racing venue in the nation.

"The other race tracks," he added, "I don't know how they get away with it."
Well, perhaps they present competitive racing in a picturesque setting that people can sit and watch live. Egads, the horrors!

Wednesday Morning Notes - April 19

- Gorella returns in the 7th at Keeneland on Wednesday as racing resumes after the Easter break. The last we saw this now threefour-year old filly, she was trying to rally up the rail against the boys in the Breeders Cup Mile; she settled for third, beaten less than a length. She earned a 108 Beyer, and appears to lay all over this N3X allowance race in her 4 yo debut. There are a couple of nice turf fillies in Pletcher’s Safari Queen and Yes Beth, who got good in Kentucky last fall, and makes her first start in November for Steve Flint. But considering that Gorella was knocking heads with the likes of Leroidesanimaux and Artie Schiller, you’d think she can handle these. She’s 3-5 in the morning line. Her trainer Patrick Biancone has won three out of 18 races at this meeting, but he’s 0 for 3 with favorites thus far.

In The Gold makes her second start of the year for Zito in the featured 8th, the Doubledogdare Stakes at a mile and a sixteenth. She was nowhere in her 4 year-old debut, the Shirley Jones, which was a Grade 2 won by Splendid Blendid, so this should be easier. Marty McGee touted her in the Form, and Zito is 9 for 19 at the meeting. But he has lost his last two in a row after all, and that includes Little Cliff, 8th by 40 some-odd lengths, and there’s at least one thing I was right about in the Blue Grass.

I’ve never been crazy about In The Gold, and I’m going to try and beat her with Pool Land (Silver Deputy). She was also making her 4 year-old debut in the Shirley Jones, and finished a couple of lengths in front of In The Gold after a slow start. Now Pletcher, winning only at 25% at the meet, stretches her back out to a two turn route; she was an impressive two for two once around the Big A inner track. She’ll have to improve her figs to compete with Lady Pegasus and maybe Private Gift if she improves on her seasonal debut, in which she flopped at 4-5, but we saw Pletcher do that recently with Spun Sugar, and the price may be right on this one to do the same.

Well, that’s two-thirds of a cold Pick Three. The ninth is a turf allowance, and there are really just three contenders on paper. Spider Powder, Shawnee Dancer, and Obi Wan Kenobi are the only horses with current turf form. But none of them really look that great – Spider Powder has the highest figs against the best company, but is 1 for 9 lifetime and a bit of a plodder. So since I’m getting away with the first two legs so cheap, I’ll probably look to spread and hope for some first time turfer to pull an upset.

- Becky Thomas’ Sequel Bloodstock sold the high seller at Keeneland today, a NY-bred son of Fusaichi Pegasus. He’s out of an AP Indy mare, a stakes winning full sister to Stephen Got Even. He wasn’t the horse who got the highest bid though. A bid of $2.395 million for a daughter of AP Indy out of the millionaire and Distaff/Test/Ballerina winner Dream Supreme was not enough to meet George Steinbrenner’s reserve. Consignor Niall Brennan spoke of the magnanimous Boss:

“Mr. Steinbrenner was giving them the opportunity to buy into the family, and I guess they just couldn't see the light. The market just wasn't there for her. They had one chance." [Daily Racing Form]

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Blogs By Any Other Name

- We’re starting to see more racing blogs associated with mainstream publications and organizations, most notably the Daily Racing Form’s ‘FormBlog,’ and it’s nice to see that the industry is starting to wake up and smell the roses, rather than just the run to them. On the other hand, blogs that are run by industry stalwarts are unlikely to provide the kind of objective, incisive, and, when necessary, critical look at the news that has made blogs such an important alternative to mainstream news coverage. Dan Illman has thus far proven to be knowledgeable and engaging, but I don’t expect that you’ll see anything more than gentle chiding of his Form colleagues, nor any industry criticism that goes beyond what you’d see in a Steve Crist column, if that.

Some so-called blogs are proving to be little more than marketing tools. Prime examples are the two harness racing blogs I link to in the sidebar – Free-Legged and Racing Room. They are both written by employees of the US Trotting Association; in fact, Free-Legged is written by Dean Hoffman, the organization’s Director of Planning, and a long-time editor of Hoof Beats, the trotting equivalent of Bloodhorse. So it should come as no surprise (or maybe it still should) that neither of these blogs have mentioned anything – not one single word! – about the Ledford scandal or suspensions.

The Lone Star Park Press Box Blog now graces the web pages of that Magna track’s website, and though it contains some helpful news and handicapping insights, they also take the opportunity to do promotions like: A crew from FOX 4 will be on hand to do a story on Lone Star's Easter Egg Hunt for Sunday night's news.

In an April 16 entry, What a Weekend!, the tracks communications director informs us that:

Another 12,564 attended Lone Star Park on Sunday, which brought the opening week total to 46,164. That's a 17.9% jump. Total handle was also up 5.6% to $10.8 million over Thursday through Sunday.
Nice numbers, though how much of it can be attributed to post-race concerts held on Friday and Saturday night, it doesn’t say.

Gary West in the Dallas-Ft. Worth Star-Telegram paints a very drastically different picture of the real state of the sport in the Lone Star state, which is surrounded by states with purses that have been driven higher by slots and, in the case of Oaklawn, Instant Racing. Trainer Bret Calhoun tells West: "I think it's pretty grim….I don't know how much longer the owners, trainers and breeders can hang on here."
By almost any measure, the horse racing industry in Texas is unhealthy. Buffeted on all sides by fierce competition, it's caught in a morbid spiral of declining numbers. The most telling, of course, are those numbers that monitor attendance and handle, or money wagered.

They're all tumbling at Texas' three major racetracks -- Lone Star, Sam Houston in Houston and Retama Park near San Antonio.

From 2001 to 2005, total attendance during thoroughbred season at those tracks declined 21.2 percent, from 1,067,357 to 840,923. And during the same period, the "live handle" -- money wagered at the tracks on live racing -- fell 32 percent, from $65,124,381 to $44,267,788, according to Texas Racing Commission data.

The handle determines the level of purses, or prize money, a racetrack can offer. And so the tumbling handle has dragged the purses down, too. Since 2001, thoroughbred purses at the three racetracks have dropped 11.4 percent, from $30,646,126 to $27,150,786. [Star-Telegram]
You likely won’t read this news on the Lone Star blog, and that’s to be expected. It is, after all, a device, run by and paid for by Magna, with which to promote their track. Likewise, you won’t soon see on the insidious Republican National Committee blog [proceed with’ve been warned] a running count of American casualties in Iraq (it’s at least 2,372), nor a list of the lies that got us there. But that’s fine too….just consider the source, and its purpose. After all, anyone has the right to write about (or not) whatever they want, but the term “blog,” as we’ve grown to know and love it, is being misused. Perhaps “propblog” or simply “plog” would be a better designation for sites that are little more than propaganda.

- Though the official workout times were both a bullet (of 24) 59 1/5, Haskin reports that Bob Baffert got Bob and John in :58 4/5, and Point Determined in 1:00 1/5.
Although nothing has been firmed up yet, it looks as if Gomez will stick with Bob and John for the Derby and Rafael Bejarano will ride Point Determined. That could leave the mount on Sinister Minister open for Espinoza, who piloted War Emblem to a wire-to-wire victory for Baffert in the 2002 Kentucky Derby. [Bloodhorse]

Pletcher On the Fence, Behind in Earnings

- Haskin had reported the other day that Keyed Entry was a go for the Derby, but the Form reports today that though he’ll be flown to Kentucky, he will work twice - this Sunday and April 30 - before Pletcher makes a decision. One of owners told the Albany Times-Union: "Any talk about him running in the Derby is premature." His presence could rachet up the speed up even more; in fact, he’s one horse that perhaps could run with Sinister Minister if he wanted to. But he would probably fit better in a race like the Met Mile, mentioned as a possible next start if he skips the Derby.

Pletcher wouldn’t dismiss Bluegrass Cat, using the Keeneland excuse, and trying to suggest that he bounced. "If you look at any of the other figures, it [the Tampa Bay Derby] was his lifetime best. Ragozin-wise it was the top, Beyer-wise it was the top."

Pletcher would like to run Sunriver, but he’s sitting at number 25 in the upgraded earnings rankings (updated on The Downey Profile). I’d like to see that too. He’s improved nicely through a solid (these days) six races of experience. He’s never run badly around two turns on a fast track, and his Florida Derby effort, in which he was steadied early and was very wide throughout the turn, was pretty impressive I thought. He obviously has classic bloodlines, being a full brother to Ashado, and personally I think that Sunriver has a better chance to get a piece of the purse than either of Pletcher’s other two, and he'd be a longshot I'd use in my wagers. With horses in the top 20 unlikely to defect, he’ll have to earn his way in via the Lexington this weekend, and then run back two weeks later.

- Private Vow, third in the Ark Derby, and Storm Treasure, the 65-1 runnerup in the Blue Grass are both headed for the Derby for Steve Asmussen. Private Vow had picked up some support from handicappers prior to the weekend – I heard Frank Lyons on TVG say that he “loved” him in the race. He didn’t run too bad, and I suppose that those who liked him Saturday may like him again due to the third-race-off-the-layoff theory (which, of course, contradicts the three-preps-necessary-for-the-Derby theory). It seems to me that Asmussen was a bit overconfident, perhaps even arrogant with this colt. He was snitty with reporters who questioned him about the strategy, and will now press on despite being beaten soundly twice by both Lawyer Ron and Steppenwolfer, and despite the fact that the horse’s running style, being the same as at least half of the prospective field, doesn’t really fit. I always thought he was part of the second tier anyway. Still, expecting connections to give up their Derby quest, especially in the post-Giacomo era is, I suppose, like expecting Donald Rumsfeld to finally quit. Some people just can’t take a hint. (Though Frank Brothers is doing the right thing and will not run First Samurai in the Derby.)

- Here’s the latest on Highland Cat: Bill [Turner] said that he has worked on Highland Cat's hocks, and he expects HC to race very well in his next start because of that. Ah, the old hocks excuse. The trainer seems determined to try him on the dirt again, perhaps dropping him to 35K maiden claimers.

[UPDATE: Discreet Cat will not run in the Derby.]

Monday, April 17, 2006

Monday Night Notes - Apr 17

- With A City ran last in the Arkansas Derby, but his owner Ron Peltz told the Form: "We're not letting it deter us at all." (You have that phone number, right?) And why should he let a 50 length defeat persuade him to give up his spot on the earnings list in favor of a horse who has a shot for at least a share of the purse? What, he should give up his seats? Maybe he figures that the pace will be so fast that With A City will just need to stay on his feet in order to pick his way past through all the pooped horses collapsed on the track.

The discussion has started here, and will continue everywhere during the next three weeks, about what the pace scenario will be. I try to learn from mistakes, so I’m taking my cue from last year. Like now, there was a lot of talk about all the speed, but I was among some who questioned that, claiming that contenders like High Fly and Flower Alley were really more stalkers than pure speed, and that they would patiently sit off the leaders and not get caught up with the pacesetters (as Bellamy Road swept by on his way from just off the pace to a dominating win). This year too, horses like Brother Derek, Barbaro, Sweetnorthernsaint, Discreet Cat and, especially, Lawyer Ron, have shown too that they can win off stalking trips, and any of those could conceivably simply replicate their prior efforts and win the roses.

So in 2005, the stalkers indeed sat a bit off the pace as Spanish Chestnut and Going Wild set the fast pace. The problem was that the pace that they were stalking was so fast – six furlongs in 1:09.59 - that all the pressers other than Closing Argument had nothing left for the final furlong. And this was with two horses with no shot at all to last as far as midway ‘round the far turn; what do you think is going to happen with a legitimate contender on the lead? I think part of this is the fact that this is the Derby, and people and horses get a little hepped up. What were talented riders like Jerry Bailey, Javier Castellano, and Jorge Chavez thinking about as they committed pace suicide? Or was it just that their horses’ natural style was to press (in Bellamy Road’s case, to lead), and they will tend to do so regardless of a fast pace?

Whatever the case, I’m going to be betting that the same thing happens this year. Brother Derek, thinking he’s just going out for another jog with a few friends, is going to be like “Whoa, dude! What’s with all these other guys?” Edgar Prado will have to strangle Barbaro to keep him back. Lawyer Ron looked a lot like a horse who prefers to be in the clear, and the only way he’s going to do that in a 20 horse field is to be moving towards the leaders. Discreet Cat doesn’t seem like the type who would be content to be 8th for too long. Ditto Sweetnorthernsaint. I think they’ll all be in hot pursuit as they once again go 1:09 and change, and that it could very well be another wild finish with an unexpected result. It’s more fun to bet it in that manner, anyway; getting beat with the 5-2 favorite last year was no fun.

- Jay Privman reports that Churchill Downs officials have heard from Godolphin, and expect Discreet Cat to come. Racing secretary Doug Bredar told the Form: “They haven't confirmed anything yet, but it sounds promising. I'd be surprised if he didn't run."

Thank You For Choosing....

- I feel a bit behind the 8-ball on posting. Traffic is up on the site these days, and that’s so gratifying. Thank you for choosing… I feel bad sometimes when I don’t keep up to my usual pace. I’d sit here and do this all day if I was being paid like Dan Illman is. But it was a busy weekend, and I’m busy working on something else that I’ll let you in on shortly.

In any case, thanks to reader Nick for bringing Satrurday’s figs to our attention – a 98 for Lawyer Ron, and a 116 for Sinister Minister, wow! That does indeed put Sin Min not only at the head of the Beyer class, but in the honors section all by himself. I see that Illman makes a case that the track wasn’t really that biased on Saturday because only two of the six dirt races were strictly wire-to wire, and particularly because Sun King came from so far back. Regarding Sun King, when the leader goes 44 1/5 to the half in a seven furlong race, I don’t care if it's the Daytona Speedway, chances are that he’s going to get caught. Bucharest also closed to win at seven furlongs, but he was the 3-5 favorite sitting a trip on the rail behind dueling leaders. The three other dirt races were won by horses that were all close up; and then there was the Blue Grass, which may have been evidence of the bias all in itself. I’m not going to let a couple of closing performances that had logical explanations negate a trend that has been dominant for years. It’s that kind of micro-nit picking that often drives me crazy about supposed biases (and lack thereof).

Lawyer Ron’s 98 Beyer was expected, and will create a big Beyer debate in the next three weeks. Even though we’ve seen him rate, I think his mid-race move showed his true colors, and I don’t expect him nor Brother Derek nor Discreet Cat (still no official announcement) nor Barbaro to let Sin Min get away. Time to take another look at horses like Cause to Believe and AP Warrior, whose last races were possibly compromised by slow paces. There seems to be no chance of that scenario repeating itself in the Derby.

- Brother Derek worked five furlongs in 1:01 2/5 this morning at Santa Anita. The California-bred son of Benchmark went Monday in fractions of :12 4/5, :25 1/5, :37 3/5 and :49 3/5 before coming home his final eighth in :11 4/5. [Bloodhorse]

First of what will no doubt be countless stories on the saga of Dan Hendricks and his paralysis in the NY Times today (yeah, you have to do the annoying registration). If Brother Derek wins the Derby, I will certainly lose money – I think you just have to go for a price again this year – but between Hendricks and the horse’s modest breeding, it would certainly be (another) great story for the sport. I’ll be happy to take one for the team.

- Saturday was a rough day. First there was the Rangers getting murdered by the Flyers in their biggest game of the year. It was so bad that I turned to the races earlier than planned, and plotted out some Pick 3’s on the last three at Keeneland. I used Kazoo, Vicarage, and Spanish Chestnut in the 8th, and looked home free with the longest of those, 8-1 Kazoo, when Sun King came flying home. Man, if losing that race to Sun King, whose past performances this year looked like those of the NY Islanders this season, wasn’t a further message that it wasn’t going to be my day, I don’t know what is. Not that it would have mattered in the end, because I didn’t have Sin Min, and my single in the 10th, Rush Bay, was a total no-chance closing 4th. But I ignored the signs, and continued to lose, and lose emphatically! When Red Reymond was nowhere to be found in the Ark Derby, I was done for the day; and that included scrapping an intended trip to the Meadowlands that night, with the Head Chef gone for the weekend.

I instead scanned the music listings in Time Out New York for something interesting, and with Clap Your Hands and Say Yeah long sold out, I came up instead with a local band called Hotels. Hadn’t heard of them before, and they sounded pretty cool on their website. But I had no idea what I was in for. There’s nothing like four dorky-looking guys playing tight, freaking kick-ass rock driven by an awesome rhythm section to get one’s mind off losing horses and hockey teams. The Time Out blurb said something about surf and goth and Joy Division, but it’s all just rock’n’roll to me. Their self-released CD is entitled Thank You For Choosing…

- Interesting idea by NYRA to try and keep horses in races that are taken off the turf – a 20% increase in the purse if eight horses remain in. New York has, by far and away, the most scratches when the track is wet – and that goes for dirt races as well as off-the-turfers. I often see at simulcasts sloppy track cards in which they’re hardly any scratches at all. Perhaps horsemen at smaller tracks simply can’t afford to not run when they have an opportunity to. My real pet peeve in NY is when the dirt-only horses scratch too…

Preps Provide Just A Few Clues

- On Saturday, before the day’s Derby preps, Bill Handleman of the Asbury Park Press, worried that the coming races wouldn’t provide any new evidence.

But unless something out of the ordinary happens, unless First Samurai shows us he wants to go a mile and eighth, unless Lawyer Ron finally runs a bad one, we're right back where we started.

Three weeks to go, and still we lack any solid evidence.

What if, say, Sinister Minister breaks sharply, gets out to a clear lead and never looks back in the Blue Grass? Then what've you got? Just another speed horse taking advantage of the conveyor belt that is Keeneland.
That may be true, but I think that the Blue Grass, at least, did clear some things up. For one thing, Strong Contender will not be in the Derby. For another, if Todd Pletcher is to break his Derby winless streak this year, it would most likely be with Sunriver, if he could sneak into the field (he's 26th on the upgraded earnings list.). Though his post-race comments - "We'll have to regroup and see how he comes out of it.....The winner won one of those freaky Keeneland races" - seem to indicate that he’ll press on as he will with Keyed Entry, Bluegrass Cat should be voted out due to the 20 length rule, which states that any horse who loses his final prep by more than that margin is not going to win at a mile and a quarter three weeks later. I’m pretty confident about that one. In fact, I don’t want to hear the Keeneland excuse from any of the losers of this race, like we did from Nick Zito about Sun King last year. That horse didn’t seem to dislike the track on Saturday, did he?

We also learned that as much of a sure thing as First Samurai not being a mile and a quarter horse, is that this year’s Derby will have a pace every much as hot as the one last year that led to a 50-1 shot rallying to win. Sinister Minister is said by his own trainer to be unrateable, and Garrett Gomez told Brisnet that the colt “had his mouth gagged over going into the first turn" before he let him just run. And given the perception, which will only gain credence in the next three weeks, that the winner’s tour-de-force was simply a product of the speed-favoring strip, it’s unlikely that the opposing jockeys will be afraid to go after him, especially in the run for the roses. Gary West, in the Dallas-Ft. Worth Star Telegram, pointed out that in 1995, for example, Wild Syn won the Blue Grass in front-running, superhero fashion and then finished last of 19 in the Derby. I'm sure we'll be hearing a lot of that. After six furlongs, Sinister Minister came home in 38.91 seconds, with a final eighth of 13.40; moderate numbers at best (though quick compared to Lawyer Ron).

So, is this another War Emblem, Baffert’s last Derby winner?
"Before the weekend of the Wood, I would have traded all of my horses for Brother Derek," Baffert said. "Not any more."

"I don't think Brother Derek can get in front of this guy....I don't think he wants to. We'll just let him do his thing and hope he holds on." [USA Today]
And if he doesn’t, Baffert’s other two entries, Bob and John and Point Determined, may be amongst the beneficiaries. He goes into the Derby in a pretty good situation. In the space of four races, Sinister Minister has gone from graduating in a $62,500 maiden claimer to a Grade 1 winner and the presumed early speed in the Kentucky Derby. After the maiden win, he was purchased privately for "right around $300,000," [Lexington Herald-Reader] and it was the switch to two turns after a futile try against Too Much Bling in the seven furlong San Vicente that seems to have turned him around.

Gary Stevens is one who thinks that more than just the Keeneland speed bias was at work.
"If you need a jockey, I'm ready to lose 20 pounds," Stevens said. "That wasn't a speed-bias performance. That was a dominating performance. That horse is a lot better than people think. I looked at him in the paddock, and he looked like a horse who really wanted to run. He was stronger down the stretch." [Louisville Courier-Journal]
The Arkansas Derby achieved less in the way of evidence. We already knew that Lawyer Ron was the best of this group, and he once again showed his adaptability by switching to Plan B when caught in an uncomfortable looking spot on the inside, and forged to the lead in what the race chart called some lively fractions.

His six furlong split of 1:10.98 was the fastest of the day on a less than all-star card, and his mile time of 1.37.76 was faster than the final time of 1:38.66 in a moderate three year old stakes; winner Admiral’s Arch was all out to get the money. So you could say that his final three furlongs of 40.48, final furlong of 13.62, and final time of 1:51.38 were explainable on this course that has played slow all meeting long. John McKee indicated that the colt was well within himself.
“He is just full of himself right now. On the backside, he just took a hold of the race. He never stopped running.”
“In the stretch, I was a little concerned and hit him a couple of times and he just took off,” said McKee, who raised his whip in jubilation following his biggest career victory. “And it was like, ‘Wow !’” [Arkansas Democrat Gazette]
Still, though I haven’t yet seen the Beyer, it’s seems unlikely that it will be much of an improvement over his last two, nor in the neighborhood of 108 or 109. If that’s the case and you’re a big Beyer guy, I guess that makes him a throwout.

Steve Asmussen will hopefully spare Private Vow from a trip to Kentucky, even though he’s 8th on the earnings list. Steppenwolfer moves up to #14 with another solid closing effort. Trainer Dan Pietz had to be pleased with the developments both at Oaklawn and at Keeneland. His colt will get the distance and the pace that he’s said he’s been waiting and hoping for all along, and with another possible wild pace scenario, who's to say that he, or virtually anybody else, doesn't have a shot.