RSS Feed for this Blog

Monday, July 31, 2006

Saratoga Self-Exclusion

- I picked up the brochure on the Self-Exclusion program at Saratoga Gaming and Raceway. I was there for awhile three nights in a row before the Head Chef arrived on Sunday morning. Not for the slots of course. Nope, not tempted even a bit. If you take a look at the chart of the 12th race on Saturday, you’ll see that when Ideal Shuffle rallied to get up, I missed by a nose, nose, and head hitting a triple that would have had an 18-1 shot second and a 52-1 shot third.

Of course, since there’s around $2000 in the win pool total, the win odds are really meaningless in terms of predicting what a triple would pay. But I can’t help but think that it would have been a nice one. Darn.

Well, I’m not yet ready to be excluded; though it’s not clear if it applies to the racetrack anyway. And you can exclude yourself for life, in which case “you cannot be removed from the list.” As Keanu Reaves might say, “Whoa!” That is serious stuff.

After you are placed on the self-exclusion list, property personnel will be permitted to refuse your wagers or ask you to leave the gaming area. If you do place a wager, you would be unable to collect any winnings or recover any losses.

Additionally, you will not be able to receive complimentary goods or services or participate in promotional offerings.
Whoa! No comps!?

You can decide to exclude yourself for one or five years too; and I suppose anytime amount of time in between. But again, you can’t change your mind until that time is expired. There's no scientific way of keeping people out though. I suppose a simple disguise would suffice for anyone who really wanted to go. No talk of implanting a chip that would set off sirens if someone tried to enter. When you file the form, you will be photographed. That photo, and other identifying information, will be displayed to employees in non-public areas with enforcement of your request.

One thing I must say about the mind-numbing racino here is that it employs some extremely happy people. Creating jobs is one of the positives of casino gambling, and you can certainly tell from the employees’ attitudes that slots have provided them with a steady job under good working conditions (aside from the constant drone of the machines’ music and sounds).

- And congratulations are in order! The Head Chef and I are officially engaged as of last night, when I presented her with a ring on her XXth birthday. So while my betting, blogging, and writing may not be going quite as hoped, the more important deal has been sealed. We'll be tying the knot rather informally sometime early in 2007. I can assure you that it will not be in the Aqueduct clubhouse.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Did You See That??

- I know I'm a bit late with this, but did you guys (and girls) see this from Thursday? I was in the Jim Dandy bar at Saratoga and this guy who was watching it was screaming "WHOA! DID YOU SEE THAT?" So while the 5th was going off at Saratoga, I was watching the replay of this, and it certainly worth my time.

Jockey Orlando Mojica told the Evansville Courier Press:

"Everything flashed in my mind. Do I go right. Do I go left. Do I stop riding. Do I keep riding.

"So I just kept going. The umbrella missed me but hit my horse. I am very lucky. Every rider is very lucky. It could have been bad. We are blessed."
The race chart read as follows:
"Adriatic Lady, never far back, advanced four wide into the stretch, was just off the winner for the last eighth and was steadied sharply about the sixteenth pole when an umbrella from a grandstand picnic table was blown open and over her and her immediate pursuer. New Rochelle gained the lead near the inside, managed a narrow edge until nearing the final quarter, lost it to the winner, then was steadied behind the umbrella nearing the sixteenth pole when it flew over the head over her rider."

On the Outside Looking In

- So, I had an “assignment” for the Saratoga Special yesterday. Sean was trying to come up with something for me to do. Seems as if they’re pretty much covered as far as the race day reports go, as John Lies, the track announcer at Lone Star, is doing those. And to be honest, that’s just fine with me. I mean, yes, I’d like to do some professional reporting here, but hell, I wanna gamble, man! There’s another guy doing race previews, and Sean handles most of the stakes races. That leaves me kinda on the outside looking in, but I know I have to prove myself, so that’s fine.

So we settled that I’d submit a preview on Saturday’s baby race, something which I enjoy, and know at least a little about anyway; and that they'd see if it's something that fits. But I’m unsure how my writing style does fit in with a paper like this. It’s far different pouring out my thoughts in a bloggy stream-of-consciousness manner, and writing for a paper which is very much an inside job. By that, I mean that the Clancy brothers know everyone here, and part of the paper seems to be devoted to trumpeting that fact. There are a lot of little inside industry references and jokes; and the paper is also partly about itself. So I do feel a bit insecure, and very much like an outsider.

Then, there’s the interviewing, as getting quotes is a big part of the paper. As I’ve written here before, that’s not really my thing. Hey, I’m shy, what can I tell you. And I don’t really get any particular thrill from speaking to most so-called celebrities. But I look at this as a challenge, something to work through; and what’s life without challenges, right? (Well, maybe, it’s six weeks in Saratoga doing nothing but handicapping, partying, and swimming at Lake Moreau. That would be pretty awful, eh?)

So I set off to the backstretch Friday morning to try and speak to some of the trainers involved in the race. Now, there’s a backstretch area there that is actually on the backstretch; and to be honest, that’s the only one I’ve really known here. It’s not like I’ve spent much time hanging at the barns; I just got my owner’s badge last year. So stupid me didn’t even realize that half of the trainers, if not more, are actually stabled over at the Oklahoma training track. After about an hour, and having to ask someone, I realized that I wasn’t going to find anyone that I needed where I was. So I got in the car and drove to Oklahoma.

I walked looking for a trainer with a somehow noteworthy entry in the race, not knowing exactly where everyone actually was. Bobby Frankel wasn’t around. I caught a glimpse of Patrick Biancone’s head in a golf cart disappearing off to places unknown. Zito was nowhere to be seen. Gary Contessa could be stabled at Aqueduct for all I know. Finally, off in a far corner, was the barn of one Wayne Lukas, who has Pegasus Wind going in the race. The colt had debuted in the Bashford Manor Stakes, and chased Sanford runner-up Teuflesberg that day (and if you missed it, yours truly had a cold exacta with him on top of Scat Daddy....ouch, what a beat.)

I nervously approached, as it started to drizzle. Some guy called out to me, and I thought he said “Is it starting to rain?” I swear, I’m either becoming dyslexic in my old age, or all those nights standing in the first row at CBGB’s are finally taking a belated toll. “Is it starting to rain?” I quizzically repeated his question.


“Oh. Yeah.” How embarrassing is that??

“Over there,” he said, pointing to a little office building across the way. “D. Wayne Lukas,” the sign said. In my limited experience here and at Belmont, I’d never seen a trainer with his own little stand-alone cottage office (with air-conditioning, of course). I peeked in, and he was on the phone, so I waited. On the outside looking in, a feeling I'm getting a lot here lately. I think what I dislike most about interviewing is all the wasted time lurking around waiting for someone to be not busy enough to chat.

Finally, he was off, and I knocked on the door, as an assistant was going over the workout schedules with him. He motioned me in, and there I was. Face to face with the Great Man himself. A member of the Hall of Fame, winner of four Kentucky Derbys; five Preaknesses, and four Belmonts. 12 times the leading money-earner in North America. A four-time Eclipse winner. Forget the recent hard times, the man is a living legend, no doubt.

I must admit that I feel a bit like a kid in these situations. But I was undaunted, and cool. As I said, I can't say I find it a thrill to meet these guys, but I certainly was aware of his historical significance. I asked him about Pegasus Wind, and he went on to tell me how highly they thought of him (“we wouldn’t have started him in the Bashford Manor for his first start”), accepted blame for his not winning that race (“I didn’t do enough with him.”) and reiterated how much he liked him (“He’s an exceptional colt...could be one of the good ones.”) And that was it. Quick and painless for interviewer and the interviewee.

So I’ll be betting him today, even though I imagine that he's said that about a lot of two-year olds the last few years.

As far as the article for the Special that I spent many hours on, between researching and interviewing and writing? Well, I never got any direct feedback on it, but there it was, posted on their website last night, with very few edits, and some typos that were actually and somehow added, thank you. (I know I’ve made a lot of errors here lately, but I can assure you that I sent them a clean piece.) And oh yeah, it was credited to “ST-Publishing Staff!” [since at bottom] What's up with that? And then, when I picked up the physical paper this morning, it was nowhere to be found. So I guess I’m still on the outside looking in. Sigh... Oh well. Guess I'll just get back to handicapping for now.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

News and Notes - July 27

- Latest Saratoga news up on Racing Saratoga.

- Bob Baffert has yet to decide whether he will ship Point Determined to Monmouth for next weekend’s Haskell. "I haven't figured out exactly what I'm going to do yet....I will make a decision tomorrow."

One thing is certain: If Baffert makes the trip, his horse will be worth a bet. Baffert has had six Haskell runners over the past nine years, posting three wins (Point Given, War Emblem in '02 and Roman Ruler in '05), two seconds and a third. [Asbury Park Press]
- Tragedy continues to strike at Del Mar, where Wednesday saw the 5th and 6th fatal injuries of the meet – 7 if you count one suffered during a workout. There were 17 such incidents all of last year. The head-scratching is eerily similar to what we’ve been hearing out of Arlington.
“I wish I had a smoking gun here, but I just don't,” said Joe Harper, president, CEO and general manager of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. “We can't put our finger on any one thing. We've looked at the surface of the track. We had some extensive studies done on it through X-ray and sonar to make sure the base is level and smooth, and it is. We passed those tests with flying colors. We got our soil samples back and have been adding some sand to the clay, and the content looks good.” [SignOnSanDiego]
One of the breakdowns resulted in an injury to jockey Ricardo, who suffered a fractured collarbone. In other Del Mar jockey comings and goings, Jose Valvidia will return Thursday from a similar injury. And it looks like Pat Valenzuela will undergo surgery to relieve a pinched nerve in his back, and miss the rest of the meet.

- Magna may be debt-ridden, and the company was forced to agree to a lower selling price, by $25 million, for its Meadows harness track, due to unfavorable developments regarding tax rates. This has not, however, prevented Magna from announcing their intention to spend $14.3 million by Nov. 25 to acquire the remaining shares of Amtote, the tote company in which it already owns a 30% share.
If the transaction closes, Magna would be the first racetrack company to own a totalizator company outright. Bet-processing functions in North America are dominated by three companies: Scientific Games Racing, United Tote, and Amtote.
Not surprisingly then, the company also announced that it's taking an additional loan fron its parent company; this to fund the housing of slot machines at Gulfstream.

- No further word on a final contract agreement between Dwight Manley and the Jockeys’ Guild. Matt Hegarty reports in the Form that the Guild intends to make a counter-offer.
Tom Kennedy, the guild's New York-based counsel, said the guild's nine-member board "instructed me to make a final proposal to Mr. Manley" on how Manley would be compensated as national manager. Kennedy declined to give details about the employment contract, but said that "we weren't on the same page, and the jockeys felt they needed further protections."
One can’t help but get the feeling that the Guild will have the Help Wanted sign posted again soon.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Rattling Feet

- The Green Monkey continues to train for his debut, but has been left behind at Belmont, at least for now. He worked five furlongs in 1.03:22 (23/29) there on Tuesday; perhaps he's a bit depressed at being left alone. $16 million colts can get lonely too, y'know. Pletcher told the NY Times that the colt will make his debut later in the Saratoga meet.

“Usually colts bought in 2-year-old sales are hard to train because they have been taught mostly to go fast....This horse has been easy to teach so far. But there is a lot expected from this horse, and when I take him over there.”
- The Haskell, to be run a week from Sunday, is drawing a nice field despite the Jim Dandy being run the week before. A field of nine is expected, including Bluegrass Cat, second in the Belmont, Strong Contender, Deputy Glitters, Awfully Smart, and Praying for Cash. John Ward told the Asbury Park Press that the Monmouth track is better suited for Strong Contender. "Strong Contender tends to like a harder racetrack....When he runs or works on a deeper surface, he doesn't like it. He likes to hear his feet rattle, so that's one reason we decided on the Haskell for him.”

One horse whose feet we most definitely do not want to hear rattling is Barbaro. The latest word is that his infected foot is doing as “well as can be expected,” which is about as good a report as we can expect. "Over the last several days, his temperature has been normal and his blood work has significantly improved, suggesting that the infection in his right hind is under control." [Thoroughbred Times]


- The law which allowed slot machines in Bangor, Maine, requires that 3% of the net revenue earned by Penn National's Hollywood Slots parlor must be turned over to the state’s gambling board. That money would then be earmarked for counseling services for addicted gamblers. The article in the Bangor Daily News notes that, while the state isn’t expecting a deluge of problem gamblers, six people so far have placed themselves on [Hollywood Slots’] self-exclusion list, which bars them from playing for a year. Self-exclusion can't be rescinded by the person, the racino or the state.

Man, that’s rather final, isn’t it? You can't say "PLEASE, I'VE CHANGED MIND!!!!?" Do they have that at racetracks? If they did, imagine if, after a tough day week month arghhh, you actually sign up for that? Think of how you could feel the next morning; like waking up with a horse’s head in your bed. I suppose you could shave your head, have a sex change, or wear a Richard Nixon mask.

- Christening came through her surgery OK. It will be some time before her future is determined, but she’s fine.

- More on Wednesday’s opening day card, and a look at the weather over at Racing Saratoga.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Tomorrow Is Here

- Whoever wrote the lyric “Tomorrow Never Comes” was full of.....well, you know. Tomorrow always comes. That’s why we’re all in this same boat together, growing older as we’re being hurtled like a jockey riding bareback on a bucking bronco through time towards our destinations, and our ultimate destiny, which hopefully won’t include slot machines.

My interim destiny is Saratoga, and that tomorrow is today. I’m heading up this afternoon, and without the Head Chef for comfort and guidance (and food), until Sunday, anyway. What exactly I’ll be doing other than betting horses, I really have no idea. I have a verbal commitment to do some writing for the Saratoga Special; and another from them to contribute and support the Racing Saratoga blog. But how exactly that is all going to play out, I really just don’t know. Maybe I’ll score big at the track the first week and just take the rest of the summer off entirely.

So, what the hell, we’ll just go with the flow and see what happens. I’ll endeavor to write about my writing exploits here, while keeping up with the racing over there. Up now is a post on the first baby maiden race of the meet, to be run as the 5th. To be honest, with all the running around to get ready for leaving my home for six weeks, I’ve barely looked at Wednesday’s card other than this race. These pp’s have been available long enough to write a freaking novel about. But anyway, I’ll check in next from there.

- Giacomo was 9-2 in the San Diego, and I can’t say I would have had him if he was twice that price. It can’t be considered a big upset, but it was in my book; and I think it may have been to his connections as well, who would have been thrilled to see him just finish competitively. Next is the Pacific Classic, and though the mile and a quarter would seem to be perfect for him after rallying in the shorter race, I would still approach with caution. Even forgetting the fact that Lava Man should be in the race, he still needs things to go his way, as they did last weekend with the sub 1:10 three quarters. So he may be extremely overbet, but we’ll come back to that in a few weeks. After the Pacific Classic, he will be pointed for the Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap at Santa Anita on Oct. 7 and the Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4. [Daily Racing Form]

- Matt Hegarty reports in the Form today that Dwight Manley is close to an agreement to take over as national manager of the Jockey’s Guild. Details include the $500,000 loan, which will bear no interest for the first year. While his salary has not been disclosed, he said that the 20% of Guild revenues that he is to receive would be only from additional sources that he develops for the guild. He declined to identify any potential sources of new revenue. But part of the plan is no doubt is to seek a direct share of simulcast revenues, as opposed to the share currently included in purse earnings. Gertmenian was after that too, but likely would have paid 20% to his sister after writing checks to himself and Albert Fiss. I suppose if Manley can create revenue that doesn’t currently exist, then he would deserve his fair share.

- The Arlington Million and the Del Mar Breeders’ Cup Handicap are the next possibilities for Aragorn, and one opposing trainer is awaiting Neil Drysdale’s decision on deciding what to do with his horse.

"I don't think I want to have my horse's next race be against him," said Gary Mandella, the trainer of third-place Eddie Read finisher Silent Name (Jpn). "I think we'll see where he's going before we make a decision on where [Silent Name will] run." [Thoroughbred Times]

Monday, July 24, 2006

Long Time Between Drinks

- Some people, obviously not simulcast aficionados, still complain that there’s too much time between races. That circumstance was taken to an extreme at Woodbine on Sunday. All the dirt races after the second were cancelled due to heavy rain, but the turf races went on. So, after the second, which went off 1:48, fans of live racing had to stick around until 3:33 for the Ontario Jockey Club Stakes; and then until 5:07 for the G2 Northern Dancer.

Dirt races are being run on the harness track at Woodbine these days as the main track is switched over to Polytrack.

"The [harness] surface has a seven-degree bank on the turns," said Chris Evans, vice-president of racing for Woodbine Entertainment. "It's great for thoroughbreds to negotiate the turn but when you put the thoroughbred track's sand cushion on the hard harness track you risk losing it during the heavy rain.' [Toronto Star]
Interesting comment there; I wonder if banked turns, as they have at harness tracks, would be kinder for thoroughbreds? Perhaps they’ll consider that at Arlington, where officials are befuddled and they’re trying to come up with something, anything to stop the rash of fatal injuries. In fact, most of the injuries have occurred on, or coming out of the turn. On Sunday, tragedy struck again, for the 18th time, as a three-year old filly, Just Ducky, broke down, again, coming out of the turn for home and was put down after she shattered her left-front sesamoid and cannon bone while in contending position as home. she approached the turn for home. [Chicago Tribune] Trainer Steve Hobby told the paper that he’s been a supporter of the track surface, and that he was just “stunned” by the breakdown. "She was a very, very sound horse....She never had a problem.”

And we’re still awaiting word on Christening, who was scheduled for surgery this morning after suffering a condylar fracture yesterday at Delaware.

Racing Saratoga

- Well, I'm leaving for Saratoga tomorrow afternoon, yikes! And the Head Chef won't be joining me until Sunday, so I'll be all alone, but with a million things to do. Here's what's going to be happening around here.

I'll be doing some reporting for the Saratoga Special, Sean Clancy's almost-daily paper which is published and sold on newsstands locally. It's also distributed for free on the backstretch.

And I'll be blogging. But most of my Saratoga posting will be over here at a new blog, Racing Saratoga. So please bookmark that site, and check it out. It's up and running now, though there's still a couple of kinks to work out. But it looks pretty great, I think, and I think it's going to be quite a lot of fun.

The contributors will include some of the other excellent bloggers in the TBA, and some of the writers from the Special; I'll have more details on that soon. So we'll actually have professional writers lurking about. I'll do my usual thing there, writing about my betting exploits, taking a detailed look at some pedigree stuff, especially in the two-year old and turf maiden affairs, keeping tabs on trainers, and trying to pick a winner or two. Plus, with my new reporter status - and knows, perhaps a press pass! - I'll be able to score some real quotes instead of stealing them from newspapers.

And I'm very happy to announce that the Head Chef will be making her blogging debut. She'll be providing local dining recommendations, and sharing some recipes based on fresh produce found at the twice-weekly farmer's market.

And somehow, I'll be a regular Josh Marshall and manage to come back here to my original site for news and non-Saratoga material, as well as when I get really pissed off and want to curse and stuff.

So, please bookmark the site, check it out, tell your friends, post it in chat rooms, spread the word. Then, maybe we'll sell some ads and I won't have to charge for Left at the Gate this fall!

So, we're up and running at Racing Saratoga; please check it out. (And just kidding about the pay site. Though if I don't score a real job after this...)

Guild Can't Get Arms Around Manley

- The Thoroughbred Times reports that the Jockey’s Guild has still not reached a contract agreement with Dwight Manley, and that John Velazquez was to meet with him on Sunday. You may recall that original reports said that Manley was seeking 15% of the Guild’s earnings in perpetuity as compensation. Velazquez then denied that, claiming the figure was 5%.

Now, according to the report, Manley has upped his demands to 20% for the next ten years, whether or not he is still with the organization. Manley said the problem is that “we're quantifying a commission or a percentage of something that doesn't exist and never has existed. We're having to get our arms around it."

Manley is offering to provide the Guild with a $500,000 loan, and the possible revenue from sources such as simulcasting fees are just that – possible revenue. So an impartial observer can’t, I suppose, blame Manley for wanting to be well-compensated for his rather substantial risk. On the other hand, it does highlight the fact that while for the Guild, achieving their goals and, in fact, their very survival may hinge in large part on finding effective leadership, for Manley, this is a business deal, pure and simple.

- Lurking beneath the glowing headlines from Del Mar of record attendance, redemption for a maligned Derby winner, and a record-smashing performance by Aragorn in the Eddie Read, his second consecutive Grade 1 win, is another cluster of mysterious breakdowns. Through Friday night’s card, seven horses had been injured in three racing days, four of those proving to be fatal. The CHRB’s medical director Dr. Rick Arthur provided with a practical explanation, noting that as many as 30% more horses are training over the Del Mar track than normal.

He said it is sensible to expect the injury rate to increase by as much as 30%.

"There was a study done several years ago that found that when horses move to a new track, there's always a rash of new injuries," Arthur said. "Del Mar is the only track that we all get up and move to. There are more horses training here than at any other track in California, it's the narrowest track in California and there's no substantial training track. It's a multi-factorial problem and, as usual, people have been very responsive and very concerned."

[Trainer Richard] Mandella said that in the short term, all trainers have been asked to spread out their training over the entire morning and restrict galloping until at least 10 minutes after each renovation break, leaving the initial post-break time for workers only. []
One of the afternoon breakdowns occurred on the grass, and the LA Times reported that the track will refrain from cutting the course in order to provide more cushion. Meanwhile, there were two more DNF’s in dirt races on Sunday. Never Say Nunca was pulled up in the third, but reported by the race chart to have walked off. But Chobigmoe wasn’t so lucky in the 4th – he had to be vanned off. No further word as of yet on him.

Racing officials in Illinois are still stumped by the rash of breakdowns there. The track surface has been cleared of wrongdoing, so attention is being turned to hiring more vets and even equestrian judges to add "more eyes." The Chicago Tribune reports that there’s talk of improving the quality and quantity of Illinois-breds, and adding pasture to the backstretch so that the horses can better rest between races. Obviously, they're looking at anything they can do to combat a problem they have no single explanation for.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Christening Hurt

- Christening ran second in the 4th at Delaware today, but was vanned off the track after the finish. To be perfectly honest, I'm so wrapped up in Saratoga, with my departure set for Tuesday afternoon and my Saratoga blog venture about to get off the ground, that I'd forgotten that she was even running today. Not that I could have seen the race anyway.

When I saw a flood of emails from the partnership in my inbox, I thought perhaps something good had happened. And she did run second (earning $3600), though she bobbled at the start. The thought is that she was hurt there, and that she ran the race with the injury. X-rays showed that she suffered a condylar fracture of the left front cannon bone, and she'll be operated on tomorrow (initial estimate for the medical care is $2-3,000). She should be OK, but her racing future is decidedly cloudy at this point.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Saturday Night Notes - July 22

- This could go in the "what else is new" category, but Bill Mott is on quite a roll with his grass starters. With the win by 23-1 shot Union Avenue in the G2 American Derby at Arlington, he's now won with four consecutive starters in graded turf stakes. He won previously with Go Between in the Virginia Derby; After Market in the Lexington; and Quite a Bride in the Boiling Springs. All of these stakes winners are three-year olds.

I didn't bet the race, but I was thinking that it was one of those races where the odds were just all out of whack. Stream Cat, the slight 3-1 favorite, had Beyers that made him no more than a middling contender in my opinion. Second choice Golden Arrow was making his first US start with just one win in eight tries in Ireland. I thought at the time that the winner was one of about a half dozen horses that looked like possible contenders at good prices. Others more than Union Avenue though.

He's a son of Gone West, out of Miss Union Avenue, a turf stakes winner by grass champ Steinlen. For the sire, standing for $125,000 this year, it's his first graded stakes winner of the year.

- And Holy Giacomo, I never would have had him today! Watching TVG earlier in the day, the talk was all about how there was no speed in the San Diego with the scratch of Spellbinder. Giacomo was almost an afterthought given that scenario. Furthermore, speculation was that the race, at just a mile and a sixteenth, was merely a prep for the Pacific Classic.

I figured he was a major underlay at 9-2. Guess I figured wrong. Who would have guessed Preachinatthebar and favorite Rathor would hook up, later joined by Texcess on the way to a 1:09.85 three quarters. The last time Giacomo was in a race that went under 1:10 to six furlongs was the Kentucky Derby, his last win until today. Since then, he had not been within five lengths of the front at the finish.

It was nice to see a Derby winner display the determination Giacomo showed today, and the sport will certainly benefit if he goes on and gets some more fast paces to run at. It's the second graded stakes winner of the year for sire Holy Bull, whose son Bishop Court Hill took the G1 Carter.

Real Quiet Making Noise

- 9-1 on Wonder Lady Anne L. in the G1 CCA Oaks, and some redboarding shows a filly that was on the improve for trainer Richard Dutrow. She was coming off a lifetime best Beyer of 93 in her last, a second in the Susan's Girl at Delaware; that's Dave Litfin's angle of looking for a three-year old to move forward off a lifetime best fig. (Er, and then picking the right one out from the other five that were also doing so in this race.) And though visually, it may have looked like 6-5 Pine Island's rally fell just short, it was more a case of Wonder Lady Anne L not quite tiring enough. The final quarter was a virtual doggy paddle through the slop in 27.18.

Nonetheless, it's the second Grade 1 winner of the year for the winner's sire, the somewhat discredited Real Quiet. As we've mentioned here several times, the Derby winner was moved to Pennsylvania, where he stands for $6500; $5000 for mares foaling in-state. I'm sure he's just as excited for slots to finally arrive there as everyone else. Pussycat Doll was his other Grade 1 winner, and a lot of far more expensive and fashionable sires can't say that they have two this year. And that includes Storm Cat, AP Indy, Forestry, Fusaichi Pegasus, and Giant's Causeway.

Friday, July 21, 2006

News and Notes - July 22

- Racing was cancelled at Belmont after the 5th on Friday; too bad that the twilight cards, which have been so downright festive this year, had to go out on such a drenched note. The Head Chef and I, on two occasions, needed to go out into the worst of the storms (with yours truly being deathly afraid of lightning). These were only partly successful bids to bail out the stairway leading down to the basement from our little backyard paradise set in the middle of the brick row houses and apartments of Queens (literally). Seems it was raining so hard that the drain at the bottom of those stairs not only couldn't keep up, and water was seeping into the basement.

At least we're not amongst the 25,000 in Queens who have been without electricity in this tropical morass since early in the week. Con Edison originally reported that the number was 2500, but then "clarified" that, explaining that they meant to say that they'd received 2500 calls.

The worst of the storms had actually spared Belmont early on in the twilight card. The track was muddy, but the first was actually on the grass. And perhaps it was the mud that took its toll on chalk players who made John Ward's first-timer Summer Wildfire the 1-2 favorite in the second. A two-year old half-sister to Songandaprayer, as well as the dam of the $1.2 million colt sold earlier in the week in Kentucky, Summer Wildfire was a $725,000 Oxley/Ward purchase at Saratoga last summer. But she was just miserable in finishing last here, and let's hope she's OK. If so, you'll likely have another chance to bet her at 1-2 next time if the track is fast.

The winner, Floresta, is a Bill-Mott trained Forest Camp filly making her second start. She's out of a Saint Ballado mare who is a half-sister to the nice three-year old Victory Speech, won the Dwyer, Swaps, and Lazaro Barrera.

Ward later sent out another losing favorte in 6-5 Trento, a $300,000 purchase running in a $35K maiden claimer. It's probably not a great idea to back any Ward starter in a maiden claimer. A look at Formulator shows just nine such starters over the last five years. Only one has won; and there were losers at 3-5, 4-5, 6-5, and 5-2.

- The track will certainly be sloppy for the Coaching Club American Oaks today, and though I haven't had a chance to handicap the race, I think Pine Island will be a huge underlay and will be taking a look at Baghdaria, Sugar Shake, and the British import Vague.

Sloppy conditions reign at Calder too, and that's a drag. It means they can't run the Extreme Day events scheduled for the turf, such as the wrong way race, and the two races that were to be run simultaneously. Perhaps they can add a race in which the horses run in flippers.

- Jockeys at Philly Park were threatening to withhold their services for Saturday's card due to an insurance issue. Rider David Mello was hurt during a post parade on July 10, and apparently was told by the insurer that coverage applied only to incidents occuring during a race, and not during the post parade, paddock, or morning works. "We were prepared to exhaust every avenue with management to prevent a disruption of live racing," [jockey spokesperson Anthony] Black said, "but we couldn't allow something like this to continue." [Bloodhorse] The track's CEO Hal Handel said that some "communications errors" were to blame, and that the riders always had such coverage.

Officer is Front and Center

- I was impressed by that Tactical Cat filly at Belmont on Thursday, but Jerry Bossert of the NY Daily News was wowed by another first-timer on the card.

Trainer Bobby Frankel unveiled what may have been the best first-time starter I've ever seen in Les Grands Trois - The Big Three. The 2-year-old son of Officer cost $220,000 and just toyed with his opposition, scoring by nine under a hand ride from Prado while racing wide throughout. Being by the sire Officer, you wonder how far he will go, but as for talent, he has plenty. Look for him to steal the show at the upcoming Saratoga meeting.
Wow, pretty high praise. And another winner for Officer, the early pace-setter on the freshman sire list. He now has ten winners from 20 runners from, according to Bloodhorse’s sire list, 68 in the crop. That means that almost 15% of his first crop has already visited the winner’s circle.

Les Grands Trois is a half-brother to Wannawinemall, second in last year’s El Camino Real Derby. His second dam is the multiple graded winner Lemhi Go. He completed the six furlongs in 1:10.39; the chart commented that he scampered away when shown the whip and widened under a hand ride. And it was the third winner in the last two days for trainer Frankel.

Not surprisingly, Officer fared well at the Fasig-Tipton yearling sale this week, selling six out of seven entered for an average of $117,500. (He stands for $15,000 at Gainesway.)

Also having a good week in New York is the sire Freud, who has scored three winners thus far. John Ward scored with one of them in Thursday’s opener. Lovely Dream, who scored by 16 lengths graduating last month, was sent off at a microscopic .25-to-1, and scored by a front-running 2 ¾ lengths.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Freshman Class

- The yearling sale at the Fasig-Tipton yearling sale had good numbers in the places that matter - average, median, and particularly, the buyback rate, which dropped impressively from 39% to 25%. Over $35 million was spent over the two day sale, a total that would be mind boggling if it all wasn't so mind numbing.

It's always fun to see how the first-year sires did; horses whose racing careers, and in some cases, surrounding controversy, are still fresh in the mind. I had grown skeptical of Empire Maker by the time he was retired in the fall of his three-year old year. Perhaps it was a grudge. I not only had him in the Derby, but I actually chuckled as he made what I thought would be a winning move on the turn. I was feeling smug over being amongst those who discarded the reports of his bruised foot which inflated his odds to 5-2.

Then there was the Jim Dandy, and anyone who was at the paddock that day can attest to the fact that Strong Hope was the best looking horse in the race. Empire Maker's narrow loss there was followed by the wearying reports of various illments that eventually led to his retirement, and Frankel's famous proclamation that “We weren’t within ten lengths of seeing this horse’s best race.” Feh.

My cynicism has eased somewhat over time, especially when I watch this replay of his Florida Derby stretch run, wow. But I can't help but think that his $100,000 stud fee was one earned to a large extent on reputation and on his own breeding, rather than his performances on the track.

But that's history now, and he'll be judged going forward based on the performance of his offspring, on the race track and in the sales ring. So far, with a very limited sample, the reception has been excellent. He had just one weanling sell last year, in Japan, but that one went for an equivalent of $894,400, which must be around 87 zillion yen.

At the Fasig-Tipton sale, he also had just one entry, a colt out of Saturday's Child, a stakes winning Storm Cat mare from the female family of Unbridled's Song; and he brought $375,000.

The late-developing Aldebaran, standing for $40,000, also fared extremely well. He had five entered, and four sold, all bringing six figure returns ranging from $125,000 to $220,000. The highest priced one is a filly by Corporate Report who is, unusually, inbred 3x3 to Private Account. She's a half-sister to the stakes winner Quiet Cash.

Sky Mesa is another freshman whose foals attracted big bucks. This son of Pulpit was a disappointment at three, but had inmpressed enough the prior year to command $30,000 for his services. He had eight weanlings sell last year for an average of over $160,000, so it was little surprise that in Lexington this week, all six of his entrants sold, and for a similar average. A filly out of Impertinent Lady, a mare by Sham, brought $275,000. She's a half to the dam of Zavata, whose first crop are also yearlings; Zavata had three sell for an average of $49,000.

Perhaps a bit of a surprise was Posse, a mere $10,000 stallion. He had ten foals sell out of 12 entered, for an average of $107,000. His sale topper was a filly out of a Silver Ghost mare who is a half to the Withers winner Fast Decision. The sales filly's second dam is a half to champion Dehere.

- A couple of sires who are not first-timers proved to be popular enough to warrant a mention. Songandaprayer had 10 sell (out of 13 entered), and they all drew six figure winning bids ranging from $100,000 to $260,000, and averaging $160K. And More Than Ready, currently third on the third-year sire list, saw all nine of his progeny find new stables, at an average of over $150,000.

Good Tactical Acquisition

- The stock of Highland Cat has plummeted lower than online gaming stocks in London, but his sire Tactical Cat is having a good week. His stud fee went down this year from $10,000 live foal, to $5,000 stands and nurses.

But the stallion fared quite well at the Fasig-Tipton sale this week. He had three yearlings entered, and they all sold, and quite well. A colt sold for $100,000, and he had two fillies sell for $40,000 and $125,000.

Then today at Belmont, a two-year old daughter of Tactical Cat made a stunning debut which makes one want to question the accuracy of the timer. Acquired Cat sold for $85,000 herself at Ocala earlier this year, after working her two furlongs in 21.3. She made her debut here going six furlongs on the turf for trainer Frank Alexander. Listed at 9-2 in the morning line, she was pounded to 6-5 and wired the field by six, what a game, eh?

But take a look at the final time and the fractions - she went 47.22 to the half, 59.27 to five-eighths, and completed the six furlongs in 1:10.25. That means she got the last eighth in 10.98 seconds - perhaps she thought she was still running in an under tack show! We do see some crazy closing turf fractions sometimes, such as the ones we saw at Gulfstream last winter. And while there were some pretty good come-home times later in the card, there was nothing like this. And this was a two-year old filly on a course rated 'good.' Not too shabby.

News and Notes - July 20

- Paul Moran of Newsday writes of an unexpected delight he received in the mail. Anyone who wants to send me anything (don’t be fresh) please email me for contact information.

- Bernardini is on schedule for the Jim Dandy at Saratoga a week from Saturday. That’s right; a week from Saturday. "He is doing super," trainer Tom Albertrani said Wednesday. "We're still on the same plan." [Albany Times-Union] The trainer also has Deputy Glitters, revived following his win in the Ohio Derby. He’s slated next for either the Haskell or West Virginia Derby, cleverly scheduled for the same day, Aug 6. Now isn’t that special?

I was starting to wonder if we’d seen the last of Sinister Minister. Perhaps if I’d put him on my watch list, I would have known that he’s been working out in California. He drilled five furlongs in 1:02 at Del Mar yesterday, and is preparing for the Haskell. And won't there be a lot of hand-wringing over how to handicap him and his freakish win over the freakish Keeneland surface in the Blue Grass.

If all goes well, the three-year olds mentioned above, as well as the likes of Pletcher’s Sunriver, Bluegrass Cat, and High Cotton will all converge in the Travers. Though with the race run less than three weeks after the Haskell, that seems almost like a radical idea these days. The Travers has a sponsor this year in the New York Lottery. And yes, it IS ironic that the Lottery is the same outfit who has still not approved construction of the Aqueduct casino. If this sounds like a familiar story, it’s because it is.

"We were here a year ago and thought we were going to get this done," [Charles] Hayward said. "It's costing the state money every day they don't have them (VLTs) up and running. I think the state's starting to understand that." [Troy Record]
Remember when the slots were going to be online this December? The latest estimate of mid-2007 seems extremely optimistic at this point.

- The next time that you’re tempted to commit a Waste of Money on a Slow Bum or a Lazy Dog, make sure to read this column by Bill Finley on

- And once again proving that there is indeed life in our creaky old sport, over 42,000 fans turned out for opening day at Del Mar on Wednesday. It was the largest opening day ever, and the second biggest in the track’s history.

- We mentioned the other day that Monmouth-based trainer Kelly Breen was hot. He now has 27 winners from 93 starters at the meeting, and has won with four out of his last five. He took two more at Monmouth on Wednesday. True Argument (Yes It’s True) broke his maiden for Breen in his third try in the opener. This three-year old colt is a half-brother to last year’s Derby runner-up Closing Argument.


- Not much to say about Highland Cat's miserable effort on Wednesday. He was dead on the board at 10-1 and showed nothing, dropping back early and staying there, finishing 10th.

Bill Turner hinted at physical problems when he said afterwards that the horse will do better at Saratoga, where he can train on the kinder grass course. Perhaps he'd do even better at a track where the competition is of lower quality. Like Isiah Thomas, Highland Cat has been given one season - in this case, the one at Saratoga - to turn things around drasically. Otherwise, "decisions" will need to be made. Anyone interested in an extremely cute riding horse may want to stay tuned.

Some Pretty Ironic Shit

- It’s a pretty amazing story, the tale of the arrest of David Carruthers. If not for all the shit going on in the world these days, I would term it ‘intense.’ One would think that the chief executive of BetonSports, a prominent offshore gambling company, would consider the odds of being arrested at a time when the industry is under scrutiny by Congress. With the House just recently passing the bill to prohibit online gambling sites (those other than horse racing, anyway), it would seem rather brazen of him to have scheduled flights with a layover at Dallas-Ft. Worth Airport, in a country where he is considered to be a criminal.

But I suppose no more so than his past stopovers, and his company's aggressive marketing efforts in this country. According to the indictment, marketing materials from BetOnSports claimed that in 2004 and 2005, the company took 98 percent of its wagers from customers in the United States. [NY Times]

The actions by the US government in arresting Carruthers were no less bold. They seized a British citizen who runs a publicly-traded company based in Costa Rica that accepts wagers from willing adults who are doing so of their own free will and volition. And they did so under a 45 year old law written long before the internet was even conceived. BetonSports, however, is particularly susceptible to prosecution because it takes bets on sporting events over the phone. That is specifically prohibited by the law, as opposed to legal grey areas such as online bets and poker or casino games.

Incredibly, one gambling exec, Calvin Ayre, the colorful CEO of, has plans to actually attend his company’s three day conference in Las Vegas next week!

The “fear factor” ignited by Carruthers’ arrest will likely induce a large number of industry operators to cancel attendance to this year’s conference.
Well, I would think so!
When asked if he would consider postponing the event by, Calvin Ayre simply replied "Why stop now?"
"I say -2000 they arrest him” a prominent gaming operator said, commenting [on Ayre's] decision. “Calvin gets arrested -2000, that’s the line” he doubled up. “What’s the wagering limit on this bet?” we asked. “$50, we don’t want to get killed!” the bookmaker replied. [The Online Wire]
Forget about the fact that should he show up, it’s sure as shit that he’ll get taken away faster than American citizens trying to leave Beirut. Much faster, actually. If I were him, I’d be more worried about being abducted off the streets of Costa Rica by the CIA, having his ass renditioned to some 4th world country and tortured by being strapped to a partly submerged giant roulette wheel.

You may have noticed that I’ve used the word ‘shit’ three times in this post (now four), once in the title. It seems like it’s a whole new liberated world now that it was actually published in the New York Times. When I read that, I almost fell off my subway seat. I could have been trampled in the ensuing stampede for the open spot. The funny thing is that they didn’t even use it in the main story about the president’s offhand remarks that were picked up by microphones. There, it was referred to only as the kind of unfettered language that he acknowledged only weeks ago sometimes gets him in trouble when he uses it publicly. Instead, they shrewdly snuck it into an ancillary story about foreign patrols on the Israeli-Lebanese border.

Of course, the Times and the rest of the mainstream media completely missed the point by focusing on the profanity. Here were the leaders of the free world (a little free, in the case of Vladimir Putin); a supposed meeting of the great minds that will bring peace, prosperity, and democracy to the world. But with the cameras and microphones presumably off and their guard down, they were just another bunch of guys with nothing really to say. It was the same small talk you’d hear in any office – how long does it take you to get home? When the talk turned to serious subjects, the President of the United States issued his typically simplistic view of the world:

“The irony is what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it's over.”

Of course, that’s not irony. Some have already pointed out that what would be considered ironic is that the man who recently signed a bill to drastically increase the fines on broadcasters for obscenity would utter a prohibited word that has broken barriers in the mainstream press. Others might note the irony in a man who decided that it would be good foreign policy to start a war that he didn’t need to, a debacle that is becoming more horrific with every passing week, vetoing a bill expanding stem cell research on discarded embryos stored in freezers and saying: "This bill would support the taking of innocent human life in the hope of finding medical benefits for others."

The fact is that these guys have no f----- (still a no-no, at least until the next G8 meeting) idea how to bring peace to the Middle East; no more so than does Dr. Dean Richardson. Or Barbaro for that matter. Their exchange of ideas is no more meaningful nor profound than you and I sitting at some dive in Saratoga discussing the next day’s late Pick Four.

So, I’ll make the moral of the story this: 1) Don't travel in the U.S. if your business is illegal here; and 2) Your handicapping opinions are as good as anyone else’s. It doesn’t matter what Mike Watchmaker or Dick Jerardi or Todd Schrmmpppff or anyone, including and especially yours truly, thinks. Look at the race and bet who you like, and that’s it. For all their expertise, sheets, Formulator, Race, trip notes, pace figures, thorough-graphs, American Produce Records, or whatever, you could hit the Pick Six by betting your favorite jockey, or by picking the numbers out of a hat. And that would be some pretty ironic shit.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

High Time for Highland Cat

- Highland Cat is the 6-1 4th choice in the 9th at Belmont on Wednesday; I think he’ll be a bit lower than that. As mentioned yesterday, he has the highest turf Beyer in the field other than the morning line favorite Afleet Force. He’s trained by Richard Stoklosa, who sent out the 32-1 OK To Pay to win on the grass last Friday; he has four winners in 14 Belmont starters. He’s dropping from maiden specials, and comes off his turf debut, in which he overcame a bad start to finish a close 4th at six furlongs. With the drop, this son of Northern Afleet certainly looks tough if he stretches out, and his Tomlinson and dosage figs suggest that he could.

Prairie Boy looks imposing for Bruce Levine. It’s his third on the grass, and he comes with a nice improving Beyer trend that points to a big effort here, especially shortening up to a mile.

Linda Rice has a first time starter, Bamco Dynamite. He’s a son of Dynaformer, a $100,000 sire, who sold for just $35,000 at sale, and debuts here for 45K. Rice has started two previous first-timers on the turf at this meeting; each has finished 8th at odds of 9-2 and 2-1. May be worth keeping in mind if the horse gets bet...or that could be too much information.

Highland Cat has been out since his turf debut on May 26. He raced a little erratically in that race before settling nicely in the stretch, splitting horses and rallying nicely for the place. The winner subsequently ran 6th, beaten by less than four lengths, in a $70,000 allowance race at Woodbine; the race has also produced two winners and a second. With the competition sure to get better upstate, this is a big opportunity for him to get to the winner's circle in his 8th start.

One longshot to watch could be the outside horse, Torpedo Stock. He was 13-1 in a maiden special race, broke badly, and ran last all the way around. He runs for a tag for trainer Richard Violette, hitting at 23% for the meeting, and at 32% dropping into maiden claimers. He’s by Dynaformer, out of a Relaunch mare, and he has a lot of European stakes winners in his female family, including Oratorio, as well as the North American turf winner Talakeno. He has a crummy post, but he looks like one to watch at morning line odds of 15-1.

The Heat Is On

- Racing was cancelled at Delaware due to the extreme heat on Tuesday, so Christening will stay in her stall and will be able to catch her favorite soaps live.

- Jazil will miss the Travers and will get a two week vacation back on the farm. He has a bruised cannon bone, but Kiaran McLaughlin told Haskin on “This is very minor.”

“He's a happy guy right now. We just wanted to give him the 30 days and do the scintigraphy there and X-ray him digitally to make sure everything is OK. If he can't make the Gold Cup, the next goal would be the Breeders' Cup."
The way things are going in the sport, it won’t be long until horses train up to the Breeders Cup from the Triple Crown anyway. McLaughlin also told the Albany Times Union that Henny Hughes won’t run again until the King’s Bishop on Aug 26. "These horses are not machines. You can't ask them to do it every three or four weeks. The way he ran (at Monmouth), I was like, 'Wow! This horse is the real deal!' "

So now three or four weeks isn’t even enough time. We recently read that Commentator won’t run again until the closing week of Saratoga, and Pletcher often speaks nowadays as if three weeks is an unthinkably short time between races. Not a good trend, and you can see where this is going as far as maintaining the tradition of the Triple Crown races.

Speaking of which, we saw two more 2006 Derby horses run big this past weekend. Deputy Glitters took the Ohio Derby, while Seaside Retreat, running in his second turf race since then, ran an excellent second to Go Between in the Virginia Derby. His jockey Patrick Husbands said that Seaside Retreat likes to hang with the crowd. "It's pretty normal for him to run in traffic.”
"He's a bad boy. Sometimes, we'll spend 40 minutes with him on the track and he won't move for anybody, not even the trainer. He does what he wants to do." []
If the Head Chef actually read my blog, she’d think he was talking about her teenage son. Which he could have been, except that the teenage son hasn’t come home with any checks for $200,000 of late.

Looking at some other Derby runners who have returned running, Point Determined and AP Warrior had their little tete a tete in the Affirmed before flopping in the Swaps; Showing Up won the Colonial Turf Cup on the grass (and three weeks was also too short a time for him to run back in the Va Derby); Sweetnorthernsaint was second in the Preakness; Jazil won the Belmont, and Bluegrass Cat was likely the best horse in that race. I suppose this all means that Barbaro was pretty good!

I also suppose that those in favor of changing the Triple Crown schedule will point to the fact that all of these horses other than Sweetnorthernsaint skipped the Preakness, while those who did try both races – Sweetnorthernsaint, Brother Derek, and Barbaro – were forced to the sidelines by injury or, in the case of Michael Trombetta’s Preakness runner-up, fatigue. "The rigors of the Derby and Preakness, you have no idea how hard that is on a horse….He's in light training now, but I'm taking my time.” [Baltimore Sun (July 6)]

- The Forestry colt that topped the first session of the July Fasig-Tipton yearling sale at $1.2 million on Monday was the first million dollar sale recorded there since 1983. The session-topper is out of Alizea’s Dream, an Unbridled’s Song half-sister to Songandaprayer, the sire who got his third stakes winner of the year on Saturday with Praying for Cash. The Bobby Hurley-owned colt upset 1-2 favorite Latent Heat for red-hot trainer Kelly Breen in the Long Branch at Monmouth (though John blames the favorite's rider Joel Cruz). No such heavenly appeals for currency are needed by the familiar names involved in the bidding for the Forestry colt, with the Maktoum family of Dubai outbidding B. Wayne Hughes. Just Monopoly money for these guys, really. In fact, the Maktoum’s agent John Ferguson conceded that the price was high. "I can assure you he was a very, very attractive colt but that was a strong price for him." [Thoroughbred Times] But what does he care; he's just the agent. It ain’t his money!

You had to go down to $375,000 to find the next highest price, a colt from the first crop of Harlan’s Holiday, out of a Bold Ruckus half-sister to the multiple graded winner Hey Hazel. Harlan’s Holiday stands for $17,500 at Airdrie in Kentucky, and he had quite a day. He had 17 offspring in the session, 14 of whom sold, five of those for six figures, and all well above his stud fee. A colt out of Santa’s Lady, a Silver Ghost half to Humana Distaff winner Ruby Surprise, sold for $200,000; a filly out of Tap For Gold, a daughter of the Schuylerville winner Golden Reef sold for $175,000; and a half-sister to the grassy stakes winner GP Fleet went for $170,000.

Another first-crop sire, Hook and Ladder (Dixieland Band), accounted for the highest priced filly, at $310,000. Hook and Ladder is a NY-based sire standing at Becky Thomas’ Lakland Farm. The filly is a half-sister to the Fantasy winner Ready to Please, and to Chief Officer (Officer), a NY-bred juvenile who graduated impressively at Belmont recently.

Officer currently heads the first-year sires earnings list, so it’s no surprise that his progeny sold well too. He had six sell for an average of $117,500, including a colt and a filly for $200K and $190K respectively. He stands for $15,000 at Gainesway.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Tag Team

- Christening (Vicar) goes in the 4th at Delaware on Tuesday; it’s a 25K maiden claiming event on the grass. Trainer Graham Motion is obviously determined to try this filly and her 201 Tomlinson grass number on turf; and there's no rain in the forecast this time. She drops from 40K, but faces some fillies that are not only making similar drops, but who have already shown some affinity for the lawn.

What exactly is Gary Contessa doing here with Princess Langfuhr, a sharp second two back for a 45K tag at Belmont, running for an $18,000 purse? Contessa has only one prior starter at this Delaware meet (7th, at 3-1), and had just one for the entire 2005 meet (a 3rd). This filly looks very formidable; she has a big edge on figs and class. I can’t help, however, but consider this to be a highly suspicious drop.

Royal Sip is a more legitimate looking drop in my opinion. Her form says to me that she’s seeking her level. Princess Langfuhr’s level, on paper at least, would appear to be higher than this. The problem is that Royal Sip hasn’t been out since September; her trainer Jonathan Sheppard hits at 11% with 180+ layoff horses on the grass. Sheppard is hot right now; he is 4-5-3 with his last 14 starters at Delaware, many of those at generous odds.

Clown Factor was 9-2 in his grass debut, at the 40K level. She was pinched at the start, put in a decent, even try, and drops in class after a poor effort in an off-the-turfer.

And then there’s Christening. I don’t have any more to tell you about this filly in which I own several percentage points than would the Reverend Jesse Jackson. We don’t get barn reports from Delaware, and I wouldn’t know it if she had grown a fifth leg. I suppose the trainer sees something which would indicate that she might like the grass; there’s certainly little in her pedigree that says so. She would have to be significantly higher than her 4-1 morning line to warrant a bet in my opinion.

The fact is that Contessa’s filly lays over the field; but if her owner is just there to play the slots and to try to get his filly claimed, then an exacta box of Clown Factor and Royal Sip could be in order.

- And then Highland Cat (Tactical Cat) makes his long awaited return in the 9th at Belmont on Wednesday, facing a full field of 45K maidens on the grass at a mile. He was out on the track Monday morning, and breezed an unrecorded three furlongs in 39 3/5, which was what [Bill Turner] had told the exercise rider to do. (The clockers did manage to locate Discreet Cat [3f in 37.45] and Bluegrass Cat [5f in 1:01.17] on this morning, but not Highland Cat. He kind of blends in with that subtle grey.)

Highland Cat has the second highest turf Beyer in the field, and the highest one was earned in a sprint. Here’s the analysis from the Form’s Closer Look:

Freshened off a career race, he'll need some help on the front end but figures nicely here; half of dam's 4 wins came on grass; a half bro was a four-race winner on turf; 4th finisher in last graduated in this league in next out, 10th finisher took a maiden $35K seller by almost 7 on June 2; there seems like enough pace here to help the cause; contention goes long.
I’ll take a closer look at the field tomorrow. So both of our horses are running for tags within 24 hours or so, and what are the chances of us having zero horses, and $70,000 instead come Wednesday night? Christening is a nicely-bred filly, and at some level she becomes a broodmare prospect for someone; though probably not here. As for Highland Cat, he comes off that fine turf debut, and as the man said above, he has nice turf breeding. I would think that a prospective buyer would be wary of the layoff following that turf race; but I don’t think I’d be totally shocked.

You and I know that the horse was very tired after that last effort, and Turner seems to have been very careful handling him since; remember, he refrained from entering him last Saturday because he "wasn't quite right." But he’s breezed twice since then, and trainer and gelding seem happy, so it’s on to Wednesday.

News and Notes - July 17

- Don't expect to see Tom Fool winner Silver Train anywhere outside of the immediate New York City metropolitan area. Trainer Richard Dutrow told the NY Daily News:

"Forget Saratoga. Forget any other track but this one," Dutrow said. "And if it's left all up to me, he's got two more races - the Vosburgh and the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct (where the colt trains.) That's it. He just doesn't perform on other tracks."
- When Really Fleet Indian took the Delaware Handicap, it completed an unprecedented double for Todd Pletcher. Adieu won the Delaware Oaks the day before, and no trainer had swept both of those races in the same year. (Not to mention Honey Ryder's win in the Dick for the all-world trainer.) Pletcher had 17 horses running at six tracks on Saturday, and he'll probably become the first trainer to actually saddle that many horses in six different states on a single day before he wins a Kentucky Derby. Or so it seems.

Adieu was actually the second choice to Jerry Hollendorfer's Hystericalady. Pat Valenzuela came east for the ride, and he sounded the familiar lament for unsuccessful West Coast invaders. "It was cuppy and not like the tracks she is used to running on in California." [Delaware Online] The win by Adieu has Todd Pletcher rethinking his plans for her. "I was thinking of the Test [at Saratoga], but now we might string her out longer [distance race]."

Adieu is the 4th stakes winner of the year for her second year sire El Corredor. Wanna Runner is still his top money earner for the year, and he currently ranks third on the second year sire list, behind Aptitude, and Point Given, the resurgent champ who was propelled to that top spot by Go Between's win in the Virginia Derby. Bill Mott said of that one:
"He's been green, green, green all the time....Some people say he'd run in snatches. He'd give you little spurts of run, but not one good solid run, and that seems to be what he's learned over time. It's all a question of maturity and development." [Richmond Times-Dispatch]
And you can probably say that about the Point Givens in general.

Favorites Get Malibu Mooned

- A couple of prominent and prohibitive favorites went down this past weekend, but under totally dissimilar circumstances and with far different implications for their near-term outlooks. Dubai Escapade’s sixth place finish in the Princess Rooney at Calder is without explanation, while Declan’s Moon was valiant in defeat. And the sire Malibu Moon played a prominent part in both stories.

Dubai Escapade (Awesome Again) was 3-10 in the Grade 1 race, and looked every bit the part. Personally, I would never wager ten thousand dollars into the show pool in order to win $500, but if you’re going to invest your money in that way, this certainly looked like the place. With Leave Me Alone off form, only one opponent, Hot Storm, seemed able to stay even close to the favorite, at least on paper.

And in fact, Hot Storm led Dubai Escapade down the backstretch, and, perhaps because I watched the race with the knowledge of the outcome, the favorite never really looked comfortable to me in the unfamiliar stalking position. She seemed to drop back a bit before making a run around the turn, and there was a brief instant of hope for the chalkplayers that she’d sweep by. But she just stopped her charge rather abruptly, and looked like a loser very early in the stretch run. Not very long after that, it was apparent to the bridgejumpers that they would not be parlaying their winnings on Lost in the Fog.

The winner, Malibu Mint, is one horse who did not get along with the riding sensation Julien Leparoux. With him, she was 8th, 17 lengths behind Dubai Escapade in the Madison, and the next time, the filly rudely discarded him from the saddle in the Humana Distaff, effectively and rudely terminating his employment. Liberated from the Frenchman, she’s celebrated her partnership with her new rider, Puerto Rican native Josue Arce, with a close second at 50-1 in the Winning Colors, and the 23-1 bombshell in this Grade 1.

Malibu Mint is a daughter of the young AP Indy sire Malibu Moon; and unlike some higher profile sires that we’ve looked at lately and seen rather anemic stakes winner totals for 2006, Malibu Moon now has eight on the year. That's with far smaller crops thus far than many of his contemporaries – just 210 total including his 4th crop, juveniles this year. And consider also that he foaled his first three crops as a $3000 Maryland stallion with only a maiden win to his credit, which didn’t exactly attract high quality mares. He currently stands for $30,000 at Castleton Lyons in Kentucky. His foal crops will increase from here - according to Equibase, he has 107 yearling foals at this time - both in terms of quantity and, presumably, quality. And he already stands at an excellent 8% of stakes winners from foals.

I think it’s fair to speculate that his son Declan’s Moon will, before long, add another 2006 stakes winner to his ledger. He was 2-5 against three opponents in his first start since 3/5/2005, including a couple of horses in Seattle Buddy and Yes He’s A Pistol that had shown early zip in the past. Those are the two that he tracked and had to circle three wide to gain the lead. He did so, and drew away from them in stretch, and if you watch the race on Cal Racing, you’ll see that jockey Victor Espinoza was absolutely still the whole time, even as Vic Stauffer was getting excited by the looming Desert Boom. In fact, Stauffer may have grabbed the jockey’s attention, because he then went into a drive.

The 2004 juvenile champ dug in at the wire, but Desert Boom had built up too much momentum. You can bet that both horse and jockey will be sharper next time. Trainer Ron Ellis was understandably pleased, despite the fact that his gelding is no longer undefeated.

"His winning streak came to an end....But he looked like his old self. He was very fluid. I think his jockey, Victor Espinosa, was a little overconfident about him and tried to cut it a little too fine.

"I think if he had been ridden all-out, he would have won. But this is his first race in a very long time and we're looking at another two, three years in his career. An allowance race like this isn't that important in the big picture." [Baltimore Sun]
(And nice to see the Baltimore Sun devote some column space to their locally-bred star.) Declan's Moon may run next on Aug 20 at Del Mar, in the seven furlong Pat O'Brien Breeders' Cup Handicap.

- Tough day Saturday for trainer Greg Gilchrist, as Lost in the Fog came up completely empty, in what would be a drab finale if he’s now indeed sent off to stud. “But to run like this, we'll have to talk about his future." [Thoroughbred Times]

Gilchrist, and owner Harry Aleo, should feel partly consoled however by the win by their three year old filly Victorina in the Azalea. Her running lines are an absolute thing of beauty – she’s never been worse than third (once) and never finished further than two lengths back in her seven prior starts, four of them wins. You don’t need Russell Baze to tell you that she is “just 100% racehorse."

Victorina is a daughter of the Florida sire Delaware Township, a son of the dead Florida stallion Notebook. She’s one of three stakes winners thus far for the second year sire.

- I had that Pick Three at Delaware on Sunday. I picked the Caesar Rodney winner Fishy Advice right on top here, but my main selection in the Leonard Richards, Cat Criminal, was scratched. With both of Frankel’s horses also out, I figured that Little Cliff would be an overbet and undeserving favorite. So I made that leg an anti-Little Cliff bet, using all the others except for one, a total of four. So I was alive when Awfully Smart scored a five length win, with Zito’s even-money favorite (ouch) checking in a no-threat third.

Awfully Smart just loves Delaware – this is his third win in as many tries there. He’s a son of the dead Unbridled stallion Anees, out of Awful Smart (Black Tie Affair), second in the 1999 Test to Marley Vale, the dam of Indian Vale.

And unlike the two big favorites described above, Fleet Indian was one 2-5 shot that won exactly like she should have in the $1 million Delaware Handicap. She was never threatened, leading all the way, and drawing off to win by 5 ½ in 2:02 – final quarter in 24.96. An easy, and rich $60,000 payday for jockey Jose Santos. "A piece of cake....Just tighten the knot and go." [Delaware County Times]

Given the nature of the field, I think that the question of whether she’s really a mile and a quarter horse still remains to be seen. But her effort here was more than enough to pocket the $600,000 prize money and a Grade 2 win. She’s the only graded winner, and one of three overall for her sire Indian Charlie in 2006. He stands for $25,000 at Airdrie in Kentucky, and has a fine 7% rate of stakes winners from foals.

It’s hard to get value on a Pick Three when a 2-5 shot is involved. The return for the 6.90-1 4th choice Fishy Advice, 4-1 Awfully Smart, and Fleet Indian was an even $112. On a $16 investment (I also used Minister's Joy in the first leg), that’s maybe not so great, but it’s hopefully another small step en route to what would be a well-timed handicapping revival.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Delaware Stakes

- More stakes action at Delaware on Sunday, and by popular demand, let's take a look. The Caesar Rodney is a mile and an eighth on the turf. Fishy Advice (Woodman) returned in late May from a six month layoff, and won his second in a row, earning a lifetime best Beyer of 100. In the past, it would be a concern that he hasn’t been out since then, but campaigns such as these have become far more common of late. That race has turned out to be a very good one. Three of the runners, including second place finisher Sabre Baby, have come back to win their subsequent starts; and three others have run in the money. No Rider is named as of this evening, but assuming it’s someone halfway competent, Fishy Advice looks like the value at 10-1.

In the Todd Pletcher empire, Icy Atlantic (Stormy Atlantic) is a third stringer at best. He’s a multiple graded stakes winner, but has won only once in 16 starts since taking the G3 Lexington in 2004. That win, however, was in his last, an overnight stakes at the Meadowlands, also with a 100 Beyer. So he’s still looking for his daytime win in two years. [EDIT - Unless he's been trying out pacing lately.] He’s always close, but seems worth taking a shot against if the price is short.

Minister’s Joy (Deputy Minister) closed from way back into quick closing fractions in an allowance race at Belmont for Shug McGaughey. Nice breeding; his 4th dam is the great grass runner and broodmare Glowing Tribute. Could be another one developing late for Shug.

- Deputy Glitters (Deputy Commander) bounced back from those three nasty looking pp lines since his win in the Tampa Bay Derby, and held off the 6-5 favorite High Cotton to take the Ohio Derby after a protracted drive. He had excuses for all three of those – the sloppy track in the Wood, his 11 wide journey in the Derby, and the Belmont distance way beyond his capability. Albertrani has always been high on this one, but I imagine we won't see him facing....what-his-name again; the Preakness winner, remember him? the Travers if it's up to the trainer. Flashy Bull finished third, and is still eligible for an entry-level allowance (preferably one in which he won’t face anyone as good as Minister’s Bid.)

If the Ohio Derby field is considered to be the second string of the sophomore class, the Leonard Richards at Delaware on Sunday is for second-stringer wannabees. Not that there aren’t any promising horses entered, but there’s only one stakes winner - Ah Day, who took the Tesio on a sloppy track at Pimlico.

Kiaran McLaughlin had hoped to start Like Now in this race, but he came up lame after a workout, and has been sent to the sidelines for at least 60 days with a knee chip.

Bobby Frankel sends out Latent Heat (Maria’s Mon), and he’s sure to take a lot of money, coming off a nine length win at Belmont in his first race in almost four months. But that race was on a wet track that he’s supposed to love (397 Tomlinson), and against a weak field of four. The California three-year olds have not fared well out east, and he could be worth a stand against if he’s bet down lower than his 4-1 morning line, as I suspect he will be. [EDIT: Latent Heat ran second at 1-2 in the Long Branch at Monmouth on Saturday...that's what I was talking about, but missed that opportunity!] (Same with Frankel’s other entry, Cotton King [419 Tomlinson], who comes off a maiden win on a sloppy track.

Little Cliff (Gulch) is listed as the morning line favorite, which tells you much about the race. He got back on the winning track in his last, but it was against four middling opponents in a Delaware allowance race.

Cat Criminal (Tale of the Cat) was a $400,000 two-year old purchase for the Steve Klesaris/Jeff Puglisi combo. He was 6-5 in his debut at Saratoga last summer, and suffered an injury in running 4th. Klesaris was excited about him when he returned to graduate by ten at 3-5 in May.

“We have always liked this colt....Certainly, he showed all the right tools in the morning to be a good horse. Today was just a maiden race and he still has a long way to go to prove himself, but everything he has shown us to date has really been good. ....We are kind of excited about him in just getting him back to the races.” [Delaware Park Notes]
Since then, he won an allowance at 1-5, but only by a length against a mediocre field. So he’ll have to step up to compete here, but could be worth a shot at a decent price.

- If you’re looking at the Pick Three for these races and can create some value in either or both of the above, Fleet Indian (Indian Charlie) looks like a reliable single in the million dollar G2 Delaware Handicap. Of course, if Dubai Escapade can lose, anyone can. But Fleet Indian's 112 Beyer in her romp in the G3 Sixty Sails at Hawthorne just towers over this field; in fact, even just her 102 in her most recent win, a handy prep over this track in the Obeah Stakes, makes her the only recent triple-digit horse in this field. And she's trained by Pletcher too.

The only problem is that she’s winless in one attempt beyond a mile and an eighth, and will have to hang on for an extra furlong here. Her Tomlinson and dosage numbers are grim in that regard, but it would seem she can get home here on class alone – no one else in this field has won at the distance either. Pletcher told Bloodhorse: “You never know until you try, but certainly from watching her mile and an eighth races, she has always finished very well and you would think it should not be a problem..... She is training well."

Twilight Zone

- The Friday twilight cards at Belmont seem to be slowly gaining in popularity; it’s becoming like a cult. You hear people saying things like: "This is the best kept secret in New York." There’s something about an early start to a weekend on a gorgeous summer late afternoon that creates a mellow, yet exhilarating buzz. Add in the sport of kings, and people can get downright delirious. The crowds have gotten a bit bigger each week, and NYRA announced that the Sept 1 card at Saratoga would be a late post as well, with VP Bill Nader said “There is a different energy at a twilight Friday and there is a real upbeat feel to the day.” [Times Union]

And there really is, especially when the card is as interesting as it was on Friday. I walked in 20 minutes before the third and Yolanda B Too was the 4-5 favorite. She was scratched at the gate in the Missy Mirage last weekend, which helped contribute to the two horse field in that race. Frankel had one of his TNT Stud/Brazilian specials in Notre Dame, who broke into the win column in her last. She was around 2-1 when I got there. But in the final minutes as post time approached, the money poured in on Notre Dame, pounding her to even money favoritism, as the shaken Yolanda B Too floated up to 3-2.

But on the last flash, it was Yolanda B Too getting slammed to 6-5. That was still good enough for only second choice in the five horse field by a few thousand dollars. The show pool told a different story though – over $19.000 on Notre Dame, but only $4500 on Yolanda B Too, which wasn’t much more than the show money on the 5-1 third choice. According to my theory, this would indicate that the “smart” money was on the second choice.

And in this case, that money was right. Notre Dame made a run leaving the turn, but Yolanda B Too won pretty easily. It’s her second win in a row since coming back off her very distant 12th in the Distaff, which is not just a key race, nor just a super key race, but a super-duper key race! I mean, the last three finishers, about a mile behind Pleasant Home, were Yolanda, Healthy Addiction, who’s won a Grade 1 and ran second in another, and Happy Ticket, who has run her eyeballs out even in the two of her four subsequent races in which she just got beat. Imagine if the first three finishers hadn’t all been retired. Or maybe the were retired because they ran too damn fast!

The 4th was a baby maiden special race, and Allan Jerkins had an entry of well-bred first time starters (fillies by Elusive Quality and Pulpit). They were bet right from the start on the way to 4-5 at post time. But Magical Ride, the 5-2 morning line favorite, languished at 4-1. This despite the fact that right there in the Closer Look column, in plain English for everyone who shelled out the money for the Form to see, was the fact that this debuting daughter of Storm Cat is out of Victory Ride, who not only won the Grade 1 Test at Saratoga, but won her debut by 14 lengths.

Yet she only drifted down a bit by post time, going off a shade under 7-2. Dead on the board? Not for me in this case. I think that sometimes bettors can get a little nutty with betting entries, even if its components are unknown factors, as was the case here. It’s like a crowd psychology of “two for the price of one”, and in the exactas in particular, people figure that ‘well, one of them has to at least run second.” So in this case, I checked out the exacta payoffs, and did something right, putting Victory Ride on top of the 3rd-4th-5th choices (including Cherokee Shiek, who Walter was following here), leaving the entry out. Victory Ride won by four despite Jara dropping the whip. When Five Star Daydream came up for second, it was a rare win for me; and, with the entry out of the exacta, a solid $50 payoff for the second and third betting choices in order.

Well, it was my only win of the day, but I made sure to leave myself with a slight profit just for the psychological benefits. Good things can start with small steps.

The fifth race is no doubt what racing secretary PJ Campo had in mind last year when he started carding these turf sprints. I didn’t like them at the time. I found the races unbettable since the horses had no relevant prior form. But I was being shortsighted, and the races continue to be popular, and for good reason. With some history to them now, they’re becoming great to bet and to watch. This one was wide open, but the bettors settled on Sweet September. I posted about her last race here, noting that she had a picture perfect trip that day. So I took a shot against with Smart Crowd, first-time turf for Lisa Lewis.

Unfortunately, she got hooked up in a speed duel with Sweet September; setting up a rousing three horse finish, with 32-1 OK To Pay overcoming repeated trouble in the stretch to get up in her turf debut for Richard Stolkosa.

And Melhor Ainda graced us with her presence in the Capade Stakes, making her first start since running 7th in the Flower Bowl last October. She was facing some pretty nice horses with good recent form, but was 3-5, and held Bright Abundance safe by a length. It was a classy effort to be sure. She was fifth behind a pace that was as slow as that of the subsequent state-bred maiden race, and rallied three wide in a final 2 ½ furlongs of 30.13. I imagine that graded stakes company will be next.

- Jazil will skip the Jim Dandy and train up to the Travers. Kiaran McLaughlin told the Form: "With this particular horse it's not a big deal.....He's a light-framed horse who doesn't need a lot of racing or training." Not only that, but the trainer added: "He won't work that often because he doesn't require a lot of work." Well, then what exactly is he going to do all summer? YOU CAN’T JUST HANG OUT ALL SUMMER AND DO NOTHING!! (Oh, the kids are here and I got confused.)

Friday, July 14, 2006


- OK, been a busy 48 hours, as I try to get some NYC summer culture in before packing up for Saratoga. But time for a quick update before I head out to today's twilight card at Belmont.

Highland Cat is NOT running tomorrow. Bill Turner decided against entering him because, and I quote: the horse wasn't quite right, a euphemism for trainer's intuition, since there was nothing physical that Bill could specifically point to.

Hmmm. Maybe he doesn't like the heat? It's been at least six weeks now since his rousing second place finish. Turner will take him out on the track tomorrow, and if he looks OK, he'll be entered in a 45K maiden claimer on the grass on Wednesday. Probably a better spot for him than the maiden special anyway.

- Check this out: Pletcher has 12 horses entered to run in stakes this weekend, most of them favorites or second choices, in 10 stakes races at six different tracks.

- Barbaro slept on his side last night, and Dr. Richardson told the AP that he's doing "much better" today. That will probably be a disappointment to this moron.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

News and Notes - July 13

- It was obvious after the Woodward that Nick Zito would have to get Commentator to be able to relax, lest he attract more killer rabbit attacks as he did that day. According to jockey Elbar Coa, Zito has accomplished what he needed to.

"I've run against (Commentator) before, and I really thought he was going to be very aggressive…..It really surprised me that he broke fast, but he relaxed for me. I was able to do anything I wanted to him…..This year, he's more professional, which is going to help him. I believe (Zito) can really do whatever he wants with this horse." [Albany Times Union]
But we’ll have to wait a while to see him run again; Zito said that he’ll pass the Whitney and be pointed to either the Woodward or the Forego, both to be run on Sept 2.

- Here’s a report, via Albany Law School Racing and Wagering Page, that, in 2004, the NTRA contributed $10,000 to the campaign of Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va, the co-sponsor of the bill passed by the House that outlaws most forms of online gambling, but with horse racing, covered separately by the Interstate Horseracing Act, excluded. In an editorial, the website The Online Wire takes aim at what it calls the hypocrisy of the exemption.
"This [online gambling] is a scourge on our society. It causes innumerable problems." Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., co-sponsor of HR 4411 said. "The Scourge" is where the cookie crumbles. Bob Goodlatte strangely forgets to mention that an individual can lose his shirt wagering on horses or placing bets on sports. The "moral" issue allegedly supporting the approval of the ban on online gambling fails to explain why horse wagering is not immoral, albeit being an "illegal" form of gambling, at least according to the DoJ.
Well, perhaps they have a point; if, that is, you don’t think that the whole idea of outlawing online gambling is ridiculous to start with. Whatsmore, Bloodhorse quoted Nevada Rep. Shelley Berkley as saying: “If we do not adopt this amendment [stripping out the exemption], the entire debate is a farce. The most special, special interest is the (NTRA)."

All I can say is: GO BABY GO!! Well-targeted campaign contributions! Being labeled a special interest by a member of Congress! The NTRA is playing the game, just the way everyone else does. Who says they're not doing anything right!?

- Here’s another ‘little guy’ story, and there seems to be a fair amount of little guys these days. Artistic Fella was purchased at sale for the grand sum of $13,000; now, riding an eight-race winning streak, he’s the 7-5 favorite in the Meadowlands Pace on Saturday night. (With six weeks in Saratoga just around the bend, my chances of getting the Head Chef to agree to go there may be termed as ‘slim.') Artistic Fella, by Pacific Fella (who is by Cam Fella, one of my all-time favorites) has already won over $400,000, and can go over the million mark with a win in this million dollar pace. He also has a good chance to shatter the stakes mark of 1:48.3 set by Rocknroll Hanover last year; he missed that mark by a fifth of a second in his elimination heat win last weekend.

- Saturday’s Summit of Speed at Calder is a fine event, and one that I’ll pass in its entirely, at least from a betting standpoint. I find sprint stakes such as these to be largely indecipherable, and feel that my efforts would be as fruitless as trying to bring peace to the Middle East. There are two Grade 1s on the day, the first ever at Calder, and each will feature a marquee name and big favorite. Lost in the Fog heads the Smile Stakes, and Dubai Escapade heads the Princess Rooney for fillies and mares.

Lost in the Fog will carry 125 pounds, and hasn’t scared anyone away. Twelve are entered to face him, including Kelly’s Landing, the runner-up in the Aristides, the last race for both colts. Greg Gilchrist was asked if the sprint champ was as good as last year, and he replied: "In my estimation, he's fine and just as good. He hasn't forgotten how to run." [Sun-Sentinal]

Dubai Escapade will face only six opponents, including last year’s Rooney winner Leave me Alone, and is listed at 4-5.