RSS Feed for this Blog

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Notes - Oct 31

- Tom Amoss said on The Works that Cash Included will blow away the Juvenile Fillies field.

- Shug McGaughey, trainer of Pine Island, said "I think Balletto is the filly to beat....I think all of her races have been good and she'll probably get a good pace scenario and she's a good closer." [Downey Report]

- The Europeans were on the track, and we saw a bunch of them on The Works just walking and jogging for the most part. Amoss argued heatedly with Frank Lyons over David Junior; Amoss didn't like the way the horse was sweating; Lyons brushed it off, saying that he was just getting used to the warmer climes.

Hurricane Run was on the track, and the Thoroughbred Times reports:

A dappled Hurricane Run emerged from the barn and proved feisty once out of his confines, ducking in while moving through the gap after leaving the track. [Thoroughbred Times]
Ouija Board was out too, and Robin Trevor-Jones, Ed Dunlop's "travelling head lad," said: "She knew where she was and she had a good look around." [Guardian] She's never raced at Churchill, so I guess she must have recognized the twin spires.

And TVG not only didn't have a tape of Bernardini's workout at Belmont Tuesday, but Todd Schrmmmppfff said that the work was on Monday.

The Turf

- I prefer Cacique over English Channel, and the latter is the horse I'd love to have a reason to toss in this race. I loved Cacique's last two races, especially the one in which he completed the exacta with The Tin Man at Arlington. I thought he ran fantastic that day given the pace scenario in which The Tin Man, after six uncontested furlongs in 1:15, came home in 23.46 and 22.71. Cacique actually gained ground. He confirmed that effort in my mind with his win in the Man O'War, in which he came home in 10.95 in the mile and three-eighths, beating two horses, Showing Up and Go Deputy, who I rate highly.

He's had two months off, and Frankel said he's thriving on the Polytrack.

Cacique (Ire) (Danehill)....isn't a good work horse. He's lazy in the mornings. But at Keeneland (Sunday) he worked really well. And he worked alone; I didn't have to push him with something else." [Brisnet]
Frankel also mentioned something that Mr. Ed referred to the other day when he informed us that CD had 3 inches of rain last week.
One good thing about him, [Cacique] likes to run on the soft grass. And this course should be that way Saturday. They've had rain here and more is supposed to happen today (Tuesday), and that course is not going to be hard on Saturday." [Brisnet]
I have no reason to think English Channel (Smart Strike) is not going to run a great race unless he gets screwed in the post draw (which may have been announced by the time you read this). In fact, I'd admit that the two times that Cacique finished in front of him, he enjoyed a tactical advantage in the race. Unless the draw goes squarely against him I just prefer Cacique; just my gut feeling that he's a better horse at this time (or perhaps because I'm rooting for Frankel over Pletcher).

I could be a little hepped up on Go Deputy (Deputy Minister) if his last race was Sept 22 instead of Oct 22. This horse has really improved for Pletcher, but two weeks after an all-out second at Woodbine seems a lot to ask. He hasn't had a workout, and I'm interested to see if Pletcher really runs him, and what he says if he does.

T.H. Approval could hit the board at a decent price. He was taken out of his game when he had to try and prompt The Tin Man in the Hirsch, and still almost caught him in a final quarter of 22.4. When he's been able to sit back and get some pace up front, he's been very consistent with his rallies. His last four tries at this distance have resulted in a win and three close seconds in Grade 2 races. He fits well with Solis and at the bottom of my exotic tickets.

Alan Shuback writes of Hurricane Run in the Form's BC Advance: "If Hurricane Run, who has been facing better horses throughout his career, hasn't gone completely off the bubble, he will be difficult to beat in a return to his favorite distance."

Hurricane Run (Monteju) not only comes off two disappointing efforts and what is widely considered to be a general decline in form, but those two races came on Oct 1 and Oct 14, which makes me wonder, as does Steve Davidowitz in DRF Plus:
This raises at least two questions: Was Hurricane Run sent to the BC Turf as a mere afterthought? Or, is he over the top? In either case, Hurricane Run would appear to be a vulnerable favorite.
He led early in his last race, the Champion Stakes, which is run down a straightaway at a mile and a quarter; he should appreciate the return to his tracking style at a mile and a half, even if he's running in the wrong right direction.

Red Rocks (Galileo) is a three-year old who will be facing older horses for the first time. He was further back than usual in his last and hung late in the mile and three-quarter St. Leger; but his prior three at a mile and a half were all close seconds, including one to Arc winner Rail Link. He'd have to improve like that one did in order to compete here, but his trainer is confident. He has an unusual pedigree, being inbred 2x3 to Sadlers Wells and his full brother Fairy King, in addition to Mr. Prospector 4x3.

Scorpion (Monteju) was one of the best three-year olds in Europe last year - he set a track record for a mile and a half at Longchamps - but has raced just once this year, on Oct 8th after a year layoff; a second in a listed stakes.
“We barely got him back in time for a run at the Curragh and he ran a lovely race in very bad ground which he would have hated,” [Aidan O'Brien] admitted.

“Kieren [Fallon] looked after him and he just got a bit tired in the last 50 yards, but we were delighted with that run. He’s a horse who would love fastish ground and obviously he’s going to improve again, but we are very happy with him and delighted he’ll be running.” []
He's been mentioned for Hong Kong, so he does have other objectives down the road.

Likes: Shuback wrote: Cacique was a low-end Group 2 type in France who is unlikely to stay 12 furlongs. That's kinda cold, doncha think? Looks to me that he can stay; and I guess he's just improved for Frankel. He wouldn't be the first.

Against: Hurricane Run. Third race in five weeks....just doesn't smell right. English Channel on price, but I can't leave him out if he draws well.

Exotics: TH Approval and yeah, I guess Red Rocks and Scorpion

The Turf (Getting to It Soon)

- I'm just about ready to move on to the Turf, but I'm still thinking about the Mile and the Distaff. Steve D, who likes the outspoken Democrat Bobby Frankel's Badge of Silver in the former, says: I understand that the Beyers have been declining, but he ran his last two races in 1:32 4/5 & 1:32 3/5! What's a horse got to do to earn a decent fig? And Nick, who likes Aragorn, adds: 1:32 is 1:32, pool table grass course or not.

So what is up with the figs of 103 and 100 in his last two races? Although I don't really even want to know, since it provides a handy excuse for me to throw out a horse I don't wanna bet, I'll go straight to the source and ask Andy Beyer during his chat tomorrow night.

And the Distaff seems be to drawing a variety of ideas with the common thread that there should be a lot of pace. Nick mentioned Lemons Forever, which scares me; ever since he picked Superfly (or was it Andromeda's Hero) to beat me in the exacta a couple of months ago, I get scared when he goes against me. I'm thinking back to Pleasant Home last year, who I picked but didn't bet, and remember that I was looking for a horse with upside, and she fit the bill. I don't see much upside in this race; if you like Round Pond or Spun Sugar or Healthy Addiction or Happy Ticket or Pool Land, I think you're basically hoping that your selection will rebound from what was for whatever reason a subpar effort, and run back to form flashed earlier in the spring or summer. I don't think there's any expectation that any of these are going to move forward in a big way; just that they can run to back form. That's the way I see it anyway, and it doesn't mean I won't have a ticket on any....well, some of these at the right price.

Anyway, I keep coming back to Pine Island, and I have to admit that I've kinda fallen for this filly at this point. I'm naturally drawn to closers to start with, and I just love her consistency, especially so given the different track surfaces, configurations, and conditions she's encountered. She's just unfazed, puts her head down and goes to work. I looked back at Pleasant Home's pp's coming into the race (pdf, scroll down), and they're actually fairly similar looking. Not the same situation to be sure, since Pine Island will be facing older stakes f&m's for the first time. But Pleasant Home exploded to a 107 from a prior best of 95. And the pace in this year's race could fall apart similarly. With a little luck, I think Pine Island has to be right there if that's the case.

Of course, my affection for her only goes down to a certain price, I dunno, say 7-2 no, higher. I think Happy Ticket is the most likely of the above to run well; Round Pond next. I've moved Healthy Addiction into the 'against' column. She did not look like a sharp mare in her recent prep.

- Bummer that Dubai Escapade will miss the Sprint after she was found to have some inflammation in her front ankle, the Breeders' Cup press office reported on Tuesday. [Brisnet] This race has changed drastically with the defections of she and Commentator. I imagine that the connections of Bordonaro are pretty happy. I think it just helps Henny Hughes. He'll be close, and the less horses in front that he has to pass or go around when they're tiring, the easier it makes it for him.

News and Notes - Oct 31

- Here's more on NYRA's refusal of a deal that would release the remaining $19 of its bailout in installments. Faced with impending bankruptcy, Charles Hayward, feeling that it's too short and slippery, still refuses to grab onto this latest lifeline offered by the state.

The deal is unsatisfactory...because it would require more action from the Non-Profit Racing Association Oversight Board, which voted on the new deal Monday, and still comes without approval of NYRA's application to open a casino at Aqueduct Race Track.

Further, the loan deal, Hayward said, seems to be a double-cross.

"We had an indication directly from the people in the governor's office that this was going to go a different way," Hayward said. "This resolution ... throws up more hurdles than what was in the original legislation." [Albany Times Union]
As he did last December, Hayward hardly conducts himself as a man desparate for cash. Using the threat of bankruptcy, he instead plays as if he's the one in control, and you have to admire his moxie if nothing else. NYRA's back may be against the wall, but it instead always seems as if it's the state that's on the defensive. By the way, Hayward also correctly mentioned the casino at Yonkers, wondering how it could possibly have been allowed to open despite years of dumping raw sewage in the Bronx River and a lawsuit by horse owners against the track for failing to run racing.

- Let's go back to last night's halftime on ESPN. If there's someone out there who was brave enough to tolerate Tony Kornheiser for three hours, please let us know if there was any significant Breeders Cup promotion in the second half (I counted two 15-second ads, one during the first half and another at halftime).

The more I think about it, the more I'm totally galled by what happened at halftime. On the field, they ran something called the Halloween Derby, in which people dressed as embarrassing caricatures of the ESPN crew raced across the field. I thought this was obviously going to be a lead-in to a mention of the Breeders Cup but nah, it was just a shameless promotion of itself. I can't believe that they would actually have a race - complete with "they're off" and a race caller - and not try and relate it to the upcoming broadcast!

The Final Work

- Bernardini turned in the final workout of his preparation for the Classic - and probably of his career - this morning at Belmont. The specifics of it seem almost irrelevant, but for it was five furlongs in 1:02 4/5 according to Bloodhorse.

[Exercise rider Simon] Harris broke Bernardini off slowly as the pair went the first quarter in :26 and three furlongs in :38 1/5. After the five furlong work, they galloped out in 1:15 1/5.

Down the stretch, Harris was sitting still on Bernardini, high on the saddle and never moving his hands. Bernardini did everything on his own. His final quarter was :24 3/5.

"He was tough today. He gave me a hard time. I had to break my reins. I looked around to see if there was something coming, I didn't know what was going on. He's just full of himself. He's just that sharp right now....He galloped out really strong. The farther he goes the stronger he gets. He has never been doing better than he is now. He's ready." [Bloodhorse]
Tom Albertrani added: "He's a little stronger and sharper going into this race." Oh man. Here's the Form's Mike Welsch's take, and he got a slightly different time.
Bernardini (five furlongs in 1:03.32): Bernardini was given ample time to stretch his legs by exercise rider Simon Harris once he entered the racetrack immediately after the break and was obviously aggressive and ready to roll as he made his way down the backstretch to the five- furlong pole. Harris had his feet in the dashboard to keep the razor-sharp Bernardini from getting away too quickly and allowed him to settle into a nice early rhythm with an opening eighth and quarter splits in 13.75 and 26.52 seconds.

Bernardini was still well within himself when he hit the top of the stretch, fanned slightly wide off the turn, then switched leads right on cue and picked up the pace without urging to complete his final quarter-mile in 24.60. He appeared to get stronger the farther he went, galloping out another eighth-mile past the wire in 12.70 before getting a double gallop out time of 1:29.25 for seven furlongs.
(The official workout time was 1:02.86.)

Monday, October 30, 2006

Monday Night Notes - Oct 30

- Matt Hegarty reports in the Form that NYRA has rejected the terms under which the state would start to release the remaining $19 million of its loan.

The condition that troubled NYRA officials was a three-tiered release of the $19 million. Under the proposal, $7 million would be released on Wednesday, $6 million on Dec. 1, and the remaining $6 million on Jan. 1, 2007.

"We told them this morning we weren't going to accept the payment in that three-tiered structure," NYRA senior vice president Bill Nader said Monday. "We had discussions with the governor's staff on Friday, and the spirit of the deal is we got the $19 million this week. That changed today. We told them today that wasn't going to work. I just don't think there's going to be a willingness on our side to accept these terms."
- OK, there was a spot for the Breeders Cup at 9:28 on ESPN; the Head Chef timed it at 12 seconds, but I think it might have been 15. Then there was a nice spot during halftime about the same length. That led into something called the Halloween Derby, in which...y'know, I'm not even going to take the time to describe it. If you saw it, you'll know why; it was just embarrassing. It was a race, but there was no apparent tie-in at all to horse races. Now I'm done; I can't take these guys anymore. Let me know what happens.

- Been meaning to post the link tothis first-hand account of Australia's Cox Plate, as well as a big betting score for reader Stalusk, all the way from the other side of the world.

The Distaff

- Reader Mr. Ed wrote that he feels that Fleet Indian and Pine Island can be beaten in the Distaff, but wonders about the alternatives, writing that he can not make sense of this race after tossing those two.

I'd also like to beat the two top choices, and I don't really need a reason other than I want to. But as a handicapper, I always feel the need to build a case based on logic rather than just hope. The ones that I can't do so are the ones I'm timid about opposing.

It's hard to argue with a horse like Fleet Indian (Indian Charlie) who has won eight in a row, most by dominating margins, even if I think that the competition was marginal compared to what she'll see in the Distaff. She was taken out of her game in the Beldame, and instead of establishing a comfortable lead against mediocre fields, she had to rate behind the leaders, go four wide on the turn, and gamely hold off Balleto. It was an eye-opening performance to be sure. But she still had it relatively easy against just five opponents, sitting the trip behind three dueling leaders before overtaking them. I think that the post position will be key for Fleet Indian; a wide draw and she'll have to overcome a lot more than she ever has.

Pine Island (Arch), in my opinion, is a tougher bet against. You gotta love this filly. She fires every time - one turn, two turns, dirt, slop, or grass - and she's relentless, running with her head down as if to say "Get out of my way, I'm coming!" And come she does, never failing to finish at least within a length of the winner. She's improved her Beyer in every race, and had a nice work on Sunday, five furlongs in 1:01 1/5, galloping out three-quarters in 1:14. And she has classic Phipps breeding, out of a full sister to their 2005 Distaff winner Pleasant Home.

The rest of this field is, as Mr. Ed said, tough to figure. I think it may be the least interesting of the card. It consists of several fillies who look as if their best form may be in the past. But here's some ideas.

Happy Ticket (Anet) has had some tough races, and she may have tailed off after three consecutive gut-wrenching races in the spring. Since then, she ran second in the Clement Hirsch to Healthy Addiction (Boston Harbor); and then there was the sixth place debacle in the Spinster. However, she was caught wide on both turns against Healthy Addiction in the Hirsch, and had all that trouble at Keeneland when she was checked very sharply midstretch. She never runs a bad race, really, and perhaps has one more in her for 2006. Trainer Andrew Leggio told the Thoroughbred Times the other day, "She's trained forwardly for the past month; she's as fit as she can be, so we'll go from there."

I wasn't at all enthralled by Healthy Addiction's prep for the Distaff. Returning from a two month layoff and facing a mediocre field of four opponents, she staggered home in slow fractions, earning a slow fig, for her, of 91. But she's developed this year into a solid graded stakes winner, and I think she certainly has a shot if she improves off that race.

Round Pond (Awesome Again) is making her third start of the form cycle for Michael Matz. If you look at her fast track two-turn form, she's three-for-three, most recently her duel over Happy Ticket last March. She was off five months after that, and since ran second in the slop at Monmouth and her third to Fleet Indian in the one-turn Beldame. (Full Disclosure: I actually picked her in the Beldame, saying she prefers one turn.) She has good tactical speed, and worked five furlongs in a sharp 59 flat on Sunday.

With potential speed like Pool Land (Silver Deputy), Round Pond, Fleet Indian, Bushfire (Louis Quatorze), and Healthy Addiction, there should be plenty of pace to set up a late run by Balleto (Timber Country). She's coming off three consecutive seconds in Grade 1's. She actually had a chance in two of those, and my impression of those races is that she should have won. She had Spun Sugar and Fleet Indian absolutely dead to rights in the Go For Wand and Beldame; no way she should have lost either. She may get a piece of the purse here, but I wonder if she can dig down for the extra it would take to get the big prize.

Interested In: Despite all these great ideas, I'm having a hard time getting past Pine Island. She's like a little buzzsaw, and if she can work out a trip - and she'll be facing such a big field for the first time - I don't see why she won't finish well. I'll watch the board for overlays on Happy Ticket, Healthy Addiction, and Round Pond, but I'm not really getting all that excited about any of them. Are you?

Against: If and only if Fleet Indian draws poorly, I'd consider leaving her out completely.

Exotics: Balleto

BC Notes - Oct 30

- Flower Alley had what was termed a disappointing work here on Sunday morning when he struggled at the end of a six-furlong work in 1:15.

- Quick Little Miss impressed Tom Amoss on TVG with a bullet (of 35) five furlong move in 58.60 at Santa Anita. Mel Stute said afterwards that the filly was supposed to take it slow, but took off in the stretch. He added that jockey Jon Court had all he could handle pulling her up "which was a much better sign than I anticipated." He told Bloodhorse: "She's a big, stout filly and I train her pretty hard, which she loves. She's maturing at the right time and I believe she's got a heck of a chance, or we wouldn't be going." [Bloodhorse]

- Reader Mr. Ed says to take another look at Germance in the F&M Turf, pointing out that she the QEII was a shorter race than she prefers. In fact, she'd never run shorter than a mile and a quarter prior to that race; and all of her other races have been great, so thanks for pointing that out. She's by Silver Hawk, out of a mare by Caerleon, and is inbred 3x5 to Hail to Reason; 4x5 to Northern Dancer. Germance has a low dosage at 1.07 with 28 dosage points, and this is the distaff family of the Italian Derby winner White Muzzle.

- Besides not having the works from Belmont on The Works, which is a pretty significant and surprising transgression, they have a click on the CD playing the music they play over the works, and it's really annoying. I can't believe that nobody there noticed that.

- Walter points out that Satwa Queen should be OK on a firm course based on her second to Mandesha and in front of Alexandrova in the Prix de l'Opera, as the ground was firm enough on Arc Day for Mandesha to set the course record.

- OK, am I devoted to this blog, or what? I'm even bravely suffering through Suzy Kolber in order to see if ESPN is running promotion for the Breeders Cup on tonight's Monday Night Football game. I've been running the DVR since 7, and have scrolled through most if not all of the pregame, and didn't notice a spot. I was disappointed when Chris Berman and his crew mentioned Thursday's big Louisville game with particular emphasis on how it was like the biggest college game ever in the city; yet nothing on the Breeders Cup. Having their top dog talent mention the event would give it the kind of credibility and attention we'd like to see. I'll be watching throughout....who's playing tonight?....and will try to report on a live blog basis.

Work Of The Day

- I'm not going to try and post about all the individual works, but I will comment when it's by a horse that I like. Scat Daddy gets Mike Welsch's Work of the Day (shared with Premium Tap); he drilled five furlongs in 1:01.17

Scat Daddy was actually scheduled to work four furlongs but was so full of himself exercise rider Judy Krazewski let him break off at the five-eighths pole and guided him through an eye catching work. Completed his final quarter mile in a brisk :24.19 while well within himself before galloping out six furlongs in 1:14.47. Actually grained a little ground on the grand looking Nobiz Like Showbiz who covered the same distance in 1:01.97.

Scat Daddy, whose lone setback came at the hands of stablemate Circular Quay in the Hopeful, gives every impression he’s maintaining his form extremely well coming into the Juvenile and that he will handle two turns without any trouble. [Daily Racing Form]
Unfortunately, The Works has not had any video of the works from Belmont, and a lot of prominent horses have worked out there, including Invasor and Henny Hughes. That seems like a serious gap in what otherwise continues to be a good job. Bernardini is scheduled for his final work at Belmont on Tuesday. Get Christina Olivares on a plane.

The Mile

- Here's what could be the most contentious betting race of the day, and one which demands value on the tote board. Horses who made their last start in Europe have won nine of the 22 runnings. (You can find this, and an amazingly comprehensive list of Breeders Cup trends in the well-worth-it subscriber section of the Downey Report...and a more-than-generous helping of free content as well.

Araafa (Mull of Kintyre) is the Euro horse getting the most press here off his second to George Washington in the QEII Stakes, a race in which the winner reportedly just toyed with the field. The effort followed a 5th in the Sussex Stakes in which, as trainer Jeremy Nosada told the Form, he missed the break, chased a suicidal pace, and came out of the race with a wrenched ankle. Nosada has said that the horse is training well. Price may be the main reason to play against him, though I'm not sure if the expected firm footing will be to his liking. I'll be looking for Noseda's comments about that; some of the European trainers seem to speak more frankly about things like that than their American counterparts.

Godolphin has a pair of runners in Librettist (Danzig) and Echo of Light (Dubai Millenium). Librettist had won five in a row, the last three at a mile, before running 6th in, and reported to have come out lame from, the aforementioned QEII. Thus it would be of some concern that Frankie Dettori is apparently leaning towards riding the less accomplished Echo of Light 'I have not made a final decision but I'm leaning towards Echo Of Light. 'He is still a bit babyish, but he is maturing all the time. I think going left-handed will suit him.' [Ireland Online]

Perhaps he also looked at the past performances and saw that there is really no other committed speed horse in the race with the possible exception of Badge of Silver (Silver Deputy), whose ability on the grass is uncertain off just one try. Echo of Light's last win was said here to be against a field that wasn't...particularly deep; but he's developed well and his Timeforms are competitive with those of Araafa, at least other than the latter's last race.

As for Librettist, he's certainly a contender on his best form, and is reported to be training well, and to have quickly recovered from whatever was ailing him after his last race. Perhaps there was some exaggeration involved in that report in order to enhance Godolphin's "team riding" complaint against Coolmore's rider Seamus Heffernan.

Sleeping Indian (Indian Ridge) comes in off a Grade 2 win in the UK for trainer John Gosden. But the trainer was recently quoted, in talking about the decision to send him, that "the ground is unlikely to be fast," and in fact, a firm turf does seem likely.

Amongst the entries who last ran in the U.S., I love Gorella (Grape Tree Road). I don't at all agree with those who feel that the First Lady took a lot out of her. A look at the race shows that Leparoux was just cruising even as Gorella got into position for her lethal stretch run, and he didn't start driving until engaging Karen's Caper (who traveled 14 feet further) in the final stages. I think she won with plenty left in the tank, and that this was every bit the prep it was intended to be; that's my opinion. On Sunday, she worked five furlongs in 58 flat over the Polytrack, a surface over which she's worked exclusively since August. She's run into traffic problems in her two U.S. tries against males (and the question was raised whether it's just a coincidence that she wasn't able to overcome it each time, or if she's somehow intimidated or outmuscled by the boys), but Leparoux really seems to be able to push the buttons on her, and she's never been better than she is now.

The declining Beyer figs for Aragorn (Giant's Causeway) are as good reason to throw him out as rising casualty figs are to throw the Republicans out of both houses of Congress a week from tomorrow. Other than the figs, and the fact that it seems that all of the best grass horses are the ones I've seen race out here in the East all year, I'm not doing any real analysis here. I'm just not using him anywhere, especially since he may be one of the favorites.

I also don't like Aussie Rules (Danehill). I think that's he clearly a cut below the top European contenders, and that he benefited from a ground-saving trip in the Shadwell. The Form comment says "split, 4w." But this horse was not wide. He was on the rail both turns until swinging into the two-path just approaching the bend for home. After finding no room towards the inside in the stretch, Gomez swung wide to find a path to victory, but he looked no more than three wide. In fact, in the expanded chart comment, it talks about him settling three wide, and swinging five wide in the stretch. If someone can go to Cal Racing and watch the race, please tell me if I'm crazy and deluded, or if the chart is just plain wrong.

Check out Trakus; he clearly wasn't wide (ninth race); only two horses in the field traveled shorter distances. Miesque's Approval (Miesque's Son), who has taken his game to a new level of speed and consistency this year, traveled 18.9 feet more in finishing 4th.

Free Thinking (Unbridled) is an improving five year old who gave Godolphin's Ashkal Way all he could handle in the Grade 2 Kelso. Could be the wacky longshot that completes the superfecta?

Interested In: Gorella. At the right price of course, but I think she's gonna be dynamite. Araafa is imposing with Johnny V. and if I leave him out it will be because of price and/or trainer's comments on the turf condition. And there's a price out there somewhere at which you might want to take a shot on Librettist, Dettori or not Dettori. Not quite sure what to do with Sleeping Indian.

Against: No get out the vote effort will help Aragorn. Aussie Rules doesn't.

Exotics: Echo of Light gets Dettori (it seems), and he has all those little plus signs next to his Timeform ratings. That means he's deemed to be capable of getting better, yes? No one wires the Mile, but he may not have much company up front and could hang on for a share. Miesque's Approval is very consistent, and could sneak into the triple with a little luck. Sleeping Indian and Free Thinking too.

News and Notes - Oct 30

- As I mentioned in the prior post, Commentator is out of the Sprint. Areyoutalkingtome is in, and his workout today was dissed on The Works rather unanimously.

- NYRA is once again, as they did late last year, apparently succeeding in using the threat of a bankruptcy filing to extract the money they need to survive. Tom Precious, writing in Bloodhorse of a meeting of the Oversight Board scheduled for this afternoon, reports:

Behind the scenes...lawyers for NYRA and the state are involved in heavy negotiations to get a final deal on the VLT project that will then release the $19 million bailout package.
Bill Nader said that: "We're just trying to hang in there." I don't know whether the two weather-related cancellations over the weekend helps or hurts.

- Ouija Board's head groom reports that all is well after the trip overseas.
“It’s the same old story, everything has gone great. She’s exercised in the barn and had a drink and all being well, will go onto the dirt track on Tuesday morning.

“She was on her own in the van at the head of the convoy and is like the queen waiting to regain her crown.” [Ireland Online]
- Wayne Lukas has just one Breeders Cup starter in Pegasus Wind, and his stable is down to 40 horses, his lowest number since the early 1970s. He spoke to the Thoroughbred Times about his loss of clients.
"I had three key clients [Eugene Klein, William T. Young, and Robert Lewis] pass away, and that really hurt us. Their programs diminished quickly. That's one thing. My 11 or 12 assistants that are out there, each of them kind of took a client with them when they left. I look around and each one of them is training for people that I had, with my blessing. I was 100% for that, but I wish I had some of them back now."
- Let's keep an eye on ESPN tonight during Monday Night Football for some of that promotion for the Breeders Cup that we've been promised. The poster Bernardini said on Scoop's blog: watch MNF and you'll see promotion, so we're all anxiously waiting.

I was mistaken the other day when I wrote that the Breeders Cup button on ESPN's main page isnt' up. It is up, along that top row of little tabs, between 'golf' and 'soccer.' I missed it because I was looking for something bigger, like something on the banner, or in the space where they run ads for My ESPN, or E-Ticket. Guess I was expecting too much once again.


- Henny Hughes (Hennessy) will be the favorite in the Sprint, and he seems on track to top off his spectacular year with a big win. He completed his preparations with an easy half in 51 seconds flat at windy Belmont, and Kiaran McLaughlin was, of course, happy with what he called a "maintenance work."

"Henny Hughes could have gone a second or two slower or faster, and it wouldn't have bothered me. He is a :46 or :52 kind of horse, and :50 is right in the middle." [BRIS]
Henny's last two wins were nearly identical. He broke just a step slowly both times, but was quickly in position behind the front runner. In each case, he moved up for the lead on the turn with John Velazquez sitting motionless. It's particularly striking to watch in the King's Bishop how easily he was going as Prado was driving on Songster, a colt who came into the race in good form. It was ridiculous how easily Henny Hughes disposed of him. In the more recent Vosburgh at the Sprint six furlong distance, Velazquez gave him a couple of right-handed smacks in the stretch, and the colt visibly quickened and sprinted away, getting the final eighth in 11.4. The rider said, " I just got on him at the quarter pole, and let him go and he responded right away." I get the feeling that there's more there if it's needed.

Bordonaro (Memo) was just cruising through those blazing fractions in the Ancient Title, or so it seemed. On Sunday he worked a half-mile in :48 4/5 (6/64). After the Ancient Title, trainer Bill Spawr said of supplementing to the Sprint: "'s four weeks between races, and he usually likes six weeks." [ESPN] But they did pay the money to enter, and Spawr later told the Form that he came out of the race well. "Maybe he's peaking."

I think he'll find two others absolutely committed to the lead: Commentator (Distorted Humor) and Dubai Escapade (Awesome Again). OK, make that one. That's good news for the connections of Dubai Escapade. They tried to rate her in the Princess Rooney without success, and she proved in the Ballerina that she's a pure front runner (another brilliant bet-against for me at Saratoga). It was a spectacular performance in which she effortlessly wired a field that was thought before the race to contain a lot of speed, and her Beyer of 115 is higher than Henny's best. She signaled her readiness this morning with a bullet (of 40) five furlongs in 59 3/5, and trainer Eoin Harty said: "For her, that was actually slow. That was as slow as we could get her to go." [Bloodhorse] Indeed, the boys noted on The Works that it looked as if she was slowed down in the last sixteenth or so on instructions radioed from the trainer.

Siren Lure (Joyeux Dancer) has finished in the money in 11 of his last 12 starts, and he has a good chance to do so again. In fact, it's hard to see how he won't. He always fires and should get a pace scenario to his liking. He's come a long way this year, developing from a nice overnight stakes horse to a legitimate Grade 1 horse. But as far as getting top honors, I think he prefers a seventh furlong.

Too Much Bling (Rubiano) is a bit like a Henny Hughes Lite. Returning at three strictly as a sprinter, he's won four of five, all stakes. And like Henny, he has excellent tactical speed. But I just don't think he can kick home like the favorite.

Pomeroy (Boundary) loves Saratoga. Kelly's Landing loves Churchill, and may be worth a spot at the bottom of exotics at a price.

Interested In: I'm rooting for Henny Hughes; he's really won me over with the way he's won with such ease and professionalism. I also think he's going to win, though the post draw will be significant in the crowded field. But I'll be looking at the board, and I think that Dubai Escapade could be worth a win wager at a price. You never know what will happen at the break, and if she can get a jump on Bordanaro and Atilla's Storm (Forest Wildcat), she could be hard to run down.

Against: I'll close my eyes and stand against Bordanaro, and try to create some value in the exotics. I won't use War Front, Pomeroy, or Too Much Bling, though I could change my mind on the latter.

Exotics: Siren Lure is a must-use; Kelly's Landing, and how about Nightmare Affair and Malibu Mint for some picking-up-the-pieces minor awards at prices?

Filly and Mare Turf

- I've seen the Filly and Mare Turf referred to as a two-horse race, but I'm wondering who the second one is. Ouija Board (Cape Cross) is simply one of the best grass horses in the world, male or female. This year, she's beaten the late Electrocutionist, battled head and head with Dylan Thomas, ran within two lengths of Shirocco, prevailed in a thrilling duel with Alexander Goldrun, and was unlucky when shut off repeatedly in the Eclipse Stakes against David Junior. She would be a legitimate contender and one of the favorites in the Turf this year, and it seems almost nervy that an American three-year old filly whose resume consists of four grass races, three of them against her own age group, would be considered a threat. Even if that filly is trained by Todd Pletcher.

Wait a While (Maria's Mon) has been unthreatened thus far, but she of course hasn't met anything near the type of animals that Ouija Board has. Yet, she's certainly been outstanding. Look at the way she's come home, despite winning off with ease. 22.4 in the last quarter of the Yellow Ribbon, in which she beat a decent but hardly oustanding field of older fillies and mares; 11.2 in the Lake Placid (in which I actually bet against her, doh!). Her figs have progressed steadily, up to the 109 in the Yellow Ribbon that, on paper and using the rule-of-thumb 14 point deduction from Timeform ratings, puts her within a couple of points of Ouija Board. Still, it seems a bit of a stretch to me, and she may be one of the most underlaid horses on the board for the day. I've mentioned this before and you probably all think I'm nuts; but I think that if she beats Ouija Board fair and square, and Bernardini goes down in flames in a scenario like, say....Giacomo weaving his way to the wire through a 27 second final quarter, I think she'd have to receive consideration for Horse of the Year.

Satwa Queen (Muhtathir) is another sharp European; she missed by less than a length to Mandesha in the Prix de l'Opera. Prior to that was a G2 win in which she beat two subsequent Grade 1 winners. Her Timeforms are still a few below Ouija Board, but this is a sharp, late-developing four-year old who could hit the board at the least.

Germance (Silver Hawk), Mauralakana (Muhtathir), and Quiet Royal (Royal Academy), who all prepped in the QE II Challenge at Keeneland, are three Europeans who are not in the same class as Ouija Board. Quiet Royal had no excuse after saving ground both turns; Germance, who is a nice three-year old to be sure, and Mauralakan were both wide both turns, and the latter finished very well, but I think these are squarely a cut below.

Honey Ryder (Lasting Approval) and Film Maker (Dynaformer) duked it out in an exciting stretch duel of the Flower Bowl. Honey Ryder has stepped up in class in 2006, but I thought her 4th in the Beverly D showed her to be just a cut below the top in her division. Film Maker is a mare you gotta love, but she continues to come up just a bit short in Grade 1 company. Yet she's as sharp as ever, and ceded much ground on the final turn to Honey Ryder in the Flower Bowl. She certainly has to be included in exotic tickets.

Interested In: Ouija Board; unless she once again takes the worst of it in the post draw, it's hard to see past her. Wait A While gets the ultimate test for class; dazzle us if you can. Satwa Queen could be tough at a price with a good draw and would be helped by a soft course.

Against: The three coming out of the QEII.

Exotics: Film Maker rather than Honey Ryder.

- Wait A While worked 5 furlongs at a windy Belmont on Sunday in 1:01.70. Ouija Board, and ten other European participants including Satwa Queen, were safely installed in the quarantine barn at Churchill Downs last night. [RTE Sport]

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Juvenile

- Like its filly counterpart, the fastest contenders, at least in terms of Beyer figures, come from the west coast. Stormello (Stormy Atlantic) and Principle Secret (Sea of Secrets) both earned a 96 in running 1-2 in the Norfolk. Both overcame adversity to get to the finish almost together; Principle Secret set a quick and contested pace, finally shaking off Shake the Diplomat after six furlongs in 1:10.32. Meanwhile, Stormello, as Illman notes in his excellent prep race notes on DRF Plus, was lathered up on his neck and between his hind legs, and seemed a bit eager chasing the pace while three wide going into the first turn. He was also at least three wide all around the turn. So it was understandable that these were two tired colts at the end. The final quarter and sixteenth took 26.03 and 6.75 seconds. It seemed like a taxing effort for both, as Principle Secret battled back gamely, and I wonder if either or both may bounce in the Juvenile.

Principle Secret showed a change of tactics going for the lead in his first two-turn try, and if he tries that again, he'll have some company from Pegasus Wind (Fusaichi Pegasus). Lukas' colt has shown a high turn of speed, and held well for third in the Champagne. He's rated in his shorter races, and could have a nice target in Pegasus Wind if he can do so again.

Great Hunter (Aptitude) and Circular Quay (Thunder Gulch) both acquitted themselves well running one-two in the Breeders Futurity on the Polytrack. Yes, they may have benefited from the closer's bias, but they both affirmed their form in their first two-turn tries. They both rallied wide and had to contend with traffic and bumping. Circular Quay came into the stretch particularly wide after being blind switched around the turn, and then bore out mid-stretch before settling back in and getting the place spot.

Street Sense (Street Cry) covered the most ground of all in the race; at least four wide on both turns, he traveled an extra 38.5 feet than the winner. He led into the stretch, and jockey Calvin Borel told Illman he may have moved too soon. "Next time, we'll sit and wait a little longer."

But I have to say that I'm currently leaning towards Pletcher's two entries coming from New York, even though they're both trying two turns for the first time. I loved the win by Scat Daddy (Johannesburg) in the Champagne, and still maintain that he was the best horse in the race, Nobiz Like Shobiz included. Scat Daddy ran a final quarter of 23 4/5 to run that one down, according to Formulator. It was a thoroughly professional performance, and he could be real tough here. If, of course, he gets two turns. He's out of a mare by Mr. Prospector, to whom he's inbred 4x2. His second dam, Likable Style (Nijinsky), was a Grade 1 winner (Las Virgenes) around two turns. He has a high Tomlinson (346) and a low dosage (2.47), so you'd think this distance is within his ability.

King of the Roxy (Littleexpectations), an $8,000 yearling, was purchased privately by Team Valor after Barry Irwin saw him on TV and liked the way he took the turn, his modest pedigree notwithstanding. "Young horses usually flail with their right leg and float out, but he cut the corner like an old pro," Irwin said. "He had good action."." [Bloodhorse]

He's displayed good acceleration coming wide out of the turn in each of his subsequent starts since being purchased and transferred to Pletcher, most recently his win in the seven furlong Futurity; before that a close second to the highly regarded Chace City, who would have been amongst the favorites here. And there is some pedigree there too; he's out of a dam by Bold Forbes, known for speed, but a Derby/Belmont winner; and if you look under his third dam, you'll find Grade/Group 1 winners Al Bahathri, Spanish Fern, Mea Domina, and Al Haafhd.

Malt Magic (Cherokee Run) had trouble but still ran poorly in the Norfolk. His prior was a romp in his two-turn debut. He's a full brother to the Arkansas Derby winner Sir Cherokee. I don't like C P West (Came Home), making his third career start and first at a distance.

Most Interested In: Scat Daddy and King of the Roxy; Street Sense at a price

Standing Against: None of the others considered top contenders with any confidence at all, though I'm leaning against the West Coast horses as possible underlays. Tough race.

Juvenile Fillies

- I've started over on the right to list some links for easy access to workout reports and the Breeders Cup pages and columns. Far too much to try and keep up with here, so instead I figured we should spend the time trying to figure out who's going to win. Can't make definite picks before seeing the post positions, especially in the bulky fields. But I'll go through the races, discuss some horses that made an impression one way or another, and throw out some ideas for discussion. Please feel free to chime in; just click on the # of Comments link right under the post.

So let's get right to it. Untouched Talent, the intriguing Storm Cat filly who ran second in the Alcibiad, is out of the Juvenile Fillies and will be replaced by Lilly Carson (Carson City), who adds some pace to a race that doesn't have tons.

Dreaming of Anna (Rahy) is one of the obvious keys. If she replicates her turf effort on the dirt she'll obviously be tough, and her bullet (of 71) half-mile work over the Churchill track indicates she will be. Her trainer, Wayne Catalano, 33% winners for the year, said after the work that "she liked the track" but I guess we figured that out ourselves. However, she's a horse I'll be looking to beat assuming she'll be one of the choices. This is the kind of race I could feel silly afterwards if she romps, but I have to fall back on basic handicapping principles here. She just has a sprint win on the dirt against four awful opponents, and this is a new ballgame for her. But if she's 8-1, then that of course is another story.

Six fillies come out of the Alcibiad, and all will bear the Polytrack question, either as an excuse for a poor performance or an explanation of a good one. Bel Air Beauty (Smart Strike) was an overlay at 47-1 to be sure, but here she benefited from a ground-saving trip before swinging out for a strong finish. Three fillies who finished quite respectably, Cotton Blossom, Gatorize (Exploit), and Her Majesty, were all hurt by outside post positions. Gatorize and Her Majesty traveled 81.2 and 71.2 feet more respectively than the winner, according to Trakus (OK, I'm using it, you happy?)

It was Her Majesty (Giant's Causeway) who finished best of the three. She was very wide on both turns and seemed to run a bit greenly in the upper stretch. But once she straightened out, she finished well for third, holding off a tough Cotton Blossom, who was not quite as wide on either turn. Her Majesty is out of a mare by Smarten who's a half-sister to the champion sprinting mare Safely Kept.

Appealing Zophie (Successful Appeal) impressed me at Saratoga when she sprinted away in the stretch of the Spinaway. She had no excuse after setting a moderate pace in the Alcibiad...or maybe she did in her first try on Polytrack. The addition of the speedy Lilly Carson doesn't help; but there's enough stamina on her distaff side so suggest she should get at least this distance.

Octave (Unbridled's Song) is the other Pletcher entry besides Cotton Blossom. I had her in the Matron, and she had no excuse. She was hard ridden from the far turn, on which she saved all the ground. This is also her first try around two turns, and I'm not sure that it will help. Cotton Blossom ran pretty well in her first try around two turns; she was actually coming back against Her Majesty at the finish.

Cash Included and Quick Little Miss are the only two to come out of a two-turn race on real dirt, the Oak Leaf at Santa Anita. Cash Included (Include) earned a Beyer of 93, 12 points higher than the Keeneland race, and may very well be the favorite in the Juvenile Fillies. It was a nice effort in her first route race, and Nakatani said, "I had a ton of horse under me going to the far turn." But it was a pretty easy trip despite starting from the ten post. She drafted easily into the two path on the first turn, inherited the lead from 40-1 She's Got Skills, and held off favored Point Ashley. I've also read suggestions that the track at Santa Anita was strongly favoring speed. You don't really need to have any particular reason to stand against the favorite in a 14 horse two-year old stakes, but you can sieze on any possible perceived weakness or rationalization for a good performance to help build your case.

I liked the effort of third place finisher Quick Little Miss a lot. She was four wide around both turns, and turned in a solid rally for third. Dan Illman notes in his BC Prep Notes on DRF Plus, that she left a nice impression on the gallop-out. By Freud, she may appreciate turf down the road. She also just may like two turns. She improved two back in her first such effort, winning around the bullring at Fairplex, before her troubled effort in the Oak Leaf. She's out of an Unbridled mare who's a half to Greater Good; her third dam is the champion sprinter and Black Eyed Susan winner What A Summer. She could be an intriguing filly at a price.

Satulagi is the lone European entry. She's by Officer out of a Danzig Connection mare; and this is the distaff family of Mt Livermore and Judgable.

So, thus far, the race is looking like this, subject to change:

I'm interested in: Her Majesty and Quick Little Miss at prices.

Try to beat: Cash Included and Dreaming of Anna assuming they're bet down, as well as Octave.

On the fence: Cotton Blossom

For exotics: Appealing Zophie

Sunday Morning Notes - Oct 29

- Javier Castellano tells the Albany Times-Union of a certain horse he'll be riding next Saturday: "He's Tiger Woods .... he's Michael Jordan ... he's Barry Bonds. He's Bernardini!" Indeed, a horse with his immense talent could be all of those (without the steroids)(we hope)for our sport. Unfortunately, that won't be the case because the Classic is likely to be his last race.

There's a piece in the NY Times Magazine this weekend (paid content) on what exactly makes Bernardini, in the words of Darley's John Ferguson, one of the very few horses in the last 50 years that ticks every box.” One of those boxes is the colt's stride.

The average colt has a stride of 24.6 feet, according to Equix, a company in Lexington, Ky., that conducts biometrical analyses of thoroughbreds. Secretariat’s was 24.8. Bernardini, in the Preakness, checked in at 26.5 feet — “off the charts,” says Ginger Sanders, Equix’s president. Stride length may be the most crucial component of speed. And because a horse breathes in sync with its stride — inhaling as its front legs reach forward and exhaling as its lead leg strikes the ground — a longer gait means a deeper breath. That means more energy, which may explain why Bernardini, after finishing the Preakness, was barely winded.
- Ray Kerrison writes in the Post that the only favorite to hit the board [in the last seven years] was First Samarai, who plugged home third at 6-5 last year.
If you took all the money lost on Juvenile favorites in the last seven years, you could build a tunnel from New York to London. Beware.
Never to take anyone's word for anything, I looked that up myself, and it's true. Those other favorites were Roman Ruler (5th at 2-1 in 2004), Cuvee (dead last at 8-5 in 2003), Whywhywhy (10th at 5-2 in 2002), Officer (5th at 3-5 in 2001, ouch!), AP Valentine (dead last at 5-2 in 2000), and Forest Camp (6th at 5-2 in 1999).

I have no idea who the favorite will even be this year. It could come from the Norfolk, the prep, and a two-turn one on real dirt no less, which produced the best speed figures, as Stormello edged Principle Secret. Or it could come from the Pletcher trio of Scat Daddy, Circular Quay, and King of the Roxy. Or maybe even Great Hunter.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

ESPN To Rally To Promote the Cup

- Seems as if this little blogosphere is finally stirring up a little reaction. There's some lively discussion of ESPN's promotional efforts for the Breeders Cup over at Curb My Enthusiasm, sparked by a poster who called himself Bernardini, but sounded more like an industry insider.

And I received an email from Chip Tuttle, a marketing consultant to NTRA, and a partner in the Boston-based public relations firm Conover Tuttle Pace, which handles PR for an interesting array of clients. Mr. Tuttle, who at one time served as the vice president of communications at NTRA, sent along what he emphasized is just a partial list of promotional efforts we can expect this week.

ESPN is running a significant promo schedule of :30's and :15's that started last week and will continue thru next week, including some scheduled for major prime time programming. It is more GRP's (gross rating points) than BC would otherwise buy in national TV.

There will be extensive promotion on the Thurs West Va-Lville game, including Chris Fowler and other BC talent. We're also lighting Churchill Downs for the night and there will be several shots from Papa John's Stadium back to CD with promo info.

There will be feature coverage beginning Tues on SportsCenter, ESPN News and other areas as well as interviews and features in PTI, ESPN Radio, ESPN Motion, 360 and others.

We know for passionate racing fans there's no such thing as enough, but by next Saturday's one-hour SportsCenter at the Breeders' Cup (the last hour of the telecast), I would wager that you'll be impressed with ESPN's commitment. It is more than the event was getting from its previous network partner. And I should mention that via ESPN we are hitting a much younger demo than previously.

As for other national marketing, banner and rich media campaigns on major sports web sites (CBS Sportsline, Yahoo! And AOL Sports), national print (USA Today) and major market print (LA/NY), national and major market radio support are all either recently underway or kicking into gear next week. Add what the major tracks and simulcasts partners are spending and it should be enough to drive awareness and handle.
Mr. Tuttle also told me that there would be a Breeders Cup button on the ESPN front page up today, and I don't see that up as of yet, which I'm sure is just as frustrating for him as it is for me. But I presume it will be up soon, and he wrote that "one week out is nice exposure and consistent with what they do for other properties. We've got run-of-site banners all week, both tune-ins that ESPN created and used their own promotional inventory to run as well as some stuff we did (re-formatting the Bernadini-Lava Man poster)."

This all comes as good news to be sure; it's great to see that ESPN will utilize their various programming and outlets to promote the telecast. Personally, I probably won't see most of it, since other than baseball, horse racing, and the occasional snippet of a Monday Night football game or Sports Center, I don't find myself watching ESPN much. Especially when I'm handicapping the Breeders Cup.

That doesn't matter in my case, because the chances are pretty damn good that I'll watch the telecast anyway. But that's why, as impressed as I am about the coming promotions, I still would like to have seen a longer-term effort to create awareness of the event and of the fact that it will be on ESPN. People who, like myself, watch ESPN mostly for baseball may not know that the network is carrying the races. NBC used to run filler spots in which they would promote all of their top properties, and it was nice to hear "Home of the Breeders Cup" in the same breath as the World Series or Super Bowl; I thought it helped to associate the event with the network. I haven't yet seen a similar effort on ESPN.

Now, Mr. Tuttle makes a fair point to be sure when he wrote that "for passionate racing fans there's no such thing as enough." I do tend to quibble and wonder why, for example, there aren't links from the ESPN website to the excellent work that NTRA has done on the Breeders Cup website; or why the network couldn't clear one lousy hour of the 2006 International Speed Pool Challenge (I kid you not) on ESPN2 so they could carry that afternoon's Wire to Wire at The Breeders' Cup in prime time (jeez!). But the truth is, I suppose, that I wouldn't be truly satisfied unless Dan Patrick did Sports Center decked out in Godolphin's jockey silks.

But it's one thing to market a telecast, which I fully expected ESPN to eventually do, and another to market the game. The latter is NTRA's job, and it's a subject on which the passionate bloggers of the TBA and all of our readers would love to have their attention. One thing I've written about on this site is what I think is the importance of trying to get people not only to watch, but to participate as well. Here's one simple idea. You pick out a couple of the most competitive BC races and have Kenny Mayne tell viewers that they can compete for prizes by going to, registering, and picking, with online advice and help, the first, say, five finishers in order. Prizes can range from a free month of ESPN Insider for picking the winner, a subscription to their magazine for getting the exacta, and up to something more valuable for picking five in order. That way, in one fell swoop, you get people to watch with a rooting interest and get a taste of the action, even if for a modest prize. NTRA also gets their email addresses with which to follow up and try to get them to the track. ESPN makes money when people forget to cancel their "free" trials and start getting monthly charges on their credit card. That's my idea of the two organizations working together and fusing their respective resources for mutual gain.

That's just one idea; Patrick has his point standings, Ruben Bailey is off to Louisville to demonstrate the role that the blog itself can play in marketing the sport; and on any given day one can read words of wisdom from any of the member blogs. But that's it for the free advice from me. Anyone can email me here to hire me for the big six figure job to hear more. In the meantime, I do appreciate the input and interest from Chip Tuttle, I'm glad to have the chance to present his point of view and welcome any future comment.

Saturday Morning Notes - Oct 28

- An AP piece notes that should Pegasus Wind make it to the post for the Juvenile, Wayne Lukas will be the only trainer to have at least one entry in each of the 23 Breeders Cup programs. This will be the first time, though, that Lukas has just one horse on racing's biggest day.

"I've always felt this horse was special," Lukas said. "I think this is some kind of nice horse. I'm looking forward to not only this one, but the next one in May, too."
Whoa there, Wayne, let's take one of these at a time.

- The UK's Times Online noted the other day that the 17 intended [Breeders Cup] runners from Europe are above average in number for an event which has been feeling the strain of international competition.

But Alan Shuback, writing in the Daily Racing Form and making a case for an expanded two-day Breeders Cup program with Euro-friendly races like juvenile turf races, points out that these are far from true World Championships despite higher purses this year:
Only three of Timeform's top 20 3-year-olds (George Washington, Araafa, and Aussie Rules) will be at Churchill Downs next Saturday, and only three of Timeform's top 20 older horses (Hurricane Run, David Junior, and Scorpion) will be there. Good Europeans like Yeats and Imperial Stride opted for Australia. Arc runner-up and Champion Stakes winner Pride is headed to Sha Tin for the Hong Kong Cup. The exciting bargain basement turf sprinter Takeover Target has run and won in Australia, England, and Japan this year and will go in the Hong Kong Sprint on Dec. 10, but the U.S. has never been on his agenda. Japan's leading lights, Deep Impact and Heart's Cry, have both run in Europe this year, but the Breeders' Cup was never in their plans. The same goes for every other horse trained in Japan. England's leading sprinters, Les Arcs and Reverence, never had the Sprint under consideration, and the world's best 2-year-olds continually shun the Juvenile and the Juvenile Fillies.
- Another stakes winner for Pletcher, though not the graded one he needs to break that record. The Woodford Reserve was taken off the grass due to heavy rain at Keeneland in Florida. I've always wondered what the Polytrack looks like in pouring rain, and it just looks like Polytrack. Pretty amazing, I think. Pletcher's Twilight Meteor had chased Admiral Bird in their last two races, and they were both 2-1 morning line behind the favorite Marcavelly (Johannesburg). But with the race off the turf, the board told the story, as Admiral Bird opened at 9-1, went off as the third choice at 9-2, and finished third. The bettors still went for Marcavelly (3-5), but she couldn't handle Twilight Meteor and settled for second.

Running and winning her first race not on the grass, Twilight Meteor is by Smart Strike, the stakes-producing machine for whom this was his 11th of the year. She's out of a With Approval mare who is a half-sister to Grade 1 grass winner and Canadian champion Primaly.

Seems Like Old Times

- Took the afternoon off on Friday and made my fall/winter Big A debut. Racing will be there straight through until mid-May. The ridiculous thing about the Port Authority taking over the clubhouse parking lot, forcing everyone to park on the grandstand side, is that the entrances to the track on the grandstand side where everyone has to park have been closed for three years due to the construction of the racino that is not currently not being constructed. And the clubhouse parking lot is most emphatically closed and empty, fenced in with a concrete base and No Trespassing signs. It's quite a sobering sight.

So it's going to be a long, cold walk through the winter cold in the coming months; even the owners' lot isn't that close. I was able to go through a special horseman's entrance, and walked through the once-festive and now fossilized backyard area, past the shuttered grandstand, to familiar entrances that I now found closed. I ended up walking through the racing offices, wandering through the halls, almost going into the jockeys' quarters, because I was too embarrassed to admit I was lost and ask somebody "How do you get to the track?" Finally, I followed someone up a staircase, and into the promised land. Say what you will about the Big A, at least it seems like there's a crowd there, even though that's because 75% of the plant is closed and everyone's jammed into the clubhouse.

But once I got in, I felt as if it was the first time I've been into handicapping and betting since leaving Saratoga on that final Sunday before Labor Day. I've made a few bets here and there but just haven't been into it until Friday. So here's how I was welcomed back.

I got there for the sixth, and made three bets. In the 7th at Aqueduct, I bet a cold exacta with Cadillac Cruiser, 7-2 dropping off a claim and after a layoff for Rene Araya, over Fire Hero (5-2), moving up in class off a win for Mike Hushion; it was coming back a solid $47. When 37-1 True Call engaged Fire Hero for the lead with Cadillac Cruiser, having recovered from a poor start, contending close behind, I figured he was just setting up the race for me. Y'know when you watch a race just assuming that a horse is going to stop, but it instead just keeps going and going and going? So I ran 2-3 to the Gary Sciacca trained longshot, who had shown poor form on Polytrack at Woodbine.

Then, after a routine loss at Laurel, I turned to Keeneland, where I hadn't bet all meeting. In the 8th, I came up with Excellerant, cutting back to six furlongs after a good 7f debut on Polytrack. She was 9-1, and I played her on top with four others in the exacta. When Excellerant swept to the lead in upper stretch, I was looking around for my others, and as 5-1 Brilliant Star rallied into second, it looked like a winning day for me. But Dixie Dreamer, dead freaking last at 11-1 with a quarter mile to go, rallied six wide and got up for second by a nose. I found myself staring at the screen wishing the result would change, but instead I learned via Trakus that Brilliant Star had to travel four feet more than Dixie Dreamer. There's some consolation for me. I was back, and back at the Big A, and nothing seems to have changed.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Lava Man Works

- Lava Man worked over the Polytrack at Keeneland - just a breeze, six furlongs in 1:15. (Remember, The Works on TVG commences on Saturday). Under exercise rider Tony Romero, the 5-year-old son of Slew City Slew went the final three-eighths in :35..

"He's put on some good weight here and he's stronger than ever," the exercise rider said. "I'm very happy with the way he's pulling; he feels better than he did before the Pacific Classic, even. Bernardini is a tough horse to beat, but he should watch out with the way our horse is training."

"I play the Classic out in my mind a lot," O'Neill said. "The post position draw will tell us more. We'd like to see Brother Derek and Bernardini start on his inside so we can tell what they're going to do, but our jockey [Corey Nakatani] knows him well, he knows he can be a little aggressive early and still have something left in the tank." [Bloodhorse]
I think we pretty much know what Brother Derek is going to do; not much flexibility in his preference for the lead, and he usually doesn't get it. He didn't against Lava Man in the Goodwood, and I have no reason to believe he will here.

I think it will be interesting to see what Lawyer Ron does in his first race for Pletcher, who apparently is retaining the services of John McKee, who was criticized for his ride in the Super Derby. If he's turned loose, he could be a factor up front as well. But hell, if Bernardini runs the way we think he will - imagine how fast he could be if he actually has to try hard...or even just a little - nothing that happens in the early stages will matter.

Commentator Sneaks In

- Doug O'Neill is pissed that Areyoutalkintome was left out of the top 14 for the Sprint in favor of Commentator. And Crist made a more than fair point in his aforementioned column when he wrote that it seemed to be a double standard to judge Flower Alley on his 2006 form, and Commentator on that of his past. The latter's trainer Nick Zito said "He's a Grade 1 winner...He's one of the best and most exciting horses to have campaigned over the last two years. He's Commentator." [Daily Racing Form]

I think that what got him in is not the first part of Zito's statement, but the subsequent ones. His Grade 1 and gaudy figs took place in 2005, and thus presumably aren't part of the discussion. But he is a charismatic horse as Zito pointed out, and it seems as if the decision was based more on his flair and speed than what he's accomplished this year - a win against three NY-breds and up the track in the Forego. That as opposed to O'Neill's horse, who in all honesty hasn't really been all that hot himself this year either, but at least has run competitively in some graded stakes.

I don't think there's anything wrong with the Breeders Cup opting for the more theatrical decision in a case like this....and perhaps I should revisit my comments on Flower Alley being left out in favor of Super Frolic (but not Perfect Drift).

I wonder if they would have left George Washington and David Junior off had the race attracted more pre-entries with solid dirt form. If I thought that they were really, really smart, which, based on the lack of promotion we've seen for the big day, I don't, I would envision a scenario in which they would have pressured the connections of the two to run in the Turf or Mile, instead of braving the dirt. It's creating a lot of pre-race intrigue, but I get the feeling that in the end, the cause of better theater would have been served if the two invaders stayed on familiar footing. We'll see.

- The reader who provided this excellent insight on the NY franchise bidding was wondering just who Capital Play Pty Ltd. is. Wonder no longer, the Australian outfit is out of the running for the NY racing franchise after failing to post a required $1 million bond. Where the hell did NYRA get the money for that?

The state's latest racino opened on Thursday at Vernon Downs, a harness track in upstate Vernon. There are only 777 machines there, about half as many as at Saratoga, and a mere pittance compared to what we'll see at Yonkers if it doesn't burn down first. Hundreds lined up for the 10 AM opening, with some camping out since 6:30.

Facility officials had originally projected between 3,000 and 4,000 people would visit Thursday, but General Manager Eric Persson said Thursday night about 9,000 visited. []

- The quarantine at Monmouth, covering at least 1,000 horses, will last for at least three weeks. Four horses have been confirmed to have equine herpesvirus. And the brief and beleagured thoroughbred meeting at the Meadowlands has been severely affected by the outbreak, banning horses coming from anywhere but Monmouth to race there. Only eight races have been carded for Saturday night.

- TVG inks a deal to have content distributed in Ireland and the UK, and I'm sure that comes as great news to those who can't even get the network in this country on cable systems such as Time Warner.

- Please feel free to email me with questions, comments, suggestions, or whatever.

Friday Morning Notes - Oct 27

- Steven Crist in the Form (sub. only) disagrees with me regarding Flower Alley.

At least Flower Alley won a Grade 3 race this year, whereas both Perfect Drift and Super Frolic are winless in six starts. (Perfect Drift qualified on the points system that determines half the field, but Super Frolic was chosen above Flower Alley by the selection panel, which determines the other seven spots.) It also seems wrong that two Europeans who have never even raced on the dirt, David Junior and George Washington, were given preference over a Travers winner and Classic runner-up.
OK, he's entitled to his opinion. I rate a nose loss in the Stephen Foster above a Grade 3 against four horses; and Super Frolic, in addition to his close third in the Hollywood Gold Cup, was third in the G1 Pacific and second in the G2 Californian. I guess he has a point, but I don't at all agree about the Euro horses. How could you exclude either of them for a horse that's run the way Flower Alley has this year?

- Some betting odds from the UK:
WILLIAM HILL: Classic: Evens Bernardini, 5-1 Lava Man, 6-1 Invasor, 8-1 George Washington, 11-1 David Junior, 20-1 Sun King, 25-1 others.

Mile: 11-4 Aragorn, 5-1 Araafa, 11-2 Gorella, 9-1 Librettist, 10-1 Echo Of Light, Sleeping Indian, 12-1 Aussie Rules, 14-1 Ad Valorem, Rob Roy, 16-1 others.

Turf: 11-4 English Channel, 3-1 Hurricane Run, 4-1 Cacique, 8-1 Red Rocks, Scorpion, 10-1 T H Approval, 12-1 Go Deputy, 14-1 Better Talk Now, 28-1 Rush Bay, 33-1 others.

Filly & Mare Turf: 15-8 Ouija Board, 5-2 Wait A While, 13-2 Satwa Queen, 9-1 Honey Ryder, 10-1 Germance, 11-1 Film Maker, 14-1 others.
- Reader T.O. lamented that the Cup would not be on TV in Canada; but don't despair. TSN will put ESPN's telecast on its high-definition channel. As well, it will be carried on HPI TV, the horse racing-wagering channel, and streamed on [Toronto Globe and Mail]

- Dick Powell, of Brisnet, on the wonders of synthetic surfaces:
Polytrack received its greatest endorsement last Friday at Keeneland when rain hit the Lexington, Kentucky, area. Thirteen sophomore fillies, including one also-eligible, were scheduled to run in the Valley View S. (G3) on the turf. When the rain came, the race was switched to the Polytrack and, not only were there no scratches, but with the addition of the also-eligible entrant there were actually more horses running in an off-the-turf race than had it stayed on the green.

Been around a long time - never seen that before.
- Johnny Velazquez was at Keeneland on Thursday, and he and Todd Pletcher confounded the bettors, with the latter breaking through with two winners at this meet in which he's had a slow go. Audacious Chloe got beat at 4-5 in a grass stakes; but they won the 7th with 5-1 Throng, and upset even money Miss Mambo with second choice Honey Rose, an interesting five year old mare from Argentina who now has two good efforts in as many North American tries.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Full Arsenal A Dud So Far

- Thanks to those who commented regarding ESPN's promotional efforts, or lack thereof, for the Breeders Cup. It sounds like not much has been going on. As promised when the deal was announced, we've had the five two-hour Road to the Cup shows, which have been generally well-received, and the seven hour telecast. Seven hours! The show runs on over an hour and a half after the last race. The show starts at noon, the Classic goes off at 5:20, and by 5:35, we're gonna be so fucking sick of listening to these guys that it could be until the Blue Grass until we watch racing on ESPN again.

But the prep telecasts and the marathon broadcast are not going to do anything to attract new viewers. I thought we were going to see ESPN cross-promote it on their other sports telecasts and networks. When the deal was announced, an ESPN exec vice-president told the Thoroughbred Times: "We intend to bring our full arsenal of resources to present, to promote and distribute the storied property as no one else can."

Thus far I've seen no effort at all, and you guys confirmed what I suspected about the lack of advertising during football and baseball telecasts. Even NBC would try to build a general awareness that they telecasted the event, from time to time running a short "home of the Breeders Cup" clip.

If you go to ESPN's website, you have to scroll down almost to the bottom, below NASCAR, soccer, fantasy, and EVEN HOCKEY to find the horse racing section. Their Breeders Cup section is, aside from their regular columnists, mostly content from the Daily Racing Form.

And here's the schedule for the extra programming during the big build-up to the event during the week:

Nov. 1, ESPN2, 2-2:30 p.m., Today at the Breeders' Cup
Nov. 2, ESPN2, 2-3 p.m., Wire to Wire at the Breeders' Cup
Nov. 3, ESPN2, 5-6 p.m., Breeders' Cup Selection Show [Bloodhorse]
Oh yeah, I'll be sure to be home for those.

There is still time for some cross-promotion. Hopefully we'll see Trevor Denman in the booth during Monday Night Football, taking the mike to call a few plays ("And Brady is having a big one!"), Randy Moss doing a stand-up routine at halftime of the West Virginia - Louisville game, Jerry Bailey tossing up the ceremonial jump ball before the Wizards - Cavaliers NBA season opener, and Hank Goldberg trying, with moderate success, to handicap old races on ESPN Classic.

Perhaps they'll do extensive promotion during those games, and not just during the World Series of Poker. (And how many World Series can one game have in one year??) But thus far, the promotional effort is not even close to the promised "full arsenal." It's more like a token defense.

Joke's On Flower Alley

- Todd Pletcher said that it's "a joke" that Flower Alley didn't make the top 14 for the Classic. Personally, I think it's a joke that the horse was entered in the first place given his dismal form this year. Yes, he had a great 2005 and ran a fine second in this race last year, but I thought the rankings were based on 2006. I don't see anyone in this field that he should have necessarily made the race instead of. Every other entrant won a Grade 2 or Grade 1 (Flower Alley won only a weak G3), except for Perfect Drift (second by a nose in the G1 Stephen Foster) and Super Frolic (third, beaten less by a length by Lava Man in the G1 Hollywood Gold Cup). And since he knows that Flower Alley will get in anyway when Discreet Cat (or Bernardini) scratches, I'm not really sure why a guy with 17 other entrants would bother complaining about something like that.

- Alan Hevesi, the Democratic Comptroller of New York who is running for re-election, last year called NYRA the "poster child for mismanagement and corruption." But NYRA needs to share the picture with Hevesi. He's under pressure to resign and withdraw from the race after admitting to utilizing a state-employed chauffer to drive his wife around for three years. He's reimbursed the state for more than $80,000, but it seems that he kept no records of what the exact amount should be. He's the subject of a grand jury investigation that could result in a criminal indictment.

- More fire code violations were discovered after a new inspection of Yonkers Raceway. The violations found in the follow-up inspection showed several serious and significant hazards -- and a total of eight more than the 56 discovered on Oct. 5. [Albany Times-Union] Track president Tim Rooney claims that the violations...well, "almost" all of them...are limited to floors not currently in operation.

Rooney said the casino had an emergency management plan and trained security, two other serious violations cited in the report. He said both were submitted as part of the environmental review of the casino project completed last year. The Oct. 16 inspection, however, called that plan "outdated." [Journal News]
Racing is supposedly going to resume on Nov 3.

- Aidan O'Brien on George Washington's chances in the Classic:
“It is a huge challenge and the odds are against it.....but all I know is that we’ve never had one like him before. He has always been different.”

That is high praise indeed. Among Ballydoyle’s finest has been Giant’s Causeway, who almost won the Classic the last time it was run at Churchill Downs six years ago. Jockey error was largely responsible for Giant’s Causeway’s failure to overhaul Tiznow by a scant neck. It is therefore ironic that Mick Kinane, who dropped a rein at a critical time, has a chance at redemption aboard George Washington this time. [Times Online (UK)]

Notes - Oct 26

- As you know if you've been reading here, I'm of the opinion that the Breeders Cup hasn't done much for the sport in terms of helping it gain a foothold in the consciousness of the average American sports fan. Don't get me wrong, I love it, and today I'll be acquiring a new constant companion for the next ten days or so. But I think it's viewed strictly as an insider's gig, and I believe that the move to ESPN will only enhance that impression.

So I wanted to ask you guys and gals who may watch ESPN more than I do if you've noticed any of the big publicity that the network and the Breeders Cup folks promised when the deal was announced. I didn't notice anything during the baseball playoffs. Anything on Monday Night or college football?

- Another record about to fall to Todd Pletcher. When Roman Dynasty took the opening day Discovery at the Big A on Wednesday, he tied Wayne Lukas' mark of 53 graded stakes winners. It would be fitting if he breaks the mark with one of his ridiculous 18 entries on Breeders Cup day. Roman Dynasty (Theatrical) came from last to first to nip Frankel's 4-5 favorite On Board Again before a crowd of.... Well, I don't know, there's no attendance figure. Maybe NYRA is no longer giving them out.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Pre-Entries Announced

- You can see all the pre-entries for the Breeders Cup here, courtesy of the Daily Racing Form.

A few notes:

- Discreet Cat is pre-entered in the Classic, but don't get excited, it's just a tease.

"It's insurance in case something should happen between now and when they take entries [on November 1].

"As long as Bernardini is running, we're still planning on running Discreet Cat in the Cigar Mile [Handicap (G1) on November 25 at Aqueduct.]" [Thoroughbred Times]
You might want to think about leaving soon in order to get parking to see him run at the Big A.

- Ouija Board has not been cross-entered and will go in the F&M Turf.

- Gorella is cross-entered in the Mile and the F&M Turf, but has first preference for the former, and I think that's really cool. Honey Ryder has been cross-entered in the F&M Turf and, interestingly, in the Turf, though she also has first preference for the filly and mare race. She's one of just 12 pre-entries for the Turf.

- Flower Alley is 15th out of the 14 permitted to start in the Classic, but is virtually assured a spot considering the status of Discreet Cat (a fact entirely lost on the writer of this article). He worked a bullet 1:13 2/5 at Churchill the other day. With enigmatic entries like Brother Derek, Giacomo, Lawyer Ron, and the Euro entries David Junior and George Washington set to go, this would be a fascinating betting race if Bernardini wasn't in it. I'll be spending much of the next ten days deciding whether it's worth betting against him. You never know, right?

- The Juvenile Fillies attracted 24 entries, and why not? That division is as wide open as it's ever been, and if there's a line on which race will produce the highest priced winner (Walter?), this race has gotta be the favorite.

- Asi Siempre is cross-entered in the Distaff and the F&M Turf, but has first preference for the dirt race.

- The Sprint is just loaded, man, and two fillies, Dubai Escapade and Malibu Mint, are amongst those pre-entered. The common wisdom in this race is that Henny Hughes is going to get cooked, fried, and baked in a speed duel, but my early impression is that he could fool a lot of people, and may even be a fair price.

Don't Yell "Fire" in Yonkers Racino

- How much power does the New York Lottery Division have to get a racino open if it really wants to? They've allowed slots to operate at Yonkers, even though there's no racing and the track was fined $9 million for brazenly polluting the Bronx River with human waste.

Now, the Albany Times-Union reports that the racino is a fire hazard.

An Oct. 5 inspection by the state Office of Fire Prevention & Control found 56 violations, most of them "serious" or "significant." The casino opened Oct. 10. Most of the violations were supposed to be fixed by Oct. 12, if not sooner. Another inspection report is pending.
The racetrack's main building had 56 violations, according to Deputy State Fire Chief Paul D. Martin. He rated 15 as serious and 37 as significant. Others were moderate or unrated. The casino fills one of the building's floors.

Violations included carpeting used as wall covering, blocked exits, non-working alarms and no emergency plan.
While the track wouldn't comment for the paper, a spokesperson for the Lottery Division said they hadn't seen the report. Nonetheless, for an agency that is acting so deliberately and meticulously with respect to Aqueduct that NYRA is expected to soon file for bankruptcy, they sure seem lax about Yonkers.

- The Port Authority of NY/NJ, which runs JFK Airport, claims that NYRA has known for five years that it would be taking over the parking lot on the clubhouse side of Aqueduct for airport use. Vendors at the popular Aqueduct Flea Market, which is being shuttered on weekends during the crucial run-up to the holidays and beyond in order to make way for racing patrons, say that they've been blindsided after three decades of selling their goods there.
Vendor Yvonne Kissoon learned on Saturday that it would be her last weekend selling women's under garments at the Aqueduct Flea Market.

"We had no indication about this,” said Kissoon. “All the money we earned all summer we took it and stocked up for the winter, to sell for Christmas, now we are stuck here with tons of merchandise and nowhere to sell it."
"We could not coexist with the flea market, especially on the weekends, and, still accommodate our racing patrons,” said Bill Nader, of the NYRA. “And our primary business here is thoroughbred racing so and so we have to accommodate our fans."
"How do we pay our bills?” asked Kittoon. “How do we pay our mortgage? How do we live for the rest of the winter? What do we do now?" [NY1]
If what the Port Authority says about NYRA knowing about the takeover is true, then they need to direct these questions to NYRA, and to not expect any handouts from a near-bankrupt association which is asking themselves some of the same questions.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Tuesday Night Notes - Oct 24

- No more head-to-head wagers for this year's Breeders Cup. The...pools averaged approximately $75,000 each in 2005. [Daily Racing Form] Can't say I ever actually bet any of those; I think the most interesting part was to see what matchups they came up with. So we'll have to come up with our own here once the entries, or the pre-entries are announced on Wednesday. They'll be two pick fours, guaranteed for $1 and $1.5 million.

- Point Ashley is out of the Juvenile Fillies, and that's one bet-against I won't get to bet against.

- Rockport Harbor, who was sold to Darley in April, will stand for $20,000 in Lexington. He's by Unbridled's Song, but comes from what seems like a very modest female family, though his first two dams were minor stakes winners. His broodmare sire is Copelan, by Tri Jet, a line that goes back to Tom Fool. Doesn't seem like the most fashionable of bloodlines - he has no Northern Dancer and one instance of Mr. Prospector - but he was certainly fast and game.

Distorted Humor's fee has been raised from $150,000 to $225,000. He began his stallion career for a fee of $12,500 in 1999 and stood the 2002 breeding season for $10,000. [Thoroughbred Times]