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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Tuesday Night Notes - May 31

- Silverfoot is the second 2005 graded stakes winner for his sire With Approval, whose T.H. Approval became his 40th stakes winner when he won the San Juan Capistrano last month. He changed tactics in the G3 Louisville Handicap at Churchill and took the lead, since the pace in the 11f race was ridiculously slow at 1:18.37 and 1:43.28 for a mile. They then sprinted home the last three furlongs in :35 4/5. His jockey Robbie Alvarado was worried about Rapid Proof.

"He'd been haunting me all winter in New Orleans," Albarado said, referring to Rapid Proof's skirmishes with America Alive, on whom Albarado won the Grade I Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on Derby Day. "The only thing is I thought the three turns might confuse him." [Courier-Journal]
Indeed, while Rapid Proof denied being confused, he appeared disoriented afterwards and had to be restrained from attempting to enter himself in the 8th race.

Thoroughbred Daily News describes the margins in the G3 Lone Star Park Handicap as: NO, NO, NO. It sounds like it could be the cries of TV viewers when their favorite show is pre-empted by a presidential press conference. Actually, it signified the wild, four horse blanket finish, with Supah Blitz (Mecke) getting the nod. Mecke is by Maudlin, by Foolish Pleasure; and Supah Blitz has Colonal Moran in his dam's pedigree - 3 fine racehorses I remember well from the 70s/80s that you don’t see all that much in pedigrees these days.

- The Jackson guy in Kendall-Jackson wines has purchased a one-third interest in Ghostzapper for that popular price ‘undisclosed sum.’ He’s also purchased the old Buckram Oak Farm, which was renamed Stonestreet; according to Bloodhorse, he has 150 to 180 mares there.
One of the mares Jackson bought privately was Maggy Hawk, dam of Preakness (gr. I) winner Afleet Alex. "I wanted her right after I saw Alex break his maiden by (11 1/4 lengths) at Delaware Park," he said.
92-year-old John Nerud compared Ghostzapper to some of his own.
“In Reality, Dr. Fager, Cozzene and Fappiano - and all were milers, and three of them became great sires," Nerud said. "To tiptoe a mile you have to have a great amount of speed and a great amount of lung power. Milers make the sires and the Met has made the sires for years." [Daily Racing Form]
As for Ghostzapper, the Form reports that Frankel was not as definitive about the Suburban being Ghostzapper's next start as he was on Monday. He earned a Beyer of 122.


- Pulpit (A.P. Indy) is a hot stallion of late, and he had two graded stakes winners at Belmont this weekend. The aforementioned Oratory took the Peter Pan defeating, among others, favored Chekov, another son of Pulpit. In the Sunday stakes, Ecclesiastic got up by a head over favored Old Forester in the G3 Jaipur stakes. These were his 3rd and 4th stakes winners within just the last month or so, and they account, I believe, for his entire North American stakes winners for the year. In late April, Wend won the Hollywood Wildcat Breeders Cup at Calder, and Frankel’s impressive and unbeaten Melhor Ainda took the Appalachian at Keeneland, both in late April.

Pulpit had two additional winners this past weekend. On Sunday, Network won his 2nd race in 3 starts with an impressive rally in a N1X allowance at Monmouth. This gelding is out of Broadcast, a half-sister to Concern, who career has had a revival of late with the phenomenal performance of his Bellamy Road in the Wood. More on him later. At Woodbine, a 4 yo Pulpit filly names Fifth Overture took a N3L allowance race; she’s a half to stakes winners Lake Music and Gold from the West.

- I haven't heard anything about Bellamy Road the last couple weeks and I presume he's recovering. His potential return is what we'll have to look forward to after the post-Triple Crown withdrawal, which I imagine has already started for some since no one will sweep the series this year. If Afleet Alex and Giacomo both run well, and perhaps establish a rivalry, a meeting between them and a recovered Bellamy Road (imagine him prepping in triumphant fashion) in the Haskell and/or Travers would be a most anticipated event.

Cheater, Chekov, Castledale...More Cheaters

- Jeff Mullins told Bill Christine of the LA Times that Buzzards Bay won't run in the Belmont Stakes on June 11.

"The horse is doing fine," Mullins said. "He worked [Monday] in 1:12 3/5 [for six furlongs]. But we're planning to run him as an older horse, and I don't want to beat him up by running him a mile and half now." [LA Times]
As for the connections of Chekov, who thought nothing of sacrificing their Spanish Chestnut in the Derby, why would they let a little 4th place finish in the Peter Pan change their plans for the Belmont?
"He's a mile-and-a-half, mile-and-a-quarter horse; you don't get too many like that, why not?" [trainer Patrick] Biancone said. "We had a plan, we'll follow the plan. Just because something doesn't go the right way, don't change the plan as long as the horse is well." [Daily Racing Form]
Perhaps they should consider a rabbit too.

Mullins sent out Castledale yesterday to win the Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood, making him a Grade 1 winner on turf and dirt (he took the Santa Anita Derby last year). After floundering in last year's Derby and in dirt races earlier this year, this colt has found a new lease on life on the grass. That should be little surprise given his breeding. He is by Peintre Celebre (Nureyev), the Arc de Triomphe winner and European Horse of the Year in 1997; he stands in Ireland for Coolmore at 30,000 Euros for 2005. Also, Castledale is out of a mare by Silver Hawk, himself an accomplished turf runner in Europe and the sire of turf stars such as Hawkster, Memories of Silver, Mubtaker, and Hawk Attack. He also has Roberto, Secretariat, and Amerigo close up on his female side.

- What a mess at Woodbine Saturday night. A “serious tote system failure” caused the cancellation of most of the card, and necessitated refunds on any wagers made on their last 8 live harness races and some 60 simulcast affairs. In an apology that they had posted prominently on their website for about ten minutes so it seemed, the track left no doubt as to exactly who was at fault.
On Saturday night, May 28, 2005 Woodbine’s betting system provided by Scientific Games Racing (SGR) failed with catastrophic consequences for our customers and the Canadian tracks that rely on this system. Since some betting pools could not be closed promptly at the start of a number of live and simulcast races, bets were refunded as mandated by Canadian law.

Woodbine apologizes to all our customers for this unacceptable system failure and will strive to ensure our contractor improves the reliability of their system. [Woodbine]
Bettors who missed out on a winner or two will be comforted to know that they can receive free programs this Saturday.

While at the Woodbine site, I came across this item – an explanation of why the Canadien Pari-Mutuel Agency (CPMA) prohibits Canadian bettors from betting directly into many U.S. pools as long as they permit “bet cancel delays.”
“Bet cancel delays” range between 3-10 seconds depending on the track and are designed to permit tellers to cancel a ticket during the set number of seconds after the start of a race. This usually occurs as a result of the teller making a mistake when punching out the ticket. Many tracks, including all Canadian tracks, operate without any bet cancel delay. Self-serve terminals do not have a bet cancel delay.

To be clear, CPMA’s decision makes it impossible for Canadian tracks to offer their customers access to any of the major U.S. networks, including Meadowlands, Belmont, Churchill, Hollywood etc. unless these U.S. tracks ban teller cancel delays across their networks. [Woodbine]
The CPMA web site offers a further explanation of exactly what the potential for fraud is.
_ Manipulation of odds
_ A so inclined person can watch the start of a race, and if that person does not like how his/her selection looks at the start, they then can cancel their bet or bets.
_ A racehorse travels approximately 5 lengths for each second of a race. Therefore, a four second delay of the bet cancel function, would allow a bet to be cancelled after horses have traveled approximately 20 lengths of the race. Some foreign racetracks allow "Bet Cancel Delay" ranging from 3 seconds to 10 seconds. [CPAM (MS Word download)]
If you think they’re just being paranoid, think again; I’ve seen this with my own eyes, though it was years ago. In the early days of self-service machines at NYRA, the cancel-delay was indeed available on the terminals for those who were clever and unscrupulous enough to know and take advantage of it. I witnessed guys place bets at terminals without lines and near TV monitors, reinsert the tickets into the machine at which point they were given an option to cancel it. (You can still do this now up to post time.) They would then wait until the start of the race, and if they didn’t like what they saw, they would hit ‘cancel.’ I was stupid and lazy enough to not write and report this activity, but wouldn’t make that mistake again - what was I thinking? These guys were taking money out of my pocket! I presume that self-service terminals at all tracks have now corrected that flaw, but I can’t blame the CPMA for their actions, especially with people betting electronically far beyond anyone’s supervision or control. Who knows, really, what goes on there, and the CPMA also points out that this could be responsible for those late odds changes that everyone hates as well.

- Rock Hard Ten is out of training indefinitely, because of recurring body stiffness and soreness.
The 4-year-old colt hasn't raced since winning the Big 'Cap on March 5. His last workout was a 3-furlong breeze on May 15.

He's had his foot problems, nothing major, but the grass is a little easier on him," [owner Frank] Lyons said. "He is a tremendously talented horse." [OC Register]

Monday, May 30, 2005

Awesome Again

- Ghostzapper’s ridiculously easy win in the G1 Metropolitan Handicap doesn’t bode well for the prospect of large fields in his upcoming races before the Breeders Cup. Other than for the big race itself and perhaps the Whitney at Saratoga, why would anyone ship their horse in to face the champ at Belmont, unless they’re in a sporting mood? More likely, we’ll see the division leaders knock heads elsewhere around the country with whoever is left standing coming to New York in late October. Frankel’s horse doesn’t figure to prove much other than being unbeatable around his distinctive home oval. Still, he looked totally awesome today. Frankel said:

"He's an amazing horse. He's probably the best sprinter in the country, and I think he can win going a mile and a half on the turf -- I really do. (Castellano) never moved on him. He just took a hold of him in the stretch." [Bloodhorse]
It was second time in the last couple of months that Javier Castellano was the passenger in New York on such a dominating stakes win, though this time he saved his celebration until after the finish. (No, I am not comparing Bellamy Road to Ghostzapper in any way.) Listen to how excited trainer Ralph Ziade was about his Silver Wagon picking up the pieces for second. "It's like a big win, believe me....All the people said I was wasting my time coming up here. I don't think so." NYRA will have to find other connections that would be as happy as Ziade to run second in a Grade 1 if they want to round up any opponents for Ghostzapper in his next expected start, the Suburban on July 2.

- Workouts for some Belmont contenders: Giacomo worked 7f in 1:27; possible starter Buzzards Bay went 6f in 1:12 3/5, and Southern Africa got 6f in 1:14 and galloped out in 1:27 according to his trainer Mike Puhich: "I'd be surprised if he didn't handle the distance....He's got a steady pace, and he wears horses down. He's got natural speed and keeps going." [Bloodhorse]

- Nice day for me, as I hit my first two bets - nailed the 5th exacta cold at Belmont (with apologies to Castle Village) and also had the 7th exacta from Pimlico - they both paid around $39. The Belmont race was another horse pointed out by being live on the board, bet on the nose; Be My Prince was coming off a layoff for Angel Penna, Jr, who was 3-7 in the 180+ days category coming in. There were a bit over 15,000 in attendance, a fine crowd these days, and nice to see. But it was a really pedestrian card; you’d never know it was a holiday with a Grade 1 race. The 10th was fun though, a maiden event on the grass and again, the money showed. Seeking Slew (Seeking the Gold) was 6-1 morning line, but the 5-2 favorite at post time for Bill Mott. He hadn’t raced since August, and that was a badly beaten 6th on the dirt at 9-1. But here, the money showed correctly and he reported home by 2 1/2, getting the last quarter in 23.27. You gotta love it. This 3 yo colt is out of multiple graded stakes winner Borodislew, and a half brother to stakes winner Canadien Frontier.

- I was bummed when Interpatation was a late scratch for the Jersey Derby; I really liked him. I bet the race anyway; Malibu Moonshine got bet at 5-1 in his turf debut from the outside post. This situation, when a dirt horse with familiar names such as Afleet Alex in his running lines tries the turf and gets overbet, is consistently a situation in which you can benefit by drawing a line right through him and choosing from amongst horses that are all at higher odds than they should be. I scored a couple of weeks ago in a similar situation when Naughty New Yorker got bet to around 4-1 in his first grass race - he ran out of the money too. I went with 4-1 Spring House, but he ran second and got beat by one of the horses I had underneath, 11-1 Touched By Madness (Sword Dance), who was able to steal the race on the lead. Even when I lose I've been coming close.

Memorial Day

- Couldn't maneuver my way to Belmont today, but this is the next best thing. We're hanging out in the backyard on a beautiful day; she's planting and I'm studying the upcoming 4th races at Belmont and Churchill. More importantly, there are no kids in sight, at least for the next few hours. One of the reasons the crowds of the past will never return to the track because the fact is, there's a lot to be said for watching and wagering at home, even though it's the distinct second best choice for me. I have more tracks to choose from than if I was there, and easy computer access to all the odds. Whatsmore, my OTB account is flush with cash after some recent success. There once was a time when Met Mile day was a can't-miss for me and some 40,000 other people every year. Now, a relaxing day at home with the woman I love, a fat simulcast edition Racing Form, TVG, HRTV, the online tote board and no kids in sight, can sometimes be a can't-miss too. Gotta go, a lot of races to come.

Tanaka Trouble

- Thoroughbred owner Gary Tanaka is apparently just a bit player compared to prominent philanthropist Alberto Vilar in the arrests in the developing Amerindo Investment Advisors case, but that doesn’t minimize the severity of the charges against him . He, like Vilar, is being held without bail, charged with using investors’ money for their personal use; to buy racehorses in Tanaka’s case. Of the decision to hold Vilar without bail, the judge said: Assuming the defense counsel's representation is right, he is worth $100 million.....If he were able to flee with just 2[%] or 3%, that is probably enough for him to live out the rest of his life in comfort in many parts of the world." [LA Times]

Vilar ran a technology stock mutuel fund which soared during the go-go late 90s, and he became a well-known philanthropist which a particular affinity, it seems, for opera. He was the top patron for the Met in NYC and the Royal Opera House in London. But you know what happened next as far as the stock fund goes.

In 2002, when the alleged fraud occurred, the New York Times reported that Vilar was having difficulty meeting his financial commitments to arts groups. In March 2003, he was behind on mortgage payments at three vacation homes in Colorado's Vail Valley and faced foreclosure, the Denver Post reported. In September 2002, the Los Angeles Opera confirmed that Vilar had not paid the final $500,000 installment of the $1 million the donor and board member had committed to a production of Wagner's "Lohengrin" the previous season.

In June 2003, the Metropolitan Opera said it had removed a sign bearing Vilar's name from the building's Grand Tier because of Vilar's failure to meet his financial commitments to the company. [LA Times]
As for Tanaka:
He's charged with devising a scheme to defraud and with stealing funds from investors to buy at least three thoroughbred racehorses from November 2003 to April 2005, prosecutors said in the complaint.

Tanaka bought the horses, Agata, Don Incauto, and Fruhlingssturm, in three separate purchases totaling almost $1.2 million, according to the complaint.

His stable of racehorses was ranked eighth nationally with 155 starts, 19 wins, and earnings of $4.1 million in 2002, prosecutors said. [Bloomberg]
In an effort to ascertain if they had overheard any pertinent information, several of Tanaka's horses were questioned by federal prosecutors, and Pico Central reported having his computer and files confiscated by the FBI.

- As of Saturday, the list of possible Belmont Stakes starters included Afleet Alex, Andromeda's Hero, A.P. Arrow, Buzzards Bay, Giacomo, Pinpoint, Southern Africa, Sort It Out, and Watchmon. [Daily Racing Form]

We had a great time upstate with our friends Ira and Carol (thanks for having us!), and I dazzled them with my confident pick of Oratory in the Peter Pan, and especially with my ability to not actually make any money on it. Sometimes I just dazzle myself. Tom Albatrani, who is most definitely a trainer to keep an eye on right now, says that Oratory will likely not go to the Belmont. But second place finisher Reverberate might. Patrick Biacone said that Chekov “was very babyish today,” and the colt had his DVD player and blankie taken away as punishment.

Strange card at Belmont today - it’s like a Thursday or Friday afternoon card with a Grade 1 race thrown in. No supporting stakes - not anything more than a N2X. The Met Mile should be a great race to watch, but for betting, I’m going to be checking out the Jersey Derby for 3yo's on the turf at Monmouth. Interpatation (Langfuhr) hasn’t gotten much respect since he broke his maiden winning a Grade 3 at Gulfstream at 38-1. He may have bounced a bit in the Forerunner at Keeneland when, at 8-1, he was a 6 wide 4th. Then, in a n2L allowance race at Belmont, he went off at 9-2 and rallied off a slow pace to get up with an impressive late burst, equaling his high 88 Beyer. He has a good post and could be ready to move forward here, perhaps once again at a square price. Becrux is an interesting entry. He’s an Italian import who was actually mentioned as a Derby possibility prior to the UAE Derby, in which he finished 12th by 77 lengths. He shows some dominating turf lines in Italy and is the wild card here. ran a close third to Interpatation in that allowance race and could be close for Pletcher. Malibu Moonshine will hopefully start from the 13 post and attract some money.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Saturday Morning Notes

- Quick post before we had upstate for an overnight trip. Got up early this morning and headed for Belmont. Man, what a beautiful morning. I caught a glimpse of the Tactical Cat colt galloping on the training track, and got to briefly meet Billy Turner and his wife Pat, who galloped the colt and seemed extremely pleased. I have this crummy picture, in which you can’t see the horse’s head and it looks like he only has three legs; perhaps I’ll post it when I get back.

I’m hoping to be able to watch the Peter Pan today; I know our friends have Direct TV at their house. This is my friend who occasionally meets me at the Meadowlands, so I can probably get him to participate if I try. I really like Oratory (Pulpit), starting from the outside with Jerry Bailey. Trainer Tom Albertrani is enjoying a fine year, hitting at 24%, and off to a 4 for 11 start at Belmont. He hasn’t faced the quality of horses that some of the others have, so this will be a test for class. He got beat at 3-5 at 9 furlongs at Aqueduct in his last when he was 3 wide on both turns; they crawled home the last eighth in :13 4/5. But now he goes back to 1 turn, and his two such races are excellent. He came from far back and got beat a neck in his 6 furlong debut, defeating Mr. Sword, who is the only graded stakes placed horse in this field; and he drew away to beat an allowance field by 4 at a mile. I think he’s going to love this 1 turn route. Sir Greeley has an intimidating 106 Beyer in a mile allowance at the Big A; Liftin says it was the fastest mile race of the meet and that he raced on the wrong lead. His last was a quick second on the turf. This horse ran in a 25000 maiden claimer just 3 back, but has improved drastically and should be the main threat. Reverberate has a lot of familiar Derby trail names in his running lines and has also shown marked improvement his last two races, the last an allowance win at 1 1/16 at Belmont. He should be the main speed and could be tough to run down. Enjoy the races and have a great day.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Friday Night Notes

- The strangles problem seems to be spreading, and the effects are being felt here at Belmont. Already facing short fields, NYRA has had to prohibit shippers from Churchill or Delaware; and now there’s a possible case in the Belmont-based barn of trainer Steve Kappes. [Bloodhorse] In addition, Afleet Alex’s scheduled arrival tomorrow has been delayed at least until Tuesday. The colt expressed disappointment on his website that he would miss Sunday’s Yankees-Red Sox game. Don’t Get Mad overslept and worked out in the evening after the Churchill card, but Ron Ellis said he’s "only a remote possibility" for the Belmont.

- Andromeda’s Hero is working in Saratoga for the Belmont, and went 5f in 1:01.70 on Friday. Zito said: "He wants to go long. That's the main thing. I just hope it's not like an old-time trainer told me. 'Yeah, he wants to go long. All the way to Suffolk Downs.’” [Daily Racing Form]

- Steve Crist has more on Sen. Kyl’s bill to ban account wagering, which he says is “still a longshot to pass in any form.” He feels that racetracks should be focusing on the big picture, and not offshore betting shops.

Some track operators continue unreasonably to blame a phantom menace of offshore bookmakers for their business woes and want some kind of government intervention, despite seeing year after year that any attempt to carry out the fool's errand of regulating the Internet is likely to backfire and jeopardize existing business and future growth.

The Internet is not some organization that can be bargained with or subjected to rules. You can sooner negotiate a settlement with the wind. Instead of trying to support any version of the Kyl bill, racing should be exploiting technology to offer superior proprietary services such as an integrated nationwide account-wagering system that would allow people to play all tracks and receive multiple video and information feeds. It shouldn't be 10 times more difficult to bet on horse races online than it is to buy a shirt or join a poker game, but currently it is. [DRF sub. only]

Mechanical Animals and No Fans

- Back from Belmont, where it was a wonderful day, even though the live races weren’t great and I only made a few bets, mostly out of town. Didn’t come too close until my last race, the 7th at Arlington, in which I got beat late with 11-1 shot Le Jester. Man! If the Derby did one thing for me, it’s loosened me up a bit. I’m approaching races with a more open mind, using the Beyers more as a guide than doctrine, and thus coming up with more creative predictions. It's fun and the results haven’t been too bad either.

I was watching the 9th from Pimlico and there was a hot horse, an import from the UK named Battle Chant (Coronado’s Quest) who was stuck out in the 11 hole. He was the 5-2 morning line favorite and got hammered from 2-1 to even money in 3 quick flashes towards post time. He got hung out 4 wide on the first turn with jockey Ramon “The Windmill” Dominguez, settled in behind dueling leaders, moved up 3 wide around the final turn, and opened a lead at the top of the stretch. I was watching closely to see the rider in action, and he peeked back midstretch, eyed a couple of persuers, and sure enough wound up with the right hand and gave him a whack; though it didn’t seem to be anything near the wallop he gave Scrappy T. Being the diligent reporter of the news I try to be, I went to the replay center to watch the head-on view, but it wasn’t available. Anyway, I just love when the money comes in like that, and the horse justifies it on the track. It just seems to make sense.

I’ve mentioned that I don’t do hunch plays based on names, but in the 6th at Belmont, I found it hard to resist Classic Marilyn, even though I don’t imagine she was named in deference to Mechanical Animals, one of my all time great and guiltiest musical pleasures. I managed to pass. Lukas took the 7th with his 3 yo filly Winning Season (Lemon Drop Kid), a $500,000 Keeneland yearling who defeated 4 older horses. She’s already graded stakes placed, having run 3rd in the G2 Demoiselle last year. She’s out of multiple stakes winner Topicourt.

The track filled up a bit as the day went on, and the place showed signs of life. Still, I was disappointed to see that there were only around 4800 people on a lovely day; I seem to remember them doing better the Friday before Memorial Day last year. It was certainly no surprise to read about the decline in attendance and handle at the last Aqueduct meeting. NYRA can pin the 10% decline in handle on their decision to cut off some rebate shops, but the 18% drop in attendance is really, really ominous. I mean, where does this stop? They’re citing the new wagering machines as one part of the reason; that’s a reach.

Secondly, there was a decline in the size of our fields. At one point, we had to be very restrictive of horses coming in from racing jurisdictions where horses were infected or in contact with the disease called `strangles' and in recent weeks, equine herpes. Finally, the uncertainty of weather caused many problems, particularly in a very unseasonably cold March." [Bloodhorse]

Now That's Greatness!

- Doesn’t seem to be much good news in the sport since the Preakness. reports on the absolutely depressing betting and attendance figures in California thus far this year.

In a brief report given to the California Horse Racing Board May 26 at Los Alamitos Race Course in Cypress, staff program analyst Dick Gonzalez told commissioners that the figures showed decline in all areas. But the categories that were most affected were Southern California Thoroughbreds, which were off by $39 million in handle for the period Dec. 26 through May 6 (-3.82%), and in harness racing, which dipped by $18 million (-22.18%).

"Overall these numbers are dismal," said commissioner Richard Shapiro. "We've had 315,000 less fans."
- No VLT’s for Texas until 2007, unless there’s a special session, as the effort died late last night in the state Senate.

- Giacomo is reportedly doing great, and John Sherrifs scoffs at the notion that he should save him for the stakes later in the season.
"These are opportunities that come once in a horse's career," Shirreffs said of the Triple Crown races. "I've learned if you pass a race, you might not make the next race. Horses have more problems in the mornings than they do in the afternoons, as far as injuries go. To put off the Belmont to run in the Travers or the Swaps, that doesn't make any sense. We started off on this journey to the Triple Crown. We should complete it."[LA Daily News]
- Gary West in the Dallas-Ft Worth Star Telegram has a right-on piece on the “campaign” that Bobby Frankel has mapped out for Ghostzapper’s Horse of the Year title defense, saying that "if all goes well, if he wins most of the five races planned for him this season and repeats as Horse of the Year, he'll be remembered as one of the greatest racehorses of all time. But only by people with short memories.
After all, he has raced only 10 times and won a grand total of six stakes races. So far, his career has been more appropriate for the king of cherry-picking than for one of the all-time greatest racehorses. He never has carried more than 126 pounds; he has raced beyond a mile only three times; he has raced around two turns only twice; and he has raced outside New York only three times. In winning the Woodward, Iselin and Tom Fool Stakes last year, he defeated a total of 12 rivals.

Yes, he set a track record for 1 1/4 miles while winning the Breeders' Cup Classic, but that distance turns up at Lone Star Park about as often as snowflakes. And although his Classic win brought the throng to its collective feet and had Willie Nelson hitting the high notes -- let's face it -- Ghostzapper had everything his own way in the Classic.

So before accepting this modern paradigm, this retooled example of greatness, and the modern definition Ghostzapper represents, consider some horses that defined their greatness indisputably in larger terms.

Kelso, who raced from 1959 to 1966, won 39 races in his career, and in 12 of those he carried 130 or more pounds. He won from six furlongs to two miles, he raced at 14 tracks from New York to Florida to California, and he won on dirt and turf. He won the Jockey Club Gold Cup five consecutive years and five times he was Horse of the Year.

Dr. Fager finished first in 19 of his 22 races (he was disqualified once), setting track records and world records. Only three horses ever finished in front of him, and all three were champions. He beat the best turf horses in the world in the United Nations Handicap -- and he didn't even like the turf. Eight times he carried 130 or more pounds, including 139 when he won the Vosburgh by six lengths..

Spectacular Bid won 26 of 30 races, finishing his career with 10 consecutive victories. Traveling from coast to coast and racing over 16 tracks, he earned championship honors three consecutive years. And, like Dr. Fager, he set world and track records.

Now, that's greatness, clearly defined even without the assistance of a Triple Crown. Ghostzapper's accomplishments don't compare. [Star-Telegram]
Steve Crist writes of a similar topic, that of the rarity these days of a horse like Afleet Alex being able to compete in top-level stakes at both 2 and 3, and Jessica discusses it over at Railbird. She must have stayed up all night to dig up this from a column Bill Finley wrote last August after Alex won the Hopeful, great job:
Come the first Saturday in May, 2005, you can rest assured that Afleet Alex will not duplicate Smarty Jones' Kentucky Derby victory. That's not necessarily a knock on the horse. It's just that he'll be attempting to do something that horses just can't seem to do anymore. You can't be at your best in mid-August and still at your best in early May. [ESPN]
Well, technically, he was right, but you get the idea.

- Well, it’s a gorgeous Friday afternoon, so I’ll indeed be off to the holiday twilight card at Belmont. If you’re going away this weekend, watch out for all those Ramon Dominguez types on the road - BE CAREFUL!! I’ll be around through tomorrow morning for some light posting and will return Sunday evening (in time for the Met Mile card). Going to a friends’ house upstate – we missed their surprise 25th anniversary party last weekend because their daughter, who planned it, mistakenly contacted another guy with my name in Forest Hills via email and, instead of pointing out her mistake, he sent a detailed response saying they had other plans and couldn’t make it. I don’t know if he goes to the track, but may he suffer an endless string of disqualifications if he does. Have a fantastic weekend.

Unlawful Gambling and Whipping

- John Pricci, on his website They are at the Post, writes of the myriad of problems facing the industry including drugs, insurance issues, and slots (specifically the lack thereof in states where politics have precluded them). He also succinctly explains what could be the biggest threat of all.

But the most damaging to the potential future health of the sport came from, of all places, Arizona, where a bill was written and introduced in Washington D.C. called "The Unlawful Internet Gambling Act of 2005." Ironically, the industry itself was its catalyst.

Rather than creatively trying to compete with off-shore rebate shops that cater to the industry's best customers by discounting wagers, the industry leaned on various forms of government to abolish the competition so the tracks and OTBs could go back to business as usual. It backfired.

Rather than stand pat, the island of Antigua appealed to the World Trade Organization claiming that the "Interstate Horseracing Act" permitting electronic wagers between states where its legal, i.e. simulcasting, discriminates against foreign operators. The WTO upheld Antigua's claim.

If passed in its present form, the "Unlawful Internet Gambling Act of 2005" would bar credit card companies and banks from transmitting money between account holders and bet takers. Of greater significance is that the proposed bill fails to do something the Interstate Horseracing Act did; provide an exception for racing.

Should the new bill pass in its present form, simulcasting via account wagering, the only area of growth the industry has seen in a decade, would cease to exist. When that happens, smaller-track and OTB failure becomes inevitable. Then, it would be a matter of time before mega-tracks followed suit. [They are at the Post]
Senator John Kyl, an Arizona Republican is the sponsor of the bill, and he can be contacted here.

- Looks like Scrappy T is headed for the Belmont after all. Jay Hovdey of the Form and Gary Stevens are two more who are decrying the Pimlico stewards lack of action against Ramon Dominguez.
But what caused Scrappy T to swerve? Many knowledgeable observers looked no further than Dominguez, his dangling reins and his exaggerated use of the left-handed whip.

"In his defense, it was in the heat of the moment, the adrenalin's flowing, you're coming into the stretch and you've got horse . . . but I'm still baffled by what he did," said Gary Stevens, who rode Noble Causeway in the Preakness. "The windup he took with the whip - that right there was excessive."
Dominguez is a national champion and a class act who probably would have taken a set of days without a peep and still praised providence that there were no casualties. In the end, the fact that Pimlico's stewards could not find case precedent for action against Dominguez was small consolation to those still haunted by images of what might have been.
"I think the stewards sent a poor message," Stevens added. "Ramon was obviously reacting to something - but it was a poor reaction. One that could have caused a major catastrophe. If that had been me, I would have fully expected to be penalized." [Daily Racing Form (sub. or print edition only]

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Thurs Night Odds and Ends

- The Peter Pan drew a field of 8. It’s a Grade 2 at 9 furlongs around one turn at Belmont. On first glance, one can easily make a case for 6 of these, and that’s not counting Golden Man, because I’m not buying him at all. Chekov (Pulpit) is the morning line favorite; I was at Belmont the day after the Derby when he won impressively, but he's far from a standout in this field. Dave Liftin in the Form is skeptical that a legitimate Belmont contender will emerge from this race: Unless someone takes a significant step forward, making a case for any of this year's Peter Pan entrants two weeks down the road is a stretch. [DRF] Looks like a fun betting race though; I’ll have to take a closer look. Unfortunately, I’ve been de-Formulated, as the laptop is dead and we’re 100% Mac for now.

- Jeff Mullins says Buzzard’s Bay is “50-50” for the Belmont. He had an extremely fast work - 5f in :57 2/5! - and Mullins said that "He's training like he wants to run seven-eighths right now." [DRF]

- I didn’t know this about the horse who tied the consecutive win mark for trainer Joe Woodward:

Woodard matched Byrne's mark of eight straight wins in the sixth race when his 5-year-old gelded son of Holy Bull, Native Bull, third in a $58,000 allowance at the Keeneland spring meet, dropped into a field of $8,000 claimers to win by 1 1/4 lengths.

Woodard, who had said publicly that the milestone was the impetus for the class drop, lost the horse when he was claimed by owner/trainer Eddie Kenneally. Thirty-two claims were dropped for NativeBull and, after four of the claims were voided, there was a 28-way shake for the horse. [Bloodhorse]
I think that detracts from the record, and I take back the ‘Wow!’ that I wrote earlier.

- Uh-oh, NYRA has apparently missed a payment of $4.4 million due the mutuel clerks’ pension plan, and NYRA’s vice-president Bill Nader says it’s a "cash-flow issue’’ that he hopes to have resolved by September. [Thoroughbred Times]

Notes - May 26 (Wow!)

- Now comes word that Wilko’s ankle chip will sideline him for the rest of the year. Craig Dollase said of his Preakness, "Obviously it affected him in the race, because that finish was not like him.” [Thoroughbred Times] I’d agree with that; it would have been more like him to loom boldly on the turn and hang for 3rd or 4th.

- Wow, trainer Joe Woodard saddled his 8th and 9th straight winners when Native Bull won the 6th and Quick Blend took the 7th at Churchill today! Wow!

- Two standardbred groups, the US Trotting Association and Harness Tracks of America have joined NRTA Purchasing. It’s always nice to see cooperation between the breeds. I recall a few years ago the Meadowlands, during their harness meeting, tried an early daily double with a thoroughbred turf race and the first race of the harness card. Nice idea, but I haven’t seen it repeated since.

- Perhaps some in Maryland can take some solace from the fact that things are not going very well for Pennsylvania’s slots program. Rife with suspected scandal and bad publicity over commission members earning outsized salaries and perks, the plan is also being met with big fat thumbs-down from school boards opting out of the program. I posted a lengthy explanation of this process in this post here. School boards are rejecting the program by a 3-to-1 ratio. Out of 500 districts, 223 have opted out and 74 have joined, according to the latest tally by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association. [Philly Inquirer] The deadline is May 31, and there are no second chances after that date. Now some lawmakers and the beleaguered Democratic governor Ed Rendell, who made the program a key element of his election campaign, are threatening bills to force participation, or at least let voters decide rather than the boards. To make things worse for the governor, he’s being criticized by Republicans for raising money from gambling companies, some of whom are competing for casino licenses in the state, in his role as fund-raiser of the Democratic Governors Association.

- Our Vicar filly was not sold privately, and is now at EQB’s farm in Pennsylvania. He’ll be sent to the barn of a trainer, perhaps Rodney Jenkins or John Servis. The plan is still to try to sell her, this time off of workouts or a race.

- Only 2,726 at Belmont today as Castle Village Farm (and Billy Turner) had yet another winner in Raf and Ready, who has now gone through his state-bred conditions with his third win. It seems that all their partnerships are winners except for mine - so far. Hopefully, the Tactical Cat colt, which someday soon will have a name, though I'm not hopeful about its quality (the name, not the colt) will get us back on the right track.

Pletcher had a maiden winner at 1-2 in the 3rd - a 3 yo filly named More for Me (More Than Ready). Her dam is a half-sister to millionaire sprinter Richter Scale, standing for $10,000 in Kentucky. If you're familiar with the Stallion Register, you know that if you go to a stallion page of a sire like Richter Scale who is in his third crop year, and the best they have to say is "Outcross for Northern Dancer and Mr. Prospector Bloodlines," then the stallion probably hasn't done much. He had only 41 foals in his first two crops, with just 9 winners and 1 stakes winner. He does have 52 2 year olds for this year, but if he doesn't pick up the pace soon, he could be packing his bags for a different locale some time soon. More for Me is also from the family of $5 million plus earner Best Pal.

Dominguez "Incompetent?"

- Paul Moran of Newsday won’t let go of his contention that jockey Ramon Dominguez was at fault for causing the near-spill in the Preakness, and actually goes further, calling the rider's performance "incompetent." Personally, I’m not taking a stance on this either way right now. (I do, however, disagree with his contention that Scrappy T could have won the race, or at least made it tough on the winner; it seemed obvious that Alex was going right on by before the incident.) I’ve already heard from reader Jolene, who disagrees that the jockey was at fault. Check out Moran though; this seems like a pretty extreme view by one of several columnists who’ve been pretty cranky since the Derby result. I’d be interested in hearing what others think.

The first surprise was Dominguez's decision to hit Scrappy T at precisely the moment at which he would be expected to change leads. You do not see riders hitting horses who are running forward at this point, and if he was bearing out, the logical tactic would have been to put the whip in the right hand before delivering the blow.

Not only did Dominguez hit the horse, but he wound up, using a bizarre windmill delivery seldom seen outside a county fair meeting, to deliver a blow with the greatest possible force. It was struck not on the flank or shoulder but on the side, the most tender part of the anatomy that can be reached with the whip.

Scrappy T has a history of bearing out at precisely that point. He did so in his previous race, the Withers Stakes. Norberto Arroyo Jr., who rode him at Aqueduct that day, did not deliver a blow to the body, maintained control and won the race. Dominguez, failing to take note of Scrappy T's tendencies, was obviously unprepared. Preparation separates top jockeys from people such as Dominguez, who said he was taken by surprise. His performance in the Preakness was nothing less than incompetent, which brings us to the third surprise.

The beauty of being a steward in Maryland is that people are paying attention only one day a year. So, rather than concern themselves with suspensions, hearings and appeals, the Pimlico stewards decided Dominguez would be held blameless for the incident and that there would be no suspension for careless riding. Obviously, they determined that delineation exists between careless and incompetent and that incompetence is within the rules. [Newsday]
- Magna’s Dennis Mills had his meeting with Maryland House Speaker Busch, and emerged saying “I sense a great hope after speaking with the speaker." [Bloodhorse] But Busch, speaking of the prospect for the special legislative session that would be necessary to pass any new law before January, said "The people of Maryland expect us to do our work in 90 days. They don't expect us to come down here in a special session at a cost of $45,000 a day to help out one industry," He continues to hammer the theme that Magna should be seeking ways to make the industry more competitive without slots, which is easy for him to say.
Del. Anthony J. O'Donnell, the minority whip from Calvert County, said Marylanders are upset about the uncertain future of the state's horse racing industry. He said Busch is out of step if he believes that some solution other than slots can save the Preakness.

"If you do something else, that's not going to stem the flow of hundreds of millions of dollars out of the state every year to Delaware and West Virginia and Pennsylvania," O'Donnell said. [Baltimore Sun]
- I love the 3 PM “Sunset Racing” at Belmont and try to sneak away to make it for at least part of the card as much as possible. Haven’t been there yet this meet mostly because the weather has sucked. Belmont is not a very pleasant place when it’s chilly; the temperature seems a good 10-15 degrees colder there than the outside world. There’s little protection anywhere in the plant from the nippy breezes. Just wait until the Breeders Cup on Oct 29, which is at least a good week or two after the meeting usually ends. By the time the so-called “Fall Championship Meet” ends (I’m not sure if they even call it that anymore; it’s long become merely a series of preps for the Breeders Cup), I’m more than ready for the Big A.

Anyway, with tomorrow being the Friday before the holiday weekend, I’ll be off early and free to go, and I was extremely excited. Until I looked at the card. It blows. Short fields, especially on the dirt, continue to plague this meeting, and that’s not usual for the early part of the meet. At this rate, we could be seeing $20,000 claiming match races by mid-July. The five dirt races have a total of 31 betting interests, and the featured turf race has 6. And to make matters worse, it’s rained all week, the turf races are off today and I suppose questionable for tomorrow especially with more showers in the forecast. Yuck. If it’s a nice day and the simulcast menu looks decent, I’ll still consider going. Otherwise it should be a nice afternoon for a museum.

Happy Birthday Papa Lou!

- Ghostzapper starts the defense of his Horse of the Year crown in the Met Mile on Monday at Belmont. Frankel has mapped out a campaign that could include the Suburban (July 2), the Whitney (Aug. 6), and the Woodward (Sept. 10) before returning in the Breeders' Cup Classic on Oct. 29. [DRF] He’s really playing the part of the champ here, taking full advantage of his role of incumbent. If you want to knock off the champ you’ll have to do it on his terms and at his home track. Remember, the Breeders Cup is at Belmont this year, so all his races but the Whitney will be there at the one turn distances. He could certainly have his hands full with Forest Danger Monday, but a second to him would have little long term consequence for his title chance.

And how long before Horse of the Year becomes a sponsored title - like the Toyota Horse of the Year, or the Wachovia Horse of the Year? The Horse of the Year Powered By Dodge?

- Afleet Alex and Giacomo both jogged. Greeley’s Galaxy will be kept in light training before a decision is reached on his next start, Stute said. One consideration is the $400,000 Swaps Stakes at 1 1/8 miles here on July 9. [DRF]

- On a personal note, my family gathered at a restaurant in Manhattan to celebrate my grandfather's birthday. He turned 102 on Tuesday. It was my dad’s birthday too, but he tends to get overlooked, even on his 75th. Here’s the birthday boy, Papa Lou, with my mom.

P.S. His big sister couldn’t make it.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Notes - May 25

- Lauren Stitch in the Form discusses some of the new players that will try and use the Peter Pan as a springboard for the Belmont. Some interesting pedigrees here, such as Chekov (Pulpit) - a half-brother to the dam of Albert the Great; and Reverberate (Thunder Gulch) - from the distaff family of Devil’s Bag, Glorious Song and champion Soaring Softly. Read on for more.

- You didn’t think Wilko wouldn’t have an excuse for his Preakness, did you? [DRF]

- Latest word on our still unnamed Tactical Cat colt: “BT thinks he's the real deal. Much to look forward to here.” I’m going Saturday morning to check him out. Still trying to figure out why our Vicar filly who breezed in: 10 4/5 and vetted out fine failed to attract more than $35,000. Who knows, really? Maybe potential bidders were in the bathroom. Some feel that it’s perhaps because of her first dam, Birthright, who was unraced and who has produced only one winner with her first three foals. I’ve seen her winner, Fame Game (Numerous), race for a $5000 tag up at Woodbine. We think she’s a nice filly who will hopefully prove those who passed on her wrong. And I’m intrigued by the result of this breeding of Birthright, who is from the Northern Dancer/Nearctic sire line and who descends directly from Nearctic’s dam, to the Nearctic line sire Vicar.

- The CHRB has found that the Jockey Guild was not at fault in the cases of jockey’s who have not been reimbursed for medical costs. "There are specific procedures to be followed by individuals making claims and by their medical service providers, and if they do not follow those procedures, any resulting delays are not the fault of the Jockeys' Guild."[Bloodhorse]

- Louisiana Downs is benefiting big time from the shutdown at Evangeline.

Prior to the recent turn of events, Louisiana Downs had roughly 1,400 horses stabled on the back side and about 2,000 foal papers in the office. Add the new numbers to those and what you get is roughly a 50 percent increase in the population of eligible runners.
Likewise, the size of the local jockey colony has risen almost proportionately. [Shreveport Times, via Albany Law School]
As you know if you've been visiting here, I was right on top of this story from the beginning. Leave it to me to have handicapped and attempted to bet the very first race after the jockeys walked and racing was cancelled. At least I didn't lose.

- Don’t Get Mad’s training schedule has been disrupted by the herpes quarantine at Churchill, so his status for the Belmont is questionable. Ron Ellis said: "The Belmont would have been a bigger consideration if we didn't have this problem with the quarantine….Making the Belmont probably isn't feasible, but we'll see what happens over the next week and a half or so." [DRF] He’s being pointed instead to a stakes at Churchill on June 18. Damn, I was looking forward to him attracting a lot of money. Meanwhile, Giacomo is reportedly doing great, and John Sheriffs is looking forward to the Belmont: "He's a big, long-striding colt….It should suit him pretty well . . . they can run through the turns. I wouldn't discount my horse's chances." [DRF]

Slots and God Report

- Magna’s Vice Chariman Dennis Mills will meet today with recalcitrant House Speaker Michael Busch to try and spur a compromise agreement on slots in Maryland, but the odds of a breakthrough sound about the same as the chances of Bellamy Road taking the Triple Crown.

[Busch] criticized Mills for a lack of involvement during the past legislative session and questioned Magna's commitment to Maryland after the company announced last week it would build a $100 million racetrack in Romulus, Mich.

"We passed a bill last year with input from the governor. Please tell me where Dennis Mills was during this period of time," Busch said. "It's not like they didn't have the opportunity to hit this thing out of the park. If he was that concerned about his industry and the end of the industry as we know it, you would think he would be down there. How does he not show up, and he's paying four or five lobbyists $4 [million] to $5 million a year?" [Washington Post]
Again, this guy Busch often says things that are hard to argue with. As for Governor Ehrlich, he was busy during Preakness week, though not because he was handicapping the card. He vetoed a bill that would have required Wal-Mart to pay at least 8% of its payroll on health care or contribute more to the state’s Medicare fund.
Ehrlich was joined at the veto ceremony by a Wal-Mart executive and 200 people, including a handful of protesters. A high school band played "God Bless America." [Yahoo]
The typing sound you hear is me Googling Wal-Mart’s record of campaign contributions to the Gov, I’ll let you know. In addition, late Friday afternoon, when the local news was focused on the next day’s Preakness, Ehlich vetoed a bill that would have allowed gay partners to make medical decisions for one another.
"While Senate Bill 796 has the noble goals of ensuring that couples have access to important health-related decisions - compassionate goals that I embrace - the mechanism it uses, the creation of a new term of life partner, will open the door to undermine the sanctity of traditional marriage." [Newsday]
Don Dwyer, Jr., a GOP delegate who is trying to repeal 4 gay rights bills, commented
”We believe there is a creator in God and our rights come from him. The homosexuals feel that their rights are given by the courts, and that's the reason they're using the courts to further their agenda." [Hometown Annapolis]
There was no word as to whether any (heterosexual only) high school bands played God Bless America for this veto, for certainly, any God would certainly want to bless an America that uses His name to deny people equal rights. Ehrlich magnanimously declined to veto a bill to include attacks on gays in the definition of hate crimes. So, while a perpetrator in such an attack could be charged in a hate crime against gays, the victim’s life partner would not be permitted to make medical decisions for him or her. Makes sense to me.

- Broward County pari-mutuels have filed suit against Florida, seeking a ruling as to whether they may proceed with voter-approved slots despite the legislature’s (prodded by Governor Bush) failure to pass a bill. A group opposing slots previously filed suit to prevent the pari-mutuels from going ahead.
State Senator Steve Geller, D-Hallandale Beach, said he hopes the Broward suit is successful, but says it is not an open-and-shut case.

''The constitutional amendment contradicts itself,'' said Geller, a key supporter of slots legislation.

'On the one hand, it says that slot machines shall be permitted and the Legislature shall pass implementing legislation. To be perfectly clear, it should have said `if the Legislature fails to pass, it can open up anyhow.' It didn't say that.'' [Miami Herald]
GOP Rep. Randy Johnson, a leading slots opponent, countered, "It became very apparent to me that the slots industry was going to attempt to write their own regulations that would lead to the Wild West in Broward County…..But the Constitution says it's the Legislature that shall create the enabling legislation." [Newsday] The typing sound you hear is me Googling to see what the Florida Constitution says about implementing the will of the people as expressed in voter referendums. Given the 2000 election results, I imagine I won't find anything at all.

- Slots efforts also underway (and being opposed) in Illinois and Texas. And the president of Suffolk Downs bluntly warned that `Without slot machines in the near future, the racing at Suffolk will cease and the property will be developed.” [Boston Herald] He earned strong support from Boston mayor Thomas Menino, the first top-ranking Bay State politician in years to take up the cause of expanded gambling.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Minor Indiscretions

- This article from the Baltimore Sun (via the non-registration Sun-Sentinal) discusses the general depravity found in the Preakness infield, one of the few places left in America where women can expose their breasts and men can relieve themselves in front of police officers without worrying about the repercussions. Dr. James Dobson would definitely not approve. But with 90,000 people cramming the infield at $50 per shot, I guess the $4.5 million helps the track overlook any such minor indiscretions.

- A couple of other graded stakes winners from the Preakness cardworth mentioning: Cool Conductor nosed 3-5 favorite Artie Schiller in the G2 Dixie after they hooked up at the eighth pole. He’s the first graded winner for former Bill Mott assistant Ralph E. Nicks. He’s by Stravinsky (Nureyev) the European sprint champion who stands in Kentucky and shuttles to New Zealand – according to Equiline, his 2 yo crop this year numbers 171.

Richard Dutrow claimed Willy O’The Valley for $100,000 out of his last at Keeneland, and wheeled him back to win a graded stakes – the G3 Maryland Breeders Cup – and $120,000, not a bad deal. He’s by Will’s Way (Easy Goer), the Travers and Whitney winner who now stands in Pennsylvania for $3500. That’s what happens to one-time Kentucky stallions who produce just 2 stakes winners in their first 4 crops, though he should theoretically be quite busy once PA slots money starts to flow. His best known son is crack sprinter Lion Tamer.

- At Hollywood Park on Saturday, the nice 3yo Storm Wolf buried the field in the G2 Laz Barrera Memorial at 7 furlongs in an easy 1:22 1/5. It’s his third easy win in 3 starts since running 4th to Going Wild in his debut last December - he's won his last three starts by a Lost in the Fog-style total of 20 1/2 lengths. Storm Wolf and Going Wild have certainly taken divergent paths since December. Storm Wolf’s sire Stormin Fever skipped the classics too when he was 3, and went on to have a fine career as a sprinter. I wonder if Going Wild will be as fortunate after repeatedly being drubbed in races far beyond his ability to stay.

Notes - May 24

- We got word from Castle Village management from Timonium that they were “totally mystified” that our Vicar filly did not do significantly better than the high $35,000 bid she received. It wasn’t close to our reserve, and our consignor Niall Brennan is looking to sell her privately for 50K. “Most pinhooks going through the ring today, except for New York-breds, lost money. It was generally a bloodbath. If he can't [sell her privately] in 24 hours, we'll take her home and regroup. Eventually, she'll reveal her abilities as a real racehorse, which she is, and we'll be suitably rewarded.” Tough business. An Unbridled’s Song filly topped the session at $280,000, and the overall average was up 25%.

- I was at Belmont for awhile Sunday but couldn’t stay for what turned out to be a wild feature, the G3 Sheepshead Bay, as 16-1 Sauvage snuck up the rail for an upset win that I most definitely would not have profited from; favored Honey Ryder was 5th. Sauvage is a 4 yo filly by the stallion Sri Pekan (Red Ranson), currently standing in Turkey. He also had a Group 1 winner this weekend in Derby Italiano with De Sica. Sauvage's pedigree traces directly back to Almahmoud, her 5th dam and the granddam of Northern Dancer, through her 4th dam Cosmah, the dam of Halo. The 10f NY Handicap at Belmont July 2 is next.

Saturday’s stakes race at Belmont (where there was an apparent job action by mutual clerks) was the G2 Shuvee, which marked to return to form of Society Selection (Coronado’s Quest), who won the G1 Test and Alabama last summer before faltering in the BC Distaff. She’s out of graded winner Love That Jazz, and is inbred 3x3 to Mr. Prospector. It was a good weekend for his sire line, with Afleet Alex’s win in the Preakness; and in addition to Society Selection, a 3 yo filly named Gold Strike won the G3 Selene Stakes at Woodbine. She’s a granddaughter of Mr. P through Smart Strike, and has a fascinating pedigree in that she’s inbred 2x3 to Mr. Prospector and a full brother of his named Search for Gold.

For Smart Strike, it was his second stakes winner of the weekend, as his 3 yo colt English Channel took the Woodlawn Stakes on the turf at Pimlico Saturday at 1-2; it was his stakes debut. He’s out of a Theatrical mare, so his affinity for the turf is no surprise. Indeed, his dam is a full sister to millionaire Hap, who won several graded turf stakes including the G1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic. He’s another Todd Pletcher trainee, so certainly one to watch.

- Mike Watchmaker in the Form (sub. only) writes:

Afleet Alex was so much the best that it made anyone who picked or bet against him (like me) feel mighty stupid. That is about the highest compliment a handicapper can pay to a horse who beats him.
I feel stupid a lot, but this was not one of those times. I felt more stupid after the Derby, really. I thought the horse had questions to answer after the Derby, and didn’t think that 3-1 was worth finding out the response. I actually hedged my bets with Scrappy T on top, not Alex. Of course, after seeing what the exacta and triple paid, the lesson is that value does indeed abound in the exotics when there are 14 horses, even when the favorite wins. Watchmaker also noted:
Some of the wackiest odds of the year occur in the Triple Crown races. How Spanish Chestnut wasn't the longest shot on the board in the Derby is a marvel. But the prices in the Preakness on Malibu Moonshine (24-1), Going Wild (26-1), and especially Hal's Image (23-1) were even more baffling in how low they were.
Reader Jerry from Philly writes to inform that he caught Jeremy Rose on local TV last night, and that the jockey said that he lost two races for Alex last year because he "felt the pressure." He also reports that one of the reasons Cash is King went back to Rose is that he rushed to the barn after the Rebel debacle to see the colt, knowing that something was wrong. In return for the owners’ confidence, Rose has since delivered three flawless rides. I know some people said he moved too soon in the Derby, but c’mon. He let the horse run his race and gave him his best chance to win – for whatever reason, it wasn’t good enough that day. Alex’s big move on the final turn is the type that can win the Belmont too….if he can handle the marathon distance of course.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Don't Get Excited or Mad

. There was a harness race on before, and there was a horse named Don’t Get Excited. This reminded me of Don’t Get Mad, who was not included in the early Belmont field projectons that I saw. He’s another horse who could get really overbet - the fans love to bet those deep closers in the race. In fact, if he’s entered, he could be very close to being second choice, assuming Alex and Giacomo both run. I have no idea how to handicap mile and a half races by the way. In fact, I’m not that effective much over 9 furlongs; in that way, I guess I’m like most race horses bred in this country. The Belmont is way beyond my ability too, and only once or twice have I ever gotten it right.

A group of senators have reached a compromise by which the Democrats will retain the right to filibuster the president’s judicial nominees in “extreme circumstances,” a phrase that no doubt will be as subject to interpretation as past performance lines. In return, the Democrats agreed to a vote on 3 of the nominees, and they’re not good - Janice Rogers Brown, William Pryor and Priscilla Owen. But if Senator Frist had prevailed, and he does not seem happy about the accord (and his extreme backers certainly aren’t - just wait to see the venom with which they go after the Republicans who participated in the deal), the president could have appointed the Lone Star Park stewards to the Supreme Court if he wanted to. Although, if they were on the court in 2000, having reviewed all the videotape from various angles and in slow motion, they certainly would have given Florida to Gore. And if Gore was president, it’s my contention that the country would not be at war, the deficit would not be out of control, and Point Given would have won the Triple Crown in 2001.

Cash is Most Definitely King

- The Cash is King gang is on a roll, and they rolled out $210,000 at the same Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale at which they bought the Preakness champ just over a year ago. They were the high bidder on a Dixieland Band half brother to graded winner Gulch Approval. This is also the same family as Patriot Act (A.P. Indy), a name you may recognize from your hours/day/weeks worth of handicapping the Triple Crown trail, now down to one more race that may seem anti-climactic to some. He appears in the running lines of Bellamy Road and Consolidator (he was 2nd in the G1 Breeders Futurity at Keeneland which the latter won); and Sun King (2nd by a half when Sun King broke his maiden). For one reason or another, he was spared the road to the Triple Crown and if he’s being pointed for a return, he’s most certainly better off than most.

I’m feeling better about my handicapping and with the Head Chef out chef-ing, I could do something stupid like bet on a race from Great Lake Downs this evening. I generally try to limit my wagering least to tracks that I at least know what state they’re in.

Red Hot!

- Are these guys hot or what?? Can you believe that Cash Is King, just a day after Afleet Alex’s Preakness win, took 2 consecutive races at Delaware Park yesterday! After their suitably named Racing Luck took a NW3 allowance race, a first time starter named Kelsey’s Treasure broke her maiden by 12 lenghts! Like her more famous stablemate, she is by sire Northern Afleet. Dick Jerardi of the Philly Daily News sums up the incredible ride for this ownership group, which bought its first horse almost exactly one year ago.

Cash Is King Stable bought its first horse on May 18, 2004. The 2-year-old colt was purchased at Timonium, a tiny race track/sales venue a few miles north of Baltimore. There were perhaps a few hundred people bidding on horses the Tuesday after Smarty Jones dominated the Preakness.

After stops at six tracks in five states, while winning big-time races such as the Hopeful, Sanford and Arkansas Derby and running against all the best horses of his generation, Afleet Alex emerged in the late afternoon sunshine on May 21, 2005 at Pimlico, just 20 minutes from where he was bought. This time, there were 115,318 people betting on horses.

In the year plus 3 days, Afleet Alex had taken his rider, trainer and five-person partnership from the Philadelphia area on a horse racing tour none of them ever could have imagined.
- Noble Causeway will have surgery for an entrapped epiglottis. Not sure what that is, but it sounds like it could possibly be what makes Dick Cheney talk out of the side of his mouth like he does. Zito said: "Nothing has gone right for the horse….Not to take anything away from Gary Stevens, who likes the horse and rode him well in the Derby and Preakness, but we had a jockey in Pat Day who fit the horse like a glove [Bloodhorse]

- Giacomo was no match for Smarty Jones, as the Preakness ratings fell 18%. But betting handle was a record in every category.

Blue Monday

- Light posting today; I’m in a bad mood on a crappy Monday, and that was even before our Vicar filly drew a bid of only $35,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Timonium sale, below the established reserve. So, we’ve only sold 1 out of the 4 horses, and I feel left at the gate again. I can’t imagine how gloomy this Monday would be if I hadn’t had an extremely successful betting day yesterday.

Wayne Lukas sounds these days like he’s auditioning for a gig at the Jockey Club, so bizarre are some of the things coming out of his mouth. On Going Wild: "Like all trainers, I tried to do things with him that weren't in his best interest…..The more I train them, the more I know nothing about a horse." [Baltimore Sun] That last part of his statement seems to be more and more apparent of late. And he should probably speak for himself regarding doing things not in the horse’s best interest; he’s certainly not alone in that regard, but I can’t think of any other trainer that would have run this horse back in the Derby, no less the Preakness.

- Differences in opinion already surfacing regarding the Belmont. Bill Handleman laments in the Asbury Park Press:

As things stand, don't look for them to be setting any attendance records at Belmont Park in three weeks.

This is what it has come to. A star has emerged, but the supporting cast is so weak we are looking at a decided absence of drama. So much for the general if vague notion that this year's 3-year-old division was better than most recent groups.
But Rich Bozich, looking forward to a rematch of the Derby and Preakness victors, writes that he can get excited about a Belmont Stakes without a live Triple Crown opportunity. [Courier-Journal]

- Ramon “The Windmill” Dominguez will not face any action by the Pimlico stewards.
The stewards agreed Dominguez wasn't at fault.

"He hit him one time," Passmore said. "How many horses do you hit left-handed and they don't move?" [Washington Post]

Sunday, May 22, 2005

And Furthermore...

Bill Handleman of the Asbury Park Press compares the Preakness to Alysheba's 1987 Derby:

This was not Alysheba in the 1987 Derby, when Bet Twice came over on him and dropped him to his knees. While he showed the same kind of athleticism as Afleet Alex, Alysheba's situation was far less perilous. He and Bet Twice had run off from the rest of the field by the time the incident occurred in mid-stretch.

Had Alysheba gone down, Chris McCarron would not really have been in danger of getting trampled, because it was three lengths back to the next horse. Jeremy Rose was definitely in harm's way. There were horses behind him, spinning out of the turn, building momentum.
Paul Moran of Newsday speculates about possible stewards' action against Scrappy T's jockey, echoing comments here by reader ‘thecalicocat’:
The last lingering issue to be settled remains in the hands of the Maryland stewards, who are expected to impose a stiff suspension upon [Ramon] Dominguez, whose decision to apply a particularly stern lefthanded blow to the side of Scrappy T as he was emerging from the turn caused the incident and imperiled two horses and Rose.
Scrappy T bore out during his prior race, the Withers as well.

Sunday Night - A Good Day

- This article on has some of the sorry tales of the Preakness losers. Zito said“I don’t see any of our Preakness horses running in the Belmont...Sun King ran a good race, but I don’t think you’ll see him in the Belmont.” He did mention Pinpoint (Peaks and Valleys), the winner of Saturday’s Sir Barton at Pimlico, as a Belmont possibility along with Andromeda’s Hero, who has potential to be overbet in that race. Pinpoint was winning his third race in a row.

Greeley’s Galaxy’s trainer said: “He had no excuses in the race, and that’s not good....So now we’ll bring him home and sit down with the owner (B. Wayne Hughes) and evaluate him and his future.” It doesn’t sound like anyone other than the top three finishers will even be considering the Belmont. Tim Ritchey said he’s going to keep an eye on Afleet Alex for any sign of injury. “What concerns me is (the chance of) muscle injuries, because he was contorted in a way that horses aren’t meant to be. But he walked perfect today.” [msnbc] Jay Privman in the Form reports that he suffered only a minor scrape on the back of his left front ankle [DRF]

- OK, well I had a pretty good day. Besides the 6th exacta at Belmont ($31.80), I had the 10th winner at Churchill ($11.20), and the 9th exacta at Hollywood. I’ve been doing a lot of board watching lately, especially for maiden races, which these two races were. The winners were both first time starters that got kind of sneaky bet and both were bet on the nose, something that continues to consistently point out live horses to me. Just 2 minutes before the Hollywood race, Ken Rudolph on TVG interviewed Adam Kitchingman, the trainer of the favorite Nucaya. He explained his horse’s class drop by saying that the owner just wanted to get a win and didn’t care if he lost the horse, and that the horse was doing very well and had a big shot. Maybe that’s why he got bet from 3-1 to 2-1 late. You hear some candid remarks, both pro and con, from the trainers on these pre-race interviews on TVG - they’re worth checking out. But the 4 horse, Aeblus, a first time starter trained by some guy no one had heard of, was getting pounded on the nose at 5-1. I bet him on top of Nucaya and the exacta paid $54. Frank Lyons congratulated the trainer by saying “Good job Manuel Landeros, whoever you are.”

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

Racing Not at its Best

- The flip side of Afleet Alex’s scintillating Preakness win is the dismal performances by most of the rest of the field. The first two legs of the Triple Crown have produced just a handful of efforts worth writing home about.

Not much can be said for the others. High Fly, second choice at 5-1, was never in it, dribbling home 10th. Closing Argument, fourth choice at 7-1, was flat as a pancake. Greeley's Galaxy was taken back, moved menacingly around the turn, but Afleet Alex then ran by him as if he was anchored.

Noble Causeway almost lost touch with the field, but ran on for sixth. Wilko was a total bust, beating only two home. Sun King improved on his Derby debacle to get fourth. High Limit, fitted with blinkers, held on much the best of the speed horses to get fifth. [NY Post]
This 3 yo crop certainly has not distinguished itself, and I think yesterday’s race shows that it wasn’t all Spanish Chestnut’s fault. Really, there should have been several horses flying home at the end of the Derby. They all had one excuse or another, whether is was traffic, bleeding, or lack of seasoning, but they have none whatsoever now. We’ve also seen the way connections push their horses to get ready for this series, and how some continue to press on when the truth that they’re not good enough seems apparent to everyone else. Anyway, enough of this. Already had the 6th exacta at Belmont today, so it’s on to some evening simulcasts.

Racing at its Best

I like this quote from Jeremy Rose in the LA Times: "I have relatively good balance and fear makes you very, very strong....I was willing to hang on."

Even with the acrobatics, it was the fastest time since Real Quiet's 1:543/5 in 1998 as Afleet Alex became only the third Preakness winner from post 12 and the first since 1981. [Louisville Courier-Journal]

Closing Argument’s connections are saying that he didn’t like the track.

"My horse did not like the track today," jockey Cornelio Velasquez said. "He broke well, but I had to do a bit of a check on the first turn. And after that, he didn't seem to run his best race today."

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin agreed that Pimlico wasn't a favorite of his horse.

"He fought the racetrack today," McLaughlin said. [Philadelphia Inquirer}
Still, it was a profitable day for his owners; owner Philip Cohen said the price tag for the half-sale of the colt was "quite a bit" more than the $2 mllion he was asking earlier in the year. Not a bad deal; he paid $100,000 for the colt at Ocala April last year, and he’s earned nearly $1 million on the track.

Though Mike Smith said that Giacomo galloped out really strong after his traffic-filled trip, John Sherrifs would not immediately commit to the Belmont.
"I think it takes a few moments or maybe a day of reflection," he said. "You know, talk to Mike a little bit, get to see the replay, find out a little bit more about it. Right after the race, it's sort of a little emotional time."

Still, Shirreffs said that Smith told him he "had a lot of horse at the wire. He was full of run," and did not rule out the Belmont.

"I think we're going to go back to California," Shirreffs said. "The plan is to go back, just give it a couple of days, think about it and then decide. It's three weeks, so we have time." [Courier-Journal]
I think it would be a pretty compelling matchup of the Derby and Preakness winners if he does come to the Belmont. If fans come up from Philly like last year, perhaps we could still get a decent crowd. One thing about the Triple Crown series thus far - it has generated interest that goes beyond that of just the core fans, even though no one will sweep the races again. After the publicity over the unlikely winner and big payoffs in the Derby, Alex's stumble, along with the human stories connected to him, should definitely continue the buzz. Rich Bozich of the Courier Journal wrote:
Racing won't have a Triple Crown winner for the 27th straight year. It has something almost as good -- a legitimate "Did you see that?" moment. Rose, 26, rode with courage and strength. Afleet Alex ran with determination and dexterity. This was racing at its best.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Preakness Notes and Quotes and Stuff

- Here’s more from the Baltimore Sun on the near spill:

Dominguez said he felt Scrappy T tiring, so he wound up with his left arm and cracked the gelding viciously with his whip. Scrappy T immediately veered to the outside into the path of Afleet Alex.
Rose said that Afleet Alex's left front foot collided with Scrappy T's right hind heel.

"I've kind of clipped heels where the horse stumbles a little bit," said Rose, who, like Ritchey, lives in Elkton. "But I mean, he was not eight inches from going down. That's the closest I've ever been without hitting the ground."

Rose said he grabbed onto Afleet Alex's and squeezed his legs together as tightly as he could.

"Mostly it was scary," Rose said. "The instinct is just to hang on and try to get my balance back. I had enough time to think about hitting the ground, and he popped back up.”
Dominguez really did wind up and crack that whip. Here’s what he had to say:
"My horse felt like he was looking around when we came into the stretch, but I wasn't expecting him to have any problems...When I hit him left-handed, he didn't like it and came out unexpectedly. It completely caught me off guard. I didn't feel a bump, but he did lose his rear action.."[NY Times]
Wayne Lukas had this to say for himself: "Those fractions were too much for my horse ....I don't think he's got the quality for these; he's one-dimensional.” [AP]

Mike Smith said he didn’t have a clear trip on Giacomo.
Every time he looked for a hole, the gap was filled. That's the difference between finishing first and third.

"A lot of them shut on me today. That happens in racing," Smith said. "I was so proud of him to run third. I'm looking forward to the Belmont." [AP]
Donna Barton said just before the race that Sun King looked great, and he delivered at least a credible performance after two awful ones. I can't possibly imagine why any of the horses that finished behind him would run in the Belmont; but I suppose we'll proabably get a couple.

Bob Costas questioned Governor Ehrlich on the possibility of the Preakness moving out of state, and he stated definitively (after prefacing his remarks by saying that “everybody needs to hear this around here”) that the Preakness is “never going to leave the state of Maryland” and that “we will get it done.”

Afleet Alex

Afleet Alex's incredible demolition of the Preakness field will always be remembered for the near disaster that occured at the top of the stretch. Other than that and the brilliant, rail-skimming ride by Jeremy Rose, there's little else worth remembering, really. This race fell apart almost as badly as the Derby did, as the winner went by the field like they were standing still and could have won by as much as he pleased had he not almost crash landed. It was almost ten lenghts back to late closing Giacomo, whose run for third I suppose is a validation of sorts for his Derby at least in that we know he's better than all the horses he'd beaten at Churchill, except one.

Noble Causeway was 18 lengths back in 6th, and no excuse Closing Argument was over 26 lengths back in 9th, ouch! Several horses, including High Fly, were not ridden out late, and it was over 41 lengths back to poor Going Wild, whose combined losing margin for his last 4 races is over 120. If he's entered in the Belmont, I'm calling the ASPCA. Sun King's rally for 4th probably qualifies him for the Belmont. But horses like High Fly, Wilko, Noble Causeway, and Greeley's Galaxy are out of excuses. This 3 yo crop is proving to be one lacking depth and desperately needs the likes of Bellamy Road and Declan's Moon to recover and return this summer.

My three selections to complete the exotics ran 1-2-3 and I was a little distressed to see that the triple paid over $800. Would have been a nice saver.

Small consolation

- Well, the race is over but our guest is still here. I've had far too much wine and the conversation is about his upcoming trip to Scotland. Chloe and Kayla watched the race with us, and of course the collective "OH!" went up when Afleet Alex almost went down. Everyone was impressed when I mentioned Alysheba before anyone on NBC. I take comfort from little things like that. I'm explaining broodmare sires now as I plan to bet the 10-3 exacta in the 13th at Pimlico.

Having Company

- The Head Chef invited her stepfather over for the race and dinner, so I'm going to be called on to provide some background and analysis of the race. It also means I may be forced to watch the entire NBC telecast, and be unable to get any bets down on Monmouth or Churchill. Oh no, it's Bob Costas, here we go..

Preakness Day!

- It’s a beautiful day at Pimlico. They insist there's a 30% of some showers later in the day, but the track is fast for the 10:30 A.M. first race post time. The turf is soft.

- A half interest in Closing Argument has been sold to a partnership including Becky Thomas’ Sequel Stallions.

- Barclay Tagg on Funny Cide’s 4th place finish in the Pimlico Special, won by Eddington: "I don't care what anybody says, he doesn't like the mud.” [Baltimore Sun] Favorite Offlee Wild didn’t like it either. Neither do I.

- Here's one person who seems skeptical that High Fly can get the distance today.

Veteran jockey and neophyte author Jerry Bailey analyzes races with rare candor. He said up front yesterday that his Preakness mount, High Fly, is being stretched at the distance.

"He's a mile-and-an-eighth horse," Bailey said. "A mile-and-a-quarter [in the Derby] was beyond him, and even the Preakness could be. But this track is friendly to speed horses, so he might hang on."

Bailey said when High Fly hit the front in the stretch in the Derby, he knew he would not win. "He was giving me everything, but he was struggling," he said. [NY Post]

Friday, May 20, 2005

The Preakness

I’ve been watching the replay of the Derby more than Al Sharpton watches replays of himself, so I’m more than ready to move on to the second jewel of the Triple Crown. In no particular order:

- Afleet Alex stands to be the favorite and I think that’s legit even though he finished behind two others in here. For one thing, you can build a solid case based just on the fact he’s the most accomplished runner in the field and went into the Derby off of a lifetime, and field-best Beyer from which he may have bounced. His trip was ground-saving relative to the rest of the field, but some feel that the inside was the wrong place to be that day. And while some think Jeremy Rose moved too soon, he simply ran his usual race, and he ran it pretty well. His outside post could be a problem, but he figures to be closer to the front than two weeks ago and there’s no reason to think he won’t contend for the top spot.

Closing Argument won a lot of money as a 2 yo going 5-5 in the money in some rich races against less than top flight company in less than top flight times. But when he returned as a 3 yo, he advanced to a 98 Beyer defeating High Fly in the Holy Bull. After another 2 1/2 months off he ran 3rd in the Blue Grass over the Keeneland track, and according to all the losing trainers, we’re allowed to throw out any race there we want to. Closing Argument then ran his lifetime best in the Derby, earning a 99 Beyer that doesn’t even begin to tell you how good he was, bobbling at the start, going wide into the first turn, keeping pace with the suicidal front runners while a few lengths back, going wider than Giacomo on the final turn, and almost winning the whole thing. I think there’s no doubt he’s an improving animal who wins this with a similar effort. The question is whether the Derby took too much out of him; surprising Kiaran McLaughlin with his :49 breeze the other day indicates that it hasn’t and man, did he look good galloping on TVG last evening.

Giacomo, Wilko, Noble Causeway, and Greeley’s Galaxy all may have had their various misadventures along the way, but they all basically ran the same race for the first mile of the Derby. They were far back early, and all gained ground between the half mile and mile marker when the leaders were stopping. At that point the four of them were within 3/4 lengths of each other. One of them sustained his long rally, weaving for room and gamely running down the leader for the win. The other three were basically done, finishing at least 6 3/4 lengths behind the winner, all losing ground in the stretch. So unless there’s a really good excuse for the other three, I can’t see how you can nearly rate any of them ahead of Giacomo. Noble Causeway may have had the worst luck early having checked sharply, but he was still right there at the mile mark. He’s been in training straight through since late November and this is his 7th race since then. I think that if we were going to see a spring breakout from him we would have seen it already.

Wilko may have bled badly or maybe not, we just don’t know for sure based on his trainer's conflicting comments. I find that really galling after all the disclosure talk after the Sweet Catomine mess. Patrick at Pulling Hair and Betting Horses wrote I guess the question is "if you prick us do we not sometimes bleed kind of just a little even though it looks like a lot." I was starting to warm to him a bit but now I’m going to flip flop as well, and go back to the fact that he still hasn’t run back to his best Beyer as a juvenile. So, I’m not going to bet him and if he wins and Dollase starts talking again how he bled after the Derby, I’m going to get myself an attorney. Greeley’s Galaxy is the wise guy pick, but one of them, Steve Haskin, isn’t happy about that workout this morning.

I'm not as confident in the horse as I was before he worked three furlongs in :34 4/5, out in :47 4/5 over a wet track this morning. Talk about old school. No matter how you look at it, that is a pretty wild work the day before a race. So proceed at your own risk. I know I will. I can't go off him now, but there has to be some concern. [Bloodhorse]
It’s true that his slow break put him in an unfamiliar spot after pressing the pace in his prior races. He was checked in the stretch and then was more or less eased, but he was going nowhere at that point anyway. It’s a testament to how slow everyone finished that his rider could stop riding him and he only lost by 8 lengths. His impressive workouts since have been in the slop, which he may prefer. But he should get a good pressing spot from the 4 post, and if he runs back to his Illinois Derby figure, that obviously puts him close. Giacomo is probably going to be further back than Mike Smith would like, given his 13 post. He should once again have at least an honest pace to close into. His connections seem supremely confident and I think he’ll fire again; the question is whether he’ll have enough time to get up at the shorter distance against horses that shouldn’t be quite as exhausted.

High Fly - Looking at his last two pp lines, it’s interesting to note that the pace he chased in the Florida Derby was only a couple of ticks slower than that of the Ky Derby. Of course, the latter was an eighth longer, he had a lot more company with him, and it was his first race in 5 weeks. From the 2 hole he should have no problem settling into a stalking trip, though he will have company again. He could rebound but would an effort comparable to his Florida races, in which he had relatively easy trips, be good enough to win this?

Scrappy T has shown distinct improvement at 3; he has good pressing speed, has demonstrated gameness – he’s never finished out of the money and comes in off a lifetime best 102 Beyer in the Withers. As you know that’s better than anyone ran in the Derby. He’s worked well, drew well inside, and could be battling to the end.

High Limit adds blinkers and gets Edgar Prado. Frankel said he got stepped on early in the Derby, but Ramon Dominguez, who is unlikely to ride for Frankel again any time soon, said he didn’t feel anything. He’s likely to go for the lead, and will probably get it with Going Wild outside of him, and the speed inside more of a pressing variety. With all that’s been said about the hot Derby pace, wouldn’t it be funny if the other riders become overly cautious about going too fast and leave him all alone on the lead? Galloping Grocer, Going Wild, and Hal’s Image should be around early to either push or stalk High Limit if he is indeed the leader.

Sun King and Malibu Moonshine round out the field.


Prior to the Derby I’d been totally dismissive of Closing Argument, and I was bemused when on the morning of May 1 I had a dream about him winning a big race that I thought might be the Derby, since I’d barely given him a second worth of thought. It must have been the Preakness instead. He seems to have come out of his outstanding Derby effort well, his tactical speed should land him a decent spot – certainly better than he had two weeks ago - and he can certainly win this if he runs back to that. If he continues to improve he could blow them away. To complete my exotics tickets:

Scrappy T
Afleet Alex
(I may feel compelled to throw in High Limit at the bottom of my triples)

- Question to ponder: If Bellamy Road was pronounced fit after the Derby and ran in the Preakness, do you 1) think he'd be favored, 2) think there would be a full field, and 3) would you like him?