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Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy NYRA New Year

- The $30 million bailout loan ("People will say that this is a bailout, but in reality the state will get its money back") that was finally agreed to by NYRA and the state should make for a Happy New Year for everyone, except for those who bet win, place, and show and wager less than $2000 a month. NYRA will finally be able to offer rebates to those who bet more than that, but in return, partly surrendered on the takeout, agreeing to a one percent increase on the aforementioned pools only effective April 1.

And those hammers will start flying for real in a few weeks as NYRA, as part of the deal, finally gets the approval from the state lottery to proceed on construction; gee, that wasn’t so hard, was it? Holding back approval for so long has cost the state a lot of money, and if it was done so as a negotiating tool, I would wonder it was all was worth it. The state got a partial takeout increase to compensate for the rebate program which they were pressured by all sides other than the OTBs to give in on; and they did also prevent NYRA from selling any property outright, not budging an inch on the land ownership issue, though putting off for now a decisive moment in the courts.

Nonetheless, NYRA once again seems to escape from the brink, as it did this past summer when it avoided federal prosecution. The next obstacle will be warding off Senator Bruno and others’ calls for an early franchising process and making it to the promised land of casino subsidies. Looking beyond that, NYRA’s Bill Nader said that “it provides NYRA with a better opportunity to prove that it is the best possible operator of the New York tracks for 2008 and beyond." [NY Times] That would have been unthinkable not long ago, and perhaps it still is; but NYRA has shown a lot of resiliency and has played its cards well, and what will happen from here is anyone's guess.

- That’s it for me for the year. The Head Chef and I are off for a New Year’s feast, and we hope that all of you have a fun and safe New Year’s Eve, and we wish you all a happy and peaceful New Year.

- Feel free to email me with comments, links, questions or suggestions.

Wide Open La Brea

- The final Grade 1 stakes race of 2005, the La Brea Stakes for three-year old fillies at seven furlongs, drew a big field with a lot of question marks. There are fillies coming off layoffs, cutting back in distance, turf runners trying dirt for the first time, a filly on a six race winning streak stepping up in class, a shipper from the East Coast; and there’s a good possibility of a sloppy track to boot.

Tough race to figure; there are reasons to be wary of most if not all of the contenders. Leave Me Alone was in the Eclipse running herself after dominating the Test, but followed her second to In the Gold in the Gazelle with a dull effort over the quirky Keeneland surface at 4-5. She is working lights out, man! And her trainer Eric Kruljac is good in the 60 day layoff range. If she runs back to the Test, she could certainly win, but she may need one, as she did when returning off a similar layoff in April, and she has speed to contend with inside of her.

Trickle of Gold (Formal Gold) has won those six straight races at Delaware and Laurel, dominating by a total of 45 lengths, including a win two back with a field co-high Beyer of 107. Jeremy Rose is in for the ride.

My Miss Storm Cat may also be mixed up in an early pace scenario. I watched her win in August off a year layoff on the Cal Racing site, and it was every bit as easy and impressive as Walter described here; and to think that runner-up Selvatica, who was coming off a similar layoff, went on to post a 105 Beyer in winnin her next race. The fact that she hasn’t appeared since that race indicates that Baffert is still nursing her through physical problems, but her spectacular 1:11 1/5 work on Monday (doesn't that seem awfully fast so soon before this race?) certainly indicates that she’s feeling good now.

Great Intentions may be able to sit a bit off the pace as Mike Hushion ships her cross country after taking the Top Flight at Belmont. But that was two months ago, and there’s always a question of how an east coaster will fare out west. Sharp Lisa hasn’t been out since April. Pussycat Doll is tough around two turns, but her only sprint try has been poor.

Then there are the two turf horses trying dirt for the first time – Three Degrees and Shining Energy. Nice grass horses! Byron King in the Form points out that four of the last six winners of this race preceded it with a turf effort; but I’m going to chalk that up as ‘too much information.’ That statistic doesn’t say whether those were also first-time dirt horses; last year’s winner Alphabet Kisses had already shown an affinity for both surfaces.

I think one can find one reason or another to stand against anyone you want to. My Miss Storm Cat is the one with the scariest untapped potential and I think she’d be worth a bet if she’s close to her 9-2 morning line odds. This is the kind of race that I would really hesitate to try and pick without seeing the odds. I’d be looking out for any of these that seem dull on the board, and shopping for anyone, such as, possibly, Trickle of Gold, who may be a bit overlaid. (That can be a subtle difference to be sure.) However, assuming that our plan to rid the house of all the teenagers by means of lies and deceipt in order to securely lock it down before going to a friend’s house upstate for New Year’s Eve ceremonies succeeds, I will hopefully already be in a distant state of consciousness that doesn’t include the thrill of pari-mutuel wagering. (And besides, they don’t get HRTV.)

So I’m just going to throw a few bucks on 30-1 morning line Thrilling Victory and hope for a lucky, if unlikely, end of the betting year. A Cal-bred took the Malibu at long odds, so why not lightning striking twice in this, the distaff counterpart to that race? There could certainly be a hot pace, especially if Hushion employs Mystic Chant as a rabbit for Great Intentions, and with many of these coming off layoffs, I can envision the scenario of it falling apart in the seventh furlong. Thrilling Victory is much improved for Jerry Hollendorfer, who has eight winners at Bay Meadows just since Christmas. This daughter of Event of the Year (Seattle Slew, to whom she’s inbred 2x4) has closed powerfully to win her last two at six furlongs against far weaker at Golden Gate, with two sub-12 second eighths to finish each of those wins. She’s won as far as a mile and a sixteenth, so she may benefit from the extra furlong here. She even has some class in her distaff family; her second dam is a three-quarter sister to General Meeting, and her third dam is a half to the dam of Carson City. And she's two-for-two in the slop.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Friday Night Notes - Dec 30

Just saw some video of Point of Impact on HRTV. Holy shit!! Wait until you see this one; he is magnificent!! He's listed as the 7-2 favorite for his debut in tomorrow's sixth but I'll be shocked if he's a penny over 7-5.

Pennsylvania Gold Rush

- They’re off in Pennsylvania, as all are ashore that’s going ashore, swept up in the tide of an expanded gaming program that far exceeds that of other pari-mutuel states. The deadline for applications for slots licenses passed on Wednesday, and with licenses virtually guaranteed for the state’s four existing racetracks and three more yet to be built (with one harness casino license still to be determined), the fiercest competition will be for the five standalone casinos, two of which will be in Philadelphia. Five applicants, including a partnerships led by Donald Trump, are vying for two licenses in Philadelphia.

The Trump group made a typically glitzy show out of their application delivery.

Trump and other investors already spent "millions" paying more than 100 people to compile a 1,559-pound application. It was delivered yesterday in 28 file boxes and four large silver cases similar to ones roadies use to carry gear to concert venues. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]
Foxwoods leads another partnership, a group which includes investors such as Quincy Jones and Flyers’ owner Ed Snider. A Chicago-based company bought an old Jack Frost sugar refinery for $450 million and submitted an application under the name Sugar House Gaming. Planet Hollywood and Pinnacle are the other applicants.

A number of people involved in the bidding are former government officials, including aides to Governor Ed Rendell, as detailed in this article in the Philly Inquirer. But all concerned insist that the final selections will be based on merit and not on political connections.
David Sweet, Rendell's campaign manager in 2002 who is named as a partner in a proposed casino in Limerick, echoed the sentiment: "The gaming board is going to make the decisions - and they are all very reputable and very independent people. They will be judging the applications on their merit."

Added Gaming Control Board Chairman Tad Decker: "We all were sworn in and promised to act in good faith when we took on this assignment... . I trust the people who are on the board. They have been excellent so far."

But Decker, who was appointed by Rendell, acknowledged that there was no "100 percent cement fire wall" between the board and those seeking licenses - and that nothing the board did would prevent people with money, clout and political connections from getting involved in gambling ventures.
If the board doesn't follow the letter of the law, not only are its members at risk of losing credibility and the public's trust, but they also could face damaging and costly litigation.

Nonetheless, Decker said, the board will face political pressures. If nothing else, he said, rejected applicants could always raise the specter of unfair practices.

"Someone will be always be disappointed," he said. "And politics will rear its head no matter what we do." [Philadelphia Inquirer]
That already seems apparent based on these remarks by former 76ers president Pat Croce, an investor in the Trump group: "Politics is involved in every decision ... I'd be foolish to say it isn't.....If it comes down to politics, we won't win. If it comes down to the best application, we'll win." [Pittsburgh Post Gazette]

- It seems strange that an organization teetering on financial solvency can have as much leverage as NYRA seems to have, but bankruptcy protection is a powerful tool. With the association threatening to file any day now (they claim to have enough cash to get them through this weekend), it seems that the state is blinking first, negotiating with NYRA to accept its bailout/loan plan. Maybe the state is not so anxious after all to have the question of who owns the land that the tracks sit on answered in court at this time. Or maybe they’re simply afraid of a shutdown in racing that would hurt the state coffers. But it almost seems as if NYRA has the upper hand in the talks, insisting that they have not yet accepted the state’s offers despite the insistence of Senator Bruno that they have.
"Until we see it in writing on paper, we don't want to come out and say we have a deal," [NYRA VP Bill] Nader said late Thursday afternoon. "We're optimistic we have a deal. This is a big moment for us. We want to make sure that we're in complete understanding what the offer is. We want to make sure there aren't too many strings attached and the deal points are things we can deliver on." [Daily Racing Form]
- As noted by Walter, the long-awaited debut of Bob Baffert’s Derby contender in waiting and potential Fastest Horse in the World Point of Impact (Point Given) will apparently take place in the 6th at Santa Anita on Saturday, thus getting in the requisite race at two on the last day of the year. The Racing Form shows impressive works going back to October, but in fact, he’s been working fast and creating a buzz since long before that. A Google search turned up chat room discussions of the colt going back to August when he worked a bullet five furlongs in :58.60, and even to June, when many people didn’t even know his name. They'll know it on Saturday when he makes one of the most highly anticipated racing debuts of recent times.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Excuses, Excuses

- Here’s something we’ve all been waiting for; it was only a matter of time: the official Excuse for Wilko’s 11th place finish in the Malibu. Thoroughbred Daily News reports that Wilko “emerged from the race with a blood count that was ‘a little off’ and ‘he tied up on me a little bit,’ Trainer Craig Dollase said..” The article goes on to say that pending the colt’s condition, he may next race in the San Fernando on January 14.

- As racing continues at the Big A, NYRA officials are mulling their next move in the wake of Governor Pataki’s proposed bailout.

"We have made what I think is a very fair and appropriate offer to have the state advance funds against their VLT revenues with state oversight because we want to continue racing in an orderly manner as we look to the future of what happens after 2007 when the franchise is up," Pataki said. [Albany Times-Union]
Of course, it would help if Pataki would see to it that NYRA finally gets the go-ahead to actually build the VLT parlor at the Big A. NYRA VP Bill Nader still held out bankruptcy as an option: ”The Macy's parade went on despite Chapter 11, and the airlines keep their planes in the air when they're in bankruptcy.” [The Saratogian]

Pataki also reiterated his support for Bernadette Castro to head the State Racing and Wagering Board because "she's just a tremendous public servant who would have that open mind as she looks at the future of racing." I suppose that anyone who knows as little about racing as Ms. Castro would certainly have an open mind – or perhaps a blank slate would be a more appropriate way of putting it.

- Far more impressive for Bobby Frankel than Ramsgate was his two-year old Latent Heat (Maria’s Mon), a close second to the highly-regarded Cindago in last Saturday’s hyped-up maiden race at Santa Anita. Dick Powell of Brisnet points out that Latent Heat won't be a maiden much longer for Bobby Frankel and has the deep pedigree one would expect from Juddmonte Farms. He’s out of True Flare, a grassy stakes winner by Capote, and his 5th dam is Bebop, the dam of Bebopper, who in turn is the dam of a couple of my personal handicap favorites from the 70’s, Stop the Music and Hatchet Man.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Wednesday Night Notes - Dec 28

- Bobby Frankel’s Ramsgate (Runaway Groom) had drawn some attention with his maiden win, a seven furlong win in 1:22 3/5 and a snappy final furlong of 11 4/5 seconds. Doesn’t take too much when one of the top trainer sends out a nice-looking two-year old to get a little Derby buzz going. Jay Privman mentioned him here; Haskin advised us to watch out for this one; and our own Walter from Las Vegas was so impressed that he placed a small Derby future on him.

So it was with much anticipation that Ramsgate went to the post as the 8-5 favorite at Santa Anita on Wednesday, and even more disappointment that he faded badly in his first try around two turns. On the other hand, the winner, Wanna Runner (El Corredor), won his second two-turn race in as many tries after two sluggish sprint efforts. This colt is out of a mare by Mt. Magazine, an unraced son of Mr. Prospector, who is a half sister to stakes winners Time Limit and Miss Indy Anna. Since he’s trained by Bob Baffert, I’m sure he’ll get a mention in Haskin’s next Derby column. Also disappointing in the race was second choice Refinery (Victory Gallop), who ran 4th at 2-1.

- A maiden race scheduled for Aqueduct on Thursday shows that not all the interesting late season two year old races are in California or Florida. In the third race, at six furlongs, Achilles of Troy and Hither Lane are the morning line favorites based on good prior efforts, particularly the latter, a half brother to stakes winner Day Trader coming off a solid second in his debut for Christophe Clement. But there are several well-bred first-timers here.

Causeway’s Storm (Giant’s Causeway) is out of the stakes winning West By West mare Gold From the West, a half to stakes winners Lake Music and Fifth Overture; he goes for sharp debut trainer Tom Bush. Napoleon T N T (Grand Slam), making his debut for Kiaran McLaughlin, is out of a Dehere half sister to Kentucky Oaks winner Lite Light; and he hails from an illustrious female family tracing back directly to La Troienne, his 7th dam. His 4th dam is Admiring, a foundation mare in her own right - this is the family of Derby winner Sea Hero, Hero’s Honor, Mozart, Congrats, and one of my all-time favorite race mares, Glowing Tribute.

Their He Goes (Silver Deputy) is a $500,000 yearling out of a Seattle Slew mare, and a half to winners Dorchester County and Easy Red. He ships in for Anthony Dutrow, whose shippers have been sharp recently – two winners (including 14-1 Toy Thief) and two seconds in his last four. But his brother Richard has perhaps the most interesting of all the colts making their debut here. Discreet Thievery (Cat Thief), besides having a cool name, is a half-brother to Belmont winner Commendable. That means that his second dam is Killaloe, the dam of Fappiano, and this is also the family of Keeper Hill and Clabber Girl. Dutrow popped his last first timer, Johnny Utah at 9-2, before the break. Discreet Thievery is 6-1 in the morning line, but I think he’d be very attractive at 9-2 in here, which would reflect both some tote action and decent value in a tough juvenile race that wouldn’t look out of place on a hot day upstate in August instead of a wintry day before a few spectators at the Big A.

Au Revoir to Bankruptcy Court?

- Governor Pataki offers NYRA a last-minute lifeline even as officials are virtually on the steps of the bankruptcy courthouse. He reiterated the $5 million land deal that NYRA has already rejected, and in addition offered a $5 million loan from Empire State Development Corp.

The money would have to first be approved by the NYRA Oversight Board after it receives assurances from NYRA that racing will remain in 2006 at the Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga thoroughbred tracks NYRA operates under a state franchise.

Gov. George Pataki promises to submit legislation that follows the plan Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno advanced last week. [Albany Times-Union]
Bruno’s plan would make $30 million in loans available to NYRA as needed before the alleged casino starts to bear fruit.

- The State Racing and Wagering Board may have been unable or unwilling to help NYRA, but they took the time to grant Monticello Raceway permission to allow a trotter to race against pacers, thereby filling the Au Revoir Pace for 14 year olds to be contested there tomorrow. Harness racing regulations require horses to retire once they reach age 15. While in most cases these horses are more than ready to hang up their sulkies, one of these, morning line favorite Try Kacy N, seems to be just getting going.
The veteran gelding has won 18 of his 32 starts this year (including his last four in a row) and 30 of his last 70 overall. Talk about a late bloomer. Of the $250,000 he's earned in his entire career, 58% of that has come in the last two years alone. [NY Daily News]

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

News and Notes - Dec 27

- Chalk up another 2005 stakes winner for stallion Forestry, as his two-year old Somethinaboutbetty took the restricted Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship at Laurel on Monday for trainer Todd Pletcher. She’s a half-sister to stakes winner Petunia; and her second dam is multiple graded turf winner Betty Lobelia.

- Richard Schosberg was just as surprised as the rest of us that his Attila’s Storm couldn’t catch longshot Proud Tower Too in the Malibu.

"Personally, I'm surprised we didn't win…..He (Valenzuela) had him in a great spot, the horse had been training good. I thought he was going to go on, but the other horse was tough. He couldn't get past him, plain and simple." [Pasadena Star News]
Perhaps he shouldn’t be too surprised; Attila’s Storm did stick a nose in front around the eighth pole, so he may very well have won the race had it been six furlongs. It’s possible that seven furlongs is just not his ideal distance. That final eighth was run in 13 seconds, yet he couldn’t get by the Cal-bred for the win.

- Wednesday is the deadline for license applications for Pennsylvania casinos, both those that will be located at seven racetracks, plus two at resorts, and five stand-alone locations. Of the latter, two will be in Philadelphia, and one in Pittsburgh, where the competition is shaping up as particularly tough, with five known aspirants for the single license. One of those is the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, striving to keep the franchise in Pittsburgh by using gambling proceeds to build a new arena. The Pens’ prospects got a boost yesterday when one of the prospective bidders dropped out and endorsed the club’s bid, and a state official said that whoever wins the license should fund a new arena. The Penguins have said they will move if they cannot build a new rink. In Philly, Donald Trump is one of three applicants that are known thus far, and nine others are thought to be applying for the remaining two stand-alone licenses.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board will be quite busy over the next few weeks examining the applications. This is a weighty matter, and not just in terms of the financial windfall the license winners stand to gain -
The first slots license application submitted this month came from Pocono Downs harness racetrack near Wilkes-Barre and weighed more than 400 pounds, taking up several large boxes. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]
- It’s the post-Afleet Alex era for trainer Tim Ritchey, but Robert Yates in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that Ritchey will maintain a string of 35 horses at Oaklawn Park, where Alex prepped for the Triple Crown series last year. Ritchey says “I’ve got four 2-year-old colts that are very nice.” He’ll keep two of them at the Hot Springs racetrack and try the same route that nearly gave him a Triple Crown winner last year, hopefully without any messy lung infections this time. Menacing won his debut at Delaware around two turns and was then thrown to the wolves in the Grade 1 Champagne. He’s by Lemon Drop Kid, out of Canadian stakes winner Masada (Pleasant Tap). Dixiewink (Dixie Union) is already stakes placed, having run third to Private Vow in the G2 Futurity.

Monday Night Notes - Dec 26

- The nearly 35,000 fans at Santa Anita for opening day witnessed a lively betting card with some close finishes and a mix of short-priced favorites and unlikely longshots. In the first division of the Sir Beaumont on the grass, my pick Warrior Song was scratched, but that probably saved me money as I doubt he could have held off the determined Chinese Dragon, winning for the fifth time in six grass starts. The son of Stravinsky roared down the middle of the track through a closing quarter of :23.80 to just nip the inanely-named but improving turf-runner-in-his-own right Hockey the General (General Meeting). I wrote a bit about Chinese Dragon’s pedigree back in April. Buzzard’s Bay had nothing left on the turn and finished 7th at an overbet 3-1.

The 4th was a maiden two-year old filly affair, and it was Baffert first-timer Fletcher’s Cove hanging on at 13-1. Walter had a positive workout report on this one in the comments section here, but neither I (nor he) scored on this one. It’s not often that Baffert pulls off a debut two-year old winner at a fat price. Looking back over the last five years in Formualtor, I see that out of his 33 debut two-year old winners over that time, only one other time did one score at double-digit odds, and that one was 10-1; 17 of those were less than 2-1. Fletcher’s Cove is by Flame Thrower (Saint Ballado), out of a Holy Bull mare who’s a half to Domestic Dispute, who won the Santa Catalina at three for Baffert. Just a week before the Derby, the colt was sold and transferred out of Baffert’s barn. He ran tenth in the Derby, but went on to be useful at four, taking the Strub. I ran ninth in this race with Kentucky Souvenir, a half-sister to the dam of Meetmeinthewoods.

I was all around the finish of the 5th but came up empty; I had 6-1 KC Nite Mayr, but he settled for second behind favored Charmo, who I had underneath my choice along with the third and fourth place finishers, 7-1 and 13-1 respectively.

HRTV unveiled their new graphics today, and they were right on top of the proceedings at Santa Anita, paricularly the sixth race, the maiden affair in which Baffert would unveil two of his well-touted two-year olds (though not Point of Impact, who Jeff Siegel said is reported to be a “monster.”) They gave the race the import of a significant Derby prep, showing that Derby fever 2006 can strike in 2005. They even showed a tape of one of Point Determined's workouts. Neither that colt nor the other half of Baffert’s entry, Royal Legacy (Monarchos) broke particularly well at 3-1, with the latter downright left at the gate. They both did fine to finish 3rd and 4th, but nice win by 4-5 favorite Cindago (Indian Charlie), who no doubt will continue on to the Derby preps.

The Strub showed how you can be right about many things in a horse race, but still go unrewarded. I was right about standing against Wilko (and that he would be bet far more than his morning line indicated) and Greeley’s Galaxy; right about Proud Tower Too being a pace factor that would make life difficult for Attila’s Storm. But I didn't imagine that Proud Tower Too would stick around to win at 20-1, though a second look reveals a sharp improving colt who went :43 1/5 to the half in his last and still won at seven furlongs. My selection Thor’s Echo was no match for those top two, settling for third; would have been a nice score as I had him hooked up in the late double with the eventual nightcap winner Austin Barber at 9-1; that double was paying around $200. To compound that failure, I failed to cash on the 9th, as I left out second place finisher Sea Harbor from my exactas and didn’t bet Austin Barber to win, as his win odds drifted up sharply in the final minutes after I’d made my wagers. Sometimes being right and going unrewarded is your own damn fault.

- Proud Tower Too is by Proud Irish, a horse by Irish River about whom I can’t find much information about his career as a racehorse nor as a sire. He won four out of 21 races and over $111,000 according to the Pedigree Query site, and he was bred to 11 mares in California in 2005 according to Bloodhorse. However, he’s not listed for 2006 in Bloodhorse’s Stallion Register nor on the Thoroughbred Times stallion site, and that does not bode very well for his health. If anyone knows anymore about this one, please fill us in.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Opening Day at Santa Anita

- Despite all my badmouthing of, and sarcasm directed to the overrated Wilko, if he really was to go off at his 6-1 morning line in the Malibu at Santa Anita on Monday, I might even bet him myself. After all, he was impressive in his six furlong return at Golden Gate, closing ground in explosive final eighth miles of 11 3/5 and 11 1/5. However, I’d be shocked if he went off anywhere near those odds, and he’s just the kind of horse that I find easy to go against. Each one of his races seems to preface that breakthrough that people have been waiting for since he won the 2004 Juvenile, but each time he comes up with another excuse, be it physical or bad racing luck. His spot in the 14 post may actually help given the long run down the backstretch from the seven furlong chute, but I’ll look elsewhere.

Greeley’s Galaxy picks a tough spot for his first try since the Preakness, and getting buried down in the two hole in this large field may not help matters. He has the speed he’ll need to hold a spot, and his facile win in the Illinois Derby in only his 4th lifetime start and first in a stake pointed out his class. He also gets the endorsement of reader Walter from Las Vegas. However, I must respectfully point out that he seemed to really blossom when he stretched out, and hasn’t won a sprint race on a dry track. Add in the fact that he figures to be poor value for a horse coming off such a lengthy layoff, and I don’t think he’ll be the one for me.

Attila’s Storm seems to be a legitimate morning line favorite at 5-2. He’s improved drastically since switching to the barn of Richard Schosberg three races ago, easily scoring triple digit Beyers in each race, disposing of Lost in the Fog in his 4th place Sprint, and taking the Fall Highweight Handicap at Aqueduct after battling for the lead all the way. Those had to be two taxing races, and he figures to be tested early once again by Greeley’s Galaxy, Proud Tower Too, and possibly Diligent Prospect as well. Plus, he’ll also have to last an extra furlong here, so it seems like a tough task for him.

Diligent Prospect may be able to sit just off the pace instead; he’s done so before, and a return to those tactics would serve him well here. This colt has obviously battled physical problems, but returns pretty quickly after fading badly in the Perryville at Keeneland. So perhaps he’s one of the many horses who just didn’t take to the Keeneland strip, and if so, he could improve here.

I’ll take a flyer with Thor’s Echo (Swiss Yodeler) here. Yes, his rail post is even worse than that of Greeley’s Galaxy, and it’s possible that he could also be involved in a contentious early pace. But in his last race, the Cal Cup Sprint Handicap, he retreated after breaking on top with new jockey Victor Espinoza, and then rallied extremely impressively while five and six wide on the turn, surged to the lead and held gamely while settling for third, less than a length back of the winner who worked out a rail trip. He’ll need a lot of racing luck from the rail, but I think he has a shot at would could be an attractive price.

- Buzzard’s Bay returns in the second, the first division of the Sir Beaufort, and he makes his turf debut. As I’ve mentioned previously, horses like this who get bet down in their first start on a different surface/distance/track condition, based on his/her figures earned or class displayed in its more familiar environment, are some of the best bet-againsts you can find, and Buzzard’s Bay would be a prime example if he goes off at or below his morning line of 3-1. You have some pretty accomplished turf runners here in Becrux, winner of a state-bred turf race at Del Mar, Brecon Beacon, third in the Grade 2 grassy Oak Tree Derby, and the imposing Chinese Dragon, a neck away from undefeated in five U.S. turf races, four of those stakes.

But if you’re looking for a longshot, take a look at 15-1 Warrior Song (Unbridled's Song). He makes his first start for trainer Michael Machowsky after going two for three for Bill Mott in New York. This will be his first stakes try, but he’s improved his figs with each grass race, and his 95 earned in his last puts him right there. Two races back, he finished second by just 1 ¾ to Cosmonaut, the 7-2 second choice in the second division of this stakes. He’s a half-brother to graded turf winner/sire Lasting Approval. There’s not much speed inside of him, so he should get good position and looks worth a flyer at a possible big mutuel.

Notes: Xmas Morning

- Three more winners for the red-hot Nick Zito at Calder on Christmas Eve day. Coming out of five starters, it gives him eight winners from his last 13 to go to the post there. Of those, six are two year-olds, including a pair on Saturday. In the third, his Ice N Lemon (Acceptable) was 1-5 despite running 5th at 4-1 in a maiden special at Aqueduct in his last. It was more of an indication of the weakness of the field, really, but he had to work hard to win by less than a length.

In the 7th, a NW1x allowance, Great Point (Point Given) was spectacular getting placed first after losing a photo to Caspian Sea, who bore out steadily in the last sixteenth and carried Zito’s colt towards mid-track. Great Point seemed unprepared for the start, perhaps thinking about whether he got presents for all of his 182 siblings, and then stumbled shortly after the break and was dead last. I don’t imagine that anyone who bet him at 1-2 was thinking happy holiday thoughts at that point. But undaunted, Eddie Castro took him four wide into the first turn, and Great Point advanced steadily on the backstretch, was four wide the entire way around the final turn, and still battled tenaciously with Caspian Sea, losing by a head despite the late interference.

Now before you check out the futures odds on this one, remember that Great Point was up the track in two graded stakes tries, and he had a slow pace to catch up to against an unimpressive field. It was an impressive display of heart though, and he’s out of a Crafty Prospector half sister to Spain. He was also the winner of Highland Cat’s third-place debut, so I guess this kinda flatters our colt, right?

Zito’s third winner was the three-year old Electric Light, who was considered an outside Derby prospect for a few minutes this past spring when he ran a tough 4th in the Risen Star. That was his last race until this fall though, and this was his first time in the money in his third race back, generally considered to be an optimal race in a horse’s cycle. He was 4-5 after those two dull efforts, and I guess the stretch out to two turns helped as he romped home by seven.

- Point Given still has just two winners and just 16 starters from his first crop. We know about the couple of prospects that Baffert has, and the folks at his stud farm, Three Chimneys, have to be hoping for something, anything. They’re holding the line with his $50,000 stud fee, but he was only bred to 72 mares in 2005, and according to the Equiline report, he had a crop of just 32 weanlings this year.

- While most of us were skipping out of work early on Friday, according to the Albany Times-Union, officials at NYRA were preparing their bankruptcy filing this Wednesday. The plan to NYRA to sell land to the Port Authority for $5 million is coming before the oversight board that day, but NYRA has already rejected it, claiming that they need the land for the casino, or perhaps we should start saying the “alleged casino.” Meanwhile, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver claimed that it’s only a coincidence that his first of three long-awaited appointments to the Committee on the Future of Racing is a bankruptcy attorney.

By allowing NYRA to slip into bankruptcy, Governor Pataki, who was blamed by Silver and Senator Bruno for not pushing the state lottery to approve the casino license, is obviously banking on a bankruptcy court ruling in favor of the state on the contentious question of who owns the land that the tracks sit on. If a court ruled in favor of NYRA on the issue, their problems would be over, as they could sell any part of it to whomever they want and/or simply obtain a mortgage, not to mention the wrench that such a ruling would throw into the franchise renewal process. However, this scenario is unlikely, at least according to no less of an authority than Bennett Liebman, the proprietor of the Albany Law School Racing and Wagering program, and a former member of the State Racing and Wagering board. Reprinting an excerpt of an email I posted here last August:

In 1983, when NYRA's franchise was extended, the State legislature, in effect, made the State the owner of the land. They made the franchise and NYRA's existence co-terminous. In short, under the 1983 legislation, if NYRA lost the franchise it would go out of existence. It's fairly clear that NYRA management in 1983 understood the situation. Thus, under the law, the State controls the land.
It’s fairly clear that Pataki also understands the situation and is confident that Mr. Liebman’s analysis is correct, or certainly at least the conclusion of it.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

A Bountiful Opening Day

- Opening day at Santa Anita has attracted overflow fields including 14 entrants for the Malibu for three-year olds. In fact, the card features a very un-Southern California-like 104 runners for the nine races. One of the reasons for that is no doubt the lack of grass racing at the recently concluded Hollywood Park meet. The grassy Sir Beaufort stakes drew 19 contestants and was split into two divisions; the other two turf races have fields of 13 and 14.

Wilko drew the outside 14 post for the Malibu and thus has his excuse for this one already built in. Greeley’s Galaxy drew the two hole, and his jockey Kent Desormeaux said, "It's a lovely feeling being on your (Kentucky) Derby mount.....You develop a close relationship with him.” [Louisville Courier-Journal] It’s a little scary to think how close Desormeaux would feel to this horse if he’d won the Derby instead of finishing 11th. San Vicente winner Fusaichi Rock Star will be ridden by Shinji Fujita, the No. 3 rider in Japan and a favorite of owner Fusao Sekiguchi, who won the 2000 Kentucky Derby with Fusaichi Pegasus. [Sign On San Diego]

Jay Privman in the Form today has a Haskin-esque article in which he writes about a bunch of thus far under-the-radar juveniles that either have not yet started or who will enter their three-year old years with just a single effort under their belts. As you’re probably aware, one of the main “rules” for a Derby winner is that they have to had run as a two-year old. To me, that’s one of the most logical of the requirements one looks for on the first Saturday in May; it means that the horse has a solid foundation of racing to prepare him for the mile and a quarter test. However, as far as I'm concerned, qualifying by virtue of a maiden race five days before the end of the year is really just a technicality that I’d be sure to point out in the spring; that’s certainly a far cry from the experience that the top two-year olds have accumulated.

Privman mentions a trio of yet-to-start juveniles from the Baffert barn, including Point of Impact (Point Given), who our friend Walter has been keeping tabs on. The other two, Point Determined (Point Given) and Royal Legacy (Monarchos), are entered in Monday’s sixth at Santa Anita. Baffert says of his prospects: "It's like LAX at Thanksgiving..... They're all sitting on the tarmac, ready to fly.” Point Determined is out of Merengue, a stakes-winning Broad Brush mare; Royal Legacy is out of a Meadowlake mare who is a full sister to Greenwood Lake and a half to Success Express.

- Not a merry season for horsemen at Penn National, who last night suffered through their sixth consecutive weather-related cancellation. "This has been a hard time for our owners, trainers, and jockeys who make the show go," Penn National General Manager Gary Luderitz said. [Thoroughbred Times]

- The Head Chef is already, at 9:30 A.M. on Christmas Eve, cooking up enough of a storm for tomorrow’s mass family gathering that she’s triggered the smoke alarm. I’ll be ignored throughout the day, and may very well occupy myself with the racing from the three tracks, Calder, Fair Grounds, and Philly Park, that are running. I guess this is where I get to brag about my recent good fortune which has continued from last weekend; just last night I had the 5th race triple at Turfway ($352), where I nailed a cold $40 exacta the other night. These successes were from just a handful of bets; it’s amazing how quickly one’s fortune can turn around in this game if you keep a level head and stay at it. Here’s hoping that similar good fortune, food, and family visits each and every one of you, especially in far more profound ways than scoring on a few horse races (though that’s a very good thing too). If I don’t see you before Christmas day/Hanukah eve, have a most joyous and safe holiday!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Christmas Eve Eve News and Notes

- Remember when Calder used to race on Christmas Day? I believe it was the only track that would do so. Forget about that now. However, three tracks will be racing on Xmas Eve – Calder, Fair Grounds at La Downs, and Philly Park.

Santa Anita springs into full action on the day after Christmas, and a couple of prime contenders for the G1 Malibu have worked out this week. Greeley’s Galaxy went seven furlongs in 1:27 on Monday prepping for his first effort since the Preakness.

"He had a minor bleeding problem," [Warren] Stute said, "and we fired his ankles before we turned him out at San Luis Rey Downs. Mr. Hughes has had him scoped every time he's worked since he's come back and no blood has shown, so that's a good sign. Generally when you turn a horse out he gets over it. He's been back with us now for about three months." [Bloodhorse]
And Wilko breezed a half in :49 1/5 on Thursday. "He did it real easy," trainer Craig Dollase said. "We're all set." And I'm all set to check out the pp's in search of a horse with some sharp recent form with which to bet against these guys and make some cash.

- It seems as if the Aqueduct racino is not the only one behind schedule in New York. It’s been six months now since Yonkers Raceway shut down for casino construction, and horsemen are dubious of the scheduled April 1 reopening date.

As opposed to Aqueduct, at least construction is actually going on there. But horsemen like Standardbred Owners Association head Joe Faraldo think that racing could be happening there now too.
"We want to put up a 'chicken coop' (a temporary structure that would house the judges, timer and announcer) in the winner's circle and race on Monday and Tuesday afternoons," Faraldo. "There is nothing that's not good about the chicken coop. A guy sketched one out on a napkin for Hazel Park (in Detroit) and built it in one week for $48,000. And we (the SOA) have told Yonkers we will pick up the cost."
"They told us from the beginning that under no circumstances would they be closed longer than 4-5 months….I think they took advantage of the opportunity to not race during the winter. Usually, the word of Yonkers Raceway was pretty good, but this time I think it was intentionally misleading." [NY Daily News]
You would think that if track management, which claimes that "It is not a safe place to race," really wanted to race, they could. After all, it’s not like they have to accommodate a live crowd. Only a few hundred people at most were showing up at the track anyway, so they could very well conduct racing for the OTB audience only. In fact, they could throw down some cones and race around the parking lot if they really wanted to.

- If anyone out there owns a 14-year old pacer which you would like to send to Monticello Raceway to run for a $4000 purse, please contact Eric Warner in the race office by calling (845) 794-4100, ext. 557. [US Trotting Association] The track is having problems filling the Au Revior pace for 14 year olds, conducted on the last day of racing of the year at the upstate NY harness track, and just before those horses reach their mandatory retirement age on Jan 1. In fact, the track will even accept trotters. If you ask nicely, perhaps you can enter your 14 year old kid.

- Giacomo is still working slowly for his 4 year-old debut; this morning he breezed six furlongs in 1.16:80.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Notes - Dec 22

- Starlet winner Diplomat Lady is the 11th stakes winner, and the second Grade 1 winner in 2005 for his sire Forestry (Storm Cat), having a very good 2005 indeed. His other Grade 1 winner was Forest Danger, who took the Carter Handicap on Wood Memorial day at Aqueduct, but was retired with an injury. Father and son both stand at Taylor Made Farms in Kentucky; Forestry had his stud fee raised to $100,000 from $75,000 for 2006, and Forest Danger will debut with a tag of $20,000. Personally, I’d be pretty uncomfortable performing at stud alongside my dad, but horses don’t really seem to mind.

Fifteen percent of the foals from the first of Forestry’s three crops to race thus far have won stakes and 8% have overall, so it’s easy to see why he has joined the club of six figure stud fees. Besides, his foals to go through the sales ring in 2005 have brought back an average of over $275,000.

As a racehorse, Forestry had a good though unspectacular career, with three stakes wins, two of them graded - the G1 King’s Bishop and the G2 Dwyer – amongst his seven wins in 11 starts. He’s a half brother to Cash Run (Seeking the Gold), the 1999 Juvenile Fillies winner who in 2003 sold for $7.1 million at the Keeneland November sale. Forestry is actually from the female family of Mr. Prospector – his 4th dam, Sequence, is the second dam of Mr. P. According to the Taylor Made website, Forestry has sired 6 stakes winners and 6 additional stakes horses from mares that carry Mr. Prospector, which creates inbreeding to Sequence (Forestry’s 4th dam and the 2nd dam of Mr. Prospector).

Forestry is inbred to Bold Ruler, and at least two of his stakes winners – Diplomat Lady and Smokey Glacken - are out of mares who have that same inbreeding. He also has Secretariat and Dr. Fager in his pedigree, so here’s a stallion who presents many possibilities to those breeders who can afford his services.

One Forestry foal who is not yet a stakes winner but who caused a lot of commotion at Saratoga is Discreet Cat, the two-year old who wowed observers with his debut win in which he earned a Beyer of 106, and am I mistaken or is that still the highest fig earned by a juvenile this year? He’s been forgotten, for now, as far as the Derby picture goes because he was sold to Godolphin and shipped off to Dubai. Presumably, we’ll be seeing him in the spring, and perhaps he’ll become the most famous foal of Forestry thus far.

- Monday’s Malibu on Santa Anita’s opening day is shaping up as a good one. Besides Wilko, who figures to be horribly overbet off his sprint return, his 14th loss in 17 races, Greeley’s Galaxy is slated to make his return to the races following his connections’ most ill-advised decision to rush him into the Triple Crown series (have I made that point before?). Attila’s Storm and Fusaichi Rock Star are also scheduled to go, but Buzzard’s Bay will opt for the Sir Beaufort on the grass instead. "Our goal is the ($1 million) Sunshine Millions Classic and this should set him up real good for that," trainer Ron Ellis said. "He's doing awesome." [Brisnet]

- Maryland racing issues are apparently more contentious than even the NYC transit strike. Magna had essentially caved on its proposal to drastically scale back the number of racing days (due in no small part to the continuing delays in getting slots up in Pennsylvania), proposing a total of 180, as well as on its intention to shut the training center at Bowie. However, horsemen have rejected their desire to shut the tracks during the summer to avoid competition from nearby states. And while Maryland breeders agreed to resume contributions to track expenses, the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen Association has not.

The breeders have not contributed to the operating costs of the tracks since an agreement to pay 6 percent expired in 2004. Since that time, the breeders have used that money to help increase race fields by adding to purse money and increasing bonuses for Maryland bred horses. Boniface said the tracks gave the breeders credit for that and did not ask for a retroactive payment.

But [Maryland Horse Breeders Association President Bill] Boniface said he has written a letter asking that their contributions to the MJC operating costs continue to be used to promote the advantage of racing Maryland Breds here. [Baltimore Sun]
- I guess that Stewart Elliot has been deemed as not a threat to our national security.

- Mountaineer Park, where the accident that brought the Jockeys’ Guild’s neglect of their catastrophic injury insurance to light occurred, and which received more than $107-million in revenue from its slot machines in fiscal year 2005, has raised its insurance limit to $1 million from $100,000. Tragically, it's too late for Gary Birzer. [Thoroughbred Times]

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The G That Won't Go Away

- Despite the fact that he's been discredited, deposed, and caught red-handed writing large checks to himself and his cronies the same day he was fired by the Jockeys' Guild, Wayne Gertmenian is, incredibly, still apparently in control of the Disabled Jockeys' Endowment through associates recently elected to the board of directors over the objections of the Guild, who nominated a slate of their own. That’s like Jack Abramoff being in charge of an endowment fund for disabled Native Americans. In fact, one of the elected board members, whose names have not been released, is said to be none other than ousted Guild VP Albert Fiss, who, at over 6 feet in height and weighing in at over 300 pounds, was witnessed courageously scuffling in the Guild’s office on the day of his firing with diminutive jockeys weighing about a third as much. So the Guild is recommending that potential donors seek other avenues to help riders who have been crippled in the course of their jobs.

Darrell Haire, the guild's interim national manager, said yesterday in a telephone interview that his group is researching whether it has any options regarding the endowment's leadership. The fund is independent, so the guild may be stymied, Haire said.

"The endowment has lost credibility with our organization," Haire said in a statement. [Louisville Courier-Journal]
Gertmenian told Congress that he had personally contributed $50,000 to the fund, but considering his record of lies, one can take that for what its worth.
In a January electronic message among endowment officials, which was provided to Congress, [outgoing endowment trustee David] Woodcock questioned whether Gertmenian's contribution was "ever deposited in the endowment account."
- OK, here’s the best musical Christmas suggestion you’ll ever get from a nice Jewish boy in Queens. If you’re tired of the top 40 stations that switch to all-holiday music and play the same 40 songs throughout December, check out the ‘Xmas in Frisko’ stream from SOMA-FM. It’s a joyously varied and eclectic selection of yuletide tunes that can cheer you even after walking from work over the 59th Street Bridge in 20 degree weather, and I’ll pass along their warning that it’s “not suitable for all ages” (which is one of the reasons we like it so much).

Left at the Subway Platform

- Posting may be spotty for the duration of the transit strike here, as I spend my free time traveling back and forth from work, and find that my anger and frustration is sapping my creative energy.

Employees of the New York Racing Association aren’t getting any raises this year, and NYRA owes $36.4 million to its pension fund; yet I haven’t heard of any plans by NYRA employees to screw up the lives of all the rest of New Yorkers. Though they may the lack the power and leverage of transporting seven million people a day, they could certainly cause some havoc by littering the roads with artwork, seating from the vacant Aqueduct grandstand, and overweight jockeys.

State Senator Majority Leader Joseph Bruno is calling for the state to commit $30 million to help NYRA avoid filing for bankruptcy when racing resumes on Dec 28. Bruno’s plan, outlined in a letter to Governor Pataki, would provide an immediate $7 million, with the remainder to be doled out by the oversight committee as needed. A bailout this is not, as NYRA would be required to repay the money from slots revenue from the Big A casino that is still awaiting approval from the state.

Even the $5 million land deal with the Port Authority that the state has approved has apparently fallen through over the issue of exactly which parcel of land is involved. NYRA claims that the PA wants to further impinge on the parking lots which are already miniscule compared to what they once were. Not that parking is needed now to accommodate the tiny crowds, but there is supposed to be a casino there someday, y'know. NYRA VP Bill Nader said that while NYRA officials need the details of Bruno's plan, "this is the first time we've seen a substantive proposal that really speaks to the needs of NYRA and the entire New York racing industry at a time when we're running up against the wall." [AP]

But Nader also expressed skepticism that Bruno’s plan, even if accepted by Pataki, could derail a bankruptcy filing. "With every day that passes we're one day closer…..I'm not sure how fast the political process may move on this." [Albany Times-Union]

- Sounds like Penn National could use some Polytrack with its casinos.

- Nick Zito is warming up for Gulfstream with a hot barn at Calder. Besides sweeping the two top spots of the Hooper with Andromeda’s Hero (pointing for the Donn on Feb 4) and Seek Gold, he sent out four two-year old winners this past weekend.

One of those juvenile winners was Hemingway’s Key, getting her second win in as many starts while stretching out to a mile and a sixteenth on Monday. She’s by the dead Florida stallion Notebook out of a mare by Island Whirl, the Super Derby/ Whitney/Woodward/Hollywood Gold Cup winner whose name we don’t see all that often in pedigrees. The mare is a half to stakes winner Incinerate, who is the dam of Zito’s three-year old filly Eclipse contender In the Gold. Also, Hemingway’s Key traces directly back to foundation mare La Troienne, who is her 8th dam.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Say Goodbye to Hollywood

- I was checking out the final race of the day, and thus the meeting at Hollywood Park on TVG this evening. Santa Anita will open with a bang with the Malibu on the day after Xmas with the G1 Malibu and the grassy Sir Beaufort, both restricted to three year-olds. The finale at Hollywood was a $10K claimer at a mile and a sixteenth, and I was checking out the 10 horse, Mambo Dancer. He was taking a steep drop from 20K to 10K after being claimed by high percentage trainer Mike Mitchell for 16K. Seemed a bit suspicious, but he showed speed against better and figured to be prominent here. Then they interviewed the trainer on TVG, and he spoke about how it was a really tough field that he faced for 20K and that he’d be facing easier here. When the interviewer pointed out that there was speed inside of him in this spot, Mitchell replied that it was “cheaper speed,” and emphasized again how much better the horse faced in his last.

Think about the drop – if he wins 60% of the $19,000 purse, that’s $10,400; and even if he gets claimed (he did), the 10K puts them a tad ahead for the game (plus any betting proceeds). So I was going to go with Mambo Dancer. Until, that is, Frank Lyons, who did not include Mambo Dancer among the three horses he needed to hit the Pick Four, pointed out that all six of his lifetime wins had come on off tracks.

Hmmm, good point. Something that I definitely should have noticed myself, but I’d just missed it. It changed the equation, and I went off him and over to the 3 horse Golden Bonus at 5-1. Golden Bonus was badly impeded around the first turn and later was pulled up and vanned off. Mambo Dancer didn’t get the lead to himself, but as his trainer predicted, he was this time able to deal with the cheaper speed and went on to a two length win at 7-2.

So, this was perhaps another case of too much information. Again, it was certainly something I should have seen, and usually would, but sometimes it pays to not notice something. There’s a random factor in picking winners; a decision can turn on a specific thing that on another day, in another place, in a different mood or state of consciousness, you might not notice or interpret the same way. Sometimes just a little tidbit that I may hear from a handicapper on the P.A. or from a bettor standing nearby can change my perception as hard as I try to shut it out, and it seems as if my original opinion is usually best.

So I can personally do without all the various opinions we’re fed at the track these days. It’s mostly all just babble to me. No disrespect at all intended for those who provide this commentary nor for those who do like to listen, but it’s just not for me. Why should anyone's opinion be better than yours? I not only don’t really care who they like, I don’t even want to hear it. If I’m going to go down, I want to go down on the merit, or lack thereof, of my own opinion. There are exceptions; I recently mentioned Brad Thomas at Monmouth/ Meadowlands, who does a great job providing relevant facts and figures. But for the most part, I think silence should be the rule. Must have been nice at Keeneland when they used to have no P.A. at all – not even a track announcer, which all too often is the only thing I want to hear at the track that I can’t!

Brother Derek

- If Brother Derek were to win the Kentucky Derby, he would continue the string of “feel-good” stories, though he has no apparent connection to Philadelphia. His trainer, Dan Hendricks, was paralyzed from the waist down as the result of a motorcycle accident in July, 2004, but continues to train his stable from a wheelchair. Owner Martin Wygod took care of his medical treatment, and in August, a poker tournament in Las Vegas netted a $48,000 contribution to his family. It was organized by trainer Chris Paasch, and the good karma no doubt contributed to Passch’s first Grade 1 win with Diplomat Lady in Sunday’s Starlet. Hendricks has won at a 17% rate this year, and in addition to Brother Derek, has 2005 stakes winners in Cozy Guy, Irish Bar and Runaway Dancer.

Besides that moving human interest story is the fact that Brother Derek would be another modestly bred colt from outside bluegrass country to be a Derby contender, if indeed he turns out to be one. He’s a Cal-bred, by Benchmark, a son of Alydar standing for $7500 at River Edge Farm. Taking a look at Alydar’s stallion sons – Easy Goer, Alysheba, Saratoga Six, Turkoman, it’s apparent that he’s been a disappointment as a sire of sires.

As far as Benchmark goes after his 4th crop in 2005, according to the ad that appears in the 2006 Stallion Register, he is “Sire of Graded Winners on Turf and Dirt.” Notice the actual amount of graded winners is not specified, which means the total is probably not close to say, 80. Or even 10. In fact, he’s sired Grade 1 winner Silent Sighs, Grade 2 winner A to the Z (and Brother Derek), and Grade 3 winner Standard Setter. “He is the only fourth-crop sire in California represented by a Grade 1 winner.”

Brother Derek has some interesting inbreeding – in addition to Raise A Native (3x4) (his dam is by Mr. Prospector son Siyah Kalem (the same broodmare sire as Standard Setter) and Turn-To (5x5), he’s also inbred 4x5 to The Axe II, and I don’t notice that too often these days. Perhaps he has some turf in his future. Brother Derek is a full brother to stakes winner Don’tsellmeshort.

Notes - Dec 19

- Aqueduct is closed for their Xmas break until December 28, at which point NYRA is widely expected to file for bankruptcy. They haven’t always taken time off around the holidays; in fact, I recall racing on Christmas Eve with a 11 A.M. post time. Though they’ve been taking this break for a number of years now, I’m sure the original intent was not to save money by not having to pay out purses. But in 2005, the break is likely the only reason that the filing has not already taken place. Ed Fountaine at the New York Post takes a morose look at the sad situation.

Those who recall the glory days of the 1960s, when crowds of 60,000 jammed the Big A for Opening Day every March, wouldn't recognize the place today. One parking lot is off-limits behind a barricade of orange barrels after being taken over by the Port Authority. The other lots are pitted with potholes; there is no money to fix them.

The fans that do attend — typically under 2,000 on a weekday, just over 3,000 on weekends — are jammed into the clubhouse, because the grandstand has been closed in anticipation of building the casino, a project that's been on hold since the second floor was gutted three summers ago. Thousands of seats in the stands sit empty, coated with pigeon droppings, never to be used again.

Morale is at rock-bottom among the track's employees, who joke darkly that NYRA stands for "No Yearly Raises Anymore." Salaries have been frozen, along with contributions to the pension fund. Cuts have been made in every department, from cleaning to customer service. They even stopped serving lunch in the press box. [NY Post]
As usual, there were carolers spreading holiday cheer at the track (I wonder if the oversight board approved that expense), but even that couldn’t quite chase away the glum backdrop of impending insolvency that has cast a pall over the place. Merry Christmas indeed.

- Gulfstream has released a tentative timeline of which of its facilities will be open and when.
• Opening day: The bottom floor of the grandstand will be open. This includes betting, six eateries and an outdoor area between the club and track with tables and chairs.

Next to the grandstand will be a grassy area with several large tents. Inside will be televisions, a bar, concessions and strolling bet takers.

• Late January: Parts of the second floor will start opening. The floor has four restaurants, and each week another one will open.

• End of February: The entire second floor, including 20-table poker room, should be done.

• End of February/early March: Third floor starts opening, including luxury boxes, a room for $3,000-a-day bettors, another for $10,000-a-day bettors and another restaurant.

• April 1, Florida Derby Day: The entire grandstand should be completed. It will be four floors, with the top for racing officials, media and administrative offices. [Miami Herald]
And of course, following the meet will come the addition of the slot machines which are supposed to make Gulfstream’s purses more competitive. However, at least one person, Kent Stirling, the executive director of the Florida Horsemen's and Benevolent Protective Association, citing the 50% tax rate, doesn't foresee a windfall for thoroughbred purses.
"I don't see the slam-dunk [for purses] in Broward County as I saw before," Stirling said. "Most of the numbers I've seen at tracks have a tax rate around 40 percent. If we all sit down we might be able to do something to increase purses slightly, but I think it will be a minimal increase." [Sun-Sentinal]

Sometimes You Just Gotta Laugh

- There were some upsets in stakes races over the weekend – some big ones such as Diplomat Lady taking the Hollywood Starlet at 39-1, and some mild ones like Brother Derek taking the Hollywood Futurity as the 7-2 third choice.

But for me, the biggest surprise of the weekend was a win by a 7-10 shot. I’d become so married to the idea that Andromeda’s Hero would never, ever win any race, at least any one shorter than around two and a sixteenth miles, that I tossed him out of Saturday’s Fred W. Hooper Handicap at Calder with as much confidence as I could ever do so with an odds-on favorite. (I also found it rather ironic that this horse would be such a short price in a race named after a man who made his mark primarily with sprinters.) The presence of his stablemate Seek Gold didn’t faze me in the least, and I was actually laughing out loud as the entry’s price got hammered from an opening of 6-5. I should know by now not to do stuff like that.

There were obviously no horses in the field such as the kind that Andromeda’s Hero had been chasing all year, but there were others with at least competitive figs and a touch of class (though the truth is I would have bet against him even if he was facing a field of retired catchers.) So I used Military Major on top in some exactas and triples, reluctantly tossing in Andromeda’s Hero for third.

And as they came down the stretch in a race in which it didn’t look for a nanosecond that Zito’s entry would NOT win the race, the sound you may have heard in the Manhattan room up on the third floor of the Big A was me laughing out loud again. At myself. Because not only did Andromeda’s Hero pass his stablemate with ease to get his first win since March at Tampa Bay, but it was another seven lengths back from Seek Gold to the third place horse. I think it may have be the wrongest I’ve ever been about a race; and if you can’t laugh at yourself from time to time in this game, then perhaps you don’t have the proper temperament for it. After all, how often are even the best horseplayers actually right? (Besides, I knew that, as ESPN's Ed McNamara wrote when he also picked against the pair, the entry is a terrible bet at odds-on even if it runs 1-2).

Take for example this guy sitting at a table nearby. He was losing all day, and letting everyone know about it. But as they came down the stretch in the 7th at Laurel, and Red Gulch came surging on the outside at 23-1, the one lone voice screaming “GO FOUR, GO FOUR!” was, happily, this guy. However, even this didn’t make him happy. “I can’t believe I ONLY wheel two dollar exactas! If I spend $52 instead of $26, then I win SIX hundred. With my luck, the favorite HAS to come in second and I ONLY win three!” This was obviously one of those gentleman who will never be happy at the track, always finding something to complain about, and it would probably do him well to find some other pastime.

Happily, I was rewarded for my good sportsmanship and ability to laugh and shake it off by hitting Laurel’s 9th, a rare, for me, win-only bet on drop-down Power of the Porgi ($17.40). And that was after also having hit the 6th exacta at Aqueduct (though I did in this case mumble just a little bit to myself about the $80 payoff resulting from a 10-1 shot over a 7-2 favorite in a nine horse field…that seems a bit short, don’t it?) Since I pick my spots, bet exotics almost exclusively and always demand good value, I can literally go weeks and weeks without cashing a single ticket. Being able to weather the long losing streaks with at least a bit of frivolity is crucial, I think, to anyone being successful. Given the way I bet, it only takes a couple of scores to make up for a lot of losing days, and when I nailed the 8th race triple at the Big A on Sunday ($190.50) with my only wager of the day, it capped a successful weekend after a long drought.

- Of course, my successes did not include the two juvenile stakes races at Hollywood this past weekend, for which I picked losers for both right here on this blog. Are you guys mad at me when I tell you that I didn’t bet either of them myself? :-/ Does handicapping ethics demand that I back up my picks with my own money, or is just making a fool of myself and feeling bad about it enough penance? In the case of the Hollywood Futurity, I felt the price just wasn’t right on A.P. Warrior at 5-2, as I fretted more and more about his outside post as the race approached. The starting gate at a mile and a sixteenth at Hollywood is practically on top of the turn, at least according to the diagram in the Form. Not sure though if his wide trip around the first turn was enough to account to his disappointing 4th place effort. And in the Hollywood Starlet, I think that 3-1 was actually more than fair on Meetmeinthewoods, but the truth is that I was at a 5 P.M. Rangers game. So I just missed the race, and given that I’d had a good weekend, I didn’t bother playing it blind without knowing what her odds would be. The Rangers lost, so there’s my punishment.

In any event, they were both good races, and Brother Derek moves towards the top of the Derby list with his win. Trainer Dan Hendricks reiterated that his colt prefers two turns, and said that the horse really seemed to blossom after his 4th in the Juvenile. "For some reason, he just matured from then until now….We just started to see him ripple and grow up some more. I don't know what brought it about, but it was good timing." [LA Times] Your Tent Or Mine acquitted himself very well in his first route try, and I don’t think that Bob Baffert or most anyone else had much sympathy for Pat Valenzuela when he bitched about getting slammed by the winner leaving the gate.

Starlet winner Diplomat Lady (Forestry) is the first Grade 1 winner for her trainer Chris Paasch. She had two poor races at Del Mar on her pp lines which contributed to her long odds, but the trainer explained that the filly was sick. "We went over and over this filly and found some ulcers, but she still wouldn't give 100….We looked deeper into her lungs and found she had a pretty serious lung infection." [LA Times] Unlike Your Tent Or Mine, Meetmeinthewoods had no apparent excuse other, of course, the fact that she was racing in a Grade 1 stakes in her second lifetime start. Wouldn't give up on this one yet.

Saturday, December 17, 2005


- Sunday’s Grade 1 Starlet at Hollywood for two-year old fillies is a bit of a handicapping puzzle, as most of the contenders are stretching out in distance and/or stepping up sharply in class. The likely favorite is Balance (Thunder Gulch), winner of the inaugural Sharp Cat stakes at the same mile and a sixteenth route. Her trainer David Hofmans feels that "If she runs that race again, it should be enough." [Thoroughbred Time] Perhaps. We just don’t know if one of the others can step up, but if Balance is indeed the betting choice, it could be worth a shot to go against her. No doubt she was visually impressive in the Sharp Cat, pulling Victor Espinoza to the lead and holding sway without too much urging. But it wasn’t the greatest field in the world, and the fact that she was the 9-5 favorite despite it being her first dirt race after two turf efforts attests to that.

The two fillies that ran one-two in the seven furlong Moccasin stakes, Private World (Thunder Gulch) and True Xena (Yes It’s True), return here for their first efforts around two turns. Private World’s trainer Bob Hess, Jr., said "If she's within range of doing it, I think she'll have the heart. In terms of her heart and desire, I don't think she'll be outdone." [Daily Racing Form] That’s apparent to anyone who watched her gritty win in the Moccasin; she looked beaten by True Xena in deep stretch, but battled back on the inside to win by an imperceptible head-bobbing nose. The presence of distance influences like Temperance Hill and Storm Bird close up in her breeding suggests she may go on. For True Xena, the Moccasin was just her second race, coming off her maiden win, and she gave no ground despite suffering the heartbreaking defeat. Being out of an Unbridled mare should add some stamina to her speedy sire line breeding.

But hey, I’m just filling some space before getting to Meetmeinthewoods (General Meeting). She’s stepping up to Grade 1 company from a six furlong maiden win, but that race was so spectacular that it needs no further explanation. Please check it out on the Cal Racing site if you haven’t yet seen it. Meetmeinthewoods was wedged between horses down the backstretch, which could present a problem for an ordinary first-time starter, but she was unfazed as she effortlessly, and I mean effortlessly, edged to the lead around the turn and drew away in the stretch. Jockey Corey Nakatani expended far more energy looking behind him throughout the race than he did riding this filly, yet she threw in an eighth of :11 4/5 leaving the quarter pole, and then cruised home in :12 3/5 under a long hold, according to the chart. And this was after an opening quarter of :21 3/5! This all added up to a final time of 1:08 3/5.

As far as trying this distance, trainer Doug O’Neill concedes that it’s “a mystery".

"The only blessing is the General Meeting angle," he said, referring to her sire. "She's built like a router and covers a lot of ground. We've been high on her since the first time we breezed her." [Daily Racing Form]
General Meeting is by Seattle Slew, and she has plenty of distance influence close up in her pedigree (Alydar, Nijinsky, Nureyev, Buckpasser), and a tidy dosage index of 2.06. Having seen that debut, I can’t help but be all over her on Sunday if she's not too short of a price.

Friday, December 16, 2005

The Work of Fools

- In New York, the Committee on the Future of Racing has scheduled hearings for late next month to consider ways in which to improve the business of racing in the state. The committee will, at some point next year, perhaps in the spring, be issuing its Request For Proposals from parties interested in taking over the racing franchise, and the hope is that people from the racing industry will attend the meetings, scheduled for Jan 24 in Albany and the next day in NYC. 'We are looking for people who have something to say about the system now and how it can be improved in the future,' said committee member Bernadette Castro, the state parks system's commissioner. [The Saratogian]

You may recall that Governor Pataki’s bid to install Ms. Castro as the new head of the State Racing and Wagering Board was rebuffed earlier this month, but she still hopes to win the appointment.

Castro said she is looking forward to the appointment but can't say when it will happen.

She said she would be a good fit because the Castro family has owned a farm surrounded by horse country in Ocala, Fla., for 40 years. She said her post in charge of state parks has prepared her for managing the sport of racing, as several equine trails have been developed by her office. [Albany Times-Union]
(A response to an email inquiry confirmed that she said this with a straight face.) If a few horse trails makes her qualified to assume such a crucial position in the industry, I can think of some people who may be even more capable. How about NYC Police Commissioner Ray Kelly? After all, his department maintains a fine stable of equines for its mounted police. Better yet, how about former commissioner Bernard Kerik, who in addition to having managed the mounted cops has also shown that he’s full of horseshit. (And to think that the president nominated this guy to lead our Homeland Security.)

Or how about Dr. Steven E. Sanderson? He’s the President of the Wildlife Conservation Society, which manages the Bronx Zoo. I don’t think there are any horses there, but there are zebras, and they’re almost horses, right? Or maybe Patti Smith! I mean, she’s been celebrating the 30th anniversary of her legendary album, Horses! The next thing you know, Castro will be telling us that she’s qualified to be the next leader of Cuba!

Racing in New York is approaching a crossroads; a chance to right everything that’s wrong. Instead, things seem to be getting worse. NYRA is nearing bankruptcy and has been foiled by the state in their attempts to raise money; the State Lottery will not allow them to start construction of the Aqueduct casino and no one knows exactly why, though you can bet that someone higher up in Albany is involved. The State Racing and Wagering Board is leaderless as Pataki and Senate Republican leader Joseph Bruno wage their petty battles. The Committee on the Future of Racing, whose job is to determine just that at this most crucial time, is three members short, because Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has not made his appointments, perhaps because he’s waiting for Democrat Eliot Spitzer to become the next governor. And Bernadette Castro wants to bring her vast experience in managing horse trails to the most important position in the state’s racing hierarchy.

Patti Smith once wrote that the “People have the power / To redeem the work of fools,” but in this case the damage may be beyond repair.

Derby Fever at Xmas Time

- You can probably toss half of the field, including the three maidens in Saturday’s Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity, but the four top contenders will look to stamp themselves as legitimate (living) contenders for the Kentucky Derby. Beau Greeley has entered two non-winners that look particularly hopeless ("You know me. I'm not afraid.") The other, Jealous Profit, has actually shown decent thirds in the Norfolk and Del Mar Futurity and would be a surprising though not impossible victor. Old Thunder was the even money favorite when 4th against Your Tent Or Mine in the Hollywood Prevue, and when you hear his trainer say of his entry here that "It was an owners' decision," well, that pretty much says it all. [Bloodhorse]

Your Tent Or Mine (Forest Camp) may be the favorite based on his spectacular clock-busting win in the seven furlong Prevue, in which he lagged a bit behind the field before exploding between horses like a far more experienced colt, stopping the clock in a meet-best 1:21, with the final 3/8ths in 36 flat. The Futurity, at a mile and a sixteenth, will be his first try around two turns, but trainer Neil Drysdale is not worried. “He relaxes. He's got a good attitude." [LA Daily News]

Bob and John (Seeeking the Gold) was 1-5 when he was DQ’d in the Real Quiet; he wasn’t facing anything like these. He stormed home impressively in the stretch that day, but he’ll have to turn the tables on A.P. Warrior, who beat him by four lengths in an allowance on Nov 4. You know that Bob Baffert is desperate to get back to the Derby this year, and he has his eye on the big picture. "He's maturing. It's exciting when you've got a horse that's talented. He's still got a ways to go, but by springtime, he's going to be a really good horse." [Daily Racing Form]

But is he good enough now to turn the tables on A.P. Warrior (A.P. Indy)? Watching that race, it’s really striking to see the contrast between the riders of each colt. As Victor Espinoza was whipping and driving on Bob and John, Valenzeula (who understandably switches here to Your Tent Or Mine) was going easy on A.P Warrior, and that was after he was visibly straining to keep the colt a couple of lengths off the lead. Trainer Eoin Harty said: “I don't think he wants to be on the lead….I want to teach him to relax. He has a good turn of foot. He always breaks so sharp and he finds himself on the lead.” [DRF]

Not in the Norfolk though; he found himself sixth early, and couldn’t quite make up enough ground to catch Brother Derek (Benchmark), who subsequently ran 4th in the Juvenile. Brother Derek's trainer Dan Hendricks said ”I'm optimistic that he's better going two turns than one turn," and he told Thoroughbred Times, "He came out of the Breeders’ Cup great….He has gained weight and is training well. It looks like a pretty salty lineup, but I wouldn’t trade places with anybody."

I'm thinking that Your Tent Or Mine will be the favorite as he looks to go on in his first route attempt. But if he is a short price, I'll look for a value play. Picks: A.P. Warrior, Your Tent Or Mine, Brother Derek

- Next month, the Sport of Kings will present the Horse of the Year award to Saint Liam, trained by Richard Dutrow, who was suspended this year for illegal medication; and may very well give the trainer award to Todd Pletcher, whose 45-day suspension for the same substance was upheld by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board. “It's a powerful substance that can block a nerve," racing board chairwoman Cheryl Buley said. "We have to take that very seriously." [Bloodhorse] We’ll see if the Eclipse voters do too.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Ride Sally Ride

- As I mentioned the other day, Shug McGaughey is off to a fine start on the inner track at the Big A. He has another impeccably bred Phipps horse going in the feature on Thursday, the Ride Sally stakes for three-year old, non-stakes winning fillies. Another one being brought along with the kind of patience that many other outfits lack, Dream Time will be stretching out to a two-turn route for the first time. She’s by Storm Cat, out of the Phipps grade 1 winner Fantastic Find and thus a full sister to their multiple grade 1 winner Finder’s Fee. Her second dam is Blitey, and her third is Lady I’m guessing she’ll handle the distance. She’s listed as the 7-2 second choice, and in truth, she’ll have to step up as far as her Beyers go and greatly improve over her last dull effort against this sort; but ignore her at your own risk. (Of course, if you’ve been following me lately, you know that you listen to me at your own significant peril.)

The morning line favorite at 9-5 is Ms. Louisa Quartoze, winner of three out of her last four at Delaware and Laurel with Beyers that tower over the rest of these; and she’s won her last two by a combined 16 ¾ lengths. But she hasn’t beaten much, and faced just three others in her last. This is a real interesting betting race, with a couple other blue-blooded fillies worth a look. Pleasant Laughter (Coronado’s Quest) has improved of late for Phil Serpe at one turn routes and tries a second turn for the first time; her second dam, stakes winner Classic Reign, is a half to millionaires Regal Classic and Sky Classic. And check out Spun Silk at 15-1 in the morning line for Kiaran McLaughlin ; her last was a 13 length win at Philly Park in her first two-turn try in a pretty slow Beyer of 60. But she’s by AP Indy out of a Wild Again half sister to Tale of the Cat and Myth, the dam of champion Johannesburg. And her second dam is a half to Preach, the dam of Pulpit. (This is the same female family as Point of Impact, the Baffert two-year old mentioned in the previous post.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Grade Ones at Hollywood

- Grade 1 races for two-year olds at Hollywood Park this weekend. The Eclipse for the boys was decided in the Futurity last year, but this year the title is already presumably wrapped up by Juvenile winner Stevie Wonderboy. Let’s see if Merv has straightened out that misinformation about Beyer figures on his website. Nope, it’s still there. He calls himself a horseman and he doesn't read my blog? Stevie worked five furlongs in 1:02.40 on Wednesday; he’s preparing for his three-year old debut in the San Rafael on Jan 14. It’ll be his first start around two turns, which shouldn’t pose a problem on paper, but you never know. [Trainer Doug] O'Neill envisions a three-race preparation for Stevie Wonderboy before the Kentucky Derby. [Daily Racing Form]

The Futurity will be run around two turns at a mile and a sixteenth, and Bob Baffert’s Bob and John (Seeking the Gold) has been there, done that three times. He’ll be trying to avenge his controversial DQ loss in the Real Quiet stakes last month. On Sunday, Bob and John worked 5f in 1:01 3/5. Also working for the Futurity was Norfolk winner Brother Derek (4th in the Juvenile); the son of Benchmark (Alydar) got 5f in a minute flat; his trainer Dan Hendricks said "He did it in a gallop... . Alex [Solis] said he is stronger and more mature than he was going into the Breeders' Cup." [Bloodhorse]

Other probable starters are A.P. Warrior, Bashert..... Ecru Egret, Kobayashi, and Your Tent or Mine. [DRF]

On Sunday, the girls will go in the G1 Starlet, and much attention will be on Meetmeinthewoods (General Meeting), a runaway winner of her debut for O’Neill in 1:08.75. She worked six furlongs in 1:13 on Sunday. According to the Form, Sharp Cat winner Balance (Thunder Gulch), had an unrecorded workout of five furlongs in 1:00.60 on Wednesday. Also expected for the Starlet are Moccasin winner and runner-up Private World (Thunder Gulch) and True Xena (Yes It’s True), and the latter had a blazing work of five furlongs in :58 3/5. "It was a little faster than I wanted, but Jon said she did it on her own," said trainer Rafael Becerra after the move under jockey Jon Court. [Bloodhorse]

- Jay Privman in the Form takes a look at the recent struggles of Bob Baffert, and lists some of the extremely expensive failures he’s had in his barn of late.

Smart Again, who cost $500,000 as a weanling in November 2000. Extra cost $975,000 as a yearling in 2001. Stand and Fight was a $775,000 yearling purchase in 2001 whose first win came in a $25,000 maiden-claiming race. Contribute ($775,000) and Scenic Wonder ($625,000) were yearling purchases of 2001, and Truckle Feature ($500,000) was a 2-year-old buy in the spring of 2002. No need to worry if you've never heard of most, or any, of them.

There's more. From the next crop, there was the expensive bust Sea of Secrets, who cost $2.7 million as a 2-year-old in training in March 2003, along with yearling buys Work ($950,000) and Consistent ($700,000). [Daily Racing Form]
Privman points out that he also has an $8 million Storm Cat colt who has not yet raced in this, his two-year old year, ouch. All this money could have been better spent, of course; it could finance the war for about three and a half hours or so. Baffert said, "Some of those horses with great pedigrees, they're slow.”

But he’s optimistic, as usual, for the coming year, despite the untimely passing of What A Song. In addition to Bob and John, he has an unraced Point Given colt named Point of Impact who, according to Walter in Las Vegas, has been bet from 300/1 down to 75/1 @ Wynn, and 100/1 down to 60/1 @ Bally's in the Derby futures wagering. That colt has already gotten a mention by Haskin, which I don’t know whether is good or bad, along with Regal Legacy, a Monarchos colt who cost $550,000.

- Declan's Moon is not quite ready to resume training, at least not at the track, and is headed back to the farm for a month. "He came out well on the nuclear scan, but the X-rays showed he has a little way to go," [trainer Ron] Ellis said.

- That $5 million land sale that NYRA needs is still not finalized, and CEO Charles Hayward warns that they will run out of cash - really and truly - by the end of the month if the sale is not completed. "We’re in discussions with the Port Authority.....The problem is they haven’t decided what land they’re interested in." [Thoroughbred Times] Hayward also said that NYRA is still, unbelievably, waiting for approval to start construction on their casino. There ain’t no way this thing is going to be ready by next fall as originally anticipated, and it’s quite possible that, if NYRA is still in charge, we could see this same sad scenario repeating itself next year once the Saratoga money runs out. They need the New York State Division of the Lottery to approve the contract with MGM Grand. I don’t want any of you to get in the habit of expecting me to do any real reporting here, but damn it, I’m going to call these guys tomorrow and ask them what the hell the holdup is. I guess they’re too busy getting people to piss away their money on stuff like this.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Gelded Cat

- Highland Cat has returned to the farm in Pennsylvania, where he will be gelded (ouch!) and given a bit more in the way of learning how to be a race horse. We expect him back at Billy Turner’s barn sometime in March, and the trainer remains optimistic. Meanwhile, the 4th and final member of our team, the yet-to-be-named Vicar filly, is now with Turner and will commence training. The goal is still to sell her out of the barn, as Turner did with Mum’s the Word (Real Quiet), but I wouldn’t be upset if we kept her, as I’m quite excited about her pedigree. Besides the fact that I loved Vicar as a racehorse and that he’s off to a pretty good start at stud, her dam (by Belong to Me) is a half to million dollar earner Fit For A Queen, the dam of Zito’s stakes winner Royal Assault, and the granddam of stakes winning siblings Ender’s Shadow and Ender’s Sister.

She also has some interesting inbreeding, including 5x5 to Lady Angela, who is her 5th dam and the dam of Nearctic, the sire of Northern Dancer, and this filly’s great-great-grandsire. So there’s all kind of stuff going on here, including the Rasmussen Factor. But hopefully, she can run a little.

- Mentioned Philanthropist yesterday, and the Form reports that McGaughey said he believes that Philanthropist could blossom into a Grade 1-caliber stakes horse and has already penciled in the $500,000 Donn Handicap on Feb. 4 as an early target in 2006. Shug has three winners in seven starters on the Big A inner track, and keep an eye on two more coming up: Dream Time is entered in Thursday's $65,000 Ride Sally Stakes, while Strategy is being pointed to Saturday's $75,000 Ladies Handicap.

Smuggler, who is from the same female family is back in training down at Gulfstream.

In the same article we learn that trainer Linda Rice begins serving a 20-day suspension, reduced from 45 because she didn’t appeal, for a drug positive returned on her Motor City Mama after that filly won on October 2 at Belmont.

In addition to the suspension, Rice was fined $1,000. In her absence, Rice's horses in New York will run under assistant trainer Celine Parrilla's name.
Gee, well that’s another real harsh penalty – a thousand bucks and a 20 day vacation while her horses continue to race. Some trainers probably look at this like a NYC deliveryman views a parking summons – just another cost of doing business.

- Had a chance to take a look at Wilko’s close third at Golden Gate on Saturday. Nice effort, with a ton of excuses. That’s a familiar scenario for this colt, who now has lost 14 of his 17 starts. But in this case, we could possibly buy it. After all, it was his first race since the Preakness, and he did quite well to close (in 22.75 and 11.42) at just six furlongs. He’s headed next for the Malibu, which would be just 16 days rest. Attila’s Storm, the winner of the Fall Highweight, is also being pointed for that one, and I’d read Surf Cat mentioned as well.

- Reader, blogger, and, unlike yours truly, recent winning horse-owner Tote Board Brad railed at the press in the comments section here, and rightly so, for its lack of comprehensive coverage of the Jockeys’ Guild scandal, and as if on cue, the LA Times checks in today with an exhaustive piece that summarizes the whole unseemly affair. The only criticism I have is that it’s lumped into the sports section, whereas I think that a little more mainstream coverage is definitely in order at this point. And why not? I mean, lies, extortion, corruption, phony resumes, assault, theft of shoes and heads……c’mon, people love this stuff, how about a little front page action? Readers of Left at the Gate are familiar with most of the information in the article, but there are a few interesting tidbits and details here that I hadn’t seen previously.

Pepperdine University, where Gertmenian still teaches, released a statement saying that its administrators are "deeply concerned over allegations stemming from Dr. Gertmenian's involvement with the Jockeys' Guild," and have begun an investigation. Well, it’s about time! Gertmenian’s resume was discredited months before the Congressional hearing, yet it’s still posted as fact on the university’s website. There’s at least one other apparent lie on it besides his claims of employment in the Nixon and Ford Administrations:
Ryan LaHurd, president of the New York-based Near East Foundation, told The Times that Gertmenian had never served on the institution's board of directors, as claimed on the professor's resume posted on Pepperdine's website.

Gertmenian was one of a "loose collection of persons" who occasionally acted as advisors but "had no official function," LaHurd said in an e-mail.
is definitely worth a look, even if you have to go through the annoying registration process.

- Totally off-topic but certainly relevant in the wake of the recent 25th anniversary of John Lennon's murder, this MP3 file is a recording of a scan of the FM dial in New York City on the night of the shooting. A poignant little time capsule of a very tragic night, via WFMU's Beware of the Blog, which is filled with other priceless material and well worth a few hours of your time.