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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Keeneland Notes - Apr 9

- The racing at Keeneland is beyond belief, isn't it? I wanted to hop into the car and head straight there (only around 11 1/2 hours according to Yahoo maps) when I was watching the coverage on TVG on Saturday. The quality reminds me of the old days at Saratoga when the meet was only four weeks (and horses could run two or three times).

On Wednesday, Bujagali is the morning line favorite for McLaughlin, who is just smoking, hitting at a 29% rate this year. He capped off a fabulous weekend when Keep Laughing won the Lafayette in his first try outside the maiden ranks. The barn won the Ashland on Saturday, and had the impressive Lieutenant Ron as well. Bujagali jumps in class after wiring an entry-level allowance race on the grass; the race has produced three subsequent winners. He turned things around on that surface, and figures to like the Poly here.

He does however face a possible speed challenge from rail horse Gstaad, who figures to be out and winging from the rail. That could set the race up for Morada Key. Trainer Robert Holthus is not a big layoff guy, and with this one making his first start since November, that's a concern. But this colt raced well against better last year, and showed a distinct affinity for the track, with an allowance win, and a good 4th in the G3 Perryville. Nice series of breezes, and the track should suit his deep closing style.

In the 6th, Please Include Me (12-1) returns off a layoff for Dale Romans. The trainer lost this one two back for 30K, and then promptly claimed him back for 50K his next start. That was in the slop, and the horse finished 6th and apparently got hurt. Not too much on the workout tab, but he did have a smart five furlong move at Churchill last week. The son of Include ran well off a layoff last year, and has shown a nice closing move at one turn sprints, so, again, this track may serve him well. But a look at the tote is warranted in this case. Tenkiller Lake (7-2) comes off two late-running seconds at Fair Grounds and tries Poly for the first time.

The 7th is too hard to pick, but wanted to point out that it's another stakes quality allowance featuring last year's Lafayette winner Carnacks Choice, stakes winners Indian Chant, Elite Squadron, Forest Blue, and our old buddy Going Wild.

The feature is the Grade 2 Vinery Madison at seven furlongs. Zada Belle is an unbeaten-in-two Godolphin runner who returned from a long layoff to breeze by four against a very moderate five horse field at Santa Anita in February; she figures to get a lot of attention here as the 7-2 morning line favorite. But there are some far more seasoned alternatives that stand to represent excellent value if the Sheikh's horse gets overbet. Especially Wild Gams (9-2), who is a multiple graded stakes winner making her first since November. She won the G3 TCA over this track last year and is reunited with Ramon Dominguez, who piloted her to that win. This five year old daughter of Forest Wildcat is another who has the closing style to make The Move that wins so many races over this surface. Mini Sermon makes her first start since Janury for Pletcher; she won the G2 Top Flight last year. And Ventura, a winner on the downhill course in her North American debut for Frankel, won a listed stakes on Polytrack in the UK last year.

- The Toddster had a horrible day on Saturday, going 0-9 in graded stakes races. The most notable failures were Atoned, 4th at 7-2 in the Illinois Derby; Texas Wildcatter, a miserable 8th, beaten by 33 lengths, at 9-2 in the miserable Wood; Magna Graduate, 4th at a horribly overbet 5-2 in the Excelsior, and boy, do my eyes light up when I see this money burner in a race these days; King of the Roxy, continuing his slide to ignominy with a 6th place finish at 8-1 in the Carter; Circular Quay, a highly disappointing 4th at 5-2 in the Oaklawn Handicap; and Nite Light, 2nd as the 5-2 favorite in the Excelsior. This futility led a poster on the Thoro-Graph board to declared "R.I.P" to the Pletcher Empire!

T Pletch and Co. laid a major egg. The signs were there last summer when the 2YOs were so bad. But this bad this quick demands major day rate cuts or drops in class or the vans will be lining up.

Hard work will keep him treading water. At least he will not end up like Baffert who I understand is on this weeks episode of "Without a Trace"
So keep the hard working Toddster in mind if you have some horses that need a fresh start!


Teresa said...

Without traffic, you can make it in eleven hours. Last year, I went for the weekend of the Lexington: Brooklyn to Lexington on Friday, and back on Sunday. Worth every minute.

Anonymous said...

Keeneland - and Lexington in general - is like Disneyland for racing fans. It really is a gem of an institution that as soon as you turn off Man O’ War Blvd you see the Promised Land encircled in such rich emerald green grass, rolling hills, and wonderful trees. As said by someone else in the current issue of ‘Keeneland Special’: it makes most tracks look like the projects.

I can recall several years ago taking a picture of cars going through what looked like a three bay car wash on the Keeneland property and a police office approached and asked what I was taking a picture of. I pointed and I said what is that? He responded - without thinking it was out of the norm - a drive through OTB, of course.

Ah, yes, of course a drive through OTB!

Jim O said...

Never write off a good trainer just because of a bad streak, no matter how prolonged. I remember well a newspaper column from the mid-nineties by a racing columnist whom I will not name (because my point is not about him personally) with a cynical post-mortum of the career of D. Wayne Lucas. This was a few months before Lucas began a streak of umpteen Triple Crown wins in a row.

Anonymous said...

The Pletcher horses now run like normal race horses.
Since the Saratoga meet last summer, when the NYSR&WB informed him (in confidence) that they had come up with a test for the magical solution that had him winning 3-5 races a day and stake races with every entry, take a look at his stats. Pretty normal.

Same is happening again now, with Mclaughin and Levine. That too, will soon come to a halt and then you can handicap their entries on a normal basis.
Its just the nature of the game. Just look at at well the horses claimed from them do vs. how well they do with the horses they claim. Wake up people.

Back when Lukas stopped - the reason was the same. Then something new comes along and is used - until.

Anonymous said...

i find the last comment rather dumb, for lack of a better word. pletcher kicks butt because he has owners who dominate the sales and have high class breeding operations. but in the last year or so some of those owners felt there horses werent getting the same amount of focus they were used to. pletchers stable got to big for its own good. though i am sure his assistants are highly capable of running there own operations. owners like winding oaks jumped ship when horses like pool land were being used as rabbits.

Anonymous said...

Right - and I suppose the Phipps stable just could not compete with those well bred sale purchases and top class breeding operations of Pletcher's owners. Wake up. At least Dinny runs honest.

Anonymous said...

When Biovail came under SEC scrutiny and its founder, a main Pletcher owner ran into trouble, all of sudden, poof, the Toddster became mortal.

Anonymous said...

well, hmmm how many phipps breds are there a year? enough to have a large three to four circuit operation? also the key here would be SALES HORSES you can breed the best to the best and get nothing. where do the not so talented phipps horses go? when you get the first string athletes from a bunch of top owners and dominate the sales your telling me pletcher wasnt supposed to dominate? so are we also blaming frankels great years on drugs? might as well start pointing fingers at de cock while we are at.

Anonymous said...

No blame - tough game and can't blame these guys from using the most advanced "help" available.
Just look at the past performances - you can handicap who has the extra "help" and when its used and when they stop.
Example - Look at Levine today with Sea Cat.
Remember, you are only as good as your horses - you can give them the best care in the world but they are only so capable w/o the help.
If you really doubt this, you are very silly and should stay away from the windows.