Tuesday, December 29, 2009

4: Summer Bird Snags the Belmont



Summer Bird cements Birdstone as a superlative stud, and gives Desormeaux some Big Sandy consolation. Like many others I never saw the Birds coming, but what a great turn for racing; breeding for the bottom end is refreshing in a sport that has way too many cheap speed dashes.

Tim Ice notched this Classic victory in his first year as trainer, on his birthday no less. And Summer Bird followed this with a nice win over Quality Road in the Travers to cement or at least squish his name into Eclipse contention. He will likely win best Three Year Old.

All three legs of the Triple Crown were interesting this year, but watching the scopey, cobalt-splotched Dunkirk burst out of the gate in a losing but eye-popping tack to take the longest race on the front end was amazing. And he nearly pulled it off. Speed had been carrying all day, so the gambit made sense from the Pletcher brain trust, but jeez I just never knew D had it in him. And even though he fractured his condyular bone, he never threw in the towel. All this high breeding, talent and desire to win spell later success for this gray. And, Mine That Bird was rounding out his form in what was maybe not the best ride from Borel who rode nothing on the undercard on a track he was unfamiliar with. Borel will amaze with his brilliance and dunderheadedness. He's a lot of fun. But this day belonged to the Summer Bird who I hope recovers and returns to the oval after an injury in the island nation of Japan.

Friday, December 18, 2009

5: Musket Man Serves Notice in the Tampa Bay Derby



Sometimes you see a race that's more of an announcnement from a young horse that he's done fooling around and is ready to win, even when the conditions aren't favorable. It's a rare pleasure. When this doesn't go through the predictable channels, you get a refreshing perspective of the equine and human brillance, heart and tenacity it takes to mount a successful Triple Crown campaign. Musket Man is not regally bred, he doesn't come from a top barn, and Tampa Bay Downs is more an outpost for second stringers and afterthoughters than an oval for those with Louisville ambitions. Yet this is where Musket Man announced he was ready and willing to gut through the most arduous races the game presents -- and ended up hitting the board in the two Triple Crown races that he competed in. Mine That Bird, at his peak, was the only other horse to hit the board in more than one. And Derrick Ryan, one of my new favorite trainers repaid Musket Man with a nice long vacation.

Down to the can of Guinness he enjoys with his feed every morning, Musket Man is a horse of the people. But I've put this race in the five slot, not as class warfare, but for the reasons above. The Tampa track is deep and somewhat quirky, the stretch is pretty short, so races can be stolen on the front, and that's exactly what Join in the Dance was trying to pull off, until Musket Man decided to fire down the lane and nip him at the wire. Before this Musket Man had the reputation of being lazy, a reputation he'd leave behind like the rest of this field. He was ridden aggressively and had a rough trip, you can see the jock standing in the irons along the turn for home and muscling him into his correct lead in the stretch. It was a tough race, one that many horses would have let keep them from performing at their best. But Musket Man put in an amazing propulsive bid just when you thought it was over. He'd knock off hometown hero Giant Oak at Hawthorne -- another quirky track that the trainer did not fear and chose against the owner's wishes -- on his route to Louisville. And, yeah he had second all the way in the Derby.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

6: Goldikova Repeats in the Turf Mile



A bad post and prep race didn't stop Goldikova from repeating in the Turf Mile. She is a superstar with TNT in her feet. It's fun to watch her head-on in the French races posted on Youtube. She'll be bobbing with the rest of the vanguard then simply jets ahead, as if just realizing she has no business being near these other horses.

This year's Turf Mile might not have had the stellar line-up of previous contests, largely due to Goldikova's formidable presence. Even British star Mastercraftsman opted for the main track where he never found a hole. But the post and pace allowed us to see another dimension of the filly. She had to race from the back of the pack. She's always had nerves that have caused complicated gatings, including the use of blindfolds. And her recent loss in a pacesetting race, showed a vulnerability. Was it possible a speedball could burn her up? Not at the Breeders Cup. She sat chilly in back and made her move when the time was right, showing how silly it was of us for having any fears about her not tearing up the field. Again.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

7: Quality Road Takes Florida




Barbaro and Big Brown leant a lot of gravitas to the Florida Derby. Quality Road took it this year and established a new track record, though this oval was scraped for the event. It was lightning fast all day. Like I Want Revenge's Wood Memorial, the Florida Derby may have cemented Quality Road as one of the fastest three year olds, yet may have been the cause of his undoing. But this race was a fantastic one to watch. I really thought Dunkirk was gonna reel him in when they headed at the top of the stretch, he seemed to take QR's jockey by surprise, but QR would re-rally and hold off the high-priced gray. Dunkirk would make the Derby but get battered in the break. He made it back for the Belmont and nearly wired it in astonishing fashion. A check in that race would lead to a condyular fracture and he's been sidelined since, but will be back soon.

Quality Road came back at the Saratoga meet in the Amsterdam where he took on Capt. Candyman Can on a sealed track. He would notch yet another track record after a poor break that pressaged the gating problems that would keep him out of the Breeders Cup in a dramatic gate scratch, this writhing bay, blindfolded and scared luckily was kept under rein by one of the loaders at Santa Anita. The trauma/drama continued with him famously refusing to board a plane home. He's home now and the connections can hopefully get this ridiculously talented colt back on the right track.

8: Gio Ponti Charges Home to Win the Arlington Million




The Arlington Million came about in the tail end of the Golden Era of American racing. John Henry would catch longshot The Bart in a thrilling stretch battle in the inaugural Miilion of 1981. This moment is cast life-size in bronze in front of the paddock at Arlington. Four years later on the last day of July the track caught fire. Reconstruction focused on keeping what would become known as the Miracle Million in the Heights. The track won an Eclipse for the accomplishment (first time a track had won).

While this past year's iteration can't match that drama, it did show signs of rejuvenation. Einstien, Gio Ponti and Precious Passion came in for the event. Precious Passion didn't scratch even though the turf was yielding, which is a big credit to the connections. The only European to take lasix on one of the hottest days of the summer was Stotsfold, and he was the greatest threat to Gio Ponti who typically makes his move a little early for a grass horse. They battled and Just As Well jumped into the frame representing one of my favorite trainers: Jonathon Sheppard. It was a great Million and Gio Ponti took good advantage of the swooping turns of Arlington's internationally renown turf course. His connections donated part of the purse to the Disabled Jockeys Relief Fund, which added a touch of class and poignance. Christophe Clemente, long known for his work with turf fillies, officialy crossed the gender barrier and would later bring Gio Ponti to race in the Classic on ProRide, earning the distinction of being the only trainer in the Classic without a drug infraction on his record.

Monday, November 30, 2009

9: I Want Revenge Takes the Wood Memorial



With the smiley 19-year-old Joe Talamo on his back, I Want Revenge proved a dominant dirt horse even through adverse conditions. Flat-footed at the break, Talamo rode chilly, swooped back into contention then grabbed the wire as if all the other horses were bit players in the Revenge drama.

After a couple punchless Pro Ride performances, IWR's somewhat infamous (at least in NY) connections, under the advice of Talamo, shipped east for the Gotham and Wood and gave the sputtering New York circuit a jolt. Unfortunately the big dream was short-circuited when, as Morning Line favorite of the Kentucky Derby, I Want Revenge was scratched due to an injury, which may have occured in the Wood.

Monday, November 23, 2009

10: Rachel Alexandra in the Haskell




That's Rachel in the Haskell above. It was one of my favorite races because it really solidified her as the best three year old. The Preakness was very nice, but the track was quirky and Mine That Bird seemed to be gaining on her. But that's as close as any three year old would get, and Mine That Bird would go on to show the curve of his form climbed perfectly with the Triple Crown, but would faulter thereafter. There's an excellent photo from the turn in the Preakness that shows the boys in an all-out scrum behind Rachel. It's like a yearbook photo, it seemed to encapsulate the Triple Crown Trail better than any other image. I'll post it later.

At the ten spot is Rachel in the Haskell making it clear she is dominant in her age division. Watching her legs unfurl before her in the New Jersey mud was a thing of beauty.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Wrapt



Bobby Frankel's passing this week has given racing fans a lot to reflect on. He was an animal lover and a handicapper as well as a premeire trainer. He started in the lower echelons playing the claim game, and was known for never running a horse with wraps. He didn't run sore horses and if one of his animals had suspensory or ligament questions, the horse did not run. That's why you hear the praise from the jockeys, and why his curmudgeonly presence at the track was well respected, not just feared.

This time of year it's very difficult to find a runner at Hawthorne not showing front wraps, and the danger of injury scales up. It's been a difficult year for Chicago jocks. Chris Emigh took a spill last week at Churchill breaking a clavical that'll keep him off the track until the Oaklawn meet. So let's hope we see some good races on the dirt in Stickney and we exit the year safely.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Zenyatta Wins!



The lyric in the picture is a translation of a song Mike Smith sings to Zenyatta before every race. It's a little prettier in Spanish, the way Smith sings it. Zenyatta's sisters have had temperment issues, and they wanted to keep Zenyatta calm before she raced. She would step in time to the lyrics after post parade and then mill around by herself as the other horses were jogged to get ready.

Once Again
Before you go
Allow me to look
Once more
Into the face
I will never forget.

It's been a sensational year for horseracing. How can anyone not be a fan? The storylines and the performances were riveting. Now we wait and see what the electorate comes up with for Horse of the Year.

Rachel Alexandra has the dubious distinction of being kept out of the two biggest races of the year and not on account of her individual talents or abilities. No Derby because she's a girl, and no BC because it's on a synthetic surface that Curlin didn't win on.

Zenyatta's connections took a lot of gruff for scratching on Derby day. Not wanting to bring her back on a sealed track. The decision had nothing to do with whether or not she could win. Sealed tracks are tough on a horse that's coming off a layoff.

I don't have a vote, but if I did it would be for Zenyatta. There's no doubt Jess Jackson has done a lot for horse racing, but his decision to avoid the Breeders' Cup should exact a price. Many people have waged campaigns against the Breeders Cup this year because it's on a synthetic surface, nevermind that just about every major stakes on the east coast this year has gotten rained on.

Unlike many other sports, horse racing needs its history, and its events are scattered; it needs the big players to confer the importance of certain races like the Kentucky Derby and the Breeders Cup. And, yet it needs from everyone an open-mindedness to reform and improvement with the main goal being the health of the horse and breed. Synthetics need to be given a chance. Not only do the numbers show an improvement in breakdown rate, but there are long-term gains on breeding away from speed.

And the internationalization of American horse racing should not be seen as a threat, but as an opportunity for growth in a sport whose denizens are dwindling. If the Brits had won at the Breeders' Cup this year, there'd be calls to rip up the surface. Zenyatta didn't let this happen. This was an outrageously successful Breeders Cup, and I'm content it has crowned this year's queen.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Saturday BC

The turf has been playing quick as has the ProRide, but this year's BC has come to down to trip. Leparoux is cultivating some nice ones with She Be Wild and Informed Decision. I don't know how the frenchman does it; he waits and is rewarded. She Be Wild is a small filly, easier to glide through holes, but Informed Decision called for a tactical decision to lay closer to the pace. There isn't too much to take from the other races. The Ladies Classic was a strange race with a loose Careless Jewel. She's young. So give speed a slight edge tomorrow, though don't overdo it because pace has made the race.

BC Juv Turf
Tempting to go Euro here, but the OSA turf is nothing like European sod. The corners are tight, turns are left-hand, and the grass is bone dry. Pounced and Buzzword outclass and this means a lot in turf, but there's a McPeek horse named Bridgetown who could break out. McPeek hasn't done all that well in the BC and the trajectory for this colt is not typical, via Canada. But he has a nice middle move that could make a big difference. Interactif, another American won impressively at Keeneland in last, and that form has transferred well. I'm gonna figure out a scenario with those fellas. Take note that this race has no horse with experience over the track, so who knows what will happen. Go wtih value and nothin more exotic than an exacta.

Turf Sprint
California Flag is a compressed spring. He got loose on the track earlier this week and could get loose again. Strike the Deal seems to have some issues. There is a filly in here named Diamondrella. Again, coming from Keeneland. She has run lights out, and IEAH deserves props for choosing the right spots for her. She'll be closing fast. I'm also a big fan of Cannonball, but it's hard to see him in tip-top form. Should be fun watching em come down the hill.

Sprint
Zensational, famous for slow breaks and rank runs gets the rail. Is he he all grows up? We'll see. Right now the narrative is of Baffert falling on his face, but that could change quick. The biggest challenge is synth specialist Fatal Bullet, and if they burn each other up as the form suggests is possible then Gayego and Capt Candyman Can loom in the shadows. I like Capt. Candyman Can very much, though he does seem the bridesmaid. So I'm gonna do the Phoenix replay and have the Bullet holding him off in the stretch.

Juvenile
I'm hoping punters dismiss D'Funnybone as a dirt horse who will fail because he looks great. Aikenite had a nice run at Keeeneland but nothing really special. Aspire, a Keneally juvenile could really surprise here.

Turf Mile
Goldikova returns. This time with Lasix. She'll be tough to beat, but I also like Ferneley in this race. He's been very quietly showing up in all the big pictures this year. He could break out. It'd be better if Ventura had won, but I like him better than Court Vision and Delegator.

Dirt Turf
Poor Mastercraftsman would seem invincible if it weren't for Sea the Stars. This mottled gray runner has tactical speed and experience over the synthetics. In some ways this race is an homage to Goldikova because so many turfers ducked her and ended up here. Mr. Sidney is another prime example. Hard to believe Bullsbay is 3-1 on the morning. He's ceretainlty not a miler, and this race usually goes to a specialist. Then there's Pyro who's ride to the Triple Crown was derailed on the plastics at Keeneland. I can't figure anything under the craftyman, so he's my Best Bet for the BC this year.

Turf
Precious Passion will be swallowed, but hopefully he'll swallow a lot of money too. Spanish Moon looks ready to romp here. Conduit defends but doesnt look to be in perfect form. I think the mantle will be handed over. The filly Dar Re Mi will be tough, but is she ready for this sort of race? Has she learned anything from the Arc. I hope so. The Euros are gonna take this.

Classic
This is such a great race. I can't wait for it. Zenyatta will be hopelessly overbet. But what can you do? She's amazing. Gio Ponti could be underbet and if he times his move right he could steal the purse, well not steal. This is a classy fellow. I'd love to see Mine That Bird in the action and Richard's Kid seems to be emerging at the right time. but I'm going with the mare and Gio.

Thursday, November 5, 2009



I'm not a Value capper, but in the economic times it might be helpful to consider Value. Actually that's a bunch of shit and any time you see or hear In these economic times or (ITE) in an ad, your bullshit sensor should be blaring. I like the credit card ads that explain that the only way to save money is by spending money. But enough of this digression, as I said I'm not a Value capper, I try to pick a winner every time. If the tote agrees, the tote agrees. I'm not the type always looking to outfox the crowds, though I might play harder if I see certain opportunities light up.

With the Breeders' Cup you see crazy things like Colonel John, Einstien and Gio Ponti at double digit odds. You see a turfer like Fernely whose quietly rounded into excellent form at 20-1. You see the resilient Capt. Candyman Can at 15-1. Even Zenyatta gets 5-2, which is something she hasn't been near in a long while. These are sumptuous, sumptuous prices. Impossible not to salivate over. So, I'll start my Breeders' review with some Value plays. Sure there's no value in a crumpled ticket, but there's nothing more crushing than watching a longshot you spotted then pussed out on get his picture taken.

Big Big Savings
Cloudy's Knight. There isn't too much value in the Marathon. These races are jockey races and tough to predict. Mastery outclasses the field, but a yankee has re-emerged after a year off to take consecutive victories in Kentucky. Sheppard is having an excellent year and there's not a trainer out there who deserves it more.

She Be Wild. Sure there's a local bias, but this small filly has raced really well then, for whatever reason, switched to Gomez for the Darley A, which she was collared in. I guess the idea was to get Gomez ready to ride her in the BC, but that backfired. Leparoux gets in the irons and he's no slouch. I like her and Negligee in the Juvenile Fillly.

Capt. Candyman Can. If you like Gayego, you'll love the Candyman. Calls for cappin the pace -- you gotta pray for fire on the front.

Aspire. Keneally juveniles are always good, but the distance is questionable. Still, at 20-1, take note of this colt.

Fernely. He's been running behind breakout races from Ventura and Colonel John, he likes the California sod, might be his turn.

Proviso
had Mushka beat in last. Could overcome this field in her second stateside rally.

Gio Ponti
This classy guy is another nod to a classy trainer. Cristophe Clemente, as Joe Drape sagaciously points out, is the only trainer in the Breeders Cup this year who has no previous drug infractions. This guy runs a tight ship. Gio Ponti is our best turf horse, but he's also done well on synthetics. Oddly, the only worry I have (not a common worry for a turfer crossing over) is that he's made his move a little early in the past and that might work on Stotsfold but it won't work against Zenyatta or Mine That Bird.

Finally, if you haven't read the Joe Drape article, read it. It's stunning that every trainer in this year's Breeders Cup but Clemente has been busted. A lot of the drug infractions are the cause of disparate drug policies in the different circuits, and the big-time trainers have agents that screw things up. Some things can be forgiven, but the biggest threat, as he points out, is the fact that these infractions no longer impugn, disgrace or affect the business of the trainers. It has become like a parking ticket. And one that you don't really have to pay. Only the great racing state of Indiana has barred trainers from setting up family members or barn lieutenants from carrying on business as usual. If you care about the reputation of the sport, you should be alarmed by this.
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/05/sports/05horses.html?hpw

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Breeders' Cup



Zenyatta: Horse Racing = Muhhamed Ali: Boxing

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Rainy Hawthorne



The Golden Rail. Old-time cappers sniff like pigs before truffles for it, bemoan synthetics for not availing it -- though not totally true. Yesterday, at Hawthorne, you needed to be on the inside. The 1 or 2 horse figured in just about every exacta and only one horse hit the wire outside of the rail slot.

The safety rail hangs a nice shadow over the inside lane of the track, making it dry more slowly and play much quicker. Wednesday railbirds need to be aware of this, if there's been rain beware the glistening rail.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

James Graham



It was my third trip to Arlington Park. I'd decided to bring my wife; the last two visits I'd walked home with $300 and a new pair of jeans (long story). We hopped on the Metra, leaving the city for the cultural morass of the suburbs. We did this on the promise (my promise) of a bucolic oval that handed out money. Eight races and eighty dollars later I felt the panic (as you continue going to the oval, the panic matures into a dread). I had one race left to make this right. James Graham had already notched a riding triple and later I would learn he was streaky like this. He was an aggressive rider, though not a reckless one, that seized on his opportunities and squeezed them for as long as he could. He had a mount in the last race, a long shot. I went $5 cold on an exacta of his longshot over a horse Robby Albarado was riding. It was a photo, but he got there ahead of Albarado. He saved my day. We went down to the winner's circle and thanked the horse and Graham then got the hell out of there.

This past year in the absence of Rene Douglas it seemed time for Graham to emerge as the colony leader. But Junior Alvarado wouldn't have this. Day after day Graham had the livest mounts and the most mounts. But it wasn't enough. The jockey's title came down to the last day, but Alvarado had won two early sealing the honor. The last race of the 09 meet was on the turf -- a surface James has owned. Even though Graham no longer had a shot at eclipsing the rising Alvarado, he rode a heavily favored Christine Janks horse and was gunning everyone down in the stretch ready to go out with a bang, when from out of the clouds comes Alvarado on a longshot tearing down the lane. Graham's horse was swallowed in the final furlong. It was brutal. It was powerful. On his surface and not even for the title, just for consolation. While I was elated for Alvarado, I knew this was a twist of the knife and it was hard not to feel a little something for the Irishman.

Graham went to jockey school in Ireland and upon graduation had the honor of mucking stalls for Tim Oxx, whose worldwide celebrity has ascended cosmically thanks to his amazing colt Sea the Stars. Graham saw little opportunity in the Emerald Isle and landed in Michigan, at Canterbury. He won his first race and started cultivating the connections a jockeys needs to make if he doesn't want to muck the stalls of the greats. He met and later married the assistant trainer of Jeff Thornbury, a very successful trainer. He and his wife now own a small barn in Lexington. He moved his tack from Michigan to Chicago and also took aim at Keeneland. Up until last week, he'd won only one Graded Stake there and that was the Sycamore in 08(this year's iteration is tomorrow). During the winter he rides at Fair Grounds and has quietly learned a lot riding with Robby Albarado on that long stretch there. In what seemed a pivotal moment he earned the mount on a Triple Crown threat from Chicago named Giant Oak after Edgar Prado decided not to travel for the race. He was quoted as saying this was his big shot and he didn't want to blow it. I was cheering madly for him, but the sogged track and a dominating performance from Friesan Fire showed it wasn't meant to be. No Derby mount for Graham.

At FallStars weekend there were a few Arlington jocks heading to Lexington. It was smart, the polytrack experience has proved an edge and the AP form has translated nicely there. Alvarado and Graham both had riding doubles, only Graham did it on 20-1and 40-1 steeds and with only a handful of mounts. So after an underperformance at Arlington where it seemed the riding title was served to him on a silver platter, Graham showed his grit and turned many heads at Keeneland. Two of the most recent heads were those of Edgar Prado and Kent Desormeaux, the two jocks he passed at the top of the stretch in the Grade I Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. One of the most propitious holes I'd ever seen had opened before him at the turn and he gunned it, but this hole had opened early and he was all in. I stood up and begged his mount Hot Cha Cha to hold the other fillies off, and she did, winning by two and earning Graham and the filly's connections their maiden GI. My wife and I cheered from our living room.

So the railbird congratulates him on his tenacity and grit; his ability to save the day on a longshot.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Keeneland Fall



A big shoutout to Wallace Station who supplied a succulent ham sandwich that soaked up the bourbon left in my belly from a rainy Friday opener. Fatal Bullet denied upstart sprinter Capt. Candyman at the wire, and She Be Wild got fronted by another polyqueen named Negligee. I don't know why some horses can only run on synthetics or dirt, but Fatal Bullet only fires on the synths. My guess is that the dirt is too tiring, and he needs the springy polymers to get him through six panels. But what makes a dirt horse do so poorly on synths? Does it stick to them, as the Catman suggests of Dixie Band? I remember not being able to buy a can of Pam anywhere near Turfway Park a few years back, but why does it stick to some and not others? If anyone can help the Railbird plumb this, please send in your insights.

Saturday
Informed Decision started things out right with a late yet dazzling dash to the wire ahead of Carlsbad. Leparoux said he wasn't getting over the surface very well, which is surprising since he's also all about the synthetics. Tizaqueena gave her typical rank run in the final furlong, cutting off Diamondrella and Forever Together, but Drella still got by. Forever Together had to settle for third, another disappointment for the dappled gray. Court Vision showed veratility winning at the mile, overcoming a pedestrian pace to outwit favorite Mr. Sidney.

A very good day of racing in Kentucky capped by a monster run from Zenyatta and a surprising win for Gitano Hernando. Everyone will be going Euro for the Breeders Cup Classic now. The Railbird plans on setting up shop opposing this, but has yet to pick a yank who can do the trick.

Sunday
The superfectas were getting big enough to buy an old Kentucky home. One came up north of 70k. It wasn't on the Railbird's slip, but I was happy to see some Chicagoans tearing it up, starting with the gelding Helicopter who Brandon Meier guided to the wire. I've liked this gelding for a while now, he can run all day. And in the last a filly named Pari took control giving Junior Alvarado a win for the weekend. The stakes again pivoted on surface angle, sort of. Swift Temper let her disposition get the best of her, failing to show her hooves to even one other horse at the finish. Mushka who was fouled by Euro Proviso got the stewards decision. And watch out for Interactif, a Pletcher charge who made a wonderful, sweeping run to gobble the field in the Borboun. Fantastic!

Monday, October 5, 2009



CATALANO AIMS SHE BE WILD AT DARLEY ALCIBIADES

Four days before opening day of the fall meeting, one of the busiest trainers in the Keeneland barn area is Wayne Catalano, whose 30 horses include the undefeated 2-year-old stakes winners She Be Wild and Dixie Band. She Be Wild, a daughter of Offlee Wild, is scheduled to make her next start in Friday's $500,000 Darley Alcibiades (G1). On Sunday, the filly worked at Keeneland, breezing five furlongs in 1:00.40.

“We're happy with the performances by both horses at the moment,” said Catalano, the
leading trainer this year at Arlington Park, where She Be Wild and Dixie Band won the track's signature 2-year-old stakes. “She Be Wild will run (in the Darley Alcibiades); the other one we're going to look at the race (Grade 1 Dixiana Breeders' Futurity on Saturday) and see what we're going to do with Dixie Band. He's run pretty good for us, and we'll just see.”

She Be Wild, a homebred racing for Nancy Mazzoni, dominated her competition at Arlington, where she won a maiden-claiming event in her debut by 7 ¼ lengths. She returned to win the Top Flight by 5 ¼ lengths and capture the Arlington-Washington Lassie (G3) by 5 ¾ lengths.

“She's a small filly, but she's feisty,” said Catalano., who also trains the 2-year-old filly She Be Classy for Mazzoni. “She looks like she'll do anything. She went to the lead (in her debut), and she laid right off it and she rated (in her two most recent races). She looks like she's a handy little horse.”

Catalano is accustomed to having an undefeated 2-year-old filly. In 2006, he trained Dreaming of Anna to win the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) to conclude her juvenile season and earn an Eclipse Award as division champion. Does he think She Be Wild might be able to repeat Dreaming of Anna's success?

“I would love to,” Catalano said. “Dreaming of Anna was a great horse. We had a lot of fun. She brought a lot of joy to the stable. We're looking forward to doing it again.”

Entries for the Darley Alcibiades will be drawn on Tuesday. Catalano said Garrett Gomez will be aboard She Be Wild for the first time.

Dixie Band, a gelding by Dixie Union, is coming off a 1 3/4-length victory in the Arlington-Washington Futurity (G3). The Dixie Union gelding, who also won the Spectacular Bid Stakes, races for Darrell and Evelyn Yates.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Hawthorne Gold Cup


Hope you all enjoy my homage to PPatty

As fall lays across the city, it's time to move down to Stickney. Hawthorne is a necklace of jaudniced chandeleirs, hotlamped prime rib and satin jackets. I love the smell of chlorine in the cellar paddock. They put fake trees in there last year. Even the horses seem to kink their heads askance at the fake trees.

To kick things off I've asked a track indigent to send me an alaysis for the race. He wants to go by the name Shady Nickelplay. I'm honored to bring you his sagacious analysis:

By the end of yesterday afternoon’s card at Hawthorne, the track was sloppy and sealed. Overnight rain in the forecast and a fifty percent chance of showers on Saturday: it’s a good bet the oval for Saturday’s grade II Hawthorne Gold Cup will come up less than fast. The question is “How much?” This eleven-horse field is a bit of a smorgasbord of early speed, stalkers, and closers. And more than half the entrants have proven themselves capable of finishing in the money on an off track.

No superstars will be in the gate, but battle-tested Jonesboro and late-closing Awesome Gem are classy favorites—although modestly so at 5/2 and 7/2 respectively in the morning line. Local speedball Shadowbdancing (who has never finished out of the money at Hawthorne in seven starts) breaks from the seven slot just outside the fleet-footed Nite Light: thus the pace should be honest, at the very least. Being partial to trifectas, I might gravitate toward a couple of part-wheels keyed by Awesome Gem, then Jonesboro—feeling good about leaving Brothers Nicholas, Stonehouse, and Going Ballistic out of the mix entirely.

But this is the Railbird, and we like our exotics stone-cold! So I see the deep-closing Awesome Gem nosing out classic-distance-lover Alcomo, with Eldaafer or Nite Light coming late to keep Jonesboro out of the money. Let’s give third place to the revenge-seeking Nite Light, to whom Eldaafer denied the Brooklyn Handicap last June by a nose in the slop. So, for the record:

Awesome Gem
Alcomo
Nite Light

Monday, September 28, 2009

Closing Time






Arlington Park plays the worst music imaginable, but you don't go there for that right? That song Closing Time, used at every bar that's trying to kick its patrons out, plays during the races and at the close of races, a Freudian slip not jibing with its uniformed, smiling ambassadors. But it has officially come to pass, the closing of Arlington Park 2009. A year best forgotten with the exception of a couple of ascendant stars. I'm talking first of Junior Alvarado and second of Peyote Patty. I've talked glowingly of Junior for awhile (but watch the last race of the meet for an exclamation point that encapsulates the jockey race. Grahm appears to have the latest kick on Here Oui Go Again, but Junior comes from out of the clouds to take Grahm down on his preferred surface and on a longshot). The Million this year was spectacular, and all the turf racing was great.

I haven't talked about the filly, in this the year of the filly, Peyote Patty who finished the meet 4 for 4 and is on a streak of 5. I remember watching her act up in the gate and vet scratch out of the Isaac Murphy, she was jumping in class and I had her on my ticket. She's the type of filly I always find myself cheering for, a continual class riser, who rises with her conditions no matter who's riding her.

So as the song Closing Time suggests, with an ending comes a new beginning. Hawthorne is back.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Claire Novack for ESPN and xxxxx for the Chicago Tribune have recently published articles about the polytrack surface at Arlington. As with everything in the sport, it's hard to loosen the truth from its beholden betting interests; anyone asked to comment on how they feel about the surface is dependent, in some way, upon track management. The line that everyone seems to tow, more or less, is that the safest surface for a jockey is one that is safest for the horse. The fact that hitting poly is sort of like hitting cement has been well documented and accepted as the better alternative. The real nuance I found in the Novack article is from Albert Stall who claims that the poly has lost some of its springiness this year. I'd like to know how this happened, and what's being done. The surface has been in England for awhile, and maybe there are similar problems there, but maybe Chicago's frigid winter and blazing summer factors in. So what can Woodbine tell us?

From the Tribune article it was Catalano who explained what he thought was the most unsafe surface and that's a frozen surface that has just begun to thaw, leaving a sheet of ice just below a layer of mush. This happens a lot at Hawthorne, and the caliber of horse is usually lower at Hawthorne (where more breakdowns occur). An abberrant to this pattern is Hawthorne, which has had very few breakdowns, less than Arlington.

This summer, the summer of the false pace, the polytrack has played more slowly. It's in these paceless races, where the jockeys are darting for position at the top of the stretch that the horses are in great danger of clipping heels, or so the theory goes. Does the running style synthetics promote as well as lack of kickback it creates make the horses and riders more prone? It's hard to buy this argument when the incidence of breakdown on turf races, where the running style is similar is much smaller.

Finally, track management is resolute. There is no surface debate for them. The big question: Is there a correlation between the polytrack surface and the staggering injuries, not to one but two jockeys this summer? I don't think there is. With Rene Douglas, his mount was pushed into a slowing speed horse. His horse cartwheeled over top him. The surface had nothing to do with his injuries. For Mike Straight, he hit the track at a terrible angle. It's not as cut and dry with this accident, maybe more give in the surface might have helped. But if you land wrong on your neck, it really doesn't matter if its dirt or synthetic.

Polytrack doesn't seem to pose any increased danger, but it also hasn't shown any enhancement to safety.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Inquiry Sign is Lit

Decided to hit the oval on Friday. It's nice to be there when the crowds are elsewhere. The fields were pretty big late in the card, though the day starts with three paltry-fielded 5k claimer sprints.

My brothers and I all live in different cities and are planning to meet up at Keeneland in October. One brother follows the Triple Crown and knows well how to handicap. The other knows nothing about the sport and hates gambling. He's an engineer. And a lawyer, so may not have much patience for the pseudoscience (engineer) of capping and no free time (lawyer) for the frivolous pursuit of horseplay. Anyway I thought I'd try to set the hook with a lesson using the fifth race on Friday at AP, an allowance with only 6 runners. The favorite had sterling figures and visibly impressive flanks, her name was Knockout Bertie. One thing she didn't have was experience over polytrack or a win at the distance, 7 furlongs. This is a really tough distance to cap. I thought it would be a nice race to suss out how pace and surface-switch play such a big role in polycappin at Keeneland. Also, the BRIS sheets showed Knockout Bertie as lone speed, but there was a horse on the rail that clearly had early foot and would prolly show it. Show it she did, and she burned up, taking Knockout Bertie with her. The race held some nice jockey work by Jesus Castanon who nailed a nice hole on the inside and got a lot out of a horse that hadn't shown much lately. I thought Knockout Bertie's jockey might have known better and kept out of the early fray, but maybe there was no avoiding it. In any event, the race showed the importance of reading pace and the advantage to having a really good jockey who makes his move at the right time.

On a sour note, there was a Catalano horse, Touch Appeal (same sire as Knockout Bertie), entered in the third that broke down. Hard to tell if it was catastrophic, but very likely was. It was a 5k claimer and Catalano had Danush Sukie, a rider he never uses, in the irons. Jessie Campbell who rode him in his maiden score, Touch's prior race, opted off the less-than-even-money fave from the Catalano barn for a 15-1 longshot. It all seemed fishy, but you go against Catalano at your peril here. I can only hope he didn't put everyone in danger by racing an unsound horse.

The breakdown makes 16 for the meet, 15 on the polytrack. The number is significant, and makes clear polytrack offers no increase in safety. Polytrack was not invented for safety, but for training (in England) in any type of weather. A lot of people make this incorrect assumption about the synthetics after the state of California mandated their use to curb excessive equine tragedy. Arlington Park also started using polytrack after a couple meets of 20+ breakdowns, but the synthetics current safety stats are no better than dirt. Maybe over time, as tracks learn how to take care of the surface, they'll be more effective, but the same could have been said of dirt.

Now that steroids are illegal and surfaces have been experimented with, maybe all eyes need to be cast on breeding. The Friday card at Arlington had 8 one-turn races out of ten. Why don't we have more horses bred for bottom-end? I thought maybe poly might influence the way we breed, but that's not all that likely with the big money east coast tracks still running on dirt. Is there a way to card more routes? How can we even out the number of sprints with routes and get more turf races? The Railbird has lit the Inquiry sign.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Eddie Razo Ok. Slated to Ride on Thursday



With all the amazing real-time gadgets, Twitter feeds, "blogs" and jazzy information features, AP was still unable to release information about Eddie Razo who took a nasty spill on one of the favorites, Da Mamma, in the 6th on Saturday.

I understand the red-script magnolias that spell ARLINGTON at the entrance are what the track would rather you see and smell than the backside, but wouldn't it have been a refreshing headline: "Jock Ok After Nasty Spill"? Who doesn't want to read that? Arlington knows well how attentive it needs to be to its PR, hence all the technological gadgetry it hopes can somehow mitigate the risks and realities of racing. A fool's gambit, even they know this. Maybe they think these technologies can wipe away the idea that they are not on top of things. This fancy track, these fancy features all act as hedge against how they are perceived. But these technologies can backfire and draw more attention to their superficiality and the institutional callousness they spring out of if not used well.

Ok, ok the Railbird should pull back from this screed just a bit. It's not like all these Twiiter feeds and whatnot are evil, and I don't hate AP for trying to "up" their offer, and yeah the line about the magnolias was a cheap shot -- truth told I'm not even sure they're magnolias. Let's redirect with just a simple note to track management:

We fans care about the welfare of the jockeys and animnals we cheer for. Please let us know, if, God forbid, there is an accident, how they are doing.

That's all. Someone help me down from this soap box.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Triple Recap




For research purposes, the Chicago Railbird took in a mule race at CalExpo. There was a fractious mule who ran all over the place behind the gate till finally getting caught only to get loose again. It was about ten minutes of watching mules brey in their gates, while one ran zigzags behind, ears flopping. The crazy mule went on to win by a neck. The Arlington Washington was much less exciting. The 3/4 mile came in just under 1:20. How was ET Baird allowed to crawl on the lead like this??? With a Morning Line favorite racing 2 furlongs shorter than his preferred, a West Coast invader that had raced three times in the past month and an extremely fractious tote-fave Wicked Style; the table was set for theft. Wicked Style's connections failed to saddle this ornery guy correctly and it had to be fixed by the starters who were lucky not to get a hoof in the midsection. Let's hope the trainer avoids this in the future. So with no pace battle, the closers never had a chance and we were left with an uninspired slack, wire job in the feature race.

In the Futurity Dixie Band rewarded his fans, albeit very modestly. U Appeal to Me was right behind then the Jersey horse Piscatelli. Oak Motte ran evenly for 4th.

The Lassie also went as predicted with the Catman again notching top honors with She B Wild and Calhoun's daughter of Tiznow picking up the bits, just holding Place.

So the exciting news is that the Catman holds a couple powerful 2YOs. The filly will be pointed to the Breeders Cup and the colt, who the Catman says doesn't like the poly, will move to Churchill.

To anyone who's been fired or laid off recently, look to Wayne Catalano. Over the winter last year, Frank Calabreese took all his horses away from the Catalano barn, inexplicably. Shredding a long partnership and leaving the Catman to assemble a public stable. Catalano responded by blowing away all the trainers on the leader board while holding the regions most precocious 2YOs.

There are a couple weeks left at Arlington, though I get the sense everyone would like to put this meet behind them. Two seriously injured jockeys has taken the wind out of the oval. Maybe I'm making too much of the Washington, a stark contrast to the absolutely sensational Woodward. The Pacific Classic also made Arlington seem like a long Mule race.

Maybe next week will be better at the Heights. There's still a tight jockey race for wins, though Junior's percentage really blows Grahm's away and Grahm almost always rides the better horse. Watching Junior A rise through Hawthorne and AP has been a big pleasure for me. He gets the most out of his horses and is a future star, hope he stays in the midwest.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Stakes Triple

The Arlington-Washington Futurity lacks luster this year. Was it the stewards having to decide the winner last year (Terrain, RIP)? This seems like a nice prep for the Breeders Futurity at Keeneland, but I would guess only two of these might make the trip. Dixie Band will be the short-priced favorite and I'm going to try to beat him. He gets an outside post and the pedigree suggests he wants to route, but it was the lackadasical finish in the Spectacular Bid that has me searching for value. Piscatelli and Oak Motte are where I land. I like Amoss a lot and when he teams up with Eddie Razo the strike percentage is an amazing 58%. Another reason I'm going against Dixie is Dave Flores. Why not put Diego back in the irons? He's won on both Dixie and Stidham's U Appeal to Me, who grabbed second in the Spectacular Bid with one of the nation's leading jocks Desormeaux on board.

Piscatelli has the mile and shipped in early to acclimate to the surface. The pace should boil over with all the heat inside and he should have the most in the tank at the end. But I'm gonna put Oak Motte ahead of him because I like the connections and think he'll run smartly if the pace is too much. Rounding it out will be the Catman's Dixie Band.

Oak Motte
Piscatelli
Dixie Band

The Washington
While the East and West get Rachel and Colonel John, the middle west gets Church Service. Oh well, still a good race here. No one seems especially primed for the effort, except Wicked Style who gets the nod from me. This guy looked like he could be prominent on the Triple Crown trail a few years back, but beaten 41 lengths by War Pass in the slop made the connections reconsider, though they did win the Futurity at Keeneland on the poly. And that's one of the reasons I'm going with him. The surface, distance and form suggest he could break out and make a memorable note for the season. Behind him goes the Usual Suspect, a Barry Abrams charge who also likes polytrack with the recent surprise win over Church Service at Del Mar in the Cougar. This horse has butte, blinks and lasix and very little rest, but he seems the type of warhorse that could prevail and gets the top jock. Rounding it out is the aforementioned Church Service who runs best with a few more furlongs, but wouldnt be surprised if he still conquered this field.

Wicked Style
Usual Suspect
Church Service


The Lassie
Referred to as little Rachel by the Catman She Be Wild should destroy this field. There will be no value here, but enjoy the race; she's fun to watch. Tiz Miz Sue enters from the Hobby barn and looks like a top caliber filly. Not enough to catch the winner, but good to be bridesmaid. Finally Thatswhatshesaid gets a nice post and could surprise here. I hope she hits the board, she's run very well.

She Be Wild
Tiz Miz Sue
Thatswhatshesaid

Looks like I've picked Junior to figure first in two and second in the other. Maybe I have a bias for the top jock. He certainly deserves the honors. It's been a tough meet for the jockeys, elder statesman and perennial champ Rene Douglas and bugboy Mike Straight have no feeling below the waist. Let's keep them in our thoughts and hope their recoveries go well.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Death Panels. Dirt vs. Turf.

The International Day of Racing inspired a lot of thought about how American racing compares with other countries. Our industry is enormous and perpetual. We race our horses from gate to wire throughout the year. The Euros race much less and they typically race on grass courses with diverse layouts, the real running doesn't begin until two furlongs out. About 2/3rds of American races are dirt one-turn sprints. In Europe many horses train at private farms and aren't confined to a stall for 23 hours a day. In America horses are stalled at the track where they are timed in workouts and only the lucky ones are given time away from training.

We are obsessed with speed and even though our legendary horses like Eclipse would never have raced on dirt, most American fans feel a cultural and traditional bond to dirt racing. It makes sense in certain ways, since our regal lines came from Arabian decent as well as European, and our Wild West wasn't carpeted in lush sod.

With the surface debates lighting up before the Breeders Cup, stats are being released that point to synthetics not holding up to the promise of better safety. It was never the intention for synthetic surfaces--all created by Brits--to increase safety, but to allow for racing in any type of weather. More racing! But there was a general notion that while the American industry could not support more horse-friendly turf-style racing (impossible to maintain year-round and under so many hooves) the synthetics would, like grass, be easier on the joints, would not require much maintenance, and offer consistency to prevent against bad footing.

I'm hoping that synthetics might at least lessen the demand for cheep speed and influence breeders to go for a sturdier horse and break us out of the cycle where racing secretaries are unable to fill routes and breeders can't sell routers because so many races are sprints. But with Curlin's loss and Andy Beyer's ridiculous speed-figure protectionism, some see this change in style as a threat to American style racing. The debate rages on.

I also thought a lot about speed figures before the International Day of Racing, and why North America is the only region using them. It was during this time that Quality Road broke another track record, though the timer at the Spa had malfunctioned. Beyer initially overcompensated for the malfunction, giving Quality Road a ten point regression after breaking a track record in a sprint. Not a bad way to regress right? Anyway, the biggest problem I'm having with the Beyer figures is his failure to publish the track deviations he uses (not to mention the time if it contradicts published). Why not publish that figure and the individual horse's raw figure so we can tell if a horse runs better in certain conditions? By equalizing the numbers so they can be comparable to any other track and at any distance, you mask the horse's ability in certain conditions. If all horses responded to, say, a deep track the same way this wouldn't matter, but horses like Mine That Bird that skip over deep tracks have their proclivities masked (until they win on the slop or off track).

So my theory for why American racing is unique with its figures, is that dirt racing may be less dependent on the "going" though the going is still a factor we pay to have removed and this may be convenient for dirt sprints, but in a race like the Million the "going" is the difference between Precious Passion stealing the race and finishing far up the track. All this is almost enough to shake the railbird into creating his own figures. Almost.

Let's Get to the Million!


A Million dollars isn't enough to get the creme de la creme from other countries anymore, but some good horses made the trip. Black Bear Island had competed against top horse Sea the Stars and Stotsfold and Cima de Triomphe had made a Conduit sandwich. Not chopped liver. The railbird correctly slotted Stotsfold for third. The magic lasix may have had something to do with it, though Cima didn't bleed. I guess that's another major diffference between American and European racing -- the race-day meds -- and a significant one. Lasix not only protects horses from bleeding through the nose it also dehydrates them, allowing them to shed a lot of weight before a race.

The Secretariet

Clearly not Grade I grandeur in this field, but the stretch battle made it the most exciting race. Take the Points took the bump from Black Bear Island who Murtagh had on the front thwarting the very plausible theft Take the Points threatened when it seemed the grass, though tiring, was playing to early turn of foot. Take The Points hung in there, rising above his detractors who claimed the horse didnt know how to win. He won this with his fists. Great race!
Beverly D
Desormeaux was hamming for all the cameras in the post parade. No pressure at all. The cool cucumber. Who would have thought this is the guy who choked miserably on what should have been a triple crown winner last year? He reeled in the first two Grade I's. In this he had an overlooked filly from the Mott barn who Pure Clan had dusted about a month ago. ET Baird showed more gate riding taking Tizaqueena as far as she could go, ending outside the frame.
The Million
Who would think Einstien would have problems over a surface? The fight we saw in him in the Foster, his last at Churchill, wasn't there. He looked tired and out of form. Give the guy a break, advises the railbird. He's earned the right to one. Gio Ponti was the story. He looked great turning for home. I'm really happy Cristophe Clemente notched his first million.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Arlington Million



I've studied this card for a couple days now. That doesn't ensure winners, but it means the horses have been racing in my head now for some time. Sometimes they slip into my dreams, but then they're not racing on poly they're racing on cotton candy or cheese so that form prolly won't transfer. Anyway, Million Day has arrived. It's drizzling and somewhere the sun is spraying some binaca in his mouth and getting ready to lay his rays down on Chi-town. He's gotta Lollapalooza to scorch.

The Europeans entered this year are B-list, but the Americans are top notch, so it looks like we may take back the flag. With the heat, Lasix becomes a bigger factor and is influencing my choice for Stotsfold, who seems to be just as good as Cima but at a fatter price. But that's for the gimmicks. I think it'll be an Yankee exacta.

Let's start with the undercard:

1. Block has been like the frog slowly boiling in the pot, but just when youre ready to stick a fork in him, he hops out and grabs a trophy and smacks your veal-colored face with it. If turf is graded soft, then I may give this guy a nod, but it's Wicked Style who gets a class break after placing or winning in last three. He has a Grade I victory, which is something no one in the Secretariet can lay claim to. If you're playing the pace game and see Wicked and the General locking horns with that Gator horse pushin em all wide, Caberneigh is the play.
Wicked Style-Caberneigh-General Charley

2. It's gonna be hard to swallow the odds Crowned Royal, a Gomez/Catman horse will yeild at AP, but it seems hard to avoid. I like the other Calhoun horse Early Final in this. He may be rounding back into form, but the polyrisk will be part of the long odds. I love his other sprinters (Mr. Nighlinger and Chamberlain Bridge). Red Baron could get less turbulence and winning trip with Grahm in the irons.
Crowned Royal-Early Final-Red Baron

3. I'm a Retap fan, but will we see the same Retap? It's a big risk for a small price. Fufty Too is the wise pick. Not sure what to put under yet. And look at that! Ramon Dominguez visits the colony. He fucking rocks! Horse in this one kinda sucks tho.
Fufty Too-Retap

4. Been waiting for ATM to reappear. He had nice company in last. Oak Motte bled and gets lasix after a great effort. Sky Tiger could do something.
ATM-Oak Motte-Sky Tiger

5. Deceptive Glory is no value but there's no value in a crumpled ticket and that's what you should have without him on top. Upperline and Surely Irish to finish out the frame of a race whose pace will melt.
Deceptive Glory-Upperline-Surely Irish

6. Pace makes the race and this one should have a lot. Pyrtania is the play for the pace, but I think Calabreses is gonna get this one with Romacaca. I know I'm defying my own logic, but this guy will take him some prize from the card today. Afternoon Stroll hit the Gozzip Girl buzzsaw in last. Pyrtania is on off a layoff but trainer does not race into form, she could take it.
Romacaca-Afternoon Stroll-Pyrtania

The Secretariet
Should be a contentious race with no Grade I winner in the field, only two Grade IIs (Reb and Black Bear Island) and a vulnerable favorite in Giant Oak. I still need proof that GO's late kick will be there at this distance. There was shoving and misbehavin in last, and the chart says "steadied" but if only this guy could find a lane and prove it, Giant Oak Nation would erupt in joy. The surprise entry Take the Points may defy his morning line and earn favortism. He's the only one with early speed and one of three with Grade I experience and even though he shows only 2 turf starts, that Pro-Ride at Santa Anita seems to play like the sod. On the downside, he also only shows two wins, but was beaten only 3/4s of a length in the Virginia Derby which came down to the wire. One of the others with Group or Grade I experience is Black Bear Island who was trounced by what looks to be one of the only three year olds in the same stratosphere, if not better than, Rachel Alexandra and that's the Irish colt Sea the Stars. Aidan O'Brien hasn't had much luck shipping to the States, but if the turf is anything south of firm, this guy is the pick.

Then there's Reb whose form reads, Head-Nose-Head in three consecutive victories. This guy has moxie as well as one of the best jockeys in America in Julien Leparoux who steered clear of trouble in last to best many in this field. He'll have to give more, but I like how he finds the wire. Another dark horse is from the coupled entry, Driving Snow has beaten Giant Oak, Black Bear Island and Quite a Handful in the past. He won a listed stakes in last and is in upform on return from an injury.


Take the Points
Reb
Giant Oak
Driving Snow
Black Bear Island


Beverly D
I'm a big fan of Pure Clan and so glad they went with a different colored hood in last. With masterful Leparoux on top she should get the wire. Alnadana is an impressive filly whose done well against the boys, but no lasix is a bad thing. Mad About You could surprise and be the bridesmaid as could Black Mamba. It's hard to know how good the Mamba will do on the Arlington turf. It's a lot different from California.

Pure Clan
Alnadana
Mad About You
Black Mamba





The Million
Garret Gomez on Recapturetheglory? Yes, it's Milliontime. Maybe in response to the European tote orgy last year, the States have stacked this race with the country's best. I'm talking about Einstein, Gio Ponti, and Precious Passion. Einstein has gotten tougher from his imperiled trip last year, but so has the Million. As an early contender for Horse of the Year, he got a brutal trip at Churchill Downs on the dirt, beaten by Macho Again who had a sneaky clean run on the outside and Asiatic Boy who was mounting a comeback. He's a lot better than that race suggests, but he faces the enfant terrible Gio Ponti who marks Christophe Clemente's attempt to shed the moniker top filly turf trainer for top turf trainer. Precious Passion guns it from the gate and this has worked well at places like Monmouth, Calder and Gulfstream, but will it work on AP's tiring turf? Will hee even make the gate? He can't run on anything but firm. If he does I expect him to land outside the frame. The horse that should really take to the Chicago sod is Gio Ponti. I expect Einstein to duel to the last steps; he always gives everything he's got and I'll box an exacta with him, but I think the morning line has it right. So now that I've fed you chalk I need to give my third place finsher who's a better buy. Yeah, I know takes a lot of guts to aim for the stars with the show horse, but I've long been a fan of Mr. Sidney who seems to like a yielding turf. This may be longer than his most desireable distance, but if Desormeax can get him to relax a bit he may be in a prime spot as they turn for home. And it will be all about finding an open lane in this race. With the exception of Recapturetheglory, this field is very tough and scouting that clear lane will be critical.

Gio Ponti
Einstein
Stotsfold

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Posts!

Yep, that's right. Garrett Gomez rides Recapturetheglory in the Million.

Arlington Million
1 Einstein Helen Pitts-Blasi Julien Leparoux Midnight Cry Stables
2 Presious Passion Mary Hartmann Elvis Trujillo Patricia A. Generazio
3 Just As Well Jonathan E. Sheppard E.T. Baird Jonathan E. Sheppard
4 Stotsfold (GB) Walter Swinburn Adam Kirby Peter Harris
5 Mr. Sidney William I. Mott Kent Desormeaux Circle E Racing
6 Gio Ponti Christophe Clement Ramon Dominguez Castleton Lyons
7 Gloria de Campeao (BRZ) Pascal F. Bary Tiago Josue Pereira Stefan Friborg
8 Cima de Triomphe (IRE) Luca Cumani Christophe Lemaire Teruya Yoshida
9 Recapturetheglory Louie J. Roussel, III Garrett Gomez Louie J. Roussel, III and Ronald Lamarque


Beverly D
1 ALNADANA (IRE) Alain de Royer-Dupre Christophe Soumillon His Highness the Aga Khan's Studs, Ltd. (Pat Downes, Director)
2 PURE CLAN Robert E. Holthus Julien R. Leparoux Lewis G. Lakin
3 POINTS OF GRACE Malcolm Pierce Ramon A. Dominguez Live Oak Plantation (Charlotte Weber)
4 BLACK MAMBA (NZ) John W. Sadler Garrett K. Gomez Doubledown Stables, Inc. (Richard Templer)
5 MAD ABOUT YOU (IRE) Dermot K. Weld Patrick J. Smullen Moyglare Stud Farm, Ltd. (Walter Haefner)
6 TIZAQUEENA Michael Stidham E. T. Baird Darley Stable (J. Bell, et al)
7 DYNAFORCE William I. Mott Kent J. Desormeaux Dr. John A. Chandler
8 DENOMINATION Christiane Head-Maarek Dominique Boeuf Mrs. Alec Head

Secretariet
1 HOOSIER KINGDOM Ron D. Herrell Elvis Trujillo Ron D. Herrell, Keith Wexler & Brian Reed
2 PROCEED BEE Scott Becker Christopher A. Emigh William Stiritz
3 LAUREATE CONDUCTOR Christophe Clement Ramon A. Dominguez Castleton Lyons (Shane T. A. Ryan)
4 CLIFFY'S FUTURE Darrin Miller Fernando Jara Silverton Hill LLC (Tommy & Bonnie Hamilton)
5 OIL MAN (IRE) John W. Sadler Garrett K. Gomez D. Michael Talla
6 QUITE A HANDFUL Andrew M. Hansen Jermaine V. Bridgmohan Jean & Ted Barlas and Michael Porcaro
7 TAKE THE POINTS Todd A. Pletcher Kent J. Desormeaux Starlight Partners (Donald Lucarelli, et al)
8 DRIVING SNOW (GB) Darrin Miller Fernando Jara Silverton Hill LLC (Tommy & Bonnie Hamilton)
9 REB George R. Arnold, II Julien R. Leparoux Ashbrook Farm (Glenn S. Bromagen)
10 BLACK BEAR ISLAND (IRE) Aidan P. O'Brien John Patrick Murtagh R. D. Hubbard, Robert Masterson & Edward C. Allred
11 GIANT OAK Chris M. Block Eusebio Razo Virginia H. Tarra Trust (Virginia Tarra)

And the Morning Line:
9/4 Gio Ponti
7/2 Gloria De Campeao
4/1 Einstein
9/2 Cima De Triomphe
6/1 Mr Sidney
14/1 Presious Passion
16/1 Stotsfold
20/1 Just As Well
33/1 Recapturetheglory

Monday, July 27, 2009

Mi'yon Preview




There was a video introduction for this drink called the Millionaire that they're gonna hawk at the oval on Mi'yon Day. Drink a couple and you'll forget that fiduciarily speaking you're a little fucked compared to last year. I didn't write down the recipe, but I promise the Bird will post it by end of week or EOW to those still gainfully employed at one of those overly-anagramed cubicle farms. Anyway, I do have a list of Million Probables and it's mouthwatering. Here we go:

Arlington Million
Gio Ponti
Einstein
Precious Passion
Just as Well
Gloria de Campeao
Gladiatorus
Stotsfold
Mr. Sidney
Cima de Triumphe
Tazeez

Beverly D.
Providanza
Mad About You
Roman Empress
Heart Shaped
Mushka
Black Mamba
Pure Clan
Points of Grace
Ginger Brew
Tizaqueena
Dynaforce
Treat Gently
Denomination

Secretariat
Black Bear Island
Drumbeat
Freemantle
Westphalia
Reb
Giant Oak
Oil Man
Battle of Hastings
Proceed Bee
Quite a Handful

Gaily Gaily Recap Recap

Athiest and Trojan War undid themselves early, very early. NY Wiseguy, aptly named, wisely let them burn up and was able to ride as if en route to grannys in a final furlong of 14 seconds. Not sure why Fort Apache couldn't get within 3 lengths.

In the second the Chicago Railbird delivered the exacta though in boxed format. Sweet Lemon Chello nearly had it, but Thatswhatshesaid was full of run and looks like a real game filly. Sweet Lemon will get lasix soon and if dropped in state-restircted will be tough to beat. Nice late run by Diego Sanchez who acts as his own agent, offering backstretch workers tacos as he trolls for mounts. He's quietly becoming a very good rider.

I might need to get bold here because the Chicago Railbird has now brought you a 12-1 winner in Twist. Mike Straight, unafraid or maybe without much choice wired this field of maidens. Home Fries grabbed third, maybe it'll take this Dynaformer prog more time to develop.

Exchanging Kisses got a nice trip under Quincy Hamilton and got the wire first for the Calabrese silks. Tight Grip was second and severely underbet for the talent here, but the post proved inauspicious as the punters figured. Free Fighter rings in more underperformance for Block in the past week. The turf listed as good may have played a role.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Back from California

Had a nice week and a half away. Was bummed to see Giant Oak without much in the final furlong of the American Derby; my host was concerned about my commandeering of her internet to stream the race. She was worried I was somehow betting against her beautiful rent-controlled apartment I think.

Many of the trainers that started the meet hot have fizzled through the summer doldrums, there is no star trainer, no star jock. Speaking of star jock, be sure to read Claire Novack's piece on Rene Douglas on ESPN. Gives a good sense of the type of people he and his wife are. It just sucks we won't be able to see him race any more; so many quiet summer days in unassuming races you got to see a jock who rode brilliantly, made it look effortless and seemed to have no garish ego that needed assuaging.

The Million looks to be one of the best with Einstien and Gio Ponti ready to square off, not sure what Europeans will make the gate, but this looks to be a really exciting race. Speaking of Einstien, a master of all surfaces, the horseracing world is mired in the synthetics debate. Of course the debate is really about California and little attention is paid to the results in Canada, here and even Keeneland. There's a lot of whining and bullheadedness. Bejarano's jaw surgery, Jackson's refusal to race his champion in the BC, the Del Mar breakdowns and Curlin's loss to evil Europeans (though bred here) are the wedges.

It's too early to say if the synthetic surfaces are safer. The numbers have been ok at Arlington though with Douglas, AP suffered it's most catastrophic breakdown in its 82 year history, so it's difficult context to brag. The commissioner in Cal has admitted to maybe acting rashly in mandating synthetics in the state and many experts are not pleased with the numbers. If there's a breakdown in the BC, it may just be the death knell for the "plastics"

So I'm heading back to the pretty oval on Saturday and have some analysis. A lot of turf racing with the feature being the Gaily Gaily headlined by Communique whose looking to turn a skid around, going a mile and a half on the green stuff.

Race 2 Claiming $25KNL3

The pace could melt in this race. The weathers been mild so maybe the track will be fast; these speedsters will need all the help they can get to hang on. NY Wiseguy gets the rail, which hasn't been a good spot for him. He'll be pressured by Athiest and Trojan War on the front and will likely fold. Fort Apache outclasses the field and comes from off the pace, not to mention runs for the Calhoun barn, which harvests good poly speedsters, though this guy seems to relish sloppy dirt. This son of Mineshaft did not sparkle on the poly in his debut, though he was thrown to the wolves at Keeneland. He seems to comply with his odds and looks to be a big favorite here. The clever bet might be Talon who was recently claimed by Ali Alnaz out of a Churchill race. I'm not a fan of the barn. Athiest is a horse I've followed for a little while. Maybe because the powerful name. This son of Devil His Due, which doesn't really seem to allow for Athiest. The Devil needs a God more than anyone else right, anyway. Athiest has disappointed often and could easily here; he needs the lead more than the others and his turn of foot is explosive but precarious. Trojan War is at the right level, they've peaked him into Allowance company and it's proven too much. He's on the Route-Sprint-Route trajectory and has Quincy Hamilton on his back, but he's prone to wilt when not on the lead too. Will the added pressure of Athiest also prove too much? Perhaps. Exacta bettors like myself could swim for value with either Talon or Bruce Carl who jumps class, thinking Athiest and Trojan will burn each other up, but even the value bin seems too expensive. For all that digression I've gone Chalky.

Fort Apache
Trojan War
Athiest


Race 3 5F Baby Girls
Who knew Mike Dini bred. One of his mixes, a Lemon Drop Kid concoction named Sweet Lemon Chello, runs again without lasix. She stumbled out of the gate in last and still managed second. But she'll have to get away clean to beat ThatsWhatHeSaid who will be the prohib fave after nearly hitting triple digits in speed against open company. This one is state restricted so hard to make a case against her. I'd love to see Inscript calm down and grab a piece here. Her daddy, Kafwain, sired my favorite 3YO this year. Yes The Pamplemousse whose inefficient gait could have led to the injury or maybe it was the evil synthetic surface impregnating another steed with soft tissue damage. Anyway, if she's calm it might be worth it to put her in your giggles.

Sweet Lemon Chello
ThatsWhatHeSaid
Inscript

Race 4 Mdn 38k F+M
There's no clear advantage for any horse here. Lots of fancy breeding and surface and distance experiments. Chris Block saddles the sure-to-be fave Sensational Gold, who is not Seeking the Gold progeny. Sensational Gold did well at this distance on turf and poorly on this surface in a sprint. If that's enough for you to buy in at 5-2 then spend away. Lexi's Bay is still trying to find herself and I'm not willing to pay for the reveal just yet, though she is experienced and has beaten a few of these with the exception of the fake gold horse. A dark horse I'm gonna use is Twist. The connections aren't strong, but her lackluster performance in last may have resulted from the stumble at the gate (hardly a glowing review, but as you can see I'm scavenging the value bin). Works and breeding are good, gets the apprentice. There is a Dynaformer filly in here that used to be a 2nd tier Pletcher horse. Her name is Home Fries and she gets another outside post in this route, though not as far out as before. The post has kept her wide in her last contests and if Grahm can't tuck her in she could repeat that, but at 6-1 the price is fair. Many of these fillies don't have the distance so the race could be erratic. To round it out I'll use a Kirby horse. Also not a fan of the trainer's recent record, but the distance should work to her favor, her name is AJ's Love.

Twist
Home Fries
AJs Love

Race 5 1M Turf
Arlington is slow delivering turf conditions. I'm guessing yielding with the thunderstorms last night, but who knows what the Heights got. I'm assuming the turf will not be close to firm. This works against fave Free Fighter, so he prolly won't make my tickets. The condition may let the most precocious Tight Grip in. Louis Roussel invades from the east with this colt who used to be part of the very very powerful Frankel barn. Unlike most others in here, the mile is perfect for this guy, though he'd need to blaze out of the gate to pick up a good spot in the first turn. The return to the sod was welcome for Mr. Mischief in last who was run down by Southern Anthem but held on for place against a charging Tony Terrific who also gates for this one. Exchanging Kisses will be bet too hard for the class test, but has zip and the rail, not to mention Miller as a trainer. He'll be going for three in a row. Finally, I like Sonny Boy who finished only a length behind Fort Prado in the Black Tie Affair. He likes a yielding turf and has done very well since moving to the Becker barn.

Tight Grip
Mr. Mischief
Exchanging Kisses
Sonny Boy


Well, first post approaches and I have to get my ass into the shower. Good luck Communique. I'd love to see you back in the fold, here's a nice confidence builder for you.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Million Preview Day

Four stakes, three graded. Silver Foot, Giant Oak, Fort Prado, Cosmonaut, Pure Clan, Dynaformer. Big day of turf racing on Saturday. Arlington has long taken pride in its sod; the former caretaker has recently moved on to Dubai. His success here paved the way for the big desert bucks. The angle is international racing, and it's a smart one. I love gate-to-wire American racing, but I'm liking the influence of Euroturf; it's a lot safer. If we can meet somewhere in the middle, then racing casts itself well for a promising future. Now let's talk turf.

The Modesty GII

Why do they have to outfit Pure Clan in a white hood? Can't blame the filly for her fraught sobriquet and headwear. I don't think anyone will stand in her way in the final furlong where she will be rocketing home under the frenchman. She made a huge move in her last race only to be outnodded by ultra classy Acoma. I've liked this dangerous filly for a while. She's adept if some rain falls, as it may on Friday. The frenchman had some traffic issues in the American Oak last week, and that's the only danger, but this is a small field and has some good speed in it.

In the battle for second there's the obvious Dynaforce, who could need a race to round back into form. The Mott mare gets Albarado in the irons after a disappointing 5th at Pimlico on Preakness day. I think she's gonna put that behind her, but won't be able to hold off Pure Clan. In a less obvious vye for bridesmaid I like the Brazilian wonder Colina Verde. She likes 4th place, but so much has not gone her way since shipping here. She's in third from layoff and gets a nice weight of 115 to tote, 7 under top pick. She could surprise here, she may like AP's course.

Tizqueena will set the pace, and Stidham has ascended nicely at AP. I think he's asking this daughter of Tiznow for too much at this distance, but it's clear this horse is a fighter who seems to get over every bit of trouble in her path. It's a tough race to choose, but I think the final furlong she may grdugingly yield.

Pure Clan
Dynaforce
Colina Verde


American Derby
Giant Oak. He needs to pull off the Arlington triple to make ducking the triple crown worth it. With Pioneerof the Nile's recent career-ending injury, it seems the Oak is one of the only left standing. He ran well in last and now faces Oil Man and Reb. Both are big threats and Proceed Bee could make a run, although inconsistent, this colt has shown some turn of foot on the sod.

Giant Oak
Reb
Oil Man


Sprint
Chamberlain Bridge has long been Calhoun's other turf sprinter. With Mr. Nightlinger at Calder in the Summit of Speed, Chamberlain is left in the midwest to sweep the heartland chips off the table. I don't see anything getting in the way. St. Joe has been running well, winning last two at Churchill under the frenchman. Leparoux rides again and could threaten top choice, but likely will have one cross before him. Yankee Iniquity would need a nice rail trip and trouble for the others to sack this field.

Chamberlain Bridge
St. Joe
Yankee Iniquity


Arlington Handicap -- The Lovable Geezers
Emigh cut a nice move to the inside on Silverfoot to hit the wire. He had a nice pace to work, which won't be around this time. The owner one-upped Emigh's move by donating the entire purse Silverfoot brought home to the Rene Douglas relief fund. While my heart remains in this roan's corner, my handicappin mind casts a light elsewhere. I like the yougin in the field. Thambazini draws far outside but should be able to dictate the pace. You should demand a price though with the big field and draw. Cosmonaut always does well at Arlington and I expect another big effort from him. Finally look for Silverfoot to hit the board, and saves his best effort for the Million.

Thambazini
Cosmonaut
Silverfoot

Monday, July 6, 2009

Weekend Recap -- The Future belongs to Crowds

On the national circuit two horses emerged over the weekend at Hollywood Park: Gozzip Girl took the American Oaks drawing off strongly under Sleepy Desormeaux and Zensational zipped through 7 furlongs to capture the Triple Ben. At Arlington the fireworks extravaganza held small fields and huge crowds. And just think it wasn't long ago I was at Hawthorne where the horses almost outnumber the cars in the parking lot.

I was hoping the pools would be skewed toward sucker horses, but the faves won more than lost and there was only one longshot -- from a Maiden claiming race. Maybe Don DeLillo was on to something when starting his excellent novel Mao II with the line: The future belongs to crowds.

So I had two winners, three if you count Southern Anthem. If only I had 10k hanging around. I would have claimed Go Bucky Go who notched his fourth in a row, just toying with this weak 10k field. I would have had to win the shake against Scott Mullins who got to ride Bucky home.

A lot of great races on the docket next weekend. I'll be in California vacationing, but will give the lowdown on Thursday of horses to look out for.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Platers

Heading to the oval for the fireworks tomorrow. Hopefully it brings out the nice suburban families and they swell the pools, which funds my fourth brisket. And if not, I'll be in the parking lot with a siphon in mouth trying to score some gas to get back home.

Southern Anthem is prolly the most exciting horse on the card, losing to local hero Giant Oak last out. He'll try 8 and a half furlongs in weak allowance company and will pray for some speed to close into. There are some interesting claiming races from a handicappin perspective, especially in race four -- the fourth. Hmmm. Here we go.

Race 3 18k Claiming F/M, 6f Main
This is one of those Groundhog Day claiming rematches. I swear they collude and send up a new winnner from the same field every time. Just can't figure the rotation.

It's silly to look too hard at breeding at this level, but Sky Mesa has a daughter in the frey, SkyNMighty who clipped home nicely last out giving trainer Hugh Robertson the 1-2 exacta with Sassy Shore Breeze on her heels. This race shortens up a half furlong but more speed is in play with Oil Money's Dream entered. Gentle Lana closed well last out with Razo hugging the rail. I can't imagine a better trip for her with less ground to cover, but she could improve; she has before. I'll be watching the tote closely to see what kind of value I can get with those horses, but with all things equal I see the following finish. Note: Watch SkyNMighty in the paddock -- this fiery filly has a tendency to act up.

SkyNMighty
(focuses her energy)
Sassy Shore Breeze
Gentle Lana

Race 4 10k Claiming 6f Main

Here we have a handicappin quandry. Go Bucky Go looking to make it 4 in a row drops from a 25k in which he romped, to this modest level. Dale Bennet claimed him for 14k then moved him up to 25k and now down to 10k -- with about a month between his last 3 races. So what happened here? Works are sterling. Either Go Bucky has gone south or they're going for the high churn. BRIS actually has a stat for "Alarming Class Drop" and Bennet has done it 4 times this year, winning half. So this seems a plausible explanation. Sometimes you see a trainer pick up a 10k horse then drop to the nickels to pick up a low-hung purse and some claim money -- Catalano and Reavis do this well. Could be the case here, but still a headscratcher. We'll see what the tote's verdict is.

Though the versatile son of Elusive Quality drops alarmingly, this is one of the toughest 10ks I've ever seen with more than half the field hitting above 90 in their last out. Erdiston from Calabrese/Canani (related to Julio???) will joust on the tote with Bucky. Jaygar Dancer could merit some looks and Maddys Bobcat and Red River Aggie are all in good form, and the front end will be pounding with Pickinupbits and Rocket Rodd set to square off.

I'm looking for a dogfight between Erdiston and Go Bucky. Jockeys Emigh vs. Baird. Baird rode with "ice in his veins" according to John Dooley last out, waiting for a slice of daylight along the rail. Emigh got Bucky bucking early in the 5 and a half furlong sprint in last. My guess is that Bucky will assert his class and Jaygar Dancer closes out the frame.

Go Bucky Go
Erdiston
Jaygar Dancer


Race 5 FM S Alw31500n1x

Here's a nice soft allowance for the ladies. I've cultivated a tepid love affair with Heart Thief -- yeah, I'm one of those you see with the tissues on Maury Povich who people now conclude get what they deserve for fear of seeming an enabler. But, as I said, tepid; this filly could use some gate training, off slowly in all her races I think the jocks are told to go easy on her in the backstretch then let her roll. Hopefully that's what she does, but pay attention to what speed has been doing in the previous races.

There's a coupled entry in here that should be called Value Thief: City Royale and Wildwood Meadow from the Becker barn. No price to be had with this field, so you'll just have to pick the winner and reward yourself with the notion that you're a smart feller or lass. Holly at Law should complete the frame as she usually does.

Heart Thief
Wildwood Meadow
Holly At Law


Race 6 Maiden Claiming 30k 6.5f Main
Another auspicious claiming race oozing with class. Trainer Wayne Catalano squares off against a Calabrese/Miller horse. Calabrese took his horses from Catalano over the winter and now splits them between trainers Canani and Miller, but Catalano still posts a win record north of 30%. Who knows what inner squabbles precipitated this, but Calabrese lacked class in his dismissal. So I'm looking for the Catman to beat up on him. West Web, a former Barclay Tagg charge fills that role for the Catman and Palace Tenor for Calabrese. West Web has been on the bench for over a year, and Palace Tenor has had some trip trouble. But they may be vying for the coins at the bottom of this purse thanks to Lumen, sent to the gate by Hector Magana who got this horse from the powerful Mott barn and tries the polyexperiment.

Lumen
West Web
Palace Tenor

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Thursday's Feature

Bill Mott, Tom Amoss, Mike "the baby-maker" Stidham, Louis Roussel, Austin Smith and Donnie Von Hemmel all have fillies in the 8th, an exciting first-level allowance. Abby's Angel, from the Stidham barn, broke her maiden in New Orleans by 14 and 3/4 lengths, but that was more than 500 days ago. Since then her form has been riddled with bullets. I'm not backing her at 5-2, but am in at 3-1. Bill Mott sends out another daughter of a Deputy Minister sire in True Birkin who drew the rail. True Birkin has raced on the turf after starting with a dud on the dirt, but takes the polyexperiment today. Da Mama who won at first asking for Amoss drew inside and has speed. Also on the front will be Miss Ruth, who got bumped last out under ET Baird. This filly has tired in both sprints and routes but has a serious turn of foot.

We should have a solid pace, but I don't see the winner coming from too far back. Da Mama could wire it depending on where Brandon Meier places Our Miss Ruth, my guess is that he will try to press, which could work, but I need to see this filly put it together before she makes my ticket. And if it were anyone but Stidham I'd be extremely dubious of Abby's Angel's long layoff, but I think he's gonna have her ready, and I look for her to be near the vanguard and strongest when she can smell the wire. Look for True Birkin to come roaring from far back at the end.


Abby's Angel
Da Mama
True Birkin

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Way to go Fort Prado!






Time vanishes in the summer. I wanted to post my picks for the Prairie State Festival this year, but I was too busy eating cheeseburgers and staring at odd cloud formations. Next thing I know it's sunny, boggy and time to hit the train for AP.

The big story is Fort Prado. An 8YO that ran down his fourth Black Tie Affair, beating a Chester House horse topped with Calvin Borel. If anyone watched Yeats notch his 4th consecutive Gold Cup at Ascot, well this is the Chicago version. A week of four-peating hard-knock horses. Many thought the gray millionaire was slipping. He'd lost 16 in a row, and the connections were trying any sort of distance and surface to wake him up. They kept him running though, so big props to them. The wire came at just the right time for Fort Prado and Eddie Perez. For Block this was his 2nd win of the day, his other breadwinner, Apple Martini (sister of Giant Oak), won despite holding a jockey who didn't know where the finish line was. AP uses a shorter finish for the 1 1/16th, and the race moved to the main, so perhaps Razo should be forgiven. The photo went in his favor. He edged Emigh atop a Janks horse. Both Janks and Block had good days and Williams had a 1-2 finish. Hopefully they'll take the blinks off Agnostic next out, if he can relax he won't get collared. And I don't miss my exacta.

River Bear was the big surprise getting a stakes nod after a 35k claiming race, going off at about 25-1. Thorton rode superbly. Rusty Hellman is more a Hawthorne trainer, it was nice to see him get a handsome check. Speaking of Hawthorne, Bow Tie Pasta showed he can run on the rubber at Arlington, taking the Purple Violet decisively. It seemed beneficial to run off the pace but not too far back. Rene Douglas had a way of making a charge on the outside look easy, but few jockeys can do it without getting into trouble.

It was a successful weekend for me. Fort Prado being the biggest ticket. I'm also enjoying the nice price you can get on Catalano's string. It was unthinkable to get 7-1, even 9-2 on what his barn sent out. But the races are now littered with these tantalizing prices.