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


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Breeders' Cup

Zenyatta: Horse Racing = Muhhamed Ali: Boxing