Monday, May 28, 2012

Lichtenstein Comes to Chicago

Red Horsemen

So what do you do when you're not running Belmont Stakes scenarios through your head in that span of time between the Preakness and Belmont Stakes? If you're in Chicago, I recommend a stroll through Millennium Park then the Lichtenstein show. As most head to the greener tableaus of Wisconsin or Michigan, I stayed in the hundred-degree city with the piercing sun rifling  indiscriminately off the ugly Gehry bandshell (not sure why people like this guy). But there's also the Cultural Center which rises out of the pavement with elegance and stateliness -- an homage to the powers of civic duty. It used to be our public library, apparently the Queen of England when hearing about the Chicago fire felt deeply grieved by our loss of a library and donated money for new books, and the city obliged with a beautiful building. Little did the Queen know that Chicago didn't have a library before the fire.

The glare from the 11am sun was blinding even with sunglasses. My wife and I ducked into the Art Institute for a reprieve and AC. The Lichtenstein show was going on so it was packed, luckily we're members.

The first thing that hits you is the dots and how they play with your vision, skewing depth and context. It reminded me of summers when I was young and would walk into our dark kitchen for something cold to drink. I would drink slowly as my eyes adjusted and stare into the tesseract pattern in the carpet which took away all my depth perception. My mind would float with my vision and with the summer exhaustion you could sit and imagine things.   

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

So now the nation should gather behind this smart, ambitious and super talented Flower Alley colt as he reaches the most difficult part of the journey. The Belmont Stakes. It's an idiosyncratic track that has undone many horses and jockeys. Gutierrez comes from a bullring in Vancouver, so that mile oval might not be burned into his cranial map like other jockeys, so maybe the mile and a half of Big Sandy won't be all that difficult of an adjustment, and let's face it one of the things he does best is cede to the being he's astride.

The Preakness was one of the best races I've ever seen. It's so rare things play to script like this. You have to take it all in and enjoy it.

More paintings and updates to come. Hope everyone screamed their lungs out as I did (at Arlington) last Saturday. I did well in the Hanshin too. I was surprised to see Havelock getting overlooked and knew that on class alone this guy would make a run. It was a thrilling finish, and a nice ride by Florent Geroux. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Went The Day Well 

Have we ever had a Triple Crown that's never been the favorite in any of his races? I'll Have Another would likely be the first. IHA does not dominate his competition, he outmaneuvers them and exposes their flaws (handicappers too). This is how my brother used to beat me at tennis; he'd volley and let me make a mistake. How I hate him. Where was I? Versatility. Adaptability. The most misunderstood concept Darwin introduced is The Survival of the Fittest. Many people mistake Natural Selection as preferring strength or dominance; but it's adaptability that is selected. Once again IHA will have to adapt -- he'll need to chase Bodemeister and the closers aren't going to have 18 horses backing up into them at Old Hilltop.

So far IHA has made all the right moves -- going to the lead when he needs to, stalking and pouncing when that's what's called for. But there is one minor flaw people have noticed in IHA and that's his wide cornering, which doesn't dovetail all that splendidly with Pimlico's tight turns.

Back to Bodemeister. What can we expect of this colt who has already done an awful lot. All reports point to him not moping in his stall. He's galloped nicely. Is he ready to turn the tables on the chestnut with a frizzy mane that seems an homage to the heady hair-producty 1980s? Does he know he won't need to go that fast? I'm not sure he does. And I wouldn't be surprised to see a little regression.

Went the Day Well had trouble in the Derby and nearly got there. He's gonna be a contender in the Preakness. Hopefully they get him acclimated to the track. Animal Kingdom might have won last year if it weren't for the sandy dirt hitting him -- the connections must have figured Churchill Downs was a good enough introduction to dirt. It wasn't.

Creative Cause is another who might get a better trip. I think he'll be more of a factor. And I believe the blinks are coming off. Hallelujah!    

This race can play it in so many ways. Lone speed can steal; speed dual can meltdown. Pimlico plays to speed, but the lone speed is late in his form cycle and to repeat his performaces would be amazing. I'm staying with I'll Have Another because he's the most versatile horse in this field and the most talented. I'm keeping Bodemeister close in the frame and to fill it out I'll be using Creative Cause and Went the Day Well. For an upset there's Zetterhorn, but I have no original thinking on the new shooters. They don't seem to be in the same league as the Power 4. This is going to be a fun race.

I'll Have Another
Creative Cause/Went The Day Well

Monday, May 7, 2012

I'll Have Another

I wish I wouldn't have been scared off by the post. In the end he had enough tactical speed to save ground around every turn. What an amazing ride by Mario Guitierrez who last year was riding at Hastings Racetrack in Vancouver. A track most have never heard of. When he first jogged I'll Have Another last year his agent told him not to get attached, that he'd never get to ride a horse like that. The owner, Paul Reddam, saw the connection the horse and jock made and gave him a shot. Reddam has charted an unlikely course but carried his conviction through and ended up accepting the trophy from a somewhat stupefied Bob Costas. When I'll Have Another hurt his shins in the Hopeful even the trainer didn't think it was wise to get him on the Derby trail, then there was the two month layoff, and finally the decision to stick with an inexperienced 25 year old jock. I usually don't give owners much credit for much of anything, but this guy is very deserving.

Bodemeister did what he does, though he did it in sparkling fashion coming up a furlong short of smashing the recordbooks. I don't think anyone will be able to beat him going 9. I'm not sure if he's going to the Preakness, but if he does he will be the number one threat to a Triple Crown. Until the Belmont then it gets much harder for IHA. But let's just enjoy the moment.

The usually classy Michael Matz excoriated Leparoux for the ride he gave Rags. It's hard to tell if Julien deserves all the ire, but it's a part of his game that has always been somewhat lacking -- and it's the part of the game I like least. Gate riding a horse means you risk not allowing the horse to get comfortable and lengthen his stride in exchange for the tactical advantage of getting the best chance at first run. It's an ugly way to ride, but it's effective. Leparoux is a finesse rider with great hands; he is the very best finesse rider in this country. But trouble came early as Dullahan swept Union Rags back, dashing the colt's hopes very early on. Union Rags, however, was moving the fastest in the last furlong of the race.

Finally Dullahan and Went the Day Well also finished with a flourish. I think Went the Day Well is a big threat on ole Hilltop.

Through the We're getting a hot tub and professioral referencing of Wittgenstien. The acceptance speeches were fun this year; the connections beamed under the Kentucky sun that threatened but in the end shone gold waves over the dais, the 25 year old jock and the dirty colt.  

Friday, May 4, 2012

Derby 138 Has Arrived

Creative Cause

So how was your trip in? The unavoidable question and the thing you're trying best to not think about. Creative Cause tossed a shoe and might have suffered a minor foot injury during his peregrination from sunny California to the electric spring of Kentucky, if you go by some of the reports. He acted up twice while schooling in the paddock and he didn't exactly blow the lid off anything in his work, but is this just overanalysis? I place a lot of credence into gauging how a Derby horse is doing the week of the big run; some grow up right then and there. Empire Maker and Giant's Causeway colts, both excellent pedigrees, sometimes take a little longer. Creative Cause is by the Giant. On the track Creative Cause has always been a part of the race, no matter the class of the field. His talent is unquestionable. Will he take the next step? I hope he does, but right now I am waffling. 

My Selections
I think we're going to have a lot of pace in this Derby thanks to the somewhat surprising addition of the sprinter Triniberg. And I think it keeps this race honest. Hansen, Take Charge Indy and Bodemeister might not be able to resist the early fight, but if they can they could be in the catbird seat. But I'm gonna look off the pace and I'm settling on a horse I've loved for a while, Union Rags. Yes, I love the storyline but more important I think Rags is smart, classy and ready to take command in chaotic situations. Tactical speed is important and he has enough. All out speed like you see in Hansen and Bodemeister simply will not get it done. I'll Have Another gets a terrible post but this horse also rises above the field with an unshakable presence, but needs a dry track. Finally, I think the undefeated Gemologist will round out the frame. In some ways this Derby is a treatise on training styles. How hard do you push your young colt? This year, if you figure this out, you'll likely get your picture taken in the Winners Circle, unless of course Bodemeister blows the doors of everyone, then it's just good to be a Baffert.  

Good luck everyone and enjoy Derby Day!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


Bodemeister wanted nothing to do with the rest of the field of the Arkansas Derby. He broke widest from the eleven hole, hit the gas and never heard the hoofbeats of those trailing. It wasn't much of a field, and after it was revealed that Secret Circle raced through a seisamoidic injury, it turned out to be a field with very little merit. It was a great spot for young Bodemeister to flash speed and gain confidence after a tough beat against Creative Cause. Baffert, long known from his quarterhorse background for manufacturing speed, seems to have successfully put his stamp on this colt that Zayat named in honor of Bob's son.

There are no pedigree concerns with this guy and with three consecutive triple-digit Beyers he seems to be in his own stratosphere of speed. But watching him run, his hard action, you wonder if he can do what no other horse since Apollo in 1882, the year Thomas Edison flicked the switch to the first electrical power plant ushering in the electronic age, and that is win the Kentucky Derby without having raced as a two year old.

He'll likely have to wire the field to make this happen. I don't think he can do it.