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BIG Field of Fillies...Valley View Stakes Preview

Oct 17, 2014 -- 12:26pm
What's not to love about 16 three-year-old fillies entered in any race.  Only fourteen can start, still a wonderful betting race going 1 1/16 miles on the Keeneland grass.  Race bookends with next month's Mrs. Revere Stakes at Churchill Downs, giving the sophomore ladies couple of nice, graded stakes avails to close out their seasons.
 
1. Spring Included (30-1 w/Robby Albarado)...after six non-turf starts to start her career, which were fine, she jumped up & went wire-to-wire to win six furlong grass allowance at Kentucky Downs last month at 29-1.  Inside post won't help her front-running style.  Valley View has eluded Robby throughout his career, with four 3rd place finishes to show in the race since at least 1998.  Would love to give her a try, and pops could run all day, just think she's not ready for the big girls yet.
 
2. V V Goodnight (15-1 w/Coonstance Hill)...five race losing streak, not good.  Both wins (from 12 starts) in Tampa, not good.  Ran pretty decent against A Little Bit Sassy at Churchill Downs, only needing to make up couple of lengths to turn table.  Large field like this, couple lengths is easy enough to find. It's those other dozen horses.  Probably runs well, just see her struggling to make this a race late.
 
3. Size (6-1 w/Rosie Napravnik)...Rosie rolls in search of her second Valley View.  She won w/the classy Fugitive Angel in 2010.  First turf starts after three wins in 6 dirt tries.  Breeding doesn't scream weeds though.  Followed 13-1 score in Iowa Oaks with nearly 40 lengths of defeat in Alabama Stakes & Charles Town Oaks. That 6-1 is WAY to low for this breeding & form.
 
4. Rosalind (8-1 w/Chris Landeros)...polyturf, polyturf, where art thou polyturf.  Tied for the win in Keeneland's Ashland Stakes last spring when run over the ground up snow tires. Disappointed somewhat in Kentucky Oaks, but did run a little late for 4th (yes, nothing wrong w/4th in any Oaks).  Thought she was better than that double digit lengths beat down though.  Gamely shipped to Ascot for some adventure...then the rider fell off in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot.  Back to the homeland, she beat one last July in Grade 1 Belmont Oaks.  So, what filly shows up?  There's enough pace to flatter her style, but 2-for-10 lifetime mark while twice beaten as favorite...talented yes, chews up too much money though.
 
5. Fashion Fund (15-1 w/Joel Rosario)...total Euro top-to-bottom will enjoy the give in the ground as wet weather should have the turf less than firm.  Broke her maiden in her first U.S. start last April in Lexington at 5-2.  Hasn't graduated from entry level allowance condition yet & Shug McGaughey tees this one up off solid second in ungraded Saratoga stake in August.  Soft ground definitely moves her up, only compelling feature though.
 
6. Stellaris (10-1 w/Jimmy Graham)...second in grassy Del Mar Oaks (at 11-1) punched her ticket here.  Didn't show much though after that in Chicago.  Graham rides winners in Lexington, that moves her up a notch.  Like to see better than 10-1 on her form & dirt breeding, but her middle-pack style should give her a first shot as they turn into stretch.  Graham's won this race twice, both divided editions.  Won with Single Solution in 1st division of Valley View in '09 and then again in '12 with Angel Terrace in 2nd division.
 
7. Annulment (30-1 w/Corey Lanerie)...with Keeneland back to dirt, Lanerie pushing for leading rider.  Owner G. Watts Humphrey ALWAYS primed to run at Keeneland and usually find a couple nice-priced winners.  That's her edge.  She also broke her maiden last fall at Keeneland on the grass at 14-1.  Only win this year was 12-1 nose win in small stake in Chicago.  On paper, hard to make the case.  On the connections, 30-1 looks tasty.
 
8. Sumba Sunset (30-1 w/Shaun Bridgmohan)...she has the one thing I like to see most, but in Euro shippers though.  Win or lose, she's always there at the finish. After 4th in maiden, she ran second by neck, second by neck, first by nose & again second by head.  Never favored with odds ranging between 4-1 and 11-1.  Like to see that gameness on turf. Last out was too-bad-to-be-true 9th in Delaware Park allowance.  That stinker gets you 30-1 today though. Not crazy about her need to be 1-2 early, but will get good stalker spot from this post.  ALWAYS seeking value & see enough w/her at 30-1 to put in the mix.  Bridgmohan won first division of this race in 2012 w/Miz Ida.
 
9. Goldy Espony (6-1 w/Alan Garcia)...another total Euro has made but one U.S. start, middle 6th in Grade 1 at Belmont Park in July.  No starts since, but she did win three times in France (once on polyturf), including graded stakes there.  She's never had an extended break like she does here & price isn't tempting me either.
 
10. Token of Love (10-1 w/Johnny Velazquez)...Velazquez has been the daddy this meet when the money's been on the line.  Total Euro makes U.S. debut after seven English starts. Two back did win nice $80k stake, but more concerned about getting beat three out of 4 times when favored prior to that win.  Ran dull last time in class test too.  Two of her three wins came at 9-2 and she'll be well north of that in here.  She'll see softer competition in this Valley View & 10-1 is square price to see what happens.  Velazquez won second division of this race in '09 w/Eye of Taurus.
 
11. Miss Frost (6-1 w/Edgar Prado)...starts for the 11th time, first though away from New York.  Sports three race winning streak, at odds of 3-1, 9-1 & 17-1, all with Prado aboard.  She'll be tested on the front end in here, but can sit just off the pace from 11 post.  Higher the odds, better she looks.
 
12. Daring Dancer (4-1 w/Joltin' Joe Rocco)...four wins in 6 grassy starts, in fact, unbeaten away from Belmont Park.  That includes 5-1 win in spring's Appalachian Stakes at Mr. Keene's place.  She took Grade 2 at Saratoga, just nipping #14 A Little Bit Sassy.  Kinda question the depth of the race though.  Subsequent start was lacking.  Bred to like any kind of turf & has solid turf rider.  Nothing about 4-1 in 14-horse field excites me though.
 
13. Sparking Review (30-1 w/Julien Leparoux)...horse & rider names rhyme together.  So, ya' got that.  Has won both turf starts, that's good, especially at 6-1 & 4-1. Distance & pace seem to flatter her.  Bred to like the distance.  Leparoux won this race in '08 w/Acoma.  What am I missing...hasn't shown any ceiling yet...looks to be ridiculously live 30-1 shot.
 
14. A Little Bit Sassy (6-1 w/TBD)...Luis Saez, older brother of fallen rider Juan Saez, has taken off his mounts for the time being as his family deals w/the passing of his younger brother.  She just missed in Grade 2 at Saratoga after winning pair of stakes at Churchill spring meet (although DQ'd in one of 'em).  Other than her debut last year, she's been very solid.  Outside post won't flatter her style.
 
15. Share the Sugar (12-1 w/Julien Leparoux)...fourth in only grass stake in Lexington (at 11-1).  Broke maiden one race earlier on the polyturf.  She hasn't shown the ability too many others in here have, but ran nice second last out in Kentucky Downs allowance.  Always hard to gauge Kentucky Downs form though.  Can't see it, even if she draws in.
 
16. Valseuse (20-1 w/Juan Saez)...final tribute to the fallen rider who died from tragic spill late Tuesday afternoon outside Indianapolis.  Filly has only been 1-2 once in 7 starts but anytime Kitten's Joy is your daddy, ya' gotta try.  Royal Academy on the bottom too.  She'll come from the clouds but will need help from above if she gets in.
 
And to get ourselves paid in a big, tasty field...
 
1st - Token of Love (10-1 w/Johnny Velazquez)...no one throwing all that much heat in here, she'll get around on the pitching this field offers & touch home first at a price.
 
2nd - Stellaris (10-1 w/Jimmy Graham)...skies part turning for home & battles to wire.
 
3rd - Annulment (30-1 w/Corey Lanerie)...from out of the clouds w/late run that comes up bit shy.
 
4th - Sparkling Review (30-1 w/Julien Leparoux)...tough call to round out the box (thus leaving Rosalind & Sumba Sunset uncovered).  Can't bet 'em all.
 
It's Friday!! 

FLASHBACK: Valley View Stakes Joins Keeneland Line-Up in 1991

Oct 16, 2014 -- 5:46pm
Valley View Stakes runs for 24th time officially Friday at Keeneland.  In reality, having been split twice (in 2009 & 2012), it's also the 26th time.  Nevertheless...let's flashback to the inaugural Valley View Stakes...
 
It was a Friday afternoon, that 11th day of October in 1991 as nine three-year-old fillies would head to the post for $42,000 in added money in the Lexington feature. The Friday crowd at Keeneland had seen the dissolution of the Soviet Union a month prior & the country was now focused on the U.S. Senate where Clarence Thomas was being challenged in his bid for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court by Anita Hill.  Thomas would be confirmed four days after the inaugural Valley View with 52-48 Senate confirmation vote.
 
Just eight days prior to the first Valley View, little known Arkansas Governor William Jefferson (Bill) Clinton announced his intention to seek the Democrat Party nomination for the 1992 presidential election.  At the time, Clinton was best known for being wildly cheered by mercifully concluding of his lengthy 1988 Democrat convention speech in support of Michael Dukakis. N either the long, rambling speech, nor ribald tales of womanizing would stop the future two-term president.
 
On the gridiron, Cards fans were living the nightmare reality of Jeff Brohm's broken leg early in the '91 season & were en route to Boston College with a 2-3 mark.  It was the follow-up season to the storied Fiesta Bowl campaign.  BC would rout the Cards 33-3.  Louisville would not taste victory again in '91, finishing 2-9.
 
Oh, save the belly laughs BBN.  Your Cats were taking a 2-2 mark to Starkville, Mississippi that Friday afternoon of the first Valley View.  The Bulldogs would rout the Cats 31-6 and UK would finish 1991 at 3-8.  Mississippi State, though, today is currently ranked #1.
 
In racing, Strike the Gold was the reigning Kentucky Derby champion.  In pop culture, "Home Improvement" ruled the small screen & Mariah Carey ruled the radio waves with "Emotion."  Good thing folks were at Keeneland that 11th day of October 1991, new in theatres that Friday were "Little Man Tate," "Frankie and Johnny (1991)" and "Ernest Scared Stupid."  They'd finish the year 53rd, 58th & 85th at the box office that year.  "Terminator 2" was the summer blockbuster & year's top grosser.
 
And of that first-ever Valley View Stakes...La Gueriere came in off two Ellis Park victories & started at a robust 31-1 with Brian Peck in the saddle.  A snappy 1.43.49 later, she paid $65.60 for her half-length win over 6-5 favorite Dance O'My Life.  Dance O'My Life was ridden by the late Chris Antley who, earlier that year, had piloted Strike the Gold to Derby glory. 
 
And, to put a bow on it, earlier mentioned was the Valley View being paired with Churchill's Mrs. Revere Stakes on the autum calendar.  Finishing 8th in the inaugural Valley View was Maria Balastiere, a daughter of...Mrs. Revere.
 
A horse (or filly) for the course, La Gueriere would finish her career with six wins in 20 starts.  Four of her wins came in Lexington, the other two at Ellis Park leading into that first Valley View.  She'd finish 0-for-11 everywhere else, but on the second Friday of October 23 years ago, La Gueriere ruled the racing world in Kentucky.
 
And so it was, that Friday afternoon, the 11th day of October 1991... 

Juan Saez Fatally Injured in Spill at Indiana Grand

Oct 15, 2014 -- 5:19pm

Tough week on the Kentucky circuit with the sudden passing of Juan Saez from a spill late Tuesday afternoon at Indiana Grand (Indiana Downs).  Fine young man whose ascent towards the top of the rider colony in Kentucky was almost immediate upon his arrival.

Saez dominated the standings this summer at Ellis Park & was pulling double circuit duty in October, riding at both Keeneland & Indiana Grand.  His final winner came in the nightcap last Friday (October 10) at Keeneland on a muddy main track aboard Wise Crossing.  It was his 89th & final victory in the saddle.

When we look to Friday’s feature at Mr. Keene’s place later this week, note Juan Saez is listed to ride in six races on the card, including the featured Valley View Stakes aboard Valseuse for Wayne Lukas.  Juan’s older brother Luis, is (was) scheduled to ride the Valley View as well (aboard A Little Bit Sassy, twice under the wire first in Churchill Downs stakes at the Spring Meet).

My personal memories of Juan this summer are of a smiling, eager teenager coming to Barn 33 at Churchill each week with agent (former Churchill Downs riding champion) Julio Espinoza always in tow to work my two-year-old filly Barefoot Children for trainer Jimmy Baker.  Hard to imagine that smiling kid…with the world in front of him…has been called home.  It’s now a haunting image.

No words can do justice.  Simply a tragic end to this world for Juan Saez.  Racing continues to offer the highest of highs & lowest of lows.  And that’s all there is to say about that.

 

Dogwood Stakes, Go Cards & Go Krogering!

Sep 19, 2014 -- 3:46pm

Dogwood Stakes goes for 39th time at Mr. Churchill’s place.  Three-year-old fillies tee it up for $100,000 over seven furlongs.  Nice group of 10 to keep you busy at halftime of the Louisville-Florida International game.  AND…remember to pick up your copy of the ESPN 2014 College & NFL Fan Yearbook available at all area Kroger locations!  FREE with purchase of any collegiate sports apparel.  Go Cards & Go Krogering!

 

1.  Platinum Lady (15-1 w/Marcy Pedroza)…ships in off four career starts at Canterbury Park in Minneapolis.  Bottom feeding Twins just put the wood to my Tigers, first series win at home for Twins SINCE JULY.  JULY.  Tigers are fatally flawed.  Bullpen is worse than Beulah Park shippers to Saratoga.  Oh right, the filly.  Inside speed will not work to her advantage, she’ll be cooked pretty early from in there & she was odds-on in both her wins, so hasn’t been an overachiever yet.

2.  Fiftyshadesofgold (2-1 w/Robby Albarado)…stellar two-for-two at Churchill, both in stakes (last year’s Debutante Stakes by 8 lengths & this year’s Oaks Day Eight Belles Stakes).  Was exceptionally competitive in Grade 1 last out at Saratoga.  Has speed from inside post & this seems to be perfect spot for her to score.

3.  Bird Maker (6-1 w/Shaun Bridgmohan)…both her wins came here in Louisville & she added nice 2nd in last year’s Golden Rod Stakes for good measure.  Hasn’t been competitive anywhere else though, tricky play.  Horse for the course angle at 6-1.

4.  Milam (7-2 w/Corey Lanerie)…fourth in last year’s Golden Rod Stakes & at 9-1 almost caught Fiftyshadesofgray in the Eight Belles Stakes on Oaks Day.  Last at Belmont was awful.  Race sets up for her, but she’s always been just a whisker below the best of those in here.

5.  Kiss to Remember (8-1 w/Julian Leparoux)…claimed for $50k last December in New Orleans & like most Maggi Moss/Tom Amoss claims, she’s getting better.  Only start in Louisville was tasty 10-1 score by two lengths in June.  Hasn’t done anything wrong in two Indiana starts since then.  Don’t think her early speed will keep up with Fifty Shades though.

6.  Enjoy The Family (15-1 w/Alan Garcia)…steps up after breaking maiden at Ellis & splitting pair of polyturf allowance races at Arlington Park.  That maiden score in Henderson came at 12-1 & she’s big price again on the dirt.  Leaning elsewhere though.

7.  Thank You Marylou (4-1 w/Miggy Mena)…career started well but has slowed considerably since 5th in Kentucky Oaks, beaten 12 lengths at 17-1.  Iowa Oaks follow-up was debacle.  Rebounded okay in Test Stakes at Saratoga last out, but had no say in the outcome.  Race does set up for her nicely but 4-1 seems too low to try & knock out Fifty Shades.

8.  Henny Jenney (15-1 w/Leandro Goncalves)…only bad effort in her nine lifetime starts came in her only dirt try.  Can give her a pass though as she shipped to Penn National for state-bred race there last November.  She’s competitive closer & in good hands all around.  Dirt breeding is fine too.  Have to give her shot at that price.

9.  Honey’s Ryan (30-1 w/Victor Lebron)…four wins in 6 lifetime starts, BUT they came at Remington Park in Oklahoma last year & Thistledown in Cleveland this year.  And that breeder…how ‘bout the University of Kentucky.  They may be changing the game, but don’t see her changing this race.  Thanks for coming though.  Nice to see folks taking a shot from out of town.

10.  Mizzen Mist (15-1 w/Jesus Castanon)…bred for grass, won three straight on grass since being runner-up in first two dirt starts.  Hometown horse certainly has a chance & that price is extra tasty.  Inclined to look elsewhere, but she’s showing lots of upside IF it can translate back to dirt.

And the 2014 Dogwood Stakes…along with FREE copy of ESPN 2014 College & NFL Fan Yearbook goes to:

2.  Fiftyshadesofgold (2-1 w/Robby Albarado)…I’m sorry, she’s just the fastest…best…most talented…and most accomplished filly in the race.  And she loves the track.  Will get my price up in exacta, tri, etc.

8.  Henny Jenney (15-1 w/Leandro Goncalves)…blind faith says she can translate that turf/polyturf kick to the main track.  Like her less as the price goes down though.  Trainer has been stepping his game up in bigger races this year too.

4.  Milan (7-2 w/Corey Lanerie)…comes running again through the stretch in another game effort.

3.  Bird Maker (6-1 w/Shaun Bridgmohan)…picks up the last piece of the super.

Oh, did I mention…Go Cards & Go Krogering!!

 

No Kidding...Kid Cruz & Mr. Irad Ortiz, Jr.

Aug 22, 2014 -- 1:07pm
Travers Stakes rolls for $1.25 million US. Derby-Preakness winner California Chrome stays home in California & emerging three-year-old leader Shared Belief goes in Pacific Classic in San Diego.
 
1. Commanding Curve (15-1 w/Shaun Bridgmohan)...completes the mirror story to Golden Soul by flattening out. My latest Derby exotic hero appears a one-hit wonder too.
 
2. Bayern (2-1 w/Marty Garcia)...got away with easy lead in Haskell last out & rolled to easy win. Ran stinker in Preakness after being DQ'd in Derby Trial, can write those off to then-rider Rose Napravnik. Has won last two by 7 lengths (both times with Rosie off). Saratoga is a deep, deep track. Seems very vulnerable favorite BUT...he's the ONLY speed...and there's only one other stalker in the field. Absolutely his race to lose.
 
3. Charge Now (15-1 w/Junior Alvarado)...failed first mini class test in Iowa Derby, then ran close second in restricted Saratoga Stakes. Bred to run all day, don't think he'll pass this bigger class test.
 
4. V. E. Day (15-1 w/Javy Castellanos)...bred for turf, but has won his last two dirt starts. One of many closers in this field. Lively price with Saratoga's leading rider aboard.
 
5. Viva Majorca (20-1 w/Julien Leparoux)...don't see Leparoux moving him up, cold trainer too. Better price plays elsewhere.
 
6. Tonalist (3-1 w/Joel Rosario)..."g.d. cheater" won Belmont Stakes (per CaliChrome owner), ran so-so last month when second in the Jim Dandy at Saratoga. He wasn't cranked for that effort, he is for this one. Expect him to be in the hunt late.
 
7. Wicked Strong (7-2 w/Rajiv Maragh)...popular choice in Derby & Belmont could only run 4th in both. Returned with much improved effort when winning Jim Dandy last month at Saratoga. Added blinkers & stayed closer to the pace. Winning formula. Figures to be closest to Bayern down the backstretch, but doesn't seem quick enough to outrun him. Sports home track advantage. Rarely brings his A race back-to-back.
 
8. Kid Cruz (12-1 w/Irad Ortiz)...Ortiz gives him his best chance. $50k claim last November failed badly in Preakness but has been steady every other time. This field isn't tragically tough & Ortiz may work his magic at big, big price.
 
9. Ulanbator (30-1 w/Brian Hernandez Jr.)...nose away from being 8-start maiden & wasn't successful twice in Churchill Downs allowance & Matt Winn Stakes. Has some talent, but ice cold trainer/rider. Hernandez is my longshot rider & maybe toss him in for giggles. Who knows. On paper, no way.
 
10. Mr. Speaker (10-1 w/Jose Lezcano)...his only dirt try was a dud. Owner/trainer live for Saratoga & taking a shot. Believe he fails again on God's own dirt.
 
And the Travers goes to:
 
8. Kid Cruz (12-1) pulls the shock'a!! Irad Ortiz is the real deal.
 
7. Wicked Strong (7-2) solid throughout, comes up just shy.
 
6. Bayern (2-1) despite every race scenario advantage, out-of-town shipper still tires on deep track.
 
9. V. E. Day (15-1) has Saratoga's leading rider at tasty price, Castellanos moves him up enough to juice superfecta. 

Flashback: Tupolev Sets Track Record at Churchill Downs (July 23, 1983)

Jul 18, 2014 -- 3:22pm

This week marks the 30th anniversary of one of Churchill Downs more obscure track records…1 5/8 miles & an Argentine iron horse named Tupolev.

Temps were triple digits, around 102 degrees & the track was fast when the field for the 3rd race at Churchill Downs went postward that Saturday afternoon of July 23, 1983. Martina Navratilova had easily beaten Andrea Jaeger (6-0, 6-3) to win Wimbledon a fortnight earlier. Johnny McEnroe had dispatched something named Chris Lewis (6-2, 6-2, 6-2) to win the Gentlemen’s Title.

Two weeks prior to Tupolev’s run to history, the Angel’s Freddy Lynn hit the first-ever MLB All-Star Game grand slam, leading the junior circuit to an easy 13-3 win. While Tupolev was running 3rd at Churchill Downs the week prior to his historic performance in Louisville, Tom Watson won the British Open. Watson would have his own historic run through Louisville a couple years ago, winning the Senior PGA Championship at Valhalla.

Just two days after Watson’s win, the first-place Philadelphia Phillies fired manager Pat Corrales. Didn’t hurt much, they cruised by 6 games over Pittsburgh w/Paul Owens in the managerial saddle, routed the Dodgers for the NL pennant before losing the World Series to Baltimore in five games.

The Saturday card at Mr. Churhill’s place that July 23, 1983 witnessed an “LM” double with Larry Melancon taking the opener at 15-1 for Bill Mott aboard Heir Fancy & Leroy Moyers winning the second half of the double for Greg Foley at 5-2 aboard Aurilla Miller. Double paid $120.80. Recall these were the days where Churchill only offered a Daily Double along with 5th & last race exactas.

Pat Day was running away w/the rider’s race, doubling second place Keith Allen 120-60 in the first-ever Summer Meet at Churchill Downs. Leroy Moyers (57 wins), Jim McKnight (55) & Don Brumfield (38) were rounding out the top five, followed by Julio Espinoza (33), Charlie Woods (32), Mark Sellers (21), double bug apprentice Steve Cuffari (19) & Phil Rubbicco (18).

Bill Mott topped all trainers with 33 wins, followed by Jack Van Berg (24), Jinks Fires (18), Lynn Whiting (17), Shug McGuaghey (16), Mark Casse (15), Rusty Arnold (14), Larry Edwards (13), Steve Penrod (13), Del Carroll (12) & Ray Lawrence (12).

Card featured couple cracklin’ good allowance races with Gemini Dreamer upsetting favored Sitzmark while winning the $15,000 Catholic Alumni Club allowance in the 7th. The great Ohio gelding Silahis won the 8th race, the $13,000 Hoop Jr. allowance w/his fellow Ohioian David Borden in the saddle. Silahis upset Ronny Turcotte.

Feature that July 23, 1983 Saturday was the first running of the long-gone Shawnee Stakes for fillies & mares going one mile for a purse of $30,000-added. Leader Miss, but 5-1 in the morning line, upset the race at final odds of 12-1 under Keith Allen. Kitchen & Kenny Knapp were also long odds while 2nd & the good racemare, Queen of Song finished 3rd. Favored Header Card never fired for Jim McKnight or trainer Bill Helmbrecht.

Pat Johnson, still active in the rider colony around Kentucky, was unplaced in the Shawnee Stakes aboard Glory Strings for Jack Fuchs.

Now the story of the fastest 13 furlong runner in Churchill Downs history, Tupolev. The 3rd race was part of the Ten Broeck distance series, honoring perhaps the greatest distance horse of the 19th century. The series would conclude with not only a 2 mile race, but also a never since run 3 mile finale. Now that was a fan friendly racing secretary.

Rajo Royale had set the track record of 2.53 3/5 in June of 1982. Tupolev would better it by more than 4 seconds, winning in 2.49 2/5. His mark stands today.

Tupolev, owned by Farid Sefa & trained by Larry Edwards, won as expected, paying $4.40. Whitehouse Cat & Julio Espinoza came 2nd with Luck Blow & Leroy Moyers 3rd. Purse for the $5k starter allowance was $6,000.

Tupolev had arrived at Churchill Downs in June of '83 after making five starts at Sportsmans Park & Arlington Park. He had wintered with five earlier starts at Gulfstream. He quickly found the path to Churchill’s entry box & ran 9th in his Louisville debut on June 7, 1983. Then ran an improved 5th on June 28 & 3rd on July 16 before making his mark on Churchill’s record book the following week.

Tupolev would make 72 starts after his track record setting performance at Churchill Downs, including a second win at Churchill Downs on August 20. After leaving Churchill Downs forever, after being eased in the Ten Broeck Championship on September 3, 1983, Tupolev headed north to Hazel Park in Michigan. Hazel once teamed with Detroit Race Course to form a nice circuit for the Great Lakes. Hazel has run trotters only for the past generation & Detroit Race Course was demolished years ago.

The year after Tupolev set his track mark in Louisville, he found his home in Louisiana, making his last 53 starts there, all but one at Jefferson Downs, Delta Downs or Evangeline Downs.

For his career, Tupolev made 113 trips to the post, winning 15 times. For his efforts, he bankrolled just over $100,000. As with many old claimers, it ended for Tupolev when he was eased in his 10th and final start of his 9-year-old season of 1987 at Jefferson Downs. Tupolev, the best there ever was running 13 furlongs at America’s most storied race track, had won but one of his last 33 starts. His name however, remains etched in the history book at historic Churchill Downs.

 

Flashback: Inaugural 1902 Bashford Manor Stakes, Teddy Roosevelt, Louisville Colonels

Jun 24, 2014 -- 3:47pm

This Saturday afternoon (June 28) marks the final Saturday of Churchill Downs 2014 Spring Meet.  For the 113th consecutive year, the Louisville track will offer its Bashford Manor Stakes.  This stakes race trails only the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks & Clark Handicap on the Churchill stakes schedule for most consecutive running.  Grand, grand ole race.

First run on May 13, 1902, the race has always been for two-year-olds & always held during Churchill's Spring Meet.  Julio Espinoza & Pat Day, each with four wins, lead all riders in Bashford Manor victories.  (King) Wayne Lukas, who else, leads all trainers with five wins.

Favorite Trick won in 1997 en route to being named that campaign’s Horse of the Year.  Summer Squall won in 1989 & would win the following year's Preakness, after running second in the Derby to Unbridled.  Grindstone (1995), Clyde Van Dusen (1928), Black Gold (1923), Old Rosebud (1913), Worth (1911) & Donau (1909) all won the Derby in the year following their Bashford Manor appearances.  Worth & Black Gold are the only to win both events though.

Bashford Manor Stakes has been six furlongs since 1986.  Between 1982-85, it was 5 1/2 furlongs.  It held sway at 5 furlongs from 1926-81 & originated at 4 1/2 furlongs through 1925.  Up until the mid-70s, it was always held in May.  As Churchill's Spring Meet lengthened, the race has subsequently been held in May, June & July.

As that first Bashford Manor field went to post in 1902, rough ridin’ Teddy Roosevelt was in the White House, having succeeded Bill McKinley following his assassination. Roosevelt that year became the first president to ride in a car.  Jimmy Winkfield rode Von Rouse to the inaugural Bashford Manor Stakes winner’s circle.

The first MLB World Series wouldn't be played until the year following that inaugural Bashford Manor Stakes (1903).  The established National League & newly formed American League were battling over player contracts.  The Pittsburgh Pirates were 1902 National League champs & the cross-state upstart Philadelphia Athletics won the American League pennant.

Louisville was beginning its 3rd summer w/out Major League Baseball as that first Bashford Manor field went to post, the Louisville Colonels had shut down after the 1899 season after eight losing seasons in the National League.  The Colonels never climbed higher than 9th in any season’s standings.  Many of the Colonels, including 1899 Colonels MVP Honus Wagner, made their way to Pittsburgh, where the Alleghenys (later renamed Pirates) would win two World Series & six National League pennants, including the 1902 season.

Speaking of baseball, Tinkers-to-Evers-to-Chance first appeared in a game together that 1902 baseball season.  And, can you believe, Jimmy Collins left the NL's Boston Beaneaters to manage the new Boston Somersets (AL)?

Michigan had earlier that 1902 year won the first-ever Rose Bowl, pounding Stanford 49-0.  Somewhere between the moon & New York City, Doug James is smiling.  Oh, by the way, 111 years later, University of Louisville whipped up on Michigan to win its 3rd NCAA National Basketball Championship.

Bashford Manor Stable owned & bred two (2) Derby winners during its heyday at the turn of the 19thcentury.  Azra won a three horse Derby in 1892, defeating an entry that comprised the other two horses.  In 1906, the Derby field had doubled to six when Sir Huon came home first.  Bashford Manor Stable also bred 1899 Derby winner Manuel.  It was Manuel’s only win of his three-year-old season, he beat four others in his Derby.

Bashford Manor Stable (& farm) would close by the 1920s but remain relatively undeveloped until Bashford Manor Mall was built in the 1970s.  The mall met the wrecking ball in 2003.

Since we’re talking Louisville landmarks, east Louisville residents will note Copperfield was 2nd in the Bashford Manor Stakes of 1903.

Phar Mon w/Steve Brooks & Spy Charger w/Gary Mahon both carried a crushing 127 lbs. in their Bashford Manor Stakes wins.

It’s the last Saturday of Churchill’s Spring Meet and a grand, old race will be contested for the 113th consecutive spring in Louisville.  Party on!

 

Flashback...Debutante Stakes, Grover Cleveland & the 1895 Louisville Colonels

Jun 17, 2014 -- 5:52pm

This Saturday afternoon, Churchill Downs offers up the 76th consecutive…and 114th overall…running of the $100,000 Debutante Stakes on its penultimate weekend of racing for the 2014 Spring Meet.

Debutante Stakes debuted during 1895 Spring Meet & has been run at distances ranging from four to six furlongs through the generations.  It’s been at its current six furlongs since Richwoman won for Shaun Bridgmohan & Steve Asmussen in 2006.  It was also six furlongs from 1986-90.  Race was not held during Great Depression years of 1932-37.

Only the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks, Clark Handicap & Falls City Handicap are older on the Churchill Downs stakes schedule.  Several generations past will remember the Debutante Stakes being the traditional undercard feature on Kentucky Derby Day from 1950-81.  Those were the days prior to tracks loading up stakes races on one or two big days.

That first Debutante Stakes was held on Tuesday, May 7…the day AFTER the 21st Kentucky Derby which, if math holds, was run on a Monday, May 6.

It was a memorable 21st Derby that year of 1895 as it was the last ever run at the Derby’s original 1 ½ miles.  Soup Perkins & Halma took the final 12 furlong Derby.  Halma would also win the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs that year (when contested in the spring).  He would also win the prestigious Latonia Derby during his three-year-old season.

While the Debutante Stakes has lacked much depth & quality in its past few years (as early two-year-old racing has fallen out of fashion), it was as recent as ’08 that Kentucky Oaks & Preakness heroine, Rachel Alexandra, contested the race.  Rachel ran 2nd to Garden District & Robby Albarado that year.

Ten years earlier in 1998, the great Silverbulletday took the Debutante under Willie Martinez & remains the last of six fillies to take both the Debutante & Kentucky Oaks (Rachel Alexandra was 2nd in her Debutante Stakes try).

Flashing back again to the inaugural Debutante Stakes of 1895, Grover Cleveland was in the second of his two, non-consecutive terms as President.  Grover actually won the popular vote three elections in a row 1884, 1888 & 1892.  Benjamin Harrison took the Electoral College vote in ’88 though.

History Channel “Pawn Stars” fans will remember the episode where a Grover Cleveland signed document was in play (alas, turned out to be an early version of auto pen).  Also learned that Grover married a 21-year-old daughter of a friend when he was president.  That remains America’s youngest first lady.

1895 was yet another miserable season for the Louisville Colonels, then a Major League team in the 12-team National League.  The Colonels would finish last with a 35-96 record, more than 50 games back of the Baltimore Orioles.  In its defense, the Colonels only played 57 home games v. 74 on the dusty road.

Churchill’s Debutante Stakes is a bit of who’s who…for Keeneland stakes races.  Alcibiades won Debutante in 1929 & she titles Keeneland’s premiere two-year-old stakes race for fillies each autumn.  Bewitch won her Debutante in 1947 & she titles a Keeneland stakes for older fillies & mares in the spring.

Blue Grass won the 1946 Debutante, but, well, Keeneland’s Blue Grass Stakes was run before Blue Grass (the filly) won her Debutante.  Nice historical quirk nonetheless.

Enjoy these old Churchill Downs classic stakes races!!  Shame there aren’t more that have stood the test of time over Churchill's 140 year history.

My Old Kentucky Home, Good Night...Departing, You Say?

Jun 13, 2014 -- 2:49pm

The near full moon will shine bright on the Old Kentucky race track Saturday night around 9:40p w/another stellar running of das Stephen Foster Handicap.  Been a tough spring race meet w/tiny, tiny fields & many unplayable races so let’s enjoy Saturday night on Central Avenue.  White out the night!

1.  Revolutionary (2-1 w/Mike Smith)…bit of a hit & miss fellow since his stellar early career that saw him gamely win Withers & Louisiana Derby before running 3rd in last year’s Kentucky Derby.  Doesn’t always bring his A, or even B race with him.  His last two though were near miss 2nd to Will Take Charge in Oaklawn Handicap & from the clouds win in Pimlico Special on Preakness eve.  I owe him big time for getting up to win show photo in last year’s Derby, completing near $7k trifecta.  Just concerned that he never shows enough consistency to think he’ll run three straight big ones.  Price is tiny too.

2.  Jaguar Paw (30-1 w/Shaun Bridgmohan)…played him last November at 90-1 in Clark Handicap & he ran his eye balls out, but was still 5th beaten four lengths.  His two starts at Oaklawn this year offer no encouragement that he’s anywhere near his best.  Looked for any angle w/him, can’t find it.

3.  Moonshine Mullin (10-1 w/Calvin Borel)…none so blind as those who will no see (or believe).  Four straight wins at odds of 7-1, 5-1, 3-1 & almost 7-1 again w/last win being game-as-they-get win in Alysheba Stakes on Oaks Day.  For one of the rare times over past few years, Calvin WAS Calvin that day.  Really going to get 10-1 on a horse in career best form that just beat three previous Derby horses last month, including Will Take Charge?  Must admit, I’m still a skeptic, but he beat me last time.

4.  Will Take Charge (5-2 w/Gary Stevens)…last year’s break-out three-year-old champion ended streak of 8 straight top two finishes when very dull 6th in Alysheba Stakes.  Wayne Lukas switched to Gary Stevens that day & paid the karma price.  Respect Lukas though, he runs ‘em & Will Take Charge comes right back again.  He does though only have one win w/no placings in 4 starts at Churchill Downs & his mom (Take Charge Lady) was beaten heavy favorite in Kentucky Oaks.  Love to see his name adorn impressive list of winners in Stephen Foster Handicap, just not feeling it w/low odds & uncertainty of Stevens paired up w/him.  Does go over $3mm mark in earning if he’s top 3.

5.  Mylute (12-1 w/James Graham)…last year’s Preakness show pony hasn’t really moved forward much since & always thought he was bit of an over achiever.  Pure sprint pedigree (which he’s always outrun) & only a 3rd place finish in three starts in Louisville.  Bizarre rider switch to the polyturfer Graham.  Showed little in Alysheba Stakes & inclined to think he’ll finish mid-pack again Saturday night.

6.  Departing (9-2 w/Robby Albarado)…Robby took down three straight Fosters from 2007-09 but also coughed one up on Mineshaft in 2003.  Departing has always been really nice colt, just a cut below the top tier though.  This is his best shot at becoming Grade 1 winner & crossing over to the big pony table.  In his last three races, he’s been 4-5 and 1-5 twice.  Saturday night they offer 9-2.  Look for him to bring his best, will it be enough though?

7.  Golden Ticket (8-1 w/Julien Leparoux)…tasty morning line on horse that can fire big shots more than occasionally.  Dead-heated for Travers Stakes in 2012, ran very strong 2nd in this race last year (at 11-1) & also ran 2nd in Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (at 7-1) last November.  Only one win in 7 tries at Churchill Downs (but w/four seconds).  Had Alysheba Stakes won on Oaks Day & was outrun late by Moonshine Mullin.  If 8-1, fear not.  Legit value.

8.  Long River (15-1 w/Irad Ortiz)…anytime you get 15-1 w/this rider, don’t hesitate, kid moves ‘em up consistently.  Sports only couple of minor stakes scores at Aqueduct but he’s definitely an improving colt.  Gramps (Awesome Again) won this race in 1998, same year he’d also win Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs.  Shipped him down from Saratoga for a reason, but his owners also print money so expense no issue.

9.  Prayer for Relief (6-1 w/John Velazquez)…hard to knock a dude that’s won $1.6mm, there is that 0-for-3 record at Churchill Downs though w/nary a show placing.  Was outrun in both Homecoming Classic & Clark Handicap in Louisville last year.  He’s nice six-year-old horse, could see him run a big one & pick up bit of this.  No fan of Velazquez away from Belmont Park though.

As Flag Day nears its annual turn towards summer, your Stephen Foster Handicap looks like…

 6.  Departing (9-2)…if he has a Grade 1 race w/his name on it, this is it.  All systems go. 

 7.  Golden Ticket (8-1)…always shows up when money is on the line, almost always nice price too.

 8.  Long River (15-1)…rider has dead aim on this field after a mile, think he’ll come up bit shy in his first real class test.

 4.  Will Take Charge (5-2)…hard to take low odds on horse that may be on the decline.  Respect the heck out of his resume though.

Heartfelt condolences to Intense Holiday team.  Fine, young colt passed away today (Friday, June 13) from laminitis.  Six weeks ago, one of the favorites to win the 140th Kentucky Derby, today…most awful news.

 

It's Flag Day Week!! Flashback to 1982 & Stephen Foster Stakes History

Jun 12, 2014 -- 4:28pm

Oh!  Susanna Don't You Cry For Me…it's a Flag Day Saturday Night card at Churchill Downs highlighted by the $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap.  Having said that, did some internal bawling after ESPNLouisville.com Belmont Stakes top pick, Commissioner, lost by a short head last Saturday evening at 30-1.  Bummer.  Paid $23.20 and $13.20 for the place & show, still…

The Steve Foster for older horses will go for its 33rd consecutive year.  Since its inception in 1982, it’s always been 1 1/8 miles on the Churchill dirt.  Despite popular rumor, it has never been held at Camptown Races, nor run at five miles long.  Do da.  Do da.

Race has always been held during June of the Spring Meets with the exception of 1984, when it was held in August (during the second of Churchill's two years of summertime racing).  Popular local favorites Mythical Ruler & Jimmy McKnight teamed up to win that one.  No reports though whether either were Dreaming of Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair. 

For the Beautiful Dreamer who created this race, congrats...it's evolved into a championship caliber event. 

Churchill PR kingpin Darren Rogers notes five of this year’s 9 runners are equine millionaires, with eight of the 9 also stakes winners.  Only Mulute, 3rd in last year’s Preakness, has yet to win a stake.  Mylute is one of three Derby horses from last year going Saturday night (Will Take Charge & Revolutionary are the others, with Revolutionary 3rd in last year’s Derby). 

Did I mention that ESPNLouisville.com gave out last year’s Derby exacta $982.60 & trifecta $6,925.60 (with our top three picks).  Nuggets of tasty still floatin’ around, thanks for winning that show photo Revolutionary.  Our Derby winning exacta this year paid $340.

Darren also notes three Foster winners (Black Tie Affair ’91, Saint Liam ’05 & Curlin ’08) claimed Horse of the Year honors in their winning Foster years.  In addition, Mineshaft (’03) & Wise Dan (’12) also were named Horse of the Year during campaigns that saw them both narrowly lose in the Stephen Foster. 

From '07-'09 though, Robby Albarado was unbeatable in the Foster winning with Flashy Bull (’07), Curlin (’08) & Macho Again (’09).  Albarado teams up with Departing Saturday night.

Blame used his Foster win in 2010 as springboard toward his upset of Zenyatta in the Breeders' Cup Classic later that year.  In 1998, Awesome Again defeated Kentucky Derby winner Silver Charm in both his Foster & Breeders' Cup Classic wins.  Last year’s winner, Fort Larned had won the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 2012, but earlier he had been unplaced in that year’s Stephen Foster Handicap.

Recoup the Cash ('94-'95) & Vodika Collins ('82-'83) are the only repeat winners.

Flashing back to a time when it was morning in America, let’s visit with the world as the first Stephen Foster Handicap field went to post that June day of 1982…

Ronald Reagan had awoken the slumbering American economy & the Reagan Revolution was on.  An era of peace & prosperity would follow for more than 15 years.

Not everything was wine & roses yet though, America was trudging through the 6th week of "Ebony & Ivory" being the #1 song.  Perhaps this week’s news that Paul McCartney wouldn’t be making his KFC Yum! Center appearance in two weeks is related to that generational travesty forced upon the American pop music scene.  Turned out even worse for one Mr. Michael Jackson.

"Dallas" was in its heyday as America's most popular TV show.  Ironically, "Dallas" returned to the airwaves two years ago w/new original episodes appearing on TNT. RIP J.R.  New series isn’t awful.  Nice to see Bobby getting work again.

Just out in June of '82 were a couple of movies you might have heard of..."E.T." & "Poltergeist."  It wasn't all milk & honey for Hollywood though..."Grease 2" was fresh in the theatres too.

The Lakers had just wrapped up the NBA title in six games over the '76'ers.  Denny Crum's Cardinals had made the Final Four earlier that spring, losing to Patrick Ewing & Georgetown in New Orleans.  Joe B. Hall's Wildcats had suffered a much crueler fate, losing to Middle Tennessee State (thus avoiding an NCAA showdown w/Louisville; the first dream game would take place the next season).

Joe Montana & the San Francisco 49'ers were reigning as Super Bowl champs.  They'd rallied late to beat Cincinnati in Super Bowl XVI in Detroit.

And, politically in that mid-June of 1982, somehow, 12 people masquerading as jurors of Ronald Reagan’s peers found John Hinckley "Not Guilty" of shooting President Reagan.  They must've missed the replay of the shooting shown a ga'zillion times on TV.  The only insanity in that courtroom was in the jury box & perhaps later in "The Alex" movie theatre when Kramer ate that hot dog to prove Lloyd Braun wasn't insane.  It was not, however, a perfectly sane food.

Stephen Foster picks to follow…in the interim, hope you have a Great Flag Day week!!  Until then, My Old Kentucky Home, Good Night.

 

Belmont Stakes Sportin' the Bat Sky?

Jun 05, 2014 -- 6:27pm

Okay, as the parade of favorites roll on at Churchill Downs…yes, yes we did have last week’s Aristides exacta ($21.60) & tri ($141) but payouts were paltry.  Can’t always name your price though, all you can do is win.

146th Belmont Stakes w/$1,500,000 purse…plus scrupdillyicious 13-race card.  Opener is $96,000 allowance race & that’s the dog on the card.  Last two (2) races are $102,000 allowance events.  Plus, three (3) Preakness starters are…on the undercard.  Friends, this is racing at its very best in 2014.

Let’s pause for a moment to flashback to how racing looked back when the first Belmont Stakes ran on June 19, 1867…

Jerome Park was the locale in the Bronx borough of New York City, the new track built by Leonard Jerome w/financing from August Belmont.  For lending his financial wizardry just two years following the conclusion of the Civil War, Augie got the eventual third leg of the American Triple Crown named in his honor.

It was early in the Civil War reconstruction era that late spring on 1867.  The Cincinnati Red Stockings (now Cincinnati Reds) were in their second season of professional baseball.  The modern-era Reds are enjoying its 4th season heard EXCLUSIVELY on ESPN 680/105.7 throughout Louisville (and now Frankfort).

How far back was that first Belmont Stakes of 1867?  It wasn’t until 36 years later, 1903, the defunct Baltimore franchise of the new American League relocated to New York City & was christened the New York Highlanders.  They wouldn’t become today’s New York Yankees until 1913 (46 years after the Belmont Stakes began its run).

Earlier in that inaugural Belmont Stakes year of 1867, the cornhuskin’ folks in Nebraska saw admittance as the 37th of the ever-growing United States.  The previous summer, President Andrew Johnson had officially ended the Civil War & re-admitted Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee & Virginia.  In retrospect, maybe the south shouldn't have asked back & the Southeastern Conference could've today been its own power country.

America was plunking down 2 cents an acre to purchase Alaska from Russia around the time the filly Ruthless was winning the first Belmont Stakes.  Ridiculed at the time, Alaska looks like a pretty good land deal these days

Jerome Park would ultimately host the Belmont Stakes through 1889.  Nearby Morris Park would host from 1890-1904 w/Belmont Park taking the reins in 1905.  Belmont Park has hosted its namesake race every year since (except 1911-12 when gambling was outlawed in New York) and 1963-67 when Belmont Park was being rebuilt & Aqueduct hosted.

The Belmont has been run at 1 1/2 miles since 1926.  When Man o' War won in 1920, the race was 1 3/8 miles & run clockwise (English style) v. today's American standard counter-clockwise running.

Jim McLaughlin & Eddie Arcaro each rode six winners.  No current jockey is close to this record.  McLaughlin won the race six times in 7 years (1882-1888).  James G. Rowe. Sr. trained eight Belmont winners between 1883-1913 AND previously had ridden two Belmont winners (1872-73).

Julie Krone, aboard Colonial Affair in 1993, remains the only female jockey to win the Belmont, or any Triple Crown race. Rosie Napravnik has a live mount in General a Rod in her attempt to claim on Belmont history.

John Velazquez (2007, 2012) & Mike Smith (2010, 2013) have combined to win four (4) of the last seven (7) runnings of the Belmont Stakes.  Velazquez looks live on Preakness runner-up Ride On Curlin (12-1) while Smith looks for another shock-the-world ride on Bill Mott trainee Matuszak (30-1).  Mott & Smith teamed up w/longshot Drosselmeyer in 2010.

$1,500,000 Belmont Stakes line-up looks like this…

1.  Medal Count (20-1 w/Robby Albarado)…okie dokie, still not convinced that he’s not a total turfer, he is.  In four dirt starts, his only win was an off-the-turf maiden race at Ellis Park.  He’s solid enough though & shouldn’t be disgraced.  $360,000 yearling will go back to the grass after this.  Robby has won some big distance races at Belmont, so nothing wrong if you want to toss him in.  Me?  No.

2.  California Chrome (3-5 w/Victor Espinoza)…has been all-world, all year.  Skies have cleared & seas have parted at every step.  Espinoza coughed up the Triple Crown previously when breaking bad w/War Emblem.  CaliChrome is a wonderful, wonderful story, the buildings get a lot bigger in New York & he is not Affirmed, Seattle Slew or Secretariat though.  While this Belmont field is weak & this crop of three-year-olds generationally awful, no Triple Crown soup for you.

3.  Matterhorn (30-1 w/Jersey Joe Bravo)…only win was last November in Aqueduct maiden race at 13-1.  High-powered owners taking shot at a classic because they can.  Stranger things have happened (insert Sarava here).  $625k purchase last year wouldn’t even go favored in entry level allowance race at Belmont.  Toss ‘em.

4.  Commanding Curve (15-1 w/Sean Bridgmohan)…he’s been the twin brother of another mother to Golden Soul, ESPNLouisville.com hero from last year’s Derby winning exacta & trifecta scores.  Grandpops (A.P. Indy) won this race in his day so the distance shouldn’t be the problem.  Much like Golden Soul, his Derby run was trouble free & the race of a lifetime which keyed another ESPNLouisville.com big exacta score in Derby.  While our great Derby story, don’t see him finishing the storybook w/Belmont success any more than Golden Soul did.

5.  Ride On Curlin (12-1 w/John Velazquez)…Curlin and Robby Albarado came up short in this race back in ’07, both get chance for redemption.  Robby w/Medal Count & Curlin w/his Preakness runner-up son.  Had every chance to get past California Chrome in Preakness & had no finish last 1/8th of a mile.  Loses his Preakness partner Joel Rosario & like General a Rod, will have his 3rd Triple Crown rider, this time w/John Velazquez.  Not generally a Johnny V. fan, but Belmont Park is where he does his best work.  $25,000 yearling has been a marvelous story & suspect he’ll run his heart out again.  Think he’ll be on fumes turning for home though.  They rarely run the race of their life twice in a row.

6.  Matuszak (30-1 w/Mike Smith)…doing Matterhorn’s weak resume one better, this fella hasn’t won since breaking his maiden at Churchill Downs last September.  Did beat the nice three-year-old Ring Weekend that day though.  Dad (Bernardini) won the Preakness & gramps (again w/A.P. Indy) won the Belmont.  He’s a plodder w/out all that much plod apparently in him though.  Mott & Smith won w/Drosselmeyer when he didn’t offer much on paper either, but he’s been outrun by Kid Cruz in his last two & Kid Cruz is running on the Belmont undercard for a reason.  Having said that…could be last man standing w/him saying hello to the tri or super.

7.  Samraat (20-1 w/Jose Ortiz)…broke his maiden at Belmont Park last October to start his five-race winning streak.  Ran sneaky nice race in the Derby, had all chance turning for home.  He’s a gamer that will run his race on his home track.  Pedigree doesn’t sparkle for twelve (12) furlongs but he has a rider that moves ‘em up no matter what.  He’s fine-tuned for this one & his Wood Memorial loss to Wicked Strong can be overcome w/better racing circumstances.  New York home bred figures to be in the hunt to the 1/8th pole but see him looking to the bullpen for late inning relief.

8.  Commissioner (20-1 w/Javier Castellano)…the Bat symbol will go up in celebration across the Gotham City sky after the latest plodder stretches his legs late in the Belmont Stakes.  No super horse, but not many Belmont winners are of late.  He’s sharpened his game to track mid-pack & should be ready to pick up the oh-so-staggering late pieces.  Dad (A.P. Indy) & gramps (Seattle Slew) both won this race, his mom's dad (Touch Gold) won the Belmont too.  Junior does ‘em all proud.  Commissioner Gordon, Bruce Wayne, ward Dick Grayson & I will see you at the IRS window.  Alfred the Butler & Aunt Harriet too.

9.  Wicked Strong (6-1 w/Rajiv Maragh)…nice experience at Belmont w/couple starts last autumn & he finished up as strong as anyone else when 4th in the Derby.  Gramps (Charismatic) broke down in the shadow of the Belmont wire as his Triple Crown bid ended.  $375,000 yearling figures to have big money season after this start.  He was no match for California Chrome five (5) weeks ago, but now has the home track advantage & comes in fresh.  He’s certainly top three on paper, but that just speaks to what a weak bunch this is.  Wouldn’t be a shocker if he denies the Triple Crown bid.

10.  General a Rod (20-1 w/Rosie the Riveting Napravnik)…hasn’t been disgraced by any means in Derby or Preakness, but hasn’t contended much either.  Picks up his third different Triple Crown rider & change to Rosie should help.  Breeding is fine & his style is versatile.  Can’t knock him, just think he’s thin cut of Gabardine shy of what he’ll need to sport carnations.

11.  Tonalist (8-1 w/Joel Rosario)…buzz horse of the Belmont off sparkling Peter Pan win week after Derby.  That was run over sea of slop so, who knows how good that win is in reality.  Gramps (Pleasant Colony) coughed up his Triple Crown bid in the Belmont back in ’81.  He’s never run a bad race in four (4) lifetime starts & has kept really exceptional company.  Did get beat by Matterhorn in his debut, but has progressed nicely from there.  Normally would say Rosario would move him up, but Joel hasn’t been the all-world rider this year that he was in ‘13.  Fits the mold of a Belmont winner & very likely will eye-ball California Chrome when the running begins.

And the TwinSpires.com award for the best-three-year-old going one U.S. mile and one-half on the first Saturday in June in Elmont, New York goes to (envelope please):

8.  Commissioner (20-1)…start spreadin’ the news, Batman (Todd Pletcher) & the Boy Wonder (Javier Castellano) respond to Commissioner Gordon’s call for wagering help.  No wonder horse, but finally a pay-out worth cashing as Triple Crown concludes w/towering money shot over the monuments in deep centerfield.

2.  California Chrome (3-5)…what can you say, he’s a marvelous horse.  They aren’t machines though & he’s had an extended, perfect run combining talent w/racing luck.  Racing gods stand him up though in his date w/destiny.

10.  Samraat (20-1)…he’s game, he’s seasoned & New York’s hometown horse is ready to run one for all he’s worth.  Sends this race deep to the warning track.

9.  Wicked Strong (6-1)…he’ll have every chance to pull this off, just see him being denied late.

 

Aristides Stakes & Bert Cooper Passing

May 30, 2014 -- 1:44pm

You did notice that our four-horse box in last week’s Louisville Handicap produced exacta ($17.40), tri ($81.80) & super ($375.20).  Agree, no one is putting their kids through college w/those payouts, but all you can do is win the race.  Can’t always name your price.

Did you see on last Saturday’s 10-race card at Churchill Downs, the longest priced winner was…3-1.  Yep, chalky, chalk.  Was what it was.

Aristides Stakes headlines Saturday card at what promises to be a sunny Churchill Downs.  26th running of the event for three-year-olds & older now going 6 furlongs.  Purse is $100,000.  This will be the first stakes run at Churchill Downs since the passing of Bert Cooper, founder of Sterling-Cooper. 

And, yes Bert, while the best things in life are free, let’s see if we might not go ahead & cash a bet anyway.  With that McCann money flowing in...more of everything!!

Tip #1…Aristides is safe haven paradise for the show bettors.  Favorites have run top three in 24 of the previous 25 Aristides runnings.

Wayne Lukas & Steve Asmussen have both won the Aristides three times, both have entrant to try & break the tie.  Lukas has three-year-old Brewing going, he saddled the only other three-year-old to previously win an Aristides…the ultra quick Boone’s Mill in 1995.  Asmussen sends out Mico Margarita, who set new track record at Evangeline Downs in his last start.

And at the end of a pretty quick six furlongs, the 26th Aristides Stakes goes to:

6.  Delaunay (2-1 w/Rosie Napravnik)…was four-for-four at Churchill Downs before getting stomped in Churchill Downs Stakes on Derby Day.  That last was a real stinker.  He’s better than that & this field isn’t as tough.  Should get perfect position coming from six post.  Do note that three of the last 4 times he was favored, he lost.  Holding my nose while wiping chalk off it, but that's Churchill Downs these days.

5.  Jake Mo (5-1 w/Miggy Mena)…put some air in his lungs stretching out to a really tough mile when running 3rd Derby week to Departing.  His two races this year have him sitting on a really good run.  Pops (Giacomo) won the Derby at 50-1 in his only start in Louisville.

7.  Scatman (4-1 w/Julien Leparoux)…won this race last year then went on the shelf for nearly a year.  Shook the rust off w/decent enough effort in turf stake sprint on Oaks Day.  That should be enough w/top trainer to have him close to his best.

8.  Captain Genius (10-1 w/Leandro Goncalves)…really has bloomed since being claimed for $25,000 here last November.  Has won three of 5 since, including last two.  On paper, he’s lacking the back class you’d like to see, but his current form is so sharp & he’ll have clear sailing from the outside post. 

War Dancin' in the Memorial Weekend Streets after Louisville Handicap

May 24, 2014 -- 10:38am

77th Running on the Louisville Handicap goes as the 10th & final race on Memorial Weekend Saturday card at Churchill Downs.  Field of eight (8) will go the 1 ½ miles on the grass.

Currently the longest distance stakes race on Churchill's calendar, the race was inaugurated in 1895.  Grover Cleveland was midway through the second of his two, non-consecutive terms as President.  Grover actually won the popular vote three elections in a row 1884, 1888 & 1892.  Benjamin Harrison took the Electoral College though in '88.  Babe Ruth was born a couple months before the first Louisville Handicap too.

That first Louisville Handicap in 1895 was early in yet another miserable season for the Louisville Colonels, then a Major League team in the 12-team National League.  The Colonels would finish last with a 35-96 record, more than 50 games back of the Baltimore Orioles.  In their defense, the Colonels played 74 road games in 1895 & only 57 at home. 

The Louisville Handicap has been run in the spring meet except from 1946-52 when it was returned to the calendar following the Depression & World War II as a fall meet stakes.  After 1952, it took four years off before returning permanently to the spring calendar in 1957.  For four years (1982-85) it was held as one of the Derby weekday stakes races.

Silverfoot(2004-06) & Chorwon (1997-99) each won this race in three consecutive years.  Silverfoot also ran in the '08 & '10 editions too. 

Robby Albarado, Calvin Borel, Larry Melancon, Steve Brooks & Jimmy Combest all have won four runnings.  Alcee Richard trained six winners between 1959-72, his record is safe Saturday.

The Louisville Handicap has never quite settled on a distance.  It started at 1 1/16 miles (1895-99), wasn't run between 1900-06, came back at six furlongs (1907-13), took off another 25 years, came back for a year at 1 1/16 miles in 1938, then took off the back end of the depression & WWII and then stretched out to 1 1/8 miles from 1946-52.  It rested again from 1953-56, came back at 1 1/16 miles from 1957-81, back to 1 1/8 miles from 1982-86, over to the grass at the same distance through 1995, then lengthened to 1 3/8 miles from 1996-06 & finally, 1 1/2 miles beginning in 2007 through today. 

Enjoy two relics from racing's great past Saturday...the Louisville Handicap and distance racing at Churchill Downs.

After twelve (12) grassy furlongs, your 77th Louisville Handicap looks like:

2.  War Dancer (5-2 w/Alan Garcia)…last year’s Virginia Derby winner looks to be sitting on his best effort after being caught late in last month’s Elkhorn Stakes at Keeneland.  Trainer Kenny McPeek is starting to string the wins together & his Bellarmine won about the toughest allowance race you’ll see locally on Friday’s card.  Not overwhelming value, but any price a good one if you win.

6.  Sun Tracer (5-1 w/Robby Albarado)…trainer Chris Block has routinely shipped down from Chicago to win Churchill stakes over the past few years.  This Illinois-bred isn’t overwhelming on paper, but he’s usually moving forward at the end.

1.  Forte Dei Marmi (4-1 w/Calvin Borel)…millionaire comes down form Canada in search of his 11th career win.  Grade 1 winner north of the border last year, but this 8-year-old is slow to round into his best form w/pair of lackluster starts this year at Keeneland.  On class alone, he should show more today.

3.  Moro Tap (6-1 w/Rosie Napravnik)…seemingly outclassed in the Woodford Reserve on Derby Day, he actually ran quite well, beaten only 4 lengths by Wise Dan although 7th under the wire.  He’s never shown the class of most of these, but he’s on the improve.

Preakness Stakes "Social" Occasion

May 16, 2014 -- 2:14pm

Preakness Stakes rolls around Saturday…first, a look back at Kentucky Derby 140.

Did you see that Daily Racing Form had 23 “experts” pick their top 4 horses in the Derby…our friends at the Courier-Journal had another 34 pick their top 4 (some picked top 3).  That’s 57 of the best & brightest.  Nobody…no one…zero…zip…zilch picked Commanding Curve.  Nada.

There was one media outlet…this one, ESPNLouisville.com…that did have Commanding Curve listed top 3.  Did you note that while Derby winner California Chrome was paying $7 to win, our Commanding Curve was paying $31 to place.  For you chalky chalks, congrats on the Chrome plated win.  For the folks among us that like to get paid, thank you Commanding Curve & trainer Dallas Stewart.

You’ll may also recall one media outlet…this one, ESPNLouisville.com…also had last year’s Derby exacta, tri & superfecta bomber Golden Soul listed in our top 3 Derby picks.  Our three horse box last year hit that IRS lovin' exacta & trifecta.  Just sayin’…

Experts 0-for-57 v. ESPN Louisville 1-for-1 (again).  We report, you nice folks decide.

Alrighty then, let’s get to typing w/the left paw as the right one is mangled from all the back pattin’…

 $1,500,000 doesn’t buy one much of a second jewel of the Trip Crown.  Mighty weak bunch lined up to challenge oh-so-slow Derby winner California Chrome.

1.  Dynamic Impact (12-1 w/Miggy Mena)…neck and a nose away from being a maiden, is on the improve though.  Taking his shot.  Breeding looks good.  Pace sets up for his style.  If he wins though, certify this as an awful crop of three-year-olds.

2.  General a Rod (15-1 w/Javier Castellano)…lousy ride in Derby gave him no shot.  Wouldn’t have beaten California Chrome, closer this time though.  If Castellano puts him just off the pace & gives him clear shot, he’s as good as any of the others not named California Chrome.  He has to rate though.

3.  California Chrome (3-5 w/Victor Espinoza)…hard pressed to see this race shaping up any better for Derby champ than it does.  Horses aren’t machines, but his last five wins (consecutive) have been as good as it gets.  Slow Derby win isn’t all that concerning as there are not any faster horses in this Preakness (other than Social Inclusion perhaps).  Not getting’ paid much by betting 3-5 shots (cough, cough) on the top end.

4.  Ring Weekend (20-1 w/Alan Garcia)…that Calder Derby was bad beat-down.  R’ouch.  Clebourne, who ran 3rd, was one of the biggest duds of Derby weekend’s undercard.  Had been rounding into pretty solid form before that Miami stinker.  Sat the Derby out w/health issue.  Seems awfully pedestrian.  Having said that, pedestrian or two will find their way into this Preakness top four…not much depth in this Preakness field.

5.  Bayern (10-1 w/Rose Napravnik)…only a scant nose removed from running 3rd in a so-so Derby Trial on opening night at Churchill Downs.  Like the gameness he showed, but can’t see him carrying that gameness another 3/16th of a mile in Preakness.

6.  Ria Antonia (30-1 w/Calvin Borel)…young lady was beaten 15 lengths in Kentucky Oaks, but Oaks was much faster race than Derby.  Still.  Lots of speed up front will help her & Calvin Borel can try that Mine That Bird ride yet another time.  Calvin ain’t been Calvin since that Breeders’ Cup fight in 2011.  Tom Amoss will be her 3rd trainer in her last 4 starts.  I’m so tempted to try this one, but that breeding screams otherwise too.  Style-wise she does fit though.

7.  Kid Cruz (20-1 w/Julian Pimentel)…claimed last November for $50k & finds himself live for the Preakness.  Well played.  His two starts in Maryland this year have been impressive & he’s obviously in great form.  Wicked pace would help him tremendously as he’s deep closer.  Horse likes track, rider is local…iffy on the class side though.

8.  Social Inclusion (5-1 w/Luis Contreras)…fastest horse in the race, least experienced.  Lack of seasoning caught up to him in his 3rd place run in Wood Memorial last out, did look like he was ratable though.  Looked like a winner, tuckered out late.  He’ll last longer Saturday.  Don’t be surprised if he opens up turning for home.  Don’t think he has the belly to hold off all of the three Derby horses though, but if you can get that 5-1+...

9.  Pablo Del Monte (20-1 w/Jeffrey Sanchez)…if they move Preakness to Keeneland before they rip out the polyturf, he has chance.  Otherwise, his two dirt starts…both at low odds…were pedestrian.  Speedy sort also will have to contend w/too much pace up front.  High end owners bringing lower end pony.

10.  Ride on Curlin (10-1 w/Joel Rosario)…given no chance in Derby when Borel took him to back of Derby pack in historically slow race.  Came with nice run late though.  That same late run & proper placement mid-pack in Preakness…this fella has a big chance.  Concerned about getting bet down when trying to beat a solid favorite like California Chrome though.  He’s lost eight of 10, but opinion here is he’s sitting on career best run.

And the envelope please…for best performance in a less-than-stellar field of three-year-olds on the 3rd Saturday in May…the Preaky goes to:

8.  Social Inclusion (5-1)…wasn’t my play originally, but too much “smart money” now seems to ridin’ on Curlin (same "experts" that missed Commanding Curve completely), so hello Social Inclusion.  He’s the fastest horse, got toughened up in Wood & Bernardini won this race lacking any experience too.

3.  California Chrome (3-5)…make no mistake, he’s EASILY the best horse in the race.  Not even close.  Not trying to win the race, trying to cash nice bet.  If he’s close to his best, heads to the Apple w/history in his sight.

2.  General a Rod (15-1)…outrun in Derby when misplaced.  Has shown enough ability to put himself into this race w/all chance to close it out late.  He’s game. 

7.  Kid Cruz (20-1)…much like my Derby plays, banking on wicked pace to set it up for him.  That pace scenario didn’t happen in Derby though.  Even though there's lot of speed in here too, they all may ease off the throttle.  Still see him picking up some pieces for the home town crowd.

Go get'em tiger!

 

Fate Shines in 140th Kentucky Derby

May 03, 2014 -- 8:09am

Derby 140 Morning breaks awash in sunshine.  Fast & firm all day.  Let's jump right into the only race that matters Katie Scarlett, the only race that lasts (well, at least lingers all year in your mind)...

1.  Vicar’s in Trouble (30-1 w/Rosie Napravnik)…has to gun from the gate & certainly has the talent, but not for 1 ¼ miles.  Would need all the speed to fail & that’s just not going to happen.  Rosie won her second straight Oaks yesterday, but Untapable is much better (and faster) than Vicar.

2.  Harry’s Holiday (50-1 w/Corey Lanerie)…feel-good story of the $30,000 maiden claimer turned Derby horse.  Post & pace work against him & he’s way more likely to see ‘em all at the finish than wear roses.  All credit to the little horse who made it big.

3.  Uncle Sigh (30-1 w/Irad Ortiz)…never viewed Duck Dynasty so the name doesn’t grab me.  His rider does as these Ortiz brothers could ride a broomstick to victory.  Breeding is okay, that inside post will require dream trip that Ortiz might just be able to give him.  Have to look elsewhere though.

4.  Danza (10-1 w/Joe Bravo)…Red Sea parted for him in Arkansas Derby &the field wasn’t all that stellar.  Breeding doesn’t flatter him & just don’t see him going deep in back-to-back at bats.  10-1 isnt much value on a potential one-hit wonder who's been the buzz horse all week.

5.  California Chrome (5-2 w/Victor Espinoza)…no one has gotten with five lengths of him in last four starts since Victor Espinoza took the reins.  Espinoza went racist on Wayne Lukas earlier this week & the racing gods won’t like that one bit.  Having said that, Wayne's rider change on Will Take Charge yesterday did prove disasterous.  No fun betting favorites in 19 horse field.  Let’s beat this Cal-bred who’s never raced outside California.

6.  Samraat (15-1 w/Jose Ortiz)…pick your Ortiz brother, bet ‘em both, they are the future.  Started his career w/five straight wins New York before tiring to finish second in Wood Memorial.  Not crazy about his breeding but he’s all heart & one of the Ortiz brothers is likely to uncork a big ride.

7.  We Miss Artie (50-1 w/Javier Castellano)…was going to be one of my top two picks until his trainer tried to talk the owner out of running as the Artie apparently misses anything not dirt.  Sneaky decent 7th in Breeders’ Cup Juvenile & 50-1 might just stick.  Ah Artie, why that awful work?

8.  General A Rod (15-1 w/Joel Rosario)…can you buy a Derby winner lock, stock & barrel Derby week?  Breeding is fine, rider is Grade A & he figures to sit just off hot pace.  Can see him in the picture turning for home, but that last 1/8th of a mile hits him between the eyes.

9.  Vinceremos (30-1 w/Joe Rocco)…only a nose & head away from being maiden still.  His Blue Grass Stakes (on polyturf) was putrid.  Pops ran well beaten second to Mine That Bird in the Derby & grandpops was very game 4th in his Derby.  Think he’ll get forgotten & that price will head north.  Rocco lost the Derby Trial by two noses w/a terribly timed ride.  He can use the extra ¼ mile to wake up Saturday.  Don’t count him out.

10.  Wildcat Red (15-1 w/Luis Saez)…less than ¼ length shy of being undefeated in seven starts & hailed a super horse.  He’s as game as they come but pops wanted no part of the Derby distance & that makes him strong candidate for the superfecta not the roses.  Love that 15-1 on an animal like this.

11.  Hoppertunity (SCRATCHED).

12.  Dance With Fate. (20-1 w/Corey Nakatani)…fate indeed as how many wrongs finally make a right…Florida-bred by no-name sire, ridden by jockey that’s 0-for-16 in the Derby, seems to be polyturf specialist & his trainer had to be talked into running.  Why not then.  Showed brilliant turn of foot in Blue Grass (yes, on the ground up snow tires) & race will set up for him.  Nothing says roses but me…fate indeed?  Takin' a shot.

13.  Chitu (20-1 w/Martin Garcia)…Baffert’s best shot gets hurt & the “other” horse has won plenty of times in Derby history.  Dad was pure sprinter but gramps won the Belmont Stakes.  Speedy sort will be chewed up & headed back to the barn early.

14.  Medal Count (20-1 w/Robbie Albarado)…buzz horse off two nice runs on the snow tires in Lexington.  Trainer says he can run on God’s own dirt & he’s hit the Derby board several times w/horse like this.  Don’t see it.

15.  Tapiture (15-1 w/Ricardo Santana)…won’t see any PETA money on this one, or maybe they are rooting for the subjects of their recent hit piece to make the headlines.  Three starts at Churchill Downs last year but seems to be a horse heading the wrong direction at the wrong time.  Trainer won the Oaks in a romp yesterday.

16.  Intense Holiday (12-1 w/John Velazquez)…pretty simple math, hang that half mile in under 46 seconds & watch him close ground & make this very interesting.  That half goes slower than 47 & don’t see him being fast enough to chase down all the horses he’ll have to pass.  In between, anybody's guess.  Will his one pace be flattered by the early speed is his $2,000,000 question.  After California Chrome, he's as good as anyone.

17.  Commanding Curve (50-1 w/Shaun Bridgmohan)…Dallas Stewart made my day when Golden Soul slopped home second last year to light up the Derby tote-board.  Commanding Curve is same horse, different year.  Eary how similar the scenarios & race records are here.  One big difference, the racing gods owed Robby Albarado last year.  They don’t owe Shaun & he’s no Robby.  Doggone it, wish Robby was up here but why get off a good thing…Dallas finds the board again at boxcar odds.

18.  Candy Boy (20-1 w/Gary Stevens)…he’ll break from post 17 which is winless over 139 Derbies.  That ain’t good.  Race will set up for him just fine, wide post w/rider like Gary Stevens will be okay too.  Stevens thinks he rode him wrong last time so if he’s right, he’ll fire a big one.  Go deep enough & there’s quite a bit to like here.  

19.  Ride On Curlin (15-1 w/Calvin Borel)…Calvin hasn’t been Calvin the last few years.  This fella is as good as any of them in here & he should plod along fine for 1 ¼ miles.  Calvin probably knocks his price lower than it should be, but if the sea parts, yeah, he’s good enough.

20.  Wicked Strong (8-1 w/Rajiv Maragh)…uncorked really nice Wood Memorial after stinking up south Florida, so who’s the real Wicked Strong.  Pops was dead-game second to Smarty Jones in Derby & gramps chased a Triple Crown big all the way to the Belmont.  Pace scenario should flatter him but going to take a stand against him as the second choice.

21. Pablo Del Monte (SCRATCHED).

The 140th Kentucky Derby is:

12.  Dance With Fate (20-1)…some way, some how he shakes clear w/monster run turning for home & holds on late to etch his name in Derby history.  Asland winner Rosalind dull try from Keeneland polyturf to Churchill dirt yesterday worrisome, no doubt.  Shock the world.

16.  Intense Holiday (12-1)…can you tell, I need that speed to fold up front.  If Velazquez gives him a chance turning for home, clear final ¼ mile puts him right there at the wire.

17.  Commanding Curve (50-1)…if Bridgmohan stays out of his way & points him straight that last quarter mile, hello back-to-back Derby IRS tickets for ESPNLouisville.com.  Big if…get yourself paid, swing for the monuments in center field w/this hanging (Commanding) Curve.

10.  Wildcat Red (15-1)…runs his race, just can’t hold serve for 1 ¼ miles.

 

Comin' Up Roses ('er Lillies) for Rosalind in Kentucky Oaks

May 01, 2014 -- 10:03pm

Kentucky Oaks goes for the 140th time Friday afternoon just shy of six bells in the evening.  Near full field of thirteen (13) chasing $1,000,000 USD.  Fast track looks to be the surface for the 1 1/8 mile classic.

1.  Please Explain (50-1 w/Jose Lezcano)…both starts at Churchill last year were pretty solid, beaten only a head both times rallying from the back.  Couple of nifty wins at Gulfstream & Tampa followed ‘til the wheels spun off in couple of tries at Oaklawn Park.  Much better rider aboard in the Oaks & 50-1 offers lots of value (if you can get it).

2.  Ria Antonio (10-1 w/Mike Smith)…undeserving winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies after bogus DQ of the rightful winner (She’s a Tiger, running earlier in the card in the Eight Bells Stakes).  Her last was fine 2nd at Santa Anita, though beaten at short odds.  Racing gods kissed her once, not this time.

3.  Sugar Shock (12-1 w/Calvin Borel)…winner of four (4) straight w/Channing Hill in the saddle (DQ’d once though). Hard pressed to see the rider change & Calvin hasn’t been Calvin since his Breeders’ Cup meltdown at Churchill Downs three years ago.  Started her career w/couple so-so efforts at Churchill.  Lot of speed to keep her company on the front end & she’s never won outside of Oaklawn Park.

4.  Rosalind (8-1 w/Joel Rosario)…never fails to put in her honest closing kick & runs well on all three track surfaces.  Better ride from Rosario last November & she may have won Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.  Deadheated last month in Ashland Stakes at Keeneland.  Always trust Kenny McPeek when the money’s on the line & Rosario has no equal.  8-1 on this kind of filly is value.

5.  Thank You Marylou (30-1 w/Julien Leparoux)…pretty solid in her four starts & papa was Belmont/Travers winner. Grandpops (Menifee) produces horses that like Churchill Downs.  Think her lack of seasoning catches up to her in the Oaks.

6.  Kiss Moon (30-1 w/Victor Espinoza)…owner/trainer have shocked before with something as hopeless as this, but I can’t give her serious consideration.

7.  Fashion Plate (6-1 w/Gary Stevens)…wire-to-wire winner of her last three, all at Santa Anita.  She’s fast, but never really been tested out west.  Never beaten on the dirt either though and never favored in any of ‘em either. Higher end connections would knock her price down so 6-1 is pretty square.  Think there’s too much pace in here for her to hold ‘em all at bay.

8.  Aurelia’s Belle (50-1 w/Channing Hill)…both wins came on polyturf.  Three dirt starts, all graded stakes, were pretty good.  Don’tcha love 50-1 shots that have legit shots.  Bred for the task too.

9.  Unbridled Forever (12-1 w/Robby Albarado)…her mom was 50-1 winner of the Kentucky Oaks in her day.  She seemed to be on her way, but that last race in New Orleans was a stinker.  Stalker should have every chance turning for home but concerned about that bad mark in her only real class test.

10.  Empress of Midway (50-1 w/Corey Nakatani)…only a maiden win in three starts & finished well beaten second last out in New Mexico.  Another pace player that will come up shy on seasoning.  Nakatani’s big day awaits Saturday.

11.  My Miss Sophia (8-1 w/Javier Castellano)...brilliant in her last two starts & dominated last time in 1 1/8 mile stakes in New York.  Figures to get dream trip couple paths wide from her 11 post.  Only three starts though & she is a bounce candidate.  Not crazy ‘bout that breeding either.

12.  Got Lucky (20-1 w/John Velazquez)…bred to run all day & never worse than 2nd in five starts.  My Miss Sophia whipped her by 7 lengths last out but Lucky gets better race set-up today.  She can catch Sophia today, but not some of the others.

13.  Untapable (4-5 w/Rosie Napravnik)…ridiculous price for filly that was basically eased in Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.  Her two starts at Fair Grounds were great, yep, they were.  This isn’t the Fair Grounds.  Did win both of her starts at Churchill Downs last year, neither time favored.  Rosie has been a beast in the Oaks the last couple years too.  Post 13 won’t be a picnic for her though & she hasn’t been looked in the eye all year.  Got to try & beat this one.

And the award for best three-year-old filly in the 140th Kentucky Oaks goes to:

  4.  Rosalind (8-1)…race sets up for her.  Not convinced she’s a dirt horse, but she’ll never find a better pace set up for her closing kick.

11.  My Miss Sophia (8-1)…lays just off the leaders, gobbles ‘em up & finds the wire just a bit too late.

  1.  Please Explain (50-1)…those front runners really need to be backin’ up, otherwise I be playin’ the fool.

13.  Untapable (4-5)…no way you can give those odds.  Race sets up well for her too but think she’ll run short of gas late.

 

 

 

 

Derby Trial Launches 140th Churchill Downs Spring Meet

Apr 25, 2014 -- 2:53pm

Derby Trial kicks off the 140th Spring Meet at Churchill Downs Saturday night.  The last Derby prep of 2014 goes postward around 10:00p.

Nice field of ten (10) entered, but all won’t go postward as morning line favorite Chuti is now planning a run for the roses next Saturday.  The Sunland Park Derby winner would’ve been pretty tough to handle in he had stayed in the Derby Trial.  He doesn’t look all that formidable for next Saturday though.

1.  Bayern (2-1 w/Rosie the Rivetor)…wheels came off in his big boy class test earlier this month in Arkansas Derby.  Wasn’t disgraced, but didn’t look the part of serious Derby contender.  Gramps (Thunder Gulch) won the Derby, so those hooves should like Churchill enough.  This version of the Derby Trial has a boatload of early speed.  Gary Stevens opts not to ride.  Taking the chance that he’s slidin’ back a bit & that he’s a beatable favorite.

2.  Chitu (2-1 w/Joel Rosario)…word is he’s out & headin’ to Derby 140 starting gate.

3.  Big Sugar Soda (15-1 w/Carlos Santana)…okay, not Carlos, but the “other” Santana on this horribly named colt.  Really, majestic beast & you give him a name like Big Sugar Soda.  His gramps (Fusaichi Pegasus) was a rare Derby winning favorite in his day.  Hacked around Fair Grounds & Oaklawn, never looking like a high-end runner.  Any horse that wins maiden by 8 lengths at Saratoga has talent.  His career debut at Churchill Downs last June (3rd) was lackluster.  Going sugarless w/him.

4.  Friendswith K Mill (5-1 w/Kent Desormeaux)…took maiden claimers last month for him to win one.  Up the track in Santa Anita Derby.  Only redeeming grace is he’s a gray like his pops (Flashy Bull).  Would like him a whole lot better at 10 or 12-1+.

5.  Matador (9-2 w/Julien Leparoux)…trying to find any kind of piece in this race, he’s not awful.  Owner John Oxley & trainer Mark Casse are winning races by the bunch, so that moves him up.  His three dirt starts, all against legit stakes competition, have gotten progressively worse.  He’ll like running against these ponies Saturday night much more.  Play’a.

6.  Embellishing Bob (8-1 w/Brian Hernandez)…shouldn’t be anything close to 8-1, should be much higher.  Has the right rider for longshot bid though.  That gives him chance.  Never farther than 6 furlongs in his three lifetime starts & just broke his maiden last out after failing at 3-5 odds race prior.  You’ve likely never heard of his grand pops Defrere (Dehere’s brother).  That moves him up for me.  If Hernandez takes him off the pace…OFF THE PACE…he’s got shot to be around at the finish.  Seen worse.

7.  Laddie Boy (20-1 w/Stewart Elliott)…rider took Keeneland by storm in his first Kentucky-based spring.  Smarty Jones pilot should have success in Louisville too.  Eight career starts & seems obviously better on dirt than the snow tires & turf (so why the five starts on non-dirt?)  Second in last November’s Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs & this is his first start back on dirt.  Go figure.  If they give you 20-1, take it and hope Elliott can slow him down at the break.

8.  Bitters ‘n Bourbon (30-1 w/Corey Lanerie)…career began w/3rd at 69-1 last November at Churchill Downs.  Up & down after that.  He’s takin’ a shot, I’m not.

9.  Spot (4-1 w/John Velazquez)…his win in Swale Stakes (at 9-1) will likely put him right there in this one.  Bombed in Florida Derby, but he’ll like this spot much better.  Also won at Hawthorne last year & that’ll bode well for him liking Churchill Downs Saturday night.  Pace also will flatter his off-the-pace running style.  See Spot Run pretty well.

10.  Myositis Dan (5-1 w/Joltin’ Joe Rocco)…both his wins came on Keeneland snow tires (polyturf) so easy to discount those.  But…..papa (Istan) really liked Churchill Downs & gramps (Harlan’s Holiday) offspring do too.  First stakes try & they’ve been cautious w/him as this marks his eighth start.  I’d like to toss him as polyturfer…and should…but won’t.  Race sets up for him, you might get better than 5-1 & I’m believing more in what he’s bred to do than what the paper says.  Risky, my play though.

At the wire…

10.  Myositis Dan (5-1)…takes next step up the ladder & finds new home on dirt.

9.  Spot (4-1)…too solid not to have big say in this race.  No surprise if he’s in front at the end.

7.  Laddie Boy (20-1)…hangs in there for most of it, but settles couple rings shy of ladder top.

5.  Matador (9-2)…professional effort.

Happy Derby Week!!

 

Dancin' After the 90th Blue Grass Stakes?

Apr 11, 2014 -- 9:35am

Blue Grass Stakes rolls out for the 90th time Saturday.  As a Derby prep, its prestige has declined marketedly since the snow tires were put on the main track (polyturf).  Having said that, by becoming a de facto turf race, it’s $750,000 purse & grade 1 status has brought big fields to the bettors.  Like that.

Interesting note, that since its move to Keeneland in 1937, NO FAVORITE has ever won the Blue Grass Stakes at odds higher than 9-5.  Yep, no favorite at 2-1 or higher since 1937 (or longer) has brought central Kentucky’s biggest prize home.  Also note, the Blue Grass Stakes was run at Churchill Downs during the World War II years of 1943-45.

Race shapes up as Bobby’s Kitten v. 13 horses named Harry (w/nod of the cap to Rick Pitino).  Actually, it’s Bobby v. one horse named Harry & twelve others, but it’s Bobby’s to lose.

1.  Asserting Bear (15-1 w/Emma-Jayne Wilson)…polyturf races are crap shoots.  He’s been a bit more crap than shoot outside of Canada but he could light this tote board if that price jumps up.  Demand that bigger price though.

2.  Extrasexyhippzster (15-1 w/Julien Pimintel)…never been on polyturf but his dad would’ve taken to it.  That helps.  Too much pace for him.  Sinister Minister won the last Blue Grass on the conveyor belt (dirt), maybe this sadly named fella will book-end the poly era w/ equally bizarre win.

3.  Pablo Del Monte (12-1 w/Victor Espinoza)…two-for-two at Keeneland last year & very impressive both times.  Hasn’t been close to same form on turf or dirt.  Not certain he’s in shape to do the 1 1/8 mile but worth a long, long look if his odds stay up.

4.  Harry’s Holiday (10-1 w/Rosie Napravnik)…still trying to figure out how he almost won Spiral Stakes & still trying to figure out how he lost that photo.  Race doesn’t set up well for him, but neither did Spiral.  Big fanof his dad (Harlan’s Holiday).  His big half brother Twinspired almost shocked this thing 3 years ago.  Just don’t see the class upside enough.  Think Spiral was more fluke than him.

5.  Bobby’s Kitten (3-1 w/Javier Castellano)…deserving favorite by folks that have made a living on polyturf.  Winner is written all over this guy.  Lousy ride by Castellano cost him Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf & he beat last week’s Transylvania Stakes winner Global View in his only start this year.  Higher priced favorite angle works against him.  Will try & beat him, but he’s lengths the best horse.

6.  Coltimus Prime (20-1 w/Alan Garcia)…good grief this is a weak bunch.  Sports a Canadian-bred maiden win on resume.  Not wastin’ time.

7.  Casiguapo (30-1 w/Rajiv Maragh)…these Derby horse names not ringing any bells? These ain’t Derby horses.  Turfers taking a shot at big money on a “who knows” surface.  Maiden win at Calder, sprint pedigree, no turf breeding.  Easy pass here.

8.  Dance With Fate (12-1 w/Corey Nakatani)…comes in racing shape & on the improve. Hard to see him staying 12-1 against this bunch, great value play if you can get it.  Quite a bit of upside here & for Louisville.

9.  Big Bazinga (20-1 w/Brian Hernandez)…definitely better on the snow tires, but only neck away from being maiden.  He does fire sometimes at tasty odds & he has Kentucky’s best long-shot rider up.  Strictly a Hernandez on a long-shot play.

10.  So Lonesome (50-1 w/Joltin’ Joe Rocco)…he’s not the second coming, but no worse than many others of these. That 50-1 isn’t right, he’ll get played off that.  Breeding is fine, has won on the turf, closer style fits, good rider…first try on polyturf…I’ll take that 50-1 against this bunch.  You bet.

11.  Coastline (8-1 w/Stewart Elliott)…rider’s been hot at his inaugural Keeneland meeting & high end trainer knows the polyturf route.  Two of his three best races have been on polyturf.  Sprinter top to bottom.  Don’t see him liking the last 25 seconds of this race.

12.  Vinceremos (8-1 w/Edgar Prado)…great Keeneland stakes rider up.  Solid on the dirt, but only his dam sire sneaks a bit of hope on polyturf.  Todd Pletcher wins w/these all the time & price isn’t bad, but gonna look elsewhere.  No problems w/him though.

13.  Medal Count (9-2 w/Robby Albarado)…my second pick at 12-1 in last week’s Transylvania went on to win the thing.  Wheels back like an old-school horsey. Like that.  Derby fever ablaze.  Pace scenario is on his side, certainly in good form & bred to do what he’s being ask.  Price is pretty short coming from that 13 hole. I’d like to see 6-1 or better at least.

14.  Gala Award (5-1 w/John Velazquez)…all good on the weeds, breeding is fine, very lightly raced & his stalking style will get tested from the 14 post.  Again w/Pletcher wins w/this kind every Derby season.

15.  Divine Oath (12-1 w/Julien Leparoux)…Pletcher pony #3 is two-for-two on the grass & that’s all there is. Good enough to beat this bunch if he gets in, but 12-1 isn’t all that enticing w/everything he’s up against.

Your 90th Blue Grass Stakes winner is:

8.  Dance With Fate (12-1)…beyond Bobby’s Kitten, it’s anyone’s race.  That price has to hold though as the lower it goes, the less tempting he gets.

5.  Bobby’s Kitten (3-1)…head & shoulders above this crowd, but big field & low odds to navigate.

10.  So Lonesome (50-1)…he’s going to get hammered at the opening price.  He’s no worse than most of these & it’s a horse race.  Get yourself paid.

13. Medal Count (9-2)…feelin’ good about life & pickin’ up another chunk of Keeneland cash.

 

Opening Day at Keeneland Spring Meet 2014

Apr 02, 2014 -- 3:43pm

Alrighty then…real racing returns to the commonwealth this week as Mr. Keene’s place down the highway 64 opens.  The ponies head home from Florida & Louisiana and life is good.  Sign up for TwinSpires.comFurlong Fridays w/Bob Valvano returns to ESPN 680 / 105.7 on Friday April 11!! 

CHECK OUT ESPN LOUISVILLE on 105.7 FM on YOUR TRIP TO KEENELAND!!  It ROCKS!!

Keeneland presents 26th Running of the Transylvania Stakes to lead off its 2014 Spring Meet (last ever w/polyturf main track!).  Three-year-old grassers teeing it up over 1 1/16 miles (or 8 ½ furlongs if you’re so inclined as are our friends in Lexington).

Not exactly a robust bunch in this year’s Transy, almost half sport but a maiden win to their credit.  Opening day card isn’t exactly stellar either, smallish fields. It’ll get better.  Gotta start somewhere.  Let ‘em run.

1. Medal Count (12-1 w/Robby Albarado)…won his only turf try, but was favored so not certain how good that effort was.  Also tried Fountain of Youth & wasn’t an awful 5th.  He’s been shooting for the moon so he should be fine w/Friday’s company.  Live look at 12-1 & Robby’s won this race twice.

2. Ry’s the Man (30-1 w/Florent Geroux)…two-for-two on the grass, both at Fair Grounds, both at 5-1 odds or higher. Zero turf breeding, so, go figure. Couldn’t win twice at maiden claiming level, including once on Keeneland’s polyturf. Inclined to look away from the Fair Grounds grass scores, but that 30-1 sure is appealing to pony that’s unbeaten on the weeds.  And, having said that, trainer Neil Pessin won this race with Chin High in 2006 paying…$139 for the win. 

3. Woodfield Springs (12-1 w/Julien Leparoux)…repeat after me…never, never, never fail to give G. Watts Humphrey horses a looooooong look at Keeneland.  They are prepped for the meet, they tend to win at the meet & they tend to pay nice prices at the meet.  Only broke his maiden last out & not much to recommend, but he’s in the mix for the owner/trainer angle.  They LOVE to win at Keeneland.  So does Leparoux, who’s won this race twice himself.

4. Hesinfront (20-1 w/Corey Lanerie)…got whipped like butter in Fountain of Youth Stakes on dirt.  Buh-bye Derby dreams.  Wasn’t exactly an accomplished turfer either though prior to his Derby prep.

5. Kody With a K (30-1 w/Chris Rosier)…never closer than 3 lengths in four turf tries & took additional three races after that to break maiden at Delta Downs on dirt.  Virginia-bred, so that’s turfy somehow, but that’s all there is. Nope..

6. Red River Rising (30-1 w/Joltin’ Joe Rocco)…Red River (Shootout)…that’s Texas…and now Charlie Strong.  Is Red River Rising cut like Charlie?  Will he leave the track w/out saying goodbye?  What kind of horse would he be?  Unless Bobby Petrino can make the weight & jump in the saddle, lettin’ Red River pass and Boomer Sooners!!

7. Laddy Boy (20-1 w/Jesus Castanon)…finished second in last November’s Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (on dirt) at 19-1.  Only try this year was stinker on the polyturf at Turfway.  First actual grass try Friday. Castanon rarely moves ‘em up w/his patented “just-how-wide-can-I-possibly-go” trips.

8. Pleuven (4-1 w/Alan Garcia)…couple of wins in France before crossing the pond.  Tried two graded grass stakes at Gulfstream w/out really having a say.  Soft turf will help him a lot as Florida turf was hard.  Check the odds & turf condition…higher odds than that 4-1, softer turf…much more playable.

9. Global View (4-1 w/Jose Lezcano)…first turf try was tripindicular stakes score at now-shuttered Hollyweird Park on Thanksgiving weekend.  Winged on over to Tampa last month & caught Bobby’s Kitten in probably the toughest allowance ever at Tampa Bay Downs.  Pappa was from the old country, so he’s fine w/any condition Friday’s turf offers.  He’s the play if value holds at 4-1.

10. Storming Inti (5-2 w/Javier Castellano)…easily the most accomplished runner w/four wins in 6 starts, including three on the weeds at Belmont & Gulfstream.  Has yet to see soft turf though & he sports no inherent grass breeding.  Speed like his tends to hold on softer turf but gonna try & beat him at that 5-2 morning line.

11. Picozza (9-2 w/John Velazquez)…took him three tries as favorite to break his maiden on turf at Gulfstream.  Figures to have a say down the stretch, but stablemate to Intense Holiday (The Deener Show house horse) will need to step his game up.  Task gets even tougher as turf gets softer.

12. Can’thelpbelieving (8-1 w/Joel Rosario)…like the rider, outside post will only help the price.  Couldn’t beat but five other turf maidens last autumn at Keeneland & his two starts at Gulfstream this winter don’t scream at me either. Euro-bred moves way up if turf comes up soft/yielding.

Envelope Please…

For best performance in a Keeneland Opening Day Stakes in Spring 2014…the Slazy goes to…

9. Global View (4-1)tanned, rested & ready to ask Mike Battaglia where he got that jacket before wingin on over to London to jam w/The Stones.

1. Medal Count (12-1)…Robby has him rollin’ wide through the lane.

8. Pleuven (4-1)…soft turf hardens him up like Body Shapes Medical.

3. Woodfield Springs (12-1)…why play the super if you aren’t gonna get paid, juices the race up.

 

Battaglia Picks Run 1-2-3...Trifecta Pays $579.60.

Mar 02, 2014 -- 1:13pm

No winter blues here...after the scratch of our top pick (Kids Rule) in yesterday's $100,000 John Battaglia Memorial Stakes at Turfway, our next three picks ran 1-2-3 w/trifecta coming in at $579.60.  Exacta paid $78.40.  And, note the counsel to play Solitary Ranger if his odds snuck north of his 5-1 morning line.  They did...he paid $21.60 for his easy win at 9-1.  The blind squirrel finds another acorn!  Ah the pleasures of TwinSpires.com.

Johnny Battaglia Starts Derby Season in Kentucky...it's MARCH (Horse) Madness

Feb 28, 2014 -- 6:01pm
 
John Battaglia Memorial Stakes runs for 33rd consecutive year at Turfway Park.  Derby prep if you will, three-year-olds at least.  $100,000 on the line over 1 1/16 miles of ground up snow tires (e.g. polyturf).  Race goes as the 10th offering Saturday with approximate post time of 5:22p.
 
Like many Turfway winter stakes, the Battaglia Memorial peaked in the late '90s, early 2000s with winners including Concerto ('97), K One King ('99), Request for Parole ('02), Champali ('03) & Magna Graduate ('05).
 
Mahogany Hall raced the fastest of all Battaglia winners w/his 1.42 1/5 clocking in 1994 under Willie Martinez.  Different era, as trainer Jimmy Baker would run Mahogany Hall back in not only the Beam (now Spiral) Stakes at Turfway, but teed it up again in the Blue Grass Stakes before his Derby start.
 
Charlie Woods & Mike McDowell are the only two riders to double dip the Battaglis chip.  Greg Foley is alone amongst trainers w/his two wins (back-to-back in 2003-04).  Craig Perret (1996) & Julie Krone (1998) each scored Battaglia wins back in "the day."
 
Eleven (11) Kentucky Derby wannabes...let's take a look at some of da' play'as...
 
#1 Poker Player (9-2 w/Channing Hill)...won the Bourbon Stakes on the grass at Keeneland (at 23-1).  Showed nothing next out in Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf. Quiet since.  Obvious talent, great rider for the surface & grandpa Red Bullet screams for the stuff.  Always nervous off those layoffs though if you're not getting good enough price & not certain 9-2 is all that tempting here.
 
#2 Solitary Ranger (5-1 w/Florent Geroux)...ran 2nd in couple of those Keeneland 4/12 furlong baby races last April, then came back next out to win Grade 3 Arlington Washington Stakes in Chicago this past September.  Ran dandy on Fair Ground turf in his '14 debut, besting Kids Rule.  Gramps (Lil E Tee) won Jim Beam Stakes at Turfway en route to his Derby win (Beam was on dirt then).  He's gotta be 1-2 in this thing & price isn't awful for horse this solid.  Only negative is inside post & his want to push the pace.
 
#3 Canzoni (4-1 w/Albin Jiminez)...Todd Pletcher sends him north off nose defeat in restricted, non-betting stake at Ocala.  Broke his maiden in his debut by head at 7-1 at Gulfstream.  His polyturf experience (at Ocala) & his maiden win coming off the pace serve him well.  No fun betting Pletcher ponies though.
 
#4 Emmett Park (12-1 w/Lori Wydick)...undefeated with both wins at Turfway, although that last win at 4-5 came harder than you'd like to see.  Lot of speed sets race up for him nicely.  Don't see the turf breeding I'd like to see but he's proven on the surface so, not a huge negative.
 
#7 Kids Rule (15-1 w/Dean Sarvis)...three solid starts, proven on the surface, bred to run from here to Frankfort, race sets up for him perfectly...what am I missing? 15-1...I'll take it even though he doesn't figure as the best horse.  I'm looking for the best value though.
 
#8 General Jack (10-1 w/Dylan Davis)...big fan of his mom, J'ray.  She could bust a big move on the weeds.  Interesting career, 2nd at Belmont in debut, then over to Minnesota to break maiden in turf stakes before getting lit up at Keeneland.  Bred through the ying yang, off since October though has me leaning elsewhere.
 
#9 Empower (6-1 w/Jeremy Rose)...Kiaran McLauglin sends him down from New York off maiden win on the inner dirt at Aqueduct.  First time on polyturf or turf & not a fan of Distorted Humor offspring on the fake stuff.  Not saying no, just not me.
 
#11 Harry's Holiday (8-1 w/Rodney Prescott)...only start on polyturf was sparkling 8-length win in 96Rock Stakes going 6 1/2 furlongs four weeks ago.  Should be able to get distance too.  Fair enough price if he stays 8-1.
 
And the winner for best three-year-old in a minor Derby prep run over chopped up snow tires is...
 
1. #7 Kids Rule (15-1)...race sets up & priced to play
2. #2 Solitary Ranger (5-1)...does all the hard running, but caught late
3. #1 Poker Player (9-2)...puts in nice late run to get '14 started
4. #11 Harry's Holiday (8-1)...doesn't fail class test, but doesn't score the A
 
$1 exacta box ($12), $0.50 tri box ($12), $0.10 super box ($2.40) = $26.40
 
$6 Win-place-show bet on Kids Rule ($18).  Having said that, if you see Solitary Ranger or Poker Player sneaking north on either of their odds...very playable.  Run pony run! 

Fountain of Youth & Risen Star Stakes...Let's go to the Races

Feb 22, 2014 -- 11:02am
So, how have we been doin here at ESPN 680 / (and now) 105.7 FM...
 
Since Turfway opened its Winter Meet:
 
Feb. 1 (96 Rocks Stakes)...our four-pack hit for $20 exacta, $38.80 tri & $133.60 superfecta.  Yes, favorites ruled the day...sucks.  All you can do is win & we swept the board clean.
 
Jan. 18 (Forego Stakes)...swang for over the monuments in centerfield & tried to beat solid favorite.  Didn't even reach the warning track.  Four-pack did hit the meager $20 exacta though, what can you do when favorites run 1-2.
 
Jan. 4 (Wintergreen Stakes)...schaaaaa'wing!!  Cleared those monuments in deep center with our top pick, La Malaguena, winning at 34-1, paying $71.60.
 
Dec. 21 (Prairie Bayon)...the mighty Case struck out.  Only time we strolled back to the dugout with helmut & bat in hand.
 
Dec. 7 (Holiday Inaugural)...started meet with top pick, Dreamin' Big, lighting up the tote board with $37.40 win payout at 17-1.  Made ya' sweat though, only won by 3 lengths.
 
And, prior to that you ask?  Breeders' Cup Saturday, three of our three-horse boxes hit for $600+ trifectas.  Who loves TwinSpires.com more than me?
 
Okay, having stretched my muscles in reaching all parts of my back, all of the above we're "home games" e.g. right in my back yard.  Time to lace 'em up & see if my game will travel south.
 
Fountain of Youth Stakes goes around 5:30p today w/$400,000 on the line.  Always a top end Derby prep.
 
#12 Top Billing (7-2) certainly appears better than most of these & adds further credential w/Joel Rosario in the saddle.  Same trainer/rider combo that swept the Florida preps last year w/future Derby winner Orb.  Or, as new Churchill Downs race caller Larry Collmus called him...ORRRRRRRRRRRRRRRBBBBBBBBBBBBBB!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Lightning rarely strikes twice, it'll be hard to keep him out of the picture in this version of the Fountain of Youth.  Although, short stretch & his come-from-behind style are both against him today.  Certainly worth trying to beat.
 
I'm a silly, silly man to give you the other two.  On paper, puh'lease. 
 
#6 Casiguapo (30-1).  He's never been shy to tee it up w/the big boys & on his best day, he's run w/this crowd.  His last was a sprint stinker, but the goal was to get him ready for today.  Breeding...eh, I do like his papa Sightseeing though.  Putting him in the starting lineup today.
 
#11 Hesinfront (20-1).  Dale Romans has lit his share of tote boards at Gulfstream (remember Shackleford).  Not bred to like the sand of south Florida, he's a turfer, but like Casiguapano, throwing out his dirt prep for this & that beatdown in last only serves to juice the odds.  Remember, the goal is to get yourself paid.
 
Let's box 'em up 6-11-12.  $2 exacta box & $1 tri box will cost ya' $24.  Put couple bucks across the board on Casiguapo & Heisfront for giggles.
 
And, yes, Commissioner looks every bit the part, can make the case for We Miss Artie (Ramsey's at 8-1!) & Wildcat Red is a head and a DQ from being 5-for-5 at Gulfstream.
 
Wingin' on over to that city that hosted the Cards 2013 Sugar Bowl beatdown of SEC perennial power Florida, hello Fair Grounds.  Today's $400,000 Risen Star Stakes is Louisiana's big prep for the upcoming 100th Louisiana Derby.
 
#9 Intense Holiday (8-1) fits the model of my Derby hero of last year, Golden Soul.  He's a plodder, but on his day, he may just pass enough of  'em.  Price is fair & he brings south Florida training schedule w/him.  He's "The Deener Show" house horse & you're getting fair value if he stays at the 8-1.
 
#11 Quick Indian (20-1) with...wait for it...wait...wait...Brian Hernandez on a long-shot.  Here ya' go.  He's an improving horse, bred to do exactly what he's being asked with a rider that knows how to boot 'em home at big prices.  Who's daddy's little Quick Indian? 
 
#13 Commanding Curve (20-1)...and who rode Golden Soul on my IRS pleasing Derby race last year...Roberto Albarado (okay, it's Robby).  Another on the improve who's looking to get the next step.  Less accomplished than you'd like but Dallas Stewart (who, yes, trained Golden Soul) & Robby have danced this dance before. 
 
#14 Vicar's in Trouble (5-2) w/Rosie Napravnik.  This is the kind of race Rosie tends to win, but speed horse coming from post 14 doesn't inspire great confidence at low odds in a big field.  Might take this bunch wire-to-wire, he's won his two dirt starts by 20 lengths.  Not seein' the Derby in him, but Risen Star could be his day.
 
Box up 9-11-13-14...$1 exacta box, $0.50 tri box & $0.10 super box totals $26.40.
 
Also have to put some cash on Quick Indian & Intense Holiday for the win.  Top play:  Quick Indian. 

Sir Ronald Wilson Reagan & 96Rock Stakes at Turfway Park

Jan 31, 2014 -- 7:18pm
96Rock Stakes goes for 31st time Saturday at Turfway (give or take).  Race began as Presidents Stakes in 1983, morphed into WEBN Stakes for a number of years before rockin' on over to 2014 96Rock Stakes.
 
Derby prep, if you will.  Three-year-olds anyway.  $60,000 US dollars up for grabs over 6 1/2 furlongs of ground up snow tires (polyturf).  Field of eight (8) will tee it up.
 
Michael Maker has won three of the last 4 runnings (2010-12) including Derby entrant & near-miss Blue Grass Stakes runner-up Twinspired in 2011.  He sends #4 Harry's Holiday (4-1) & #7 Artemus Coalmine (9-5) out in quest for four-pack.
 
Jeff Greenhill, who ended Maker's mark of three straight winners last year, send out #8 I Need a Miracle (15-1).
 
None of the eight (8) riders has won this race previously.  In fact, only Donna Barton (1996-97) has double dipped a winning chip in this race.
 
High water mark for this event was easily 2002 when Request For Parole & Perfect Drift ran 1-2.
 
Alrighty then...first ever was 1983...morning in America...Ronald Wilson Reagan's steady hand at the wheel...WWRD...
 
#1 Midnight Shine (20-1), Reagan was notorious t-totaler & went to bed early.  No.
 
#2 Reflector (10-1), Lori Wydick rides & Reagan was first to appoint woman to Supreme Court.  Sorry, this dude has a bogus argument.
 
#3 Dubaele (12-1), hmmn, trained by (Pope) John Paul Pucek?  JP & Ronnie the Popular helped bring about the fall of the Evil Empire (the USSR one, the one in Lexington still stands).  Whatever the heck Dubaele means, he does move up a bit on the snow tires, would need minor papal intervention though.
 
#4 Harry's Holiday (4-1)...Renaldo Magnimous joined Harry Caray in the Wrigley Field press box for a Cubs tilt against the Pirates in 1988.  Ah, Harry.  You da' best.
 
#5 Bisque (2-1)...well, reminds me of Lobster Bisque, which reminds me of Seinfeld, which debuted 6 months after the amended constitution forced Ronnie to turn the country over the George W. Bush, who then single-handily slaughtered the Reagan Revolution.  Read my lips...boo you.  Indiana-bred and, of course, Bush choose Indiana senator Dan Quayle for VP.  Sigh, Bush won in '88, so yada, yada, yada, second stakes in a row short-odds pony wins.
 
#6 Forfeit (6-1)...Reagan took on a sitting president for the republican nomination in '76 & lost by a nose to Jerry Ford.  No forfeiting the nod here.  All good from thereafter though.  6-1 w/turf pedigree.  Forfeit for VP!  Bisque-Forfeit, yeah, that's the ticket.
 
#7 Artemus Coalmine (9-5)...Albin Jiminez rides & Reagan did provide amnesty for more than 3 million hispanics.  Dems agreed to close the border after that...ha, ha, ha.  No seriously, they did.  Artemus Coalmine bred by James Kenneth Chapman...are you kiddin' me?  Who shot John Lennon a month after Reagan put the wood to Jimmy Carter in November 1980...Mark David Chapman.  Co-inky-dink?  Take a stand for deceny & let's beat this favorite.
 
#8 I Need a Miracle (15-1)...reminds me too much of Walter Mondale, who barely won his home state of Minnesota in losing 49 states to 1 against Sir Ronald the Great in '84.
 
Bisque, das winner.  Then Forfeit, Harry & Artemus.  Not alot of value in here.  Mr. Gorbachev...tear done this wall of favorites! 

Forego Stakes on Snowy, Cold Saturday at Turfway Park

Jan 17, 2014 -- 9:41pm
Let's see...three Turfway Stakes picks on ESPN 680 Louisville since meet opened in December.  We've provided 17-1 WINNER, loser and 34-1 WINNER.  That's ALOTTA chicken dinner winner winners!
 
Forego Stakes rolls Saturday at Turfway Park.  $60,000 pot for the older boys going a polyturf 6 1/2 furlongs.  Race honors one the legendary geldings of America's ending glory days of the 1970s. 
 
Forego won 34 of 57 starts & just missed becoming racing's first $2mm man, retiring in 1978 w/$1.93 million banked.  He never raced at Latonia Race Course (Turfway's former name) & did virtually of of his racing in New York & Florida.  Forego finished 4th in Secretariat's still record-setting Derby of 1973.  His honor from Turfway comes from his post-retirement appearance at then-Latonia.
 
Another fourteen (14) horse field drawn for a mid-winter Turfway stakes.  Only twelve (12) can go postward.  Some of the key contenders...
 
#1 Agressive Elegance (15-1 w/Perry Ouzts)...nothing wrong w/69-1 runner-up finish against the ladies two weeks ago in Wintergreen Stakes.  Did I mention, the filly that beat her was ESPN 680's 34-1 shot??  Obviously coming back into strong form & she can close into a piece of this.
 
#7 Point Finish (3-1 w/Dean Sarvis)...grrrrr...am I gonna have to settle for a favorite in a full field?  Ouch.  He's never been worse than second in four starts at Turfway & comes off $100k starter stakes win at Gulfstream (on the dirt though).  His poly form is fine & he's won at Keeneland previously.  Sarvis won this race 19 years ago aboard Dynamic Asset.  Mid-pack runner, with clean trip, should have a big say in this Forego Stakes.
 
#8 Ghost Is Clear (4-1 w/Albin Jiminez)...makes sense.  Was beaten in $100k starter stakes at Gulfstream last month at 2-1.  That was on dirt though & his recent polyturf/turf form doesn't hold up.  Prior to Gulftsream though he was in open stakes at Churchill & Keeneland.  Would be no surprise, but there's enough "if" to try & beat him at but 4-1.
 
#9 Jasizzle (6-1 w/Cory Orm)...as the Orm family training track is next to the ESPN 680 Louisville transmitter, he's as close to family as one corporate family can get.  Has been in marvelous form, other than his two stakes tries at Keeneland & Churchill Downs this autumn past.  Same pair of races at Ghost Is Clear couldn't handle either.  Stravinsky on the bottom is turf, and the price is quite generous for the form, just concerned he won't excel on the surface.
 
#11 I'm Boundtoscore (10-1 w/Noel Vigil)...hasn't started since being last of 14 in 2012 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita.  Was stakes winner at Woodbine & Colonial prior to that, so he should like the ground up snow tires (e.g. polyturf).  Big scores as two-year-old but he's facing some decent older boys today.
 
#12 Musicinthehouse (15-1 w/Azil DeLeon)...uh uh...bombs away (insert whistle dropping sound here)?  Doesn't show the polyturf form or breeding I'd like to see & maybe he's a Mountaineer marvel, but Limehouse offspring are pretty tough & he's shown versatility in his style.  Outside post will let him run his race too.  Jiminez jumps off for Ghost Is Clear but that entry's trainer (Mike Maker) runs alot more good'ins that Musicinthehouse trainer does.
 
#13 Vanity Feature (8-1 w/Rodney Prescott)...wire-to-wire in his last two (2) polyturf tries at Turfway & Keeneland.  Would like to see better than 8-1 on very lightly-raced five-year-old.  Trainer Tom Drury won this race with the classy Patton's Creek Farm gelding Grand Daddy in 2012.  Prescott has two (2) Forego wins on his riding resume w/ Success Success in 2009 & Private Horde in 2005.
 
#14 Silver Lining John (12-1 w/Perry Ouzts)...probably doesn't make the field, but his Turfway debut was nose win at 5-1 on New Year's Day.  Lightly raced, but he then looks to have some upside.
 
Geez...this a toughy.  Will the racing god's hang another wagering breaking ball?
 
#12 Musicinthehouse (15-1)...hey, we're playin' w/track money the rest of the meet w/17-1 & 34-1 winners already in the TwinSpires.com account.  Why not.
 
#7 Point Finish (3-1)...he's earned his way to this minor open stakes win.  Seventeen wins & seconds in 25 starts.  He should be top pick, but when in doubt, take the price.  Kinda rootin' for him, just not alotta upside betting favorites in big fields.
 
#8 Ghost Is Clear (4-1)...nothing to knock really other than price isn't too tempting, should have every chance to win this.
 
#1 Agressive Elegance (15-1)...super will be extra tasty with this filly comin' up decent against das boys.

Turfway's $60,000 Wintergreen Stakes Honors 1909 Ohio-bred Derby Winner

Jan 03, 2014 -- 9:11pm

Wintergreen Stakes goes for 28th time Saturday, January 4th at Turfway Park.  Full field goes postward for the $60,000 purse open to fillies & mares, four-years-old & upward going the polyturf one mile.  Let’s saddle up & flashback to see the namesake of this race…Derby winner...Wintergreen.

It was the 3rd day of May, 1909.  Bill (William Howard) Taft had been president for less than two (2) months, taking over for his popular bud, rough ridin’ Teddy Roosevelt.  Taft, Secretary of War for Roosevelt, was the hand-picked successor and easily beat William Jennings Bryan in the 1908 presidential election, Bryan’s 3rd such electoral beat down.

Four (4) weeks prior to this 35th running of the Kentucky Derby, Admiral Robert Edwin Peary became the first man to reach the North Pole.  The North Pole, apparently, comes to Louisville on Monday when temps will top out around minus 2 degrees.

Wintergreen, would face nine other rivals on his Derby Day of '09, the largest field for the race since Ben Ali beat a similar sized field in 1886. 

Raised at the Oakley race track in Cincinnati and prepped for the Derby in Memphis, Wintergreen remains the only Ohio-bred to capture America’s most storied race.

A colt on that 3rd day of May in 1909, he was later gelded during his 61-race career.  Guessing that Orb, I’ll Have Another, Animal Kingdom, Super Saver & other recent Derby winners…now at stud…aren’t pining for the olden days.  Breed on boys.

Coming into the Derby, Wintergreen had started 10 times during his two-year-old campaign, winning half of 'em but only sporting a 3rd in the Hurricane Stakes on his stakes resume.  He remained without a stakes win coming into his Derby, yet started...favored...at less than 2-1 odds.  The minimum win bet that year, $5.

Leading throughout and never in front by less than a length, Wintergreen won the 1909 Derby by an easy 4 lengths.  The Derby chart says he “won in a canter.”  And yet…and yet…the Derby would be his one and only stakes win over his 61-race career spanning ages 2-through-7.  No failure at all though, Wintergreen eventually won 16 races & placed another 22 times over his 61 career starts.

While stabled at Latonia Race Course in northern Kentucky, at age 8 on April 10, 1914, Wintergreen was killed in a barn fire.  His legacy lives on Saturday as Turfway honors this grandest of all Ohio-bred colts/geldings with the 28th running of the Wintergreen Stakes.

The inaugural Wintergreen Stakes was held in 1983 & run each winter at Latonia/Turfway through 2001.  Since '01, the race has been run sporadically, not being contested in 2002, 2008, or 2012-13 for a variety of weather & financial reasons.

Wintergreen himself likely would put his $5 straight wager on #3, Agressive Elegance.  She’s the only Ohio-bred in the field & is ridden by the king of all Ohio riders, Perry Ouzts.  Wintergreen only won one stake in his 61 starts, Agressive Elegance already has two, winning a couple of Ohio-bred stakes in her three-year-old campaign of 2012.  Wintergreen will have a souvenir ticket; Agressive Elegance won’t be wearing Wintergreen roses Saturday.

Dreamin Big (#1) was my upset winner of the Holiday Inaugural at 17-1 on December 7.  Morning line gives me another 6-1 here.  She rarely uncorks that good one back-to-back & she’s been beaten the last three times she went favored.  Oh, but those 10 wins & 10 seconds in but 26 starts still looks tasty

Coup (#2) is your 5-2 morning line favorite, but was last of three in her Turway debut on December 8, beaten at 50 cents on the dollar.  She’s an open stakes winner at Pimlico in 2012 & came off 1 ½ year layoff to win at Keeneland on October 25.  In only seven career starts, she’s twice been beaten at odds of 3-5 or lower.

Truly Marie (#6) is 5-1 & polyturf specialist from Arlington Park.  She was most impressive in winning her Turfway debut on December 19.  She was claimed two starts back for $50k at Keeneland & hasn’t missed a beat.

La Malaguena (#8) is bred top-to-bottom for turf (which is good for polyturf).  Did lose pair of recent $25k claimers at Churchill Downs & Keeneland at 10-1 & higher before running 2nd in her last, beating Coup.  Don’t know why, she’s way short on class, but picks up leading rider Albin Jiminez & rates a long look if the 15-1 morning line holds.

Make a Toast (#14) has been running well on the dirt at Mountaineer, which is meaningless here, other than to offer that she’s in good racing shape.  She knocked heads with Fortune Play & Lotta Lovin around Turfway last winter & that’s pretty salty company.  At 12-1, worth a look.

Trying to knock another one over the monuments in centerfield:

La Malaguena upsets the 28th Wintergeen Stakes w/Coup second & Make a Toast up for third.  Adding in Dreamin Big, then Truly Marie if any scratches.

Stay warm!

 

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