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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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!
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.
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 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!!
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.
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.com! Furlong 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.
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.
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.
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.
Prairie Bayou Stakes goes for its 18th time Saturday at Turfway Park. Usual $50,000 pot for a Turfway stake. Older boys going 1 1/16 miles on the polyturf.
Speaking of which…conspiracies take one’s mind this evening…no matter if it snows, ices, rains, biblical heat or cold, polyturf is ALWAYS listed as fast. Really? Really?? Gimme a break. Be honest. The ground up snow tires that were sold as the future of racing…until they weren’t…and the perpetual “fast” track are just part of the conspiracy. Would the world end if Saturday saw a couple of inches of rain & the silly polyturf people admitted that the surface might be classified as "wet?"
Then…riddle me this…why must anyone who orders a hamburger be subject to madatory mustard and pickles? Why? Why?? It’s cheaper not to put those items on it. Ya’ just have to take ‘em off & get your fingers all gooed up. And then…and then…God’s own Chick Fil-A. Deeelicious chicken…until you bite in & there’s that pickle. Why? Damn pickle lobby.
Do you think the mustard & pickle conglomerates have joined together to force that muck upon us? If I want it…I’LL ASK FOR IT. All I want for Christmas is to stop puttin’ crap on the food that you don’t advertise is on it and that I didn’t order. That and another 15-1 shot (see below).
Now the Prairie Bayou. Last time we gathered…someone (me) gave someone (you) the $37.40 winner of the Inaugural Handicap (Dreamin’ Big…indeed). Don’t mention it.
Full field…track should have couple inches of water on it…but, fear not…we all know it’ll be fast. Let’s narrow this down & see where the value may show itself:
#1 Present Course (30-1) is the first of some really nice claims in here. Present owners took him off Ken & Sarah Ramsey in $25k maiden claimer at Saratoga. Since, he’s won four straight at Mountaineer Park. He’s bred through the ying-yang, but maybe not for the snow tires, plus that inside post. Having said that…if you get 30-1 on a Jeff Radosevich horse, you better take it someway, somehow. If not in the Prairie Bayou, get on that train soon.
#3 Occasional View (4-1) was claimed two back for $100,000 at Mr. Keene's place. That’s a claim. Almost got it all back in last, leading all but the last couple jumps in $150,000 stake in Toronto. Kenny McPeek trains. Not lovin’ 4-1 though.
#5 Dreams Cut Short (15-1)…hmmnn…another “Dream” horse. Solid enough allowance sort, race sets up for him. 15-1. Should be chargin’ late.
#6 Knights Nation (6-1) looks really tasty at 6-1, especially with Roberto Morales up. Gotta believe that price is gonna get knocked down. If not, how do ya’ not tee this one up?
#8 Burn the Mortgage (8-1) was claimed last out for $62.5k & anything by Kitten’s Joy & trained by Mike Maker has to get a long look. 8-1 morning line is pretty good too.
Okay, on top…let's keep dreamin’. Track surface…yes. Style…yes. Price…yes. Rider…not awful for Turfway (Ben Creed). Dreams (Not) Cut Short flying widest & fastest of all at the wire in the Prairie Bayou. Box up 3-5-6-8. For the price of a beer, buy a wee bit of insurance on the #1 across the board. Don't think he'll care for the surface, but it's only one less beer.
As the snows falls to give today’s ice a nice blanket, it must be Turfway Park & the winter (of our discontent) meet. I’ve always liked Turfway Park (and Latonia when it raced under that name). Having said that, Turfway Park is on the clock.
With no gaming coming & northern Kentucky/Cincinnati undergoing a rapid expansion in gaming in that metro market, the writing is on the wall. Soon, much like Hollywood Park, the land the track sits on will outweigh any benefits of being a thoroughbred track.
Illinois racing takes the winter off, so too now does West Virginia. The racing world won’t end if Kentucky goes dark in January & February. It almost is already.
What does tend to happen at Turfway though is some crackerjack good (and large) field tends to gather for the $50,000 Saturday stakes…this Saturday that means the 28thHoliday Inaugural Stakes with fourteen (14) entered. Twelve (12) can start.
(King) Wayne Lukas has won this event three (3) times (1989, 1995 & 2007). Riders Dean Kutz (1990, 1997) & James Lopez have each won twice (2001-02).
Jon Court won this event in 2000 & he might just ring the trifecta to a similar number on 20-1 shot Dreamin Big. While she’s 0-for-2 at Turfway, running 5th in this event last year, then being vanned off from the Likely Exchange Stakes six weeks later, her style on this track demands one more chance, especially at the price.
Ire (4-1), Purely Hot (5-2) & Soft Whisper (5-1) certainly rate better on paper, but this is Turfway. Demand a price, especially in a big field. Dreamin Big has been first or second in 19 of her 25 starts. That’s a racehorse. Go get yourself paid.
Clark Handicap Bio
This Friday’s Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs is truly one of America’s great, storied races & the last major event for older horses annually. No less than 14 Kentucky Derby winners have also won the Clark, although many occurred in the Clark's early years when it was run for three-year-olds in the spring (like the Derby). The Clark moved to Churchill’s Fall Stakes Calendar in 1953. Silver Charm in 1998 is the last Derby winner to also win the Clark.
2011 Preakness winner Shackleford ended his career with a popular Clark Handicap win in last year’s race.
The year prior, soon-to-be two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan won the 2011 Clark Handicap. His half-brother Successful Dan had won the year prior (2010), only to have his victory taken away in what’s become a slew of controversial DQs from Churchill Downs stewards in recent years. And in 2009, Blame won a stellar Clark. He’d return to Churchill the following year to win the Stephen Foster Handicap in the spring & dethrone Zenyatta in the Breeders’ Cup Classic that autumn.
Silver Charm carried (by today’s standards) a heavy 124 lbs. in winning that ’98 Clark. Swoon’s Son carried 128 lbs. in his Clark win in 1956. Only the legendary Exterminator ever won w/more. He carried 133 lbs. in his 1922 Clark Handicap win (as a 7-year-old). Whirlaway, the famed ’41 Derby winner carried 127 lbs. the following spring when winning the ’42 Clark. Friday, Game on Dude will try & write his name into the Clark annuls under a post of 126 lbs.
Along with the Kentucky Derby & Kentucky Oaks, the Clark has been run at Churchill Downs every year since 1875. T he Falls City Handicap (held on Thanksgiving Day) was also held that first meet in 1875, however, it’s not been renewed consecutively over the years.
The Clark originally was a two mile test (1875-1880) which followed the Derby, then moved to 1 ¼ miles from 1881-1895. Sturdier steeds in the those days!
The Clark Handicap moved to Churchill’s Fall Meet in 1953 & to its current 1 1/8th mile distance in 1955. The race was self-named for the track’s founder, Meriwether Lewis Clark. It was a young Clark who went to live with his aunt & her sons (John & Henry Churchill) after his mother passed. Clark later leased 80 acres of land that became Churchill Downs from the Churchill family. The track opened that first season as the Louisville Jockey Club & Driving Park Association. Its first reference as Churchill Downs doesn’t appear until circa 1883.
According to legend, a stock market crash in 1893 hit Clark deeply & it’s reported that his fear of poverty led him to commit pistol suicide in the Gaston Hotel in Memphis in the spring of 1899.
The 1875 Clark & the Times that Were
When Voltigeur won the first Clark on May 22, 1875, U. S. Grant was nearing the end of his second term as America’s 18th President. Alexander Graham Bell was days away from his first successful voice transmission (precursor to today’s I-Phone). Jesse James was still robbing trains in Missouri.
Locally, Preston Leslie was governor of Kentucky. UK fans might recall a QB named Tim Couch hailing fromLeslie County, named in honor of Governor Leslie. Leslie had defeated John Marshall Harlan for governor, calling Harlan a “political weathercock!” Weathercock (or weather vane) in those days referred to someone who’s politics went w/whatever direction the wind blew.
Harlan didn’t take it too personal though. After his defeat, he went on to become a U.S. Supreme Court Justice & recommended Leslie to become Territorial Governor of Montana in 1887. The U.S. was comprised of 37 states when the first Clark went to post in 1875. Colorado would become #38 the following year. Harlan too would also get a Kentucky county named after himself.
One of my earliest Clark Handicap memories is of the great gelding Warbucks winning the 1975 Clark as a five-year-old. He’d run last two years earlier in Secretariat’s Derby.
Two year’s later, Bob’s Dusty won the first of his two consecutive Clarks in 1977. His stablemate, Lot ‘o Gold made it a stable three-peat in 1979. Both had been off-the-board in earlier Kentucky Derbies. Smiley Adams trained the pair (along w/Run Dusty Run). Adams still remains tied with the legendary Ben Jones as the only trainers to win three Clark Handicaps. The Hall of Famers Isaac Murphy & Pat Day are the only riders to win the Clark four times.
Hodge (1915-16) & Bold Favorite (1968-69) share honors w/Bob’s Dusty as the only horses to win the Clark twice. Bob still holds the all-time largest victory margin w/his emphatic 11-length romp in 1978 under Richard DePass (his rider in his '77 Clark as well).
Jim McKnight, a longtime Louisville favorite, rode his only Clark Handicap winner in 1983 aboard Jack Slade. Just turned exercise rider-to-trainer Paul McGee upset the Clark in 1988 with a recent claim, Balthazar B.
Alphabet Soup ran 3rd in the ’95 Clark & would win the following year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic.
A decade before Rachel Alexander became the first three-year-old filly to beat older horses in a Grade 1, it was the three-year-old filly Surfside winning the 2000 Clark to cap her three-year-old season for Wayne Lukas. Lukas returns this year w/near-miss Breeders’ Cup runner-up Will Take Charge.
Pat Johnson won the 1986 Clark Handicap aboard Come Summer for Rusty Arnold. Johnson still rides (although sparingly) these days.
Somewhere around the time University of Louisville is putting the wood (do they ever anymore?) to Houston, a city block away, one of Churchill Downs newest stakes will run for its 11th time. It’s the $100,000 Commonwealth Turf for three-year-olds going 1 1/16 miles on the lawn.
This race debuted Sunday, November 14, 2004 & was created as a companion race to the popular Mrs. Revere Stakes for three-year-old fillies going the same 1 1/16 miles on the lawn. Saturday, both races will highlight the only official night card of Churchill’s Fall Meet.
Flashback to the inaugural Commonwealth Turf Stakes…
Twelve days earlier, George W. Bush had routed John Kerry to win re-election as President of the United States. Bush tallied a 59-55 million vote win. Bush wouldn’t have many good days to follow.
Bobby Petrino, in his second legendary year in the ‘ville, had his #12 Cards routing TCU 55-28 at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium the Wednesday night prior to that first Commonwealth Turf. Cards would run the table from there en route to an 11-1 record & win over top 10 & unbeaten Boise State in a classic Liberty Bowl.
Rich Brooks was suffering through a 2-9 season in Lexington, but did give Vandy “what for” 14-13 the day prior to the Commonwealth Turf. Things would be a bit better coming up for Orlando Smith as six days later his ’04-’05 Cats would defeat always juggernaut Coppin State en route to an Elite 8 finish (losing to Michigan State).
Rick Pitino & his 4th U of L Cardinal team would fare one notch better. Opening its season also six days after the first Commonwealth Turf (beating BYU-Hawaii), the Cards would make that season’s Final Four before being easily handled by #1 Illinois.
Usher & Alicia Keys “My Boo” ruled the radio. American Idol was beginning its 8-year run as the scourge of men across America & “The Polar Express” was just out in theatres.
And of that first Commonwealth Turf, Broadway View won for rider Johnny McKee & trainer Nick Zito. Rallying eight-wide from, 10th and last turning for home, Broadway View prevailed by a nose over America Alive at a tasty 18-1. McKee benefitted most that meet from a riders boycott against Churchill Downs (over health insurance) where the top riders choose not to ride. McKee would go on to claim his only Churchill Downs riding title that ’04 Fall Meet too.
And what of Broadway View…he won the inaugural Commonwealth Turf in the 17th start of his career which began with eight starts at Calder Race Course in Miami. The Commonwealth Turf would be his only stakes score & the final win of his eventual 27-race career. As a four-year-old, he went 0-for-6, then as a five-year-old added another 0-for-4 to his record, only once finishing as high as 3rd in those last 10 starts. He had come into the Commonwealth Turf off a disappointing 4th as the favorite in a six-horse allowance field on the then-Keeneland dirt.
But oh, on that Sunday, the 14th day of November in 2004, he keyed a $5,143 trifecta w/America Alive (11-1) & Capo (25-1) becoming the inaugural Commonwealth Turf victor. And so it was...