Interesting Wait

The field for the 2014 Belmont Stakes has already fluctuated in the immediate days following California Chrome’s Preakness victory.  California Chrome and second place Ride On Curlin are entered for the Belmont and have already arrived in Elmont, NY.

Early on, Danza (third in the Derby) and Ring Weekend, also a Preakness participant were being pointed to the Belmont Stakes.  As of today, both have been withdrawn from consideration.  Danza was withdrawn earlier in the week following a workout with which trainer Todd Pletcher was not pleased.  He will spend some time on the sidelines and plans are to bring him back to training hopefully later in the week.  On the advice of trainer H. Graham Motion, Ring Weekend was also withdrawn and will be pointed to other stakes races later in the summer.

But almost concurrent to these moves, two other horses are being entered to the field beyond the other horses already committed–Matusak and, returning to the chase off his troubled Derby run, Candy Boy.  I know little about Mutusak beyond the fact that he was the second place finisher behind Kid Cruz in the Frederico Tesio Stakes, the prep for the Preakness.

Barring the unforeseen, it’ll be a near full field for California Chrome to take down in his attempt to assume the Triple Crown.  As of today, the field would consist of:

California Chrome

Commissioner (Second in the Belmont Stakes prep, the Peter Pan)

Ride On Curlin

Social Inclusion

Samraat

Wicked Strong

Intense Holiday

Commanding Curve

Kid Cruz

Matusak

Candy Boy and

TONALIST

If you’ll look back in my blog posts, you’ll see I was quite taken with Tonalist and his performance in winning the Peter Pan.  And certainly if the track comes up wet on Belmont day I’d give him the edge over California Chrome (although CC has been training over a series of wet tracks at all three venues in the mornings and so far doesn’t appear to be spinning his wheels…).  And in listening to many opinions of both TVG and HRTV (cable horse racing channels) analysts, Tonalist is the horse most are giving the best chance to upset California Chrome.  Remember where you heard it first!!

As far as the rest of the Belmont field looks to me, Social Inclusion, Kid Cruz, and Candy Boy are surprising entrants to me.  Once California Chrome got past Social Inclusion in the Preakness he only opened up on him in terms the number of lengths he left him behind.  Kid Cruz never made a dent in California Chrome’s lead and the added distance of the Belmont I don’t suspect will help him gain enough to win.  Yes, Candy Boy had a horrific Derby trip, but even though he’s bred for the distance, I still haven’t seen him really wanting it, even in his trouble-free prep race efforts.

Beyond Tonalist and in the absence of Danza, Wicked Strong and Commanding Curve are the two other horses I think could pull the upset.  Commanding Curve was rolling and closing at the end of the Derby.  Believe it or not, one of Commanding Curve’s connections went on record after the Preakness stating that Commanding Curve WOULD win the Belmont Stakes.  And I simply don’t think we saw the best that Wicked Strong is capable of as he weaved his way through the Derby field for a respectable fourth place finish.  As far as Ride On Curlin, he was there at the end of the Preakness, but really not making a serious cut into California Chrome’s lead.  Further, Joel Rosario, who rode Ride on Curlin in the Preakness has opted to retain his ride on…Tonalist who he was on in the Peter Pan.

So the clock ticks at what I find an entirely TOO SLOW of a pace to June 7 and the answer to whether California Chrome will be lucky number 13; being the 13th horse since Affirmed to have the chance to take the most difficult title in all of sports–the Triple Crown.

I’ll close with something that IS known and is exceptionally good news, two-time and reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan is safe at home at trainer Charlie LoPresti’s farm to recuperate from his emergency colic surgery last week.  The outcome was the best possible and a bit unusual.  Apparently as Wise Dan was inverted on the operating table the affected area of his colon released and the twist that they had expected to find was back in place; he was checked thoroughly and then closed back up.  He appears no worse for wear and could resume light training next month and potentially, if all goes well, return to racing late summer.

 

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Oh, Here We Go Again

One of the headline stories for The Blood Horse today outlined how the president of the Maryland Jockey Club intends to initiate discussions to change the spacing between the Triple Crown races–The Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and The Belmont Stakes calling the current schedule “passé.”

I’m sorry, but what I find “passé” is not addressing the state of Thoroughbred breeding.  Let me count the ways…

Every colt that wins a stakes race, be it Grade I or III, let alone ungraded, DOES NOT need to become a stallion.

Successful stallions, that have shown the ability to get a distance need to retained here in the states instead of routinely being sent overseas.  Does the name Sunday Silence ring a bell?  Empire Maker?  Sadly deceased too soon, Summer Bird? Derby and Preakness winner I’ll Have Another, that American breeders showed little initial interest in as a stallion prospect?  And worse yet, we’ve allowed many premium mares to leave our shores before we could see what they might produce.

I’ve said it before, the Thoroughbred is not a Quarter Horse!  We’ve become so enamored of speed that we’ve thrown stamina out.  So how exactly are we to develop a horse that can get the mile and a half of the Belmont Stakes whether it’s three weeks or three months after the Preakness?

The fact that only three Derby horses are moving on to the Preakness this year is thought to be part of the reason why this change is being brought up, citing that the two weeks between the two races is too short a time for horses and the way they’re being trained these days.  Time out!  Has it ever dawned on anyone, and I know it has, but it’s an unpopular thought, that perhaps nearly half of most recent Derby fields had no business being in the race in the first place?!?  What the Derby does, unfortunately, many times these days is expose these colts as not mile and a quarter animals.

Christmas is December 25th EVERY year.  And every trainer in America knows the Kentucky Derby is the first Saturday in May, the Preakness, two weeks later, and the Belmont Stakes three weeks after that.  It would seem to me that if you thought you had a colt with Derby potential, let alone Triple Crown material, you’d plan and train accordingly; nobody’s surprising you after the Derby with the schedule for the remaining Triple Crown races.

There’s also been a disturbing trend in American racing lately to shorten races.  Tomorrow’s Dixie Stakes (turf) on the Preakness undercard will be shorter than in previous years.  About a month ago it was announced that the mile and three quarters Breeders Cup Marathon (usually won by European runners) was being dropped from the schedule.  So it seems likely to me at some point the mile and a quarter of the Derby and the mile and a half of the Belmont will become “passé” at some point as well…

In short, the 36 YEARS that have elapsed since Affirmed captured the last Triple Crown, should have provided a clue: WE NEED TO BREED A BETTER THOROUGHBRED!!

A month between these three races is not going to improve the odds of a Triple Crown winner.  Further, I can’t see in our short attention span world how extending this series over three months generates more attention for the sport.

Our first Triple Crown winner, Sir Barton, in 1919 ran and won the Derby and the Preakness four DAYS apart. Between those races and the Belmont he ran in and won the Withers Stakes.  So what’s wrong with our current picture?

All I can say is, should the spacing between the Triple Crown races be changed, and there is a winner(s), please be honest enough to denote those winners with an asterisk and a statement “Winner under modified format for horses incapable of contesting under long respected and accepted format.”

Finally, on a completely different subject ALL best wishes for a very speedy recovery for reigning and two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan.  Wise Dan experienced a bout of colic post his morning work and required surgery at Rood and Riddle Clinic in Lexington.  So far everything is sounding positive for his recovery including the strong possibility that he will be able to return to racing later this year.  We LOVE YOU Wise Dan!! Get well.  And as always thanks to trainer Charlie LoPresti and owner Morton Fink for ALWAYS putting Dan’s welfare first!!

 

Preakness Draw and Preview

The Preakness Draw was completed moments ago.  Kentucky Derby winner and heavy favorite for Saturday, California Chrome, will be in Post 3 and is the morning line favorite at 3-5. Ten horses will participate; only three, including the winner, continue on from the Derby, which is as few as I can recall. The post positions in their entirety: 1. Dynamic Impact (winner of the Illinois Derby) 2. General A Rod* 3. California Chrome 4. Ring Weekend (winner of Tampa Bay Derby) 5. Bayern (Derby Trial winner; DQ’ed to 2nd) 6. Ria Antonia (2013 BC Juvenile Fillies winner on DQ) 7. Kid Cruz (winner of Frederico Tesio, traditional Preakness prep) 8. Social Inclusion (3rd in Wood Memorial) 9. Pablo Del Monte (3rd in Bluegrass Stakes) 10. Ride on Curlin* *Derby participant   My analysis this time out will be brief.  This is California Chrome’s race to lose.  It appears he’s coming into the race fit and happy.  The track should be dry Saturday (although Baltimore is supposed to get rain all day Friday).  The other horses in the race have been inconsistent to date. Still, it is the Preakness where I’ve seen many a strange occurrence in the race and lackluster performances from heavily favored horses (think Fusaichi Peagasus and last year w/Orb).  This will be the shortest turn around between races California Chrome has ever experienced. And having the perfect results that he got in the Derby–clean gate break, a clean and smooth trip, and no one harassing him should he end up on the lead won’t hurt California Chrome, but those elements could also break against him this time. If there is a horse to beat him I’d be looking at Social Inclusion, Ride On Curlin, Ring Weekend or Pablo Del Monte. As always, I hope for a safe trip for all and a good, clean race!  Enjoy!!

Preakness Week!!!

Derby winner California Chrome and some of his competitors should be arriving in Baltimore within the hour.  Social Inclusion is already on the grounds and had the bullet move of the day, 4F in 47 seconds.  Seems he’s well primed for Saturday.  I’ll be commenting more on the race after Wednesday’s post position draw.  I expect it to be an interesting race.  Until then I’m going to reminisce about what I think are the three greatest Preakness Stakes I’ve seen.

#1–2005–Afleet Alex.  Afleet Alex had just missed in the Kentucky Derby, finishing third to long-shot Giacomo, after a somewhat troubled trip.  It was a big disappointment to me, as having followed his early successes in Arkansas, including winning the Arkansas Derby, I felt he was the best colt of his crop.  It came two weeks later than I anticipated, but Afleet Alex showed he was not only the best of the three-year-olds, but one of the finest Thoroughbred athletes to grace a track.

Making the turn for home, Afleet Alex was gathering momentum to take the lead.  The horse on the lead, Scrappy T, received a crack of the whip from rider Ramon Dominguez and promptly bore out into Afleet Alex’s path.  Afleet Alex clipped his heels and fell forward, his nose only fractions of an inch from the ground.  Only still camera shots do this encounter justice.  I remember going from jubilation watching “my” horse in the midst of making his winning move to screaming out loud, “”You’ve killed my horse!!”  I knew that both Afleet Alex and his jockey, Jeremy Rose were going to hit the ground hard and be trampled by trailing horses that would have nowhere else to go.  But in the same split second it took for the pair to pitch forward, Afleet Alex righted himself, seemingly in stride, and I suspect if he could talk he would have said “OH NO, You DID NOT!  I AM WINNING THIS RACE!” And on he went as if not a thing had happened, taking the lead and OPENING on the field to the wire to take the Preakness Black-eyed Susans and the Woodlawn Vase.  I have NEVER seen a more courageous display of athleticism in Thoroughbred racing or any sport.  In that moment, Afleet Alex illustrated the line from Dan Fogelberg’s Run for the Roses: “…and it’s something unknown, that drives you and carries you home.”  It was an awe- inspiring performance, overcoming the impossible, and why I make it my number one Preakness moment.

#2–1973–Secretariat. Not many words can be added to Secretariat’s legend, but the move he put out on the backside of Pimlico defies reason and is, in my opinion, the horse in all his glory (not to discount his Belmont tour de force).  Here’s a horse, in his prime, unleashing what looks more like the move of a cheetah on the savannah, than a horse on the dirt.  In the blink of an eye Secretariat appeared to go airborne, engulfing his “competition” like he’d somehow developed equine warp speed.  Dazzling is an understatement.  Of course there really never has been an adequate vocabulary to describe Secretariat’s Triple Crown dominance.

#3–1989–Sunday Silence.  And Easy Goer.  Sunday Silence won my heart early on in his West Coast preps for the Derby and Triple Crown.  When he won the Santa Anita Derby, that sealed the deal for me.  I knew he was winning the Kentucky Derby.  Didn’t care about all the hype surrounding Easy Goer, who indeed was a fine horse.  And when Sunday Silence won the Derby, some said it was just luck that he’d caught a sloppy track that he handled better than second place Easy Goer.  What transpired in the Preakness that year is rivaled only by Affirmed and Alydar.  Throughout the stretch, Sunday Silence and Easy Goer went at it head to head, stride for stride in complete unison to the wire.  Both teams of horse and rider giving everything in physical effort, strategy, and clean race riding.  Sunday Silence’s body language showed me “You’ll have to kill me to get by me…” And since Sunday Silence lived 13 more years and became Japan’s most successful and revered sire, he survived and triumphed in the 1989 Preakness.

For now I say it’s Pimlico.  Expect the unexpected and here’s hoping we’re treated to a race that will make a memory!!

There. It. Is.

Some years ago, U2 sang, “Cause I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.”  That’s indicative of how my winter and spring of watching Kentucky Derby/Triple Crown preps felt.  Don’t get me wrong, I still really like Danza and Wicked Strong and am expecting good things from them going forward.  But I hadn’t really fallen for them the way I had some colts like Barbaro in 2006.

Well today, I think I finally found THAT colt in Tonalist, now the winner of the Peter Pan, the traditional prep for the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park.  After a rough break from the gate, he rushed up to take the lead (something I generally don’t like as it usually doesn’t end well–like in a win), settled, and then proceeded to just glide over a sloppy track to make a fairly competitive field look pretty average.  There was that “it” factor in him, that I’ve never been able to define, that excites me and makes me take to a horse.  So…for now I’ll just say, OH, for a wet track on Belmont Stakes Day!

And as the cliche goes, Where WERE you all my life?  Well at least this spring.  Tonalist, had indeed been on the Derby trail, but was sidetracked by a lung infection.  If today is any indication, no matter; better late than never, hopefully, not just for future races, but for his development as a racehorse.

Minor disclaimer.  Tonalist is related to my own beloved OTTB mare, both descendants of Kentucky Derby and Preakness-winning Pleasant Colony. Tonalist–Tapit x Settling Mist (Pleasant Colony).  Can’t wait to tell my girl another cousin delivered the goods today on the track!!

 

Derby Shake Out and Turnout Day

First THANKS to everyone for their support and positive feedback.  I hope to continue to provide you info and thoughts worth your time!

The best news coming out of Saturday’s Derby is that all horses and riders came home safe.  It WAS a roughly run, traffic-impaired race for many colts.  Danza, one of my selections, ran an amazing race for the troubled trip he had.  His was a brave performance to finish third.  The first body slam, if not for the rail, likely would have sent him into the infield.  Wicked Strong had to do a fair amount of weaving to try and get a clear run.  One of the most potentially squashed performances was that of Ride On Curlin (ROC).  Calvin Borel, despite what the horse’s trainer said, I think gave a good ride under impossible circumstances. He immediately got ROC out of the 18 hole (he was #19, but w/the scratch moved in a position) to the rail, but like some of his previous Derby-winning rides, NOTHING opened up for him and he ended up going wide to a clear route.  Ride On Curlin was moving, but was completely compromised in the trip.  I understand the trainer’s frustration; he’s sending ROC on to the Preakness where last year’s Kentucky Derby and Dubai World Cup-winning rider Joel Rosario will pick up the mount.  If that Derby effort didn’t take too much out of him, and according to the trainer, it didn’t, ROC could be a very live horse in the Preakness.

At this point, Oaks-winning filly, Untapable, will not participate (and BTW, her Beyer Speed Figure–please don’t ask me to explain, beyond it’s a way of measuring/rating performance, the higher the better–for the Oaks was 107 v. California Chrome’s 97 for his Derby performance), in the Preakness, nor will Wicked Strong or second place finisher and closer Commanding Curve, who is being pointed to the Belmont.  Hopportunity, who was scratched from the Derby, due to a hoof injury was also found to have a minor bone spur, that was surgically removed.  He is completely out of the Triple Crown picture now.

New to the TC fray will be Pablo Del Monte, third in the Bluegrass, who for me is the “Mystery Horse.” He did make the Derby field on Hopportunity’s scratch, but his connections opted to hold him out, since as an Also Eligible (AE) he was relegated to the outside post.  To paraphrase the connections on their decision: “No one remembers who finishes second in the Derby, a Preakness win is forever.”  Trained, bred, and partially owned by Wesley Ward, who’s a pretty astute horseman, I’d have to believe they think they’re on to something w/this colt.  If he recovers from the fever that knocked him out of the Derby, Ring Weekend, winner of the Tampa Bay Derby, may be entered for the Preakness.

The horse’s performance I’ll be most curious to see, beyond California Chrome’s in the Preakness is that of Social Inclusion.  This colt came to the Derby trail a bit late, but caught EVERYONE’S attention, mine included, when he dusted highly regarded Honor Code in an allowance race at Gulfstream Park by nearly 10 lengths I believe.  He ran a game third in the Wood Memorial, getting some points, but not enough to get in the Derby field.  Of all the horses potentially moving forward either out of the Derby or new to the fray, he’s the one that might give California Chrome some competition.

As for the Derby winner, many of you know, I was not a fan going into the race.  In hindsight, I did outline exactly what he needed to do to be a winner–have the perfect trip gate to wire.  And that’s EXACTLY what he did–good break from the gate, clear position just off the lead, no dirt in his face and no jostling; it was textbook perfect for his style.  But he had to do more than all that, he had to have the ability to go the distance and despite my doubts, he did.  EXCELLENT training out of veteran Art Sherman and deft handling by Victor Espinoza in his second Derby victory.

I think California Chrome can take the Preakness, but I remain doubtful of a Triple Crown sweep, as much fun as that would be.  Plus, I don’t mind at all, year in and year out (on HRTV) being reminded that my favorite Triple Crown champion, Affirmed, was the last to turn the trick in 1978.  ALWAYS HAPPY to watch clips of those races as a reminder of how it’s done!!

But for me, the best news out of the Thoroughbred racing world yesterday came not from the track, but from the maternity ward, when it was announced that the Queen of All Thoroughbreds, Zenyatta, will not be bred this year, taking a break from motherhood.  After the successful delivery of three beautiful offspring, including her first filly, early Easter Sunday, Zenyatta will have a well deserved break to just be a horse!  I think this is the perfect decision and will benefit her health physically and mentally (although she’s always been THE MOST mentally superior racemare I’ve ever seen) in the long run.  So wonderful call by Jerry and Ann Moss and all the “Team Z” connections!!

And, here, at long last, after ENDLESS winter, my mares will enjoy their first few hours on pasture, after way too long in the sacrifice area w/hay.  I’ve noticed a bit of a sinister glint in their eyes, especially yesterday when I was mowing.  Time to get moving!

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve Arrived

Hi Friends and Fellow Equestrians!

I’m taking the plunge.  I’m finally going worldwide to share my opinions about and love of all things horse-related and the goings on in the world of Thoroughbred horse racing at least as I see it.  And anything I can do to promote the joys of having a senior horse or an OTTB (Off-Track Thoroughbred) in one’s life will be found here too.

Very briefly, I come to this post w/46 (!!) years of experience of living with, riding, and caring for horses.  I’ve been blessed to be the “horse mom” to six wildly different mares over the past 41 years.  I’ve loved and avidly followed horse racing since the 1969 Kentucky Derby when I fell in love with the name Majestic Prince and as such picked my first Kentucky Derby winner.

Over the years I’ve attempted to learn more about the care of my equine friends, sometimes out of necessity, more often out of curiosity.  I am also a certified Equine Sports Massage Therapist.

For the past eight years, I’ve been issuing a series of Triple Crown race predictions and reviews to a group of friends.  I’ve received positive feedback from many of them who’ve encouraged me to spout on to a wider audience.  So I’ve decided to give it a go.  Sorry you missed my 2014 Kentucky Derby preview; that’s probably OK for now.  I had my three-year winning streak snapped.  Still hasn’t stopped me from having an opinion.

So between feeding and grooming mares, cleaning stalls, mowing, and OH YEAH, WHY I do all this–RIDING– I will offer opinions on major races throughout the year, as well as an occasional tip on horse care, particularly for the seniors and those SOMETIMES quirky mares; the things that have worked for me.  And I’ll encourage you to consider adopting an OTTB or supporting Aftercare Programs for retired Thoroughbreds, that operate across the country.

Hope you’ll learn something or enjoy the conversation.