On The Clock

Well, the new year is underway and already a Derby prep is in the books.  The Jerome Stakes was run at Aqueduct in New York on January 2.  No real news or surprises in the race with newly minted three-year-old Flexibility galloping to an  easy win.

At this point all I can say is nice horse, nice win, I’m still looking for a Derby horse.  Somebody impress me!

Of course THAT will be a bit of a challenge right now as the horses nearest and dearest to my heart and their accomplishments in 2015 will be very difficult to match.

American Pharoah.  I can throw no more superlatives on him.  His final race, more like romp, in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic was exclamation point enough.  The next day, he was safely delivered to Ashford (Coolmore) Stud outside Versailles, Kentucky to begin his next career as a stallion.  Needless to say the expectations are EXTREMELY high.  However, of the 11 Triple Crown winners that precede American Pharoah, only Gallant Fox (1930) sired another Triple Crown winner Omaha (1935).  Of the three most recent winners–Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Affirmed–only Slew was considered a commercial success and is sire of notable stallion A.P. Indy (pensioned) and great grandsire of current leading stallion Tapit. Secretariat and Affirmed produced their own stars–Lady’s Secret and Risen Star; Flawlessly and The Tin Man, respectively, and were generally better recognized as broodmare sires.

American Pharoah’s pedigree is a mix of stamina by grandsire Empire Maker and speed through granddam Star of Goshen on his sire’s, Pioneerof the Nile, side.  His dam-side pedigree (Littleprincessemma), is more modest, but there is back class there–Storm Cat, Flying Paster, and Exclusive Native. It will be interesting to see what his offspring turn out to do.

Tonalist.  Though his fifth-place Breeders’ Cup Classic performance was a disappointment, returning to “home” territory of a NYRA track, Aqueduct, brought him back to form in what turned out to be his final race.  Tonalist closed his career in the Cigar Mile, which, in my opinion wasn’t his best distance with a memorable performance.  He sat off the pace early in a small field of six, including the outstanding Private Zone.  After looking like he was moving into contention, as they straightened for home he seemed to stall and maintain fifth position.  But Johnny Velazquez never stopped riding and as if a switch finally clicked on, Tonalist turned into a downhill freight train and with a crazed acceleration, passed four other horses to win on the wire.

Although it had been announced he would race again this year, several weeks later plans changed and Tonalist was retired to stand at stud at Lane’s End Farm near Midway, Kentucky.  A son of Tapit and grandson of Pleasant Colony, with Grade 1 wins from one mile to one and a half miles, I am optimistic and anxious to see his offspring on the track.  I’m also hopeful that he, as a stallion, and his offspring will be given adequate time to produce results as I suspect his progeny could be later developing racehorses.

Shared Belief. After months of recovery from a hip fracture sustained in the Charles Town Classic in April, Shared Belief had returned to training and appeared to be returning to form.  But following a workout the morning of December 3, he suffered a severe bout of colic and despite attempted emergency surgery, veterinarians were unable to save him.

This was a stunning blow. Unexpected and so tragic to lose a horse that was exceptional at his job and never took an off step when he graced the track.  And despite his injury, I felt his best racing could have well been before him.

So there are my three champions of 2015 (Honorable Mention Beholder, who just might be my star of 2016). Gone and irreplaceable.

One hundred twenty-two days until Kentucky Derby 2016.  Someone impress me…you have HUGE hoof prints to fill!