Friday, January 8, 2010

Give Us One More Taste

As you've undoubtedly seen, because I highly doubt you live in a cave and don't either read online thoroughbred news outlets, peruse thoroughbred forums, or indulge in a little HRTV/TVG, Zenyatta continues to work out in her "retirement" at Hollywood Park, most recently going an easy 4f in :48 on January 6. The Daily Racing Form's Steve Anderson wrote an intriguing piece yesterday titled 'Works Fuel Speculation on Zenyatta' in which he speculates that there is a chance, slim is it may be, that Zenyatta's racing days might not be over. And while I completely believe that her retirement is concrete, I do thoroughly believe that her owners, Mr. & Mrs. Jerome S. Moss, should bring her back in 2010, and while I obviously don't have much of a leg to stand on in presenting my rationale, I've never even owned a horse, here is why I feel she should return in 2010.

1. She's Still Sound

One of the most common reasons that thoroughbreds retire is simply that they get hurt, and recuperation time is either too lengthy or too likely to decrease their level of skill that a decision is made to enter the world of breeding instead of trying to bring the horse back to the races. Thankfully, Zenyatta has navigated a 14 race career and has seemingly not yet been bitten by the injury bug. In fact, she's so sound that her connections are even willing to stretch her legs on the track in retirement, and one could surmise that if there was any concern regarding her condition, she wouldn't have worked three times since the Breeders' Cup.

2. She's Still Atop Her Game

Another common reason that horses are retired is that they lose their form. Just like human athletes, equine athletes are prone to losing a step or two as they age, and sometimes they even lose the interest in doing their 'job' (but more on that a little later). Zenyatta, who turned six as the ball dropped in New York City (she actually wont turn 6 until April), may very well be in the best form of her lifetime. Her Breeders' Cup Classic score was both the deepest field that she beat, but also the most strenuous race that she'd ever encountered, and also marked a new career best Beyer Speed Figure (112) for the mare. If her career was anything but still on an upswing, she wouldn't have done as well as she did that day. Heck, rider Mike Smith believes she still has more in reserve than she showed that day. Yes, Zenyatta is 6, and 6 is an age where thoroughbreds often begin to show signs of slowing down, but that's far from a fact in the game. We've seen more than a few 9 and 10 year olds win upper echelon Grade 1 races to say that aging is anything more than an individual trait that will catch up to some thoroughbreds quicker than it will catch up to others. It should be noted that Zenyatta has only run 14 times in her career, hardly a large number, and it's entirely conceivable that her best days are still ahead of her.

3. She Has No Financial Value Doing Anything Else

As much as we hate to admit it, money plays a bigger role in these decisions than we want to concede. And it makes sense - when you can send a mare like 2002 Horse of the Year, Azeri, to an auction and have the bidding reach several million dollars, you're making what seems to be a sound financial decision in retiring. Or when you can sell the foals of that mare individually for millions of dollars each, you look to have made the right call by sending her to be bred. But, when the majority of your racing plan revolves around a breed-to-race mentality, where you have no real intention of selling the mare or her foals, her value is minimized off the track. As soon as she no longer is capable of yielding dividends on the racetrack, there really isn't any way for her to make money for her owners. Now granted, the Mosses appear to be very financially well off, and they certainly will survive without the couple of million dollars one would figure Zenyatta to earn for them in 2010. They didn't get to where they are by making poor financial decisions, though. Zenyatta earned over $3.3M in an abbreviated 5-race 2009 campaign, and you'd have to think that nobody, not even somebody as rich as the Mosses, would want to give that up.

4. She Can Solidify Her Place In History

If Zenyatta is indeed retired, she'll retire as one of the best female horses of all-time, and in and of itself, that's one hell of an accomplishment. To be mentioned alongside names like Ruffian, Personal Ensign, Go for Wand, Lady's Secret, Azeri, Rachel Alexandra, Winning Colors, etc. is a testament to the talent, tenacity, and consistency Zenyatta brought to the track every time she went postward. However, how special would it be if Zenyatta were remembered as better than that lot? A 2010 campaign could accomplish that. With current earnings of $5,474,580, another strong season could supplant Curlin as the all-time North American leading money earner. With a current undefeated 14-for-14 record, she could definitely bypass Pepper's Pride's 19-for-19 record as the winningest contemporary North American thoroughbred without a loss. Those are two extremely prestigious tangible records that Zenyatta could hold if she returned in 2010, as well as all of the intangibles (best female horse ever?), and I wouldn't bet against Zenyatta achieving all of that. You've got something so close to the cusp of true greatness, so it almost seems odd to shy away from it now. She was campaigned in a way that made it extremely clear that preserving her record mattered to the connections, and it worked. She still brings an unblemished resume to the table each and every time I look at her past performances, but at this point, why not work on making her resume just a bit stronger?

5. Breed to Race Rarely Works

One belief is that the Mosses want to retire Zenyatta because they can't wait to race her offspring. And while it would be breathtaking to see a son of Zenyatta win the Kentucky Derby, or a daughter of hers become a champion, it's not exactly likely. At all. The notion that the best horses conceive the best horses makes perfect sense in theory, but somewhere along the way, luck plays a huge role in the process. By all intents and purposes, Zenyatta herself is an example of this. Not overly-regally bred, Zenyatta sold for $60,000 at auction as a yearling, and nobody would have ever guessed that she'd become the mare that she is today. Breeding is a cruel, cruel game, and just because you're a superstar female horse, it doesn't mean you're going to get any breaks in the breeding shed. Just take a look at these recent examples -

  • Bird Town, winner of the 2003 Kentucky Oaks and Champion 3yo Filly that year, was first bred in 2004. She's yet to have an offspring record a workout, let alone race.
  • Winning Colors, winner of the 1988 Kentucky Derby and Champion 3yo Filly that year failed to produce a graded stakes winner amongst her progeny.
  • Champion Older Female in 1998, Escena, has yet to have a any of her progeny even compete in a stakes race.
  • The amazing Personal Ensign, one of the best female horses of all time (if not the best), produced just one millionaire, that being My Flag.
  • Lady's Secret, an 11-time Grade 1 winner, no foals who were notable on the racetrack.
The list could be much longer than that, but my point is - just because you're a great racemare, it doesn't mean you're going to be a great producer, or even a good producer. Why give up on something that is nearly a sure thing (that being that Zenyatta is going to be an incredible racehorse) for a complete unknown (that being Zenyatta's offspring). It is infinitely more conceivable that Zenyatta would win the Breeders' Cup Classic in 2010 than the foal she produced in 2010 would be a graded stakes performer, let alone a Kentucky Derby winner. What's the rush?

6. She Loves her Job

I feel like I've saved the best for last, but Zenyatta LOVES her job. She loves going out to the track, she loves working out once a week, and she loves trouncing the competition whenever he schedule allows for it. SO my question is...why rush to take that away from her? This is a mare that was so miserable just standing in her stall that her connections had to start working her out again, just to calm her down a bit. Being a racehorse is all she knows, but most importantly, its something that she wants to do. Some horses tend to lose interest and stop trying as they get older. That's not the case with Zenyatta. Zenyatta is the exact opposite. If you loved your job, and wanted to do it every chance you got (seems way too utopian, huh?), would you want that to be taken from you? Because that's what seems to be happening to Zenyatta. She's telling the people that work with her on a daily basis that she wants to go out and race, and instead she's going to go be a pasture ornament somewhere in Kentucky. Surely she'll adapt in time, but again, what's the rush? People say she deserves her retirement, and sure she does. She's accomplished more than just about any other thoroughbred in the history of racing in North America. But at the same time, why not at least try and give the athlete a say? If she wants to run, and again, all parties involved with her have seemingly conceded that she does, why not give her the opportunity?

7. Because Horse Racing Needs The Help

No, it's not the Mosses responsibility to 'save' horse racing, and no, Zenyatta coming back in 2010 wouldn't be anything more than putting a bandaid on a gunshot wound, but it would help. For whatever reason, the national media didn't latch onto the Zenyatta story until the Classic. One could say that's their loss, and it is, but it's also horse racing's loss if the attention that would be given to her goes wasted. Horse racing doesn't receive much attention at all, but when a horse does something to deserve attention, outlets like ESPN and others do give them their due. We saw this with Big Brown, Smarty Jones, Funny Cide, and even Curlin to a degree, and we're seeing it now with Rachel Alexandra. And if she returned in 2010, we'd see it with Zenyatta. Televised races, mentions on SportsCenter/other news shows, regular online updates on websites not dedicated to thoroughbred couldn't hurt at all. And as much of a pipe dream it is, a Zenyatta/Rachel Alexandra showdown would be huge for horse racing. I won't go and compare it to races won decades ago, but it wouldn't shock me if ratings and attendance for that race, depending on the venue, matched some of the best figures that we've seen in recent history. I won't say racing needs that race to happen, but it'd be better off if it did. Like I said, the Mosses owe us or the sport absolutely nothing. These sporting owners were one of only two in the last decade to bring a non-gelding Kentucky Derby winner back to race as an older horse, and they also campaigned Tiago through his five-year-old campaign, and ran Zenyatta in the Classic when they could have played it easy and gone for the Ladies' Classic.

As I conceded earlier, Zenyatta won't be back in 2010. Well I shouldn't speak in such absolutes, but it'd completely shock me if we saw her in the starting gate ever again. With that said, I will say that there are a lot of reasons that Zenyatta should return in 2010.

Dare to dream, I guess.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Postman Let Me Down...Again

The United States Postal Service handles billions of pieces of mail every December - everything from your Christmas card to that relative you haven't seen or talked to in a year, that fruitcake for Uncle Albert, or that ugly sweater that your great aunt hand-knit for your teenage son. And more than often, and we're talking an incredible amount of the time, they get the job done without fault. But I have a complaint. It seems that every year, they manage to lose my official Eclipse Awards ballot. Around the first of December, I start skipping to the mailbox every day thinking that day is going to be the day it finally arrives. And every day, I end up dejectedly retreating from the mailbox, no ballot in hand. So where is it? Where all of the missing mail goes. Topeka, Kansas. I hope somebody there fills it out for me. Oh well, maybe next year.

Below are my selections for the 2009 Thoroughbred Eclipse Awards. These and $1.19 will get you a small coffee from McDonald's. But can a cup of coffee bring you such logical insight? Of course not. Then again, can this column keep you awake like a shot of caffeine can? You tell me.

Champion Apprentice Jockey

Inez Karlsson leads all apprentices in both wins and earnings, and made a very strong showing for herself at the Arlington Park summer meet, as well as several others. Wins at a solid 15% clip and hits the board at a 44% rate, and can't really find fault in anything that she's done in 2009. In most year's she'd be a runaway selection for me, but not 2009. I actually prefer Christian Santiago Reyes here. The 19 year old Puerto Rican import didn't earn his first victory in the States until April at Gulfstream, and immediately made a name for himself in Southern California. Has 93 winners on the year (fewer than Karlsson), $2,413,676 in earnings (fewer than Karlsson), but this is a kid that was a Top 6 rider at DelMar this summer (beating out veterans like Solis, Quinonez, and Smith), is currently in the Top 10 at Hollywood Park, and has made a name for himself in a very difficult jockey colony out west. Also checked in second in the rider standings at Fairplex Park, and won the Cal Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita. I also give guys like Luis Saez a ton of credit, and like I said, Karlsson is a heck of a rider, but ultimately Reyes gets the nod from me.
Pick - Christian Santiago Reyes

Champion Breeder

You might as well just rename this award the "Alright, we're going to let Frank talk for a few moments, I really hope he doesn't have spinach in his teeth" award, because it seems that Stronach's Adena Springs will be the premier breeder in North America for as long as he wants to keep pumping out thoroughbreds. He has won this award in 5 consecutive years, but he's deserved it. Led the nation in breeder wins and earnings by landslide margins in 2009, and also bred 3 graded stakes winners. Would be remiss if I didn't also give a mention to Juddmonte Farms, a 4-time winner of this award, who led all breeders with 10 graded wins and 6 Grade 1 wins, but had just 43 winners in North America. Probably horse for horse, they had a stronger year than Adena, but due to the sheer magnitude of the statistics, I still give the edge to Stronach and Co. If only Frank could have run racetracks like he ran his breeding conglomerate.
Pick - Adena Springs

Champion Owner

A pretty unique award in that, even with so many powerhouse stables nationwide, it has gone to a different owner every year since 2002. Not too bad for parity at all. And in 2009, it's pretty safe to say that voters have a ton of options from which to choose. WinStar Farm led the nation in earnings, and their impressive stable featured stars like Well Armed (Dubai World Cup), Court Vision (in a partnership with IEAH Stables; Shadwell Turf Mile), as well as three Kentucky Derby entrants, and three impressive juvenile graded winners (Rule, Super Saver, American Lion). Juddmonte Farms, scored 6 Grade 1 wins with Ventura, Champs Elysees, Midships, and Midday, the last being in the Breeders' Cup, but overall won just 27 races in North America. Godolphin Racing had another banner year, winning 8 Grade 1 races with a large number of different horses, including Pyro, Vineyard Haven, Music Note, Flashing, Seventh Street, and Gayego, and also won graded races with several others, including Sara Louise, Regal Ransom, Desert Party, and Girolamo, did well with Midshipman, who ran 3rd in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, which has still never been run on the dirt going a mile. My main concern with Godolphin's 2009 campaign is that essentially from January through July, and them from November on, Godolphin did nothing in North America. From August 1 - October 31, Godolphin won 6 of its 8 Grade 1 races. Michael J. Gill had another incredible year in the claiming game, winning at a clip of more than a race per day (364 winners through 12/20/09), and he's second in earnings, behind just WinStar. The usual knocks will come out - he does it all with claimers and he doesn't care enough for his horses - but he did win this award in 2005, so the precedent definitely exists. M/M Jerome S. Moss had a solid year that was capped by a win in the Breeders' Cup Classic by their spectacular Zenyatta, but beyond Zenyatta, their 2009 campaign wasn't overly deep. She accounted for 5 of their 7 graded wins, and all 4 of their Gr 1 victories.
Pick - Godolphin Racing

Champion Jockey

An award that is often won in bunches, 8 times since 1993 has the defending champion had his name called again. Jerry Bailey leads the way with 7 championships, and Johnny Velazquez, Mike Smith, and Garrett Gomez have 2 each, and Gomez is the two-time defending champion (2007, 2008). Can Gomez make it 3 straight in 2009? It's one tough decision. I went back and forth between Gomez and Julien Leparoux more than a few times, as each had banner years in thoroughbred racing. Leparoux holds an edge in both wins (247 to 206; through 12/20/09) and earnings ($18.56M to $18.33M), whereas Gomez holds the edge in win percentage and WPS percentage. Amazingly, both scored 34 graded victories, with Gomez holding the edge in G1 wins (13 to 10) and G2 wins (15 to 10), whereas Leparoux got the nod with G3 winners (14 to 6). Leparoux bagged three winners on the Breeders' Cup card, with Furthest Land, She Be Wild, and Informed Decision, whereas Gomez picked up just one (Life Is Sweet). Honestly, I think the statistics are so close that you could go either way with your choice, but I'm going with Leparoux. I love the way the guy rides, and if I were starting a horse, this is the guy I'd want to have in my corner. Not that Gomez is a bad alternative...
Pick - Julien Leparoux

Champion Trainer

The last time a trainer didn't win at least consecutive 'Champion Trainer' titles was way back in 1995, when Bill Mott knocked off D.W. Lukas' one year run. Since then, this award has been a series of runs - Bill Mott (2 years), Bob Baffert (3 years), Bobby Frankel (4 years), Todd Pletcher (4 years), and now it's Steve Asmussen's turn to try to make it two straight, and he probably should. For the third consecutive year, he broke his own record for victories in a season (640 and counting, more than twice what the second guy has). He also leads the country in earnings (more than $6M ahead of the next guy), and won 21 graded races, 7 of which came at the G1 level. His victories include the Woodward, Preakness, Cigar Mile, Vosburgh, Haskell, Mother Goose, and Spinaway, as well as the Jim Dandy, and many other elite races. He was the trainer of Rachel Alexandra from mid-May on. The other logical candidate is Bob Baffert. 'Baffy' led the nation with 10 Grade 1 wins and checked in 3rd nationally with earnings over $9M and sent 109 winners to have their picture taken. In most years his resume would be enough to get the nod, but not in 2009.
Pick - Steve Asmussen

Champion Female Sprinter

With a division that included stellar fillies/mares like Ventura, Indian Blessing, and Informed Decision, it's tough to think that this award could be won in landslide fashion, but I definitely think it should be. Informed Decision put together a campaign that saw her win 6 of 7 starts, 3 of which at the Gr 1 level, and her wins included the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, the Humana Distaff, the Madison Stakes, the TCA Stakes, the Chicago Handicap, and the Presque Isle Masters. She defeated Ventura twice, and won G1 races on both the dirt and synthetic. She earned $1,435,030 in her career. Ventura had a similarly dominating year, but I don't think this is the right award for her. She ran just three times in main track sprint races, and she lost 2 of those 3. The only sprint race she won in 2009 was the Gr 1 Santa Monica in January. She had a more dominating season running a mile on the turf. Have to give a shout-out to Indian Blessing, who retires with wins in 10 of 16 starts, and added the Gr 2 Gallant Bloom to her resume in 2009, and also placed in a pair of Gr 1 races - the Dubai Golden Shaheen against the boys and the Ballerina at Saratoga.
Pick - Informed Decision

Champion Male Sprinter

You want a wide-open division, this is it. I believe a case can be made for about 3 or 4 runners in this lot, but after much deliberation, I think I've got a choice. Zensational reeled off 3 Grade 1 wins from July through September, the Triple Bend, Bing Crosby, and Pat O Brien, and overall won 5 of 7 starts in 2009. I have a few concerns with him, though. I feel that in his three Gr 1 victories, he really beat no Gr 1 horses. And also, he flopped in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, checking in 5th of 9 behind Dancing in Silks. Then you've got Kodiak Kowboy, who ironically didn't check into the discussion until his victory in the 8f Cigar Mile Handicap, a race that isn't even technically a sprint. But overall, 'Kowboy does bring a solid resume to the table, with victories in the aforementioned Cigar Mile, as well as the Gr 1 Vosburgh, the Gr 1 Carter, and the ungraded Donald LeVine at Philly Park. He did win only once at the most traditional 6f distance, but the list of horses he defeated includes Fabulous Strike (twice), Vineyard Haven, Pyro, Bribon, Munnings, and Driven By Success. The best true sprinter in North America might actually be the incredibly talented California Flag, a turf sprinter who won 3 of 4 starts including the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, the Gr 3 Morvich Handicap, and the Green Flash at DelMar, and also ran a close-up 5th in the Gr 1 Cathway Pacific Hong Kong Sprint. Can't see the award going to a horse who lacks a Gr 1 win, though, but he's definitely the best on the turf in North America. Dancing in Silks won the Gr 1 Breeders' Cup Sprint, but other than that, his resume includes just one open-company win, and that came against allowance horses. His other wins came against restricted/state-bred company in the Cal Cup Sprint and the Pirates Bounty, and overall he just doesn't bring enough to the table. My main determining factor in making a choice here is level of competition, and I believe that Kodiak Kowboy, while he didn't excel at just a traditional sprint distance (although he is a Gr 1 winner going 6f), he beat better horses than did Zensational, and receives my backing here.
Pick - Kodiak Kowboy

Champion 2yo Female

Biases sometimes make for the easiest tie-breaker, but what is one to do when you're biased toward BOTH of the things that you're choosing between? Such is my plight in this category. On one hand I've got She Be Wild, the Juvenile Fillies (Gr 1) victor and the anchor-leg in my largest thoroughbred betting score ever. On the other hand, there is Blind Luck, a two-time Gr 1 winner and the daughter of one of my favorite horses of all-time, Pollard's Vision. Either would make a great choice for the champion in this division. She Be Wild won 4 of 5 this year, but only once at the Gr 1 level, and her only other graded win came in the Gr 3 Arlington-Washington Lassie. She placed in the Gr 1 Alcibiades at Keeneland, but defeated the best of her division, including Blind Luck, in the Breeders' Cup. Blind Luck won a pair of Gr 1's - the Hollywood Starlet and the Oak Leaf Stakes, and also placed in the Gr 1 Juvenile Fillies and the Gr 1 DelMar Debutante, and overall won 4 of 6 starts. She Be Wild did prove to be 3/4 of a length better in the Breeders' Cup, but Blind Luck responded with a 7-length romp in the Hollywood Starlet. I truly feel like this is a coin flip, but giving a slight edge to She Be Wild. I still think that Blind Luck benefited from the injury to Mi Sueno in California and picked up a few Gr 1 scores due to her retirement. It's a shame that Hot Dixie Chick feel off the map, because she might have been the best of any of these.
Pick - She Be Wild

Champion 2yo Male

One of the more open-and-shut cases, have to think this one begins and ends with Lookin At Lucky. A three-time Gr 1 winner, he took the CashCall Futurity, Norfolk Stakes, and DelMar Futurity, and just missed by a head in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (Gr 1) after receiving a less than desirable trip from the far outside post. He also won the Gr 2 Best Pal and earned $1.2M and won 5 of 6 starts. Nobody else really comes close to what he accomplished in 2009, but I have to give a small shoutout to Noble's Promise for his campaign that saw him win or place in 4 stakes races, 3 of them graded. He just missed twice to Lookin At Lucky in the BC Juvenile (when third) and the CashCall Futurity (when second).
Pick - Lookin At Lucky

Champion 3yo Female

No discussion necessary here. If Rachel Alexandra doesn't win this unanimously, it'll be a crime. Winner of 5 Gr 1 races, including the Kentucky Oaks, Preakness, Mother Goose, Haskell, and Woodward, she earned more than $2.7M in 2009. It was a season so dominant that we may never see a 3yo filly campaigned so aggressively again.
Pick - Rachel Alexandra

Champion 3yo Male

I'm actually a strong believer that Summer Bird had one fo the most underrated campaigns seen by a 3yo male in some time. Reeled off victories in the Belmont, Travers, and Jockey Club Gold Cup, and also placed in the Haskell and Gr 2 Arkansas Derby, and ran a strong 4th in the Breeders' Cup Classic over a surface completely foreign to him. Earned $2.3M this year, and should win this thing decisively. Mine That Bird won the Gr 1 Kentucky Derby, but went winless in 7 other starts in 2009, some such losses coming at Sunland Park and Mountaineer. Hard to deny that there is some talent in that gelding, but he needed to show more to deserve consideration here. Blame deserves a brief mention for his campaign, a two-time Gr 2 winner, but he did defeat the very talented Parading in the Fayette at Keeneland and Einstein, Macho Again, and several others in the Clark Handicap.
Pick - Summer Bird

Champion Turf Female

Category will explore the question of what is more appealing to voters - a great European or a very good North American. Goldikova won just one start in North America, that coming in the Gr 1 Breeders' Cup Mile against some of the best male milers in the world. She also earned a trio of Group 1 wins in France and Britain, and knocked off males in the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville. She proved, without question, to be arguably the world's best miler and female turfer in the world. Her main competitor here, Ventura, won a pair of Gr 1 races in 2009, the Woodbine Mile against males and the Matriach against her own sex. She also just missed to the incredibly talented Gio Ponti in the Frank Kilroe Turf Mile back in March. Ventura's other three starts came on the main track, and don't appear prevalent here. My biggest determining factor here is that Ventura, on the heels of her win over the boys in the Woodbine Mile, opted to choose the Filly & Mare Sprint over the Mile, skipping an opportunity to take on Goldikova. Ventura's turf campaign, just 3 races, doesn't do enough for me to pick her over Goldikova's one North American turf start, and I have no question in my mind that Goldikova was the more talented of the two.
Pick - Goldikova

Champion Turf Male

Very quietly, Gio Ponti put together one best turf campaigns you'll see from any horse. He showed dominance going 8f in the Frank Kilroe Mile (Gr 1), and stayed up to 11f in the Gr 1 Man O War. He also won twice going 10f in the Gr 1 Manhattan and Arlington Million. Only two horses in this division, Presious Passion and Take the Points, won more than one Gr 1, each nabbing two. European invader Conduit, the winner of the Breeders' Cup Turf (Gr 1) loses luster when his entire resume is taken into consideration. He won just one other start outside of the Turf in 2009.
Pick - Gio Ponti

Champion Older Female

Like Rachel Alexandra in the 3yo Female category, it'll be criminal if Zenyatta doesn't win this in a walkover. The winner of the Breeders' Cup Classic (Gr 1), Lady's Secret (Gr 1), Clement Hirsch (Gr 1), Vanity (Gr 1), and Milady (Gr 2), she defeated the Lady's Classic (Gr 1) winner Life is Sweet on three occasions. The only one that might have been able to defeat Zenyatta was Personal Ensign winner Icon Project, but she was injured and retired too quickly.
Pick - Zenyatta

Champion Older Male

This category will question how voters actually perceive this award. Given that sprinters have their own award, and that turfers have their own award, is this specifically limited to main track routers? If that is the case, it'll be interesting to see where the voters go. Macho Again, Einstein, Bullsbay, and Rail Trip took turns beating one another all year, and none won more than 2 graded races. Einstein took the Gr 1 Santa Anita Handicap and Gr 1 Turf Classic, and also placed in 4 graded races. Macho Again won the Gr 1 Stephen Foster and Gr 2 Oaklawn 'Cap, but missed the board in 4 of 8 tries. Rail Trip won just one graded race in 2009, the Gr 1 Hollywood Gold Cup, and also placed in 3 more. Bullsbay won just 3 of 11 starts in 2009, and although he did win the Gr 1 Whitney, he wasn't good enough otherwise. Kodiak Kowboy was the best of the sprinters, but some voters won't even give him that award. So, how can you give an award for champion older male if they're not even good enough to win the championship in their own division in some voter's eyes? You can't. That leaves me with Gio Ponti. Although turfers traditionally have their own award, there is no question in my mind that this one had the best campaign for any North American-based older male horse in 2009. He won 4 Gr 1 races (twice as many as any of his other competitors) including the Frank Kilroe Mile, the Arlington Million, the Manhattan, and Man O War. He also ran 2nd in the Breeders' Cup Classic (Gr 1), and 2nd in the Turf Classic Invitational (Gr 1). With earnings of $2.3M in 2009, he outearned most of his competitors for this award by more than $1M, and should receive this award, no matter what is surface of choice was. He twice finished ahead of Einstein in 2009 as well.
Pick - Gio Ponti

Horse of the Year

To me, this isn't even as close as it appears on paper. In a case I've made multiple times on a few different internet forums, I don't see how Rachel Alexandra doesn't win this award. A campaign that featured 5 Gr 1 wins, three of them against males, she set records and put together the best season by a 3yo filly in decades. Wins in the Woodward, Haskell, and Preakness against the boys, as well as romps in the Kentucky Oaks and Mother Goose, simply outweigh Zenyatta's campaign. It is impossible to knock Zenyatta, but what she didn't do outweighs what she did do. Zenyatta's connections took a chance just once this season, whereas Rachel Alexandra's connections took chances every step of the way after Jackson became the majority owner. While her wins in the Vanity, Milady, Lady's Secret, and Clement Hirsch were races that would pave the way for a walkover in Champion Older Female category, the did little to build her appeal for this category. One win in the Classic shouldn't and doesn't change what she failed to do all year, and that is take chances. Horse of the Year isn't a one race award, and the only way that I can see Zenyatta getting this is if the voters ignore what happened in January through October. People may point to Rachel Alexandra's small margin victory against Macho Again in the Woodward, but there's no ignoring the fact that Zenyatta barely escaped Anabaa's Creation at DelMar, and she's essentially an allowance horse. If I had to make this a 1, 2, 3 type choice, I might actually be inclined to choose Summer Bird over Zenyatta. Zenyatta had a great race in the Classic that will be remembered fora long, long time. Rachel Alexandra, on the other hand, had a great campaign that will be remembered for just as long. Awards like this are based on a campaign, not a race, and I can't make a case for Zenyatta here. Rachel Alexandra, while she may not have been the better horse, who knows there, had the better campaign and deserves this award.
Pick - Rachel Alexandra

Have a very Merry Christmas, everybody!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Bobby Frankel

Bobby Frankel died today. Something about it just seems surreal. One of the greatest trainers the world has ever known is gone. And even though he was blessed to live for 68 years, it still seems as if he's gone way too soon. I guess every death, in it's own way, feels like that, though.

I never had the opportunity to meet Mr. Frankel, and while I wish I had, I'm content to know of him through the stories passed along from others. Bobby Frankel was my favorite trainer in the game. I don't use the world master often, but if anyone deserves that title, it's him. Patient, but not quite to a fault, Mr. Frankel was the type of guy that would sit on a horse for weeks, if not longer, just waiting for that perfect race. And while this tactic might have drove fans crazy, it worked very, very well.

I remember when the Eclipse Awards ballot came out last year. 'Champion Trainer' finalists were Steve Asmussen, Rick Dutrow, and....Bobby Frankel? Frankel? How's he a finalist? So I ran to the statistics. Asmussen had earned 19+ million, trained Curlin, and won twice as many races as the next guy. Dutrow had nearly won a Triple Crown, and trained a handful of champions and G1 winners including Big Brown and Benny the Bull, and had been the 'face' of training for 2008. And then there's Frankel. Not Pletcher, not Mott, not Zito, Baffert or Suroor, but Frankel. What had he done? And then I dug in. He'd quietly won Grade 1 races with Ginger Punch, Mast Track, Double Trouble, Ariege, Vineyard Haven, First Defence, Ventura, Champs Elysees, and Precious Kitten. 9 different Grade 1 winners, really? But that's exactly how Frankel operated - quietly and under-the-radar. No glitz and glamour. No 'everybody look at me!' Just good, honest training.

My favorite Bobby Frankel memory came back in 2004. Horse racing has always kind of fought a stereotype where the connections of horses view their horses as an investment or cash cow (or more often, a sunk cost) rather than as a living, breathing creature. Not that I ever felt that way about it, but the stereotype is always there. But then I saw Sightseek culminate her career with an easy win in the Grade I Beldame. And then I saw the grizzled New Yorker, Bobby Frankel, in the winner's circle. And he was crying. He loved this mare. He loved all of his horses. They were another family to him.

Thanks for the memories, Mr. Frankel. And thank you for never apologizing for upsetting Funny Cide's Triple Crown bid.

RIP Bobby Frankel - you will be missed...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Handicapping Technique - Trust Thyself

So you see that horse, and something just tells you that he's destined to do something special down the line. Or you have that hunch that you cant get out of the back of your mind. Or you handicap a race for hours, and you keep coming back to the same conclusions. We've all been there. But then, just as we're about to rush to the windows, something happens. A so-called 'expert' jumps in and tells us why we can't win. Why our horse is too slow. Why the favorite we're trying to beat is too formidable. It's happened to all of us, and being a novice horse player, I've often deferred my opinion to the 'expert.' These guys are paid to know what they're talking about, right?

For me, this past Breeders' Cup is a microcosm of why little in handicapping and betting is more important than trusting your own instincts. With its rolling Pick 3's, huge betting pools, abundant Pick 4's, and lucrative Pick 6's, Breeders' Cup weekend is truly one where you can turn a hunch into a sizable return. The first Pick 3 sequence that included all Breeders' Cup races included races 3-5 on Friday, the Marathon, Juvenile Fillies Turf, and Juvenile Fillies. That's where my Pick 3 fun began -

From mid-September on, I wasn't higher on any juvenile filly than I was on She Be Wild. I loved her, even despite her loss in the Alcibiades (Gr I) at Keeneland. Unfortunately, in the week(s) following that Alcibiades loss, I couldn't find one handicapper who actually liked her in the Breeders' Cup. Likewise for the Marathon. Given the new 14f distance, it seemed incredibly likely, if not a lock, that the trophy for that race would go back to Europe. Problem is, four Europeans showed up - heavy favorites Mastery (9/5 ML odds) and Father Time (3/1), as well as Man of Iron (8/1) and longshot Muhannak (12/1). So, which to use, and which to toss?

I devised a small Pick 3 play for the sequence of races that was -

Mastery, Man of Iron / Lillie Langtry, Tapitsfly / She Be Wild

A $4 play in total, I ignored the prices on Father Time, House of Grace (4/1), Blind Luck (3/1), Always a Princess (6/1), and Negligee (6/1), but felt oddly confident. In the days leading up to the race, you wouldn't have found many who liked Man of Iron in that spot (he appeared second-tier at best), Tapitsfly (even though she'd soundly defeated 8/1 shot Smart Seattle in her lone turf try), and She Be Wild (whose I'd been on her bandwagon for weeks). The results started coming in -

Man of Iron (6.40/1) got the nod in the Marathon as Mastery flattened out and Father Time never took to the going. Good, but I figured I'd be alive after that leg. Tapitsly (9.80/1) ran down a dead-game Rose Catherine and took advantage of a rock-hard, quick turf course to use her speed to keep distance between herself and the closers. So, here I am. Alive in the Pick 3 to one horse. Could be worse, but it's tough to get too excited when you're alive to the 5th/6th betting choice in any given race. And in the 35 minutes between races, I completely fell off the bandwagon. I did the ultimate handicapping no-no. I started rewatching races. I reopened the past performances. I found about 147 reasons she wouldn't win, and none that she would.

Gomez was opting for Always a Princess. She had no excuse in losing her last. Leparoux has never been on her. The Beyers don't stand out. She's never run outside of the midwest. Blind Luck might just be THAT good. Is she even better than Negligee? She had a dream trip in her last and couldn't get things done. What happens if Connie and Michael is as advertised? Biofuel will be coming with a heck of a kick. Others appear stronger in the final eighth.

The poor girl I was watching the races with had to have found me to be the most annoying, pessimistic person on the face of the earth. Thank God the gates opened when they did, because I'm not sure I could have taken it much longer. And after what seemed to be the longest 1:43.80 of my life, and after a few tense moments where I thought Leparoux might not find running room soon enough, I had completed one of my life's goals - win a bet big enough that Uncle Sam wants a cut (next on the list - the Derby trifecta).

Unfortunately, it doesn't always work this nicely. Namely Saturday's 'Dirt' Mile. From the moment that Coolmore announced that Mastercraftsman would participate in this race, I hated him for the win. Just something didn't seem right at all. Why take a legitimate European Group I talent, and run him in this afterthought race? To me, the Classic, Mile, and even Turf seemed like much more logical spots. And for some reason, I loved Furthest Land in the race. Despite his 20/1 ML odds, I thought he had a huge chance. I fully expected Midshipman to do well, and even gave Ready's Echo more than one look. For me, this year's 'Dirt' Mile was more of a race of who couldn't win than who could win. Pyro will always hate synthetics. Same with Bullsbay. Mr. Sidney will always be a Grade II/III turf talent. Chocolate Candy will never be 'this' good. But just before post time, just as I was getting ready to unload on a ticket that included my 'top' horses, something regrettable happened. I caved. ESPN brought on Muttonchops and he praised Mastercraftsman. Jerry Bailey and Randy Moss told me how untouchable he was. The Hammer was ready to break open his piggy bank with him. All of these guys couldn't be wrong, right? So I did it. I convinced myself that 7/5 was an incredible price to take on this European Champion, and didn't place one bet where he wasn't keyed for the win. I played him all over Furthest Land, Midshipman, Neko Bay, and Ready's Echo, but never the obverse. With Mastercraftsman out of the trifecta, the exacta (Furthest Land / Ready's Echo) paid $329.10 for $1, and the trifecta (Furthest Land / Ready's Echo / Midshipman) paid $2,933.40 for a buck. Ouch.

Lessons learned. How'd your Breeders' Cup go?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Breeders' Cup Saturday

Juvenile Turf

I genuinely appreciate the Breeders' Cup brass for getting this race out of the way early on the card. From a handicapping perspective, this thing is wide open. Five Europeans ship in, and they represent the powerhouse stables of Godolphin, Coolmore, and Mrs. Susan Roy. You won't find any holes in the past performances of Viscount Nelson (6/1), and at that price he'll be worth a try. The son of Giant's Causeway just missed in the Group II Champagne last out at Doncaster, and he earned a RP Rating of 112 for that performance. Not to be outdone, John Gosden's Pounced (9/2) placed in the Group I Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere last time at Longchamp, and he earned a 114 Racing Post Rating. Godolphin's Buzzword (6/1) has been running in top company all year, and while he's only a Group III winner, he's never been far behind.

The top American hopes lie in Interactif (4/1) and Bridgetown (8/1). Frankly, both can probably win this. Interactif has one of the nicest closing kicks I've seen in a 2yo, but that's a dangerous script to write. A dozen in this field and Desormeaux may not have any beat as they make their way down the backstretch. Not sure that's what I'm looking for from a horse who's actually cutting back in distance off his last two starts. He could have a run like "closed belatedly" written all over him. I kind of really have taken a liking to Bridgetown. He appears to have taken to the Southern California surroundings and scored a win at the distance last out at Woodbine.

1. Pounced
2. Bridgetown
3. Interactif

Turf Sprint

What a great idea it was to add this race! I knew I was a big fan after California Flag and Mr. Nightlinger went :20 3/5 and :41 4/5, 1:05 1/5 last year. Will they go as quick in 2009? It's hard to imagine, but...

In horse racing, you never know. I'm not sure that I see it, but they certainly won't be crawling, either. I expect a quick pace and everybody will be in with a shot turning for home. Cannonball (8/1) was nearly a Group I winner at Ascot for Wesley Ward, and is in the best form of his career. This race will take a lot of luck, but you have to like that Dominguez is aboard. In this crapshoot, he's my top pick.

A European that I've taken a liking to is Jeremy Noseda's Strike the Deal (15/1). The deep closer won a Group III last out at Newbury (GB). Desert Code (20/1) and Diamondrella (4/1) also appear dangerous. Not spending too much time trying to 'cap this cavalry charge...

1. Cannonball
2. Strike the Deal
3. Desert Code


Definitely lines up to be an exciting contest boasting some of the quickest horses in the world. Zensational (7/5) and Fatal Bullet (9/2) each have sub-:22 gate speed, and something tells me that talent will be on display in earnest on Saturday.

Honestly, I can't like either off the expected speed duel, and I expect them to come back to the field. Of the closers, two really stand out - Gayego (5/2) and Capt. Candyman Can (15/1), and quite frankly, there's absolutely no way there should be that much discrepency in price between the two. Capt Candyman Can arrived a bit late on the scene last out when up against Fatal Bullet at Keeneland. Unfortunately, he just doesnt seem built for 6f. On the other hand, Gayego is a perfect 4-for-4 at the distance, including a win last out over this track in the Ancient Title (Gr I). I think he gets it done here, but it won't be easy at all.

1. Gayego
2. Fatal Bullet
3. Capt Candyman Can


Essentially the biggest question in here is what to do with D'Funnybone (5/2). The Paul Pompa runner is, in my mind at least, the best main track runner in this field. Unfortunately, he's never been on the synthetics, nor has he ever competed around two turns. He's been working great at Aqueduct for this under Rick Dutrow's care, but how his form carries over onto the synthetic is anyone's best guess. I'm going to go with my gut and not include him here. Odds are that he's either a sprinter at heart or won't like the surface...or perhaps even both.

I think you really have to respect the Pletcher runners in here. Dogwood's Aikenite (8/1) just missed in the Breeders' Futurity (Gr I) at Keeneland, and Zayat's Eskendereya (10/1) won the off-the-turf Pilgrm Stakes last out at Belmont. Aikenite is Gr I palced on the synthetics, while Eskendereya was a runner-up in his turf debut.

I hate the post that Lookin at Lucky (8/5) drew, and while he's the best juvenile in California, I'm not sure that he's well enough clear of the reste of these to overcome his post. I consider him to be a worthy adversary, but a solid play-against.

Not really a huge fan of any of the Euros - Coolmore's duo of Alfred Nobel and Beethoven are both 20/1 on the ML, and they've already run a combined 17 times since May.

1. Aikenite
2. Aspire
3. Lookin At Lucky


The world looked great for Goldikova (8/5)...until last month, at least. That was when the 'monster' was upset in shocking fashion in the Prix de la Foret (Gr I) at Longchamp, a stark drop off in form that had seen her take a trio of Group I races in her three prior starts, including one against the boys at Deauville. Now, what do you do with her this year? She drew a tough post (11) and even though the American contingent seems to be lacking flair, 3 of her fellow Europeans look to make this no walk in the park.

Juddmonte's Zacinto (8/1) is getting so good that it's almost scary. The 3yo was beaten just 1 1/4 lengths last out by Classic hopeful Rip Van Winkle, and he was also 3 1/4 lengths clear of Delegator that day. Delegator is 3/1 in this field. Zacinto is a horse that is moving into form at the right time and needs to be respected.

I honestly am having trouble making any real case for most of the American's, besdies Ferneley (20/1). The Ben Cecil-trainee is in the form of his career, back in his home state, and ready to roll. Don't toss him, even at that price.

1. Zacinto
2. Goldikova
3. Ferneley

Dirt Mile

To see past Mastercrafstman (6/5) or not is the only question, and in betting this race, I think you do both. One set of wagers where he's very prominent on top, the other where he isn't. To me, it seems very odd that they'd run him here instead of a) the Classic, or b) the Mile, or even c) the Turf.

Race is wide open but I look forward to having some fun with Furthest Land (20/1), Midshipman (6/1), and Ready's Echo (20/1).

1. Midshipman
2. Mastercraftsman
3. Furthest Land


Unfortunately, this one just came up weaker than stronger this year. Fortunately, about 4 of these are still good enough to win - Conduit (7/5), Spanish Moon (5/2), Dar Re Mi (3/1), and Presious Passion (4/1) all bring great records into this and all have a sizable shot.

Would be appropriate if Dar Re Mi got the job done this year, but just don't think she's good enough to knock off Conduit...

1. Conduit
2. Spanish Moon
3. Dar Re Mi


It's not my year for handicapping this thing. Have spent too long trying to make heads or tails of about 10 of these, who all shold have a great shot at winning (from the rail) - Colonel John (12/1), Summer Bird (9/2), Zenyatta (5/2), Twice Over (20/1), Richard's Kid (12/1), Gio Ponti (12/1), Einstein (12/1), Rip Van Winkle (7/2), and Quality Road (12/1). If anyone can tell me how any of these will or will not definitely hit the board, I'd love to shake their hand. This thing is just too wide open. Taking a stab in the dark here and going with -

1. Richard's Kid
2. Zenyatta
3. Einstein

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Breeders' Cup Friday

Breeders Cup Friday

Well, my friends, it's here. It's been more than a year since we experienced the heart-pounding thrills of the 2008 Breeders' Cup, and this particular blogger couldn't be more excited to feel it again. While the Kentucky Derby is the most exciting two minutes and sports, and the Derby Trail and Triple Crown season give us a myriad of thrills and memories, nothing seems to match the overall excitement and magnitude of the Breeders' Cup. With 14 races, $25.5 million in purses, and the world's elite trainers, riders, and, of course, horses all in one place, it's assured that legacies will be forged, memories will be made, and we're going to see things that make us say 'wow.'

Many condemn the Friday/Saturday format of the Cup, but it's growing on me...and quickly. These races are all extremely competitive, and are composed of horses that racing fans want to see. Imagine the Cup without Ventrua. Or Informed Decision. Without the excitement of the Turf Sprint. Like I said, I like it. Let's take a look at Friday's half-dozen -


The first race of the card probably sets up to be the most forgettable races of the day. Unfortunately, there just is minimal appeal for this, especially stateside. You can't put a $500,000 pricetag on a race like this and just expect people to show up. Amazingly, but not surprisingly, that's not enough incentive. The American contingent here - Black Astor, Nite Light, Cloudy's Knight, Sir Dave, Eldaafer, and Gangbuster - are completely at the mercy of their European counterparts - Mastery, Father Time, Man of Iron, and Muhannak. The Europeans figure to dominate the wagering, with Mastery (9/5), Father Time (3/1), and Man of Iron (8/1) the first, second, and fourth choices on the morning line.

While many European's contesting main track races will be questioned due to their lack of racing on an all-weather surface, each of the four invaders has already competed, and three have won, over a synthetic track. Mastery and Father Time have already competed at this distance, with Mastery a Group I winner (St Leger) going 14 furlongs.

Even at this elongated distance, I don't anticipate an overly pedestrian pace. I expect Solis to push Black Astor (12/1) from the rail, and wouldn't be surprised if they open up lengths on the field. Big work on 10/24 (6f in 1:11 3/5) indicates he's ready to run, run, run. Don't expect Nite Light (4/1) to let him get too far away, but having trouble loving the Pletcher runner at the distance. Frankie Dettori should have Mastery placed midpack, but my gut tells me to play against him here. If he wins at even money, that's fine. Father Time is a 3yo son of Dansili that trailed Mastery by just 3 1/2 lengths in the St Leger, but I think he could receive a favorable set up here, and he'll be moving well late.

Wiseguy pick looks to be Cloudy's Knight (8/1) - he's won two straight on the turf going 12f - and trainer Jonathan Sheppard ran him in the Sycamore (Gr III) on October 22 with this race in mind. Problem I see is that this horse isn't a spring chicken anymore - he's now 9 - and he's probably lost a few steps off his top form. He's never run on a synthetic track, but I like that this has been the goal the whole time.

Had briefly considered Man of Iron, but I don't like the way he seems to be regarded in Europe. Was sent off at 33/1 in a Group III synthetic stakes at Dundalk, and while he was 4th that day, I don't like the way he flattened out there and even though he was no match for Mastercraftsman, he should have been better than 4th. He is a half to Jazil and Rags to Riches, but I'm not sure that has much to do with anything.

1. Father Time
2. Cloudy's Knight
3. Mastery

Juvenile Fillies Turf

Race really appears to scream chalk. Coolmore's Lillie Langtry (3/1) is a winner of 3-of-6 lifetime, including the Group II Debutante at Leopardstown and a Group III at Naas. Daughter of Danehill Dancer has never been beyond 7f, but I don't anticipate that being a concern. This is a very subpar group of American fillies, and she should have few issues with this lot.

Top American hopes look to be House of Grace (4/1) and Smart Seattle (8/1), who were the 1-2 finishers of Keeneland's Jessamine Stakes. Don't pay attention to the fact that they're separated on the ML - these fillies are about as close in talent as you'll find, and I find it very tough to like one but not the other. Luckily, I like Tapitsfly (8/1) more than both. The Dale Romans-trainee won Saratoga's PG Johnson in her only turf try, and she knocked off Smart Seattle in the process. She earned an 81 Beyer that day, which isn't great in and of itself, but makes her very competitive in this lot.

1. Lillie Langry
2. Tapitsfly
3. Smart Seattle

Juvenile Fillies

This is one of those races that, for better or for worse, I latched onto a filly a while ago and I'm going to ride things out with her. I loved the first three races of She Be Wild's (8/1) career, and liked her last, even though she was beaten in the Alcibiades (Gr I) by Negligee (6/1). She loses Gomez, but picks up Leparoux, and have to wonder if the Alcibiades was kind of used as a prep for this. She's got good tactical speed and should be more prepared to get the distance than many of her counterparts.

Baffert is huge on Always a Princess (6/1), and I can see why. Inexperienced daughter of Leroidesanimaux was second in the Oak Leaf (Gr I), even though that represented only her second career start.

Connie and Michael (4/1) earned a huge Beyer Speed Figure in her debut at Keeneland, getting 7f in 1:22 3/5 en route to a 7 3/4-length win and a 95 Beyer, but offers little value at that price and this would be a very tough task.

Blind Luck is the best of the Californians and figures to be a huge factor.

1. She Be Wild
2. Blind Luck
3. Always a Princess

Filly & Mare Turf

This race sets up to be one of my potential 'bomb' races, meaning that I fully expect something to happen to really shake things up. The favorites - Forever Together (5/2), Magical Fantasy (3/1), Midday (4/1), and Pure Clan (5/1) - all have major problems (in my mind at least) that will make me think twice before using them.

There figures to be a real duel on the front end, but instead of a speed duel, it'll be a bunch of riders not trying to take the lead. Visit (10/1) flashed a bit of speed in the Yellow Ribbon (Gr I) last out, and she also ran 4th in this race last year at 17/1, so the back class is there. She loses Gomez, but picks up Velazquez, plus she loves this course and excels at the distance. She'll figure.

Same with Rutherienne (8/1). She hasn't missed the board since 2007, all in graded stakes. She doesn't look like a winner, though.

Midday is my choice of the favorites - shows great form, is a Group I winner at the distance. She has some tactical speed and I just don't see many detriments.

1. Midday
2. Rutherienne
3. Forever Together

Filly & Mare Sprint

Probably the race of the day...

The Ventura/Informed Decision exacta box is probably the exacta lock of the event, as these two appears heads above their competition in every facet of the game. Consistency, speed, adaptability, affinity for synthetics, and a great record at the distance.

Personally, I fancy Ventura. I think she's in better form and is more rested than Informed Decision, who's had a long and difficult campaign. I've heard nothing but rave reviews about how Ventura has looked, and this is a mare who's been running with some of the world's best thoroughbreds this year. Remember, she was only beaten a nose by Gio Ponti in the Kilroe (Gr I) back in March.

1. Ventura
2. Informed Decision
3. Seventh Street

Ladies' Classic

Favorites are Careless Jewel (2/1) and Music Note (9/5). Personally I don't like Careless Jewel much at all. I think she completely lacks class and has looked good beating bad horses, but this is a whole new league. I expect the wheels to come off here.

Music Note appears the best of a very average crop, so I'll use her but not overly confident in it. Im more interested in the place/show horses. I think Proviso and Rainbow View both bounce off strong 'off the plane' efforts. Mushka isn't a fast horse, but she's in peak form and that's something that is very dangerous this time of the year.

I find it hard to like Life is Sweet as she just continues running in the wrong direction in regard to her form, but I do kind of fancy Lethal Heat . The pace sets up for her, but she's just never been this good.

Look out for Cocoa Beach. This is a track that suits her well and she likes the distance (3 for 5 lifetime, 100% ITM) and there is no Zenyatta in here for her to chase.

1. Music Note
2. Mushka
3. Cocoa Beach

Good luck on Friday! Will be back tomorrow night with some thoughts on the Friday results as well as Saturday's selections

Monday, October 19, 2009

Breeders' Cup Contenders (10/19/09)

With the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships just a tantalizing 17 days away, I felt it would be pretty interesting (not to mention time consuming) to try to at least accumulate a very raw list of which thoroughbreds would be competing at Santa Anita. Here's what I learned -

Breeders Cup Classic (10f; 3yo +)


Awesome Gem (C. Dollase/A. Solis)
Colonel John (E. Harty/G. Gomez)
Einstein [Brz] (H. Pitts-Blasi/J. Leparoux)
Gio Ponti (C. Clement/R. Dominguez)
Macho Again (D. Stewart/R. Albarado)
Mastercraftsman [Ire] (A. O'Brien/J. Murtagh)
Mine That Bird (B. Woolley Jr./C. Borel)
Quality Road (T. Pletcher/J. Velazquez)
Richard's Kid (B. Baffert/V. Espinoza)
Rip Van Winkle [Ire] (A. O'Brien/J. Murtagh)
Summer Bird (T. Ice/K. Desormeaux)


Bullsbay (H. Motion/J. Rose)
Girolamo (S. Suroor/A. Garcia)
Regal Ransom (S. Suroor/R. Migliore)
Twice Over [GB] (H. Cecil/T. Queally)
Zenyatta (J. Shirreffs/M. Smith)

Breeders Cup Turf (12f Turf; 3yo +)


Conduit [Ire] (M. Stoute/R. Moore)
Presious Passion (M. Hartmann/E. Trujillo)
Red Rocks [Ire] (B. Meehan/J. Castellano)
Spanish Moon (M. Stoute/R. Moore)


Ask [GB] (M. Soute/O. Peslier)
Dar Re Mi [GB] (J. Gosden/J. Fortune)
Spring House (J. Canani/A. Solis)
Vision d'Etat [Fr] (E. Libaud/O. Peslier)

Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic (9f; 3yo +; Fillies & Mares)


Careless Jewel (J. Carroll/R. Landry)
Cocoa Beach [Chi] (S. Suroor/R. Dominguez)
Lethal Heat (B. Abrams/A. Solis)
Life is Sweet (J. Shirreffs/G. Gomez)
Mushka (W. Mott/K. Desormeaux)
Music Note (S. Suroor/R. Maragh)
Proviso [GB] (R. Frankel/R. Maragh)
Teamgeist (K. McPeek/C. Borel)


Icon Project (M. Wolfson/J. Leparoux)
Rainbow View (J. Gosden/J. Leparoux)
Zenyatta (J. Shirreffs/M. Smith)

Breeders' Cup Mile (8f Turf; 3yo +)


Court Vision (R. Dutrow/R. Albarado)
Cowboy Cal (T. Pletcher/J. Velazquez)
Delegator [GB] (S. Suroor/L. Dettori)
Ferneley [Ire] (B. Cecil/R. Bejarano)
Gladitorious (S. Suroor/A. Ajtebi)
Goldikova [Ire] (F. Head/O. Peslier)
Justenuffhumor (K. McLaughlin/A. Garcia)
Karelian (G. Arnold/R. Maragh)
Rendezvous (J. Hollendorfer/J. Rosario)
Mr. Sidney (W. Mott/K. Desormeaux)
Whatsthescript [Ire] (J. Sadler/J. Rosario)
Zacinto [GB] (M. Stoute/R. Moore)


Diamondrella [GB] (A. Penna/R. Maragh)
Get Serious (J. Forbes/P. Fragoso)

Breeders' Cup Sprint (6f; 3yo +)


Capt. Candyman Can (I. Wilkes/J. Castellano)
Cost of Freedom (J. Sadler/T. Baze)
Fatal Bullet (R. Baker/E. Da Silva)
Gayego (S. Suroor/G. Gomez)
Zensational (B. Baffert/V. Espinoza)


Crown of Thorns (R. Mandella/V. Espinoza)
Dancing in Silks (C. Gaines/J. Rosario)
Kodiak Kowboy (S. Asmussen/S. Bridgmohan)
Munnings (T. Pletcher/J. Velazquez)
Pyro (S. Suroor/J. Velazquez)

Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (10f Turf; 3yo +; Fillies & Mares)


Forever Together (J. Sheppard/J. Leparoux)
Magical Fantasy (P. Gallagher/A. Solis)
Midday [GB] (H. Cecil/T. Queally)
Pure Clan (R. Holthus/J. Leparoux)
Visit [GB] (R. Frankel/G. Gomez)


Dar Re Mi [GB] (J. Gosden/J. Fortune)
Diamondrella [GB] (A. Penna/R. Maragh)
Dynaforce (W. Mott/K. Desormeaux)
Rutherienne (C. Clement/A. Garcia)

Breeders' Cup Juvenile (8.5f; 2yo)


Aikenite (T. Pletcher/A. Garcia)
Alfred Nobel [Ire] (A. O'Brien/J. Murtagh)
Beethoven [Ire] (A. O'Brien/R. Moore)
Bench the Judge (D. O'Neill/R. Santiago)
D'Funnybone (R. Dutrow/E. Prado)
Dave in Dixie (J. Sadler/J. Rosario)
Fist of Rage (K. McPeek/-)
Lookin at Lucky (B. Baffert/G. Gomez)
Noble's Promise (K. McPeek/W. Martinez)
Pulsion (P. Biancone/M. Smith)


Buzzword [GB] (S. Suroor/A. Ajtebi)
Gallant Gent (C. Lewis/M. Pedroza)

Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (8.5f; 2yo; Fillies)


Always a Princess (B. Baffert/G. Gomez)
Amen Hallelujah (R. Dutrow/R. Dominguez)
Beautician (K. McPeek/K. Desormeaux)
Biofuel (R. Baker/E. Da Silva)
Blind Luck (J. Hollendorfer/T. Baze)
Connie and Mack (K. McPeek/R. Albarado)
Devil May Care (T. Pletcher/J. Velazquez)
Negligee (J. Terranova/R. Maragh)
She Be Wild (W. Catalano/G. Gomez)


Bay to Bay (B. Lynch/D. Clark)

Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (8.3f; 3yo +)


Cherokee Artist (H. Motion/J. Rose)
Chocolate Candy (J. Hollendorfer/V. Espinoza)
Crown of Thorns (R. Mandella/V. Espinoza)
El Gato Malo (C. Dollase/D. Flores)
Famous Name [GB] (D. Weld/P. Smullen)
Furthest Land (M. Maker/G. Gomez)
Midshipman (S. Suroor/R. Migliore)
Monzante (M. Mitchell/J. Rosario)
Neko Bay (J. Shirreffs/M. Smith)
Square Eddie (D. O'Neill/R. Bejarano)


Ball Four (P. Biancone/J. Talamo)
Girolamo (S. Suroor/A. Garcia)
Informed (D. O'Neill/M. Baze)
Mambo Meister (P. Gleaves/M. Cruz)
Regal Ransom (S. Suroor/R. Migliore)
Teide (D. Condilenios/C. Hoverson)

Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (8f Turf; 2yo)


Becky's Kitten (W. Ward/J. Leparoux)
Bridgetown (K. McPeek/R. Landry)
Fantastico Roberto (T. Pletcher/J. Velazquez)
Interactif (T. Pletcher/K. Desormeaux)
Summer Movie (A. Sherman/-)
Zip Quick (P. Biancone/-)


Buzzword [GB] (S. Suroor/A. Ajtebi)
Gallant Gent (C. Lewis/M. Pedroza)
Kera's Kitten (M. Maker/J. Leparoux)
William's Kitten (M. Maker/V. Lebron)

Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (7f; 3yo +; Fillies & Mares)


Evita Argentina (J. Sadler/J. Rosario)
Indian Blessing (B. Baffert/J. Velazquez)
Informed Decision (J. Sheppard/J. Leparoux)
Sara Louise (S. Suroor/E. Prado)
Seventh Street (S. Suroor/R. Maragh)
SweetHearth (A. De Royer-Dupre/G. Mosse)
Ventura (R. Frankel/G. Gomez)


Game Face (T. Pletcher/E. Prado)

Breeders' Cup Marathon (14f; 3yo +)


Black Astor (L. Lewis/J. Talamo)
Father Time [GB] (H. Cecil/J. Spencer)
Nite Light (T. Pletcher/J. Velazquez)
Rising Moon (R. Dutrow/K. Desormeaux)
Unusual Suspect (B. Abrams/A. Quinonez)


Bold Chieftain (W. Morey/R. Baze)
Cloudy's Knight (J. Sheppard/R. Homeister)
Mastery [GB] (S. Suroor/T. Durcan)
Muhannak [Ire] (R. Beckett/P. Smullen)

Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (8f Turf; 2yo; Fillies)


House of Grace (K. McPeek/M. Luzzi)
Smart Seattle (H. Motion/J. Rose)


Bay to Bay (B. Lynch/D. Clark)
Full Mandate [Ire] (R. Hannon/M. Kinane)
Hibaayeb [GB] (C. Brittain/N. Callan)
Lisa's Kitten (M. Maker/J. Leparoux)

Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (6.5f Turf; 3yo +)


California Flag (B. Koriner/J. Talamo)
Cannonball (W. Ward/E. Trujillo)
Desert Code (D. Hofmans/R. Migliore)
Fleeting Spirit [Ire] (J. Noseda/T. Queally)
Get Funky (J. Sadler/J. Valdivia)
Gotta Have Her (J. Sahadi/T. Baze)
Lethal Heat (B. Abrams/A. Solis)
Noble Court (J. Sadler/J. Rosario)
Silver Timber (C. Brown/J. Leparoux)


Chamberlain Bridge (B. Calhoun/J. Theriot)
Dancing in Silks (C. Gaines/J. Rosario)
Diamondrella [GB] (A. Penna/R. Maragh)
Mr. Nightlinger (B. Calhoun/J. Theriot)
Storm Treasure (S. Asmussen/S. Bridgmohan)
Total Gallery [Ire] (J. Moore/J. Murtagh)
Yankee Injunuity (J. McMullen/E. Baird)