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2016 Risen Star Stakes

On Friday, March 25, 1985, Ribbon pushed her third foal into the world.

On Friday, March 13, 1998, that foal left this world.

What happened in the third of those thirteen years remains nestled deep in the hearts of all those who cherish thoroughbreds in the state of Louisiana.

What happened in the third of those thirteen years is that the best son of the mighty Secretariat, named for the fixed light in the night sky over Bethlehem on Christmas Eve, made his mark on the horse racing world.

Risen Star did not look like his father. Risen Star was dark bay to his sire’s copper penny chestnut. Risen Star had four white ankle socks to his sire’s three white socks. Risen Star was taller than his sire – think along the lines of Zenyatta-size! Risen Star quite possibly carried a large heart to his sire’s known massive heart. Despite those physical differences, Risen Star made sure the world knew that he was his father’s son.

Risen Star broke his maiden on September 24, 1987 and seemingly never looked back. Racing 11 times and never coming in worse than third, the racing world took notice when he won the 1988 Louisiana Derby Trial Stakes and 1988 Louisiana Derby (GIII) at the Fair Grounds. He was then vaulted onto the Triple Crown trail when he won the 1988 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland. The morning line third choice for the Run for the Roses that year, he laid off the pace and made a too-late late charge at the top of the stretch. He finished third behind the filly Winning Colors and Forty Niner.

But fate had plans for Risen Star. Plans that would include a win in the Preakness that year over Brian’s Time and Winning Colors (making him the first offspring of Secretariat to win a Classic race) and a win in the Belmont Stakes over Kingpost and Brian’s Time. Plans that would include more chances to run in prestigious races for the rest of 1988 and possibly into his four year-old season.

But fate had plans for Risen Star. Due to an injury sustained before the Belmont Stakes, he was retired that very summer and left his owners and fans with thoughts of “What might have been?” and “What if’s?”.

Risen Star was honored that year with the 1988 Eclipse Award for Champion Three-Year-Old Male Horse, which must have made both his sire and grand-sire proud, both of whom (Secretariat in 1973 and Bold Ruler in 1957) also won that same award during their respective three-year-old campaigns.

In 1989, the Fair Grounds renamed the Louisiana Derby Trial Stakes, an annual prep race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown grind, the Risen Star Stakes to honor their local boy with his local connections. For the purposes of the point system earnings for the “Road to the Kentucky Derby Champion Series”, this race nets the winner a cool $400,000.00 purse and 50 coveted points towards a position in the starting gate on the first Saturday in May.

Let’s meet the 11 entrants in the race that salutes Louisiana’s favorite thoroughbred son.

AIROFORCE

Airoforce…I puffy heart grey horses. That might have been mentioned in a prior post. Anyway, Airoforce is making his three-year-old debut here. He enters this race with wins on both the turf and the dirt. Make that graded stakes wins on both the turf and the dirt! That may or may not be why he is currently sitting pretty as the favorite on Saturday. One issue seeming to come up when discussing his racing style is whether he can handle a fast dirt track. He won on a sloppy track on his one dirt try (besting Mo Tom, making this a possible re-match?). But a win is a win! Is he a better turf horse? Maybe. It’s best to note the came in second (was just this close!) last October in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. Hmmm…a win in his debut on the grass, a win in his debut on the dirt…what a conundrum! His trainer has stated that Airoforce “is at the top of his game”, that he has dirt in his pedigree and he has had great works leading up to this weekend, so I guess we’ll see what happens. Speaking of pedigree, where to begin? Top and bottom both have 1920 Horse of the Year (HOY) Man O’ War (inducted into the Hall of Fame (HOF) in 1957). Dad’s side has 2000 HOY Tiznow (inducted into HOF in 2009); 1977 Triple Crown (TC) and 1977 HOY Seattle Slew (inducted into HOF in 1981); 1967 HOY Damascus (inducted into HOF in 1974); 1959 HOY Sword Dancer (inducted into HOF in 1977); and 1929 HOY Blue Larkspur (inducted into HOF in 1957). Equally impressive, his mom’s side has 1966 HOY Buckpasser (inducted into HOF in 1970); 1954 & 19524 HOY Native Dancer (inducted into HOF in 1963) and 1935 HOY Discovery (inducted into HOF in 1969). Wow! Fun fact…his actual birthday is February 19 – Happy Birthday Airoforce! Good luck Airoforce!

BISTRAYA

Bistraya…say hello to the sole California shipper – welcome to New Orleans! He only has one win – but it was a gate-to-wire win on two turns, so this race is a nice spot for him to be in to get some points towards to Kentucky Derby. He’ll be staring from Post 4, and his connections are hoping to place him if not on the lead, then as near to the lead as he can get. It seems that after initially having no luck at figuring out his job, after blinkers were added and he was gelded (ouch!), his trainer said he worked much better-phew! The quality of his family tree includes 1973 TC and 1972 & 1973 HOY Secretariat (inducted into HOF in 1974); 1965 HOY Moccasin; 1964 Canadian HOY (C-HOY) Northern Dancer (inducted into HOF in 1976); 1957 HOY Bold Ruler (inducted into HOF in 1973) on his dad’s side and 1971 HOY Ack Ack (inducted into HOF in 1986); 1937 TC and HOY War Admiral (inducted into HOF in 1958); 1920 HOY Man O’War (inducted into HOF in 1957); 1929 HOY Blue Larkspur (inducted into HOF in 1957); 1907 & 1908 HOY Colin (inducted into HOF in 1956); 1900 & 1901 HOY Commando (inducted into HOF in 1988) and 1893 HOY Domino (inducted into HOF in 1958) on his mom’s side. Wow! He has already faced the likes of Nyquist – finishing fourth in last year’s Best Pal Stakes – fingers crossed for a second career win for him! Good luck Bistraya!

CANDY MY BOY

Candy My Boy…Having no success in his first two starts, he was turned over to a new trainer. Having no success in his next two starts, he was dropped in class to build his confidence. But success changes people – or in this case horses! His next two races proved successful with wins in both and fortunately for him – wins at the Fair Grounds! Blinkers and Lasix were added so expect to see both on Saturday. His trainer has said that “ he loves to train and can run all day”…someone please tell him he only needs to run 1 1/6th of a mile – no need to run all day! Some familiar names run in his family! Mom and Dad both have 1937 TC and HOY War Admiral (inducted into HOF in 1958) and 1920 HOY Man O’War (inducted into HOF in 1957). Mom has 1971 HOY Ack Ack (inducted into HOF in 1986); 1973 TC and 1972 & 1973 HOY Secretariat (inducted into HOF in 1974); 1957 HOY Bold Ruler (inducted into HOF in 1973); and 1893 HOY Domino (inducted into HOF in 1955). Dad’s side has 1955 HOY Nashua (inducted into HOF in 1965); 1954 & 19524 HOY Native Dancer (inducted into HOF in 1963); 1943 TC and HOY Count Fleet (inducted into HOF in 1961); 1929 HOY Blue Larkspur (inducted into HOF in 1957); 1928 HOY Reight Count (inducted into HOF in 1978) and 1900 & 1901 HOY Commando (inducted into HOF in 1988). Wow! He clearly likes the Fair Grounds track and seems to be getting better as he goes! Good luck Candy My Boy!

FOREVAMO

Forevamo…This horse broke his maiden in his third start which is his only win to date. Nothing wrong with only winning one race, but he will need to step up against this field if he wants to stay on the Derby trail. From what I can tell, he settles into a stalking position then waits for the big move as he approaches the top of the stretch. His lone win was on a sloppy track and that would be great if it rains on Louisiana on Saturday. Sadly, the weather forecast calls falls a mostly sunny days with temps in the low 70’s…you’re welcome for the weather report! The three two family ties both top and bottom share are 1957 HOY Bold Ruler (inducted into HOF in 1973); 1935 HOY Discovery (inducted into HOF in 1969) and 1929 HOY Blue Larkspur (inducted into HOF in 1957). Top side has 1964 Canadian HOY (C-HOY) Northern Dancer (inducted into HOF in 1976); 1955 HOY Nashua (inducted into HOF in 1965) and 1920 HOY Man O’War (inducted into HOF in 1957). Bottom side has 1977 Triple Crown (TC) and 1977 TC and 1977 HOY Seattle Slew (inducted into HOF in 1981); 1968 HOY Dr. Fager (inducted into HOF in 1971); 1967 HOY Damascus (inducted into HOF in 1974); 1900 & 1901 HOY Commando (inducted into HOF in 1988) and 1893 HOY Domino (inducted into HOF in 1955). Wow! Fun fact…he named after Maurice Benoit, who went by the nickname Mo! Good luck Forevamo!

GUN RUNNER

Gun Runner…So far so good for Gun Runner. He will be making his Fair Grounds debut and have the services of leading rider Florent Geroux to help him cross the wire first on Saturday afternoon. He has 2 wins of his three starts and his trainer thinks “he always does a great job” and “has a lot of talent”. Well, I should hope the trainer would think that! He may sit slightly off the lead, but he can make a move when asked and has won under a hand ride! Same cast of characters throughout his family tree. 1968 HOY Dr. Fager (inducted into HOF in 1971); 1937 TC and HOY War Admiral (inducted into HOF in 1958); 1920 HOY Man O’War (inducted into HOF in 1957) and 1893 HOY Domino (inducted into HOF in 1955) are found on both sides of the family. Mom has 1973 and 1972 & 1973 HOY Secretariat (inducted into HOF in 1974); 1964 Canadian HOY (C-HOY) Northern Dancer (inducted into HOF in 1976) and 1957 HOY Bold Ruler (inducted into HOF in 1973). Dad’s side has 1955 HOY Nashua (inducted into HOF in 1965); 1943 TC and HOY Count Fleet (inducted into HOF in 1961); 1929 HOY Blue Larkspur (inducted into HOF in 1957); 1900 & 1901 HOY Commando (inducted into HOF in 1988); 1928 HOY Reight Count (inducted into HOF in 1978) and 1887 HOY Hanover (inducted into HOF in 1955). Wow! The public seems to have high hopes for this horse so look to see him in the money! Good luck Gun Runner!

IN EQUALITY

In Equality…Let’s hope for this guy that the start of his race is not as auspicious as the start of the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic for his father! And speaking of starting, here’s our railbird for the race! This is his first start outside of New York and as with many of his cohorts, points would be nice! So far he seems to like to run from behind and he might thrive with the long stretches at the Fair Grounds! He has been in New Orleans since early February and his trainer decided to bring him down to see how well he would fit on the dirt. His last effort proved he can hit the board in a stakes race, but his pedigree seems more suited for turf racing. And speaking of pedigree, Mom and Dad both have 1964 Canadian HOY (C-HOY) Northern Dancer (inducted into HOF in 1976) and 1957 HOY Bold Ruler (inducted into HOF in 1973). Dads’ side also has 1973 TC and 1972 & 1973 HOY Secretariat (inducted into HOF in 1974) and 1920 HOY Man O’War (inducted into HOF in 1957). Wow! For those who are looking at him, let’s hope his post position number is the same number as his finish! Good luck In Equality!

IT’S ALL RELEVANT

It’s All Relevant…Expect speed from this horse as it’s a Who’s Who in this family tree! Mom and Dad both have 1937 TC and HOY War Admiral (inducted into HOF in 1958); 1929 HOY Blue Larkspur (inducted into HOF in 1957) and 1920 HOY Man O’War (inducted into HOF in 1957). Dad also has 1964 C-HOY Northern Dancer (inducted into HOF in 1976). Racing royalty on Mom’s side includes 1992 HOY AP Indy (inducted into HOF in 2000); 1977 Triple Crown (TC) and 1977 HOY Seattle Slew (inducted into HOF in 1981); 1973 and 1972 & 1973 HOY Secretariat (inducted into HOF in 1974); 1966 HOY Buckpasser (inducted into HOF in 1970); 1957 HOY Bold Ruler (inducted into HOF in 1973); 1953 HOY Tom Fool (inducted into HOF in 1960); 1932 & 1933 HOY Equipoise (inducted into HOF in 1957) and 1893 HOY Domino (inducted into HOF in 1955). Wow! Not sure how this will set up for him as this does not seem the place for his style of running. That being said, the last time he ran this distance, in his second race last August he did come in second…second here is worth 20 points! He is coming off his first win, so congrats to him, however that was at one mile…this race is longer so fingers crossed he can harness some of that speed for the end. Good luck Its All Relevant!

MO TOM

Mo Tom…This race can be considered a re-match with this horse and Airforce and a re-match with Tom’s Ready – way to make friends, am I right? Already a winner of two stakes races, Mo Tom will be making his start from post position two. Hopefully this will allow him to sit back during the race and wait for an opportunity to make a late run. I guess that part depends on how the race unfolds at the start. His trainer said that this horse looks like he is “finally filling out”…nice to know since he is a May foal. Sire’s line includes 1955 HOY Nashua (inducted into HOF in 1965); 1943 TC and HOY Count Fleet (inducted into HOF in 1961); 1929 HOY Blue Larkspur (inducted into HOF in 1957) and 1928 HOY Reight Count (inducted into HOF in 1978). Dam’s line includes 1968 HOY Dr. Fager (inducted into HOF in 1971); 1935 HOY Discovery (inducted into HOF 1969) and 1932 & 1933 HOY Equipoise (inducted into HOF in 1957). Both sides have 1964 C-HOY Northern Dancer (inducted into HOF in 1976) and 1920 HOY Man O’War (inducted into HOF in 1957). Wow! Fun fact…his owner is the wife of the owner of the New Orleans Saints, Tom Benson! Just a guess, but I think that’s how he got his name! He is locally trained and locally owned…hmm, let me think let me think…who does that sound like? What race is this again? Good luck Mo Tom!

TOM’S READY

Tom’s Ready…This horse is making his eighth start…he wins the contest for most starts!!! He hasn’t won since last September and it’s not for lack of effort or for lack of travelling! There are a lot of familiar faces in this races and ironically his closest rival shares his name (like literally, see the fun fact!) He has been training like the class horse he is so it’s time to step up his game…let’s hope he’s “ready”! Speaking of class, here’s the pedigree lesson! Sire line includes 1964 C-HOY Northern Dancer (inducted into HOF in 1976) and 1966 HOY Buckpasser (inducted into HOF in 1970). Dam line consists of 1971 HOY Ack Ack (inducted into HOF in 1986; 1937 TC and HOY War Admiral (inducted into HOF in 1958); 1920 HOY Man O’War (inducted into HOF in 1957; 1907 & 1908 HOY Colin (inducted into HOF in 1956); 1900 & 1901 HOY Commando (inducted into HOF in 1988) and 1893 HOY Domino (inducted into HOF in 1955). Wow! Fun fact #1…his stablemate is Greenpointcrusader…nice to have talented friends! Fun fact #2…he is owned by the same owner as Mo Tom…I wonder how he got his name? Good luck Tom’s Ready!

UNCLE WALTER

Uncle Walter…Uncle Walter won his debut last October and has not won since. He was beaten by two horses named Tom in his last race, but is slowly improving and though those same two are here again, he got the two-turn experience he needed and is ready! He is owned and trained by the same owners and trainer of last year’s winner of the Risen Star Stakes…no pressure or anything! Family lines consist of 1954 & 19524 HOY Native Dancer (inducted into HOF in 1963); 1900 & 1901 HOY Commando (inducted into HOF in 1988) and 1893 HOY Domino (inducted into HOF in 1955) on both sides. Top side has 1964 C-HOY Northern Dancer (inducted into HOF in 1976) and 1935 HOY Discovery (inducted into HOF in 1969). Bottom side also has 1929 HOY Blue Larkspur (inducted into HOF in 1957) and 1920 HOY Man O’War (inducted into HOF in 1957). Wow! Fun fact – his flight to Louisiana includes 2015 Risen Star Stakes winner International Star (who himself is running in the Mineshaft Handicap (GIII) earlier on the card) – and co-entrant Airoforce – maybe he can get some advice on how to win this race? Good luck Uncle Walter!

ZAPPERINI

Zapperini…Making his third start off of his first win, this horse is taking a big step up in class! He is currently one of the longshots in the race, but no need to discount him! He lost by a neck in his debut after a wide trip and a bumpy race – but he came out of it no worse for the wear and his trainer said he doesn’t get tired – good to know as he takes on this field. He won his next race and so here he is! His stamina is helped by his lineage. Both sides have 1964 C-HOY Northern Dancer (inducted into HOF in 1976); 1954 & 19524 HOY Native Dancer (inducted into HOF in 1963) and 1935 HOY Discovery (inducted into HOF in 1969). Dad also has 1893 HOY Domino (inducted into HOF in 1955) while mom has 1958 HOY Round Table (inducted into HOF in 1972); 1955 HOY Nashua (inducted into HOF in 1965); 1935 HOY Blue Larkspur (inducted into HOF in 1957) and 1920 HOY Man O’War (inducted into HOF in 1957). Wow! He owners want to give him a shot at this race…nothing wrong in looking for Derby points…plus, he is a beautiful horse…I’m just sayin’! Good luck Zapperini!

I have no more words except for the next 36! Every horse is special. Any horse can have a good day and any horse can have a bad day. Here’s hoping all of them come home safely. Have fun!

Safe trip to all and good luck!

2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic Race Analysis

Who do you like? Who do you want? Walk around your hometown track and listen. That question will be answered by all types of handicappers; little kids will say, “I want the one with the funny name!”; teenage girls will say, “I want the one with the pretty silks”; young men will say, “I want the one who will make me the most money” and a grizzled track veteran, who sits religiously with one eye on the form and the other on the screens, will take it a step further and tell you all the reasons why or why not he does or does not want a particular horse. All are valid reasons to pick a horse and at one time or another, all their picks have crossed the finish line first! Horse racing is supposed to be fun! Supposed to be exciting! Supposed to break your heart! Supposed to empty your wagering pot! Come on – what’s not to love?

Handicapping is just a not-so-fancy word for “Who do I like?” or “Who do I want?” or “Who am I going to bet on?” Yes I realize that there are entire industries and tournaments based on this, but at the end of the day, the little girl who picks the horse in the race with the funny name or someone who picks a horse to bet on out of a hat have just as much of a chance of winning as anyone! Handicapping can be simple (I want the gray!) or more of a challenge (After reviewing all the starts, workouts, past performances, pedigree, distance, I want the gray!) – a winner can be had either way – it all depends on what you want the outcome to be. Do you want bragging rights that you picked the winning horse? Do you want to wager big and win big? It doesn’t have to be one or the other, it can be a mixture of both!

The Breeders’ Cup Classic (BCC) is run at a distance of 1 ¼ miles on the dirt. The winner gets the tidy sum of $5,000,000.00, a trophy cast from the original Torrie horse sculpture at the University of Edinburgh and a vibrant blanket of orchids and asters. The Classic is thought by many to be the premier horse race in North America (I wonder if Louisville would agree with that?) and the winner of this oval journey is usually spoken about in terms of front-runner for Horse of the Year (HOY) honors. This year is the first time the Breeders’ Cup is being hosted at Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington KY, a gorgeous track hosting what will certainly be a spectacular day of racing! The venue rotates between tracks throughout the US (except for 1996 at Woodbine when Alphabet Soup beat Cigar (I hear the call in my head as I write this). Fun fact, Alphabet Soup just retired to Old Friends in Georgetown, KY this past Monday. He may want to tip his halter at the grave of 1991 BCC winner Black Tie Affair before reminding all the other BC winners and entrants there that he won the Classic!). The carried weight varies as this race is open to 3-year-olds-and-up, boys and girls are welcome!

Due to the incredibly high quality of equine athletes in the field, handicappers busy themselves all year with this race somewhere in the backs of their minds. Articles are written, blogs are posted, talking heads are talking, so here’s what I’m thinking.

AMERICAN PHAROAH

American Pharoah…there will be more words written about him over the course of his lifetime and beyond than all of his competitors put together (just a hunch, but I think it’s a good one!). American horse racing’s 12th Triple Crown (TC) winner! It’s hard to go against a horse that is in such a select fraternity, they would only fit on the face of a clock – just one clock! While I certainly can appreciate that he is horse racing’s national hero, he is up against competition the likes of which he hasn’t fully seen yet. Some say he had an easy (or easier) Triple Crown season. Well, he still won all three so he’s got that going for him (I know you’re all thinking, “which is nice”). He can handle different tracks, different weather conditions and different challengers. His weakness (what some might say was his only weakness) was on full display when Frosted stuck to him like tape on a cat’s paw in the Travers. His effort for finally shaking Frosted off was not rewarded when Keen Ice ran past him. (For all you Pharoah phans, think back to his first race. He came in 5th behind Om, Iron Fist, One Lucky Dane and Calculator…so I guess he should have looked mighty surprised to see the behind of a horse (Keen Ice) after being in front of them for almost an entire year!). I wonder if he’s tired too? He has gone back and forth and back on forth and back and forth (and a few more back-and-fourths!) the country all year. I know his trainer and owners say he is just a really sweet and mellow horse to be around, but all that travel at some point has got to take its toll on him. As for his pedigree, his sire’s side has 1990 BCC winner Unbridled; while both sire and dam both have 1973 TC and 1972 & 1973 HOY Secretariat (inducted into American Hall Of Fame (HOF) in 1974); 1964 Canadian Horse of the Year Northern Dancer (inducted into HOF in 1976); 1958 Canadian HOY Nearctic (inducted into Canadian HOF in 1977); 1954 HOY Native Dancer (inducted into HOF in 1963); 1929 HOY Blue Larkspur (inducted into HOF in 1957) and 1935 HOY Discovery (inducted into HOF in 1969)… This will be the final start of his career so all of his phans are hoping this race is the icing on his carrot cake! If he wins, the media has started the “Grand Slam” thing, (I like “Quadruple Crown”!) well I guess if baseball and tennis are willing to share it, he will take (or try to take) it! Good luck American Pharoah!

EFFINEX

Effinex…those who have seen this horse race say he is all heart, and boy is he going to need every bit of every bit of it if he wants to shake things up on Saturday! First, let’s start with the fact that he has already won at this distance (twice this year!) and loves a fast pace. He has already beaten Tonalist this year (of course he also lost to Tonalist this year so maybe they’re even?) and I think he will be placed near or with the pacesetters and if he can stay there before the closers get a shot, then he has the chance of his lifetime. As with all horses, he has had a clunker or two, one being the Woodward Stakes where he was acting up behind the gate and probably left his race there and two when he ran over a sloppy track at the Jockey Club Gold Cup (so I’m going to say it was the rain and not a clunker!). He also has HOF jockey Mike Smith in the irons, the winningest rider in BC history. His pedigree consists of 2003 HOY Mineshaft; 1992 HOY and BCC winner AP Indy (inducted into HOF in 2000); 1977 TC and HOY Seattle Slew (inducted into HOF in 1981); 1973 TC and 1972 & 1973 HOY Secretariat (inducted into HOF in 1974); 1964 Canadian HOY Northern Dancer (inducted into HOF in 1976); 1958 Canadian HOY Nearctic (inducted into Canadian HOF in 1977); 1954 HOY Native Dancer (inducted into HOF in 1963); 1955 HOY Nashua (inducted into HOF in 1965); 1937 TC and HOY War Admiral (inducted into HOF in 1958); and 1920 HOY Man O’ War (inducted into HOF in 1957)…phew. Of interest, this horse was named for his breeder’s failed marriage (say it again). Not sure how I feel about that (I guess it could go for either ex), but it got past the Jockey Club so it’s here to stay. I mean, if he wins, that name becomes part of huge racing history. Something to think about I guess. Good luck Effinex!

FROSTED

Frosted…I puffy heart all gray horses…I could literally stare at gray horses all day. But that only helps me so here we go. This horse is not afraid of American Pharoah. He raced him three times this year, and while he couldn’t quite best the 12th TC winner, he showed up. Every. Single Time. He pushed American Pharoah in the Travers (which some say cost not only AP but Frosted the race) and still managed to come back and win a big Pennsylvania Derby three weeks later. I think he will be placed mid-pack, not on the front like the Travers, but who knows? He is starting right next to American Pharoah so everyone will know he’s in the race, hopefully the strategy used will be more effective than the one used on Travers day which ruined the chances for both horses. He uses different tactics each race so we don’t know which Frosted will show up on Halloween. His bloodlines include 1992 HOY and BCC winner AP Indy (inducted into HOF in 2000); 1990 BCC winner Unbridled; 1977 TC and HOY Seattle Slew (inducted into HOF in 1981); 1973 TC and 1972 & 1973 HOY Secretariat (inducted into HOF in 1974); 1970 British HOY Nijinsky; 1966 HOY Buckpasser (inducted into HOF in 1970); 1964 Canadian HOY Northern Dancer (inducted into HOF in 1976); 1958 Canadian HOY Nearctic (inducted into Canadian HOF in 1977); 1954 HOY Native Dancer (inducted into HOF in 1963); and 1920 HOY Man O’ War (inducted into HOF in 1957)…His trainer has said he is a happy horse who never gets tired and who seems to thrive while racing. I think he is sitting on a big race so watch for the approaching thunderstorm of beautiful Frosted. Good luck Frosted!

GLENEAGLES (IRE)

Gleneagles (Ire)…introducing the only European horse contesting this edition of the BCC – welcome to Keeneland! Ok, so let me tell you, when you enter the starting gate, look to your left and you will see yellow and turquoise silks sitting upon the shiniest gift to horse racing this year and the USA’s 12th TC winner, American Pharoah. It’s ok to be slightly intimidated. Look a little farther down that way. The gunmetal bullet next to him wore him down in his last race (neither won that one!) and one step after that is the colt that vanquished our hero and broke the collective hearts of horse racing back in August. Did you follow that? I know you are making your first start on dirt and your first start beyond a mile, but you are in a sport where the great thing is that anything can happen! Weather, timing, history and luck are sprinkled into the race each time the gates open! Ask your friend from France, the 1993 BCC winner Arcangues. His win remains one of the biggest shockers in BC history and with odds of 133-1 that day, you can understand why. If you get a chance, watch the replay of that day with his jockey Jerry Bailey-priceless! I see that your dad Galileo has been the leading sire in Great Britain for 6 of the last 7 years. Your heritage includes some names we in the US recognize like 1973 TC and 1972 & 1973 HOY Secretariat (inducted into HOF in 1974); 1966 HOY Buckpasser (inducted into HOF in 1970); 1964 Canadian HOY Northern Dancer (inducted into HOF in 1976); 1958 Canadian HOY Nearctic (inducted into Canadian HOF in 1977); 1954 HOY Native Dancer (inducted into HOF in 1963); 1935 HOY Discovery (inducted into HOF in 1969); 1929 HOY Blue Larkspur (inducted into HOF in 1957 and 1920 HOY Man O’ War (inducted into HOF in 1957). I’ve looked at your stats too and in reality, you have a pretty good shot at this. I read that you are a “relentless closer”…hmm…just a quick note of caution, you are going to have company back there! Oh and what a win it would be for your trainer. So many attempts and one heartbreaking day in 2007 with George Washington. It’s a good dream to have and it’s nice to know Mr. O’Brien is not afraid to ever take on our US runners. Fun fact for you, if you win, you will become the 4th European horse to win the BCC, behind 1991 winner Black Tie Affair (IRE), 1993 winner Arcangues (FRA) and 2006 winner Invasor (ARG). Good luck Gleneagles!

HARD ACES

Hard Aces…it’s looking like this is one of two longshots in this Classic field. One of the best things he had going for him this year was his jockey was Victor Espinzoa. Unfortunately, Victor will be on a certain red-white-blue King of Egypt who just happened to have won a couple big races this year! Should his new rider choose to ride him on the rails like his Gold Cup win at Santa Anita this summer, he will have a long way to go since Hard Aces is starting from post 8. On paper he does look outclassed for this race, but he won his “Win and You’re In” race so enjoy the party! His trainer has stated that he is a very laid back horse. So laid back that he needs to be asked in the race, that he won’t do anything on his own. Hmmm. With a ton of speed up front, maybe he can get up late and see what happens. His family tree includes 1973 TC and 1972 & 1973 HOY Secretariat (inducted into HOF in 1974); 1968 HOY Dr. Fager (inducted into HOF in 1971); 1964 Canadian HOY Northern Dancer (inducted into HOF in 1976); 1958 Canadian HOY Nearctic (inducted into Canadian HOF in 1977); 1954 HOY Native Dancer (inducted into HOF in 1963); 1943 TC Count Fleet (inducted into HOF in 1961); 1937 TC and HOY War Admiral (inducted into HOF in 1958); 1935 HOY Discovery (inducted into HOF in 1969); and 1920 HOY Man O’ War (inducted into HOF in 1957). The injuries to Shared Belief and California Chrome bolstered his profile and got him to the Keeneland track, so here’s hoping he can take home a souvenir from Kentucky! I’m guessing blackjack players would like this guy! Good luck Hard Aces!

HONOR CODE

Honor Code… I think he is sitting on a big race, and if ever that were a phrase to be tested, running in the BCC would be the right place to do it! Depending on whether or not any horse shoots out of the gate and sets a speedy pace, Honor Code will have to stay closer to the pace than he is comfortable with, which will take away his late kick, or sit back and watch the race unfold from behind the leaders. He’s a deep closer, but two of this three staling trips have come from behind not-so-speedy horses. He is untested at this distance, and depending on how the pace sets up, he may be not have too much company in the stretch. To say I am a big believer in pedigree would be an understatement. Again there are many familiar family faces here with 1992 HOY and BCC winner AP Indy; 1977 TC and 1977 HOY Seattle Slew; 1973 TC and 1972 & 1973 HOY Secretariat (inducted into HOF in 1974); 1966 HOY Buckpasser (inducted into HOF in 1970); 1964 Canadian HOY Northern Dancer (inducted into HOF in 1976); 1958 HOY Round Table; 1958 Canadian HOY Nearctic (inducted into Canadian HOF in 1977); 1955 HOY Nashua (inducted into HOF in 1965); 1954 HOY Native Dancer (inducted into HOF in 1963); and 1953 HOY Tom Fool (inducted into HOF in 1960) all in his lineage. On a sentimental note, Honor Code is from the last crop of his sire 1992 HOY and BCC winner AP Indy. Pensioned in 2011, AP Indy is also the oldest living BCC winner and if Honor Code wins, it will mark only the second time a BCC winner has been sired by a BCC winner (1998 BCC winner Awesome Again sired 2004 BCC winner Ghostzapper). Good luck Honor Code!

KEEN ICE

Keen Ice…say hello to the only horse (so far) that can say he beat the 12th TC winner. In the Travers, you know, the race where he beat American Pharoah, he was up closer to the pace and was able to take advantage of the pressure Frosted was putting on American Pharoah and swoop right on by them both.   Some say he had a dream trip in the Travers, but I think that is taking away from a talented colt who keeps coming and coming and coming. He had a beautiful opportunity and he took it! That’s just part of the game! While I don’t think the race will set up quite the way it did in the Travers, Keen Ice seems to be improving with every race and does not seem to ever get tired. Another closer, if Saturday’s race sets up for early speed, Keen Ice will have the opportunity to sit back and settle and make his big run when he needs it most, although he may have to come home a lot faster than he did in Saratoga. Descended from the likes of 2007 and 2008 HOY and 2007 BCC winner Curlin; 1998 BCC winner Awesome Again; 1964 Canadian HOY Northern Dancer (inducted into HOF in 1976); 1955 HOY Nashua (inducted into HOF in 1965); 1954 HOY Native Dancer (inducted into HOF in 1963); and 1920 HOY Man O’ War (inducted into HOF in 1957), some say Keen Ice is the best bred horse of this field. Loads of stamina comes from his female line. He was tested on his cardio and the results showed that he has more stamina than Curlin himself. Let’s put that in the win column! Fun shared fact with Honor Code (albeit different sires), with 2007 BCC winner Curlin for a sire, if Keen Ice wins, it will mark only the second time a BCC winner has been sired by a BCC winner (1998 BCC winner Awesome Again sired 2004 BCC winner Ghostzapper). Good luck Keen Ice!

SMOOTH ROLLER

Smooth Roller…if you’re looking for a horse to use on your ticket, do not overlook Smooth Roller. Wait, who? Wait, what? Is this the horse who tracked 2014 BCC winner Bayern in the Awesome Again Stakes, made him look slow and showed him who was the boss? Is this the horse with such a slew of health issues that his debut was rolled back until June of this year? In a word, yes. This is that horse. He will be making his fifth career start and that may be asking a lot for a horse with such little experience. I mean, take a look around, he is in extremely elite company. On the biggest day of the year for horse racing fans. Entered in the biggest race of the year for horse racing fans. After winning his first two races, for his third start he unseated his rider before the race, stumbled out of the gate at the start and went five and six wide on both turns. He finished fourth. If the race sets up where Smooth Roller is able to take the lead, he could try and slow the pace down. I think he should sit off the pace and wait to see how the race unfolds. His trainer says he is fit, he is sound and he is improving. Well, ok then. I would be remiss if I did not mention his breeding and the usual suspects appear.  His ancestors include 1990 BCC winner Unbridled; 1973 TC and 1972 & 1973 HOY Secretariat (inducted into HOF in 1974); 1968 HOY Dr. Fager (inducted into HOF in 1971); 1964 Canadian HOY Northern Dancer (inducted into HOF in 1976); 1958 Canadian HOY Nearctic (inducted into Canadian HOF in 1977); 1954 HOY Native Dancer (inducted into HOF in 1963); 1937 TC and HOY war Admiral (inducted into HOF in 1958); 1935 HOY Discovery (inducted into HOF in 1969); 1929 HOY Blue Larkspur (inducted into HOF in 1957); and 1920 HOY Man O’ War (inducted into HOF in 1957). His last work was on October 17 at Santa Anita then he shipped to Keeneland on October 19 and has not had a work since. I guess it was nice that he got to gaze at Beholder on that flight. Good luck Smooth Roller!

TONALIST

Tonalist…he drew the inside post which I don’t particularly like if for no other reason is that he is such a big horse. He needs a little more room coming out of the gate and starting on the rail is not the place to get it. He will have to get him right out of the gate and into a favorable position mid-pack so as not to get stuck in traffic. He may be agile for his size, but he is big! There have been many discussions about blinkers on or blinkers off – a case can be made for both depending on who you talk to. He will not be wearing them as in a recent breeze his jockey thought he was comfortable without them. Never having been on Tonalist myself, I’ll take Johnny V’s word for it! Tonalist’s class and stamina come from incredible ancestors, the likes of which include 1992 BCC winner and HOY AP Indy; 1990 BCC winner Unbridled; 1977 TC and HOF Seattle Slew (inducted into HOF in 1977) 1973 TC and 1972 & 1973 HOY Secretariat (inducted into HOF in 1974); 1966 HOY Buckpasser; 1964 Canadian HOY Northern Dancer (inducted into HOF in 1976); 1958 HOY Round Table; 1954 HOY Native Dancer (inducted into HOF in 1963); 1955 HOY Nashua (inducted into HOF in 1965); 1953 HOY Tom Fool and 1943 TC and HOY Count Fleet. People around this horse all seem to love him. With an easy temperament not usually found in thoroughbreds, it is no wonder he exudes professionalism on the track and has been nothing short of a perfect gentleman while in training. Oh in case the name sounds familiar, Tonalist is the horse who denied California Chrome the TC in the 2014 Belmont Stakes. Yep, this is that guy…wearing blinkers too! Good luck Tonalist.

I have no more words except for the next 36! Every horse is special. Any horse can have a good day and any horse can have a bad day. Here’s hoping all of them come home safely. Have fun!

Safe trip to all and good luck!

Travers Day – Saturday, August 29th

A fantastic card on hand with the featured race “Travers Stakes” where all eyes will be on the Triple Crown winner, American Pharoah. It’s a full day of racing action with several stakes races on the card as well. The Travers Stakes dates back to 1864, and it’s the oldest major thoroughbred race in America and the biggest event at Saratoga Springs.

Here’s a look at all the featured races on the card;

  • The Travers (G1) $1,250,000 — 146th running of the Mid-Summer Derby for 3-year-olds
    • Note: The purse will be increased to $1,600,000 if American Pharoah runs
  • Sword Dancer Invitational (G1) $1,000,000
  • Personal Ensign (G1) $750,000
  • Forego (G1) $700,000
  • King’s Bishop (G1) $500,000
  • The Ballerina (G1) $500,000
  • Ballston Spa (G2) $400,000

2015 Travers Stakes Draw – provided by Saratoga RACE COURSE

This information is current as of 8/26/15

Position Horse Odds Jockey
1 Upstart 15-1 Irad Ortiz, Jr.
2 American Pharoah 1-5 Victor Espinoza
3 Mid Ocean 50-1 Manny Franco
4 Texas Red 8-1 Kent Desormeaux
5 Frammento 30-1 Jose Ortiz
6 Frosted 6-1 Joel Rosario
7 Keen Ice 12-1 Javier Castellano
8 Tale of Verve 30-1 Gary Stevens
9 King of New York 50-1 Julien Leparoux
10 Smart Transition 20-1 John Velazquez

In addition to this spectacular day of racing at Saratoga Springs, racing fans can watch the races live on NBC 4PM-6PM EDT.

The Winners Wire will be running a Across the Board (ATB) contest for races 1 thru 12. To learn more, visit our Travers Day Buy In Rules.

American Pharoah Wins Triple Crown

American Pharoah led wire to wire to win the Belmont Stakes by 5 1/2 lengths on Saturday, becoming the first horse since 1978 to win all three races – Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes.

“Wow! Wow!” jockey Victor Espinoza said moments after crossing the finish line. “I can only tell you it is just an amazing thing.”

Congrats to American Pharoah and his connections!

This day will go in the history books! About time!

American Pharoah Will Win the Triple Crown

Out of the gate he is fluid, strong and runs like the wind, even Mother Nature couldn’t upset the applecart at the Preakness. There’s so much speculation that AP will lose at the Belmont Stakes because many handicappers don’t believe we will ever have another Triple Crown winner. I am not one of those handicappers.

preakness-american-pharoah
Victor Espinoza aboard American Pharoah looking back.

Hammerin Hank is picking the upset, but this guy couldn’t pick his own ass let alone the last leg of the Triple Crown. David Papadopoulos from Bloomberg is also picking the upset with Materiality. I read that science predicts American Pharoah will not win the Triple Crown. I didn’t know science can predict the outcome of the start from the gate, the bumping, the track condition, etc. It must be some mad scientists that lost a big wager once. Good luck!

There’s so many article’s making the assumption that American Pharoah will fall like the 23 before him who won the first two legs of the Triple Crown. This colt is a superstar, he launched from post 18 in the Kentucky Derby and won, and he came back and ran in the slop at the Preakness and won by 7 going easily. They say he may not handle Belmont’s deep sandy surface. This colt can run at Jones Beach and win, you kidding me?

There are two colts in my opinion that had a chance to upset AP and both are not running in the Belmont and that’s Dortmund and Firing Line.

What else does this horse need to prove? Oh, the Triple Crown! And that he will!

Good luck to Victor Espinoza and rest of the connections and safe trip American Pharoah. No matter what, it will be a spectacular 2 minutes in horse racing!

Preakness Stakes 2015 Predictions

American Pharoah cruised to victory in the Kentucky Derby and will head to Pimlico for the Preakness Stakes, the 2nd leg of the Triple Crown. It’s been 37 years since Affirmed won the Triple Crown. and in that 37 year span, 13 horses have won the first two legs of the Triple Crown, but all 13 failed to win the Belmont Stakes. Jockey Victor Espinoza gets a second chance after winning the first two legs with California Chrome in 2014.

The field for the Preakness will only include 8 horses, one of the shortest fields since 1986. Trainer Todd Pletcher said Tuesday he will not enter any of the four horses he was considering for Saturday’s Preakness at Pimlico Race Course. Full Story

My Selections for the entire card and my wagers for the Preakness

Races 1 through 14

8 Finnegan – 2nd place first time out
3 Stolen Love – Throw out last should be hard to catch
6 Mack the Knife – Showing improvement, good spot
3 Bluegrass Singer – Has back class and speed
4 Happy My Way – Speedster here, gets it done
7 LuLu Island – Easy winner here last time
6 Donworth – 3rd in G3 last time out
3 Lunar Rock – 2 for 5 gets 3rd win in 15
4 Cat’s Claw – Speed and will be stalking
9 Holy Boss – Could boss these, won last two outings
2 Ageless – Excellent speed noses out #5
13 War Correspondent – Beat the best here and repeats
8 Firing Line – Gets it done this time
2 Old Upstart – Sharp last time out

Preakness wagers
$20 Win #8 Firing Line
$10 Exacta 8-4, 8-2
$2 Cold Trifecta 8-4-1, 8-4-2

Saturday, May 16: Preakness Stakes coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and moves to NBC at 5 p.m. ET
Preakness Stakes post time: 6:18 p.m. ET

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