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Known as the “Test of Champions”, the Belmont Stakes is the longest of the three Triple Crown races, run at a distance of 1 ½ miles since 1926. The purse is a cool $1,500,000.00 and the winner receives the Tiffany-created August Belmont Trophy to keep for one year (the owner, trainer and jockey also receive a silver platter and miniature August Belmont Memorial Cup to keep permanently). Representing love and luck, the actual runner, aka the winning horse, is draped in a beautiful blanket of 400 white carnations. Fun note, a second, matching blanket is made every year to drape over the statue of Secretariat in the Belmont paddock!
Big Sandy awaits an almost full field of equine athletes on Saturday for the final leg of the Triple Crown. While no horse stands on the threshold of Triple Crown history this year, thirteen horses will enter the starting gate in Elmont, NY for a chance to win this years’ running of the Belmont Stakes. As with each race, each horse brings their own strength and power to the table – or should I say to the stable? History will be made by a newcomer to the Triple Crown trail (there are four new starters); by a current classic winner looking to make it 2-for-3 of the 2016 Triple Crown season; by a maiden looking to secure his first ever victory; by a gorgeous gray horse (there will be five of them on the track!) or by a horse whose jockey will be looking to win a third Belmont Stakes – wow!
1869 Belmont Stakes winner Fenian stands atop of the Belmont trophy – go grab a Belmont Jewel (the official drink of the Belmont Stakes, previously the Belmont Breeze (delicious!) and before that, the White Carnation) and let’s meet the baker’s dozen hoping to take that trophy home! Now on to the Running of the 148th Belmont Stakes – Race Analysis
GOVERNOR MALIBU…Say hello to the first newcomer to the 2016 Triple Crown series! Governor Malibu is blessed with the same connections who won here in 2014 with Tonalist and has finished first, second or third in all of his races. He is improving at the right time, has already raced over the Belmont surface three times and is ready and rested for this race. Starting from post position one may not be much of a problem – the Belmont is a race where stamina in the horse is key and patience and experience in the jockey is key – both have to be ready for the long stretches of the track. He won’t break away from the field at the start and won’t be making a strong kick at the end to fly by the field – look for him to be grinding away at the pack throughout the race! Fun fact…Governor Malibu boasts a pedigree filled with 17 Belmont Stakes winners – no pressure! Good luck Governor Malibu!
DESTIN…♥I love gray horses♥! He used up a ton of energy to get into position in the Derby and then fell flat before finishing 6th in Louisville. Since then, he has been resting and gaining weight. It took Destin a while to figure out what he was supposed to be and what he was supposed to be doing. He possessed all the tools to be at the top of his class, but a mix of strength, athleticism and a stubborn streak had his connections wringing their hands waiting for his mind to catch up to his ability! Blinkers on and plain old time to let him mature – voilà, here’s our professional racehorse! He has class and stamina throughout his pedigree so it’s just a wait-and-see on whether this deep closer can hold a stalking position long enough to be a factor on Saturday afternoon! Fun fact… Destin’s great-great-great maternal grandmother is Shenanigans, dam of the 1976 Hall of Fame filly Ruffian! Good luck Destin!
CHERRY WINE…♥Amo cavalli grigi♥! If little to no pace materializes, look for Cherry Wine to be on the lead and not nearly as far back as he was in the Preakness. That being said, this horse has a late kick that propelled him into 2nd place in the Preakness (over Derby winner Nyquist!) and if there had just been a little more track…who knows! But look, there will be more track in New York so…who knows? His trainer (same trainer as Brody’s Cause) has said, “Cherry Wine will run on concrete, he’ll run on mud, it doesn’t matter, a good horse will run on anything”, I like that kind of confidence in a horse! Fun fact…Cherry Wine’s maternal grandfather is Prized, the first horse ever to win two separate million dollar races over two different surfaces in a single season (1989 Molson Million (dirt that year) and 1989 Breeders’ Cup Turf [his first race ever on the turf!])! Good luck Cherry Wine!
SUDDENBREAKINGNEWS…With his long stride and powerful closing form, this third leg of the Triple Crown looks to be a great fit for Suddenbreakingnews. After finishing 5th in the Derby, he took some time off and is now ready to roll. (Although during that time he was found to still be a “horse” and not a “gelding” and is now considered a “ridgling”…for all you males out there-snip snip!). Anyway, here is another horse with a stamina-loaded family tree who should relish the distance of Big Sandy. Without as much speed in the race as in the Derby, Suddenbreakingnews will be looking to secure his first Grade I win! To that end, he gets a new rider in Zenyatta’s Mike Smith. A calm, consistent horse who has never finished worse than fifth, Suddenbreakingnews will be looking to make headlines for this last leg of the 2016 Triple Crown. Fun fact…Suddenbreakingnews has four Triple Crown winners in his pedigree – it must be nice being related to royalty! Good luck Suddenbreakingnews!
STRADIVARI…In his stakes debut, Stradivari finished 4th in the Preakness. Making only his fifth lifetime start, Stradivari is the second betting choice to take home the carnations on Belmont day! My guess is distance will not be problem for him so of course this race will be a good fit for him. As with Cherry Wine, with a little more track in Maryland, well who knows? Don’t look for him to be the pacesetter here. He usually wins from a stalking position, so he will need to settle down, relax and gallop along – good thing he is a calm horse (handed down from his mom) until he’s ready and asked to close! Fun fact, Stradivari was named for a $15.9 million violin made by Italian Anotonio Stradivari! Another fun fact, Stradivari has the services of the same jockey and trainer who won the Belmont with Rags to Riches (You Go Girl!) in 2007! Good luck Stradivari!
GETTYSBURG…♥J’aime les chevaux gris♥! Another newcomer to the Triple Crown trail, watch for Gettysburg to be the speed of the race. Some say he was entered to be the actual pace in the race and to set up the race for other closers. This is known as entering a horse to be a “rabbit” (from DRF, a rabbit is “A horse that is considered to have little chance of winning a race but is entered purely to ensure a fast pace and tire out the other front-runners, softening up the competition for the benefit of an entrymate”. Well, sometimes that works (Bold Nero in 1957 for Belmont winner Gallant Man) and sometimes that doesn’t (1919 Triple Crown winner Sir Barton was supposed to be the pace for stablemate Billy Kelly). Since Gettysburg is owned by the same owner as Creator, I guess we know who they are talking about! Fun fact…Gettysburg shares the same sire as 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah! Good luck Gettysburg!
SEEKING THE SOUL…A third newcomer to the Triple Crown trail, Seeking the Soul will start from right in the middle of the group in post seven! He will be making just his fourth lifetime start after breaking his maiden on May 29 – just like stablemate Forever D’Oro! I think his pedigree will be the most help to him as it is full of stamina – again what is needed to face the Belmont oval. His trainer has said “He’s a real tough individual. He loves to train”, so that is duly noted. Fun fact…his great grandmother on his mothers’ side is Personal Ensign, the only mare ever to start a streak of 3 generations of Breeders’ Cup winners through herself and her two daughters – she won the 1988 BC Distaff, her daughter My Flag won the 1995 BC Juvenile Fillies and her granddaughter (through My Flag) Storm Flag Flying won the 2002 BC Juvenile Fillies! Another fun fact…Seeking the Soul has the great Noor in his family tree nine generations back on his dams’ side…Noor is buried at Old Friends in Georgetown, KY, the gentlest place on earth! Good luck Seeking the Soul!
FOREVER D’ORO…The fourth newcomer to the 2016 Classic Series, Forever D’Oro is owned by the same owner and trained by the same trainer as Seeking the Soul. He broke his maiden on May 29, will be starting from post eight and will also be making his fourth lifetime start – it’s like he and Seeking the Soul are twins! He has not done much since his win in late May and his trainer just wants “a healthy and fit horse”– well I certainly hope so! The owners’ silks have a diamond on them – he must be hoping for the chance to take home some other shiny token on Saturday! Fun fact…Forever D’Oro’s maternal grandfather is 1999 Belmont Stakes winner Lemon Drop Kid – Triple Crown spoiler that year for Charismatic! Good luck Forever D’Oro!
TROJAN NATION…Trojan Nation is still a maiden and I guess that if starting the Kentucky Derby as a maiden doesn’t scare you, why should anything else, right? I mean, as Hockey Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky is frequently quoted as saying, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”, so keep on trying! Look at Zippy Chippy! Wait, he never won and that’s not what you’re in New York for! Trojan Nation has run in New York and came in second in the Wood Memorial – that was at Aqueduct and this is at Belmont but New York is New York! Trojan Nation will have the company of many other closers in this race so he will have to figure things out and quick – he’ll be afforded the gift of more track and time, but it’ll be over in about two-and-a-half minutes so start strategizing now! Fun fact…Trojan Nation is named for the alma mater of the late father of one of the owners – the University of Southern California! Good luck Trojan Nation!
LANI……♥私は灰色の馬を愛します♥! It’s kismet that has Lani starting next to the only other horse in the race who also raced in Kentucky and Maryland – good times! He finished 9th in the Derby and 5th in the Preakness so maybe for this race he’ll hit the board? His trainer has said that due to the Belmont’s distance, field size and slower pace, that “this race might be the most credible for him”. Apparently he has been mostly behaving himself in New York, but he seems to only like being around people and not other horses…hmm, does he know he’s a horse? He has acquired two nicknames as souvenirs – Looney Lani and the Bad Boy of Belmont! My guess is this will be (ok may be) the last time he and Exaggerator meet – Lani lives in Japan and although I’m quite sure his travels of the Bluegrass State, the Old Line State and the Empire State have all been fantastic (minus the whole not winning thing in the first two), his connections may be ready to head home! Fun fact, Lani is the only Japanese-bred horse to ever run in all three legs of the Triple Crown! Another fun fact, Lani is the Hawaiian word for “Heaven”! Good luck Lani!
EXAGGERATOR…After winning the Preakness three weeks ago and with the defection of Derby winner Nyquist from the Belmont, it is not surprising that Exaggerator if the favorite for the Belmont! It seems all systems are go for Exaggerator with his trainer stating that he has been “calm and confident” since the Preakness – a win which pushed his earnings over $2 million – making him the earnings leader of this field! With only a 20 percent chance of rain for Saturday, Exaggerator may not get the sloppy track he so clearly loves, but with his speed and class, maybe he will quiet any naysayers he has left! Fun fact…if Exaggerator wins, he will stand in line with Belmont Stakes winners Afleet Alex (2005), Point Given (2001), Tabasco Cat (1994), Hansel (1991), Risen Star (1988), Little Current (1974), Damascus (1967); Nashua (1955), Native Dancer (1953), Capot (1949) and Bimelech (1940) as the horse who raced in all three of his Triple Crown races and won the final two legs! Good luck Exaggerator!
BRODY’S CAUSE…After resting the past five weeks, Brody’s Cause is back after finishing 7th in the Derby. His trainer has said that the time off “should do him some good” and that he has been training him to go the mile-and-a-half distance specifically for this race! He will be starting next to Exaggerator – maybe they can discuss how back in October 2015 Brody’s Cause beat Exaggerator in the Breeders’ Futurity? Well it’s just a thought. Depending on how the race sets up, this deep closer may have to be closer to the lead that he is used to – he may not like that since he is starting from post twelve and will have to maneuver his way to get to the lead, face those long Belmont stretches and then close the field – phew – it’s tiring thinking about it! Fun fact, Brody’s Cause was born on St. Patrick’s Day! Good luck Brody’s Cause!
CREATOR…♥Amo caballos grises♥! Creator will be getting a new jockey for the Belmont and he will be starting from way out in post position thirteen – well this should be all kinds of fun for him! Add in a new track and new distance and this could be an interesting race for Creator. His rally in the Kentucky Derby was stopped by a ton of traffic (well there were 20 horses in the race!) and he placed a respectable 13th that day. With fewer horses, a longer distance and his stamina-rich pedigree, this race looks to suit him just fine. His jockey will have to figure out early how to run the beginning of the race since he starts from so far outside , but as I said in my Derby analysis, “He has shown that he can adapt to whatever race sets up for him – he can rally inside, rally outside, come between horses and continues to act as if he’s just waiting for the next race put in front of him” – well Creator this is your next race – no go out there and take it! Fun fact…Creator was named by WinStar Farms CEO, Elliot Walden after God – really? That’s a lot to put on a horse’s withers! Good luck Creator!
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!
We’ll start with the basics. The Kentucky Derby has been run every year without fail since 1875. Purses and distances have changed over the years but now are set at $2 million for the former and 1 ¼ miles for the latter. The race is limited to three-year-old horses, males and females are welcome and this is considered the first leg of the Triple Crown (TC) of horse racing (Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes are the second and third in the season). A series of prep races are run in the spring of each year so all potential runners can earn points towards the Derby starting gate, with the top 20 gaining entry. The race is run at Churchill Downs racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky on the first Saturday in May, rain or shine! Before the race, the University of Louisville Marching Band plays the horses onto the track with a rousing rendition of “My Old Kentucky Home”, and all attendees are expected to join in and sing-a-long! Along with the flowers, the small fortune and the trophy made by Cartier, the winner also gets a most revered place in horse racing history…to say he won the Kentucky Derby!
Now, unless you choose your Derby horse by picking a name out of a fabulous Derby hat or picking a name out of a stellar line-up of often funny, cute or meaningful names, you will no doubt spend more time reading about the Derby horses and deciding who to bet on than it takes to actually run the “most exciting two minutes in sports”! If this was the 18th “Run for the Roses” in 1892, you possibly could read every article on the horses in the race since only three entered the gate on May 11th of that year – Congrats to Azra! (that does not include the 31st Kentucky Derby in 1905 which would have had a field of five but for two late scratches, and only a field of three, but should have been five – Congrats to Agile!). This post will not be that short since there is a full field of 20 chosen thoroughbreds brought together in competition, sheer will and lots of luck. Whose withers will carry the blanket of roses? Whose nose will be touched with the greatest good luck kiss shared by 141 others? Whose feet will be sprinkled with the speed to cross the finish line first? Whose tail will the Derby gods brush into history? Whose destiny will be wrapped in the arms of the Goddess Tyche? Go grab a mint julep (the official Derby drink!) and let’s meet our equine entrants!
GUN RUNNER…Sitting atop the leaderboard with 151 points is Gun Runner. With four wins in five lifetime starts, it’s not surprising he is also sitting pretty on a bank of over $1.6 million! Coming off a six-week layoff, he should be well rested for this distance. His pedigree suggests he should get the distance, but as a stalker in the race, he will have to stay near the pace-setter (s) without getting into trouble and stay with the field the whole time. There are a lot of strong closers in this field so he cannot lose ground or speed anywhere in the race. His maiden win came on the Churchill track last September…interestingly, his lone loss came on the Churchill track last November – I guess we’ll see how that win-loss ratio at Churchill is broken this Saturday! His trainer said he’s getting better with each race – hopefully that amounts to his best race yet! Fun fact…his trainer was just elected into the Racing Hall of Fame! Good luck Gun Runner!
NYQUIST…Unbeaten in seven lifetime starts, Nyquist became the de-facto favorite for the Derby when he came home first last October in the Breeders’ Cup (BC) Juvenile. Installed as the current favorite, he will be starting from post 13 – how lucky can he make that number be? Since the last three Derby winners were also sent off as the favorite, this bodes well. But since the only horse to win the BC Juvenile and then go on to win the Derby was Street Sense back in 2007, that bodes not-so-well. He clearly is the most accomplished horse in the field with six of his seven wins coming in graded stakes company. He has tactical speed so he can be placed anywhere in the race seemingly at any time. A fast start doesn’t bother him and a late charge doesn’t bother him. His versatility will greatly help him as this is only his second two-turn race! His connections are the same as the 2012 Derby winner I’ll Have Another and he is the money leader of the field with almost $3.3 million of spending money! Fun fact…Nyquist is named after Swedish hockey player Gustav Nyquist, Right Wing for the Detroit Red Wings! Good luck Nyquist!
EXAGGERATOR…Weather-wise, a dry day awaits these contenders which is too bad for Exaggerator. He clearly loves a wet track and no further proof was needed after he won the Santa Anita Derby in April. He made a monster move in the stretch that showed his running style has matured throughout his 3-year-old campaign. While it remains to be seen how he will handle a fast, dry track (expected to be sunny and 85 on Saturday), his speed has been consistent in his last four starts. Due to the high number of closers in the field, it would not be wise to place him far back and then have to rough-and-tumble his way through traffic while keeping his speed up. He will need a perfect trip but without any further setbacks, I think he’s ready to fire on Saturday. I am going to toss out the fact that he has faced Nyquist three prior times and lost them all…pffft…maybe this fourth time will be the charm…and I’m not Exaggerator-in! Good luck Exaggerator!
OUTWORK…Say hello to one of the true speed horses in this incredibly balanced field. Breaking from post 15 may not be a problem for Outwork. Look for him to be at or near the lead coming out of the gate and making his move to get in front of the field before the first turn. His natural cruising speed should work well for him in a race like the Derby as the closers will hang back and he can get a grip on the race early on. He may or not be able to control the pace, but his fate will depend on how fast the other speed horses in the race are and whether or not he can come home fast enough and far enough in front of what will be a wall of closers entering the homestretch. This horse is all speed and even though he only has four races under his belt, here’s hoping he can stay in the fray this Saturday! Fun fact…the great champion sprint mare (1969 & 1970) Ta Wee (inducted into racing Hall of Fame in 1994 HOF) is the maternal great-great-great grandmother of Outwork. She had only five foals, all winners, four of which were stakes winners! Good luck Outwork!
BRODY’S CAUSE…A deep closer, Brody’s Cause will probably be doing his running late in the race, so getting post 19 should not hamper him at all. Note here…you have to run the whole race, not just the end (you’re not Rosie Ruiz and this is not the Boston Marathon)! He will have plenty of company at the top of the stretch so it’s to his advantage that he has an ability to move between horses in order to make his move on the far turn and out-close all the other closers! While he does seem to favor the Keeneland track, Brody’s Cause has won at Churchill and his pedigree suggests that the Derby distance will not be a problem for him. On sentiment alone, many people would like to see this horse win so his trainer can finally get his Kentucky Derby victory! Fun fact…his owners have said that if Brody’s Cause wins, they will donate the winnings to their alma mater, the Des Moines Area Community College in Iowa! Good luck Brody’s Cause!
CREATOR…♥Amo caballos grieses♥! Creator seems to be peaking at the right time and there is no better time than at the Kentucky Derby! He has shown that he can adapt to whatever race sets up for him – he can rally inside, rally outside, come between horses and continues to act as if he’s just waiting for the next race put in front of him. His bloodlines suggest he has the stamina to go the distance and seeing that all of his races have been two-turn, I think that as long as he can avoid as much traffic as possible, he will be right up there at the wire! He can be high-strung at times so let’s hope the huge crowd at Churchill doesn’t throw him off his game! Fun fact, while there is no relation, Group 1 winner Creator (1986-2015) from France was one of the first two horses repatriated back to the US from Asia to spend their retirement at Old Friends in Georgetown, KY – the gentlest place on earth! Good luck Creator!
LANI…♥私は灰色の馬を愛します♥! Without a doubt, Lani is the most traveled horse of the group this year. He won the UAE Derby in Dubai, and hopped on a plane for his 7,000-plus mile journey back to Kentucky via Chicago for quarantine! He has been at Churchill since April 3rd and has been stabled in a small stakes barn that was also home to his sire Tapit, who finished 9th behind winner Smarty Jones in 2004. He does have some gate issues that hopefully can be worked out…maybe someone should tell him that the last horse to win from post eight (where Lani is starting) was 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah – do I really need to say anymore? What to watch will be when he decides to make his move, as he has a temperament where he is sometimes not willing to run, he can pick off horses in rapid succession and keep going. He can run and threaten off the pace and run and threaten from far back…it’s just a matter of which Lani will show up! Fun fact…Lani is only the second horse ever to run in Derby who represents Japan…the first one was Ski Captain in 1995 and he came in 14th!…also, Lani has the same jockey as Ski Captain! Good luck Lani!
MOR SPIRIT…Never having finished worse than second in all seven of his starts, look for this big, long-striding horse shows up every time, runs every time and just when you think he’s not running, will put his head down and go! He comes into the Derby off of back-to-back losses, but he too seems to be peaking at the right time. He has plenty of natural speed and if the pace is slow I would expect him to be where he appears to be being trained – sitting mid-pack. Being such a big horse, he cannot afford to get stopped nor can he wait until deep in the stretch to make a move. I’m not sure he will have enough of a kick at the end to fend off the closing horses…I guess we’ll find out soon enough, right? He seems to be getting better and better and his jockey has said that “he seems to do just enough for what’s in front of him; he likes a target”…well then…a blanket of roses makes a nice target! Fun fact, Mor Spirit is named after the Denmark native owners mother – Mor means mom in Danish and his mom was feisty – hence the Spirit! Good luck Mor Spirit!
MOHAYMEN…♥J’aime les chevaux gris♥! Off all the luck – he just cannot escape Nyquist – the horse who beat him in the Florida Derby (along with Majesto (2nd) and Fellowship (3rd)) handing him his only defeat to date! They will be starting next to each other – probably trash-talking or pointing out the fabulous hats in the stands – and I’m happy that Mohaymen has a spot in the main gate. I am going to throw out the Florida Derby since every horse has a bad race and I would rather have that Derby be the bad race than this Derby! Mohaymen is a high energy horse who pins his ears when he races and when he works – some think of that as antics while other (maybe me!) think it’s his way of letting people know he feels good. He hasn’t raced in five weeks so he will be fresh and ready to roll – this is the same full of talent and class horse who, up until his Florida Derby loss, was being spoken of in terms in the next Triple Crown winner – if you were loyal to him before there is no need to abandon ship. Fun fact, campaigned by Shadwell Stable, Mohaymen means “dominant” or “protector” in Arabic! Good luck Mohaymen!
DANZING CANDY…You may not be able to see Danzing Candy coming out of the gate since he starting from way out in post 20, you’ll see him soon enough! A horse full of speed-speed-speed, I expect him and Outwork to set the early pace leading into the first turn. He is a speedball whose broodmare sire Songandaprayer set the fastest half-mile fraction in Derby history (finishing 13th out of 17th in the 2001 Kentucky Derby won by Monarchos) so as far as I can tell, his pedigree indicates that it will be hard to slow him down. The Derby distance of a mile-and-a-quarter is more often than not the first time a 3-year-old horse has run that far. He may not be around at the finish, but as with other horses, he has the points and so he’s in. Come on, if you owned a horse who was eligible to run in the Kentucky Derby, you would do it too…I know you would! Ok, maybe that’s just me! Fun fact, his original name was Ron’s Bitcoin, but his owners wanted more “zing” to his name…so they smooshed two of his family names together to get Danzing Candy! Good luck Danzing Candy!
DESTIN…♥I love gray horses♥! Destin is coming off an eight week layoff and while he is completely well rested, he also has never been farther than 1 1/16th miles. This could be a problem since the Derby is 1 ¼ miles – did someone tell Destin? The long layoff has worked well before for his trainer (the last horse trained by this trainer to run in the Derby off an eight week layoff was sixth-place finisher Circular Quay in the 2007 Derby won by Street Sense) and his owners have been pointing Destin to the Kentucky Derby since day one. Early on in his career, he needed a blinkers adjustment since he had a tendency to slow down and look around and wait for other horses. After that, a professional horse was born! His tactical speed should set him up well in the Derby and with what is expected to be a brisk, early pace, he can finish strongly! His pedigree suggests he has the stamina and class to be a factor in all of the Triple Crown races. He will be starting from post 9 – great draw! Fun fact, Destin is named after the northwest Florida city of Destin! Another fun fact, Destin’s great-great-great maternal grandmother is Shenanigans, dam of the 1976 Hall of Fame filly Ruffian! Good luck Destin!
SUDDENBREAKINGNEWS…Just like Destin, Suddenbreakingnews needed an equipment change before he truly got his act together. Like all the closers in the field, he will need luck on Saturday, so the addition of the shadow roll has helped him in his works and should enable to him concentrate on the task at hand – you know the one I’m talking about – winning the Kentucky Derby! Depending on how far back he is at the top of the stretch, or even on the far turn, this horse does have the ability to run down the cornucopia of closers and best them all! He will be starting from post 2 – not as bad as it would seem because, again, he’s a closer and will gladly cede the race to the first turn and sit back and wait to make his move. He cannot be asked to make his move late nor can he let horses pass him on the far turn. If he gets lucky, he can run down the whole field! Fun fact, his owners wanted the name to be Breaking News but the Jockey Club said no. Suddenbreakingnews passed the test! Good luck Suddenbreakingnews!
OSCAR NOMINATED…His owner has said of Oscar Nominated, “He can get a mile and a quarter; the problem is how long it takes him to get the mile and a quarter”…my guess is that it’s gonna take him about two minutes…give or take…just a hunch. In his first six starts he raced on the turf and then the next start was polytrack…so the Derby will be his first start on the dirt. It’s hard to assess how he will run on the dirt, if he likes or doesn’t like the dirt, if (ok when) dirt will get in his face – I am perplexed! He’s bred to go the distance and he’s starting from post 7 – right in the middle of the main gate. He may (ok he will) be a longshot, but this is one of those times that I support the notion – if a horse I own has enough points to enter the starting gate – were going to Louisville! Fun fact, this horse was not nominated for the Triple Crown races (initial nomination fee is a mere $600.00!) so after getting enough points for the race, his owners had to pony up (get it?) a cool $200,000.00 entry fee – ouch! Good luck Oscar Nominated!
SHAGAF…Lightly raced Shagaf has run only four times, winning his first three before fighting to finish fifth on a muddy track in the Wood Memorial in April. A big horse with an even bigger stride, Shagaf appears to be a one-run horse who will truly need the Derby gods on his side to win. When he gets going, he gets going and is difficult to stop. With this enormous field, he may be stopped early and then his momentum will be lost. He has trained well over the Churchill surface and his trainer has said that “Shagaf is just a bigger, stronger, more willing to work horse”…I like it! He’s peaking right now and you can’t ask for a better time for that! Shagaf will be ridden by the same jockey who rode Orb to victory in the 2013 Derby – nice to have that kind of experience in a race of this magnitude. Fun fact, campaigned by Shadwell Stable, Shagaf means “passion” in Arabic! Good luck Shagaf!
WHITMORE…His first career win, and his first race ever, was at Churchill Downs, so we know he can handle the track. He will need a clean trip and not lose any ground to be in there at the wire. Whitmore’s jockey is a familiar face…Victor Espinoza who won the Derby in 2002 on War Emblem, the 2014 Derby on California Chrome and the 2015 Derby on the 12th Triple Crown winner American Pharoah – will this be a three-peat for Victor Espinoza? He will be riding Whitmore for the first time and will have to make more decisions while up on a horse he’s never been on. It helps that he’s starts from post 10 and look for him to be sitting mid-pack. He is not a stakes winner yet, but he hasn’t had a decent trip in prior races and I think he’s sitting on a big race – most horses have them! Fun fact…Whitmore has 4 Triple Crown winners in his pedigree…1978 TC winner Affirmed, 1977 TC winner Seattle Slew, 1943 TC winner Count Fleet and 1937 TC winner War Admiral…no pressure though! Good luck Whitmore!
TOM’S READY…Tom’s Ready gained entrance to the Derby field with a second-place finish in the Louisiana Derby. He’s hard knocker and a deep closer who tends to conserve all his energy for one big, late run. Traffic will be an issue throughout the race, but he should have enough left as he comes off the far turn. While I always want every horse to win, Tom’s Ready may be one for a place bet since his trainer has had horses come in second in the Derby two of the past three years – Commanding Curve in 2014 behind Derby winner California Chrome and Golden Soul in 2013 behind Derby winner Orb. He would work well in exactas or trifectas if you want to put money on him! Fun fact, Tom’s Ready is named for owner Tom Benson, owner of the New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans and the colt’s sire, More Than Ready! Good luck Tom’s Ready!
MY MAN SAM…My Man Sam had zero Derby points before coming in second in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes – if second place gets him to Louisville, way to go! Another horse with only four lifetime starts, my guess is he will peak later on in the season, but really, who can tell? If the speed leaders come back and he has not lost too much ground trying to stay with them, I wouldn’t count him out. His trainer has said of him, “He’s a hard tryer, a brave horse, a strong-willed little horse“, “He’s not afraid of anything. You put him in any situation and he’s very willing.” He starts from post 6, again not bad for a closer, and if any of his other two turn races are an indication, look for him to come flying home! Fun fact, My Man Sam is named after one of the owners’ sons, Sam! Good luck My Man Sam!
MAJESTO…In his stakes debut, Majesto held on to finish second behind Nyquist in the Xpressbet.com Florida Derby…stamping his ticket to Louisville and making him a serious contender to wear the roses. Majesto will be placed in the middle to the back of the pack early on and will be running well into the homestretch – really it’s just a question of how fast? He has a huge gallop and no one knows how that will translate with a field this size and where he is placed before his Kentucky Derby rookie jockey asks him. Plus, I have a slight feeling that he is still trying to figure out what he’s supposed to be doing – probably something that by now he should know, especially on Derby Day. His pedigree is not an issue for the distance and his trainer has won the equivalent of the Venezuelan Triple Crown four times so I guess he knows what he’s doing. If Majesto wins, he will join Canonero II and the 2nd Kentucky Derby winner from Venezuela. Fun Fact…Majesto’s name is a combination of his owners’ first names – Marco, Jesus and Tony! Good luck Majesto!
TROJAN NATION…The dreaded rail (post 1) is where Trojan Nation will take his first steps towards immortality. The last horse to win the Derby from post 1 was Ferdinand in 1986. Since Trojan Nation is still a maiden (meaning he has not won even one single race yet – nada – zip – zilch – zero – goose egg), he’s got some work to do! As one of the other closers in the race, post 1 shouldn’t matter too too much for him as he has a tendency to break slow from the gate anyway. His trainer likes the post since “It’s probably better that he’s down there and not out on the far side, where he could possibly get completely disinterested”. I can imagine if a horse could talk he would say it’s just an honor to be here! A second place finish in the Wood Memorial got him enough points to be here so I say welcome! And I believe there is always a chance he can figure things out – this is horse racing where anything can happen, amiright? Fun fact…if he wins, Trojan Nation would be the first maiden to win the Derby since Brokers Tip in 1933. Another fun fact to sneak in…1919 Triple Crown winner Sir Barton was also a maiden when he won his Derby! Good luck Trojan Nation!
MO TOM…Another closer, Mo Tom has not had much racing luck in his seven lifetime starts. He made it into the Derby starting gate with the fewest points (32) and would not be here but for the defection of Cupid. But that doesn’t matter now. Mo Tom has talent but I’m not sure he has figured out just quite what to do with it. He has been great in training leading up to Saturday which is the best that can be expected. He has one graded stakes win and he ran into traffic in his other three stakes attempts. His trainer initially blamed his poor showings on his jockey, but fences were mended and the jockey was not taken off Mo Tom. His trainer said this is the “best 3-year-old I’ve ever had”…big praise and lots of confidence with his connections. Speaking of connections, Mo Tom has the same owner as Tom’s Ready! Another closer, while it hasn’t been fully showcased, Mo Tom apparently has a massive late kick…let’s see how he handles the field on Saturday! Fun fact…If you are reading this on May 6, say Happy Birthday to Mo Tom who officially turns 3 today! Good luck Mo Tom!
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!
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…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…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…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…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…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…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…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 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…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!
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…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…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…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)…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…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… 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…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…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…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!
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
Irad Ortiz, Jr.
Tale of Verve
King of New York
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.