The Derby Pros and Cons list

Arranged in order of Road to the Kentucky Derby points. By horse name, sire, and trainer, here goes….

Magnum Moon, Malibu Moon, Todd Pletcher

Pros: Undefeated in four starts, including Rebel and Arkansas Derby, which American Pharoah used as preps to win KY Derby in 2015. Bred on the same pedigree cross and by the same sire as ’13 Derby winner Orb. Trainer Pletcher has won two KY Derbys previously, and seven trainer Eclipse Awards.

Cons: Had great trips in both Arkansas wins and was green in both races. The Apollo curse (only Apollo, in 1882, has won the Kentucky Derby after not racing as a 2yo). Speed numbers are ok, but not in the top tier.

Good Magic, Curlin, Chad Brown

Pros: Two year-old champ. Has already beaten several of the top contenders in BC Juvenile, Blue Grass, Champagne. Brown is the two-time defending Eclipse Champion trainer, Jose Ortiz the defending Eclipse jockey. By leading sire Curlin (3rd in 07 Derby).

Cons: Did he peak in the Breeders’ Cup as a 2yo? Speed numbers indicate maybe so. Only one BC Juvenile winner has won the Kentucky Derby (1-33). Blue Grass win was good, but didn’t totally answer questions from his 3rd place in Fountain of Youth. Last Blue Grass winner to win KY Derby Strike the Gold, 1991.

Audible, Into Mischief, Todd Pletcher

Pros: Big speed figures, especially in last two starts. Three of the last five Kentucky Derby winners won the Florida Derby. Pletcher. Jockey Castellano is 4x Eclipse winner.

Cons: Storm Cat line stallions have yet to sire a Kentucky Derby winner. Sire Into Mischief average winning distance 6.7 furlongs. Gilded Time as a broodmare sire has an average winning distance of just short of 6.5 furlongs. Didn’t have much of a gallop-out in Florida Derby win. How deep was the Florida Derby field?

Noble Indy, Take Charge Indy, Todd Pletcher

Pros: Pletcher. Gutsy, grinding winning effort in Louisiana Derby.

Cons: Speed figures are ok, but not in the top group. Last KY Derby winner from Louisiana Derby was Grindstone, 1996. Pedigree suggests ten furlongs could be tough to get.

Vino Rosso, Curlin, Todd Pletcher

Pros: Pletcher.  Leading sire Curlin. Jockey Velazquez has won two KY Derbys. Solid Wood Memorial win. Street Cry broodmare sire adds class and distance.

Cons: Speed figures are average. 4th place finish in the Tampa Derby was a head scratcher. Last KY Derby winner from Wood Memorial was Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000.

Bolt D’ Oro, Medaglia D’ Oro, Mick Ruis

Pros: Consistent and shows no quit. Excellent speed figures. Sire Medaglia D’ Oro has been red hot over the last year, A.P. Indy dam sire. Victor Espinoza 3x Derby winning jockey.

Cons: Ran a great race in SA Derby, but wasn’t gaining on Justify. What does he have left in the tank after the last two demanding races? Hasn’t crossed the wire first since the Frontrunner at Santa Anita in September.

Enticed, Medaglia D’ Oro, Kiaran McLaughlin

Pros: Medgalia D’ Oro. Ran a good 2nd in the Wood Memorial, won Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill as 2yo. Has won over muddy track.

Cons: 4th in the Holy Bull with no excuse. Speed figures toward the middle of the pack.

Mendelssohn, Scat Daddy, Aiden O’ Brien

Pros: Won UAE Derby by 18 lengths in his first dirt start, setting a track record. Half brother to four-time Eclipse champ Beholder. Won last three starts, all on different surfaces. Beat three fellow Derby starters in the BC Juvenile Turf. $3 Million auction yearling.

Cons:  Storm Cat sire line. Dubai to Louisville hasn’t yet been a successful route to the Derby winners circle. The Breeders’ Cup win was solid, otherwise, who’s he beaten? Broodmare sire Tricky Creek’s average winning distance barely 6.5 furlongs.

Justify, Scat Daddy, Bob Baffert

Pros: Four-time Derby winning trainer. Speed figures through the roof. Versatile running style, can set the pace, or come from off pace. Beat a really nice colt in Bolt D’ Oro without much effort in SA Derby. Jockey Smith won 2005 Derby on Giacomo. Has won over muddy track.

Cons: Storm Cat sire line. Has had really easy trips in all three starts. The Curse of Apollo. Baffert has yet to have a Santa Anita Derby winner win the KY Derby (0-7). Does he bounce off of what has been three incredible starts? Hasn’t run outside of Santa Anita.

Flameaway, Scat Daddy, Mark Casse

Pros: Seems to be improving as a 3yo, good recent speed numbers. Broodmare sire Fusaichi Pegasus won 2000 Derby. Versatile running style, may be close to the lead in a race that may not have much early speed. Beat Vino Rosso in February in Sam F. Davis. His five career wins leads the Derby field.

Cons: Storm Cat sire line. Middle of the pack overall speed numbers. Only two Canadian-breds have won KY Derby, last in 1983 (Sunny’s Halo).

Solomini, Curlin, Bob Baffert

Pros: Consistent, never off the board in six starts. 4x Derby winning trainer Baffert. By Curlin. Has been mixing it up with the top contenders since last Breeders’ Cup.

Cons: Gets into racing trouble, usually by his own making. Starts awkwardly, runs green, stays on left lead through stretch. Only win was 2yo maiden at Del Mar in September (DQ’d in Los Al Futurity).

Bravazo, Awesome Again, D. Wayne Lukas

Pros: Trainer Lukas has four Derbys. Beat Noble Indy in the Risen Star. Bred on the same pedigree cross as Preakness winner Oxbow. Broke maiden at Churchill Downs.

Cons: Poor speed figures. Really inconsistent, melted down in the Louisiana Derby. Broodmare sire Cee’s Tizzy doesn’t encourage for 10 furlongs.

My Boy Jack, Creative Cause, Keith Desormeaux

Pros: Good win in Lexington at Keeneland. Jockey Kent Desormeaux has won three KY Derbys. Improving speed numbers as a 3yo. Won Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn over muddy track.

Cons: Storm Cat sire line.  Middle of the pack overall speed figures. Running style may leave him left behind by faster early-types, or passed by good closers.

Promises Fulfilled, Shackleford, Dale Romans

Pros: Fountain of Youth win was really impressive. Solid 3rd as 2yo in the Kentucky Jockey Club. Running style may allow for him to set pace in a race with not much early speed.

Cons: Storm Cat sire line. 9th place finish in Florida Derby, didn’t seem comfortable at all in the race. Marquetry broodmare sire isn’t encouraging for ten furlongs.

Free Drop Billy, Union Rags, Dale Romans

Pros: Pedigree suggests ten furlongs should be right up his alley. Has been competing against the top contenders since Breeders’ Cup as 2yo. Really unlucky in Blue Grass, could have finished much higher.

Cons: Hasn’t won since Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland in October. Average speed numbers. Hasn’t finished ahead of any of the major contenders.

Lone Sailor, Majestic Warrior, Tom Amoss

Pros: Excellent 2nd place effort in Louisiana Derby. Broke maiden by 11 lengths over sloppy track.

Cons: One career victory. Mr. Greeley dam sire’s average winning distance is 6.9 furlongs. Speed figures are well below top contenders.

Hofburg, Tapit, Bill Mott

Pros: By leading sire Tapit, half-brother to four-time Grade 1 winner and millionaire Emollient. Ran excellent runner-up effort in the Florida Derby. Trained by Hall of Famer Mott. Broodmare sire Touch Gold won 1997 Belmont Stakes.

Cons: Florida Derby field behind him was questionable. Three lifetime starts, one career win. Touch Gold as dam sire’s average winning distance is 6.9 furlongs.

Firenze Fire, Poseidon’s Warrior, Jason Servis

Pros: Four career wins. Won Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct over muddy track. Beat Good Magic, Free Drop Billy, Enticed as 2yo.

Cons: Speed figures well below top contenders. May have peaked as a 2yo. Sire Poseidon’s Warrior average winning distance 6.4 furlongs.

Combatant, Scat Daddy, Steve Asmussen

Pros: Hall of Fame trainer Asmussen has four in the money Derby finishes. Ran good 2nd in Southwest Stakes over muddy track. Broodmare sire Boundary sired 2008 KY Derby, Preakness winner Big Brown.

Cons: One career win, as 2yo. Storm Cat sire line. Speed figures well below top contenders.

Instilled Regard, Arch, Jerry Hollendorfer

Pros: Won Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds in January. Broodmare sire Forestry also dam sire of 2016 Derby winner Nyquist. SA Derby 4th place finish better than it looked. Excellent Los Al Futurity effort vs Solomini and McKinzie. Hall of Fame trainer Hollendorfer 3rd in 2017 Derby with Battle of Midway.

Cons: Forestry average winning distance 6.4 furlongs. Two straight fourth-place finishes. Running style may not suit a field with good early speed ahead of him and good late speed behind him.


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Newsletter (September 1, 2017)

West Coast won the 148th Travers, and Bob Baffert repeats as winning trainer in the Mid-Summer Derby. West Coast certainly seems like the real deal, he’s been first or second in seven career starts, and won the Travers pretty convincingly. You’d have to say he’s the leader of the three-year-old division right now, as he defeated the winners of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont, Haskell, Jim Dandy,  and Indiana Derby on Saturday, and right now it doesn’t look like there’s anyone out there to challenge him. In light of these most recent two Travers winners, it will be interesting to see how next year’s three-year-old crop will be managed. It just doesn’t seem like many three-year-olds can sustain campaigns that begin in the summer or fall of their two-year-old years, run in Grade 1’s and ship around the country, and keep up a level of performance and health that allows them to be competitive once late August of their three-year-old year comes around. West Coast and Arrogate were both later developing colts, and their trainer had the luxury of having patient owners who are able to wait for races like the Travers, and who also has a deep bench of fellow three-year-olds who did go after the Triple Crown races. Most trainers don’t have that sort of roster. If they have a good three-year-old, they’re trying for the Triple Crown. Maybe West Coast and Arrogate are just exceptions, as Keen Ice, Will Take Charge, Alpha, Stay Thirsty and Summer Bird are all recent Travers winners who ran in, or even won, a Triple Crown race. But, it is looking more like it will take a special runner to compete in the classics, and then have enough left in the tank to be competitive for the second half of the year.

Lady Eli won her eighth graded stakes race, and third straight graded event, taking the Ballston Spa at Saratoga. In a day filled with awesome performances at Saratoga, hers was maybe the best. The crowd cheered her after the winner’s circle presentation Saturday. She’s going up for sale in the fall, and probably won’t be back at the Spa, but she left quite an impression. This photo with jockey Irad Ortiz sums it up. Lady Eli and Irad Ortiz  She will be missed in Saratoga Springs.

So, one three-year-old who has gone through the grind of the Triple Crown this year, and come out pretty successful on the other end is Allen Jerkens winner Practical Joke. He was a two-time Grade 1 winner at two, and has hit the board in the Fountain of Youth, Blue Grass and Haskell and won the Dwyer and the Allen Jerkens. And his Kentucky Derby was OK, he ran an even fifth (which is still a check in that race!) The argument against Practical Joke is that he hasn’t won going two turns, and I understand that, but I also consider his consistency in a year when no else has been able to string together several good races. He’s probably best at seven furlongs, true, but if he wins say, the Pennsylvania Derby, or even the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile taking on older horses? It would depend on what other horses do in the fall but you’d have to make the case for Practical Joke as three-year-old of the year. And, could we interest Chad Brown and the team in a run in the Malibu on Dec. 26?

The Personal Ensign was a thrilling race. Replay here  Jockey Joel Rosario on Forever Unbridled kept his mare wide in the stretch so that Songbird and Mike Smith wouldn’t see him until it was too late. Great race riding, and it worked. With the win, Forever Unbridled will meet up with Stellar Wind, Vale Dori, Abel Tasman and others in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. That was Songbird’s second career loss and on Thursday, owner Rick Porter decided to retire her (AND OFFER HER AT FASIG TIPTON IN NOVEMBER, SO LET’S START THE KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN NOW) Songbird retires as the one of the best fillies of this generation. A NINE time Grade 1 winner, she was champion two-year-old and three-year-old filly, and her only losses came to eventual Hall of Famer Beholder by a nose, and three time grade one winner (and possible Breeders’ Cup champ?) Forever Unbridled. She was a special talent. Her 2016 Alabama win, here, was maybe my favorite of her wins

This Drefong is some horse. (OK, we knew that already, right, look at his King’s Bishop and BC Sprint from last year.) But in his first race in nine months, he loses the jockey, then comes back a month later (in a grade 1 at Saratoga) and says “we’re all good here.” There are a few other sprinters that maybe could make a case against Drefong, but his cruising speed is just so much faster than other horses, and Mike Smith rides him so confidently, it’s hard to see how he doesn’t go into the BC Sprint this year as the heavy favorite.

It’s closing weekend at both Saratoga and Del Mar. Yep, just like that, summer’s over. It always goes by too fast, right? There’s still some great racing over the holiday weekend, and Gun Runner looks to win his third straight grade 1 in the Woodward. He’s in great form right now, and should win, though Rally Cry for Todd Pletcher may make him work for it a bit. Labor Day Monday has two of my favorite races on the year, the Hopeful at Saratoga and the Del Mar Futurity, both for two-year-old colts. Dreams of Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May often begin in the winner’s circle of those races. (It’s then the racing and training in the months that follow that’s the tough part.)

Thanks for reading, and if you have subscribed via e-mail,  thank you VERY much, that’s really appreciated. I’m going to be taking a little break from the newsletter over the next couple of weeks as the racing calendar takes a bit of a break also, and as the Keeneland September yearling sale kicks off. I’ll have a recap of the sale, and a preview of some big racing weekends as we get ready for the Breeders’ Cup, on Friday, September 22. See you then, and thanks again. Enjoy the holiday weekend, and don’t labor too much.






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Newsletter (August 25, 2017)

Saturday is Travers Day at Saratoga. The day is a FEAST for racing fans. Six Grade 1’s, equine and human stars everywhere, an excellent betting race in the Travers, and if you’re able to get to the Spa, good for you, have fun. If you’re taking in the action at home like me, there’s still a ton of great races to watch and bet on. You’ll see Songbird in the Personal Ensign, this year’s Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont winners in the Travers, last year’s Eclipse Sprinter Drefong in the Forego. It’s a really fun way to end the summer, before we have to close up shop at the Spa and Del Mar, go back to school, get ready for yearling sales, and the days get shorter. (For what it’s worth, I like Cloud Computing and West Coast in the 148th running of the  Mid-Summer Derby.)

Collected won the Pacific Classic at Del Mar last Saturday Replay here. It wasn’t, or at least shouldn’t have been, a huge shock (he was 3-1 when the gate opened, so it wasn’t a HUGE surprise). He set a pretty comfortable pace, shook off a nice horse in Accelerate, and held off his all-world stablemate to score his first Grade 1 win. Collected’s now four for four in 2017, and in good form heading into the fall. Where does that leave runner-up Arrogate? This was better than the San Diego, that’s for sure. Still, there has to be some uncertainty about where he is right now. Does he have a Dubai hangover that’s been hard to shake? He really dislikes Del Mar? Lost a step? It appears he’ll be incognito until the Breeders’ Cup, as Baffert is electing to train him up to the Classic with no prep, so we’ll just have to see what those works look like in October, and go from there. You can’t count Arrogate out, but, it’s also a leap of faith with him at the moment. To be continued.

Elate won the Alabama.Replay here (it’s worth the watch) She gave Abel Tasman everything she could handle last out in the Coaching Club Oaks, and put in a powerful run this time. That’s the third Alabama win for trainer Bill Mott, who had champion three-year-old filly Royal Delta in 2011, and Sweet Symphony in 2005. It’s also the second year in a row a daughter of Travers winner Medaglia D’ Oro won the Alabama. Medagalia D’ Oro is an INCREDIBLE sire of fillies and mares. Here are just a few of those: Rachel Alexandra, Plum Pretty, Elate, New Money Honey, Marketing Mix, Dickinson, and 2016’s Alabama winner and champion three-year-old filly, Songbird. Medaglia D’ Oro gets good colts; Violence, Mshawish, Vancouver, Warrior’s Reward and Fast Anna were solid on the track and are showing signs at stud. But, there’s a reason that a Medaglia D’ Oro filly went for $1 million at Fasig Tipton in July, when the next price in the sale was $310k.

Mendelssohn, the $3 million September sale-topping son of Scat Daddy, half-brother to Beholder, is a maiden no more. He won going a mile at the Curragh, in Ireland. Another high profile two-year-old, American Pharoah’s full brother St. Patrick’s Day, ran a good second at Del Mar, and may run in the Del Mar Futurity in September. More to come from both.

If you primarily follow American racing like I do, you may not be familiar with Australian Hall of Famer Winx. No problem. Winx is a daughter of Street Cry, like Zenyatta, and also like Zenyatta, has thrived as an older runner. She’s won over $13 million Australian in her career, and is currently ranked as the second-best horse in the world, behind Arrogate. Check out her race from Sunday, doing a pretty good Arrogate impression.

I like that it’s almost Labor Day, and the Horse of the Year, champion three-year-old and other Eclipse races are wide open. It’s more fun this way, like NFL Playoffs that come down to the Super Bowl, or in our case, the Breeders’ Cup. The most recent NTRA poll has Gun Runner first, followed by Arrogate, Songbird, Collected, Stellar Wind, and others. That’s reasonable. The Eclipse Trainer award is up for grabs (Jerry Hollendorfer? He’s gotta have a good Breeders’ Cup weekend but throwing his name out there.) The Travers will help with champion three-year-old, or could just leave us scratching our heads. It’s incredible to watch once in a generation talents like American Pharaoh, but they don’t inspire much competition, whereas with tomorrow’s Travers, I could make a case for just about every colt.

Finally, thank you to everyone who works with, volunteers for, donates to, or is even loosely connected to Thoroughbred aftercare organizations. The TAA, CARMA in California, Old Friends in Kentucky (shout out to Danthebluegrassman), Go here to see all of the accredited organizations. We’re really lucky to be involved in this sport, and we owe it to the athletes (and our friends) to make sure they’re cared for.

Christmas in August on Saturday! Win some money! If you’re going to the Spa, or your local track, take a friend who’s never been. If you’re at home, make fake bets (or real ones, that’s your call), do Travers bingo (a popular one may be how often broadcasters compare West Coast to Arrogate), and maybe mix up a few Saratoga Sunrises. Fox Sports will have the Personal Ensign, the Ballerina and the Forego from 2-4:30 Saturday, NBC will have the Sword Dancer and Travers, starting at 4:30.

See you next time!





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Newsletter (August 18, 2017)

Saturday is the 27th running of the Pacific Classic at Del Mar. It’s one of my favorite races on the calendar every year, and the highlight of the Del Mar summer season. The Pacific Classic elevated Del Mar’s presence in the early 90s from great Western summer racing venue by the Pacific Ocean, to today, an internationally known landmark, and home of the 2017 Breeders’ Cup. The race has been a showcase for top older horses, like recent winners California Chrome, Beholder, Shared Belief and Game on Dude, and has been the site of some huge upsets, like when Dare and Go paid $81 and beat two-time Horse of the Year Cigar in 1996, or in 1992, when Missionary Ridge went off as the longest price on the board and scored Bobby Frankel’s first of six wins. This year, it’s Arrogate’s race to win or lose. He is the best horse in the race, but cue the recording, “the best horse doesn’t always win.” He can redeem himself after his no-show in the San Diego, and set up a fall schedule that could culminate with another Breeders’ Cup win, at Del Mar, or someone else could be another Dare and Go, another Missionary Ridge, and shock the world. That’s why they run the races, right? Saturday at Del Mar, on NBCSN, or your favorite online wagering/viewing service.

I really enjoyed an essay on 2006 Pacific Classic winner, the amazing Lava Man, a horse who was once claimed for $50k, ran 47 times, won 17 of those events, including three Hollywood Gold Cups, two Santa Anita Handicaps, a Pacific Classic, and was a 2015 National Racing Hall of Fame inductee. Lava Man now is a stable pony for trainer Doug O’ Neill, acting as an assistant coach to young Thoroughbreds trying to catch a little bit of what Lava Man had. Enjoy. The Legend of Lava Man

Meanwhile, in upstate New York, the 136th Alabama Stakes is Saturday at Saratoga. The Alabama is one of the oldest stakes races in the country, run over a mile and a quarter for three-year-old fillies. William Cottrell was a prominent Thoroughbred owner and breeder in the 1870’s, but didn’t want a stakes race named after him personally, so it was decided that the race would be named after his home state. Past winners of the Alabama include some of the best fillies ever to race, like Songbird, Royal Delta, Blind Luck, Silverbulletday, Go For Wand, Open Mind, Life’s Magic, Our Mims, the list goes on. This year’s field is loaded, and I’m expecting a great race. Saturday, at the Spa.

The Travers is next Saturday. It looks like a very competitive, wide-open race, and you should be able to get a good betting price on just about every horse. The winners of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont will all run, (that’s Always Dreaming, Cloud Computing, Tapwrit, respectively, as review) and then add in impressive last out winners Good Samaritan, West Coast, Gunnevera, Irap, Girvin, that’s a lot of quality runners. The Travers should add clarity to what’s been a pretty evenly matched three-year-old division so far, so the Travers winner will head into the fall as the clubhouse leader for three-year-old of the year (Unless….since it’s Saratoga and all……a horse from out of nowhere wins, and then three-year-old of the year will be decided…TBD) The Travers is one of six grade 1 stakes at Saratoga next Saturday. To say I’m excited about Travers Day would be a small understatement. It’s Christmas in August.

Chad Brown trained the winner of both the Beverly D (Dacita) and the Arlington Million (Beach Patrol) last weekend. He’s on quite a roll. He has New Money Honey in the Alabama. She’s 6/1…..just saying.

He’s currently 16th on the general sire list, so I’m not hitting the panic button, but have we overrated Uncle Mo a bit? Maybe this is just a slight regression to the mean after that blazing start last year? Beholder is expecting a foal by Uncle Mo next spring; that alone helps his cause. He has Mopotism in the Alabama, he’ll have Rally Cry in the Woodward at the end of the Saratoga meet, so he has live runners. His yearlings at Keeneland in September will give a pretty good idea of where he’s heading.

Shout out to Mineshaft, the 2003 Horse of the Year. He’s a stallion who is just really solid, and is emerging as a sire of sires. He’s 24th on the general sire list currently, and is the grandsire of Gunnevera, a very interesting Travers runner. Mineshaft also has Effinex, a grade one winner, earner of over $3 million and a stallion prospect New York breeders should love. He’ll be 19 next year, so we won’t be getting many more from Mineshaft, but it looks like he’ll have a few very good sons to carry on.

American Pharoah’s younger full-brother, named St. Patrick’s Day, debuts Sunday at Del Mar. Bob Baffert trains, Flavien Prat rides. He’s 2/1, has been working well, and certainly could win. Pharoah, if you remember, ran fifth on debut. Racing is fun like that. They’re all individual animals, even if their big brother won the Triple Crown. Sky-high expectations have to be balanced with what that horse’s actual ability is. We’ll see Sunday, where the surf meets the turf.

Unsolicited plug: check out this podcast: Switching Leads radio show  Call in, talk horses with industry leaders, really cool stuff. Thursday nights, check it out.

Thanks as always for reading! Good luck this weekend, enjoy the races!











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Newsletter (August 11, 2017)

The Fasig Tipton Saratoga select yearling sale wrapped up Tuesday with across the board gains from 2016 in average, median and number not sold. The market for young horses in the $200,000 to $800,000 price range is pretty solid right now. The stock market’s sustained upward climb helps, as does speculative money for stallion prospects and partnerships between top ownership groups. Yearlings by 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Orb were popular. All ten Orb yearlings offered were sold, averaging over $400,000, all for a stallion with a fee of $25,000 in 2017. His first crop has shown more precociousness than some had expected, plus the yearlings that sold at Saratoga were fantastic prospects. Keeneland’s first book in September will be fun, if the Saratoga sale trends hold. For an interesting behind the scenes look at the Saratoga sale, check out Eclipse Thoroughbreds picking up a nice one.

About that speculative money for stallion prospects. One of the fastest and surest ways to make money in Thoroughbred racing is to be in early on a successful stallion. This drives yearling sales, and in turn, drives racing career decisions. Take for example, Spendthrift Farm’s Malibu Moon, who turns 21 in 2018. He’s been a great stallion, but it’s time to look for his successor. Spendthrift bought the stallion rights to Malibu Moon’s son, and Santa Anita Derby winner Gormley, and purchased a Malibu Moon colt at Saratoga for $700,000. Gormley’s future racing career from here on will be an effort to craft a stallion’s resume (graded stakes races, preferably two turns, with good race times.) And the colt they bought at Saratoga, if he wins a Grade 1 race or two, the  $700k purchase price will look like a bargain. Gainesway Farm has a solid hold on the market for Tapit. They have the original model, plus new additions Anchor Down, Belmont winner Tapwrit, and the promising Tapizar. Hill ‘n’ Dale has Curlin, and acquired the rights to Belmont runner-up, and son of Curlin, Irish War Cry. Imagine you have a share in Orb. In a matter of four years, he went from $25,000 live foal to what in 2018? $40,000? $50,000? There you have it. That’s where money can be made in racing. A $700,000 auction purchase can be a bargain.

A bit about the influence of prominent trainers with huge stables. To me, trainers are college basketball coaches. They recruit top prospects (buy at the sales), develop those players (train and race two-year-olds), then see the process through to the Final Four (Triple Crown, Breeders’ Cup). In the same way that John Calipari looks for freshman point guards who will space the floor, control the pace of a basketball game and run his offense, Bob Baffert looks for two-turn horses who could develop early, and hold up to training that gets them ready for the Triple Crown series. People question why Kentucky gets top recruiting classes or why Baffert continually is training top auction buys. That’s pretty simple; there’s established success in both cases. If you’re a McDonald’s All-American or a buyer of a seven-figure auction yearling, you’re options are pretty sharply focused, right? Still, in both coaching and training, new faces emerge. Names like Archie Miller. Joe Sharp. Bryce Drew. Phil D’ Amato. Richard Pitino. Brendan Walsh. Shaka Smart. Simon Callaghan.

Four Grade 1 turf races will be run this weekend, highlighted by the 35th Arlington Million. This year’s Million looks to be pretty wide open, with a strong contingent of international runners, and solid American runners. It should be a good betting race, and a fun watch. Also at Arlington Saturday are the Beverly D and Secretariat, two Grade 1’s with big purses. At Saratoga, the Fourstardave is the feature, going a mile on turf for $500,000. If you’re looking for your Breeders’ Cup Turf or Mile horse, this is a good week to pay attention.

Arrogate is set for the Pacific Classic next Saturday at Del Mar. That will be must see TV. He lost, in a pretty head scratching way, last out in the San Diego. All reports from Del Mar are that the reigining Breeders’ Cup Classic champ is training well, and should be good for the $1 million race. Gun Runner looked pretty tough in the Whitney last week, and it will be Arrogate’s turn to answer.

Time for a few more racing memories. In 2013, I ran the Santa Anita Derby 5k race at 8am on SA Derby Day. We ran through the beautiful Los Angeles County Arboretum, around the Santa Anita backstretch and finished at the finish line of the Great Race Place. My race number was “ROCKHARDTEN”,  a nod to the Santa Anita Derby runner from 2004 who was disqualified for interference, and who I took some inspiration from for my race. I, however, did not finish third, like he did. Still, I made some money in that day’s Santa Anita Derby, with Goldencents beating Flashback to key a $36 exacta I hit a couple of times. Beholder won the Santa Anita Oaks earlier on the card, which is pretty cool to look back on.

As a freshman at the University of Kentucky, one of my jobs was nightwatch on Sundays during foaling season at a local boarding farm. Wouldn’t you know it? During the Super Bowl between the Rams and Titans in 2000, a mare decided that was a good time to have her foal, and sometime right before that dramatic goal line stand by St. Louis, that little sucker popped out. He was by Gainesway stallion Sir Cat, and I still think of him like a little brother.

Thanks for reading, see you next time! Here’s Lisa and I, sort of in the gate, for the Santa Anita Derby 5k race.









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Newsletter (August 4, 2017)

How about Stellar Wind and Vale Dori in the Grade 1 Clement Hirsch from Del Mar? What a race. Check it out, not much separating them Stellar Wind was 2015’s champion three-year-old filly, and beat four-time Eclipse champion Beholder twice in 2016. And she’s looking like the filly and mare champion so far in 2017. Vale Dori had (somewhat) quietly put together a six race win streak for Bob Baffert before finishing 2nd to Stellar Wind in her last two starts, both Grade 1’s. Vale Dori and Stellar Wind will meet again in the Breeder’s Cup Distaff, if not sooner in the Zenyatta (G1) at Santa Anita in September. As I’ve said before, the Distaff this year could be one of the deepest Breeder’s Cup races we’ve seen in a while. Maybe Songbird joins them? She’s nominated to the Pacific Classic; I think we’ll just have to wait and see what her plans are. Abel Tasman sounds like a go for the Distaff, there’s also Forever Unbridled, third in last year’s Distaff, Santa Anita Oaks winner Paradise Woods maybe? Improving and consistent Salty? Could be really good Unchained Melody? Three months out, the Distaff looks like a GREAT race.

Things aren’t as cut and dry in the three-year-old colt division. Good Samaritan won the Jim Dandy at Saratoga, beating the Derby and Preakness winners in the process. Impressive race and the talent and potential is obvious, I’m just not totally on board yet with Good Samaritan, I need to see a little more from him on dirt. In the Haskell, Girvin scored his first Grade 1 win, and runner-up McCracken and third-place Practical Joke were pretty solid in defeat. The Haskell colts have a bit more to their resume, but in general, the three-year-old division is wide open and that means the Travers is going to be  really fun at the end of the month. For a few years recently, the Travers had sort of lost it’s luster. Travers winners Will Take Charge and Summer Bird were Eclipse award-winning three-year-old colts, that’s legit, and Stay Thirsty and Alpha were solid racehorses. Still the Travers runnings of the early part of this decade were plagued by the absence of Triple Crown race winners like Animal Kingdom, I’ll Have Another, California Chrome, Union Rags, stars like Bodemeister, and generally poor performances by colts who were expected to run well. Some of the mystique of the Travers I suppose is that it’s Saratoga’s Derby, the Graveyard of Favorites, but here’s a partial list of Travers winners: Bernardini, Point Given, Thunder Gulch, Holy Bull, Temperence Hill, Wajima and Key to the Mint. That’s Eclipse champions and Hall of Famers. Long story short, Arrogate’s track record run last year, Keen Ice and American Pharoah in 2015, and the potential for the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont winners of 2017 all meeting in this year’s Travers seems to have brought it back into being one of the most important races of the year. It’s back to being the Mid-Summer Derby, and any of about fourteen horses could win.

Malibu Moon is the broodmare sire of both Stellar Wind, and Haskell winner Girvin. I mention that because  A) it’s a pretty remarkable achievement, having two Grade 1 winners in one day from the same broodmare sire and B) because generally, the A.P. Indy line is more of a top side line, and not dam sire. Of the top 150 broodmare sires currently (List here) only nine come from the Seattle Slew/A.P. Indy sire line, compared to 40 from the Mr. Prospector line, for example. Remember, Secretariat was A.P. Indy’s dam sire, and Secretariat’s success as a broodmare sire took a while to develop. Maybe the same can be said for A.P. Indy and his sons, and we’re seeing a few of them hitting their stride.

Fasig-Tipton’s Saratoga select yearling sale is Monday and Tuesday. That’s a fun sale, a bit of a cocktail party with horses being sold in the background BUT real business does get done. Stellar Wind, Songbird, and Tapwrit are all recent graduates of the sale, and American Pharoah of course was an RNA in 2013. All of the leading stallions you’d expect to be there are represented (Pioneerof the Nile, Uncle Mo, Curlin, Tapit, War Front) Last year’s sale dipped a bit from 2015’s in terms of average, median and RNA’s, but it looks like there’s a nice group of yearlings available this year, and going by median and average, you’ll pay a bit less for a yearling here than in book 1 of the Keeneland September yearling sale.

The 90th running of the Whitney Handicap (Gr. 1) is Saturday at Saratoga. Some of the greatest horses in American racing history have won the Whitney, including Easy Goer, Tom Fool, Dr. Fager, Stymie, Invasor, Slew o’ Gold, Alydar, Ancient Title, Key to the Mint, Devil Diver, Eight Thirty, War Admiral, Discovery, Equipoise and Kelso, who won it for the third time in 1965 at the age of eight. The race also saw one of the most dramatic upsets in racing history when Secretariat finished second in the 1973 Whitney to Allen Jerkens’s colt, Onion. This year, Gun Runner heads the field, and looks to stay sharp ahead of a possible rematch with Arrogate in the Breeders’ Cup. Also entered in the Whitney is Keen Ice, who upset American Pharoah in the 2015 Travers. At Saratoga. You know, “the Graveyard of Favorites.” Lots of history to this race, and hey, $1.2 million on the line. NBC will broadcast from Saratoga on Saturday, 5et.

Finally, a quick tribute to Leonard Lavin, who died this week at 97. Lavin owned Glen Hill Farm, one of the prominent owners of the era when I was first getting into racing. He won the 1994 Breeders’ Cup Distaff with One Dreamer, and campaigned Grade 1 winners like Chiropractor and Marketing Mix. Glen Hill is in good hands now with Mr. Lavin’s grandson Craig running the show, and I wanted to post a photo I took of their colt Global View winning the Generous Stakes (G3) at Hollywood Park in November of 2013. Great race by Global View that day, I won some money on him, and thought this photo summed up racing and how much Mr. Lavin put in the sport. Thanks for reading, and enjoy the racing this weekend!



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Newsletter (July 28, 2017)

I really enjoy watching and betting on two-year old racing this time of year. High profile owners and trainers debut their best stock at Saratoga, Del Mar, etc., and you have a chance to see potential stars when they start their racing careers. Like watching Lebron James in high school, I suppose.  I put a bet on such a runner this weekend, and while she ran a decent second, she was no match for a horse who had run earlier in the year. No big deal, I win some, I lose some, but I wanted to see how often first time starters win generally. I usually don’t bet first timers, but felt good about this one. Well, in racing through July 24 at Saratoga and Del Mar this summer, first time starters have won 3 of 18 maiden special weight races (16%). That’s not a huge sample size, granted, but I think it’s safe to say racing experience in maiden races is, if not critical, a huge advantage. Yes, first time starters do win, but a race is different from anything else a young Thoroughbred has been asked to do, and even the most talented ones don’t win first out. Just ask American Pharoah, Arrogate, California Chrome, Point Given, Sunday Silence and Secretariat, among many others. There’s also the case of horses who have had several starts, and have yet to win, and that’s where our ability as handicappers comes in, to decide when a horse has had enough chances, and doesn’t deserve our wager. Bottom line, prior racing experience is invaluable in maiden races.

A horse who did win first out, and one of my favorites of the last ten years or so, is 2010 Preakness winner Lookin At Lucky. He was such a consistent and versatile runner and won two Eclipse Awards. He’s also the sire of Accelerate, who scored one of the biggest upsets in recent racing history over the weekend, beating five cents on the dollar favorite Arrogate in the San Diego Handicap (Gr. 2) at Del Mar. Lookin At Lucky has just needed that “big horse” to really make it as a stallion, and maybe Accelerate will be it. He also had Kentucky Derby runner-up Lookin At Lee this year. His foals are much like him: smart, game, versatile, and for $17,500, you’re getting a lot of class for the money.

So, Arrogate got beat, running a pretty flat fourth. He burned almost $2.5 million in bets in the process. Maybe he simply needed the race? It had been four months since he last ran. Either way, the Pacific Classic becomes a lot more interesting now, right? And you know, he may not be crazy about Del Mar, but the Breeders’ Cup is at Del Mar this year, so….stay tuned.

Lady Eli is amazing. She was a Breeders’ Cup winner at 2, and was undefeated through her three-year-old year before contracting laminitis. She recovered, and may be as good as ever, as her race last weekend in the Diana (Gr. 1) at Saratoga showed. Fifth after six furlongs, she made a furious rally past two excellent race mares in the last quarter-mile, and got up to win. More on Lady Eli here, she’s something else

The first two finishers of the opening day feature at Saratoga, the Schuylerville (Gr.3) for two-year-old fillies, ran without Lasix. While more trainers are choosing to run their two-year-olds without Lasix, it’s still much more common to use the medication, so that Schuylerville result is noteworthy. more on Lasix here, but this just scrapes the surface of the topic

Awesome day of racing this Sunday at Monmouth Park in New Jersey. Come for the 50th running of the Haskell, stay for the other four excellent graded stakes races. The Haskell looks like a pretty competitive race, with Belmont runner-up Irish War Cry the 5-2 favorite, and Chad Brown’s undefeated Timeline the 3-1 second choice. It’s a million dollars on the line, and NBC is covering it Sunday. Good stuff.

At Saratoga Saturday, the Preakness winner Cloud Computing takes on the Kentucky Derby champ Always Dreaming in the Jim Dandy Stakes. Who was Jim Dandy you ask? He beat 1930 Triple Crown winner Gallant Fox in that year’s Travers Stakes at odds of 100-1. Neither Cloud Computing or Always Dreaming will be that high of a price, but with both in the race, you should get decent betting value on each. And yes, 6/5 or even money on either of those is decent betting value.

Last thing. I’m mostly a Thoroughbred racing fan, it’s what I was first exposed to when I was getting into horse racing, and the sport I know the most about. Recently though, I’ve really gotten into Quarter Horse racing from Los Alamitos (shout out to a legend in Ed Burgart, who retires in 2018) and harness racing from venues like the Red Mile, the Meadowlands and Hoosier Park. In fact, the $1 million Hambletonian is set for next Saturday at the Meadowlands, and should be a great race. Hambletonian history All of this said because equine athletes are some of the best in the world, and I’m in awe every time I see them run, whatever breed they are. If it’s been a while since you’ve had a day at the track, or gone to a farm, you owe it to yourself, whether you’re a huge racing fan, like betting and drinking or just find being around animals to be time well spent.


“To get from New York City to Saratoga, you drive north for about 175 miles, turn left on Union Avenue and go back 100 years.” Red Smith, sportswriter and racing fan

Enjoy the racing this weekend, check out the Haskell on NBC Sunday (check local listings, it’s at 5 eastern) and good luck!

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