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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About shepracing

Thoroughbred racing, research and writing.
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