Itsmyluckyday, Normandy Invasion could return to worktab soon
In his subsequent start, Itsmyluckyday was pulled up in the Pegasus at Monmouth Park and was later diagnosed with a pelvic fracture, similar to that of 2011 Derby winner Animal Kingdom, who came back from an eight-month layoff to run second in the Breeders' Cup Mile and then win the 2012 Dubai World Cup.
"Certain injuries, you say to yourself, 'You hope he comes back.' What he had was pretty black and white," Plesa said. “They get over it, they heal 100 percent and there are no side effects.
"Lucky enough for him, as much time as we've lost, the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter because we can see that he's getting closer to where he's going to be working and then running."
Plesa has been encouraged by the energy Itsmyluckyday has shown in the mornings.
"He's exactly the same as he was when he went to the Preakness," the trainer said. "He used to drag me around that barn every morning, and he's dragging us around the barn now. It's exciting to have him getting ready to run. When he's ready to run, then two or three weeks out we'll find something for him."
Trainer Chad Brown had high hopes for Normandy Invasion in 2013 before a deep abscess in his front hoof ended the Tapit colt's season prematurely.
Now, Normandy Invasion is back with Brown and galloping at Palm Meadows, and nearing his first workout since the spring.
"He just started back galloping a couple of weeks ago, and he's about ready to breeze," Brown said. "We're just taking it day by day. We'll let him tell us when he's ready."
A maiden winner last November at Aqueduct, Normandy Invasion finished second in the Remsen, fifth in the Risen Star and second in the Wood Memorial before giving Brown his first Kentucky Derby starter.
Sent off at 9-1, Normandy Invasion took the lead at the top of the stretch and held it to the eighth pole before tiring to finish fourth. Kept out of the Preakness and Belmont by design to await a summer campaign, Normandy Invasion was sidelined in early August to await 2014.
"Normandy actually spent the summer and fall over at WinStar Farm, and they got him started for us and sent him to Palm Meadows in terrific shape," Brown said. "He's a horse that has shown a lot of talent.
"He's had his fair share of bad luck and a couple bumps in the road, but at the end of the day he's a really nice horse with a lot of talent and we're happy to have him back. I think that he's moving really well right now under tack, and we're anxious to get him back breezing."
Preakness purse increased to $1.5 million
The May 16 card on Preakness eve features eight added-money races, headlined by the $500,000 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes and the $300,000 Pimlico Special.
The Preakness undercard features eight stakes races, including the $300,000 Dixie Stakes and three $150,000 stakes: the Maryland Sprint Handicap, the Gallorette Handicap and Allaire duPont Distaff Stakes.
"I support the move," Maryland Racing Commission chairman Bruce Quade said. "It is another step in bringing Maryland racing back to a preeminent spot in the racing landscape."
At its inauguration in 1873, the Preakness carried a value of $1,000. The first major increase occurred in 1919 when the race had a $25,000 value. It climbed to $100,000 in 1946 and in 1959 was raised to $150,000, the highest among Triple Crown races.
From 1979 to 1989, the purse rose four times from $200,000 to $500,000, before attaining its present status of $1 million.
First round of Dubai World Cup Carnival hopefuls settling in at Meydan
The first international contenders have arrived at Meydan Racecourse ahead of the 2014 Dubai World Cup Carnival, which begins on January 9.
There are 26 international Group 1 winners among the acceptances for the three-month-long festival of racing, which concludes with the March 29 Dubai World Cup and carries combined prize money of more than $37 million.
Newmarket-based Italian handler, Marco Botti, brings an extended string to contest the Dubai World Cup Carnival this year. His runners include last season's Dubai City of Gold winner Jakkalberry, this year's Melbourne Cup fifth Dandino and recent Prix Royal Oak winner Tac De Boistron. Botti's string is also strengthened by the new additions of Australian Group 1 winner Linton, who comes to Dubai following his Hong Kong Mile run, and four other Brazilian prospects belonging to Dubai World Cup-winning owner Stefan Friborg's Estrela Energia.
Six from Andrew Balding's Park House Stables will make the trip, with Mackinnon Stakes victor Side Glance chief among them. Former international footballer Michael Owen's Brown Panther also travels to Dubai following his Melbourne Cup run for trainer Tom Dascomb, while Meydan stalwart Mike de Kock comes armed with a string bristling with Group 1 winners.
Among the new recruits for South Africa's four-time champion trainer are Durban July winner Heavy Metal, South Africa's champion three-year-old colt Vercingetorix, 2012 Champions Cup winner Master Plan and champion miler Variety Club.
De Kock, who claimed the Godolphin Mile with Soft Falling Rain last term, has a good record with former Aidan O'Brien-trained horses and two more are added to the ranks this year. Jersey Stakes winner Gale Force Ten and International Stakes scorer Flying the Flag join the likes of David Livingston and Daddy Long Legs, who already bolster de Kock's string. His globe-trotting Soft Falling Rain will be back, as will Al Quoz Sprint hero Shea Shea. The Apache, the 2013 Dubai Duty Free runner-up, also contests the new season.
Ed Dunlop's tough galloper Red Cadeaux, the 2013 Dubai World Cup runner-up, has been accepted for another trip to Dubai. He will be joined by three-time Canadian International winner Joshua Tree as well as Red Avenger.
Dunaden, last see finishing third in the 2013 Hong Kong Vase, has also been accepted alongside 2012 Breeder's Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf and French One Thousand Guineas heroine Flotilla for trainer Mikel Delzangles.
Richard Hannon Jr., who takes over the training reins from his father, English champion trainer Richard Hannon Sr. in January, brings four including 2013 Topkapi Trophy winner Producer, while Charlie Hills has entered Dewhurst Stakes runner-up Cable Bay.
The full list may be found by clicking here. Please note this is a working list and is subject to change.
CashCall Futurity swan song features contentious field
Tamarando bypassed the Breeders' Cup Juvenile but does own placings in the Grade 1 FrontRunner and Golden State Juvenile at Santa Anita. Though his chances for an Eclipse Award are slim, a win in the CashCall Futurity could see the dark bay colt in the running.
The CashCall Futurity also features turf runner Poker Player, whose only non-grass start came at Keeneland when scoring in the off-the-turf Grade 3 Bourbon; Hollywood Prevue runner-up Kobe's Back; and Rankhasprivileges, who wheels back on a three-week break off a third in the Grade 3 Delta Downs Jackpot.
Turf Cup, Native Diver featured on Futurity undercard
The only other graded winner in the field is Temeraine, who bagged the Kentucky Turf Cup prior to a fifth-place effort in the Canadian International. The four-year-old Arch gelding was also prominent in Arlington Park's major grass stakes over the summer, finishing a close second in the Arlington Handicap and a rallying fifth in the Arlington Million.
A lack of speed on paper might benefit Segway, who led gate-to-wire in beating first-level allowance foes going 1 1/4 miles at Santa Anita on October 27. He was beaten in his previous start by the returning Artic North, who was subsequently sixth in the Red Smith Handicap at Aqueduct.
The field is rounded out by Huntsville, who finished third in the Del Mar Handicap in August, and Irish Surf, who has not placed in three prior stakes appearances.
Returning from a lengthy absence in the Native Diver is Setsuko, who was last seen finishing second in the 2012 Santa Anita Handicap. Now six, the gelding has placed in two Big 'Caps, the Santa Anita Derby, and Californian, but has yet to win a stakes.
Others in the Native Diver lineup are Grade 2 veteran Drill, third in the $75,000 Governor's Cup at Fairplex and $77,000 Big Bear at Santa Anita in his last two; Fire With Fire, who's placed in three straight stakes including a Grade 3 at Golden Gate; and Soi Phet, a distant third behind Mucho Macho Man in the Awesome Again two back.
Slim Shadey, a multiple graded stakes winner on turf, and Mobilized, whose last win came in the $125,000 Tiznow for California-breds in April, complete the field.
Sunbean heads Louisiana Champions Day in Classic
Others in with a chance Saturday include Skip the Pinot, a 4 1/4-length winner of the Louisiana Cup Derby two back, and Get in Da House, fourth in the Grade 3 Texas Mile during the spring.
Most prominent among the entrants in these six races Saturday are Ladyzarbridge, who will be attempting to defend her championship from last year's LCD Ladies, and Sittin at the Bar, heroine of last year's LCD Lassie but a contestant in this year's LCD Ladies Sprint.
Juddmonte Farms' homebred Uno Duo (Macho Uno) easily lived up to her even-money favoritism against a short field of four in Thursday's $95,000 Fickle Fanny at Aqueduct, scoring by 3 1/2 lengths under jockey Junior Alvarado in a final time of 1:12 4/5 for six furlongs on the good inner track. Indian Splendor (Indian Ocean) set the initial opening splits while closely tracked by Uno Duo, who took over in upper stretch and drew clear to record her first stakes victory for trainer Bill Mott. The gray sophomore miss was third last out in the Pearl City on Aqueduct's main track and made her black-type bow a fourth-placing in the Dream Rush at Belmont Park on October 20. Thursday's win boosted her earnings to $166,300 and Uno Duo's career mark now stands at 7-3-1-2...
Christopher Dunn and Loooch Racing Stable's Ria Antonia (Rockport Harbor), elevated to first in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies in her last start on November 2 at Santa Anita, will be arriving at Fair Grounds on December 27, co-owner Ron Paolucci said Thursday morning. "She'll be there to train up to a start (against males) in the (Grade 2) Risen Star (on February 22)," Paolucci explained. "I doubt we'll get a race into her before then." The Risen Star is one of four graded stakes that will be run on that Louisiana Derby Preview Day program, and also serves as Fair Grounds' final designed tune-up for the Grade 2, $1 million Louisiana Derby on March 29. "Obviously, I plan to be there for the Risen Star," Paolucci stated, "but I also might have a horse running in the ($75,000) Bonapaw (on December 21) and will be at Fair Grounds for that one, too."...
Zaikov (Distorted Humor), the first foal out of 2006 champion three-year-old filly Wait a While, returns to the races Friday at Gulfstream Park. The three-year-old turned in a smashing debut last March, earning a 105 BRIS Speed rating for his 14 1/4-length victory in a six-furlong maiden special weight, and the gray colt will make his second career start in Friday's 6TH race, a six-furlong optional claiming event. "We had a shin issue that he ended up getting quite a bit of time off for," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "They did a really good job at the farm with him and he's come back and he's training well. He showed a lot in his debut, and we hope he continues moving forward." Zaikov's dam won three Grade 1 events and earned more than $2.1 million. Javier Castellano rides the Arindel Farm homebred...
Javier Castellano needs just $8,850 in purses to break the North American single-season earnings record set by Ramon Dominguez in 2012. Dominguez, 37, was forced to retire in June, five months after being seriously injured in a spill at Aqueduct. Castellano is named in six of 10 races on Friday's card at Gulfstream. The 36-year-old enters the day leading all jockeys with both 344 wins and $25,626,003 in purse earnings in 2013. Dominguez banked $25,634,852 last year. "It means a lot to me because when you start riding horses, you don't think you're going to get to that level, and the level where I'm at is amazing. I'm blessed," Castellano said. "I don't want to take anything away from Ramon Dominguez, because Ramon Dominguez is such a great guy, a very good friend of mine, very close to me. I feel so flattered to be at that level, to win so many races and get the chance to break the earnings record. I feel so great and so thankful at the same time. I appreciate everyone that's helped me get to that level." The two-time defending Gulfstream winter meet riding champion, with 112 wins in 2011-12 and 100 in 2012-13, Castellano is off to another good start. He won with seven of his first 18 mounts last weekend, including each of his first two in his December 6 debut, and bagging three more on Sunday. Castellano, who could earn his first Eclipse Award for leading jockey this year, has 3,616 career victories...
Penn National has released its 2014 stakes schedule, following approval by the Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission at its meeting on December 12. The 2014 Penn National stakes schedule will be split over two days, with the second running of the $500,000 Penn Mile headlining a card on Saturday, May 31 that will also feature the $200,000 Mountainview Handicap, the $150,000 Pennsylvania Governor's Cup and a new event, the $100,000 Penn Oaks. This year's inaugural running of the Penn Mile, won by Rydilluc (Medaglia d'Oro), highlighted a terrific day of racing in which Penn National set new records for all-sources and on-track handle. The second day of 2014 stakes races at Penn National will again be held on Thanksgiving Eve, Wednesday, November 26, and will feature the $200,000 Fabulous Strike Handicap and the $100,000 Swatara. The first two editions of the Fabulous Strike were both won by Ben's Cat (Parker's Storm Cat). Penn National's 2014 live racing schedule comprises 200 days. From January through April, live racing will be conducted four days a week (Wednesday – Saturday), in May and the first week of June, live racing will be conducted three days a week (Thursday – Saturday), and from the second week in June through the end of the year, racing will generally be conducted four days a week (Wednesday – Saturday)...
The 2013 Global Symposium on Racing and Gaming concluded with an interesting and important panel on current legal and policy issues in racing and gaming. Mike Barry, an attorney with Rutledge Ecenia, P.A., is currently representing the Florida Quarter Horse Association and gave an update on the status of the Gretna barrel racing litigation. Barry said that this issue proves the importance of regulators and racing interests planning for gambling expansion through proper legislation to avoid litigation. Peter Murray, head of gaming for GB Group, came from Newcastle, England, to speak on the importance of online gaming compliance, working with regulators and protecting players. He gave an overview of the online systems in place in Nevada and New Jersey, who have recently begun intrastate online casino gambling and how geo-location works as a regulatory tool. Sean Pinsonneault, executive vice president and COO of the Woodbine Entertainment Group, gave an update on the end of the slots at racetrack program in Ontario. The end of the program has cost 9,000 racing jobs and Ontario foals registered are down 60 percent. Currently there is a five-year plan in place to address purses and dates to give the racing industry some stability. Jay Hickey, president of the American Horse Council, gave an update on nine bills in Congress that currently pertain to the horse industry involving such topics as race horse depreciation, potential for Federal regulation of race day medication, horse welfare and immigration reform. The day concluded with two well attended workshops. Race horse aftercare featured Madeline Auerbach, chairperson of the California Retirement Management Account (CARMA), Stacie Clark-Rogers, manager of the Adena Retirement Program, and Lucinda Mandella, executive Director of CARMA. The second workshop was on event marketing-building to grow your racing brand hosted by Sophia McKee who is the director of marketing at Emerald Downs...
In commemoration of the closing of Hollywood Park, a pair of $50,000 starter allowance races will be offered December 22, the final day of racing at the historic track. Both races are scheduled for one mile on turf. The Valley Lass is for fillies and mares, three-year-olds and up, while the Auld Lang Syne is for three-year-olds and up. The Valley Lass honors the first horse to win a race at Hollywood Park. The two-year-old California-bred filly scored on June 10, 1938, under jockey Silvio Coucci. She paid $4.60 to win and completed five furlongs in 1:00 1/5. The most lucrative event on the December 22 program is the $200,000 King Glorious S. Part of the Golden State Series, the King Glorious, which will be run at seven furlongs over Cushion Track, is restricted to juveniles bred or sired in California. Entries for closing day will be taken December 19...
Albrecht Woeste has been re-elected as president of the Direktorium fur Vollblutzucht und Rennen for the next three years at the annual general meeting on Tuesday. Serving as vice presidents in the country's Jockey Club are Dr. Andreas Jacobs and Manfred Ostermann. At the end of a year of renewed strength in German racing, the breeding premiums for two-year-olds and three-year-olds will be raised from 24 percent to 30 percent, and prize money in handicaps will also be raised. Race clubs holding group contests will be supported with a total sum of €765,000 from the income of German Tote, the official betting site of German racing, which serves the tote...
Tattersalls Ireland has confirmed that two new board appointments have been made with Neil Walsh and Harry Fowler joining the Tattersalls Ireland board as director of bloodstock sales and sales director, respectively. Walsh, 35, joined the Tattersalls Ireland Bloodstock Sales Team in 2008, becoming head of bloodstock in 2012 and his new role will continue to involve organization of all the company's bloodstock sales, client and industry liaison, and all sales day related matters. Fowler, 38, has been part of the Tattersalls Ireland Bloodstock team since 2012, having worked in varying roles with the Tattersalls Limited Bloodstock Team in Newmarket for 13 years since 1998...
Eagle Poise (Empire Maker), winner of last year's C$150,000 Valedictory (Can-G3) at Woodbine by a head, will attempt to defend his title in that 1 3/4-mile contest over the synthetic Polytrack against seven rivals on Sunday. The Graham Motion trainee hasn't visited the winner's circle since his 2012 Valedictory victory but has been close on a number of occasions, including in all three starts this year. The bay gelding opened his seven-year-old campaign with a third in the Idle Rich at Saratoga in late August, then just missed by a neck and three parts of a length, respectively, when second in his next two, the Laurel Turf Cup and Sycamore. Patrick Husbands was aboard for last year's Valedictory win and has the call on Sunday. Also entered in the race are Gallant Eagle (Hawk Wing), a nose second in the Washington Park H. (G3) in late August; Sycamore third-placer Tricky Hat (Hat Trick), who was only a neck behind Eagle Poise in that contest after beating him by that same margin in the Laurel Turf Cup one race before; and dual Grade 3-placed Awesome Overture (Awesome Again)...
Teddy's Promise (Salt Lake), who has earned half of her career wins at Hollywood Park, will make her final start over the Cushion Track in Sunday's $100,000 Playa del Rey. The six-furlong contest for older fillies and mares returned to the stakes schedule this year for the first time since 2010. The Ron Ellis-trained Teddy's Promise has won five of 11 at Hollywood, including victories in the 2012 and 2013 Time to Leave S. The five-year-old mare also boasts wins in the 2011 La Brea (G1) and this season's Santa Monica (G2) at Santa Anita Park. Runner-up in the A Gleam H. (G2) at Hollywood over the summer, she is exiting a win in the L.A. Woman and an eighth-placing in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint at Santa Anita in her past two. Other contenders in the eight-strong field include Grade 3 victress Rumor (Indian Charlie), who will be making her first start since finishing fourth in the A Gleam on July 13, and stakes heroine Judy in Disguise (Elusive City), third two back in the Senator Ken Maddy (G3)...
Multiple stakes queen Silverette (Street Sense) will make her barn debut for new trainer Eddie Kenneally when she lines up on Sunday in the $100,000 South Beach at Gulfstream Park. The gray four-year-old was previously conditioned by Dale Romans and scored wins in the Turf Amazon H., Caress and Red Cross for that trainer this season. She is exiting a close fourth in the Franklin County last out at Keeneland, and will have Jose Lezcano aboard for Sunday's 7 1/2-furlong turf test. Baffle Me (First Samurai) is also among the 16, including one main-track only and one also-eligible, entered in the race. The Mark Hennig charge captured her last two, the Finney and Jazzy, going seven furlongs at Belmont Park, and is 1-1-1 from three starts on Gulfstream's green. Stakes winner Sisterhood (Kitten's Joy) could have a shot after just missing over the Polytrack by a neck in the Doubledogdare (G3) at Keeneland and a half-length in the Arlington Matron at Arlington Park earlier this year...
Six New York-bred juvenile fillies will take to Aqueduct's inner dirt on Sunday in the $100,000 East View going a mile and 70 yards. Heading the group is Miss Narcissist (Freud), who is three-for-four thus far in her short career. The Linda Rice pupil faltered in her career debut at Saratoga in August but rebounded just 20 days later to break her maiden at the Spa. The bay miss then traveled to Belmont Park to add a 5 1/4-length victory in the Joseph A. Gimma before successfully negotiating Aqueduct's main track for a had score in the Fifth Avenue division of the New York Stallion S. (NYSS) series just two weeks ago. "Right now she's obviously fit, and we felt we could try to see if she can get two turns when she's fit enough to do so," Rice said. "Maybe that will help us decide what we'll point towards next year. I think she was more impressive in the Gimma at seven furlongs than she was in the Stallion Stakes at six. I think she may appreciate the extra distance." Regular rider Junior Alvarado has the call on Miss Narcissist as she takes on Canadian import Flipcup (Milwaukee Brew), who was third when making her stakes bow two weeks ago in the South Ocean, and stakes-winning stablemate Champagne Ruby (Utopia), third in the Fifth Avenue. "She had a pretty dull performance in the Gimma when she was bumped at the start, but I was very pleased with her last race, and when she won the stakes at Finger Lakes she rated beautifully and finished strongly and did so again in the Stallion Stakes," said Rice, who trains Champagne Ruby for her father, Clyde...
Six distaffers will line up at Gulfstream Park on Saturday for the $100,000 Sugar Swirl (G3), which will see Munnings Sister (Speightstown) try to get back on the winning track. The Barclay Tagg-trained four-year-old posted back-to-back stakes wins at Belmont Park over the spring and summer before finishing a nice third in the Honorable Miss H. (G2) at Saratoga in late July. The chestnut miss was unable to duplicate that effort in the Gallant Bloom H. (G2) last out in September, finishing a well-beaten seventh on that occasion, but could rebound here under new rider Luis Saez. Munnings Sister will face a familiar rival in the six-furlong Sugar Swirl as Honorable Miss Classic Point (Flatter) has drawn the far outside post in the field. Trained by Allen Jerkens, Classic Point just missed by a neck in that contest before running a close fifth in the Ballerina (G1) at Saratoga. She posted another neck second last out in the Punkin Pie at Belmont and gets Alex Solis back in the irons. R Free Roll (Rockport Harbor) and Heart Stealer will face-off yet again in the Sugar Swirl after running one-two, respectively, in the Bold World H. last out, while the field is completed by stakes-placed winner Crazy About Me (Lawyer Ron) and Twice Told Tale (Tale of the Cat)...
The inner-track stakes schedule gets underway at Aqueduct on Saturday, with the Todd Pletcher-trained Percussion (Bluegrass Cat) returning to his favorite course as he heads a field of five for the 108th running of the $100,000 Queens County. The five-year-old gelding was 2-2-0 from six starts at the Big A last winter and went on to finish fourth in the Charles Town Classic (G2) in his first stakes appearance. He next won the Albert the Great overnight stakes at Belmont Park, placed second in the Brooklyn H. (G2) and was third in the Alydar in August at Saratoga. Most recently, he finished third in the Slew o'Gold on November 17 at Aqueduct. "He was a welcome addition last winter and made everyone look good," said Pletcher's assistant, Mike McCarthy. "It was nice to see him progress through the spring and see him run in a few of the bigger races. He was unlucky in a few, like the Brooklyn H., but hopefully he gets back here and shows the same type of form he showed last winter." Irad Ortiz Jr. will ride Percussion, who is the 2-1 morning-line favorite for the 1 1/8-mile race. Making his stakes debut is Sliver and Onions (Tiz Wonderful), a two-length winner of an optional claimer on November 14 in his Big A debut. The gray three-year-old was gelded following a fifth-place finish in an optional claimer at Saratoga in August and returned on October 25 to finish third going 1 1/16 miles at Belmont. Trainer Mike Hushion is hopeful Sliver and Onions is on the cusp of proving himself a serious racehorse. "He had some bad habits; since we gelded him he's been a more focused individual both in his training and in the afternoons," Hushion stated. "We could have run him in a two-other-than (allowance) rather than a stakes, but this is an opportunity to find out how good a horse he is and see where he will take us." Jose Ortiz has the mount. Trainer David Jacobson has entered veteran Spa City Fever (Roaring Fever), winner of an optional claimer last out, and Don Dulce (Maria's Mon), who was claimed for $100,000 in September and finished second in the I'm A Banker overnight stakes on September 12 at Belmont in his first start for his new connections. Rounding out the field is mid-Atlantic shipper Jonesy Boy (Smarty Jones), a supplemental entry for trainer Kelly Breen...
Ten horses are entered for Saturday's $75,000 Kenny Noe Jr. H. over 6 1/2 furlongs at Calder. Black Diamond Cat (Wildcat Heir) won back-to-back stakes races at Calder in 2011 and returned to win the six-furlong Ponche H. in June over Close It Out (Closing Argument), who beat him by in the six-furlong Champali S. in May. Black Diamond Cat comes into the Noe on a two-stakes win streak in the Housebuster S. and Montbrook S. at Gulfstream Park. Meanwhile, Close It Out came fourth in the Sunshine State S. at Gulfstream last Sunday. Fort Loudon (Awesome of Course) finished fifth in the Sunshine State in his first start since the Smile Sprint H. (G2) in July. Besides winning four straight races at Calder in 2011, which included a sweep of the Florida Stallion Stakes Series, Fort Loudon scored three straight stakes victories at Calder in 2012, including the Carry Back S. (G3). City of Weston (Holy Bull) returns to Calder after running in a string of four stakes races up north, including his first graded victory in the Gallant Bob S. (G3) at Parx on September 21...
Multiple Grade 3 victor Sage Valley (Discreet Cat) gets class relief Friday in a $100,000 starter stakes labeled the Spooky Mulder, a six-furlong dash at Aqueduct for horses who have started for a claiming price. Haltered by Rudy Rodriguez for $50,000 here in February 2012, Sage Valley improved over his sophomore campaign, culminating in a 6 3/4-length rout in a minor stakes last fall. He scored his two signature wins this season, the May 18 Maryland Sprint H. (G3) at Pimlico and the July 19 James Marvin (G3) at Saratoga, but lost his way thereafter. Following unplaced efforts in the Forego (G1), Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash and Fall Highweight H. (G3), the four-year-old lowers his sights and adds blinkers. Rodriguez also sends out the speedy Dads Caps, another Discreet Cat colt, who sports a three-for-five lifetime mark. Dads Caps is unbeaten at the Big A, and two starts back, he was third to Shanghai Bobby in the Aljamin at Belmont. Trainer David Jacobson is similarly double-handed with Candyman E (Candy Ride) and Praetereo (Giant's Causeway). Candyman E, the 2011 De Francis winner who has competed well in several 2013 stakes, was just claimed for $62,500 out of a front-running score at Belmont. Praetereo was snapped up for the same price in July, and after placings in the October 6 Duck Dance and the October 14 I'm a Banker, he rolled by 5 3/4 lengths in an Aqueduct allowance. Rounding out the quintet is Sam Sparkle (Too Much Bling), a five-length winner at the $35,000 level in his first start off the claim for David Cannizzo...
Charles Town canceled live racing for the third consecutive day on Thursday due to adverse conditions. The West Virginia track is scheduled to resume live racing on Friday.
On the California worktab
Multiple Argentinean Group 1 hero Winning Prize (Pure Prize), a close third in the Citation H. (G2) two weeks ago, logged four furlongs in :51 3/5 over Hollywood Park's Cushion Track on Thursday.
Grade 2 runner-up Heir Kitty (Wildcat Heir), winner of an optional claimer on November 29, clocked a co-bullet half-mile in :47 1/5.
Recent Vernon O. Underwood (G3) scorer Majestic Stride (Trippi), a close fourth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint two back, traveled five-eighths in 1:00 4/5 on the fast dirt at Santa Anita.
Color of Courage (Came Home), second in the November 28 Vernon O. Underwood in his only start this year, turned four furlongs in :49 1/5.
Grade 3 victress Rumor (Indian Charlie), unraced since placing fourth in the July 13 A Gleam H. (G2), blew out three panels in :36 3/5. The Richard Mandella-trained five-year-old is entered in Sunday's $100,000 Playa del Rey at Hollywood.
On the New York worktab
Grade 1 winner Strapping Groom (Johannesburg), second in the recent Fall Highweight (G3), completed five furlongs in :49 3/5 over the fast inner track at Aqueduct on Thursday. It was the fastest of 16 works at the distance.
Stakes winner Cease (War Chant), ninth in the Breeders' Cup Marathon (G2), logged three furlongs in :39.
Multiple New York-bred stakes scorer Awesome Vision (Awesome Again), winner of the November 16 Move It Now, toured a half-mile in :52 on the fast training track at Belmont.
On the Florida worktab
Multiple Grade 3 winner River Seven (Johannesburg), who exits a tally in the Commonwealth Turf (G3), breezed five furlongs in 1:01 3/5 over the fast track at Gulfstream Park on Thursday.
Black Onyx (Rock Hard Ten), unraced since winning the Spiral (G3) in late March, turned three furlongs in :39 3/5 on the firm turf at Palm Meadows.
Multiple Grade 3 winner Tune Me In (Concorde's Tune), seventh in the Who's to Pay last out, logged four furlongs in :50 on the fast track at Payson Park.
On the Louisiana worktab
Multiple Grade 3 queen Channel Lady (English Channel), unraced since finishing sixth as the favorite in the Matchmaker (G3) in July, breezed three furlongs in a bullet :35 2/5 over the fast track at Fair Grounds on Thursday.
Grade 3 winner Battle Hardened (Giant's Causeway), unraced since a facile allowance score at Lone Star in May, logged five furlongs in 1:03.
For Friday or Next Raceday
DECEMBER 13, 2013
Warren wins $10,000 by 10 cents
by Ed DeRosa
The biggest score of Bruce Warren's life might be just the first step on a $50 parlay that leads to a $750,000 payday and an Eclipse Award as the nation's top handicapper at the National Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas January 24-26.
Warren, 56, of Melville, New York, finished first in the TwinSpires Online Handicapping Championship to win $10,000 and an entry to NHC 15. It's his biggest win in racing to date and the first time he's qualified for the NHC.
"I haven't entered too many contests but have been an NHC Tour member for a few years mainly in case I ever qualified from a free tournament," Warren said. "I've done a few brick and mortar contests, but the best I've ever finished is 10th or so, and I'm not a big bettor, so I've never won close to this."
Warren won big bucks for the November 30 tournament at TwinSpires.com, and he's in line for an even bigger payday at the NHC, but all that separated him and the second-place competitor in the TwinSpires competition is a dime, which Warren equated to the desperate nose of a horse who made the lead too soon and just did hold on for victory.
"I was in first after the 10TH race (of 15), so I was in more of a nervous state of wanting to hold on than getting excited about winning," Warren said. "There's more pressure when you're in the lead, so I didn't really enjoy the ride as much until it was over but then I realized what a big thrill it was."
As far as strategy goes, Warren said that his primary goal entering any tournament is not to overthink it, and he plans a similar approach for the NHC.
"I'll handicap the races and my primary objective is to pick whoever I think is going to win," Warren said. "If I think two horses are close and one is 10-1 and the other is 8-5 then obviously I'll pick the 10-1 horse, but if I really like a horse I won't not pick him because he's the favorite.
"I know some players won't consider a horse who's less than 8-1 or some other arbitrary price, but I try to stay patient. If I need a big price later in the tournament then I'll go for it, but I start out just trying to pick winners."
Warren got into racing growing up on Long Island and attending Roosevelt Raceway and Belmont Park as a teenager. He said he worked as a groom in high school and always tried to get his friends to go to the track with him in college. Warren's wife and several friends plan to go to Las Vegas with him next month to cheer him on at the NHC.
"I fell in love with the sport from an early age and love introducing people to the sport," Warren said. "To me, there's nothing better than a freshly printed set of past performances. It's pages of puzzles, and I absolutely love it."
Warren's publishing sales company, the Pegasus Group, does work throughout New England and the Mid-Atlantic regions, including printing a directory for Meadowlands Racetrack.
Warren is one of 20 NHC qualifiers from the TwinSpires.com championship that also will send 30 people to the Horseplayer World Series March 27-29 at the Orleans Casino in Las Vegas. In 2012, TwinSpires.com qualifier Michael Beychok won the $1-million first prize at the NHC.
Your chance to qualify for those tournaments on TwinSpires.com has passed (at least for this year), but TwinSpires.com is giving away $5,000 on December 28 as part of its holiday freeroll -- just bet $100/day for five days before Christmas to qualify (see site for more details).
DECEMBER 11, 2013
by Vance Hanson
It's nearly time to fill out another Eclipse Award ballot -- an annual opportunity to pass judgment on events since January 1. Unfortunately, this year's exercise involves the review of a racing season that was less-than-riveting in the sport's premier divisions, where inconsistency was the rule rather than the exception, and when questionable play-calling on the part of some "coaches" led to a few face-in-hands moments.
As usual, we'll briefly mention the no-brainers and then dissect the more interesting categories.
GROUPIE DOLL sealed a second championship winning the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint in game fashion. The undefeated CLUSTER OF STARS looked exceptional at times, though, and wouldn't fault in the least those who take a contrarian view and consider her the best they saw.
NEW YEAR'S DAY won his only stakes attempt, the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, against Champagne winner HAVANA and Hopeful hero STRONG MANDATE. It was an uninspiring renewal of the race, but taking the results at face value is the way to go.
In a decision that could have gone either way, Santa Anita stewards elevated RIA ANTONIA to first in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies over SHE'S A TIGER, who was found guilty of bearing out into her rival in deep stretch. However, that was the only season highlight in stakes company for Ria Antonia, who previously finished fourth against males in the Swynford at Woodbine and a nondescript fifth in the Frizette at Belmont against several fillies whom she later upset in the Breeders' Cup.
She's a Tiger was far more formful, winning the Del Mar Debutante and Landaluce, and narrowly missing in the Chandelier and Sorrento prior to her Breeders' Cup disqualification. She's more worthy of this award.
Certainly the most inscrutable division this year, and perhaps of all time as the six major jump races of the year yielded six different winners.
Close examination of the records led us to the conclusion that ITALIAN WEDDING, with a 5-1-1-2 record, and GUSTAVIAN, with 5-1-2-1 mark, were consistently better than the other four. Although Gustavian finished ahead of Italian Wedding in two of their three meetings, two of Gustavian's losses came in relatively lesser races: the Temple Gwathmey and National Hunt Cup.
That, my friends, is how you split hairs.
SECRET CIRCLE prevailed in the Breeders' Cup Sprint in his only stakes appearance, and that might have been enough if there were conclusive evidence he had the best sprinters of the year behind him. He didn't.
More accomplished this term was POINTS OFFTHEBENCH, who captured the Bing Crosby and Santa Anita Sprint Championship before tragically losing his life after breaking down in a workout while preparing for the Breeders' Cup Sprint. Also in the discussion is SAHARA SKY, who won the Palos Verdes and San Carlos, finished second in the Carter Handicap, and then captured a thrilling renewal of the Metropolitan Handicap over a mile before going to the sidelines.
Based on how the electorate tends to behave, Points Offthebench will get more credit for winning races bestowed with the magic "Grade 1" designation. In contrast, Sahara Sky's two sprint victories were in lowly "Grade 2" events.
Of course, in addition to Sahara Sky himself, that Palos Verdes also included Vosburgh (G1) winner Private Zone and Alfred G. Vanderbilt (G1) winner Justin Phillip. Now you know the rest of that story.
There's no wrong answer if it comes down to Points Offthebench and Sahara Sky, but the latter will get our support.
He's no one-track pony. It only looked that way this year.
We are talking about MUCHO MACHO MAN, who lit up Santa Anita in the Awesome Again and then courageously held on to win the Breeders' Cup Classic over the same track against the best dirt males, three and up, in training. That was a solid way to conclude the season after an inauspicious beginning -- pulling up in the Sunshine Millions Classic and losing an overnight stakes at Belmont.
GAME ON DUDE, who also kind of likes Santa Anita (9-7-0-0), must absolutely detest the Breeders' Cup Classic. He was the clear favorite to snag this award heading into the $5 million event, but was out of the Classic frame for the second consecutive year. It was unfortunate and inexplicable.
As Mucho Macho Man's season record had some glaring holes to go with his magnificent wins, there is sure to be support for WISE DAN to win this award again. If he does pull it off, it would be the fourth time in five years it would go to a horse whose stakes victories occurred entirely on turf and synthetic surfaces.
We have not yet partaken in this disturbing trend of supporting unconventional candidates for this award, which traditionally went to the best older horse on dirt, and do not intend to start now.
Accumulating an unconventional group of stakes wins (Smarty Jones, Rebel, Travers, Pennsylvania Derby, and Clark Handicap), WILL TAKE CHARGE seems to have won over the remaining skeptics and become a strong favorite to win this award.
The scintillating, last-lunge win in the Clark over Game On Dude only reaffirmed what the rest already knew: that the blinker-less Will Take Charge seen since July was a far superior animal to the sink-or-swim colt who wore shades through the Triple Crown, and to every other male in the crop.
It was certainly a tale of two seasons for Will Take Charge, who did absolutely nothing in the three classics but went 8-5-2-0 at other times.
The Triple Crown races are indeed important, but no race or series of races are definitive all the time. That is why it was hard to back ORB for this award as the months dragged on and the number of defeats mounted, including a last-place effort in the Jockey Club Gold Cup in his only attempt against older horses.
For us, this race was settled when Will Take Charge narrowly missed to Mucho Macho Man in his debut against older males. The Clark was, as they say, cushion.
"It was worse than a crime; it was a blunder."
The quote above, often attributed to Talleyrand, only partially overstates things. No real crime was committed.
When you avenge your only previous loss of the season in the Kentucky Oaks, add the Coaching Club American Oaks and Alabama, and then defeat Royal Delta with relative ease in the Beldame, it's time to take a knee. Run out the clock. Don't let your opponents, who have no time outs, get the ball back.
That was the position PRINCESS OF SYLMAR was in between September 28 and November 1. But instead of taking the knee, her connections decided to try running up the score in the Breeders' Cup Distaff.
Was the $2 million purse too good to pass up? Did they believe whispers that she would become a Horse of the Year candidate even though she would not have accomplished anything remotely close to what previous three-year-old filly Horses of the Year had achieved?
There was no margin for error. Princess of Sylmar had only narrowly defeated BEHOLDER in the Kentucky Oaks, and was now going west to face her again over a track where Beholder was four-for-four around two turns. And let's not forget CLOSE HATCHES, who traded decisions with Princess of Sylmar in the Gazelle and Kentucky Oaks, but later added the Mother Goose and Cotillion. She was in a position to win, too.
The result could have been foreseen a month in advance. Beholder kept her undefeated mark around two turns at Santa Anita intact and claimed a second major stakes victory against older fillies and mares. Close Hatches ran strongly for second, giving her a 2-1 edge over Princess of Sylmar, who failed to pick up at any point and trailed the field of six.
In this particular race, Beholder won as time expired.
Horse of the Year:
MUCHO MACHO MAN and WILL TAKE CHARGE did enough to deserve divisional titles, but no more than that. That pretty much leaves WISE DAN as a default selection.
There's not much personal enthusiasm for this choice. There was no regression from Wise Dan this season, but there was definitely a drop-off in quality from what we saw in the turf male division in 2012 as a whole. It was easier to back Wise Dan last year when he emerged from what was arguably the best division in racing.
Wise Dan's campaign, far more conservative than the one he endured in 2012, began to trigger complaints from some quarters this year for being unadventurous and lacking in ambition. Knowing what we know about Wise Dan's capabilities on other surfaces and beyond a mile, the criticism was fair.
Wise Dan can be campaigned any way his connections choose, of course, but earning divisional titles and higher honors can not then be taken for granted.
Horse of the Year titles, traditionally, are not won simply by dominating your own division, but by transcending them. Wise Dan didn't do that, but he wasn't allowed to. Fortunately for him, a surplus of goodwill makes him a more sensible choice than the alternatives.
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