In order for the editorial staff to spend the holiday with their families, the Bloodstock Journal and Handicapper's Edge will be not be published Thursday evening. Our regular features and news updates will resume Friday.
We wish all of our readers a Happy Thanksgiving.
California Chrome to face five in Hollywood Derby
California Chrome worked a half-mile in :52 on the turf course Sunday. An open gallop through the stretch on the grass is planned for Thursday morning.
The Hollywood Derby field, in alphabetical order, is: Cabral (Kent Desormeaux), California Chrome (Victor Espinoza), Flamboyant (Mike Smith), Lexie Lou (Corey Nakatani), Sawyer's Hill (Rafael Bejarano) and Talco (Drayden Van Dyke).
Post positions for the race were to be drawn at the close of entries later Wednesday.
The Hollywood Derby is one of three stakes on the penultimate day of Del Mar's Bing Crosby Season along with the Native Diver and Jimmy Durante, both Grade 3 events.
Itsmyluckyday taking last hurrah in Cigar Mile
Exiting the Breeders' Cup Sprint are Secret Circle, who finished a half-length second in his title defense of that race at Santa Anita on November 1, and Private Zone, who ran third that day after gutting out a repeat victory by a neck in the September 27 Vosburgh at Belmont. Private Zone was a 32-1 second to Flat Out in the 2013 Cigar Mile. Bourbon Courage, who passed nine horses in the final furlong to finish fourth in the Sprint, is seeking his first stakes win since taking the 2012 Super Derby.
Vyjack, who upset the Kelso by a length, owns a three-for-four mark over the Aqueduct main track, but was also successful over the inner dirt in the 2013 editions of the Jerome and Gotham. Another horse for the course is the New York-bred Big Business, who has fallen a little short in several stakes this year including the Forego at Saratoga.
Regally Ready, a past winner of the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, has won six of nine this year, including three stakes in succession on both dirt and turf. Stakes winner Transparent enters off an September 18 allowance score at Belmont off an eight-month layoff, while the three-year-old Noble Moon has been unplaced four times since taking the Jerome on the inner dirt.
Dame Dorothy, who defeated older mares last month in the Turnback the Alarm Handicap at Belmont, puts her undefeated four-for-four record on the line against fellow three-year-old fillies in the Grade 3, $400,000 Comely at 1 1/8 miles.
Catch My Drift, a half-length behind Dame Dorothy last time, is back for a rematch. Others of note are Penwith, third in the 2013 Demoiselle and the Indiana Oaks last time; multiple Grade 2-placed House Rules, a six-length allowance winner at the Big A earlier this month; and the Grade 3-placed allowance winner Divided Attention.
Empire Distaff winner and Mother Goose runner-up Princess Violet was cross-entered to Friday's Go for Wand Handicap, as was Snowbell, an 8 1/2-length allowance winner at Belmont most recently.
Fourteen entered for Remsen; Demoiselle gets Grade 1 pair
Ostrolenka, Classy Class, and Frosted drew posts 12, 11, and 14, respectively. Market Conduct, twice stakes-placed in New York-bred company, drew post 13.
Also exiting solid maiden wins are Eh Cumpari, Combat Diver, and Leave the Light On. Moonlight Bandit is another, but he was cross-entered to Saturday's Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs along with allowance-placed stablemate Flashaway.
Others of note include The Truth Or Else, a distant third in both the Champagne and Nashua, and Churchill graduate Keen Ice, a son of Curlin who finished fifth in last month's Breeders' Futurity after a slow start.
The Grade 2, $400,000 Demoiselle, a nine-furlong test for juvenile fillies, attracted a more compact field of eight, including Grade 1 scorers Condo Commando and Angela Renee.
Condo Commando registered her first two wins at Saratoga by a combined margin of 25 1/4 lengths, including the seven-furlong Spinaway in the slop. An odds-on favorite to repeat in wet conditions in the Frizette, the Rudy Rodriguez trainee instead endured a wide rating trip and settled for fourth in a field of seven.
After placing in the Adirondack and Spinaway, Angela Renee shipped west to take the Chandelier by 1 1/2 lengths at Santa Anita for trainer Todd Pletcher. The daughter of Bernardini was the 3-1 favorite for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, but made no impact after being bumped early over a track favoring speed.
Jacaranda enters undefeated from two starts, including a 3 1/2-length triumph in the one-mile Tempted earlier this month. Also unbeaten from two starts is Quezon, who has won both starts by six lengths each, albeit against New York-bred company. Her latest was a stakes triumph in the $250,000 Maid of Mist at Belmont.
Gap Year was favored to win the Alcibiades at Keeneland despite being a maiden, but endured a horribly wide trip. She came back to register her first win over the same track by a nose. Calamity Kate, who broke her maiden at Belmont by six lengths in September, was another who didn't fare well in the Alcibiades due to a wide journey.
Lord Nelson stretches back out for Kentucky Jockey Club
Imperia and International Star move to the dirt after they both ran up the track in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf last time. Imperia, who missed by less than a four lengths after a rough trip in the stretch, previously took the Pilgrim at Belmont on the grass and makes his dirt debut Saturday. International Star, who finished one position ahead of Imperia in the Juvenile Turf, previously landed the Grey over Woodbine's Polytrack and was second in his only prior attempt on dirt.
El Kabeir, one of the more noteworthy maiden winners during the Saratoga meet when he waltzed home by 10 3/4 lengths, enters the Kentucky Jockey Club off a distant second-place finish in the Nashua at Aqueduct, a race contested over a one-turn mile in the mud.
Others of note are Sky Hero and Eagle, who landed first-level allowances at Churchill and Keeneland, respectively, in the most recent outings; Flashaway, runner-up to Sky Hero in his dirt debut; and Jumpin Jac Flash, a five-length maiden winner last out for trainer Kenny McPeek.
A dozen two-year-old fillies will also travel 1 1/16 miles in the Grade 2, $200,000 Golden Rod. The likely favorites include the undefeated West Coast Belle, a 6 3/4-length winner of the $62,000 Rags to Riches at Churchill last month, and wire-to-wire Pocahontas winner Cristina's Journey, who finished 11th of 12 in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies last out.
Another intriguing entry is No Fault of Mine, who romped by 4 1/2 lengths in her Arlington debut on Polytrack in late September. The Chris Block trainee is by Blame, who famously landed the Breeders' Cup Classic and Clark Handicap over Churchill's main track.
McPeek saddles two stakes newcomers in the Golden Rod. Keeneland graduate I'm a Chatterbox adds Lasix after showing speed and fading to third behind returning rival Simply Confection in a course-and-distance allowance. Previously, Simply Confection was a distant second to West Coast Belle in the one-mile Rags to Riches.
Kathballu, the other McPeek entry, is one of several recent graduates who might factor with rapid progression. Also in that category are Martz and Jojo's Melody.
Cary Street, Ever Rider clash again at Hawthorne
Cary Street, a dominating winner of the Las Vegas Marathon on the Breeders' Cup undercard last month, goes in search of his third graded victory of the season Saturday in the Grade 2, $250,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup over 1 1/4 miles. A relaxed early trailer in the 1 3/4-length Marathon, Cary Street overcame a 15-length deficit to win the Grade 2 successor race to the Breeders' Cup Marathon by 9 1/4 lengths.
Cary Street's main rival is Ever Rider, with whom he had exchanged decisions prior to that jaunt to Santa Anita. In the 1 1/2-mile Greenwood Cup at Parx on Labor Day, Cary Street registered a 28-1 upset over Ever Rider by a length. Ever Rider rebounded to take the 1 5/8-mile Temperence Hill at Belmont, with Cary Street 10 lengths behind in third over a sloppy track.
There are plenty of speed elements in the Hawthorne Gold Cup, including Red Rifle, Abraham, Midnight Aria, and Call Me George. Besides Cary Street and Ever Rider, others who might benefit from a fast, contested pace are the locally-based Mister Marti Gras and Street Spice, who ran second and third, respectively, in last year's Gold Cup.
Also in the lineup are multiple stakes winner Fordubai, sixth in the Gold Cup a year ago, and recent Empire Classic upsetter Effinex.
Flintshire, Cirrus des Aigles among foreign invaders for Hong Kong races
Flintshire, Cirrus des Aigles, Buffering and Snow Dragon are among the Group 1 stars from seven nations and jurisdictions heading to Sha Tin on December 14 to compete with a stellar line-up of Hong Kong's finest at the Hong Kong International Races (HKIR).
A total of25 overseas raiders and 22 international Grrade/Group 1 winners were among the 51 selected horses for the Turf World Championships announced Wednesday. The HKIR is comprised of the HK$25 million Hong Kong Cup, the HK$23 million Hong Kong Mile, the HK$18.5 million Hong Kong Sprint and the HK$16.5 million Hong Kong Vase.
Flintshire brings outstanding form to the 2400-meter Hong Kong Vase. Trainer Andre Fabre has not ducked a test with the four-year-old this year. The 2013 Grand Prix de Paris winner heads to Sha Tin after running second in two of the world's great mile and a half events this autumn, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in France and the Breeders' Cup Turf in the U.S.
He is set to face the past two Hong Kong Vase winners, Dominant (2013) and Red Cadeaux (2012), as well another to have made the frame at Santa Anita recently, the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf third Just the Judge, winner of the E.P. Taylor in October and the Irish One Thousand Guineas in 2013.
Cirrus des Aigles is always a headline draw. The French superstar has been in great form this year, winning three Group 1 races to take his top-flight tally to six. The veteran of many a famous skirmish will be having his fifth start at the HKIR when he lines up for the Hong Kong Cup, the day's feature event and the second richest 2000-meter turf contest in the world. Also selected for that race is the southern hemisphere star Criterion, winner of the Australian Derby this year.
The world's richest turf mile race, the Hong Kong Mile, has in its line-up Japan's top-class milers Grand Prix Boss and Fiero, as well as Britain's Woodbine Mile victor and Breeders' Cup Mile third Trade Storm.
An exciting cast for the Hong Kong Sprint, the world's most lucrative all-age 1200-meter contest, features one of Australia's toughest speedsters, Buffering, alongside European luminaries Gordon Lord Byron and Sole Power. Japan, buoyed by the back-to-back wins of the great and now retired Lord Kanaloa, looks to the Sprinters Stakes one-two of Snow Dragon and Straight Girl, and the speedy Group 2 winner Little Gerda.
Japan's representation, with 10 horses in total, will be the largest contingent from that country ever to compete at Hong Kong racing's flagship event.
The home team features the best Hong Kong has to offer including Horse of the Year Designs on Rome, alongside Blazing Speed, Military Attack and California Memory in the Cup; crack milers Able Friend, Ambitious Dragon, Gold-Fun and Glorious Days; elite sprinters Lucky Nine and Sterling City; and defending champion Dominant in the Vase.
'All Others' a heavy favorite in first Kentucky Derby Future Wager
The Kentucky Derby Future Wager enables fans of America's greatest race to wager on candidates for the Kentucky Derby well in advance of the race at odds that could be much more attractive than those offered on the day of the race.
Wagering on KDFW Pool 1 is scheduled to open at noon (EST) on Friday and conclude Sunday at 6 p.m.
"All Others" was the 4-5 favorite in last year's inaugural November pool of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager. A total of $273,174 was wagered during that pool, including $35,096 in exacta bets. California Chrome, the eventual winner of the 2014 Kentucky Derby, was not listed among its wagering interests. Total betting in the 2014 Kentucky Derby Future Wager, the first to feature four wagering pools, was $1,324,466.
The November 28-30 pool is only the second November pool in the history of the wager, which was first offered in 1999. All Kentucky Derby Future Wager pools offer $2-minimum win betting and exacta wagering. The latter is available in the form of $2 minimum straight exacta bets or $1-minimum exacta boxes and part-wheels.
No scratches or betting refunds are permitted in the Kentucky Derby Future wager, but betting will be suspended immediately on a wagering interest in any KDFW pool if Churchill Downs determines that injury, illness or other circumstance revealed during a pool would prevent a horse from competing in the race.
Winning payouts in KDFW pools are determined by the odds in place at the end of each respective betting pool.
Wagering on the Kentucky Derby and Oaks Future Wager will be offered at Churchill Downs and racetracks throughout North America; on the web via TwinSpires.com, the official online wagering site of the Kentucky Derby and Churchill Downs Incorporated, other advance deposit wagering sites; and at other simulcast centers and off-track wagering sites.
Pool 1 coincides with the closing weekend of Churchill Downs' 125th Fall Meet that includes among its highlights the popular "Stars of Tomorrow II" program devoted exclusively to racing for two-year-old Thoroughbreds, many of whom could emerge as candidates for next spring's Kentucky Derby.
The featured event on Saturday's "Stars of Tomorrow II" card is the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club, a 1 1/16-mile race that has produced recent winners of the Kentucky Derby in Real Quiet, the KJC runner-up in 1997 who won the Run for the Roses the following year, and Super Saver, who swept those races in 2009 and 2010.
Also scheduled during KDFW Pool 1 betting period is the Grade 2 Remsen, a 1 1/8-mile race for two-year-olds at Aqueduct on Saturday.
A dozen of the 23 individual horses in Pool 1 are in the barns of three trainers: Todd Pletcher, Baffert and Kiaran McLaughlin.
Pletcher, who saddled Super Saver to win the 2010 Kentucky Derby, trains five of the wagering interests in KDFW Pool 1. His group includes Blofeld, Carpe Diem, Competitive Edge, Daredevil and New York-bred Ostrolenka (#18), who is among the top contenders expected for the Remsen. Baffert's KDFW foursome headed by favored individual American Pharoah also features Dortmund (#8), Lord Nelson (#14) and Punctuate (#19). His trio of Kentucky Derby winners includes Hall of Famer Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998) and War Emblem (2002).
McLaughlin, who saddled Closing Argument for a runner-up finish to Giacomo in the 2005 Kentucky Derby, has three Pool 1 wagering interests in his care. They are Remsen prospects Classy Class (#5) and Frosted (#11), as well as Imperia (#13), who is scheduled to race on dirt for the first time after a troubled trip in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf.
Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 1
The Great War, who finished fourth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile for trainer Aidan O'Brien, has been transferred to the care of trainer Wesley Ward to be prepared for America's classics, according to Ward.
Wagering interests for the Kentucky Derby Future Wager were chosen by Churchill Downs committee that included Racing Secretary Ben Huffman, Senior Director of Communications Darren Rogers, Senior Racing Analyst Jill Byrne, Pari-Mutuel Marketing Manager Gary Palmisano and Vice President, Racing Communications John Asher.
An important part of the selection committee's work was making contact with trainers and other representatives of KDFW wagering interests to determine the health status of those horses and their viability as candidates for the 2015 Kentucky Derby. Horses currently on the mend from injuries were not included in the pool until their recovery status and racing plans were verified.
In addition to American Pharoah, three other KDFW Pool 1 horses have been absent from the work tab recently but their connections intend to target Road to the Kentucky Derby races. Unbeaten Competitive Edge will resume training at Florida's Palm Beach Downs in the near future for a winter/spring campaign, according to Pletcher. Saratoga Special winner I Spent It is expected to resume training in two weeks at Oaklawn Park, according to trainer Tony Dutrow. Promising maiden winner Punctuate had a minor infection recently but Baffert said he should return to training soon.
Free Brisnet Ultimate Past Performances for wagering interests in Pool 1 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager are available at http://www.brisnet.com/brisnet_promos/KYDerby15future1.pdf.
Three additional Kentucky Derby Future Wager pools are scheduled in the months leading up to Derby 141. The dates for those pools are:
There will be a single pool for the Kentucky Oaks Future Wager, which was launched in 2003 and is now in its 13th year. That pool will run concurrently with KDFW Pool 3 from February 27 through March 1. The only difference in the schedule of those pools is a 6:30 p.m. closing time for the Oaks pool, which is 30 minutes later than the KDFW pool.
Real-time odds during the three-day run of KDFW Pool 1 and other information the wager and the Kentucky Derby are available at the official event Web site at www.KentuckyDerby.com.
Constitution, Hoppertunity add spice to Clark field
Hoppertunity captured the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park and registered a career-best 100 BRIS Speed rating when finishing second to subsequent Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome in the Santa Anita Derby. He trained forwardly for the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, and was entered at the Wednesday draw preceding the race, before being a late withdrawal.
"It's disappointing because I think he was very live," Baffert said at the time. "He likes this track. He trained well over it."
The bay colt came back from a lengthy hiatus with a fast-closing second versus elders in an October 29 allowance/optional claiming event at Santa Anita. Baffert captured back-to-back runnings of the Clark with Isitingood and Silver Charm in 1996-97, and finished a nose second with Game On Dude last year.
Martin Garcia will pick up the mount on Hoppertunity, who is listed as the 7-2 co-second choice with Constitution.
Multiple Grade 2-winning millionaire Departing is the slight 3-1 favorite on the morning line. Trained by Al Stall Jr., the four-year-old gelding exits a pair of runner-up finishes in the Fayette at Keeneland and Homecoming Classic at Churchill Downs. Robby Albarado has the assignment.
A victory by Departing on Friday would be a record-breaking conquest for legendary owner Claiborne Farm. The iconic Paris, Kentucky racing and breeding operation shares the record for the most stakes victories (32) in the history of Churchill Downs with Calumet Farm, another Bluegrass legend now operated by Brad Kelley.
Fayette winner Pick of the Litter is one of two Clark contenders for trainer Dale Romans, who will also send out multiple graded stakes hero Prayer for Relief. The latter finished a close third in the Woodward at Saratoga before a 12th most recently in the Breeders' Cup Classic.
Romans won the 2012 Clark with Shackleford.
Rounding out the field are Easter Gift, who finished third in the 2013 Clark and defeated Constitution in the aforementioned allowance/optional claiming event at Belmont Park; recent Discovery winner Protonico; last-out Churchill allowance/optional claiming scorer Knights Nation; and Looking Cool, who steps up after being haltered for a $40,000 claiming tag from his last outing.
Tom's Tribute faces nine in Seabiscuit at Del Mar
Also exiting the Mile is Kaigun, who was a non-threatening 10th as a 42-1 longshot. Winner of the Play of the King at Woodbine in August, Kaigun was a sharp second to Wise Dan in the Maker's 46 Mile in April and later occupied the same slot in the Manhattan at Belmont Park and Woodbine Mile.
The top three finishers from the October 4 City of Hope at Santa Anita -- Big Bane Theory, Mr Commons and Avanzare -- all return for the Seabiscuit. Only Big Bane Theory has run in the interim, with that five-year-old finishing a distant fifth in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile last time.
Za Approval, a multiple Grade 3 winner who was runner-up in the Breeders' Cup Mile, Woodbine Mile and Shoemaker Mile last year, struggled earlier in the year before taking an overnight stakes, the $98,000 Real Courage, over seven furlongs at Belmont last time.
The field is rounded out by Skyring, a multiple Grade 2 winner; Pure Tactics, winner of the $80,000 Lure at Santa Anita by more than six lengths last out; Lil Bit O'Fun, who took the $95,000 Wickerr at Del Mar in July; and last-out $98,000 California Flag Handicap hero Boozer.
Willet among dozen in Go for Wand
Willet is hoping the third time is the charm in Friday's Grade 3, $300,000 Go for Wand Handicap at Aqueduct, a one-mile test for fillies and mares.
A six-year-old Jump Start mare, Willet has contested the Go for Wand the past two seasons. Second by a neck in 2012, she was fourth in last year's renewal. A four-time stakes winner, Willet has proven capable in open company this season with third-place finishes in the Gallant Bloom Handicap and Ballerina. She was second to the talented Grade 2 winner La Verdad in the $150,000 Iroquois last time.
Another New York-bred to watch is Princess Violet, who enters off two dominating scores at Belmont. After a four-length, entry-level allowance win against open company, the sophomore romped by 5 1/2 lengths in the Empire Distaff for state-breds. Earlier in the year, the daughter of Officer was a distant second to likely champion Untapable in the Mother Goose.
Sweet Whiskey, a Grade 3 scorer of the Old Hat in early January, was subsequently second in the Beaumont, Acorn, and Raven Run against her peers. The Go for Wand marks her first start against older rivals.
Classic Point showed major improvement last time when adding blinkers for the $98,000 Punkin Pie at Belmont. Showing more speed than she had shown since the summer, the Jimmy Jerkens trainee broke on top and ultimately drew off to win by more than six lengths.
Others of note are the Darley homebred Snowbell, who makes her stakes debut off an 8 1/2-length, first-level allowance score, and the graded stakes-placed Tapit's World, Endless Chatter, Street Girl, and Moment in Dixie.
Penn National postpones stakes due to impending storm
The overwhelming threat of a Thanksgiving Eve holiday snowstorm set to hit the mid-Atlantic region has forced the cancellation of Wednesday night's Holiday Racing Festival at Penn National.
The entire 10-race card, featuring three rich stakes including the $200,000 Fabulous Strike Handicap, has been rescheduled for Saturday night. First post time is 6:00 p.m. (EST).
"With the weather services calling for the storm, this was the logical call," said Director of Racing Eric Johnston. "We spoke with the local horsemen and consensus was that in the best interest of safety for all parties, the program should be cancelled. Many of the horses that were entered in the stakes were coming in from other tracks, and there is no guarantee that they, or many of our fans, would have be able to get here if all the weather reports for the region prove to be on target."
The Fabulous Strike, the $75,000 Blue Mountain Juvenile Fillies, and the $100,000 Swatara are the final three legs of an early Pick Four. The Fabulous Strike Handicap, which drew a field of 12, and the Swatara, are both part of the Penn Gaming Challenge.
The Food For Friends Charity Food Drive to support the Racetrack Chaplaincy Food Bank, has also been rescheduled for Saturday evening.
Tampa Bay Downs gets early start on 2014-15 winter meet
With the strongest jockey colony in memory and top barns from around the country, anticipation for the Saturday opening of Tampa Bay Downs' 2014-15 season has reached a fever pitch. The 91-day meeting resumes with a first-race post time of 12:30 p.m. (EST).
"Not everyone can cash a big superfecta ticket, but we are committed to making our patrons' experience as rewarding and memorable as possible on a daily basis," said Tampa Bay Downs Vice President of Marketing & Publicity Margo Flynn.
"(Racing secretary) Allison De Luca has done an awesome job recruiting top racing outfits. We had almost twice as many applications for stalls as we could accommodate," Flynn said. "The reputation of our safe, sand-based dirt track and lush turf course has spread nationwide and made Tampa Bay Downs a prime winter racing magnet."
Among the attractions for horsemen is a stakes schedule offering $2,660,000 in purse money. The highlight is the March 7 Festival Day program, which includes the Grade 2, $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby for three-year-olds; the Grade 3, $200,000 Florida Oaks for three-year-old fillies on the turf; and the Grade 3, $150,000 Hillsborough for older fillies and mares.
The stakes slate begins December 6 -- Cotillion Festival Day -- with the $100,000 Inaugural Stakes for two-year-olds and the $100,000 Sandpiper for two-year-old fillies. The December 6 festivities include the popular "Breakfast Buffet at the Downs" from 8-10 a.m. in the Trackside Picnic Pavilion.
Eight of the top 10 riders from the 2013-14 meeting are back, including last year's runner-up Ronnie Allen Jr., a four-time Tampa Bay Downs jockey champion, and third-place finisher Daniel Centeno, who has won five Tampa Bay Downs titles.
Adding zest to the riding colony is the return of Rosemary Homeister Jr., who spent the past two winters at Oaklawn Park. Homeister, who won an Eclipse Award as the outstanding apprentice in 1992, has ridden more than 2,700 career winners, second only to Hall of Fame member Julie Krone among women riders.
Other newcomers with solid credentials include a pair of Midwestern jockeys, Chris Emigh and E.E. Perez (also known as Eduardo E. Perez).
The track's jockey colony will be greeted Saturday by a state-of-the-art, high-performance collapsible Duralock rail along the inside of the turf course. Manufactured in the United Kingdom, the Duralock rail is designed to minimize the risk of injury when horses and riders brush against it.
For the past eight seasons, one name has reigned supreme among Tampa Bay Downs trainers: Jamie Ness. The native of Heron, South Dakota set the track record by saddling 79 winners in 2011-12 and is a prohibitive favorite to surpass the late Don Rice for most training titles in track history (Rice's eight titles were not consecutive).
Ness -- whose far-flung stable is also active during the winter at Laurel, Aqueduct, Gulfstream, Penn National and Charles Town -- won't have quite the same volume of starters at Tampa Bay Downs as in past seasons, but his exceptional horsemanship and understanding of where his horses fit still make him the one to beat.
"We're going to give it a big shot," he said recently. "We don't base the success of our stable on being leading trainer, but we're going to fill 40 stalls with some quality older horses and some young horses that look like they'll be OK."
Don't Tell Sophia a heavy favorite to take Falls City
Don't Tell Sophia was made the 6-5 morning line favorite for the Falls City, a race she finished second in a year ago in her lone defeat in four outings over Churchill's main track.
Molly Morgan, who's finished behind Don't Tell Sophia in their two latest face-offs, has racked up several big wins this year in the latter's absence, including Grade 2 scores in the Fleur de Lis Handicap and Chilukki under the Twin Spires. The Dale Romans trainee was also a game winner of the Gardenia at Ellis Park in August.
Flashy American, who won the 2013 Locust Grove and ran third in the Falls City later that autumn, captured the Sixty Sails Handicap at Hawthorne in April and later placed in the Fleur de Lis and Delaware Handicap. However, she's been unplaced in her last two starts in stakes company at Saratoga and Indiana Grand.
Others of note in the Falls City lineup are Teen Pauline, who captured the Top Flight Handicap, Ladies Handicap, and Affectionately last winter at Aqueduct for trainer Todd Pletcher; Tiz Windy, a three-year-old daughter of Street Sense who captured the Indiana Oaks by 2 3/4 lengths most recently; and Strut the Course, who invades from Canada after taking the 1 1/4-mile Maple Leaf on Woodbine's Polytrack by five lengths on November 1.
The Pizza Man adds spice to Hollywood Turf Cup
Augustin Stable's homebred Holiday Star is qualified to live up to his name on Thanksgiving. Third to subsequent Arlington Million upsetter Hardest Core in the Cape Henlopen at Delaware, the improving son of Harlan's Holiday missed in two photos in the John's Call at Saratoga and the PTHA President's Cup at Parx before earning a breakthrough in the Sycamore at Keeneland.
Motion's other hope, Alakazan Alakazan, is not to be overlooked. A Stud TNT homebred, the Brazilian import emulated his half-brother, Group 1 hero Vitoria Olimpica, by romping in the same race at Gavea in his career debut. Alakazan Alakazan didn't continue to follow the same trajectory, however, and was unplaced in his only other outing in his homeland. He's improved on a step up to marathon trips of late, finishing second to eventual Dueling Grounds Derby winner My Afleet in a Saratoga allowance and wiring a similar event at Kentucky Downs.
Holiday Star lures Hall of Famer Mike Smith aboard, while Alakazan Alakazan picks up the valuable services of Rafael Bejarano.
Of the California squad, Finnegans Wake takes a big class drop off a 10th in the Breeders' Cup Turf. Formerly based at Churchill with Dale Romans, the veteran campaigner joined Peter Miller this fall. Finnegans Wake made a strong Santa Anita debut in the John Henry Turf Championship, closing boldly for second, and promises a similar effort back at this level. Note that he reunites with Victor Espinoza, who guided him to his lone career stakes win in the Arlington Handicap in July.
Irish Surf, fourth in this race as a sophomore last year, is arguably stronger now and tackling his best distance. In his most recent try at 1 1/2 miles, the son of Giant's Causeway and Surfside crushed the Cougar II in track-record time over Del Mar's Polytrack. Subsequently fifth in both the Pacific Classic and John Henry at 1 1/4 miles, he exits a second in the 1 3/4-mile Las Vegas Marathon on the Santa Anita dirt.
Mystery Train ranks as the 126-pound highweight in light of his two Argentinean Group 1 victories in May. He has yet to duplicate that form in two U.S. starts for Darrell Vienna, tiring to a remote ninth in the Pacific Classic and sixth in the Awesome Again. Unplaced in his only turf attempt in his native Argentina, Mystery Train figures to flash speed but must show that he's capable of sustaining it here.
La Verdad takes historic run at Fall Highweight
La Verdad has won 10 of her past 15 starts, including the course-and-distance Distaff Handicap in April and four stakes restricted to New York-bred fillies and mares. A narrowly beaten second in the Gallant Bloom Handicap two back, she is undefeated in four starts over Aqueduct's main track.
"It's a tough spot -- there's a lot of speed in the race -- but she's done very well since the Iroquois and it was a choice between that and the Garland of Roses (on December 6)," said trainer Linda Rice, who saddled last year's Fall Highweight winner Palace. "I'd say right now, we're pointing towards the Fall Highweight for her."
Trainer David Jacobson's entry of Salutos Amigos and Strapping Groom was made the 2-1 morning line favorite for the Fall Highweight. A dynamite 3 1/4-length winner of the Bold Ruler Handicap late last month, Salutos Amigos was wheeled back one week later for the Breeders' Cup Sprint, where he finished seventh after a slow start and wide trip.
"Salutos Amigos shipped great back from California, and also to California, both ways," Jacobson said. "I think his performance was spectacular; getting beat just three lengths in any Breeders' Cup race is awesome."
Runner-up in last year's Fall Highweight, Strapping Groom went on to take the Tom Fool Handicap and Gravesend Handicap over the inner track, but has not been seen since a fifth-place finish in the Carter Handicap in April.
"Strapping Groom is doing well," Jacobson said. "We've had some trouble with his feet, quarter cracks, but we've got him good now and we think he's going to run a bang-up race. Both he and Salutos Amigos are spectacular horses that we've done very well with, and I expect both of them to bring their 'A' game."
Strapping Groom was cross-entered to Wednesday night's Fabulous Strike Handicap at Penn National. Also cross-entered there and to the Fall Highweight is River Rocks, a sharp second in the Kelso Handicap prior to a fourth-place effort in the Bold Ruler as the even-money choice.
Others of note in the Fall Highweight are True North runner-up Bakken, eighth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint after a rough trip, and the turf sprint specialist Tightend Touchdown, who won over Aqueduct's main track the last time he tried dirt in a May 2013 optional claimer/starter allowance.
Past Thanksgiving champs Delaunay, Gantry square off again
The rivals have since gone their separate ways, and both are entering off layoffs. Delaunay's 2014 highlights include a 3 1/2-length decision in the May 31 Aristides back at Churchill and a close second in the June 27 Iowa Sprint to Work All Week, the eventual Breeders' Cup Sprint winner. Meanwhile, Gantry switched to turf, winning the Colonel Power here before unplaced efforts in both the April 12 Shakertown at Keeneland and the June 21 Evangeline Downs Turf Sprint.
Training sharply ahead of his comeback, Delaunay rates as the 9-5 favorite with James Graham. Gantry, to be ridden as usual by Richard Eramia, is listed at 9-2. Neither has ever finished worse than second on this track.
The one who would have been most likely to disrupt that stat, Heitai, is expected to scratch after his upset loss here on Sunday. The 2-1 second choice on the morning line, the Louisiana-bred speedster had bolted five clear of Delaunay in the March 8 renewal of the Kenner.
Lemon Drop Dream, third to Heitai and Delaunay in the Kenner, capitalized on a pace meltdown to pick up the pieces next time in Oaklawn's Count Fleet Sprint Handicap. The Steve Asmussen colt was no match for the free-wheeling Happy My Way in the Maryland Sprint on Preakness Day, and hasn't hit the board in five subsequent tries.
Worth a look as longshots are Nates Mineshaft, unbeaten from five career Fair Grounds starts and exiting a near-miss in the Bet on Sunshine at Churchill, and Take It Like a Man, claimed out of a 6 3/4-length rout at Keeneland.
Ben's Cat tries for Fabulous Strike three-peat
Bern Identity, the 7-2 favorite, has drawn the far outside in post 12. The winner of the Sanford and runner-up to Goldencents in the Delta Downs Jackpot as a juvenile in 2012, he was sidelined for virtually all of his three-year-old season.
Trainer Kelly Breen got him back to top form off an 18-month layoff last summer, and Bern Identity returned to action with a three-race winning streak -- the August 2 My Frenchman at Monmouth, the August 22 Tale of the Cat at Saratoga and the September 6 Dave's Friend at Laurel. Bern Identity has dropped his last pair, finishing third in both the October 3 Phoenix at Keeneland and the November 15 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash back at Laurel. He wheels back on short rest here.
Trickmeister, who exits a third to Bern Identity in the Dave's Friend, has back class and could be sitting on a big effort in his third start off a year-long absence. The four-time stakes winner, and multiple Grade 2-placed performer, has some longshot appeal at 10-1.
Strapping Groom, hero of the 2013 Forego and this year's Tom Fool, was last seen tiring to fifth in the April 5 Carter Handicap. He leads the quartet of those holding an alternate engagement in the Fall Highweight, along with River Rocks, runner-up in the Kelso and fourth in the Bold Ruler in his last two; New York-bred stalwart Weekend Hideaway; and Tightend Touchdown, a frequent rival to Ben's Cat on the turf sprint scene, who was most recently sixth in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint. All would be worthy challengers if they opt for Penn National instead.
The Thanksgiving Eve card also offers a couple of stakes appetizers. The $75,000 Blue Mountain Juvenile Fillies has lured a field of nine Pennsylvania-breds, topped by recent allowance romper Brennan and Maryland Million Lassie third Rockin Jojo.
Notable contenders in the $100,000 Swatara, a 1 1/16-mile test, include Stormin Monarcho, coming off a convincing score in the Richard W. Small at Laurel on November 15; his stablemate from the David Jacobson barn, Wealth to Me, who trounced a starter allowance at Belmont last out; Ground Transport, who was just denied in the Michael G. Schaefer Memorial; the Kiaran McLaughlin-trained Irsaal; and Integrity, third in a tight finish with Golden Ticket and Pants on Fire in the Left Bank two starts back for Chad Brown.
Peter Redekop B.C. Ltd.'s Alert Bay (City Zip) extended his win streak to three with a comfortable three-length tally in Wednesday's $215,000 Zia Park Derby. Winner of the British Columbia Derby (G3) and Premier's H. (G3) in his last two starts at Hastings, the Blaine Wright-trained gelding closely tracked early splits of :23 2/5 and :47 before gaining the lead on the far turn and drew off entering the stretch. The three-year-old notched his fourth career stakes win when finishing up 1 1/16 miles in 1:41 4/5 with regular rider Rico Walcott. The California-bred was off as the 5-2 second choice in the seven-horse field, with 3-5 favorite Tonito M. (Rock Hard Ten) rallying belatedly for second, and Alert Bay improved his overall record to 12-6-4-1, $497,207...
Fox Hill Farms' Cassatt (Tapit) sped to the front at the break and extended her margin at every point of call, recording a 4 1/2-length decision in Wednesday's $309,000 Zia Park Oaks. Winner of the Monmouth Oaks (G3) three starts previously, the Larry Jones-trained filly posted splits in :23 1/5, :46 2/5 and 1:10 en route to completing 1 1/16 miles in 1:42 1/5. Kerwin Clark was up on the three-year-old filly, who has now earned $339,233 from a 7-4-1-0 career mark. Cassatt was off as the 9-5 second choice among six rivals, with 7-5 choice Shanon Nicole (Majestic Warrior) finishing third...
The Stronach Group announced Wednesday that Tom Chuckas, President and Chief Operating Officer of the Maryland Jockey Club, has resigned his position with the company, effective November 30. Chuckas joined the Maryland Jockey Club in May 2008. Over the years, he has led the effort to develop a long-term plan to bring stability to horse racing in the state of Maryland. He has also played a pivotal role in rebranding the Preakness Stakes which saw record-breaking attendance for 2014. "It has been a great personal pleasure working with the entire team at the Maryland Jockey Club," Chuckas said. "Racing in Maryland is positioning itself for tremendous growth opportunities and I hope for nothing but success in the years to come." Frank Stronach, Founder of The Stronach Group, stated, "Tom has been a valuable part of our team over the past six years as the company has worked towards developing a strong foundation to restore Maryland's racing industry. We very much appreciate his contributions and wish him the best in the next phase of his career." The Stronach Group and Chuckas are in negotiations regarding the transition of his responsibilities in the company moving forward. The Stronach Group is also announcing that Salvatore "Sal" Sinatra has been appointed Vice-President and General Manager of the Maryland Jockey Club and will join the company on December 1. Sinatra has been involved in the Thoroughbred racing industry for over 20 years. He previously held the position of Director of Racing with Parx Racing, formally Philadelphia Park, since 1999. "I am very glad to welcome Sal to our company," said Tim Ritvo, Chief Operating Officer of The Stronach Group. "His knowledge and expertise in racing operations will be a great benefit to both Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course going forward."
NOVEMBER 27, 2014
by John Mucciolo
There was no graded action this week at Aqueduct.
A total of 45 races were held at the Long Island, New York venue, with favorites winning at a 36 percent rate and the top two betting choices combining for 58 percent of the wins during the week. From 40 races on the main oval, 12 animals won in wire-to-wire fashion (30 percent), while two of the five races on the lawn were taken all the way on the front (40 percent).
Most of the turf action got washed off the green and onto the dirt oval. Both turf wire jobs came on Sunday, but we would not call that a bias or anything of the nature.
The main surface was playing evenly for the most part in our view, with Saturday being best for front-runners when four of seven winners on the main strip led at every call.
HORSES TO WATCH
5TH -- SIR BOND (Street Sense) tracked in second behind a clear leader to the top of the lane, and then went by that one with ease en route to a daylight tally for conditioner Chris Englehart. The winner came home fast in posting a 97 BRIS Late Pace number and has run big ones in two of three since being claimed by these connections.
8TH -- MEDAGLIA D'ARGENTO (Medaglia d'Oro) was dead last after the opening half-mile but rallied in the lane with very good energy to be third on this occasion for trainer Linda Rice. The dark bay didn't seem to mind the cut back in trip and might stay as a one-run sprinter for a while.
8TH -- GIRLABOUTTOWN (A.P. Indy) showed no rust from the little layoff leading up to this dominant allowance tally, her third win in her last four outings. The Mike Hushion trainee should be stakes bound in the very near future.
4TH -- GLOBAL POSITIONING (Malibu Moon) got off a bit slow and had no chance with a clear winner in the lane, though this first-time starter was well clear of third in a fine first offering for Hushion. We'll tab the juvenile colt for a graduating run in the very near future.
6TH -- HONOR CODE (A.P. Indy) made his much anticipated return to the races in this allowance tilt and didn't disappoint, rallying as much the best to win going away by a length. The Shug McGaughey trainee should surely improve off of this one and be a big-time presence on the 2015 racing season.
MALEEH (Indian Charlie), in his first outing since March, made a big move while shifting course through the lane and finished a very nice second for Kiaran McLaughlin. The talented colt is another who could be headed for a nice campaign next year.
5TH -- SONORA (Discreetly Mine) overcame a very wide post with ease in breaking alertly, forcing the pace and taking over with ease through the lane. The Eddie Kenneally-trained two-year-old looks like a nice prospect going forward.
7TH -- INNOVATION ECONOMY (Dynaformer) really took to both the yielding ground and stretch out in distance in posting his best run to date in a powerful tally. The Chad Brown trainee is bred to be a nice one and we expect him to continue to run at extended trips like this.
A Look Ahead
A huge weekend of racing is upon us over the Thanksgiving Holiday. The big day is Saturday, when the Grade 1, $500,000 Cigar Mile tops four graded races on the card. Also on that day is the Grade 2, $400,000 Remsen Stakes, Grade 2, $400,000 Demoiselle Stakes and Grade 3, $400,000 Comely Stakes.
The Friday headliner is the Grade 2, $300,000 Go For Wand Handicap while the Grade 3, $300,000 Fall Highweight Handicap tops the Thursday action at the Big A.
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