Durkin to be honored with the Eclipse Award of Merit
"Tom Durkin has been one of the most remarkable and dynamic voices in our industry for more than a generation," said Alex Waldrop, NTRA president and CEO. "His uncanny ability to tell a story, build it with drama, tension and excitement through his more than 80,000 race calls was a tremendous gift to all of us who treasure horse racing. On behalf of all of the Thoroughbred industry, we congratulate Tom on his outstanding career and for making our sport a much richer and brighter experience for all."
At early age Durkin set his career goal to become a track announcer.
"I never really wanted to be anything else," Durkin recalled. "I was just a kid on the west side of Chicago. And it wasn't the least thing practical. It turned out far more than practical. How many people go to a job they really like?"
Born in the Austin District of Chicago's west side, Durkin idolized Arlington Park's renowned track announcer, Phil Georgeff, and the energy and excitement he brought to his craft. Years later, Durkin wrote the forward to Georgeff's autobiography.
A theatre major at St. Norbert College, Durkin's career behind the microphone began at country fair meetings in Wisconsin in 1971 before his first job at Florida Downs, now known as Tampa Bay Downs. He worked stints at Balmoral, Quad Cities and Cahokia Downs in the Midwest before moving east to call the harness races at The Meadowlands in New Jersey.
More big breaks soon came, starting with John Brunetti hiring him to call the races at Hialeah in 1981. Within three years, Durkin was tabbed by NBC Sports to call the Breeders' Cup, an unprecedented program of $10 million in purses spread over seven races, all televised live by NBC in a four-hour broadcast.
"That first Breeders' Cup was surreal," Durkin reminisced of the 1984 inaugural running at Hollywood Park. "Every race had a minimum of a $1 million purse. But the important thing was that for the first time championships were being decided on the racetrack. It crystalized when Chief's Crown crossed the finish line in the Juvenile and I said 'A champion is crowned, it's Chief's Crown.'"
A string of successes would continue into the next decade when, on August 29, 1990, Durkin became the track announcer for the NYRA venues of Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Saratoga. In a decade marked by expanded simulcast signals across North America, Durkin's calls could be heard on a more regular basis. His work also included calling races on ESPN and NBC broadcasts throughout the year, including trips to the Group 1 Irish Derby and Group 1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
When NBC grabbed the rights to the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes, Durkin became the television voice of the Triple Crown beginning in 2001 and held that position for 10 years.
"Tom is more than deserving of the Award of Merit," six-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher remarked. "He's been such a mainstay in our industry for so many years and will clearly go down as one of the best race callers in history, if not the best. He's called most of my biggest career wins, including the 1998 Acorn Stakes with Jersey Girl, which was my first Grade 1 win, and all three of our Triple Crown victories. I would have to say the most memorable for me was his call of the 2007 Belmont Stakes when Rags to Riches triumphed to become the first filly in 102 years to win the race."
Durkin also has contributed time to some of the hardest working and unsung people in racing. For 17 years, he has served on the board of the Backstretch Employee Service Team (B.E.S.T.), which provides medical care, counseling and other services to backstretch workers at the NYRA tracks. Fans could hear Durkin call a race live from his booth in exchange for a donation to B.E.S.T. Approximately $200,000 was raised over a 10-year period. Durkin also spent many Thursday evenings at Saratoga calling Bingo games in both Spanish and English for the backstretch workers.
In an emotional farewell retirement ceremony following his call of the Spinaway Stakes at Saratoga on August 30, Durkin stood before a rain-soaked audience in the winner's circle and credited the racing fan for his phenomenal career.
"There is one person that is completely responsible for this wonderful life that I've had the privilege to live in horse racing," he said. "That person is here in Saratoga today. Right now he's in the backyard sitting at a picnic table under a pine tree looking at this image on the television. She's at top of the stretch leaning over the rail, and she's in a box seat or at a simulcast center in Syracuse or at a track in Ohio or in front of a computer in California. The person I owe an inexpressible gratitude is you, the racing fan, the horseplayer. Thank you."
The Award of Merit will be given for the 39th time since it was inaugurated in 1976 to honor Jack Dreyfus, owner of Hobeau Farm and former NYRA chairman. Subsequent recipients have included racing luminaries such as Ogden Phipps, John Gaines, Alfred Vanderbilt, Bill Shoemaker, D.G. Van Clief Jr., Paul Mellon, Joe Hirsch, James E. Bassett III, John Nerud, Penny Chenery, William S. Farish, Richard Duchossois, Marylou Whitney and last year's recipient, D. Wayne Lukas.
A complete list of past Eclipse Award winners, including the Award of Merit recipients, can be accessed online at http://ntra.com/en/eclipse-awards/history.
Tickets to The Eclipse Awards ceremony are on sale for $400 each or $4,000 for a table of 10. For reservations, please contact Michele Ravencraft of the NTRA at email@example.com, or call 859-422-2657.
Tiffany Lass fits Cassatt's plans; Villandry targeting Fair Grounds' turf stakes
Gainesway Stable's graded turf stakes winner Villandry has taken aim on the triad of graded turf stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course, according to trainer Charles LoPresti. The five-year-old homebred gelding exits a career-best performance when powering clear of the field by nearly three lengths in the Grade 3 River City H. at Churchill Downs over nine grassy furlongs on November 8. On Monday, the son of Mr. Greeley put in his first local work, a leisurely five furlongs in 1:02 4/5.
The 1 1/16-miles Bradley is followed by the Grade 3 Fair Grounds H. at 1 1/8-miles on February 21 and ultimately the centerpiece of the meet for turf horses, the Grade 2 Mervin H. Muniz Jr. Memorial H. on Louisiana Derby Day, March 28, at the same distance.
Shared Belief, Taris expected for Santa Anita's opening day Grade 1s
The Malibu has been won in the past by such equine elites such as Round Table (1957), Native Diver (1962), Buckpasser (1966), Damascus (1968), Ancient Title (1974), Spectacular Bid (1980), Precisionist (1984), Ferdinand (1986) and Rock Hard Ten (2004).
While many with an official voice likely have already made up their minds, Eclipse Award voting doesn't close until January 4, allowing ballots to be counted for races through 2014. Eclipse Award finalists will be announced January 7, with the winners revealed on the evening of Saturday, January 17, at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida.
Asked about Shared Belief's chances for a 2014 Eclipse Award, Hollendorfer said that since he didn't have a say in the matter, he would "leave that up to the voters."
In addition to Shared Belief, those considered probable for the Malibu are Grade 3 victors Chitu and Midnight Hawk; dual stakes-placed Conquest Two Step; stakes runner-up and course-record setter Eddie's First; and stakes hero Indianapolis.
The Malibu is one of two Grade 1 races on December 26 as Santa Anita begins its 78th season. The Grade 1, $300,000 La Brea Stakes for three-year-old fillies at seven furlongs will also be featured on the nine-race program that also includes the Grade 2, $200,000 Mathis Brothers Mile, formerly run as the Sir Beaufort Stakes, for sophomores on the turf.
"She came back with a slight issue after that race," Callaghan said of the Honeybee. "I can't quite remember what it was, but there was some issue. Aside from that, she's got a very good record."
Rafael Bejarano rides Taris for new owners Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith and John Magnier in the La Brea. The filly is scheduled to work four furlongs on Saturday.
Magic Millions, Racing Queensland unveil Australia's first $10-million program
Officials at Magic Millions in conjunction with Racing Queensland have announced the creation of the Jeep Magic Millions Raceday, the country's first-ever A$10-million program, to be held Saturday, January 9, 2016. The meeting, which will rank among the world's 10 richest, is part of a seven-year partnership which is intended to take the summer racing program in Australia with the Magic Millions Racing Queensland Summer Carnival.
"The phenomenal support and foresight of Racing Queensland, in concert with Magic Millions, has created the Magic Millions $10-Million Raceday," Vin Cox, managing director of the auction house, stated. "The combined vision is a game-changer for Queensland racing, for the Gold Coast and for the Australian Thoroughbred industry as a whole.
"The partnership with Racing Queensland is long-term, which invigorates Thoroughbred racing for the current generation of industry stakeholders, as well as creating momentum and motivation for the next generation of Queenslanders and Australians committing to a Thoroughbred industry career."
The 2015 series features total purse money of A$4.2 million, highlighted by the A$2-million Magic Millions 2YO Classic over 1200 meters. That race will see its prize money boosted to A$2.5 million. While the Magic Millions 3YO Guineas is the only other seven-figure race during next month's races, the newly bolstered series will see no fewer than seven races of A$1 million or more. The 2016 running of the 3YO Guineas will be contested for A$2 million, twice that of the current purse.
Racing Queensland Chairman Kevin Dixon believes the increased purses will attract the best horses and the attention of the racing world.
"Over the past six months, we have built a strong platform with base-level and feature prize money increases and this partnership is the next phase in our vision to take Queensland racing to the world," Dixon remarked. "(This) announcement is just one part of an overall program to continually improve all three codes of racing in Queensland."
To be eligible for the series, the nomination fee for yearlings offered at Magic Millions sales is A$4,950 (including GST) and that will pay up any purchase through its lifetime for participation in any of the Magic Millions-sponsored races across Australia, including the $10-million extravaganza on the Gold Coast.
In a special offer to buyers at the Gold Coast March Sale, the nomination fee will be A$3,300 (including GST), a number which is capped for seven years under the new partnership.
Additionally, Magic Millions is offering a one-off opportunity for owners of eligible horses offered at a Magic Millions yearling sale in 2014 or earlier not previously nominated to do so via a late registration. This windo of opportunity will remain through July 31, 2015 and will not be offered again, according to the company. Horses subject to late registration will qualify to nominate to a race on Magic Millions Raceday, excluding the 2YO Classic and the 3YO Guineas. The late registration fee will be A$4,950 (including GST).
Dixon explained that there will be a slight twist come entry day.
"Another clincher will be the addition of four wild card entries into four $1-million races on Jeep Magic Millions Raceday, which will be granted to eligible winners of four selected races during the summer carnival and potentially give four non-Magic Millions horses a chance to race on the day."
Queensland Minister of Racing Steve Dickson said that Magic Millions is already a contributor to the Gold Coast economy, but that this new partnership would further boost the state's racing and tourism industries.
"We want to grow tourism, as one of the four pillars of the economy, and events like the Magic Millions really help put our state on the map," Dickson said. "Where else can you watch top-quality horses compete for $10 million in stakes just a stone's throw from some of the world's most beautiful beaches?"
Dixon is already looking forward to the event.
"This is a monumental day for the Queensland racing industry and the partnership with Magic Millions leaves no doubt as to where we want to take our racing product," he commented.
JEEP MAGIC MILLIONS RACEDAY
*Distance to be determined
Unbeaten Dortmund makes stakes bow in Los Alamitos Futurity
Mr. Z is the most experienced runner in the field, having already started seven times this year. The Kentucky-bred began his long season with a maiden debut score at Churchill in late June and has faced off against nothing but graded rivals since. He just missed by a neck next out in the Grade 3 Sanford at Saratoga before filling the second spot yet again at the Spa in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special.
A second in Keeneland's Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity was sandwiched between fifth-place efforts in the Grade 3 Iroquois at Churchill and Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita Park. Mr. Z will enter the Los Alamitos Futurity off a nose second last out in the Grade 3 Delta Downs Jackpot on November 22. Mike Smith has the call.
No Problem is the only other entrant with prior stakes experience in the field. The Munnings chestnut took two tries to break his maiden, getting the job done at Santa Anita on October 26, before adding Del Mar's Grade 3 Bob Hope to his resume on November 15. Trained by Mike McCarthy, No Problem has gone off at double-digit odds in two of his three starts, and keeps Victor Espinoza in the saddle on Saturday.
Bench Warrant and Firing Line are both maiden winners with a single loss on their records. The former, a John Sadler-trained son of Street Boss, took his career opener before finishing third against optional claiming challengers, both at Del Mar. Firing Line was second in his Santa Anita bow but then broke his maiden by 4 1/4 lengths at Del Mar on November 30 for trainer Simon Callaghan. The Line of David bay will have Rafael Bejarano in the irons while Tyler Baze will get a leg up on Bench Warrant.
Tropical Park Derby and Oaks attract overflow fields
Also showing up in the Derby are Wallyanna, upset winner of the Grade 2 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes, and Commonwealth Turf runner-up Other Cheek.
The contentious Oaks field also includes Sandiva's stablemate Patsy's Holiday, who is unraced since taking the Desert Vixen Stakes at Monmouth Park on July 19 as well as Sumba Sunset and She's Not Here, the respective runner-up and third-placer in the Grade 3 Boiling Springs at Monmouth in September.
Palace Malice's New Orleans Handicap named 2014's best performance
Palace Malice was one of only nine horses to crack the 110 Speed Rating threshold and one of only four to top a 125 Class Rating. Dogwood plans to run Palace Malice in 2015 before he retires to stud at Three Chimneys in Midway, Kentucky. Palace Malice has won seven of 17 starts lifetime, has earned $2,676,135, and his resume also includes a victory in the 2013 Belmont Stakes.
The top Speed Rating of the year went to Taris, who earned a 115 when winning the Lexus Raven Run Stakes on October 18 at Keeneland. The top Class Rating of 2014 belongs to Close Hatches, who earned a 125.8 when winning the Personal Ensign Stakes on August 22 at Saratoga.
As the only horse to earn two Speed Ratings of at least 109 and three of at least 108, Bayern was consistently the year's fastest horse, topping off at 110 for his Breeders' Cup Classic victory that earned a 124 Class Rating.
Speed and Class Ratings are available in the Ultimate Past Performances on Brisnet.com and are free to TwinSpires.com players when they wager.
California Chrome, Napravnik vying for 16th annual NTRA Moment of the Year
The first-ever "NTRA Moment of the Year" was the touching scene involving Charismatic and jockey Chris Antley following the 1999 Belmont Stakes. The following year's winner was the stretch run of the 2000 Breeders' Cup Classic, which saw Tiznow hold on for a dramatic victory against Giant's Causeway. Tiznow won again the following year as fans selected his stirring repeat victory in the Classic over Sakhee.
Fans 18 years and older can register to vote online at www.ntra.com. There is a limit of one vote per valid e-mail address. Multiple votes from the same e-mail address will be disqualified. Votes must be received by 11:59 p.m. (EST) on Friday, January 2.
Untapable, Tapiture arrive at Fair Grounds to prepare for 2015 campaigns
This year, Untapable put the exclamation point on her Eclipse Award-winning season with a 1 1/4-length victory over older fillies and mares in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. Overall, the bay filly had won six of her seven 2014 races, including four Grade 1s. Her other two wins were Fair Grounds' two premier races for sophomore fillies -- the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks and Grade 3 Rachel Alexandra Stakes.
Untapable's only loss came against the opposite sex in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational, where she finished fifth behind eventual Breeders' Cup Classic victor Bayern. Comprehensively, she won $2.8 million on the year to be the third-richest earner of 2014 thus far and is one of only three horses (along with California Chrome and Main Sequence) to win four races at the highest level.
"We'll see how quickly they get ready," Fiske continued. "We'll let them tell us, obviously, but it's really not hard for either one to get fit. We'll start at the Breeders' Cup and work backwards in five-week intervals and hopefully have them ready to go at the end of March or beginning of April.
"I could envision (Untapable) doing the same sort of campaign. She does better when you space her races out and will probably run no more than seven times. It would be nice to run her at Saratoga. She was supposed to run in the (Grade 2) Adirondack as a two-year-old there, but colicked the day before. We'll focus on Grade 1s with her."
A year-end goal is still to be decided for the earner of nearly $1.4 million. Unproven at the 1 1/4-miles Breeders' Cup Classic distance -- other than a rough trip to be 15th in the Kentucky Derby -- and with the Dirt Mile distance on the lower end of his scope, a lot will be determined as 2015 progresses.
"His year-end goal depends on how he runs throughout the year," Fiske said. "The Dirt Mile this year was around two turns (at Santa Anita) and that's preferable for him, as opposed to one turn. In 2015, if he shows that he's adept at mile and a eighth to a mile and a quarter, we'll stretch him out somewhere to see if the Classic is an option. The (Grade 2, $400,000) New Orleans Handicap (on March 28) is possible (as a starting point), but we'll really have to see how he's coming along at that point."
Blushing K.D., Diliberto Memorial featured at Fair Grounds
Eden Prairie is another who thrives on the local sod. The Mizzen Mast filly has won three of five on the Stall-Wilson turf, including back-to-back triumphs last meet in the Pago Hop and Marie Krantz Memorial. Third in the Treasure Chest last time, the bay's last turf meeting with Class Included resulted in a second-place finish behind that mare in the Bayou Handicap in February.
Dual allowance scorers Flashy Gal, Kitten's Queen, and Distorted Music are also among the field of eight.
The Diliberto Memorial field on Friday features Grand Contender, who landed consecutive Grade 3s in the Texas Mile and Lone Star Park Handicap last spring. Third in his title defense of the Delta Mile on November 22 following a four-month layoff, the Tom Amoss trainee has never run on grass.
Of those with turf experience, multiple stakes winner Bim Bam, Grade 3 veteran Infinite Magic, and Adios Nardo appear best. The latter finished second in both this race and the Col. E.R. Bradley Handicap last year, both times to Daddy Nose Best.
Another prominent entry is Golden Soul. The 2013 Kentucky Derby runner-up was in a deep rut for more than a year and a half following that effort in the Churchill Downs classic, but has found new life on turf of late, taking two allowances at the recently concluded Churchill fall meet.
Gentleman's Kitten, an allowance winner over this course in January, is a potential factor from on or near the pace.
Richard and Bertram Klein homebred Good Deed (Broken Vow) exited her track-record setting allowance score on December 14 in fine form, according to trainer Steve Margolis. The five-year-old mare shook off the dust of a nine-month layoff with style on Sunday -- besting a stakes-quality field by 5 1/4 lengths under jockey Brian Hernandez in a lightning 1:02.31 for about 5 1/2 grassy furlongs. "She came out in good shape," Margolis reported on Wednesday morning. "Everything is good so far. We were hoping for a good race off the layoff. You hope that when they get older that they still have that spark and be competitive, especially in a tough field. It was a stakes race with an allowance purse, but that happens with these kinds of horses." Good Deed had been off since a close third in the March 4 Mardi Gras Stakes and had only two works at Fair Grounds prior to the allowance -- including a swift five-furlong move in 1:00 1/5 eight days antecedent. "We were actually going to train her up to the ($60,000) Pan Zareta (Stakes on January 10)," Margolis explained. "We were playing catch-up getting her ready. I spoke with Richard Klein and decided it was best to run her while she was doing well in the allowance. You can see on her form that she's always been a talented horse. She's a little tough to gallop, but she's really a sweetheart. We'll go to the Pan Zareta next."...
Canterbury Park officials on Wednesday announced the 2015 Thoroughbred stakes schedule comprised of 24 races and $1.825 million in purses. Highlights of the 70-day race meet include the 22nd Minnesota Festival of Champions, a day of racing reserved for horses bred in the state, September 6 with $400,000 in purse money, and the $200,000 Mystic Lake Derby, the largest single-race purse on the stakes schedule, August 23. The Minnesota Derby and Minnesota Oaks, both scheduled for August 8, will offer $80,000 purses, the largest for these restricted Minnesota-bred races since the 1980s. The live racing season begins May 15 and runs through September 12 at the Shakopee, Minnesota racetrack and card casino. Condition books and stall applications will be available in January. More information is available at canterburypark.com...
Four-time Australian Group 1-winning sprinter Buffering (Mossman) will bypass an autumn campaign to prepare for the Brisbane winter carnival middle of next year, trainer Robert Heathcote told Racing and Sports. The seven-year-old gelding finished sixth in the Hong Kong Sprint (HK-G1) last weekend, and Heathcote noted the bay will spend two more weeks in Hong Kong before a two-week quarantine period in Werribee, Australia. "I will then give him another four-to-six weeks in the paddock before setting him for another tilt at the winter carnival," Heathcote explained. "I would love him to win a Brisbane Group 1 race but I suppose time is running out a bit. But a long spell will give him every chance." Buffering's four Group 1 wins have come in Melbourne and Perth...
The catalog for the Barretts 2015 January Mixed Sale is now online and will be mailed later this week. This auction of 335 will be held on Monday, January 26, in the Hinds Pavilion located on the grounds of Fairplex Park in Pomona, California beginning at 11 a.m. (PST). You can view the catalog now at http://www.barretts.com/sales/Catalogs/catjan2015/catalog.asp. Among the sires of the yearlings and two-year-olds in the catalog are such stallions as Afleet Alex, Bullet Train, Benchmark, Calimonco, Coil, Colonel John, Desert Code, Forestry, Gone Astray, Heatseeker, Informed, Into Mischief, Line of David, Lucky Pulpit, Pala Clem, Put It Back, Quality Road, Rocky Bar, Sierra Sunset, Slew's Tiznow, Songandaprayer, Square Eddie, Stormin Fever, Tale of the Cat, Tapizar, The Pamplemousse, Thorn Song, Tiz Wonderful, Tribal Rule, Twirling Candy, Unusual Heat and War Chant. Among the covering stallions in the catalog are such stallions as Acclamation, Bullet Train, Champ Pegasus, Coil, Decarchy, Desert Code Dixie Chatter, Eddington, First Samurai, Good Journey, Informed, Kodiak Kowboy, Lucky Pulpit, Ministers Wild Cat, Old Topper, Papa Clem, Roi Charmant, Sierra Sunset, Smiling Tiger, The Pamplemousse, Thorn Song, Tizbud, Tiz Wonderful, Tribal Rule and Ultimate Eagle. Supplemental entries to this sale will be accepted until January 12, which is two weeks prior to the sale. The supplemental entry form can be found online at http://www.barretts.com/sales/documents/2015JanuaryEntryFormfill-in.pdf.
DECEMBER 19, 2014
by Dick Powell
Late in life, I have become a soccer geek. It began about six years ago and many weekday afternoons I am watching Champions League soccer from Europe. At its highest level, it is an incredible sporting event and the intrigue surrounding the players and managers becomes addictive.
So last season, when Bob Baffert unveiled Bayern (Offlee Wild) in January, it caught my attention since Bayern Munich is the perennial champion of the German Soccer League (Bundesliga). When he beat Tap It Rich (Tapit) by 15 lengths in his second career start, he really caught my attention.
So Bayern went on to have a great year that culminated with his controversial win in the Breeders' Cup Classic, his second Grade 1 stakes win of the year. The day after the Classic, I was flying back to Saratoga and missed the unveiling of Dortmund (Big Brown) at Santa Anita.
Named after another Bundesliga team, Borussia Dortmund, Dortmund is owned by Bayern's owner, and soccer fan, Kaleem Shah, and he won his debut going 6 1/2 furlongs by 4 3/4 lengths when he stalked a fast pace and took over with ease.
Baffert next shipped him to Churchill Downs where he beat first-level allowance foes by almost eight lengths from post 12 in fast time. He covered the mile in 1:35.39 despite covering more ground than anyone in the field as Martin Garcia kept him wide and in the clear.
Dortmund earned a BRIS Speed rating of 98 and now he shows up for the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) going two turns at 1 1/16 miles on Saturday. Despite the lack of stakes credentials, he is the early favorite in many pools for the 2015 Kentucky Derby. He has unbelievable cruising speed and a potent late kick. When horses get better when asked to go longer, the sky is the limit and Dortmund's stakes debut is eagerly anticipated.
In Dortmund's way -- ironically on a track that both Baffert and D. Wayne Lukas cut their teeth in Quarter Horse racing -- is Lukas' Mr. Z (Malibu Moon). He loses more than he wins but he has run well going two turns with blinkers added. Lukas shipped him to Delta Downs where he just missed in the $1 million Delta Jackpot (G3).
Mr. Z only has one career win but he has four seconds against graded stakes company and could be tough here if Mike Smith sends him from the gate and tries to take advantage of a small field that seems to lack pace.
What a great classic season it could be next year if we have Lukas and Baffert on the road to the Derby and Kentucky Oaks.
New York is on a well-earned break with no racing for 10 days. Racing will resume on the day after Christmas and hopefully we will see better field sizes.
Since the Inner Dirt Track opened on December 3, the average field size was 7.56. It is even worse when you break out the two-turn races from the sprints. In 45 races going two turns, the average field size was 7.27. In 55 sprint races, the average field size was 7.8. Not great either but better than the two-turn races.
There were a few off-the-turf races at the start of the meet so that hurt the two-turn numbers but not that much.
David Jacobson is the leading trainer with five wins. Todd Pletcher and Linda Rice have won four and Tom Albertrani, Charlton Baker, Eddie Kenneally, Gary Contessa, Gary Gullo, Kiaran McLaughlin and Michael Wilson have won three each.
McLaughlin's three wins all came last weekend. All were first-time starters. All were heavy favorites. Two were juveniles and one was a three-year-old. McLaughlin wins 14 percent with his debut runners and that percentage will go up. They all ran with Lasix since Darley owned the sophomore and they do not let their juveniles run with it.
Best of the bunch was Perchance (Distorted Humor). This juvenile filly was owned and bred by Stonestreet Stables and she faced 11 others in Sunday's 4TH race. She stalked a modest pace from the inside, swung out to challenge for the lead, then cruised home while being throttled down. Her final time of 1:14.18 was not much but she clearly had a lot left in the tank.
By Distorted Humor out of multiple Grade 1-winning sprinter Dream Rush (Wild Rush), she is a half-sister to Dreaming of Julia (A.P. Indy), who won the Frizette Stakes (G1) and Gulfstream Oaks (G2), and the exciting Atreides (Medaglia d'Oro), who is four-for-five and coming to a big race near you.
When Dreaming of Julia won the Gulfstream Oaks, she earned a BRIS Speed rating of 107 and, on many horse rating systems, it was the fastest race ever run. She won by 21 3/4 lengths and it was a monstrous performance that she was never able to repeat. But it showed an incredible amount of talent and if Perchance can show a fraction of her half-sister's ability, Stonestreet could have another good one on their hands.
DECEMBER 18, 2014
by John Mucciolo
There was no graded action during the second week of racing on the inner oval at Aqueduct.
A total of 54 races were held over the inner strip at the Long Island, New York venue, with favorites winning at a 39 percent rate and the top two betting choices combining for 54 percent of the wins. Sixteen races were won in wire-to-wire fashion (16 percent) and there was no turf racing.
Speed on the main oval was best earlier in the week in our view, especially on Thursday when four winners led at each call. Of those, three came in two-turn events, and six of the 16 overall occurred in route races. We did see a big number of favorites come through for the second straight week, so we will be cautious before calling this inner oval biased.
HORSES TO WATCH
4TH -- SLAM CHOWDER (Grand Slam) pressed the pace from the outset, easily took over in early stretch and strode home a most facile winner in a fine debut offering under Jose Ortiz. The Eddie Kenneally-trained two-year-old filly was geared down late and could be any type going forward. Tab this one a huge danger at the starter level in her return.
8TH -- MOMENTS NOTIZ (Tiznow) relished the return to the inner circle with a huge second behind a sharp winner, finishing more than six lengths clear of third. The David Jacobson charge earned a healthy 103 BRIS Speed figure and dons a superb 12-8-3-0 mark on his favored oval.
3RD -- CASUAL ELEGANCE (First Samurai) never got a breather while leading to the lane in this dash, but we were impressed how the David Smith trainee stayed on well late in finishing three lengths clear of her nearest foe. The four-year-old filly will be very dangerous with even slight improvement in her subsequent outing.
8TH -- CLASSIC SENSE (Street Sense) handled the move from starter to open allowance foes in good fashion and continued a fine form cycle for trainer Chad Brown. The dark bay colt has now finished first or second in five straight and continues to show steady improvement.
2ND -- The Todd Pletcher-trained FAR FROM OVER (Blame) was pressured on the front end, surrendered the lead in the lane and battled back gamely in a fine debut tally under Irad Ortiz Jr. The juvenile, who is bred to be a good one, earned a strong 92 BRIS Speed number and is surely one to keep a tab on heading into his sophomore campaign.
4TH -- GLOBAL POSITIONING (Malibu Moon) jumped out to the lead from the rail and never gave his foes much of a chance en route to a powerful maiden score for trainer Michael Hushion. The two-year-old colt, who was a sharp second at first asking in advance of this one, gives the impression of a stakes horse with steady growth.
8TH -- ATLANTIC'S SMILE (Stormy Atlantic) is not the most consistent performer in the nation, but when the speedy four-year-old is on her game she is a good one. The Charlton Baker trainee earned a lifetime-best 97 BRIS Speed number in this dominant score and has been vastly improved since coming to this barn.
2ND -- OCEAN KNIGHT (Curlin) was one of the sharper juveniles of the week and could grow into a serious horse for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. The debuting colt tracked behind a moderate pace before really turning it on late, dusting his foes through the lane to score by a widening 4 1/4 lengths. The colt may not have beaten much but he surely looked the part visually beneath Irad Ortiz Jr. and earned a nice 95 BRIS Speed number.
6TH -- McLaughlin saddled another dominating first-out winner on this card with the three-year-old VIA STRATA (Street Cry), who was awesome inside the final furlong of this dash. The filly was hammered to favoritism and delivered with a fine showing. She is bred to run all day on any surface and is a fine prospect going forward despite the slow final time of this race.
4TH -- The McLaughlin maiden train continued in this dash as PERCHANCE (Distorted Humor) left little doubt in securing a 1 1/2-length victory over this cast. The two-year-old miss was pummeled down to 1-2 odds in this debut and delivered, and she could develop into almost any kind being out of a Grade 1 heroine, and kin to multiple Grade 2 queen Dreaming of Julia.
McLaughlin's FORTRESS (Street Cry) had a tough post and wide journey, but she stayed on well in the lane to be a fine second behind a horse that might be a good one in her debut offering on this day. The filly is one likely to get her picture taken before long with expected improvement and more ground to work with.
A Look Ahead
There is no graded racing this week at Aqueduct.
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HANDICAPPER'S EDGE is compiled by Bloodstock Research Information Services. This newsletter may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without the prior written permission of the copyright owner. Copyright 2011, Bloodstock Research Information Services. Information as to the races, race results and earnings was obtained from Equibase Company LLC and is utilized herein with the permission of the copyright owner, Equibase Company LLC.
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