Wise Dan highlights Keeneland's first ever $1 million race
"He is just an amazing horse," trainer Charlie LoPresti said of Wise Dan, who visited the starting gate and then had an easy gallop through the fog Wednesday morning under regular exercise rider Damien Rock. "He is about as good as I can get him."
"It looks like we are going to get rain (this weekend) and that doesn't bother me," LoPresti said. "He has run in a bog before; done it a couple of times."
Seek Again, who captured the 1 1/4-mile Hollywood Derby in his U.S. debut last November, showed versatility after his Churchill defeat by rallying for a neck victory over the Canadian-based Grand Arch in the one-mile Fourstardave Handicap at Saratoga in early August. The Juddmonte Farms homebred has won one of three starts this season for trainer Bill Mott.
Optimizer, a multiple Grade 3 winner on turf, ran his best race in more than a year in the Bernard Baruch while making his first start for trainer Jose Fernandez. The Calumet Farm-owned five-year-old was previously with Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas.
The likely front-runner is Silver Max, who took advantage of a wet, speed-friendly Polytrack to upset Wise Dan in last year's Shadwell Turf Mile. The Dale Romans trainee has had two runs this season, taking the Firecracker Handicap at Churchill Downs and then fading to the rear of the pack in the Fourstardave despite having an uncontested lead.
Kaigun, winner of the seven-furlong Play the King at Woodbine in August, enters off a runner-up finish in the Woodbine Mile. The aforementioned Grand Arch, who won the one-mile King Edward at the Toronto course prior to his second in the Fourstardave, was only fifth in the Woodbine Mile after making a five-wide bid.
Completing the field are stakes winner Sayaad, fourth in the Bernard Baruch last time, and the Virginia-bred outsider Two Notch Road.
Centre Court, who earned Grade 1 laurels at Keeneland last season in the Jenny Wiley, has gone unplaced in her last three starts, while 2012 First Lady heroine Better Lucky has won one of four starts this year while racing primarily on non-turf surfaces. Discreet Marq, who narrowly missed in the Jenny Wiley this past April, is another who's settled for minor awards of late, finishing 2 1/2 lengths second to Dayathespa in the Yaddo most recently.
The speedy three-year-old Istanford challenges older rivals for the first time after a pair of wire-to-wire wins in the San Clemente Handicap and Sandy Blue Handicap, both at Del Mar. Earlier, the Mike Stidham charge beat males in the Arlington Classic.
The First Lady field is completed by Sassy Kitten, who's taken minor stakes at Mountaineer and Louisiana Downs in her last two outings, and Grade 3 scorer Kitten's Point, unraced since finishing seventh in the April 12 Jenny Wiley.
No Nay Never, trainer Wesley Ward's three-year-old who went overseas twice in 2013 to take the Norfolk at Royal Ascot and the Prix Morny at Deauville, returns to action against older rivals in the Grade 3, $150,000 Woodford over 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf.
A winner at first asking over the Polytrack during the 2013 spring meet, No Nay Never has not run second March 1, when he was second in the Swale at Gulfstream in his first attempt on dirt.
No Nay Never will break from post 9 in the field of 11. Also breaking on the outside is Marchman, who took the Shakertown during the spring meet and added the Twins Spires Turf Sprint at Churchill before placing in the Jaipur and Parx Dash. Farther out is Spring to the Sky, who enters off back-to-back stakes wins in the Lucky Coin and Troy at Saratoga.
Other notables in the field are Sharp Sensation, upset winner of the Turf Monster Handicap at Parx last time; Positive Side, a neck second to Marchman in the Shakertown in April; 2012-13 Phoenix hero Sum of the Parts, who is also a multiple stakes winner on the grass; and Listed performers No Distinction, Choctaw Chuck, and Tell All You Know.
Conquest Tsunami risks perfect mark in Breeders' Futurity; Eight in TCA
Conquest Tsunami will put his unbeaten four-for-four record on the line in Saturday's Breeders' Futurity during Keeneland's opening Fall Stars Weekend against 11 fellow juveniles, but more than a perfect mark, Grade 1 credit and a $500,000 purse is up for grabs.
Conquest Tsunami debuted at Keeneland over the spring, breaking his maiden by 6 1/4 lengths, but will be facing a different surface this time around.
The Lexington, Kentucky, venue removed the synthetic Polytrack that had been in place since 2006 and installed a new track composed of sand, silt and clay native to the state. Conversion of the main track, which also features a unique drainage system to collect and discharge water away from the track, began May 19 and construction was completed on schedule in mid-August.
Conquest Tsunami has never competed beyond seven furlongs or on a conventional dirt surface, following his Keeneland romp with a 7 3/4-length victory in the five-furlong Victoria over Woodbine's Polytrack in June. Trainer Mark Casse then saddled the Stormy Atlantic colt to a 6 3/4-length score in the six-furlong Colin on July 26 and a head win over that Toronto track's turf course last out in a seven-furlong allowance on August 23.
Patrick Husbands was aboard for Conquest Tsunami's last three efforts and retains the mount on the bay juvenile.
Bold Conquest doesn't own a perfect record like his rival, but the Steve Asmussen charge has valuable experience over both dirt and distance. He broke his maiden second out at Saratoga while going 6 1/2 furlongs, then stretched out to just miss by a neck in the 1 1/16-mile Iroquois at Churchill Downs on September 6. The Curlin chestnut had Rosie Napravnik aboard for his maiden score and gets the popular rider back in the irons for this contest.
Hashtag Bourbon finished third in the Iroquois after a nice 4 1/2-length victory in the Mountaineer Juvenile. The Kellyn Gorder-trained son of Super Saver actually broke his maiden in that stakes event before finding himself blocked in the Iroquois next out. He still reputed himself well, and gets a jockey switch to Julien Leparoux on Saturday.
Tough Customer and Carpe Diem are both first-out maiden winners who romped in their initial wins. The former got the job done by 5 1/2 lengths under the Twin Spires for Wayne Catalano while the latter was a 2 1/2-length scorer at Saratoga for Todd Pletcher. Either one could take the next step up in this spot.
Like Conquest Tsunami, Ike Walker will be trying dirt and distance for the first time in this spot. The Mike Stidham pupil took his maiden at Arlington in his second try by 7 1/4 lengths before running fifth in the Arlington-Washington Futurity last out. Robby Albarado has the call.
The rest of the Breeders' Futurity field are maiden heroes Firespike and Keen Ice; Hopeful third-placer Sharm; Grade 2 runner-up Mr. Z; and stakes winners Dekabrist and W V Jetsetter.
Like the Breeders' Futurity, the Grade 2, $200,000 Thoroughbred Club of America earlier on Keeneland's Saturday program is a "Win & You're In" race for the Breeders' Cup. The victorious distaffer from the six-furlong affair receives an automatic berth into the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint.
Dual champion female sprinter Groupie Doll used the TCA as a stepping-stone to her Filly & Mare Sprint wins in 2012-13, capturing the TCA two years ago before finishing third 12 months ago, and her retirement leaves the door open for a new Eclipse Award winner to be crowned.
Stonetastic is throwing her hat in the championship ring following back-to-back romping wins over the summer. The Kelly Breen sophomore took an optional claimer at Monmouth Park by 6 3/4 lengths on July 27 in just her second start of the season. She wheeled back a month later to add an 8 1/2-length wire job in Saratoga's Prioress to her resume, earning a career-best and field-tying top 105 BRIS Speed rating in the process.
Paco Lopez was in the irons for both those scores and has piloting duties once again on the Mizzen Mast filly.
R Free Roll is the only other runner in the TCA with a 105 BRIS Speed figure, but the Rockport Harbor four-year-old earned that number last November when taking a Calder stakes. She's competed six times this season and has won her last three, including the Honorable Miss Handicap at Saratoga most recently on July 28. Mike Smith will be aboard the Kirk Ziadie charge for the first time.
Leigh Court has scored in four of her last five, all against stakes company, with her only loss coming as a close fourth in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup last October on Keeneland's turf. However, the Josie Carroll pupil owns just one start this season when taking the Seaway at Woodbine on August 24 under Gary Boulanger, who retains the mount.
Completing the TCA are Grade 3 scorers Northern Passion and Southern Honey; multiple Grade 3-placed stakes heroine Speedinthruthecity; and dual stakes-placed Anahauc and Janis's Joy.
Preakness tickets on sale
The Maryland Jockey Club have announced that tickets for 2015 Preakness went on-sale Wednesday morning. Renewal invoices were sent today with a deadline of January 16, 2015. The 140th running of the Preakness will take place May 16 at Pimlico.
Preakness InfieldFest is a multi-entertainment festival featuring national headlining artists on two stages, the popular MUG Club and unique attractions throughout the day to give fans an unparalleled entertainment experience, featuring 13 exciting races, headlined by the Preakness.
Just as in previous years, there will be tiers of pricing, based on calendar days, for Infield and MUG Club tickets:
Tickets can be purchased by calling the Preakness ticket office (877-206-8042) or by logging onto www.ticketfly.com.
Seating information and ticket reservation forms for Preakness 140 can be found at http://www.preakness.com/tickets.
Fashion Alert tops Alcibiades on Keeneland opener
Fashion Alert, a Todd Pletcher trainee who captured her first two starts against stakes company in New York, will break from the rail as a field of 13 juvenile fillies go postward in the Grade 1, $400,000 Alcibiades, the opening day feature over 1 1/16 miles.
A daughter of Old Fashioned, Fashion Alert flashed speed in both outings, taking the 5 1/2-furlong Astoria at Belmont by 4 3/4 lengths on June 14. Five weeks later, the bay dueled and then drew off to take the six-furlong Schuylerville by 1 1/2 lengths over Take Charge Brandi, who reappears here after consecutive fifth-place finishes in the Adirondack and Pocahontas.
The Alcibiades field also includes several sharp debut winners. Top Decile won by a length at Saratoga for trainer Al Stall Jr. going 6 1/2 furlongs, while Taylor S enters off a strong 3 3/4-length score at Churchill Downs for Dale Romans over the same distance. Darley, the sponsor of the Alcibiades, will be represented by homebred Innovative Idea, who won for fun by 4 1/4 lengths at Arlington at the same trip last month, but the daughter of Bernardini will need to make a successful transition from Polytrack to dirt.
Others likely to garner some support are Gap Year, a head third in her Saratoga debut for Godolphin and trainer Kiaran McLaughlin; Calamity Kate, a six-length maiden winner at Belmont in her third career start; Pangburn, runner-up in the Pocahontas at Churchill following a turf maiden win; and Naval Command, who has won three of four including the Happy Ticket on grass at Louisiana Downs.
Work All Week, the Illinois-bred hero of the Iowa Sprint Handicap in June over Grade 2 hero Delaunay, will break outside the other speed in the Grade 3, $200,000 Phoenix over six furlongs. Although beaten last time in a state-bred stakes at Arlington, Work All Week is undefeated in eight career starts on dirt.
Also entering the Phoenix on hot streaks are Rainbow Heir, who has won three in a row including the $130,000 Teddy Drone at Monmouth; Bern Identity, unbeaten in three outings this term including the $100,000 Dave's Friend at Laurel last time; and multiple stakes winner Mr. Baker, who has won four of his last five.
Completing the Phoenix field are Count Fleet Sprint Handicap winner Lemon Drop Dream, who has been unplaced in his last three starts; Grade 2-placed stakes-winning three-year-old C. Zee; Saratoga allowance scorer Eastwood; and stakes veteran Zee Bros, the trailer in last Saturday's Vosburgh at Belmont.
Both the Alcibiades and Phoenix are Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" challenge races -- the Alcibiades for the Juvenile Fillies and the Phoenix for the Sprint.
The Keeneland Fall Meet runs through October 25, with live racing Wednesday through Sunday. Gates open at 11 a.m. (EDT); post time for the first race is 1:05 p.m.
Owner Mike Repole has announced that multiple Grade 1 winner Stopchargingmaria (Tale of the Cat), will be offered for sale at the Fasig-Tipton November Sale on November 3. The winner of this year's Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) and Alabama S. (G1) will be offered as a racing/broodmare prospect by Taylor Made Sales Agency on behalf of Repole Stable. "We are thrilled to offer Stopchargingmaria on behalf of Repole Stables this November. Stopcharginmaria's credentials speak for themselves. Her pedigree, race record and conformation makes her the ultimate package. She is a filly that has excelled at all levels of racing and her best is yet to come," said Taylor Made's Jacob West. Stopchargingmaria's impressive two-year-old campaign included a 5 1/2 lengths victory in her debut at Saratoga, followed by wins in the Demoiselle S. (G2) and a dominating score in the Tempted S. (G3). She also placed in the Frizette S. (G1) and Spinaway S. (G1). This year, Stopchargingmaria also won the Black-Eyed Susan S. (G2) and finished second in the Beldame S. (G1) last Saturday...
Mountaineer Juvenile winner Hashtag Bourbon (Super Saver) completed his major work for Saturday's $500,000 Breeders' Futurity (G1) by working a bullet half-mile in :47 1/5 Monday morning over a fast Keeneland main track. "He worked great yesterday, and I couldn't keep his feet on the ground this morning," trainer Kellyn Gorder said Tuesday about the two-year-old colt. "That was his third work here and Julien (Leparoux) has worked him each time." Hashtag Bourbon goes into the Breeders' Futurity off a third-place finish in the Iroquois S. (G3) on Sept. 6 at Churchill Downs going 1 1/16 miles. "He broke well that day, which he had not done in his first two starts," Gorder said. "He had the one hole and he was a little keen and he wound up with horses all around him and (jockey) Brian (Hernandez Jr.) had nowhere to go. It wasn't Brian's fault. He couldn't take back and get out. He was finally able to push out at the eighth pole, but he had too much to do."...
Team Valor International has nominated two stories for the 2014 Stan Bergstein Writing Award, a month before the publication deadline for candidates to be considered. Ray Paulick's piece on the impetus for new rules to combat cheating at Ruidoso Downs is the Paulick Report publisher's third nomination this year and is a fitting candidate for an award named after Bergstein, who wrote tough, informed commentaries for Daily Racing Form and many other publications. In his analysis of the crackdown by Ruidoso Chairman R.D. Hubbard, Paulick mixes in new information, including an allegation from a rival conditioner that banned Quarter Horse trainers Roberto and Alejandro Sanchez secretly trained JM Miracle leading up to his victory in the $2.6-million All American Futurity. The owner of a training center where JM Miracle prepared for the race denied that the Sanchez brothers trained the horse. The full story is here. Team Valor also nominated a recently submitted commentary from last spring by Joe Clancy of ThisIsHorseRacing.com in the wake of PETA's release of undercover video footage of the Steve Asmussen stable. In a call for reform, Clancy wrote "The public wants to know the horses are OK, or as OK as possible. The public wants to know the sport is populated by participants who care. The public wants to have faith that cheaters will be caught and penalized, and that jerks will be marginalized. The public wants to believe racing is a noble pursuit, fairly governed by an even-handed entity." Team Valor has nominated nine stories so far for the third annual Bergstein Award, which is open to stories about horse racing from a North American publication or website between November 2, 2013 and a deadline of November 1, 2014. Writers and editors may submit stories for consideration for the award to Jeff Lowe at email@example.com...
Stonestreet Farm owner Barbara R. Banke and prominent horseman Ben Haggin have been chosen as the newest members of Keeneland's Advisory Board of Directors. Banke and Haggin will begin their service at the Advisory Board meeting held this fall. The Keeneland board meets semi-annually during the track's April and October race meetings and represents a cross section of individuals vital to the Thoroughbred industry, as well as the entire community. "Barbara and Ben bring a wealth of business and industry experience to the board, and we thank them for agreeing to serve," Keeneland President and CEO Bill Thomason said. Banke, together with her husband, the late Jess Jackson, established Stonestreet Farm near Versailles, Kentucky, in 2005. A leading commercial breeding operation, Stonestreet Farm has to date produced the winners of 20 graded stakes and have campaigned Horses of the Year Curlin and Rachel Alexandra. Haggin, the fourth generation of his family to serve Keeneland, is managing partner of Woodford Racing. Haggin has experience in nearly every facet of the Thoroughbred industry, having worked for Mill Ridge Farm, Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally, Equibase and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association.
For Wednesday or Next Raceday
OCTOBER 1, 2014
by Ed DeRosa
The idea is that the database of information at dirt tracks where similar horses as the ones at Keeneland run will yield better clues about the outcome of Friday's races than would using Polytrack stats from the past eight years or dirt track information from before 2006.
The four tracks I chose are Belterra Park, Churchill Downs, Indiana Downs, and Saratoga Race Course. Belterra because -- like Keeneland -- it's a new track this year and the others because their range of class matches what we'll find at Keeneland.
There were no real surprises regarding what factors point out more winners relative to their odds: the best last-out Brisnet.com Speed Rating, Prime Power, and an ALL-Ways-exclusive figure called Comprehensive Rating are three strong indicators.
If armed with nothing but the Brisnet.com Ultimate Race Summary, I'd feel confident playing the top horses in either the Speed Rating or Prime Power categories at the right price, but ALL-WAYS takes things a step further and weighs these factors separately and against each other and handicaps the race accordingly with cardinal picks (e.g. who will win) as well as a fair odds line.
The ALL-WAYS report will not be my gospel when handicapping Keeneland opening weekend, but it will be a solid epistle to guide my thoughts. I'll certainly consult the Predicteform pace-adjusted performance figures with form-cycle analysis for positive (or negative) patterns, and Bruno With The Works will also help identify who's ready to fire (or not).
We'll be back later in the week with actual picks for the opening weekend cards, including direct looks at the ALL-Ways reports my dirt profile generates.
SEPTEMBER 30, 2014
A unique championship showdown
by Vance Hanson
Barring unforeseen developments, the three-year-old male championship will be decided in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita on November 1.
The results of the 1 1/4-mile Classic have decided this Eclipse Award before. Think Sunday Silence over Easy Goer in 1989 and Tiznow over Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000.
In 2007, three horses entered the Classic with legitimate championship credentials. Curlin prevailed in the Monmouth Park slop over Street Sense and Hard Spun that day.
The 2014 Classic has the potential to go one better with four (!) major contenders for the title: Bayern, California Chrome, Shared Belief, and Tonalist. And unlike the aforementioned runnings, there doesn't appear to be an older horse in sight capable of mucking up the outcome.
It will be a situation nearly all racing fans have never witnessed before. Unless, that is, you were around and consciously aware on November 9, 1957.
On that clear Saturday afternoon, a crowd of more than 39,000 descended on Garden State Park to watch Bold Ruler, *Gallant Man, and Round Table square off for the three-year-old title in the $82,350 Trenton Handicap over 1 1/4 miles. With leading older horse Dedicate withheld due to lameness and two unimportant older horses scratched due to the improbability of earning more than a modest fourth-place check, the deck was cleared for a three-horse showdown.
Bold Ruler entered the Trenton with eight stakes wins on the year, including the Preakness and two wins against older horses in the Vosburgh Handicap and Queens County Handicap. Gallant Man's five stakes wins included the Belmont and two scores against older rivals in the Nassau County Handicap and Jockey Club Gold Cup. The California-based Round Table was going for his 11th stakes win of the season and having beaten his elders in the Hollywood Gold Cup, United Nations Handicap and Hawthorne Gold Cup.
The three were hardly strangers. Bold Ruler had defeated Gallant Man twice early in the year, in the Bahamas and Wood Memorial, but subsequently finished behind that rival in the Kentucky Derby, Belmont, and Woodward. In the Kentucky Derby, Round Table finished ahead of Bold Ruler but behind Gallant Man, to whom he had also lost in the Hibiscus to start the year.
With Gallant Man holding a head-to-head lead over the other two, the 124-pound co-highweight was favored at 7-5. The betting market was tight, however, with Bold Ruler starting at 8-5 while toting 122 pounds, and co-highweight Round Table a tick higher at 17-10.
Unfortunately, there wasn't much drama to the Trenton. Contested over a track labeled good, Bold Ruler shot out to a clear lead and set sensible fractions of :23 3/5, :47 1/5, and 1:11 1/5. Up eight lengths after six furlongs and 3 1/2 lengths after a mile in 1:36 4/5, Bold Ruler "...willingly responded to hand pressure and, being occasionally 'shown' the whip through the final three-sixteenths, continued strongly to the end," according to the Daily Racing Form trackman.
Bold Ruler sealed the championship with a 2 1/4-length victory over Gallant Man in a time of 2:01 3/5. Round Table was 8 1/2 lengths farther back.
We can all hope the Breeders' Cup Classic won't prove to be such an anti-climax. Nearly five weeks out, however, it seems likely that Shared Belief will be a strong favorite, perhaps an odds-on choice.
The undefeated gelding, who missed the Triple Crown due to lingering foot issues, has reeled off consecutive wins in the Los Alamitos Derby, Pacific Classic, and Awesome Again. If he were to win the Breeders' Cup Classic, Shared Belief will have won more stakes open to older horses than any three-year-old male champion since Secretariat swept the Marlboro Cup, Man o' War and Canadian International in 1973. Only Buckpasser, Damascus, Arts and Letters, and Key to the Mint can lay claim to the same feat in the last half-century.
California Chrome, clearly ahead in the title chase after sweeping the first two legs of the Triple Crown, has seen his stock tumble in the past couple of months. Not only has Shared Belief's rise taken the shine off California Chrome, but his sub-par sixth in the Pennsylvania Derby suggests he will have to improve dramatically to win on Breeders' Cup day.
Bayern and Tonalist are longer shots but theoretically still in the hunt for the title. Bayern obviously had everything his own way in his blowout victories in the Haskell Invitational and Pennsylvania Derby, but who's to say the spirit of Bold Ruler will not shine brightly on Bayern as he tries to take them all the way over 10 furlongs? Remember, folks, this is Santa Anita.
Tonalist, who won the Belmont and Peter Pan in the spring, kept his championship hopes alive with an impressive tally in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. East Coast-based runners have historically found it difficult reproducing their best form in California, but Tonalist is a true 1 1/4-mile horse and is arguably going better at the moment than all save Shared Belief.
This race will be unique in the annals of American championship racing. No matter the outcome, savor it and enjoy.
SEPTEMBER 30, 2014
Horse of the Year Race Down To Eight
by Ed DeRosa
The criteria voters use to determine their top 10 horses is as subjective as the ranking themselves. Some vote on accomplishment, others based on who is the most talented, some as a pure "Horse of the Year" question, and most as some combination of those three things.
Poll administrator Joan Lawrence has said that the poll should most reflect the voter's thoughts on who is most likely to win Horse of the Year when the racing season ends. It is with that question in mind that I don't rank Palace Malice in the top 8, as while he's the best main track older male to run this year, he has no chance at Horse of the Year as the eight in front of him do.
So, with one major prep weekend remaining ahead of the Breeders' Cup World Championships on October 31-November 1 at Santa Anita Park, we are down to eight horses who still have a chance at winning the gold statue.
The horses who most control their own destiny are the four Grade 1-winning three-year-olds expected for the Breeders' Cup Classic. If either of Bayern, California Chrome, Shared Belief, or Tonalist win that race then with one small possible exception discussed below, would undoubtedly be Horse of the Year and champion three-year-old male.
Interestingly, it would also mark the first time in seven years that the Classic winner goes on to win Horse of the Year, and the last time it happened -- 2007 -- was in a Classic field most celebrated as a three-year-old showdown between Derby winner Street Sense, Preakness winner Curlin, and Hard Spun, who had just defeated Street Sense in the Kentucky Cup. Curlin won to earn the first of his two Horse of the Year awards.
Next on my list are the multiple Grade 1-winning turf males Main Sequence and Wise Dan. The former has the Grade 1 edge for now, but the latter is running this weekend. If either wins out and one of the aforementioned three-year-olds falters in the Classic then the Horse of the Year could go to the champion turf male for the third consecutive year.
Either Close Hatches or Untapable would gain some Horse of the Year consideration with a Distaff win (that assumes Close Hatches wins the Juddmonte Spinster Stakes on Sunday at Keeneland Race Course), but unless the winner returns to defeat males in a race like the Clark I wouldn't back them.
Palace Malice and Palace round out my top ten as leaders of the older male and sprint divisions, respectively, but neither is a Horse of the Year candidate.
Some kooky things can happen, of course… if none of the aforementioned horses wins, then California Chrome is probably the most likely Horse of the Year with three Grade 1 wins, including the classic double of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. I wouldn't vote for him, as he'd be lacking a win against older males, but precedence certainly favors dual classic winners as a default (e.g. Charismatic in 1999), so from a who-will-win versus who-should-win standpoint he'd be my pick.
The closest vote would likely be between a Classic-winning Bayern and a Mile-winning Wise Dan. I'd vote for Bayern if that's where their seasons end, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Wise Dan in the Clark where a win would likely earn him champion older male for sure and possibly Horse of the Year to go with champion turf male if he wins the Mile (though if Main Sequence wins the Turf then maybe he gets turf male and Wise Dan can get older male and Horse of the Year with a Clark win. It would be a shame to see a multiple Grade 1-winning Turf winner denied an Eclipse Award again a la Little Mike in 2012).
I see no scenario, however, where a Classic win from either of the classic winners (California Chrome and Tonalist) or the undefeated champion Shared Belief does not result in Horse of the Year even if Wise Dan goes on to annex another Grade 1 post Breeders' Cup.
Either Close Hatches or Untapable would be fun Clark additions if Horse of the Year is in play. Racing Hall of Fame Trainer D. Wayne Lukas saddled three-year-old filly Surfside to a Clark victory in 2000 following a loss to longshot stablemate Spain in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. That win wasn't good enough for gold, but she did win champion three-year-old filly.
Here's a look at the Eclipse Award races by division:
Three-year-old male: California Chrome is the leader of the division, but any of the other three Horse of the Year candidates would usurp him with a Breeders' Cup Classic win. Otherwise, California Chrome -- even if he tanks the rest of the year -- gets the nod as a dual classic winner.
Three-year-old filly: Kentucky Oaks winner Untapable unquestionably the leader, but Alabama winner Stopchargingmaria would be hard to deny the award if she wins the Breeders' Cup Distaff. I look at the year both of these horses have had and still can't believe Oaks-Alabama winner Flute lost champion three-year-old filly to Breeders' Cup Sprint runner-up Xtra Heat.
Older male: Many horses with just the one Grade 1 win with Palace Malice best of the bunch, but the spring and early summer form has not held well, as three-year-olds have won the major late summer and early fall prizes.
Older female: Close Hatches in the driver's seat especially with a win on Sunday, but Beholder or Belle Galantey would deserve consideration with a Breeders' Cup Distaff win
Male sprinter: Likely to come down to the Breeders' Cup Sprint, but Palace leads the division on accomplishment.
Female sprinter: Likely to come down to the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, but Artemis Agrotera has flashed the most brilliance to date.
Turf male: Down to Wise Dan and Main Sequence, a matchup reminiscent of 2012 when Wise Dan, Little Mike, and Point of Entry all came into the Breeders' Cup with multiple Grade 1 wins. Wise Dan won the Mile and Little Mike the Turf, and the Eclipse Awards went to Wise Dan. I expect the same to happen if Wise Dan threepeats—even if Main Sequence wins his fourth Grade 1 in the Turf.
Turf female: Euro Charline's Beverly D. is looking better and better with also rans going on to win Grade 1 races on both coasts, but only a QE2 win might not be enough to take down a Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf winner who already has a Grade 1.
OCTOBER 2, 2014
by John Mucciolo
A slew of graded action on Super Saturday led the way at Belmont Park.
Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1): Robert Evans' TONALIST (Tapit) was well back early, advanced while saving ground to the top of the lane, split horses in midstretch and drove clear to a 1 3/4-length score in this storied event. The Christophe Clement trainee went 1 1/4 miles on the fast main surface in 2:02 beneath a patient Joel Rosario.
Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1): Flaxman Holdings' homebred MAIN SEQUENCE (Aldebaran) moved into contention in early stretch and gradually wore his foes down in posting a third straight Grade 1 win on U.S. soil. The five-year-old gelding from the barn of Graham Motion was a neck clear late in stopping the teletimer in 2:26 1/5 for 1 1/2 miles on the firm lawn under Rajiv Maragh.
Beldame S. (G1): Michael Dubb et al's BELLE GALLANTEY (After Market) took command soon after the break and never looked back in posting a facile 8 1/4-length romp beneath Jose Ortiz. The Rudy Rodriguez trainee stopped the teletimer in a sharp 1:47 2/5 for nine panels on the fast main oval.
Vosburgh S. (G1): Good Friends Stable's PRIVATE ZONE (Macho Uno) took the lead at the top of the lane and gamely held a game contender at bay throughout in earning a neck win for conditioner Alfredo Marquez. The five-year-old gelding defended his title in this race and completed six panels on the fast dirt in 1:08 4/5 with Martin Pedroza.
Flower Bowl S. (G1): Ken and Sarah Ramsey's homebred STEPHANIE'S KITTEN (Kitten's Joy) moved three wide approaching the turn for home and inched clear late in securing a 1 1/4-length victory under John Velazquez. The classy five-year-old endured 10 furlong on the firm lawn in 2:01 for conditioner Chad Brown.
Kelso H. (G2): Pick Six Racing's VYJACK (Into Mischief) went wide into the lane, got on even terms with the leader in midstretch and outfinished that rival late in posting a one-length victory for conditioner Rudy Rodriguez. The four-year-old gelding sped one mile on the fast main oval in 1:34 under the guidance of Irad Ortiz Jr.
Miss Grillo S. (G3): Sheep Pond Partners' LADY ELI (Divine Park) tracked in third, moved to the fore past midstretch and poured it on late en route to a three-length score for Brown. Piloted by Irad Ortiz, the juvenile lass finished 1 1/16 miles on the firm turf in 1:43 2/5.
Pilgrim S. (G3): Godolphin Racing's homebred IMPERIA (Medaglia d'Oro) tracked well of the pace early but showed a fine turn of foot late in posting a one-length tally beneath Javier Castellano. The maiden-breaking uvenile colt sped 1 1/16 miles on the firm lawn in a snappy 1:41 1/5 for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.
A total of 48 races were held at the Elmont, New York venue, with favorites winning at a 38 percent rate and the top two betting choices combining for 63 percent of the wins during the week. From 27 races on the main oval, seven animals won in wire-to-wire fashion (26 percent), while three of the 21 races on the lawn were taken all the way on the front (14 percent).
Thursday yielded a trio of wire-to-wire winners on the dirt, but racing during the week seemed to be fair to all kinds on the main oval. Early in the week it did seem that runners that were in the hunt early on were most successful, though we can't call it a bias.
For the second straight week, all three wire jobs on the turf came on the inner oval. Horses on the outer lawn running from off the pace still seem to have an edge of sorts.
HORSES TO WATCH
6TH -- WRITINGONTHEWALL (E Dubai) led early, was overtaken approaching the final turn and into the lane, and came back like the veteran that he is to post a game tally. The nine-year-old gelding has plenty left at this stage of his lifetime and should never be taken for granted.
7TH -- We mentioned BIO PRO (War Front) in the past and we come back to this talented turf runner, who went last-to-first in a flash in posting a daylight 3 3/4-length romp under John Velazquez. The six-year-old California import has really turned into a solid performer for Bill Mott and could be stakes bound in his return.
8TH -- ZINDAYA (More Than Ready) also returns to this list after a fine showing on this day, taking over in midstretch and striding home a clear winner under Jose Lezcano. The sophomore filly is a good one for Christophe Clement and could try stakes foes in the very near future.
5TH -- OVERTHESPEEDLIMIT (Wagon Limit) did everything right but graduate in a fine debut run and the Tony Dutrow trainee should be ultra-tough in her comeback outing. Tab this one to graduate before long.
4TH -- We're not sure why ENERGY SPIRIT (Medaglia d'Oro) was sent off at 26-1 odds for Todd Pletcher and Velazquez, but the first-time starter looked more like an odds-on choice following this superb debut tally. The sophomore gelding proved tons the best late and could be any kind going forward.
6TH -- LISMORE (Tiznow) was stuck behind a very tepid early pace but still put in a fine late run to be second in this debut offering for conditioner George Weaver. The juvenile filly will be very tough in her subsequent outing with even slight improvement.
7TH -- We're not sure what LIAM'S MAP (Unbridled's Song) defeated in this one, but the Pletcher pupil did it the right way in coming home fast in a thoroughly dominant performance under Velazquez. The late-blooming sophomore could surely evolve into a nice one with expected improvement.
1ST -- TRADESMAN (Street Sense) got off very slowly, was well back after the opening half-mile, yet still put in a big late run to be a nice second for a conditioner who rarely wins first time out of the box. The well-bet juvenile colt lost to a nice winner who could have a bright future, and this one will be especially tough next time with a reasonable break from the gate.
10TH -- ZIVO (True Direction) was basically pulled up on the backstretch after Wicked Strong dumped pilot Rajiv Maragh, but the New York-bred got back into the race and still finished well in finishing a clear second in a most brave showing. The Brown trainee loves Belmont, and he was a bit unlucky not to have won this race or made it a whole lot closer late.
2ND -- Pletcher's OSTROLENKA (Musket Man) might have defeated a mostly average field but did so the right way for sure, blowing this field away in the lane by 14 1/2 lengths under a geared-down Velazquez. The Empire State-bred juvenile surely has a decent future cut out for him.
9TH -- IMPERIA is out of one of our favorites of all time and seems to have a ton of ability -- we'll be rooting for this colt every time he runs. It's worth noting that this youngster got his final five-sixteenths in a wicked :28.
A Look Ahead
Saturday will play host to a trio of graded races. The Grade 1, $500,000 Champagne Stakes, Grade 1, $500,000 Frizette Stakes and the Grade 2, $500,000 Hill Prince Stakes, will lead the way.
The Sunday card will be led by the Grade 2, $200,000 Futurity Stakes and the Grade 2, $200,000 Matron Stakes.
SANTA ANITA NOTEBOOK
OCTOBER 1, 2014
by John Mucciolo
A handful of Grade 1 races took place during the opening weekend at Santa Anita.
Awesome Again S. (G1): Jungle Racing et al's unbeaten champion SHARED BELIEF (Candy Ride) went widest of all the entire way around the oval but still gamely secured a measured, neck win for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. The standout sophomore went nine panels on the fast main strip in 1:48 2/5 with Mike Smith in the silks.
Zenyatta S. (G1): Spendthrift Farm's champion BEHOLDER (Henny Hughes) took command in early stretch and held off a stubborn foe in the latter stages to post a popular score by three-parts of a length under Smith. The Richard Mandella trainee endured 1 1/16 miles on the fast main oval in 1:42.
Frontrunner S. (G1): Zayat Stable's homebred AMERICAN PHAROAH (Pioneerof the Nile) was sent to the front soon after the break and showed a big closing gear when asked in the lane, recording a fine 3 1/4-length tally for Bob Baffert. The ultra-talented juvenile colt earned his second straight Grade 1 win in completing the 1 1/16 miles in 1:41 4/5 beneath Victor Espinoza.
Chandelier S. (G1): Siena Farms' homebred ANGELA RENEE (Bernardini) tracked the early speed along the rail, deftly angled to the two path approaching the turn for home and ran clear late in posting a 1 1/2-length victory for conditioner Todd Pletcher. The juvenile filly stopped the teletimer in 1:43 2/5 for 1 1/16 miles under Rafael Bejarano.
Rodeo Drive S. (G1): Juddmonte Farms' homebred EMOLLIENT (Empire Maker) tracked early near midpack, swung out wide for the stretch drive and powered home a classy half-length winner for trainer Bill Mott. The four-year-old filly went 10 furlongs on the firm lawn in 2:00 1/5 under the guidance of Rosie Napravnik.
John Henry Turf Championship (G2): Dye and Venneri's BRIGHT THOUGHT (Hat Trick) forced the pace from the start, moved to the fore at the top of the lane and held sway in a fine closing run late to secure a three-quarters of a length tally for trainer Phil d'Amato. The Cal-bred five-year-old, who was piloted by Tyler Baze, went 10 panels on the firm lawn in an excellent 1:58 1/5.
Eddie D. S. (G3): Tarabilla Farms' HOME RUN KITTEN (Kitten's Joy) was last for the opening half-mile, swung into contention late and got up by a nose under a well-timed ride from Joe Talamo. The David Hoffmans trainee sped the about 6 1/2 furlongs on the firm downhill course in 1:11 4/5.
From a total of 29 races held at the Arcadia, California racetrack during the past week, favorites won at a 45 percent clip and the top two betting choices combined for 59 percent of the wins. From 19 frays contested on the dirt oval, four animals won in wire-to-wire fashion (21 percent), while two of the 10 grassy tilts were taken all the way on the front end (20 percent).
Speed was good on the main oval but not dominant, especially on Sunday when horse running from off the pace may have held a slight advantage. Staying close to the tempo was still a good thing during Friday and Saturday, however, and we still would give forwardly placed runners an edge going forward.
It's too soon to say anything about the lawn, with only 10 races run upon the grass oval. This course often plays especially fairly, though.
HORSES TO WATCH
3RD -- MEDICINE BUTTE (Old Fashioned) showed speed and hung on nearly all the way before ultimately finishing second in a fine first outing for conditioner Robertino Diodoro. We don't think this was a very strong field the juvenile filly faced, but it was a great start to her career and she should graduate in the near future.
5TH -- EXPO AND FIG (Star Dabbler) looked like a standout and lone speed on paper, and the Phil d'Amato trainee delivered with ease in a dominant maiden score. We're a bit surprised that no one claimed this speedy gelding, who should be a player right back with winners.
8TH -- INDIANAPOLIS (Medaglia d'Oro) pressed a fast early tempo, took command inside the final furlong and held on late in a fine return to the races for conditioner Bob Baffert. The talented stakes winner should build upon this one going forward, and will be stakes bound very soon once again.
4TH -- PUNCTUATE (Distorted Humor) was shuffled back to last after a tardy break, began to pick up momentum approaching the turn for home and proved best late in inching away to a 1 3/4-length tally under Rosie Napravnik. The Baffert-trained juvenile out of the superb Pepper's Pride could be any kind going forward after beating a field with seemingly a lot of potential.
6TH -- CALCULATOR (In Summation) ran his second straight big one in a Grade 1 race behind a horse we have a lot of respect for, so the Peter Miller charge deserves a ton of credit as the second best juvenile out west so far. The Florida-bred should not be ignored in the upcoming Breeders Cup Juvenile (G1) even though he's still a maiden.
8TH -- Baffert has FED BIZ (Giant's Causeway) in excellent form and he should be a big factor in his next outing, likely the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1).
9TH -- ALEXIS TANGIER (Tiznow) rallied along the rail in the stretch to post a strong score over a nice field in this downhill dash. The Mandella pupil is now unbeaten from a trio of runs on the lawn, and looks like a chip off the old block being produced from downhill supremo Cambiocorsa.
10TH -- Angela Renee ran like a seasoned runner in this mostly facile victory and though the final time was not the swiftest ever recorded here, the way she did it leads us to believe that the filly is the one to beat in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.
A Look Ahead
The Saturday card boasts a trio of graded races at Santa Anita. The Grade 1, $300,000 Santa Anita Sprint Championship will be accompanied by the Grade 2, $200,000 City of Hope Mile Stakes and the Grade 3, $100,000 L. A. Woman Stakes.
Top Speed/Class ratings
TOP BRIS CLASS RATINGS
(through September 29, 2014)
Note: Figures are for North American-based racing
At a Glance
AT A GLANCE SCHEDULE
*all times Eastern
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