Itsmyluckyday, Normandy Invasion could return to worktab soon
In his subsequent start, Itsmyluckyday was pulled up in the Pegasus at Monmouth Park and was later diagnosed with a pelvic fracture, similar to that of 2011 Derby winner Animal Kingdom, who came back from an eight-month layoff to run second in the Breeders' Cup Mile and then win the 2012 Dubai World Cup.
"Certain injuries, you say to yourself, 'You hope he comes back.' What he had was pretty black and white," Plesa said. “They get over it, they heal 100 percent and there are no side effects.
"Lucky enough for him, as much time as we've lost, the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter because we can see that he's getting closer to where he's going to be working and then running."
Plesa has been encouraged by the energy Itsmyluckyday has shown in the mornings.
"He's exactly the same as he was when he went to the Preakness," the trainer said. "He used to drag me around that barn every morning, and he's dragging us around the barn now. It's exciting to have him getting ready to run. When he's ready to run, then two or three weeks out we'll find something for him."
Trainer Chad Brown had high hopes for Normandy Invasion in 2013 before a deep abscess in his front hoof ended the Tapit colt's season prematurely.
Now, Normandy Invasion is back with Brown and galloping at Palm Meadows, and nearing his first workout since the spring.
"He just started back galloping a couple of weeks ago, and he's about ready to breeze," Brown said. "We're just taking it day by day. We'll let him tell us when he's ready."
A maiden winner last November at Aqueduct, Normandy Invasion finished second in the Remsen, fifth in the Risen Star and second in the Wood Memorial before giving Brown his first Kentucky Derby starter.
Sent off at 9-1, Normandy Invasion took the lead at the top of the stretch and held it to the eighth pole before tiring to finish fourth. Kept out of the Preakness and Belmont by design to await a summer campaign, Normandy Invasion was sidelined in early August to await 2014.
"Normandy actually spent the summer and fall over at WinStar Farm, and they got him started for us and sent him to Palm Meadows in terrific shape," Brown said. "He's a horse that has shown a lot of talent.
"He's had his fair share of bad luck and a couple bumps in the road, but at the end of the day he's a really nice horse with a lot of talent and we're happy to have him back. I think that he's moving really well right now under tack, and we're anxious to get him back breezing."
Preakness purse increased to $1.5 million
The May 16 card on Preakness eve features eight added-money races, headlined by the $500,000 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes and the $300,000 Pimlico Special.
The Preakness undercard features eight stakes races, including the $300,000 Dixie Stakes and three $150,000 stakes: the Maryland Sprint Handicap, the Gallorette Handicap and Allaire duPont Distaff Stakes.
"I support the move," Maryland Racing Commission chairman Bruce Quade said. "It is another step in bringing Maryland racing back to a preeminent spot in the racing landscape."
At its inauguration in 1873, the Preakness carried a value of $1,000. The first major increase occurred in 1919 when the race had a $25,000 value. It climbed to $100,000 in 1946 and in 1959 was raised to $150,000, the highest among Triple Crown races.
From 1979 to 1989, the purse rose four times from $200,000 to $500,000, before attaining its present status of $1 million.
First round of Dubai World Cup Carnival hopefuls settling in at Meydan
The first international contenders have arrived at Meydan Racecourse ahead of the 2014 Dubai World Cup Carnival, which begins on January 9.
There are 26 international Group 1 winners among the acceptances for the three-month-long festival of racing, which concludes with the March 29 Dubai World Cup and carries combined prize money of more than $37 million.
Newmarket-based Italian handler, Marco Botti, brings an extended string to contest the Dubai World Cup Carnival this year. His runners include last season's Dubai City of Gold winner Jakkalberry, this year's Melbourne Cup fifth Dandino and recent Prix Royal Oak winner Tac De Boistron. Botti's string is also strengthened by the new additions of Australian Group 1 winner Linton, who comes to Dubai following his Hong Kong Mile run, and four other Brazilian prospects belonging to Dubai World Cup-winning owner Stefan Friborg's Estrela Energia.
Six from Andrew Balding's Park House Stables will make the trip, with Mackinnon Stakes victor Side Glance chief among them. Former international footballer Michael Owen's Brown Panther also travels to Dubai following his Melbourne Cup run for trainer Tom Dascomb, while Meydan stalwart Mike de Kock comes armed with a string bristling with Group 1 winners.
Among the new recruits for South Africa's four-time champion trainer are Durban July winner Heavy Metal, South Africa's champion three-year-old colt Vercingetorix, 2012 Champions Cup winner Master Plan and champion miler Variety Club.
De Kock, who claimed the Godolphin Mile with Soft Falling Rain last term, has a good record with former Aidan O'Brien-trained horses and two more are added to the ranks this year. Jersey Stakes winner Gale Force Ten and International Stakes scorer Flying the Flag join the likes of David Livingston and Daddy Long Legs, who already bolster de Kock's string. His globe-trotting Soft Falling Rain will be back, as will Al Quoz Sprint hero Shea Shea. The Apache, the 2013 Dubai Duty Free runner-up, also contests the new season.
Ed Dunlop's tough galloper Red Cadeaux, the 2013 Dubai World Cup runner-up, has been accepted for another trip to Dubai. He will be joined by three-time Canadian International winner Joshua Tree as well as Red Avenger.
Dunaden, last see finishing third in the 2013 Hong Kong Vase, has also been accepted alongside 2012 Breeder's Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf and French One Thousand Guineas heroine Flotilla for trainer Mikel Delzangles.
Richard Hannon Jr., who takes over the training reins from his father, English champion trainer Richard Hannon Sr. in January, brings four including 2013 Topkapi Trophy winner Producer, while Charlie Hills has entered Dewhurst Stakes runner-up Cable Bay.
The full list may be found by clicking here. Please note this is a working list and is subject to change.
CashCall Futurity swan song features contentious field
Tamarando bypassed the Breeders' Cup Juvenile but does own placings in the Grade 1 FrontRunner and Golden State Juvenile at Santa Anita. Though his chances for an Eclipse Award are slim, a win in the CashCall Futurity could see the dark bay colt in the running.
The CashCall Futurity also features turf runner Poker Player, whose only non-grass start came at Keeneland when scoring in the off-the-turf Grade 3 Bourbon; Hollywood Prevue runner-up Kobe's Back; and Rankhasprivileges, who wheels back on a three-week break off a third in the Grade 3 Delta Downs Jackpot.
Turf Cup, Native Diver featured on Futurity undercard
The only other graded winner in the field is Temeraine, who bagged the Kentucky Turf Cup prior to a fifth-place effort in the Canadian International. The four-year-old Arch gelding was also prominent in Arlington Park's major grass stakes over the summer, finishing a close second in the Arlington Handicap and a rallying fifth in the Arlington Million.
A lack of speed on paper might benefit Segway, who led gate-to-wire in beating first-level allowance foes going 1 1/4 miles at Santa Anita on October 27. He was beaten in his previous start by the returning Artic North, who was subsequently sixth in the Red Smith Handicap at Aqueduct.
The field is rounded out by Huntsville, who finished third in the Del Mar Handicap in August, and Irish Surf, who has not placed in three prior stakes appearances.
Returning from a lengthy absence in the Native Diver is Setsuko, who was last seen finishing second in the 2012 Santa Anita Handicap. Now six, the gelding has placed in two Big 'Caps, the Santa Anita Derby, and Californian, but has yet to win a stakes.
Others in the Native Diver lineup are Grade 2 veteran Drill, third in the $75,000 Governor's Cup at Fairplex and $77,000 Big Bear at Santa Anita in his last two; Fire With Fire, who's placed in three straight stakes including a Grade 3 at Golden Gate; and Soi Phet, a distant third behind Mucho Macho Man in the Awesome Again two back.
Slim Shadey, a multiple graded stakes winner on turf, and Mobilized, whose last win came in the $125,000 Tiznow for California-breds in April, complete the field.
Sunbean heads Louisiana Champions Day in Classic
Others in with a chance Saturday include Skip the Pinot, a 4 1/4-length winner of the Louisiana Cup Derby two back, and Get in Da House, fourth in the Grade 3 Texas Mile during the spring.
Most prominent among the entrants in these six races Saturday are Ladyzarbridge, who will be attempting to defend her championship from last year's LCD Ladies, and Sittin at the Bar, heroine of last year's LCD Lassie but a contestant in this year's LCD Ladies Sprint.
Paulick honored with Stan Bergstein Award
Paulick's persistent coverage of the case involving Tampa Bay trainer Jane Cibelli culminated in a story titled "Fla. Investigation: Vet Said Cibelli Told Him 'Keep Me Out of It'" that included testimony from a veterinarian who was caught injecting a pain-blocking agent into the leg of a horse hours before it was supposed to race.
Less than a week after the story was published, Florida's state racing body acted after a seven-month investigation, suspending Cibelli for 60 days. Tampa Bay Downs responded with an announcement that Cibelli, one of the track's perennial leading trainers, would not be granted stalls or allowed to enter horses in the 2013-14 meet.
Kerrison praised Paulick for shining "a bright light on four dark corners -- the trainer's larceny, the vet's illegal actions, the track's clear reluctance to move against Cibelli (but not the vet) and the regulatory body's unbelievable inertia in investigating the offense and imposing sanctions.
"Paulick forced their hands, but the case vividly illustrates the industry's incomprehensible reluctance to prosecute and punish wrong-doers."
"I am very happy to see Ray Paulick get this honor," Irwin said. "?We created the award to praise, encourage, incentivize and celebrate turf writers. We felt encouragement was sorely needed because of the sorry state of the turf writing profession. The current state of racing journalism is best characterized by a shrinking to the downright disappearance of copy inches.
"Almost extinct is the full time turf writer for a daily newspaper. Magazines everywhere are contracting or folding. Any fan that reads the sports section knows there are problems with cheating and drugs. Ray is one of the few out there on a daily basis who is doing the tough work of investigating racing's issues."
Team Valor had already tapped Paulick as the keynote speaker for the award presentation over the summer. Before learning of the award result, he spoke today about the impact, inside and outside of horse racing, of investigative reporting, including the New York Times series that won the inaugural Stan Bergstein Writing Award last year.
"I don't think I can emphasize this enough: the reason for this reporting is to change the culture when it needs change," Paulick said. "Those of us who do this aren't trying to make friends in the industry. We are trying to make change."
Stories published between November 2, 2012 and November 1, 2013 in North America and about horse racing were eligible for the award.
Paulick's piece can be found here.
MJC unveils Black-Eyed Susan Day logo
"For the last four years, Pimlico has celebrated and supported the empowerment of women by bringing that commitment to light on Black Eyed Susan Day," Maryland Jockey Club President Tom Chuckas said. "Next year's Black Eyed Susan Day will prove to be an important evolution of this celebration, serving as our platform to honor the spirit and strength of women."
Empowerment 360° is a year-round fundraising concept to support women through mentoring workshops. The plan is to have multiple workshops throughout the year building up to Black-Eyed Susan Day.
"This is an opportunity to recruit and engage a younger audience by making a positive impact in the community," Chuckas added. "We are going to pick a different charity each year in hopes of broadening the brand, making the event 'The Ultimate Girls Day Out.'"
Hoyt, Norby and Snierson elected to TPA posts
The Turf Publicists of America (TPA) has elected three vice presidents and re-elected its secretary-treasurer to serve the organization for 2014 and 2015, it was announced Tuesday by TPA President Mandy Minger following the TPA's Mark Kaufman Workshop at the University of Arizona Symposium on Racing and Gaming.
Jennifer Hoyt of Oaklawn Park, Rhonda Norby of Equibase Company and longtime publicist Lynne Snierson were each elected to a two-year term as vice-presidents of the organization. In an unusual twist, only two vice president spots were up for election but the three publicists tied for the two available spots. In addition, Secretary-Treasurer Dave Zenner of Arlington International Racecourse, who ran unopposed, will serve in that capacity for two more years.
Hoyt, Norby, Snierson and Zenner join Minger and Vice Presidents Sophia McKee of Emerald Downs and Jim Mulvihill of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, each of whom were elected last year to serve a two-year term in 2013 and 2014.
The new slate of officers was installed immediately.
The Jockey Club reminds owners of unregistered yearlings and two-year-olds that the requirements for foal registration must be completed by December 31, 2013, to avoid additional late registration fees. The late registration fee increases from $550 to $800 after December 31 of the yearling year and from $800 to $2,025 after December 31 of the two-year-old year. Interactive RegistrationTM is the most efficient means to complete the Application for Foal Registration and other registration requirements. Interactive Registration enables customers to check the status of their applications and, through the Registration Center, view and resolve outstanding conditions of registration. Sign-up is free at registry.jockeyclub.com...
A brother to this year's Epsom Oaks runner-up Secret Gesture, who became the most expensive yearling colt ever sold in Europe at public auction, headlines 409 entries for the 236th Derby, run over 1 1/2 miles at Epsom Downs on June 6, 2015. The prize fund for Britain's premier classic and richest race will be at least £1.325 million. The son of Galileo realized an unprecedented 3.6 million guineas (£3.78 million) at Tattersalls in Newmarket on October 8 and is one of 54 entries for Coolmore partners Sue Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith, who have captured the last three renewals of the Derby, thanks to Ruler of the World, Camelot and Pour Moi. Their strong entry also features a Montjeu colt out of dual One Thousand Guineas heroine Finsceal Beo, who was knocked down for €2.85 million at the Goffs Orby Yearling Sale in October, and a Galileo half-brother to four-time Group 1 scorer Mastercraftsman bought for $1.4 million at Keeneland in September. Other notables for the Coolmore team, who also landed the Derby with Galileo (2001) and High Chaparral (2002), include a brother to Ruler of the World, a Galileo three-parts brother to Pour Moi and a Montjeu half-brother to French Two Thousand Guineas victor Clodovil. Godolphin is responsible for 71 entries, the most of any owner, headlined by a brother to this year's British Champion Stakes hero Farhh, a 300,000 guineas Oasis Dream colt out of 2000 Oaks heroine Love Divine and a €200,000 son of One Thousand Guineas winner Speciosa. The figure of 409 entries is three up on last year and, for the fifth year in succession, the number of entries is over 400. The recent entry numbers for the Derby are as follows: 2014 (406), 2013 (442), 2012 (478) and 2011 (444). "It is satisfying to once again see more than 400 yearlings entered for the Investec Derby," said Andrew Cooper, Head of Racing and Clerk of the Course at Epsom Downs. "Yearling entry is still the most cost-effective route of having a runner in the Investec Derby and is the beginning of a dream for owners both large and small."...
The recent winter storm and week-long streak of sub-freezing weather days forced Remington Park to cancel three racing programs, December 5-7. In order to make up for many of the lost racing opportunities, Remington Park has received permission to add a pair of racing programs, tacked on to what was to be the end of the season. The $250,000 Springboard Mile, Remington Park's top race for two-year-olds, was meant to put a cap on the 2013 Thoroughbred Season on Sunday. Upon approval from the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission Tuesday afternoon, Remington Park will now conduct two more afternoon programs on December 16 and 17, each beginning at 1:30 p.m. (CST). The Remington Park racing schedule this week will now run five consecutive days from Friday thru Tuesday. The first race on Friday and Saturday will be at 7 p.m. The race cards on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday will begin at 1:30 p.m....
Finger Lakes concluded its 2013 season on Tuesday with Jaime Rodriguez taking the leading jockey title at the Farmington, New York, venue. He won two races on Tuesday to improve his victory total to 149 for the 2013 meet. The 22-year-old from Carolina, Puerto Rico, enjoyed immediate success at Finger Lakes when he joined the local jockey colony in 2012. Rodriguez won the George W. Barker H. with Al's Deputy (Silver Deputy) in his first stakes appearance on May 28, 2012. He finished his first season at Finger Lakes ranked third in the jockey standings with 125 wins. Rodriguez won the richest race of his young career on September 28 when taking the $237,457 New York Breeders' Futurity aboard Wired Bryan (Stormy Atlantic). Chris Englehart continued his dominance in the Finger Lake trainer standings by becoming the top conditioner for the 11th consecutive year. Englehart saddled 143 winning horses to earn his 13th career trainer title. Frisky Warrior (Desert Warrior) received the award for 2013 Finger Lakes "Horse of the Year." The chestnut gelding, owned and trained by Ralph D'Alessandro, won five of his nine starts this year and achieved nine of his 11 career triumphs at the track. Finger Lakes will remain in operation during the winter months for simulcast wagering with up to seven tracks per day. Live Thoroughbred action will resume in April with the start of the 2014 meet...
Gerard Butler has appealed against the ruling of the British Horseracing Authority to hand down a five-year suspension in light of the latest steroid scandal to hit English racing. After the Newmarket-based conditioner admitted to administering anabolic steroids in the form of the unlicensed product Rexogin to horses in his care, he received the ban and a condemnation by the ruling body last week. A tweet from the BHA on Wednesday declared that Butler had appealed and that no date had been set for the hearing...
Hong Kong Jockey Club stewards released their report on the catastrophic accident in last Sunday's Hong Kong Sprint (HK-G1) involving Nunthorpe S. (Eng-G1) winner Jwala (Oasis Dream) and found no other rider was to blame for the incident in the final furlong. Jockey Steve Drowne, who has remained in a Hong Kong hospital since the accident, was scheduled to undergo surgery on his broken left collarbone Tuesday night, but gave evidence to the stewards earlier in the day. The testimony of six other riders was also included. "The stewards determined that this incident, while severe and with catastrophic consequences, did not eventuate as a result of careless, reckless or dangerous riding exhibited by an individual rider, rather the incident was caused by a considerable number of circumstances occurring in close proximity which ultimately resulted in Jwala falling. Accordingly no further action was taken." Douglas Whyte, who rode Charles the Great (Holy Roman Emperor) before winning the final two international races, was expected to come under fire, but Chief Steward Kim Kelly could not find fault with the jockey's decisions. "Inside the 200-meter, and at around the 150-meter -- there was a clear run for Charles the Great, there wasn't acres of room, but there was room for a horse to progress into that run, and that if there was no shift from the inside then he would have progressed into that run easily," Kelly told South China Morning Post following the inquiry. "In fact, had he not positioned Charles the Great to take a run like that in any given race the stewards would be entitled to ask why, whether it be in a Group 1 or a Class 5 handicap."...
To benefit Toys for Tots, DJs from Cincinnati's WUBE-FM and members of the U.S. Marine Corps will brave Northern Kentucky's frigid weather and the dreaded wintry mix to camp out at Turfway Park for 54 straight hours starting Thursday. In support of the Marines' annual Toys for Tots campaign, Chris Carr & Company -- Carr, Maverick, and Statt -- will set up Camp Carr for Kids on the Turfway Park main entrance plaza. The camp opens at 6 a.m. (ET) on Thursday and closes at noon on Saturday. New, unwrapped toys may be dropped off at the Turfway Park campsite anytime during those hours. Cash donations are also welcome. Chris Carr & Company will broadcast live from Turfway on Thursday and Friday. This year, those who donate can register to win a trip to the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Punta Cana for the "ultimate fan party" with country music's Eli Young Band. Details are available at the WUBE-FM website...
Madeline Auerbach, board vice president of the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA), announced Wednesday that the TAA has awarded a total of $1 million in grants to its 23 accredited facilities. Auerbach, joined by TAA Executive Director James Hastie and several other TAA board members in attendance, made the announcement at the 2013 Global Symposium on Racing & Gaming, presented by the University of Arizona's Race Track Industry Program, at the Westin La Paloma Resort in Tucson, Arizona. This is the first round of financial grants that the TAA has awarded since its formation in February 2012. Individual grant awards were based on a comprehensive review by the TAA Grants Committee and board, and the grants will be used for the ongoing care of retired Thoroughbreds. Based in Lexington, Kentucky, the TAA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization designed to serve as both an accrediting body for aftercare facilities that care for Thoroughbreds following the conclusion of their racing careers, and a fundraising body to support these approved facilities. Funded initially by seed money from Breeders' Cup Ltd., The Jockey Club and Keeneland Association, the TAA is comprised of and supported by owners, trainers, breeders, racetracks, jockeys, aftercare professionals and other industry groups. To support the TAA, please visit thoroughbredaftercare.org or call 859-224-2756...
The first full day of the Global Symposium on Racing & Gaming started off with a keynote address from NYRA CEO and President Christopher Kay. He discussed attracting new customer demographics, enhancing guest services and improving the overall on track experience for all fans. The first panel of the day introduced a new show premiering January 7, 2014, on the Esquire Network named "Horseplayers." Attendees saw several clips of the show, which served as a good introduction to a later discussion on handicapping contests. The panel before lunch was a presentation of different ways to present handicapping data to make it more accessible to the wagering public and easier to understand. The last panel of the day included members of the cast from the "Horseplayers" show including Peter Rotondo, Christian Hellmers and Michael Beychok. At the awards luncheon the RTIP honored Michael Blowen (outstanding contribution to racing), Martin Panza (distinguished alumni) and Claudia Koehler (distinguished student). The Turf Publicists of America presented a scholarship to RTIP student Randy Olson and honored jockey Gary Stevens with the Big Sport of Turfdom Award. The Mark Kaufman Workshop presented by the TPA focused on controlling and properly communicating racing's message to the media. To finish up the day, the first "Speed Networking" event was held along with the closing reception. Wednesday featured diverse and interesting topics, and there will be a full agenda on Thursday...
Six distaffers will line up at Gulfstream Park on Saturday for the $100,000 Sugar Swirl (G3), which will see Munnings Sister (Speightstown) try to get back on the winning track. The Barclay Tagg-trained four-year-old posted back-to-back stakes wins at Belmont Park over the spring and summer before finishing a nice third in the Honorable Miss H. (G2) at Saratoga in late July. The chestnut miss was unable to duplicate that effort in the Gallant Bloom H. (G2) last out in September, finishing a well-beaten seventh on that occasion, but could rebound here under new rider Luis Saez. Munnings Sister will face a familiar rival in the six-furlong Sugar Swirl as Honorable Miss Classic Point (Flatter) has drawn the far outside post in the field. Trained by Allen Jerkens, Classic Point just missed by a neck in that contest before running a close fifth in the Ballerina (G1) at Saratoga. She posted another neck second last out in the Punkin Pie at Belmont and gets Alex Solis back in the irons. R Free Roll (Rockport Harbor) and Heart Stealer will face-off yet again in the Sugar Swirl after running one-two, respectively, in the Bold World H. last out, while the field is completed by stakes-placed winner Crazy About Me (Lawyer Ron) and Twice Told Tale (Tale of the Cat)...
The inner-track stakes schedule gets underway at Aqueduct on Saturday, with the Todd Pletcher-trained Percussion (Bluegrass Cat) returning to his favorite course as he heads a field of five for the 108th running of the $100,000 Queens County. The five-year-old gelding was 2-2-0 from six starts at the Big A last winter and went on to finish fourth in the Charles Town Classic (G2) in his first stakes appearance. He next won the Albert the Great overnight stakes at Belmont Park, placed second in the Brooklyn H. (G2) and was third in the Alydar in August at Saratoga. Most recently, he finished third in the Slew o'Gold on November 17 at Aqueduct. "He was a welcome addition last winter and made everyone look good," said Pletcher's assistant, Mike McCarthy. "It was nice to see him progress through the spring and see him run in a few of the bigger races. He was unlucky in a few, like the Brooklyn H., but hopefully he gets back here and shows the same type of form he showed last winter." Irad Ortiz Jr. will ride Percussion, who is the 2-1 morning-line favorite for the 1 1/8-mile race. Making his stakes debut is Sliver and Onions (Tiz Wonderful), a two-length winner of an optional claimer on November 14 in his Big A debut. The gray three-year-old was gelded following a fifth-place finish in an optional claimer at Saratoga in August and returned on October 25 to finish third going 1 1/16 miles at Belmont. Trainer Mike Hushion is hopeful Sliver and Onions is on the cusp of proving himself a serious racehorse. "He had some bad habits; since we gelded him he's been a more focused individual both in his training and in the afternoons," Hushion stated. "We could have run him in a two-other-than (allowance) rather than a stakes, but this is an opportunity to find out how good a horse he is and see where he will take us." Jose Ortiz has the mount. Trainer David Jacobson has entered veteran Spa City Fever (Roaring Fever), winner of an optional claimer last out, and Don Dulce (Maria's Mon), who was claimed for $100,000 in September and finished second in the I'm A Banker overnight stakes on September 12 at Belmont in his first start for his new connections. Rounding out the field is mid-Atlantic shipper Jonesy Boy (Smarty Jones), a supplemental entry for trainer Kelly Breen...
Ten horses are entered for Saturday's $75,000 Kenny Noe Jr. H. over 6 1/2 furlongs at Calder. Black Diamond Cat (Wildcat Heir) won back-to-back stakes races at Calder in 2011 and returned to win the six-furlong Ponche H. in June over Close It Out (Closing Argument), who beat him by in the six-furlong Champali S. in May. Black Diamond Cat comes into the Noe on a two-stakes win streak in the Housebuster S. and Montbrook S. at Gulfstream Park. Meanwhile, Close It Out came fourth in the Sunshine State S. at Gulfstream last Sunday. Fort Loudon (Awesome of Course) finished fifth in the Sunshine State in his first start since the Smile Sprint H. (G2) in July. Besides winning four straight races at Calder in 2011, which included a sweep of the Florida Stallion Stakes Series, Fort Loudon scored three straight stakes victories at Calder in 2012, including the Carry Back S. (G3). City of Weston (Holy Bull) returns to Calder after running in a string of four stakes races up north, including his first graded victory in the Gallant Bob S. (G3) at Parx on September 21...
Juddmonte Farm's homebred Uno Duo (Macho Uno) has been beaten at short odds in her two stakes appearances this fall, but hopes that the third time's the charm in Thursday's $100,000 Fickle Fanny S. on the inner dirt at Aqueduct. A six-length allowance romper at Saratoga in July, the Bill Mott sophomore was bet down to even-money for the October 20 Dream Rush at Belmont, only to retreat to fourth. Uno Duo was backed into 1-5 favoritism next time in the November 20 Pearl City on the main oval here, and again proved to be a money-burner when a well-beaten third. Both of those races were restricted to three-year-old fillies who had never won a stakes. The six-furlong Fickle Fanny is also for non-stakes winners, but is open to older distaffers as well. Only five have signed up, including Jason Servis' uncoupled duo of Indian Splendor (Indian Ocean) and Lady Gracenote (Read the Footnotes). Indian Splendor was runner-up in the Pearl City last out, and Lady Gracenote, the only older mare in the short field, is a winner over the track and trip who was fourth in the Top Flight (G2) back in March...
Multiple Grade 3 victor Sage Valley (Discreet Cat) gets class relief Friday in a $100,000 starter stakes labeled the Spooky Mulder, a six-furlong dash at Aqueduct for horses who have started for a claiming price. Haltered by Rudy Rodriguez for $50,000 here in February 2012, Sage Valley improved over his sophomore campaign, culminating in a 6 3/4-length rout in a minor stakes last fall. He scored his two signature wins this season, the May 18 Maryland Sprint H. (G3) at Pimlico and the July 19 James Marvin (G3) at Saratoga, but lost his way thereafter. Following unplaced efforts in the Forego (G1), Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash and Fall Highweight H. (G3), the four-year-old lowers his sights and adds blinkers. Rodriguez also sends out the speedy Dads Caps, another Discreet Cat colt, who sports a three-for-five lifetime mark. Dads Caps is unbeaten at the Big A, and two starts back, he was third to Shanghai Bobby in the Aljamin at Belmont. Trainer David Jacobson is similarly double-handed with Candyman E (Candy Ride) and Praetereo (Giant's Causeway). Candyman E, the 2011 De Francis winner who has competed well in several 2013 stakes, was just claimed for $62,500 out of a front-running score at Belmont. Praetereo was snapped up for the same price in July, and after placings in the October 6 Duck Dance and the October 14 I'm a Banker, he rolled by 5 3/4 lengths in an Aqueduct allowance. Rounding out the quintet is Sam Sparkle (Too Much Bling), a five-length winner at the $35,000 level in his first start off the claim for David Cannizzo...
Charles Town canceled Wednesday due to inclement conditions. The West Virginia track plans to resume live racing on Thursday.
On the Florida worktab
Multiple Grade 2 winner Twilight Eclipse (Purim), sixth in the Breeders' Cup Turf (G1), breezed four furlongs in :49 2/5 over the fast track at Palm Meadows on Wednesday.
Stakes winner Sisterhood (Kitten's Joy), fourth in the November 2 Capano, covered a half-mile in :54 4/5 on the firm turf.
Multiple Grade 2 scorer Amira's Prince (Teofilo), three for three in 2013, logged three furlongs in :38 on the fast track at Payson Park. He hasn't started since winning the Mervin H. Muniz Jr. (G2 in late March.
Grade 3 winner Lea (First Samurai), fifth most recently in the Fayette (G2), traveled five furlongs in a bullet 1:01 1/5.
Philly Ace (Smart Strike), unraced since capturing the Tropical Turf (G3) in November 2012, posted 1:01 2/5.
English stakes victor Slumber (Cacique), sixth as the favorite in the Canadian International (G1), was timed in 1:02 2/5.
Long Island H. (G3) runner-up Tabreed (Sakhee) toured a half-mile in :51 2/5.
Grade 2 scorer Yara (Put It Back), the trailer versus optional claiming rivals in her last outing at Belmont Park in October, completed four furlongs in :49 2/5 on the fast track at Gulfstream.
On the California worktab
Pontchatrain (War Front), who notched her second straight stakes triumph when taking the Senator Ken Maddy (G3) on November 2, traveled five furlongs in 1:00 3/5 over the Cushion Track at Hollywood Park on Wednesday.
Stakes winner Purim's Dancer (Purim), fifth in the Maddy, toured in the same time.
Miesque (G3) winner Full Ransom (Full Mandate) worked in 1:02 2/5 over the fast main track at Santa Anita.
Viva Carina (Giant's Causeway), unraced since being disqualified and placed second in the Santa Barbara (G2) in April, stepped four furlongs in :48 4/5.
On the Louisiana worktab
Beat the Blues (Great Pyramid), unraced since her victory in the Winning Colors (G3) in late May, completed five furlongs in :59 over the fast track at Fair Grounds on Wednesday. It was the fastest of 31 works at the distance.
Stakes winner Brown Almighty (Big Brown), third in the recent Woodchopper, recorded a half-mile in :49 4/5.
Stakes heroine Amie's Dini (Bandini), winless in six attempts this season, exercised in :48 3/5.
Apropos (First Samurai), second in the Roxelana two back, went in :49 3/5. She hasn't started since finishing fifth as the favorite in the Shine Again at Saratoga.
For Thursday or Next Raceday
DECEMBER 12, 2013
TwinSpires.com players outperform public in promotional races
by Ed DeRosa
Four successful $5 win bets from the 11 stakes races at Calder and Gulfstream was all that stood between TwinSpires.com players and 1-million TSC Elite Points on Saturday, and 128 players cashed on the promotion from the 314 who played at least four races.
That winning percentage of 40.76 percent is 53.17 percent more than the expected 26.61 percent winners of four or more races based on the off odds of the 11 qualifying races. I.e., on average for every two players throughout the country that cashed at least four win bets on these 11 races, there were three on TwinSpires.com who did so.
It must be those free Brisnet.com Ultimate Past Performances and Insider Picks & Power Plays giving TwinSpires.com players an edge!
Anyway, the winners of the 11 races with odds and percentage of win pool to reflect probability of winning are as follows:
If you had played all 11 races the odds of hitting all 11 were better than 473 million-1, and even at least seven was 345-1. Of the 84 players who did play all 11 races, no one had seven, but three people did have six, which was more than double the expectation that 1.44 people could select six winners from 11 races at those odds.
The odds of picking at least four winners from those 11 races was 2.76-1, meaning on average 22-23 players from 84 (26-27 percent) would be able to do it, but on TwinSpires, nearly double -- 45 (53.5 percent) -- made it happen!
A tough task when picking 11 races with these odds is getting zero right, as that was about a 30-1 chance, which suggests two-to-three of our 84 players should have gotten blanked, but it actually only happened to one player (this admittedly is tougher to gauge because once you lost eight races it's impossible to get four right, so we can only assume that those who went oh-fer (and even one-fer) 11 probably put all their picks in ahead of time, and those playing race by race would have stopped at oh-fer eight, one-fer nine, or two-fer ten.
Still, it's clear that TwinSpires.com players out-performed the public on this one. The good news is that they get to split 1-million TSC Elite Points for their saavy; the bad news is there's less points to go around! Good thing they have the extra win pool winnings to ease their pain.
DECEMBER 11, 2013
by Vance Hanson
It's nearly time to fill out another Eclipse Award ballot -- an annual opportunity to pass judgment on events since January 1. Unfortunately, this year's exercise involves the review of a racing season that was less-than-riveting in the sport's premier divisions, where inconsistency was the rule rather than the exception, and when questionable play-calling on the part of some "coaches" led to a few face-in-hands moments.
As usual, we'll briefly mention the no-brainers and then dissect the more interesting categories.
GROUPIE DOLL sealed a second championship winning the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint in game fashion. The undefeated CLUSTER OF STARS looked exceptional at times, though, and wouldn't fault in the least those who take a contrarian view and consider her the best they saw.
NEW YEAR'S DAY won his only stakes attempt, the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, against Champagne winner HAVANA and Hopeful hero STRONG MANDATE. It was an uninspiring renewal of the race, but taking the results at face value is the way to go.
In a decision that could have gone either way, Santa Anita stewards elevated RIA ANTONIA to first in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies over SHE'S A TIGER, who was found guilty of bearing out into her rival in deep stretch. However, that was the only season highlight in stakes company for Ria Antonia, who previously finished fourth against males in the Swynford at Woodbine and a nondescript fifth in the Frizette at Belmont against several fillies whom she later upset in the Breeders' Cup.
She's a Tiger was far more formful, winning the Del Mar Debutante and Landaluce, and narrowly missing in the Chandelier and Sorrento prior to her Breeders' Cup disqualification. She's more worthy of this award.
Certainly the most inscrutable division this year, and perhaps of all time as the six major jump races of the year yielded six different winners.
Close examination of the records led us to the conclusion that ITALIAN WEDDING, with a 5-1-1-2 record, and GUSTAVIAN, with 5-1-2-1 mark, were consistently better than the other four. Although Gustavian finished ahead of Italian Wedding in two of their three meetings, two of Gustavian's losses came in relatively lesser races: the Temple Gwathmey and National Hunt Cup.
That, my friends, is how you split hairs.
SECRET CIRCLE prevailed in the Breeders' Cup Sprint in his only stakes appearance, and that might have been enough if there were conclusive evidence he had the best sprinters of the year behind him. He didn't.
More accomplished this term was POINTS OFFTHEBENCH, who captured the Bing Crosby and Santa Anita Sprint Championship before tragically losing his life after breaking down in a workout while preparing for the Breeders' Cup Sprint. Also in the discussion is SAHARA SKY, who won the Palos Verdes and San Carlos, finished second in the Carter Handicap, and then captured a thrilling renewal of the Metropolitan Handicap over a mile before going to the sidelines.
Based on how the electorate tends to behave, Points Offthebench will get more credit for winning races bestowed with the magic "Grade 1" designation. In contrast, Sahara Sky's two sprint victories were in lowly "Grade 2" events.
Of course, in addition to Sahara Sky himself, that Palos Verdes also included Vosburgh (G1) winner Private Zone and Alfred G. Vanderbilt (G1) winner Justin Phillip. Now you know the rest of that story.
There's no wrong answer if it comes down to Points Offthebench and Sahara Sky, but the latter will get our support.
He's no one-track pony. It only looked that way this year.
We are talking about MUCHO MACHO MAN, who lit up Santa Anita in the Awesome Again and then courageously held on to win the Breeders' Cup Classic over the same track against the best dirt males, three and up, in training. That was a solid way to conclude the season after an inauspicious beginning -- pulling up in the Sunshine Millions Classic and losing an overnight stakes at Belmont.
GAME ON DUDE, who also kind of likes Santa Anita (9-7-0-0), must absolutely detest the Breeders' Cup Classic. He was the clear favorite to snag this award heading into the $5 million event, but was out of the Classic frame for the second consecutive year. It was unfortunate and inexplicable.
As Mucho Macho Man's season record had some glaring holes to go with his magnificent wins, there is sure to be support for WISE DAN to win this award again. If he does pull it off, it would be the fourth time in five years it would go to a horse whose stakes victories occurred entirely on turf and synthetic surfaces.
We have not yet partaken in this disturbing trend of supporting unconventional candidates for this award, which traditionally went to the best older horse on dirt, and do not intend to start now.
Accumulating an unconventional group of stakes wins (Smarty Jones, Rebel, Travers, Pennsylvania Derby, and Clark Handicap), WILL TAKE CHARGE seems to have won over the remaining skeptics and become a strong favorite to win this award.
The scintillating, last-lunge win in the Clark over Game On Dude only reaffirmed what the rest already knew: that the blinker-less Will Take Charge seen since July was a far superior animal to the sink-or-swim colt who wore shades through the Triple Crown, and to every other male in the crop.
It was certainly a tale of two seasons for Will Take Charge, who did absolutely nothing in the three classics but went 8-5-2-0 at other times.
The Triple Crown races are indeed important, but no race or series of races are definitive all the time. That is why it was hard to back ORB for this award as the months dragged on and the number of defeats mounted, including a last-place effort in the Jockey Club Gold Cup in his only attempt against older horses.
For us, this race was settled when Will Take Charge narrowly missed to Mucho Macho Man in his debut against older males. The Clark was, as they say, cushion.
"It was worse than a crime; it was a blunder."
The quote above, often attributed to Talleyrand, only partially overstates things. No real crime was committed.
When you avenge your only previous loss of the season in the Kentucky Oaks, add the Coaching Club American Oaks and Alabama, and then defeat Royal Delta with relative ease in the Beldame, it's time to take a knee. Run out the clock. Don't let your opponents, who have no time outs, get the ball back.
That was the position PRINCESS OF SYLMAR was in between September 28 and November 1. But instead of taking the knee, her connections decided to try running up the score in the Breeders' Cup Distaff.
Was the $2 million purse too good to pass up? Did they believe whispers that she would become a Horse of the Year candidate even though she would not have accomplished anything remotely close to what previous three-year-old filly Horses of the Year had achieved?
There was no margin for error. Princess of Sylmar had only narrowly defeated BEHOLDER in the Kentucky Oaks, and was now going west to face her again over a track where Beholder was four-for-four around two turns. And let's not forget CLOSE HATCHES, who traded decisions with Princess of Sylmar in the Gazelle and Kentucky Oaks, but later added the Mother Goose and Cotillion. She was in a position to win, too.
The result could have been foreseen a month in advance. Beholder kept her undefeated mark around two turns at Santa Anita intact and claimed a second major stakes victory against older fillies and mares. Close Hatches ran strongly for second, giving her a 2-1 edge over Princess of Sylmar, who failed to pick up at any point and trailed the field of six.
In this particular race, Beholder won as time expired.
Horse of the Year:
MUCHO MACHO MAN and WILL TAKE CHARGE did enough to deserve divisional titles, but no more than that. That pretty much leaves WISE DAN as a default selection.
There's not much personal enthusiasm for this choice. There was no regression from Wise Dan this season, but there was definitely a drop-off in quality from what we saw in the turf male division in 2012 as a whole. It was easier to back Wise Dan last year when he emerged from what was arguably the best division in racing.
Wise Dan's campaign, far more conservative than the one he endured in 2012, began to trigger complaints from some quarters this year for being unadventurous and lacking in ambition. Knowing what we know about Wise Dan's capabilities on other surfaces and beyond a mile, the criticism was fair.
Wise Dan can be campaigned any way his connections choose, of course, but earning divisional titles and higher honors can not then be taken for granted.
Horse of the Year titles, traditionally, are not won simply by dominating your own division, but by transcending them. Wise Dan didn't do that, but he wasn't allowed to. Fortunately for him, a surplus of goodwill makes him a more sensible choice than the alternatives.
DECEMBER 12, 2013
by John Mucciolo
There was no graded racing over the weekend at Aqueduct.
A total of 45 races were held at the Jamaica, New York venue, with favorites winning at a 38 percent rate and the top two betting choices combining for 53 percent of the wins during the week. From 41 races on the main oval, eight animals won in wire-to-wire fashion (20 percent), while one of the four races on the lawn was taken all the way on the front (25 percent).
The closing week on the main oval here played mostly fairly, with a few horses winning from on the pace, and a few from off the pace on each racing day.
We are very eager to see how things shake out early next week as racing moves to the inner oval on Wednesday. While speed is often the main theme on that oval, it has not been as strong in the past two seasons as years past, but is still advantageous, nonetheless.
HORSES TO WATCH
5TH -- MAJESTIC JESS (Majestic Missile) made a sweeping move into the lane and held on gamely to post a fine win under Irad Ortiz Jr. The Rudy Rodriguez trainee has been in good current form and came home pretty well on this "good" turf oval, and we like the gelding to run big right back.
6TH -- TIZ SO SWEET (Tiznow) got the jump out of the gate and repelled a strong challenge from the favorite throughout the lane in a fine maiden conquer for conditioner Bill Mott. The juvenile filly completed her final quarter-mile in a useful :25, and could be a nice one with expected improvement.
4TH -- MY TEDDY BEAR (Rockport Harbor) tracked the leader to the top of the lane, took a small lead by midstretch and stayed on very well to be a clear second at a big price beneath Abel Lezcano. The sophomore gelding shouldn't be a maiden for long with a slight move forward out of this heat.
6TH – The Kiaran McLaughlin-trained FORTIFY (Distorted Humor) took command with ease approaching the turf for home and demolished his foes in rolling home by 8 1/4 lengths under Jose Ortiz. The well-bred colt defeated a few good ones we thought and he could surely be a stakes player in 2014.
2ND -- UNCLE SIGH (Indian Charlie) broke slowest, quickly moved into contention and gave the odds-on favorite all he could handle in a superb second place run in this debut dash. The Gary Contessa trainee finished a whopping 10 lengths clear of third and will surely be in the winners' circle soon with anything like this performance.
5TH -- DECEIVED (Broken Vow) returns to this list following a no-doubt maiden tally, being always well placed and pouring it on in the lane under a confident Ortiz Jr. The juvenile colt should have little distance limitations and he is also bred for the lawn, so we wouldn't be surprised to see him thrive on that surface, as well.
5TH -- TYRUS (First Samurai) won the battle but lost the war so to speak, as the five-year-old got the better in a pace duel but was run down late in a sharp third-place finish. The gelding from the Eddie Kenneally barn is very swift and the fact that this field came home so quickly tells us this was a fine try in defeat.
A Look Ahead
Racing moved to the inner track on Wednesday, December 11.
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