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FRIDAY, DECEMBER 19, 2014

Racing Headlines

Desormeaux brothers eager for Texas Red's likely return in San Vicente

Kent Desormeaux piloted a geared-down Texas Red to BC Juvenile victory (Breeders' Cup Ltd.)

Texas Red, the 6 1/2-length winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile on November 1 at Santa Anita Park, is likely to make his three-year-old debut in the Grade 2, $200,000 San Vicente Stakes at seven furlongs on February 1 back at the Arcadia, California, venue.

"He's been in training the whole 45 days (since the Juvenile)," trainer Keith Desormeaux said as Texas Red exercised on the main track at Santa Anita Friday morning. "His first breeze will be tomorrow."

Asked if his younger brother and Texas Red's regular jockey Kent Desormeaux would work him, Keith said, "I doubt it. We don't need the expert on a maintenance breeze.

"The horse has been a little bit too much the past couple of weeks, and it kind of makes you a little nervous," the trainer added. "He's ready to get something started. Nothing's definite, but right now I'm thinking about the San Vicente."

It's been a fairytale year for Kent Desormeaux, who resurrected his career at the age of 44 with upper echelon finishes in the standings at Santa Anita, Del Mar and Los Alamitos, capped by the upset victory in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile aboard Texas Red.

"I can't even tell you how thrilled I am to be back in California, living in one house, riding for my family with the favorite for the Kentucky Derby," Kent Desormeaux said.

"Most jockeys would love to be in my shoes right now, and I thank the Lord I'm the one standing in them. The same slide show keeps going through my mind of when Keith and I were competing against each other as kids, in basketball and riding, and now we're on racing's No. 1 stage together."

In addition to the Breeders' Cup, Texas Red finished third in his only other stakes try, the Grade 1 FrontRunner Stakes at Santa Anita. He currently owns a 5-2-1-1 record having banked $1,192,300 in career earnings.

Bet Horseracing Free Online at TwinSpires.com

Desormeaux brothers eager for Texas Red's likely return in San Vicente

Kent Desormeaux piloted a geared-down Texas Red to BC Juvenile victory (Breeders' Cup Ltd.)

Texas Red, the 6 1/2-length winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile on November 1 at Santa Anita Park, is likely to make his three-year-old debut in the Grade 2, $200,000 San Vicente Stakes at seven furlongs on February 1 back at the Arcadia, California, venue.

"He's been in training the whole 45 days (since the Juvenile)," trainer Keith Desormeaux said as Texas Red exercised on the main track at Santa Anita Friday morning. "His first breeze will be tomorrow."

Asked if his younger brother and Texas Red's regular jockey Kent Desormeaux would work him, Keith said, "I doubt it. We don't need the expert on a maintenance breeze.

"The horse has been a little bit too much the past couple of weeks, and it kind of makes you a little nervous," the trainer added. "He's ready to get something started. Nothing's definite, but right now I'm thinking about the San Vicente."

It's been a fairytale year for Kent Desormeaux, who resurrected his career at the age of 44 with upper echelon finishes in the standings at Santa Anita, Del Mar and Los Alamitos, capped by the upset victory in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile aboard Texas Red.

"I can't even tell you how thrilled I am to be back in California, living in one house, riding for my family with the favorite for the Kentucky Derby," Kent Desormeaux said.

"Most jockeys would love to be in my shoes right now, and I thank the Lord I'm the one standing in them. The same slide show keeps going through my mind of when Keith and I were competing against each other as kids, in basketball and riding, and now we're on racing's No. 1 stage together."

In addition to the Breeders' Cup, Texas Red finished third in his only other stakes try, the Grade 1 FrontRunner Stakes at Santa Anita. He currently owns a 5-2-1-1 record having banked $1,192,300 in career earnings.

Bet Horseracing Free Online at TwinSpires.com

California Chrome, Bayern clock half-mile moves

There was little separation between (left to right) California Chrome, Toast of New York and Bayern on the BC Classic wire (Breeders' Cup Ltd.)

On a cleared track at his Los Alamitos headquarters Friday morning, dual classic victor California Chrome worked four furlongs in :49 under regular rider Victor Espinoza as he prepares for his four-year-old debut in the Grade 2, $500,000 San Antonio Stakes going 1 1/8 miles at Santa Anita Park on February 7.

"It was just what we were looking for," said Alan Sherman, son and assistant to trainer Art Sherman.

"He went the first quarter in :24 3/5. He was just going easy, just stretching his legs," Los Alamitos head clocker Russ Hudak added.

California Chrome's 2014 campaign is complete. All that awaits is the counting of ballots and announcement of the Eclipse Award winners, including Horse of the Year, on January 17.

Horse of the Year and champion three-year-old contender California Chrome and his trainer will rest on their laurels till then, and what laurels they are: four Grade 1 wins including the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Santa Anita Derby, and for good measure, a Grade 1 turf score in the Hollywood Derby at Del Mar last month.

"I think it will help," Art Sherman said of the grass victory, coming after California Chrome's game third-place finish by a neck in the Breeders' Cup Classic on November 1. "The turf win adds another dimension and gives us options down the road. There haven't been too many three-year-olds running on the grass, and it was his fourth Grade 1."

True enough, but with Classic scorer Bayern, Breeders' Cup Turf victor Main Sequence, once-beaten Pacific Classic and Awesome Again hero Shared Belief, Belmont Stakes and Jockey Club Gold Cup conqueror Tonalist, and Kentucky Oaks and Breeders' Cup Distaff queen Untapable all in the mix for racing's ultimate honor, it's anyone's guess until January 17.

"It's going to be close this year," Sherman acknowledged. "I'm sure California Chrome will at least get three-year-old of the year, but then again, you don't really know. A lot depends on how the Eastern bloc votes.

"If it depended on the California vote, I'd win in a landslide. He won the Santa Anita Derby, the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, three classic races. It used to be that if you won the Derby and the Preakness, it was automatic that you'd be three-year-old of the year.

"Now it's kind of up for grabs, but hey, listen, I know one award I'll win: that's Cal-bred of the Year," Sherman laughed.

Awards aside, racing stands to benefit thanks to owners/breeders Steve Colburn and Perry Martin's decision to race California Chrome next year as a four-year-old.

"If he'd have won the Breeders' Cup Classic, we wouldn't even be having a conversation about who's going to be Horse of the Year," Sherman said, "but he was a neck short.

"Still, it's been a great year and I'm so proud of the horse. He's done everything he could under the circumstances. He's going to be a great four-year-old. I'm looking forward to that."

California Chrome wasn't the only Horse of the Year candidate stretching his legs on Friday.

Bayern worked four furlongs on Santa Anita's fast main track in a co-bullet :46 1/5 under jockey Martin Garcia for trainer Bob Baffer.

Working in company with Pearl Spectre, who was timed in :46 2/5, Bayern's clocking equaled that of the Richard Baltas-trained Brother Soldier. The duo's time was fastest of 43 at the distance, the average of which was :48 2/5.

"This is his second breeze back," Baffert said of the Kentucky-bred son of Offlee Wild. "He did it pretty easy. I didn't think he was going that fast. It looked like he was galloping. I just told him to cruise around there but he did it pretty easy."

Bet Horseracing Free Online at TwinSpires.com

California Chrome, Bayern clock half-mile moves

There was little separation between (left to right) California Chrome, Toast of New York and Bayern on the BC Classic wire (Breeders' Cup Ltd.)

On a cleared track at his Los Alamitos headquarters Friday morning, dual classic victor California Chrome worked four furlongs in :49 under regular rider Victor Espinoza as he prepares for his four-year-old debut in the Grade 2, $500,000 San Antonio Stakes going 1 1/8 miles at Santa Anita Park on February 7.

"It was just what we were looking for," said Alan Sherman, son and assistant to trainer Art Sherman.

"He went the first quarter in :24 3/5. He was just going easy, just stretching his legs," Los Alamitos head clocker Russ Hudak added.

California Chrome's 2014 campaign is complete. All that awaits is the counting of ballots and announcement of the Eclipse Award winners, including Horse of the Year, on January 17.

Horse of the Year and champion three-year-old contender California Chrome and his trainer will rest on their laurels till then, and what laurels they are: four Grade 1 wins including the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Santa Anita Derby, and for good measure, a Grade 1 turf score in the Hollywood Derby at Del Mar last month.

"I think it will help," Art Sherman said of the grass victory, coming after California Chrome's game third-place finish by a neck in the Breeders' Cup Classic on November 1. "The turf win adds another dimension and gives us options down the road. There haven't been too many three-year-olds running on the grass, and it was his fourth Grade 1."

True enough, but with Classic scorer Bayern, Breeders' Cup Turf victor Main Sequence, once-beaten Pacific Classic and Awesome Again hero Shared Belief, Belmont Stakes and Jockey Club Gold Cup conqueror Tonalist, and Kentucky Oaks and Breeders' Cup Distaff queen Untapable all in the mix for racing's ultimate honor, it's anyone's guess until January 17.

"It's going to be close this year," Sherman acknowledged. "I'm sure California Chrome will at least get three-year-old of the year, but then again, you don't really know. A lot depends on how the Eastern bloc votes.

"If it depended on the California vote, I'd win in a landslide. He won the Santa Anita Derby, the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, three classic races. It used to be that if you won the Derby and the Preakness, it was automatic that you'd be three-year-old of the year.

"Now it's kind of up for grabs, but hey, listen, I know one award I'll win: that's Cal-bred of the Year," Sherman laughed.

Awards aside, racing stands to benefit thanks to owners/breeders Steve Colburn and Perry Martin's decision to race California Chrome next year as a four-year-old.

"If he'd have won the Breeders' Cup Classic, we wouldn't even be having a conversation about who's going to be Horse of the Year," Sherman said, "but he was a neck short.

"Still, it's been a great year and I'm so proud of the horse. He's done everything he could under the circumstances. He's going to be a great four-year-old. I'm looking forward to that."

California Chrome wasn't the only Horse of the Year candidate stretching his legs on Friday.

Bayern worked four furlongs on Santa Anita's fast main track in a co-bullet :46 1/5 under jockey Martin Garcia for trainer Bob Baffer.

Working in company with Pearl Spectre, who was timed in :46 2/5, Bayern's clocking equaled that of the Richard Baltas-trained Brother Soldier. The duo's time was fastest of 43 at the distance, the average of which was :48 2/5.

"This is his second breeze back," Baffert said of the Kentucky-bred son of Offlee Wild. "He did it pretty easy. I didn't think he was going that fast. It looked like he was galloping. I just told him to cruise around there but he did it pretty easy."

Bet Horseracing Free Online at TwinSpires.com

Stone named as Churchill Downs' new track announcer

Travis Stone has been tabbed to succeed Larry Collmus as Churchill's track announcer (Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography)

Travis Stone, the race-caller at Monmouth Park in 2014 and backup announcer at the New York Racing Association (NYRA) this winter, has been named the new track announcer at Churchill Downs Racetrack and voice of the world-famous Kentucky Derby, which has been run every year without interruption since 1875.

Stone, 30, will describe the racing action for Churchill Downs' on- and off-track audiences when racing returns to the legendary Louisville, Kentucky, track for the 2015 spring meet on Saturday, April 25. He becomes only the eighth announcer in Churchill Downs' storied history, and will succeed Larry Collmus, who departed after one year for an opportunity to call races at NYRA which offers a significantly larger number of racing dates.

Collmus will continue to call the Kentucky Derby for NBC.

"It is truly an honor to become the new voice of Churchill Downs and to join a community that shares my passion and enthusiasm for this wonderful sport," Stone said. "The opportunity to call the Kentucky Derby and all of the prestigious races at Churchill Downs is a dream come true. I am already counting the days!"

Stone grew up in Schroon Lake, New York, spending summers at Saratoga and greatly admiring the work of legendary announcers Tom Durkin and Dave Johnson. After graduating from SUNY Oneonta with degree in Communication Arts, he landed his first job as a track announcer at Louisiana Downs in 2006 at age 22 and held that post through 2013. When Collmus left Monmouth Park after 20 years to call at Churchill Downs in 2014, Stone was named as his replacement at the New Jersey track. Now he'll succeed Collmus for the second time in as many years.

"Travis Stone is justly a rising star among the North American announcing ranks," said Kevin Flanery, Churchill Downs Racetrack president. "To no one's surprise, numerous race-callers with a wide range of talent and individual style showed interest in our vacant track announcer position. But it became clear to us that Travis' passion for horse racing and charisma resonated through the microphone and made him the ideal fit for our team and racing at Churchill Downs.

"It's apparent that Travis works tirelessly to hone his craft with entertaining, colorful and accurate race calls. We believe he's one of the nation's premier announcers and will be a fabulous ambassador for Churchill Downs Racetrack in a community and region that loves horse racing like no other for years to come."

Stone will join an elite fraternity of Churchill Downs track announcers that include Gene Schmidt (1940-60), Chic Anderson (1961-77), Mike Battaglia (1978-96), Kurt Becker (1997-98), Luke Kruytbosch (1999-2008), Mark Johnson (2009-13) and Collmus (2014).

Stone has called races at Churchill Downs on two other occasions. He was a participant in the 2006 All-Star Announcer's Day on the day prior to the 2006 Breeders' Cup World Championships, and was part of a select group of five talented guest announcers who each spent one week behind the binoculars and microphone at Churchill Downs during the 2008 fall meet. He also has made guest appearances at Suffolk Downs, Calder Race Course and Golden Gate Fields.

Here's a link to Stone's call of this year's Haskell Invitational: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9dN2_OobTI. A compilation of select race calls can be heard at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-htUEbNuRI.

Bet Horseracing Free Online at TwinSpires.com

Stone named as Churchill Downs' new track announcer

Travis Stone has been tabbed to succeed Larry Collmus as Churchill's track announcer (Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography)

Travis Stone, the race-caller at Monmouth Park in 2014 and backup announcer at the New York Racing Association (NYRA) this winter, has been named the new track announcer at Churchill Downs Racetrack and voice of the world-famous Kentucky Derby, which has been run every year without interruption since 1875.

Stone, 30, will describe the racing action for Churchill Downs' on- and off-track audiences when racing returns to the legendary Louisville, Kentucky, track for the 2015 spring meet on Saturday, April 25. He becomes only the eighth announcer in Churchill Downs' storied history, and will succeed Larry Collmus, who departed after one year for an opportunity to call races at NYRA which offers a significantly larger number of racing dates.

Collmus will continue to call the Kentucky Derby for NBC.

"It is truly an honor to become the new voice of Churchill Downs and to join a community that shares my passion and enthusiasm for this wonderful sport," Stone said. "The opportunity to call the Kentucky Derby and all of the prestigious races at Churchill Downs is a dream come true. I am already counting the days!"

Stone grew up in Schroon Lake, New York, spending summers at Saratoga and greatly admiring the work of legendary announcers Tom Durkin and Dave Johnson. After graduating from SUNY Oneonta with degree in Communication Arts, he landed his first job as a track announcer at Louisiana Downs in 2006 at age 22 and held that post through 2013. When Collmus left Monmouth Park after 20 years to call at Churchill Downs in 2014, Stone was named as his replacement at the New Jersey track. Now he'll succeed Collmus for the second time in as many years.

"Travis Stone is justly a rising star among the North American announcing ranks," said Kevin Flanery, Churchill Downs Racetrack president. "To no one's surprise, numerous race-callers with a wide range of talent and individual style showed interest in our vacant track announcer position. But it became clear to us that Travis' passion for horse racing and charisma resonated through the microphone and made him the ideal fit for our team and racing at Churchill Downs.

"It's apparent that Travis works tirelessly to hone his craft with entertaining, colorful and accurate race calls. We believe he's one of the nation's premier announcers and will be a fabulous ambassador for Churchill Downs Racetrack in a community and region that loves horse racing like no other for years to come."

Stone will join an elite fraternity of Churchill Downs track announcers that include Gene Schmidt (1940-60), Chic Anderson (1961-77), Mike Battaglia (1978-96), Kurt Becker (1997-98), Luke Kruytbosch (1999-2008), Mark Johnson (2009-13) and Collmus (2014).

Stone has called races at Churchill Downs on two other occasions. He was a participant in the 2006 All-Star Announcer's Day on the day prior to the 2006 Breeders' Cup World Championships, and was part of a select group of five talented guest announcers who each spent one week behind the binoculars and microphone at Churchill Downs during the 2008 fall meet. He also has made guest appearances at Suffolk Downs, Calder Race Course and Golden Gate Fields.

Here's a link to Stone's call of this year's Haskell Invitational: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9dN2_OobTI. A compilation of select race calls can be heard at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-htUEbNuRI.

Bet Horseracing Free Online at TwinSpires.com

Old Friends to receive Special Eclipse Award

Michael Blowen founded Old Friends in 2003 (Barbara Livingston)

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), Daily Racing Form and the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters announced Friday that the nonprofit Thoroughbred retirement center Old Friends will be presented with the Special Eclipse Award during the 44th annual Eclipse Awards on January 17 at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida.

The Special Award honors extraordinary service, individual achievements in, or contributions to the sport of Thoroughbred racing.

Founded in 2003 by former Boston Globe film critic Michael Blowen, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit based in Georgetown, Kentucky, cares for more than 150 rescued and retired horses, including several pensioned stallions.

This year, Old Friends became the new home for two of racing's biggest stars from the past 20 years, bringing 1997 Kentucky Derby hero Silver Charm back to his native state after retiring from stud duty in Japan and acquiring three-time Santa Anita Handicap winner Game On Dude after the seven-year-old gelding finished racing.

Other American Grade 1 winners currently residing at the main farm include champions Amazombie, Gulch and Hidden Lake, as well as Affirmed Success, Afternoon Deelites, Bonapaw, Commentator, Dinard, Early Pioneer, Fabulous Strike, Geri, Kiri's Clown, Kudos, Ogygian, Sarava, Sean Avery, Seek Gold, Special Ring, Tinners Way, Wallenda and You and I.

"This is just unbelievable," Blowen said. "We started with one horse just over 10 years ago and now we have 166 retirees. We have several Eclipse Award winners already at the farm; I can't wait to show them mine!"

Additional fan favorites include Rapid Redux, winner of 19 consecutive races in 2011, and Little Silver Charm, the operation's miniature mascot and the farm's only non-Thoroughbred. Old Friends also operates Old Friends at Cabin Creek: The Bobby Frankel Division near Saratoga Springs in upstate New York, where past Travers winners Thunder Rumble and Will's Way greet the public, along with infamous 100-time loser Zippy Chippy.

Even while working full-time for the Globe as a staff writer, Blowen would spend mornings at Suffolk Downs working for veteran trainer Carlos Figueroa. Mucking stalls and walking hots aren't typical side jobs for journalists, but for Blowen they were excuses to satisfy his growing fascination with horses. Shortly after Blowen retired from the Globe he accepted a position in Kentucky as operations director for the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation.

Michael Blowen visiting with Old Friends resident Sunshine Forever (Barbara Livingston)

In 2002, the news that 1986 Kentucky Derby winner Ferdinand had perished in a slaughterhouse spurred Blowen to form his own operation, with an emphasis on retired stallions. Old Friends would be accessible to the public as a way of raising awareness for racehorse retirement and improving racing's image. The presence of high-profile stars would help to raise money and give comfortable homes to lesser names.

"It allows us to take other horses that really didn't do as much but deserve a retirement just as well," Blowen explained. "I want people to come away with really good feelings about the sport of horseracing because I adore it and we've made some inroads in that direction."

The farm is run by five full-time employees, four part-time employees and a dedicated group of 24 volunteers. Blowen praised his team, particularly the cast of volunteers.

"Old Friends is like a great baseball team. We have talent at every position. I'm just the lucky manager," he said. "The staff and volunteers are the ones that do it all and, of course, what keeps the team together are our great athletes."

"Old Friends is a special place," recently retired jockey and Old Friends board member Rosie Napravnik stated. "It is such a well-run organization and Michael Blowen is one of the most genuine people I've ever met in racing. When I pull up there I'm practically sprinting up the driveway I'm so excited. I don't really get starstruck by people but I do get starstruck when I visit Old Friends."

Old Friends offers daily tours and attracts up to 1,000 visitors per week during their busiest times of the year.

"Our industry has made significant progress in allowing former racehorses to live out dignified retirements thanks to Old Friends and likeminded organizations," NTRA President and CEO Alex Waldrop remarked. "We are grateful to Michael and his dedicated team of staff and volunteers for the positive impact they've had on our sport's commitment to aftercare and on the lives of hundreds of Thoroughbreds."

For more information, including how to donate or volunteer, please visit www.OldFriendsEquine.org.

The Special Award will be given for the 24th time since it was inaugurated in 1971 to honor Robert J. Kleberg, manager of the famed King Ranch. Subsequent recipients have included racing luminaries such as Bill Shoemaker, C.V. Whitney, Edward J. DeBartolo, Richard Duchossois, Russell Baze, Laffit Pincay Jr., Dale Baird, Team Zenyatta and last year's recipient, the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA).

Old Friends will be the third aftercare-related recipient, following Monique Koehler, founder of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, in 2009, and the TAA.

A complete list of past Eclipse Award winners, including the Special Award recipients, may be accessed online at http://ntra.com/en/eclipse-awards/history.

Tickets to the Eclipse Awards ceremony are on sale for $400 each or $4,000 for a table of 10. For reservations, please contact Michele Ravencraft of the NTRA at mravencraft@ntra.com, or call 859-422-2657.

Bet Horseracing Free Online at TwinSpires.com

Old Friends to receive Special Eclipse Award

Michael Blowen founded Old Friends in 2003 (Barbara Livingston)

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), Daily Racing Form and the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters announced Friday that the nonprofit Thoroughbred retirement center Old Friends will be presented with the Special Eclipse Award during the 44th annual Eclipse Awards on January 17 at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida.

The Special Award honors extraordinary service, individual achievements in, or contributions to the sport of Thoroughbred racing.

Founded in 2003 by former Boston Globe film critic Michael Blowen, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit based in Georgetown, Kentucky, cares for more than 150 rescued and retired horses, including several pensioned stallions.

This year, Old Friends became the new home for two of racing's biggest stars from the past 20 years, bringing 1997 Kentucky Derby hero Silver Charm back to his native state after retiring from stud duty in Japan and acquiring three-time Santa Anita Handicap winner Game On Dude after the seven-year-old gelding finished racing.

Other American Grade 1 winners currently residing at the main farm include champions Amazombie, Gulch and Hidden Lake, as well as Affirmed Success, Afternoon Deelites, Bonapaw, Commentator, Dinard, Early Pioneer, Fabulous Strike, Geri, Kiri's Clown, Kudos, Ogygian, Sarava, Sean Avery, Seek Gold, Special Ring, Tinners Way, Wallenda and You and I.

"This is just unbelievable," Blowen said. "We started with one horse just over 10 years ago and now we have 166 retirees. We have several Eclipse Award winners already at the farm; I can't wait to show them mine!"

Additional fan favorites include Rapid Redux, winner of 19 consecutive races in 2011, and Little Silver Charm, the operation's miniature mascot and the farm's only non-Thoroughbred. Old Friends also operates Old Friends at Cabin Creek: The Bobby Frankel Division near Saratoga Springs in upstate New York, where past Travers winners Thunder Rumble and Will's Way greet the public, along with infamous 100-time loser Zippy Chippy.

Even while working full-time for the Globe as a staff writer, Blowen would spend mornings at Suffolk Downs working for veteran trainer Carlos Figueroa. Mucking stalls and walking hots aren't typical side jobs for journalists, but for Blowen they were excuses to satisfy his growing fascination with horses. Shortly after Blowen retired from the Globe he accepted a position in Kentucky as operations director for the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation.

Michael Blowen visiting with Old Friends resident Sunshine Forever (Barbara Livingston)

In 2002, the news that 1986 Kentucky Derby winner Ferdinand had perished in a slaughterhouse spurred Blowen to form his own operation, with an emphasis on retired stallions. Old Friends would be accessible to the public as a way of raising awareness for racehorse retirement and improving racing's image. The presence of high-profile stars would help to raise money and give comfortable homes to lesser names.

"It allows us to take other horses that really didn't do as much but deserve a retirement just as well," Blowen explained. "I want people to come away with really good feelings about the sport of horseracing because I adore it and we've made some inroads in that direction."

The farm is run by five full-time employees, four part-time employees and a dedicated group of 24 volunteers. Blowen praised his team, particularly the cast of volunteers.

"Old Friends is like a great baseball team. We have talent at every position. I'm just the lucky manager," he said. "The staff and volunteers are the ones that do it all and, of course, what keeps the team together are our great athletes."

"Old Friends is a special place," recently retired jockey and Old Friends board member Rosie Napravnik stated. "It is such a well-run organization and Michael Blowen is one of the most genuine people I've ever met in racing. When I pull up there I'm practically sprinting up the driveway I'm so excited. I don't really get starstruck by people but I do get starstruck when I visit Old Friends."

Old Friends offers daily tours and attracts up to 1,000 visitors per week during their busiest times of the year.

"Our industry has made significant progress in allowing former racehorses to live out dignified retirements thanks to Old Friends and likeminded organizations," NTRA President and CEO Alex Waldrop remarked. "We are grateful to Michael and his dedicated team of staff and volunteers for the positive impact they've had on our sport's commitment to aftercare and on the lives of hundreds of Thoroughbreds."

For more information, including how to donate or volunteer, please visit www.OldFriendsEquine.org.

The Special Award will be given for the 24th time since it was inaugurated in 1971 to honor Robert J. Kleberg, manager of the famed King Ranch. Subsequent recipients have included racing luminaries such as Bill Shoemaker, C.V. Whitney, Edward J. DeBartolo, Richard Duchossois, Russell Baze, Laffit Pincay Jr., Dale Baird, Team Zenyatta and last year's recipient, the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA).

Old Friends will be the third aftercare-related recipient, following Monique Koehler, founder of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, in 2009, and the TAA.

A complete list of past Eclipse Award winners, including the Special Award recipients, may be accessed online at http://ntra.com/en/eclipse-awards/history.

Tickets to the Eclipse Awards ceremony are on sale for $400 each or $4,000 for a table of 10. For reservations, please contact Michele Ravencraft of the NTRA at mravencraft@ntra.com, or call 859-422-2657.

Bet Horseracing Free Online at TwinSpires.com

Malone purchases Ballylinch Stud in Ireland

American businessman John Malone -- chairman of Liberty Media Corp. -- has purchased Ballylinch Stud in Ireland. Malone, along with his wife, Leslie, acquired Bridlewood Farm in Ocala, Florida, in August 2013.

Liberty Media's holdings include Sirius XM and the Atlanta Braves. Malone is the nation's largest landowner, according to Forbes.

"We are delighted to become involved with Ballylinch and (Managing Director) John O'Connor and his staff," Malone commented. "We were attracted to Ballylinch by its strong reputation, built over many years. Leslie and I look forward to continuing the development of Ballylinch into a premier European farm."

Killeen Group Holdings, the former owners of Ballylinch Stud, have decided to exit the bloodstock industry in Ireland.

The Mahony Family, owners of Killeen, commented in a release that, "it is particularly pleased to have completed the sale of Ballylinch Stud to John and Leslie Malone, given their longstanding commitment to, and international standing in, the bloodstock industry. The fostering of Ballylinch Stud, through investment and expansion, was a key project of the late Dr. Tim Mahony, and it was a personal delight for him to have seen Ballylinch's reputation soar internationally.

"The Killeen Group believes that the timing was right for this sale, given the rapidly improving economic climate, the positive outlook for the bloodstock industry in Europe and Ballylinch's significant recent successes, all of which have combined to deliver an environment which sees the Stud trading strongly."

Ballylinch Stud is the current home to leading European freshman sire Lope de Vega as well as Beat Hollow, Dream Ahead, Intense Focus and Lawman.

All of the Ballylinch Stud staff will be retained.

Bet Horseracing Free Online at TwinSpires.com

Malone purchases Ballylinch Stud in Ireland

American businessman John Malone -- chairman of Liberty Media Corp. -- has purchased Ballylinch Stud in Ireland. Malone, along with his wife, Leslie, acquired Bridlewood Farm in Ocala, Florida, in August 2013.

Liberty Media's holdings include Sirius XM and the Atlanta Braves. Malone is the nation's largest landowner, according to Forbes.

"We are delighted to become involved with Ballylinch and (Managing Director) John O'Connor and his staff," Malone commented. "We were attracted to Ballylinch by its strong reputation, built over many years. Leslie and I look forward to continuing the development of Ballylinch into a premier European farm."

Killeen Group Holdings, the former owners of Ballylinch Stud, have decided to exit the bloodstock industry in Ireland.

The Mahony Family, owners of Killeen, commented in a release that, "it is particularly pleased to have completed the sale of Ballylinch Stud to John and Leslie Malone, given their longstanding commitment to, and international standing in, the bloodstock industry. The fostering of Ballylinch Stud, through investment and expansion, was a key project of the late Dr. Tim Mahony, and it was a personal delight for him to have seen Ballylinch's reputation soar internationally.

"The Killeen Group believes that the timing was right for this sale, given the rapidly improving economic climate, the positive outlook for the bloodstock industry in Europe and Ballylinch's significant recent successes, all of which have combined to deliver an environment which sees the Stud trading strongly."

Ballylinch Stud is the current home to leading European freshman sire Lope de Vega as well as Beat Hollow, Dream Ahead, Intense Focus and Lawman.

All of the Ballylinch Stud staff will be retained.

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Durkin to be honored with the Eclipse Award of Merit

Tom Durkin will be honored at the Eclipse Awards ceremony in January (NYRA/Barbara Livingston)

Capping an extraordinary career as one of North America's premier race track announcers and one of the most popular personalities in Thoroughbred racing, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), Daily Racing Form and the National Turf Writers And Broadcasters on Thursday announced that Tom Durkin -- longtime voice of the New York Racing Association (NYRA) tracks, the Breeders' Cup and the Triple Crown -- will be honored with the Eclipse Award of Merit for a lifetime of outstanding achievement in the Thoroughbred industry.

Durkin, 64, who retired on August 30 at Saratoga in Saratoga Springs, New York, after a 43-year-career, will be presented the Award of Merit at the 44th Annual Eclipse Awards dinner and ceremony on Saturday, January 17, at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida.

"This is quite an honor and quite a surprise," Durkin said upon learning the news. "The award has never been given to a track announcer before, and to be singled out when you consider all of the great announcers who preceded me like Fred Capossela, Joe Hernandez, Chick Anderson and Dave Johnson, this is quite a distinction.

"Getting my first job calling races at Florida Downs was a dream come true, but I never imagined my career would take me where it did. A lot of people took a lot of chances to hire a guy named Tom Who? I have them to thank and anybody whoever bet two bucks."

"Tom Durkin has been one of the most remarkable and dynamic voices in our industry for more than a generation," said Alex Waldrop, NTRA president and CEO. "His uncanny ability to tell a story, build it with drama, tension and excitement through his more than 80,000 race calls was a tremendous gift to all of us who treasure horse racing. On behalf of all of the Thoroughbred industry, we congratulate Tom on his outstanding career and for making our sport a much richer and brighter experience for all."

At early age Durkin set his career goal to become a track announcer.

"I never really wanted to be anything else," Durkin recalled. "I was just a kid on the west side of Chicago. And it wasn't the least thing practical. It turned out far more than practical. How many people go to a job they really like?"

Born in the Austin District of Chicago's west side, Durkin idolized Arlington Park's renowned track announcer, Phil Georgeff, and the energy and excitement he brought to his craft. Years later, Durkin wrote the forward to Georgeff's autobiography.

A theatre major at St. Norbert College, Durkin's career behind the microphone began at country fair meetings in Wisconsin in 1971 before his first job at Florida Downs, now known as Tampa Bay Downs. He worked stints at Balmoral, Quad Cities and Cahokia Downs in the Midwest before moving east to call the harness races at The Meadowlands in New Jersey.

More big breaks soon came, starting with John Brunetti hiring him to call the races at Hialeah in 1981. Within three years, Durkin was tabbed by NBC Sports to call the Breeders' Cup, an unprecedented program of $10 million in purses spread over seven races, all televised live by NBC in a four-hour broadcast.

"That first Breeders' Cup was surreal," Durkin reminisced of the 1984 inaugural running at Hollywood Park. "Every race had a minimum of a $1 million purse. But the important thing was that for the first time championships were being decided on the racetrack. It crystalized when Chief's Crown crossed the finish line in the Juvenile and I said 'A champion is crowned, it's Chief's Crown.'"

A string of successes would continue into the next decade when, on August 29, 1990, Durkin became the track announcer for the NYRA venues of Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Saratoga. In a decade marked by expanded simulcast signals across North America, Durkin's calls could be heard on a more regular basis. His work also included calling races on ESPN and NBC broadcasts throughout the year, including trips to the Group 1 Irish Derby and Group 1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

When NBC grabbed the rights to the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes, Durkin became the television voice of the Triple Crown beginning in 2001 and held that position for 10 years.

"Tom is more than deserving of the Award of Merit," six-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher remarked. "He's been such a mainstay in our industry for so many years and will clearly go down as one of the best race callers in history, if not the best. He's called most of my biggest career wins, including the 1998 Acorn Stakes with Jersey Girl, which was my first Grade 1 win, and all three of our Triple Crown victories. I would have to say the most memorable for me was his call of the 2007 Belmont Stakes when Rags to Riches triumphed to become the first filly in 102 years to win the race."

Durkin also has contributed time to some of the hardest working and unsung people in racing. For 17 years, he has served on the board of the Backstretch Employee Service Team (B.E.S.T.), which provides medical care, counseling and other services to backstretch workers at the NYRA tracks. Fans could hear Durkin call a race live from his booth in exchange for a donation to B.E.S.T. Approximately $200,000 was raised over a 10-year period. Durkin also spent many Thursday evenings at Saratoga calling Bingo games in both Spanish and English for the backstretch workers.

In an emotional farewell retirement ceremony following his call of the Spinaway Stakes at Saratoga on August 30, Durkin stood before a rain-soaked audience in the winner's circle and credited the racing fan for his phenomenal career.

"There is one person that is completely responsible for this wonderful life that I've had the privilege to live in horse racing," he said. "That person is here in Saratoga today. Right now he's in the backyard sitting at a picnic table under a pine tree looking at this image on the television. She's at top of the stretch leaning over the rail, and she's in a box seat or at a simulcast center in Syracuse or at a track in Ohio or in front of a computer in California. The person I owe an inexpressible gratitude is you, the racing fan, the horseplayer. Thank you."

The Award of Merit will be given for the 39th time since it was inaugurated in 1976 to honor Jack Dreyfus, owner of Hobeau Farm and former NYRA chairman. Subsequent recipients have included racing luminaries such as Ogden Phipps, John Gaines, Alfred Vanderbilt, Bill Shoemaker, D.G. Van Clief Jr., Paul Mellon, Joe Hirsch, James E. Bassett III, John Nerud, Penny Chenery, William S. Farish, Richard Duchossois, Marylou Whitney and last year's recipient, D. Wayne Lukas.

A complete list of past Eclipse Award winners, including the Award of Merit recipients, can be accessed online at http://ntra.com/en/eclipse-awards/history.

Tickets to The Eclipse Awards ceremony are on sale for $400 each or $4,000 for a table of 10. For reservations, please contact Michele Ravencraft of the NTRA at mravencraft@ntra.com, or call 859-422-2657.

Bet Horseracing Free Online at TwinSpires.com

Durkin to be honored with the Eclipse Award of Merit

Tom Durkin will be honored at the Eclipse Awards ceremony in January (NYRA/Barbara Livingston)

Capping an extraordinary career as one of North America's premier race track announcers and one of the most popular personalities in Thoroughbred racing, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), Daily Racing Form and the National Turf Writers And Broadcasters on Thursday announced that Tom Durkin -- longtime voice of the New York Racing Association (NYRA) tracks, the Breeders' Cup and the Triple Crown -- will be honored with the Eclipse Award of Merit for a lifetime of outstanding achievement in the Thoroughbred industry.

Durkin, 64, who retired on August 30 at Saratoga in Saratoga Springs, New York, after a 43-year-career, will be presented the Award of Merit at the 44th Annual Eclipse Awards dinner and ceremony on Saturday, January 17, at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida.

"This is quite an honor and quite a surprise," Durkin said upon learning the news. "The award has never been given to a track announcer before, and to be singled out when you consider all of the great announcers who preceded me like Fred Capossela, Joe Hernandez, Chick Anderson and Dave Johnson, this is quite a distinction.

"Getting my first job calling races at Florida Downs was a dream come true, but I never imagined my career would take me where it did. A lot of people took a lot of chances to hire a guy named Tom Who? I have them to thank and anybody whoever bet two bucks."

"Tom Durkin has been one of the most remarkable and dynamic voices in our industry for more than a generation," said Alex Waldrop, NTRA president and CEO. "His uncanny ability to tell a story, build it with drama, tension and excitement through his more than 80,000 race calls was a tremendous gift to all of us who treasure horse racing. On behalf of all of the Thoroughbred industry, we congratulate Tom on his outstanding career and for making our sport a much richer and brighter experience for all."

At early age Durkin set his career goal to become a track announcer.

"I never really wanted to be anything else," Durkin recalled. "I was just a kid on the west side of Chicago. And it wasn't the least thing practical. It turned out far more than practical. How many people go to a job they really like?"

Born in the Austin District of Chicago's west side, Durkin idolized Arlington Park's renowned track announcer, Phil Georgeff, and the energy and excitement he brought to his craft. Years later, Durkin wrote the forward to Georgeff's autobiography.

A theatre major at St. Norbert College, Durkin's career behind the microphone began at country fair meetings in Wisconsin in 1971 before his first job at Florida Downs, now known as Tampa Bay Downs. He worked stints at Balmoral, Quad Cities and Cahokia Downs in the Midwest before moving east to call the harness races at The Meadowlands in New Jersey.

More big breaks soon came, starting with John Brunetti hiring him to call the races at Hialeah in 1981. Within three years, Durkin was tabbed by NBC Sports to call the Breeders' Cup, an unprecedented program of $10 million in purses spread over seven races, all televised live by NBC in a four-hour broadcast.

"That first Breeders' Cup was surreal," Durkin reminisced of the 1984 inaugural running at Hollywood Park. "Every race had a minimum of a $1 million purse. But the important thing was that for the first time championships were being decided on the racetrack. It crystalized when Chief's Crown crossed the finish line in the Juvenile and I said 'A champion is crowned, it's Chief's Crown.'"

A string of successes would continue into the next decade when, on August 29, 1990, Durkin became the track announcer for the NYRA venues of Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Saratoga. In a decade marked by expanded simulcast signals across North America, Durkin's calls could be heard on a more regular basis. His work also included calling races on ESPN and NBC broadcasts throughout the year, including trips to the Group 1 Irish Derby and Group 1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

When NBC grabbed the rights to the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes, Durkin became the television voice of the Triple Crown beginning in 2001 and held that position for 10 years.

"Tom is more than deserving of the Award of Merit," six-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher remarked. "He's been such a mainstay in our industry for so many years and will clearly go down as one of the best race callers in history, if not the best. He's called most of my biggest career wins, including the 1998 Acorn Stakes with Jersey Girl, which was my first Grade 1 win, and all three of our Triple Crown victories. I would have to say the most memorable for me was his call of the 2007 Belmont Stakes when Rags to Riches triumphed to become the first filly in 102 years to win the race."

Durkin also has contributed time to some of the hardest working and unsung people in racing. For 17 years, he has served on the board of the Backstretch Employee Service Team (B.E.S.T.), which provides medical care, counseling and other services to backstretch workers at the NYRA tracks. Fans could hear Durkin call a race live from his booth in exchange for a donation to B.E.S.T. Approximately $200,000 was raised over a 10-year period. Durkin also spent many Thursday evenings at Saratoga calling Bingo games in both Spanish and English for the backstretch workers.

In an emotional farewell retirement ceremony following his call of the Spinaway Stakes at Saratoga on August 30, Durkin stood before a rain-soaked audience in the winner's circle and credited the racing fan for his phenomenal career.

"There is one person that is completely responsible for this wonderful life that I've had the privilege to live in horse racing," he said. "That person is here in Saratoga today. Right now he's in the backyard sitting at a picnic table under a pine tree looking at this image on the television. She's at top of the stretch leaning over the rail, and she's in a box seat or at a simulcast center in Syracuse or at a track in Ohio or in front of a computer in California. The person I owe an inexpressible gratitude is you, the racing fan, the horseplayer. Thank you."

The Award of Merit will be given for the 39th time since it was inaugurated in 1976 to honor Jack Dreyfus, owner of Hobeau Farm and former NYRA chairman. Subsequent recipients have included racing luminaries such as Ogden Phipps, John Gaines, Alfred Vanderbilt, Bill Shoemaker, D.G. Van Clief Jr., Paul Mellon, Joe Hirsch, James E. Bassett III, John Nerud, Penny Chenery, William S. Farish, Richard Duchossois, Marylou Whitney and last year's recipient, D. Wayne Lukas.

A complete list of past Eclipse Award winners, including the Award of Merit recipients, can be accessed online at http://ntra.com/en/eclipse-awards/history.

Tickets to The Eclipse Awards ceremony are on sale for $400 each or $4,000 for a table of 10. For reservations, please contact Michele Ravencraft of the NTRA at mravencraft@ntra.com, or call 859-422-2657.

Bet Horseracing Free Online at TwinSpires.com

Tiffany Lass fits Cassatt's plans; Villandry targeting Fair Grounds' turf stakes

Cassatt earned a career-best 105 BRIS Speed rating in the Zia Park Oaks (Zia Park/Coady Photography)

Fox Hill Farm's Cassatt came out of her facile 4 1/2-length victory in the $300,000 Zia Park Oaks on November 26 no worse for the wear and is set to race in Sunday's $50,000 Tiffany Lass at Fair Grounds in what could be a launching point for a promising 2015 campaign. On Tuesday morning, the three-year-old filly worked a strong five furlongs in 1:01 1/5 for conditioner Larry Jones.

"She worked well," Jones said. "We entered her for Sunday here in the Tiffany Lass. It sets it up for the ($400,000) Houston Ladies Classic. When they put the (Tiffany Lass) back in, it made the timing perfect coming out of the Zia Park Oaks.  It is almost dead-center and works really good for us."

Hopes have always been high for the regally-bred gray lass, who sold for $300,000 as a 2012 Keeneland September sale yearling and counts the Grade 3 Monmouth Oaks in August among her two stakes wins. A daughter of superstar sire Tapit, Cassatt hails from the immediate family of champions Kitten's Joy and Dreaming of Anna, as well as Grade 1 winner Precious Kitten and Grade 2 winners Lewis Michael and Justenuffhumor. She's earned $339,233 from a 7-4-1-0 record.

"She's doing really well," Jones continued. "The (Zia Park Oaks) didn't seem like it was super-taxing on her. She still needs some experience. When she is hooking up with these older horses, she still is a little bit lightly raced for a (soon to be) four-year-old. Another practice race isn't going to hurt her."

Gainesway Stable's graded turf stakes winner Villandry has taken aim on the triad of graded turf stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course, according to trainer Charles LoPresti. The five-year-old homebred gelding exits a career-best performance when powering clear of the field by nearly three lengths in the Grade 3 River City H. at Churchill Downs over nine grassy furlongs on November 8. On Monday, the son of Mr. Greeley put in his first local work, a leisurely five furlongs in 1:02 4/5.

Villandry is hitting his best stride presently (Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography)

"He's doing really well," LoPresti said. "A lot of my horses get the winter off, so I sent him to (trainer) David Carroll (at Fair Grounds). (Gainesway principal) Mr. Beck wanted to go on with him and I've been in direct contact with David.

"We're going to run in the (Grade 3) Colonel (E.R.) Bradley Stakes (on January 17) and take it from there. As long as he continues to do well, we'll keep him down there and move on to the other stakes."

Like many of the famous geldings in the LoPresti barn, Villandry showed talent at a young age, but has really come into his own in the later years of his career. A five-time winner, the River City was his first graded stakes tally and followed a good third in the Grade 3 Sycamore Stakes at Keeneland and a respectable fourth in both the Grade 1 Northern Dancer Stakes at Woodbine and Grade 2 Firecracker Stakes at Churchill Downs.

"He's been a really good horse this year," LoPresti continued. "He didn't get beat by far in the Northern Dancer or in the Firecracker and he's coming along the right way. Hopefully it pans out for us."

The 1 1/16-miles Bradley is followed by the Grade 3 Fair Grounds H. at 1 1/8-miles on February 21 and ultimately the centerpiece of the meet for turf horses, the Grade 2 Mervin H. Muniz Jr. Memorial H. on Louisiana Derby Day, March 28, at the same distance.

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Tiffany Lass fits Cassatt's plans; Villandry targeting Fair Grounds' turf stakes

Cassatt earned a career-best 105 BRIS Speed rating in the Zia Park Oaks (Zia Park/Coady Photography)

Fox Hill Farm's Cassatt came out of her facile 4 1/2-length victory in the $300,000 Zia Park Oaks on November 26 no worse for the wear and is set to race in Sunday's $50,000 Tiffany Lass at Fair Grounds in what could be a launching point for a promising 2015 campaign. On Tuesday morning, the three-year-old filly worked a strong five furlongs in 1:01 1/5 for conditioner Larry Jones.

"She worked well," Jones said. "We entered her for Sunday here in the Tiffany Lass. It sets it up for the ($400,000) Houston Ladies Classic. When they put the (Tiffany Lass) back in, it made the timing perfect coming out of the Zia Park Oaks.  It is almost dead-center and works really good for us."

Hopes have always been high for the regally-bred gray lass, who sold for $300,000 as a 2012 Keeneland September sale yearling and counts the Grade 3 Monmouth Oaks in August among her two stakes wins. A daughter of superstar sire Tapit, Cassatt hails from the immediate family of champions Kitten's Joy and Dreaming of Anna, as well as Grade 1 winner Precious Kitten and Grade 2 winners Lewis Michael and Justenuffhumor. She's earned $339,233 from a 7-4-1-0 record.

"She's doing really well," Jones continued. "The (Zia Park Oaks) didn't seem like it was super-taxing on her. She still needs some experience. When she is hooking up with these older horses, she still is a little bit lightly raced for a (soon to be) four-year-old. Another practice race isn't going to hurt her."

Gainesway Stable's graded turf stakes winner Villandry has taken aim on the triad of graded turf stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course, according to trainer Charles LoPresti. The five-year-old homebred gelding exits a career-best performance when powering clear of the field by nearly three lengths in the Grade 3 River City H. at Churchill Downs over nine grassy furlongs on November 8. On Monday, the son of Mr. Greeley put in his first local work, a leisurely five furlongs in 1:02 4/5.

Villandry is hitting his best stride presently (Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography)

"He's doing really well," LoPresti said. "A lot of my horses get the winter off, so I sent him to (trainer) David Carroll (at Fair Grounds). (Gainesway principal) Mr. Beck wanted to go on with him and I've been in direct contact with David.

"We're going to run in the (Grade 3) Colonel (E.R.) Bradley Stakes (on January 17) and take it from there. As long as he continues to do well, we'll keep him down there and move on to the other stakes."

Like many of the famous geldings in the LoPresti barn, Villandry showed talent at a young age, but has really come into his own in the later years of his career. A five-time winner, the River City was his first graded stakes tally and followed a good third in the Grade 3 Sycamore Stakes at Keeneland and a respectable fourth in both the Grade 1 Northern Dancer Stakes at Woodbine and Grade 2 Firecracker Stakes at Churchill Downs.

"He's been a really good horse this year," LoPresti continued. "He didn't get beat by far in the Northern Dancer or in the Firecracker and he's coming along the right way. Hopefully it pans out for us."

The 1 1/16-miles Bradley is followed by the Grade 3 Fair Grounds H. at 1 1/8-miles on February 21 and ultimately the centerpiece of the meet for turf horses, the Grade 2 Mervin H. Muniz Jr. Memorial H. on Louisiana Derby Day, March 28, at the same distance.

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Shared Belief, Taris expected for Santa Anita's opening day Grade 1s

Shared Belief and Mike Smith will reunite to close out 2014 in the Malibu (Benoit Photos)

The Grade 1, $300,000 Malibu Stakes, for more than half a century recognized as one of racing's most prestigious sprints, will grow even greater in stature at Santa Anita on opening day Friday, December 26, when Shared Belief runs in the fixture that could have a bearing on determining 2014 Horse of the Year and the Eclipse Award-winning male three-year-old.

The champion two-year-old male of 2013, Shared Belief is coming off his first defeat, a fourth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Classic on November 1 when a rough start compromised his chances of victory. The gelded son of Candy Ride will be among the finalists in both aforementioned categories, and worked six furlongs at Golden Gate Fields Tuesday in a bullet 1:15, fastest of seven drills at the distance over the Tapeta surface.

"He'll work again this Monday (at Golden Gate) and ship to Santa Anita Tuesday," Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said by phone Thursday morning.

Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, who has ridden Shared Belief in his last four starts, including the 1 1/4-mile Breeders' Cup Classic, had little concern about the Kentucky-bred coming back nearly two months later at seven furlongs.

"He's won sprinting several times," Smith noted. "The good ones, they can do it all."

The Malibu has been won in the past by such equine elites such as Round Table (1957), Native Diver (1962), Buckpasser (1966), Damascus (1968), Ancient Title (1974), Spectacular Bid (1980), Precisionist (1984), Ferdinand (1986) and Rock Hard Ten (2004).

While many with an official voice likely have already made up their minds, Eclipse Award voting doesn't close until January 4, allowing ballots to be counted for races through 2014. Eclipse Award finalists will be announced January 7, with the winners revealed on the evening of Saturday, January 17, at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida.

Asked about Shared Belief's chances for a 2014 Eclipse Award, Hollendorfer said that since he didn't have a say in the matter, he would "leave that up to the voters."

In addition to Shared Belief, those considered probable for the Malibu are Grade 3 victors Chitu and Midnight Hawk; dual stakes-placed Conquest Two Step; stakes runner-up and course-record setter Eddie's First; and stakes hero Indianapolis.

The Malibu is one of two Grade 1 races on December 26 as Santa Anita begins its 78th season. The Grade 1, $300,000 La Brea Stakes for three-year-old fillies at seven furlongs will also be featured on the nine-race program that also includes the Grade 2, $200,000 Mathis Brothers Mile, formerly run as the Sir Beaufort Stakes, for sophomores on the turf.

Taris has been untouchable in four of her five starts (Keeneland/Coady Photography)

Taris, smashing winner of four-of-five career starts including the Grade 2 Raven Run Stakes at Keeneland on October 18, will make her first start since being purchased for $2.35 million at the Fasig-Tipton November Sale when she runs in the La Brea.

"Her works have been really good and we've not missed a day with her," trainer Simon Callaghan said of the Flatter three-year-old. "Training has gone as well as we could have hoped leading up to the race.

"The distance of the La Brea seemed logical, coming off the seven-furlong Raven Run," Callaghan noted. "Down the road we might look to stretch her out but she's done very well at this distance and we're looking forward to the race."

Winner of four races by a combined margin of more than 34 lengths, Taris suffered her only defeat after setting the pace in the Grade 3 Honeybee Stakes at Oaklawn Park going 1 1/16 miles in March.

"She came back with a slight issue after that race," Callaghan said of the Honeybee. "I can't quite remember what it was, but there was some issue. Aside from that, she's got a very good record."

Rafael Bejarano rides Taris for new owners Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith and John Magnier in the La Brea. The filly is scheduled to work four furlongs on Saturday.

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Shared Belief, Taris expected for Santa Anita's opening day Grade 1s

Shared Belief and Mike Smith will reunite to close out 2014 in the Malibu (Benoit Photos)

The Grade 1, $300,000 Malibu Stakes, for more than half a century recognized as one of racing's most prestigious sprints, will grow even greater in stature at Santa Anita on opening day Friday, December 26, when Shared Belief runs in the fixture that could have a bearing on determining 2014 Horse of the Year and the Eclipse Award-winning male three-year-old.

The champion two-year-old male of 2013, Shared Belief is coming off his first defeat, a fourth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Classic on November 1 when a rough start compromised his chances of victory. The gelded son of Candy Ride will be among the finalists in both aforementioned categories, and worked six furlongs at Golden Gate Fields Tuesday in a bullet 1:15, fastest of seven drills at the distance over the Tapeta surface.

"He'll work again this Monday (at Golden Gate) and ship to Santa Anita Tuesday," Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said by phone Thursday morning.

Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, who has ridden Shared Belief in his last four starts, including the 1 1/4-mile Breeders' Cup Classic, had little concern about the Kentucky-bred coming back nearly two months later at seven furlongs.

"He's won sprinting several times," Smith noted. "The good ones, they can do it all."

The Malibu has been won in the past by such equine elites such as Round Table (1957), Native Diver (1962), Buckpasser (1966), Damascus (1968), Ancient Title (1974), Spectacular Bid (1980), Precisionist (1984), Ferdinand (1986) and Rock Hard Ten (2004).

While many with an official voice likely have already made up their minds, Eclipse Award voting doesn't close until January 4, allowing ballots to be counted for races through 2014. Eclipse Award finalists will be announced January 7, with the winners revealed on the evening of Saturday, January 17, at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida.

Asked about Shared Belief's chances for a 2014 Eclipse Award, Hollendorfer said that since he didn't have a say in the matter, he would "leave that up to the voters."

In addition to Shared Belief, those considered probable for the Malibu are Grade 3 victors Chitu and Midnight Hawk; dual stakes-placed Conquest Two Step; stakes runner-up and course-record setter Eddie's First; and stakes hero Indianapolis.

The Malibu is one of two Grade 1 races on December 26 as Santa Anita begins its 78th season. The Grade 1, $300,000 La Brea Stakes for three-year-old fillies at seven furlongs will also be featured on the nine-race program that also includes the Grade 2, $200,000 Mathis Brothers Mile, formerly run as the Sir Beaufort Stakes, for sophomores on the turf.

Taris has been untouchable in four of her five starts (Keeneland/Coady Photography)

Taris, smashing winner of four-of-five career starts including the Grade 2 Raven Run Stakes at Keeneland on October 18, will make her first start since being purchased for $2.35 million at the Fasig-Tipton November Sale when she runs in the La Brea.

"Her works have been really good and we've not missed a day with her," trainer Simon Callaghan said of the Flatter three-year-old. "Training has gone as well as we could have hoped leading up to the race.

"The distance of the La Brea seemed logical, coming off the seven-furlong Raven Run," Callaghan noted. "Down the road we might look to stretch her out but she's done very well at this distance and we're looking forward to the race."

Winner of four races by a combined margin of more than 34 lengths, Taris suffered her only defeat after setting the pace in the Grade 3 Honeybee Stakes at Oaklawn Park going 1 1/16 miles in March.

"She came back with a slight issue after that race," Callaghan said of the Honeybee. "I can't quite remember what it was, but there was some issue. Aside from that, she's got a very good record."

Rafael Bejarano rides Taris for new owners Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith and John Magnier in the La Brea. The filly is scheduled to work four furlongs on Saturday.

Bet Horseracing Free Online at TwinSpires.com

Magic Millions, Racing Queensland unveil Australia's first $10-million program

Officials at Magic Millions in conjunction with Racing Queensland have announced the creation of the Jeep Magic Millions Raceday, the country's first-ever A$10-million program, to be held Saturday, January 9, 2016. The meeting, which will rank among the world's 10 richest, is part of a seven-year partnership which is intended to take the summer racing program in Australia with the Magic Millions Racing Queensland Summer Carnival.

"The phenomenal support and foresight of Racing Queensland, in concert with Magic Millions, has created the Magic Millions $10-Million Raceday," Vin Cox, managing director of the auction house, stated. "The combined vision is a game-changer for Queensland racing, for the Gold Coast and for the Australian Thoroughbred industry as a whole.

"The partnership with Racing Queensland is long-term, which invigorates Thoroughbred racing for the current generation of industry stakeholders, as well as creating momentum and motivation for the next generation of Queenslanders and Australians committing to a Thoroughbred industry career."

The 2015 series features total purse money of A$4.2 million, highlighted by the A$2-million Magic Millions 2YO Classic over 1200 meters. That race will see its prize money boosted to A$2.5 million. While the Magic Millions 3YO Guineas is the only other seven-figure race during next month's races, the newly bolstered series will see no fewer than seven races of A$1 million or more. The 2016 running of the 3YO Guineas will be contested for A$2 million, twice that of the current purse.

Racing Queensland Chairman Kevin Dixon believes the increased purses will attract the best horses and the attention of the racing world.

"Over the past six months, we have built a strong platform with base-level and feature prize money increases and this partnership is the next phase in our vision to take Queensland racing to the world," Dixon remarked. "(This) announcement is just one part of an overall program to continually improve all three codes of racing in Queensland."

To be eligible for the series, the nomination fee for yearlings offered at Magic Millions sales is A$4,950 (including GST) and that will pay up any purchase through its lifetime for participation in any of the Magic Millions-sponsored races across Australia, including the $10-million extravaganza on the Gold Coast.

In a special offer to buyers at the Gold Coast March Sale, the nomination fee will be A$3,300 (including GST), a number which is capped for seven years under the new partnership.

Additionally, Magic Millions is offering a one-off opportunity for owners of eligible horses offered at a Magic Millions yearling sale in 2014 or earlier not previously nominated to do so via a late registration. This windo of opportunity will remain through July 31, 2015 and will not be offered again, according to the company. Horses subject to late registration will qualify to nominate to a race on Magic Millions Raceday, excluding the 2YO Classic and the 3YO Guineas. The late registration fee will be A$4,950 (including GST).

Dixon explained that there will be a slight twist come entry day.

"Another clincher will be the addition of four wild card entries into four $1-million races on Jeep Magic Millions Raceday, which will be granted to eligible winners of four selected races during the summer carnival and potentially give four non-Magic Millions horses a chance to race on the day."

Queensland Minister of Racing Steve Dickson said that Magic Millions is already a contributor to the Gold Coast economy, but that this new partnership would further boost the state's racing and tourism industries.

"We want to grow tourism, as one of the four pillars of the economy, and events like the Magic Millions really help put our state on the map," Dickson said. "Where else can you watch top-quality horses compete for $10 million in stakes just a stone's throw from some of the world's most beautiful beaches?"

Dixon is already looking forward to the event.

"This is a monumental day for the Queensland racing industry and the partnership with Magic Millions leaves no doubt as to where we want to take our racing product," he commented.

JEEP MAGIC MILLIONS RACEDAY
JANUARY 9, 2016

RACE   CONDITIONS   PURSE (A$)
Magic Millions 2YO Classic   2yo, 1200mT   2,500,000
Magic Millions 3YO Guineas   3yo, 1400mT   2,000,000
Magic Millions Sprint   3yo/up, 1100mT   1,000,000
Magic Millions Cup   3yo/up, 1400mT   1,000,000
Magic Millions Trophy   3yo/up, 1800mT   1,000,000
Magic Millions Fillies & Mares   3yo/up, f/m, 1300mT   1,000,000
Magic Millions QTIS All-Aged H.   3yo/up, 1300mT*   1,000,000
Magic Millions Maiden   3yo/up, 1200mT   250,000
Magic Millions Country Cup   3yo/up, 1200mT   250,000

*Distance to be determined
(Special Country Cup conditions)

Bet Horseracing Free Online at TwinSpires.com

Magic Millions, Racing Queensland unveil Australia's first $10-million program

Officials at Magic Millions in conjunction with Racing Queensland have announced the creation of the Jeep Magic Millions Raceday, the country's first-ever A$10-million program, to be held Saturday, January 9, 2016. The meeting, which will rank among the world's 10 richest, is part of a seven-year partnership which is intended to take the summer racing program in Australia with the Magic Millions Racing Queensland Summer Carnival.

"The phenomenal support and foresight of Racing Queensland, in concert with Magic Millions, has created the Magic Millions $10-Million Raceday," Vin Cox, managing director of the auction house, stated. "The combined vision is a game-changer for Queensland racing, for the Gold Coast and for the Australian Thoroughbred industry as a whole.

"The partnership with Racing Queensland is long-term, which invigorates Thoroughbred racing for the current generation of industry stakeholders, as well as creating momentum and motivation for the next generation of Queenslanders and Australians committing to a Thoroughbred industry career."

The 2015 series features total purse money of A$4.2 million, highlighted by the A$2-million Magic Millions 2YO Classic over 1200 meters. That race will see its prize money boosted to A$2.5 million. While the Magic Millions 3YO Guineas is the only other seven-figure race during next month's races, the newly bolstered series will see no fewer than seven races of A$1 million or more. The 2016 running of the 3YO Guineas will be contested for A$2 million, twice that of the current purse.

Racing Queensland Chairman Kevin Dixon believes the increased purses will attract the best horses and the attention of the racing world.

"Over the past six months, we have built a strong platform with base-level and feature prize money increases and this partnership is the next phase in our vision to take Queensland racing to the world," Dixon remarked. "(This) announcement is just one part of an overall program to continually improve all three codes of racing in Queensland."

To be eligible for the series, the nomination fee for yearlings offered at Magic Millions sales is A$4,950 (including GST) and that will pay up any purchase through its lifetime for participation in any of the Magic Millions-sponsored races across Australia, including the $10-million extravaganza on the Gold Coast.

In a special offer to buyers at the Gold Coast March Sale, the nomination fee will be A$3,300 (including GST), a number which is capped for seven years under the new partnership.

Additionally, Magic Millions is offering a one-off opportunity for owners of eligible horses offered at a Magic Millions yearling sale in 2014 or earlier not previously nominated to do so via a late registration. This windo of opportunity will remain through July 31, 2015 and will not be offered again, according to the company. Horses subject to late registration will qualify to nominate to a race on Magic Millions Raceday, excluding the 2YO Classic and the 3YO Guineas. The late registration fee will be A$4,950 (including GST).

Dixon explained that there will be a slight twist come entry day.

"Another clincher will be the addition of four wild card entries into four $1-million races on Jeep Magic Millions Raceday, which will be granted to eligible winners of four selected races during the summer carnival and potentially give four non-Magic Millions horses a chance to race on the day."

Queensland Minister of Racing Steve Dickson said that Magic Millions is already a contributor to the Gold Coast economy, but that this new partnership would further boost the state's racing and tourism industries.

"We want to grow tourism, as one of the four pillars of the economy, and events like the Magic Millions really help put our state on the map," Dickson said. "Where else can you watch top-quality horses compete for $10 million in stakes just a stone's throw from some of the world's most beautiful beaches?"

Dixon is already looking forward to the event.

"This is a monumental day for the Queensland racing industry and the partnership with Magic Millions leaves no doubt as to where we want to take our racing product," he commented.

JEEP MAGIC MILLIONS RACEDAY
JANUARY 9, 2016

RACE   CONDITIONS   PURSE (A$)
Magic Millions 2YO Classic   2yo, 1200mT   2,500,000
Magic Millions 3YO Guineas   3yo, 1400mT   2,000,000
Magic Millions Sprint   3yo/up, 1100mT   1,000,000
Magic Millions Cup   3yo/up, 1400mT   1,000,000
Magic Millions Trophy   3yo/up, 1800mT   1,000,000
Magic Millions Fillies & Mares   3yo/up, f/m, 1300mT   1,000,000
Magic Millions QTIS All-Aged H.   3yo/up, 1300mT*   1,000,000
Magic Millions Maiden   3yo/up, 1200mT   250,000
Magic Millions Country Cup   3yo/up, 1200mT   250,000

*Distance to be determined
(Special Country Cup conditions)

Bet Horseracing Free Online at TwinSpires.com

Unbeaten Dortmund makes stakes bow in Los Alamitos Futurity

Mr. Z just missed to Ocho Ocho Ocho (inside) last out in the Delta Downs Jackpot (Delta Downs/Coady Photography)

Dortmund has captured his two starts to date by a combined 12 1/2 lengths and will put his perfect mark on the line Saturday while making his stakes debut in the Grade 1, $500,000 Los Alamitos Futurity.

Formerly the Hollywood/CashCall Futurity, the 1 1/16-mile affair drew only five runners but is shaping up to be an exciting race. Not only is Dortmund entered, but Mr. Z will attempt to give trainer D. Wayne Lukas a sweep of the two-year-old stakes after Take Charge Brandi's half-length score in last Saturday's Grade 1 Starlet at the track.

First, though, the Malibu Moon chestnut will have to defeat four others, including Dortmund. That latter colt has been in firm control during the stretch run of both his starts, beginning his career at Santa Anita on November 2 before traveling cross-country to take a one-mile optional claimer at Churchill Downs 27 days later. Martin Garcia was aboard both times for trainer Bob Baffert and gets the return mount on the Big Brown juvenile Saturday.

Mr. Z is the most experienced runner in the field, having already started seven times this year. The Kentucky-bred began his long season with a maiden debut score at Churchill in late June and has faced off against nothing but graded rivals since. He just missed by a neck next out in the Grade 3 Sanford at Saratoga before filling the second spot yet again at the Spa in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special.

A second in Keeneland's Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity was sandwiched between fifth-place efforts in the Grade 3 Iroquois at Churchill and Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita Park. Mr. Z will enter the Los Alamitos Futurity off a nose second last out in the Grade 3 Delta Downs Jackpot on November 22. Mike Smith has the call.

No Problem is the only other entrant with prior stakes experience in the field. The Munnings chestnut took two tries to break his maiden, getting the job done at Santa Anita on October 26, before adding Del Mar's Grade 3 Bob Hope to his resume on November 15. Trained by Mike McCarthy, No Problem has gone off at double-digit odds in two of his three starts, and keeps Victor Espinoza in the saddle on Saturday.

Bench Warrant and Firing Line are both maiden winners with a single loss on their records. The former, a John Sadler-trained son of Street Boss, took his career opener before finishing third against optional claiming challengers, both at Del Mar. Firing Line was second in his Santa Anita bow but then broke his maiden by 4 1/4 lengths at Del Mar on November 30 for trainer Simon Callaghan. The Line of David bay will have Rafael Bejarano in the irons while Tyler Baze will get a leg up on Bench Warrant.

Bet Horseracing Free Online at TwinSpires.com

Unbeaten Dortmund makes stakes bow in Los Alamitos Futurity

Mr. Z just missed to Ocho Ocho Ocho (inside) last out in the Delta Downs Jackpot (Delta Downs/Coady Photography)

Dortmund has captured his two starts to date by a combined 12 1/2 lengths and will put his perfect mark on the line Saturday while making his stakes debut in the Grade 1, $500,000 Los Alamitos Futurity.

Formerly the Hollywood/CashCall Futurity, the 1 1/16-mile affair drew only five runners but is shaping up to be an exciting race. Not only is Dortmund entered, but Mr. Z will attempt to give trainer D. Wayne Lukas a sweep of the two-year-old stakes after Take Charge Brandi's half-length score in last Saturday's Grade 1 Starlet at the track.

First, though, the Malibu Moon chestnut will have to defeat four others, including Dortmund. That latter colt has been in firm control during the stretch run of both his starts, beginning his career at Santa Anita on November 2 before traveling cross-country to take a one-mile optional claimer at Churchill Downs 27 days later. Martin Garcia was aboard both times for trainer Bob Baffert and gets the return mount on the Big Brown juvenile Saturday.

Mr. Z is the most experienced runner in the field, having already started seven times this year. The Kentucky-bred began his long season with a maiden debut score at Churchill in late June and has faced off against nothing but graded rivals since. He just missed by a neck next out in the Grade 3 Sanford at Saratoga before filling the second spot yet again at the Spa in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special.

A second in Keeneland's Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity was sandwiched between fifth-place efforts in the Grade 3 Iroquois at Churchill and Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita Park. Mr. Z will enter the Los Alamitos Futurity off a nose second last out in the Grade 3 Delta Downs Jackpot on November 22. Mike Smith has the call.

No Problem is the only other entrant with prior stakes experience in the field. The Munnings chestnut took two tries to break his maiden, getting the job done at Santa Anita on October 26, before adding Del Mar's Grade 3 Bob Hope to his resume on November 15. Trained by Mike McCarthy, No Problem has gone off at double-digit odds in two of his three starts, and keeps Victor Espinoza in the saddle on Saturday.

Bench Warrant and Firing Line are both maiden winners with a single loss on their records. The former, a John Sadler-trained son of Street Boss, took his career opener before finishing third against optional claiming challengers, both at Del Mar. Firing Line was second in his Santa Anita bow but then broke his maiden by 4 1/4 lengths at Del Mar on November 30 for trainer Simon Callaghan. The Line of David bay will have Rafael Bejarano in the irons while Tyler Baze will get a leg up on Bench Warrant.

Bet Horseracing Free Online at TwinSpires.com

Tropical Park Derby and Oaks attract overflow fields

Smooth Daddy seeks his first stakes victory in the Tropical Park Derby (NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)

Oversubscribed fields were drawn for both the Tropical Park Derby and Oaks at Gulfstream Park on Saturday. The $75,000 stakes, which used to take place at Calder, are the feature events on the day.

Sixteen, including two also-eligibles, entered the 1 1/16-mile Tropical Park Derby over Gulfstream's turf but only 14 will be allowed to run. Smooth Daddy heads the field off a pair of close placings against Grade 3 rivals in New York. The Tom Albertrani charge led into the stretch of both the Saranac and Hill Prince Stakes before finishing second in the former and third in the latter.

"He likes this course," Albertrani said. "We gave him a little time and he'll be fresh. Hopefully, he'll improve. To me, he seems like a horse that's improved every start. He's coming off a couple of nice races. We're pleased with him. He's been training well going into this race."

The Scat Daddy colt ranks first in BRIS Prime Power in the Tropical Park Derby, with Bashart second in the field rankings. Bashart was fourth in the Saranac before just missing in the Grade 3 Kent Stakes at Delaware Park and running third in Churchill Downs' Grade 3 Commonwealth Turf in his past two.

The Michael Matz-trained War Front bay keeps Luis Saez aboard while Smooth Daddy will be piloted by Javier Castellano.

Also showing up in the Derby are Wallyanna, upset winner of the Grade 2 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes, and Commonwealth Turf runner-up Other Cheek.

Patsy's Holiday is returning from a more than five-month layoff in the Tropical Park Oaks (Ryan Denver/EquiPhoto)

Two races later in the Tropical Park Oaks, another overflow field of 16 will go 1 1/16 miles on the turf. Only 14 will actually make their way to the gate, with Sandiva seeking her first stateside score in the contest.

The Footstepsinthesand chestnut made her U.S. debut over the summer and has thus far finished seventh in the Grade 2 San Clemente Handicap, fourth in the Pebbles Stakes and fifth most recently in the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere Stakes at Churchill Downs on November 15. Sandiva is a Group 3 winner in both England and France, and will be conceding two-to-six pounds as the 122-pound top weight under Castellano.

"We were fortunate enough that (owners) Al Shaqab sent her over to us," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "She's a filly that's been training well. Her last two races were actually better than they look on paper. We're hoping for a good effort from her. She's been breezing very well at Palm Beach Downs and acts like she's coming up to the race in really good shape.

"(The Tropical Park Oaks) is kind of the last opportunity to run against straight three-year-old fillies, so we wanted to take advantage of that," he added. "I think her race at Churchill was actually better than it appeared. She might have been second-best that day."

The contentious Oaks field also includes Sandiva's stablemate Patsy's Holiday, who is unraced since taking the Desert Vixen Stakes at Monmouth Park on July 19 as well as Sumba Sunset and She's Not Here, the respective runner-up and third-placer in the Grade 3 Boiling Springs at Monmouth in September.

Bet Horseracing Free Online at TwinSpires.com

Tropical Park Derby and Oaks attract overflow fields

Smooth Daddy seeks his first stakes victory in the Tropical Park Derby (NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)

Oversubscribed fields were drawn for both the Tropical Park Derby and Oaks at Gulfstream Park on Saturday. The $75,000 stakes, which used to take place at Calder, are the feature events on the day.

Sixteen, including two also-eligibles, entered the 1 1/16-mile Tropical Park Derby over Gulfstream's turf but only 14 will be allowed to run. Smooth Daddy heads the field off a pair of close placings against Grade 3 rivals in New York. The Tom Albertrani charge led into the stretch of both the Saranac and Hill Prince Stakes before finishing second in the former and third in the latter.

"He likes this course," Albertrani said. "We gave him a little time and he'll be fresh. Hopefully, he'll improve. To me, he seems like a horse that's improved every start. He's coming off a couple of nice races. We're pleased with him. He's been training well going into this race."

The Scat Daddy colt ranks first in BRIS Prime Power in the Tropical Park Derby, with Bashart second in the field rankings. Bashart was fourth in the Saranac before just missing in the Grade 3 Kent Stakes at Delaware Park and running third in Churchill Downs' Grade 3 Commonwealth Turf in his past two.

The Michael Matz-trained War Front bay keeps Luis Saez aboard while Smooth Daddy will be piloted by Javier Castellano.

Also showing up in the Derby are Wallyanna, upset winner of the Grade 2 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes, and Commonwealth Turf runner-up Other Cheek.

Patsy's Holiday is returning from a more than five-month layoff in the Tropical Park Oaks (Ryan Denver/EquiPhoto)

Two races later in the Tropical Park Oaks, another overflow field of 16 will go 1 1/16 miles on the turf. Only 14 will actually make their way to the gate, with Sandiva seeking her first stateside score in the contest.

The Footstepsinthesand chestnut made her U.S. debut over the summer and has thus far finished seventh in the Grade 2 San Clemente Handicap, fourth in the Pebbles Stakes and fifth most recently in the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere Stakes at Churchill Downs on November 15. Sandiva is a Group 3 winner in both England and France, and will be conceding two-to-six pounds as the 122-pound top weight under Castellano.

"We were fortunate enough that (owners) Al Shaqab sent her over to us," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "She's a filly that's been training well. Her last two races were actually better than they look on paper. We're hoping for a good effort from her. She's been breezing very well at Palm Beach Downs and acts like she's coming up to the race in really good shape.

"(The Tropical Park Oaks) is kind of the last opportunity to run against straight three-year-old fillies, so we wanted to take advantage of that," he added. "I think her race at Churchill was actually better than it appeared. She might have been second-best that day."

The contentious Oaks field also includes Sandiva's stablemate Patsy's Holiday, who is unraced since taking the Desert Vixen Stakes at Monmouth Park on July 19 as well as Sumba Sunset and She's Not Here, the respective runner-up and third-placer in the Grade 3 Boiling Springs at Monmouth in September.

Bet Horseracing Free Online at TwinSpires.com

Palace Malice's New Orleans Handicap named 2014's best performance

Palace Malice's romping win in the New Orleans 'Cap rated as the top performance of 2014 (Lou Hodges Jr./Hodges Photography)

Brisnet.com, the official data source of the Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs, and TwinSpires.com, tabs Palace Malice's victory in the New Orleans Handicap on March 29 at Fair Grounds as the top performance this year in North America.

Trained by Todd Pletcher for Dogwood Stable, Palace Malice earned a 113 Speed and 125.1 Class Rating in winning the $400,000 race, making his New Orleans Handicap victory the only performance to earn Speed and Class Ratings greater than 110 and 125 respectively. Speed measures how fast a horse ran while Class is a measurement of performance relative to the competition in the race.

Palace Malice won the New Orleans Handicap by 4 3/4 lengths, defeating the Grade 1-placed Normandy Invasion, multiple stakes winner Sunbean, and 2013 Kentucky Derby runner-up Golden Soul. Palace Malice went on to win the Metropolitan Mile Handicap on Belmont Stakes day and is a candidate for an Eclipse Award as champion older male. Click here for a replay of the race.

"In a year filled with superlative performances, Palace Malice's New Orleans Handicap stands tall as an effort that looks to have been good enough to defeat any other horse this year on his or her best day," said TwinSpires.com Director of Communications Ed DeRosa.

Palace Malice was one of only nine horses to crack the 110 Speed Rating threshold and one of only four to top a 125 Class Rating. Dogwood plans to run Palace Malice in 2015 before he retires to stud at Three Chimneys in Midway, Kentucky. Palace Malice has won seven of 17 starts lifetime, has earned $2,676,135, and his resume also includes a victory in the 2013 Belmont Stakes.

The top Speed Rating of the year went to Taris, who earned a 115 when winning the Lexus Raven Run Stakes on October 18 at Keeneland. The top Class Rating of 2014 belongs to Close Hatches, who earned a 125.8 when winning the Personal Ensign Stakes on August 22 at Saratoga.

As the only horse to earn two Speed Ratings of at least 109 and three of at least 108, Bayern was consistently the year's fastest horse, topping off at 110 for his Breeders' Cup Classic victory that earned a 124 Class Rating.

Speed and Class Ratings are available in the Ultimate Past Performances on Brisnet.com and are free to TwinSpires.com players when they wager.

Bet Horseracing Free Online at TwinSpires.com

Palace Malice's New Orleans Handicap named 2014's best performance

Palace Malice's romping win in the New Orleans 'Cap rated as the top performance of 2014 (Lou Hodges Jr./Hodges Photography)

Brisnet.com, the official data source of the Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs, and TwinSpires.com, tabs Palace Malice's victory in the New Orleans Handicap on March 29 at Fair Grounds as the top performance this year in North America.

Trained by Todd Pletcher for Dogwood Stable, Palace Malice earned a 113 Speed and 125.1 Class Rating in winning the $400,000 race, making his New Orleans Handicap victory the only performance to earn Speed and Class Ratings greater than 110 and 125 respectively. Speed measures how fast a horse ran while Class is a measurement of performance relative to the competition in the race.

Palace Malice won the New Orleans Handicap by 4 3/4 lengths, defeating the Grade 1-placed Normandy Invasion, multiple stakes winner Sunbean, and 2013 Kentucky Derby runner-up Golden Soul. Palace Malice went on to win the Metropolitan Mile Handicap on Belmont Stakes day and is a candidate for an Eclipse Award as champion older male. Click here for a replay of the race.

"In a year filled with superlative performances, Palace Malice's New Orleans Handicap stands tall as an effort that looks to have been good enough to defeat any other horse this year on his or her best day," said TwinSpires.com Director of Communications Ed DeRosa.

Palace Malice was one of only nine horses to crack the 110 Speed Rating threshold and one of only four to top a 125 Class Rating. Dogwood plans to run Palace Malice in 2015 before he retires to stud at Three Chimneys in Midway, Kentucky. Palace Malice has won seven of 17 starts lifetime, has earned $2,676,135, and his resume also includes a victory in the 2013 Belmont Stakes.

The top Speed Rating of the year went to Taris, who earned a 115 when winning the Lexus Raven Run Stakes on October 18 at Keeneland. The top Class Rating of 2014 belongs to Close Hatches, who earned a 125.8 when winning the Personal Ensign Stakes on August 22 at Saratoga.

As the only horse to earn two Speed Ratings of at least 109 and three of at least 108, Bayern was consistently the year's fastest horse, topping off at 110 for his Breeders' Cup Classic victory that earned a 124 Class Rating.

Speed and Class Ratings are available in the Ultimate Past Performances on Brisnet.com and are free to TwinSpires.com players when they wager.

Bet Horseracing Free Online at TwinSpires.com

In brief

Grand Contender had no problem handling the off conditions in the Buddy Diliberto Memorial (Lynn Roberts/Hodges Photography)

Maggi Moss' Grand Contender (Strong Contender) bypassed Sunday's Tenacious S. at Fair Grounds in favor of Friday's $50,000 Buddy Diliberto Memorial S., a move that paid dividends as the Tom Amoss-trained gelding posted a 1 1/2-length wire job. Ridden by Francisco Torres, Grand Contender finished 1 1/16 miles in 1:44 4/5 on the sloppy, sealed track after the race was moved from the turf to the main track. The six-year-old bay, who recorded back-to-back Grade 3 wins at Lone Star Park during the spring when taking the Texas Mile and Lone Star Park H., entered Friday's contest off a third-place run in the Delta Mile on November 22. Grand Contender is now 26-9-3-6, $615,610, lifetime...

Claiborne Farm's homebred Profess (War Front), a half-sister to leading sire Pulpit (A.P. Indy), earned her first career victory on Thursday evening at Turfway Park via disqualification. The Juan Ruvalcaba trainee had command of the 6 1/2-furlong maiden special weight in the lane but was passed by Miss Negrita (Desert Party) and wound up two lengths behind on the line. However, Miss Negrita came in while Profess was drifting out in the stretch run. The Crane (Tiznow), who is a daughter of Grade 1 heroine Harmony Lodge (Hennessy) and a half-sister to Grade 3 victor Stratford Hill (A.P. Indy), attempted to split horses at the sixteenth-pole but ended up shying away from Miss Negrita and steadying badly. The filly's jockey, Albin Jimenez, lodged an objection against both Miss Negrita and Profess, but the stewards disallowed it for Profess before disqualifying Miss Negrita to third. That elevated Profess to first and The Crane to second. Profess is out of Grade 1 victress Preach (Mr. Prosecptor), who gained fame when her first foal was Pulpit. Preach is herself a full sibling to Yarn, who produced Group 1-winning stallion Minardi (Boundary) and Tale of the Cat (Storm Cat), who is the sire of three time-champion Gio Ponti. Yarn is the grandam of European champion, Eclipse Award winner and top sire Johannesburg...

Conquest Two Step (Two Step Salsa) tests the waters against heavyweights when he runs in the $300,000 Malibu S. (G1) on Santa Anita's December 26 opening day next Friday. The Florida-bred trained by Mark Casse seeks his first stakes win against the likes of champion Shared Belief (Candy Ride) and a bevy of Bob Baffert bruisers. "He tries hard every time," said Joe Talamo, who has ridden the colt in his last four races, including a head victory October 25 going about 6 1/2 furlongs on Santa Anita's downhill turf course. "He's run on dirt before at Churchill and did well (finishing second in a field of 10 on a muddy strip last June)," Talamo said. "Hopefully there will be a fast pace in the Malibu, because he can sit back and we can take advantage of his nice turn of foot." Conquest Two Step will make his graded bow in the Malibu having previously finished third in the El Cajon S. and second in the Colin S. in his only stakes tries...

Bob Baffert will be seeking his eighth victory in the $300,000 La Brea S. (G1) when he sends out Awesome Baby (Awesome Again) and Jojo Warrior (Pioneerof the Nile) in the seven-furlong race for three-year-old fillies on Santa Anita's opening day. Awesome Baby has not raced since winning the Sunland Park Oaks in March while Jojo Warrior was third behind Untapable in the Cotillion S. (G1) at Parx last out on September 20. Both fillies have been training smartly for their return. Baffert first won the La Brea in 1992 with Arches of Gold. His other winners were Magical Allure (1998), Hookedonthefeelin (1999), Pussycat Doll (2005), Downthedustyroad (2006), Indian Blessing (2008) and Book Review (2012)...

Turf specialist Awesome Return (Decarchy) seeks his second straight stakes win on grass when he runs in the $200,000 Mathis Brothers Mile (G2) on opening day at Santa Anita. "He never runs a bad race; he always show up," trainer Mike Puype said of the California-bred. "This is a tougher race than he's seen, but we've got to go because this leads up to the California Cup Turf Classic (on January 24). That race offers $250,000 and is a mile and an eighth, which is going to suit him better going against Cal-breds, but this is an important steppingstone." Awesome Return has never been out of the money on turf in seven starts, winning four with one second and two thirds. Three of the victories have come in stakes, including the Snow Chief and the Silky Sullivan against state-breds...

Charles Town Classic (G2) upsetter Imperative (Bernardini) returned to California Tuesday from his eventful 15th-place finish in the Champions Cup (Jpn-G1) at Chukyo Racecourse in Japan on December 7. "We'll see how he comes out before making future plans," trainer George Papaprodromou said...

Charles C. Smith's three-time Louisiana Champions Day Turf winner String King (Crowned King) has exited his latest victory in said event in fine form, according to his owner/conditioner. The six-year-old showed no signs of his age last Saturday when scoring by 1 1/2 lengths and improved his earnings to nearly three quarters of a million dollars. "He came out really good and is no worse for the wear," Smith reported. "I don't know how that turf course is going to be playing once we get the real rainy season in Louisiana, but the next logical step is the (Grade 3, $100,000) Colonel E. R. Bradley (Stakes on January 17). If (the grass) gets deep and boggy, I'll also consider running him in the (Grade 3, $200,000) John Connally (Turf Cup) at Sam Houston (on January 24)." The nine-time stakes winner's performance would have made it four consecutive Louisiana Champions Day titles for the bay gelding had he not finished a nose short of beating Sunbean in the 2013 Classic. "Every time I watch it I still think we won it," Smith reflected. "But the photo-finish says differently. I was trying to prove to everyone that he was the best Louisiana-bred in training and I still think he is. He may not have made as much money as the other ones, but he wasn't running at the high-dollar tracks, either. He's done everything and danced every dance." String King has competed in the last two editions of the Bradley. He finished fourth last January by a length and was second by 3 1/2 lengths in 2013. Both of those efforts were on rain-softened turf...

Eden Prairie (Mizzen Mast) exited her win in Fair Grounds' Blushing K. D. S. on Thursday in excellent shape, according to trainer Neil Pessin. The four-year-old miss -- who is stakes-placed on dirt, synthetic and turf -- led the field through pedestrian splits of :49 4/5 and 1:14 3/5 under Florent Geroux before proving uncatchable in the lane by 1 1/2 lengths. "She came out of it great," Pessin said Friday morning. "We'll go to the ($60,000 Marie G.) Krantz (Memorial S. on January 17) with her and then hopefully the ($60,000) Bayou (H. on February 21) before we go to Keeneland. I thought a couple other horses would go with her, but she came by the stands the first time loping and when she does that she's really tough to catch."...

Saturday's $50,000 Sugar Bowl S. -- a race won in the past by the likes of Clever Trick, Archarcharch, Littlexpectations and, last year, Albano -- could be a preview of the major Fair Grounds sophomore stakes, including the $750,000 Louisiana Derby (G2). Last year, Albano used a victory in the Sugar Bowl to launch himself into a 2014 season that earned him nearly a half-million dollars, a Grade 3 victory and a second to eventual Breeders' Cup Classic winner Bayern in the Haskell Invitational (G1). In this year's five-horse field, all eyes will be on Cinco Charlie (Indian Charlie) and Control Stake (Discreetly Mine). Cinco Charlie already has seven starts, including victories in Churchill Downs' Bashford Manor (G3) and the James F. Lewis III last out at Laurel Park. The Steve Asmussen trainee will break from post 5 under Robby Albarado. Post-time favoritism could easily go to Control Stake, who hails from the barn of meet-leading trainer Tom Amoss and will have the riding services of meet-leading jockey James Graham. The bay was second in the Jean Lafitte Stakes on October 25 at Delta Downs and, last out, romped by 8 1/4 lengths while being eased up in the final strides of an optional claimer over track and distance. Later on Fair Grounds' Saturday program, six juvenile fillies will line up in the $50,000 Letellier Memorial S. going the same six-furlong distance. Trainer Bret Calhoun has been a roll recently with juvenile fillies and he hopes to carry that momentum into the Letellier Memorial with unbeaten Promise Me Silver (Silver City). The Texas homebred returned from a five-month layoff to win Retama Park's Texas Stallion S. on November 15. In June, Promise Me Silver won the Debutante S. at Churchill following a runaway debut maiden victory at Lone Star Park in May. Robby Albarado rides from post 2...

Fair Grounds will also host a pair of stakes on Sunday. The $50,000 Tiffany Lass S. drew a field of five distaffers going a mile and 70 yards while the $50,000 Tenacious S. sends older runners the same distance. Ten were entered in the latter event, but the race already will have one scratch after Grand Contender (Strong Contender) captured Friday's Buddy Diliberto Memorial at the track. Tom Amoss trainee Rise Up (Rockport Harbor), hero of the 2013 Delta Downs Jackpot (G3), is seeking his second win of the year in the Tenacious. The bay sophomore romped by 10 3/4 lengths in the Robert Hilton Memorial at Charles Town in April and was third against optional claiming rivals in his most recent start on November 27. Agent Di Nozzo (Ghostzapper), third in last year's Tenacious returns for another shot at the race, as does Flashy Sunrise (Flashy Bull), who has gone 2-1-0 from seven starts since his seventh-place run in the 2013 edition...

Remington Park reported across-the-board increases in pari-mutuel handle during its recently completed 2014 Thoroughbred season. The track also experienced an increase in average field size in 2014 compared to the 2013 season, helping draw the attention of more horseplayers. Over the 607 races conducted this season, Remington Park averaged 9.4 starters per race. A year ago, the average was still a very respectable 9.1 starters per race. Total handle on Remington Park racing in 2014 was $56,950,002 for an increase of 8.1 percent over the total from 2013. The export handle of $51,823,954 was up 8.1 percent compared to a year ago. Remington Park enjoyed a handle increase on-track as well with $4,745,148 wagered, up 5.4 percent from the on-track handle in 2013. The three off-track sites in Oklahoma City handled $380,900 for an increase of 48.4 percent against the same statistic from last year. The 2014 increases for all three of the categories that comprise the Remington Park handle statistics marks the first time that has happened for the Oklahoma City track since 2006. The 2014 season is the second in a row that Remington Park has posted an increase in its total handle. The 2014 season was 67 dates in length versus 66 in 2013, and there were 607 races contested this year, while 600 were run a year ago. In comparing the averages, Remington Park still posted increases over 2013 with the $850,000 daily average on racing up 6.5 percent over the average of $798,150 last year. Remington Park live racing is now on hiatus until March 6, when the nation's top American Quarter Horse & Mixed-breed season gets underway. The 50-date meeting will run through May 30. Admission, general parking and valet parking are always free at Remington Park. For more information, reservations and group bookings please call 405-424-1000, 866-456-9880 or visit remingtonpark.com...

The popular Starlight Racing series returns to Fair Grounds on Friday, December 26, at 5 p.m. (CST) with College Night. The December Starlight event will be the last of two offering a special cosmic twist with the Miller Lite White Out Party in the Starlight tent on the track apron. Glowing drinks and blinking accessories will liven up the atmosphere along with jockette dancers, while neon body painters will allow racing fans to customize their appearance under the black lights. The first 200 racing fans in the Starlight tent will receive free T-shirts. Live music will be provided in the clubhouse from 7 p.m. until 11 p.m. by local country band 90 Degrees West, who will be making their Starlight Racing debut. DJ Mig will provide music in the Starlight tent. Popular local food pop-ups Bratz Y'all and Crepe a la Carte will again serve food on the track apron. In conjunction with College Night, the Louisiana Thoroughbred Breeders' Association will give away a pair of $1,000 scholarships. Any student enrolled at an accredited institution of higher learning is eligible to win one of the two scholarships. Registration will take place between the 1ST and 4TH races on the card, and the winners will be announced after the 5TH race in the winner's circle. Students can register at the sign-up table on the first floor of the West side of the building just inside from the Starlight tent. The Starlight-Starbright charitable program will again be offered, allowing non-profit and for-profit organizations to raise much needed funds for their own charitable organization or for one that their company supports in its efforts to touch the community. Companies may register as an official Starlight-Starbright beneficiary by downloading the official information and registration form from fairgroundsracecourse.com and emailing it to lindsay.boihem@fgno.com or mark.conner@fgno.com. Additional information, including clubhouse reservations during fund raising is available by calling the property reservations line at 504-943-2200...

The catalog for the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's 2015 Winter Mixed Sale is now available on the OBS website at http://obssales.com. A sortable master index provides searchable pedigree and consignor information as well as access to pedigree updates occurring since the catalog was printed. The Winter Mixed Sale again includes a Horses of Racing Age section with 105 horses currently cataloged in this section and supplemental entries still being accepted. A separate Racing Age catalog will be available on the OBS website and in printed form at the sales grounds. The optional under tack show is scheduled for Monday, January 26, at 10 a.m. (EST). A total of 392 horses are cataloged for the Preferred and Open sessions of the Sale, scheduled to begin on Wednesday, January 28, with Hip Numbers 1-194 selling in the Consignor Preferred session. Hips 195-392 in the Open Session will be offered on Thursday, January 29, followed immediately by the Horses of Racing Age section. Both sessions begin at 10:30 a.m. As always, the sale and under tack show will be streamed live via the OBS website. The OBS Championship Stakes races, run this year again in conjunction with the Winter Mixed Sale, are set for Tuesday, January 27, with first post at 1 p.m. For more information regarding the Winter Mixed Sale, please call 352-237-2154...

Laurel Park is moving its first post from 12:35 p.m. to 12:30 p.m. (EST), effective January 1. "It was done to get away from Gulfstream, which starts at 12:35," Maryland Jockey Club General Manager Sal Sinatra explained. "It was hard for our mutuel department to avoid being a minute or two away from them. I would prefer to be five to eight minutes away to help increase our handle." Sinatra has also made adjustments to the betting menu, adding superfectas, rolling doubles and Pick 3s and a third Pick 4, which will begin with the 4TH race each afternoon. Laurel will continue having two other Pick 4s (races 2-3-4-5 and 6-7-8-9). "This is being done to enhance our wagering menu and allow patrons to bet their favorite exotics in every race," Sinatra added. "The extra Pick 4 will help a player who gets knocked out of the early Pick 4 but has done the handicapping to continue on and not have to wait for the late Pick 4." After Saturday's nine-race card, Laurel will not conduct racing until the day after Christmas. The final three live racing days of the year are scheduled to take place December 26, 27 and 31. The 2015 season begins Thursday, January 1. Live racing will take place Thursday, Friday and Saturday in January and February, with holiday exceptions. Wednesday racing will be added in March...

Doug O'Neill was back on the beat at Santa Anita Friday morning after serving a lengthy suspension. "Seventy-three days was brutal," the three-time Santa Anita training king said. "You can't go to the barn or go to the races, but it's awesome to be back and I'm looking forward to a great 2015."

In brief

Grand Contender had no problem handling the off conditions in the Buddy Diliberto Memorial (Lynn Roberts/Hodges Photography)

Maggi Moss' Grand Contender (Strong Contender) bypassed Sunday's Tenacious S. at Fair Grounds in favor of Friday's $50,000 Buddy Diliberto Memorial S., a move that paid dividends as the Tom Amoss-trained gelding posted a 1 1/2-length wire job. Ridden by Francisco Torres, Grand Contender finished 1 1/16 miles in 1:44 4/5 on the sloppy, sealed track after the race was moved from the turf to the main track. The six-year-old bay, who recorded back-to-back Grade 3 wins at Lone Star Park during the spring when taking the Texas Mile and Lone Star Park H., entered Friday's contest off a third-place run in the Delta Mile on November 22. Grand Contender is now 26-9-3-6, $615,610, lifetime...

Claiborne Farm's homebred Profess (War Front), a half-sister to leading sire Pulpit (A.P. Indy), earned her first career victory on Thursday evening at Turfway Park via disqualification. The Juan Ruvalcaba trainee had command of the 6 1/2-furlong maiden special weight in the lane but was passed by Miss Negrita (Desert Party) and wound up two lengths behind on the line. However, Miss Negrita came in while Profess was drifting out in the stretch run. The Crane (Tiznow), who is a daughter of Grade 1 heroine Harmony Lodge (Hennessy) and a half-sister to Grade 3 victor Stratford Hill (A.P. Indy), attempted to split horses at the sixteenth-pole but ended up shying away from Miss Negrita and steadying badly. The filly's jockey, Albin Jimenez, lodged an objection against both Miss Negrita and Profess, but the stewards disallowed it for Profess before disqualifying Miss Negrita to third. That elevated Profess to first and The Crane to second. Profess is out of Grade 1 victress Preach (Mr. Prosecptor), who gained fame when her first foal was Pulpit. Preach is herself a full sibling to Yarn, who produced Group 1-winning stallion Minardi (Boundary) and Tale of the Cat (Storm Cat), who is the sire of three time-champion Gio Ponti. Yarn is the grandam of European champion, Eclipse Award winner and top sire Johannesburg...

Conquest Two Step (Two Step Salsa) tests the waters against heavyweights when he runs in the $300,000 Malibu S. (G1) on Santa Anita's December 26 opening day next Friday. The Florida-bred trained by Mark Casse seeks his first stakes win against the likes of champion Shared Belief (Candy Ride) and a bevy of Bob Baffert bruisers. "He tries hard every time," said Joe Talamo, who has ridden the colt in his last four races, including a head victory October 25 going about 6 1/2 furlongs on Santa Anita's downhill turf course. "He's run on dirt before at Churchill and did well (finishing second in a field of 10 on a muddy strip last June)," Talamo said. "Hopefully there will be a fast pace in the Malibu, because he can sit back and we can take advantage of his nice turn of foot." Conquest Two Step will make his graded bow in the Malibu having previously finished third in the El Cajon S. and second in the Colin S. in his only stakes tries...

Bob Baffert will be seeking his eighth victory in the $300,000 La Brea S. (G1) when he sends out Awesome Baby (Awesome Again) and Jojo Warrior (Pioneerof the Nile) in the seven-furlong race for three-year-old fillies on Santa Anita's opening day. Awesome Baby has not raced since winning the Sunland Park Oaks in March while Jojo Warrior was third behind Untapable in the Cotillion S. (G1) at Parx last out on September 20. Both fillies have been training smartly for their return. Baffert first won the La Brea in 1992 with Arches of Gold. His other winners were Magical Allure (1998), Hookedonthefeelin (1999), Pussycat Doll (2005), Downthedustyroad (2006), Indian Blessing (2008) and Book Review (2012)...

Turf specialist Awesome Return (Decarchy) seeks his second straight stakes win on grass when he runs in the $200,000 Mathis Brothers Mile (G2) on opening day at Santa Anita. "He never runs a bad race; he always show up," trainer Mike Puype said of the California-bred. "This is a tougher race than he's seen, but we've got to go because this leads up to the California Cup Turf Classic (on January 24). That race offers $250,000 and is a mile and an eighth, which is going to suit him better going against Cal-breds, but this is an important steppingstone." Awesome Return has never been out of the money on turf in seven starts, winning four with one second and two thirds. Three of the victories have come in stakes, including the Snow Chief and the Silky Sullivan against state-breds...

Charles Town Classic (G2) upsetter Imperative (Bernardini) returned to California Tuesday from his eventful 15th-place finish in the Champions Cup (Jpn-G1) at Chukyo Racecourse in Japan on December 7. "We'll see how he comes out before making future plans," trainer George Papaprodromou said...

Charles C. Smith's three-time Louisiana Champions Day Turf winner String King (Crowned King) has exited his latest victory in said event in fine form, according to his owner/conditioner. The six-year-old showed no signs of his age last Saturday when scoring by 1 1/2 lengths and improved his earnings to nearly three quarters of a million dollars. "He came out really good and is no worse for the wear," Smith reported. "I don't know how that turf course is going to be playing once we get the real rainy season in Louisiana, but the next logical step is the (Grade 3, $100,000) Colonel E. R. Bradley (Stakes on January 17). If (the grass) gets deep and boggy, I'll also consider running him in the (Grade 3, $200,000) John Connally (Turf Cup) at Sam Houston (on January 24)." The nine-time stakes winner's performance would have made it four consecutive Louisiana Champions Day titles for the bay gelding had he not finished a nose short of beating Sunbean in the 2013 Classic. "Every time I watch it I still think we won it," Smith reflected. "But the photo-finish says differently. I was trying to prove to everyone that he was the best Louisiana-bred in training and I still think he is. He may not have made as much money as the other ones, but he wasn't running at the high-dollar tracks, either. He's done everything and danced every dance." String King has competed in the last two editions of the Bradley. He finished fourth last January by a length and was second by 3 1/2 lengths in 2013. Both of those efforts were on rain-softened turf...

Eden Prairie (Mizzen Mast) exited her win in Fair Grounds' Blushing K. D. S. on Thursday in excellent shape, according to trainer Neil Pessin. The four-year-old miss -- who is stakes-placed on dirt, synthetic and turf -- led the field through pedestrian splits of :49 4/5 and 1:14 3/5 under Florent Geroux before proving uncatchable in the lane by 1 1/2 lengths. "She came out of it great," Pessin said Friday morning. "We'll go to the ($60,000 Marie G.) Krantz (Memorial S. on January 17) with her and then hopefully the ($60,000) Bayou (H. on February 21) before we go to Keeneland. I thought a couple other horses would go with her, but she came by the stands the first time loping and when she does that she's really tough to catch."...

Saturday's $50,000 Sugar Bowl S. -- a race won in the past by the likes of Clever Trick, Archarcharch, Littlexpectations and, last year, Albano -- could be a preview of the major Fair Grounds sophomore stakes, including the $750,000 Louisiana Derby (G2). Last year, Albano used a victory in the Sugar Bowl to launch himself into a 2014 season that earned him nearly a half-million dollars, a Grade 3 victory and a second to eventual Breeders' Cup Classic winner Bayern in the Haskell Invitational (G1). In this year's five-horse field, all eyes will be on Cinco Charlie (Indian Charlie) and Control Stake (Discreetly Mine). Cinco Charlie already has seven starts, including victories in Churchill Downs' Bashford Manor (G3) and the James F. Lewis III last out at Laurel Park. The Steve Asmussen trainee will break from post 5 under Robby Albarado. Post-time favoritism could easily go to Control Stake, who hails from the barn of meet-leading trainer Tom Amoss and will have the riding services of meet-leading jockey James Graham. The bay was second in the Jean Lafitte Stakes on October 25 at Delta Downs and, last out, romped by 8 1/4 lengths while being eased up in the final strides of an optional claimer over track and distance. Later on Fair Grounds' Saturday program, six juvenile fillies will line up in the $50,000 Letellier Memorial S. going the same six-furlong distance. Trainer Bret Calhoun has been a roll recently with juvenile fillies and he hopes to carry that momentum into the Letellier Memorial with unbeaten Promise Me Silver (Silver City). The Texas homebred returned from a five-month layoff to win Retama Park's Texas Stallion S. on November 15. In June, Promise Me Silver won the Debutante S. at Churchill following a runaway debut maiden victory at Lone Star Park in May. Robby Albarado rides from post 2...

Fair Grounds will also host a pair of stakes on Sunday. The $50,000 Tiffany Lass S. drew a field of five distaffers going a mile and 70 yards while the $50,000 Tenacious S. sends older runners the same distance. Ten were entered in the latter event, but the race already will have one scratch after Grand Contender (Strong Contender) captured Friday's Buddy Diliberto Memorial at the track. Tom Amoss trainee Rise Up (Rockport Harbor), hero of the 2013 Delta Downs Jackpot (G3), is seeking his second win of the year in the Tenacious. The bay sophomore romped by 10 3/4 lengths in the Robert Hilton Memorial at Charles Town in April and was third against optional claiming rivals in his most recent start on November 27. Agent Di Nozzo (Ghostzapper), third in last year's Tenacious returns for another shot at the race, as does Flashy Sunrise (Flashy Bull), who has gone 2-1-0 from seven starts since his seventh-place run in the 2013 edition...

Remington Park reported across-the-board increases in pari-mutuel handle during its recently completed 2014 Thoroughbred season. The track also experienced an increase in average field size in 2014 compared to the 2013 season, helping draw the attention of more horseplayers. Over the 607 races conducted this season, Remington Park averaged 9.4 starters per race. A year ago, the average was still a very respectable 9.1 starters per race. Total handle on Remington Park racing in 2014 was $56,950,002 for an increase of 8.1 percent over the total from 2013. The export handle of $51,823,954 was up 8.1 percent compared to a year ago. Remington Park enjoyed a handle increase on-track as well with $4,745,148 wagered, up 5.4 percent from the on-track handle in 2013. The three off-track sites in Oklahoma City handled $380,900 for an increase of 48.4 percent against the same statistic from last year. The 2014 increases for all three of the categories that comprise the Remington Park handle statistics marks the first time that has happened for the Oklahoma City track since 2006. The 2014 season is the second in a row that Remington Park has posted an increase in its total handle. The 2014 season was 67 dates in length versus 66 in 2013, and there were 607 races contested this year, while 600 were run a year ago. In comparing the averages, Remington Park still posted increases over 2013 with the $850,000 daily average on racing up 6.5 percent over the average of $798,150 last year. Remington Park live racing is now on hiatus until March 6, when the nation's top American Quarter Horse & Mixed-breed season gets underway. The 50-date meeting will run through May 30. Admission, general parking and valet parking are always free at Remington Park. For more information, reservations and group bookings please call 405-424-1000, 866-456-9880 or visit remingtonpark.com...

The popular Starlight Racing series returns to Fair Grounds on Friday, December 26, at 5 p.m. (CST) with College Night. The December Starlight event will be the last of two offering a special cosmic twist with the Miller Lite White Out Party in the Starlight tent on the track apron. Glowing drinks and blinking accessories will liven up the atmosphere along with jockette dancers, while neon body painters will allow racing fans to customize their appearance under the black lights. The first 200 racing fans in the Starlight tent will receive free T-shirts. Live music will be provided in the clubhouse from 7 p.m. until 11 p.m. by local country band 90 Degrees West, who will be making their Starlight Racing debut. DJ Mig will provide music in the Starlight tent. Popular local food pop-ups Bratz Y'all and Crepe a la Carte will again serve food on the track apron. In conjunction with College Night, the Louisiana Thoroughbred Breeders' Association will give away a pair of $1,000 scholarships. Any student enrolled at an accredited institution of higher learning is eligible to win one of the two scholarships. Registration will take place between the 1ST and 4TH races on the card, and the winners will be announced after the 5TH race in the winner's circle. Students can register at the sign-up table on the first floor of the West side of the building just inside from the Starlight tent. The Starlight-Starbright charitable program will again be offered, allowing non-profit and for-profit organizations to raise much needed funds for their own charitable organization or for one that their company supports in its efforts to touch the community. Companies may register as an official Starlight-Starbright beneficiary by downloading the official information and registration form from fairgroundsracecourse.com and emailing it to lindsay.boihem@fgno.com or mark.conner@fgno.com. Additional information, including clubhouse reservations during fund raising is available by calling the property reservations line at 504-943-2200...

The catalog for the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's 2015 Winter Mixed Sale is now available on the OBS website at http://obssales.com. A sortable master index provides searchable pedigree and consignor information as well as access to pedigree updates occurring since the catalog was printed. The Winter Mixed Sale again includes a Horses of Racing Age section with 105 horses currently cataloged in this section and supplemental entries still being accepted. A separate Racing Age catalog will be available on the OBS website and in printed form at the sales grounds. The optional under tack show is scheduled for Monday, January 26, at 10 a.m. (EST). A total of 392 horses are cataloged for the Preferred and Open sessions of the Sale, scheduled to begin on Wednesday, January 28, with Hip Numbers 1-194 selling in the Consignor Preferred session. Hips 195-392 in the Open Session will be offered on Thursday, January 29, followed immediately by the Horses of Racing Age section. Both sessions begin at 10:30 a.m. As always, the sale and under tack show will be streamed live via the OBS website. The OBS Championship Stakes races, run this year again in conjunction with the Winter Mixed Sale, are set for Tuesday, January 27, with first post at 1 p.m. For more information regarding the Winter Mixed Sale, please call 352-237-2154...

Laurel Park is moving its first post from 12:35 p.m. to 12:30 p.m. (EST), effective January 1. "It was done to get away from Gulfstream, which starts at 12:35," Maryland Jockey Club General Manager Sal Sinatra explained. "It was hard for our mutuel department to avoid being a minute or two away from them. I would prefer to be five to eight minutes away to help increase our handle." Sinatra has also made adjustments to the betting menu, adding superfectas, rolling doubles and Pick 3s and a third Pick 4, which will begin with the 4TH race each afternoon. Laurel will continue having two other Pick 4s (races 2-3-4-5 and 6-7-8-9). "This is being done to enhance our wagering menu and allow patrons to bet their favorite exotics in every race," Sinatra added. "The extra Pick 4 will help a player who gets knocked out of the early Pick 4 but has done the handicapping to continue on and not have to wait for the late Pick 4." After Saturday's nine-race card, Laurel will not conduct racing until the day after Christmas. The final three live racing days of the year are scheduled to take place December 26, 27 and 31. The 2015 season begins Thursday, January 1. Live racing will take place Thursday, Friday and Saturday in January and February, with holiday exceptions. Wednesday racing will be added in March...

Doug O'Neill was back on the beat at Santa Anita Friday morning after serving a lengthy suspension. "Seventy-three days was brutal," the three-time Santa Anita training king said. "You can't go to the barn or go to the races, but it's awesome to be back and I'm looking forward to a great 2015."

Results

NORTH AMERICAN NON-GRADED STAKES RESULTS

BUDDY DILIBERTO MEMORIAL S., FG, $50,000, 4YO/UP, 1 1/16M, 12-19.
6—GRAND CONTENDER, g, 6, Strong Contender--My Twilight Dancer, by Twilight Agenda. O-Maggi Moss, B-Epona Thoroughbreds (KY), T-Thomas M. Amoss, J-Francisco C. Torres, $32,500.
4—Treasury Bill, c, 4, Lemon Drop Kid--Wow Me Free, by Menifee. ($230,000 '11 FTKJUL). O-Louie J Roussel III, B-Edward A Seltzer & Beverly Anderson (KY), $10,000.
2—All Stormy, h, 5, Stormy Atlantic--Allspice, by Coronado's Quest. O-Jim Tafel LLC, B-Jim Tafel, LLC (KY), $5,000.
Also Ran: Golden Soul.
Winning Time: 1:44 4/5 (sy)
Margins: 1HF, 9, 3.
Odds: 0.50, 7.20, 7.00.

Features

HANDICAPPING INSIGHTS

DECEMBER 19, 2014

by Dick Powell

Late in life, I have become a soccer geek. It began about six years ago and many weekday afternoons I am watching Champions League soccer from Europe. At its highest level, it is an incredible sporting event and the intrigue surrounding the players and managers becomes addictive.

So last season, when Bob Baffert unveiled Bayern (Offlee Wild) in January, it caught my attention since Bayern Munich is the perennial champion of the German Soccer League (Bundesliga). When he beat Tap It Rich (Tapit) by 15 lengths in his second career start, he really caught my attention.

So Bayern went on to have a great year that culminated with his controversial win in the Breeders' Cup Classic, his second Grade 1 stakes win of the year. The day after the Classic, I was flying back to Saratoga and missed the unveiling of Dortmund (Big Brown) at Santa Anita.

Named after another Bundesliga team, Borussia Dortmund, Dortmund is owned by Bayern's owner, and soccer fan, Kaleem Shah, and he won his debut going 6 1/2 furlongs by 4 3/4 lengths when he stalked a fast pace and took over with ease.

Baffert next shipped him to Churchill Downs where he beat first-level allowance foes by almost eight lengths from post 12 in fast time. He covered the mile in 1:35.39 despite covering more ground than anyone in the field as Martin Garcia kept him wide and in the clear.

Dortmund earned a BRIS Speed rating of 98 and now he shows up for the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) going two turns at 1 1/16 miles on Saturday. Despite the lack of stakes credentials, he is the early favorite in many pools for the 2015 Kentucky Derby. He has unbelievable cruising speed and a potent late kick. When horses get better when asked to go longer, the sky is the limit and Dortmund's stakes debut is eagerly anticipated.

In Dortmund's way -- ironically on a track that both Baffert and D. Wayne Lukas cut their teeth in Quarter Horse racing -- is Lukas' Mr. Z (Malibu Moon). He loses more than he wins but he has run well going two turns with blinkers added. Lukas shipped him to Delta Downs where he just missed in the $1 million Delta Jackpot (G3).

Mr. Z only has one career win but he has four seconds against graded stakes company and could be tough here if Mike Smith sends him from the gate and tries to take advantage of a small field that seems to lack pace.

What a great classic season it could be next year if we have Lukas and Baffert on the road to the Derby and Kentucky Oaks.

*****

New York is on a well-earned break with no racing for 10 days. Racing will resume on the day after Christmas and hopefully we will see better field sizes.

Since the Inner Dirt Track opened on December 3, the average field size was 7.56. It is even worse when you break out the two-turn races from the sprints. In 45 races going two turns, the average field size was 7.27. In 55 sprint races, the average field size was 7.8. Not great either but better than the two-turn races.

There were a few off-the-turf races at the start of the meet so that hurt the two-turn numbers but not that much.

David Jacobson is the leading trainer with five wins. Todd Pletcher and Linda Rice have won four and Tom Albertrani, Charlton Baker, Eddie Kenneally, Gary Contessa, Gary Gullo, Kiaran McLaughlin and Michael Wilson have won three each.

McLaughlin's three wins all came last weekend. All were first-time starters. All were heavy favorites. Two were juveniles and one was a three-year-old. McLaughlin wins 14 percent with his debut runners and that percentage will go up. They all ran with Lasix since Darley owned the sophomore and they do not let their juveniles run with it.

Best of the bunch was Perchance (Distorted Humor). This juvenile filly was owned and bred by Stonestreet Stables and she faced 11 others in Sunday's 4TH race. She stalked a modest pace from the inside, swung out to challenge for the lead, then cruised home while being throttled down. Her final time of 1:14.18 was not much but she clearly had a lot left in the tank.

By Distorted Humor out of multiple Grade 1-winning sprinter Dream Rush (Wild Rush), she is a half-sister to Dreaming of Julia (A.P. Indy), who won the Frizette Stakes (G1) and Gulfstream Oaks (G2), and the exciting Atreides (Medaglia d'Oro), who is four-for-five and coming to a big race near you.

When Dreaming of Julia won the Gulfstream Oaks, she earned a BRIS Speed rating of 107 and, on many horse rating systems, it was the fastest race ever run. She won by 21 3/4 lengths and it was a monstrous performance that she was never able to repeat. But it showed an incredible amount of talent and if Perchance can show a fraction of her half-sister's ability, Stonestreet could have another good one on their hands.

Results

NORTH AMERICAN ALLOWANCE RESULTS

LRC, 7TH, AOC, $54,530, 3YO/UP, 1M, 12-19.
5—LUCKBOX SAM, g, 4, Terrell--Fort Silver, by Fort Calgary. O-Seacoast Racing LLC, B-Roger Stein (CA), T-A. C. Avila, J-Tiago Josue Pereira, $35,880.
1—Goodison Park, g, 4, Unbridled's Song--Return to Paradise, by El Prado (IRE). ($150,000 '11 KEESEP). O-Dennis Narlinger, B-Pollock Farms & Unbridled's Song Syndicate (KY), $9,200.
6—Wrightwood, c, 3, Elusive Quality--Grace Anatomy, by Aldebaran. ($160,000 '12 FTKOCT; $250,000 '12 KEEJAN; $275,000 2013 FTFMAR). O-Heinz H Steinmann, B-Clearsky Farms (KY), $5,520.
Winning Time: 1:35 2/5 (ft)
 
LRL, 8TH, AOC, $47,520, 3YO/UP, A1 1/16M, 12-19.
4—RIVER RUSH, h, 5, Orientate--Sweet Tart, by Lemon Drop Kid. O-James C Wolf, B-Adena Springs (ON), T-Kieron Magee, J-Michael Ritvo, $25,650.
1—Tru Greek, g, 4, Greek Sun--Capote's Niner, by Capote. ($2,000 '11 FTMOCT). O-Jones, M E and Graham, Robin, B-Marathon Farms Inc (MD), $11,104.
5—Larry Le Roi, c, 3, Louis Quatorze--Princess Perry, by Point Given. O-Richard F Blue, Sr, B-Richard Blue (MD), $5,816.
Winning Time: 1:44 1/5 (ft)
 
LRL, 7TH, AOC, $47,520, 3YO/UP, 7F, 12-19.
10—CUTTY SHARK, g, 3, Old Fashioned--A Sea Trippi, by Trippi. ($38,000 '12 KEESEP; $70,000 2013 FTMMAY). O-Ruth, Leslie and Houck, Barbara J, B-Bridlewood Farm (FL), T-Donald H. Barr, J-Victor R. Carrasco, $25,650.
9—Stolen Love, g, 4, Not for Love--Thief in Style, by Cat Thief. ($5,000 '11 FTMOCT). O-Two Rivers Racing Stable LLC and MCA Racing Stable LLC, B-Classic Thoroughbred XII (MD), $11,104.
1—Sonny Inspired, g, 3, Artie Schiller--Argentesque, by Silver Deputy. ($20,000 '12 FTMOCT). O-D Hatman Thoroughbreds, B-Mr & Mrs Charles McGinnes (MD), $5,816.
Winning Time: 1:23 (ft)
 
DED, 9TH, ALW, $40,000, 3YO/UP, F/M, 5F, 12-18.
5—TOUGH JEANS, f, 4, Good and Tough--Walma Jean, by Ide. O-AHP Stables LLC, B-Michele Rodriguez (LA), T-Allen Landry, J-Kirk Paul LeBlanc, $24,000.
7—Miss Ardyn, f, 3, Familiar Flare--Miss Maudette, by In a Walk. O-Slaton, Carroll and Hanson, Teddie, B-Carroll Slaton (LA), $8,000.
8—Streamliner, f, 3, Lone Star Special--Touch of Lime, by Touch Gold. O-Tigertail Ranch, B-Tigertail Ranch (LA), $4,400.
Winning Time: 1:00 1/5 (ft)
 
FG, 3RD, AOC, $39,000, 3YO/UP, 1 1/16M, 12-19.
8—BEYOND COMPARE, g, 4, Tapit--Dancing Alone, by Kingmambo. ($375,000 '11 KEESEP). O-Ulwelling, Al and Bill, B-Peter E Blum Thoroughbreds, LLC (KY), T-Gary M. Scherer, J-Francisco C. Torres, $23,400.
1—Klisz, g, 5, Smarty Jones--Wander Storm, by Storm Bird. ($12,000 '09 KEENOV). O-Rigney Racing, B-Sun Valley Farm & Coneway Investment Partners, LP (KY), $7,800.
10—Indycott, g, 4, A.P. Indy--Seeking the Heart, by Seeking the Gold. O-Craig Drago, B-Wertheimer & Frere (KY), $4,290.
Winning Time: 1:45 1/5 (sy)
 
FG, 1ST, AOC, $38,000, 2YO, 1M, 12-19.
4—ANOTHER LEMON DROP, c, 2, Lemon Drop Kid--Shytoe Lafeet, by King of Kings (IRE). ($130,000 '13 KEESEP). O-Rigney Racing, B-Avalon Farms, Inc (KY), T-Philip A. Bauer, J-Calvin H. Borel, $22,800.
10—Distant Kingdom, c, 2, Majesticperfection--Distant Charm, by Distant View. ($60,000 '13 KEESEP; $32,000 2014 OBSJUN). O-Orth, Robert E and Hawley, Wesley, B-Brandywine Farm (KY), $7,600.
3—Chatito, g, 2, Bernstein--Essential Fear (IRE), by Pivotal (GB). O-Sugar Daddy Stable, B-Castleton Lyons & Kilboy Estate (KY), $4,180.
Winning Time: 1:39 (sy)
 
GP, 9TH, AOC, $36,000, 3YO/UP, F/M, 7 1/2FT, 12-19.
2—STREET SAILING, f, 3, Street Boss--Sailing Free, by Mizzen Mast. O-Team Valor International and Grube, Janet, B-Destiny Oaks of Ocala (PA), T-Ralph E. Nicks, J-Edgar S. Prado, $21,600.
4—Interesting (IRE), f, 4, Raven's Pass--With Fascination, by Dayjur. O-Rabbah Bloodstock LLC, B-Darley (IRE), $7,200.
5—War Relic, f, 4, Pulpit--Seoul, by Deputy Minister. O-Mueller Thoroughbred Stable, Ltd, B-Mueller Thoroughbred Stable, Ltd (KY), $3,600.
Winning Time: 1:29 2/5 (fm)
 
PEN, 5TH, ALW, $33,300, 3YO/UP, F/M, 1 1/16M, 12-18.
5—SUZY BLUE LIGHT, f, 3, Exchange Rate--Silmaril, by Diamond. ($82,000 '12 FTMOCT). O-The Elkstone Group LLC, B-Stephen E Quick & Christoper J Feifarek (PA), T-Richard A. Violette, Jr., J-Clinton L. Potts, $19,980.
7—Misstreated, f, 4, Dehere--Miss Savannah Rose, by Strategic Mission. O-Peter Kazamias, B-Richard J Hackerman (PA), $6,660.
4—Desert Notion, f, 3, Great Notion--What Else, by Not for Love. O-Meyer, Joseph A and Ryan, B-Joseph A & Ryan A Meyer (PA), $3,663.
Winning Time: 1:46 3/5 (ft)
 
TP, 8TH, ALW, $24,266, 3YO/UP, F/M, 6F, 12-18.
2—FIORETTI, f, 4, Bernardini--Move Clickly, by Cherokee Run. ($92,000 '11 KEEJAN; $35,000 2014 FTKJU2). O-Two Hearts Farm, LLC, B-James G Bell (KY), T-Anthony J. Hamilton, Jr., J-Perry Wayne Ouzts, $14,400.
10—Yodel, f, 3, Indygo Shiner--Musical Cup, by Dixieland Brass. O-L Riley Mangum, B-L Riley Mangum (KY), $4,800.
5—Brown's Baby, f, 4, Big Brown--Sydney Harbour, by Action This Day. ($75,000 2012 OBSAPR). O-O'Toole, Timothy S and Rowena Beck Racing LLC, B-Michael E Evans, Dann H Glick, & TCF Stallion Fund (KY), $2,400.
Winning Time: 1:10 3/5 (ft)
 
HAW, 7TH, ALW, $23,238, 3YO/UP, F/M, 6F, 12-19.
8—KARLA WITH A K, f, 3, Limehouse--Beaugeste, by Military. O-Sentel, Ken and Dorris, Judy, B-Judy Dorris & Ken Sentel (IL), T-Chris Dorris, J-Emmanuel Esquivel, $13,860.
1—Cow Catcher, f, 3, Cactus Ridge--Stop a Train, by Devil His Due. O-William Stiritz, B-Nancy & Vince Letto & Carson Springs Farm (IL), $4,620.
9—Oh Suzanna, f, 3, Sharp Humor--Moon Bird, by Meadow Flight. ($26,000 '12 KEESEP). O-Joseph W O'Brien, B-David G Campbell (IL), $2,310.
Winning Time: 1:11 (ft)

Spot Plays/Highlights/Weather

SPOT PLAYS

For Saturday

TRACK   (RACE) HORSE, MORNING LINE
Charles Town   (2nd) Our Love Story, 8-1
    (6th) Cherokee Kitten, 3-1
Delta Downs   (1st) Miss D K Dixie, 8-1
    (4th) Just a Pup, 7-2
Fair Grounds   (3rd) Fiery Dream, 4-1
    (10th) Bluesman, 7-2
Gulfstream Park   (5th) Jakob's Way, 7-2
    (9th) Street Game, 3-1
Hawthorne   (1st) Wildwoodsgreatest, 5-1
    (7th) Royally Outfoxed, 10-1
Laurel Park   (1st) Im Charming, 5-1
    (3rd) Dragon Attack, 3-1
Los Alamitos   (6th) Ebony Princess, 6-1
    (7th) Magic Lily, 3-1
Mahoning Valley   (6th) Shawklit Puddin, 4-1
    (8th) Love Bunny, 6-1
Parx Racing   (5th) Lawless Lily, 6-1
    (6th) To Believe, 5-1
Penn National   (5th) Black Lagoon, 4-1
    (6th) Wavy Needle, 3-1
Sunland Park   (7th) Dans Pot of Gold, 3-1
    (10th) Precocious Derby, 4-1
Tampa Bay Downs   (6th) Cassie's Harbor, 5-1
    (7th) Bless Your Heart, 4-1
Turf Paradise   (2nd) Mojave Mandate, 3-1
    (4th) Lady Rosberg, 3-1
Turfway Park   (1st) Seraglio, 5-1
    (9th) It's All About Joy, 6-1

HANDICAPPER'S EDGE is compiled by Bloodstock Research Information Services. This newsletter may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without the prior written permission of the copyright owner. Copyright 2011, Bloodstock Research Information Services. Information as to the races, race results and earnings was obtained from Equibase Company LLC and is utilized herein with the permission of the copyright owner, Equibase Company LLC.

Announcements

Help Wanted

A horse racing website is currently hiring for part-time positions as a Customer Service Representative in Lexington, Kentucky. Must be available nights and weekends. Some weekdays may also be available. Computer literacy required, horse racing knowledge and customer service experience a plus. To schedule an interview, email or send your résumé to the following: Nancy.Kanaval@brisnet.com, P.O. Box 4097, Lexington, KY 40544.

North American Maiden Winners
Bellamy Road--Predictress by Vicar; PROFITRESS, f, 2, FG, Mcl 15000, 12-19, 6f, 1:13 4/5. B-Brereton C. Jones (KY.). $50,000 '13 KEESEP. *1/2 to Three Day Rush (SW $266,898).
Bernardini--Touch Love (G2), by Not for Love; TEKTON, c, 2, LRL, Msw, 12-19, 1m, 1:38 2/5. B-Gainesway Thoroughbreds Ltd. (KY.). $190,000 '13 KEESEP.
Birdonthewire--Kathryns Birthday by Blare of Trumpets; SHEER PLEASURE, f, 2, LRC, Msw, 12-19, 6f, 1:09 4/5. B-Madera Thoroughbreds LLC (CA.). *1/2 to Got Even (SW $350,290).
City Zip--Divorce Settlement by Stormin Fever; VISITATION, g, 2, LRC, Mcl 30000, 12-19, 1m, 1:37 4/5. B-Qatar Bloodstock (KY.). $50,000 '12 KEENOV; $65,000 '13 FTKOCT.
Colonel John--Gioiello by Alphabet Soup; TACHIELLO, f, 2, FG, Msw, 12-19, 1m, 1:41 . B-John A. & Sue S. DeVault (KY.). $57,000 '13 KEESEP.
Cool Coal Man--Southerland Road by Elusive Quality; OVERSTAND, g, 2, TAM, Mcl 25000, 12-19, 7f, 1:25 3/5. B-Bridle Oaks Farm, Inc. (FL.). $18,000 '13 OBSAUG.
Diabolical--Fertile by Lite the Fuse; RICH PATCH, g, 2, SUN, Mcl 6500, 12-19, 6f, 1:12 2/5. B-Steve Prather & Brad King (NM.). $40,000 '13 RUIAUG.
Kantharos--Valid Silk by Valid Appeal; R LIMO JOE, c, 2, GP, Msw, 12-19, 5 1/2f, 1:04 1/5. B-Ocala Stud (FL.).
Malibu Moon--Dattts Our Girl by Thunder Gulch; MARINE ONE, c, 2, TAM, Msw, 12-19, 1m 40y, 1:41 3/5. B-DATTT Farm, LLC (KY.). $185,000 '13 FTKOCT.
Midshipman--Mountain Bonfire by Mt. Livermore; BIG BAD MAX, c, 2, CT, Msw, 12-18, 4 1/2f, :53 2/5. B-Coleswood Farm, Inc. (WV.). $6,500 '13 FTMSEP.
My Friend Max--Rich Rezultz by Harborage; WESLEY'S DREAM, f, 2, DED, Msw, 12-18, 6 1/2f, 1:22 3/5. B-Wayne M Schexnayder (LA.). $1,000 2014 ESLAPR.
Sun King--French Return by Honour and Glory; MAGIC MOONLIGHT, g, 2, HAW, Mcl 25000, 12-19, 1 1/16m, 1:49 2/5. B-Dennis Crooks, Terry Young & Tracy Farmer (IL.).
Tizdejavu--Dakota Star by Rubiano; DEJA L'ETOILE, c, 2, FG, Mcl 15000, 12-19, 1m, 1:43 . B-Winchester Place Thoroughbreds & Alan Bassett (KY.).
Unusual Heat--Lucky Spirit by Exemplary Leader; PATSY G AND ME, f, 2, LRC, Msw, 12-19, 6f, 1:10 . B-Edward Tannenbaum & Bud Petrick (CA.).
War Front--Preach (G1$304,656), by Mr. Prospector; PROFESS, f, 2, TP, Msw, 12-18, 6 1/2f, 1:20 . B-Claiborne Farm (KY.). *1/2 to Pulpit (MG2 $728,200).
Windsor Castle--Lil Soldier Girl by Castine; HERO OF WAR, c, 2, CT, Msw, 12-18, 4 1/2f, :52 4/5. B-Edward R. Krishack (WV.).
Affirmative--Warren's Gold by Touch Gold; WARRENS GOLDNUGGET, f, 3, LRC, Mcl 20000, 12-19, 1m, 1:36 3/5. B-Benjamin C Warren (CA.).
Aisle--Cape Cosmo by Cape Canaveral; SOUTH ANNA, f, 3, PEN, Mcl 7500, 12-18, 5 1/2f, 1:07 1/5. B-Robert Lloyd (PA.).
Domestic Dispute--Missjudging Amy by Judge T C; CANT PASS A TURTLE, f, 3, HAW, Mcl 7500, 12-19, 6f, 1:13 2/5. B-The Elkstone Group LLC (IN.).
Elusive Quality--Couture Cat by Storm Cat; RIBBON CUTTER, f, 3, CT, Msw, 12-18, 6 1/2f, 1:20 1/5. B-Darley (KY.). $35,000 2014 FTNOCT.
Sought After--Mama's Con by Restless Con; SCAMALOT, g, 3, LRL, Mcl 16000, 12-19, 6f, 1:12 . B-Geri Forrester (CA.).
Storm Dani--Dixie Dixie Dixie by Emerald Jig; ALE'S STORM, f, 3, SUN, Mcl 7500, 12-19, 5 1/2f, 1:05 . B-Tricar Stables Inc. (NM.).
Sweet Return (GB)--Langworthy by Langfuhr; SWEET MIRI, f, 3, GP, Mcl 20000, 12-19, 1mT, 1:36 3/5. B-Woodsfield Farm (FL.).
Tiznow--Seasn's Greetings (IRE) by Ezzoud (IRE); KATE GREENAWAY, f, 3, LRL, Msw, 12-19, 7f, 1:25 1/5. B-Darley (KY.). *1/2 to Grace Hall (G1 $1,546,360).
Candy Ride (ARG)--Christina Lake by Meadowlake; CARRYTHETEAM, g, 4, SUN, Mcl 7500, 12-19, 6 1/2f, 1:17 2/5. B-Glencrest Farm LLC (KY.). $175,000 '11 FTSAUG; $475,000 2012 FTFMAR.
Cherokee's Boy--Devoted Danzig by Conquistador Cielo; GITANO BOY, g, 5, CT, Mcl 5000, 12-18, 6 1/2f, 1:22 4/5. B-Michael L. Rife Sr. (WV.).
Not for Love--Nashly by Island Whirl; NASHLY LOVE, m, 5, CT, Mcl 5000, 12-18, 4 1/2f, :54 . B-Sondra D. & Howard M. Bender (MD.). *1/2 to Cruise Along (MSW $272,640).
War Eagle--Tcom's Best by Aggressive Bid; WAR DRAFT, m, 5, DED, Mcl 10000, 12-18, 7f, 1:31 . B-Phyllis Presswood & Dr. Edward Todd (LA.).

Features

HANDICAPPING INSIGHTS

DECEMBER 19, 2014

by Dick Powell

Late in life, I have become a soccer geek. It began about six years ago and many weekday afternoons I am watching Champions League soccer from Europe. At its highest level, it is an incredible sporting event and the intrigue surrounding the players and managers becomes addictive.

So last season, when Bob Baffert unveiled Bayern (Offlee Wild) in January, it caught my attention since Bayern Munich is the perennial champion of the German Soccer League (Bundesliga). When he beat Tap It Rich (Tapit) by 15 lengths in his second career start, he really caught my attention.

So Bayern went on to have a great year that culminated with his controversial win in the Breeders' Cup Classic, his second Grade 1 stakes win of the year. The day after the Classic, I was flying back to Saratoga and missed the unveiling of Dortmund (Big Brown) at Santa Anita.

Named after another Bundesliga team, Borussia Dortmund, Dortmund is owned by Bayern's owner, and soccer fan, Kaleem Shah, and he won his debut going 6 1/2 furlongs by 4 3/4 lengths when he stalked a fast pace and took over with ease.

Baffert next shipped him to Churchill Downs where he beat first-level allowance foes by almost eight lengths from post 12 in fast time. He covered the mile in 1:35.39 despite covering more ground than anyone in the field as Martin Garcia kept him wide and in the clear.

Dortmund earned a BRIS Speed rating of 98 and now he shows up for the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) going two turns at 1 1/16 miles on Saturday. Despite the lack of stakes credentials, he is the early favorite in many pools for the 2015 Kentucky Derby. He has unbelievable cruising speed and a potent late kick. When horses get better when asked to go longer, the sky is the limit and Dortmund's stakes debut is eagerly anticipated.

In Dortmund's way -- ironically on a track that both Baffert and D. Wayne Lukas cut their teeth in Quarter Horse racing -- is Lukas' Mr. Z (Malibu Moon). He loses more than he wins but he has run well going two turns with blinkers added. Lukas shipped him to Delta Downs where he just missed in the $1 million Delta Jackpot (G3).

Mr. Z only has one career win but he has four seconds against graded stakes company and could be tough here if Mike Smith sends him from the gate and tries to take advantage of a small field that seems to lack pace.

What a great classic season it could be next year if we have Lukas and Baffert on the road to the Derby and Kentucky Oaks.

*****

New York is on a well-earned break with no racing for 10 days. Racing will resume on the day after Christmas and hopefully we will see better field sizes.

Since the Inner Dirt Track opened on December 3, the average field size was 7.56. It is even worse when you break out the two-turn races from the sprints. In 45 races going two turns, the average field size was 7.27. In 55 sprint races, the average field size was 7.8. Not great either but better than the two-turn races.

There were a few off-the-turf races at the start of the meet so that hurt the two-turn numbers but not that much.

David Jacobson is the leading trainer with five wins. Todd Pletcher and Linda Rice have won four and Tom Albertrani, Charlton Baker, Eddie Kenneally, Gary Contessa, Gary Gullo, Kiaran McLaughlin and Michael Wilson have won three each.

McLaughlin's three wins all came last weekend. All were first-time starters. All were heavy favorites. Two were juveniles and one was a three-year-old. McLaughlin wins 14 percent with his debut runners and that percentage will go up. They all ran with Lasix since Darley owned the sophomore and they do not let their juveniles run with it.

Best of the bunch was Perchance (Distorted Humor). This juvenile filly was owned and bred by Stonestreet Stables and she faced 11 others in Sunday's 4TH race. She stalked a modest pace from the inside, swung out to challenge for the lead, then cruised home while being throttled down. Her final time of 1:14.18 was not much but she clearly had a lot left in the tank.

By Distorted Humor out of multiple Grade 1-winning sprinter Dream Rush (Wild Rush), she is a half-sister to Dreaming of Julia (A.P. Indy), who won the Frizette Stakes (G1) and Gulfstream Oaks (G2), and the exciting Atreides (Medaglia d'Oro), who is four-for-five and coming to a big race near you.

When Dreaming of Julia won the Gulfstream Oaks, she earned a BRIS Speed rating of 107 and, on many horse rating systems, it was the fastest race ever run. She won by 21 3/4 lengths and it was a monstrous performance that she was never able to repeat. But it showed an incredible amount of talent and if Perchance can show a fraction of her half-sister's ability, Stonestreet could have another good one on their hands.

HANDICAPPER'S EDGE is compiled by Bloodstock Research Information Services. This newsletter may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without the prior written permission of the copyright owner. Copyright 2011, Bloodstock Research Information Services. Information as to the races, race results and earnings was obtained from Equibase Company LLC and is utilized herein with the permission of the copyright owner, Equibase Company LLC.

Announcements

Help Wanted

A horse racing website is currently hiring for part-time positions as a Customer Service Representative in Lexington, Kentucky. Must be available nights and weekends. Some weekdays may also be available. Computer literacy required, horse racing knowledge and customer service experience a plus. To schedule an interview, email or send your résumé to the following: Nancy.Kanaval@brisnet.com, P.O. Box 4097, Lexington, KY 40544.