Saturday, October 2, 2010

Dream Ahead mile clear in Middle Park: Hooray confirms progression in Chevely Park

Before the third race at Newmarket on Friday, the going was officially changed to ‘soft.’ Hooray was dipping her toe in uncharted waters and trainer Sir Mark Prescott had doubts about his filly’s propensity to handle soft ground. Fans, however, were unwavering in their faith and Hooray was the best fancied in the 1200-meter Cheveley Park Stkes, a Group I Contest for freshman girls. The Sir Mark Prescott trainee,coming off a romp in Kempton's Sirenia Stakes, was the 7/2 favorite.

Seb Sanders got away well and in a matter of strides, Hooray established control. The margn widened as the race developed. Sanders had little or no work to do as Hooray went on to win by four and one half lengths in a time of 1 14.09 seconds. That was Hooray's fourth win in seven starts. Hooray is by Invincible Spirit out of Hypnotize who's by Machiavellian.

Natagora and Special Duty, winners of the Cheveley Park Stakes in recent years, have gone on to win the English 1000 Guineas the following year. Will Hooray follow in their footsteps? Sir Mark Precott tried to answer that question. "I did not think she would handle the ground. When they are useful as she is on fast ground, you worry. She has been improving. We stopped restraining her and let her go on. It has been the making of her. She was very impressive although I believe she will not be an effective miler," Sir Prescott averred.

Jockey Sanders expressed his opinion. "She is improving all the time. Her best performances have been on fast ground but she handled today's ground."

The other Group I race at Newmarket on Friday was the Shadwell Middle Park Stakes. It was a race over 1200 metres for two year-old (entire) colts. Dream Ahead, coming off a facile victory in the Prix Morny at rain-softened Deauville, was going for a hat trick and was the 5/4 favorite. William Buick had the David Simcock trainee held up in the rear of the eight-runner field. Strong Suit, Richard Hughes up, drew first blood as they raced into the dip. Dream Ahead was seen making quick headway. As the leader was sighted coming out of the dip, it was Dream Ahead who had said 'goodbye' to the field. Despite veering across the track,the Diktat colt won drawing away by nine lengths in 1 14.28 seconds.The time tells you how (very) soft the ground was. Strong Suit edged Approve for the runner-up berth. Land of Dreams (by Cadeaux Genereux) is the dam of Dream Ahead. The Middle Park win gave Dream Ahead a three for three career record.

The Racing Post called Dream Ahead's effort a 'barnstorming performance.' Dream Ahead was introduced to the 2000 Guineas market as a 4/1 chance. Trainer Simcock spoke about how much his colt loves soft ground. "He won't run with any 'firm' in the description this year. He is an exciting horse. It is very much a relief and we are lucky to find one like him."

Jockey Buick spoke. "He's an amazing horse. He gave me a feel that no other horse has ever given me.He will be hard to beat. Bring on next year," he exulted.

Here are tidbits that you should find interesting. Blame arrived in New York early Friday afternoon. He had a workout at Keeneland before being put on the plane.

Belmont Park cancelled Friday's card. Saturday's weather forecast is encouraging.

Grand Couturier has been retired. The son of Royal Lodge earned $1,449,701. He was a hard nut to crack on the grass. Trainer Robert Ribaudo talked about the physical problens that plagued his pupil. The announcement came on Thursday. Grand Couturier won the Grade I Sword Dancer Invitational in 2007 and 2008. He also won the 2008 edition of the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic.

In England on Friday, Richard Hughes won with Scottish Boggie, the 5/4 favorite, at Newmarket. Paul Hanaghan had one winner, the 11/8 favorite, Haylaman, at Wolverhampton. Hanaghan has a nine-win lead going into Saturday's races.

Maxime Guyon clicked with three winners at Saint Cloud on Friday. The going was extremely soft. Jockey Guyon won with Golden Lilac, the 4/5 favorite trained by Andre Fabre. The duo won again with the 59/10 Kreem. Guyon's third winner was the 23/10 favorite, trained by E Leenders. Guyon is among the leaders in the riding department in France.

Sha Tin had two big races on Saturday. Sacred Kingdom, a multiple Group winner, made a worthwhile addition to his tally. The ultra quick Sacred Kingdom landed the 1000-metre Grade III Sha Tin Sprint Trophy as the 9.4 favorite. The time was 55.95 seconds on the Sha Tin turf course. Brett Prebble rode for trainer P F Yiu.

The other event, the National Day Cup over 1400 metres (turf) was taken by Lucky Nine who was the 27/20 favorite. Caspar Fownes, who has strong India connections, trains Lucky Nine. It was another high profile win for jockey Brett Prebble.

In the next blog, we'll look at Saturday's Newmarket action. There are big fields and wide open races. Three races have 20 or more runners. The feature is the Group I Kingdom Of Bahrain Sun Chariot Stakes over 1600 metres for fillies and mares. The Cambridgeshire (Heritage Handicap) has 35 runners and it is a 1800-metre race.

Longchamp has four Group II races on Saturday. We will look at the results briefly. America has a boatload of stakes action.

Saturday at Longchamp was damp and discouraging and there was a 5000-strong crowd. The skies are clearing in Paris and the forecast calls for dry weather until late Sunday. The rainfall has been so heavy that the going is likely to be soft. The Arc is supposed to attract 50,000 fans. A large throng is expected from Ireland and England.

October 2, 2010

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Heavy rain in France and England as big races draw close: Freshman boys and girls hold center stage on Friday at Newmarket

Rain is dampening enthusiasm and causing drastic changes in the plans of big racing stables as major races are looming large in Europe. Newmarket has two Group I races, the Middle Park Stakes and the Cheveley Park stakes, that will be the co-features on Friday. There has been heavy rainfall and more rain is on the way.

Across the channel, rain is playing havoc in Paris. Doubts have been expressed about some well-backed contenders running at week’s end. The Arc on Sunday is likely to have 20 runners but there is every chance that a smaller field will go postward.

Here is news that is headline material. Goldikova may not run in Sunday’s Prix de la Foret. Freddie Head, Goldikova’s trainer, issued a statement on Thursday. “We’ll wait until the last possible moment. If it rains a lot, Goldikova won’t run in the Foret and she will go directly to the Breeders’ Cup Mile on November 6. The mare is in great form.”

Two high profile withdrawals were announced on Thursday. Snow Fairy, Ed Dunlop’s dual Oaks-winning filly, will not travel to the French capital. She was scheduled to go in the Prix de l’Opera. Trainer Dunlop cited deteriorating weather in Paris. Native Khan, the unbeaten (two starts) freshman, will not line up for the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere. Dunlop has said that Snow Fairy may take her chances in Newmarket’s Champion Stakes on October 16. Native Khan’s next target is either the Dewhurst Stakes or the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster.

There is one British contender for the Arc who has been given the green light. Workforce, a disappointment in the King George after a romp in the Epsom Derby, worked satisfactorily on Thursday at Newmarket and will be in Sunday’s Arc field. There was an immediate shake up in the Arc market.

Let us a take a look at Friday’s Newmarket plums. The third race is the 1200-metre Group I Cheveley Park Stakes. It is for freshman girls. Eleven run. Hooray looks for three wins in a row and is owned by the sponsors of the race. Although she needs to find more, Hooray has shown a progressive trend and may be able to manage the step-up. The soft going will have a big impact on several runners.

The fourth race is the Group I Shadwell Middle Park Stakes. It is also a 1200-metre contest for entire (freshman) colts. Dream Ahead is two for two in his career. After making a winning debut, Dream Ahead, trained by David Simcock, won the Group I Prix Morny at Deauville next time out. Soft going will help Dream Ahead’s cause. William Buick will ride Dream Ahead. Eight colts will go to the starting gate.

Blame faces seven rivals in the Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup to be run at Belmont Park (New York) on Saturday. Trainer Al Stall Jr, has exuded optimism about his trainee and is using Saturday’s race as the prep for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Blame seeks his sixth consecutive win. The Stephen Foster and the Whitney are Grade I races that Blame has won this year.

Racing at Belmont Park on Thursday was cancelled because of heavy rain. The flight bringing Blame to New York from Kentucky was cancelled as well. The flight has been scheduled for early Friday. Paddy O’Prado, favorite in the Grade I Hirsch Turf Classic, will travel in the same plane. There are three other Grade I races on Saturday. Females will go on the turf in the Flower Bowl. Then there is the Beldame for fillies and mares on the dirt. Finally, the Vosburgh over 1400 metres on the dirt will also be run. There are eleven races on Saturday at Belmont Park. Dry weather is forecast for Saturday.

Fly Down, Mythical Power, Tranquil Manner, Dry Martini, Haynesfield, Hold Me Back and Rail Trip will oppose Blame in the Gold Cup to be run over 2000 metres. This is the first time that Blame will run over 2000 metres.

Hoosier Park hosts the Grade II $500,000 Indiana Derby on Saturday. Hoosier Park is in Anderson, Indiana and is a three-hour drive from Chicago. Looking At Lucky takes on eight sophomores in the 1700-metre test on the dirt. A Bob Baffert trainee, Looking At Lucky won the Preakness in May and the Haskell Invitational in early August. Martin Garcia comes in from southern California to ride. Despite missing a month of training owing to an illness, Looking At Lucky has had four workouts since September 8.

Also on tap on Saturday at Hoosier Park is the Grade II $200,000 Indiana Oaks. There are other big prizes in that Hoosier Park card.

Now we come to Zenyatta. The Street Cry mare is heavily favored to win the Grade I Lady’s Secret on Saturday at Hollywood Park. She is 18 for 18 and a victory on Saturday will put her on par with Pepper’s Pride who retired with a 19 for 19 record. Zenyatta faces five adversaries.

Jockey Mike Smith talked about Zenyatta getting good this time of year. “She seems to get good at this time of year the last few years, The way she is going, she seems like she can do it again this year.”

Trainer John Shirreffs said, “she has been so consistent all the time. She has been the same all year long. It is unbelievable.”

There are 10 races at Hollywood Park. There are three other Grade I races. You have the Norfolk Stakes for freshmen. There is the Yellow Ribbon on the turf for distaffers. Goodwood Stakes, for three year-olds and up, will also be showcased.

Here is an update on the English riding title. Paul Hanaghan won with Heartbreak, a 3/1 chance trained by Richard Fahey, at Ayr. Richard Hughes rode two winners at Kempton for Jeremy Noseda. It was a twilight meeting. Hughes scored with Zip Lock, the 10/11 chalk and with Illustrious Prince, a 4/1 chance. Hanaghan leads Hughes 162-153.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Frankel atop freshman division in England: Hughes in striking range of Hanaghan in English jockeys' race

Here is an update on the jockeys’ title race in England. Richard Hughes rode at Salisbury on Wednesday. He had a book of excellent rides and was able to connect with three winners. One of the winners came in a match race. It was a 23-1 treble and Hughes now trails Paul Hanaghan by 10 winners, 151-161.

Jockey Hughes is getting a large number of live horses and there’s every reason to think he can catch Paul Hanaghan. Hughes has to serve a day’s ban on October 12. The English flat season runs until Saturday, November 6, 2010. The last meeting will be held at Doncaster.

“I would have been gutted if I had not ridden three winners as I came to the course with some really good rides. It is obviously important to keep myself rolling in the right direction and a treble helps to do that,” said Hughes referring to the title race.

Stan James, a bookmaking outfit, offers 8/15 on Paul Hanaghan, 11/8 on Richard Hughes and 13/8 on Ryan Moore.

We will turn our attention to Frankel who is all the rage in the ante post market for the 2011 English Guineas and the Epsom Derby. Frankel hails from Sir Henry Cecil’s yard and is the property of Khalid Abdullah who won the 2010 Epsom showpiece with Workforce. A Galileo colt out of Kind by Danehill, Frankel made a winning debut on August 13 in a 1600-metre race at Newmarket. The going was soft and Frankel was the 7/4 favorite. With only two adversaries next time out at Doncaster on September 10, Frankel made no mistake as the half money choice. The going was good and the race was over 1400 metres. The third race was the Group II 1600-metre Royal Lodge Stakes at Ascot last Saturday. Only five freshmen answered the starter’s call and the Henry Cecil trainee, ridden by Tom Queally, was the 3/10 favorite. Jockey Queally had Frankel held up and let the colt loose with about 400 metres out. Frankel swept into the lead and the winning margin was 10 lengths. The time was 1 41.73 seconds.

Sir Cecil spoke, “he was very impressive. He has been ticking all the right boxes. In the last two months, he has started to improve, improve and improve. He has a lot of talent. I do not think I’ve had a better two year-old since Wollow and that is nearly 40 years ago.”

Benny The Dip was the last horse to win the Royal Lodge and the Epsom Derby. Reaction from the bookmakers was swift. William Hill made a 2/1 offer on Frankel for the 2000 Guineas and gave a 5/2 quote for the Derby. The Guineas is seven months away and the Derby is eight months down the line. Is Frankel that good?

The peerless Cecil responded. “I do not believe in ante post and do not encourage it. A lot of things can happen between now and then. I’m not sure if Frankel will stay the Derby distance. Kind, Frankel’s dam, is a fast mare and you know, female is the dominant sex. He has class and he is, I have no doubt, a Guineas horse.”

The Dewhurst Stakes and/or the Racing Post Trophy are two options that are being considered for Frankel’s last start as a freshman. Let me point out that Frankel refers to Robert Frankel, the California training icon who passed away recently. Bobby Frankel trained for Khalid Abdullah in America. Mr Abdullah named his colt after Bobby Frankel.

A colt I fell in love with but could not cash a ticket on during some of my trips to Europe has been retired. Now five, Tartan Bearer, a son of Spectrum and a pupil of Sir Michael Stoute, will be sent to the breeding shed. Tartan Bearer was owned by Ballymacoll Stud. He had lifetime earnings of 843,787 pounds. A full brother to Golan who was second to Galileo in the 2001 Epsom Derby after winning the 2000 Guineas, Tartan Bearer was also the bridesmaid to New Approach in the 2008 Derby.

The 11/10 favorite in the Irish Derby at the Curragh, Tartan Bearer, Ryan Moore up, was seriously interfered with by a trio from Aidan O’Brien’s yard and took third. Tartan Bearer was the last part in my three-horse parlay. The other two won. In 2009, Tartan Bearer was my strong choice in the Prince of Wales Stakes. Moore rallied but could not catch the Olivier Peslier-ridden Vision d’Etat. Tartan Bearer was second to Conduit in the 2009 King George.

We will take a look at a filly who won the Group II John Guest Diadem Stakes over 1200 metres at Ascot last Sunday. The Brian Meehan-trained sophomore was, at one time, a prominent prospect for the English 2000 Guineas after showing promise in her freshman campaign. Lady of the Desert won the Diadem Stakes going away. The margin was two and one quarter lengths. And the time was 1 14.13 on good to soft going. Sunday was a cold, damp day at Berkshire. Richard Hughes was aboard the Rahy filly who is out of Queen’s Logic by Grand Lodge. I must point out that it was the first time jockey Hughes rode the filly. Lady of the Desert was coming off a second place effort in Haydock’s Betfred Sprint Cup on September 4. Her last win came on August 20, 2009, in the Group II Lowther Stakes at York.

Trainer Meehan expressed delight. “I’m really pleased with her. She is a wonderful filly and has been throughout. We thought she had a big chance in the spring races. Things did not quite work out and she has come back as good as ever.”

Kieren Fallon received a two-day ban for his ride on Klammer in the Royal Lodge. The Irish reinsman is having an extremely productive season in England.

A paragraph on the Grade II (one million dollars) Pennsylvania Derby run last Saturday at Philadelphia Park. Morning Line, a 38/10 chance, beat First Dude in a tight finish. A close up third was A Little Warm. John Velasquez rode the Nick Zito-trained Morning Line. The Pennsylvania Derby was over 1800 metres on the main dirt track. Morning Line is by Tiznow out of Indian Snow who’s by A P Indy.

Trainer Zito said, “It is gratifying. I was so close in many of these big races. I’m human. This makes up for several losses.”

Blind Luck heads a five-filly field in Philadelphia Park’s $750,000 Fitz Dixon Cotillion. It is a 1700-metre race to be run on Saturday. Joel Rosario rides Blind Luck whose key foe is Havre De Grace. Jeremy Rose will be on Havre De Grace who has lost two photo verdicts to Blind Luck this year.

Blame heads the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park on Saturday. It is a 2000-metre race. There are other Grade I races on that day at Belmont Park.

Newmarket hosts the Bahrain Sun Chariot stakes on Saturday. Traditionally, the Sun Chariot is simulcast in France and bets taken. The Cesarewitch is also scheduled on the same day at the Cambridge venue.

Longchamp has four Group II races on Saturday. There are seven Group I contests, including the Arc de Triomphe, on Sunday. Post time for the Arc is 4 05 PM (Paris time) and 7 35 PM Indian standard time. Sunday’s last race is the Prix de l’Abbaye which will be run on a straight 1000-metre course.

I have received several messages about my illness. I am grateful. The treatment is on-going. I am feeling better.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Rachel Alexandra retired: Twenty six left at first stage for Sunday's Arc

Twenty six horses were left in the preliminary confirmation stage for the Arc de Triomphe to be run at Longchamp on Sunday. The Arc field is limited to 20 runners. Lope de Vega, it has been reported, will be supplemented at a cost of 100,000 euros. The Arc carries a four million-dollar purse. Aidan O’Brien has seven runners. Fame and Glory and Cape Blanco head the Coolmore challenge. John Murtagh rides Fame And Glory and Christophe Soumillon will be aboard Cape Blanco. Bekhabad, owned by the Aga Khan and the Prix Niel winner, is the general 3/1 favorite. Christophe Lemaire, yet to win Europe’s most prestigious contest, took Bekhabad over Sarafina, the filly also owned by the Aga Khan. Gerald Mosse rides Sarafina who comes off a third place finish in the Prix Vermeille. Planteur has suffered two narrow losses at the hands of Bekhabad and will take his chances. Trainer Lellouche has expressed optimism about Planteur’s chances.

There has been rain in Paris since Sunday. More rain is forecast for Thursday and Friday. It is believed that the going will be soft on Saturday and Sunday. It is a two day meeting. Longchamp is a right handed course. From any part of Paris, there are convenient train and bus connections to Longchamp. Special buses (no fare) run from two prominent train stations to the course. France Galop, French racing’s administrative body, runs the meeting.

Here is news that is only hours old. Rachel Alexandra has been retired. At three, Rachel Alexandra won all her eight starts. In 2010, the Steve Asmussen-trained four year-old, could only win two of five starts. Her latest loss came in Saratoga’s Personal Ensign Stakes in which Persistently beat Rachel in decisive fashion. Calvin Borel was Rachel’s partner. Borel and I were at Los Angeles airport catching the same plane on the evening of the Breeders’ Cup (Saturday) last year. Borel told me that Rachel Alexandra will beat Zenyatta anywhere anytime. We never got to test jockey Borel’s assertion.

In recent days, Rachel Alexandra has been turning in smart times in her workouts. However, late afternoon on Tuesday, Jess Jackson, primary owner, issued a statement. “As you know, despite top training and a patient campaign, she did not return to her 2009 form. I believe it’s time to retire our champion and reward her with a less stressful life. She will be bred to Curlin next year.”

Trainer Steve Asmussen took over Rachel’s training after her romp in the Kentucky Oaks. He spoke, “I’ve been blessed to have been part of history. We are all fortunate that she carried the banner following Curlin’s amazing success story. She had the most fluid and beautiful stride of any horse I have ever seen.”

By Medaglia d’Oro (El Prado) out of Lotta Kim by Roar, Rachel Alexandra won 13 times and was second five times from 19 starts. She earned $3,506,730.

Secretariat won the Triple Crown in 1973 and made the cover of Time magazine. In 1977, Seattle Slew, who could have been bought for $17,500, swept the three big races. Affirmed, in the hands of the incomparable Steve Cauthen, accomplished the feat in 1978. Alydar was the bridesmaid and his duel with Affirmed in the Belmont Stakes (Affirmed won by the proverbial whisker) is a story one never gets tired of listening to. We move the clock to 1998. Real Quiet, a Bob Baffert pupil, won the Kentucky Derby beating Victory Gallop. The result was repeated in Pimlico’s Preakness Stakes. Real Quiet, Kent Desormeaux up, hit the front and looked like a winner 200 metres out in the Belmont Stakes. The record books were awaiting a new entrant but it was not to be. Chris McCarron inspired an incredible finishing burst out of Victory Gallop who caught Real Quiet in the last stride. If I talk of a bittersweet victory, that was it. Real Quiet was voted the top sophomore in 1998.

Real Quiet died on Monday. The 15 year-old, according to reports, fell and suffered fractured vertebrae. It was an accident in the paddock at the Penn Ridge Farm in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. At two, Real Quiet won the Grade I Hollywood Futurity serving notice of his future greatness. Real Quiet was by Quiet American out of Really Blue by Believe It.

Joseph Talamo will resume race riding when the Oak Tree meeting opens at Hollywood Park on Thursday. The 20 year-old broke his wrist in a fall at Del Mar a month and a half ago. “They said it was a good break. It was not displaced. A cast was put on it. I have turned into a biology major, “ Talamo joked.

Apart , a 23/10 chance in the Super Derby at Louisiana Downs last Saturday, came through with a strong off-the-pace rush. Jesse Campbell rode for trainer Albert Stall Jr. The Grade II $500,000 race over 1800 metres (dirt) was run in 1 52.31 seconds. Apart was coming off a victory in the Super Derby Prelude on August 28 at Louisiana Downs. Trainer Stall also conditions Blame who is getting ready for a tilt at Belmont’s Jockey Club Gold Cup. Apart is by Flatter who is a son of A P Indy.

Trainer Stall was thrilled. “When he (Apart) broke maiden at Chirchill, I thought that he was Super Derby material. He has justified my expectation.”

The last Group I race in Germany was run on Sunday. Olivier Peslier flew to Cologne from Paris to partner the Andreas Wohler-trained Scalo in the 2400-metre Preis Von Europa. The air dash proved productive. Scalo was held up and outpaced Night Magic, the 16/10 favorite. Eight ran and Scalo timed 2 34.53 seconds on a soft course. Scalo, a 11/5 chance, was getting an encore. He was victorious in the Prix Guillaume d’Ornano at Deauville. Scalo is by Lando out of Sky Dancing who’s by Exit To Nowhere.

Trainer Wohler commented. “We always had the utmost confidence in this horse. He just ran two bad races this summer and we don’t know why. He proved today that he’s Germany’s top three year-old.”

There are three horses who won at week’s end. I will comment on one of them, Casamento. The other two, Lady of the Desert and Frankel, will be mentioned in the next blog.

A Mick Halford trainee, Casamento, owned by Sheikh Mohammed, made a winning debut. The second race was the National Stakes. Pathfork (rated the top freshman in Ireland this year) beat Casamento in a photo. Pat Smullen was aboard Casamento in Sunday’s Group II Beresford Stakes, a 1600-metre race at the Curragh. Seven freshmen went postward and Casamento was the 66/100 favorite. Casamento tracked the pacemaker and cruised up to take the lead in the lane and drew off to win by four lengths. The time was 1 43.52 on yielding to soft going. It was a bright and sunny day in Kildare County but there had been heavy rainfall in the hours preceding racing. Casamento was supplemented to the Beresford after his photo loss to Pathfork. Casamento got a 16/1 quote for the 2011 English 2000 Guineas.

Casamento is by Shamardal, the 2005 French Derby and the St James Palace Stakes winner. The dam is Wedding Gift.

Trainer Halford thought aloud. “Pat (Smullen) said that when he (Casamento) got the lead, he was idling. He’s still a big baby but it was important that he did everything right. I would not worry about him getting another two furlongs as he has still a bit of furnishing to do and he goes asleep in his races.”

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sunday, September 26, 2010

It is deja vu for Frankie Dettori: it is a quadruple for the Italian maestro at Ascot

It was in 1996 that Frankie Dettori had seven mounts at Ascot on Queen Elizabeth II day. Traditionally, this 1600-metre Group I contest is run on the last Saturday in September. Fourteen years ago, jockey Dettori won all the seven races. The Dettori bandwagon cost the British bookmakers dearly, a blow from which they took an inordinately long time to recover. Tsunami struck again on Saturday, September 25, 2010 at the Berkshire-based venue.

Racing began on a positive note for the layers as a longshot won the curtain raiser. Long Lashes, Dettori’s ride and a 11/2 chance, finished twelfth. Frankel, a Henry Cecil trainee, won the second race, the Group II Royal Lodge Stakes. The third race was the Group I Meon Valley Stud Fillies’ Mile for freshmen. White Moonshine, a Godolphin-owned and Saeed bin Suroor-trained filly, came with a fluent run from the rear of the five-filly field to win despite drifting to the right in the waning yards. The Dynaformer (out of Desert Gold by Seeking The Gold) filly was the 4/5 favorite and was winning her fourth consecutive race. The time was 1 42.75 on a good to soft Ascot course.

White Moonshine broke her duck at Ascot on July 23 when winning a 1200-metre maiden event as a 15/2 chance. Then came a Group III victory at Newmarket on August 7 in a 1400-metre race and she was the 11/4 second choice. The third win came at Doncaster on September 10 in a 1600-metre Group II race. White Moonshine was the 8/11 chalk.

Jockey Dettori had steered the David Nicholls-trained Redford to an easy win in the Ayr Gold Cup on September 18. Redford, a five year-old gelding by Bahri, was a 14/1 chance at Ayr in the 26-runner field. The Ayr Gold Cup was over 1200 metres and Redford was back at Ascot on Saturday seeking an encore. The Nicholls pupil was the 7/1 favorite in the 28-runner field that went to post in the 1400-metre Challenge Cup. Dettori was continuing the partnership. The field raced in three groups and Redford was the fastest when it mattered. Dettori produced the favorite with 200 metres left and the race was put to bed in a matter of moments. Redford won by a length and three quarters and timed 1 28.26 seconds.

Then came the QE II Cup. Makfi, the English 2000 Guineas hero and the conqueror of the mighty Goldikova in Deauville’s Jacques le Marois, was all the rage. On the High Street, Makfi was the 10/11 choice but minutes before the race, the odds drifted to 11/10. How does a fan interpret such a drift? Many consider it a negative but there are others believe that an opportunity is being presented. In the2007 QE II Stakes, Ramonti started at 5/2 and was at 9/2 when horses were being loaded. That is why racing and betting are such logic-defying endeavors. Ramonti won giving Dettori his fourth QE II winner.

Air Chief Marshal, a 66/1 outsider, set out on a fast gallop with Jamie Spencer. Rip Van Winkle, John Murtagh up, left alertly to track the leader. Aidan O’Brien had three runners. Makfi lay fourth. Dettori got away well and had Poet’s Voice switched off. Rip Van Winkle was the first to commit and raced past his stablemate to wrest the lead. Much to the chagrin of the favorite’s followers, Makfi was not responding to Christophe Soumillon’s call. Poet’s Voice began making headway on the outside. Red Jazz, prominent all the way, was tugging at Rip Van Winkle’s heels. It became clear that the Ballydoyle torchbearer would keep Red Jazz, a 40/1 longshot, at bay. Poet’s Voice had five, may be, six lengths to find with less than 400 metres to run. Dettori put the pedal down and the Dubawi colt began his rally. Rip Van Winkle had a cushion that seemed insurmountable and jockey Murtagh was driving hard as the line loomed large. Poet’s Voice was coming on. The two were locked together as they flashed past the post. Dettori raised his whip in exhultation but it was too close to call. The magic eye revealed that the Suroor trainee had denied Rip Van Winkle an encore in the QE II Stakes.

The margin was a nose and the time was 1 39.76 seconds. Poet’s Voice was a 9/2 chance. Half a length away in third was Red Jazz. Makfi was fifth of eight runners. By Dubawi out of Bright Tiara by Chief’s Crown, Poet’s Voice was coming off an easy win in the four-runner Group II Celebration Mile at Goodwood on August 28. Poet’s Voice is a three year-old colt and was providing Dettori with his fifth QE II Stakes win.

The QE II Stakes was followed by a Listed race over 1400 metres. Rainfall, trained by Mark Johnston, was taking a class drop and made the most of it by winning the race as the 7/4 favorite. The three year-old Oasis Dream made it a quadruple for Frankie Dettori.

Saturday’s finale at Ascot was the 3200-metre Gordon Carter Handicap. Ian Mongan rode Ermyn Lodge to an upset victory over Desert Recluse. Aaim To Prosper, the 11/4 favorite, was ridden by Dettori and salvaged minor honors. The margins were one half length and another one half length.

Frankie Dettori gave an interview. “It has been a supersonic day, fantastic. An unbelievable day. I always ask myself if I can do it again but to ride four winners is tremendous, especially the big ones,” he stated.

Yes, Dettori cornered all the glory but trainer Suroor did have his moment in the sun. He saddled three winners including the two Group I contests. Saturday’s four-bagger took Dettori’s tally to 103 wins for the 2010 season. All the winners of the three big races, the Royal Lodge, Fillies’ Mile and the QE II Stakes, will get starting berths in corresponding Breeders’ Cup races.

The bookmakers have estimated their damage on Saturday and it is in the five million-pound range. Aaim To Prosper’s loss in the finale was a silver lining in an otherwise cloud. I want to point out that Dettori is very popular in England. At Ascot, especially, thousands go to wager on Dettori’s rides.

I have seen in Racing Pulse that Colm O’Donoghue may be in India to ride for Dr MAM. I will call Colm in a day or two and find out.

However, Colm connected with two winners on Sunday at the Curragh. He was aboard the 16/1 Stage Master, trained by David Wachman, who won a 21-runner maiden race. Stage Master won in a photo. Colm’s other winner was the Aidan O’Brien-schooled Bright Horizon who, at 14/1, was a laughing five and one half length winner of a 3200-metre contest that had 23 runners.

Niall McCullagh has been an India regular for as long as I can remember. The amiable McCullagh had lady luck smile on him at week’s end. At Gowran Park on Saturday, Niall won with Shareen, a 9/1 chance. It was a 1900-metre Group II race for distaffers. Sharren, trained by John Oxx and owned by the Aga Khan, narrowly beat She’s Our Mark, the 7/4 chalk, ridden by Danny Grant. On Sunday at the Curragh, Niall won again. He was on the 20/1 That’s A Fret who won a 1200-metre handicap by a long neck. I will talk to Niall soon and ask him about his India plans.

A note about trainer Aidan O’Brien. When Cape Blance won York’s Dante Stakes in mid-May, O’Brien, not present at York, did not permit his deputies to appear before the stewards to answer questions about Cape Blanco’s possible lameness. That enquiry is pending before the British Horseracing Authority. On Saturday at Ascot, O’Brien had another incident that put him in bad light. There were three O’Brien runners in the QE II Cup. In the post parade, the program (number) order was observed but when the horses came out on the course, Rip Van Winkle followed his stablemates which is an egregious violation of English racing protocol. Trainer O’Brien did nlot contest the charge. The Ascot stewards fined O’Brien 1000 pounds. The British stewards are equal opportunity judges, don’t you think?

Chicago, September 26, 2010

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Will not be writing a blog for the next several days

I have not written a blog since Wednesday September 15, 2010.
I will not be writing for another three or four days.
A medical problem has been haunting me and I am taking care of it.
It is serious enough to deserve my exclusive focus.
Thank you
Tom Krish

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Bekhabad atop Arc pecking order: Peslier steers Sans Frontieres to Irish Field St Leger victory: Pathfork blazes new trail in freshman season in Ireland

There was a Group I race at Longchamp on Sunday. It was Prix Vermeille for fillies and mares. Twelve distaffers answered the starter’s call in the 2400-metre contest. Khalid Abdullah’s Midday won with a measure of comfort and the Oasis Dream filly was the 9/4 favorite. It was the fifth Group I victory for the Henry Cecil-trained four year-old. Jockey Tom Queally continued the partnership. Midday ran the 2400 metres in 2 32.4 on rain-softened grass. Plumania was second and the hitherto unbeaten Sarafina salvaged third. Midday’s form impressed the bookmaking fraternity so much that she was installed the even money favorite to get an encore in the Breeders’ Cup Filly-Mare Turf in November at Churchill Downs. Midday is out of Midsummer who’s by Kingmambo.

Sir Cecil explained his thinking. “I really needed to get another run into her to get ready for the Breeders’ Cup. I love the Arc but the Breeders’ Cup is her race. She did it nicely today, she only does enough.”

Jockey Queally expressed high optimism about the trip to Churchill Downs. “She ticks more boxes this year and if she turns up in America like this, I think she can win again.”

Midday was not the only filly to hit the headlines. Sariska was also part of the main story. She came under starter’s orders but planted when the gates sprung open. It was déjà vu for the Michael Bell-trained Sariska who had refused to race in the Yorkshire Oaks on August 19. It was double frustration for Sariska’s connections and the decision to retire her was not a hard one to make.

Trainer Bell, in a conversation with me on Million day at Arlington Park, had expressed the hope that his filly’s antics will not be repeated. Bell did not conceal his disappointment although he spoke about what the dual Oaks-winning filly had accomplished. “It has been a great journey but that’s the end of the road. We have done everything we could and she did not come out. So enough is enough.”

The 20009 Epsom Oaks left an indelible mark on my memory. In a stretch-long duel, Sariska and Jamie Spencer beat Midday and Tom Queally in a photo finish. There was a long inquiry and the result stood. The press conference in the Queen’s Stand was held up until the result was declared official. It was vintage Spencer.

Also in Sunday’s Longchamp card was the Group II Prix Niel, a traditional Arc trial, the importance of which has risen dramatically in recent years. Until Sunday, Aidan O’Brien’s Fame And Glory had been atop the pecking order in the Arc market. Sunday’s Prix Niel put a French runner at the head of the betting. Aga Khan’s Bekhabad was the 11/8 favorite to deliver the goods in the Prix Niel. Seven runners went postward in the 2400-metre race. Bekhabad and Christophe Lemaire needed every inch to get the better of Planteur in the waning yards. Vivre Libre, a 55/1 chance, set the pace with Samuel Fargeat. Planteur tracked the leader and hit the front in the lane and was immediately challenged by Bekhabad. In a ding dong battle, Bekhabad managed to get his head in front. The race was run in 2 30.8 seconds.

Bekhabad was made the 7/2 favorite for the Arc by the British and Irish bookmakers. Planteur was made a 6/1 chance. On July 14, Bastille Day, in Longchamp’s Juddmonte Grand Prix de Paris, Bekhabad beat Planteur narrowly. The betting reflects the fact that Bekhabad has been the better of the two in two meetings. Bekhabad is by Cape Cross out of Behkara by Kris. Sinndar and Dalakhani, carrying the Aga Khan colors, won the Niel and the Arc in 2000 and 2003.

“He’s (Bekhabad) a nice horse and he will improve for this. In principle, both Bekhabad and Sarafina will run in the Arc, as at this stage of the season, it is not a problem to run a filly against the colts,” the Aga Khan commented.

Trainer Jean Claude Rouget was thrilled. “Everything went according to plan. He won well. He is a brave and a very good horse. This was only a comeback race and he will be spot on for the Arc.”

A two year-old in Ireland, Path fork, has gone to the top of the charts with a win in the Group I Vincent O’Brien National Stakes on Sunday at the Curragh. Jessica Harrington trains Pathfork, by Distorted Humor out of Visions of Clarity who is by Saddler’s Wells, and won her first Group I race. It was also the first win for jockey Fran Berry at the highest level. Casamento fought a valiant duel down the stretch to lose in a photo. Zoffany, the Ballydoyle runner, did not like the soft underfoot conditions and finished a non-threatening third. Pathfork ran 1400 metres in 1 27.95 and is now three for three lifetime.

Trainer Jessica Harrington said, “Fran (Berry) said he had to be very tough on him (Pathfork) as he did not like the ground. Pure class got him there. The real panic was that he was in front for so long.”

Olivier Peslier added a Group I race to his list of achievements with a well-judged ride on Sans Frontieres in the Irish Field St Leger at the Curragh on Saturday. Jeremy Noseda trains Sans Frontieres who ran the 2800-metre race in 3 10.36 seconds. There was rain all afternoon and the grass was very soft. Sans Frontieres was the 13/8 favorite in the eight-horse field.

Jockey Peslier had his mount held up and waited as long as he could. Just doing enough to get past Profound Beauty and Pat Smullen, Sans Frontieres was full of running at the end. By Galileo, out of Lila by Shirley Heights, the Jeremy Noseda pupil gave every impression that he will be a worthy contender in the 3200-metre Melbourne Cup in early November. However, the Australian handicapper has given Sans Frontieres a penalty and that has prompted second thoughts about the trip to Melbourne.

“The trainer said to relax the horse and come late with your run. He did not like the ground but he did it well,” Olivier Peslier said.

On Sunday at the Curragh, there was a race of some consequence. It was the Group II Blandford Stakes over 2000 metres for fillies and mares. Eleanora Duse, trained by Michael Stoute and ridden by Ryan Moore, was the 3/1 favorite. An Azamour filly, Eleanora Duse nosed out She’s Our Mark. Dan Grant was aboard She’s Our Mark. A three year-old filly, Eleanora Duse was third behind Midday in the Yorkshire Oaks in her last appearance.

Doncaster on Saturday hosted the Group II Champagne Stakes. Saamidd was the 5/6 favorite and toyed with his rivals. Coming off a seven-length win in his debut, Godolphin-owned Saamidd was so impressive in the Champagne Stakes that the bookmakers offered a quote of 8/1 for the 2011 English Guineas. It was the second win for trainer Suroor in the Champagne Stakes. His Poet’s Voice won in 2009.

Approve, winner of the Norfolk and Gimcrack Stakes, was the bridesmaid. It has been reported that Saamidd will be supplemented to the Dewhurst Stakes.

Winning jockey Frankie Dettori spoke. “For his only second start to beat the Gimcrack winner cannot be bad. Very exciting. I liked him when I sat on him the first time. I have always rated him very special.”

At Hanshin in Japan on Sunday, Dasher Go Go beat Green Birdie in the Grade II Centaur Stakes. It was a 1200-metre race on the grass. It was the first leg of the Global Sprint Challenge.

There is news about Super Saver. The Kentucky Derby winner has been a disappointment in his subsequent races. Scans have shown cannon bone bruising in all four legs. Todd Pletcher expressed relief. “This explains a lot. I could not understand those last few efforts. He is gutsy. This takes care of a lot of head-scratching.”

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Gosden and Buick win three Group races in three days: Arctic Cosmos shocks English St Leger field

The John Gosden-William Buick combine won three Group races at week’s end. The precocious Buick was aboard Samuel on Friday in the Group II Doncaster Cup. It was a race over 3600 metres. The going was good and Samuel, a six year-old gelding, won from Tastahil and Motrice. Ten ran and Samuel, a 5/1 chance, clocked 3 52.99 seconds. Askar Tau, the 2009 winner, ran seventh.

Samuel is by Sakhee out of Dolores who’s by Danehill. The Doncaster Cup was Samuel’s second career victory. The Gosden pupil broke the duck at York in May 2008 in a listed race when in the care of J L Dunlop. Eddie Ahern rode. Gosden has said that the Prix du Cadran at Longchamp on Arc day is the next race for Samuel.

We will continue with the Gosden-Buick story. It is now Saturday at Town Moor (nickname for Doncaster) and the feature race is the St Leger, England’s oldest classic. It was the 234th edition of the 2900-metre race. Frankie Dettori, attempting to win his sixth St Leger, was on Rewilding, the Godolphin-owned sophomore, who was the even money favorite. Trainer Mahmood Al Zarooni, now part of the Godolphin empire, was seeking his first Classic win. As Rewilding, to the dismay of the fans, failed to fire and was beaten a long way from home, it was left to Arctic Cosmos, from John Gosden’s yard, who raised his game to give jockey Buick his first win in an English Classic. It was Gosden’s third victory in the St Leger. He won with Shantou in 1996 and with Lucarno in 2007.

Corsica set a fast pace. Total Command, Midas Touch and Arctic Cosmos raced in striking range. Rewilding was held up and Snow Fairy, Eddie Ahern up, was also kept way off the vanguard. As Corsica began to weaken, Arctic Cosmos took command inside the last 300 metres. Midas Touch was produced by Colm O’Donoghue. Corsica was staying on. Rewilding and Snow Fairy were beaten. Arctic Cosmos, with blinkers for the first time, ran on to win by a length and three quarters. The time was 3 3.12 seconds. The winner’s share of the purse was 283,850 pounds. Midas Touch took the runner-up berth and Corsica kept third. Arctic Cosmos, a 12/1 chance, is a son of North Light, winner of the 2004 Epsom Derby. The dam is Fifth Avenue Doll who is by Marquetry. It was only the third career win for Arctic Cosmos. Consider this-the two prior wins came on all weather surfaces at Kempton and Wolverhampton.

Jockey Buick spoke. “Winning a Classic is something special. He (Arctic Cosmos) was straight forward, he broke well and traveled well. The pace was good and he quickened when I asked him.”

Trainer Gosden talked about fulfilling a dream. “We always thought he was a St Leger horse and our dreams have come true. I tell you what, he won like a good un.”

The Arc de Triomphe now beckons for Arctic Cosmos who was introduced to the market by Paddy Power, the Irish bookmaking behemoth. An offer of 10/1 was made.

We move the clock 24 hours and the scene is the rain-soaked Longchamp in Paris. Sunday was ‘Arc trial’ day at the famous French racing venue. We will restrict our focus on the Grade II Prix Foy over one mile three furlongs and 204 yards. There were only six runners. Daryakana and Byword attracted the most support. Why are we looking at the Prix Foy? When the mud stopped flying, it was Duncan, a 10/1 chance, ridden by Buick and trained by Gosden, who had made it all. Timos headed Duncan for a moment but the latter reasserted himself and held Nakayama Festa, a Japanese runner, who found his best stride late. Duncan won by three parts of a length in 2 35.9 seconds.

Duncan is by Dalakhani out of Dolores by Danehill. Samuel, winner of the Doncaster Cup, is out of Dolores by Danehill. Dalakhani won the French Derby in 2003, was second to Alamshaar, another Aga Khan-owned colt, in the Irish Derby and ended his career by winning the Arc as the 7/5 favorite. Christophe Soumillon was the winning jockey. Duncan came off a fourth place finish in Goodwood’s Group III Coutts Glorious Stakes on July 30. The start before, Duncan was the bridesmaid to Harbinger in Royal Ascot’s Hardwicke Stakes.

John Gosden thought aloud. “English horses always have to make the running over here. He (Duncan) was genuine and when the Japanese horse came to him, he fought him off. He has won a trial and deserves a spot in the Arc but that will be a different ballgame.”

The Prix Foy was Byword’s first race over 2400 metres. The Prince of Wales winner was all at sea on the soft grass. Daryakana was not comfortable either on the rain-softened ground.

On Saturday at Doncaster, the Group II Eddie Stobart Park Stakes was taken by Balthazaar’s Gift. The Clive Cox trainee was ridden by Philip Robinson. Balthazaar’s Gift won by three parts of a length and ran the 1400-metre race in 1 24.3 seconds. Balthazaar’s Gift’s sire is Xaar. The dam is That’s Your Opinion who is by Last Tycoon.

Jockey Robinson explained. “Everything has got to drop right for him and it did today. He’s a Group I horse on his day.”

Tomorrow, we will look at what happened in the Curragh on Saturday. There were two more Group races at Longchamp on Sunday and we will see who won.

It has been a busy weekend. There is another hectic weekend coming up. On September 18, Balmoral Park hosts the ‘Super Night’ program. There are a number of stakes races (harness) for Illinois-bred horses. The races are worth 1.3 million dollars. It is a 100-mile round trip and we eat dinner and do not get back home until 1 30 AM Sunday.

Chicago September 14, 2010

Friday, September 10, 2010

J P's Gusto is top freshman in California: Rewilding is warm favorite in English St Leger

A freshman in California lifted his already lofty reputation to a loftier plateau when winning the Grade I Del Mar Futurity on Wednesday. The 1400-metre race on Del Mar’s polytrack was the feature on the last day of the summer campaign, J P’s Gusto, from the yard of David Hoffmans, won his fourth consecutive race and was the 8/10 favorite. The 47 year-old Patrick Valenzuela was aboard the Successful Appeal colt and it was a case of déjà vu for the jockey as he won the Futurity with Best Pal in 1990.

“Just like Best Pal, he (J P’s Gusto) is a very feisty horse,” Valenzuela remarked.

J P’s Gusto prompted the pace for a better part of the journey, struck the front with 400 metres to run and won by four and one half lengths. The time was 1 22.95. Eleven freshmen went postward in the $250,000 Del Mar Futurity. Jaycito was held up and rallied to be a non-threatening second. J P’s Gusto is out of Call Her Magic by Caller I D. After a loss in his debut, the David Hoffmans trainee, has won four in a row. The next race for J P’s Gusto will be the Norfolk Stakes at Hollywood Park on October 2.

Trainer Hoffmans expressed the view that J P’s Gusto’s willingness to wait for his rider’s cue makes him think that longer distances are within his colt’s reach. “He is smart. Around the turn with the horses lapped on him, he was waiting for Patrick to ask him. That’s what he does. He was just galloping, waiting for Pat to give him the cue.”

There is an equine retirement. Ask, a Michael Stoute-trained horse, has physical problems. With seven wins from 19 outings, Ask earned $1,486,022. Saddler’s Wells is the sire of Ask whose dam is Request by Rainbow Quest. Ask’s biggest win came in the 2009 Coronation Cup at Epsom, a race I was privileged to see. With Ryan Moore, Ask won in a three-way photo. Youmzain was second and Look Here, the 2008 Oaks heroine, was third.

Greinton is a three-time Grade I winner. The Green Dancer horse won his first two starts in France. At three, he joined Charlie Whittingham’s stable in California. In the US, Greinton, at four, won the Californian and the Hollywood Gold Cup. At five, Greinton emerged victorious in the Santa Anita Handicap. The 29 year-old died at a farm near Berlin in Germany. Greinton won 10 races from 22 starts and made a shade under two million dollars. Miss Greinton, Classic Queen, Tanabata, Forever Nice, Bellino and Charismatique are some of the progenies of Greinton.

I was at Tokyo Racecourse in November 2005 when Kane Hekili won the (dirt) Japan Cup. Winner of seven Group I events, Kane Hekili won the Japan Cup twice and won the (dirt) Japanese Derby. A son of Fuji Kiseki, Kane Hekili has been retired. He has injured tendons in the forelegs. Fuji Kiseki is by Sunday Silence who had a tremendous impact on breeding in Japan. Sunday Silence is a Kentucky Derby winner. Kane Hekili’s dam is Life Out There who is by Deputy Minister.

A thought or two on the Group II Park Hill Stakes run at Doncaster on Thursday. Eastern Aria, trained by Mark Johnston, won for the third time in her last four starts. Her loss at Deauville came on a very soft grass course. Frankie Dettori rode the daughter of Halling who won by a length in a time of 3.2 seconds over the 2900-metre race. Badraan by Danzig, is Eastern Aria’s dam. A Group I race beckons for the Mark Johnston pupil. Badraan is in India.

Another race on Thursday at Doncaster attracted attention. Twenty one freshmen answered the starter’s call in the 300,000-pound Weathersby Insurance Stakes over 1300 metres. Wootton Bassett, the 2/1 favorite from Richard Fahey’s barn, did not let her supporters down. With the in-form Paul Hanaghan who is on his way to his first British riding title, Wootton Bassett won by a length in one minute 17.99 seconds. The winner’s purse was 193,000 pounds. Wootton Bassett is by Iffraaj and is four for four lifetime. The first win came at Ayr with Tony Hamilton. The second and fourth wins were at Doncaster. The third came at York. Paul Hanaghan has been aboard in the second, third and fourth wins. I was at York in 2005 when the Royal Ascot meeting was held at the Knavesmire. Iffraaj, Philip Robinson up, won the Wokingham Stakes.

Charlie Barley was the champion turf horse in Canada in 1989. By Affirmed out of Au Printemps by Dancing Champ, Charlie Barley is dead at 24. Infirmities of old age was cited as the reason. Bought for $50,000 as a yearling, Charlie Barley was retired in 1990. He won 10 of 24 starts for $922,943. He won eight stakes races. Woodbine honors the memory with the running of the Charlie Barley Stakes in July.

John Haney and Scott Abbott are co-owners. John spoke, “he died of old age. He was the highlight of Scott’s and my racing career. He was a super horse. We were lucky to be associated with such a great talent.”

Saturday’s Curragh card has seven races. The third is the 1400-metre Vincent O’Brien National Stakes. It is a Group I race for two year-olds. There are nine runners. Zoffany, from Aidan O’Brien’s stable and the mount of John Murtagh, has five wins from six starts and is the 7/4 favorite. Pathfork, trained by Jessica Harrington, has raced twice and won twice. A Distorted Humor colt, Pathfork is the 9/4 second choice. Another who will have some support is the Godolphin-owned Janood who is two for two and is the only British raider. The Medicean colt will be ridden by Alan Munro because Dettori will be riding Rewilding at Doncaster in the English St Leger.

The fourth race at the Curragh on Saturday is the Irish Field St Leger. The Irish version is for horses three and up. Eight go postward. The distance is one mile six furlongs. Flying Cross, Murtagh up, goes for three in a row. Olivier Peslier flies into Dublin to ride the Jeremy Noseda-trained Sans Frontieres. The Dermot-Weld-trained Profound Beauty is in the field and will be ridden by Pat Smullen.

We will preview the St Leger on Saturday at Doncaster. It is for sophomores over one mile six furlongs and 132 yards. The St Leger is at 3 20 PM (British time) and is the third race in the six-contest card. Rewilding, a Godolphin runner trained by Mahmood Al Zarooni who is seeking his first Classic win, is the big favorite. A runaway winner in Goodwood’s Cocked Hat Stakes, Rewilding, a son of Tiger Hill, ran third in Workforce’s Epsom Derby. In York’s Great Voltigeur Stakes, Rewilding romped home and gave every indication that the St Leger distance will not be a concern. Another thing is that Rewilding’s mother is Darara whose daughter, Dar Re Mi was an established distance runner. The Sporting Life has called Rewilding, the 11/8 favorite, ‘the proverbial good thing.’ Rain is in the forecast but that should hold no fears for the Rewilding camp. The St Leger favorite has won on heavy ground in France when in the care of Andre Fabre. Finally, Dettori is seeking his sixth win in England’s oldest classic.

Michael Stoute sends out Total Command. Ryan Moore rides. Incidentally, there is a Ryan Moore, a professional golfer, who is playing in a tournament in Chicago this week. At the end of Thursday, the first day, Moore was second in the leader board. Total Command was ninth in the Voltigeur. Stoute has said that his charge had a health problem then.

John Gosden’s representative is Arctic Cosmos who will have William Buick. Aidan O’Brien has two runners, Midas Touch and Joshua Tree. Colm O’Donoghue rides the former and Jamie Spencer will be aboard the latter. John Murtagh stays behind at the Curragh. Midas Touch was second in the Irish Derby and again second to Rewilding in the Great Voltigeur. It is important to note that Midas Touch was giving Rewilding three pounds in the Voltigeur. Colm is a great friend and I wish him all luck. Joshua Tree shocked the Royal Lodge field at Ascot last September. Since, he has run third in the Voltigeur.

There is a filly in the St Leger. Snow Fairy, dual Oaks winner, will take her chances. With Ryan Moore not available, trainer Ed Dunlop has turned to Eddie Ahern. Snow Fairy’s big concern is heavy ground. There has been rain at the Town Moor (moniker for Doncaster) and Dunlop is hoping that the ground will be suitable to his filly.

Mark Johnston runs Corsica to be ridden by Joe Fanning. Dandino, a J G Given trainee, has Paul Mulrennan who was in India the past winter. Ted Spread, trained by Tompkins, will have Darryll Holland. Theolory will have Paul Hanaghan because Richard Hughes will be at Goodwood.

What is my pick? It is difficult to oppose Rewilding. Dettori knows Doncaster like the back of his hand. The distance and the going will pose no problems.

John Tinsley, John Brown and Sam Sena are three individuals who helped me establish myself in America. They were all in the horse racing business. All three are no more. My wife and I honor their memories. Every September, we hold a Memorial party for the three families and some friends. The party is held at Maywood Park, a harness facility, about two miles from where I live. The party is on Friday, September 10.

Chicago, Friday, September 10, 2010

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Charlie Swan wins Legends Charity race: Todd Pletcher wins Saratoga training title

I am typing this report late Wednesday in Chicago. It is 10 25 PM and hardly two hours ago ( California is two hours behind Illinois) at Del Mar in San Diego, J P’s Gusto made it four for four when winning the 1400-metre Grade I Del Mar Futurity. Wednesday’s racing was the last card in the summer meeting at Del Mar. Pat Valenzuela rode the David Hoffmans-trained freshman. We will have more on J P’s Gusto in our next report.

Charlie Swan is 42. A ten-time champion in Ireland in National Hunt competition, jockey Swan is now a ‘jumps’ trainer and he was aboard the 9/2 Miami Gator in the 1600-metre Leger Legends Stakes at Doncaster on Wednesday. The St Leger festival began in dry weather. Miami Gator, trained by Elaine Burke, took the lead early and would not relent. Swan and Miami Gator won by a length and three quarters. Sixteen ran.

The race was run to raise money for an institution to care for retired jockeys and help those who seek rehabilitation. Swan, who retired in 2003, received the winner’s trophy from Lester Piggott. Ernie Johnson was fourth. Jockey Francome finished seventh. Pat Eddery, second only to Sir Richards in number of wins, was 14th of 16 runners.

“He was the form horse in the race so I suppose he was entitled to win. I’m pretty fit but race riding is obviously different. I am glad it was only one mile and not two,” jockey Swan joked.

I am sure you know that an earthquake struck New Zealand last week. Christchurch is a cricket test venue and is also home to two racecourses, Riccarton Park and Addington Raceway. There was damage of a minor kind. Fortunately, neither track suffered structural damage. We are losing tracks all over the world. The news from Kiwi land is heartening.

The St Leger, the final classic in the English racing season, will be run on Saturday at Doncaster. You can take a train from King’s Cross. Rewilding, a Godolphin runner, is the favorite in the 2800-metre race. The St Leger is the oldest Classic in England.

Paul Hanaghan celebrated his 30th birthday by winning two races at Doncaster on Wednesday. Paul clicked with Barefoot Lady, a 3/1 chance. Myplacelater, Hanaghan’s other winner, got up in the waning yards to win a 2100-metre race from Wigmore Hall. Myplacelater was at 22/1 and gave Hanaghan a 91/1 double. Chicago fans will remember that Wigmore Hall ran second in Arlington’s (Grade I) Secretariat Stakes on August 21.

Wigmore Hall appeared a clear cut winner and jockey Jamie Spencer seemed to ease and not whip his mount close home. The stewards questioned jockey Spencer and were satisfied with the explanation. Spencer said that if he had resorted to whipping, he would have interfered with another runner. Spencer also said that Wigmore Hall was getting tired toward the end and the race had come too soon after the Arlington trip.

On Wednesday, Kieren Fallon was in cracking form at Epsom Downs. He won with the 7/2 Epic, then with the 11/4 Music City and the 11/4 Sailorman. All the three are trained by Mark Johnston.

Despite the defense of the riding title getting away from him, Ryan Moore’s enthusiasm has not diminished. He had one winner at the Surrey track.

There are two equine deaths to report. Lost Soldier was found dead on September 7 in Versallies, Kentucky. A heart attack, it is believed, is the cause. Lost Soldier was by Danzing out of Lady Winborne who was by Secretariat. With 11 wins from 45 starts, Lost Soldier earned $434,089. Lost In The Fog, Lost Soldier’s most illustrious son, won eight stakes races in 2005. In the Breeders’ Cup Sprint that year, Lost In The Fog failed to sustain his speed.

Celtic Swing, 18, died of complications from colitis in Italy. In 1994, Celtic Swing won all his three starts as a freshman and was voted champion two year-old in Europe. The Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster was won by Celtic Swing in 1994 and the margin was 12 lengths. Celtic Swing was beaten in a photo in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket and went on to win the French Derby at Chantilly. The Epsom Derby was taken off the table. In the Irish Derby at the Curragh, Celtic Swing was unplaced. Celtic Swing suffered from a case of torn ligaments and was retired. There were five wins from seven races and Celtic Swing earned $777,299. Damister ( by Mr Prospector) is the sire of Celtic Swing. The dam is Celtic Ring who is by Welsh Pageant. The two very famous children of Celtic Swing are Takeover Target, the renowned sprinter, and Six Perfections, owned by the Niarchos family, who won the Breeders’ Cup Turf Mile with Jerry Bailey.

I will devote a paragraph to the Grade II Del Mar Derby run on Sunday. The $300,000 turf (1800 metres) race had six runners. Twirling Candy, the 20/100 favorite, won by three lengths in 1 46.96. John Sadler trains Twirling Candy who was ridden by Joel Rosario. Winner of all his four career starts, Twirling Candy is by Candy Ride out of House of Danzig by Chester House. About 1000 metres to go, Twirling Candy bolted and seemed out of control. Summer Movie was seriously interfered with and was out of contention. After an inquiry, the result stood. The stewards said that given Twirling Candy’s superiority, disqualifying him would have been ‘unjust.’

We will see what happened in the Grade I Spinaway Stakes on Sunday at Saratoga. Eight freshman girls ran in the 1400-metre race that carried a $250,000 purse. Four of them came from Todd Pletcher’s yard. Least fancied among the Pletcher quartet, R Heat Lightning, Garrett Gomez up, ralled from last at the top of the bend to win by four lengths. The time was 1 25.23 and the win payoff was $10.40. Bob Baffert’s Alienation ran second after being caught in a duel for the lead. R Heat Lightning is by Trippi by End Sweep. The dam is Yellow Heat who’s by Gold Fever.

The Spinaway was the first Grade I win this summer for jockey Gomez. “When we first started to turn for home, I waited on her. We came off the turn and I looked up and Bob’s filly (Alienation) came right back to us. My filly stayed on and ran a really good race.”

It was a great Saratoga campaign for Todd Pletcher. He had 36 wins during the meeting. The Spinaway was his fifth Grade I win at Saratoga and the fourth win in that race. Pletcher won 13 Graded events during the meeting.

Pletcher commented on the Spinaway. “The track is not playing that fast. Those were torrid fractions. We had a lot to do turning for home, so, I’m glad she was able to find more. Her next race will be the Frizette (Grade I October 9) at Belmont Park.”

The 40-day Saratoga meeting ended on Monday. Freshmen were in the spotlight in the Grade I 1400-metre Hopeful Stakes on the main track. Boys At Tosconova, trained by Richard Dutrow, Jr, was the 55/100 favorite and justified the public confidence, A Flag Officer colt, Boys At Tosconova sat third as a duel developed, surged three-wide into the lane and scored by almost two lengths. The time was 1 23.27 and four ran in the Hopeful.

Boys At Tosconova is out of Little Bonnet by Coronado’s Quest. In his debut, Boys At Tosconova was second in the Grade III Kentucky Juvenile over 1000 metres at Churchill Downs on April 30. Then came a 12-length romp in late June when the duck was broken. The Hopeful came 66 days later.

Trainer Dutrow said, “he was good enough to get this job done the right way. He has no limits and keeps running and running. The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile is a serious option.”

Winning rider Ramon Dominguez explained the ride. “Rick (trainer) was so confident that he said there was no need to be in front and asked me to play it by the ear. They outbroke me and I put him where he was comfortable and I got him to the outside when I wanted.”

We will preview the St Leger in the next blog or two. I am buoyed by news about Bangalore. I believe I set foot on the Bangalore course in the summer of 1958. Bangalore would race for six-seven weeks beginning second week of June. It was in 1973 that Bangalore began a winter meeting. I have fond memories.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tell A Kelly outpaces field in Darley Debutante: Ryan Moore's treble at Goodwood on Tuesday

There is a big element of nostalgia on Wednesday at Doncaster when the St Leger festival gets under way. The fourth race in the seven-contest card is the Fudge And Smudge Leger Legends Classified Stakes. It is a race over 1600 metres and several retired British jockeys are back to ride for a charitable cause. There are some names that will get instant recognition. Pat Eddery, who retired in 2003, will be in action. Ernie Johnson will return. John Francome, multiple English champion, will ride. Dale Gibson, Jamie Osborne, George Duffield, John Reid and Charlie Swan, among others, are listed to take part. Kevin Darley, a recent retiree, will be there.

Longchamp hosted the Group I 1600-metre Prix Moulin on Sunday. There were six runners and two heads separated the first three finishers. Fuisse, a 14/1 chance trained by Mme C Head-Maarek, roared through the stretch from last to first to win in a photo. Stephane Pasquier rode Fuisse.

Richard Hannon’s Paco Boy, ridden by Richard Hughes, was the 10/11 favorite with the British bookmakers. Hughes had Paco Boy in third. He may not have had enough horse when the heat was on and Hughes tried to find a run along the fence. He was not able to get through. Aga Khan’s Siyouni and the Godolphin-owned Rio de la Plata separated themselves from the rest in the last 400 metres and waged a duel. Fuisse found his best stride late in the lane and caught the pair in the last jump. The time was 1 37.83. Fuisse paid 9.90/1 in the French tote. Lope de Vega, second in demand and the French Derby hero in June, pulled hard, could not settle down and had little to offer when it mattered.

Fuisse is a four year-old colt by Green Tune. The dam is Funny Feerie who is by Sillery. Fuisse was coming off a fourth place finish in the Jacques le Marois won by Makfi after winning three in a row at Maison Laffitte, Chantilly and Longchamp.

The Prix Moulin did not go without incident. Fuisse unseated jockey Pasquier twice. The colt galloped around and walked back a mile after being caught. The start was delayed by 15 minutes. The stewards did not want a five-horse field. I am sure that the odds drifted because of Fuisse’s antics.

Trainer Maarek said, “he (Fuisse) can be temperamental but he’s brilliant when in mood to race. Newmarket’s Champion Stakes is next.”

Richard Hughes was brief. “It was a messy race. Paco Boy did not finish the way he normally does. We got a bit shut in on the rail.”

In Germany, also on Sunday, a Godolphin runner was sent off the favorite in a Group I race. Cavalryman, Frankie Dettori up, was the 13/10 chalk in the Grosser Mercedes-Benz Preis Von Baden at Baden Baden. The 2400-metre race was won by Night Magic, a four year-old filly, ridden by Filip Minarik and trained by W Figge. A 22/5 chance, Night Magic won by a length and three quarters in 2 32.7 seconds. Quijano, the well-travelled international star, was the bridesmaid. Cavalryman salvaged third in the seven-runner field.

Night Magic is by Sholokov out of Night Woman by Monsun, the well known German stallion. In her last outing, Night Magic ran second to Lady Jane Digby in the Group I Zuchtrennen at Munich on July 25.

Here is news about Majesticperfection, the sprinter who has been in the headlines recently. Satish Sanan-owned Majesticperfection has suffered a condylar fracture (right foreleg) and will undergo surgery. It is feared that the injury may be career-ending. The purpose of the surgery is to insert a screw to stabilize the cannon bone.

Jockey Ryan Moore won his first race after the injury he suffered on August 9. The British champion was in action at Goodwood on Tuesday. Moore won with the Brian Meehan-trained Indigo Bay at 11/2. He did not stop there. He rode two more winners. The second was with the Sir Michael-Stoute-trained Longliner, the 10/11 favorite. Moore’s third winner was the Richard Hannon-trained (8/1) Compton Blue. It was a 110/1 treble for Ryan Moore who has 106 winners but trails Paul Hanaghan in the title race.

In England on Tuesday, jockey George Baker emulated Moore’s feat with a three-timer at Lingfield. . Baker won with the 11/8 Thomas Tompion, with the 2/1 Secret Love and the 11/8 Blitzed. Graham Lee won three races on Tuesday at Sedgefield, a jumps course. Lee won with two 5/4 favorites, Cailin Na Ri and Maska Pony. Lee’s third winner was the 13/2 Calcualite.

Dar Re Mi has been retired. The five year-old mare, trained by John Gosden, won three Group I races. A fourth Group I was taken away from her. She won the 2009 Prix Vermeille but the French stewards chose to disqualify her. Lady and Lord Andrew Lloyd Weber, Dar Re Mi’s owners, made an unsuccessful appeal. Dar Re Mi’s biggest win came in the Sheema Classic at the Meydan in March.

The other two Group I races that Dar Re Mi won were the Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh in June 2009. In the 2009 Yorkshire Oaks, Dar Re Mi had the beating of Sariska. She was third to Conduit and Presious Passion in the Breeders’ Cup Turf in November 2009. Her last race was in the Eclipse at Sandown in early July won by Twice Over who made it all. Dar Re Mi is by Singspiel out of Darara by Topville. With six wins from 17 trips postward, Dar Re Mi won $4,359,112. William Buick was aboard in the Sheema Classic. Jimmy Fortune was the rider in the other two.

Here is a look at the Darley Debutante that was run at Del Mar on Saturday. Wickedly Perfect was going for three for three and was the 5/2 favorite with Rafael Bejarano. The Doug O’Neill-schooled two year-old filly led into the stretch and had a break of two lengths with a little over a furlong to go. Tell A Kelly, Alonso Quinonez up, was last of 10 runners, found room between horses after a spot of trouble coming into the lane and emerged from the chasing pack. For a moment or two, it appeared that Wickedly Perfect would stay on. The hope was short-lived. As Tell A Kelly got her motor going, the result was not in doubt and there were 50 metres to run. Tell A Kelly’s acceleration was such that she ended up winning by four and one half lengths in 1 23.05 for the 1400-metre trip. The first 1200 metres were run in 1 10.27 and that tells you how fast the fractions were.

John Sadler trains Tell A Kelly who is by Tapit who is by Pulpit. Evrobi by Tabasco Cat) is the dam of Tell A Kelly. The Darley Debutante carried a $250,000 purse. Tell A Kelly paid $11.20. After placing fifth in her debut in late July, Tell A Kelly broke her duck in impressive fashion on August 15.

Jockey Quinonez spoke. “I had to find the trip. I tried to follow the horses that would keep me going. I did not want to stop. Everything set up perfect.”

In the next blog, we will look at more action from Del Mar and Saratoga. Monday marked the last day of the 40-day meeting at Saratoga.

News from Bangalore relieved me of some anxiety. It is a question of buying time. Legal procedure consumes time but only postpones the inevitable. A new racecourse is the only option. I am hoping the BTC management begins work in earnest.

About the Invitation Cup in Chennai in 2011, I am getting news that Dr MAM may elect to have the four big races in one day. Not a bad idea. Chennai needs to be in the limelight. It is too precious a track to be thrust into oblivion.

My father died on September 7, 1988. It has been twenty years. I thought repeatedly about him today.

Chicago, Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Monday, September 6, 2010

Cape Blanco runs away with Irish Champion: Quality Road is smooth as silk in Woodward

There is considerable catching up to do. It was an extremely busy weekend. It is a three-day holiday weekend in America. Tracks are open on Monday and many have carded Graded Stakes.

We will cover what happened in Europe on Saturday. There was a Group I race in France on Sunday and that story will be in the next blog. At Haydock Park on Saturday, the 1200-metre Group I Betfred Sprint Cup was run. Colm O’Donoghue made the trip from the Emerald Isle to ride the Aidan O’Brien-trained Starspangledbanner who was made the 11/8 favorite. You can take a train from London Euston on the Glasgow line or a train to Manchester on the Liverpool line.

Thirteen ran and the ground was firm and fast. Markab, a 12/1 chance, headed the six-horse group on the stands’ side. The other seven, including Starspangledbanner, were on the far side. A disappointing sixth as the 9/4 favorite in Newbury’s Shadwell Stakes on July 17, Markab put that poor show behind him and ran on determinedly to keep his rivals at bay. The Henry Candy-trained seven year-old gelding won by a length and a quarter and clocked 1 9.4 seconds, a mark that bettered the existing track record. The race was worth 163.809 pounds to the winning connections. Starspangledbanner was fifth and was about four lengths off the winner.

Markab is by Green Desert out of Hawafiz who’s by Nashwan. Before the Shadwell Stakes, in the King’s Stand at Royal Ascot on June 15, only one horse finished ahead of Markab and that was Equiano. On 22 May. Markab rated kindly for jockey Pat Cosgrave to win the Group III Greenlands Stakes.

Jockey Cosgrave commented. “Good, that makes up for Ascot. He is a very good horse, always was. I thought after his Thirsk win in April, he is a Group I Horse.”

Trainer Candy was poetic. “Is he not the most gorgeous beast? He is magnificent. He’s just blissfully happy. He seems to be getting better. I am considering the Abbaye on Arc day.”

We will now go to Leopardstown in Fox Rock, Ireland. Left-handed Leopardstown is about 45 minutes by bus from the Dublin City Centre. On Saturday, the Matron Stakes and the Irish Champion Stakes, two Group I races, were contested.

Saturday afternoon belonged to Aidan O’Brien. In the first race, Joe O’Brien rode the 7/1 Juliet Capulet, trained by Aidan, his father, to a facile victory. The second, the Group III Kilternan Stakes, a 2000-metre race, was taken by Await The Dawn, a 7/2 chance, trained by Aidan O’Brien and ridden by John Murtagh. The third race was the Matron Stakes. Lillie Langtry went from last to first in the last 300 metres in the Matron. O’Brien’s haul did not end in the Matron and we will look at the race that gave the Ballydoyle maestro his training quadruple in a subsequent paragraph.

Six ran in the 1600-metre Matron. Music Show, the impressive winner of Newmarket’s Falmouth Stakes, was the 2/1 favorite. Spacious, knocking at the door at the highest level and the mount of Kieren Fallon, was the second choice at 11/4. Lillie Langtry was coming off a dull fifth place finish in the Falmouth. The O’Brien trainee with John Murtagh, with the erosion of some confidence, was at 7/2. There were some –who swore by Lillie Langtry’s making-it-all score in Royal Ascot’s Coronation Stakes. Gile Na Greine, ridden by Kevin Manning, set the pace. Spacious tracked the leader. Lillie Langtry was sixth and last. With 400 metres to go, Spacious drew first blood and Music Show was reminded of the task. Murtagh pushed the button with Lillie Langtry. Spacious appeared to have stolen a march as Lillie Langtry kept cutting the deficit down. A lunge on the line gave Lillie Langtry a neck victory. Music Show, unable to produce the turn of foot that gave her the Falmouth, took third. The Curragh had been watered. On a good to firm course, Lillie Langtry ran 1600 metres in 1 39.68. The race was worth 130,000 pounds to the winner. Lillie Langtry, a sophomore filly, is by Danehill Dancer out of Hoity Toity by Darshaan.

Trainer O’Brien spoke. “Johnny gave her a masterful ride. He let the race unfold and did not ask her to race until a furlong and a half out, the filly did not know she had a race. She’s classy and determined. The break (59 days after Falmouth) helped her. The next race is the Prix de l’Opera at Longchamp on October 3.”

Jockey Murtagh paid tribute to his mount. “She tries very hard and had a tough race at Ascot. She ran flat and that was not her. Today went well and I always was going to get Kieren,”

The fifth race at Leopardstown on Saturday was the 2000-metre Irish Champion Stakes. Despite the $434,500-pound winner’s prize, there were only six runners. O’Brien’s Rip Van Winkle was the 4/6 favorite with John Murtagh, Ballydoyle’s retained jockey. When they were let go, it was Cape Blanco, a 6/1 chance and another O’Brien pupil, who hit the front. It was a brisk gallop. Twice Over and Rip Van Winkle were several lengths away. There was every reason to believe that the pacesetter would not last. As Rip Van Winkle and Twice Over were asked, they did respond but the bird had flown. Cape Blance, Seamie Heffernan up, found another gear and began putting some separation.

Curragh announcer, Des Scahill, described the action. “Cape Blance is running this Irish Champion field ragged. He has destroyed this field.”

The winning margin was five and one half lengths. The time was 2 3.89 seconds. Rip Van Winkle got the better of Twice Over to occupy the runner-up berth. Cape Blance is a three year-old Galileo colt. Laurel Delight is the dam and she’s by Presidium. Cape Blance gave Aidan O’Brien his fourth winner of the day and a 1,133/1 quadruple. That was the sixth win for O’Brien in the Champion Stakes. Cape Blanco made it four for four when beating Workforce in York’s Dante Stakes. A poor race (because of the ground) in Chantilly’s French Derby followed. It was followed by a win in the Irish Derby on June 27. In his next outing, Cape Blance headed the beaten brigade when Harbinger won the King George drawing away. With six wins from eight starts, Cape Blance’s earnings stand at 1,228,507 pounds.

O’Brien thought aloud. “He (Cape Blanco) is getting stronger all the time. Although he won the Irish Derby (2400 metres) we always felt that a strongly-run mile and a quarter would suit him ideally. There are plenty of options, Newmarket’s Champion Stakes, the Arc, the Breeders’ Cup. Rip Van Winkle could not get going on the ground.”

We will look at two Grade I races at Saratoga (New York) on Saturday. The 1400-metre Forego Stakes went to Here Comes Ben, a 99/10 chance. The four year-old was held up by Alex Solis as a fast pace was set. Finding room between horses in the lane, the Charles Lopresti-trained colt, quickened spiritedly to win by three parts of a length. The time was 1 22.5 on a fast dirt track. Nine ran and Vineyard Haven, the even money favorite, was in a stalking spot and got pinned down along the fence when he needed room.

By Street Cry out of Chasetheraginwind by Dayjur, Here Comes Ben was winning four races in a row. He won at Keeneland on April 11. He won at Churchill on May 21. On June 25, he won again at Churchill. The Forego took his streak to four.

Trainer Lopresti said, “he (Here Comes Ben) was here two weeks ago. He trained very well. We had to see if he was this kind of horse, he proved it today.”

Jockey Solis explained his trip, “at the half mile pole, he started his move. When I got after him at the quarter pole, we started coming and he did his thing.”

Alan Garcia, riding Vineyard Haven, stated, “I got stuck inside and did not have a chance to go out and make a run. When I got the chance, I did not have the horse.”

We’ll end this report with the Woodward Stakes at Saratoga on Saturday. Quality Road, from Todd Pletcher’s yard, was the 3/10 favorite in the seven-horse field. Jockey John Velasquez had the red hot chalk in second for the first four furlongs. With 600 metres left, Quality Road was asked to take charge. The winner of the Woodward was spotted. Quality Road won by about five lengths in 1 50 seconds. The Woodward was over 1800 metres on the main (fast) dirt track. Mine That Bird, the 2009 Kentucky Derby hero, was using blinkers for the first time and finished last.

Quality Road was coming off a photo loss to Blame in the Whitney Handicap. Elusive Quality (by Gone West) is the sire of Quality Road. Kobla is the dam and she is by Strawberry Road. The Woodward prize pushed Quality Road’s account over the two-million dollar mark. Quality Road has eight wins from 12 starts.

Todd Pletcher talked about Horse of the Year prospects. “I thought he ran a good race. We can make a strong argument for having the country’s best horse. He has accomplished a lot this year to win the Donn, the Met Mile and this race.”

Jockey Velasquez spoke about how having a pacemaker helped. “He was much better than in the Whitney. I struggled to get him going in the Whitney. Today, he was much more willing and much more on the bridle. It was better for him to have a horse to follow. He was much more competitive.”

Here is a jockey item from America. Kent Desormeaux had a fall on Friday at Saratoga. He has a cracked vertebra. Desormeaux, 40, will not need surgery but will have a neck brace. He will be sidelined for three weeks.

On Saturday, the British and Irish bookmakers offered 12/1 for an Aidan O’Brien Group I treble. An offer of 11/10 was made for one win. There was a 5/2 offer for drawing blank. The odds were 9/4 if O’Brien won two. Lillie Langtry won the Matron at Leopardstown at 2 40 PM. At 3 35 PM, Starspangledbanner ran fifth in the Sprint Cup at (UK) Haydock. Cape Blanco won the 3 45 PM race, the Champion Stakes, at Leopardstown. Incidentally, William Hill made an offer of 8-1 on Cape Blanco in the Arc at Longchamp on October 3. You will go dizzy with wagering in England and Ireland.

There are many more high profile races at look at. We will do it in subsequent blogs.

Chicago, September 6, 2010

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Harresh Mehta talks about his Tipperary success: India-based owners blazing new trail abroad

Harresh Mehta is not lacking in one very special trait. He is endowed with an abundant spirit of adventure. In a relatively short time, Mr Mehta has become one of the better known race horse owners in India and in March of this year, saw his Becket get the better of the all-conquering Jacqueline in the Invitation Cup at Mahalakshmi.

I got to know Harresh Mehta well in September 2007. Holding Court, who won many a big prize for Mehta in India, ventured into the Windy City for a tilt at a Listed race that attracted a millionaire and other accomplished runners. Holding Court had been invited to race in the Arlington Million that year but a quarantine conundrum pushed back his arrival date in Chicago. Trainer Padmanabhan checked in early to oversee the preparation of his trainee. I got to spend time with Mr Mehta. E T Baird was aboard the Mehta-owned runner and the pair was in striking range, appeared to take charge of the situation in the final turn and faltered in the drive. The American experiment did not work out well and it was, later, discovered that Holding Court had been suffering from physical problems. Harresh Mehta takes on tasks that others dare not.

Not long ago, I wrote about a Dhunjibhoy-Shirke-Desai-owned horse, Jehanbux, winning at Sandown Park in England. Now, there is another runner, a mare, who is bringing glory to an India-based owner. Harresh Mehta’s Fourpenny Lane, in foal to Verglas, ran out a convincing winner in the Irish Stallions Farms Fairy Bridge Stakes at Tipperary on Thursday, August 26, 2010. Rory Cleary, a jockey fans in India should be familiar with, was aboard the five year-old mare. Joanna Morgan was the winning trainer.

Eleven distaffers ran in the 1500-metre grass race. Fourpenny Lane ran on determinedly in the lane to win by a length and a quarter in a time of 1 31.31 seconds. A 5-1 chance, Fourpenny Lane beat several distinguished adversaries including Gile Na Greine, a Jim Bolger-trained runner and the 3/2 favorite, who faded late to be tenth. Fourpenny Lane is by Efisio out of Makara by Lion Cavern. Her career statistics are impressive. From 37 starts, Fourpenny Lane has a 6-4-6 record for earnings of 122,452 pounds. She is now bound for India. She will be a broodmare in the Sohna Stud Farm. Fourpenny Lane was bought for 100,000 euros in the Goffs November Breeding Stock Sale in November last year. That translates into 148.700 US dollars. Efisio is by Formidable who is by the incomparable Forli. Efisio’s dam is Eldoref who is by High Top.

Trainer Joanna Morgan was sad to part company with Fourpenny Lane. “She’s probably the best filly in foal to be sent to India and was the most expensive to be sold at that auction. I am thrilled.”

Mr Mehta was kind enough to spend a few minutes with me on the phone. Despite two interruptions, we managed to complete the conversation.

“I bought her last November. She came well recommended. We took her to Dubai to take our chances at the Meydan. She raced three times there. I believe she was not at home on the new track. She did not do as well as I had expected,” Mr Mehta began.

“Fourpenny Lane was covered by Verglas in the spring. She was in foal. Her form was such that we thought of taking one last chance. In her two starts before the Tipperary win, she had done very well. It was not a surprise to me that she won. We had the benefit of a pacemaker and our plan worked perfect. She will come to India late October-early November. I am hopeful she will meet our expectations,” Mehta continued.

The conversation turned to racing in India. “I have a lot of optimism about Balmoral Castle with Padmanabhan. Balmoral Castle won the Million race in Mysore. Another I think would do well is Celestial Way. Suraj Narredu will be my main rider. I am not using any foreign jockeys. Suraj’s partnership has worked well. “

I asked Mr Mehta if I will see him in Paris for the Arc in early October. “Yes, Tom, I am coming for the Arc. I look forward to seeing you there,” he concluded.

A thought on Fourpenny Lane’s progressive trend in her last four outings. She was seventh at the Curragh followed by a sixth place finish. At Gowran Park, she was beaten one half length in a confidence-generating effort. A third place finish followed at Killarney when Fourlane Penny was behind Steinbeck. She bid a winning farewell to Ireland in that Tipperary start.

The Dhunjibhoy combine set the ball rolling. Harresh Mehta has now stepped into the spotlight. Who’s next?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Afleet Express wins the Travers by a head bob: Kantharos retired

The Travers Stakes, run last Saturday at Saratoga, is called the ‘Midsummer Derby.’ Saratoga’s Saturday menu had three Grade I races and the Travers, a test for sophomores on the dirt, was the feature of the day with a million-dollar purse.

The fans were treated to a nail-biting finish and it was a head bob that decided the winner at the end of the 2000-metre contest. Miner’s Reserve led followed by First Dude. Trappe Shot, the 7-2 favorite, was held up. Super Saver, trying to regain that Kentucky Derby form, lay in the rear. Ice Box, runner-up in the Run For The Roses, was also kept in the back of the field. Afleet Express was in midpack. Fly Down also was several lengths off the pacesetters. While Javier Castella took the shortest way home by going for a fence-scraping trip, Fly Down was sent four and five-wide coming into the final turn. First Dude had taken the measure of Miner’s Reserve in the lane. Trappe Shot was not making headway. Ice Box was not making forward movement. Super Saver was nowhere his Derby form. Fly Down had a marginal advantage with 200 metres left and Afleet Express was advancing along the rail. It was a duel down to the line. The magic eye revealed that Afleet Express had prevailed.

The margin was a nose. The time was 2 03.28 seconds. Afleet Express returned $16.00. Afleet Alex, winner of the 2005 Preakness and the Belmont Stakes, is the sire of Afleet Express. Expanse is the dam and she’s by Distant View. The James Jerkens-trained Afleet Express, after winning the Pegasus at Monmouth, was coming off a third place finish in the Jim Dandy at Saratoga on July 31.

Trainer Jerkens was thrilled. “Yes, this is it. This is the biggest career win for me. It is at Saratoga and it’s extra special.”

Jockey Javier Castellano, who won the 2006 Travers with Bernardini, spoke. “I thought I would win at the 1/8 pole but he (Afleet Express) hung up a little bit in the last part. I give credit to the horse for finishing very strong. I was very lucky to get the head bob.”

Lomitas, a well known German sire, has been euthanized. The son of Niniski was 22. His fear of and refusal to enter the starting gate resulted in his withdrawal from the 1991 German 2000 Guineas. As he overcame the fear with treatment, Lomitas won three Group I races and was voted 1991 Horse of the Year and the top sophomore male. Silvano, who won the 2001 Arlington Million with Andrew Suborics aboard, was a son of Lomitas. In 1994, Lomitas was retired with 10 wins from 19 outings for earnings of $918,656.

The Grade I King’s Bishop was run at Saratoga on Saturday. It was a speed-favoring track and John Velasquez had no hesitation in sending Discreetly Mine, the 105/100 favorite, to the front. The three year-old Mineshaft colt made it all to win by a length and a quarter. The 1400-metre King’s Bishop was run in 1 23.16. Bank Merger, seeking a hat trick, surged wide coming into the stretch and finished on. D’Funnybone, who had beaten Discreetly Mine in the Woody Stephens Stakes, tired and was eased.

Winning trainer Todd Pletcher thought aloud. “We felt we were a little handcuffed the way the track was playing. The fractions were demanding and I am just happy he was able to hold on.”

John Velasquez speaks fluently. “Todd said if I break well enough to just let him do it and go to the lead. We were able to do that.”

The third Grade I race ($250,000) at Saratoga on Saturday was the Ballerina Stakes for distaffers. Rightly So, ridden by Cornelio Velasquez, went start to finish. Warbling tracked the leader and held for second. Rightly So won by four lengths in a time of 1 22.58 for 1400 metres. Informed Decision, the 2-1 favorite, was a disappointment. Anthony Dutrow trains Rightly So, a four year-old filly by Read The Footnotes.

Jockey Cornelio Velasquez commented. “My filly broke good. She went to the lead easy. She finished good too. I had a lot of horse at the quarter (400 metres out) pole. She run a big one.”

There are two Del Mar races that deserve mention. On Saturday, Enriched made every post a winning one in the $250,000 Grade II (turf) Del Mar Mile Handicap. Enriched, a Joel Rosario mount, clocked 1 34.83 seconds and paid $6.40 on a $2.00 wager. Enriched won by three parts of a length. A slow half of 48.53 helped Enriched cling to the advantage. High Brite is Enriched’s sire. The dam is Li’l Ms Leonard by Nostalgia’s Star. Claimed in November for $32,000, Enriched has since made $340,676. With seven wins from 21 starts, Enriched has earned $494,656. Enriched now has a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile.

Trainer Doug O’Neill stated, “the pace really helped and he came the last quarter in 22.51.”

Jockey Rosario explained his journey. “I did not choke him because he does not like that. He galloped really easily. That’s why he finished.”

It was another Joel Rosario-guided horse who won the Grade II Del Mar Handicap on Sunday. The 11-furlong race on the turf went to Richard Mandell-trained Champ Pegasus. The Del Mar Handicap had a $200,000 purse. The time was 2 11.93 seconds. Rosario had Champ Pegasus sixth of nine runners in the early part of the race. He took the route along the fence to win by a length and a quarter. Fusaichi Pegasus is the sire of Champ Pegasus. Salt Champ is the dam and she is by Salt Lake.

Trainer Mandella spoke about Champ Pegasus getting a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf on November 6 at Churchill Downs. “It gives us something to dream about. He acts like he will run all day.”

We will switch our attention to Monmouth Park in Oceanport, New Jersey. Sunday’s big race was the $294,000 Grade II Molly Pitcher Stakes for fillies and mares. Just Jenda was making her swan song and exit the racing scene with a smart victory. A 3-1 chance, Just Jenda, ridden by Terry Thompson, went in chase of Malibu Prayer, the 6/10 favorite, who had taken over early in the lane. Just Jenda won the argument in a time of 1 43.52 for the 1700-metre dirt race.

The owners are Cindy and Larry Jones. The latter retired from training last year. Cindy Jones is the trainer. Just Jenda is by Menifee out of Liberty School by Pine Bluff. Just Jenda leaves racing with eight wins from 17 starts. She has a 4-0-1 (five starts) record at the New Jersey track. Just Jenda will be bred to Proud Citizen.

Cindy Jones was anything but happy. “It is kind of sad. What a way to go out! Never did we imagine we would have a filly of this caliber.’

Jockey Thompson said, “She gave me a great punch when I asked her. I just think it was meant to be. She was on top of her game. She was determined to go out a winner.”

Smoke Glacken, the sire who is making a name for himself, was in the news again. Smokey Fire, a son of Smoke Glacken, won the Grade II Play The King Stakes at Woodbine on Sunday. The 1400-metre race was run in 1 20.83 seconds on the grass. It was third win in the Play King for trainer Sid Attard. He won the 2008 edition with Just Rushing and won the race in 2009 with Jungle Wave who played the bridesmaid role on Sunday.

The big race in Ireland on Saturday is the Champion Stakes at Leopardstown.

Here is a news flash. I wrote about Kantharos, a freshman who has been hitting the headlines. The Lion Heart colt is three for three and has been winning by big margins. Kantharos has suffered a leg fracture during a regular workout. He has been retired. The announcement came on August 31.

Jess Jackson, the owner, said, “he was a magnificent athlete. We are stunned, shocked and terribly saddened. A healthy recovery is in the cards but his racing career is over.”

Chicago, September 1, 2010

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Bob Baffert saddles Grade I double at Del Mar:Richard's Kid defends Pacific Classic title

Overdose, nicknamed the Budapest Bullet, was 14 for 14 going into Sunday’s Group II Goldene Peitsche, a 1200-metre race, at Baden Baden in Germany. As is his wont, Overdose, ridden by Christophe Soumillon, called the tune but began sending out distress signals 500 metres out. Unable to sustain, Overdose, the 4/6 favorite, finished seventh of 12 runners.

The Goldene Peitsche went to Amico Fritz, a 5/1 chance, trained by Alex Pantall and ridden by Fabrice Veron. The time was 1 11.38 seconds on soft turf. The winning margin was one half length. Amico Fritz is by Fasliyev out of Arctic Appeal by Ahonoora. After winning a Group III at Hoppegarten (Germany) on June 6, Amico Fritz was fifth in the Golden Jubilee Stakes (Group I, June 19) but beaten 24 lengths. On August 8, Amico Fritz was 15th in the 15-horse field in the Prix Maurice de Gheest, a Group I sprint at Deauville. On Sunday, Amico Fritz was able to raise his game and deliver.

Overdose was in a terrible mood. His pre-race temper tantrum resulted in expending a precious part of his energy. The Racing Post writer called it ‘a tremendous display of mulishness.’ Overdose refused to enter the stall repeatedly and jockey Soumillon was forced to dismount four times. I am quoting the Racing Post again, “bathed in sweat when finally in the stall,” the race may have been lost when the gates opened.

Owner Zoltan Mikoczy was very unhappy. “Soumillon should have withdrawn. Today, for some reason, he did not want to race. In the situation we had today, he should not have run.”

Jockey Soumillon suffered a leg injury as a result of Overdose’s antics and withdrew from riding in subsequent races. He was brief. “I have learnt from experience, it is best to say nothing in these situations.”

Is it not strange that the loser in a race gets more attention than the winner? It was the case again at the Curragh on Sunday. The third race was won by Obama Rule, a 16-1 chance. It must be a boost for President Obama whose approval ratings have taken serious hits in recent weeks. Obama is making a speech from the Oval Office on Tuesday (evening) about the withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq.

Memory was all the rage in the fifth race on Sunday at the Curragh. The going was firm. Kildare County is having a dry spell and the course had been watered. The even money favorite, from Richard Hannon’s barn, was ridden by Richard Hughes in the 1400-metre race for freshman girls. Twelve ran. Misty For Me, Seamie Heffernan up, was one of Ballydoyle’s representatives. Together, another Aidan O’Brien runner, had John Murtagh. Misty For Me, a 10-1 chance, set sail up front as the twelve fillies were let go. As the race took a serious turn, Misty For Me found more as the challengers delivered their bids. Memory was causing concern to her supporters, Concern became panic as Memory was not gaining ground. Laughing Lashes ran on but Misty For Me was in no mood to yield. The margin was a length and the time was 1 24.56 seconds.

Misty For Me was winning for the second time in four outings. All the four races have been at the Curragh. Galileo is the sire of Misty For Me. Butterfly (by Storm Cat) is the dam.

Trainer O’Brien commented, “she has been coming forward with every run. Seamie has always said she has been crying out to go a mile. We will look at the Fillies’ Mile (Ascot, late September) and the Marcel Boussac (Longchamp) for her.”

Jockey Heffernan paid tribute to his mount. “She is tough and genuine. Aidan said to let her stride along in front. I was happy I was on the best filly and it all worked out.”

Yes, Memory has made more news with her defeat. The Danehill Dancer filly was three for three in her career. The Moyglare was her fourth race. Her track (work) reports had been highly encouraging. Richard Hughes was laconic.”She was never going at all today.”

Richard Hannon Jr, made a statement. “She did not fire for whatever reason. A few of ours have been running like that recently. We will take her home and find out if something went wrong.”

Rachel Alexandra has run five times this year. She has lost three times. Her most recent loss came in the Grade I Personal Ensign at Saratoga on Sunday. A 2/5 favorite in the 2000-metre Grade I (dirt) contest, Rachel Alexandra and Life At Ten disputed the lead for a better part of the first mile. The first half mile was run in 47.73 seconds. Six furlongs were covered in 1 12.02. At one point, the pair was 12 to 15 lengths ahead of the other three. Turning for home, Rachel Alexandra was able to see Life At Ten off. Persistently, a 20-1 chance, in the meanwhile, had cut the deficit down as the duel of attrition was ending. Jockey Alan Garcia had moved three-wide into the final turn with Persistently. With a furlong to go, jockey Calvin Borel asked Rachel Alexandra for more as Persistently would not go away. There was, may be, a little over a length to find and Persistently responded to jockey Garcia's call. The Claude McGaughey III-trained Persistently ran out the winner by a length in 2 04.49.

Life At Ten weakened but managed third and was ten lengths off the winner. The Phipps Stable owns Persistently, a filly by Smoke Glacken out of Just Reward by Deputy Minister. There was poetic justice as the incomparable Personal Ensign was owned and trained by Phipps and McGaughey.

Trainer McGaughey was delighted. "Obviously with Rachel Alexandra in the race, we knew we were a longshot. We thought she would run a mile and a quarter. It was Mr Phipps' decision. He wanted to give it a try especially in a small field. I am just tickled to death to win the Personal Ensign."

Alan Garcia spoke matter-of-factly. "We had a good trip. At the 3/8, I knew I had to move. She did it very well."

Jockey Borel had no excuses. "She (Rachel Alexandra) tried hard. At the eighth pole, I was concerned. We were beaten by the better horse today."

We will now take a look at the Grade I Pat O'Brien Stakes (1400 metres) run at Del Mar on Saturday. El Brujo, the red hot Joel Rosario up, made every call a winning one. The four year-old Candy Ride gelding showed tremendous early foot in clearing the field very early. It was a steady gallop and El Brujo won by one half length in a time of 1 21.70 seconds. El Brujo, a Bob Baffert pupil, paid $9.60. Enchanted by Devil's Bag is El Brujo's dam.

Crown of Thorns headed the beaten brigade. Smiling Tiger, the 12/10 chalk, was four lengths back in third. In the Bing Crosby on August 1, Smiling Tiger had given El Brujo a sound thrashing but the Pat O'Brien Stakes provided a complete reversal.

The Pat O'Brien was the 10th race in the Saturday card at Del Mar. The eighth race was the million-dollar Pacific Classic. It was Bob Baffert's Richard's Kid who emerged victorious to set the stage for a Group I double for the silver-haired, fast-talking trainer. Baffert was in Saratoga for the stakes-studded card.

Mike Smith was aboard Richard's Kid who was making a successful defence of his Pacific Classic title. A 9-2 chance, Richard's Kid.a five year-old horse by Lemon Drop Kid (Kingmambo) out of Tough Broad by Broad Brush, won by three parts of a length. The time for the 2000-metre race was 2 03.27 seconds. There were ten runners. Crowded House, the Racing Post Trophy winner as a freshman last year at Doncaster, led close home but could not match Richard's Kid's closing burst. The Usual Q T, the 5/2 favorite, did not have a happy trip and faded.

Richard's Kid was in the rear early in the 10-horse field, picked up horses in the far turn, was five-wide into the homestretch and poured it on in the final furlong. Richard's Kid had $966,000 in his account and the Pacific Classic put another $600,000 into the fund. In 2009, Richard's Kid, also ridden by Mike Smith, was at 24/1. This was the firsr time that jockey Smith was aboard the Bob Baffert ward in 2010. Richard's Kid joined Tinner's Way (94/95) and Skimming (2000-01) as two-time winners of Del Mar's showcase event. Tinner's Way and Skimming, Juddmonte-owned, were trained by the late Robert Frankel. It was the third Pacific Classic win for Bob Baffert. General Challenge won for Baffert in 1999. Richard's Kid has done it in 2009-10 and now has a berth in the Breeders' Cup Classic in November.

Jockey Smith spoke. "The first three jumps, I said to myself, oh no, here we go just like last year. He gathered himself. I could tell they were going a little slow. So I had him up closer than I normally would. It was easily done. It was just like deja vu all over again. You know this is only the second time I have been on him. I want to ride him once a year."

Here is news about three jockeys in England. Kieren Fallon got a five-day ban. He won with Piceno at Newmarket at week's end. The stewards ruled that jockey Fallon let Piceno drift toward Askaud who was second beaten a neck and did not make a serious attempt at correction. That got Fallon a three-day ban. There was another Fallon act that attracted the stewards' attention. It was determined that Fallon used the whip down the horse's shoulder in the forehand postion and that called for a tw-day suspension. Fallon is approaching the 100-winner mark this year.

Paul Hanghan, the leader in the jockeys' race, will be sidelined for three days, September 10, 12 and 13. Hanaghan was eighth aboard Sea Crest in a 1000-metre handicap last Friday (twilight) at Newcastle. He was charged with careless riding. Hanaghan leads the standings with 130 wins. "I thought it was a bit harsh. I felt I might get one day. I do not think I will appeal, though," Hanaghan said.

This is good news for Ryan Moore fans. The champion jockey is likely to return this Friday. "I will be back on the racecourse sometime this week, more likely towards the end of the week than any sooner. The wrist feels all right again now, " Moore stated. He has 103 winners and has a mountain to climb to defend his 2009 title.

We will take a look at Saratoga's weekend action in the next report. I have this terrible habit of being descriptive and that takes up a lot of words. What do you think?

Chicago Tuesday August 31, 2010