Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Aidan O'Brien wins his eighth Irish Derby with Cape Blanco

Here is what was not reported in the previous blog. There are additional items today. It is like rolling over unused minutes in a mobile phone plan from one period to the next. In the US and in Europe, there are several meetings and there is so much happening that it is difficult to determine what is newsworthy and what is not. I am looking at items that are of special interest to fans in India although some of the emails I have received are from readers from the US, the UK, Ireland and other countries.

The Czech Derby was run on Sunday at Velka Chuchle (name of the track) and it was a 2400-metre race. Talgado, ridden by Maria Magdalena Rossak, won the race. The name of the winning trainer is F Neuberg. The time was 2 minutes 28.46 seconds. The race was worth 33,500 (English) pounds to the winner. Until I saw this item in the Racing Post website, I did not know that there was racing in the Czech Republic.

The big race at the Curragh on Sunday was the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby. Trainer Aidan O’Brien has, it is reasonable to state, a long term lease on the Irish Classic. The Ballydoyle ace saddled the first three finishers and won his fifth consecutive Irish Derby. Cape Blanco, a 7-2 chance and the second favorite, gave O’Brien his eighth win in the Irish Derby. John Murtagh, Ballymoyle’s retained jockey, was aboard Cape Blanco. Colm O’Donoghue-ridden Midas Touch took the runner-up berth. Jan Vermeer ran third despite a spot of trouble midway up the stretch.

Blue Horizon set the pace and Midas Touch lay second. Cape Blanco was fourth and third. Monterosso followed Cape Blanco. Midas Touch drew first blood and Cape Blanco moved quickly into the mix. Monterosso, in the clear and asked for an effort, was unable to find more. Jan Vermeer, Seamus Heffernan up, was coming through on the inside. There was a brief duel and Cape Blanco was getting the better of Midas Touch. Jan Vermeer, forced to switch lanes, ran on to be third. Cape Blanco ran the 2400-metre Derby in 2 28.68 seconds and won by one half length. A length and a half separated the second and the third. A length away in fourth was Monterosso. Ten sophomores ran. The winner’s share of the purse was 725,000 euros.

Jockey Murtagh had a strip of plaster on his nose. He had come away unscathed after a fall in the first race. It was Murtagh’s fourth win in the Irish Derby. In 2009, Fame And Glory won with Murtagh. The other two Murtagh wins came on Aga Khan-owned and John Oxx-trained Alamshar and Sinndar. Murtagh had finished first and Colm O’Donoghue had run second in 2009 as well.

Cape Blanco has now won five races from six starts. He is by Galileo out of Laurel Delight by Presidium. Derrick Smith owns Cape Blanco whose earnings stand at 843,994 pounds. Cape Blanco’s only loss came in the French Derby at Chantilly when the colt ran 10th after getting a bump in the lane.

“I had a lovely run. He (Cape Blanco) travelled well. I am happy I took the right one but the credit should go to Aidan, who all along, wanted me to ride Cape Blanco, “ jockey Murtagh explained.

Trainer O’Brien spoke about Cape Blanco. “I am just delighted. His last run in France was the only blot on his copybook. May be, the travel or a hot day, something upset him. My son, Joseph, rides him at home and we knew he was in good form. He showed the class and courage we know he has. It was a tough decision for Johnny. The other two ran stormers but Johnny gave him (Cape Blanco) a brilliant ride.”

A rematch with Workforce became a distinct possibility when trainer O’Brien indicated that the King George is on the table for Cape Blanco. In the Dante at York in May, Cape Blanco beat the somewhat green Workforce who, in the next start, ran away with the Epsom Derby on June 5. Workforce was made the 4/9 favorite and Cape Blanco got a 13/8 quote.

In the first race, John Murtagh was aboard Petronius Maximus, the 5-4 favorite, and disputing the lead. Petronius Maximus hit the rail and Murtagh fell. He had a cut nose and a grazed elbow and received medical attention only to return for a ride in the second race. Murtagh thought aloud about the fall. “My horse ran green. He jinked, slipped, hit the rail and fell. I was able to get up and walk. The doctors did a great job patching me up. Thank God nothing serious happened.”

Mark Johnston, Monterosso’s trainer, commented. “We did not come here to run fourth. There were no excuses. Frankie (Dettori) said it was either a bridge too far or hopefully it just came a little bit too soon and there’s more to come later in the year.”

However, trainer Johnston did not leave the Curragh empty handed. Sunday’s last race ( 5 50 PM) went to Bay Willow, a 3-1 chance, trained by Johnston and ridden by Joe Fanning.

There was a setback for Aidan O’Brien and John Murtagh in the Railway Stakes. Samuel Morse, the 5-2 favorite, had the lead close home only to be caught in the waning yards by Formosina. The Jeremy Noseda-trained Formosina was given a great ride by Ryan Moore. If Samuel Morse had won, that would have been the 12th win in the Railway Stakes for trainer O’Brien. Formosina was a 7-2 proposition.

Trainer Noseda explained his thinking. “Formosina was beaten by Strong Suit first time out. He has improved since. I did not want to take Strong Suit on again at Royal Ascot. My colt will appreciate a step up to seven and the Vintage at Goodwood is the target. I watched Irish horses at Royal Ascot and although they ran well, they were not winning. I thought here was my chance and thank goodness that thought process has led us to the right place.”

The Ballydoyle team rebounded quickly. Murtagh teamed up with the O’Brien-trained Emperor Claudius, the 2-1 favorite, to win the 4 30 PM race, the Celebration Stakes. That set the table for the Irish Derby 1-2-3 sweep.

At Klampenborg racecourse in Denmark, the Dansk Derby was run on Sunday. The 2400-metre race was won by Diamool, ridden by Jacob Johansen and trained by Lennart Reuterskiold Jr. Thirteen ran and the winner was 8-1 in the Danish tote. The time was 2 28.10 seconds. The winner’s purse was 47,732 (English) pounds.

Finally, a paragraph on a race run at Saint Cloud in Paris on Sunday. It was another heart-breaking loss for Youmzain, the Mick Channon-trained money-making machine. Youmzain has not won a race since 2008 but has a huge bankroll. Plumania and Olivier Peslier beat Youmzain and Richard Hughes by a nose in the 2400-metre Grand Prix de Saint Cloud. It was a dry warm day in Paris. A head away in third was Daryakana, the even money favorite. Seven ran and the time was 2 34.4 seconds. Plumania was a 61/10 chance in the French mutuel system. In 2008, Youmzain won the Grand Prix de Saint Cloud. An inquiry was held and the result stood.

In my next blog, we will look at Danny Nikolic being cleared of charges. Let us see what happened in the Beverly Hills Handicap at Hollywood Park on Saturday. Jockey Paul Hanaghan is leading in the English jockey’s race. Ryan Moore and Richard Hughes are serving suspensions.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Buena Vista upset in Takarazuka Kinen at Hanshin:In-foal Chinese White takes Pretty Polly

We will take a world tour in this report. Curragh in Ireland had high profile races over the weekend. France had a Group I race on Sunday that produced a nail-biting finish. In the United Kingdom on Saturday, the Northumberland Plate, a 3200-metre race, was run. In America, Belmont Park had the Grade I Mother Goose Stakes. The Beverly Hills Handicap was run at Hollywood Park on Saturday. The Grade I Takarazuka Kinen was run on Sunday at Hanshin racecourse in the land of the Rising Sun. There were two Derby races run on Sunday in Denmark and the Czech Republic. Slovakia, I want to point out, is an independent country now. Whatever not covered in this blog, will be part of the next.

I will begin with what happened at Belmont Park on Saturday. Devil May Care was coming off a tenth place finish in the Kentucky Derby and was the 9/10 favorite in the Mother Goose, a race that Rachel Alexandra won in 2009. There were five distaffers in the race and three of them came from Todd Pletcher’s yard. Trainer Pletcher, who broke the Derby duck in May, was celebrating his 43rd birthday.

John Velasquez had Devil May Care in third position in the five-runner field and out of harm’s way until the final turn. The favorite hit the front early in the lane. Jockey Velasquez took a glance to his left. There was no threat. Biofuel was making a charge. A shaking of the reins was all that Devil May Care needed. Biofuel was seen off. With less than 200 metres to run, Connie And Michael was coming on with a run on the inside and Devil May Care had to be reminded and the Mother Goose was put to bed. The 1700-metre Mother Goose was run in 1 42.06 seconds. Devil May Care is by Malibu Moon ( A P Indy) out of Kelli’s Ransom (Red Ransom) and was winning her second Grade I race at Belmont Park. She won the Frizette last October.

Todd Pletcher was delighted. “It was a big race from her. I always felt that she was the best filly in her generation. She trained brilliantly, like she always does.”

Jockey Velasquez spoke. “Down the lane, I let her do her thing. She took the lead and it was good enough today.”

Prairie Meadows is a track in Altoona, Iowa. The twilight card on Saturday featured the $300,000 Grade II Cornhusker handicap. When the dust settled after the race, it was Shadowbdancing, Eddie Razo up, who had come away victorious. Shadowbdancing, second in the 2009 Cornhusker, beat Racing Bran by a length. The 1800-metre race on the dirt track was run in 1 48.24 seconds. A $2.00 win ticket returned $22.80. Shadowbdancing, a five year-old by Montbrook, is trained by Terrel Gore.

Eddie Razo, who is riding in Iowa this summer, commented on his ride. “He settled really nice down the backside. At the 3/8 pole, I said ‘Go ahead’ and he took care of business. He is a very nice horse.”

Trainer Gore confirmed that Shadowbdancing will race next in the West Virginia Governor’s Cup at Mountaineer Park.

Followers of jockey Julien Leparoux are relieved that the (2009) Eclipse award-winning rider will return to action on Thursday at Churchill Downs. Leparoux suffered a compression fracture in a vertebra in a fall at Pimlico on May 14. He rode on May 15 and May 16. A medical examination revealed the damage and Leparoux was advised rest.

“I will be ready to come back to work Thursday, definitely ready. I feel great. I went home to France and then took a vacation at the Bahamas. That part of it was good but I was kind of bored at times," said jockey Leparoux.

We are switching our attention to Japan, At Hanshin racecourse, the Grade I Takarazuka Kinen was run. Seventeen ran in the 2200-metre event. Buena Vista, a stakes-winning four year-old filly, was the 7-5 favorite and was taking on the boys. Jockey N Yokoyama had Buena Vista in fourth and third and moved between horse to gain command with 200 metres to go. For a moment, it looked like the race had been won. Nakayama Festa, a four year-old colt and a 368/10 chance, rallied from middivision and closed in a hurry. With strong assistance from jockey Y Shibata, Nakayama Festa swept past Buena Vista to win by one half length. The winner is trained by Y Ninomiya.

Nakayama Festa is by Stay Gold out of Dear Wink. The Takarazuka Kinen was run in 2 13 seconds on the grass. The winner ran the last 600 metres in 35.8 seconds. The going was good as the course was drying up after heavy rain in the morning. The race carried a purse of 3,099,000 US dollars. A 100 yen win ticket returned 3,780.

Stay Gold, the winner’s father, ran four times in the race from 1998 until 2001. Once second, once third, once fourth and once unplaced, Stay Gold must finally be smiling. A sum of 17,999,464,100 yen was bet on the Takarazuka Kinen. A sum of 25,340,183,100 yen was bet on the Sunday card. Ninety yen will get you one American dollar. The Japanese bet with both hands. The point is that if there was a third hand, they would bet with three hands.

Let us now take a look at the two big races at the Curragh on Saturday. The Grade I Pretty Polly, a 2000-metre race for fillies and mares, was taken by Chinese White. The Pretty Polly was the last career race for the Dermot Weld pupil who was handled by Pat Smullen. Akdarena set a fast pace. Chinese White raced second about four or five lengths off. The field was strung out and the John Murtagh-ridden and O’Brien-trained Remember When, the 18-10 favorite and a maiden trying to win a Group I race, lay in the rear. Chinese White went ahead midway down the lane and Flying Cloud pursued. Akdarena was getting leg weary and jockey Murtagh was getting no response from his filly.

Chinese White was a 4-1 chance. I remember the conversation I had with Barry Johnson, a leading bookmaker in England, in June 2008 at Epsom Downs on Oaks day. Mr Johnson was sweet on Chinese Whhite’s chances in the Oaks. Minutes before the race, Mr Johnson told me that money was not coming for Chinese White from the right people. He was right. The Oaks went to Look Here, a 33-1 chance, ridden by Seb Sanders.

This is what I believe influenced the fans at the Curragh. The favorite was the subject of big-time hype. Chinese White was pregnant. She was in foal to Cape Cross. Serious gamblers are deterred by such facts.

Dermot Weld was happy. “This is a special moment. This mare deserves it. It is her last race and it is fitting. She bows out with a Group I win.”

However, in the Grade III 2800-metre At the Races Curragh Cup, Smullen and Weld had to play second fiddle with the Melbourne Cup-bound mare, Profound Beauty to Tactic, a John Dunlop trainee, ridden by Tadhg O’Shea. Five ran and Tactic was a 5-1 chance.

Roses For The Lady, Fran Berry up, set fast fractions. Tactic went ahead with 300 metres left and Profound Beauty came calling. In a duel in the last 200, Tactic held the hard-charging Profound Beauty. The 2009 At the Races Curragh Cup was taken by Profound Beauty.

The race was run in 2 58.92 seconds and Tactic won by two lengths. Jockey O’Shea stated, “I had a willing partner who handles the ground and stays well. It was a worry taking on Profound Beauty as she’s the favorite for the Melbourne Cup and won well at Leopardstown last time out. My horse stayed on well and stuck his head where it counted.”

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Irish Derby festival under way: Curragh hosts Derby on Sunday

Horse racing’s primary focus this weekend will be on Ireland. The three-day Irish Derby Festival began on Friday. The Pretty Polly, a Group I race for distaffers, is the feature on Saturday. Sunday’s main event is the Irish Derby.

The Derby Festival is being held at the Curragh, a racecourse about 50 miles outside of Dublin. Curragh is in beautiful open country. There is a convenient bus connection from the Dublin City Centre. A train service is available on race days from Huston, a train station in the heart of Dublin. The train takes you to Kildare from where free shuttle buses take you to the course. From Dublin City Centre, it takes a little over an hour to reach the Curragh.

The Friday card is run late in the afternoon. The first race was run at 5 55 PM and the seventh and final race was at 9 05 PM. Friday’s feature was the Ballygallon Stud Stakes, a race for freshman girls over 1200 metres, and it was won by Seeharn, a 3-1 chance. Seeharn, an impressive winner in her debut at the Curragh in early June, is trained by Kevin Pendergast and ridden by Declan McDonogh. Seeharn’s next race will be in the Moyglare Stud Stakes.

Nine ladies go to post in the Pretty Polly, Saturday’s key contest. It is a 2000-metre race on the grass (all races at the Curragh are on the grass) and one of the fancied runners is Remember When, a maiden from Aidan O’Brien’s stable. A John Murtagh mount, Remember When has been keeping high class company. She was third in the Irish 1000 Guineas and again third in the Epsom Oaks. Akdarena was sixth in the Oaks at Epsom and takes her chances. Flying Cloud, a winner at Royal Ascot in 2009, ran third behind Sariska and Midday at York last time out and is a player in the Pretty Polly.

Chinese White, from Dermot Weld’s yard, was a distant third to Fame And Glory in the Tattersalls Gold Cup. Fame And Glory got an encore in the Coronation Cup on Oaks day at Epsom. Chinese White’s form is on the bright side. Pat Smullen, who leads in the jockey standings in Ireland, will be aboard Chinese White.

Eleven sophomores will run in the Group Irish Derby on Sunday. Five of them come from Aidan O’Brien’s barn who seeks his fifth consecutive win in the Derby. In 2006, Dylan Thomas won as an odds on favorite. Soldier of Fortune won in 2007 and was not the best fancied among the O’Brien runners. In 2008, Frozen Fire landed long odds. In 2009, Fame And Glory justified favoritism in the hands of John Murtagh.

Cape Blanco suffered his first loss in the French Derby at Chantilly on June 6. In the betting, Cape Blanco is the market leader because of John Murtagh being on board. In the Dante at York, a prep race for the Epsom Derby, Cape Blanco gave a thrashing to the somewhat green Workforce. The latter won the Derby drawing away on June 5. John Murtagh has expressed optimism. “It was a tough decision for me between Cape Blanco and Jan Vermeer. In France, Cape Blanco was bumped and did not get into his stride. His Dante form looks very good. I hope I have made the right call, “ Murtagh said.

Monterosso broke the duck at Lingfield in January. A Mark Johnston pupil, Monterosso won the King Edward VII at Royal Ascot over 2400 metres. In the Derby, Frankie Dettori will continue the partnership. Rising optimism has prompted Monterosso’s owner, Sheikh Mohammed’s son, to supplement the colt to the Irish Derby at a cost of 150,000 Euros. Trainer Johnston said, “Monterosso is showing all the right signs since Ascot. Everything is perfect, touch wood.”

The other Godolphin runner is Chabal who will have the riding services of Kieren Fallon. Chabal, a disappointment in York’s Dante, will run only if ground is suitable. Dublin has been going through a dry spell. Watering is being done.

Jim Bolger has two runners. They are Carraiglawn and Puncher Clynch. Coordinated Cut, who has not fulfilled his promise, represents trainer Michael Bell. David Simcock saddles Dubawi Phantom.

Colm O’Donoghue rides Midas Touch. Seamus Heffernan will be on Jan Vermeer. Joe O’Brien (Aidan’s son) and Sean Levey will be the other riders for Ballydoyle. At First Sight and Bright Horizon complete the O’Brien quintet.

My pick is Monterosso. He has more to find but what he needs to do is well within his reach. His King Edward VII win was impressively gained. It will be two runs over 2400 metres in nine days but I believe that Monterosso is a youngster who thrives on racing. Dettori is having a productive campaign and his riding form is more than satisfactory.

Let us move to America. Belmont Park will have the Grade I Mother Goose (fillies and mares) as its feature on Saturday. Belmont Park is readily accessible by train from Penn Station in New York City. It is a walk that may take not more than ten minutes from the station to the track entrance. You walk in a sheltered environment. Belmont is big beyond imagination. It is in Long Island, a tourist attraction in the summer. Devil May Care, a filly who was 10th in the Kentucky Derby, is favored to return to winning ways. The Mother Goose, a race Rachel Alexandra won last year, carries a $250,000 purse and is over 1700 metres on the dirt track. John Velasquez rides Devil May Care who faces four adversaries. Two stablemates of Devil May Care, Ailalea and Katy Now, oppose. Connie and Michael and Biofuel round out the five-runner field.

The $100,000 Beverly Hills Handicap is the big race at Hollywood Park on Saturday. General Consensus, a Rafael Bejarano mount, has been chasing Tuscan Evening in Graded events this year. The 2000-metre trip (turf) should pose no problems for General Consensus. Eight run.

Peter Gallagher, trainer of General Consensus, expressed satisfaction. “She seems to be consistent and holding her form. She is getting better every time.”

In 2010, there will be 65 ‘you win and you’re win’ races that ensure berths for winners in the Breeders’ Cup races. There are three races in Europe that have been added to the list this year. The Group I Prix Haras de Fresnay-Le-Buffard Jacques le Marois at Deauville (headquarters for summer racing in France) on August 15 will be a conspicuous addition. The winner will go in the BC Mile.

The Group I Vincent O’Brien National Stakes at the Curragh on September 11 is another. The winner gets a berth in the Juvenile Turf.

The final race is the Group II Qatar Prix Niel on September 12 at Longchamp. At stake is a berth in the BC Turf.

There will be 51 races in the US and 14 are from England, France, Ireland, Australia and Hong Kong.

There is a lot action in England on Saturday. The Northumberland Plate is a big betting race at Newcastle. It is a two-mile race.

The temperature at Dublin is about 19 degrees at 1 P M Saturday. I hope the big guns stay in the hunt for Sunday’s Derby. Cape Blanco is getting the most money. Monterosso has a lot of friends.

I am 67 years old today. There is a lot of travel ahead before I come to India. There is a possibility I will be in India in early December.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Ryan Moore wins Royal Ascot riders' race:favorites strike at 43% rate

Saturday’s feature at Royal Ascot was the Group I Golden Jubilee Stakes, a 1200-metre event. Given Group I status in 2002, the Golden Jubilee commemorates the 50th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth’s ascent to the English throne. The Golden Jubilee is now part of the Global Sprint Challenge. At 2 P M, the Royal procession began for the fifth and final time in 2010. The Saturday crowd was bigger than usual given the fact that well-backed horses had kept the fans in business through the week.

There were 24 runners in the Golden Jubilee and it was Starspangledbanner, an Australian import, who was the rage in the waning minutes. Bet down to 13/2 joint favoritism, Starspangledbanner, an Aidan O’Brien pupil and the mount of John Murtagh, darted to the top. Racing on the rails’ side, Starspangledbanner made it all to win by a length and three quarters. The time was a sparkling 1 12.57 seconds.

Twice winner at Group I level in Australia, Starspangledbanner was fourth in the Duke of York Stakes in May. A comment from trainer O’Brien that the July Cup is on the agenda prompted William Hill to make Starspangledbanner the 9-2 favorite for the race.

Aidan O’Brien did not make an attempt to conceal his enthusiasm. “It was unbelievable. His work has been incredible. He is the fastest horse we have had and the July Cup is the plan.”

That was John Murtagh’s third Royal Ascot win. He stated, “Aidan was very confident coming into this race. He said just jump out and use his stride. Don’t be anxious, go a furlong and it worked out perfect.”

Zaidan took a long lead and lasted in the 1400-metre Chesham Stakes. Seb Sanders was aboard Zaidan, a Clive Brittain trainee and a 7-1 chance.

The Hardwicke Stakes, a 2400-metre contest, was won by Harbinger, the 8-11 favorite. Harbinger was third coming into the turn and sailed away when let go by Ryan Moore. Eleven ran. Speculation began about Harbinger going in the King George Queen Elizabeth Stakes in late July at Ascot but there has been no confirmation yet. Harbinger gave Ryan Moore his third win at Royal Ascot.

Next came the Golden Jubilee Stakes and John Murtagh drew level 3-3 with his win on Starspangledbanner.

Despite being off for 610 days, Laddies Poker Two, from Jeremy Noseda’s yard, was the 9-2 favorite in the 1200-metre Wokingham Stakes. A 16-1 chance on Tuesday and Wednesday, Laddies Poker Two could be bet at 10-1 on High Street on Saturday morning. Betting shops open (with exceptions) at 9 A M in London and close at 9 30 P M. It was a 27-horse field. A mare coming back from an extended period on the shelf and in a 27-runner race-these two compelling facts did not deter the fans. It was a gamble of unbelievable proportions. Betting has a bandwagon effect.

A grey who could be identified easily, Laddies Poker Two left nothing to chance. There were no questions where the favorite lay. John Murtagh had the Noseda-trained mare at the head of affairs and the Wokingham was put to bed a long way from home. The winning margin was two and one half lengths. Laddies Poker Two clocked 1 12.27 seconds, faster than Starspangledbanner, a Group I winner.

John Murtagh had taken a 4-3 lead over Ryan Moore. There were two races left in the Royal meeting. Imposing, Moore up, was the 7-4 favorite in the Duke of Edinburgh Handicap. It was a 2400-metre race. As hard as Imposing and Moore tried, they could not get the better of Cill Rialaig, a 16-1 chance, trained by Hugh Morrison and ridden by Steve Drowne. Seventeen ran and Cill Rialaig won by a neck.

The Queen Alexandra, a 4300-metre race, came up. The curtain was coming down on Royal Ascot. Eighteen ran. The big question was if jockey Moore will be able to win and tie John Murtagh and if he did, he would be crowned champion rider. Moore had five runner-up efforts and Murtagh had four.

Bergo, a 10-1 chance trained by Ryan’s father, G L Moore, was in striking range and struck the front midway down the stretch. The marathon was run in four minutes 47.79 seconds.

Ryan Moore had tied John Murtagh. The better bridesmaid number made Ryan the top jockey at Royal Ascot 2010. All week long, Moore stayed the favorite and produced enough when needed.

Jockey Moore has often been charged with being irreverent. I have spoken to Ryan Moore. He is a ‘matter of fact’ person. He shows enough courtesy. I would say that he does not exercise enough care in the choice of words.
While accepting the Arora Hotels Trophy, sponsored by a hotel group, Ryan Moore made a statement that did not go down well with the British media. “Winning this jockeys’ title does not mean a lot to me personally but I am delighted to ride a winner for my dad. This is the biggest week in racing and it is very competitive and hard to win. The traditions are nice and everyone is dressed up. It is not my kind of thing but people enjoy it.”

Richard Hannon was top trainer with three wins and five seconds. Aidan O’Brien, after drawing blank the first three days, ended up with a 3-2 score.

A great deal has been said about the plight of the bookmakers. Here are some numbers. Thirteen favorites won. There were thirty races over five days. Only six horses won with odds longer than 10-1. Thirteen favorites in 30 races would make it a 43% strike rate. That exceeds the traditional 37% rate.

It has been estimated that the bookmaking fraternity lost 50 million pounds. I am reproducing two quotes from two spokesmen for two bookmakers.

Ladbrokes’s David Williams said, “every single day, the punters have given us a right royal bashing. Nobody at Royal Ascot can remember a meeting in which we have suffered such punishment. We can’t wait to get out of Royal Berkshire so we can lick our wounds in a darkened room.”

Coral spokesman, Dave Stevens, also spoke. “What is it about Royal Ascot? For some bookies, the five consecutive losing days in 2010, will make the famous Dettori day look like a round of drinks.”

Here is more news about Maxime Guyon. He went to Switzerland to ride in the Swiss Derby on Sunday. The track’s name was Frauenfeld. The name of the race was the Davidoff 30. Swiss Derby, a 2400-metre race open to colts and fillies. Brigantin, an Andre Fabre trainee, won with Maxime Guyon. Is an owner in India thinking of asking Guyon to come to Bangalore?

On Saturday, Chris Hayes rode Celtic Dance, a 12-1 chance, to victory at Down Royal in a 2600-metre race. Hayes won in a photo finish. Celtic Dane is trained by Kevin Pendergast. The Ulster Derby was worth 42,000 Euros to the winner.

Christophe Soumillon won a jumps race at Auteuil in France on Saturday. Mandali, a 11-2 proposition, won by a wide margin. The race was over three miles and one half furlongs. It was a Grade I race on the grass. It was the Grande Course De Haies D’Auteuil. That was Soumillon’s first jumps win.

Silvestre de Sousa had a double at Redcar Saturday afternoon. He won the first race with Tinkertown, the even money choice. He won the second race as well with the 15-8, Simple Jim.

Richard Hughes was plying his trade at Lingfield’s twilight meeting on Saturday. Hughes won three races. He won the 6 20 P M race with Poppy Seed, the 1-6 favorite. Poppy Seed is trained by Richard Hannon. Hughes won the 7 20 P M race with Roman Glory, at 8-1 and trained by B J Meehan. The third win for Hughes came in the 7 50 P M race with Frameit, a 3-1 chance trained by J S Moore.

On Saturday at Colonial Downs in Virginia, Kent Desormeaux steered Paddy O’Prado to a popular win in the Colonial Turf Cup. It was a $500,000 Grade I race over 1900 metres. Paddy O’Prado was third in the Derby and finished sixth in the Preakness and will now be campaigned on the grass.
Dale Romans, the winning trainer, commented. “Paddy O’Prado ran a spectacular race. He is an exciting racehorse. He does things so well, just the way he does it.”

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Murtagh and O'Brien team up to win Coronation Stakes with Lillie Langtry

As Friday’s races at Royal Ascot began, there was something very different from what had happened at the Berkshire course in 2008 and 2009. The Ballydoyle team, at the end of the third day, had not gotten off the mark. What looked like a winning lead for Age of Aquarius in Thursday’s Gold Cup evaporated in the final 100 yards as Rite of Passage and Pat Smullen went one better to get the verdict in a photo. Jockey John Murtagh and Aidan O’Brien were in danger of going back to Ireland empty-handed. A bookmaking outfit had the audacity of offering odds on an Aidan O’Brien 2010 duck.

The Coronation Stakes, Friday’s feature, was run at 3 50 P M. Thirteen sophomore girls went postward. It was Lillie Langtry, a Ballydoyle runner, who came away victorious. The Aidan O’Brien trainee was the 7-2 favorite and was given a confident ride by John Murtagh. Lillie Langtry ran the 1600-metre race in 1 39.69 seconds.

Gile Na Greine, another Irish runner, showed the way and it was a brisk pace. Lillie Langtry moved up to challenge the pacesetter and drew clear as the race took a serious turn. A poor race in the Breeders’ Cup last November and a fifth in Newmarket’s English 1000 Guineas were no deterrents and Lillie Langtry’s impressive win boosted the confidence of the O’Brien camp. “We always thought she was a very good filly. She had a little injury at the back end of last year. The Pretty Polly at the Curragh and the Nassau at Goodwood are options,’ trainer O’Brien stated.

Jockey Murtagh spoke. “I got a perfect run. We got a great ground-saving trip. I thought she was, by far, our best filly last year.”

I remember sitting in a bus with Pat Healy, a racing correspondent from Ireland, going to downtown Los Angeles for a party. I was in a Pasadena hotel for the Breeders’ Cup races. Mr Healy spoke to me about Lillie Langtry. He told me that Lillie Langtry was the best filly O’Brien has trained in a long time. In the Breeders’ Cup, Lillie Langtry had a trouble-filled journey. It was moments after the Coronation Stakes that my chat with Mr Healy crossed my mind.

Two races later, at 5 00 P M, John Murtagh and Aidan O’Brien got their second Royal Ascot winner. It was Mikhail Glinka, the 2-1 favorite, who got the better of Theology in a photo finish. Twelve ran in the 3200-metre Queen’s Vase. A bet on O’Brien not leaving Ascot with a zero would have yielded a healthy return. Jockey Murtagh, champion jockey in 2008 and 2009, was back in the picture. Saturday offered more than ordinary hope for the Irish reinsman. His odds were in double figures going into Friday’s card.

Richard Hughes started Friday on an auspicious note. Hughes was aboard the Richard Hannon-trained Memory, a 15-2 chance, who won the 1200-metre Albany Stakes. It was a 22-horse field.

Then came the King Edward VII Stakes over 2400 metres. Monteresso offered evidence that he’s a progressive sort by registering an easy win. Monteresso, trained by Mark Johnston, was a 7-2 chance. Eight ran. Dettori, with three wins, had become a serious contender in the jockeys’ race.

The 2000-metre Wolferton Handicap had 15 runners. The money flowed in only one direction. It was Rainbow Peak, trained by M A Jarvis, who was the 13-8 favorite as post time approached. Neil Callan had the favorite in striking range and Rainbow Peak was drawing away when asked.

Jockey Fergus Sweeney and trainer J A Osborne provided some relief to the bookmakers in Friday’s finale. Treadwell, at 14-1, came through in the 1400-metre Buckingham Palace Handicap. There were 26 runners, yes, 26 runners.

Becket’s win on Saturday, based on what I have read, was gained with a measure of comfort. Becket is exceptional. My belief is that trainer Padmanabhan has the Maharaja’s Cup as his main option.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Rite Of Passage, a 20-1 outsider, has last laugh in Gold Cup

It was Ladies’ Day on Thursday at Royal Ascot. The traditional feature on Ladies’ Day is the Ascot Gold Cup, a 4000-metre marathon. A fixture in the past four runnings of the Gold Cup was conspicuous by his absence. Yeats, the venerable gelding, who had carried the Ballydoyle flag to victory in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009, was not in the field. The Coolmore torchbearer had bid goodbye to racing.

Trainer Aidan O’Brien had drawn a blank on Tuesday and Wednesday. His runner in the Gold Cup was Age of Aquarius. Fans showed little enthusiasm and Age of Aquarius, a John Murtagh mount, could be backed at 8-1. As the Gold Cup unfolded, many fans began to rue the decision not to respect the chances of the O’Brien charge. Akmal played his customary role of pacemaker and Age of Aquarius lay in close attendance. Rite of Passage, coming off a third place finish in a Cheltenham hurdle in March, raced in striking range in the hands of Pat Smullen. As Akmal began to weaken going into the final 800 metres, Age of Aquarius drew first blood. Jockey Murtagh went two, may be, three lengths clear and Rite of Passage, dismissed at 20-1, picked up the chase. Manifest and Ask, two well-supported runners were spinning their wheels. With 200 metres to go, the Gold Cup became an all-Irish affair. Murtagh and O’Brien were trying to break their 2010 Royal Ascot duck and give Coolmore its fifth consecutive Gold Cup win and were attempting to beat back a determined challenge from Rite of Passage, a Dermot Weld-trained and Pat Smullen-ridden hurdler-turned flat horse. Rite of Passage was gaining ground with every stride and the son of Giant’s Causeway got his neck in front in the shadow of the wire. Purple Moon, unable to keep with the top two, was a distant third, six lengths off.

The 4000-metre Ascot Gold Cup was run in four minutes, 16.92 seconds. Twelve ran. Rite of Passage was giving jockey Smullen (who rode in the 2000 Guineas in Mumbai in late December) his first win in the Gold Cup. It was the 14th Royal Ascot win for Dermot Weld who has won races the world over. Rite of Passage, it should be brought to the attention of the readers, is a flat horse and a jumper too. William Hill made a 5-1 quote on Rite of Passage getting an encore in the 2011 Gold Cup. Dermot Weld’s comment that his trainee may run in the Melbourne Cup in November prompted William Hill to offer 10-1 on Rite of Passage.

Trainer Weld spoke. “This plan was hatched a long time ago. This is a race I always wanted to win. Pat (Smullen) is a world class rider and I left the decision about how to ride to him. Rite of Passage is young and he has a good future.”

The victory had a bittersweet element. Pat Smullen received a four-day ban for careless riding. He explained his emotions. “Words cannot describe how I feel. Winning the Ascot Gold Cup is every jockey’s dream. To win the race in such a battle is also a dream and it was such a tough and dogged performance.”

John Murtagh, yet to win after the dust settled on Thursday, had cause for more frustration. The Ascot Stewards suspended him for three days for excessive use of the whip. Murtagh talked about his Gold Cup ride. “I thought we had it turning for home. We were caught in the last 60 yards. He (Age of Aquarius) is a very brave horse and I am sick.”

End of Thursday, Ryan Moore was the 11-10 favorite to win the Arora Hotels leading jockey title. Richard Hughes, Frankie Dettori, Michael Hills and jockey Moore had two wins each with two days (12 races) left in the Royal meeting.

Thursdays’ card began with the Norfolk Stakes. The 1000-metre race was taken by the William Haggas-trained Approve, a 16-1 chance, ridden by Eddie Ahern.

Hibaayeb, Frankie Dettori up, ran away with the 2400-metre Ribblesdale Stakes. Hibaayeb, the 4-1 joint favorite, hails from Saeed bin Suroor’s barn.

Michael Hills and Barry Hills combined skills to win the Britannia Stakes with Ransom Note, a 9-1 chance. There were 27 runners in the 1600-metre race.

Kieren Fallon opened his Royal Ascot account with a hard-earned victory aboard the Luca Cumani-conditioned Afsare, the 9-4 favorite in the Hampton Court Stakes. Fifteen went to post in the 2000-metre event.

Thursday’s finale was won by Dandino who was winning his fourth consecutive race. It was the 2400-metre King George V Stakes. Eighteen runners answered the starter’s call. Dandino was ridden by Paul Mulrennan, a name fans in India ought to be familiar with. This was jockey Mulrennan’s first win at Royal Ascot. There was an inquiry but the placings were not altered.

A decision was taken to water the course for Friday’s races. Doctor-ordered weather is what Ascot has been having. The condition of the course has elicited high praise. Ascot’s Royal meeting has been a balancing act for Chris Stickels, the Clerk of the Course, but things could not have gone better this year.

On Thursday at Leopardstown, jockey Chris Hayes had a lucrative double. In the 6 35 PM race, Hayes rode Money Trader, a 20-1 longshot, to victory. In the 8 05 P M contest, Hayes connected with Rose Hip, a 12-1 proposition. Hayes has been riding with distinction and is slowly but surely becoming one of the top Irish jockeys.

Maxime Guyon went to Paris after winning the Prince of Wales Stakes on Wednesday at Royal Ascot. On Thursday, Guyon was in action at Nantes in France. He won the day’s feature, the Derby de l’Ouest Grand Prix, a 2400-metre race. His mount was Marceti, a 42/10 chance.

The Irish Derby will be run on June 27. The three-day Derby festival begins on Friday, June 25. A watering program is in effect. Dublin has been having rain-free days. No rain is in the forecast in the days leading up to the Derby. The Curragh authorities are trying to lure Workforce, the Epsom Derby hero, to the Irish Derby. Workforce’s connections are keeping an open mind.

There is a proposition bet that I am compelled to mention. Aidan O’Brien has drawn a blank in the first three days at Royal Ascot. There is a 11-4 offer that O’Brien will not break the duck. I believe that O’Brien will not leave Berkshire empty handed.

Two names with a huge Indian flavor are running at Royal Ascot on Friday. Anna Salai (Mount Road in Chennai) is in the Coronation Stakes. Bangalore Gold will take his chances in the Buckingham Palace Stakes. In a 25-runner field at the Curragh, Bangalore Gold, ridden by Colm O’Donoghue, won last time out. Dettori replaces O’Donoghue on Friday.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Twenty one year-old Maxime Guyon wins the Prince of Wales aboard Byword

He is the toast of the French racing establishment. At 21, he has a resume that may lack glittering achievements. Yet, Maxime Guyon is putting ticks in all the right boxes in his curriculum vitae in a mighty hurry. He won the French 2000 Guineas with Lope de Vega in May. The same colt gave jockey Guyon his first French Derby win in early June. On Wednesday, at Royal Ascot, Maxime Guyon made his riding debut on British soil. It was a debut of extraordinary proportions. Jockey Guyon was aboard Byword, an Andre Fabre pupil, in the Group I Prince of Wales Stakes and Byword was the 5/2 favorite. Guyon’s audience included the British monarch and the Royal family. The school boyish-looking Guyon showed maturity beyond his years when steering the favorite to a heart-warming victory. Guyon and Byword were not worse than fourth, hit the front midstretch and stayed on.

In June 2008, when I was at Chantilly for the French Derby, I noticed a name that I could not recognize in the jockeys’ roster. Maxime Guyon was riding an odds on favorite (Darley-owned) in a listed race and came through and that was my first glimpse of the precocious riding sensation. Guyon was again in the news last year when he competed against Suraj Narredu in a jockeys’ competition in Mauritius.

Here are some interesting numbers. Trainer Andre Fabre, the perennial French training champion, has been the top trainer in his country 21 times. Maxime Guyon is 21. Is 21 the magic number? Byword was giving Fabre his seventh winner at Royal Ascot. Fabre won the 2007 Prince of Wales with Manduro, Stephen Pasquier up. It was one-two in the Prince of Wales for Prince Khalid Abdullah. Twice Over, trained by Sir Henry Cecil and ridden by Tom Queally, overcame road trouble to salvage the runner-up berth. The Prince’s Workforce was a runaway winner in the Epsom Derby on June 5. It has been an extremely productive year for Prince Khalid Abdullah.

In his last start, Byword was one half length behind Goldikova in the 1800-metre Prix d’Isphahan in late May. Goldikova’s win in the Queen Anne on Tuesday became a clear advertisement to Byword’s chances in the Prince of Wales.

Jockey Guyon answered questions through an interpreter. “I cannot thank Mr Fabre enough. I am delighted to have the opportunity to ride here. I walked the track and watched a few videos as I had not been here before. It is different from other tracks.”

When Andre Fabre speaks, people listen and listen carefully. “This horse (Byword) has the ability. I was a bit worried about an inexperienced jockey but he had a perfect ride.”

Talking about future races for Byword, Fabre stated, “I wanted Byword to race at Royal Ascot. This is the best course in the world. The races are run at a good pace which they are not always in France. I am not thinking about the Arc which is far off. Byword, I think, may not go farther than 10 furlongs.”

Byword was given a 10-1 quote for the Arc de Triomphe in early October at Longchamp.

A note or two about Byword’s pedigree. Anil Mukhi is better equipped to discuss pedigree matters. I shall give you the facts. Peintre Celebre is the sire. Binche, by Woodman, is the dam. Peintre Celebre is by Nureyev who is by Northern Dancer. Peintre Celebre, trained by Andre Fabre and ridden by Olivier Peslier, won the 1997 Arc. It was the fastest-run Arc. The time was 2 minutes 24.6 seconds. The winning margin was five lengths. Peintre Celebre’s mother is Peinture Bleue whose sire is Alydar, second to Affirmed in the Triple Crown races in 1978. Peintre Celebre was foaled in 1994.

Wednesday’s Royal Ascot action began with the Jersey Stakes. Rainfall, Ryan Moore up, won from Red Jazz. The time was 1 24.94 for the 1400-metre race. Shakespearean, the 3-1 favorite ridden by Frankie Dettori, tracked the leaders and came up empty in the final 400 metres. Mark Johnston trains Rainfall who could be backed at 8-1.

Jockey Moore won the second as well. It was the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Strawberrydaiquiri, a 9-2 chance, who lasted in a photo over Spacious and John Murtagh. Spacious was trying to win the Windsor Forest Stakes (1600 metres) for the second consecutive year. The race was run in 1 38.04. Strawberrydaiquiri was headed late in the lane and fought back tenaciously to get the verdict. Antara, the 4-1 favorite, was prominent and did not respond when the heat was on.

Frankie Dettori opened his account with an off pace win aboard Invisible Man, a 33-1 chance in the 1600-metre Royal Hunt Cup. Twenty nine ran. Invisible Man, from the Saeed bin Suroor barn, ran the 1600 metres in 1 37.16 seconds. Invisible Man, held up on the far side, found his best stride in the last 200 and found his seam. Dandy Boy, Colm O’Donoghue up, was the unplaced 10-1 favorite.

The Queen Mary Stakes came next. The 1000-metre sprint went to Maqaasid, a John Gosden-trained filly who was ridden by Richard Hills. Maqaasid, a debut winner at Sandown on May 20 despite a tardy beginning, is now two for two. The Green Desert filly was the 9-4 favorite. Maqaasid ran the 1000-metre race in 59.17 seconds and won by a neck over Meow, the Irish invader ridden by John Murtagh.

The last race on Wednesday was the 1600-metre Sandringham Stakes. Timepiece, from Sir Cecil’s yard, made amends for her failure in the Epsom Oaks. In the hands of Tom Queally, Timepiece, who could be bet at 7-1 at a place or two, proved the best in the 17-runner field. The time was 1 38.53 seconds. It was another win for Prince Khalid Abdullah and minor recompense for Sir Henry Cecil whose Twice Over may have gone closer in the Prince of Wales if not for traffic woes.

As Wednesday ended, Ryan Moore became the 10-11 favorite to win the jockeys’ title at Royal Ascot. His two winners put him on even terms with Richard Hughes who was available at 2-1. Dettori was in double digits.

I understand I am behind in posting my blogs. I am doing my daily newspaper work plus writing a story or two for other sources. The plate is full and I type with one finger. That is time consuming. There are days when the words do not come readily.

Keep the messages coming. If you have criticism, let me hear it. The more attention I get, the more energy I’ll have.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Goldikova makes history: Canford Cliffs wins St James's Palace

President Obama is a popular man in England. On Tuesday, as post time was approaching for the Windsor Castle Stakes (the final race) at Royal Ascot, Thirsk was getting ready for its 5 15 P M contest. The winner of the race was a 5-2 chance. Kieren Fox was the winning jockey. Gobama was the horse’s name.

Goldikova gave trainer Freddie Head, also a riding star in his time, his first Royal Ascot success. The Anabaa mare raced in the vanguard, making the most of draw one, shot past Calming Influence and Rip Van Winkle with 250 metres to run in the (straight) mile contest and put, at least, a three-length separation between herself and the rest. The Queen Anne appeared as good as over but a race is not over until it is over. Overcoming a spot of trouble in his attempt to get the benefit of a ground-saving trip, Richard Hughes had managed to show Paco Boy, the 2009 Queen Anne champion, some daylight. When jockey Hughes reminded the son of Desert Style of the task ahead, the Grade I race, in an instant, acquired a new complexion. Jockey Olivier Peslier rarely goes into a panic mode. On Tuesday, he did not but he went into a prayer mode. With the line looming large, the French reinsman was praying the wire would come soon enough. The Lord answered the prayer. Paco Boy was in front a stride or two after the line.

At 13-8 and easy to back at that price, Goldikova’s odds dropped to 11-8 at race time. Paco Boy was the second favorite. The Richard Hannon pupil was 11-4 and touched 3-1 at places.

A long Queen Anne tradition was broken. A girl had won the race for the first time in a (very) long time. A race named after a female monarch had been won by a female. Goldikova was winning her ninth race at the highest level. Her final target in 2010 will be the Breeders’ Cup (turf) mile at Churchill Downs in early November. William Hill, the British bookmaking behemoth, made a 7-4 offer on Goldikova winning the prize.

Trainer Head was effusive in his praise. “When she goes to the front, she has never been beaten. She always finds more, she is extraordinary. I do not want to talk about race strategy. Olivier (Peslier) is the rider. He does what he wants. I’m just the trainer.”

Jockey Peslier, known both for his style and substance, elaborated on his ride. “She was very relaxed. She is lovely and went straight into the stalls, no problem. May be, I came a bit early, but she is a strong filly and I knew Paco Boy would wait a long time. This is fantastic, a dream.”

My memory goes back to 2008. It was Equiano who gave Peslier a Group I win in the 2008 King’s Stand. It was ironic that Equiano won the King’s Stand again on Tuesday but in the hands of Michael Hills. In 2009, Peslier connected with Vision d’Etat in the Prince of Wales Stakes. Goldikova has given him Group I wins three years running at Royal Ascot.

In the Temple Stakes at Haydock in late May, Equiano had tried to make it all and was headed in the waning yards by Kingsgate Native. The two crack sprinters were back in the 1000-metre King’s Stand Stakes on Tuesday. The result was different. Equiano was trained in Spain when winning in 2008. Barry Hills takes care of Equiano now. Jockey Michael Hills, Barry’s son, took Equiano to the head of affairs as the gates opened and kept going. At 8-1 when the books began laying, Equiano was down to 9-2 when the loading process began. Kingsgate Native, reopposing Equiano, could not get his act together. The King’s Stand is the British leg of the Global Sprint Challenge.

Now, the third race came along, the St James’s Palace Stakes. It was the turn of Richard Hannon and Richard Hughes to get into the spotlight. Canford Cliffs had scores to settle. A loss to Makfi in the English 2000 Guineas had to be avenged. Two finishes behind Dick Turpin, a stablemate, had to be reversed. Surprisingly, from under 2-1, the Tagula colt drifted to 11-4 and a ton of money came in the way of Makfi who shared favoritism.

Jockey Hughes had Canford Cliffs settled in mid-division and called on his mount after having waited as long as he could. Dick Turpin had assumed command with a little over a furlong to run. Not many moments had passed and Canford Cliffs came calling. Hughes was yet to get serious. A reminder was all the Irish 2000 Guineas winner needed. The St James’s Palace Stakes was put to bed. Canford Cliffs cruised past Dick Turpin. Incidentally, the name of the US Senator from Illinois is Dick Durbin. I need to find out if there is a connection.

“I had to stay in the clear. He (Canford Cliffs) has an electric turn of foot. He is stronger,” jockey Hughes exulted.

Strong Suit gave Richard Hughes an encore in the Coventry Stakes. A Richard Hannon trainee, Strong Suit was the 15/8 favorite. Seb Sanders and Junior made every pole a winning one in the 4000-metre Ascot Stakes. Junior was a 17-2 chance. Marine Commando brought the curtain down with a win in the 1000-metre Windsor Castle Stakes. Paul Hanaghan rode for trainer Richard Fahey. Jockey Hanaghan is staying ahead of Ryan Moore in the race for leading jockey.

Wednesday’s going will be good to firm. It will be a dry, sunny day. There is no rain at all in the forecast and Thursday will also be a dry day. There is a possibility that the course will be watered for the Friday card.

Wednesday’s six-race card is a difficult one. It is a day to enjoy the sun, walk around and watch the action. The Prince of Wales Stakes is wide open.

Christophe Soumillon made his ‘hurdles debut’ on Tuesday at Auteuil in Paris. Jockey Soumillon, one of the top flat jockeys in France, was aboard Rag Tiger, the 3-1 favorite. He finished third. Soumillion is scheduled to ride at Vincennes late Tuesday. It is a trotting race and, unlike America, the drivers (that is what they are called) sit atop the horses. It is called ‘monte.’ In traditional harness racing, the drivers sit in bikes. Jockey Soumillon will also be in a race at Auteuil on Saturday. He will ride Mandali in the French Champion Hurdles. Auteuil is a jumps track, minutes away from Longchamp in Paris. Porte d’Auteuil is the train station you alight at to board the bus to go to Longchamp. Saint (St) Cloud is also in the neighborhood.

I have seen the reaction to my reappearance in Racingpulse. I am heartened. Please let me know what you think.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Three Group I races today at Royal Ascot

It is going to be a glorious day in London. There was overnight rain on Sunday. On Tuesday, when the Queen Anne Stakes (the first race) is run at 2 30 P M, the going will be officially ‘good.’ A sunny day is forecast for Tuesday. The high, according to the weather bureau, will be in the high 60s.

There are six races on opening day. Following the Queen Anne, the second event will be the King’s Stand, another Group I contest. The third, the St James’s Palace Stakes, will provide triple Group I delight. The fourth race will be the Coventry Stakes for freshmen. Ascot Stakes, over 4000 metres, is the fifth race. The sixth and final race, the (listed) Windsor Castle Stakes, is scheduled at 5 35 PM.

There is group singing at the end of racing every day in the grandstand. Royal Ascot is a great racing event that attracts international attention. It is perhaps the most significant five-day span in the British social calendar. Fashion and pageantry are the order of the day. There is a Royal procession that begins on the right hand side of the straight mile course and ends in front of the Royal box. It begins promptly at 2 P M every day. It is a spectacle. Yes, there is a great deal of drinking. The Royal Enclosure has bookmakers in morning dress (traditional English official garb) and there are dozens of them in the grandstand area in front of the course.

Here is the action that is offered in England on Tuesday. Thirsk, where Silvestre de Sousa makes his home, has eight races with a 2 15 P M start. The last race is at 6 20 P M. Brighton has a six-race card that starts at 6 30 P M and ends at 9 00 P M. Newton Abbot has a jumps program of six races beginning at 6 15 P M and ending at 8 45 P M. There is a Ladbrokes office in the grandstand area (main floor) where you can wager on these tracks. There are also computer-generated races-horses, dogs, automobiles- and the action is non-stop. In England, gambling is taken to art form.

Here are my thoughts on the big races. The Queen Anne is on the straight mile course. Paco Boy and Richard Hughes are back to defend their title. Paco Boy won Newbury’s Lockinge drawing away and checks in absolutely fit. Goldikova, twice victorious in the Breeders’ Cup (turf) mile at Santa Anita, comes off a convincing win in the Prix Isphahan. Rip Van Winkle, no stranger to Group I Success, has not raced since his run in the Breeders’ Cup Classic in late October. Dalghar is fresh off a heartening Group III win at Longchamp in early June and will be ridden by Christophe Lemaire. The Queen Anne has 10 runners. Here is one fact you ought to know. The Queen Anne has not been won in 40 years by a girl but I believe that Goldikova’s turn of foot and her heart will give her the edge. The incomparable Olivier Peslier rides the Freddie Head-trained mare.

The King’s Stand, over 1000 metres, has 12 runners. I do not have an opinion.

The St James’s Palace Stakes will be run on the round mile course. Horses run uphill until the final turn. The first three finishers in the English 2000 Guineas are back. Makfi will be handled by Olivier Peslier because jockey Lemaire has an obligation to ride Aga Khan’s Siyouni. Peslier has expressed cautious optimism but that’s his style. Dick Turpin was second at Newmarket and again was the bridesmaid in the French 2000 Guineas at Longchamp. In the French 2000 Guineas, Dick Turpin was beaten by Lope de Vega and the latter, on June 6, was a three-length winner in the French Derby. Ryan Moore, double Classic-winning rider at Epsom, rides the Richard Hannon-trained Dick Turpin. The third big contender in the St James’s Palace is Canford Cliffs, another Richard Hannon pupil. In the hands of Richard Hughes, Canford Cliffs made mincemeat of his rivals in the Coventry States at Royal Ascot last year as a two year-old. . After two losses in 2010, Canford Cliffs taught his foes a stern lesson or two in the Irish 2000 Guineas at the Curragh. Yes, he needs to find more to reverse the placings but he’s capable. His tendency to go to the left was gone in his Irish triumph. A solid pace should be all Canford Cliffs needs to get another win on opening day at Royal Ascot.

Richard Hughes rides Strong Suit, a major fancy, in the Coventry Stakes. There are several winners in this sprint. Zoffany is two for two and represents Ballydoyle and will have the services of John Murtagh. More often than not, the Coventry has been won by strongly fancied ones.

Twenty will run in the 4000-metre Ascot Stakes. It is a great race to watch. The last race is the 1000-metre (15 go to post) Windsor Castle. This is again a race to walk around and soak in the atmosphere.

A note or two about Monday’s races at Longchamp. Olivier Peslier had two winners before going to London from Paris. He won the third with Sir Ector, a 27/10 chance. He won the seventh with Pietra Santra, a 31/5 chance. It was indeed a great warmup for Peslier who rides Goldikova in Tuesday’s Royal Ascot opener.

In the same Monday card at Longchamp, Christophe Soumillion steered the 7/10 Stacelita to an easy win in the Group III La Coupe Stakes, a 2000-metre race. Jean Claude-Rouget trains Stacelita, winner of the 2009 Prix Diane.

Here is news from America. Battle Plan had what looked like an insurmountable lead in Saturday’s Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs. Blame rallied and caught Battle Plan. Todd Pletcher, Battle Plan’s trainer, has revealed that his trainee suffered a soft tissue injury in the right foreleg. There will be an evaluation.

“At the 5/16, Battle Plan took a funny step and the ground seemed to break out from underneath him. Late in the race, he went back to his left lead, “ trainer Pletcher said.

There was an insinuation that jockey Javier Castellano had stopped riding Battle Plan and he was blamed for the loss. I am mentioning this because fans jump to conclusions.

St Trinians is likely to race in the Clement Hirsch, a 1700-metre race at Del Mar on August 7. Trainer Mike Mitchell has said that St Trinians lost her left front shoe in the Vanity on Sunday. He did not offer the shoe loss as an excuse. “My heart almost came out of my chest. It was such a fun race to be in,” Mitchell exclaimed.

Zenyatta’s next start is up in the air. The Clement Hirsch is an option and a decision will be taken very close to race day.

Rachel Alexandra may be sent to Saratoga after her win in the Fleur de Lis on Saturday at Churchill Downs. The options are the Ruffian at Saratoga on August 1 and the Personal Ensign also at Saratoga on August 29.

Doug Fraser is the commentator at Hexham, a jumps track in England. On Sunday, June 6, Fraser did not show up for work. The police were looking. A body has been recovered from a river in Leeds and the news was confirmed by the West Yorkshire police. A positive identification will be made on Wednesday.

Zenyatta keeps date with Destiny:Sarafina romps in Prix Diane

Sarafina was a short-priced favorite in the Prix Diane (French Oaks) at Chantilly on Sunday. The going was soft. Sarafina, from the yard of Alain de Royer-Dupre, was the mount of Christophe Lemaire, who was attempting to get an encore in the Prix Diane after having won the Group I Classic in 2009 with Stacelita.

Jockey Lemaire had Sarafina held up and made headway rapidly to strike the front in the final furlong. Nine ran and Rosanara ran on take the runner-up berth. It was, therefore, a 1-2 deal for the Aga Khan in the French Oaks. Sarafina, winner of the Group I Prix Alary at Longchamp, was only running in her third career start. She is now three for three with a pair of Group I victories in her resume. The French Oaks is a 2100-metre contest. The time was two minutes 7.8 seconds.

It was the sixth Oaks win for the sartorially savvy Alain de Royer-Dupre. The Aga Khan was also getting his sixth success in the Prix Diane. It was the second Group I ‘Classic’ win for Christophe Lemaire in 2010. He was aboard Makfi, the 33-1 upset winner, in the English 2000 Guineas in early May. Sunday afternoon was extra special for Lemaire. He won the 1600-metre Group III Prix du Chemin de Fer du Nord with Fuisse after winning the Oaks.

In Britain, one could bet Sarafina at even money. In the French tote, Sarafina was part of a three-filly entry. The payoff in France was 70 cents on one Euro.

I will speak to Lemaire on Monday before he leaves Paris for London. I was unable to reach him until late Sunday in Paris. He has rides at Longchamp Monday afternoon. He has high profile mounts at Royal Ascot on Tuesday. Makfi will be ridden by Olivier Peslier in the St James’s Palace Stakes, the third race on Tuesday, because Lemaire has a contractual obligation to ride the Aga Khan-owned Siyouni.

Tony McCoy is the top jumps jockey in the United Kingdom. He has ridden the most ‘jumps’ winners and broke his Grand National duck this year with Don’t Push It, his 15th attempt in England’s premier steeplechase contest. Jockey McCoy has been awarded the OBE (Order of the British Empire) and is in the Queen’s birthday honors list. McCoy joins Pat Eddery and John Francome, two legendary jockeys, who have received the OBE.

“It is a great honor for me. Things like this are always nice and it is a bit different from some of my other achievements,” jockey McCoy said.

Paris is nine hours ahead of Los Angeles. Several hours later, at Hollywood Park, six distaffers went to post in the Grade I $250,000 Vanity Handicap. What was special about this race? Among the six, there was a mare, six years-old, who was making her 17th career start. Why should mention be made of a mare running for the 17th time in her life? The six year-old mare, Zenyatta had won all her 16 starts before racing in the Vanity Handicap. In addition to seeking her 17th consecutive win, Zenyatta, a Street Cry mare, was attempting to win the Vanity three years in a row.

The Vanity field included Zardana who had inflicted a defeat on Rachel Alexandra at Fair Grounds this year. There was St Trinians, with impeccable English origins, who had distinguished herself in the United States. Zenyatta was a half money choice. Those were generous odds but in America, a huge (late) bet would have brought it down. The pace was honest. The first 1200 metres in the 1800-metre race was run in 1 11.91 and Zenyatta lay last and sixth. St Trinians was racing fifth. Charging four-wide coming into the final turn, St Trinians took charge and had a 2 ½ length lead with 200 metres to go. Zenyatta, taken five-deep for the stretch drive, was in chase and for a moment or two, it looked like she had met her match. Jockey Mike Smith called on the champion mare. Champions do what needs to be done in difficult situations. Zenyatta put her stride into action. The gap was being narrowed and Zenyatta, in full flight, swept past St Trinians in the waning yards. The margin was one half length. The 1800-metre Vanity was run in 1 49.01 on Hollywood’s Cushion track.

Zenyatta returned $3.00 to win and the mandatory $2.10 for place. There was no show wagering. A bobble head of Zenyatta was given away and a big crowd was on hand. The Vanity purse took Zenyatta’s earnings to $6,074,580. Pepper’s Pride, a sprinting mare, won 19 races in a row and raced exclusively in New Mexico. It is reasonable to think that 19 and then 20, would be on the horizon for Zenyatta’s connections.

Jockey Mike Smith took his cap off on two occasions and looked up the sky to thank the Lord. It was a gesture of gratitude and the fans burst into prolonged applause.

I saw the video replay. In my next blog, I may be able to read a quote or two from Mike Smith or trainer John Shirreffs and reproduce it.

Siachen is a name that had me intrigued. After the filly’s win in the Bangalore Fillies Trial Stakes, I did some research. The information I collected is from a story by Nick Easen of CNN, Hong Kong.

Siachen is a glacier. It is the ultimate symbol in the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan. According to the article, maintaining positions on the frigid Siachen has come to symbolize the political and military resolve in the conflict. It is the world’s highest battlefield with troops stationed higher than most north American, European or African mountains. At 20,700 feet, India controls these heights at an estimated cost of one million dollars a day and is reluctant to back off for fear Pakistan might walk in.

Let me now tell you the essence of my conversation with jockey Srinath. I spoke to Srinath about 11 AM Monday India time. “Siachen was a little heavy last time out. I rode and she was narrowly beaten. On Sunday, she was much fitter. I have done work with her and Mr Zeyn Mirza was very pleased. He offered the ride and I readily accepted.”

“The course was soft. I would say ‘dead’ yesterday. The time, 1 42, says a lot about my filly. I wanted to stay covered up and that is how she does her best. The pace was not particularly fast. I was able to stay in range and when I had room and let her loose, she had a lot left. With 200 metres to go, I knew the race was in the bag. Now, I know Mr Mirza and Mr Dhariwal will want me to ride her in the future. I will be aboard in the Bangalore Derby and I believe it is an option. She will get better in the weeks to come.”

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Rachel Alexandra resumes winning ways

Post time for the Prix Diane (French Oaks) is 4.04 PM Paris time on Sunday. There was a thunderstorm early Saturday in the Chantilly neighborhood. A lot of rain fell. As Sunday dawns, the going will be very soft. It was announced that the grass will be cut to accelerate the process of drying. A rain-free Sunday will make the track eminently fit for racing although the going will stay on the soft side.

The Aga Khan-owned Sarafina is the 5-4 favorite with the British bookmakers. In France, all wagering is done on the Tote. Sarafina started her career as a sophomore and is two for two in her short career. In her last outing on May 23 at Longchamp, she was a convincing winner in the Group I Prix Saint-Alary. The Prix Diane will only be the third lifetime start for Sarafina, Refuse to Bend, her sire, was the English 2000 Guineas winner in 2003. Christophe Lemaire rides Sarafina who is trained by Alain du Royer-Dupre. Lemaire won the 2009 Oaks with Stacelita.

The course was watered at Ascot on Saturday. Chris Stickels, Clerk of the Course, stated, “we will start the meeting on good to firm with a touch easier ground in places.”

Goldikova, the champion French mare, takes on Paco Boy in the Queen Anne Stakes on Tuesday. Rip Van Winkle has been declared to run and he is back after a seven-month layoff.

Makfi, hero of Newmarket’s English 2000 Guineas, renews rivalry with Canford Cliffs in the St James’s Palace Stakes, the other big race on opening day. The latter, since the Newmarket race, made a visit to Ireland and returned to the United Kingdom with an impressive win in the Irish 2000 Guineas. To be ridden by Richard Hughes, the Richard Hannon-trained Canford Cliffs is favored in the wagering.

Let us switch our attention to happenings in America. There was considerable relief in trainer Steve Asmussen’s stable late Saturday. In the fourth race at Belmont Park, Unrivaled Belle, who had beaten Rachel Alexandra on Oaks day at Churchill Downs, was the odds on favorite in the Grade I Ogden Phipps, a $250,000 race for distaffers on the main (dirt) track. Life At Ten, John Velasquez up, took a bad step or two leaving, recovered, hit the front and made it all to win by two and three quarter lengths. Life At Ten, a five year-old daughter of Malibu Moon, ran the 1700 metres in 1 40.72 seconds. She returned $6.60. Unrivaled Belle loomed large in the final turn and could not match strides with the winner. A Todd Pletcher trainee, Life At Ten was winning her fifth consecutive race. Her last win came in Hawthorne’s Sixty Sails Handicap.

John Velasquez, Life At Ten’s jockey, commented. “Halfway down the backside, Kent (Desormeaux, Unrivaled Belle’s rider) wanted to go with me. So I just gave my horse her head and she responded. She got some help at the five-sixteenth pole and it was all her from there.”

Kent Desormeaux spoke. “I thought I would win at the quarter pole but the winner was too good. She kept going.”

Fifty minutes after the Ogden Phipps at Belmont, Unrivaled Belle’s New York loss did not deter fans of Rachel Alexandra from making her the 1-10 favorite in Churchill’s sixth race, the Grade II Fleur de Lis. Calvin Borel tracked Jessica Is Back and edged ahead with Rachel Alexandra turning for home. The race was put to bed in a matter of moments. Rachel Alexandra drew away to win by ten and one half lengths. The 1800-metre race was run in 1 48.78. After two losses this year, the Medaglia d’Oro progeny was returning to winning ways.

Jockey Calvin Borel made a terse statement. “She stepped it up today. We know she did the impossible last year.”

Trainer Steve Asmussen made no effort to hide his relief. “She is tremendous. I am very proud of her.”

Churchill Downs hosted another big race on Saturday, the Grade I Stephen Foster that carried a $671,700 purse. Battle Plan and Javier Castellano set the pace and had a four-length break over the chasing pack with a furlong to run. General Quarters who had chased Battle Plan had thrown in the towel. For a moment or two, it looked like Battle Plan was home free. As Battle Plan’s supporters started counting their winnings, there was someone emerging from the pack. It was Blame. Responding to Garrett Gomez’s call, Blame cut down the deficit in a mighty hurry. The post did not come soon enough for Battle Plan. Blame forged ahead to win by three parts of a length. Eleven ran and Blame was coming out of gate-11. The payoff was $9.80 on a $2.00 ticket. Blame ran the 1800-metre dirt race in 1 49.37. With seven wins in 10 career starts, Blame, by Arch out of Liable, has $1,068,214 in his account.

Winning trainer, Al Stall, Jr, stated, “he is full of ability, full of desire. He is a true professional.”

Jockey Gomez is seldom at a loss for words. “Speed was good today. I got going late. I know he will keep grinding away. He just keeps coming and coming at you.”

For fans in India, especially those who saw Adrian Nicholls in action in Mumbai, here is news that you should know. Jockey Nicholls was victorious aboard Victoire De Lyphar, a horse trained by David Nicholls, his father, in York’s Reg Griffin Memorial Trophy, a 1200-metre race on Saturday. On good going, Victoire De Lyphar covered 1200 metres in 1 11.63 seconds. There were 20 runners. A 10-1 chance, Victoire De Lyphar was in touch off fast fractions, struck the front late in the stretch and lasted over some late finishers.

Jockey Adrian Nicholls expressed delight. “Obviously, I am from up here (Yorkshire) so it means a lot. I won this before on Tax Free, so I know it takes a good horse to win it.”

The race was worth 64,760 pounds to the winner. It was the third time that David Nicholls was winning the Reg Griffin Memorial. In 1999, Pepperdine did it and Tax Free won in 2005. David Nicholls is a football fan and was watching World Cup matches and Mrs Nicholls was on hand.

In Australia, at Eagle Farm on Saturday, a number of Group races were held. The Grade I Racetree T J Smith, a 1600-metre turf race for freshmen, went to Pressday, ridden by Nash Rawiller and trained by Chris Waller.

The Queensland Derby, a 2400-metre Grade I turf race for sophomores, was won by Dariana. A 4-1 chance, Dariana was ridden by Michael Rodd. Bart Cummings was the winning trainer. It was the 260th Grade I win for trainer Cummings who is recovering from a bout of influenza.

Jockey Rawiller got another Grade I win. He rode Black Piraha, a 20-1 longshot, to victory in the Stradbroke Handicap, a 1400-metre grass race. Black Piraha is trained by Con Karakatsanis.

Kip Deville has been euthanized. The winner of the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Turf Mile was suffering from laminitis. Kip Deville came from the yard of Richard Dutrow, Jr. With 12 wins from 30 starts, Kip Deville made 3.3 million dollars.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Zenyatta seeks 17th consecutive win

The five-day Royal Ascot meeting begins on Tuesday. Berkshire, where Ascot racecourse is located, is going through a dry spell. No rain has been forecast until late Sunday. A decision has been taken to water the course on Saturday. Chris Stickels, Clerk of the Course, confirmed the move. “We will have four millimeters on the round course and eight millimeters on the straight course. We expect the course to be good to soft on opening day on Tuesday.”

Kenny McPeek, a trainer from America, is in England with three horses. McPeek-trained Noble’s Promise will take his chances in Tuesday’s St James’s Palace Stakes in which Canford Cliffs, hero of the Irish 2000 Guineas, is the clear first choice. Noble’s Promise ran with lasix, an anti-bleeding medication, in the Kentucky Derby and finished fifth. Freshmen Tiz My Time and Casper’s Touch, the other two McPeek pupils, will run in races for two year-olds.

Talking about lasix, trainer McPeek has made a comment that has attracted a great deal of comment. “I have no problem running without lasix. I strongly believe that all Graded (in the US) races must be contested by horses who are drug free.”

Another Royal Ascot item of interest is the odds board for leading jockey at the meeting. John Murtagh won the title in 2008 and 2009. The Irish riding ace is a 4-1 chance this year. Richard Hughes dead- heated with four wins with John Murtagh last year but lost out on placed rides. Hughes is the joint favorite at 9-4 with the incomparable Ryan Moore. The double-Classic winning Moore is yet to win the coveted Royal Ascot riding title. Hughes and Moore have several mounts that figure prominently in the market. Frankie Dettori is a generous 12-1.

Here is news from Sandown Park worth reporting. In the third race in Friday’s (afternoon) Sandown card, a 1400-metre event for maidens, Frankie Dettori was on the lead with Toolain with a furlong to go and the maiden moved swiftly to the left. It was so sudden that savvy Dettori, lost his posture and fell. The race was won by Ecliptic, the 5-4 favorite and a Godolphin runner, trained by Mahmood Al Zarooni. Dettori was not hurt and that was great news considering that Royal Ascot is three days away.

Dettori spoke. “I am fine. My horse ran green but he is not nasty. I took it up plenty early enough. The horse saw the big screen, he jinked twice and I fell off.”

Another item from Britain that should be of interest is the banning of a horse owner on a breach of wagering rules. Harry Findlay, who jointly owns Denman, winner of the 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup, was warned off for six months. The sentence began on Friday. Mr Findlay is not to enter a racecourse. The British Horseracing Authority’s disciplinary panel held that Findlay, on two occasions, laid Gullible Gordon, a horse in whom he had an ownership interest, to lose. The panel emphasized the fact that there was no corrupt motive but a technical violation. Betfair, the betting outfit where the bets were laid, reacted by saying that the punishment was disproportionate.

Mr Findlay made a statement. “I am not going to shout and scream at anyone. I’m a heartbroken man. I have admitted my guilt and I could not have been more expressive about it. I am appealing. Win or lose, I will never own horses in Britain again.”
We will now move to France. Chantilly, on Sunday, hosts the Prix de Diane (French Oaks) and nine sophomore fillies will answer the starter’s call. The race is over one mile two furlongs and 110 yards on the grass. Aga Khan will be represented by three runners. They are all trained by Alain de Royer-Dupre. Rosanara, winner over the Arc weekend last year, and Sarafina , in sparkling form at the moment, are favored in the betting. Deluxe carries Khalid Abdullah’s hopes. Jean Claude-Roget, who won the 2009 edition with Stacelita, will send Zagora postward. Chantilly is right handed and is 45 minutes away by train from Gare du Nord, the main train station in Paris where the Eurostar arrives from and departs to London. The winner of the Prix de Diane will get 404,531 British pounds.

Paris was warm on Friday. The going was soft and is likely to dry out. A shower is forecast before Sunday. The going, it is believed, will be good to soft on Oaks day.

Here is a paragraph on a high profile race in South Africa. In Durban on Saturday, at Clairwood, the Grade I (turf) Rising Sun Gold Challenge will be run. It is a 1600-metre race on the grass for horses three year-olds and up. Pocket Power, winner of the race last year, seeks an encore and is the even money favorite. Mother Russia, the 4-1 second favorite, comes from Mike de Kock’s yard.

It has been confirmed that Churchill Downs will host the 2011 Breeders’ Cup races. Santa Anita hosted the 2008 and 2009 BC and Churchill will now run the 2010 and 2011 championship races. Churchill became a compelling choice after problems at Santa Anita and Belmont (New York) narrowed the field.

Churchill Downs was picked for another reason. Steve Bershear, Governor of Kentucky, signed a bill this year rescinding tax breaks for the 2010 BC races if the BC was not held at a Kentucky track in either 2011 or 2012. It is nice to have a Governor who uses his pen to sign ‘racing-friendly’ bills.

Four races of some significance will be held in America this weekend. On Saturday, Churchill will have the Grade I Stephen Foster Handicap. It is over one mile one furlong on the dirt course. Eleven will run. Blame, Garrett Gomez, comes off an impressive win in Pimlico’s William Donald Schaeffer Stakes ( G III) two Saturdays ago. The Albert Stall Jr trainee is likely to be the post time choice. The Stephen Foster is a race that the connections of Rachel Alexandra considered and rejected.

The Eclipse award-winning Rachel Alexandra, from Steve Asmussen’s barn, will now take on four adversaries in the 1800-metre (dirt) Fleur de Lis stakes that carries a $200,000 purse in the Stephen Foster undercard. Calvin Borel will ride. Rachel Alexandra has suffered two defeats this year and will be trying to halt the negative trend.

Jess Jackson, majority owner of Rachel Alexandra, explained. “As long as she continues to progress, we intend to race her with the expectation that she’ll obtain her fitness level of last year. Our ultimate goal and hope is to enter the Breeders’ Cup in November.”

Belmont Park’s Saturday feature is the Ogden Phipps Stakes, a 1700-metre Grade I race on the main track. Unrivaled Belle, who beat Rachel Alexandra on Oaks day at Churchill in the La Troieene, heads the five horse field and will be seeking her first Grade I win. She is being opposed by Funny Moon who has shown a special affinity for Belmont Park by winning two stakes races in the New York venue. Life At Ten has a string of victories under her belt and has more on her plate.

Zenyatta will go for her 17th consecutive win on Sunday. She will have five distaffers to contend with in Hollywood Park’s $250,000 Grade I Vanity Handicap. It is over 1800 metres on Hollywood’s cushion track and the John Shireffs-trained mare will be attempting to win the Vanity Handicap for the third successive year. Zenyatta will be carrying 129 pounds and if she wins the Vanity, she will break the record (16 wins) set by Cigar, Citation and Mister Frisky.

There will be no show betting in the Vanity. Hollywood Park fears that there will be a minus pool. By law, tracks are mandated to return five cents on every dollar bet. On a two-dollar show bet, (horse finishing 1-2-3) a fan will be able to collect $2.10.

I took a look at Mr Fin Powrie’s web site. It is a treasure house of information. He covers a wide range of subjects. I loved the joke about the gambling farmer and the bookmaker.

Any reaction, be it favorable or otherwise, take a moment to tell me.