Thursday, July 29, 2010

Richard Hughes leads the Goodwood race: Canford Cliffs makes it three Group I races in row

Richard Hughes has ridden five winners in the first three cards of the five-day Glorious Goodwood meeting. Hughes is the second choice in the market to be leading jockey at Goodwood. On Tuesday, he connected with Zebedee, a 2-1 favorite and Martyr, a 7-1 chance. Ryan Moore, the 11/10 chalk to win the jockeys’ race had one winner. Kieren Fallon rode one winner.

The Group I Sussex Stakes on Wednesday at Goodwood was won by Canford Cliffs, trained by Richard Hannon. Hughes was the rider and he also struck with King Torus, a 11-4 chance, in the Group II Vintage Stakes. Ryan Moore had two winners, Verdant, a 5-1 chance and Dance East, the 7-4 favorite.

Thursday’s racing saw Hughes win one race and take his meeting tally to five. He steered Kalahaas, a Richard Hannon trainee and a 9-2 chance, to victory in a maiden event for fillies. Kieren Fallon was successful aboard Borderlescott in the Group II King George Stakes over 1000 metres.

Let us take a look at the Goodwood action. The Sussex win gave Canford Cliffs, a Tegula sophomore, his third consecutive Group I win. Closing with a rush, Canford Cliffs caught Rip Van Winkle close home. The latter was defending his Sussex title.

Encompassing, Colm O’Donoghue up and a 200-1 outsider, set out on a strong gallop. Rip Van Winkle tracked his stablemate. Canford Cliffs stayed covered up and was fifth and in striking range. Ryan Moore on Rip Van Winkle drew first blood. The Aidan O’Brien pupil ran past Encompassing and took a two or three-length lead with 300 metres to run. Hughes switched to the out and put Canford Cliffs in top gear. Rip Van Winkle in full fight and Ryan Moore on the lead and the situation must have caused a moment or two of anxiety to the supporters of Canford Cliffs. In the waning yards, it became clear that Canford Cliffs would not be denied.

The time was 1 37.44 for the 1600-metre trip. Canford Cliffs was the 4/6 favorite. At places, you could get 7/10. That was the fifth win in eight career starts for Canford Cliffs who is by Tegula out of Mrs Marsh by Marju. The winning margin was a neck. The race was worth 179,677 pounds to the winning connections.

Richard Hannon told his website. “He’s the best I have trained. He is the complete package. His ability to quicken is what sets him apart from other horses.”

Jockey Hughes paid a compliment to his mount. “I could not sleep Tuesday worrying what the Ballydoyle tactics (Encompassing and Rip Van Winkle) would be. When I left the gate, I was confident. I let Canford Cliffs take me where I wanted. I told the boss (Hannon) that he ( C Cliffs) had improved seven to 10 pounds since Royal Ascot.”

Prix Moulin on September 25 at Longchamp is an option for Canford Cliffs. Another is the Q E II Cup at Ascot on September 25. Richard Hannon has indicated that there are offers from breeding establishments but he is keen to race Canford Cliffs as a four year-old.

Wednesday's races at Goodwood brought more glory to the Hannon-Hughes team. The Grade II Vintage Stakes over 1400 metres resulted in a runaway win for King Torus. A freshman, King Torus, a 11-4 chance ran the 1400-metres in 1 27.13 seconds.

Jockey Hughes said, "I have never finished that fast on a two year-old at Goodwood. That was impressive."

Here is more news about Eastern Aria. The Mark Johnston-trained filly was a winner at Newmarket on July 17. It was a listed race and the distance was 2400 metres. Eastern Aria did not have too many friends at 7-1.

On Thursday at Goodwood, Eastern Aria, again ridden by Richard Hills, was in Group company in the Hennessy Fillies' Stakes. She was dismissed at 16-1 because she had a lot more on her plate. The distance was 2800 metres and Eastern Aria won by two and three quarter lengths in 2 58.05. By Halling out of Badraan who is by Danzing, Eastern Aria has Indian connections. Sharan Kumar had a story about this recently in Racingpulse.

The Artemis Goodwood Cup over 3200 metres was run on Thursday. Age of Aquarius, touched off in the Ascot Gold Cup, was the odds on favorite. John Murtagh, after serving a suspension, went to the front with the Coolmore flagbearer. With 800 metres left, Age of Aquarius was going along when tragedy struck. Age of Aquarius was eased and Murtagh got off. It was revealed that there was ligament damage below the front right fetlock. According to the Racing Post, Age of Aquarius was taken back to Ireland with his leg supported by a splint.

Victory went to Illustrious Blue, Jim Crowley up, who ran down Electrolyser in the final furlong. An 8-1 chance, Illustrious Blue is trained by William Knight who stated, "he is one of the best stayers. Goodwood is his favorite course and there are other races here in the agenda."

Here is a paragraph about Galway in Ireland. C D Hayes rode Ask Jack, 9-1, to victory on Tuesday. Pat Smullen, favored to be leading rider, had two winners. Zaminast at 4-1 and Parlour at 4/5 were his winners.

Wednesday saw jockey Smullen get another two winners. Rock Critic won at 7/2 and Unaccompanied clicked at 13/8.

Joe O'Brien, Aidan O'Brien's son, got a riding double on Thursday. Luttrell Lady, a 9/2 chance, won for Joseph who got his second winner with the 25/1 Dusty Trail. Joe O'Brien has three winners so far at Galway. In the 'jumps' department, Paul Towend is in the lead with two winners.

Goldikova will be in action this Sunday at Deauville. She heads the nine-runner field in the Prix Rothscild over a straight mile at France's premier summer course. Three others from the Werteimer Brothers camp are also in the field. Music Show and Rainfall, first and third in Newmarket;s Falmouth, oppose the brilliant French miler.

Rene Douglas was one of the top riders in North America. He was paralyzed in a spill at Arlington Park in May 2009. Douglas was on a visit to Panama. He was impressed by a two year old and he bought the young colt in partnership with other friends. Golden Moka, three for three in Panama, was making his fourth career appearance in the Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie on Sunday. Fort Erie is in Canada and near Niagara Falls. The 1900-metre Prince of Wales is the second leg of the Canadian Triple Crown. A Golden Missile colt, Golden Moka, ridden by Anthony Stephen, a name Indian fans should readily recognize, disputed the lead with Mobil Unit and drew clear in the lane to win by two and three quarter lengths. A 10-1 chance, Golden Moka timed 1 56.45 seconds. The Prince of Wales Stakes carried a purse of $482,600. Big Red Mike, winner of the Queen's Plate, finished third.

Jockey Douglas is determined to walk again. His recovery has been slowed by complications. He was leading rider several times at Arlington Park.

Last Sunday at Saratoga, jockey Javier Castellano rode five winners in a row. This is the third time that the 32 year-old Castellano has had five winners at Saratoga. Yawkey Way was the first winner at $7.60. Cody Samora was the second at $3.80. Desert Key, the third winner, returned $8.80. The fourth winner was Fiddler's Chaparito who paid $5.10. Stand Proud, the fifth winner, was away slowly and moved from last to first in the stretch. A $2.00 win ticket paid $27.00.

Jockey Catellano spoke. "It is so amazing. I am so thankful and blessed. I appreciate all the trainers that give me support and they got a lot of confidence in me."

The other jockeys who have ridden five winners at Saratoga are, John Velasquez, Jerry Bailey, Ron Turcotte, Julie Krone, Angel Cordero, Jr and Mike Smith.

Here are the big races coming up this weekend. The Nassau Stakes is Goodwood's feature on Saturday. Sir Henry Cecil's Mid Day is a tepid favorite.

Saratoga hosts the Grade II Jim Dandy on Saturday. Fly Down, who won the Dwyer and ran second in the Belmont Stakes, is the 3-1 choice in the $500,000 event.
The other big race at Saratoga that day is the Grade I Diana. Forever Together, two-time defending champion, heads the field. Seven will go. Maram, the 2008 BC Juvenile Turf winner, will take her chances. Proviso, one-time top freshman filly in France, will also line up.

Sunday at Saratoga is another special day. The big contest is the Grade I Ruffian Invitational. The purse is $250,000. A field of six is likely. The winner of the Ruffian gets a berth in the BC Ladies' Classic. Unrivaled Belle, who beat Rachel Alexandra in Churchills's La Troienne, is fancied.

Monmouth Park will feature the million-dollar Haskell Invitational at week's end. Super Saver, the Kentucky Derby hero, will take on Lookin At Lucky, the Preakness winner. Ice Box, second in the Derby and the beaten chalk in the Belmont Stakes, is in. First Dude and Trappe Shot, a promising entrant to the sophomore ranks, will be there too.

Thistledown (Cleveland, Ohio) will have the 76th running of the Grade III Ohio Derby. It is over 1700 metres on the main track and the purse is $100,000. Pleasant Prince, a loser in a photo in the Florida Derby, is the 6-5 morning line favorite. Alex Solis will ride. Wordly, second in Churchill's Northern Dancer Stakes, is a contender and will have the services of Luis Antonio Gonzalez, top Thistledown reinsman. Shane Sellers rides Dixie Band who at two, won the Arlington Washington Futurity and the Spectacular Bid at the Chicago thoroughbred track.

Last Tuesday at Presque Isle Downs, the 3/10 favorite, Informed Decision made it all in the 1600-metre $100,000 Windward. Julien Leparoux and Informed Decision made it all. The fractions were soft. The time was 1 38.53 seconds. Presque Isle Downs is in Pennsylvania. There is a Casino and a great dining area. I was there last August and had a great time.

Trainer Jonathan Sheppard commented. "I am very happy. It was not a blowout but very workmanlike and authoritative."

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Harbinger makes mincemeat of two Derby winners in King George: Rachel Alexandra wins Ladys Secret in impressive fashion

There is a new star in Europe. The European pecking order changed on Saturday. A four year-old gave two sophomores (winners of the Epsom and Irish Derbies) a thrashing in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes and that prompted the pundits to radically change the order. Harbinger, not prominent on the radar, leapfrogged to the top of the list with a romp in England’s midsummer Classic. A son of Dansili, Harbinger, coming off an easy win in Royal Ascot’s Hardwicke Stakes, won the Group I contest (2400 metres on turf) by 11 lengths in a record-breaking 2 26.78 seconds. It was such a compelling performance that William Hill, the British bookmaking company, installed Harbinger the favorite for the Arc de Triomphe to be run at Longchamp on the first Sunday in October. Hill offered even money on the Sir Michael Stoute-trained runner.

Dar Re Mi was a late scratch because of a bruised foot. Six went postward in the Group I King George. British commentators expressed serious reservations about Workforce’s odds drifting to 8-11. At places, 4-5 could be asked. Were the bookmakers privy to information that the fans did not have access to? Workforce was Ryan Moore’s choice over Harbinger who had the services of Olivier Peslier, the French reinsman. Workforce, a King’s Best colt, had registered a run-away win in the Derby at Epsom. Epsom is a demanding course and the consensus was that Ascot, lot less demanding, may not pose enough of a challenge to the Khalid Abdullah-owned three year-old. Harbinger was a 4-1 chance. Cape Blanco, the Irish Derby hero and Aidan O’Brien’s sole representative, was ridden by Colm O’Donoghue, a name familiar to fans in India, and was a 6-1 chance. The other three were in double digits.

Confront, the third member of the Stoute team, set a fast pace. Cape Blanco tracked the leader. Workforce raced outside of Cape Blanco in third. Harbinger lay fourth. Daryakana and Youmzain followed. Cape Blanco hit the front with 300 metres to go. Confront was feeling the effects of his early extertions. Workforce, to the chagrin of his supporters, was unable to find more. The odds on favorite was beating a hasty retreat. Harbinger, in striking range, was steered to the four-path by jockey Peslier. A moment or two passed and the winner of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes had been spotted. Harbinger was in command and was drawing away. Cape Blanco stayed on for second. Youmzain, seldom a winner but a consistent check-getter, took third. Daryakana was fourth. Workforce was fifth and Confront was the last one home. The race was worth 567,700 pounds to Highclere Thoroughbred Racing, a racing syndicate that was having its first runner in the King George. It was the second consecutive win for Sir Stoute in the Group I event.

Harry Herbert, spokesman for the winning connections, spoke. “I will advise anyone to get into owning horses. It reduces grown men into tears.”

I called Peslier an hour after the race. I left a message on the answering system. He told the British racing press. “You feel like you have won at the one furlong marker. The horse is the king today. I know he’s good but he was so well today. He travelled so well.”

Sir Stoute was laconic. “He (Harbinger) just cantered and travelled well. He was a decent three year-old and he has improved at four. The Arc will surely be considered.”

I had a chat with Colm O’Donoghue on Friday. “Tom, thanks for wishing me well. I am hopeful about Cape Blanco. It is a good opportunity but it’s a tough field.”

Our subject changed. “I want to come to India. I think about India all the time. A deal is all I need and I will come to India.”

“Do you have a message for racing fans in India?” I asked. “Tom, tell them I love India. I want to ride there again. Let the fans know that my best riding days were in India. Will I see you soon in Europe? If I come to Chicago to ride at Arlington on Million day, I will let you know.”

Here is a great item about wagering. Coral (UK) has announced that a punter, on Thursday, picked eight winners and used them in different win and place parlays. The total bet was 38 pounds. All the eight horses won-at different tracks. What is the fan getting in return? A whopping 127,000 pounds! The odds on the eight winners were, 7/2, 9/2, 3/1, 5/1, 6/5, 5-1, 6-1 and 11/10. Some bets were 50-pence bets and some others a pound.

Rachel Alexandra was the 1-10 favorite in Monmouth’s Lady Secret on Saturday. Queen Martha set a brisk pace and Rachel Alexandra settled outside of the pacesetter, not more than a length away. Calvin Borel ranged alongside the leader at the top of the lane and gained the lead soon after. Rachel Alexandra increased the margin and won by three lengths in 1 49.78 for the 1800-metre trip on the dirt course.

I saw the Lady’s Secret on a closed circuit monitor at Canterbury Park. The race went off at 4 58 PM Central Time. I will have a report on the claiming crown races at Canterbury in my next blog.

Trainer Steve Asmussen expressed happiness. “I am very pleased with how she went. I was an awfully warm day. She kept her composure. Calvin told me how he loved the way she came home. She is more mature and is carrying a little more weight.”

Jockey Calvin Borel commented. “She won very easily. I let her run a little bit in the stretch to make sure she got something out of the race but we saved a little bit in the tank for the next race.”

Here is an assortment of items you will find interesting. Richard Hughes connected with four winners on Thursday. Hughes won the first race at Sandown (afternoon) with Cadeaux Pearl, the 1/4 favorite. In the Folkestone (twilight) card, Hughes won three races for his father in law, Richard Hannon. Daddy’s Gift was a 7-2 chance. Our Way Only landed 3-1 odds. Sheila Toss was a 6-5 favorite.

At Leopardstown (outside of Dublin) on Thursday, John Murtagh rode two winners before the ban that took effect on Friday. Murtagh won with Zoffany, a 1-7 favorite, and Princess Lomi, a 6-1 chance.

Famous Name, a Group performer with tremendous distinction, landed a short price in the Jockey Club of Turkey Meld Stakes, a Group III race in the Leopardstown card. Pat Smullen rode for Dermot Weld. Famous Name does not make the headlines often but wins races with workman like efficiency. He has been a great servant of Prince Khalid Abdullah.

Patrick Valenzuela is getting a licence to ride in California. Valenzuela has had substance abuse problems. On July 22, the California Racing Board said that a conditional license will be offered if Valenzuela submits to hair follicle testing. Hair follicles show drug concentration levels. Valenzuela won the 1989 Kentucky Derby with Sunday Silence.

Do you remember Tom McLaughlin? Hyderabad fans should readily recognize the name. He rode three winners in the Chepstow (twilight) card on Friday. McLaughlin won with Kingsdine at 3-1 and with Matteroffact at 6-1, both trained by Ms Saunders. The third winner, Clare Glen, 14-1, was trained by Mrs Sarah Dawson.

Ryan Moore had two winners at Epsom (twilight) Downs and was slapped with a two-day ban for careless riding. Moore had one winner in the afternoon at Sandown. Paul Hanaghan, serving a sentence, was not in action on Thursday.

The Schuylerville Stakes at Saratoga on Friday (opening day) went to Lemi Geaux, a freshman filly, trained by Richard Dutrow, Jr. The Grade III Schuylerville carried a $100,000 purse. The track was sloppy. Lemi Geaux was six-deep in the stretch and the First Samurai filly rallied determinedly in the hands of apprentice Frederic Lenclud, who could not claim the five-pound allowance because the Schuylerville was a Group race. The time was 1 13.67 for 1200 metres and Lemi Geaux returned $20.20. The Grade I Spinaway on September 5 is on the filly’s agenda.

Jockey Lenclud said, “she learned something today. She failed to break sharply and there was a lot of speed. I had to sit behind the leaders. I got her clear down the lane, she got balanced and she really took off.”

There was heavy rain in the Saratoga area. Three of the five races were off the turf. There were scratches galore.

Del Mar (San Diego) had 45,309 fans on course on Wednesday. The total handle was $12,637,828. It was down four percent from 2009. On track, the total was $3,813,090.

We will take a quick look at what Devil May Care did in the Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga on Saturday. There was a Group I race in Germany at week’s end. All that and more in the next blog.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Two Group I wins for Godolphin at Hamburg: Snow Fairy completes Oaks double

A photo was consulted before the verdict was announced in the Oaks at Epsom. The Ed Dunlop-trained Snow Fairy had beaten Meeznah by the narrowest of margins in the 2400-metre Classic to give jockey Ryan Moore his first success in a British Classic. Remember When, an Aidan O’Brien trainee, was third.

The three Epsom finishers returned to renew rivalry in the Darley Irish Oaks at the Curragh last Sunday. There were 15 three year-old girls after the defection of Rosanara who had chased Sarafina home in the French Oaks at Chantilly. Trainer Ed Dunlop took a leap of faith when supplementing his filly. Hibaayeb was trying to give the Godolphin group their first win in the Oaks after running away with the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot and was another supplementary entry. Miss Jean Brodie, another Godolphin runner, was sent out by Mahmood Al Zarooni. Ballydoyle was in the Oaks with a five-sided assault.

When Ryan Moore let Snow Fairy loose in the long and demanding Curragh homestretch, announcer Des Scahill had no difficulty in spotting the winner of the Irish Oaks. Snow Fairy left her rivals standing in one of the easiest Oaks victories. Des Scahill said, “the farther she goes, the farther she wins.”

Miss Jean Brodie took the runner-up berth. Lady Lupus salvaged third and Meeznah ran fourth. The victory was worth 246,000 pounds to the winner. It was an Oaks double for Snow Fairy.

Let us take a look at what happened at Arlington Park last Saturday. Tuscan Evening made it six for six in 2010 with an authoritative win in the Grade III Modesty Handicap. The five year-old mare, trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, was the 4-5 favorite and was ridden by Rafael Bejarano. She made it all in the 1700-metre grass race. Tuscan Evening won by one half length over Éclair De Lune. It was the eighth Graded win for Tuscan Evening since arriving from the UK in late 2008.

Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said, “I would love to come back for the Beverly D ( Aug 21) and that’s why we came here today. She shipped well and she liked the course. If she comes out this race well, we will return.”

The Arlington Handicap, a Grade III 2000-metre grass contest, was taken by Rahystrada. A Byron Hughes pupil, Rahystrada was ridden by Inez Karlsson. The winning margin was one half length over Just As Well, last year’s Arlington Handicap winner. Tajaweed, the 2008 Chester Vase winner in England, finished third. General Quarters, strongly fancied, was a disappointment and was sixth. Firm ground was given as the reason for the subpar showing.

The third big race in the Arlington Park card on Saturday was the Grade II American Derby (turf) over one mile and one half furlongs. Workin For Hops, the 6-4 favorite, hit the front and stayed on to win with a measure of comfort. Mike Stidham trains Workin For Hops who also won the Arlington Classic earlier in the meeting. Francisco Torres was aboard on Saturday.

Last Friday at Hamburg in Germany, Govinda, a 109/10 chance, won the Hamburg Flieger Trophy, a race for three year-olds and up. E Pedroza rode Govinda who travelled the 1200-metre turf trip in 1 10.24 seconds. Govinda is trained by A Wohler, one of Germany’s perennial leading lights. Govinda is a sophomore colt by Pulpit who is by A P Indy. Now the questions is, what is Govinda doing in Hamburg? Hyderabad, yes, and may be Bangalore. In California, there was a horse called Harinarayana some years ago. Lord Vishnu is becoming popular in other parts of the world.

On Sunday at Hamburg, Buzzword became a rare overseas horse to win the Group I Hamburg-Idee Deutsches Derby, a 2400-metre contest for three year-olds. The race was thrown open to foreign-breds in 1993. Buzzword, a son of Dubawi, was supplemented at a cost of 50,000 pounds. Royston Ffrench rode Buzzword who is trained by Mahmood Al Zarooni. Buzzword gave the Godolphin team its third Group I (all in Europe) win this year. One with Suroor, the second with Andre Fabre and the third with Al Zarooni.

Another supplementary entry, Monterosso, Kieren Fallon up, was off color. Winner of the King Edward VII at Royal Ascot, Monterosso was fourth behind Cape Blanco in the Irish Derby and had a large following in the German Derby on Sunday.

Paddy O’Prado made no mistake in the Virginia Derby last Saturday at Colonial Downs. It was a Grade II turf race over 2000 metres. Kent Desormeaux got a ground-saving trip and got through on the fence in the lane. A grey son of El Prado, Paddy O’Prado was the 3/5 favorite.

Dale Romans, Paddy O’Prado’s trainer, spoke. “He just keeps getting better and better. He’s doing so good on the grass, I could not think of taking him off it for now. The Secretariat on Million Day at Arlington is next.”

In US action last Saturday, Sidney’s Candy was beaten in the Swaps at Hollywood Park. The Swaps was over 1800 metres. Four ran and Sidney’s Candy was the prohibitive favorite at 1-5. Sidney’s Candy was returning after a tough race in the Kentucky Derby. Skipshot tracked the leader and made up a length and a half in the last 200 to win by a head. It was Skipshot’s first stakes win. Joel Rosario rode for Jerry Hollendorfer. Sidney’s Candy ran the first 800 in 48.78 and could not hold on. The final time was 1 49.94. Skipshot paid $10.20. There is no doubt that Sidney’s Candy was rusty.

At Hamburg last Saturday, Frankie Dettori won a Group I race for his patron, Sheikh Mohammed. Campanologist took the Grosser Preis Von Lotto Hamburg, a 2400-metre race. It was the first Group I this year for trainer Saeed bin Suroor. Campanologist was a 33/10 chance. Wiener Walzer, the 2009 German Derby winner and the favorite, set the pace and could not hold on. A son of Kingmambo, Campanologist won by three parts of a length.

Jockey Dettori commented. “He (Campanologist) is really tough and genuine and deserves this Group I. He was in great form today. We have done it. “

Saeed bin Suroor said, “We have no specific plans. He is entered in all remaining German G I races. So, we’ll be back.”

Tomorrow, the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes will be run at Ascot. Rachel Alexandra heads the Lady’s Secret field at Monmouth Park on Saturday. Canterbury Park has a six race claiming crown series on Saturday. I will be at Canterbury on Saturday.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Aga Khan's Bekhabad takes Grand Prix de Paris at rain-soaked Longchamp: Arlington hosts Million Preview Day on Saturday

Trainer Jean Claude Rouget and jockey Gerald Mosse won the Juddmonte Grand Prix de Paris for the second time on Wednesday at Longchamp. There was heavy rain during the day in Paris and the grass was extra soft for the twilight card on Bastille Day. Nine sophomores went to post in the 2400-metre Group I race. At the end of the race, there was reason for jubilation in the Aga Khan camp. Behkabad, carrying the colors of the Aga Khan beat back a strong bid from the 9-4 favorite, Planteur, ridden by Anthony Crastus. Behkabad was ridden by Gerald Mosse who was substituting for the injured Christophe Lemaire. A 5-1 chance with the British bookmakers(9.80 for one euro in the French tote), Behkabad was fourth in the French Derby when Planteur finished second. The Derby placings, therefore, were reversed.

The time was 2 33.3 seconds on rain-soaked turf. Behkabad won by three parts of a length. Aidan O’Brien’s Jan Vermeer, was third and five lengths behind Planteur.

Georges Rimaud, Racing Manager for the Aga Khan, was heartened with the result. “This is his (Bekhabad) real distance and it would be logical to run in the Prix Niel and then the Arc,” Rimaud stated. Coral, the British betting outfit, reacted. Belhabad was made a 10-1 chance for the Arc de Triomphe.

Here is information that fans in India will find interesting. Wednesday’s 8 30 PM (last) race at Longchamp was by Divine Music, a 54/10 chance, ridden by Ronan Thomas. I remember Ronan Thomas riding in India not too long ago.

Doug Whyte became the champion jockey in Hong Long for the tenth consecutive time. As Wednesday’s races began at Happy Valley, Doug Whyte held a 100-98 lead over Brett Prebble. Whyte drew blank for the day. Prebble missed on Jumbo Gold, a banker for many a punter. In the 767th and final race of the season, jockey Prebble connected with Perfect Style. Whyte won 100-99.

John Size, the perennial training leader, added to his rich tally. He has been king of the hill in the training department in Hong Kong.

A note on the International Jockeys’ Challenge held at Istanbul, Turkey, on Wednesday. The five-member visiting team beat the local riders, 86 to 82. Points were based on number of firsts, seconds and so on. Pat Smullen won a race. Ioritz Mendizabal, the French reinsman, won one. Local jockeys won two races.

Here is news, a lot of it from the US. Eibar Coa, 39, has been riding in America since 1993. He is a native of Venezuela. Jockey Coa won race #4,000 with Maddy’s Crowd at Monmouth Park, New Jersey, on July 9. Coa has been leading rider at Monmouth Park in 2001 and 2002. He was also top jock at Calder, Aqueduct, Belmont Park, Gufstream and Tropical at Calder.

“Obviously, you don’t start out thinking you are going to win 4000 or any number of races. You just go out there and do the best you can. When things like this happen, it makes it even sweeter,” jockey Coa thought aloud.

Do you remember Smarty Jones? The Elusive quality colt came into the Kentucky Derby unbeaten. In pouring rain at Churchill Downs, Smarty Jones ran away with the Derby. Stewart Elliott rode. Lakshmi Srinivasan, our host at a Louisville suburb, made a bet on Smarty Jones and made a strong case for Smarty Jones during breakfast at her home Derby morning. Smarty Jones registered an easy victory in the Preakness at Pimlico. Birdstone caught Smarty Jones late in the lane in the Belmont Stakes. I was at Belmont Park on that hot, sultry afternoon and I remember that the pindrop silence that followed Smarty Jones' defeat was deafening. There is a four year-old filly by Smarty Jones who is racing in Japan. Her name is Keiai Gerbera and she won the 1400-metre Procyon Stakes (Grade III) and there was a winner's purse of $435,388. That took Keiai Gerbera's lifetime earnings to $1.162,477. What is so special about this? Keiai Gerbera became the first Smarty Jones progeny to reach the million dollar plateau. She is out of Anna Sterz, a Danzig mare. Keiai Gerbera has now won six times from 10 outings. Smarty Jones, one of Elusive Quality's most illustrious sons, is out of I'll Get Along by Smile. The last named was a sprinter of some repute. Smarty Jones fee this year is $10,000.

We spoke about Eibar Coa. Now, we will recognize a milestone that jockey Thomas Clifton achieved on July 15 at Penn National, a throughbred track in Harrisburg, capital of Pennsylvania. Clifton won the first race with Dinny Dinosaur, a freshman. That gave Clifton the 2,000th winner of his career. In the same card, jockey Clifton rode DJ's Storm to victory in the fifth race to get to 2001.

Soviet Sojourn, dam of Indian Charlie, has been euthanized. Soviet Sojourn was 21 and was suffering from infirmities caused by advancing years. By Leo Castelli out of Political Parfait by Diplomat Way, Soviet Sojourn was trained by Bob Baffert. Indian Charlie won the 1998 Santa Anita Derby, ran third in the Kentucky Derby in the care of Bob Baffert.

Eskendereya is a name that fans will readily recognize. Ante post favorite for the Kentucky Derby, the Giant's Causeway colt was withdrawn from the Run For The Roses because of an injury depriving Mr Ahmed Zayat of Zayat Stables of a chance to win one of horse racing's most coveted prizes. Mr Zayat has been in financial difficulty and his plea for Chapter 11 reorganization has been approved by a competent court. The plan has been approved by Fifth Third Bank, one of Zayat's main creditors, and the others in the list. Chapter 11 lets a business function while there is restructuring of debt. The amount to be paid and the frequency of it and the duration are determined by the bankruptcy judge who relies on a process of consultation between the creditor and debtor.

Mr Zayat spoke. "Chapter 11 was a necessary step. We have emerged stronger and we are excited about building on our many recent successes."

What racing fan has not heard of the Cheltenham Gold Cup? Cheltenham is the mecca of jumps racing. The crown jewel of the Cheltenham Festival held in the second week of March is the Gold Cup. The 1988 edition was won by Charter Party owned by Raymond Mould. On July 14, Mr Mould's house was broken into and the Gold Cup and other trophies were stolen. The Gold Cup has about nine ounces of gold. Mr Mould has announced a reward for information.

We will mention another case of euthanasia and move on to other areas. Dixie Union is no more. The 13 year-old sire was euthanized on July 14. On July 3, Gone Astray, a son of Dixie Union, won Monmouth Park's Salvatore Mile. A son of Dixieland Band, Dixie Union won seven of 12 starts. He won the Haskell, Malibu, Norfolk, Best Pal and the Hollywood Juvenile Championship. Dixie Union's dam was She's Tops by Capote.Dixie Union had 34 stakes winners and his children earned 23.6 million dollars.

William Farish, one-time US ambassador in the UK and principal owner of Lane's End Farm in Kentucky, commented. "We are extremely saddened. He was a beautiful horse and a terrific young sire."

I have a fond recollection of the Dixie family. At Sandown Park in England, on a Thursday in early June in 2005, I clicked on a 13-1 chance, Golden Dixie, a son of Dixieland Band. It was the day before Oaks day at Epsom. If my memory serves me right, Eddie Ahern rode Golden Dixie.

George Steinbrenner died on Tuesday. Bellamy Road, owned by Steinbrenner, was fancied in the 2005 Kentucky Derby but could not deliver. Position Limit, a daughter of Bellamy Road, won a maiden race at Belmont Park on July 14. It was a win posthumously for the Yankees owner. Todd Pletcher trains Position Limit.

Newbury in England hosts two important races on Saturday. Richard Hannon has a strong hand in the Weatherbys Super Sprint. The other event is the Shadwell Stakes. As I type this report in Troy, Michigan, in the morning of July 17, I am listening to the audio commentaries from British tracks. It is about 11 40 AM Eastern Time in the US.

Hollywood Park's big race on Saturday is the $200,000 Grade II Swaps Stakes. The race has added significance because of the return of Sidney's Candy to the racing wars. After winning the Santa Anita Derby, Sidney's Candy had post 20 in the Kentucky Derby and had to be used hard early and had little left when it mattered. Five run in the Swaps, a race over 1800 metres on Hollywood Park's cushion track. Skipshot, Alphie's Bet and Summer Movie who finished first, second and third in the Grade III Affirmed Handicap over 1700 metres on June 19, oppose Sidney's Candy. Mr S K Sagar of Bangalore liked the chances of Sidney's Candy in the Derby and he is a pragmatist. He realized how the outside draw affected Sidney's Candy.

Trainer John Sadler spoke. "He's back to himself. You will see him back on his form. He is ready to go."

Paddy O'Prado won the (turf) Colonial Cup at Colonial Downs on June 19. The Dale Romans trainee is opposed by seven rivals in the Grade II Virginia Derby (turf) at Colonial Downs on Saturday. Colonial Downs is in Kent, Virginia, outside of Washington DC. Interactif, Krypton and Stately Victor are some of the more accomplished foes.Paddy O'Prado ran third in the Kentucky Derby and sixth in the Preakness.

Trainer Romans expressed optimism. "His run in the Colonial Cup was awesome. We are encouraged. Hopefully, he'll run that kind of race right back. He has trained well since."

Belmont Park in New York hosts the Grade III 1200-metre Jaipur Stakes. The purse is $200,000. It is a grass race. It is the final stakes of the meeting that ends on Sunday. Action shifts to Saratoga in upstate New York. Seven run in the Jaipur Stakes and Formidable at 9/5 and Stravinsky at 2-1 are the morning line leaders.

Arlington Park has what is called 'Million Preview' day on Saturday. There is the Grade II American Derby. Workin For Hops, second to Paddy O'Prado in the Colonial Turf Cup, is favored in the $200,000 race. Nine sophomores run in the 1900-metre race. The American Derby is the second leg in the Mid-America Triple. Workin For Hops made it all in the Arlington Classic, the first leg. The Secretariat Stakes is the third leg. All legs are races on the grass.

The second big race is the Grade III (turf) $150,000 Arlington Handicap. It is over 2000 metres. Eleven answer the starter's call. General Quarters heads the field. After winning the Turf Classic on Derby Day at Churchill Downs, General Quarters was third in the Stephen Foster. Rafael Bejarano rides. A leading contender is Marsh Side, a multiple Grade I winner. Just As Well, the 2009 Arlington Handicap winner, has lost seven races in a row and needs a sharp form reversal.

The third race of some consequence on Saturday at Arlington Park is the Grade III (turf) $150,000 Modesty Handicap. Tuscan Evening, Rafael Bejarano, is the heavy favorite in the 1900-metre Modesty. Hot Cha Cha and Rainbow View are the major factors in the six-horse field. Tuscan Evening, who has been sensational in her US races after coming over from England, has been a tough customer on the front end. Rainbow View, champion freshman girl in the UK in 2008 when trained by John Gosden, is trying to regain that form.

Jerry Hollendorfer, trainer of Tuscan Evening, stated, "we wanted to come and see if she likes the course. We are thinking of the Beverly D on Million Day."

On Sunday, we will take a look at the Darley Irish Oaks to be run at the Curragh. There are sixteen three year-old fillies running in the 2400-metre Oaks. Snow Fairy, Meeznah and Remember When, the top three in the Epsom Oaks, are back to do battle.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Longchamp hosts Grand Prix Paris on Bastille Day: Jan Vermeer, Irish raider, favored

I have said on more than one occasion that the British have elevated gambling to art form. All you need is a proposition. Consider this. The King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, a Group I race, will be run at Ascot on July 24. Workforce, trained by Sir Michael Stoute, is the even money favorite. Ryan Moore, Stoute’s retained jockey, will ride Workforce, the Epsom Derby winner. Stoute has another runner in the King George. Harbinger made mincemeat of his rivals in Royal Ascot’s Hardwicke Stakes. Stoute is looking for a jockey to ride Harbinger. The British bookmaking fraternity went into overdrive. Odds were offered for, at least, six jockeys. Olivier Peslier is the 5-4 pick. Kieren Fallon is at 7-4. Richard Hughes, who is on a self-imposed exile, is at 4-1. Frankie Dettori is a 6-1 chance. Paul Hanaghan, the current leader in the jockeys’ contest, is 16-1. Richard Mullen is a nourishing 25-1.

As it turned out, Sir Stoute has taken Olivier Peslier. Jockey Peslier is one of the friendliest guys. I spent a great deal of time with him in Tokyo during the 2005 Japan Cup. Peslier is one of the perennial leaders in France.

There was a reference to a bet that nominates the runner who finishes last in a race. In England, you can ask for odds and make a wager. Especially, in major races, odds, as a matter of routine, are offered on the last finisher. Imagine several runners trying extra hard to get home last.

In England, stewards have become extra vigilant. The funny thing is that jockeys get punished but disqualifications do not occur in keeping with the severity of the offence committed. In France, the rules are stretched and often bent without being broken to bring about a disqualification. Chris Catlin is one of the better riders in England. He had three winners on Tuesday at Brighton. A train takes you to Brighton from London Victoria. It is a long but enjoyable ride. In one of his Tuesday wins, jockey Catlin was found to have been guilty of interference. The ban will keep Catlin out of the Glorious Goodwood (a very prestigious) meeting on July 27, 29 and 30. Jockey Catlin disputes the severity of the ban and has said that he will appeal.

In the same vein, let us consider the plight of Richard Hughes, the Bangalore Derby hero. Hughes is on a self-imposed exile. The time off covers a ban and if Hughes incurs the wrath of the Stewards during the ban, the punishment doubles or becomes much more severe. It is called the ‘toting up’ procedure. If you commit an offence when under a ban, you suffer more serious consequences. Hughes has spoken openly about the situation and wants to make sure he will be able to ride at Glorious Goodwood where his rides, for the most part, will be high profile.

Paul Hanaghan rode a treble at Musselburgh on Tuesday. As racing began on Wednesday, Hanaghan has a 14-win lead over Richard Hughes and a 17-point lead over Ryan Moore. Moore’s strike rate has taken a dip. Hughes is taking time off. William Hill offer 4/7 on Hanaghan and 6-4 on Moore. Hughes is a 12-1 chance. Trainer Richard Fahey’s stable has been clicking in recent weeks. Hanaghan is Fahey’s stable jockey.

Snow Fairy has been supplemented to the Irish Oaks to be run at the Curragh on Sunday. The Epsom Oaks winner is one of 17 runners in the 2400-metre race that was won by Sariska, Jamie Spencer up, last year. Hibayeeb, a Godolphin flagbearer, has also been supplemented. Ladbrokes make Snow Fairy and Hibaayeb, the joint 7-2 favorites. Coral take a different view. Meeznah, Snow Fairy and Rosanara are joint favorites at 100-30.

George Steinbrenner is dead. Steinbrenner owned the New York Yankees, America’s premier baseball team. The Yankees won the World Series, the ultimate prize in baseball, seven times. Steinbrenner owned horse tracks and dog tracks. He was part owner of Maywood and Balmoral Parks, two harness raceways in the Chicago area. Steinbrenner owned a stud farm in Florida. He had Bellamy Road, the favorite in the 2005 Kentucky Derby, who failed. He was 80 and cause of death was a heart attack.

The Hong Kong jockeys’ race will not be decided until the last and 767th race of the season is run on Wednesday at Happy Valley. Doug Whyte seeks his tenth consecutive title and has a 100-98 lead over Brett Prebble. It is a twilight card at Happy Valley. John Size, an Australian trainer plying his trade in the island, has an insurmountable lead in the training department. He is seeking his sixth championship.

Kieren Fallon rides in Istanbul, Turkey, on Wednesday. Fallon is joined by Pat Smullen, Kevin Manning and Ioritz Mendizabal, the French star. They square off in a four-race competition against a local five-member team led by Halis Karitas, Turkey’s leading light. The Europe vs Turkey tournament is being called the Veliefendi International Jockey Challenge.

Wednesday is Bastille Day in France. That is the day the monarchy fell and democracy took hold. It is a national holiday. Longchamp has a twilight card and the feature is the Group I Juddmonte Grand Prix de Paris. Making the trip across the channel and expected to justify favoritism is the Aidan O’Brien-trained Jan Vermeer. Most recently, Jan Vermeer was third in the Irish Derby at the Curragh. The Montjeu colt, who won the Group I Criterium at Saint Cloud on soft turf last year as a freshman, will have the services of John Murtagh. O’Brien won the Grand Prix on Bastille Day in 2005 with Scorpion. The race will be run at 8 20 P M Paris time-one hour ahead of England.

O’Brien commented. “We have not done much with him since the Curragh. The distance (2400) is not a problem. I will be happy if the ground is good. The possibility of a pacemaker makes me glad.

Goldwaki is a supplement and will be ridden by Olivier Peslier. Although campaigned in France’s secondary circuit, Goldwaki has been progressive and been equal to the task when there was more on his plate. There are other French sophomores who check in with credentials that merit a second look.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Martin Pedroza wins Grade I to get 1000 career victory: Starspangledbanner wins the Darley July Cup at Newmarket

We will begin with a thought on Starspangledbanner who won the Darley July Cup at Newmarket last Friday. A 2-1 chance and the favorite, Starspangledbanner was coming off a front-stepping won in Royal Ascot’s Golden Jubilee Stakes. Fourteen ran in the July Cup and the Aidan O’Brien-trained speedball again made it all in the July Cup. John Murtagh was aboard. Equiano, winner of the King’s Stand at Royal Ascot, mounted a fierce challenge. Starspangledbanner’s resolve was tested but no chink was found in his armor. The July Cup, a Grade I contest, was the British leg of the Global Sprint Challenge.

By Choisir out of Gold Anthem by Made Of Gold, Starspangledbanner, a four year-old colt, clocked 1 12.57 at Ascot. In the July Cup, the time was 1 9.81 seconds, considerably faster. There is a possibility that Aidan O’Brien may elect to take his chances in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Churchill Downs coming November. From 15 starts, Starspangledbanner has a 7-1-2 record for earnings of 1,045,550 pounds and there is, without question, more to come.

Jockey Jimmy Fortune rode two winners in the Friday card at Newmarket. In the 3 45 P M race, Catfish won at 40-1. Let us assume you bet one pound on Catfish. You will have 41 pounds. In the 4 20 PM race, Jimmy Fortune won with Memen, a 12-1 chance. Now, you bet your 41 pounds on Memen. Your return will be 533 pounds. That is a 532-1 double for Jimmy Fortune who primarily rides as a free lancer this year in England.

Here is graded action from America. Gio Ponti won two Eclipse awards in 2009. He was second to Zenyatta in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Gio Ponti was the 2/5 favorite in Saturday’s Man O’ War Stakes (2200 metres on the grass) at Belmont Park. It was a Grade I race. Eight answered the starter’s call. Gio Ponti, a Christophe Clement ward, trailed. Mission Approved went ahead in the lane but Gio Ponti, in the hands of Ramon Dominguez, rallied. The winning margin was a neck. The time was 2 16.20 seconds.

Gio Ponti, now five, ended a five-race losing streak. Trainer Clement spoke, “the grass is green and even greener now. I am delighted. The race went completely against him. They walked in front. He was last. He is versatile. We will look at the Arlington Million or the Pacific Classic at Del Mar.”

Blind Luck has been a money spinner for her connections. She was the 3/10 favorite in Saturday’s Delaware Oaks at Delaware Park. Seven ran on the sloppy dirt track and it was a Grade II race with a $250,000 purse. It was the first time in the slop in the 12-race career for Blind Luck. Joel Rosario rode Blind Luck.

Blind Luck was seventh and last down the backstretch and made up ground gradually. In the stretch, she ran on to catch Havre de Grace, who was shaping like a winner, on the line. It was a head bob. The 1700-metre Oaks was run in 1 43.34 seconds.

Jockey Rosario commented. “It was close but she got there. She broke slow, the track was wet. Sometimes, you have to take your time and let your horse settle. At the 3/8 pole, I asked her and she did what had to be done. She’s a nice filly.”

Let us take at the action at Calder in Miami, Florida. It was the ‘summit of speed’ and the main races were sprints. The Princess Rooney stakes was a 1200-metre Grade I race for fillies and mares. It was a ‘you win and you’re in’ race for the Breeders’ Cup. Jessica Is Back, a six year-old mare, ridden by Elvis Trujillo, proved the best. She returned $19.00. The time was 1 11.48 on the main track. Martin Wolfson trains Jessica Is Back.

Warbling had what looked like an insurmountable lead in the Princess Rooney but Jessica Is Back closed with a tremendous rush. Trainer Wolfson thought aloud. “She (Jessica Is Back) ran hard in her last start against Rachel Alexandra. Calder is a tough track for shippers and though Warbling opened a long lead in the stretch, I was confident that my mare, coming off that mile and eighth, would be able to run her (warbling) down.”

Pica Slew won the Grade III Azalea. Coffee Boy took the Grade II Carry Back. The Grade II Smile sprint went to Big Drama. All the four winners (including Jessica Is Back) are Calder-based., proving the point home ground advantage is critical.

We now go to Hollywood Park in Los Angeles, California. The Grade I Triple Bend was won by E Z’s Gentleman, a 39/10 chance. The time for the 1400-metre race was 1 21.11 seconds. Sangaree was second and Gayego, the 3-2 favorite, salvaged third. E Z’s Gentleman and Sangaree are trained by Bob Baffert. E Z’s Gentleman gave jockey Martin Pedroza (44) his 1,000th career victory. Pedroza stalked M One Rifle and took advantage of an opening along the rail to hit the front and win by three and one quarter lengths. Trainer Baffert indicated that the $300,000 Pat O’Brien Stakes over 1400 at Del Mar on August 28 may be the next race for E Z’s Gentleman.

Jockey Pedroza was emotional. “I am sweating so much because this is like winning the Santa Anita Handicap or six races in a day. Getting my 1,000th win in a Grade I here, means a lot to me.”

It was the first Grade I win for Pedroza since winning the 2006 Santa Maria Handicap.

There was another Grade I race at Hollywood Park on Saturday. It was the $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup. Fans refused to look beyond Rail Trip who was the 2/5 favorite. Rail Trip carried high weight of 123 pounds and was the defending champion. Victories in this year’s Mervyn Le Roy Handicap and the Californian Stakes had cemented Rail Trip’s already lofty reputation.

Victory in the Gold Cup, however, belonged to Awesome Gem, a seven year old. Six ran and Awesome Gem took 2 03.31 seconds to run the 2000-metre (dirt) distance. David Flores rode. Craig Dollase trains Awesome Gem who returned $18.00 on a $2.00 wager.

Rail Trip was wide all the way. He led 200 metres out but Awesome Gem put in a burst to get the verdict by one half length. Awesome Gem was getting seven pounds from Rail Trip. Tres Borrachos, who normally sets a fast pace, broke in the air and settled in the rear. Compari went at a slow clip.

Trainer Dollase was in an ebullient mood. “I have finally won the Hollywood Gold Cup. It is pretty exciting. A lot of work went into keeping this horse sound over the years.”

Awesome Gem found room late on the fence and jockey Flores explained. “When that hole opened up, I could not look for any better spot. That was the most beautiful thing, when you have a horse that can accelerate like that at any time.”

I do not agree with those who say that Suraj Narredu rode an ill-judged race on Sun Kingdom. On that day, Moonlight Romance ran better despite some anxious moments in the first eighth. Hughes tracked the leader and this put Moonlight Romance in double jeopardy. I do not know how fast the fractions were. The fractions must have been soft enough and that helped Moonlight Romance. Suraj’s timing cannot be faulted. There is one thing about which I am certain. Sun Kingdom is capable of finding more and reversing the result. Richard Hughes is world class. He is smart and he thinks with precision and clarity. He is an asset.

I had mentioned in my Racing Pulse story about an article that Suraj Narredu had written in a Bangalore publication. I had said that Suraj’s writing skills are as good as his riding skills. This reference was omitted, I believe inadvertently, and I wanted to make sure my readers know that there was an omission.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Music Show, a Noverre filly, storms home in the Falmouth: jockey Hughes rides a treble

I want to express a thought or two about the Bangalore Kingfisher Derby to be run this Sunday. The fact that I will not be in Bangalore saddens me. The unavailability of a TV channel to watch the Derby depresses me. May be, I can call Mr Manohar and or Mr Madhukar and be able to listen to the call (Commentary) live.

Indiarace has a separate section for the Kingfisher Derby. It is a great idea. Sharan Kumar of Racingpulse has devoted time to write about how Music’s Show win in the Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket on Wednesday impacts breeding in India and the lofty status to which Sohna Stud Farm has been elevated. Noverre, Music Show’s sire, stands at Sohna Stud Farm. I had the pleasure of seeing Mr Sultan Singh, who manages the Stud Farm, in February in Mumbai. He must be on cloud nine.

Music Show is a three year-old filly by Noverre. The dam is Dreamboat who is by Mr Prospector. Trainer Mick Channon had maintained that his filly was the best sophomore in the country but had been frustrated that, in run after run, the Noverre filly had come up with a list of excuses. The Falmouth Stakes provided the perfect platform for Music Show to showcase her ability.

Lillie Langtry, fresh off a thumping score in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot, was the 9-4 public choice. Spacious, second in a photo in the Windsor Forest, set a brisk pace with Kieren Fallon whose intention was to run his rivals off their feet. Spacious had a two-length break with 250 metres left and the chasing pack was running out of steam. There was one exception. Music Show, in the hands of the in-form Richard Hughes, was travelling very well. The ultra quick pace was beginning to take its toll on Spacious. The line did not come soon enough for Spacious and Fallon. As the speed collapsed, Music Show, who had been nursed along briliiantly by Hughes, emerged with the lead as they came out of the dip. Music Show won by two lengths and ran the 1600-metre Falmouth in 1 36.76 seconds. Eight ran and Music Show was a 13-2 chance. The Jabber Abdullah-owned filly was being ridden by Richard Hughes for the first time. The Falmouth was Music Show’s first race against older females. Rainfall, who beat the boys in Royal Ascot’s Jersey Stakes, ran on to be third. Lillie Langtry and Special Duty had no response when the race took a serious turn.

It was in the Nell Gwyn Stakes (in April at Newmarket) that Music Show gave evidence of her potential. An outside post was too big a handicap to overcome in the English 1000 Guineas. Music Show was sixth. In the Irish 1000 Guineas, the Channon trainee salvaged third. She came off a fourth place finish in the Coronation Stakes.

Trainer Channon was delighted. “We believed that she was the best three year-old filly in the country but sometimes the faith falls away. With this filly, the faith did not diminish. In both Guineas, she was trapped out wide and then when she lost at Royal Ascot, I was in bits.”

Jockey Hughes spoke about the Falmouth journey. “They went a suicidal pace. I must have been 12 lengths off at the halfway point. At the two-furlong pole, the leaders were walking and I was able to ease by them.”

It was a great Wednesday for the Bangalore-bound Hughes. He was aboard the Richard Hannon-trained Memory who was seeking three wins in a row and was the 5-4 favorite in the Group III Cherry Hinton stakes, the race preceding the Falmouth. Seven freshman girls answered the starter’s call. Late in the 1200-mtere Cherry Hinton, Memory was in danger of not finding room. With the ‘suspension threat’ hanging over him, jockey Hughes was exercising extra caution. With 200 metres to run, Memory was last. With one big surge, the favorite moved to first as the line loomed large. The time was 1 12.44 seconds. Memory, by Danehill Dancer out of Nausica N by Diesis, is now three for three. She made a winning debut at Goodwood in mid May and in her second outing, won the Group III Albany Stakes at Royal Ascot in June.

Memory was an odds on favorite as the betting began and drifted to 5 to 4. I am mentioning this because a ‘drift’ is taken as a sure sign of impending disaster. It is not so. For the most part, bookmaking is an art that requires delicate balancing of odds. Money must have come in other fillies and Memory’s odds went up to offset the liability if she lost. The bookmakers reacted to Memory’s Cherry Hinton win. She was given a quote of 8-1 for the 2011 English Guineas.

Richard Hannon spoke about Memory’s next start. “She will get a mile standing on her head. I would like to win a Group I with her and we will run her in the Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh (August 29) and I suppose that will be it this year. I had no doubt despite the problems. She won quite easily once she got in the open.”

There was more glory awaiting Richard Hughes. A determined Suited and Booted, a Richard Hannon ward, won the 5 30 PM race at Newmarket giving Hughes a riding triple and taking him closer to Paul Hanaghan in the riders’ contest. Suited And Booted was a 9-1 chance. That was a lucrative triple and my arithmetic fails me when I try to figure out what a three-horse parlay would have brought.

Across the channel in France, Christophe Soumillon was putting on a riding show at Deauville. Wednesday’s racing at Deauville was held on the (all weather) fibersand surface. Jockey Soumillon rode the winners of the first three races. Soumillon won with the 1/5 Khawatim, followed with the 1/2 Boltcity and got home the 18/5 Vertiformer. All the three winners came from Jean Claude Rouget’s yard. Soumillon has severed his links with the Aga Khan and rides for trainer Rouget. Christophe Lemaire rode for Rouget until last year and is the engaged jockey for the Aga Khan this year.

Hughes sits out Thursday. He is in action on Friday at Newmarket. He does not ride Saturday and Monday-serving out the bans that have have plagued him. On Sunday, he rides Moonlight Romance in the Bangalore Kingfisher Derby.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Newmarket hosts Falmouth: Heat disrupts action in America

The big race at Newmarket on Wednesday is the Group I Falmouth Stakes. It a race for fillies and mares over the straight 1600-metre course. By the time I finish this report, I will know the winner. Special Duty, the double Guineas winner, both on disqualification, heads the eight horse field. Tom Queally rides the Khalid Abdullah-owned filly. Criquette Head-Maarek trains. Christophe Lemaire was the intended rider but the French ace suffered a hairline fracture in his left leg in a fall at Compiegne (a track in France) on Monday. Helene Barbe, jockey Lemaire’s agent has confirmed that he will be on the sidelines for, at least, a month.

Tom Queally, who is having an extremely productive season in the UK, made a comment. “It is a nice ride to get but it is unfortunate to get a ride in those circumstances.”

The Falmouth field is high on quality. Lillie Langtry returns after winning the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot. Strawberrydaiquiri and Spacious, who were one-two separated with the help of a photo in the Windsor Forest Stakes, return. Music Show has been running at the highest level and takes her chances with the red hot Richard Hughes. Lahaleeb is a runner. Gile Na Greine, second in the Coronation, tries to turn the tables on the Aidan O’Brien-trained Lillie Langtry. Rainfall administered a beating to the boys in the Jersey stakes and is back with the girls. She has a mountain to climb though she races with her kind.

Here are news items that you ought to find interesting. Sir Michael Stoute will have two runners in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot on the last Saturday in July. Ryan Moore will be aboard Workforce, the Epsom Derby hero. Workforce is the even money favorite. Harbinger, the other Stoute runner, comes off a romp in the Hardwicke Stakes and needs a rider. The search is on.

Blane Schvaneveldt, the 12-time US champion quarter horse trainer, is dead. He was 76 and died in California because of complications from cancer. Schvaneveldt won the most races at Los Alamitos, a quarter horse track near Los Angeles. He won 3962 races and won 38 training titles, according to Steven Andersen of the Daily Racing Form.

Another death to be reported and it is in the equine world this time. Singspiel, 18, has been put down. Sheikh Mohammed owned the globe-trotting son of In The Wings. Singspiel won the 1997 Dubai World Cup. The Coronation Cup, the Juddmonte International, the Japan Cup and the Canadian International are the other high profile races that the Godolphin torchbearer won. Singspiel was second in the Breeders’ Cup turf, the Eclipse and the Grand Prix de Paris. With nine wins from 20 outings, Singspiel earned 3,651,270 pounds. Some of Singspiel’s better known children are Moon Ballad, Papineau, Eastern Anthem, Confidential Lady and Dar Re Mi.

The race for leading jockey is heating up in Hong Kong. Douglas Whyte rode four winners at Sha Tin on Sunday to take a 99-96 lead over Brett Prebble. Two weeks ago, Brett Prebble had a six-bagger at Happy Valley to go nine clear of Whyte. In recent meetings, Whyte is on an upward curve and Prebble has been struggling. If Whyte wins the race, it will be the 10th consecutive title for him. The key to Whyte’s chances is John Size who is seeking his sixth training title in nine years.

End of Tuesday in the race for top jockey in England, Paul Hanaghan stood at 85. He had one winner on Monday and had four on Tuesday, winning the first three at Pontefract (afternoon) and the last at the twilight card at Southwell. Richard Hughes had a quadruple on Monday and took off on Tuesday. Hughes will be on duty on Wednesday at Newmarket and has 73. Ryan Moore has 72 winners.

Here is the essence of graded action that took place in the US at week’s end. Informed Decision, a daughter of Derby-winning Monarchos, won the 1400-metre Chicago Handicap at Arlington Park. Champion female sprinter in 2009, Informed Decision, ridden by Julien Leparoux, led into the stretch and beat back a strong bid from Rinterval, a 33-1 longshot.

Jonathan Sheppard, the winning trainer, spoke. “She (Informed Decision) was giving nine pounds to a horse who had won a half million dollars. I thought she won with authority.”

One of Monmouth Park’s premier races was the Grade I United Nations Handicap. It was a 2200-metre race on the grass with a $750,000 purse. Coming from last to first in the nine-horse field, Chinchon, a runner with French origins, won by a length and a half over Take The Points. Chinchon was ridden by Garrett Gomez and returned $9.60. Winchester salvaged the show spot. The time was 2 11.77 seconds on firm turf. Chinchon is trained by Carlos Laffon-Parias.

Jockey Gomez paid tribute to his mount. “He’s a beautiful horse. He travelled very well and the pace did not seem to be what we thought. I was able to save ground on both turns even though I was last. He has a tremendous turn of foot.”

The Grade II Firecracker Handicap, a 1600-metre turf race at Churchill Downs, attracted more than ordinary attention because of the presence of Mine That Bird who was making his grass debut and was running for the first time in the care of Wayne Lukas. As the Firecracker progressed, the pacesetting Tizdejavu widened his advantage to win by a length and a half. Public Speaker took second and was head in front of Inca King. Fourteen ran. Mine That Bird, the 5-2 favorite in the hands of Calvin Borel, was a backmarker and ended up eighth beaten almost eight lengths. The race was run in 1 35.98 on a firm grass course.

Jesus Castanon rode Tizdejavu, a son of Tiznow. George Fox trains Tizdejavu. The tote returned $10.20.

Trainer Fox said, “I’m thrilled. We will point to races in the fall. All we have been thinking about recently is clearing this hurdle. We will freshen him up for the fall.”

Mine That Bird won the 2009 Kentucky Derby by six and three quarter lengths. That was the widest margin in 60 years. Now, consider this. Mine That Bird has lost six consecutive races. Trainer Lukas thought aloud. “He did not look comfortable until the far turn. We got that out (the grass debut) and that’s it.”

The Churchill Downs (Derby) meeting has ended. Ellis Park takes over the baton with a 27-day campaign that gets under way this Saturday.

Belmont Park hosted the Grade I Prioress Stakes on Sunday. It was another win for jockey Garrett Gomez. It was a $250,000 race for sophomore girls on the dirt. Franny Freud, the 7/10 favorite, justified the public confidence. The 1200-metre Prioress was run in 1 10.11 seconds. John Terranova II trains Franny Freud, a daughter of Freud.

Jockey Gomez spoke. “I am glad she got it done. She was right on them. Everybody got a fair trip and we had a fair trip too.”

It is hot- extra hot- in the US. The Northeast, especially, is in the grip of a heat wave. It is relative. In India, a hot US day will be a run-of-the-mill day. The days are long. The sun comes out by 4 30 AM and it is not dark until well past 9 30 PM. Belmont Park in New York has cancelled its Wednesday card because of extreme heat. Temperatures in the New York area are likely to be in the 100-degree range. Delaware Park has also cancelled racing on Wednesday.

This is the seventh time that racing has been abandoned in New York this year. The first six cancellations came at Aqueduct, another New York track in January, February and March.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Richard Hughes in cracking form as Bangalore beckons: Big Red Mike makes it all in the Plate as the British monarch applauds

Moments ago, I read in Racing Pulse that Richard Hughes and Dan Grant will be in Bangalore to ride in the Derby on Sunday. I will call Hughes and Grant in a day or two. I will talk to them about their travel plans and share with you whatever information I get.

Jockey Hughes has been on fire. Winning Group I races is becoming second nature for him. On Sunday at Chantilly, Hughes connected with the Richard Hannon-trained Dick Turpin in the Prix Jean Prat, a 1600-metre race (turf) for three year-old girls and boys. Despite his excellent record this year, Dick Turpin was a 5-1 chance with the British bookmakers. Favoritism went to Lope De Vega who was an odds on choice based on his wins in the French 2000 Guineas at Longchamp and the Derby at Chantilly in early June.

Lope De Vega was prominent and took the lead turning for home and Dick Turpin came calling. The Hannon pupil swept into the lead and the winner of the Prix Jean Prat had been spotted. Siyouni ran on to be the bridesmaid. Xtension saved third. Lope De Vega was eased off and was last of eight runners. Dick Turpin was a 73/10 chance in the French tote and clocked 1 36.3.

The Jean Prat settled a question or two. The aura of invincibility given to Lope De Vega was shattered. Dick Turpin’s first win in a Group I race took him to an elevated position in the sophomore division. Dick Turpin is by Arakan out of Merrily who is by Sharrood.

In April, Dick Turpin beat Canford Cliffs at Newbury. Then came three runner-up efforts. Dick Turpin was second to Makfi in Newmarket’s English 2000 Guineas. There was another bridesmaid role in Longchamp’s French 2000 Guineas. In the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, Canford Cliffs turned the tables on his stablemate. It was, therefore, a well deserved win for Dick Turpin who has now won six races from 11 starts for earnings of 678,833 pounds.

Richard Hughes expressed his happiness. “I’m absolutely delighted for the horse. He deserved a G I and has run some brilliant races. You get some horses like that which never get to win one and finish second all the time. It is great that he has broken the duck. The pressure is off. The only thing we would not want to do was to run him in firm ground but the French water very well and do a very good job.”

Hughes rides at Bath Monday afternoon and drives to Windsor for the twilight card. He has several live mounts. At the moment, he is very much in the mix for the English leading jockey title.

Talking of the jockeys’ race in England, Paul Hanaghan rode only once in Ayr’s Sunday racecard. Jockey Hanaghan, who has a big lead in the standings, was kicked in the face after being unseated by his mount. Hanaghan was medically cleared to ride in the second. He managed a fifth place finish and took the rest of the afternoon off. Hanaghan has several commitments on Monday and it is not known if he will be fit to do duty.

We will take a look at what happened at Woodine in Toronto on Sunday. The feature was the Queen’s Plate, a stakes race honoring the British monarch which was being run for the 151st consecutive year. The atmosphere was electric at Woodbine and it was because Queen Elizabeth II was present at the course. Not too long ago, the Queen was at Churchill Downs to watch the Kentucky Derby. On the lighter side, the Royal meeting at Ascot may not have satisfied the Queen’s racing appetite. She is reaching out to her former colonies. The RWITC should give serious thought to inviting Her Royal Majesty to the Indian Derby at Mahalakshmi in 2011.

It was Big Red Mike who made it all in the 2000-metre Queen’s Plate. The race carried a purse of one million (Canadian) dollars. A 5-1 chance in the Canadian tote, (there are no bookmakers) Big Red Mike set slow fractions. The first 1200 came in 1 14.31 on Woodbine’s polytrack. The tempo quickened then on and Big Red Mike, responding to jockey Eurico Da Silva’s call, would not relinquish the advantage. The winning margin was a length and a half and the time was 2 04.89 seconds.

Hotep took second and Roan Irish managed third. Mobilizer, the 7-2 favorite, had an outside trip and finished 10th of 13 Canada-bred sophomores.

That was back to back wins in the prestigious race for jockey Eurico Da Silva who won in 2009 with Eye Of The Leopard. Big Red Mike is trained by Nicholas Gonzalez. Jockey Da Silva put his feelings into irreplaceable words. “I am proud of both Eye Of The Leopard and Big Red Mike. The horse last year tried so hard. Big Red Mike was so focused. He ran great today. When Hotep pressed me, I tried to nurse my colt along and had a lot of horse turning for home. Winning the Queen’s Plate is great and having the Queen is so special.”

A son of Tenpins, Big Red Mike is out of Regent N Flashy who is by Vice Request. Big Red Mike won his debut in June, the Plate Trial over 1800 metres, and the Queen’s Plate was only his second career start. He was a 9-1 chance in the Plate Trial.

Woodbine is Canada’s premier thoroughbred track. It also conducts harness races. The course has three tracks. One for harness, the other two (polytrack and turf) are for thoroughbreds. There is one building that houses a casino and the second houses the track betting windows and the dining area. Woodbine is opposite the Toronto airport. It is a convenient track to get to. Hastings is another thoroughbred track in Canada. It is in Vancouver, British Columbia, not far from Seattle on the American side. Mr Anil Mukhi lives in Langley and that puts him close to Hastings.

We will now go through Graded action in the US at week’s end. Monday is a general holiday in America because Independence Day fell on a Sunday. There are big races on Monday. Hollywood Park hosted the Grade I American Oaks on Sunday. The 2000-metre race for sophomore girls went to Harmonious ridden by Martin Garcia. A Dynaformer filly out of Jade Tree by Storm Cat, Harmonious is trained by John Shirreffs. Seven ran in the American Oaks and Harmonious was a well backed 5-2 proposition. She won by a length and a quarter in a time of 2 1.77 seconds.

There was bitter irony in the $150,000 American Handicap on Sunday at Hollywood Park. Global Hunter stalked the pace and edged ahead late in the hands of Brice Blanc who, only days ago, had come out of a long drought in Graded races. An A C Avila trainee, Global Hunter ran the 1800 metres in 1 48 and returned $8.00. In a duel with the pacemaking Temple City in the lane, Global Hunter won by a head. A stride or two after passing the line, Global Hunter suffered what may be a career-ending injury. It was reported that there was damage to the right front ankle.

Jockey Blanc spoke. “He just broke down two strides past the wire. He shortened stride and did not give me any warning.”

Compari, the morning line favorite, was withdrawn and it was confirmed that he will be pointed to the Hollywood Gold Cup next week.

We will take a look at other action in the US and may be, I will be able to speak to Hughes and Grant and give you a report. All this and more, we will consider in tomorrow’s piece.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Twice Over justifies favoritism in Coral Eclipse

There has been a lot of travel for me. It is the Fourth of July in the US and every racetrack has an evening set aside for a fireworks display. It is a quintessential American tradition. I watched a 20 minute-long fireworks show at Hazel Park, a harness raceway just outside of Detroit, on Friday.

Racing in Michigan is going through a difficult period. There is one thoroughbred course and several harness tracks. Attendance is down and the wagering is way off. The racing industry is on life support in Michigan with financial assistance from the State Government. There is a ‘petition movement’ to place a proposition in the November (election) ballot. If approved, the State legislature will take up a measure to authorize five casinos at different tracks. Racing in Michigan hangs in the balance.

Mawatheeq was reluctant to get stalled and a field of five left the gate in the 2000-metre Coral Eclipse Stakes at Sandown Park. The Saturday card at Sandown was sponsored by Coral, one of the three bookmaking giants in the UK. Twice Over was the 13-8 favorite. Dar Re Mi was the 3-1 second choice. Mawatheeq’s (a 5-1 chance) withdrawal resulted in a 15-pence reduction on the winner’s payout. This is what is called ‘Rule 4’ in England. The odds offered on the withdrawn horse determine the deduction.

Twice Over disputed the lead with Dar Re Mi early and went ahead to set a strong gallop. Dar Re Mi began a retreat as the pace quickened. Viscount Nelson and Zacinto were not making progress. Twice Over’s lead widened to four lengths with 300 metres to go. As the favorite’s supporters were getting ready to celebrate, Sri Putra, ridden by Philip Robinson and a 33-1 chance, came out of the pack. Sri Putra put in a burst of speed and for a moment or two, caused a modicum of anxiety as the line loomed large but Twice Over had built a long-enough advantage. The winning margin was one half length. Viscount Nelson took third and Dar Re Mi finished fourth. The race was run in 2 minutes and 4.64 seconds. Prince Khalid Abdullah added 283,850 pounds to his racing account.

As the Eclipse was being run at Sandown, in the neighboring town of Wimbledon, Serena Williams was cruising to victory in the ladies’ singles final. The 29 year-old American beat Vera Zvonareva in straight sets, 6-3 and 6-2. That was the 13th Grand Slam win for Serena Williams. Sandown (close to Esher station) is on the same line as Wimbledon on trains that can be boarded at London Waterloo. The tennis match began at 2 PM London time and the Eclipse was run at 3 10 PM.

Twice Over, a five year-old, is by Observatory out of Double Crossed by Caerleon. In his most recent start, Twice Over chased Byword (another Abdullah horse) in Royal Ascot’s Prince of Wales. Henry Cecil’s trainee was third to Zenyatta in the BC Classic last year at Santa Anita. It was the second Group I win for Twice Over. He was victorious in the Champion Stakes at Newmarket last October. In the 2009 Eclipse won by Sea The Stars, Twice Over ran seventh. Sir Cecil’s last win in the Eclipse came in 1978 with Gunner B.

Sir Henry Cecil paid tribute to jockey and horse. “Tom (Queally) rode a brilliant race. He had been in front too long but he did enough in the end. He lost a shoe-he has to have stick-on shoes. It was great to see him win. I think he was unlucky in the Prince of Wales. We will consider the Juddmonte, the Champion Stakes and the Dubai World Cup next year. Prince Abdullah will decide if we’ll take another tilt at the Breeders’ Cup.”

Jockey Queally, getting the recognition he deserves, said, “he’s a real stable star. He is a wonderful character of a horse and he deserves it. He stayed very well. We used different tactics at Ascot. It was a smaller field today and going to the lead seemed a good option.”

Jockey Richard Hughes was slapped with a two-day ban after his ride on Jehanbux, the second place finisher in a maiden race at Sandown Park on Friday. Hughes explained, “we jumped out and went toward the rail. There was interference inside and because I was outside, they (stewards) have blamed me. There was a gap between me and the horse causing it but the stewards said that I influenced him in moving over. What should I have done! Talk to him. I did not push him and did not intimidate him. I’ll definitely appeal.”

In Australia, jockey Danny Nikolic has fought the good fight against the charges that could have derailed his career. Nikolic faced two charges related to improper practices in connection with racing. Two other charges were instances of conduct prejudicial to racing. Nikolic and his associates were accused of using Betfair (using phones) to lay some of his (beaten) rides.

Jockey Nikolic, one of Australia’s riding stars, pleaded not guilty. The Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board agreed.

“I am very happy with the end result. I got a fair hearing. I can get on with things and try to rebuild what I like to do and that is to ride the big winners. I was quietly confident. I knew I had done nothing wrong so I hoped the Board would see it my way.”

A note on the $100,000 Beverly Hills Handicap run at Hollywood Park last week. The race went to Turning Top, trained by Simon Callaghan and ridden by Brice Blanc. It was a Grade III race over 2000 metres run on the grass. Turning Top tracked the leader and struck the front soon after entering the homestretch. It was the fourth consecutive win for the four year-old Pivotal filly. Turning Top’s mother is Pietra Dura who is by Cadeaux Genereux.

Turning Top ran the 2000 metres in 2 01.69 seconds and won by a length. She returned $10.40. It was the first graded win for the 26 year-old Simon Callaghan who moved to the US from the UK last winter. It was the first graded victory for the 37 year-old Brice Blanc. It was confirmed that Turning Top will race next in the $250,000 John Mabee Stakes.

A thought or two about the Northumberland Plate. It is a race over two miles and 19 yards and was contested at Newcastle (UK) last week. There were 19 runners. Overturn, Eddie Ahern up, had post 19 but showed enough alacrity and early foot to hit the front quickly. The Don McCain, Jr, pupil set the pace and drew off when it mattered to win by two and three quarter lengths. The time was three minutes and 28.05 seconds. Overturn was a 14-1 chance. Four places were paid out because of the size of the field and the fact that the race was a handicap. Overturn was at 14-1 and 15-1 in places but paid 18.60 (Pounds) on a one pound wager. Deauville Flyer, the 3-1 public choice, salvaged fifth.

Overturn, it must be pointed out, has been racing over the jumps over the past six months. Would you believe that the winning owner and the trainer could not reach the course on time because of a flat tire? However, they listened to the radio call. Jockey Ahern accepted the trophy.

Jockey Ahern commented, “Plan A was getting out from my wide draw and go to the rail. I managed to do that. What I wanted was an easy lead and that’s what happened and nobody took me on. He was always going well and picked up in the straight.”

Here are some jockey numbers from England. I do not know what the cutoff date is. Paul Hanaghan is enjoying a double digit lead over his closest pursuer. Hanaghan rides for Richard Fahey and has 93 wins from 524 rides. The remarkable thing is that if you had bet one pound on every one of Hanaghan’s rides, you will have a profit of 22.30.

In second is Joe Fanning who rides primarily for Mark Johnston. Jockey Fanning is 73 from 475 mounts. Ryan Moore has 72 wins from 363 rides. Richard Hughes has 72 from 417. Frankie Dettori has ridden 57 winners from 269 rides. Martin Dwyer has 41 from 272. Dwyer, who came in for a lot of criticism for his ride on Becket in the Indian Derby, has a 158.34 profit and this is out of the ordinary.

Here are guys who were in India the past winter. Adrian Nicholls has 36 from 170. David Allan is 34 from 232. Silvestre de Sousa, who has a wide fan base in India, is 27 from 210. Paul Mulrennan, who had his first Royal Ascot winner last month, is 20 from 256. Mickey Fenton has 12 wins from 158 rides. Tom McLaughlin is 11 from 94. Duran Fentiman has eight from 156 rides.

Two other riders must be mentioned. Tom Queally has 49 from 370 and shows a 41.44 profit. Graham Gibbons has won 48 races from 356 rides and has a 132.34 profit.