Tuesday, August 31, 2010

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

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

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

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

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 “Soumillon should have withdrawn.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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chicago Tuesday August 31, 2010

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Jockeys Rosario, Nakatani, Fallon, Hitchcott and Buick have hot weekends

This has been a head-spinning weekend. There has been a boatload of Graded action in America, England, Germany and Ireland. I am having a lot of difficulty in determining what the important races are and what the no-so-important races are.

The order I am adopting does not have any logic. We will begin with the $200,000 Grade II Barnard Baruch run on Friday at Saratoga. Seven answered the starter’s call in the 1800-metre grass race. Get Stormy was coming off an easy win in the Grade II Fourstardave Stakes a month ago and was the 95/100 favorite. Jockey Javier Castellano had the chalk in second position as National Kid set the pace. With 250 metres to go, Get Stormy, a Thomas M Bush trainee, sailed past the leader to win by two and three quarter lengths. The time was 1 46.70 seconds.

Jockey Castellano commented. “He relaxed and that was the key in the first part of the race. I put him behind the one speed horse. When I pushed the button, he took off.”

Get Stormy is a four year-old colt by Stormy Atlantic by Storm Cat. The dam is Foolish Gal who is by Kiri’s Clown. Get Stormy’s next race will be in Keeneland’s Shadwell Mile on October 9. The Breeders’ Cup Mile at Churchill on November 6 is on the table.

I want to write about jockey Joel Rosario who plies his trade in Southern California. The talented Rosario won the Alabama with Blind Luck last week at Saratoga. He won the fourth race with the 2-1 Skippy Due in the Friday twilight card at Del Mar in San Diego. Rosario was on fire on Saturday. He won the second race with Bradium who returned $10.60. Rosario clicked with Pride Of Wilshire in the third for a $6.00 payoff. The fourth race was won by the Rosario-ridden Enriched (a Graded event) who paid $6.40. El Brujo made it all in the tenth race ( a Grade I contest)with jockey Rosario and paid $9.60. Rosario ended Saturday with five winners when he steered Pleasing Sunrise to a come-from-behind win in the 11th race. Pleasing Sunrise returned $17.20.

Jockey Rosario had one winner on Sunday at Del Mar but it was a significant one. Champ Pegasus, the 3/2 favorite, justified the public confidence with Rosario aboard in the Del Mar Handicap.

Sunday at Del Mar belonged to Corey Nakatani. Caught in the waning yards in Saturday’s Pacific Classic when riding Crowded House, jockey Nakatani was red hot on Sunday. He won the first with the 9-1 Celestic Night. He rode the 7/5 Imco Spirit to victory in the fourth. The fifth race saw Nakatani return to the winner’s circle with the 3-1 Delahoosie. The 6-1 Leandros (6th race) gave Nakatani his fourth winner of a glorious afternoon.

Jockey Nakatani relocated to Kentucky this year but is back in California for the Del Mar meeting. Incidentally, Delahoosie reminds us all of Eddie Delahoussaye, the Hall of Famer, who rode Gato Del Sol and Sunny’s Halo, back to back Derby winners in 1981 and 1982.

Let us take a look at what Kieren Fallon has been doing in England. The six-time British champion jockey is having a productive campaign this year. He is riding with renewed dedication. On Saturday, Fallon won three races at Goodwood. He was aboard the Luca Cumani-trained Axiom, a 10-3 chance. He won with Drunken Sailor, another Cumani pupil and the 5/4 chalk. Fallon won with Alice Alleyne, a 4-1 chance from Sir Michael Stoute’s barn. Fallon went to Windsor for a twilight meeting. He won the 7 10 PM 1700-metre race with Autumn Riches, a Mark Johnston trained runner and the 3/1 joint favorite. However, there is a storm in Fallon’s tea cup. He has received a ban and we will see in our next blog what he is encountering.

Two races at Goodwood deserve mention. There was a four-runner field in the Group II Celebration Mille. The 4/5 favorite was the Khalid Abdullah-owned and Michael Stoute-trained Main Aim, ridden by Eddie Ahern. Poet’s Voice, the Saeed bin Suroor-trained Godolphin runner, was the 2-1 second choice. Main Aim sat second and Poet’s Voice stayed in range. Main Aim was the first to commit and Poet’s Voice came calling. The Celebration Mile was put to bed in a matter of strides. Frankie Dettori sat chilly as Poet’s Voice showed his rivals a clean pair of heels. The margin was four and three quarter lengths and the time was 1 39.22 seconds.

It was the third win in nine outings for Poet’s Voice, a sophomore colt by Dubawi out of Bright Tiara by Chief’s Crown. The Sporting Life tipped Poet’s Voice. On August 12, the Dubawi colt was beaten a nose by Sea Lord in the Group III Sovereign Stakes at Salisbury and was ridden on that day by Ted Durcan.

The English (2011) 1000 Guineas market had an addition after the Group III Prestige Stakes at Goodwood on Saturday. Theyskens’ Theory, from Brian Meehan’s yard, made it all in the 1400-metre contest in a time of 1 28.9 seconds. Seven ran. Martin Dwyer rode the freshman filly who is by Bernardini out of Heat Lightning by Summer Squall. Theyskens’ Theory was the 11/10 favorite and won by a length and a quarter. She was ninth in her debut in early July. She broke the duck in her second start when she won a maiden race by five lengths. The Prestige Stakes was the second win in three starts for the Brian Meehan charge.

Again, two items are worth writing about from the Saturday afternoon card at Newmarket. Jockey William Buck, who rode winners of two Grade I races in two countries last weekend, was aboard three winners. Buick won the 2 15 PM race for John Gosden with the 6-1 Bullwhip. The pair combined for another win in the 5 00 PM race with the 7/1 Golden Taqleed. Buick won the 4 30 PM with the 11/1 Angus Newz, trained by M Quinn.

The Richard Hannon-Hughes team chalked up another win in the freshman division. Zebedee, the even money favorite, came through late to put his head in front of the 40-1 Button Moon in the 1200-metre Tattersalls Millions Auction Stakes. Eleven ran. Zebedee, a colt by Invincible Spirit out of Cozy Maria by Cozzene, has now won five races from six starts. Here is an interesting fact. Zebedee’s only loss came at Royal Ascot, his third outing. He won the other race at Ascot and has won at Windsor, Sandown, Goodwood and Newmarket.

Do you remember Sam Hitchcott? He had a dream weekend in England. He was in action in the Saturday afternoon card at Beverley. Jockey Hitchcott won three races and consider the odds. Kalleidoscope won at 20/1, Aattash scored at 11/1 and Mister Hughie won at 7/1. All three winners were trained by M R Channon.

I want to stop here. Given the volume of information, I will have a report every day for the next few days. I do want this to get too long.

What did Overdose do at Baden Baden? Did Rachel Alexandra win the Personal Ensign at Saratoga? Did Memory carry her lofty reputation to a loftier level in Curragh’s Moyglare Stud Stakes? We will look at Saratoga’s Graded races and Del Mar’s Pacific Classic, among others, in the next blog.

Chicago, Sunday, August 29, 2010

Friday, August 27, 2010

Harresh Mehta's Fourpenny Lane wins at Tipperary: Big stakes action at week's end

A five year-old mare owned by Harresh N Mehta won a listed race at Tipperary racecourse on Thursday. Fourpenny Lane was a 5/1 chance in the 1500-metre Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund Fairy Bridge Stakes. Rory Cleary, who rode in India last winter, was aboard the Joanna Morgan-trained mare. Fourpenny Lane won by over a length in a time of 1 31.31 seconds. Eleven ran.

That was the first win for Fourpenny Lane in eight 2010 outings. She has a 27-6-4-6 record for earnings of $157,514 pounds and is in foal to Verglas. Now, Fourlane Penny will head to India to deliver the baby and stand as a broodmare. She is by Efisio out of Makara who’s by Lion Cavern. Fourpenny Lane’s last race was in the Vincent O’Brien Stakes at Killarney on August 17. She was third and beaten about two lengths by Steinbeck and Ask Jack in the 1700-metre contest.

The first three races in the Thursday card at Tipperary were won by jockey G F Carroll. The first two were trained by Marc Halford. The third was trained by Joanna Morgan and Fourpenny Lane’s victory gave her a double for the day. Jockey Carroll won the opener with Della ‘Alba, a 3/1 chance, the second with the 8/1 Casamento and the third with Beauthea, a 4/1 proposition.

Tipperary is about 115 miles from Dublin. The course is a (very) short walk from a train station, Limerick Junction. There are trains from Heuston Station (in Dublin) to Limerick Junction. The journey takes about two hours. You can take a bus from Bussaras, the main bus station in the Dublin City Center.

I will make an attempt to talk to Mr Mehta. I will have more on Fourpenny Lane and Mr Mehta.

Here is a story that deserves mention. Paul Norton is an apprentice rider in the UK who claims a seven-pound allowance. On Wednesday at Ayr, a course in Scotland, jockey Norton was aboard Eternal Instinct, a well bet 9/2 chance, in a 1200-metre race. Jim Goldie, Eternal Instinct’s trainer, had another runner in the race, Music Festival whose starting price was 7/1. Music Festival won.

Contrary to the trainer’s instructions, Norton had his mount held up too far back and ran on strongly in the final 200 metres and finished fourth. He was two lengths off the winner. The stewards questioned trainer Goldie and absolved him of any guilt. However, they took a dim view of Norton’s indifference and banned him for 12 days.

Jim Goldie said, “Paul admiited he overdid what I wanted him to do. It is a learning thing for him.”

The normal punishment is a 10-day suspension. It was explained that the stewards felt that Norton’s ride was so egregious and whatever effort did not come until too late that they settled on the 12-day deal.

Another thing happened in England on Monday. Odds from the courses are transmitted to off track shops. Odds change and a fan has the option of asking for a price at a given moment or say nothing and settle for the starting price. It is a tricky thing. Once, I took 7/2 on a runner in Ballinrobe in Ireland. The horse won and returned 6/1. On the other hand, odds drop precipitously when there is a strong money flow on a runner. When in England or Ireland, I do not do any guessing and go with the starting price.

At Kempton, Wafeira, a filly trained by Sir Henry Cecil, was reported to have been 11/1 at the start of the betting. The Kempton signal was relayed by Turf TV, a signal provider, to the betting shops. From 11/1, the odds dropped to 8/1, on to 7/1, then 6/1, tightened to 9/2 and the starting price was 4/1. Bets were struck at these odds. Moments after the race, it was found that the odds transmitted at different times were incorrect. Wafeira opened at 11/2, went to 6/1, dropped to 9/2 and started at 4/1. The mistake cost the bookmakers a pretty penny. An investigation is under way.

Shane Foley rides in Ireland. At Bellewstown on Wednesday, jockey Foley was aboard French Express and the horses were circling behind the starting gate. Foley’s mount reared and unseated him. Foley suffered a broken collarbone. It is a very vulnerable area. Does the word ‘clavicle’ come to mind?

In Australia, jocke Danny Brereton is in intensive care after spinal surgery. Jockey Brereton, 45, had a fall at Moonee Valley last Saturday. He has had some high profile winners in Australia.

The Group I Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh on Sunday headlines a number of Group races. Memory, a Richard Hannon trainee, takes on a quartet from Aidan O’Brien’s yard. Richard Hughes rides Memory. Then there is the Group III Go and Go Round Tower Stakes. The third big race is the Group III Dance Design Stakes. Finally, the Group III Goffs Flying Five Stakes will be run.

The Pacific Classic is the big race at Del Mar at week’s end. It is a million-dollar race. The Usual Q T is one of the fancied runners. Richard’s Kid is a factor. Temple City is in with a chance. Awesome Gem makes his fourth consecutive appearance in Del Mar’s showcase event.

It is a glittering weekend at Saratoga. The Travers Stakes sits at the top. The Personal Ensign brings in Rachel Alexandra and Life At Ten. The Grade I Ballerina is another attraction.Then there is the Grade I King’s Bishop.

Goodwood in England has the Group II Celebration Mile on Saturday and there are four runners. Also on tap is the 1400-metre Group III Prestige Stakes.

Jambalaya has been retired. Now six, Jambalaya won the 2007 Arlington Million beating The Tin Man who was attempting back to back wins. A Langfuhr progeny, the Catherine Day Phillips-schooled Jambalaya had a deep bone bruise soon after the 2007 Miilion. There were also other problems. Jambalaya had a 9-1-7 record from 23 starts. He earned $1,748,359. Some of the big races Jambalaya won are the Grade I Gulfstream Park Handicap, the Grade II Pan American at Gulfstream and the Grade III Saranacat at Saratoga.

Trainer Phillips had this to say. “He’s retiring. He is sound and healthy but not standing up to the rigors of training. He deserves this.”

Here is another retirement. Pure Clan is saying goodbye to racing. She is now five. In 2009, she ran second to Midday in the Breeders’ Cup filly-mare turf. Pure Clan is by Pure Prize out of Gather The Clan by General Assembly. At two, Pure Clan won the Pocahontas and the Golden Rod. She was third in the 2008 Kentucky Oaks. She won the Grade II American Oaks at Hollywood Park and the Flower Bowl in 2009. She was third in the Beverly D last year. Pure Clan won eight races from 16 starts for earnings of $1,987,498. In 16 races, she was 15 times in the money.

There is news about Santa Anita. Frank Stronach has announced that the pro ride will be replaced by conventional dirt by December. The project will cost five to six million dollars.

Jockey Robert Havlin (in England) has a broken right ankle. He had a fall at Windsor in July. He is recovering. Two screws were inserted in the ankle. Havlin has 21 winners thus year. A mid-September return is planned.

Ryan Moore is back exercising horses. He has not said when he will be back race-riding. Kieren Fallon is riding Michael Stoute’s horses. Moore had a mishap on August 9 at Windsor. He has said that he is fine but a date for his return has not been mentioned.

Chicago, Friday, August 27, 2010

Thursday, August 26, 2010

It is a duel of the wives at Monmouth: Kantharos and Pathfork, two freshmen, show huge promise

It was Sunday’s seventh race at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, New Jersey. Larry Collmus, the announcer at Monmouth, was confronted with an unenviable task. The names of two horses in the race were Mywifenosevrything and Thewifedoesntknow. The former led into the home turn and the latter mounted a serious challenge. Larry Collmus, a 25-year veteran in the race-calling business and never married, had to be extra cautious as he described the action. “Mywifenosevrything-Thewifedoesntknow, they are one-two, of course, they are,” Larry alerted the fans to the unique situation.

Mywifenosevrything went on to win. As the line loomed large, Larry exclaimed, “mywifenosevrything more than thewifedoesntknow, whew.”

Mywifenosevrything is trained by a woman. Thewifedoesntknow is trained by a man. Larry Collmus was asked to appear in a TV show called Inside Edition. “In 24 hours, I have become from a relatively unknown to a celebrity. Fans are calling and sending messages from all over,” Larry said.

A race that I attended in 2009 but could not this year is the Longacres Mile at Emerald Downs in Auburn, Washington. It is the state of Washington where Microsoft is headquartered. The 1600-metre, Grade III race with a $250,000 purse, was run on Sunday and was won by Noosa Beach. Ridden by Ricky Frazier, Noosa Beach stalked the pacesetter and went clear early in the lane to win by a length and a half. The time was 1 34.8 seconds. Noosa Beach returned $5.60. Doris Harwood trains Noosa Beach. Assessment, winner of the Longacres Mile in 2009, was third.

Noosa Beach is by Harbor The Gold (by Seeking The Gold) out of Julia Rose who is by Basket Weave. Noosa Beach was stepped on by another horse immediately in the stall to the right and despite an early miscue, ran on stout-heartedly to land the spoils.

Jockey Ricky Frazier explained. “Gallon, the horse to my right, stepped on my mount’s right leg within a few yards of the start. Noosa Beach stumbled hard and recovered. It shows how much class he has.”

We will now take a look at a freshman who is taking the racing world by storm. On Monday, August 16, the Grade II ($142,500) Saratoga Special was run. It was over 1300 metres on the main track. There were only four runners.

Kantharos, a Lion Heart colt, was the 15/100 favorite. Yes, you could not have bet Kantharos in India. A 26% tax is out of the question. A 10% deal would have given you five rupees for a 110-rupee risk. Sure, it does not make sense. Kantharos, Garrett Gomez up, won by seven and one quarter lengths on a muddy track in a time of 1 18.63 seconds. Steve Asmussen trains Kantharos for Jess Jackson’s Stonestreet Stables. Gomez was substituting for the injured Robby Albarado.

In three career starts, Kantharos is unbeaten. The two year-old won his debut at Churchill Downs on May 13 by eleven and three quarter lengths. Kantharos won the Grade III Bashford Manor also at Churchill by nine and one half lengths on July 3. The cumulative margin in the three races is 28 and one half lengths. Contessa Halo (by Southern Halo) is the dam of Kantharos.

Trainer Asmussen commented. “Gomez (jockey) said that in the first 50 yards, he was not on the bridle much at all, but after he went a little ways, he got into himself. What he has done at these sprint distances is very impressive. We’re greedy and want to get a little more.”

On a personal note, I opposed Smarty Jones and thought Lion Heart could win the 2004 Preakness at Pimlico racecourse. I was at Pimlico and was witness to the demolition job that Smarty Jones performed. As it turned out, Smarty Jones failed in his bid to win the Triple Crown.

There is a two year-old star in Ireland, The Jessica Harrington-trained Pathfork is two for two and last Saturday, the Distorted Humor colt ran away with the Group II Futurity Stakes at the Curragh. Ridden by Fran Berry, who is just beginning to shed his boyish looks, Pathfork, the 10-11 favorite, ran 1400 metres in 1 23.45 seconds. Pathfork’s dam is Visions of Clarity who is by Saddler’s Wells. Pathfork broke his duck in his debut in a 1400-metre race at the Curragh on July 18. Pathfork’s win impressed the bookmakers and there was a quote at 8/1 for the 2000 Guineas in 2011.

Richard Hannon is the 10/11 favorite to be leading trainer in England. The winning formula is a combination of races won and money earned. At the moment, Sir Michael Stoute has 50 wins from 317 starts for earnings of 2,589,027 pounds. His two principal check-getters are Harbinger and Workforce. Harbinger has been retired. Workforce had a poor run in the King George and is not likely to race anytime soon.

Richard Hannon has 161 wins from 884 starts. His earnings stand at 2,489,258 pounds but he is firing on all cylinders. Take a look at the Aidan O’Brien numbers. The Ballydoyle maestro has seven wins from 66 starts. He has earned 2,314,885 pounds. His money has come from wins in prestigious Group races.

Mark Johnston has 164 wins from 1002 starts. Richard Fahey, Paul Hanaghan’s patron, has saddled 120 winners from 852 starters.

Here is a look at the jockeys’ numbers. Paul Hanaghan leads with 143 winners from 805 runners. Richard Hughes has ridden 120 winners from 658 starts. He has 85 wins with Hannon’s horses. Ryan Moore, out of action at the moment, has 104 wins from 542 starts. Joe Fanning rides for Mark Johnston and has 101 wins from 643 starts. Kieren Fallon is at 91 from 559 starts and is winning races at a steady clip.

Now we will consider the numbers of those who are known to fans in India. Silvestre de Sousa has 62 from 394 starts. Martin Dwyer has 59 winners from 410 trips postward. David Allan has 50 from 365 outings. Adrian Nicholls has steered home 49 wins from 264 runners. Paul Mulrennan has 38 from 438 starts. Tom McLaughlin has 23 from 169 starts. Mickey Fenton is 18 from 248 starts. Duran Fentiman has ridden 16 winners from 269 runners. James Doyle is at 11 from 168 runners.

In the next blog, we will look at what is happening at Santa Anita in Arcadia, California. There is news about jockeys. A horse who won a million-dollar race has been taken off the active list. There is stakes action galore at week’s end. Saratoga has a stakes-studded weekend schedule. Del Mar hosts the Pacific Classic. Curragh has the Moyglare Stakes on a day when three other Group races will be contested.

Chicago, Thursday, August 26, 2010

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

100/1 Sole Power wins York's Nunthorpe: Rip Van Winkle takes Juddmonte International

Marsh Side is a two-time Grade I winner in Canada. Neil Drysdale trains Marsh Ride and chose to withdraw his trainee from the Sword Dancer at Saratoga ten days ago. Marsh Side was taken out of the Arlington Million on Saturday. On Sunday, Marsh Side was asked to tackle five adversaries in the Grade II Sky Classic, a 2000-metre turf race, at Woodbine racecourse in Canada. Edgar Prado was aboard the 65/100 favorite and Marsh Side came home a five-length winner. The time was 2 08.99 seconds. The Sky Classic carried a $238,375 purse. Spice Route was a late scratch because of soft underfoot conditions.

Gone West is Marsh Side’s sire. Gone West is by Mr Prospector. Colonial Play is the dam of Marsh Side and she’s by Pleasant Colony. Jockey Edgar Prado does not say much. “He (Marsh Side) is an old pro. He knows this track and was having a lot of fun out there.”

Take The Points has been retired. The son of Even The Score suffered an injury to his right foreleg. Trainer Todd Pletcher confirmed that Take The Points has a fractured splint in the right front. The Arlington Million was a target. Take The Points won the (turf) Secretariat at Arlington and the Grade I Jamaica Stakes at Belmont Park. In 2010, Take The Points won the Grade I Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap but was disqualified and placed second. With four wins from 16 starts, Take The Points earned $943,590.

I will be remiss if I do not write about the Group races at York’s Ebor meeting. York is left-handed. There is a convenient train connection from London King’s Cross. It is a journey that takes close to two hours. There is a bus service from the station to the course. In 2005, York hosted the Royal Ascot meeting when Ascot was being renovated. I stayed at a bed-breakfast place at York for the Royal meeting.

Last Tuesday, the Great Voltigeur ( Grade II ) was run. Rewilding, Frankie Dettori up, was the 6/4 favorite in the 10-runner field. Mahmood Al Zarooni, who made a name for himself at the Meydan early this year, trains Rewilding. Jockey Dettori was in range of the leaders and went in chase of Midas Touch who had taken up midstretch. Rewilding ran past the leader to win by four lengths in a time of 2 28.93 for the 2400-metre Great Voltigeur. By Tiger Hill out of Darara by Topville, Rewilding is a sophomore colt. The St Leger is coming up in early September at Doncaster and Rewilding was made a warm favorite for England’s oldest Classic.

Also on Tuesday, there was a Group I event. It was the 2100-metre Juddmonte International that was worth 393,699 pounds to the winner. Rip Van Winkle, from Aidan O’Brien’s stable, was the 7/4 favorite. Khalid Abdullah’s Twice Over and Byword tracked the pacesetter. Byword drew first blood. Twice Over was alerted to the task by Tom Queally and made his bid. Rip Van Winkle had to make up considerable ground as John Murtagh called on the Galileo colt. Twice Over was winning the argument with Byword. Rip Van Winkle was closing. As the line came up, Rip Van Winkle had enough momentum to get the verdict. The margin was one half length and Twice Over and Byword were separated by three parts of a length. The time was 2 8.58 seconds.

John Murtagh reacted. “Good horses do what you expect of them. He (Rip The Van Winkle) ran well in the Sussex Stakes and he was ready today.”

A four year-old colt by Galileo, Rip Van Winkle’s dam is Looking Back who is by Stravinsky. A disappointing 10th in the Breeders’ Cup Classic on the pro ride at Santa Anita last November, Rip Van Winkle had another dull effort in the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot. He raised his game in the Sussex at Glorious Goodwood when in front until collared by Canford Cliffs close home.

Wednesday’s Group II Gimcrack Stakes at the Ebor meeting was won by Approve. The 8-1 chance, trained by William Haggas, was ridden by Eddie Ahern. The 1200-metre Gimcrack was run in 1 11.67 on good turf. Approve won by three parts of a length. The Highclere Thoroughbred Racing Foundation owns the freshman colt. Approve is by Oasis Dream out of Wyola who’s by Saddler’s Wells.

The other important race on Wednesday was the Group II Lonsdale Cup. Opinion Poll, from the yard of M A Jarvis, was ridden to victory by Frankie Dettori. Eight went postward in the 3300-metre Lonsdale Cup. A 5/2 chance, Opinion Poll clocked three minutes and 34.84 seconds. A four year-old colt, Opinion Poll is by Halling out of Ahead who is by Shirley Heights.

Thursday’s Darley Yorkshire Oaks did not provide a surprise result but generated a hot controversy. Sariska, dual Oaks heroine in 2009, was the 85/40 chalk. Snow Fairy, double Oaks winner this year, was the 5/2 second choice. Midday was held at 11/4 and was 3/1 at places. Eight distaffers answered the starter’s call in the 2400-metre Group I race.

The gates opened and everyone got away smartly except Sariska. The Pivotal filly stood still. Jamie Spencer’s goading yielded no result. Spencer led the filly out and plucked some grass to feed her. Midday took charge with three furlongs left and easily held Snow Fairy’s challenge. The Henry Cecil-trained Midday won by three lengths in 2 30.53 seconds. Tom Queally was aboard Midday. Midday is a four year-old filly. She had been beaten by Sariska in three past meetings. The Oasis Dream filly was coming off a successful defense of the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood. Midsummer by Kingmambo is Midday’s dam.

Irish bookmakers, Paddy Power and Boylesports refunded the wagers on Sariska. The three British companies, Ladbrokes, William Hill and Coral, argued that Sariska had come under starter’s orders and they were complying with the rules of racing.

I caught up with Michael Bell, Sariska’s trainer, at Arlington Park on Saturday. “The fact is that she was in season but that, I believe, had nothing to do with what happened. I cannot understand why she would do what she did. She is temperamental and again that does not explain the incident.”

“I remember talking to you in 2005 when Motivator won the Derby. Here is what I have planned for Sariska. I will let her race in the Prix Vermeille in mid-September at Longchamp, “ trainer Bell said.

The Yorkshire Oaks was at 3 25 P M. The next race was at 4 05 PM. Jamie Spencer was riding Zarebiya, the 11/8 favorite. The field was let go and there was one horse who refused to leave the stall. It was Zarebiya. So much ground was lost that Zarebiya expended considerable energy catching up. When he realized the futility of the task, jockey Spencer eased Zarebiya up. Talk of frustration and there you have it. However, Spencer had the winner in the last race of the Ebor meeting on Friday. He was at Arlington in Chicago on Saturday. Brushing, a 20/1 chance, won the race with Kieren Fallon who ended with four wins to become champion jockey at the Ebor meeting.

We will see what happened in the Group I Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes at York on Friday. Starspangledbanner, John Murtagh up and trained by Aidan O’Brien, was the 3/2 public choice. The 1000-metre Nunthorpe was a fast-run race. The favorite had every chance to win but Sole Power, an invader from Ireland and a 100/1 chance, staged a smooth rally to give the bookmakers a good reason to have a post-Nunthorpe celebration. Starspangledbanner stayed on for the runner-up berth and Piccadilly Filly, another 100/1 outsider, took third. Twelve ran and the race was run in 57.14 seconds. Wayne Lordan rode for trainer Edward Lynam. Equiano had poor position from an unfavorable draw and finished last.

Sole Power is a four year-old gelding by Kyllachy out of Demerger by Distant View. The Nunthorpe was Sole Power’s third career win. The other two wins came at Dundalk’s (Ireland) all weather course and that explained the high odds.

Chicago, Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Monday, August 23, 2010

Blind Luck takes Saratoga's Alabama: Evening Jewel justifies favoritism in Del Mar Oaks

Kieren Fallon is a friendly character. He spent several minutes chatting with me at Arlington Park on Saturday. He went nowhere with Armstrong Mill, his first ride, in the Stars and Stripes Handicap. In the Beverly D, Fallon was left at the gate with the Gerard Butler-trained Pachattack. Summit Surge, Fallon’s mount in the Arlington Million, lay in midfield and could not strike a blow.

At Deauville (France) on Sunday, jockey Fallon was aboard Contredanse, a Luca Cumani trainee, in the Group III 2000-metre Prix de la Nonette. Contredanse set out on a good gallop and looked like a winner 200 metres out. Lily of the Valley, the 7/5 favorite, and Zagora made their bids. In a three-way battle, Lily of the Valley, ridden by Christophe Soumillon, got up to win by a head from Contredanse who was a head in front of Zagora. Six ran and the time was 2 11.8 seconds. Jean-Claude Rouget trains Lily of the Valley who was winning her fifth consecutive race. Her first win came at Toulouse, next two at Saint Cloud and the fourth at Chantilly.

Two races later at Deauville, William Buck completed what has been termed the ‘transatlantic double.’ In the case of Kieren Fallon, there was minor recompense on Monday at Kempton Park in England. Fallon clicked with the Luca Cumani-schooled Cheetah in the second race. Cheetah traveled strongly while showing no ill effects from a 10-month layoff and was the 12/10 favorite.

“I do not ride two meetings in a day. It is too much. It has been a good season. I felt good about being leading rider at York’s Ebor meeting. I will reach 100 winners soon,” Fallon told me.

“I want to come to India to ride for a good stable. If there is an offer, I will seriously consider. I like racing in India,” he said.

“I will see you in Europe in September,” he concluded.

Dream Ahead was a 131/10 chance in the French tote in the Group I Prix Morny. The favorite was the streaking Libranno from Richard Hannon’s yard. Richard Hughes was the rider. Eleven freshmen ran in the 1200-metre (grass) Prix Morny. Libranno was completely off color and was beaten a long way from home. There was a colt from England trained by David Simcock who, in his career, had not won a race at the highest level. Dream Ahead was a nine-length winner in his debut at Nottingham in mid July. It was a leap of faith for trainer Simcock. A colt, who could compete in a contest for non winners of two races, was in Group I company but the confidence was not misplaced. William Buick brought Dream Ahead with a fluent run when it mattered to win by a length and a half. The time was 1 9.6 seconds. Tin Horse, a 30/1 longshot, headed the beaten brigade.

Dream Ahead is by Diktat out of Land of Dreams who is by Cadeaux Genereux. The English 2000 Guineas next year had a new contender with the British bookmakers. Dream Ahead was listed in the market at 16-1.

Trainer Simcock was absolutely thrilled. “I have always liked him. He is very mature and a scopey horse. We will think about the Middle Park Stakes (early October) and then the Dewhurst (mid October) after that.”

Here is news about Goldikova. She suffered a loss in the Jacques le Marois at rain-sodden Deauville on August 15. It has been reported that she is in fine shape and her next start will be in the Prix de la Foret on Arc day at Longchamp. The schedule calls for a trip to Churchill Downs in November for a three-peat in the Breeders’ Cup Mile.

There was another Group I race at Deauville on Sunday. Stacelita, the French Oaks heroine last year, was the 4/5 favorite in the 2000-metre Prix Jean Romanet. Christophe Soumillon had the favorite in stalking position and struck the front about 400 metres from home. Antara, ridden by Frankie Dettori, mounted a serious challenge. It was a duel that kept the grandstanders on the edges of their seats. Stacelita kept going to win by a head to give jockey Soumillon two Group victories for the day.

The time was two minutes 9.3 seconds. Stacelita had run second to Midday in the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood and the latter took the Yorkshire Oaks last Thursday. Stacelita is by Monsun ( a German sire) and out of Soignee who is by Dashing Blade. The Romanet was the eighth win in 11 outings for Stacelita who comes from Jean-Claude Rouget’s barn.

Trainer Rouget spoke. “The whole objective this season was to win a Group I with her as a four year old. There was that risk of running her three weeks after the Nassau. We will see her again in the E P Taylor in Canada. Hong Kong is also there. It was a good race today as the slow pace did not suit her.”

There was a Grade I race, the Alabama Stakes over 2000 metres for sophomore girls, at Saratoga on Saturday. Six ran and Acting Happy, setting a painfully slow pace, was at the helm. Devil May Care, the odds on favorite, and Havre de Grace raced as a pair in fourth and fifth. Blind Luck was sixth and last but in striking distance. Havre de Grace and Devil May Care challenged Acting Happy early in the lane as Blind Luck came charging four-wide turning for home. Havre de Grace was getting the measure of the stubborn Acting Happy and Devil May Care was not finding more. For a moment, it looked like Havre de Grace had the race won but Blind Luck, with her patented late rush, was gaining. With Joel Rosario in the all out mode, Blind Luck edged ahead in the shadow of the wire. Acting Happy stayed on to be third and Devil May Care finished a badly beaten fourth.

Blind Luck paid $5.60 on the tote. The 2000-metre Alabama was run in 2 03.89 seconds. Blind Luck is by Pollard’s Vision out of Lucky One who’s by Best of Luck. Pollard’s Vision is by Carson City. The Alabama gave Blind Luck her fifth Grade I win and made her five for five on the dirt. From 13 starts, Blind Luck has won nine times for earnings of $1.878,712.

Winning trainer Jerry Hollendorfer reflected. “I thought that when Joel (Rosario) made his move coming into the lane, he would have a good chance to run them down. It seems like we have the best three year-old filly right now.”

Another Grade I race in America on Saturday was the Del Mar Oaks, a turf contest over 1800 metres for three year-old girls. A filly who had made Blind Luck work extra hard in the Kentucky Oaks in April came out victorious. Evening Jewel, trained by James Cassidy who turned 65 on Saturday, gave her trainer a great birthday gift. Lacking room in the last turn, Victor Espinoza waited patiently and an opportunity came along. There was an opening and jockey Espinoza was quick to seize it. As Evening Jewel was getting to the top, Harmonious, a John Shirreffs pupil ridden by Mike Smith, came charging. However, Harmonious, off a win in the Grade I American Oaks at Hollywood Park, could not keep a straight course and that left Evening Jewel the winner by one half length in 1 47.27 seconds. Eight fillies ran.

Evening Jewel was the 14/10 favorite. The Northern Afleet filly was a winner in the Ashland at Keeneland (polytrack) in April. In the Kentucy Oaks at Churchill, Evening Jewel had what looked like a winning lead and was mugged on the line by the late-charging Blind Luck. Marilyn and Tom Braly own Evening Jewel. It was another shot in the arm for Tom Braly who is battling cancer.

James Cassidy said, “it was unbelievable. Normally, she has the lead or is outside and then does her thing. She was boxed in traffic today. She had to re-rally and do it all over again. Somebody said I could not win on my birthday. I have done it.”

John Shirreffs trains Harmonious. He commented. “She saw the lights on the tote board and started drifting out.”

Tom Krish

Chicago, Monday, August 23, 2010

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Debussy beats Gio Ponti to give Gosden first Million win: William Buck shows composure beyond his years

He is 22 years old. He is a professional jockey. He rode a horse to victory in a Grade I race at Arlington Park (outside Chicago) Saturday afternoon. All William Buick could spare was five minutes for the media and he was off to O’Hare airport to board a plane to Paris. He had a ride in a Group I event at Deauville Sunday afternoon. Buick’s mount was Dream Ahead and the pair came through in the 1200-metre Prix Morny. David Simcock, trainer of Dream Ahead, was winning a Group I race for the first time in his career.

Wins in two Group I races on successive days is a dream for any rider. Dream Ahead is the name of the second winner. We’ll call it a ‘dream weekend’ for jockey Buick. The precocious Buick, riding for the legendary John Gosden this year, won the Sheema Classic with Dar Re Mi on World Cup day at the Meydan.

I had a word with jockey Buick before his ride. “Riding for Mr Gosden has given me a lot of opportunities. This season has gone well,” he said.

The sun came out early on Saturday and was shining in all its glory as the 12-race card got under way at 12 15 PM. Favorites were to the fore in the first three races. The fans kept the mutuel clerks busy. Arlington must be given credit for having enough clerks to handle the special needs of Million day.

Gio Ponti, trying to become the only back to back winner of Arlington’s showcase contest, was 6-5 and dropped to even money. As post time drew near, Gio Ponti was the 9/10 favorite. Marsh Side, the Canadian invader, was a scratch. Nine horses answered the starter’s call. Wagering was lopsided. If you dared to oppose Gio Ponti and if you could have picked the winner, there was a nourishing reward waiting for you but those were two giant ‘ifs.’

Tazeez assumed command early down the backside. Gio Ponti, ridden by Ramon Dominguez, lay last. The fans were not unduly worried. It was a generous pace. Richard Hills pressed on and Tazeez was, at least, five lengths clear of the field as he took the turn for the run to the line. Gio Ponti, charging six and seven-wide into the final bend, was making up ground in a hurry in the lane. Debussy, in striking range early, chose to save ground and had one beat in the final turn. It was a case of Masonic legerdemain and Buick was able to snake his way through. Gio Ponti had run past Tazeez and was being hailed the winner. Debussy’s progress had not been noticed by the fans. In the waning yards, jockey Buick found a seam along the fence. The John Gosden trainee quickened spiritedly and as Buick flashed the post, it was apparent that Gio Ponti had been caught flat-footed. Tazeez stayed on for third to give trainer Gosden the first and third finishers in the Arlington Million.

Debussy ran the 2000 metres in 2 .03.01 on a firm grass course. The winning margin was one half length. Two lengths separated Gio Ponti and Tazeez. The tote payoff was $24.00 on a two-dollar wager. Debussy was a 14-1 chance with the British bookmakers. Princess Haya of Jordan, Sheikh Mohammed’s wife, owns Debussy who, in 2009, was considered a player in the Derby picture in England. Debussy is by Diesis who was pensioned and later euthanized after suffering a fractured hip in 2006 at the age of 26. Diesis, by Sharpen Up, was the champion freshman in England in 1982. Diesis sired Halling, Docksider, Ramruma, Diminuendo, Elmaamul and Magistretti. The last-named won a Grade I race in New York and was sent to India. Debussy’s dam is Opera Comique by Singspiel who is a Dubai World Cup winner.

“I had a lot of horse and it was a question of getting room. I am grateful to Mr Gosden,” jockey Buick said.

I asked trainer Gosden about Buick. “He is a smart 22 year-old. He deals with situations as they arise, Gosden replied.

Mr Gosden, responding to my question why Debussy failed in his last start at York and improved a great deal in the Million, explained, “York had firm ground. He did not get going that day. Here, the Friday night rain helped us a lot. There was a strong pace to run at. He has gotten better at four and I believe there’s more to come.”

We will now take a look at the Beverly D Stakes. The $750,000 Group I race for fillies amd mares was over 1900 metres. The race honors the memory of the late Beverly Duchossois, wife of Richard Duchossois, Chairman of Arlington Park.

Treating Gently and Ave were the two fancied runners. They were held up and as the race progressed, were not moving into contention. Romacaca showed the way and Éclair de Lune, a four year-old filly owned by Mr Duchossois, tracked the pacesetter. Concern was turning into panic as Éclair de Lune, a 32/5 chance, had the measure of the leader and began putting some separation between herself and the pursuers with a furlong to go. Romacaca had thrown in the towel. Treating Gently and Ave were nowhere to be seen. Hot Cha Cha emerged from the pack but the Beverly D had been put to bed.

The margin was a length and a half. A neck separated Hot Cha Cha and Gypsy’s Warning who took third. The time was 1 56.56 seconds. Éclair de Lune returned $14.80 on the tote. It was the third US start for Éclair de Lune, a German-bred, who had raced in France before moving to America. Marchand de Sable is the sire of Éclair de Lune. Elegante is the dam and she is a daughter of Acatenango. Rainbow View was scratched.

I spoke to winning jockey Junior Alvarado. “Sitting in the two-hole, was that a plan or is that the way the race evolved,” I asked.

“I have ridden Romacaca two races back and won. I knew she would be in front. My filly was keen to go. We were able to sit right behind the speed. It was a dream trip, When I asked her, she responded,” jockey Alvarado said.

I had a question for Ron McNally, Éclair de Lune’s trainer. McNally trained John Henry in the 80s. “It has been a quantum leap for your filly winning a Group I race. What’s the key?”

“We got her in a French sale. She showed potential. She ran second to Tuscan Evening, running within half a length, in the Modesty, a prep race. I was confident she will get better,” trainer McNally answered.

The third Grade I at Arlington Park on Saturday was the 2000-metre Secretariat Stakes for sophomores. Only six ran and Paddy O’Prado justified half money favoritism. Kent Desormeaux waited until the last 300 metres and when he pressed the button, the Dale Romans trainee took off. Wigmore Hall was asked to move at the top of the lane by Jamie Spencer but Paddy O’Prado kept going. The time was 2.4.71 seconds.

Paddy O’Prado won by a length and a quarter. The El Prado colt (three year-old) is now three for three on the grass this year. He was third in the Kentucky Derby and sixth in the Preakness. The other two grass wins came in the Virginia Derby and the Colonial Turf Cup at Colonial Downs in Virginia, outside Washington DC. Paddy O’Prado has four wins from eight starts. He was second once and third twice and once unplaced. His earnings stand at $826,617.

I chatted with Dale Romans, “Three year-olds have a tremendous record in the Arc, The European scene-there is no standout. Will you consider taking your colt to Longchamp?” I asked.

“I am considering a race at Belmont in early October. I will think about the Arc. It is an exciting possibility. Paddy O’Prado keeps improving and we have not seen his best yet,” he replied.

I have been preoccupied with helping out a visitor from India. I am attending to a health problem. I have not been able to keep up. I will do the best I can to cover news from Europe and other action in America and elsewhere.

Chicago, Sunday, August 22, 2010

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Makfi ends Goldikova's Group I streak in Jacques le Marois: Overdose, the Budapest bullet, goes for 15th consecutive win

The La Jolla Handicap was the ninth race at Del Mar on Saturday. Sidney’s Candy, a son of Candy Ride, won the race. Joel Rosario was the winning jockey. The 10th and last race was a 1200-metre race on the all weather track for maidens. Teddy’s Promise, Joel Rosario up, was all the rage at even money. The Salt Lake filly had run a promising second in her debut and many felt that there was more to come. However, it was Sugarinthemorning, a Pat Valenzuela mount, who broke her duck. Trained by Ron McAnally of John Henry fame, Sugarinthemorning was making her debut. What is special about this story? Sugarinthemorning’s sire is Candy Ride. The dam is Social Belle who is by In Excess, an Irish sire who is making a name for himself. Candy Ride will be heard from a lot more in the weeks to come.

Goldikova’s unbeaten run this year came to an end in Sunday’s Prix Jacques le Marois on rain-softened grass at Deauville. Only for Green, Goldikova’s stablemate, set the pace. Olivier Peslier had the Freddie Head-trained mare in range and hit the front with 350 metres to go. Paco Boy, held up by Richard Hughes, was let loose. It was, however, Makfi, the 2000 Guineas hero at 33/1 at Newmarket, who mounted the most serious challenge. Goldikova, despite not being at home on the very soft ground, was kicking on. Paco Boy was gaining ground but was unable to go clear. Christophe Soumillon asked Makfi for more and the Dubawi colt moved into another gear. The le Marois was over in a matter of strides. Makfi strode out majestically to sail past Goldikova. The Mike Delzangles-conditioned Makfi won by two and one half lengths in a time of 1 39.4 seconds for the (straight) mile race. A neck separated Goldikova and Paco Boy.

The le Marois was worth 303,398 pounds to the winner. Makfi was 7/1 with the British bookmakers. Goldikova was a 4/6 chance and Paco Boy was at 5/2 and 9/4. In the French tote, Goldikova, who was seeking her eleventh Group I victory, was the 13/10 favorite. Eight ran.

Makfi’s poor showing in the St James’ Palace had confounded his followers. It was revealed after a thorough examination that the sophomore had a throat infection.

Trainer Delzangles could not conceal his excitement. “It is absolutely super. He put his (Royal) Ascot trip behind him. We knew he was in terrific form. He acted on the ground better than the others,” he said.

Christophe Soumillon reacted. “This horse (Makfi) is like Sea The Stars.”

Fred Head, Goldikova’s trainer, spoke in very plain terms. “We were beaten by a better horse on this day. We had no excuses. Our target is the Breeders’ Cup (turf) Mile. I have not decided what we’ll do before that. May be, the Prix Moulin or the Prix le Foret at the Arc weekend.”

Makfi is headed for the Moulin and the plan calls for a trip to Churchill Downs for a tilt at the Breeders’ Cup (turf) Mile. The Goldikova-Makfi story has just begun.

On Sunday at Deauville, there was a Group II race, Prix Guillaume d’Ornono. It was a 2000-metre grass race for three year-olds. Scalo, an invader from Germany, proved the best in the seven-runner field. Scalo won by two lengths in a time of 2 13 seconds. Andy Wohler, a big name in Germany, was the winning trainer. Scalo is a sophomore colt by Lando out of Sky Dancing by Exit To Nowhere. In the French tote, Scalo was a 88/10 chance. Maxim Guyon was aboard Scalo.

Do you remember R P Cleary? He is the young Irish reinsman who rode in India. Cleary had reason for celebration at Dundalk on Sunday. He was aboard Truly Genius, a 33/1 chance, who won the 3 15 PM race over 1200 metres. There were eleven runners.

Here is a look at Tuesday’s Juddmonte International at York. It is the opening day of the Ebor meeting at the Knavesmire (that’s how York is referred to)and it is a four-day campaign. Nine run in the Group I Juddmonte International and the Racing Post calls the race a ‘four-way clash of the titans.’ The 2/1 favorite is Rip Van Winkle who comes off a solid second to Canford Cliffs in Goodwood’s Sussex Stakes. Aidan O’Brien, who won the Juddmonte in 2000 with Giant’s Causeway and with Duke of Marmalade in 2008, commented. “Rip Van Winkle is in good form. He came on from his first run at Ascot to his second in the Sussex. We are looking forward to his run.”

Dick Turpin has been supplemented to the 650,000-pound race over 2000 metres. The Richard Hannon-schooled Dick Turpin has the distinction of beating Canford Cliffs early in the season. In the Jean Prat, Dick Turpin registered an easy win. Hannon and Hughes are optimistic that Dick Turpin will stay the 2000-metre distance. It must be pointed out that Dick Turpin, a three year-old, is taking on older horses.

Khalid Abdullah has two entries. They are formidable. Byword, the Prince of Wales hero, will be ridden by Maxim Guyon. Twice Over chased Byword in the Prince of Wales. In Sandown’s Coral Eclipse, Twice Over made it all in effortless fashion. Twice Over finished ahead of Rip Van Winkle in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita last November.

Now we will look at what is happening in the jockeys’ area. Ryan Moore will miss the Ebor meeting at York. Peslier and Fallon will ride Michael Stoute’s horses. Jockey Moore is a private person. Hardly any detals have come out about the injury. Tony Hind, Moore’s agent, was brief. “I can’t get hold of Ryan. I spoke to Michelle, his partner. She told me to take Ryan off his rides this week. She said that she wound ring me later in the week.”

Gary Stevens is 47 years old. Stevens was aboard a two year-old trained by Todd Pletcher. Thatcatismine finished the gallop and as the finish line came up, the freshman collapsed and died.. A heart attack or a ruptured aorta may be the cause. Stevens fractured his left collarbone. You may remember that Robby Albarado suffered a clavicle fracture. We now know the connection between clavicle and collarbone.

Stevens said, “this is a quick reminder why I’m not doing this anymore.”

Here is what is strange about the Stevens story. Trainer Todd Pletcher was fined 200 dollars for employing unlicensed help. Stevens does not have an exercise rider’s license.

Nash Rawiller is the leading rider in Sydney, Australia. Rawiller has been suffering from pneumonia since late July. He had two rides on Monday. He has three rides at Randwick on Wednesday. Rawiller has had weight problems and that’s why I am devoting a paragraph. Jockeys do not have easy lives. It is a constant struggle.

“I feel fine and ready to go again. I am at 57.5 kgs and that’s fine with me. I don’t want to overdo things in my first few meetings on the return,” jockey Rawiller said.

The last item in this blog is a race run at Kincsem Park in Budapeest, Hungary. On Sunday, the 1000-metre race was taken by Overdose. It gave Overdose, who is called the Budapest bullet, a 14 for 14 record. It was Overdose’s second win after a 13-month hiatus because of foot injury. He is the horse who won the Prix Abbaye in 2008 and the race was declared a no contest because of a gate malfunction.

Overdose won Sunday’s race by ten lengths. The time was a sparkling 56.4 seconds. Overdose, by Starborough, is a five year-old. I do not know anything about Starborough. Gary Hind was aboard. Czech-born and English-speaking Gary Hind rode in Kolkata in 1992-93-94. Christophe Soumillon was scheduled to ride Overdose but opted to be at Deauville to ride Makfi in the Jacques le Marois. It was a wise choice, after all. Josef Roszival trains Overdose, who despite losing a shoe, bolted.

Owner Zoltan Mikoczy spoke. “One, he (Overdose) won by over five lengths. Two, the time was 56.4. If there are no problems, we will go to Germany.”

Jockey Hind expressed his happiness. “His action today was very good considering the ground. Unique horse, that’s what he is. It is a special day with a happy ending. I’m a small wheel in a big chain but it is great to be part of it. No matter how much money you have, I can never buy moments like today.”

Overdose will go to Baden Baden (Germany) to race in the Goldene Peitsche, a race he won two years ago. It is a Grade II event to be run on August 29.

Suraj Narredu has 1,000 wins. I am thinking of writing a story about him and use it in the RWITC site.

Kantharos is the name of the two year-old who is making headlines in America. More on him in the next blog. We will look at the final leg of the Canadian Triple Crown.

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Sword Dancer encore for Telling: Sidney's Candy wins La Jolla in record time in grass debut

When the mud stopped flying at the end of the 2400-metre (Group I) Rheinland-Pokal at Cologne Race Course on Sunday, a five year-old had won back to back Group I races in Germany. Trainer Saeed bin Suroor had a great Saturday in England with four winners at two tracks. Lady luck continued to shower her blessings on the Godolphin camp whose Campanologist struck the front 400 metres out and ran on to win by three and one half lengths. The time was two minutes and 40.81 seconds and it is quite understandable given the rain-sodden track.

Campanologist was coming off a win in the Group I Grosser Preis von Lotto Hamburg. Wiener Walzer, the 2009 German Derby winner, was withdrawn. Another scratch was Titurel and five horses went postward. Frankie Dettori did not get to Cologne and he was replaced by Adrie de Vries who became free when Wiener Walzer was taken out because of underfoot conditions.

Trainer Saeed bin Suroor spoke. “He (Campanologist) liked the ground. Jockey Adrie gave a great ride. I asked him to get the horse relaxed and he just did that. Next is the Grosser Preis von Baden on September 5.”

Jockey de Vries was excited about how his mount responded. “The race went like a dream. He was going very well. When I asked him, he picked up like a class horse.”

Here are some wagering facts. With the British bookmakers, Campanologist was the 5/4 favorite but the German tote returned 30 euros on a 10-euro ticket. In Germany, Zazou, who finished third, was the even money favorite. Campanologist is England-based. In racing, familiarity influences betting patterns and decisions.

Jockey Dettori was scheduled to fly to Dusseldorf from London. He had to take a 25-mile taxi ride to the airport. A crash on the expressway held him up. What a way to miss out on a Group I win!

Kieren Fallon rides at York on Friday. He takes a plane from London to get to Chicago. He will be in action in Chicago on Saturday, August 21. From O’Hare airport, he heads to Arlington Park. This is walking tightrope because Fallon arrives in Chicago on Saturday around noon. Sleeping, if any, must be taken care of during the flight.

Suraj Narredu is writing a blog. Please take a look. He was kind enough to let me know. The address is http://blueapple.asia/Suraj_Narredu and please write a comment. There is an underscore between Suraj and Narredu. Was I impressed? Yes, absolutely. May be, as I type this text, he has reached the 1,000-win milestone.

Mr Sagar of Bangalore has written a comment about Sidney’s Candy. . He liked Sidney’s Candy in the Kentucky Derby. When the John Sadler-trained colt could not get up in the Swaps Stakes, Mr Sagar’s optimism wavered marginally. In Saturday’s Grade II La Jolla, Sidney’s Candy, making his grass debut, bolted to win by five and one half lengths. A course record was set when Sidney’s Candy clocked 1 39.52 for the 1700-metre race. Mr Sagar must be mighty pleased.

According to the Daily Racing Form, Sidney’s Candy covered the first 400 metres in 23.1 seconds. The first 800 came in 45.81. The time for 1200 was 1 .08.91 seconds. The 1600-metre mark was reached in 1 33.09. Remarkable fractions indeed! At the eighth pole, the lead was 13 lengths. Sidney's Candy carried 121 pounds.

I watched the race on a TV monitor at Balmoral Park. It was the fourth win in a Graded States for Sidney’s Candy, owned by Jenny Craig who runs a chain of weight loss centers. Sidney, Jenny’s husband, passed away recently.

Macias and Martin Garcia put early pressure but Joel Rosario, riding Sidney’s Candy for the first time and substituting for the injured Joe Talamo, was intent on being on the lead. Around the far turn, Sidney’s Candy saw Macias off and the La Jolla had been put to bed. Kid Reward headed the beaten brigade.

John Sadler said, “when I put the saddle on him, I could feel he was a little tensed up. I told Joel not to fight the colt. Joel let him relax. We were wondering if the fast pace set it up for a closer. I think he’s one of the best three year-olds in the country.”

Trainer Sadler had been making positive noise about his colt’s chances in the La Jolla in the days leading up to the race. Sidney’s Candy is by Candy Ride out of Fair Exchange who is by Storm Cat. The morning line was 7/5 and the win payoff was $4.80. You talk of a perfect line and there was one!

There is an item about jockey Russell Baze. He became the first jockey to win 11,000 races. He rode Separate Forest, a Richard Mandella pupil, to a winning debut at the Sonoma County Fair on Saturday. Jorge Ricardo, the Brazilian jockey who was the first to reach 10,000, now has 10,872 wins. Ricardo missed seven months in 2009. Laffit Pincay, Jr, retired with 9,530. The incomparable Bill Shoemaker rode 8,833 winners. Pat Day is fifth in the list with 8,803. Day is involved in church activities and offers spiritual solace to jockeys and backstretch workers.

Russell Baze, who has 226 wins in 2010 against 283 for Ricardo, stated, “this is a milestone but I want you to know that it is not the last milestone.”

We will take a look at the Sword Dancer (Grade I) Invitational run at Saratgoa on Saturday. The 2400-metre grass race was won by Telling, a six year-old son of A P Indy, who had also won the race in 2009. Last year, Telling paid $68.00. On Saturday, the return was $22.60. Recent races of Telling did not generate enough optimism and Expansion, who looked good on current form, was sent off the 3-1 favorite. The time was 2 25.29 seconds. Steve Hobby was the winning trainer. Marsh Side, the Canadian invader, was withdrawn and eight ran.

Garrett Gomez had Telling fifth and then fourth. Marlang set a brisk pace. Grand Couturier brought up the rear. Telling went round a tiring Marlang and Gomez chose the inside path. With 200 metres out, it was anybody’s race but Telling came up with telling strides along the fence to take command and won by a length and a half.

Telling, according to the NTRA website, became the fifth back to back winner of the Sword Dancer. Majesty’s Prince did it 1983/84. El Senor accomplished the feat in 1989/90. With Anticipation proved the best in 2001/02. Grand Couturier, who was unplaced in his fifth consecutive Sword Dancer appearance on Saturday, won the race in 2007 and 2008.

Steve Hobby was thrilled. “It is tremendous, It is indescribable, something we thought of from the last time. To make it work is really amazing a year later.”

Jockey Gomez speaks like a college professor. There are no ‘ahs’ in his repertoire. “When he dove to the fence, it’s like he found new life. It is like his heart jumped up in him and he went running.”

To Gomez, the Sword Dancer win was special. “My first ride was a horse trained by Gerald Hobby, Steve’s father. I lost. I said you can tell dad we want this one front and center.”

I will have my next blog Tuesday morning Chicago time. We will look at the Jacques le Marois. We will preview the Juddmonte International at York. There will be a comment on Overdose, the Hungarian sprinter. There are stories about Ryan Moore, Nash Rawiller and Gary Stevens. There is a freshman colt who is three for three. He has been winning by wide margins. He won a big race at Saratoga on Monday. You will know who he is.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Godolphin camp has four winners in England on Saturday

Friday and Saturday were busy days. I handicap the harness races for the Chicago area tracks. My selections and comments on the top three picks appear in the Chicago Sun-Times. Friday’s Maywood Park card has 14 races. Balmoral Park’s Saturday card has 14 races. I make selections for three (harness) simulcast tracks. You can watch and wager on the simulcast tracks. Northfield in Cleveland, Ohio, is one of them. Northfield is the first American racetrack I stepped into in September 1975. Meadowlands in East Rutherford, New Jersey, is another in my menu. Meadowlands is the biggest harness market in North America. The future of racing at the Meadowlands is in jeopardy, thanks to the troubled economy. Mohawk, outside of Toronto, is the third simulcast track on my plate.

Racing in Illinois is in trouble. Neighboring States like Michigan and Indiana have what are called ‘racinos.’ It is a combination of the words, race and casino. Illinois tracks are desperately trying to get slot machines and the State legislature is balking. The casino owners are against the idea. Purses have dropped precipitously and harness racing is on life support. Thoroughbred racing in Illinois is not what it was five or ten years ago. Big jockeys and trainers have taken their business elsewhere. Arlington Park is the flagship track. The fields are small and the quality has suffered.

Please take heart. Racing in America is in as much trouble as it is in India. Things may not have struck bottom yet. The state of racing is not healthy in Europe at the moment. I am an optimist and let us hope for our best.

There are three big races that I want to write about. However, I will take them up in the next blog. Telling got an encore in the Sword Dancer at Saratoga on Saturday. Sidney’s Candy put on an exhibition in Del Mar’s La Jolla that had to be seen to be believed. Makfi lowered the colors of Goldikova and Paco Boy in the Jacques le Marois at Deauville on Sunday.

There is a Group I race, the 2400-metre Rheinland-Pokal, at Cologne, Germany, on Sunday. It is a seven-runner field and the going is likely to be soft. We will report on this German race tomorrow.

Deauville’s Group II Prix de Pomone (fillies and mares) was run on Saturday. Rain made the grass extra soft. Therefore, it is safe to assume that Sunday’s conditions will be testing when Goldikova goes for her eleventh Group I win in the Jacques le Marois. Peinture, Anthony Crastus up, won the 2500-metre Pomone by a length from High Heeled, William Buck aboard, who finished with a flourish. A 11-1 chance in the French tote, Peinture Rare, a daughter of Saddler’s Wells, is trained by Elie Lellouche. Eastern Aria saw her streak end when running fourth. Aga Khan-owned Daryakana was scratched because of (very) soft ground.

Trainer Lellouche spoke about his filly. “Today, she had her surface. She really enjoyed it and is in good form. Next is Prix Vermeille. Distances of a mile and up to a mile and a half are perfect for her.”

Saturday at Deauville marked the triumphant return of Vision d’Etat. The race was the Prix Gontaut-Biron over 2000 metres. The soft turf held no terrors and the Eric Libaud trainee won with a measure of comfort in the hands of Olivier Peslier.

Trainer Eric Libaud commented on his success. “It was a very satisfactory reintroduction. I am absolutely delighted. He is back to his best form. I am thinking of the Champion Stakes at Newmarket.”

Jockey Peslier won the 2 05 PM race with Vision d’Etat. The French reinsman connected with Dansant in the 4 55 PM race at Deauville. A 17/5 favorite, Dansant justified favoritism in the 2400-metre race. It was the perfect warm up for Peslier who is on Goldikova in Sunday’s Jacques le Marois.

Let us take a look at the happenings in England. At Ripon on Saturday, David Allan won the first race with Mariachi Man, a 5/1 chance. He won the second with Emerald Glade, the 3/1 favorite. The winning trainer was T D Easterby for whom Allan rides.

Paul Hanaghan is making hay while the sun shines. Ryan Moore is not in action. Hanaghan had two winners in Saturday’s card at Ripon. Mayson, the 5/4 chalk, was Hanaghan’s first winner. The second was the 15/2 Starla Dancer. Richard Fahey trains them both.

However, a race at Ripon on Saturday is worth looking at. Tajneed, ridden by Adrian Nicholls and trained by David Nicholls, was the subject of a nation-wide gamble in the 17-runner field in the 1200-metre William Hill Great St Wilfrid Heritage Handicap. Tajneed’s starting price (called SP in the UK) was 3-1. The race carried a 40,000-pound purse. Tajneed was being hailed the winner when Damika, a 18-1 outsider, came calling. With Michael Stainton, an apprentice claiming a three-pound allowance, Damika caught Tajneed in the waning yards. Tajneed’s loss put a dent in the hopes of those chasing a Scoop6 pool of over 500,000 pounds. There were seven tickets going into the sixth leg, a race at Newbury. Richard Hughes, riding the 5/1 Fleeting Echo who was not nominated in the surviving wagers, landed the knockout blow.

Jockey Hughes is a busy man these days. He rode a double at Newbury on Saturday. He won the 1 25 PM race with Attracted To You, a 100/30 chance, trained by Richard Hannon. In the 3 40 P M race, Hughes guided Fleeting Echo, another Hannon pupil, to victory. He goes to Paris on Sunday to rode Paco Boy in the le Marois.

Godolphin’s fortunes are taking a turn for the better. At Newmarket, Ted Durcan won with two horses trained by Saeed bin Suroor. Signs in the Sand, at evens, won with jockey Durcan who also won the 3 20 PM race with Daffef, who was sent off at 8-1.

Frankie Dettori was plying his trade at Newbury. He won two races for what he calls his ‘boss.’ If my memory serves me right, is not Dr MAM called the boss? The boss Dettori refers to is Sheikh Mohammed. Dettori won the 2 00 PM race with the 2/1 Janood. The 3 05 PM race was the CGA Hungerford Stakes, a class I affair over 1400 metres. Shakespearean, well held at 3/1, made it all. The race was worth 51,000 pounds to the winner. Shakespearean is a three year-old colt by Shamardal. Paimpolaise by Priolo is the dam. That was four wins for Sheikh Mohammed on a highly productive Saturday.

The Group III CGA Geoffrey Freer Stakes was contested on the same card on Saturday. John Murtagh won the race with the Jeremy Noseda-trained Sans Frontieres. The 3/1 Sans Frontieres, a Galileo progeny, ran 2700 metres in 2 52.22 seconds. Lila is the dam and she is by the peerless Shirley Heights. The going was good to soft.

The Ebor meeting opens at York on Tuesday. It is a four-day affair. Ryan Moore will miss opening day. The Juddmonte International is the feature on the first day. The Yorkshire Oaks holds center stage on Thursday. Sariska, beaten in the race last year by Dar Re Mi, is back and is the 2-1 favorite. She is opposed by Mid Day who is coming off a win in the Nassau Stakes at Glorious Goodwood. If you talk of a mouth-watering race, here you have it. The dual-Oaks winning Snow Fairy is in. She is at 5/2. Profound Beauty is a possibility. Dar Re Mi is conspicuous by her absence.

I have a morning ceremony to go to on Monday. Mrs Vatsala and Dr Janakiraman are friends of ours for a long time. They live in a suburb of Chicago. They visit India- five to six months- every year and are based in Chennai. Dr Janakiraman’s 80th birthday is being celebrated at a temple in Lemont, about 35 miles south of Chicago. My wife and will be greeting the Janakiramans on Monday.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Fractured leg ends Harbinger's career: Trainer Bill Mott gets win number 4,000

We will begin with the ‘disabled list.’ Jockey Robby Albarado was Curlin’s regular partner. Curlin, who won the Dubai World Cup in 2008, was two-time Horse of the Year. Albarado was aboard a horse called Hunt for Candie in Wednesday’s first race at Saratoga. He finished sixth and was galloping out. Albarado was unseated. Tests revealed that Albarado had fractured the clavicle and had a broken knuckle in the left hand. He will miss three to four weeks which means he will be on the sidelines for the Saratoga meeting. I checked the web to know what clavicle is. It is the collarbone and it is an area of the human body that is highly vulnerable to breaking and injury.

Now, we go to England. Ryan Moore, three-time champion jockey, is nursing an injured wrist. Moore was at Windsor for Monday’s twilight meeting. He fell from Rocket Rob. Nothing was broken. There was severe bruising and the wrist swelled up. Moore has not ridden since. Tony Hind, Moore’s agent, has confirmed that the wrist is sore as of Thursday morning. A return next Monday is likely. Moore is behind Paul Hanaghan and Richard Hughes in the English jockey standings.

I am late writing about last Saturday’s Shergar Cup jockeys’ competition at Ascot. Ireland got an encore. Richard Hughes, Pat Smullen and Fran Berry represented the Emerald Isle. Ireland won one race. Europe won two and Great Britian won two. Ireland had four second place finishes. With 80 points, Ireland won. the Shergar Cup. Europe had 72, Rest of the World had 45 and Great Britain tallied 43.

There were 28,000 in attendance at Ascot. Fran Berry, who now rides for John Oxx in Ireland, won the Stayers Cup with Bernie The Bolt and ended up with 35 points. He won the Silver Saddle Trophy as the top rider. He also received 3,000 pounds in prize money. In the final race of the competition, Berry was second with Gene Autry. He could not catch Olivier Peslier on Gramercy but the runner-up effort gave Berry enough points to go to the top.

“It is a personal highlight to be here. In fact, it is a dream come true. I was the happiest man ever to come second,” Berry commented on his Gene Autry ride.

Here are new inductees to the Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, New York. Jockey Don Pierce was picked by the historic review committee. Pierce rode 3,546 races and retired in 1984. Randy Romero, Personal Ensign’s rider, is another inductee. Buster Millerick is in and he trained Native Diver. The historic committee also selected Harry Bassett, champion rider in the 1870s. Azeri, Best Pal and Point Given were picked in the equine category.

A 70 year-old jockey won a race in America on Tuesday. Richard Rettele trains thoroughbreds and occasionally rides them. He trains quarter horses on a regular basis. Rettele rode Fearless Fred to victory in the $15,000 Queen City Dash at River Downs. Quarter horse racing is over short trips like 350 and 400 yards and marginally longer.

“Race horses have been my total living. I rode quarter horses before records were kept. I have to take it easy. Nice horses keep me going, if not, the road gets awful long,” Rettele commented.

There is one fact that makes the Grade I Sword Dancer at Saratoga on Saturday quite special. Ten run in the 2400-metre race on the grass. This year marks the 36th running of the Sword Dancer. Expansion was third in the Man O’ War and is the 3-1 morning line favorite. Bearpath was fourth in the Man O’War and is one of the better fancied runners. Telling landed long odds last year and is back to defend the title. However, a great deal of attention will be focused on Grand Couturier. This is the fifth consecutive year that Grand Couturier will run in the Sword Dancer. A winner of the Grade I contest in 2007 and 2008, Grand Couturier ran fifth as the public choice in 2009.

Trainer Bill Mott has conditioned several champions in his career. Theatrical, Paradise Creek and Escena come readily to mind. How can the list be complete without Cigar? Mott, at 45, was the youngest (trainer) inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1998. Last Saturday, Mott got his 4000th win at Saratoga. Mystic, a Mott pupil, won the seventh race. Kent Desormeaux rode. Now 57, Mott won his first Classic this year (Belmont Stakes) with Drosselmeyer.

Mott thought aloud. “4,000 is a big number and I guess, to some extent, it is an elite club and I’m happy to do it. Sometimes you get hung up on these things. I have seen it happen with jockeys and ball players. Nice to have it today at Saratoga. It is a sunny day. I will always remember it.”

Here is stakes action at last week’s end in America. Concord Point was the 4/5 favorite in the West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Park last Saturday. Martin Garcia ride for Bob Baffert, Jr. Kaleem Shad owns Concord Point who beat Exhi by a length. The 1800-metre race was run in 1 51.12 seconds. Concord Point was coming off a victory in the Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows in late June. Tapit is the sire and the dam is Harve de Grace who is by Boston Harbor.

Bob Baffert watched the race in California. Owner Kaleem Shah said, “Bob said that I should get on the plane. I had to head out here.”

Jockey Garcia is having a productive year. He spoke. “He is a beautiful horse. I love riding him.”

This is what the favorites did at the Meadowlands on Hambletonian (Saturday) day last week. I am using a vertical order.

First:9/5 was second
Second: 3/5 won
Third: 1/5 won
Fourth: 1/5 second
Fifth: 1/5 sixth
Sixth: 2/5 third
Seventh: 26/10 eighth
Eighth: 7/10 second
Ninth: 11/10 seventh
Tenth: 3/2 second
11th: 3/10 second
12th: 11/10 third
13th: 7/5 third
14th.. 3/5 second
15th: 24/10 third… another at 24/10 but slightly less money bet was the winner

In 15 races, two favorites won. In 12 races, favorites were in the top three. The highest-priced favorite in the 15-race card was in the seventh at 26/10. You can see that betting is terribly lopsided in America. It is what I call the bandwagon effect. Six on money choices failed to deliver.

The $150,000 Hambletonian was taken by Muscle Massive. Ron Pierce was the winning driver. Jimmy Takter, a Swedish-born horseman, trains Muscle Massive. Pierce left, took the trip, was out of the pocket in the lane and wore down Lucky Chucky, the 3/2 favorite. The time was 1 51 for 1600 metres on a perfect sunny day with the temperature in the low 80s.

An amount of 8,391,600 was bet on 15 races. France Germany, Monaco, Austria, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Estonia and Malta were part of the wagering network.

A paragraph on the Test Stakes at Saratoga last Saturday is warranted. Champagne d’Oro, Miguel Mena up, tracked the pace-setting Pica Slew. At the 3/16, Champagne d’Oro led and drew off to win by four and one half lengths. The time for the 1400-metre Test Stakes was 1 22.71 seconds. A daughter of Medaglia d’Oro, Champagne d’Oro is out of Champagne Glow by Saratoga Six.

Jockey Mena spoke about his trip. “I had a great trip. She broke sharply. I was right there with the leader. She switched leads around the turn and came through. There were no problems and we got the money.”

Harbinger, the world’s highest rated horse, has been retired. The four year-old Dansili colt fractured a leg last Saturday. Surgery was performed on the same day. The injury was career-ending but not life-threatening.

Harry Herbert, representing Highclere Thoroughbred Racing, expressed his feelings. “It is with regret that it has been decided to retire Harbinger. The operation was successful and Harbinger is recovering well. He has given us the ultimate thrill at the very highest level.”

Sir Michael Stoute, the doyen of British trainers, paid tribute. “He could have been a world champion. It would be a blow to anyone, he was a great horse and a lovely character with a great mind.”

Sir Stoute had a comment on Workforce, the runaway Epsom Derby winner who flopped in the King George won by Harbinger. “We had to back off. He is well, back cantering. We’ll soon decide about going back to fast work,”

There are 12 runners left at the six-day declaration stage for the Juddmonte International at York coming Tuesday. Dick Turpin, a Hannon runner, has been entered at a cost of 50,000 pounds. Richard Hughes has shown optimism about Dick Turpin getting the 2000-metre journey.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Blame beats Quality Road in a photo in the Whitney: Andreas Suborics, German champion jockey, retires

Here is a pot pourri of racing news. There is a retirement in Germany. Three-time German champion jockey, Andreas Suborics is hanging up his boots. The 39 year-old Suborics was kicked in the head by a horse in Hong Kong this spring. Suborics was advised that riding would carry a high level of risk and the Hong Kong incident contributed, therefore, in no small measure, to the retirement decision.

“I hope to stay in racing and at the moment, hope to be of use in some role at the upcoming Baden Baden meeting, “ jockey Suborics stated.

Suborics had 1,500 winners. He won 81 Group races and 16 of them at the highest level. He won several races on the world stage. Two races come to mind. I was at Arlington Park in 2001 when Suborics won the Million with Silvano. I had wagered on Hap who finished second with Jerry Bailey. The other race was the Prix de l’Abbaye at Longchamp on Arc day in 2008. Overdose, the Hungarian sprinter ridden by Suborics, made it all in the 1000-metre Group I (straight) race. The race was declared void because Fleeting Spirit’s stall did not open and a false start was declared. Fleeting Spirit, a Dettori mount, was one of the fancied runners. The Abbaye was run after the last race in the Arc card. Overdose was a scratch. Given the state of confusion at Longchamp, lot of fans including me, thought that Overdose had won. The Abbaye was a race that Suborics won but did not win it officially owing to a gate malfunction.

Here is a note about a French racehorse. Vision d’Etat won the French Derby in 2008. He also won the Prince Of Wales at Royal Ascot last year. The Eic Libaud trainee ran 12th of 14 horses in the World Cup in March at the Meydan. After several vet examinations, the son of Chichicantenango is returning to the races. He lines up in the Group III Prix Gontaut-Biron on Saturday at Deauville. Vision d’Etat has four Group I wins in his resume.

Odysseus was a hot commodity on the Kentucky Derby trail in March. The Malibu Moon colt won the Tampa Bay Derby. One of his victims was Super Saver. After a disappointing race in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, Odysseus developed laminitis. Owner Satish Sanan of Padua Stables, confirmed that the sophomore was euthanized on Monday. Odysseus won three races from five outings. Persimmon Hill (by Conquistador Cielo) was the dam of Odysseus.

Satish Sanan, however, had things go his way at Saratoga on Sunday. Majesticperfection, the even money choice, ran away with the Grade I Alfred G Vanderbilt stakes. Shaun Bridgmohan had the Harlan’s Holiday colt at the helm of affairs and the pair won by two and three quarter lengths in a time of 1 08. 63 seconds for the 1200-metre trip. Majesticperfection was third in debut in the slop at Fair Grounds in January. The Sanan-owned colt has since won five races in a row. In his last start on June 25 at the Prairie Meadows, Majesticperfection did a demolition job of his adversaries when winning the 1200-metre Iowa Sprint Handicap by five lengths in 1.07.1.

Majesticperfection beat Big Drama, Bribon and Gayego, three accomplished sprinters. Steve Asmussen, the winning trainer said, “honestly, we hoped we did not waste those fast times without a grade and he is a great stallion prospect. The Vosburgh (Belmont Park, Oct 2) is next and then it is on to the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.”

Jockey Shaun Bridgmohan heaped praise on his mount. “He broke smart and sharp. He made my job a lot easier. He felt comfortable. I knew before Prairie Meadows (Iowa Sprint Handicap) race that he was a real deal.”

Blame and Quality Road went at it hammer and tongs in Saturday’s Whitney Handicap at Saratoga. Quality Road was the half money favorite. When the pair reached the wire, it was Blame, Garrett Gomez up, who had his head in front. Quality Road dictated terms and Blame lay fourth and in striking distance. Jockey John Velasquez took repeated glances down the lane to ensure that he had the opposition measured. Angling out of the pocket, Blame was asked for a run early in the lane. Quality Road’s margin was cut every stride and was mugged on the line by the resolute Blame. The half went in 48 seconds and the favorite’s backers must have thought that the Whitney had been put to bed. It is significant to point out that the last 200 metres were run in 12 seconds.

The 1800-metre Whitney was over 1800 metres on the main track and was run in 1 48.88 seconds. Six ran and Mine That Bird ran fifth and is now winless since the 2009 Kentucky Derby. Blame was a 34/10 chance on American tote. Blame has won five consecutive races. The four year-old colt by Arch won the Grade I Stephen Foster at Churchill in mid-June. Quality Road was giving Blame five pounds. Blame heads to the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Quality Road will race in the Woodward Stakes.

Albert M Stall Jr, trainer of Blame, was thrilled. “The 48 half was little nerve wracking but it kept us close. From the 3/8 to the wire, he (Blame) can sprint with anybody. After the race, we were all hugging one another. That is why we do this. That is why we are up at 5 A M seven days a week for something like this.”

Let us devote a paragraph to the Grade II Best Pal Stakes run at Del Mar on Sunday. The $150,000 race over 1300 metres for two year-olds was won by J P’s Gusto. The time was 1 16.61 on Del Mar’s polytrack. The win payoff was $6.80. It was the third consecutive win for the David Hofmans-trained J P’s Gusto who made it all and beat back a strong challenge from Sway Away, the 3/2 favorite. J P’s Gusto won by one half length. In his debut, J P’s Gusto ran sixth after a lot of trouble in early May.

Pat Valenzuela was aboard J P’s Gusto, a Successful Appeal colt. It was jockey Valenzuela’s first stakes win at Del Mar in five years. He has been plagued by drug addiction and substance abuse questions. He is getting a new lease on life. Valenzuela was Best Pal’s regular rider.

Trainer Hofmans spoke. “We are right on schedule. He ( J P’s Gusto) loves this track. He skips over this track and not all horses do that. He deserves a shot at 7/8 and will take his chances in the (Sep 8) Del Mar Futurity.”

In my next blog, we’ll take a look at the Hambletonian, the trotting race. The West Virginia Derby and the Test Stakes will be looked at. Trainer Bill Mott got his 4000th winner at Saratoga. Another subject will be Harbinger’s retirement. There will also be a preliminary look at the Juddmonte International at York next Tuesday. Sword Dancer at Saratoga on Saturday is another high profile race we will preview. There is Group action at Deauville at week’s end. The Milliion at Arlington is on Aug 21. I will be there and will file a report.

I am looking at tickets for the trip to Europe in September-October. The Q E II Stakes at Ascot and the Arc weekend at Longchamp are on my plate. I will try to get some harness action at Vincennes in Paris.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Zenyatta is 18 for 18: Adrian Nicholls wins French Group I

It is now 18 for 18. Zenyatta stayed unblemished when racing past the stubborn Rinterval and holding on when the latter attempted a comeback in the Grade I Clement L Hirsch stakes at Del Mar on Saturday. The John Shirreffs-trained mare was fifth in the six-runner field as Rinterval set a slow pace. Zenyatta, the 1-10 favorite, was about eight lengths off the lead after the first five furlongs. Rinterval ran the first six furlongs in 1 15.11 seconds. Jockey Smith let Zenyatta loose before the final turn and the unbeaten mare was wide coming into the stretch. She struck the front moments after and for a split second, the surge appeared to stall. Rinterval, with an alert Rafael Bejarano sensing an opportunity, fought back. In a matter of strides, it became apparent that jockey Smith had complete control of the situation. A reminder and Zenyatta stretched out with her ears pricked. The margin was a neck but it was a ‘convincing’ neck. The time for the 1700-metre Clement Hirsch was 1 45.03.

Mike Smith is eloquent when describing a race. “She (Zenyatta) began pulling herself up when she made the lead. She thought the job was done. She was out for a good cruise. She was literally playing,” Smith said.

“I hit the button a little too soon. When she gets in front, she wants to salute the fans,” Smith joked.

Owner Jerry Moss was laconic. “It is all sweet. Having her is a miracle. It is so great the fans turn out for her.”

Trainer Shirreffs spoke. “I cannot train over the phone. I do not want to take her to New York. We will follow the same script as last year. We will keep her here and give her a start in California.”

Shirreffs confirmed on Sunday that his mare’s next outing will be in the $250,000 Zenyatta Breeders’ Cup Stakes on October 2 at Santa Anita. After Zenyatta’s win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last November, the Lady’s Secret stakes was renamed. Zenyatta won the Lady’s Secret in 2008 and 2009. The renaming was a reaction to the announcement that Zenyatta would be retired. When the six year-old mare resumed training, the name change was not rescinded. The Classic at Churchill in November, it has been reported, would be Zenyatta’s swan song but have we not heard it before?

Saturday’s Clement Hirsch victory gave Zenyatta her third consecutive win in that race. She has now won 12 Grade I contests. She is four for four in 2010. Her account has $6,254,580 and Ouija Board’s $6,334,296 tally is imminent danger. Zenyatta is now after Pepper’s Pride’s record of 19 consecutive wins. The win payoff was $2.20. Place paid $2.10 and there was a $94,675.39 minus pool. There was no show wagering.

The attendance number was 32,536. Mike Smith took his time to return to the winner’s circle. Zenyatta took a dance step or two and acknowledged the cheers.

Rinterval’s rider, Rafael Bejarano made a pithy comment. “She (Rinterval who had forced Informed Decision to a photo) was going OK. I tried to wait but she (Zenyatta) came up outside and I had to go. If I could have waited a little more, may be, it would have been different but the winner deserved it. She was good.”

Did jockey Bejarano think that he could have won? What does his statement tell you? Two jockeys can read the same situation two different ways.

Zenyatta is by Street Cry. Vertigineux is the dam and she is by Kris S. Zenyatta’s color is dark bay or brown.

There is sad news to report. Do you remember Tuscan Evening? The Irish transplant is six for six in 2010 and was getting ready to come to Chicago for the Beverly D on August 21, Million Day. On Sunday, the five year-old mare did a 1200-metre gallop in 1 15.25 at Del Mar. She was going to the half mile pole and she collapsed. In a matter of minutes, she was dead. There is no official confirmation but a heart attack is believed to be the cause.

Jerry Hollendorfer trained and William DeBurgh owned the daughter of Oasis Dream. Tuscan Evening’s mother was The Faraway Tree by Suave Dancer. With 12 wins from 27 starts. Tuscan Evening had earnings of $1,138,508. Her last win came in Arlington Park’s Modesty Handicap (Grade III) on July 17. She won races from 1300 to 2000 metres this year.

Dan Smith, Del Mar spokesman confirmed the death. “The workout went fine. There was no indication that anything was wrong, “ he stated.

In my next blog, we will look at the Whitney and the Test stakes at Saratoga on Saturday. Saratoga had the Alfred G Vanderbilt handicap on Sunday. The West Virginia Derby was held at Mountaineer Park on Saturday.

Two races from Europe and they were run on Sunday. Zoffany, an Aidan O’Brien pupil, took the Group I Keeneland Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh. Zoffany, John Murtagh up, was held up as stablemate Snow Mountain set a generous gallop. Richard Hannon’s Strong Suit, in line for three consecutive wins in as many starts, lay handy. Strong Suit, ridden by Richard Hughes and strongly fancied at 4/9, drew first blood in the 1200-metre race and was joined by Glor Na Mara ridden by Keving Manning. Glor Na Mara was gaining the upper hand as Zoffany came with a burst. In the waning yards, Zoffany shot past the front two to win by one half length. Glor Na Mara was a short head in front of Strong Suit. The time was 1 11.29 seconds.

Aidan O’Brien has a lease on the Phoenix Stakes. He has won the race 11 times in the past 13 runnings. “He (Zoffany) went to Ascot as a baby and it all happened a little bit too fast for him. We stepped him up in trip so things would happen a bit slower,” O’Brien commented.

O’Brien was referring to Royal Ascot’s Coventry Stakes in which Strong Suit won and Zoffany finished sixth. Zoffany is by Dansili out of Tyranny who is by Machiavellian. The freshman has won five races from six outings. The bookmakers reacted. Zoffany, Glor Na Mara and Strong Suit were made the top three in the English 2000 Guineas (2011) market.

It was a rare defeat for the Hannon-Hughes team. Strong Suit had won two races and was thwarted when going for three in a row. Zoffany has been odds in four of his wins. In the Coventry, he was 9-2. Zoffany was the second favorite at 3-1 on Sunday.

This will be music to the ears of those who followed jockey Adrian Nicholls in India this past winter season. Jockey Nicholls won a Group I race in France on Sunday. He rode Regal Parade, a six year-old gelding trained by his father, David Nicholls, to a neck victory in the Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville. The 1300-metre de Gheest was run in 1 16.8 on good to soft grass.

The pace was fast and Adrian Nicholls had Regal Parade in midfield and out of harm’s way. The pace began taking its toll on the leaders and Regal Parade hit the front in the final furlong. Joanna, a sophomore filly, finished with a flourish to be second.

Regal Parade was coming off a win in the Group III Shadwell Stakes at Newbury in July. The de Gheest provided an encore and gave Regal Parade his 10th win in 33 trips to the gate. Pivotal is the sire. Model Queen, a Kingmambo mare, is the dam.

Trainer Nicholls was thrilled. “He (Regal Parade) loves to get his toe in and I think experience played a role in beating the three year-old filly. He looked superb. The Haydock Sprint (September 4) is next,” he said.