When the gates start loading for the 54th running of The Rebel stakes (gr.2) there will be an 80% chance of rain and thunderstorms. Although we all know the weather can quickly change; the current forecast for Hot Springs Arkansas is slated for a very wet and humid weekend! Alas, weather can surely influence the outcome of a race and a sloppy- muddy track could definitely result in surprising results. With a much smaller field than originally anticipated, 8 sophomores will be taking a plunge in stretching out to 2-turns (some for the first time). With the end in mind; trainers/owners hope their young colts will thrive the added distance when stretching out to 2-turns. A victory will guarantee the winner a spot in the Kentucky Derby since only the top twenty 3-year olds will make it to the gate on the first Saturday in May.
Wise Dan gave us a thrilling ride as he managed to overcome a troubled trip yesterday in the 23rd Firecracker Handicap (gr.2) at Churchill Downs on the turf. With a yielding track, and pouring rain the horse and jockey displayed pure finesse. Weather was not in their favor, but the reigning “Horse of the Year” proved to us how fearless he really is.
Wise Dan held his position along the inside of the track, as he sat patiently in 3rd/4th. You could see JR Velazquez holding this mighty horse back with the strategy to obviously keep him on the inside as he dabbed on the breaks. Coming into the final furlong, Wise Dan was still pinned on the inside amongst the other contenders, and rather than finding a way out of the clustered mess; JR Velazquez maneuvered Wise Dan so tightly upon the hedge there was no room for error.
“I was in the right spot the whole way and he was going well the whole way,” the Hall of Fame rider said. “I didn’t want to make a premature move. I decided to wait. I had to work my way out. If you watch the head-on, he brushes up against the bushes and he even jumped right at the eighth pole. By the sixteenth-pole, though, he got through. He’s just a very good horse. I know he can handle it when things get tight. He’s big enough to push his way through. I’ve ridden him that way before and I wasn’t worried about it.” Courtesy of : Bloodhorse.com
As fast as he was moving and trying to seize whatever opportunity he could find, there were a couple of moments when he did have to steady while trying to overcome traffic. He battled like a warrior with only inches away from the hedge and the pacesetter Seruni. As he overcame traffic problems running on the inside, he finally got a gap to easily win by 2 lengths. Late-running Lea managed to come in 2nd beating pacesetter Seruni, by a neck. Wise Dan managed to run his foes down while carrying 11-13 pounds more than his fellow contenders.
He is the first horse to ever win two Firecracker Handicaps, and has now won eight of nine turf races in his career and is 3-for-3 over Churchill’s turf.
If you haven’t seen the race, you have to check it out!
Courtesy of: Youtube
In the 145 year history of the Belmont Stakes 23 fillies have entered into the Belmont Stakes in hopes for victory, and to be draped with a blanket of white carnations. Only 3 fillies have accomplished this amazing feat and whose names have been written in the history books as simple amazing. The very first Belmont Stakes in 1867 was won by a filly named Ruthless, in 1905 a filly named Tanya, and then 102 years later in 2007 Todd Pletcher’s captures the win aboard Rags to Riches. Only 3 gutsy fillies have done it, and the question is: Will history be made in this year’s Belmont Stakes; with the first female jockey, and a filly named Unlimited Budget?
Fillies to place in Belmont Stakes
Year, Filly, Finish
1867, Ruthless, 1st
1868, Fanny Ludluw, 3rd
1869, Invercauld, 3rd
1870, Midday, 3rd
1905, Tanya, 1st
1913, Flying Fairy, 3rd
1927, Flambino, 3rd
1980, Genuine Risk, 2nd
1996, My Flag, 3rd
2007, Rags to Riches, 1st
*Courtesy of Bloodhorse.com, Article: Unlimited Budget will get her shot at history
The news was confirmed yesterday that Unlimited Budget will indeed be running with the boys! This awesome addition always adds excitement to see a filly in the race. Now add the top female jockey, Rosie Napravnik we just “Kicked It Up a Notch”! Check out my article called, “100 Oak Points”, which shares my thoughts on the new Derby Points System and explains about the eligibility to run in the Kentucky Derby. Fillies that were graded stakes winner like Unlimited Budget; were unable to partake in this year’s running of the Kentucky Derby with this very specialized point system. There are fans for the new system, as well as others that are not too thrilled. The opportunities just were not there to see the true potential of some amazing fillies in this year’s three year old crop. Shut out, before shipping out! Like anything in life, I hate to say it; at times the measurement of a female’s ability is how good she stands against her male counterpart. A horse can be a considered a super filly, but can she shine amongst a group of top 3-year old colts? A filly can be great, but once proven…She goes into that “unbelievable” category.
In an article on Bloodhorse’s website , Owner Mike Repole said, “Unlimited Budget’s physical size and her mental maturity gave him the confidence that the Street Sense filly would fare well against the males. She’ll be one of the larger horses in the race.” The first time he set eyes on her, he thought she was a colt. “She is as big and tall, if not bigger, than many of these colts”.
She has the running style that will fare well in this race as she will be stalking the pace from mid-range and her speed scores are very comparable to her male counterparts. Out of a lifetime of 5 races, she was 3rd in her last race the G-I Kentucky Oaks and won her 4 previous races which consist of two G-2 races, and a G-3 race. Add to her resume, triple digit Brisnet speed scores on her last two races She had a sharp 4f bullet work: 47.2 – 1/46 on June the 2nd, and had a couple of other good works at Belmont.
Can this female duo outsmart, outlast and outrun the boys? We’ll find the answer in the 145th running of the Belmont Stakes.
Good luck to Rosie Napravnik and Graded Stakes winner, Unlimited Budget = GIRL POWER!
There are two kinds of weakness, that which breaks and that which bends
James Russell Lowell
We all have our weakness; even super heroes in comic books. Superman would get weak in the presence of Kryptonite, Manhunter’s weakness was fire, and Wonder Woman rendered helpless by tying her bracelets together, but only if her bracelets were tied together by a man.
Like super heroes, horses have weaknesses of their own. Some are challenged by the conditions of a track – was it too fast, too deep, or too sloppy? A soft or fast pace can either result in a victorious win, or the agony of a defeat. In the Preakness Stakes Orb’s abilities were hindered by what appeared to be his greatest weakness.
Breaking from post-position 1 may be the kiss of death for any horse. Most trainer or owners cringe after finding out their horse drew post-position 1. The value of statistics and information gathered while handicapping can leave you questioning your choice of winners. In the back of your mind, you are wondering how powerful is this information in picking a winner? In my previous blog, ITS BEEN 19 YEARS my research found that the last winner out of post position 1 for the Preakness Stakes was Tabasco Cat in 1994. That’s a lot of years since that post produced a winner; prior to 1994 go back to Aching Bally in 1960. Not to mention that post-position 6 has produced the most winners; adding this year’s Preakness winner Oxbow to the list.
Orb had a couple of things obviously against him even before the start of the race:
1. Post Postion #1 – The kiss of death
2. As the day wore on at Pimlico, the track started to work well with closers “down the middle” and the inside was probably the worse part of the track
But the biggest and I’m going to say biggest factor against Orb and any closer in the race was the PACE. The pace was too slow for any horse to catch a fast horse in the lead. Closers had really no chance at all. Oxbow had run one “full second” slower than the slowest Preakness in the 19 years preceding with fractions of:
¼ mile ½ mile ¾ mile 1 mile
23 4/5 48 3/5 1:13 1/5 1:38
(Courtesy of Super Screener)
I love the theory of, “Pace Makes the Race” as this race was clearly not set up for a closer. As quoted by Super Screener, “Gary Stevens, aboard Oxbow, had stolen the race, or it had been given to him when other speed horses did not push him. If a fast horse in the front is not going fast enough to be tired, then they are not going to stop.”
I couldn’t have said that any better.
Other things I’d like to mention after watching Orb’s last 7 races which I’m sure as a race fan you already know:
1. Although Orb was already victorious out of post-position 1 in the Fountain of Youth he was also ridden by another jockey at this time, JR Velazquez who also rode Orb to Victory in his 2 previous wins prior to the Kentucky Derby. Joel Rosorio picked up the mount of Orb when JR Velazquez chose to stay aboard Kentucky Derby contender Verrazano. A Different race, with a different driver.
2. Like a Fashion Model that develops a signature walk, Orb developed his own signature running-style. In all of Orb’s races (except for the Preakness Stakes) he had the exact tendency as a cruiser-closer style to run out wide on the track. In the Kentucky Derby, Orb was out of post-position 16 so he already at an outside post. When he made his move in the race– he went out 6 wide into full-throttle to the finish line with tag line strapped to his saddle: Catch me if you can. In the Florida Derby, he was 4 wide as he flew past Itsmyluckyday to the finish line, and in the Fountain of Youth he was also 4 wide as he triumphed past Violence for the win. Prior to these big races back in January, Orb had the exact running style going wide. If you went back even further and watched Orb’s races as a 2 year old (I went back 3 more races to November of 2012) you would see that even at two, he still had the same tendencies to go wide. The one thing that stood out to me in watching his past races was that when Orb would make his move for a clear run to the finish line, he NEVER had horses to the right of him. He is not the type of horse that you would find weaving himself through traffic. Instead, Orb’s signature run is to go wide, claim his presence – with those to his left, and switch to full throttle gear.
At the break it looked like the path alongside the rail opened up, but instead of full steam ahead Joel Rosorio decided to hold back. The choice to take him back, but keeping him on the inside and not being able to get out, sealed his fate and with the slow pace, there was no real chance. If there was any chance whatsoever, Orb needed to go wide. At the ¾ pole to the 1/8 pole, Orb and Joel Rosorio started putting pieces together as he made up 9 lengths and was finally able to split horses to catch, and pass Departing and Goldencents, by then — it was too late, and Orb was able to rally for 4th.
Bloodhorse has a great visual sequence of where each horse was positioned throughout the race
With Titletown Five and Goldencents in the race, I was not the only one who anticipated a faster pace, but with the slowest Preakness fractions Orb’s chances were compromised. Then add all the other factors that I shared; end result was exactly how the race unfolded. Orb was never in a position to shift gears. His energy was off; ears pinned back, and at one point looked like he had no gas in his tank. Orb clearly exposed his weakness like Superman with Kyptonite and there was no running off with the second jewel to the Triple Crown. Kudos to Gary Stevens and Oxbow!
So our hopes once again are shattered; as there will be no Triple Crown winner on the line. With 16 days to go until the Belmont Stakes (June 8th); this will be the toughest race in the Triple Crown trail. This is the race that will unveil the horse that possesses not only speed, but also stamina. It’s been called the, “Test of the Champion”, and the first time many of these horses will run a 1 ½ . There is no rest for the weary as new shooters will come into the race. They will be fresh with a full tank of gas and ready to face some of the toughest 3 year olds around. The horses that started this journey with the Kentucky Derby, then to run two weeks later in the Preakness will have to dig deep as they will be tested. Will there be a horse that will persevere and handle the back to back races, or will a new shooter declare victory?
Wide, wide turns at the “Big Sandy” and that last turn for home will be killer! It’s the longest stretch to the finish line that many horses will ever encounter, and TIMING will be the key.
Lets hope Shug McGaughey will decide to run Orb in the Belmont Stakes. It will be a full field, and he’ll be back at his home track. Orb will have an opportunity to show us that he is still the best 3-year old out there, and the last time a Kentucky Derby winner won the Belmont Stakes was Thunder Gulch in 1995. 18 years and counting, LETS GIT ER DONE!
Best of luck to everyone!