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.
The last pot of gold will be up for grabs tomorrow at Betfair Hollywood Park best known as, “The Track of Lakes and Flowers”. There is much to be sentimental about since this will be the last stirring of the pot. The 75-year-old track is scheduled to be closing down once the autumn season ends and racing will no longer continue.
With hardly any pace in the race, and a short field of just 5; Game On Dude is seeking a repeat victory. Although anything can surely happen in horse racing, its anticipated that Game On Dude under hall of fame jockey Mike Smith should dictate the pace from the early start, coast to the lead and go gate to wire. We’ll be able to see just how great he is since his last race was two and half months ago, and he will be carrying a career high of 127. Going a distance of a mile and a quarter, there can always be surprises when the “real” running begins. He will be tough to beat, but there may be a couple of players that could get in the way of his re-peat victory. The only horse I see pushing Game On Dude early in the race is uncoupled barnmate Sky Kingdom, which is Bob Baffert’s “other” horse. He does have the pedigree to go a mile and a quarter, and did show flash speed in his last two races, but his speed figures may not match up to Game On Dude. On a positive note, he did win a marathon 2 races back, and you can cross out his last race when he bombed going on turf for the first time. He’s had a nice bullet work on 6/30 and has had some other great workouts. With a ML of 8-1, he could be a major upset. Clubhouse Ride has been beaten by Game On Dude 3 straight times, coming in second, but he does get an 8 pound break. He’s speed rating has progressed from his last race, and he’s third off the lay-off. I’d consider him a legitimate upset.
Here are several fun facts to share about the Hollywood Gold Cup:
- The very first Gold Cup was held on July 16, 1938 when the great Seabiscuit, under jockey George Woolf won the race going away. This was his one and only appearance at *Hollywood Park
Let me take you back to 1938, when Seabiscuit helps put *Hollywood Race Track on the map. Please CLICK HERE to see the great Seabiscuit win, going away! Courtesy: YouTube Video – cf1970
- 1942 and 1943, there were no races at *Hollywood Park. The race track was closed and used as an airplane parts storage depot during WWII
- In 1949, The Hollywood meet was hosted at Santa Anita Race Track due to a fire that destroyed the grandstand and clubhouse a few weeks before the opening of the meet. That year, a horse named Solidarity won the Gold Cup
- In 1951, in the final race of his career the great Citation won the Gold Cup
- Affirmed, the last colt to win the Triple Crown, won the 1979 Gold Cup. Later that year he went off to win Santa Anita Handicap
- Lava Man has won 3 consecutive Gold Cups (2005, 2006, 2007), who followed in the footsteps of Native Diver (1965, 1966, 1967). Watch Lava Man’s amazing win in the 2005 Hollywood Gold Cup. He is going to open up and run away, winning by about 9 lengths!
Courtesy of YouTube: cf1970
- A colt named Quack set the track and world record on dirt for 1 1/4 miles in the 1972 Gold Cup with a time of: 1:58.20. In 2009 Gold Cup, Rail Trip set the record on a synthetic track, finishing in 2:00.75
- The smallest Gold Cup field in history was only 4 horses in 1999. Real Quiet, also called “The Fish” clinched the Gold Cup victory that year
- In 2012, Chantel Sutherland aboard Game on Dude was the first female to win the Gold Cup
- The infamous Lava Man, now 12 years old is still active on the track as a stable pony for Doug O’Neill’s barn, and will be leading the post parade for this year’s Gold Cup. Lava Man was a grade I winner on three surfaces (dirt, synthetic, grass) at *Hollywood Park
*In the Spring/Summer meet of 2012, the track once known as Hollywood Race track opened up under the new name Betfair Hollywood Park
There has been a lot of buzz about the new Derby Point System. A point system I am not crazy about. I feel there needs to be some tweaking in the adjustment of how this point system chooses who is qualified for the top 20 spots in the Kentucky Derby. In the past, the field was based on earnings rather than points earned in specific races. Fillies that had enough earnings had an opportunity to run for the roses if their connections felt they were fit and ready.
However, with the new points system, the only opportunity for a filly to earn points toward the Kentucky Derby is to run against the colts in major prep races. Plans most trainers and owners do not consider early on in the season. As Bloodstock Agent John Moynihan states: “With the timing of (the Derby), you don’t really consider it until the last minute. You want to see how the cards fall; there are so many different scenarios that come into play. You’ve got to look at the quality of the colts out there and how well they’re doing and also the quality of the Oaks. (Courtesy of Bloodhorse article: Oaks Owners Weigh In on Derby Points System).
In the past great fillies have faced the boys, and triumphed with success. Out of 38 fillies that ran in the Kentucky Derby, 3 have gone off to win: Regret (1915), Genuine Risk (1980) and Winning Colors (1988).
Of course it’s interesting to ponder on what could have been, as this year’s Kentucky Oaks has a group of strong contenders. Bob Baffert in an interview with Bloodhorse said that this is the most competitive Oaks he has ever been in. The field has a lot of fast fillies, and this year’s competition is fierce. So why not have the new Derby Point System allow any filly with 100 Oak points or more; become eligible to “consider” the Derby. If this were the case, this would have given the following fillies the option of running in the Kentucky Derby:
|1||Beholder||164||Richard Mandella||Spendthrift Farm|
|2||Rose to Gold||164||Sal Santoro||Kathleen Amaya and Raffaele Centrofanti|
|3||Unlimited Budget||160||Todd Pletcher||Repole Stable|
|4||Dreaming of Julia||132||Todd Pletcher||Repole Stable|
|5||Close Hatches||100||Bill Mott||Juddmonte Farms|
Courtesy of: Kentuckyderby.com/oaks/leaderboard)
There are a lot of pros and cons to consider for every horse entered into the Derby, but having a filly in the race does add excitement for racing fans. The handle gets a piece, the filly and its connections get exposure, female race fans will get some action on the filly. It’s a win/win situation for everyone.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that every filly is just as good as this year’s crop of 3-year old colts. The message I’d like to convey is there “could be” an exceptional filly out there that will not have the opportunity to “measure her brilliance” by running against the boys. I understand with a new process there is always room for adjustments as the process itself unveils what works, and what could be improved. The final goal is providing the opportunity for the best 20 horses to make it to the gates the first Saturday in May. Who wouldn’t want a talented filly in the most prestigious race in America? In my opinion this current process is passing up on some truly talented fillies.
This year’s Kentucky Oaks is full of “Girl Power”, and lots of it. Dreaming of Julia, I’d call her a freak definitely would give these boys a run for their money. Her final time for the Gulfstream Park Oaks (gr.II) on March 30th was 1:48.97. She ran nearly two seconds faster than the boys who ran in the Florida Derby later that same day. The winner- Orb’s final winning time was 1:50.87. I’m a huge fan of Orb, and I think he is a very talented colt.
Churchill Down’s should really consider adjusting its’ point system to allow filly’s the opportunity to qualify for the Kentucky Derby. How awful would it be if the great Zenyatta was unable to participate in the Breeder’s Cup Classic? We would have missed that memorable opportunity to have the first female horse to win this competitive race. Rachel Alexandra not only beat the boys in the 2009 Preakness, but that same year she went off to also beat “older boys” in the Haskell and the Woodward.
With the right horse, the right connections, and the right timing many talented female horses will be missing out on the chance to become a part of racing history.
Busy on the Derby Trail, I’ve been lost in translation chasing who’s hot and who’s not and haven’t written a blog in 3 weeks!. It’s getting very close to separating the contenders from the pretenders and the thrill of April 30 and May 1st quickly approaching is just too exciting!
Lots of great fillys and Mares but one that stands out at the moment is front running Freedom Star who dominated the Azeri Stakes and is looking hot, and ready to rumble! She once again had a gate to wire win this past Sunday in the Harry Henson H. Stakes at Sunland Park to rack up a second consecutive win.
4-year-old daughter of Street Cry under the reigns of Bob Baffert is one fast filly, and definitely a “star” to watch. When challenged by her competitors she is able to literally run them down. Could Freedom Star be ready to bite into the magical apple and face some real contenders in the Apple Blossom Invitational (gr1) on April 9?
If Freedom Star does make it to the Apple Blossom, it will be a very interesting race. We’ll see if she is up for a match with big sis Zenyatta who is also out of Street Cry. Wow, some really big shoes to fill and a really big piece of pie to eat! With that said, I’m sure Dad is very proud of his two daughters…