Horse Racing… Who’s Going To Make a Splash In The Rebel?

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TripleCrown Races

BC Juvenile Race We Miss Artie and Strong Mandate

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.

But Wait, there’s more!

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Wild and Intense Weekend in Horse Racing!

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horse racing

This past weekend was the start to the Championship Series and a pivotal point on the road to the Kentucky Derby. Contenders are starting to emerge and slowly revealing themselves, as each prep win is now worth a whopping 50 points. Most 3-year olds at this time are stretching out from 1 to 2 turns for the first time, as well as facing much larger fields.

Post position and traffic problems can affect an inexperienced horse, but each race is a stepping-stone to learning, growing and gaining the experience that is needed to make it to the first Saturday in May .

The Risen Star Stakes and the Fountain of Youth started off the series with both winners exemplifying a “fighting spirit” to the very end!  Re-watching both races will leave you on the edge of your seat with spine-chilling finishes that will leave you wanting more. It’s just the start to new beginnings as we experience these young colts develop into pure competitors, and amazing athletes.

But Wait, there’s more!

Holy Bull… It’s That Time Of The Year In Horse Racing!

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ATtheGate

Things are starting to brew as we all jump aboard the Derby Trail!

The end of January marks the start of the South Florida Prep Series leading up  to the Florida Derby and it all starts today with the Holy Bull Stakes.  I can’t believe how quickly time has passed, and we are all starting to form our own opinions on who’s got what it takes to earn a prestigious  spot in this year’s Kentucky Derby.

A wide open filed of eleven colts will be lined up to go  1- 1/16 miles. For most, this will be the first time stretching out 2-turns, but for a few– they have ran and actually won at today’s distance.

But Wait, there’s more!

100 Oak Points…

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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.

Pace Makes The Race…

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For Every horse racing fan out there, the Kentucky Derby is known in the United States as, “The most exciting two minutes in sports”. The countdown is quickly approaching, and everyone who loves the sport now claims to have derby fever. Yes, it is highly contagious and if you don’t know much about the sport this is the perfect time of the year to find a new love in thoroughbred horse racing. 
It’s the sport of kings, and if the sport itself does not intrigue you; the beauty of a thoroughbred horse should!  Its’ grace and power will take your breath away as they blitz by you with speed and finesses.  I wish I had enough time to captivate you with all the information you need to love the sport as much as I do, but for now let me entertain you with some great information for this year’s race.
It’s the 139th, Run for the Roses, and the question is who will adorn the blanket of sweet Kentucky roses? Out of 40,000 foals born each year, only 20 will make it to the gate on the first Saturday in May. Mixed with talent and a bit of luck, it’s every owner’s and trainer’s dream to make it to the gate and hear those magical words, “And they’re off…” It is like music to every owner’s/trainer’s ears.
In my opinion, this year’s field appears to be wide open. There are several stand-outs that we can all give legitimate reasons for strong contenders within the race. A good post position, an honest pace, a good trip and let’s not forget “luck” from the ‘Racing Gods’, anyone of these stand-outs could win or definitely come in the money.
I’m a firm believer that pace makes the race and with that said one of my top 3 contenders is GOLDENCENTS. I saw this magnificent colt run in the Santa Anita Derby and I said to myself, “I just may have seen the Kentucky Derby winner” again…  With a moderate pace anticipated in his year’s race; he will definitely be a pace presence.  Falling Sky and Lucas’s rabbit – Oxbow will be part of the pace along with Verrazano.  While several others will be just off the pace; I am also hoping Goldencents will do the same. Let’s hope he sits comfortably off the pace as he did in the Santa Anita without burning the candle too early, too soon.  None of these 3-year olds have run 10f, so this will be test to see who will triumph the “Classic Mile”. Goldencents  will be dangerous with his high cruising speed and I’m hoping his jockey Kevin Krigger will be able to control the needed pace and let him ride through the top of the stretch holding off the closers that will be charging late from the rear.  Patience and timing will set up the perfect trip for the winner.  This is a talented colt that has proven that he is tough beyond his pedigree; which does not scream distance. 
REVOLUTIONARY has a very classy pedigree with stamina influence from his Dam’s Sire A.P. Indy.  Javas War also shares the same Sire, War Pass – who favors speed over stamina and still unsure whether his offspring can handle 10f. This is a colt that has extreme talent and has the ability to overcome a bad trip which gives him the tactical edge against other horses in this race that have not had to deal with traffic problems. He has the ability to come from anywhere on the track which indicates intelligence, and you also can’t go wrong with having Calvin Borel (Mr. Churchill Downs himself), as your jockey.  I see this colt as a major threat, and with the perfect trip he might just skim the rail to victory.
It’s difficult not to like ORB. He is a major threat with outstanding pedigree that will suit the distance for the Triple Crown races. Both his Sire and Damsire has produces multiple winners beyond 10f. Orb’s Sire Malibu Moon is the son of stamina influence A.P. Indy, and his Dam Sire Unbridled was 3 year old of the year and captured both the Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic. He has been improving in each race and has proven in the Florida Derby that he can sit much closer to the front as his closing style had previously indicated.
I’m going to have to leave VERRAZANO off my list, a bit risky…I know. He obviously a very strong contender, but as with GOVERNOR CHARLIE both did not race prior to January and I’ll have to go with the thought that the last Kentucky Derby winner who “did not” race as a 2 year old was Apollo back in 1882, and history continues to repeat itself.  He is large and muscular and the only undefeated horse in the field, but I’m going to have to stick to my gut and believe he will probably finish mid-pack rather than in the money. Lets’ also not forget the “Wood Memorial Curse”. Silly you think? To put it lightly, colts coming out of this race have not had the best of luck. Will Verrazano be the first to break this curse?
Finally every handicapper must have a few dark horses to win the derby. I am going to include into my exactas and trifectas Will Take Charge, MyLute and Normandy Invasion.  Not unrealistic; especially for MyLute who has been improving with each race. What can I say about Will Take Charge? He has improved since his last race and achieved one of the highest Brisnet speed scores which is close to the speed par of the Kentucky Derby, (Courtesy of Brisnet.com). He also had two works at a mile (4/12 at Oaklawn Park, and at Churchill on 4/21); unlike any colt (except for Itsmyluckday who also had a mile work on 4/18). He’s a longshot in my eyes. I have also been a Normandy Invasion fan since the Remsen Stakes back in November, each time he as let me down but why jump off the wagon now? In his last race in the Wood, he finished 3/4 back from Verrazano. I’ve also noticed he was more forwardly placed in the race which I believe he will also be in the Derby. Maybe he’s finally coming around, and ready for a big win? He had a sharp workout on April 21st, he went 4f in :48, breezed 7/81 (he was 7th out of 81 runners in that workout). He is also 30% off the layoff which is a high percentage (Courtesy of Brisnet.com). 
So to recap who I like in this race, my choices right now are:  Goldencents, Orb Revolutionary. My longshots are: Will Take Charge, Mylute and Normandy Invasion. I will probably trim this down to 4 colts within the next few days.
We still have 5 more days to ponder on who will be draped with the beautiful blanket of roses. There is still much to consider with post positions still unknown.  Weather will also be a strong factor since there are other’s within the group what will relish the mud.  There is much to consider if you are lucky enough to pick the Kentucky Derby winner, but remember pace will make the race!