Horse Racing…Fillies On The Turf…

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horseracing

Great weather, and firm turf is in the forecast for tomorrow at Keeneland Race Track in Lexington, Kentucky. The Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup S. – Grade 1 has a competitive field of 9 talented fillies going a distance of one-eighth mile on turf. This is an important prep race to the Breeders Cup Filly & Mare Turf which will be held at Santa Anita Race Track on Saturday, November 2nd.

This race was first inaugurated on October 11, 1984 in honor of English Royalty Queen Elizabeth II who was in attendance for this first race. The time record for this race at the current one-eighth mile distance was set my Memories of Silver in 1996.  Her daughter Winter Memories ran this race back in 2011. She was went off as the favorite at 7-5, but unfortunately came in 4th with filly Together winning this race.

Please meet the field for the Running of the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup S. – Grade 1:

Post 1 – Sarach Trainer – R. Mandella Jockey – M. Garcia ML – 10-1

Post 2 – Say (IRE) Trainer – A. O’Brien Jockey – J. Graham ML – 10-1

Post 3 – Caroline Thomas Trainer – B. Tagg Jockey – R. Napravnik ML–12-1

Post 4 – Alterite (FR) Trainer – C. Brown Jockey – J. Velazquez ML – 9-5

Post 5 – Emotional Kitten Trainer – W. Ward Jockey – G. Gomez ML – 6-1

Post 6 – Concise Trainer – G. Motion Jockey – E. Prado ML – 12-1

Post 7 – Kitten’s Dumplings Trainer – M. Maker Jockey – J. Leparoux ML– 3-1

Post 8 – Leigh Court Trainer – J. Carroll Jockey – G. Boulanger ML – 10-1

Post 9 – I’m Already Sexy Trainer – W. Catalano Jockey – F. Geroux ML – 8-1

Here are several things to keep in mind for this race.  Brisnet.com forms are a great resource for obtaining useful information:

  • There are 5 fillies within this race whom are already graded stakes winners, so this race really looks wide open; with very attractive odds on some great fillies
  • Owner/Trainer Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey + “Kitten Horses” + Keeneland + Turf is hard to ignore. They have both Emotional Kitten and Kitten’s Dumplings in this race
  • Don’t ignore Julien Leparoux + Keenland + Turf
  • If you are about speed, there is only 1 filly in this race that has posted numbers above 100, and she’s done it twice. I’m Really Sexy posted a Brisnet speed score of 101; also at one-eighth mile going wire to wire in the G-3 Pucker Up on September 14th, which is the best turf speed amongst the competition. She also posted a sharp workout on October the 6th as well as a bullet workout going on September 26th . She has improved in numbers from her last race in rating as well as in class. She’ll be one of the speed fillies in this race so she’ll have company along side Sarach from Post 1, and “speedster” Leigh Court in Post 8. Leigh Court is another filly who also won her last race going wire to wire. She is moving up in class from her last start (this will be harder competition), but has had a very sharp bullet workout on October the 4th . Her speed ratings meet the speed par of this race; which is 95. She could be another filly that once she runs, you’ll have to catch her
  • Closers Kitten’s Dumplings and Caroline Thomas will need an honest pace to get a piece of “victory pie”. Pace will definitely make the race
  • Say – Blinker on. She also ran 6 days ago in the Grade 1 First Lady Stakes at Belmont Park, finishing 6th on “yielding” turf. Weather was extremely bad; she did make a move on the backstretch going 3 wide before letting up so this may indicate current form. She has run back on a week’s rest in the past, and has done well each time so this should not be a problem. Her Brisnet Speed score of 88 could be pardoned since last week’s weather was rainy and the turf was yielding. What is interesting, is her connections did the same scenario with “Together”, who won this race 2 years ago after making her American debut against elder females in the First Lady. She came in 2nd, and a week later ran in the QE II and won the race paying $11.20 to win. Will ‘Say’ be able to follow with the same success? She’s a multiple graded stakes winner back in Europe, and “added” blinkers could improve her run. Her mother, Riskaverse won this race in 2002
  • Morning line favorite Alterite a European shipper won her first race in the US in the Garden City – Grade 1 on September 16th at Belmont Park. She’s also a graded stakes winner in Europe and leaves us wondering if her form will stay consistent in the US. Still tough to say since she could need a couple more starts to figure her out. High jockey + 33% trainer + 2nd time lasix + 94 Brisnet Speed rating. This morning line favorite is one filly difficult to ignore
  • Caroline Thomas reunites with one of the best female jockeys of all time, Rosie Napravnik, a plus for this filly. Caroline Thomas’s mother, Bit of Whimsy won this race back in 2007
  • Emotional Kitten has improved numbers in race rating, and class rating from her last race. She is the only filly who has won at Keeneland, while breaking her maiden over the main course. 24% Trainer: Shipper + Hot Jockey + One of the best turf speeds + finished 3rd in last race. She has not won a graded stakes yet, but she has ran second to Del Mar Oaks winner Discreet Marq and American Oaks winner Emollient. She could be in striking position if the leaders falter and like I previously said, a “Kitten” horse on turf, at Keeneland… watch out!

It’s a great field of talented fillies good luck to everyone!

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Instructional Video: How to Skim the Hedge in Horse Racing…

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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

Orb’s Kryptonite

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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!