Category Archives: results

Mine That Bird : The Susan Boyle of Horse Racing

Could it all be just a dream?  Calvin Borel celebrates atop 135th Derby winner Mine That Bird, a 50-1 shot.  Photo by AP.

Could it all be just a dream? Calvin Borel celebrates atop 135th Derby winner Mine That Bird, a 50-1 shot. Photo by AP.

He stepped onto the stage, a plain, brown gelding, small in stature, and all but invisible among the flashy stars of the Triple Crown trail.  Handicappers, racing fans, industry insiders, racing commentators, all of them rolled their eyes when reading his name in the post parade: Mine That Bird. 

Steven Levitt, economist and racing fan, wrote in his Freakonomics blog, “If I had to pick a last-place finisher…it would be Mine That Bird.”  In the 3-strikes formula employed by Jon White, Mine That Bird had 5.  Message board commenters joked about him crossing the wire next week.  His speed figures weren’t good enough, he wasn’t fast enough, he’d only won on synthetic surfaces, these same colts had beaten him at the Breeders’ Cup, where he’d come in last — there really wasn’t a good reason for him to be there.

The brown horse knew nothing of this criticism.  He went to post #8 with jockey Calvin Borel in the irons, a veteran who’d ridden a Derby winner in 2007.  He was in good hands.  All that was left was for him to perform. 

When the gates opened, he started out so far back, it was as if he’d been left at the gate.   The track was sloppy, and he was hit in the face with the slick mud off the other horses’ hooves.  As the field flew through the backstretch, Mine That Bird began to move up, passing horses swiftly along the rail.  Turning for home, the pacesetters traded the lead in a thrilling duel.  The race caller’s attention was focused on the drama at the front of the pack, but what he didn’t see was the small, brown gelding closing furiously on the rail just behind them.  In a dramatic burst, the muddy gelding slipped through a slot the size of a needle’s eye on that golden rail.  He was in the lead!  He was drawing away by 3!  4!  6 on the wire! 

The people at Churchill Downs — the ladies in the soggy hats and the Infielders as muddy as the horses– stared in shock.  Mine That Bird had done the impossible, at 50-1 odds! 

I love the Kentucky Derby.  No other sports event can compare with its propensity for surprise winners.  All of the experts, this one included, totally ignored him.  But he took flight on the muddy Churchill Down strip and prevailed by 6 3/4 lengths, surpassing even Barbaro in his dominance.  The only thing I can think of that even comes close to the surprise and delight in this horse’s performance is Susan Boyle.

He took the stage a small, plain, brown gelding.  He entered the Winners’ Circle covered in mud and roses, humming “I Dream A Dream.”

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Filed under Churchill Downs, favorite races, Kentucky Derby, mine that bird, promoting racing, results, Underrated Racehorses

THE PLOT THICKENS

The Kentucky Derby is less than 3 weeks away, and I am so stoked over this year’s contenders that I practically twitter myself into a pool of rose-scented goo every Saturday when I watch the preps.  But you wouldn’t know that reading this blog, because life and work and school have trampled the Infield lately.  Here’s my take on the latest Derby headlines: 

OLD FASHIONED, my #1 Derby pick back on January 1 has been RETIRED!  GAahhh!  The grey colt with the white tail ran a fabulous pace-setting race in the Arkansas Derby, and nearly ran away with the whole shebang.  In the shadow of the wire, California invader PAPA CLEM got his head in front and drew off to a half-length victory.  PAPA CLEM was trying dirt for the first time and will be going to the Derby.  OLD FASHIONED suffered a knee injury during the race.  Today, owner Rick Porter announced the colt’s surgery went well, but he will never be able to race again at the top level, so Porter has sent him off to stud!  WOW.  That’s the Derby Gods for ya.  I still think Larry Jones will win the Derby — he’s still got Freisan Fire for this year.

Meanwhile, GENERAL QUARTERS ran off with the Blue Grass Stakes and will enter the Kentucky Derby the Sentimental Favorite.  GQ is the one horse in the one horse stable owned by Tom McCarthy, a former high school teacher.  McCarthy does all of the training and grooming for his star, too.  He is living every racing fan’s dream of having a colt good enough to make the field in the Derby.  You can’t overlook outsiders like General Quarters in Derby picks — remember Funny Cide?

   THE PAMPLEMOUSSE scratched out of the Santa Anita Derby because of tendon problems, totally deflating my early Derby enthusiasm.  I really wanted to see that colt in the Derby, you have no idea how much.  He will be out for the year recuperating, but the connections plan to bring him back to the races.  I will be eagerly awaiting his return.

I WANT REVENGE won the Wood Memorial last weekend in an impressive performance on a sloppy track.  The colt split horses in deep stretch and drew off with powerful acceleration.  He is dangerously good on dirt and will probably be the morning line favorite on May 2.  IEAH has done a swell job replicating their Big Brown success, and they appear poised to defend their roses.

QUALITY ROAD is the top Florida colt, having won the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby in scintillating fashion.  He’s fast up front or just off the pace.  He soundly defeated Dunkirk, who will make it in the Derby though I don’t think he belongs (he may be Todd Pletcher’s 4th last-place finisher in a row).

Who do I think will win the Derby?  The horse who has beaten Papa Clem and I Want Revenge, who had to run out of his comfort zone and set the pace in the Santa Anita Derby, who is by a Belmont-winning sire and who is trained by a man who’s seen the winners’ circle three times before:  PIONEEROF THE NILE

I’ll have more to blog about the contenders in the weeks to come, as well as the Infield itself!

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Filed under Churchill Downs, Kentucky Derby, results

Infield Favorite Wins!

MY LITTLE CONNOR just won moments ago at Hawthorne.  He set the pace and held off a tough challenger in the 1 1/4 mile starter handicap.  My Little Connor is a longtime favorite of mine, having first jumped into my picks in January 2007.  The son of Petionville went off at 6-1 and paid $10.20. 

Now if Mr. Franks and Mo Terms can win soon…

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Filed under Handicapping, results

The Aftermath–What About Raven’s Pass?!

The Synthetic Track proved to be a great equalizer for the European contingent, but the American runners were not shamed by any means at Breeders’ Cup 25. 

Raven’s Pass ran a brilliant final furlong under Frankie Dettori, passing defending champ Curlin, rallying Henrythenavigator, and synthetic specialist Go Between.  The 3yo miler by Elusive Quality had spent the year battling New Approach in Europe, and carried his form well over to the opposite side of the world(and 2 extra furlongs).

As for Curlin, the Golden Warrior looked like a winner going into the final turn, but he just couldn’t sustain his drive.  Whether it was the surface or simply not his day, only the horse knows.  Tiago closed ferociously for 3rd, which would suggest Curlin didn’t like the track so much (the closest Tiago got to Curlin before Saturday was a 3rd in the ’07 Belmont).

The Classic results also give us a better idea of how good the ’08 3yo crop actually is.  It’s not flattering, at least for the US-based horses.  Colonel John was our best 3yo finisher, coming in 6th and Smooth Air followed in 7th.  Casino Drive set the early pace but faded badly to last.  These are horses who have been running lights out against their own generation, but were unable to threaten in open company.  It is a shame that Big Brown was injured, because he would have totally changed the dynamic of the race and also had the opportunity to convince his remaining critics.  Brown will most likely get the Eclipse for champion 3yo, but not without a few votes for Raven’s Pass.

And what about Raven’s Pass?  I hope that Princess Haya keeps him in training.  He has proven he can run 10 furlongs, which just happens to be the same distance as a little race in Dubai.  He would make the ’09 handicap season more interesting here in the states as well – a triple threat on turf, poly and perhaps dirt?  His sire also gave us Smarty Jones, so it’s not out of the question.

ZENYATTA kept her perfect record at 9 wins, and did it with ease.  It is so much fun watching her run.  She does that funny “spanish walk” when she goes to the post.  She always breaks slowly, and the makes a huuge run at the end, passing everybody else like they were hitchhikers on I-40.  SHe has beaten everybody, former BC distaff champ, quality speed horses, talented 3yo divas, on poly and dirt (at my home track of Oaklawn, no less).  It would have been awesome if Zenyatta had the chance to face Zarkava, the filly Arc winner.  If I had a vote for Eclipses, Zenyatta would be my HOTY.  Hey Jerry Moss & John SHeriffs, BRING ZENYATTA BACK TO OAKLAWN!!!

Others:

Muhannak won the Marathon…I should have bet that race; I would have been set for the rest of the day…

Euros run 1-2 in the Juvy turf, with Donativum getting the better of Westphalia…should see those 2 duking it out in the Darby next year…

GOLDIKOVA, the “dainty filly” slices through a microscopic hole and accelerates like a fine motor car o win the Mile.  Kip Deville, last year’s mile winner, runs 2nd.  The Dutrow trainee now knows what it is like to get “beat by a girl”.

MIDNIGHT LUTE made BC history by winning the SPrint for the 2nd time in a row.  Lute battled back from a nasty quarter crack and a horrible finish in his prep race to win the Sprint by a length, in a final time of 1:07.08.  Lute is the only 2-time winner of the Sprint.  Trainer Bob Baffert says Midnight Lute is the best he has ever trained, and that’s a strong comment from the man who trained 3 Derby winners, including Real Quiet, the horse who has come closest to winning the TC in 30 years.  Real Quiet is the sire of Midnight Lute.

Conduit won the Turf…Albertus MAximus won the dirt mile…Midshipman won the Juvy…Indian Blessing got beat by a scintillating Ventura in the F/M Sprint…

BC handle was up 5% from last year…people will bet regardless of the surface of the ridiculous name of the “ladies’ classic”…NO HORSES SUFFERED LIFE-THREATENING INJURIES!!

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Filed under Breeders' Cup, curlin, polytrack, RAven's Pass, results, Santa Anita, zenyatta

COWBOY CAL SURVIVES INQUIRY

Cowboy Cal (inside) wins the Bryan Station via DQ of Seaspeak (outside).

Cowboy Cal (inside) wins the Bryan Station via DQ of Seaspeak (outside).

Cowboy Cal

, making his first start since running up the track in the Kentucky Derby, won the steward’s inquiry in the Bryan Station stakes today at Keeneland.  The son of Giant’s Causeway looked unbeatable coming off the final turn, but longshot Seaspeak hooked up with him in deep stretch.  The two dark bay colts slugged it out in the final furlong, with Cal on the inside bearing the brunt of Seaspeak’s jabs.  The longshot put a head in front of COwboy Cal at the wire.  Stewards spent 5 minutes reviewing the tape before DQing Seaspeak to 2nd.  It was a great return for Cowboy Cal.  It may be too late for him to make the Breeders’ Cup field, but this victory will set him up for a great winter campaign.

CASINO DRIVE, the mysterious chestnut from Japan, won an allowance prep at Oak Tree today.  The half-brother to Rags to Riches turned in an effortless performance against 5 others, proving he could handle the Pro-Ride surface and that his minor hoof problems were behind him.  Casino Drive will be a live longshot in the BC Classic.  He could be the next Arcangues.  However, there are a few Euros who may have a stronger case for victory in the Classic.  Duke of Marmalade, winner of 5 Group I races in 2008, is pointing for the BC, as well as Henry the Navigator and Soldier of Fortune (that sounds like the 3 horses of the apocalypse).  Casino Drive has only run in 3 races in his entire life, and though he has won all 3, he has never faced the quality of competition lining up for the Classic.  That’s not even mentioning the American contingent, who I’ll delve into later this week.

In OMG WTF news, CATO pulled the biggest upset I’ve ever witnessed today at Louisiana Downs:  the colt went off at odds of 182.60-1!!!   The winning payoff was $367.20/$134.20/$53.20 with a $1418 EX and $11,938 TRI !!!

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Filed under Breeders' Cup, Keeneland, polytrack, results, Santa Anita, Turf racing

BIG BROWN VICTORIOUS! + MUSIC NOTE & PROUD SPELL!!

By now most Infield readers know that Big Brown won on Saturday, holding off Proudinsky in a thriller stretch drive (I think that must be my favorite phrase, seriously).  The Derby Winner has passed the “beat older” test with winning colors…now on to synthetic and CURLIN! 

There is no way now for Curlin to repeat as HOTY without running in the Classic. Brown has done everything except win the Belmont (and how many others have that blemish on their resume).  Brown draws record crowds to see him run in non-graded stakes.  Brown has a major corporate sponsor (almost like NASCAR).  Curlin has the hardware (’07 HOTY), the earnings (over $9mil) and the key to Saratoga.  But unless his owner (who has been a tremendous sportsman so far just by running the Golden Warrior at 4) gives in and enters the defending BCC winner on SA’s poly, his chances for a repeat HOTY are slim and none.  If he enters and Brown beats him, he’s out, but the questions will be answered.  If he runs and wins, he’ll go down as one of our greatest champions.  There have only been a handful of 2-time HOTY champs in history, an enormous achievement.  The last back-to-back HOTY was Cigar in ’95/’96.  Even he couldn’t capture 2 Classics. 

If neither Brown or Curlin win the Classic, then things get more tricky.  It’s safe to say Go Between, love him as I do, will not be HOTY if he springs the big-ass upset.  I say Curlin would still be HOTY if both colts run up the track.  Curlin deserves the honor, after racing around the world in Dubai, and in all Gr1 events here in the states.  He has beaten a host of Gr1 winners and millionaires.  He’s also run faster than Brown (112 BSF in the Woodward).  It could also be a wake-up call to owners who retire their 3yos.  Curlin has run an (sort-of) old-fashioned campaign this year, hitting all the top Gr1s and taking on all comers.  I like Curlin better than Brown because of this-he is the last big name from the legendary 2007 Triple Crown Class.  All of those colts (and filly) were amazing athletes, game, fast and turned up every time.  To get to see even one of them for another year is a privlege that we won’t have next year.  Big Brown will be at Three Chimneys swapping TC war stories with Point Given (though PG will always win with his *I* won the Belmont by 11…). 

OTHER Stuff:  MUSIC NOTE waltzed away with the Gazelle after Country Star flipped in the gate and had to scratch.  The daughter of AP Indy is a tremendous runner in a year of Top Class Fillies.  Aside from Brown, 2008 has been the YEAR OF THE FILLY — The Distaff is the headliner race for the BC this year with Zenyatta, Ginger Punch, Hystericaladay, Music Note, Tough Tiz’s Sis, and now Proud SPell is back on the BC list.  Then Indian Blessing, Intangaroo, and Dearest Trickski have the F/M Sprint locked down.  Too bad Rags got hurt. 

Thursday I leave for an InfieldTrip to the heart of horse country.  Complete blogging and photos and such will be forthcoming…

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Filed under Big Brown, Breeders' Cup, curlin, Graded Stakes, results, Santa Anita

Winner’s Circle Presentation

Here it is! 

I’d like to thank Thunder Gulch for winning the 1995 Kentucky Derby and making my first pick a winning one.  I’d also like to thank Al Gore for inventing the internet that allows me to keep up with all the racing info I need to win awesome contests like SAUHBR.    Thanks again BT, for your rivalry and for the fantastic trophy.  Finally, a special shoutout to Mom, Dad, Sis and God — Thanks!

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Filed under Brag sheet, results, SAUHBR