Category Archives: Santa Anita

FRUIT vs NILE

The Pamplemousse faces Pioneerof The Nile for Santa Anita Derby Dominance on Saturday.  Go Fruit!

The Pamplemousse faces Pioneerof The Nile for Santa Anita Derby Dominance on Saturday. Go Fruit!

 

Santa Anita will host the most anticipated matchup of the spring on Saturday, when The Pamplemousse meets Pioneerof The Nile in the Santa Anita Derby.  Will the front-running Fruit be able to carry his speed all the way to the finish?  Will PNile close in time to hit the wire first?  Or will Chocolate Candy surprise them all?

The Fruit may just be the freak of this year’s 3yo crop.  Sure, Quality Road has put up some big Beyers in the FOY and FL Derby, but he just doesn’t have the style of The Pamplemousse.  Big, grey, cute face marking, high white socks, carousel-horse-high knee action, funny name, and undefeated.  He likes to be on the lead, but he has been known to rate, somewhat.  Sure, he has pedigree questions, but as of today he has already outrun his sire, Kafwain, by winning at 9f, in a stakes, no less.  But there’s just something about him- he may not win the Kentucky Derby, but he’s got the Santa Anita Derby for the taking. 

Pioneerof The Nile looks to slice the Fruit at the Santa Anita Derby.

Pioneerof The Nile looks to slice the Fruit at the Santa Anita Derby.

PNile is a very good colt right now, getting better with each start and trained by a guy who knows how to win the Derby: Bob Baffert.  The son of Empire Maker has stuck out some close finishes in his career, but he has never faced a horse like The Fruit.  It will take every bit of his class and drive to pass The Fruit in the stretch.

Chocolate Candy, and to a lesser extent, Mr. Hot Stuff (seriously, who named this horse? his brother is Colonel John; this name sounds like a Chippendales’ dancer) are the upsetters-in-waiting.  Chocolate Candy has been plugging along in stakes at Golden Gate Fields, winning the El Camino Real and California Derby.  He’s by Candy Ride out of a Slew mare, so distance is not an issue.  His times and figures, while certainly quick, haven’t been as scintillating as The Fruit’s or PNile’s.  Mr. Hot Stuff was 3rd in the Sham behind The Fruit, but fans of the colt hope he gets better as the distances stretch, like his big bro.

At Aqueduct, the action moves out the the main track for the Wood Memorial.  I Want Revenge wants to turn in another devastating victory against Imperial Council.  I think Imperial Council will get the better of Revenge this time.  Revenge’s victory last out was his first run on traditional dirt, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he bounces.

April 4 is Part 1 of the Final Derby Preps.  The major contenders must keep it together the next 2 saturdays to solidify their places in the gate May 2.  Next weekend will be the Bluegrass Stakes and the Arkansas Derby — wow, time flies!

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Filed under Aqueduct, Derby Prepes, Graded Stakes, Kentucky Derby, Santa Anita

MARCH MADNESS RACES of the WEEK

Pioneerof The Nile is sharp for the San Felipe on Saturday. Photo from KentuckyDerby.com

Pioneerof The Nile is sharp for the San Felipe on Saturday. Photo from KentuckyDerby.com

This weekend the FOUR! Big Kentucky Derby Preps feature returning favorites and a few “bubble” horses who could jump onto the list in huge ways.

REBEL:

OLD FASHIONED looks to add another easy victory in Hot Springs.  Silver City comes back to challenge, but I think he’d be better sticking to sprints.  Poltergeist is also back after a lackluster performance in the Southwest, and though I hope he runs better this time, I don’t see him winning.  D.Wayne Lukas has Hamazing Destiny, a maiden winner, entered, and savvy players know you shouldn’t ignore a Lukas horse.  Old Fashioned’s owner, Rick Porter, chose to be at Oaklawn on Saturday instead of New Orleans, where he has Fresian Fire running in the Louisiana Derby.  I think he should make plans to dress for a winners’ circle photo.

LOUISIANA DERBY:

This is the best betting race of the entire weekend:  a nice field of dangerously good colts.  FRESIAN FIRE has dominated the Fair Grounds and is the morning-line favorite.  IEAH’s Patena ran a great 2nd in the Risen Star and is the wiseguys’ pick.  Giant Oak has run well all winter and could be sitting on a huge race.  Then there is Terrain, making his first start of the year.  The Cali-shipper Papa Clem hopes to replicate I Want Revenge’s poly-to-dirt powerhousing, and I think he just might be able to do it.  He ran 2nd to Pioneerof The Nile in the Bob Lewis Stakes in only his 2nd start; he is by Smart Strike, a triple-threat sire whose get include turf champ English CHannel and repeat HOTY Curlin!  My tickets will have Freisan Fire and Papa Clem at the top.

TAMPA BAY DERBY

Street Sense started his 2007 Derby-winning campaign in this race, where he nearly dead-heated with Any Given Saturday.  I don’t see anything like that happening this year, but still, this makes for an interesting Florida prep.  Hello Broadway is out from under Capt. Candyman Can and Quality Road and up against Sam F. Davis winner General QUarters.  Also stopping by is Zito-trained Nowhere To Hide, a son of Vindication who was 4th in the Risen Star.  I like Nowhere To Hide and General Quarters for this one.

SAN FELIPE

Many of the horses PNILES has defeated have shipped out for dirt tracks, like I Want Revenge and Papa Clem.  Facing the Baffert trainee at Santa Anita are six colts praying for PNiles to have a bad day.  Jeranimo looks promising, and I would not ignore this maiden winner sired by Congaree.  Also New Bay and Feisty Suances…but really, PNiles is the big horse, hooves and shoulders above this group.  I kinda wish Bob had shipped him out to a dirt oval, just for some better competition.

And that’s The Infield March Madness !!

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Filed under Derby Prepes, Fairgrounds Race Course, Graded Stakes, Gulfstream Park, Handicapping, Kentucky Derby, Oaklawn Park, Santa Anita

Catching UP with The Infield

MO TERMS broke his maiden on Feb. 25 at Turfway Park!  Wahoo!  Go Mo & Trainer Mary McKinley!  The dark bay colt won a $7500 Maiden Claiming event at a mile under jockey E. Wilkinson.  His victory comes after months of close calls, most recently a 4th on Feb 2.  

I caught up on the last couple episodes of JOCKEYS during my hiatus.   Chantal and Mike are very competitive with each other…Joe Talamo probably should have gotten some kind of suspension after three incidents of swaggin’ in one day.  The look inside the stewards’ office was pretty neat, something I have never seen before…the tall jockey, whose name I cannot ever remember but he was in from Arlington Park, struggled to find mounts and eventually decided to move his saddle to Kentucky…Aaron Gryder lost the mount on the filly named after his daughter, Grace Gryder, to Talamo…Talamo won the race and left an “autographed” winners’ circle shot on Gryder’s locker…it was pretty cool seeing all of the champion jockeys get together at the local to chat and give Joe a hard time…I want a copy of Mike’s Holy Bull DVD! 

The penultimate episode airs on Friday, and I hope it gets more into the Breeders’ Cup preparations.  Also, Orthodox, the horse Jon Court rode to victory in the 2nd episode, won an allowance race last week.  Speaking of Jon, he is riding at Oaklawn this season and has won 12 races in 106 starts, the 6th leading rider in Hot Springs.  Chantal Sutherland recently rode Infield favorite Lickety Lemon to a 5th place finish in the La Zanzara H. at Santa Anita.  Kayla Stra was 2nd in the third race yesterday at Santa Anita, on Lethal Dose.

Later this month, I am taking a trip to Tucson, AZ, to check out the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program.  I will have a full account of the experience as live as I can get it, so stay tuned!

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Filed under Animal Planet, Jockeys, promoting racing, Santa Anita

WEEKEND DERBY PREPS: Better than a Groundhog

Pioneerof The Nile relives his narrow Cashcall Futurity to return victorious in the Bob Lewis.

Pioneerof The Nile relives his narrow Cashcall Futurity to return victorious in the Bob Lewis.

Today the weather was actually not hellatious.  It was right near enjoyable.  Perfect for a trio of Derby Preps!

Close to home at the Fairgrounds, Friesan Fire lit up the Risen Star stakes with a strong performance that shoots him into the Derby picture.  Despite being rank early, the Larry Jones trainee raced close up to an honest pace set by It Happened Again.  Jockey Gabriel Saez sent Friesan Fire to the lead at the top of the lane and the colt drew off by 3.  It was a sweet effort that proves this colt is a real contender.  And he’s the second fiddle three year old in Jones’s barn!  I have high expectations for Old Fashioned Feb 16.  

Up in NY, Haynesfield won the Whirlaway at Aqueduct in an awesome wire-to-wire parade route.  The son of Speightstown was unchallenged the whole way around and finished up about 7 in front.  I have doubts about his distance capabilites, though the Whirlaway is 1 1/6th miles, far from a sprint.  He has the class to go forward and we’ll just see how that turns out in the Gotham next month.  The biggest delight was the sunny skies and fast track up at Aqueduct, which is normally a drab scene in February.  Forget the groundhog, Haynesfield says we’re having an early spring.

Finally, Pioneerof The Nile emerged as the top Derby contender in the West with his win in the Bob Lewis Stakes.  (I’m going to start calling this colt PNiles, after Tiger bigman Pierre Henderson-Niles)  PNiles overcame horrendous traffic and closed like a jailhouse door to take the Lewis by a neck.  It was an exciting, gutsy performance by the Baffert trainee.  Though my sources say PNiles will stay out west until Derby day, it would sure be nice to see how he’ll handle the real dirt before May.  Also, if we have a TC on the line again this year, let me make my prediction now: Pioneerof The Nile will be the spoiler, just like his Dad, EMpire Maker.

I am formulating my Derby List and should have it ready to post next week sometime.  The Sam F. Davis and El Camino Real are the Valentine’s Day preps next saturday, and I will have some sweet picks for them Friday.  Also, I may be shooting up the highway to Hot Springs sooner rather than never — stay tuned!

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Filed under Aqueduct, Derby Prepes, Fairgrounds Race Course, Graded Stakes, Kentucky Derby, Santa Anita

THE PAMPLEMOUSSE

WINS the SAN RAFAEL at Santa Anita! 

The Pamplemousse wins the San Rafael wire-to-wire/image from bloodhorse.com

The Pamplemousse wins the San Rafael wire-to-wire/image from bloodhorse.com

Gotta love a horse named after a restaurant named after the French word for grapefruit.  Heh, I just bought a bunch of red grapefruit snack cups; it musta been an omen!

Seriously, though, TheBigFruit got away with the race from the beginning, setting easy fractions on the lead.  He showed his class by putting the squeeze on Square Eddie in the final turn.  Ryehill Dreamer made a move, too, but just couldn’t catch the top two.  The Big Fruit juiced Square Eddie by 3.

Square E needed the race, but he seems to be afflicted with 2nditis.  The Big Fruit is now 2-for-2  in his career, but much bigger challenges await him on the Derby trail. 

In terms of the Derby picture, it’s early, but the way this race played out, it probably won’t make any difference except to fill up posts 15-20.  The Pro-ride surface is a question mark, and there is no way The Big Fruit gets an easy lead like that again. 

IN OTHER RACES: 

CHOCOLATE CANDY won the California Derby today at Golden Gate Fields.  I like this one and hope he continues to progress.  He could be a Derby sleeper but he hasn’t tried dirt yet.

 SILVER CITY won the Dixieland Stakes at Oaklawn on Opening Day.

The next big 3yo preps are the Holy Bull and Hutcheson Stakes on Jan 30-31.

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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