Friday, May 20, 2011

Animal Kingdom Has Potential To Reign Supreme In Preakness Stakes 136

Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom has reigned supreme on my list since I wrote about him in my 2011 Kentucky Derby Outlook last December. I expected him to win the Derby and if all goes well Saturday, Animal Kingdom will reign supreme in Preakness Stakes (G1) 136.

It’s no secret that the demands of the Triple Crown trail are grueling. Anything can happen on the trail and not only do these young colts need to possess talent but a certain level of racing luck also helps.

Animal Kingdom has the talent.

He also has the breeding and mental toughness to withstand the rigors of the Triple Crown trail and I’ll be rooting for Animal Kingdom to go all the way.

However, according to some of the stories I’ve read during the past two weeks, not everyone was enthused with Animal Kingdom’s Kentucky Derby (G1) win. The good stories outweighed the bad though and one that I’d like to share is from Calibob who is a regular poster on Daily Racing Form blog hosted by DRF Handicapping Editor Dan Illman.

May 20, 2011

02:59 AM

Posted by Calibob


First, let me say that I'm sure I won't be alone in rooting for Animal Kingdom to take this 2nd race in the Triple Crown. He is a big beautiful horse, trained by one of the great people in the sport, and in many ways represents what is great about horse racing. …

The rise of Animal Kingdom, and his potential Triple Crown run could mean so much more than just one horse winning three races over two months. It could represent the crucial turning point this sport needs, in order to return to its foundation of true horesemen and horsewomen competing with the greatest gift God gave to Man, allowing them to run at their natural peak for the highest esteem and glory.

This horse has had success and shows ability over any surface they put under his feet. He has two wins over a synthetic surface, a close troubled second over turf, and a win in the most important race over dirt in the world. He already has served notice to everyone in the industry, that despite recent trends, it really doesn't matter one bit if a horse can break a track record as a mere baby in a flashy time. The winner in the end will be the horse that comes from deep, strong, and uncorrunped bloodlines, and brought along by its connections with patience and care….

Animal Kingdom is a fitting model for what breeders and owners should seek in the future, and if he can accomplish the ultimate goal in this sport, and win the Triple Crown it will indeed be a day that everyone can be pleased in the knowledge that something great has happened.

Well said Calibob.

Team Valor International, Barry and Kathleen Irwin and trainer H. Graham Motion have done an excellent job of preparing Animal Kingdom for the rigors of the Triple Crown trail and I agree that Animal Kingdom would be a good stallion prospect.

Dan Illman also had a lot of good things to say in his blog about the pedigree of Animal Kingdom. And I like what Blood Horse Columnist Steve Haskin said about Animal Kingdom in his latest blog.

Animal Kingdom has only raced five times and I believe that we have not seen his best yet. If he lives up to his breeding, then Animal Kingdom should get better and better the more he races.

Only time will tell.

Other horses I like in the Preakness and will use in my exotic wagers are Midnight Interlude, Mucho Macho Man, Astrology, Dialed In and King Congie.

Midnight Interlude is a much better horse than what he showed in the Derby. I don’t think he liked the 20-horse Derby field. Midnight Interlude needs to be free and clear and Jockey Martin Garcia should have him more forwardly placed for a better run in the Preakness.

Mucho Macho Man always runs a good race and he is a must play in the exotics.

Astrology is an improving colt. The one mile Jerome Stakes (G2) was too short for Astrology. He has a pedigree to excel as the distance gets longer and I look for Astrology to be competitive.

Dialed In and King Congie will fill out the bottom of the trifecta and Superfecta.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Federico Tesio, Burchard Von Oettingen, Animal Kingdom: Environment Key To Wellbeing Of Equine Athlete

All of the great owners, breeders and trainers of Thoroughbred race horses – Federico Tesio, Burchard Von Oettingen, H. H. Aga Khan and John E. Madden to name a few – knew that the environment was key to producing a healthy, happy horse.

And it appears that the environment was also a key to the success of Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom.

In his recent column, turf writer Steve Haskin beautifully illustrates how the environment was a key element in how Team Valor International prepared Animal Kingdom for the rigors of the Triple Crown trail:

Gently rolling hills and wide open spaces. Winding horse paths that rise and dip ever so slightly. Forest trails that lead to expansive fields. The singing of the birds the only sound.

Welcome to the idyllic horse heaven known as Fair Hill, located just a few miles from the Maryland--Delaware border. Nestled away in a quiet corner of this equine paradise, against a tree-lined backdrop is Team Valor’s private barn that is now home to the 2011 Kentucky Derby winner, Animal Kingdom.

H. Graham Motion, the trainer of Animal Kingdom, noted that the idyllic environment was a factor in their success:

I have to give a lot of credit to Barry [Irwin]. A lot of this is because of him. This horse [Animal Kingdom] won at Keeneland going a mile and an eighth last October. A lot of people would have gotten caught up with getting down to Florida. But he sent the horse to the farm in Ocala just to give him a break. There was nothing wrong with him. He just wanted to give him some time off and let him be a horse. Not many people do that this day and age and I think that’s a big factor why we are where we are.

Haskin continues in his column paint the picture of Animal Kingdom’s environment:

Irwin has spared no expense. In addition to the round pens and large paddocks that were there, they have installed or are in the process of installing an equine salt water spa, a vibrating floor, and a horse scale, where the horses are weighed every week. A new annex also is in the process of being completed. A short distance from the barn, there is a large round barn with an automatic horse walking machine encompassing 10 stalls and an office.

Indeed, the environment is the most important element in producing healthy, happy horses.

Kerry Thomas, founder of the Thomas Herding Technique, and I wrote about the importance of the environment in our book (scheduled to be published by Trafalgar Square Books in the spring of 2012). Creating a natural environment, in contrast to keeping horses cooped in stalls, is the foundation on which all great stables are made and it is a key element in nurturing the natural herd dynamic in an artificial, domestic environment.

(The following is an excerpt from our book.)

One of my favorite authors on the benefits of making the farm environment as natural as possible for the horse is Burchard Von Oettingen who was Director of Germany’s Royal Trakehnen Stud from 1895 to 1911 and a world renowned expert on horse care. In his book, Horse Breeding in Theory And Practice, published in 1909 by Sampson Low, Marston & Co., Oettingen outlined the benefits of pasturing horses. Although written over 100 years ago, the universality of his writing, extolling the benefits of nature nurturing the horse, bears repeating here:

Medicago sativa, or common Lucerne [Alfalfa]…is the most nourishing and healthiest food for horses, and most suitable to produce strong and hard bones.

The thriving of Lucerne is one of the surest indications that the soil is good for horse breeding. …Where Lucerne thrives well, it can be taken for granted that there will be found good pasture and meadow land, or that they can be laid out. Good meadows and grazing are amongst the most important conditions for the thriving of horse breeding. Although horses have a great power of resistance against heat and cold, wind and weather, yet there is no doubt that they prosper better in dry and high-lying districts than in damp and low-lying ones, because the food which grows on the former is more nutritive. Moreover, on high-lying plains the lungs of the horses develop better on account of the thinner air, which causes the horse to breathe more often and deep. …

When choosing a ground suitable for a stud for horses, one must further take into consideration that the hay of higher lying meadows (especially mountainous and Alp meadows) is superior as far as taste and nutritive value are concerned. The hay of lower lying valley meadows, and still more that of irrigated meadows and marshes, is, all things being equal, inferior to the hay of higher lying regions, on account of less taste and greater quantity of woody fibres, even if these same grasses should prevail here as well as there. Mostly on higher meadows less weed will be found, and less grasses of inferior value, or even dangerous...

Of all domestic animals, the horse is the most sensitive to bad drinking water. Unclean, surface or stagnant water is the most injurious. Even vapours arising from the stagnant waters are very unhealthy for horses, especially young foals, since they cause an increase of troublesome flies. Continually running water containing lime, which is colourless and without smell, is best for horses. It has often been observed that glanders breaks out in a milder form after the horses are given better water from fresh springs newly bored.

The growth of beeches is generally and rightly considered a favourable sign as regards a good soil for horse breeding. As oaks grow best in wet, low-lying countries, or in countries with much rain, and as such countries are not favourable for horse breeding, the idea has arisen that horses do not prosper where oaks prosper. Oaks grow, nevertheless on high-lying ground, and thrive well on strong clay soil, which is also suitable for horse breeding. On the other hand, limes especially the small-leaved ones, as well as all kinds of barberries, are undesirable in a stud, because they are the most popular carriers of rust parasites, which are especially unfavourable for Lucerne, and also for clover, as well as other grasses. Furthermore, wheat straw suffers mostly from rust, as in a lesser degree do also oat and barley straw.

Even the best soil requires, in order to derive any benefit from its advantages for breeding good, capable and sound horses, two very important factors, i.e., paddocks and permanent pastures. …But the method of rearing in the stable without paddocks and permanent pastures, which is still so widespread in Germany for all kinds of breeds, threatens to ruin many breedings. … Paddocks and permanent pastures serve, therefore, as a contrast to the method of rearing in the stable, to keep the breeding material as long as possible outside the stable and in conformity with nature, to nourish same. The following advantages thus arise: -

1. The influence of Light. The recently well recognized beneficial influences of light consist principally in destroying many very dangerous microbes, especially tuberculosis bacilli, and in increasing the energy of life by multiplying the red corpusculli and the haemoglobis.

2. The influence of good air. The air rich in oxygen in the open is a primary condition of every healthy development. The continuous remaining out in the open increases the need of oxygen, and in order to satisfy their needs, horses must, by deep breathing, make a greater use of the lungs. Accordingly, the lungs will be extended and strengthened, and also the energy of life increased.

3. The influence of wind and weather. The constant skin massage by wind and weather strengthens the whole nervous system. As a matter of fact, wind and weather preserves the whole animal organism in a continuous and beneficial training through frequent and sudden changes, and forces it to get accustomed to outside circumstances for the sake of self-preservation. In conjunction with the beneficial influence of light and air, wind and weather, owing to a normal and strengthening development of the nervous system, favour the health in such a good and energetic way altogether impossible in the horses are brought up in the stable.

4. The influence of exercise. A voluntary, continuous and mostly slow excerise on the meadows is necessary when seeking their food. By this means the sinews, muscles and bones are under the influence of a favourable slow, continuous and effective training quite impossible outside of the meadows. The longer grazing is possible, …and especially night grazing, the more distinctly is to be observed a favourable development of the formation of the body, especially of the shape of the limbs, as well as that so important to correct walk. The voluntary desire of the horses to visit distinct parts of the meadows, the possibility of their moving about as they please, and so noticing all that is going on around them, the attention which is required for observing changes, the many chances to caper and play with their companions – all these strengthen the intellect and senses, and are the best and only preventives against timidity.

5. Food grazing. The advantages of grazing on the meadow, as against green food in the stable, lie, firstly, in the fact that the horses never get as much in their mouth in the meadow as in the stable, and that, therefore, sudden overloading of the stomach is avoided; secondly, many and just the best and youngest grasses lose their taste between the time of being mowed and eaten; thirdly, the useful combination of amids are, for the most part, in the younger plants, and these are the most difficult to mow, but the horses whilst on the meadow get them easily. For the good preservation of pastures it is very important that they should be grazed alternately, as far as possible, by horses, cows or oxen (but not by sheep).

From the strengthening of bones and tendons as well as the heart, lungs and limbs by exercise over varying terrain, to the continuous beneficial nurturing provided by environmental stimuli that the casual observer, man, long ago ceased to rely on for survival, indeed, there is no better nurturing process than that provided the horse by Mother Nature. It is not practical to breed or train the equine athlete without fully understanding a view from the hoof and the necessity of nature’s beneficial nurturing of the horse. Only then can one hope to grasp the reality of the horse and the Equine Circle from the vantage point of man.

Perhaps, the greatest master who understood that and agreed with Oettingen about the importance of making farm life as natural as possible in order to produce healthy, happy horses was Federico Tesio. Australian bloodstock agent and author Ken McLean, in his book Tesio, Master of Matings, wrote that Tesio viewed Oettingen’s Breeding in Theory and Practice as a “marvelous stimulant” noting that Tesio “gleaned many inspirational ideas” from its pages.

And when one reads Edward Spinola’s introduction to Tesio’s book, Breeding the Racehorse, it seems quite obvious that Tesio agreed with Oettingen about the benefits of making farm life as natural as possible in order to raise healthy, happy horses. According to Spinola, Tesio’s Thoroughbred farm Dormello, which was located on the banks of Lake Miaggiore in Northern Italy, had the appearance of an Italian Villa and it was actually divided into several mini farms complete with their own paddocks and pastures nestled among the hills overlooking the lake.

In 1933, pedigree authority Friedrich Becker visited several stud farms in Italy, including Tesio’s, and in his book, The Breed of the Racehorse, Becker elaborated on Tesio’s method of raising bloodstock:

[Tesio] ascribes the successes of his mares mainly to the change of climate and environment to which he is exposing them as many times as it is possible during their stud career. …His stud is situated at the banks of the Lago Maggiore, one of the picturesque lakes at the foot of the Alpes, and consists of three parts, the first at level with the lake, the second some hundred yards above that level, and the third still higher up in the mountains. According to the time of the year the mares, upon their return from other studs and abroad, are transferred from one part to the other and provisions made for a cold winter when they would be sent south to Mr. Tesio’s second stud near Rome. No
mare is kept longer than a few months on the same paddock and thus absorbs fresh impressions during the whole time of pregnancy...

“I am taking a philosophical aspect of matters,” Mr. Tesio observed. “Supposing mankind would be wiped off from the earth by a terrestrial upheaval and horses stay back, do you think mine would remain in the north during the cold season? Certainly not! They would migrate to milder zones and when the weather there becomes too hot, wander northward again. Anyhow, they would keep on changing quarters the whole year round as their prototypes have done. I have come to appreciate the blessings of such changes from the earliest days of my activity as a breeder of racehorses and mainly ascribe my success to the principles of keeping my mares on the move. That’s the natural way.”

Indeed, Tesio knew that nurturing the natural herd dynamic in an artificial, domestic environment was important for the wellbeing of his horses and he went to great lengths to make Dormello as natural as possible. His practice of sending weanlings south for the winter to enjoy an extended grazing season produced two of his greatest champion thoroughbreds – Donatello and Nearco. And during his lifetime, Tesio bred and trained at Dormello an incredible 22 Derby Italiano winners.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Animal Kingdom Has Potential To Reign Supreme In Kentucky Derby 137

Readers who follow my blog know that Animal Kingdom has been my favorite since I wrote about him in my 2011 Kentucky Derby Outlook last December.

The pedigree is the most important tool I use to determine if a young colt has star potential. In addition, past performances and the will to win are also important factors I look at. However, my friend Kerry Thomas, founder of the Thomas Herding Technique, is better than I am at measuring the
emotional conformation of a horse.

Animal Kingdom has always reigned supreme on my list. He has the breeding and mental toughness to easily handle the demanding 10-furlongs of the Kentucky Derby.

Here’s what I wrote about him last December:

Animal Kingdom’s pedigree is as close to
WOW as you can get. His sire, Leroidesanimaux, was bred in Brazil but was a multiple graded-stakes champion in North America at the age of four and five and the 2005 Champion Male Turf Horse. Candy Stripes, his grandsire, is the sire of Invasor - the Uruguayan Triple Crown Champion, North American Horse of the Year and Champion Older Male. Leroidesanimaux’ second dam, Kerali, is the dam of super broodmare Hasili - dam of champions Intercontental, Banks Hill, Dansili, Champs Elysees, Cacique and Heat Haze.

Animal Kingdom’s damsire is the
legendary Classic Champion Thoroughbred and German Derby winner Acatenango – three-time Horse of The Year in Germany and champion sire in 1993, 1995, 1997, 1999 and 2001. All of the stallions on the damsire line going back six generations are Classic Champion Thoroughbreds and German Derby winners.

Dancing Brave, the sire of Animal Kingdom’s second dam Dynamis, is a Classic Champion Thoroughbred and the 1986 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner.

If Animal Kingdom continues to improve and move forward as a 3-year-old, he will be tough on the Triple Crown trail.

Although lightly raced, Animal Kingdom looked good in his two starts this year and his last-to-first-place move for the 2¾-length win in the Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes (G3) was impressive. He’s battle-tested and is competitive from anywhere on the race track – in two of his races he raced just off of the pace and in two races he closed from dead last.

Team Valor International, Barry and Kathleen Irwin and trainer H. Graham Motion have done an excellent job of bringing Animal Kingdom to the Kentucky Derby. His work out at Churchill Downs was good and Animal Kingdom is my top pick.

For the rest of my key Derby exotic wagers, I’m sticking with horses I liked on this year’s trail: Midnight Interlude, my pick to win the Santa Anita Derby (G1), Brilliant Speed, my pick to win the Blue Grass Stakes (G1) and Nehro who I tagged as a possible upset candidate in the Arkansas Derby (G1). All three of those horses are bred to go long and they will still be running when most of the field is trailing off.

Midnight Interlude has a good mix of speed and stamina in his pedigree. His sire was the speedy War Chant who won the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) and was able to stretch his speed out to 9-furlongs when he lost the 2000 Santa Anita Derby by one length to The Deputy.

Groom Dancer, the damsire of Midnight Interlude, was a multiple Group Stakes winner in France who was most competitive running at one mile to 11-furlongs. Most of the races he won were at a distance of 9-furlongs and farther. Triple Crown winner Secretariat is the sire of the third dam and First Landing, the sire of the fourth dam, also sired Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Riva Ridge.

Other notable stamina influences in the pedigree of Midnight Interlude include Blushing Groom, Northern Dancer, Lyphard, Kris S., Roberto and Mr. Prospector.

Midnight Interlude finished third in his debut in January and I like the way he has steadily improved with each race. Prior to winning the Santa Anita Derby, Midnight Interlude fired a bullet work out and since that race, he has fired three straight bullet works – two of those were at Churchill Downs on both a good and a sloppy track.

Starting from post 15, Midnight Interlude will be in a good position to avoid traffic problems and he will be tough to beat in the Kentucky Derby.

Brilliant Speed, with Dynaformer as his sire, should like the stretch out to 10-furlongs. Dynaformer has only had three colts run in the Derby and all of them, including 2006 Derby winner Barbaro, finished in the money.

The distaff part of Brilliant Speed’s pedigree is also filled with stamina influences. Passing Mood, the third dam of Brilliant Speed, is also the dam of Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Touch Gold and Canadian Triple Crown winner With Approval.

Other stamina influences include Gone West, Mr. Prospector, Deputy Minister, Buckpasser and Secretariat.

Brilliant Speed struggled as a 2-year-old and finally broke his maiden on his fifth attempt winning an 8½-furlong maiden race on the turf at Tampa Bay Downs last December.

But as a 3-year-old, Brilliant Speed has shown vast improvement narrowly losing by a nose his stakes debut in the one mile Dania Beach Stakes at Gulfstream Park in January. A month later at Gulfstream, Brilliant Speed suffered another narrow defeat finishing third, just a half-length shy of first, in the Hallandale Beach Stakes. Brilliant Speed capped off that nice run with a win in the Blue Grass Stakes (G1) and stamped his ticket to the Derby.

That’s the kind of improvement I like to see in a colt at this time of year and with jockey Joel Rosario in the mount, Brilliant Speed will be tough in the Derby.

In February, Nehro broke his maiden in a one mile race at Oaklawn Park and in March he suffered and narrow loss by a neck to Pants On Fire in the 9-furlong Louisiana Derby (G2). Nehro returned to Oaklawn and a month later he suffered another narrow loss to Archarcharch in the Arkansas Derby (G1).

Like Brilliant Speed, Nehro is a fast improving colt who could be peaking at the right time. Nehro will start from the auxiliary gate and should be able to avoid traffic problems. I look for him to be competitive.

Archarcharch was my long shot pick in the Southwest Stakes and I’ll use him, as well as Dialed In, Mucho Macho Man and Twice The Appeal, on the bottom of a few trifecta and superfecta wagers.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Jockey, Post Position Can Impact Derby Finish

A jockey can elevate or lower a horse’s performance. Here’s a look at the success rate of jockeys in Derby 137 with on-the-board finishes in past Derbies.

Joel Rosario
(Brilliant Speed)

With a fourth-place finish (Make Music For Me) in his only Derby start, Rosario has a 100% success rate in on-the-board finishes.

Calvin Borel
(Twice The Appeal)

With three first-place finishes (Street Sense, Mine That Bird and Super Saver) and a third-place finish (Denis of Cork) in eight Derby starts, Borel has a 50% success rate.

Victor Espinoza
(Midnight Interlude)

With a first-place finish (War Emblem) and third-place finish (Congaree) in four Derby starts, Espinoza has a 50% success rate.

Mike Smith

With a first-place finish (Giacomo), three second-place finishes (Prairie Bayou, Proud Citizen, Lion Heart) and one third-place finish (Cat Thief) in 17 Derby starts, Smith has a 29% success rate.

Robby Albarado
(Animal Kingdom)

With two third-place finishes (Steppenwolfer and Curlin) in 12 Derby starts, Albarado has a 17% success rate.

Rafael Bejarano
(Watch Me Go)

With a fourth-place finish (Papa Clem) in six Derby starts, Bejarano has a 17% success rate.

John R. Velazquez
(Uncle Mo)

With a second-place finish (Invisible Ink) and a fourth-place finish (More Than Ready) in 12 Derby Starts, Velazquez has a 17% success rate.

Ramon Dominquez
(Stay Thirsty)

With a second-place finish (Bluegrass Cat) in seven Derby starts, Dominquez has a 14% success rate.

Garrett Gomez
(Master of Hounds)

With a second-place finish (Pioneerof The Nile) in seven Derby starts, Gomez has a 14% success rate.

Corey Nakatani

With two fourth-place finishes (Green Alligator and Halory Hunter) in 14 Derby starts, Nakatani has a 14% success rate.

Patrick Valenzuela
(Comma To The Top)

With a first-place finish (Sunday Silence) in eight Derby starts, Valenzuela has a 13% success rate.

Jockeys with off-the-board finishes

Shaun Bridgmohan (Santiva) – 0 in four starts

Javier Castellano (Derby Kitten) – 0 in four starts

Alan Garcia (Soldat) – 0 in two starts

Julien Leparoux (Dialed In) – 0 in four starts

Rajiv Maragh (Mucho Macho Man) – 0 in one start

Jockeys making first Derby start

Jon Court (Archarcharch)

Kerwin Clark (Decisive Moment)

Rosie Napravnik (Pants On Fire)

Jesus Castanon (Shackleford)


Here’s a look at the post positions with the most in-the-money finishes since 2000.

Post 2 – 5 (Brilliant Speed)

2nd – 2: Ice Box, Aptitude

3rd – 3: Musket Man, Curlin, Steppenwolfer

Post 8 – 5 (Dialed In)

1st – 2: Mine That Bird, Barbaro

2nd – 1: Hard Spun

3rd – 2: Congaree, Imperialism

Post 5 – 3 (Decisive Moment)

1st – 2: Funny Cide, War Emblem

2nd – 1: Eight Belles

Post 13 – 3 (Mucho Macho Man)

1st – 1: Smarty Jones

2nd – 2: Bluegrass Cat, Invisible Ink

Post 3 – 2 (Twice The Appeal)

2nd – 1: Lion Heart

3rd – 1: Perfect Drift

Post 4 – 2 (Stay Thirsty)

1st – 1: Super Saver

3rd – 1: Peace Rules

Post 10 – 2 (Twinspired)

1st – 1: Giacomo

3rd – 1: Paddy O’Prado

Post 12 – 2 (Santiva)

2nd – 1: Proud Citizen

3rd – 1: Afleet Alex

Post 15 – 2 (Midnight Interlude)

1st – 1: Fusaichi Pegasus

2nd – 1: Pioneerof The Nile

Post 16 – 2 (Animal Kingdom)

1st – 1: Monarchos

3rd – 1: Denis Of Cork

Post 7 – 1 (Pants On Fire)

1st – 1: Street Sense

Post 11 – (Master of Hounds)

2nd – 1: Empire Maker

Post 14 – 1 (Shackleford)

3rd – Impeachment

Post 18 – 1 (Uncle Mo)

2nd – Closing Argument

Post 20 – 1 (Watch Me Go)

1st – Big Brown