Saturday, January 29, 2011

Holy Bull Stakes Racing Roundup

Mucho Macho Man heads a field of nine 3-year-old thoroughbreds Sunday as the lukewarm 5-2 morning line favorite in the 22nd running of the $400,000 Holy Bull Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park.

In five starts, Mucho Macho Man has never been off the board and he comes into the race with two second-place finishes in the Nashua Stakes (G2) and Remsen Stakes (G2) last November to the talented To Honor And Serve who is one of my favorites on the Derby trail (see December 23 blog).

His 101 Brisnet Speed Figure in the Remsen Stakes is the highest of all the horses in the race and three straight bullet work outs leading up to the Holy Bull indicate that he is ready to run and will be tough to beat.

Trained by Nick Zito, Dialed In (6-1) steps up into stakes competition for the first time and comes into the Holy Bull off of a 6 ½ - furlong maiden win last November at Churchill Downs. The step up in class will give Dialed In a chance to show if he belongs on the Derby trail.

With three straight bullet work outs, Dialed In also appears to be another horse ready to run and he should be competitive in the Holy Bull.

Two long shots I like are Leave Of Absence (10-1) and Major Gain (8-1).

Leave Of Absence has never run in a route race, but he has good speed and in his last race he closed from fourth-place at the top of the stretch to finish second in the Spectacular Bid Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

His breeding also is a good fit for the Holy Bull. His sire, Harlan’s Holiday, sired the 2009 Holy Bull winner Saratoga Sinner. His damsire, Joyeux Danseur, won most of his races on the turf and was competitive from 8- to 9-furlongs.

In his second start as a 2-year-old, Major Gain broke his maiden in the one-mile Arlington-Washington Futurity Stakes (G3) at Arlington Park last September in a time of 1:36.36. Major Gain has some good speed and his 96 speed figure for that race makes him competitive in this field.

In his last race, Major Gain narrowly lost by one-half length to Santiva and Astrology in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs on November 27.

Major Gain comes into the race off of a two-month layoff, but trainer Wayne Catalano must be confident about his chance as he starts his 3-year-old season in stakes competition. A nice work out over the Gulfstream Park surface January 8 should have him ready to run a good race.

Another long shot I like is Ribo Bobo (15-1), but I’m not as solid on him as I am on the others.

With seven starts, Ribo Bobo has the most racing experience of all the other horses entered in the field. In his last four races, all of them stakes races, Ribo Bobo has one win and two second-place finishes and he finished off the board in the Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.

Ribo Bobo appears to be a horse that runs good or not at all. When he runs well, Ribo Bobo finishes no worse than second. When he runs poorly, Ribo Bobo is off the board.

Ribo Bobo has the breeding to easily be competitive in the Holy Bull, but the jockey switch to Edgar Prado is the main he main reason he looks interesting. Prado has a ton of racing experience at Gulfstream Park and maybe that experience can earn the duo a trip to the winners circle.

Whether I use Ribo Bobo will depend a lot on how he looks in the post parade. In the Pasco Stakes he was fractious and finished sixth in an eight-horse field.

If Ribo Bobo looks good, I’ll give him a chance.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Book Update, Federico Tesio And Behavior Triggers In The Equine Athlete

In a recent conversation with my friend Kerry Thomas, founder of The Thomas Herding Technique, he wanted me to pass on to my blog readers and his Kentucky friends, old and new, that he had a wonderful time at the Keeneland January Horses of All Ages Sale.

Kerry extended his stay in Kentucky past the sale and returned to his home base of operation in Pennsylvania last Thursday.

Kerry said he hated to leave but plans to return to Kentucky sometime in February. Later that month he will go to Oaklawn Park where he will do some Emotional Conformation Profiles of some horses for a client.

Kerry is the co-author with me of a book being considered for publication by a major publisher and now that he has returned home, we will need to see if we can come to an agreement with the publisher on a book deal.

One of the things Kerry and I mention in chapter two of our book is the destructive impact behavior triggers can have on the equine athlete.

World-renowned owner, breeder and trainer Federico Tesio also knew about their destructive influence.

Here’s a sneak peak:

Triggers are the mechanism from which a new experience is introduced and it can be anything great or small. Once this new piece of information is introduced it becomes associated with the trigger as something basically learned. Once it is learned, it becomes an associated memory.

A couple of good examples of triggers come to us from the late Federico Tesio – a world-renowned owner, breeder and trainer of thoroughbred racehorses. In his book, Breeding the Racehorse, published by J.A. Allen & Company Limited, Tesio tells a story about a feverish foal with an abscess that was treated by a veterinarian wearing a white coat. The veterinarian did not use an anesthetic when he lanced the abscess. After treatment, the foal recovered and returned to the equine circle happy and content. However, from then on, whenever the foal saw anyone wearing a white coat it would run and try to hide.

In another illustration Tesio tells the story of racehorses that were stabled near a racetrack. The stable gate had a bell attached to it and the horses could hear it ring whenever anyone opened the gate. The racetrack also had a bell that rang at the start of each race. At feeding time, if the horses heard the racetrack bell they became so excited they would go off their feed.

The association of the white coat and racetrack bell became triggers of unwanted or bad behavior resulting in stress and discomfort for the foal and stabled horses. Anything within the horse’s circle, large or small, even people or events that seem to have nothing to do with the horse can have a profound effect on its behavior. Recognizing those triggers is crucial for the handler to enable the horse to live in comfortable, stress-free environment.

Identifying triggers of behavior can be likened to putting the pieces of a puzzle together. In a natural environment, the Basic Instinct and Acquired Instinct enable the horse to neatly piece together the puzzle of the equine circle and triggers of behavior are formed by environmental settings. The cry of a mountain lion and howl of the wolf are triggers signaling the horse to run from danger. However, in a domestic environment, the pieces of the equine puzzle do not fit so neatly together because of the human presence in the environment. There is no threat from a mountain lion or wolf and the triggers of behavior are completely different than those learned by a horse in the wild. The feverish foal with the abscess does not have any fear of the man in the white coat until he lances the abscess without applying an anesthetic. In the wild the horse can run from danger but the feverish foal has no where it can truly run and hide – safe from danger. The foal, horse, is completely dependent on man for its safety and comfort. When that trust is betrayed, the equine circle is broken resulting in stress and discomfort for the foal, horse. Reentering that circle will take time and patience on the part of the handler.

Associated memories enable the horse to piece together the puzzle of the equine circle. If we study the mystery of the equine puzzle, we find that the foundation of environmental growth is assimilated imprinting which is the integration of new triggers to old associated memories. Assimilated Imprinting is the purest form of learning and it is the foundation for adaptability which translates into survival. A prey animal will retain strong Basic Instinct dynamic and keep a close hold on the associated memories that have contributed to its survival.

For the horse to be adaptable, it must have the ability to override associated memories by new ones overlapping the old via the introduction of new triggers and stimulus. Being able to adapt and therefore survive as a species shows us that even as the horse grows, it can be socialized to new environs. Socialization is being adapted to new environments, a task at which the horse is master. How this is done is through the equine’s ability to assimilate.

Overriding associated memories by using assimilated imprinting is possible because of the generally friendly, gregarious and curious nature of the horse. The feverish foal can be taught to have no fear of the veterinarian in the white coat if its handler wears a white coat during the daily routine of feeding and taking care of the horses. Over time, with patience and careful handling, the foal soon learns there is nothing to fear about the person in the white coat.

One might ask: “Why go to all the trouble? Wouldn’t it be easier to have the veterinarian remove the white coat when taking care of the foal and other horses?” Yes it would, but the trigger of unwanted behavior still remains in the associated memory of the foal and you don’t want it to re-fire three years later when the foal is grown and about to run in the most important race of its life. Unresolved triggers of bad behavior can have a profound impact on the racehorse, resulting in it acting up in the paddock or balking on entering the starting gate.

Sometimes behavior is not a reaction to a trigger but it is merely a tendency or trait of the horse’s Individual Horse Personality. The key to knowing the difference between personality traits and triggers of bad behavior lies in ones ability to recognize the triggers that dictate certain behaviors or stress. …

…Often, horse owners, trainers, do not know the difference between an expression of the Individual Horse Personality and behavior triggers. They only see the effect those triggers have on the horse. In the example of the horse balking at entering the starting gate, it is logical to assume that the starting gate is the trigger of the horse’s behavior. But, in reality, the white windbreaker worn by the gate handler is the trigger of behavior causing the horse to balk at entering the gate. Long ago, when the horse was a feverish foal with an abscess, it learned to fear anyone wearing a white coat. Unfortunately, when the horse acts up in the paddock or balks at entering the starting gate, physical restraints, the whip, and will of man, forced on the equine, is sadly our solution to fix the problem. Far too often, treatment for the effect is all that is doctored.

The Thomas Herding Technique can help the owner, handler, identify triggers of bad behavior and enable the horse to live to its fullest potential.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Importance Of Dam Lines

Pedigree authority Lauren Stich at Grade One Racing has written a couple of nice profiles about two horses I like - Brethren and her Kentucky Derby favorite To Honor And Serve (See my December 23 blog).

You will need to register with Grade One Racing to read Stich’s columns but access to them is free for registered users.

Not only does To Honor And Serve have excellent breeding on his sire line with Bernardini, A.P. Indy and Seattle Slew, but the dam line which descends from Golden Trail, the 5th dam of To Honor And Serve, is also very powerful.

Stich noted that Golden Trail is the ancestral dam of multiple graded stakes winners Brian’s Time, Sunshine Forever and Memories of Silver. Golden Trail is also the fifth dam of 2001 Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos and she is the third dam of Dynaformer.

I’m keenly aware of the importance of sire lines but dam lines are also important when it comes to producing a Classic Champion Thoroughbred.

Golden Trail is an important broodmare that Edward L. Bowen wrote about in his book Matriarchs Volume II: More Great Mares of Modern Times.

Golden Trail is also ranked 34th on Roger Lyons of Pedigree Matters Top 40 Dam Lines of SW’s, 1995 to Present. Another important appealing aspect of Golden Trail is that when she is found in the pedigree there are three generations of strong female influence. Sunny Vale, the dam of Golden Trail, is ranked 32nd on Lyons' list and her dam, Sun Mixa, is ranked 21st.

To Honor And Serve is a descendant of Family Number 4-r which traces back to Cub Mare. Family 4 descends from the Foundation Mare Layton Barb Mare and has produced the most Kentucky Derby winners with 17 in the winners circle. Family 4-r produced the Derby winners Monarchos (2001), Black Gold (1924), Donau (1910), Manuel (1899) and Halma (1895).

Brethren is a descendant of Family 1 Foundation Mare Tregonwell’s Natural Barb Mare. Family 1 ranks second with 14 Kentucky Derby winners.

Brethren’s dam line is descended from the legendary La Troienne (Family 1-x) and she tops Lyons’ Top 40 Dam Line list at number one. When La Troienne is found in the pedigree there are four generations of strong female influence with Striking, Baby League, La Troienne and Helene de Troie.

Striking is the seventh dam of Brethren and she is ranked 9th on Lyons list. Baby League is ranked 14th. La Troienne is number one and Helene de Troie is ranked 6th. Striking, Baby League and La Troienne are Reines-de-Course (Queen of the Turf) mares. Glamour in the 6th generation, Intriguing in the 5th and Numbered Account in the 4th generation are all Reines-de-Course mares. Six generations of Reines-de-Course mares in the pedigree is an extremely powerful influence and in addition to the dam line, Brethren has three more strains of La Troienne in his pedigree.

Brethren’s dam, Supercharger, is the dam of Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver and his second dam, Get Lucky, is also the second dam of Bluegrass Cat.

To Honor and Serve has three strains of La Troienne in his pedigree and I believe that he and Brethren will do well on the Derby trail. In addition to La Troienne, the pedigree of To Honor And Serve and Brethren are both rich with the influence of several other outstanding female lines which are so important in the development of a Classic Champion Thoroughbred.

Here’s a look at the Kentucky Derby winners and their female family:

T = Triple Crown winner

Family 1: Tregonwell’s Natural Barb Mare – 1-x = Super Saver (2010). 1-x = Smarty Jones (2004). 1-c = Grindstone (1996). 1-x = Go For Gin (1994). 1-x = Sea Hero (1993). 1-r = Unbridled (1990). 1-s = Spend A Buck (1985). 1-n = Swale (1984).1-n = Genuine Risk (1980). 1-k = Riva Ridge (1972). 1-t = Proud Clarion (1967). 1-n = Tomy Lee (1959). 1-p = Pensive (1944). 1-o = Morvich (1922). (14).

Family 2: Burton’s Barb Mare – 2-d = Giacomo (2005). 2-d = Spectacular Bid (1979). 2-d = Cannonade (1974). 2-s = Secretariat-T (1973). 2-d = Northern Dancer (1964). 2-e = Reigh Count (1928). 2-c = Buchanan (1884). (7).

Family 3: Dam of Two True Blues – 3-l = Silver Charm (1997). 3-e = Sunday Silence (1989). 3-j = Dust Commander (1970). 3-d = Lucky Debonair (1965). 3-n = Dark Star (1953). 3-l = Citation-T (1948). (6).

Family 4: Layton Barb Mare – 4-r = Monarchos (2001). 4-d = Real Quiet (1998). 4-m = Sunny’s Halo (1983). 4-n = Canonero (1971). 4-d = Majestic Prince (1969). 4-m = Venetian Way (1960). 4-m = Middleground (1950). 4-c = Assault-T (1946). 4-e = Gallahadion (1940). 4-m = Lawrin (1938). 4-n = Gallant Fox-T (1930). 4-r = Black Gold (1924). 4-r = Donau (1910). 4 = Wintergreen (1909). 4-r = Manuel (1899). 4-r = Halma (1895). 4-m = Day Star (1878). (17).

Family 5: The Massey Mare – 5-h = Big Brown (2008). 5-a = Pleasant Colony (1981). 5-e = Needles (1956). 5-j = Determine (1954). 5-i = Flying Ebony (1925). 5-g = Sir Huon (1906). 5-g = Elwood (1904). (7).

Family 6: Old Bald Peg – 6-d = Funny Cide (2003). 6-a = Count Fleet-T (1943). 6-a = Bold Venture (1936). 6-a = Old Rosebud (1914). 6-a = Worth (1912). (5).

Family 7: Lord Darcy’s Blacklegs – No Winners.

Family 8: Bustler Mare – 8-c = Fusaichi Pegasus (2000). 8-h = Whirlaway-T (1941). 8-h = Bubbling Over (1926). (3).

Family 9: Vinter Mare – 9-f = Bold Forbes (1976). 9-c = Forward Pass (1968). 9 = Hoop Jr. (1945). 9-g = Sir Barton-T (1919). 9-h = Omar Khayyam (1917). 9-a = Spokane (1889). (6).

Family 10: Oysterfoot Mare (Fair Helen Family) – 10-a = Charismatic (1999). 10-d = George Smith (1916). (2).

Family 11: Sedbury Royal Mare – 11-d = Thunder Gulch (1995). 11-c = Hill Gail (1952). 11-g = War Admiral-T (1937). 11 = Ben Ali (1886). (4).

Family 12: Royal Mare – 12-g = Cavalcade (1934). 12-c = Broker’s Tip (1933). 12 = His Eminence (1901). 12 = Joe Cotton (1885). 12-b = Leonatus (1883). 12-b = Baden-Baden (1877). (6).

Family 13: Sedbury Royal Mare – 13-c = Ferdinand (1986). 13-c = Seattle Slew-T (1977). 13-c = Jet Pilot (1947). (3).

Family 14: Oldfield Mare – 14b-Foolish Pleasure (1975). (1).

Family 15: Royal Mare – No Winners.

Family 16: Sister to Stripling – 16-h = Barbaro (2006). 16-c = Strike The Gold (1991). 16-h = Chateaugay (1963). 16-g = Shut Out (1942). (4).

Family 17: Byerly Turk Mare – 17-b = Decidedly (1962). Johnstown (1939). Omaha-T (1935). (3).

Family 18: Old Woodcock Mare – No Winners.

Family 19: Davill’s Woodcock Mare – No Winners.

Family 20: Daffodil’s Dam – 20-b = War Emblem (2002). 20 = Alysheba (1987). Meridian (1911). (3).

Family 21: Moonah Barb Mare – 21-a = Whiskery (1927). 21 = Stone Street (1908). 21-a = Plaudit (1898). (3).

Family 22: Belgrade Turk Mare – 22-b = Street Sense (2007). 22-b = Count Turf (1951). (2).

Family 23: Piping Peg’s Dam – 23-b = Mine That Bird (2009). 23-b = Lil E. Tee (1992). 23-b = Winning Colors (1988). 23-b = Affirmed-T (1978). 23-b = Tim Tim (1958). 23 = Ponder (1949). 23-a = Burgoo King (1932). 23-b = Zev (1923). 23-b = Kingman (1891). (9).

Family 24: Helmsley Turk Mare – 24 = Carry Back (1961). 24 = Paul Jones (1920). 24 = Agile (1905). 24 = Hindoo (1881). 24 = Fonso (1880). (5).

Le Comte Stakes And Other Derby Trail News

Justin Phillip, trained by Steve Asmussen, heads a field of five 3-year-old thoroughbreds Saturday as the 7-5 morning line favorite in the 67th running of the $100,000 Le Comte Stakes (G3) at the Fair Grounds.

Justin Phillip appears to be the horse to beat as he comes into the race with a 2-1-2 record in five starts.

Pants On Fire, with a third-place finish in the Count Fleet Stakes at Aqueduct, is the only horse with any stakes racing experience and is the 9-5 morning line second choice.

In five starts, Pants On Fire has only been off the board once and comes into the Le Comte with a 1-2-1 record.

Overall, this Le Comte does not appear to be as strong as previous editions which featured such promising 3-year-olds as Hard Spun (2007), Z Fortune (2008) and Friesan Fire (2009).

One long shot I like is Action Ready who is 9-2 on the morning line. If he stays at those odds or goes higher he may be worthy of a small wager.

Most likely, with such a short field and the favorites the probable winners, the Le Comte will be a race for me to kick back and be a fan instead of a handicapper.


Tapizar, trained by Steve Asmussen, established himself last Saturday as a colt to be reckoned and the dominate leader on the West Coast with his 4 ¼ - length victory in the $100,000 Sham Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita Park.

His time of 1:40.38 for the 8 ½ - furlongs was brilliant and it remains to be seen how that performance on the speedy Santa Anita racetrack will play on the oval at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.

Tapizar is from the same A.P. Indy and Deputy Minister nick as To Honor And Serve who I profiled in my 2011 Kentucky Derby Outlook, but I like the fact that Bernardini, a Classic Champion Thoroughbred and winner of the 2006 Preakness Stakes (G1), is the sire of To Honor And Serve.

Nevertheless, Tapizar will be a horse to watch on the Kentucky Derby trail.


Overall, other than the performance of Tapizar in the Sham Stakes, I have not been impressed with the 3-year-old stakes winners on the Derby trail.

However, one performance I was impressed with came from Elite Alex in a one mile optional claiming allowance race at Oaklawn Park last Saturday.

Trained by Tim Ritchey, who led Afleet Alex, the sire of Elite Alex, to a win in the Preakness Stakes (G1) and Belmont Stakes (G1), Elite Alex was not entered for a claim and, despite a six month racing lay off, he came into the race as the 1.20 favorite in a seven horse field of 3-year-old thoroughbreds.

Elite Alex looked good in the post parade and overall, I was pleased with his run which was not too shabby considering he had been laid off for six months and missed the break at the start of the race. Elite Alex missed the break and trailed in last place, seven lengths off the pace, until the half when he made his move and closed ground to narrowly lose by a head.

I first became aware of the pedigree of Elite Alex sometime in late August or early September but for some reason, which eludes me at this moment, I did not put him on my watch list.

His pedigree does not qualify as WOW nevertheless, it is very good and I am looking forward to see how well he does on the Derby trail.

Now that Elite Alex is back in training, he joins the list of horses that I am very interested in:

To Honor And Serve (Bernardini-Pilfer by Deputy Minister), Brethren (Distorted Humor-Supercharger by A.P. Indy), Cal Nation (Distorted Humor-She’s A Winner by A.P. Indy), Premier Pegasus (Fusaichi Pegasus-Squall Linda by Summer Squall) and Animal Kingdom (Leroidesanimaux-Dalicia by Acatenango).

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Derby Trail Stakes Racing Roundup: Smarty Jones, San Pedro, Jimmy Winkfield Stakes

Stakes racing action for 3-year-old thoroughbreds on the Kentucky Derby trail continues Monday with the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park. Santa Anita will feature the San Pedro Stakes and Aqueduct hosts the Jimmy Winkfield Stakes.

Grant Jack heads a field of seven juveniles as the 2-1 morning line favorite of the $100,000 Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

Grant Jack has only been off the board once in six starts and he comes into the race with a win in the Springboard Mile Stakes on December 11 at Remington Park. Grant Jack stalked in third-place the entire trip until making his bid going three-wide at the top of the stretch to rally for the one-length victory.

A sharp work out December 29 at Oaklawn and Grant Jack should be ready to run another good race.

A long shot I like is Bonaroo who is 12-1 on the morning line.

Trained by D. Wayne Lukas, Bonaroo is still a maiden, has not raced for more than two months, and is stepping up into stakes action for the first time. However, his second-place finish in a 9-furlong race at Keeneland last October was better than what appears on paper.

Bonaroo broke sharply from post seven to take the early led in the 12-horse field and led going into the stretch where Animal Kingdom, a horse I believe has a lot of potential (see December 23 blog), took the lead to win by 3 ¼ - lengths in a final time of 1:49.01.

Bonaroo’s time for the mile split was 1:36.80 and that is in the ballpark where I like to see potential Derby prospects run a mile. And I like it that Bonaroo is cutting back in this race to a mile where I think he will be very competitive.

A sharp bullet work out at Oaklawn on December 31 and Lukas may have Bonaroo primed to run a good race and upset at a nice price.

Rounding out my selections, Archarcharch is a fast improving colt who comes into the race with a 1 ¾ - length win in the 6-furlong Sugarbowl Stakes at the Fair Grounds on December 18.

The 96 Brisnet Speed Figure Archarcharch earned for that race is one of the highest in the field and he is ranked third with a 127.5 Prime Power. In his maiden race, Archarcharch was defeated by Depeche Chat who finished third Saturday in the 7-furlong Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.

Archarcharch has never run in a route but with Arch, Kris S, Roberto, Woodman and Nureyev in the first three generations of his pedigree, he has the breeding to easily handle the mile distance.

San Pedro Stakes

Trainer Bob Baffert has 8-1 long shot Classic Legacy and Sinai who is the lukewarm 5-2 morning line favorite entered in 20th running of the $75,000 San Pedro Stakes at Santa Anita Park.

Sinai comes into the race with a sharp 2-length win for Zayat Stables in a 6 ½ -furlong maiden race at Hollywood Park on December 18.

Classic Legacy finished fifth in the Delta Jackpot (G3) last out but if you throw out that race, he has two wins and a third-place finish in his first three starts.

I like it that Baffert is dropping Classic Legacy back in distance and a sharp 4-furlong bullet work out at Santa Anita on January 13 may have him primed to run a good race.

If City Cool (3-1) repeats his December 28 performance in the Riley Allison Futurity at Sunland Park he has a good shot at winning the San Pedro. City Cool broke sharply from post 10 to take the early lead in the 12-horse field en route to a 7 ¼ - length romp in the Futurity covering the 6 ½ - furlongs in 1:15.53.

Since finishing off the board in his maiden debut, City Cool has improved his record to 2-1-1 in five starts for trainer Steve Asmussen.

Arcadian (4-1) also has a good shot at winning the San Pedro.

Trainer Dan McFarlane ships Arcadian in from Turf Paradise where he has been dominating the competition. In his maiden debut last November, Arcadian easily won a 6 ½ - furlong maiden optional claimer by 6 - lengths and came back in December to win the 6 ½ - furlong Lost In The Fog Stakes by 6 ½ - lengths in a final time of 1:15.11.

McFarlane tags Patrick Valenzuela for the mount and a sharp 6-furlong work out January 10 may have Arcadian primed to run a good race.

Jimmy Winkfield Stakes

Rift, trained by Dick Dutrow, heads the field six 3-year-old thoroughbreds as the 8-5 morning line favorite in the 27th running of the $65,000 Jimmy Winkfield Stakes at Aqueduct.

Fort Hughes is the 9-5 morning line second choice and Royal Currier is the 4-1 third choice.

The Jimmy Winkfield looks to be a very competitive race as the top three favorites will be tough to beat. But, from a betting perspective, to me it does not appear to be very attractive and may be a good race to kick back and be a fan instead of a handicapper.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Derby Trail Stakes Racing Roundup: Sham, California Derby, Pasco Stakes

From the coast to coast, stakes racing action for 3-year-old thoroughbreds on the Kentucky Derby trail kicks off in a big way Saturday with the Sham Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita Park, the California Derby at Golden Gate Fields and the Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.

On Monday, Oaklawn Park will host the Smarty Jones Stakes. Santa Anita will feature the San Pedro Stakes and Aqueduct hosts the Jimmy Winkfield Stakes.

Let’s take a look at the Sham, California Derby and Pasco Stakes.

Sham Stakes

Tapizar heads a field of five 3-year-old thoroughbreds as the 8-5 morning line favorite of the $100,000 Sham Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita Park.

Tapizar comes into the race off of an impressive 10 ½ -length maiden win at Churchill Downs on November 27. Tapizar’s 98 Brisnet Speed Figure is the highest of all the horses in the field. He’s been working out nicely at Santa Anita and should be competitive in the Sham.

However, the horse I’m most interested in and my pick is Uncle Sam who is the 5-2 morning line second choice.

Trainer Bob Baffert knows how to prepare horses for stakes races and moves Uncle Sam up into stakes competition off of a 2 ¾ -length maiden win December 27 at Santa Anita. Baffert has won the Sham twice with Wild and Wise (2001) and Bob and John (2008).

I like his pedigree and if Uncle Sam lives up to his breeding he has the potential to be a factor in the Sham and on the Derby trail.

California Derby

In what appears to be a pretty evenly matched group of horses, Positive Response heads a field of 12 as the lukewarm 5-2 morning line favorite of the $100,000 California Derby at Golden Gate Fields.

Positive Response comes into the race off of an easy 6-length romp in the 8-furlong Gold Rush Stakes on December 11 at Golden Gate Fields.

Positive Response has good early speed and if he can get a clean break to take the lead he should be competitive. A bullet work out January 2, followed by another sharp work January 9, and Positive Response should be ready to run another good race.

Three long shots I like are Zayda (20-1), The Great Caper (20-1), and Mazarron (12-1).

In his last race, despite going two-wide on the first turn and four-wide on the far turn, Zayda closed strongly to finally break his maiden by 2 ¼ - lengths on his third attempt.

Zayda may be quickly improving has his trainer Blaine Wright is wheeling him back off of 14 days rest. He has a nice pedigree and if Zayda can stay closer to the pace early on he may be able to upset at a nice price.

The Great Caper has only been off the board once in four starts and he comes into the Derby with a narrow victory in an allowance race on December 10 at Golden Gate Fields.

The Great Caper has never ran in a route race but with Albert The Great, Go For Gin, Cape Town, Seeking The Gold and Roberto in his first three generations, he has the breeding to get the 8 ½ furlongs of the California Derby.

Only time will tell if he can be competitive.

Steadied early in his second start, Mazarron made a nice move three lengths off the lead to break his maiden by 2 ¼ -lengths October 28 at the Oak Tree at Hollywood Park meet. His split of 1:39.35 for the mile makes him competitive with most of the other horses entered in this field.

Mazarron is ranked second with a 126.6 Brisnet Prime Power and one of my favorite angles is to find a long shot in the top three Prime Power ranking. I’m willing to overlook his last race on the turf where, after stalking in third place, Marzarron was outclassed by speedball Comma To The Top who set blistering fractions in the Generous Stakes (G3).

Pasco Stakes

Manicero heads a field of 10 as the lukewarm 5-2 morning line favorite of the $75,000 Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.

With three wins and a third-place finish in four starts, Manicero comes into the Pasco off of an 8 ¼ - length romp in the 7-furlong Jack Price Juvenile Stakes at Calder and a one-length victory in the 6-furlong Inaugural Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.

Manicero has been working out good and should be competitive in the Pasco.

Depeche Chat (6-1) has not raced in 49 days but if he repeats his maiden-winning performance, he has a good shot at winning the Pasco.

Depeche Chat broke his maiden on November 27 in a 7-furlong maiden race at Churchill Downs in a time of 1:23.95 which is almost a full two seconds faster than Manicero’s time of 1:25.77 in the Jack Price Juvenile Stakes.

En route to victory, Depeche Chat defeated a very nice colt named ArchArchArch who came back in his next race to win the 6-furlong Sugar Bowl Stakes at the Fair Grounds.

Like Manicero, Depeche Chat is a descendant of the Northern Dancer sire line and since 1999, two horses from that sire line have won the Pasco: Honey Honey Honey (2008) and Barkley Sound (2007).

Wildcat Heir, the sire of Depeche Chat, is the 2010 Champion Second Crop Sire in North America and he is the leading General Second Crop Sire in Florida.

Two long shots I like are Read The Contract (5-1) and Mas Trueno (8-1).

Read The Contract steps up into stakes competition and comes into the Pasco off of an easy 6-length romp in a maiden win November 26 at Aqueduct.

His 102 Brisnet Speed Figure is the highest of all the starters in the field and his come home time of 1:10.35 for 6-furlongs is also tops.

With Read The Footnotes as his sire and Glitterman as his damsire, Read The Contract should have plenty of speed to be competitive in the Pasco.

Previously trained by John Servis and stepping up into stakes competition for the first time, Mas Trueno now hails from the stable of William Phipps who brings him into the race off of a 2-length maiden win November 21 at Philadelphia Park.

Of all the horses in the Pasco, I like the breeding of Mas Trueno the most but the 7-furlongs may be too short for him. However his sire, Afleet Alex, and his damsire, Tabasco Cat, were champion sprinters and routers.

Only time will tell if Mas Trueno can live up to that breeding.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Book Update, Federico Tesio and Behavioral Genetics

Recently, Kerry Thomas, Founder of the Thomas Herding Technique, and I received a flattering letter from an editor of a major publishing house about the book we co-authored (See the August 24 blog).

The editor said that the book was “novel” and “exciting” and we have begun discussions about publishing the book. So Kerry and I may have some good news to pass on to you soon.

In the meantime, Kerry has been busy with his research and has written a new essay on horse behavior which I will pass on to you at the end of this blog post.

Kerry will be at the Keeneland January Horses of All Ages Sale, January 10-14, and if you would like to schedule a meeting with him, you can reach him by email at or by telephone at 1-610-593-4889.

Here’s a look at Kerry’s new essay:

Physical Genetics, Behavioral Genetics:
Nature’s Breeding Program

Physical genetics breeds us the horse, behavioral genetics delivers us the athlete.

Federico Tesio knew that.

Of all the renowned breeders and trainers of thoroughbred racehorses, Tesio was one of the greatest. Tesio spent a lifetime researching and studying the horse. He knew pedigrees inside and out and was keenly aware of the importance of selecting the right bloodlines.

In addition to his knowledge of pedigrees and bloodlines, one of the keys for his success was due to his study of horse behavior or, stated differently, Tesio studied the Emotional Conformation of the horse.
Tesio knew that a horse “wins with his character” and that, in addition to pedigrees and bloodlines, Emotional Conformation is the final piece of the breeding puzzle needed to produce a champion.
And Tesio was good at that. He bred and trained and incredible 22 Italiano Derby winners. His champions Nearco and Ribot are legends of the turf.
Franco Varola, a noted writer and author instrumental in the development of Dosage, knew Tesio and he, too, knew the importance of horse behavior. His Dosage (not the one commonly used today) consisted of five “aptitudinal” groups and Varola was more interested in the behavioral traits and characteristics that each sire transmitted to its offspring.
“The differences between the five aptitudinal groups are of essence or character,” noted Varola in his book Typology of the Racehorse. “It matters very little whether a racehorse is 16 hands or 16.2, or whether it is chestnut or brown; but it does matter a lot they way he behaves in actual racing, whether he is consistent or erratic, brilliant or slow, bellicose or resigned, in other words which pattern or mode of being is he expressing. …It is of great utility to be able to distinguish between these various aptitudes, this being something that plays an effective part in mating.”

In order to understand and identify the various traits and characteristics that make up the horse, we must first recognize the intent of nature’s stud master. Nature has designed the horse to live in a group, the equine circle, and thus Mother Nature has masterfully crafted each horse to fit into the circle like the pieces of a puzzle.
Try as we might to manipulate the puzzle, we can never artificially manufacture what nature provides - all we are doing is tinkering with what already exists. We know that nature’s intent for the horse is to have sustainable survivalism within a group, or herd dynamic.
So how do we put the puzzle together?
Nature adjusts itself over time to fit properly into changing environments and, once accomplished, the physical living conditions having dictated physical properties, we essentially have a standardized end result or breed types which are in essence the characteristics of that physical standard. The physical breed obviously has some variations owing to the mixture of physical genetics that lean toward certain traits over others, but never too far outside the basic platform or else it would be a different physical breed altogether.
Nature, however, also allows for certain complexities within any herd dynamic. A sustainable group or herd can only be such when a group with similar physical features and abilities is layered with variable behavioral types. Structure in a group is nature’s weapon against time and attrition and this order overlaid with individual behavioral dynamics is what allows the pieces of the puzzle to fit together for group survival.
So, then, in addition to pedigrees and bloodlines, your two main pieces of the equine puzzle are the Physical Conformation layered over with individual Emotional Conformation and they should be the primary consideration when selecting horses for a breeding program.

Nature’s successful breeding program allows a basic physical standard to be necessarily controlled by variations of behavior or personalities. Every family member has to be able to fill a role to make the herd a success, but it is the diversity of behavior that allows the herd sustainability over time and in changing environmental circumstances.

Physical evolution is the body’s adjustment to new and changing environments which occur as a result of a mental recognition that change is needed in order to survive. In other words, if the horse recognized that it had to go higher and higher to reach good food and water, over time their bodies would adapt to the requirements necessary to reach the higher elevation. What this means to a breeding program, and indeed to training protocol, is that the mental capacity of the equine controls the physical output of the athlete.

You can train the mind of the horse the get the most from its body. So, then, you should breed for mental aptitude that will allow the horse to live up to its fullest potential.

The Emotional Conformation of Seabiscuit, Zenyatta, and the mental fortitude of basketball star Michael Jordan propelled them to greatness. Their mental aptitude, combined with their physical talent, set them apart and made them a success.

In the typical herd dynamic you will find anywhere from 4 to 8 possible variations of Emotional Conformation types – from the closely related to the drastically different. I call these P-Types, which means Personality Propensity Typing and you can learn more about Emotional Conformation and P-Type Breeding at this link.

Breeding Synergy Within an Artificial Herd

A tremendous amount of research and consideration is in play when it comes to breeding the horse. Conformation, achievements and history, are all key components breeders use when hedging their bets that their breeding will measure up to their intent. But how often does that really happen?

If I am considering which horses to mate, the very first question I need answered is how well will the mind run the body I make from that mating? The governing factor of your breeding program should be the Emotional Conformation profiles of the horses on your short list. Without considering Emotional Conformation in your breeding, you at best have a 1 in 4 and, at worst, a 1 in 8 chance of getting the behavioral genetics necessary to get the best performance from your equine athlete. This is why so many good looking horses just don’t seem to have the necessary giddy-up to go.

Breeding in large numbers is not the answer. Sure, your chances of getting the formula just right by chance increases with more matings but this manner of breeding only creates a large number of horses that will never make it to the racetrack.

Consider again what nature’s design for the horse is meant for – herd living. The herd is generally made up of 3 to 6 horses in a family unit. Often in a herd you will find that nature provides the proper pieces in the proper proportions to sustain itself, with the mares of the herd being the only real constant.

A stallion leader may only be with the herd for 1 to 3 mating seasons before a new stallion overtakes him to ensure herd diversity. If able, during his time with the herd the stallion will most likely breed the same mares at least two consecutive seasons. During this time he has produced, even from the same mare, different behavioral genetics with very similar physical traits – this is nature’s design. Then the herd will have a physical standard that is consistent with a varying but closely related behavioral aspect. This creates a unit and we can use this same approach in our breeding program to create an artificial herd.

If you have a proper match both physically and behaviorally your chances of getting your intended product increases dramatically provided you maintain this consistency and breed the same sire to two or three mares with similar physical makeup but complementary mental differences for a minimum of two, if not three, years in a row. In doing so, you are now managing your herd more closely to nature’s plan by re-applying an element of natural selection in the breeding of your bloodstock.

Because behavioral genetics governs the output of physical genetics, Emotional Conformation has a great deal of influence over the actual result of your breeding intention. Matching horses on what they are and what they were, does not always allow for what they will produce. There is no assembly line.

For more on Breeding For Behavior and related articles, go to this link.

Simply put, the economics of behavior makes sense.