Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A View From The Hoof

Since college, I've always wanted to write a book and it has been a great honor and privilege for me to co-author a book with Kerry M. Thomas, founder of the Thomas Herding Technique.

Kerry is a unique individual who studies the psychology and Emotional Conformation of the horse. His research is cutting edge and, in my opinion, it will someday have a big impact on every aspect of – buying, selling, breeding and training – how the horse is handled. His website is nearing one million hits and he has a good following on Facebook.

The book takes the reader on a journey of discovery of the intimate drama of life in the equine circle. Kerry’s research of horse psychology shows how nurturing the Natural Herd Dynamic of the horse in the domestic environment is vitally important for its health and well being. Emotional Conformation is the most important factor that can determine if the horse has the heart and mind of a potential champion. Behavior triggers and Behavioral Overcompensation can be tremendous obstacles, preventing the horse from living up to its fullest potential.

In addition, the book illustrates how the importance of nurturing the Natural Herd Dynamic of horses in the domestic environment and Emotional Conformation was also important to illustrious individuals such as Federico Tesio and Burchard Von Oettingen, the Director of Germany’s Royal Trakehnen Stud from 1895 to 1911.

The book is finished. Now all we need is a publisher.

Here’s a sneak peak at the book Introduction:

The Magic Within

Often mystical is the nature and flowing beauty of the horse. For centuries mankind has been enticed by the allure, infatuated with the power, and awed by the magic within the spirit of the horse.

Intertwined along the path of life, through many trials, wars, and mass migrations, the human spirit so often has been lifted and propelled by its partnership with the horse. Indeed, prior to modern society, the horse is the stoic and tireless companion that has been a part of nearly every major human movement, war or sporting event our species has ever undertaken. Try to imagine the human race and evolution of societies without the horse. Our world would be much different without the horse. More than any other creature on earth, the horse has been our best friend and companion.

For many in our society, the history of the horse and its partnership with us through the ages is unknown or forgotten. Ask your average horse owner, horse lover or enthusiast, how horses made their first trip across the ocean to America or about the migration paths of breeds into the new world. Ask them if there is an endangered list for breeds of horses. Ask the average racing fan questions about the history of the Thoroughbred and many will have no answer.

We see in the many breeds we have bred all the wonderful horses: the speed on the racetrack, the dance of the dressage, the height of the jump, the ever so expensive accouterments and trappings and we marvel. It is worth marveling at for sure, but pales in comparison to the accomplishments the horse has made in the past: The war horse who helped shape great nations, the big, strong, athlete that also plowed the fields for our crops, the incredible endurance of the horse who carried forth humanity onto the prairie and the cannon across miles of land to forge new worlds and new governments, or to sustain an old government.

It isn’t the image of a horse in front of a cart or on the racetrack that most enthralls us. It is the spirit flaming bright inside each horse that makes them special. Indeed, not only is it this beautiful spirit and grace alone that makes the horse so precious, but rather it is the valor in which the horse stood by us as we moved along our journey of life.

When visiting a battlefield such as Gettysburg, I see the monuments of the great men who fought and died and know that alongside many of them was a trusty horse. Like so many angels, the horse was a refuge of power and safety, a spirited beast standing beside the spirited soul of man, to guide and assist him in the heat of battle.

I see the horse as a true, living and breathing monument in the field of history. Touching the horse is like touching the past. Many generations before us have heard the same sounds, recognized the same smells and all of the characteristics that make up the magic of the horse. For me, this connection is a direct link, a window into the past, a way to touch a small part of the world that was familiar to times gone by – reminding me of who we are and how we came to be at this moment in time.

The horse is not a pet, though it seems easier to assume so. An animal, who has taken such great care of us so many times, deserves to be respected and treated as a companion. If you love your horse, or all horses, as many of us do, it behooves you to appreciate the history of the equine.

The horse has a magic within that enthralls us and captures our hearts with what could be called a spiritual connection. Horses, more than most any other animal, offer all of us an interactive relationship without limits or prejudices. The magic in their large, soft, eyes is full of expression and curiosity and they seem as interested in us and the things we are doing, as we are of them – true signs of companionship.

In my work with horses, I have had the opportunity to socialize them to interact with people, mostly children, afflicted with various physical and mental challenges. The senses of both the horse and child connect to reach far beyond the physical expressions we are accustomed to - breaking boundaries we never knew existed - offering unspoken and enchanting interactions between child and equine that can bring tears to your eyes. In this fleeting moment of time, there is a feeling of deep spiritual connection with the horse. Connecting spiritually is paramount to connecting physically, for the spiritual connection is the higher power that transcends and controls all that follows. The horse today may not be needed as much for pushing forth human evolution, but the cathartic nature of its presence will never be out of season.

Throughout the ages we have looked to the horse to entertain and help us with tasks both spectacular and mundane. Today, the horse is looking to us for help. Inhumane slaughter and unchecked wild lands picked clean of the magnificent Mustang are a few of the problems that plague the equine community.

Is this how living monuments to human history are to be treated?

Preservation of the pure breeds and horses on the endangered species list is the dream of everyone who loves horses. Help surviving in the wild and to be understood and properly taken care of on the farm and racetrack is what the horse needs most from us today.

If we wish to return the full measure of what the horse has given us, we need to reach beyond our own world and embrace the magic within the spirit of the horse.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Saratoga Special Racing Roundup

It appears that the 105th running Monday of the $150,000 Saratoga Special (G2) at Saratoga racetrack is shaping up to be a favorite's special.

Trainer Steve Asmussen’s 4-5 morning line favorite Kantharos heads the field of six horses that have been entered in the 6 ½ -furlong sprint. Trainer Richard Violette Jr. sends the 8-5 coupled entry of Sovereign Default and Bail Out The Cat to the starting gate. Trainer Rick Dutrow sends Wetzel, the 6-1 morning line third-choice, from the two post.

Kantharos comes into the race undefeated in two starts with a combined win margin of 21 ¼ lengths. In his last race, Kantharos earned a 100 Brisnet Speed Figure in the Bashford Manor Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs and easily won by 9 ½ lengths.

If Kantharos runs anywhere near his previous efforts, he is most likely the winner and Asmussen will claim his third victory in the Special. Asmussen won the Special in 2007 with Kodiak Kowboy and 2003 with Cuvee.

Kantharos is a descendant of the Northern Dancer sire line and since 1990 four descendants from that sire line have won the Special: D’ Funnybone (2009), Kodiak Kowboy (2007), Henny Hughes (2005) and Dehere (1993).

Of the Violette coupled entry, I like Sovereign Default the most. Sovereign Default is stepping up in class and comes into the race with a 2-length win in his maiden debut on July 15 at Belmont Park. Sovereign Default earned a 99 speed figure for that effort and defeated runnerup Stay Thirsty who easily broke his maiden this past Saturday, winning by 5 ½ lengths, in a 6-furlong sprint at Saratoga.

Sovereign Default is a descendant of the Mr. Prospector Sire line and since 1990 seven descendants of that sire line that have won the Saratoga Special: Run Away And Hide (2008), Chace City (2006), Cuvee (2003), City Zip (2000), Bevo (1999), Prime Directive (1998) and Tactical Advantage (1992).

Wetzel is a halfway decent price but he will have to step up his game to win. Wetzel’s sire, Successful Appeal, is also the sire of J P’s Gusto – winner of the Hollywood Juvenile Championship (G3) and Best Pal Stakes (G2).

Dutrow, won the Special last year with D’ Funnybone, so he knows how to prepare his trainees for the Special.

Wetzel is a descendant of the Man O' War sire line and the last horse from that sire line to win the Special was Bright Launch (1995).

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Tracking Cherokee Run Sire Line Colts

A recent question by a reader took me back to a blog I had written almost a year ago about the Cherokee Run sire line colt Brother Bird. The impetus for that blog originated from an original blog I wrote on July 3, 2009 about the importance of following descendants of the Cherokee Run sire line.

Back then I wrote: “it is always important to try and keep abreast of new emerging trends and sire lines. This year I am going to keep a watchful eye on the colts from the sire line of Cherokee Run and his sons Kafwain and Yonaguska…

“Most of their offspring have done well in sprint competition but in the past few of years, all three, especially Cherokee Run, have produced some very good middle-distance stakes winners.”

Indeed, the Cherokee Run sire line has produced in recent years some pretty decent middle-distance runners such as Musket Man, The Pamplemousse, War Pass, Recapturetheglory, Chelokee and Zanjero. And those runners have been competitive on the Triple Crown trail.

If you had been following Brother Bird, this 3-year-old Todd Pletcher-trainee rewarded his backers yesterday with a $14.20 payday in a 7-furlong allowance race at Saratoga. Brother Bird has never been out of the money and his victory yesterday now gives him two wins, three seconds and one third-place finish in six starts.

I had hoped that Brother Bird would have been a factor on this year’s Triple Crown trail but for one reason or another, Pletcher did not put him on the trail. In fact, the only decent runner from the Cherokee Run sire line to compete on this year’s trail was Yawanna Twist who finished a respectable second in the Gotham Stakes (G3) and Illinois Derby (G3).

But, it won’t be long before we will see runners from the Cherokee Run sire line pointed on the 2011 trail. So far, The Man Uptown, a debut winner for trainer Ken McPeek in a 5-furlong sprint at Churchill Downs on May 27, and Majestic Hope, who I believe is trained by Nick Zito, are the only Cherokee Run sire line colts that I am following on the trail to the 2011 Kentucky Derby.

I really like the pedigree of Majestic Hope as the distaff part of his pedigree contains some good stamina influence and I am anxious to see how well he fares on the trail. Zito also trained War Pass and, in my opinion, a large part of his success was due to the stamina influence that he received from his dam Vue.

Stamina influence from the dam is important for Cherokee Run sire line colts and it helps to make them competitive in stakes competition.

The following is what I wrote about War Pass on the February 26, 2008 Daily Racing Form Formblog hosted by Dan Illman. I would have just provided a link to the post but the website has been updated and the old link no longer exists.


Remember in a recent post I commented that every now and then I get a “Wow” moment when studying pedigrees. Well I had another “Wow” moment recently that I think you’ll appreciate it.

Fifth generationPolynesian: won the 1945 Preakness; 1947 champion sprinter; sired the great Native Dancer. Nasrullah: champion 2-year-old colt in England; imported to U.S. in 1950; important source of stamina; sire of Bold Ruler. Count Fleet: won the Champagne stakes and was the 1943 Triple Crown winner; Horse of The Year; Champion 3-year-old colt; 1961 Hall of Fame Inductee; rated by Blood-Horse magazine as the 5th best racehorse of the 20th Century. Ribot: champion of champions; undefeated in 16 starts; two-time winner of the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe; rated by Timeform as the 3rd best runner of the 20th Century; another important source of stamina. War Admiral: sired by the great Man o’ War; 1937 Triple Crown winner; Horse of The Year; Champion 3-year-old; 1958 Hall of Fame Inductee; rated by Blood-Horse magazine as the 13th best racehorse of the 20th Century. Hill Prince: 1949 Champion 2-year-old colt; 1950 Champion 3-year-old colt; Horse of The Year; won the Preakness; finished 2nd in the Kentucky Derby; sired by Princequillo (another important source of stamina); 1991 Hall of Fame Inductee.

Fourth generationNative Dancer: one of the most influential sires of the 20th Century; another important source of stamina; won the Preakness and Belmont; probably would have won the Kentucky Derby but was seriously roughed going into the first turn and finished 2nd – beaten by a head; 1963 Hall of Fame Inductee; rated by Blood-Horse magazine as the 6th best racehorse of the 20th Century. Nashua: won the Florida Derby, Wood Memorial; finished second in the 1955 Kentucky Derby; set new track record of 1:54.60 in winning the Preakness; won the Belmont; set a new North American record for 16 furlongs of 3:20.2 in the 1956 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont; 1954 Champion 2-year-old colt; 1955 Champion 3-year-old colt and Horse of The Year; 1965 Hall of Fame Inductee; rated by Blood-Horse magazine as the 24th best racehorse of the 20th Century. Tom Rolfe: 1965 Champion 3-year-old colt; won the 1965 Preakness; finished 2nd in the Belmont; finished 3rd in the Kentucky Derby; set new track record for 10 furlongs in 2:00.3 in the 1965 American Derby at Arlington; equaled the 7 furlong record of 1:21.0 at Arlington in 1966. Bold Ruler: won the 1957 Preakness; finished 3rd in the Belmont; won with a high-weight of 134 pounds the Monmouth Handicap and Suburban Handicap both at 10 furlongs; won the Trenton Handicap at 10 furlongs; 1957 Champion 3-year-old colt and Horse of The Year; 1958 Champion Sprinter; sire of 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat; a very important source of stamina the Bold Ruler line produced 7 Kentucky Derby winners during the decade of the 1970’s; 1973 Hall of Fame Inductee; rated by Blood-Horse magazine as the 19th best racehorse of the 20th Century.

Third generationRaise A Native: 1963 Champion 2-year-old; set new track record for 5.5 furlongs of 1:02.3 at Aqueduct and equaled track record for 5 furlongs of 57.4; undefeated in four starts; retired with a bowed tendon; sired the 1969 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Majestic Prince; a very important source of stamina the Raise A Native line produced the 1978 Triple Crown winner Affirmed and the Kentucky Derby winners Genuine Risk (1980), Alysheba (1987) and Strike The Gold (1991). Hoist The Flag: 5-0-0 in 6 starts; 1970 Champion 2-year-old Colt; sired two-time Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe winner Alleged.

Second generationMr. Prospector: set new track record for 6 furlongs of 1:07 4/5 at Gulfstream and set new track record for 6 furlongs of 1:08 3/5 at Garden State; a sire of sires; a very important source of stamina, as well as speed, the Mr. Prospector line has carried on the influence of Native Dancer. The sire line of Mr. Prospector has produced 8 of the past 13 Kentucky Derby winners; 8 of the past 10 Preakness winners and 10 of the past 12 Belmont winners.

All of the above thoroughbreds are ancestors of Vue who is the dam of War Pass. As you can see, there is tons of stamina in the pedigree of War Pass – and that’s just on the side of the dam. He also has stamina on the sire line.

One item to note, Mr. Prospector as a broodmare sire has never produced a winner of any of the Triple Crown races, however his line did produce the 2006 Kentucky winner Barbaro via La Ville Rouge by Carson City and the 2006 Preakness winner Bernardini via Cara Rafaela by Quiet American. The broodmare sire line of Native Dancer has produced the 1993 Preakness winner Prairie Bayou and 2001 Preakness and Belmont winner Point Given.

Another thing that intrigued me about the pedigree of War Pass was that like Cherokee Run who is best known as a sprinter, there were several other ancestors who were champion sprinters that sired important horses. 1947 Champion Sprinter Polynesian sired Native Dancer who almost swept the Triple Crown and 1958 Champion Sprinter Bold Ruler sired Triple Crown winner Secretariat.

So, it will definitely be interesting to see if War Pass can live up to the greatness of some of his ancestors.

So far, he’s off to a great start.

If War Pass had remained healthy, I believe that he would have finished in the top three in the 0f the 2008 Kentucky Derby - Recapturetheglory finished a respectable fifth. That's not too shabby for a sire line known mostly for producing sprinters.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Best Pal Stakes Racing Roundup

Trainer David Hofmans is hoping that J P’s Gusto can extend his winning streak to three in a row Sunday when he sends the 2-1 morning line favorite to the starting gate for the 40th running of the $150,000 Best Pal Stakes (G2) at Del Mar.

J P’s Gusto comes into the race with a 4 ½ - length win in the Willard Proctor Memorial Stakes on May 31 and a win by a neck in the Hollywood Juvenile Championship Stakes (G3) on July 5. J P’s Gusto has been working out good and he should run another good race.

J P’s Gusto is a descendant of the Man o’ War sire line and Officer (2001) is the only horse from that line to win the Best Pal since 1990.

In his last outing, Western Mood (5-2) finished second to J P’s Gusto in the Hollywood Juvenile and with the extra half furlong I would not be surprised to see him best the Hollywood Juvenile victor.

Western Mood is a descendant of the Mr. Prospector sire line and since 1990 four horses from that sire line have won the Best Pal: Lookin at Lucky (2009), What A Song (2005), Roman Ruler (2004) and Timber Country (1994).

Trainer Jeff Bonde ships Sway Away (5-2) in from Pleasanton where he broke his maiden in a 5-furlong sprint on June 27. Sway Away earned a 102 Brisnet Speed Figure and, although he is stepping up in class, if he repeats that performance, Sway Away could be tough to beat.

Sway Away is also a descendant of the Mr. Prospector sire line. His sire, Afleet Alex, won the 2005 Preakness (G1) and Belmont Stakes (G1). His damsire is the 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew.

Surprisingly, there are no descendants of the Northern Dancer sire line entered in the Best Pal. The Northern Dancer line has produced four winners since 1990: Azul Leon (2008), Salute The Sarge (2007), Principle Secret (2006) and Dixie Union (1999).

I had hoped that the filly Wickedly Perfect would run in the Best Pal. She had been cross-entered Best Pal and the Sorrento Stakes (G3) but was scratched to run in the Sorrento, which she won by one length.

Wickedly Perfect is a descendant of the Bold Ruler sire line and that line has produced three winners of the Best Pal since 1990: Perfect Moon (2003), Cobra King (1995) and Scherando (1991).