Saturday, March 31, 2012

Florida Derby Stakes Racing Roundup

Trainer Michael Matz will send the talented Union Rags to the starting gate today as the prohibitive 6-5 morning line favorite in the 63rd running of the $1 million Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park.

A head loss to Hansen in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Stakes (G1) at Churchill Downs last fall is the only blemish on Union Rags’ sterling record of four wins in five starts with an 18¼-length winning margin.

Three of Union Rags’ five career starts boast triple digit Brisnet Speed Figures including a 103 speed figure he earned in his debut as a 3-year-old in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park in February.

Union Rags is the deserving favorite and looms as the horse to beat but he may not have it so easy in the Florida Derby (G1) if El Padrino (2-1) repeats the form of his last two races.

If you are a speed handicapper, El Padrino is the best colt on the trail with a whopping 111 Brisnet Speed Figure that he earned in his 3-year-old debut at Gulfstream Park in January. He followed that performance with a 101 speed figure in a gutsy stretch duel with Mark Valeski in the Risen Star Stakes (G2) at the Fair Grounds in February.

In five career starts, El Padrino has never finished out of the money. His worst placing was a third-place finish in the Remsen Stakes (G2) last fall at Aqueduct where he narrowly missed first-place honors by three-quarters of a length.

Pulpit, the sire of El Padrino, won the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) and Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2) as a 3-year-old and sired the 2010 Florida Derby winner Ice Box.

At 8-1 morning line odds, News Pending appears to be the best looking long shot. After four previous attempts, News Pending finally broke his maiden running 9-furlongs on the turf at Gulfstream Park last December. He followed that with two second-place finishes in February, also at Gulstream Park, including a four-length loss to Union Rags in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2).

Harlan’s Holiday, the sire of News Pending, was a good middle-distance runner and he won the 2002 edition of the Florida Derby.

Take Charge Indy (5-1) showed a lot of improvement making his 3-year-old debut in January at Gulfstream Park where he finished second to El Padrino and earned a 109 Brisnet Speed Figure. Prior to that, since his impressive maiden debut win by 6½-lengths last July, Take Charge Indy struggled as a 2-year-old competing in stakes competition.

A. P. Indy, the sire of Take charge Indy, sired the 2004 Florida Derby winner Friends Lake and he is also the grandsire of the Florida Derby winners Ice Box (2010) and Dialed In (2011).

Take Charge Indy has room to improve in his second start of the season and another move forward will make him competitive in today’s race.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sunland Derby Stakes Racing Roundup

Hall of Fame Trainer Bob Baffert is flush with promising 3-year-olds in his stable but says he “desperately” needs graded stakes earnings if any of them will make it to the Kentucky Derby.

Later today, Baffert will have an opportunity to get the important graded stakes money he needs when he sends Castaway and Stirred Up to the starting gate in the 10th running of the $800,000 Sunland Derby (G3) at Sunland Park.

Castaway is the 2-1 morning line favorite while Stirred Up was installed as an 8-1 long shot. Both are late-maturing young colts and I like them best in this race. Of the two, Stirred Up has the more impressive pedigree.

After five previous attempts, in January Castaway finally broke his maiden in his debut as a 3-year-old and he could be improving at just the right time of year.

In his maiden win, Castaway led from gate-to-wire and won by 2¼-lengths covering the 8½-furlongs in a very nice time of 1:41.83. His time for the mile was 1:35.19 and for that effort he earned a 102 Brisnet Speed Figure.

A month later at Oaklawn Park, Castaway followed up his maiden win with a 3¾-length victory in the one mile Southwest Stakes (G3) and a repeat of the form he showed in his two previous wins will make him tough to beat in today’s race.

Stirred Up did not race as a 2-year-old but since his second-place finish in his maiden debut in January, he’s finished third in one mile maiden race at Santa Anita Park on February 11 and finally broke his maiden at the same racetrack running 8½-furlongs in 1:43 flat on March 3.

In his maiden win, Stirred Up trailed near the rear of the “herd” for most of the race but I like how he took the lead in the stretch to gain the victory. Here’s the chart call:

STIRRED UP between horses early, settled inside then a bit off the rail, continued outside a rival leaving the backstretch, moved up outside leaving the second turn and three deep into the stretch, gained the lead in midstretch and gamely prevailed under urging.

His Brisnet Speed Figure’s – 93, 90 and 93 - are in the high range I like to see in a promising young colt and his pedigree indicates that he may have classic potential.

In the first three generations, four of the seven stallions in the pedigree – Lemon Drop Kid, Kingmambo, Seattle Slew and Summer Squall were Classic Champion Thoroughbreds. In addition, the dam of Kingmambo, Miesque, was also a classic winner of the Dubai Poule D'essai Des Poulains (Group 1).

Quiet American, the damsire of Stirred Up, is a descendent of the Fappiano branch of Mr. Prospector which has produced numerous classic winners and he also sired the 1998 Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness (G1) winner Real Quiet.

The distaff influence in the pedigree is also impressive with several important lines, most notably, the tail-female line of Missy Baba – a Matriarch of the Turf and the fourth dam of Stirred Up’s sire Lemon Drop Kid and dam Summer Delight. Missy Baba is also a tail-female descendant of Summer Squall – the sire of Stirred Up’s second dam Cap Rouge.

I’ll be watching with keen interest to see if Stirred Up makes another move forward on the trail.

Ender Knievel (6-1) and Isn’t He Clever (4-1) also look like they could be competitive in today’s race.

Ender Knievel finally broke his maiden, after three previous attempts, running a mile in his 3-year-old debut at Gulfstream Park on February 5. Ender Knievel led from gate-to-wire and won impressively by 7¾-lengths. He has room to improve in his second start of the season and another move forward will make him competitive in today’s race.

In six career starts, Isn’t He Clever has only been off the board once and he boasts a 4-1-0 record. His worst performance was a fifth-place finish in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita Park on February 4. Later that month, He followed that effort with a 1¾-length victory in the Borderland Derby at Sunland Park.

Since then, Isn’t He Clever fired a bullet work out at Sunland Park and he could be ready to run a good race.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes Roundup

Heavy Breathing is not nominated to the Kentucky Derby but a win today in the $500,000 Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes (G3) could, perhaps, put Starlight Stable back on the trail after their Derby hopes were dashed earlier this year when their 3-year-old star Algorithms was sidelined with an injury.

Installed as the 3-1 morning line favorite, the undefeated Heavy Breathing has never run in a stakes race but he comes into the Vinery off two victories with a combined 12-length win margin.

A son of Giant’s Causeway, Heavy Breathing has a nice pedigree and his Brisnet Speed Figure’s - 91 and 90 - are in the high range I like to see in a young colt that may have potential.

As a 2-year-old, Giant’s Causeway was undefeated in three starts (all at 7-furlongs) winning the Group 3 Futurity Stakes and the Group 1 Prix de la Salamandre Stakes. As a 3-year-old, Giant’s Causeway was 6-4-0 in 10 starts, winning from 7- to 10-furlongs and he was the 2000 Cartier Racing Awards European Horse of the Year.

In his last race, Heavy Breathing drew away to a 4¼-length win but finished the 9-furlongs in slow 1:51.23. However, Heavy Breathing appears to be improving with each race and another move forward will make him competitive with this group.

Went The Day Well (4-1) is owned trained by the same connections that won last year’s Vinery with Animal Kingdom (my pick to win the Kentucky Derby), however, another horse owned and trained by those same connections – Howe Great – may have classic potential. His performance in winning the Palm Beach Stakes (G3) put him at the top of my Derby list and I’ll have more on that later in a future blog.

Went The Day Well is an improving young colt that started his racing career in England where he had two back-to-back second-place finishes. In his American debut, Went The Day Well finished off the board with a fourth-place finish and earned a 92 speed figure for that effort. He followed that race with a first-place finish and earned a 93 speed figure for his maiden win.

With the influence of Proud Citizen as the sire and Tiznow as the damsire, Went The Day Well has a pretty good pedigree for route racing and if he continues to improve and move forward he should be competitive in today’s race.

A long shot I like in this race is the maiden Coach Royal (15-1) who struggled as a 2-year-old but finished nicely in his last two races and could be ready to run a good race. And his pedigree is pretty awesome, too, with Lemon Drop Kid as his sire and A. P. Indy as the damsire.

Coach Royal narrowly missed breaking his maiden in his last two races by half a length and if he repeats that form he’ll be competitive.

Russian Greek is young colt I’ve liked in previous races and he looks like an appealing long shot at 10-1 morning line odds. He finished off the board in his last race with a fifth-place finish in the El Camino Real Derby (G3) and trainer Jerry Hollendorfer adds blinkers for today’s race.

Russian Greek was also sired by Giant’s Causeway and his damsire is the Kentucky Derby winner Grindstone. If Russian Greek returns to the form he showed in winning the California Derby, he’ll be competitive in today’s race.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Book Update: Horse Profiling, The Secret To Motivating Equine Athletes

Publication of the book that Kerry Thomas and I wrote: Horse Profiling, The Secret To Motivating Equine Athletes is moving right along and we are still waiting on word from Trafalgar Square Books when it will be on book shelves. But, in the meantime, this past weekend we both received from the publisher an advance copy of the book.

It looks great! and we’d like to give a special thanks to Lauryl Eddlemon for designing the book and Senior Editor and Graphic Designer Rebecca Didier who designed the cover and edited the book. Their layout, design and editing all came together in a fantastic, appealing book and I'm looking forward to its release date.

In addition, Kerry and I would once more like to thank HRH Princess Alia al Hussein of the Princess Alia Foundation, US Equestrian Federation Senior Judge, trainer and coach, Thomas Poulin, US Eventing Association Hall-of-Fame inductee Denny Emerson and renowned sport horse trainer Lester Buckley for their glowing tribute and contribution to the book.

Trafalgar Square Books recently ran a nice story on their blog profiling EQUUS Magazine which is publishing an excerpt from our book in the April issue. The feature story – The Power Of The Herd – was given a lot of exposure and very nicely laid out in the magazine.

Excerpted from chapter seven of the book – Discovering The Communicated Equine – the EQUUS Magazine feature presents a powerful illustration of herd dynamics and the communication chain-of-command that Kerry witnessed on one of his trips out west to study the wild Mustang as well as profiles of two horses with high herd dynamics – Hat Trick and Zenyatta.

For a sneak peek from chapter five of the book, please click this link:

The book is available for preorder now at the Trafalgar Square Books online bookstore, where shipping in the US is always FREE. BLOG BONUS!!! Get 15% off your order at the TSB online bookstore by entering the coupon code TSBBLOG15 at checkout!!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Rebel Stakes Racing Roundup

Southwest Stakes (G3) Division II victor Secret Circle returns to the starting gate today for Hall of Fame Trainer Bob Baffert as the 9-5 morning line favorite in the 52nd running of the $500,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn Park.

Secret Circle narrowly won the Southwest by a half-length over a front-running Scatman (8-1) who also returns for today’s contest. While 8-furlongs may be the best distance for both horses, they should have the breeding to stretch out further.

As a 3-year-old, Eddington, the sire of Secret Circle, won the 9-furlong Calder Derby and finished third in the Gotham Stakes (G3), Wood Memorial Stakes (G1), Preakness Stakes (G1) and Travers Stakes (G1).

Dixieland Band, the damsire of Secret Circle, won the 9-furlong Pennsylvania Derby at the age of three and he’s also is the damsire of Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense.

As a 3-year-old, Scat Daddy, the sire of Scatman, won the 9-furlong Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) and Florida Derby (G1). Grand Slam, the damsire of Scatman, won the 9-furlong Peter Pan Stakes (G2) and finished second in the Swaps Stakes (G2).

While it remains to be seen if Secret Circle and Scatman have any classic potential, I look for them to be competitive in today’s race.

A young colt that intrigues me the most is Najjaar (6-1) who definitely has the breeding to be a classic prospect and a win in today’s race would be a step in the right direction.

Jazil, the sire of Najjaar, won the 2006 Belmont Stakes (G1) and his dam, Better Than Honour, is also the dam of 2007 Belmont winner Rags To Riches.

Darshaan, the damsire of Najjaar, won the 1984 French classic Prix du Jockey Club and he’s also the damsire of the classic champions Marienbard, Sendawar, High Chaparral and Darsi. As a sire, Darshaan sired the classic champions Mark of Esteem and Dalakhani.

In addition, Shirley Heights, the second damsire of Najjaar, and Mill Reef, the third damsire, were also Classic Champion Thoroughbreds and sires of other classic champions.

Najjaar appears to have been a slow developer, finally breaking his maiden on the fifth attempt when he made his 3-year-old debut in January at Oaklawn Park. Najjaar followed up that win with another victory on March 2 traveling the same route of ground at the same track.

In six career starts, Najjaar has been in the money in five of those races and another move forward will make him competitive in today’s race.

A long shot I like is Jake Mo (20-1) who was a 2¾-length runner up to Castaway in the first division of the Southwest Stakes last month at Oaklawn Park.

In eight career starts, Jake Mo is one of the more seasoned runners in the today’s field and he’s finished in the money five times. The Rebel will be his first attempt for Jake Mo to run 8½-furlongs and he has the breeding to perform better as the races get longer.

Giacomo, the sire of Jake Mo, won the 2005 Kentucky Derby and his damsire, With Approval, was the 1989 Canadian Triple Crown winner and Canadian Horse of the Year.

A sharp work out on March 4 and another move forward in his third start for the season will make Jake Mo competitive at a nice price.

Sabercat (5-1), making his 3-year-old debut in the Rebel off of a three-month layoff, already earned his spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate when he cruised to a 4-length victory in the Delta Downs Jackpot at Delta Downs last November.

Sabercat may not be in top form, just yet, as trainer Steve Asmussen will be looking for him to peak going into the Kentucky Derby. However, if he repeats the form of his Jackpot win last November he should be competitive.