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Harpoon jogs on the Saratoga main

Harpoon jogs on the Saratoga main

Weekend Hideaway cools off after a win

Weekend Hideaway cools off after a win

Kaigun Leads a Dan-less Woodbine Mile

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(Photo by Michael Burns)

With Wise Dan shipping south instead of north, the Breeders’ Cup Mile “Win and You’re In” prep famous for attracting boatloads of shippers has become a wide-open affair. It may or may not be a less exciting affair with no G1 winners like Wise Dan in the field, but with that tidbit comes the promise of a great betting race as hard-knocking “almosts” like Kaigun, Bobby’s Kitten, and Grand Arch have arrived. 

$1 million Woodbine Mile (I) - 3-Year-Olds & Up. 1 mile on turf at Woodbine. Post Time: Sunday, September 14 at 6:13pm EST.

[Post Position, Horse - Jockey, Impost, Trainer - Summary, Opinion in italics]

1) River Seven - Jesse Campbell, 117 lbs, Nick Gonzalez - An impressive winner last year where he won several excellent races including ones over Grand Arch and Kaigun, the Johannesburg gelding has been winless in 5 starts this year, showing little after bombing on the dirt in the Donn Handicap (I). He has some back class that is strong, but his form has not been good lately. 

2) Trade Storm - Jamie Spencer, 119 lbs, David Simcock - A Euro shipper, the son of Trade Fair [GB] was 3rd in this race last year and has 3 places in 6 starts for this year, mostly in meek company. His last start in a York stake showed him being barley beaten. Not awesomely consistent, could be an exotics horse.

3) Ancil - Justin Stein, 117 lbs, Joan Scott - Hot turf sire City Zip sires this career turf sprinter, who is coming off a layoff following a pulled-up performance at Ascot in June. He is new to Woodbine with one failed attempt at the mile. Both Stein and Scott sport a good ROI, but Ancil will have to be at his best and then some to do well here, especially since he is not the lone speed.

4) Silver Freak - John Velazquez, 117 lbs, Brian Lynch - The Badge of Silver gelding is part of the Lynch trio, and looks to add some serious speed to the race, last out winning with an uncontested lead at Saratoga. Never off the board in 8 lifetime starts, he’ll add some firepower to the pace.

5) Kaigun - Patrick Husbands, 121 lbs, Mark Casse - Likely to be the favorite following his win in the Play King (II) here last out and runner-up performances to Wise Dan and Real Solution this year, the Northern Afleet gelding is 2-for-2 at Woodbine. With Husbands and Casse both at 20% and Kaigun at his best, he is a fitting favorite and one I have liked in the past.

6) Dorsett - Luis Contreras, 117 lbs, Brian Lynch - Packing a pretty nice turf pedigree, the son of Artie Schiller was 4th last out in the Fourstardave (II) at Saratoga and makes his 3rd start for Lynch here. High-percentage Contreras and Lynch go well together, and Dorsett may keep on improving with his 3rd start off a layoff.

7) Lockout - Gary Boulanger, 117 lbs, Mark Casse - The son of Limehouse made a late move to be up for 2nd to Kaigun in the Play King (II) last out. Very consistent lately with close-up finishes, Lockout ought to do well with the ample pace here running for those well-known Oxley colors.

8) Bobby’s Kitten - Joel Rosario, 112 lbs, Chad Brown - Best when left alone on the lead, the star-studded son of Kitten’s Joy gets a big weight lift as he trims back to a desirable distance going a mile. His class has only been inhibited by poor jockey tactics and too much distance. He gets everything his way here, and look out. Deserving horse.

9) Jack Milton - Javier Castellano, 119 lbs, Todd Pletcher - 2-for-4 this year, the son of War Front was 3rd by a length last out in the record-setting Fourstardave (II) and won the Poker (III) earlier in the year at this distance mark. Top turf rider Castellano stays aboard for the trip, but I am only half as optimistic as I could be, given that Jack Milton excels at lower levels of racing and not G1 events.

10) His Race to Win - Eurico Da Silva, 119 lbs, Malcolm Pierce - Featuring a swoon-worthy pedigree (Stormy Atlantic over Gone West), the Seagram Cup (III) winner has been mainly an all-weather threat at Woodbine, racing 6 times on the grass resulting in 1 win. His mettle will be tested here for 32% Malcolm Pierce and high-percentage Da Silva. If he’s good enough, he’ll do well, but it’s all a big question as to whether or not it will translate over.

11) Grand Arch - David Moran, 121 lbs, Brian Lynch - The 5-year-old son of Arch hops off a neck loss to record-setting Seek Again in the Fourstardave (II), looming a big threat here with a G2 win on the Woodbine grass this year in the 1-mile King Edward (II). No off-the-board starts for him at Woodbine or at this distance mark. Big win threat who will stalk the pace.

Top 3 Picks in Order (with preferred odds) 

1) Grand Arch (4-1)

2) Kaigun (2-1)

3) Bobby’s Kitten (5-1)

This race looks to be a pace battle with a couple good horses who may get that career-unlocking setup for the big win. I think I would have placed 3rd choice Bobby’s Kitten up further if he was going to get an uncontested lead, but that doesn’t look very likely here as much as he has the class to get it done. Grand Arch is very consistent, and I list him first following the Fourstardave (II) with the belief Seek Again is the biggest threat to Wise Dan’s crown this year. Kaigun will get a great setup and has the potential to win as well. For the 4-spot, Lockout will get a setup and can do well here with the right trip.

Value Pick: I don’t believe Bobby’s Kitten will seriously be 15-1 or anywhere close to that morning line. Grand Arch may be overlooked thanks to him and Kaigun, and is solid at 4-1. I’m not seeing much in the way of major value players that could win or hit the board.

Courageous Julie

Courageous Julie

California Chrome in the Belmont Stakes parade

California Chrome in the Belmont Stakes parade

Alabama Stakes Day: A Photo Blog

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Continuing the photo bloggage with my day at the races on Saturday, August 15, best known as Alabama Day at Saratoga, celebrating one of the oldest and most cherished races for three-year-old fillies.

Even though I’m used to going places by myself all the time— particularly the track— the hollow feeling I got from Slice’s departure made the lonely hours between crowds and quiet feel particularly emboldened. Yes, I will probably always believe that even an ordinary, cloudy day at Saratoga could be a great one lying in wait, but the way Saturday started out, it was as if the racing gods were testing me.

I don’t have the newest car or the finest of luck when it comes to cars. So while good ol’ Cammy has behaved herself since the spring, she likes to play games with me from time to time. On Saturday, it was a buy one get one free sort of day with a surprise missing gas cap (I must have left it back in Massachusetts where I last filled it) and a surprise half-deflated tire. Pair that with minimal car experience, and you’ve got stress, stress, stress to kick off your day. And just about the worst thing you can do to me is try to tell me what to do and play me off like an imbecile when it comes to horses… yes, there are some overbearing “fans” with cameras who frequent Saratoga that strongly resemble those I find crawling all over Zenyatta.com. I was in a dangerous mood thanks to all the frustrations of the early hours, so I made a quick exit from that situation before it boiled over.

BUT YES. PONIES. A big big reason I got up with the birds early on Alabama Day was the horses that were very likely to show up that morning. Word drifted by that Wise Dan already breezed on the main, but much before the gates were open to the public. Ugh, I am still just the ‘public’ to just about everyone! But it was worth the wait as Travers stars rolled out and an old friend in Jay Moran aka Mr. Easygoer showed up. If my brain is slow, I can usually count on Jay to help me ID horses. And yes, that is huuuuuge when there’s a hundred of them running around and you only have so many chances to hit the shutter and your brain goes to mush trying to figure out who that just was.

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Princess of Sylmar worked well alongside stablemate Silsita (thanks bigcountry for the positive ID!). Nothing big or flashy in preparation for the Personal Ensign (I), and there were just too many Pletcher stars to list them all: Palace Malice, My Miss Aurelia, Cross Traffic, My Miss Sophia, and a whole bunch of strange new two-year-olds. John Velazquez came out riding a colt that a lot of photographers seemed interested in:

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Big, brawny type just easy breezing out there. I’m sure I will be able to upload more mystery horse and developing two-year-olds with positive IDs later this fall and next spring.

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Wicked Strong was one of those “blink and you’ll miss him” horses. AHH THAT’S HIM! We packed up our gear and ran down the street and across to the other side to catch him heading back to the barn.

With the main track closing, I returned to the Oklahoma training track in hopes of soaking up what was left of the morning light and maybe get a few nice shots in. It wasn’t long until I saw this one chestnut horse running wiiiiiiide around the bend on the dirt with her tongue poking out the left side of her mouth. I didn’t have to check to see if there was a “CB” on the saddle cloth to know it for sure. DAYATTHESPAAAAAA! (Also pictured best at the top of this post):

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The flopping tongue and irregular blaze are the two dead giveaways it’s Dayatthespa galloping towards you!

Now how about some of those races?

I’ve never been to the Alabama Stakes, so it was a joy finally being able to attend this year. I was a bit upset that Untapable would not be attending whatsoever, but I was eager to see some great filly faces all day. With program in hand, it was time to catch some great runners doing what they do best, and wouldn’t you know it… the Alabama Stakes felt more like an undercard race due to the feels I got from the Lake Placid (II)…

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Belmont Oaks (I) winner Minorette. French heavyweight Xcellence [FR]. The speedy underdog Duff One. And of course, the royal-looking Crown Queen. She gave me shivers in an allowance race just two weeks earlier, and here she was in her graded stakes debut against some tough company. Tracking early, she outkicked the class and outpowered the speed to win the Lake Placid by a half length. Such a beautiful horse, such freakin’ class. I loved her sis Royal Delta a whole lot, but Crown Queen has already inherited that love and a bit more. Like I said in a prior photo blog post featuring her… SHE MUST BE WATCHED!

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Speaking of who to watch, since this IS Saratoga, one of the must-see events of any undercard is any and all maiden special weights for two-year-olds. One newly-stamped winner named Bold Conquest was a horse I had seen debut a couple of weeks ago, and if you guessed by his picture that he is a Curlin, you are 100% correct. Rallying late in the stretch to duel with Money Changer, he wound up on top in the photo finish and is quite the looker. (Also, last I checked, he finished 2nd in the Kentucky Derby points race the G3 Iroquois at Churchill Downs, by just a neck to winner Lucky Player). Again, not a huge fan of Curlins, but he looks like a nice horse already.

Fast forwarding to the race of the day… the Alabama (I)!

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With many of the fillies coming hot off the Coaching Club American Oaks (I), naturally the horse to beat was its winner, Stopchargingmaria. As I mentioned leading up to the race, I liked Fortune Pearl best from a bettor’s perspective, believing that Stopchargingmaria would… ahem… stop charging once meeting the eighth pole. Joint Return was competitive on the stretch-out paired up with blinkers, and Got Lucky was getting another chance from me going further and with a new set of blinkers as well. 

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Miss Besilu bobs out first from the break in a sea of fillies.

The pace was immediately taciturn. No one was making much of a move, and it seemed to stay that way for almost the whole race. Stopchargingmaria moved to a forward position and sat down on the couch to relax from there on out with the field packed tightly around her. Moving late, Miss Besilu sprung from just behind ‘Maria to challenge as Joint Return emerged as another late threat. Johnny V poured into Maria, the fillies all bouncing down the stretch all rubber-legged. Reminded me a bit of the recent Schyulerville won by Fashion Alert… which is probably the reason I never cared to write home about that one…

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I didn’t have to read the teletimer to know Stopchargingmaria captured an unimpressive running of the Alabama. There was just no way from where I was standing that it was a very telling race, and there was no way I was readily going to believe that a Montbrook-Storm Cat cross spat out a classic distance type. 2:05. One of the slowest Alabamas run, I believe just a bit faster than Shuvee’s shoo-in in ‘69.

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Maybe you can impress me some other day, Maria.

Norumbega

Norumbega

Charging once more down the stretch and into victory lane, favored Stopchargingmaria picked up her second G1 of the Saratoga meet with a win in the Alabama Stakes (I), defeating Joint Return (24-1) and Miss Besilu (30-1).

Charging once more down the stretch and into victory lane, favored Stopchargingmaria picked up her second G1 of the Saratoga meet with a win in the Alabama Stakes (I), defeating Joint Return (24-1) and Miss Besilu (30-1).

Sayaad

Sayaad

It’s September!

Time for fall championship meets!

I honestly was playing with the idea of somehow fitting in a trip down to Parx Racing for the Pennsylvania Derby/Cotillion card, but then came to terms how difficult it would be for everything to fall into place. And I would really only be going to try to grab shots of Untapable and maybe Shared Belief if that horse does indeed go. Best wishes to those who can make that day, and have fun!

I don’t have anything else pinned down until Super Saturday at Belmont at the end of the month. In the meantime, I envy everyone who gets to be at Keeneland for the sale and the opening of their fall meet.

Going to the Thoroughbred races, keeping "track" of the memories. Obsessively providing a comprehensive and personal glance at the sport of kings through original photography, handicapping analysis, editorials, and much more.

Tracks visited: Calder, Saratoga, Belmont, Suffolk, Aqueduct.


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