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Gourmet Dinner Goes Home for Spend A Buck

Sure there’s the loaded Hawthorne Derby (III) and the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (I) going on this weekend, but instead of concentrating on those bigger races I’m returning to take a look at Calder’s Festival of the Sun program, the highlight of which is the G3 Spend A Buck Handicap. Four-year-old Gourmet Dinner had much success there as a juvenile before winning the Delta Downs Jackpot, and after hitting a bump in the road up north, he returns home to Miami in an easier spot. Many of the locals have turned out for the Spend A Buck as the Calder meet winds down to switch off with Gulfstream in a couple of weeks.

Weather looks to keep the track solid for once, as Calder had many off-turf and sloppy goings this meet thanks to a lot of rainfall and tropical storms. The surface should be fast for Saturday.

$100,000 Spend A Buck Handicap (III) - 3-Year-Olds & Up. 1 1/16 miles on dirt at Calder Race Course. Post Time: Saturday, October 13 at 4:17pm EST.

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

1) Ducduc - Fernando Jara, 116 lbs, Shivananda Parboo - The 6-year-old son of Langfuhr hasn’t budged from racing in South Florida all year, culminating in just 1 win in 10 starts with 5 total board efforts, mainly in small stakes. He snapped his losing streak last out in last month’s Our Dear Peggy Stakes over 1 1/8 miles while stalking a solid pace. His solitary win is misleading— the 2nd and 3rd horses are winless this year— as the horses in front of him faded to allow his rally.

2) Gourmet Dinner - Sebastian Madrid, 122 lbs, David Braddy - The Trippi colt was on fire as a juvenile, but has faded a good deal which had effectively deflected him from the rest of last year’s Triple Crown trail. His one victory this year came in the 1 1/16 mile Majestic Light Stakes at Monmouth over known sprinters like Ponzi Scheme, where he rallied wide and impressively to snatch the win by a neck. Gourmet Dinner was a longshot in the Woodward, but will be the favorite and class to beat here. Of things of concern, he is trading hands in his Calder transfer from Bruce Brown to local David Braddy.

3) Cash Rules - Luis Saez, 120 lbs, David Fawkes - The Peace Rules gelding has a 3-2-1 record this year in 7 starts including 3 stakes— all at Calder. His strategy is simple yet effective stalking the pace and then pulling clear in the stretch. No one here is likely to go fast enough to wear down Cash Rules early, leaving him as one of the dummy-proof favorites in this contest.

4) Decisive Moment - Jesus Rios, 116 lbs, Juan Arias - The With Distinction colt makes a return to the races after a summer-long layoff, with his last start being a tired 5th in the Miami Mile in April. G3-placed, he was constantly a nod away from Gourmet Dinner but has been unsuccessful at hitting the board in all 4 of his starts this year. It’s evident by the variety of surfaces and distances they’ve been giving this colt along with the extended break that they’re running out of ideas. He hasn’t been giving very impressive works at Calder leading up to the race, and as a middle-distance horse that’s certainly troubling.

5) Two Is to Many - Juan Leyva, 113 lbs, Manuel Carrasco - The first of two three-year-olds in the field, the Bandini colt may have a grammatical error for a name but he’s 3 wins this year out of 12 starts (6 total on the board) all in Florida, with two of those wins being back-to-back allowance efforts. He’s coming off a good fresh work at Calder, owning the best of 9 moves at 4 panels. The pace in those last 2 winning efforts were slowly paced and classless; he conquered the place in his last start by 1 1/2 yes, but the rest of the horses were very strung out which is bizarrely bad. His class troubles are proven by his record with just 1 board hit in 4 stakes attempts (all ungraded).

6) Flatter This - Antonio Gallardo, 112 lbs, Kathleen O’Connell - A fixture at Calder, the son of Flatter hasn’t been very flattering this year with two shows in 9 total starts. He rolled up to the front in the Darn That Alarm, but could not conquer the slow pace won by Cash Rules, and followed that performance up with a factorless, ground-saving trip in an allowance where he was 7th. A sluggish work with a very off horse that hasn’t won anything in over a year makes for a very big longshot.

7) Fair Whit - Willie Martinez, 110 lbs, Shivananda Parboo - The Birdstone gelding is as hit-and-miss as your common claimer with 3 wins this year in 7 starts, the other 4 being total duds. Normally coming from off the pace, he can be incredibly finicky (he flat-out quit in his last dirt start at Calder, being as much as 20 lengths behind the next horse) but has some good works to his name coming off a good win at Parx. Feeling brave? Fair Whit has all the makings of a good competitor who is choice at a very low impost, but I shy at any opportunity where Shivananda feels a horse like this is ready to make his stakes debut (I find he often shoots for the moon with his horses). He will have to improve and look fresh to do well.

8) Csaba - Manoel Cruz, 113 lbs, Philip Gleaves - Taking the blinkers off, the three-year-old Kitten’s Joy colt takes to the dirt again after back-to-back disappointments in the Equalize Stakes (on grass however) and the wonky Pennsylvania Derby where he went wide and never made it up front where he likes. Downgrading to Calder, a track where he sports a 4-for-7 win record, and getting a nice impost, he could be game for a comeback.

Top Picks in Order:

1) Csaba

2) Cash Rules

3) Gourmet Dinner

Csaba is most apt to go for the lead and try to set a nice pokey pace just as he likes to do in a wire-to-wire effort, effectively holding off any closers who may benefit from something faster. Fawkes-conditioned and likely to be ignored, Cash Rules will be there to stalk and has a good chance for upset while Gourmet Dinner should feel welcomed by the class slouch.

Value Pick: Cash Rules

I love you're blog! Do you have any pics/articles on Decisive Moment, a 4yr old? He is my favorite horse ever! Don't ask why, because when I saw him in real life he was automatically my fav!

Asked by moriartyisstillalive

Thank you so much :)

Anything on Decisive Moment that I’ve posted about is right here. I don’t think there was ever a lot to go on since he was kind of one of those darkhorse entries in the Derby last year, but I think if I still lived in south Florida I’d be a much bigger fan of him since he seems to mostly run there and is based out of Calder. I hope he gets his career back on track since he hasn’t run since April!

Jackson Bend Back For More in Hal’s Hope

An excellent field with plenty of talent as well as improving underdogs, the Hal’s Hope Stakes (III) at Gulfstream has beckoned several good milers as well as sprinters to hopefully kick off 2012 on a good note. Welcome to Florida, Calvin Borel, who rides the speedy Will’s Wildcat from the outside to run with the older horses such as the morning line favorite, “Mighty Mouse” rail horse Jackson Bend.

$100,000 Hal’s Hope Stakes (III) - 4-Year-Olds & Up. 1 mile on dirt at Gulfstream Park. Post Time: Saturday, January 14 at 4:17pm EST.

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

1) Jackson Bend - John Velazquez, 123 lbs, Nick Zito - No doubt the star of the show, the Hear No Evil hero receives the top weight along with top jock Johnny V in the irons. He was an honest third in the BC Sprint last out. Concerns: the rail and an extra furlong (he’s a 7 furlong specialist). It’ll be a tough guess figuring out if he can last AND catch up to someone like Soaring Empire on the lead.

2) Sky Venture - Juan Leyva, 118 lbs, Cecil Paul - A frequent Florida runner and son of Sky Mesa, Sky Venture’s a mile specialist but has had a hard time actually winning races. He’s improved a bit since last fall and has moved up to stakes competition recently, but really doesn’t seem to stand up to these horses.

3) Sangaree - Rajiv Maragh, 117 lbs, Kieran McLaughlin - This Godolphin entry has been hungering for a win for over a year, and has come devastatingly close to it time after time. He was 6th last out in the Cigar Mile. I don’t expect better than third or fourth from a horse who loves running second-best too much! Weight-wise, though, he has an advantage here.

4) Successful Mission - Elvis Trujillo, 121 lbs, Edward Plesa Jr. - Bearing the Live Oak polka dots, this guy has been on a roll lately at the mile, winning two stakes in a row with a 4-for-6 record at the mile. I expect him to grab third, but since he’s a big Florida horse, he definitely makes for a great value pick here.

5) Decisive Moment - Sebastian Madrid, 121 lbs, Juan Arias - A nice horse who is still trying to find his niche, the nearly black With Distinction colt won the El Kaiser at Calder last summer and was fourth in the talent-chocked Indiana Derby (II). He has a win and a second at the mile, but will be making his Gulfstream debut against much better and experienced horses.

6) Our Dark Knight - Joe Bravo, 117 lbs, Nick Zito - A Medaglia d’Oro four-year-old and Zito/LaPenta’s second gun, he seems to have a lot of hit or misses on his record, and has been winless for a year. Second to Trickmeister in the Harlan’s Holiday, another underdog is added to the mix.

7) Soaring Empire [pictured] - Julien Leparoux, 121 lbs, Cam Gambolati - Last year’s winner looking for a repeat, this Empire Maker colt is all about setting the pace and trying to run away with it. He seems to be back to top form after his win in the Majestic Light Stakes and a second in the Salvator Mile, and he’s been working wonderfully at Gulfstream lately. Biggest concern here is his long layoff. Jackson Bend will give him a good run, but I’m hopeful his preparation will pay off. Soaring Empire for the win!

8) Cool Blue Red Hot - Manoel Cruz, 117 lbs, Angel Penna Jr. - (Cross-entered in Ft. Lauderdale Stakes as a main track-only entry) Got a confidence-booster win last out in an allowance at Belmont and seems to like just a hair beyond the mile. Never really got into this one last year as a three-year-old. Thinking he’s still being tinkered with by his connections too much to really consider.

9) Will’s Wildcat - Calvin Borel, 117 lbs, James Baker - A natural born sprinter, expect to see this blaze-faced colt set the pace alongside Soaring Empire, if not by himself, in the early goings. I think this horse is better suited for shorter spurts, very vulnerable to strong late charges like those likely from Jackson Bend.

Predicted Trifecta: 1) Soaring Empire 2) Jackson Bend 3) Successful Mission

Value Pick: Successful Mission, superfecta

2011 Derby Starters: Where Are They Now?

Making it to the starting gate of the Kentucky Derby is on the same playing field as getting nominated for an Academy Award, but even better since the perks of winning one extend far beyond 6 months (wink). While only one horse wins, we all fall in love with a particular horse or two, many of whom seem to still be on track to return next year as four-year-olds:

  1. Archarcharch - Injured with a slab fracture in the Derby, the gorgeous son of Arch is now retired to Spendthrift in Kentucky awaiting the start of his stud career in 2012.
  2. Brilliant Speed - Successful on multiple surfaces, the son of Dynaformer came in a valiant third in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. He looks to return next year, likely on the grass where he seems best.
  3. Twice the Appeal - Finished a sleepy 10th in the Derby, the Sunland Derby winner took a vacation and hit the work tab at Santa Anita in October. He’s now preparing for his four-year-old season.
  4. Stay Thirsty - Out of all the Derby horses, Thirsty probably has had the best year total, winning the Jim Dandy and the Travers over the summer. He’s on track to keep training as a four-year-old in 2012, wintering in Florida before shipping north to New York.
  5. Decisive Moment - 14th in the Derby, black underdog scored a stakes win in July and another recently on one of his favorite tracks, Delta Downs, in the $125,000 Delta Mile. By the looks of it, he’s still a very happy little racehorse.
  6. Comma To The Top - Injured in the Derby after setting the pace, Comma has been training like the freight train he is and was recently entered in the Vernon O. Underwood Stakes in Hollywood Park. He was 9th in his comeback, but the gelding looks to continue on with his career as a gifted sprinter.
  7. Pants On Fire - Had a sour showing in the Kentucky Derby, but came back later after a rest to win the Pegasus at Monmouth Park. Currently still resting on the Jersey shore, but is expected to race again next year.
  8. Dialed In - Sidelined with an injury following the Preakness, the Derby favorite has been slowly warming back up to the rigors of training with the ultimate goal of entering the 2012 Met Mile.
  9. Derby Kitten - Obviously with a Kitten’s Joy, this Kitten is destined for the turf. Sixth in the Hawthorne Derby, he did manage to win the Ontario Derby on synthetic while making some strong runs throughout the year on grass. Expect to see him progress next year as well.
  10. Twinspired - The only gray horse in the field, the cute Harlan’s Holiday colt is working his way back to a respectable reputation. He faded to seventh in the ungraded Victoria Stakes at Woodbine on Polytrack, but managed a second very recently in an off-the-turf race at Churchill.
  11. Master of Hounds - Took a holiday back overseas, and is set to compete on his old stomping grounds in the 2012 Dubai World Cup.
  12. Santiva - Took a long breather after finishing eighth in the Belmont Stakes, but is currently back on the work tab at Palm Meadows.
  13. Mucho Macho Man - Took a long and much needed break after running well in all three Triple Crown races. “Macho” returned to the races at Aqueduct in an early November optional claimer, scoring a win very easily.
  14. Shackleford - The most campaigned Derby horse, Shack’s been a busy fellow since the Derby, winning the Preakness and finishing sharply in almost all of his races to hit the board. He finished off this year with a second in the Dirt Mile with no concrete plans set in stone for next year, though he will come back to the races.
  15. Midnight Interlude - Switched to turf racing after his sleeper performances in both the Derby and the Preakness. He won the ungraded Tsunami Slew in grass debut, but hasn’t managed to wake up in time for several others that followed. Likely going to continue on the grass by the looks of it.
  16. Animal Kingdom - Out of the picture following a slab fracture in the Belmont Stakes, the Derby winning horse has been slowly recuperating and is set to start regular galloping in December, with the ultimate goal of entering the 2012 Dubai World Cup— probably without any prep races.
  17. Soldat - Took a long breather after the Derby and vacationed at a Lexington farm with a return anticipated in the fall. Now that fall’s gone, Soldat is still nowhere to be seen. I’m guessing he needed more down time and will come back next year.
  18. Uncle Mo - Did not start in Derby due to gastrointestinal problems, but rocketed back to a show in the King’s Bishop and a big win in the Kelso Handicap. Unfortunately, he did not show up strong in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and due to his stress-related health condition, he’ll continue on to a stud career at Ashford Stud.
  19. Nehro - Runner-up in the Derby and a strong finisher in the Belmont Stakes, Nehro had to undergo ankle surgery to correct an injury sustained in the latter race. Originally expected to recover in time to make the Breeders’ Cup Classic, he will instead rest up more and come back in 2012 to race again.
  20. Watch Me Go - The plucky underdog of the bunch, he was never a factor in the Virginia Derby and finished fifth in the 6-furlong Select Stakes last out in August.

A new three-year-old star was born when Wilburn (Bernardini x Moonlight Sonata, by Carson City) scorched Shackleford in the stretch of the Indiana Derby (II) to win in a playful romp.

Decisive Moment

Decisive Moment

Indiana Derby Field Begins Taking Form

Just a slice of what grandeur to anticipate on racing’s “Super Saturday” is the three-year-old event the Indiana Derby (II). Usually an undercard race to other, more prominent fall events, several horses listed as “possible” and even “probable” could morph Indiana from an optional to a must-see exhibition.

Confirmed for Indiana is the conqueror of Uncle Mo, super sprinter Caleb’s Posse [pictured] who looks to make his third win in a row at Hoosier Park. Already capable around two turns and looking for one last start before the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, this speedy Posse colt is sure to be one of the top horses to beat no matter how the field turns out. Also confirmed is Wilburn, winner of the Smarty Jones Stakes, and Kentucky Derby runner Decisive Moment.

We all missed him in some way. Mucho Macho Man made resounding efforts in all three of the Triple Crown races this year, and after a much-needed rest from the ol’ glue-on shoes, trainer Kathy Ritvo is sharpening up her sophomore star for a possible re-entry into competition in Indiana. Nothing has been confirmed yet, but Ritvo has been hinting toward one of her star starters running in the Indiana.

Also listed as a possible starter is everyone’s favorite blazed face, Preakness winner Shackleford, who is [wisely] cutting back in distance for the event. It will be his first start following a lackluster performance in the August 28 Travers Stakes, in which he finished 

Also listed as possible are Bob Baffert’s Prayer for Relief— winner of the Super Derby (II), Populist Politics, and Needles Stakes winner Manicero.

Presenting in order of post position: your 2011 Kentucky Derby entries! (Notice how Uncle Mo is in black and white). Good luck to everyone!

Presenting in order of post position: your 2011 Kentucky Derby entries! (Notice how Uncle Mo is in black and white). Good luck to everyone!

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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