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2012 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (I) champion Mizdirection with Mike Smith and owner Jim Rome

2012 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (I) champion Mizdirection with Mike Smith and owner Jim Rome

The Unforgettable Races of 2012: #10-1


Continued from the #20-11 best races post, it’s time to hammer out the ten most awesome and memorable races from 2012! Again, a lot of my choices are North American, so you Euro fans and the like take it easy on me!

Honorable mention: I believe I miscounted the number of races I had before… I really meant to include Mizdirection’s Turf Sprint here in the middle of the countdown. Ugh! I knew I was bad at math but this is very erroneous… sorry Miz!

10) Union Rags sneaks by Paynter to win Belmont (I) - My most personal race from 2012 being that I was there for it, whether you cared for the race or not it was still one not to miss. Hot improver Paynter looked like the first horse in some time that could win the Test of the Champion wire-to-wire until Union Rags managed to find a path through on the inside just as time ran out. Watch it here

9) Questing all shock and awe in Alabama (I) performance - I was kind of heart-broken to have missed this race in person (it was between this weekend and the Whitney weekend I had to go to Saratoga), but all in all, it was still a jaw-dropping display of raw ability watching Questing set Secretariat-like fractions in a wire-to-wire romp in the Alabama (I) against top-class fillies! Watch it here

8) Shackleford deflects Caleb’s Posse to win stunning Met Mile (I) - I didn’t have him to win despite feeling that he could win this race last year after his Preakness victory, all because I thought he was in bad form. Shack Attack proved me wrong and his fan base was jubilant as he kept right on going in a rousing renewal of his rivalry with Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (I) champion Caleb’s Posse. Watch it here

7) My Miss Aurelia ousts Questing in Cotillion (I) match race - Despite boasting a four horse field, it was really a match race between undefeated Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (I) winner My Miss Aurelia and the rising star Questing, each well-handicapped against each other to make things an interesting race. Each filly gave it her best and it was quite the million-dollar race. Watch it here

6) Royal Delta digs in, gives away weight, and still prevails in gutsy Delaware Handicap (II) - We all knew she was something special, but a fast horse is nothing without a big heart. Royal Delta gave away 3 to 10 pounds to all of her foes, including a whopping 9 to recent Azeri (III) winner Tiz Miz Sue who challenged her in the stretch when she already appeared to be going all out. Watch it here

5) Wise Dan conquers international field, holds off Animal Kingdom in Breeders’ Cup Mile (I) - A vulnerable favorite, Wise Dan capped off an impeccable year as a do-it-all gelding with a win in the seriously competitive Breeders’ Cup Mile against shippers of colossal class. He skirted away to the lead in the stretch as easily as he did in past starts while managing to hold off Animal Kingdom who came sweeping in late. Watch it here

4) I’ll Have Another catches Bodemeister in dramatic Kentucky Derby (I) - A curious race from its rocky start, Bodemeister unexpectedly outran predicted pacesetter Trinniberg early and looked prime to wire the Derby in an outstanding display of might, only to tire and be caught late by the heroic I’ll Have Another. Watch it here

3) Orfevre caught by Solemia in upsetting Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (FR-I) - While it appeared that Japan’s Triple Crown winner was going to revel in the one of the world’s most prestigious races, it was Solemia who stormed in late and out of the clouds to upset the good Orfevre in the waning moments of the Arc. Watch it here

2) Frankel bows a perfect winner in Champion Stakes (ENG-I) - A timeless, unforgettable sort of horse, the fantastic Frankel made his last start worthwhile as he encountered trouble in the early stages of the race while running on soft turf against some of the best horses in Europe. The crowd cheering to a sustained din, it was the ideal end to a superhorse’s legacy. Watch it here

1) Black Caviar outsmarts and outsprints them all in Ascot’s Diamond Jubilee (ENG-I) to stay perfect - Humming off the rail in an unprecendented ship from Australia to England, the world’s most perfect sprinter looked easy-going making her move to the lead, but nearly lost her undefeated streak when jockey Luke Nolen appeared to ease her too early. Watch it here

The Unforgettable Races of 2012: #20-11


The sport of kings played spectator to even more thrills and surprises in 2012, with favorites and unexpected surprises all playing their roles and making the crowd roar from California to Dubai. Of course, there’s no one right answer in determining which performance was best or which horse was most compelling in their victories. It was difficult sifting through so many races, and while I’m compelled to include more, I’ll keep it to twenty unforgettable races. Because I’m more an expert on North American racing, yes there will be a bias towards American races, so do be wary of what I wound up picking. Let’s get started…

20) Game On Dude gets redemption in Californian (II) blowout - “STRAIGHT AND STRONG!” After a disappointing 12th place performance in the Dubai World Cup (I), “the Dude” shipped back home to Santa Anita to go wire-to-wire in the 9-furlong Californian. He toyed with the field from the start, and ran away on the far turn to cement an incredible 8 1/2 length victory. Watch it here

19) Alpha and Golden Ticket dead-heat in Travers (I) - A jumbled race from the betting windows, longshot Golden Ticket refused to yield to encroaching favorite Alpha in the stretch of the three-year-old classic and the two colts hit the wire together for the first time in the race’s long history. Watch it here

18) Ron the Greek catches Wise Dan in unexpected Stephen Foster (I) result - The heavy favorite in a strong field, Wise Dan looked like the winner coming to the line of the 10-furlong Churchill Downs race only to be caught by rail runner Ron the Greek. It was Wise Dan’s lone loss of the year by a short head. Watch it here

17) Fort Larned runs to the nines, upsets Breeders’ Cup Classic (I) - Down but not out, the Ian Wilkes trainee celebrated his jockey’s birthday by wiring the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita, deflecting a determined Mucho Macho Man in the stretch to register an upset win. Watch it here

16) Believe You Can leads Rosie Napravnik to first Kentucky Oaks (I) - For the first time since the race started in 1875, a female jockey prevailed aboard the Larry Jones entry with a name all too fitting for making history. The lilies fell to Believe You Can in an upset performance at the Downs. Watch it here

15) Groupie Doll much the best among the best in Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (I) - There was no denying that Groupie Doll was the “lock” of the Breeders’ Cup championships. She broke smooth and slow to creep up on the pacesetters and from there it was repetitive brilliance as the four-year-old filly romped to her fifth win of the year and third G1. Watch it here

14) Bodemeister turns Arkansas Derby (I) into a runaway - He was not the favorite, but by the looks of things he should have been. The rapidly-improving stablemate of Secret Circle took his stablemate head on in the Oaklawn stretch and poured it on from there, outclassing the more experienced colts to register a a nearly 10-length romp to become the Derby favorite. Watch it here

13) Little Mike notches yet another surprise ousting top horses in Breeders’ Cup Turf (I) - The cheap little gelding gave a big performance in yet another world class race, funneling through the inside rail from off-the-pace to upset some of the world’s best grass horses when he appeared to be off his game. Watch it here

12) I’ll Have Another catches Bodemeister once more in Preakness (I) - The Derby winner still had something to prove in the shorter, tighter second leg of the Triple Crown but replicated a similar sort of brilliance as he did in Kentucky. With Bodemeister jetting off to a widening lead in the stretch, I’ll Have Another caught his rival again in the waning moments of the race to stay alive for the Triple Crown. Watch it here

11) Royal Delta squishes top field, shows new front-running dimension in her defense of the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic (I) - The toughest race in the championships, returning champion Royal Delta made it look too easy to be real as she set her sights on the lead and held it down to discourage a field full of top G1-winning fillies in another brilliant performance. Watch it here

Stay tuned for races #10-1!

Ten to Watch in 2013


Not everyone had a good 2012 due to injury, slow goings, illness, you name it. There’s a whole basket of excuses to keep a good horse off a track, but they’re all done in the name of conserving that talent for when the time is right. For these ten, I think 2013 might be their best year yet after warming up a bit this year.

10) Eblouissante - Being Zenyatta’s sister is tough, but this girl looked tough-as-nails in her debut race at Hollywood Park. The nearly-black coming four-year-old looks the part of a promising stakes champion, so let’s hope she bucks that dreary Bernardini curse. I can see her taking up plenty more distance, but I’m particularly interested in how she’ll do on dirt in California.

9) Midnight Transfer - I realize I’m probably full of steam, but I can’t shake the frustration how much this guy was/is still being ignored. He went stale to finish 7th in the Santa Anita Derby (I) and was given time off, and has now recently returned to work and is looking just magical. If you go by bloodlines alone, he looks even better as a four-year-old: by Hard Spun and out of a French Deputy mare. Once an intriguing horse on the Derby trail this year, I’m feeling a big comeback is in store!

8) Saratoga Snacks - Bill Parcell’s New York-bred ridgeling got a slower start than most three-year-old colts, but the son of Tale of the Cat has won 4 times this year and placed once in 5 starts— all over New York’s prestigious circuit. After a close runner-up to Lunar Victory and a most recent win over the unstoppable Saginaw, it’s clear this guy’s on the improve. 2013 could mean a first graded stakes for Snacks, and perhaps something more!

7) Unbridled Command - The Master Command sophomore colt solidified his status as a true contender when he won his fifth straight race last out in the Hollywood Derby (I) under surprisingly long 10-1 odds. I like a number of horses he beat— Grandeur [IRE] and Lucky Chappy [IRE]— so that is even more credit to him. Trainer Thomas Bush is high on how easy he does it, and given how lightly he was pushed this year, I’m expecting a big breakthrough year for this gray colt.

6) Mark Valeski - I’ll admit, I didn’t like this colt from Larry Jones’s barn immediately, but he has a heck of a work ethic and was on the edge of really proving himself when he was sidelined from the Kentucky Derby. He validated his connections’ reservations by snatching a well-deserved break winning the Peter Pan (II) before being sidelined again with injury. By Proud Citizen and one of Rosie Napravnik’s true golden rides, he has G1 potential written all over and looks to ready to roll back on the track with bullet breezes.

5) Graydar - The Unbridled’s Song colt was off for most of the year after snuffing out Eight Belles’ full brother at Gulfstream in the spring, but since his recent return he’s been looking better than ever on the heels of his four-year-old year. He went to the front early last out in a mile-long test at Gulfstream, winning by 4 1/4 lengths and just missing the great Commentator’s track mark by .01 seconds! Not bad for a first start off a 3 month layoff! And nobody huff at me that track records don’t mean anything… I began liking Fort Larned after he busted one at Gulfstream, as well!

4) Paynter - The G1-winning son of Awesome Again looked compelling beating up the Haskell field, and by his stunning rate of improvement, looked like the kind of horse we never see anymore: a classic, distance-loving, beats-everything-on-four-legs type. Expected to continue training with Baffert in the coming days, I hope he’s got plenty of fight left in him after his laminitis-colitis battle.

3) Applauding - The Florida-bred daughter of Congrats set the racing world ablaze when she rewrote Keeneland’s 6-furlong mark in her debut win, driving home to win by a gob-smacking 9 lengths. She laid off and raced just once this year, maintaining her spotless record going wire-to-wire in a 6-furlong Churchill allowance. Seeing how much I liked another Congrats filly in Turbulent Descent when that one was just 2 and went on to win much, I have some right to excitement.

2) Mucho Macho Man - Too gangly to get my vote when he ran all three Triple Crown races, Mucho looked outstanding all filled out as a four-year-old. While he won a great deal of races and in impressive style, I think he’s got something better in the tank. Kathy Ritvo knows how this colt ticks and I am lying in wait for a G1 year for this guy in 2013!

1) Animal Kingdom - Must I elaborate? Graham Motion has called the 2010 Kentucky Derby winner the best horse he’s ever trained, and well, Animal looks and acts like this is truth. A horse that cantered to an allowance victory, he injured himself again but re-emerged in the fall as the showstopping runner-up in the super tough Breeders’ Cup Mile. Dare I say, he stole the show from Wise Dan, who looks to be crowned Horse of the Year soon. I expect nothing less than roses for what I believe is the world’s greatest active racehorse. He does it all, and so brilliantly.

Game faces on: Patrick Smullen and Sense of Purpose [IRE] in the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Marathon (II) post parade. They finished 12th of 13. (Photo by Jeanine Williams)

Game faces on: Patrick Smullen and Sense of Purpose [IRE] in the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Marathon (II) post parade. They finished 12th of 13. (Photo by Jeanine Williams)

Looking Back and Looking Forward to 2013

There are horse racing blogs that are mostly (if not entirely) about handicapping and others full of romanticized anecdotes, either about legends of the past or personal stories that I could never hope to replicate because, well, I don’t live next-door to a track. With Galloping Hat Rack, I hope to do something no one has done and what ought to be done to continue to pull in fans to the sport: fun, fresh, modern perspective. Horse racing tends to take itself too seriously, too dried-out-grape in nature, too much focus on the negative and the brevity of it all. I always try to remember what I was like when I was new to this atmosphere… remembering that curious girl down by the rail clutching a win ticket on English Spirit in the fourth at Calder… all while trying to be as appealing as possible to both the newbies and the veterans. I’ve come a long way since I bet on English Spirit and watched War Emblem on TV, and yet there is still much to do.

Wonderful, awesome things that happened to me this year in and around horse racing:

  • Revamped the blog in January and gave it a new domain name and layout; celebrated it with the First Annual Derby Handicap Contest.
  • Despite still being in relative infancy in handicapping, I analyzed (along with many of you) the whole Triple Crown road, and while I missed many that I now know better about, I snagged a couple longshots in Castaway (15-1 in a Southwest Stakes division) and in one of my proudest moments in handicapping, the Kentucky Oaks winner Believe You Can (15-1). Breeders’ Cup time allowed me two big wins in Marathon winner Calidioscopio [ARG] (19-1) and Classic victor Fort Larned (9-1). These all weren’t my only published longshot picks that won, too, so there was much to be proud of.
  • I kept my promise to myself from last year that I was going to see the Belmont Stakes! I spent the entire day there and while I didn’t do so well with most of the card, I got the winner… my “heart” pick Union Rags!
  • I lived my childhood dreams reading about it in Man o’ War and finally got to visit historic old Saratoga Race Course in the flesh for the Whitney Invitational. It was hot, hot, hot but I’d relive that day all too willingly.
  • I got to see many top horses in the flesh including many personal favorites: Union Rags, Winter Memories, Fort Larned, Agave Kiss, Trinniberg, Teeth of the Dog, Dullahan, Atigun, Paynter, Street Life, Ron the Greek, Flat Out, Hightail, Brilliant Speed, Tapitsfly, Balance the Books, and more!
  • I improved in handicapping a lot; I really didn’t know much about doing turf races until this year and now I kind of have a handle on them and I’m doing better at sprints. At the start of the year, I was happy to just break even and now I usually take in $15-20 in a regular weekend and have pretty consistent top picks.
  • Announced and exceeded a fundraising goal of $100 for New Vocations.
  • A few industry people let me know they liked my blog, as well as many Tumblr people, which ultimately buoyed my motivation.
  • Follower count more than doubled within the last year

My horse racing goals for next year:

  • Keep on improving my handicapping skills, especially when it comes to finding the best wager format.
  • Pick up more lenses. I’ll need them as I learn to take better pictures and video. Which will lead me to one of my other goals for next year: my first independent, short documentary on horse racing TBA in January/February.
  • Visit Aqueduct for the first time (I’m thinking Met Mile, perhaps Wood Memorial or the Cigar Mile)
  • Perfect and launch Horse Wars, a digital web video series
  • Raise $200 for retired racehorses
  • Go to the Belmont again mwahahaha
  • Visit Saratoga again and if I can for two days, not just one

Of course, a lot of my goals will go incomplete if I don’t experience an “upgrade” on my job scenario, but I remain optimistic about that all changing sooner than later. In January I will announce the details of the new film project, launch the 2nd Annual Derby Handicap, and other new objectives.

An extra special thank you is required to everyone— follower or casual lurker, doesn’t matter— who has read and or stopped by the blog this year. It’s been great to talk to many of you and just feel the appreciation and interest I never anticipated getting when I first started. I hope the new year treats everyone well and to see you all around and about the Interwebs!

High hoof,


I’ll Have Another: Charging Toward History

I’ll Have Another

I’ll Have Another

History made and repeated: Mike Smith wins his record-breaking 16th Breeders’ Cup win, surpassing Jerry Bailey’s record of 15, while Royal Delta becomes only the second mare to win two Ladies’ Classics back-to-back after the great Bayakoa [ARG].
Mr. Besilu, thank you for spending $8 million on this mare who was totally worth it as she keeps on winning with her original trainer and will hopefully try for the Classic next year… that is, if you’re sticking to your game plan.

History made and repeated: Mike Smith wins his record-breaking 16th Breeders’ Cup win, surpassing Jerry Bailey’s record of 15, while Royal Delta becomes only the second mare to win two Ladies’ Classics back-to-back after the great Bayakoa [ARG].

Mr. Besilu, thank you for spending $8 million on this mare who was totally worth it as she keeps on winning with her original trainer and will hopefully try for the Classic next year… that is, if you’re sticking to your game plan.

I’ll Have Another and Bodemeister duel in the 2012 Kentucky Derby (Photo by John McDonnell)

I’ll Have Another and Bodemeister duel in the 2012 Kentucky Derby (Photo by John McDonnell)

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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