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Breeders’ Cup Classic Profile #8: Moreno



(Ghostzapper x Danceinthesunlight, by A.P. Indy)

  • Trainer: Eric Guillot
  • Jockey: Joe Talamo
  • Owned by: Southern Equine Stable
  • Career Record: 14:2-5-2
  • Earnings: $669,440

Vital Stats:

  • 2013 Record: 11:2-5-1
  • 2013 accomplishments: G1-placed (2nd, Travers Stakes), G2 winner (Dwyer Stakes)
  • Santa Anita record: 5:0-2-0
  • TrueNicks rating: C Variant 0.78
  • Dosage Index: 3.25
  • Sire Ghostzapper won this race in 2004
  • Highest Equibase Speed Figure of 2013: 114 (Unchanged from last year)
  • Lost last prep (2nd in Pennsylvania Derby by 2 1/4 lengths)
  • Aims to be the first 3-year-old to win the Classic since Raven’s Pass in 2008

Summary: Certainly one of my most beloved heart picks of the year and favorite three-year-old Moreno started the summer as a longshot maiden and ended it nearly winning the Midsummer Derby at Saratoga. A late bloomer, his connections have insisted that the wiry little gelding has been getting better and better each time out, and it’s not hard to see why with the results he’s been getting.

Prep Schedule: One of the most seasoned horses in the race with 11 starts, Moreno raced in maiden special weights unsuccessfully 6 times before shipping to Belmont Park on Belmont Stakes Day, where he finally broke through and won by daylight in a nice big field. Truly showing he dug the dirt, he won the Dwyer Stakes (II) a month later, coasting from wire-to-wire to win by 7 lengths. Taking a step up in class company, he set the pace next out in the Jim Dandy (II), being collared late by Palace Malice whom he fought tooth and nail and was eventually 3rd to Will Take Charge by 3 1/4 lengths. He nearly tricked the field next out in the Travers, setting an easy pace early on to just fall short in the closing strides to Will Take Charge, losing that race by a nose. He went toe-to-toe again with Will Take Charge in the Pennsylvania Derby, once again being bested in the stretch to lose by 2 1/4 lengths.


Physique: I was disappointed when I saw Moreno in person after following him around on paper and online for months beforehand, and even though he ran beyond that impression, he definitely explains to onlookers why he’s probably a gelding. He’s small and a little rangey, but is long-bodied and an easy strider.

Pedigree: One of the best of the bunch: Moreno is sired by impressive 2004 winner Ghostzapper, who himself is a son of 1998 winner and routing sire Awesome Again and out of blue hen Baby Zip. Moreno’s dam is Danceinthesunlight, an unraced daughter of super sire A.P. Indy and G1 winner Dancethruthedawn, who is a daughter of Danzig and Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Dance Smartly, who is a half sister to super sire Smart Strike. Need I go on?

Running Style: On or very near the pace

Pros: Yes he’s been improving, but possibly Moreno’s greatest weapon is his longshot status as a front runner on fast, speed-favoring dirt. He’s nearly gotten away with things before, who’s to say they might not immediately go after him and his typical slow fractions early? Add to this he is a very game horse who runs very effortlessly with a knockout classic pedigree.

Cons: He could never break his maiden at Santa Anita, so who is to say Moreno just likes running in New York like a *lot* of horses do? Will Take Charge is a questionable Classic competitor, and that horse clearly beat him in the Pennsylvania Derby. Moreno also takes a class hike as he runs against older horses for the first time.

Final Word: Prime for longshot status once again, sweet baby Moreno has some pretty stacked odds in a race full of forwardly-placed horses. If he can somehow slow things down, he has a shot to hit the board. I do not consider him a win candidate… although I will not-so-secretly be the happiest person in an American living room if he does pull it off.

Market Quote caused quite a stir on Sunday at Santa Anita. The three-year-old daughter of After Market stood still in the gates for a good 3 seconds in her debut over a mile on grass, but then made a Zenyatta-like move to win with Joe Talamo up. Considering how fast the Santa Anita course typically is, it was a very impressive performance for a horse making her first start. Congrats to trainer John Shirreffs and owner/breeders Martin and Pam Wygod on their “good one!”

Weekend Stake Tip: It’s a Feelgood Sport

Handicapping was done lightly this weekend, but fruitful— much more so than last weekend where I finished in the red (losing money as opposed to the usual gain of $15-20 on average or at least breaking even). The handicapped race of the week nailed the exacta of Teeth of the Dog, Fast Falcon in what was a really thrilling rendition of the Dwyer (II), despite a LOT of handicappers out there insisting Unstoppable U was fresh for the test. I hope to see both of these colts try the Travers (I). Additional wagers were won on a runner-up Juddmonte Empire Maker colt named Input at 14-1 (usually I don’t wager on undercard races, but this one offered great value and was super strong in this race) over at Belmont, top pick Camp Victory at 10-1 in the Triple Bend (I), and Hansen in the Iowa Derby (III).

The highlight of the summer no doubt has to be the Saratoga meet, the star attraction being the Travers Stakes (I) held in late August. Michael Matz trainee Teeth of the Dog proved his mettle again on Saturday while winning the Dwyer (II) in a test that determined his talent as well as his fortitude. The biggest question that determined who I wound up picking, Teeth of the Dog or Fast Falcon for the win, was whether or not the Dog was really 5 pounds better than that sharp runner-up of the Easy Goer. People tend to discount weight imposts now that no one gets a 10 or 15 pound break like they did in the old days, but they’re still important in certain races. Rewatching the Easy Goer footage, Teeth of the Dog did not endure the best trip and was rolling in the stretch. I don’t think Fast Falcon would have caught him had he moved earlier. Thus, you can imagine my fright when the Dog went to the early speed and was charged by Fast Falcon in the stretch, with the win being settled by a dramatic duel. Oy! Teeth of the Dog has some class, all right. Watch replay below

Unless I’m feeling good about a particular horse, I usually stray away from the sprints. However, with word out about trainer Mike Mitchell’s brain tumor, I felt a major power play brewing in the wide-open Triple Bend (I). Mitchell’s daughter is engaged to jockey Julien Leparoux, and with regular Joe Talamo aboard a talented darkhorse in Camp Victory, it was a no-brainer pick at 10-1. The Factor would be a bold favorite with his flashy speed, but with so many inconsistencies to his record, he was a hard sell off his Dubai crumble. Smiling Tiger also failed to impress me racing on Belmont Stakes Day, so he was also out. For a while it looked like the rail-running The Factor would keep burning oil right to the wire but in came Camp Victory! With competitive speed numbers, the underdog from a recovering trainer put the pedal to the floor in the stretch and established one of the most memorable sprint wins I’ve seen so far this year. While the New England Patriots couldn’t pull off an emotion-based win in the Super Bowl, don’t count out racehorses and their jockeys. Watch replay here

Racing Beat: June 10, Belmont Edition

Coming soon now that I just thought of it and acquired some background touches: vidya handicapping all fancy-like. Guinea pig for next weekend: the Stephen Foster Handicap (I).

D. Wayne Lukas and I have at least one thing in common now after Hamazing Destiny reared up and struck him atop the head. Ouch.

Best of luck today to Yummy With Butter, who will butt-ering heads (hehe get it?) with Get Stormy and Data Link in the Monmouth Stakes (II). I think he’s a worthwhile bet, getting a whopping 7-pound break from the two favorites. Just needs a good trip is all.

Some tips for my future self and all others who want to go to another major stakes day: bring umbrella, bring warm clothes, bring cooler full of food and water, bring fold-out chair to park by the fence (get to the parking gates early of course), and leave none of them in the car. Bonus tip: if you want cheap merch, wait a little while before you buy… sketchy vendors might walk around selling duffel bags full of what you wanted at a fraction of the retail amount >.> Also, if you have catheters, insert them.

Douchebag J. Crew model-look alikes everywhere. I’ve never seen so many fucking boat shoes in my life.

Elmont, New York passed all my ghetto credentials: it has liquor stores next to “churches/congregations,” a 99 cent store every other block, and neon lighting in the windows up the wazoo. (I am referencing the Hempstead Turnpike)

So proud of Union Rags AND Atigun! Street Life was up there, as well (and what a small horse he is in real life)!

Mario Gutierrez is the cutest jockey alive, stopping to wave to all of his youngest fans in the post parades.

Everyone around me appeared to be wagering heavily on either Paynter or Unstoppable U (hahaha what? And why was he 10-1?)… all’s fair in love, war, and ponies.

I am writing the NYRA to protest a few things… mainly how the “security” guards walking the tunnel between the fence and the outer rail had no walkie talkies when we asked to have a few drunks behind us dealt with. Danger potential, much?

I don’t know if it showed up on TV/video replay, but before Winter Memories stopped gaining on Tapitsfly in the Just a Game Stakes (I), it looked like she stepped into something deep and just slightly tripped. Tapitsfly deserved the win, but I can’t help but wonder about what I saw…

The sport of kings: where aging school buses shuttle you in on one of its biggest days!

Racing would make a lot more money on stakes days if they made official phone apps for betting. I saw so many people who wanted to go back up to the windows to bet more after seeing certain horses on the track, but couldn’t because they wouldn’t make it on time or were trapped by the crowds. I would have won more money then, personally!

Zayat is the unluckiest name in horse racing. Period.

I never want to have to see a breakdown like Giant Ryan's… or worse… again if I can help it. I also never want to have to be in front of drunken college assholes who think it's funny to mock the horse when he's down and helpless.

Tweet o’ the Week: Joe Talamo has a sense of humor

I Want Revenge with Joe Talamo before winning the 2009 Wood Memorial (Photo by Kristi Narang)

I Want Revenge with Joe Talamo before winning the 2009 Wood Memorial (Photo by Kristi Narang)

"Wave Your Flag" Breeders’ Cup Celebration

Skipshot (Skip Away x Heavenly Note, by Sunny’s Halo) [left] and Joel Rosario steal the lead from a tiring Sidney’s Candy (Candy Ride [ARG] x Fair Exchange, by Storm Cat) and Joe Talamo in the 2010 Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park. Skipshot wins.

Skipshot (Skip Away x Heavenly Note, by Sunny’s Halo) [left] and Joel Rosario steal the lead from a tiring Sidney’s Candy (Candy Ride [ARG] x Fair Exchange, by Storm Cat) and Joe Talamo in the 2010 Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park. Skipshot wins.

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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