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Racetrack Bucket List

Saratoga will likely always be my favorite racing place as a realized childhood dream, a historically significant place, and a buzzworthy racing scene that envelopes the entire small city which embraces “horses, history, and health.”

Now that Keeneland has been confirmed as the site for the 2015 Breeders’ Cup, it has stirred thoughts as to what tracks I would really love to go to someday within North America. If you told me when I was a kid that I would eventually make it out to Saratoga and Belmont, I would have basically flipped out, courtesy of reading Man o’ War multiple times, and thus inheriting a booming love for those two landmark courses. While I doubt anything can top those two, here are my top 5 “bucket list” Thoroughbred tracks:

  1. Keeneland - Epitomizes what is right within the heart of the Bluegrass, and I haven’t stopped hearing good things about the country’s most historically-preserved race place since I seriously entered the racing world. I’m optimistic the switch to dirt will go well, and even if they never changed it, it still takes the top of the list as to where I would go next if asked to go to a new track.
  2. Arlington Park - Kind of a weird choice, but yes, Arlington. I’ve been fascinated with the idea of one day visiting Chicago among several other metropolitan areas of the States, but I feel like Arlington might be up my alley. It’s another place with historical significance and good racing and I’ve heard a lot of good things about it that convince me that I would really like to pay it a visit.
  3. Churchill Downs - Hard to leave this one off the list as arguably the most famous racetrack in the world. I’d like to go there on an off day, Derby Day, and for Downs After Dark. Seems like it has a lot of fun things going on at its height.
  4. Hialeah Park - I am sad to say I never got to go to Hialeah Park while I still lived in South Florida because it wasn’t reopened for racing until after I left. It looks like a wonderful place to visit with its gorgeous Spanish-inspired architecture and the ol’ Citation statue. I would still go there even if they never pick up Thoroughbred racing again.
  5. Del Mar - I would go here next simply because I want to see which one is the better summer place: Saratoga or Del Mar. (I’m pretty sure I would stay faithful to ‘Toga, but just to test the waters)

To close this out, I am 1132893% glad that Keeneland has been chosen as a Breeders’ Cup site. I was part of the early dissenters that Santa Anita continue being the host site or possibly become the permanent site. While the great weather is a very strong argument for it (even for me, the snowbird-in-hibernation come winter months), no weather scenario is perfect and it doesn’t feel right to keep it on the west coast. I also had a major major problem with the track bias it has shown, which SA is thankfully seeing to fixing, and the effects shipping all the way to California has on European horses. Keeneland seems like the ideal fit, as a place which has long drawn rave reviews, totes a great safety record, and brings everyone back to the home of Thoroughbred racing: Kentucky. 

Thanks Groupie Doll!

Thanks Groupie Doll!

Goldencents

Goldencents

Groupie Doll

Groupie Doll

Goldencents

Goldencents

Breeders’ Cup Recaps: Holy Goldencents

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This isn’t so much a “belated” post as it is one that has been allowed to fester and tenderize over the past few weeks. And yet every time I mull over what were the best Breeders’ Cup performances— as much as I disliked the running of the event this year— one horse keeps popping up:

Goldencents.

It was one of those races that looked over from the start. I winced at not including Goldencents in a pick 4 ticket I had built up and would have won had I done so, as soon as I saw the horse in the post parade. Dammit, he looks pretty okay! As I advertised repeatedly, I was still very gung-ho about South American invader and Kelso (II) runner Brujo de Olleros, who I surmised would come roaring in off the pace in a race that was sure to be loaded with it. But as soon as those horses took off and away from the clanging metal, my eyeballs locked with the screen. Goldencents appeared to be running quickly with pistonesque strokes of his legs tapping across the Santa Anita main which he has loved much over the course of the year, but he seemed to be holding any challengers at bay. And he was doing so decisively, and the only thing that came to mind was how much he looked like Fort Larned before that horse rolled over the field to take the Stephen Foster (I) earlier in the year. Oh shit, is someone going to catch him? Will he tank out in the stretch? Just look at those fractions! The evil echo I hear all too often popped on again: Remember what you said earlier in the year when he won the Santa Anita Derby? He’s no good at 10 furlongs, but 9 maybe… a mile is his calling card. Like I did about Shackleford post-Preakness in the following year’s Met Mile, I found myself kicking my own groin.

Whether it was the lightning fast course, the 72-hour security barns, just-deceased grandsire Harlan’s Holiday looking down, or the serendipitous locomotion of Goldie’s racing heart, the Into Mischief colt took the Dirt Mile in a glorious and much deserved romp. Brujo made up ground to be 3rd, again the victim of a course too friendly to speed horses. It hurt to be so torn with the anger many fans and bettors had about the unfair bias mixed with the glee of what was an obviously very fleet horse. Weeks later, I am still beside myself with mood swings that may have cheated a few horses out of year-end honors.

This brings us up to speed for this coming Saturday’s Cigar Mile (I), where Goldencents is set to be the high-weight and will race the Filly & Mare Sprint winner Groupie Doll, G1 winners Verrazano and Private Zone, and Laugh Track, who was an improving 2nd in the Sprint behind Secret Circle. It’s no secret that Aqueduct is a different animal than Santa Anita, and Goldencents will have to dance in the cold New York air after shipping 3,000 miles. With the lack of a detention barn and no holds barred on Todd Pletcher’s home turf, I have agreed with myself that if Goldie prevails again, I’ll freely give up the grudge I’ve had against him all year.

We have winners!

Talk about come-from-behinds and wild finishes, both at the races today and in the leaderboards!

  1. le—pamplemousse: $90.60
  2. Life-in-dreaming: $87.20
  3. Thoughtsonracinglifeandmore: $86.20
  4. Nicoledowland: $85.40
  5. Spottedrainbow: $81.20
  6. Snowbegantofall: $78.40
  7. Behindthecounterinasmalltown: $76.40
  8. Webuiltthepyramids: $64.60
  9. Exactagirl: $64.40
  10. ***Host: $64.00
  11. Palimpsastion: $61.40
  12. Abodemeistro: $60.00
  13. Horseracingfever: $59.00
  14. Taylorswest: $48.20
  15. Sinningincowboyboots: $47.80
  16. Classic-like-a-penguin: $40.80
  17. Jumpsandbumps: $37.80

Congrats to the CHAMP, Le—pamplemousse, who wins by a whisker over Life-in-dreaming. The winner gained ground fast on Saturday’s card after just winning money with Outstrip on Friday, picking Reneesgotzip, Alterite, Will Take Charge, and most importantly, New Year’s Day who really set her ahead of the pack. Life-in-dreaming kept up an impressive Friday showing with great picks on Saturday, choosing The Fugue, Strong Mandate, Reneesgotzip, and Dank. *HUGE* come-from-behind performances should be recognized as players like Nicoledowland (7th yesterday) rocketed forward with picks on Magician [IRE]. Mizdirection, AND Mucho Macho Man. Spottedrainbow also made a huge pick with New Year’s Day, which set her flying forward several positions on day 2. I’ll email our top 2 regarding prizes when I get home from work tomorrow morning.

Thanks for playing everyone! I think my biggest pick was actually Za Approval in the Mile, who paid twice as much as Wise Dan did. I missed a leg on virtually every pick 3 and pick 4 I tried and was begging for Will Take Charge to win that photo… agh!

Private Zone clip-clopping around waiting on the results of the inquiry made against him in the Vosburgh Invitational (I). He would later be announced as the winner.

Private Zone clip-clopping around waiting on the results of the inquiry made against him in the Vosburgh Invitational (I). He would later be announced as the winner.

I’m willing to share with a few of you losers when I win that million dollars.

I’m willing to share with a few of you losers when I win that million dollars.

Breeders’ Cup Saturday Picks

Juvenile Fillies

Kind of a tough race, but I like a few in here enough. Secret Compass won the Chandelier (I) last out after whittling down the very nice She’s A Tiger. I also like Artemis Agrotera, who gets the inside break and has a lot of speed. Sweet Reason was much the best in the Frizette (I) and could be sent early and win this.

  • Top 3 Picks in Order: 1) Artemis Agrotera 2) Sweet Reason 3) Secret Compass
  • Contest Pick: Artemis Agrotera

Filly & Mare Turf

After the domination game yesterday, I am even more biased to go with a European horse. As much as I love Laughing [IRE], I think she’ll get caught this time going beyond her favorite distance of a mile, and more than a few horses here could do that. Forever a Juddmonte ‘capper, I like Romantica [GB], but Dank [GB] is more than good enough— although I’m not a fan of getting an inner post for them. Tiz Flirtacious gets a familiar post to go back-to-back since winning the Rodeo (I) last out.

  • Top 3 Picks in Order: 1) Romantica [GB] 2) Dank [GB] 3) Tiz Fliratcious
  • Contest Pick: Romantica [GB]

Filly & Mare Sprint

Really classy race, but I know who I like. Dance to Bristol has been game all year and fell victim to a wide trip and a rail bias her last race. Judy the Beauty is real fantastic this year, and I sense another good race in her here. Groupie Doll looks to be back on her A game and could pounce to repeat.

  • Top 3 Picks in Order: 1) Dance to Bristol 2) Judy the Beauty 3) Groupie Doll
  • Contest Pick: Dance to Bristol

Turf Sprint

I saw exactly what I wanted from Mizdirection in her warmups, but she will likely be a short price. Spring to the Sky interests the heck out of me as a longshot, and he’s been working very well lately too. Jeranimo is a personal favorite and game athlete that I have to use as well.

  • Top 3 Picks in Order: 1) Mizdirection 2) Jeranimo 3) Spring to the Sky
  • Contest Pick: Jeranimo

Juvenile Colt

Before the bias, I clearly liked Tap It Rich, but I’m not 100% sure a one-race winner can conquer the class step-up right off the bat with it now. Second to that horse, I also really liked Mexikoma, and I still do as a horse who could keep on improving and already likes the front end. Strong Mandate could improve, as he likes this distance and might get a better, unstrangled ride this time.

Top 3 Picks in Order: 1) Mexikoma 2) Strong Mandate 3) Tap It Rich

Contest Pick: Mexikoma

Turf

With a clean trip, The Fugue [GB] is a tour-de-force to win by my account. Point of Entry is our best chance to have an American horse win, but I’m still very wary of his return back with a leg full of pins into a very steep race. Little Mike gets a vote of confidence after his impressive Joe Hirsch and can do it again. Twilight Eclipse is a dish if he keeps his 20-1 ML as a horse who *loves* this distance.

  • Top 3 Picks in Order: 1) The Fugue [GB] 2) Little Mike 3) Point of Entry
  • Contest Pick: Twilight Eclipse

Sprint

I love Justin Phillip the most here, but he may again fall victim to speed bias as a horse who likes to come from off the pace, plus he’s placed on the rail where he could get stuck. I’m going to get over a mistake I made yesterday by NOT skipping over a horse I always thought was being stretched out too far as a Derby horse, so I’m picking Secret Circle on top as a horse keen to keep improving with speed to get to the front early. Gentlemen’s Bet is better than his last two races suggest turning back to dirt, and could proven golden as he’s the quickest horse set to hum off the inside. Trinniberg's been looking great this week in his workouts, and really, his form is probably better than recent races have suggested too.

  • Top 3 Picks in Order: 1) Secret Circle 2) Gentlemen’s Bet 3) Trinniberg
  • Contest Pick: Gentlemen’s Bet

Turf Mile

Wise Dan is again the horse to beat here… can he be beaten on firm ground? I don’t think so, but I’ve always really liked Za Approval— the lone Clement entry of the Breeders’ Cup races— and Silentio.

  • Top 3 Picks in Order: 1) Wise Dan 2) Za Approval 3) Silentio
  • Contest Pick: Za Approval

Classic

An even more convoluted race with the speed bias on tap, things could get messy in a power struggle for the lead and a fight set to emerge in the stretch. Game On Dude is the horse to beat, and as long as Bob Baffert can survive the 72-hour surveillance test, he’ll again be hard to beat shooting to be close to that lead. Fort Larned is a total beast with speed to burn, and if given the right trip, he’s nearly unstoppable. As much as Palace Malice has to gain— his Trakus figures put him ahead of Ron the Greek in the JCGC where he ran a winning race anyway against the bias— I have to nod towards Moreno who gets an inner post and likes to shoot for the lead early. Maybe he’ll get it, maybe he won’t, but outside the bias, Will Take Charge is the best three-year-old here. Declaration of War is flippin interesting, and I’ll be watching him the whole time.

  • Top 3 Picks in Order: 1) Game On Dude 2) Fort Larned 3) Will Take Charge
  • Contest Pick: Fort Larned
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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