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The Unforgettable Races of 2012: #10-1

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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

Weekend Stake Tip: Notadirthorsebutnope

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I renewed my domain name yesterday, so I guess Galloping Hat Rack is going to be around another year. Yay?!

Weekend races were predictably meh, as January prep races for the Derby and such are kind of not important. Really. For the race of the week, the Jerome (II) at Aqueduct, I took a chance and decided to give another one to Notacatbutallama (a ridiculously 10-1 morning line bet down to 9-2), who is either off his form or is just a turf horse at heart as he hung in the stretch again after making a mild move on the turn. Speed played a part, as longshot Siete de Oros (41-1) nearly pulled off the upset on my second choice Vyjack (1-1), who sat right behind him the whole time and just barely bobbed him out for the win. Not too far behind but well out of his element was third pick Long River (5-2) in fourth with third place going to another longshot in Amerigo Vespucci (39-1). Overall I’m not impressed with the Sham Stakes (III) either, and still think Den’s Legacy is an interesting kind of horse, who managed to run second. Goldencents was terrible value winning, and I can’t wait to go against him later on when the races start getting too long for him.

I have to admit something though— when I found out the two races’ favorites were both by freshman sire Into Mischief, I remembered last year’s Sham winner Out of Bounds being by Discreet Cat, who at the time was also a freshman sire. Discreet Cat experienced 2 graded winners the same day as last year’s Sham with Out of Bounds and I believe a filly on the east coast. The whole thing felt terribly ironic but I stubbornly stuck to my guns! AND EVEN MORE IRONIC, DISCREET CAT WAS A JEROME WINNER! Worth mentioning: Out of Bounds is back in training in Dubai!

If I had to pick one of the two as posed by horseracingchick, I’d take Vyjack. He was going two turns for the first time, was game in a good finish time, and all while being less experienced. I think he could probably be the better horse. Not by much though. Here’s the Jerome replay if you missed it… I will talk about the speed bias and turf-to-dirt excuses for Notacatbutallama below.

It’s kind of tough to determine what horses will transfer their form from one surface onto another well enough to compete. After two unexcusable misses on dirt both fast and sloppy, it’s evident that Notacatbutallama likely won’t be going to the Downs in May despite dirt pedigree. From this experience, I guess we can draw a few notes for the future about transferring good form from surface to surface:

  • Works don’t matter as much - Recalling earlier efforts to handicap say, the Breeders’ Cup Marathon, a lot of turf horses were running on the dirt with good works on the surface. How much did this mean in the real race? Not much. Maybe it had to do with the dirt getting kicked up in their faces, or maybe they just didn’t like it much. Perhaps I can make an exception at times when they seem valid, however, such as Animal Kingdom’s impressive work on dirt in the days leading up to the Kentucky Derby (his first start on dirt).
  • Speed succeeds - Or at least I think it does. A turf horse that likes to be closer to the front on the grass possibly has more ability to do so on dirt, giving them a better chance at success. A turf closing type has to dig in hard at the end, and on dirt this is even harder to do for obvious reasons. Of course, this ultimately depends on how fast the track is playing that day.

Again, this is more me trying to think of an explanation that might not have a real explanation. The track was not in Notacatbutallama’s favor for several reasons: 1) He’s probably not a dirt horse, 2) He’s a mid-pack closer, a “grinder” who could not compete with the speed bias at Aqueduct. The inner track, despite some hearsay, appears to still favor speed players… I’m sure everyone remembers how Calibrachoa somehow beat Caleb’s Posse's closing rush last year (Calibra sat just off two dueling frontrunners then assumed the lead and held it)! Recalling all these I feel kind of dumb for not going with the speedier horse.

With a nice carryover Rainbow Pick Six for Wednesday, I hope to share picks for that day’s Gulfstream Park card, which has been full of nice value plays and is one of my preferred tracks. Perhaps I will even wager something.

You can’t put a price on a fan favorite. “Mighty Mouse” and career sprinter Jackson Bend has been retired according to trainer Nick Zito, after the horse who always gives it his all finished a responseless 7th and last in the Forego (I). He was one of 8 horses to sweep the Florida Stallion Stakes series as a juvenile then went on to win 4 more including this year’s G1 Carter Handicap over Preakness (I) victor Shackleford and Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (I) winner Caleb’s Posse.

You can’t put a price on a fan favorite. “Mighty Mouse” and career sprinter Jackson Bend has been retired according to trainer Nick Zito, after the horse who always gives it his all finished a responseless 7th and last in the Forego (I). He was one of 8 horses to sweep the Florida Stallion Stakes series as a juvenile then went on to win 4 more including this year’s G1 Carter Handicap over Preakness (I) victor Shackleford and Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (I) winner Caleb’s Posse.

Racing Beat: July 15

The unexpected retirement of Caleb’s Posse has me looking for a new best sprinter. Just hearing that Shackleford, who just barely bested Caleb in the Met Mile (I), was legitimately tired for the first time following the race which featured a duel between the two, makes me proud to see such tenacity between two excellent dirt milers. We’ll miss ya, Caleb.

The Travers logo has been revealed!

I didn’t know horses liked to go canoeing…

Can I’ll Have Another replicate a similar horse’s success in Japan (Sunday Silence)? Winner of two legs over a more popular rival, flawed conformation, cheap auction purchase, generally unwanted in North American breeding?

If you haven’t heard the one about the Asmussen mares turning up at a kill auction recently, you need to Google that one.

Taking bets now for how many Bernardinis will make the Breeders’ Cup races this year. Also, taking bets for a side pool that win or lose, the stud fee for 2013 will not drop.

Guess I probably won’t get to see Shackleford before he retires… the blaze face’s heading for the Forego Stakes (II).

I looked up Rattlesnake Bridge this week… he had a 3-furlong breeze in :37 on June 18 at Belmont. Maybe a Saratoga return?

Seriously Santa Anita? Stop trying to reinvent yourself by renaming races. Now I have no idea which one is which! This is dumb!

How Malibu Moon (2012 fee: $70,000) horses sell for so much at auction, I’ll never know… why not consider “middle market” sires more often like Include ($12,500) and Proud Citizen ($10,000) who are doing a hell of a lot better at the races?

Will the feds finally step in after the steady stream of (mostly) bullshit articles from The New York Times? On that note, I wish horse racing was like playing games— cheaters banned for life.

I don’t think putting Hansen in the West Virginia Derby (II) as opposed to the richer Haskell (I) is a bad move at all. Let him mentally mature and test the waters post-Derby there before facing off against Bodemeister. I wonder if they’ve considered tossing Dominguez at this point.

Alex Brown Racing (a website that gained popularity as a source for all things Barbaro for his fans) now has its own podcast of sorts. Naturally, being an awkward person, I have veered away from participating and or creating podcasts. Plus mine would go something like this: “OH MA GAWD HOW CUTE IS COZZETTI? HOW ABOUT ATIGUN? RAAAAAAGSY!” Repeat for 60 minutes.

While I didn’t have her down to win (rooting for Izzy Rules), I’m glad Switch is Breeders’ Cup-bound after the A Gleam (II) yesterday. She gave one of the most memorable performances up against Zenyatta, after all.

Tweet o’ the Week:

Caleb’s Posse, in my opinion, had the best and most decisive performance in last year’s Breeders’ Cup when he won the Dirt Mile (I) in a final bounding rush. He was scathingly close to three separate stakes wins this year, including the memorable Met Mile (I) against Shackleford. I still think he deserved to win the Eclipse Award last year, but what can you do… now that he’s been retired, I hope he will pass on his consistency and will to win on to his foals. I’m going to guess he’ll get $20,000 his first year at stud starting 2013. (Photo by Matthew Stockman)

Caleb’s Posse, in my opinion, had the best and most decisive performance in last year’s Breeders’ Cup when he won the Dirt Mile (I) in a final bounding rush. He was scathingly close to three separate stakes wins this year, including the memorable Met Mile (I) against Shackleford. I still think he deserved to win the Eclipse Award last year, but what can you do… now that he’s been retired, I hope he will pass on his consistency and will to win on to his foals. I’m going to guess he’ll get $20,000 his first year at stud starting 2013. (Photo by Matthew Stockman)

DOUCHEBAG HOW COULD YOU SAY CALEB'S POSSE IS BETTER!? I OBJECT. I'M ANGRY. I WILL CALL MR. ROMANS RIGHT NOW AND COMPLAIN!!!

Asked by thoughtsonracinglifeandmore

This threat would have been a lot scarier if you went on anon!

If I had a dollar for every time I disagreed with what Dale Romans does, I’d look like a stripper with all the singles I had.

I realize I probably sound like a d-bag, but while it was a good race I feel like Caleb’s Posse is the best miler in the country. To Honor and Serve didn’t stand much of a chance being stuck on the rail and having to check around Shackleford to get clear running room. But alas, Shack’s a beast. I still can’t get over how huge a horse he is every time I see photos of him!

I realize I probably sound like a d-bag, but while it was a good race I feel like Caleb’s Posse is the best miler in the country. To Honor and Serve didn’t stand much of a chance being stuck on the rail and having to check around Shackleford to get clear running room. But alas, Shack’s a beast. I still can’t get over how huge a horse he is every time I see photos of him!

Shackleford was every bit the gusty Preakness winner he was last year in today’s Met Mile (I). Two gradeds in a row, beating out a Breeders’ Cup winner both times! Yikes!

Caleb’s Posse schools for what will hopefully be his big first win of 2012 in the Met Mile (I)

Caleb’s Posse schools for what will hopefully be his big first win of 2012 in the Met Mile (I)

G1 Winners Abound in Met Mile

This weekend I’ll be handicapping each of the $500,000 Guaranteed Pick 4 Memorial Day races at Belmont Park.

One of my favorite spring races, I’m glad to see that the Met Mile has achieved Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge status. It truly is one of the defining races for talent, and while we have a disappointingly small field this year, several good horses are stepping it up to win this big G1.

$1 million Metropolitan Handicap (I) - 3-Year-Olds & Up. 1 mile on dirt at Belmont Park. Post Time: Monday, May 28 at 5:47pm EST.

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

1) To Honor and Serve - Jose Lezcano, 120 lbs, Bill Mott - The 4-year-old Bernardini colt was a standout as a juvenile, and came back after a long layoff to take the Pennsylvania Derby (II) in record-time followed by a bad trip in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (I), followed by a shutout win in the Cigar Mile (I). His works looks like he digs Belmont plenty. I profited off some doubters when he won the Westchester (III) last out by 5 lengths, and I have every reason to believe this is a top class four-year-old. I don’t think the mile is his best bet long-term, but he’s a lot like last year’s winner Tizway where he obviously rocks at it.

2) Shackleford - John Velazquez, 119 lbs, Dale Romans - Last year’s Preakness (I) winner, the Forestry colt had a rocky year full of some excellent performances where he fell just barely short including a runner-up to Caleb’s Posse in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (I). His recent win in the Churchill Downs Stakes (II) over Breeders’ Cup Sprint (I) winner Amazombie proved he’s back to peak. He gets an upgrade in jockey with Johnny V. As long as he keeps looking good in the morning, I see little reason to doubt Shackleford, who is every bit an excellent miler, but he could fall victim to an early duel for the pace or need to be the one to set it up.

3) Caleb’s Posse - Rajiv Maragh, 121 lbs, Donnie Von Hemel - The Posse colt was arguably last year’s best three-year-old, and while he hasn’t won yet as a four-year-old, he’s been sharply close. He was second to Jackson Bend in the more recent Carter (I) with a too-late kick and second to Caixa Eletronica in the Tom Fool (III), where the winner was most confident on the surface. I expect him to do his patented late burst in the final sixteenth, and the connections are obviously going to want to win this one more than anything. The extra furlong will definitely boost Caleb (Carter was 7, Tom Fool was 6).

4) Saginaw - David Cohen, 115 lbs, David Jacobson - Here’s your underdog: the 6-year-old gelded son of Peruvian has started an astounding 27 times and has reeled off 5 straight wins this year from the claiming ranks to ungraded stakes in New York. He may scratch in favor the May 27 Kingston Stakes. He won the 7-furlong Affirmed Success by 7 lengths last out at Belmont and looks to help set a contentious fast pace.

5) Caixa Eletronica - Javier Castellano, 117 lbs, Todd Pletcher - Mike Repole’s rags-to-riches star, the 7-year-old Arromanches son was a surprising 3rd in last year’s Met Mile and last out won the Charles Town Classic (II) by 3 lengths— surprising stuff for a career miler to win a G2 1 1/8 mile race! Works are consistently good, and he has yet to finish off the board while at Belmont in three tries. His form is spotty at best and hard to figure out. I’m leaving him out.

6) Jackson Bend - Corey Nakatani, 121 lbs, Nick Zito - The “Mighty Mouse” son of Hear No Evil has been promising as always with 2 wins in 3 starts this year including the Carter Handicap (I) over Caleb’s Posse and Shackleford. A pacestalker, he has won in the past no matter how fast things are moving (or not) but is considered stronger at 7 furlongs.

Top Picks in Order:

1) To Honor and Serve

2) Caleb’s Posse

Only picking 2 because of small field with at least 1 likely scratch. I see Shackleford setting it up, To Honor and Serve putting in a fresh stretch run to hold off Caleb’s Posse and Jackson Bend.

Value Pick: Jackson Bend

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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