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McCool (Giant’s Causeway x Dame Again [AUS], by Danehill) and her Cape Blanco [IRE] colt. (Photo by Ninety North Racing)

McCool (Giant’s Causeway x Dame Again [AUS], by Danehill) and her Cape Blanco [IRE] colt. (Photo by Ninety North Racing)

Hot Dates for Zenyatta’s Z14

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I started my homework last month about who the Mosses should send Zenyatta to next if all goes well. Last year I had a top 5 list, and Zenyatta did indeed go to Tapit like I requested! Of course, at this stage it would appear the Mosses are favoring “trendy” sires, but who knows, that could easily change this year with foal #3. I have done a little digging and tried to find new sire picks that are feasible (i.e. Empire Maker and Henrythenavigator will be out of the running, sadly, because they are not in North America). Here it goes!:

Henrythenavigator - Over in Ireland. Sigh.

1) Lemon Drop Kid - A classic winner with a Belmont (I) victory and a G1 winner at ages 2, 3, and 4, LDK is both a really good-looking stallion, an excellent racehorse, and a phenomenal sire with graded stakes winners on every surface type. I’ve always greatly appreciated Kingmambo (and the rest of Miesque’s family). Fee $35,000 (TrueNicks Rating: A)

2) Bullet Train [GB] - Yep, going with a newbie here, but really it’s hard to argue against the spell-binding presence of Frankel’s 3/4 brother, newly-relocated to Kentucky. Should Zenyatta’s connections suddenly start favoring a great turf horse, Bullet Train is basically a perfect match: speed, great bloodlines, and strong classic ability. Fee $7,500 (TrueNicks Rating A+)

3) Lonhro [AUS] - While new to the U.S. and unconventional, it’s hard to knock the black beauty Lonhro who ran an impressive 35 times down under, winning 26 times with 11 Group 1 titles. A truly underrated freak of nature, he represents Australia’s finest with son Pierro taking much attention last year as a sizzling two-year-old. Fee $30,000 (TrueNicks Rating: B)

4) Cape Blanco [IRE] - The first foal crop from the G1-winning titan looks amazing, and I gush at the possibilities. Undefeated at the age of 2 and a G1 winner at 3 and 4, the stunning chestnut son of Galileo [IRE] offers serious substance and distance ability with wins at 12 furlongs. Fee $17,500 (TrueNicks Rating: A)

5) Smart Strike - Grass, poly, dirt, no matter! Smart Strike always seems to have a special one out of every crop: My Miss Aurelia, Salty Strike, Centre Court, Dynamic Strike, Lookin At Lucky, Curlin, English Channel Smart Bid, Never Retreat, blah blah blah. It’s a no brainer. Get Z in before he gets too old, please! Fee $85,000 (TrueNicks Rating: B)

This is all a wish list, and I realize from looking it over that most of these options probably won’t ever happen because of American racing prioritizing dirt over grass. As for what I think will most likely happen, I think the Mosses will go with Medaglia d’Oro, Distorted Humor, or another A.P. Indy boy. I would be surprised if they picked a brand new stallion, but it’s always possible they might go with someone with a lot of early ability and speed like Bodemeister.

Racing Beat: November 11

Hope the hearsay isn’t true, but if it is, rest in peace Five Sixteen.

I feel a bit guilty for having a busy day before the Melbourne Cup, which is a tremendously popular event in Australia. Congrats Green Moon, and wow to 3rd place Jakkalberry the new “Great Traveler” of the racing world.

You know you like horse racing too much when you gush over Saratoga with the HR rep at a job interview. Had the follow-up interview gone the same way I’d have been golden.

Hansen will start his stud career at Ashford in 2013 along with Stay Thirsty who joins his old stablemate Uncle Mo. I wonder how much attention the other two will get with Hansen joining in along with basically every other good retired three-year-old as well as other recent retirees.

Another reason why this Breeders’ Cup was successful despite a lack of “superstar power”: so many of the winners are coming back next year, including Fort Larned and Groupie Doll.

Happy retirement to California Flag, To Honor and Serve, Musical Romance, Switch, Up [IRE], Zagora, Brilliant Speed, and Tu Endei Wei! And Mission Impazible and Tapizar… *sobs* Didn’t really expect the last two so much.

Kathmanblu RNA’d at Fasig-Tipton because she’s worth more than $475k! Humph!

Deeply disappointed to see one of my favorite firecrackers of the year Contested to also be retired and shipped off to Japan. I guess I should perceive it to be a compliment upon our dirt horses for the Japanese to be buying so many and to the tune of $2.3 million.

*Reads amazing broodmare prospect(s) for sale’s pedigree and stats, scrolls to the bottom and sees ‘in foal to Uncle Mo,’ closes browser and sighs* It’s like he’s the new Bernardini or something, only this is a worse case. He was a super champion juvenile yes but he hardly faced anyone he was able to beat as a three-year-old!

I came in 64th place in the WinStar Breeders’ Cup contest out of 1071 entries. So close, yet so far… damn you, Game On Dude among others!

I’m okay with the 2013 Preakness logo.

One delightful thing to keep in perspective: imagine how many blaze faces we’ll have in the coming years from Union Rags, Cape Blanco [IRE], Shackleford, and others.

Get well soon, Speightstown. I’m gonna need you to help me get some more winners.

I wish I made more money; I’d [possibly] be going to see Shackleford’s [possible] last start and the Equine Affaire if I did.

I expected big bucks for our fair lady Havre de Grace, but $10 million? Yikes. I suppose her first foal will fetch a couple million by default, and even more later if she turns out to be an exalted producer.

Thinking more about the track bias and the end result, while I was never really on his team, I think I’ll Have Another could have won this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic, in addition to possibly the Triple Crown as well.

Remember Kentucky Oaks longshot Colonial Empress? She just broke her maiden. Yup.

Tweet o’ the Week: Featuring Mandy Pope’s expensive [good] tastes

Dean’s Kitten put Cape Blanco [IRE] to the test in last year’s Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (I), ultimately finishing a thrilling second (Photo by Greg Brandow)

Dean’s Kitten put Cape Blanco [IRE] to the test in last year’s Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (I), ultimately finishing a thrilling second (Photo by Greg Brandow)

To “Grace” Be The Glory: The Eclipse Awards Last Night

This year was my first time tuning into the Eclipse Awards, American Thoroughbred racing’s highest year-end honors, and while the stream was very poor, the awards did not disappoint. In a year with many divisions lacking a single stand-out champion, the illustrious Horse of the Year prize went to heavily-favored Havre de Grace along with a shut-out in Older Female, culminating a remarkable campaign against girls and boys alike. Hansen drew the voters in for his two-year-old award, and Bill Mott triumphed in a close race for Trainer of the Year.

  • Horse of the Year: Havre de Grace [166 votes] (Acclamation: 26, Game On Dude: 10)
  • Male Juvenile: Hansen [194 votes] (Union Rags: 52, Secret Circle: 1)
  • Female Juvenile: My Miss Aurelia [247 votes] (Stephanie’s Kitten: 1)
  • Three-Year-Old Male: Animal Kingdom [114 votes] (Caleb’s Posse: 111, Shackleford: 12)
  • Three-Year-Old Female: Royal Delta [243 votes] (Awesome Feather: 2, Plum Pretty: 2)
  • Older Male: Acclamation [95 votes] (Game On Dude: 70, Tizway: 52)
  • Older Female: Havre de Grace [245 votes] (Blind Luck: 2, Awesome Maria: 1)
  • Male Turf: Cape Blanco [IRE] [172 votes] (Acclamation: 55, St. Nicholas Abbey [IRE]: 16)
  • Female Turf: Stacelita [158 votes] (Perfect Shirl: 28, Never Retreat: 25)
  • Male Sprinter: Amazombie [201 votes] (Caleb’s Posse: 42, Regally Ready: 2)
  • Female Sprinter: Musical Romance [131 votes] (Hilda’s Passion: 53, Sassy Image: 46]
  • Steeplechaser: Black Jack Blues [IRE] [137 votes] (Tax Ruling: 80, Decoy Daddy [IRE]: 1)
  • Trainer of the Year: Bill Mott [83 votes] (Bob Baffert: 60, Todd Pletcher: 57)
  • Jockey of the Year: Ramon Dominguez [197 votes] (John Velazquez: 30, Javier Castellano: 14)
  • Apprentice Jockey of the Year: Kyle Frey [77 votes] (Ryan Curatolo: 57, Rosario Montanez: 19)
  • Owner of the Year: Ken and Sarah Ramsey [55 votes] (Midwest Thoroughbreds: 60, Team Valor International: 25)
  • Breeder of the Year: Adena Springs [151 votes] (Ken and Sarah Ramsey: 62, Ocala Stud: 5)

Among the most surprising and controversial of results, Animal Kingdom won the award for Best Three-Year-Old Male by a mere 3 votes over the terrific, dual-G1 winner Caleb’s Posse. The two, while expected to have a close race, were the hot topic of discussion for several months leading up to the Eclipse Awards, and by the looks of things, many non-voters were disgruntled by the outcome.

Also, now that mares have won the Horse of the Year prize for the past three years running, is it still just to still rank their victories in male-dominated races higher than when those same races are captured by the colts?

Overall, not a bad ceremony, but they could use a new audio and graphics person for the next stream and video presentation!

The Best 20 Races from 2011 (#20-#15)

There were so many unique and special moments in horse racing this year that just a simple “top 10” list would fail to credit too many deserving races that captured our attention and highlighted our weekends. The races that were picked were judged on the basis of excitement (most important), tenacity, and the general long-term significance of the race.

20) Queen’s Plate: Lone filly Inglorious steals Canada’s riches - In Canada’s equivalent of the Kentucky Derby, 16 colts went to the post only to be passed by the lone female Inglorious. With great gusto, she courageously rocketed past them all including favorite Check Your Soul to cash a sizeable upset as the first filly to win the race in 20 years. Watch replay

19) Florida Derby: Dialed In duels with 60-1 longshot Shackleford - In the event that would ultimately crown him as the Kentucky Derby favorite, Dialed In laid his guts out at Gulfstream when clinched in a powerful stretch duel with pacesetter Shackleford. It was the most enthralling Derby prep race of the year with Dialed In launching a furious bid from the back to catch and overpower the budding Shackleford. Watch replay

18) Shadwell Turf Mile: Gio Ponti makes an astonishing late run to clinch a second consecutive Shadwell Mile win - Just as racegoers were beginning to question whether Gio still had it in him mere weeks away from the Breeders’ Cup, he turns one last gear on to hop from a seemingly firm third place to the win. Watch replay

17) Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational: Cape Blanco runs the race of his life against Dean’s Kitten - Going postward it was all Cape Blanco’s to win, seeing as the Euro invader had already beaten the best America had to offer twice beforehand the same year in the 1 1/2 mile Joe Hirsch. But rolling down to the wire to go with him was an adamant Dean’s Kitten, who pushed just about every button to make Cape Blanco work for this, his last and possibly greatest victory. Watch replay

16) Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile: Caleb’s Posse ridicules the field in the final furlong - "He looks like he just jumped in at the quarter pole!" Bouncing back from a fuzzy finish in the Indiana Derby, the year’s most quick-footed three-year-old leaped at Shackleford in the waning moments of the Dirt Mile to grab his very impressive and second G1 win over the best dirt milers. Watch replay

15) Forego Stakes: Jackson Bend all heart - In his first attempt at a big G1 in quite some time, Jackson Bend toasted an extraordinary comeback to the winners’ circle in winning the Forego Stakes by more than 3 lengths. The colt had raced without a win twelve times before winning the James Marvin, and this graded stakes was his crowning achievement. Watch replay

Cape Blanco Retired

As if Super Saturday wasn’t worse enough.

The dominating superstar of the American turf and a surefire top competitor for the Breeders’ Cup Turf, Cape Blanco [IRE] has been retired to stud due to an injury sustained during the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational (I), which he won in a wrestling match with Dean’s Kitten on Saturday.

With the recent euthanization of Banned, I don’t think the American turf racing world can bear much more bad news than this. With Cape Blanco [IRE] out of the running, the turf classic division just got that much more tangled and in favor of a strictly-European runner.

This year, Cape Blanco was the accomplished winner of the Arlington Million and the Man o’ War Stakes all before adding his third and toughest Grade I win in the 1 1/2 mile Joe Hirsch. May he get well soon and produce more talented runners like himself in the future.

Six Top Turf Stars Align for Joe Hirsch Classic

While it hasn’t gathered as much attention as the other Super Saturday stakes races, the Joe Hirsch Classic Invitational (I) at Belmont possesses some of the East Coast’s best classic grass runners— if not all of them. Gearing up after mastering Gio Ponti twice this year is regular invader Cape Blanco [IRE], who will probably be the favorite in an otherwise small, talented field.

The winner of the race gets an automatic entry into the Emirates Airlines Breeders’ Cup Turf (I) Championship.

$500,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational (I) - Invitation-only for 3-Year-Olds & Up. 1 1/2 miles over turf at Belmont Park. Post Time: Saturday October 1 at 3:22pm EST.

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

1) Cape Blanco [IRE] - Jamie Spencer, Aiden O’Brien - The razor hot favorite has little to worry about— the rail spot will do little to hinder his fiery closing drive with only five other horses. He’s won two Grade I races this year against the best including the Arlington Million and Man o’ War. He was a little soft earlier in the year, but there’s little doubt that he’s the best grass runner in this field. I don’t see an issue with his running style or current form. There’s that little question of getting the extra two furlongs, and he’ll have to fight Winchester for it.

2) Teaks North - Javier Castellano, Justin Sallusto - He’s won two Grade I races including the United Nations (I) against European runners and the Gulfstream Park back in February. He only managed fourth in the Sword Dancer against Winchester. With a G1 win at 1 3/8 miles, he’ll have no issues coming for home, but I’m still concerned he’s not going to be the best horse at the wire.

3) Dean’s Kitten - Ramon Dominguez, Michael Maker - Managed a great third behind Cape Blanco and Gio Ponti in the Million and seems to be up front in all of finishes. However, he hasn’t had a win since March of last year. Great horse, but I don’t think he’s prime to get this distance against these other horses.

4) Mission Approved - Rajiv Maragh, Terikchand Chatterpual - Won the Manhattan Handicap (I) over Gio Ponti but came well behind in seventh for the Arlington Million. Distance is a great question for this horse as well as current form. Can his trainer get him up to peak condition to present a good enough challenge?

5) Winchester - Cornelio Velasquez, Chris Clement - Winner of last year’s Joe Hirsch and this year’s winner of the same distance Sword Dancer. He has been consistent for nearly his whole life hitting the board or coming pretty darn close to it and craves the added distance. It is essential for this deep closer to have a good ride and not let Cape Blanco get away… if he can, he’ll be at home once again in the winners’ circle! Winchester for the win.

6) Grassy [pictured] - Johnny Velazquez, Chris Clement - A new star in the turf world, Grassy has lived up to his perfectly-picked moniker with his win in the 1 3/8 mile Bowling Green (II) recently. Another very consistent horse who loves the distance, his record at Belmont’s turf track is 3-1-2 out of 7 lifetime starts. Can this lone gray launch an upset? With Johnny V in the irons, it’s not too crazy of a notion! He’ll score a third at worst.

So You Think showed his dominance once again in today’s Irish Champion Stakes (IRE-I), holding off a late-charging Snow Fairy to win the 10-furlong race, automatically giving him a stall in the starting gate of the Emirate Airlines Breeders’ Cup Turf (I) should he decide to ship overseas. What an exciting and gorgeous horse! I’d love to match Cape Blanco against those purple silks!

So You Think showed his dominance once again in today’s Irish Champion Stakes (IRE-I), holding off a late-charging Snow Fairy to win the 10-furlong race, automatically giving him a stall in the starting gate of the Emirate Airlines Breeders’ Cup Turf (I) should he decide to ship overseas. What an exciting and gorgeous horse! I’d love to match Cape Blanco against those purple silks!

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