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Normandy Invasion is reminding me a lot of Mucho Macho Man right now. He looks like a great router physically, but skinny as though he is going through another growth spurt. The skinny factor pushed MMM off my winner list when he ran in the Derby, but I am still mulling things over for Normmy, who has arrived at Churchill. (Photo by Derby Media)

Normandy Invasion is reminding me a lot of Mucho Macho Man right now. He looks like a great router physically, but skinny as though he is going through another growth spurt. The skinny factor pushed MMM off my winner list when he ran in the Derby, but I am still mulling things over for Normmy, who has arrived at Churchill. (Photo by Derby Media)

I’ll Have Another

I’ll Have Another

Derby Watch: Paynter’s Kin

It’s hard not to love Paynter after his dramatic yet brief three-year-old campaign that concluded with an emphatic G1 win in the Haskell Invitational. It’s even harder to not associate good feels with the bay colt after a winning battle with multiple ailments that left him at death’s door for a stretch of time. With the son of Awesome Again slowly returning to full health, there is few greater joys than seeing his younger relations do well for themselves on the Derby trail.

Experiencing mild success this year with Optimizer, Hamazing Destiny, Hightail, and a few others, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas has had some on-and-off success training, but looks to have a solid performer in Paynter’s 3/4 brother Oxbow. A bay son of Awesome Again out of the Cee’s Tizzy mare Tizamazing (who is also a full sister to dual-Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Tiznow and Paynter’s dam Tizso), he broke well from the far outside to win his 7-furlong maiden special weight over the weekend at Churchill Downs.

Favored in the betting, Oxbow did not have a favorable beginning in racing, being pulled up and vanned off the Saratoga main in his dead-last debut against speed demon Jocosity. No harm done, however, when all things are considered: Paynter never made a start as a two-year-old, never mind 4 races with a win and a third. Oxbow is obviously doing something right after being suddenly favored in the Churchill race after racing third to Gulfport in his prior start at nearly 17-1, and his works suggest he’ll be even quicker as a three-year-old.

Also making 4 starts is Paynter’s cousin (by Speightstown out of Tizsweet, another full to Paynter’s dam) is Tizexx, a two-year-old gray/roan trainee of Bobby Barnett who also ran this past Saturday. She raced three-wide on the Churchill main to tire in the stretch of the 7-furlong maiden race to finish 5th holding her own. She has flashed ample speed in her workouts— she went :47 2/5 in her last 4-panel hum— so this is another one I think will require some time.

Paynter’s full brother racing this year named Fire Flight, will definitely be needing additional time, and I’m not even sure he was ready for his debut going by his short list of published works. Helmed by Keith Asmussen, he was towards the back of a Retama maiden early and dragged his heels upon feeling the stick, losing by some 10 lengths back in 9th.

If lightning can’t strike twice in the same family, I guess we can always wait on Paynter’s highly-anticipated return.

Top Field Awaits Uncaptured in KY Jockey Club Stakes

Like I said, the field this year for the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (II) actually intrigues me. Offering a good-looking field of 13, I’m more interested in the outcome of this Churchill Downs juvenile stakes than I am for Aqueduct’s own weekend headliner in the Remsen (II). Sorry not sorry. Uncaptured looks to continue an impressive show of strength after his debut on the dirt went well last out while meeting challengers new, old, and all around fierce. Might as well take a look at analyzing this one as I wait for the butternut squash to tenderize…

$150,000 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (II) - 2-Year-Olds. 1 1/16 miles on dirt at Churchill Downs. Post Time: Saturday, November 24 at 5:35pm EST.

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

1) Java’s War - Victor Lebron, Ken McPeek - The winner of 2 of 4 races— both on turf— one of War Pass’s few sons makes his dirt debut here with a good stakes win under his belt already. With some good early dirt strength influencing his lineage, he’s an up-in-the-air gamble.

2) Lew and Mike - Brian Hernandez Jr, Thomas Drury - The Lewis Michael son has a couple Churchill races under his belt, but broke his maiden at Ellis Park’s turf course as the pacesetter. 6th in the Kentucky Juvenile Stakee, he then went wire-to-wire as the speed horse again in a Keeneland allowance race. A need-the-lead-to-win type, I’m not sure if this colt is going to be good for the track or the distance. And where’s his record of recent works?

3) Fear the Kitten - Martin Pedroza, Luis Cotto - A nice turf pedigree backs this Kitten’s Joy colt, who is 2-for-2 with a Keeneland maiden claimer and an off-the-turf allowance race at Churchill. A class test awaits this colt bred for the grass who appears to really like the all-weather going. 

4) Uncaptured - Miguel Mena, Mark Casse - 5-for-6 lifetime, the Lion Heart colt redeemed his Grey (III) showing last out by winning the Iroquois (III) in an easy romp for his dirt debut. Strong works signal he’s not done for the year as the class horse in the field.

5) Track Rocker - Shaun Bridgmohan, Nick Zito - Hey I saw this guy debut at Saratoga! The Rock Hard Ten colt was given some time off and flourished breaking his maiden last out at Delaware Park, pouncing off a solid pace to win by nearly 9 lengths. His sire was a late bloomer and I suspect the same with mild improvement coming into this class test.

6) Frac Daddy - David Cohen, Ken McPeek - The gray Scat Daddy ran a phenomenal race to be 2nd in the mud in his debut at Belmont, leaving the rest of the field behind by some 13 lengths to lose by just 1 1/2 lengths to the heavy favorite and talented Indy’s Illusion. He broke his maiden last out here at this distance, drawing right off of an easy pace to win by almost 10. Scat Daddy’s a great early riser sire, and this colt is the perfect testament showing early brilliance with room to grow. With some improvement, he’s a contender.

7) Will Take Charge - Jon Court, D. Wayne Lukas - The chromey half to Take Charge Indy by Unbridled’s Song rallied wide and well to break his maiden last out at Keeneland, snagging the win by a length right at the wire. With more running room, he should do even better and improve off that start. A strong heritage makes this colt worthy of a look, but Lukas is constantly scaring me. His works at Churchill look sharp nonetheless, and owned by Eaton, he is sure to keep on improving and show off that early bird pedigree.

8) Tesseron - Joe Bravo, Josie Carroll - I love me a good Tapit, and this gray boy has a nice rallying maiden win at Woodbine paired with a strong place in the Grey (III) where he missed the win by just 3/4 lengths despite a poor start and a wide rally. A pedigree that chirps juvenile strength, Tesseron makes for a strong gamble if he can transfer that poly experience to dirt— which he should. He ships right in with no dirt works, but his Woodbine sessions have been great.

9) Dewey Square - Corey Lanerie, Dale Romans - Trainer Romans is singing this Bernardini colt’s praises already going 2-for-2 including an impeccable maiden score at Hoosier by almost 12 lengths. With Lanerie in the irons and Romans leading the fray at the Churchill meet, I’m gung-ho that this is another good early-riser by Bernardini. He has the same relentless drive Alpha had in his juvenile year.

10) Joha - Joe Rocco Jr, Mike Maker - Another colt bred for turf, the G1 stakes-winning son of Johar doubles back to dirt after a disappointing 8th place effort in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (I) where he ran into some traffic in his very first performance off-the-board. Training ok on dirt and favoring the front end, this will be his debut on the surface.

11) Indiano Jones - Jesus Castanon, Mark Casse - Casse’s second-string entry, the A.P. Indy colt will make his dirt debut in this race after a very good 3rd last out in the Grey (III), where he made up ground late in the game. Still on the proving ground, he has the right pedigree to excel at dirt or turf. I like this one’s mystique a lot and I’m eager to see him improve further. My biggest hesitation is due to the belief he will probably only really improve later and at longer distances.

12) Positively - Calvin Borel, Patrick Byrne - I really liked this Distorted Humor colt, who has been on the receiving end of some bad luck running second-fiddle to Uncaptured last out in the Iroquois (III) after a nice stretch rally. I have a feeling this colt is not going to get much better as a juvenile. He’s good, but will need time to get better.

13) Silver Tongued - Malcolm Franklin, Jeffrey Greenhill - The Flatter colt absolutely dragged in his Mountaineer debut, where he was bumped at the start and languished more and more throughout the race before finally waking up and making up some 25 lengths to be 5th of 7 in an obviously poor race. He was still feeling that kick in the pants next out to break his maiden in the Juvenile Stakes at Thistledown, rallying hard turning for home to go from last to first to win by 3 1/2 lengths. He has earned his class test, but will need to step it up here.

Top Picks in Order:

1) Uncaptured

2) Dewey Square

3) Frac Daddy

Value Pick: Tesseron

Uncaptured is rarely far from the front, which is going to work out great for him in this race where Churchill’s main favors early speed which is likely to be set by Lew and Mike and or Joha, who don’t really have the credentials to deflect the late rallies. I like Dewey Square a lot from the improving and familiar conditions angle and Romans tends to be very good with his juveniles, not to mention leading rider Corey Lanerie can’t possibly hurt. I flip-flopped between several for 3rd choice, but Frac Daddy has enough of an improvement suggested to beat many out.

Shackleford Stretches One Last Time in Clark Handicap

Normally for this weekend I would go with the Cigar Mile (I), but with Groupie Doll running in it this year I don’t see much of a ball to be had trying to work out a nifty handicapping angle. That mare is on fire! I’m also really intrigued by the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (II) for juvies… probably the first time ever that that’s happened.

Preakness winner Shackleford is the high-weight for Friday’s Clark Handicap (I) at Churchill Downs, known as the premiere G1 rematch for many Breeders’ Cup contenders or those who elected to skip the world championships. Joining him are G1 Florida Derby winner Take Charge Indy, Hawthorne Gold Cup (II) winner Pool Play, and Super Derby (II) winner Bourbon Courage among a field of ten that ensures an interesting race with a ton of value.

Weather looks good, and morning showers will likely not affect the track too much by post time. Keep an eye on it though.

$500,000 Clark Handicap (I) - 3-Year-Olds & Up. 1 1/8 miles on dirt at Churchill Downs. Post Time: Friday, November 23 at 5:35pm

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

1) Pool Play - Corey Lanerie, 118 lbs, Mark Casse - A horse that doesn’t mind his long odds and will probably get some semi-long ones here again, the Silver Deputy son brushes off his poor 8th place showing in the Breeders’ Cup Classic a few weeks ago to try again at Churchill, where he already owns a G1 win on the dirt. The pace will be sweet for this closer, but he will face some steeper foes and typically he gets more time between races than just 3 weeks. Lanerie’s been tops lately.

2) Eye of the Leopard - Jon Court, 115 lbs, D. Wayne Lukas - A Breeders’ Cup Marathon (II) dropout, the 6-year-old A.P. Indy son shoots for the moon in his second career dirt start— his first one was a sprint at Churchill 2 years ago where he finished a distant 6th. A stakes winner on all-weather and just 1 win in an allowance this year, this guy has been working well enough on the Churchill dirt and pedigree-wise is worthy. He gets a big weight advantage, but did not respond at all in his last start running 8th in the Fayette Stakes (II) on Keeneland’s poly going. His speed figures as well as his past performances boom louder than his workouts: “HUGE LONG SHOT.”

3) Shackleford - Jesus Castanon, 120 lbs, Dale Romans - The enormous Forestry colt hopes to restore his reputation with an effort better than his poor trip in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (I), where he stumbled and got stuck to finish 7th as the heavy and deserving favorite. A miler at heart, he has placed twice and won once in 3 tries at this distance. He remains sharp and will go to the lead. With old jock Castanon in the irons, he has the added benefit of psychology— he wants to go out with a bang, and who better to want to also help him achieve that than his returning Preakness rider? 

4) Bourbon Courage - Leandro Goncalves, 117 lbs, Kellyn Gorder - Marvelous as the 5-length winner of the Super Derby (II), the Lion Heart sophomore lost a courageous dive to the wire in the Indiana Derby (II) last out to Neck ‘N Neck, and should be pleased with the return to 9 furlongs here. Pace will be to his liking and given how quickly he can close ground (as shown in the Indiana), he’s going to be sneaky on the improve.

5) Cease - Miguel Mena, 117 lbs, Al Stall - The War Chant gelding looks to be at his best this year with a 3rd in the Woodward (I) and missed the Hawthorne Gold Cup (II) by a mere 1/2 length to Pool Play. I like him plenty from an improvement angle, but have to wonder how competitive he is right now to jump into a G1 event. While strong at this distance, he also seems to want more ground than just 9 furlongs.

6) Take Charge Indy - Calvin Borel, 117 lbs, Patrick Byrne - The A.P. Indy 4-year-old won the Florida Derby (I) earlier in the spring and made a promising comeback in the 9-furlong Fayette (II) at Keeneland where he was caught as ground ran out and finished 3rd in his usual spot up front. Borel can only help his chances, but he may need another start before he can compete here. Byrne is optimistic which is a promising angle, but I’m not vested in a horse who wants the lead with Shackleford in the race.

7) Fast Falcon - Shaun Bridgmohan, 113 lbs, Nick Zito - The Awesome Again sophomore made a good run in his first race against older horses last out in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (I), rallying hard and wide to finish 5th and nearly bested 4th place Atigun, who went on to have a really nice 3rd place effort in the Marathon (II). This horse is better than his PPs suggest, and with a feather impost and a solid pace, I cannot possibly leave him out of my exotics on a fast track.

8) Stealcase - Brian Hernandez Jr, 115 lbs, Mark Casse - Lawyer Ron colt I initially liked, but has been on and off. A past winner at Churchill, he was the winner of the Ontario Derby (III) at Woodbine then was absolutely no threat running last in the Indiana Derby (II). He gained ground quick enough but ran out of room last out in the 1-mile Ack Ack (III) to be 3rd. Never out of the money in his 4 Churchill starts (3 of them G3 stakes) and getting more running room, I don’t feel like Stealcase is the winning type of horse but one that will try to work his way up close.

9) Mission Impazible - Javier Castellano, 115 lbs, Todd Pletcher - Soon to be retired, the Unbridled’s Song gelding makes one more go in the race he almost won last year (I also picked him to win), but got overwhelmed in the final yards by Wise Dan. A horse that seems to love running 2nd, 9 furlongs seems to be his ideal distance. Fitness is questionable, but he gets a nice weight break for what he’s really capable of.

10) Lunar Victory - Junior Alvarado, 116 lbs, Bill Mott - An impressive horse from Juddmonte’s colors, the Speightstown son has recorded 5 wins in 6 starts this year all in New York jumping from his win in the 9-furlong Empire Classic to his first graded try. If Bill Mott thinks he’s ready, then by golly he’s ready. It’s hard to knock a record like his and I enjoyed watching him race against Saratoga Snacks in a very well-earned win last out.

Top Picks in Order:

1) Shackleford

2) Lunar Victory

3) Bourbon Courage

Despite being best at a mile, Shack’s class is too much: he’s beaten Animal Kingdom and Caleb’s Posse hellooooo. I feel comfortable enough to draw a line through a lot of these entries simply by comparing how good they are not in relation to Shackleford, who is speed as well as heart, but from there it gets tough. Fast Falcon who has some good acceleration favored by a light impost, Lunar Victory who has a good stretch drive will be closer to pounce, and Bourbon Courage who is a G2-winning closer on the improve— these three I like best. I envision Shack setting his solid pace to wire the field, with the two sharpest accelerators Bourbon and Falcon firing early to try and get him before he opens up. Lunar Victory has a good drive and will be closer with less traffic and should stay on.

Value Pick: Fast Falcon likely to be the wise-guy of the bunch, but also take a look at Mission Impazible who is always full of random top-tier performances to use in exotics.

Churchill Downs heralded its Breeders’ Cup champions on Sunday between R7 and R8: Mile victor Wise Dan, Classic winner Fort Larned, Filly & Mare Sprint champ Groupie Doll, and Turf upsetter Little Mike were on hand to accept the applause; missing is Tapizar, I don’t know why he didn’t show up… IT’S NOT BREEDING SEASON YET! (Photo by Reed Palmer Photography)

Churchill Downs heralded its Breeders’ Cup champions on Sunday between R7 and R8: Mile victor Wise Dan, Classic winner Fort Larned, Filly & Mare Sprint champ Groupie Doll, and Turf upsetter Little Mike were on hand to accept the applause; missing is Tapizar, I don’t know why he didn’t show up… IT’S NOT BREEDING SEASON YET! (Photo by Reed Palmer Photography)

The gray Cozzetti works a bullet at Churchill Downs preparing for the 2012 Preakness Stakes (I).

The gray Cozzetti works a bullet at Churchill Downs preparing for the 2012 Preakness Stakes (I).

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)

Lest we forget this guy for the big Classic picture on speedy ol’ Santa Anita: Nates Mineshaft (Photo by Event of the Year)

Lest we forget this guy for the big Classic picture on speedy ol’ Santa Anita: Nates Mineshaft (Photo by Event of the Year)

Racing Beat: August 6

My dream is to someday own a badass colt by Kitten’s Joy which I will name Puppy’s Depression. He will be a Kentucky Derby AND an Arc winner and spawn similarly named champions and we shall rule the turf together. #ideastosendtheramseys #yesi’mdumb

New Where’s Waldo for the week: WHERE IS WINE POLICE? The speedy 4-year-old colt has been completely MIA since being 8th in the Malibu Stakes (I) in December.

I patiently await my Churchill Downs Mansion invitation.

No I will not pay $4.25 for a drink. That’s gambling money right there I’m just going to pee out in a couple hours.

Fed Biz is crawling back to the races… unfortunately, not in enough time to make my Kentucky Derby fantasy stable a winning one.

Now that Calibrachoa is retired, I can stop confusing him with Caixa Eletronica. And for the record, when they were both in the same race, I usually sided with Calibrachoa, even though Caixa’s name is more fun to [try to] say.

No one has made me feel quite so good about being the middle child like Frankel… older brother Bullet Train is his pacesetter, the younger Noble Mission a rising star but as unlikely as anyone to be his match.

Why does everyone care that Michael Phelps is thinking about getting into horse racing? Big honking deal. That dude’s face is weird and it creeps me out.

That awkward racist moment when you wonder why an Asian family is at the racetrack. I thought it was just Reinier

I just had a revelation that with the blue tail, Hansen is slowly turning into Shining Armor…

My Twitter follower count took a small dive post-Saratoga trip. Oh, so it’s okay to live-tweet shit like “The Voice” but damn it all to hell if I post something every 20-30 minutes FOR ONE MEASLY DAY. BITCHES.

This Travers situation looks bleak… go, Street Life.

Wouldn’t it be great if someone named a racehorse Sarah Jessica Parker? Of course, they would need her approval which is why it’ll never happen.


My favorite juvenile pone-pone Brown Almighty won his first stakes (and first for sire Big Brown) yesterday and I MISSED BETTING ON IT.

Taking bets now that the Prioress (I) will be downgraded to a G2 next year. Nobody really wins that race for it to stay top-graded, never mind attracting anyone important. They all wait for the Ballerina (I).

Okay for real, since when did Pool Play come out of injury-induced retirement? He was my pride and joy, the longest shot I ever picked to win any race. (36-1 in the Stephen Foster!)

Tweet o’ the Week: EEEEE! Yes, I do love supporting the mighty Federation [GB].

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