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I'm loving your Derby Dozen updates, but both Orb and Verrazano's jockeys are listed as finishing fourth in last year's Derby. Wasn't Rosario third? Keep up the good work and congrats on "Exterminator's" second birthday.

Asked by mybodyisabasilica

Thanks much for the kind words, I’m glad you’re enjoying them so far and I hope you find them at least somewhat useful!

And thanks for noting the typo I knew I had but forgot to fix! Rosario was 5th with Creative Cause actually (I thought he was 3rd or 4th too, but then remembered Dullahan and Went the Day Well).

Racing Beat: January 13

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Kentucky Derby pick updates: my honorable mention Elnaawi broke his maiden impressively at Aqueduct on Saturday and Apex has returned to breezing. Waiting on that next dirt start for Fredericksburg! Oh and Purple Egg whenever he wants to come back…

GREAT NEWS GUYS! I can ship prizes out of my campus mail center instead of having to go to the post office. That means no more dealing with that royal carrier douchebag “Roland”, who is always condescending to me whenever I go in there. I miss my post office back home.

Feels unbelievable but in a good way: Kentucky Derby runner and Illinois Derby (III) winner Done Talking is doing very very well breezing up to his comeback. He hasn’t been heard from since his 5th place in the Long Branch Stakes.

When I saw that the Thoroughbred Times’ photo archives were for sale at auction, I immediately thought of someone on Tumblr buying them and then uploading them for oodles of notes. Too bad none of you peasants have the money.

Big Drama's daughter is winning so far in the “Best First Foal” imaginary contest in my head.

That annoying moment when… someone pats themselves on the back for their extraordinary vision that such-and-such a colt trained by Todd Pletcher that won last year at Saratoga was going to win again. Yeah, because that sort of thinking requires a lot of scrutinizing since that never happens! You’re almost as bad as the people who pick the morning line favorite to win every single dang time. /rant #thisisnooneontumblr

2003 Travers winner Ten Most Wanted died just months after being sold to Panama. At first I wondered what was to blame, and then I wondered if they bought a product protection plan.

Turfway Park has the right idea. FREE CAKE!

Swell news for Creative Cause fans as he gathers an excellent first year book including Kentucky Oaks winner Proud Spell, the beautiful G1 winner No Such Word, Mazel Tov (dam of G1 winner Summer Soiree), and Believe You Can's mom El Fasto.

Shall I move her up the “to watch” list? Applauding changes hands to Michael Matz, which I am obviously overjoyed about, but have questions: why the trainer change from Al Stall who is also very capable and then does Matz have any experience working with good sprinters?

Two half sisters to Kentucky Oaks winner Plum Pretty (who sold for $4.2 million) were sold at Keeneland January for $27,000 and $17,000 respectively: one by Ghostzapper the other by Lookin at Lucky. ARE YOU ALL MAD? Another half sister by Scat Daddy RNA’d at $95,000.

Other notables at Keeneland January that surprised me: Teeth of the Dog ($20,000), Yara (RNA’d at $170,000), Battle Hardened ($80,000), Lily the Pink ($60,000), Yam ($3,500 [a really nice Nureyev broodmare out of a Secretariat graded winner, in foal to Midshipman]), Mad Flatter (RNA’d for $24,000), and a full sister to Tiznow named Tizsweet ($42,000). Who the f—k is at these sales not buying the excellent stock but dumping the mortgage on Street Sense yearlings? (Ok, I admit the top-selling filly was adorable)

Am I really a year older than Joe Talamo? I feel really unaccomplished now.

I still have a little while to think about it, but looks like I have a similar decision to make again this year for the Sunshine Millions: Ron the Greek or Mucho Macho Man? I went with Ron the Greek last year with a win ticket.

I’m pretty sure I am Samuel Riddle reincarnated sometimes. UGH! WESTERN RIFF-RAFF COULD NEVER BEAT MY EASTERN PONIES! BAH! I don’t think this intentionally, but I have noticed that most of the horses I like and follow are based on the east coast.

Tweet o’ the Week

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Derby Watch: Let’s Talk Zito

Now one of the bloodstock market’s most intriguing and good-looking new prospects, was Dialed In the last frontier for Nick Zito’s Derby success or can we entertain the idea of more to come?

Nick Zito is not the world’s most winningest trainer, but when he’s got one, ya’ll better watch out. Going into the 2010 Derby, he had the favorite in tough-as-nails closer Dialed In, who was hot off a tremendous Florida Derby (I) victory over the stubborn speedster Shackleford. I probably should have given him more credit for that win considering how highly I regard Shackleford now, but with that said and done, Zito does have a couple nice colts targeted for Churchill this year.

I wanted to bring this guy up a few months ago, but sadly he did not live up to expectations as early as I anticipated, and thus I couldn’t justify including him in my Early Bird Watch. One of the first sons of Curlin, I liked the looks of Dyker Beach last year. While Curlin is not proven yet as a freshman sire, he does have the classic lineage that suggests success at 10 furlongs after winning the Preakness (I), the Breeders’ Cup Classic (I), the Arkansas Derby (I), the Stephen Foster (I), and I’ll just stop now. His chances of being awesome are well in his favor, obviously. Dyker Beach is a bay colt out of the Capote mare, Favorite Feather, who has a stakes-winning foal closely related to him. Featherbed by Smart Strike (Curlin’s sire), was G1-placed as a two-year-old and won a  6-furlong stakes at Saratoga at 3. Favorite Feather is also a half sister to Bright Feather, the dam of G1 champion Albert the Great. Her half sister, In On The Secret (by Secretariat), had a colt by Capote named King of Capote who won more than $800,000.

Second in his debut at Delaware Park, the bay Curlin colt looked like he needed more space to complete his job than 6 furlongs, muscling out the place by a nose in a closing rally, but was far off from the winner. In his second start at Churchill Downs, he appeared to make a case then got too flustered and finished 9th in a 7-furlonger won by the promising Gulfport. He took time off— the main reason I left him out of the Early Bird articles— but he is obviously doing much better after another Gulfstream maiden race. He closed in on the field from far back on the mile-long course, but his stablemate was a bit closer than he was as he was gaining ground late. I think he’ll get better as time wears on and he grows into his three-year-old body, as will many other “Curlins.”

But what of the stablemate of his that beat him?

It seems every year there’s an awesome Giant’s Causeway to watch. Creative Cause, Eskendereya, Fed Biz… when are we getting our Giant winner? Zito is already thinking highly of one that is in his care by the name of Eton Blue, owned by the famous Marylou Whitney Stable, who sports nice bloodlines as well as some skill. By leading sire Giant’s Causeway, the bay colt is out of the Cape Town daughter Bird Town, winner of the 2003 Kentucky Oaks (I) and Acorn (I) who could carry her ability across a multitude of distances. Bird Town is also out of Dear Birdie, making her a half sister to millionaire Belmont winner Birdstone. Bird Town’s sire Cape Town is most noted for his G1 win in the Florida Derby (he ran second, but won by disqualification).

Talent-wise, we’ve seen just the tip of the iceberg for Eton Blue. He’s been getting better and better in his workouts, and held off his stablemate as noted last out in a Gulfstream maiden special weight over a mile. This looks like a special colt who knows what to do and has some real nice family backing him up as the distances grow longer. I’m excited to see what he can do, and all in all, Gulfstream is in for yet another awesome prep trail this year!

Have you heard anything about Creative Cause recently?

Asked by Anonymous

Last I heard is Mike Harrington his trainer is sending him onto turf next after placing 3rd in the Preakness and ducking the Belmont. Where and when is up in the air, but by the smell of things he’ll be the best three-year-old on grass in the west.

English Channel Coming Up Roses

Back in his heyday, the turfer English Channel was among the best grass horses the U.S. had to offer who wasn’t an import. While that might not be saying much in the grand scheme of things, he was consistent as the day is long with rare stamina to boot, never faring worse than 4th and winning 6 times at 1 1/4 miles or farther. With powerful bloodlines backing him up (by the millionaire classic sire Smart Strike and out of a Theatrical [IRE] daughter), it’s tough to argue that English Channel would not have a place in the classics.

However, fast-forwarding to his first crop racing in the Triple Crown, his lone competitor son Optimizer was spotty at best. While he was the only horse to run in all three legs, his performances grew sour by the hour, reaching a rank moot point in the Belmont where he uncharacteristically ripped out of the gate and dropped back by the end. It was best for all connections involved to quietly tuck any mention of Optimizer away.

But now that the season has worn on and the three-year-olds are a little older, it’s time to take another look. English Channel himself was a late-bloomer and progressed slowly yet surely as a grass runner. His son, Blueskiesnrainbows, made a big splash as a greenhorn in the Santa Anita Derby (I), nearly besting I’ll Have Another and Creative Cause who finished together just a length ahead. He won today’s Swap Stakes (II) over some nice competition including G1 winner and stablemate Liasion. Not bad for a horse who was a bargain binner at $33,000.

Adding to the short list of promising progeny is the favorite and eventual winner of Canada’s beloved Queen’s Plate (I), Strait of Dover. A struggling claimer on the dirt, upon switching to Woodbine’s synthetic surface, the colt boomed, improving vastly to break his maiden and only got emphatically better as more distance was given to him. He would go on to win the Plate in a steady, track record-breaking try.

There are others, but with stuff to prove including D. Wayne Lukas’s on again, off again stakes winner Skyring (similar to his stablemate Optimizer, dare I say!). It’s not popular cheap speed fare, but I expect with a little more sitting and waiting, we’ll see more English Channel in the winner’s circle.

The whole Preakness field on the final turn
© Merlinoftheroundtable

The whole Preakness field on the final turn

© Merlinoftheroundtable

By the grandstand the first time…
© Merlinoftheroundtable

By the grandstand the first time…

© Merlinoftheroundtable

I object to the notion they went slow early on! They went fast enough, so much that Creative Cause was crushed!!!

Asked by Anonymous

Fast enough, yes, but Creative Cause looked like he was in a pretty good spot all things considered. He’s a slow grinder so he had to be forwardly placed for this race to have a shot, but something else to consider that I didn’t mention is the rail. Everyone knew since the day before the race that rail was dead and that’s where Bodemeister really struggled. I heavily credit the win to Mario; the ride he gave was real smart the whole way.

You said you didn't think this year's Derby was all that memorable, but what about this year's Preakness?

Asked by Anonymous

Good question, but one that is a little tougher to answer due to the fact I slept through the broadcast… or is it?

I wasn’t all that excited leading up to the Preakness, mainly because there just weren’t very many good horses going to the gate. I mean c’mon, there were 14 posts available and only 11 were filled with only 6 contenders from the Derby being involved. Went the Day Well and Creative Cause didn’t run as well as I thought they should, and Bodemeister set pretty easy fractions to prove it was not too tough a field.

The winner gave a great race, but I kind of still have to question his Belmont abilities since he really only got up to win in the final strides…

Bodemeister Seeks Vengeance in Preakness

Eleven horses complete the fourteen available slots for the second leg of the Triple Crown, with many saving steam for the arduous Belmont Stakes (I) in June while others will try to upset Derby winner I’ll Have Another and his punchy rival, Bodemeister. The chestnut champ has the record and strategy to win, but many have considered blaze-faced Bode to be the best horse overall. Adding to the pile, Creative Cause ran arguably the best race in the Kentucky Derby and there’s little room to suggest Went the Day Well won’t be a threat.

It all boils down to who you like… Shackleford led throughout last year’s Preakness to defeat a closing outside horse in Animal Kingdom. Rachel Alexandra also set a furious pace to win in 2009. Will Team Bode have its day or can the Cookie Monster roll right by again?

$1 million Preakness Stakes (I) - 3-Year-Olds. 1 3/16 miles on dirt at Pimlico. Post Time: Saturday, May 18 at 6:18pm EST

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

1) Tiger Walk - Kent Desormeaux, Ignacio Correras - A horse with some “tinkering” problems this year, the Tale of the Cat colt managed to hit the board once in the Withers (III), and has had a bad habit of becoming distracted or just not properly engaged when it counts. He swaps riders with Dullahan out, picking up Desormeaux and the tricky rail slot. Works have been pleasing at Pimlico, and this horse is raring to go. Experience is a big dead weight against him.

2) Teeth of the Dog - Joe Bravo, Michael Matz - The Bluegrass Cat colt has been a focal point of mine lately, mustering a strong third in the Wood Memorial (I) at long odds. His owner insisted upon a ship to the Preakness over the Peter Pan Stakes (II) last weekend, and trainer Matz is lukewarm about his chances. While I dislike Matz’s opinion of his odds, this puppy has some bite behind his bark with improving speed figures every race and he is an ace at routing. Breezes have been good at Fair Hill and he’s never been off the board in 4 starts.

3) Pretension - Javier Santiago, Chris Grove - The hometown horse, the Bluegrass Cat colt beat a small field to win the Canonero II Stakes over 1 1/16 miles at Pimlico, but a field that included the talented My Adonis. It was his best race this year after some very jumbled finishes in the Gotham (III) and Illinois Derby (III). The track win is nice, but he’ll have some big class hurdles. Bodemeister will probably want to haggle with him setting the pace.

4) Zetterholm - Junior Alvarado, Rick Dutrow - Silver Train babies have been doing super lately (ahem, Silver Max!), and this colt is no exception since switching over to the Dutrow barn. Winner of 3 of 4 starts this year, he won the mile-long Patsyprospect Stakes easily enough and has been training to stretch out. I like Dutrow horses… in New York. I also like newcomers… but not in G1 classics.

5) Went the Day Well - John Velazquez, Graham Motion - The Proud Citizen colt won the Spiral (III) easily enough, and then suffered a bad trip in the Kentucky Derby (I) but still mustered enough in the stretch to finish a very promising 4th. Cool connections and a rapidly rising improving cycle put WTDW at the top of the list. Can he keep on improving and get a decent trip? Probably, but I like this horse at a farther distance…

6) Creative Cause - Joel Rosario, Mike Harrington - Trakus figures catapult the Giant’s Causeway colt to winning the Kentucky Derby last out, where he was a grinding 5th. He appears to have recovered well from that race, but will need proper positioning and a far superior trip to win. I’d also like him more if the blinkers went back on…

7) Bodemeister - Mike Smith, Bob Baffert - The superstar of the Kentucky Derby may have run 2nd, but he was 1st in many minds. The Empire Maker colt will likely try to contain his speed a bit once again, but seems fresh as ever at Pimlico where he should by all means have another decent shot at beating I’ll Have Another. You’d be foolish to leave him out of the mix with a :59 3/5 bullet, especially considering the best horses beaten in the Derby often spring back to win the Preakness!

8) Daddy Nose Best - Julien Leparoux, Steve Asmussen - The 10th place finisher in the Kentucky Derby and winner of the Sunland Derby (III) springs back for redemption, this time trading jocks for Union Rags rider Julien Leparoux. Slow, short-spurt works and word of mouth place DNB at the bottom of the pile; he’s just not ready to give his best and I would be shocked to see him finish up front should that trend continue through Saturday.

9) I’ll Have Another - Mario Gutierrez, Doug O’Neill - The Flower Alley colt will seek to extend his incredible win streak to 4. He was a strong and happy winner of the Kentucky Derby, but usually enjoys a long layoff between his races so this will be his first big test on such short notice. Pimlico has been kind to IHA’s residency while prepping for the race, so he’ll have everything tailored to fit. He’ll need to catch Bodemeister once again, and he’ll have to do it from that leering outer post that has troubled so many Preakness starters.

10) Optimizer - Corey Nakatani, D. Wayne Lukas - Trading jocks once again, the English Channel colt finished 11th in the Kentucky Derby and has really only fired impressively once this year in a close 2nd in the Rebel Stakes (II). Works have been decent enough, but this is a puzzling horse to say the least.

11) Cozzetti - Jose Lezcano, Dale Romans - The coquettish Cozzene colt has some of the best speed figs of the newcomers, and Dale Romans is confident that he will run a big one— Romans also suggested that before his slow rallying 4th in the Arkansas (I), but I will rest my case. A :58 4/5 bullet at Churchill makes this gray all the more appealing. The outside and class test (best start of the year was a 3rd in the paltry Tampa Bay) are his biggest foes.

Top Picks in Order:

1) Bodemeister

2) I’ll Have Another

3) Went the Day Well

4) Teeth of the Dog

Value Pick(s): Went the Day Well

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