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Who were you cheering on when the gates opened that first Saturday in May? My Kentucky Derby horses throughout the years (Tumblr has a dumb limit of 10 photos):

  • 2013: Normandy Invasion (4th)
  • 2012: Union Rags (7th)
  • 2011: Nehro (2nd)
  • 2010: Ice Box (2nd)
  • 2009: Desert Party (14th)
  • 2008: Big Brown (1st)
  • 2007: Street Sense (1st)
  • 2006: Steppenwolfer (3rd)
  • 2005: N/A, I don’t think I followed the race that year for whatever reason
  • 2004: Action This Day (6th)
  • 2003: Empire Maker (2nd)

Not pictured: 2002 - War Emblem (1st), who ran in the first Derby I ever watched.

Racing Beat: December 9

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Psst… Christmas card requests are due in by this Saturday (December 15)! Lava Man will be getting one per a request on Doug O’Neill Stables’ Facebook. Send him one too if you want! (Lava Man c/o 122-A E Foothill Blvd #300, Arcadia, CA 91006)

IT’S ABOUT DAMN TIME… the Delaware Handicap (I) is finally a G1 race after being a G2 for leading ladies like Blind Luck in her unforgettable stretch duel with Havre de Grace, and winners Royal Delta, Life at Ten, and Hystericalady. It really should have been upgraded before the Cotillion got its boost.

Even though I’m not into Pletcher horses, I really liked In Lingerie back around the time leading up to her win in the Bourbonette… probably because I like Empire Makers so much. She didn’t retire in the same form, but I have high hopes for her future Frankel baby. Can’t. Wait.

Ughh… that photo of Michael Phelps and Graham Motion. Graham looks like a classy Brit… Phelps… those glasses… I didn’t think it was possible to despise him more than I already do. Gold medal collection or not, don’t nobody give me a hard time about it or ask me to explain. The man just looks weird and it always looks like he’s breathing out of his mouth.

He can dirt as well as turf! Fredericksburg made his dirt start yesterday at the competitive Gulfstream Park and finished 2nd!

How the tables have turned… Henny Hughes is welcomed back into Kentucky’s bluegrass with open arms. Who’d have thought he’d sire so many stakes winners so soon?

I honestly don’t see Gary Stevens actually returning to race-riding, but it’s a cozy thought.

Remember last year’s Illinois Derby (III) winner Joe Vann? He just got adopted as an OTTB at New Vocations!

Madman Diaries… now that is a name I have not heard in a long time…

Part of me is intrigued and excited to see the CashCall (I), the other part chortles at the thought of a legitimate Derby horse emerging from this race. Why is this still a Grade 1 event?

Paynter got my vote for the Vox Populi.

I read somewhere that Buffum was purchased for $1.2 million as a yearling. Oh ow…

I’m kind of surprised that the New York Times won the Team Valor journalism award. Half of the racing-related stuff they published was demeaning smut, and don’t get me started on what I think of Joe Drape’s personality. (Which is saying a lot having read some of his work before reading what he had to say to people)

Tweet o’ the Week: No pun intended?

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One of my favorite things about visiting Saratoga was the sheer class that was eminent everywhere— even in the “losers.” Buleria here was 4th to future stakes star Madame Giry, but managed to nose out Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (I) runner-up Stopshoppingmaria after stumbling out of the gate in a turf sprint allowance. Ridden by Ramon Dominguez and bred by famous Claiborne Farm, she’s by Empire Maker and out of a multiple graded stakes winning Pulpit daughter named Wend. When you’re here at Saratoga with its short season and full fields, you know it’s only the best. (Photo by Dawna Wood/GallopingHatRack.com)

One of my favorite things about visiting Saratoga was the sheer class that was eminent everywhere— even in the “losers.” Buleria here was 4th to future stakes star Madame Giry, but managed to nose out Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (I) runner-up Stopshoppingmaria after stumbling out of the gate in a turf sprint allowance. Ridden by Ramon Dominguez and bred by famous Claiborne Farm, she’s by Empire Maker and out of a multiple graded stakes winning Pulpit daughter named Wend. When you’re here at Saratoga with its short season and full fields, you know it’s only the best. (Photo by Dawna Wood/GallopingHatRack.com)

Early Bird Watch: Bustle

More Than Ready was an accomplished dirt sprinter in his time, winning the 2000 King’s Bishop (I) and a string of other stakes like the Hutcheson (II) and Sanford (II). Ironically though, he is considered to be a top sire of turf ponies who can get a good distance.

It wouldn’t be a real Derby list if there weren’t a couple nice fillies to watch (and hope) for, and it wouldn’t be a real Derby list by me if there weren’t any Michael Matz horses to watch. Consider two birds killed with one stone.

While More Than Ready traditionally sires excellent turf horses, he was adept at dirt himself and has sired plenty of graded winners on that surface as well, with his progeny including Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner Regally Ready, Turf Juvenile winner Pluck, and Turf Juvenile Filly winner More Than Real. His daughter Bustle commanded attention recently when she broke her maiden at Delaware Park, romping home on the dirt by 7 lengths out in front after the originally one-mile turf test was moved to the main track under a driving rainstorm. She is the first foal from the lightly-raced Vanquished, who is sired by Belmont winner Empire Maker and out of Critical Crew, thus making her a half to millionaire Critical Eye who won multiple graded stakes on both turf and dirt. The More Than Ready/Unbridled influence has yielded a high success rate on both dirt and grass overall internationally.

Even more special is the background connection that may make this particular filly’s progress tick: she is owned and bred by Michael’s wife, Dorothy Matz. Dorothy is no stranger to the world of Thoroughbred racing, as her grandfather Robert Kleberg having owned King Ranch (the entity that raced 1946 Triple Crown winner Assault and 1950 Derby winner Middleground) and she’s been an owner since the ’80s with modest success stories trained by her husband. Her background as a breeder is even more promising, having bred G1 winner Offlee Wild.

However, I realize no matter how you angle it, Bustle remains a tough sell. She ran fifth in a Saratoga maiden featuring winner Dreaming of Julia back in August, but to be honest, that was also her first start and she looked like she was trying to feel out her bearings. Her second start was a terrible, tiring trip on grass and on her third try she bested the rest on dirt, but who knows how to rate that field in a rainstorm on an off-track.

Can We Just Stop for a Minute

And give serious props to Awesome Again? I was thinking about this stuff the other day and figured I just had to write it down before some big-wig elsewhere borrowed my thought process and acted upon it.

I’ve had a soft spot for Adena Springs since I started really following modern horse racing. My visit to Calder spotted me several Adena-sired horses, and I can’t help but respect the people who not only bought for big money, but continued racing my favorite juvie from 2010, Awesome Feather. Adena Springs is a pretty good-sized breeding and racing operation with a little bit of their own rehoming program to boot, standing names like Macho Uno, Einstein, Ghostzapper, and the truly awesome Awesome Again.

This gorgeous bay stallion really doesn’t get the credit he deserves in the era of Bernardini spam, A.P. Indy orgies, and Empire Maker circlejerks (sorry for the graphic choice of words, but really, it fits). Rewinding back to the glory days when he still raced, he won 9 of 12 races with a top Equibase speed rating of 123. He broke his maiden by 6 lengths on his second try at a distance-digging 1 1/16 miles. He won the Queen’s Plate, the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and the Whitney by daylight. His Classic win was especially memorable, as Awesome came flying from the back of the pack to stay undefeated in 1998 over a top field that included Silver Charm, Victory Gallop, and Skip Away. His racing career ended with a back injury while running fifth in the Super Derby (then a G1 stake).

A lot of excellent racehorses turn out to be not-so-awesome sires, but in this case, it’s where Awesome Again really started humming. After winning in excess of $4.3 million at the races, Awesome Again would spur a legacy of millionaires, G1 winners, and Breeders’ Cup winners, thereby becoming one of those rare, excellent horses that produced even better than himself. In his first crop born in 2000, he caught fire immediately with the impeccably fast Ghostzapper, who won sprints as in the Vosburgh (I) before taking the Breeders’ Cup Classic (I) in record time (which still stands!). Hotstufandthensome, Round Pond, Spun Sugar, Awesome Action [CAN], Eishin Newton, Wilko, Awesome Gem, Ginger Punch, and Game On Dude are easy adds to the “most awesome” Awesomes list.

In more recent seasons, unfortunately, the number of big money winners by Awesome Again took a decline with many progeny never even having a start at the track. Rooted at a good $50k per season price, Awesome was little match for the wave of new popular blood (i.e. Unbridled’s Song) that begat fast, precocious talent. Even top broodmares were not spitting out bona fide racers with Awesome Again (see Finder’s Fee [an Acorn Stakes (I) winning daughter of Storm Cat] who has two Awesome Again foals earning less than $100k combined).

However, the future remains bright for Awesome Again as both he and his finest son Ghostzapper are having a breakthrough year with stakes winners and top performers. Fast Falcon looked game enough to win a paltry edition of the Travers (I) and was a close runner-up in the Dwyer (II), but most notably, it is the son Paynter who has shown some of the most promise in a year bloated with excellent sophomores. While he did not start until he was 3 and was slow to progress, Paynter nearly upset the Belmont Stakes (I) in front-running fashion and then capped off a tremendous Haskell (I) to become the early Travers favorite. In a sense, it’s paramount that Paynter survives his current bout of illness to continue to buoy the stud career of his sire. Between Paynter and multi-G1 winner Game On Dude— who looks to be a key favorite in avenging his close Breeders’ Cup Classic loss— 2012 could mean the revival of Awesome Again as a relevant sire should his progeny collect his 5th Breeders’ Cup win in November, an historic 2nd Classic winner by a Classic winner.

Here’s to an awesome fall, Dude.

Racing Beat: September 1

The Travers winners could meet again in Pennsylvania Derby!!!!… No one gives a f—k, or certainly at least not me.

RIP Theatrical [IRE], a really underrated sire.

Could someone please name a good Empire Maker baby Empire Strikes Back?

I was told that the Stanley Cup made an appearance where I work. No one was apparently allowed to hold it, and I couldn’t help but remember that Go For Gin was allowed to drink from it.

Can you imagine how empty D. Wayne Lukas’s stable would be if Bluegrass Hall pulled their runners? At least to me it feels like they’re his only client!

Archwarrior… I do love the baby Arches, but with Todd Pletcher training them to the Derby I might have to flake out when deciding my fantasy Derby stable. That guy bruised my standings two years in a row with his fragile brilliant runners.

FREDERICKSBURG! Early choice for the Juvie Turf!

Who is worthy of a 17-way shake? Apparently Lime Rickey, who was much the best winning R3 at Del Mar yesterday downgrading a ways to the claiming ranks.

When is Super Saturday going to get here?

The Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic is looking like potentially the best race so far if everyone makes it… Awesome Feather, Questing [GB], Royal Delta, It’s Tricky, My Miss Aurelia

Javier and Abel Castellano both had new baby boys born an hour apart on August 28. Both jockey dads must have been pretty disappointed their sons weren’t in a lighter weight percentile.

Good to see an old favorite of mine will be going to a high profile farm once he retires. Brilliant Speed, one of the longest shots I’ve ever picked to win in last year’s Blue Grass (20-1), takes sire Dynaformer's place at Three Chimneys.

I’m glad to see Rudy Rodriguez get another nice filly with My Happy Face.

New favorite horse name to be added to the ranks: Giacomo Strap. (Thanks Reinier)

Tweet o’ the Week

Racing Beat: July 29

Bridgejumpers unite! Someone bet $200k on a horse to show at Canterbury Park (the total card’s handle that day was $146,000 to give you an idea) to make $10k off that bet. Cha-ching!

I feel like it would be an awesome idea to see horses/jockeys dress up like past legends. I don’t know how they would exhibit this to the public, but it would be a cool publicity stunt. I’d fangirl over some Man o’ War nostalgia.

Teen Pauline made me excited to see the future Tapit-Zenyatta foal a whole lot more than I already did.

YEAH COIL!!! LET’S BRING HIM BACK TO THE TOP!

The two-year-old fillies are officially making a bigger splash thus far than the boys. Bob Baffert trainee Maker or Breaker (an Empire Maker daughter) ran down her stablemate while breaking her maiden, running one of the fastest final 1/8s in the country!

The only reason Ramon Dominguez managed to get 6 wins at Saratoga in one day was because Johnny V was absent. I don’t think that’ll happen again!

HOLD THE PHONE! I thought Belmont was confirmed for the 2013 Breeders’ Cup… why are we still discussing the location?! Put it there so I can actually go!

So You Think [IRE] and Black Caviar should get married…

Best pre-Travers prep race? I missed watching the Haskell (I WOULD HAVE HAD THAT EXACTA!) but as of right now I’m leaning on Street Life to hash it out with Bodemeister.

I was pronouncing Dullahan correctly for months before getting confused watching the Blue Grass Stakes (II) where it was pronounced “DOOL-la-han.” UGH.

I would go off on a tangent right now about how much I dislike Taco’s registered name (Jess’s Dream), but I think Afleetalexandra already wrote it down for me. I pray to God “Bernyatta” isn’t next #killme

I’m hopeful that Winter Memories will make it to the Breeders’ Cup this year. Or at least finishes the year off sans injury… I am so wary of this happening to my favorites.

Tweet o’ the Week is from the Triple Crown’s race caller Larry Collmus!

私は別のものがあるでしょう

That’s what “I’ll Have Another" is in Japanese. Or roughly, because I used Google Translate and you know how that goes.

It’s been a good few years since the Far East snapped up one of our Triple Crown winners, and while I’m saddened to see our Cookie Monster set sail for a new land, I have to wonder what impacted this sale. No doubt, there have been offers in the past for other Triple Crown leg champs, so what was the big sell point? Was it the [likely] possibility that I’ll Have Another’s value at stud would be abysmal? Was it the soundness issue that threatened? Let’s look at past winners bought by Japan:

  • Empire Maker - The heavy favorite for the 2003 Kentucky Derby came in second to Funny Cide after some hoof issues likely plagued his trip. He roared back to win the Belmont Stakes in the slop before shuttling to Japan in 2010 to begin a powerful career at stud, siring winners such as In Lingerie, It’s Tricky, Royal Delta, Bodemeister, Grace Hall, and Pioneerof the Nile. Big mistake, U.S.
  • War Emblem - The almost-Triple Crown winner of 2002, while War Emblem has a short progeny list due to lack of interest in breeding, he already has a few millionaires to his credit and shows all signs of a great influence on the Japan industry. He likely would not have been as sought-after in the States, but nonetheless, had some intriguing potential in his pedigree.
  • Sunday Silence - The black almost-Triple Crown winner of 1989 is no doubt one of Japan’s most influential foundation sires period, with more than a decade topping the national sire list and multi-generational winners spanning the globe. His conqueror Easy Goer, who stayed in the States, was also successful but not even close to this degree. I mourn that hit.

I don’t personally think I’ll Have Another will have as large an impact as these past Triple Crown leg winners; if anything, I would compare him to other sales made by Japan with Roses in May and Conduit— nice horses, but nothing awe-inspiring seen in their long-term influence. The purchase by Japan was completed largely for financial reasons, as no one farm in Kentucky was willing to make a decent offer on I’ll Have Another in comparision to Big Red Farm in Hokkaido.

Our loss, their gain I guess. It’s all just a disappointing end to a disappointing Triple Crown run.

I almost didn’t recognize Bodemeister without his blinkers yesterday, and boy was I proud to see him win so impressively. It really didn’t look like he was asked, and once again, I think the Arkansas Derby (I) has produced another horse for me to include in my top 2 or 3 to win the Big One in May. I wish Empire Maker was still in the United States…

I almost didn’t recognize Bodemeister without his blinkers yesterday, and boy was I proud to see him win so impressively. It really didn’t look like he was asked, and once again, I think the Arkansas Derby (I) has produced another horse for me to include in my top 2 or 3 to win the Big One in May. I wish Empire Maker was still in the United States…

Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (I) winner Royal Delta will return to the races next year with original trainer Bill Mott after being sold at auction for $8.5 million— truly an astonishing and wonderful news tidbit considering how things usually go in the multi-million dollar horse industry. Royal Delta is being pointed to the 2012 Dubai World Cup.

Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (I) winner Royal Delta will return to the races next year with original trainer Bill Mott after being sold at auction for $8.5 million— truly an astonishing and wonderful news tidbit considering how things usually go in the multi-million dollar horse industry. Royal Delta is being pointed to the 2012 Dubai World Cup.

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Tracks visited: Calder, Saratoga, Belmont, Suffolk, Aqueduct.


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