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Racing Beat: March 24

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Glad to know I got to see Agave Kiss race before she was retired. I really liked watching her races online, a filly with a lot of power. She’s booked to Tapit for her first foal.

ALSO GLAD: moody sprinter Hamazing Destiny.

Sounds like I might get to see the beautiful Cerro [IRE] in the Belmont Stakes this year!

Someone needs to be at the track all the time to photograph all these horses. I hate watching a big stakes and having no idea how pretty some of these underdog losers and victors are until afterward. Why are only famous ponies photographed? :/ Anyway, Black Onyx is pretty.

Orb won’t have many excuses to lose the Florida Derby with Merit Man setting the pace.

Getting people to love and watch horse racing is like getting people to love and actually read books. “TRY IT YOU’LL LOVE IT!… No you ought to try it this way… it gets better after the first hundred pages!”

Pure poetry in race calling: “Brutal power wrapped in an elegant machine!” Perfect for Black Caviar.

Something that drove me crazy this week: “handicappers” dismissing certain horses on the Derby trail because they took 4 or 5 times to break their maiden. Hello? Ever heard of late bloomers? Oxbow needed time to get good. I don’t recall who said it specifically.

The 2013 running of the Bourbonette Oaks will live in infamy preceded by “Fathead.” No.

I used Twilight Eclipse and Excaper in the Kent Stakes (III) last year, so naturally I was miffed when he decided to win in world record time yesterday.

Count on me to not want one of my most beloved Derby contenders from last year, Sky Kingdom, to win over Calidioscopio [ARG] yesterday. His Marathon win was one of the most exciting (and profitable) for me personally.

A full sibling to Zo Impressive is in the works! Zoftig is back in foal to Hard Spun for 2014! I miss “Zo.”

Tweet o’ the Week:

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Weekend Stake Tip: The Weekend Where I Ripped Out All of My Hair

I kid, it’s all still here, but figuratively speaking it’s all on the damn floor.

It’s too bad I’m not in a writing class this semester, because then I would aspire to write an ode about how much I hated this weekend for racing, with Parx in particular. It seemed like nobody showed up to run, unless I didn’t bet on them (looking at you Dust and Diamonds and Well Spelled!). This was the first weekend in a long, long time that absolutely no one I picked hit the board, and to complete the irony, a seemingly easy “toss-out” won the PA Derby with the can’t-close-under-a-sluggish-pace Macho Macho sitting further up to get second. Golden Ticket looked like he could have done better; he looked too blocked to compete in the stretch. Then, you know, you’ve got Casual Trick pretending to be Silky Sullivan out there…

When I handicap the weekly race, I always come up with at least one reason why and why not each horse could win the race. For Handsome Mike, the winning reason was that he’s a Scat Daddy colt, and that sire’s first offspring have been doing splendid all year. I won’t list the “not” reasons because now they don’t matter and there’s simply too many of them. I will admit though I did not give Handsome Mike enough of a chance where he did have one; the PA Derby was what I call a vulnerable race, one without a super solid favorite and a generally wide open group of competitors with upsets bound to happen. I just picked the wrong horse to upset (Casual Trick).

The most annoying race of the weekend was also the most exciting: the Cotillion (I), at no other than Parx. *sends large object flying through a closed window*

I spent the larger part of the week talking back and forth with Reinier about this race, trying in many ways to convince myself that Questing was just as close to a lock as there could be despite the ridiculous 7 pounds separating this grandiose filly from undefeated Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Filly winner My Miss Aurelia. She was just simply too fast to catch, and even with that extra weight, MMA would have to be flying to catch her at the end. As I said in my Pennsylvania Derby handicapping post when talking about Csaba, I rarely go with the likely speed demon in the race, so thus I shouldn’t consider myself overly wise on the subject of good speed. Even though Questing possessed it better than most.

So was it jockey error, then? Irad Ortiz Jr. sent Questing to the lead as predicted, but only held her about a length or two in front of My Miss Aurelia to set dragging fractions of :25 and :50. Easily, the guy was setting a slow pace so as to skip away with the lead at the end, a clever yet common way for a speed horse to win. However, the drawback of that plan surfaced on the turn when the still-energetic and determined Aurelia began to make her move and Questing tried to get away; it was the Delaware Handicap all over again with one filly rallying on even terms and the other trying to get away under the pressure of a weight handicap. But Questing had more work than Havre de Grace did— about 5 pounds’ more work!— and while she fought heroically, the deal was done. A heartbreaking loss for one, a triumph of talent and gusto for the other. With both headed to the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic, will Questing change her tune, or will she fall victim to Aurelia and the older mares?

So what did I learn about racing this week, Princess Celestia? Hmm. Well I will probably banish Parx from now on, between its 30% takeout on trifectas and ridic personal past it will be hard for me to play in the future. Also, don’t quit on your heart bets all the time… I left Excaper out of the bottom half of my exacta box for the Kent (III)— a very weird turf race where no one showed up to run. I have also confirmed what I already knew about Alpha: he’s not very good at all. I plan on sticking to my strengths come Super Saturday…

Derby Watch: Year of the Gray Horse

An old handicappers’ saying goes a little something like "Always pick the gray horse." Seems pretty easy to rely on such a color with the likes of the great Native Dancer [pictured] influencing practically every gray runner. Despite its lack of true logic, this saying has been growing its clout all year with the current two-year-old crop with room for more next year. Enter: the year of the gray horses at the Kentucky Derby.

The 2011 Derby had only one gray, Twinspired, but by the looks of things, there are more than a few legitimate Derby threats that are gray/roan:

  • So Brilliant - So Brilliant was fittingly named in his stakes win to stay undefeated in two starts. By Medaglia d’Oro, he’s got some distance pedigree sporting the likes of Runaway Groom and Deputy Minister on the bottom half. He’s out of the CashCall this weekend with a temperature, but will be back to practice soon with Bob Baffert.
  • Creative Cause - Arguably the west’s best Derby hopeful, he’s three for five and was third in a very strong Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (I). He’s been the cat’s meow on the juvenile scene and shows no ambition to be anything less, and has never finished off-the-board. Expect great things with this gray Giant’s Causeway.
  • Cozzetti - A gray/roan son of Cozzene, this colt has already shown he favors distance running. He broke his maiden by 5 romping lengths at 1 1/16 miles a month ago and is a sharp underdog for today’s CashCall Futurity (I).
  • Hodge - A dark gray son of City Place, Hodge was keen to go with fellow gray So Brilliant and Brother Francis in the Hollywood Prevue (III), where he finished a good third over 7 furlongs. Who knows, with some work this classy colt could make the picture. Miswaki, Storm Cat, and Glitterman all appear up close in his pedigree.
  • Stat - The original Saratoga Special (II) hopeful who lost to Union Rags in the slop, we all know better than to believe one of Todd Pletcher’s good ones is going to go ignored. A son of Unbridled’s Song, he hasn’t worked recently but a little vacation can offer him an edge over the more harried juveniles in the long run.
  • O’Prado Again - A modest winner in the all-too-important Derby prep, the Remsen Stakes (II), this El Prado colt shows a lot of maturity and preference for the classic distance already with two wins in a row at 1 1/8 miles.
  • Exfactor - Beautiful, beautiful Exchange Rate colt, he’s due for a fresh race at the Fair Grounds today with two wins and a second, one in the Bashford Manor (III) and all with Calvin Borel. The question remains if he likes to go a bit further, but with Kris S., Miswaki, and Danzig in his background, his odds aren’t too shabby.
  • Excaper - More a grass horse than anything else, he was second to Wrote in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf and has been running phenomenally since he started. Another excellent Exchange Rate boy, let’s hope he’s given a chance to shine in the Derby… he’s already decent at synthetic.
  • Empire Way - A full brother to 2011 Ladies’ Classic champion and the obvious best three-year-old filly, Royal Delta, the gray colt got off to a great start smashing his maiden at first asking with ease. His trainer admitted to running him too soon afterward in the Hollywood Prevue (III) (which I agree with), so I think it’s still very safe to say Empire Way is going to be a combatant in the big prep races next year. Watch him today in the CashCall.
  • The Roan Ranger - First off… BEST NAME EVER! Yet another one of Exchange Rate’s boys, I’m not sold on his abilities just yet (runner-up to So Brilliant last out in a maiden special weight), but I don’t care. Some of the best Derby winners weren’t champs right off the bat, and he’s got such a catchy name I feel like he could be next year’s Mucho Macho Man cheering section.
  • Hardtap - Less heard of than the others, he’s been working smoothly at Santa Anita and while he likely won’t start until he’s a three-year-old, his connections already think he’s the best two-year-old in the barn— saying a lot, since they own Delta Jackpot winner Sabercat!
  • Hansen - I don’t think there’s been any other horse this year who has blown my mind quite like Hansen. A simple afternoon of watching a little TVG befuddled me as I watched a replay of Hansen’s 15+ length maiden win followed shortly by an equally indescribable stakes win. While Union Rags remained my favorite, there was no discrediting Hansen in his Breeders’ Cup Juvenile win, and I expect him to keep doing well next year as a sophomore.

… and lest we forget the gray ladies we have leading the charge for the Oaks/Derby such as Indisposablepleasure, but I think you already get it from this extensive list. Bet the gray horse.

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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