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Racing Beat: March 9


Rockingham Park in New Hampshire (on the border with Massachusetts) is favored to take in a gambling license should legislation for expanded gambling pass. Millennium Gaming of Las Vegas aims to bring Thoroughbred OR Standardbred horse racing back should everything fall into place. GOOD, WE NEED MOAR PONIES IN NEW ENGLAND.

"Jockeys" is on Netflix? *finally gets to watch*

Fort Larned's barn nickname is “Big Ugly” haha. That one I didn't have to read much into to find out why… he's so recognizable with his big flat face at the track, but as you can tell by my icon picture he's so happy to be there it's hard not to like him.

Barretts sales inspires more eye-rolling as Coolmore dumps hundreds of thousands. One top-seller is a Malibu Moon. You won’t catch me investing that much in a two-year-old, never mind a Malibu Moon.

Someone needs to buy me a green screen. I want to “predict” winners like a meteorologist predicts the weather. CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF UPSET IN KENTUCKY THIS SATURDAY… damn, that’s a pretty good idea *saves* *goes to Ebay* Honestly it’s not like I have to be that accurate.

Ive Struck a Nerve is off the Derby trail with an injured ankle. I don’t feel any different.

Florida people are nuts for not taking advantage of the Gulfstream trackside buffet breakfast… IT’S $8. I paid something like $16.99 for the Saratoga one… not that I regret because I don’t but just pointing out the bargains going on!

I think Golden Soul could win the Belmont.

*GASP* I also liked Hear the Ghost in the paddock prior to his maiden win where he was an also-eligible at ridic odds!

Beholder's madre Leslie’s Lady, also the dam of red-hot freshman sire Into Mischief (sire of Goldencents and Vyjack), will be bred this year to Eskendereya. #unf

Coil now has a half sister by Smart Strike!

Next race I’m really interested in seeing… the Spiral, actually. I’m really surprising myself this year.

Tweet o’ the Week: Havre de Grace's newest little sis has a moon instead of a star marking…


I love how these two are pasture mates! 2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace and 2011 Kentucky Oaks winner Plum Pretty hanging out at Taylor Made. (Photo by Kent Sweezey)

I love how these two are pasture mates! 2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace and 2011 Kentucky Oaks winner Plum Pretty hanging out at Taylor Made. (Photo by Kent Sweezey)

Racing Beat: December 9


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?


Derby Watch: D-Day for Chad Brown

Everyone who reads this blog on a constant basis will have likely noticed that I often like what Chad Brown has to offer. The young New York trainer has the touch with his growing stable of top-class horses and has a way of keeping them in fighting trim: Awesome Feather, Dayatthespa, Balance the Books, Watsdachances [IRE], and many more were winners this year. I’m also a not-so-private fan of Fox Hill Farms, who were at the helm of the careers of Havre de Grace and Eight Belles. I’d love to see Brown make it to the Derby in May, and one of his early nice prospects has to be Remsen (II) runner-up Normandy Invasion, who wears the red and white colors of Fox Hill.

While I think the Remsen this year wasn’t all that remarkable, it is still a nice long 9-furlong race I always make a point to watch. Last year’s race resulted in future Risen Star (II) winner El Padrino and the 2010 edition yielded To Honor and Serve and Mucho Macho Man. I don’t like the looks of Overanalyze the winner, but I will like to discuss Normandy Invasion a bit.

The bay colt sired by Tapit debuted against a strong field at Belmont back in September in a MSW I recall watching as Mico Margarita conquered the Pletcher horse Nevada, also sired by Tapit. He went wide and weakened, beaten some 6 lengths by experienced colts. He gained some points and moved on to Aqueduct next where he broke his maiden with an extra 2 furlongs, beating up the field to win by 9 1/4 lengths. In the Remsen he looked the part of a winner losing a nose to the stakes-experienced and G2 winner Overanalyze, who managed to beat him by a narrow bob of the head, the two and pacesetter Delhomme (third by 3/4 lengths) separating themselves from the field by over 16 lengths. Sandwiched by Dixie Union-sired Pletcher colts, it doesn’t look like Normandy Invasion is going to bend.

Analyzing the Remsen itself, Overanalyze sat in 2nd off a soft pace sitting just off of Delhomme. Normandy Invasion sat far back in last— according to the official charts he gave up some 9 lengths to leader Delhomme by the first point-of-call. Logically, this gave Overanalyze not much of an excuse to be beaten by Normandy Invasion, who had to overcome the difficult task of making up ground after the leaders got such an easy pace and was making a long, hard drive that began early on the far turn.

Brown and Fox Hill Farm are no stranger to precocious individuals, and this colt is nothing but that. Tapit is famed for siring early speed and damsire Boston Harbor was the winner of the 1996 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (I). Questions linger as to whether this colt can keep piling on the distance and keep that ability strong as he ages. There’s also been questions as to whether or not this race was given a misleading Beyer speed figure of a super impressive 99— keep in mind that Union Rags never did better than a 95 as a two-year-old and both Overanalyze and Normandy Invasion experienced huge point jumps all of a sudden. Really?

Can Brown keep the streak alive, or is he fated to replicate fellow New York powerhorse trainer Pletcher in training just good two-year-olds? Can he train a youngster well on the dirt and lead him to the Derby gates? Can Normandy Invasion offer Fox Hill another chance at the world’s biggest race? I don’t usually like a whole lot of two-year-olds for the Derby at this point, but I think we just saw another promising horse come out of the Remsen again this year.

Havre de Grace, the $10 million lady, at Taylor Made

Havre de Grace, the $10 million lady, at Taylor Made

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…

Weekend Stake Tip: Royal Bounces Back

And we’re back… again!

Reeling things back in, it was a decent weekend handicapping-wise, with two little strategy items I would like to bring to the table. We all have our methods, with some receiving priority over others at times, and this past weekend it was trainer bias and personal streak. Typically, for some reason, I will either have a very good weekend or a bad weekend. This weekend I was doing badly, but just like on Belmont Day, I made it all up and put myself back in the black in the last few races. Thank you, Royal Delta, Turbulent Descent, and It’s Me Mom!

But, back to trainer bias: The Hill Prince Stakes (III) had two stand-outs with Howe Great and Summer Front, two colts I liked very much on their own, but together, had a little difficulty determining which I liked better. I rarely look away from a War Front on the grass, but Howe Great, despite his Blue Grass trip on synthetic, was more experienced and impressed me greatly at Gulfstream. Summer Front is trained by Chris Clemente, a favorite under-the-radar trainer of mine who I always seriously consider, but Howe Great was also trained by a good one: Graham Motion (no explanation needed). In the end, I went with the better odds in Howe Great while Summer Front won impressively despite a worse trip. In this case, a place on one or the other would have come in handy in such a close class test. The wonderfully-bred Film Shot hung in for the show at 28-1… drat! [Watch replay below]

When it came to the girls, no one was better than Royal Delta at Churchill Downs’ Fleur de Lis Handicap (II) with Mike Smith in the irons. I profited off the “Dubai bounce” doubters once before with Game On Dude, and had confidence in Bill Mott’s abilities at the Downs to bring this classy girl home first once more. And honestly, Royal Delta’s run looked so fresh, I have to compare it to Game On Dude’s Californian and Animal Kingdom's allowance win the way she ran it, looking eager to pounce the entire time and winning in an absolutely effortless hand ride. The Empire Maker daughter won the race by 8 lengths while running a full second faster than Ron the Greek in the same day’s Stephen Foster Handicap (I). The whole race made me forget that we’re missing Havre de Grace this year… (Watch the race replay here)

Speaking of the Stephen Foster (I), which was the handicapped race for last week, a Wise Dan-Nate’s Mineshaft exacta was spoiled by an alert Ron the Greek. D’oh! Upset!

Racing Beat: April 29


I always get teary-eyed during the singing of “My Old Kentucky Home” at the Derby and even “New York, New York” at the Belmont. They might be tears of anguish with the national anthem being sung by Mary J. Blige. I guess it could be worse… Taylor Swift could be singing, but since it’s not about a bad breakup she quite reasonably cannot commit.

Havre de Grace is for sale after her retirement announcement, but I guess I should probably buy a car before I think about a Ferrari.

Evidence why works matter: Mamma Kimbo did not handle the Churchill dirt well in a recent work over the surface, effectively being slated for Black-Eyed Susan Day at Pimlico while skipping the Oaks. Not everypony’s going to like that track.

First there were Facebook fan pages for individual racehorses… now, they have Twitters popping up everywhere. If they only knew how some humans were killing their dignities on the interwebs… TEEHEE I RAN FIVE FURLONGS IN 1:00 3/5!

Black Caviar does one better than Zenyatta and is now undefeated in 20 starts! Is there anyone out there that can keep up with her? Oh yeah… that one they have in England whose name rhymes with cankle

To Honor and Serve and Tackleberry for the Met Mile (I), please.

Nothing makes me feel better than seeing a stakes won with a barn-wide anti-Lasix policy. Congrats are due to Eoin Harty and Bill Casner’s Endorsement in the Texas Mile (III), who came back from a condylar fracture and a long layoff to win like a true champion.

I keep hearing how good every entry has been looking in the days leading up to the Kentucky Derby, looks-wise and works-wise. COME ON, IT’S TIME FOR SOMEONE TO LOOK BAD NOW… even the speed horse Trinniberg is hard to knock!

Time for a quick rewind: from my final thoughts and predictions about last year’s Kentucky Derby winner…

Read about the rest of the field here. I will likely not have as many red down arrows for this year’s field!

I’d like to have an open discussion with some of the deranged horse racing fans that submit things to the horse racing confessions blog on here… and by the way, those who wanted me to do a video I haven’t had time to shoot (plus the weather’s been awful) but I DO have an enormous list of things that would go in it if and when I do it.

And last but not least is the Tweet O’ the Week, which doubles as the Butt of the Week, from HRN’s Matt Shifman. Just look at the hindquarters on To Honor and Serve! Boom!

Racing Beat: April 8

It would be awesome if someday Union Rags and Rags to Riches would go out on a date. It’s a match right up there with Pants on Fire and Unzip Me.

Todd Pletcher doesn’t have a Twitter, but he’s well aware of @NotTheToddster

Tackleberry's going to the Charles Town Classic again… bring. it. on.

It’s been announced that Wood Memorial winner I Want Revenge has been retired. But… but… that horse still owes me some money!!

I was 2-for-3 yesterday in predicting the winners of this weekend’s Kentucky Derby preps, with Creative Cause falling short by a nose in the Santa Anita Derby (I) to knock me out. This is the umpteenth time I decided to sideline myself from betting later races on Saturday that could have turned out profitable— I could have had Castaway weeks ago at 8-1 while yesterday Done Talking won at 13-1. Ffffffuuuu— Then again, this feels like last year where I started doing better as the races grew to 1 1/8 miles. I picked both longshot winners last year for the Arkansas (I) and Blue Grass (II): Archarcharch at 15-1 and Brilliant Speed at 20-1.

Did a little reading on breeder Annie Cauley the other day, and was pleased to find out that she didn’t learn how to ride until she was 22. Now, she’s breeding stakes winner after winner, most recently On Fire Baby.

Havre de Grace gets 123 pounds in the Apple Blossom (I), giving away some 5 pounds to some other probables like Plum Pretty, causing Larry Jones and Rick Porter to pull their Horse of the Year out of there. I’m going to guess it was the difference between weights they found unfair— I’d have given the mare 124 pounds at least— but it’s not like she’ll have it easy in her other anticipated start, the La Troienne (I) on Derby weekend.

Gulfstream is over? :( But that means Calder is around the corner for South Florida and in New York, Belmont steps in for Aqueduct!

I’ll Have Another won the Santa Anita Derby (I) with a time 3 seconds faster than Gemologist's Wood (I)… I have officially stopped doubting him. (However, Gemologist had a 98 Beyer while I'll Have Another scored a 94)

The magnificence of this year’s three-year-old crop almost makes me sad because I’m convinced this year’s juveniles won’t be as good. It’s also because of said magnificence I’m beginning to step away from the idea that this could be a Triple Crown year. It’s also going to make my Derby Dozen profiles that much harder to narrow down.

I wish all my readers a very happy Easter. The bunny did not fail me this year.

Havre de Grace (Photo by Greg Brandow)

Havre de Grace (Photo by Greg Brandow)

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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