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Racing Beat: October 21

We’ll miss you Frankel.

New theory: Bernardinis are only useful from June-early September.

A stand-out year for sire Montjeu [IRE] as Joshua Tree nails his third Canadian International (I) and Camelot nearly had the English Triple Crown.

I would have jumped on writing about Z Big Apple a while ago, but then I noticed he’s by Malibu Moon who I don’t really like.

What! Is Morning Line really coming back for the Dirt Mile?

Somebody adopt this little Tale of the Cat gelding “Sacred Tradition” from New Vocations… this is the second or third time I’ve seen an update from him. He squeals with joy!

Two weeks left ‘til the Breeders’ Cup = my fingies will hurt from all the typing I’m set to do, but I’m excited for the bump up in blog traffic that only seems to occur during the week of the Kentucky Derby and the week of the Breeders’ Cup.

Creative Cause, Sangaree, It’s Tricky, and Algorithms. Wow and goodbye all in the same week.

One of the best things about the sport of horse racing: it has no “season” like other sports and no lockouts. Waiting around for Saratoga’s short summer season to open up is anticipation enough.

Golden Ticket's 5-year-old full brother Trillionaire paid $9 to win this past Wednesday at Suffolk Downs. A huge difference stands between the $1 million G1 dead heat-Travers winner and his $5k claimer-winning brother, who had won for the first time since breaking his maiden in a March 2011 maiden claimer!

I rooted for So You Think [IRE] in last year’s BC Classic, but even after swearing off Euros on dirt, I’m tempted to jump back into the fray with “possible” 3-year-old colt Declaration of War. Aidan O’Brien trains him, and he’s by War Front (classic Danzig, speed influence) and out of a Rahy daughter who is a half to Union Rags. DAWWWW!

Few to-be-retired horses will be missed more than Shackleford. Adorable, consistent as the day is long, talented, impressive, and memorable.

As I get closer to graduation (still a ways off if I keep my goal of doubling), I dread the thought of having to possibly relocate to the west coast. I think I liked going to the New York tracks too much.

One of the premier Curlin fillies Evolutionary just got her maiden win down-pat. How did I forget about her while making the Early Bird list?

Mike Repole is not sending anyone to the Breeders’ Cup because damn no Lasix for juveniles, which is dramatically unfair for everyone. I think if you cut this man in half, his insides would be full of bologna.

Tweet o’ the Week:

Is the Personal Ensign (I) getting a rep for being an upset stakes? Persistently upset Rachel Alexandra in the 2010 edition (approximately 23-1 odds, pictured) while Love and Pride triumphed over Royal Delta and It’s Tricky in 2012 (11-1 odds)

Is the Personal Ensign (I) getting a rep for being an upset stakes? Persistently upset Rachel Alexandra in the 2010 edition (approximately 23-1 odds, pictured) while Love and Pride triumphed over Royal Delta and It’s Tricky in 2012 (11-1 odds)

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

I like Turby’s (Turbulent Descent) chances in Friday’s Ballerina Stakes (I). She has moved to New York and switched trainers, but at seven furlongs and with her talent, she might just best It’s Tricky and the rest. She did win last year’s Test Stakes (I).

I like Turby’s (Turbulent Descent) chances in Friday’s Ballerina Stakes (I). She has moved to New York and switched trainers, but at seven furlongs and with her talent, she might just best It’s Tricky and the rest. She did win last year’s Test Stakes (I).

Awesome Maria Faces Bag of Tricks in Ogden Phipps

This weekend I’ll be handicapping each of the $500,000 Guaranteed Pick 4 Memorial Day races at Belmont Park.

A small but lethal field awaits their first big G1 of the year in the Ogden Phipps Handicap. Two Eclipse nominees for best three-year-old filly return to tussle along with a few promising improvers in one of the premier races for top fillies, won in the past by Ashado, Personal Ensign, and Summer Guest.

I don’t normally focus too much on Beyer Speed Figures to handicap, but with the two top fillies I certainly had to do a little eyeballing at their stats to help determine how raring to go they ought to be on race day.

$400,000 Ogden Phipps Handicap (I) - 3-Year-Old & Up Fillies. 1 1/16 miles on dirt at Belmont Park. Post Time: Monday, May 28 at 4:40pm EST.

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

1) Cash for Clunkers - Alan Garcia, 114 lbs, Richard Violette - Undefeated this year in 3 starts, the Tiznow filly beat out 3 others while winning the 1 1/16 mile Heatherten Stakes at Belmont, romping without encouragement by almost 7 lengths in the slop. She has improved much as a 4-year-old, notching her first race of the year with a 92 Beyer. A nice improving filly, she likely won’t win but getting 10 pounds from Awesome Maria is a little incentive to watch her.

2) Awesome Maria - John Velazquez, 124 lbs, Todd Pletcher - Sporting 9 wins in 14 starts and unstoppable in 2 starts this year, the silver bullet daughter of Maria’s Mon is one to beat even at high weight. Todd Pletcher is looking to break the winningest trainer record with a 4th win here and Awesome Maria is looking to defend her title. While her Rampart victory wasn’t the usual wow-inspiring exhibition, she just threw in a bullet 5 furlongs in :59 1/5 at Belmont. Case closed.

3) She’s All In - Luis Quinonez, 115 lbs, Donnie Von Hemel - After a few board finishes this year, the Include filly finally punched a hole in the ceiling to grab graded victory in the Sixty Sails Handicap (III) at Hawthorne, simply rolling home to win by 8 3/4 lengths in the 1 1/8 mile race over names like Arena Elvira and Love and Pride. Works are their usual poke-along pace, but with the sudden jump to peak level under such a featherweight handicap, don’t dismiss this filly from her upset potential.

4) It’s Tricky - Eddie Castro, 122 lbs, Kieran McLaughlin - The Mineshaft filly has wiped her plate clean thus far, winning both starts and two G2s this year in the 7-furlong Distaff Handicap (II) and the 1 1/16 mile Top Flight (II) where she toted at least 122 lbs as the high-weight and won by at least 2 lengths. Her works have been as good as ever. She ran 3 consecutive Beyers of at least 100 last year and is climbing back to that threshold with a 96 last out in the Distaff. She’s ready to roll.

5) Juanita - Ramon Dominguez, 119 lbs, Mike Maker - The Mineshaft daughter is fresh off a big upset last out in the La Troienne (II), beating out big names like Plum Pretty and St. John’s River to win by 2 lengths on the 1 1/16 mile course. Working well at Churchill, but there’s just too many questions about Juanita’s chances in a good field here to say much. Her La Troienne engulfed just a 92 Beyer and really might just be thrown out here again.

Top Picks in Order:

1) Awesome Maria

2) It’s Tricky

I’d be willing to swap these two around, but the top two are clearly the best two in the field and look ready to give a top performance. It’s Tricky could barrel down the lane late at Awesome Maria, but I have confidence in the gray and in Johnny V’s abilities.

Value Pick: She’s All In

It’s Tricky captures the 2011 Acorn Stakes (Photo by Greg Brandow)

It’s Tricky captures the 2011 Acorn Stakes (Photo by Greg Brandow)

Preview: BC Ladies’ Classic

Breaking up the mares division to determine who is the best is a convoluted puzzle of determining who feels best, who has the speed, who has the stamina, and, who has the most luck. Some of the year’s determining mare races have wound up to be toss-ups with champions folding early while the second or third favorite explodes to an astonishing win.

While Havre de Grace is listed as a pre-entry, I won’t bother to cover her in this field. If she goes, she has my blessing to win as the obvious best mare, but let’s be real: the girl wants the big one, so I’ll leave her off this list. John Sadler trainee Zazu as well as Jerry Hollendorfer’s star Blind Luck leave the field a mish-mash of shoulder shrugs. It’s going to be hard to make a pick for me until I see the post position draw, official jockey assignments, and more workout info.

*I’ve returned to using the old grading system of green arrow= yes, neutral, and red arrow= no in ranking the horses expected in the field seeing as I don’t have a reading on the post positions or confirmed entries yet.

Ask the Moon - The Malibu Moon daughter is having a banner year, despite not being able to reach the front end early in the Lady’s Secret Stakes (I) last out like she prefers. Before that, she won two G1 stakes in a row at Saratoga over some decent fillies. She has the speed to wreak some awful havoc and shouldn’t be overlooked.

Royal Delta - The Alabama (I) winner and conqueror of It’s Tricky soared over her three-year-old competition, but was no match for Havre de Grace in the Beldame Invitational (I). But that’s really no insult, honestly. She has blue blood on her side as well as Bill Mott training her. She should be an easy favorite here.

Ultra Blend - A close runner-up to Zazu in the Lady’s Secret Stakes (I), her old rival is gone from the picture here which may leave Ultra Blend with ample running room at the end just the way she likes. Won the Clement L. Hirsch (I) plus 2 ungraded stakes and was second to skillful mares in her other attempts. Ultra Blend will really need the right strategy to keep the quick-footed ones like Royal Delta and Ask the Moon from getting away too soon.

Plum Pretty - Winner of 3 graded stakes this year including a romping performance over It’s Tricky last out in the Cotillion (II). The 1 1/8 mile distance is her calling card, and she’s won or near-missed in a lot of close call stakes races. Her easy Cotillon win should have given her a heap of confidence, and with that she should make strides to a great follow-up race.

Aruna - This one sounds awful familiar: a Graham Motion trainee who likes the grass but exceled on Polytrack last out headed to Churchill Downs for a dirt race? She doesn’t have much experience on the dirt, but you’d never know it the way she snagged the Spinster (I) on Poly. It’s a risky gamble should she go in the Ladies’ Classic over the Filly/Mare Turf, but if Motion decides to put her in with Ramon Dominguez, I’m on board.

- It’s Tricky - She missed nabbing the Filly Triple Crown this year to Royal Delta and suffered a bruising loss last out to Plum Pretty, who she beat handily in the Coaching Club American Oaks (I). An awesome filly, but her tricks may have peaked too early.

- Miss Match - Stormed onto the scene when she beat up Always a Princess early in the year in the San Margarita (I) and since then has been meeting with colts time after unsuccessful time all year in top graded stakes company. While she hasn’t experienced a win since March, she has run well against the best horses in the country, bar none. She deserves consideration, but I can’t really give much more than a nod.

- Satans Quick Chick - A classy closer daughter of Sky Mesa, this Chick is often overlooked wherever she goes, but seems to do a good job catching up to the rest of the field when it counts. She placed third in the Beldame (I) behind Havre de Grace and Royal Delta, but has not won since January. I think she’ll favor the 1 1/8 mile distance greatly, but she is a deserved underdog here.

Pachattack - A new star on the scene I liked even before she began popping up front on the stakes scene, Pachattack secured a G3 win before missing wins due to really talented mares finishing in front of her. She seems to like the distance, but it’s pretty clear she’s been outclassed more than enough times.

Savvy Supreme - Bob Baffert seems to want to elbow his way into every Cup race he can, and thus, he has thrown Savvy Supreme into the ring for this one. A WinStar product, she tallied her first graded win last out in the Monmouth Oaks (III). I don’t see even a promising jockey helping her much in such a big step up in class.

Super Espresso - A hyped entry this year, Bobby Flay’s new filly may have been overmatched in her graded tries, coming in 10th last out in the Spinster (I) and being mastered by the likes of Ask the Moon, Pachattack, and Awesome Maria. She won the Allaire Dupont Distaff (III) in May over a troubled Life At Ten, which we know this year isn’t saying much.

 Also eligible “possibles” pre-entered but not likely to run: Great Hot [BRZ] (first preference the Filly/Mare Sprint), Medaglia d’Amour (first preference the Filly/Mare Turf), Switch (first preference the Filly/Mare Sprint), Champagne d’Oro (not selected, first preference the Filly/Mare Sprint).

It Was A Bad Weekend To Be A Favorite

Statistics show that favorites win 50% of the time, making this weekend an anomaly as two key filly races were won by horses that weren’t even runner-up choices at the betting windows.

The six-filly field making up the Alabama Stakes (I) at Saratoga today leaned heavily on Queen’s Plate (I) winner Inglorious as well as Acorn and CCA Oaks (I) winner It’s Tricky. The winner of the field would almost certainly become the new leader of the three-year-old filly division, and by the looks of it, Royal Delta reaffirmed herself as the real deal.

Despite finishing a distant third last time out behind It’s Tricky and Plum Pretty in the CCA Oaks, Royal Delta settled well in the stretch despite looking a bit antsy in the post parade. Allowing Plum Pretty to set an even pace in the dirt, the daughter of Empire Maker tracked It’s Tricky who ran right off Plum Pretty’s tail. St. John’s River and Inglorious— the two expected closers— were never factors in the race as Royal Delta made a huge run late to surge past a tiring Plum Pretty. It’s Tricky outlasted a rallying Pinch Pie to nail second, losing by 5 1/2 lengths to an overwhelming Royal Delta.

In today’s turf test in the Lake Placid (II), heavy favorite Winter Memories was coming fresh off a decisive, courageous win in the Lake George only to become a victim of bad racing luck. Hot off two consecutive wins, it was Hungry Island [pictured] who won going away by 2 1/2 lengths on a yielding turf surface. Kathmanblu, another worthy opponent, was able to outgun Dynamic Holiday for second. It was a bad trip the whole way for Winter Memories, who found herself constantly boxed in and brushing the rail and could only make a fourth place effort— her first finish off the board.

It’s not clear who the leader of the juvenile dirt fillies is, as Royal Delta was coming off a start where she had recovered from a recent foot bruise. There’s no telling if she can run like that again with fresher competition, although clearly she is best at the 1 1/4 mile distance. As for the turf, I don’t see the bad trip affecting Winter Memories’ reputation as the best out there. She had a bad day, which we can all afford athletes from time to time, and it wasn’t on the best ground. As much as I love Kathmanblu and respect Hungry Island, the turf belongs to Winter Memories until someone can oust her on equal terms.

It’s Tricky Faces Five in Scintillating Alabama

Like always, the Alabama Stakes (I) has yet another enticing field ready to roll come Saturday.

In a can’t-miss event, six three-year-old fillies will be vying for first place as well as a very possible end-of-the-year honor. Four have won serious honors already, ranging from the Kentucky Oaks (I) to the Queen’s Plate (I), while the other two are crying for a chance in the spotlight. Better still, it’s a great opportunity for both fans and bettors to have some fun seeing who is queen. 

$500,000 TVG Alabama Stakes (I) - 3-Year-Old Fillies. 1 1/4 miles on dirt at Saratoga Race Course. Post Time: Saturday, August 20 at 5:45PM broadcast on VERSUS.

[Post Position, Horse, Jockey, Trainer, Summary, Opinion. All carry 121 lbs]

1) Royal Delta - Jose Lezcano, Bill Mott - Certainly underwhelmed in the Coaching Club American Oaks (I) last month against It’s Tricky and Plum Pretty, where she ultimately finished third. However, with her pedigree (Sired by Belmont winner Empire Maker and out of a daughter of Belmont winner A.P. Indy), she should like the extra running room. This filly needs to have a good day if she hopes to remain in the spotlight, but I honestly don’t feel she’ll have that day here; she got beat up too much in the CCA!

2) Pinch Pie - John Velazquez, Tony Dutrow - I’m loving the sounds of this surprise filly, who is fresh to Grade I company and is most certain to be the underdog. This new kid on the block, she’s won in stakes company and doesn’t need pace to win. Oh did I mention she’s never been off the board? Probably not enough experience to rival the talent pool here, but she’s a threat nonetheless with Johnny V. I’m not convinced still, though; her connections’ comments did not sway me nor did her past performance indicate she could hold off a stiff challenge.

3) Plum Pretty - Martin Garcia, Bob Baffert - This is one tough filly who loves sitting off a quick pace, and is keen to fighting her rivals every step of the way. Sophomore stars It’s Tricky and Zazu struggled to pass this daughter of Medaglia d’Oro who has yet to fall off the board in her career. With her tenacity, she’s sure to make this race a fight for the winner… but I think 1 1/4 miles might be a touch beyond her liking.

4) It’s Tricky [pictured] - Eddie Castro, Kieran McLaughlin - The current leader of the three-year-old filly group, It’s Tricky cemented her status in the CCA Oaks and has only lost once so far in her career against R Heat Lightning. She’s consistent as much as she is tricky, and she’s beaten class-A fillies like Turbulent Descent (who made a mockery of the Test Stakes field recently) and Plum Pretty. The one to beat, and she’s a tough one at that!

5) St. John’s River - Robby Albarado, Andrew Leggio, Jr - She came from behind and to the sides to finish second to Plum Pretty in the Kentucky Oaks, and it’s only a matter of time before this blindsider usurps the throne. She was so so close in the Oaks, I’m convinced this is the perfect distance for her. Call me daft, but for once my heart and gut agree: St. John’s River will breeze past them all at the wire! 

6) Inglorious - Luis Contreras, Josie Carroll - The Canadian invader cometh! She’s fresh off her third consecutive win in the Queen’s Plate (I)— against a huge field of colts! With a convincing win already at the 1 1/4 mile distance, there’s no question she’s game enough for the fillies on the other side of the fence. One of the toughest fillies I’ve seen all year. She has deep focus and the powerful build right for the distance. She’ll be the one dueling with St. John’s River at the end.

It’s Tricky Pulls a Fast One in CCA Oaks

I have to say that out of the five fillies in the Coaching Club American Oaks (I) field, It’s Tricky had to be my least favorite.

She’s fast all right, but built so thickly up front with a neck that resembles that of a colt. I do, however, love her lineage (by Horse of the Year Mineshaft and out of a Tale of the Cat daughter) and that proud-looking gallop she exudes flying down the homestretch— which is exactly what she did today at Saratoga.

Breaking well out of the gate to hang behind pacesetter Plum Pretty, It’s Tricky saved her prowess for late in the game. Buster’s Ready with John Velazquez, got off to what looked like a shaky beginning and couldn’t seem to get a grasp on the pace as they bounced up and down in positioning toward the rail. Royal Delta appeared a bit rank in the early goings. Joyful Victory, once again, never seemed to be a true threat. It was no surprise that by the time the field turned for home, it boiled down (a bit literally, seeing as Saratoga was a blistering 96 degrees in the shade) to the two front-running fillies.

The real race exploded on the homestretch, where Martin Garcia kicked Kentucky Oaks winner Plum Pretty into high gear. Unfortunately, the bay daughter of Medaglia d’Oro didn’t appear to have enough thrust in her late drive to stave off It’s Tricky, who clung to her throughout the final furlong. In the final sixteenth, It’s Tricky bounced in front and into the Eclipse Award picture by 3/4 length. 

A wonderful performance, It’s Tricky topped off her winning style by promptly dumping jockey Eddie Castro in the fast dirt when he squeezed water on her head.

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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