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Racetrack Bucket List

Saratoga will likely always be my favorite racing place as a realized childhood dream, a historically significant place, and a buzzworthy racing scene that envelopes the entire small city which embraces “horses, history, and health.”

Now that Keeneland has been confirmed as the site for the 2015 Breeders’ Cup, it has stirred thoughts as to what tracks I would really love to go to someday within North America. If you told me when I was a kid that I would eventually make it out to Saratoga and Belmont, I would have basically flipped out, courtesy of reading Man o’ War multiple times, and thus inheriting a booming love for those two landmark courses. While I doubt anything can top those two, here are my top 5 “bucket list” Thoroughbred tracks:

  1. Keeneland - Epitomizes what is right within the heart of the Bluegrass, and I haven’t stopped hearing good things about the country’s most historically-preserved race place since I seriously entered the racing world. I’m optimistic the switch to dirt will go well, and even if they never changed it, it still takes the top of the list as to where I would go next if asked to go to a new track.
  2. Arlington Park - Kind of a weird choice, but yes, Arlington. I’ve been fascinated with the idea of one day visiting Chicago among several other metropolitan areas of the States, but I feel like Arlington might be up my alley. It’s another place with historical significance and good racing and I’ve heard a lot of good things about it that convince me that I would really like to pay it a visit.
  3. Churchill Downs - Hard to leave this one off the list as arguably the most famous racetrack in the world. I’d like to go there on an off day, Derby Day, and for Downs After Dark. Seems like it has a lot of fun things going on at its height.
  4. Hialeah Park - I am sad to say I never got to go to Hialeah Park while I still lived in South Florida because it wasn’t reopened for racing until after I left. It looks like a wonderful place to visit with its gorgeous Spanish-inspired architecture and the ol’ Citation statue. I would still go there even if they never pick up Thoroughbred racing again.
  5. Del Mar - I would go here next simply because I want to see which one is the better summer place: Saratoga or Del Mar. (I’m pretty sure I would stay faithful to ‘Toga, but just to test the waters)

To close this out, I am 1132893% glad that Keeneland has been chosen as a Breeders’ Cup site. I was part of the early dissenters that Santa Anita continue being the host site or possibly become the permanent site. While the great weather is a very strong argument for it (even for me, the snowbird-in-hibernation come winter months), no weather scenario is perfect and it doesn’t feel right to keep it on the west coast. I also had a major major problem with the track bias it has shown, which SA is thankfully seeing to fixing, and the effects shipping all the way to California has on European horses. Keeneland seems like the ideal fit, as a place which has long drawn rave reviews, totes a great safety record, and brings everyone back to the home of Thoroughbred racing: Kentucky. 

Keeneland November Picks

Since I missed out on Keeneland September, I made a point to peruse the first four books of the Keeneland November Sale for breeding stock. Of course, book 1 horses will sell for big bucks, so I kind of avoided the inevitable million-dollar horses in search of value stock in playing bloodstock agent for a day. Here are a few that I managed to find that caught my eye and impressed me enough to jot down.

Hip #260: UNFOLD THE ROSE (Catineus x Bail Out Becky, by Red Ransom) Interesting broodmare in foal to Kitten’s Joy. Since seeing Princess of Sylmar become successful, there may be a market slowly forming for Catineus mares that hasn’t become hot just yet. However, some more reading into this mare reveals she’s the dam of Stephanie’s Kitten, so I don’t believe she’ll go cheap bearing a full sibling to that Breeders’ Cup winner. Dang!

Hip #688 GRAND FINALE (Henrythenavigator x Zuri, by Danzig) A half to G1 winner Voodoo Dancer (by Kingmambo), and her dam is a half to the dam of G1 winner Pool Play. In foal to promising young stallion Dunkirk.

Hip #796 MY FRIEND C.Z. (Seeking the Gold x Glitter Woman, by Glitterman) Seeking the Golds are more often than not pretty good broodmares and this one has a strong maternal line as well with G1 Ashland winner Glitter Woman as her dam, making her a half sister to G1 winner Political Force. I liked one of My Friend C.Z.’s first foals, Welcome Guest, who showed speed and ability. She’s in foal to Malibu Moon for a potential classic star.

Hip #831 PURE SYMMETRY (Storm Cat x Serena’s Song, by Rahy) Self-explanatory A+ pedigree with 2 out of 3 winning out of those progeny who have raced. In foal to Kitten’s Joy.

Hip #875 SHOPIT (Yes It’s True x Shop Here, by Dehere) Strong female family that positions her as a half to Adirondack (II) winner Fifth Avenue. Second dam Shopping is the dam of G1 Personal Ensign winner Miss Shop, who is the dam of G1 sprinter Trappe Shot, as well as Shop Again, the dam of G1 winner Power Broker. In foal to Shackleford.

Hip #918 TIZ MAIE’S DAY (Tiznow x Sweet Roberta, by Roberto) Strong classic pedigree and progeny record as the dam of Spiral (III) winner Went the Day Well. In foal to Proud Citizen.

Hip #970 ABBA GOLD (Devil’s Bag x Valiant Jewel, by Buckley Boy) Kneejerk inclusion as the dam of one of my favorite race fillies Kathmanblu, the winner of the Ashland (I), and a half to Prioress (I) winner Friendly Michelle. Unsuccessfully bred to Ghostzapper.

Hip #979 AKRIS QUEEN (Arch  x Catnip, by Flying Paster) Out of a half sister to G1 winners Hold That Tiger and Editor’s Note, who also produced G1 placed runners Micromanage and Indescribable. Strong female family and top broodmare sire Arch points to a strong prospect. In foal to Harlan’s Holiday.

Hip #1190 MILLE LACS (Unbridled x With Every Wish, by Lear Fan) Unbridled progeny do great things as broodmares, and this lady is a full sister to Broodmare of the Year Oatsee (Shackleford’s mama). In foal to Harlan’s Holiday.

Racing Beat: September 22

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Early roll call: anyone going to the Equine Affaire in West Springfield, MA in November? I’m listed as a “possible” for that event.

While I commend the production value of “Back on Track,” an upcoming indie doc on Thoroughbred aftercare, it appears to showcase horses that were never really threatened by a poor post-career life i.e. horses and stallions at Three Chimneys. Plus, I’m not one to strive for the style of filmmaking we see all the time. Up-close and personal is better; see Last Minutes with Oden for a good example of what I mean. (Warning: I almost never cry at movies and I wept at this one in class. Not for dog owners.)

I would not have bought a Super Saver at Keeneland, whose progeny sold for the most as a first-crop sire. First-crop sires are full of possibilities indeed, but Super never did much to impress me as a racehorse and then consider how many Kentucky Derby winners become legitimately good sires. Not very many, and he was far from a very impressive Derby winner. (On that note, I would have bought a Tale of Ekati)

Some really want that win: Homeboykris tried to bite Froggyville at Belmont on Friday when the latter ran just ahead of him the whole way in a duel.

Yeah sure, enter Shanghai Bobby in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile or Sprint. I’m all for betting against him.

I’ve learned my lesson from past track excursions: I WILL WEAR SOMETHING REALLY OBVIOUS AND UNIQUE WHEN I GO TO BELMONT ON SATURDAY.

Nice to see Sagamore Racing get a nice one with Give No Quarter. Let’s hope some of these nice Tiz Wonderfuls keep their edge as three-year-olds.

Best Breeders’ Cup race this year? Probably going to be the Filly & Mare Sprint.

I’ll go ahead and comment on the inevitable comparison: Will Take Charge is a much better horse than Take Charge Indy.

I miss Believe You Can. Where are ya?

The pick 4 on Super Saturday is going to be really tough… HEART BET TIME!

Tweet o’ the Week: BARGAINS GALORE AT KEENELAND!

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Racing Beat: September 15

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I’m not dead. Or out of photos. I’ve just been busy or sleeping like a dead, lifeless… rock.

It’s officially on like Donkey Kong: I’ll be at Belmont Park on September 28 with a nice fast telephoto lens that I’ll have rented. No word yet on the press pass, but if I do get it by then I’m more than sure you’ll see the “horse racing” tag blow up with the news.

Saratoga pony win! Vuitton upset the Open Mind Stakes at 7-1.

My favorite Keeneland hip? I liked a few of them, including one of the last Dynaformer colts, one of the many nice Tiznow colts, the half to Sweet Lulu by Tapit, another Arch colt, but this Arch filly out of G3 winner Golden Marlin needs watching racing with Starlight Racing (i.e. likely to go to Pletcher):

There’s a big difference between who you’re rooting for to win and who you actually bet to win. Sometimes. People just need to understand that about me.

I immediately went after the Artie Schillers for the Summer Stakes (II) yesterday, but I guess I picked the wrong one.

So I think everyone heard about the Blood Horse expanding its editorial staff. Meanwhile, I struggle to slap sense into my journalism professor at a Massachusetts state college newspaper, because writing about a Boston race track doesn’t seem terribly relevant. TURF WRITING FOR THE GENERAL POPULACE IS HARD.

Welcome back to Point of Entry! He’s back to Belmont and breezing!

It was in a Racing Beat not too long ago (last year, actually) when I first mentioned Mentor Cane. Glad to see he lived up to the expectations despite being doubted before his time came. Once again, just because a colt doesn’t break his maiden immediately, does NOT mean he is not fast or is no good!

The retirement of Liasion made me flashback to when he won the CashCall (I) and people sent me hate mail for vocally dismissing him as a legitimate Derby horse. *shrugs*

Paynter's full brother Fire Flight is back on the work tab after some time off.

Best wishes to the brave Rajiv Maragh on a speedy recovery after a very scary accident.

My buddy Classic Speed races at Suffolk on Monday! He’ll be a “root” to win moving up to an allowance sprint race.

Tweet o’ the Week: A laugh for you footballers…

Racing Beat: April 14

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Spicer Cub. By now you should know his name. I wish Pimlico had Trakus installed so we could have seen how much more ground he ran versus the winner.

Looks like Departing is now a gelding, too.

I canceled a bet I had on 5-2 Apex yesterday at Keeneland… too many horses looked rarin’ to go that day even though he had a turf pedigree. Kind of glad, he finished a trafficked 11th. The other two I liked, #4 Corinthian Summer and #11 Won’tyoualwayswonder, finished 3rd and 9th respectively.

I’m going to have a tough time picking out a horse to single-handedly gush over come the first Saturday of May. I like several about the same right now. Perhaps I need another 3am groveling session like I did for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

I was watching Thor the other day for the first time and couldn’t help but think of the horse Frost Giant.

Jose Lezcano and Wise Dan = Unstoppable on the [blue] grass?

Eblouissante is set to ship to New York. TRULY THE BEST STATE IN THE COUNTRY FOR HORSE RACING.

I know he’s a Pletcher trainee, but I am still loving Red Rifle, who went 2-for-2 winning by 2 at Keeneland yesterday. Not-so-secretly hoping to see him come to Belmont or Saratoga… he’s such a stunner with that bit of silver in his tail.

I understand why people like to thumb through and make picks at Keeneland yearling sales as a hobby, but why pat yourself on the back if your picks demand huge sales figures? I would think it would be a bad thing if they sold for crazy money that obviously means a poor investment if a lot of people are chasing the same horse. Better to pick a middle range horse that grows up to do well for whomever bought it. That would be bloodstock agent skill… see something others missed!

Unbridled’s Song as sire, Todd Pletcher as trainer, speed to burn, injured before… noooo, I never saw Graydar's ankle chip coming!

I strongly feel that horse racing fans never truly have a weekend off, even if they work a normal 5-day work week, because you spend your whole day Saturday watching and handicapping and then maybe Sunday you get a break but… yeah… horse racing is like a second job!

Stay Thirsty's 4-year-old half brother Bocelli (by Mr. Greeley) is getting close to a start with John Shirreffs training. I knew of a Morgan named Bocelli… kind of went straight to stud:

imageI kind of can’t wait for the day when I can mass-post “GUESS WHAT EVERYONE I CLAIMED A RACEHORSE!” and not give a damn about the ensuing “ermahgerd, so irresponsible!” gossip that follows. I’ll pick grass and put it in a basket to give to said claimer, whisper things to it like I did when I first forayed into gardening, and it will win like crazy!

Speaking of Morgans, runner-up and stablemate to Mizdirection in the Las Cienagas Handicap was Schiaparelli, the dam of one of my favorite Morgans Mizrahi. Maybe this could be a new handicapping angle!

From the pages of his family album, the dam of Java’s War, Java [GB], just foaled a Not Bourbon filly last month in France and is booked to Jersey Town next. Woop!

Tweet o’ the Week

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Give me your pick for the Madison :)

Asked by thoughtsonracinglifeandmore

Tumblr’s best handicapper would be glad to bestow upon you my great wisdom.

Holiday Kitten looks to be the one to beat here with a lot of early speed, and with a need-the-lead type like Shumoos up there, we’re practically guaranteed to get a blazing pace. Holiday Kitten looks strong, but because of that scenario, a closer could sneak up. I’ve liked Drama Drama before (and at long odds too, she is again 20-1 morning line here), who closed in to be 3rd two starts back in the 7-furlong Raven Run (III) at Keeneland. I don’t think Shmoos is going to last, but I would keep Holiday Kitten and Drama Drama both in the top 3. I’ll also mention Byrama [GB] on the rail; she has a decent poly record and is usually good for the top 3.

Top Picks in Order:

1) Drama Drama

2) Holiday Kitten

3) Byrama [GB]

I absolutely love it when trainers use track and field stuff on their horses

I saw a picture on my Twitter feed just now of Team Contessa stretching out Rydullic's legs while giving him a tour of Keeneland's paddock a day before the Blue Grass Stakes (I):

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Seeing this stuff inspires me on a wordy, athlete-speak rampage. No I’m not an expert, but I have opinions and personal experience when it comes to racehorse trainers using methods that originate from human track and field.

As soon as I hear about it happening, I’m all over that horse like bees on honey. To me, it just makes logical sense and while a horse’s anatomy is much more complex than a human’s, the same principles ought to apply. I can see so many methods doing a horse a world of good in training for a big race, and many of them HAVE already been used on prior champions:

  • Intervals - Short spurts at a given pace… similar to how many horses currently work/breeze
  • Fartleks - (Dumb word I know, but it’s actually Swedish for “speed play”) These are “fun runs” where you run at whatever pace you feel like, then go faster briefly, then back to running at will for longer distances.
  • Hills - This would be PERFECT for sprinters who need more power [read: powerful hindquarters] to get away quickly. Short fast spurts running up a hill builds muscle fast. I recommend this to virtually every runner I meet that needs to get race-ready or get faster in a short period of time.
  • Varied surface training - Phar Lap did this… don’t run in the same places. Change it up! Though I can see why a lot of people don’t want to risk letting their horses gallop around in the woods or on a bumpy trail

Trainers already use a lot of methods they learned from track and field athletes years ago like soaking in ice water baths and stretching out their legs between activities. Runners in turn copied racehorses in bandaging their legs to guard from injury.

Somebody please try this shit.

Uncaptured Aims to Burst Derby Bubble in Loaded Blue Grass

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***DERBY HANDICAP CONTEST Week 10 of 10! Please submit your top 3 picks IN ORDER OF FINISH through this submission form (easiest and quickest method), via Tumblr message, or email. You have until 1 hour before the scheduled post time noted below to submit or edit your picks. See the Contest Tab for details.

The Keeneland card for Blue Grass Day looks amazing… Apex, Red Rifle, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint runner-up Shumoos (what!! Haven’t seen her in ages!), Twinspired, Regally Ready, Russian Greek, and a lot of other horses I haven’t seen in a while or have been looking forward to seeing next are going to be racing. But, of course, the highlight of the card and the subject of this post is the Blue Grass Stakes (I) for Kentucky Derby hopefuls, which LUCKY FOR YOU DERBY HANDICAPPERS, has the biggest field it’s had since 1974! Lots of excellent horses from every surface are shipping in for some last-ditch Derby points.

Weather looks pretty clear for the race.

$750,000 Blue Grass Stakes (I) - 3-Year-Olds. 1 1/8 miles on all-weather track at Keeneland. Post Time: Saturday, April 13 at 5:40pm EST.

[Post Position, Horse - Jockey, All carry 123 lbs, Trainer - Summary, Opinion in italics]

1) Dynamic Sky - Joel Rosario, Mark Casse - The Sky Mesa colt takes one more shot at gaining more points to break the bubble in this race after winning the Pasco at 7 furlongs, just missing the 1 1/16 mile Sam F. Davis (III), and running a stale 4th in the Tampa Bay (II). The rail will help him get position should Casse want him up a bit further earlier. He runs well enough on poly with no off-the-board starts and a runner-up in last year’s Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity (I).

2) My Name is Michael - Shaun Bridgmohan, Bill Mott - The failed favorite last out in the synthetic Spiral (III), the Macho Uno colt got stuck in traffic and didn’t move much. He broke his maiden on Woodbine’s poly, but hasn’t done much since then. He loses Rosario and gets Bridgmohan.

3) Undrafted - Corey Nakatani, Wesley Ward - The sprinter-type Purim gelding has been 3rd in all 3 of his starts this year all at least stakes-level. He just missed second last out in the Swale (III) at 7 furlongs on dirt, where winner Clearly Now went on to just miss winning the Bay Shore (III). Likely to provide some pace, Undrafted often has little kick at the end of his sprints. His pedigree suggests distance ability and he might have synthetic/turf ability with Dynaformer as his grandsire. I wouldn’t tab him to win, but he could finish up there.

4) Java’s War - Julien Leparoux, Ken McPeek - Impressive running second to Verrazano last out in the Tampa Bay (II), the War Pass colt was 3rd in the Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity (I) and looks strong heading in. Provided there’s some pace, I anticipate Java progressing even further in his second start back and with top Keeneland rider Leparoux in the irons.

5) Palace Malice - Garrett Gomez, Todd Pletcher - Taking one last shot after a poor trip cost him dearly in the Louisiana Derby (II), the Curlin colt makes his poly debut with Garrett Gomez shipping out to ride. Palace Malice’s breeding does have plenty of turf influence with Smart Strike as his grandsire and Breeders’ Cup Turf runner-up Royal Anthem as his damsire, so he could take to poly at that angle. The short 3-week turnaround to make this race is a detractor in his 4th start of the year.

6) Channel Isle - Joe Rocco Jr, D. Wayne Lukas - Uninvolved in a trafficky 7th last out in the Spiral (III), the English Channel colt takes one more shot at earning points on a surface he should like after running 2nd and 3rd last year at Keeneland as a maiden. Looking to get some pace, Channel Isle will be a nice price after he got stuck in the Spiral and hasn’t done much this year. The trade back to poly might benefit him.

7) Uncaptured - Miguel Mena, Mark Casse - Aiming to break the bubble and officially be in the Derby, the Lion Heart colt nearly bested Black Onyx in his first start back in the Spiral (III). His poly record is tops: 4 wins and a second in 6 tries. He should be even better in his follow-up start and on his preferred surface.

8) Charming Kitten - Joe Bravo, Todd Pletcher - Apart from a poor trip in the Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity (I), this Kitten’s Joy colt has never been worse than 3rd and is graded stakes-placed among top company on grass. He went 4-wide last out to finish 2nd behind Rydilluc in the Palm Beach (III) at 9 furlongs. A good value bet for a Pletcher horse, Kittens normally do pretty well on poly and this colt should be no exception.

9) Tesseron - Alan Garcia, Josie Carroll - The Tapit colt comes off a long layoff since February where he finished 4th in a grass-bound Gulfstream allowance won by Spiral (III) winner Black Onyx. He may be even better on poly where he ran 2nd in the Grey Stakes (III) despite a poor start last year. He breezed 6 furlongs at Keeneland in preparation. His morning line (from what I heard) is 50-1, which is probably too long considering his poly experience. Still, he should be decent enough to include in exotics.

10) Footbridge - Corey Lanerie, Eoin Harty - A colt worth talking about shipping in from out west, the Darley-connected son of Street Cry [IRE] has a dreamer’s turf/poly pedigree but will make his poly debut here. He ran second to several good horses (Govenor Charlie, Curly Top) while trying to break his maiden. Taking a stretch-out and trading dirt for poly should help this colt even more. Lanerie is a leading rider here as well.

11) Balance the Books - Javier Castellano, Chad Brown - Trainer Chad Brown substituted this Lemon Drop Kid graded winner for his original entry Noble Tune, suggesting this one might be better suited for the Derby. He debuted last month poorly in the Spiral (III) losing by nearly 20 lengths. Given Brown’s poor poly record and Balance the Books’ faulty sophomore debut on poly, I’m going to skip him for this race.

12) West Hills Giant - Jose Espinoza, John Terranova - The surprise Gotham (III) runner-up ships down to Keeneland for more points. The Frost Giant colt handled turf poorly, and will likely try to be up front early again to try to outrun the field once more. Should improve even more on his 3rd start of the year, but a big question mark is drawn on how he’ll handle Keeneland.

13) Rydilluc - Edgar Prado, Gary Contessa - The Medaglia d’Oro colt was pure eye candy cantering away from the field on the turn to win the Palm Beach (III) for his third straight victory. He is usually forwardly-placed in his races, and keeps Prado. Contessa has little experience training on poly, but Rydilluc did turn in a 7-furlong breeze that he was happy with this week. Should he maintain his grass form here, you better watch out.

14) Fear the Kitten - Rosie Napravnik, Mike Maker - Bred for turf/poly success, the Kitten’s Joy colt broke his maiden here at Keeneland, but made up ground too late in a crowded Spiral Stakes (III) to be 5th. I would not be surprised if the Napravnik-Maker double comes to life again here at Keeneland, outer post or not. Definitely use in exotics.

AE - 15) Divine Ambition - James Graham, Darrin Miller - Cross-entered in the lighter-filled Arkansas Derby (I), the Divine Park colt was 2nd to the excellent Crop Report last out in the Rushaway at Turfway. He had a good blow-out over 4 furlongs to prep here at Keeneland. He led the whole way up until the end of the Rushaway, so he is certainly not without a chance leading on the front end should he make the field.

Top Picks in Order (with fair odds):

1) Java’s War (4-1)

2) Rydullic (3-1)

3) Uncaptured (5-2)

With a tangible pace, there seems to be no reason why we should see the group of favorites here fail with a good trip, but from there it gets hard as nearly everyone here has poly experience or is very likely to favor it well enough. Uncaptured and Java’s War look ready to rocket in their second starts of the year on a surface they both like, though I honestly am preferring Java for his turn-of-foot and proven Keeneland prowess. On talent alone, Rydilluc makes the top list and I’m pinning some high hopes on him to snuff out at least Uncaptured. To complete the super, I’d go with Fear the Kitten or Footbridge.

Value Pick: My Name is Michael will likely be longer than his 15-1 odds after a tough trip canceled him out of the Spiral (III). Fear the Kitten may get overlooked despite his trainer often leading the Keeneland ranks and a clear-cut outer post. Footbridge is apt to be the wiseguy of the field should he prove to like the track.

I’ll be breaking apart the Blue Grass Stakes (I) today as the final Derby Handicap race, and while I wish to look at the whole field, I’ve been favoring Gary Contessa’s Rydilluc for quite a while. Great looking horse out on the turf by Medaglia d’Oro with three straight wins heading into the race, his last being an effortless win in the 9-furlong Palm Beach (III) on grass over Kitten’s Joy Stakes winner Charming Kitten. He does have some detractors, but I’ll be keen to watch him.

I’ll be breaking apart the Blue Grass Stakes (I) today as the final Derby Handicap race, and while I wish to look at the whole field, I’ve been favoring Gary Contessa’s Rydilluc for quite a while. Great looking horse out on the turf by Medaglia d’Oro with three straight wins heading into the race, his last being an effortless win in the 9-furlong Palm Beach (III) on grass over Kitten’s Joy Stakes winner Charming Kitten. He does have some detractors, but I’ll be keen to watch him.

Looks like Fredericksburg got the ultimate equipment change

Ouch, sorry to hear that buddy. Hope he is able to focus a little better now. He has tons of talent.

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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