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Breeders’ Cup Recaps: Holy Goldencents


This isn’t so much a “belated” post as it is one that has been allowed to fester and tenderize over the past few weeks. And yet every time I mull over what were the best Breeders’ Cup performances— as much as I disliked the running of the event this year— one horse keeps popping up:


It was one of those races that looked over from the start. I winced at not including Goldencents in a pick 4 ticket I had built up and would have won had I done so, as soon as I saw the horse in the post parade. Dammit, he looks pretty okay! As I advertised repeatedly, I was still very gung-ho about South American invader and Kelso (II) runner Brujo de Olleros, who I surmised would come roaring in off the pace in a race that was sure to be loaded with it. But as soon as those horses took off and away from the clanging metal, my eyeballs locked with the screen. Goldencents appeared to be running quickly with pistonesque strokes of his legs tapping across the Santa Anita main which he has loved much over the course of the year, but he seemed to be holding any challengers at bay. And he was doing so decisively, and the only thing that came to mind was how much he looked like Fort Larned before that horse rolled over the field to take the Stephen Foster (I) earlier in the year. Oh shit, is someone going to catch him? Will he tank out in the stretch? Just look at those fractions! The evil echo I hear all too often popped on again: Remember what you said earlier in the year when he won the Santa Anita Derby? He’s no good at 10 furlongs, but 9 maybe… a mile is his calling card. Like I did about Shackleford post-Preakness in the following year’s Met Mile, I found myself kicking my own groin.

Whether it was the lightning fast course, the 72-hour security barns, just-deceased grandsire Harlan’s Holiday looking down, or the serendipitous locomotion of Goldie’s racing heart, the Into Mischief colt took the Dirt Mile in a glorious and much deserved romp. Brujo made up ground to be 3rd, again the victim of a course too friendly to speed horses. It hurt to be so torn with the anger many fans and bettors had about the unfair bias mixed with the glee of what was an obviously very fleet horse. Weeks later, I am still beside myself with mood swings that may have cheated a few horses out of year-end honors.

This brings us up to speed for this coming Saturday’s Cigar Mile (I), where Goldencents is set to be the high-weight and will race the Filly & Mare Sprint winner Groupie Doll, G1 winners Verrazano and Private Zone, and Laugh Track, who was an improving 2nd in the Sprint behind Secret Circle. It’s no secret that Aqueduct is a different animal than Santa Anita, and Goldencents will have to dance in the cold New York air after shipping 3,000 miles. With the lack of a detention barn and no holds barred on Todd Pletcher’s home turf, I have agreed with myself that if Goldie prevails again, I’ll freely give up the grudge I’ve had against him all year.

Racing Beat: January 20


Good news for his fans: Secret Circle is back on the work tab!

I am pleased to announce that after 2 week(ish) of intermittently trying, I won 10 horseshoes on Blazing Silks’ spinny game. WHO’S YOUR DADDY? IT’S ABOUT DAMN TIME.

Wilburn made news last year retiring early to take advantage of the Bernardini blood value by being his first son to stand at stud. For 2013, we’ve got at least 6 new ones by Bernardini by my count on Stallion Register, more than new sires that are by pensioned A.P. Indy (5) and deceased Dynaformer (4).

Aqueduct is thinking about changing their inner track to synthetic. While I’m sure synthetic/turf breeders would like an opportunity to get a good shot at NYRA’s gold, have we learned nothing so far about surfaces?

I wonder how good Midnight Lute's half brother Steel Guitar (by Unbridled’s Song) is going to be. He hasn’t broken his maiden yet, and was 3rd in his 3rd try last time out in a 6-furlong maiden special weight at Turfway. He gathered buzz as the heavy favorite, but was beaten 6+ lengths.

Last night my feed blew up with news alerts that Shanghai Bobby won the Eclipse for Best 2-Year-Old Male. Last I checked that wasn’t news…

An unreal accomplishment of luck, determination, and humility: Morton Fink has just one mare in his business and it is the dam of his 3-time Eclipse champion Wise Dan.

Oh my stars, my leading lady Blind Luck is a madre now :’)

My heart was a little broken to see so many races go sloppy on Saturday, which is easily one of the biggest reasons I did not place any money down on anyone. I should have though at least on Ron the Greek and Oxbow, who I naturally favored in the Lecomte (III). Ughhhhh. Important to note that despite a restricted field on an off track, Ron the Greek got an impressive 115 Beyer his first start back!

What’s up with Vinery that has caused all the stallions to go to WinStar?

Sweet baby Atigun is set to return in Oaklawn’s Razorback (III). D’aww! It’s a little short for him though at a mile and a sixteenth >.>

Unlike my Derby Top 10, I’m having some issues narrowing down just 10 I like for the Oaks.

Mark Valeski was close to that win hot off a layoff in the Louisiana Handicap. Along with Believe You Can and Smitten, a three-year-old Tapit filly I like, Larry Jones has a string of contenders again this year.

Dale Romans wins, Ramon Dominguez wins, Little Mike loses. :( Sad sigh.

Tweet o’ the Week: Not to sully the glory, but I was kind of thinking the same thing


The Unforgettable Races of 2012: #20-11


The sport of kings played spectator to even more thrills and surprises in 2012, with favorites and unexpected surprises all playing their roles and making the crowd roar from California to Dubai. Of course, there’s no one right answer in determining which performance was best or which horse was most compelling in their victories. It was difficult sifting through so many races, and while I’m compelled to include more, I’ll keep it to twenty unforgettable races. Because I’m more an expert on North American racing, yes there will be a bias towards American races, so do be wary of what I wound up picking. Let’s get started…

20) Game On Dude gets redemption in Californian (II) blowout - “STRAIGHT AND STRONG!” After a disappointing 12th place performance in the Dubai World Cup (I), “the Dude” shipped back home to Santa Anita to go wire-to-wire in the 9-furlong Californian. He toyed with the field from the start, and ran away on the far turn to cement an incredible 8 1/2 length victory. Watch it here

19) Alpha and Golden Ticket dead-heat in Travers (I) - A jumbled race from the betting windows, longshot Golden Ticket refused to yield to encroaching favorite Alpha in the stretch of the three-year-old classic and the two colts hit the wire together for the first time in the race’s long history. Watch it here

18) Ron the Greek catches Wise Dan in unexpected Stephen Foster (I) result - The heavy favorite in a strong field, Wise Dan looked like the winner coming to the line of the 10-furlong Churchill Downs race only to be caught by rail runner Ron the Greek. It was Wise Dan’s lone loss of the year by a short head. Watch it here

17) Fort Larned runs to the nines, upsets Breeders’ Cup Classic (I) - Down but not out, the Ian Wilkes trainee celebrated his jockey’s birthday by wiring the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita, deflecting a determined Mucho Macho Man in the stretch to register an upset win. Watch it here

16) Believe You Can leads Rosie Napravnik to first Kentucky Oaks (I) - For the first time since the race started in 1875, a female jockey prevailed aboard the Larry Jones entry with a name all too fitting for making history. The lilies fell to Believe You Can in an upset performance at the Downs. Watch it here

15) Groupie Doll much the best among the best in Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (I) - There was no denying that Groupie Doll was the “lock” of the Breeders’ Cup championships. She broke smooth and slow to creep up on the pacesetters and from there it was repetitive brilliance as the four-year-old filly romped to her fifth win of the year and third G1. Watch it here

14) Bodemeister turns Arkansas Derby (I) into a runaway - He was not the favorite, but by the looks of things he should have been. The rapidly-improving stablemate of Secret Circle took his stablemate head on in the Oaklawn stretch and poured it on from there, outclassing the more experienced colts to register a a nearly 10-length romp to become the Derby favorite. Watch it here

13) Little Mike notches yet another surprise ousting top horses in Breeders’ Cup Turf (I) - The cheap little gelding gave a big performance in yet another world class race, funneling through the inside rail from off-the-pace to upset some of the world’s best grass horses when he appeared to be off his game. Watch it here

12) I’ll Have Another catches Bodemeister once more in Preakness (I) - The Derby winner still had something to prove in the shorter, tighter second leg of the Triple Crown but replicated a similar sort of brilliance as he did in Kentucky. With Bodemeister jetting off to a widening lead in the stretch, I’ll Have Another caught his rival again in the waning moments of the race to stay alive for the Triple Crown. Watch it here

11) Royal Delta squishes top field, shows new front-running dimension in her defense of the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic (I) - The toughest race in the championships, returning champion Royal Delta made it look too easy to be real as she set her sights on the lead and held it down to discourage a field full of top G1-winning fillies in another brilliant performance. Watch it here

Stay tuned for races #10-1!

Beholder Headlines Juvenile Sprint

Taking a step into the great unknown, the second running of the Juvenile Sprint is basically looking those who think they’re fast versus the ones who just didn’t make the cut for the Juvenile or Juveniles Fillies races. The 6-furlong distance of the Juvie Sprint resulted in no surprise last year as Secret Circle wired the field, and on the speed-favoring Santa Anita main, I expect no less this year (probably). No Lasix is allowed for this year’s event, so stay alert as always. Our contenders:

  • Beholder - The Richard Mandella-trained daughter of speedster Henny Hughes is likely to grab and hold on tight to the pace as she is 2-for-4 this year with her last race being a blowout 11-length victory. Sure to be the chalk, she’s rated faster than some older mares!
  • Hightail- The Lukas-trained Mineshaft colt is winless in 8 starts, nearly breaking his maiden on grass— which makes me think that’s the right spot for him.
  • South Floyd - The Any Given Saturday colt isn’t Doug O’Neill’s top prospect, but wired in his maiden break at Fairplex drawing away. He was well-beaten by Merit Man last out.
  • Sweet Shirley Mae - The Broken Vow filly snapped her maiden on her first try over graded winner Bern Identity in the slop, but has since been well-conquered in her subsequent 2 starts. A Ward trainee, look for her to try to make the front-end.
  • Ceiling Kitty [GB] - I won’t discount another invader this year, and this one is in the form of the stakes-contending daughter of Red Clubs [IRE], who was a champion sprinter himself and a graded winner at 2. A G2 winner on turf, she’s also a winner on all-weather.
  • Hazardous - 2 for 3 this year, the Candy Ride [ARG] gelding broke his maiden on his first try by 5 1/2 lengths at Del Mar, was bumped out of contention next out, and most recently romped by 13 1/2 lengths at Santa Anita. However, these were all claiming-level races so he’ll encounter some bias.
  • Almost An Angel - The Ward-trained Artie Schiller filly is winless on dirt with 1 good win on turf. She has since hit the ceiling on trying to improve off that win, finishing a well-beaten 6th last out in the Alcibiades (I).
  • Merit Man - The With Distinction colt is 2-for-2 this year and was a resounding winner last out in the 6-furlong Tim Conway Stakes at Santa Anita, winning by 5 1/2.
  • Super Ninety Nine - It’s been a good year for Pulpit and his young son recently just broke his maiden going 7 furlongs at Santa Anita, winning by 1 1/4 on his first try. Baffert-trained, he had a good speed figure for his first time and is likely to improve.

Next week I’ll announce my top 3 picks and value pick for the Juvenile Sprint.

Beholder - Fast, fast, fast last time out on Santa Anita’s main. Yikes.

Super Ninety Nine - I won’t leave out a Baffert-trained horse, and Pulpits are among the most talented.

Ceiling Kitty [GB] - Tremendous class potential, this year’s Shumoos.

Merit Man - Consistent colt who is bound to keep improving

Hazardous - I can’t discount him just for being a claimer

I realized the other day how much Contested reminds me of Secret Circle, another speedy one-turn Baffert horse. Of course, there’s been a silks change since this photo so that might have helped.

I realized the other day how much Contested reminds me of Secret Circle, another speedy one-turn Baffert horse. Of course, there’s been a silks change since this photo so that might have helped.

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…


Been having a rough day handicapping-wise… so many of my horses were NIPPED at the wire today, making me think I shouldn’t bet on the Derby preps like I told ya’ll I would. Put money on Hansen which cashed, and then some on Bodemeister, which I wished I put more on with that price and that performance! Bring. It. On. Bodemeister and Dullahan both great winners with a huge chance at the roses as far as I’m concerned… they’re both peaking at the perfect time!

But now on to what you’ve all been waiting for… the winners of the Derby Handicap Contest! No need for a tiebreaker round!:

  • Merlinoftheroundtable, winner by a romping 41 points which included landing the exacta today!
  • Exactagirl, second place with 26 points, picking Secret Circle for second place today!
  • Nicoledowland, who ironically sent me her picks a week ago because she’ll be on vacation, is third with 24 points.

Excellent work ladies. Look for your messages coming up in a few and congratulations :) Thank you to everyone for participating!

Is the Baffert Duo Beatable in Arkansas Derby?

***DERBY HANDICAP CONTEST Finale! Week 12 of 12! - Email or message me your trifecta pick to earn points towards winning the Derby Handicap Contest. You have until 1 hour before post time to send/edit picks. See details in the Contest tab!*

Is this the final race for our Derby Handicappers already? Past Oaklawn winners return to run for the big bucks while a few invaders spice up the mix as the distance gets a bit longer. No doubt Bob Baffert is hoping to cash in once again with Secret Circle, who has been unstoppable thus far at Oaklawn, or promising prospect Bodemeister. Can he keep the fire going for another sixteenth, or will the tables finally turn? Let’s not forget The Factor, who had a similarly sensational time last year at Oaklawn with Baffert, finished an unfortunate 8th.

This race is the opposite of fellow Saturday feature, the Blue Grass (II), in the sense it’s full of stretch runners with no real speed being present. Weather looks to be very nice so the track should be dry and fast.

$1 million Arkansas Derby (I) - 3-Year-Olds. 1 1/8 miles on dirt at Oaklawn Park. Post Time: Saturday, April 14 at 5:45pm CST

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

1) Cozzetti - Jose Lezcano, Dale Romans - The Cozzene colt is designed to go the distance, and is on the improving scale for sure since his good third in the Tampa Bay Derby (II) after swinging wide to close from 10th to 3rd. 1:00 and change 5-furlong breezes have kept him in gear for the race. The rail is always a tricky spot, but I don’t see it as a problem so long as he breaks well. He benefited from a speedy pace in the Tampa Bay, which I don’t think he’ll get here so it’s a really tough guess figuring how he’ll run.

2) Stat - John Velazquez, Todd Pletcher - I don’t normally embrace Unbridled’s Songs, but I do find Stat to be a pleasing kind of horse. He was great as a juvenile last year at Saratoga, and after some slow progress, impressed me again in a recent Gulfstream allowance which he won by 6 lengths. Good consistent breezes and strong connections make this one a possible threat, but he has a lot of hurdles fitness-wise to clear to beat this field.

3) Najjaar - Calvin Borel, Daniel Peitz - The horse I feel like everyone likes but me! By Jazil, distance isn’t considered a problem for this colt who has finished on the board 5 of 7 times with 2 wins, both this year and at Oaklawn. He ran very belatedly in the Rebel, but rallied in the stretch from 12th to 6th while taking the widest path to do so. Sharp bullet works over 5 furlongs will have him tuned up for the race. I think he’ll be “up there” at the end, but I don’t feel like he has enough cred to make a case for the board.

4) Jake Mo - Cliff Berry, Allen Milligan - Close but not close enough is an accurate description for this Giacomo colt, who comes back after an uninspired 4th in the Rebel Stakes (II). The weird thing about his running style is that he hangs out near the back, works his way up, gets picked off by a few passing runners, THEN will come again for a late run. He’s beaten plenty while not at his best, and is keyed up for the test with a 1:00 flat 5-furlong breeze. Jake Mo is an entry strictly for the believers, making consistent efforts but ultimately falling a bit short. He’ll need to be at his best Saturday.

5) Secret Circle - Rafael Bejarano, Bob Baffert - It’s no secret that this Eddington colt has one of the best records in the Triple Crown prep season, conquering all of what Oaklawn had to offer him while doubters dismissed his ability beyond a mile or so. He was almost certainly all-out to catch Scatman and hold off Optimizer last out in the Rebel (II) where he drifted out to just barely win. He’s logged his standard 5-furlong breeze to warmup, but more questions wait at the wire. I doubted Secret Circle last out, but now I’m pretty sure he won’t make 1 1/8 miles as this distance tends to start separating the pretenders from the real deal concerning classic capability. I wouldn’t be surprised if he fell off the board with all these late guns in the final furlong.

6) Isn’t He Clever - Robby Albarado, Henry Dominguez - Classic brawn dots this humble Smarty Jones gelding’s pedigree, and despite his modest New Mexican roots, he’s proven worthy of a late TC nomination and a ride to Arkansas. He was beaten just barely by Daddy Nose Best last out in the Sunland Derby (II), where he was much the best of the rest by nearly 8 lengths. His usual stalking spot might be threatened by the lack of real speed here, but I like his consistency and the fact he has 1 1/8 mile experience.

7) Optimizer - Jon Court, D. Wayne Lukas - After his crazy closing move in the Rebel, I can no longer afford to discount this English Channel colt. He hasn’t won a race since his first one in August and has been working steady. I’m sensing they’re preening him for another move similar to the one seen in the Rebel and hoping for a win here. The added distance will give Optimizer some extra running room should he feel like running again, but overall I’m still pretty lukewarm about him.

8) Atigun - Terry Thompson, Ken McPeek - The Istan colt I liked for the Rebel appeared to be not quite ready, hanging in the stretch to finish a non-threatening 11th. Normally I would toss him out, but I do like McPeek trainees and he’s been romping in his works, the last being a bullet move in :57 3/5 over 5 panels. One for the believers.

9) Sabercat - Corey Nakatani, Steve Asmussen - One of my faves, the Bluegrass Cat colt was a bit fuzzy heading into his first start as a sophomore, inappropriately placed right into the heated contention of the Rebel Stakes where he ran far behind nearly the whole way before making up room to finish 8th. Breezed a slow :50 4/5 over 4 furlongs. He doesn’t need earnings power, but Sabercat does need a good race to instill confidence as well as get him back up to peak condition for the first Saturday in May. A better start in this race may be all he needs.

10) Raconteur - Chris DeCarlo, Todd Pletcher - The Dogwood entry is this A.P. Indy colt, who took a short break from running in the gradeds to win the Private Terms at Laurel Park by a head over Hakama. While his last 4 races resulted in 3 wins, he was a dusty 7th in the Gotham and really hasn’t beaten much so far. Breezing just okay over an all-weather track at Keeneland may not be enough. Pletcher may have moved him from Keeneland’s own Blue Grass to avoid competing with heavier company.

11) Bodemeister - Mike Smith, Bob Baffert - I feel a little cuckoo for having the Empire Maker colt so high on my mental Derby hopeful list with so few graded earnings so far, but he could be just that good. An odd but revealing multi-horse workout at Santa Anita that looked closer to a mock race than a breeze showed he can move as well as negotiate traffic in the stretch. After his close loss to Creative Cause in the San Felipe, I don’t consider the far outside post a major hurdle and I think he could very well win.

Predicted Trifecta - 1) Bodemeister 2) Cozzetti 3) Isn’t He Clever

Value Picks - Cozzetti, Najjaar, Optimizer

I have lost faith Secret Circle can win the Kentucky Derby. He has drifted out in the stretch two races in a row now, and I think that's a bad sign moving forward to longer races.

Asked by thoughtsonracinglifeandmore

I have honestly been waiting for the race where Secret Circle runs out of gas… I don’t think he can go further than 1 1/16 competitively… the Rebel was the last prep in the bag for him. The Factor was even more impressive last year, and I don’t think that horse could have won the 1 1/8 Arkansas no matter what anyone says. I said that one was a miler at best and ta-da look where he is now. Secret Circle’s going to be a miler, too.

They’ll probably put Secret Circle in the Derby because it’s the Derby, not because he can seriously win it. He got a 92 Beyer for the Rebel today, so it was nothing really that amazing. Sabercat had a bad race and Optimizer was second, so there ya go.


Yes, I said this. And oh my god did I freak the f—k out when Optimizer flew out of freakin’ nowhere. *deep sigh* Corned beef is disgusting.

The Rebel Stakes (II) was a great run for a good many horses, but I do think there were a few traffic issues for some at the end while a few others did not log the run I thought they would. What in the hay happened to poor Sabercat? Anyway, Secret Circle ran great to catch Scatman at the end while holding off a rare command performance by Optimizer. What a race. That’s 3 Rebel Stakes wins in a row by lucky Bob Baffert.

The Derby Handicap Contest standings are still pretty darn close, with the top three being only a couple points apart with a tie for fourth. You guys are going to need every single one of the last few rounds… round 9/12 heads to Kentucky next Saturday for the Spiral Stakes (III) at Turfway! Hope you’re all good at synthetic…

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