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Loved watching these two blow out a couple of weeks ago: G1 winner Stephanie’s Kitten (inside) matched against G1 winner Alterite [FR] on the Oklahoma turf training course.

Loved watching these two blow out a couple of weeks ago: G1 winner Stephanie’s Kitten (inside) matched against G1 winner Alterite [FR] on the Oklahoma turf training course.

Things I Loved From My Saratoga Opening Weekend


The very confused butterfly that fluttered about the main track. Just because you’re black and yellow like Man o’ War was doesn’t make you special, you dang drunk arthropod!

A special thanks go out to fourfurlongs who spent the entire weekend with me!

There are roughly 28932897271 things I could feasibly complain about from my 3-day excursion to Saratoga’s first, second, and third days of the 2014 meet. But, seeing as most of them are self-inflicted (i.e. the consequences of forgetting sunblock, sleeping in too late to catch some decadent racing stars in the morning), I will instead focus on the many things I loved about my trip. Thank you to work and my 10-day horse babysitting sentence for making this post later than ideal!:

Frankie Dettori’s flying dismounts
I felt so privileged getting to see one of the best jockeys in the world ride at Saratoga this weekend, especially after learning people have been begging him for decades to come over for the short summer meet. It definitely seemed to pay off, as Dettori won not one but two races on opening day (and almost a third!) and gave everyone in the crowd a thrill by doing his famous “flying dismounts” off the winner. What a guy. I will certainly remember this for a long long time.


The ducks of Congress Park

I visited Congress Park for the first time back in May, but going back to this adorable little park in the midst of downtown Saratoga Springs was a joy, with plenty of new baby ducks waddling around. They are impressively tame thanks to the friendly humans who feed them (by the way, such an act is strongly discouraged due to the current duck population), ultimately letting me near a few of them as I sat with my people sipping some cool smoothies while complaining about life. I love complaining, you love complaining, and don’t pretend like you don’t!

Somali Lemonade winning the Diana Stakes (I)

I made a gallant effort trying to whittle down who I liked for the Diana Stakes (I), but no lie it was way too freaking hard for me to even think about going for the late pick 4 as I originally planned. Super handicapper Ciara and I agreed that Stephanie’s Kitten had a tremendous chance to get back into top form, but that there were simply too many horses that had a big chance to win. So, when in doubt, go for the heart pick! With Michael Matz being my #1 favorite trainer, while I didn’t think she could win, it was Somali Lemonade and Discreet Marq in my cheering camp (Clement is my #2 favorite). Unbelievably, it was Somali Lemonade at 11-1 odds who had the best stride in the stretch, holding off Stephanie’s Kitten and dismissing all the rest to win. SO. PROUD.

Reuniting with some good friends

You know who you people are! I hadn’t seen Ciara since the Belmont, Tory since the Wood Memorial, and Danica since the 2012 Belmont! I enjoyed reminiscing and chatting about ponies all weekend with them.


Tourist and Ring Weekend running 1-2 in the Sir Cat Stakes

It comes as little surprise that I was in Tourist's cheering squad when the colt made his stakes debut on opening day, seeing as he was one of the special few to be included in a GHR Derby Watch piece. God, that horse was beautiful as a two-year-old, and has really muscled out as a three-year-old. In what would become one of the weekend’s best performances, the Tiznow colt took to the lead and drew away in the stretch to just miss the track record mark by .12 seconds with Ring Weekenda horse I thought highly of this spring, clipping off the rest of the classy group late in the game. Don’t mess with Tapits!

Meeting Barbara Livingston

Barbara needs little introduction as the Ansel Adams of horse racing photography. Thanks to Ciara I kind of got the inside path to officially meeting the fantastic lady, who is so tremendously nice. I’M NOT WORTHY BUT HI!

Nearly choking on my dinner while making of fun of people

I freakin’ love diners: THE kind of place to go if you want to avoid mass crowds, you’re starving, and you’re deaf to “normal” feeding schedules. I don’t know how it came up or how we were able to name so many situations, but it came to our attention that a book could be written about things people who don’t know that much about racing do/say/wear when they go to the track. It’s practically unavoidable.

The red summer dawn at Oklahoma

"Wow look at that light!" Picking a seemingly perfect morning at the Oklahoma training track to go shoot photos, the Saturday AM sunrise cast this gorgeous reddish glow over a clear, fast going with some light fog over the turf course. Absolute stunner!


Crown Queen’s romp over the grass

In a race that was chock full of really amazing trainers and even more impressive pedigrees—a half sister to Wicked Strong, two European-breds, a Stuart Janney filly I took an earlier liking to (Cloture!), and a Ramsey-owned Kitten’s Joy— Sunday’s ninth was a 1 3/16 mile turf allowance for fillies and mares that looked extremely promising from the get go. But it all fell to one horse shortly after the field rounded the far turn, and she just about crumpled the field without being asked or urged. Crown Queen, the half sister of Royal Delta, obliterated the classy allowance field with little effort, garnering smiles all around from her connections. WATCH OUT FOR HER!

I handed off my camera to Ciara Bowen (intothestretch) in my momentary sickness at the Belmont, so some of these shots are by her. Here’s Stephanie’s Kitten.

I handed off my camera to Ciara Bowen (intothestretch) in my momentary sickness at the Belmont, so some of these shots are by her. Here’s Stephanie’s Kitten.

Discreet Marq On Target for Just A Game

With no Breeders’ Cup race reserved just for filly turf milers, the Just a Game (I) is the spring championship for that category of racehorses, and there always seems to be a good field for this undercard race, with this year featuring the return of 1-2 finishers Stephanie’s Kitten and Better Lucky along with new and improving players. It’s a jumbled bunch, but there’s some real proven class sprinkled throughout, most notably the gray bullet Discreet Marq.

1 – READY SIGNAL – An improving daughter of proven turf sprint/miling sire More Than Ready, Ready Signal faces a class test after winning two this year and missing by 2 ½ lengths to Coffee Clique in the Distaff Turf Mile (II). She has a win at this distance on the turf course with Edgar Prado already, who is a notably good turf rider. A sharp workout has her ready on the sweet rail spot.

2 – STRATHNAVER -  Cutting back to a mile which she’s won at once, the Oasis Dream [GB] mare missed by 1 ½ lengths last out in the Doubledogdare (III) at Keeneland, hanging in the stretch. Kind of a curious entry, as I wonder if she’s really good at this distance with so many better efforts going longer.

3 – DAME MARIE – One of the less impressive entries, she missed by a half-length last out in the Distaff Turf Mile (II) to Coffee Clique with one win in 7 tries at the distance. Class challenge.

4 – SOMALI LEMONADE – Matz and Saez make this filly an easy point of interest for me and winning back-to-back races doesn’t hurt. A winner at Belmont at this distance, Somali Lemonade could turn in a loose-on-the-lead performance should things not work out for the rest of the field.

5 – COFFEE CLIQUE – The Medaglia d’Oro filly has yet to fall off the board in 5 tries at the turf mile with 3 of those tries resulting in wins, including a G2 last out in the Distaff Turf Mile (II) at Churchill. Along with a sharp workout, this filly has nice upset potential matched with the excellent turf rider Javier Castellano.

6 – STEPHANIE’S KITTEN – Never shirk a Kitten’s Joy! Last year’s winner, Stephanie’s Kitten is lethal with 4 wins in 5 tries at the turf mile and 6 wins overall in 11 starts on the surface. However, she is far the best when the ground is soft, which it won’t be on Saturday, and she comes off a long layoff after trading hands from Wayne Catalano to Chad Brown. Oof!

7 – UNLIMITED BUDGET – Multiple failures on dirt trade this filly to the turf for Todd Pletcher and Rosie Napravnik. The Toddster doesn’t have a good dirt-to-turf tradeoff and neither does Rosie.

8 – WATERWAY RUN – Pummeled as a 3-year-old in Europe, the Arch filly has found a hint of success since moving stateside with a win in the 1 1/16-mile Beaugay (III) last out along with 2 very short losses. With Chad Brown training and top turf rider Jose Lezcano up, there’s plenty to like about this gal who has won at Belmont and 4 of 11 turf mile tries.

9 – DISCREET MARQ – Little to hate about this darling filly, least of all the fact that turf aficionado Christophe Clement is at the helm. Rarely finishing out of the top 2 wherever she goes, she is the one to beat with a 5:3-1-1 record at Belmont, although she is not unbeatable with a 56-day layoff (which has resulted in past losses).

10 – BETTER LUCKY – The Ghostzapper filly was just barely outgamed in last year’s race and has yet to fall off the board in 5 starts at this distance and 3 starts at Belmont. She returns to turf from a prep in the all-weather-bound Madison (I) last out and should be a threat.

Top 3 Picks:

1)      Discreet Marq

2)      Better Lucky

3)      Waterway Run

Pick 4: Discreet Marq is the single if you must do it, but I would advise against singling anyone in a turf race. I would add in at least Better Lucky to any ticket, with spreads including Waterway Run and possibly Somali Lemonade or Coffee Clique.

Discreet Marq is the filly to beat with a huge amount of class and guts as well as home court advantage. Better Lucky is a great filly as well and is tough on any going. Waterway Run is improving and has some potential to upset as a filly who likes Belmont and has some great turf connections. 

Back to Belmont: A Recap of My 145th Belmont Experience


Palace Malice! The latest one of my Saratoga ponies to do awesome things (Photo by Gary Hershorn)

It wasn’t my first trip to Belmont Park, and it certainly won’t be my last— possibly this year alone. Last year, I delighted in the triumph of Union Rags in the Belmont Stakes and made the pilgrimage from western Massachusetts over the Throgs Neck Bridge to New York’s Long Island for the third jewel of the Triple Crown. The race has a pulse different from the other races whether you watch it in person or on TV, and many who have been to all 3 races have told me it is special in its own way and a race they just have to make it to. Read on for my personal journey, insights, and handicapping triumphs and woes (mostly woes) from the big day I’ve been looking forward to since the start of the crown.

Continue reading…

Stephanie’s Kitten makes her move between Stopshoppingmaria and Sweet Cat to win the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Fillies (I) at Churchill Downs.

Stephanie’s Kitten makes her move between Stopshoppingmaria and Sweet Cat to win the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Fillies (I) at Churchill Downs.

Big Race Weekend Ahead

Keeneland has its opening day today with the Transylvania Stakes (III) among others, then tomorrow it has the big Ashland (I) for sophomore fillies. Then you’ve got the Wood Memorial (I) and three other big stakes in New York, the Santa Anita Derby (I) with a nice $500k pick 4, and the loaded Illinois Derby (III). Recently I was personally able to deflate a little bit about not getting to go to the Wood Memorial because Hansen decided not to go, but oh man I’ll be missing Shackleford!

On the rail and with blinkers off, the connections of the favorite Creative Cause are taking some chances with their dazzling colt, who in my opinion is steeply disregarded as a horse who could win the Kentucky Derby. This race will show again how good he is while giving him a little extra running room at 1 1/8 miles. I have yet to seriously consider I’ll Have Another, who hasn’t raced since his major upset in the Robert B. Lewis (II), as well as Liasion who won the CashCall (I). One won sailing clear of a very messy stretch charge, the other’s took place long ago and I’m not certain his pedigree will win for him at this stage of the game. I do have some favorite underdogs in Midnight Transfer, who is to be ridden by Mike Smith, and Ahmed Zayat’s Paynter, a horse he’s been bullish about supporting in the harsh light of criticism via Twitter:

Calm down, bro. The Sadler colt in question is Holy Candy, a nice Candy Ride [ARG] colt who broke his maiden somewhat recently after a couple good tries. He owes me money at this point, but I think Paynter’s up to snuff more-so than he. Very interested in watching both, but at this level, I’ll cruise with some ponies I already like.

1) Creative Cause 2) Midnight Transfer 3) I’ll Have Another

Last year’s Illinois Derby winner was Joe Vann, a nothing-too-special Zayat horse. The race hasn’t been a huge factor in the Derby preps, but War Emblem did win it in 2002 along with some other nice contenders like Ten Most Wanted. But yeah, I’m not seeing anything really special this year with 14 entries packing the box with 3 also-eligibles waiting in the wings. Currency Swap did not make a case against Gemologist in their last outing at Gulfstream despite some promising works, and I’m not expecting him to bounce right back here, making this a very open race. Honestly I like Done Talking best; he was great last year and appears to be a slow developer with plenty of promise, but I’m not leaving out the spotty, but improving Our Entourage and Morgan’s Guerrilla. Saturday Launch, a McPeek trainee, is also worth a look in what will be a great betting race. This race is really just a wing-it-and-hope-for-the-best kind of fray.

1) Done Talking 2) Our Entourage 3) Morgan’s Guerrilla

I don’t normally go with horses fresh off their Breeders’ Cup wins and after such a long layoff, but given the short field lacking anything too serious, Stephanie’s Kitten looks posed to win Saturday’s Ashland against just 6 others in this Oaks prep. With the Ramseys and Julien Leparoux, she seems almost a no-brainer to use. Lotta Lovin's her biggest threat with 2 stake wins thus far in 2012.

1) Stephanie’s Kitten 2) Lotta Lovin 3) Karlovy Vary

"World’s Greatest" By R. Kelly - 2011 Breeders’ Cup Championships highlight reel

Fifteen Fillies Line Up for Alcibiades

Because there’s not a whole lot to say about every single juvenile filly in this grade I race, I won’t bother to do much handicapping apart from a few notes. Plus, THERE’S FIFTEEN OF THEM! That’s a whole lot of babies, hope there won’t be too many veer-outs and the myriad of other issues you can expect to see from a field of green racehorses. This is another “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge race with a berth for the Juvenile Fillies race. Here’s the field for the Keeneland event:

$400,000 Darley Alcibiades Stakes (I) - 2-Year-Old Fillies. 1 1/16 miles on Polytrack at Keeneland. Post Time: Friday, October 7 at 5:45pm

[Post Position, Horse (Pedigree) - Jockey, Trainer - Brief summary & opinion if any]

1) Putthebabiesdown (Closing Argument x Turtle Beach, by Out of Place) - Alan Garcia, Ken McPeek - Tough competitor for my favorite name. One win and a third from 3 career starts.

2) Flashy Lassie [pictured] (Flashy Bull x Lemon Pop Lassie, by Lemon Drop Kid) - Kent Desormeaux, Garry Sims - No doubt going to be one of the hot favorites after winning the Debutante (III) handily. She has two wins and a second in 3 total starts.

3) Venetian Sonata (Bernardini x Moonlight Sonata, by Carson City) - Jesus Castanon, Will Helmbrecht - Her full brother Wilburn scorched the field this past weekend in the Indiana Derby (II), so high hopes are abound.

4) Tu Endei Wei (Johar x Ms. Cornstalk, by Indian Charlie) - James McAleney, Reade Baker - Undefeated Canadian filly and a half sister to Canadian Horse of the Year Biofuel. This one is going to be a key favorite after winning the Ontario Debutante Stakes.

5) Sweet Cat (Kitten’s Joy x Claire’s Smile, Carson City) - John Velazquez, Todd Pletcher - A win and a second out of 2 career starts for the dangerous Velazquez-Pletcher combo. Perfect turf pedigree.

6) Egg Drop (Alphabet Soup x Rehocracy, by Adhocracy) - Joe Talamo, Mike Mitchell - One-for-one, gray filly in the field ridden by Joe Talamo.

7) Stephanie’s Kitten (Kitten’s Joy x Unfold the Rose, by Catienus) - Corey Lanerie, Wayne Catalano - Product of the Ramsey breeding operation, one win and two thirds out of 3 total starts. Another turf pedigree to Polytrack.

8) New Wave (Tale of the Cat x Ecology, by Unbridled’s Song) - Julien Leparoux, George Arnold - One win and a second out of 3 total starts for this striking gray filly.

9) And Why Not (Street Cry [IRE] x Alchemist, by A.P. Indy) - Garrett Gomez, Michael Matz - My favorite in the field who has all the makings and right connections to be really good. A maiden win and a third in the Spinaway (I) out of 2 total starts.

10) Frolic’s Revenge (Vindication x Stormy Frolic, by Summer Squall) - Juan Leyva, Milton Wolfson - Second-most experienced entry with 5 total starts, yielding two wins, a second, and two thirds.

11) Heart of Destiny (Lion Heart x Doc’s Destiny, by Doc’s Leader) - Edgar Prado, James Baker - Two starts yielding a win and a third for this chestnut filly.

12) Cheerleader (Flashy Bull x Destiny’s Yield, by High Yield) - Jamie Theriot, Bret Calhoun - One-for-one gray filly.

13) Tavern On the Bay (Offlee Wild x Terrified Ice, by Darn That Alarm) - Victory Lebron, Danny Turner - Most experienced entry with 6 total starts yielding a win, a second, and two thirds.

14) Ann of the Dance (English Channel x Dans La Ville, by Winning) - Rajiv Maragh, James DiVito - 3 total starts yielding two wins and a third.

15) On Fire Baby (Smoke Glacken x Ornate, by Gilded Time) - Joe Johnson, Gary Hartlage - One-for-one gray filly.

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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