Tuesday, June 30, 2009

West Virginia Workout

2009 Kentucky Derby winner, Mine That Bird, is getting ready for his next excursion onto the racetrack. The gelding is scheduled to run in the West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Racetrack and Casino on August 1. That would be nearly two months since his last start, a third in the Belmont Stakes. Mine That Bird worked a half-mile in 51 seconds at Churchill Downs under his Derby-winning jockey, Calvin Borel.

Therein lies the problem, Borel apparently has a prior commitment to ride Warrior's Reward in the Jim Dandy at Saratoga. Borel has already gotten off Mine That Bird once to ride Rachel Alexandra to victory (over Mine That Bird) in the 2009 Preakness. Mine That Bird's connections handled that difficult situation with a lot of class. However, if Borel asks off Mine That Bird once again to ride another three-year-old, trainer Chip Woolley ought to get himself another permanent rider.

Getting off the Derby winner to ride a different horse in the Preakness is rarely done, but Borel had committed himself to ride all of Rachel Alexandra's races in the future and it was just one of those coincidences that occur where he had to make a tough choice. Rachel Alexandra was a proven winner when he made that decision and she continues to prove herself as every day goes by as the best horse out there right now. To get off the Derby winner to ride a horse with significant promise is another thing entirely. Warrior's Reward really has not proved himself yet and Borel has to decide whether he wants to ride Mine That Bird or not. They were a great pairing in Kentucky, but Mike Smith certainly didn't shame himself when he rode Mine That Bird to a close second in the Preakness.

What is Woolley supposed to do? Have a bullpen of prospective replacements ready in case Borel decides he wants to ride someone else. Of course not. Either Calvin wants to keep the team with Mine That Bird together or he doesn't.

Tune in tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Monday, June 29, 2009


Rachel Alexandra did it again on Saturday. She completely dominated her own sex and won the Grade 1 $300,000 Mother Goose at Belmont by 19 1/4 lengths. Granted, she only faced two other horses, but she also set a Stakes record time of 1:46.33. That is just a second of the track record for the distance. That was set by none other than Secretariat in September 1973. I think that this is simply further endorsement that Rachel Alexandra is the best horse in training right now. That's male, female, younger, older, whatever... she is the best and I, for one, can't wait to see what she does next.

The other top female runner in the country, Zenyatta, also was a winner this weekend in the Grade 1 $287,000 Vanity. She was not quite as dominant as Rachel Alexandra, but she did push her perfect record to eleven straight wins. That's pretty darn dominant, if you ask me.

Zenyatta's connections say that they want to come east to run against Rachel Alexandra later this year, but for right now, Zenyatta's next race is expected to the Clement Hirsch at Del Mar on August 9. After that, who knows? Hopefully, they will be able to find a spot to run against Rachel Alexandra because that would be one horse racing event that might just live up to the hype, if those two managed to get on the track against each other. It likely won't happen in the Breeders' Cup since Rachel Alexandra's connections are not anxious to have her run on a synthetic surface. It also would be good if we didn't have to wait that long. The sooner that they can face each other, the better for everyone it would be.

Tune in tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Photo courtesy of thoroughbredtimes.com

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The NYRA Pick... THREE?

I was originally going to do a post on the NYRA Pick Four today that includes Rachel Alexandra's return to the races in the Grade 1 Mother Goose at Belmont. However, I really don't like the last race of the sequence (the 1oth), so I have decided to just attack the Pick Three that ends with the Mother Goose. OK, here we go:

Race 7- There are four horses I think should be used in this leg of the wager on the Inner Turf Course at Belmont. #2 Piazza Di Spagna dug in well last time out for a 2nd place finish on May 25, 6 1/2 lengths behind the eventual winner. #4 Striking Rizzi is adding blinkers today and sports a strong workout on June 17. In addition, he is 15-1 on the morning line. #6 Pegasus Tommy D. gets Johnny V. in the saddle and scored his only win (and only top three) over the Belmont grass. #7 Relatively Ready has been the betting choice in four of the last five starts and was Sired by More Than Ready, one of my favorites from the 90s.

Race 8- Again, there is a foursome of runners I like in this leg. Actually, it's a fivesome, just four betting entries. The entry of #1 Sawtooth Mountain and #1a Forest Bell is a tough Pletcher entry. The #1 has been off since last September, when he was in Ireland running with graded company and the #1a was a turf winner two starts back. #4 Big Al is a Repent product that has worked very well at Monmouth so far in June. #5 Get Stormy has Storm Cat in the lineage and is a lukewarm price at 8-1 on the morning line. Finally, let's use #10 So It Goes, who also has Storm Cat in the lineage and has finished 2nd in both 2009 starts.

Race 9- The Grade 1 $300,000 Mother Goose Stakes- I don't think I have presented myself in this blog as being an idiot (or a twit, for those of you out there that are Anglophiles). I am going to single #3 Rachel Alexandra.

So here is the Pick Three play on Race 7-9 at Belmont Park on Saturday:

$1 PK3- 2/4/6/7 WITH 1/4/5/10 WITH 3
TOTAL- $16

As always, They Are Off assumes no responsibility for any wagers made in conjunction with these selections, they are merely suggestions. Tune in again on Monday for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Travis Stone

Congratulations to Travis Stone, the track announcer at Louisiana Downs in Bossier City, LA, on being named one of the "Ten Industry Leaders To Watch" by the Thoroughbred Times. You might notice that Travis' website is linked on the left of this blog and he has returned the favor on his website and you can access They Are Off from his site as well.

Some of the other names mentioned on the "Ten To Watch" list are Tim Ice, trainer of Belmont Stakes winner, Summer Bird; Oliver Tate, Chief Operating Officer of Darley USA; Dan Silver, Director Of Communications for NYRA; and David Yu, Chief Executive Officer of Betfair. So, Travis is certainly in heady company to be sure.

Tune in tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Rachel Readies Return

To quote Gary Owens, announcer from "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In", "GET READY AMERICA!" because here she comes again. Rachel Alexandra, winner of the 2009 Preakness, worked out today to get a final tune-up in before she races again this weekend at Belmont Park in the Grade 1 $300,000 Mother Goose Stakes. The filly went a nifty half-mile in 49.80 seconds and galloped out an extra furlong in 1:03.40.

The major obstacle for Rachel Alexandra's connections going forward will be, who will be running against her? She likely will only face three or four fillies in the Goose on Saturday. If she races against no one of any consequence, how will that effect her place in history? Jess Jackson and Steve Asmussen might have to keep running her against the boys just to get her some decent competition. I believe that they are planning to do that in either the Travers or Haskell later this summer. However, how much will she be getting out of the public workouts any of her races against her own sex figure to be? How tough will she be when she gets back into the tough stuff her summer schedule could become if the connections tire of assumed walkovers?

I think these will all be interesting questions for Rachel Alexandra and her star-studded connections and I, for one, am interested to see how everything plays out for her later this year.

Tune in tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Friday, June 19, 2009

The 150th Queen's Plate

Canada's version of the Kentucky Derby will be run this Sunday at Woodbine in Ontario. The 150th running of the Queen's Plate features a favored filly and I actually think that #4 Milwaukee Appeal is the one to beat in the Plate. Stewart Elliott will have the ride, as he did for her impressive win in the Woodbine Oaks on June 7. If you are worried about the extra furlong distance from the Oaks to the Plate, I wouldn't be. She was pulling away from her female rivals impressively and ended up winning by nearly four lengths. Woodbine could potentially rekindle to the old days of Baze Meadows with #12 Shut It Down. Russell Baze made the trip north by northeast to ride this gelding. He has been off since May 22, when he ran a tough 3rd after getting boxed in. He also posted a bullet workout on June 16 over the Woodbine track. Add in the attractive 20-1 morning-line and you have a horse you can use a price pick. #7 Eye Of The Leopard is a Triple Crown-nominated horse that won the Plate Trial at Woodbine on the last day of May. The A.P. Indy product's Beyer speed figures have improved with each of his three starts and an improvement over the Trial figure could mean victory on Sunday. I wish I could ignore the clunker that #1 El Brujo tossed in the Plate Trial. He ran a dismal 9th as the betting favorite and that performance earned him a 15-1 price on the morning-line for the Plate. He had been the betting choice in his last five starts, winning three of those. If he gets back in form, he could be one to watch.

They Are Off wishes the best to They Are Off favorite, Dan Loiselle, who will be calling the Queen's Plate at Woodbine. Dan might be the best announcer in the business right now and is always a class act. We also would like to wish a Happy Father's Day to all the Dads out there on Sunday and that includes my own. They Are Off will return on Tuesday next week with more from the racing scene. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Thursday, June 18, 2009


I have been to many racetracks over the course of my life, visiting Thoroughbred shrines like Churchill Downs and Belmont Park to harness tracks like Maywood Park and Pocono Downs. However, in all of those horse places I have seen, one stood out above the rest for me as far as beauty and atmosphere. That is Delaware Park. I went there for the first time last spring and honestly, I cannot wait to go back. It was just gorgeous in every way, shape, and form. I am planning a return journey there in October and am already excited about the prospect.

Why do I mention Delaware Park on this ordinary Thursday? Well, Delaware has become one of four racetracks in this country to receive full safety accreditation from the NTRA Safety And Integrity Alliance. Delaware joins the aforementioned Belmont Park and Churchill Downs, along with Keeneland Race Course on the NTRA safety list. According to a story on the Thoroughbred Times website, the things that the Alliance look for in the way of safety are injury reporting and prevention, creating a safer racing environment, aftercare and transition of retired racehorses, uniform medication (testing and penalties), and safety research. Delaware Park should be proud of joining that all-important list of track doing everything they can possibly do to the best of their ability for the safety of both the horses and the jockeys. Speaking of Delaware Park, don't forget that Barbaro's brother, Nicanor, was a turf winner again there on Wednesday afternoon. It could be soon when he starts to try some tougher stuff and take that turf ability to the next level.

Tracks next on the NTRA accreditation list include Arlington Park, Calder Race Course, Emerald Downs, and Monmouth Park.

Tune in for a look at this weekend's Queen's Plate at Woodbine on Friday from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone...GOODBYE!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Not Quite

Sonjabella ran seventh in the eighth race at Woodbine tonight for owner and They Are Off follower, Valerie Anderson. Maybe next time will be the one for Sonjabella. Good luck with her, Valerie!

For right now, I am Gone...GOODBYE!

Go Go Valerie!

I would like to take an opportunity to wish follower of They Are Off, Valerie Anderson, good luck tonight in the 8th race at Woodbine Race Course in Canada. Valerie's horse, Sonjabella, is 6-1 on the morning-line in the 8th and it would be fantastic if she came through with a victory. REALLY FANTASTIC!!!!, if you get my general drift. It would be equally great for her to get a win called by the one and only, Dan Loiselle, one of the best race callers in the business. Go get 'em, Valerie!

I will post an update on how Sonjabella did after Race 8 runs tonight from Woodbine. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Paulick Report

They Are Off wishes to congratulate The Paulick Report on its one-year anniversary, which they noted on the website. The Paulick Report has provided a great service to the horse racing industry as a news source and watchdog for what is going on with the racing scene. We link to The Paulick Report through the "Links" section on this webpage and they also return the favor by linking to They Are Off among their list of blogs.

Tune in again tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Odds And Ends

Trainer Chip Woolley decided where Kentucky Derby winner, Mine That Bird, will be heading next. His next race will be the Grade 2 West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Racetrack and Casino on August 1. Four weeks after that, the Derby winner will run in the "Summertime Derby", the Grade 1 Travers Stakes at Saratoga.

Speaking of Saratoga, the moose in the picture caused a bit of a stir at The Spa today. Apparently, the moose got loose and wandered around the track. Thankfully, no harm was done to the track or the moose as a result of this adventure. I am glad for that. I guess I have a soft spot for moose.

Rachel Alexandra returned to the track this morning at Churchill Downs and worked six furlongs in 1:12 flat.

On foreign soil, Ascot opens their premier five-day meeting on Tuesday and the Queen's Plate, the Canadian Kentucky Derby, runs this weekend.

All in all, even with the Triple Crown over, there is still a lot going on in the world of the equine. Enjoy!!! Tune in again tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Fleur De Lis, Foster, and Regret

Three excellent graded stakes races comprise the last pick three at Churchill Downs on Saturday. The Grade 2 Fleur De Lis, the Grade 1 Stephen Foster, and the Grade 3 Regret are well worth a look and after examining each of the races, there will be a Pick Three play as well.

CD Race 9- The Fleur Di Lis- I am going to go five deep in this opening leg of the final pick three. I think the likely winner is #9 Kiss With A Twist, who ran 2nd in a Grade 3 at Arlington last time out on May 23. In her last six, she won three and made the money in the other three. I will also include #2 Distinctive Dixie, #3 Miss Isella, #6 Temple Street, and #8 Swift Temper in the overall pick three play.

CD Race 10- The Stephen Foster- I think it is entirely possible that #3 Einstein could get beat on Saturday. However, for the sake of the pick three situation, I am going to single him here since each of those horses I can see topping him have flaws. Also, I intend to go five-deep in the last leg also, so you have to save somewhere and why not do that with maybe the best horse in training right now.

CD Race 11- The Regret- Another five-deep escapade here, but I kind of have a hunch with Calvin Borel aboard #5 Banker's Choice. To be truthful, I am disappointed in the 9-2 morning line, I really thought I would get a better price on a horse that has not won a race since last October. However, we will press ahead and also use #1 Excelente, #2 The Best Day Ever, #9 Keertana, and #10 Prytania in the pick three Saturday.

So, for those of you scoring at home, here is the pick three play on the last three races at Churchill Downs on Saturday:

$1 PK3: 2-3-6-8-9 with 3 with 1-2-5-9-10
TOTAL- $25

As always, we remind you that They Are Off does not accept any responsibility for any wagers made in conjunction with these suggestions. They are just that... suggestions. Tune in again on Monday for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Very Smart

Churchill Downs dominates the racing landscape during the lead-up to the Kentucky Derby and also if they are conducting a Breeders' Cup in the fall. Other than that, the Downs just kind of recedes into the rest of the racing scene and does not really stand out, with the exception of this particular weekend. This weekend, the Grade 1 Stephen Foster will be run and it is always considered the highlight of the late spring part of the meet in Kentucky.

Looking at some of the recent winners of the Foster tells you the importance of the race. Awesome Again, Victory Gallop, Perfect Drift, Saint Liam, and Curlin have all won the Foster within the last decade. That is a virtual who's who of the sport in that time. Saturday's version of the Foster could add another name of unique quality to that list with Einstein being listed as the 2-1 morning-line choice. Were Einstein to prevail in the Foster, it would be his third consecutive Grade 1 win and each would be won over a different racing surface. The Foster is run on dirt, Einstein won the Big Cap over synthetic at Santa Anita and then won the Woodford Reserve on turf at Churchill on Derby day. That would be a truly remarkable accomplishment and would likely stamp Einstein as one of the great horses of this generation. You might think I am overstating his impact, but can you name as versatile horse currently running (and winning) under such different and difficult circumstances?

They Are Off will provide thoughts on the Foster and possibly some undercard races at Churchill on Saturday tomorrow. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Story Of Texas Racing

Here is an excellent recap of the current goings on with Texas Racing from They Are Off friend and SureBet Racing News writer, Martha Claussen. Enjoy the read: http://www.surebetracingnews.com/important_stuff/Past_Issues/June_2009.pdf. Martha's article is comprised of pages 27-30 of the issue's pdf.

Tune in again tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

From The Home Office...

...in Chandler, Arizona, here are the top three best moments from the 2009 Triple Crown series, as judged by your humble blog host.

#3- The post-Derby interview that NBC's Donna Brothers got with Calvin Borel while he was still aboard Mine That Bird. That interview showed why nearly everyone in the racing game loves Borel. His first thoughts were of his late parents and what their thoughts would have been in the wake of his second Derby victory. He then earnestly described the trip he got up the rail and seemed like the happiest person at Churchill Downs that day.

#2- Rachel Alexandra's win in the Preakness from the far outside (#13) post position. She stamped her case as the best three-year-old in the country, male or female, by becoming the first filly to win the Preakness in over eighty years. Also worthy of mention is the subsequent brilliant decision of her connections (Jess Jackson and Steve Asmussen) NOT to run her in the Belmont Stakes. After her staggering 20-length win in the Kentucky Oaks and the Preakness score, she was deserving of some rest and relaxation prior to what promises to be an epic summer campaign.

#1- How can you not go with Mine That Bird becoming the second-longest shot in the 135-year history of the Kentucky Derby to win the race? The entire story is worthy of screenplay material from Hollywood. Mine That Bird was Canadian two-year-old champion in 2008 with just a graded win in the Grey Stakes at Woodbine to stake his claim to even being in the Derby. The horse runs up the track in the Sunland Park Derby (which better be graded going forward) and then the trainer (on crutches) vans the horse over 1,000 miles to Churchill Downs for the race, which no one thought he had a chance in. The horse then gets hopelessly squeezed back at the start and left nearly 30 lengths off the pace, at which point he commences a miracle run up the rail under Borel, bursting through the tightest spot ever at the rail and drawing off to win by 6 3/4 lengths (the largest margin of victory since Assault in 1946). Borel even waves good-bye to the horses he left behind with his whip as he approaches the wire. To watch the greatest angle of Mine That Bird's win, go to http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/3032808 and click on "Overhead view of Mine That Bird's win" under the Kentucky Derby section.

Tune in tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Monday, June 08, 2009

Belmont Re-cap

So, Summer Bird won the Belmont Stakes at 11-1 on Saturday and ended the dreams of Calvin Borel to win the Jockey Triple Crown with Mine That Bird and Rachel Alexandra. Borel guided Mine That Bird to a very credible third-place finish behind Summer Bird and runner-up, Dunkirk. We end the Triple Crown season with two longshot winners (both Sired by Birdstone) and a filly winning the Preakness and validating herself as the best three-year-old of this class. As a matter of fact, Rachel Alexandra worked out on Monday at Churchill Downs, going six furlongs in 1:13.4 and galloping out seven in 1:28 flat. The talk is that we will still will see her go in the Mother Goose later on this meeting at Belmont Park. It is highly likely that she will challenge the boys again, either in the Haskell at Monmouth or the Travers at Saratoga.

I think the one thing that needs to be asked in the wake of the Belmont Stakes this weekend is, "What was Alan Garcia thinking?". Garcia was the rider aboard Charitable Man, who was one of the three favorites in the Belmont. The racetrack on Saturday favored speed. Anyone who got to the lead was just about home free. I had picked Charitable Man before knowing that the track was playing this way on Saturday. Charitable Man was allegedly the lone speed in the field. He got out of the gate very well and then, instead of going right to the front, Garcia allowed Dunkirk to sneak through on the inside of him and get the all-important front-running position. Charitable Man settled in fourth place and that was where he ended up at race's end. Meanwhile, Dunkirk finished 2nd (holding off a charging Mine That Bird and getting passed by the only come-from-behind horse all day, Summer Bird). If Garcia gets proper position out of the gate with Charitable Man, the outcome on Saturday could have been entirely different.

So, the Triple Crown season is over and it was a fine one, but it won't produce any legendary greatness, unless of course, Rachel Alexandra goes on to eclipse Ruffian, Regret, Lady's Secret, Azeri, and any other great filly you can think of to become an all-time champion. Tune in tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Friday, June 05, 2009

The 141st Belmont Stakes

First off, I would like to point out that I almost never fall in love with the "hot horse" entering any of these Triple Crown races. I always handicap the races on their own merit and not based on what any of the "wise guys" are saying.

That being said, I really like #6 Charitable Man in the 141st Belmont Stakes. He has two wins already over the Belmont oval in the Grade 2 Peter Pan and the Grade 2 Futurity last September. He posted a career-best Beyer of 100 in that Peter Pan win last time out. His Sire, Lemon Drop Kid, much like Birdstone, was a winner of the Belmont Stakes, so the distance should not be an issue here. I think that #1 Chocolate Candy could be poised for a big effort on Saturday also. He was one of the "hot horses" in the Derby and ran a very credible fifth that day despite some trouble. The only other time that Garrett Gomez rode Chocolate Candy, he was a winner in the Real Quiet Stakes at Hollywood Park in November. Next, I will put the Derby winner and Preakness runner-up, #7 Mine That Bird, with Calvin Borel back in the saddle. If Mine That Bird were to win, it would be a jockey's Triple Crown for Borel with two different horses, something that has never been accomplished before. I am very surprised that #3 Mr. Hot Stuff was so prominent in my handicapping also. He was 15th at 29-1 in the Kentucky Derby. His last two works at Keeneland were bullets. Therein lies the problem, which is that all of Mr. Hot Stuff's good stuff came over artificial surfaces, which Belmont does not have. Finally, I think you need to throw in one of the Lukas trainees, #5 Luv Gov. He only has a maiden-breaking win, but he could sneak in there underneath in your exotic wagers and be a part of the mix. So, here are the wagers for the 141st Belmont Stakes:

$1 EX BOX 1-3-5-6-7 and $1 TRI 6 with 1-3-5-7
TOTAL- $32

Keep in mind that They Are Off does not accept any responsibility for any wagers made in conjunction with these suggestions. That is all they are...suggestions. Tune in again on Monday for a Belmont review. For right now, I am Gone...GOODBYE!

Thursday, June 04, 2009

The Undercard

Traditionally, the Belmont Stakes undercard is the most impressive of all the Triple Crown days. It is a bit later in the year than the Derby and gives more quality horses the chance to rebound from any early-year starts they might have made. It also does not load the program with local horses the way that Pimlico does for the undercard.

That said, some of the stakes races appear formidable despite some short fields. In the first stakes race of the day, the Grade 2 True North, it is only a field of six, but two of those six are Benny The Bull and Fabulous Strike. Breeders' Cup Filly And Mare Turf champion, Forever Together, headlines the Grade 1 Just A Game. The Grade 2 Woody Stephens has Godolphin Derby runner, Regal Ransom, facing Derby Trial winner, Hull, in what promises to be a fast seven-furlong race. The Grade 1 Acorn for three-year-old fillies has Justwhistledixie, who only has won her last five by a combined twenty lengths. And, the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap features the likes of Court Vision, Gio Ponti, Champs Elysses, Better Talk Now, Cosmonaut, and Cowboy Cal. That's is a virtual who's who of turf racing in this country.

So, keep in mind that while the 141st Belmont Stakes will seize the headlines on Saturday, there will be a host of great horses at Belmont and there should also be some strong value prices on those horses. The selections for the 141st Belmont Stakes come tomorrow from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone...GOODBYE!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The Belmont Field

The official draw for the 141st Belmont Stakes took place earlier today and it certainly elicits some interesting responses. First of all, isn't it amazing that in five short weeks Mine That Bird went from 50-1 no-hope field clogger in the Kentucky Derby to the 2-1 morning-line favorite in the Belmont Stakes. It certainly helps that situation that Rachel Alexandra is not present since she would be the favorite off her Preakness win and she would have Calvin Borel aboard instead of his riding Mine That Bird, which he will do on Saturday.

Secondly, there are only three horses listed in single-digit odds according to the morning-line. Mine That Bird (2-1), Charitable Man (3-1), and Dunkirk (4-1) are the only ones with everyone else 10-1 or higher. Who could be the most interesting longshot? Well, I'll have a little more on that later this week, but keep in mind that I did profile Summer Bird earlier during this three-week gap between the Preakness and the Belmont.

Finally, Flying Private ran 20th in the Kentucky Derby and improved to 4th in the Preakness. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas will send the only other horse besides Mine That Bird into all three races of the series. Chocolate Candy, Dunkirk, Mr. Hot Stuff, and Summer Bird all took the five weeks between the Derby and Belmont off to freshen up. Luv Gov ran in the Preakness after skipping the Derby. Charitable Man, Brave Victory, and Miner's Escape all missed both of the first two legs of the Crown.

It certainly shapes up as a fascinating group of ten horses and it should be another exciting rendition of the Belmont Stakes, even without a Triple Crown at stakes. By the way, kudos to ESPN for actually showing up and broadcasting some of the early card races on Belmont Saturday. The network neglected to show up for the undercards on Derby and Preakness days. Tune in tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone...GOODBYE!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The Best Ever

The man in the picture to the left is the greatest race caller of all-time, Chic Anderson. Anderson worked for many of the top racetracks in the country including Oaklawn, Churchill Downs, and the NYRA tracks. He also called the Triple Crown races on CBS (and a couple on ABC) for the greatest decade in horse racing history, the 1970s. Anderson was able to describe the action for three separate Triple Crowns (Secretariat, Seattle Slew, and Affirmed). It is, of course, for his work in 1973 with Secretariat's crown that Anderson is best remembered.
With the Belmont Stakes this weekend, the Secretariat Belmont (in which he won the race by 31 lengths and ran the 1 1/2 mile distance in a world record 2:24) is even more prominent. Maybe not as much as a year when a Triple Crown is up for grabs, but still you cannot ignore the greatest race performance of all-time when the Belmont is coming. Secretariat became the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years (since Citation) with his victory.
Anderson's most famous line from the 1973 Belmont race call is "He is moving like a tremendous machine!" Any horse racing fan, either from that era or this, cannot help but get the chills when Anderson intones that line. Another personal favorite of mine is at the top of the stretch, when Anderson says "He's out there almost a sixteenth of a mile away from the rest of the horses!" If you have considered that a sixteenth of a mile is 110 yards, then you know why Anderson got so justifiably excited.
The 1973 Belmont Stakes was one of those perfect storms when man, horse, and moment met and the result was history. You had the greatest racehorse of all-time and the greatest announcer of all-time at the top of their games and the end result became immortal.
If you would like to see the 1973 Belmont Stakes, you can go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xoFquax2F-k. Tune in tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone...GOODBYE!

Monday, June 01, 2009

Rachel Alexandra Rests

Owner Jess Jackson and trainer Steve Asmussen announced this weekend that Rachel Alexandra will not participate in the Belmont Stakes this Saturday at Belmont Park. She was obviously exhausted after the Preakness and it was a tribute to her greatness that she won so strongly while she was out of gas and, according to Calvin Borel, did not handle the track at Pimlico well.

I know that a lot of folks will remember that another quality filly, Rags To Riches, held off the great Curlin to win the Belmont two years ago to become the first filly to win the "Test Of Champions" in over a century. I also know that a lot of folks will say that the TV coverage will be largely inconsequential with Rachel vs. Mine That Bird in the Belmont, or even just Rachel in the Belmont. I am positive that the overall attendance and handle will be slightly lower than it normally would have had Rachel been able to run. There are those who will say that Rachel Alexandra running in the Belmont would have been "what's best for the sport".

Well, in my opinion, I think you have to attach the phrase "what's best for the horse" to "what's best for the sport". A tired Rachel Alexandra running in the Belmont and possibly running badly or, heaven forbid, having something catastrophic occur would not be "what's best for the sport". I think in this case "what's best for the horse" is "what's best for the sport". In the wake of Eight Belles last year at the Derby and Barbaro three years ago at the Preakness, horse racing cannot afford to have another high-profile disaster. It is true that Rachel Alexandra winning the Belmont would have been a great story, but I believe it is a greater story that she will wait and run against fillies and her connections did the clearly right thing for her and allowed her (and them) some well-deserved time to enjoy her Preakness performance.

Tune in for more from the Belmont tomorrow from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!