Friday, September 25, 2009


I am going to be taking a week off from blog posts to get my affairs in order as I begin my new job at Turf Paradise as the track announcer there. I will be returning with a new blog post on Friday, October 2 (Opening Day at Turf Paradise) which will be focusing on the Breeders' Cup Preview Day at Belmont Park the following day.

I am looking forward to starting my new adventure at Turf Paradise and am anticipating a prosperous tenure there. I do want to take a moment to wish Frank Miramahdi well in his new adventure at TVG Network. I have every confidence that Frank will be outstanding in his role and look forward to catching his TVG work for a long time. Congratulations to Frank!!!

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

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

An Awakening

Hialeah Park has returned. That should be welcome news to any horse racing fan. For many years in the last century, Hialeah was known as the "Saratoga Of The South". Hialeah Park was such an entrenched part of the racing world that it is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. No part of any racetrack (with the possible exception of the Twin Spires at Churchill Downs) was as recognizable with that specific track as the pink flamingos that resided (and still reside) in the infield.

Hialeah has filed an application with the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering for two separate twenty-day Quarter Horse meetings. One will be during the 2009 calendar year and the second will follow immediately in the breaking days of 2010. Normally, I don't address Quarter Horse news on this blog. However, with the historic bent I like to take on occasion, nothing is more satisfying in the racing world news today than the return of Hialeah Park.

So, we welcome back the gorgeous lady and we welcome back the fabulous flamingos today. May you have a wonderful second time around!!

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

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Two horses of note passed away within the last day or so. El Prado and Summer Squall each made their mark on the Thoroughbred industry in their own different ways.

El Prado did his running in Europe and did win a Group 1 and a Group 2 stakes race in Ireland. He really came into prominence when he went to the stud barn. El Prado began his stud career in 1993 and at its apex his stud fee was $125,000 in 2006. Among his progeny is Medaglia d'Oro, who is only the Sire of current wonderhorse, Rachel Alexandra. So, without El Prado, we don't have the horse of the decade. Overall, he produced 74 stakes winners. That is certainly a record worthy of recognition.

Summer Squall also deserves a nod on the day of his passing. The 1990 Preakness winner was euthanized at the age of 22 at Lane's End Farm in Kentucky. Summer Squall might not have had the longevity of stud success that El Prado did, but he did produce 37 stakes winners. That total includes 1999 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, Charismatic. His stud fee got as high as $50,000 in 2001 and 2002. Being the Sire of a Kentucky Derby winner (and running 2nd in the Derby yourself) will tend to make you a hot commodity.

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

Monday, September 21, 2009

Moving The Marathon

The Breeders' Cup announced today that they are planning to move the $500,000 Marathon from the Saturday card to the Friday card to allow there to be a Pick Six on Friday's six Breeders' Cup races.

Originally, the idea behind making the Breeders' Cup a two-day event was to showcase the distaff side of the sport with the five "Ladies" races getting there own day on Friday and the "Men's" races being run specifically on Saturday. Of course, there was nothing to prevent a female horse from running on the Saturday in one of the races on that day. So, now, they have blown away that idea by moving the Marathon (a "Men's" race) to create a new Pick Six.

Personally, I always thought that the Breeders' Cup was perfect with eight races. You had the excellent mix of races that highlighted every facet of Thoroughbred racing, which was the original intention of the Breeders' Cup when it was created. I would have accepted the idea of the addition of a turf sprint race to make it a nine-race card and add the one "possible" omission on the original schedule. That addition also would have eliminated the pre-race or post-race "local" races that were a part of any Breeders' Cup Day and were there more or less to round out the program. There would have been no need for that with the addition of a ninth race.

I also think the Breeders' Cup went astray when they took the Saturday event off of network TV. Don't get me wrong, like any sports fan, I love ESPN. I have stated repeatedly in this blog that I think Jeannine Edwards is fantastic and I think that about all of the ESPN horse racing coverage. The problem is "where is that coverage?" ESPN was supposed to become the network of horse racing and the voice of the sport. All that has happened in the last few years has been a reduction in the number of telecasts and the sport just about disappears on the network that is supposed to highlight it at the times when it is allegedly the most relevant (Derby time and Breeders' Cup time).

For everyone that thinks that horse racing is a sport in trouble, don't forget that many of the wounds are self-inflicted. Watering down the most important day (or two days) on the calendar by over-expansion and the lack of having that event on free network television are just further examples of that self-infliction.

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

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Grade 2 Super Derby

The 30th running the of the Grade 2 $750,000 Super Derby will be held Saturday at Louisiana Downs. It features a very competitive field of seven horses including the U.A.E. Derby winner, the West Virginia Derby winner, and the top three finishers from the Prelude Stakes run at Louisiana Downs on August 15.

I am going to take #3 Massone, the Ron McAnally trainee as the winner of the Super Derby. He might be the best value of the field, even at a short price like 4-1. The biggest downfall of his resume' is his lack of experience on a straight dirt track. He scored a win in a turf race at Del Mar last time out with Optional Claiming company on August 16. Garrett Gomez has two wins and two thirds in four starts aboard this colt. Massone's running style might also be suited to the way this race is going to set up. There appears to be some decent speed in the field and Massone might sit just off the pace enough to run past some of the tiring pacesetters in the stretch.

Next will be #4 Regal Ransom, who has not been to the races since running 8th in the Kentucky Derby on May 2. He was part of the pace in that race and should be again today. His last work on September 14 at Belmont Park was a swift five furlongs in 59.2 seconds. He might have been the top pick here, but I wonder about his stamina after such a long racing layoff. The other knock I have against him is jockey Richard Migliore, who anyone that knows me will attest is not one of my favorites.

I will put the morning-line choice, #2 Soul Warrior, next in third place. The West Virginia Derby winner benefited from a wacky pace to that race and split horses well to run down speedster Big Drama and hold off closer Mine That Bird. His Sire is notorious speedster, Lion Heart. The trainer-jockey combo of Steve Asmussen and John Velazquez is as strong as possible here. Since he is the morning-line favorite, it wouldn't be a surprise if he wins, but I will look elsewhere.

To wrap up the top four, I will use the winner of the Curlin Stakes at Saratoga, #5 Blame. That Curlin Stakes victory came at today's distance of 1 1/8 miles. He posted a bullet workout over the polytrack at Keeneland on September 13. Trainer Al Stall Jr. is winning at Louisiana Downs at a 26% clip this meeting. By the way, this horse is undefeated (3 for 3) with jockey Jamie Theriot III in the saddle.

Here is the play for Super Derby XXX:

$1 EX BOX 2-3-4-5 and $1 TRI 3-4 with 3-4 with ALL
TOTAL- $22

Remember, They Are Off takes no responsibility for any wagers made in conjunction with these thoughts. There will be no post on Friday. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Super Derby Draw

The field has been drawn for the Grade 2 $750,000 Super Derby on Saturday at Louisiana Downs. West Virginia Derby winner, Soul Warrior, trained by Steve Asmussen, drew post #2 and has been installed as the 2-1 morning-line favorite. Soul Warrior will be ridden on Saturday by John Velazquez. The other headliner in the field of seven is Regal Ransom, the Godolphin runner that finished 8th behind Mine That Bird in the 2009 Kentucky Derby. Here is the complete field in order (with jockeys):

1)- Red Lead- Francicso Torres
2)- Soul Warrior- John Velazquez
3)- Massone- Garrett Gomez
4)- Regal Ransom- Richard Migliore
5)- Blame- Jamie Theriot
6)- Uno Mas- Shane Sellers
7)- Electric Alphabet- Don Simington

They Are Off will be posting thoughts on the Super Derby tomorrow, as opposed to the normal Friday handicapping discussion. There will be no post on Friday this week. Tune in tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Dollars And Sense

The Storm Cat era of progeny is winding down to a close. However, the SuperSire struck again at the Keeneland September sale as one of his colts (Hip No. 342) was sold to Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum for $2.05 million, clearly the top seller of the sale, which up to that point, had been somewhat disappointing. The Sheikh outbid Coolmore Stud for the Storm Cat colt in what can only be described as the highlight of the sale thus far.

However, the numbers from the Keeneland Sale have been quite dismal so far. The two select sessions were down an unbelievable 48 percent from last year's total for 300 horses. So, while there are some signs nationally that the economy is recovering, you haven't seen it yet in the sales ring. It might be some time before you do see it.

Also, in other money matters, Harrah's Entertainment won the right to purchase Thistledown Racetrack from Magna Entertainment for $89.5 million. The deal, in actuality, is for $42 million in cash. The additional $47.5 million kicks in if slots are established at racetracks in Ohio, which is expected to happen. Global Gaming also got their stalking-horse bid of $27 million accepted for Lone Star Park, another Magna Entertainment track. Lone Star will be officially auctioned off on October 7.

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

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Different Prep

For most racing fans, the biggest prep race in Europe for the Breeders' Cup has always been the Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp in France. Let's take a quick look at the facts. No winner of the Arc has EVER gone on to win a Breeders' Cup race. Some of them have come close like Trempolino in 1987 and Sakhee in 2001, but the fact remains that it has yet to happen.

The race that might be turning into a better prep than the Arc was just run this past weekend. The Group 1 St. Leger Stakes at Doncaster in England is run at the marathon distance of 1 mile, 6 furlongs and 132 yards. It is the third and final leg of the British Triple Crown (along with the 2,000 Guineas and the Epsom Derby). You probably need to pack a lunch to watch the replay of the race, but there are two examples of St. Leger winners in the last decade that have had some success on Breeders' Cup day.

In 2001, Milan was the big winner at Doncaster and ended up being the runner-up in the Breeders' Cup Turf to five-year-old veteran Fantastic Light. He was sent off that day at odds of 8-1 and overcame a five-wide trip to finish less than a length off the winner. Last year, Conduit won the St. Leger and was third choice in the wagering at 6-1 in the Breeders' Cup Turf. Conduit went on to win the Turf by a driving length and a half.

This year's St. Leger winner was a 14-1 longshot named Mastery from the Godolphin Stable. If he is sent to the Breeders' Cup by trainer Saeed bin Suroor, keep an eye out for him. Suroor also trained the second-place finisher in the St. Leger, Kite Wood, who went off at odds of 9-4, so you might want to be on the lookout for him at Santa Anita also.

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

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Grade 3 Presque Isle Masters

The Grade 3 $400,000 Presque Isle Masters is the signature event of the Presque Isle Downs season and it will be run later today at the Erie, Pennsylvania plant. A full field of 12 will go to the post in what promises to be a strong prep race for the Breeders' Cup Filly And Mare Sprint.

In handicapping The Masters Stakes, I find the field to be very top-heavy with not too many longshot chances. I will have to pick #9 Informed Decision on top. She was defeated in the Grade 1 Ballerina over a sloppy track at Saratoga, but had the previous five performances, four coming with graded company. Her last three workouts are all bullets and Julien Leparoux gets the ride. There is a lot to like about her today.

For second, I will go with the Godolphin runner, #3 Flashing, who was the winner of the Grade 1 Test at The Spa. You might even get a little value with her today given her morning-line of 6-1. She broke her maiden at 6 1/2 furlongs in her first start at Aqueduct in November 2008, but she has not gone as short a distance as that until today. The Test is run at seven furlongs.

#2 Diamondrella is working a six-race winning streak entering today, all of them coming on the turf and with Rajiv Maragh aboard. Well, she is an offspring of Rock Of Gibraltar, runner-up in the 2002 Breeders' Cup Mile. She did win the Grade 1 Just A Game last time out at one mile. She is trying the Tapeta surface at Presque Isle for the first time.

To wrap up the top four, I will use the Pletcher trainee, #4 Game Face. I don't think the extended sprint distance of the Masters Stakes suits her style. Her last two efforts at longer than six furlongs were losses. Of course, the last two races with Edgar Prado were six-furlongs victories at Calder and Saratoga.

Finally, if there is a longshot to like in the field, it might be the local product, #7 Sweet Lorena, who has won three straight races at Presque Isle Downs and is listed at 12-1 today. Her Sire is the extended sprint specialist from Canada, Langfuhr, and since I can't find another attractive longshot, she will have to do.

So, what is the wager for the Masters Stakes? Well, loathe as I am to focus on favorites like this, we'll do it really inexpensively today:

$2 EX 9 WITH 2-3-4-7

There you have it, folks. Enjoy the race and remember, They Are Off accepts no responsibility for any wagers placed in conjunction with these selections. Tune in Monday for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Thursday, September 10, 2009


October 3 is a date that holds special significance to old-time New Yorkers for a specific reason. That is the date that New York Giants third baseman Bobby Thomson hit the famed "Shot Heard 'Round The World" off of Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca. The homerun culminated a 13 1/2 game comeback by the Giants to win the National League pennant in 1951. There has been a litany of books, articles, documentaries, and other media put together regarding that pennant race, that playoff series, and that homerun. It just might be the most famous sports moment in this nation's history.

(Trivia question: Who was on deck when Thomson hit the homerun?) Answer later.

You might be wondering why a horse racing blog would be dedicating time to discussing Bobby Thomson's homerun. Well, the date is the clue to that wonderment. October 3 might be the most significant date on the calendar this fall other than the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships on November 6-7. October 3 is the date that Belmont Park will be running five different Grade 1 races as important preps for many of the eastern horses interested in going on run in that Breeders' Cup a month later. Those five Grade 1 races are the $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup, the $600,000 Beldame, the $400,000 Vosburgh on the main track and the $600,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational and the $600,000 Flower Bowl Invitational.

The Gold Cup could feature many of the horses you might see in the Breeders' Cup Classic like Summer Bird, Kensei, and Quality Road. The Vosburgh promises to be the showcase for Sprint contenders like Fabulous Strike, Kodiak Kowboy, and Pyro. You might want to look for the likes of Gio Ponti and Court Vision in the Hirsch. The one race that will probably lack the cache it was supposed to have is the Beldame, which will likely not feature the anticipated matchup between Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta. Rachel Alexandra, by most reports, wrapped up her three-year-old campaign (and maybe her career) with her narrow victory over Macho Again at Saratoga in the Grade 1 Woodward on Saturday.

You know what, even without the fabulous fillies October 3 still promises to be an unbelievable day of racing at Belmont Park with five Grade 1 races and Breeders' Cup previews up and down the program. It is the kind of day that you will not be able to ignore if you are a racing fan and it is the kind of day you will not be able to ignore if you are a serious handicapper. Just 23 days away.

(Trivia answer: Willie Mays, considered by some to the greatest baseball player ever.)

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

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Living Up To His Name

Trainer Bob Baffert was inducted into the Hall Of Fame at Saratoga in August, of course, it was a most-deserved honor. Baffert has done just about everything that can be accomplished in training (both Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred) with the exception of pulling off a Triple Crown. Keep in mind, however, that no one else has done it either since 1978 and Baffert has come as close as you can without actually getting the trophy.

One of Baffert's more admirable recent efforts came with Midnight Lute, who won back-to-back Breeders' Cup Sprint races in 2007 at Monmouth and 2008 at Santa Anita. Midnight Lute came from absolute nowhere to win in the slop in New Jersey (embittering those of us who had loaded up on Idiot Proof that day) and repeated the feat on the synthetic surface. coming back to win after not racing for nearly a full year.

It looks like Baffert might be ready to make it three straight Sprint titles with the aptly-named Zensational. His win in the Grade 1 $300,000 Pat O'Brien was his third consecutive Grade 1 victory, including the Grade 1 Triple Bend Handicap at Hollywood and the Grade 1 Bing Crosby at Del Mar. It certainly appears that the Unbridled's Song offspring will be the favorite entering the Sprint at Santa Anita.

You know what horse Zensational reminds me of: Reraise. Reraise was the winner of the 1998 Breeders' Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs. He came on the scene late in the game that year with an awesome win in the Kentucky Cup Sprint at Turfway Park and rolled right into the Breeders' Cup Winner's Circle. Zensational has the capability to follow that lead and win the Sprint in his home state.

Zensational has only lost twice in his career, one of those coming at one mile around two turns and the other coming to the very good Jess Jackson horse, Kensei. If he continues to plot the present course, I think Zensational will not be picking up his third loss at the Breeders' Cup.

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

Monday, September 07, 2009

Discussion Over!

Just in case anyone out there had any doubts that Rachel Alexandra was the Horse Of The Year this year, I certainly hope that you have had those issues squelched by her amazing performance against older males in this past weekend's Grade 1 Woodward Stakes at Saratoga. There is quite a bit to recall from Saturday's victory, so let's have at it, shall we?

First of all, Rachel Alexandra won that race by setting a relatively quick pace and fending off impressive runs from closers Bullsbay and Macho Again. Honestly, she went 22.4 for the opening quarter and 46.2 for the half. When you are going nine furlongs, that is some speedy stuff. If you take a look at the replay of the race, the horses that pressed the pace with her, Da'Tara and Past The Point were nowhere to be found at the end. While Da'Tara has not managed to win a single race since the win in the 2008 Belmont Stakes, he still has that signature win and is certainly not a slouch. She drilled him into the ground and was able to continue on to the finish.

The best part of all this, to me, was that while I was watching the race with friends Nick Tammaro and Pat Cummings, we all noticed that Calvin Borel had not even asked her until he produced the whip at the top of the stretch when the challenges from Bullsbay and Macho Again started. For a fleeting moment, I actually thought she might get beat by Macho Again, but right at the end of that race, you could see that she just wasn't going to let anyone past her to win, it just wasn't going to happen.

The aftermath of all of this is that she should be a UNANIMOUS choice for Horse Of The Year. Her connections should be getting Eclipse Awards from now until the cows come home, Steve Asmussen and Calvin Borel have both done remarkable jobs with the filly since taking the reins (no pun intended). Obviously, Borel has been with her a bit longer than Asmussen, but they have been perfect with her and they have had her in easy spots (The Mother Goose) and difficult ones (The Preakness, The Haskell, and The Woodward).

Will she ever run again? Owner Jess Jackson hinted that Saturday might have ended her season and if she never steps foot on the track again, it will be our loss. However, she has now done it all. She dominated her own kind (fillies), won a Triple Crown race against three-year-old boys, defeated the boys again over a quagmire in the Haskell at Monmouth, and now beat older males at the "Graveyard Of Favorites". What else does she have to do? Beat Zenyatta? Sorry, but that is an unnecessary thing, folks. She would crush Zenyatta in much the same way Mike Tyson crushed Michael Spinks. It wouldn't even be a fair fight.

In the final analysis (and my opinion), this is the greatest horse to set foot on a racetrack since Secretariat. If Jackson decides to retire her right now and breed her to Curlin, I will certainly be the first in line to wager on that offspring in a few years and get back $2.10 for my $2 win ticket. I'll love having the souvenir.

Photo courtesy of and NYRA.

Friday, September 04, 2009

The Grade 1 Pacific Classic

The biggest race of the Del Mar season comes to us on Sunday with the Grade 1 $1,000,000 Pacific Classic. Those of you who follow this blog know that I was very much behind Rail Trip when he won the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup. While he certainly could be a big factor on Sunday, I think there might be too much speed involved in the Pacific Classic for him to hold up all the way this time. The pace could be too much for him to lead from gate to wire. Therefore, I will go with #8 Global Hunter to spring a mild surprise over the Del Mar Polytrack. He was a winner in the Grade 1 Eddie Read over the Del Mar turf. He did get beat in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby and while I seriously question the decision to run him at six furlongs, he still made the best of a bad situation to run 3rd. I'll put the morning-line favorite at 5-2, #6 Colonel John, in second. He won an ungraded stakes race at Del Mar on the green stuff under the ride of Garrett Gomez. This is his 2nd start off the latest layoff (an angle I do like) and he sports a strong workout on September 1. The recently purchased #10 Einstein comes next. He has not won since the Grade 1 Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on Derby Day, but as I have mentioned earlier, the ride he got in the Foster was abysmal and no one was going to beat Gio Ponti in the Grade 1 Arlington Million. #3 Rail Trip comes next and I expect him to be part of a tough pace set-up. That likely will compromise his chances to win the Pacific Classic, but I could certainly see him holding on to be part of the underneath positions in the exotic wagers. It is interesting to note that he has not raced at all since his win in the Hollywood Gold Cup on July 11. Here is the wager for the Grade 1 Pacific Classic:

$5 WP #8 and $1 EX BOX 6-8-10 and $1 TRI BOX 6-8-10
TOTAL- $22

Please remember that They Are Off takes no responsibility for any wagers placed based on these suggestions. Enjoy what promises to be a great racing weekend with Rachel Alexandra running against older males in the Grade 1 Woodward at Saratoga and this Pacific Classic as well.

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

Thursday, September 03, 2009


A multitude of the Thoroughbred news on Thursday focused on the excellent Einstein. First of all, he was purchased by Magna magnate, Frank Stronach. The five-time Grade 1 winner was purchased from Midnight Cry Stables for an undisclosed amount.

Secondly, Einstein was entered in this weekend's Grade 1 Pacific Classic to be run over the Polytrack at Del Mar in southern California. So, the first time Einstein will run in the Stronach colors will be another try to score his sixth Grade 1 win. Some of the top-flight competition he will be facing in what will be a fabulous race includes Hollywood Gold Cup winner, Rail Trip, Colonel John, who returned to racing with a turf win last time out in Wickerr Stakes and has been installed as the 5-2 morning-line choice, Mast Track, who ran 3rd in the Classic last year, Awesome Gem, the Classic runner-up two years ago, and the runner-up to Rail Trip in the Gold Cup, Tres Borrachos.

It should be just a fabulous race and, of course, They Are Off will provide thoughts on this race tomorrow since I don't think anyone would be overly excited if I pick Rachel Alexandra in the Grade 1 Woodward at Saratoga on Saturday at odds of 3-5.

Tune in tomorrow for those Pacific Classic selections. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Milo Valenzuela

Hall Of Fame jockey Milo Valenzuela passed away today at the age of 74. Valenzuela was aboard Tim Tam and Forward Pass for their wins in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes (Tim Tam in 1958 and Forward Pass in 1968).

More importantly for the purposes of racing history, Valenzuela was the regular rider of Kelso. Kelso was the five-time Horse Of The Year from 1960-1964. No other horse has even come close to matching that accomplishment and it is entirely likely that no other horse will ever come close to matching that accomplishment. Valenzuela and Kelso teamed up for 22 victories over their time together.

In his impressive career, Valenzuela won 2,545 races and earned over $20 million dollars in purses. Valenzuela holds one more unique thing in his holster. He is the only person to be inducted into the Hall Of Fame outside of Saratoga. He was inducted at Santa Anita due to health concerns.

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

Thanks to for information.