Friday, October 30, 2009

The Grade 2 $150,000 Fayette

Closing day at Keeneland for 2009 is Saturday and the feature for the finale is the Grade 2 $150,000 Fayette Stakes with a field of ten going a mile and an eighth on the polytrack. I am going to put #9 Blame on top here. I was at the Grade 2 Super Derby at Louisiana Downs and he was the "wiseguy" horse of the weekend and while he couldn't beat Regal Ransom, who was awesome, he ran a credible second with a career-best 105 Beyer figure. He has never been worse than third in six lifetime starts and has three wins and a second with Jamie Theriot aboard. I will put the very well-bred #7 Wicked Style second off his fifth in the Grade 2 Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway Park. He had hit the board in five straight prior to that, winning two of those. He is also 2 for 2 in-the-money at Keeneland, including a Grade 1 win in the Breeders' Futurity in October 2007. Kent Desormeaux has had an excellent season during the fall session at Keeneland and he is aboard the morning-line choice, #3 Parading. Parading had the lead in the stretch of the Grade 1 Goodwood at Santa Anita before settling for fourth. His last main track win came at Keeneland in the Grade 3 Ben Ali, but that was back in April. If you only get 7-5 on this horse, you should expect some better recent form. For fourth, I will use #1 Public Speaker, who is coming off of two straight victories in Illinois, one in the slop at Hawthorne and the other over the polytrack at Arlington. Both were in stakes races, but neither of those were graded. He won his only Keeneland race in April and was promptly claimed out of it. He was a $300,000 Keeneland purchase in November 2005. Here is the play for the Grade 2 Fayette:

$2 EX 9 with 1-3-7 and 1-3-7 with 9
$1 TRI 9 with 1-3-7 and 1-3-7 with 9 with 1-3-7
TOTAL- $24

Remember, these selections are suggestions only and They Are Off accepts no responsibility for any wagers placed in conjunction with them. Tune in Monday for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

An Interesting Concept

OK, so the pre-entries for the Breeders' Cup are in and Zenyatta was double-entered in the Ladies' Classic and Classic. Apparently, her connections are leaning toward running her in the regular Classic, which I think would cost her the perfect record, but it certainly would in no way tarnish anything she has done in her marvelous career. She is a hammer-lock first-ballot Hall Of Famer, no question.

The most fascinating thing, from my perspective, announced by the Breeders' Cup was the introduction of a jockey's wager. Yes, you can wager on which jockey will win the most of the fourteen Breeders' Cup races over the two days. It is expected to feature fourteen possible entrants as well. So, this could really be a lot of fun. It can add an extra tangent to your handicapping if you are on the lookout for a jockey that could win big over the two days. For example, what if Zenyatta does NOT go in the Classic, but instead goes in the Ladies' Classic, that should be one certain win for Mike Smith? What about Regal Ransom? He might be at short odds to win the Dirt Mile with Richard Migliore. Do you then look at the other races for those jockeys you think have certain winners and see what there chances are there or do you go try to find all the other Godolphin horses that might get the services of Frankie Dettori? The possibilities are infinitely numerous with the introduction of this jockey's wager. I say, BRAVO! to the Breeders' Cup for coming up with an original concept that actually adds to the interest of the two days of racing and gives the average bettor something else to consider and the opportunity to make some more hard-earned cash.

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

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


I would like to take a moment to offer some congratulations to a pair of friends of mine who have gotten new jobs within the horse racing industry. First of all, congratulations to Tom Harris of Retama Park, who will be my successor at Sam Houston Race Park as the race caller there. Tom does an excellent job in San Antonio and will certainly bring his own unique sound to the Houston racing scene and I look forward to listening to his work there. Secondly, Jim Mulvihill has been named manager of communications and pari-mutuel marketing at Fair Grounds in New Orleans. I became acquainted with Jim during his time in the press box at Lone Star Park and later during his time in Houston as a frequent visitor and observer at Sam Houston Race Park. I am sure he will do a tremendous job for the fine folks in New Orleans.

Congratulations, gentlemen, on both of your recent appointments.

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

Monday, October 26, 2009


My friend, Pat Cummings, will be in favor of this blog post as I look at what promises to be an overwhelming number of Godolphin runners that are planning to be at the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships in two weeks. According to, Godolphin is preparing FIFTEEN horses to compete at Santa Anita in a fortnight and I would expect that some of them will be fairly short odds.

Firstly, I would like to discuss Gayego, who is expected to go in the Sprint. His progress reminds me quite a bit of Artax, at least from a personal standpoint. I liked both horses quite a bit in their tries at the Kentucky Derby, and while those efforts proved fruitless, Artax did return to win the Breeders' Cup Sprint in 1999. I might be expecting Gayego to do the same this year, especially off of his win over the Santa Anita strip in the Ancient Title.

I have already blogged about how I think the St. Leger at Doncaster is a key prep for the Cup, as opposed to the Arc de Triomphe. The winner of the St. Leger this year, Mastery, is poised to run in the Breeders' Cup Marathon, the only non-ladies race on the Friday Breeders' Cup schedule. Rest assured, I will be backing my opinion on the English champion with some coin of the realm.

Next, like the aforementioned Mr. Cummings, I was at Louisiana Downs for the Super Derby this year, won by Regal Ransom. Whether Godolphin sends him in the Dirt Mile (which he wins in a walk) or the Classic (which might be a bit tougher), Regal Ransom still stands out as one of the most impressive horses I have had the pleasure to witness live.

By the way, I have yet to mention Pyro, Girolamo, Seventh Street, Sara Louise, Music Note or Cocoa Beach. It promises to be one of the biggest landslides in the history of the event, at least since Richard Mandella's four-win spree in 2003

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

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Grade 1 $300,000 DeFrancis Memorial Dash

Believe it or not, we are only two weeks away from the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships at Santa Anita. There has been a certain lack of buildup to the year-end event this year, due to the lack of "star power". However, I think that means there will be some value to be found among those fields and it should be an interesting discourse over the next two weeks to see who those horses will be. For this Saturday, I am looking at the Grade 1 $300,000 DeFrancis Memorial Dash at Laurel with a field of nine going postward. While the Godolphin horse, #1 Vineyard Haven, is expected to be a prohibitive favorite in the Dash, I am going to look elsewhere simply because he appears somewhat beatable in a relatively wide-open race.

Therefore, I will go with #4 Fleet Valid, who not only scratched out of a race at The Meadowlands to run at Laurel on Saturday, but also seems to be able to lie just off the pace, yet still remain in contention. He has won his last four races in a row, all at Monmouth, and worked a bullet at Monmouth also on October 15. His 9-2 morning-line is much more attractive than Vineyard Haven's 8-5 as well. I will put #3 Ravalo second in the Dash, as again I think he might be able to sit off a white-hot pace and pick up the pieces at the end. He is another with a recent bullet workout, three furlongs at Laurel in 35 1/5 seconds. His major flaw coming into this try is an 0 for 4 record over the track at Laurel. I will put #1 Vineyard Haven next in third position. He was disqualified from a win last time out in the Grade 1 King's Bishop at Saratoga. I think he is clearly the best overall horse in this field, but as we all know, they don't always come out on top. He also hasn't tried six furlongs since running third in the mud during the 2008 Saratoga meeting. He (like so many others) has a recent bullet workout, covering a half-mile in 47 seconds flat at Belmont on October 21. Finally, we will include a real longshot in the proceedings with #7 Sacred Journey, who is 15-1 on the morning-line. He is working a three-race winning streak entering Saturday and also worked a recent bullet at Delaware Park (5F in 59 2/5 seconds). He has run against some tough stuff in the past with tries in the Grade 2 Rebel and Grade 3 Southwest at Oaklawn in Spring 2008. So, here is the play for the Grade 1 $300,000 DeFrancis Memorial Dash:

$5 WP #4 and $2 EX 4 with 1-3-5-7 and $1 TRI 4 with 1-3-5-7
TOTAL- $30

Remember, They Are Off accepts no responsibility for any wagers placed in conjunction with these selections. They are merely suggestions. Tune in for more on Monday from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Falling Dominoes

The Breeders' Cup lost another of its top attractions when trainer Dallas Stweart elected not to go forward with Macho Again, who is one of the top older horses in training right now for the Classic field. Macho Again apparently came back from a recent workout with a cough and training stopped for the Breeders' Cup. Stewart DID make the right call by stopping any plans to head west. You certainly don't want to go cross-country with a horse that isn't 100%. It is just unfortunate that the Classic loses another headline performer.

Keep in mind that Macho Again won the Stephen Foster earlier this year at Churchill Downs, beating Einstein in the process. He also was the closest thing on four legs to come close to beating Rachel Alexandra, the hands-down Horse Of The Year. His effort against her in the Woodward at Saratoga was magnificent and he darn near got there. Macho Again finished a lackluster fourth in his most recent attempt in the Jockey Club Gold Cup behind Summer Bird. Macho Again earned the right to be showcased on racing's greatest stage after the fantastic season he put together and there is certainly a chance he could have been the winner of the Classic on November 7.

Instead, he will more than likely be pointed to the Grade 2 $400,000 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs on November 27. After all, he has had some success on that track already this year.

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

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Some of my fondest memories of my time at Sam Houston Race Park came during the Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup when all of us handicapping "experts" would gather together and do seminars to alert the masses as to who we liked in each of the races. Many of these seminars led to spirited discussion between myself and other former SHRP employees, Dr. Reid McLellan and Martha Claussen and local handicappers like ESPN Radio's Fred Faour and SHRP handicapping champion, Nick Tammaro. More often than not, we would amuse ourselves and the crowd through our comments and antics.

One event I particularly remember is the 1999 Breeders' Cup run at Gulfstream Park in Florida. The reason this one stands out is because we took a different approach to our seminar that year. Rather than gather the crowd together in one place and relay our picks, we decided that year to appear on our simulcast signal and the televisions throughout the facility from the TV studio at Sam Houston. So, Reid, Martha, and I all piled into the studio and set up in there to give out our picks and, as usual, we had our share of successes and failures throughout the day.

The one race that still excites me, though, was the Mile. I was the only one of the three of us touting Silic at all. Reid and Martha did not have the horse anywhere in their selections, so I was somewhat stepping out on the limb with my fellow handicappers. We retired to the press box to watch the race and since we were racing that day, I was under strict orders from Martha (my boss at the time) not to yell AT ALL during any part of the Breeders' Cup program so I could save my voice to call the race card. Well, I simply couldn't help myself and cheered Silic all the way in from the point he took the lead in the stretch, much to Martha's chagrin. Needless to say, I reappeared on camera for the next handicapping segment with a slightly more cheery outlook than my two handicapping partners and was able to hold it over both of them for quite some time.

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

Monday, October 19, 2009

Champs Elysees

It was certainly a nice story this weekend that Champs Elysees scored a Grade 1 in the Canadian International at Woodbine in the final start of his career. It had been announced by Juddmonte Farms that the horse would be returning to Europe to begin what should be a very profitable stud career. They had bred this fine animal and it certainly shows some class and dignity that they allowed the horse to go out on top after such an exemplary performance, rather that hedge their earlier announcement and try to go on to the Breeders' Cup.

Jockey Garrett Gomez timed his move to the finish with Champs Elysees perfectly and ended up with an impressive victory over Jukebox Jury in the deep stretch over the E.P. Taylor Turf Course in Canada. That victory, in conjunction with several earlier strong performances in Canada, has him in line to win garner some year-end Canadian Thoroughbred honors. Don't forget he also hit the board and nearly upset Einstein in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap back in the spring.

Champs Elysees ran 28 times with eight victories, eight seconds, and seven thirds. His purse earnings total $2,864,444. Best of all, he got to go out a winner. Hopefully, he will enjoy a long and prosperous stud career.

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

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Grade 1 $1,000,000 E.P. Taylor Stakes

We will look to the Great White North for our weekend race this weekend. Woodbine is the congregating spot for many of the top horses planning on running three weeks hence over the turf at Santa Anita in the Breeders' Cup. Since we always try to fancy the ladies and because the race is named for man that the turf course at Woodbine is named, here are the selections for the Grade 1 $1,000,000 E.P. Taylor Stakes presented by Emirates Airlines.

For the winner, I will try to spring a nice upset with 12-1 morning-line shot, #4 Eastern Aria. She has won two of her last three starts in Europe, running 2nd in the other. While none of those races were Group-rated, I think she will be more than capable to come through on Saturday. The only negative I can see with her tomorrow is the lack of top-flight competition on her resume'. None of the others in this field stand out to the point where they are certainties to be in the Winner's Circle, so I will try with a shot that has plenty of winning experience. That absence of winning experience is what actually kept my second pick, #6 Look Here, from the top spot. Her last win was in the 2008 English Oaks at Epsom in June of that year. She just barely missed in her last try at Newbury in the Group 3 Arc Trial as the betting favorite, getting pipped at the post. She has faced very tough foes with Conduit, Youzmain and Dar Re Mi among the horses that have beaten her. However, that is the point, they have beaten her. This is the rare case where I am favoring quantity (of wins) over quality (of opponents). The heavy 8-5 favorite comes next and she is #2 Rainbow View. She was a Group 1 winner last time out at Leopardstown in the Matron Stakes, but that is her lone score this calendar year. I know she has been running with the likes of Goldikova, but if I am going to be looking at an 8-5 shot, she had better be winning more than once in a calendar year. She also has never won a race at a distance of more than one mile. Finally, for fourth I will put #5 Princess Haya. She was a winner in a Grade 2 over this turf course following a layoff last time out. So, this is her 2nd time off the layoff over a course she has won on before and she has a bullet workout on October 10. Here is the play for the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor Stakes:

$5 WIN #4 and $1 EX BOX 2-4-5-6 and $1 TRI BOX 2-4-5-6
TOTAL- $41

Remember that They Are Off accepts 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!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Longshot Lashkari

In the very first Breeders' Cup in 1984, there were quite a few hot horses coming into that historic day of racing. While Chief's Crown did succeed in winning the first-ever Breeders' Cup race, the Juvenile, and Slew O'Gold could not get the job done in the first-ever Breeders' Cup Classic (losing to another unlikely longshot, Wild Again), the one horse that seemed a hammer-lock winner that day was All Along in the Turf. All Along had built up an impressive resume' leading into that race, including wins in the 1983 Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe and D.C. International to make her 1983's Horse of the Year. She would end her career after the Breeders' Cup and be named to the Hall Of Fame in 1990.

The horse in the photo above had some different ideas about the first Breeders' Cup Turf. His name is Lashkari and he certainly had the pedigree to do great things. His Sire was 1971 European Horse of the Year, Mill Reef, who had also won the Arc and the Epsom Derby in that championship year for him. The Dam, Larannda, was also a multiple Group 1 winner in Europe. The horse was bred and raced by the Aga Khan, for heaven's sake. All of this backstory certainly did not earn the backing of the bettors on Breeders' Cup day. Lashkari was sent off at odds of 53-1 in the Turf. Lashkari would run the race of his life in the Breeders' Cup Turf, getting past All Along in the final strides to light up the toteboard to the tune of $108 for a $2 win ticket.

Lashkari would come back to defend his title at the Breeders' Cup in 1985 at Aqueduct and that time he could couldn't beat the superfilly of the moment, Pebbles, running fourth behind her brilliant come-from-behind victory. Lashkari did produce some excellence in his offspring. He is the damsire of another Arc and Epsom Derby winner, Sinndar.

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

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

See No Sea The Stars

Sea The Stars has been retired from racing by his connections after one of the most epic seasons in European racing history. This move quells any hope that this horse would be the one to lead the expected European invasion of the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships. Instead, that honor will fall to Goldikova, Rip Van Winkle, and Mastercraftsman, all of whom seem worthy of picking up Europe's Breeders' Cup hopes. This still casts a major blow to the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita since they had been talking this week of making a serious effort to entice Sea The Stars' connections, trainer John Oxx and owner Christopher Tsui, to making the trip overseas.

My thought here is to applaud the connections of Sea The Stars for doing what seems right at this time. This horse has had nothing short of a grueling campaign this year, winning six Group 1 races in Europe, including the Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe. As I have pointed out in an earlier posting on this blog, the Arc is not necessarily the greatest prep for the Breeders' Cup throughout the previous 25 editions. So, you would be asking this horse to fly halfway around the world to run on a surface that you don't know whether or not he will like off of a race that has yet to produce a Breeders' Cup winner ever? Truthfully, I don't like those odds at all. Sea The Stars may be a superhorse, but what would be the point of such an exercise? I think it would just be too much to ask of Sea The Stars to come over here with ridiculous hype and run a brilliant race just a month and a half after winning the race the connections had pointed to all along. Therefore, I applaud Oxx and Tsui for protecting their investment and not putting Sea The Stars through such an ordeal when they have absolutely nothing to gain and quite a bit to lose.

And, you star searchers out there? Well, I agree that racing is in need of stars right now and Sea The Stars might have been the brightest of the bunch. But, rather than have him possibly get tarnished, why not appreciate the stars we already have running at the Breeders' Cup like those I mentioned earlier and Zenyatta, Summer Bird, Regal Ransom, Informed Decision, Conduit, Lookin At Lucky, Zensational, Mine That Bird, and... do I really need to continue?

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

Monday, October 12, 2009

You Might Disagree, But...

...the horse that actually impressed me the most this weekend with all the big races and Breeders' Cup bids that were up for grabs was... Cowboy Cal. It really seems odd to say that given that Zenyatta ran her lifetime record to 13 for 13 and won quite handily. It really seems odd to say that given that there were eight other Grade 1 races on Saturday with strong Breeders' Cup contenders like Court Vision, Magical Fantasy, and Diamondrella winners of three of them. It really seems odd to say that given that Cowboy Cal's win came in just a Grade 2 event at Santa Anita in the Grade 2 $150,000 Oak Tree Mile, holding off Global Hunter for the score.

Honestly though, the way Cowboy Cal won was very eye-catching. He led all the way in the Oak Tree Mile and never surrendered that lead, even after a relatively quick half of 46.09 seconds. His next start is expected to be in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Mile over the same racetrack at Santa Anita. By the way, Cowboy Cal has now won three stakes races over the greenery at Santa Anita this year. The "horse for course" angle has worked at the Breeders' Cup before and it certainly could work again with this horse. He is not a slouch in any respect.

Cowboy Cal is one the last horses to wear the familiar white silks with the deep green "V" that symbolized the Stonerside Stable of Robert McNair. McNair sold the majority of his stock and stable to Darley within the last year or so and it might be fitting that McNair might get this classy animal with a lot of evident heart to win one for him before he is out of the sport altogether. McNair has been devoting much of his sporting time lately to his NFL team, the Houston Texans. Since I am fairly acquainted with the Houston sporting scene, I can tell you for a fact that there is no classier sportsman around these days than Robert McNair. For many, it is most unfortunate that he is getting out of the racing game (more or less) to pursue his quest for the Lombardi Trophy in the NFL. It is true in this case that the NFL's gain will also be horse racing's glaring loss.

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

Friday, October 09, 2009

The Grade 1 $350,000 Goodwood

2009 Kentucky Derby winner, Mine That Bird, will be making his final prep for the Breeders' Cup Classic on Saturday. He will be doing it over the same surface he will running over in four weeks at Santa Anita. There is a very competitive field of ten with many of them candidates for victory in the Goodwood. The one thing that seems to be lacking from this field is any speed of note. The only speed in the race appears to be #5 Tres Borrachos, but I think his little run of success over the summer came to an end in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar, where he ran 11th.

So, who do we turn to as the winner? Well, I am leaning toward #7 Parading. He might be closer to the pace than some of the other main contenders in here and, therefore, might get first run at the lead on the turn and he does have the ability to hold off the closers. He also has a previous win at the distance of 1 1/8 miles, albeit over the turf in the Grade 2 Dixie at Pimlico on Preakness Day. I will put the Doug O'Neill trainee, #9 Informed, next. He also impressed at this specific distance with a win at Del Mar in the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap. He had a troubled trip in the Pacific Classic and never really got into the action, so that race is a throw-out. He also might be laying closer to the leaders than one might think on Saturday. #3 Richard's Kid was the winner of that Grade 1 Pacific Classic on September 6 at Del Mar. I would find it highly doubtful you will get anywhere near the 25-1 he won at that day. His last workout on October 6 was a bullet half-mile, covering the distance in 46.4 seconds. Mike Smith was the rider for that Del Mar score, but he gets the call on an oldie but a goodie in here, #2 Tiago. His turf experiment last time out was a dismal failure, running last of six. He had hit the board in three straight graded race over the Santa Anita artificial surface prior to that last race. Overall, he has hit the board in nine of eleven lifetime races at Santa Anita. You cannot leave out the Derby winner in here either. #10 Mine That Bird will be included in whatever wager we construct in the Goodwood. That is because he has the same quality of Summer Bird that we discussed in handicapping the Jockey Club Gold Cup last week. He just seems to be in contention ALL THE TIME. So, he is an includer, especially with Calvin Borel at the controls. Here is the play for the 28th running of the Grade 1 Goodwood:

$1 EX BOX 2-3-7-9-10 and $1 TRI 7 with 2-3-9-10
TOTAL- $32

Keep in mind that They Are Off accepts no responsibility for any wagers placed 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!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Lest We Forget

It occurs to me that earlier this week I acknowledged the relative quiet that has been surrounding Mine That Bird lately. I think you can say the same thing about the Best Of The West, Zenyatta. Have you even heard anything regarding her, other than the occasional try to snare her into a match race with Rachel Alexandra? Or, whether she will run in the Breeders' Cup Classic or the Ladies' Classic the day before?

Well, on the same day that Mine That Bird will be contesting the Grade 1 Goodwood at Santa Anita, Zenyatta will be in action in her final Breeders' Cup prep as well. She will be running in the Grade 1 $300,000 Lady's Secret Stakes. Now, we have documented the greatness that was Lady's Secret already in this blog once before. Zenyatta certainly will be worthy of having her name listed with the likes of Lady's Secret once her career is finished. She is trying to run her perfect streak to start her career to thirteen straight races.

If she wins on Saturday (and there is no reason to think she won't), what do the connections do with her next? Do they run her in the Ladies' Classic on Friday of Breeders' Cup weekend or do they wait and take their chances in the Classic on Saturday against the boys? Personally, I think it would be absolute folly to run Zenyatta in the Classic. She would have relatively little chance to win against the high quality field that everyone expects in the Classic. The only positive I can see in her running would be purely a selfish one. Zenyatta would take a ridiculous amount of wagering money from the Southern California fans and her odds would be far too low to even think of betting on her, even if I thought she stood a chance. Then, that would create some substantial betting opportunities on the boys in the Classic that can win, but would be overlays thanks to those foolhardy enough to bet Zenyatta.

So, for history's sake and for Zenyatta's, let's hope her connections recognize that she would be better served to try and join the likes of Lure, Miesque, and Tiznow as horses that have won consecutive editions of the same Breeders' Cup race. Running her in the Classic only serves to try and increase the income of bettors like me. Bad for the horse, but good for us.

Tune in tomorrow for a look at the field in the Grade 1 Goodwood Stakes on Saturday. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Whither Mine That Bird?

You all remember Mine That Bird, don't you? The 50-1 upset winner of the Kentucky Derby. The second-longest shot in the storied history of the First Saturday in May to wear the roses. Well, you know he has not won a race since that First Saturday in May, don't you? He ran a tremendous 2nd behind the Horse Of The Year, Rachel Alexandra, in the Preakness. He then finished 3rd in the Belmont Stakes behind the likely Three-Year-Old Male Horse Of The Year, Summer Bird. He followed that with another 3rd in the West Virginia Derby behind a ridiculous pace set-up that completely compromised his chances to win at all and he lost out to longshot, Soul Warrior. His next full public appearance was at Ruidoso Downs to lead out the field of American Quarter Horses for the $2,000,000 All-American Futurity. Actually, this was kind of a classy move by his trainer, Chip Woolley, acknowledging his New Mexico roots.

Now, Mine That Bird is ready to try his hand with a return to the synthetic surfaces at Santa Anita this Saturday in the Grade 1 $350,000 Goodwood Stakes. Don't forget that Mine That Bird DOES have extensive experience on the synthetic stuff with his fine performances at Woodbine last fall. Those performances were fine enough that he was named Champion Two-Year-Old in Canada last year. While the surfaces are different between Woodbine and Santa Anita, I really don't think Mine That Bird will be put off any by the fake stuff in Southern California. He worked this morning over the Santa Anita racetrack, covering five furlongs in 1:00.20 under jockey Joe Talamo. Talamo will not have the ride on Mine That Bird Saturday, that honor returns to Derby-winning pilot, Calvin Borel. Let's hope that Mine That Bird comes through on Saturday since it would return him to his proper place of prominence going into the Breeders' Cup World Championships in a month. Although, the handicapper in me says maybe it would be best if he gets ignored again going into the big race, maybe the price will be right, as it was on that First Saturday in May.

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

Monday, October 05, 2009

Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad

Two out of the three of the world's best three-year-olds were in action this weekend. The one out of the arena was the best North American female, Rachel Alexandra. The best North American male, Summer Bird, and the best European male, Sea The Stars, both went to the track and both of them further stamped their greatness.

First, we'll look at Summer Bird in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup. He has now won the Belmont Stakes, Travers Stakes and the Gold Cup in the same season. The last to do that was New York's great Easy Goer twenty years ago. Summer Bird has clearly established himself as the dominant three-year-old male in this country. He has now defeated Quality Road soundly on back-to-back occasions and I don't even think you can use the sloppy tracks they both encountered at Saratoga and Belmont as a factor. I simply think that Summer Bird is a better horse than Quality Road. Barring a sweep by Mine That Bird of the Goodwood and Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita, I feel that Summer Bird will be the Champion Three-Year-Old Male come Eclipse Award time.

Next, we can take up the cause of Sea The Stars in the Group 1 Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe. This guy is simply a beast. If you were able to see the Arc, (and if you weren't, here is the link,, you should be able to realize what a magnificent performance that was. Sea The Stars did not get the best of trips in the Arc and still overcame that and won with relative ease. It was a handride to glory and he has now won six Group 1 races in Europe as a three-year-old, which is just about unheard of. The racing world can merely hope he is part of the European Invasion which will strike Santa Anita in about four weeks at the Breeders' Cup World Championships. If you thought the Euros were dominant last year at the Cup (and they were), just wait until this year.

The Breeders' Cup Classic will likely feature one of its best fields in years with the likes of Macho Again, Mine That Bird, Summer Bird and Awesome Gem all almost definite and the likes of Einstein, Sea The Stars, and Zenyatta all possibilities. That does not include Quality Road, Rail Trip, Gio Ponti and Regal Ransom who could all also run. This should be one of those years where the Classic is certainly going to be a Classic.

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

Friday, October 02, 2009

The Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup

First of all, I must say it is good to be back posting again and it is also great to have started off a new phase of my career with Opening Day at Turf Paradise. The Luke Kruytbosch Stakes was an unbelievable race and very exciting to call. Hopefully, there will be many more thrilling races and race calls in the months to come.

Now, on to the task at hand. Belmont Park is running five Grade 1 races on Saturday afternoon as part of their Breeders' Cup Preview Day. The Grade 1 $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup only drew a field of seven, but what lacks in quantity is made up for in quality. The winner of the Belmont and Travers Stakes, Summer Bird, is present. Also in is Macho Again, who gave the great filly, Rachel Alexandra, all she could handle in the Woodward. We also cannot forget Quality Road, who won the Amsterdam at Saratoga, but dazzled at Gulfstream in the spring, winning the Fountain Of Youth and Florida Derby.

#1 Sette E Mezzo- This is an interesting spot to try and return to the dirt after seven straight races on the turf. He has only raced on the dirt once and finished 3rd, although it was his career debut at Gulfstream in March 2008. He then missed the money in a synthetic start at Keeneland one month later. I think he might be miscast here, especially since he is facing the toughest field he will have ever faced.

#2 Macho Again- What can you say about the horse that almost took down the superfilly? He got within a head of Rachel and while you can say Borel had his measure all the way, this colt is ALWAYS there. His last three Grade 1s include a win and two seconds. You almost have to include him because there is no good reason to leave him out at this point. Robby Albarado will ride.

#3 Summer Bird- I am finally sold on this guy. When I handicap his races, he almost never seems on paper to stand a chance. You know what, they don't run the races on paper! He won the "Test Of Champions", the Belmont Stakes. He was a distant second to Rachel in the Haskell in the slop at Monmouth. He then won the Travers in the slop at the Spa. Three of the toughest three-year-old races going and he never batted an eye in any of them.

#4 Tizway- I just think this distance is too far for him. If you look at his past performances, he has just one win in a race over one mile and that was over the synthetic at Woodbine. In fact, he has only one other in-the-money result over one mile. Combine that with the fact that he has been off for nearly two months (since running 4th in the Grade 1 Whitney), and I think this colt is a throw-out.

#5 Asiatic Boy- The globetrotter is adding blinkers for this effort. He has not won since his returning from his poor performance at Dubai in the World Cup. In fact, he has lost to two of his competitors here in the three races since his return. Macho Again beat him in the Foster at Churchill and Dry Martini topped him in the Suburban at Belmont. He DOES sport a bullet workout on September 26 at Belmont, covering 4F in 47.2 seconds. Might be the mystery horse of this field.

#6 Dry Martini- Did win the Suburban two back, but was then thrashed in the Grade 1 Whitney last time out. He does have two wins over the oval at Belmont Park, but he really needs some speed to close into and he might not be getting it in this short field. He has the capacity to get the distance, but I think he might be more suited to the minor placings in this race.

#7 Quality Road- His Travers Stakes was extremely disappointing for almost everyone (I will except the connections of Summer Bird). It might have been too ambitious to have him go 1 1/4 mile for the first time with only a 6 1/2 furlong race following a prolonged layoff. That race was in the slop, which he had never run in before, but the Travers leaves more questions that answers at this late date. However, he might be good enough to elevate himself over any doubts we might have.

In the final analysis, I am going to go with Summer Bird as a narrow winner in the Gold Cup over Macho Again with Quality Road third and Dry Martini fourth. How are we going to bet the Jockey Club Gold Cup? Well,

$2 EX BOX 2-3-7 and $2 TRI BOX 2-3-7
TOTAL- $24

Remember, that They Are Off accepts 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!