Monday, November 30, 2009

Rising (and Falling) Sun

Japan was the center of most of the interest in the Thoroughbred world this weekend, both good and bad. First, the good. Vodka won the Grade 1 Japan Cup Turf this weekend in Tokyo, beating a field of eighteen of the world's best turf runners, including two-time winner of the Breeders' Cup Turf, Conduit. Here is the link for the replay of the race: How about that for an exciting finish?

Now, the bad. Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird was sent over to Japan by his connections to try and win the Japan Cup Dirt this coming weekend. Summer Bird suffered an injury to his right front cannonbone following a workout over the Hanshin Racecourse. It is a shame that Summer Bird couldn't go on and run in the Dirt because he is clearly the best dirt horse that has ever been sent over to Japan by an American contingent. After his Belmont win, he was able to add victories in the Travers and Jockey Clob Gold Cup. He also ran 4th in the Breeders Cup Classic at Santa Anita behind the great Zenyatta. Summer Bird will likely be named top three-year-old male this year and it is hoped by his connections (not to mention racing fans) that he will be able to recover from this injury and race again in 2010.

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

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Grade 1 $300,000 Cigar Mile

First of all, I certainly hope that all of you had a very Happy Thanksgiving holiday. On a personal note, I was glad to see that West Point Thoroughbred's Prince Teton picked up a win at Churchill Downs on Friday's card. I have a friend who is a part-owner of this horse through West Point and he is going through a bit of a tough time and certainly needed some good news, which he got through the Friday win. That being said, we now progress with the Grade 1 Cigar Mile, the final Grade 1 race of the year in New York. Here is a horse-by-horse analysis:

#1 Pyro-OK, which is the real horse? The one that won the seven-furlong Forego at Saratoga or the one that ran last in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile. Was it just the synthetic in California he didn't like (his last three races over the synthetic have produced a sixth and two tenths) or is he due for a fall? He posted a bullet five-furlong workout at Belmont on November 22, but Johnny Velazquez is on a different horse in here. Richard Migliore picks up the ride, which does not engender confidence in me. I will pass on Pyro here.

#1a Vineyard Haven-I will also pass on this sprinting specialist since I think the one mile distance is too far for him. If Godolphin was looking for a horse for this spot, I think they might have better suited to bring Regal Ransom back in here. I think the mile is ideal for him and he would have been a rock-solid choice in this short field. Vineyard Haven has not been a mile since winning the Champagne at Belmont in October 2008.

#2 Driven By Success-This gelding scored a three-length win in a state-restricted stakes race at Belmont Park on October 24. He has yet to win a graded stakes in 2009 and I don't think he does it in the Cigar Mile. In fact, his best graded result this season is third, which he achieved twice. It appears he might need the lead and I think Vineyard Haven will run with him early and the other quality in this field will run him out of it by the stretch.

#3 Kodiak Kowboy-The distance is a question for this one as well. The connections passed on sending him out west to run in the Breeders' Cup over the synthetic surface to point to this spot, but his only one mile race in 2009 was...well, he never went this far in 2009. His last start at a mile was in this race last year and he ran fifth in a field of nine. He is one for one since the switch to trainer Steve Asmussen, but I just think he might have too much going against him here.

#4 Bribon-This will be my top pick in the Cigar Mile on Saturday. He closed well to get third in this race last year. All of his 2009 starts have been at this distance and he managed to win four of those, two with graded company. He tried the turf in his last two performance and scored a win and a fifth. The fifth came in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile against a field that included Breeders' Cup performers. He also has a recent bullet workout at Belmont Park, going five furlongs over the Belmont training track in 59 seconds flat.

#5 Vacation-This is the horse that Johnny V elected to ride here over Pyro. He has three wins from ten starts this year. However, all three of those wins were over synthetic surfaces at Keeneland and Arlington. His last start on the actual dirt resulted in a sixth at Gulfstream in March. He has run second in all three previous starts at Aqueduct and I can see him achieving that position behind Bribon again in here.

Here is the play for the Cigar Mile:
$20 WIN #4 and $5 EX 4 with 5
TOTAL- $25

Remember, They Are Off accepts no responsibility for any wagers place 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, November 25, 2009


Aqueduct will run the Cigar Mile on Saturday and the race is the last Grade 1 in New York for 2009. The field is expected to be the best post-Breeders' Cup field until the calendar changes to 2010. Of course, the horse the race is named after had maybe his greatest moment over a New York track.

The 1995 Breeders' Cup Classic was part of an undefeated season for the Allen Paulson-owned Cigar. Cigar would make a memorable move on the turn to surge to the lead and that, of course, led to the immortal call by Tom Durkin as he finished, which you can hear here: Cigar's final time for the Classic was 1:59.58, which was a Stakes record. The win in Breeders' Cup Classic would make Cigar 10 for 10 in 1995. Cigar would go on to extend the streak to 16 in a row and match Citation's all-time record for consecutive victories. Cigar's own streak would end in the 1996 Pacific Classic, when he lost to longshot Dare And Go. Amazingly enough, Cigar would lose twice more before he retired at the end of 1996. He finished behind Skip Away in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont and third behind Alphabet Soup and Louis Quatorze in the 1996 Breeders' Cup Classic at Woodbine.

One personal note from that 1995 Breeders' Cup Classic. I remember arriving at Turf Paradise and settling into my table in the clubhouse and remarking to my friend, Sarge, that the best bet of the day was Cigar over ALL in the exacta in the Classic. Of course, as the day progressed and I didn't bet Desert Stormer to win (whom I loved that day) and had several other stupid misses and ridiculous mistakes, I never did make the Cigar over ALL exacta bet in the Classic. The Cigar- L'Carriere (who was 51-1) exacta paid $85, which was simply astounding given that Cigar was such an overwhelming favorite.

There will be no post tomorrow with the Thanksgiving holiday, but we return on Friday with a look at the Grade 1 Cigar Mile this weekend. Have a very Happy Thanksgiving! For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Photo courtesy of

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A World Record

During my brief time at Turf Paradise, I have already had the pleasure of calling several track records there, mostly in Quarter Horse races. However, on Saturday I got to witness and describe a world record performance. Twin Sparks was the winner of the $50,000 Caballos Del Sol Stakes, completing the six furlongs in an otherworldly 1:06.49. That time eclipsed the previous world record which had been set by Bob Black Jack over the artificial surface at Santa Anita last year.

To view the Thoroughbred Times article on the world record and watch a replay of the race, you can click on the following link:

By the way, maybe the most unbelievable part of Twin Sparks' race is that he won at odds of 9-1.

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

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Grade 3 $100,000 Cardinal Handicap

We return to the handicapping aspect of the action this weekend with the Grade 3 $100,000 Cardinal Handicap to be run over the Matt Winn Turf Course at Churchill Downs on Saturday. The favorite is #3 Acoma, who is listed at 5-2 on the morning line. Can we find a longshot to beat that favorite in the Cardinal?

The answer to that question is yes. I will side with #2 Tizfiz at 8-1 on the morning line. She won her last two races on the grass at Remington and Mountaineer. She ran 6th in her last two starts over the polytrack at Keeneland, one against the boys in the Grade 2 Fayette and the other with tougher than this in the Grade 1 Spinster. Six of her seven lifetime wins have come on the turf and as Bob Barker would say, the price is right.

For the balance, I will look at #7 My Baby Baby with Robby Albarado in the irons. She, as opposed to the top pick, scored a polytrack win at Keeneland in her last go on Halloween. She has never been worse than 2nd in three lifetime starts over the Churchill grass. I think that #8 Leamington could have her ample speed compromised by some of the competing speed in this spot. Although, Calvin Borel has been red-hot so far this season at Churchill Downs, that crucial factor could loom large Saturday. Finally, we will use #3 Acoma. The biggest thing in her favor is her 2 for 2 record at Churchill Downs over the turf. She was Sired by 2003 Belmont winner, Empire Maker and her last work on November 16 was strong. However, her last race (admittedly over a soft turf track at Keeneland) in the Grade 1 First Lady resulted in an unimpressive 9th place finish. If I am going to pick a favorite, she has to be a little better than that coming in. So, here is the play for the Grade 3 Cardinal Handicap:

$5 WP #2 and $1 EX BOX 1-2-3-7-8
TOTAL- $30

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

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Amazing How Things Work

As everyone in the horse racing world is aware, the great trainer Bobby Frankel passed away on Monday at the age of 68 after a longtime battle with illness. It was the subject of the Monday post on this blog and the tributes to Frankel from the racing community were numerous, fitting, and wonderful. The rags to riches story of how Frankel started from the ground up was a testament to why he was a great trainer and there were remembrances of the true person that was hidden beneath a sometimes gruff exterior.

The Wednesday entries for racing at Hollywood Park were taken before Frankel's passing, so there was a final starter that raced under the name of Trainer Bobby Frankel on Wednesday afternoon, a horse named Life By R R.

Life By R R won his race on Wednesday afternoon at Hollywood Park. So, as he was so many times throughout his career with magnificent champions and run-of-the-mill ordinary claimers, Bobby Frankel was a winner.

I, for one, can't think of a more fitting way for Bobby Frankel's racing chapter to close. He certainly made the game a winner by being part of it and for his last starter to make him a winner for the final time, well, like I say in the title, it's just amazing how things work.

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

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Something Fun

I had it pointed out to me in the press box at Turf Paradise today that the website had posted an interesting poll. "Who is your favorite all-time track announcer?" was the question and I had to go check it out. Some of the choices were obvious among those listed and some were a little surprising, but it was worth my two cents anyway. Here is the link for those of you are interested in participating:

For the record, I voted for Chic Anderson.

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

Monday, November 16, 2009

Bobby Frankel

Bobby Frankel passed away on Monday following a lengthy battle against lymphoma. Frankel was a legendary trainer who built himself up to be one of the best of the business after starting at the bottom of the barrel. He was inducted into the Racing Hall Of Fame in 1995.

Believe it or not, that honor came before he won a single Breeders' Cup race. His first Cup win came in the Breeders' Cup Sprint with Squirtle Squirt, fittingly at Belmont Park in New York, where he was born in 1941. Frankel won the Eclipse Award as the country's top trainer five times. His major successes came on the grass, as he was able to win just about every major turf race on the continent.

His lone failing came in not winning the biggest racing prize of them all, the Kentucky Derby. His best opportunity came in 2003 with Empire Maker and Peace Rules. That duo ran 2nd and 3rd, respectively, behind Funny Cide. Empire Maker did manage to score Frankel a Triple Crown race victory though. Five weeks after the Derby disappointment, Empire Maker scored a Belmont Stakes triumph in the slop and denied the "gutsy gelding" a Triple Crown.

In recent years, Frankel was well-connected through his association with Juddmonte Farms, for whom he trained many runners. Frankel's horses won 3,654 races and earned over $220,000,000 in purse money. Bobby Frankel was 68 years old.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Florida Million Day Pick Four

Calder hosts many great events through its season and Saturday's is the Florida Million Day. There will be an All-Stakes Pick Four on races seven through ten and the following is the $1 play for the Pick Four:

Race 7- The Arthur I. Appleton Juvenile Turf- I consider this to be the most wide-open of the four races that comprise this Pick Four wager. I am going to use five of the twelve horses in this field in today's play. My top pick is #3 Family Foundation, who will gets the riding services of the red-hot Julien Leparoux. This gelding ran 3rd in the Grade 3 Bourbon over yielding turf at Keeneland last time out on October 11 and won the two previous starts before that. I also like the lightly-raced #6 Lucky Irish Day, who was a winner in his only previous start over the Calder turf on October 16. The Sire is 1998 Breeders' Cup Classic winner, Awesome Again. #11 Bim Bam will be trying the turf for the first time today. He has a win and a third in his two prior two-turn efforts. #12 Bernie The Maestro ran 3rd in his first turf go last time out on October 29 and posted a bullet 5F workout on November 9. Finally, we will use #2 Concorde's Fury, who is likely a speed horse for the #6, but still deserves inclusion in the play, in case he can go all the way up top.

Race 8- The Jack Dudley Sprint Handicap- I was tempted to single #8 Pashito The Che, but his two superior efforts in recent races came at Philadelphia Park and in the slop at Belmont. Since he is 2 for 2 with a high Tomlinson number for wet surfaces, it raises a question in the Belmont win was just a preference for slop. Therefore, I will also use #6 Little Nick, who is switching from turf to dirt after running 4th in the Grade 2 Nearctic at Woodbine on October 17.

Race 9- The Elmer Huebeck Distaff Handicap- Julien Leparoux got high marks for his horse in the first leg of the Pick Four and it happens again here with #6 Jessica Is Back. She has five wins in fifteen prior Calder races. She is making her second start off the last layoff and she was less than even-money (though beaten) in her last start. That's a lot to like in her corner. Since I have always been a big fan of Repent, I will also use his offspring in here, #9 Sweet Repent, who won her last two at Calder before taking some time off after the score in the Judy's Red Shoes.

Race 10- The Bonnie Heath Turf Cup Handicap- The top pick in this one is #8 Soldier's Dancer, who won a $250,000 stakes race at Philadelphia Park in mid-September before taking a break. Since then, he has four slow and steady workouts at six furlongs, much like the two he had before the big win at Philadelphia. Also, nine of his eleven lifetime wins are over the greenery. #3 Pickapocket ran 2nd last time out in an Allowance spot that seems like a prep for today more than anything. He also sports a strong workout on November 9 and his Beyer speed figures are incredibly consistent.

To recap, here is the $1 play for the Florida Million Day Pick Four:

$1 PK4- 2/3/6/11/12 with 6/8 with 6/9 with 3/8
TOTAL- $40

Remember, as always, 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!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Retirements Of Note

Three fairly prominent racehorses have been retired within the last 48 hours. Former Breeders' Cup Mile winner, Kip Deville, has had his career ended by a bout with colic. Kip Deville is a horse I am personally familiar with since I called a stakes win of his during my tenure at Sam Houston Race Park. Oddly enough, that victory came over the dirt track in Houston. Kip Deville earned over $3,000,000 in purses and won ten total stakes races in his career.

Colonel John's career has also ended with his run in the Breeders' Cup Classic last Saturday. His two most famous wins came on opposite ends of the country. He won the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby in a prep for the 2008 Kentucky Derby, where he finished sixth as the second choice in the wagering. He also won a memorable photo finish in what was maybe the best race of 2008, the Travers Stakes at Saratoga, just beating Mambo In Seattle by the narrowest of margins. Colonel John earned just over $1,700,000 in purses, winning six of fifteen lifetime starts.

Finally, Mastercraftsman, the 2008 European Juvenile Champion, was retired to stud following his disappointing fourth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile. Mastercraftsman's poor result in the Dirt Mile might be the result of a poor trip or a poor ride by John Murtagh. Whatever it was, the horse clearly had the rail and the opportunity to run down the horses in front of him and he couldn't get the job done. Mastercraftsman won seven of twelve starts and also earned just over $1,700,000 in purse money.

Colonel John will perform stud duty at WinStar, Mastercraftsman will do the same at Coolmore in Ireland. Stud plans have not been announced for Kip Deville as the connections are waiting until after the colic problem has been settled.

Off day on Thursday, so tune in on Friday for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

So How'd It Go?

First of all, I would like to thank Martha Claussen of SureBet Racing News for her contributions to the blog and her Breeders' Cup picks on both the Friday and Saturday programs. We both recorded some success over the course of the two days and it was a lot of fun for me personally to once again go heads-up with my old Sam Houston Race Park rival.

Friday was the more profitable day of the two for yours truly. After a slow start that included Tapitsfly winning (a horse I liked but thought the price would plummet on), which might have started a poor trend, things picked up with She Be Wild's win. I would end Friday by hitting the last four exactas and the last two pick threes of the day. I did have some win money on Life Is Sweet at her nice price as well.

Saturday again started slow, but the real crusher for me was the Sprint. Had Cost Of Freedom held on to win that race, the dynamic of what was about to happen would have changed significantly. First of all, I would have had the exacta in the Sprint and with either longshot that finished first or second, that would have made a tidy total. When Vale Of York (my top pick) won the Juvenile, it created a slight tinge of regret since Goldikova's lock victory was next and that pick three of Cost Of Freedom, Vale Of York, and Goldikova would have made Friday's winnings look like chump change. However, I did have win money on Vale Of York and the Vale Of York-Lookin At Lucky exacta as well. I hit a couple of more exactas the rest of the way.

Overall, I ended the two day Breeders' Cup making a nice profit and enjoying my most successful Breeders' Cup in some time.

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

Monday, November 09, 2009

A Classic Argument

I certainly have to admit that I was wrong, wrong, wrong about the Breeders' Cup Classic. I thought Zenyatta would be beaten by what was a very strong field of male counterparts on Saturday, but not only did she win, she won in remarkable fashion. A picture perfect ride by Mike Smith certainly helped her out, but Zenyatta certainly proved that she has a champion's mettle through her 14th consecutive victory.

This leads us to two questions: Who is Horse Of The Year? and Should Zenyatta be retired or continue racing? For the first question, I will say that while Zenyatta certainly made a compelling argument for the title, I still think the Horse Of The Year is Rachel Alexandra. Zenyatta never left California the whole year, and while she won over the different synthetic surfaces at Del Mar, Hollywood, and Santa Anita, she only stepped out of the box once and that came on Saturday. Otherwise, she defeated the same bunch of fillies and mares in California all year and never really received what amounted to a true test until that win in the Classic. Rachel Alexandra also completed an undefeated season and she stepped out of the box on numerous occasions throughout the year. She raced in several different places (Fair Grounds, Churchill Downs, Belmont, Monmouth, Saratoga) and she won over all of those surfaces, in good weather and bad, over fast tracks and sloppy tracks. She won the Kentucky Oaks by a staggering margin of 20 lengths, drawing comparisons to Secretariat. She won a Triple Crown race, becoming the first filly to win the Preakness in over 80 years. She won the Mother Goose by another crushing margin and did it in an exceptional time. She defeated the three-year-old boys a second time in the Haskell in the slop. Most damning for Zenyatta's camp was the win in the Woodward against older males. For a three-year-old filly to win that race after setting the pace and then having enough to hold off a strong closer like Macho Again, that put an end to the argument as far as I am concerned. Zenyatta was truly magnificent on Saturday, but she is just second-best this year.

As far as whether Zenyatta should be retired or not, I know that Cigar's 15 wins in a row is just two starts away, but I hope the Mosses and John Shirreffs elect to retire her now off of her signature performance in the Classic. It will just never, ever be any better than that, no matter how many races in a row she might win. It is also better to see her leave in triumph than to see her leave as a vanquished champion.

Looking WAY into the future, I am interested to see which pairing will produce the better offspring, Jess Jackson's Curlin & Rachel Alexandra or the Mosses' Giacomo & Zenyatta. The current leading ladies of racing might never meet on the racetrack now, maybe the kiddos will be able to get together in a few years and give us a glimpse of what might have been. It is certainly fun to think about.

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

Friday, November 06, 2009

Saturday Breeders' Cup Selections From Michael

We will be following the same format as Friday with the Saturday selections. Martha Claussen's picks immediately follow mine in the next post. We each finished with two on top, although I don't get credit for my second picks winning which also happened twice, creating a lucrative day. I will again provide two horses for each race, could be two favorites, a favorite and a longshot, or two longshots. Here are the selections for Saturday:

The Grade 2 $1,000,000 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf
The buzzword in this race could be Buzzword, who has yet to go farther than seven furlongs, but his only non-top three came last time out in the Group 1 Dewhurst at Newmarket. I expect a rebound from this Godolphin runner. How about a BIG longshot with 30-1 shot, Gallant Gent? He will be trying turf for the first time here, but has never missed the money in five starts and ran 3rd behind Juvenile favorite, Lookin At Lucky, last time out.

The $1,000,000 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint
Noble Court might be an attractive price pick at 8-1 on the morning-line. He won his only time over the Santa Anita turf at this sprint distance in the restricted Joe Hernandez, but he certainly has the speed for this spot, considering he has been running against Sprint favorite, Zensational, lately. I don't normally pick mares against the boys, but I Gotta Have Her. She is 8 of 9 over this turf sprint course and won five of those. That includes last time out on October 17 in the Grade 3 Maddy Handicap.

The Grade 1 $2,000,000 Breeders' Cup Sprint
I will go with Gayego in here. He fits the profile of another Sprint winner from a few years ago, Artax. Gayego was considered in the Kentucky Derby (much like Artax), he did not do well in the Derby (much like Artax), and he has come back to be a useful sprinter (much like Artax). Gayego won the Grade 1 Ancient Title over this same track very impressively on October 11. I picked Cost Of Freedom to win this race last year before he scratched. Since I am getting a second chance with him (at 20-1), I am not going to pass him up here.

The Grade 1 $2,000,000 Breeders' Cup Juvenile
This is where I am hoping the bells will really be ringing for a longshot with my two selections. First, I have Vale Of York, a Godolphin runner that has contended with some strong stuff in Europe, running 2nd in the Group 1 Gran Criterium in Italy last time out. My other horse in here is Radiohead, who posted a searing Racing Post Rating of 117 in running second behind Awzaan in a Group 1 at Newmarket on October 2. His Sire is 2001 Juvenile winner, Johannesburg.

The Grade 1 $2,000,000 Breeders' Cup Mile
Goldikova will be almost impossible to beat in this spot again this year. She won this race in 2008 with an overpowering stretch move and posted a 107 Beyer in doing it. She has won three of five starts at this distance so far this year in Europe. The other one I like in here is Ferneley. He finished 2nd behind Ventura in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile last out and while she lost on Friday, she was still the heaviest favorite on the card. This horse has just jumped out at me all week and it wouldn't surprise me if he came through.

The Grade 1 $1,000,000 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile
This is the race I thought Regal Ransom should have gone in. I think he would have been unbeatable in this spot. As it is, I will take another strong horse with Mastercraftsman. He won a Group 3 at 1 1/4 miles at Dundalk over Polytrack last time out on October 2 with a 121 Racing Post Rating. His last three losses have all been behind Sea The Stars, who is not a bad one to keep running behind. The longshot in here is Neko Bay, who is beautifully-bred and all four of his wins have come over the track at Santa Anita, although three of those came before the switch to Pro-ride.

The Grade 1 $3,000,000 Breeders' Cup Turf
Spanish Moon won his last two in France at this distance and will be getting Lasix for the first time today. He also just missed winning the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic back in March, losing by just a nose. He is lightly raced this year with only three starts, but they have all been stellar ones. I could conceive of Presious Passion going all the way in front and stealing this thing, as is his custom. He won the Grade 1 Clement Hirsch over this track, but that was against a very weak bunch and was a quarter-mile shorter in distance.

The Grade 1 $5,000,000 Breeders' Cup Classic
I have been saying for some time now that Zenyatta will get beat today in this spot. She might certainly acquit herself very well, but I just can't see her beating the boys with her come-from-behind style that many of her foes today also possess. The horse I do like in the Classic is a Southern California veteran, Einstein. He won his only start over this surface in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap back in March. His only win since came in the Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on Derby Day, but he did run well in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar. Also, did you ever think you would see the day you get 12-1 on him? You also get 12-1 on Quality Road. I think his last two losses to Summer Bird were substantial, but they also came in the slop and Quality Road certainly dug down deep to challenge Summer Bird in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park. The price is right on both of these runners Saturday.

Once again, I remind you that They Are Off accepts no responsibility for any wagers placed in conjunction with these selections. They are merely suggestions. Tune in on Monday for a recap of the Breeders' Cup weekend. I would like to thank SureBet Racing News's Martha Claussen for her contributions this weekend. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Saturday Breeders' Cup Selections From Martha

It was a good Friday for both me and Michael; we each had two winners and other than Tapitsfly, we tapped all the selections on Ladies Day. Now it’s on to the main course and the eight stakes, culminating with the BC Classic, are not easy races to handicap. Major bragging rights are on the line (especially for Michael), so here we go!

$1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf
Just remember Raven’s Pass in the 2009 BC Classic and do not ignore Pounced, who also hails from the barn of John Gosden. Son of the dazzling turf star Rahy is my choice.
Pounced, Viscount Nelson, Interactif, Bridgetown

$1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint
With 14 horses entered it is very possible we could see another $75 winner like last year, but doubt it will be defending champion Desert Code. California Flag is blazing fast, but I will give top billing to the European colt,Strike the Deal. Of course I will be rooting for Jenine Sahadi (Michael remembers her well) to score with Gotta Have Her.
Strike the Deal, Diamondrella, Lord Shanakill, Gotta Have Her

$2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint
No doubt that Zensational is fast and has an affinity for the Santa Anita oval, but I will go with the more seasoned Fatal Bullet who ran second to Baffert’s Midnight Lute last year and is working well for this. Tough Euro filly Fleeting Spirit draws outside and will be flying late.
Fatal Bullet, Zensational, Fleeting Spirit, Gayego

$2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
With half the field untested on synthetics, this is a wide open affair. I am going for the gusto with the lightly-racing Pletcher colt Eskedereya. Great route pedigree and jock. Would be a shocker, but gets a more favorable post than Lookin At Lucky.
Eskendereya, Lookin at Lucky, Alfred Nobel, Noble’s Promise

$2 million Breeders’ Cup Mile
I believe the talented Irish-bred filly Goldikova will defend her title. She beat one of the top American milers Kip Deville in last year’s BC Mile and has added three Group 1 titles to her resume’. Cowboy Cal is the only racehorse that Bob McNair retained following his Stonerside disbursement to Darley, so it would be nice for the McNairs to win this stake.
Goldikova, Zacinto, Cowboy Cal, Delgator

$1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile
The Euros beat the Americans last year and they will be hard to deny them this year. Mastercraftsman fared well on Polytrack in Ireland for trainer Aidan O'Brien. Will be interesting to see how Midshipman runs after winning last year’s BC Juvenile and making just his second start since that score.
Mastercraftsman, Bullsbay, Midshipman, Neko Bay

$3 million Breeders’ Cup Turf
Defending champion Conduit has two losses this year to the ultra-impressive Sea of Stars . Looks rock solid. Dar Re Mi gets first Lasix and is not intimidated by the boys.
Conduit, Dar Re Mi, Spanish Moon, Presious Passion

$5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic
I can’t blame the connections of Zenyatta for charting this course, but think it will be an awfully tough race for the undefeated filly. Added distance, facing the boys, including several Group 1 monsters from Europe; a world apart from what she has previously encountered. Raven’s Pass gave the Americans a lesson last year and Rip Van Winkle is likely to do the same in the 2009 BC Classic. I have always loved Einstein and he will likely forge his way into the exotics before retiring to stud. Summer Bird has had a terrific year; he may fare better than Curlin in adapting to the surface. Twice Over is another talented Euro who could score another Grade 1 for the venerable Juddmonte Farms.
Rip Van Winkle, Einstein, Summer Bird, Twice Over

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Friday Breeders' Cup Selections From Michael

I have decided to put the post from SureBet's Martha Claussen with her selections separately from mine because I have learned over the years that it's better to let Martha go ahead and have her say and then allow myself time for rebuttal. Martha did go with the top four selections for each race. I am going to take a slightly different approach with my piece and give out two horses for each race. In some instances, it will be two favorites. There will also be races where I selected a favorite and a longshot or two longshots. It is up to you the reading public to do with these selections what you may. So, without any further ado:

The $500,000 Breeders' Cup Marathon
Mastery has been a horse that I have pimped in this blog since he won the St. Leger in September and I am not abandoning ship now. I said all along the St. Leger is a better Breeders' Cup prep than the Arc and I will prove it here. My longshot pick is the defending champion here, Muhannak. He has not done a darn thing since winning here last year, but he does have that score over this track and I like the price at 12-1.

The $1,000,000 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf
In the quest for a price, this might be a good spot to look. Part of me says it is pure folly to go against Lillie Langtry and her 6 for 6 in-the-money in Europe. The other part of me says let's find a price and go with Elusive Galaxy, who faded to fourth last out at Woodbine and has finished behind some of these, including the favorite pick, but at 12-1, I think she is an attractive alternative and Rafael Bejarano gets the call.

The Grade 1 $2,000,000 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies
Blind Luck fits the profile of almost all the previous winners of this race at Santa Anita. She won the Grade 1 Oak Leaf and did it easily. She is maturing quite nicely and she is going to be running into a lot of speed at the front here. My longshot is only 8-1, but She Be Wild might be able to reverse the last race and beat out Negligee. She has a bullet workout on October 30 and she is certainly very well-bred.

The Grade 1 $2,000,000 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf
Not much of a chance for a longshot in here since all the main competitors are fairly chalky, but I will go with the horse that seems to be garnering the most attention from the "wise guys" and that is Midday. She is going 2nd off the layoff here and won the Group 1 Nassau Stakes at Goodwood two back at the distance. I will also favor the defending champion here with Forever Together. Her only Grade 1 win since last year's Cup was the Grade 1 Diana at The Spa, but she is more than capable of going back-to-back in this event.

The Grade 1 $1,000,000 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint
Another race that the candidates don't afford much of a chance for any prices, so I will take the defending champion, Ventura. I just think she is sitting on another big effort here off her win in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile on September 20. She did get beat by Informed Decision two starts back and I think she is the only horse in here that might beat Ventura. She has won five of six at the extended sprint distance for this race of seven furlongs.

The Grade 1 $2,000,000 Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic
You know to me, this is still the Distaff, but I am not in charge, so there you go. With the defection of Zenyatta to the Classic on Saturday (YIPPEE!!! for all the bettors out there), I will try for a minor price with Life Is Sweet. She has been getting beaten by Zenyatta all summer out west and acquitted herself nicely when SHE faced the boys in the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup, running third. She hasn't won since March, but she is three for four over the Santa Anita surface. I also think that Rainbow View has a definite shot in here. She was stunned in the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor at Woodbine on October 17 by Lahaleeb, who was 40-1. Rainbow View has been the betting choice in her last two and she is an attractive 6-1 on the morning-line here.

So, there you have it. Remember, Martha's picks immediately follow in the next post below this one and I thank her for the compliments on my move to Turf Paradise and look forward to keeping our spirited competition going. Saturday's picks will be posted from the two of us on Friday evening, so stay tuned for that. Remember, we accept no responsibility for any wagers placed in conjunction with these selections. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Friday Breeders' Cup Selections From Martha

First of all, I am so pleased that my good friend Michael Chamberlain landed the announcer gig at Turf Paradise.

Michael and I go waaaay back and truly enjoy our competitive handicapping battles. He states with great conviction, that he is the greatest Breeders’ Cup handicapper in the universe. There is no point arguing with him; I have learned just to ignore him when he goes on and on. However, one year, he was truly insufferable, so I wrote a press release entitled “Track Announcer Michael Chamberlain Recovering from Injury”. It went on to say that he had to undergo treatment for his shoulder and back after strenuous back patting had taken its toll. I also enjoyed rendering him speechless at least once during each handicapping seminar when I went on a rant about two of my favorite topics: Godolphin and geldings.

Anyway, on to Friday’s BC stakes!

$500,000 Breeders’ Cup Marathon
Man of Iron is an Aidan O’Brien colt who ran well on Polytrack in Ireland. Nite Light ran lights out at Turfway two back. Nod to the Euros with a potential good showing from Todd Pletcher's Night Lite.
Man of Iron, Mastery, Father Time, Nite Light

$1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf
Love the breeding of Junia Tepzia (Ire) and her gutsy rider Kieran Fallon. Rose Catherine stepped up big time in her turf debut and can’t be ignored.
Junia Tepzia, Lillie Langtry, Rose Catherine, La Nez

$2 million Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies
Always a Princess looks like she is peaking just at the right time for Baffert. Will be interesting to see how Devil May Care handles the synthetic surface as the Grade 1 winner looks like a very talented filly.
Always a Princess, She Be Wild, Negligee, Devil May Care

$2 million Emirates Filly and Mare Turf
Would love to see defending champ, Forever Together win, but she has not found the same closing kick in her last two stakes. I think the Juddmonte Farm homebred Midday will prevail. Maram, winner of the Filly and Mare Juvenile Turf will likely be overlooked and will be flying late under Jose Lezcano.
Midday, Visit, Forever Together, Maram

$1 million Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint
I do believe defending champ Ventura will score again this year. She loves the downhill turf course and has been on her A game all year for Frankel and Gomez. The Wertheimer & Frere connections breed VERY classy turf runners, so at 20-1, she may be worth a saver and inclusion in exotics.
Ventura, Informed Decision, Sara Louise, Only Green

$2 million Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic
No Zenyatta this year, so I look for a mild upset by Proviso (GB) and trainer Bobby Frankel. She should improve off her DQ in the Grade 1 Spinster. Lethal Heat ran second to Zenyatta and should outrun her 20-1 morning line.
Proviso, Careless Jewel, Music Note, Lethal Heat

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Top Five- Breeders' Cup Non-Classic Moments

The Classic is the marquee event of the Breeders' Cup every year, but on some occasions the other races supplant the Classic as the story because of their extraordinary circumstances. Here are my choices for the Top Five non-Classic Breeders' Cup moments:

#5- Thirty Slews (1992 Sprint)- Thirty Slews was a relative longshot in the Sprint at Gulfstream Park in 1992. He ended up paying $39.40 for the victory and didn't do much to follow up his Breeders' Cup victory. The significance of this race is not really the horse, but the man behind him. Thirty Slews was the first Breeders' Cup victory for trainer Bob Baffert. Baffert has won multiple Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup races since this win, of course, and he was inducted in the Thoroughbred Racing Hall Of Fame earlier this year.

#4- Favorite Trick (1997 Juvenile)- Favorite Trick became only the second 2-year-old to be named Horse Of The Year (joining Secretariat) after he capped his undefeated season with an impressive win in the Juvenile at Hollywood Park in 1997. Of course, Favorite Trick was among the many who flopped in the Derby following a Juvenile win, finishing eighth on the First Saturday in May in 1998. He did go on to win the Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga in the summer of 1998.

#3- High Chapparal/ Johar (2003 Turf)- This is the only dead-heat in the history of the Breeders' Cup. High Chapparal and Johar ended up in the tie, with Falbrav just a nostril behind them in one of the most thrilling photo-finishes in Breeders' Cup history. High Chapparal actually joined a short, but strong, list by winning the same Breeders' Cup race in back-to-back years. He had won the 2002 Turf at Arlington Park. Johar came from last-to-first in this most thrilling edition of the Turf ever.

#2- Da Hoss (1998 Mile)- Da Hoss had won the Mile in 1996 at Woodbine. He then went away. Literally, he only had one relatively easy prep race leading up to the 1998 Mile at Churchill Downs. That was his only race in the two years between Mile victories. This win is considered by many to be the greatest training accomplishment ever and it came from Michael Dickinson. Announcer Tom Durkin called it, "The greatest comeback since Lazarus!!", and he may have been correct.

#1- Personal Ensign (1988 Distaff)- Personal Ensign was perfect when she stepped onto the sloppy track at Churchill Downs for the Distaff. She would have to defeat that year's Kentucky Derby winner, Winning Colors, to maintain her perfect record which stood at 12 for 12 entering the Distaff. She did not care for the sloppy track at all and that was evident to everyone as soon as she stepped onto the slop. It didn't matter, because Personal Ensign had a champion's heart and she needed every bit of it to run down Winning Colors in the shadow of the wire and retire an undefeated champion. She was inducted into the Hall Of Fame in 1993.

Tune in tomorrow for Friday selections from yours truly and Martha Claussen of SureBet Racing News. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Top Five- Breeders' Cup Classic

When the Breeders' Cup was conceived back in the early 1980s, the showcase event was always meant to be the Classic, which has the largest purse and most noteworthy horses running in it. There have been 25 Breeders' Cup Classics run and here are my top five:

#5- 1998 Awesome Again- This might have been the most impressive field in the history of the Breeders' Cup Classic. You had Silver Charm, Skip Away, Swain, Victory Gallop, Touch Gold, Coronado's Quest. You also had the winner, Awesome Again. Awesome Again defeated the star-studded field with a well-timed ride from Pat Day. On a personal note, I selected Awesome Again straight out as the winner, so this one might be a bit of a personal choice for the top five.

#4- 1984 Wild Again- The first Breeders' Cup Classic was won by a 31-1 shot that had to be supplemented into the field for $300,000. Again, Pat Day was in the irons for the victory, which came after a stupendous stretch drive that also featured Slew O'Gold and Preakness winner, Gate Dancer. There was an inquiry and Gate Dancer was disqualified from second and placed third behind Slew O'Gold for interference. It was a remarkable end to the first Breeders' Cup day and this event was well on its way.

#3- 2001 Tiznow- The Breeders' Cup was the first major event to be held in the New York metropolitan area in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Tiznow was the defending champion having won a stirring stretch duel with European runner Giant's Causeway in 2000. History repeated itself as this Classic came down to Tiznow against another Euro invader, Sakhee. Tiznow won the photo finish and this race should be remembered also for Tom Durkin's call of "Tiznow Wins It For America!". Yes, he did.

#2- 1993 Arcangues- I am going to argue the odds of this horse since Jerry Bailey was aboard this French runner on the day of his historic win at 133-1. At that time, Bailey was the best thing on horseback and was in the midst of his four Classic wins in five years streak. How could the betting public let any horse Bailey was on go off at such a ridiculous price? Worse still, how could I not have bet him? In the words of Alex Rodriguez, "I was young and stupid." Arcangues came from nowhere and won, paying $269.20 for a win ticket and putting a pretty bow on the first decade of the Breeders' Cup.

#1- 1989 Sunday Silence- You really need to label this race "Sunday Silence-Easy Goer". This was the fourth and final time the two rivals would meet in 1989. Sunday Silence had won the Derby and Preakness. Easy Goer held home-court advantage and won the Belmont. The two were the focal point of the entire day and they did not disappoint. Sunday Silence made his move on the turn and this time, Pat Day committed a minor error in letting Sunday Silence get far enough away from Easy Goer that the horse in the Phipps colors could not recover. Sunday Silence won and scored the most decisive argument for his greatness by holding a 3-1 margin over Easy Goer on the racetrack.

I know I had to leave out some great ones. A.P. Indy in 1992, Cigar in 1995, Alphabet Soup in 1996, Invasor in 2006, but I am only listing five. If I were David Letterman and had a Top Ten list, it could have been easier. Tune in tomorrow for the Top Five Breeders' Cup Non-Classic moments. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Monday, November 02, 2009

It's Breeders' Cup Week!!!

The big week has finally arrived. The 26th Breeders' Cup World Championships will be held this Friday and Saturday at Santa Anita Park, the first time ever the event has been held at the same location two years running. Of course, this has created the possibility of a European overthrow the likes of which we haven't seen on these shores in many years, but we'll get into that this week. As a matter of fact, here is a look at what will be coming from They Are Off this week:

TUESDAY: The Top Five Breeders' Cup Classic Moments

WEDNESDAY: The Top Five Breeders' Cup Moments (Non-Classic)

THURSDAY: Selections for the Friday Breeders' Cup races from yours truly and Martha Claussen of SureBet Racing News (pictured above).

FRIDAY: Selections for the Saturday Breeders' Cup races again from Michael & Martha.

It promises to be an entertaining week for the horse racing fan, so let's look forward to a fantastic two days of racing at Santa Anita.

Tune in tomorrow for The Top Five Breeders' Cup Classic Moments. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Photo courtesy of Coady Photography