Friday, December 31, 2010

The Grade 3 $100,000 Stage Door Betty Handicap

The graded stakes races for the weekend didn't look too great from a handicapping or making money perspective outside of South Florida, so we go to Calder to try our luck on the main track in the Grade 3 $100,000 Stage Door Betty Handicap. Also on the card on Saturday is the Grade 3 Tropical Park Derby, but we'll stick to the main track and not worry about the turf on Saturday. Here is the analysis:

From what I can tell, there just doesn't seem to be a tremendous amount of pace in this race, so I will go with what appears to the best of the speed and #5 Amazing. She has not been to the races since getting run down at this distance in an ungraded Handicap at Calder on November 13. Elvis Trujillo takes over the ride for trainer Marty Wolfson here. This mare has been in the top two in nine of her eleven lifetime tries at Calder Race Course. For second, I will go with the horse that ran down the top pick on November 13 in #10 Joanie's Catch. She followed up that victory at Calder with a fourth place in the Grade 1 Gazelle at Aqueduct on November 27. Given that information, I find it slightly curious that she is a generous 10-1 on the morning line. I would think that number will be lower at post time. Her last work on December 26 was a strong half-mile in 49 and 2/5 seconds. For third, I will use the likely favorite, #4 Funny Moon. She has been running in graded company all year, including facing the likes of Life At Ten, Acoma, and Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic winner, Unrivaled Belle. Alan Garcia rides this mare that is winless in her last five, but was up for the last victory in the Grade 2 Shuvee at Belmont Park in mid-May. Finally, I will ride the hot horse with #1 Toocleverforwords. She won her last two starts before the break in October at Calder, including the Cinnamon Girl with a 99 Beyer speed figure. Luis Saez has ridden this horse four times and all four have resulted in either first or second place finishes for this classy mare. Here is the play for the Grade 3 Stage Door Betty Handicap:

$5 WP #5
$1 EX BOX 1-4-5-8-10
$1 TRI 5-10 with 5-10 with 1-4-6-8
TOTAL- $38

Remember, They Are Off accepts no responsibility for any wagers placed in conjunction with these selections. They are merely suggestions. I would like to wish everyone a very Happy New Year and a safe one as well. Tune in again next week for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

ESPN Eclipse

No, ESPN and Bristol, Connecticut aren't passing between the Earth and the Sun. ESPN actually has been awarded an Eclipse Award For Live Racing Programming for their two-day coverage of the Breeders' Cup World Championships at Churchill Downs this November.

Quite a lot, of course, happened during the two days of racing, including the big upsets by Shared Account and Dakota Phone, the Life At Ten debacle involving her not being scratched as should have, Golidkova winning her third Breeders' Cup Mile in a row, Uncle Mo stamping himself as the favorite for the 2011 Kentucky Derby, the front-running triumph of Big Drama, the near-miss of Zenyatta and, of course, the brawl between bug-eyed Calvin Borel and Javier Castellano. ESPN was right on top of everything for the two days and they are to be congratulated for both their coverage and the honors that it received. Now, if only, they could expand that coverage to include more racing during the year, but I guess that is only wishful thinking. By the way, it is worth mentioning that ESPN won the same award in 2009 for their coverage of the Belmont Stakes.

HRTV also deserves some kudos for an Eclipse Award For Television Feature for their documentary of Swale, the 1984 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner, who tragically died within days of winning the 'Test Of Champions". This is third win for HRTV in this category, having notched the hardware in both 2006 and 2008.

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

Monday, December 27, 2010

Horse Of The Year

I have stated numerous times on this blog that I do not have a vote for Horse Of The Year. However, that fact does not prevent me from offering my opinion on who should be Horse Of The Year. Firstly, I think there are only three legitimate candidates for the award: Blame, Goldikova, and Zenyatta. Oddly enough, each of these three candidates have something in common: they each lost once in 2010. Blame finished behind Haynesfield in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup, Goldikova finishes behind Makfi in the Group 1 Prix Jacques le Marois, and Zenyatta finished behind Blame in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Classic.

To begin with, I will address the candidacy of Goldikova since I think she might have the most working against her. She did something no other horse has ever done in 2010, she completed a three-peat of victories in the same race in the Breeders' Cup, turning the trick in the Mile once again at Churchill Downs. Her closing kick in the Mile was one of the more tantalizing sights of the Saturday card of racing in the Cup, as she ate up the ground and drove past Gio Ponti, The Usual Q.T., and everyone else to win under a perfect ride from Olivier Peslier. However, that was her only start in America, and while she did win at three different distances in 2010 (seven furlongs, one mile, and one mile and one eighth), I just don't think she is in the same class as the other two candidates for Horse Of The Year this year.

Next is Blame, who most observers seem to think will win the award. He started in five races this year and is the only one of the three candidates to run with less than Grade or Group 1 company, winning the Grade 3 Schaefer at Pimlico on Preakness day to kickstart his season. From there, Blame was a force in every race he ran in sans one. He ran down Battle Plan to win the Grade 1 Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs, he ran down Quality Road to win the Grade 1 Whitney at Saratoga, he won the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Classic by holding off the best horse we might have seen in the last ten years to score by a scant nose. However, he was absolutely trounced by Haynesfield in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park. Haynesfield was able to set the pace and win by a convincing margin that day and while it is true that Haynesfield was among those beaten by Blame in the Classic, it is also true that the Classic just did not set up for Haynesfield's style and his bid was doomed from the start.

Finally, we have Zenyatta. She ran six times in 2010 and won five them, all with Grade 1 company. I know that the competition didn't always merit Grade 1 consideration, but those are the facts. She ran over five different racetracks in 2010 and several different types of surface (Pro-ride, Cushion, Polytrack, and conventional dirt). She tackled all comers until the last race and she lost by the narrowest and bitterest of margins. Her other conventional dirt race resulted in her tremendous win in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom, a race her connections still sent her to even after the defection of the horse we all wanted her to face, Rachel Alexandra. She provided us with heart-wrenching excitement in nearly every other race she ran in, whether it was running down a gritty St. Trinians in the Grade 1 Vanity at Hollywood or doing the same to Switch in the Grade 1 Lady's Secret during the Oak Tree meeting at the same racetrack.

I think we also need to evaluate what Zenyatta has done for the entire sport of racing over the past year. She was profiled on "60 Minutes", she was featured by Oprah Winfrey as one of the "Women Of The Year", she created an atmosphere around her every time she went to the track that no horse has been able to replicate since the days of Secretariat. I think it might be true that even if you didn't bet a nickel on Zenyatta, you inevitably found yourself rooting for her.

In the final analysis, does her losing by a nose to Blame devalue all those other accomplishments she blessed us with in 2010? Does Blame getting drilled by Haynesfield outweigh the fact that he managed to defeat Zenyatta on the biggest stage the game has to offer? As I said earlier, I don't have a vote for Horse Of The Year, but if I had one I would give it to Zenyatta. She was clearly the Horse Of The Year in everyone's heart and she also was the Horse Of The Year at the racetrack. The devoted fans she has proved it every time she went out to do what she did and I think that even in defeat, she gave us her greatest performance of all twenty of her starts.

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

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Grade 1 $250,000 Malibu Stakes

Dirt racing returns to Southern California starting on Sunday with the opening of the new meeting at Santa Anita. Their traditional Boxing Day opener has their traditional feature on it in the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes at seven furlongs. A field of eleven will go postward with some very compelling runners, including some from the Breeders' Cup, Triple Crown, and some more lightly raced than the others. Here is the analysis for the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes:

I will select the horse I think might be the speed of the speed in the Malibu with #11 Smiling Tiger, who drew the far outside post position, which all in all might not be a bad thing here. He has not run since finishing third in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, less than two lengths behind the winner, Big Drama. That race was run on conventional dirt, which was the first experience he had on such a surface. He also posted a strong, six-furlong bullet workout on December 12, going the distance in 1:12.2 at Golden Gate. Speaking of Golden Gate, Russell Baze is in to ride Smiling Tiger. For second, I will go with a horse I fancied in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile that did not live up to my expectations, #3 Thiskyhasnolimit. The Asmussen trainee ran seventh at Churchill Downs and lost ground in the stretch after being close to a hotly-contested pace at the top of the stretch. Things should be a little more spread out here and I think if you can get the morning-line of 12-1 with Asmussen and rider Garrett Gomez, you have to take it. For third, I will go with the inexperienced #2 Alcindor. The Bob Baffert trainee is undefeated in two starts, breaking the maiden during the Oak Tree meeting at Hollywood at six furlongs and then coming back to win during the regular Hollywood meet at seven furlongs, today's distance. Rafael Bejarano was up for the seven-furlong score, which was by a daunting margin of seven and a half lengths. The colt is well-bred with Unbridled on the top side and Storm Cat on the bottom side. Finally, I will go with #4 Caracortado to round out the top four selections. Caracortado was one of the Southern California contingent for the Triple Crown earlier this year. He ended up running seventh in the Preakness after being somewhat close to the pace. He took time off after the Preakness and came back in a turf sprint at Hollywood Park, which he won on November 11. Joe Talamo was up for that win on the turf and gets the call again here. He posted a quick, seven-furlong workout, going the distance in 1:23. Here is the play for the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes:

$5 WP #11
$1 EX BOX 2-3-11
$1 TRI 11 with 2-3-4-9 with 2-3-4-9
TOTAL- $28

They Are Off accepts no responsibility for any wagers placed in conjunction with these selections. They are merely suggestions. They Are Off wishes all of you a very Merry Christmas. Tune in again next week for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Lone Star Derby

The Lone Star Derby will not look the same when its 2011 renewal is run on May 30. First of all, it was one of the races that the Graded Stakes Committee downgraded from a Grade 3 to an ungraded race. Now, the race will be run on the turf for the first time ever. Each of the previous renewals of the Lone Star Derby took place on the dirt track.

That date is something new as well. Normally, the Lone Star Derby filled the open weekend between the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. This year, the Lone Star Derby will be part of the Lone Star Million Day card, which is part of the Memorial Day weekend. Ironically enough, two other races on the Million Day program are graded. The Grade 3 $300,000 Lone Star Park Handicap and the Grade 3 $200,000 Ouija Board Handicap are both part of the richest single-day program during the Lone Star Park meeting.

Lone Star Park's meeting begins on April 14 and will go through July 10. Tune in again tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Three To Watch For 2011

At the end of 2009, I offered up a list of three horses to watch in 2010. One of those was Blame, who in all likelihood, will be voted Horse Of The Year. The others were Rachel Alexandra and Piscitelli. Rachel couldn't possibly hope to match her 2009 season and as for Piscitelli, well, you can't be right all the time. It is in this spirit that I now offer my three horses to watch in 2011.

#1- Dancinginherdreams- I thought her win at Churchill Downs during the two-year-old Stars Of Tomorrow program in the Grade 2 Pocahantas was one of the more visually impressive wins by a two-year-old this year. She won that race by over five lengths and if Julien Leparoux had not geared her down near the end, she could have won by much more. Her Sire is Tapit, who is just turning out to be the "bomb" when it comes to recent Sires. There are so many horses of consequence coming along in recent days from Tapit that he is moving quickly to the top of the available Sire list. I, for one, will be watching Dancinginherdreams' development during what should be a spectacular three-year-old campaign.

#2- Santiva- It is entirely possible that Santiva could be the real deal as the Derby Fever season starts to rear its head. Santiva was a most impressive winner in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club on November 27 at Churchill Downs. He prevailed in a draining stretch duel with the more fancied Astrology and Major Gain in that race and I found his grit in not being denied the victory to be an admirable quality. The only downside to Santiva I can see is the rider for that win was Shaun Bridgmohan, who I admit I have never been a large fan of. The Sire of Santiva is Giant's Causeway, who was a darn strong racehorse and has proven to be a darn strong Sire.

#3- Blind Luck- She was clearly the best three-year-old filly in the land this year and she has a crack rival in Havre De Grace. Blind Luck won the Grade 1 Las Virgenes, Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks and the Grade 1 Alabama in 2010 and she was second in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic, behind Unrivaled Belle. She might be the kind of horse to step into the Older Mare void left by the departures of Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta going forward. Yes, I think she is just going to be that good the longer she continues her career. I also hope Havre De Grace sticks around because it would be nice for these two to square off several more times and develop a rivalry that racing might be able to hang its hat on.

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

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Grade 1 $750,000 CashCall Futurity

In 2009, a little ol' horse named Lookin At Lucky rebounded from a disappointing loss in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile to come back and win the CashCall Futurity to wrap up a Champion Two-Year-Old season. Lucky should be named the Champion Three-Year-Old of 2010 following his wins in the Preakness and Haskell and a fourth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Classic. Saturday is the 2010 edition of the CashCall Futurity and the question is will one of the ten in this field stand out quite like Lookin At Lucky did this year. Of course, that question is for the future, the question for Saturday is who do you like? Here is the analysis of the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity:

My top pick will be #2 J.P.'s Gusto, who enters this race off of a sixth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs. That was this one's first-ever race over a non-synthetic surface, which he returns to here. His five-furlong workout on December 14 was promising. Joe Talamo gets the ride on Saturday. For second, I will use #10 Comma To The Top. He was a winner on the turf last time out in the Grade 3 Generous at Hollywood and I am always fond of the turf-to-dirt switch. The gelding's win streak has now reached four, including the Real Quiet at this distance. Corey Nakatani was up for the last two wins and is aboard again in the Futurity. The upset winner of the Grade 3 Delta Jackpot was #7 Gourmet Dinner, who scored a win at Delta Downs at 20-1. He is already in the field for the Kentucky Derby with those graded earnings, but I find it admirable of the connections that they are continuing to campaign him for improvement. He has never been worse than second in five lifetime starts, but this might be the toughest spot of his career thus far. He could be the most interesting horse in the gate on Saturday. For fourth, I will throw a 20-1 morning-line horse in with #8 Riveting Reason. The offspring of 2000 Derby winner, Fusaichi Pegasus, broke the maiden at Hollywood last time out at this distance on November 25. However, he also ran in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, finishing a well-beaten eighth. He also could be sitting pretty if there is any kind of speed duel ahead of him in here. Here is the play for the CashCall Futurity:

$5 WP #2
$5 EX BOX #2+ #10
$1 TRI 2-10 with 2-10 with 5-6-7-8
TOTAL- $28

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

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Mack Miller

Racing lost one of its finest people when Hall Of Fame trainer Mack Miller passed away last week at the age of 89. Miller's most famous victory came in 1993 when he finally got his long-awaited Kentucky Derby victory with Sea Hero. That Derby win was not only the first for Miller, but also the first for owner Paul Mellon and the first for jockey Jerry Bailey.

Mellon owned Rokeby Stables, which had become renowned worldover for their Thoroughbred exploits. Rokeby owned Mill Reef, who won both the Epsom Derby and the Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe in 1971. Miller took over as the Rokeby trainer in the mid-1970s and the pair proved to be quite successful. Miller would be inducted into the Horse Racing Hall Of Fame in 1987 for his excellent work throughout his training career, which started in 1950, with horses like Snow Knight and Fit To Fight, who is the last horse to win the New York Handicap Triple Crown (Metropolitan, Suburban and Brooklyn) in 1984. Fit To Fight would join a nice horse named Kelso on the list of Handicap Triple winners.

However, the 1993 Derby is the bit of nostalgia that capped off Miller's career. He finally won the Roses after 43 years as a trainer. He eventually retired from training two years after the historic Derby win. To watch the 1993 Kentucky Derby, here is the link:

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

Monday, December 13, 2010

Fab Four Races Of 2010

The 2010 racing season was one of remarkable highs and one of remarkable lows, much like any of the racing seasons that preceded it. The one race that all sports fans recognize, the Kentucky Derby, was run over a quagmire at Churchill Downs for the second straight year, and for the second straight year, Calvin Borel was aboard the soggy champion. However, in my opinion, the Derby didn't qualify for me as one of the Fab Four Races Of 2010. Here are the four that do:

#4- The Arlington Million- Gio Ponti had won the Arlington Million in 2009 and was trying to become the first horse in the history of the event to win it in back-to-back years. For a while in the Chicago stretch, he appeared that he was going to accomplish the feat. Then. Debussy, who looked as if he was defeated at the top of the stretch, suddenly burst through the rail in the stretch and ran down the defending champion, Gio Ponti, to get up and win in the shadow of the wire. It was a magnificent performance by the European invader and his rider, William Buick. To watch the 2010 Arlington Million, here is the link:

#3- The Tampa Bay Derby- This was the race that the eventual Kentucky Derby champion, Super Saver, used as his key prep for the big day in May. However, the story of this race was the three-horse photo finish that came at the end of it. Super Saver was there with Schoolyard Dreams and Odysseus. In fact, Super Saver would end up in the third position behind the other two. Odysseus appeared defeated on the far turn, only to re-rally and run down Schoolyard Dreams for the victory in a photo finish that I still cannot believe that Odysseus was the winner of. Sadly, Odysseus would not survive the summer. He was euthanized in August for complications from laminitis. Still, he provided the most memorable prep race of the 2010 Kentucky Derby season. To watch the 2010 Tampa Bay Derby, here is the link:

#2- The Preakness Stakes- I wrote about this race not too long ago when the connections of the winner, soon-to-be Three-Year-Old Champion Male Lookin At Lucky, announced his retirement. Lookin At Lucky had all kinds of bad luck through the spring, culminating with his disaster in the Derby. Trainer Bob Baffert, however, knew that he had the horse primed for a big effort two weeks later in the Preakness. Certainly in recent years if anyone knows when his horse is going to run a big race during the Triple Crown, it is Bob Baffert. However, the best race of the day came from Jackson Bend, who would end up third. When you watch the replay, watch Jackson Bend and see what he had to overcome just to get to where he finished. It was a noble effort. To watch the 2010 Preakness Stakes, here is the link:

#1- The Breeders' Cup Classic- Anyone that knows anything about anything knew this one was going to be in the top spot. It became a de facto race for Horse Of The Year between Blame and Zenyatta. Zenyatta was so far behind early on that many people felt she was going to be pulled up, but she gathered herself and gave us a race for the ages. It has been said that her greatest performance came in the one race she did not win. I think that might be accurate, but Blame's performance was pretty darn great as well. Which one deserves to be Horse Of The Year? Well, each only finished behind one horse all year. However, while Blame finished behind Haynesfield in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (whom he subsequently dusted in this Classic), Zenyatta finished behind Blame. I am just thankful that I don't have a vote in this election. I still think that it is absolutely too close to call when it comes to Horse Of The Year. To watch the replay of the 2010 Breeders' Cup Classic, here is the link:

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

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Grade 1 $300,000 Hollywood Starlet

Hollywood Park during the next two weeks will have races for the younger set, this Saturday is the Hollywood Starlet and next Saturday is the CashCall Futurity. The Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet presents what promises to be an interesting field of eight. The two favorites will be coming from different routes to getting to this point. Turbulent Descent is 2-1 on the morning line after two career starts, both wins, but both at sprinting distances. Tell A Kelly is 5-2 and was the hot horse in California late in the summer after her explosive victory in Grade 1 Darley Debutante. Subsequently, she failed to menace in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, where she ran seventh. Here is the analysis of the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet:

My top selection in the race will be #3 May Day Rose. The Bob Baffert trainee is 2 for 3 in her career and unlike so many of her counterparts in this field, she has a win at the distance. She accomplished that in the ungraded Sharp Cat over this Hollywood oval. Her last two workouts have been bullets. The only fault I can find with her is that she might end up in a speed duel with the horse directly to her inside. She almost arrived in that spot for me by default since the longest race most of the other contenders in here I can find is seven furlongs. In fact, that was the distance of the last race for #5 Turbulent Descent. She is unbeaten in two tries and worked a quick five furlongs six days ago. I think she will be a deserving favorite. I just have an issue selecting a horse at short odds to do something she has never done before. 1992 BC Classic winner, A.P. Indy, is present on the Sire side. Therefore, one would think the distance would not be a tremendous issue. I just want to see her do it before I commit my cash. This race might set up for a big race from #7 Zazu, who ran 2nd to Turbulent Descent in the Moccasin last time out. She might be able to sit off the pace and strike if that pace duel I referenced earlier falls apart. Of course, she lost ground to Turbulent Descent in that Moccasin race and ended up a length and a half behind her. For fourth, I will restore my faith in #8 Tell A Kelly. I was all over her in the Darley Debutante at nearly 5-1. Her loss to Rigoletta in the Oak Leaf was more the fault of the jockey than anything else. I tend to throw out the Breeders' Cup race due to a wide trip and a wild jockey (Calvin Borel in the aftermath of the fight). She has a recent bullet workout and gets Joel Rosario to take the mount. I think she might be poised for a nice effort. One thing Tell A Kelly shares with Zazu is the same Sire, Tapit, who has impressed thus far in his post-racing career. Here is the play for the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet:

$10 WP #3
$1 TRI 3-5 with 3-5 with 2-7-8

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

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Here We Go!!

One of the more visually stunning performances on Breeders' Cup Saturday at Churchill Downs this year came in the Juvenile, when Uncle Mo just kept pulling away from Boys At Tosconova and posted a crushing, four and a quarter length victory to stamp his claim as the Champion Two-Year-Old for 2010. His trainer, Todd Pletcher, finally got the Derby Donut off his resume' in 2010 with Super Saver for WinStar Farm. It certainly appears highly possible that Pletcher could make it 2 for 2 under the Repole Stable flag.

Uncle Mo is now in Florida to begin his preparation for the 2011 Triple Crown campaign. While Pletcher is undecided as to where Mo will make his 2011 debut, you can bet it will probably be in the Grade 2 Fountain Of Youth at Gulfstream or the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby. Tampa might make sense for Pletcher since that is the race Super Saver came out of last year to win the Roses. Granted, he didn't actually win the Tampa Bay Derby, but he DID win the one that mattered in May. Also, remember that the last Juvenile winner at Churchill Downs, Street Sense, didn't return to the races until Tampa and he eventually won the Roses as well. For the record, the date of the Tampa Bay Derby is March 12.

As far as on the track, the next round for the top two-year-olds on the West Coast comes on December 18, when Hollywood Park offers up the CashCall Futurity. In case you don't remember, that race was won last year by the expected Champion Three-Year-Old Male, Lookin At Lucky.

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

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Best In Sprint

One of the more interesting divisions that Eclipse Award voters may have to consider in 2010 is the Champion Sprinter of the Year. Clearly, the late season winner was Big Drama, who turned in a magnificent front-running performance in the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs. It turned out to also be a tremendous ride from Eibar Coa in the Sprint for Big Drama. He realized that he might get swallowed up by the speed of the speed down on the rail, so he gunned Big Drama to the front and stayed off the rail. Big Drama turned in a quarter-mile of 21.34 seconds, which is quick, but if you watch the replay, he didn't have any challengers right with him pressing him. It was somewhat of an easy lead, if you can have an easy lead racing against the world's fastest horses. The half was covered in 44.55 seconds, so the middle frame resulted in about as much of a breather as you could get in the Sprint. The final time turned out to be a credible 1:09.05. To watch the replay of the Breeders' Cup Sprint, here is the link:

However, how good does that performance make Majesticperfection's performance at Saratoga look in the summer? Majesticperfection quite simply toyed with Big Drama and many other top sprinters in the Grade 1 Vanderbilt Handicap, winning that race by nearly three lengths in 1:08.63. Majesticperfection was subsequently retired after suffering a fracture during a workout not too long after the rout in the Vanderbilt. Keep in mind that Majesticperfection did exactly what Big Drama in the Sprint, seizing the lead right away and never looking back. The other thing to consider here is that Majesticperfection went 22.80 for the quarter and 45.60 for the half, exactly the same time for each of the first two stanzas. The final quarter of the Vanderbilt is really where Majesticperfection stakes his claim for any end of the season honors. He actually got faster as the race went on. I think that adds quite a bit to the impressiveness of the performance. The one argument you can make against Majesticperfection is that he carried four pounds less than his main competitors in the Vanderbilt. There might also be something to be said for actually being around for the big dance at the end of the season, but I tend not to want to penalize a horse for an injury. To watch the replay of the Vanderbilt Handicap, here is the link:

Watch both races and then make up your mind. I think if Majesticperfection had been able to last to the Breeders' Cup, he would have made the race a great deal more interesting. Would he have gone out with Big Drama and created a speed duel that either went down in history or a speed duel that causes someone to close from the clouds and win with a majestic close? It is my thought that Big Drama will likely receive the accolades at the end of the year, but I also think Majesticperfection should not be forgotten.

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

Friday, December 03, 2010

The Grade 2 $150,000 Bayakoa Handicap

Hollywood Park will be the center of the racing world on Sunday due to the retirement ceremony for the great Zenyatta. She will be paraded by the grandstand for the final time before she heads off to her second career as a broodmare at Lane's End Farm. The feature event at Hollywood on Sunday is the Grade 2 $150,000 Bayakoa Handicap. This is a race named for a horse that stands as one of a very short list of horses that have won the same Breeders' Cup race in consecutive years. Of course, the second of those triumphs was overshadowed by tragedy when Go For Wand broke down in the stretch drive, marring what had promised to be a legendary edition of the Distaff. However, Bayakoa's accomplishments should not be lessened because of those tragic circumstances. She was a great racehorse in her day and this race is a fitting tribute to her.

This is a tough race to settle on a win with, especially given the fact that Zenyatta's trainer is part of the connections of one horse I like and her jockey is aboard the other horse I like. I will go with the defending champion here, trained by John Shirreffs, #3 Zardana. She was ridden to victory in this race last year by Victor Espinoza and he gets the call again here. I expect her to rebound nicely after a disappointing trip to Keeneland and a ninth-place finish in the Grade 1 Spinster. She is back in familiar surroundings and if you look at her past performances, you will notice some of the names she has run against. Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra, Unrivaled Belle, St. Trinians, Life Is Sweet are on the list of her competitors. It is certainly not a bad resume'. For second, I will go with her neighbor, #4 Silver Swallow. Her Sire is 1996 Breeders' Cup Classic winner, Alphabet Soup. Mike Smith rides her on Sunday and it is worth noting that Silver Swallow has never missed the money in eleven lifetime starts at Hollywood Park. That includes an Allowance win with Smith aboard in July and a third in the Playa Del Rey last time out on November 14. My third choice will be #8 Lady Railrider. She has been top three in 18 of 21 lifetime appearances, but this will be some tall cotton she is facing here. She posted two scorching bullet workouts within a week of each other at Golden Gate, at five and six furlongs respectively. She also should be comfortable with this distance given her recent history. Finally, I will put #6 Sweet August Moon in the fourth spot. Joel Rosario gets the riding assignment Sunday. This mare ran fifth in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Filly And Mare Sprint on November 5 and was passing horses at the end despite a wide trip. She was a winner in the Grade 2 A Gleam at Hollywood Park back in July at 13-1. Here is the play for the Grade 2 Bayakoa Handicap:

$5 WP #3
$1 EX BOX 3-4-6-8
$1 TRI 3-4 with 3-4 with 5-6-7-8
TOTAL- $30

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

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Dakota Phone

Perhaps there was no more stunning result on Breeders' Cup day than the one that is pictured here. Calm down, Zenyatta fans, after all, Blame WAS the second choice in the wagering in the Classic. However, Dakota Phone's triumph in the Dirt Mile at odds of 37-1 was an epic upset. He was obviously ignored by the betting public and ran down one of the top contenders in Morning Line to win an incredibly close victory. He went last-to-first to do and triggered outlandish exotic payouts like an $816 exacta, a $6,634 trifecta, and a $36,883 superfecta (by the way, that last one translates to $3,688 for the 10-center).

Dakota Phone will return to the racetrack for the first time since that shocking victory on Saturday afternoon at Hollywood Park in the Grade 3 Native Diver Handicap. This race will be a little different for Dakota Phone than the Breeders' Cup score was. First of all, the Native Diver will be run at 1 1/8 miles. Secondly, he will be the high weight in the field carrying 123 pounds, which is six pounds heavier than the next closest weight (117 pounds for Soul Candy). Finally, the pace of the Dirt Mile was incredibly fast, going a quarter in 22.53 and a half-mile in 44.94. It is highly doubtful that Dakota Phone will have such a maniacal pace to close into in the Native Diver, which could hamper his chances.

It is also worth noting that Dakota Phone has not won back-to-back races since November 2008. So, there will be a lot going against the Dirt Mile winner on Saturday, but then again, how often does a 37-1 shot in the Breeders' Cup not have a lot going against him? He's overcome a seemingly impossible set of circumstances before and done it, why can't he do it on Saturday?

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

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Eureka Eurico!

The leading rider at Woodbine during their 2010 season, Eurico Rosa Da Silva, will be taking his tack to New York to ride there this winter. Da Silva won an impressive 186 races during the season at Woodbine, which will actually end on December 5. Included in those victories was a win in the biggest race that Canada can offer, The Queen's Plate. Da Silva was aboard Big Red Mike for his front-running win in the equivalent of the Kentucky Derby to the Great White North.

Da Silva's triumph in the jockey standings at Woodbine ends a three-year reign of Patrick Husbands, who has only won 171 races during the extended Woodbine racing meet. Before he heads to The Big Apple, however, Da Silva will try to get one more stakes victory aboard Grand Style in the $150,000 Ontario Lassie on Saturday. Da Silva has been suspended for the final day of the season at Woodbine due to a whip infraction, according to the story on the Daily Racing Form detailing Da Silva's big move.

I, for one, will be very interested to see if Da Silva's success will translate to the big meet at The Big A. Personally, I wouldn't be surprised if it did. If you would like to watch Eurico Rosa Da Silva's seminal win of 2010 aboard Big Red Mike in The Queen's Plate, here is the link: Tune in again tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Grade 1 $250,000 Cigar Mile

The Grade 1 Cigar Mile will pretty much be the swan song for the strong stakes program in New York state for 2010. It will be run over the main track at Aqueduct and before too long, NYRA will be moving the racing to the inner track at The Big A.

It would appear to me that this race will have quite a bit of speed in it with Haynesfield, Vineyard Haven, Friend Or Foe, and Jersey Haven all running toward the front end. For that reason, I will side with a closer in here with #3 Bribon. While Bribon seems to have found a niche as a sprinter or an extended sprinter this season, keep in mind that the one mile distance at Aqueduct is a one-turn race, turning this into an extended sprint. Johnny Velazquez was aboard for the win the Grade 3 Bold Ruler last time out on October 30 and gets the call again here. For second, I will go with #1 Girolamo, who is part of an entry with #1a Vineyard Haven. Girolamo was a bigtime floparoo in the Breeders' Cup Sprint just three weeks ago, running 11th out of twelve horses. I think the connections got caught thinking too much after the Grade 1 Vosburgh victory at Belmont in early October. Had they sent Girolamo to the post in the Dirt Mile, I think his Breeders' Cup fortunes would have been distinctly different. He has won twice in three career starts at the one mile distance, including the Grade 2 Jerome Handicap in 2009. I will put #4 Haynesfield in the third spot. He, too, was a disaster in the Breeders' Cup. He got caught in a speed quartet in the Breeders' Cup Classic and never was able to establish any kind of lead or advantage and eventually faded to 11th. In no way did that race resemble the front-running win over the Classic winner, Blame, in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, when Haynesfield looked unbeatable. However, I think there will be a similar challenge to the lead for Haynesfield here and therefore, cannot pick him higher than this. Finally, I will inject a price into the proceedings with #8 Half Metal Jacket. This will be his second start off the most recent layoff. He ran a closing third in the Grade 3 Bold Ruler behind the top pick and Jersey Town. He gets an extra furlong to close into what should be a stout pace. His morning line odds of 12-1 make him a player here. Here is the play for the Grade 1 Cigar Mile:

$10 WIN #3
$2 EX 3 with ALL
TOTAL- $24

As always, They Are Off accepts no responsibility for any wagers placed in conjunction with these selections. They are merely suggestions. Tune in again next week for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Martha And Michelle Lovell

They Are Off contributor Martha Claussen has a new article in the current issue of SureBet Racing News on trainer Michelle Lovell. Michelle might be a new name to some on the national scene of the Thoroughbred game, but she is an excellent trainer whose career is only heading in one direction... UP! The article on Michelle Lovell begins on page ten of the following link:

They Are Off will take the Thanksgiving Holiday off tomorrow, so be sure to tune in again on Friday for a look at one of the major races this weekend. For right now, HAPPY THANKSGIVING! and I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Loving Lucky

It was announced on Friday afternoon that 2010 Preakness champion, Lookin At Lucky, has been retired and will stand at Ashford Stud for a fee of $35,000. It is likely that Lucky will be named the Champion Three-Year-Old when the Eclipse Awards are announced in a couple of months. I think that will be a deserved victory since he more or less dominated the three-year-old proceedings after the Kentucky Derby.

Yes, Super Saver won the Kentucky Derby, but he never won another race after that and was soundly defeated by Lookin At Lucky in both the Preakness Stakes and the Haskell Invitational later in the summer at Monmouth Park. I make the argument that if Lookin At Lucky had not been absolutely demolished the first time past the stands in the Derby, he might have done better than his sixth-place finish. Considering the trauma that Lucky had to fight through to get there, his Derby might have been the second-best race on the day, second only to Ice Box, who also had a world of traffic troubles en route to running second to Super Saver.

Another seminal performance for Lookin At Lucky was the Indiana Derby at Hoosier Park. I realize that there really wasn't much in the way of competition for the Preakness winner running in the Hoosier State, but the effort was still tremendous as he overcame a horribly sloppy track and actually came from well off the pace to score a nifty victory. Lookin At Lucky was also a major player in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs, where he ran fourth. He was right in the midst of contention in the stretch before Blame and Zenyatta put on their show and Lucky probably should have been third, but Fly Down got by him late.

I admit I was late jumping on the Lookin At Lucky bandwagon. I tried like the dickens to beat him last year in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and just happened to settle on the right horse among the many possibilities in Godolphin's Vale Of York. He won at 30-1, but Lookin At Lucky came back after that second-place finish to win the CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park and clinch the Champion Two-Year-Old Colt honors. Lookin At Lucky will likely go down as the best of the three-year-olds this year and he certainly should. He had more staying power than Eskendereya, proved to be more versatile than Super Saver, and stood head and shoulders above the rest of the crowd.

Here is the link to watch Lookin At Lucky's 2010 Preakness victory: Tune in again tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Grade 3 $1,000,000 Delta Jackpot

The fine folks at Delta Downs in Vinton, Louisiana certainly know what they are doing when it comes to their showcase races. Not only do they offer the second-richest two-year-old race in the country two weeks after the richest one (The Breeders' Cup Juvenile), they had the forethought to move post time to the afternoon rather than run under the lights, as is their custom. Therefore, you give some of the top horsemen in the land options as to what to do at the end of the year and you all but guarantee the winner of the Grade 3 $1,000,000 Delta Jackpot a spot in the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby in May. Just look at the trainers who are sending horses to Louisiana for the Jackpot: Bob Baffert, Anthony Dutrow, Mark Casse, Kelly Breen, and Bruce Levine all have horses running at Delta Downs. Here is the analysis for the Grade 3 $1,000,000 Delta Jackpot:

I think that there might not be enough speed to challenge #6 Bug Juice in this race. He might just go to the front and never look back. His 91 Beyer Speed Figure from his last race at Finger Lakes is the best figure in the field and his work over the surface at Delta on November 17 was a three-furlong bullet. There is a lot to like with this gelding, including A.P. Indy on the Sire side, Javier Castellano in the saddle and an 8-1 morning-line. #4 Rush Now scored a win at the distance of 1 1/16 miles last time out in the Dover Stakes at Delaware Park. The Sire is two-time Breeders' Cup Classic winner, Tiznow. Robby Albarado rides and he also threw a recent bullet workout into the mix at Delaware on November 14. #9 Sweet Ducky won back-to-back minor stakes races at Monmouth Park this fall. His only non-victory came over the only wet track he has faced. In keeping with the apparent theme here, his last workout was also a bullet at Delta Downs on November 13. Jersey Joe Bravo joins the Garden State import for a try in the Bayou. Finally, I will wrap up the top four with #2 Classic Legacy. Yes, I know that Blue Laser (also in the field) beat him in the Grade 3 Grey Stakes at Woodbine (which was the race that produced Mine That Bird for his two-year-old championship season in Canada). I just happen to think that the Baffert trainee can make up the 3/4 of a length he was behind in the Grey. I also tend to favor the riding skills of Joe Talamo over Shaun Bridgmohan. Here is the play for the Grade 3 Delta Jackpot:

$5 WPS #6
$1 EX BOX 2-4-6-8-9
TOTAL- $35

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

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

And Zo It Ends...

Zenyatta, who just missed stretching her career win streak to a perfect 20 for 20 in the Breeders' Cup Classic by the slimmest of margins to Blame, has been retired and will be at Lane's End Farm starting in December. Zenyatta was very nearly a perfect racehorse. She joins Man O'War and Native Dancer and the great ones that have just that one blemish on their otherwise sterling records. Ironically enough, Zenyatta and Native Dancer both lost in the shadow of the Twin Spires at Churchill Downs.

So, now comes the deliberation. Where does Zenyatta rank on the list of all-time greats? Should she be Horse Of The Year for 2010? What was her impact on the sport? I am not sure about either of the first two questions, but allow me a shot at answering the third one. Her impact on Thoroughbred racing was such that we may never see the likes of it again. CBS's "60 Minutes" dedicated many of those minutes to Zenyatta and her team the week before the Classic. ESPN's ratings for the Breeders' Cup were driven to all-time levels for horse racing on that network due to her presence. Oprah named her one of the most influential ladies of the year. OPRAH!!! When Oprah is on your side, you have most definitely arrived. Some of her fans might have taken their love of this lady way too far, but you can most certainly say that Zenyatta's fans are among the most dedicated this sport has ever seen.

That, of course, is the hope that comes with any great horse that comes down the pike. Those fans that love them to the deepest degree, will that affection translate either to the sport as a whole or to the next superstar that comes along (maybe Uncle Mo in about five or six months)? Will those people carry that zealotry and help bring racing away from the brink? Maybe or maybe not, whatever the ultimate impact of Zenyatta is and whatever her place in history is, she took not only the Mosses, John Shirreffs, and Mike Smith for quite a ride, she took every last one of us for quite a ride. Enjoy your retirement, Zenyatta!!! Honestly, I don't know if anyone ever did it better.

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

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Grade 1 $250,000 Hollywood Turf Cup

Now that all the hullabaloo from the 27th Breeders' Cup World Championships is starting to dissipate, it is high time to get back to the business of trying to find a winner in the big races for this weekend. The race I selected is the Grade 1 $250,000 Hollywood Turf Cup with what appears to be a hyper-competitive group of eight going 1 1/2 miles. Here is the analysis:

My top choice in the Hollywood Turf Cup will be #7 Temple City. I expect there to be some pressure on the front end from a couple of the others in here, but he has hit the board twice in three lifetime grass starts at Hollywood Park and his last victory came at this distance, albeit over the polytrack at Del Mar in the Grade 3 Cougar II Handicap on July 30. By the way, Joe Talamo was aboard for that win and gets the ride again today. For second, I will go with #2 Treat Gently, who will likely be a lukewarm favorite in this race. She caught a wide trip in her last effort at Belmont in the Turf Classic and remained in contention until the bitter end, when she ended fourth. However, she was less than three lengths off the winner on that occasion. Her last workout at Hollywood covered three furlongs in 36 2/5 seconds. A mare taking on the boys here might be too much to ask as well. I am not sure what kind of race my third choice, #1 Worth Repeating, is going to run. Is he going to go to the front and open up a large margin like he did last time when he gave it up late to lose by a nose or is he going to sit just off the pace and try to rally late? He seemed adept at the latter until the Clement Hirsch, when he didn't fire and ended up seventh. Rafael Bejarano got this colt in-the-money the last four times they were paired together. Finally, I will use #5 Where's The Remote, who finished less than a length off of Champ Pegasus in the Hirsch. We all know that Champ Pegasus came back in the Breeders' Cup Turf to run a heck of a race to finish second to Dangerous Midge after setting the pace the whole way. Mike Smith gets the riding assignment. Here is the play for the Grade 1 Hollywood Turf Cup:

$5 WP #7
$1 EX BOX 1-2-7
$1 TRI 7 WITH 1-2-5-6
TOTAL- $34

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

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Gold Standard

We cannot overlook the most impressive accomplishment from the 2010 Breeders' Cup, even with all the hoopla from the dramatic Classic, the revelation that was Uncle Mo in the Juvenile and his Triple Crown chances going forward, and the unfortunate circumstances that have led to controversy with Life At Ten, who should not have run in the Ladies' Classic. No, the most impressive accomplishment from the 2010 Breeders' Cup is that we now have the single greatest performer in Breeders' Cup history right in our midst. Goldikova made it three in a row on Saturday with another epic victory in the Mile, becoming the first horse ever to win the same Breeders' Cup race in three consecutive years.

Her trainer, Freddie Head, has now been connected with the winner in five total Breeders' Cup Mile races. He was the jockey on the great Miesque in 1987 and 1988 when she went back-to-back in same race. Now, as a trainer, he has gone himself one better. Goldikova broke well in the Mile and settled into mid-pack on the outside. This was a departure from her win in 2009, when she came from well out of it to run down the rest of the field and win going away. This time, she was in the clear with a furlong to go and when rider Olivier Peslier asked to go, did she ever go? She absolutely flew past everyone in what many called the best overall field to go the post that day and won by about two lengths. She really could have called out whatever reasonable margin she wanted to and done that also.

Here is the best part of the story, folks. She is coming back to try in again in 2011. That's right, even after making history, her connections are coming back for more. Her owners waited to make sure she came out of the race OK and when they found out she did, they announced to the world that we will be able to see her try for a FOUR-PEAT in the Breeders' Cup Mile. Considering that she has only missed the top three in just one of her twenty-one starts and was the winner in fifteen of them, she certainly has given us a lot. I think we are just happy to still be able to take from her for another year. By the way, maybe Seth Hancock was right and the race for Horse Of The Year was won by Blame on Saturday night in the Classic, but I think there was another realistic candidate that had run just a couple of hours before and she now has won just one less Breeders' Cup race in her career than Blame has won just races this year. Goldikova would be a tremendous choice for Horse Of The Year, even if it was her only start in North America in 2010. She deserves it as much as anyone else.

Here is the link to watch Goldikova win her third straight Breeders' Cup Mile:
Tune in again tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now I am Gone.., GOODBYE!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Mine That Bird

The 2009 Kentucky Derby winner, Mine That Bird, was not one of the bigger stories on Saturday at the Breeders' Cup. He would end up finishing tenth in the Dirt Mile. It was his ninth consecutive defeat since that magical First Saturday In May, when he came from hopelessly out of the race to run past the entire field and win the Derby by 6 3/4 lengths at odds of 50-1. It now appears that Mine That Bird just happened to catch lightning in a bottle and happened to run his best three races of his career in a five-week span that encompassed the Triple Crown of 2009.

Remember, after his stunning victory at Churchill Downs, he very nearly corralled the Horse Of The Year, Rachel Alexandra, in the Preakness, falling just a length short. He was very much a factor in the Belmont Stakes in 2009 also, ending up third behind the Champion Three-Year-Old, Summer Bird. He was never able to recapture that glory again though and the losing streak began to become a problem for his connections. The owners, Double Eagle Ranch, made the crucial mistake of taking the horse away from trainer Chip Woolley and turning him over to D. Wayne Lukas. This came after the equally crucial mistake of taking the mount away from Derby-winning jockey, Calvin Borel. I understand how you can make hasty decisions in the midst of a pressure-packed losing streak, but sometimes patience is best used when it comes to a winning team that is not performing up to expectations. Keep in mind that the Yankees didn't start winning World Series titles again until George Steinbrenner hired Joe Torre as manager and then left him in that position for more than a decade.

The breakup of the Mine That Bird team also took away from the captivating story behind the horse. We all know about Woolley vanning the horse across the country to get to Kentucky on a broken leg and we all remember him hobbling around Churchill Downs on his crutches. Who can forget Calvin Borel becoming so emotional after his magnificent ride on the gelding in the Derby? Finally, those owners in the Winner's Circle looking just as shocked as everyone else in Kentucky that day was absolutely priceless. In case you want to know more about that story, by the way, there are stories floating around the Internet that there is a Mine That Bird movie in the works. The Canadian Press says that Jim Wilson, director of "Dances With Wolves", and Tony Mark, executive produced of "The Hurt Locker", are on board with the project. Plans are for the movie to go into pre-production in February.

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

Monday, November 08, 2010

That's Why It's A Classic

Where do I begin when talking about the 2010 Breeders' Cup Classic? Well, I guess I can state the obvious first. Zenyatta was defeated by a devastatingly narrow margin by Blame under the lights of Churchill Downs on Saturday in what must go down as the greatest Breeders' Cup Classic of all 27 that have been run. The rush of excitement that racing fans, non-racing fans, and anyone else that watched that race felt reverberated around the sporting world for the last two days. There were discussions about Zenyatta's loss on Around The Horn, Pardon The Interruption, Sportscenter, and other media outlets that normally treat horse racing as a leper that gets covered only as a last resort. Zenyatta and her performance were that transcendent. She ran her greatest race in the one race she did not win.

Let us not ignore the winner either. Blame held off quite possibly the greatest horse of the last ten years by digging in and gutting out a final furlong for the ages with everyone watching at the track and on television rooting for him to fail. I had winning tickets on Blame and I found myself rooting for the mare to make the special kind of history we all wanted her to. Blame will most likely be voted Horse Of The Year in light of the victory and also in light of the fact that he beat the horse that he will most likely be pitted against in the voting, however scant the margin. He was truly a champion in victory, even if Claiborne Farms' Seth Hancock did not distinguish himself in the post-race press conference by declaring Blame Horse Of The Year and almost being dismissive of Zenyatta and her tremendous effort.

That effort is what will make this Classic the most classic of all the Classics. The first time under the Twin Spires, it appeared that Zenyatta might have had a problem or something that might have caused her to be pulled up and out of the race. She was that far behind the rest of the Classic field. Jockey Mike Smith (who was as gracious in the post-race aftermath as Seth Hancock was not) called on Zenyatta to get into the action a little earlier than usual and she responded to his urging and clawed her way back into contention as the field moved on the far turn. By the time they hit mid-stretch, Blame and Zenyatta had put all of the competition behind them and had the race to themselves. The near-hysterical crowd was pleading with Zenyatta to get there and win and end her career as The Perfect Horse. She couldn't quite make it and settled for the lone second of her tremendous career. But, you know something, she finally was able to convince all the nay-sayers that she was one helluva racehorse with her character, grace, and magnificence in defeat.

It is hard to believe that Zenyatta will likely never be voted Horse Of The Year. She would have been a longshot candidate in 2008 when she won the Ladies' Classic and in 2009, she ran into the dream season of Rachel Alexandra. In 2010, she came as close as she would ever come and lost the award by a nose. She now becomes like Stirling Moss, who is considered one of the greatest drivers in Formula One history, but never won the F1 Championship. She now becomes like Rocket Richard, the Montreal Canadiens legendary goal-scoring ace, who never won an NHL scoring championship. She will probably never be Horse Of The Year, but she certainly has been the horse of the last three years and for me, that's good enough.

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

Friday, November 05, 2010

Saturday's Breeders' Cup Selections

Since I opened the blog yesterday, it only seems fair to give Martha Claussen the honors today, so:
My day began well with Eldaafer ($23) winning and ended with a nice victory by my top pick, Unrivaled Belle ($17). Of course, the big highlight of the day was Calvin Borel going "Bo-serk" in the winner's circle against one of my fave riders, Javier Castellano. It brought back fond memories of my days at Sam Houston when I was poised, microphone in hand, to do a post-race interview and barely missed getting knocked out in a slugfest between two riders. I certainly understand how emotions can run high, and have ALWAYS been vocal of my praise as jockeys as underrated athletes. Let's just pray that ESPN does not replay the Borel incident (another) 2 million times on Saturday. So, now it is on to Saturday.

The Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf
The Euro invaders didn't really show a whole heck of a lot on Friday, but I will stick with it and take #5 Master Of Hounds here. First-time Lasix and a most impressive Racing Post rating in the last Group 1 make him the choice. #9 Soldat has never been worse than second in four lifetime starts and got his only win in a Grade 3 with Alan Garcia in the irons.

I think the Todd Pletcher trainee Pluck might be sitting on a big race. He rallied for the win in a Grade 3 at Woodbine and has had a series of nice works at Churchill. European trainer John Gosden has won the last two editions of this stakes; his colt, Utley faced tough company at Longchamp on October 3; would be no surprise.

Pluck, Utley, Master of Hounds, Mantoba

The Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Sprint
Two of the last three Beyer figures for #5 Smiling Tiger have been in the 100s. He posted a bullet workout at Churchill Downs on October 30, going five furlongs in 58.3 seconds. Russell Baze was up for the win last out and gets the ride Saturday. #1 Big Drama finished within three lengths of Majesticperfection, who would have been the favorite here if he had stayed healthy. He also was within a length of hot horse Here Comes Ben, who goes later in the Dirt Mile.

West coast invader Smiling Tiger has two Grade 1 wins in the last four months and fired a bullet work at Churchill on October 30. Riley Tucker from the Steve Asmussen barn posted a 110 Beyer speed figure in his Churchill stakes win last May. Not too keen on the two favorites and remember that longshot Dancing in Silks ($52) won this last year.

Smiling Tiger, Riley Tucker, Atta Boy Roy, Big Drama

The Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint
#5 Silver Timber rallied to win the Grade 3 Woodford last time out. This will be his second start off the layoff. Also, eight of his thirteen lifetime wins have come at this distance. #11 Grand Adventure led at the five furlong point of the six furlong Nearctic at Woodbine on October 16. If you can get 12-1 on Grand Adventure, that is like stealing in this spot.

Rose Catherine takes on the boys today. Todd Pletcher trainee has been almost perfect in 2010 with five wins from six starts. Her running style is to take the lead and fly so if she is not at her best, closers Silver Timber, with Julian Leparoux aboard, or Woodbine shipper Grand Adventure have a shot.

Rose Catherine, Silver Timber, Grand Adventure, Quick Enough

The Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile
The favorite in this spot will be #7 Uncle Mo and he deserves the honor. If he runs up to either of his last two performances, he should be the winner. There will be some speed to challenge him here, but I just think he is faster than the rest. If he should falter in a pace battle, how about a juicy closing longshot with #9 Rogue Romance? Julien Leparoux has been hotter than anything on the track lately and gets the call on this Smarty Jones offspring going turf-to-dirt.

Who could forget the Godolphin longshot who won last year and paid $63? Most everyone as Vale of York never made it onto the Derby trail.. But they are back with the undefeated Biondetti once again with the unheralded jockey Ahmed Ajtebi in the irons. Will be interesting to see how another undefeated colt Murjan stakes up against this caliber of 2-year-olds. He has won his three races in Peru by a combined 27 lengths and will be ridden by top California jock, Rafael Bejarano.

Biondetti, Uncle Mo, Stay Thirsty, Murjan

The TVG Breeders' Cup Mile
I think this is clearly the best race on the card and as such, I will favor the horse that has been the best of the best the last two years, #10 Goldikova. She has won four of five starts in 2010 and ran second in the other race two back at Deauville. She will be the first three-time winner of any Breeders' Cup race if she pulls this one off. If she doesn't, I think the horse that ran second to her twice this year, #6 Paco Boy, gets a table-turning win here.

Two-time defending champion, Goldikova (IRE) is strictly the one to beat. She drew a wide post last year and was still able to split foes and get up just in time. Gio Ponti finished second to Zenyatta in the 2009 BC Classic. Clement trainee has won $4.6 million and multiple turf graded stakes; deserves respect. Going back to 2006, the last time the BC was held at Churchill Downs, Miesque's Approval ($50) defeated the Euros and maybe Get Stormy is the spoiler this year.

Goldikova, Gio Ponti, Sidneys Candy, Get Stormy

The Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile
#7 Thiskyhasnolimit ran second to Lookin At Lucky in the Grade 2 Indiana Derby over a sloppy track at Indiana Downs last time out and won the Smarty Jones at Philadelphia two races back. His only try at a mile came at Churchill Downs in the Grade 3 Iroquois and it was a victory. #2 Tizway is a son of two-time Breeders' Cup Classic winner, Tiznow. He posted a 105 Beyer last time out at Belmont in a win in the Grade 2 Kelso. In fact, all three 2010 Beyers have been in the 100s.

Two sons of BC Classic winner Tiznow stand out in the Dirt Mile. We all know that Nick Zito is most dangerous when he flies under the radar and he saddles Morning Line and Cool Coal Man. Morning Line dazzled at Saratoga and won his graded stake debut. Tizway was impressive in his Kelso victory on October 3.

Morning Line, Tizway, Here Comes Ben, Thiskyhasnolimit

The Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Turf
No winner of the Arc de Triomphe has ever returned after that win to win the Breeders' Cup Turf in the previous 26 runnings. I don't think it happens here either, but I will take the horse that ran fourth behind Workforce in #7 Behkabad. He won his prior two efforts at this distance at Longchamp in a Group 1 and Group 2. I also think that #2 Winchester deserves a long look in here. He always gives an honest effort and won the Grade 1 Turf Classic Invitational last time out at Belmont on October 2.

Debussy (IRE) from the barn of John Gosden did not run in the Arc de Triomphe like Workforce and Behkabad, but he did win the Grade 1 Arlington Million in the U.S. in August. The Arc winners are always short prices, and have not won the BC Turf to date, but with just eight horses in the field, Workforce could reverse that trend.

Debussy,Workforce, Behkabad, Telling

The Breeders' Cup Classic
I am going to be The Grinch and tell you that I don't think that Zenyatta is going to win here. I know I said that last year and she proved me wrong. You know what, I hope she proves me wrong again this year. I would love nothing more than for her to win. However, I will be betting on #5 Blame, who only had one misstep this season in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, when he ran second behind the pacesetter, who was able to steal away to an insurmountable lead on the far turn. That pacesetter was #3 Haynesfield, who could get a similar scenario in here in no one goes with him to the front. Quality Road might, but Quality Road also might freak out in the gate again like he did last year.

Zenyatta has been an inspiration and joy to watch. To complete her career with a perfect 20 for 20 enshrines her as one of the greatest of all time, and racing needs a heroine right now. I'll be rooting for her, but would be remiss in not reviewing some of the upsets in recent BC Classic history: Raven's Pass ($29) in 2008; Pleasantly Perfect ($30) in 2003 and Volponi ($89) in 2002. Tiznow was the last champion with back to back wins in 2000 and 2001. I can't identify a bonafide longshot to play, but think Lookin at Lucky could easily play the spoiler; big Beyers and Baffert.

Zenyatta, Lookin at Lucky, Blame, Haynesfield

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

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Friday Breeders' Cup Selections

It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year, so sang Andy Williams many years ago. Of course, Andy was referring to the holiday season. I am referring to the Breeders' Cup World Championships to be conducted on Friday and Saturday beneath the Twin Spires at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. Here are the selections for the Friday races from myself and They Are Off frequent contributor, Martha Claussen. I am following last year's lead and giving out two horses that I fancy in each race, while Martha is giving out four selections per race. Why the different approaches to the races? Well, Martha didn't want to limit herself to two horses per race, so there:

The Breeders' Cup Marathon
I will go with the Calvin Borel horse in here, #12 A.U. Miner. I think the longer the race, the better this horse will perform. It is also his second start off the layoff. #9 Bright Horizon won a two-mile race at The Curragh in Ireland as his last prep race before coming over to North America. I also think if they get any moisture in the track, it could benefit this Euro invader.

Could it be a repeat for Euro-trainer extraordinaire, Aidan O'Brien? He scored with Man of Iron ($14.80) last year in the Marathon and Bright Horizon (GB) could find similar good fortune this year at Churchill Downs. Prince Will I Am has won his last two with impressive closing kicks, but tacks on eight more pounds, so adding to the streak is no lock.

Bright Horizon, Prince Will I Am, Eldaafer, Precision Break

The Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf
#13 Together could have everything together for a win under John Murtaugh on Friday. She has not won since a Group 3 score at Leopardstown in July, but her last two races show improvement and I think her running style will assist her here. #8 Wyomia won a Grade 3 last time out and is working a two-race win streak entering this try. Rafael Bejarano gets the ride.

The morning line favorite, Winter Memories is undefeated for trainer James Toner, but there are many other price horses that match her talent. New Normal had a sharp five furlong drill at Woodbine and front-runner may rocket from the gate and hold off the closers. Ken McPeek had a tremendous Keeneland meet and his filly, Kathmanblu looks live at 10-1. Julian Leparoux is superb on the turf and this filly loves to come off the pace.

New Normal, Kathmanblu, Wyomia,Winter Memories

The Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Filly And Mare Sprint
This is where I think all hell is going to break loose on Friday afternoon. My top choice in here with be 20-1 morning-line choice, #9 Switch. She is one of the several horses to give the great Zenyatta all she could handle this year. She also has been working tremendously at Churchill Downs. If it comes up wet as expected, I think that a 30-1 shot, #6 Moontune Missy, could be a surprise winner. She scored a win in the slop at six furlongs at Belmont Park in late September.

Defending champion Informed Decision returns but seems to do her best running on synthetic surfaces. Rightly So is a seven furlong specialist, and despite the outside post, she looks tough. Switch looks sneaky good for trainer John Sadler. She ran second to Zenyatta in the Lady's Secret; if she can run as well on dirt as synthetic, she could be a huge price.

Rightly So, Switch, Informed Decision, Moontune Missy

The Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies
I am looking for a Frankie Dettori flying dismount after #2 Theyskens' Theory wins this race on Friday afternoon. I think she will be the speed of any speed in this spot and she is also exceptionally well-bred. #12 Tell A Kelly should be flying towards the end of this one. I am sort of discounting the loss in the Oak Leaf after she was in trouble most of the way. There is a rider change to Calvin Borel on Friday.

Just have a feeling that Canadian trainer Mark Casse could have a really good showing at Churchill Downs. His filly, Delightful Mary ran a game second in a Grade III at Woodbine and check out the bullet work at Churchill on October 25. Theyskens' Theory ran in a Group 1 at Ascot and gets Lasix for her US debut with Frankie Dettori aboard. Interesting!

Delightful Mary, Theyskens' Theory, A Z Warrior, Jordy Y

The Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Filly And Mare Turf
I backed #7 Midday as the winner of this race last year and I am doing it again this year. She won three straight before stopping her schedule to come over to North America. All of those races were Group 1s, by the way. I think that 8-1 is very generous on #3 Miss Keller in this spot. She has a win and a second in her last two over the E.P. Taylor Turf Course at Woodbine.

Defending champion Midday is one talented turf mare. She has bankrolled $2 million and won her last three Group 1 stakes in Europe. Miss Keller has been impressive for trainer Roger Attfield and gets the riding services of my fave turf jock, Javier Castellano

Midday, Miss Keller, Plumania, Keertana

The Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic
Much as I hate to admit, I think this race is likely to be a chalk-fest. My top selection will be #1 Life At Ten. I think she has been the most impressive performer at the end of the season with her only loss coming in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign at 1 1/4 miles. She won't be going that far here. #10 Blind Luck was the star early in the season with a victory in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill earlier this year.

This is a tough race and I am not sure that the favorite Blind Luck, can overcome her far outside post. Unrivaled Belle bested Rachel Alexandra at Churchill and could be sitting on another good effort for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. Acoma, at 20-1, could pull the upset. Mare is a million dollar earner, is two for two at Churchill and reunites with the resurgent Robby Albarado.

Unrivaled Belle, Blind Luck, Acoma, Life at Ten

Remember, They Are Off is not responsible for any wagers placed in conjunction with these wagers. They are merely suggestions. Tune in again tomorrow for a look at the Saturday Breeders' Cup races. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The 1986 Breeders' Cup Classic

1986 was maybe the greatest year in sports we have ever seen. The Chicago Bears completed their greatest season ever with a 46-10 shellacking of the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX. Jack Nicklaus shot 65 on Sunday to come from way back to win The Masters at age 46. Bill Shoemaker also managed to turn back the clock one more time and score a fourth Derby victory aboard Ferdinand (who is the last horse to win the Derby from the #1 post position). The baseball playoffs were unbelievable from the get go, with the Red Sox one strike away from elimination rallying to win the American League Championship Series over snakebitten Gene Mauch and the California Angels. The Mets and Astros engaged in maybe the greatest baseball game ever played in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series to send the Mets to the World Series, where they then defeated the Red Sox after being one strike away from elimination themselves.

Ferdinand would have his moment in the Breeders' Cup sun one year later in 1987. However, in 1986 the Breeders' Cup made its first journey to the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains in California and beautiful Santa Anita Park. The actual star of the day would turn out to be Lady's Secret, winner of the Distaff. She would be voted Horse Of The Year in 1986 following her win in the Distaff, which came after wins in the Ruffian, Beldame, Whitney. Molly Pitcher, and Shuvee. It was an incredible season for Lady's Secret, but she still had to hold off Turkoman for the honors. Turkoman had won the Oaklawn Handicap, The Marlboro Cup, and the Widener leading up to the Cup. If he would have won the Classic, he might have been able to take Horse Of The Year away from the Distaff winner. Turkoman would have to settle for second in the Breeders' Cup Classic, as Laffit Pincay Jr. gave us a demonstration of top-notch race riding. He sent lightly considered Skywalker to the front and then settled back to let Herat set the pace, but Skywalker was never more than a length away from the lead. Once Skywalker took the lead, the horse never looked back. Skywalker won by a length and a half from Turkoman and third place went to the 1985 Sprint Champion, the versatile Precisionist. Turkoman would still be named Champion Older Male Horse in 1986.

It would be the greatest moment in the career of Skywalker, who was named for Star Wars hero, Luke Skywalker, by the son of the owner. He would win eight of twenty starts in his career, compiling earnings of $2,226,750. If you would like to watch Skywalker's victory in the 1986 Breeders' Cup Classic, here is the link:

Tune in to They Are Off tomorrow for Friday's Breeders' Cup selections. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Before We Forget...

Yes, I know that the big news of the day is the draw for all the Breeders' Cup races. I will comment quickly that I didn't think much of the draw Quality Road got in the Classic. He will likely load first and have to wait in the gate while the remainder of the field will load. If you remember last year's Classic, Quality Road freaked out during his load and had to be scratched. Hopefully, he will be better behaved this year, but that wait in the gate might prove costly.

Anyway, on to the news I meant to discuss before everyone gets too hysterical over the Breeders' Cup (and believe me, I am already searching for oxygen having to wait three more days), Super Saver has been retired. The 2010 Kentucky Derby winner, trained by Todd Pletcher, has been retired to stud at WinStar Farm. He joins 2009 winner Mine That Bird as a Derby winner unable to win another race following his triumph in the Run For The Roses. While Mine That Bird will go in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile this weekend, Super Saver is getting ready to pass along his genes to a new generation.

Super Saver finished eighth in the Preakness and fourth in the Haskell following his Derby triumph. Clearly, he was not the same horse in those two starts that he was in the Derby. Was it the injury that forced him to retire or was Super Saver just a fluke winner of the Derby because of the wet track that day that prevented him from returning to the Winner's Circle? Was Mine That Bird or Super Saver a bigger fluke winner of the Derby? I will say that Mine That Bird did run well following his Derby score, he just hasn't returned to the Winner's Circle and he might never. We know for a fact that Super Saver never will. We are left to wonder whether or not Super Saver would even be a Derby winner if it hadn't rained like the Amazon Rainforest over Kentucky on the First Saturday in May. Who knows? What we do know is that Super Saver has moved on, and like Rachel Alexandra before him this year, we will wait to see if he can pass along his ability to his progeny.

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

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Grade 3 $100,000 Bold Ruler Handicap

Bold Ruler is best remembered today as the Sire of the greatest Thoroughbred of all time, Secretariat. As pointed out in the recently released film, "Secretariat", Bold Ruler's progeny had a reputation for not being able to last classic distance, that is until Big Red came along. The horses running in the Grade 3 Bold Ruler Handicap won't have to worry about that on Saturday at Belmont Park, since the distance is only seven furlongs. Here is the analysis:

I will put #3 Wildcat Brief in the top spot in here. He ran 3rd in the Grade 1 Vosburgh behind Girolamo and Riley Tucker, both of whom are running in the Breeders' Cup Sprint next weekend. He previous race was a win in an ungraded stakes race at Monmouth. Plus, he has a bullet work at Monmouth on October 25, covering a half-mile in 48.1 seconds. Elvis Trujillo was up for the win in New Jersey and will ride again here. #2 Tahitian Warrior is a Godolphin horse that has never run in a Graded stakes race before. His last three efforts produced Beyer speed figures in the 100s and two of those were at today's distance of seven furlongs. He also has never been worse than second in three starts over the enormous oval at Belmont Park. The venerable #1 Bribon gets consideration for the third spot here. Expect him to make his patented run once they get close to the conclusion of the far turn. My only issue is that the top pick might just get first run on him in this one. John Velazquez is one of the best in the business. This gelding also loves Belmont, hitting the board in eight of nine lifetime starts at this track. I will put #6 Temecula Creek in the fourth position with Edgar Prado at the controls. He finished fourth in the Vosburgh behind the top pick and the value for this one at 12-1 on the morning-line makes him one you cannot leave out. Here is the play for the Grade 3 Bold Ruler Handicap:

$5 WP #3
$1 EX BOX 1-2-3-6
TOTAL- $22

What do you expect? You have to save some money for the Breeders' Cup next week, don't you? Remember, They Are Off does not accept any responsibility for any wagers placed in conjunction with these selections. They are merely suggestions. Tune in again next week for a full look at the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The 2005 Breeders' Cup Turf

Going into the 2005 Breeders' Cup Turf at Belmont Park, there were several horses that were well-considered including the 2004 champion, Better Talk Now, the Irish-based favorite Ace, Shakespeare, who had won the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic over the Belmont turf earlier in the year. The horse I myself fancied was 20-1 on the morning-line and that was Shirocco. Shirocco was trained by Andre Fabre, who pulled off the greatest upset in Breeders' Cup history with Arcangues in the 1993 Classic at over 100-1. Shirocco had finished fourth in the Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp in France earlier in the year and in the process had finished behind Bago, who would also cross the Atlantic after a third-place finish in the Arc. By the way, Bago had won the Arc the year before also.

Apparently, I wasn't the only one who fancied Shirocco because he was bet down from that juice 20-1 morning-line to a more pedestrian 8-1 at post time. Shirocco settled in second behind the pacesetting rabbit Shake The Bank early on in the process. Shake The Bank was supposed to be setting testing fractions up front so defending champion Better Talk Now could come sweeping up from the back of the pack, which he had done at Lone Star Park in 2004. However, once Shake The Bank stopped after building up the big lead he was supposed to have, Shirocco was there to take over the lead and he never gave it up. In fact, he wasn't even given a big challenge from anyone once he took over. Jockey Christophe Soumillion drove him through the stretch and Shirocco won by a nifty two lengths.

Shirocco would be voted German Horse Of The Year in 2005. For his career, he would win seven of thirteen starts, earning a total of $2,477,588. If you would like to watch the 2005 Breeders' Cup Turf victory by Shirocco, here is the link: Tune in again tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


That is the new record number of pre-entries for the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships to be held Friday, November 5 and Saturday, November 6 at Churchill Downs in Kentucky.

Of course, the full list does not get released by the Breeders' Cup head honchos until tomorrow, but that record number will, of course, include the creme de la creme of international racing. Already known in the pre-entries are obvious candidates like the defending Classic champion, Zenyatta, the two-time defending Mile champion, Goldikova, the winner of this year's Arc de Triomphe and Epsom Derby, Workforce, Preakness winner, Lookin At Lucky, and Champagne Stakes and likely Juvenile favorite, Uncle Mo.

One horse you will not see on the list of entries is Cost Of Freedom, who so very nearly won the Sprint last year, only to be collared by Dancing In Silks (who also will not be participating in the Sprint this year) in the shadow of the wire. Cost Of Freedom's connections are opting instead for the California Cup Sprint at Hollywood Park on Saturday in what they are calling a more conservative option.

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

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Grade 2 $250,000 Raven Run

Keeneland will be wrapping up their fall racing season shortly and racing will not return to Lexington until next spring when Derby Fever is heating up all over the landscape. There is a very competitive seven-furlong sprint on the program on Saturday in the Grade 2 Raven Run, featuring a field of fourteen. Here is the analysis:

My top choice in this field will be #11 Kitty In A Tizzy, an offspring of two-time Breeders' Cup Classic winner, Tiznow. The James Bond trainee has a win and two seconds in three tries over the polytrack at Woodbine. Chantal Sutherland was aboard for all of those Woodbine races and gets the call once again here. By the way, two of those three races were at today's elongated sprint distance of seven furlongs. There seems to be a lot to like in this 8-1 shot. For second, I will use #9 Beautician, who gets red-hot Julien Leparoux in the irons here. Earlier this year, she participated in the Kentucky Oaks and ran a credible fourth behind Blind Luck. Her only 2010 victory came at seven furlongs in an Allowance spot at Saratoga on August 29. She also liked the Keeneland surface in a recent workout, covering five furlongs in 59.3 seconds. The addition of blinkers on Saturday could be a key for #8 Red Hot Buddha. She has missed the board in her two previous attempts with graded company, including a fifth last time out in Presque Isle Masters on September 11. Her style might play a factor in whether or not she is a contender here. There might be plenty of speed in this field that might not last a long time. She could be among the first to strike once the speed collapses. For fourth, let's try a 10-1 shot in #12 My Irish Girl. She has not been to the track since a win at Monmouth in the Miss Woodford in August. The Sire is Closing Argument, who came so close to winning the Derby five years ago. The one hesitation with her is that this will be her first appearance on a synthetic surface, be it in a race or a listed workout. Here is the play for the Grade 2 Raven Run:

$5 WP #11
$1 EX BOX 8-9-11-12-13
$1 TRI 9-11 with 9-11 with 8-12-13
TOTAL- $36

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

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The 2000 Breeders' Cup Distaff

The Distaff division (I refuse to call it the Ladies' Classic unless I have to) has always provided some excitement to Breeders' Cup Day. Actually, the last several years it has provided excitement to Breeders' Cup Friday, ever since they expanded Racing's Greatest Day to Racing's Very Good Two Days. If you look at the list of champions in the Distaff, you will find a cornucopia of champions including Princess Rooney, Life's Magic, Bayakoa, Paseana, Azeri, Ashado, and of course, Zenyatta. You will also find (like any Breeders' Cup race) your share of surprising winners like One Dreamer, Jewel Princess, and last year's Life Is Sweet.

However, no winner of the Distaff was quite the surprise that Spain was in 2000. Firstly, it must be remembered that the defending champion, Beautiful Pleasure, was part of that field, as was Surfside, Heritage Of Gold and Riboletta. It certainly was not a sluggish bunch of challengers, nor was it the most outstanding field in Distaff history. Surfside and Beautiful Pleasure certainly were prominent throughout the race. Surfside set the pace and while Beautiful Pleasure did apply some pressure at various points of the race, she could not defend her championship. Meanwhile, jockey Victor Espinoza had Spain well-positioned throughout the race, down on the rail and forwardly placed. Therefore, when Surfside tired from setting the pace, Spain was there and able to roll up the rail to take the lead at the top of the stretch and was never really challenged the rest of the way home. She more or less cruised through the stretch and won nicely by two lengths. She paid a remarkable 50-1 for her victory, remarkable because she was trained by D. Wayne Lukas and owned by Prince Ahmed bin Salman's Thoroughbred Corporation. Those two names usually resulted in payoffs just slightly less than 50-1 back in 2000.

The 2000 Distaff was the biggest win of Spain's career, although she retired as the richest mare in North American history. Overall, she won nine of 35 starts and hit the board sixteen other times for a total earnings of $3,540,542. If you would like to watch the 2000 Breeders' Cup Distaff, here is the link:

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

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Dubai Defectors

The sparkling new Meydan Race Course in Dubai was hailed by one and all as a massive success this past spring, a season that culminated with Gloria De Campeo winning one of the more exciting renditions of the Group 1 Dubai World Cup we have ever seen. The Tapeta racing surface is a synthetic, but it was developed by the "Mad Genius" himself, Michael Dickinson, and is generally considered to be the most satisfactory of those synthetic surfaces normally detested by one and all.

One of those who have come out and mentioned that profound dislike for synthetic surfaces recently is trainer Bob Baffert, who has been more inclined to head eastward rather than remain in California and run on those state-mandated synthetic surfaces in the Golden State. One of Baffert's current prized pupils is Richard's Kid, who clearly has a fondness for the synthetics, having won back-to-back versions of the Pacific Classic over the polytrack at Del Mar and the Goodwood this season over the Pro-Ride at Santa Anita. Baffert had been working Richard's Kid toward the Breeders' Cup Classic, to be run over the dirt at Churchill Downs on November 6. Those plans changed abruptly when the owner of Richard's Kid, Sheikh al-Maktoum, decided that he wanted the horse returned to Dubai to be prepared for a winter and spring of racing over there.

Another runner that had some promise on the synthetic surface in California in 2009 was Twice Over. He ran third behind Zenyatta and Gio Ponti in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita last autumn. He preceded that third-place finish with a win in the Group 1 Champion Stakes at Newmarket. Twice Over repeated that win in the Champion Stakes over the weekend, but he will not be coming west for the Breeders' Cup. Instead, he will go east and head to Dubai to rest for a while and begin prepping for the Dubai World Cup at Meydan.

The Classic field still remains one that could be legendary, even without the presence of Richard's Kid and Twice Over. Remember, that you still have Blame, Quality Road, Lookin At Lucky, and of course, the defending champion, Zenyatta. They all appear ready to give us a show for the ages on November 6. It just seems that we might be missing out on even more quality in that field with these two late defections. After all, who doesn't want to see the best run with the best?

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