Friday, May 28, 2010

The Grade 2 $150,000 Vagrancy Handicap

Belmont Park has an interesting feature race on the Saturday program this week, one week out from the Belmont Stakes. The Grade 2 Vagrancy features a field of seven going 6 1/2 furlongs and there seems to be more speed in this race than will be at the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday. Literally, there could be six of the seven horses in the field battling it out for the lead by the time they reach the far turn. With that being said, here are the selections:

Of course, I will pick the one horse I don't think factors into the speed in this race and that is #2 Hour Glass. She seems to prefer coming off the pace and with everyone else gunning for the front, she might just sit back of everything and strike at the perfect time and with the extra half-furlong in the sprint distance, she should also have time to get things done. I will put the horse that beat her in the Grade 2 Distaff Handicap at Aqueduct in second with #3 Tar Heel Mom. That win in the mud at Aqueduct came with Ramon Dominguez aboard. Alan Garcia is reclaiming the ride on the mare today and he could only manage two seconds at Gulfstream with her this winter. She might be versatile enough to go quick early and then again, she might also sit back a bit. Regardless, I think the #2 will have her measure on Saturday. #4 Malibu Prayer is my third choice with John Velazquez riding. She is riding a two-race win streak into Saturday, but she has been away from the races since last November. This could be a tough spot for a speedball to come back after such a layoff. She could very easily get caught short. Finally, I will put #7 Saarlight in fourth. She is making the 2nd start off the layoff and has been 2nd in both previous attempts at Belmont, although both were over muddy surfaces. Eibar Coa gets the ride. Here is the play for the Grade 2 $150,000 Vagrancy Handicap:

$20 WIN #2
$5 EX BOX #2+ #3
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, May 27, 2010

So Close

There have been many near misses of a Triple Crown since Affirmed held off Alydar in 1978. However, there was never a closer call than 1998 when Real Quiet and Victory Gallop completed their epic trilogy of races with the most epic finish of them all. The Belmont Stakes that year featured a field of eleven runners, but there were only two in the group that really mattered. Real Quiet had won the Kentucky Derby despite being considered Bob Baffert's other horse that year behind Derby favorite, Indian Charlie. Victory Gallop chased him home in both the Derby and the Preakness. Had the results stayed the same the third time, Real Quiet would have been the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed and Victory Gallop won have become the second horse (other than Alydar) to finish second in each of the three races.

There was a whole lot on the line here, Baffert had come very close to winning the Triple Crown just the year before with Silver Charm, generally considered to be a better horse than Real Quiet. Nevertheless, he also finished second to Touch Gold in the Belmont Stakes. Gary Stevens had ridden Silver Charm and Kent Desormeaux was aboard Real Quiet in 1998. Some of the "experts" came to believe that Desormeaux moved just a little early aboard Real Quiet in the Belmont and ended up costing the horse the race, since he lost by just a nose to Victory Gallop.

It was also later believed that the stewards in New York would have disqualified Real Quiet behind Victory Gallop for interference. While that might be the case, I would be led to believe that those stewards would have to have had more guts than a squadron of Navy SEALS to disqualify a Triple Crown winner after the racing world had waited twenty years for a Triple Crown winner for what might have passed for "interference" in this case. Personally, I admit I was never a fan of Real Quiet and would always have considered him 12th on the list of twelve Triple Crown winners, but that would not have been the way to deny him a Triple Crown. I am glad he ended up getting beat, rather than having his number taken down. Everyone who invokes the purity of the Triple Crown when discussing the intervals between the races would have had to make some argument about purity if Real Quiet would have been denied by three people in the press box, rather than by his challengers on the racetrack.

You can watch the 1998 Belmont Stakes with this link:

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

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

On The Road

If you checked out the blog comments to yesterday's post, tencentcielo mentioned the presence of Quality Road in the race for Horse Of The Year this year, in addition to the horse I said could win it in a walkover, Zenyatta. Well, we will have the next test for Quality Road's candidacy coming up on Memorial Day Monday with The Grade 1 $500,000 Met Mile at Belmont Park.

Quality Road took a major step toward next Monday this morning with a blistering five-furlong workout at Belmont Park, going the distance in 59.66 seconds. Monday's race will be Quality Road's first effort since the destruction of the Donn Handicap field on February 6 by over twelve lengths. By the way, Quality Road galloped out six furlongs in 1:12.99, according to

The story on the Racing Form website also mentioned some of the possible competition for Quality Road on Monday. Among the names listed, the two that stood out to me were Kensei and Warrior's Reward. I still don't think there will be much in the field to worry trainer Todd Pletcher. Possibly, the others will be hoping for either a letdown after such a lengthy layoff or a meltdown like the one Quality Road had before the Breeders' Cup Classic. Otherwise, it could be another devastating step forward for maybe the best older male horse in training right now.

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

Monday, May 24, 2010

Leading Ladies

The two finalists for Horse Of The Year were both back in action this morning, workout-wise. Let's discuss the leader in the clubhouse for Horse Of The Year in 2010, Zenyatta, first. Zenyatta worked in company with a maiden today, covering six furlongs in 1:13 flat at Hollywood Park. This time actually bettered her last six-furlong work last Monday, when she went six furlongs in 1:13.20. Everything seems to be in order for Zenyatta to dazzle the racing world again when she goes gateward in the Grade 1 Vanity Handicap on June 13.

As for the 2009 Horse Of The Year, Rachel Alexandra, she also worked out on Monday morning at Churchill Downs. She covered five furlongs in 1:00.40, which is considered an improvement over her more recent Monday morning workouts. The story on the work even flat out says, "Rachel Alexandra Picks Up The Pace". This time was significantly better than the five furlongs she went on May 17 in an almost dull time of 1:04.20. Where Rachel Alexandra will run next is still up in the air, but that story mentions that she could be pointed to the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap or the Grade 2 Fleur De Lis Handicap, both to be run on June 12.

I discussed the Horse Of The Year race numerous times on this blog last year and had many spirited discussions with friends of mine and co-workers at Turf Paradise over who should have won the award last year. I still feel Rachel Alexandra was the better horse in 2009 and did more to prove her case over the course of the year, not just on one day in the autumn. However, right now, Zenyatta is so far in front of the field for Horse Of The Year in 2010 that if she remains perfect (right now, she is 16 for 16), I don't see any way Rachel Alexandra can catch her for Horse Of The Year, even if Rachel starts another epic streak herself. As a matter of fact, I don't see any way anyone else can catch her for Horse Of The Year either. The final voting might just be a walkover.

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

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Grade 2 $150,000 Sheepshead Bay

Saturday presents us with one of those ever-interesting very long turf races over the Belmont Inner Turf Course. The Grade 2 $150,000 Sheepshead Bay will be run for the 52nd time and there is a very competitive field of eight taking part. Here are the selections:

I will put #6 Bubbly Jane in the first spot. She has some very strong speed figures compared to the rest of this field. While this will be her 2010 debut effort, she is removing blinkers here and is also 2 for 2 over this Belmont turf course. She also has plenty of experience running these longer distance turf races in her career, which includes six wins from ten starts. For second, I will use a price horse with #1 Pari, who is 10-1 on the morning line. I really think Jon Court might be able to steal this race on the front end, if he is smart with this Sky Classic filly. In her last start at Keeneland, she led all the way at 1 1/2 miles and this race is a furlong shorter. It is entirely possible that no one will go with her and she could make an easy lead. I will put the Barclay Tagg-trained #5 Nehantic Kat in the third spot. Her last time out in the Grade 3 Bewitch at Keeneland was arguably her worst race in the last two years. She has not picked up a win since the 2009 Saratoga meet, but is 6 for 8 in-the-money over this Belmont greenery. I will wrap up the top four with #3 Tarrip, trained by Christophe Clement. There are two Clement trainees in this field and this one offers a better price at 12-1 on the morning line, so she gets included. Here is the play for the Grade 2 $150,000 Sheepshead Bay:

$5 WP #6
$5 EX BOX #1+ #6
TOTAL- $20

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

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Moving On

2009 Kentucky Derby winner, Mine That Bird, is leaving the barn of trainer Chip Woolley and is on his way back to Kentucky where he will be placed in the barn of D. Wayne Lukas. Woolley, of course, will always be remembered for that Derby win, which also happened to be the last victory of Mine That Bird's career thus far. Woolley transporting the horse by van from New Mexico to Kentucky with a broken leg and then hobbling around Churchill Downs on crutches will be one of the greatest stories in the history of the Derby, especially given Mine That Bird's 50-1 odds in the wagering.

However, as I said, Mine That Bird has not won since the First Saturday In May 2009 despite some very strong efforts. He ran second behind Horse Of The Year, Rachel Alexandra, in the Preakness. He ran third behind eventual three-year-old champion, Summer Bird, in the Belmont. He then ran third in the West Virginia Derby behind Soul Warrior and a ridiculous pace set-up against which the horse really had no chance. His trip to Southern California for the Breeders' Cup resulted in two off-the-board results on a synthetic surface he clearly didn't care for. He has not been to the racetrack for a race since the Breeders' Cup letdown.

According to the story on the move, Mine That Bird's co-owner, Leonard Blach, said when asked about the move, "I don't know how to answer that." Allow me to take a stab at it for Mr. Blach. He and his co-owner, Mark Allen, have gotten caught up with the star power of a new trainer and took a relatively successful trainer-horse combination and broken it up. D. Wayne Lukas appeared to be in the middle of a resurgence in his career with Dublin being a viable Triple Crown contender, but the fact remains that he has not won a Triple Crown race since 2000, when Commendable won the Belmont, and he has not won a Breeders' Cup race since 2005, when Folklore won the Juvenile Fillies. Moving Mine That Bird to his stable appears to me to be a wild stab by both the owners and the new trainer to recapture past glory. Sometimes, when you make a wild stab at glory, you fail to recognize the glory you already were a part of.

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

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


With the celebration that surrounded Lookin At Lucky's victory in the Preakness this weekend, it should not be forgotten that Thoroughbred racing has lost two of its greatest champions within the past few days.

Skip Away, the 1996 three-year-old champion, champion older horse in 1997 and 1998 and Horse Of The Year in 1998, died on Friday as a result of a heart attack at the age of 17. Skip Away, owned by Carolyn Hine and trained by her husband, Sonny Hine, is still the third-highest earnings Thoroughbred in racing history. He ranks behind Curlin and Cigar on the list with $9,616,360. While he did not win any of the Triple Crown races in his career (he always seemed to run terribly at Churchill Downs and was second in both the Preakness and Belmont), Skip Away's crowning victory came in the 1997 Breeders' Cup Classic at Hollywood Park, which he won by a dominating six lengths in a time of 1:59.1. To watch Skip Away's 1997 Classic victory, here is the link:

The second champion to pass away in recent days was Snow Chief, who won the Preakness in 1986 and was named the three-year-old champion that same year. He also died of a heart attack on Saturday, the day of the Preakness, at the age of 27. Snow Chief won six Grade 1 races during his career. In addition to the Preakness, he won four Derbies during his three-year-old season (El Camino Real, Florida, Santa Anita, Jersey), but in the big one, like Skip Away, Snow Chief did not have it, finishing 11th as the betting choice at Churchill Downs. Snow Chief ended up earning $3,383,210 in his career and won 13 of 24 lifetime starts.

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

Monday, May 17, 2010

Finally Lucky!!!

The 2009 Juvenile Champion, Lookin At Lucky, didn't have to worry about post position draws, getting slammed into the rail, jumping shadows on the backstretch, or Middle Eastern invaders stealing his thunder on Saturday in Baltimore. He more than lived up to the billing and won the middle jewel of the Triple Crown, the 2010 Preakness.

The Preakness was the first pairing of Lookin At Lucky and jockey Martin Garcia by trainer Bob Baffert, who won his FIFTH Preakness as a conditioner on Saturday. Prior to Saturday, Lookin At Lucky had been ridden by Garrett Gomez, who ended up with the ride aboard Dublin and he had to work hard with that one to finish fifth after a severe right turn directly at the start. There were no excuses for Lookin At Lucky this time. I have said many times on this blog that he might be the worst-named horse ever because the one thing he wasn't was lucky. There was no need for luck in the 135th Preakness. Lookin At Lucky made a tremendous move around the turn to take control of the race in the stretch and then fended off the challenges of First Dude, who had set the sizzling pace that did in the Derby winner, Super Saver, Jackson Bend, who will now have his turn with the excuses because he was the unlucky one Saturday, and longshot Yawanna Twist.

On Jackson Bend, he appeared to be well-positioned by jockey Mike Smith up the backstretch to pounce on First Dude and Super Saver once the speedsetters faded back into the field. However, while Super Saver did, First Dude didn't. As a result, Smith had to move Jackson Bend all over the place in the stretch to get some room and by the time he did, it was too late and third was the best he could do.

While it was a tremendous Preakness, there is a tinge of melancholy with it given the announcement by both Bob Baffert and Todd Pletcher that their horses will go no further in the Triple Crown. Neither Lookin At Lucky nor Super Saver will advance to New York to run in the 1 1/2 mile Belmont Stakes. While I cannot say I am surprised, I can say I am disappointed. First Dude, the Preakness runner-up, will go to New York and Nick Zito will bring back Ice Box from his runner-up spot in the Derby. Last time I checked, the Belmont Stakes was supposed to be the "Test Of Champions" not the "Test of Runners-up".

This situation has already heightened the call that the Triple Crown needs to be altered as far as the space between the races. I have long been an advocate for running the races on the first Saturdays of May, June, and July. The sport has changed to the point where these horses are just not created or trained anymore to be successful with the three longest races they will likely ever run coming within a five-week span. Those who like things the way they are, well, I cordially disagree. Horse racing needs celebrities now more than ever. Whatever we can do to further promote the game and make it possible for our champions to run is what we have to do. I have a fairly good notion that one of the two winners of the Triple Crown races might at least be entertaining the idea of going to Belmont now, rather than just automatically dismiss it.

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

Photo courtesy of

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Grade 1 $1,000,000 Preakness

The middle jewel of the ever-elusive Triple Crown takes place on Saturday and what you have here is only five participants in a wide-open Derby electing to come back two weeks later and take part and seven new shooters. Of course, among those coming back is the winner of the Derby, Super Saver. Will he be the latest horse to win the first two legs of the Crown? It has not happened since Big Brown in 2008. Here are the selections for the 135th running of the Preakness:

I am nothing if not a believer in my own convictions. Of course, if you wagered on #6 Jackson Bend after I selected him in the Derby, you might think I should be convicted. I am going to stick to it one more time and select him to win the Preakness. The things I saw that I liked heading into Louisville are still applicable. Don't forget, Zito has done the Preakness comeback thing before after a Derby disappointment with Louis Quatorze in 1996. He worked a sizzling 4F on May 10 in 46 seconds and I really think the slick track at Churchill Downs hurt him more than almost anybody. I will go with #7 Lookin At Lucky second. Bob Baffert made the rider change and dumped Garrett Gomez after the sixth-place finish in the Derby, which really was not all that bad a result given the horrors of the trip he got on Derby Day. The 2009 Juvenile Champion might just return to form and pop a big effort on Preakness Day. It certainly shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone if he did. #8 Super Saver comes next on my list of contenders. I really didn't love him entering the Derby and while it was a tremendous victory, I am really not in love with him here either. Calvin Borel might just try to go and take control of a paceless race and lead all the way to the wire. It certainly could happen, but two things to keep in mind are that Borel has yet to follow up any of the three Derby wins he has had in the last four years with a Preakness victory and Todd Pletcher usually doesn't like to run horses on such a quick turnaround like the two weeks between the Derby and Preakness. Those points could be major factors on Saturday. Finally, I will wrap the top four with #2 Schoolyard Dreams. He is another one in here with a sizzling recent workout (5F in 59.3 at Monmouth) and he did finish ahead of Super Saver in the Tampa Bay Derby. He has never been worse than fourth in his career thus far. Here is the play for the Grade 1 $1,000,000 Preakness:

$5 WIN #6
$1 EX BOX 2-6-7-8-12
$1 TRI BOX 2-6-7-8
TOTAL- $49

Remember, 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!

Thursday, May 13, 2010


You know, if you are looking for an intriguing longshot in the 135th running of the Preakness on Saturday afternoon, there is certainly one lurking in the field. He defeated Super Saver in a start two races back in what was maybe the best finish of the entire prep season. While he didn't have enough graded earnings to get into the Derby, it is probably for the best that he didn't go, because the Preakness might be better suited to him anyway. Given that there is an absence of any pace in the race (I half expect Borel to send Super Saver and try to steal it on the front end if he can), this likable longshot might just get the lead if Borel doesn't go and hold it all the way. His last three Beyer Speed figures have been in the 90s, so there is really a lot to like about this horse, given a moment to consider it. Of course, this is all conjecture at this point, but at 15-1, I wouldn't mind conjecturing on Schoolyard Dreams in the Preakness. After all, the connections nearly won the race last year with Musket Man, who ran a very strong third in the middle jewel of the Triple Crown

Needless to say, you will have to return tomorrow for the official picks for the 135th Preakness. Tune in tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Familiar Tale

I spent most of Monday's diatribe discussing the merits of Nick Zito electing to pass on the 135th Preakness Stakes and send Kentucky Derby runner-up, Ice Box, on to the Belmont Stakes. Today, I am going to again discuss Nick Zito and harken some echoes of a past Preakness experience.

In 1996, my Kentucky Derby horse was Louis Quatorze. Since I have documented how I have not actually selected the winner of the Run For The Roses since Go For Gin in 1994, you can guess how this partnership turned out. Louis Quatorze barely ran a step on Derby Day and finished 16th out of 19 runners, well behind the classic photo between Grindstone and Cavonnier. Well, Zito decided to come back with Louis Quatorze in the Preakness, figuring he could do no worse than he already had in the Derby. He certainly did better, as Louis Quatorze held off the great Skip Away to win the middle jewel of the Triple Crown in front-running fashion, leading every step of the way to win by a widening three lengths at the finish. His winning time was a record-equalling 1:53.2. Louis Quatorze would go on to win the Jim Dandy later in 1996 and run a gallant second behind Alphabet Soup (and ahead of Cigar) in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Woodbine. If you would like to watch the 1996 Preakness, here is the link:

What does this mean for this year's edition of the Preakness? Well, keep in mind that I selected the Zito-trained Jackson Bend to win the Derby this year. Jackson Bend finished an nonthreatening 12th in Louisville. Can Zito repeat history again this year? You can be certain that I will have Jackson Bend (who drew post #6 in the 12-horse Preakness field) on some of my mutuel tickets on Saturday.

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

Monday, May 10, 2010


Trainer Nick Zito is no fool. The man has won five Triple Crown races during his career: the 1991 Derby with Strike The Gold, the 1994 Derby with Go For Gin, the 1996 Preakness with Louis Quatorze, the 2004 Belmont with Birdstone, and the 2008 Belmont with Da'Tara. He was inducted into the Racing Hall Of Fame in 2005.

Zito had two runners in the Kentucky Derby this year (Jackson Bend and Ice Box). One was cursed with being the top pick of yours truly and the other actually ran the best race of the day, finishing 2nd to Super Saver despite being stopped repeatedly and suffering a miserable trip. The natural inclination would be to continue to move forward with Ice Box and run him right back in the Preakness Stakes this Saturday at Pimlico.

However, as I said earlier, Zito is no fool. He has decided to pass the Preakness and point Ice Box to the Belmont Stakes three weeks after this Saturday. He had to convince the horse's owner, Robert LaPenta, that this was the right course of action. Thankfully, for the horse's chances, the owner relented and listened to his intelligent trainer. Ice Box ran the best race on Derby Day off of a pronounced layoff of six weeks between his win in the Florida Derby and the Kentucky Derby. It seems logical that the horse requires a bit of a break between starts to put forth his best effort. Five weeks between the Derby and the Belmont appears to be about right. The other consideration is if you put a horse not used to running a race in such a long period of time through three strenuous races in a five-week period, you compromise his chances of doing anything later in the year (like the Travers, the Haskell, or any of the other big races that come up in the summer and autumn). The one word you can certainly use to label Ice Box's race in Kentucky was strenuous.

All Zito is doing is what is best for the horse and best for his chances of getting another notch on his Triple Crown belt. Don't forget that those two Belmont victories of his dashed the hopes of a Triple Crown winner both times (Smarty Jones in 2004 and Big Brown in 2008). If Super Saver wins the Preakness on Saturday, Zito becomes the likeliest of trainers to get that third strike against history with a fresh horse in a race tailor-made for what he likes to do.

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

Wednesday, May 05, 2010


Just wanted to let They Are Off readers know that the blog will be taking a few days off. I am heading for my summer season at Lincoln Race Course in Lincoln, Nebraska and will obviously be away from the computer for a few days. Don't fret, They Are Off will be back in plenty of time for some discussion about the middle jewel of the Triple Crown, the 135th Preakness Stakes, next week.

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

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Making The Grade

In the days leading up to the Kentucky Derby every year, there seems to be some intense discussion about the flaws inherent in the system of determining which horses will participate and which ones will not. Right now, the Kentucky Derby is made of those horses which have earned the most money in graded stakes races in their careers. If one of the top twenty decides not to run for the roses, then the list simply extends one spot. I certainly think this system is better than having some ridiculous committee try to determine the best twenty and have only those horses eligible to compete, like the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Heaven knows, the world doesn't need any more committees. However, can you tweak the system to ensure that horses that don't belong in the Derby like Backtalk and Homeboykris, who were in strictly because of money they earned as two-year-olds, don't make it into the race?

I can think of two solutions right off the top of my head to alleviate the problem and streamline the process. First of all, is there really any need to have twenty horses in any race? This is not like the big races overseas with their wide, sweeping courses that allow all kinds of room to maneuver around the track. Churchill Downs is almost like any other racetrack in the country and really, what is the entertainment value in having twenty horses stampede around in such tight quarters not to mention the safety concerns involved for both horses and jockeys? The Kentucky Oaks is limited to fourteen starters and, more often than not, it is quite simply an exquisite race that provides just as much excitement and thrills as the Derby does. A perfect case in point is this year's win by Blind Luck. So far in 2010, I cannot think of a better big race that has been run. Blind Luck and Evening Jewel were separated by the slimmest of margins at the end. You say you want ridiculous longshots that can win. Take Lemons Forever, winner of the 2006 Kentucky Oaks. She scored at 47-1 from post #14 and paid $96.20 and keyed a trifecta of more than $12,000. So, fourteen horse fields provide tremendous longshots just like a twenty horse field provides. I would even be willing to extend the field out to sixteen, which I think can still be managed safely with far less traffic and you are even giving more horses a fair chance to win.

Whatever the field size (fourteen, sixteen, twenty), I think the other suggestion I make might also help the "having the best field possible argument". Why not only count the graded stakes earnings from the Breeders' Cup on? For those of you that think this lessens the relevance of races like the Champagne, Sanford, Hopeful, Del Mar Futurity, keep in mind that the horses that won these races did not hit the board on Saturday and with the exception of Lookin At Lucky and the Del Mar Futurity, the horses that won these races are exactly the horses that many were complaining about their being in the field. Yes, I know Super Saver ran 4th in the Champagne, but he also won the Kentucky Jockey Club three weeks after the BC and he hit the board in both graded efforts in 2010. The Breeders' Cup Juvenile seems a logical starting point to me to start working towards the Derby. It almost makes the two-year-old graded races a prep season for the prep season. It also helps weed out those horses that simply do not belong.

While I am sure that some will agree with me and others will think I am a lunatic, I look at it like this, people I know either agree with me or consider me crazy every day, it's nothing new to me.

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

Monday, May 03, 2010

A Super Duper Derby

The 136th Kentucky Derby was won by WinStar Farms' Super Saver (pictured), ridden by Calvin Borel and trained by Todd Pletcher. Borel has now won three of the last four Derbies, something no other rider has ever done. Pletcher will now never have to listen to the "Why can't you win the Kentucky Derby?" question ever again. I am certain that will be a tremendous relief to him from now on, especially since the man has won just about everything else under the sun since arriving on the scene. The ride that Borel gave Super Saver was another masterpiece. He tucked in to the rail (where he is wont to be), was just enough behind the suicidal pace to be in perfect striking position, and timed the move to the front perfectly so the stretch run was just about over at the sixteenth pole.

It was an amazing Kentucky Derby in so many ways. The weather really did not cooperate until the absolute last second. Literally, the sun did not break through the gloom until the first few bars of "My Old Kentucky Home" were played by the band. Of course, that was not enough to render the racetrack anything but sloppy, but given the conditions that pervaded the nearby states (there was severe flooding in many places in the South), Churchill Downs' Derby Day went off more or less without a hitch.

There were several hitches once the Derby gates popped open. Mission Impazible had his chances dashed on the first turn when he was compromised in traffic after being much closer to the pace than I expected him to be in the first place. Conveyance set the early pace and it was way too fast, going the quarter in 22.3 and the half in 46 flat. From there, he faded entering the stretch and finished 15th. Sidney's Candy stopped even worse on the far turn and crawled home after running 2nd most of the way behind. He actually created tremendous traffic trouble and the second favorite ended up being nothing more than a roadblock for several horses, including my top pick Jackson Bend. Awesome Act was far from awesome on Derby Day. He was never a factor at all, never was higher than 16th in the standings and finished a puzzling 19th. Was it the track condition or the horse condition that caused the most disappointing performance of the day? Paddy O'Prado benefited a great deal from the sloppy strip and ended up third after being bet down to 11-1 by the public who caught on to the fact the horse loves the off-going. Also in that category was Noble's Promise, who inherited the lead at the top of the stretch, but just cannot get the required distance in the Derby of 1 1/4 miles. He still ran a respectable fifth. Finally, the best horse in the race was probably not the winner, but the runner-up. Ice Box came flying at the end and had he not had to check out of trouble spots MULTIPLE times during the race, he would have been crowned with the garland of roses for sure.

Who will progress to the Preakness and who will wait the five weeks to come back in the Belmont? I certainly hope that Ice Box will be in the latter category. If he does wait for New York, he will likely be the favorite (unless Super Saver goes on to win the Preakness) given the impossible circumstances he overcame to finish second in Louisville, his patented late charge running style, and the fact that trainer Nick Zito has won the Belmont with lesser animals than him (see Da'Tara).

I would like to share a nearly impossible story with you that I heard after the Derby, and call me Ripley, but you can believe it or not. There was a young man that went to a wedding this weekend and during the rehearsal dinner on Friday night, the father of the bride found out that this guy was a horse enthusiast and gave him some money to place a significant wager on the Kentucky Derby the next day. A few other people in the wedding party found out what was going on and also contributed to the fund to make it about $800 total for some bigtime Derby bets. Most of the wagers made by the young gentleman were Trifectas and Trifecta Boxes. However, he did play a $1 Superfecta ticket. The ticket broke down the following way: 4-6 with 1-2-4-6-7 with 1-2-4-6-7-9-10 with 1-2-4-6-7-9-10-11. That's right, the wedding party Superfecta ticket hit the wager for a cool $101,284.60. I have to believe that it will be a happy honeymoon for the bride and groom and the father of the bride will be able to pay for the wedding with plenty left over. It is not often you go to a wedding and end up sharing in over $100K. I'll have to get engaged sometime soon and be sure to invite this guy to the wedding.

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

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