Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Northern Dancer

He is quite possibly the greatest Canadian-bred of all time. He is certainly considered among the greatest horses as far as bloodstock goes. What he is is the only horse to win the Kentucky Derby and the Queen's Plate (although a horse named Ferdinand won the Plate in 1897 and one won the Derby in 1986), the premier three-year-old race in both the U.S. and Canada.

His name is Northern Dancer and in 1964, he turned the elusive trick of winning the Derby and Plate. He also threw in a Preakness win for good measure. Unfortunately, the victory in the Queen's Plate turned out to be the swan song of Northern Dancer's career. His racing career is one of the greatest of all-time considering he never missed the money in eighteen lifetime starts with fourteen wins, two seconds and two thirds for a total take of $580,806.

His stud career has become legendary, so legendary in fact that a very good book was written about him and his progeny called "The Kingmaker" by Avalyn Hunter, a copy of which I own. While he did not manage to win the American Triple Crown in 1964, his offspring, Nijinsky II, is the last remaining horse to win the British Triple Crown (2,000 Guineas, Epsom Derby, and St. Leger Stakes) in 1970. All together, Northern Dancer sired 147 stakes winners. According to his Wikipedia page, Northern Dancer also is present in the lineage of recent greats like Storm Cat, Big Brown, Mine That Bird, Summer Bird, and 2009 Horse Of The Year, Rachel Alexandra.

Also, he was the Champion Three-Year-Old Male in 1964, not to mention the Canadian Horse Of The Year the same year.

Finally, another former Queen's Plate winner, With Approval in 1989, passed away at the age of 24 on June 21.

Tune in on Friday for a look at this year's Queen's Plate on Sunday. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!
Photo courtesy of

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Regal Return

One of the most visually impressive performances of 2009 for me was one I was actually privileged to be at in person. The 2009 Super Derby featured a compelling victory by Godolphin Stable's Regal Ransom, who just crushed a quality field of three-year-olds that included Blame, who has gone on as a four-year-old to be considered one of the handful of best horses in training.

Regal Ransom pointed to the Breeders' Cup Classic after that win in Louisiana, which I thought was an error. If anything, I thought he was better suited to the Dirt Mile and had he run in that race, I certainly would have backed up that belief at the betting windows. As it was, he ran eighth in the Classic behind the epic victory scored by the brilliant Zenyatta at Santa Anita. It would appear that Regal Ransom might not be a fan of racing on synthetic surfaces anyway, given that performance in the Breeders' Cup and the fact that his training over the Tapeta in Dubai was apparently less than stellar, according to reports.

Therefore, his connections have decided to bring Regal Ransom back to the races this weekend in the Grade 2 $300,000 Suburban Handicap at Belmont Park over their conventional dirt surface at 1 1/8 miles. Also expected to be in the field is the morning-line favorite for the 2009 Kentucky Derby, I Want Revenge, who was scratched on the morning of the Derby and has not raced since his win in the 2009 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. These two should be the headliners of the Suburban, a race that has had its share of headliners on its winners list. Great names from the past like Nashua, Dr. Fager, Kelso, Forego, Easy Goer, and Skip Away have all won the Suburban. It would certainly be a feather in the cap of any in the field this Saturday to add his name to the honor roll.

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

Monday, June 28, 2010

A Double Dose Of Derby Winners

2009 Kentucky Derby winner, Mine That Bird, has not won a race since the garland of roses was draped over him on the First Saturday In May of 2009. While he has had some good efforts and some lackluster efforts since, the fact remains he has not returned to the Winner's Circle since that monumental 50-1 upset for the ages. That circumstance might be about to change this weekend, though. Mine That Bird worked a bullet five furlongs this morning at Churchill Downs, covering the distance in 59 2/5 seconds. His new trainer, Hall Of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, might have several possibilities for running the Derby winner this weekend. Lukas is pondering running Mine That Bird in either an allowance race on Saturday or maybe even the Grade 2 Firecracker Handicap on Sunday. Lukas is also believed to be considering the Grade 3 Salvatore Mile at Monmouth Park on Saturday.

Speaking of Monmouth Park, let us not forget this year's Derby champion, Super Saver. His trainer, Todd Pletcher, has confirmed that the Derby winner will make his next start in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational on Sunday, August 1. Super Saver also blitzed a nice five furlongs in 1:01 4/5 on Sunday morning at Belmont Park. Following his Derby score, Super Saver disappointed at the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore, finishing eighth.

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

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Grade 3 $150,000 Boiling Springs Stakes

We have all heard that Monmouth is running a shortened Super Meet of fifty days this spring offering unheard of sums of money for New Jersey racing and what a raving success it has been. So, for the first time this season, They Are Off will delve into the Garden State and take a look at the Grade 3 $150,000 Boiling Springs on the turf at 1 1/16 miles on Saturday afternoon.

Since this a turf race and there is a strong Christophe Clement horse entered, I will use the always solid angle of "Clement On The Grass" and take #4 Strike It Rich. She has won her last two, including an ungraded stakes race over the Monmouth turf course on May 30. Garrett Gomez was aboard for that score and gets the call once again here. She stretches out to 1 1/16 miles for the first time in this spot, but Clement should have her ready to roll. For second, I will use #8 In The Rough and not just because it describes my golf game lately. She ran second to the top choice in that Monmouth stakes last time out and she has one of the three best turf Tomlinson figures in the field. Her only win so far in 2010 was at this distance at Gulfstream on Valentine's Day in the Coconut Grove. Paco Lopez has the ride. The morning-line favorite comes next with #10 Bay To Bay. Her last workout was a bullet on June 19 over the polytrack at Woodbine. Her last win came in the American 1,000 Guineas at Arlington on May 22. She has never missed the money in six lifetime starts and it is hard to believe she would start here. Finally, I will put #6 Cosset in the fourth spot for trainer Bill Mott. She has Cozzene on the Sire side of the lineage (which I always love) and she broke the maiden last time out at this distance, winning with a time of 1:41 flat. If she repeats that effort, she will definitely be a contender on Saturday. Here is the play for the Grade 3 $150,000 Boiling Springs:

$10 WP #4
$2 EX 4 WITH 1-2-6-8-10
TOTAL- $30

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!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Win And You're In

I have never liked the "Win And You're In" program that the Breeders' Cup has been putting forth lately. I should say that I do like the idea that they have automatic qualifiers for spots in the year-end Championships. What I don't like about this is that it really is not "Win And You're In" unless you are already Breeders' Cup eligible. If you are not already eligible, you still have to fork over the big bucks for supplemental entries into whatever race you qualify to get into. Therefore, it isn't really "Win And You're In", it should be "Win and You're In If You Are Either Already Eligible Or Pay Up". I guess that doesn't have the same sing-song ring as "Win And You're In".

Anyway, there are three new "Win And You're In" races overseas for spots in three races at Churchill Downs this autumn. The Group 1 Prix Haras de Fresnay-Le-Buffard Jacques le Marois at Deauville gets you into the Breeders' Cup Mile. The Group 1 Vincent O'Brien Stakes at The Curragh puts you into the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf. Finally, the Group 2 Qatar Prix Niel will get you a spot in the Breeders' Cup Turf. Of course, once again, this is especially true if you are already nominated to the Breeders' Cup, otherwise you had better bring your checkbook.

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

Monday, June 21, 2010

Vive Le Soumillon!

Given the general chaos that the French World Cup team has inflicted upon itself with Nicolas Anelka being dismissed from the team for an abusive outburst toward his coach during the team's last match, the subsequent one-day strike by the team in support of Anelka, and the fact that they must defeat the host nation, South Africa, in order to advance to the knockout phase of the tournament, I figured that the French could use some good news.

That good news is provided today by flat jockey Christophe Soumillon, who scored a Group One jumps victory aboard Mandali in the Grande Course de Haies d'Auteuil. Soumillon did this in only his second-ever jumps race in his career. Soumillon has won numerous major races around the world, including the 2005 Breeders' Cup Turf aboard Shirocco. He has also won two Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe races in 2003 aboard Dalakhani and 2008 on Zarkava. With all of his fabulous victories that he has won, Soumillon might have outdone himself with this performance this weekend aboard Mandali. I will be posting the link for this race later in this article, so when you watch the race, take note of the segment at about the four-minute mark of the video where Soumillon's horse is a full TWENTY seconds ahead of the rest of the runners in this race. He eventually wins by a margin of SIXTEEN full seconds. That is just unheard of in any race, much less a Group 1 or Grade 1 event. This was a bravura performance by Soumillon as he judged the pace to the point where he realized that no one was going with him and he might as well go on with it and simply crush his opposition.

Here is the link to watch Christophe Soumillon at his best:

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

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Grade 2 $500,000 Colonial Turf Cup

Colonial Downs hosts the Grade 2 $500,000 Colonial Turf Cup on Saturday. A field of seven will head to the post in Virginia and that field includes two horses that ran in the Kentucky Derby in 9-5 favorite Paddy O' Prado and 8-1 longshot Dean's Kitten. There is also a horse in the field under the same stewardship as Derby winner, Super Saver. Doubles Partner is owned by WinStar Farms and trained by Todd Pletcher. The ride on Saturday goes to Garrett Gomez as opposed to Calvin Borel, though. Here are the selections for the Grade 2 Colonial Turf Cup:

I will side with #2 Workin For Hops for trainer Michael Stidham and and jockey E.T. Baird. He scored a win in the Arlington Classic on May 22. His last workout on June 13 at Arlington Park was a scintillating half-mile in 47.3 seconds. The only negative regarding him was his lone non-top three finish came in his only graded start, a fifth in the Grade 2 American Turf. However, as Rich Fields says on CBS, "The Price Is Right" at 9-2. I will put the horse that vanquished him in that American Turf at Churchill Downs in second, #5 Doubles Partner. The connections are enough to damage his price, but his ability also serves to keep him in the 5-2 area for this race. His only three lifetime wins came in his only three lifetime turf races. This will be the seventh different racetrack he has been to in eight career appearances. For third, I will go with the unlikely Derby hero, #1 Paddy O'Prado. While he might welcome a return to the turf, the question remains how much did the third in the Derby and the sixth in the Preakness take out of him. His two June works were outstanding, but a full 1 3/16 distance again could be a bit much to take. I will put 10-1 shot, #7 Two Notch Road, in the fourth spot off of back-to-back turf triumphs at Monmouth Park in New Jersey. He is another that did not respond well when the company was graded in his only try with the tougher stuff, but he could steal a price here. Here is the play for the Grade 2 $500,000 Colonial Turf Cup:

$5 WP #2
$5 EX BOX #2+ #5
TOTAL- $20

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

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Working Out

One of the major racing events on the world calendar managed to escape my mention until today and I apologize for that. The 2010 Investec Derby was held the morning of the Belmont Stakes over the course at Epsom in the United Kingdom.

You definitely are going to need to pay attention to the winner as the year progresses. Workforce's performance in the Derby was a classic in a classic. The horse won by a widening margin of seven lengths for trainer Sir Michael Stoute (his fifth Derby win) in just his third lifetime start. Jockey Ryan Moore didn't let the large lead that At First Sight built up as they entered the straightaway deter Workforce from his mission. He made all ten of those lengths and then demoralized the opposition with a bravura final two furlongs to prove that Workforce is going to be a force to be reckoned with as the year progresses. I also don't want to neglect to mention that Workforce set the stakes record time for the Investec Derby. For Moore, it was the culmination of a historic weekend. He had won the Investec Oaks the day before to complete the Oaks-Derby double at Epsom, something that had not been achieved since 2004.

Obviously, the Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp will be a goal for Workforce and his connections. I know that Sea The Stars did not come across the pond last year, maybe we will have the benefit of seeing this champion on this side of the Atlantic at Churchill Downs come November. Here is the link to view the 2010 Investec Derby:

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

Monday, June 14, 2010

Zeventeen and OH!!!

Zenyatta did it again on Sunday afternoon at Hollywood Park. She scored another in what is becoming a string of seemingly impossible victories. Zenyatta managed to lug Mike Smith and the 129 she was required to carry past the battling St. Trinians and win the Grade 1 Vanity Handicap. A sixteenth of a mile from the finish it appeared that she was staring down the barrel of her first lifetime defeat. However, Zenyatta is a champion and she displayed that champion's heart for all of us to see once again in surpassing the previous streaks of sixteen in a row that the likes of Citation and Cigar accomplished in the 20th Century.

You must not overlook the effort of St. Trinians in reviewing the events that transpired on Sunday afternoon. She looked for all the world the winner until Zenyatta punched it into overdrive and there was nothing the vanquished five-year-old could do. There is already the possibility existing that the two can meet again in the Clement Hirsch at Del Mar in early August.

Zenyatta was the capper of a fantastic racing weekend that included Rachel Alexandra winning the Grade 2 Fleur De Lis at Churchill Downs in her old-style devastating fashion of leaving the competition behind in her wake. Later on Saturday, Blame overcame the pace scenario in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster, also at Churchill Downs, and passed the horse that set the fractions in Battle Plan to add the Foster to the Clark Handicap last year on his list of impressive wins under the Twin Spires.

Do you realize what this means now? In a sport so starving for stars (ANY KIND OF STARS) to revive any type of interest in it, Thoroughbred Racing might now have four definite stars that could shine throughout the rest of the year. On the male side, Quality Road and Blame are now the standouts following their combined unbeaten start to the year. On the distaff side, Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra are maybe going to reignite their ferocious duel from 2009 and make it a furious fight to the finish. In fact, they would all be undefeated this year but for the two losses the 2009 Horse Of The Year, Rachel Alexandra, suffered in her first two starts.

Quality Road, Blame, Rachel Alexandra, and Zenyatta. Those names may not roll off the tongue like John, Paul, George, and Ringo, but they are a Fab Four nonetheless.

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

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Grade 1 $600,000 Stephen Foster Handicap

Rachel Alexandra will be racing on Saturday, but she will not be racing in the event to be analyzed here. She is in the Grade 2 Fleur De Lis at Churchill Downs, also on the Saturday program with the Grade 1 $600,000 Stephen Foster Handicap. There were some intimations that she might go in the Foster, but no, she does against her own gender. So, here is the analysis of the Stephen Foster:

I will side with #11 Blame in the Foster from the outside post position. This opinion is based on the thought that #2 Battle Plan will not get an easy lead and coast from gate-to-wire. My hope is that #7 Honest Man will go out and engage the morning-line favorite and duel him into submission. Blame has been outstanding in his last five races with Beyers in the triple digits in each of those. He won four of those five races, losing only to Regal Ransom in the Grade 2 Super Derby at Louisiana Downs last September. This is the second start off the latest layoff for Blame, a handicapping angle I do appreciate. Garrett Gomez will ride. I will put #2 Battle Plan in the second spot, given the anticipated speed duel. If he gets the lead alone, he could likely go all the way in front. His lone graded win was in the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap at Fair Grounds in March. He has not raced since then. The horse that ran second to him on that occasion was #6 General Quarters. General Quarters was able to do in 2010 what he could not do in 2009: win at Churchill Downs on Derby Day. Of course, this year he won the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, as opposed to the Derby, but an important win is still an important win. His last four Beyers have been in the 100s, but only one resulted in a win and that was that last try. #5 Arson Squad is currently working on a two-race win streak with consecutive Grade 3 victories entering this go. Paco Lopez was up for both wins and gets the call today. You also might want to watch out for the late-running #9 Macho Again if the pace is too frenetic on the front end. Here is the play for the Grade 1 Stephen Foster:

$10 WIN #11
$1 EX BOX 2-5-6-9-11
$1 TRI 11 with 2-5-6-9
TOTAL- $42

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, June 09, 2010

Big Day At Belmont

Today, Belmont Park ran one of their most anticipated Wednesday programs in the history of the racetrack. Since no one hit the Pick Six on Belmont Stakes Day, the carryover into racing today was in excess of $930,000. The final Pick Six pool ended up being $3,301,873. There were winners with the correct Pick Six numbers of 4-3-10-7-1-11. Six correct paid $552,535 and five correct netted $884.

However, it is time to be real. Today's date in June 9. Anyone with a cursory knowledge of what is important in Thoroughbred racing knows what that date means. It was on this date in 1973 that Secretariat did his thing in the Belmont Stakes. Here is the video for all to enjoy:

I guess nothing else really need be said except:
Tune in on Friday for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Still A Fine Foster

It now appears that 2009 Horse Of The Year, Rachel Alexandra, will be pointed to the Grade 2 Fleur De Lis Handicap at Churchill Downs on Saturday afternoon, as opposed to the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs the same day. Entries will be taken for the races on Wednesday at Churchill Downs and most in the know feel that Rachel's owner, Jess Jackson, prefers to run her in the female race and not test the boys right now in the Foster.

Regardless, the Foster should still provide fine entertainment this Saturday with what will still be a field of high quality. It appears that the leader of the pack will be Blame, who won an important race at Churchill during their autumn season, the Grade 2 Clark Handicap. Blame took quite a bit of time off before returning to the races at Pimlico and winning a Grade 3 race on the Preakness undercard.

Among the other horses expected to be part of the field for the Foster are Arson Squad, winner of the Grade 3 Alysheba, General Quarters, who won the big turf race on the Derby Day card, the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve, and Macho Again, a horse that can always throw a scare into someone. Just ask Rachel Alexandra about that one!!

It is shaping to be what the day of the Foster always is, the second-best raceday at Churchill Downs every year (behind Derby Day). I know I am certainly looking forward to it.

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

Monday, June 07, 2010


The 142nd Belmont Stakes on Saturday afternoon could be very reminiscent of the 141st Belmont Stakes from 2009. The 2009 Belmont served as a coming-out party for the eventual Champion Three-Year-Old, Summer Bird. He would go on to win the Travers and Jockey Club Gold Cup before the year was out, while also getting beaten by both Horse Of The Year finalists, Rachel Alexandra (Haskell Invitational) and Zenyatta (Breeders' Cup Classic). Will Drosselmeyer now take his cue from a year ago and go on to become a bigger factor in what has proven to be a disappointing three-year-old class in 2010?

The answer to that question still lies in the future (although Drosselmeyer's connections are already being reported to be heading to the Travers at Saratoga this summer). For right now, we will have to content ourselves with what was a fine triumph by a horse that had at times in the past tempted his backers with bursts of brilliance that resulted in near-misses. There was no such disappointment on Saturday as Drosselmeyer gutted out a courageous victory over the closing Fly Down and the stubborn First Dude to win the 142nd Belmont Stakes by three-quarters of a length. The win by Drosselmeyer was the first in the Belmont Stakes for both trainer Bill Mott and jockey Mike Smith (who has now finally completed a career Triple Crown).

The true disappointment in this Belmont was the favorite, Ice Box. Trainer Nick Zito was reported to say that the horse didn't handle the hot, humid weather and that Ice Box displaced his palate during the race. I think that the horse's chances were also compromised by the fact that the horse was much closer to the pace than he had been in recent races. He was closer to mid-pack than the tail end through the first turn and was never really able to unleash his patented charge that won him the Florida Derby and earned him a driving second in the Kentucky Derby. Whether it was the weather, the palate, or the race tactics, we just didn't see the best of Ice Box in the Belmont. He crossed the line ninth and was moved up to eighth after the strangest story of the day, which was Uptowncharlybrown. Uptowncharlybrown finished the race in fifth position, but was disqualified to last after it was discovered that his weight was less than he should have been carrying due to losing the lead pad to make up an eight-pound difference between his rider and the required weight of 126 pounds. I have never heard of this happening in any race, much less a Triple Crown race, but it certainly added to the oddity of the Belmont Stakes.

Finally, one side note about Belmont Park. They will have a $930,000 carryover into their Pick Six on the Wednesday afternoon program. Some experts believe that the pool for Wednesday's Pick Six will end up in the $3,000,000 range. It should make for some high interest in what otherwise would be an ordinary day at Belmont. I guess it really will be a good thing for some folks that NYRA didn't have to shutter the doors after Belmont Stakes Day.

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

Friday, June 04, 2010

The Grade 1 $1,000,000 Belmont Stakes

The third and final jewel of the Triple Crown for 2010 will feature neither of the winners of the first two legs of the series. Super Saver, the Derby winner, and Lookin At Lucky, the Preakness winner, both elected to pass on "The Test Of Champions" and will instead look to run another day. However, just because there is an absence of actual "champions" doesn't mean that the 142nd Belmont Stakes is not going to be a rip-roaring affair. There is a very competitive field of twelve runners going postward on Saturday and betting opportunities abound with only three in the field listed at less than 10-1. Here is the analysis for the Grade 1 $1,000,000 Belmont Stakes:

Everyone will be all over #6 Ice Box in the Belmont tomorrow off of his unbelievable run in the Kentucky Derby, when he suffered compound problems and stoppages and still managed to run second to Super Saver. Well, I think he is bound for second again because I am picking #4 Make Music For Me on top. Make Music For Me also did not have an easy time of it on Derby Day. The trip notes in the past performances listed him as being 8-wide and pinched back. I remember recognizing his silks in the stretch and saying, "what is that horse doing there?" in the stretch of the Derby. The answer is he belonged there because he ran that good of a race. He will be forward of Ice Box and I think he might get the jump on him. I see him running a very similar race to the one Summer Bird ran last year when he won the Belmont Stakes. Ice Box is the second choice mainly because he comes from so deep out of a race, I am just not sure he will be able to get there in the Belmont. Rarely does a horse win the Belmont coming from so far back. I know he flew past everyone (including Make Music For Me) in the stretch of the Derby, but his price at 3-1 is another deterrent to my picking him on Saturday. The top two finishers in the Dwyer will round out my top four with the winner, #5 Fly Down, in the third spot and the runner-up, # 7 Drosselmeyer, in fourth. Fly Down continued to pull away from Drosselmeyer in the stretch of the Dwyer, eventually winning by six lengths. Drosselmeyer has been battling nagging foot issues, but the connections must think he is over them to run him in here. Here is the play for the 142nd Belmont Stakes:

$10 WIN #4
$1 EX BOX 4-5-6-7-10
$1 TRI 4-6 with 4-5-6-7-10 with 4-5-6-7-10
TOTAL- $54

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

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Belmont Draw

Ice Box has been installed as a lukewarm 3-1 favorite after drawing post position number six of twelve starters for Saturday's Grade 1 $1,000,000 Belmont Stakes. His co-Triple Crown runner-up, First Dude, is the second choice at 7-2. He received post position number eleven, the same one he had in Baltimore. The only other horse listed at less than double digit odds was Fly Down, another Nick Zito trainee like Ice Box, who is in slot five and posted at 9-2 in the morning line.

Everybody else is 10-1 or more in the Belmont Stakes. Who might stand out as the longshot to like? If he can overcome what appear to be nagging foot problems, Drosselmeyer might be a candidate. He is 12-1 with Mike Smith up breaking from post #7. Stately Victor appeared to be a hot horse entering the Derby five weeks ago following his big win in the Blue Grass Stakes over the polytrack at Keeneland. He ended up running 8th at Churchill Downs. He is 15-1 and in post position #9. Make Music For Me, who appeared ready to light the board up in mid-stretch of the Derby is back following a five-week break. He got the #4 hole and is 10-1. Finally, Dave In Dixie is 20-1 on the morning line and got the #1 post position with Calvin Borel aboard. Borel on the rail right from the get-go, my goodness!!!

It would be hard to believe that the three favorites are going to run one-two-three in whatever order on Saturday. It seems the key to making money on the 142nd Belmont Stakes is picking the right longshot. That seems like a very familiar tune, doesn't it?

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

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

High Quality

What can anyone say about the performance we witnessed on Memorial Day at Belmont Park? Other than, it was other-worldly, I don't know. Quality Road absolutely toyed with the competition in the Grade 1 Met Mile on Monday and certainly looked like the best older male horse in the country in doing it. His last two races have been complete tour de forces, with the crushing win in the Donn Handicap on February 6 (where he posted a 121 Beyer speed figure and won by over a dozen lengths) and now the determined score in the Met Mile yesterday. Quality Road has clearly stepped into the elite Thoroughbred class, something that many thought would happen during the Triple Crown season last year, prior to his being taken off the Triple Crown trail.

Think about this for a second, the two worst races of Quality Road's career both came over sloppy surfaces. He ran third in the slop at Saratoga in the Travers and followed that with a yielding second (both losses came to Summer Bird) in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. His Beyers for those two races were 103 and 110, respectively. It just makes the mystery of what happened to cause that freakout at the Breeders' Cup all the more, well, mysterious. I had win money and several other wagers connected to him in the Classic and had to do my own impression of Quality Road to get down to the windows to change those tickets before the changed post time of the Classic. I probably wasn't alone in wondering how it would affect the horse going forward. The answer to that query is not at all. Perhaps, he just matured tremendously during the time between the Classic and the Hal's Hope at Gulfstream on January 3, which he won without any exertion.

Whatever the cause and whatever the reason for his dazzling form thus far in 2010, I can say now that he continues to impress with every step he takes. He ran six furlongs in 1:08.57 after getting pressure from Le Grand Cru and then withstood the challenge of Musket Man (who I have said on this blog many times is one hell of a horse himself) in the stretch to win the Met Mile by a length and a half in 1:33.11.

Remember though, the story of the Met Mile was not the final margin, it was the final result. It was a result that catapulted Quality Road into the mix for Horse Of The Year, it was a result that allows Quality Road to be mentioned with the likes of Zenyatta, it was a result that should send a tingle through the spine of anyone that loves The Sport Of Kings. Just think about what we might see in the months ahead. It will hopefully culminate with a Classic of Classics at Churchill Downs with Zenyatta and Quality Road going mano a mujer (to steal a line from Castle, the best show on TV right now) for all the marbles, Horse Of The Year and Zenyatta's incredible winning streak on the line. It promises to be pulsating.

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