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!