Friday, December 30, 2011

The $35,000 Luke Kruytbosch Stakes

Yes, fans, I know that the Grade 1 La Brea is being run at Santa Anita and the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector is going at Gulfstream on Saturday. However, if you will indulge me, I am going to select the $35,000 Luke Kruytbosch at my home track of Turf Paradise for the Saturday Stakes race to honor my mentor and someone who is most important to just about all of my fellow race callers and everyone at Turf Paradise. Here is the analysis:

#1 Call Me Later- A Robertino Diodoro trainee and those have been doing well at Turf this season. However, this gelding has not won since a February seven-furlong effort at Santa Anita, so nothing in the recent form really suggests he has much of a shot here, even with the connections.

#2 Beer Meister- The winner of the Turf Paradise Derby last spring at odds of 40-1. He would be a fitting winner of the Kruytbosch, since Luke was known to bend the elbow occasionally. I certainly think he is capable, but he has not raced since May, when he was in New York running a flat seventh in the Grade 2 Peter Pan at Belmont.

#3 Wegner- This could be the most interesting horse in the race since he might very well set the pace and be relatively unchallenged on the front end. Tammi Piermarini was aboard for an Allowance 2nd last time out at Turf Paradise on December 2. This horse, before that last go, had been trained by the brilliant Bob Baffert.

#4 Cover More- Has a win and a third in the last two tries over the turf in Phoenix this season. However, keep in mind that his last performance produced a career-high Beyer figure of 74. Could there be a bounce in the offing for this runner? His last dirt track race came with a brutal Beyer of 9. I am thinking elsewhere.

#5 Wicked Landlord- Gets the riding services of the leading jockey so far this season at Turf, Jorge Carreno. This colt ran a solid third in the Jack Coady Sr. Stakes over the turf last time out on November 19. There is a lot to like here, although this will be his first try over the tricky main track at Turf Paradise.

#6 Stormin Warlord- He has tried to go two turns just once before and the result was less than enthusiastic, a ninth on July 30th at Prairie Meadows. While he did follow up that effort with a win at six furlongs, I just think the distance and the company will be too much for this one to handle, even with somewhat strong breeding.

#7 Jamaican Memories- Has not performed great since winning the Arizona Breeders Futurity in November 2010. In fact, that is the last win for this one. While he has hit the board in seven of nine over the dirt in Phoenix. That Futurity score remains the only winner for him.

#8 Silver Sensation- Stepped up to the plate after running at lower-level racetracks for much of his early career and did not fare so well in three previous efforts. Missed the money in all three prior Turf Paradise races and really was never much of a factor in any of them.

#9 Goldfire- Jockey Richard Hamel has been riding outstandingly lately, winning races in bunches at Turf. He comes off a second in his first attempt over the dirt at Turf Paradise in an Allowance spot on December 10. This Canadian-bred has been working very well in the morning and we will see if it continues to translate to the afternoons.


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. I would also like to wish everyone a very safe and Happy New Year. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Chief's Crown

Since we are at the end of the calendar year, it is natural for everyone to start thinking about next spring and those pesky Triple Crown races that will be taking up much of everyone's concentration for a while. One of the usual thoughts on the first leg of the Crown, the Kentucky Derby, is that the horse that won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile the year before is not going to win the Derby the following spring. It has happened only once in the history of the two events being run, in the 2006 Breeders' Cup Juvenile, Street Sense won and he followed it up with a Derby win in 2007. This year, the focus will be on Hansen as the BC Juvenile winner, although Union Rags, the runner-up, is still the winter favorite for the Roses. Of course, last year, Uncle Mo dominated the Juvenile and then was scratched before the Derby. All of this has given me reason to look back to the first Breeders' Cup Juvenile (in fact, it is the first-ever Breeders' Cup race), when Chief's Crown (pictured) was the winner.

Chief's Crown was a prohibitive favorite for the inaugural Breeders' Cup Juvenile in 1984, following wins in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special, the Grade 1 Hopeful, the Grade 1 Cowdin, and the Grade 1 Norfolk. He also threw a runner-up finish in the Grade 1 Futurity over a sloppy track for good measure. He went to the gate at Hollywood Park as a less than even-money choice to win that Juvenile and he did not disappoint. Chief's Crown sat in mid-pack for much of the early race and then began a steady advance that allowed him to take the lead over a game challenger in Tank's Prospect and also right there at the finish was a horse named Spend A Buck. Chief's Crown won the Juvenile by 3/4 of a length and established himself as the 1985 Derby favorite.

He seemed to relish that role as he paraded through the early months of the year, winning the ungraded Swale Stakes, finishing first in the Grade 1 Flamingo (although he was DQ'd and eventually that ruling was overturned), and completing his Derby prep work with a dominant win in the Grade 1 Blue Grass at Keeneland. Of course, we all know what happened on Derby Day. Angel Cordero Jr. sent Spend A Buck out to the front, built up a huge lead and never looked back, winning the Derby by over five lengths, while Chief's Crown ran third. Chief's Crown came back two weeks later in the Preakness, which Spend A Buck skipped, was sent off as the choice again, and finished second to Tank's Prospect. Finally, the gallant Chief's Crown tried again in the Belmont, only to be overrun by Woody Stephens and Creme Fraiche, part of his remarkable streak of five straight Belmont winners. Chief's Crown again finished third.

After the Triple Crown disappointments, (although hitting the board in all three legs of the series certainly is nothing to sneeze at) Chief's Crown went on the win the "Mid-Summer Derby" at Saratoga, the Grade 1 Travers, and defeated older horses in the Grade 1 Marlboro Cup in September. He would finish fourth in the Breeders' Cup Classic behind Proud Truth. While Chief's Crown had been voted Champion 2-Year-Old Male following his 1984 Breeders' Cup Juvenile win, he didn't win any of the honors in 1985. Spend A Buck was voted Horse Of The Year after his wins in the Derby, the Grade 3 Jersey Derby, and the Grade 1 Monmouth Handicap.

Chief's Crown still had a remarkable career with 21 starts, 12 wins, 3 seconds, and 3 thirds, earning a total of $2,191,168 in purse money. It is worth noting at this point that Chief's Crown was regally-bred with Northern Dancer on the Sire side and Secretariat on the Dam side of the lineage. Among his progeny is 1997 Breeders' Cup Turf winner, Chief Bearhart. Chief's Crown passed away in 1997 at Three Chimneys Farm in Kentucky. Here is the link to watch his victory in the 1984 Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Hollywood Park:

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

Photo courtesy of

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Under The Radar

With all the hoopla surrounding the holiday weekend (Christmas and Santa Anita opening on Monday), it might have been overlooked by some that there was a very important workout conducted on Saturday morning at Fair Hill in Maryland.

The 2011 Kentucky Derby winner, Animal Kingdom, had his first workout since suffering his unfortunate injury in the Belmont Stakes in June. The Derby winner covered three furlongs, working in company, in 38 seconds flat. Trainer Graham Motion was quoted as saying the workout was conducted in company to keep the horse's mind of his business.

It would appear that the immediate and ultimate goal for Animal Kingdom on his comeback will be the $10,000,000 Dubai World Cup, conducted over the Tapeta at Meydan Race Course in March. Motion did say that the most likely American prep race for that trip would be the Gulfstream Park Handicap on February 11. However, if the horse was not fit in time for that race, Motion also said it was likely they could fit a prep race in over in Dubai.

Dubai would certainly be an interesting spot for Animal Kingdom since, if you recall, one of the knocks against him before his Derby win was his lack of any dirt racing. He had been a synthetic specialist, it seemed, before the First Saturday In May. His win in the Derby would be what is known as debunking a myth. The return to racing on a synthetic surface could be just what the doctor ordered for what might be a compelling comeback story in 2012.

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

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Grade 1 $300,000 Mailbu

It is a racing tradition that every year on the day after Christmas, the season starts at Santa Anita, the Great Race Place in Southern California. The usual opening day feature in Arcadia is the Grade 1 $300,000 Malibu and that is the case on Monday afternoon. Here is the analysis:

#1 El Pocho- Can you say "mystery horse"? He has two starts in Chile and has not been to the races since the end of June. He did post a bullet workout on December 22 over the Cushion surface at Hollywood Park. He would be quite the upset to win in this spot.

#2 Centralinteligence- Posted a 102 Beyer Speed Figure in running 2nd last time out at Hollywood on November 27. The horse that beat him in that Allowance race is coming up later in this analysis. On the other hand, he did win his only previous outing over the Santa Anita track.

#3 Luckarack- By far, the most experienced horse in this field with sixteen career starts. He has won seven of those, the most recent last time out on December 1 in an open claiming race at Hollywood. His lone stakes victory came in the Kostoff at Fairplex in September. This is a slightly more difficult race than that.

#4 Rothko- Working on a three-race win streak entering Monday. Those three wins came at three different racetracks (Saratoga, Monmouth, and Churchill Downs). This Steve Asmussen trainee will have the riding services of Corey Nakatani for his stakes debut.

#5 Racing Aptitude- An offspring of a Kentucky Derby runner-up, this gelding was a winner in the Yo Eleven, fittingly enough on 11/11/11 at Hollywood Park. However, that was a restricted race, so this might not be the biggest bullet in trainer Bob Baffert's four-horse holster in here.

#6 Hoorayforhollywood- While he is still eligible for non-winners of two, I think this Baffert runner could be a possibility in the Malibu. His lowest career Beyer number from four tries is a 94, which came in the last two. He finished 2nd in both of those races and his workouts leading up to this race have been blazing.

#7 Light Up The Score- Broke the maiden in the slop two back at Churchill Downs on November 3. Came back 22 days later to win again with Javier Castellano aboard. Victor Espinoza rides Monday, so he will have three different jockeys in the last three races and attempt to win them all.

#8 Smash- This horse has defeated two horses I fancy quite a bit in here, Centralinteligence and Hoorayforhollywood, in two separate races over the Cushion at Hollywood. His lone dirt track effort was at Calder two back in the Grade 2 Carry Back and he ran 2nd to Indiano. That was also the lone race in which he was not the favorite.

#9 Associate- Well, his last two starts in New York have resulted in wins by large margins, a total of 18 3/4 lengths when added together. Ramon Dominguez leaves his comfort zone of The Big A to motor west and ride this one. I am interested to see how he performs in his first start away from the New York area.

#10- Wine Police- A $190K purchase at Keeneland in 2009, he was within 3 1/2 lengths of Boys At Tosconova in the 2010 Hopeful. He also ran within 4 1/4 lengths of Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winner, Caleb's Posse, in the Grade 2 Amsterdam this summer. The distance is a question since he has yet to win past 6 1/2 furlongs. He faded a little late in the two aforementioned races.

#11 The Factor- Although I guess you could call him The X Factor in this race. He is all about the speed and it might set up where he gets a lonely lead in here, I just don't think that is going to happen. He stopped badly in his last two starts, the Grade 1 Ancient Title and the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile. The recent works are strong, I just want to see him do it again before I once again put my faith in him.


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

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Grade 1 $750,000 CashCall Futurity

Last week, it was the two-year-old fillies in the spotlight at Hollywood Park over the weekend. This week, the two-year-old colts and geldings get their chance in the Grade 1 $750,000 CashCall Futurity. Here is the analysis:

#1 Handsome Mike- 2nd in the Grade 3 Generous on the grass on November 27 at Hollywood. Broke the maiden in a 6 1/2 furlong turf sprint at Santa Anita the time before. Corey Nakatani will be the fourth different rider this colt has had in four different starts.

#2 Brother Francis- Still a maiden, but was competitive in both prior appearances. He finished second in each and closed from off the pace each time. I would expect him to come running late, which is odd since his Sire was the usually front-running Lion Heart.

#3 Groovin' Solo- The second of the two maidens in this field of thirteen. He has not quite caught the eye like #2 has so far. No top threes in two tries at Del Mar and has been away from the races since August. I think I will pass on this Bob And John offspring.

#4 Empire Way- Broke the maiden over the Cushion track of Hollywood on November 13 and followed it up with a sixth in the Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue, ending up behind the maiden #2. Even with Joel Rosario at the controls, I believe this one will make me look elsewhere.

#5 Drill- Won the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity on September 7 and has done pretty much nil since then. Finished up the track in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and the Delta Jackpot. The horse that was once considered the class of the Bob Baffert two-year-olds is turning into more and more of a question mark as he moves forward.

#6 Sky Kingdom- Broke the maiden following a layoff last time out at Hollywood on November 24 at this distance. Posted a six-furlong bullet workout on December 11. It appears to me that the longer this Empire Maker goes, the better he will be. Garrett Gomez is up for Bob Baffert.

#7 Blingo- The same connections that campaigned the great Zenyatta are behind this gelding that overcame a slow start to win going away last time out on November 25 at one mile on the turf. Will he take to the Cushion track in the same way? We will just have to see how it goes.

#8 Rousing Sermon- Has hit the board in all five previous starts, but four of those were in state-bred California races. The last one was a second in the ungraded Real Quiet on November 12 at this distance at Hollywood. Joe Talamo teams up with Jerry Hollendorfer on this one.

#9 Liaison- The third of the Baffert runners in this field won that aforementioned Real Quiet at Hollywood. He also broke the maiden two back at seven furlongs on the regular dirt of Santa Anita. Seems like a very versatile horse, as well he should be. He was a $290K purchase at Keeneland in September 2010.

#10 Cozzetti- As much as I loved his Sire, Cozzene, back in the day, I am hard-pressed to find this one with a real possibility here. His win came over a sloppy surface at Churchill Downs and the other two efforts were not much to write home about over the turf.

#11 Majestic City- Set the early pace in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf before essentially crashing and burning to finish 13th. Blinkers will be taken off today in an effort to improve that performance. Ramon Dominguez leaves his thriving Aqueduct business for the day to head west and pilot him here.

#12 Basmati- Second to Sabercat in the Grade 3 Delta Jackpot on November 19. Prior to that, he had seemed overmatched by the likes of Drill and Majestic City in Southern California. Has been to the post seven times and has just one win to show for it.

#13 Desmorais- Scored a win a 1 1/4 miles at Marseille in France last time out over the synthetic surface there. Appears to be the mystery horse in the bunch here, although will have the riding services of the dependable David Flores.


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

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Strike The Gold

Strike The Gold, winner of the 1991 Kentucky Derby, has passed away in Turkey, where he had been a successful Sire. Strike The Gold died of a heart attack at the age of 23. The offspring of Alydar had been able to accomplish what his historic Sire couldn't do in winning that Derby twenty years ago.

Strike The Gold had a running style of coming from off the pace and he did that in Louisville on that Derby Day 1991. Strike The Gold fell back to 12th place in the early stages of the 117th Derby. Jockey Chris Antley started moving the horse through the field and was in 6th position at the top of the stretch. Strike The Gold charged to the lead in the stretch and had drifted well into the middle of the racetrack by the time the wire arrived. Strike The Gold had gone past Fly So Free, who had defeated him already in the Florida Derby, and the pacesetting Hansel, who would go on to win the Preakness and Belmont. The Californian, Best Pal, would run on to be second, and 86-1 shot, Mane Minister, ended up third.

This Derby was the first time that one Mr. Nick Zito burst onto the racing scene as the trainer of the winner. The TV shots of Zito cheering his charge on to victory are now quite famous, making Zito an instant household name and a trainer to be reckoned with nearly every year since. Zito would win a second Derby with Go For Gin three years later.

Strike The Gold was the oldest living Kentucky Derby winner at the time of his death. For his career, Strike The Gold went to the post 31 times, winning six, placing second in eight and third in five others. His career earnings were $3,457,026. Here is the link to watch Strike The Gold's greatest moment of glory, the 1991 Kentucky Derby:

Strike The Gold will always hold a soft spot in my heart as he is one of the very few Kentucky Derby winners I selected before the race. Tune in again on Friday for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Photo courtesy of

Friday, December 09, 2011

The Grade 1 $402,000 Hollywood Starlet

The Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet is the big race of the Hollywood Park season for two-year-old fillies. Weemissfrankie, who ran 3rd in Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, is going to be the heavy favorite in the field of six. Here is the analysis:

#1 Weemissfrankie- Despite running third in the Juvenile Fillies, she still was nine lengths adrift of My Miss Aurelia, the winner. Granted, My Miss Aurelia might just have been the most impressive winner of BC weekend, but that is still a large margin to lose by. Rafael Bejarano has the riding assignment.

#2 Charm The Maker- Won the ungraded Sharp Cat over this Hollywood surface on November 13, defeating two of her rivals in this field. She is a daughter of 2003 Belmont winner, Empire Maker. Giant's Causeway is also present on the Dam side of the lineage. In a word, this horse is well-bred. She did lose to Weemissfrankie in the Grade 1 Oak Leaf over the dirt at Santa Anita, but this could be a different situation here.

#3 Lady Pecan- Her only win came at Woodbine at 6 1/2 furlongs. She finished 8th in the Grade 1 Spinaway at Saratoga and came to Southern California immediately afterward and has finished 4th in two tries in the Golden State. She has yet to hit the board since the trainer switch to Bob Baffert, but Baffert is among the best, so how long can that trend really be expected to continue?

#4 Killer Graces- 2nd to #2 in the Sharp Cat and finished behind #1 and #6 in the Del Mar Debutante, where she was 5th, but only three lengths behind the winner. She joins #2 as the only ones in this race with wins over the Cushion track at Hollywood. She scored in the Cinderella and Landaluce in the spring there. Joe Talamo was up for those wins and the 2nd in the Sharp Cat.

#5 Mi Vida- Still a maiden after four starts and has yet to even hit the board. I believe this is what is referred to as "field filler".

#6 Self Preservation- 4th in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. In fact, she has not won since coming to North America following a win in a race at Tipperary in Ireland. She ran 2nd to #1 in the Del Mar Debutante at 25-1, but really has done nothing to show that she is capable of hanging in with the best of this bunch.


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 08, 2011

Star-Crossed Star

During the summer this year, I made my first-ever trip to Saratoga for racing at The Spa. Needless to say, the entire experience was tremendous. From the Hall Of Fame located across the street to the amazing treat of seeing some of the finest horse racing I have ever seen, my trip to Saratoga had many highlights. Of course, Winter Memories rallying from was out of it to win the King George and checking in with Tom Durkin in the Saratoga announcer's booth. However, I was also privy to seeing a track record performance while I was at Saratoga. J.C.'s Pride set the five-furlong track record on July 27th, defeating his competitors by almost four lengths and winning with a time of 56.54 seconds for the distance.

Sadly, the story of J.C.'s Pride does not have a happy ending. The promising juvenile colt had to be euthanized this week after contracting a infection that had spread from his salivary gland to his kidney. In the story, trainer Robert Barbara described losing the horse as "a big blow." Of course it is, to the connections as well as the sport itself. J.C.'s Pride had to be pulled up during the Hopeful Stakes later this summer at Saratoga after suffering an ankle injury. Regardless of that, this was a horse that could have been a major star as he matured and the fact that we are denied seeing that progression is most unfortunate.

J.C.'s Pride will no longer be able to perform on a racetrack, but we are able to recount a wonderful memory that he left us with. Here is the link to the video of his track record performance from that summer day at Saratoga:

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

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Scott Stevens

Jockey Scott Stevens is pretty much a legend when it comes to racing at Turf Paradise, my home track in Phoenix. As of December 5, lists Stevens as having ridden 28,366 mounts in his career, winning with 4,032 of them and earning purse money of $31,576,380 in a riding career that started in 1976. For those of you mathematically-challenged, that is 35 years ago.

I had the distinct honor of announcing Scott's 4,000th career victory aboard Summer Nights on March 18 of this year and there is a link to watch that race, along with an interview with Scott here: In my brief time at Turf Paradise, I have seen Scott Stevens be more than just a member of the jockey colony. I have seen him help out in other capacities around the racetrack and do an excellent job with whatever he has tried to tackle. Like any other jockey, Scott has had to deal with his great successes and still overcome his share of hardships. Of course, Scott is the brother of Gary Stevens, who was known to ride a horse or two in his time as well. Gary Stevens won the George Woolf Memorial Award in 1996 and had the opportunity to play the Iceman himself in the film, "Seabiscuit".

Scott Stevens is among the finalists for the 2012 George Woolf Memorial Award. The Woolf Award has been presented by Santa Anita annually since 1950 and it recognizes the ability of a rider not only on-track, but what he does off-track as well for the benefit of the sport. Stevens will be facing a very tough field of four other finalists for the Woolf Award this year. The other nominees are Ramon Dominguez, Corey Lanerie, Martin Pedroza, and DeShawn Parker. It certainly is pretty heady company for all of these riders to be involved with. Of course, They Are Off offers sincere congratulations to all of the nominees and wishes good luck to all. Hopefully, everyone will pardon me if I say I am still going to root for the hometown hero, Scott Stevens. The winner of the George Woolf Memorial Award will be announced in January.

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

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Grade 2 $200,000 Remsen Stakes

The Breeders' Cup is now pretty much a set of memories for the up-to-date racing fan and things are starting to shift to thoughts of the 2012 Kentucky Derby. The Hansen vs. Union Rags argument is percolating already and if you wanted to throw in Creative Cause and others, no one would probably dissuade you from doing so. There is another step for the soon-to-be three-year-old class coming up on Saturday, the Grade 2 $200,000 Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct. Here is the analysis:

#1 El Padrino- Todd Pletcher trainee crushed a field in the slop last time out to break the maiden at Belmont on October 29. However, it must be noted that his wet track Tomlinson number is high at 406. Was that 12 3/4 length win a product of his ability or was it a product of his liking a boggy surface?

#2 Souper Speedy- The 3-1 morning line favorite has raced just once in his career, but it was a win that produced a Beyer Figure of 81, which is pretty strong for a first lifetime effort. Again, the same question persists here as with #1 since the score came on a muddy track and this colt has a wet Tomlinson of 401.

#3 Done Talking- Back-to-back wins at Parx and Delaware make him one of the Mid-Atlantic candidates here. The price is nice at 15-1, but what exactly did he beat in those two races. The level of competition in the Mid-Atlantic is very good, but is it winning a New York-graded stakes race good?

#4 Our Entourage- From the stable that produced Uncle Mo and Stay Thirsty comes this one, who ran fifth in the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland. He was a winner two back over the turf at Belmont. His first race was a sprint on the dirt at Saratoga and he finished second. While the dirt racing history is sketchy, the workouts on the dirt have all been somewhat excellent.

#5 Mucho Mas Macho- Son of 2000 Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner, Macho Uno, this is the most experienced horse in the field with seven efforts at Calder on the resume'. The only win in the bunch was a seven-length win in a race that was taken off the turf back in August. The morning line of 30-1 seems about right for this one.

#6 Stephanoatsee- A.P. Indy offspring has a win and a second in two tries at Laurel and posted a bullet workout on November 19 at Fair Hill, which makes him perhaps the strongest of the Mid-Atlantic contingent. The running style appears to be come-from-behind, which means he will need some pace to run at in here.

#7 Managed Account- He is the only horse in this race with a win at Aqueduct to his credit, getting home first in a $75K ungraded stakes race on November 6. Sixteen days later, he posted a bullet half-mile at Gulfstream, covering the distance in 47 seconds flat. He might sit just off the leaders here and first run at them could be crucial in this race.

#8 O'Prado Again- Broke the maiden at this distance of 1 1/8 miles last time out over the Polytrack at Keeneland. However, that race was taken off the turf and it honestly would appear that this one would prefer to be running on the greenery, much like other El Prado progeny we have seen lately.

#9 Speightscity- Sire won the 2004 Breeders' Cup Sprint. Scored a win at the distance to break the maiden at Saratoga on September 2. Ran an unchallenging ninth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last out, but did run with the pacesetters for the first half of that effort. Corey Nakatani will have the riding assignment.

#10 Scatter A Star- The Chicago invader in this field has two wins and a second in the last three, all over the turf at Arlington and Hawthorne. In fact, this will be this colt's first try ever over a conventional dirt surface. This would seem like an awful lot to ask of him, but at 20-1, he might be worth a shot underneath.


Remember, They Are Off accepts no responsibility for any wagers placed in conjunction with these selections. They are merely suggestions. They Are Off will be taking a week off next week, so tune in again in two weeks for more. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Rapid Redux

History was made on Monday night at Mountaineer Park in West Virginia when Rapid Redux became the first Thoroughbred in modern history to win a 20th consecutive race. With the win in a Starter Allowance race, Rapid Redux surpasses the likes of Zenyatta, who won 19 in a row, and Peppers Pride, who also got it to 19 straight.

It is interesting to see the reaction of racing fans to what happened on Monday night. Rather than celebrate a tremendous accomplishment by a sturdy racehorse (Rapid Redux has been to the post 18 times this year alone), some have seen fit to try and downgrade what he has done by making direct comparisons to the other names on the all-time streak list. To me, this is woolly thinking at the very least. I can't recall anyone that has made any kind of an argument that Rapid Redux should earn any kind of special place in the annals of racing for winning 20 straight. I did hear Caton Bredar (presumably tongue-in-cheek) make an argument that he could be considered for Horse Of The Year on the Down The Stretch radio show since no one else has come forward as an overwhelming candidate. However, as I said, I think Caton was having a little fun with that one while making a truly serious point that there is no clearcut candidate for Horse Of The Year after a wild and crazy Breeders' Cup, which served to muddle rather than clarify, the picture for that honor.

Why have some fans felt the need to try and denigrate what Rapid Redux has done? Is it still some kind of Zenyatta backlash from her many fans? This could certainly be the case, but anyone that thinks that what Rapid Redux has done has any impact on Zenyatta or Cigar or Citation or any other all-time Thoroughbred accomplishment is mistaken. We are mixing apples and oranges here to the extreme degree. Many of those names of the list of Thoroughbred winning streaks are in the Hall Of Fame and deservedly so. Rapid Redux is nothing more than a wonderful footnote here, to be honest. Yes, he won 20 in a row, and it is marvelous. No other horse in the history of the sport has managed to do this. However, he hasn't done it against the cream of the crop, he is winning against Starter Allowance company. Even in the record-setting race, half of the field scratched and he faced only three foes.

What everyone should be doing is giving a ton of credit to the horse and his connections, owner Robert Cole Jr. and trainer David Wells, for spotting this horse in winnable races where he has been able to get the job done. Every time this horse has gone to gate in 2011 (and the last two starts of 2010), he has made it to the Winner's Circle. Bing Crosby sang a wonderful song many years ago which urged one to, "accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative". I would suggest to the racing public at large that we need to do this more in all cases, not just this one. However, this seems like as good a place to start as any. Congratulations to Rapid Redux on 20 wins in a row!!

Tune in again on Friday for a look at one of the big races this weekend. I would like to wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving! For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Grade 3 $1,000,000 Delta Jackpot

The Breeders' Cup Juvenile a couple of weeks ago seemed to settle the issue as far as Champion 2-Year-Old Male with Hansen holding off Union Rags at Churchill Downs. Those two will likely remain the favorites for the 2012 Kentucky Derby through the early parts of the mad rush to the First Saturday In May. However, there is another important stop coming up on that road tomorrow. The Grade 3 $1,000,000 Delta Jackpot automatically qualifies its winner to have a spot in the gate at Churchill Downs. Here is the analysis:

#1 Longview Drive- Won three straight entering this effort on Saturday. He might very well go right to the front from the rail and just keep right on going. At 10-1, I think he must be included in any exotic plays at the very least.

#2 Seven Lively Sins- 2nd in the Grade 3 Iroquois at Churchill Downs on October 30. It appears that he possesses early speed as well. He also has the riding services of Julien Leparoux for this try, which certainly won't hurt.

#3 Tiz Moe- Tiznow offspring finished 2nd in the Jean Laffitte at Delta Downs on October 22. The Calhoun trainee did post a bullet workout on November 12 at Fair Grounds. Could be positioned to strike if an excessive speed duel develops, as it seems he likes to sit right off the pace.

#4 Basmati- Broke the maiden last time out after finishing 4th and 5th in two Grade 1 efforts in Southern California. The maiden win came at one mile. Corey Nakatani will have the riding assignment.

#5 My Adonis- Won the aforementioned Jean Laffitte over the Delta Downs strip. This colt has never been worse than 2nd in five career starts. I think it was a smart move by trainer Kelly Breen to get this one a race over the track prior to this big one. His other four races had been at Monmouth.

#6 Drill- Adds blinkers here after taking them off for the BC Juvenile. That didn't seem to work, as he ran 10th of thirteen at Churchill Downs. The Baffert trainee is 2-1 on the morning line, but after that last race, I would like to see a bit more if I am to play him at that price.

#7 Laurie's Rocket- Didn't fare too well in his two Grade 1 attempts. 4th in the sloppy Hopeful at Saratoga and 8th in the one-turn mile of the Champagne at Belmont. This colt has a decent workout on November 11 at Churchill Downs.

#8 Sabercat- Won the last two at Monmouth, including the ungraded Garden State on October 2 as a less than even-money favorite. Steve Asmussen seems to set new records every time he sends a horse postward. Gerard Melancon gets the assignment.

#9 Dougs Buddy- This colt could be the wild longshot to like in here. He is undefeated in four starts at Northlands in Edmonton, which has a similar bullring topography to Delta Downs. He also has a bullet workout over the Delta track on November 8.

#10 Jake Mo- Finished a flat 5th in the BC Juvenile Sprint behind the dazzling performances of Secret Circle and Shumoos. The Sire is 2005 Derby winner, Giacomo. Don Simington is a veteran Louisiana rider, who could fit the surroundings well on Saturday.


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

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Hoping For The Best

Patrick Valenzuela did not appear at Hollywood Park today to ride his mounts and had to be replaced on all of them. I was at a simulcast site in the Phoenix area and I can tell you there was a sense of dread that I felt regarding Valenzuela while I was listening to Hollywood announcer, Vic Stauffer, call for the trainers of all of P. Val's mounts to report to the Jockey's Quarters to find replacements.

Valenzuela is undoubtedly one of the most talented riders that the sport has ever seen. His work on greats like Sunday Silence and Arazi lives on in the annals of racing. However, Valenzuela is also undoubtedly one of the most troubled riders that the sport has ever seen. He returned to his base of California in 2010 after receiving a license to ride based on him undergoing a stringent series of drug and alcohol tests. The story on Valenzuela's no-show quotes the California Racing Board as saying the tests are "unprecedented due to its continual nature and strict conditions."

The same story says that Valenzuela had gone south to San Diego to visit his girlfriend on Wednesday. Valenzuela has been riding fantastically since returning to California and was fifth in the recently concluded Santa Anita's meeting's rider standings. For Valenzuela's sake, let's all hope for the best in regard to his absence. He is too great to go missing from the sport again for any stretch of time for whatever reason.

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

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Wedding Winner

Friday, November 11 was Veterans' Day throughout the United States, a day for celebrating those in the military who have served this country proudly throughout its glorious history. However, at Turf Paradise on Friday, there was another reason to celebrate. Two members of the jockey colony at Turf Paradise chose 11/11/11 as their wedding day. Patricia Trimble and Rusty Shaw were married on Friday at the racetrack in a ceremony pictured here.

Hopefully, the odds of this marriage being a long and happy one will be better than the odds of the horse Patricia rode in the fifth race on Friday at Turf Paradise. Quick Score was considered a rank outsider in the field of eight being sent off at odds of 28-1, the longest shot on the board by a wide margin. Quick Score, as expected, started slowly and ran toward the back of the pack throughout the early stages of the race. Once the field hit the far turn, Quick Score started advancing through the field and continued a sustained rally all the way into the stretch. The favorite, John's Knight Out, had taken the lead in mid-stretch and appeared headed toward the Winner's Circle until Quick Score just wouldn't stop. Quick Score hit the lead near the finish line and prevailed in an exciting stretch duel. It was the first win of the season for Patricia Trimble as a jockey at Turf Paradise. Quick Score paid a robust $58.80 for the victory. I would have to say that it was a winning wedding present for Patricia.

Of course, everyone at Turf Paradise and many of their friends throughout the racing community wish the couple all the best as they embark on their life together. Congratulations to Patricia Trimble and Rusty Shaw on their nuptials and may they keep winning both on the track and off in the future!

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

Photo courtesy of Turf Paradise's Facebook Page

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Grade 2 $175,000 Mrs. Revere

Churchill Downs' fall season didn't end last weekend with the Breeders' Cup. In fact, that was more or less the beginning of the meet. The featured event on Saturday afternoon is the Grade 2 $175,000 Mrs. Revere at 1 1/16 miles on the turf. Here is the analysis:

#1 Hungry Island- 4th at Belmont Park last time out in the Grade 1 Garden City behind Winter Memories. That would be the only time in nine lifetime races that this filly has failed to finish in the first three. A definite win candidate with Corey Nakatani aboard.

#2 Bizzy Caroline- 2nd to Daisy Devine in the Grade 3 Valley View on the turf at Keeneland on October 21. This will be her second start off the most recent layoff. This daughter of Afleet Alex posted a bullet 5F workout on November 5 at Keeneland in 1:01 2/5.

#3 Groupie Doll- With the addition of another length over the course of her last two performances, this filly could be working on a five-race win streak right now. The only issue as far as Saturday is that all of those races were on dirt or Polytrack. She ran eighth in her only previous turf attempt.

#4 Holidaysatthefarm- Finished 4th in that Grade 3 Valley View at generous odds of 35-1. She won the time before at Arlington in an Optional Claimer. She has been with graded company on three previous occasions in her career and was somewhat overmatched in all three.

#5 Sea Level Drive- 20-1 on the morning line for this go and might be the longshot to like after two wins in the last three and the other try was a second in the Grade 3 Pucker Up at Arlington Park on September 17. James Graham has the riding assignment.

#6 Smart Sting- You almost always have to watch these Canadian imports from Woodbine nowadays, especially when it comes to turf racing. The Dam of this runner is 2000 Breeders' Cup Filly And Mare Turf winner, Perfect Sting. John Velazquez will be aboard this one's first race since September 25.

#7 Don't Tell Sophia- Won last time out over the Polytrack at Keeneland on October 20 in an Allowance spot and has two bullet workouts there since that victory. She has never been more than 5-1 in her career, but I think that will not be the case Saturday. Her lone graded attempt with a disastrous 13th in that Grade 3 Pucker Up.

#8 Trac N Jam- Has already finished behind several horses she will face in here in recent races. Her last win was the ungraded Indiana Distaff on the turf at Indiana Downs on July 13. Expect her to appear on the scene late, that is if she can get into it at all.

#9 New Normal- Off since a win in June at Woodbine in the Alywow. Posted a bullet workout on November 5 over the training track at Woodbine. Robby Albarado pulled off the big upset with Court Vision last Saturday in the Mile, but even this could be a lot to expect here.

#10 Marketing Mix- Could not catch Together in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Keeneland on October 15, but won that aforementioned Grade 3 Pucker Up the time before. Will likely be the betting choice in here and deservedly so. Julien Leparoux gets the call.

#11 Tourmaline- Won the Remington Park Oaks last time out on October 16 and that clearly didn't impress the Kentuckians, as she is 50-1 on the morning line here. She did win the Assiniboia Downs Oaks and another Oaks race at Canterbury. Of course, none of these victories came on the turf, so maybe she is lightly regraded for good reason.

#12 Louvakhova- Won the Frances Genter over yielding turf at Calder last time out on October 15. The vastly underrated Corey Lanerie has the riding assignment. This filly has never been worse than second in seven lifetime appearances.


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!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Cup Reflections

The 28th edition of the Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs this past weekend had the same highs and lows that any of the previous 27 versions of racing's Championship Days have presented us over the history of the event. On the high side, of course, you have Royal Delta's impressive victory in the Ladies' Classic. On the low side, you have the stewards' failure to make the proper decision in regards to Goldikova, who likely should have been disqualified for her actions in the Mile.

First, Friday showcased the fillies and mares and the most captivating performance of the afternoon came in the biggest race of the afternoon, the Ladies' Classic. Royal Delta appeared well-beaten when the field turned for home and just when you thought she was done, she suddenly wasn't. She hit the afterburners at the right time and won handily from It's Tricky and Pachattack. Her busy weekend was far from over it turns out, because she was sold at the Keeneland November Sales today for $8.5 million to the Besilu Stables. Benjamin Leon, the owner of Besilu, has not confirmed what course Royal Delta will be taking for 2012, although the Daily Racing Form website story on the sale speculates that the horse will be transferred from the Bill Mott barn to the Todd Pletcher barn. The other big star from Friday was Juvenile Fillies winner, My Miss Aurelia, who sat just near the pace set by Candrea throughout the early stages, and then moved easily to the front and went on to register a strong three-length victory over Grace Hall and Weemissfrankie.

Saturday was just a crazy day from the get-go. The Marathon was won by a 41-1 longshot, Afleet Again. It would not be the first time the longest shot on the board would enter the Winner's Circle on this day. In fact, only one favorite, Regally Ready, in the Turf Sprint, would prevail the entire afternoon. The most heartfelt story of the day might have occurred in the Turf, where trainer Aidan O'Brien scored a win with St. Nicholas Abbey. The winning rider on St. Nicholas Abbey was O'Brien's 18-year-old son, Joseph. Joseph handled St. Nicholas Abbey with the cunning of a veteran rider of many years, getting first run on the well-regarded Sea Moon and overcoming the surprising staying power of longshot, Brilliant Speed. The Classic also provided some interesting storylines the way it played out. Drosselmeyer, ridden by Mike Smith, came roaring from way back in the field to go past nearly the entire field in less than a furlong and prevail over pacesetting Game On Dude, ridden by Chantal Sutherland. Of course, the fact that Smith and Sutherland were formerly an item added a true sense of intrigue to that result.

On to the race that stands out in most everyone's mind from Saturday, the Mile. Goldikova was poised for a fourth straight triumph in the Mile with a win on Saturday, but she drew the rail, which I believe led to some of the problems she encountered in this race. Goldikova was much more forwardly placed than she had been in any of her three previous Mile victories. However, when she needed to find a place to run at the top of the stretch, Olivier Peslier had nowhere to go at all. He shifted the mare out suddenly and more or less took Courageous Cat out of any chance to win the race at all. Courageous Cat would, in fact, finish last. Goldikova made the lead in mid-stretch and appeared poised to get that fourth straight win, but then from well off the pace came 64-1 longshot, Court Vision, and Turallure. The two of them came flying through the stretch together and hit the finish in sync. It looked for all the world that the outside horse (Turallure) had won by a narrow margin, while in fact, Court Vision had prevailed in a desperate photo to become the second-longest shot ever to win a Breeders' Cup race (trailing only 1993 Classic winner, Arcangues). There was much discussion after the race as to whether or not Goldikova should have been disqualified for the obvious interference she caused with the move at the top of the stretch. In the end, she surprisingly was left in third position where she finished and not taken back to last by the stewards, where she likely belonged after the incident.

There were several retirements that followed the Cup, most famously Goldikova and Gio Ponti, who both ran in the Mile. Also, Uncle Mo, 2010 Juvenile Champion, who finished tenth in the Classic was retired after post-race blood tests came back showing an elevated enzyme. In the end, it wasn't the greatest Breeders' Cup ever and it wasn't the worst Breeders' Cup ever, in fact, it was an exciting day of racing that provided ample opportunities to make a big score provided you were backing the right horses. In other words, just another day at the races, I guess.

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

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Saturday Breeders' Cup Selections

There are nine championship races on Saturday at Churchill Downs, including the Classic with Havre de Grace trying to become just the second distaffer to win it in history and the Mile, which is stacked also. So, let's get right to it with the 1 3/4 Mile Marathon to kickstart the Saturday:

The Marathon- I am siding with the defending champion, Eldaafer, who will be a generous price again it appears in trying to defend his championship in this race. He won at 11-1 last year and is already 10-1 on the morning line here. Eldaafer has picked up a couple of wins since that BC score last year and his last workout was a bullet. The filly, Meeznah, is worth a definite look in here with Tom Queally aboard. She won a Group 2 two back at 1 13/16 miles on the turf at Doncaster. However, she was well-beaten in August in the only try against mixed runners.

The Juvenile Turf- Caspar Netscher will be the top choice in this race, which appears relatively wide-open to me. Kieren Fallon was up two starts back on September 17 at Newbury, the only time he was paired with this colt, and the end result was a Group 2 victory. If there a longshot that leaps out here, I like 15-1 Farraaj. He has been to the post four times with two wins and two places in Great Britain. He was the betting choice in three of those efforts. However, he has yet to go one mile in any of those four attempts. 7 1/4 furlongs is the longest he has gone in those four starts, which was one of the wins.

The Sentient Jet Sprint- Big Drama is back to try and win this race again, but I am leaning toward Giant Ryan in here. He did win the Grade 1 Vosburgh over a muddy track (making him 3 for 3 in the mud), but regardless of the wetness of the surface, I like him here. He is riding a six-race win streak into the Sprint. Amazombie posted a 104 Beyer figure in winning the Grade 1 Ancient Title on October 8 at Santa Anita. On the DRF Past Performances, there are four races on his list on a regular dirt surface, three wins and a second are the results.

The Turf Sprint- I am taking two shots in this race with, first, Perfect Officer, who has been absent from the Winner's Circle since scoring at Monmouth in the ungraded Wolf Hill. He could be sitting in excellent position to win, especially if there is any kind of speed duel on the front end. Garrett Gomez is aboard the other longshot I like in here with Broken Dreams, which I am hoping not to have any of this weekend. She rallied late to win a Grade 3 at Santa Anita on September 30 plus her last workout on October 27 at Keeneland was a bullet five furlongs in 59 4/5 seconds.

The Dirt Mile- Bob Baffert will hopefully have The Factor ready to roll on Saturday. He didn't finish off the deal in the Grade 1 Ancient Title, fading late to finish fourth. Martin Garcia has the ride and there's a bullet workout that stands out on Halloween at Santa Anita. Jersey Town is my pick to possibly pick up the pieces at long odds. He shocked everyone last November to win the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct with a 111 Beyer at odds of 35-1. You might be able to get that price on him again here.

The Emirates Airline Turf- To be honest, this might be the worst race of the weekend all the way around. The Cup officials actually moved the Turf away from its traditional place right before the Classic because the Mile is the more attractive spot. Therefore, instead of selecting two horses, I am going to make a modest play on St. Nicholas Abbey. He has not won since the Group 1 Coronation Cup at Ascot in June and finished 5th in the Grade 1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp.

The Grey Goose Juvenile- Who will be crowned the early Derby favorite after this one? Most folks think it will be Union Rags, however, I am on the cause of Creative Cause. Joel Rosario piloted him to a win in the Grade 1 Norfolk at Santa Anita in his final prep for this one. He appeared to make a more impressive step forward than his West Coast rival, Drill, who is also in this field. Crusade gets the riding services of Julien Leparoux, who has been winning everything in sight lately. This Euro colt is also coming off of a nice win at Newmarket in a Group 1 there on October 8.

The TVG Mile- This promises to be the race of the day just because of the depth of the talent in the field. From top to bottom, it might be the best race of the year. The three-time defending champion, Goldikova, drew the rail, but I am partial to Gio Ponti this time around. He wore down the competition to win the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland last time out and he was second in this race last year to Goldikova. I think he turns the tables here. If you want to fetch a price here, try Turallure. The strapping grey rolled from way out of it to win the Woodbine Mile last time out on September 18. His last work is a bullet at Keeneland on October 24. Julien Leparoux gets the call here.

The Classic- Bob Baffert's trainee, Prayer For Relief, scratched out of this race after the draw, which cedes the rail to my top pick, Flat Out. He won the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup on October 1 in the mud, just missed catching Havre de Grace in the Woodward, and won the Grade 2 Suburban back in July. However, he is 0 for 2 over the Churchill Downs track so far. He did post a blistering four furlong workout on Ocotber 30, covering the distance in 46 3/5 seconds. Stay Thirsty might be able to salvage a Horse Of The Year nod with a win here and his price is an especially generous 12-1. Javier Castellano is aboard for trainer Todd Pletcher. Most people are looking at his stablemate here, Uncle Mo, but I just don't think he can go 1 1/4 miles and win.

Remember, They Are Off accepts no responsibility for any wagers placed in conjunction with these selections. They are merely suggestions. Enjoy Breeders' Cup weekend, play smart and win big. Tune in again next week for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Friday Breeders' Cup Selections

The best two days in all of racing begin on Friday with six of the fifteen championship races that will take place over the weekend at Churchill Downs in Kentucky. The highlights will include Havre De Grace trying to clinch a Horse Of The Year title by becoming just the second female horse (after Zenyatta) to score a victory in the Classic. Goldikova trying to become the first-ever four-time winner of a Breeders' Cup race when she goes in the Mile. Big Drama and Chamberlain Bridge are back to defend their titles in the Sprint and Turf Sprint as well. Friday is for the Fillies, although the first of the six races is the Juvenile Sprint. Here is the analysis:

The Sentient Jet Juvenile Sprint- Secret Circle will be a heavy favorite in here and will likely be in the Winner's Circle when all is said and done. However, he certainly isn't a lock by any stretch. So, I will offer up Vexor as a possible upsetter in here after defeating some of these same horses in the Grade 2 Nashua at Belmont on October 2. David Cohen will ride. I also think there is a strong longshot possibility in the European invader, Shumoos. She is a filly facing the boys, but won a Group 3 two back at Kempton in Great Britain and that was with mixed company. Garrett Gomez gets the call.

The Juvenile Fillies' Turf- There is only one horse in this field with a Beyer figure in the 100s and that is Stopshoppingmaria. She did that in breaking her maiden on the dirt at Saratoga. She followed it up with a second in the Grade 1 Frizette to My Miss Aurelia, who will be a favorite later on this same program. Javier Castellano might just be the best jockey in the business right now. For a bigger price, how about Stephanie's Kitten? She rolled past everyone late on the Polytrack at Keeneland to win the Grade 1 Alcibiades on October 7. If Castellano isn't the best rider right now, it might just be John Velazquez.

The Sentient Jet Filly & Mare Sprint- I think that Turbulent Descent might be the lock of the day on the Friday program. She will be facing some tough competition here, but she did turn back Pomeroy's Pistol in the Grade 1 Test at Saratoga, also at seven furlongs. Her last several works over the cushion track at Hollywood have been things of beauty. Here's a real longshot to like with 30-1 Tamarind Hall. Her last three with Graded company have all resulted in top three finishes with a win in the Grade 3 Bed O' Roses on July 2 at Belmont at 16-1. I certainly do like her at the price I expect her to be at.

The Grey Goose Juvenile Fillies- I said My Miss Aurelia will be the favorite in here earlier in this post and I meant it. She is an undefeated filly trained by Steve Asmussen and getting the riding services of Corey Nakatani for the second time here. She seems to be improving with the more distance she has to traverse. The price pick in here, though, is Homecoming Queen. She is the most experienced runner in this field with ten prior starts. Her recent form has been exceptional and she does go turf-to-dirt here, which appeals to me.

The Emirates Airline Filly & Mare Turf- Frankie Dettori will be aboard the undefeated Nahrain, who just got up in the nick of time to defeat Announce, who is also in this field, in the Group 1 Prix de l'Opera at Longchamp on October 2. Dettori was up for that win and will hope to do the Flying Dismount for a second straight time from this Darley runner. Harmonious could be a longshot to consider in this field. She has not won since the 2010 QE II Cup at Keeneland, but her recent works have been speedy and she returned from a layoff with a strong prep on October 1, running third behind Dubawi Heights in the Grade 1 Yellow Ribbon.

The Ladies' Classic- It is my belief that Plum Pretty is just going to go right to the front here and never look back. Frankly, I think that Rafael Bejarano is going to be able to dictate the pace since no one really appears to want to go out and run with this one in the early stages. She already has a win over the track in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks and last time I checked, Bob Baffert knows how to win a big race. Should there be some competing speed for Plum Pretty, the closer I am leaning toward is Miss Match, who posted a bullet workout on October 28 and is making her second start off the latest layoff. Garrett Gomez is in the saddle on Miss Match.

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

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Grade 2 $150,000 Fayette Stakes

Saturday is closing day for racing in 2011 at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky. The featured event on the closing day program is the Grade 2 Fayette, which features a strong contingent of twelve colts and geldings going 1 1/8 miles over the polytrack. Here is the analysis:

#1 Decisive Moment- The lone three-year-old in the field finished an overmatched 14th in the Kentucky Derby. Since then he has just one win in four starts, a score in the ungraded El Kaiser at Calder on July 30. It is highly unlikely he gets a second win in this tough spot.

#2 Modern Cowboy- Ran 2nd in the Grade 3 Excelsior at this distance at Aqueduct back in April. Won the West Virginia Governors Handicap. This son of Tiznow did win his only other effort over polytrack at Turfway in October 2010.

#3 Jimmy Simms- Ran 2nd in the Presque Isle Downs Mile behind Wise Dan, who is in here also. Kent Desormeaux rides for trainer Anthony Dutrow and this horse appears to be a fan of the synthetic surface. Must be respected as a possible price to like in here.

#4 Eighttofasttocatch- Horribly named, but has two bullet workouts and won the Maryland Million Classic on October 1 at Laurel. His only previous graded try was on the turf in the Grade 2 Dixie at Pimlico and it didn't go well, finishing last of seven behind Paddy O'Prado.

#5 General Quarters- Every once in a while, this guy can run a big race. Saturday might just be one of those occasions. He ran 2nd in the Grade 2 Kentucky Cup on September 24 at Turfway behind the #6 in this field. Bullet workout on October 25 at Churchill.

#6 Future Prospect- Beat #5 in that race at Turfway Park and did it at 18-1 with a front-running effort. He will certainly be a part of the pace picture in this race, but there seems to be a surplus of speed, which might severely compromise his chances.

#7 Anak Nakal- Clearly, his best days are behind him. His only win in the last two and a half years came two back at Presque Isle in an Allowance start. It would be a comeback worthy of the St. Louis Cardinals if he were to win this one.

#8 Wise Dan- 4th behind Gio Ponti in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland last time out on October 8. Upset the Grade 2 Firecracker at Churchill at 14-1 three back and also won the Presque Isle Downs Mile two back. Julien Leparoux has the mount on Saturday.

#9 Guys Reward- 19 of 25 lifetime starts have come on the turf for this colt, but he did win his only prior race over the Keeneland polytrack. Has a win and a second in the last two races he ran at 1 1/8 miles, but those were both on the turf, one at Churchill and one at Gulfstream.

#10 Ioya Bigtime- Could be a likable longshot here with Calvin Borel riding. This colt has a bullet workout on October 23 at Keeneland, going 5F in 58 4/5 seconds. Trainer Chris Block won two of three races at Keeneland this season.

#11 Workin For Hops- Was DQ'd from 2nd to 3rd in the Grade 3 Washington Park Handicap at Arlington two back as the betting favorite. He led all the way there before fading slightly. Appears to be very versatile, able to run up front or just off the pace and be effective.

#12 Mission Impazible- His last three tries have been with Grade 1 company and the best result of those was a 2nd in the Foster at Churchill behind longshot Pool Play on June 18. Javier Castellano will have the riding assignment for trainer Todd Pletcher.


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!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Common Sense

Sadly, in the world today, there is such a complete and total lack of common sense from pretty much everyone that when some is actually invoked, I feel the need to recognize it.

On October 10, the British Horseracing Authority invoked a strict new set of whip-use rules for their jockeys that would be enforced immediately. The rules made waves within the jockey colony over there in rapid fashion. Essentially, jockeys were required to limit their use of the whip during the course of a race to seven in a Thoroughbred (or flat) race and eight in a Steeplechase (or jump) race, with only five strikes of the whip to be used in the final furlong of a flat race or after the final obstacle in a jump race.

Let me state here that I am all for reduced use of the whip by all riders everywhere. I must admit that some of the whip use that I see in some races causes me to shudder and wonder exactly what the rider is thinking when he repeatedly uses the whip in what appears to be a violent fashion. I also would like to see a horse that is ahead by a wide margin or fading out of a race in an obvious way not be whipped. I understand that sometimes a whip tap is required to keep a horse's mind on its business and that's fine. Honestly, though, does a horse have to whipped time and again by a rider with a six or seven length lead? Does a horse have to whipped that has no chance of finishing in a check-paying position? Of course not, there is absolutely nothing to be gained from whip use in either situation.

However, these rules that were invoked by the BHA were way off course. Do you think that it is easy for any rider to know exactly when that final furlong starts? I can say fairly surely that they aren't paying attention to the distance poles while trying to control an animal much larger than they are going at an incredible rate of speed. These rules caused one jockey in Britain, Richard Hughes, to turn in his jockey's license after having two separate incidents where he violated the more stringent rules. The most ridiculous implementation of the new standard came on British Champions Day, when Christophe Soumillon was docked his winning rider's share of the purse for using the whip six times in the final furlong of the Group 1 Champion Stakes at Ascot aboard Cirrus des Aigles. That idiocy made the fact that Soumillon came over to North America and won the Grade 1 Canadian International aboard Sarah Lynx a justifiable result.

I am proud to say, though, that common sense has finally prevailed. It only took a threatened jockey strike and the rules were slightly altered to be a little more forgiving. Riders will not have to be giving away their purse money, while the suspensions for offenses were reduced from seven to three days. The changes to the rule changes were applied retroactively, so Soumillon got his Champion Stakes money and rightfully so. Also, the final furlong or final jump stipulation of five whip strikes was eliminated while the total number of whip strikes during a race was not changed. That is a more acceptable compromise between the parties.

As I said earlier, I am all for reducing the use of the whip by jockeys. I would also like to see more humane whips used in this country, like are used in international racing. I think there is great room for improvement in this area throughout the racing world. The steps being taken by the BHA are not wrong, they are right. However, a jockey must be allowed to be a jockey during a race, not a mathematician or a surveyor. It is all a matter of common sense, which nowadays might be better called uncommon sense.

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

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Grade 2 $150,000 Oak Tree Derby

While there is technically no Oak Tree Meeting this year in Southern California, what is being called the Santa Anita Autumn Meeting is rolling right along and they will be featuring the Grade 2 Oak Tree Derby on their Saturday program. The race will have a full field of fourteen and will be run at 1 1/8 miles on the turf. Here is the analysis:

#1 Great Warrior- Won the Pomona Derby at Fairplex Park on September 24. That was the first win since a score in Brazil in November 2010 for this colt. Not fancied here.

#2 Northern Causeway- Rolling a three-race win streak entering this race, including the Grade 3 British Columbia Derby at Hastings Park on September 11. Appears to have plenty of speed, but likely won't get easy fractions in this one.

#3 Venomous- This British-bred seems like one to consider off a third two back at Deauville on a firm turf course. The soft going last out at Longchamp might not have been to his liking. Joel Rosario will have the riding assignment.

#4 Arraignment- Gelding has hit the board in 7 of 8 lifetime races, but all of them have been over the short oval at Hastings and all of them have also been on the dirt. Was 78-1 while running third behind #2 in the BC Derby.

#5 Dreamy Kid- Ran 6th in the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby last time out in first turf try on September 4. However, he ended up only 1 1/2 lengths behind the winner in what was a blanket finish. Will need an honest pace to close into to be a contender.

#6 Thirtyfirststreet- Led late two back in the Grade 3 La Jolla at Del Mar before settling for third place. Will likely be part of the pace scenario in here. Only career turf win came in the ungraded Lone Star Derby on May 30.

#7 Lil Bit O'Fun- 2nd in the aforementioned Grade 3 La Jolla. Also a strong come-from-behind runner. Trainer Thomas Proctor is winning at a 20% clip in 2011. This gelding has not won since a victory over yielding turf at Indiana Downs in June.

#8 Ultimate Eagle- Broke he maiden on the Del Mar lawn two back and followed it up with and Optional Claiming score on September 3. Currently 2 for 2 on the turf in his career, I would be hard-pressed to think he contends here with any competing speed and better foes.

#9 Akkadian- Might be the most likely of the longshots in this spot. This is the 2nd start off the last layoff and posted a strong workout on October 7. The Sire is two-time BC Classic winner, Tiznow.

#10 Theresmyeverything- This one will undoubtedly be part of the early speed in here. The Eoin Harty is nothing if not fast. He won a turf sprint at Saratoga on August 13 and followed it up with a good second with Allowance company at Belmont on September 19.

#11 Cozy Kitten- It is difficult to dismiss any Ramsey-owned horse that has Kitten's Joy in the lineage, but I am going to do it here. His speed figures just don't seem to match up with the remainder of the better ones in this Derby. Ran 7th in last Graded effort, the American Turf at Churchill.

#12 Cloud Man- Mike Smith will ride this colt that posted a 93 Beyer two back in victory over the turf at Del Mar on July 22. Part of the cluster of horses at the finish in the Del Mar Derby, winding up 4th. He also has a win over the Santa Anita turf, which only three in this field have.

#13 Midnight Interlude- Should be the betting favorite in here. Has rediscovered his form since transferring to the turf after disappointing Triple Crown season. Rafael Bejarano is in the saddle for trainer Bob Baffert.

#14 Surrey Star- Irish-bred that has been off since August, but his last win was in an ungraded stakes race over this Santa Anita grass. Chantal Sutherland has the riding assignment on this colt.


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

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Breeders' Cup Hero: Artax

The winner of the 1999 Breeders' Cup Sprint was Artax (pictured), who was billed at the time as the "Fastest Racehorse In The World". It's just as well he held that title that year with the Breeders' Cup being held at Gulfstream Park. The speed was holding up phenomenally well during the entire program at Gulfstream on Cup Day and most of the smart folks in the crowd knew that when Artax took the lead on the turn, it was going to be awfully difficult to catch him. Well, no one did and Artax held off the charge of Kona Gold to win the Sprint, paying $9.40 to win. The time for his victory was 1:07.4, which equaled the track record of Gulfstream set by the great Mr. Prospector. Artax was named the Champion Sprinter of 1999 following his performance in the Sprint.

Considering how great Artax was as a sprinter, it is interesting to note that he actually was considered a Classic contestant during his three-year-old campaign in 1998. In one of the Kentucky Derby prep races on the West Coast that year, Artax actually defeated Real Quiet, who would go one to win the Derby and Preakness. Artax never contended on Derby Day, showing absolutely no speed at all, never getting higher than tenth in the field of fifteen and finally settling in thirteenth place. This would not be the last we would encounter Artax during a Triple Crown program. The following spring in the 1999 Maryland Breeders' Cup at Pimlico on Preakness Day, a fan from the infield who had maybe enjoyed himself a little too much in the infield, stepped on to the track in the middle of the race and took a swing at Artax in the stretch. Thankfully, neither fan nor horse were injured, but all wagers on Artax in that race were refunded by the stewards after the incident.

For his 25-race career, Artax recorded seven wins, nine seconds, and three thirds. His total earnings were $1,685,840. To watch the video of Artax's win in the 1999 Breeders' Cup Sprint, here is the link: Tune in again tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Photo courtesy of

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Back In Business

The winner of the 2011 Kentucky Derby, Animal Kingdom, has been away from the racetrack since finishing sixth in the Belmont Stakes in June. It was in that race that it is believed he suffered a slab fracture, for which he underwent surgery on June 30. Of course, we can all rehash the start where the Derby winner was badly squeezed and really surrendered all chance he had to win the race. What we ought to rehash is the gallant performance that followed it where he rallied from hopelessly out of it, fighting against a front-running track bias that permeated the day following heavy rains, to actually get into contention at the top of the stretch within hailing distance of the leaders causing NBC racecaller Larry Collmus to remark, "Could he be this good?" Yes, he eventually flattened out to finish sixth, but the excellence of his performance should not be overlooked. He again showed the heart of a champion in defeat that day.

One of the first major hurdles for Animal Kingdom to overcome to get back to the races has been navigated as of today. Animal Kingdom was ridden under tack today at Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland, according to trainer Graham Motion. It is the first time Animal Kingdom has had a rider on his back since getting back to training during the late summer. Motion says he is inclined to remain at Fair Hill until sometime in the winter, maybe around December, before heading to Palm Meadows in Florida and warmer climates.

All in all, this is outstanding news for racing fans everywhere. There is always something special attached to the Kentucky Derby every year and when he (or she) disappears for a long stretch, like has happened this year, something goes missing from the racing game. It will be a banner day for racing when Animal Kingdom steps back on to the track, with his rider wearing the familiar green and red silks of Team Valor. The news today means that we are getting closer and closer to seeing that return to the races and that can only be a good thing.

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

Friday, October 07, 2011

The Grade 1 $350,000 First Lady

Keeneland has another myriad of tremendous races scheduled for their Saturday program and I have decided to tackle what could be one of the toughest of the lot, the Grade 1 $350,000 First Lady. The First Lady features a field of fourteen entries and the two also eligibles are Snow Top Mountain, winner of the Kentucky Cup Ladies' Turf at Kentucky Downs, and Tapitsfly, winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf in 2009. As I said, this is one of the toughest of the lot. Here is the analysis:

#1 Bay To Bay- Disappointed in the Grade 2 Canadian at Woodbine on September 18. This is the second try off the most recent layoff and I somewhat expect her to outrun her morning-line odds of 12-1 in here.

#2 Cherokee Queen- Won the Hollywood Wildcat, an ungraded turf race at Calder at 7 1/2 furlongs back in April. Her two starts since then have been lackluster at best and I don't see much chance for improvement in a difficult spot like this.

#3 Daveron- The Team Valor mare won the Grade 2 Ballston Spa at Saratoga last time out on August 27. She was 9-2 for that score, which matches her morning-line in this one. She is riding a nice three-race winning streak into this effort.

#4 Category Seven- Shane Sellers gets the call here on this mare whose only recent graded race, the Grade 3 Ouija Board in May at Lone Star, resulted in a nice runner-up placing. She has already made a hard-to-believe 51 starts in her long career.

#5 Absinthe Minded- 3rd in the Grade 2 Molly Pitcher at 19-1 last time out at Monmouth. The D. Wayne Lukas filly has NEVER STARTED ON THE TURF BEFORE. I can't see her being much of a factor in an event this tough.

#6 Together- This Irish-bred filly is the 7-2 morning-line choice and while her Racing Post figures for her European tries are impressive, the fact remains that she has not been to the Winner's Circle anywhere since July 15, 2010. She won the Group 3 Silver Flash at Leopardstown that day.

#7 C.S. Silk- Which mare will show up today? The one that won the Grade 1 Just A Game at Belmont in June in front-running style or the one that never made a showing in the Grade 3 Matchmaker at Monmouth in July.

#8 Wasted Tears- 12 for 21 lifetime is a strong record for this mare that should be setting the early pace in here. It remains to be seen how much pressure she will get on the front end, especially since it appears that there could be several that will want to run with her early.

#9 Theyskens' Theory- Honestly should have won the Grade 2 Garden City at Belmont on September 17. Winter Memories was just awesome in the stretch and beat her home. Garrett Gomez was aboard that day and gets the call for new trainer Shug McGaughey here.

#10 Gypsy's Warning- Certainly could be a upsetter in here at 10-1, but is winless in three 2011 starts so far. Another with the Team Valor and Graham Motion team in her corner, but she has not even been to the races since July. Bullet workout on October 1.

#11 Eclair De Lune- A German-bred filly won the Arc last Sunday, but this might be a little too much to ask of this one who has not won since the Grade 1 Beverly D in 2010. Ran 5th over this turf course in the spring season at Keeneland in the Grade 2 Jenny Wiley.

#12 Never Retreat- Won that Grade 2 Canadian at Woodbine last time out plus she won the also aforementioned Grade 2 Jenny Wiley in her only outing on the grass at Keeneland. Julien Leparoux had four winners on Friday's Opening Day card, so you might like to play the hot hand.

#13 (AE) Snow Top Mountain- Two wins in the last three efforts at one mile on the turf and has a very fast five furlong workout on October 1 on the main track at Keeneland.

#14 (AE) Tapitsfly- Has never really run back to that Breeders' Cup win in November 2009. In fact, she has only one win from seven starts since.


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

Thursday, October 06, 2011

More From Martha

Martha Claussen of SureBet Racing News will be returning to They Are Off to offer her suggestions on the Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs. To acclimate readers to Martha's imminent return, here is a link to her story on Alfonso Lujan, a very respected jockey in the American Quarter Horse world.:

Tune in again tomorrow for a look at the Grade 1 First Lady Stakes on Opening Weekend at Keeneland. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Keeneland Kickoff

Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Kentucky will begin its annual fall meeting on Friday. This season basically serves as a 17-day prep season for the Breeders' Cup Championships which, of course, will be held at nearby Churchill Downs in Louisville on November 4 and 5 with a record-high fifteen championship races being held over the two days.

Keeneland has two Graded stakes race scheduled for the Opening Day program on Friday, the Grade 3 Phoenix and the Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades. The Phoenix will more or less be a prep for the Sprint and the Dirt Mile, run at six furlongs. It features 8-5 favorite, Flashpoint, who won the Grade 3 Jersey Shore at Monmouth two starts back and ran a poor fifth in the seven furlong King's Bishop last time out at Saratoga. Also on hand are Aikenite at 5-2, who ran third in the Grade 1 Forego at The Spa, closing just a bit late to get to Jackson Bend, and Hamazing Destiny. Hamazing Destiny finished 4th in that Forego at Saratoga.

As far as the Darley Alcibiades, it has always been the traditional final tune-up for those horses destined for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. Fifteen horses are entered in the Alcibiades and it is such an evenly matched bunch that the morning-line choice is at 5-1. She ran third in the Grade 1 Spinaway after breaking her maiden on August 7 at Saratoga. Behind her are three 6-1 shots on the morning-line. Canadian import Tu Endie Wei, a daughter of 2003 Breeders' Cup Turf winner, Johar, is 2 for 2 in her career thus far at Woodbine. The Todd Pletcher-trained Sweet Cat is 1 for 2 after a maiden-breaking win at Saratoga on September 1. New Wave missed the top three in her only prior Graded attempt, but has a win and a second also on the resume' entering Friday.

Things are really starting to heat up now as the Breeders' Cup Saturday is exactly one month from today. Also speaking of today, this is the 500th post in the history of They Are Off and I would like to thank all of those who read and follow this blog on a regular or a limited basis. I appreciate your support. Tune in again tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Grade 1 $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup

There will be a major prep for the Breeders' Cup Classic on Saturday at Belmont Park. The Grade 1 $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup takes place on what is promising to be a wet day in the New York area. I would expect the track to be off a bit, but hopefully it won't be too bad to affect the remainder of the races that are scheduled to take place on the turf. Here is the analysis:

#1 Flat Out- I think this one might be the one to beat in this field, but I am not really a fan of his 7-5 pricetag, especially coming off back-to-back runner-up finishes. Granted, two Horse Of The Year candidates beat him, but 7-5 is tough to accept.

#1a Birdrun- Has yet to run with his entrymate in any of his recent starts. He did convincingly win the 1 1/2 mile Grade 2 Brooklyn on June 10, defeating Drosselmeyer along the way, who will also be a part of this field.

#2 Ice Box- Is it just me or was his last good race the 2010 Kentucky Derby? He is 0 for 6 in the subsequent starts and has only hit the board in one of that sextet. Corey Nakatani will be aboard.

#3 Rodman- He could go to the front or he could sit off of the pace. There is no consistency in his running style. He returns from a layoff here after getting drilled in the Whitney at Saratoga on August 6.

#4 Stay Thirsty- The current favorite for top three-year-old honors is looking to springboard into the Breeders' Cup Classic with a win here. He dominated his two races at Saratoga, the Jim Dandy and the Travers. Curiously, he is 0 for 2 at Belmont with two seconds.

#5 Drosselmeyer- Goes turf-to-dirt after a dismal showing in the Sword Dancer on August 13. The former Belmont winner has the best wet Tomlinson number in the field. I think he might be worth a serious look at odds of 6-1 in here.

#6 A.U. Miner- Calvin Borel guided this one to a win in the Greenwood Cup at Park last time out July 16. Might have won the Breeders' Cup Marathon last fall had he not been badly hampered on the final turn. Don't think much of his chances in here.


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.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Breeders' Cup Hero: Tikkanen

The winner of the 1994 Breeders' Cup Turf at Churchill Downs was Tikkanen (pictured), who was dead last the first time the field of fourteen passed beneath the Twin Spires and was first when it counted most under jockey Mike Smith. Tikkanen paid $35.20 to win in the 1994 Turf, mainly because third-place finisher Paradise Creek was less than even-money to win. After the favorite, the next two favorites were both 7-1, so Paradise Creek getting beat was clearly a large upset. Tikkanen at 16-1, though, was somewhat of an overlay, especially given that he had won the Grade 1 Turf Classic Invitational before that Breeders' Cup triumph. He managed to set a track-record for the 1 1/2 miles distance at Churchill Downs. Tikkanen was never able to recapture that form after those two Grade 1 wins. In fact, he ended with only four lifetime victories from his eighteen career starts, earning a total of $1,599,355.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Tikkanen is where his name came from. He was named for famed National Hockey League enforcer, Esa Tikkanen. Tikkanen started his career in Edmonton, where he played with, among others, Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri. Tikkanen also played with the New York Rangers, St. Louis Blues, Vancouver Canucks, New Jersey Devils, Florida Panthers, and Washington Capitals during a career that produced five Stanley Cup victories. You might wonder about the connection between hockey and horse racing here, well, the horse's owner was George Strawbridge Jr., who was active in running the Buffalo Sabres franchise for over thirty years. Also, it is worth mentioning that the National Hockey League season kicks off on October 6 and I, for one, am deliriously happy about that.

If you would like to relive Tikkanen's 1994 Breeders' Cup Turf victory, here is the link: Tune in again tomorrow for a look at Saturday's Jockey Club Gold Cup. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Photo courtesy of

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Future Search

Guess what, as of Saturday, we have exactly 32 weeks until the 2012 Kentucky Derby!! That's right, the next Run For The Roses is practically right around the corner and the odds are already out and they are probably going to be as good as they are going to get right now.

The Wynn/Encore Sports Book has published their odds for the 2012 Derby and they have listed three favorites at 35-1: Creative Cause, Drill, and Union Rags. Drill is scheduled to be heading to the track this weekend for his first effort around two turns in the Grade 1 Norfolk Stakes at Santa Anita. Creative Cause is also listed as a possibility for that race at Santa Anita. Union Rags won over a sloppy strip in the Saratoga Special and you can likely look for him to run again in the Grade 1 Champagne next weekend at Belmont Park.

Take Charge Indy is next on the Wynn odds board at 45-1 to win the Derby next year. The runner-up in the Arlington-Washington Futurity is likely to go next on October 8 also, but he will over the synthetic at Keeneland. One of the vagaries of future wagering is that the horse that beat Take Charge Indy in the Futurity, Shared Property, currently is listed at 150-1 to win the Derby. There are also two horses at 50-1 on the Wynn list, Alpha and Fire On Ice. Alpha won his maiden start at Saratoga on September 3 and might be facing Union Rags in the Champagne. Fire On Ice is another maiden winner from the recently concluded Saratoga season, his win coming on August 27. He is also scheduled to go in the Champagne. I am kind of getting the impression that the folks at the Wynn are thinking the Derby Trail is starting in New York next week, rather than in Arcadia this week.

I'll tell you what can be quite a bit of fun. Let's pick a horse that is triple digits on the Wynn Futures List and track his progress and see if he can make it to the Big Dance on May 5 next year. Shun is a Lemon Drop Kid offspring owned by Adele Dilschneider and Claiborne Farm currently listed at 200-1 on the Future Book. He won at Turfway Park in his first career start. He won a two-turn mile in his first career start. Let's see where he goes and see if we might not be able to follow him all the way to the gate in the 139th Kentucky Derby.

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

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Grade 2 $1,000,000 Pennsylvania Derby

The 32nd running of the Pennsylvania Derby is the marquee event of the weekend, featuring the winner of the Belmont Stakes, the winner of two-thirds of the Canadian Triple Crown, and the runners-up in the Wood Memorial and the Travers. It is a strong field of nine that will most likely have to deal with a soggy racetrack at Parx since the Philadelphia area is currently suffering through a wet weekend with flood warnings, according to We are going to try a bit of a different tack in our handicapping feature this week and look at each horse individually and offer a top four at the end. Here is the analysis:

#1 Ruler On Ice- The Belmont winner will certainly love the wet surface that replicates the slop he won the Test Of Champions in. He merits a look the more of a bog the racetrack will be.

#2 Arthur's Tale- Runner-up in the Wood has not been back to the races since that big effort at 21-1. His morning line here is 12-1 and he is another that could benefit from heavy rainfall.

#3 Pender Harbour- Versatile Canadian-bred won the Prince Of Wales and the Breeders' Stakes, the latter coming on the grass. He could have won all three up north with some breaks in the Queen's Plate. I think his 12-1 morning line is a great value here.

#4 Norman Asbjornson- Scored a win at Parx on September 3 in what appeared to be a prep for this spot. However, I just don't think he has the speed or the capacity to keep up with these.

#5 Rush Now- Also entered in the Grade 3 Kent at Delaware on Saturday. I think he might be a factor should he choose to go here off of a solid second to Prayer For Relief in the West Virginia Derby.

#6 Isn't He Perfect- Has not won since a Starter Allowance score at Aqueduct on the inner track in March. Another one that is not good enough to be a contender.

#7 To Honor And Serve- Trying to return to the spotlight after missing four months between the Florida Derby and the Amsterdam. Rebounded off the long layoff to win second time back at The Spa on August 26 and posted a bullet workout on September 17 over Oklahoma track.

#8 JW Blue- Rolled late to collect third money behind Stay Thirsty in the Travers on August 27. He is also double-entered in the Kent at Delaware. While he has been finishing well of late, he has not won since January, when he was at Oaklawn.

#9 Rattlesnake Bridge- Second-best in the Travers and his Tomlinson wet number indicates he should love the sloppy surface. John Velazquez rides for Kiaran McLaughlin. The Sire is Tapit, who has been producing winners all over the place.


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!