Friday, February 25, 2011

The Grade 2 $400,000 Fountain Of Youth Stakes

Kentucky Derby season is now in full swing at racetracks across the country. Gulfstream Park re-enters the spotlight on Saturday with the Grade 2 $400,000 Fountain Of Youth Stakes. The Fountain Of Youth features a field of eight going 1 1/8 miles. The two top contestants are the winner of the Grade 2 Remsen last November at Aqueduct, To Honor And Serve, and the runner-up in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf in November, Soldat. Here is the analysis:

Of course, in the never-ending pursuit of a price pick to find in any race, I am attracted to #8 Shackleford in the Fountain Of Youth at 8-1 on the morning line. He defeated a couple of the horse he will face in the Saturday race the last time he raced, which was at this distance at Gulfstream on February 5. Hopefully, Jesus Castanon will get the pace scenario he needs here with Soldat at To Honor And Serve burning each out, maybe helped to that end by Bowman's Causeway. The distance should not be a question moving forward for this Dale Romans trainee with both Storm Cat and Unbridled in the lineage. #1 Soldat is my second choice here since his last race was much more recent than To Honor And Serve. He posted a shattering Beyer Speed Figure of 103 in his 2011 debut over a sloppy track at Gulfstream on January 21. Ironically, I believe that was the race that Dialed In scratched out of because of the wet surface to run in the Grade 3 Holy Bull. Would Dialed In be such a Derby favorite right now had he faced Soldat that day? It is an interesting question. Soldat has never been worse that second in six lifetime starts. #7 To Honor And Serve will be my third selection mainly because this will be his first race since that win in the Remsen. The date of that race was November 27, so Saturday will be just one day short of three full months since his last effort. That is a long layoff since your last race, I don't care whether you are a potential superstar or not. He did post a bullet workout on February 20 at Payson Park, covering four furlongs in 48 and 1/5 seconds. I will wrap up the top four with #4 Casper's Touch. He ran second to the top pick in that race on February 5 at Saturday's distance. You will note, however, that Julien Leparoux elected to ride Bowman's Causeway instead in this race. He gets Alex Solis at the controls here, so there won't be any drop-off in rider quality for sure. I think it is worth noting that Casper's Touch started racing at Keeneland last April, which is the earliest debut of any of these horses in this field. Here is the play for the Grade 2 $400,000 Fountain Of Youth Stakes:

$5 WPS #8
$2 EX 8 with 1-2-4-7 and 1-2-4-7 with 8
TOTAL- $31

Last weekend, They Are Off did hit the exacta on the Phoenix Gold Cup, so the total for the blog so far in 2011 is MINUS $13. 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, February 24, 2011

Here's To The Ladies

Ry Eikleberry is going to be the leading rider at Turf Paradise for the 2010-2011 season. That much already seems certain. Through February 23, Eikleberry has 104 victories from 553 starters for a win percentage of 19%. One thing about the rider colony that resides beneath Eikleberry in the standings is the proliferation of excellent women riders that Turf Paradise has produced this season.

Anne Von Rosen is currently the leading female rider at the meeting with 57 winners from 299 starters, which matches Eikleberry's win percentage at 19%. Von Rosen has been part of a dynamic duo when paired with leading trainer Mike Chambers. It seems that every time Von Rosen and Chambers pair up, the results are either a win or a very competitive performance from the horse. Lori Keith has been winning races in bunches lately for the trainers she works for. Right now, she sits second on the ladies' ladder with 41 winners from 192 mounts. Those of you with a calculator will realize that gives her a win percentage of 21%, better than either Von Rosen or Eikleberry.

We could be looking at a milestone moment coming very soon to Turf Paradise for one of our women riders. Vicky Baze currently stands just four winners from 2,000 for her fine career. For 2010-2011, Baze has 35 winners and is third behind Von Rosen and Keith for leading lady honors. Kristina Kenney was having an outstanding season before being sidelined after winning 33 races this year. Of course, Kenney will have more something more important to worry about than getting into the Winner's Circle once her own milestone moment (and blessed event) occurs later this year. Congratulations Kristina!!!

Tammi Piermarini was a late addition to the colony at Turf Paradise, but in the same way that Anne Von Rosen and Mike Chambers have been a tough team, you can also say that about Piermarini and trainer Burton Sipp. They are very hard to overcome if they have some good horse flesh to work with. There is even an apprentice to keep your eyes on when it comes to the Turf Paradise female jockey set. Megan Fadlovich has been drawing rave reviews from many members of the public at Turf and she has earned those laurels. While she has only won ten races, she has a very strong in-the-money percentage of 27% from her 153 starters so far.

By and large, the profession of being a jockey is still one that is dominated by the boys. However, the ladies are certainly staking their claim at Turf Paradise and the racing action is much the better for it.

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

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Super Six Derby Pix

There were only two true Kentucky Derby prep races this weekend, the Grade 2 Risen Star at Fair Grounds and the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn. Mucho Macho Man won the New Orleans race and Archarcharch won the Hot Springs race. With a paucity of action, you would think there would not be much change to the Super Six Derby Pix from last week, but you might want to reconsider that opinion as you read on:

#1- Uncle Mo- There are some who are souring on the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and Champion Two-Year-Old Colt from 2010. His connections have announced a preference for the an overnight stakes race at Gulfstream over the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby on March 12 as his comeback race. The Timely Writer is a one-turn mile with a $100,000 purse. Clearly, the Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner has enough graded earnings in the bank to pick his spots, but what does it say about him that his connections are rebuffing the tougher spot?

#2- Dialed In- The win by Mucho Macho Man in the Risen Star really flattered this Nick Zito trainee because of the easy way he dusted Mucho Macho Man (and everybody else for that matter) in the Grade 3 Holy Bull at Gulfstream on January 30. His running style might be suitable to the Derby as well with that big come-from-behind burst, but try to think of where the speed might be? Just exactly what pace is he going to have to run at in Louisville?

#3- To Honor And Serve- Circumstances have downgraded him one spot in the Pix this week. However, he posted a bullet workout on Monday at Payson Park, covering four furlongs in a sterling 48.20 seconds. It seems a fitting final preparation for his long-awaited return to the races in the Grade 2 Fountain Of Youth on Saturday. That is his supposed next start for trainer Bill Mott, who is still looking for that elusive first Derby winner.

#4- Brethren- Todd Pletcher got his elusive first Derby winner last year with WinStar's Super Saver. Well, this is his full brother and he was certainly full of run in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Derby. He put himself square in the Derby picture with that dominating performance. His next schedule race is the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby. Is his presence in there keeping Uncle Mo away? I doubt it, but it would have been nice to have that showdown to look forward to, wouldn't it?

#5- Santiva- I know he ran second to Mucho Macho Man in the Risen Star. However, he was wider than Mucho Macho Man all the way around the racetrack and he still showed the guts and determination I have been harping on since I made him one of my "Three To Watch in 2011". His next possible run is in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby on March 26. I certainly hope that will not be his final race before the Derby. I can really picture him gritting out a quality race in the Kentucky Derby, if he gets that far. Will he win? Maybe and maybe not, but I am sure you will get his best effort.

#6- Mucho Macho Man- He was impressive in victory in the Risen Star this weekend and I know I have the horse he beat ahead of him, but that is mainly because I have been high on Santiva for a while and it is not like he absolutely crushed him in New Orleans. He is certainly the most experienced horse of any on this list with seven starts, but just two wins in those races and one of those was this weekend. He, too, is listed as possible for the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby next.

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

Friday, February 18, 2011

The $75,000 Phoenix Gold Cup

I am going to do something I rarely take the opportunity to do on the blog and play a home game on Saturday afternoon. The $75,000 Phoenix Gold Cup is one of the highlight events of the 156-day season at Turf Paradise, my home track, and with a competitive field of thirteen, including the defending champion and runner-up (both at long odds), and two horses a combined 10 for 11 over the surface, I think it is worth a look. I should mention one thing about that surface on Saturday. We are expecting rain in the Phoenix area all day on Saturday, so the track might come up muddy or sloppy. Here is the analysis:

Even with a field of thirteen for the Phoenix Gold Cup, I am hard-pressed to find a real likable longshot. My top choice is #11 Stephengothisstar. He finished second at one mile last out at Sunland Park on January 30. That ended a nice five-race win streak he had cobbled together dating back to a try in September at Remington Park in Oklahoma. His style might also work in case there is a lot of speed in this race, since he appears to like to lay just off the pace. For second, I will go right to the inside of the top pick and #10 Point Attended. One thing you have to say about Point Attended is that he REALLY likes Turf Paradise. He is a perfect 5 for 5 over the racetrack. The latest win came with a nice turn of foot in the $25,000 Swift Stakes on January 22, a race in which he defeated many of the same foes he will face again today. His last workout was a bullet on February 8, going five furlongs in 1:00.1. I will put #7 Wiredfortwotwenty in the third position. Scott Stevens has been enjoying a solid season at Turf Paradise, returning from a serious injury sustained last summer at Canterbury Park. If anyone is going to wire this field, it might just be this gelding. My main question with him is the distance. He broke his maiden at six furlongs at Hollywood in July 2008. Since then, he does not have a win at the distance. Finally, I will include a relative longshot at 10-1 with #6 New Bay. His last two efforts were with Grade 1 company in Southern California, resulting in a sixth and a seventh. I think this spot might be a little closer to his capabilities. He has been working like a speed demon at Santa Anita since the New Year. Jake Barton will be aboard. Here is the play for the $75,000 Phoenix Gold Cup:

$1 EX BOX 4-6-7-10-11
$1 TRI 10-11 with 10-11 with 2-4-6-7-9
TOTAL- $30

For the record, following last week's second-place finish by Too Experience and the Brethren-Too Experience exacta his, the blog is currently MINUS $7.30 for the year. 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, February 17, 2011

Winning Colors

This weekend is the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds in New Orleans. It honors one of the finest horses ever to come out of the Bayou, Risen Star, who like so many other Triple Crown candidates won two of the three Classic events. However, unlike so many others, he is similar to Point Given in that he failed at the first hurdle, The Kentucky Derby, as opposed to the last hurdle, The Belmont Stakes. Risen Star suffered a horrendous trip around the Churchill Downs oval on the First Saturday In May, 1988. It was actually a testament to his greatness that he finished third, behind Winning Colors (pictured) and Forty Niner.

Winning Colors became just the third filly in history to win the Kentucky Derby. She still stands as the last filly to wear the Roses. She joined the very exclusive club of Regret, the 1915 winner, and Genuine Risk, the 1980 winner. Regret is considered by many racing historians to be the horse that saved the Kentucky Derby. The Derby was on hard times in the early years of this century with small fields and dwindling interest, especially from the racing hierarchy in the east. Regret changed all that with her victory. It restored the importance of the Derby and it also fixed the attitudes of the eastern racing establishment, since the winning owner, Harry Payne Whitney, spoke mightily of how crucial it was for his filly to win the Derby. Genuine Risk came along 65 years later and was probably the best three-year-old in the nation that year, male or female. She blew past Jaklin Klugman at the top of the stretch (although you gotta admit, it would have been awesome for everyone if owner Jack Klugman would have won the Derby) and held off the late charge of Rumbo to become the second filly to turn the trick at Churchill Downs, winning in the colors of owner Diana Firestone. Oddly enough, neither Regret nor Genuine Risk ever missed the money in any of their races.

The same cannot be said for Winning Colors, although her record of eight wins, three seconds, and one third from nineteen starts is nothing to sneeze at. Winning Colors was the first Kentucky Derby winner for both trainer D. Wayne Lukas and jockey Gary Stevens. Lukas, amazingly, played a role in Genuine Risk's Triple Crown record since he trained Codex, who won the 1980 Preakness after surviving an objection that he impeded the progress of Genuine Risk at the top of the stretch. Lukas would win the Derby thrice more in his Hall Of Fame career. As for Stevens, he would get to the exclusive Kentucky Derby Winner's Circle at Churchill Downs twice more after Winning Colors win. Winning Colors went right to the lead on Derby Day and quite honestly, never looked back. She was in front all the way around the racetrack and still had plenty left to hold off a belated charge from Forty Niner to win by a neck.

Remarkably, if Winning Colors is remembered for any race beside her Derby win, it is an epic loss that lives in racing history. She returned to Churchill Downs for the Breeders' Cup Distaff in 1988. Again, she attempted to steal the race on the lead and came ever so close to doing exactly that. Only a determined finish by the brilliant, undefeated Personal Ensign denied Winning Colors a Breeders' Cup victory that day. Winning Colors was voted Champion Three-Year-Old Filly in 1988 and was inducted into the United States Racing Hall Of Fame in 2000. She passed away in February 2008 after a bout with colic.

Here is the link if you would like to watch Winning Colors' triumph in the 1988 Kentucky Derby: Tune in again tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!
Photo courtesy of

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Super Six Derby Pix

There was considerable change to the Super Six Derby Pix following the three major prep races this past weekend. Brethren dominated, Comma To The Top looked a little short, and Tapizar looked a little nuts. It has now come out that Tapizar has a bone chip following his disappointing run in the Robert Lewis this weekend and is now off the Road To The Roses. There will, of course, be more to come this weekend on the Derby Trail with the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes looking very promising with a strong field of ten scheduled to go to the post. So without any further ado, here are the Super Six Derby Pix:

#1- Uncle Mo- He finally seemed to get back into form with his workout on Sunday, going four furlongs in 47.45 seconds. His previous two workouts had not been up to snuff, according to reports. There are also questions as to whether his lineage supports the 1 1/4 mile distance he will need to get on the First Saturday In May. Of course, he has been nothing short of brilliant on the racetrack. We just have to wait until the Tampa Bay Derby on March 12 to see where he is.

#2- To Honor And Serve- Continues to live off his impressive win in the Remsen last fall and he is scheduled to return to the races in the Fountain Of Youth in Florida on February 26. The Sire, Bernardini, has been in the news a lot lately due to the pending pairing with Zenyatta. He is also, you must remember, a classic winner in his own right with the 2006 Preakness to his credit. It will be just as interesting to see where this Bill Mott trainee is when he returns as the top pick.

#3- Machen- The two horses closest to him in his sensational maiden-breaking win, Sour and Birdie Beats Par, have both come back to win equally impressively. Machen followed up that first score with a route victory at 1 mile and 70 yards. He is listed at 6-1 on the morning line in the Risen Star Saturday at the Fair Grounds. I think it is a pipe dream to believe you will get anything close to 6-1 come post time. He has been the hot horse in Louisiana since the season opened in New Orleans. It wouldn't surprise me if he were the favorite in the Risen Star.

#4- Brethren- Did you see the Sam F. Davis this weekend at Tampa Bay? This horse was brilliant in victory from the outside post and made the nice win he had at Churchill Downs last fall look like a preamble to what was to come. I appreciate the field was not the strongest in the Davis last weekend. However, an impressive win is an impressive win. Keep in mind that he will likely go in the Tampa Bay Derby next and that means a matchup with Uncle Mo.

#5- Santiva- He will go postward for the first time in 2011 in the Risen Star on Saturday at Fair Grounds. He needs to build off the gutcheck win he scored in the Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs over Astrology last autumn. The Beyer number for that race didn't dazzle, but the heart he showed in repelling the challengers did. I will be anxious to see if he repeats that kind of determination again on Saturday if presented with another tough spot.

#6- Dialed In- The star of the Gulfstream season so far after his come-from-behind tour de force in the Holy Bull on January 30. He appeared hopelessly beaten at points in this race and when the finish line rolled around, he had won by a healthy margin. Nick Zito has won the Derby twice, but not since 1994. He has had many chances to get that third Derby victory on his record, but this one could be one of the more likely opportunities of them all.

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

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Grade 3 $225,000 Sam F. Davis

As mentioned earlier this week on this blog, Uncle Mo will begin his three-year-old campaign in the Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs. If you would like a preview of some of the potential competition that the Champion Two-Year-Old will face, then the Grade 3 $225,000 Sam F. Davis on Saturday is for you. It features a field of ten going 1 1/16 miles over the main track at Tampa. Here is the analysis:

The top selection for me will be the 12-1 shot, #4 Too Experience. This will be his 2011 debut effort, but the last few workouts have been quite good. It is almost like trainer Mark Passley has been gearing the horse to be ready to debut in full flight on Saturday. Also, those horses that have run at Calder seem to have a great deal of success at other venues in recent days. Plus, you get Daniel Centeno aboard and he is always one to watch at Tampa. For second, I will go with Super Saver's brother, #10 Brethren. He is also making his 2011 debut here, but he is an undefeated 2 for 2 in his career. His win in a one-turn mile at Churchill on November 27 was certainly eye-catching. His works have also been strong leading into this go and while his brother didn't win the Tampa Bay Derby last year, I think the experience at Tampa Bay Downs clearly didn't hurt Super Saver on the way to the Roses. #3 Washington's Rules will be the third choice off a nice maiden-breaker at Gulfstream Park on January 22. Kent Desormeaux will be aboard on Saturday, as he was for the first two starts by this gelding. There are two Derby winners just a generation back in the lineage (Fusaichi Pegasus and Silver Charm). The last workout on February 5 was a bullet, going five furlongs in 59.3 seconds. I will use #8 Monzon to complete the top four selections here. Edgar Prado was up for the last two tries, which included a win in the Count Fleet over the inner track at Aqueduct on New Year's Day. This gelding has won three times in his six-race career, including both tries over main track surfaces. Here is the play for the Grade 3 $225,000 Sam F. Davis:

$5 WP #4
$1 EX BOX 2-3-4-8-10
TOTAL- $30

For the record, the blog is now MINUS $52 for the year. We are hopeful we can reverse that downward trend. Remember, They Are Off accepts no responsibility for any wagers placed in conjunction with these selections. They are merely suggestions. Tune in again tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Mig

Retired jockey Richard Migliore won over 4,400 races during his career that lasted many, many years through stops at most major racing circuits around the country. Migliore never won a Triple Crown race during his extended career, but he did capture one Breeders' Cup race, the 2008 Turf Sprint aboard longshot Desert Code. Migliore did also score in a couple of major Kentucky Derby prep races (the 1985 Wood Memorial with Eternal Prince and the 2004 Florida Derby with Friends Lake). He just never had the horsepower to win on the sport's biggest stages.

Anyone who ever sat through a handicapping seminar during my time as an announcer and handicapper in Texas will know that I was no great fan of Migliore for these large-scale events. I regularly discounted his horses, his chances, and his riding abilities. Now, Migliore is returning to racing as an employee of NYRA as a "broadcast analyst and racing office associate", according to the press release on his hiring. His racing office duties will include educating apprentice riders as to safe riding techniques and riding skills. He also will be educating owners to increase their participation in the industry.

I think this is a tremendous job by NYRA to bring aboard someone who has seen it all and done just about it all in racing to enlighten the next generation. Migliore might never have been my favorite, but I certainly had to respect his ability to work with what he had and get the most of his horses and himself. By doing this, NYRA is hopefully creating a new generation of intelligent and safe jockeys who will know the ins and outs of what they are doing before they ever get themselves into a dangerous situation and, more importantly, what is right course of action once they find themselves involved in something precarious. I also think Migliore will be invaluable to the NYRA television presentation in his analyst role through his experience aboard countless horses and in countless races. Again, Migliore's experience will be invaluable to the betting public at what was basically his home stomping grounds. All in all, NYRA should be commended for bringing Migliore into the fold by not only the racing insiders, but also the betting public.

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

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

It Makes "Sense"

Uncle Mo is the current prohibitive favorite of the "winter books" for the 2011 Kentucky Derby. I would say that honor is most deserved, given the crushing manner in which he toyed with the competition in the 2010 Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Should he go on to win the Kentucky Derby on May 7, Uncle Mo would become only the second winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile to win the Kentucky Derby, joining 2006 Juvenile and 2007 Derby winner, Street Sense, with those laurels. That would be fitting, since it seems that the connections of Uncle Mo are following the example set by the connections of Street Sense four years ago.

To begin with, Street Sense won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs in 2006, the same venue that Uncle Mo won his Juvenile at several months ago. While it might be true that Street Sense might have had a little help from the inside track bias the day of his Juvenile win, he still made it to the Winner's Circle, just like Uncle Mo. I think Uncle Mo's win was certainly the more visually impressive of the two performances. Trainer Carl Nafzger elected to only give Street Sense two prep races between the Juvenile score and the Kentucky Derby. Uncle Mo's trainer, Todd Pletcher, is also only allowing two prep races before the First Saturday In May for his charge. You might take note at this point that both Nafzger (Unbridled in 1990) and Pletcher (Super Saver in 2010) had a Derby victory on their resumes.

Nafzger went with the Tampa Bay Derby and the Blue Grass Stakes as his selections for Street Sense's prep races. Street Sense won the Tampa Bay Derby overcoming a game Any Given Saturday. He then went to Keeneland and ran on the Polytrack there, losing narrowly to artificial surface favoring Dominican in the Blue Grass. Pletcher is choosing the Tampa Bay Derby and the Wood Memorial as his two preps for Uncle Mo. The reasons for this difference should be obvious to everyone, since Uncle Mo's owner, Mike Repole, is a New Yorker who prefers the Wood Memorial anyway and they get to avoid the tricky Polytrack surface so close to the big day.

Street Sense would rally from well off the pace and get a ground-saving rail ride from Calvin Borel to carry him past the underrated Hard Spun and into the Kentucky Derby Winner's Circle at Churchill Downs. He would come up a little bit short in the Preakness, getting tackled by eventual 2007 Horse Of The Year, Curlin, in the shadow of the wire. Street Sense would skip the Belmont, but come back later in the summer to win both the Jim Dandy and Travers at Saratoga. The historian in me feels that Uncle Mo, like Street Sense, might come up short in the remainder of the Triple Crown with only two prep races before the Derby, which is a shame since he could possess the qualities of a Triple Crown winner. The practical side of me says that the connections are currently only interested in winning the first leg of the Triple Crown (and the most historically significant anyway) in the Kentucky Derby. I guess in the final analysis, you cannot question anything that Mike Repole and Todd Pletcher have done so far with Uncle Mo, at least to this point in time anyway. If they don't win that Derby they are expected to win, there will be plenty of time for everyone to second-guess them in the aftermath.

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

Friday, February 04, 2011

The Grade 1 $500,000 Donn Handicap

Gulfstream Park's season doesn't really begin for me until the running of the Donn. Yes, I know Dialed In was exactly that last weekend in the Grade 3 Holy Bull, but that's really a prep for the Grade 2 Fountain Of Youth, which is a prep for the Grade 1 Florida Derby. The Donn always seems to be the first big race of the year on the calendar and it kinds of kickstarts the true racing season. This year's version of the Donn features a field of nine going 1 1/8 miles and here is the analysis:

I might have a screw loose with this one, but I actually think #1 I Want Revenge is due to return to his form from the spring of 2009 and put forth a big effort in here on Saturday. In both of his 2010 starts, you will notice trouble at the start in the notes for each race. He finished behind Haynesfield in the Grade 2 Suburban after a year plus away from the track and the Grade 3 Iselin was just a dull effort. Is he sitting on a big race or not? I am not sure, but with a morning line of 6-1, he is an attractive enough price for me to consider it a possibility. For second, I will go with #3 Morning Line. He was sent off at even-money in the Grade 3 Hal's Hope at Gulfstream last time out on January 8, but I tend to want to write that one off given the strenuous Breeders' Cup effort he put forth and the heartbreaking defeat he endured. I know the story this week of the Sheikh purchasing part of him with the idea of pointing him to the Dubai World Cup. It remains to be seen if he can go that far against the caliber of field he will be facing at Meydan, but for Saturday, I find him second-best. I will use #8 Rule. Rule is just one of those horses for me that we all encounter during our wagering adventures. I always seem to be on the wrong side of the aisle with him. When I don't like him, he runs big, and when I do like him, he doesn't. He posted a bullet workout on January 30 and is making the second start off the last layoff here. That means I find some things to like, I just feel I need to be cautious with him in this spot. Finally, I will round out the top four with #6 Fly Down. Remember what I said about Morning Line losing his first start after the Breeders' Cup. Well, that same theory can be applied to Fly Down. His works since the Cup have been quite good, but this will be his first real action since Churchill Downs. That Cup race was a big effort for Fly Down, closing smartly to finish within four lengths of Blame and Zenyatta and get third. Does he rebound today or not? Here is the play for the Grade 1 $500,000 Donn Handicap:

$5 WP #1
$1 EX BOX 1-3-6-8
$1 TRI 1-3 with 1-3 with 4-5-6-8-9
TOTAL- $32

By the way, the tally for 2011 right now is MINUS $20. We hope to get back on the plus side 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, February 03, 2011

A Truly Rising Star

Machen, who is 2 for 2 at the Fair Grounds following another strong victory this past weekend, is now logically being pointed to the Grade 2 Risen Star at the New Orleans oval. One can only believe that the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby on March 26 will follow for the relatively inexperienced, but very capable colt.

The Beyer figure for the win on Sunday was only 76, which didn't come close to the 95 he posted in his six furlong debut win on January 2. The Sunday race was one mile and 70 yards, so you might be able to chalk it up to the aforementioned inexperience, especially going around two turns.

Whatever the reason for the slower effort in the second start, Machen has so far earned the right to be the most exciting thing in New Orleans since the Saints were winning the Super Bowl about this time last year. Now, whether he goes on to improve from here is a question that trainer Neil Howard and jockey Jamie Theriot will have to address. I am certainly thinking he will be the favorite in the Risen Star and deservedly so.

Of course, he will have to come through in both the Risen Star and the Louisiana Derby if he is to take the next step after that, which would be the Kentucky Derby on May 7. The sad fact, though, is that only two horses have won the Louisiana Derby and then added the Roses afterward (Black Gold in 1924 and Grindstone in 1996). Maybe Machen will be the horse to make it a Triple Crown of Louisiana Derby winners to win the big one on the First Saturday In May.

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

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Super Six Derby Pix

It is a tradition unlike any other here at They Are Off. From the very first days of this blog, I have offered my Super Six Derby Pix in the weeks leading up to the big day in Louisville. Now, Mine That Bird and Super Saver weren't really what I call "prominent" in my opinions in the weeks preceding the Derby, but we are ready to go again with the first edition of the 2011 Super Six Derby Pix:

#1- Uncle Mo- His definitive win in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile earned him this spot a long while ago. He destroyed a strong contingent of two-year-olds in that race and great things are expected out of not just him, but the connections as well. Owner Mike Repole is being hailed as a new brand of owner and just the tonic an "ailing" Thoroughbred industry needs. Now, just how "ailing" the industry is remains a subjective thought, but that is another story. Trainer Todd Pletcher got off the Derby donut with Super Saver's win last year. Can he make it two in a row?

#2- Boys At Tosconova- The runner-up to Uncle Mo in the Juvenile was allegedly supposed to run in the Grade 3 Holy Bull this weekend, but the connections opted to skip it. Of course, this decision leads to a plethora of "What's wrong with Boys At Tosconova?" ideas fermenting in everyone's head. A valid point, though, was raised on The Paulick Report Derby Index as to whether an offspring of Officer can get the Derby distance. It promises to be worth watching.

#3- To Honor And Serve- The winner of the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes last fall in New York, To Honor And Serve accomplished that win so impressively that he became a de facto contender for the Derby the moment he hit the finish line. It was his second straight graded victory following the score in the Grade 2 Nashua. Now, the question becomes just how good are those victories after the runner-up in both, Mucho Macho Man, got drilled by Nick Zito's Dialed In in the Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park on Sunday?

#4- Comma To The Top- The West Coast's leading Derby candidate overcame an exceedingly long shoe situation in the rainy paddock at Hollywood Park to win the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity. The win in the CashCall was the third in a row for the gelding (keeping in mind that Funny Cide in 2003 and Mine That Bird in 2009 are the only two gelding's to win the Derby since 1929), but now the question is what next. The original thought, I believe, was to go to the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby in the Bay Area over the Grade 2 Robert Lewis in Southern California. What does that express about the connections confidence in the horse? Are they searching for an easier spot in Northern California and potentially ducking a tougher spot at Santa Anita? I don't think that is the reason, but I find it a questionable decision if it comes to pass.

#5- Tapizar- Steve Asmussen has been the leading trainer in North America so many times, I am losing count. Heck, he might be losing count. One thing he has not won yet is the Kentucky Derby. Yes, he has a Classic win (Curlin in the 2007 Preakness), but we all know the Preakness is not the Derby. Pletcher broke his Derby jinx last year, is it Asmussen's turn this year? The winner of the Grade 3 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita, it would be unique to see Asmussen going the Western route to Louisville. Normally, you think of him more as an Eastern guy. In reality, he is just a winning machine everywhere. The Sire, Tapit, has been producing strong progeny almost from the get-go.

#6- Santiva- I know his highest career Beyer figure doesn't nearly match the other horses on this list and I know he hasn't raced since breaking his maiden in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club in November at Churchill Downs. However, I was truly impressed by his tenacity in repelling the challenge of Astrology in that race and Astrology certainly isn't a slouch either. It is likely that Santiva will be appearing in Florida shortly, possibly to run in the Fountain Of Youth. I, for one, will be keenly piqued to see how he does in his return to the races.

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