Thursday, June 30, 2011

Over And Out

2011 Kentucky Derby winner, Animal Kingdom, had his season cut prematurely short after having surgery performed on a fracture in his left hock. Animal Kingdom will not race again in 2011, although Barry Irwin of Team Valor is optimistic that the Derby winner will be able to return for the 2012 Dubai World Cup at Meydan. In a press release, Irwin also said that it is likely that Animal Kingdom suffered the injury as a result of the troubled trip he suffered while running sixth in the Belmont Stakes on June 11.

Unfortunately, this costs the sport of Thoroughbred racing some of the high profile storylines that go with any winner of the Kentucky Derby in the months following the triumph. There will no be no talk of whether he runs in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth or the Travers Stakes at Saratoga. There will be no anticipation of rematches with Preakness winner, Shackleford, or Belmont winner, Ruler On Ice. There will be no tracking of his progress en route to the Breeders' Cup World Championships at Churchill Downs this November. All we have right now are the memories and images of a gallant champion who won the biggest race of them all and gave his all over the next two races trying to make our Triple Crown dreams come true.

I certainly hope there will be no pinning of any blame to Rajiv Maragh for what happened to Animal Kingdom. Maragh, you may remember, was aboard Isn't He Perfect in the Belmont Stakes. Isn't He Perfect was held at fault by the stewards at Belmont Park for impeding Mucho Macho Man and the subsequent squeezing of Animal Kingdom shortly after the start of the race. Maragh was given a seven-day suspension for his ride of Isn't He Perfect and I think that is fair enough. There is no concrete evidence to suggest at what point Animal Kingdom was injured during the Belmont Stakes. There is no definite point at which you can say (watching the replay), "Yes, right there is where he got hurt." So, it might have happened right after the incident at the start. It might also have happened at some point on the racetrack while Animal Kingdom was displaying his characteristic heart and trying to get back into a race he had no chance to win. Maragh was given and served his suspension and that has to be the end of it for all racing fans, as far as that goes.

For now, all we can do is hope that we will be able to see Animal Kingdom come back in 2012 and live up to the expectations we all had for him following his Derby triumph. It may start over the Tapeta surface at Meydan in the 2012 Dubai World Cup or maybe he gets a prep race in before he heads overseas. Wherever it may begin and wherever it may end, I am looking very forward to seeing the career of Animal Kingdom continue in 2012 and very much would like to be there for the ride.

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

Monday, June 27, 2011


She certainly was that, wasn't she? Inglorious captured the 152nd running of the Queen's Plate on Sunday afternoon at Woodbine on an overcast day where she shined through the cloud cover to fashion a memorable and conclusive victory. Inglorious rallied from off a speedy pace to register a 2 1/2 length victory over the sixteen colts and geldings she faced and is now the 34th filly to win Canada's top race for three-year-olds.

It completed a tremendous Double for the filly as she had already prevailed in the Woodbine Oaks, making her the fifth filly ever to win both races and the first since 2001. Inglorious rated just behind mid-pack in the early stages while Oh Canada, Curgone, and Okiyama set suicidal fractions in the front of the field. They went 23 4/5 for the quarter and 47 3/5 for the half ensuring that none of them would be around at the finish. Luis Contreras, riding in his first Queen's Plate ever, sent the filly forward as the field of seventeen moved into the stretch and once she got going, she was not going to be stopped. There must be kudos given to the 61-1 longshot, Hippolytus, that ran much closer to the pace than the winner and still staved off everyone else to hold on for second. His race was very reminiscent of the race Closing Argument put forth at 71-1 in the 2005 Kentucky Derby to me. A good effort, just not good enough on the day. The heavy favorite, Check Your Soul, made a substantial move on the final turn before flattening out and finishing seventh.

Inglorious' trainer, Josie Carroll, did not say whether or not the filly would proceed on the Prince Of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie, the second leg of the Canadian Triple Crown. However, it appears that Hippolytus, Pender Harbour, and Bowman's Causeway, who ran second, third, and fourth, respectively, are intent on moving forward to Fort Erie. That is according to the website.

If you missed the 152nd running of the Queen's Plate and would like to see the glorious run of Inglorious, here is the link: Tune in again tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Friday, June 24, 2011

The 152nd Queen's Plate

The Canadian version of the Kentucky Derby takes place this weekend. While I am on the subject, a quick word of support and thanks that no one (human or equine) was hurt this week as a result of the tornado that touched down at Churchill Downs in Kentucky. The tornado caused some damage to the barn area and the cancellation of the Thursday program of racing as well. Back to the task at hand now, Woodbine hosts the 152nd running of The Queen's Plate for Canadian-bred three-year-olds with a field of seventeen. Here is the analysis:

The top selection in the Queen's Plate is #14 Queen'splatekitten, who will have the riding services of John Velazquez. I am not sure who the last rider was to win the Kentucky Derby and the Queen's Plate in the same year is, although I know that Bill Hartack turned the trick with Northern Dancer in 1964. This colt, trained by Todd Pletcher, won the Marine at Woodbine on May 21 with Eurico Da Silva aboard. He is also two-for-two at Woodbine in his brief career. He ran seventh in the Grade 1 Blue Grass at Keeneland, the only race over Polytrack that he failed to win. Last year, Big Red Mike went all the way in front to win the Plate (as tipped by the blog). If anyone is going to do that this year, it might just be #3 Oh Canada. He will have blinkers on for this try and there is such a dearth of speed in here, he just might be able to get the lead and never relinquish it. He has never missed the money in five starts, but ran third behind the top pick in that Marine on May 21. There might be some distance limitations here as well, but if he can control the pace, anything goes. I mentioned that Eurico Da Silva was aboard the top pick for that last win. Da Silva gets the call on #16 Bowman's Causeway. He might be alone among these runners as far as facing top-flight U.S. competition this year. He has already run against the likes of Dialed In, Soldat, To Honor And Serve, Mucho Macho Man, and the Preakness winner, Shackleford. He ran second in the Plate Trial on June 5 and posted a bullet workout on June 19 over the training track at Saratoga. The horse that beat Bowman's Causeway in the Plate Trial was #13 Check Your Soul, who will likely be the favorite in here. He has won three straight and the last two of those came with Patrick Husbands aboard. In a race with seventeen entering the gate, I think there has to be some value to be found, so while I include the favorite in the mix, I think you have to try and top him. Here is the play for the 152nd Queen's Plate:

$1 EX BOX 3-10-13-14-16
$1 TRI 14 with 3-9-10-12-13-16
TOTAL- $50

They Are Off accepts no responsibility for any wagers placed in conjunction with these selections. They are merely suggestions. The blog is right now MINUS $702, so we need to stop getting close and hit one of these things soon. Tune in again next week for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Usual Suspects

It has been determined that the Breeders' Cup has three finalists for host site of the 2012 edition of the Breeders' Cup World Championships. They are Belmont Park, Churchill Downs, and Santa Anita. If those names seem familiar come Breeders' Cup time, then you are right. Churchill Downs was host last year and will host again this year. Santa Anita was the host in 2008 and 2009, while Belmont last hosted the event in 2005.

I think you can forget the days of the "sprinkling" in of other sites to host the Breeders' Cup. Arlington (2002 host) and Woodbine (1996 host) suffer the indignity of being Polytrack surfaces (an affliction that also hurts Del Mar's chances) and now that the euphoria of artificial surfaces has apparently waned, you can forget a return trip, Chicago and Toronto. It would appear that Lone Star (2004 host) and Monmouth (2007 host) were just one-time attempts to show that any track capable of hosting the Breeders' Cup will get it requisite time in the spotlight. So, tough luck, Dallas and New Jersey.

The Breeders' Cup has toyed with the idea in the recent past of having one permanent host site. While that idea is apparently off the table now, thankfully so, is this really any better? Instead of one host site, you have a small rotation of tracks that will serve as hosts in the Breeders' Cup eyes. Yes, one is in New York, one is in Los Angeles, and one is in Kentucky, so they have covered most of the major areas where media and horse racing seem to intersect, but by limiting the distribution of the Cup to these three places, you also limit the number of fans outside these areas that might get interested if they were able to attend a Breeders' Cup. Having worked in this industry for so long, many people in it feel that if you can get new people in the door at a racetrack, they will almost certainly want to come back. How many new fans will you cultivate in New York, L.A., or Louisville?

On the other side of the coin, there are some formerly reliable host sites that have taken themselves out of the running by changing the makeup of their racetracks to cater to other interests besides racing, namely Gulfstream. Also, the major benefit that Belmont, Churchill, and Santa Anita have going for them is that they are used to putting on such a big show and usually can do so without so much as a single hitch. Belmont and Churchill host Triple Crown events and Santa Anita isn't called the "Great Race Place" for nothing.

Unfortunately, I think that the Breeders' Cup finds itself in an unwinnable situation when it comes to host sites. Those tracks that can get everything done when it comes to hosting a Breeders' Cup are a very minute number. One of the goals of the Breeders' Cup is to grow the sport of Thoroughbred Racing everywhere, but it is hard to meet that goal when you aren't given the opportunity to properly spread the word in more than three places. While I would like to see more of a sample of racetracks hosting the sport's premier two days of racing, it might not really be a realistic circumstance for that to happen.

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

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Grade 1 $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap

The Grade 1 $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap will be run at Churchill Downs on Saturday afternoon. The race is named after the composer that wrote "My Old Kentucky Home", which is played for the horses as the come out on to the racetrack before the Kentucky Derby in a usually emotional moment for all concerned. The Foster drew a field of eleven for this thirtieth renewal. Here is the analysis:

My top pick in the Foster will be #3 Apart, who was the winner of the Grade 3 Schaefer on Preakness Day at Pimlico in Baltimore. While Garrett Gomez had the ride on that occasion, the jockey here will be Julien Leparoux, who is having his usual fine season in the Kentucky Bluegrass. This colt posted back-to-back Beyers of 100 in the last two starts and won the Grade 3 Ack Ack Handicap over the Churchill track in November 2010. For second, I will go with #10 Giant Oak, who will be running late as is his usual style. He came from well out of it to win the Grade 1 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream in February and has a third and a fifth in the two tries since that score. Shaun Bridgmohan was aboard for all three 2011 races. This horse's recent work tab at Churchill Downs has been fantastic. He ran fourth in this race in 2010. I will use #11 Mission Impazible in the third spot. This pick comes even after posting his worst recent race last time out on Kentucky Oaks Day in the Grade 3 Alysheba, a seventh in which he failed to offer even token resistance. He is now 0 for 3 over the Louisville surface and there is a rider change to mention with Javier Castellano taking over for trainer Todd Pletcher. Finally, if there is a reasonable longshot in this field, I feel it is #7 Equestrio, whose most noteworthy accomplishment this year was defeating Kentucky Derby favorite, Dialed In, back in March at Gulfstream in what was the favorite last prep race before his win in the Grade 1 Florida Derby. This will be only this colt's second effort with graded company, but trainer Nick Zito knows his way around Churchill Downs. Here is the play for the Grade 1 $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap:

$10 WP #3
$1 EX BOX 3-7-10-11
$1 TRI BOX 3-7-10-11
TOTAL- $56

Currently, the blog is MINUS $646 for the year, but we are getting closer to be sure. They Are Off accepts no responsibility for any wagers placed in conjunction with these selections. They are merely suggestions. Tune in again next week for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Terry Wallace

It was announced today that Terry Wallace, the longtime voice of Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas, will be retiring from the announcer's booth for the 2012 season. Wallace has been the voice at Oaklawn for 37 consecutive years and only sat out his first race at the track during this past spring season. Think about that for longevity and consistency. Wallace called 20,191 consecutive races at Oaklawn Park, ending the tremendous streak on January 28, 2011. For many racing fans at that track, his is the only announcer's voice that they have ever known.

Wallace is a certified legend in two states as far as racecalling goes. In Arkansas, the Mayor of Hot Springs declared it Terry Wallace Day when he hit 20,000 consecutive calls. He also has been honored as the official voice of Arkansas and this year was declared "Man Of The Year" by the Arkansas HBPA. In Nebraska, Wallace was the longtime voice at the AkSarBen racetrack in Omaha and still calls the races at the newer track in Omaha, Horsemen's Park, which runs an annual four-day race meeting. I had the opportunity to work with Terry for part of the 2010 season at Horsemen's Park and enjoyed it thoroughly.

I would like to wish Terry Wallace all the best in his retirement from Oaklawn and certainly hope that he will get to enjoy many more days at the races as just a fan, since I am sure he has been a fan of the races for even longer than he has been an announcer and ambassador for the sport.

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

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


That is the new number of races for the Breeders' Cup World Championships in 2011. There will be a Juvenile Sprint added to the lineup starting this year on Friday, November 4. The race will be run at six furlongs on the main track and will be open to colts, geldings, and fillies for a $500,000 purse.

I have been a supporter of cutting the Breeders' Cup races back in number to a more manageable total almost since the inception of "Filly Friday" back in 2007. Apparently, the concept of "Filly Friday" is now more or less out the window, since in addition to the new race, they also run the Breeders' Cup Marathon on the Friday schedule as well. There will be seven races total on Friday and two of them are not simply dedicated to distaff runners.

However, with that being said, I actually think this is a good addition made by the Breeders' Cup to the Championship program. Juvenile sprinters (like turf sprinters) were a division that was originally left completely out of the Breeders' Cup for too long. This could become a more realistic spot for the youngsters that just aren't ready to go two turns or whose distance limitations don't allow them to go as far as the mile and a sixteenth required for the Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies races. After all, most of the Juvenile runners nowadays have a very limited number of races before the Breeders' Cup rolls around on the first weekend of November.

Now, are there too many races? Clearly, yes. There is no need for a Breeders' Cup Marathon at 1 3/4 miles and honestly, I can do without the Dirt Mile and the Filly And Mare Sprint is superfluous, in my opinion. If the juvenile fillies can sprint with the boys, then so can the older ones. Remember, there were more than the fair share of distaff winners of the Sprint before the creation of the Filly And Mare Sprint. However, I think the addition of this Juvenile Sprint race is a good move by the Breeders' Cup. I think it promises to be a fun race to watch.

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

Monday, June 13, 2011

Ruler On Mud

The 143rd Belmont Stakes was run on Saturday afternoon over a sloppy track at Belmont Park. The weatherman certainly didn't cooperate, unless you were the connections of the top two finishers. In fact, the owner of Stay Thirsty, the runner-up, Mike Repole said that the conditions were perfect for his horse in a pre-race interview and he was very nearly right. They just happened to be more perfect for Ruler On Ice, who won at 24-1. Ruler On Ice had proven in the past that he could handle a sloppy racetrack and he proved it again on Saturday.

It is, however, a good thing that Ruler On Ice was sitting right behind Preakness winner, Shackleford, who set the early pace because if you watched the entire card from Belmont Park on Saturday, then you know that speed was the buzzword for Belmont Day. If you got to the front, you had an awesome chance of going all the way. Justin Phillip went to the front in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens and never looked back. Trappe Shot enjoyed just about the same trip Ruler On Ice did (sitting right behind the leader) and he won for fun in the Grade 2 True North Handicap. It even was the case on the turf as C.S. Silk went all the way in front in the Grade 1 Just A Game Stakes and Mission Approved led start to finish in the Grade 1 Manhattan Handicap.

Kentucky Derby winner, Animal Kingdom, showed just what a fine animal he actually is in this or any other kingdom. Animal Kingdom had a horrific start to the race, getting squeezed badly and almost unseating John Velazquez after Isn't He Perfect moved inward right after the start and affected Mucho Macho Man, who in turn affected Animal Kingdom. The Derby winner was really never in the race, but exuded class when he eventually did start to move up on the outside. He made all the way up to fourth in the stretch before eventually winding up sixth.

To be completely honest with you, I thought I was going to be writing a slightly different recap of the Belmont Stakes after Brilliant Speed (my top pick) started rolling off the far turn. When they entered the stretch, it looked like he was going to blow by everyone and win by a significant margin. However, right about the time I started to think about how brilliant I was for picking him, Brilliant Speed flattened out and ended up running third. Stay Thirsty ran a great race (as tipped on this blog by Martha Claussen) and narrowly missed getting Mike Repole that Triple Crown winner he seemed destined to have this year before Uncle Mo took ill.

In the aftermath, Ruler On Ice's trainer, Kelly Breen, said there is no definite plan for the immediate future, although the Haskell could be possible. Animal Kingdom might be heading the same way, or he could be pointed to the Travers or the Arlington Million or the Secretariat Stakes. Nehro, who ran fourth, will be having surgery later this week after coming out of the Belmont with an ankle chip, according to

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

Friday, June 10, 2011

The 143rd Belmont Stakes

Saturday is the culmination of the spring Triple Crown season. All the races that led up to the Derby and Preakness now come to the final chapter, the 143rd Belmont Stakes, also known as the "Test Of Champions". From this point on, there will be plenty of excellent races throughout the summer and those will, of course, be leading up to the Breeders' Cup World Championships in the fall. Right now, though, we focus on the 1 1/2 miles of the Belmont Stakes. Here is the analysis:

I honestly think that #6 Nehro is going to win the race on Saturday, but I am loathe to pick a horse that will likely be the favorite or the second choice in such a spot. Therefore, my top pick will be #5 Brilliant Speed, who comes with a much more attractive morning line of 15-1. Joel Rosario guided this colt to a win in the Bluegrass and a strong showing with a close-up 7th in the Kentucky Derby. I think the lack of dirt experience will be a moot point for this runner considering he appears to be bred to run this type of distance. I will put #6 Nehro in the place position. Again, I think he is likely the winner here, but it could present a problem that he seems to have second-itis. He has been second in three straight, including the Kentucky Derby. I like the fact, by the way, that the first two selections both skipped the Preakness after running decent races in Louisville. For third, I will put the Derby winner, #9 Animal Kingdom. He was very close to knocking off Shackleford and setting us up for a Triple Crown try tomorrow, but his win in the Derby and second in the Preakness were both top-notch efforts. Will he be able to do it a third time in a row? For fourth, I will go with a longshot in #3 Ruler On Ice at 20-1 on the morning line. He was the runner-up in the Tesio at Pimlico on May 7 and will be adding blinkers for this start on Saturday. He also has been working like a beast in the mornings, with bullets on four of the last five appearances. #12 Shackleford will round out the top five in here. He is just so darn tough, I think it takes a monumental effort to get by him. He almost showed that in the Derby and he outright proved it in the Preakness. The only question with him is the post position. Did drawing outside compromise his early speed to the point that he will not get the trip he needs to go 1 1/2 miles? Here is the play for the 143rd Belmont Stakes:

$5 WP #5
$1 EX BOX 3-5-6-9-12
$1 TRI 5-6-9 with 5-6-9 with 2-3-5-6-9-10-12
TOTAL- $57

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, June 09, 2011

Third Time's The Charm

The former Houston Handicapping Impresarios (Martha Claussen, Dr. Reid McLellan, and myself) are back for the third installment of the Triple Crown with selections and thoughts on the 143rd Belmont Stakes. As usual, I will be offering my selections and thoughts on the race in tomorrow's post, but Martha and Reid kick off the proceedings and it's ladies first:


Too many idiots dogging the bad Belmont; frankly I am impressed that they got a nice, full field of 12 and the undercard stakes are fantastic. The Belmont Stakes is known a the "Test of a Champion," and I am just not sure that either Animal Kingdom or Shackleford have enough left in the tank to conquer a mile and one-half. Steve Asmussen held Nehro out of the Preakness and that gives him a nice fitness edge from my perspective. Corey Nakatani has been able to get a good closing kick out of this Mineshaft colt and should break through on Saturday. In the Beyer department, Animal Kingdom is tops and cannot be ignored, but favorites have been beaten in so many Belmont Stakes, it would be hard to endorse him on top. I like 20-1 Stay Thirsty, who gets a rider change to my top jock, Javier Castellano. Has sported some nice works and Todd Pletcher is no fool! I am just not a Shackleford fan, so for my fourth horse, I looked at Master of Hounds (who was one of my Derby horses) and Santiva. Saw no works on Master, which I found troubling, so by default, Santiva is in.

Martha's Belmont Selections: Nehro, Animal Kingdom, Stay Thirsty, Santiva

Martha's Suggested Belmont Plays:
$5 WPS on #2
$5 EX BOX 2-6-9

$1Pick 3 - Race 9-11
If I can beat Aviate in the Foxwoods and Gio Ponti in the Woodford Reserve, the Pick 3 could be sweet!

1-2-4-7 with 2-4-5-9 with 2-6-9

Total Belmont Plays: $78

Watching the Derby replay several times I decided I liked the move that #1 Master Of Hounds made from mid-stretch to wire, weaving through traffic before making a quick move to the inside and finishing strongly. He's had five weeks to prepare and this is his third race this year. I am hoping for 12-1 or more and am playing him to WIN. #6 Nehro also had the five weeks to prepare and will probably go off as the betting favorite and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him in the Winner's Circle. #9 Animal Kingdom paired identical 103 Beyer Speed Figures in the first two legs and has impressed me as a legitimate classic three-year-old. Animal Kingdom is a grandson of Candy Stripes and a German stallion whose offspring prefer to win at distances over nine furlongs, Animal Kingdom is best bred to go twelve furlongs. #10 Mucho Macho Man has had a significant jockey change and if he had not raced in the Preakness, he would be my top pick. I just think "3M" has not had enough chance to build back the energy necessary for the "Test Of Champions". #12 Shackleford will have the lead to himself unless Isn't He Perfect or Prime Cut decide to take him on early. The grandson of Unbridled is big enough to get the job done, I just don't think he'll carry his speed the entire distance.

Reid's Belmont Selections: Master Of Hounds, Nehro, Animal Kingdom, Mucho Macho Man

Reid's Suggested Belmont Plays:
$50 WIN #1
$1 SPR 1-6 with 1-6-9 with 1-6-9-10 with 1-6-7-9-10-12
TOTAL- $74

Remember, They Are Off accepts no responsibility for any wagers placed in conjunction with these selections. They are merely suggestions. Tomorrow, it will be my turn to take a shot at the 143rd Belmont Stakes. Tune in again then for right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE

Wednesday, June 08, 2011


The draw for the 143rd Belmont Stakes took place on Wednesday morning and there appeared to be some interesting developments out of the pill pulling. The thing that stands out immediately is the Preakness winner, Shackleford, getting the outside post position. He is stuck out in the twelve hole. This is not the same deal as the Derby, where he drew fourteen and was able to get to the front easier through the long stretch at Churchill Downs before the field got to the first turn. No, this time the run to the sweeping first turn at Belmont Park is much shorter and if Shackleford is to get to the front, he is going to have to work much harder than he did to do it in either of the previous two races. This apparent complication to his chances is evident with the morning line of 9-2, making him the third choice.

The Kentucky Derby runner-up, Nehro, drew post position number six for Saturday's Belmont Stakes. He is second choice at 4-1. What will be most interesting about Nehro is what running style will be employed by his connections, trainer Steve Asmussen and jockey Corey Nakatani. Will he take back and make one big run, as he did in his second-place finishes in the Louisiana and Arkansas Derbies, or will he be much closer to the pace than we all expected, as happened in Louisville? He certainly looked to be the winner of the Kentucky Derby at the top of the stretch before Animal Kingdom did his thing. Keep in mind, however, that big closers usually don't fare too well in the Test Of Champions.

Speaking of Animal Kingdom, he drew post position number nine and I don't really think where he drew will matter to his connections at all. Again, the question here will be position for the Derby winner. In the Kentucky Derby, he got a dream trip every step of the way under John Velazquez and laid relatively close to a relaxed pace and was able to make his move at the right time. However, in the Preakness, Shackleford and Flashpoint went much faster early on before things settled down and Animal Kingdom was much farther back than he had been in the Derby and he came up very narrowly short. Again, remembering that deep closers are the exception rather than the norm in the Belmont, the guess here is that he will be closer to the pace as things develop.

As for the others in the twelve-horse field, I think the most interesting horse of the lot is down on the rail. Master Of Hounds ran fifth in the Derby and was among a cluster of horses at the end that included Santiva and Brilliant Speed (both present here also). Master Of Hounds ran like he would be craving the extra distance the Belmont offered and would be well-suited to the race. Did drawing the rail compromise his chances? It remains to be seen, but I think the inside might be the spot to be, especially if he is able to sit mid-pack and Garrett Gomez is able save all the ground and have him positioned well for the final four furlongs.

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

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Working For The Weekend

The Kentucky Derby winner and Preakness runner-up, Animal Kingdom, got in what was considered by most who saw it a tremendous workout on Monday morning. Officially, he worked a half-mile at Belmont Park in 47.76 seconds, going five furlongs in 1:00.45, and finishing out six furlongs in 1:14.20. It would appear that he is primed and ready to give us his best effort in the 143rd Belmont Stakes on Saturday afternoon. John Velazquez was aboard for the workout and both he and trainer Graham Motion gave the Derby winner sterling reviews.

The runner-up in the Kentucky Derby, Nehro, also worked on Monday morning for trainer Steve Asmussen. Nehro covered a half-mile in 50.85 seconds and ran out five furlongs in 1:03.97. Meanwhile, one of the new shooters, Prime Cut, worked out at Churchill Downs on Monday morning, going five furlongs in 1:01 for trainer Neil Howard. Prime Cut will be returning to Belmont on Saturday, where he ran third in the Peter Pan Stakes last month.

The Daily Racing Form also reports that the weather should be cooperating on Saturday with temperatures in the mid-70s, although there is a 50% chance of scattered thunderstorms throughout the afternoon. Of course, there will be more on the Belmont Stakes this week here on They Are Off. Tune in again tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Friday, June 03, 2011

The Grade 3 $100,000 Aristides Stakes

Aristides is a name very familiar to anyone who has even a basic knowledge of Thoroughbred racing. He is the first horse to win the Kentucky Derby, back in 1875. Churchill Downs has hosted a Stakes race named in his honor for the last 23 years, run at six furlongs. This year's edition of the Aristides features some very fast sprinters in its field of eight. Here is the analysis:

My top choice in here will be #8 Noble's Promise, who has had some success in the past at Churchill Downs. He actually held the lead at the top of the stretch in the 2010 Kentucky Derby before finishing a credible fifth. His lone recent trip at six furlongs came at Churchill Downs in the Jimmy V Stakes, where he posted a 102 Beyer figure in winning by nearly three lengths. His workout on May 28 was sparkling, covering five furlongs in 59 seconds flat for a bullet. Alan Garcia rides for trainer Ken McPeek. The next speed demon to use is #3 Capt. Candyman Can. He ran fourth in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs on Derby Day this year, but was only a half-length of the winner in what was a blanket finish. His other two 2011 starts were victories, one at Gulfstream and one at Tampa Bay. Keep in mind he in the stretch in that Derby Day undercard race and that race was a full furlong longer than the race today. We return to a past winner we picked for the third choice with #1 Here Comes Ben. They Are Off selected him in the Grade 1 Forego at Saratoga last summer when he scored at odds of 10-1. He was never a factor in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs, finishing seventh after not contending. That race is just one of two times in seven starts in Louisville that he has not hit the board. Julien Leparoux will be in the saddle here. For fourth, I will use #5 Cash Refund, who was a winner in the slop at Churchill last time out on May 15. His past Beyers suggest that he can contend here with the right trip. The catch is that he will likely be up front on what promises to be a sizzling pace and will have to hold off the closers to get the job done, which I find difficult to fathom. Here is the play for the Grade 3 Aristides:

$5 WP #8
$1 EX BOX 1-3-5-8
$1 TRI 1-3-8 with 1-3-8 with 1-2-3-5-7-8
TOTAL- $50

Currently, the blog is MINUS $561. I have been shopping for a tourniquet to stanch the bleeding. 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, June 02, 2011

Photo Finish

Martha Claussen, frequent They Are Off contributor, has written a story for SureBet Racing News on the Coady family, who have been involved in racing at nearly every level for many, many years. In fact, Turf Paradise runs the Jack Coady Sr. Stakes every year to honor the patriarch of the family. What do they do? Well, you likely see a member of the family on racetracks every day. They are track photographers (and damn good ones at that) poised at the finish line to get those beautiful shots of winning horses crossing that line in victory. I worked with Jack Coady Jr. for many years in Houston and Shawn Coady currently works as photographer at Turf Paradise. They are all tremendous people and Martha's story does them proud. Here is the link:

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