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!