Friday, December 30, 2011

The $35,000 Luke Kruytbosch Stakes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Remember, They Are Off accepts no responsibility for any wagers placed in conjunction with these selections. They are merely suggestions. Tune in again next week for more from They Are Off. I would also like to wish everyone a very safe and Happy New Year. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Chief's Crown

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo courtesy of

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Under The Radar

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Grade 1 $300,000 Mailbu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Grade 1 $750,000 CashCall Futurity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Strike The Gold

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

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

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

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

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

Photo courtesy of

Friday, December 09, 2011

The Grade 1 $402,000 Hollywood Starlet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Star-Crossed Star

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Scott Stevens

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

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

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

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