Friday, January 27, 2012

The $150,000 Florida Sunshine Millions Sprint

Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita are joining forces on Saturday to conduct a "Luck" Pick Six that includes several of the Sunshine Millions races from the Florida plant. The race I am analyzing here is not one of the Pick Six races, but I find it an interesting bunch nonetheless. Here is the analysis:

#1 Royal Currier- The last two wins for this gelding have come with exceptional Beyer numbers. He posted a 100 in the Valley Forge at Parx on December 20 and he posted a 109 in the Gallant Bob at Parx on September 24. I guess we will have to see if he just really, really likes Parx. Ramon Dominguez is aboard.

#2 Soaring Stocks- This commodity might be up after an Allowance win at this distance in an Allowance race over the Gulfstream strip on January 12. Six days before that, he threw a nice bullet workout on the ledger at Palm Meadows. John Velazquez rode that last win and will get the call again for trainer Todd Pletcher.

#3 Madman Diaries- Going turf-to-dirt here after a 2nd place finish at Tampa Bay on December 21. He has run with some tough stuff in the past, going in the 2011 Hutcheson and the 2010 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf. The record is very spotty as far as being consistent with regular racing appearances.

#4 Ribo Bobo- 20-1 on the morning line here. Won an elongated sprint (7 furlongs) with Optional Claimers on January 7, also at 20-1. I would be hard-pressed to expect him to go off at anything less. The Sire is 1996 Preakness winner, Louis Quatorze.

#5 It's Never To Late- Might be the price pick to like in here at 12-1. Won a couple at Delaware Park in the fall before some time off and has not returned to winning form in two Florida efforts after the layoff. Might be due to fire a big effort and I will be honest with you, I am going to like the price.

#6 Zero Rate Policy- Just missed by a nose to Apriority in the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector at Gulfstream last time out on New Year's Eve. Had won the prior two, but also finished behind #5 in one of those aforementioned Delaware races. Bullet workout on January 20. Paco Lopez has the riding assignment.

#7 Apriority- Did win that Mr. Prospector at Gulfstream, but also was well outrun in three successive efforts with Grade 1 company. He might be ideally spotted here, but will likely be the favorite in here. Will use in the mix, but will be looking elsewhere as far as finding a winner. He did post a bullet workout on January 21.

#8 Cajun Breeze- Just broke the maiden last time out on New Year's Eve. This colt has yet to miss the money in three lifetime starts. There are some impressive names in the lineage, but I would like to see him continue to move forward before I consider as a factor in this spot.


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, January 26, 2012


The Breeders' Cup will be returning to the NBC family of networks starting this November after its recent run on ESPN. NBC had been the original network of the Breeders' Cup, starting with the event's inception in 1984 through 2005. While the return of the main event to its original home is tremendous, the real benefit to the racing industry is the fact that NBC or NBC Sports Network will now have approximately 56 hours of horse racing coverage in 2012.

That is a marked increase over what we have seen in the past from ESPN during their time as the "home of horse racing" the last five years. As a matter of fact, racing on mainstream television has become almost an anachronism, something that those old enough to remember it in its heyday (the 1970s) look back upon with wistful fascination. Of course, I completely understand the need of ESPN to place racing on the back burner, especially in the fall, when the network is so college football-centric. This also isn't to say that ESPN did a poor job in their handling of the Breeders' Cup telecasts. I actually thought for the most part, their work was just fine. Of course, the one major negative here is that They Are Off favorite, Jeannine Edwards, will not be part of the Cup going forward.

However, I am really excited for the prospect of NBC getting all of the major horse racing properties again. In reality, it started in 2011 when they reclaimed the Belmont Stakes and made all three Triple Crown races available on the same network, which makes complete sense in the entertainment industry because if you make something available to the mass audience in one place (and do a good job with it), they are more likely to look for that product again in the same place later on.

There is one major improvement in the overall Breeders' Cup program now and that is that the Classic itself will be run in prime time in the east with the race scheduled to run between 8pm and 9pm on November 3 for this year's Cup to be held at Santa Anita. The Classic under the lights the last two years at Churchill Downs was great theater with the Blame-Zenyatta drama in 2011 and Drosselmeyer's comeback victory over Game On Dude in 2012. Now, that Classic drama will unfold before a prime time audience, which can only be a good thing.

The one sea change that also came into being in 2011 was the use of Larry Collmus as the race caller by NBC for the Triple Crown series. Now, Larry will also get to call the Breeders' Cup races as well (the original article on the DRF website said the on-air talent had not been selected yet, but common sense says Larry will be getting the position) and I think this is a great thing also. Larry did a magnificent job calling the 2011 Triple Crown and is now positioned to emerge as the "Voice of Racing" for this generation, in much the same way Chic Anderson, Dave Johnson, and Tom Durkin all held that title so admirably.

All in all, there are so many positives with the switch on the Breeders' Cup back to NBC, not only for the event itself but the industry as a whole, that all we can do is tip our hats to the decision-makers behind this move and say well done.

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

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Grade 3 $175,000 LeComte Stakes

The three-year-old season starts in earnest with the 68th running of the LeComte Stakes at Fair Grounds in New Orleans on Saturday. There is a field of thirteen entrants with eleven betting interests. Here is the analysis:

#1 Adena' Chance- Has already finished behind several of these in recent races in New Orleans. His last effort at this distance of 1 mile and 70 yards yielded a poor result, finishing 12th of 12. Marlon St. Julien has the ride.

#1a Hero Of Order- Probably be part of the pace scenario in here, but I find it hard to believe that he will last very long up top. While he won a maiden-breaker on January 7th impressively, this would be quite a leap of faith to expect a repeat performance.

#2 Dan And Sheila- Won his only career start at one mile at Gulfstream Park. Certainly worth a look with John Velazquez in to ride for trainer Todd Pletcher. The last two workouts in January are strong and speedy.

#2b Z Dager- Another that picked up a maiden-winner recently. However, this one broke the maiden at this distance over a sloppy surface on December 15. Shane Sellers retakes the riding services.

#3 Ted's Folly- This gelding has won six consecutive starts, all at Remington Park in Oklahoma. The last of those wins came at one mile, while all the other five scores were at sprint distance. His success appears to depend on how much of a pace this closer will have to run at.

#4 Mr. Bowling- Has not run at all since October. He finished third in the Grade 3 Iroquois at Churchill Downs on that occasion. He had won the previous two at Delaware Park, including a ungraded stakes effort.

#5 Exfactor- Shaun Bridgmohan has the mount for trainer Bernie Flint on this colt that has won three consecutive starts. Included in those wins are the Grade 3 Bashford Manor at Churchill Downs and the Sugar Bowl at Fair Grounds. This will be his first try over six furlongs.

#6 Seven Lively Sins- Never got into his last start in the Grade 3 Delta Jackpot on November 19. If it is a consolation, it was the worst of his four lifetime starts, so it might be totally excusable. Rosie Napravnik is aboard for this one.

#7 Alexander Thegreat- The most-experienced runner in this field with ten lifetime tries. He didn't get the first win until last out on the day after Christmas over a sloppy surface. He broke the maiden at 11-1 and I find it highly doubtful he will be any better than 50-1 here.

#8 Hammers Terror- A Michael Stidham trainee that has never been worse than second in three lifetime tries. He seems very versatile, having won over Polytrack at seven furlongs and a dirt track score at this distance of 1 mile and 70 yards.

#9 Chalybeate Springs- Came back from a bit of a layoff to get a victory on January 14 at Oaklawn Park. He ran fifth in his other two graded efforts, one on the turf and one on the dirt. Even as a D. Wayne Lukas trainee, I find it hard to believe that this is a realistic contender.

#10 Capetown Devil- Undefeated after three starts, including a one-turn mile at Churchill and at this distance at Fair Grounds. Corey Lanerie is in the saddle here for trainer David Carroll. This is a step up in company, but it is possible he is up to it.

#11 Shared Property- Did not fare well in the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland last time out in October. However, he did win his last Grade 3 try in the Arlington Washington Futurity in September.


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!

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Grade 3 $100,000 Hal's Hope

The featured event at Gulfstream Park on Saturday is a one-turn mile named after Florida's famous Hal's Hope, who won the Florida Derby in 2000. The race showcases a field of nine led by 2-1 favorite Jackson Bend. Here is the analysis:

#1 Jackson Bend- 3rd in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, his last win came in the Grade 1 Forego at Saratoga in September. However, he has yet to win in four tries at Gulfstream Park, running second in three of those. Trainer Nick Zito will have the riding services of John Velazquez for this 2012 debut try.

#2 Sky Venture- Ran in two Grade 3s at Calder in the fall of 2011. He ran fourth in both of those efforts. He is another that is winless in multiple races at Gulfstream, having gone 0 for 6. However, unlike Jackson Bend, his best result is a solitary third, which came in his last race in the Harlan's Holiday on December 17.

#3 Sangaree- Was overpowered in the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct on November 26, running last of six entrants. However, he did perform better in the Grade 3 Bold Ruler three weeks prior, finishing second after a touch of a wide trip.

#4 Successful Mission- While his recent form is strong with three wins in his last four races, it isn't all that recent. He has been away from the races since May. His last race was taken off the turf at Monmouth and resulted in a win with a Beyer of 108 in the Elkwood. The bulk of his other past performances have come on the turf.

#5 Decisive Moment- Scored a win in the ungraded Delta Mile last time out on November 19. It would appear he has a fondness for Delta Downs, since he also won the Jean Lafitte in January 2011. His recent workouts have been speedy. I would expect him to be part of the pace setup in this race and could very well go all the way up top.

#6 Our Dark Knight- Has not been a winner in almost a year. He spent 2011 facing the likes of Tackleberry, Tizway, Eldaafer, and Apart. This is second of the Nick Zito entries in this race. The recent workout tab at Palm Meadows has been just fine. Jersey Joe Bravo has the riding assignment.

#7 Soaring Empire- Sire is 2003 Belmont Stakes winner, Empire Maker. Has been off since winning the Majestic Light at the end of July. However, the workouts for this horse have been a string of successive bullets, including one on January 6, covering a half-mile in 47 seconds flat. Julien Leparoux will be in the irons here.

#8 Cool Blue Red Hot- Won an Optional Claiming race at Belmont Park in October and then took some time off. Couldn't contend with the likes of Caleb's Posse and Uncle Mo in the Grade 1 King's Bishop at Saratoga in August. While he has hit the board in seven of nine lifetime tries, I think he might be in over his head here.

#9 Will's Wildcat- Won the Jimmy V in the mud at Churchill Downs in November and then set the pace in the Grade 1 Clark under the Twin Spires before fading to eighth. His previous win before the Jimmy V was a one-turn mile at Churchill in June, so he does have experience with this kind of race setup.


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, January 12, 2012

My Two Cents

The Eclipse Awards will be announced next week. The ceremony will be hosted by They Are Off favorite, Jeannine Edwards, which automatically makes it Must See TV. I, of course, do not have a vote for any of the Eclipse Awards that will be handed out, but I thought it would be fun to offer my thoughts on a few of the categories and who my choice to win would be.

2-Year-Old Male- My pick here would be Hansen of the three finalists for one simple reason. He won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and defeated the other two to do it. Union Rags had every chance in the world to pass him in the stretch and could not do it and Creative Cause just was not as good as the other two that day. Do I think Hansen is going to go on and win the Kentucky Derby?! But that is not the question at hand, the question is who is the best two-year-old male and my pick is Hansen.

3-Year-Old Male- I find this to be quite an interesting category with Derby winner, Animal Kingdom, Preakness winner Shackleford, and Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winner Caleb's Posse on the list. Honestly, my choice is Shackleford. He ran a fantastic Derby, setting the pace and gutting out a fourth-place finish when he should have been nowhere at the end. He came back two weeks later and gutted out a win in Baltimore, and while he didn't win the rest of the year, he ran credible seconds in the Grade 1 Haskell, Grade 2 Indiana Derby, and Grade 1 Dirt Mile.

Older Male- Acclamation got on a roll starting in May and didn't stop until injury put him on the sidelines. He won two Grade 2s and three Grade 1s on the turf and polytrack in Southern California. The polytrack race was the Grade 1 Pacific Classic at Del Mar and it provided the shortest margin of victory in the streak, a win by a head. The other two finalists, Game On Dude and Tizway, were both excellent in 2011, Acclamation was simply that much better.

Male Turf Horse- All that being said on the side of Acclamation, I think Cape Blanco deserves to win this award with his three Grade 1 wins in 2011. He won the Man O'War at Belmont over Gio Ponti, defeated Gio Ponti again in the Arlington Million, and then came back to Belmont in October and won the Turf Classic Invitational. I really couldn't argue if any of the three finalists won this award (you already have my case for Acclamation and I collected a hefty return on St. Nicholas Abbey, who I thought was the only horse in the BC Turf), I believe Cape Blanco is the worthiest winner.

Horse Of The Year- The last couple of years this is the award that has produced the most consternation with the racing media and public. Two years ago, it was Rachel Alexandra who won. Last year, Zenyatta finally got her just due. This year, I think you have to go with the ladies again, because I think the Horse Of The Year for 2011 is Havre De Grace. She went to the post seven times in 2011, winning five times. One of those losses was in the race that most observers seem to consider the Race Of The Year, the Delaware Handicap, where she lost to rival Blind Luck by a nose. Otherwise, she was perfect until she got to the Breeders' Cup Classic. She beat the boys during the summer at Saratoga in the Grade 1 Woodward and then followed that up with her most dominating win of the year in the Beldame at Belmont over a muddy track. Her race in the Classic was nothing to shame her, she finished fourth in what amounted to a blanket finish, running behind the winners of the last two Belmont Stakes and the gritty Game On Dude, who might have been the choice for this award had Drosselmeyer not come from nowhere to win that night. Havre De Grace was the best horse from the start of 2011, when she was at Oaklawn, to the finish, when she was just as gallant in defeat as she could be.

Of course, there are more awards to be handed out next week, but some of them are obvious, like My Miss Aurelia winning 2-Year-Old Female and Stacelita winning Female Turf. I am sure that some will agree with my choice for the categories I used and some will disagree. You know what, GREAT!, that's the way it's supposed to be. Those friendly arguments are the reason this is so much fun in the first place.

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

Friday, January 06, 2012

The Grade 2 $150,000 San Pasqual

The featured event at Santa Anita on Saturday is the Grade 2 $150,000 San Pasqual. In the field of eight is a horse that is very familiar to Arizona racing fans, Uh Oh Bango, who came kind of close to being the first Arizona-bred to ever run in the Kentucky Derby in 2010. He didn't make the field at Churchill Downs, but nevertheless, he has had a fine career. Here is the analysis of the Grade 2 San Pasqual:

#1 Skipshot- Offspring of 1997 BC Classic winner, Skip Away. He has not won since the 2010 Swaps Stakes over the Cushion track at Hollywood Park. In fact, since that win, he has only one top three finish, a third three back at Golden Gate in November. Joe Talamo is aboard.

#2 Thirtyfirststreet- Adding blinkers for this go. Nearly won the Zia Park Derby in December after setting the pace. He was worn down by First Strike, but still held a strong second. Promises to be a part of the pace setup here and could very well be on a lone lead.

#3 Java Man- Has been off since November. This gelding posted a bullet workout on January 2 at Santa Anita, covering six furlongs in 1:12 1/5. While he is 1 for 1 over the main track at Santa Anita, he has never faced graded stakes company before. Should be considered, but potentially for the minor placings.

#4 Tweebster- Another putting on the blinkers for this effort. Only ran five times in 2011 and hit the board in four of those, but was never a winner. Did end 2010 on a three-race win streak, but that could be considered ancient history by this time. The Sire is Tapit, who of course, has been prodigious of late.

#5 Utopian- Scored at 1 1/4 miles on the turf at Hollywood last time out on November 25. This will be his first lifetime start on conventional dirt. Chantal Sutherland is the regular rider for this horse and will get the riding assignment once again on Saturday.

#6 Tres Borrachos- Could be up front, but then again could come running from the clouds as well. Rolled up late to be 3rd at 30-1 in the BC Dirt Mile behind Caleb's Posse and Shackleford. Clearly has the most glittering resume' of any of the horses in this bunch, but obviously, this will compromise his price.

#7 Uh Oh Bango- 4th in the Grade 3 All-American at Golden Gate on November 25. He has not been to the Winner's Circle since the Grade 3 Berkeley at Golden Gate in May 2010. Has been in-the-money in all three prior tries at Santa Anita, but has never won there. Mike Smith gets the call for trainer Kory Owens.

#8 Massone- Has 1967 Preakness and Belmont winner, Damascus, on the Dam side. Ran 2nd twice in three 2011 starts, but finished fourth behind two of his competitors here in the Grade 3 Native Diver last time out at Hollywood.


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, January 05, 2012

Maggie Mae Designs

They Are Off contributor, Martha Claussen, often sends links to her stories for SureBet Racing News this way so everyone can share in what are her excellent reports on the world of racing. This month, Martha has sent in a tremendous piece about Sally Steinmann, who owns Maggie Mae Designs. Martha does point out in the article that the name of the company has nothing to do with the Rod Stewart song of the same name (which is a good thing, since I detest that particular piece of music). Sally works closely with Old Friends Equine of Kentucky and Martha's article details that relationship, as well as how Steinmann got interested in the horses and her connection to racing. Here is the link to the article:

I hope you enjoy reading about Sally and her efforts with Maggie Mae Designs. Tune in again tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!