July 30, 2008

Can Big Brown put his best foot forward?

With a victory Sunday in the $1 Million Haskell Invitational, Big Brown can put his troubled past behind him and leapfrog Curlin to become the "it" horse again. This seems likely after a steady foundation of improving workouts, especially against his projected competition. While Atoned and Fountain of Youth upset winner Cool Coal Man are legitimate threats, the better lot of three year-olds wrestled in the Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga this past weekend. One time top sophomore Pyro couldn't quite catch Macho Again (2nd in Preakness) for the win in that race, while Belmont Stakes shocking winner Da'Tara was a factor again on the lead, before being pressed and finishing last. Tale of Ekati and Anak Nakal were also off the board finishers, but any of these would have been a strong second choice if entered in Sunday's Haskell.

In the other top race this weekend, Tough Tiz's Sis tries to finally get the better of undefeated (6 for 6)Zenyatta for trainer Bob Baffert in the $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch Handicap over Del Mar's Polytrack surface on Saturday. Many of you based at Oaklawn Park will recall the incredible performance by Zenyatta in the Apple Blossom Handicap (Grade I), while blowing past defending Breeders' Cup Distaff winner and Eclipse Mare Champion Ginger Punch. The latter mare strolled to another Grade I vicoty in the Go For Wand at Saratoga last weekend. Thus, these two are set for an epic rematch in the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita this fall.

And to finish with Curlin... still no definitive word on his next start. This leads me to believe they are re-thinking the European foray and trying to map out the best three race sequence possible which ends with a Breeders' Cup race (I'm just not sure which one!).

Happy Racing,

Horse Racing

July 19, 2008

Man o' War field proves too deep for Curlin

Ordinarily, running a strong second in a Grade I turf race against multiple Breeders' Cup Turf champions would be a great thing. However, Curlin is no ordinary horse and his connections were thus stymied by his second place finish to Red Rocks at Belmont Park. And the 8,400 fans on hand at the Elmont, NY track probably wasn't what majority owner Jess Jackson had in mind after vowing to bring the champion back "for the fans to see and enjoy" for his four year-old campaign. It seems as though the fans were as lukewarm about Curlin on the lawn as the Champ himself, without his customary powerful stretch kick.

After all, this was the same place where Triple Crown junkies were delirious after the unforgettable stretch duel between Curlin and filly Rags to Riches just over a year ago in the Belmont Stakes. Even though this race had the marquee names (Curlin in addition to Breeders' Cup Turf champions Red Rocks and Better Talk Now), the race failed to match the anticipation with Red Rocks taking the lead from two speedballers with Curlin and Better Talk Now never seriously threatening the winner, which is unusual for a turf race finish.

Curlin coming up a bit short for the second time he's run over 10 furlongs (1 3/8ths on Saturday) makes me think his best distance isn't suited for the classis European turf races typically run at 1 1/2 miles. Let's hope Plan B or even C may be to work Curlin on a synthetic surface to possibly keep the dream alive of a Breeders' Cup Classic double, something the great Cigar could not even accomplish. With the trend of race tracks adopting the artificial dirt surfaces, success there could mean more value to future stud fees than success on the turf.

In the meantime, may all your bets be worth cashing!

Horse Racing