August 25, 2008

Garrett Gomez pulls off Travers - Pacific Classic double

Jockey Garrett Gomez sure has come a long way from from his riding days at Oaklawn Park in the mid 1990s. After winning Saturday's Travers Stakes at venerable Saratoga by the slimmest of margins (on my Derby pick from this spring, Colonel John), he guided Go Between astutely to a neck victory in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar. As if the biggest Grade I races of the summer weren't enough, he preceded his PacClassic victory with another impressive triumph on Whatsthescript in the $328,000 Del Mar Mile Handicap (gr. IIT), giving that horse a perfect turf trip and making him one of the favorites for the Breeders' Cup Turf Mile later this fall. WinStar Farm nearly accomplished the improbable double, with Well Armed grudgingly giving up the lead in the final stride to Go Between in the $1 million Pacific Classic.

The Travers Stakes was quite a horse race (although some people thought it was more like a stock car race with all the bumping on the turn for home) with the Colonel stealing one with an extended head bob after being passed on the outside by Mambo in Seattle. Where the hell did this horse come from? We thought Big Brown was a late blooming three year-old colt, but this one still can do some damage before the year is over. Post-time favorite Pyro had a decent race to finish third. But absent yet again was the powerful stretch kick he showed twice earlier over the Fair Grounds course. It appears that his best racing days may be behind him. Jim Dandy winner Macho Again had some traffic trouble, but appeared to be retreating when it occured. Nick Zito's trio of charges, most notably Belmont winner Da'Tara, were hopelessly overmatched.

It's time to give Garrett Gomez some major props after he hit rock bottom in 2003 when he was serving prison time. Gomez got busted for a controlled substance while being away from the sport after he was unable to maintain the stringent weight guideline for jockeys. After working his way back to the track in late 2004, he had tremedous success in 2006 while leading North American jockeys with purse money earned at $20 million (by the way, his cut is 10% plus private retainers... not bad for a high school dropout!). He was snubbed at the Eclipse Awards that year in lieu of Edgar Prado and his memorable season with Barbaro. But in 2007 he backed that season up and then some while breaking Jerry Bailey's record for most stakes victories in a season at 76 (including two Breeders' Cup races).

Speaking of Jerry Bailey, is it just me or is he tremendously overrated as an analyst? I mean, the guy may have been a world class jockey, but Randy Moss' predictions of horses expected to show speed and pace figures are much more on point than his alien-shaped head counterpart. But that sure doesn't stop Bailey from hawking his handicapping DVD at every segment. And while I'm on the subject, the only thing Hank Goldberg has been "hammering" as of late is his piggy bank -- to find loose change. This guy has run out of his bankroll the last three ESPN racing coverages that I've seen, yet he was bragging about not losing a race prior to ESPN's coverage around the 8th race. Sure... great job hitting that non-winners of two lifetime race that NOBODY cares about. Why would he even be handicapping "crap races" with a card like Del Mar had Sunday? And would somebody please send Jenine Edwards a scarf so she can cover up the horse veins in her neck? I keep waiting for one of those things to burst all over Rick Dutrow's sweat laden shirt during an interview. Maybe then Rick would stop calling her "Babe." Where's Kenny Mayne when you need him?!

Horse Racing

August 20, 2008

Remembering the Greatness of 3 Fillies - Genuine Risk Tribute

This week we mourn the loss of the second of three fillies to capture The Kentucky Derby. More painfully, we suffer the loss of three heroines of racing within a six month span... 2 Derby winners (Genuine Risk - 1980 and Winning Colors - 1988) and this year's Derby runner-up, Eight Belles. I guess there is something to the saying that bad things happen in "three's".

Genuine Risk (February 15, 1977 – August 18, 2008) was a chestnut mare who won the 1980 Kentucky Derby and was the first filly to ever finish in the money in all three U.S. Triple Crown races. Ridden by Jacinto Vasquez, she finished second in the Preakness and Belmont Stakes -- an extraordinary feat for any horse, male or female.

High hopes followed the star of the prized Firestone Stable into the breeding shed, but only heartache ensued. Genuine Risk's first mating was to the Triple Crown winner Secretariat in 1982. The resulting foal expected in 1983 would have made history as the first offspring of two Kentucky Derby winners. Tragically though, Genuine Risk delivered a stillborn colt. Over the next 17 years, she produced only two living foals and neither colt ever made it to the track.

Winning Colors was euthanized February 17, 2008 at the age of 23 as a result of complications from colic, a chronic horse condition. She did not have a great deal of success as a broodmare either, although some of her progeny did well racing in Japan. The original femme fatale, Regret (1915 Derby winner), likewise produced only one major stakes winner (Revenge) out of eleven foals and died at the age 22.

To end on a positive note, I will gladly report that 2007 Belmont Stakes winning filly (besting 2007 Horse of the Year Curlin), Rags to Riches, is in foal to Giant's Causeway and expecting a wobbly four-legger in spring 2009. Let's hope that baby is also a healthy filly and carries on the tradition of excellence!

Travers Stakes coming this Saturday, so please check back for weekend updates.

Horse Racing