February 16, 2009

Girls Gone Wild

Sorry for the marketing ploy, but now that I have your attention let's talk about some damn fast fillies, shall we? Historically, I seldom bet fillies or mares in "open" contests, particularly in races greater than one mile (only due to statistical analysis and not because of chauvinism). But these fillies' numbers are talking out loud! Let's start at Oaklawn Park where the veteran conditioner Hal Wiggins stables Rachel Alexandra, who dominated nine fillies in The Martha Washington Stakes while finishing a full second faster than Old Fashioned in Monday's Southwest Stakes. Even more impressive is how Rachel Alexandra's split times compared, as she was fastest at the end of the race while winning "under wraps" according to the Equibase race chart. As I watched the filly run past the grandstand it appeared that jockey Calvin Borel was flashing thumbs ups half-way down the stretch the race was that out of reach.

This may be the first time many of you have heard the name Rachel Alexandra, who has taken time off since capturing the Golden Rod Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs last November. On that day, her winning time at 1 1/16 miles was also over a second faster than Derby trail colts Beethoven and Giant Oak. On the other hand, Old Fashioned - trained by Larry Jones, who knows a thing or two about tough fillies with Eight Belles - is at the top of most Kentucky Derby future books as well as the official favorite (other than the "field" bet) in Derby Futures Pool #1 that closed even before Old Fashioned's easy score in the Southwest. But if not for the (f) designation on the program next to Rachel Alexandra, the racing media might be all over this bay daughter of a former Oaklawn great, Medaglia d'Oro.

Meanwhile on the "left" coast, Evita Argentina is already shaking her tailfeathers at the boys, swooping from last to first in the most prestigious race of her career; the $150,000 San Vicente Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita. Not to mention impressive Juvenile filly champion from last year, Stardom Bound, who last weekend kicked off her campaign with a victory in the Las Virgenes (G1) and is scheduled to tackle the boys soon to warrant her shot at The Kentucky Derby. Like Cyndi Lauper sang, Girls just wanna have fun!

February 5, 2009

On the Derby Trail...

As February arrives so too does the concentration of major Derby preps. February 7th welcomes the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds and the Robert S. Lewis Stakes (formerly run as Santa Catalina Stakes) at Santa Anita, where highly regarded Pioneerof the Nile will be favored. Two other top 10 sophomores will square off in the Risen Star in Giant Oak and Friesan Fire. My own due diligence begins on President's Day at Oaklawn Park for the Southwest Stakes mile, where Remsen winner Old Fashioned appears to be the chalk after the defection of Breeders' Cup Juvenile runner-up Square Eddie. The Grade II San Vicente from Santa Anita will also be run on February 16th

Speaking of the Derby Trail, I have also mapped out my travel schedule which will include stops at Oaklawn Park (Southwest & AR Derby), Fair Grounds (LA Derby) and Gulfstream Park (FL Derby) in 2009. Now that we have some racing to talk about, I'll resume bi-weekly updates leading up to the week of The Kentucky Derby (May 2).

Good luck at the windows!