February 28, 2010

Derby Top 10 Ranking #2

Sorry for the delay in posting... I've had 5 trips over the past two weeks. However, one of those was well worth the travel time as I saw Eskendereya crush a solid Fountain of Youth field in North Miami Beach. Gulfstream Park has been getting their share of talented three year-olds the past few years (Barbaro '06 and Big Brown '08) but neither were this impressive! What I like the most about a performance like this is that it occured with typical pace figures for the split times, meaning it very likely can be duplicated. We'll see if he keeps his A game in the Florida Derby in three weeks.

I was actually at Gulfstream to see a friend and co-contributor to my blog in previous years, Clay Sanders, who's racing syndicate saddled Positive Split to a 7th place finish in the FOY after chasing the Big E for 7 furlongs. Note to you handicappers: P' Split will be dangerous in future races at a mile or less at a nice price!

Three of my previous top 10 colts have still yet to run this season, so I'll keep them on the tally albeit with lower ranks. I'm only discarding one - #3 Buddy's Saint - due to his no-show as the 9-5 favorite, although there is no doubt his chances were compromised having to check mightily into the first turn. Still, I begrudgingly had him listed in the first place and now have an "excuse" to add another Oaklawn runner - Dublin. Here's my new top 10 as of March 1st:

1) Eskendereya - Big plus was his early January one mile allowance race, which will give him 3 races under his belt (all dirt) heading into Churchill. Looking for a first or second in the FL Derby.

2) Lookin At Lucky - Had a ho-hum work but Baffert knows when to crank them up.

3) Super Saver - Pletcher charge now likely to debut at Oaklawn in the Rebel... yes!

4) Dublin - Huge move for 2nd in Southwest Stakes for speedy son of Afleet Alex, who I believe was a superb three year-old colt. Perfect style for Oaklawn and Churchill Downs and has been tearing up Oaklawn Park in works all year long now that he can actually breathe!

5) American Lion - I'm leaving him in original spot after dueling with Tiz Chrome and getting passed in stretch over Santa Anita synthetic surface that truly favors closers. Fastest time of the meet at 1 1/16 miles.

6) Rule - Grandson of 200o Derby winner Fu-Peg has stamina in breeding. Question is can they harness his speed in the Lane's End?

7) Jackson Bend - He stepped up in class nicely with a game place to Big E in the FOY. But my gut is telling me that his best races are behind him with the shorter distances.

8) Connemara - My 30-1 futures bet is alive and well with a score in the Cal Derby running down pedestrian fractions. Apparently, he's a head case, but weren't we all at that age?!

9) Noble's Promise - Speedy bullet work gearing up for 2010 debut in Florida.

10) Drosselmeyer - My boy didn't show up like I thought he would at the Fair Grounds, but he was in front about five jumps past the wire and all indications are that he should impove with another furlong.

Happy Racing!

February 18, 2010

Err... check that, Rachel now back on for modified Apple Blossom

Of course, one day after I posted my scathing article towards Jess Jackson, he and Oaklawn Park owner Charles Cella came to terms on pushing back the Apple Blossom by 6 days. It was previously announced that for the first time the distance will be extended from 1 1/16 miles to 1 1/8 miles, something I feel will benefit Zenyatta as the distance goes further. But clearly Rachel has demonstrated she can get that distance as she covered 1 3/16 miles en route to her Preakness victory against Mine That Bird and others last summer.

Along those lines, both Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta had a published workout this morning... Rachel a more decisive 5 furlong move at the Fair Grounds in 1:00 1/5 and Zenyatta went 6 panels in 1:14 over the Pro-Ride (synthetic) surface at Hollywood Park. Both plan to race March 13th as a prep for Oaklawn's "Race for the Ages." Now that it appears that they will meet on the track, I have nothing further to say on the matter at this time.

However, I will have another 2010 Derby trail post tomorrow in anticipation of my Fountain of Youth trip, so please stay tuned!

February 11, 2010

Rachel withdrawn from Oaklawn's "Race for the Ages" versus Zenyatta

More double talk coming from team Rachel, consisting of owner Jess Jackson and trainer Steve Asmussen. Yesterday evening Asmussen made the following comment, "Out of respect for the level of competition and the importance of this race, I have told Mr. Jackson it was not in the best interest of the horse to race on April 3... the earliest we could have a prep race would be the middle of March. It is then not fair to Rachel to ask her to race again three weeks later." That's funny, becasue that's exactly what Zenyatta is planning to do by running in the Santa Margarita (Grade 1) in California and then ship to Oaklawn for a return in the Apple Blossom just three weeks later.

What made matters worse is Jackson's attempt to create a side story rather than just coming out and saying they would take on Zenyatta down the road. "We have been in discussions with Alex Waldrop, president of (the NTRA), with the hope of coordinate training schedules, racing schedules, purses and all ancillary factors, so that we can all agree upon three dates and three venues for what will be a racing series to rival the Triple Crown." The problem is that this statement is either a flat out lie or he's trying to lobby the NTRA for tracks and distances that suit Rachel the best before bringing Moss to the negotiating table. Moss told the AP, "I have no idea what he's even talking about. Which three races? And where? And when?"

So let me get this straight... a three month notice at a neutral dirt track where both horses have previously raced and won and the legendary track owner Charels Cella ponying up $5 million with a guaranteed payout for each horse isn't enough for you, Mr. Jackson? Somehow now you think you can come to terms on a 3 race series with all kind of factors at play when you won't accept the red carpet from Oaklawn Park? Seems to me this "deal" in fact will never get done and you'll try to blame Jerry Moss, who obviously doesn't want anything to do with you.

The best quote of all came from Moss, "It's a shame they are not going to show up for that race." That's what this really boils down to and frankly, I appreciate the direct talk from Jerry on this one. But as I've said before in previous blogs, you can only duck the Big Z for so long now that you are the hunted. Moss will be looking at every possible entry you make. And if you stick with the New York tracks all summer in shorter distance races, that's a clear statement you want no part of Zenyatta. I would expect Arlington Park in Chicago to try to lure these two for a summer date, perhaps co-featuring Arlington Million day. This is a neutral dirt track with a solid reputation and history of making a splash -- created the "Citation Challenge" for Cigar's 16th consecutive victory in 1996.

Or, I could be wrong (has happened on one other occasion) and a three race series will come to fruition. But in this format I would think at least one race would have to occur in California over synthetics, which I can't see Jess agreeing to. Wouldn't it be fun to watch these two (and other supporting cast) race at Belmont over dirt, at Del Mar over synthetics with perhaps even a turf race thrown in to see what would actually happen rather than continuing to debate? But none of this dreaming can take place while Jess Jackson is running scared.

February 8, 2010

2010 Derby Trail

In just under three months a new Derby champ will be crowned. And there's a strong probability that horse has yet to race this calendar year. So there is a lot that can - and will - happen on this Derby trail, just as there is every year. But I wanted to get the chatter started before this weekend's first series of major regional prep races go postward (Robert Lewis @ Santa Anita and Sam Davis Stakes @ Tampa Bay on Saturday followed by the Southwest Mile @ Oaklawn and San Vicente @ SA on Monday).

In addition to posting wrap-ups each Monday following the major 3YO racing weekends leading up to Derby 136, I will also launch my top 10 Derby colts. Since I had a friend in Vegas for the Super Bowl, I studied up over the weekend to place a few futures bets (thanks J-Bern!). So without further delay, let's get Derby season 136 crancked up...

1) Lookin At Lucky - I got on Pioneerof The Nile early last year and rode him to a solid 2nd place Derby finish. Baffert is looking good again with this versatile colt and looks to follow his proven formula of 2 Derby preps while getting a peak effort on the first Saturday in May.

2) Super Saver - My favorite bloodlines for this year's bunch includes a proven sire in Maria's Mon (Monarchos in 2001) from an A.P. Indy mare. As my family in Arkansas would say, "It just don't get no better than that."

3) Buddy's Saint - Seems to be the "it" horse but perhaps a little early in the game. I'm waiting to see if he can duplicate those Big A performances (the quirky Aqueduct track historically leads to huge margins of victory) at Gulfstream. But after yesterday's game, who dat talkin bout beatin dem Saints?!

4) Jackson Bend - Backed up his Calder domination with a nice place in the Holy Bull. We'll see if his obscure breeding can hold up through the Derby grind.

5) American Lion - One of many live runners for the WinStar Farms group from Dallas. His presidential name is certainly worthy of being engraved on The Derby trophy.

6) Drosselmeyer - Speaking of names, this guy gets my vote - sounds like an old fraternity nickname of mine. Has a solid race foundation and a proven sire in Distorted Humor (Funny Cide in 2003).

7) Eskendereya - Yikes, don't make me say this name! Been running against the best and from the potent Storm Cat - Seattle Slew lines. Familiar silks of owner Zayat, who had Pioneerof The Nile last year.

8) Rule - Front running type, so who knows if he can learn to harness his speed. But Pletcher places an emphasis on speed and may have a plan for this one.

9) Noble's Promise - Well traveled McPeek charge never has run a bad one, including a 3rd in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last year.

10) Connemara - A lovely western Ireland region where Atlantic salmon, Guinness and craic are as common as railbirds at a New York racetrack. The horse is a fairly talented runner in California. I visited this place on my honeymoon and if he were to win The Derby, I've the funds for a return trip. Erin Go Bragh!