June 9, 2015

12thCrown post on HRN - Holding out for a Pharoah

With renewed inspiration from American Pharoah's electric Triple Crown, I channeled by best "Weird Al" frame of mind for a rendition of Bonnie Tyler's 1984 hit "Holding Out For A Hero."  Aren't you glad there's no audio???  Please read and comment on HRN site... http://www.horseracingnation.com/blogs/12thcrown/American_Pharoah_Holding_Out_For_A_Pharoah_123

2015 Triple Crown - Victor Espinoza and American Pharoah

First a nod from Victor as he entered the Belmont Park winners circle aboard the Triple Crown Champ, then he liked my Tweet later that night. Victor Espinoza is my new favorite jockey...

Victor Espinoza
favorited your Tweet.
Eric Kords @DerbyTalk
@EspinozasVictor @SimonTVG Classic ride by Victor controlling the pace -- job well done.

June 6, 2015

Horse racing's historic day

Now that Belmont morning has finally arrived, you all should be very well aware that it has now been 37 years since Affirmed swept thoroughbred racing's coveted Triple Crown over rival Alydar. Horse racing and US history has been closely intertwined through racing's glory days, which ended several decades ago for most Americans and casual sports fans.

Coincidentally, a personal such moment was when I attended the 2004 Belmont Stakes hoping to root home Arkansas' adopted KY bred son, Smarty Jones, to end the TC drought dating back to 1978. But that day started on a bad note when the track announcer came over the loudspeakers to inform the 120,000 plus at "Big Sandy" that former President Ronald Reagan had died. The hush that covered that crowd was fitting of the grey skies and fog that blanketed Long Island on that depressing day. This morning I woke up at about 5:00am just 8 miles from Belmont Park to light rain and the first thing I heard on tv was that Vice President Joe Biden's son will be buried today. I ask myself, "Is this some kind of bad dream?" But that's where I fully expect the similarities to end.

Some rays of sun (and hope!) are now beaming through those clouds and the track should be sunny and fast by early afternoon. There are a host of quality stakes races (including several Oaklawn runners like champion Untapable and undefeated filly Promise Me Silver) and perhaps a few chances to cash some nice tickets by the time American  Pharoah hits the track in race 11 for the capped crowd of 90,000 fans to simply enjoy the moment.

But whether or not this 2015 version of Smarty Jones can make history and finish the sweep will NOT be the most significant historical event of the day - not even for a loyal fan like me. For 71 years ago today American and allied forces hit Omaha Beach as part of the D Day invasion.  And while I don't mind if people my age don't recall or care about horses like Secretariat, Seattle Slew or Affirmed, it would be a shame if all Americans were not absolutely aware and thankful for those soldiers and their families who sacrificed everything to beat the odds 71 years ago. I hope Belmont Park will recognize this special day. Speaking of which, if you want a "historical" tip, go with V E Day in race 6. He is appropriately named, being a son of English Channel.

Now off to Belmont Park!

June 3, 2015

American Pharoah cruises through Pimlico monsoon - Belmont next!

American Pharoah made the most out of the torrential rains that drove down just as the call to the post commenced. Kentucky Derby - check, Preakness Stakes - yep, Belmont and Triple Crown next up for Pharoah -- for sure!

Victor Espinoza and American Pharoah turned the anticipated three horse race into a walkover after breaking awkwardly but soon rushing past Mr. Z after a brisk opening quarter mile. Firing Line took a terrible step at the start and was virtually eliminated from contention, while Dortmund never challenged after getting a good stalking trip on the outside.  Now we're just days away from seeing if Derby also-rans Frosted and Materiality can step up their game and prove the spoiler, as multiple "fresh" horses have done both recently and decades ago by sitting out the Preakness to target the test of Champions. Only time will tell, but I still have that special feeling about the chances of the short-tailed bay colt by Pioneerof the Nile. Pharoah's unique spelling is giving sports writers worldwide fits, but this is fitting due to the tradition of naming an offspring after the sire and/or dam since his sire has a similar peculiarity in his name (lack of space before "of" due to Jockey Club naming limitations on characters).

The post positions were drawn just hours ago and American Pharoah was assigned post #5, same position as the speed oriented Seattle Slew who annexed the Triple Crown back in 1977. In that race, the Champ shot straight to the lead then had minor challenges on the backstretch to no avail. Slew got away with a moderate to slow 1:14 six furlong time and drew clear into the stretch to hold sway by 4 lengths. By comparison, the last two Belmont Stakes split times were 1:12.4 (Tonalist) and 1:10.4 (Palace Malice) where both winners were within one length of the lead. Based on comments from both Baffert and Espinoza following Pharoah's front running Preakness score, I believe they will again try to dictate the pace and go to the front.  It seems that only Materiality has the early foot to offer any serious challenge, so Johnny V's ride will be crucial to the outcome of Pharoah's Triple Crown bid.

The bottom line is that multiple distinguished race horses before American Pharoah (namely, Majestic Prince '69, Spectacular Bid '79, Real Quiet '98 and Smarty Jones '04) lost this race when it was their race to lose with a poor "trip" that worked against them. Certainly, the same can happen to Victor Espinoza and American Pharoah. But I'm hoping this time when I return from Elmont, NY my wallet flush with $2 win tickets will be prized scrapbook material rather than substantiation of a tax deduction. Finish the job, American Pharoah!