Friday, June 26, 2009

Rachel In Mother Goose and Zenyatta In Vanity on Saturday

Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra will be a heavy favorite as she returns to racing Saturday in the Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont Park. Her first start since the Preakness will be against 3 year old fillies but the race attracted only three fillies willing to take on Rachel. Calvin Borel will again be aboard.

Co-owner Jess Jackson has announced that Rachel will not go to the Breeders' Cup this year. This means the possible dream match with Zenyatta in the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic will not happen this year on the synthetic surface at Santa Anita which is Zenyatta's home track.

Later in the day on Saturday, the brilliant Zenyatta will attempt to run her record to a perfect 11-0 as she will carry top weight of 129 pounds in the Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park. Zenyatta won this race last year but will be granting 13 to 18 pounds to each of her seven rivals in the race this year. Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith will be aboard.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Next Starts For Triple Crown Horses

Owner Jess Jackson has announced that Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra will start next in the Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont Park on June 27.

Trainer Chip Woolley announced that Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird will start next in the West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Park on August 1 to be followed by a start in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga on August 29.

Trainer Tim Ice has announced that Belmont winner Summer Bird will start next in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on August 2.

In other news of Triple Crown contenders:

Quality Road, who would have been the likely favorite in the Kentucky Derby until he was sidelined by a quarter crack, has been taken away from trainer Jimmy Jerkins and moved to the barn of Todd Pletcher.

Dunkirk, who placed second in the Belmont, turned up with a leg fracture after the race. Trainer Todd Pletcher announced that surgery on Dunkirk was successful and the horse is expected to return to action later this fall.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Macho Again Takes Stephen Foster

Churchill Downs

Macho Again was unhurried early but worked his way into contention before striking the lead with a furlong to run and drew away to win Saturday's Grade I Stephen Foster Handicap by a length. Ridden by Robby Albarado, Macho Again was sent of at odds of 7/1.

Asiatic Boy settled into stride while racing midpack but then moved into contention at the head of the stretch while four wide. There was much bumping between Asiatic Boy and Einstein with 3/16th of a mile to run but Asiatic Boy held the place position by a nose over that one.

Einstein had a very troubled trip in this race. He bobbled at the start to get away slowly and then was forced to check at the 7/8 marker. After that, he was bottled up between horses down the backstretch and he then found a bit of a seam at the head of the stretch before the bumping between him and Asiatic Boy as they both sought the same hole. Einstein was shuffled back and finally found room but it was too late and he settled for third.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Summer Bird Wins Belmont

Belmont Park

Well, a "Bird" won the Belmont as everyone thought would happen. However, it was the other son of Birdstone, Summer Bird, not Mine That Bird.

In a change of style, Dunkirk set the pace for the first mile of the race leading the way over Miner's Escape, Mr. Hot Stuff and Charitable Man. Mine That Bird did not seem comfortable in the paddock and in the post parade. In the race, he was pulling on jockey Calvin Borel to go before it was time. Instead of the perfect rail trip, Borel had to go outside entering the backstretch and raced wide throughout but made his big move entering the stretch. At the 1/16th pole, he was set to overtake Dunkirk for the lead.

This time, it was Summer Bird and Kent Desormeaux who had the ground saving rail trip to start a strong move at the 5/16th pole and pulled away from Dunkirk and Mine That Bird with 1/16th of a mile to go to win by 2 3/4 lengths. In the meantime, Dunkirk fought back to overtake Mine That Bird for the place spot and Mine That Bird finished 3rd while Charitable Man was 4th.

The result meant that there would be no personal "Calvin" Triple Crown by winning the three races on different horses. This was also the 31st year without an actual Triple Crown since Affirmed outdualed Alydar in this race in 1978 but that possibility ended when Rachel Alexandra won the Preakness over Derby winner Mine That Bird.

The victory was a huge bit of redemption for Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux after the terrible outcome on Big Brown last year where he pulled the odds on favorite up and finished last and the 1998 Belmont where where he lost the Triple Crown by less than a nose when Real Quiet was passed at the wire by Victory Gallop leaving many to say that Desormeaux moved too early in that race. In interviews this week, Desormeaux had been saying that as a member of the Hall of Fame, his career would be incomplete without a Belmont victory. This time he got that victory on Summer Bird.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Terry's Horses To Watch For the Belmont

Belmont Park

For the 31st straight year there will be no Triple Crown winner. A filly who in racing circles is described as a “freak” saw to that with her win in the Preakness leaving Mine That Bird as the 12th horse to attempt to win the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes. As always in the Belmont, there are “new shooters” waiting in the wings to play the spoiler for the horse who everyone says can’t lose. Who will pass the Test of the Champion?

Belmont Stakes ~ Grade I ~ Purse $1,000,000 ~ 1 1/2 Miles

Mine That Bird – Post 7 – Morning Line 2/1
He is the deserving morning line favorite after two very good races in the first two jewels of the Triple Crown. His stunning 6 ¾ length win in the Derby and hard closing second in the Preakness have made him the one to beat and he should be closer to the lead with far less pace in this race. His sire, Bridstone, spoiled the Triple Crown bid of Smarty Jones a few years back. Jockey Calvin Borel has guaranteed victory. Borel is attempting to win a personal Triple Crown by winning all three races but on different horses.

Charitable Man – Post 6 – Morning Line 3/1
He is the likely horse to beat the top rival if anyone does. He is 2 for 2 at Belmont and 3 for 3 on regular dirt. After winning the Belmont Futurity last fall, he was off 7 months due to injury and was being pointed to later races this summer. This changed with a convincing 3 ¾ length win over this track in the Peter Pan. He will either be stalking Miner’s Escape or on the lead and a win here would be no surprise. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin has been unusually vocal about his horse’s chances this week. Garcia is aboard and he won this race last year at 38/1 with Da’ Tara.

Dunkirk – Post 2 – Morning Line 4/1
Another who has the breeding for this distance but he has yet to live up to his $3.7 million price tag. He ran a very strong second to Quality Road in the Florida Derby but had a terrible trip in the Kentucky Derby to finish 11th over the very sloppy track at Churchill Downs that day. We should see if he is for real today and if so, he has a real shot at winning. Trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey John Velasquez won this race two years ago with Rags to Riches.

Chocolate Candy – Post 1 – Morning Line 10/1
He ran an impressive 2nd to Pioneerof The Nile in the Santa Anita Derby and ran a respectable 5th in the Kentucky Derby over the Churchill Downs slop in his first race on dirt. Trainer Hollendorfer skipped the Preakness to have a fresher horse here and Gomez takes the mount. If Gomez can keep him closer to the lead than he was in the Derby, he has a chance.

Flying Private – Post 8 – Morning Line 12/1
He is the only horse besides Mine That Bird to race in all three Triple Crown races this year. He finished a well beaten last in the Derby but closed well to finish 4th in the Preakness. He has not been able to beat top rivals to date but was much improved in the Preakness. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas has won the Belmont 4 times and jockey Leparoux has brought home more than his share of longshots. I would use him in the exotics.

Summer Bird – Post 4 – Morning Line 12/1
He ran 6th in the Kentucky Derby after being 7 wide on the turn and was a close 3rd to Papa Clem in the Arkansas Derby before that. Birdstone was also his sire and a very positive jockey change to Desormeaux will help. He can certainly get the distance but would need to step up a bit to win here.

Others In The Race:
Mr. Hot Stuff – Post 3 – M/L 15/1 –
Well beaten 15th in Derby in only dirt start. Prado takes the mount for Eoin Hardy.
Luv Guv – Post 5 – M/L 20/1 – 8th in Preakness and 1 for 11 lifetime. Mena who rode in only win is aboard for Lukas and MaryLou Whitney.
Miner’s Escape – Post 9 – M/L 15/1 – Should set the pace but lacks the class. Lezcano rides for Zito and Robert Lapenta.
Brave Victory – Post 10 – M/L 15/1 – 3rd in Peter Pan and is the best chance of the “others”. Maragh rides for Zito and Robert Lapenta.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Belmont Doings

Belmont Park

The 141st Belmont Stakes will be run this Saturday, June 6. While some of the excitement may have left this race when Rachel Alexandra was declared out of the race by owner Jess Jackson, it still may well be a Belmont of note.

Calvin Borel will be back aboard Mine That Bird, whom he rode in the Derby, and he is extremely confident that his horse will win the 3rd jewel of the Triple Crown. Mine That Bird worked a half mile in 50 seconds flat on Monday at Churchill Downs and is the early favorite in the Belmont.

Charitable Man has emerged as a strong second choice after his 3 3/4 length win in the Peter Pan, the local prep race for the Belmont and trainer Kiaran McLaughlin has been unusually vocal about his horse's chances this week. Charitable Man looked like a Triple Crown contender last summer and fall before being sidelined by injury. His easy win in the Peter Pan in his second race back shows he is ready and my guess is he may go off the post time favorite. He will be ridden by Alan Garcia.

Others expected to be entered in the Belmont are Brave Victory ridden by Rajiv Maragh, Chocolate Candy (Garrett Gomez), Dunkirk (John Velasquez), Flying Private (Julian Leparoux), Luv Guv (Miguel Mena), Miner's Escape (Jose Lezcano), Mr. Hot Stuff (Edgar Prado) and Summer Bird (Kent Desormeaux). The only two horses to compete in all three Triple Crown races this year are Mine That Bird and Flying Private.

Trainer Nick Zito announced that after a discussion with owner Leonard Riggio they decided not to enter Nowhere to Hide in the Belmont. This was in spite of a stellar half mile work over Saratoga's Oklahoma training track on Monday.

The headline story of the week is whether Calvin Borel can be the first jockey in history to capture a personal Triple Crown by winning all three races but not with the same horse.

The post position draw for the 141st Belmont will be on Wednesday.