Friday, July 31, 2009

Mine That Bird Returns in West Virginia Derby

Mountaineer Park

A stellar card full of several non graded stakes is the under card for the Grade II $750,000 West Virginia Derby on Saturday at Mountaineer Park. This race marks the return of Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird who will be ridden in this race by Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith. Mine That Bird is listed as the 3/5 favorite in the morning line.

Big Drama who ran 5th in the Preakness but is 6 for 9 lifetime is listed at 8/5 in the morning line and his blazing speed and only speed in the race of 4 betting interests and 5 horses will be a huge challenge to the strong closing kick of the Derby winner. Eiabar Coa has the return mount on Big Drama.

San Clemente Is Saturday Feature At Del Mar

Del Mar, CA

A full field of ten will go to the post for the featured Grade II San Clemente Handicap on Saturday at Del Mar. The San Clemente is carded for three year old fillies at a mile over the Jimmy Durante turf course.

The Jeff Bond trained Strawberry Tart is going for her third win in a row and was 2 for 2 on the turf at the recent Hollywood Park meet. She will be stepping up in class for this.

The Doug O'Niel trained Acting Lady is likely to also be significantly backed in here. She has only one win in seven starts this year but will be making a significant class drop against this competition.

The Bob Baffert trained Internally Flawless is in off a sub par race in her last but is reuniting with Garret Gomez for this race with whom she has had recent success.

All three should benefit from a super speed dual between Oilgonewile and Carlsbad who is 6 for 7 lifetime but has never raced on the grass.

Lake George Highlights Sunset Friday at Saratoga

Saratoga Race Course

The Grade II Lake George Stakes for three year old fillies on the inner turf course is the highlight of the meet's first of two Sunset Fridays at the Spa. On Sunset Friday, the first post is at 2:30 rather than the traditional 1:00.

Here are some Horses to Watch in the Lake George:

Kiawah Kat
Ran a big race in her last only to come up slightly short to rival Mary's Follies in a Grade III at Monmouth Park. However, Mary's Follies will be giving a 6 pound advantage to Kiawah Kat in here. Very positive rider change as Julian Leparoux takes the mount for Bill Mott.

Mary's Follies
Going for 3rd win in a row but this is her first start with this barn who wins 30% of the time in that scenario. Is likely the horse to beat and trainer/jockey combo win at 37% clip in 2009. Ramon Dominguez rides for Richard Dutrow.

Winner of 1000 Guineas at Arlington in last and was moving late after having to steady at the head of the stretch in the BC Filly & Mare Turf last fall. She also broke her maiden here last summer on Saratoga's Mellon Turf Course. Will likely set the pace today. Johnny Velasquez rides for Shug McGaughey.

Won the Grade III Regret on a course rated good at Churchill and has been in the money in all five turf starts. She is going for her 4th straight win today and has shown she can carry this weight with a win at today's weight in last. Jose Lezcano rides for Tom Proctor.

Lady Shakespeare
She has won her last two at Woodbine but did not fare well in only graded stakes try last summer. Daughter of Turf Champion Theatrical and granddaughter of super turf sire Nureyev. Jockey change a plus. Kent Desormeaux rides for Roger Atfield.

Colonel John Tries Turf In Del Mar Feature

Del Mar, CA

Colonel John, a multiple Grade I winner on dirt, will attempt the turf for the first time in Friday's featured Wickerr Handicap at Del Mar. The Wickerr carries a purse of $85,000 and is a steep class drop for Colonel John who has been installed as the 5/2 favorite in the morning line. A concern is that trainer Eoin Hardy is just 3 for 36 with horses making their first start on the grass.

This is Colonel John's first race of 2009 and on the surface, it looks like his connections are using this much easier spot to prep for the $1,000,000 Pacific Classic than taking on the competition in Sunday's San Diego Handicap. Garret Gomez will ride.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Grade II Sanford Tops Day 2 at the Spa

Saratoga Race Course

Hot Dixie Chick pulled away in the stretch to dominate a deep field in opening day's Schuylerville Stakes and establish herself as one of the leaders in the two year old filly division. In contrast a very average group of two year old colts will contest today's Grade II Sanford Stakes at 6 furlongs.

Here are some Horses to Watch in the Sanford:

Son of Smarty Jones is 2-2 and closed nicely to win Churchill's top juvenile stakes, the Bashford Manor, and his maiden win came on an off track. Beyer number earned in the Bashford Manor was not exceptional but the trainer/jockey combo is 34% in 2009. Miguel Mena rides for Tom Amoss.

Bulls and Bears
Broke his maiden first out at Belmont when he got up late between horses and that Beyer number is highest in today's field. He certainly fits well with these and will likely be attracting a lot of money in the wagering. The concern is that the barn wins with 26% of first timers but that drops to 9% for the second start. Top rider stays aboard as Alan Garcia rides for Richard Violette.

Broke his maiden by five in first asking after running away from a duel on the front end at Churchill and there is not a lot of speed in here today. First race Beyer was 81 and he has posted two solid works since arriving at the Spa. Trainer/jockey combo is 44% with an ROI of $4.21 in 18 attempts in 2009. Edgar Prado rides for Steve Asmussen.

Nacho Friend
Won maiden by 6 over a sloppy track at Monmouth Park in first start but the 68 Beyer was nothing to write home about. Joe Bravo makes the trip to the Spa today to stay aboard and the Kelly Breen barn wins 35% of the time second out. This is a step up in class but you should respect.

Held on to break maiden by a head in his first attempt at Monmouth Park last out but the 63 Beyer leaves something to be desired. Posted a bullet work here on July 24 and Todd Pletcher puts his go to rider, Johnny Velasquez, aboard for this. Trainer/jockey combo have won this race 3 of the last 5 years.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Schuylerville Stakes Tops Saratoga's Opening Day

Saratoga Springs, NY

Historic Saratoga Race Course opens the gates for it's 141st season on Wednesday with a race card featuring very full fields, an overnight stakes and the Grade III Schuylerville Stakes for Two Year Old Fillies.

The best horses, best trainers and the deepest jockey coloney are assembled for the summer meet at the Spa as always. The 36 day meet features 34 graded stakes with twelve of those being Grade I, highlighted by the August 29th Travers Stakes which is commonly called the mid-summer Derby. The Travers is expected to feature a re-match between Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird and Belmont winner Summer Bird. The Travers is also a possibility for Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra whose owners will likely choose between it and the Alabama Stakes for 3 year old fillies.

The Saratoga meet runs Wednesday-Monday through Labor Day.

Here are some Horses to Watch for the Schuylerville Stakes:

Hot Dixie Chick
Broke maiden in last but has top Beyer number in the field and has plenty of speed. Robby Alberado rides for Steve Asmussen.

Cowgirl Mally
Broke maiden in last at Churchill and posted strong work on July 24. Ramon Dominguez rides for Eddie Kenneally.

Won the KY Juvenile before a poor showing in first try on grass at Royal Ascot. Consider the trip to England and back and require some value if betting her. Jesus Castanon rides for Wesley Ward.

Won the Debutante at Churchill in last and is one of several who are 2-2 in here. Beyers are a little low but Lukas knows how to handle two year old fillies. Julian Leparoux rides for D. Wayne Lukas.

Looked sharp in first timer maiden win in last at Churchill and has been working well since. Kent Desormeaux rides for Ken McPeek.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

CCA Oaks Tops Belmont's Closing Weekend

Even without Rachel Alexandra, who will start next weekend in the Haskell Invitational against colts, the the Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks has come up with a strong field to highlight the closing weekend of the Spring/Summer meet at Belmont Park.

Here are some horses to watch in the CCA Oaks:

Livin Lovin
Broke slowly and then was 5 wide on the turn in the Acorn before recovering to finish fourth just two lengths back. The meets leading rider, Ramon Dominguez stays aboard.

Casanova Move
A respectable 3rd in the Acorn at 18/1 after being bumped at the quarter pole. Moves from the Jimmy Jerkens barn to the Todd Pletcher barn for this. Johnny V takes the mount.

Funny Moon
Was clobbered in the Acorn finishing 8th by 23 lengths. All three of her wins have come on an off track and her chances improve considerably if the track is off today with rain in the forecast. Alan Garcia rides.

Winner of the Grade 3 Iowa Oaks and Grade 3 Dogwood in last two and seems to be a longer shot contender against these. Edgar Prado rides for Steve Asmussen so should respect.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Eddie Read Stakes Highlights Del Mar's Opening Week

A record Opening Day crowd, a non-stop series of longshot winners, a shortened meet to 5 days a week due to lack of horses, and a serious injury to top jockey Rafeal Bejerano have to date been the headlines coming out of the opening week at Del Mar which opened on Wednesday.

Saturday's Eddie Read Stakes on the turf will be the first Grade I race of the season at the seaside track. A stellar field led by Monterey Jazz, Artiste Royale, Awesome Gem and Thorn Song make the Eddie Read a strong headliner for the meet's opening week.

Rafeal Bejerano was injured on opening day when his horse broke down and unseated him after which he was struck by a trailing horse causing severe facial injuries. Bejerano underwent successful facial surgery on Thursday but no date has been set for his return to riding.

Racing World Decends on Canterbury Park for Claiming Crown

Canterbury Park - Shakopee, MN

Living in the Twin Cities area myself, I can tell you that Canterbury Park is not the A Game of American Thoroughbred Racing. Still, most summers over the last eleven years, Canterbury Park has played host to what is pretty much the Breeders' Cup for claiming horses, the $600,000 Claiming Crown. The center of the country location and this track's hearty support of the event have made Canterbury Park a natural choice to be a frequent host of this event which will be held on Saturday.

A strong roster of top jockeys are in town for the Claiming Crown. They include Robby Albarado, Julien Leparoux, Jeremy Rose, Jamie Theriot, E.T. Baird and Hall of Famer Russell Baze.

They are complimented by a strong contingent of trainers. They include Scott Lake, Michael Matz, Michael Maker, Bret Calhoun, Carl Nafzger and Tom Proctor.

In addition to the six Claiming Crown races, the track's richest race, the $100,000 Lady Canterbury also highlights a steller day of racing from Canterbury Park.

Here are some Horses to Watch for the Claiming Crown and Lady Canterbury.

Claiming Crown Iron Horse
Mr. Meso
Bright Hall
Calm And Collected

Claiming Crown Tiara
Love To Tell
Bartok's Bling

Claiming Crown Rapid Transit
Max Ahead
Grand Traverse
You're My Boy Blue

Claiming Crown Express
Chasing The Prize
Ready's Rocket
Who Let The Cat In

Claiming Crown Glass Slipper
Met A Miner
Margie Marie

Claiming Crown Emerald
Spicy Dubai
T Harry
Divine Master

Claiming Crown Jewel
Antrim County
Furthest Land
Glamour Guy

Lady Canterbury
Lady Carlock
Happiness Is

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Rachel Alexandra To Run In Haskell

Trainer Steve Asmussen has announced that Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra will start next in the Haskell Invitational on August 2nd at Monmouth Park. This will be the second start against colts for the super filly who in her last start won Belmont's Mother Goose Stakes against fillies by 19 3/4 lengths.

Since the Mother Goose, Rachel has been training well at Saratoga and trainer Asmussen said that with the 1 1/8 mile distance of the Mother Goose, the Haskell will fit nicely for her.

The Haskell will be a matchup of the winners of two of the three Triple Crown races this year as Belmont winner Summer Bird is also expected to start in this race. Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird is scheduled to start in the West Virginia Derby the day before the Haskell.

The presence of Rachel Alexandra in the Haskell field will be a major boost for Monmouth Park

Friday, July 10, 2009

Benny The Bull, Indian Blessing Top Summit of Speed at Calder

Calder Race Course

Indian Blessing, the 2008 female sprint champion, who will be ridden by Mike Smith is the luke warm favorite in the Grade I Princess Rooney Handicap at Calder's Summit of Speed on Saturday. Game Face who will be ridden by Edgar Prado is expected to provide the main competition in this race.

Benny The Bull, the 2008 male sprint champion, who will be ridden by Edgar Prado is the heavy fvorite in the Grade II Smile Sprint Handicap. Ikigai ridden by Jermaine Bridgmohan, How's Your Halo ridden by Manny Cruz and Yesbyjimminy with Paco Lopez aboard are expected to be the main competition in this race.

Gio Ponti, Grand Couturier Headline Belmont's Man o' War

Belmont Park

Multiple Grade I winners Gio Ponti and Grand Couturier lead a strong field of 9 in Saturday's Grade I Man o' War Stakes at Belmont Park. Gio Ponti will be ridden by Ramon Dominguez while Grand Couturier will be piloted by Alan Garcia. Midships ridden by Victor Espinoza and Dancing Forever ridden by John Velasquez also deserve mention in this race.

13 To Contest Hollywood Gold Cup

Hollywood Park

Mast Track, Parading, Global Hunter, Magnum, Bullsbay and Tres Barachos are among the star quality names entered in the Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup on Saturday at Hollywood Park. One of the interesting entries in the race is the filly Life Is Sweet who trainer John Shirreffs chose to enter in this race against the colts rather than entering her two weeks ago against his super mare Zenyatta in the Vanity Handicap.

Three Graded Stakes Highlght Arlington Million Preview Day

Arlington Park

Modesty Handicap
Pure Clan and Dynaforce are the early favorites in the Grade III Modesty Handicap in what looks to be the best matchup of the day in Saturday's Arlington Million Preview Day. Pure Clan will be ridden by Julien Leparoux while Dynaforce will be ridden by Robby Albarado.

American Derby
Giant Oak is the morning line favorite against a field of 7 in the Grade II Arlington Derby. Giant Oak will be ridden by Esuebio Razo, Jr. Reb a shipper from the east coast who will be ridden by Julian Leparoux, Oil Man a shipper from the west coast who will be ridden by Alonzo Quinonez, and No Inflation who will be ridden by Robby Alberado will also be among the favorites in this race.

Arlington Sprint Handicap
Chamberlain Bridge, ridden by Jesse Campbell is the 9/5 favorite in the non graded Arlington Sprint Handicap. Shrewd Operator, ridden by Robby Alberado and St. Joe, ridden by Julian Leparoux should proide the main competition in this race.

Arlngton Handicap
Cosmonaut, ridden by Robby Albarado, has been installed as the 3/1 favorite in the Grade III Arlington Handicap. Stream Cat ridden by Florent Geroux and Just As Well ridden by E.T. Baird are also considered to be contenders in the field of 13 in this race.

Mike Smith To Again Ride Mine That Bird

Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith has agreed to ride Mine That Bird for his next two starts. The Kentucky Derby winner and Preakness runner up will next start in the West Virginia Derby on August 1 at Mountaineer Park and then in the August 29 Travers Stakes at Saratoga.

Smith will replace Calvin Borel who would not commit to riding the horse for the rest of the year so trainer Chip Woolley decided to replace him. However, Smith would not commit at this time to riding Mine That Bird in the Breeders' Cup Classic stating that he would be aboard undefeated Zenyatta should she be entered against the colts in the Classic rather than in the Ladies Classic.

Pioneerof The Nile Retired

Kentucky Derby runner up Pioneerof The Nile has been retired with a soft tissue injury to his left front leg. The injury was discovered on Sunday after a workout at Santa Anita Park.

After an 11th place finish in the Preakness, Pioneerof The Nile was being freshened for a start in the July 18 Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park and eventually the Breeders' Cup Classic this fall at Santa Anita.

Pioneerof The Nile ended his career with 5 wins in 10 lifetime starts.