Archive for March, 2009

Weekly Recap: Road to May 2 Full of Quality

March 30, 2009

There were two races over the weekend that had the attention of most of the racing world and while they were a world apart, there’s no doubt both results were quite impressive.   A year ago WinStar Farm’s Well Armed made the lead in the $6 million Dubai World Cup (G1) but couldn’t hold up to the pressure of defending Horse of the Year Curlin.  He proved he was a very good horse with a strong 2nd half of 2008 with wins in the San Diego (G2), a close 2nd in the Pacific Classic (G1)  and a win in the Goodwood (G2). 

After two shaky efforts to begin this year there was hope that a return to dirt, and a surface over which he had already scored, would bring out the best in Well Armed.  A couple of days of rain made for a drying out surface that strongly favored speed and that moved up Well Armed considerably but even the most astute bias player couldn’t have expected him to win in such dominating fashion.  He was significantly better than his rivals in the warm desert air and an electrifying charge thru the final 600 meters provided the perfect ending to the final Dubai World Cup being run at Nad Al Sheba.  The 2010 rendition will be run at Meydan City and one cannot predict if Well Armed will win, or if he’ll even show up, but there’s no doubt he reigned over the 2009 field. 

Click here to view the World Cup.

The $750,000 Florida Derby (G1) was the other heavily anticipated event of the weekend and the showdown we had anticipated took place with the highly regarded upstart Dunkirk confronting Fountain of Youth winner Quality Road entering the stretch.  The most surprised person in the world as the field approched the top of the stretch seemed to be John Velazquez as he had Quality Road on cruise control as Dunkirk circled up on his outside.  He then set down his powerful son of Elusive Quality at once and only seconds later it was clear who was superior on the afternoon.  However, the discussion that has emanated from comments made by Dunkirk’s trainer Todd Pletcher has created serious doubt among some racing fans. 

The first point that must be considered about Pletcher’s complaints is that he was right.  The track was souped up for the marquee event of the meet, which was clear after Big Drama and This Ones For Phil stopped the clock in 1:20 and 4/5 in the Swale, 30 minutes prior to the Florida Derby.  Quality Road then contested what would normally be considered strong fractions before finishing the 9 furlongs in 1:47 and 3/5.  Again, Pletcher was right.  But, a souped up track is not necessarily speed favoring.  In fact, a souped up track is generally a fair one, as evidenced by one of the most infamous souped up tracks in recent memory, the Churchill strip on May 5, 2001.  Blazing times were being put up left and right that afternoon but Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos came from almost 15 lengths out to score going away, obviously aided by the fastest pace in the history of the storied event. 

You must also let everyone who thinks that the GP main oval was speed favoring yesterday know that the winners throughout the card were 9/5, 9-10, 2-1, 4-1, 3-1, 8/5, 6/5, 3-1…thus, the results were formful. 

No matter what you think about the result or the 1-2 finishers going forward, the performance of Quality Road answered a serious question about his ability to go long.  He further proved that the progeny of Elusive Quality are quite versatile and are not necessarily the milers everyone labels them.  Quality Road is clearly a horse whose potential is vast and he is a serious player on the Derby trail.  He further proves that the 2009 crop is significantly more interesting than what we dealt with a year ago.  Take a gander at the Florida Derby once again along with Pletcher’s post-race remarks.

We’ll be back on Tuesday evening to look ahead at the first week on the main track at Aqueduct along with the opening of Keeneland.  Until then good luck at the races!


2nd won’t work for blue-blooded Dunkirk

March 28, 2009

When a regally bred son of Unbridled’s Song  out of Secret Status showed up in the entries on Sunshine Millions day many were interested to see if he’d live up to a gaudy $3.7 million price tag.  After just over 1:25 it was clear that he could certainly run a bit but doubts still remained about how fast he could do it.  Dunkirk clearly capitalized on a great setup in his debut, so count me among those that wanted to see career start #2 before forming an opinion. 

He silenced most doubters with an impressive win against an allowance field in late February at Gulfstream.  He now surfaces in the $750,000 Florida Derby and will meet Fountain of Youth winner Quality Road in the starting gate.  The purse of the Florida Derby is significant given that a 2nd place finish would earn Dunkirk only $150,000 rather than the $200,000 he would have earned last year when the purse was $1,000,000.  There is some validity in saying that Dunkirk doesn’t deserve a spot in the Derby starting gate if he loses this event, but there will certainly be a number of disappointed punters holding Future tickets on him if he falters.

The richest race in the world will take place in the amazingly rain-soakened desert in Dubai.  Albertus Maximus is expected to be the favorite in the $6,000,000 Dubai World Cup where he’ll meet a full field that lacks any serious fire power.  The DWC undercard is truly outstanding with nothing but full fields and a couple of incredibly talented Americans like Indian Blessing set to go.   Here are my picks in the graded stakes on Saturday:

Next Move: Winning Point
Swale: Custom For Carlos
Appleton: Kiss the Kid
Florida Derby: Quality Road
Dubai World Cup: Well Armed

Who do you like this weekend?  Good luck!

The Week Ahead: Road to Riches?

March 25, 2009

Even after a fairly strong Wednesday program at the Big A, a big week looms in the racing world.  The richest horse race around will be run on Saturday as a full field is slated to vie for the $3.6 million prize in the $6 million Dubai World Cup (G1).  Over the years the undercard on DWC night has evolved into a veritable “Who’s Who?” of major racehorses in the world.  The $5 million Dubai Duty Free is shaping up as a terrific horse race, with America being represented by Julio Canani’s Hyperbaric and 2007 Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Kip Deville.  The biggest favorite on the entire card could very well be Indian Blessing, the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies champion and multiple G1 winner in 2008 as she takes on males in the $2 million Golden Shaheen.

For those craving 3YO action, be sure to take a look at the $2 million UAE Derby, where Desert Party will be heavily backed by the public as he searches for his third win of the International Racing Carnival.  He scored a smashing tally in the 2000 Guineas back in mid-February, which can be seen below.

For all things Dubai be sure to check in at and for selections, schedules, and other pertinent information for the big day in the desert.

On this side of the globe the highlight of the weekend will undoubtedly be the $750,000 Florida Derby where Quality Road will take on Dunkirk and a handful of others.  The former looked very strong in the Fountain of Youth as he stalked the pace, took over, and kicked strongly clear in the stretch.  He bounced back from a defeat in his 2nd career outing to Theregoesjojo, who will also contest the Florida Derby.

The wildcard waiting to be unleashed in Hallandale is Dunkirk, a striking son of Unbridled’s Song out of the champion mare Secret Status.  He has done everything right in two career starts, demolishing a maiden group in late January before a flashy victory against a group of overmatched allowance runners in late February.  For those of you who missed his allowance victory, check it out below:

We’ll see you back on Friday evening for a look at the Dubai World Cup card and other assorted stakes events across America!

Weekly Recap: Don’t Hold Me Back

March 23, 2009

The penultimate racing week on the inner track is in the books as there are only five racing days left on the winterized surface.  Only one stakes race was run this week, the Distaff (G2) on Saturday and it was won by stakes winner Secret Gypsy, who picked up her first graded tally.  Kudos to trainer Ronny Werner who spotted what was a very soft event for his filly to pick up her first graded stakes win.

Leading rider Ramon Dominguez had 12 wins this week, which of course comes as no surprise and the colony lost one mainstay as Channing Hill announced he was moving his tack to Southern California.  He rode on Wednesday then departed and is named on two horses on Wednesday afternoon at Santa Anita.   A few familiar names showed up in the entries as well, including Bobby Frankel, signaling the return of snowbirds who vacated NY for the winter.  Expect a lengthy re-entry over the coming weeks, especially once racing returns to the main track.

On the national stage the only prep for the Kentucky Derby was the $500,000 Lane’s End (G2) at Turfway and it was won by Hold Me Back.  A son of Giant’s Causeway, Hold Me Back picked up his third career victory in four starts, with his only loss coming over the main track at Aqueduct in the Remsen.  He finished strongly and is unquestionably bred to handle classic distances, but he looks more like a synthetic wonder horse than a true Derby contender.  On the Lane’s End undercard Cliffy’s Future scored a win in the Rushaway as he roared home from off the pace in his first try over a synthetic track while in the care of trainer Darrin Miller.  He had previously finished third in an allowance race at Keeneland last fall won by Hold Me Back. 

Out west a couple of G2 stakes were run over the turf for older horses and Bobby Frankel’s Visit was heavily favored in Sunday’s Santa Ana while trying to give he and Juddmonte Farms a sweep of the weekend’s graded events.  She didn’t finish in the last quarter and checked in a close third.  In Saturday’s San Luis Rey Victor Espinoza showed why he is still one of the best around when it comes to speedsters going long.  He guided Midships to the lead and through fractions of 24.22, 48.53, 1:13.61, 1:38.58, 2:02.11, 2:25.63 he was nearly two lengths clear at the finish.  He is one of the main contenders for the San Juan Capistrano run on closing weekend at Santa Anita.

The upcoming week will be headlined by the world’s richest race, the $6 million Dubai World Cup (G1) for older horses on Saturday and the $750,000 Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream  for three year-olds thinking Derby.   See you on Tuesday for a look at the upcoming week.


March 18, 2009
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