Archive for February, 2010

Gulfstream’s dirt once again a Quality Road

February 9, 2010

The performance of Quality Road in Saturday’s Donn Handicap completely captured the American racing world’s attention on a day where “cancelled” was a word that hurt the nationwide landscape.  With Santa Anita cancelling it’s fourth racing program in the last month because of poor drainage on the Pro-Ride main track, approximately 5:00 PM EST was a great time for a breakthrough performance.  The burly son of Elusive Quality took it upon himself to post the best performance of the year and one of the most impressive of the last few racing seasons. 

Quality Road has clearly been at his best at Gulfstream as his victories in the 2009 runnings of the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby were absolutely spectacular and he came into the Donn off of a workmanlike win in the Hal’s Hope.  He was facing a surprisingly large field in the Donn which included five graded stakes winners among his nine rivals and was sure to receive some pace pressure from the start.  How he would react to potentially posting a fast opening half-mile remained to be seen but his backers were confident the job would get done as he left the gate at 2/5.

Let’s take a step-by-step look at the Donn:

SCENE #1 – As the field entered the first turn of the Donn, jockey John Velazquez was able to angle Quality Road outside of Past the Point into the stalking position both rider and horse love.

SCENE #2 – Midway down the backstretch, after a half mile in :46.02 the leaders had opened up a three-length separation on the balance of the field.  To put things in perspective, the leader at this point was Past the Point, who wound up finishing sixth beaten nearly 15 lengths. 

SCENE #3 – As the field entered the short Gulfstream stretch Quality Road was through sparring with Past the Point and had opened up a four-length lead. 

SCENE #4 – With only yards to go Quality Road’s tour de force was complete as he had opened a lead of about a dozen lengths.  The final margin would be 12 and 3/4 and his Beyer figure, after revision, was 121.  It was his highest Beyer figure and his eighth above 100 in nine starts.

Todd Pletcher announced after the Donn that Quality Road would be freshened for a try in the Met Mile, a race that’s been known to complete a catalog for stud duty quite nicely.  Let’s just say that when he does re-surface in the Met Mile, all eyes will be on this guy to begin a run that’ll end in November with a potential date with a couple of leading ladies.

With the only three year-old race scheduled for last weekend cancelled, there will be no update to my Derby Countdown tomorrow, but I’ll be back to chronicle some of the best performances so far from the crop of 2007.  Until then, enjoy the Donn Handicap:

All still images courtesy of youtube.com

Derby Countdown – February 2

February 2, 2010

Each Tuesday leading up to the Kentucky Derby I’ll go through my Top 10 Kentucky Derby prospects, starting with this week.  Be sure to comment and post your Top 10. 

#1 – Drosselmeyer

Trainer: Bill Mott

Owner: WinStar Farm LLC

Pedigree:  Distorted Humor x Golden Ballet (Moscow Ballet)
Current Wynn Future Book Odds: 30-1

Best Performance: Gulfstream Allowance, 1/31, 1st

Where to next?  Fountain of Youth, Gulfstream, 2/20

What’s to like?  This guy’s pedigree is tremendous as his dam, Golden Ballet, was a multiple graded stakes winner in her day and his sire has already produced multiple Classic winners.  He ended his 2YO campaign with a smashing maiden victory in what was his first start on dirt.  In his first start as a 3YO he handily defeated a solid field of allowance rivals going nine panels at Gulfstream as he finished up in 1:49 and 2/5 while drawing away late. 

# 2 – Eskendereya

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Owner: Zayat Stables LLC

Pedigree:  Giant’s Causeway x Aldebaran Light (Seattle Slew)

Current Wynn Future Book Odds: 30-1

Best Performance: Gulfstream Allowance, 1/7, 1st

Where to next?  Fountain of Youth, Gulfstream, 2/20

What’s to like?  After running his record on dirt to 2-2 with a sharp allowance win at Gulfstream, trainer Todd Pletcher made it clear that this son of Giant’s Causeway would make his next start in the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream.  The GP allowance win was his first start as a 3YO and he stopped the clock in an impressive 1:36 and 3/5 for a mile on a track that was not playing particularly fast.  He has a leggy pedigree and is certainly one to watch going forward.

# 3 – Lookin at Lucky

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Owner: Mike Pegram, Paul Weitman, Karl Watson

Pedigree: Smart Strike x Private Feeling (Belong to Me)

Current Wynn Future Book Odds: 7-1

Best Performance: Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Santa Anita, 11/7, 2nd

Where to next?  San Felipe, Santa Anita, 3/13

What’s to like?  The Eclipse Award winning 2YO is currently being freshened for his 3YO debut, which is scheduled for March 13 at Santa Anita in the San Felipe.  He will run in two preps before the Kentucky Derby and his trainer is certainly no stranger to Churchill Downs glory with three Derbies under his belt.  Many have been kind of sour on this guy because of his seemingly ordinary Beyer figures and his unimpressive, grinding style.  Dirt will be an unknown if he shows up in Louisville with only two starts at Santa Anita as a three year-old but there’s no question that he has a solid foundation and will be ready to roll when it counts.

#4 – Jackson Bend

Trainer: Nick Zito

Owner: Robert V. LaPenta

Pedigree: Hear No Evil x Sexy Stockings (Tabasco Cat)

Current Wynn Future Book Odds: 20-1

Best Performance: Florida Stallion Stakes In Reality Division, Calder, 10/17, 1st

Where to next?  Fountain of Youth, Gulfstream, 2/20

What’s to like?  After losing his debut, this son of unheralded Florida stallion Hear No Evil rattled off five consecutive wins at Calder.  The most impressive of those was on the Festival of the Sun program as he took the In Reality Division of the Florida Stallion Series.  He was purchased shortly after that race by Bob LaPenta and sent to trainer Nick Zito and his first start back was strong as he contested the pace in the Holy Bull and fought all the way to the wire.  He looms a serious prospect for the Fountain of Youth and bigger races beyond.

#5 – Buddy’s Saint

Trainer: Bruce Levine

Owner: Kingfield Stables

Pedigree: Saint Liam x Tuzia (Blushing John)

Current Wynn Future Book Odds: 10-1

Best Performance: Nashua, Aqueduct, 11/6, 1st

Where to next?  Fountain of Youth, Gulfstream, 2/20

What’s to like?  This strapping chestnut has crossed the wire first in each of his three career starts but was disqualified in his debut and placed second.  He posted a breakthrough performance in the Nashua drawing off to win and earn a gigantic Beyer figure of 102.  He regressed a bit in the Remsen when stretched out to nine furlongs but was still victorious and is now being freshened for a start in what’s shaping up as the race of the spring, the Fountain of Youth.

#6 – Rule

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Owner: WinStar Farm, LLC

Pedigree: Roman Ruler x Rockcide (Personal Flag)

Current Wynn Future Book Odds: 30-1

Best Performance: Delta Jackpot, 12/4, Delta Downs, 1st

Where to next?  Fountain of Youth, Gulfstream, 2/20 or Sam F. Davis, Tampa Bay, 2/13, Risen Star, Fair Grounds, 2/20

What’s to like?  One piece of WinStar’s loaded 3YO hand, this Todd Pletcher trainee reached new heights when sent to the bayou following a maiden win in New York.  He won the Jean Lafitte by nine lengths and subsequently scored again at Delta on a sloppy track in the Delta Jackpot.  Donnie Preston, yearling manager of WinStar farm, had this to say to Steve Haskin of the Bloodhorse about Rule, “Rule was our LeBron James, because of his athleticism and his strength,” he said. “He was muscular, well put together, and well balanced; just what you wanted to see. He was the one yearling everyone looked at. He was a given.”  (www.bloodhorse.com) He’s been active throughout the month of January, which portends a start at some point in February.

#7 – Tiz Chrome

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Owner: Lanni Family Trust, Mercedes Stables LLC, Bernard C. Schiappa

Pedigree: Tiznow x Woodland Shadow (Woodman)

Current Wynn Future Book Odds: 20-1

Best Performance: Stuka, Hollywood, 12/19, 1st

Where to next?  Robert Lewis, Santa Anita, 2/6

What’s to like?  After being privately purchased following a strong debut at Churchill, this well-bred son of Tiznow debuted for trainer Bob Baffert in a sprint stake on closing weekend at Hollywood.  He was a handy winner drawing off late to win by four lengths.  His first start around two turns will take place this Saturday in the Robert Lewis at Santa Anita and the added ground should pose no great obstacle to him.

#8 – Super Saver

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Owner: WinStar Farm, LLC

Pedigree: Maria’s Mon x Supercharger (A.P. Indy)

Current Wynn Future Book Odds: 35-1

Best Performance: Kentucky Jockey Club, Churchill Downs, 11/28, 1st

Where to next?  Fountain of Youth, Gulfstream, 2/20 or Risen Star, Fair Grounds, 2/20 or Rebel, Oaklawn, 3/13

What’s to like?  Like many of the other WinStar colts on the east coast it’s unknown where this son of Maria’s Mon will surface to make his 3YO debut but it does seem as if he’s a bit behind the other Pletcher-WinStar colt, Rule.  He has only worked twice as of February 1, but he ended his 2YO campaign in fine fashion taking the Kentucky Jockey Club in wire-to-wire fashion.  He may have benefited from cruising on an uncontested lead at Churchill but he accelerated nicely when confronted and obviously has some serious talent.  Expect to see him later this month or in March.

#9 – Maximus Ruler

Trainer: Clark Hanna

Owner: Don L. Benge

Pedigree: Roman Ruler x Lost Love (Lost Code)

Current Wynn Future Book Odds: 100-1

Best Performance: Churchill Allowance, Churchill Downs, 11/28, 1st

Where to next?  Risen Star, Fair Grounds, 2/20

What’s to like?  Despite many being down on this son of Roman Ruler after his defeat in the Lecomte, I am of the opinion that he showed the type of ability that afternoon in New Orleans that you’d like to see in a 3YO making his 3rd career start.  He contested a solid pace, battled gamely, looked to be home free then got caught in the final strides by a closer who had lingered at the back of the pack then made one big run.  He should benefit from the experience earned that afternoon and you can probably count on a more patient ride from Francisco Torres, or whomever is aboard, in his next outing.

#10 – William’s Kitten

Trainer: Mike Maker

Owner: Ken and Sarah Ramsey

Pedigree: Kitten’s Joy x Blush (Menifee)

Current Wynn Future Book Odds: 60-1

Best Performance: Kentucky Jockey Club, Churchill Downs, 11/28, 2nd

Where to next?  Fountain of Youth, Gulfstream Park, 2/20

What’s to like?  Rapidly becoming the “suck-up” second horse that you want in the bottom of your Derby trifecta, this son of William’s Kitten has now been in the money in all three starts over conventional dirt and he was the only horse to make a meaningful off the pace move in the Holy Bull.  He’s clearly going to benefit from the added ground he and his peers will go starting with the Fountain of Youth.  It’s also worth noting that with each in the money finish his graded earnings will stack up but his odds on 5/1 will go up because of his lack of a killer instinct.

Races this week: Bob Lewis, Santa Anita, 2/6

See you back next week with an update!  Until the final countdown on April 27 I’ll include a Kentucky Derby beginning with 1998!  Enjoy!

Weekend Stakes Recap

February 1, 2010

Cancelled was the most popular word of the day on Saturday as Laurel, Oaklawn, and Aqueduct cancelled all or part of their racing programs as a fierce winter storm wreaked havoc on a large portion of the country.  Ironically, in California and Florida, the Sunshine Millions program was run before a back-drop that made the moniker fitting.

Some of the highlights of the Sunshine Millions races included:

– This Ones for Phil was 53 weeks removed from a breakthrough performance in the Sunshine Millions Dash and he was once again victorious in this year’s Sunshine Millions Sprint.  He battled nose and nose with Pashito the Che from the half-mile pole in and prevailed by a whisker.  Click here to view the Sunshine Millions Sprint.

-Sweet Repent scored her fifth victory in a row in the Sunshine Millions Distaff as she tracked a solid pace and took over when ready in the stretch drive.  She has now earned three consecutive Beyer figures over 100 and is rapidly earning her way into the conversation of 2nd tier distaffers for the rest of the year.

-Trainer Tom Proctor knew he was bringing a made hand to the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf and Tight Precision rewarded him with a work(wo)manlike victory.  She has now earned three wins in a row and is certainly improving with experience.

-Bold Chieftan didn’t have the cleanest of trips but when there was a narrow gap in mid-stretch viewers were treated to an exhibition of why Russell Baze is known as “Russell the muscle.”  He forced this son of Chief Seattle through the opening and he held gamely over the Canadian invader Palladio. 

There were two graded stakes run on Sunday, one at Gulfstream and one at Santa Anita.  The former was won with overwhelming ease by Bickersons, who had last been seen getting pummeled by Blind Luck out west in the Hollywood Starlet.  She is clearly a better horse on conventional dirt and has tremendous potential as a sprinter/miler.

The Santa Monica was the first Grade I of the year at Santa Anita and Gabby’s Golden Gal, one of four Grade I winners in the field coming into the race, earned this one with style.   She stalked the pace, took over when ready and ultimately pulled away late.  She undoubtedly benefited from being a part of a glacial pace but is a filly with talent who’s proven to be capable on both synthetics and dirt.

Be sure to check back here on Tuesday for installment #1 of the Derby Countdown where I’ll discuss my Derby top 10 as of the 1st of February.

Enjoy the Santa Monica Handicap!