Archive for January, 2011

Some predictions for 2011

January 2, 2011

Prognostication is very difficult.  Whether it’s predicting which stocks will have a positive 2011, who will win the World Series, or what will happen in the world of thoroughbred racing, it’s very difficult.  Nonetheless, I’m willing to take the plunge, at risk of looking like a complete buffoon in 12 months, if not sooner!  Here are 20 thing I think will happen in 2011:

1.) The takeout increase that went into effect in California yesterday is going to be rolled back.  Handle at Santa Anita has been absolutely abysmal through the first 6 cards.  Yesterday’s total handle of $8,589,752 was down 2.6% from last year’s New Year’s Day card and NYD was a Saturday this year vs. a Friday in 2010.  For the first six cards, Santa Anita is down in every major category, 3.82% in attendance, 10.05% in on-track handle, 13.43% in inter-state wagering, 20.53% in nationwide wagering, and 16.37% in total handle.  This, with a players’ boycott looming in mid-January, is not the start that was anticipated.

2.) Blind Luck will win at least 4 Grade I races.  This is a reasonably safe prediction, provided she stays close to the strong form she held throughout her 2010 campaign.  Her 2011 debut is slated to take place next Sunday in the El Encino and that would make races like the Santa Margarita in March and Apple Blossom in April seem like reasonable targets.

3.) Uncle Mo will not win the Derby.  I know, I know, it’s not difficult to say who you think will not win the Derby on January 1 but I have a feeling that in his lengthy vacation from the races the rest of ‘Mo’s peers are going to begin to bridge the gap he established in 2010.  

4.) Smiling Tiger will win the 2011 Dubai Golden Shaheen.  A year ago Kinsale King gave American-based horses our only win on Dubai World Cup night as he took the Golden Shaheen.  Well, Smiling Tiger is better than Kinsale King.  His Malibu effort one week ago was very, very strong as he did all the dirty work early before being collared late by Twirling Candy.  The only 3YO to beat elders in GI company in 2010, Smiling Tiger, is equally capable on dirt or synthetics.

5.) Speaking of sprinters, Capt. Candyman Can will win the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Sprint.  This is certainly very ambitious but I’m thrilled to see him back on the worktab with his 2011 debut slated to come in a few months at Gulfstream.  The now 5YO gelding lost all of 2010 with a slab fracture but will land in a division that has lacked a superstar since September and is ripe for a new face.

6.) Two late-developing 3YO turfers will win Grade I races this year.  Who could I mean?  The first is Aruna, who trainer Graham Motion unveiled at Saratoga on closing day when she raced by the field on a heavily speed-biased track in a race that was run at a very deliberate early pace.  She went on to win the Pebbles and Mrs. Revere and is one of a squadron of turf distaffers Motion has for this year.  The other is Yankee Fourtune, who trainer Kiaran McLaughlin dangled for a maiden claiming tag in his turf debut in July.  Five months later he won the Commonwealth at Churchill and ended the year 5-5 on the weeds.

7.) Ramon Dominguez will break his TC/BC losing streak.  Going back to the 2004 Breeders’ Cup Turf, Ramon Dominguez is winless in Breeders’ Cup and Triple Crown races.  He has had a bit of bad luck and a lack of good opportunities but that is set to change in 2011.  He’s simply too good a rider to keep getting blanked on the biggest stages.

8.) To Honor and Serve will win a TC race and be champion 3YO. OK, it was easy for me to take a stand against Uncle Mo, but I’m not the type to avoid taking a tougher one, so there you have it, I’m predicting To Honor and Serve will be champion 3YO and win AT LEAST one Triple Crown race.  He showed tremendous potential during a 2YO campaign that almost felt like it was being run in the dark.  He and the rest of his crop were overshadowed by Uncle Mo and that’s understandable, but this guy has every right to be really, really good.

9.) Calvin Borel will NOT win the Derby.  I like Calvin Borel, I really do.  But has anyone sat down and looked at what kind of 2010 he had after his Kentucky Derby win aboard Super Saver?  It was not good.  Saratoga got by him without a stakes win, he rode Rachel Alexandra to her 3rd defeat of the year, was basically a no-show at Keeneland, got blanked in the Breeders’ Cup (unless you count anything he connected on Javier Castellano) and was a very “un-Calvin like” 9-87 at the CD fall meet before being injured in the Jackpot.  Plus, it feels like he has maxed out his lifetime quota of perfect trips in the Run for the Roses.

10.) Recent attendance increases will continue in NY.  Could it be that NYCOTB closing will help NYRA?  You can bet your bottom dollar on that as attendance has increased considerably at Aqueduct in the last three weeks, which has led to increased on-track business.  In case you’re unsure, increasing on-track handle is the quickest way for a racetrack to improve its bottom line.

11.) Rift will win a Grade I this year.  You’re probably thinking, “who?”  He’s not even considered the best newly turned 3YO in trainer Rick Dutrow’s barn but he recently broke his maiden against what had the look of a very strong field.  He’s working nicely in NY and should be seen at Aqueduct soon.

12.) Twirling Candy will win the Santa Anita Handicap.  The distance may be the only thing holding him back as his lone try beyond 8.5 furlongs on the synthetic was a dull effort in the Goodwood.  His Malibu win was very impressive and he still has the most potential of any newly turned 4YO in America.

13.) Prince Will I Am will win multiple Grade I races.  With wins in the Jamaica and the off the turf McKnight, this son of Victory Gallop has proven he has versatility to go along with his talent.  He was 2nd in the Breeders’ Cup Marathon before being disqualified and will have multiple opportunities for Grade I glory between the weeds and the main track. 

14.) Goldikova will finally get the respect she deserves as the star of the 2011 Breeders’ Cup.  No, she hasn’t been disrespected.  But, her accomplishments and her three consecutive Breeders’ Cup Mile victories were totally overshadowed by the Breeders’ Cup Classic narrow miss by Zenyatta (2010), the Breeders’ Cup Classic win by Zenyatta (2009) and her relative anonymity in this country prior to her 2008 win. 

15.) Racing in New Jersey will look a lot more like 2009 than 2010.  Now that racing dates have been granted you’d think that things were ready to go.  That’s not the case as Monmouth needs $10 million over the next three years to subsidize purses from the casino industry and Gov. Chris Christie has seemed very reluctant to approve such measures. 

16.) (A safe one) I’ll be at Saratoga for the Whitney.  The best weekend of racing at Saratoga, aside from the Travers, is that which includes the Whitney, Test, Vanderbilt, and Honorable Miss.  Wow, I’m ready for Saratoga!

17.) (A crazy one) Morning Line will win the Horse of the Year trophy in 2011.  He is slated to make his seasonal debut in the Hal’s Hope on 1/8.  His runner-up finish in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile might have been the best effort in defeat of any participant in the two-day extravaganza.  He has the pedigree to go 10 furlongs without issue and there’s obviously a lot of talent to build on.

18.) Gio Ponti will win the 2011 Dubai World Cup.  He’s going to need a few things to go differently this year.  Trainer Christophe Clement will have to get him over to Dubai a bit earlier as it was widely reported that he didn’t ship over very well.  He’s also going to need a bit better setup within the race itself as a very slow pace did him in a year ago.

19.) The Factor will win the King’s Bishop.  I’m not high on his ability to go long, but there’s no doubt this son of War Front is spectacularly fast.  His maiden win a week ago in 1:06.98 might have been a product of an extremely fast track or a timer malfunction, but there’s no doubt that he can fly.  If he is shortened up by trainer Bob Baffert then the King’s Bishop looks like a great spot for him to strut his stuff.

20.) There will be a great deal of talk about racing’s declining popularity, declining handle, lack of stars, and everything else that’s negative.  However, once again, the nation will watch the Kentucky Derby.  We’ll all be enthralled by the greatest 2 minutes in sports.  Hopefully a 3YO will go to Belmont with the Triple Crown on the line.  There will be outstanding spring racing at Gulfstream, Oaklawn, Fair Grounds, and Santa Anita, tremendous summer racing at Saratoga and Del Mar, fall racing at Belmont and Keeneland and another Breeders’ Cup under the Twin Spires.  Hopefully a few more folks will start to realize what we already know, that there’s not a greater game on the planet.

Best of luck to all of you in 2011!

Nick Tammaro can be reached at