Sunday, May 20, 2012

On to the Belmont

I'll Have Another definitely had another run in him on Saturday, as the Kentucky Derby winner passed Bodemeister in the stretch again to win the Preakness Stakes and head to the Belmont Stakes with a chance to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.

It must have been a severe case of deja vu for Bodemeister and jockey Mike Smith to see I'll Have Another and Mario Gutierrez roll up alongside them in the closing strides on Saturday. It was a repeat of the duo's powerful rally to win the first jewel of the Triple Crown two weeks ago at Churchill Downs.

Now I'll Have Another has a shot at the elusive title at New York's Belmont Park, which hasn't hosted a horse with a chance for the Triple Crown since Big Brown won both the Derby and the Preakness in 2008.

For those hoping to see the first Triple Crown winner in nearly 3 1/2 decades (or even for those who are not), consider these parallels between I'll Have Another and Affirmed discovered by researchers at ESPN:

2012 Derby: I'll Have Another beats Bodemeister by 1 1/2 lengths
1978 Derby: Affirmed beats Alydar by 1 1/2 lengths

2012 Preakness: I'll Have Another beats Bodemeister by a neck
1978 Preakness: Affirmed beats Alydar by a neck

The same horse finished first and second in all three Triple Crown races in 1978, with Affirmed edging Alydar by a head in the Belmont.

Alydar beat Affirmed later that summer -- the two raced against each other 10 times, with Affirmed winning seven of the meetings -- on a disqualification in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga when Affirmed cut off Alydar in the stretch en route to the finish line. Alydar nearly fell, but still finished second and was properly placed ahead of Affirmed after a jockey objection and stewards' inquiry.

If nothing else, the quest for a Triple Crown will provide a huge boost to the economy in New York and wherever bets are taken. We'll be watching.


Saturday, May 5, 2012

Kentucky Derby picks

OK. So here's my top contenders for the Kentucky Derby later today:

1. Gemologist (unbeaten and brilliant, held off Alpha stubbornly in winning the Wood Memorial)
2. Bodemeister (would Bob Baffert run a horse named after his son in the Derby if he wasn't great?)
3. Hansen (his owner is nuts -- horse's tail dyed blue before Bluegrass -- but the near-white colt is really good and good looking)
4. Union Rags (battle tested, very strong)

Top longshot: Trinniberg (bred by Saugerties' J M Stables, should be on lead early, but distance a concern)

Happy betting!!!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Getting set for the Derby: Union Rags

In this profile of a Kentucky Derby contender we take a look at Union Rags, who drew the No. 4 post and was listed as the second choice on the morning line for Saturday's 138th edition of the Run for the Roses.

Union Rags was the runner-up to Hansen by just a head after being forced four-wide throughout last year's exciting Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs.

He should be raring to go after last running way back on March 31, when he finished third behind Take Charge Indy and Reveron in the Grade 1 Florida Derby. Union Rags stalked the leaders, but his run after angling out at the sixteenth pole came too late.

Watch that race here:

Union Rags won his three-year-old debut in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth in February, easily outdistancing News Pending by nine lengths under a hand ride from jockey Julien Leparoux.

He has four wins, one second and a third in six career starts, including wins in the Grade 1 Champagne and Grade 2 Saratoga Special.

Trainer Michael Matz won the 2006 Derby with Barbaro, who broke down in the Preakness Stakes and later died due to complications from his injuries despite unprecedented efforts to save him. He has another strong runner here, and a win could very well be in the cards here for the underrated thoroughbred conditioner. Matz won a silver medal as a member of the U.S. equestrian team at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Getting set for the Derby: Bodemeister

In the second installment of our Kentucky Derby profiles, we take a look at Bob Baffert's Bodemeister.

Bodemeister, named for trainer Baffert's son, Bode, who was himself named for U.S. ski standout Bode Miller, a close friend of Baffert, could be the sentimental favorite for the Derby. Popular trainer Baffert is recovering from a recent heart attack while in Dubai, after which three stents were placed to alleviate two clogged arteries.

Baffert vowed to re-evaluate his rigorous work schedule following the scare and many folks would be pleased to see Baffert win with this horse, who will have had three weeks rest after an impressive 9 1/2-length score in the Arkansas Derby.

Baffert really took his time with this horse, which didn't even run as a two-year-old. To catch up, Bodemeister has had three races as a three-year-old. He was second to fellow Derby contender Creative Cause after drifting out under the whip one-sixteenth from the finish in the San Felipe Stakes on March 10 and won a maiden special weight by 9 1/4 lengths on Feb. 11.

It's hard to think that a horse named for his son would not offer one of Baffert's best chances to win his fourth Kentucky Derby.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Getting set for the Derby: Gemologist

As our attention turns to next Saturday's Kentucky Derby, here's some thoughts on some of the leading contenders, starting with Gemologist, the unbeaten winner of the Wood Memorial.

Gemologist, trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by Javier Castellano, is looking to be the eighth unbeaten Derby champion. He fended off a strong challenge by Wood runner-up Alpha in the stretch.

In his other Derby prep, Gemologist cruised to victory by seven lengths in an one-mile allowance race at Gulfstream Park on March 16. Starting from the rail, he quickly went to the lead and easily held off previously unbeaten Grade 1 winner Currency Swap very impressively in hand by seven lengths following a four-month layoff.

Watch that race here:

Gemologist won all three of his starts as a two-year-old, a six-furlong maiden sprint (by five lengths) at Turfway Park, and two races at 1 1/16 miles over the very Churchill Downs strip he'll run next Saturday -- an optional claimer (by two lengths) and the Kentucky Jockey Cup (by 1 3/4 lengths).

It's worth noting that the last four Derby winners had only two prep races as a three-year-old, including Pletcher trainee Super Saver, the 2010 Derby champ. Like Gemologist, Super Saver won the Kentucky Jockey Cup on his road to the Derby.

It's certainly no longshot to think Pletcher can claim his second career Derby win -- and Castellano his first -- with this strong entry.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

So who's the Horse of the Year?

Drosselmeyer's stunning win in the Breeders' Cup Classic has thrown the Horse of the Year debate into overdrive.
A horse with just one win since the 2010 Belmont Stakes could hardly be expected to contend, much less capture the year-ending showcase. Yet here he was, surging past Game on Dude in the stretch for the upset.

So now, who's the Eclipse Award winner as Horse of the Year? Havre de Grace, the impressive filly who finished fourth in the Classic against the boys after an brilliant season against her own gender? Jim Dandy and Travers winner Stay Thirsty, who was the runner-up in this year's Belmont Stakes?

The Classic race winners aren't in the running this year. Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom got injured. Preakness winner Shackleford was beaten in the Belmont by Ruler on Ice.

With no clear-cut favorite. This race is anybody's guess.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

All eyes on Goldikova in Breeders' Turf Mile

American racing fans got their first look at French mare Goldikova, who was released from the quarantine barn on Tuesday at Churchill Downs. And everyone wanted a look.

The six-year-old, who will vie for an unprecedented fourth-straight win in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Turf Mile on Saturday, had just an easy jog Tuesday at Churchill Downs, but still caused quite a stir. The first three-time winner in the race, Goldikova tops a 13-horse field in the race, which will be shown live on ESPN at 6:07 p.m., just before Uncle Mo leads a strong Breeders' Cup Classic field to the post  at 7 p.m. to close out horse racing's annual season-ending championship showcase.

Goldikova has won three times and finished second twice in five starts this season, and could easily have been 5-0 if not for slim losses in her past two outings back home in France.

Pairing the Turf Mile and Classic together at the end of the 15-race card staged over two days, gives the 28th edition of the Breeders' Cup potentially its most exciting finale ever.