Saturday, April 30, 2011

2011 Kentucky Oaks

For the past years, the Kentucky Oaks, rich with history, has brought together solid horses from all across the country.  Rachel Alexandra ran away with an astonishing twenty-plus length win against a powerful field. Most recently, Blind Luck, with her late-running style, edged out Evening Jewel for a heart-stopping win.  The past few years, the Oaks has offered history-making moments, leaving me to wonder what will happen at Churchill Downs on Friday: A major win? A photo-finish? A longshot victory? 
This bay filly who won the Sunland Park Oaks by twenty-five lengths has the qualities of a brick house. I adore the breeding of this Bob Baffert trainee:  Medaglia d’Oro-Liszy, by A.P. Indy.  In 2009, her sire’s female offspring had abundant success: Rachel Alexandra had a stunning 8-0 Horse of the Year campaign against top colts her age, and older; and Payton d’Oro won the Black Eyed Susan Stakes.  A.P. Indy also has a background with siring great fillies like Rags To Riches who defeated Curlin to win the Belmont Stakes in 2007. This made her the first filly to win the last leg of the Triple Crown in over one hundred years. As a result, Rags To Riches created a historical accomplishment that made Seattle Slew the only stallion who is a Belmont winner, to sire a Belmont winner, who also sired a Belmont winner.
Plum Pretty has raced four times, breaking her maiden first time out with jockey Martin Garcia aboard.  Rafael Bejarano rode her to a strong third place finish behind California Nectar, and Zazu in the Santa Ynez Stakes. Switching back to Martin Garcia aboard, in the Las Virgenes, she showed respectfully behind Zazu, and Turbulent Descent.
She went into the Sunland Park Oaks at rarely low odds of 1-20 with Martin Garcia in the irons.  After the start, Plum Pretty, and Icelain Diva ran into a speed duel, pulling about one length away from the field.  It was neck and neck until the quarter, where she got the slightest advantage on her rival.  It was uncertain which horse would go on to win up to the half mile, when Plum Pretty put her ears up, and began to run away so effortlessly.  Without urging, her winning margin kept increasing, until she romped to the finish twenty-five lengths ahead.  Seldom does a horse win by such an immense margin, and the horse who completes such a challenge is genuinely special.
Plum Pretty’s win at one and one sixteenths of a mile had a quick time of 1:43.18, over a second (approximately seven lengths) faster than Joyful Victory’s win in the Fantasy Stakes (1:44.74).  Both races were on a dirt surface.
Not just because of her adorable name, but because of her great pedigree, attractive appearance, and outstanding, consistent performances, Plum Pretty is my favorite for the Kentucky Oaks. 
I am excited to see R Heat Lightning and Plum Pretty face off in the Oaks.  This Todd Pletcher trainee has always been on the Oaks radar, turning in an imposing eight length win in the Gulfstream Park Oaks.  Ridden by John Velazquez, R Heat Lightning went five wide around the first turn, and was second after the half mile.  Going around the final turn, she took the lead, and pulled away easily without any urging from his rider.  R Heat Lightning, who is a product of the Trippi-Yellow Heat, by Gold Fever cross, is bred and owned by E. Paul Robsham Stables.
She has proven to be versatile on dirt, Turf, and even synthetics.  An accomplishment I appreciate is that she has won on the Churchill Downs dirt surface, which many horses who are even successful on dirt tend to dislike.  Though she finished third in the Ashland Stakes at Keeneland, I believe she gave the strongest performance out of the entire field.  With Alan Garcia aboard instead of regular jockey, Julien Leparoux, she was taken wide for the entire race, putting her at the disadvantage of having to cover the most ground.
Prior to the Ashland Stakes, Kathmanblu pulled off an impressive victory in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes.  Leaving me to wonder why Julien Leparoux jumped off this filly to ride Dancinginherdreams, who finished out of the money and finished last in the Ashland Stakes.
Kathmanblu, pronounced “CAT-man-blu”, is by Bluegrass Cat, and out of Abba Gold, by Devil’s Bag.  Her sire was the runner-up to the late Barbaro in the 2006 Kentucky Derby, and has 2010 Kentucky Derby winner, Super Saver in his family. This strong contender is trained by Ken McPeek.
This is another talented Tapit filly.  There are no cons in her dam’s side, she is out of Wild Lady Black, by Wild Again, who won the first Breeders’ Cup Classic.  She sold as a yearling for $60,000 in the Keeneland January Horses of All Ages Sale, and went on to bring in $400,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Florida Select Two-Year-Olds In-Training sale.  Joyful Victory, ridden by Mike Smith, has dominated Oaklawn Park, winning the Honeybee Stakes, and the Fantasy (by seven lengths), which earlier winners include Rachel Alexandra, and the late Eight Belles. In the Fantasy, the Larry Jones trainee carried her head high and was rank when held back.
Like Zenyatta, this grey filly is owned by Jerry and Anne Moss, and is named after an album released by A & M records.  Zazu has been one of the leading Oaks contenders this year, first making her name known when she defeated Turbulent Descent, who ran into trouble, in the Las Virgenes Stakes.  In the Santa Anita Oaks, she would place to Turbulent Descent.  Zazu reminds me of Blind Luck in her running style.  This John Sadler trainee is comfortable off the pace, yet she runs like a Quarter Horse when Joel Rosario asks her for run.  She regularly races with blinkers and a shadowroll.  Zazu is by Tapit, and out of Rhumb Line, who is a Mr. Greeley mare.
This longshot winner of the Ashland Stakes is by Flower Alley, and out of Refinement, by Seattle Slew, who won the Triple Crown in 1977.  In the Ashland, she made the pace, and was rank under jockey Javier Castellano.  Lilacs And Lace ran with her head high, so I have to wonder if trainer John Terranova will consider removing her shadowroll for the Oaks.  Her win in the Ashland was solid, and it looks as if she may be peaking at the Oaks.  I expect Lilacs And Lace and Plum Pretty to make the pace.
The field for the Kentucky Oaks this year runs deep with talent.  I believe we will see high-quality performances by many of the contenders and it will be a legendary victory to win in a race of this caliber.   

Friday, April 29, 2011

Bunny's Derby Darlings: The Honorable Mentions

Bunny's Derby Darlings is a series on my favorite Derby contenders.
Part Nine:  The Honorable Mentions

Eight days out from the Derby and the field has finally taken shape.  Clearly the blanket of roses can be worn by any contender.  There are horses who won’t go off as the favorite, but will be credible competitors to watch on the first Saturday of May.
BRILLIANT SPEED:   This Tom Albertrani trainee displayed his resilient running style in the Blue Grass Stakes, by going five wide around the first turn, rounding the field.  Nearing the final turn, he moved up on the rail, but was abruptly taken to the outside by jockey Joel Rosario when there was no running room in his path.  Even when another horse drifted close to him, Brilliant Speed stayed straight when running at Twinspired, who was first nearing the wire.  I would prefer to see a larger stride, and more head movement, but I was impressed by how he overcame a slow pace.
This colt has no weaknesses in his bloodlines.  He is by champion sire, Dynaformer, most famous for siring the late Barbaro.  The twenty-six year old stallion’s successful progeny includes distance Turf runner, Gozzip Girl.  Brilliant Speed is out of Speed Succeeds, by the pensioned Gone West.  Speed Succeeds is out of Daijin, who is a full-sister to Belmont Stakes winner, Touch Gold, and a ½ sister to Canadian champion With Approval. Daijin was a great broodmare, producing Canadian stars, Handpainted, and Serenading.
MASTER OF HOUNDS:  This colt by Kingmambo, and out of Silk And Scarlet (GB), by Sadler’s Wells, is a force to watch.  In his only start of the year, this colt from the Aiden O’Brien barn placed by a neck in the UAE Derby at one and three sixteenths of a mile.  This leads me to believe he is a fresh horse, possibly offering him an advantage, but shipping from so far may take a toll on Derby Day. Also not having a jockey committed to ride him, at this point, concerns me.  I was expecting to see Calvin Borel aboard this horse until he committed to Twice The Appeal earlier this week.  A possible Mike Smith mount?  Conveniently, he will be riding Joyful Victory in the Oaks the day before, and has no Derby mount at this time….hmmm.
MIDNIGHT INTERLUDE:   Trainer Bob Baffert looks to end his Kentucky Derby drought with longshot Santa Anita Derby winner, Midnight Interlude.  This dark bay or brown colt is by War Chant, whose best success came at eight and one half furlongs.  Midnight Interlude is out of Midnight Kiss (NZ), by Groom Dancer, whose sire is Blushing Groom.  Midnight Interlude’s third dam is by 1973 Triple Crown winner, Secretariat.
His jockey, Victor Espinoza, handled a rank colt in the first moments of the Santa Anita Derby, but settled around the middle of the pack.  Equipped with his blinkers and a shadowroll, he went around the final turn wide, and came up close behind Comma To The Top, and therefore had to cut around.  Midnight Interlude beat Comma To The Top to the wire by a neck.  The second placer is also worthy of a mention as a Derby contender.
PANTS ON FIRE:   Ranking sixth on the Graded Earnings list, Pants On Fire, is this year’s surprise Louisiana Derby winner, holding off the favorite, Mucho Macho Man.  By Jump Start, and out of Cabo de Noche, by Cape Town; he proved that he preferred to be up close to the pace, hanging on the hip of the pacemaker until they ran into the final turn.  I have some skepticism as to whether he can handle running the Classic distance, because when he was running down the homestretch, he drifted out, which is one of the signs that a horse is tiring.  An interesting factoid is that this colt is ridden by a female jockey, Rosie Napravnik. Could be history in the making.
SHACKELFORD:  This Dale Romans trainee made his mark on the Derby trail when he came in an impressive, close second to Dialed In in the Florida Derby.  Though he prefers to make the pace, he runs calmly, never expending more energy than what is necessary.  This handsome, chestnut colt with a striking white blaze is by Forestry, and out of Oatsee, by Unbridled, who won the 1990 Kentucky Derby.  If I weren’t listing these horses alphabetically, Shackelford would top this list.
TWINSPIRED:   By Harlan’s Holiday, and out of Historical Drive, by El Prado (IRE), this grey colt was second to Brilliant Speed in the Blue Grass Stakes.  I have noticed that his sire tends to throw progeny who find their greatest success in sprinting.  His broodmare sire’s most popular son is Medaglia d’Oro, who sired the legendary Rachel Alexandra.
From the Mike Maker barn, Twinspired settled third off the pace in the Blue Grass, but I am hesitant to call him a speed horse, because the pace was very slow.  With Robby Alberado aboard, he ran smoothly, with a powerful, efficient stride.  Despite Twinspired placing behind Brilliant Speed in the Blue Grass Stakes, I think he may have greater potential in Kentucky Derby.
The road to the Kentucky Derby could be described as a slippery slope, at the very least.  I find it thrilling that any one of these contenders could be our next Kentucky Derby winner, or possibly a horse I did not acknowledge in my analysis.  Only time will tell.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Bunny's Derby Darlings: Calvin Borel

Bunny's Derby Darlings is a series on my favorite Derby contenders.
Part Eight:  Calvin Borel

Things that make you go hmmm:  The jockey who has won three out of the past four Derbies is on a longshot who he acquired only ten days before the race, while another jockey who has never finished better than fifth in the past four Derbies is aboard the likely favorite.  Hmmm.
After riding Street Sense to victory in the 2006 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs, Borel guided the Street Cry (IRE) colt into the winner’s circle after a rail-skimming triumph that made Street Sense the only horse to win both the Juvenile, and the Derby.  Just two years later, he repeated that textbook ride on 50-1 shot, Mine That Bird.  In 2010, he proved he could also win the Derby with a horse near the pace by riding Super Saver, becoming the first jockey to win back to back Kentucky Derbies since Eddie Delahousaye in 1982-83.  Calvin Borel is also one of the few jockeys that can claim winning the Oaks and Derby in the same year, riding Rachel Alexandra and Mine That Bird to their victories in 2009.   
Calvin Borel’s Derby mount, Twice The Appeal, may cause opposing trainers to make the same mistake that trainer, Bob Baffert made in the 2009 Derby.  Prior to that race Mr. Baffert’s wife, Jill, commented to her husband that he would have to watch out for Calvin Borel.  His response was something like, “He’s on the longshot, no worries.”  As Baffert stood in the stands watching a little, brown, muddy, gelding zoom by his majestic Santa Anita Derby winner, Pioneerof The Nile, he exclaimed, “WHO THE H*#% IS THAT?!”       
Jill replied, “It’s that D*$% Calvin Borel!”
Borel on a longshot and Baffert with another Santa Anita Derby winner racing in the Kentucky Derby this year. Hmmm.
The Jeff Bonde trainee, Twice The Appeal, won the Sunland Derby against Astrology by one and a half lengths, being 2.71 seconds off the track record (which would be about 24 ½ lengths), when the surface was fast.  With Christian Santiago-Reyes aboard, the Successful Appeal colt wore blinkers, and a shadowroll.  Watching him run, I found him unmemorable, neither good or bad.  He had a comfortable stride, but not near as impressive as the top Derby rivals.  He sold at the Keeneland Select Yearling sale in September for four thousand dollars, and sold at the Barrets Equine Limited May 2010 Sale of Two-Year-Olds In Training for $35,000.
Typically, I wouldn’t spotlight Twice The Appeal, knowing this horse will go off at high odds, but it would be negligent not to consider any horse that Calvin Borel rides in the Kentucky Derby as a serious contender.  There is not one jockey more familiar with the dirt at Churchill Downs.  This is Calvin’s Turf, his backyard, his dirt.  Calvin on The Downs is the equivalent to a lion on the Serengeti: It’s his habitat and the rest of the field are the antelopes.   

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Bunny's Derby Darlings: Archarcharch

Bunny's Derby Darlings is a series on my favorite Kentucky Derby contenders
Part Seven:   Archarcharch

Last weekend’s Arkansas Derby was quite surprising.  I was not shocked that The Factor lost, because I always questioned his ability to handle distance.   However, I was dumbfounded at his running style, for he was never a factor in how the race played out.  If he was to be beaten, I expected someone to challenge him on the pace, and for him to burn himself out.  What was not surprising is that Archarcharch, with his strong record this season, winning the Southwest Stakes and a third in the Rebel, became the horse to upset The Factor.  
Archarcharch has an interesting pedigree, being by Arch, the sire responsible for 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, Blame.  Archarcharch’s dam, Woodman’s Dancer, is by Woodman, known for being one of the top broodmare sires. Woodman’s Dancer’s broodmare sire is champion three year old (in France) Nureyev, who sired one hundred thirty-five stakes winners in his lifetime, and twenty-three of which were Grade or Group I winners. 
Structurally, Archarcharch appears to be a durable horse with big legs. I’ve noticed his lead ponies are always larger than he, which hints that he may be on the small side. He is an attractive dark bay or brown colt with a blaze, having kind eyes that resemble his sire.
In the Arkansas Derby, Archarcharch settled in as the eighth horse off the pace after breaking with jockey, Jon Court.  Around the first turn, the William Fires trainee went about three wide with a relaxed, fluid stride. He remained in the same position throughout the early portion of the race.  Hitting the five-eighths pole, he began clipping off horses before swinging five out on the second turn.  Heading down the homestretch, Archarcharch stayed committed to his lane, not drifting inward.  Typically, when horses are taken wide, the tendency is to move back to the rail as they head down the stretch.  Moving horizontally in any way lengthens the actual distance of the race.  Another lesson learned in competitive swimming; “Stay in the center of your lane!”  Always a challenge for me during Backstroke!  Closing in on the wire, Nehro made a strong final effort with Archarcharch denying him the win by a neck.
Archarcharch is a horse showing improvement heading towards the Derby.  Even though he won the Southwest Stakes, his following third in the Rebel was a better quality performance, concluding with the Arkansas Derby’s solid, start to finish victory.  

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Bunny's Derby Darlings: Toby's Corner

Bunny's Derby Darlings is a series on my favorite Kentucky Derby contenders. 
Part Six:  Toby's Corner

In my previous blog, I compared champion two-year-old, Uncle Mo, to Toby’s Corner in pedigree, conformation, and, most notably, addressing their different training styles. I would like to focus on the three year old career of Toby’s Corner. 
The track was muddy at Aqueduct, due to rain prior to the race.  It was to be 9-5 undefeated favorite, Uncle Mo’s first start on a sloppy track, but eventual winner, Toby’s Corner, won the Whirlaway, his first race of the year, on a muddy surface at the same track.
Toby’s Corner, owned and bred by Dianne Cotter, was breaking from the second gate from the rail, and was starting, for the first time, with blinkers to help him focus on the race.  In the Whirlaway, he paired up with the second-placer for some time, before pulling off to win by three-fourths of a length.
In the Wood Memorial, he broke cleanly, immediately being brought to the rail by his regular rider, Eddie Castro.  Toby’s Corner was placed fourth to last going around the first turn, which came shortly after the break.  Even when he was bunched up between other horses, and the rail, he remained extremely professional for such a young horse, staying very calm, and relaxed, with a fluid stride.
The Bellamy Road colt was kept on the rail for almost the entire running of the race, only moving from his spot when he was urged entering the final turn.  Into the homestretch, Castro sharply cut Toby’s Corner wide when a path on the outside opened.  Most horses, even a seasoned champion, would have trouble regaining their rhythm, but Toby’s Corner proved he was a special horse by re-engaging forcefully down the homestretch, pursuing longshot, Arthur’s Tale, who had passed the tiring Uncle Mo.
He ignored Arthur’s Tale, as he powered onward to win by a neck.  Toby’s Corner breezed out remarkably, even fighting his rider’s command to slow down, revealing that he was willing to handle at the minimum, another furlong.
One of the most endearing, distinctive differences between Toby’s Corner and the vast majority of Derby contenders is that he is owned and was bred by the same person, Dianne Cotter. Something you don’t see much of nowadays.  Whatever Kentucky Derby outcome lies ahead for Toby’s Corner, I can’t help but imagine the pride that Mrs. Cotter will feel watching her colt parade in front the twin spires as tens of thousands of people sing “My Old Kentucky Home”.   
His pedigree, and great build, devastating come-from-behind style, and exceptional training by Graham Motion offers Toby’s Corner a prominent chance of performing well in the Derby.  He is clearly a flourishing, high-quality horse who has not yet grasped the apex of his success.  This horse has established himself as one of the key contenders in this year’s Run for the Roses.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Toby's Corner v. Uncle Mo

We all know what happened, but the question is ‘why?’  I’m speaking about the Wood Memorial that took place last Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack.  9-5 favorite, Uncle Mo was handily beaten by Toby’s Corner, and longshot, Arthur’s Tale. I first want to compare the two colts, Toby’s Corner and Uncle Mo, since the outcome of the Wood Memorial surprised most racing experts. 
A homebred chestnut colt by Bellamy Road, and out of Brandon’s Ride, by Mister Frisky, Toby’s Corner is daunting in stature and conformation.  He seems to be a large horse, and built like a greyhound, which are some of the assets I look for in a racehorse.  His sire also won the Wood Memorial by over seventeen lengths in his three year old career, and this is his second crop of three year olds.
Our champion juvenile colt, Uncle Mo, is a compact horse, though he is 16.2 hands.  Because of his strapping build, and solid legs, I would believe he is not as prone to injury as most horses are during this growing stage.  Uncle Mo, who sold for $250,000 as a two year old, is bred for average distance races, being by Indian Charlie, who is known for siring outstanding sprinters, including Breeders’ Cup winner, Indian Blessing.  Uncle Mo’s broodmare sire is Arch, whose most popular offspring is 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, Blame.
Comparing their training records, I found there was a substantial difference in the two colts’ training histories. Some commentators speculated that Uncle Mo may have been under-trained.  I believe the opposite may actually be true. 
(Date, distance, time, location)
02/24/2011: 5 Furlongs 1:02.2  Fair Hill Training Center
03/27/2011: 4 Furlongs :48.4   Fair Hill Training Center
04/03/2011: 6 Furlongs 1:15.2  Fair Hill Training Center
UNCLE MO’S WORKOUT HISTORY: (February-April 13th)
(Date, distance, time, location)
02/13/2011: 4 Furlongs :47.45  Palm Meadows Training Center
02/20/2011: 5 Furlongs 1:01.4  Palm Meadows Training Center
02/27/2011: 5 Furlongs 1:00.6  Palm Meadows Training Center
03/06/2011: 4 Furlongs :48.8   Palm Meadows Training Center
03/27/2011: 4 Furlongs :49.45  Palm Meadows Training Center
04/03/2011: 4 Furlongs :48.2   Palm Meadows Training Center
I do not have access to any inside information regarding the training habits of either colts, and am just drawing my own conclusions based on the public information made available. 
Toby’s Corner was worked on an all-weather track (synthetic), which typically produces faster times.  Uncle Mo was worked on a dirt surface constructed very similarly to Gulfstream Park’s main track, where he won the Timely Writer. Because of the times listed above, it seems as though Uncle Mo was pressed to run hard, while Toby’s Corner was receiving just enough urging to build up wind and endurance.
It is interesting to note that both colts’ final works prior to a race were similar. Toby’s Corner had his final work six days prior to both the Whirlaway, and the Wood Memorial, with the exception of his breeze before the Gotham, in which he placed third, was nine days out.  Uncle Mo’s final works was also six days out from the Timely Writer and Wood Memorial. 
Again referring to the statistics above, the two colt’s works seemed dissimilar to me. Uncle Mo’s works indicate to me that possibly the exercise rider was instructed to get a bullet work out of him the majority of the time.  Contrary to Toby’s Corner, where it appears that his rider may have been told to work him on a more relaxed rein.  Uncle Mo’s works came in closer more frequent intervals, whereas the majority of Toby’s Corner’s longer, slower works came less frequently. 
As a competitive swimmer, I would rarely sprint when preparing for races.  Practicing at lengthier distances builds up more endurance and strength than sprinting.  I do not understand why there is such differences in training styles with these two sports that are so comparable. This leads me to the conclusion that Toby’s Corner is being conditioned more in a “swimming style”, which may bring him more positive race results.  I remember reading about ‘morning glories’.  This term’s definition is a horse which puts in the fastest times of the day, but never seems to perform up to expectations in the afternoon.  I was always taught that training is training, racing is racing and the two should never be mixed.   
These are both wonderfully gifted horses that I admire greatly and look forward to watching them face off in the quest for the Triple Crown.  Could Uncle Mo be playing a card from the Secretariat deck, placing third in the Wood Memorial, and then going on to make Triple Crown history?    I know I will be watching with my fingers crossed!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Home From the Auction!

Last night, every one of the horses went through the Keeneland auction ring, beginning a new chapter of their lives on the road to becoming racehorses. Unfortunately, I was unable to watch the live feed stream on the computer since I had to go to my dance class. I must say, it was challenging concentrating on my moves for the Chattanooga Choo Choo.  Although it has been a slow year for auctions, some prices were high; several went for four hundred thousand or more, and one topping the sale with a price of six hundred twenty five thousand dollars.  It was obvious to me that this year’s superstars, Uncle Mo and The Factor, sparked some interest for the Indian Charlie and War Front progeny.
The sale topper was a dark bay or brown colt by Indian Charlie, and out of Teenage Temper, by A.P. Indy.   Stonestreet Stable put up the $625,000 hoping for success that they have experienced in the form of Curlin, and Rachel Alexandra.  During the under tack show, this colt worked impressively, going an eighth of a mile in :10.1, with a large, leaping stride resembling Uncle Mo.
Despite being a great admirer of Indian Charlie, I have always been a little skeptical of whether or not his offspring can consistently handle classic distance races.  Travelin’ Man, whose broodmare sire is Indian Charlie, won the Swale, a sprint race; and Uncle Mo (by Indian Charlie) came in a tiring third in the Wood Memorial.  In the Santa Anita Derby, Anthony’s Cross, and Indian Winter, both by Indian Charlie, finished out of the top four when they were expected to finish well.  None of this past weekend’s events seemed to have any negative effects on the bidding for these young horses. I also remain optimistic that we will see a successful Indian Charlie offspring at classic distances.     
$1.322 million of my monopoly money went to my top ten horses. I had four that did not sell; three for lack of reaching the price desired, and one out. 
HIP 54:  By Scat Daddy, and out of Russian Broad, by Broad Brush, I expected for this horse to sell for at least one hundred thousand dollars, but went for a bargain eighty thousand to Dogwood Stable, located in South Carolina.
HIP 62:   I was surprised by the selling price of Curlin’s full-brother.  Anticipating him to be the sale topper, he only sold for seventy thousand to Brian Koriner, Agent.  Reminding everyone that as a yearling, Zenyatta sold for sixty thousand, and went on to earn over six million dollars in her career.
HIP 74:   This filly by Bluegrass Cat, out of Tizsweet, by Cee’s Tizzy, worked impressively, and  is one of my favorites from the whole auction.  She is out of a full-sister to Tiznow, the only horse to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic twice. Royal Pegasus LLC made a savvy choice in purchasing this talented filly for fifty-two thousand dollars. 
HIP 83:   By Tiznow, and out of Well Dressed, by Notebook, this colt is a full-brother to fourteen length Dubai World Cup winner, Well Armed.  He did not sell, because he failed to bring the minimum sale price ($450,000) set by his consignor, Niall Brennan.
HIP 85:   The bidders seemed to reach a decision that this is a special filly.   Being one of my top choices in these ten horses, she sold to Justice Family Racing for $335,000.  She is another Indian Charlie, out of West Secret, by West By West.
HIP 101:  Hard Spun Bells was another one of my selections that did not bring top price.  Consignor Nick De Meric expected her to bring in $290,000, but nobody was willing to pay the price.  This half-sister to Sharp Humor will be one to watch.
HIP 102:  This full-brother to Breeders’ Cup Turf winner, English Channel, and stakes winner, Sedgefield was scratched, but I will be keeping my eye on him as he progresses.  His dam, Belva, by Theatrical (IRE) has had repeated success as a broodmare, and this colt looked promising.
HIP 117:  My top choice out of the entire auction brought $285,000, a good price, when he stepped into the auction ring.  With his outstanding pedigree-by Mineshaft, and out of Champagne Sue, by Elusive Quality-and his amazing work, he sold to Lake Villa Farm.
HIP 136:   By 2007 Kentucky Derby winner, Street Sense, this colt was obviously not only dazzling on the racetrack, but also in the auction ring.  He sold to Michael Weston for $260,000.
HIP 157:  Out of Hishi Amazon, who earned over six million dollars on the racetrack, this filly failed to bring in $110,000, therefore, not selling.  I wonder about the choice not to breed the amazing Hishi Amazon to a more proven sire ie: AP Indy, Giants Causeway, Smart Strike… would have made for a stronger sale price..
I would have spent a total of $320,000 on my additional five horses to watch.  Below is a list of who they sold to, and for what price:
HIP 130:   Did not sell ($95,000)
HIP 141:   OUT
HIP 145:   Justice Family Racing, ($240,000)
HIP 164:   Marette Farrell, ($180,000)
HIP 168:   Did not sell ($45,000)
I feel compelled to add one more horse to my list; HIP 26, who sold for one thousand dollars!  She worked notably, going :10.2 for a one eighth of a mile breeze, and she is by 2007 Kentucky Derby winner, Street Sense.  Her broodmare sire is Dynaformer, who has sired the late Barbaro, 2006 Derby winner. She didn’t seem to have three legs, or two heads or run backwards.  Hello? What’s the deal here?!  Her DNA alone is worth $40,000 (Street Sense’s stud fee)! I didn’t even realize horses sold for $1,000 at a select sale at Keeneland. Can someone explain this to me?
My grand total for this auction was $1.642 million dollars.  I am eager to follow these young hopefuls and write about their achievements and struggles they may encounter.  Did the ‘home run horse’ get away?  Did I choose wrong?  Should I have spent more money or did the bargain of the century slip through my grasp?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Off to the Auction! Part Two

This is a continuation of my previous article on my top choices from the two year old sale at Keeneland. I consider these five candidates to be my “Honorable Mentions”. They are definitely worthy of acknowledgment, and as with my Top Ten picks, I will also keep them on my radar to see how they develop.

October 2009-Me in the Keeneland auction ring

The auction will be held tomorrow evening, starting at four-thirty eastern time in the beautiful Keeneland auction ring that is located directly behind the grandstand. I will post a follow-up blog after the sale with a recap of the night’s events.
HIP 130: By Tapit, and out of Diamonds Sparkle, by Skip Away, it is clear this colt was bred for the classic distance. Tapit was a major factor on the Derby Trail in 2004, but did not take a liking to the dirt surface. Since, he has been flourishing as a sire, standing at Gainsway, siring big winners including Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner, Stardom Bound. Skip Away, who died last year, won the Breeders' Cup Classic in 1997, and his foals went on to run well. Hip one hundred thirty worked one eighth of a mile in :10.4. He was physically imposing, but seemed rank coming down the stretch. He lifted his front legs well, although it appeared that he runs a little turned-out with his back legs.

HIP 141: I was interested in seeing this horse work at the under tack show, having Fit To Fight as a broodmare sire. His line is something that I do not see much, and knowing he was an important horse back in the 1980’s, I take a liking to his descendants. This colt is by Empire Maker, who defeated Funny Cide in his quest for the Triple Crown, in the final leg at the Belmont Stakes. Empire Maker has been a proven sire, with offspring including 2009 Kentucky Derby second-placer, Pioneerof The Nile. Hip one hundred forty-one had one of the slower times of the day, working a quarter mile in :22.1. I was very impressed by his running style. He carried his head correctly, is stride was efficient, and powerful, and handled both turns well.

HIP 145: Another colt by Hard Spun, but out of Glimmering (IRE), by international champion sire, Sadler’s Wells. This breeding is tied for the best in this ten horse group. Believing that American racing needs new, European blood, I enjoyed seeing the dam’s pedigree, and that the breeders did not mate her to a sprinter, resulting in yet another average distance horse. Hip one hundred forty-five ran one eighth of a mile in a quick :10.1. He ran solidly, there was nothing awkward about his stride, and as he went around the turn, I could see what a powerful back end he had.

HIP 164: This horse is a result of high quality breeding. Distance, distance, distance. He is by Dynaformer, famous for siring the late Barbaro, and other horses who can run distance, both on dirt and turf. Hip one hundred sixty-four is out of Kanerrerr, who is by Danzig, who stands among the all-time greats as a sire. The bay colt worked one eighth of a mile in :10.3. He carried his head high, and had a bit of an up and down stride more than a forward motion gait.

HIP 168: She has a solid pedigree, being by Giant’s Causeway, and out of Kreisleriana, by Seeking the Gold. This chestnut filly with a blaze and hip one forty-five share the title for being the best bred horses in this bunch. For distance, she is a quality horse. Giant’s Causeway was a popular horse when racing in Europe, and placed in the Breeders’ Cup Classic to Tiznow. Seeking the Gold won the 1991 Kentucky Derby, and finished a neck behind Hansel in the Belmont. She worked a quarter mile in :22.1. I would love to see her carry her head a little bit lower, and just a little more size to her stride. A very promising filly here.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Off to the Auction!

Whenever an important auction nears, I go through online catalogues with hundreds, sometimes thousands, of horses up for sale with my monopoly money in hand, because that is all my mom will allow me to spend.  Once the horses have sold, I attempt to follow their progress.

Anticipating the upcoming Keeneland Two Year Old Sale, on April 11th, I began preparing by studying the sale catalogue about a month ago. My goal was to scroll through the one hundred sixty nine auction entries and narrow the field down to twenty.  To accomplish this I chose horses solely on their pedigrees.     

I was anxious to actually view my top twenty picks on April 7th at the under tack show from my computer.  It was reportedly ideal weather and track conditions. It would not be an understatement that this would have been an awesome event to attend in person.  I can only imagine how lovely the Keeneland grounds looked on a beautiful spring day with possible future greats breezing around the track.  I’m marking my calendar…and my Mom’s! 

My true objective was to thin my picks down to ten promising juveniles. After viewing the works and eliminating the outs, I managed to solidify my top ten picks, but because there were so many incredibly bred horses, I created a honorable mention top ten, which I will follow-up with a blog tomorrow.

HIP 54:  The first horse to go to auction from my top selections is hip fifty-four, by Scat Daddy, and out of Russian Broad, by Broad Brush.  This dark bay or brown colt’s dam is a half-sister to Indian Charlie, whose three year old offspring are exceptional this year, Uncle Mo being his top Derby contender.  Fifty-four worked :21.4 for a quarter mile on the PolyTrack.  He handled the turns well, although I think he could cover more ground with his stride. 

HIP 62:  I expect hip sixty-two to sell for the top price.  Being by champion sire, Smart Strike, and out of Sheriff’s Deputy, by Deputy Minister, he is a full brother to two-time Horse of the Year, and Dubai World Cup winner, Curlin. He worked one eighth of a mile in :10.2 strongly, but I would like to see more head movement.

HIP 74:  Hip seventy-four was one of the most impressive of the day.  Her stride resembled that of Uncle Mo’s-large, fluid, and powerful.  She breezed one eighth of a mile in :10.2.  Seventy-four is by Bluegrass Cat, who is from the same family as 2010 Derby winner, Super Saver, and is out of Tizsweet, by Cee’s Tizzy.  Tizsweet is a full sister to two time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, and Horse of the Year, Tiznow. I loved her!

HIP 83:  I was very excited to see hip eighty-three at the auction.  This bay colt with a striking white blaze comes from the same breeding as 14 length Dubai World Cup winner, Well Armed (Tiznow-Well Dressed, by Notebook).  Watching him run, I could see a resemblance between him and his champion brother speaking in conformation terms.  When running, eighty-three carried his head high, although his stride was still impressive.  With time, this colt could develop into something special.

HIP 85:  I can see that Uncle Mo gets his tremendous stride from the Indian Charlie line.  The more I watch his offspring run, the more I see that impressive power in the front legs.  Hip eighty-five has that quality, and was by far the most impressive of Indian Charlie’s at the sale, in my opinion.  Her dam, West Secret, by West by West, is a half-sister to multiple Graded Stakes winners.  She herself has won in placed in minor stakes races.  I couldn’t find anything wrong with her work; her stride was powerful, she carried her head correctly, and she ran an eighth of a mile in ten seconds flat, which I believe is remarkable for a filly.

HIP 101:  I found Hard Spun Bells worthy of respect, not only running her one eighth breeze-out in :10.1, but also being a half-sister to Sharp Humor.  By Hard Spun, runner-up in the 2007 Kentucky Derby, this filly is out of Bellona, by 1991 Preakness and Belmont winner, Hansel.  I believe that this mating could produce a quality distance runner, and I will be interested to see how Hard Spun Bells progresses.

HIP 102:  Hip one hundred two is a chestnut colt by Smart Strike, and out of Belva, by Theatrical (IRE).  He is a full-brother to Breeders’ Cup Turf winner, English Channel, and Grade II winner, Sedgefield.  This is a horse to watch, because his dam has clearly proven that she is not the type that produces only one high-class racehorse.  One hundred two ran efficiently, finishing his quarter mile work in :21.2.

HIP 117:  Even with full-brothers to Dubai World Cup winners, this next horse was the horse I was most interested in watching.  Hip one hundred seventeen-a bay colt by Mineshaft, sire of Derby contender, Dialed In; and out of Champagne Sue, by Elusive Quality.  Champagne Sue is a half-sister to 2010 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf winner, Shared Account.  Because I am a Native Dancer enthusiast, I have tracked Shared Account’s every move (Sagamore Farm bred and owned) since the beginning of her three year old career.  Champagne Sue is also a half-sister to the dam of Sapphire N’ Silk, and the dam of two other stakes winners.

One hundred seventeen did not disappoint on the track, running one eighth of a mile in ten flat.  He looked solid, his stride was daunting, and I was satisfied to see him perform so well.  In my opinion, he was the most impressive of this bunch.

HIP 136:  Next is hip one thirty-six, by 2007 Kentucky Derby winner, Street Sense; out of Emmous, by Silver Deputy.  This colt worked one eighth of a mile in ten flat without blinkers (all other horses in this article ran with blinkers).  He ate up the ground, reaching out far with his front legs.  Hip one thirty-six is a handsome horse, resembling his sire.

HIP 157:  What sold me on hip one hundred fifty-seven was her dam’s pedigree, and performance on the track.  By Theatrical (IRE), Hishi Amazon raced on a major scale in Japan, earning $6,981,102 on the track, and awards for champion two, and three year old filly, and also older mare.  This filly by Posse worked :10.2 for an eighth of a mile, and although she carried her head high, she was physically imposing. 

I would like to make note of the two sires that produced the most remarkable horses in the auction.  In 2007, they were rivals on the track, and this is the first crop of foals for both of them.  The Hard Spun and Street Sense progeny was just outstanding against all the other sires.  Hard Spun, in particular had so many great horses participating in this auction that make me excited to follow his offspring in the coming months.

Me and my seven meeelllion dollars of monopoly money are ready!!!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Bunny's Derby Darlings: Dialed In

Bunny's Derby Darlings is a series of my favorite Kentucky Derby contenders.
Part Five:  Dialed In

The Mineshaft colt out of a Storm Cat mare, Miss Doolittle, is a very impressive horse.  He has always been striking, selling for $475,000 at the Fasig-Tipton New York Saratoga 2009 Select Yearling Sale, also being one of my top choices.  Dialed In seems to be improving through his four race career. 
Dialed In’s first start at Churchill Downs was 6 ½ furlongs against a twelve horse field.  Though he ran at the back of the pack for the majority of the race, he appeared very spirited for the entire running. He showed the ability to handle a large field, and was capable of going wide.  I am glad he ran well at Churchill Downs, proving he could get a grip on the dirt track that many successful dirt horses never seem to handle.
After a commanding Holy Bull win in January, Dialed In made his next start in a one and one eighth mile allowance against older horses at Gulfstream.  When they broke from the gates, it was beginning to rain, and Dialed In was slowly brought to the back of the pack by the only jockey who has ever ridden him, Julien Leparoux.  During the early fractions of the race, Dialed In did not seem as comfortable as he was in the Holy Bull.  When asked for run, he accelerated powerfully, but failed to catch his stablemate, the four year old Equestrio.  The slow pace made it difficult for a come-from-behind win. Even putting in a fast last eighth of a mile, and carrying seven pounds less than Equestrio, Dialed In was still unable to seal the deal.
He certainly silenced any doubts last Saturday by winning the Florida Derby.  The track was rated fast, and the whole field was off to a good start.  I was impressed by Dialed In’s start in particular; he seemed quite composed, and those first few strides were smooth.
When Leparoux took him directly to the rail, Dialed In lost some ground on the field, dropping back fourteen lengths from the pacemakers, Shackelford and To Honor And Serve.  He remained comfortable in that spot for the majority of the race, but began to gain ground as they ran into the final turn. 
Leparoux had to take him about six paths wide, but that didn’t slow Dialed In from advancing on the leaders.  With his fluid stride, he was eating up track, heading towards 68-1 shot, Shackelford.  Dialed In nipped Shackelford at the wire, who performed gallantly, finishing 6 ¾ lengths ahead of the third placer, To Honor And Serve.
In a post-race interview with HRTV, trainer Nick Zito passionately stated, "I haven't been this emotional since (1991 Kentucky Derby winner) Strike The Gold.  Once in a while, special horses come around, and he's a special horse."
Dialed In has an impeccable pedigree for the Classic distance.  In 2003, his sire, Mineshaft, won the Jockey Club Gold Cup, the Woodward Stakes, and the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year.   His broodmare sire is Storm Cat, known as one of the most successful sires of all time.  Some of his outstanding progeny includes Giant’s Causeway, and 2009 Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic winner, Life Is Sweet.
Owner Robert LaPenta said, "He just has an incredible heart and unbelievable talent.''
For this year’s Kentucky Derby, Dialed In will be a strong contender.  I like how he can hang off the pace, and compete well even with dirt in his face.  Dialed In has proven that he can go wide, which is a strong possibility, with a large Derby field.  Dialed In is the equivalent of a super-model with a high IQ; he has star-quality, speed and beauty.