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Thoroughbred race horse Owner since 2000. Avid horseracing fan since early childhood.


Triple Crown Chase begins its third season. I would like to thank everyone out there for their support during the first two years and for their encouragement to continue in 2012. This blog was established to provide some personal insight about the horses and trainers who will compete against one another in the 3 yr old prep races leading up to the Kentucky Derby. Our coverage extends and follows the Preakness and Belmont.

As the calendar begins its countdown to the first Saturday in May, the early minor preps will lead to the later major preps, the distances will lengthen, the purse values will rise, and the athletic competetivness of these equines throughout the road will be fierce. I'll try to preview as many races as I can. From time to time on the busy Triple Crown road, I will call on guest handicappers Jen Jade and Chris Sorenson to provide their analysis of selected prep races. The well known horses will be discussed as well as the horses lurking under the radar. I'll provide my ranking list, and update it as we go along when necessary. I hope you have fun again following along. Your comments are always welcomed and encouraged. With that, let the chase begin.

Friday, July 13, 2012


A large prize for the taking sits at this end of the Queen Elizabeth highway awaiting the winning thoroughbred horse of the 77th Prince Of Wales Stakes, the second jewel of Canada's Triple Crown, which will take place on Sunday at Fort Erie Racetrack. The $500,000 purse will surely be the biggest for a number of owners of the nine starters in the 1 3/16 mile event and their chances vastly improved when the connections of Queen's Plate winner, Straight Of Dover, decided to bypass the classic race. The decision to keep Straight Of Dover out of the running is hardly suprising. He has a non-affinity to run well over dirt tracks, which is the surface at Fort Erie. The 3 year-old has thrived on Woodbine's polytrack since being shipped from Hastings Park, the site of his first two dirt starts, which were disasterous. Instead, the Plate winner will be pointed to the August 5th one-mile and one-half turf Breeders' Stakes, the third and final event in the Candian Triple Crown. His absence means there won't be a Canadian Triple Crown winner this year. 2012 marks the second consecutive year the Queen's Plate winner did not particiapte in the middle leg. Last year's Plate winner, Inglorius, also skipped the Prince Of Wales in favor of the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes at Saratoga. Wando was the last horse to accomplish the Triple Crown feat in 2003.

The Prince Of Wales Stakes was inaugurated in 1929, and has been hosted annually at Fort Erie Racetrack since 1959. The 2012 edition will be the final running of the race at the 115 year-old facility which is scheduled to close December 31st. The decision to close Fort Erie came after Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty announced he was axing a slot machine revenue-sharing program with provincial racetracks.

Four fillies have won this showcase centerpiece, and headlining the $500,000 race this year are two female runners: Queen's Plate runner-up and Woodbine Oaks winner, Irish Mission, and Plate third-place finisher, Dixie Strike. The Prince Of Wales Stakes will mark the third straight race the two fillies have faced each other. The last female to successfully capture this event was Gandria (1999).

Eight of the nine runners will be racing over conventional dirt for the first time in their careers.

Let's have a look at the field from the rail out:

$500,000 PRINCE OF WALES STAKES 1 3/16 Miles


1-CLASSIC BRYCE/Kabel/Banach--After winning his maiden in just his second lifetime start, this guy has been in stakes company for 5 straight starts, including a pair of runner-up placings in the Wando and Marine Stakes. In the latter affair, he was runner-up behind Straight of Dover. Received a good tracking position behind that same rival in the Queen's Plate, but failed to drive on and finished a disappointing eighth. Is the only horse in the line-up to have worked over the Fort Erie surface, putting in a very sharp 5 furlong breeze clocked in 1:01 on Monday.

2-ULTIMATE DESTINY/Bahen/Keogh--Following a 4th pace debut last fall, this colt was first or second in 5 consecutive starts, before a recent fifth place finish in the Plate, where he was beaten over ten lengths, ended his in-the-money streak. His final tune-up was Monday across the Woodbine dirt training track where he breezed 5 furlongs in 1:00 4/5. Interesting stat: Trainer Keogh wins at an incredible 45% with horses switching from synthetic to dirt.

3-DEAD ON/Wilson/Pierce-- Sam-Son farm homebred has a single maiden win to his credit, and that came last fall. Most recently, he disappointed in a pair of Queen's Plate prep races, the Queenston and Plate Trial. The lone entrant in the race that has actually raced on dirt, registering a runner-up placing in a tough allowance optional claimer at Fairgrounds back in March. May enjoy getting his feet back on the surface as he has been off-the-board in all three stakes attempts over polytrack. His 5 furlong breeze over the Woodbine dirt training surface last Sunday was timed in 1:02 1/5

4- DIXIE STRIKE/Husbands/Casse--As a 2-year-old, filly debuted in the Muskoka Stakes where she finished a fine second. Since then she has won 4 races, including a trio of stakes, Ontario Lassie, Florida Oaks and G3 Selene. Was the beaten favorite in the Woodbine Oaks, a race she may not have been at her best. Didn't get the best of journeys in the Plate. Was bothered at the start, jostled in traffic, wide much of the way and up against the speed bias. Despite it all, she ran extremely well to get the show spot. Blinkers were added for the Plate and she retains that equipment here. Has been brought up to the race on morning gallops instead of works. One must always respect the trainer/jockey duo.

5-MENLO CASTLE/Moreno/Biamonte--Won the Simcoe Stakes as a juvenile, but since then, has not visted the winner's circle in six subsequent starts which included a pair of second place finishes in the Coronation Futurity and Display Stakes to close out his 2 yr old season, as well as a third place finish in the Woodstock Stakes to open up his sophomore campaign. His juvenile performances made this colt a promising Plate prospect, but he faltered on the prep road leading up to the marquee race and was kept out. Breezed an easy 5 furlongs over the Woodbine dirt training surface 1:02 3/5.

6-IRISH MISSION/Solis/Frostad--Extemely talented and a big filly (17 hands). Took seven tries to break her maiden, but she finally got it done on the lawn at Keeneland. Since then she won the Woodbine Oaks, defeating race favorite and nemesis Dixie Strike in the process. Most recently she ran a bang up second and came close to winning the Queen's Plate. Off that performance, she was made the morning line P.O.W. favorite. Was prepared with a 5 furlong breeze in 1:00 over the Woodbine dirt training surface last Sunday. Here is an interesting stat: Trainer Frostad is winless in 16 attempts when switching a horse from poly to the dirt.

7-RUN IN ARUBA/Bridgmohan/Biamonte--In his final start as a 2 year-old, he won the Kingarvie Stakes, but like his stablemate in post 5, he is winless since. With three runs this year, all sprints, he has finished far back in each. Gets to stretch out for the first time in 2012 and receives his ninth new rider in ten races. Another one who has breezed over the Woodbine dirt training surface, where he recorded 5 furlongs in 1:02 3/5.

8-QUAESITOR/Callaghan/Howard--An early season illness has limited this 3-year-old gelding to just a single start in 2012, a maiden win by a nose going 1 1/16 miles at Woodbine June 30th. Showed a bit of promise in his three starts at 2, sandwiching second and fifth-place finishes in 1 1/16-mile maiden races around a decent sixth in the 1 1/8-mile Coronation Futurity. Was supplemented to this race for $12,500 and has been galloping to get ready.

9-COLLEEN'S SAILOR/Nakatani/Attfield-- Does have a pair of victories, a maiden and a first level allowance, but has been off the board in three stakes attempts, including his latest try in the Plate. In that affair however, he challenged early before settling in nicely behind the eventual winner. When the stretch drive came, this one put forth his very best and ended up finishing fourth, but he may not have been ready for such a difficult assignment. He should certainly improve from that solid effort and go better here.

Much like the Queen's Plate pace scenario, this affair also appears paceless with no dedicated need-to-lead type runners. It may be a wise choice for one of the entrants with some early foot to go for the front as the surface at Fort Erie has been extremely kind to speed in routes races this year. Looking over the pp's, I feel that honor will fall too Colleen's Sailor. Why? There is no Straight Of Dover to chase, plus his recent sparkling workout following on the heels of his Plate performance, along with a nice post draw outside the others may indicate Nakatani will have his mount shooting to the front as they past the stands the first time. Menlo Castle and filly Irish Mission can be in the thick of it early, but that pair will most likely track the early leader. Classic Bryce from the rail will probably be hustled out and up to secure good position. The rest will sort themselves out as they go into the first turn. Look for the other filly, Dixie Strike, to be placed towards the back of the field. Just like the Plate three weeks ago, the fractions of course will be the key. Unless one or more of his rivals step out of their comfort zone style of running and force Colleen's Sailor into a speed dual, the Roger Attfield trainee should have things pretty comfortable on the front-end. I don't expect any challenges to begin to develop until the field goes into the far turn. At that point, look for the pressers and late closers to rev up their engines. Unless I see strong evidence early in the card that the track surface is favoring off-the-pace runners or deep closers, I believe Colleen's Sailor will take this group much further than most think, and will give his trainer victory number six in this prestigious race.

Both fillies are quite capable of winning this event. Irish Mission will be in the first flight and certainly will have first crack at overtaking the front-runner and could very well get the job done if the pace is quick or the track surface on this day is kind to her stalking mode. Dixie Strike ran the better race of the two girls in the Plate, and she should have a smoother go of it here in a less crowded field. She's a closer that will be running late. If the fractions are lightning quick or the track favors her sustained style, she may end up in the winner's circle.

There are a number of horses you can toss in if your playing the superfecta. I'll add Classic Bryce to round out my four. I like the fact that his trainer shipped him down early to get acclimated to his surroundings and gave him a work over the very surface that he will race on. And all indications are he should be comfortable with the new footing underneath. I forsee him in a nice stalking position, and the shorter distance may prevent him from fading like he did in the opening leg.

For me, it all comes down to how the pace unfolds and how the track is playing on Sunday. At this point, I'll stand behind my convictions pointed out above in the start of this analysis.

I'll play COLLEEN'S SAILOR to win. I will exacta box him with the two fillies multiple times. Tossing in Classic Bryce in hopes of hitting the superfecta. Good luck and as always, enjoy the race!!

Saturday, June 23, 2012


Just a couple of couple of weeks ago here in the United States, we concluded our 2012 Triple Crown series, now the time has arrived for my friends and family north of the border to enjoy Canada's great Triple Crown series of horseracing. It all kicks off on Sunday, June 24th, at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, Ontario, with the most celebrated race in Canada, the Queen's Plate, which will be run for the 153rd time.

The Queen's Plate is the first jewel in Canada's Triple Crown of thoroughbred racing, and the oldest continuously run stakes race in North America. The other gems in the crown are the Prince Of Wales Stakes (July 15th, at Fort Erie) followed by the Breeders' Stakes (August 5th, at Woodbine). All three races are restricted to 3-year old horses foaled in Canada.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Canadian Triple Crown, the series is unique in that it shares the same distances as its American counterparts, but the three races are contested on three different racing surfaces. 1 1/4 miles on the Woodbine Polytrack, which is made of a combination of crushed limestone and synthetic materials, 1 3/16 miles on Dirt at Fort Erie, then 1 1/2 miles over the Turf back at Woodbine. So for a Canadian 3-year old to win the Triple Crown, the horse not only must win at all 3 classic distances, but be versatile enough to conquer 3 separate types of footing. Only seven horses have won the Canadian Triple Crown since the concept was inaguarated in 1959, the first was NEW PROVIDENCE in 1959, the latest being WANDO in 2003.

The 2012 edition of the historic 10-furlong race drew a well-matched field of 14 Canadian-bred three-year-olds, led by Marine Stakes winner Strait Of Dover, Plate Trial winner River Rush, and two talented fillies, Irish Mission and Dixie Strike. A half-dozen trainers in the race have saddled a combined eighteen Queen's Plate winners, including one Triple Crown winner. Roger Attfield, who holds eight of those victories, tries to add a record ninth Plate with longshot Colleen's Sailor. Conditioner Reade Baker, who still is looking for his first Plate winner, sends out two runners, while Mark Casse, who has won many Sovereign awards as the country's top trainer, counters with a trifecta of runners in search of his first win in the prestigious event. The 2012 Queen's plate has attracted some of the best jockey's from all over North America. Well known jockeys slated to compete are: Ramon Dominquez, Julian Leparoux, Corey Nakatani, and Rajiv Maragh. Let's have a look at the field from the rail out.

$1,000,000 QUEEN'S PLATE 1 1/4 Miles

1-RIVER RUSH/Baker/McAleney--Made his racing debut as 3-year old down at Gulfstream Park where he may not have preferred the lawn, as he was soundly defeated. Shipped up north to Woodbine for start number two and turned in a solid closing runner-up effort over the polytrack. When a maiden race in the condition book failed to fill, trainer Baker entered him in the Plate Trail. A ground saving journey in the affair resulted in a romping 5 1/4-length win. His final time of 1:48 4/5 set a new record for 9 furlongs on the Woodbine Polytrack. The victory established the colt as one of the favorites for the Queen's Plate. Should receive another good trip from this inside draw. Breezed 1:01 4/5 for his preparation.

2-PEYTON/Doyle/Leparoux--A winner of just two (Maiden, Nw1x) of nine career starts. Has finished unplaced in both of his stakes attempts. Most recently, he was fifth in the Plate Trial three weeks ago. Breezed 6 furlongs in 1:15 1/5 on the polytrack. Is named after the quarterback (Manning) that has won the NFL's biggest game. Question is, can this horse win Canada's biggest race?

3-MACHO WHISKEY/Baker/Wilson--Didn't start as a juvenile, so his experience has been limited to just a trio of races. Debuted in the slop at Gulfstream Park back in April, and after a slow break that saw him far behind the others, he came running late and was beaten just a neck. Graduated next time out over the Woodbine poly with an impressive 2-length win going 6 furlongs. In his initial run around two-turns, he finished last of five in a 3-year old first-level allowance in his last start back on May 27th. Recorded a pair of 5 furlong moves (:59 4/5 and 1:00 4/5) seven days apart getting ready.

4-STRAIT OF DOVER/Vella/Stein--Colt has crossed the wire first in all four of his Polytrack efforts at Woodbine (he was placed third in his local debut by disqualification) since shipping to Toronto from Hastings Park, in Vancouver. His official three race win streak includes a maiden special weight race at second asking, an allowance race at seven furlongs, and the hat-trick race was the Marine Stakes at 1 1/16 miles where he solidified his status as a top contender for the Queen's Plate with an emphatic 6 1/4-length victory. That race should prove a valuable learning experience as it was the colt's first attempt at two turns. Forced to miss the June 3 Plate Trial Stakes because of sickness, the colt has trained well leading up to the big race most recently with a 5 furlong clocking in 1:00 2/5.

5-CLASSIC BRYCE/Banach/Kabel--Broke his maiden at second asking, then was introduced to stakes company with an eighth place finish in the Coronation Stakes last fall, which capped off his juvenile season. He began his 3-year old year with back-to-back second place finishes in the Wando and Marine Stakes respectively. His most recent prep for the Queen's Plate was a third place finish in the Plate Trial Stakes. He also breezed a 5 furlong move, going in 1:01 1/5.

6-WILCOX/Carroll/Pizzaro--Another unraced 2-year old. Has seen action just twice, both at 1 1/16 miles. Won his maiden impressively by 2 over the lawn here last month after finishing eighth over the Polytrack four weeks earlier in his debut. Worked extremely well showing a recent 7 furlong drill in 1:28.

7-GOLDEN RIDGE/Casse/Contreras--Yet another unraced juvenile. Didn't commence his 3-year old campaign until early March. Since then, colt has made three starts, all at 1 1/16 miles, at three different tracks over two different surfaces, with ascending results of third, second and first. His first two outings saw him lose by a combined three-quarters of a length. Has experience in large fields as all three of his runs have featured an eleven horse lineup. Recorded a strong 5 furlong work in :59 2/5

8-ULTIMATE DESTINY/Keogh/Bahen--Has never finished lower than fourth in six career outings. Comes into the $1-million classic off a smart second-place performance at 1 1/16 miles on May 23, earning a career-best speed figure. In fact, the colt has increased his figures on five consecutive occasions. Trainer campaigned Wando to victories in the 2003 Queen's Plate, Prince of Wales and Breeders' Stakes, sweeping the Triple Crown in impressive fashion. Keough also conditioned the Plate winner (Woodcarver) back in 1999. Has worked three times in the interim.

9-COLLEEN'S SAILOR/Attfield/Nakatani--His juvenile season came under the tutelage of trainer Brian Lynch where he won one race from four starts. Didn't appear in current trainer's barn until the middle of March. Attfield looks for Plate win number 9 with this horse whose first run as a sophomore came against older allowance horses where he finished a respectable third. Returning to face his own age group at 9 furlongs in latest outing resulted in a narrow victory. Was given a trio of works since last outing, including a pair of 6 furlong breezes. Most recently breezed 4 furlongs in :48 seconds. John Velazquez was originally named to ride this horse, but he broke his collarbone in a spill during a race at Churchill Downs last Saturday night. Corey Nakatani, who guided the colt to his win last time out, will get the return call.

10-DIXIE STRIKE/Casse/Husbands--Is one of three Plate contenders trained by Casse, and one of two fillies competing. Eight of her nine career starts have been in stakes races where she has won or placed in five of them, including the Grade 3 Selene Stakes in May at Woodbine. She finished fifth in a disappointing performance in the Woodbine Oaks as the betting favorite. Is a half sister to Inglorious, last year's Queen's Plate winner. Breezed 5 furlongs in 1:00 4/5 for her preparation. Trainer seeks his first win in the country’s most famed horse race. Will wear blinkers for the first time.

11-MAKING AMENDS/Casse/Rosa da Silva--Won the Clarendon Stakes in his career debut last July, but since then, he has lost nine in a row. His best finish during the winless streak was the Queenston Stakes two starts back where he was narrowly defeated by a head. Most recent outing three weeks ago saw him finish a far back sixth in the Plate Trial. Colt has had four two-turn opportunities and has failed to crack the top three each time. Received his final breeze over the polytrack in 1:02 1/5.

12-BIG CREEK/Pletcher/Dominguez--This well-traveled competitor has raced at six different racetracks for his seven career starts since debuting at Belmont Park last summer. In his two races over the local poly strip, colt finished third in the Wando and fourth in the Plate Trial. In the latter affair he raced with "blinkers on" which kept his interest in the 9 furlong event. Very strange that he has not had a published work in the 3 weeks leading up to the Plate.

13-WASHINGTON DASH/Miller/Maragh--Maiden travels to Toronto from Churchill Downs to contest the Queen's Plate. Checked in with a career-best third place finish in his last start, a one-mile maiden special race run over the turf at Arlington Park two weeks ago. Prior to that, colt finished fourth going 9 furlongs on turf at Churchill Downs in May. No published works since last start. Trainer Miller hits at a high percentage (20%) with his shippers. Is attemping to become the first maiden to win the Plate since Scatter the Gold in 2000.

14-IRISH MISSION/Frostad/Solis--This gal punched her ticket to the Queen's Plate by winning the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks on June 3rd. She stepped up to win the aforementioned race after having broken her maiden going 1 3/16 miles over the Keeneland turf back in April. Scorched a bullet 5 furlongs in :59 4/5 over the dirt training track last Sunday.

The best of the early speed will come from STRAIT OF DOVER, BIG CREEK and IRISH MISSION, although, it is interesting to note that none of trio are "need to lead" type runners. STRAIT OF DOVER is the only one of the aformentioned three that has won once going wire-to-wire. Add in ULTIMATE DESTINY, who has a little bit of early quickness, and that gives us the front flight. The rest of the pack will sort themselves out in behind.

The make-up of the race in regards to running styles appears to favor the early runners. Pressers and closers can certainly win this race, but they'll need a faster pace to set the race up for their late run. However, I just don't anticipate a searing pace. I'm looking at STRAIT OF DOVER to be the leader by the second call. With an expected honest, yet confortable pace, as well as strong final fraction figures, that should allow the Vella trained runner the best chance to hold off the late runners.

STRAIGHT OF DOVER--Is unbeaten this year and his latest wide-margin win in the open company Marine Stakes suggests he will be even better at this longer trip. Sire English Channel was a mulitple winner over longer distances, therefore, a mile-and-one quarter shouldn’t be a limitation.
RIVER RUSH--Set a track record for nine furlongs on Polytrack capturing the Plate Trial with a rail skimming journey. Was hand ridden without ever being asked. Drawing the 1 hole here certainly is not kiss of death for him in this race. Expect this son of Orientate to be held up for much of the way before he's given his cue too try to run down the leaders.
DIXIE STRIKE--Selene winner disappointed in a slowly-run Woodbine Oaks last time when odds on, but overlook that run. She is in receipt of 5lbs here with blinkers also on for the first time, and should go much better. Even though fillies have been successful in winning the Plate, it’s a tall order to improve enough to beat out the likes of top two listed above.


BIG CREEK--Expecting a big race from this son of Indian Charlie as he tries to improve off a 4th place finish in Plate Trial. He’s also raced against some notable rivals along the way, including Street Life who finished fourth behind Union Rags in the Belmont Stakes. Pletcher, who won this event in 1998 (Archer's Bay), would not ship to Canada unless he felt he had a golden chance. The early pace may help him hold for a piece.
GOLDEN RIDGE--Steps up to the big time after coming off impressive maiden breaking win where he beat older runners. Is getting better with each start and has a ton of upside. Despite the class rise, this colt returns to face his own age group. The breeding plus speed figures offer this son of Distorted Humor a solid chance. Bullet work inspires confidence, and he closes like the wind. Look for this one to be running late under Contreras, who won the Plate last year.

Good luck, and as always, enjoy this fabulous race!!

Sunday, June 10, 2012


Without a Triple Crown on the line due to the unfortunate scratch on Friday of Kentucly Derby and Preakness Stakes winner I'll Have Another with a left leg injury, the 144th Belmont Stakes lost much of its luster, but still provided plenty of excitement. And in the end, UNION RAGS was the star of the show.
In front of a crowd of 85,511, it was another thrilling finish to the final leg of the Triple Crown as co-favorite Union Rags slipped by Paynter to win the 144th Belmont Stakes by a neck. The colt, ridden by John Velazquez, covered the 1 1/2 miles  2:30 2/5.

UNION RAGS finally got to show everyone what he was truly made of after a pair of troubled journeys plagued him in the Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby, attributing to third and seventh place finishes respectively. The field of 11 broke cleanly from the gate and UNION RAGS settled in midfield as Paynter, ridden by Mike Smith, immediately went to the lead. Unstopable U tracked in second. The other co-favorite, Dullahan, was reserved to his usual position near the back of the field. Following an opening quarter mile in a fairly quick :23 3/5, Paynter slowed down the pace down to a crawl hitting the half-mile in :49 1/5 as positions remained largely unchanged with six furlongs still ahead of them. Velazquez took a look behind him and asked UNION RAGS, who was runnning along the inisde to get just a touch closer to Paynter, who then proceeded to pick up the tempo a bit and covered the mile in 1:38 4/5. Still, it was far from a two-horse race when the field rounded the far turn as 20-1 Atigun, with Julien Leparoux aboard, moved in unison with UNION RAGS, though they were forced to take a scenic path, but gained ground and loomed a serious threat four wide at the quarter pole. Dullahan and jockey Javier Castellano also begin to advance, while Unstoppable U began to tail off. Into the stretch, Paynter held a one-length lead over UNION RAGS, who was in tight on the inside while Atigun threatened on the outside, with Dullahan unable to move up into contention through the lane. With one furlong remaining, it appeared that the Bob Baffert trained colt would hold on for the victory. Paynter hit the eighth pole still going well, but Smith had vacated the fence and left an inviting opening for UNION RAGS to go through, if good enough. And the colt proved he was, digging in tenaciously and nailed the race-leader in the final 40 yards for a hard-earned and well deserved win. Atigun held on for third, some five lengths ahead of Street Life. Dullahan never threatened and ran a dismal seventh.

UNION RAGS,  trained by Michael Matz and owned by Chadds Ford Stable, earned $600,00 for the Belmont victory bringing the colt's career earnings to $1,798,800 in eight races.

Click to watch Belmont replay:

--The biggest disappointment in the Belmont Stakes had to be Dullahan. The Blue Grass Stakes winner had no excuse. He did not display his new-and-improved early quickness, but that did not cost him a chance to hit the board. The horse just didn't have it on Saturday. It's apparent that the colt is a much better runner over synthetics and turf.
--As for Paynter, it is clearly obvious he sports a ton of talent. With only four previous starts, he ran second in a 1 1/2 mile Grade 1 affair, let alone finishing fourth in the 1 1/8 mile Santa Anita Derby off a maiden win in his 5 1/2 furlong debut!!! Watch for this colt to challenge for supremacy in the 3-year old division in the second-half of the season.
--Trainer Bob Baffert must be pulling his white hair out, his Bodemeister gets run down late in the DErby and Preakness, now his Paynter gets run down in the Belmont.
--Baffert became the first trainer since John Veitch in 1978 with Alydar to have a horse finish second in all three Triple Crown races.
--In an effort to change their luck, the connections of Union Rags made a rider switch from Julien Leparoux to John Velazquez, and everything worked out. Give Johnny V. credit for a fantastic ride, guiding the winner up the rail to nail Paynter in the final strides. 
--Triple Crown Chase will now focus on the Canadien Triple Crown beginning  the Queen's Plate, June 24th. That race will be followed by the Prince Of Wales, July 15th and the Breeders' Stakes on August 5th. Check back for coverage of each race.

Friday, June 8, 2012


The stage is set for what could be a historic race on Saturday at Belmont Park. I’LL HAVE ANOTHER has a chance to do what hasn’t been done since 1978 and has only been done 11 times in history – win the Triple Crown. In the afternoon on June 9th in New York, I’LL HAVE ANOTHER has a chance to join the likes of Secretariat, Seattle Slew and Affirmed in infamy!

Contested at 1 ½ miles, the BELMONT STAKES, for 3-year old thoroughbreds, is the longest and final race of the American Triple Crown series. It is aptly known as the true "Test of Champions" for being the most demanding and challenging race for a prospective winner in pursuit of the crown. With its 12-furlong distance being the furthest any 3-year old horse will have run in its career thus far, the Belmont Stakes tests the stamina of a racehorse.

Again his year, this race has history written all over it. It's all about I'LL HAVE ANOTHER who seems to have the momentum required of a Triple Crown champion. His stretch running victory in the Kentucky Derby was duplicated in thrilling fashion in the Preakness Stakes. And now, just one race remains: the Belmont Stakes.

There's a reason why we root for a Triple Crown winner every year. There's also a reason why it seldom occurs. As previously mentioned, there have been only 11 Triple Crown winners in history. It's so hard for a horse to finish atop such a good crop of thoroughbreds for three consecutive contests that bring out the best horses in the sport.

Will there ever be another thoroughbred capable of capturing the elusive Triple Crown? Will 2012 be the year the dry spell ends, or will I'LL HAVE ANOTHER join a long list of hopefuls to be denied glory in the Belmont Stakes? There is no greater moment in the sport of horse racing than the crowning of a Triple Crown champion, which always takes place in New York. The path is clear for a history-making race, now it is up to I'LL HAVE ANOTHER to do what most of the horse racing world is expecting him to do!

Let's take a look at the field from the rail out:

                         Grade 1 BELMONT STAKES  Purse: $1 million Distance: 1 1/2 Miles

PP- HORSE/Jockey/Trainer

1-STREET LIFE/Lezcano/Brown--Colt boasts 2007 Derby winner Street Sense as his sire. Exits an okay third-place effort in Grade 2 Peter Pan Stakes, the local prep for the Belmont. Two back he was sixth in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial. Another colt who does his best running late in the race. In his two wins, a maiden and the Broad Brush Stakes, he displayed a strong late kick, so the additional real estate appears to be no concern. Has experience at Belmont Park, always an extra added attraction. Winning will be a difficult task, but STREET LIFE is an absolute play for exotics.

2-UNSTOPPABLE U/Alvarado/McPeek--Is sired by 2001 Belmont winner Point Given. The most lightly raced runner in the field with just two career starts. UNSTOPPABLE U garnered consideration for the Belmont Stakes by winning both starts easily by a combined margin of nine lengths, his last being an allowance race over the Belmont strip. Likes to race on the lead, so it appears he may serve as a rabbit for his late-running stablemate Antigun. Is inexperienced, hasn't raced beyond a mile, and is asked to take a monumental rise in class. That's too many negatives to overcome this ambitious placing which marks his stiffest challenge of his brief career. Likely to be a pace factor at best.

3-UNION RAGS/Velazquez/Matz--Wow, how times have changed. Last year, this one came within a head of going unbeaten and winning the two-year-old championship honors. Following his win in the Grade 1 Fountain Of Youth in late February, many handicappers were crowning HIM the overwhelming Kentucky Derby winner AND possible Triple Crown champion. Then the wheels came off the UNION RAGS express. Received a tentative ride in the Florida Derby as the 2-5 favorite, finishing third, then suffered a bad start and a nightmare journey in a 7th place Run for the Roses. Trainer Matz skipped the Preakness, and decided to regroup during the 5 week interim leading up to the Belmont. Matz also decided to switch jockeys, replacing Leparoux, who had been widely criticized for his role in both defeats, in favor of Velazquez. Hopefully, we see the horse and his new rider get a smoother trip this time around. Looks to return with a flourish at the Belmont track, which was the site of the colt's most impressive win of his career in last year's Grade 1 Champagne Stakes. His speed figures haven't improved from his 2 to 3 year old campaign, so he will need to dramatically increase that facet of his game in order to win. Should UNION RAGS validate the high expectations, and display his class, this might be the spot for the break out performance everyone has been waiting to see. There's no doubt Matz has his colt in peak condition, so if he puts it all together, the end result could very well spoil the party for a potential Triple Crown.

4-ANTIGUN/Leparoux/McPeek--Looked exceptionally good scoring an allowance win on the Derby undercard, but has disappointed each time he has faced graded competition. ANTIGUN certainly has the pedigree to excel at 12 furlongs. Look for this stretch-runner to be passing rivals late, however, winning this classic G1 contest is a difficult assignment to ask of a horse who hasn't proven himself against this type of competition. With that being said, McPeek pulled off the biggest upset in Belmont history back in 2002, sending out Sarava to win with nothing more than a minor stakes win to his credit.

5-DULLAHAN/Castellano/Romans--Was a fast-closing third in the Kentucky Derby, but ran out of room. That race was his best effort to date and finally proved DULLAHAN could successfully handle a dirt surface, as all his prior races were either turf/synthetics. Another colt whose connections bypassed the Preakness. The massive oval at Belmont Park, with its sweeping turns, appears an ideal fit. The beneficial time off since the Derby, along with a positive rider change to a jockey that certainly knows how to win races over this track, makes this multiple G1 stakes winner the main danger to thwart the Triple Crown attempt.

6-RAVELO'S BOY/Solis/Azpurua--Has never left the Sunshine State to race. All 13 career starts have been in Florida, with just two wins among the baker's dozen. He is winless in three starts this year which have been at the stakes level. He ran 5th in the Gulfstream Park Derby, 4th in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes and 5th in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby. That last race was on March 10, so RAVELO"S BOY has had some needed time to rest. But this colt will need more than just rest to jump way up in class and knock off the big guns. Speed figures clearly indicate he's too slow, plus he's looking at the best field he's ever face.

7-FIVE SIXTEEN/Napravnik/Schettino--Locally-based trainer looks to be shooting for the moon with this runner. Took five tries to win his maiden and most recently, he lost a first-level allowance race. So with FIVE SIXTEEN having low speed figures and never faced anything resembling Triple Crown competition, its hard to make a case for a colt that is hopelessly overmatched.

8-GUYANA STAR DWEEJ/Desormeaux/Shivmangal--Leg injury forced connections to withdraw this colt from the Preakness. It was a good thing too, because he didn't belong in that race. And he certainly doesn't belong in this one either. GUYANA STAR DWEEJ has never raced in graded stakes and took eight attempts to finally get in the win column, including being offered up in maiden claiming ranks. Longshot is way out of his league and therefore, a total toss out.

9-PAYNTER/Smith/Baffert--With Bodemeister absent, Baffert will be represented by this promising colt that is lightly-raced with only 4 starts. Absolutely demolished an allowance field on Preakness Day, and although allowance and G1 competition are worlds apart, PAYNTER was 4th behind I'll Have Another in the G1 Santa Anita Derby in just his second career start after stumbling out of the gate. The horse has vastly improved with each race and his speed figures continue to rise. Latest number ranks right behind the overwhelming favorite. Possesses early speed and if allowed to dictate the early pace, PAYNTER will be the target I'll Have Another will have to run down. Is well-bred for the 12 furlong distance. A serious spoiler possibility based on merits. Further improvement could give trainer/jockey redemption.

10-OPTIMIZER/Nakatani/Lukas--Other than the Derby/Preakness winner, this colt will be the only horse to compete in the trio of races. Didn't threaten in either of the first two, 11th in the former and 6th in the latter. Has now lost 10 consecutive races since breaking his maiden last summer. Needs some time-off and besides, he is probably a better turf horse. A drastic form reversal is required for OPTIMIZER to even have a chance. And there's nothing in the record to indicate that's likely to happen.

11-I'LL HAVE ANOTHER/Gutierrez/O'Neill--The undisputed star of this year's Belmont, closed strongly and impressively to beat the best in the sport in winning the Derby and Preakness. Colt is perfect in four starts this year, winning in succession at 1 1/16 miles, 1 1/8 miles, 1 1/4 miles and 1 3/16 miles. The additional 1/4 mile for the Belmont should not work against the colt as he has the breeding to handle the extra real estate. Actually, this race could be the best fit of all the Triple Crown races for his skill and running style, as the 1 ½ mile distance should filter out the early speed long before the finish. The grueling three races in five weeks schedule is always a concern, but unlike previous attempts at the Triple Crown where injuries and/or fatigue factored in the failure, I'LL HAVE ANOTHER, with only four races in 2012, is still a relatively fresh horse and that fact alone gives him a legitimate chance. O'Neill is a talented and accomplished trainer who has made all the right moves with the colt from the beginning of the year, and the rides from jockey Gutierrez have been absolutely masterful. Can they produce the magic one more time? I'LL HAVE ANOTHER is just one step away from joining the greats of the sport. Does the Triple Crown drought finally end?

12-MY ADONIS/Dominguez/Breen--Colt was a late addition to the field. MY ADONIS was shipped to Louisville because he was on the also-eligible list for the Kentucky Derby, but he didn't draw in as none of the 20 top entries were scratched. Was then shipped to Pimlico where, on Derby Day, he finished third as the overwhelming choice in the Canonero II Stakes. Since his last win in October of his juvenile year, he has gone 0 for 5. His best race to date as a 3-year old was a 2nd place finish in the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct. Can these very same connections make it two upsets in a row? They won last year's edition with Ruler On Ice at 24-1, so they would be the first back-to-back winner of this race since 1972-73 when Meadow Stables won with Riva Ridge and Secretariat. However, there's nothing in his form that indicates to me that MY ADONIS is able to break through with an upset.

Of course, it all starts with I’ll Have Another who has not been the favorite in any of his last three big wins. but you can rest assured he will be odds on favorite come post time. Both of his wins in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes came with late-stretch runs at the expense of Bodemeister who isn't here. His defection opens up the door for other horses to challenge. All of those horses will need luck and the top horses to fall (literally or figuratively) if they’re going to claim a massive upset.

How It Will Play Out:
It’s difficult to imagine any horse outside of the marquee names winning the “Test of Champions," and all eyes will be on I’ll Have Another, a horse that has captured the imagination of the sports world as he attempts one of the toughest tasks in sports. Biggest problem for I'll Have Another in this years Belmont Stakes field is the lack of speed up front. Last three races were all set up for his great closing style by fast fractions. This field lacks front end speed which might hurt the chances of  I'll Have Another come the stretch run. Gutierrez will need to keep I'll Have Another closer than any of last three races and that might take away his great closing kick.

On the surface, it appears only Dullahan has a legitimate shot at preventing the Triple Crown. The colt has raced against the best regularly and finished third in his longest distance, which was the Kentucky Derby. Dullahan has the same running style as the Derby/Preakness winner, but is the fresher colt. It will be up to Gutierrez to remain patient on I'll Have Another and not try to press the issue early. If he can stay calm and let the race fall apart on its own, all he will have to do is hold of Dullahan and the Triple Crown is his.

For betting purposes only, my dough is on Dullahan who will go off at better odds. However, I for one will be extremely overjoyed if the rally-king, I'll Have Another, has ANOTHER victorious late run.

Good luck and enjoy the race!

Monday, May 21, 2012


In a dramatic finish that topped their win two weeks prior in the Kentucky Derby, I’ll Have Another and jockey Mario Gutierrez passed front runing Bodemeister under Mike Smith once again late in the race to win the $1,000,000 Grade 1 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on Saturday, May 19th. The Derby winner waited a little longer this time, but completed the task by closing resolutely to forge ahead of the pacesetter in the final strides to win by a neck. For the second consecutive 2012 Triple Crown race, a record crowd was on hand two witness the event.

Except for the slower early fractions then what we saw in Louisville, the race unfolded the same way as the Derby, with Bodemeister, the betting favorite, going right to the lead as expected in the 11-horse field. Let's compare the fractions:

Derby: 22 1/5, 45 1/5, 1:09 4/5, 1:35
Preakness: 23 3/5, 47 3/5, 1:11 3/5, 1:36 3/5

Obviously, it was his (Bodemeister) race to lose. The leader was stalked by Creative Cause, followed in third by longshot Pretension. The young Gutierrez kept I'll Have Another out of trouble early and well placed in fourth, much closer to the pace then he was in the Derby. Went the Day Well was next in fifth, followed by Teeth of the Dog, Tiger Walk, Cozzetti, Zetterholm, Optimizer, and Daddy Nose Best. As the field rounded the far turn, Creative Cause made his bid for the lead, but was quickly turned back as Bodemeister burst clear of the field to open up a 3-length lead after a mile. Heading into the stretch, it appeared as though the Baffert trained runner would prevail. But I'll Have Another showed that big heart of his and stamina with a breathtaking late rush to close in on Bodemeister with each stride. The pair left the others far behind, and with only a few strides remaining before the wire, the Derby winner wouldn't be denied and prevailed to register the victory. It was 9-lengths back to Creative Cause in third. The winner, who is owned by Reddam Racing and trained by Doug O'Neill, covered the 1 3/16 miles in 1:55 4/5.


Trackman's thoughts: Both Bodemeister and Creative Cause had no excuses. The former was the lone speed who controlled a sensible pace, wasn't pressured and by all accounts should have kicked on, but instead he ran out of gas and couldn't fend off the winner. The latter was in perfect position throughout the running, and just like in the Derby, he was right along side the eventual winner on the far turn, but failed to sustain his bid. Both horses are in need of lengthy vacations. In a sharp contrast to his Derby performance, Went The Day Well shockingly wasn't competitive at all and finished 10th, Maybe his Louisville stretch run to finish 4th was an illusion. However, he is a much better horse than what he displayed in here. I felt Daddy Nose Best deserved another chance at the Grade 1 level, but it's clear he was outclassed. It's now apparent that his Derby finish can be attributed to the competition rather than the trip. Optimizer didn't belong in the Derby or here either. He was last early and passed tired horses to finish 6th. Zetterholm was the best of the new shooters. He was a bit fractious in the gate, but the New York-bred did okay to finish 4th.

I'll Have Another has now done it twice in-a-row. It's time for a Triple Crown try in the Belmont Stakes on June 9th.
It's been 34 years since Affirmed swept the Derby, Preakness and Belmont and became the 11th and most recent Triple Crown champion. Since then, 11 horses have won the first two legs only to come up short in the Belmont. The most recent attempt came in 2008 when Big Brown was pulled up around the far turn and did not finish. Three years earlier, Smarty Jones was run down in the final yards by Birdstone.

As of Sunday, May 20, there are 13 likely horses for the Belmont Stakes that will try to thwart the attempt.

Alpha--12th in the Derby.
Atigun--won an optional-claimer on the Derby undrcard.
Dullahan--3rd in the Derby.
Five Sixteen--4th in an allowance race on April 18th.
Guyana Star Dweej--2nd in an optional-claimer on April 27th.
Mark Valeski--won the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont May 12th.
Optimizer--6th in the Preakness.
Paynter, won an allowance race on the Preakness undercard.
Rousing Sermon--8th in the Derby.
Stealcase--6th in the Spiral Stakes March 24th at Turfway
Street Life--3rd in the Peter Pan
Union Rags--7th in the Derby.

I'll be rooting for I'll Have Another from the time they spring the starting gates open. He's an amazing horse!

Friday, May 18, 2012


The main question, and maybe the only question racing fans have tossed at each other for the last two weeks following the conclusion of the 138th Kentucky Derby is: Can he do it? The "he" is obviously Kentucky Derby winner I'll Have Another, and the "it" refers to winning the Preakness Stakes. And more importantly, "it" would also mean that securing the second leg would allow I'll Have Another to continue on in his conquest to become the first Triple Crown winner since 1978. Or will someone else step up and beat him? The Derby winner will face five of his rivals from two weeks ago, including Derby runner-up Bodemeister, plus five "new-shooters" at Pimlico. A $1 million purse is on the line in the 2012 Preakness Stakes, and the field of 11 three-year-olds will be running a distance of 1 3/16 miles. Let's take a look at each horse from the rail out.


1-TIGER WALK/Desormeaux/Correas--Except for a 10th place effort over the turf at Saratoga last summer, TIGER WALK has been mainly competitive in every start, finishing no worse than fourth. Colt ended the 2011 campaign with a pair of victories at Laurel Park, but is still seeking his first victory of 2012. Was last seen finishing fourth in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial behind Gemologist and Alpha, a pair of prominent Derby contenders that ended up far back in Louisville. TIGER WALK hasn’t finished better than 3rd in 3 career tries in graded stakes, and two of those contests were of the Grade 3 nature. So he's had opportunity to prove himself against legitimate competition, but has come up short. He's worked well over the Pimlico surface in the interim, picks up the services of a two-time Preakness winning jockey in Desormeaux, gets blinkers added and may find the additional distance of this contest to his benefit. So it's time for TIGER WALK, who has shown promise, to raise his game to the highest level, and in order to accomplish that feat, he needs to vastly improve.

2-TEETH OF THE DOG/Bravo/Matz--With stable star Union Rags staying in the barn to regroup from a dreadful trip in the Kentucky Derby, and to await the Belmont Stakes, trainer Matz looks to this lightly raced colt to answer the call. Broke his maiden on his third try at Gulfstream Park back in February, going wire-to-wire in a 9 furlong race, defeating Went The Day Well in the process. Off that winning effort, he was entered in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial. Sent away at long odds of 53-1, TEETH OF THE DOG turned in a courageous performance running third behind two solid horses, Gemologist and Alpha, but as noted above, they both subsequenly turned in sub-par Derby runs. The Wood was the stakes debut for TEETH OF THE DOG and his fourth lifetime start. The colt has been on the board in all four of those races. Scratched out of last weekend's Peter Pan Stakes when it was determined he would qualify for a spot in the Preakness field. Does have potential and appears to be on the improve, but also lacks experience, so he will need to deliver much more. May prove to be an alternative betting choice for those looking for big odds.

3-PRETENSION/Santiago/Grove--On Kentucky Derby Day at Churchill Downs, PRETENSION won a blanket finish in the feature at Pimlico Race Course, a minor stakes named after 1971 Derby winner Canonero II. That win was his second minor stakes victory in his last four races, the other came in a state-bred affair at Aqueduct in February. In between the two wins, he tried his talents in a pair of Grade 3 events, the Gotham and the Illinois Derby, with disappointing results in each. The last outing marked a return to form for PRETENSION, equaling his best speed figure to date. It was a huge move forward and one has to wonder if this colt can continue to improve against the better horses he meets in here, or if he will regress. Must prove himself capable of handling the longer distance, but breeding suggests he should enjoy the extra real estate. Looks to be on the improve and does have the advantage of a winning trip over the Pimlico surface, so track experience is a plus.  However, PRETENSION, who likes to sit off the leaders, will need to fire his absolute best race to date in order to even contend for a minor placing.

4-ZETTERHOLM/Alvarado/Dutrow--New York-bred colt comes into Baltimore riding a three-race win streak, all at Aqueduct. His win last out in a state-bred stakes was his first venture out of maiden/allowance company. Race career under former conditioner Stephen Dimauro lasted just one start, before being transferred to the barn of Dutrow. In 2008, Dutrow saddled Derby winner Big Brown to victory in this race, and the last time the trainer was here for the Preakness (2010), he sent out Yawanna Twist to a decent fourth place finish. ZETTERHOLM bypassed the Grade 2 Peter Pan Stakes last Saturday in favor of this spot. Deep closer has demonstrated ability in his brief career, however, he has never raced beyond the distance of one-mile seventy yards, and has only faced state bred runners. Now ZETTERHOLM must run the farthest distance he has ever tried against bonafide Grade 1 horses. The Preakness no doubt will be his sternest test to date, and I don't envision a passing grade.

5-WENT THE DAY WELL/Velazquez/Motion--The connections of this colt were trying to use a similar path as last year to win the 2012 Derby. Animal Kingdom had won the Spiral before taking the Run for the Roses in 2011. WENT THE DAY WELL also used and won the Spiral this past March, but unlike his stablemate, couldn't get covered in the garland of roses on the first Saturday in May. The colt rallied from 17th in the early going to close for fourth, beaten just 2 ½ lengths. His Derby trip certainly caught my attention. He got beat up during the early stages and appeared to have the worst trip of any horse in Louisville. Getting bumped early and repeatedly stopped weaving in and out of horses, he went very wide on the final turn, picked up momentum, before angling in a bit between rivals to then close with a dynamic late rally. WENT THE DAY WELL raced with blinkers on in the Derby, but that equipment is removed for this tussle. The smaller Preakness field will suit him very nicely. Colt should be a handful and a major player.

6-CREATIVE CAUSE/Rosario/Harrington--The fifth-place finish in the Derby was the first time the colt finished worse than third in nine starts, and also the first time the colt was ever beaten by more than 1 length. CREATIVE CAUSE raced in striking distance throughout, however, wide for much of his journey, including being fanned- out eight paths turning for home, making up some good ground late before being passed by two rivals nearing the wire. The Derby was his second start outside of California, both at Churchill Downs, the other was a third place finish in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile. His Derby adventure hampered him from showing his best performance, so a better trip in here in a less crowded field may allow him to recover and display his previous top form. And that gives CREATIVE CAUSE an excellent chance for victory. Remember, he is the only horse in the field, that in separate races, has defeated both I’ll Have Another and Bodemeister.

7-BODEMEISTER/Smith/Baffert--Attempted to become the first unraced juvenile since 1882 to win the Kentucky Derby and almost pulled it off. As the betting favorite and pacesetter in the "Run for the Roses," BODEMEISTER went for the lead right from the break cutting out blazing fractions (:22 1/5 :45 1/5 1:09 4/5), then proceeded to open up by 3 lengths between calls in the upper stretch before being caught in the final strides by I'll Have Another and falling a length and a half short. This colt deserved all the praise directed his way after his ultra-impressive showing in which he only gave up the lead in the final yards despite those taxing splits. His biggest win to date came in his final prep, the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby, where he dominated by 9 1/2 lengths, solidifying his status as the Derby choice. This will be his third big race in five weeks, and he wouldn't be here if Baffert didn't think there was anything left in the tank. The announcement that BODEMEISTER was going to participate made the connections of Hansen withdraw, and that defection came days after the camp of Trinniberg had decided to skip the Preakness altogether. Whether the colt can bounce back from that Derby effort remains to be seen, but all signs seem to be pointing to another sharp outing.The front-running BODEMEISTER, who is a threat to win on talent alone, will get another clear crack on the lead, and with the non-presence of any speedsters to push him along, he has a golden opportunity at redemption.

8-DADDY NOSE BEST/Leparoux/Asmussen--The ability to be competitive at the Grade 1 level became the major concern after DADDY NOSE BEST had won two straight Grade 3 contests, but despite recording top-notch works prior to his Derby run, he never got the opportunity to show if he could be successful at the upper level as he didn't have the best of trips. But that happens in the Kentucky Derby when you face 19 rivals, bad trips are the rule rather than the exception. Overcame a rough beginning after being steadied in close quarters, was then forced inside on the run down the backstretch, commenced making headway before being steadied again around the far turn. Continued on with his run to reach a threatening position approaching the stretch, was bumped while trying to rally, lost his good position and tired to finished 10th. I'm more apt to attribute his worst placing of his career to the journey rather than the competition. So until proven differently, I feel DADDY NOSE BEST belongs with the top contenders in here. He faces half the field size in the Preakness then what he saw two weeks ago, so if he can stay clear of traffic and get a clear run, it's highly possible he can contend for the win. The best closer in the race gets reunited with Leparoux, who has been aboard for all four of the colts wins. Trainer Asmussen saddled Preakness winners, Curlin (2007) and Rachel Alexandra (2009).

9-I'LL HAVE ANOTHER/Gutierrez/O'Neill--The 138th Kentucky Derby was the third win in as many starts this year for this colt. He began his 3 year-old season with a 1 1/2-length win in the Grade 2 Bob Lewis Stakes, followed by nose victory in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby. I mentioned in my Derby analysis that, although his jockey, then unknown Mario Gutierrez, was riding in his first Derby which is not an easy task, the kid had ridden this horse flawlessly in both mentioned graded wins. In Louisville, he once again rode I'LL HAVE ANOTHER to perfection. Securing excellent position from post 19, Gutierrez avoided his colt getting hung wide, then raced free and clear of any trouble while navigating his way with nary a straw in his path. Improved his position effortlessly around the far turn en route to his winning move which saw him rally determinedly through the Churchill stretch to run down and reel in Bodemeister nearing the finish line. Derby champ is a fresh horse, this will be just his fourth race this year and has been improving on each start. I can't find any legitimate reason why he can't win this second leg. His task of running down a lone front-runner, one who will find the pace scenario alot more to his liking, is going to be alot more difficult. Then again, no one gave I'LL HAVE ANOTHER much of a chance from his difficult post in the Derby. Another win (pun intended) puts him a step closer towards becoming the 2012 Triple Crown champion.

10-OPTIMIZER/Nakatani/Lukas--Since winning his maiden last summer, this colt has failed in nine tries. Deep closer had the fast pace he needed in the Kentucky Derby, but was blocked a bit entering the stretch, could not find a seam then changed course from the inside to the outside and back to the inside again while unable to threaten, finishing 11th. In his final prep for the "Run for the Roses," OPTIMIZER was beaten by over 20 lengths by Bodemeister in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby. Despite the pair of poor performances, trainer Lukas has decided to try again in the Preakness. WHY? In his only positive effort this year in five races, OPTIMIZER finished a fast-closing second in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes. He will need to find that late kick he displayed in that solid runner-up showing, although it probably isn't likely to happen. Was sent off at 42-1 in Louisville and is certain to be a longshot again come post time in Baltimore. Nakatani replaces Court.

11-COZZETTI/Lezcano/Romans--This colt did participate on this years road to the Derby, barely making any noise with a third place finish in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby back in March, followed by a fourth behind Bodemeister in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby last month. Has won just one of his seven career starts, and that came last November. COZZETTI started his career on the turf, before testing synthetics and conventional dirt. During that time, he flashed potential every now and then, but hasn't done better than third in his last four outings. Looks for his first graded stakes win of his career, but will have to try softer graded company to achieve it. COZZETTI is a deep closer who isn't fast enough to knock off the big guns in here with out the help of an absolute pace meltdown, and that is highly unlikely to develop. This colt does have a bit of talent, so even the slightest improvement could help him land a superfecta placing.

First and foremost, as you can read from my horse-by-horse analysis, I believe the newcomers in the Preakness are extremely overmatched and will be hard-pressed to even finish in the money against the core horses returning out of the Derby. It would come as no surprise to these eyes if the top four placings were captured by those who competed in Louisville. But in horse-racing, as in any sport, anything is possible, so if you feel strong about one or more of the new faces in this year's edition, by all means, don't let my opinions steer you away.

Bodemeister goes to the lead and with the lack of speed horses, he could very well set a sensible pace making it possible that a gate to wire performance could unfold. The rest of the field certainly will be trying to run him down. I'll Have Another should be closer to the pace than he was in the Kentucky Derby, and will be tracking intently with a closer eye on the frontrunner while the others will sort themselves out in behind. I don't forsee Bodemeister getting tested, but if a rival does challenge early, it's likely he will repel it and still keep his lead as he hits the top of the stretch. Up to that point in the race, if jockey Mike Smith has been able to harness the speed of his mount, they could easily pull away. However, Bodemeister expended alot of energy in the Derby and with a quick 2-week turnaround, it's quite possible he may be susceptible late and unable to withstand the cavalry that will be after him. That's the way I'll play it. The challenges will come from Creative Cause, I'll Have Another, Went The Day Well & Daddy Nose Best.

Creative Cause suffered an extremely wide journey all the way around the Louisville oval, which included an 8 wide run on the far turn. He made a good move to get up to 3rd in mid-stretch, but tired and was passed by two rivals late to end up fifth. He was only beaten only 3 lengths for the win. A remarkable performance considering the ground lost he suffered during the race. Creative Cause ran the furthest distance around the Churchill oval than ANY other horse in the Derby. Figuring to receive a much smoother trip here in a less crowded field, he should be better positioned when given his cue by rider Joel Rosario with about 3 furlongs to run. There is nothing to suggest I’ll Have Another will regress. He has done everything asked of him, and more. He had a perfect journey in the Derby and should sit another nice trip in here until the far turn, which allows him first shot at the leader when jockey Mario Gutierrez calls on him to commence his run. He's very game and has demonstrated he can put away an opponent with determination. Derby winners usually maintain their form when coming into the Preakness, so a repeat of his Derby run puts him right there at the finish with a terrific chance at taking the second leg. Went The Day Well and Daddy Nose Best had truly troubled trips in the Derby (bumping, steadying, forced in, forced out....etc). With the shorter Preakness distance, both horses will need to make their bids a little sooner to challenge for the win. Went The Day Well is an improving colt who should now get a cleaner trip this, so look for him to employ that solid late kick as he demonstrated in the Derby. Daddy Nose Best is a much better colt than he showed in Louisville, so he's in with a chance to pull the upset at nice odds. Of the new shooters, COZZETTI is the only one I’d really consider to get in the superfecta.

I'll go with Creative Cause in a trip playback. Through the Pimlico stretch, I look for him and the Derby winner to both pass Bodemeister and throw down the gauntlet in a battle to the wire with Creative Cause getting back to the winner’s circle.

With the top two Derby finishers getting most of the win money, the Harrington trainee will be overlooked in the wagering. An nice extra-added attraction indeed.

Creative Cause to win. Creative Cause and I'll Have Another in an exacta box.

Superfecta: Creative Cause over I'll Have Another--Bodemeister--Went The Day Well--Daddy Nose Best-Cozzetti

Superfecta: I'll Have Another over Creative Cause--Bodemeister--Went The Day Well--Daddy Nose Best -Cozzetti

Saver Superfecta: Bodemeister over Creative Cause--I'll Have Another--Went The Day Well--Daddy Nose Best--Cozzetti

Good Luck and as always, enjoy the race!

Monday, May 7, 2012


After torrential rains pounded the Louisville area on Friday afternoon, causing a delayed start to the Kentucky Oaks, sunny skies prevailed 24 hours later for the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby. A record crowd of 165,307 gathered at Churchill Downs Saturday to witness I'LL HAVE ANOTHER, ridden by Mario Gutierrez, wear the roses after rallying in the stretch to defeat race favorite Bodemeister.

Getting close to a perfect trip as a horse can get from post 19, I'LL HAVE ANOTHER was positioned in 7th while the 4-1 choice Bodemeister, under Mike Smith, sizzled through fractions of :22 1/4 and :45 1/5, with Trinniberg and rider Willie Martinez right on their heels. They were followed by Daddy Long Legs, Hansen, Gemologist, Take Charge Indy and I'LL HAVE ANOTHER. Second choice Union Rags who missed the break, causing him to be squeezed back at the start, was racing near the back of the field. The top two continued to lead the large field up the backstretch and around the final turn. After three-quarters in 1:09 4/5, Bodemeister, the Arkansas Derby winner, kicked away from Trinninberg and opened up a clear 3 length advantage at the top of the lane. Hansen then took up the chase, while I'LL HAVE ANOTHER began to advance 4 wide around the final bend. Even out further wider were Creative Cause, Dullahan and Went The Day Well. The young Gutierrez kept urging his mount right-handed and I'LL HAVE ANOTHER continued to respond determinedly, finally reeling in the favorite in the final yards to register a 1 1/2 length victory in a time of 2:01 4/5.
Dullahan closed strongly with his patented late run to take down the show spot. Went The Day Well also closed late to finish fourth.

The Kentucky Derby was the third straight win in 2012 for the three-year old. I'LL HAVE ANOTHER began the year with a win in the Bob Lewis Stakes and then won the Santa Anita Derby.
All three scores came with Gutierrez aboard. The chesnut colt, by Flower Alley received $1,459,600 for the prestigious win and upped his career earnings to $2,093,600. The Derby score improved his race record to 4-1-0 from six starts. I'LL HAVE ANOTHER is owned by J. Paul Reddam and trained by Doug O'Neill. The victorious owner, trainer and jockey each won the Kentucky Derby for the first time.

The on-track attendance topped the previous record of 164,858 that was established just last year. Prior to 2011, the record attendance was the crowd of 163,628 who witnessed the 100th renewal of the Kentucky Derby in 1974.

One thing that was prominent throughout the race card was the the fact that the Churchill Downs track was playing fast all day long with speed holding up in most of the contests. That certainly helped Bodemeister hold together for second despite laying down blistering splits on the front-end.

-Union Rags was the biggest disappointment. The race was lost for him as soon as the gates opened when he was squeezed at the start which forced him to race further back than usual. Running in 18th place early on, he was able to close strongly against the bias while doing alot of his running in traffic to finish seventh.

- Gemologist was another horse who didn't run as expected. He was in the front flight early out of the gate, but never factored at all finishing far back in 16th.

-Dullahan showed he could handle the dirt just fine. Who knows, he might have been the winner had the track been playing fair.

-Went The Day Well is another horse that ran superbly against the speed bias as he closed strongly from 17th place at the half-mile mark to finish fourth, beaten less than 3 lengths for the garland of roses.

-Creative Cause was my choice and he loomed up was right alongside the winner as they both turned into the stretch but couldn't stay with him. It appeared Creative Cause was going to end up in third, but he was passed late by two others and wound up fifth.

-Daddy Nose Best trained far better than he ran.

-Hansen left his race in the paddock and post parade.

-Liason finished sixth, He did turn it around with a great showing in here. Maybe Baffert was right afterall when he said this horse hated the Santa Anita surface.

-Take Charge Indy had a good early contending position, but Borel was forced to quit riding the horse 3 furlongs out when he noticed the colt reacted to something. After the race, Take Charge Indy began to show some problems with his left front leg when he returned to trainer Patrick Byrne's barn. X-rays taken the next morning revealed a bone chip in his left front ankle. The injury is not career threatening and the colt could be back in about 60 days.

- Daddy Long Legs has now run on the Churchill Downs track twice in his career. A last place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last fall and a last place finish in the Kentucky Derby. Turf PLEASE.

See you in Baltimore folks for Preakness Stakes on May 19th.