The Thoroughbred Corporation's homebred Popular was headed in the stretch by 13-10 favorite Roman Dancer, then fought back to the lead under jockey Victor Espinoza to win Sunday's $107,900 San Miguel Stakes (gr. III) by a nose at Santa Anita.
Bob Baffert-trained China Grind, a 3-year-old son of Grindstone, has been sidelined and is now off the Kentucky Derby trail.
Trainer Ken McPeek sent out a pair of Kentucky Derby prospects for exercise at Gulfstream Park Sunday. Harlan's Holiday went five furlongs in :59 2/5, handily, while Repent breezed three furlongs in :36 1/5. Also working Sunday was Derby future-book favorite Siphonic, who went seven furlongs in 1:26 2/5, handily, at Hollywood Park.
Eclipse Award finalist Siphonic will make his first start as a 3-year-old in the Jan. 19 Santa Catalina Stakes as trainer David Hofmans tries to win the $150,000 race for the second straight year. As of Jan. 9, Siphonic is Bally's 5-1 future-book favorite for the Kentucky Derby.
Willmott Stables' Stephentown, an impressive allowance winner at Gulfstream Park on Wednesday, will take a major step up in class when he makes his next appearance in the $200,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. I) at 1 1/16 miles on Feb. 16.
The Association of Racing Commissioners International has developed a model rule that could make a proposed Breeders' Cup future wager an annual event and expand early wagering on the Kentucky Derby (gr. I).
In a year without a lot of clear-cut favorites, Point Given is the lone unanimous choice in 2001 Eclipse Award balloting. The dual classic winner received top honors as champion 3-year-old male and is a finalist, along with Tiznow and Johannesburg, for Horse of the Year honors. Finalists in each of the Eclipse categories were announced Thursday.
Churchill Downs and officials with the city of Louisville, Ky. have requested help from the federal government in dealing with security for the May 4 Kentucky Derby, the Kentucky Oaks, and the Pegasus Parade that is staged Derby week.
By Steve Haskin -- There are 2,904 hours until the Kentucky Derby. By the time I finish writing this, there will be 2,903. I figure approximately 650 of those hours will be spent sleeping, leaving 2,253 hours to think about the Derby.
Susan and John Moore's Iron Deputy opened up a six-length lead in the stretch en route to winning Saturday's $83,300 Count Fleet Stakes by 2 3/4 lengths at Aqueduct. One race earlier, Migliore and odds-on favorite Affirmed Success finished a half-length behind Boston Party in an allowance race at the Count Fleet distance after leading by three in the stretch.
Spectacular Bid Stakes (gr. III) winner Maybry's Boy will make his next start in the $150,000 Hutcheson Stakes (gr. II, Feb. 2), according to trainer Claude "Shug" McGaughey. Meanwhile on the West Coast, undefeated Werblin will also make his next start on Groundhog's Day, that coming in the San Vicente (gr. II).
Michael Tabor and Mrs. John Magnier's Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) winner Johannesburg begins 2002 as the future-book favorite for both the Sagitta Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-I) and the Kentucky Derby (gr. I). Both races will be run on May 4.
As the masses congregate at the start of the Kentucky Derby trail, there will, as usual, be lots of pushing and shoving until late February and early March when the contenders begin to separate themselves from the pack. But disappointment and frustration can be prevelant just getting to the Derby trail, as evidenced by the number of highly promising juveniles who stumbled along the way last week.
While many are preparing to open their Christmas presents Tuesday morning, Kenny McPeek is already playing with his new toys. Even though the Kentucky Derby is still over four months away, McPeek is thinking more of mint juleps than egg nog.
NBC, which enjoyed solid ratings in its inaugural year of covering racing's Triple Crown in 2001, partially due to cross-promoting the races with its NBA playoff games, will no longer be televising NBA games when its current contract runs out in the spring of 2002.
This is it, the final report for 2001. Starting next week, we'll officially be on the 2002 Kentucky Derby trail, as the major scenes shift to Gulfstream and Santa Anita, joining the already-in-progress Fair Grounds and Aqueduct meets. We close the year with the Hollywood Futurity and several more impressive maiden and allowance victories.
He was 75 cents to the dollar in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, and could be as high as 3-1 in the Hollywood Futurity. A victory by Officer on Saturday would no doubt make him a major candidate for Overlay of the Year. Although it will be no easy task knocking off Siphonic, Officer still looks to be one of the most appetizing propositions we've seen in a while.
The one trainer who seems to be establishing his niche in this year's Derby picture is Shug McGaughey. With Saarland, Maybry's Boy, and D'Coach, it's as if McGaughey is standing at the quarter pole with a slingshot and launching some speeding projectiles down the Aqueduct stretch.
Before the early (and we stress early) list of classic hopefuls gets too long, we're going to sort out the growing number of promising 2-year-olds and take a crack at where they might fit in the 2002 Kentucky Derby picture. We're sure there will be omissions, but this at least will provide an idea who might be some of the major players next spring. Horses are listed in alphabetical order:
Trainers on both coasts unwrapped some exciting early Christmas presents last week, and all the gifts appear to come with batteries packed with enough charge to last well past next May. This is the time of year when the colts with Derby pedigrees make their appearance, and if you like to see brilliance and a big closing kick to go along with a very low dosage index, then you're going to love Pelirrojo, Charioteer, Axis, and Iwin.
Steve Haskin, an award-winning turf writer and senior correspondent for The Blood-Horse, provides his insights into the contenders and the pretenders for this year's Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown races.
Right now, the plan is simple: Johannesburg will point for the Kentucky Derby. The only question is how to go about doing it.
Derby fever, in November? Heck, why not. The Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner is tucked away somewhere in Ireland, and until word surfaces from the usually tight-lipped Coolmore people, he will remain out of sight in winter hibernation. Whether or not a full-grown grizzly bear is going to emerge next year, and whether he's going to come back here looking for more easy pickins we won't know for a while.
ESSENCE OF DUBAI
Churchill Downs and JettSport, Inc. have agreed on a three-year-deal under which the Louisville sport and event graphics company will be the licensee for the track's "Art of the Kentucky Derby" series, and other Churchill Downs artwork, for the next three years.
Leading Horse of the Year candidate Point Given has been retired because of a strain to the suspensory tendon of his left foreleg, trainer Bob Baffert announced on Friday. The strain was detected on Thursday morning, when Point Given had been expected to return to the track for the first time after his victory in last Saturday's Travers Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga. "I've had to retire a lot of good horses, but I never felt like this," Baffert said. "We were just beginning to tap into his greatness."
Trainer Bob Baffert said on Thursday that Preakness (gr. I) and Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Point Given is about one week away from having his first breeze since the Triple Crown. Baffert wouldn't rule out the Aug. 5 Haskell Invitational Handicap (gr. I) at Monmouth Park or the Aug. 25 Travers Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga, but said the only race the son of Thunder Gulch is specifically being pointing toward is the Oct. 27 Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I).
Although there was no Triple Crown winner on the track this year, each of the Triple Crown races represented a boost for equine research. The owners of both winning colts, Monarchos and Point Given, had each pledged 1% of the purses to Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation.
Until Sundown held off Top Hit in the stretch to earn a neck-length victory in Sunday's $100,000 Affirmed Handicap. The win marks the first graded stakes victory for both Until Sundown and trainer Laura De Seroux.
Hoping that sweetening the pot will attract more talent, Hollywood officials announced this weekend that the Swaps Stakes purse will be boosted to $600,000 if Preakness-Belmont winner Point Given or Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos decides to run in the race.
The final television ratings for the Belmont Stakes rose 61 percent to a 4.5 and 13 percent market share. The combined ratings for the Triple Crown rose 49 percent to a 6.1 rating and a 17 percent market share.
WFAN radio sports personality Mike Francesa said on Thursday's syndicated "Imus in the Morning" show that the National Thoroughbred Racing Association has offered Francesa $80,000 in charity wagers for the Oct. 27 Breeders' Cup--$10,000 for each of the eight championship races -- similar to the promotion that the NTRA worked out with Imus and Francesa for the Preakness and Belmont Stakes.
There were no tears following Point Given's bravado performance in the 133rd Belmont Stakes (gr. I) on June 9. Only sheer, unadulterated joy.
Permitting herself a respite from the heavy air of anticipation on Belmont Stakes eve, Donna Ward flashed a broad smile as she skipped gracefully across the winner's circle and onto the main track at Belmont Park.
While NBC's Belmont Stakes telecast showed improvement over its Preakness effort, there seems to be a basic flaw in the 90-minute format of these classic productions -- the race comes too late in the show, leaving little time for replays, interviews, and analysis.
Record handle figures and higher television ratings were Belmont Park's rewards the day of its premier event. These were payoffs of clear skies, increased national and local publicity, and a showdown between Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Monarchos and Preakness (gr. I) winner Point Given.
Most horses that compete in all three Triple Crown races show some fatigue from the grueling campaign of three grade I events in five weeks, but not so with Point Given, according to his trainer, Bob Baffert, who returned to Churchill Downs with the colt on Sunday.
Profiles of the winning Belmont connections.
Surely, no disappointment is greater than losing the Triple Crown by a narrow margin in the Belmont. But ranking a very close second is a first-round loss in the Kentucky Derby. If there is one Triple Crown race to win, many trainers agreed the Derby is the one.
It was a day of princes, presidents, and Pegasus. With Belmont Park rocking from the surge of electricity generated by the presence of former President Bill Clinton and his wife, U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), Point Given finally sprouted the wings his owner, Prince Ahmed Salman, trainer Bob Baffert, and jockey Gary Stevens had envisioned all along.
Ongoing, successful sports operations don't just get that way through the good fortune of chance. At the heart of achievement is the teamwork that melds individuals into a cohesive, powerful whole. Nowhere was this teamwork more in evidence than through this year's Triple Crown adventures of Point Given.
Overnight television ratings for the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) jumped 44 percent to 4.9 and captured 13 percent of Saturday afternoon's viewing audience in the country's top 51 media markets.
New York sports radio personality Mike Francesa made $50,000 in wagers on the Belmont Stakes to benefit the Imus Ranch, and his earnings for the race totaled $62,782.25.
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