Valentine's Day is still two weeks away, but trainer Allen Iwinski is busting out the bow and arrow early when he saddles Cupid Season in Saturday's $75,0000 Correction Handicap at Aqueduct, the feature of the day's 10-race card.
With the first Kentucky Derby Future Wager in two weeks, this might be the time to head to Bally's Future Book before your longshot special gets lumped into the mutuel field, which once again is expected to go off at a short price.
There were several interesting 3-year-olds who competed this weekend, in both stakes and allowance races, but one stood out as a colt to keep a close eye on when the distances stretch out.
Lloyd Madison Farms' Silver Minister, easy winner of the Turfway Prevue Stakes Jan. 3, is among a bulky field of 14 entered for the Jan. 31 WEBN Stakes, one of the preps that make up Turfway Park's winter program for 3-year-olds.
The opening night of the inaugural Dubai International Racing Carnival would certainly have to be deemed a success, as 26 of the international horses trained on the Nad Al Sheba track lined up in the five Thoroughbred races.
The race for 2004's leading older horse gets underway with the Feb. 7 $500,000 Donn Handicap (gr. I) at Gulfstream Park. The Donn Handicap is expected to lure a field of six or seven of the top handicap horses in the nation, led by Sackatoga Stable's classic winning champion Funny Cide.
Fudge Fatale, the longest shot in the field at 55-1, opened a long early lead and held off Polygreen in the stretch for a shocking 1-¼ length victory Wednesday in the $76,850 Tuzla Handicap for fillies and mares at Santa Anita Park.
Jockey Russell Baze, who ranked second in the country last year with 410 wins, failed in four tries for his first victory of 2004 Wednesday at Golden Gate Fields.
Michael Tabor's 4-year-old Lion Tamer returned to competition for the first time since April's Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) by winning a $38,000 allowance optional claiming event at Gulfstream Park Wednesday.
If Robby Albarado's luck holds, Jake Delhomme and the Carolina Panthers will upset the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVIII on Sunday.
Stonerside Stables' Congaree will defend his title in the $250,000 San Antonio Handicap (gr. II) Saturday at Santa Anita despite being assigned 124 pounds for his 6-year-old seasonal debut. He'll spot three pounds to Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) winner Pleasantly Perfect, who also makes his initial start as a 6-year-old.
Ken McPeek could have starters in the Canadian Turf and the Suwanee River Handicaps. Allen Jerkens is pointing both Bowman's Band and Puzzlement toward the Donn.
Trainer Bob Durso said he will start his undefeated Frisky Spider in either the Hutcheson or the Fountain of Youth, while Nick Zito is considering those races and allowances for Birdstone, Eurosilver, and The Cliff's Edge.
Pleasantly Perfect, Funny Cide, Congaree, Medaglia d'Oro, and some top Kentucky Derby (gr. I) candidates are among the U.S.-based horses who have been invited to compete in one of the seven stakes races at Nad al Sheba on March 27, Dubai World Cup Day, when more than $15,000,000 will be offered in purses.
Mineshaft was named 2003 Horse of the Year at the 33rd annual Eclipse Awards, but it wasn't easy taking the spotlight away from Funny Cide, the New York-bred gelding who generated so much publicity during his memorable Triple Crown run last spring and was voted an Eclipse Award as outstanding 3-year-old male.
In seven races in Europe in 2002, all Mineshaft was able to do was break his maiden in a one-mile turf race at Newmarket in England. The final two starts of his 3-year-old campaign produced victories in allowance company in the United States, and they were much more indicative of things to come. The son of A. P. Indy went on to win 10 of 18 lifetime starts before being retired and on Monday was named Horse of the Year and champion handicap horse for 2003.
Action This Day didn't get into serious action for an Eclipse Award until the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I). But when he did, there was no stopping him in his first added-money start. The son of Kris S. charged through the Santa Anita stretch to win North America's richest race for 2-year-olds for owner B. Wayne Hughes and trainer Richard Mandella.
When she drew the outside post in the 14-winner's field for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I), there were some handicappers who thought that would be enough to stop the unbeaten streak of Halfbridled.
Eclipse Award voting has become extremely subjective in recent years. Because of several factors, such as shortened campaigns and the lack of a standout performer over a period of time, voters often have little in the way of ammunition when it comes time to crown a worthy champion. So, they must turn to intangibles.
The crowning achievement of Bird Town's 3-year-old campaign began with a dose of bad luck. When the gates sprang open for the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) on May 2, the Marylou Whitney homebred stumbled, and the confirmed front-running filly was 11th in the field of 12. The slower-than-usual start, however, helped turn her into a lioness in front of a national audience in deep stretch as the daughter of Cape Town ran to victory in an unforgettably powerful performance.
She is so much more than Queen for a Day. Actually, she is now even more than Queen for a Year. Azeri', 2002's champion older female and Horse of the Year, made a successful case for an encore presentation among older distaffers, and will keep the champion older female trophy for her work in 2003.
Aldebaran was the bridesmaid no longer in 2003. The son of Mr. Prospector, who finished second six times in eight starts in 2002, proved fully capable of reaching the winner's circle in 2003 and earned the Eclipse Award for champion sprinter in the process with five graded stakes wins in eight starts.
High Chaparral (IRE) is an outstanding example of trainer Aidan O'Brien's ability to put the right horse in the right place. The son of Sadler's Wells made only 13 starts in his three years at the track. He won 10 of those starts, including six group or grade I races, and never finished worse than third. In 2003, High Chaparral raced only four times -- two of those outings resulted in grade or group I victories.
After dominating the 3-year-old female division in Europe in 2002, and challenging the best that continent had to offer in 2003 -- both male and female -- Islington (IRE) shipped to the United States for a return engagement in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) where she registered a neck victory over fellow Irish-bred L'Ancresse. That one win, along with topping the final poll of the Filly & Mare Turf World Thoroughbred Rankings at 120 pounds, was enough to secure the daughter of Sadler's Wells an Eclipse Award as the top turf female of 2003.
Juddmonte Farms added to its growing collection of Eclipse statuettes with a second trophy for being North AmericaÕs leading owner. Juddmonte, owned by 66-year-old Prince Khalid Abdullah, has won four Eclipse Awards for top breederÑin 1995, 2001, 2002, and 2003Ñas well as the Eclipse for top owner in 1992 and 2003. As an owner in 2003, Juddmonte had 33 winners from 122 starts and earnings of $6,265,030 to rank third in North America.
If the goal is to breed graded stakes winners, and it is hard to imagine anyone disagreeing with that goal, then Juddmonte Farms was the wagering favorite to win its third consecutive Eclipse Award as the outstanding breeder of 2003.
By all accounts, 2002 was Bobby Frankel's year. He had 60 stakes wins from January to December, $17,748,340 in earnings, won 24% of all his races, trained two Eclipse Award finalists, and earned an Eclipse himself. Then came 2003.
Jerry Bailey is racing's version of Starship Enterprise Capt. James T. Kirk, boldly going where no man has gone before. In 2003, he won more stakes (70) in one year than any other rider in history, and his mounts set a single-season earnings mark of $23,354,960. Bailey also established another riding record when he scored his 14th victory in the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships while guiding Six Perfections to the wire first in the NetJets Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT).
While working in Los Santos, Panama, Eddie Castro had to make a big decision. Would he continue attending night school to become an electrician or would he concentrate full time on racehorse riding and move to the United States? The 18-year-old chose to continue riding and now is an Eclipse Award-winning apprentice jockey.
A piano player touches the keys to make music. Elton John makes the keys sing. A quarterback throws the football. Peyton Manning makes the football go places. A steeplechase winner's runs and jumps. McDynamo floats. He's better than other horses. A master.
Fire Slam, winner of the grade III $100,000 Lecomte Stakes Saturday at Fair Grounds, will get a short break to heal a quarter crack in his left hind foot, and will be trained up to the grade II, $600,000 Louisiana Derby on March 7, skipping the grade III Risen Star Stakes on Feb. 15.
The 2003 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) victory by Funny Cide was voted the National Thoroughbred Racing Association Moment of the Year, officials said. It was one of 10 "moments" on the ballot.
Trainer Marcelo Polanco was quite unhappy that Island Fashion wasn't given more consideration for the Eclipse Award for 3-year-old fillies in 2003 after winning a pair of grade I races and two other stakes. After beating a powerful field that included top mares Sightseek and Got Koko in Sunday's $250,000 Santa Monica Handicap (gr. I) at Santa Anita, Polanco may have proved his point.
The lightly raced Pesci, whose part owner and namesake Joe Pesci is an Academy Award-winning actor, was hit in the right eye by a rock or a clod of dirt during the Ocala Breeders' Sales Distaff Saturday at Gulfstream Park.
Lotta Kim overcame a rough journey Sunday to notch her first career stakes victory, winning the $100,000 Tiffany Lass Stakes for 3-year-old fillies Sunday at Fair Grounds.
Frisky Spider, an up-and-coming colt on the 3-year-old South Florida trail, remained undefeated in three starts with a conditioned allowance victory Sunday at Gulfstream Park.
Ema Bovary, an exciting 5-year-old mare from Chile, recorded her seventh straight victory Saturday at Golden Gate Fields when she won the $62,600 Orinda Handicap in courageous fashion.
Jeri and Sam Knighton's Request for Parole, a 5-year-old who has found a new lease on life since switching to the turf last year, came from well off the pace to capture Sunday's $100,000 Mac Diarmida Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Gulfstream Park.
Bluesthestandard had his final major drill before next Sunday's $150,000 Palos Verdes Handicap (gr. II) at six furlongs Sunday, going five furlongs in :59 for trainer Ted H. West.
Southern Image, a three-length winner in Saturday's $1 million Barretts/CTBA Sunshine Millions Classic, has another $1 million race on his agenda, the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) on March 6, trainer Mike Machowsky said Sunday morning.
Fire Slam put all questions about his health to rest Saturday by storming home a two-length winner in the $100,000 Lecomte Stakes (gr. III) at Fair Grounds.
The Leo Nechamkin owned and trained Gators N Bears won the $75,000 Hoover Stakes at Laurel Park Saturday, but not without a fight from Michael Gill's entry of Native Heir and My Good Trick.
Flatbird Stable's 7-year-old Peeping Tom got a favorable pace scenario Saturday afternoon, then showed his courage against determined Don Six to score a head victory in the $83,025 Paumonok Handicap for 3-year-olds and up at Aqueduct.
Grade I winner Southern Image, ridden comfortably by Victor Espinoza, ranged up three wide on the outside, then won a brief stretch battle with Excess Summer to register a commanding three-length victory in the $1 million Barretts/CTBA Classic on Sunshine Millions Day at Santa Anita Saturday.
Proud Man stormed to the lead in the stretch and then held off a later charge to post a narrow victory in the $500,000 Franks Farms Turf that was part of Saturday's Sunshine Millions day card at Gulfstream Park.
Overlooked at 74-1 odds, J D Farms' Florida homebred Secret Request split horses in deep stretch and got up for a three-quarter length upset victory in the $500,000 Ocala Breeders' Sales Distaff at Gulfstream Park on Saturday.
Under a patient ride from substitute jockey Jon Court, Valentine Dancer split horses at the head of the stretch and stormed to a three-quarters of a length victory in the $500,000 John Deere Filly and Mare Turf on Sunshine Millions Day Saturday on the Santa Anita turf course.
Mooji Moo cleared the field early and had enough to hold off Bold Roberta in Saturday's $300,000 Sunshine Millions Nextel Filly & Mare Sprint to tally a 17-1 upset under a light rain at Santa Anita.
Trainer Scott Lake did not hide his disappointment that Robert L. Cole Jr.'s Shake You Down was not among the top three finalists for an Eclipse Award as top sprinter in North America for 2003. On Saturday, Lake and Shake You Down got their reward when the 6-year-old gelding zipped to victory in the $300,000 Padua Stables Sprint at Gulfstream Park.
Mr. and Mrs. Martin J. Wygod's homebred Silent Sighs took advantage of the fast pace set by Wacky Patty, catching the pacesetter in the final strides in winning the $250,000 Ocala Stud Oaks that was part of the Sunshine Millions Day card at Gulfstream Park.
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