The 3-year-old stakes schedule will take on a slightly different look in 2007, due mostly to the return of Fair Grounds and several changes to the Gulfstream Park stakes structure, which will again run the $1-million Florida Derby (gr. I) five weeks before the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
When the dust settles following Saturday's major stakes, we could be saluting the geriatric set if 8-year-old The Tin Man and 7-year-olds Perfect Drift and Meteor Storm come away with victories in their respective races.
- By Steve Haskin
When the dust settles following this weekend's major stakes, we could be saluting the geriatric set if 8-year-old The Tin Man and 7-year-olds Perfect Drift and Meteor Storm come away with victories in their respective races.
The wheels have been turning at Ballydoyle. The decision to send group I Irish Derby and Irish Champion winner Dylan Thomas to Belmont for the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) is a departure from their normal strategy. But they have done it before, and it is understandable why they would want to try a different approach
Several top trainers will be heading down a synthetic path this winter, with Todd Pletcher sending a string of stakes horses to Hollywood Park, Nick Zito opening a winter barn at Keeneland, and Rusty Arnold setting up shop year-round at Keeneland.
The war between Coolmore and the Maktoums that was evident at the recent Keeneland September yearling sale is expected to move north on Oct. 7 when Susan Magnier's Dylan Thomas squares off against Darley Stable's Bernardini and Shadwell Farm's Invasor in the $1-million Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I).
Before Barbaro and Bernardini began monopolizing the headlines with their heroics on and off the racetrack, Lawyer Ron was one of the dominant forces on the Kentucky Derby trail. On Saturday, he attempts to return to prominence in the 3-year-old division in the $500,000 Super Derby (gr. II).
The main topic of conversation at Belmont Park these days is the much-awaited showdown between Bernardini and Invasor in the Oct. 7 Jockey Club Gold Cup. Both colts are doing extremely well, according to their connections, with Bernardini already on the muscle and itching for a fight. The winner likely will take on the role as favorite for the Breeders' Cup Classic - Powered by Dodge (gr. I).
Unless something drastic occurs between now and Nov. 4, it looks as if Bernardini, Invasor, and Lava Man, barring injury, will be the top guns, although one of those three - Bernardini or Invasor- will taste defeat in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I).
WinStar Farm's Bluegrass Cat, runner-up in Saturday's Travers Stakes (gr. I), has been retired after x-rays taken Sunday morning revealed a fractured right hind pastern.
Lava Man has already become the first horse to win back-to-back Hollywood Gold Cups (gr. I) since Native Diver won three straight from 1965-67. He's already become the first horse since Affirmed in 1979 to win the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) and Hollywood Gold Cup in the same year.
Immediately following their epic battle in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), in which Affirmed out-dueled Alydar by a head to become the 11th Triple Crown winner, racing fans began looking down the road to the Travers.
With rival Dr. Fager skipping the 1967 Travers, Damascus was 15 1/2 lengths behind the leader before making a huge run and drawing off to win by 22 lengths in a final time that equaled the track record.
The story of Jim French, one of the most indestructible, indefatigable horses of the modern era, has faded into history, taking with it the colt's remarkable feats of durability on the racetrack and the notorious final chapter of his career, in which the Travers favorite was impounded by the Saratoga County sheriff's office and not permitted to run.
Bernardini, Bluegrass Cat, and Strong Contender, three of the main headliners for the July 29 Jim Dandy (gr. II) and Aug. 6 Haskell Invitational (gr. I), turned in sharp breezes at Belmont Park Monday.
There are nine -- count 'em, nine -- horses who can win Saturday's Belmont Stakes (gr. I), and it wouldn't come as a major surprise. What that means is that you can safely disregard the experts, speed figures, or any other handicapping tool and just hope the horse or horses you choose are in top shape to go a mile and a half.
Team Valor Stables' Oh So Awesome, who began his career in France, worked four furlongs in :48 3/5 over a wet training track at Belmont Park Wednesday in his final preparation for Saturday's Belmont Stakes (gr. I).
Three candidates for Saturday's Belmont Stakes (gr. I) had their final workouts Tuesday, with Deputy Glitters and Sacred Light working over the main track at Belmont Park and High Finance in action at Aqueduct.
With each failed Triple Crown attempt comes an outcry from racing fans and horsemen that the structure of the Triple Crown needs changing. If it is the horses' safety and longevity that is the impetus for their comments, then no one can take issue with them. If, however, it is based on the fact that we have gone 28 years without a Triple Crown winner and racing desperately needs a horse to finally win all three races, that's a different matter.
While some trainers altered their plans Monday after unexpected overnight rainfall in New York, two Todd Pletcher-trained 3-year-olds completed their final preparations for Saturday's Belmont Stakes (gr. I).
Whether it is winning the Run for the Roses or dealing with the crushing blow of Barbaro's catastrophic injury, Peter Brette keeps his emotions under control. Just as he rejoiced from within on May 6, he suffered in silence as the nightmare of Barbaro's horrific injury unfolded in front of a heartbroken nation.
Yes, there still is another leg of the Triple Crown to be run. Although the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) on June 10 has lost its star appeal with the absence of Barbaro and Bernardini, it is still a classic, and a grueling one at that, and should at least be a competitive race, offering interesting possibilities for bettors.
- By Steve Haskin
Trainer John Servis and owner Rick Porter, who have been together for more than 15 years, have gone their separate ways, Porter said Wednesday.
Trying to analyze this year's Preakness Stakes (gr. I) based on observations and training is not easy when you basically see only one horse train. With seven of the nine horses entered still not even on the grounds as of this writing, there is an odd precedent being set this year.
Barbaro, installed as the even-money morning-line favorite for Saturday's Preakness Stakes (gr. I), galloped strongly and "blew out" a quarter of a mile in an unofficial :24 1/5 Thursday at Fair Hill Training Center in his final prep for the classic at Pimlico Racecourse.
It is obvious watching Barbaro the past two mornings that the winner of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) is enjoying the tranquil life at Fair Hill Training Center, as he prepares for Saturday's Preakness Stakes (gr. I). The son of Dynaformer appears more relaxed than he was at Churchill Downs, especially coming off the track after training.
Following the massacre at Churchill Downs on May 6, the initial reaction was that Barbaro's opponents in the Preakness (gr. I) have as much chance of victory as Don Quixote had battling windmills. But, although Barbaro should once again be a formidable foe, there is no reason to quiver and hide from the fiend of Fair Hill.
Back in January, before Barbaro had ever run on the dirt, Michael Matz was asked if he knew where the name Barbaro came from. He called to assistant trainer Peter Brette: "Hey, Peter, what does the name Barbaro mean?" Brette didn't hesitate with his answer: "Kentucky Derby winner."
There simply are too many highly regarded horses with near-identical running styles to get a good read on this race, which is one of the most puzzling in memory.
Like any kind of crop, a 3-year-old crop requires time to grow before it can be determined whether it is weak or strong. In racing, people have a tendency to denounce a 3-year-old crop in its infantile stages, and then praise it when it suddenly bears fruit right before the Kentucky Derby.
The Tex Sutton plane carrying Bob and John, Point Determined, and A. P. Warrior arrived at Louisville Airport at about 11:20 a.m. following an uneventful flight from California.
Dan Hendricks clutched several carrots in his hand, as he watched Brother Derek get his morning bath following the colt's first gallop over the Churchill Downs strip. Just then, someone from a passing car on Longfield Avenue shouted, "Go, Brother, go!" For the first time, Derby electricity was in the air.
The Kentucky Derby favorite has arrived in all his glory. At around 11:30 Thursday morning, Brother Derek stepped off the Tex Sutton chartered plane and onto a one-horse van, which delivered him safe and sound to his new home at Churchill Downs.
The biggest news of the day was the arrival Tuesday of Sweetnorthernsaint and Cause to Believe. With a lack of work activity once again, the talk of the morning was the cold and the unveiling of the new Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) saddle towels, which appear to be designed with the sole intention of going unnoticed.
Sinister Minister or no Sinister Minister, Sharp Humor is the one they'll have to catch on May 6, says the colt's trainer Dale Romans. And any horse who dares look Romans' gladiator in the eye early in the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) will pay the price.
For the connections of Flashy Bull and Sunriver, there are three things on their mind this week - Showing Up's puncture wound, Seaside Retreat's workout on Thursday, and Mister Triester's performance in Saturday's Derby Trial Stakes. Only after that will they know whether they've made it into the Derby field.
Where are all the Derby horses? Times have changed from the days when trainers shipped their Derby horses to Churchill Downs several weeks before the big race. Here we are less than two weeks out and only one shipper has arrived.
Wood Memorial (gr. I) winner Bob and John and Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) runner-up Point Determined both worked five furlongs in a bullet :59 1/5 at Santa Anita Tuesday as they begin their serious training for the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
The Louisville Thoroughbred Club invites all Kentucky Derby (gr. I) fans to gather at the Kentucky Derby Museum April 28 to raise a glass with three-time Kentucky Derby winning jockey Gary Stevens and several of the Thoroughbred industry's top racing analysts as they toast America's greatest race and dice out the odds and chances of all the 132nd Derby contenders.
Put up or shut up; now or never; do or die. You get the picture. With the running of Saturday's Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) and Arkansas Derby (gr. II), we finally will have a good idea who will be in the starting lineup for the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
Fresh is best. Those are the words Barbaro's trainer Michael Matz is living by. Whether he's right or wrong, you have to admire him for going against history and public opinion and sticking to his guns, much like another former equestrian rider, Tim Ritchey, did last with his unorthodox training of Afleet Alex.
Simon Crisford, racing manager for Godolphin Racing, said Monday they are in no hurry to make a decision on the status of UAE Derby (UAE-II) winner Discreet Cat for the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) presented by Yum! Brands.
Rafael Bejarano, whose list of Kentucky Derby (gr. I) mounts grows each day, has been named by trainer Bob Baffert to ride Point Determined in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) April 8. Victor Espinoza, who was originally named to ride the colt, has a prior commitment that day aboard Balance in the Ashland Stakes (gr. I).
With many of the leading 3-year-olds in Florida skipping town because of what most horsemen feel is the unfavorable scheduling of the Florida Derby (gr. I), Gulfstream's premiere event drew a wide variety of horses, most of them non-stakes winners. The headliner will be the undefeated Barbaro, winner of all four of his starts.
Cot Campbell pioneered the concept of Thoroughbred racing partnerships when he formed Dogwood Stable in 1969. The seed he planted has produced numerous other successful partnerships, including West Point Stable. On Saturday, Dogwood and West Point square off in the $1-million Florida Derby (gr. I).
Perhaps it is time to stop poring over every bit of minutia concerning this year's Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and just go with the flow. If you don't, your brain will be fried by the time the Twin Spires come into view and the scent of roses is in the air.
- By Steve Haskin
By Steve Haskin - Mom's Command has slipped through the cracks again. After having her name on the Hall of Fame ballot in 2005, the 1985 New York filly Triple Crown winner was conspicuous by her absence this year.
This year's road to the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) has only a few more doors left to pass through. But the scene so far at each one has resembled a slapstick comedy routine where everyone tries to go through a door at the same time, and no one gets through.
The roller coaster career of Rockport Harbor finally came to an end Monday when owner Rick Porter officially announced the colt has been retired following his latest injury suffered in the Razorback Handicap (gr. III).
Rockport Harbor, who re-injured his right, hind foot in the March 12 Razorback Handicap (gr. III), will remain in training after an encouraging report from blacksmith Sonny Broadus, owner Rick Porter said Thursday night.
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