Skip to primary navigation Skip to main content

Post Time: Key Queen's Plate prep on tap

By Gene Kershner 

As we shift away from the American Triple Crown trail after last weekend's disappointing fourth-place finish by California Chrome, we can look to our neighbors to the north to get the Canadian Triple Crown revved up for another summer. On Sunday afternoon at Woodbine Racetrack in suburban Toronto, the $150,000 Plate Trial Stakes restricted to Ontario-bred 3-year-olds, will serve as the key prep race for the opening leg of Canada's Triple Crown.

A field of seven horses will head postward, including Kentucky Derby starter We Miss Artie, seeking a valuable race over the Woodbine Polytrack before next month's Queen's Plate scheduled for Sunday July 6. We Miss Artie finished 10th in the Derby, 8 1/4-lengths behind the horse who attempted to complete the 12th Triple Crown in history last Saturday at Belmont Park.

The field also includes horses from last year's winning trainer Nick Gonzalez, 2013 Sovereign winning trainer Mark Casse and eight-time Plate winning trainer Roger Attfield. While the trainers may be top-quality, the field, other than Ramsey's colt, is much to be desired.

The Plate Trial is on the undercard for the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks, a race that has produced several Plate contenders in the past few years.

Let's take a look at the field:

1 - Rhythm Blues (Husbands, N Gonzalez) - The son of Tale of a Cat will try and catapult Gonzalez into the Plate with a chance to repeat last year's Plate win by Midnight Aria. He's run two decent allowance races in his last two, but has some work to do against this field. He broke badly at Keeneland two back and finished strongly, but still needs to improve quite a bit to challenge the favorite.

2 - We Miss Artie (Castellano, Pletcher) - Javier ships in to ride the Breeders' Futurity and Spiral winner, the only graded stakes winner in the field. Ridden by an Eclipse winning jockey, he has both Eclipse winning owners and a five-time Eclipse winning trainer. Do I need to go on? The one to beat.

3 - Man Cave (Campbell, Brnjas) - Last year's Plate-winning jock Jesse Campbell jumps aboard this colt who faltered in his only race against stakes company, finishing sixth in the Display Stakes. Patrick Husbands jumps off to ride Rhythm Blues, enough of a signal for me to stay away.

4 - Ascot Martin (Contreras, Keogh) - The son of Seeking the Dia is still seeking his first victory finishing second twice in four maiden races. Other than Contreras aboard, I'm not seeing many more positives about this one.

5 - Tower of Texas (Boulanger, Attfield) - When I ran into Attfield at Gulfstream in January, I inquired if he had any Plate horses and this is the one that he spoke of first.  A $195K purchase at Keeneland, the son of the 2007 Derby winner Street Sense certainly has the breeding to get the Plate distance. He ran an impressive fourth in the Marine Stakes losing by only a length. He's a contender for place or show spots.

6 - Majestic Sunset (Garcia, Casse) - Another maiden in the field who has yet to win in eight races. His running lines look to be more favorable in his 2-year-old season where he finished second behind Asserting Bear in the Coronation Stakes. Garcia aboard is a bonus, but enough to crack the top three?

7 - Man o' Bear (Wilson, Baker) - Son of 2007 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile champion Corinthian, he comes in off a long layoff since the Coronation in November. His work tab looks like he's fit, but probably needs this one to ready for the Plate. He's been competitive in all five of his career races and get Emma Jane in the irons. Best of the rest.

Post Time Outlook: 1 - We Miss Artie; 2 - Man o' Bear and; 3 - Tower of Texas

Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.

Post Time: Spectacular undercard on Belmont day

By Gene Kershner 

ELMONT -- The main event will obviously be the focal point of the nation tomorrow afternoon, but if you love racing, the undercard is loaded with some of the best talent in the land. There will be eight other graded stakes races before the Belmont Stakes, including an all-Grade 1 Pick-Six ending in the Belmont. Total purses exceed $8 million on the day and the card has a mini-Breeders' Cup feel to it. If you can find the right singles there is some money to be made if you can key the right horses.

The key horses in my plays will surround My Miss Sophia in the Acorn, Beholder in the Phipps, and Grandeur (IRE) in the Manhattan.

Let’s take a sneak peek at the five G1 races leading into the final leg of the Triple Crown.

Race 6: TVG Acorn Stakes ($750,000) - This stake for 3-year-old fillies filled up nicely with 13 fillies, the only one missing from the group is Untapable, the Kentucky Oaks winner, who will likely run next in the Mother Goose. The second two finishers in the Oaks have entered as both 8-My Miss Sophia (6-5) and 7-Unbridled Forever (10-1) should contend for the win. The winner of the Eight Belles at Churchill on Oaks day 3-Fiftyshadesofgold (8-1) should covet the mile distance for trainer Bret Calhoun. Gary Stevens will be aboard the speedy 1-Fashion Plate (12-1), who didn't handle the Churchill track and will be at a price off her last effort.

Post Time Outlook: 1 -My Miss Sophia; 2-Fashion Plate; and 3-Unbridled Forever

Race 7: Ogden Phipps ($1 million) - This 1 1/16-mile race features the long-awaited rematch between 5-Beholder (7-5) and 6-Princess of Sylmar (9-5), last year's top two finishers in the Eclipse voting for champion 3-year-old filly. Add last year's Breeders' Cup Distaff second place finisher 1-Close Hatches (5-2), who has three Grade 1 victories under her belt, and you have one helluva race. While it looks to be a toss up, Beholder has looked the best on the track all week and is out to prove she can run on both coasts.

Post Time Outlook: 1 - Beholder; 2 - Close Hatches; and 3 - Princess of Sylmar

Race 8: Longines Just a Game ($750,000) - The Just a Game attracted 10 older fillies and mares going a mile on the Widener Turf course. Three Grade 1 winners head this talented field including last year's winner 6-Stephanie's Kitten (4-1), who will try to rebound off a poor effort at Keeneland. The other two Grade 1 winners are 9-Discreet Marq (5-2) who hasn't missed the exacta in eight straight races and 10-Better Lucky (3-1) for Godophin Stables. 5-Coffee Clique (10-1) is a possibility at decent odds with Castellano in the irons coming off a Grade 2 win at Churchill on Derby day.

Post Time Outlook: 1-Better Lucky; 2-Discreet Marq and; 3 - Coffee Clique

Race 9: Metropolitan Handicap ($1.25 million) - The race best known as the Met Mile was moved this year to Belmont Day from Memorial Day which was a long-standing tradition. Last year's Belmont winner 1-Palace Malice (8-5) drew the rail and will be your pos time favorite. The race has drawn some real speedsters including last year's Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winner 4-Goldencents (10-1), 5-Moreno (10-1) and 13-Shakin it Up (6-1).  Add to the mix two of last year's Derby trail horses 2-Vyjack (30-1) and 9-Normandy Invasion (5-1)and you have a tremendous field for this year's edition of the race. With all of the speed, I'm looking at Normandy Invasion to pick up the pieces in a close finish. Upset possibility: 10-Clearly Now (10-1).

Post Time Outlook: 1 - Normandy Invasion; 2 - Palace Malice and; 3 - Goldencents

Race 10: Knob Creek Manhattan ($1 million) - The race preceding the Belmont on the turf at a mile and a quarter has drawn 10 horses with Woodford Reserve Turf Classic runner-up 6-Seek Again (3-1) and Phipps Stables 6-year-old 1-Imagining (7-2) heading up the pack. Contenders to the top two choices include 4-Grandeur (IRE) (5-1) and 5-Boisterous (8-1) who finished a nose behind Seek Again in the Turf Classic on Derby day. An upset possibility is 9-Kaigun (15-1), who participated in the Canadian Triple Crown trail last year for trainer Mark Casse, should make this another interesting race.

Post Time Outlook - 1 - Grandeur (IRE); 2 - Imagining and; 3 - Seek Again

Check tomorrow morning's paper for my print column and thoughts on the Belmont Stakes and be sure to follow me on twitter @EquiSpace throughout the day.  Good luck and let's go cash some tickets!

Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.

Post Time: Belmont Stakes draw complete

By Gene Kershner 

This morning the post position draw for this weekend's $1.5 million Belmont Stakes was completed and California Chrome's quest for the Triple Crown will start from the No. 2 post.

A field of 11 horses will enter the starting gate at approximately 6:52 p.m. on Saturday afternoon in the final leg of the Triple Crown series where over 100,000 race fans will be descending on Belmont Park just outside of New York City.

California Chrome was set as the 3-5 favorite on the morning line and should have little difficulty heading out of the 2 hole, which has produced 11 Belmont winners since 1905.  Post positions in the mile and a half classic are not as important as the Derby where 20 runners are fighting for position going in the first turn, but it won't hurt his chances based on his tactical speed to be in the inside early.

Fun Facts and Quotations:

- Horses starting with the letter C have won the most Belmont Stakes (20) since 1905, so that bodes well for the favorite.

- Chrome's trainer Art Sherman was happy with the draw. "Well, I think going a mile and a half, it's a good post position. We feel safe on the ground leaving there. I think it's going to be a jockey's race anyhow. It gives you a chance to see who's going to have the speed and where you land going into the first turn," said Sherman.

- The chestnut colt will seek to become the 55th of that color in the race's history to don the carnations which would bring them even with the bays who have won as many.

- Speaking of the carnation blanket, more than 700 select carnations from Colombia are glued by hand onto a green velveteen spread. A similar, smaller blanket is created and will be hanging on the statue of Secretariat, the 1973 Triple Crown winner, in the paddock.

- Earlier in the week, the Triple Crown trophy left its environs in the Kentucky Derby Museum to make its way to the Big Apple for this weekend's activities. The trophy was created in 1950 via the Thoroughbred Racing Association and designed by the world famous Cartier Jewelry Company it was bestowed on the previous eight winners of the Triple Crown retroactively. It wasn't officially awarded to a winner at Belmont (third jewel) until 23 years later to the great Secretariat. The three-sided vase, each face equally representing the three races (jewels) of the Triple Crown, is a permanent trophy awarded to the winner with engraved information on each side describing each victory.

Wicked Strong was made the second choice on the morning line at 6-1 and drew post No. 9 for trainer James Jerkens, who had the far outside post in the Derby. "I would have liked him to be a couple of spots inside. But it's better than being way on the outside. At least he's got two horses shielding him from the crowd. Maybe that'll help a little bit," said Jerkens.

- Newcomer to the Triple Crown series and Peter Pan winner Tonalist (8-1) is the third choice on the morning line and will likely be forwardly placed in the early going.  Early thinking is that he, Chrome, General a Rod and Samraat will all be in the front group heading into the first turn.

- Derby runner-up Commanding Curve (12-1) returns after a five-week rest to set his sights on derailing Chrome's Triple Crown hopes. Trainer Dallas Stewart wouldn't tip his hand on where he'd like his deep closer to be stationed throughout the race and will be leaving it up to his jockey. "We've got a great rider, Shaun Bridgmohan, I'm sure he'll stay in touch with the race, and he's got a lot of confidence in the horse, so I'm going to put it in his hands and we're going to see, but it's going to be a great race. The Triple Crown on the line, a lot of excitement, so I hope we get a big crowd," said Stewart.

The News will be on site in Elmont on Thursday and will have a Friday preview of the undercard at the Sports, Ink blog which features nine graded stakes and over $8 million in purses. On Saturday we'll have a Derby preview in print with a race recap Sunday morning.

Here's a look at the field for the 146th running of the Belmont Stakes: 

PP Horse Trainer Jockey Odds
1 Medal Count Romans Albarado 20-1
2 California Chrome Sherman Espinoza 3-5
3 Matterhorn Pletcher Bravo 30-1
4 Commanding Curve Stewart Bridgmohan 15-1
5 Ride On Curlin Gowan Velazquez 12-1
6 Matuszak Mott Smith 30-1
7 Samraat Violette Jr J Ortiz 20-1
8 Commissioner Pletcher Castellano 20-1
9 Wicked Strong Jerkens Maragh 6-1
10 General a Rod Maker Napravnik 20-1
11 Tonalist Clement Rosario 8-1


Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.

Post Time: Triple Crown Near-Misses by the Numbers

By Gene Kershner 

Thoroughbred racing has had 11 near-misses since Affirmed defeated Alydar in 1978 to become the 11th Triple Crown champion in history and the third in six years in the 1970's. Let's take a look behind some of the numbers in those 11 attempts in the last 35 years and the oddities as we sit two weeks away from the 12th attempt by California Chrome.

- The average odds of the Derby-Preakness winner when leaving the gate in the Belmont was just above 4-5, basically odds-on. Of the near-misses, three horses were more than even money, with Charismatic in 1999 the highest price favorite at 1.60-1.

- The average attendance on a potential Triple Crown date is over 82,000, with the more recent attempts nearing and exceeding six figures. I'm projecting somewhere in excess of 100,000 on June 7 just based on California Chrome's popularity. When I'll Have Another scratched the day before the Belmont in 2012, the attendance was still north of 85,000 fans.

- Out of the 11 near-misses, the Triple Crown hopeful finished second or third four times each. Only three horses missed the board completely, with Alysheba rounding out the superfecta in 1987.

- The average odds of the winner was approximately 19-1 over the near-misses since 1978, however that is skewed sharply by the last five tries that averaged over 35-1 due to big bombs such as Lemon Drop Kid (1999), Sarava (2002), Birdstone (2004) and Da'Tara (2008).

- In the six tries between 1979 and 1998, the odds of the horse that served up a Triple Crown spoiler was less than 5-1.

Here's a look behind the numbers at the 11 Triple Crown misses since 1979:

Triple Crown Near-Misses Since 1977    
Year Horse  Odds  Finish Odds  Attendance 
1979 Spectacular Bid 0.30 3rd 4.40           59,987
1981 Pleasant Colony 0.80 3rd 7.90           61,200
1987 Alysheba 0.80 4th 8.00           64,772
1989 Sunday Silence 0.90 2nd 1.60           64,959
1997 Silver Charm 1.05 2nd 2.65           70,682
1998 Real Quiet 0.80 2nd 4.50           80,162
1999 Charismatic 1.60 3rd 29.75           85,818
2002 War Emblem 1.25 8th 70.25          103,222
2003 Funny Cide 1.00 3rd 2.00          101,864
2004 Smarty Jones 0.35 2nd 36.00          120,139
2008 Big Brown 0.30 DNF 38.50            94,476
  Average     0.83   18.69           82,480


Next Friday we'll take a look at the Belmont probable entries and grade out their chances for a Triple Crown upset on June 7 in Elmont.

Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.

Post Time: Stopchargingmaria swipes foes to give Pletcher another Black-Eyed Susan

By Gene Kershner

BALTIMORE, Md. -- Stopchargingmaria ($9.60), a 3-year-old daughter of Tale of the Cat, gave trainer Todd Pletcher his fourth career victory in the Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico Race Course on Friday afternoon. After heavy rains had pelted Pimlico over the past 24 hours, the track was rated as good as the filly won her second career Grade 2 race for owner Repole Stable.

With Javier Castellano in the irons, the filly who was coming in third off the layoff, was much the best taking care of a field of 11 fillies in the Preakness eve signature race. Pletcher who last won the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes in 2012 with In Lingerie, added another big stake victory to his impressive resume.

He won the 2007 (Panty Raid) and 2005 (Spun Sugur) editions of the race and was proud of the way his filly responded against a formidable field. It was a terrific performance. We actually got shuffled back a little bit going to the first turn. We were hoping to be a little closer. Javier was able to move
her to the outside and get a good position, and she really picked it up. Once she got to the outside on the far turn, she started to make her move and she was rolling."

Pletcher couldn't understand why she hadn't returned to her 2-year-old form. "This was certainly her best race. To be honest, I’m not really sure why her first two races this year didn’t go as well as last year. It took her a little while after the Fantasy (April 5 at Oaklawn) to get back. After the Fantasy we took her up to Saratoga and the cool weather seemed to invigorate her. Today she acted like she was back to her old self,” said Pletcher.

Castellano was confident when getting into the saddle that his filly could handle the off track. "I had ridden her before at Saratoga on an off track, and she had no problems with it today at all. At the top of the stretch, I was pretty confident," said Castellano.

Stopchargingmaria handled the 1 1/8-mile race in 1:51.79 on the track rated good Vero Amore finished second by a neck and Fortune Pearl completed the trifecta. This was her third graded stakes victory in eight career races.

The good news is the track has been upgraded to fast for the upcoming PImlico Special, which means barring any overnight rain, the track should be fast for tomorrow's Preakness.

Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association and tweets @EquiSpace.

Post Time: Black-Eyed Susan kicks off Preakness weekend at Pimlico

By Gene Kershner 

The News is ready to kickoff a great weekend at Old Hilltop which will culminate in the Preakness Stakes late Saturday afternoon. On tap Friday afternoon at Pimlico Race Course is the 1 1/8-mile $500,000 Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan. Friday’s card will also include the G3 Pimlico Special and five other non-graded stakes races. 

The 90th running of the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes features 11 fillies trying to step up within the 3-year-old filly division, which saw Untapable stake her claim as the best filly in the land in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks two weeks ago. Heavy rain is forecast for Friday, clearing by Saturday for the Preakness. 

This year’s race will be televised nationally on NBC Sports Network (4 p.m.) in a one-hour telecast as part of NBC’s weekend coverage of the Preakness Stakes. 

Let’s take a look at the field for the Black-Eyed Susan (trainer, jockey, odds in parenthesis): 

1 – Joint Return (Servis, Carmouche, 15-1) – Winner of Calder Oaks non-graded stake against lesser rivals. The daughter of Include has faced graded company only once in her career and was beaten by 12 lenghts. Little dicey in here for her. 

2 – America (Mott, Velazquez, 8-1) – Working well for trainer Bill Mott after a third place finish in the G2 Gulfstream Park Oaks. She sports a bullet work in Saratoga on Monday and looks to be fit and ready to run. Has breeding to go long for celebrity chef owner Bobby Flay. Contender. 

3 – Shanon Nicole (Maker, Smith, 6-1) – Mike Smith takes over from Rosie Napravnik aboard this daughter of Majestic Warrior. Past performance doesn't favor her chances in here even with the Hall of Famer aboard.  Passing in favor of others. 

4 – Stopchargingmaria (Pletcher, Castellano, 7-2) – Comes in third off the layoff on the form cycle and has a win at the distance in the Grade 2 Demoiselle at the Big A in her 2-year-old campaign. Pletcher has won the race three times in the last 10 years, but chooses Castellano over Johnny V, who rode her in here last two efforts since the Demoiselle.  On the fence with this one. 

5 – Euphrosyne (Asmussen, Santana Jr., 4-1) – Asmussen who won the Oaks with Untapable last weekend will look for the sweep with his Harlan's Holiday filly. She comes off two efforts at Oaklawn where she was beaten by Oaks filly Sugar Shock in both efforts. She hasn't missed the board in seven career races. Win threat. 

6 – Arethusa (Harty, Napravnik, 8-1) – Trainer Eoin Harty ships in A.P. Indy filly who will be racing on the east coast for the first time. Won a non-graded stake last November for Godolphin, but has been out-classed against top company during 2014. Taking a stand against. 

7 - La Mejor Fiesta (Ward, Espinoza, 20-1) –Makes second career start on dirt for trainer Wesley Ward. Won a non-graded stake at Remington, but Friday afternoon she won't be seeing Remington-caliber fillies next to her. Toss. 

8 – Sloane Square (Pletcher, Rosario, 5-1) – Lightly raced filly draws top rider Joel Rosario over Johnny V. Do you see a pattern here? She stretches out for the first time after a solid workout last weekend at Saratoga. Breeding suggests she could be a sleeper and serious contender.  

9 – Fortune Pearl (Motion, McCarthy, 12-1) –Mineshaft filly faces graded company for the first time for Graham Motion. Local jockey Trevor McCarthy has the mount and local knowledge, could threaten to crash the exotics underneath. 

10– Vero Amore  (Reid, Jr., Pennington, 15-1) – Another Mineshaft filly who would be a big surprise winner if she pulled off the upset. Has decent speed figures, but this would be a serious class test and she struggled at the distance last Out against graded competition. 

11– Image of Anna  (Violette, Jr., Saez, 20-1) – Ready's Image filly ships in from New York after four career races at the Big A, including back-to-back wins in her last two races. Broke her maiden impressively and backed it up with an allowance win. Big class test. 

Post Time Outlook – 1 –Euphrosyne; 2 –America; 3 - Sloane Square; 4 - Stopchargingmaria

Good luck and let’s cash some tickets.

Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.

Post Time: Chrome set as prohibitive favorite in Preakness

By Gene Kershner 

The post position draw for the 139th running of the Preakness was held this evening at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, which included 10 entries into Saturday's middle jewel of the Triple Crown. The race will be televised nationally on NBC (Ch. 2) on Saturday afternoon during a two-hour telecast starting at 4:30 p.m. ET. Post time for the Preakness is approximately 6:20 p.m. ET. Pre- and post-race programming will be on NBC Sports Network. 

- Heavy morning line favorite and Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome (3-5) drew the No. 3 position. The Maryland Jockey Club's signature race has been won by 70 favorites, none however since 2009 (Rachel Alexandra). 

- Second choice on the morning line is Social Inclusion (5-1), trained by 85-year-old Manny Azpurua, seeking to become the oldest trainer since Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons to win the Preakness. Fitzsimmons won the 1957 Preakness with Bold Ruler, the sire of Secretariat, when he was two months shy of his 83rd birthday. Social Inclusion failed to qualify for the Kentucky Derby when he finished third by a nose in the Wood Memorial, putting him on the outside looking in and having to settle for Baltimore. 

- Bob Baffert, who has won the race five times since 1997, entered Bayern (10-1) and will have Rosie Napranik in the irons. She started her career on the Maryland racing circuit and will look to get Baffert back in the winner's circle for the first time since 2010 (Lookin at Lucky). 

- The Illinois Derby winner Dynamic Impact (12-1) drew the rail for trainer Mark Casse and will have Miguel Mena in the irons. The horse drawing the rail post has only one victory in the past 52 years (Tabasco Cat, 1994). 

- The post that has the most winners since 1909 is Post Position No. 6, which has 15 Preakness winners, was drawn by the connections of Ria Antonia (30-1), the only filly in the field and the longest shot on the board. 

- The Preakness is limited to 14 starters and in 15 of the last 20 years has enjoyed double-digit fields. Three Kentucky Derby horses are in the field as Ride on Curlin (10-1) and General a Rod (15-1) will join Chrome on Saturday afternoon. 

Pablo Del Monte (20-1), who was eligible to draw into the Derby when Hoppertunity scratched earlier during Derby week, passed over the Run for the Roses to run in Baltimore for trainer Wesley Ward, drew post No. 9. 

Here's a look at the posts, jockeys, trainers and morning line odds set by the Maryland Jockey Club:

PP Horse Jockey Trainer Odds
1 Dynamic Impact Mena Casse 12-1
2 General a Rod Castellano Maker 15-1
3 California Chrome Espinoza Sherman 3-5
4 Ring Weekend Garcia Motion 20-1
5 Bayern Napravnik Baffert 10-1
6 Ria Antonia (f) Borel Amoss 30-1
7 Kid Cruz Pimentel Rice 20-1
8 Social Inclusion Contreras Azpurua 5-1
9 Pablo Del Monte Sanchez Ward 20-1
10 Ride On Curlin Rosario Gowan 10-1


Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association and tweets @EquiSpace. 

Post Time: Friday racing notebook

By Gene Kershner 

We are at the calm before the storm in the middle week between the Derby and the Preakness, but plenty has been going on after the initial aftermath of the Run for the Roses. 

- The pace scenario for next year's Preakness should be a little quicker than last year's when Oxbow stole the race going the first half in 0:50 and change. With Social Inclusion, Pablo del Monte and Ring Weekend likely in the field, California Chrome will likely not get away with the moderate pace that was set in the Derby.

- Other Preakness probable starters include 7th place Derby finisher Ride On Curlin, Bob Baffert-trained Bayern and Dynamic Impact, trained by Mark Casse. [UPDATE 9:55 a.m. -- Mike Maker confirmed General a Rod will be a Preakness starter]

- No word from Todd Pletcher as to Danza's status. The more I watch the replay, the more I am impressed with the son of Street Boss who encountered all kinds of bumping and was weaving in and around horses in the stretch to finish third. Hoping he goes to make the race more competitive.

- It looks like the Preakness may have a female entrant in Ria Antonia. The defending Breeders' Cup Juveniles Fillies winner is likely to run according to new trainer Tom Amoss who replaced Baffert after this weekend's fifth-place finish in the Kentucky Oaks. It's the third trainer since November for the daughter of Rockport Harbor. She's no Rachel Alexandra and would be only the second filly since 1905 to win the race.

- Pimlico will be offering a special $0.50 Pick-3 that will include the Pimlico Special (Friday - Black-eyed Susan Day)-Dixie (Turf race on Saturday)-Preakness. Kudos for coming up with a fun multi-day bet for three very good races.

- The Daily Racing Form's Marty McGee is reporting that the big $1 million bet that was placed on Candy Boy shortly before post time was made from an Isle of Man off-shore wagering hub. The big bet lowered Candy Boy's odds from 16-1 to 9-1 shortly before post time.

- On Wednesday I was on the Racing Across America show via telephone on Capital-OTB where we reviewed how my 2014 Racing Kreskin predictions have fared so far and for a post-Derby recap.

- The Man O' War Stakes from Belmont Park will be a part of the Fox broadcast on Sunday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. ET.  The $250,000 Ruffian and the Grade 3, $150,000 Westchester will both be part of the hour-and-a-half telecast on Fox Sports 1.

- Palace Malice will get a tune up for the Met Mile, to be held on Belmont day for the first time, in the Westchester on Sunday's telecast.

Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.

Post Time: Derby 140 - The Morning After

By Gene Kershner 

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- As we put Kentucky Derby 140 in the books, let's take a look at some numbers from yesterday and news and notes from the backside on the morning after the Run for the Roses. Today's print column with my post-race commentary on the top three finishers and how two blue-collar owners turned $10,000 into a Kentucky Derby winner. I also live-blogged the undercard of the Derby right here on the Sports, Ink blog which you can see here.

- A large faction of the racing media was hoping that Kentucky Oaks winner Untapable would give the Preakness a go. Trainer Steve Asmussen ran super-filly Rachel Alexandra against the boys in 2009, defeating Mine That Bird at Pimlico. This morning Asmussen told the media that he is pointing her toward a race for fillies in New York.

- One last note on the Kentucky Oaks before moving into Derby news, six of the last 10 Fair Grounds Oaks winners have also won the Kentucky Oaks, that's an astonishing figure.

- The Maryland Jockey Club announced this morning several Preakness probables which include Derby winner California Chrome, Ride On Curlin and Commanding Curve (50/50 per Stewart) from the Derby. Ring Weekend, Kid Cruz, Pablo del Monte, Social Inclusion and Dynamic Impact are other probables for the second jewel.

- Speaking of jewels, ESPN's Chris Fallica had a couple this morning: "Since 1930, 22 Derby winning favorites of less than 3-1 ran in the Preakness, 13 won, five others finished second, the last being Big Brown in 2008 (won)."

- Per Fallica, "Dallas Stewart is the first trainer to have a Top 3 finish in consecutive Derbies with a horse at 15-1 or longer odds." Commanding Curve was 38-1 at post time on Saturday.

- Trainer Jimmy Jerkens will likely point fourth-place finisher Wicked Strong to the Belmont and skip the Preakness. He probably had one of the more interesting trips of all of the Derby horses after stumbling at the gate and bumping Candy Boy. He was five wide into the first turn after that and had quite a bit of ground to make up. In the stretch he had to move inside to avoid Danza and continued to weave through traffic to catch a piece of the superfecta.

Candy Boy had the misfortune of being the recipient of Wicked Strong's bumping early in the race taking him right out of the race according to Hall of Famer Gary Stevens. "I had a horrible trip. On the first turn Rajiv Maragh came over on Wicked Strong and shut me off. Then he shut Nakatani (on Dance With Fate) off, causing me to steady again. We're both lucky we didn't fall. We need to take care of the horse and rider," said Stevens.

- Fifth-place finisher Samraat will also skip the Preakness per trainer Richard Violette, Jr.

Ride On Curlin trainer Billy Gowan is looking at the Preakness, but will likely have another jockey aboard as this morning he wasn't too pleased with Calvin Borel's ride. He was the only trainer unavailable for comment after the Derby.

- Todd Pletcher will take his quartet back to New York to regroup and announce any decision later in the week as it relates to the Preakness. After the race he spoke about Intense Holiday's trip. "He was hung outside all the way around. He just never seemed to get with it," he said.

- One of the major reasons for the slower time, other than the moderate opening fractions was that their was a fairly strong headwind going against the runners down the stretch, which when counting the first run to the clubhouse turn is approximately 40% of the race running into the wind. (H/T @mikedorr77) California Chrome received a 97 Beyer Speed Figure in his Derby win.

- The attendance, the second highest ever was 164,906 and over $186 million was wagered on the 13-race program, including $23.4 million on track. On-track wagering on the Derby race totaled $11.9 million, an increase of 4 percent from the 2013 total. All sources wagering on the Kentucky Derby race declined 1 percent to $129.2 million.

- The race was worth $2,177,800, California Chrome took home $1,417,800; second place paid Commanding Curve $400,000; third place for Danza was worth $200,000; fourth place-finisher Wicked Strong brought home $100,000 and fifth-place finisher Samraat collected $60,000.

- The stud fee that DAP Partners (Steven Coburn and Perry Martin) paid for California Chrome's stallion Lucky Pulpit was $2,000, discounted from the listed fee in the Stallion Register of $2,500. 

- Buffalo once again cracked the top five in local TV markets for the Derby, finishing fourth behind Louisville, Ft. Myers and West Palm Beach. Buffalo received a 16.8 rating and 32 share, finishing right above Cincinnati who rounded out the top five.

Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.

Post Time: Live from the Kentucky Derby

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Good afternoon from Churchill Downs and Happy Derby Day! We have a beautiful day here in Kentucky and an overflow crowd is expected to enjoy the weather and the ponies for Kentucky Derby 140. Temperatures are approaching the low 70s and it couldn’t be a better day for the 19 contenders to run for the roses. Post time for the Derby is 6:32 p.m.

Through the first five races the main track was listed as fast and the turf course firm and it is expected to remain that way for the remainder of the afternoon. There also have been a large number of mint juleps that have been served. 

We had a runaway victory in yesterday’s Kentucky Oaks, as Untapable patiently stayed off the pace and left her rivals behind after reaching the quarter pole for jockey Rosie Napravnik and trainer Steve Asmussen. A crowd of 113,071 were on hand on Friday to see the talented filly hand both Napravnik and Asmussen their second career Oaks victories. The crowd was the third largest in Oaks history. Untapable earned a healthy 107 Beyer Speed figure in the win. 

Asmussen reported this morning that she came out of the race in fine shape and will get a few days off to recover from her impressive victory. "We'll just let her rest up from her efforts yesterday," said Asmussen. 

The Oaks link above also includes the Oaks-Derby $2 Double will-pays. Yours truly is live on two $3 tickets to my top two picks in today's paper, Intense Holiday ($87.60) and Danza ($66.90).  I also played a $0.50 Oaks/Woodford/Derby Pick-3 singling Wise Dan in the Woodford to 4, 8, 14, 16, 18 and 20 in the Derby. Please feel free to root any of those six horses home! You can also check out my Kentucky Derby spreadsheet for all of the numbers, speed figures and pedigree information.

Yesterday at Buffalo Raceway, I was on live from Louisville on the AM 1270 Rich Gaenzler Show, check the podcast here if you'd like to hear the interview and my thoughts on Derby 140. You can also wager today at the Raceway in Hamburg and receive on-track odds. 

The most successful jockeys in the race are Gary Stevens (19-3-2-1, Candy Boy) and Calvin Borel (11-3-0-1, Ride on Curlin), the only two with more than one victory riding this afternoon. 

The Buffalo Bills posted an interesting article on late owner Ralph Wilson's connection to horse racing that can be found here. Wilson bred Arazi, who finished eighth in the 1992 Derby and Jim French, the 1971 Santa Anita winner who finished second in that year's Derby. 

We'll carry you along the five graded stakes races leading up to the Derby starting with Race 6, so stick around, check back and I'll keep you updated on what's going on at Churchill Downs. 

1:00 p.m.: The first stakes race on the card is the Grade 2 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile for older Fillies and Mares going a mile on the turf course. I'm going to play a trifecta wheel using 9-Centre Court (9-5) on top of 1-Tapicat, 2-Coffee Clique, 3-Miz Ida and 8-Effie Trinket. The cost of that bet is $6 for fifty cents. I'll back wheel an exacta to protect against her getting nipped at the wire for a $1 with those four on top of the 9 (cost $4).  Centre Court is coming in third off the layoff, a key handicapping angle.

1:36 p.m.: Well, I had it half right. 2-Coffee Clique ($13.80) held off long shot 4-Dame Marie ($31.60 to place) to win the Distaff Turf Mile. Centre Court gave up too much ground early and didn't have enough grass left when she made her run finishing a disappointing fifth.

One of the bonuses of having a press pass is being able to go into the winner's circle, where I just bumped into Miss Kentucky for a photo opportunity.

1:38 p.m.: Race 7 is the Grade 1 Humana Distaff Stakes a 7-furlong sprint for the ladies. I was going to go with 2-Heart Stealer (5-1) across the board, but unfortunately she scratched this morning. I figure 3-Judy the Beauty will take a lot of dough at the windows and although 8-Midnight Lucky may be the class of this field, she is coming off a lengthy layoff, so I'll wait one out on her. That leaves me with the Smith/Hollendorfer combo and 5-Scherzinger (say that five times fast) who is 7-2 on the morning line. We'll throw $2 bucks across the board on her for fun.

2:22 p.m.: 8-Midnight Lucky ($5.20) kept up Rosie Napravnik's winning ways over the weekend with a solid win over the mid-priced 1-Street Girl ($13.80 to place) completing a nice $108 exacta for two bucks. My choice 5-Scherzinger ($3.80 for show) hit the board and completed the trifecta that paid $117 for fifty cents.

Next up is the Grade 2 American Turf Stakes at 8 1/2-furlongs over the turf course restricted to 3-year-olds. If you're looking for a bomber today, you may find it in this race. If the pace melts down, the closer 1-Cleburne (30-1) is one to consider. I'll start a Pick-3 here into the Wise Dan race, to hunt for some value. We'll start it off with him, 2-Chief Barker (5-1), 5-Global View (9-2), 8-Storming Inti (my top pick) and 10-Picozza (5-1). This seems like a wide open race so we'll go five deep in the American Turf.

2:25 p.m.: One of the newest features at Churchill Downs is the new Big Board, the world's largest 4K video board that sits off the backside of the track and can be seen by folks in the infield, as well as those in the grandstands. The mammoth displace screen measures 171-feet wide by 90-feet tall sits 80 feet above the ground with an active display area of 15,224 square feet. That's one big board all right. Here's a view of the board from the backside that I took on Thursday morning during training hours.

Some fun facts about the board include that it weighs 1.24 million pounds, the equivalent of 9,850 jockeys at a maximum weight of 126 pounds. The active screen display is larger than three basketball courts of 2,200 46-inch flat panel TVs. It's brightness is approximately 30 times brighter than a standard HDTV and finally, the wind speed it is designed to withstand is 90 miles an hour (enough to withstand a Category 1 hurricane!

2:50 p.m.: Latest Kentucky Derby odds have California Chrome still as the favorite at 2-1. Second choice is 20-Wicked Strong at 7-1 and third choice is 4-Danza at 9-1. My top pick 16-Intense Holiday is currently at 13-1.

3:10 p.m.: What a finish in the American Turf! Hall of Famer Gary Stevens' horse 5-Global View ($14) at 6-1 put in a late kick to overtake my top choice 8-Storming Inti ($5.40 to place) by a neck. We're live to three horses in the final leg of a Pick-3 (1,2,and 10) and we've got another one started off into those three horses into Wise Dan and Boisterous in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic.

The next race is one that I've struggled with over the years, and of course, this is my best bet of the day. I'm going to unload on 2-Clearly Now (9-2), who performed a monster workout on Apr. 19, at Keeneland where he went 58 and 2 for 5-furlongs. With top jock, Javier Castellano aboard, he's today's top Post Time selection. In the Pick-3, we went with 2-Clearly Now, 1-Capo Bastone (10-1) and 10-Delaunay (9-2) into Wise Dan.

3:15 p.m.: I was in the paddock area before the Humana Distaff and there are some interesting looking characters having a good time watching the horses' parade to the track. When is the last time you saw a walking Mint Julep or the world's biggest Tony Danza fans including the Flying Nun? The best hat so far was this fellow who obviously took a wrong turn somewhere around Cleveland. There is definitely a buzz building outside the paddock and the crowd continues to build for the lead-up to the most exciting two minutes in sports.

I'm heading down to the trackside winner's circle to watch this sprint race, the Churchill Downs Stakes which should be a good one and will be key to whether I have a good betting day today.

4:05 p.m.: The sprint race continues to be my nemesis on big race days. Be prepared for the ALL button in Baltimore. 9-Central Banker ($23.60) caught 11-Shakin it Up to complete a nice $125 exacta for a $2 wager. Oh well, we'll live to see another day and we have our Oaks/Woodford/Derby bet alive with 1-Wise Dan singled in the next.

Two-time Horse of the Year, 1-Wise Dan (4-5), undefeated in three races at Churchill should continue his winning ways in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, a race he won last year. The only horse that scares me in this group is 7-Boisterous (8-1), with top turf jockey Castellano in the irons for Pletcher. Last year's Queen's Plate runner 5-Kaigun (8-1) will also compete in this race for trainer Mark Casse.

4:25 p.m.: It's always fun to understand how some of the horses obtained their names, here is a few of the better ones courtesy of the Louisville C-J: 

Dance With Fate: Sire is Two Step Salsa and his mare is Flirting With Fate. 

Wicked Strong: We noted in this morning's News article it was named for the Marathon bombing victims, went with Wicked Strong since Boston Strong was already taken. 

Danza:  Named after "Who's the Boss?" star Tony Danza. Danza's sire is Street Boss. 

Wildcat Red: The name happens to be a nice, neutral combination of the sports teams of Kentucky's two biggest universities, the Kentucky Wildcats and the Louisville Cardinals (Red). 

General a Rod: Named after his former owner, Armando Rodriguez of Venezuela, not the Yankees star. Rodriguez sold the horse Monday to Starlight Racing and Skychai Racing. 

Medal Count: Owner B. Wayne Hughes, a USC graduate and big supporter of Olympic athletes, so he named the horse as a tribute to all of the medals won by USC Olympians. 

Uncle Sigh: Named for Uncle Si Robertson, left, on A&E's popular "Duck Dynasty" show. The owner used a different spelling of the name to avoid the procedures required with the Jockey Club when using someone's name.

4:56 p.m.: Wow! What a terrific stretch duel between the 1-2 favorite 1-Wise Dan ($3)and 10-Seek Again with the Horse of the Year edging out his rival by a head for the win in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic. 7-Boisterous was third and rounded out the trifecta. Wise Dan endured some bumping early in the race with Skyring. 5-Kaigun, the Ontario-bred Casse horse finished fourth. The $1 trifecta paid $38.70 and the $2 exacta paid $13.80. The Horse of the Year looks like he's beatable and sooner or later they're going to catch him. His last two races were closer than normal, so it may be time to bet against in his next effort.

On a positive note we're live in the Oaks/Woodford/Derby Pick-3, with the rest of the world. We are live to 4-Danza, 8-General a Rod, 14-Medal Count, 16-Intense Holiday, 18-Candy Boy and 20-Wicked Strong.  The big one is up next.

5:10 p.m.: For the Derby, we'll stick with our selections from this morning's paper (16-4-14), but we'll also bet an exacta box with 8, 18, 19 and 20 to try and make a few bucks. In honor of Bob Summers, we'll play an exacta box using all of the Hall of Fame jockeys' colts (16-Velazquez; 18-Stevens and 19-Borel). 

I'm going to head to the backside and walk over on the track with the horses, one of the memorable experiences as a member of the press corps to see 165,000 plus strong cheering the Derby horses as they make their way to the paddock area for saddling. I'll be back after the Derby to post a few final thoughts on the Run for the Roses before signing off and getting work on tomorrow's column.

I hope you enjoyed following along today and may all your wagers be winning ones. Good Luck!

7:00 p.m.: So it's California Chrome ($7) who wins the Derby! We're off the Baltimore in two weeks for the second leg of the Triple Crown, we''ll be back here tomorrow for a post-Derby rehash and check tomorrow's print edition for my post-race commentary.

-- Gene Kershner (@EquiSpace)

« Older Entries Newer Entries »

About Sports, Ink

Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey has served in a variety of roles in Buffalo sports in the past 35 years, including reporter, talk-show host, baseball announcer, public relations staffer and author. He covers the Bandits and running for The News when not working as an editor.