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Post Time: Reviewing the 2013 racing Kreskin

By Gene Kershner

After finishing .500 in our 2012 racing predictions we hit the skids in our 2013 predictions and up until Breeders' Cup weekend our Kreskin-like prognostications appeared that a big old goose egg was in the cards. But he headed out to California with our rally caps on and finished 2 for 10, hitting our last two predictions at Santa Anita to wrap up the year. Our final post of this year in December will take a look at our 2014 Kreskin predictions…stay tuned.   Here's an overview of this year's guesses with some color commentary: 

  1. 1. Ramon Dominguez will win the jockey title at the inner meet at the Big A by at least 25 victories. In 2010, Ramon won it by 29, in 2011 by 57 and last year he lost by one to Cornelio Velasquez. Whoops. I hope I didn’t jinx him with this prediction. Who would have guessed he would take a bad spill during this meeting that would basically end his riding career. Not a good start. By the way, Javier Castellano took the jockey title during the winter meeting at the Big A.
  2. 2. The Derby winner will come from a middle post. Orb came from an outside gate (posts 15 through 20), winning the Run for the Roses from post No. 16. The second place finisher came from the inside gate (Golden Soul, post No. 4), so we weren't even close.
  3. 3. The Derby winner will come out of the Arkansas Derby. After selecting the Florida Derby the past two years, who win? The Florida Derby winner, of course. Overanalyze, who was being touted by superb handicapper Steve Crist, finished 11th and we are looking at three up and three down.
  4. 4. There will be an inquiry or objection in one of the three Triple Crown races. Nope. Nada. Nil. Nice try, Kreskin. Not looking good, race fans.
  5. 5. The Derby winner will not run again in 2013 after the Preakness. Oh, I meant to write that he wouldn't win again after the Preakness. Orb actually ran in the Belmont (third), Travers (third) and Jockey Club Gold Cup (eighth) before retiring earlier in the month. Zippo for five.
  6. 6. Roger Attfield wins a record ninth Queen’s Plate. It might have helped my cause if he had a starter in the race. Fort Erie's Nick Gonzalez won it with 16-1 Midnight Aria.  You can give me a slight break here as I did pick the $35 winner in the paper!
  7. 7. The Haskell Hat is White. I went with white and it ended up black.  I guess it wasn't exactly black and white. Par for the course.Lots of zeros in the win column.
  8. 8. Churchill Downs will be awarded the 2014 Breeders’ Cup.  It’s been a two-track rotation for six straight years. I doubled down that the BC Board loves those big Churchill crowds and handle numbers to return under the Twin Spires in ’14. However, this is why they call it gambling. Eight up and eight down, picks on life support at this point.
  9. 9. The post time favorite will finish off the board in the Classic. Exact quote: "Game on Dude would have held serve for me here, but will it happen in back-to-back years? I say it will." BOOM! We're on the board and off the schneid.
  10. 10. A 3-year old will finish first or second in the Classic. Will. Take.  Charge.  We made a valiant comeback at the end to finish at the Mendoza line for 2013. I was a little worried about the shutout going into Santa Anita. But D. Wayne Lukas' big colt saved the day, finishing second by a nostril.

I hope you enjoyed the recap and we'll be thinking about some fun 2014 predictions in our year end blog. 

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

Post Time: Breeders' Cup thoughts

 

By Gene Kershner

Back from sunny California and the conclusion of the 2013 Breeders' Cup is in the books. Below are my thoughts from the 30th anniversary edition of the world championships from Santa Anita.

- My favorite race of the weekend was Dank's performance in the BC F&M Turf.  Solid filly who was an easy key horse and probably best favorite (besides Wise Dan) over the course of the second day.

- Loved The Fugue's performance in the BC Turf against the boys. Only a late closing Magician stopped her from claiming the mile and a half race. Keep an eye on her in the future.

- John Velazquez' horrible fall off of Secret Compass on the far turn, who broke down and had to be put down, was a rare ride for trainer Bob Baffert. His regular mounts are typically for Pletcher so this combination caught my eye on Saturday.

- Another bad gate break cost Palace Malice any chance. Just as he did in the Travers, the slow start cost him any chance on the Santa Anita strip against the speed in the race. When will I learn?

- With Orb passing on the Grade 1 Cigar Mile for retirement at Claiborne Farm, does he rate the 3-year-old male divisional champion based on his two a Grade 1 victories earlier in the year? A third G1 win would have locked up my vote, but his late season woes are weighing more heavily than his wins. Will Take Charge's only G1 is the Travers and was a nostril away from a second in the Classic. I'll have to weigh more heavily on this one.

- Princess of Sylmar, victim of a track bias in the Distaff, may have watched the 3-year-old female crown go out the window when Beholder took the home-track advantage and turned it into a huge win. In this case, however, the Princess won four straight big Grade 1's one where she  beat older horses in the Beldame. A split of head-to-head match ups with Beholder makes this decision rather dicey.

- It's amazing how three horses repeated out of the 14 BC races - Groupie Doll (F&M Sprint), Mizdirection (Turf Sprint) and Wise Dan (Mile) and a fourth won a different race (Beholder). Fort Larned (Classic), Royal Delta (Distaff) and Trinniberg (Sprint) all failed in repeat bids.

- Santa Anita has one of the most picturesque settings in all of sport. The backdrop of the San Gabriel mountains is breathtaking and morning workouts standing around Clocker's Corner is one of the coolest spots on any track. Sure I'd love to see a BC at Belmont or Woodbine, but it's hard to argue with the Great Race Place.

- I was glad to see Mucho Macho Man win the $5 million Classic from a sentimental standpoint. He was my first ever Derby selection for The News in 2011, and he didn't disappoint that day finishing third behind eventual winner and super-horse Animal Kingdom.

- TMZ reports (not often you see that in a racing blog) that the Village People are planning on playing a party for the Macho Man according to owners Dean and Patti Reeves.

- It's been a good year for local trainers, first Fort Erie trainer Nick Gonzalez winning the $1 million Queen's Plate with Midnight Aria, and with Finger Lakes conditioner Jeremiah Englehardt winning the $2 million BC Juvenile Fillies via DQ with Ria Antonia.

- Hopefully Englehardt can calm his filly's over zealous owner's excitement by keeping her on the Kentucky Oaks trail, as opposed to the Derby trail as some reports out of New York have hinted at.

- We'll recap my 2013 Kreskin prognostications next week and it's not pretty. Not one bit.

- In case you were wondering, Buffalo Raceway opens in two months on January 8th.

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

Post Time: Finger Lakes trainer wins $2 million Breeders' Cup race

By Gene Kershner

ARCADIA, Ca. -- Jeremiah Englehardt, local trainer from Finger Lakes Race Track in Farmington, N.Y. was the winning trainer in the first Breeders' Cup race of the day the $2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. His winning filly, Ria Antonia was placed first when She's A Tiger was disqualifed for bumping. 

The 32-1 longshot finished second with Javier Castellano in the irons but was placed first by the stewards based on a majority ruling. When asked about his background he told the media corps that his roots are deep at the little track off of Interstate 90. "Obviously my mom and dad are both trainers at Finger Lakes. My mom's name doesn't get put out there, but she's the blood, sweat and tears behind my dad's operation," said the winning trainer.

He's the first Finger Lakes conditioner to saddle a Breeders' Cup winner. He has been training since 2003 and has a total of nine stakes wins including three in graded events. His father, Chris is the top trainer at Finger Lakes and his brother Jeffrey began training horses this year.

I reached Englehardt by text message this afternoon at the Great Race Place and asked him what the race meant to him and Finger Lakes. He responded via text, "Means I'll be there Monday morning to watch my horses, I have 36 to see."

It's just your basic, ordinary $1.2 million victory, I guess. Business as usual at the Finger on Monday.

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 Breeders' Cup

ARCADIA, Ca. -- Hello from the Great Race Place (a/k/a Santa Anita Park) in sunny California for day two of the Breeders' Cup (BC) world championships. Sorry Buffalonians, but its 75 degrees here just outside of Los Angeles and nary a cloud in the sky.  

Yesterday's five championship races were highlighted by two wins by California-based horses, Goldencents in the Dirt Mile and Beholder in the Distaff. The track played very fast and speed held all day. In fact, the souped-up track was as much as a story as the races themselves. My advice to you is to understand the track's speed bias and use it in your favor. Expect to see more of the same today.

The track is fast and the turf is firm for today's nine championship races. Scratches in the BC races so far are Caracortado in the Turf Sprint (Race 7), Cleburne in the Juvenile (Race 8) and Ron the Greek in the Classic (Race 12) as reported on Thursday. Caracortado had to withdraw from the race due to a problem with his right front foot. Gary Stevens was scheduled to ride.  

My Classic advance is in this morning's paper where Palace Malice is my pick that will send the Horse of the Year race into disarray. His sire, Curlin was the last 3-year-old to win the Classic. John Velazquez has the ride aboard Palace Malice

If you're interested, the Breeder's Cup Classic cocktail has the following ingredients:  1.5oz Tito’s Handmade Vodka, 0.5oz St. Germaine, 1.5oz fresh grapefruit juice, top with club soda and serve on the rocks. Good luck with that.  

2:45 p.m. (ET): The first Breeders' Cup race is the BC Juvenile fillies and a couple of New York shippers who ran in the Frizette, 1-Artemis Agrotera (3-1) and 9-Sweet Reason (5/2) the top two finishers in the Grade 1 Frizette at Belmont are the top two choices. If you're looking for a better price, I fancy the Baffert-trained 4-Secret Compass (6-1), who has been training well. It will be trainer Leah Gyramati's first Breeder's Cup race, I visited Sweet Reason at Saratoga this summer and can tell you she's a feisty filly. Back after the race. 

3:20 p.m.: Whoa, a DQ in the BC Juvenile Fillies, 10-She's A Tiger was taken down by the stewards after an inquiry and 32-1 shot 5-Ria Antonia ($66.60) will take the top spot. It looked as though Gary Stevens was going to start right where he left off yesterday winning the final race on BC Friday. 2-Rosalind finished third after a late close and 9-Sweet Reason after making a nice move at the eighth pole completed the superfecta.

I was down in the winner's circle trying to make it back to the auxiliary press box when the inquiry sign started flashing and She's A Tiger who went out in blazing fast fractions was placed second after bumping the eventual winner by a majority decision by the stewards due to drifting out.  A disqualification is very rare occurrence in

3:28 p.m.: The BC Filly and Mare Turf is up next and I'm looking on keying in on two horses here 1-Dank (5/2) and 4-Alterite (10-1). If you're looking for a medium-priced horse, the French horse 2-Romantica (6-1) by Galileo is interesting at that price.

3:52 p.m.: Hey now. There's a post time exacta and trifecta for you. I went pretty deep in the third spot and had both 4-Alterite and 8-Emollient in the show spot, so we're looking at a nice trifecta.  1-Dank overtook Emollient at the top of the stretch and 2-Romantica split horses to finish second. Nice angle playing the Euros on turf. Back with prices in a minute.

3:58 p.m.: The $1 trifecta paid $103 and the $1 exacta returned $11.60. Let's keep it going.

In my annual rankings of racing press box food, I'm going with 1-Pimlico (Preakness) as the winner, this year's crab cakes absolutely killed it. Woodbine (Queen's Plate) finishes second in the place spot and the show goes to Santa Anita (Breeders' Cup). Rounding out the superfecta is Belmont (Belmont Stakes) and Churchill (Kentucky Derby) the Super Hi-Five.  Honorable mention: Pedro's hot dogs at the Spa.

4:17 p.m.: The $1million Filly & Mare Sprint is up next at 7-furlongs. I'm going with 4-Dance Card (6-1) as my play of the day with Joel Rosario up for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. I'm going to wheel a $1 exacta with 3,6,8,9, 11 and 12. Normally I'd try to beat 11-Groupie Doll, last year's winner, but she's a tough horse and you can't count her out. I left off 12-Sweet Lulu on my Travers Pick-4 and it cost me big. Won't make that mistake again, even though she is on the far outside.

4:30 p.m.: UGH! Sometimes you're the bug and sometimes you're the windshield. Dance Card ($4.80 to show) just couldn't get there and Groupie Doll ($8) repeats as the F&M Sprint champion. He had just too much to make up in the stretch and finished behind 9-Judy the Beauty (paid $9.20 to place and $5.40 to show)

The $1 million Turf Sprint down the hill at Santa Anita is up next and last year's winner for Jim Rome, 12-Mizdirection will be the likely heavy favorite. I favor 4-Reneesgotzip (5-1) and first time turfer and King's Bishop winner 9-Capo Bastone (8-1). If you can believe it, Todd Pletcher still hasn't won a race yet, his doppelganger twitter account has been awfully quiet today. I'll box those three and long shot 2-Rock Me Baby (30-1) to try and make some hay here. Heading down to the paddock to scope out Jim Rome.

5:20 p.m.: 12-Mizdirection ($7.40) repeats in the Turf Sprint for owner Jim Rome, where a wild celebration is going on in the winner's circle. Second place resulted in a dead heat between 4-Reneesgotzip and 7-Tightend Touchdown (the Gronk approves), so we still get a piece of the exacta pool with our box play. The exacta with Reneesgotzip returned $9.70, so we lost a few bucks there, but not completely.

The road to the Kentucky Derby starts next with the BC Juvenile. Rider change on 13-Havana to Gary Stevens from Johnny V, who is off all of his mounts with an injury sustained in the Juvenile Fillies and is at the hospital undergoing testing. He fell off of Secret Compass, who broke down and had to be euthanized after the 4th.

I like Havana a lot, but that 13 post is the same one that doomed Lookin at Lucky in the 2010 edition of this race here at Santa Anita, where he was caught 8-wide on the clubhouse turn. 

5:25 p.m.: I've stayed away from the multi-race wagers today and have been playing exactas and trifectas most of the afternoon and we'll stay that way again. This race is wide open so I'll make a rare 5-horse exacta box with 3-Mexikoma, 6-Tap it Rich, 10-We Miss Artie, 11-Medal Count, and 13-Havana. For Race 9 we'll construct a late Pick-4 play into the Classic.

5:43 p.m.: HRTV is reporting that RafaelBejarano will get the mount on Palace Malice to replace the injured Velazquez in the Classic.

5:50 p.m.: U2 approves of the BC Juvenile, as 4-New Year's Day ($23) at 10-1 upsets the field of 13 colts. Martin Garcia was up on New Year's Day. 13-Havana, with Stevens in the irons, made a strong move at the top of the stretch to overtake Lukas' 14-Strong Mandate, who finished third. The 4-13 combo returned $53 for a $1 exacta.

Next up on the radar is the $3 million BC Turf, a mile and a half race that starts out of the chute. It's a classy field that includes the talented 4-year-old filly 7-The Fugue (GB). The Euros have been strong so far on the turf. We'll include 9-Indy Point in our Pick-4 play and hope that 4-Little Mike doesn't repeat and that 8-Point of Entry doesn't fire.

5:55 p.m.: Here's our $0.50 Pick-4 play: 7,9,​WT,1,6,7,8,9,11,​WT,8,​WT,1,6,8,9,10. We're leaning heavily on last year's Horse of the Year 8-Wise Dan in the Mile. Off to the paddock to see the turf horses, very excited to see The Fugue.

6:45 p.m.: We're back after writing a quick post on Finger Lakes trainer Jeremiah Englehardt's big win in the Juvenile Fillies race with Ria Antonia.

Thought The Fugue made a nice run, but she was tracked down in the deep stretch by 11-Magician, where we made the fatal mistake of leaving her off our ticket. I guess it wasn't meant to be. We'll just drop down our bet to a Pick-3 and try and recover a few dollars.

The Daily Racing Form's David Grening is reporting that jockey John Velazquez is having surgery to remove his spleen according to his agent, Angel Cordero.

6:58 p.m.: Looks like Jose Lezcano, a very good turf rider, will have the mount on 8-Wise Dan. I've put another Pick-3 ticket together with my top two horses in the Sprint and spreading a little wider in the Classic (7,9 WT 5, 8, 10 WT 1,2,6,8,9,10).

7:03 p.m.: While waiting for the Sprint to go, I took a peak at Juvenile winner New Year's Day's pedigree to see if he can get the Derby distance of a mile and a quarter. He's sired by Street Cry out of Justwhistledixie (Dixie Union) so it's promising.

7:10 p.m.: It's the second of the day for Martin Garcia who makes a big run with 9-Secret Circle ($7), the 5-2 favorite. The two wins were his first in a Breeders' Cup. 12-Laugh Track and Mike Smith finished second and 3-Gentlemen's Bet finished third. Off to the paddock to check out the $2 million BC Turf horses, including 2012 Horse of the Year, 8-Wise Dan.  We have two live Pick-3 tickets, so let's keep it going.

7:38 p.m.: Just back from the paddock. The Euro 5-Olympic Glory was awful feisty and looks ready to roll. Both 8-Wise Dan and 10-Za Approval also were looking good. Passed through the BC Sprint press conference and you have to feel for Bob Baffert who lost Secret Compass via breakdown earlier in the day, but his two BC wins today with New Year's Day (Juvenile) and Secret Circle (Sprint) have to ease that pain slightly. He'll look to make it three on the day with Game On Dude in the Classic.

7:50 p.m.: The champ repeats! 8-Wise Dan ($3.60) ran by 10-Za Approval ($8.40 to show) in deep stretch with his patented late run to win the BC Mile! We're live to 2-Paynter for a JFK 50-cent piece and five horses for a buck (1,6,8,9,10). 2-Silentio rounded out the trifecta with a huge late run at the top two. The Classic is up next.

We have a very tight Post Time deadline, so we're going to sign off on the live blog. I hoped you enjoyed following along with me all day. It was a terrific day with the biggest race in the land up next. The $5 million Classic. Here's hoping we get a nice story of Rafael Bejarano with the sub job for Johnny V on Palace Malice.  Look for a Post Time write-up on the Classic in the morning.

Signing off from the Great Race Place!

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

Post Time: Stevens rides Beholder to Breeders' Cup Distaff victory

By Gene Kershner

ARCADIA, Ca. -- It's been 13 years since Gary Stevens stood in a Breeders' Cup (BC) winner's circle. Friday afternoon he returned after a perfect ride on California-based 3-year-old Beholder in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Distaff before 35,832 at Santa Anita Park. It was his ninth career Breeders' Cup winning ride. Beholder paid $7.60 for the win, $4.20 to place and $3.20 to show.

Stevens' last BC win came in 2000 aboard War Chant in the Mile. He last won the Distaff in 1994 on One Dreamer. He stalked the early leaders Authenticity (third, $4.20 to show) and two-time winner Royal Delta along the back stretch and made his move on the far turn. Royal Delta faded to fourth and had nothing in the tank when asked by jockey Mike Smith who had two BC wins on the Friday card to extend his BC record to 21 wins.

Close Hatches ($6.60 to place, $4.80 to show) closed late for trainer Bill Mott to finish second 4 1/4-lengths behind the winner. Mott was seeking a record fourth straight Distaff win from either his second-place finisher or Royal Delta. Instead, it was trainer Richard Mandella, who won last year's Juvenile Fillies race with Beholder. It was his eighth BC training victory, all coming at Santa Anita.

Mandella was thrilled with the effort from the daughter of Henny Hughes for owner Spendthrift Farm. "She's so naturally fast, you don't have to train that into her and she's made the lead so easily in many of her races. Today, she had to come from off of it and she did it - and boy do I love it. I've been lucky enough to have many good mares in my years of training, but this mare might have to be the best of all," said Mandella.

It's been quite a comeback year for the 50-year-old jockey who won the Preakness aboard Oxbow in May after coming out of retirement in January and riding for the first time since 2005. The Hall of Famer will try to complete the Distaff-Classic double tomorrow afternoon in the $5 million Classic on Mucho Macho Man.

Beholder was a little fractious going into the gate, but broke perfectly for Stevens. "I was afraid she might over-break, but she settled and broke beautiful. This is the best race she's ever run. I was hoping Authenticity would carry the lead a little farther but (Beholder) moved up nice, went by her easy and then really opened up," said Stevens.

The win by Beholder puts her name in the 3-year-old filly division discussion along with Princess of Sylmar, who finished last this afternoon and whose Horse of the Year hopes were dashed with the defeat. She finished the 1 1/8-mile distance in 1:47.77. The track was speed-favoring all afternoon and Beholder used the bias and hometown edge to her advantage over her five challengers. 

Other Breeders' Cup Races

There were four other Breeders' Cup races on the card won by London Bridge (Marathon, $20), Outstrip (Juvenile Turf, $14), Goldencents (Dirt Mile, $9.60) and Chriselliam (Juvenile Fillies Turf, $15.80).

Check back here tomorrow around 3 p.m. ET for a live blog of Saturday's nine Breeders' Cup  races. 

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

Post Time: Ron the Greek out of BC Classic

By Gene Kershner

ARCADIA, Ca. -- A quarter crack in his right front foot has sidelined Ron the Greek for Saturday's $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic. Trainer Ron Mott told reporters this morning that the son of Full Mandate would not participate in the penultimate event of this year's Breeders' Cup. "Unfortunatey, we're going to have to scratch him," Mott said. "He had an abscess that broke open in his foot. It's not a major problem, but it's all a matter of timing and he won't be able to run on Saturday."

Apparently the abscess was discovered Wednesday afternoon during feed time. Mott feels the 6-year-old could resume his regular schedule by mid-November. He comes out of a win in the prestigious Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup on Super Saturday last month, a race that has produced the last three winners of the Classic. "I would estimate that in a couple of weeks' time he could be on the race track and probably be back in full training," said Mott.

Ron the Greek was fourth in last year's Classic and won the mile and a quarter Santa Anita Handicap in March 2012. He has over $2.7 million in career earnings. His absence likely will not impact the pace as he was a late running horse who did his best work in deep stretch.

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

Post Time: Breeders' Cup Friday quick picks

By Gene Kershner

ARCADIA, Ca. -- The weather is picture-perfect in Arcadia, just outside of Los Angeles, for this weekend's Breeders' Cup (BC) world championships. We're back at beautiful Santa Anita Park amid the palm trees and the backdrop of the San Gabriel Mountains. The two-day festival of racing will feature 14 Breeders' Cup races culminating in the $5 million BC Classic in prime time Saturday evening on NBC (Ch. 2, 8-9 p.m. ET).

Friday's five championship races will be carried live on NBC Sports Network (4-8 p.m. ET). The big rematch between Princess of Sylmar and Royal Delta in the BC Distaff should be th highlight of the day at the Great Race Place.

Let's look at Friday's last four Breeders' Cup races (Races 7-10) making up the late Pick-4 and offer some quick picks and thoughts to consider when handicapping. It's time to dig for some gold, similary to Kentucky Derby day; there is opportunity for a major score based on past history.

Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf

My Pick-4 will be do or die early on with the $1 million Juvenile Turf for 2-year-olds. I decided to put my marbles on two of the horses in here and am hoping they will stay true to form. The talented Kitten's Joy 2-year-old 5-Bobby's Kitten (5-2) and 2-Giovanni Boldini 7-2), a $675K purchase sired by War Front are my top two selections.

The Ramseys ran away with the title of top owner at Saratoga this year. They set a record number of wins in one meet (22), while amassing $1.7 million in earnings. They will be seeking their third career BC win, the first coming at Santa Anita in 2010 in the Dirt Mile (Furthest Land) and again in the Juvenile Fillies in 2011 at Churchill Downs (Stephanie's Kitten). 

Stalwart European trainer Aidan O'Brien sends two horses postward in Giovanni Boldini and 9-Wilshire Boulevard (8-1).  Ryan Moore jumps off Wilshire after a fourth-place finish in a Group 1 race at Longchamp in France to ride the second choice, Giovanni Boldini. Moore has won the BC Juvenile Turf the last two years (Wrote - 2011; George Vancouver - 2012), so he knows how to win this race Trainer O'Brien (83-7-11-6) has won over $12.4 million in BC purse money and rarely brings a horse that can't compete to the Cup. I'm banking on the Euro factor here. 

I'll round out my trifecta with 4-Outstrip (4-1) and the all-time leading BC jockey in wins, Mike
Smith. 

Post Time Outlook: 1-Giovanni Boldini; 2-Bobby's Kitten and; 3-Outstrip

Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile

In six previous editions of the $1 million BC Dirt Mile, the favorite has never won and has hit the board only one time (Discreet Cat, 2007, third), which doesn't bode well for 10-Verrazano (3-1), the morning line favorite. This race appears to wide open so we'll be going fairly deep in our Pick-4 play in an attempt to catch a price. This race typically sees a hot early pace with splits of 22 and 45 and change, usually resulting in a pace meltdown with the winner coming from the back of the pack. With Santa Anita likely to be a super freeway over the weekend, we'll include front runner and late pace horses in our play.

A horse that has revived his career is 11-Pants on Fire (6-1). The son of Jump Start has been working lights out for owners George and Lori Hall and trainer Kelly Breen. He comes off two graded stakes wins and his running style looks to be favorable in this race. Regular rider Paco Lopez will be in the irons for the Halls.

Another horse I'm including is 4-Brujo de Olleros (8-1), second to Graydar in the Grade 2 Kelso, a horse that likely would have been favored in this race before pulling out over the weekend. He comes in third off the layoff for trainer Richard Mettee, who is looking for his first BC training victory. the horse was bred in Brazil and raced in Uruguay before coming to the States in the middle of 2012 for new owner Team Valor.

A horse that may relish a cutback in distance is 1-Taptowne (15-1), a colt that finished second to Pants on Fire in the Ack Ack Handicap two races back at Churchill Downs. Keep in mind he also shares the same sire as last year's Dirt Mile winner, Tapizar, who paid $32.60 to win.  [UPDATE FRI AM 11:45 a.m.: Taptowne has scratched due to a foot bruise]

If there is a complete pace meltdown, it will be difficult to keep last year's Travers dead-heater 2-Golden Ticket (12-1) off your Pick-4 ticket as he will surely be making a late run at the early front runners.

I will include two west coast entries 5-Fed Biz (6-1) and 12-Goldencents (4-1), as both have had success over the Santa Anita strip and will relish the souped-up track. Both horses have been working well in the mornings.

Difficult to exclude Verrazano, but I've burned too much money on him already this year and it's time to take a stand against him.

Post Time Outlook: 1-Pants on Fire; 2-Brujo de Olleros and; 3-Fed Biz

Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf

In the five-year history of the BC Juvenile Fillies Turf once again the favorite has never won the race and has only hit the board twice. The fact that second choice 14-My Conquestadory (9-2) is on the far outside surely doesn't make one lick their chops either. We'll try and beat her with some wacky strategy by going fairly deep into the field.

Get a load of this logic, I'm throwing in the three Euros, 6-Vorda (4-1), 8-Chrisellium (6-1) and 12-Testa Rossi (8-1) with the three Chad Brown-trained fillies (red-hot turf trainer). Brown's three include 4-Kitten's Kaboodle (12-1), 5-Granny's McKitten (20-1) and 11-Ready to Act (8-1). Toss in 10-Clenor (8-1) from the SoCal circuit and we're hoping to catch decent price horses in the middle two legs.

Post Time Outlook: 1-Testa Rossi; 2-Vorda and: 3-Ready to Act

Breeders' Cup Distaff

The biggest race of the first day of championship racing is unquestionably the $2 million BC Distaff (formerly known as the Ladies' Classic). The 9-furlong race will feature a rematch between two-time Distaff winner 4-Royal Delta (8-5) and the likely 3-year-old female champion 6-Princess of Sylmar (9-5). In last month's Grade 1 Beldame Invitational at Belmont Park, the Princess surged past the 5-year-old daughter of Empire Maker in deep stretch to win in her first try against older horses.

Trainer Bill Mott can extend two records if his defending champ repeats: a fourth straight Distaff and a sixth overall victory in the race. He won the Distaff in 1997 (Ajina), 1998 (Escena) and 2010 (Unrivaled Belle). He can also set a new record with a third straight victory with the same horse. Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith will ride Royal Delta, who ironically was in the saddle for Princess of Sylmar's biggest win in the Kentucky Oaks last May. Mott will also send out another filly, 3-Close Hatches (6-1), runaway winner of the Cotillion at Parx in September, who also had Smith in the irons subbing in for the injured Joel Rosario, who regains the mount here.

The connections of Princess of Sylmar who proclaimed during the summer meet at Saratoga that she likely wouldn't head to Santa Anita, quickly changed course after the win in the Beldame. The possibility of a Horse of the Year title could await the Princess if she wins impressively in the Distaff and Game on Dude falters on Saturday in the Classic. Jockey Javier Castellano has ridden her to victories in her last three races, retains the mount for trainer Todd Pletcher.

Another horse who should be given consideration is last year's BC Juvenile Fillies winner 5-Beholder (5-2) trained by Richard Mandella and ridden by 50-year-old Gary Stevens. With all of the attention being drawn towards Royal Delta and Princess of Sylmar, this is a filly that is proven over the track and only lost by a half-length in the Kentucky Oaks to the Princess.

Rarely does Bill Mott show up on the biggest days with his horses not ready to run. I'm going with Royal Delta for the three-peat in a hotly-contested race to avenge last month's loss in the Beldame.

Post Time Outlook: 1-Royal Delta; 2-Princess of Sylmar; and 3-Beholder

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Be sure to come back and visit the Sports, Ink blog on Saturday afternoon for a live blog of the Saturday card, starting with the first BC race at 3:05 p.m. ET through the Breeders' Cup Classic.

 

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

Post Time: The racing world turns to Woodbine

By Gene Kershner

On Sunday afternoon the 76th running of the $1 million Grade 1 Pattison Canadian International at the world famous turf course at Woodbine. The International will go to post at 5:42 ET, with the winner bringing home $600,000.

Defending champion Joshua Tree (6-1) will make his fourth consecutive appearance and will attempt to win his third International after capturing the 2010 and 2012 editions of the race. Oddly, he'll try and win this year's race for a third trainer, Ed Dunlop, as his 2010 win was direct by Aidan O'Brien and last year's winning trainer was Marco Botti. He is the field's leading money winner with over $3.1 million in career earnings, but in winless in six starts since last year's International victory.

His main competition will come from one of two Pattison horses trained by Hall of Famer Roger Attfield. Forte Dei Marmi (3-1), no stranger to this race, will enter the gate on a three-race win streak and as the morning line favorite. Attfield, who is a member of both the Canadian and U.S. Halls of Fame, has never won the International, and it would surely be a feather in his cap. He'll also send Perfect Timber (12-1) postward with Hall of Fame jockey Johnny Velazquez in from the New York circuit to ride.

"I'm quite happy with the post positions for both horses," Attfield told the Woodbine media office. "Yes, He's (Forte Dei Marmi) in great shape. Both horses are really, really doing well. It would appear that Forte Dei Marmi has been in good form for a little while now. I just hope we can keep  him there for a bit longer," he said.

Chad Brown will ship Hyper (5-1) in after winning his last two on the NYRA circuit and top jockey Joel Rosario will make his first appearance at Woodbine since running in the Queen's Plate in July. Ken and Sarah Ramsey's 6-year-old son of Victory Gallop has thrived at longer distances and should relish the mile and a half distance on the spectacular Woodbine turf course.

One horse that peaked my interest is the 4-year-old French bred Lucayan (8-1) who comes off two strong finishes on the west coast at Santa Anita and Del Mar. He will be reunited with French jockey Stephane Pasquier on Sunday, who rode him in his first eight career races in France, before being shipped over to the States. In the Grade 2 John Henry Turf Classic at Santa Anita he finished third by two lengths behind Breeders' Cup Turf-bound Indy Point. I'm looking for this one to step up with his French rider aboard.

Bill Mott will ship in Slumber (4-1) who comes off a fourth place finish in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic on Super Saturday at Belmont last month, with Hall of Famer Mike Smith in the irons. That race's first three finishers will all head to Santa Anita next week and run in the Breeders' Cup. Slumber finished only one and a quarter length behind Little Mike that day. Mott won the 1995 International with Lassigny, and will look to spark Juddmonte Farms to a record fourth victory in the International.

The hometown rooting favorite will be the filly, Irish Mission (20-1) who finished fourth only a length behind the two Attfield horses and Stormy Len (6-1) in the Grade 1 Northern Dancer on Woodbine Mile day at Woodbine. She could be the outside long shot due to her familiarity with the turf course. She also sports a couple of super workouts over the past month, so she looks fit for the race.

The Woodbine media office have set a Twitter hashtag for the event (#WOIntl), so be sure to follow all of the tweets from Woodbine on Sunday during International Day.

Be sure to see my Breeders' Cup preview in Saturday's print issues of The Buffalo News.

Post Time Outlook: 1 - Slumber (GB); 2 - Lucayan; 3 - Forte Dei Marmi (GB)  Long shot: Irish Mission.

 

The field for the 76th Canadian International:

PP Horse Trainer Jockey Odds
1 Hyper Brown Rosario 5-1
2 Temeraine Proctor Contreras 15-1
3 Lucayan (FR) Drysdale Pasquier 8-1
4 Perfect Timber Attfield Velazquez 12-1
5 Joshua Tree (IRE) Dunlop Moore 6-1
6 Stormy Len Donk Prado 20-1
7 Now We Can (GB) N. Clement Thulliez 20-1
8 Forte Dei Marmi (GB) Attfield Da Silva 3-1
9 Seismos (IRE) Wohler Atzeni 10-1
10 Irish Mission Frostad Boulanger 20-1
11 Slumber (GB) Mott ME Smith 4-1

 

 

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

Breeders' Cup Notes

The Breeders' Cup pre-entries for the 14 Championship races on Nov 1 and 2 will close at Noon on Monday (Oct. 21) and the pre-entries will be released for each race on Wednesday (Oct. 23).

The final entries will be determined on Monday Oct. 28 at 10 a.m. PT, and the post positions will be drawn later that afternoon. That will give horseplayers plenty of time to study past performances prior to the two big days of racing. 

Post times for the races are setand instead of the majority of the filly and mare races being run on Friday, the Breeders' Cup organizers have went back to mixing up the races over the two days. For instance the Dirt Mile, which will feature the Todd Pletcher-trained Verrazano will be run on Friday instead of Saturday. 

The Distaff looks like May be a rematch of sorts for two horses suffering their last losses to Princess of Sylmar. With a potential Horse of the Year title looming should Game On Dude falter in the Classic, the Princess' connections are rethinking their initial position of skipping the Breeders' Cup. The connections will make a decision this weekend following her next workout. 

Two-time defending champ Royal Delta will try and avenge her loss in the Beldame while Beholder (Kentucky Oaks) will do the same trying to follow up on her win in the Grade 1 Zenyatta. If the Princess shows up this could be the best race of the weekend. 

Two other fillies in the Distaff that shouldn't be ignored are Authenticity (grade 2 winner) and Close Hatches (two-time Grade 1 winner).

Local Notes

Fort Erie's chief financial officer released handle figures showing a 13 percent increase on an average daily handle basis for the recently concluded 41-day meeting over 2012 figures. Total handle for the 2013 meet was $24,893,884 for a daily average handle of $607,168 from all sources.

The Prince of Wales, the second jewel of the Triple Crown was run on a Tuesday night for the first time and the nine-race card resulted in handle of $1,332,764. The 2012 race was held on an 11-race card which only handled $1,158,157 on its traditional Sunday date.

While we rarely mention the harness game in this space, I was notified earlier in the week that a 2-year-old trotter filly, Market Rally, has qualified for the Breeders' Crown finals on Saturday at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. The Crown is harness racing's equivalent to the Breeders' Cup.

Market Rally won the NY Sire Stake Championships at Yonkers on Sept. 28 which qualified her for the Crown. She drew the No. 6 post in the $500,000 final scheduled to go off at 6:30 p.m. She is co-owned by John Yoder (Ohio) and trainer Megan Wilson and driven John Cummings, Jr., both local Western New York horsemen.

The last Western New York horse to run in the Breeders' Crown was Archangel in 2011.

 

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

The Breeders' Cup World Championships are a mere three weeks away and last weekend may have foreshadowed a change on the top of the thoroughbred world with key losses by Wise Dan and Groupie Doll at Keeneland and Obviously at Santa Anita, all coming within the same bewitching hour last Saturday afternoon.

It may have also opened the door for an improbable Horse of the Year in Princess of Sylmar, should Game on Dude falter in the Classic. A winner of four straight Grade 1's, albeit in restricted company, could propel the filly to the top of the charts. This week's NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll listed her as No. 3 behind Game on Dude and Wise Dan, but she's closed the gap and last week's loss by Wise Dan and a loss by the Dude in the Classic could turn the vote for the year's top horse into a toss up.

With most of the prep races complete, this weekend offers a chance to take a break and load up the ADW account for the big weekend on Nov. 1 and 2 at the Great Race Place in Arcadia, Calif.

Last week I gave a sneak peek at my top five favorite things about Santa Anita. This week we'll look at the top five things I'm looking forward to the most during this year's Breeders' Cup weekend.

1. The Classic. This race is shaping up as one of the better ones in the last few years. The last two were won by Drosselmeyer and Fort Larned. Yawn. This one will have horses coming off Grade 1 victories in Ron the Greek, Mucho Macho Man and Game on Dude, in addition to 3-year-olds looking to win that division in Palace Malice and Will Take Charge.

2. The Other Classic...er....The Distaff. Royal Delta and Mike Smith will try and shake off the loss to Princess of Sylmar in the Beldame at Belmont Park to attempt to win their third straight Ladies' Classic/Distaff. The race's name was restored after a brief hiatus to the Distaff, a race for fillies and mares, 3 years and up.

3. Will D. Wayne Lukas' banner year continue? He'll have Will Take Charge in the Classic, possibly Strong Mandate in the Juvenile and Optimizer in the BC Turf. He had statement wins in the Preakness (Oxbow) and the Travers (Will Take Charge), will he take home a Breeders' Cup win for the second straight year after a seven-year hiatus from the BC winner's circle? His only Classic win came in 1999 with Cat Thief.

4. Huge Pick-3 and PIck-4 pools. The chance for a life-changing score or at least a four or five-figure win is more likely during a BC card than on your average Saturday at Aqueduct. With betting minimums at $0.50, the opportunity to spread in Pick-3 and Pick-4 betting that will be rolling throughout both the Friday and Saturday cards will be there for the taking.

5. The Weather. Can you blame an east coast guy from enjoying the breathtaking San Gabriel mountains in picture-perfect 75-degree weather and little to no humidity? Count me in. With all three Triple Crown races affected by the weather this year, the chances for that happening in Southern California are very unlikely.

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

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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.

@WDX2BB | bbailey@buffnews.com

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