Front Page News - June 11, 1973

It was refreshing to see all the front page stories on Rags to Riches as reported in Equidaily. 
Racing doesn’t make the front pages as much these days but the most media coverage I ever recall occurred on this date, June 11 1973 when Secretariat appeared on the both the covers of Time and Newsweek for the week.. 

This prompted me to look for some other more obscure Secretariat trivia. When Secretariat was euthanized because of laminitis on October 4 1989, (his obituary appeared on the front page of the New York Times the next day) an autopsy was performed and it was discovered that all of Secretariat's vital organs were normal in size except for his heart. The typical horse's heart weighs 8 1/2 pounds, Secretariat’s weighed 22 pounds.

Amelia Would Be Proud

My Mea Culpa:

A overly confident blogger once wrote:

A mile and a half for any three-year old is terra incognito, so look carefully as Rags to Riches does her Amelia Earhart imitation just short of the 3/8s pole.

Being totally wrong is simple and like my handicapping admitting I'm wrong is simple.

A Small Sorority:

Rags to Riches joined a small sorority of great fillies yesterday. The greatest of which was lying just a few yards away, buried under a flat stone in the Belmont infield, surely Ruffian must have been smiling yesterday.

I find it ironic that Pletcher who is known for carefully planning campaigns wins his first Classic based on a decision made four days prior to the race, as they say, "the best laid plans of mice and men". And now the second guessing will start. Should they have run her in the Derby? Why didn't they run her in the Derby? As I recall it was Tabor's, not Pletcher's decision not to. The Horse of the Year talk is all premature. The Las Virgenes and Santa Anita Oaks are nice Grade 1s but they won't mean anything when the HOTY voting rolls around. Have people forgotten that Invasor is stabled at Belmont? And in retrospect, Carl Nafzger is looking like a genius for keeping Street Sense on the sidelines and now my boy Street Sense is the fresh horse should Rags or Curlin show up in the Travers. Bring them on, he'll whip their asses.

ABC Coverage and the NYRA:

I can't say enough bad things about ABC's coverage of the race. ESPN's coverage before the switch over at five o'clock was their standards fare and well done as usual, it had one too many human interest stories for my taste but you saw the races you wanted to see. The Acorn went off a few minutes after ABC came on and I knew they did not have time to cover it live but at least mention the race and show the last quarter mile on tape, at worst they could have used it as a segway into discussing Rags to Riches. Instead they chose to run a piece about day care center for race track workers, this was the first of an endless number of human interest segments. Yeah you need the human interest stuff but do they have to run it at the expense of the racing coverage? It's plain stupid to me. Surely I thought they would cover the Grade 1 Manhattan. But here again not a mention of the race or a bit of tape. Just more repetitive babble from Mayne, Bailey and Edwards.

Those geniuses at the NYRA set up the program and they must realize that having these races seen on live television is going to drive up overall handle on the day. So why don't they schedule these races to ensure they get coverage on ESPN if ABC is going to totally ignore them? What not run the Acorn and Manhattan as the 5th and 6th races and put the Foresta and Birdstone in the ABC dead zone. No wonder they're bankrupt, whomever is running the NYRA are a bunch of idiots.

The Ruffian Movie:

I watched most of it but turned it off just before the match race. I did not need to see how they treated the breakdown, the original was horrific enough for me.

As a TV movie it wasn't bad, I liked Sam Sheppard as Frank Whiteley. The races segments had a Seabiscuit quality to them (a little too Hollywood) by which I mean they were too polished to make me believe there were real. Having Dave Johnson on board as the announcer was a touch of realism I enjoyed but Dave was a lot thinner in the 70's. The portrayal of Braulio Baeza was right on, Braulio never smiled and if I was Jacinto Vasquez I would consider suing for making him look like a mindless submissive boy instead of one of the best jockeys of his day.

ABC's Belmont Coverage - Too Much Talk, Not Enough Racing

ABC like NBC, when they covered the Preakness, has chosen to totally ignore the undercard. Since ABC came on at 5PM they have chosen not to cover the Acorn or the Manhattan but if you want to hear Kenny Mayne, Jeanine Edwards and Hank Goldberg repeat themselves over and over about Curlin, Hard Spun and how dangerous it is to be Robby Albarado, you are in luck. I have resigned myself to watching the Manhattan on streaming video on Youbet. Meanwhile, ABC runs an American Express ad featuring Ellen DeGeneres and plugs their Ruffian movie just as Better Talk Now and English Channel are battling it out in the stretch. ABC's coverage makes NBC look good.

Iwontbetenwidetoday

Truisms are usually simple and here at Not To The Swift when it comes to handicapping I like to keep it simple.

One truism about the Belmont Stakes is that it's either won by the best horse or the only horse who could actually run a mile and a half.

In the first category we have horses like Afleet Alex, Empire Maker and Point Given. In the second category you have horses like Jazil, Sarava and Commendable.

I think this will be one of those years where the winner comes from the second category. So here's hoping another deserving Cajun jockey wins his first classic and that's why I pick Imawildandcrazyguy and Mark Guidry to the win the Belmont Stakes.

A Ticket You Couldn't Throw Away

Here's a gem from the Not to the Swift Archive(which is located in my basement and not open to the public).

I usually crumple up my losing tickets, I don't know why maybe because I get some kind of closure out of it (closure, man is that word overused). Anyway with the Ruffian movie set to air tomorrow night I thought I'd share one of only two tickets that I have ever saved.

This is my two dollar win ticket on Ruffian from her last race, that famous and tragic match race against Foolish Pleasure on July 6, 1975, yes Ruffian was gone but this was a way to hold on to her.

Amelia Earhart Made a Similar Mistake

In 1937, thirty two years after Tanya became the last filly to win the Belmont, Amelia Earhart’s plane nosedived into the South Pacific. She was attempting to become the first woman to circumnavigate the globe by air. Many things contributed to her failure, maybe her equipment failed or maybe she made a math mistake calculating the amount of gas she would need but to make a long story short, she ran out of gas.

Fast forward seventy years to Belmont Park this Saturday as Rags to Riches (360) like Amelia tempts fate and tries go where no filly in modern times has gone. While some see the decision to run Rags as a sporting gesture and that it may be, the move is out of character for the ever careful Pletcher and smacks more of desperation than sportsmanship. Like Earhart, Rags to Riches will fail because Pletcher has overestimated her abilities and underestimated the colts she will run against. A few good workouts against Circular Quay in the mornings doesn’t mean much these days. She is a standout in a weak three-year old filly division and has only raced once at a mile and an eighth and never against colts. Her immediate family includes two Belmont winners, neither one of them was a filly. Of course, she would not be Todd’s first miscalculation of the season, all his best colts have crashed and burned this year for one reason or another and why should Rags be any different? A mile and a half for any three-year old is terra incognito, so look carefully as Rags to Riches does her Amelia Earhart imitation just short of the 3/8s pole.

The Greatest Belmont Stakes

In my mind the 1978 Belmont Stakes will always be the greatest race I ever saw, yes I was there that day. Followed closely by Secretariat's Belmont, yes I was there that day too.

Next in my mind is Conquistador Cielo's win in 1982. It was a miserable, rainy day at Belmont. A cold wind was blowing into the grandstand and every seat was wet. As you may know Conquistador Cielo won his Belmont six days after he took the Metropolitan Mile over older horses. By today's standards that would be two Grade 1 wins in one week by the same horse; A record Woody Stevens set that I doubt Todd Pletcher or anyone else will ever duplicate.


Racing Has More Than A Nail Infection . . .

Digger’s entry in the Belmont Stakes was just about as welcome as a nail infection; the entry of the over matched colt says a lot about what is wrong with racing in general and the Triple Crown in particular, the absence of sportsmanship by Street Sense’s owners and a misplaced sense of sportsmanship that borders on abuse by the owners of Digger is an infection that is damaging the sport.

Street Sense’s owner has every right to do as he likes, everybody knows racing is an expensive game and only a lucky few hit pay dirt. When Darley comes calling it’s hard for any rational person to turn them down. But the problem now is that commercial breeding concerns now drive all major decisions in racing, to the obvious detriment of the sport. This has not always been the case, after Secretariat was syndicated at the end of his two-year old season in 1972, the great colt won the Triple Crown but also managed to lose three races that year (the Wood Memorial, Whitney and Woodward). Would a breeding syndicate be willing to take a chance like that now? The answer is obvious, they would not. Is Street Sense as good as Secretariat, obviously not, but what’s missing now is a lack of sportsmanship on behalf of both the breeding and racing connections. Secretariat’s connections took on all comers and mistakes were made but in the final analysis the horse proved his greatness. No one these days has the patience to lose or the patience to wait for a horse to truly prove his greatness.

Apply Even Pressure

What’s that gushing sound? It’s the sound of a bleeding and mortally wounded Triple Crown series. Has anybody at the NTRA got a clue or a tourniquet? With his announcement that Street Sense has, in effect, completed his spring campaign and will skip the Belmont and plan for the fall, Nafzger has disappointed many and dealt another blow to the Belmont Stakes. As Carl said before. “What’s the point?” and today you got the answer, there is no point of running a mile and half in June. Especially if it might compromise your chances of winning the Breeders Cup Classic in October. While it seems as if Nafzger is willing to hand off the three-year old championship to Curlin in the short term. He hopes that a win in the Travers and a win or good showing in the Breeders Cup would cancel out Curlin’s championship hopes (provided he wins the Belmont). It’s a huge, unconventional gamble and evidence of a new paradigm where all that really matters is that Classic win and the Breeders Cup Classic. The Triple Crown series has no inherent value of its own; it no longer matters.

Einstein Wouldn't Bet on Her

In 1905 Einstein (the human not the horse) was still working in that patent office, Mata Hari who was the Madonna of her age was gaining fame as an exotic dancer and Tanya became only the second and last filly to win the Belmont Stakes.

Can Rags to Riches do what Genuine Risk and Winning Colors could not, win the Belmont? In the 102 years since Tanya, a total of only nine other fillies have tried and failed to pull it off.

If you're like me your hoping that the betting public starts feeling sorry for Todd (AKA Mr. Zero) and gets all soft and mushy over seeing his fine, but alas overmatched filly in the Belmont. I wouldn't be surprised to see Rags to Riches Belmont Stakes Odds at 5-1 or less. But you know Einstein said "There's a sucker born every minute" and I am betting 50,000 suckers show up at Belmont. If Rags to Riches goes in the Belmont, I'll be betting against her and I'd bet Einstein (the human and the horse) would bet against her too.

Buddha Has Left the Building

The slots take per machine is way down at Gulfstream Park, which must mean its summer time in Florida. The snowbirds have all left for points north and taken their cars and money with them. Hurricane season is just around the corner; I love Florida in the off-season, the roads and beaches are uncrowded and it’s easy to get a reservation at the best restaurants.

Things will be slow here at Not to the Swift while I take a break from offering my unsolicited opinions on everything racing related and recline Buddha-like under a palm tree expanding my consciousness and my waistline.

If you happened upon this blog from a link on Equidaily earlier in the week please take some time to check out the other blogs in the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance, a loose federation of great minds empowered by push button publishing.

Broken Crown

Larry Jones, the colorful cowboy trainer with a never say die attitude is the most pleasant surprise of the Triple Crown series. A man, graceful in defeat, willing to air his hopes and dreams in public, he is an everyman, a magnet for the press and a relief from the endless coverage of Todd's miscalculations. Jones along with the emerging Curlin/Street Sense rivalry is just what the sport needs.

That being said, I can’t see Jones' rationale for bringing Hard Spun to the Belmont; it's unlikely he could win, even by attrition if Street Sense and Curlin pass. It's obvious to me and everyone else that Hard Spun is best at nine furlongs or less. After all there are some very rich races out there tailor made for Hard Spun, like the Pennsylvania and West Virginia Derbies.

As for Street Sense and Curlin, their emerging rivalry is good for the sport and I hope both camps keep that in mind and don't go into "Breeders Cup Syndrome" spending the balance of the year strategically avoiding each other; targeting big races in the fall and hoping to gain some intangible advantage. The diminishing value of the Belmont Stakes, evidenced by Carl Nafzger's "What's the point" statement is proof that the Triple Crown has more problems than just finding a horse who can win it. Why run for a million in June and risk not having a horse ready to run for five million in October. Sounds like a good reason to have a substantial bonus for winning the Triple Crown and a lesser bonus in place for winning two of the three legs. Money talks and bullshit walks and if the Triple Crown is the ultimate achievement in the sport than winning two thirds of the crown should still be worth more then a win in the Breeders Cup.

Blinded by the Light Off Andy Beyer's Head

ESPN's coverage was much better than NBC's. The minute NBC came on they pissed me off by not spending two minutes covering Flashy Bull's win in the Schaefer Handicap. Terry Finley of West Point Thoroughbreds always has a horse running on big days with national TV coverage but rarely does he win, so Flashy Bull's win was a nice surprise and nice free advertising. Then in the winner's circle after the Preakness, the first question for Albarado wasn't even about Curlin; they chose to dwell on the negative and focus on his jump/fall off Einstein in the Dixie two races earlier. Just the kind of negativity we need after a great edition of the Preakness. A pretty poor first question for a guy who just won his first classic, I thought it was unnecessary and insensitive. It was nice to see Jess Jackson and Satish Sanan (two type A personalities) struggling for face time and getting their hands on the Woodlawn trophy. I wonder how long before these guys are suing each other for something or another.

Randy Moss said one or two things that were flat out wrong. I forget the first but the second was about Circular Quay's demeanor around the barn. In fact he was describing King of the Roxy as the Todd had described him earlier in the day. Jerry Bailey was not on air, he was at his son's graduation and to tell you the truth I did not miss him. Emmy nomination or not I don't think he adds that much value to the commentary. Gary Stevens is very stiff on camera for a guy who thought he had a movie career. I don't wonder why the roles aren't coming anymore. But the lowest point of the afternoon was Andy Beyer's interview on ESPN. They did not have a proper seat for him so it looked like they sat him on the floor for the interview. Andy spent the ten minutes justifying his fixation on Hard Spun (wrong again Andy) but all you saw was the top of that bald head of his where the hair is as scarce as Hank Goldberg's winners; the glare off his skull almost blinded me. Andy have mercy on the television audience and get a rug!


Contrary to the informed opinions of some, this is not an ordinary crop of three-year olds. Street Sense, Curlin and Hard Spun have made this a memorable Triple Crown series so far and I hope Carl Nafzger reconsiders the Belmont. As it stands now the Belmont clearly sets up for the fresh horse; I like Sightseeking or Iamawildandcrazyguy. I think Beyer is right; while Curlin is extraordinary, sooner or later he will hit the wall.

I Think We Got Nipped~ Carl Nafzger

What looked like certain victory, snatched away. Hey that is horse racing and there is no disgrace in this loss. Street Sense proved once again that he is the real thing and Curlin proved that he too is a rare individual. Best of all we can now put the nightmare of 2006 behind us.


Todd continues as President of the zero club. I think he is now 0 for 28 now; how could he be so wrong about Circular Quay?

Unfortunately they won't be setting up any memorial funds for Mending Fences who continued the sad trend of fatal injuries on big days.

The Quacks are Running Wild in Albany

The saga over how to reinvent the NYRA franchise just goes on and on. With each passing day the politicians involved look more like poorly trained surgeons trying to separate a three-headed child; bits of blood, bone and tissue are already beginning to drop to the statehouse floor as decisions are made on the fly about who will get the heart, the brain and the lungs. When they are done the NYRA that remains isn’t likely to resemble anything familiar and the life expectancies of Aqueduct and Saratoga just got much shorter. If Spitzer gets his way in ten years racing in New York might resemble Florida, with Belmont looking more like Gulfstream (oh no) and Saratoga suffering the same fate as Hialeah.

Wouldn’t it be nice if politicians were required to have malpractice insurance?

It was just my imagination, running away with me

Remember that reporter from the Miami Herald who wrote that idiotic article alleging Jose Santos was carrying a buzzer during the 2003 Derby. The article gave birth to a number of lawsuits by Funny Cide’s connections against the newspaper which took four years to work their way through the courts and were finally settled in the Miami Herald’s favor by a Florida Appeals court.

To make a long story short, the Herald apologized for the stupid story, although it took them six months to do so. Understandably upset and not satisfied with a mere apology Sackatoga and Santos sued for $48 million in damages alleging Santos under stress reacted to the allegation by over-extending Funny Cide to win the Preakness which lead to his loss of the Belmont and the Triple Crown. While the buzzer story was quite a stretch and somewhat libelous in my opinion; the rationale for losing the Belmont was frivolous and makes you question the sanity of the Sackatoga and Santos. Of course, the blame for this whole stupid episode lies at the door of the Herald which did not care whose reputation they damaged when they put the shoddy story out.

The Washington Post Done Me Wrong

Now I know why Richard Nixon hated the Washington Post. Well maybe not for the same reason I do. After all Nixon was the paranoid nut job who approved the Watergate break in. I am just an overly enthusiastic racing fan with a pendant for stealing photographs I don’t have the copyright to and posting them on my cutting edge blog. But I digress; back in 1972 the Washington Post exposed Nixon and his misdeeds (of which there were many) which eventually lead to his resignation. I haven’t committed any crimes that I am aware of (or will admit to) but none the less I am just as pissed as Nixon.

Just after the Derby, I posted a fine piece of original prose about my favorite whipping boy, Todd Pletcher. It was full of original insight as all my posts are. Well a reporter from the Washington Post, who shall remain nameless had the good sense to quote me (yeah, I am the horse racing blogger quoted). It was just a sentence (but my sentences are pretty powerful) without attributing the quote to me. Naturally I flew in to a fury.

Now I know there are one or two of you reporters out there who read my stuff, God Bless Ya. But for crying out loud when a little peon like me says something quotable give me some freaking credit!

You know, I don’t have to write this blog; yeah I could just pull the plug on this thing and starve you guys for ideas. Think about that!

The Uneventful Preakness

You don’t have to read the Bug Boys regularly to know that racing in Maryland is almost dead. Maryland My Maryland will sound more like a dirge this year then in any I recall. The nearly dearly departed with that faint pulse and labored breathing is Maryland racing embodied by the Preakness. That middle jewel of the Triple Crown that was always less exciting than the Derby and occasionally overshadowed by the Belmont, when a triple crown was on the line. Famous for those rowdy infield parties that look more like Irish wakes with each passing year.

The best we can hope for this year is an uneventful Preakness; you know one without a nosedive or a shattered leg. Of course I am hoping that Street Sense wins on Saturday and if he does, he then goes on to win the Triple Crown. Maybe then some politician in Annapolis will figure out what they are letting slip away.

The Irish Invade France

Things are once again relatively quiet stateside this weekend as all eyes turn to the Preakness a week from tomorrow.

The French equivalent of the 2000 Guineas which is called the Poule d'Essai des Poulains (translates roughly as the test of the foals) will be run at Longchamp on Sunday. The French 1000 Guineas, the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches (translates to the hen test of the fillies) will also be contested on Sunday at Longchamp. French may be tough but Gaelic is even worse as two of the top contenders have very Irish names. Irish trainer Jim Bolger has a good chance to win both events he saddles Creachadoir in the Poulains and the phenomenal filly Finsceal Beo (pictured above)in the Pouliches. Oh yeah and the usual suspects Aidan O'Brien and Saeed bin Suroor will be in town too. The story below courtesy of the Racing Post

CREACHADOIR features among 14 horses declared for Sunday's Poule d'Essai des Poulains at Longchamp.

Jim Bolger's colt has twice scored at Group Three level this term and will now aim to prove his mettle at the highest grade in the French 2,000 Guineas.

Creachadoir forms part of a comprehensive Irish challenge significantly boosted by a four-strong Aidan O'Brien raiding party.

The Ballydoyle maestro will saddle Brave Tin Soldier, Excellent Art, Astronomer Royal and Honoured Guest in the one-mile Classic.

The last-named colt has won both his starts this year and is the only supplementary entry, while O'Brien's compatriot David Wachman relies on Followmyfootsteps.

Tariq, Mastership and Thousand Words travel over from England to contest the Group 1 feature, along with Godolphin's sole entry Dijeerr.

Andre Fabre's Visionario heads just four French-trained runners.

The son of Spinning World reappeared with an encouraging third behind Chichi Creasy at the Paris venue last month.

He will be joined in the race by Spirit One, Stoneside and the Jean-Claude Rouget-trained Battle Paint, who finished one place in front of Visionario last time.


BRILLIANT 1,000 Guineas winner Finsceal Beo features among the 13 horses declared for Sunday's French equivalent - the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches at Longchamp.

Jim Bolger's filly justified favouritism at 5-4 when slamming her Newmarket rivals by two and a half lengths and more in record time last weekend.

While she is sure to be a warm order to bag her second Classic in the space of a week, the daughter of Mr Greeley will face another strong field in Paris.

Alain de Royer Dupre's Darjina puts her unbeaten record on the line along with the Jean-Claude Rouget-trained Peace Dream, who created a lasting impression at the track in March.
The five other French-trained rivals are Galaxie Des Sables, I Should Care, Zut Alors, Fairy Dress andIron Lips.

Jeremy Noseda has declared Sander Camillo along with Rahiyah, while John Gosden relies on twice-raced maiden Costume.

Bicoastal and Sesmen will also make the trek across the English Channel for the Group 1 showdown.

The Sheepshead Bay Sheeplechase

I thought they ran this race at Aqueduct? Looks like Todd Pletcher trains number five !

Your Average Kentucky Derby Winner

Is there such a thing? For the most part Derby winners are extraordinary horses and for some the exertions of preparing and winning the classic takes it toll; injury and retirement soon follow. Is Street Sense your average Kentucky Derby winner, you know a horse that was more lucky than talented on Derby day. If I had to, I could name three horses that in my opinion were more lucky than talented on that first Saturday in May and Street Sense would not be one of them. Most would agree that Giacomo makes the list and while he placed in the other classics he only managed one more win in the Grade two San Diego Handicap during the balance of his career. Lil E Tee would also fall into that average category finishing fifth in the Preakness skipping the Belmont then developing bone chips. At age four he took the Grade two Razorback Handicap and that was all she wrote. Lastly Gato del Sol (pictured above) who managed to take only the Cabrillo at 4 and the Caballero at 6, by modern standards they would probably be Grade threes today.

While Hard Spun’s connections entertain the idea of turning the tables on Street Sense, the odds are against them. In the last twenty years only one horse who was second in the Derby has managed to win the Preakness, ironically that was Summer Squall who beat Unbridled in 1990. But for Hard Spun, whose trainer holds out hope that the surface and Pino’s experience at Pimlico will make the difference, Jones should remember that in a field of eight or ten horses and without any traffic to navigate and with Hard Spun clearly in his sights Street Sense will have an easier job to do at Pimlico than the one he just completed at Churchill.

Your Average Coupon-Clipping Horse Player

I made a pilgrimage down to the new Philadelphia Racetrack and Casino about a week ago, enticed by two coupons in the local newspaper worth $25 each in slot play bucks. So along with my Dad,who needed an evening out, we got in the car and made the thirty minute drive down to the facility that was promised to save horse racing in Pennsylvania.

The first thing a horse player would notice about the new racino is that the banner over the front door declaring this to be the home of Smarty Jones has been removed and with it any resemblance that Philadelphia Park used to be a racetrack. Don’t get me wrong this is not a bad thing; Philadelphia Park was one of those utilitarian structures that from the outside looked more like an ugly corrugated metal box that could be mistaken for an airplane hanger if you did not look too closely.

I don’t lament what they have done with the building and in truth as racinos go I like Philly Park much better than Gulfstream Park. Even though the horse players have been herded into some small places, it’s only a few days a year when crowding becomes an issue. I rarely ever see more than 1500 people there even on a Saturday and it’s still more comfortable than Gulfstream Park for the average horse player.

At the player rewards desk I redeemed the coupons gave Dad his slot voucher and went off to the cashier to cash in my voucher, with my free money in hand I headed up to the fifth floor where the simulcasting is and played the ponies with my free slot money. I lost about ten bucks and used the balance to buy beer and hot dogs for the Dad and me after he had managed to lose his twenty five free slot bucks at the slots (big surprise).

Yes, a free night out for this average horse player and all at the slot players’ expense. To top my evening off, walking through the casino I found $100 on the floor that had fallen out of someone’s pocket. All in all a profitable evening, now every day at work I scour the local paper for those free coupons, Dad can always use an evening out.

The Green Monkey isn’t the only monkey on Todd’s back

They say it is lonely at the top and I would guess Todd must feel pretty lonely back at the barn this Monday morning as he looks down the shed row to see his five Derby starters back in their stalls without the roses and the unraced $16 million dollar mistake munching on hay not far away. With great expectations come great disappointment and as the entire racing world watched in disbelief, the air was sucked out of Todd’s world on Saturday afternoon when Street Sense blew by. Can Todd catch his breath? The bigger question is can his clients like Tabor and Sanan get their confidence in Pletcher back. Like it or not Todd is now the poster boy on how not to prepare for the Derby and I suspect his rich clients have figured that out.

Percentages work for you and against you and there is no denying that hitting the board only three times in nineteen attempts speaks volumes. One has to believe that under another trainer horses like More Than Ready, Trippi, Graeme Hall, Balto Star, Pollard’s Vision, Flower Alley, Bandini, Any Given Saturday, Circular Quay and Scat Daddy might have fared better; they couldn’t have fared any worse.

Todd, Can We Talk ?

OK so you’re 0 for 19. Yeah maybe there’s something about your training methods that keeps you from getting what everybody thinks you should have, a Derby win. And now you’re going all cerebral on us and you’re going to skip running the gang of five in the Preakness. This is the exactly the opposite of what you should do. Throw your tried and true methods out the window because they don’t work in the Triple Crown. Take a chance and run them, they are good horses. They can’t be tired because you never run them . . . eight week layoff, five week layoff. Todd training up to a race may work for you most of the time but it’s time to try a new approach and run them. You know that’s what D Wayne would do, he would run them. Stop thinking and start running, remember Commendable and Editor’s Note and grow some balls and maybe you’ll win one.

Thank You Street Sense Part II

Thanks to the kind owners of Birdbirdistheword who allowed me to visit with their fine colt back in February I got to spend a morning at Palm Meadows with Birdbird, Kenny McPeek and his crew. For me it was a morning on the Kentucky Derby trail and a thrill I won't forget. As fate would have it, things would not work out for Birdbird but by chance I got an opportunity to wander over to the barn next store where Street Sense was stabled. As luck would have it, I got to meet Street Sense who. it appears, wasn't that thrilled to meet me. Yet I was thrilled to meet him.

The following are my few moments with Street Sense. I thanked him for that wonderful run in the Breeders Cup. A run he duplicated today, just like you'd expect from a great horse. Today a lot of people know what a great horse he is.


The Juvenile Jinx, Can Street Sense Overcome The Odds?



Is there really a Juvenile Jinx?

If you look at the following chart, you will see a graphical representation of the total number of live foals registered by the Jockey Club for the last 120 years (since the year 2000 the annual number of foals has averaged @37,000 so the information for this decade will be very close to the 1990s). You don’t need to be a statistician to figure out that the odds of winning the Derby or even getting into the field for that matter are approaching the astronomical. Between 1980 and 1999 breeders produced more foals that all the foals produced between 1920 and 1979. What looks like a jinx is really just the inability of one horse to overcome the mounting odds against him (her).

Additionally today's three-year olds have to compete with modern breeding strategies that produce 200 foals by Giant's Causeway or Fusaichi Pegasus in any given crop. Nowadays a three-year old also must contend with top runners from around the world who also covet the American Classics. Throw in the fact that we are racing a frailer animal than we did say 30 years ago, when we had three Triple Crown winners and the Triple Crown is as tough a challenge as it was 60 years ago. These numbers make me think we may never see another Triple Crown winner.

Can Street Sense overcome the Juvenile Jinx? Arguably his win in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile can be considered one of the best performances in the history of the race. I put it right up there with Arazi’s win in 1991. Arazi’s sweeping move around the turn at Churchill was awesome. Trevor Denman’s very poor call distracted many from what was an incredible performance by Street Sense.

Chasing Barbaro

Has anyone actually seen this documentary yet? I know it was preempted by Alan’s beloved Rangers back on April 29th and it was supposed to be on CNBC last night at 9PM but when I tuned in they had a poker tournament on in its place, further proof of what a good job poker has done at reinvesting itself. According to the Bloodhorse it will be broadcast at 8PM tonight on NBC. As we all know horse racing is not much of a draw on TV anyway (remember the ratings for last year's Breeders Cup) and apparently no one cares if anyone sees it or they would have aired it prior to the Derby and not on the slowest night of the week for television, sorry Barbaro how soon they all forget.

I am not going to bore you with the details of my derby bets only to say that I bet what I call the Breeders Cup Reprise Superfecta since all four finshers are back. I also bet $2 to win on Tiago because of his biorhythm, although he’s really overbet and getting a lot more press attention than he deserves in my opinion. A steady stream of misinformation continues to flow from all connections; all you hear is that every horse is doing great. What are the odds of that? I just don’t believe Paul Reddam when he says he thinks Liquidity will outperform Great Hunter; just a little misinformation to benefit his odds I would say.

Cockney Rebel Wins the 2000 Guineas at 25-1

Two furlongs out Cockney Rebel strikes the front to win the 2000 Guineas by 2 lengths in a huge upset under Olivier Peslier. Vital Equine was second, Dutch Art close for third over Duke of Marmalade.

1st (3) Cockney Rebel 25-1 2nd (23) Vital Equine 33-1 3rd (8) Dutch Art 14-1

2000 Guineas: Diamond Tycoon Has 250 Owners

Here's a great story in the Racing Post about one of the Guineas runners.

Over the years, many have competed in major races under the banner of ‘The People's Horse' but few can be more accurately worthy of the title than Diamond Tycoon, who races for 250 enthusiasts who invested £320 apiece for their involvement.

A coachload of members of the syndicate, which is organised by the Racegoers Club, visited Manton a few hours before Diamond Tycoon - who is leased for the season from James Hanly - entered 2,000 Guineas calculations with a stunning performance in a Newbury maiden, where he made all and clocked a time quicker than the Spring Cup on the same card.

As Jamie Spencer returned to unsaddle, he mentioned to trainer Brian Meehan, who was walking alongside, that he thought he was back on a Ballydoyle Classic contender.

Meehan said on Friday: ”Jamie also made the point the colt has had experience of the undulations of the Rowley Mile, having finished a good second on his debut last autumn, and he handled the dip without a bother.

“The horse appreciates good, fast ground and hopefully that's what he'll get. “I'm very happy with the two-stall draw, and while some people are reckoning the field may split in two, perhaps even three, I think they'll come up the middle in one bunch.”

After Newbury, Meehan sensibly waited a few days before finally committing Diamond Tycoon to the Classic.

”I just wanted to see how he'd taken the race. He's fine, and worked very well on Monday. He goes there with every chance.”

Around 150 of the syndicate organised by the Racegoers Club will be at Newmarket, and the majority of them will be required to pay to get in.

”We held a ballot to determine who would receive the half-a-dozen free owner passes, and 20 at half-price,” said organiser Paul Smith.

He added: “We're excited because the colt would appear to have such a good chance. The office telephone has been red hot all week.

“The Racegoers Club has been operating for 40 years, but this is our first Classic entry, let alone a runner.”

Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee ~ Teofilo Out of Guineas



5-2 favorite Teofilo was withdrawn from Saturday's 2000 Guineas yesterday. A reoccurance of a knee injury may also jeopardize a run in the Epsom Derby next month.

Favoritism for the Guineas now falls to Adagio whose my recent win was in the Craven stakes at Newmarket.

Will A Solomon Step Forward ?

Here we are with 48 hours to go until the Derby and the impasse between TrackNet and TVG goes on, an appeal by a number of major horsemen’s groups to find a temporary settlement for the good of the sport appears to have fallen on deaf ears. I would not expect someone from Magna to step forward and play the role of a biblical Solomon here and display some wisdom and do what is right for the sport. Magna has never had the good of the sport incorporated into their business plan.

This Solomon should come from Churchill Downs(CDI). Churchill can’t be totally oblivious to their custodial duties for the Kentucky Derby as an American institution, even if those duties are not detailed in their articles of incorporation.

Two Bad

Curlin is the biggest question mark in this Derby. Just how good is he? Is he the next Barbaro or Smarty Jones; there’s even a chance he may be the next Seattle Slew but there’s just as good a chance that he will wind up the next Trippi or Sensitive Prince. Two minutes after the gate opens on Saturday we will know.

For the first time in his brief career Curlin will face adversity and there is no education better than overcoming adversity. Breaking from the extreme inside does not help his chances, no matter what kind of brave face his connections put on. Albarado will have to use him early to get position, he will not have a choice; Albarado could even find himself on the lead if Teuflesberg or Stormello don't make the lead easily and a speed duel would then ensue. For Curlin his chances of outrunning Apollo’s ghost will be decided in the first quarter mile. Add to that burden, that the last horses to win from the two post were Affirmed and Bold Forbes against much smaller fields. The one ray of historical hope for Curlin is that Cannonade did win from the two post against a field of 23 in 1974, so it can be done but that was 33 years ago and Cannonade came into Derby with over 20 lifetime starts. If Curlin can pass these tests he may very well be the next Seattle Slew.

What If Todd Was A Horse ?

Todd Pletcher’s record in the Kentucky Derby is 14-0-1-1. What if you were asked to handicap a race where strangely the horses have records that closely resemble some real life trainers. Which horse would you bet?

First we have a horse called Blame the Surface, who is known around the barn by the nickname BS, this is his first start. He could have made his first start months ago but his trainer keeps moving from track to track looking for a surface he likes. When he finds that surface he works Blame the Surface way too fast and then has to scratch him. Blame The Surface’s lifetime record is 0-0-0-0-.

Next we have a horse called Grumpy Cide. Grumpy Cide was slow maturing and his trainer took his time with him. Grumpy Cide’s trainer only places him where he thinks he can win and this strategy has paid off. Grumpy Cide’s lifetime record is 2-1-0-0.

Next is Unbridled Carl, this colt’s trainer keeps a very small stable so he can give the individualized care his horses need. In order to prepare Unbridled Carl for this race his trainer has been stabled at the track for over a month where the colt has shown an affinity for the surface. Unbridled Carl like Grumpy Cide is only placed where his trainer thinks he can win. His lifetime record is 2-1-0-0.

Then we have I Shot the Sheriffs whose trainer is well respected although his training techniques are unconventional. I Shot the Sheriffs works are slow and the press tends to ignore him because he does not put in snappy works like Blame the Surface does. Regardless I Shot the Sheriffs is unbeaten having won at first asking at 50-1. His lifetime record is 1-1-0-0.

Lastly we have a horse called Todd P. This is an expensive, well bred colt with a silver mane. The press is always writing stories about Todd P’s trainer who runs a mega-stable of 200 expensive horses like Todd P. Todd P, the horse, has a quiet disposition that hides a very competitive spirit. Todd P always attracts a lot of money when he races because of his trainer’s high percentages. But when it comes to actually winning races Todd P can never get the job done. His lifetime record is 14-0-1-1

Which horse would you bet on?

Ray Kerrison's Amnesia

In his column today, Say Goodbye to the Derby as we know it, Ray Kerrison of the New York Post unloads both barrels at modern training techniques, synthetic surfaces, drugs and modern breeding practices. There isn’t much new in the article to this fan, Kerrison recycles topics that we bloggers have been talking about for a long time. It seems to me that Kerrison's memory is starting to fail as he paints a very dark picture of the modern thoroughbred that in my opinion ignores recent history.

Modern Derby horses have no foundation under them because they can't take the heat. They are so fragile in wind and limb, their genes so crippled by a quarter century of drug abuse, that only a few can endure the rigors of a campaign to cope with a gut-busting marathon like the Derby.

How does Kerrison define modern? After all six horses have won the first two legs of the Triple Crown in the last ten years. Yes they all failed in the Belmont but it’s a disingenuous to describe the breed as crippled as a whole and unable to endure; after all Silver Charm, Real Quiet, War Emblem and Funny Cide all went on to win important races after the triple crown campaign.

Kerrsion also totally misunderstands the reason for the popularity of polytrack.

That's why modern horses need a kinder, slower, safer running surface like Polytrack. They can't hack the old dirt track.

It’s not unsoundness of the breed that is driving the change; it’s the inherent unsafe, unpredictable and inconsistent nature of current surfaces that is driving the change. Kerrison seems to have forgotten that what is good for the horse is good for the industry.

What Kerrison is right about is that these fresh horses probably will not stand up to the Triple Crown grind. What are the chances that should Tiago or Curlin win, that they could go on to win the Belmont as a sixth or seventh career start? I am not sure of the statistics but I don’t recall any horse ever winning the Belmont as their sixth start.

Horsemen try to tell you that there is a new concept in training - fresh is best. Chances are that an underdone, unseasoned, unhurried specimen will win Saturday's Derby. And if he does, what odds will you give me that he will be around at the end of the year?

The Triple Crown is now further complicated by the ill-conceived new gimmicks like the Yum bonus for beating Barbaro’s winning margin in the Derby. This new bonus effectively front loads the Triple Crown and will serve to decrease interest in the Preakness and Belmont Stakes. Something that is not good for racing in my mind.

Overly Simplistic Slot Players and Obsessive-Compulsive Horse Players

Reader Lenny makes some very astute observations in response to my post about the small field sizes at Delaware Park and the lack of excitement those small fields generate for a horse player (like myself) with a preference for full fields and long shots who pay $12.00 to show. You can read Lenny’s comments here.

Speaking of Delaware Park, Equidaily has a link to an article about how slot competition from PA is affecting business in Delaware and what the Racinos are doing to keep their slot loving minions happy and uninclined to wander over the state line to the new Harrahs in Chester PA. Delaware surveys its customers regularly and it seems increasing numbers of their slots players are beginning to think the slots payouts are getting smaller and infrequent. Slots players being a rather simplistic bunch who think take out only applies to Chinese food, have begun to grumble that maybe the slots in Delaware are rigged. Call it sour grapes or whatever a loser is never happy but this is just further proof that slots players are overly simplistic dummies who will never become crossover bettors. Being a horse player requires some common sense, analytical skill and an attention span of at least 25 minutes. These are qualities that the average slot player does not have.

The down side to having a modicum of common sense, analytical skill and an attention span is that horse players have a tendency to be obsessive compulsive. No where is this tendency more apparent these days than in the constant reporting about Kentucky Derby workout minutia in the press and on the blogs. I guess in this era of two-race campaigns these workouts take on more significance but all this ink about Hard Spun in 57 1/5 with the fractions for every furlong published are going to mean squat come Saturday. There is really no way to logically sort out what these workouts mean relative to each other and nothing can take the place of these horses getting out there on the track and competing. You know I hate to give equine Svengali Todd any credit but I think Master Todd summed it up best when he said.

You can make a case for horses, or you can make a case against them,” he said. “There is not a right way to do any of this. You just lead the horses over there, and every year one of them comes back a winner. You hope someday it will be your horse.”

Yippee, Delaware Park Opens: Home of the Six Horse Field

I hate playing races with really small fields, you can’t decent odds, even the worst horse in the race goes off at 10-1, exactas pay $8.00 and most show prices come in under $3.00. Small fields suck and that’s why I refuse to play the always-chalky Delaware Park. The average field size at Delaware yesterday on opening day was 5.75 and today it’s 6.75. There was a time there when California was the king of the five horse field but at least in California you got some really good horses in the field. At Delaware you usually have to choose between mid-level claimers from Maryland and West Virginia or down on their luck refugees from Aqueduct at a juicy 5-1 or less. When you can't decide which 2-1 shot to bet just wager on the one with Ramon Dominguez aboard. I thought slots were supposed to boost purses, bring in better horses and generate full fields. That is certainly not the case at Delaware Park, were combined handle was $995,000 on the opening day.

The Return of Red Rocks, Dylan Thomas and Yeats Set To Run

Breeders Cup Turf Champion Red Rocks returned to his winning ways after a dismal performance in Dubai last month.

Dylan Thomas faces seven rivals on his return to Group 1 company in the Prix Ganay at Longchamp on Sunday. Mashaahed and Red Rocks were entered in the Ganay but opted for the Betfred Gordon Richards Stakes, as did Notnowcato, winner of the Juddmonte International last season. Dylan Thomas could face around eight horses in the first European Group 1 of the season. Aidan O'Brien's four-year-old won both the Irish Derby and Champion Stakes last year but has not raced since disappointing in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont last October.

Yeats, winner of last year's Ascot Gold Cup, returns to action in the Listed Vintage Crop Stakes at Navan in Ireland on Sunday. This will be his first start since finishing a disappointing seventh in the Melbourne Cup last November.

The Showdown at Sha Tin

This will be a relatively quiet weekend for racing here in the states but there are two big races in Hong Kong on Sunday, the QEII Cup and the Champions Mile. The QEII Cup features a showdown between Dubai Sheema winner and Hong Kong hero, Vengeance of Rain and Dubai Duty Free winner, Admire Moon. Also in the field is Seihali.

The Champions Mile features Bullish Luck who was third in the Dubai World Cup and is going for his third consecutive Champions Mile his main competition seems to be Linngari.

The HKJC has an excellent website featuring these races.

Courtesy of The Hong Kong Jockey Club

Audemars Piguet QEII Cup/Champions Mile - Tracknotes, Friday, April 27

27 April 2007

It only took a few seconds of Friday morning trackwork for trainer David Ferraris to dispel any lingering concerns he held as regards the wellbeing of his top Audemars Piguet QEII Cup chance, Vengeance Of Rain.

The 2005 winner of this race and recent Dubai Sheema Classic champion impressed in a final half-mile workout, finishing in 22.6 seconds under jockey Anthony Delpech.

"It was a beautiful piece of work and he's 100 per cent, no question about it," Ferraris said.

"A few horses in the stable have been under a cloud but they are downstairs in the yard and he's away from them on the upper level. But that piece of work told me that he's A1 and I'm very happy."

Likely Cup favourite Admire Moon, the brilliant victor of the Dubai Duty Free last month, worked easily for one lap of the dirt track.

"He is still in good order after his gallop yesterday. We brought his feed from Japan, and he is eating up very well. We are all set for the race," his work rider Masanobu Baba said.

The only overseas challenger to work on turf was APQEII Cup raider Seihali with big race jockey Johnny Murtagh in the saddle. The consistent eight-year-old, accompanied as usual by a galloping companion, completed the last 400m in a highly respectable 22 seconds.

Former Irish champion Murtagh, who has ridden Seihali in his last five starts, said: "That was good even though he is not a flashy worker in the morning, and he pulled up very fresh which is another positive sign. He's never been over Sunday's trip before and I am quite confident he'll stay the trip, but I can't deny it is a very hot race. Seihali will need to be at his best to get into the very big money."

Dhruba Selvaratnam remains upbeat: "I am very hopeful that he will finish in the first four," added the Sri Lankan-born trainer.

Jockey Kevin Shea exercised both Sushisan for the APQEII Cup and his Champions Mile contender, Linngari.

He said: "Linngari feels as good as he has been in six months. The other horse [Sushisan] has got to prove it but he also feels at his peak. They are both big runners on Sunday."

Weichong Marwing also was aboard both his big race rides on Sunday. Oracle West (APQEII Cup) and Kapil (Champions Mile) both did some quick work on the all-weather track and Marwing said of the Mike de Kock-trained pair: "Both are in good shape. They paced well within themselves."

Viva Pataca cantered on the sand partnered by Michael Kinane who later said: "He's in good shape. He bounced around there and he's fresh and well."

Kinane also became acquainted with his Champions Mile ride Able One on the sand.

Content Providers Battle While The Racing Fan Suffers

As a racing fan I have grown accustomed to hunting and gathering racing content where I can find it. The industry is fragmented as we all know and the idea of one stop shopping for the racing ran is a foreign concept for content providers. So the new battle between TrackNet and Youbet about content distribution is just another example of how these content providers almost purposely alienate racing fans. The loser here appears to be Youbet and their customers of which I am one. The Philadelphia market is a good example how a racing fan must be a hunter gatherer. I could get HRTV and TVG if I subscribed to a satellite provider but my cable provider carries my main content provider, Philadelphia Park Phonebet TV on basic cable service. I supplement their missing content by subscribing to Youbet. So for me paying for satellite doesn’t make much sense.

Due to some longstanding squabble, Phonebet TV does not offer the NYRA signal so if I want to see a race at Aqueduct I had to view it on Youbet and bet on it via Phonebet. OK I can deal with that and I have endured this arrangement for years. I don’t like watching races on a PC but as a race fan you do what you have to do.

About two weeks ago I noticed I could not view the live video from Aqueduct on Youbet, at first I assumed I had an issue with my media player and downloaded the latest version, that did not solve the problem. So I got on the phone with Youbet's customer service was told that signals from most of their big tracks like Aqueduct and Keeneland were being stolen by wireless pirates who were redirecting the signal to their own advantage. To stop this piracy certain tracks had put some kind of block on their signal. Did I get an email from Youbet making me aware of this, of course not? I guess as a paying customer I was not entitled to know something that effected my service but I am used to crappy service from Youbetand I accepted this explanation at face value. I was then told if I reconfigured my media player I could get the signal. To make a long story short, after an hour and a half of downloading addition files and reconfiguring my media player over the phone with a techie from Youbet I still could not view video from Aqueduct. At this point I was told a supervisor with more technical skill would have to help me and since it was Sunday afternoon this savvy supervisor was would not be available until Monday or Tuesday at the earliest. It’s Tuesday and I am still waiting on the call from that supervisor.

Between the infighting and the crappy service, I wonder how long content providers think racing fans will tolerate this kind of treatment. What is the use of trying to generate a new fan base when you treat your existing fan base this way?

WARNING: Derby Fever Can Cause A Philosophical Tizzy

Winning a Kentucky Derby prep in April can undermine even the most firmly-held philosophy; witness the words of Greg Fox, trainer of Slew’s Tizzy after the Coolmore Lexington.

“Our philosophy is that we don’t run horses back in
two weeks, this horse took a big step
forward today. You generally don't see a horse take
two big steps forward in two weeks."


The next morning, probably after a one-sided chat with owner Joseph LaCombe, Greg made no mention of his philosophical objections:

"I am thrilled to say he is doing excellent," "I believe he actually moved forward from the experience.”


In twelve hours Fox went from philosophical certainties to what appears to me to be hedging or maybe this is an outright flip flop? Owner LaCombe has succumbed to Derby Fever before when he ran HOTY Favorite Trick in the 1998 Derby although it was obvious to all that the horse could not handle the distance. Now he has a horse peaking at the right time who looks like he can go the distance, never mind that the Coolmore Lexington produces mostly also rans in the Derby with two notable exceptions of late, Charismatic and Proud Citizen

On the Derby trail, philosophical beliefs almost always take a back seat to graded earnings reality.

English 101

Just in case you forgot the spring triple crown races are fast approaching across the pond too. The English Triple Crown gets underway on May 5 with the running of the 1600 meter (about a mile) 2000 Guineas at Newmarket. Followed by the Epsom Derby at Epsom and the St Leger at Doncaster. Holy Roman Emperor was considered a contender for the series until he was abrupted sent off to stud to replace George Washington. The Craven Stakes (Group 3) is major prep for the 2000 Guineas and was run at Newmarket on April 19th, the winner was Adagio who is now 3-1 second choice behind undefeated Teofilo.

Curlin's Inferno

At the moment, it appears Curlin will be the betting favorite for the Derby. I expect that he will join a long and distinguished list of undefeated horses that incinerated the betting public’s cash on Derby Day. The Derby is about heroes and the memories of Smarty Jones and Barbaro are still fresh and I expect some bettors are likely to burden Curlin even more by expecting him to emulate the ill-fated undefeated Barbaro thereby driving his odds down even further. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Curlin at 7-2 or less in a twenty horse field.

Twenty horses have entered the Derby undefeated but only six have exited the race that way. Among the vanquished were Indian Charlie at 5-2 in 1998 after four straight wins, Mr. Frisky at 9.-5 in 1990 after 16 wins, Private Terms in 1988 with 7 wins and who can forget the biggest upset of all, Native Dancer at 3-5 in 1953, undefeated in 11 starts prior to the Derby If you factor in that Curlin ran his first race at seven furlongs just 10 weeks ago and will be stretching out to ten furlongs in just 12 weeks and the odds of succeeding get even longer.

This Zavata Never Ran At Saratoga . . .

Most racing fans remember Zavata as a promising two-year old owned by Tabor and Smith who won the Saratoga Special in 2002.

I doubt it is a coincidence but Padua Stables owner Satish Sanan is President and CEO of a company named Zavata. Now we all know that racing is a rich man's game but did you ever wonder where Satish Sanan gets all the money he uses to buy horses like Curlin and Any Given Saturday. These days Satish Sanan's main business activities involve Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) with Zavata which outsources health care jobs to India.

I am happy to report that the equine Zavata has managed to stay employed stateside at Walmac where he entertains for a $7500 fee. Chances are if Curlin or Any Given Saturday needs an X-ray it will be read at Rood and Riddle in Kentucky but your local X-ray technician may not have a job if Satish has his way.

The Polyandy Principle: Keeneland's Surface is Ugly, Messy and Wrong

To hear Andy Beyer tell it, there’s something strange or even freaky going on at Keeneland these days. Andy thinks this icon of American racing is mutating in front of our very eyes. With the help of some occasionally green little men whose aberrant riding tactics have produced a freakish spectacle of speed horses restrained against their will and then forced to run like hell for the last quarter mile. In Andy’s mind this produces a mutant form of racing where you have some really slow times and exciting blanket finishes. In Andy’s mind blanket finished are bad for racing and the betting public. Go figure?


Andy whines on about how fans were cheated out of a definitive Derby prep by the surface and pace scenario in the Blue Grass. I say Andy, wake up its 2007, the Blue Grass has not been a definitive Derby prep for years. The Wood Memorial and the Santa Anita Derby have been the definitive Derby preps for the last decade. As a fan I did not feel cheated, I witnessed one of the most exciting Blue Grass Stakes I can remember.

Andy is also worried that Keeneland’s surface will negatively impact the breeding industry which has invested billions of dollars to produce speed horses. Yes Andy, billions of dollars spent to breed anatomical accidents waiting to happen who breakdown with a regularity that is frightening and ugly to watch.


What’s ugly messy and wrong here is Andy’s point of view. .

352-1: Not By A Long Shot

That’s the number of pages in T.D Thornton’s fine new book, Not By A Long Shot and a good estimation of the odds that a blogger with a very short attention span, like me, would finish it.

I am not much of a book reader and maybe that shows but when my complimentary copy of Not By A Long Shot arrived at my door I was flattered the Mr. Thornton thought enough to send me a copy and a little intimidated because I knew some of my fellow bloggers would also be getting a copy and writing about it. The TBA is home to some tome reading titans with broad intellects (one of them lives near Pittsburgh). But when it comes to literature, I find that a copy of the Daily Racing Form or Gourmet magazine more than satisfies my needs. On rare occasion when I am at my intellectual best, I like to read the labels on vodka bottles (did you know Grey Goose is made in France?).

So literary criticism is not my forte, as a literary critic, I could be compared to Homer Simpson.

So I will make my first and last book review short and sweet. I doubt there is a racing fan alive who would not enjoy this book with its colorful and recognizable characters and Thornton's well paced narrative. If you love horse racing you'll love Not by A Long Shot.

Put the Poly Prep Winners on the Bottom of Your Exotics

Horse racing is about differences of opinion (heated ones sometimes) but for the first time in the history of the Kentucky Derby fans will have to take sides in a feud that is not likely to be settled this year or anytime soon and may even get more heated next year when the Santa Anita Derby becomes a poly prep. How will the horses who won the poly preps fare in the Derby? Can they carry their form on to what will be a faster, harder surface at Churchill? There almost no history to go on, prior to this year only the ill-fated With A City had won a major poly prep and he died prior to the Derby. This year’s winner Lane’s End winner, Hard Spun likes the surface as much as he likes to dodge the competition; not encouraging in my opinion. Great Hunter and Dominican can compete on both surfaces and may hold the key to how much weight to give a poly winner just look at their non-poly form and the answer becomes obvious, have them on the bottom of your exotic tickets.

Curlin continues to do his Smarty Jones imitation down at Oaklawn and he may be special but a ten length win over Storm In May hasn’t done much to change my mind. The most recent unbeaten horse to win the Kentucky Derby was Barbaro last year, then Smarty Jones in 2004; Seattle Slew in 1977; Majestic Prince in 1969; Morvich in 1922; and the great filly Regret in 1915. As you can see Curlin has a ways to go to be included in that company. Yes times may be changing but without a two year old campaign I won’t bet Curlin. Apollo may have pulled it off in 1882 but that statistic speaks for itself.

Time Warp

Polytrack certainly produces some of the strangest outcomes one can imagine. It can almost warp your point of view until conventional assumptions can be thrown out the window. I thought time warps were the fodder of science fiction not horse racing, or are they? Yesterday’s Blue Grass Stakes was one part major Derby prep and one part a science fiction time warp. A half run in just under 52 seconds, six furlongs in 1:16. Under normal conditions in a Grade 1, horses setting that kind of pace are going to be there at the end while the stalkers and closers struggle to overcome the time warped pace. Ah but not on polytrack, the pace setters hold on and the stalkers and closers manage to make up the ground to produce a thrilling yet head scratching result. I love it.


Edgar Prado bent and folded the pace to his design like a piece of origami, displaying his trademark riding mastery. Thanks to Prado, Teuflesberg and Zanjero were there to gut it out at the end while even more strangely Dominican and Street Sense managed to overcome the fractions that Prado put out there to make for one exciting finish. The stretch run was more like the Time Warp dance sequence from Rocky Horror Picture Show than anything else I can describe, you know that lyric.

It’s just a bit of a mind flip
You're there in the time slip
And nothing can ever be the same
Time meant nothing
Never would again

It's just a jump to the left
And then a step to the right
Let’s do the Time Warp again

With the best three-year old colts battling it out; Zanjero bore out, Street Sense ducked in and Great Hunter took the worst of it. One can safely say Street Sense struggles with polytrack while Domincan relishes it as much as Riff Raff loves to dance the Time Warp

Unlike other observers Street Sense’s performance gives me great confidence as we head into the Derby. He’s a champion because he fights on regardless of the circumstances. He may not like polytrack (I think his stretch run proved that) but he will gut it out with anybody who can get to him and that mental attitude will serve him well in the Derby where I surmise they won't be dancing the time warp again.

To Hell With Handicapping . . .

I know there are a lot of you cerebral types out there who think you can figure out this game. I am not one of you. I listen to the handicapping experts blither on about speed and pace numbers and then I proceed blindly and merrily on my way (did I mention I hit a $500 superfecta for a dime a few months ago). To me one handicapping approach is as good as the next.

If I put my mind to it I could pick winners reading tea leaves or pig entrails. All that being said, between now and the Derby I will endeavor to predict the Derby winner by a more unconventional method, his biorhythm.

Biorhythms are an offshoot of astrology and track the inherent cycles which regulate memory, ambition, coordination, endurance, temperament, emotions, and much more. There are three fundamental biorhythm cycles. Each biorhythm cycle has a particular function, and a particular life cycle. The physical cycle regulates hand-eye coordination, strength, endurance, stamina. The emotional cycle regulates emotions, feelings and mood. The intellectual cycle regulates mental reaction, alertness, sense of direction and judgment.

Yes it's Derby horoscope time here at Not to the Swift!

Let's first look at Street Sense's biorhythm for November 6, 2006, the date of the Breeders Cup Juvenile. The highlighted black line is 11/06/06.

Street Sense was at an emotional peak on Breeders Cup day while his physical and intellectual cycles were on the upswing. Voila, a 10 length win, had the Breeders Cup been a week later at the apex of his physical cycle obviously he would have won by thirty.

Now let's look at Street Sense's chart for May 5, 2007 Derby Day.

OH NO ! ! Both his physical and emotional cycles will be near a nadir but fortunately his strong intellectual cycle will compensate for the other two. What does this mean? I'll interpret it for you, Street Sense will not win by ten lengths on Derby Day and he will have to overcome adversity to break the Breeders Cup Jinx.

The Story of Hard Spun and the Three Surfaces

Once upon a time, there was a racehorse named Hard Spun
Hard Spun liked to run and he liked to win
From Philly Park to Delaware and the Fair Grounds
Hard Spun would run until he won

But then one day at Oaklawn Park
On a track that was too slick
Hard Spun was not so quick
“I do not like a track that’s slick”
“I do not like to lose a lick “

So Hard Spun and his trainer man
Set out for better footing in a trailer van

At Churchill Downs
Hard Spun frowns

At Pimlico
A definite no

Up at Belmont Park
Hard Spun’s mood was dark

By now the Triple Crown was run
Street Sense won it and had lots of fun

Back at the barn the trainer man was blue
About the Hard Spun we never knew.

Will There Be A Quorum For The Blue Grass Stakes?


In law, a quorum is the minimum number of members of a deliberative body necessary to conduct the business of that group. In racing no such rule exists but when the connections of leading Kentucky Derby contenders defect from a Derby prep like the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes, what does it mean? I'll tell you what it means, fear. Just a week ago the Blue Grass was shaping up as a meeting of the three-year old titans. Street Sense, Great Hunter, Any Given Saturday and Hardspun were all aiming for the race and it should have been the kind of race that the sport sorely needs and the fans would love. Four talented thoroughbreds willing to put the rubber to the road (yes that's a polytrack pun!) to determine who should go on to the Derby and who should think twice. But sportsmanship has taken a back seat to a strategy of avoidance where horsemen hope to win the Derby by avoiding the competition and hoping that bad luck or traffic issues keep the best horse from running his best race on Derby day. Yes it seems sportsmanship is in short supply, as major contenders opt out in search of softer spots for graded earnings and lose sleep over surface concerns. Will Hard Spun's connections really know if he likes the surface at Churchill after a gallop? Maybe. Wouldn't running against Street Sense and Great Hunter have given them more insight into their colt's abilities? Will it matter if he likes the surface and can't get within ten lengths of Street Sense? And what did Any Given Saturday gain by running in the Wood Memorial, third place money in a $750,000 Grade 1. Chances are he could have earned that and we'd know more about his abilities if he had run at Keeneland this Saturday.

Maybe I Should Get A Trainers License?

It seems blinkers on and some cotton balls stuffed in his ears(allegedly) is all it took to make a Grade 1 winner out of Nobiz. Of course I could have told Barclay Tagg that after the Champagne last fall. Maybe I should get a trainers license? Cornelio used him to get a forward position in the first quarter mile then, ungracefully I might add, throttled him back on the backstretch and still had plenty of horse to dispose of the pesky and overrated Any Given Saturday (sorry Alan). Sightseeing did his Jazil imitation to get second and I am surprised to hear that Shug is considering the Preakness for him; I‘d be targeting the Belmont after that run. Maybe I should get that trainers license and if I did, I would advise Jack K and the Sackatoga Boys to pack it up with Funny Cide, I for one get no pleasure from seeing this great horse running when his heart just isn't in it.

Cowtown Cat continues to earn back his $1.5 million dollar purchase price in the most unimpressive way. Seems like a solid Grade 2 type to me. He was the best of a average bunch, got an easy lead and did what was expected off him. Reporting for Duty on the other hand looks like a horse who is improving at the right time and if you look at his past performances, he has been right there with the likes of Chelokee and Ketchikan.

Tiago’s win the Santa Anita Derby confirmed what most already suspected, this was one crappy edition of the West Coast’s premiere Derby, Too bad Tiago peaked one race too early, as we all know Giacomo and his kin cannot string two wins in a row together. King of the Roxy disposed of that "can't go the distance thing", that was a pleasant surprise. But overall Todd’s army doesn’t look quite so invincible on this Sunday morning

The Graded Earnings Curse ?

I did a little research on the graded earnings statistics for the last five Derbies and noticed a thing or two worth mentioning. While there may well be a Juvenile Champion curse and winning the Breeders Cup Juvenile sometimes leads to the most graded earnings, that is not usually the case. There may also be a Most Graded Earnings curse, from 2002 through 2006 no horse with a million dollars or more in graded earnings going into the derby has managed to win.

The list of million dollar earners reads like a who’s who of top colts who did not deliver on Derby Day.

• Brother Derek - $1.114,980
• Afleet Alex - $1,245,000
• Essence of Dubai - $1,518,000
• Harlan’s Holiday - $1,286,064
• Johannesburg - $1,006,489
• Empire Maker - $1,072,000
• Peace Rules - $1,035,000
• Wilko - $1,004,515

On the other end of the spectrum having average earning or just enough graded earnings to get in the gate is by no means an indicator of performance. Funny Cide had $303,000 in earnings and War Emblem just $300,000. In 2005 Giacomo was 18th in graded earnings with $184,000 and Closing Argument was 19th but Pro Prado who was 32nd on the list got in the gate with $105,000, he finished ahead of bigger earners like Friends Lake, Castledale and Pollards Vision.

In 2003 Empire Maker scared away most of the competition yet Ten Cents A Shine got in the gate with a paltry $46,240 in earnings and finished a respectable 8th.

Pennsylvania: 1 TBA blogger for every 3,070,376 people

Yes we are certainly doing our part here in the Keystone state. Not only did we give the world Smarty Jones and Lil E Tee. We also claim the fabled Barbaro as a favorite son. The Keystone State is now home to four TBA bloggers. I'd like to offer a hearty welcome to Valerie and her blog FoolishPleasure (and thank her for the video of Foolish Pleasure's Derby win which brought memories rushing back of Bombay Duck). Welcome aboard Valerie.

CORRECTION: Turf Luck reminded me that Nellie up at The Last Filly is another PA Blogger.

Fusaichi Pegasus

I stumbled across this picture of a statue of Fusaichi Pegasus that I have never seen before. I couldn't find any more detail on it but I suspect it is in Japan.I was watching FuPeg's win in the 2000 Wood Memorial and FuPeg was a little slow to change leads too. It reminds me alot of Nobiz, take a look at FuPeg's Wood Memorial victory and see if you see the similarity.

Todd's Tactical Retreat

With the news that Circular Quay will train up to the Derby and that Any Given Saturday will turn tail and run from another confrontation with Street Sense in the Blue Grass, this blogger sees General Pletcher exposing some serious doubts about the biggest stars in his army of three-year olds. It appears Circular Quay finds a three-prep schedule taxing and will be going into the Derby off one real prep race and an eight week layoff. Meanwhile Any Given Saturday might gain some conditioning in a dog fight with Street Sense and Great Hunter but should he finish third, his graded earnings might not get him into the Derby field; a second place finish behind Nobiz in the Wood Memorial would solve his graded earnings problem. Either way this strategy is not a confidence builder. As Dwight D Eisenhower once said, “It’s not the size of the dog in a fight - it the size of the fight in the dog”

The Rise and Fall of the Breeders Cup

One thing this year’s World Cup program did was to deliver on its billing as the World Cup. The vision and deep pockets of the Maktoums have made global racing a reality that is now thriving and ironically it thrived this year at the expense of Godolphin who for the first year in my memory was unable to win an important race on the World Cup card. Kelly’s Landing and Spring At Last confirmed what everyone already knows. That when it comes to speed and shorter distances North American horses are the best. But in races like the Duty Free and Sheema Classic, North American runners like Lava Man, English Channel and Miesque's Approval confirmed that North America’s turf division is weak at best and unable to compete globally with the likes of horses from Japan and Hong Kong. Victories by Admire Moon and Vengeance of Rain confirmed that Japan and now Hong Kong are real players on the world stage and that victories last year by Utopia and Heart’s Cry were just the beginning of this Asian juggernaut. The outstanding performances of both Admire Moon and Daiwa Major reflected very well on Deep Impact and confirmed, after the fact, what an outstanding racehorse he was. Taking that line of reasoning even further one can only conclude that on the turf Rail Link, who was the missing from the World Cup card, along with Invasor must be the other best equine on the planet.

This World Cup program signaled the end of the Breeders Cup as the preeminent championships in my mind, what we saw at Nad Al Sheba was truly a world thoroughbred championship with horses from all over the world in attendance. Unlike the other so called World Thoroughbred Championship, the Breeders Cup which normally attracts only the best from North America and Europe. Those horses were proven not to be the best in the world on Saturday night. The recent spat of injuries, fatal and otherwise, at the Breeders Cup have done much to stain the series in my mind. The development of Meydan along with a World Cup purse of $10 million dollars in two years or so means that we are seeing the center of gravity in racing shift, more than slightly, from the United States, Great Britain and France to the Middle East.