Monthly Archives: October 2008

Back at Aqueduct

The Big A in better looking days, 1965 (Festin2008)

GbG horse of interest National Pride is on the opening card of the Big A today in the Best of Luck Stakes. Tin Cup Chalice who notably beat a closing Pyro (on dirt!) last out in the Indy Derby and WV Derby runner up Web Gem are also entered.

Later on the card Nuumany & Helsinki are entered in an allowance optional claimer (not for a tag).

I know several New Yorkers who are jazzed about racing being back at the Big A… have fun y’all!

Not going to the Big A today? Check out this set of old race track photos.

Thank you Ginger Punch

Ginger Punch prepping at Belmont for the 2008 Beldame (Jason Moran)

As usual, Frank is right. In a passage about Ginger Punch he points out:

But in the media or around the blogosphere, there was virtually no discussion of or appreciation for Stronach’s decision to bring the champ back or the horse’s consistent excellence.

Today it was announced that the champion 5yo mare with 6 G1 wins who was in the money in 20 of 21 starts (12/6/2) was retired. Annoying that there’s only a tiny article on DRF with nothing that I could find at the Bloodhorse or Thoroughbred Times.

The best race I saw live this year hands down was Ginger Punch’s win in the Go For Wand where she was completely boxed in and had a make a hole in the stretch. After the race I was standing by fence hoping to get a good photo of her as they took her back to the barn. As she walked by, the crowd really cheered for her. A man with a very professional looking camera was also on hand. He yelled the most sincere and gushing “you’re the best Ginger Punch, a real champion!” as she walked by. I’ve been lucky enough to see her run many times in person, and even when she didn’t win, she never disappointed.

In the clip of last year’s Go For Wand (below), Moss and Bailey (presumably) tell the story about how owner Frank Stronach wanted to retire her to the shed after her 3yo campaign in 2006. It took her 4 tries to break her maiden and then she won 1 mid level allowance and placed in one. Her trainer Bobby Frankel told Stronach that if he brought her back the following year that he promised he could get her a G1. How about 3, including the Breeders’ Cup Distaff AND the overwhelming winner of 2007 Eclipse award for Older Female!

Many thanks to Stronach, Frankel and most of all, Ginger Punch!

2008 Personal Ensign:

2008 Go For Wand:

2008 Ogden Phipps:

2008 Louisville Stakes:

2008 Sunshine Millions Distaff:

2007 BC Distaff:

2007 Go For Wand:

2007 Allowance (on Derby Day at Churchill):

A Glimpse of the Future


So what just happened over the weekend? I’m not entirely sure but there’s definitely a lot to think about.

Regular GbG commenters Jason and John offer some points I hadn’t yet considered.

Jason says:

Bottom line, this BC was a disaster. Let’s see how many East Coast horses show up next year. I’m guessing between 3-5 and they will all be turf horses.

Fair point, I wouldn’t send my dirt horse next year without a real prep over the surface but I wasn’t convinced that made it a disaster as much as a monkey wrench in the wheels of determining a champion.

In my mind Curlin is still a dirt champion. He was beat on a new surface by some very talented turf horses that he probably would have beaten on conventional dirt. Good for Jackson & company for not shying away from the challenge. While I would have loooooved to have seen Curlin win, Jackson has done what fans have been asking owners to do… run your horse regularly and challenge them.

And building on some of Jason’s points, John aptly puts it this way:

Finally, the artificial surfaces have thrown the American game into an identity crisis. Our horses, finally being weaned, I assume, from their drug regimens, were teetering on the stage of world class to begin with; now, however, we’re split on what an American race horse is. The division of synthetic runners and dirt runners further muddies any conclusions we might want to make about who is the best of the best.

We have effectively divided the union via surface civil war.

But is change really so bad? Jessica plays synthetics devil’s advocate:

Let me play devil’s advocate here … what would be so bad about dirt racing disappearing, leaving synthetic and turf surfaces only?

And regular commenter, o_crunk shares this thought:

BC may be on to something longterm on synths, certainly leaves TC events with a musty old smell. Things change, maybe this *is* better?

I’m not against synthetics as much as I am in favor of doing everything possible to create and maintain safe dirt surfaces. I’m also not against the challenge of trying to figure out how handicap the synthetics. But, it’s gonna to be a long strange period of having “dirt” horses and “synthetic” horses while all of these issues get ironed out. If we do move away from dirt, is there really any reason to race on anything other turf? Did synthetics seem different enough from turf to warrant maintaining two types of surfaces? I don’t know and perhaps only time will tell.

Since the TC, the last bastion of conventional dirt, is a bigger driver of the breeding industry than the BC, it should be interesting to see how this past weekend will start to affect the status quo re: breeding. Jason raised the same question:

I wonder how this is going to affect the Breeding Industry. The next time (after 2009) Santa Anita is announced as the site of the Breeder’s Cup, who is going to pay big money for the traditional big dirt sire yearling’s?

Val at Foolish Pleasure takes up this issue and more with her stellar post entitled Death Knell of Dirt Racing. As always, she’s a must read.

Crist has done a great job providing detail on the 2 day handle that the BC proclaims to be a success. Friday’s breakdown can be found here and Saturday’s here. Other’s have also addressed the blantant spin. Crist promises to do more analysis in the coming days but a quick apples to apples look at the Classic notes the numbers at $37,748,057 for 2006 at Churchill, $30,988,618 for 2007 at Monmouth and $24,282,451 for 2008 at Santa Anita.

Frank of That’s Amore Stables sums up some of what I’ve been thinking, that Fillies & Mares and Invaders were real stars of the show (and notably, no invaders won on Friday… although Heart Shaped almost did!). Princess Haya goes one better by showing who wears the horse picking pants in the family at Darley!

As others have noted, having the Fillies & Mares on Friday deprived a whole lot of potential new fans (and many existing ones!) of a true showcase of greatness. Kevin of Colin’s Ghost sums it up:

Missed opportunity with Zenyatta especially with her possibly returning next year. How many “new fans” watching on a Friday evening?

And in closing, in case it wasn’t already clear that changes are a foot, look no further than this… something we all can agree on!

New Poll, Most Impressive BC Win

I can’t remember the last time I sat in front of the idiot box for 6 hours. The only thing I can say for certain is that it’s a good thing I donated my bank roll this year (more to come on that!). Mind you, this didn’t stop me from losing a little money as I had a little bit sitting around in my twinspires account… not any more!

Michael has the right idea, there’s always tomorrow to take up the arguments, debates, head scratching and opining (such as, can Swifty and I employ an Enron-like scheme to purchase Stardom Bound with credit based on projected future earnings?).

In the meantime, who did you think had the most impressive Breeders’ Cup win? The winner of last year’s poll was Midnight Lute, who is not only up for the honors again, but is the only repeat winner from last year.

As for the last poll, 28 of you said your biggest issue with the BC was the surface, 23 said it was all of the above, 22 said it was Filly Friday, 14 of you said it was the name change, 11 of you said it was the 2 day format and 9 of you said it was saddle cloth color. In hindsight, perhaps I should have added it an option to vote for “it’s too damn hard to handicap 14 races in 2 days”!

As always, thanks for participating!

Welcome One and All

Zenyatta at Santa Anita (Sarah K. Andrew)

That’s right, welcome one and all to the official home of Zenyatta for Horse of the Year. We’ve been wondering why Zenyatta wasn’t mentioned in the same breath as Curlin and Big Brown for HOY, and even had a poll about it.

To ensure that the good word about Zenyatta has been known across the land we’ve had plenty of public service announcements and even a bootleg episode MTV Cribs.

But let’s just let her final breath taking performance of the year do the talking:

For those of you who had doubts that Starship Zenyatta should be in the running for HOY, I welcome you with open arms!

More Proof That Anything Can Happen

Dearest Trickski kicks up her heels as she schools in the paddock (Sarah K. Andrew)

If racing teaches us anything, it’s that anything can happen. Last week I was attending to some much overdue Self Appointed Fan Committee business (August and Septembers reports are posted!) when I had the good fortune to cross paths with Peter Rotondo Jr., VP of Media and Entertainment at the Breeders’ Cup.

I emailed him a SAFC submission specific to the BC TV production and was somewhat surprised that literally within 2 minutes of sending the email that not only had he responded, but he was friendly and wanted to follow up with a phone conversation! As the person in charge of the BC broadcast (from the BC perspective) you can imagine that this is a pretty busy time of the year for him, so his prompt and proactive response was extra surprising.

We played phone tag for a few days and finally got to speak over the weekend. I had no idea if he knew my ongoing position on various aspects of the Breeders’ Cup or my active involvement in the petition against the BC so I was curious, to say the least, to see how the conversation would unfold.

He’s a nice guy, very easy to talk to & we hit it off immediately. As it turns out, he’s an avid blog reader, so it was no coincidence that he wanted to talk to me! We talked for almost an hour about everything from the petition, the name change, the 2 day format, reaching out to fans, his dad (who is regular on the OTB channel in NYC and all around fun TV personality), handicapping in general (he grew up at the track and is a life long player), some new stuff they’re doing with the this year’s production (odds will be persistent on HD broadcasts) and getting celebs to the track among many other things.

I found his unbridled enthusiasm for the game endearing and infectious. It’s also always refreshing when one can have a productive and fun conversation with someone who represents what could be construed as “the opposition”. Much of the interviews coming out of the BC as of the last two weeks have made it seem as though they’re not interested in the “existing customers” / the fan’s point of view. He assures me this is not the case.

He listened and considered the points I made about the name Ladies Classic (distinguishing between the “traditionalist” point of the view and the “they’re not Ladies” point of view) and he even laughed when I mentioned that I’m calling all other F&M races ladies races (e.g., The Little Ladies) until the name is changed. He was also well aware of the fact that the NTRA, his former employer, has done a lot of good work to bring fans/players to the table and it’s paying off for them (and all of us as it turns out… funny how that works).

Not only was this initial conversation enjoyable and, in my opinion, a good sign, after the dust settles post-BC, we’ll be having some follow-up face to face conversations chez Breeders’ Cup. Given this radical and unforeseen turn of events, I’m softening my previous zero BC stance to include some watching and very small wagering on Saturday.

As mentioned before, I’m previously committed to not watch and wager on Friday (go Zenyatta!) and have already donated my bankroll (more on that to come!) so what little I do play will be only on my dime, literally!

Red Giant Retired

Red Giant, after setting a world record in what would be his last race (Charles Pravata)

One of the small niggling things that I felt I would be missing out on this Breeders’ Cup was watching and wagering on Red Giant in the Turf. Sadly that won’t be haunting me now… as of this morning, not only is he out of the Breeders’ Cup, but he’s been retired. Why? A fever.

The 4-year-old Giant’s Causeway colt was scheduled to breeze this morning at Santa Anita. A routine temperature check showed the colt had a fever and a decision was made by trainer Todd Pletcher and owner John Fort of Peachtree Stable to skip the work and withdraw Red Giant from the race.

“We have been monitoring him closely this morning, and there’s been no change,” said Pletcher. “I spoke with John, and the horse will be retired to stud as planned. It’s very disappointing. The Breeders’ Cup was to be his last race.”

I suppose it’s not THAT outlandish since he was scheduled to be retired after the BC, but it’s still annoying. He had returned this year and was not only 2 for 2 but had just set a world record over the Santa Anita turf in the Clement L. Hirsch going 1 1/4 miles in 1:57.16:

Get well soon, and thanks for the memories. Too bad you didn’t get a chance to win the Breeders’ Cup Turf!

MTV Cribs: Zenyatta

It’s amazing what a little digging can uncover. As it turns out trainer John Shirreffs has a YouTube account and has been posting clips of training!

Here’s Zenyatta, “Back at Hollywood”. She walks the shed row, munches on some grass and breezes on the track. Presumably it Shirreffs talking with a pal who confesses a white pony ran off with him. There’s also a non sequitur about rhythmic breathing while the stunning filly jogs around the track.

Here’s October 16th featuring Life is Sweet’s first day on the main track, a small bit of Zenyatta galloping and some very odd schooling that consists of standing around while Trevor Denman’s race call is played. She definitely reacts as his call gets more excited, trying to bite her groom at one point… it’s pretty funny. The soon to be retired Tiago does the same schooling but they work on putting the saddle on him.

And finally this past Saturday morning, some footage of the track and then some shots in barn where he mentions “the movie”. Could John Shirreffs be the next Hennegan Brothers? And finally, back to some walking with Zenyatta, or Zenya as he sweetly calls her, and company.

Alright, now get the hell out of her house!

Still Stunning

Curlin in his final BC prep at Santa Anita (Charles Pravata)

I may not be participating in this year’s BC, but I’ll still be rooting for Curlin and others!

Here’s a video of his work:

Thanks Raceday 360!

As a side bar, I had the pleasure of attending the NTRA’s press conference for the announcement of the newly formed Safety & Integrity Alliance this morning along with Miss Superfecta and Jessica, aka my fellow distaff bloggers as Superfecta put it.

Check out Superfecta’s recap for a look at what was discussed. It felt like a genuine and real first step on the long road to reform to me and I’ll comment more after I’ve read all the material (and have more of my wits about me!).