Monthly Archives: February 2010


(Sarah K. Andrew)

Let’s not kid ourselves, in some cases we prep as much as the Derby contenders do. Don’t believe me? Then feast your eyes on these two weeny-tastic derby spreadsheets:

Jessica’sPrep and historical criteria applied to Kentucky Derby winners and the top three finishers 1998-2009“. If that’s not some serious prep work, I don’t know what is.

Kevin’s recent addition of top three finishers in each of the four major Derby preps since 1952. Done in accordance with his excellent Measuring the Kentucky Derby preps, 1952-2009, this is some fine, fine data compilation!

No doubt there are other examples out there as well, but these ought to get you started if you’re looking to do some prep work of your own.

Because I Want the Traffic

Caracortado, making them say hello to his little friend (creepy_coyote)

My apologies for the tumbleweeds around here, all my focus has been on producing the weekly Derby Prep Alert and working on the new Hello Race Fans site, set to launch mid-march. Both are going well! Make sure you join our Road to the Roses league… we’ll have prizes of some sort, to be announced later. (League Identifier: 2284973203 / Activation Code: 2579942896).

But in the meantime there are Derby contenders being searched, and traffic to be had… so here we go!

The only 3-year-old I have an official crush on so far is Tiffany Lass/Silverbulletday winner Jody Slew. Partially because I loved that the owners thought they had a turf horse and entered her in the Tiffany Lass just to keep her fit, only to have her surprise the hell out of them and win, but also because she shares a sire with one of my all time favorites, Lava Man. I’ve also got my fingers crossed that we’ll see her on synthetics at some point as there’s a good chance that she could become a graded stakes Omnisurface Star!

Look her in the Silverbulletday, all heart!

Whoops, sorry… on to the 2010 Kentucky Derby contenders!

I know everyone’s gone mad for Eskendereya, and I was impressed too, but given that there are plenty of front runners who have already proven that they can duel after setting decent fractions, I’ll take a wait and see approach to the flirty Alexandrian dance.

The wait and see approach has worked out well for me with Buddy’s Saint. You may remember that I wasn’t as jazzed as some about his Remsen and I stand my ground. Yes he had rough trip and shut down early, but I would preferred to see him show at least a little something. Again, waiting and seeing.

In the “jazzed about” column I have Rule, who has proven that not only he can duel in the lane, but he can do it while pressured on the front end for the entire race… twice! I know there are some who don’t think much of either Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes or the Sam F. Davis for that matter, but I like what I’ve seen so far… a lot. He’s the closest thing I have going to a crush for the Derby.

Maximus Ruler is another I like but I’m a bit concerned that he had to miss the Risen Star. If all goes well he’ll go back to work this week and target the Louisiana Derby. Fingers crossed for him that all will go well.

I have no opinion of Looking at Lucky yet, but of the Californians I do really like Caracortado, Conveyance and Sidney’s Candy. Of the three I like Scarface the best (Caracortado), he was visually impressive in the Robert B. Lewis, looking like an old pro stalking the pace and pouncing with authority.

Conveyance took to dirt rather nicely and looked a bit more mature than last out when he was gawking at the stands down the lane. Can he sustain that speed going longer, if Dublin (who I also like!) would have gotten to him could he have repelled his bid? All this and more I’m not sure of, but I like what I see!

With so many front-running contenders so far this year, it makes me wonder if Ron the Greek has more of a shot than his Risen Star sixth place finish indicates. Had he had a decent pace to run at could he have repeated his LeComte performance? I’m reserving judgment on him as well. I also count Tempted to Tapit as a horse of interest. I thought he was going to be able to catch Discreetly Mine (as did my losing wager on him), perhaps there will be some gate works in his future.

And last but not least, there’s Blind Luck… who I also have a crush on! (and didn’t remember until just now). My guess is that her performance in the Santa Anita Oaks will determine if she tries the Derby trail or not. Either way, I like!

I hope to be back with some regularity after the HRF launch in a few weeks…

Bug Brush, 1959 Filly Phenom

After the year we had last year, with fillies and mares stepping up in open company, it’s no wonder I was contacted by a reader who wanted to share her account of a similar scenario she witnessed first-hand 51 years ago. It was the 1959 San Antonio Handicap at Santa Anita and the filly in question was Bug Brush.

Stablemate of the 1959 champion 3-year-old filly Silver Spoon, the only other filly besides Winning Colors (1988) and Ciencia (1939) to win the Santa Anita Derby, it seems that perhaps Bug Brush was to Silver Spoon as Life is Sweet is Zenyatta (with the exception that Bug Brush won in open company, twice!). There’s no shortage of information readily available about Hall of Famer Silver Spoon but digging up info on Bug Brush required the purchase of the 1960 American Racing Manual (not that I minded).

As a 3-year-old, Bug Brush won the 1958 Kentucky Oaks and placed in the Ashland. In addition to winning the San Antonio, the Robert L. Wheeler trainee additionally won the Inglewood Handicap (also in open company), Margarita Handicap, Las Flores Handicap, Santa Monica Handicap, Sequoia Handicap as a 4-year-old.

There’s not much mention of the San Antonio that I could track down and certainly no available replay. The authoress of the post contacted Santa Anita to see if an replay could made available but did not hear back. Star was 15 when she wrote this account! Getting more interested in dressage as she grew up, she now only keeps tab on the Triple Crown.

There aren’t any fillies or mares entered in this year’s San Antonio this Sunday at Santa Anita, but Star’s account is likely to make you feel like you just witnessed the 1959 rendition! Many thanks to Star for sharing this excellent eye-witness account of a great piece of racing history… I’ll follow this post up shortly with some more interesting tidbits about Bug Brush and her stellar 4-year-old campaign but until then, enjoy!

Victory and Defeat

By Star White

The following account describes the most exciting race I have ever seen, the 1959 San Antonio Handicap at Santa Anita. I watched it on TV when I was 15. I had to write it down that same day. I have been unable to find a film of it, so I want to publish this account of it.

The sun shone dimly on the twelve sleekly groomed Thoroughbreds standing in the paddock at Santa Anita Park. The fans were diligently studying the racing form and sizing up the various horses. Their favorite, the bay colt Hillsdale, was a long, muscular horse with an unusually calm, even disposition. The people were very fond of their local hero. He had never been defeated at Santa Anita and had won six races in succession. The San Antonio Handicap was his attempt at seven straight victories. Terrang, the classy brown stallion, was second choice. Seaneen, Bug Brush, Whodunit and Fleet Nasrullah also rated consideration. Bug Brush was the only filly in the field. She had easily won her last three starts running against fillies. She had never been up against colts before. Because of her recent victories, she was given second high weight, Hillsdale carrying two pounds more (considering the 5 lb. allowance given fillies). Few people thought she could give weight to her field and still go the distance of a mile and one-eighth. She was considered a sprinter. She attracted little notice from the crowd while she stood in her stall. In the shadows her bay coat did not shine and she appeared rather unattractive and sleepy.

The call “Riders up” sounded, and the jockeys mounted their charges. The horses were nervous, milling around and bumping into each other in their excited confusion. With all the fire locked inside of them they could not keep still. Fleet Nasrullah anxiously tossed his head and occasionally reared, nearly unseating his jockey. Hillsdale was the only one that remained calm.

The bugle blared out “Boots and Saddles”, inviting the twelve runners onto the track. It was then that the people noticed Bug Brush. Their first impression, that she was unattractive, was dispelled at once. When she moved, her muscles rippling gracefully under the bright shiny red of her coat, she radiated grace and femininity. She pranced down the track reminding one of a doe. “Poetry in motion” could well describe her rhythmic gait. Hillsdale, in contrast to her, was the picture of strength and masculinity. His muscular shoulders and hindquarters betrayed his power.

As the twelve neared the starting gate, their tension and excitement increased. Fleet Nasrullah was giving his jockey trouble – kicking and balking when urged forward. Terrang broke out in a sweat. Seaneen, the golden chestnut, started “walking on eggs”. Eventually they were all in the gate, their nerves now strung as tightly as possible. The gate flung open and instantly the nervousness transformed into speed and power as each horse tried to beat the others out of the gate. The high-strung Fleet Nasrullah led, with Bug Brush right behind him and Jewel’s Reward and Hillsdale following her.

As the pack swung around the clubhouse turn, Fleet Nasrullah went wide, forcing Bug Brush out with him. Hillsdale was a stayer, the type that runs off the pace and then charges to a driving finish at the end. Fleet Nasrullah and Bug Brush were sprinters. Sprinters lead at the start forcing the pace, then give way to the stretch runners if the distance is much over a mile. Hillsdale was saving ground on the rail as Fleet Nasrullah and Bug Brush broke the quarter together in a sizzling :22 2/5 seconds. Going into the back stretch it was still Fleet Nasrullah, Bug Brush and Hillsdale heads apart. They ran the half mile in :45 1/5 seconds.

The crowd thought certainly the two pace-setters would break under such a strain. To their surprise, Bug Brush increased her speed going into the far turn to challenge Fleet Nasrullah. She pulled up along side him and as she began to draw ahead, Fleet Nasrullah weakened and dropped back. Terrang, the other notable stretch runner in the field, now made his move to challenge the plucky filly and the still contending Hillsdale. They finished the three-quarters in the fantastic time of 1:09 3/5 minutes. Bug Brush was leading by a head over Hillsdale when the two decided to shake the menacing Terrang by piling on still more speed. Into the stretch the two ran as though glued together. The crowd was now intensely excited. They expected the filly to tire and fall back. She could not possibly keep up such a speed for the entire distance.

Hillsdale’s jockey was driving hard with the whip even though it was incredible to expect any more speed from him. But the game Hillsdale was not about to bow to a filly as he pushed himself to a greater speed. He gained on the filly, edging ahead of her. Now he was leading by a head, his bettors cheering him on with wild enthusiasm. But their cheers changed to a gasp as the filly, instead of folding, gathered herself up again and poured on more speed than any of the 49,000 fans had ever seen before. Again the filly took the lead. They were now half-way down the stretch, but Hillsdale would not quit. For all his power, the blistering speed was taking its toll on him. He was perspiring heavily as he forced himself to a speed he had never realized before. He inched his way up on the filly with forceful, heavy strides and heaving sides. Again he passed her by a nose. Again she responded to his challenge by lunging forward with the last burst of speed in her. She overtook him in the last sixteenth and dashed over the finish line three-quarters of a length in front of the exhausted Hillsdale. Terrang, running as fast as he could, was a good five lengths behind.

Although the crowd had lost money by the filly’s victory, they screamed their cheers with all the enthusiasm one gives a victorious general. She came to the winner’s circle hot and tired, but with her head held high, prancing in that same perky, rhythmic manner so characteristic of her. The cheering began to die down until the tote board flashed the time for the mile and an eighth: 1:46 2/5 minutes. A new world record! Again the 49,000 exploded into excited cheering and flung hats and programs into the air. The filly had not only conquered the great Hillsdale, but had outdone the immortal Swaps – former holder of the world record.

Indeed, Bug Brush was on every one’s lips that day and all eyes followed her as she was led back to the stables with the wreath of roses draped over her neck. Yet, a few did not forget the one-time people’s favorite, Hillsdale. His accomplishment was less evident. He did not have the physical ability to beat Bug Brush that day, but it took a heart like his to push the spunky filly to a world record breaking speed. He was walking back slowly, sweat stuck to his coat and froth coming from his mouth and nostrils, but he still had the proud “Look of the Eagles” in his eyes. For, “in great attempts, it is glorious even to fail.”