Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Sophomore Spotlight 1/29/13

In a spinoff of Juvenile Spotlights, new-on-the-scene three-year-olds will be featured in a new blog series called “Sophomore Spotlights.” These will only continue through the end of February and will follow the format of Juvenile Spotlights. This series was created to spotlight the up-and-coming sophomores that either did not race as a juvenile or did not perform as well as a two-year-old.

Cerro (1/26): Already famous due Michael Phelps being among the Team Valor partnership that owns him, Cerro began his career in Italy. After catching the attention of Barry Irwin, he was bought and transferred to America, where he finished off-the-board in the Pilgrim Stakes (GIII) at Belmont. Following a fourth-place finish in a turf allowance optional claiming, the chestnut colt transferred to dirt, which preceded a third-place finish and a victory in allowance optional claiming events at Gulfstream, one of which was contested on dirt. The aforementioned triumph came in the case of an easy win going nine furlongs. Though a son of Mr. Greeley, Cerro’s dam side – having Giant’s Causeway as his broodmare sire, Nijinksy as the sire of his granddam, and one of the best broodmares of all-time as his third dam – suggests that distance will not be an issue in the least. Expect a post about him soon on my Horse Racing Nation blog.

Close Hatches (1/26):
After closing from off the pace, this Bill Mott trainee galloped to an outstanding 7-length victory. A daughter of young sire First Defence, a grade one-winning sprinter by Unbridled’s Song, Close Hatches is out of a Storm Cat mare that is a direct descendant of Reine de Course mare and 1982 Broodmare of the Year Best in Show, who produced Kentucky Oaks winner Blush with Pride. Close Hatches is thus from the same family as the Belmont Stakes (GI)-winning siblings Jazil and Rags to Riches, as well as the champion Peeping Fawn. Therefore, this is the same tail female family as the great broodmare Better Than Honour.

Tokyo Time (1/27): Fifth in her debut sprinting on the turf at Belmont, Tokyo Time finished second behind the talented Tapicat going a mile and one-sixteenth over Gulfstream’s turf course. She then romped in a nine-furlong maiden special weight over the same turf course, posting an impressive final time of 1:47.47. A daughter of a terrific sire of fillies, Medaglia d’Oro, Tokyo Time is out of the A.P. Indy mare, thus making her a half-sister to the graded stakes winners Hungry Island and Soaring Empire.

Monday, January 28, 2013

HRN: Rescue Groups Striving to Rescue Louisiana Horses

I would not normally post on this blog when I have published a new blog post on my Horse Racing Nation blog, but this is a special occasion. A grave situation is currently taking place in Louisiana...

"In January 2012, a mass rescue effort, including teams from Remember Me Rescue and the Louisiana Horse Rescue Association, helped rescue dozens of starving Thoroughbreds – though it was too late to save several horses – from terrible living conditions in Many, Louisiana. A year later, the town has changed, but the situation is similar, if not more horrific.

Currently, a large number of starving horses are suffering at Ryder River Ridge Farm in Natchitoches, Louisiana – about 40 minutes northeast of Many. Ryder River Ridge Farm is owned by Firal Ryder, a man who greatly loves his horses, but due to ill health, is in a nursing home. His son, Clay Ryder, is now in control of farm operations...."

Read more here: http://www.horseracingnation.com/blogs/grandstand/Rescue_Groups_Striving_to_Rescue_Louisiana_Horses_123 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Derby Hopeful: Itsmyluckyday

Derby Hopefuls feature the horses I view as the best contenders leading up to the Kentucky Derby. Each horse spotlighted in a Derby Hopeful will join the 2013 PTG Derby Hopeful roster, found on the right side of the blog. Horses will be listed in an order that corresponds to how highly I think of them, with the horse I think most highly of ranking at the top. A horse featured in a Derby Hopeful may be taken off the roster if its performances after its article are published are not up to par or if that horse is taken off the Triple Crown trail, though those articles will remain on my blog.

In football, the revered event is the Super Bowl. For baseball, it’s the World Series. For horse racing, it’s the Kentucky Derby (GI). The Breeders’ Cup gathers a variety of talented Thoroughbreds with unique abilities, but the Derby is certainly the most esteemed tradition in the sport of kings. Ask one who is unfamiliar with horse racing if they’ve heard of the Kentucky Derby and chances are, he or she will answer with a yes.

One of the most exciting times for horse racing is the beginning of the new year: a time when the two-year-olds become three-year-olds. Dreams for the first Saturday in May are formed and hopes are placed upon young Thoroughbreds. The prestigious race is still months away, but one cannot help but fantasize about which horse could become the next Kentucky Derby winner.

Itsmyluckyday has certainly made a case for himself as a top Derby contender. Though rather unpretentious as a juvenile, Itsmyluckyday has turned over a new leaf as a sophomore.

Runner-up in his debut at Monmouth Park, Itsmyluckyday found his best stride in his second outing, breaking his maiden on the New Jersey track by two lengths, drawing clear in the late stages of the race. Following a third-place finish in the Tyro Stakes, Itsmyluckyday shipped south to Calder, where he captured a pair of black-type races – one of which was run over a sloppy track – by a combined 7 lengths.

Journeying to Louisiana for a run in the Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes (GIII), Itsmyluckyday crossed the wire a lackluster sixth, but his chances may have been harmed by the bullring track, a course some horses do not have an affinity for. A return to Florida also saw Itsmyluckyday tackle the turf when the colt faced nine adversaries in the Dania Beach Stakes. Although he did not garner a victory, Itsmyluckyday showed improvement from his previous start, displaying a notable turn of foot to finish fourth.

Itsmyluckyday’s trend of progress continued, as evident when he revisited the dirt, contesting in the Gulfstream Park Derby. Competing over a one-turn mile, the Eddie Plesa trainee settled off the front-running assembly for a brief period before accelerating between horses to race in second, galloping just behind the leader, who was setting very brisk fractions. With minimal asking from Paco Lopez, the dark-colored colt accelerated around the far turn, obtaining the lead as the field rounded the bend. As Lopez glanced behind him to note the threat of competition, the rider sensed that no real menace towards he and his mount existed. Itsmyluckyday drifted toward the center of the stretch as the Thoroughbreds entered the straightaway, but the Eisaman Equine graduate was clearly the best competitor, effortlessly posting a 6 ¾-length victory.

The Holy Bull Stakes (GIII) twenty-five days later served as Itsmyluckyday’s most difficult test to date. Joining Itsmyluckday in the starting gate for the mile and one-sixteenth test at Gulfstream were nine rivals, including the 2012 Champion Two-Year-Old Male Shanghai Bobby, as well as a graded stakes winner, two graded stakes-placed runners, a stakes winner, and three stakes-placed runners. Itsmyluckyday found a comfortable stalking position in third, rating off the pacesetters as the field rounded the clubhouse turn. Racing on the outside with Elvis Trujillo aboard, the colt inched closer to the lead as the backstretch gave way to the final curve.

Within just a handful of strides, Itsmyluckyday became even with champion Shanghai Bobby, passing him at the quarter pole and appearing prepared to gallop further ahead once the field arrived in the homestretch. Though he required vigorous asking to surpass Shanghai Bobby, once clear of the champion, Trujillo resorted to a hand-ride, coasting to a 2-length triumph and registering a new track record of 1:41.81. Itsmyluckyday’s final time was the fastest mile and one-sixteenth running of the Holy Bull since 1994, when Go for Gin captured the race when it was named the Preview Stakes. Go for Gin would go on to win the Kentucky Derby.

A simple glance at Itsmyluckyday’s pedigree may create doubt concerning the colt’s ability to be successful at classic distances. But a thorough study of his ancestry suggests that, though he is not exactly bred for a race like the St. Leger, Itsmyluckyday could excel at ten furlongs.

Itsmyluckyday’s ill-fated sire, Lawyer Ron, was a top contender in the 2006 Kentucky Derby, blazing through Arkansas prior to finishing twelfth in the Run for the Roses. This may be discouraging, but Lawyer Ron – winner of several nine-furlong races, including a pair of grade ones, one in which he set a track record – finished a very game second in the ten-furlong Jockey Club Gold Cup Handicap (GI) behind Curlin, crossing the wire just a neck behind the eventual two-time Horse of the Year after a taxing stretch duel.

Tragically, Lawyer Ron died after his second season at stud, leaving Itsmyluckyday to be a member of Lawyer Ron’s second and final crop. The 2007 Champion Older Male’s offspring have primarily shone as sprinters and milers, but his son, Stealcase, won the nine-furlong Ontario Derby (GIII), drawing off in a manner much like Itsmyluckyday that suggested he could be triumphant at longer distances.

Lawyer Ron’s sire, Langfuhr, was a champion sprinter that has produced runners of the same type, but also the likes of Wando, winner of the 2003 Canadian Triple Crown – which presents races of the same distances as the American Triple Crown. Other successful distance horses sired by Langfuhr include Jambalaya – a multiple grade one winner who won at or beyond ten furlongs on several occasions; Interpatation – a grade one winner at twelve furlongs; Marlang – a Canadian classic winner at twelve furlongs; and Gangbuster – a stakes winner at thirteen furlongs that was also stakes-placed at fourteen furlongs.

Worry regarding Itsmyluckyday’s ability to be victorious at classic distances may also be created due to his broodmare sire, Doneraile Court, a graded stakes-winning miler. But Doneraile Court is a son of 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, a proven stamina influence in the pedigree of American Thoroughbreds. In fact, Seattle Slew can be found in the bloodlines of three of the past five Belmont Stakes (GI) winners. Doneraile Court himself produced Cocoa Beach, a multiple grade/group one winner that won the UAE Oaks (GIII) at about 9.5 furlongs.

Doneraile Court is too young to have much of a record as a broodmare sire, though he has also produced the dam of another talented three-year-old, the graded stakes-winning Circle Unbroken. But Doneraile Court’s sire, the great Seattle Slew, has proven to be an outstanding broodmare sire of distance horses, such as Astra, Boboman, Dangerous Midge, Hearthstead Maison, and Offlee Wild.

Itsmyluckyday’s black-type-placed dam, Viva La Slew, never won beyond a mile, but her damsire, Crafty Prospector, finished a narrowly-beaten second in the Gulfstream Park Handicap (GI) when it was run at ten furlongs. Crafty Prospector, though chiefly effective with horses that ran at distances between seven and nine furlongs, also yielded distance horses, including the multiple group one-winning Japanese champion Agnes Digital – winner at approximately ten furlongs on several occasions.

Notably, the sire of Itsmyluckyday’s stakes-winning third dam, Viva Sec, is the legendary Secretariat. The brilliant 1973 Triple Crown winner has served as a strong stamina influence, one example being his daughter Weekend Surprise, the dam of A.P. Indy and Summer Squall.

Interestingly, Itsmyluckyday has a Rasmussen Factor – or inbreeding to a superior mare – to Secretariat’s dam, Somethingroyal. The broodmare sire of Lawyer Ron, the late champion Lord Avie, is a grandson of Sir Gaylord – a half-brother to Secretariat – through his sire, Lord Gaylord. Sir Gaylord, the third foal out of Somethingroyal, was an incredible sire, producing the likes of Epsom Derby winner Sir Ivor, as well as the dam of the multiple grade one-winning millionaire Track Barron. The trace of Somethingroyal in Itsmyluckyday’s dam side is, of course, found through his third dam. Other horses that have a Rasmussen Factor to Somethingroyal include not only the champion juvenile Declan’s Moon, but the distance horses Union Avenue – graded stakes winner at 9.5 furlongs; High Blues – stakes-placed at thirteen furlongs; and Church Service – graded stakes- and stakes-placed at distances at or beyond twelve furlongs and a steeplechase winner at seventeen furlongs.

Itsmyluckyday is also a striking physical specimen, being a very well-balanced individual. His short, strong topline makes a smooth transition from loin to croup, yielding a round, muscular hip. Not only does the bay colt possess impressive muscularity, but he presents an overall smooth appearance. His conformation serves as a reflection of his rich ancestry, which combined with the right connections, has allowed Itsmyluckyday – owned by Trilogy Stable and Laurie Plesa – to become a brilliant athlete. For a conformation photo of Itsmyluckyday, please click here.

The new “points system” for the Derby Trail may complicate Itsmyluckyday’s path to Louisville, but should he continue to show the improvement and talent he has exhibited, he could continue to prove himself as a top contender for the most anticipated race of the year. He will have to conquer possible distance limitations and the qualifying system, but Itsmyluckyday has shown the potential to be a prominent candidate for the 139th Kentucky Derby.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Sophomore Spotlight 1/21/13

In a spinoff of Juvenile Spotlights, new-on-the-scene three-year-olds will be featured in a new blog series called “Sophomore Spotlights.” These will only continue through the end of February and will follow the format of Juvenile Spotlights. This series was created to spotlight the up-and-coming sophomores that either did not race as a juvenile or did not perform as well as a two-year-old.

Let Em Shine (1/19):
Third behind Hear the Ghost in his debut, Let Em Shine set the pace in a six-furlong maiden special weight at Santa Anita, progressively drawing away from his rivals en route to a 7 ½-length triumph in a brisk final time of 1:08.36. A son of Songandaprayer, Let Em Shine is out of a Johannesburg mare from the family of Unbridled’s Song.  

Jubliant Girl (1/19):
Clear by one length in her debut, Jubliant Girl defeated seven rivals in her second career outing, an allowance optional claiming at Santa Anita. Sitting just off the leader, the John Sadler trainee drew clear to a 2 ¾-length win. A member of Henrythenavigator’s first crop, Jubliant Girl is out of an Arch mare named Gamely Girl, making her a direct descendant of several Reine de Course mares, including the champion Moccasin.  

Now and Then (1/20):
Debuting at Aqueduct, Now and Then contested the pace of a six-furlong maiden special weight, capturing the race by 1 ¼ lengths. Sired by one of the nation’s top sires in Tiznow, Now and Then is out of a multiple stakes-winning, graded stakes-placed Meadowlake mare that has also produced the multiple grade one-winning Seventh Street, as well as the graded stakes-placed runners American Story and Reynaldothewizard.

Tiz Molly (1/20):
Facing nine opponents, only one of which had raced before, Tiz Molly debuted at Santa Anita, settling off the pace during the five and one-half-furlong maiden special weight. Despite having to maneuver around traffic in the late stages of the race, the gray filly closed impressively to get up just in time, winning by a head. A daughter of the blossoming Tiz Wonderful, Tiz Molly is out of a half-sister to the multiple graded stakes-winning millionaire Delightful Kiss, the multiple stakes-winning Delightful Mary, the graded stakes-placed Honour the Deputy, and the black-type-placed Trust the Deputy.

Twice Told Tale (1/21): Contesting against rather stiff competition, Twice Told Tale settled in the early stages of a six-furlong allowance optional claiming at Gulfstream, having broken her maiden in her previous start. The gray filly got up to win by a half-length over the favorite, an impressive Keeneland maiden winner. By Tale of the Cat and out of a Louis Quatorze mare, Twice Told Tale is a half-sister to a black-type winner and is a direct descendant of the great Reine de Course mare Exclusive.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Stallion Feature: After Market and Courageous Cat

When Martin and Pam Wygod purchased Tranquility Lake for $250,000 at the 1996 Keeneland July Yearling Sale, they were not only investing in a Thoroughbred that would become a multiple grade one winner, but a mare that would prove to be an outstanding broodmare, producing two grade one winners and a group two victor. But the mare’s success does not come to a halt there: her offspring have proven to be top producers, thus allowing Tranquility Lake to have a lasting impact on the breed.

A mare whose best breeding results were with Storm Cat, two of her Storm Cat sons – her pair of grade one winners – stand at stud in North America, whereas her group two winner that sold for $9.7 million as a yearling – also by Storm Cat – is a stallion in China. Those two grade one winners, who the Wygods also campaigned, serve as a chance to influence the breed with Tranquility Lake and her spectacular tail female family, as well as the incomparable Storm Cat.

After Market

The first foal out of Tranquility Lake, After Market began his career in November of his two-year-old campaign, winning a turf maiden special weight at Aqueduct. He did not race again until June of the next year, winning an allowance prior to capturing both the Lexington Stakes (GIII) and the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Breeders’ Cup Stakes (GII) on New York turf.
After Market
Photo by Kurt

But then things began to go downhill for the son of Storm Cat. Following a pair of last-place finishes, After Market left Bill Mott’s barn on the East Coast for the barn of John Shirreffs on the West Coast. But after two off-the-board finishes on the turf in California, After Market’s career continued to seem as though it had met its peak.

But suddenly, everything clicked. After Market cruised to an impressive victory in the Inglewood Handicap (GII) prior to capturing a pair of consecutive grade one races, one in which he defeated the multiple grade one-winning California champion Lava Man going ten furlongs over the turf course at Hollywood Park.

Following a win in the mile and three-quarters Del Mar Handicap (GII), After Market returned to the East Coast to culminate his career with a game runner-up finish in the Kelso Handicap (GII) at Belmont Park. After Market had been slated to run in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (GI) at Monmouth Park, but was scratched the morning of the race due to the rain that had fallen in New Jersey, leaving the turf course much softer than After Market preferred.

Shortly after scratching out of the Breeders’ Cup, After Market arrived at Lane’s End Farm in Kentucky for the new chapter of his life. Since his first breeding season in 2008, the beautifully-conformed stallion has produced three graded stakes winners, including the graded stakes-winning Lady of Fifty, a filly that has been brilliant in California.

Courageous Cat

Unlike his full brother After Market, Courageous Cat did not immediately form a string of victories once his racing career began. Following three losses, the blaze-faced Thoroughbred captured a seven-furlong turf maiden special weight at Belmont and after winning an ungraded stakes at Belmont, Courageous Cat took the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame (GII) – a race his brother had won three years earlier – in a final time that was just 0.57 seconds off the course record.
Courageous Cat
Photo by Terri Cage

After running third in the Jamaica Handicap (GI), Courageous Cat shipped to the West Coast for the Breeders’ Cup, coming within a half-length of the great Goldikova when finishing second in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (GI). He began his four-year-old campaign with a game, narrow victory in the Canadian Turf Stakes (GIII), but when shipped to Dubai for the Dubai Duty Free (GI), Courageous Cat finished ninth in a field of sixteen.

Upon coming back to North America, Courageous Cat finished third behind Gio Ponti in the Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes (GI). He was then given an eight-month layoff, returning with an easy win in the Poker Stakes (GIII) at Belmont prior to shipping to California to take the Shoemaker Mile Stakes (GI) in resolute fashion.

The Shoemaker Mile would be the final victory of Courageous Cat’s career. Following a close runner-up effort in the Ricoh Woodbine Mile Stakes (GI), Courageous Cat suffered a horrendous trip in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (GI) at Churchill Downs, finishing last. Nonetheless, the Bill Mott trainee had formed a remarkable career, becoming Tranquility Lake’s only millionaire.

Like After Market, Courageous Cat entered stud at Lane’s End, but after his initial season, the stallion was moved to Questroyal North in New York.

Their Ancestry

The Storm Cat/Rahy cross on which After Market and Courageous Cat are bred is the same one that produced the outstanding Giant’s Causeway, a champion racehorse and perennial leading sire. This cross also yielded the group one-winning daughter of Serena's Song, Sophisticat, as well as multiple other grade/group stakes winners. The Nearctic/Nasrullah sire line cross on which these two stallions are bred not only makes them linebred to the influential Nearco, but puts them on the same sire line cross as successful stallions Giant's Causeway and High Chaparral, as well as the great racemares Goldikova and Makybe Diva.

Storm Cat, the sire of both After Market and Courageous Cat, is one of the best stallions in Thoroughbred history. A recurring leading sire, Storm Cat produced more than thirty grade one winners, including the champions Giant’s Causeway, Seeking the Dia, Storm Flag Flying, and Sweet Catomine. As a sire of sires, Storm Cat has been exceptional, producing the likes of not only Giant’s Causeway, but also Bluegrass Cat, Forestry, Forest Wildcat, Hennessy, Stormin Fever, and Tale of the Cat.

The Northern Dancer sire line from which both After Market and Courageous Cat descend is certainly among the most influential ones of the breed. In the 1970s, the Canadian-bred champion was the leading sire once in North America and four times in the United Kingdom, as well as the twentieth century’s most successful sire. Northern Dancer’s stud record was astounding, as the son of Canadian Hall of Famer Nearctic was an incredible producer of successful racehorses, sires, sires of sires, and broodmares. Among his best sons were the champions Nijinsky and Sadler’s Wells, both of which became leading sires, the latter of which was the leading sire in the United Kingdom for an astonishing thirteen consecutive years and for a total of fourteen years.

As aforementioned, Tranquility Lake has proven to be a top producer. This is no surprise, as she is a daughter of one of the finest broodmare sires in Rahy. The son of Blushing Groom has produced the dams of an abundance of grade/group one winners, including Furthest Land, Giant’s Causeway, Life At Ten, Megahertz, Rahy’s Attorney, and Sophisticat.

Tranquility Lake’s immediate female family is remarkable, as both her dam and granddam are Reine de Course mares, or highly influential dams. Her dam, Winters’ Love, was a multiple graded stakes-placed runner on the track who produced not only Tranquility Lake, but also the multiple graded stakes-winning and leading California sire Benchmark, the graded stakes-placed King Crimson, and the black-type-placed Hope for Gold. Tranquility Lake’s granddam, Cold Hearted, was not only a graded stakes-placed runner, but a stakes winner on the track that went on to become an incredible broodmare. Her twelve foals that raced accumulated a total of more than $1.5 million. Among those offspring were the Belmont Stakes (GI) winner Caveat, one graded stakes winner, a black-type winner, two graded stakes-placed runners, and a stakes-placed runner.

As young stallions, the influence After Market and Courageous Cat will have as sires of producers will not become incredibly apparent for at least a handful of years. However, as sons of an incredible producer, their chances at becoming successful broodmare sires are rather positive, as remarkable mares such as Baby Zip, Con Game, Razyana, Terlingua, and Weekend Suprise yielded offspring that were not only successful racehorses and sires, but also damsires. Their sire, Storm Cat, was North America's leading broodmare sire in 2012, whereas their own broodmare sire, Rahy, has proven to be perhaps one of the best damsires in the history of the breed. Traces of the likes of Mahmoud, Native Dancer, and Princequillo, all top-notch broodmare sires, also insinuate that After Market and Courageous Cat could become efficient in siring top producers.

These full brothers provide breeders with an opportunity to breed their mares to stallions that have royal blood flowing through their veins. Each of them being young, long stud careers hopefully loom ahead for After Market and Courageous Cat, leaving them time to make their mark on the majestic creature that is the Thoroughbred racehorse.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Miss Fifty: Update One

This is the first update on Miss Fifty since the publication of her story on BloodHorse.com. I will continue to post updates about her on this blog, though they will likely only be occasional for the time being. If you have not yet read Miss Fifty’s story, please do so here.

For more than two and one-half months, Miss Fifty has been living in my barn. After a journey I never could have formed with my imagination, Fifty is finally mine.
Miss Fifty
(With her on stall rest, good pictures
of her are difficult and rare. This was taken with
my iPhone.)
Photo by Mary Cage

But unfortunately for Fifty, those two and one-half months have been spent in a stall. Prior to the time she’s spent with me, she’d been stall-bound since late September due to fracturing the two proximal sesamoids – or the small bones located on the back of the fetlock – in her right foreleg. Upon watching Fifty walk, it is not obvious that she is injured, but the broken sesamoids require her to be on stall rest for a lengthy period of time.

When our veterinarian took x-rays of Fifty’s injury shortly after Christmas, the x-rays showed that the sesamoids were healing, but had not healed enough for her to leave the confinement of a stall except for when being moved from one stall to another or to travel to the veterinary clinic. He predicted that it will be at least another three months before Fifty can begin to be lightly hand-walked.

To make matters more complicated, Fifty is a weaver, or a horse that has a habit of shifting its weight, repeatedly rocking from side to side. This extra concussion placed on her legs is not a serious issue – though it is an annoying vice – but may pose as a slight impediment to the quickness of her healing. In addition, when upset or impatient, Fifty also has a habit of kicking the stall, particularly when another horse leaves the barn or at feeding time.

In order to make Fifty feel more comfortable and content while on stall rest, we have placed several toys in her stall. However, she doesn’t seem to be very entertained by these objects. Nonetheless, we will continue to try new things to entertain or distract her.

Fifty appears to be the calmest and most content when she is able to look outside the barn, watching activity going on beyond her stall, or when a horse is kept near her for an extended period of time. It has been a gradual process and will continue to be, but Fifty is beginning to become more mellow and content. Tender, loving care is the best thing for her.

Though it can be rather upsetting to see Fifty so distraught, this is just another bump in the road along a journey that has been abounding with ups and downs. This horse has gone through the barns of many different trainers, has been through a tornado, has suffered an eye injury, has dealt with the rigors of training, has been through one of the most terrifying and dangerous racing accidents of all-time, and, of course, has suffered a career-ending injury. She can get through this. It will take some time, but what doesn’t?

On a brighter note, the final connections that owned Fifty in her racing career – Julie and Nate Vrable of Long Shot Racing Stable, the incredibly generous people that gave Miss Fifty to me – recently sent me the win photos from the three races Fifty won for them. These photos joined Miss Fifty’s first win photo, which was given me to me by Dolphus Morrison, who was the one who purchased her out of the 2010 Fasig-Tipton Texas Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale and the owner who named Miss Fifty for me. I am now just missing one of Fifty’s win photos!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Sophomore Spotlight 1/14/13

In a spin-off of Juvenile Spotlights, new-on-the-scene three-year-olds will be featured in a new blog series called “Sophomore Spotlights.” These will only continue through the end of February and will follow the format of Juvenile Spotlights. This series was created to spotlight the up-and-coming sophomores that either did not race as a juvenile or did not perform as well as a two-year-old.

Tapicat (1/9): After finishing third in her debut at Belmont, Tapicat switched to the turf, breaking her maiden gamely at Gulfstream in December. In her first start as a sophomore, Tapicat galloped to an easy 5 ¼-length win in a one-mile allowance on the grass, posting an impressive final time of 1:34.71. Sired by the on-fire Tapit, Tapicat is out of a Storm Cat mare from the tail female family of the champion Track Robbery.

Integrity (1/10): Upon debut at Gulfstream, this Chad Brown trainee set a brisk pace in a six-furlong maiden special weight over dirt prior to drawing clear to triumph by 3 ½ lengths. A son of the blossoming sire Hard Spun, Integrity is out of a black-type-winning Unbridled’s Song mare that directly traces back to Misty Morn, a Reine de Course mare that won not only championship honors on the track, but was also the Broodmare of the Year in 1963, producing Bold Lad and Successor.

Proud Strike (1/12): Following two in-the-money finishes at Churchill Downs as a juvenile, Proud Strike faced nine rivals in his sophomore debut at the Fair Grounds, rating beneath Brian Hernandez, Jr. prior to drawing off to win by 7 ½ lengths. Proud Strike is a full brother to the graded stakes-winning Pleasant Strike, as well as a half-brother to the graded stakes-placed Colonial Empress. He is a direct descendant of the great Reine de Course mare Gallorette, as well as multiple other Reine de Course mares.

Calistoga (1/12): One of two first-time starters in a six-furlong dirt maiden special weight at Gulfstream Park, Calistoga set a rapid pace prior to kicking clear to a 5 ½-length victory in an impressive final time of 1:09.77. By champion sprinter and top sire Speightstown, Calistoga is out of a full sister to Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Giacomo and grade one victor Tiago.

Path of Dreams (1/13): This filly is still a maiden, but her royal pedigree and gritty debut suggest that she has a bright future ahead. Sent off as the favorite in a one-mile maiden special weight over Gulfstream’s turf course, Path of Dreams settled far off the pace in an eleven-horse field before beginning to make her move in the late stages. She was forced to check when her path of travel was obstructed in mid-stretch, causing her momentum to be interrupted. Nonetheless, she closed to finish third, narrowly missing second. Sired by leading sire Giant’s Causeway, Path of Dreams is out of Path of Thunder, a stakes-winning full sister to the multiple grade one-winning millionaire Spain. This makes Path of Dreams a full sister to the graded stakes-winning Excited and the black-type-winning Wait Til Dawn.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Well Armed: Words Cannot Express

Well Armed in his stall when I visited him for
the second time
Photo by Mary Cage
I thought when I rode Well Armed in November of 2012, it was once-in-a-lifetime occasion. But it wasn't. On January 7, 2013, I had the amazing opportunity - thanks to the unbelievable kindness of Mr. Casner - to again visit and ride the 2009 Dubai World Cup winner. 

Words simply cannot express how grateful I am towards Mr. Casner for allowing me to visit his ranch and meet the horses there, including, of course, "The Big Horse." Visiting Well Armed and feeding him his favorite treat (peppermints) would be more than enough, but leading him, brushing him, and riding him are experiences that leave me speechless.

Before I even met Well Armed or Mr. Casner, Well Armed had been one of my favorite racehorses. But now, the son of Tiznow holds an even more special place in my heart. I just cannot put into words how much Well Armed now means to me. He's a friend, he's a hero, he's an inspiration, he's Well Armed. 

And, of course, I will never be able to thank Mr. Casner enough for this opportunity.

Rather than fail to express what this incredible horse means to me, let's all just enjoy Well Armed's breathtaking Dubai World Cup victory: 

From TiznowBigHorseSire's YouTube channel

Monday, January 7, 2013

Sophomore Spotlight 1/7/13

In a spinoff of Juvenile Spotlights, new-on-the-scene three-year-olds will be featured in a new blog series called “Sophomore Spotlights.” These will only continue through the end of February and will follow the format of Juvenile Spotlights. This series was created to spotlight the up-and-coming sophomores that either did not race as a juvenile or did not perform as well as a two-year-old.

Verrazano (1/1): Debuting on New Year’s Day, this Todd Pletcher trainee settled just off the pace before striking to the lead and coasting to an impressive 7 ¾-length victory. A son of the grade one-winning sprinter More Than Ready, Verrazano is out of a Giant’s Causeway mare that also produced the graded stakes-winning El Padrino. Verrazano’s bloodlines are a fine example of the popular speed-stamina cross.

Play It Loud (1/1): Also debuting at Gulfstream Park on New Year’s Day, Play It Loud pressured the pace of a one-mile turf maiden special weight prior to drawing off to win by 4 lengths. The first foal out of the multiple graded stakes-winning Bsharpsonata, Play It Loud is sired by Unbridled’s Song. His pedigree suggests he could excel on any surface.

Jadira (1/1): Yet another first-time starter on New Year’s Day at Gulfstream Park, this filly was one of just three horses in a twelve-horse field that had never raced before. After settling mid-pack, the bay drew clear in the stretch to triumph by nearly two lengths. Sired by Pleasantly Perfect, Jadira is out of an Elusive Quality mare that is a half-sister to two graded stakes winners.

Kochees (1/4): Debuting over the downhill turf course at Santa Anita, Kochees sat off the pace prior to galloping to a 1 ½-length triumph. By the grade one-winning Lion Heart, who has proven to be a productive sire since retiring in 2004, Kochees is out of a black-type-placed daughter of Maria’s Mon.

Maleeh (1/6): Upon debut at Aqueduct, this Kiaran McLaughlin trainee sat off the pace, racing wide before steadily gaining on the leaders in the homestretch, winning by a half-length under a hand ride. By Indian Charlie, Maleeh is out of the multiple graded stakes-winning Gold Fever mare Gold Mover, who has also produced the black-type-winning Giant Mover.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

After the Auction: Lemon Belle

As an avid fan of sales with possible aspirations to become an adviser/bloodstock agent, auctions are one of my favorite topics to write about on Past the Grandstand. This is the ninth edition in a blog series called "After the Auction" that will feature horses I selected in sales that have found success after the sale. 

Victory is especially sweet when it supersedes disappointment. This proved true when Lemon Belle coasted to victory in her fourth career start and initial start as a three-year-old. Once a very promising filly, Lemon Belle had finished off-the-board and well-beaten in her previous three races, but had finally learned how to win.

Consigned by de Meric Sales to the 2012 Keeneland April Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale under the pending name Beyond Belle, Lemon Belle became one of my selections in the auction due to her remarkable pedigree and her impressive breeze in the under-tack show. Sold as hip 44, Lemon Belle was purchased for $400,000 by trainer Chad Brown on behalf of Martin Schwartz, a team that would later that year win the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (GI) with Zagora.

With a high price tag and a famous sibling in Unrivaled Belle, high hopes were placed upon the bay filly. But when she debuted at Belmont Park in October, Lemon Belle finished mid-pack, running sixth in a twelve-horse field, though she did show some late acceleration. The disappointment only continued when the Chad Brown trainee finished fifth and ninth in Aqueduct and Gulfstream maiden special weights, respectively.

Lemon Belle had gone her entire juvenile campaign without even one on-the-board finish. But in her first start as a sophomore, the filly faced state-bred company for the first time, which served as a likely easier level for her. Facing four rivals in a six-furlong maiden special weight for Florida-breds at Gulfstream Park, Lemon Belle, as she had in her earlier races, displayed minimal early speed, quickly dropping several lengths off the leader as she trailed the small field. With little space separating her four rivals, who all ran ahead of her, Lemon Belle dropped multiple lengths behind.

But around the far turn, jockey Joel Rosario began to urge the filly and the newly-turned sophomore picked up the pace, gaining ground on her opponents as the track began to curve. By the quarter pole, Lemon Belle had passed a pair of her adversaries, swinging to the outside of the two leaders as the field turned for home. With the same imposing stride she displayed in her 10-second breeze in the preview show of the Keeneland April sale, Lemon Belle swept past her rivals en route to an easy 5-length victory.

Perhaps it was the easier state-bred level that allowed Lemon Belle to finally garner a win, or maybe the filly finally learned how to win. One can only hope that, with her triumph, Lemon Belle has found the confidence to perform well from now on.

Another tool that could be used to possibly assist Lemon Belle in being more successful would be a stretch-out in distance. A filly that has yet to race beyond one mile, Lemon Belle has the pedigree to go farther.

Lemon Belle is a daughter of Lemon Drop Kid, a five-time grade one winner that is best known for winning the 1999 Belmont Stakes (GI). The Champion Older Horse of 2000 has sired the grade one winners Citronnade, Christmas Kid, Lemons Forever, Richard’s Kid, and Santa Teresita. A son of the multiple group one-winning sire Kingmambo, Lemon Drop Kid has been among the top fifty sires in North America every year since 2006.

Out of the graded stakes-winning mare Queenie Belle, Lemon Belle is a half-sister to 2010 Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (GI) victress Unrivaled Belle. Lemon Belle descends from a strong tail female family, which is largely influenced by Thoroughbreds from the British Isles. In fact, the bay filly is a direct descendant of the Reine de Course mares Admiration and Pretty Polly, the latter of which is viewed as one of the greatest racemares and producers of all-time. Winner of 22 of her 24 lifetime starts, Pretty Polly won some of Europe’s most prestigious races, including the 1000 Guineas, the Oaks, and the St. Leger Stakes, the latter in which she defeated males. Other direct descendants of this great mare include the greats Brigadier Gerard and Nearctic.

Lemon Belle’s racing career may have commenced in disappointing fashion, but the filly surely gained confidence when breaking her maiden and could certainly progress. If the potential she displayed in her breeze prior to the Keeneland April sale and her spectacular pedigree are any indication, a bright future could be ahead for Lemon Belle should she continue to improve. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

2012 Eclipse Award Choices

Held each January, the Eclipse Award ceremony honors the elite horses and humans of the industry, bestowing the best of each division their own award. Each year, some championship categories contain a clear winner, whereas others can become contentious areas of debate and suspense. The awards for 2012’s racing season, which will be held January 19 at Gulfstream Park, are no different.

Two-Year-Old Male: Shanghai Bobby

This Todd Pletcher trainee is an obvious winner of this award. Undefeated in five starts, his win in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) secures him as this year’s Champion Two-Year-Old Male.

Two-Year-Old Filly: Beholder

Prior to the running of the Hollywood Starlet Stakes (gr. I), this division garnered much controversy. Had Executiveprivilege made up the length she was beaten by Beholder in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I), there would not be much debate over this award. However, when Beholder – who had been defeated a mere nose by Executiveprivilege in the Del Mar Debutante Stakes (gr. I) – turned the tables on Executiveprivilege, this category became a difficult decision. But Executiveprivilege’s poor performance in the Starlet leaves Beholder the likely honoree of this award.

Three-Year-Old Male: I’ll Have Another

In a division that seemed to end several months early, I’ll Have Another is the irrefutable recipient of this accolade. With a flawless 2012 record that includes three grade one victories, highlighted by the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I), I’ll Have Another is the obvious champ.

Three-Year-Old Filly: Questing

Had My Miss Aurelia been victorious in the La Brea Stakes (gr. I), this division would become an even more heated discussion, as both My Miss Aurelia and Questing would have two grade one victories for 2012. Though My Miss Aurelia defeated Questing both times they faced each other this year, she only narrowly defeated her in the Cotillion Stakes (gr. I) while carrying less weight than Questing and the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (gr. I) clearly can have a line drawn through it for Questing. Both fillies are outstanding athletes, but Questing raced nearly twice as many times as My Miss Aurelia this year and captured a pair of grade ones whereas the talented My Miss Aurelia only triumphed in one. This award could go either way, but my choice is Questing.

Older Male:
Wise Dan

In a rather contentious division, the dazzling Wise Dan looks to be the recipient of this award for his three grade one wins – including a Breeders’ Cup victory – and overall brilliance. However, respect should be given to Little Mike – winner of three grade ones, including two of the most prestigious turf races on the continent – and Point of Entry – also a victor of three grade ones. Also, Fort Larned and Game On Dude, with four grade ones between them this year, should garner respect.

Older Female: Groupie Doll

Though the outstanding Royal Delta may very well win this award, as her distaff campaign that saw her compete in middle distance races is more “fashionable” than sprints, Groupie Doll holds three 2012 grade one victories versus Royal Delta’s two. Both are very much deserving of this award and with greater weight placed upon the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (gr. I) than the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (gr. I), the breathtaking Royal Delta will likely be crowned the winner of this honor, though my choice would be Groupie Doll.

Male Sprinter: Trinniberg

With the most graded stakes wins of any elite sprinter, as well as a victory in the division’s championship race, Trinniberg looks to be the recipient of this award. Stellar throughout the first half of 2012, Trinniberg tailed off, only to come back with a win in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I). Although there is no true standout in this category, Trinniberg is as close to one as there is.

Female Sprinter: Groupie Doll

Choosing an honoree for this award is as simple as it gets. With her utter dominance of this division in 2012, Groupie Doll is the obvious winner of this prize.

Turf Male: Little Mike

Wise Dan will likely win this award, but if I had a vote, it would be for Little Mike. Each have three grade one victories over the turf this year, but Little Mike captured perhaps the two most renowned turf races in North America – the Arlington Million (gr. I) and the Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. I) – as well as the esteemed Woodford Reserve Turf Classic Stakes (gr. I). He became the initial United States-based horse to capture both the Arlington Million and the Breeders’ Cup Turf in the same year. In addition, Little Mike raced solely on turf in 2012 whereas Wise Dan contested over three different surfaces. Point of Entry, runner-up in the Turf and also a winner of three turf grade ones, should also receive some respect. Though the deserving, brilliant Wise Dan is the probable winner of this award, Little Mike would get my vote.

Turf Female: Zagora

Among the best female turf runners throughout the entire year, Zagora only has one grade one victory this season, but won three other graded stakes and finished in the money in two additional grade ones. Most importantly, Zagora won the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. I), defeating the other candidates for this award. Having displayed class throughout her season prior to culminating it with a win in the division’s championship race, Zagora is my choice for Champion Turf Female. However, respect should also be given to Marketing Mix and Lady of Shamrock.

Steeplechase: Pierrot Lunaire

This division serves as one of the toughest decisions of the Eclipse Awards. Primarily an argument between Demonstrative and Pierrot Lunaire, those two lead this division in number of grade one victories. Both horses have two grade one victories this year, but Pierrot Lunaire not only earned more money, but also crossed the wire ahead of Demonstrative each time they faced each other in 2012, though conditions may not have been pleasant for Demonstrative. This award could easily go to either horse, but my choice would be Pierrot Lunaire.

Owner: Midwest Thoroughbreds, Inc.

Midwest Thoroughbreds may have the most starts of any owner (by far), but they lead in wins, second-place finishes, third-place finishes, and total amount of money earned, again, by far. The operation boasts an impressive 29% winning percentage and 62% in-the-money percentage despite having more than 1,800 starts this year. In addition, Richard and Karen Papiese's Midwest Thoroughbreds set the record for amount of single-season wins with their total of 542 wins in 2012.

Breeder: Adena Springs

The recipient of this award every year since 2004 aside from 2009, Adena Springs certainly made many more starts than other breeding operations, but Frank Stronach’s farm is the clear leader in number of victories and total earnings. Game On Dude was among the notable horses of 2012 bred by Adena Springs.

Jockey: Ramon Dominguez

Another contentious category, this division seems to be mostly a debate over Ramon Dominguez, Javier Castellano, and John Velazquez. But with the most victories in 2012 and the greatest amount of total earnings, as well as a 24% win percentage, Ramon Dominguez is my selection.

Apprentice Jockey: Jose Montano

A rather debatable division, this category appears to be primarily between Jose Montano and Angel Suarez. Though Suarez has more total earnings as an apprentice, he only earned $83,863 more than Montano, who garnered 62 more victories as an apprentice than Suarez.

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

A five-time winner of this award, Todd Pletcher leads trainers in total earnings and victories while maintaining a strong win percentage of 27% and a large amount of grade one wins.  One of the most contentious divisions of the upcoming Eclipse Awards, strong cases can be made for several trainers, including Dale Romans, Bob Baffert, and Chad Brown. This award is rather wide open.

Horse of the Year: Wise Dan

In a division abounding with deserving winners, such as Little Mike, Point of Entry, Royal Delta, Groupie Doll, and Fort Larned, Wise Dan’s versatility and brilliance that was evident in his five victories will likely earn him racing’s highest annual honor. Wise Dan is my choice and the likely 2012 Horse of the Year. For more on this award, click here.

Wise Dan
Photo by Terri Cage