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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Holiday Wishes for One and All: Maidens and Old Warriors

Holiday greetings and best wishes to everyone! A low-key (and very green) Christmas here in western PA this year—just Glen, the dog and myself. We had several inches of snow on the ground—until it rained nearly all day on Sunday, melting away what was admittedly looking a little gnarly. I miss having a white Christmas. Still, festive lights abound all around town, and “A Christmas Story” is on TBS—all is well in the world.

Well, not exactly. Terrible news out of West Virginia, as long-time Mountaineer trainer Dale Baird died in a car accident on Sunday outside of Greenfield, Indiana. Winner of 9,445 races, the 72-year-old Baird had 132 wins this year and won over $2 million—and a large majority of those were his own horses. His death follows news of the loss of Ken Lennox, former racing director at Monmouth Park, who died last Tuesday at age 88. Condolences to all those who knew and loved these two horsemen—they will be missed.

December 26 brings the opening of Santa Anita and the return to racing for Doug O’Neill’s trainee Great Hunter (in the G1 Malibu)—last seen in the Kentucky Derby—and the Toddster’s Twilight Meteor (in the G3 Sir Beaumont) who shortens up to a mile after his fourth place finish in the G1 Hollywood Derby in November. Both were pre-Derby favorites of mine back in March (along with Stormello, Summer Doldrums and Ravel), so nice to see them in action again.

Speaking of being in action, Tough Tiz’s Sis posted a nice 4f work (47:60) at Santa Anita today, while Mach Ride posted a bullet 5f work (1.00:80) at Calder.

Dawn After Dawn worked again on Sunday, going 6f in 1.11:40 (3/19) at Santa Anita; she looks to be aiming for the G1 La Brea Stakes on December 29, along with the Toddster’s Audacious Chloe, Mike Mitchell-trainee Sindy With an S, and Carla Gaines’ Tiz Elemental (last seen winning the Melair Stakes at Hollywood in April).

At Gulfstream last Friday, One Hot Wish covered 4f in 48:20 (11/30). That’s three works in two weeks so I’m guessing they are aiming her for a start in Florida soon—perhaps the G2 Old Hat Stakes (6.5 furlongs) on January 12? She is already among those nominated for the non-graded $250,000 Sunshine Million Oaks (6 furlongs) on January 26. Either way, I can’t wait to see if she’s back on track.

At Calder, Birdbirdistheword is nominated for the $100,000 Pete Axthelm Stakes (7.5 furlongs on turf) on December 29, as is Storm in May, Imawildandcrazyguy, and Mysterious Peintre (all four are also nominated for the G3 Canadian Turf Handicap at Gulfstream on January 4, so we’ll see where they turn up). On the same card, Bill Mott-trainees Queen Joanne and Sweet Ransom, as well as G1 Del Mar Oaks winner Rutherienne, have been nominated for the G3 $100,000 Frances Genter Stakes.

Autobahn Girl, who won the $60,000 Pago Hop Stakes (8f) on November 24, is nominated for the $60,000 Furl Sail Handicap (8.5f on turf) at Fair Grounds on December 29. A surprise nominee for the Furl Sail is Jennie R. who sold for $270,000 at the November Breeding Stock sale at Keeneland, but worked out December 1 for her new trainer Niall O’Callaghan and new owner Howard Roberts Farm. Obviously this soon-to-be 7-year-old looks to have some run left in her, as she worked 4f in 48.2 (2/6).

At Philly, one of my beloved favorites, 8-year-old Danthebluegrassman, worked 4f today (49:05) in advance of his next start, a 6f $18K claimers race on December 29 (race 7). He was claimed in early September at Presque Isle Downs by Ryan Beattie for RJ Thoroughbred Stables and, from the tone and content of their forum comments, the partners have been frustrated by the lack of racing opportunities for the old warrior this fall. Here’s wishing him (and them) good racing luck from here on out!

I have no idea where this one stands in terms of making a start, but 2-year-old colt Holy Knight worked 5f in 1.03:60 (17/24) at Palm Meadows on Sunday. He’s in my Virtual Stable mostly due to the fact that he is a half-brother to City Zip and Ghostzapper (all three are out of the Relaunch mare Baby Zip). Holy Knight is not (as one might suspect) out of Holy Bull, but instead is the son of G1 Hollywood Turf Cup winner Sligo Bay (son of champion Sadler’s Wells). See more about him here; he’s part of the 2007 Adena Racing Venture, and there’s a nice video of him.

Finally, this Friday (December 28) the 2-year-old half-brother of G1 Beldame winner Unbridled Belle, a colt named Stones River, makes his maiden start for trainer Larry Jones in race 8 at Fair Grounds. He’s a gray son of Monarchos—here’s hoping he takes after daddy in more than just looks! He’s been working very well, including a 5f bullet from the gate (1:01) on December 19. His morning line is 10-1, so he may be a value play. There’s another first-time starter I like here—the Empire Maker colt Empiricism, out of the Phone Trick mare Tangled Up in Blue; he is three-quarter brother to the brilliant yet tragic multiple G1 winning filly Exogenous. He drew an outside post (10), but at 12-1 morning line, may also be worth a shot.