Spring’s arrival with a vengeance this week here in the Allegheny Mountains has begun to thaw my malaise towards horse racing, and life in general, to be honest. In regards to the latter, let’s just say I never knew how stressful it could be to literally see your once beloved workplace turn into an insane asylum, and leave it at that. That situation, in part, has contributed to fewer and more broadly spaced blog posts than in years past over recent months. Also, as my esteemed blogger friend John at The Race is Not Always to the Swift noted last December, the immediacy of Twitter makes it oh-so-easy to jump in there with comments and handicapping rather than sitting down to ponder (and spell-check) a long blog post.
Actually, I have been doing quite a bit of writing on the Kentucky Derby and Oaks prep races for Hello Race Fans! The website officially launched this week, so take a look if you haven’t already. It really is a fantastic endeavor to educate new fans about all aspects of the sport, and the Derby Prep Alert weekly mailing has played an important pre-launch role in garnering beginners’ interest. The archives of race previews and recaps aren’t yet posted on the new site, but take it from me; we’ve done a bang-up job thus far, I must say. Some of my highlights include touting Endorsement pulling an upset in the Sunland Derby (he did), Champagne d’Oro and Seeking the Title in the Fair Grounds Oaks at odds (second and dead-heat for third, respectively), and No Such Word coming into the Honeybee out of a sloppy allowance race that was run much faster late than the dry Martha Washington field one day earlier—and she won.
In my latest Top Ten for the Paulick Derby Index, Eskendereya ranks just ahead of Odysseus and Endorsement, although in truth it is Odysseus who has captured my heart since the departure of Maximus Ruler from the Derby trail. This weekend’s Wood Memorial features Eskendereya and my #9 horse Schoolyard Dreams, along with the (in my opinion) overrated Jackson Bend (could make a nice miler, but no way he gets the classic distances) with Calvin Borel up (another major negative). Gotham winner Awesome Act also makes an appearance, and I think he’ll finally be exposed. Among Paulick’s voters, only myself and Jeremy Plonk don’t have Awesome Act in our top ten—and he has Jackson Bend at #8, so I’m not sure it’s a good thing to be aligned with his way of thinking (just kidding). Regardless, the Wood should be a fantastic race with gorgeous weather.
Off his narrow win in the G2 Rebel at Oaklawn, Lookin At Lucky returns to California for the G1 Santa Anita Derby—ho hum. I just can’t get excited about this horse, sorry. And, yes, it’s the synthetic factor. That’s why he’s #5 on my list, just above Noble’s Promise—and I’m looking for an excuse to drop him lower or off altogether. I’d like to see Sidney’s Candy step up with a big win (loved Candy Ride), or sentimental favorite Caracortado.
In the Illinois Derby, I’m rooting for a Backtalk/Game Ball exacta. I loved Backtalk’s half-sister Bsharpsonata, and the fact that he’s by Smarty Jones is appealing to me. “That” workout, though, disturbs me. You know the one, the six-furlong work in 1:09.60—damn, that faster than his wins in the G3 Bashford Manor and G2 Sanford Stakes last year! Crazy fast. Lightly race Game Ball breaks from the outside 8 post, and maybe his running style isn’t conducive to Hawthorne’s track, although Musket Man did come from off the pace to win last year from post 8 (and he too shipped in from Tampa Bay). What do I like about Game Ball? Well, in addition to his forward-moving performance in his last race, there’s also the fact that not only is his third dam a daughter of Foolish Pleasure, but also he is a direct damline descendent of the great Busher.
Another weekend highlight: the G1 Carter at Aqueduct on Saturday looks like (finally) a real G1 race for older horses, with multiple G1-placed 4-year-olds (what?! not yet retired to stud?! shocking!) Munnings and Musket Man, the latter with Ramon Dominquez up (hey, if Fabulous Strike isn’t running, why not get the best NY jock aboard?). Also entered is Warrior’s Reward who beat Munnings last May, and won his 4-year-old debut last out, as well as 2009 Carter third-place finisher Driven By Success with David Cohen aboard.
And thank god Keeneland and Woodbine open on Friday! Truly, spring has sprung, and the thaw begun.
I would be remiss if I didn’t welcome three excellent additions to our Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance family:
• Rail Runner (Brian Appleton)
• The Saturday Post (Jennifer Wirth)
• The Science of Horse Training (Bill Pressey)