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Friday, April 2, 2010

Spring Sprung, Thaw Begun

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)


suebroux said...

On behalf of your loyal readers, we're most appreciative that you've begun to thaw out your keyboard :-)

Somehow, these three Derby preps leave me somewhat uninspired; they're to yield true Derby contenders but somehow the expectations come up a little short on Derby Day. (Crist published a spreadsheet of the Derby prep winners and how they fared in the Kentucky Derby, a painful reminder of how I "fell" for some of these horses over the years ... remember Bellamy Road?)

I'm a little disappointed that Looking at Lucky shipped back to CA. Would've really loved to see him on dirt one more time.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the mention, always appreciated, I’m very pleased to finally be a member of the TBA!
We must be thinking like polar opposite this weekend with the races. :) I’m really excited to see Lookin At Lucky back so soon, but not so excited about his return to CA.
Also I’m hoping Jackson Bend really shows up in a big way in the Wood. I have doubts about his ability to get the distance as well, but I really like this guy, he seems like a fighter.
Backtalk all the way!

Tony Bada Bing said...

How and when can I apply to join the TBA?

Anonymous said...

Hey tony-Brian Zipse from Zipse at the Track should be able to help you.

Valerie said...

Thanks, Sue :-) I must I admit I share your lack of enthusiasm for the current series of Derby preps. Maybe it’s just that, rather than actually running in the damn races for the sport, it appears more like a calculated chess game—and Todd Pletcher is the master pulling all the strings. That’s why I love it when a newcomer crashes the party, like Endorsement did in the Sunland. It’s also why I was so pleasantly flabbergasted by Mine That Bird winning the Derby last year. Of course, I’m a sucker for the underdog :-)

Tony, Brian’s right on—the membership guru (just call him the Gatekeeper) is Brian Zipse. I tried to email him last night, but the email got bounced back to me, so just pop over to his blog and leave a comment expressing interest.

dana said...

You've definitely been doing a bang up job with the DPA, as has everyone! I've gotta get all of those in the new site...