08/08/2009 12:42AM

Amazing Racing Weekend


Off the cold dope, The Whitney and The Arlington Million look like two of the most competitive and best betting races of the year.  In both historic events, we have multiple classy campaigners that could win on their best day.  It truly should be a wonderful day, and weekend, of racing. 

For what they're worth, here are some selections:

No strong opinions here.  Black Bear Island is a bit inconsistent, and all-world trainer Aidan O'Brien is 1-30 over the last five years in North America, but the cutback from 1 1/2 miles, and addition of Lasix may be just what the doctor ordered. 
Giant Oak has loads of natural ability, but still doesn't have all the mechanics down. 
Take the Points may not be a true ten-furlong horse, but his good tactical speed usually puts him in a nice spot.
Reb knows where the wire is (three straight photo-finish victories), and can't be counted out.

Dermot Weld won last year's Secretariat with Winchester, and he has another intriguing European import in Mad About You.  She has kept top company throughout her career as she was third to Zarkava in the Prix Marcel Boussac at Lonchamp at two, then placed in the Irish  1000 Guineas in her three-year-old debut.  She is Group 1-placed at ten furlongs, and the recent seven-furlong race looks like a solid prep run for the Beverly D.  She's another Euro that will add Lasix for the first time. 
Points of Grace did all the running last time out at Woodbine stopping the teletimer for the nine-furlong Dance Smartly Stakes in a sizzling 1:45 2/5.  She doesn't necessarily need the lead, and may work out a good trip tracking Alnadana, Tizaqueena, and Dynaforce.
Alnadona went gate-to-wire in a Group 3 in France last time out, but that was at a mile, and she's a bit of a question mark at this trip. 
Pure Clan is extremely likeable and consistent, but she's never run particularly fast, and will take lots of money.

Honestly, I think they all have a good shot, and I can't back my top selection with total confidence.  Gloria de Campeao was a second-level performer (Group 2) in Brazil, and never made a mark in France and Dubai earlier in his career.  Someone had to finish second in this year's weak renewal of the Dubai World Cup, and he fit the bill.  He did impress in beating a bunch of fellow world travelers in the Singapore Airlines Cup last time out, and it will be interesting if he can pair up career tops at the ripe old age of six.
Presious Passion is one of the gamest animals in the sport, and figures to be wheeling and dealing on the front end once again.  He's always a threat when he gets brave on the lead. 
Cima de Triomphe beat Breeders' Cup Turf winner Conduit at this trip two back, then had a miserable trip when fourth to Sea the Stars, Europe's top racehorse, in the Eclipse Stakes.  He may be the invader to fear the most come crunch time. 
Einstein is one of my all-time favorite racehorses, and I'll be rooting for him, but he had to work especially hard to beat an exposed runner in Cowboy Cal two back.  I wonder if he's truly in his best form.
Gio Ponti, in my opinion, is the best turf runner in North America, and his race in the Man o' War was the best turf performance of the year.  He was wide every step of the way while tracking a soft pace, and still won with relative ease.  He's had three hard races in a row, however, and a regression could be in order.  Obviously, he wouldn't be a surprise.
What a race!  I wish I had a stronger opinion, though.

First Passage made a smooth wide move on the turn in the Grade 3 Azalea on Summit of Speed day at Calder, and kept to her task nicely when confronted by the extremely-game pacesetter Kays and Jays in the stretch.  She would benefit from a solid pace up front, and it looks like the $1.2 million dollar yearling with the flashy pedigree has figured the game out. 
Cat Moves was aided by a quick pace up front to run her undefeated record to three in the Grade 1 Prioress.  She's tactical and logical.
All of Her Twist may work out a nice stalking trip, and her confidence should be sky-high after two wins over weaker at Monmouth.
Heart Ashley is very, very fast from the gate, but may be more effective at six furlongs. 
Flashing didn't look right when fatigued on the turn when whipped by Rachel Alexandra in the Mother Goose.  Expect her to stay away from a speed duel this time around.

As with the Arlington Million, I found this race very difficult with five or six legitimiate win contenders.  Tizway is a crazy longshot play as he's never run in a stakes race, and has the daunting task of having to chase Commentator, put him away, and then hold off the closers.  At least I'm getting a price on an upwardly-mobile Tiznow colt that has been pretty impressive running through his conditions. 
Smooth Air is simply a cool horse.  He's earned over a million bucks despite myriad physical problems, and should work out a beautiful pace-tracking, ground-saving trip from his rail post.  I don't like that he has a tendency to drift out in the stretch, however. 
Two-time Whitney winner Commentator looks like the controlling speed once again, but he hasn't proven much in 2009, failing in a tough comeback race going three turns under the lights at Charles Town before coasting on an easy lead against weaker New York-breds going one turn. 
Dry Martini ran an explosive race in the Suburban when rallying from well off the pace, and can't be counted out if he repeats that run. 
Macho Again is an in-and-outer, but he likes this track.
Asiatic Boy is hard-knocking, consistent, and overdue.  He may get lost in the wagering.
Just taking a shot here.

Bing Crosby Handicap:   Zensational, Talkin to Mom Roo, Delta Storm
Clement L. Hirsch (Sunday):  Zenyatta, Life Is Sweet, Patricia's Gem


Hey Dan!
Seeing tough old claimer Cardashi win the Governor's Cup reminded me of another tough old claimer, one of my favorites:  Shigamba
He raced out west in the late 80's, and was very tough to pass when hooked.  Helped forge my love for this sport.  Can you post his PP's if you've got 'em?

Here they are:

Download Shigamba


Hello all,
Love reading about your picks.  Still I can't let go of Claiming Crown day at Canterbury and noticed one of the great claimers popped up in my stable mail today.  Sugar Booger!  Dan, could you post his lifetime PP's.  He really has been a great runner for some time now
Mike Savage

I haven't forgotten about you, Mike, but the DRF system crashed just as I was going to post today's blog.  I'll try to post Sugar Booger's past performances on Monday.


Dan, I have a question if you look at sundays Form 8-2-09 in the 4th race at Saratoga the 5 horse {Talkhouse} in his pps on 8-17-08 he ran on a gd turf Alw 5000 if you go across his running line there is a small symbol before Espinoza's name,what does that symbol mean ?

That little symbol signifies that the horse in question finished in a dead-heat.  Talkhouse dead-heated for sixth-place in the August 17, 2008 race.


Dan, can you explain why there weren't Beyer's available for the Santa Rosa stakes?
Ian Lozada

They weren't recorded into the DRF system by the time I posted the blog on Monday.  The Beyers for the respective stakes races are:

Joseph T. Grace:  SHEM - 87
Cavonnier Juvenile:  OUR MINESWEEPER - 73


I know it's off topic but will the DRF ever publish trainers/jockey's stats for BC races in the PP's on BC day? I'm sure it's possible to do this now and info like that is much more helpful then seeing Andre Fabre's record at current Oak Tree meet...appreciate your work as always...
Brian in SoCal

It's a good idea.  I'll float it to the powers that be, but be forewarned.  They're notoriously stuck in their ways.


An oh by the way kind of question.  What happened with Bennie Stuts(?) and Smooth Air.  That was such a nice story last year.  Why doesn't he have the horse anymore?

From David Grening's article posted on drf.com on May 26:

"Unfortunately for 71-year-old trainer Bennie Stutts, his ride with Smooth Air came to an end on Tuesday when owner Brian Burns transferred the horse to New York-based trainer Chad Brown.
Burns said he plans to campaign the horse in the Northeast this summer and didn't feel shipping back to Calder, where Stutts is based, was wise. Brown, in whose barn Smooth Air was stabled when he arrived in New York, is a former assistant to Bobby Frankel.
"It wasn't an easy decision, because Bennie's done such a phenomenal job with the horse," Burns said Tuesday afternoon. "I had to think about all the travel with the horse. It would be a little hard on Ben to keep traveling. I talked it over with the family and we decided it was silly to fly him back to Florida and then ship up to Monmouth or Saratoga."
Burns said two races he is considering for Smooth Air are the Salvator Mile at Monmouth on July 4 and the Whitney at Saratoga on Aug. 8.
Stutts admitted that Smooth Air belongs in New York, but was leery to speak any further about losing the horse.
"The horse belongs up here, he really does," Stutts said. "He doesn't belong in south Florida; there are no races for him. But I don't really want to talk about this anymore."
Stutts achieved great success with Smooth Air, guiding him to 6 wins, 4 seconds and 3 thirds from 15 starts, and amassing purse earnings of $1,052,200. Under Stutts, Smooth Air won the Hutcheson, Ohio Derby and Gulfstream Park Handicap - all Grade 2 events - and also finished second to Big Brown in the 2008 Florida Derby. In his only two off-the-board finishes, Smooth Air finished 11th in the Kentucky Derby and seventh in the Breeders' Cup Classic."


Congrats to bobc for finishing first in this week's HandiGambling contest.  In a very generous display, he passes the prize to second-place finisher terry, and terry gets to select this week's race.


Enjoy the great racing this weekend.

Take care,