06/14/2009 7:45PM

Rough Weekend for Stars


The four recent Eclipse Award finalists who raced this weekend all lost as heavy favorites, with three of them finishing 4th or worse.

Music Note: Last year's Mother Goose, CCA Oaks and Gazelle winner, and third to Proud Spell and Eight Belles in the voting for the 3-year-old filly championship, ran fifth in the G1 Ogden Phipps at Belmont Saturday as part of a three-ply entry favored at 7-to-20. Music Note, held out of the Shuvee last month after training poorly, made a brief surge into contention entering the stretch turn but had nothing in the tank after that and was beaten 10 3/4 lengths.

Einstein: A finalist for both the Older Male and Turf Male titles last year, Einstein was bidding for a third straight Grade 1 victory in Saturday's Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs, and also trying to become just the second horse (joining Lava Man) to win Grade 1's on dirt, grass and synth. Einstein ran third, beaten just a length and a nose, after a titanically bad trip that prompted this unusually long and dramatic official chart footnote: "Einstein bobbled at the start to get away a bit slow, checked off heels near the seven-eighths marker, was bottled up between horses down the backstretch and through the second turn, shifted out a bit and found a seam entering the stretch, was bumped and stuffed behind rivals with three-sixteenths to run, got through towards the inside late but was left with too much to do."

Kip DeVille: The 2007 Breeders' Cup Mile winner, and runner-up in that race last year, led to the top of the stretch but then faded badly and ran fourth of five as the 0.75-1 favorite in the G3 Poker at Belmont Sunday. The Belmont turf was soft -- the winning time was 1:36.50, as opposed to Kip DeVille's 1:32.94 winning last year's Poker -- but he's won on soft turf before, including the 2007 Breeders' Cup Mile, which was run in a boggy 1:39.78.

Indian Blessing: The champion female sprinter of 2008 and champion 2-year-old filly of 2007 was 1-2  in the Desert Stormer at Hollywood Park Sunday. She stalked Coco Belle early but was laboring by upper stretch and faded to finish fourth, beaten 5 1/2 lengths. Although Indian Blessing has run decently on synthetic tracks before, she clearly is a much better filly on real dirt, and trainer Bob Baffert said she's headed back to that surface and New York.

Kip Deville and Indian Blessing and Kip DeVille were making their first starts since racing on the Dubai World Cup card March 28, supplying further ammunition to those who believe American horses often fare poorly when returning from that taxing trip.

The Shuvee and Desert Stormer were both run as the fourth race on their cards, a ploy by track managements to increase the likelihood of a Pick-Six carryover by keeping races with apparent "cinches" out of the sequence. At least California can argue that it's exposing its stakes racing to eastern simulcast customers this way, but Belmont's running a Grade 1 stakes at 2:37 p.m. just seems a little tacky. It's also questionable whether it accomplished anything. Both the Phipps and the allowance race run in its place were won by the second choice, so there probably would have been a carryover either way, and the bet handled only $81,446 with the Phipps removed from the sequence. The late pick-4 missed its $350,000 guarantee by $12,364.

--A few other notes on the weekend's racing, which included nine graded stakes:


--Note above that the Fleur De Lis was slightly faster than the Stephen Foster, which was run half an hour later at the same distance. The first five Foster finishers were only 1 1/4 lengths apart. The older males are not exactly an imposing division this year.

--Obrigado will be the only horse to run in two American graded stakes at more than 12 furlongs this year: he finished third in the San Juan Capistrano April 19 and then won Saturday's Round Table, both 1 3/4-mile races. The Breeders' Cup Marathon has been lengthened to 1 3/4 miles this year but is not yet a graded stakes because this will be only its second edition.

--That's the same reason that Saturday's $200k Monmouth Stakes, invented last year to lure Big Brown, is not a graded race this year. This second edition, however, may have been the most stirring race of the weekend. Presious Passion did almost exactly what he did in the MacDiarmada two starts back, setting the pace, looking absolutely cooked at the top of the stretch, and then improbably rerallying at the rail to win a photo. No one's posted the Monmouth on YouTube yet, but here's that MacDiarmada in case you missed it the first time around:

I admit that my initial affection for Presious Passion began with his completing a Pick-4 at 67-1 in the McKnight two Decembers ago, but he has turned into one of my favorite horses since then for his genuine will to win.

Rick B More than 1 year ago
Steven, after Dutrow got nailed with "This ones for Phil" the enitre racing community changed its' attitude toward drugging. This stuff has been going on since Aksarben! I believe horses should be treated exactly like atheletes. No questions asked. If a trainer gets caught then ban him! I have enough trouble handicapping without having to figure in the cheaters.
jimbo32 More than 1 year ago
brand_x, you bring up a lot of good close calls with the Triple Crown, but for my money the one horse in recent years who SHOULD have won the Triple Crown didn't lose the Belmont. If Jeremy Rose didn't make a tactical error in the stretch at Churchill Downs, Afleet Alex would have been a TC champion. And certainly going 12 furlongs in his third race in five weeks had no adverse impact at all on him. He won the Belmont with ease. Another one just like him was Point Given, whose TC was foiled by a horrible draw in the Derby but then obliterated the other two legs.
chris lowe More than 1 year ago
to ponyman: you realize Hialeah ,to the best of my knowledge, will be running quarterhorses only?
rob s More than 1 year ago
Regarding the Triple Crown, I don't see how it would have much of an effect on the sport anyway. Unless we are fortunate enough to have a gelding get it, what could it do? If the horse isn't gelded then we have at best, say four more races with him. How exactly will the general public rally around a horse that only shows up four more times before going to stud. Give me a Triple Crown winner and within 5 months he's retired. Leave the Triple Crown alone so at least it will be worth something when it's accomplished again. By Christmas the world will have forgotten who it was anyway.
brand x More than 1 year ago
In regard to the Triple Crown: Part 1: What makes the Triple Crown, as it is, so special? Answer: 1. Tradition, over 100 years worth (less and less of that in today's world). 2. The history. 3. The mystique. 4. The excitement. 5. The top 3 year olds in the country competing in a three race World Series, with many of the top horses who have never raced against each other, and newcommers in the last two races.... coming together to crown a champion if he is good enough to win all three, and at different distances that none have ever run nor will most ever run again. 6. It is so hard to achieve, change the setup and you lessen the achievement. 7. 31 year droughts proves how rare it can be achieved, making it that much more special, and what an accomplishment it really is, not only for the horse, but the trainer and jockey as well. 8. The droughts make it that much more intriguing, more mystique, and creates more interest, excitement, and hope. 9. All the major prep races, including the 2 year old races, months and months before the Derby. 10. All the media coverage and anticipation in the weeks leading up to the Derby, and the days in between each race. Each next race can't come quick enough, with alot of impatience in between. 11. It's the ultimate dream and goal for every owner, breeder, trainer, and jockey, and their place in history. 12. The great stories behind the horses, owners, breeders, trainers, and jockeys. 13. The feel good stories every year. 14. Horses like Mine That Bird being bought for $9,500, proving the little guy can steal the show, and you don't have to be a gazillionaire, an oil sheik, or own a huge breeding farm in Lexington to win it all. 15. Guys likeTom McCarthy and Bennie Stutz with one horse stables, and that one horse being good enough to make it to the Triple Crown. 16. Guys like Tom McCarthy and Bennie Stutz trainingl into their 70's, proving the best years in life can be over 60..... even on the backstretch. 17. Guys like Tom McCarthy, who didn't START training horses till into his 60's and after retirement from a lifelong job. 18. Guys like Chip Wooley, lifelong trainers at bush tracks, training $5,000 claimers all their life, who were really down on their luck for a long time....getting the chance of a lifetime when they least expected it, even in their 60's and 70's. 19. The huge media attention from all over the world, giving the sport the attention and interest it needs and deserves, attracting new fans and bettors. 20. Seeing over 100,000 people at Churchill, the infield full and people having a great time, even if they have no idea whats going on all the time, or cant see the horses..... 75,000 and more at the Preakness and Belmont. 21. Cashing a ticket worth $864,000 for a $1 bet. 22. $100 million being bet in the Derby, $58 million in the Preakness, and $46 million in the Belmont. 23. Huge interest from people who have never been to a horse race, or maybe the only horse races the've ever been to, or the only races they've watched on T.V., or the only races they've ever bet on. People who's only interest in horse racing and betting a horse race is for the Derby or 3 races a year, every year. 24. Us lifelong diehards who truely love and appreciate the sport and the Triple Crown more than any other sport... some of us watching, attending, and betting horses for 75% or more of our lives... understanding the complexity, the competitiveness, and the challenge of not only what it takes to win any or all of those three races, but also picking the winner and betting those races (including exotics) correctly. 25. A half hour after the Belmont you wish it wasn't all over, thinking summer won't be quite the same until the Breeder's Cup is near. 26. One hour after the Belmont you can't wait for next year's Triple Crown. 27. The day after the Belmont you start watching all the 2 year old maiden and stakes races at major tracks and looking for that "special one". Is any of this worth risking for change? If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
brand x More than 1 year ago
In regard to the Triple Crown: Part 2: Keep in mind: If Kent Desormeaux doesn't move Real Quiet a little too soon, he's a Triple Crown winner. If not for Gary Stevens putting Point Given so close to the lead (5 lengths?), he probably would have won the Triple Crown. He even admitted it. When I saw how close he was on the first turn I doubted he wouldnt have anything left in the stretch. His wins in the Preakness and Belmont were from well off the pace, that was his style. Blame that on human error, not the horse. If Empire Maker hadn't had bad feet, he might have won a TripleCcrown. If Stewart Elliot hadn't thought he was on Secretariat and moved Smarty Jones too soon he would have won a Triple Crown (even though Smarty Jones wasn't bred to go that far, outran his pedigree, and also ran against the maybe the weakest crop in modern history). Blame that on ego, not the horse. Had Mike Smith on Mine That Bird not had to go from the rail to 7 wide and steady in the process....and had Calvin Borel not moved too soon on him in the Belmont, maybe we have aTtriple Crown winner. Blame that on racing luck and human error, not the horse. In my opinion, Summer Bird was the best bred horse in the Triple Crown, and the best bred for distance. Imagine if he had raced at 2, or ran his first race in January or February, and hadn't had to run his first 4 races in 2 months, including the Derby. Maybe he's a Triple Crown winner. That is more races in less time than the Triple Crown span and yet he won the Belmont in his just his 5th career race. Tim Ice did a fabulous job with him. With younge sires like Medaglia d' Oro, Empire Maker, and Birdstone (in his first crop), I think we will see a Triple Crown winner in the very the near future. All these sires were long distance runners with distance in their breeding on both sides. With them now being bred to dams with distance breeding, I think we are close to seeing a horse with all the right distance and class breeding to win a Triple Crown. After all, the Triple Crown is all about speed and stamina with the Belmont being the test of champions. If you shorten the distance and lengthen time inbetween races....you might as well run the Belmont at 7 furlongs with 5 weeks rest. If any change was made, I would add an extra week between the Derby and the Preakness. All in all....with some smarter rding, less ego, a little better health, an earlier start, and some racing luck, we should have had at least 2 or 3 Triple Crown winners in the last 11 years. How,then,can anybody want to change the current setup or complain about it. It separates the men from the boys and the great ones from the good ones. It takes a great horse and a great trainer to accomplish it. It wasn't meant to be accomplished every other year. Thats the mystique about it, and why it is so hard and rarely accomplished. Is it really worth changing? I don't think it is. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Barry More than 1 year ago
In no way would I want change the triple crown format; I just wonder if there is an additional factor in the recent drought. Although I am no expert on European racing, from what I understand North American breeding has become a victim of its own success as Europeans have become more active in stateside auctions. Could this be at least one factor contributing to the lack of a triple crown winner all these years? North American bidders have to consider the lack of mile and a half races after the Belmont. If you look at pedigrees of the last few Kentucky Derby winners, Big Brown in particular, it is about speed. Does this change in tactics reflect a loss of more traditional pedigrees to European bidders?
Walt More than 1 year ago
C: My belief is concerning lengthening the BC Races and so forth is you sometimes have to drive change down the throats, and this may be a case where you have to do so, taking the bull by the horns. By lengthening the BC Classic to 1 5/8 Miles while at the same time rewarding those who race more frequently and also at the same time for the Derby basically force horses to make more starts (especially at three) leading up to the Derby would have the effect to me of having fewer injuries over time. This would be coupled with other changes I would make, most notably making it so retiring horses at three is no longer worthwhile (i.e.: Making it so if a horse is retired at three, his offspring is ineligible to race until the stallion reaches his 13th birthday, with two years taken off from that for horses making a minimum of 10 starts in each of his four and five year old seasons, forcing most top horses to race through their five year old campaigns). And as for running the BC Classic at 1 5/8 Miles, I said that distance over 1 1/2 Miles in part because most tracks can run 1 5/8 Miles, albeit around three turns (and on 1 1/8 Mile tracks, starting near the far turn). That move to me would have the effect of many other major stakes being lengthened, forcing trainers, breeders, etc. to change their ways. Would we see some suffering at first? Of course, but long-term, this is a change that needs to be made.
jcp More than 1 year ago
I just got my Saratoga brochure in the mail..There is no mention of the "Restaurant Row" they had last year, which featured great food from the in-town eateries...Any info?
Dan MacKenzie More than 1 year ago
jcp: This link to 2009 info from the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce states that Restaurant Row is "continuing this year" http://www.saratoga.org/visitors/saratoga-race-course.asp