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Super Stakes Weekend
Let's take a peek at what should be a spectacular weekend of racing:
There's a little something for everyone on Saturday with the long-awaited return to the races of Horse of the Year RACHEL ALEXANDRA and Breeders' Cup Classic heroine ZENYATTA. Both will be prohibitive favorites in their respective races as the sporting world waits with bated breath for their possible showdown in the Apple Blossom Invitational at Oaklawn Park on April 9.
For fans of three-year-old racing, there will be a trifecta of important Kentucky Derby prep races. LOOKIN AT LUCKY, the champion juvenile of 2009, makes his seasonal, and dirt, debut in the Rebel at Oaklawn against a solid field of runners.
Another chapter will be added to the rags-to-riches tale of CARACORTADO in the San Felipe at Santa Anita, but he'll have to dispose of a field that will include the speedy SIDNEY'S CANDY and the late-running, long-striding DAVE IN DIXIE.
The Tampa Bay Derby features the three-year-old debut of SUPER SAVER, but the Todd Pletcher-trained colt may have his hooves full with a potentially important horse in ODYSSEUS as well as rock-solid local hopefuls UPTOWNCHARLYBROWN and SCHOOLYARD DREAMS.
For the flagship race of the Tampa Bay Downs meeting, the Tampa Bay Derby, I'm very interested to see how Odysseus fares in his first start against stakes competition. He didn't beat much last time out, but he didn't beat much by fifteen impressive lengths, and he may work out a decent trip tracking the early pace.
Super Saver's form is eerily reminiscent of Rule, a WinStar-owned, Pletcher-trained speed horse making his return from a layoff in a graded route at Tampa Bay. Rule won gate-to-wire and it wouldn't be a surprise if Super Saver struts to the winner's circle either. Still, this is his first race in over three months and he may face some pressure from Schoolyard Dreams and the newly-blinkered Uptowncharlybrown.
I wrote the following about Uptowncharlybrown in my Sam F. Davis "Report Card" on the drf.com Kentucky Derby page:
"UPTOWNCHARLYBROWN stretched out in distance for the first time after a pair of impressive sprint wins and he seemed to run in spots for jockey Daniel Centeno...Uptowncharlybrown is still green with only three starts on his record. He has some upside potential and may be a horse that would improve with the addition of blinkers."
He draws a good inside post for the Tampa Bay Derby and I'm expecting him to show improved speed and focus with blinkers on Saturday afternoon.
It's a good solid race and I'll go with Odysseus.
Lookin At Lucky and NOBLE'S PROMISE, the two-three finishers in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and one-two runners in the CashCall Futurity, both must travel a route of ground in their first race in almost three months. Add in the fact that both have never raced on dirt and one should hesitate to take a short price on either one of these quality performers.
DUBLIN seems very logical after rallying over a speed-favoring track in his first start back from throat surgery in the Rebel, but I wonder if he'll regress off that effort, and I have a feeling he's going to take his share of play with that 96 Beyer staring people in the face.
UH OH BANGO hasn't raced since his bang-up second to the aforementioned Rule in the Delta Jackpot, his first start around two turns, and he's only worked once over the Oaklawn strip due to freezing weather conditions in Arkansas this winter. I wonder if he'll be fully cranked up for this prep race but he has the speed to track ROYAL EXPRESS and I'm guessing Lookin At Lucky and Noble's Promise will be close to the pace as well.
There are legitimate fears that Uh Oh Bango won't go this far but I'll take a shot with him in the Rebel.
She is the Picture of Perfection, the Equine Orchid, the Toast of the Coast. She is ZENYATTA, the 2009 Breeders' Cup Classic winner that will attempt to run her amazing undefeated run to fifteen in the Grade 1 Santa Margarita at Santa Anita. With a potential "Race for the Ages" with Rachel Alexandra looming on the horizon, it's hard to call yourself a true racing fan if you're rooting for either one of these amazing Amazons to lose.
Both look vastly superior to their opposition on Saturday. While I don't expect Zenyatta to lose, I'm a bit interested in FLOATING HEART, the third-place finisher of the Grade 2 La Canada for four-year-old fillies on Valentine's Day. Floating Heart looked to be commencing a three-wide bid on the turn, but the hole seemed to close at that exact moment, and she was shuffled back just a bit. Once she got going, she rallied nicely for third.
She'll likely have to catch a ride on a jumbo jet to beat Zenyatta, but I think this filly has a bit of promise and may be worth a couple of bucks at double-digit odds.
No strong thoughts on the San Felipe, but INKADO may be an interesting longshot in the Gulfstream Park Handicap. He's 20-1 on the morning line but has really picked up his game since removing blinkers and shipping into Gulfstream. He'll have to beat a very good THIS ONE'S FOR PHIL, and it won't be easy, but he looks to have a puncher's chance.
On Sunday, at Gulfstream, I'll give TAR HEEL MOM another chance as she makes the third start of the form cycle in the Inside Information Stakes.
Enjoy this wonderful weekend of racing!
HCK First..Welcome to Formblog, glad to have you here. in part you posted: "I'd say she deserves to be on the "A" team. She just doesn't wear the C on her chest." C for Cal racer, right? I'm in agreement with you. Since my Horse Watch notes had "Zardana comp for Rachel in 2010' indicated. (I added Zardana in Dec after her win then at SA) Good for that gutsy little filly, she was on her A game, and RA (sorry) was just not right yet. As many have noted here. Kudo's to Zardana! I don't think of Zardana as a B team player. Just the right horse put in the right conditions. Good for John Sheriffs & her connections. ...and That's horse racing. SR Vegas
"As for her bullying around the colts, why don't you ask the gate crew at SA which horse is more powerful, QR or Zenyatta." Not exactly the way it works. In the horse social hierarchy there are alpha females and everybody else. They control the herd, and just a look will bring them all back in line. After having watched her in the paddock and on the track, I can tell you that no one wants anything to do with her, especially colts. Watch her move yesterday and how quickly they cleared for her. Here is an interesting passage from Tom Ainslie's book: "Is one of the starters a hard-hitting old race mare who has already defeated males? Is one of her competitors a 3 or 4 year old colt? If the colt comes out strutting like the boss of the world and annoys the old girl in the paddock or post parade, and if she flattens her ears, swings her head or pops her tail at his approach, his strutting will stop at once. She probably already has him beaten before they race a step. The same thing can happen during a race. His only hope is to leave the gate in a hurry and run away from her. She has awakened his memories of female authority." Power certainly cannot be judged by QR's fractiousness at the gate. Yes he is one of the few who are physically bigger than Z, somehow I don't think that affects her.
TejanoRun, I did not look at that photo objectively since I had five bills on Schoolyard to win and place. I am positive that I was STRONACHED!!! I'm not a big conspiracy nut, but I just don't see how you could declare either horse the winner after looking at that photo.
Rachel ran a good prep race for a matchup with Bullsbay or Macho Again. Maybe Mine That Bird...but not good enough to play with fire. People will still think she's one of the greats if they retire her now. I'd take that opportunity if I were Jackson and appreciate what she's already accomplished. If they really think she can get to back year's level, fine, keep trying, but if not then retire her while she's healthy.
Steve T, you posted this: "...Here is the thing - Zenyatta would beat both (RA and QR) handily at a mile. She is a Midnight Lute type sprinter who could easily run them down. Of course you were the one who said that if a horse hasn't raced in New York, they were nothing. Please." I agree with you that the NY statement is a bit much, but your contention that Z would beat both QR and RA on dirt at 1 mile is utterly speculative and not supported by a single fact. Her early speed (or lack of it) combined with even her strongest fractional time for the final 2 furlongs in ANY race, would leave her a few lengths behind either at 1 mile minus a complete meltdown. You have earned the right to post whatever conclusions you wish, but the above comment is a bit too much, even from the must avid Zenyatta fan I have ever encountered (that would be you). tinky is correct. At a certain point your emotional attachment to Z clouds your thoughts and your objectivity is questionable. Even if we leave RA out of the picture because she is not currently "fit" enough to face Z, QR would eat Zenyatta's lunch at 1 mile, and especially at 7 furlongs, on dirt. Remember he has run very well at both GP and in NY. But what is wrong with that? She is a middle distance classic runner. As for her bullying around the colts, why don't you ask the gate crew at SA which horse is more powerful, QR or Zenyatta. QR is even taller and more muscular than Zenyatta's freakishly large female frame (that is a compliment to her, BTW), and I would bet the house that Sherriffs would cringe at the thought of Z trying to muscle by QR. She may be a "bully" but bullies by nature pick on those smaller than they are. Not a colt that would physically intimidate her. Z is one of the all time greats, but her wins need to be kept in context. She beat turfers and fish out of water dirt runners in the Classic. And, BTW, Gio Ponte lost his next time out at Tampa Bay Downs of all places. As to the dirt runners not being "quality" runners to handle the surface at SA, consider D'funnybone. Finished way up the track in the BC Juvie, then comes back to Florida and toys with a solid field in the Gr II Swale, drawing away and holding sway (against a few synthetic wonders, it should be noted). You are not actually beating dirt horses on dirt UNTIL you race them on dirt. I give Z connections credit, they appeared to be stepping up to the plate. I suggest you email John Sherriffs and ask what he thinks Z's chances against QR on dirt at 1 mile would be (not 9f or 10f, but 1 mile). The answer might surprise you. QR has set track records 3 times at 2 different tracks at 1 and 2 turns. He has dominated his competition, while Z has won without much effort but was hardly dominant Saturday despite racing mares that QR could beat by 15 lengths. Even if you throw QR's vastly superior speed and pace numbers out for his last two races, the eyeball test tells me that Z would likely have little chance of collaring or even catching QR in the stretch of a dirt mile race. Remember, Midnight Lute was best at 6-7 furlongs because of the pace factor. QR, unlike the others that Z has faced, can run a 1:09 and change at the 6f call and keep on going. And BTW, his 10f places were without sufficient stretch-out preps between 7f and 10f and on the slop. I would like Z at 10f, but anything less than that, GP or elswhere, give me QR. Speed rules...
Tinky, Dan, BlueHorseshoe or any other Formblogger in the business, I just read in the New York Times article about the two fillies by Joe Drape that “Sometimes fillies want to be broodmares and lose their competitive edge..." Is that really true?
The 3/20 Florida Derby will provide alot of Formbloggers a chance to see how their horses match up. Possibles are: LONGWAYTOMAY'S Eskendereya PIPPEN'S Soaring Empire MICKEY'S Pleasant Prince JOHN C'S First Dude STELLA'S Tempted to Tapit WILSON'S Pulsion VAN SAVANT'S Ice Box The 3/20 Swale could have: DOMINIC RICCIO'S Ibboyee and maybe LAWDUCK'S D'Funnybone They don't seem to know what they're going to do with SKYDIMEAUNTIE'S Rule. Either Florida Derby, Wood or Louisiana Derby. LAURA'S Drosselmeyer has to go in whatever race Rule doesn't go in. Apparently, if Rule goes in the Florida Derby, then Drossy will go in the La. Derby and if Rule goes in the La. Derby, Drossy will go in either the Sunland Derby or the Illinois Derby. Whew, LAURA, make up your mind. :) Annie
SR Vegas, Hey, I know what SPICER wants to be. A workhorse. :) Annie
I wrote last week about how I didn’t believe that we were going to be seeing Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra racing each other any time soon. In reading the tea-leaves, it was clear to me that regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s races, the connections for Rachel Alexandra were preparing all along to avoid racing Zenyatta as early as April. I never commented on how I felt about this, but I will now. Rachel Alexandra should not be facing Zenyatta at this point in time, and perhaps never. Why? She is not now, and she may never be up to that daunting task. Think about it for a bit here. Understand what it is that Mr. Jackson is being asked to do here: To have his brilliant and extremely talented filly try to do what no filly, mare, colt, gelding or horse has yet to do…defeat Zenyatta. A fit, healthy and happy Rachel Alexandra would be a worthy opponent for Zenyatta. Right now, and for the foreseeable future, she is not. Unfortunately, she may never be. Hopefully she is alright, and she can continue to race, because I love seeing her run. But I don’t want to see her trounced, humiliated, or injured if she isn’t up to the daunting task of trying to do what thus far has not been done. That’s all.
Laura, Chalky and I couldn't figure it out, so we haven't changed anything in the RTTR contest since the initial picks...so as you would say in a study, we are in the "control group" Regarding the ongoing RA v Z argument (IMHO it's no longer a discussion here): Saturday's results don't change my incredibly high opinion of either of them...other than from a horseplayer standpoint making a very, very little money playing against RA. The races were "apples" and "oranges" - I really wasn't that surprised at the results under the circumstances. Assuming she is well, does anyone here really think that RA won't perform better next out? RA and Z are both very special fillies. We are so lucky to have them at the same time racing for our pleasure. We follow/watch every workout, listen carefully to every comment from their connections, analyze every move/decision pre/during/post-race....other than for a short time during the Derby prep season, when are we ever like this? Hopefully, we will still get the opportunity to at least once have the two of them race against each other. It will be a moment as horse racing fans that NONE of us will ever forget! Close your eyes....take a deep breadth...smile...enjoy this experience. These moments don't come often enough in our lifetime...