Opinion Columns

Watchmaker: Girvin beat suspect group in Risen Star

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Watchmaker: Girvin beat suspect group in Risen Star
Lou Hodges Jr.
Girvin earned a modest 93 Beyer Speed Figure for his win in the Risen Star.

If your inclination is to take Girvin’s upset of Saturday’s Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds lightly because it’s still early on the road to the Kentucky Derby, you might want to reassess.

Hovdey: Charismatic filled out Old Friends triptych

Barbara D. Livingston
Charismatic arrived at Old Friends last December.

It figures that Charismatic would not go quietly into that good night. From his noble birth in Kentucky to his roller coaster of a career to his shocking death last week at Old Friends Equine because of a pelvic fracture, the shimmering chestnut spent most of his 21 years as a poster boy for the triumph and tragedy of the racing game.

Howard's Derby temperature holds steady at 98.6

Leave it to Neil Howard to do something wacky to mark his 68th birthday on Thursday.

“I’ll be laying low,” Howard said, “doing the usual stuff – pulling manes, cleaning sheets. Anyway, it’s always good to wait until Monday morning to celebrate or not.”

And what a celebration it could be if Howard’s pair of Guest Suite and Eagle come through on Saturday in New Orleans, where the Risen Star for ambitious 3-year-olds tops a stakes-laden program at Fair Grounds.

Hovdey: St. Joe Bay could take Kent off Dubai duck

Shigeki Kikkawa
St. Joe Bay has won three straight sprints for trainer Peter Miller (right), all with jockey Kent Desormeaux in the irons.

The idea of sprinters running for millions of dollars is not exactly new, and opportunities abound. The Breeders’ Cup Sprint has been around since 1984, while the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint was added in 2008. The Golden Shaheen has been a mainstay of the Dubai World Cup card from the beginning. The Hong Kong Sprint became a million-dollar affair in 2001, and now Australia has upped the ante with its $10 million Pegasus-like sprint coming in October, modestly christened “The Everest.”

Watchmaker: Tough getting past Gun Runner and Uncontested on Monday

Since this holiday weekend’s two best and richest races are Monday at Oaklawn Park – the Razorback Handicap and the Southwest Stakes, both Grade 3, $500,000 events – it seems like a timely idea to use this Sunday platform for a Weekend Warrior-like look at these two races. So here goes:


Watchmaker: McCraken's perceived potential outrunning the reality

Tom Keyser
McCraken won the Sam F. Davis Stakes by 1 1/2 lengths on Saturday.

There is a lot to like about McCraken. He impressed when he looped his field from well off the pace to win the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes last fall and complete a 3-for-3 juvenile campaign. And he caught the eye again Saturday with a successful 3-year-old bow in the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.

Hovdey: Listen, mate, Winx is world's best turf horse

SDP Media
Winx scored her 13th consecutive win last October at Australia's Moonee Valley.

Arrogate will not be running in the U.S. for a while, unless some American racetrack is willing to go into hock to compete with the $6 million he ran for in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, or the $12 million he ran for in the Pegasus World Cup, or the $10 million he might run for in the Dubai World Cup next month.

Songbird’s 2017 debut gives the game hope, although Jerry Hollendorfer is keeping his cards close when it comes to her next start, as he admires the way she has matured as a newly turned 4-year-old.

Hovdey: Van Dyke can't recall how he got badly injured

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Hovdey: Van Dyke can't recall how he got badly injured
Shigeki Kikkawa
Drayden Van Dyke, 22, has little recollection of the bad spill he took at Santa Anita on Jan 26.

Ask Drayden Van Dyke about the last quarter-mile of the fourth race at Santa Anita on Jan. 26, and he probably would answer with something like: “Drayden who?”

It’s just as well that he can’t remember. Van Dyke was riding the 3-year-old filly Tawny, making only her third start after a smart maiden win at Los Alamitos in December. While leading the field nearing the quarter pole, Tawny’s left front ankle gave way. Physical instinct threw her weight to the right, and her foreleg fractured.

Hovdey: A weight break for female jocks? No, merci

You’ve got to hand it to the French. The powers of horse racing in the land that gave us Napoleon, Sartre, and “Barbarella” have outdone themselves this time.

The recent decree that female jockeys should have a two-kilogram break in the weights – or about 4.5 pounds – when riding against their male counterparts was at first greeted with an appreciative nod at the lengths to which they would go for a good laugh. I mean, French cineastes pretended for years that they loved Jerry Lewis movies, and the gullible Americans swallowed it whole.

Watchmaker: Classic Empire's dud muddies Kentucky Derby road

You might think that since all three of Saturday’s Kentucky Derby point prep races were won in decisive fashion, the Derby picture right now on Sunday morning is at least just a tiny bit clearer. But that is anything but the case.

Instead of clarity, the road to the Derby Saturday veered sharply off the path and straight into some very tall weeds. And that is because of Classic Empire’s shockingly empty performance in the Holy Bull at Gulfstream.

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