Saturday, November 6, 2010


LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP)—Zenyatta came within a head of finishing a perfect career.

Horse racing’s biggest star closed from dead last on Saturday, only for Blame to hold off the 6-year-old mare and win the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic under the lights Churchill Downs.

Blame went to the front in the middle of the stretch, then fought off another spectacular bid from the unbeaten Zenyatta to win by a head.

Zenyatta entered the race hoping to improve to 20-0 on her career. She loped behind the field for the first mile of the race before closing in a hurry.

Blame answered the challenge.

The 4-year-old horse covered the 1 1/4-mile distance in 2:02.28 as a 5-to-1 shot. Fly Down held on for third, while Preakness champion Lookin At Lucky finished fourth.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Belmont: Not your typical racetrack

Belmont: Not your typical racetrack

By David Grening

ELMONT, N.Y. - There is a scene in the popular movie "Hoosiers" when the players on the underdog Hickory High School basketball team walk into Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indiana for the first time and look in awe at the humongous setting on which they will be playing for the first time.

Gene Hackman, as coach Norman Dale, tells his players to take out a tape measure to prove that the height of the basket is the same as the one they shoot at in their small town.

When jockeys Martin Garcia, Jamie Theriot, and Joel Rosario walk onto the Belmont Park main track for the first time in their careers on Saturday, they too will most likely be in awe of the grandiose setting. But there isn't a tape measure big enough to wrap around the expansive track. As the only 1 1/2-mile-track in North America, Belmont Park is unlike any other track at which the three have ridden.

Their inexperience at Belmont Park could come into play in Saturday's 142nd Belmont Stakes in which Garcia will ride Game On Dude, Theriot gets on Stay Put, and Rosario climbs aboard Make Music for Me.

For Theriot and Rosario, the Belmont will be their only main-track mount on the card. Garcia picked up a mount in the Acorn, two races before the Belmont, and also will ride the Manhattan, a 1 1/4-mile turf race.

"Woody Stephens told me this once: Anybody who rides this race and has never ridden at the racetrack is at a huge disadvantage, and I believe that," said Mike Sellitto, agent for jockey Kent Desormeaux, who won last year's Belmont aboard Summer Bird but is not engaged to ride a horse in this year's race.

At most tracks, horses are passing the three-eighths pole when they make the bend into the far turn. At Belmont, it is the half-mile pole that is positioned at the start of the far turn.

Jockey John Velazquez, who has ridden at Belmont Park for nearly 20 years, said jockeys sometimes lose their way at Belmont.

"Most important, you got to know where the poles are and then you got to ride the racetrack the way it's playing," said Velazquez, who won the 2007 Belmont aboard Rags to Riches. "The heat of the moment, it comes. They're making a premature move at you, and everybody forgets where they are."

Velazquez felt Stewart Elliott, who had ridden just three dirt races at Belmont in the 4 1/2 years preceding the 2004 Belmont Stakes, moved too soon aboard Smarty Jones, who was beaten a length by Birdstone in attempting to win the Triple Crown.

Last year, Calvin Borel's only mount on the Belmont Stakes Day card was Mine That Bird in the Belmont. Borel had ridden just two horses on Belmont's main track in the previous decade. Many faulted Borel for moving Mine That Bird too early in the race, and he finished third. Borel, who was at Belmont on Monday to ride Warrior's Reward in the Metropolitan Handicap, concurred that the move was too soon, but said he didn't have much of a choice.

"I thought he was a little aggressive," Borel said, recalling the race. "Going a mile and a half, he was going to show a little more speed. I fought him down the backside a little bit. I decided to let him go, which probably was a bad decision, but if you fight them they don't finish. You were damned if you do, damned if you don't."

Borel will ride longshot Dave in Dixie in Saturday's Belmont.

Bob Baffert, trainer of Game On Dude, said he has so much confidence in Garcia that he doesn't worry about the rider's lack of experience at Belmont. However, Baffert did say that he was happy to hear Garcia picked up the mount on Champagne d'Oro in the one-mile Acorn.

"All he needs is one little race over the track," Baffert said.

Garcia did win stakes in his first-ever starts at tracks like Lone Star Park and Oaklawn Park, but they're not configured like Belmont Park.

"It's a long way around there," Baffert said. "Martin, he'll do his homework, he's a pretty smart kid. We've talked about it. He basically said, `Well it does have a quarter pole, doesn't it?' I said yes. 'Well that's all I need to know.' You have to have your confidence in your horse, that's why Martin rides so well for me. Everywhere I send him, he wins. . . . I'm counting on him to keep the score up."

Steve Margolis, trainer of Stay Put, is utilizing that same logic for keeping Theriot on the horse. Theriot has three wins from six mounts on Stay Put.

"He's got a good rapport with the horse. The horse seems to run good for him," Margolis said. "I think it's definitely a positive thing having a rider that knows the horse."

Alexis Barba, trainer of Make Music for Me, said her confidence in Rosario is why she is keeping the youngster on the horse. She was quite pleased with how Rosario rode Make Music for Me when the horse rallied from 30 lengths back to finish fourth in the Kentucky Derby.

"I'm not going to play a lot into that," Barba said of Rosario's inexperience at Belmont. "You drive yourself crazy worrying about everything. I think the kid's going to be a superstar one day, just raw talent."

Saturday, May 8, 2010


Eskendereya retired; Jackson buys in:

By David Grening

Eskendereya, whose dominant victories in the Fountain of Youth and Wood Memorial would have made him the favorite for the Kentucky Derby, has been retired from racing due to a soft-tissue injury to his left foreleg, his connections announced Friday afternoon.

Owner Ahmed Zayat also announced that he has sold a portion of Eskendereya to Jess Jackson, who has campaigned reigning Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra and two-time Horse of the Year Curlin. The two parties will look to stand him at stud at a farm next year.

"This is a-once-in-a-lifetime horse, it's going to take me a while to get over it," Zayat said by phone Friday evening. "I think he could have won the Triple Crown, not just the Kentucky Derby."

n a joint press release, Jackson said: "I am extremely pleased to partner with Zayat Stables in ownership of this magnificent Thoroughbred. Eskendereya is best of class and his progeny will only add to his legacy and that of American racing."

Zayat did not disclose what percentage of the colt he sold to Jackson. However, he said the reason he sold was because his stable is in bankruptcy and as part of his reorganization plan he needed "to create value and cash."

Eskendereya, who was trained by Todd Pletcher, was not entered in the Derby after it was announced on April 25 that the horse had swelling in his left foreleg. Earlier this week, Eskendereya was shipped to multiple clinics and examined by a "who's who" of veterinarians, Zayat said. In the end, the decision was made to retire the horse because he would need at least a year off and it was unlikely he could return to the performance level that he has shown, Zayat said.

"Todd and I discussed every other possibility before concluding that retirement was the only option and the right decision to protect Eskendereya's health," Zayat said in the release.

Zayat purchased Eskendereya for $250,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sale in 2008. The colt, a son of Giant's Causeway out of the Seattle Slew mare Aldebaran Light, debuted on closing day of the Saratoga meet, finishing second in a 1 1/16-mile turf race. On Oct. 4, at Belmont Park, he won the Pilgrim Stakes - a race originally scheduled for the turf but run on dirt - by 7 1-4 lengths. He completed his 2-year-old season with a ninth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile over Santa Anita's synthetic surface.

Eskendereya kicked off his 3-year-old season on Jan. 7 with a 1 -length victory in a first-level allowance race at Gulfstream Park. He followed that up with an 8 1/2-length victory in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth on Feb. 20, a race that was the "wow" performance in a Derby prep. That is, until Eskendereya won the Grade 1 Wood Memorial on April 3 by 9 3/4 lengths.

"I think he's as good as horses get," Pletcher said. "His Fountain of Youth and Wood Memorial were as good as performances as we have had and as good as we've seen from a 3-year-old. I'd rank him up there as among the best we've had."

Rumors that something was amiss with Eskendereya began shortly after the Wood, a race in which the colt wore front bandages for the first time. Those rumors persisted after the colt worked at Palm Meadows in Florida on April 17 and continued through the time of his defection from the race a week later.

Asked if Eskendereya had reached his potential, Pletcher said, "He was continuing to develop and was getting better and better. And as I've said a mile and a quarter and a mile a half were distances that were going to suit him."

Eskendereya retires with a record of 4-1-0 from six starts and earnings of $725,700.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Super Saver Kentucky Derby Winner

Super Saver gives Pletcher a Kentucky Derby win

By Jay Privman

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The week had been emotionally draining for both trainer Todd Pletcher and the WinStar Farm of Bill Casner and Kenny Troutt. Both had multiple entries for the 136th Kentucky Derby on Saturday at Churchill Downs, but went to battle with less ammunition than they first envisioned.

For Pletcher, he had to withdraw the race's acknowledged favorite, Eskendereya, last weekend because of swelling in the colt's left front leg. Pletcher still had four runners, but not the one he thought he needed most.

WinStar started the week with four potential Derby runners, but was down to two by post time, owing to the defections of Rule, because he was not training satisfactorily, and Endorsement, who was injured in a workout on Wednesday.

But where Pletcher and WinStar overlapped, they had the best weapon anyone can bring to battle at Churchill Downs - jockey Calvin Borel.

Horse Betting at

Friday, April 30, 2010

The Kentucky Derby

Derby favorites draw tricky posts

By Jay Privman

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The top two choices in the Kentucky Derby on Saturday have 'em surrounded. Lookin At Lucky, the favorite, drew the rail, and Sidney's Candy, the second choice, drew the outside post in a field of 20 when post positions were drawn on Wednesday for Derby 136 at Churchill Downs.

Devil May Care, the filly who will challenge 19 males, wound up in the middle, in post 11.

The posts for the top two choices are not considered ideal. No horse has won from the rail since Ferdinand in 1986, and no horse beginning from the rail has finished in the money since Risen Star was third in 1988.

"He's got to break well," said Bob Baffert, who trains Lookin At Lucky and Conveyance, who drew post 12. "Plan A is to break well. Plan B is we're screwed."

Big Brown won from post 20 just two years ago, but he was clearly superior to his rivals. Though 20-horse fields have been the norm in recent years, they were rare in the early years of the Derby.

The only other horse to win from post 20 was Clyde Van Dusen in 1929, when there was a walk-up start.

Post 11 also had its drawbacks. Because the Derby field is double-loaded, posts 1 and 11 go in the gate first for the 1 1/4-mile race, then 2 and 12, on down to 10 and 20.

"Eleven is a great position from which to start the race. The only thing I don't like is that she'll have to be in the gate a long time," said Todd Pletcher, who trains Devil May Care and three other horses in this Derby.

Mike Watchmaker, Daily Racing Form's national handicapper, made Lookin At Lucky the 4-1 favorite, with Sidney's Candy 5-1 and Awesome Act the third choice at 8-1. He has Devil May Care next at 10-1, followed by Ice Box at 12-1.

Mike Battaglia, the linemaker at Churchill Downs, has Lookin At Lucky at 3-1, and Sidney's Candy at 5-1. Battaglia made Awesome Act, Devil May Care, and Ice Box co-third choices at 10-1.

Devil May Care is adding blinkers for the Derby, while Lookin At Lucky is having his removed.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Horse Racing - Pletcher contingent hits track

Pletcher contingent hits track

By Marty McGee

Trainer Todd Pletcher had all seven of his potential Kentucky Derby starters on the track at Churchill Downs on Wednesday morning, including the filly Devil May Care, who is now under consideration for both the Derby and Kentucky Oaks.

Pletcher remained uncommitted as to both her status and that of two of his other 3-year-olds, Interactif and Discreetly Mine. They are among the top 20 horses on the graded earnings list but were described as still being "on the bubble" by their trainer after training on Wednesday.

"Right now we're preparing everybody as if they might run in the Derby," said Pletcher. "They all have enough earnings to get into the race, but some will have to have key works this weekend to earn their way into the race."

Wednesday marked the first local appearance of Eskendereya, who is just about everybody's favorite to win the Derby. Eskendereya galloped an easy 1 1/4 miles after the renovation break.

"He galloped exactly the way I expected him to this morning," said Pletcher. "He was curious and looking around, but he got over the ground well."

Pletcher said he was also pleased what he sees from Super Saver.

"He takes to this track better than anywhere, but like all of these horses, we'll know more after they work this weekend," said Pletcher.

Pletcher also said no decision regarding whether Devil May Care might run in the Derby or Oaks would be made until after her next work.

"She's had the benefit of working with some of these other good 3-year-olds in my barn this winter, and I know she can stick with them, and I'm also confident she'll like a mile and one-quarter and even a mile and one-half," Pletcher said.

Horse Betting at

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Horse Racing - Careless Jewel

Careless Jewel won't duck Rachel

By Marty McGee

LEXINGTON, Ky. - No, Josie Carroll isn't monitoring every move that Rachel Alexandra makes, but she does have more than a passing interest in where the superstar filly shows up next.

That's because Carroll intends to have Careless Jewel make her 4-year-old debut at Churchill Downs on the April 30 Kentucky Oaks undercard in the Grade 2, $400,000 La Troienne Stakes, a race often mentioned as a possible next start for Rachel Alexandra.

"You're always looking for the easiest spot you can find for your horses," said Carroll, who trains Careless Jewel for the Donver Stable of Donna and Vern Dubinsky. "There's nothing easy about Rachel. But we are pointing to the La Troienne whether or not she goes."

Owner Jess Jackson has been coy about his immediate plans for Rachel Alexandra, the 2009 Horse of the Year who was second at 1-20 in her only start this year, the March 13 New Orleans Ladies. Rachel Alexandra has had two workouts since shipping to Churchill late last month and is scheduled for another one Monday.

Careless Jewel, unraced since finishing last as the favorite in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic last fall, was scheduled to work Saturday over the Polytrack at Keeneland as she continues to progress toward the 1 1/16-mile La Troienne. Julien Leparoux will have the mount on Careless Jewel for the first time, said Carroll.

"Everything seems to be falling into place for her," said Carroll. "After the La Troienne, we'd just have to see what happens and make plans from there."

Prior to her disappointing Breeders' Cup effort, Careless Jewel won five straight races, most notably the Grade 2 Delaware Oaks and Grade 1 Alabama in huge romps.

Among the other 24 fillies and mares nominated to the La Troienne is Zardana, winner of the New Orleans Ladies.