Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Horse Racing - Eskendereya

Eskendereya has tools of classic winner

By David Grening

Let others speculate how many horses trainer Todd Pletcher will bring to this year's Kentucky Derby. As far as Pletcher is concerned, it's not about quantity, it's about quality.

"Hopefully, we show up with one and with the right one," said Pletcher, who still seeks his first Derby trophy after having gone winless with 24 starters in nine previous attempts.

Given the results of the early Derby prep races and with several more preps remaining, it's not inconceivable that Pletcher could have as many as seven starters in the Churchill Downs starting gate on May 1.

Though Pletcher could never publicly rank his Derby prospects - which alphabetically include Aikenite, Discreetly Mine, Eskendereya, Interactif, Mission Impazible, Rule, and Super Saver - he said Tuesday that Eskendereya belongs at the top of any national list of prospects, behind only Lookin At Lucky, the 2009 juvenile champion.

Both horses will run this weekend, with Eskendereya starting in the $750,000 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct and the Bob Baffert-trained Lookin At Lucky in the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby.

Pletcher believes Eskendereya has all the tools to be effective in the Triple Crown races, which start with the Kentucky Derby at 1 1/4 miles and conclude with the Belmont Stakes at 1 1/2 miles.

"The one thing that we've been very confident in all along is he wants to run the distances of the classic races," Pletcher said. "I don't see a mile and a quarter or even a mile and a half being a problem. He has natural stamina, he's physically a strong horse. He holds up to his races."

Horse Betting at sportsbook.com

Monday, March 29, 2010


Zayat wears his heart on his sleeve
By Glenye Cain Oakford

LEXINGTON, Ky. - You couldn't make up a better story. Thoroughbred owner Ahmed Zayat, pursued by his bank for allegedly defaulting on $34 million in loans, files for bankruptcy and cheats the bank's attempt to take over his 200-horse stable, then turns up with Eskendereya, a hot prospect for the Kentucky Derby.
It's the kind of melodrama that's made Zayat one of Thoroughbred racing's most intriguing and controversial owners. He's also highly successful. A 47-year-old Egyptian entrepreneur, Zayat got into the game in 2005 and is North America's second-leading owner by earnings. He was among North America's top three leading owners in 2007 and 2009. Ask people who know him how they would describe Zayat, and the word you'll hear most often is "passionate." That's frequently followed by "tough," meant in both senses: strong but also potentially difficult to deal with.
Zayat, who resides in Teaneck, N.J., has countersued Fifth Third over their $34 million lawsuit. In interviews he's described the bank and its associates as "very bad people" trying to push him to financial ruin.

"My goal was to rise to the highest level of the sport by having the best-bred and best-raised horses, and I was going to commit a lot of my funds," Zayat said of his entry into racing. "And I put in a lot of money, tens of millions of dollars. People are mistaken about what happened to me. I was a very good businessman and still am. What happened to me financially was not a failure of Zayat Stable, it was a failure of the market. And there's a huge difference."

Eskendereya (pronounced es-ken-DARE-ee-uh) could make some of those problems fade. He is slated to run in the April 3 Wood Memorial in his final prep for the Derby. He cost Zayat $250,000 at the 2008 Keeneland September yearling sale, but his value jumped into the millions after his 8 1/2-length victory in the Feb. 20 Fountain of Youth. Rumored suitors have included Stonestreet Stables owner Jess Jackson and International Equine Acquisitions Holdings, but Zayat won't name names.

Bloodstock experts generally value Eskendereya, who is by Giant's Causeway, at $6 million to $8 million. The price would jump with a Wood victory, a Derby win, or, better yet, the Triple Crown. Horses with Derby chances still command top dollar, but a hard fall in prices for stallion prospects means Eskendereya would be a harder sell after the Triple Crown, unless he keeps winning and becomes a must-have for stud farms.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Dubai World Cup

D'Etat to run in Dubai World Cup

Racing: Vision D'Etat has been given the green light to run in today's Dubai World Cup (5.45pm Irish time).

The Eric Libaud-trained five-year-old had been a slight doubt for the race after Emirates Racing Authority officials called for the horse to be examined this morning.

Vision D'Etat has, however, now been passed fit for the $10million showpiece at Meydan.

Gerard Bush, chief steward of the Emirates Racing Authority, said today: "The Emirates Racing Authority today examined Vision D'Etat, trained by Eric Libaud, who is declared for race eight at Meydan on the 27th of March 2010.

"The horse has been passed fit by the veterinary officer and is deemed suitable to race."

Vision D'Etat, four times a Group One scorer, is favourite to win the race with several British bookmakers.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Kentucky Derby Bound

Next stop Louisville for Florida Derby trio

By David Grening

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - The top three finishers from Saturday's $750,000 Florida Derby came out of their races in good order and will now set their sights on the May 1 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, their connections said Sunday.

Ice Box, Pleasant Prince, and Rule will all run in the Derby without having another prep race, meaning they will have six weeks between races. Ice Box defeated Pleasant Prince by a nose Saturday, both coming from well off the pace, while it was another 1 1/4 lengths back to Rule, who held on despite racing on the lead. Ice Box and Pleasant Prince each earned a 99 Beyer Speed Figure.

Nick Zito, the trainer of Ice Box, said that his colt was "a little tired, but otherwise he looked really good'' Sunday morning. It was the third nine-furlong race of the winter for Ice Box, who won a first-level allowance race here in January before finishing fifth to Eskendereya in the Fountain of Youth.

"He's had three mile-and-an-eighth races in a row, I don't see the point of running anywhere,'' Zito said. "There's absolutely nothing to gain. Zero."

Zito said he would ship Ice Box straight to Churchill Downs approximately the first week of April.

Pleasant Prince, who fell a nose short to Ice Box in the Florida Derby, "came out of the race awesome,'' according to trainer Wesley Ward. Pleasant Prince will be flown on Wednesday to Lexington, Ky., where he will do all of his training leading up to the Kentucky Derby over Keeneland's synthetic surface, Ward said

"Keeneland's surface has been great to me the last few years,'' Ward said. "I've probably had a thousand works and I could count on one hand the number of horses that have gotten hurt there. The big thing leading into the Derby is keeping your horses sound. I've got nothing against Churchill, it's just the luck I've had at Keeneland and the fact I'll be there with the rest of my horses.''

Trainer Todd Pletcher said Rule came out of the Florida Derby well. Rule was only beaten 1 1/4 lengths despite battling Pulsion for the early lead. Pulsion faded to sixth.

"I still think he ran very well, he was one of the few horses that was part of the pace that stuck around,'' Pletcher said. "We felt like we learned something, I think Johnny learned something. Hopefully it improves him for the next one. Johnny felt like if he could do it over he would have opted to grab a hold of him, ease him back and wait a little longer to make his final move.''

Pletcher said he is looking to ship Rule to Churchill Downs around April 20.

Radiohead, who finished ninth after being forced to race wide early, came out of his race in good shape, trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. said. There are no plans for the colt's next start.

"I got no idea what went wrong,'' Dutrow said.

Dutrow said that Swale Stakes winner D' Funnybone was in good shape Sunday morning and that the Grade 2 Withers Stakes at Aqueduct on April 24 is a possible next start.

Bonnie Miss one-two finishers Devil May Care and Amen Hallelujah will be pointed to the Kentucky Oaks on April 30.

Horse betting at sportsbook.com

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Horse Racing - D. Wayne Lucas

Lukas trio headed for Turfway
By Mary Rampellini

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas has his best 3-year-old crop in years wintering at Oaklawn Park, with top seeds Dublin and Tidal Pool training toward starts in next month's Arkansas Derby and Fantasy Stakes. The barn will also be active in 3-year-old stakes on March 27, with a trio of promising young horses headed to Turfway Park.

Lukas said he plans to send Northern Giant to the Kentucky track for the Grade 2, $500,000 Lane's End; Activity Report for the $100,000 Rushaway; and Absinthe Minded for the Grade 3, $125,000 Bourbonette.

"Calvin Borel's going to ride them all," he said.

Northern Giant last raced on Feb. 20 when he was third in the Grade 2, $300,000 Risen Star at Fair Grounds. Prior to that race, he was an 11-length maiden special weight winner at Oaklawn on Feb. 4.

Activity Report was a first-level allowance winner around two turns at Oaklawn on Jan. 16. He then shortened up and finished third to Comedero in the $60,000 Mountain Valley at six furlongs Feb. 27.

Absinthe Minded just missed in a first-level allowance March 4.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Horse Racing

Zenyatta still perfect
By Steve Andersen

ARCADIA, Calif. - Zenyatta displayed her brilliance, and continued perfection, in Saturday's $250,000 Santa Margarita Handicap at Santa Anita, extending her winning streak to 15 races.
In her first start since a historic win in the Breeders' Cup Classic here in November, Zenyatta used her customary come-from-behind style to win the Santa Margarita by a comfortable 1 1/4 lengths over 51-1 Dance to My Tune.
To remain unbeaten after 15 starts, jockey Mike Smith improvised through the final quarter-mile. Instead of bringing Zenyatta to the outside, where she has typically rolled home past her overmatched rivals in the last few years, Smith guided the 6-year-old mare through traffic and reached the front just past the sixteenth pole.
Smith did not strike Zenyatta with his whip. He did not need to.
"I wish I could say I contributed," Smith said. "I might have done a little steering, but that was about it."
The victory put Zenyatta on course for the Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park on April 9, where she may face the 2009 Horse of the Year, Rachel Alexandra. Minutes before Zenyatta's win, Rachel Alexandra was beaten in her 2009 debut in the New Orleans Ladies by Zardana, who like Zenyatta is trained by John Shirreffs.
In the Grade 1 Santa Margarita, Zenyatta ($2.60) ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.20, while carrying top weight of 127 pounds.
She was last in a field of eight to the final turn, when Smith guided Zenyatta inside of Pretty Unusual and began closing ground. Zenyatta had moved past the back of the field and into fifth place with a furlong remaining. Extending her stride through the stretch, Zenyatta quickly closed on leader Dance to My Tune and reached the front when Smith guided her to the outside of that mare before the sixteenth pole.
The style of the win left Shirreffs stunned.
"Isn't it amazing?" Shirreffs said. "I have so much faith in Mike. When you have a big X on your back, things don't always happen. You find yourself in places in races you need to get away from."
Dance to My Tune, the longest shot in the field, set fractions of 23.88 and 47.69 seconds and ran on late to finish second, a nose in front of Floating Heart. Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, Dance to My Tune was sixth in the minor Wishing Well Handicap on Feb. 12.
"When [Zenyatta] was blocked, we had a chance, but it didn't last very long," said Hollendorfer's assistant, Dan Ward. "She couldn't have run better - couldn't ask for more than that."
Floating Heart ran credibly, considering she seemed agitated in the saddling enclosure, where hundreds of fans were watching Zenyatta's every move.
Floating Heart, trained by Todd Pletcher, was third in the Grade 2 La Canada Stakes for 4-year-old fillies here on Feb. 14.
"I think we needed to be realistic," said Pletcher's assistant, Michael McCarthy. "This is what we were hoping for. It's nice to finish within two lengths of [Zenyatta]."
Zenyatta earned $150,000, improving her career earnings to $5,624,580.
"She's a super athlete," Shirreffs said. "She can do it all. How are you going to be better than perfect?"
Despite the drama through the stretch, Smith is convinced that Zenyatta was not fully extended in the Santa Margarita.
"I wanted her to have an easy race, her first race back and carrying 127," he said. "I don't know what to say," Smith said. "I'm her biggest fan, and I have the best seat in the house."
"I think she'll get something out of it. She wasn't really tired at all. It's as easy of a race as she's had. It's just phenomenal."

(p.s. I took Zenyatta and matched her with a 50-1 shot for an exacta in this race and won a nice bunch of change. I got the tip from Sportsbook.com)
Horse betting at sportsbook.com

Friday, March 12, 2010

Horse Racing

Soaring Empire to take shot in Florida Derby

By Mike Welsch

Soaring Empire, an impressive seven-furlong allowance winner here earlier in the meet, has tossed his hat in the ring for next Saturday's Grade 1 Florida Derby, said trainer Cam Gambolati.

Soaring Empire, a son of Empire Maker, is owned by Rick Pitino's Ol Memorial Stable and Clinton Glasscock. Soaring Empire has won 2 of his 3 starts, with his lone loss a third-place finish in the Grade 3 Iroquois at Churchill Downs in his 2-year-old finale.

"We've weighed the options and decided to go ahead and give him a chance," said Gambolati. "His race here was very good to win after getting nailed at the start. I know we're a little behind the eight-ball, but they only get one chance."

Soaring Empire is scheduled to have his final work for the Florida Derby on Sunday morning at Palm Meadows.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Horse Racing

Zayat cleared to race in California

By Matt Hegarty

Ahmed Zayat, the owner of Zayat Stables and leading Kentucky Derby contender Eskendereya, has been cleared to race in California after questions were raised about Zayat's possible associations with bookmakers, but probes are continuing in both Kentucky and New York, according to racing regulators in the states.

Kirk Breed, the executive director of the California Horse Racing Board, said in a statement Friday that the board did not have sufficient evidence to revoke Zayat's racing license based on a preliminary investigation into the associations.

The questions about the associations were raised after Zayat listed loans he made to Michael and Jeffrey Jelinksy on papers he filed in bankruptcy court. The Jelinsky brothers pleaded guilty to felony charges of illegal bookmaking in early 2009.

The court papers said that Zayat loaned $155,000 to Michael Jelinksy in November 2006 and loaned $455,000 to Jeffrey Jelinksy in September 2007. The brothers did not repay the loans. In addition, the court papers listed two smaller loans to members of the Jelinksy family in late 2007 and early 2008.

Zayat has said that he loaned the money to the family members because they were struggling financially. He said that he believed that Michael and Jeffrey Jelinsky were gambling on horses professionally in Las Vegas when he made the loans, and he has disputed that he knew the brothers were operating a bookmaking business.

In his statement, Breed said that CHRB investigators had determined that Zayat made the loans prior to the convictions. "Therefore, we can't see any reason to pull the license of Mr. Zayat," Breed said. "As more information becomes available, we will certainly look into it."

In Kentucky and New York, however, racing regulators said on Tuesday that their investigations into the matter were ongoing.

Joe Mahoney, a spokesman for the New York State Racing and Wagering Board, said that New York's rule prohibits racing licensees from associating with any bookmakers, regardless of whether the bookmakers have been convicted.

"The assertion that the person made the loans prior to the bookmaker being convicted does not obviate the need to conduct a thorough and complete review," Mahoney said.

Lisa Underwood, the executive director of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, said that investigators for the commission have talked to various state and federal authorities and have conducted an interview with Zayat's attorney.

"We are still gathering information, so the inquiry remains open," Underwood said. She also said that the California determination would not have a bearing on Kentucky's investigation because of different standards in state rules on the associations of licensees.

Horse Betting at sportsbook.com

Friday, March 5, 2010

Horse Racing

Santa Anita Gets Wet

Rain, Rain, Go Away

This Saturday Santa Anita will host four Graded Stakes races including the Santa Anita Handicap, however, just like last weekend when heavy rain for the track to close, this weekend of racing looks to be a wet affair…again. A 70% chance of rain is forecast for Saturday and a 60% chance of showers for Sunday.

With its Pro-Ride synthetic track surface, Santa Anita has lost five days this meet since its December 26th start. Track officials battle drainage issues and even have contemplated switching the tracks surface back to its original dirt. While in its premier part of its meet, Santa Anita cannot weather any additional lost days due t rain. Last weekend’s closure moved the Grade III Sham Stakes for three year-olds to this Saturday. Horsemen initially wanted the Sham to be run this past Wednesday; track management re-scheduled it for Saturday. Now the Sham is in peril of being rained out again.

Four other stakes races are scheduled for this Saturday; the Santa Anita Handicap, The Santa Anita Oaks and the Frank Kilroe Mile Handicap, which is scheduled for the turf.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Horse Racing

Lukas brings Wow Wow Wow for Gotham
By David Grening

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - There have been limited sightings of D. Wayne Lukas-trained horses during Aqueduct's winter meeting the last few years. But with the chance to get a 3-year-old on the Triple Crown trail, Lukas has shipped Wow Wow Wow to New York for Saturday's Grade 3, 250,000 Gotham Stakes.

Wow Wow Wow, owned and bred by Saratoga socialite Marylou Whitney, was one of 10 nondescript 3-year-olds entered for the Gotham, which offers $150,000 in graded stakes earnings and is also a stepping-stone to the Grade 1 Wood Memorial to be run here on April 3. Wow Wow Wow has won 2 of 7 starts for Lukas, who has not run a horse over the inner track since Dec. 7, 2007.

Peppi Knows, who won the Whirlaway here on Feb. 6, is one of only two stakes winners entered in the field set to contest 1 1/16 miles around two turns over the inner track. Turf Melody is the other.

In his only stakes try, Wow Wow Wow finished eighth of 12 in the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 13. Lukas said the colt was hampered by starting from post 12 and "never got untangled that day." Wow Wow Wow, a son of Broken Vow, came back with a front-running victory in a first-level allowance from post 10 at Oaklawn on Feb. 13.

"He's really getting better. He's one of those that around this time of year is getting the idea what he's supposed to," Lukas said. "He's a strong, big, powerful-running horse."

For the third straight race, Wow Wow Wow was saddled with the extreme outside in the 10-horse Gotham, but his speed may allow him to overcome that draw. Corey Nakatani has the call.

Lukas has never won the Gotham. Since 1985, he is 0 for 10 - he started two horses in 1990 - with his best finish being Pancho Villa, second in 1985 as the even-money favorite.

"We're due," Lukas said.

One of the surprise entrants in the Gotham was Three Day Rush, who finished third in the Whirlaway and who was initially being pointed to the Fred "Cappy" Capossela going six furlongs. His connections are willing to give Three Day Rush, a son of Harlan's Holiday, another shot around two turns.

From the rail out, the Gotham field is: Three Day Rush, Yawanna Twist, Nacho Friend, Awesome Act, I've Got the Fever, Peppi Knows, Shrimp Dancer, Turf Melody, Afleet Again, and Wow Wow Wow.

The Gotham is one of three stakes on an 11-race Saturday card that begins at 1 p.m. Eastern. The card also includes the Grade 3, $100,000 Toboggan for older sprinters and the $65,000 Capossela Stakes for 3-year-old sprinters.

The late pick four, which has a guaranteed pool of $250,000, will be held on races 8 through 11.

Horse Betting at sportsbook.com

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Horse Racing

Motion poised for a big day

By Steve Andersen

Santa Anita Posted 3/2/2010, 3:30 pm

ARCADIA, Calif. - Saucey Evening and Smart Seattle may provide trainer Graham Motion with a breakthrough day at Santa Anita on Thursday.

Motion's small California stable has had one win from 12 starters this winter, but he could have a winner, or two, on Thursday for owner George Strawbridge's Augustin Stable.

"It's been a little bit of a frustrating meeting, more than anything getting the right distances," Motion said by phone earlier this week from the East Coast. "Hopefully, we'll get a shot on Thursday."

Saucey Evening, the champion California-bred 2-year-old filly of 2008, has drawn the rail in the second race, an allowance over 1 1/16 miles on the synthetic main track. The $52,000 race will be her first start since a sixth in the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf over 1 1/8 miles on Jan. 30. That distance may have been beyond her reach, Motion said.
"I think, in retrospect, it was a bit of a stretch," Motion said. "Hopefully, we can get a good handle on her."

A winner of 4 of 13 starts and $354,939, Saucey Evening won the Starine Stakes over a mile on turf at Hollywood Park last December and was third in the Cascapedia Stakes over seven furlongs on the synthetic track here last October.

"We want to get her in a conservative spot," Motion said of Thursday's race. "She seems to be training well. I think the Hollywood Park race is much more a true bearing of her ability."

Saucey Evening races from off the pace and must catch Lady Alex, who has won three of her last four starts and is expected to be favored.

Thursday's seventh race over 1 1/16 miles will be Smart Seattle's first start on a synthetic track since a second in the Jessamine Stakes at Keeneland in October.

Smart Seattle was fourth as the 2-1 favorite in an optional claimer over a mile on turf here Jan. 29 under jockey Rafael Bejarano, her first start since a ninth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf in November.
"I thought Rafael had nowhere to go in the last quarter-mile," Motion said. "I thought it was a very competitive race as well."

Motion also has Zilva, seventh in the BC Juvenile Fillies last November, in Thursday's seventh race, but said she could be scratched in favor of Saturday's Santa Anita Oak.

Horse Betting at sportsbook.com