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Keeneland Opens with 163rd Phoenix Stakes

Oct 02, 2015 -- 1:47pm

America’s oldest stakes race…The Phoenix…goes for the 163rd time on a drizzly Friday afternoon at Keeneland.  The Kentucky Derby is the oldest CONSECUTIVELY run stakes in the U.S. (141 & counting).

First run in 1831, the Phoenix began at the Kentucky Association track in Lexington. Named after Lexington's Phoenix Hotel, it was run there up to 1930, although the race was not run from 1914-16, 1906-10 or 1898-1904.  From 1937-42, the newly opened Keeneland Race Track hosted the Phoenix, followed by a three-year run at Churchill Downs during World War II (1943-45).  It returned to Keeneland in 1946 & has remained there since.

Perhaps the modern era's greatest sprint filly, Xtra Heat, defeated her male counterparts in the 2002 Phoenix.  She entered racing's Hall of Fame earlier this year.

Zuppardo’s Prince was the last horse to win the Phoenix in back-to-back years (1980-81).  Both times with Julio Espinoza aboard.  Espinoza also double dipped that chip in 1972-73 with Honey Jay.

Recent iron horse Bet On Sunshine, won the Phoenix in 1997 & again in 2001 (as a nine-year-old).  He also finished 3rd in 1996, 2nd in 1999 & 3rd again in 2000.  All told, Bet On Sunshine visited the winner's circle 22 times in 47 career starts, bankrolling nearly $1.5 million dollars.

Derby winner Hill Gail won the Phoenix in 1952, then took the Derby Trial too before his winning Run for the Roses.  The great Coaltown, stablemate to the immortal Citation, won the Phoenix in 1948. 19thcentury Derby winners Halma (1895), Chant (1894) & Kingman (1891) also list a Phoenix Stakes win on their resume, all prior to their winning Derby runs.  And one of the greatest of all the 19thcentury runners, Ten Broeck, also won in 1875. 

Looking for a bomber today...War Eagle's Return in the nightcap (10th race).  The 11 pony in 12-horse field.  20-to-1 on your US dollar.  Just sayin'...

Tupolev Track Record at Churchill Downs Still Stands 32 Years Later!

Jul 15, 2015 -- 2:35pm

Thursday, July 23 marks the 32nd anniversary for one of Churchill Downs more obscure track record holders…1 5/8th miles on ‘das dirt.  And THIS is the story of an Argentine iron horse named Tupolev.

Temps were triple digits, around 102 degrees.  The sandy loam surface was fast that Saturday afternoon, the 23rd day of July 1983 as the field for the 3rd race went postward off Central Avenue.  

Martina Navratilova had easily beaten Andrea Jaeger (6-0, 6-3) to win Wimbledon a fortnight earlier.  Johnny McEnroe had dispatched the long forgotten Chris Lewis (6-2, 6-2, 6-2) to win the Gentlemen’s Title.  Two weeks prior to Tupolev’s race to history, the California Angel’s Freddy Lynn hit the first-ever MLB All-Star Game grand slam, leading the junior circuit to an easy 13-3 win.  

As Tom Watson was winning the '83 British Open, Tupolev was running 3rd at Churchill Downs just the week prior to what would be his historic follow-up performance in Louisville.  Watson would have his own follow-up historic run through Louisville a couple years ago, winning the Senior PGA Championship at Valhalla.

Just two days after Watson’s win across the pond, the first-place Philadelphia Phillies fired manager Pat Corrales.  Didn’t hurt much, they cruised by 6 games over Pittsburgh w/Paul Owens in the managerial saddle, routing the Dodgers for the NL pennant before losing the World Series to Baltimore in five games.

The Saturday card at Mr. Churchill’s place that July 23, 1983 witnessed an “LM” double with Larry Melancon taking the opener at 15-1 for Bill Mott aboard Heir Fancy and Leroy Moyers winning the second half of the double for Greg Foley aboard Aurilla Miller at 5-2 odds.  Daily Double paid $120.80.  Recall these were the days where Churchill only offered a Daily Double along with 5th & last race exactas.

Pat Day was running away w/the rider’s race in July ‘83, doubling second place Keith Allen 120-60 in the first-ever Summer Meet at Churchill Downs.  Leroy Moyers (57 wins), Jim McKnight (55) & Don Brumfield (38) were rounding out the top five, followed by Julio Espinoza (33), Charlie Woods (32), Mark Sellers (21), double bug apprentice Steve Cuffari (19) & Phil Rubbicco (18).

Bill Mott topped all trainers with 33 wins, followed by Jack Van Berg (24), Jinks Fires (18), Lynn Whiting (17), Shug McGuaghey (16), Mark Casse (15), Rusty Arnold (14), Larry Edwards (13), Steve Penrod (13), Del Carroll (12) & Ray Lawrence (12).

Churchill’s card featured couple cracklin’ good allowance races with Gemini Dreamer upsetting favored Sitzmark while winning the $15,000 Catholic Alumni Club allowance in the 7th race.  The great Ohio gelding Silahis won the 8th race, the $13,000 Hoop Jr. allowance w/his fellow Ohioian Dave Borden in the saddle.  Silahis upset Ronny Turcotte (the hard-knockin’ horse, not the Triple Crown winning jockey).

Featured that July 23, 1983 Saturday was the first running of the long-gone Shawnee Stakes for fillies & mares going one mile for a purse of $30,000-added.  Leader Miss was but 5-1 in the morning line before upsetting the race at final odds of 12-1 under Keith Allen.  Kitchen & Kenny Knapp were also long odds while second and the good racemare, Queen of Song, finished 3rd.  Favored Header Card never fired for Jimmy McKnight or trainer Bill Helmbrecht.

Now the story of the fastest 13 furlong runner in Churchill Downs history, Tupolev.  The 3rd race was part of the Ten Broeck distance series (long gone, not forgotten & much missed), honoring perhaps the greatest distance horse of the 19th century.  The series would include not only a 2 mile race, but also a never since run 3 mile finale.  Now that was a fan friendly racing secretary.

Rajo Royale had set the track record of 2.53 3/5 in June of 1982.  Tupolev would better it by more than 4 seconds, winning in 2.49 2/5.  His mark stands today.

Tupolev, owned by Farid Sefa & trained by Larry Edwards, won as expected, paying $4.40.  Whitehouse Cat & Julio Espinoza came 2nd with Luck Blow & Leroy Moyers 3rd. Purse for the $5k starter allowance was $6,000.

Tupolev had arrived at Churchill Downs in June of '83 after making five starts in Chicago (at Sportsmans Park & Arlington Park).  He had wintered with five earlier starts at Gulfstream.  He quickly found the path to Churchill’s entry box & ran 9th in his Louisville debut on June 7, 1983.  Then ran an improved 5th on June 28 and 3rd on July 16 before making his mark on Churchill’s record book the following week.

Tupolev would make 72 starts after his track record setting performance at Churchill Downs, including a second win at Churchill Downs on August 20.  After leaving Churchill Downs forever (after being eased in the three mile Ten Broeck Championship on September 3, 1983), Tupolev headed north to Hazel Park in Michigan.  

The year after Tupolev set his track mark in Louisville, he found his final home in Louisiana, making his last 53 starts there, all but one at Jefferson Downs, Delta Downs or Evangeline Downs.

For his career, Tupolev made 113 trips to the post, winning 15 times.  For his efforts, he bankrolled just over $100,000.  As with many gallant claimers, it ended for Tupolev when he was eased in his 10th and final start of his 9-year-old season of 1987 at Jefferson Downs.  Tupolev, the best there ever was at running 13 furlongs at America’s most storied race track, had won but one of his last 33 starts.  His name however, remains etched in the history book at historic Churchill Downs.


Bashford Manor Stakes Celebrates 114th Running Saturday Night

Jun 26, 2015 -- 12:40pm

This Saturday evening (June 27) marks the final Saturday of Churchill Downs 2015 Spring Meet.  For the 114th consecutive year, the Louisville track will offer its Bashford Manor Stakes.  This stakes race trails only the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks & Clark Handicap on the Churchill stakes schedule for most consecutive running.  Grand, grand ole race.

Saturday also marks the successful conclusion for the first season of "Inside Churchill Downs" w/Darren Rogers & John Asher.  Cracklin' good show every Saturday at 10:00a. 

First run on May 13, 1902, the race has always been for two-year-olds & always held during Churchill's Spring Meet.  Julio Espinoza & Pat Day, each with four wins, lead all riders in Bashford Manor victories.  (King) Wayne Lukas, who else, leads all trainers with five wins.

Favorite Trick won in 1997 en route to being named that campaign’s Horse of the Year.  Summer Squall won in 1989 & would win the following year's Preakness, after running second in the Derby to Unbridled.  Grindstone (1995), Clyde Van Dusen (1928), Black Gold (1923), Old Rosebud (1913), Worth (1911) & Donau (1909) all won the Derby in the year following their Bashford Manor appearances.  Worth & Black Gold are the only to win both events though.

Bashford Manor Stakes has been six furlongs since 1986.  Between 1982-85, it was 5 1/2 furlongs. It held sway at 5 furlongs from 1926-81 & originated at 4 1/2 furlongs through 1925.  Up until the mid-70s, it was always held in May.  As Churchill's Spring Meet lengthened, the race has subsequently been held in May, June & July.

As that first Bashford Manor field went to post in 1902, rough ridin’ Teddy Roosevelt was in the White House, having succeeded Bill McKinley following his assassination (Roosevelt that year became the first president to ride in a car).  Jimmy Winkfield rode Von Rouse to the inaugural Bashford Manor Stakes winner’s circle.

The first MLB World Series wouldn't be played until the year following that inaugural Bashford Manor Stakes (1903).  The established National League & newly formed American League were battling over player contracts.  The Pittsburgh Pirates were 1902 National League champs & the cross-state upstart Philadelphia Athletics won the American League pennant.

Louisville was beginning its 3rd summer w/out Major League Baseball as that first Bashford Manor field went to post, the Louisville Colonels had shut down after the 1899 season after eight losing seasons in the National League.  The Colonels never climbed higher than 9th in any season’s standings.  Many of the Colonels, including 1899 Colonels MVP Honus Wagner, made their way to Pittsburgh, where the Alleghenys (later renamed Pirates) would win two World Series & six National League pennants, including the 1902 season.

Speaking of baseball, Tinkers-to-Evers-to-Chance first appeared in a game together that 1902 baseball season.  And, can you believe, Jimmy Collins left the NL's Boston Beaneaters to manage the new Boston Somersets (AL)?  Really.

Michigan had earlier that 1902 year won the first-ever Rose Bowl, pounding Stanford 49-0.  Doug James is smiling.  Oh, by the way, 111 years later, University of Louisville whipped up on Michigan to win its 3rd NCAA National Basketball Championship.

Bashford Manor Stable owned & bred two (2) Derby winners during its heyday at the turn of the 19thcentury.  Azra won a three horse Derby in 1892, defeating an entry that comprised the other two horses.  In 1906, the Derby field had doubled to six when Sir Huon came home first. Bashford Manor Stable also bred 1899 Derby winner Manuel.  It was Manuel’s only win of his three-year-old season, he beat four others in his Derby.

Bashford Manor Stable (& farm) would close by the 1920s but remain relatively undeveloped until Bashford Manor Mall was built in the 1970s.  The mall met the wrecking ball in 2003.

Since we’re talking Louisville landmarks, east Louisville residents will note Copperfield was 2nd in the Bashford Manor Stakes of 1903.

Phar Mon w/Steve Brooks & Spy Charger w/Gary Mahon both carried a crushing 127 lbs. in their Bashford Manor Stakes wins.

It’s the last Saturday of Churchill’s Spring Meet and a grand, old race will be contested for the 114th consecutive spring in Louisville.  Party on! 

Flashback to Inaugural Debutante Stakes & the year that was 1895

Jun 17, 2015 -- 11:02am

Next Saturday evening, Churchill Downs Spring Meet concludes & offers up the 77th consecutive…and 115th overall…running of the $100,000 Debutante Stakes.  Tune in this Saturday...and next...for "Inside Churchill Downs" w/Darren Rogers & John Asher.  You DID hear their EXTENDED live chat w/Triple Crown winning trainer Bob Baffert last week, right??  Who else had Bob talking about the feeling of "getting kicked in the junk" during Triple Crowns past...ONLY on ESPN 680/105.7.

The Debutante Stakes debuted during 1895 Spring Meet & has been run at distances ranging from four to six furlongs through the generations.  It’s been at its current six furlongs since Richwoman won for Shaun Bridgmohan & Steve Asmussen in 2006.  It was also six furlongs from 1986-90.  Race was not held during Great Depression years of 1932-37.

Only the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks, Clark Handicap & Falls City Handicap are older on the Churchill Downs stakes schedule.  Several generations past will remember the Debutante Stakes being the traditional undercard feature on Kentucky Derby Day from 1950-81.  Those were still the days prior to tracks loading up stakes races on one or two big days.

That first Debutante Stakes was held on Tuesday, May 7…the day AFTER the 21st Kentucky Derby which, if math holds, was run on a Monday, May 6.

It was a memorable 21st Derby that year of 1895 as it was the last ever run at the Derby’s original 1 ½ miles.  Soup Perkins & Halma took the final 12 furlong Derby.  Halma would also win the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs that year (when contested in the spring).  He would also win the prestigious Latonia Derby during his three-year-old season.

While the Debutante Stakes has lacked much depth & quality in its past few years (as early two-year-old racing has fallen out of fashion), it was as recent as ’08 that Kentucky Oaks & Preakness heroine, Rachel Alexandra, contested the race.  Rachel ran 2nd to Garden District & Robby Albarado that year.

Ten years earlier in 1998, the great Silverbulletday took the Debutante under Willie Martinez & remains the last of six fillies to take both the Debutante & Kentucky Oaks (Rachel Alexandra was 2nd in her Debutante Stakes try).

Flashing back again to the inaugural Debutante Stakes of 1895, Grover Cleveland was in the second of his two, non-consecutive terms as President.  Grover actually won the popular vote three elections in a row 1884, 1888 & 1892.  Benjamin Harrison took the Electoral College vote in ’88 though.

History Channel “Pawn Stars” fans will remember the episode where a Grover Cleveland signed document was in play (alas, turned out to be an early version of auto pen).  Also learned that Grover married a 21-year-old daughter of a friend when he was president.  That remains America’s youngest first lady.

That first Debutante Stakes year of 1895 was yet another miserable season for the Louisville Colonels, then a Major League team in the 12-team National League.  The Colonels would finish last with a 35-96 record, more than 50 games back of the Baltimore Orioles.  In its defense, the Colonels only played 57 home games v. 74 on the dusty road.

Churchill’s Debutante Stakes is a bit of who’s who…for Keeneland stakes races.  Alcibiades won Debutante in 1929 & she titles Keeneland’s premiere two-year-old stakes race for fillies each autumn.  Bewitch won her Debutante in 1947 & she titles a Keeneland stakes for older fillies & mares in the spring.

Blue Grass won the 1946 Debutante, but, well, Keeneland’s Blue Grass Stakes was run before Blue Grass (the filly) won her Debutante.  Nice historical quirk nonetheless.

Enjoy these old Churchill Downs classic stakes races!!  Shame there aren’t more that have stood the test of time over Churchill's 140 year history.  And for Louisville's best racing show, it's "Inside Churchill Downs" this Saturday from 10-11a! 

American Pharoah, Steve Foster & Flag Day Weekend!!

Jun 12, 2015 -- 2:49pm

Oh! Susanna Don't You Cry For Me…it's a Flag Day Eve Saturday Night card at Churchill Downs highlighted by the $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap AND the victory lap by 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.  What a night it'll be on Central Avenue.  Tune into ESPN 680/105.7 for "Inside Churchill Downs" with Darren Rogers & John Asher on Saturday (10a-11a) & to 93.9 the Ville for LIVE race coverage of the Stephen Foster Handicap & the parading of American Pharoah (8p-10p).

The Stephen Foster Handicap for older horses will go for its 34th consecutive year.  Since its inception in 1982, it’s always been 1 1/8 miles on the Churchill dirt.  Despite rumor to the contrary, it has never been held at Camptown Races, nor run at five miles long.  Do da.  Do da.

Race has always been held during June of the Spring Meets with the exception of 1984, when it was held in August (during the second of Churchill's two years of summertime racing).  Popular local favorites Mythical Ruler & Jimmy McKnight teamed up to win that one.  No reports though whether either were Dreaming of Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair.

For the Beautiful Dreamer who created this race, congrats...it's evolved into a championship caliber event.

From '07-'09 though, Robby Albarado was unbeatable in the Foster winning with Flashy Bull (’07), Curlin (’08) & Macho Again (’09).  Albarado teams up with Paganol (20-1) Saturday night.

Blame used his Foster win in 2010 as springboard toward his upset of Zenyatta in the Breeders' Cup Classic later that year.  In 1998, Awesome Again defeated Kentucky Derby winner Silver Charm in both his Foster & Breeders' Cup Classic wins.  Two years ago, the winner (Fort Larned) had won the Breeders’ Cup Classic in '12, but earlier he had been unplaced in that year’s Stephen Foster Handicap.

Recoup the Cash ('94-'95) & Vodika Collins ('82-'83) are the only repeat winners.

Flashing back to a time when it was morning in America, let’s visit with the world as the first Stephen Foster Handicap field went to post that June day of 1982…

Ronald Reagan had awoken the slumbering American economy & the Reagan Revolution was on.  An era of peace & prosperity would follow for more than 15 years.

Not everything was wine & roses yet though, America was trudging through the 6th week of "Ebony & Ivory" being the #1 song.  Yeah, it really was.  Diabetes anyone?

"Dallas" was in its heyday as America's most popular TV show.  Ironically, "Dallas" returned to the airwaves three years ago w/new original episodes appearing on TNT.  RIP J.R.  New series isn’t awful.  Nice to see Bobby getting work again.

Just out in June of '82 were a couple of movies you might have heard of..."E.T." & "Poltergeist."  It wasn't all milk & honey for Hollywood though..."Grease 2" was fresh in the theatres too.

The Lakers had just wrapped up the NBA title in six games over the '76'ers.  Denny Crum's Cardinals had made the Final Four earlier that spring, losing to Patrick Ewing & Georgetown in New Orleans.  Joe B. Hall's Wildcats had suffered a much crueler fate, losing to Middle Tennessee State (thus avoiding an NCAA showdown w/Louisville; the first dream game would take place the next season).

Joe Montana & the San Francisco 49'ers were reigning as Super Bowl champs.  They'd rallied late to beat Cincinnati in Super Bowl XVI in Detroit.

And, politically in that mid-June of 1982, somehow, 12 people masquerading as jurors of Ronald Reagan’s peer found John Hinckley "Not Guilty" of shooting President Reagan.  They must've missed the visual replay of the shooting shown a ga'zillion times on TV.  The only insanity in that courtroom was in the jury box & perhaps later in "The Alex" movie theatre when Kramer ate that hot dog to prove Lloyd Braun wasn't insane.  It was not, however, a perfectly sane food.

Here's to you a Great Flag Day weekend!!  Until then, My Old Kentucky Home, Good Night. 

Belmont Stakes is HERE!!

Jun 04, 2015 -- 1:39pm

It’s week five of “Inside Churchill Downs” with Darren Rogers & John Asher this Saturday (June 6).  Darren & John will preview Saturday’s Belmont Stakes & also look at full field of twelve (12) that'll gather around 6:17p Saturday evening for the grassy Mint Julep Handicap, Saturday’s headliner at Churchill Downs.

93.9 the Ville is broadcasting HRRN “Countdown the Triple Crown” from Belmont Park. Wednesday-Friday from 10:00a-12:00n you’ll get market-best coverage.  And, of course, ESPN 680/105.7 will have full coverage of The Belmont Stakes next Saturday from 5:00-7:30p.  Big Game…Big Race…only one place…ESPN 680/105.7 .

And so as Churchill Downs honors its flavorful Kentucky Derby beverage of choice on Saturday, let’s flashback to the first-ever running of New York’s legendary Belmont Stakes…it was June 19, 1867 when the first Belmont field went postward at Jerome Park. Built by Leonard Jerome with financing from August Belmont and so, for his financial wizardry, Augie received the honor of what would become the third leg of the American Triple Crown named in his honor.

That first Belmont Stakes in late spring 1867 saw America in its post-Civil War reconstruction era. Andrew Johnson was in his third year as president, taking over following Abe Lincoln’s assassination two years earlier.

The Cincinnati Red Stockings (now Cincinnati Reds) were in their second season of professional baseball. AND YOU KNOW...the Reds are on the Radio…and heard EXCLUSIVELY throughout Louisville on ESPN 680/105.7 .

Earlier in that first Belmont Stakes year of 1867, Nebraska was admitted as the 37th of the ever-growing United States. The summer prior to the first Belmont saw President Johnson officially ending the Civil War and re-admitting Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee & Virginia. In retrospect, maybe the south shouldn't have asked back & the Southeastern Conference today could have been its own country.

Shortly after the first Belmont Stakes, Congress would grow weary of President Andrew Johnson's lenient treatment of southern states & voted to impeach him (and there wasn’t even a blue dress involved). Johnson’s Senate conviction would fail by a single vote of removing him from office. No record of whether the deciding vote turned on what the definition of the word "is" is (or was). And, unlike modern times, Johnson couldn’t even turn the IRS loose on his opponents. There was no IRS. Heck there was no income tax. Simpler times. Simpler times.

America plunked down 2 cents an acre & purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867. Ridiculed at the time as “Seward’s Folly”, looks like a pretty good land deal these days. William Seward, then Secretary of State, had survived his own assassination attempt on the night Lincoln was shot, being stabbed repeatedly in his home.

Long-gone Jerome Park would host the Belmont Stakes through 1889. Nearby (also long-gone) Morris Park hosted from 1890-1904.

Belmont Park took the reigns in 1905 & has hosted every year except 1911-12 (when gambling was outlawed in New York) and 1963-67 when Belmont Park was being rebuilt & Aqueduct hosted.

The Belmont has been run at 1 1/2 miles since 1926. When Man o' War won in 1920, the race was 1 3/8th miles & run clockwise (English style) versus today's American standard counter-clockwise running.

Jim McLaughlin & Eddie Arcaro each rode six (6) Belmont winners. No current jockey is close to this record. McLaughlin won the race six times in 7 years (1882-1888). James G. Rowe. Sr. trained eight Belmont winners between 1883-1913 AND previously had ridden two Belmont winners (1872-73).

Julie Krone, aboard Colonial Affair in 1993, remains the only female jockey to win the Belmont, or any Triple Crown race. And, says here, no...no there will not be a Triple Crown in 2015. Oh that Big Sandy. 

Inside Churchill Downs, Aristides Stakes & the first-ever Belmont Stakes

May 28, 2015 -- 2:36pm

It’s week four of “Inside Churchill Downs” with Darren Rogers & John Asher this Saturday (May 30).  Darren & John will preview next Saturday’s Belmont Stakes & also look at likely the toughest renewal in the history of the Aristides Stakes, Saturday’s headliner at Churchill Downs.

Next week, 93.9 the Ville will broadcast HRRN “Countdown the Triple Crown” from Belmont Park.  Wednesday-Friday from 10:00a-12:00n you’ll get market-best coverage.  Drew Deener will also broadcast his show live on ESPN 680/105.7 and 93.9 the Ville from New York on Belmont Stakes Eve (June 5) from 7:00a-10:00a

And, of course, ESPN 680/105.7  will have full coverage of The Belmont Stakes next Saturday from 5:00-7:30p.  Big game…big race…only one place…ESPN 680/105.7 .

And so as Churchill Downs honors its first-ever Kentucky Derby winner on Saturday, let’s flashback to the first-ever running of New York’s legendary Belmont Stakes…it was June 19, 1867 when the first Belmont field went postward at Jerome Park.  Built by Leonard Jerome with financing from August Belmont and so, for his financial wizardry, Augie received the honor of what would become the third leg of the American Triple Crown named in his honor.

That first Belmont Stakes in late spring 1867 saw America in its post-Civil War reconstruction era.  Andrew Johnson was in his third year as president, taking over following Abe Lincoln’s assassination two years earlier.

The Cincinnati Red Stockings (now Cincinnati Reds) were in their second season of professional baseball.  AND YOU KNOW...the Reds are on the Radio…and heard EXCLUSIVELY throughout Louisville on ESPN 680/105.7 .

Earlier in that first Belmont Stakes year of 1867, Nebraska was admitted as the 37th of the ever-growing United States.  The summer prior to the first Belmont saw President Johnson officially ending the Civil War and re-admitting Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee & Virginia.  In retrospect, maybe the south shouldn't have asked back & the Southeastern Conference today could have been its own country.

Shortly after the first Belmont Stakes, Congress would grow weary of President Andrew Johnson's lenient treatment of southern states & voted to impeach him (and there wasn’t even a blue dress involved).  Johnson’s Senate conviction would fail by a single vote of removing him from office.  No record of whether the deciding vote turned on what the definition of the word "is" is (or was).  And, unlike modern times, Johnson couldn’t even turn the IRS loose on his opponents.  There was no IRS.  Heck there was no income tax.  Simpler times.  Simpler times.

America plunked down 2 cents an acre & purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867.  Ridiculed at the time as “Seward’s Folly”, looks like a pretty good land deal these days.  William Seward, then Secretary of State, had survived his own assassination attempt on the night Lincoln was shot, being stabbed repeatedly in his home.

Long-gone Jerome Park would host the Belmont Stakes through 1889.  Nearby (also long-gone) Morris Park hosted from 1890-1904. 

Belmont Park took the reigns in 1905 & has hosted every year except 1911-12 (when gambling was outlawed in New York) and 1963-67 when Belmont Park was being rebuilt & Aqueduct hosted.

The Belmont has been run at 1 1/2 miles since 1926.  When Man o' War won in 1920, the race was 1 3/8th miles & run clockwise (English style) versus today's American standard counter-clockwise running.

Jim McLaughlin & Eddie Arcaro each rode six (6) Belmont winners.  No current jockey is close to this record.  McLaughlin won the race six times in 7 years (1882-1888).  James G. Rowe. Sr. trained eight Belmont winners between 1883-1913 AND previously had ridden two Belmont winners (1872-73).

Julie Krone, aboard Colonial Affair in 1993, remains the only female jockey to win the Belmont, or any Triple Crown race.  And, says here, no...no there will not be a Triple Crown in 2015.  Oh that Big Sandy.


American Pharoah One Race from Destiny...and you'll hear it LIVE on ESPN 680/105.7

May 18, 2015 -- 1:01pm

American Pharoah was simply brilliant at Pimlico, singing through the rain & advance one race from becoming thoroughbred racing's first Triple Crown winner since 1978.  As the Woodman (Woody Stephens) was fond of saying, the buildings get bigger in New York & for all his success at Pimlico, Belmont Park has owned Bob Baffert.

Big Brown was a lock...and was eased.  I'll Have Another, heavy favorite, never made race day.  Tougher medication rules in New York, ya' know.  California Chrome...simply not good enough & racing gods didn't favor the boisterous owner.  Will the racing gods reward American Pharoah owner who bankrupted his racing business just a few years ago? 

What it is...and will be...is a great three weeks of broadcast on ESPN 680/105.7 as we look to June 6 in Elmont, New York.  (And yes, why is Belmont in Elmont?)

Fun begins this Saturday at 8:00a with HRRN Equine Forum & then week three of "Inside Churchill Downs" with Darren Rogers & John Asher at 10:00a.  They'll recap Preakness Stakes & look at one of Churchill's historically great races, this Saturday's 1 1/2 mile Louisville Handicap on the turf.

Preakness Stakes on ESPN 680/105.7 & 93.9 the Ville

May 12, 2015 -- 1:44pm

American Pharoah attempts to claim the second jewel of racing's Triple Crown Saturday in Baltimore.  ESPN 680/105.7 live coverage begins at 8:00a w/HRRN Equine Forum live from Pimlico Race Course.  Darren Rogers takes over at 10:00a for the second installment of "Inside Churchill Downs Racing" with his view of the Preakness Stakes & Preakness Day festivities at Churchill Downs (including Saturday's 1 3/8th mile Keertana Stakes on the grass).

Beginning at 4:00p, ESPN 680/105.7 will be joined by 93.9 the Ville for exclusive, live coverage of Preakness Stakes 140

Big game...BIG RACE...ONLY ONE PLACE!!  ESPN 680/105.7  and now 93.9 the Ville.

"Inside Churchill Downs" Debuts Saturday, May 9

May 08, 2015 -- 8:07pm

Fresh off the worst Kentucky Derby beatdown in my young, tender life, it's time to tuck tail, head back to Barn 33 & turn this racing bid'nes over to those who see it best from the inside...Darren Rogers & John Asher.  And so, ON...YOUR...FEET...let's greet the inaugural broadcast of "Inside Churchill Downs Racing w/Darren Rogers & John Asher."

Maiden broadcast starts at 10:00a on Saturday, May 9 following HRRN Equine Forum (8:00a-10:00a).  America's best racing town deserves its best-ever broadcast lineup.

In support of Darren & John, we'll also be debuting the ESPN 680 Orchestra & the 105.7 Dancers...THIS will be something EVERYONE can enjoy!!

We hope you tune in Saturday & every Saturday during Churchill's already record-shattering 2015 Spring Meet.

Upstart Upsets 141st Kentucky Derby...

May 01, 2015 -- 8:49am

For the fifth consecutive year, ESPN 680/105.7 and now 93.9 the Ville will be your broadcast home for Kentucky Derby & Kentucky Oaks race broadcasts.  THE REAL…and OFFICIAL DERBY STATION!!  Don’t let anybody else kid ya’…

Kentucky Derby 141 goes at 6:44p ET Saturday with full field of twenty (20).  Purse $2,000,000+ over one mile & one quarter.  Derby has been run at the historical 1 ¼ miles every year since Ben Brush won the 22nd running in 1896.  Previously, the Derby had been run at 1 ½ miles since its inception in 1875 through 1895.

In both 2013 & 2014, Dallas Stewart finished second with long-shot plodders keying some wonderful exactas & trifectas.  Dallas has one bullet on the also-eligible list, Tale of Verve, a maiden winner at Keeneland on April 23.  Rooting for Dallas to get in…need him.

Let’s roll damn tide…

1. Ocho Ocho Ocho (50-1 w/Elvis Trujillo)…Trujillo was a winner in his first-ever Churchill Downs mount on Preakness Day 2008 w/Casey’s Jet @ 20-1.  Elvis can ride, alas he can’t also do the running.  Ocho 3x improved in his second (& final) start of 2015 when 3rd in Blue Grass Stakes on April 4.  Dad won the Derby in ’07 (Street Sense) & gramps (Horse Chestnut) was world class too.  He’s being asked to do too much, too soon from a very unforgiving post.  

2. Carpe Diem (8-1 w/John Velazquez)…was likely to be my pick until drawing deep on the inside.  He might be the best horse in the race, but will need a golden trip.  Velazquez is good, when he’s on the best horse.  He’ll have to earn his money from that 2 post though & don’t see him being able to negotiate w/success.  If he goes early, others are faster.  He sits back, he’s likely to have ultra rough trip.  $1.6 million dollar yearling is good…just think he drew a losing hand with all the money on the table.  Trainer Todd Pletcher is only 1-for-40 in Derby too.

3. Materiality (12-1 w/Javier Castellano)…it was May 16, 1882 when Apollo won the 8th Kentucky Derby, running the 1 ½ miles in 2.40 ¼.  Winning betters secured $169 for every $5 win wager.  And that friends is the last…and only…Kentucky Derby winner who did not race at age two.  Materiality went postward for the first time on January 11.  Yes, times & training methods have changed, but that angle remains consistent.  He’s three-for-three & all in impressive fashion.  His Florida Derby win was visually brilliant but historically slow, painfully slow.  He’ll be stalking from the inside of 17 horses to his right.  With lack of seasoning, he drew poorly.  Pops (Afleet Alex) was tough son of a gun, but gramps was sprinter.  Can’t play ‘em all, he’s tossed.  Oh, same as the deuce, trainer Todd Pletcher 1-for-40 in the Derby.  On the other hand, Javier Castellanos is riding in world-class form.  Scares me that he has the Danza (from last year) look about him to mess things up.

4. Tencendur (30-1 w/Manny Franco)…gyrocopting beneath Derby radar.  Louisville-born trainer (based in New York) brings this New York bred into Derby sporting but a single New York-bred win.  Hacked around couple Grade 3 winter stakes at Aqueduct before uncorking career best in Wood Memorial.  Took lead mid-stretch at 21-1 before finishing second to Frosted.  Wood form has been atrocious over more than a decade.  Wanting to make the case for him, can’t.  Having said that, on a personal level, he’ll get some of my action in support of Jenna!!  (Look-alike jack russell to my Pebbles.  Missed seeing her last summer against the big tree by the Oklahoma training track at Saratoga.)

5. Danzig Moon (30-1 w/Julien Leparoux)…Leparoux has given some of the single worst Derby rides in recent years.  Not that he can’t ride, he’s just shrunk badly on the biggest day.  Danzing Moon sports only a maiden win at Gulfstream in February when heavily backed.  In his prior start, he’d finished second on October 26 at Churchill.  Well beaten 4th to Carpe Diem in Tampa Bay Derby then rebounded to run 2nd to that same horse in Blue Grass Stakes.  Other than Carpe Diem, Blue Grass Stakes was an entry-level allowance race.  Big fan of trainer Mark Casse, not feelin’ it with this $160k yearling.  Pass.

6. Mubtaahu (20-1 w/Christophe Soumillon)…only a head away from being five-for-five on Dubai dirt.  His last two wins, both at 1 3/16 miles were impressive.  Long-winded European breeding, so his love of dirt, or Dubai dirt, is interesting.  World renown trainer in Mike DeKock, none better.  He’s here to win.  Ruling family of Dubai has invested hundreds of millions, more likely into the billions trying to win the Derby.  He’s legit, but becoming bit too much of the “it” horse.  Much like the 1882 two-year-old jinx, I’ll make the Dubai shipper prove that three-year-old coming from the desert can win the world’s toughest race.

7. El Kabeir (30-1 w/Calvin Borel)…well seasoned as the Derby will be his 10th start.  Has won three graded stakes, including last November’s Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs (at 7-1).  It was Borel’s only ride aboard this $250k yearling.  Nobody rides Churchill better than Borel & his style says keep an eye on him cutting the corner into the stretch.  30-1 is legit price & pretty solid value.  Only question is, how much will Calvin knock his price down?  Was poorly ridden in his recent Wood Memorial flop, but did finish up nicely.  Give him every chance to shock the world.

8. Dortmund (3-1 w/Martin Garcia)…simply brilliant resume with six wins in six starts.  He’s also proven plenty tough in two epic stretch duels (& wins) against Firing Line.  Shipped to Churchill on Thanksgiving Saturday just to get race over the track in Louisville…they were thinking Derby from the get-go.  His Santa Anita Derby win was brilliant.  Pops (Big Brown) won the Derby (on steroids), but don’t put the sins of the father on this guy.  He’s big…he’s tough…says here he’ll be galloping into the first turn & in with every chance with quarter mile to go.  Heckuva buy for $140k.  Only question is rider Garcia.  Has to give him clean trip in 20-horse field.

9. Bolo (30-1 w/Rafael Bejarano)…well thought of & high class rider.  Breeding looks iffy.  Hasn’t set foot outside of California in almost ever, including training up to Derby from Santa Anita.  In five career starts, he’s easily been at his best on the grass.  Took shot in Santa Anita Derby & he was lit up by Dortmund.  He’s fast in the mornings & on the weeds, California Dreamin’ will become a well beaten reality.

10. Firing Line (12-1 w/Gary Stevens)…mystery horse coming into Derby as he’s only run once in almost three months.  That, though, was brilliant 14 length romp in Sunland Park Derby in New Mexico.  Same race, same place that produced Mine That Bird in ’09.  $240k yearling is okay on the breeding side, not lovin’ it though.  He’s another fast, stalker type in race brimming with speed, especially from the inside.  He’s eye-balled Dortmund twice & just missed.  Dortmund is 3-1 and Firing Line 12-1 & only a head has separated them twice.  Easy to find a head in 20 horse race.  Ageless Gary Stevens needs to uncorck a blast from the past, but he’s legit and so is price.

11. Stanford…Scratched.

12. International Star (20-1 w/Miggy Mena)…since Derby went to point system in 2013, points leader in Derby has won both years (Orb ’13 & California Chrome ’14).  Guess who this year’s point leader was…the unheralded International Star.  He’s three-for-three in ’15, sweeping the major Derby preps at Fair Grounds in New Orleans.  He’s a closer that’s come up the rail in all three wins this year.  Dream trip much harder this time & Miggy Mena hasn’t proven himself at this level.  Pops (Fusaichi Pegasus) won the Derby, but breeding on this New York bred also screams a bit sprintish too.  Ran 4th in his only start at Churchill when 4th to El Kabeir in last November’s Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (@ 15-1).  Owner Ken Ramsey keeps lining ‘em up & this is his best shot (e.g. it’s not a Kitten’s Joy trying to run on dirt).  I like him.

13. Itsaknockout (30-1 w/Luis Saez)…claim to fame was very controversial DQ upward to win Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park.  Upstart was clearly the best horse in decision widely panned.  Still counts.  Followed that up by getting run off his feet by Materiality & Upstart in Florida Derby when beaten more than 20 lengths.  Bred long on top & short on the bottom, he looks more the part of Ohio Derby winner than Kentucky Derby.  Local owners hoping to end century long dry spell for Louisville folks.  $350k yearling is in it, so he’s got a shot to win it.  From around 12,000 three-year-old colts in the foal crop, he’s one of 20 that’ll get his shot.

14. Keen Ice (50-1 w/Kent Desormeaux)…Desormeaux…Dale Romans…Donegal Racing…50-1…oh yeah.  On paper, he looks just like the hopeless Golden Soul did in ’13 & Commanding Curve last year.  Hopeless plodders coming up from New Orleans who, oh-by-the-way, both ran 2nd in the Derby in career best races.  Only win came at Churchill Downs last September & he hasn’t been closer than two lengths since, in fact, he’s only been as close as six lengths beaten once.  We’re not reading a financial chart, it’s a horse race & we’re handicapping…and he’s a price & team that has me written all over it.  Pops was the long-winded Curlin & gramps (Awesome Again) won Stephen Foster & Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs.  No, I can’t see him wearing roses, I can see him sending me to the IRS winners line to cash though (& that’s the name of the game).

15. Frosted (15-1 w/Joel Rosario)…Joltin’ Joel won Derby in ’13 w/Orb.  Arab Sheiks send their second runner forward here.  Has done his best running at Aqueduct & beat very little in Wood Memorial (easily the weakest of the major Derby preps this year).  Wood winners have been awful in Derby recently.  Sire Tapit is hottest on the planet & he’s solid on the bottom too.  He’s certainly top tier, but Upstart has crushed him twice & that’s concerning.  Have to take a stand somewhere so leaving him out.

16. War Story (50-1 w/Joe Talamo)…suppose you could make the case for War Story (& not Keen Ice) being this year’s Golden Soul & Commanding Curve.  Been nice run for this $51k yearling.  Talamo got him beat almost five lengths at 2-1 in Louisiana Derby but returns for Derby mount.  Broke his maiden first out at 14-1 w/Corey Lanerie aboard at Churchill Downs on November 1.  Lanerie is best Churchill rider now, he would’ve moved War Story up considerably.  Tom Amoss is great trainer, but this ain’t the horse or the rider to make much headway here.

17. Mr. Z (50-1 w/Roman Vasquez)…let’s hear it for King Wayne Lukas.  By gawd, he runs ‘em.  Mr. Z. makes his 13th career start in Derby.  Been long time since that maiden win though, did just miss by nose in $1 million Delta Jackpot though.  Before you laugh off this $135k yearling as hopeless, he has uncorcked some high-end runs.  Yes, he’s been beaten 28 lengths in the last two, but what I’ve always respected about Wayne is he know you can’t win ‘em unless you’re in ‘em.  Hoping he has great day & finishes in upper half.  He can run, can see his name being added to Last Place Finish cups too though.

18. American Pharoah (5-2 w/Victor Espinoza)…before he’s etched into Hall of Fame, he did finish 5th beaten nine lengths in career debut.  Last four starts & romps have been spectacular.  Did miss Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with injury & he was rushed into this race with abbreviated schedule through Oaklawn Park.  Post is perfect for him, rider has won two Derbies including last year’s aboard California Chrome.  Is Victor Espinoza really going to win three Derbies?  This marvelous $300k yearling bargain was eyeballed in first start & shut ‘er down.  He may go Big Brown on us & gallop around from the outside.  Belief here is should the question be asked down the stretch, he’ll lack the answer.  Anyone good enough to ask the question…is the question.  Pops was beaten by Mine That Bird in Derby & gramps was pure sprinter.  

19. Upstart (15-1 w/Jose Ortiz)…another New York bred, this one $130k yearling.  Breeding is fine, especially that Belmont Stakes winner on the bottom.  Has crossed the wire in front four times in his seven starts, but was victimized by three blind Florida stewards in Fountain of Youth DQ.  Shameful.  Dueled into slight submission by Materiality in Florida Derby last out, but…Upstart coming from post 19 is helpful where Materiality from post 3 is troubling.  Jose Ortiz can ride & he wins at a price…a lot.  Hmnnn…am I seeing red roses??  Wish he’d trained over the Churchill track instead of hiding out in Florida, only negative (& it’s small one).  Price is right…post is fine…rider scores at a price…

20. Far Right (30-1 w/Mike Smith)…so, $2,500 can buy a Derby horse??  How ‘bout that!  Has run three times at Churchill with win (at 9-1) with second & third (in Street Sense Stakes last October).  He’s honest closer that will need the sea to part, but outside post should give him relatively clean trip.  Mike Smith rides the big races well still.  Was torched last time by American Pharoah, but others will soften that one up on Saturday.  He’ll put in his run & can see #20 lighting the tote board somewhere.

21, Frammento (50-1 w/Corey Nakatani)…$260k yearling is saddled with rider who’s lost the most Derbies without ever winning (or coming close).  Had solid chance with Dance With Fate last year, but couldn’t get it done.  Only win was maiden score at Keeneland last October & ran 4th in solid allowance event at Churchill on November 8.  He’s not improved much since then, best finish being well beaten 3rd at 63-1 in Fountain of Youth Stakes.  He’s outclassed, nice though to see Nick Zito have another run & he could pick off some ponies late.

22. Tale of Verve (50-1 w/Brian Hernandez)…trained by the king of Derby longshot (Dallas Stewart), ridden by the best longshot rider on the ground (Brian Hernandez).  Gramps won the most memorable of Derbies (Unbridled).  Same style as Golden Soul & Commanding Curve.  Why the hell not…if someone else scratches & he draws in, toss him in.  How could you not??

And at the wire…

19. Upstart (15-1) upsets Derby 141 as “what happened to American Pharoah” rings out across racing world.  It’s a horse race with 20 in it, get yourself paid.

8. Dortmund (3-1) runs his eye balls out, he always does.  Gets his reward Saturday.  Damn fine horse.

14. Keen Ice (50-1) say it with me “Golden Soul”, “Commanding Curve”, “Keen Ice”.  The forgettables that you’ll never forget (if you played ‘em).

2. Carpe Diem (8-1) better post, better ride & might be better story; he’ll find his run late after bouncing around.

Blue Grass Features Carpe Diem & Seven Horses Named Harry

Apr 03, 2015 -- 11:47am
Blue Grass Stakes returns to God's own dirt (or mud) as polyturf era is over & Keeneland again hosts meaningful Kentucky Derby prep.  Blue Grass Stakes along with Wood Memorial & Santa Anita Derby will all broadcast on 93.9 the Ville (from 4-7p).
New for Blue Grass Stakes this year is placement four weeks prior to Derby (v. traditional three weeks).  Before that, into the '80s, it was still being contested on a Thursday, but nine days out from Churchill's big race.  Dem were da' days...horses ran...preps were preps...trainers got 'em ready by running 'em into shape...
$1,000,000 US. Tasty. 1 1/8 miles. Field of eight.
1. Ocho Ocho Ocho (6-1 w/Sally Gonzalez)...perfect 3-for-3 last year including win in Delta Jackpot (heard on ESPN 680/105.7). Came off the shelf & never picked up his feet when 8th of 10 beaten 15 lengths at Santa Anita last month.  Mike Smith replaced & while he doesn't appear the part of legit Derby horse, he has to better than his last & if you get decent price (better than 6-1), he's okay.  Pops (Street Sense) won '07 Derby.
2. Gorgeous Bird (8-1 w/Brian Hernandez)...did pair up couple of 4-1 wins at Churchill Downs last November & Gulfstream in January.  Then, plodded along 5th in Fountain of Youth.  Can't see him threatening to win, someone has to be second & third though, so there's Carpe Diem & seven horses named Harry.
3. Pepper Roani (12-1 w/Miggy Mena)...spent all winter at Turfway trying to break maiden.  Yikes.  Finally did & then ran far-back 2nd to runaway winner in John Battaglia Stakes.  Race fell apart & he picked up pieces (in fine effort though).  He'll run his race & if Carpe Diem gets horse-napped or jumps the outer rail...12-1 odds tell you how little else is in this Blue Grass Stakes.  He'd likely not be less than 5-1 or 6-1 in entry level allowance.
4. Unrivaled (12-1 w/Robby Albarado)...claimed in his third start for $30k at Keeneland last October.  Lost by nose at even money.  Sent to Parx (Philly Park) he then ran second, broke maiden (by 15 lengths) & scored in entry level allowance (by 5 lengths).  Dad won Derby (Super Saver), gramps won Derby (Unbridled) & Robby rides Keeneland well (though I'm still not over his bad beat on Twinspired in '11 Blue Grass...grrrrrrrrrr....); I'd give him every chance to believe his improvement is real.
5. Carpe Diem (1-1 w/John Velazquez)...certainly towers over field on paper.  Three wins & fast closing second in Breeders' Cup Juvenile out west.  Return race in Tampa Bay Derby was more than fine.  Has been favored every time out & Velazquez did get him beat once, so...always trying to beat Velazquez when heavily favored...this pony's upper-end Derby legit though.
6. Frammento (8-1 w/Gary Stevens)...Nick Zito hasn't been Nick Zito in a loooong time & this seems like another close your eyes & swing hard entry.  Only win in six starts did come at Keeneland though, so of course, you try.  Was blistered in Holy Bull Stakes & ran a little when 3rd in Fountain of Youth.  He passed tired ponies that day.  Sunshine boys, can't see it.
7. Classy Class (6-1 w/Junior Alvarado)...nothing outstanding on paper.  Broke maiden first out at Belmont last October.  Very good.  Running 3rd & 4th in next three at lower Graded Stakes level, never threatening to win.  Dad was sprinter & he doesn't seem to have settled into preferred running style.  Not looking for Alvarado to move him up on strange track for both, could see him running decent enough second though, just nothing else in here.
8. Danzig Moon (8-1 w/Julien Leparoux)...needs to find 12 lengths on Carpe Diem from last out.  Worked his way up to break maiden in 3rd start, at Gulfstream.  Seems out of his league, 'cept other than favorite, nobody else stands out & second place pays $200k & guarantees starting spot in gate on Derby Day.  No way I'd take 8-1 on him to beat Carpe Diem, demand much better.
And the Bluejie for Most Outstanding Three-Year-Old on Saturday goes to:
5. Carpe Diem (1-1)...if he doesn't light this field up, what a disappointment.  You cannot possibly find weaker bunch of three-year-olds for $1,000,000.
4. Unrivaled (12-1)...they don't run 'em on paper, but he's the only one who looks like he could possibly jump up & give Carpe Diem a chase.
6. Ocho Ocho Ocho (6-1)...anyone can throw in a clunker, happens.  Give him another shot at square price.
3. Pepper Roani (8-1)...wow, Turfway winter maiden plodder will pick up a piece of Blue Grass Stakes & $1,000,000 purse.  What a country! 

44th - 50th Spiral Stakes Goes Saturday in norther Kentucky

Mar 20, 2015 -- 1:08pm

Field of eleven (was twelve before 4-1 second choice Imperia bowed out), head postward in the 44th running (actually 50th) running of the Spiral Stakes from Turfway Park.  While the 44th consecutive year for Turfway's marquee race, between 1973-80 the race was split into two divisions no less than six times.  Race goes Saturday as entry with Kentucky Wildcats (tipping off at 2:40p in Louisville).  UK 1-9 favorite to advance to NCAA Sweet Sixteen & its game will be over about an hour before Turfway's big event.  It'll actually be over once they tip it off, but Cincinnati is expected to stay on the court for the full 40 minutes.

While Woody Stephens was Mr. Belmont with his impressive five consecutive Belmont wins, Turfway has its Mr. Spiral…W. E. (Smiley) Adams…the great trainer for Golden Chance Farm during its impressive run in the ‘70s.  Smiley won seven consecutive runnings of the Spiral Stakes beginning in 1977 & concluding in 1980.  In 1977-78 & 1980, the race was split into two divisions with Smiley winning both divisions in each year.  Some lost legends mark those early runnings, including winners Ambassador’s Image (’75), Inca Roca (’76), Bob’s Dusty (’77), Lot o’Gold (’79) & Spruce Needles (’80).

The Spiral…then morphed into the Jim Beam…then the GalleryFurniture.com…then eventually winding its way back to the Spiral.  It’s first significant Derby contender was At The Threshold who won in 1984 under Pat Day.  They’d finish 3rd in that year’s Kentucky Derby.  Kingpost, the ’88 winner for Eugene Sipus, ran 2nd to Risen Star in that year’s Belmont Stakes and the roll was on…

Summer Squall won for Pat Day in ’90 & would win the Preakness following his runner-up finish to Unbridled in the Kentucky Derby.  Hansel, the ’91 winner under Jerry Bailey would bomb in the Derby but then take the Preakness & Belmont. 

And then came Lil E. Tee, again with Pat Day aboard, winning in ’92.  He would upset Arazi en route to Derby glory.  Prairie Bayou would win the following year (’93) & run second while favored in the Derby.  He’d win the Preakness two weeks later before an ill-fated run in the Belmont ended his career (& life).

The great Serena’s Song won in ’95 marking the beginning of the end to Spiral glory.  It wasn’t until 2011 when Animal Kingdom upset the Spiral Stakes under Alan Garcia that another Derby winner (or significant contender) graced the Spiral Stakes.  Since moving to polyturf nearly 10 years ago, the Spiral has mostly been a big money race for turf horses & synthetic wannabes.  And now, the 2015 Spiral Stakes…

1.  Royal Son (7-2 w/Rodney Prescott)…Prescott & Todd Pletcher went 2-for-2on the card including this guy on February 28 at Turfway.  Royal Son was 9-1 that day & crossed the wire first for his only time in 5 career starts.  He began his career running second three consecutive starts while always favored at less than 2-1.  Ran monster race three weeks ago, bred to run all day…would be nice to see journeyman rider cash a big one.  Sniffin’ an upset as he went wire-to-wire with virtually no pressure last time.  He likes to burn cash when favored.

2. Big Family (30-1 w/Albin Jiminez)…has been drilled three straight at high odds after breaking maiden at Gulfstream West (Calder).  Breeding says dirt & his first try on the snow ties.  Gotta let this longshot pass.

3.  Watchyourownbobber (20-1 Rajiv Maragh)…quite the longshot to bring high-end rider to town.  Ken Ramsey claimed two back out of winning $50k maiden claimer on Gulfstream turf, then won entry level allowance on the Hallandale grass.  Front runner figures to give Royal Son company & price is nice, don’t think race sets up for him though.

4.  Wireless Future (12-1 w/Florent Geroux)…broke maiden & won allowance on Fair Grounds turf, neither while favored.  Bred to like the polyturf, but Tom Amoss isn’t known for his snow tire prowess.  Will be stalking the pace & he was $250k yearling purchase, legit.  Looking elsewhere again though for winner.

5.  Another Lemon Drop (6-1 w/Drayden Van Dyke)…career has been up & down in six starts.  Broke maiden on Keeneland turf, that’s good (was favored though).  Last was nice runner-up in Fair Grounds turf stakes (but was even money favorite).  Interesting call for midwest trainer to bring in young, west coast rider w/no Turfway experience.  Inclined to like him, but not crazy about but 6-1 odds.

6.  Imperia…no show.

7.  Magic of Believing (20-1 w/Shane Laviolette)…only turf/polyturf start was second to Another Lemon Drop last autumn in Lexington.  Has banked nearly $90k in last two starts at Oaklawn, both winnings runs on dirt.  Nobody better at a price than Kenny McPeek.  Not bred for surface, but clearly has quality if he’s winning against tough bunch in Hot Springs.  Pace sets up for him, McPeek on live horse at long odds, how can you not take the leap.

8.  Task Force Glory (30-1 w/Rafael Hernandez)…Ken Ramsey runner #2.  Ran awful in his Turfway debut, beaten 22 lengths by Royal Son.  He’s better than that & deserve another try.  Has been competitive on the turf, but he’d be shocker.

9.  Conquest Typhoon (5-1 w/Mike Smith)…lots of polyturf experience & did win Grade 3 stakes on the stuff (along with another Grade 3 score on turf at Woodbine).  Has showed up with solid tries in all seven career starts, usually running to his odds.  Flexible in his style.  Smith probably got him beat while favored last out & he figures to sit off the pace this time.  Never been Smith fan & price is low, probably gets me beat but will try & run him out.

10.  Firespike (20-1 w/Miggy Mena)…Skychai’s best shot didn’t get in, so Firespike will try & make up 21 lengths on Royal Son off previous race February 28.  Does sport three wins on turf & polyturf & has $185k bankrolled.  Wish my lesser stock rolled like that.  He’s better than his last, price is right & no worries putting him into exotic mix.

11.  Metaboss (4-1 w/Alex Solis)…two-for-two in ’15 with maiden turf score at Santa Anita & polyturf win in Grade 3 in San Francisco, where he beat Conquest Typhoon by nearly three lengths.  Certainly on the improve, but don’t like the price.  Running style is fine, not crazy about Solis though either.

12.  Dubai Sky (8-1 w/Jose Lezcano)…take away this 12 post & I’d be singing his song at 8-1.  Enters off three straight turf wins at Gulfstream Park & Belmont Park, the last two while not favored.  Hasn’t seen the post in 2 months, but trainer Bill Mott has ‘em ready to run when purse is north of half million.  Flexible in his style, not certain he’s ready to overcome wide trip.

And your 44th…or 50th…Spiral Stakes looks like…5-7-10-8 box

  5.  Another Lemon Drop (6-1)…young master Drayden has been winning some big races at big prices this month.  Why not here too.

  7. Magic of Believing (20-1)…Kenny McPeek longshots are always worth the money.  Big field, 20-1, doesn’t take much to watch the greenbacks fly. 

10.  Firespike (20-1)…horses can toss in clunkers, he’s been fine before that last stinker.  At 20-1, why not see what he’s made of, price is tasty.

  8.  Task Force Glory (30-1)…another who ran stinker last out to favored Royal Son.  Tossing that race out & checking where to cash my IRS tickets!


FLASHBACK: Omaha...Steaks, CWS, Peyton Manning & One Great Pony

Mar 01, 2015 -- 12:49pm

For the fifth consecutive year, ESPN 680/105.7 and now 93.9 the Ville will be your broadcast home for Kentucky Derby & Kentucky Oaks race broadcasts.  THE REAL DERBY STATION!!  You’ll enjoy our coverage throughout the spring with our partners at HRRN as we bring you major Derby preps across America (& from Dubai too!)

ESPN Louisville (680/105.7 and now 93.9 the ‘Ville) continue our countdown to Derby 141 as we flashback 80 years & find another, less remembered Kentucky Derby legend…the Hall of Famer, Omaha.  As the 21st Century clicks along, we know well Omaha Steaks, the College World Series home being Omaha & Peyton Manning, another kind of horse guy (Bronco) replacing “hut, hut” with OMAHA!!  But what of the only son of a Triple Crown winner to himself win the Triple Crown.

And now…the amazing story of Omaha…the winner of the 61st running of the Kentucky Derby.

Born just days after Franklin Roosevelt had begun his presidency in 1932, Omaha began his racing career in June of his two-year-old season (1934).  That year of 1934 began with the first-ever Orange & Sugar Bowls being played on New Years Day.  The following month, Babe Ruth was released by the New York Yankees, soon to land with the Boston Braves in his final MLB season.  He homered in his first game with the Braves on April 16.

March saw German Chancellor Adolf Hitler begin re-arming his nation, effectively ended the Versailles Treaty that concluded World War One.

Omaha broke his maiden in his second start, but would then go on to lose his next seven starts of his juvenile campaign.  Not a train wreck season at all though.  He finished second in the Sanford, Champagne (beaten a neck) & Junior Champion Stakes (by a nose in stakes record time), third in the Hopeful & fourth best in the Saratoga Special, United States Hotel Stakes & Futurity Stakes.

Omaha was just beginning to roll.  After beginning his sophomore campaign with an allowance score at Aqueduct, he was moving best of all late when 3rd in the Wood Memorial, good enough to propel him to second favorite for the Kentucky Derby (behind the filly Nellie Flag).

Louisville was a cold & rainy place the first Saturday in May 1935.  And Omaha loved it, taking over down the backstretch & scoring an easy win.  Nellie Flag was 4th.  Just one week later, Omaha scored in the Preakness by six lengths.

Now comes Omaha’s quirk in history.  As 1935 was still the iron horse era, Omaha next ran two weeks following the Preakness in the Withers Stakes…and was beaten.  His Triple Crown bid though remained alive…and he won the Belmont on June 8 by one & one-half lengths, securing the Triple Crown (despite having lost during it!)

Omaha was the third ever Triple Crown winner, following in his father’s footsteps as Gallant Fox had won the crown five years earlier in 1930.  Sir Barton, recognized as the first-ever Triple Crown winner in 1919, ran through the series of races prior to their acknowledgement as racing’s Triple Crown.

Iron horse that he was, just two weeks after winning the 1 ½ mile Belmont Stakes, Omaha took on older boys in the Brooklyn Handicap, finishing a non-threatening 3rd to Discovery.  Iron horse, he we go again as just one week later, Omaha would take the Dwyer Stakes.  Then onto Chicago to win the prestigious American Derby in track record time.  An undisclosed injury then ended the remarkable three-year-old campaign of Omaha.

During his Triple Crown campaign, Ernie Lombardi of the Cincinnati Reds (heard exclusively on ESPN 680/105.7) pulled off the amazing hitting feat of doubling against the Phillies in the 6th, 7th, 8th & 9th innings of a 15-4 Reds win on May 18.  The day following, the fledgling NFL would announce the creation of its first-ever draft to be held the following season.  The NFL draft, of course, is now heard exclusively on ESPN 680/105.7.

And of local interest, FDR would announce in late June 1935 that a vault was to be constructed in Fort Knox, Kentucky to house the nation’s gold.

Sent to Europe for his four-year-old season of 1936, Omaha won in his British debut on May 9, 1936 in the Victor Wild Stakes over 1 ½ miles at Kempton Park.  Four week later, Omaha won the two mile Queen’s Plate & then on June 18 he contested the 2 ½ mile Ascot Gold Cup.  In a thrilling finish, he fell a short head short of winning, losing to the non-thoroughbred Quashed in a race regarded in its era as one of the greatest of all-time.  (Quashed’s mom was a half-breed & not recognized by England’s bloodstock agency, although it did not prevent her from running.)

Omaha’s 4-year-old season..and career…would end a neck shy of victory in the Prince of Wales Stakes at Newmarket.  He carried 138 lbs. to the winner’s 120.

Kept in training for his five-year-old season in England, Omaha again came up lame & was retired.

While not successful at stud, Omaha does trace back in the heritage of three Kentucky Derby winners & the legendary Nijinsky II.  At age 18, after failed stud stops in Kentucky & New York, Omaha was sent to Nebraska to live out his remaining years in Nebraska City, about 45 miles south of the city of Omaha.  He’d pass nine years later in 1959 at age 27 & would be buried at Ak-Sar-Ben racecourse in Omaha.  Racing would vote him into its Hall of Fame in 1965.

Sadly, unable to compete in the age of racino & supplemented purses, Ak-Sar-Ben would close in the mid-1990’s.  Soon thereafter, it would be razed to build a research park & the grave of the great Triple Crown winner Omaha would not be located.

But oh for a couple of seasons during the world’s great depression, Omaha was a champion amongst champions & he’ll always be remembered as the 1935 Kentucky Derby winner & Triple Crown Champion.


The Great War Looks to Pillage Again at Turfway in Battaglia Memorial Saturday Night

Feb 26, 2015 -- 5:02pm

Johnny Battaglia Stakes goes for 33rd consecutive year Saturday night at Turfway Park.  Race 6 at approximately 8:40p.  Three-year-old Derby wannabes going 1 1/16 miles for a very worthwhile $125,000 purse.  Great money for any race at Turfway in February.

Race inaugurated in 1982 as 6 ½ furlong event won by Terry Warner aboard Baraco.  The following year, it moved to one mile as Runs Like a Prince scored under Josiah Hampshire.  It took its current form as 1 1/16 mile prep for the Spiral Stakes (formerly Jim Beam Stakes, GalleryFurniture.com Stakes, Lanes End Stakes, etc.)  More than a decade later, it’s still the Jim Beam Stakes to me.

Stakes record was set by Mahagony Hall in 1994.  The Jim Baker-trained, Willie Martinez-ridden colt blitzed the 1 1/16 miles in 1.42 1/5.  Mahogany Hall, modern day iron horse, would run back in both the Blue Grass Stakes & Kentucky Derby.

Much the same as the January 31 running of 96 Rock Stakes at Turfway, The Great War has this edition of the John Battaglia at his leisure.  He went to post at 1-10 in the 96 Rock & made it look like easy money.  He’ll  likely be less than .50 on the dollar Saturday night against a tougher bunch.  Tougher, yes, not that tough though.

The Great War was a million dollar Keeneland yearling in 2013 who made his first four starts in England & Ireland.  His U.S. debut was 4th in Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (on the dirt).  He skipped across Turfway’s polyturf last out in his easy 2015 debut.  Albin Jiminez returns to the saddle & he won this race aboard General Election in 2013.

Firespike (4-1) brings Edgar Prado with him.  Prado at Turfway in February,...ells you he’s promising & the pot is large enough.  He’s won three of his last 5, all on turf & last out on polyturf at Ocala.  His style mimics The Great War, but he’s also been beaten in four of his seven starts & looks clearly second best.

Chasing some kind of value, Milwaukee Mist (30-1) ran okay in 96 Rocks Stakes in his second start & first against winners.  He’s been 20-1 both times out, but his breeding gives me hope he’ll improve on the snow tires Saturday night.  Rider Dean Sarvis won this race in 2005 with Magna Graduate.

Rounding out our top four is our buddy Jeff Radosevich & Ekati Told Me.  We touted him at 50-1 for the 96 Rock Stakes & he ran 4th at 92-1.  Again posted at 50-1, he looked like a well-beaten pony on the turn of the 96 Rock, yet ran on to secure 4th.  Let’s give him another shot.  Jeffrey Skerrett comes down w/Jeff from Cleveland to try, try again.  This is decent horse, give him a chance.

Todd Pletcher ships up Royal Son (5-1).  He ran second in his first three starts, all favored at less than 2-1, posting a win via DQ in his third start.  He was outrun in Tampa’s Sam Davis Stakes on the sand.  Playing against him in his first turf/polyturf start.  Rodney Prescott rides, he won this race aboard Proceed Bee in 2009.

Task Force Glory (8-1) marks the return of Dylan Davis to Kentucky on full-time basis.  Four times favored, he has one win (at even money) in a turf start last November at Churchill Downs.  Certainly has solid shot, but would want more than 8-1 if trying to beat The Great War. 

Alrighty then…11-9-7-5.  Won’t get rich on the exacta, but might be enough to juice tri & super, especially if The Great War stumbles.  It is a horse race, but…he looks as solid as it gets though.


Derby Countdown: Flashback 100 Years to 1915 Derby & the great Regret

Feb 11, 2015 -- 1:43pm

ESPN Louisville (680/105.7 and now 93.9 the ‘Ville) begin our Countdown to Derby 141 as we flashback 100 years & find one of the Kentucky Derby legends…the great filly Regret.  Until 1980, Regret was the ONLY filly ever to wear roses following America’s greatest race. 

For the fifth consecutive year, ESPN 680/105.7 and now 93.9 the Ville will be your broadcast home for Kentucky Derby & Kentucky Oaks race broadcasts.  THE REAL DERBY STATIONS!!  You’ll enjoy our coverage throughout the spring with our partners at HRRN as we bring you major Derby preps across America (& from Dubai too!)

And now…the story of Regret.

It was NOT the first Saturday of May, in 1915 it was the SECOND Saturday in May when Regret made her three-year-old debut in the Kentucky Derby.  Two days early, Thursday, May 6, 1915, George (Babe) Ruth hit the first of his 714 career home runs.  The following day, Friday, May 7 (Derby Eve), a German U-Boat would sink the Lusitania, killing nearly 1,200 people.  President Wilson, an extreme pacifist, would take no action, keeping the U.S. out of a world at war until safely winning re-election the following year with his “He Kept Us Out of War” platform.  Within months of winning re-election, Wilson asked for declaration of war and the U.S. entered what would later become World War One.

And so it was the following day…that 8th day of May, 1915…as the Churchill Downs racing surface was rated fast for the 16 three-year-olds who would contest the 41st running of the Kentucky Derby.

Regret came in with a big reputation as she had swept Saratoga’s major two-year-old stakes the previous summer, all while facing mostly male rivals.  In winning the Saratoga Special, Sanford Stakes & Hopeful Stakes in a 14-day period, Regret had stamped herself as America’s best two-year-old.  In fact, her first ever start was in the Saratoga Special Stakes where she defeated the top two-year-old Pebbles.  Off those three wins, Regret called it a year and set course for her sophomore campaign of 2015.

Her reputation preceding her, Regret went postwar in the 1915 Derby as the 5-2 favorite.  She had no preps & would lead flag fall to finish in winning under Joe Notter.  Her time was 2:05 2/5.  Pebbles, her Saratoga Special nemesis would chase her around the Churchill Downs course throughout the 1 ¼ mile journey, coming up two lengths shy.  Regret would make her second & final start of her three-year-old season in the Saranac Handicap, where she’d defeat that year’s Belmont Stakes winner.

At four, Regret would again only pony up twice to the starting post.  After a winning prep, she tasted defeat for the first time in her seventh career starts when unplaced in the Saratoga Handicap.  Her blistering pace had done her in & this marked the only time Regret would be off the board.

Her final season of 1917, the now five-year-old mare Regret would race four times with three wins & the narrowest of defeats in the Brooklyn Handicap.  That Brooklyn field of 1917 included two other Kentucky Derby winners, Old Rosebud & Omar Khayyam.  Regret would beat her fellow Derby winners, but fall a nose shy of stablemate Borrow, while conceding five pounds.

Her career concluded with two more wins following her nose loss in the Brooklyn.  She claimed the Gazelle Handicap in her penultimate start, then finished with a track record performance at Aqueduct Race Course.  She retired a legend of the turf, never once defeated by another filly or mare & has been an honored member of the Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame for more than 50 years.

Regret lived to 22 years of age, passing in 1934.  Buried in Lexington, Kentucky, this New Jersey-bred filly had only moderate success as a broodmare, but remains one of the greatest performers in the history of the Kentucky Derby, even 100 years later.  In 1970, Churchill Downs honored this racing legend with the Regret Stakes.  It’s been contested every year since in Louisville & renews this year on Saturday, June 13 as part of the Stephen Foster Handicap super card. 

Your 1915 Derby winning legend of the turf…Regret!

Next up, we’ll flashback 80 years to the Triple Crown winning, Omaha, Derby winner of the '35 Kentucky Derby contested in the heart of the great Depression.


96Rock Stakes...Kentucky's First '15 Derby Prep (Well, Kinda...)

Jan 29, 2015 -- 4:18pm

96Rock Stakes goes for 32nd time Saturday evening at Turfway Park.  Race began as the Presidents Stakes in 1983, morphed into WEBN Stakes for a number of years before rockin' on over last year as the 96Rock Stakes.  It’s been run every year since ’83 with the exception of 1995.

Derby prep, if you will.  Three-year-olds anyway.  $75,000 US dollars up for grabs over 6 1/2 furlongs of the ground up snow tires (polyturf).  Field of twelve(12) will tee it up.  Alot to like about that.

Michael Maker has trained the winner in four of the last 5 runnings (2010-12, 14) including Derby entrant & near-miss Blue Grass Stakes runner-up Twinspired in 2011.  He sends #4 Serious Talk (3-1) & #12 Two Step Temper (10-1) out in quest for his “one for the thumb.”  The other 10 trainers will all be seeking their first 96Rock / WEBN / Presidents Stakes victory.

Five of Saturday night’s 12 riders have annexed an edition of this early Derby prep.  Rodney Prescott teamed up w/Maker last year to score with Harry’s Holiday.  Harry would finish waaaaay back in the ’14 Kentucky Derby, but, he was in it!  Counts.  #4 Serious Talk reunites this rider/trainer combo.

Johnny McKee won w/Mr. Prankster in 2012 for, of course, Mike Maker.  McKee rides #12 Two Step Temper this year.

Thomas Pompell in 2010 won w/Kera’s Kitten for…wait for it…Mike Maker.  Pompell teams up with Jeff Radosevich this time w/the inside pony Ekati Told Me (50-1).  Radosevich can train the hair off a horse, I’ll 50-1 on him all day long.  Keep an eye on the Ohio-based stalwart.

Dean Sarvis won this race in 2006 with Warrior Within.  He saddles ups with #3 Milwaukee Mist (12-1) this time.  BEWARE of any Milwaukee Brew offspring on the polyturf.  They love Woodbine, no reason they wouldn’t like Turfway too.

Eddie Zuniga goes back 15 years for his win atop Miami Blasé in 2000.  He handles #10 Fujita (30-1) Saturday night.

High water mark for this event was easily 2002 when Request For Parole & Perfect Drift ran 1-2.  Both went on to enjoy long, fruitful racing careers.  Request for Parole, would run 5th in the ’02 Derby & amass more than $1.3 million dollars off 10 wins in 51 starts comprising seven racing years.  Perfect Drift, while second best that winter’s day in ’02, went on to finish 3rd in the ’02 Derby & then amassed nearly $5 million in career earnings over a remarkable 50 race career that spanned eight years & featured 10 wins.  While he lost his final 19 career starts, he continued to compete at the highest level.

And, perhaps the most remarkable accomplishment for the modern-day iron horse, Perfect Drift ran in five consecutive Breeders’ Cup Classics between ’02-’06.  His best finishes were 3rd in ’05 (to Saint Liam) & 4th in ’04 (to Ghostzapper).

Alrighty then...the 96Rock / WEBN / Presidents Stakes inaugurated in 1983...morning in America...Cards en route to second consecutive Final Four appearance…Ronald Wilson Reagan's steady hand at the wheel...What Would Ronnie the Popular Do…

6. The Great War (Albin Jimenez @ 6-5)...chalky, chalk.  My apologies.  Clearly best horse for this race & surface.  Won't try to beat him, just get the value up with exotocs.

3. Milwaukee Mist (Dean Sarvis @ 12-1)...only one career start, those Milwaukee Brew offspring love the chewed up snow tires.  Race is short for his best, but he fits.

1. Ekati Told Me (Tommy Pompell @ 50-1)...comes in off maiden debut score in Cleveland, so he's ignored & 50-1.  Jeff Radosevich can train ponies, he'll give fine account of himself & can get you paid.

So, we box up 1-3-6 in exacta ($2 box for $12) & $1 tri box ($6).  And for the super, let's add...

2. Candy Charger (Perry Oops @ 6-1)...trainer Larry Holt is hot, can never discount hot barn.

4. Serious Talk (Rodney Prescott @ 3-1)...trainer Mike Maker has won this race four of the last 5 years.  Can't discount that either.

If you want box all five in $1 exacta box ($20).  $0.50 tri box ($24), $0.10 super box ($12).

Derby Fever this 31st Day of January 2015!!  Well, as close as we're going to get for awhile...


Churchill's "Other" Mile & a Quarter Legend

Jan 27, 2015 -- 9:08pm

Flashback:  As we wind down January 2015 & Derby fever begins anew, a moment to pause & remember another 10 furlong legend from Mr. Churchill's place...this is the story of Woodtrap, the last horse to break Churchill Downs 1 ¼ Mile track record NOT in the Kentucky Derby.

World War I had ended a couple years earlier & Warren G. Harding had entered the White House a couple months earlier, replacing a stroke-riddled Woodrow Wilson.  The Roaring ‘20s had begun, along with Prohibition inspired by an earlier version of folks claiming to be progressive.

Since 1900, there have only been three (3) horses to break Churchill Downs most storied track record…1 ¼ miles…that did not do so while winning the Kentucky Derby.  Belleview was the first in 1909 (as a 6-year-old) lowering the mark to 2.06 1/5 while just edging 1900 Derby winner Lieut. Gibson’s mark of 2.06 ¼ from nine years earlier.

Royal Report was next to do so late in his three-year-old campaign of 1907.  His 2.05 bettered Belleview’s mark by more than a second.  This is the story of the 3rd and final horse  to claim Churchill Downs gold standard…seven-year-old Woodtrap who would capture history at odds of better than 20-1 on May 21, 1921.

Old Rosebud had lowered Churchill’s track record to 2.03 2/5 in winning the 1914 Kentucky Derby & there the mark stood until that remarkable Saturday in Louisville.  On the seven race card of May 21, 1921, Churchill Downs first race saw Mished the Time break the seven furlong track mark by almost 2 seconds, running 1.23 1/5 in a $1,300 selling race.  Three races later, the new mark was equaled by Distinction in winning the Fountain Ferry Park Purse.  Up next would be the featured $10,000 Kentucky Handicap, going the Derby distance of 1 ¼ miles.

Immediately following the Kentucky Handicap, Miss Joy would break the 4 ½ furlong track mark in a time of .52 3/5.  Four track records on a seven race card.  Miss Joy would run second shortly thereafter in the Clipsetta Stakes at Latonia.  The Clipsetta, first run in 1883, was one of Latonia’s most storied stakes races until being recast as the Kentucky Cup Juvenile Fillies in 1994.  With Latonia (now Turfway Park) succumbing to casinos, the race has been discontinued & one of Kentucky’s legendary races gathers dust.  Just 11 days prior to Miss Joy setting the 4 1/2 furong mark, she equaled Churchill Downs 4 furlong track mark of 46 3/5.  The mark still stands today.  Fair Phantom had set the mark on May 7, 1921, Casey equaled it two days later, then Miss Joy the following afternoon.

Woodtrap, the then seven-year-old veteran campaigner, was no stranger to Churchill Downs, having won the 1920 Falls City Handicap along with a $1,200 allowance in May, paying $26.  He would face 12 others in the Kentucky Handicap.  Included in the field were Behave Yourself, who just two weeks earlier had won the 47th Kentucky Derby at odds of 8-1.  Also in the field was Upset, who two years earlier had beaten Man O’ War.  The only loss Man O’ War ever experienced.

As that stellar field for the 1921 Kentucky Handicap went postward, the New York Yankees had recently purchased 20 acres in the Bronx to build its new ballpark, Yankee Stadium.  Progressives hadn’t stopped at just Prohibition, new taxes were en vogue too as in May, West (by gawd) Virginia became the first state to enact a sales tax.  Yes, you may have guessed, others then followed.  Kentucky is now kind enough to relieve you of an additional 6% of your hard earned cash when you make most purchases within its borders these days.  The city of Louisville would like even more..."the local option" the tax & spenders of today call it.  Ah, progress.

Six days after what would be Woodtrap’s run to history, Great Britain turned loose of part of its empire…Afghanistan.  Hasn’t exactly been a magic carpet ride since either. 

And, oh that Babe Ruth.  On June 8, the Babe was picked up & jailed for speeding.  After paying a $100 fine, Babe would two days later sock his 120th home run, breaking the Major League mark previously held by Gavvy Cravath.  Yes, Gavvy Cravath.

1921 would make other marks on sports, it was to be the year of the Chicago Black Sox scandal.  And, on the reverse, a spunky bunch from Centre College upset Harvard 6-0 in football, ending Harvard’s 5-year winning streak in what was recalled as the upset of the century for many generations.

And poor ole Al Gore was 85 years late to the global warming dance.  Turns out 1921 was the hottest year of the 20th century.  But Al’s sitting on a wad of cash after selling his failing cable network to oil rich Arab investors & he still has his self-proclaimed invention of the internet to hold dear.

The New York Times reports Woodtrap ran his 1 ¼ miles in 2.03 1/5 & lit the toteboard at $45.20.  Upset had checked early & never got rolling while finishing 6th.  Behave Yourself, also had traffic issues early, made a run to the quarter pole & no more.  The reigning Derby champ was 7th

Woodtrap would run second two weeks later in the $5,000 Inaugural Handicap at Latonia, then six weeks later also second to Hall of Famer, Exterminator, in the $15,000 Independence Handicap going 1 ½ mile at Latonia. 

Just three days prior, Woodtrap had run second to Jake Field in a nine-horse prep race which saw four riders fall.  Jake Field paid $230.20 for the upset.

Woodtrap’s 1 1/4 mile mark would stand for 10 years at Churchill Downs, until Twenty Grand lowered the mark to 2.01 4/5 in 1931 while winning the 57th Kentucky Derby.

Exterminator, winner of the 1918 Kentucky Derby & 1922 Clark Handicap, raced 99 times in his legendary career and, with 33 stakes victories, remains alone as the horse with the most stakes wins ever in America.

And of the beaten Derby favorite, Behave Yourself…he was a crooked legged sort & his owner, the noted E. R. Bradley gave him to the U. S. Army after a short stud career.  He would breed calvary horses until his death in 1931 in Cheyenne, Wyoming where he’s buried today.

Woodtrap…while now lost to history, remains the last horse ever to break Churchill Downs famed 1 ¼ mile track record without doing so in the Kentucky Derby. 

Clark Handicap Goes for 140th Consecutive Year

Nov 25, 2014 -- 2:01pm

This Friday’s Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs is truly one of America’s great, storied races & the last major event for older horses annually.  No less than 14 Kentucky Derby winners have also won the Clark, although many occurred in the Clark's early years when it was run for three-year-olds in the spring (like the Derby).  The Clark moved to Churchill’s Fall Stakes Calendar in 1953.  Silver Charm in 1998 is the last Derby winner to also win the Clark.

2011 Preakness winner Shackleford ended his career with a popular Clark Handicap win in the ‘12 Clark Handicap.  Last year’s Clark was a riveting win by Will Take Charge over Game On Dude, another in a series of Clark Classics.

The year prior, soon-to-be two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan won the 2011 Clark Handicap.  His half-brother Successful Dan had won the year prior (2010), only to have his victory taken away in a most controversial DQ.  And in 2009, Blame won a stellar Clark.  He’d return to Churchill the following year to win the Stephen Foster Handicap in the spring & dethrone Zenyatta in the Breeders’ Cup Classic that autumn.

Silver Charm carried (by today’s standards) a hefty 124 lbs. in winning that ’98 Clark.  Swoon’s Son carried 128 lbs. in his Clark win in 1956.  Only the legendary Exterminator ever won w/more.  He carried 133 lbs. in his 1922 Clark Handicap win (as a 7-year-old). Whirlaway, the famed ’41 Derby winner carried 127 lbs. the following spring when winning the ’42 Clark.

Along with the Kentucky Derby & Kentucky Oaks, the Clark has been run at Churchill Downs every year since 1875.  The Falls City Handicap (held on Thanksgiving Day) was also held that first meet in 1875, however, it’s not been renewed consecutively over the years.

The Clark originally was a two mile test (1875-1880) which followed the Derby, then moved to 1 ¼ miles from 1881-1895.  Sturdier steeds in the those days!

The Clark Handicap moved to Churchill’s Fall Meet in 1953 & to its current 1 1/8thmile distance in 1955.  The race was self-named for the track’s founder, Meriwether Lewis Clark.  It was a young Clark who went to live with his aunt & her sons (John & Henry Churchill) after his mother passed.  Clark later leased 80 acres of land that became Churchill Downs from the Churchill family.  The track opened that first season as the Louisville Jockey Club & Driving Park Association. Its first reference as Churchill Downs doesn’t appear until circa 1883.

The 1875 Clark & the Times that Were


When Voltigeur won the first Clark on May 22, 1875, U. S. Grant was nearing the end of his second term as America’s 18th President.  Alexander Graham Bell was days away from his first successful voice transmission (precursor to today’s I-Phone).  Jesse James was still robbing trains in Missouri.

Locally, Preston Leslie was governor of Kentucky. UK fans might recall a QB named Tim Couch hailing from Leslie County, named in honor of Governor Leslie.  Leslie had defeated John Marshall Harlan for governor, calling Harlan a “political weathercock!”  Weathercock (or weather vane) in those days referred to someone who’s politics went w/whatever direction the wind blew.


Harlan didn’t take it too personal though.  After his defeat, he went on to become a U.S. Supreme Court Justice & recommended Leslie to become Territorial Governor of Montana in 1887.  The U.S. was comprised of 37 states when the first Clark went to post in 1875. Colorado would become #38 the following year.  Harlan too would also get a Kentucky county named after himself.

Clark Memories

One of my earliest Clark Handicap memories is of the great gelding Warbucks winning the 1975 Clark as a five-year-old.  He’d run last two years earlier in Secretariat’s Derby.

Two years later, Bob’s Dusty won the first of his two consecutive Clarks in 1977.  His stablemate, Lot ‘o Gold made it a stable three-peat in 1979.  Both had been off-the-board in earlier Kentucky Derbies.  Smiley Adams trained the pair (along w/Run Dusty Run). Adams still remains tied with the legendary Ben Jones as the only trainers to win three Clark Handicaps.  The Hall of Famers Isaac Murphy & Pat Day are the only riders to win the Clark four times.

Hodge (1915-16) & Bold Favorite (1968-69) share honors w/Bob’s Dusty as the only horses to win the Clark twice.  Bob still holds the all-time largest victory margin w/his emphatic 11-length romp in 1978 under Richard DePass (his rider in his '77 Clark as well).

Jim McKnight, a longtime Louisville favorite, rode his only Clark Handicap winner in 1983 aboard Jack Slade.  Just turned exercise rider-to-trainer Paul McGee upset the Clark in 1988 with a recent claim, Balthazar B.

Alphabet Soup ran 3rd in the ’95 Clark & would win the following year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic.

A decade before Rachel Alexander became the first three-year-old filly to beat older horses in a Grade 1, it was the three-year-old filly Surfside winning the 2000 Clark to cap her three-year-old season for Wayne Lukas.  Pat Johnson won the 1986 Clark Handicap aboard Come Summer for Rusty Arnold.  Johnson still rides (though somewhat sparingly in Louisiana) these days.


FLASHBACK: 1991 & the Inaugural Mrs. Revere Stakes at Churchill Downs

Nov 11, 2014 -- 9:44pm

As we double down the on the day job to recoup Breeders' Cup losses...when, when, when will I learn not to play races run over the black asphalt that is Santa Anita?  Poor, poor pitiful me. 

Mrs. Revere Stakes goes for 24th time Saturday at Churchill Downs.  Race has developed into very solid Grade 2 event & sports $200,000 purse this year.  Three-year-old fillies going 1 1/16 miles on the grass.

Let’s Flashback to the Namesake Heroine of Saturday’s Feature…

All told, Mrs. Revere made twelve of her 28 lifetime starts in Louisville, winning six times.  In 1984, the last year of summer racing, Mrs. Revere won the Regret Stakes in May, ran 2nd in the Pleasant Hill Stakes in June (only run during the short-lived summer racing experiment), won the Edgewood Stakes in July & the Dogwood Stakes in August.

The followingyear of 1985, she won a division of the Kentucky Cardinal Handicap on November 2, took an allowance race two weeks later & then ran 2nd in a division of the Falls City Handicap on Thanksgiving weekend.  Ah the era of when owners & trainers weren’t afraid to run their horses.  Sadly missed.

As a five-year, 1986 wasn’t a banner campaign for Mrs. Revere.  She ran 4th in the Blue Delight Handicap (since discontinued, but basically today’s Winning Colors Stakes), 6th in the Locust Grove & finally called it a 28-race career with a 3rd in the Churchill Downs Budweiser Breeders’ Cup (now called the Chilukki Stakes).  Five years after her final race in Louisville, Churchill honored her with the Mrs. Revere Stakes. 

It was the third Saturday of November, 1991, when 10 three-year-old fillies took to the soft Churchill Downs turf.  The day would see the merciful end to the Louisville Cardinals 1991 football season as the Cards lost that day 40-0 at Tulsa.  It was the Cards 7th consecutive loss as the season collapsed after Jeff Brohm’s broken leg against Tennessee in September.  Under quarterback Eric “Cowboy” Watts, the Cardinals would fail to score more than 15 points in any of their final seven games.  They never gave up fewer than 30.  Yikes.  The year that had begun with a Fiesta Bowl win over Alabama on New Years Day, would conclude 2-9.

Gloom, despair & agony was home down the road in Lexington as well.  As that first Mrs. Revere Stakes was running, the Cats were losing in Gainesville to Florida in a season that would end 3-8 and produce zero wins in the Southeastern Conference.  Yes, UK has lost to Florida EVERY YEAR SINCE too. 

Denny Crum’s basketball Cards would start their 1991-92 season a week following Spanish Parade’s victory in the inaugural Mrs. Revere Stakes.  They’d cruise past Howard (the university, not the football coach) en route to starting the new season 6-0.  Downhill from there to a 19-11 season that featured an NCAA opening round win over Wake Forest before being retired by UCLA.

Things were looking better in the Bluegrass region.  Rick Pitino’s first probation-free UK team had just beaten the Soviet Union in an exhibition on Thursday, November 14 by 112-92.  Six days later…four days following the Mrs. Revere...they’d light up West Virginia 106-80 in the Pre-Season N.I.T. in Rupp Arena (sorry Moon).  Pitino’s bunch was destined to face Duke in a classic Elite 8 game, falling just short of the Final Four.

The year of 1991 began with Pete Rose being banned by baseball, Operation Desert Storm launching to remove Iraq from Kuwait & the debut of “Seinfeld.”  It would also see the New York Football Giants beat in-state Buffalo Bills 20-19 to win the Super Bowl.  Several months later, Duke would defeat Kansas 72-65 to win the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship.  Both those schools will be in Indianapolis on Tuesday, along with Michigan State & Kentucky to contest the 2014 Champions Classic.  Both games will broadcast live on ESPN 680/105.7.

It was most helpful to be at a sporting event in November 1991 as Michael Bolton’s “When a Man Loves a Woman” was climbing the radio charts, forever soiling the American music scene.  In addition to staying away from pop radio, those in attendance for that first Mrs. Revere at Churchill Downs hopefully turned in early as well, thus missing the Saturday Night Live debuts of new cast members Ellen Cleghorne, Melanie Hutsell & Beth Cahill.  Yeah, that really happened.

Cape Fear was just out & topped the Box Office for its only week.  On the small screen, 60 Minutes ruled the airwaves that mid-November of 1991, followed by Roseanne, Murphy Brown & Cheers. 

And of that first Mrs. Revere Stakes, Spanish Parade would rally from last to score a half-length win with Pat Day in the saddle.  The 4-5 favorite held off Liz Cee with Larry Melancon & Canadian invader Savethelastdance with Jim McKnight aboard.  Marvelously bred, being by Roberto out of a Nijinsky II mare, the Mrs. Revere would be Spanish Parade’s only stakes victory & her final ever victory.  She retired the following year with 6 wins in 15 starts, with her Mrs. Revere win paired with a maiden win & three allowance wins at Arlington Park & another allowance score at Keeneland.

But on that 16th Day of November 1991, she etched her name forever into the storied history book of Churchill Downs.  AND, she did so again six years later, as her daughter Parade Queen would win the 1997 Mrs. Revere Stakes.  Pat Day was aboard that day as well for trainer Neil Howard & owners Will Farish and E.J. Hudson, who were also the connections for Spanish Parade as all double dipped their Mrs. Revere chip.

Enjoy a great edition of the Mrs. Revere Stakes Saturday!

2014 Breeders' Cup Saturday at Santa Anita

Nov 01, 2014 -- 12:27pm

Breeders’ Cup ’13 was a good one with three of our three-horse boxes hitting trifectas in the eight Breeders' Cup races, all which paid $600+.  Go me, go me.  Yesterday’s hero…today’s…?

Lots of big fields, lots of favorites to try & beat, let’s punch up TwinSpires.com, grab a cold, frosty Miller Light to go with the Penn Station East Coast Sub & pick some ponies.  Remember, unlike some track handicappers, we’re trying to make our winners pay (v. simply picking favorites to boast a 30% win percentage).  Winning races is hard, so when you do win, you MUST make your winners pay.  That means exacta, trifecta, etc.

And away we go…(oh, we’ll celebrate later with some Ravenswood Beseiged, gooood stuff)…

Race 4

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies @ 1 1/16 miles for two-year-old fillies

Day starts w/12 of the freshman fillies with winner likely to be name 2-year-old filly champ...

11.  Top Decile (10-1) w/Rosie Napravnik…momma-to-be announced her retirement yesterday & gets her getaway weekend off to rousing start.

12.  By The Moon (6-1) w/Jose Ortiz…riding one of the Ortiz boys to big score today.

2.  Angela Renee (3-1) w/John Velazquez…came west early & earned favorites roll with best of the west coast wins; no fan of Johnny V. on favorites or away from his NY nest.


Race 5

Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf @ 1 ¼ miles on the grass for fillies & mares, three-years-old & upward

Eleven veteran campaigners, including last year’s winner Dank (5-2); she’s not shown up in her two ’14 starts though, so…

1.  Abaco (15-1) w/Jose Ortiz…mad dash to wire at tasty price.

2.  Just The Judge (5-1) w/Jamie Spencer…Euro in the box a must.

7.  Emollient (12-1) w/Rosie Napravnik…not being all Rosie sentimental, she just seems to be on some live longshots.


Race 6

Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint @ 7 Furlongs for ladies three-years-old & upward

Ten going to the post w/Judy The Beauty (5-2) favored with Mike Smith aboard; shows no weakness, but…

1.  Sweet Reason (9-2) w/Irad Ortiz…rail trip from back of pack, needs some heat up front.

5.  Artemis Agrotera (3-1) w/Jose Ortiz…five-for-five under a mile & her two seven furlong efforts were combined 16-length victories.

9.  Living the Life (12-1) w/Rafael Bejarano…Presque Isle Masters winner has dominated this race for years & she’s the "this year’s gal" plus you get Bejarano.


Race 7

Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint @ 6 ½ furlongs down the Santa Anita hill for three-year-olds & upward

Full field on 14 & these turf sprints are great fun to watch; mad dash is different going 6 ½ furlongs though & the downhill course favors the home horses…

1.  Reneesgotzip (5-1) w/Edwin Maldonado…just missed in this race against the boys last year.  Unquestioned speed, pretty decent heart & rail trip.  Race is hers to lose.

5.  Ambitious Brew (12-1) w/Mike Smith…horse-for-course is nose from being four-for-four running down the weeds at Santa Anita.

11.  Undrafted (8-1) w/John Velazquez; owner Wes Welker lets the $100 bills fly in the tri if Velazquez gives her clean trip; just in case he likely doesn’t, No Nay Never (9-2) can overcome the 14 post with assured clean trip from world class rider in Franki Dettori.


Race 8

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile @ 1 1/16 miles for two-year-olds

Two-year-old championship & favoritism for 2015 Kentucky Derby up for grabs as 13 freshman boys tee it up…

9.  Carpe Diem (4-1) w/John Velazquez…why does Johnny V. need to be on so many live ponies; this one should make big statement, sorry this rider always scares me outside his comfort zone.

10.  Mr. Z (20-1) w/Mike Smith…showed immense talent in his debut at Churchill Downs, only poor effort since was odd ride by Corey Lanerie in Iroquois Stakes at Churchill in September; big price for talented fella w/west coast rider that wins a lot of these races.

11.  One Lucky Dane (10-1) w/Rafael Bejarano…shocked if you get that price as his only dirt race was world class.  Bejarano, Baffert, Lookin at Lucky, he’ll run big today.


Race 9

Breeders’ Cup Turf at 1 ½ miles miles on the weeds for three-year-olds & upward

Some very solid American form (for a change) coming into this 12 furlong grass race, but…

1.  Telescope (4-1) w/Ryan Moore…best distance turfers call Europe home & not going to try & beat ‘em at their game.

7.  Flintshire (7-2) w/Maxime Guyon)…ran 2nd in Arc last month; sure, could bounce but he’s 7-for-10 top 2 against best in the world.

11.  Chicuita (8-1) w/Frankie Dettori…she’s eligible for non-winners of a race other than maiden against her own gender, but tees it up w/the big boys; she’s here for a reason w/rider that wins these races routinely.


Race 10

Breeders’ Cup Sprint at 6 Furlongs for three-year-olds & upward

Unlike the filly & mare sprint, the boys race is chalk full of speed & 14 will saddle up, should be a good one with…

4.  Secret Circle (9-2) w/Martin Garcia…successfully defends his Sprint title; don’t sweat last one (3rd place finish) as this was always the goal; Baffert’s race.

2.  Indianapolis (12-1) w/Mike Smith…you do know that ESPN 680/105.7 is the home for Indianapolis Colts football, right?  Unbeaten three-year-old is fast & sports winning connections w/Baffert & Smith.

8.  Palace (6-1) w/Cornelio Velasquez…must respect 11 wins in 22 starts; enough speed to flatter his come-from-behind style & the Cornelio version of Velasquez is very underrated.


Race 11

Breeders’ Cup Mile at 1 Mile on the grass for three-year-olds & upward

Wise Dan on the sidelines of would’ve been the highlight story of Breeders’ Cup ’14, nonetheless, anytime you put 14 into starting gate, tasty!

5.  Toronado (5-2) w/Richard Hughes…not crazy about price, with 9 top two finishes in 11 Euro starts, he rarely uncorks a poor one.

10.  Summer Front (30-1) w/Javier Castellano…showing signs of regaining once brilliant form; at 30-1 he only needs to find bit more to send you to the IRS window to cash.

11.  Sayaad (30-1) w/Julien Leparoux…same story, this dude packs brilliant ability on his best day; 30-1 makes me believer today though would’ve liked to have seen west coast rider aboard.


Race 12

Breeders’ Cup Classic at 1 ¼ miles for three-year-olds and upward

THEY say the three-year-olds are better than their elders, will find out.  Pretty week bunch for $5,000,000 pot, but again, 14 of ‘em & somebody’s gonna cash...

6.  Shared Belief (9-5) w/Mike Smith…tried & tried to find something to beat him, there’s just not that much in here & his style is perfect for the race and his rider fits too.

5.  V.E. Day (20-1) w/Joe Talamo…toss his last when horse fell in front of him & he’s won three straight on dirt (though bred for turf); make no mistake, he’s a plodder but he’ll be passing ‘em late; wish he had big-game rider though as Talamo shrinks on the big days.

11.  Tonalist (5-1) w/Joel Rosario…doesn’t pack mighty kick, but always fires outside of Saratoga.


So, I come up w/three three-year-olds in Classic.  Boo me, I know.  As for California Chrome (4-1), no excuse this time as his post ensures his mandatory clear sailing wide.  Race is weak on paper, but so are the ponies he beat when he took the Derby & Preakness by storm.  Big fan of the story, not so much the pony.


BIG Field of Fillies...Valley View Stakes Preview

Oct 17, 2014 -- 12:26pm
What's not to love about 16 three-year-old fillies entered in any race.  Only fourteen can start, still a wonderful betting race going 1 1/16 miles on the Keeneland grass.  Race bookends with next month's Mrs. Revere Stakes at Churchill Downs, giving the sophomore ladies couple of nice, graded stakes avails to close out their seasons.
1. Spring Included (30-1 w/Robby Albarado)...after six non-turf starts to start her career, which were fine, she jumped up & went wire-to-wire to win six furlong grass allowance at Kentucky Downs last month at 29-1.  Inside post won't help her front-running style.  Valley View has eluded Robby throughout his career, with four 3rd place finishes to show in the race since at least 1998.  Would love to give her a try, and pops could run all day, just think she's not ready for the big girls yet.
2. V V Goodnight (15-1 w/Coonstance Hill)...five race losing streak, not good.  Both wins (from 12 starts) in Tampa, not good.  Ran pretty decent against A Little Bit Sassy at Churchill Downs, only needing to make up couple of lengths to turn table.  Large field like this, couple lengths is easy enough to find. It's those other dozen horses.  Probably runs well, just see her struggling to make this a race late.
3. Size (6-1 w/Rosie Napravnik)...Rosie rolls in search of her second Valley View.  She won w/the classy Fugitive Angel in 2010.  First turf starts after three wins in 6 dirt tries.  Breeding doesn't scream weeds though.  Followed 13-1 score in Iowa Oaks with nearly 40 lengths of defeat in Alabama Stakes & Charles Town Oaks. That 6-1 is WAY to low for this breeding & form.
4. Rosalind (8-1 w/Chris Landeros)...polyturf, polyturf, where art thou polyturf.  Tied for the win in Keeneland's Ashland Stakes last spring when run over the ground up snow tires. Disappointed somewhat in Kentucky Oaks, but did run a little late for 4th (yes, nothing wrong w/4th in any Oaks).  Thought she was better than that double digit lengths beat down though.  Gamely shipped to Ascot for some adventure...then the rider fell off in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot.  Back to the homeland, she beat one last July in Grade 1 Belmont Oaks.  So, what filly shows up?  There's enough pace to flatter her style, but 2-for-10 lifetime mark while twice beaten as favorite...talented yes, chews up too much money though.
5. Fashion Fund (15-1 w/Joel Rosario)...total Euro top-to-bottom will enjoy the give in the ground as wet weather should have the turf less than firm.  Broke her maiden in her first U.S. start last April in Lexington at 5-2.  Hasn't graduated from entry level allowance condition yet & Shug McGaughey tees this one up off solid second in ungraded Saratoga stake in August.  Soft ground definitely moves her up, only compelling feature though.
6. Stellaris (10-1 w/Jimmy Graham)...second in grassy Del Mar Oaks (at 11-1) punched her ticket here.  Didn't show much though after that in Chicago.  Graham rides winners in Lexington, that moves her up a notch.  Like to see better than 10-1 on her form & dirt breeding, but her middle-pack style should give her a first shot as they turn into stretch.  Graham's won this race twice, both divided editions.  Won with Single Solution in 1st division of Valley View in '09 and then again in '12 with Angel Terrace in 2nd division.
7. Annulment (30-1 w/Corey Lanerie)...with Keeneland back to dirt, Lanerie pushing for leading rider.  Owner G. Watts Humphrey ALWAYS primed to run at Keeneland and usually find a couple nice-priced winners.  That's her edge.  She also broke her maiden last fall at Keeneland on the grass at 14-1.  Only win this year was 12-1 nose win in small stake in Chicago.  On paper, hard to make the case.  On the connections, 30-1 looks tasty.
8. Sumba Sunset (30-1 w/Shaun Bridgmohan)...she has the one thing I like to see most, but in Euro shippers though.  Win or lose, she's always there at the finish. After 4th in maiden, she ran second by neck, second by neck, first by nose & again second by head.  Never favored with odds ranging between 4-1 and 11-1.  Like to see that gameness on turf. Last out was too-bad-to-be-true 9th in Delaware Park allowance.  That stinker gets you 30-1 today though. Not crazy about her need to be 1-2 early, but will get good stalker spot from this post.  ALWAYS seeking value & see enough w/her at 30-1 to put in the mix.  Bridgmohan won first division of this race in 2012 w/Miz Ida.
9. Goldy Espony (6-1 w/Alan Garcia)...another total Euro has made but one U.S. start, middle 6th in Grade 1 at Belmont Park in July.  No starts since, but she did win three times in France (once on polyturf), including graded stakes there.  She's never had an extended break like she does here & price isn't tempting me either.
10. Token of Love (10-1 w/Johnny Velazquez)...Velazquez has been the daddy this meet when the money's been on the line.  Total Euro makes U.S. debut after seven English starts. Two back did win nice $80k stake, but more concerned about getting beat three out of 4 times when favored prior to that win.  Ran dull last time in class test too.  Two of her three wins came at 9-2 and she'll be well north of that in here.  She'll see softer competition in this Valley View & 10-1 is square price to see what happens.  Velazquez won second division of this race in '09 w/Eye of Taurus.
11. Miss Frost (6-1 w/Edgar Prado)...starts for the 11th time, first though away from New York.  Sports three race winning streak, at odds of 3-1, 9-1 & 17-1, all with Prado aboard.  She'll be tested on the front end in here, but can sit just off the pace from 11 post.  Higher the odds, better she looks.
12. Daring Dancer (4-1 w/Joltin' Joe Rocco)...four wins in 6 grassy starts, in fact, unbeaten away from Belmont Park.  That includes 5-1 win in spring's Appalachian Stakes at Mr. Keene's place.  She took Grade 2 at Saratoga, just nipping #14 A Little Bit Sassy.  Kinda question the depth of the race though.  Subsequent start was lacking.  Bred to like any kind of turf & has solid turf rider.  Nothing about 4-1 in 14-horse field excites me though.
13. Sparking Review (30-1 w/Julien Leparoux)...horse & rider names rhyme together.  So, ya' got that.  Has won both turf starts, that's good, especially at 6-1 & 4-1. Distance & pace seem to flatter her.  Bred to like the distance.  Leparoux won this race in '08 w/Acoma.  What am I missing...hasn't shown any ceiling yet...looks to be ridiculously live 30-1 shot.
14. A Little Bit Sassy (6-1 w/TBD)...Luis Saez, older brother of fallen rider Juan Saez, has taken off his mounts for the time being as his family deals w/the passing of his younger brother.  She just missed in Grade 2 at Saratoga after winning pair of stakes at Churchill spring meet (although DQ'd in one of 'em).  Other than her debut last year, she's been very solid.  Outside post won't flatter her style.
15. Share the Sugar (12-1 w/Julien Leparoux)...fourth in only grass stake in Lexington (at 11-1).  Broke maiden one race earlier on the polyturf.  She hasn't shown the ability too many others in here have, but ran nice second last out in Kentucky Downs allowance.  Always hard to gauge Kentucky Downs form though.  Can't see it, even if she draws in.
16. Valseuse (20-1 w/Juan Saez)...final tribute to the fallen rider who died from tragic spill late Tuesday afternoon outside Indianapolis.  Filly has only been 1-2 once in 7 starts but anytime Kitten's Joy is your daddy, ya' gotta try.  Royal Academy on the bottom too.  She'll come from the clouds but will need help from above if she gets in.
And to get ourselves paid in a big, tasty field...
1st - Token of Love (10-1 w/Johnny Velazquez)...no one throwing all that much heat in here, she'll get around on the pitching this field offers & touch home first at a price.
2nd - Stellaris (10-1 w/Jimmy Graham)...skies part turning for home & battles to wire.
3rd - Annulment (30-1 w/Corey Lanerie)...from out of the clouds w/late run that comes up bit shy.
4th - Sparkling Review (30-1 w/Julien Leparoux)...tough call to round out the box (thus leaving Rosalind & Sumba Sunset uncovered).  Can't bet 'em all.
It's Friday!! 

FLASHBACK: Valley View Stakes Joins Keeneland Line-Up in 1991

Oct 16, 2014 -- 5:46pm
Valley View Stakes runs for 24th time officially Friday at Keeneland.  In reality, having been split twice (in 2009 & 2012), it's also the 26th time.  Nevertheless...let's flashback to the inaugural Valley View Stakes...
It was a Friday afternoon, that 11th day of October in 1991 as nine three-year-old fillies would head to the post for $42,000 in added money in the Lexington feature. The Friday crowd at Keeneland had seen the dissolution of the Soviet Union a month prior & the country was now focused on the U.S. Senate where Clarence Thomas was being challenged in his bid for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court by Anita Hill.  Thomas would be confirmed four days after the inaugural Valley View with 52-48 Senate confirmation vote.
Just eight days prior to the first Valley View, little known Arkansas Governor William Jefferson (Bill) Clinton announced his intention to seek the Democrat Party nomination for the 1992 presidential election.  At the time, Clinton was best known for being wildly cheered by mercifully concluding of his lengthy 1988 Democrat convention speech in support of Michael Dukakis. N either the long, rambling speech, nor ribald tales of womanizing would stop the future two-term president.
On the gridiron, Cards fans were living the nightmare reality of Jeff Brohm's broken leg early in the '91 season & were en route to Boston College with a 2-3 mark.  It was the follow-up season to the storied Fiesta Bowl campaign.  BC would rout the Cards 33-3.  Louisville would not taste victory again in '91, finishing 2-9.
Oh, save the belly laughs BBN.  Your Cats were taking a 2-2 mark to Starkville, Mississippi that Friday afternoon of the first Valley View.  The Bulldogs would rout the Cats 31-6 and UK would finish 1991 at 3-8.  Mississippi State, though, today is currently ranked #1.
In racing, Strike the Gold was the reigning Kentucky Derby champion.  In pop culture, "Home Improvement" ruled the small screen & Mariah Carey ruled the radio waves with "Emotion."  Good thing folks were at Keeneland that 11th day of October 1991, new in theatres that Friday were "Little Man Tate," "Frankie and Johnny (1991)" and "Ernest Scared Stupid."  They'd finish the year 53rd, 58th & 85th at the box office that year.  "Terminator 2" was the summer blockbuster & year's top grosser.
And of that first-ever Valley View Stakes...La Gueriere came in off two Ellis Park victories & started at a robust 31-1 with Brian Peck in the saddle.  A snappy 1.43.49 later, she paid $65.60 for her half-length win over 6-5 favorite Dance O'My Life.  Dance O'My Life was ridden by the late Chris Antley who, earlier that year, had piloted Strike the Gold to Derby glory. 
And, to put a bow on it, earlier mentioned was the Valley View being paired with Churchill's Mrs. Revere Stakes on the autum calendar.  Finishing 8th in the inaugural Valley View was Maria Balastiere, a daughter of...Mrs. Revere.
A horse (or filly) for the course, La Gueriere would finish her career with six wins in 20 starts.  Four of her wins came in Lexington, the other two at Ellis Park leading into that first Valley View.  She'd finish 0-for-11 everywhere else, but on the second Friday of October 23 years ago, La Gueriere ruled the racing world in Kentucky.
And so it was, that Friday afternoon, the 11th day of October 1991... 

Juan Saez Fatally Injured in Spill at Indiana Grand

Oct 15, 2014 -- 5:19pm

Tough week on the Kentucky circuit with the sudden passing of Juan Saez from a spill late Tuesday afternoon at Indiana Grand (Indiana Downs).  Fine young man whose ascent towards the top of the rider colony in Kentucky was almost immediate upon his arrival.

Saez dominated the standings this summer at Ellis Park & was pulling double circuit duty in October, riding at both Keeneland & Indiana Grand.  His final winner came in the nightcap last Friday (October 10) at Keeneland on a muddy main track aboard Wise Crossing.  It was his 89th & final victory in the saddle.

When we look to Friday’s feature at Mr. Keene’s place later this week, note Juan Saez is listed to ride in six races on the card, including the featured Valley View Stakes aboard Valseuse for Wayne Lukas.  Juan’s older brother Luis, is (was) scheduled to ride the Valley View as well (aboard A Little Bit Sassy, twice under the wire first in Churchill Downs stakes at the Spring Meet).

My personal memories of Juan this summer are of a smiling, eager teenager coming to Barn 33 at Churchill each week with agent (former Churchill Downs riding champion) Julio Espinoza always in tow to work my two-year-old filly Barefoot Children for trainer Jimmy Baker.  Hard to imagine that smiling kid…with the world in front of him…has been called home.  It’s now a haunting image.

No words can do justice.  Simply a tragic end to this world for Juan Saez.  Racing continues to offer the highest of highs & lowest of lows.  And that’s all there is to say about that.


Dogwood Stakes, Go Cards & Go Krogering!

Sep 19, 2014 -- 3:46pm

Dogwood Stakes goes for 39th time at Mr. Churchill’s place.  Three-year-old fillies tee it up for $100,000 over seven furlongs.  Nice group of 10 to keep you busy at halftime of the Louisville-Florida International game.  AND…remember to pick up your copy of the ESPN 2014 College & NFL Fan Yearbook available at all area Kroger locations!  FREE with purchase of any collegiate sports apparel.  Go Cards & Go Krogering!


1.  Platinum Lady (15-1 w/Marcy Pedroza)…ships in off four career starts at Canterbury Park in Minneapolis.  Bottom feeding Twins just put the wood to my Tigers, first series win at home for Twins SINCE JULY.  JULY.  Tigers are fatally flawed.  Bullpen is worse than Beulah Park shippers to Saratoga.  Oh right, the filly.  Inside speed will not work to her advantage, she’ll be cooked pretty early from in there & she was odds-on in both her wins, so hasn’t been an overachiever yet.

2.  Fiftyshadesofgold (2-1 w/Robby Albarado)…stellar two-for-two at Churchill, both in stakes (last year’s Debutante Stakes by 8 lengths & this year’s Oaks Day Eight Belles Stakes).  Was exceptionally competitive in Grade 1 last out at Saratoga.  Has speed from inside post & this seems to be perfect spot for her to score.

3.  Bird Maker (6-1 w/Shaun Bridgmohan)…both her wins came here in Louisville & she added nice 2nd in last year’s Golden Rod Stakes for good measure.  Hasn’t been competitive anywhere else though, tricky play.  Horse for the course angle at 6-1.

4.  Milam (7-2 w/Corey Lanerie)…fourth in last year’s Golden Rod Stakes & at 9-1 almost caught Fiftyshadesofgray in the Eight Belles Stakes on Oaks Day.  Last at Belmont was awful.  Race sets up for her, but she’s always been just a whisker below the best of those in here.

5.  Kiss to Remember (8-1 w/Julian Leparoux)…claimed for $50k last December in New Orleans & like most Maggi Moss/Tom Amoss claims, she’s getting better.  Only start in Louisville was tasty 10-1 score by two lengths in June.  Hasn’t done anything wrong in two Indiana starts since then.  Don’t think her early speed will keep up with Fifty Shades though.

6.  Enjoy The Family (15-1 w/Alan Garcia)…steps up after breaking maiden at Ellis & splitting pair of polyturf allowance races at Arlington Park.  That maiden score in Henderson came at 12-1 & she’s big price again on the dirt.  Leaning elsewhere though.

7.  Thank You Marylou (4-1 w/Miggy Mena)…career started well but has slowed considerably since 5th in Kentucky Oaks, beaten 12 lengths at 17-1.  Iowa Oaks follow-up was debacle.  Rebounded okay in Test Stakes at Saratoga last out, but had no say in the outcome.  Race does set up for her nicely but 4-1 seems too low to try & knock out Fifty Shades.

8.  Henny Jenney (15-1 w/Leandro Goncalves)…only bad effort in her nine lifetime starts came in her only dirt try.  Can give her a pass though as she shipped to Penn National for state-bred race there last November.  She’s competitive closer & in good hands all around.  Dirt breeding is fine too.  Have to give her shot at that price.

9.  Honey’s Ryan (30-1 w/Victor Lebron)…four wins in 6 lifetime starts, BUT they came at Remington Park in Oklahoma last year & Thistledown in Cleveland this year.  And that breeder…how ‘bout the University of Kentucky.  They may be changing the game, but don’t see her changing this race.  Thanks for coming though.  Nice to see folks taking a shot from out of town.

10.  Mizzen Mist (15-1 w/Jesus Castanon)…bred for grass, won three straight on grass since being runner-up in first two dirt starts.  Hometown horse certainly has a chance & that price is extra tasty.  Inclined to look elsewhere, but she’s showing lots of upside IF it can translate back to dirt.

And the 2014 Dogwood Stakes…along with FREE copy of ESPN 2014 College & NFL Fan Yearbook goes to:

2.  Fiftyshadesofgold (2-1 w/Robby Albarado)…I’m sorry, she’s just the fastest…best…most talented…and most accomplished filly in the race.  And she loves the track.  Will get my price up in exacta, tri, etc.

8.  Henny Jenney (15-1 w/Leandro Goncalves)…blind faith says she can translate that turf/polyturf kick to the main track.  Like her less as the price goes down though.  Trainer has been stepping his game up in bigger races this year too.

4.  Milan (7-2 w/Corey Lanerie)…comes running again through the stretch in another game effort.

3.  Bird Maker (6-1 w/Shaun Bridgmohan)…picks up the last piece of the super.

Oh, did I mention…Go Cards & Go Krogering!!


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