I have a lot to go over with you in this week’s Horse Racing Preview. There are several keys races being run around the country and, actually, the world. I will be breaking down the 2012 Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds in Louisiana, which will feature highly regarded Mark Valeski, and the 2012 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park in Florida, which will feature the 2012 early Kentucky Derby favorite Union Rags. Both races will have $1 million purses.
Before we get into those two races, I wanted to touch on several other races that bear watching this weekend.
First off the world’s richest horse race, the $10 million Dubai World Cup, will be run on Saturday at Meydan Racetrack in Dubai. The race draws the best horses from around the world but, as a bettor; I wouldn’t touch this race with a 10 foot pole. That being said, Game On Dude, who was the runner up in the 2011 Breeders Cup Classic and Royal Delta, the 2011 three year old filly champion, spearhead the American invasion.
Speaking of Game On Dude, when his trainer Bob Baffert stepped off the plane in Dubai this past week to supervise his horse’s preparation, he fell ill. He went back to his hotel and the symptoms got worse. It came to be that Baffert had a mild heart attack and had serious blockages in 3 of his 4 arteries. He underwent emergency surgery and currently is in stable condition. Obviously, we wish him God speed in his recovery process.
Other standouts in the race include Australian champion So You Think, from Japan comes Smart Falcon, who right now is on 9 race win streak and Transcend and Monterosso, who finished the second and third respectively in last year’s World Cup.
So, as you can see, you have horses from all over the place, traveling thru different time zones, on an unfamiliar track, and racing at an unusual time of day. Hey, why not make it rain and make the race even tougher to figure out?
Also on Saturday, and back on American soil, top older mare Awesome Maria, who looked like she is back in top form in winning the Sabin Stakes last month, will be a very heavy favorite in the $150,000 Rampart Stakes also at Gulfstream Park
Grace Hall will get a rematch against Yara in the $300,000 Gulfstream Oaks also on Saturday. If you recall, Yara defeated Grace Hall (at 64-1 odds) in the Davona Dale Stakes back on February 25th
Although all eyes will be on the Louisiana Derby on Sunday, they will be running the $500,000 Fair Ground Oaks the day before. The race is wide open and that fact is reflected in the odds. 6 of the 7 entrants show odds of 5-1 or less. Summer Applause is listed as the 8-5 morning line favorite.
The last one I want to point out to you is race #8 at the Fair Grounds on Sunday (two races before the Louisiana Derby) is the New Orleans Handicap. The $400,000 race will be run at a mile and an eighth and drew a very competitive field. Mission Impazible has been installed as the 5-2 morning line favorite. He will definitely have his work cut out for him and looks like a vulnerable favorite to me. He will be facing the late running, and runner up in last years Kentucky Derby, Nehro, last year’s Wood Memorial winner Toby’s Corner, and Pants On Fire, who was in the upper echelon of three year old last year as well.
Gulfstream Park – March 31, 2012
Race 11 – 5:40 PM
Florida Derby (Grade I)
For Three Year Olds.
One And One Eighth Miles.
|1||1||Fort Loudon||3/C||L||L Jurado||122||S I Gold||
|2||2||News Pending||3/C||L||R Maragh||122||D L Romans||
|3||3||Take Charge Indy||3/C||L||C H Borel||122||P B Byrne||
|4||4||Neck ‘n Neck||3/C||L||E S Prado||122||I R Wilkes||
|5||5||Z Camelot||3/C||L||J Bravo||122||D L Romans||
|6||6||Union Rags||3/C||L||J R Leparoux||122||M R Matz||
|7||7||Bartolome||3/C||L||J L Castanon||122||J Garoffalo||
|8||8||El Padrino||3/C||L||J Castellano||122||T A Pletcher||
|9||9||Reveron||3/C||E Trujillo||122||A C Bezara||
1) Union Rags- possesses a devastating late run with “push button” acceleration. He won his 2012 debut (the Fountain of Youth Stakes) laughing as he cruised around the track to win by 4 lengths. But what really caught my attention in that race was jockey Julien Leproux had him “in hand” all the way around the track and never really pushed him.
All signs coming from him, both mentally and physically, show this horse is better than what he was last year. That, readers, is a scary thought. Now that he has a race under his belt, a few key workouts since, and is basically running in his own backyard, it should be all systems go.
Again I say…we could be looking at something special here.
2) El Padrino- you have to be impressed with his Risen Star Stakes win last month as Mark Valeski gave him everything he could handle, yet this colt fought tooth and nail every step of the way and never gave up. Good gracious, I love that trait in a race horse.
If this horse is ever going to beat Union Rags, Saturday might be the day and I’ll tell you why…He’s now had 2 tough races (against Union Rags’ one easy race) this season so he is most likely fitter than Union Rags at this point in the season. That being said, I still believe Union Rags at 80% or 90% is better than El Padrino at 100%.
3) Neck ‘n Neck- he came from 10th position (in an 11 horse field) to finish fifth, beaten less that 3 lengths, in his last race (the Sam F. Davis Stakes) after having to go 7 wide on the turn for home. If he duplicates that last race here on Saturday, he should finish closer.
News Pending is another who made up a ton of ground late in his last race and broke his maiden in good fashion before that. The thing that bothers me is both of those races were on the turf and thus far in his career, his dirt form isn’t anything to get excited about. Reveron has never been off the board in now 6 career starts. He should be on the lead early and could be dangerous if allowed to just lope along uncontested.
Fair Grounds – April 1, 2012
Race 10 – 4:55 PM
Louisiana Derby (Grade II)
Purse $1,000,000. For Three Year Olds
One And One Eighth Miles.
|A – Coupled Entries – 1 – Mr. Bowling, 1A – Mark Valeski|
1) Mark Valeski/Mr. Bowling entry- it seems as though Mark Valeski had a coming out party in the aforementioned Risen Star Stakes in his last. In his first try in stakes company and a distance beyond 6 furlongs, he gave highly regarded El Padrino fits all the way around the racetrack. If he runs back to that race on Sunday, he should win by wide margin.
Stablemate Mr. Bowling threw in a complete clunker in his last race which also just happens to be the Risen Star Stakes. But if you draw a line through that race and throw it out, you’ll see a dual (minor) stakes winner and a 3 for 5 lifetine record. In fact, he might have still been the favorite even if Mark Valeski wasn’t entered.
In any event, this looks like a rock solid 1-2 punch coming out of the Larry Jones barn.
2) Windsurfer- yes, I know he’s only coming off his maiden win and being put in million dollar race, but the truth is I’ve heard some whispers from people on the track that this horse is better then you know. Speightstown colt from the Todd Pletcher barn could surprise a few people on Sunday afternoon.
3) Finnegan’s Wake- came from dead last in the Gotham Stakes in New York a few weeks ago, to finish third behind Hansen and My Adonis. This colt by Powerscourt has a pretty good stretch kick and might make his presence felt late in this race too.
Cigar Street ran off the charts in his last (maiden breaking win) race. He won by 13 lengths and scored a high speed figure in the process. Speedy colt by Street Sense must avoid an early speed duel however. Comisky Park has won his last two by a combined 18 lengths while leading all the way in both. He too must avoid an early speed dual or he’ll be done by the time they turn for home.
Record= 4-13 (31%)
Little Bets N’ Pieces:
*** 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra, who produced a colt by Curlin last month, has been pronounced in foal to champion Bernardini..
Bernardini, who stands at Darley for a $150,000 stud fee, is the sire of the first foal produced from 2010 Horse of the Year Zenyatta as well. Boy, that Bernardini really gets around doesn’t he? ..wish I had his life.
*** 2011 Preakness winner Shackleford will be retired at the conclusion of this racing season and is scheduled to stand stud at Darby Dan Farm near Lexington,Kentucky.
Immediate plans calls for Shaq are to go in the Carter Handicap at Aqueduct April 7, with the Breeders’ Cup as his long rage goal.
“Shackleford possesses all of the qualities needed to be a top stallion, and we’re delighted that he will start his much-anticipated stallion career at Darby Dan next season,” said Darby Dan general manager Robert Hammond. “He’s an impressive physical specimen from a great female family, and if you look at recent winners of the Preakness, no other American classic has produced more champions and successful stallions in the modern era than the Preakness.”
*** Trainer Bob Baffert was released from a Dubai Hospital yesterday (Thursday), just three days after suffering a heart attack following his arrival inDubai.
Baffert, 59, is expected to attend the races Saturday at Meydan Racecourse. He has two starters on the program, Game On Dude ($10 million World Cup) and The Factor ($2 million Golden Shaheen Sprint).
He even joked on Twitter saying he “needed to win the World Cup just to break even on medical bills.”
*** A few workouts that caught my eye this past week.
Winter Memories- 5F :58.2
Secret Circle- 5F :58.2
Sabercat- 5F 1:01.4