Once again, I have a lot to go over with you in this week’s Horse Racing recap. With Dullahan winning the 2012 Bluegrass Stakes this past Saturday at Keeneland Racetrack in Kentucky and Bodemeister absolutely annihilating his rivals in the 2012 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas, they both created some waves in this year’s 2012 Kentucky Derby outlook.
Before I get into those two races, allow me to take quick look at some other major races from around the country.
Plum Pretty, who has been not raced since finishing fifth in the 2011 Breeders Cup Ladies Classic, made her comeback to the races a successful one as she cruised home by 2 1/4 lengths in the $490,000 Apple Blossom Handicap this past Friday at Oaklawn Park.
Ridden by Rafael Bejarano, the 2011 Kentucky Oaks winner took the lead on the turn for home and won comfortably as she was hand ridden to the wire.
“I missed the first jump a little bit, (when the gates opened)” Bejarano said. “She kind of came away from there on the wrong foot, but I think about it and it was the best thing that happened. If she had fired out of there, she might have gone up there head and head with that other filly. She was great relaxing and after a half-mile I felt in total control. She was ready to go when I asked her.”
Winning trainer Bob Baffert said: “Once he (Bejarano) got her into gear she just dragged him around there, she’s always been sort of a big filly but her frame is filling out and it was great to get her back and get a win in there.”
Baffert said he wasn’t sure what would be next for Plum Pretty.
“She comes home Sunday and as soon as she tips me off that she’s ready to run again, we’ll find a spot for her,” he said.
Daisy Devine was allowed to gallop along on an uncontested early lead and “stole” the $300,000 Jenny Wiley Stakes on the front end on Saturday at Keeneland.
Under only slight pressure from Bay to Bay, she posted pedestrian fractions of :25, :50.3, and 1:15.1 before finishing the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.1.
“She’s just a bigger, stronger filly this year,” winning jockey James Graham said. “She does anything you want her to do–picks up, slows down, does whatever you ask her to do and does it the right way.”
The big three females in the race were all disappointing. Tapitsfly (3rd), Zagora (5th) and Aruna (6th/last).
It’s Tricky went three wide on the turn for home and pulled away to win the $200,000 Distaff Handicap at Aqueduct Racetrack in New York this past Saturday by 3 ½ lengths as the 3-5 betting favorite.
“She ran a mile and a sixteenth the time before, but she broke sharp and was right there,” said winning rider Eddie Castro. “I had to keep her busy a little bit at the three-eighths, but when she was going, she was going. She was perfect in the stretch.”
“That was very exciting and it’s always encouraging to see these fillies when they come back from their 3-year-old year into their 4-year-old year,” said Godolphin Stable, who owns the filly, manager Jimmy Bell. “There are some pretty quick fillies in this race and that certainly was a racehorse time from start to finish.
“She’s got what we all wish a lot of them had, she’s got tactical speed and can use it at any time and carry it a distance of ground. She can do it short or long, she’s certainly not one dimensional. It’s just great seeing her happy, healthy, and really interested in doing what she does best. This is another good step forward.”
It’s Tricky will now head to the Ogden Phipps Stakes at Belmont Park. (May 28).
“We’re going to want to run her longer next time, for sure,” said Art Magnuson, assistant trainer to Kiaran McLaughlin. “I think she couldn’t keep up at the three-eighths pole and (Eddie) wanted her not to fall behind. We’re happy she was here inNew York. It’s a long ship across the country, and we’reNew Yorkpeople anyway.”
It’s Tricky ran the seven furlongs in 1:22.2 and paid $3.40 to win.
In the $400,000 Oaklawn Handicap, also on Saturday, Alternation led all the way around the track to notch his third straight stakes win and his fifth win in six tries over the Oaklawn surface. Alternation won by 2 1/2 lengths over (a troubled trip) Ron the Greek, who was the 5-2 betting favorite.
At the start, Alternation broke well and set fractions of :23.4, :48.1, and 1:12.2. As they turned for home Yawanna Twist and long shot Stachys made their runs but the early leader had plenty left and pulled away late in the stretch
“Goodness, I don’t think you can measure how satisfying this is,” said winning trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel. “It’s a race that I’ve been second in, hit the board in, and it was always an out-of-town horse that won it. To have a horse that got the job done is all because of Pin Oak (farms) and their breeding program”.
“We knew this was a crossroads race for him. Now, we know we can look at races like the Pimlico Special, the Stephen Foster, or maybe something in New York.”
“We had a dream trip,” said Luis Quinonez, who rode the winner. “He did everything I asked him to. Donnie and his team had him ready and have done a great job with him. What the horse did today was awesome and he has been awesome every race this year. I couldn’t be more proud.”
Ron the Greek was sixth on the turn for home under Jose Lezcano, but ran into traffic thru the stretch. He finally found some room late and finished strong but it was too little, too late.
“He ran very good but the pace went a little slow and when he was going :48 in the front, my horse couldn’t close into that even though he came with a second kick,” Lezcano said
Alternation paid $9.20 to win and the rest of the order of finish was as follows: Ron the Greek, Yawanna Twist, Hymn Book three-quarters of a length back in fourth, then came Stachys, Nehro, Win Willy, and Don Dulce.
At the start, Bodemeister broke a bit to the outside but quickly straightened out and took jockey Mike Smith right to the lead. He led every step of the way (with Stat and Secret Circle close up early as well) and recorded fractions of :23, :46.2, and 1:11.1. From there Bodemeister just ran away from them as he had a two length lead on the turn for home, a three length lead at the mid-stretch marker before opening up and hitting the wire an eye popping 9 1/2 lengths in front.
Bodemeister, who is named for Baffert’s youngest son Bode, was making just his fourth lifetime start needed the win in order for him to make it in the Kentucky Derby starting gate. (He did not have enough graded stakes earnings going into the Arkansas Derby, but does now).
Bodemeister’s stablemate Secret Circle held on for second with Sabercat finishing third.
“We took some really nice horses there. They all ran well and had been training well,” said winning trainer Bob Baffert, who won with Plum Pretty the day before. “I have a great staff and (assistant trainer) Jimmy Barnes does a great job.”
“We’ll see what this took out of them and then we’ll start talking (Kentucky) Derby,” added Baffert. “Oaklawn is a very kind surface and the horses have been coming back great. Bodemeister should be in great shape. He ran hard and fast. We know distance won’t be a problem.”
“He’s really talented,” said Smith after riding Bodemeister for the first time. “That was a good bunch of 3-year-olds he toyed with. Cool, calm, collected–he did everything right.”
“There was plenty left in the tank,” Smith added. “He came back really good. Distance shouldn’t be a problem for him.”
Secret Circle, who lost for just the second time in seven lifetime starts, came second but has already earned enough to qualify the Kentucky Derby.
Bodemeister paid $6.80 to win and ran the 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.3. Secret Circle was a distance second, Sabercat was third and then came Cozzetti, followed by Atigun, Stat, Najjaar, Isn’t He Clever, Optimizer, Jake Mo, and Raconteur.
2012 BlueGrass Stakes
Dullahan, who looked like a million bucks in the saddling area and warming up, gunned down 2011 Two Year Old Champion and 2012 Gotham Stakes winner Hansen in deep stretch to win by 1 1/4 lengths.
At the start, Hansen (under Ramon Dominguez) went straight to the front and cut fractions of :23, :46.3, 1:11.1, and 1:35.2. When I saw that :46+ second half mile, I knew he was cooked.
Dullahan was racing near the back of the pack and was tenth as they left the back stretch. But as they approached the top of the stretch jockey Kent Desormeaux asked Dullahan to pick it up and he responded in a big way. Dullahan split horses down the stretch and caught Hansen, the 6-5 favorite, just inside the sixteenth pole.
Gung Ho finished third, giving trainer Mike Maker a two-three finish. Holy Candy was fourth.
“He switched leads, and he just exploded,” Desormeaux said of the winner. “As soon as he straightened (turning for home), there was a hole. He ran through that and then he said, ‘Now what I do?’ And I asked him to keep going. He was very strong all the way to the wire.”
“He did everything that a good horse has to do to win,” trainer Dale Romans said. “When it’s time to accelerate (Desormeaux) had enough horse to split through. He gets the job done. He’s just a special horse”.
“He looked great to me. I don’t think the (1 1/4-mile) distance (of theDerby) will be a problem. The further the better.”
Of Hansen’s effort, trainer Mike Maker said: “The pace was too fast. I knew in the first quarter. It was quicker than we wanted. But he was fresh today. The next one is the big one.”
Dominguez said he didn’t feel as though Hansen was out of control early, even with the fast fractions: “I had not really made up my mind as far as where we were going to be. We all knew that the object was to get him to relax. He’s a very fast horse, came away from there very sharp, but believe it or not, although he was running very fast fractions, too fast to go 1 1/8 miles, he wasn’t rank”.
“Today he came back to me to some extent, but that was about as slow as he was willing to go. I thought it was a very solid effort going the distance. He continued to keep a great pace and galloped out as he usually does.”
Dullahan ran the 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.4 (which was a stakes record) and paid $8.40 to win.
The official order of finish was Dullahan, Hansen, Gung Ho, Holy Candy, Howe Great was fifth, followed by Prospective, Heavy Breathing, Midnight Crooner, Scatman, Ever So Lucky, Russian Greek, Politicallycorrect, and Hero of Order.
Little Bets N’ Pieces:
**** Did you folks catch that stat that NBC posted right before the running of the Bluegrass? It said the Bluegrass winners led the list of producing the most Kentucky Derby winners with 24, that race was followed by the Florida Derby (21), The Wood Memorial (20) and the Santa Anita Derby (15). If Dullahan runs back to the race he ran in theBluegrass, he could easily make that 25.
**** An ultrasound scan of the tendon area in Frankel’s right foreleg will determine whether the now 4-year-old can resume his (undefeated) career.
The initial scan found no structural damage but the tendon scan had to wait until swelling in his foreleg goes down more.
The result of that scan is expected “towards the second half of the week (April 16-20),” according to Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager to Frankel’s owner, Prince Khalid Abdullah.
“His bone is clear,” Grimthorpe said on Monday. “If that was the issue, we would be more relaxed about it as we would know it would heal over time. Soft-tissue injuries are different; they are often more problematical.”
“We are still positive,” Grimthorpe added. “Henry (Cecil, who trains Frankel) has a lot of experience and he suggests the horse might well be OK, although the situation is a little like being a bit pregnant. If anything shows up, a little hole (in his tendon) is as bad as a big one. There is nothing for it but to wait and see what the scan shows.”
As I stated in Friday’s preview, I firmly believe Frankel is the best horse currently in training.
**** Dynaformer, one of the biggest and most influential stallions in the world, suffered a heart attack and was immediately pensioned at Three Chimneys Farm in Kentucky.
“Dynaformer’s heart condition is not uncommon in older horses,” said Three Chimneys resident veterinarian Dr. Jim Morehead. “Sometimes these conditions deteriorate and further breeding only increases the risk to the horse.”
Best known for siring 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro, Dynaformer covered 20 mares this breeding season and so far, none of 13 that were checked are in foal.
“Dynaformer’s tough spirit will continue to influence our breed for many years to come,” farm owner Robert Clay said. “He reminds us that looks aren’t everything, and the will to win is that intangible ingredient we are all striving to find. We are forever grateful to the Dynaformer syndicate for the privilege of managing his career, to Nathan Fox, who first saw his potential as a stallion, and to the breeders who supported him and found success with his offspring.”
Dynaformer, 27, began his stallion career for a $5,000 fee. From his first crop of 47 foals, 46 started and five became stakes winners. (Including Blumin Affair, who ran third in the Kentucky Derby.)
The following year Dynaformer was moved to Three Chimneys for the 1995 breeding season and has been at the farm ever since. His fee peaked in 2007 when it reached an astounding $150,000.
Dynaformer has sired 129 stakes winners and career progeny earnings of more than $110 million.
Just personal note about Dynaformer, the last time I went to see him (about 3 years ago) one of the bars on his stall was bent. When I asked “how did that happen?”…one of the handlers told me “that’s just Dynaformer being Dynaformer”…needless to say, they would not let me any closer that about 20 feet from him and I gladly respected their wishes.
**** This week marks the debut of the “This has really nothing to do with Horse Racing” section. I’ll start you off gently as this week I’ll keep in the horse world, but it has next to nothing to do with horse racing.
I wanted to point out the “testicular fortitude” of one Madison Wallraf.
You see the 15 year old, 4’ 10” Miss Wallraf was a passenger in her stepfather’s car as they drove to M&R Overlook Farms in suburban McHenry, Illnios this past Wednesday so she can see and ride her pleasure horse “Red”.
When Miss Wallraf arrived at the stable she found an owners worst nigthmare. A fire had engulfed the 25,000 sq ft pavillion.
Although her stepfather implored the young lady not to go into the stable, she called 911 then rushed in to remove the horses as the ceiling of the stable began to disintegrate
“I started off by just putting their halters on and pulling them out by twos, but then the fire started getting quicker so I just started wrapping their ropes around their necks and just tying them around my arms and pulling them out,” Wallraf recalled.
Wallraf described how she crawled through the shedrow to rescue the frantic horses as flames were on both sides of her. Thick smoke filled the space to about three feet off the floor.
“I got kicked in the shoulder by one of the horses in there and I got knocked down a few times, but my adrenaline was so high at the time that it didn’t phase me,” Wallraf added who estimates she saved 25 horses.
Wallraf and Shannon Weitzman, 21, who also went into the burning barn to save horses, were later treated for smoke inhalation.
Due to the lack of hydrants in the area, water had to be brought in by truck to fight the flames. The fire, overall, lasted two to three hours.
Although a good portion of the horses were saved thanks to the girls’ heroism, unfortunately, 16 horses died, 25 ran into a nearby riding ring and three ran into a heavily wooded area nearby. It’s hoped the horses will return.
“We know they’re out in the woods, we just don’t know where,” said McHenry Township Fire District Chief Tony Huemann.
If there is some sort of postive spin that I can put on this…Wallraf’s beloved horse “Red” was indeed one of the survivors that ran into the ring and was later retrieved by her owner.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.