This weekend’s Horse Racing Race of the Week takes us to Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, New York for the 2012 Cigar Mile where recent Breeders Cup Filly and Mare Sprint winner, and Horse of the Year candidate, Groupie Doll will take on six males in the Grade:1, one mile event.
The way I see it, this is the last big weekend of racing for the rest of 2012. I mean, we still have a few good races left, (Hollywood Starlet Dec. 8, the Cashcall Futurity Dec. 15 and the Malibu Stakes Dec. 26 all at Hollywood Park) but for the most part, the 2012 Horse Racing season has been completed.
When I say big weekends, I mean multiple races, run at multiple tracks around the country and this weekend, we have just that for the last time this year.
Today (Friday) will feature three races that should draw your attention. Aqueduct will run the Go For Wand Stakes for three year old and up fillies and mares. The field drew just five runners with Fantasy of Flight listed as the 7-5 morning line favorite. Also entered are Willet (5-2), who’ll be stepping up in company in this race, and R Gyspy Gold, (7-2) who will be doing the complete opposite of Willet as she drops down in company.
Over at Churchill Downs in Kentucky is the 2012, $400,000 Clark Handicap. The big story in this race is that it’ll be 2011 Preakness winner Shackleford’s last race.
Trainer Dale Romans chose the Clark over the Cigar Mile as the final race for Shackleford, who will stand at Darby Dan Farm next season. Romans thinks keeping Shackleford at home for his final start will give him a chance to return to form after an ugly seventh place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile
“I wanted to run him at Churchill Downs and didn’t want to ship him,” Romans said. “He’s doing good here right now and he likes this racetrack. I think he’ll run big and the 1 1/8 miles might be a little easier on him pace wise than the Cigar.”
Shackleford has been installed at the 2-1 morning line favorite in the race, but he will not be getting any of my money, that’s for sure. From where I sit he looks extremely vulnerable to several others entered as well as the stretch out to 1 1/8th miles.
Take Charge Indy looks like a threat in this race as does Cease and Pool Play. Take Charge Indy will be making his second start since the May 5 Kentucky Derby (He was third in the Fayette Stakes on Oct. 27) and, according to trainer Pat Byrne, has improve a great deal since that race.
“He got so much out of (the Fayette),” Byrne said of the A.P. Indy colt. “I bet he’s five or six lengths better (now). I was so apprehensive going into the Fayette off a six-month layoff, but I could only train him so much. He nearly pulled it off.”
Pool Play, who returns to his home track and back to the races quickly, seems to favor the Churchill Downs strip as his favorite surface to run on.
“Pool Play loves Churchill Downs,” said trainer Mark Casse. “It’s coming back a little quick (20 days), but I think he just kind of went around the track in California (The Breeders Cup Classic). Also, this race is hard to pass up when we know he likes it here.”
Cease is coming off a good third in the Woodward Stakes and a solid second in the Hawthorne Gold Cup in his last two races and he might make his presence felt again come Friday afternoon.
Lastly on Friday is the Grade: 2 Citation Handicap on the Hollywood turf course. On paper, the race looks very competitive as Ultimate Eagle looks to get back to his winning ways, Double’s Partner has been holding his own against Grade:1 competition in his last three races and a drop into a Grade: 2 race might be just what the doctor ordered for him. I also expect good performances from Jeranimo, Data Link and the well named Tale of a Champion.
Moving on to Saturday, the Cigar Mile is sandwiched between three races. The sixth race on the card is the $250,000 Demoiselle Stakes for two year old fillies going a mile and an eighth. Emollient has been installed as the even money favorite in that race but she’ll have her hands full with the Todd Pletcher entry of Coconut Shrimp and Unlimited Budget.
Race seven is the Remsen, yet another race for two year old males with Kentucky Derby aspirations. Normandy Invasion is the 3-1 early favorite and rightfully so. The bay colt by Tapit is coming of a powerhouse maiden breaking race in which he was seventh in the early going but absolutely exploded down the stretch to win by almost 10 lengths. Personally, I am looking forward to seeing exactly how good this colt is.
Race eight is the Cigar Mile and race nine is the Grade: 1 Gazelle. This race also looks very competitive on paper as Dance Card (9-5) comes into it with a three race winning streak going, the highly touted My Wandy’s Girl, (3-1) who is 9 for 10 this year and an astounding 14 for 18 in her career (mostly in Puerto Rico) and Book Review (2-1), a winner of three of her last four.
Aqueduct – Saturday, November 24, 2012
Race 8 – 3:20 PM
Cigar Mile Handicap (Grade I)
For Three Year Olds and Upward
|1||1||Stay Thirsty||4/C||L||R A Dominguez||118||T A Pletcher||
|2||2||Associate||4/C||L||J R Velazquez||115||R E Dutrow, Jr.||
|3||3||Buffum||4/C||L||E Castro||116||T Albertrani||
|4||4||Jersey Town||6/H||L||J Castellano||117||B Tagg||
|5||5||Hymn Book||6/G||L||J Rosario||117||C R McGaughey III||
|6||6||Coil||4/C||L||M Garcia||120||B Baffert||
|7||7||Groupie Doll||4/F||L||R Maragh||118||W Bradley||
1) Groupie Doll– this four year old filly has been nothing short of spectacular since mid-April. She’s reeled off five straight wins (all in Grade: 1 & 2 races) culminating in her last, which was a “no doubt about it “come from behind win in the 2012 Breeders Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. She was electrifying that day while finishing seven furlongs in a hot 1:20.3
She stretches out in distance but I’m not too worried about that as she’s shows a 3-2-1-0 record at this distance in her career.
If she wins on Saturday, and I suspect she will, she will have to be a horse to (at least) consider for racings ultimate goal, Horse of the Year.
Even with the stretch out in distance and the fact she’s facing males, she still looks like the logical pick in this race.
2) Coil– this chestnut colt’s (by Point Given) last race (The Breeders Cup Sprint) was too bad to be true. The 2011 Haskell Invitational winner not only had a nightmare trip (shuffled back early and had to go an unheard of 8 wide on the turn for home), but just didn’t really fire at any point in that race.
I going to give him a mulligan for that race because he is obviously better than that performance indicates.
3) Stay Thirsty– along with Shackleford, this will be this horse’s last race as well. After Saturdays race this colt by Bernardini will be shipped to Ashford Stud in Kentukcy and prepare for stallion duties. (He will stand for $17,500)
But enough about his future lets look more at the present.
He bounced back huge from what appeared to be his form tailing off with bang up second (beaten a head) in the Jockey Club Gold Cup to Flat Out.
Alebit, he is still winless in (about) the last 15 months, they should have him fully cranked up being this is his last race and he might run well again on Saturday.
Buffum was a mild upset winner of the Grade: 3 Bold Ruler Handicap (picked by yours truly to win that race by the way) while wiring the field to win the seven furlong contest in 1:21.3. This Bernardini colt is a winner of four of his last five and shows two wins (out of three starts) at this distance. Only hold back is he is 0 for 2 over the Aqueduct surface. Hymn Book finally broke thru with a very impressive (5+ length win) in his last at Belmont Park. His races this spring and summer have been slightly below par from where I sit, but is he rounding back into top form? from the looks of that last race, he’s no easy throw out.
Record: 29-66 = 33%
Little Bets N’ Pieces:
**** Eblouissante, a half sister to the great Zenyatta (By Bernardini), did her big sister proud last week as she won her debut in sparkling fashion.
Trained by John Shirreffs and owned by Eric Kronfeld, Eblouissante was sent off as the 7-5 favorite in the field of eight. After racing in sixth early, she exploded on the far turn and roared down the stretch under Corey Nakatani to win 4 1/4-lengths in her long-awaited career debut at Hollywood Park.
Shirreffs, as he did with Zenyatta, took his time with the mammoth, almost-black filly, giving her an eye popping 45 works before her first start
**** Ten Most Wanted, winner of the 2003 Travers Stakes at Saratoga, has been sold for stud duty to Panama. The 12-year-old stallion previously stood at Magali Farms near Santa Ynez,Calif.
Ten Most Wanted has sired two stakes winners and five stakes-placed runners. His runners have earned more than $3.1 million.
Along with the Travers, Ten Most Wanted won the Super Derby and the Illinois Derby and finished second in the Belmont Stakes and the Swaps Stakes in his career.
**** Rock Hard Ten, a multiple Grade 1 winner, who has stood at Lane’s End Farm near Versailles, Kentucky since 2006, has been sold to stand at stud by the Korea Racing Authority.
Rock Hard Ten, a huge, good looking horse, won a total of seven races, including the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap and the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes. He also captured the Grade 2 Goodwood, the Grade 2 Swaps, and the Grade 2 Strub Stakes. As a three-year-old, he was second in the Grade 1 Preakness Stakes and third in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby. His lifetime earnings are $1,870,380
**** Bullet Train, a half brother to two-time Cartier (England Horse of the Year) Award winner Frankel, will enter stud in Kentucky in 2013 at an undisclosed farm, according to bloodstock agent Bob Feld. The now 5-year-old son of Sadler’s Wells, Bullet Train served as Frankel’s pacemaker in all five of his half brother’s races this year and one race last year.
“He’s scheduled to arrive Nov. 24,” Feld said. “The plan is to announce everything Dec. 1.”
**** Churchill Downs, which ran its first race onMay 17, 1875, staged its 50,000th race on Thanksgiving Day. Churchill Downs began the week with having run 49,980 races run over 5,940 racing dates (20 races shy of the historic milestone). The 50,000th race will be Race 10 on Thanksgiving Day’s 12-race program. Post time for race 10 is 3:52 p.m EST.