Horse Racing: Preview of the 2013 Donn Handicap

Once again, this weeks Horse Racing Race of the Week comes from Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Fla. as we look at one of the more prestigious races for older horses in the 2013 Donn Handicap. The Donn, which is run at 9 furlongs and carries a $500,000 purse, looks wide open on paper to me as 7 year old Flat Out, 8 year old Pool Play, the streaking Csaba and Take Charge Indy, who is on the comeback trail,  are all scheduled to compete.

Run every year since 1959, the Donn boasts past winners such as Gun Bow (1965), the mighty Forego (1974), Foolish Pleasure (1976), eventual super sire Deputy Minister (1983), Cryptoclearance (1989), the great Cigar, who won back to backers (1995 and 1996), the gorgeous Formal Gold (1997), Skip Away (1998), the world beater Invasor (2007), the speedy and very handsome Quality Road (2010) and last years winner Hymn Book.

The mighty Forego won this race in 1974

The mighty Forego won this race in 1974

The Donn is one of several big races on a loaded card for Saturday at Gulfstream and maybe …just maybe…the Donn might not even be the best race on the card.

Three races prior to the Donn is the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap. The Grade: 1, 1 1/8 miles race drew a field of just 6, but will feature quite a match up as 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom will take on 2012 multiple Grade: 1 stakes winner (and turf monster) Point of Entry.

Animal Kingdom will start for the first time since his huge runner-up finish in the Breeders Cup Mile last November, while Point of Entry, who won the Man o’ War Stakes, Sword Dancer Invitational, and the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational, before just missing to Little Mike in the Breeders Cup Turf, will be making his first post Breeders Cup start as well. 

Point of Entry breaking from post two while carrying 123 lbs including jockey John Velazquez, and Animal Kingdom will be leaving from the six post under Joel Rosario and 121 pounds.

Film Making, Salto, Unbridled Command, and Where’s the Baby make up the rest of the field in the race which is scheduled with an approximate post time of 4:01 p.m.

This outing will be Animal Kingdom’s final start in the United States. If all goes according to plan, he begins a journey that will take him first to the $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 30, then to Royal Ascot in England in June, and finally to retirement in Australia at Arrowfield Stud, who recently purchased a majority interest in his breeding rights.  

“We’ve sold 75 percent of him, and we kept 25,” said Barry Irwin, president of Team Valor, who owns the good looking chestnut colt. “It was not easy for us to do it because, to us, the horse still hasn’t shown what he can do. The whole package hasn’t been opened. When he was a 3-year-old, even though he won the Derby, he did so with power. He didn’t do so with speed or turn of foot. Last year, when he made that start in the Breeders’ Cup, he showed a turn of foot we had never seen before”. 

“We think he could be a monster (this year), so it was difficult to sell him, knowing the package hasn’t been fully opened yet,” Irwin added. “On one hand, it’s bittersweet because we took some money off the table to ensure he’d have his best chance at stud. But on the other hand we think there’s still a lot more there and I hope we get to see it before he’s retired.”

 “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it now: He’s probably the best horse I’ll ever train,” (trainer) Graham Motion said. “It’s going to be hard to have a horse that I can say is better than him, so not being able to run for a certain amount of time has been frustrating. I would have loved to have seen him be able to go out there and prove over and over again how great he is. But because he’s been somewhat fragile (Animal Kingdom has missed significant time with not one, but two major injuries), it’s been kind of one race at a time.”

 “I’m looking forward to it,” Point of Entry’s trainer Shug McGaughey said of the match up. “This is not a ‘win at all risk’ type of situation. It’s only the first of February. Our main objective is the Breeders’ Cup (Turf) next fall. How I get him there, we’ll see, but so far, so good.”

 

Gulfstream ParkSaturday, February 9, 2013

Race 11 – 5:32 PM

Donn Handicap (Grade I)

Purse $500,000

For Four Year Olds and Upward

One And One Eighth Miles

 

P#

PP

Horse

A/S

Med

Jockey

Wgt

Trainer

M/L

1 1 Bourbon Courage 4/C L J Castellano 117 K Gorder

8/1

2 2 Flat Out 7/H L J Rosario 121 W I Mott

3/1

3 3 Fast Falcon 4/C L J Lezcano 114 N P Zito

15/1

4 4 Graydar 4/C L E S Prado 114 T A Pletcher

5/1

5 5 Ultimate Eagle 5/H L M A Pedroza 120 M Pender

6/1

6 6 Ducduc 7/H L J L Alvarez 115 S Parbhoo

20/1

7 7 Csaba 4/C L L Saez 120 P A Gleaves

4/1

8 8 Take Charge Indy 4/C L J R Velazquez 117 P B Byrne

6/1

9 9 Pool Play 8/H L M Mena 119 M E Casse

10/1

10 10 Citrus Kid 6/H L J Rocco, Jr. 117 J P Terranova, II

15/1

 

Analysis:

1) Csaba- comes into this race riding a four race winning streak. He showed a new dimension to his game when he came from being behind early (sixth) to get up to win the Hal’s Hope Stakes in his last start (and prep for this) on Jan 13.

Three previous races were all monster efforts (won them by a combined 25 lengths while being much the best in leading all the way in all of them).

The fact he can rate off the pace helps him tremendously in this situatuion as there are several in here who figured to be battling for early command of the race.

Tepid choice to extend streak in fairly wide open contest.

 

2) Ultimate Eagle- Speedy horse by Mizzen Mst leaves the friendly confines of California for the first time in his career (and he’s now 5 years old).

Shows 10 on the board finishes in 12 career outings….should be the early leader and might prove difficult to catch.

 

3) Flat Out- this now 8 year old horse, who obviously loves BelmontPark, makes his first start since finishing a distant third to FortLarned and Much Macho Man in the 2012 Breeders Cup Classic last November.

2012 was a tough year for this son Flatter as he won just once race all year long. Regardless of that fact, I expect a good effort out of him on Saturday afternoon.

Honorable Mentions:

Bourbon Courage, you have to respect his record (8-3-2-1) and his year last year which is loaded with goodefforts in some key races (2nd in the West Virginia Derby, won the Super Derby by 5, 2nd in the Indiana Derby and 3rd in the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs.)….Closes and if the fast early pace I anticipate does arise, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this colt by Lion Heart picking up horses down the stretch…..longshot possibility? Take Charge Indy, even though I still think his Florida Derby win was a fluke (and it is being he hasn’t won a race since, albeit he’s only run three times), I also still believe he has talent and he could wind up having a good year this year. He certainly has the looks and, when he’s right, the speed to do so….chance. Pool Play shocked me, and evidently a handful of other people, when he closed like the proverbial freight train (from 8th position early to get beat a neck) at 11-1 in the aforementioned Hals’s Hope Stakes in his last….just a little too inconstent for me to back with any confidence.

Record:

2013: 2-5= 40%

2012: 24-74= 32%

 

Little Bets N’ Pieces

**** Flashback went wire to wire in last weekends Robert B. Lewis Stakes and, in doing so, catapulted himself squarely into the upper echelon three year olds of 2013.

Flashback, a son of the absolutely red hot sire Tapit, dictated the pace over his just three other rivals as the 1-2 favorite and drew off by 6 1/4 lengths in the stretch after getting a slight tap from jockey Julien Leparoux.

A full brother to Grade: 1 stakes winning filly Zazu, and owned by Gary and Mary West, The gray colt is now 2 for 2 after scoring a 3 1/2-length maiden win at Hollywood Park Dec. 8.

After the Lewis, Baffert thanked the Wests for “putting this monster in my lap.”

“I’ve hadn’t really asked him in his works, he’s never been farther that five furlongs,” Baffert added. “He’s always shown us he’s a really talented horse.”

“I think he’s still a little green,” Leparoux said. “It was an easy race, we won easy, and this is a nice horse. If he keeps improving, I think he has a bright future.”

“They were going pretty slow early but I think he’ll get something out of that race,” Baffert said of Flashback. “As far as distance, it’s not a problem. He has speed; he has tactical speed, but I don’t think he’s the kind of horse that needs to be on the lead or anything like that.”

Baffert said he was unsure of the next stop for Flashback.

“I’ll speak with Gary (West), we’ll just figure out a plan for him and just keep him healthy,” he said. “That’s the main plan right now. Right now I can’t think that far ahead. I just have to keep him healthy and keep him going forward. We knew he was a special horse, and to win the Robert B. Lewis is really a sentimental win for me because he (Lewis) was one of the greatest owners in the sport. It brings back a lot of good memories.”

 

In other three year old news that positively grabbed my attention this past week:

**** Verrazano followed up his eye catching 7 ¾ length debut win at Gulfstream with an absolutely annihilation of an optimal claimer race field in last Saturdays fifth race (also) at GulfstreamPark.

Verrazano pressed pacesetter Gunderman down the backstretch and around the far turn before taking over at the quarter pole and drawing away to a 16 ¾’s length win.

 “That was about as impressive as you’ll see one run,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “He’s been training really, really well, so we were anticipating a good race and hoping for a good race. You’re going from one out at 6 1/2 furlongs and stretching out against some horses with more experience and some stakes form. We were encouraged going into it and even more so coming out.”

Verrazano ($2.40), who is a half brother to 2012 Triple Crown contender El Padrino,  ran the mile in quick 1:34.4.

Pletcher is undecided where Verrazano will make his next start.

“Obviously, he’s earned a right to step up into a big one. We’ve just got to figure out the timing of it,” Pletcher said. “We’re a little close to the (Feb. 23) Fountain of Youth, so it probably won’t be there.”

Just as a side note, Team Coolmore  (Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith, and Susan Magnier) have purchased an interest in this colt as of yesterday (Thursday), so you know this is a serious runner.

 

**** Equally or perhaps even more impressive than stable mate Verrazano’s win, was WinStar Farm’s Revolutionary as he came from last at the quarter pole to win the $200,000 Withers Stakes by a neck at Aqueduct Racetrack last Saturday.

Last and pinned down on the rail under jockey Javier Castellano, the son of War Pass charged hard from the sixteenth pole to the wire, split horses lsate and got up for the win..

It was the colt’s second win in five starts for trainer Todd Pletcher; he came off an 8 1/2-length maiden victory going a mile on the inner track Dec. 28.

“The horse has a tendency to not get away cleanly and got himself a little farther back than we would have liked,” said Todd Pletcher’s assistant trainer, Michael McCarthy. “Things went from bad to worse from there, but Javier didn’t panic and had faith in the horse. We’ve known all along the horse had ability. When you are pointing for the Derby, this is a huge steppingstone. That was a big, big step today against some proven horses.”.

“I think the key with him is that you have to be patient,” Castellano said after the race. “I could have gone around horses at the three-eighths pole because I had so much horse, but I just wanted to teach him something, have him learn something. I knew he could get it done; in my mind it was just waiting for the best opportunity to make a move. That’s exactly what I did, and he responded so well today”.

“He kind of got intimidated a little bit between horses, he’s a young horse, but I really like the way he did it,” Castellano added. “He split horses, finished very strong, and galloped out great. He’s a horse with potential. I would have liked to be close to the pace—second, third, or fourth. It didn’t work out that way… But the way the race developed, he learned a lot and I think he’s going to go forward.”

The regally bred Revolutionary (A.P. Indy-Runup the Colors) appears to be heading south and have just one more starts before the Kentucky Derby.

“I’d be inclined to take him to Florida and regroup until the last round of preps,” said Elliott Walden, president, CEO, and racing manager of WinStar Farm. “Probably just one more race (before the Derby). This proved he’s worthy to keep on the trail. This race was worth three in terms of education. When you’re looking at a race like the Derby potentially down the road, to get that kind of experience, it’s invaluable.”

(Watch this run from the quarter pole to the wire….he is the #4 horse)

In other news outside the three year old divison:

 

**** World champion Frankel, as expected, is in high demand as a stallion according to Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager for Prince Khalid Abdullah.

Grimthorpe reports that the gorgeous son of Galileo is “booked full for the next three years.”

Frankel is expected to breed 135 mares from February 14 to July 14, including 35 of Abdullah’s own mares. The remaining 100 will include 2011 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Danedream, Japanese superstar Vodka, and (American) 2011 Broodmare of the Year Oatsee.

Grimthorpe also said Frankel was “adjusting well to life off the track.” His current routine includes long walks (of up to seven miles every day) instead of gallops and a lower protein diet to support his retirement.

 

Superhorse Frankel is already booked full for three years.

Superhorse Frankel is already booked full for three years.

 

**** 2012 Breeders Cup Classic beaten favorite Game On Dude survived a early pace battle but had plenty left in the stretch to take the $196,000 San Antonio Stakes last Sunday at Santa Anita to kick off his 6 year old season

Sent off as the 1-20 favorite and ridden by Mike Smith, Game On Dude dominated the 1 1/8-mile test in winning by 6 1/2 lengths and getting the distance in 1:47.4

Next up for the Bob Baffert-trained gelding is the $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap at 1 ¼.miles.

“He just seems to be such a great competitor,” part owner and former MLB baseball manager Joe Torre said. “I’m not an authority on horses.  I sit next to Baffert whenever I can, and when he told me at the top of the stretch that he’s got plenty left, I sort of relaxed a little bit.”

“He grabbed himself a little bit on the ankle coming away from there, but it looked pretty superficial,” Baffert said. “The horse runs well fresh. I really didn’t want to run that fast early. I wanted him to cruise around there. I wanted a Flashback kind of a win (referring to Flashback’s easy win in Saturday’s Robert B. Lewis Stakes). We’ll see how it takes its toll on him, but he ran a good race.”

“You know I got pressured, even more so than if it was a full field, believe it or not,” Smith said. “In these short fields people make you do things because it’s more of a match race. He has a high, high cruising speed and you just let him get into his rhythm whether that’s up front or off the lead.

“I let him do his thing today and he ran brilliant to be honest. He stood up over on the turn, took one breath and turned around like it was nothing. They were running quick, but that’s just him.”

Smith said he thought the race sets Game On Dude up well for the Santa Anita.

“This is an extremely talented horse, he might even be better this year,” Smith said. “The feeling he gave me today was even more so than when I first rode him.”

Game On Dude scored a 109 Beyer Speed Figure in is 2013 racing debut

Game On Dude scored a 109 Beyer Speed Figure in is 2013 racing debut

 

**** 2012 Travers Stakes winner Alpha, who was trying to bounce back from a last-place finish in the 2012 Breeders Cup Classic last November, finished last again in the Al Maktoum Challenge in Dubai today (Friday).

He raced near the back of the 12-horse field early and could advance no farther than mid-pack before finishing last again.

The plan was to use the Al Maktoum Challenge as a prep race for the $10 million World Cup, $5 million Dubai Duty Free, and $1 million Godolphin Mile (He is nominated to all 3 races) all on March 30, but not sure if yet another abysmal finish will alter those plans.

 

The good looking Alpha has now finished last in his last two races.

The good looking Alpha has now finished last in his last two races.

 

**** Goldikova, the only three-time Breeders Cup winner, produced her first foal, a colt by leading sire Galileo, last Sunday at Coolmore Stud in Ireland, according to Coolmore’s Facebook page.

Goldikova’s Breeders’ Cup wins came in the Turf Mile as she captured the 2008-10 runnings. She finished third, beaten a length, in the 2011 running when the race was sponsored by TVG.

The now 8 year old supermare will be bred back to Galileo in 2013.

 

Champion Goldikova with her first foal

Champion Goldikova with her first foal

 

**** Fairplex Park in California, which was one of two locations under consideration as a replacement for Hollywood Park, is out of the running for now, says the president and chief executive officer of the Los Angeles County Fair facility.

“Right now, we don’t see ourselves as a player in the racing industry’s effort to find a replacement for Hollywood Park,” said Jim Henwood, who heads the operation. “I’d suggest that Los Alamitos (Race Course) is the better alternative at this time.”

Sadly, Hollywood Park has been approved for a massive commercial and residential development by the city of Inglewood on the 238-acre track grounds. But the build-out has been stalled since 2009 by a tight economy that has made borrowing the necessary funds difficult for a project that could cost as much as $2 billion.

FairplexPark, which only has a five-furlong racetrack and runs a three-week summer fair meet, is also the site of the Barretts Equine Sales, the state’s major Thoroughbred auction facility.

In order for the track to support a bigger racing schedule and more people and horses stabled there, they would have to expand the existing track to one mile, install a turf course on the inside of the main track, add stables, environmental upgrades, and grandstand improvements which would cost about $35 million. The potential for a major racing venue exists there, Henwood said, but is not viable because of the cost and the limited number of racing dates that would be available to Fairplex.

Henwood said Fairplex would be better off continuing to run its summer dates in conjunction with the fair and concentrating on the development of Barretts.

 

Fairplex Park

Fairplex Park