Horse Racing: Preview of the 2014 Sheepshead Bay Stakes at Belmont Park

With California Chrome gunning for the Triple Crown at Belmont Park on June 7, the next two weeks will be almost an emotional let down for most people. Not me though, I think it’s important to remained focused on the entire sport and not just one aspect of it.

California Chrome is obviously the elephant in the room for the next two weeks but remember there will be plenty of other good racing over the next 15 or so days.

Starting with this week where we’ll be taking a look at the 2014 Sheepshead Bay at Belmont Park in New York, which is a Grade: 2, 11 furlong turf race for four year olds and up fillies and mares vying for $200,000.

A field of 10 has been draw with Abaco being installed as the tepid 5/2 morning line favorite.

The other race I looked at was the 2014 Charlie Whittingham Handicap at Santa Anita, which is also a Grade: 2 on the turf but for three year olds and up going 10 furlongs.

The Charlie Whittingham will feature a rematch between Quick Casablanca, who pulled off a 16-1 upset in the Last Tycoon Stakes on April 25, and Fire With Fire, who had a two race wining streak snapped in that very same race. Those two definitely look like the ones to beat in that race but you better keep an eye on African Oil, who seems to be rounding into form and sitting a big race, and Segway, who has never lost by more than five lengths and hasn’t really run a bad race in now nine career starts.


May 24, 2014

Belmont Park

Race: 9

5:28 pm EST

Sheepshead Bay Stakes

4-Year-Olds and Up, Fillies and Mares

1 3/8 Miles (Turf)



P# PP Horse A/S Med Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L
2 2 Riposte 4/F L J Rosario 120 W I Mott 3/1
3 3 Fitful Skies 5/M L I Ortiz, Jr. 118 K P McLaughlin 7/2
6 6 Abaco 6/M L J R Velazquez 118 C R McGaughey 5/2
7 7 Irish Mission 5/M L A O Solis 116 C Clement 8/1
8 8 Modernstone 4/F L1 C P DeCarlo 116 W I Mott 8/1
9 9 Caroline Thomas 4/F L J Rocco, Jr. 120 B Tagg 10/1
10 10 Viva Rafaela 5/M L J Castellano 116 T A Pletcher 5/1
1 1 Flash Forward (MTO) 4/F L unknownjockey 123 D Schettin 7/2
4 4 Belle Gallantey (MTO) 5/M L unknown jockey 118 R R Rodriguez 5/2
5 5 Lady Cohiba (MTO) 5/M L unknown jockey 123 C Clement 2/1





1) Abaco– might be the best bred horse I’ve seen in quite some time

This good looking chestnut filly is by Giant’s Causeway out of multiple graded stakes winner Cat Cay. Cat Cay is by the Pleasant Colony out of Cadillacing, who in turn was also a stakes winner and sired by Alydar out of the great mare Relaxing. (Did you get all that? If you didn’t, trust me, this filly has tremendous breeding).

Trained by Shug McGaughney, who is winning at a 25% clip in graded stakes races, she will be running in her sixth consecutive graded stakes race on Saturday and has run well and consistently in all six.

It’s really that last race (the Grade:1 Jenny Wiley Stakes at Keeneland, April 25) that stuck out at me though.

In the Jenny Wiley, she was sent off at almost 25-1 and was last thru the first half mile of that race. However, albeit even with slow early fractions, she uncorked a huge late run on the far turn, was forced a ridiculous six wide at the quarter pole, and ran past everyone but the first and second place finishers. She wound up third, beaten just a half length all while scoring a strong 95 speed figure….that race makes the stretch out in distance on Saturday look right up her alley.

She also gets the services of a red hot Johnnie V, who is winning at almost 30% at the current meet.



2) Fitiful Skies– is another consistent mare who sports a 12-4-5-0 career record (mostly overseas) but has adapted well since coming over here.

Her first race (after coming from overseas) was in the E.P Taylor Stakes last October at Woodbine where she was rated slightly off the pace and came with a good run down the lane to finish second, missing by just a head at 8-1.

She then received almost six months off and a new trainer (Kiaran McLaughlin)

Her first start for McLaughlin, and after the time off, resulted in a much better than it looked ninth in the aforementioned Jenny Wiley Stakes at Keeneland, but she was beaten less than four lengths for all the money.

It seems to me she needed that race real bad and should improve off of it come Saturday.

“We entered her at Keeneland because we were having trouble getting a race for her, and it was a tough spot, a Grade 1,” said McLaughlin, who is also on fire while winning at a 24% rate. “She didn’t have a great trip and it was only a mile and a sixteenth and she wants to go farther, so everything points to a good effort in the Sheepshead Bay. We’re happy about the distance and the weather forecast. She likes it soft, especially at a mile and three-eighths. We’re ‘all systems go.’ ”

Also, note that :47.4 half mile work on May 16 at the notoriously deep surfaced Greentree Training Center (across the street from Saratoga) and she, too, gets a rider upgrade to Irad Ortiz, who is finding the winners circle 23% of the times.



3) Riposte– was Group 2 winner at Royal Ascot last year, but is winless from three starts in the United States this year.

After finishing second in a Grade: 3 race at Gulfstream and third in another Grade: 3 at Tampa Bay Downs, this Bill Mott trained filly came from seventh position early on to grab the lead in mid-stretch of an allowance race at Keeneland in her last start, but was overhauled in the last few steps of that race and could only manage to be second.

She had excuses in those stakes races in Florida (bad break, slow paced) but if she cant beat allowance foes at Keeneland, how is she going to beat proven graded stakes runners in this race? Listen, Bill Mott could easily figure out a way to do it but I’m taking a stand against her in this race.


Honorable Mentions:

Modernstone is the proverbial “dark horse” in this race even though she hasn’t ran in 56 days. She’s been a gem of consistency overseas while showing a 10-3-4-1 record (with a win and a third on the grass). The very talented Bill Mott, who hits at an 18% clip with runners making their first start off of 46-90 days of inactivity, takes over as her trainer and he adds Lasix for the first time….could be a menace in this spot.  Caroline Thomas has an enormous, albeit inconsistent, late run. In her last race (The Bewitch, Keeneland April 24), she was tenth and some 10 lengths behind in the early going, but calmly weaved her way thru traffic on the turn and was charging hard at the end to finish third, beaten a half length. A repeat of that effort makes her a threat on Saturday but, like I said, she has problems putting back to back good efforts together. Lastly, (with the weather being questionable) should this race switch over to the main track, Belle Gallantey who is in career best form and comes into this off three straight open length wins on the dirt, should merit betting respect.


Thanks for reading and as always good luck


2014 Record: 11-28 = 39% 


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Little Bets N’ Pieces


**** Two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan was taken to Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital near Lexington last Friday for emergency colic surgery.

The flashy chestnut gelding began to show signs of distress after a routine gallop at Keeneland that same morning, and was quickly taken to the hospital where Dr. Scott Hopper performed the surgery.

“He had a routine gallop, trained great this morning, and about an hour after training he started acting like he was uncomfortable,” trainer Charles LoPresti said. “We medicated him and he didn’t respond. The vets at the track treated him for colic and he didn’t have any gut sounds, which is a telltale sign. Once we got him over to Rood & Riddle, they ultrasounded him and the vet saw a piece of small intestine he didn’t like.”

“We got him out on the lunge rein and tried to jog him around and he didn’t work out of it,” LoPresti added.

“He had a piece of small bowel that just looped over it (and) was getting inflamed,” LoPresti said. “If we didn’t go in there and do it, he would have lost blood supply and it would have been a bad scenario; the only way to fix it was to do it this way.”

LoPresti finally left Rood & Riddle after spending an entire 24 hour period with him champion, who appears to have come out of the surgery well

“When I left him, he was banging around on his hay net and kind of poking around, rubbing at some straw,” LoPresti said. “He was still pretty groggy and a little bit limber-legged. Hopefully he doesn’t have recurring colic; if it happens again obviously that’s a problem, but he should recover fine. They told me they would not give him any feed at all through the night and then if he got through the night without any complications, then they’d let him start eating something.”

Later on, Hopper said “he’s looking at 3-5 days in the hospital and probably 6-8 weeks before he can start training again.”



**** On a very sad note, perhaps one of my more favorite horses over the years, 1993 two year old champion Dehere, has died from a heart attack according to a report from the Turkish Jockey Club. The well bred 23-year-old (Deputy Minister—Sister Dot, by Secretariat) had been standing in Turkey since the 2010.

Dehere, who was named for the Seton Hall University, and later NBA, basketball star Terry Dehere, possessed some of the most explosive late bursts of speed this correspondent has ever witness in all his 35 years of covering the sport. (see video below)

In 1993, Dehere became the first horse to win all three of Saratoga’s major two year old races (Saratoga Special, Sanford, and Hopeful) for the first time in 80 years. (The feat has repeated by City Zip   in 2000.)

“As I said back then, he was the fastest 2-year-old I’ve ever ridden,” regular pilot Chris McCarron said. “John Perrotta, (owner) Mr. Brennan’s racing manager, called me and said, ‘I have a horse I want you to ride. He’s special.’ And he was.”

Dehere was favorited at Santa Anita Park for the 1993 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile but finished eighth behind Brocco.

“He didn’t run with Lasix that day and he bled pretty significantly,” Perrotta said. “That was the year of the fires at Santa Anita and the air was really bad.”

“He wasn’t training that well up to the race,” McCarron said. “He was washing out in the mornings.”

At 3, he was beaten in an allowance race in February at Gulfstream Park and then won the Fountain of Youth Stakes (over eventual Kentucky Derby winner Go for Gin) but subsequently fractured right hind cannon bone while training in early March at the Palm Beach Training Center and was retired immediately

Overall, He won six of nine starts, with two seconds, and earned $723,712.

Dehere was retired to Ashford Stud near Versailles, Ky., where he stood his first five seasons and was also shuttled to Coolmore Australia.

In 2000 he was moved to Shizunai Stallion Station in Japan and shuttled to Arrowfield Stud in Australia. He returned to North America and Ashford for the 2006 season and continued to shuttle to Coolmore Australia until being sold to The Jockey Club of Turkey Stud Farms.

Dehere‘s top earning was Take Charge Lady, who won three grade: 1 races (including the Ashland and Spinster Stakes) and, of course, is the dam of 2013 three year old champion Will Take Charge.


**** 2013 Arkansas Derby winner Danza, who was third in the Kentucky Derby), will skip the June 7 Belmont Stakes according to trainer Todd Pletcher

“Danza worked very well (yesterday), but I wasn’t totally happy with the way he looked this morning,” Pletcher said this past Monday. “He had a hard race in the Arkansas Derby and came back three weeks later for the Kentucky Derby. He has acted well in the two weeks since the Derby, but I just sensed he wasn’t 100% after that breeze.”

Pletcher also said Danza would be sent to Payton Training Center in Ocala for some testing and time off.

“It’s disappointing to be knocked out of any race, let alone a classic, but the horse must always come first,” owner Aron Wellman said. “As soon as Todd expressed any concern over Danza’s condition, it was a no-brainer to take a step back and regroup. We’ll conduct thorough due diligence and leave no stone unturned to ensure Danza returns to 100%.

“We were certainly looking forward to the opportunity to take on a stellar cast of sophomores in the Belmont Stakes, but we’re confident that by continuing to do right by Danza, he will continue to reward our partners with world-class performances on the racetrack,” Wellman finished with.



**** 2013 Hopeful Stakes winner Strong Mandate has been retired from racing due to a chip in his right knee

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas told the Courier Journal Thursday that Strong Mandate had been sent from Churchill Downs to Rood & Riddle equine clinic in Lexington to have the chip evaluated.

The great Dr. Larry Bramlage said the injury “would probably hinder Strong Mandate’s ability to return to the same level of competition” so the decision was made to retire him.

“The decision was made to stop on him and market him as a stallion,” Lukas said

This year, Strong Mandate finished third in the Southwest Stakes, fourth in the Rebel Stakes, and eighth in the Arkansas Derby. He retires with a career record of 2-1-1 from eight starts, for earnings of $529,566.