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Sunday, March 09, 2008


Tons of stuff to talk about, write about from yesterday's races.
Canadians did well, the Derby picture is super fun and hey, IT STOPPED SNOWING.

What was once a fence that was 4 feet in view at the house is now just visible one foot from the top.

Thanks for the nice emails regarding my post number 600 yesterday...

(..right): QUESTION - WHO IS THIS?
Maryjean Wall tells us at the bottom....


Well, the WAR PASS-PYRO rivalry got more interesting as PYRO won again yesterday – the Lousiania Derby was easy pickings for the colt who was blocked around the turn but room opened for him turning for home and he took off.

His time was 1:44.44 for 1 1/16 miles.

The Pulpit-Wild Vision colt is surely on track for the Kentucky Derby and a match with War Pass, who beat him in 3 straight races last year.

A good race was run by YANKEE BRAVO, the colt co-owned by Canadian Dick Bonnycastle. The Yankee Gentleman colt was undefeated heading into the Louisiana Derby but fell too far behind the slow pace and he rallied nicely.

His Beyer Figures going into the race only topped 79 but he is improving.

Here’s Jennie Rees’ story from Louisville-Courier Journal


By Jennie Rees
The Courier-Journal

NEW ORLEANS -- New dimension. Same result.

Kentucky Derby favorite Pyro, showing he can race closer to the lead than he had previously, powered past surprising 60-1 shot My Pal Charlie to win yesterday's $600,000, Grade II Louisiana Derby by three lengths at the Fair Grounds. It was an admirable display of professionalism, if not quite the same jaw-dropping explosion Pyro employed in blazing from last to first in three-sixteenths of a mile in last month's Risen Star in his 3-year-old debut.

"He's such a phenomenal horse," said winning jockey Shaun Bridgmohan, who is moving his family from New York to Oldham County. "The first time out we didn't want to push him a whole lot, give him a nice race and set him up for this spot. Today when I asked the question, he gave me what he had."

"We just got beat by a monster," said Julien Leparoux, rider of My Pal Charlie.

Bridgmohan settled Pyro nicely into fourth in the field of nine, within a few lengths of the pedestrian pace set by My Pal Charlie. Pyro eased toward the leaders on the second turn and patiently waited behind traffic for an opening, shooting to the lead in the final eighth-mile. He cruised away as Bridgmohan methodically went to his right-hand whip while covering 11/16 miles in 1:44.44.

Pyro, who paid $3.60 to win as the 4-5 favorite, is 2 for 2 this year and 3-2-1 in six lifetime starts, earning $1,056,718 for the mother-son team of Joan and Ron Winchell, who also bred the Pulpit colt.

"You just want him to go out and get more experience," Ron Winchell said. "Though traffic seems to be no problem for him -- and in big fields. He's seen the traffic, been blocked, been switched. And he goes forward; he doesn't go back. That's where you want to be, going for the Derby."

In Pyro's three defeats last year, the winner was unbeaten 2-year-old champion War Pass, whom Pyro is not scheduled to meet again until the May 3 Kentucky Derby. Pyro's final Derby prep will be Keeneland's April 12 Toyota Blue Grass.

But unlike last year, when he could be unsettled before a race and act up in the gate, Pyro now acts like an old pro.

"Just another step in the right direction," said trainer Steve Asmussen, who also won the 2001 Louisiana Derby with Fifty Stars. "… The best part about today was putting himself in the race, not leaving everything in front of him, and how he acted before the race."

Asmussen said the objective this time was to "see what we want to do different for all the money: the Derby.

"… Last time we were very cautious about him not doing too much. But it's time to step it up. This was a very good race against very good horses."

Trainer Al Stall Jr.'s My Pal Charlie was one of three horses at 60-1 or more.

"That was unbelievable," Stall said of the runner-up finish. "Who'd have thunk it?"

With Saratoga record-holder J Be K taken back to second in an apparent attempt to stretch out his speed, My Pal Charlie churned ran 24.10 for the first quarter-mile, 48.07 for the half and a crawling 1:13.86 for six furlongs.

California Derby winner Yankee Bravo, making his dirt debut after being 3 for 3 on grass and synthetic surfaces, came from last in the final 21/2 furlongs to wear down Blackberry Road for third.

Blackberry Road finally had a trouble-free trip, settling into third and outside horses. In his previous start, the colt was nearly last behind a slow pace and ran into a logjam trying to get through on the rail when fifth in the Risen Star.

"He ran super," said David Carroll, his Louisville-based trainer. "I don't think he got a whole lot out of the last race."

The biggest disappointments were sixth-place Tale of Ekati, the Grade II Belmont Futurity winner who hadn't raced since finishing fourth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, and seventh-place Majestic Warrior, Saratoga's Grade I Hopeful winner who was sixth in the Oct. 6 Champagne in his previous start.

J Be K, Pyro's stablemate who had been 2 for 2 but had never raced beyond six furlongs, tired to be eighth. Asmussen said he'll be kept at shorter distances.


CIRCULAR QUAY is back. The Thunder Gulch-Circle of Life, Belong to Me 4yo has had a messy campaign since he won the Louisiana Derby last spring – 6th in the Kentucky Derby, 5th in the Preakness.

Then he was on the grass and in a sprint out in California.

But things were back on track yesterday with blinkers on in the New Orleans Handicap and he put on quite a show.

Moving 3 wide to engage the rail skimming Grasshopper, Curcular Quay battled that black colt to the wire and then edged away for his 5th win in 12 starts.

Funnily enough, the owner/trainer musical chairs game that goes with the talented Silver Lord took its toll yesterday. The colt wheeled at the start and dumped his rider.

Trainer MALCOM PIERCE and owner Richard Lister scored again with the suddenly very good DANCEROFTHEREALM , a Great Britain-bred who won for the 3rd straight time yesterday at Fair Grounds, this time in the Bienville Stakes.

Many Woodbine turf horses love other turf courses more when they ship during the winter and French Beret and this daughter of King of Kings are prime examples. Her 3yo half brother NAVAL STRIKE is in training with Mark Casse and is a Queen’s Plate eligible.


Proud Spell runs faster than Pyro

There were mixed results for the one dimensional types yesterday in big races.

The rank INDIAN BLESSING finally wilted in time for someone else to win when PROUD SPELL (Proud Citizen out of a Langfuhr mare) chased her all the way in the 4 horse FAIR GROUNDS OAKS and got past inside the eighth pole. It was half a mile (almost) back to the 3rd and 4th place finishers.

(I could have been rich had Proud Spell caught her last time they met, sigh)

Proud Spell comes from the barn of trainer LARRY JONES (Hard Spun).

That should be the end of Indian Blessing, who simply needs things to go her own way to win a route race.

At Gulfstream, old-timer COMMENTATOR is hard not to like but boy, he needs things to go right and he needs to be right.

He got lucky yesterday as his competition in the Grade 2 Richter Scale at 7 furlongs was weak (Ontario-bred claimer NYUK NYUK NYUK was something like 6 to 1 a minute to post). He had a brief battle on the lead and then crushed the field.

CORRECTION: Commentator's Beyer Figure was 104.

Track announcer said “fastest horse in America” at the finish…hmmmm, not sure about that, read on.

Tucci Stables’ Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk was predictably not a factor and in fact was far back in last place at the finish.

Fastest horse in America? What about EUROEARS, the son of Langfuhr who is 7 for 7 now thanks to another romp at Fair Grounds yesterday in a mini stakes race? This is a chunky, fast chestnut who has been simply awesome in his last few (and this corner has written about him a lot).

Canadian-bred FRENCH BERET was a lovely and surprising 39 to 1 in the Muniz Memorial Stakes on the Fair Grounds card and he ran very strong to be 2nd (ahead of favoured Daytona) to Proudinsky (Silvano), a nice one from the Bobby Frankel barn.

French Beret had a nice trip, a bit wide for a while, but he is certainly a Fair Grounds lover (and a Woodbine hater it seems). The gelding is 6 now and he’s by Broad Brush out of Misty Mission.

Canadian-breds Twilight Meteor and Buffalo Man fared poorly.



Woodbine trainer BARB BAIRD PIRIE won the 1st race at Gulfstrema yesterday with her new filly JUMP TP THE FRONT (Jump Start). Owned by Russell Tanz, the filly was claimed from her debut win for $12,500, finished 10th off the claim but then won for $18,000 yesterday by more than 5 lengths with a 64 Beyer Figure.

Later, a 7 furlong dirt race scratched down to 2 horses, reportedly because the others got sick.


$1,000 colt sniffs roses

Pleasanton resident's 61-1 Autism Awareness wins El Camino Real Derby

By Dennis Miller, STAFF WRITER

Article Created: 03/09/2008 06:10:30 AM PDT

SAN MATEO — When Johnny Taboada bought a yearling for $1,000 at the CTBA Northern California Thoroughbred Sale in Pleasanton two years ago, he intended to name it to help raise autism awareness.

Taboada and his wife Hedieh's son, Renzo, who was 6 at the time, was born with autism.

Saturday afternoon, Autism Awareness, a 62-1 longshot ridden by Luis Contreras, shocked the field to win the Gade III $150,000 El Camino Real Derby at 1 1/16 miles at Bay Meadows.

"When we bought the horse, we thought what a better opportunity to name a horse (to help their son)," said Taboada, who lives in Pleasanton. "We wanted to create awareness about autism."

Shortly after Taboada and trainer Genaro Vallejo bought the colt — they got him for the minimum bid of $1,000 — they were approached by two trainers who offered $2,000 for the horse.

"We weren't in it for the quick sell," said Taboada.

Saturday, he was paid back in a big way with a $90,000 first-place prize.

But success didn't come easily. Autism Awareness took 12 starts before he won his first race, a maiden special weight race in January at Golden Gate Fields. The win came at one mile, the second time the colt had run the distance.

"He needed more distance," Taboada explained the decision to stretch him out after he had run in 10 straight sprints. "I think we pushed him too hard early on."

Saturday, not many gave Autism Awareness much of a chance.

"I never thought he would be 60-1," said Vallejo. "I thought we were better than some of the other horses in the race. We picked this spot and hoped for the best."

They got it.

Autism Awareness was content to settle in behind the leaders, after breaking cleanly, and wait for a chance. Nikki'sgoldensteed — one of the race favorites — set conservative fractions, and Autism Awareness had plenty left in the tank when they turned for home.

After getting boxed inside, Autism Awareness got outside and blew past Nikki'sgoldensteed, Tres Borrachos and Pleasure Grounds to win by 11/2 lengths. He was clocked in 1:43.17 and paid $126.00 to win.

"He relaxed the way I wanted him to," said Contreras. "When it was time to go, he took off when I asked him. He finished strong."

Now, Taboada and Vallejo must decide the next step. Autism Awareness is not nominated for the Triple Crown, and they would have to pay a $6,000 supplemental nomination fee.

"I don't see why not, with the way he ran today," said Taboada of spending the extra money. "I'm pretty sure we have (the money) now."


It was silly trying to watch any AQUEDUCT races yesterday as the fog was so thick and the track very sloppy that you couldn’t even see them cross the finish line.

Alas, they had to hold the races anyway I guess because of the GOTHAM, a Derby prep race.

It was hard to tell what happened except that VISIONAIRE ran a miraculous race.

He was taken back hard at the start of the 1 1/16 mile race, trailed the field and then somehow, when the horses were seen (by someone) at the finish, there he was, flying up to catch Texas Wildcatter, who was caught napping.

It was a good frame of reference since Visionaire (Grand Slam) was just 3rd to Pyro in the Risen Star Stakes.

Here’s a story from New York:

From the

Takes Gotham Stakes by nose in muck at Big A

By TIM WILKIN, Staff writer

OZONE PARK -- Anyone who was at Aqueduct Race Track on Saturday afternoon didn't see most of the 56th running of $250,000 Gotham Stakes. A heavy fog wrapped around the Big A right before the 1 /16 -mile race, the first major prep in New York. The track, pounded by two days of Big Apple rain, was a soupy mess.

But for those associated with Visionaire, this day was as glorious as an August Saturday in Saratoga. Ridden by Jose Lezcano and trained by Michael Matz, the horse came flying down the inner track to beat Texas Wildcatter by a nose.

Visionaire, who was third behind Pyro (who won the Louisiana Derby on Saturday) in his previous start, has taken his first steps forward on the Kentucky Derby trail.

Matz, who trained the ill-fated Barbaro, the 2006 Kentucky Derby winner, was at Gulfstream Park and saw what he could of the Gotham on television.

"We couldn't see anything," Matz said by phone from the track in Hallandale Beach, Fla.

When the horses came charging out of the fog, Matz didn't feel great. At the eighth pole, Texas Wildcatter, trained by Todd Pletcher, had what looked like an insurmountable lead.

With a sixteenth of a mile remaining, Texas Wildcatter had about a four-length lead, but Visionaire kept on plugging.

"This horse is always trying, all of his races," Matz said. "He does the best he possibly can. I'm just happy to see him run the way he did."

Visionaire, the 9-2 third choice in the field of nine, covered the distance in 1:44.60. He put Matz in a position to where he might have a horse to take him to the Derby for the second time.

Barbaro became a national story when he won the Derby in 2006 by 6 lengths and then broke down in the Preakness' early stages. After a courageous fight for life, Barbaro was euthanized in late January 2007.

"I was lucky enough to get to the Derby once," Matz said. "After you get there, you always want to get back."

Visionaire, a son of Grand Slam, has won three of five career starts. He'll will run once more before the Derby, either in the Wood Memorial here on April 5 or the Blue Grass at Keeneland the following weekend.

Lezcano, who flew up from Florida to ride, said his horse felt uncomfortable during the first half-mile, not liking the slop. He was last early in the race.

A half hour after the race, Lezcano was standing in the jockeys' room holding a piece of cheesecake wrapped to go.

He speaks shaky English, so retired Hall of Fame Rider Jose Santos, who happened to be there, volunteered to interpret.

"I thought I had my excuse right there, after the first half-mile," Lezcano said with a smile. "At the last furlong, my horse really took off running, and I knew I had a chance."

Texas Wildcatter, who was 5-1, held for second. Larrys Revenge was third at 36-1.

Saratoga Russell, the 8-5 favorite, set the pace before fading to eighth. Giant Moon, an unbeaten New York-bred and 7-2 second choice, was last. Saratoga Russell trainer Rick Violette said the distance might have been too far. Giant Moon trainer Rich Schosberg said his horse just hated the goo.

"When a horse gets beat that far and the surface is like that, it's pretty much a no-brainer," Schosberg said. "He is better than that, obviously."




By Maryjean Wall


What's it all about? That's been the question on this filly's mind, or face, since her birth less than two weeks ago.

Facial markings can vary widely, but rare is the thoroughbred born with a question mark so noticeably in place.

Naming her ought to be quite fun. She's by Afleet Alex, and out of a Danzig mare called Anna Sterz. She was born Feb. 27 near Paris, at Stoneleigh Farm.

If anyone would like to suggest a name, please send us an email and we'll be glad to publish the suggestions. Here's one to get things started: Puzzled.

Actually, this filly's curious facial mark suits her personality well. While many new foals hide discreetly behind their moms, this one strides out daringly from behind her dam to see what's up when approached.

She'll be easy to spot out on the racetrack, when she gets older -- as long as she doesn't wear blinkers.

Her face will rank among the more memorable I've seen or read about, including foals born with heart-shaped white markings on their foreheads. One such foal was shown in a photograph in the Thoroughbred Record in January 1989 and the other in the Thoroughbred Times, March 8, 2003.

Oddly, the latter foal with the heart-shaped marking was born on Valentine's Day at Lou-Roe Farm near Morriston, Fla.

I also recall a standardbred born with the letter "G" on its forehead. This was a filly named Single's Ghost, and in 1974 she was training at The Red Mile. This filly was an oddity not only for her odd marking but because she was a great granddaughter of a similarly marked standardbred, named Single G.

The birth of Single's Ghost was thought to be the only time in 64 years that Single G's bloodline had reproduced his own facial marking.

He was a pacer who raced until age 15, setting seven world records and winning 91 races, some of them contested in five heats, meaning five times out on the track in the same day. Single G retired as the leading money-winner of his era ($113,433.50). Not bad, for a horse who sold at auction for $275 -- and a memorable career to match the rarity of Single G's oddly marked face.

Stoneleigh Farm, where the question-mark filly was born, is a 400-acre thoroughbred farm near Paris, owned by Joe Murphy and managed by John Downs.

Questions, anyone?


  • At 9:48 AM, Anonymous Sarah21 said…

    What about No Clue for that filly? *LOL* Cute story.

    On another entirely unrelated note, Jen, do you know what happened to Malakoff? I was getting a steady string of workout notices for him in December/January and I thought he was finally on his way back. I've had nothing now for about 6 weeks. Is he injured again?

  • At 11:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    nyuk nyuk got a 104 beyer for finishing last? that must have been a tough race. he deserved a shot.

  • At 11:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Since we're on the Batman theme here, she should be named "The Riddler"... then she goes on to beat the boys in the 2011 Gotham Stakes!

  • At 1:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Years ago (10-15) there was another foal with a question mark on its forehead. The photo appeared in one of the mags - maybe Blood Horse. It was much smaller though and right between the eyes.

    Great name - 'The Riddler'!

  • At 4:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Lemon Bar, Lemon Drop Kid's FIRST winner has a very CLEAR "1" on his forehead. The running joke was to now look for the horse that had a "2" on it's face.

  • At 6:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Cute Filly!
    If positive thinking is a stepping stone on the road to success then how about naming her, "Without Question". It will definately allow for some some interesting comments when she makes it to the winners circle.

  • At 8:14 PM, Anonymous Kingsgate said…

    What about the foal in this month's Game - Had the outline of North & South America on it's face?

  • At 11:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Emma rode the next five races on the card. This was taken from the Hong Kong website:

    C K Tong (MOUNT SURPLUS) pleaded guilty to a charge of careless riding [Rule 100(1)] in that near the 250 Metres he permitted his mount to shift in when not clear of UNDERDOG, causing that horse to lose its rightful running, be checked, strike the heels of MOUNT SURPLUS and blunder. This resulted in E Wilson, the rider of UNDERDOG, being dislodged. C K Tong was suspended from riding in races for a period to expire on Thursday 10 April 2008 on which day he may resume race riding (6 Hong Kong racedays). The commencement of the suspension was deferred until after the Sha Tin racemeeting next Sunday 16 March 2008


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