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Tuesday, May 13, 2008



Local horsepeople probably weren't thrilled yesterday at the news that HARLEM ROCKER, undefeated, 106 Beyer Figure in the Withers and all, is by-passing the Preakness Stakes this weekend and coming to Canada.

The light grey son of Macho Uno has won essentially wrapped up in his 3 races for Stronach Stables (plus Adena Racing Venture II) and will now be freshened for a Plate challenge.
The Stronach team won Plates with Awesome Again and Basquien.

What to make of this change in plans with the fleet grey colt?
After the colt worked at Belmont on Sunday, trainer Todd Pletcher saold the New York Daily News that he would recommend to Frank Stronach that the colt race in the Preakness, "you've got to strike while the iron's hot" said Pletcher to Jerry Bossert.

But instead, the colt will take a more conservative route, leaving BIG BROWN to be odds-on on Saturday in the Preakness.

You could think about many theories why the Rocker will not take on Big Brown - the obvious ones, he's delicate and perhaps only has 'x' number of races on his dance card this year - or perhaps Stronach wants to give the shareholders of his new Adena Racing Venture (this one is phase II) a thrill at winning a big race.
Twenty percent of the colt is owned by various investors and racing folks around the world.

Only 57 horses remain eligible for the Plate and the list of strong contenders is a skimpy one.

Some worked at Woodbine last weekend:

GIQUERE, coming off a second-place finish in the open Wando at 1 1/16 miles here April 25, workedd five furlongs Sunday in 59.20 under new rider EMMA-JAYNE WILSON.

GIQUERE may be one of very few Plate hopefuls to contest the Marine Stakes on Saturday.

COOL GATOR, the winterbook favourite for the Plate in March and clear second favourite now, went in 1:02 1/5 for five furlongs.

He will start in the June 1 Plate Trial.

Niagara Thunder also worked, under David Clark, but the colt will be ridden by JAVIER CASTELLANO in the Plate.

STUCK IN TRAFFIC is on the farm resting and will sprint only this year so he's off the Plate trail.

Others on the list of top Plate contenders include





Name Starts 1st 2nd 3rd Earnings
Mark E. Casse 37 7 6 6 $514,538
Nicholas Gonzalez 30 7 3 3 $585,383
Steven M. Asmussen 37 7 2 7 $354,746
Daniel J. Vella 29 6 4 3 $287,617
Reade Baker 37 6 4 2 $331,985
Audre Cappuccitti 44 6 3 4 $155,766
Sid C. Attard 40 5 5 4 $313,626
Scott H. Fairlie 35 5 5 4 $164,067


James McAleney 95 18 9 13 $933,926
Eurico Rosa Da Silva 88 16 7 7 $722,425
Tyler Pizarro 87 15 10 9 $566,333
Emile Ramsammy 111 14 12 19 $679,412
Jono C. Jones 87 14 9 5 $698,269
Patrick Husbands 65 13 13 7 $846,180
Emma-Jayne Wilson 111 11 16 14 $755,248
David Clark 74 10 12 6 $616,481


On the paper, speed figures of various kinds, the race looks like a mismatch.
If two weeks and a big Derby effort gets to BIG BROWN, is he vulnerable?
If he bounces off the 3/4 Ragozin sheet number but still win?

Here is the prospective field:

Horse Trainer Jockey Odds RECENT BEYER FIGS

Behindatthebar T. Pletcher D R Flores 99
Big Brown R. Dutrow Jr. K. Desormeaux 109 106 106
Gayego P. Lobo M. Smith n/a
Giant Moon R. Schosberg J F Chavez 17 90
Hey Byrn E. Plesa, Jr. C. C. Lopez n/a
Icabad Crane H. G. Motion J. Rose
*Kentucky Bear R. Baker J. Theriot 90, 76
Macho Again D. Stewart Undecided 99, 71
Racecar Rhapsody K. McPeek R. Albarado 95, 85
Riley Tucker W. Mott E. Prado 96
Stevil N. Zito J. Velazquez 88 86
Tres Borrachos B. Greely T. Baze 95 90 71
*Yankee Bravo P. Gallagher A. Solis 88 8975


Big Brown, Speed Racer

The Derby Champion Heads to Pimlico With Enormous Expectations.
What Are the Odds?

In the 1950s, a handicapper named Len Ragozin devised a revolutionary system for rating the performance of racehorses that factored in time, weight carried, positioning during a race, track surface conditions and wind. Based on calculations applied to each race, Ragozin assigned horses a number between zero and 40; the lower, the better.

By the late 1960s, Ragozin's "Sheets" had surfaced publicly, and their perceived accuracy became so valued that they cost $5 per race, nearly as much as an entire copy of the Daily Racing Form.

When Ragozin's company calculated the performance by Big Brown on May 3 in the Kentucky Derby, it made a startling discovery: the 3-year-old colt had recorded a - 3/4 , the lowest number in the modern history of the race.

"This is by a quarter of a point better than any other," said Len Friedman, 66, a hardcore Sheets player from Brooklyn and head handicapper at Ragozin's company. "Secretariat ran a 1/2 ."

In 1973, Secretariat won the Triple Crown -- the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes -- and entered racing lore as perhaps the greatest horse of all time. No one has yet come forward and placed Big Brown in such hallowed company, but those involved with him and others who watch him run are captivated by his authority, speed and power.

When the horses line up Saturday for the Preakness at Pimlico, Big Brown is likely to be the shortest-priced favorite in the 133-year history of the race.

"He has that stride," said Big Brown's jockey, Kent Desormeaux. "Every jockey who reads those words knows exactly what I mean. Each stride, each leap forward covers an enormous amount of ground, and it's effortless. They change leads [the lead hoof] so fluidly you almost have to look at their legs to make sure they've done it. They don't exactly quicken their stride; they just add power to it. These are the little things that the freaks of horses, the thoroughbred racers, have -- that stride."

No horse has won the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978, and the list of those considered to be the next sure thing continues to grow like a pile of losing tickets -- Silver Charm, Real Quiet, Charismatic, Fusaichi Pegasus, War Emblem, Funny Cide, Smarty Jones, Barbaro, Street Sense.

Yet, Big Brown has done more than flash potential. His Kentucky Derby victory laughed in the face of history: Besides his record-setting Ragozin number, Big Brown became the first horse to win America's classic race off just three career starts since the filly Regret in 1915. He also became the first runner since the gelding Clyde Van Dusen in 1929 to win from the outside No. 20 post position.

National Racing Museum and Hall of Fame historian Allan Carter only had to look to last year's Kentucky Derby to put Big Brown's performance in perspective.

"The best thing is comparing him to Curlin," Carter said, referring to the 2007 Horse of the Year who finished third in the Kentucky Derby behind Street Sense and Hard Spun. "He had only had three starts and never raced as a 2-year-old. As good as he was in three starts -- and he's the best horse on the planet right now -- he didn't win the Derby, and I think it was because of his lack of experience."

Unless Gayego joins the field, Big Brown will become the first horse since Citation in 1948 to scare off all his Derby rivals from trying the Preakness.

"He was so intimidating," Carter said of Citation. "Only [five] horses ran in the Derby against him, and after that a lot of people said, 'To hell with it.'

The only other time before that was in 1922, when the Derby and Preakness were held on the same day before the advent of the Triple Crown.

Frank Carulli, the linemaker for the Maryland Jockey Club, watched the Kentucky Derby from the Pimlico press box, and marveled at what he saw.

"I was mainly focused on Big Brown because that's who I bet," said Carulli, who sets the morning-line odds for the Preakness and watches close to 10,000 races a year. "The camera angles provided were fabulous. I couldn't believe he was going to overcome the trip, four wide on both turns, and then he made that bid, and it looked for a second like he might hang, and then he went the other way and he exploded. Just an awesome move. Ultra-impressive."

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  • At 10:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Harlem Rocker is skipping the Preakness for one of two reasons: either Stronach really doesn't think anybody can beat Big Brown, or he really thinks Harlem Rocker has a chance at sweeping the Canadian TC. And the latter wouldn't be at all surprising since this year's crop hasn't been all that impressive. Although, I'm sure the almost guaranteed purse money for the shareholders has a lot to do with it too.

  • At 2:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You may want to add another name to your Queen's Plate watchlist..."Solitaire" trained by James Bond is apparentely training really well and in his latest race at Keeneland just missed winning. According to Mr. Bond the Queen's Plate is on his wish list!!! He is out of Canadian Stake winner "Ring Star".
    Keep an eye out!!
    Stevie Ray


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