Friday, October 29, 2010

Pinch Hitter connects in fifth at-bat

In his fifth trip to the plate, Pinch Hitter swung wide and made a bold run for home Friday to win a maiden-claiming race at Philadelphia Park, becoming the 36th member of my sales-tip Class of 2010 to score.

The dark bay Vindication colt was the furthest outside in a wall of five horses vying for the early lead, a group that included 1/2 favorite Diski Dance and another of my 2010 juvenile sales selections, Lookin At Options, who was nearly 38/1. The five were separated by only a half-length in an opening quarter run in 23.11, but were finally stringing out a bit by the half (47.55), which found Pinch Hitter and eventual runner-up Crockefeller left to go head-to-head.

Pinch Hitter prevailed by 2 3/4 lengths in a time of 1:13.17. A 20/1 shot, Son of Posse, got up over Lookin At Options for third, but my bargain-basement sales-pick ($8,500 at EASMAY) did manage to salvage fourth and a $1,680 paycheck in a much-improved effort over his debut in maiden special weight company.

Pinch Hitter was bred in Kentucky by Gaines-Gentry Thoroughbreds, who couldn't get him sold as Hip 115 at the Keeneland April sale of 2-year-olds in training, where the colt was a $45,000 RNA. He was trained for this win by Ronny Werner and ridden by Frankie Pennington. Pinch Hitter runs his lifetime earnings to $20,998.

I handicapped KEEAPR, so to speak, after the fact, accumulating lists of "Steals," and "The Surreal," in addition to the group in which this colt was included, "Possible Second-Chance Deals." One might have been able to purchase him privately after the sale, or, I reasoned, he might be entered again in a later sale.

He becomes the second member of that 11-horse Second-Chance Deals list to break his maiden. The other is the filly Evangelical (Speightstown-Evangelizer, by Saint Ballado), who didn't meet her reserve despite the bids reaching $100,000. She was second in her first two efforts and broke maiden in her third, at Belmont, earning $47,000 so far. Four others from that 11 have started without winning.

I considered Pinch Hitter a possible "deal" based on the brilliance of his fragile (four lifetime starts) and ill-fated sire, Vindication who died at stud when only 8 years old, combined with the female-family appeal of dam Solid Eight (Fit to Fight-Greenness(ARG), by Swallow the Sun). Solid Eight was a multiple listed-stakes winner (though of only 11 starts) who had already produced nine winners from 12 older foals. That group includes: EUCHRE (G2/G3, $900K); LOUIE THE LUCKY (14 wins, $258K); and C. C. ON ICE ($207K). Pinch Hitter's modest-winning half-sister Ale Eight Woman is the granddam of WAYZATA BAY (G2, $718K). Unraced half-sisters Solid Claim and Gretel Girl are minor stakes-producers. Pinch Hitter's granddam was an Argentine G1 winner.

Hurting Pinch Hitter's price might have been the fact that his dam was 22 at foaling -- very advanced in age for a broodmare -- and a mare's later foals often seem to be not as talented. That could be evidenced in this family, as in the decade since foaling Band Aight (Dixieland Band) who won five of 11, but in modest company for less than $32,000 total, Solid Eight produced a one-race War Chant colt, three by Unbridled's Song who went 3-for-16 between them for about $76K earned, and a 2007 Roman Ruler who is yet to race.

Still, this colt breezed a capable 10 2/5 and looked reasonably good doing it. And when other horses (on my surreal list, for example) sold for prices soaring above $300,000 without looking substantially better on paper or in their breeze, Pinch Hitter seems like a value.

He did have to drop in for $25,000 to get a win. But he's been improving, and if they can keep this son of Vindication sound, I think he'll continue to compete successfully when properly placed.

Pinch Hitter's win means that, through Friday's action, 19.3 percent of my juvenile sales-tips have managed to break maiden; that's 36 percent of the 100 to race. The group has made 301 starts and collected 48 wins, a strike rate of 16 percent. With 60 place-finishes, the class finishes in the exacta 35.9 percent of the time and an additional 29 "show" finishes make for an in-the-money rate of 45.5 percent.

Group earnings total $2,041,253. That rounds to $6,782 per start, and averages to $20,412.53 per runner.

Follow both my recommended horses and those I took a stand against in this comprehensive list.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Banshee Indian, barely, is 35th winner

After running further than any other filly in the field, Banshee Indian won the first race at Woodbine on Thursday by the narrowest of reported margins, a nose.

Banshee Indian, sent off as the second-favorite at about 2/1, broke last of all in the group of $25,000 maiden-claimers. But she was fifth within four lengths of long-shot leader Break Every Rule (23/1) after the first quarter, run in 23.58. Emile Ramsammy and Banshee Indian eventually picked their way to the front and were briefly clear in the stretch, but had to dig down to repel a late challenge by Crown Land, prevailing by a nose at the wire.

Banshee Indian won the six-furlong race over Polytrack in 1:11.72, and from reading the Equibase chart, one would think she had a decent enough trip, whereas Crown Land might have lost ground going wide and still nearly got up for the victory. Banshee Indian's trip is described as a "middle move" that was only three-wide on the turn; a filly that was "clear, then full out to stave off outside foe." Meanwhile, Crown Land was "inside into the turn and in mid field, angled out to bid wide in the drive, came on strong but missed."

Which is probably an accurate picture to the human eye of how that race went down. But the Trakus chart at Woodbine's Web site tells us so very much more.

When all was said and done, the Trakus system -- which uses wireless technology to monitor the position of each horse during the race and record their path from gate to wire and is in use at some other tracks, including Keeneland -- reports that Banshee Indian ran more than three lengths further than did Crown Land, yet managed to win anyway.

Trakus calculates that Ramsammy and Banshee Indian covered 4,019 feet from start to finish as they moved through the field. Banshee Indian, breaking from the sixth gate, reached a peak speed of 43.6 mph during the race and hit the wire in 1:11.63. Crown Land broke from the 1-hole, and despite angling out under jockey Omar Moreno to make her move on the turn, ran 3,994 feet -- 25 fewer than Banshee Indian, or 3 1/4 lengths -- clocking a peak speed of 42.3 mph and hitting the wire in 1:11.65.

An intriguing picture of how two horses took very different paths from gate to wire, yet arrived only two-hundredths of a second apart.

The winner is campaigned by Kelynack Racing Stable Inc. and was trained for her win by Ricky Griffith. She paid $6.10, $3.20 and $2.70 by breaking her maiden in her fifth career start, after finishing second last-out at MCL $20K and being a beaten favorite going two turns a couple of starts back for a $32,000 tag. All of her races have been at Woodbine.

With the victory, Banshee Indian becomes the 35th maiden-breaker from my juvenile sales-tip Class of 2010 -- 187 horses catalogued in selected 2-year-old sales this year that I endorsed on this blog as racing prospects worth purchasing.

I recommended the daughter of Indian Ocean-Feature Film, by Forest Wildcat, when she was catalogued as Hip 1035 from the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. April auction of 2-year-olds in training, where Griffith bought her for $37,000.

I cautioned that keeping this filly sound might be a challenge based on her parents' race-records, or lack thereof. Her sire raced only five times, though he won a G3 race in that short span. Her dam was unraced.

"But there are two things here that I like," I wrote in recommending her before she sold. "First, the breeze, in which she reminded me of a line from the movie 'Seabiscuit' -- she looked 'fast, in every direction,' going a bit wide on the turn and veering briefly toward the rail deep in the stretch, and still posted a scurrying 21.1. If you can get her under wraps, she has a lot of room to move forward.

"Second, her granddam Cinemine (by Mining) was reasonably sound (12 wins in 26 starts) and undeniably fast, G3 winner of $506K and two track records at Lone Star; 5.5f in 1:02 4/5 and 6f in 1:08 2/5."

Banshee Indian's dam is also half to a 32-race, thrice-stakes-placed Tiznow colt named Outrageous Limit. On the other hand, colts by Vindication and Mineshaft both raced only briefly, and poorly. So the family can be hit-and-miss.

Handsome sire Indian Ocean's first crop sent 50 percent of their number to the track before age 3, and 18 percent of all his first-crop foals were winners at 2 last year. Not bad; enough not to dismiss his daughter out of hand. This year, Indian Ocean has eight more 2-year-old winners out of 23 to start (and 71 total juveniles), a number that includes a very promising filly in G1-placed Indian Gracey.

Of note to pedigree nerds (like me), Indian Ocean's third dam, Oceana, was a full sister to his (and Feature Film's) tail-male great-grandsire, Storm Bird. The resulting inbreeding is extensive 3x3 to Storm Cat, effectively 4x4x4 to Storm Bird and his full sister, 5x5x5 Northern Dancer, 5x5x5 to South Ocean, and 5x4 to Mr. Prospector.

I wrote in recommending Banshee Indian: "I think this Florida-bred girl might be cheap despite her speedy breeze and we're gonna try and get her to run in a straight line (except on the turns) and take good care of her legs. Maybe the grass?"

She wasn't dirt-cheap. But getting a 21.1-breezer for $37,000 isn't exactly breaking the bank, either. And she's now a winner who has earned $23,496 toward paying-off her purchase and covering her ongoing costs.

Following Thursday's action, and Banshee Indian's win, as noted above the 187-member sales-tip Class of 2010 has 35 winners -- 18.7 percent of all selections and exactly 35 percent of the 100 now to race. They have won 47 of 293 starts (16 percent), placed 58 times (35.8 percent in the exacta) and finished third another 28 (45.4 percent on the board).

With Banshee Indian's $15,106 paycheck Wednesday, the class has crested $2 million in combined earnings. Their $2,007,625 amounts to $20,076 per runner and $6,852 per start.

Follow the class and its performance here.

Breeders' Cup pre-entries include two from tips

After much anticipation, the pre-entries for the 2010 Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs were finalized on Monday released on Wednesday -- a record 184 horses nominated to 14 races.

Among the 61 pre-entries by the connections of juveniles, five horses were cross-entered on both dirt and turf, meaning 56 horses were submitted for the draw. Two of those were members of my sales-tip Class of 2010: Delightful Mary (Limehouse-Deputy's Delight, by French Deputy) and Rough Sailing (Mizzen Mast-Moussica, by Woodman).

More about them later.

There were 18 entries for the Juvenile Fillies Turf, 13 for the Juvenile Fillies on the main track, a sparse 11 pre-entries for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, and 19 for the male division of the Juvenile Turf. Horses can be cross-entered in two races on pre-entry day, but by Tuesday (Nov. 2), connections must have made a final decision on which race they're running and pay the final entry fees at that time.

The pre-entry story at states that each of the 14 races is limited to 14 starters, plus up to two on the also-eligible list. This is contradictory to the "pre-entry procedures" and rules as detailed elsewhere on the site, which make provisions for some races of only 12 horses and flatly state under Entry Procedures: "There will be no also-eligible list or scratch time." (If needs a copyeditor and fact-checker, I happen to know -- and be -- one who is unemployed.)

Owners Darrell & Evelyn Yates and trainer Wayne Catalano, connections of Jordy Y, who is No. 4 in order of mention (is that entry preference?) on the linked list above in the Juvenile Fillies Turf, would rather she run in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, where she's fifth on the list and will surely get in. Andrew Rosen's Theyskens' Theory, trained by Brian Meehan, also was cross-entered in the Juvenile Fillies (first preference of her connections, last of 13 in draw-priority) and the Juvenile Fillies Turf (second choice of her connections, 15th in preference for making the draw).

Among males, Robert Teel's and Wes Ward's Madman Diaries was entered with first-preference in the Juvenile Turf, where he ranks fifth among all entries. He stands eighth of 11 for admission to the rather lightly subscribed Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Two Juvenile Turf entries are also subscribed as first-preference to the Juvenile; Catesby Clay's Rogue Romance (second on the turf list and ninth among dirt entries), who is trained by Kenny McPeek, and Italian Gran Criterium-G1 winner Biondetti (12th in the turf and 10th of 11 on dirt), who is owned by Godolphin and trained by Mahmoud Al Zarooni.

Delightful Mary -- whom I tipped on this blog as a live (and likely expensive) sales prospect before she became the $500,000 sales-topper at OBSAPR -- is 11th of 13 in entry-ranking among entries in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies and will make the field if healthy to go. She gives every indication of being ready, firing a minute-flat bullet for five furlongs on Monday over the Churchill strip, fastest of 32 at the distance.

The John Oxley-owned, Mark Casse trained Limehouse filly collected two easy wins over Polytrack at Woodbine -- one sprinting and one in allowance company around two turns -- before being upset as the odds-on favorite by Wyomia in the Mazarine Breeders' Cup S.-G3 her last out.

Owners Edward A. Seltzer and Beverly Anderson and trainer Daniel J. Vella -- connections of Wyomia -- shockingly to me did not enter the Vindication filly in the Juvenile Fillies, opting instead for the Juvenile Fillies Turf. She sits 16th on the entry list, but will sneak into the 14-starter gate if both Jordy Y and Theyskens' Theory go in the Juvenile Fillies as their entry preferences suggest.

I think Delightful Mary looks sharp going into the race and has every reason to both move up on the switch from Polytrack to real dirt, and to handle an off-track if one is presented.

The other sales-tip to make racing's marquee day is Rough Sailing, who stands eighth in admission preference among pre-entries for the Juvenile Turf; seventh if you consider Rogue Romance's likely defection to the dirt division. I'm glad to see the colt owned by Jack Smith III and trained by Michael Stidham headed back to the grass, the surface on which he convincingly (with a huge late kick, despite a troubled trip) broke his maiden going two turns at Arlington Park.

Rough Sailing is a gutsy horse and battled his way to a place-finish behind Major Gain (also nominated to the Juvenile Turf) on Polytrack in the Arlington-Washington Futurity-G3. But his third race was a step up to Grade 1 company on Keeneland's Poly in the Dixiana Breeders' Futurity, a race in which he again had some trouble, but kept grinding in the stretch to finish sixth, beaten 10.

Jockey Michael Baze has said that he thinks Rough Sailing has a better closing kick on the lawn, so while the Juvenile Turf is more heavily subscribed, I'd rather see him go back to grass than try a new surface again, the dirt this time. (Maybe later.)

I had Rough Sailing categorized as a "Priority 1" on a 48-horse short-list for a client seeking bargain runners out of the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Sale of 2-year-olds in training this May. After seeing him up-close, I didn't expect him to stay in our price range -- and he didn't -- but at a price of $40,000, he still sold for nearly 20 percent less than the average horse at that auction.

While it will be exciting to watch those two on one of racing's biggest weekends, the pre-entries were a little disappointing to me. I had hoped for potentially two or three more horses from my sales-tips to be among the pre-entries.

RIGOLETTA -- a 33/1 upsetter of Juvenile Fillies third-ranked Tell a Kelly when they met in the Oak Leaf S.-G1 at Hollywood Park -- was a lock to make the field for the B.C., but would have to be supplemented to the Breeders' Cup at a cost of $180,000. Sealing her non-entry was a recent announcement by trainer Dan Hendricks declaring the Thor-Bred Stable-owned filly out of the Breeders' Cup with a minor splint injury.

Hendricks said he wanted to be sure Rigoletta was ready for the winter/spring season at Santa Anita (over a brand-new dirt track that I think moves her up vs. synthetics). Curiously -- unless the fee was paid prior to discovery of her injury -- Rigoletta was among the nominations announced this week for the $500,000 Delta Princess S.-G3 to be run at Delta Downs on Nov. 20.

Also on that whopping, 117-filly Delta Princess nominee list are sales-tips FISCAL POLICY and Rigoletta's fellow Cal-shipper and maiden-winner-only Benecia.

Another filly I had fully expected to be pre-entered for the Breeders' Cup -- and probably cross-entered in the Juvenile Fillies and Juvenile Fillies Turf -- was the Bob Baffert-trained, Jill Baffert-owned Alienation. A debut winner on grass (in fleet time and a thrilling photo) and G1/G2-placed on dirt at Saratoga, she flopped after breaking awkwardly on synthetic in that Oak Leaf Stakes won by Rigoletta. I'm not sure the speedball daughter of Rock Hard Ten needed to be in the Juvenile Fillies, going a mile and a sixteenth on dirt (though I think she'll eventually stay a route of ground if they can get her to rate), but I would have liked to see her incredible early foot employed in trying to steal the Juvenile Fillies Turf on the front end.

Alienation, whom I tipped out of OBSAPR and has earned $104,000 off a $60,000 purchase, was nominated two weeks ago (after her Oak Leaf also-ran) for the Pocahontas S.-G2 at a mile on the main track at Churchill this weekend. Those entries haven't been drawn-up yet, and I'm curious to see if Alienation is among them or whether the Bafferts have decided to rest her a spell. Fiscal Policy happens to be nominated to the Pocahontas, as well.

Finally, I thought there was a chance GOURMET DINNER might make the Breeders' Cup at Churchill. The $40,000 sales-tip of mine out of OBSAPR's first session was 3-for-3 with two stakes wins and seemed a possibility to follow filly Awesome Feather into the Breeders' Cup as undefeated queen and king of the Florida Stallion Series of restricted races at Calder.

Then he was upset in the third leg of the series, the $350,000 In Reality Stakes, by $94 shocker REPRIZED HALO -- yet another OBSAPR sales tip of mine, who sold a day after Gourmet Dinner for a paltry $23,000. That certainly derailed any designs the connections had on an unbeaten, championship season for Gourmet Dinner. Though looking at the small group of nominees -- 11 juvenile males, one of which is already pointed to the turf instead and including a couple who probably can't get the distance -- it still might have been worth a shot.

Instead, both Gourmet Dinner and Reprized Halo are among the incredible 241 horses nominated to the $1 million Delta Jackpot, also on Nov. 20 at Delta Downs. Also included in that vast list of nominees is 2010 sales-tip Category Killer, whose two races thus far include a five-length runner-up finish to now stakes-winning sales tip PULGARCITO in their mutual debut at Hoosier Park, and a return to the scene of that "sales-tip exacta" for a 15-plus-length maiden-special romp on Sept. 30.

Category Killer fired a 36-flat bullet at Churchill Tuesday and is also nominated to the $100,000 Iroquois S.-G3 to be run at that track on Sunday. Plus, he's listed as an entry on the overnights for a Saturday evening allowance event at Delta Downs. Busy little fellow.

With the addition of stakes-placer Spring Jump on Wednesday, the list of 2010 sales-tip stakes horses has reached a dozen. In addition to those mentioned, stakes placers include still-a-maiden Rockin Heat (second in G3s on turf and Poly at Woodbine), G3-placed Stopspendingmaria and non-blacktype stakes-placed Blue 'Em Away.

Follow the entire sales-tip Class of 2010 in the list at the end of this link.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Bargain Blacktype: Spring Jump sloshes her way to stakes status with photo for place at Delaware Park

A buyer can spend millions at the sales trying to buy a stakes-class racehorse, and maybe the more he spends, the better his chances.

But at Delaware Park Wednesday, there was proof that a bargain-buyer with a good eye can find remarkable value at the sales in a horse that increases her own value by later winning or placing in stakes company.

One of the fillies who fit that bill Wednesday was Spring Jump (Jump Start-Meg's Answer, by West Acre), who overcame her own issues in the stretch to salvage second by the whiskers of her muzzle over Mis Vizcaya in the White Clay Creek Stakes. Spring Jump was a $19,000 purchase at Fasig-Tipton's Midlantic Sale of 2-year-olds in training this may -- a short-listed horse of mine in my first assignment as a hired bloodstock advisor. And the race was won by the Arnold A. Heft-owned filly Red's Round Table, who was picked up for a mere $5,000 as a sales yearling.

Mis Vizcaya, for the record, was sold for $50,000 both as a yearling and as a 2-year-old.

Red's Round Table proved much the best on this day, breaking like a shot from the first post and holding court on the rail all the way around the sloppy six furlongs, run in 1:11.25. Spring Jump went right with her until veering into the center of the track coming off the turn, lugging out and seemingly struggling to change leads.

Jockey Gabriel Saez -- aboard Spring Jump in place of her usual pilot, Luis Belmonte, who was named to ride at time of entry -- got the filly back on task and she dug in gamely for a stretch run against Mis Vizcaya, who was charging up the inside. The head-bob went to Spring Jump in one of the closest photos imaginable.

I didn't just tout Spring Jump at the sales, I was plugging her among my wagering friends on Wednesday. I couldn't believe that she was available at such a price (8/1 on the morning line became 14/1 at post time), since her career-best Equibase Speed figure of 90 was second-best in the field to short-priced favorite Juanita's prior-best 96. The only time Spring Jump had faced any of these opponents in a race, she whipped 9/1 Sopchoppy (who was a heavy favorite that day) by 4 1/2 lengths gate-to-wire in allowance company at Penn National.

Juanita finished a well-beaten fourth, and Sopchoppy last of five.

Spring Jump, to me, was an obvious overlay at 14/1. I e-mailed a pal (who got his bets in on time) and tweeted my tip of Spring Jump to all my followers on Twitter as the minutes-to-post dwindled. I don't know whether any of the Twitter folks took my advice. But if they did -- and though Spring Jump didn't win -- they were rewarded with prices of $6.60 to place and $7.80 to show. (A fairly rare occurrence of getting more value on the show-bet.) Anyone who took her across-the-board came out $2.40 ahead for every dollar wagered.

Most important, Dorado Circle Stables LLC keeps coming out ahead in its acquisition of Spring Jump for $19,000 as Hip 234 at EASMAY. She's won two of five with a stakes-second and legit excuses in her other two races -- very fractious in the gate and five-wide for her debut, a bum run on Tapeta at Presque Isle Downs in her stakes debut last-out. She's banked $50,160, has increased her residual value by stamping her catalog page with individual blacktype, and looks like a filly who still has room to move forward.

To his credit, trainer Flint Stites has done an excellent job with Spring Jump.

In my hired role as bloodstock advisor, and with instructions to find the least-expensive "good" horses at EASMAY, I short-listed Hip 234, now known as Spring Jump, as a "Priority 2" in a four-tiered ranking of horses on which we planned to bid. Knocking her out of "Priority 1" status was mostly her status as the first foal from an unraced dam, Meg's Answer, who is by a fairly modest sire in West Acre.

I did like that her second dam, Spring Hill Answer, was a durable mare who won 11 times in modest company and later produced three stakes horses, including MAGNUS ONE and SNAPPY ANSWER.

For her own part, Spring Jump breezed 11-flat -- which was decent over a slow Timonium, Md., fair grounds track -- and caught my eye as "among the tallest I screened (with) a nice head and eye (and) a good shoulder."

I thought she looked great on streaming video from Delaware Park in the White Clay Creek Stakes post-parade Wednesday, and she made a pretty decent run despite her stretch troubles to become the 12th of my 187 juvenile sales tips of 2010 to become stakes-placed-or-better.

Through Wednesday's action, the sales-tip class has won 45 of 290 starts (15.5 percent), placed another 58 times (35.5 percent in the exacta) and finished third another 28 times (45.2 percent on the board). They have earned $1,983,672, which is $6,840 per start.

Follow their performance in the list at this former post.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What, me Hold Still? 'Tipped' filly wins in good time

Hold Still was a bargain-basement purchase at this year's Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. April auction of 2-year-olds in training.

The time she posted Monday in winning an allowance race at Puerto Rico's Hipodromo Camarero suggests she was better than the $18,000 price she commanded at auction.

Hold Still (Include-Zitlaly, by Emancipator) rated well off a moderate pace of 23.57, 47.17 and 1:12.97 in the field of imported 2-year-old fillies, then stormed home on the rail to win by a fast-widening six lengths over Golden Seas. Her time for seven furlongs was a pretty fair 1.25.67. Finishing third, beaten 11 1/4 was twice Puerto Rico graded stakes-placed La Kamikaze.

The show filly and Hold Still have taken turns finishing ahead of one another at Camarero since being imported. Each has beaten the other in prior allowance races and La Kamikaze finished second in the recent Clasico Dia de la Raza-G2(PR) at a shorter distance, when Hold Still was fourth.

Hold Still has now won three of six starts, with a second (to La Kamikaze in allowance company). Her other off-the-board finish was in her debut.

I recommended Hold Still when she sold as Hip 696 at OBSAPR. She's by a decent sire of useful racehorses in Include, and is the first foal out of Zitlaly, a stakes-placed winner of $212K who made 46 lifetime starts. While that alone was enough to make me ignore an average breeze time of 10.3 for an eighth (which was hardly a bad time), I also like the fact that she is inbred 4x4 to the outstanding Hoist the Flag, and 5x5x5 to his sire, the great Tom Rolfe, with the extra strain coming via the blacktype-winning mare File, dam of Zitlaly's paternal grandsire, Forty Niner.

Granted, Hold Still has collected her three victories at Camarero, not at Saratoga, but I suspect several American racing stables would be glad to have a 2-year-old filly capable of 1:25 and change over seven furlongs and looks better the more ground you give her; especially one they could've bought for twenty grand.

It will take a couple of days for the full chart information and earnings to be exported from Puerto Rico. (Does a PDF have to pass through customs or what?) I'll update her earnings and record in the complete list of my 187 juvenile sales tips of 2010 at that time.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Big thumbs-up for Pulgarcito in Zia stakes

PULGARCITO -- a gelding whose name means "Tom Thumb" in Spanish -- earned positive reviews Sunday afternoon at Zia Park in Hobbs, N.M., as he stalked leader Jam'n Jackson for a half-mile, then grabbed the lead in the stretch and drew clear to win the $55,000 Governor's Cup Stakes by two lengths.

Jam'n Jackson faded to third behind Race for Jake.

Ken Tohill handled the ride aboard the winner for trainer Steve Asmussen. Tohill and Pulgarcito sat in second, a length or two off very fast 22.38 and 44.51 opening fractions set by Jam'n Jackson and Alejandro Medellin, before pouncing in the stretch. Final time for the six furlongs was 1:10.84.

The gelding was bred in Florida by Edward Seltzer and Murray Durst.

With the win, Pulgarcito runs his career mark to a pair of wins and a second from three four starts, for $61,170. He also becomes the fifth stakes winner, and the 11th horse stakes-placed or better, from my 187-member Class of 2010; horses I selected and tipped on this blog (or for a client) at various 2-year-old sales this year.

Pulgarcito (Greatness-Cat Attack, by Storm Cat) was catalogued as Hip 849 in the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. April auction of 2-year-olds in training. He failed to sell when the bidding topped-out at $37,000.

After he failed to sell at OBSAPR, he was successfully hawked for $40,000 at the OBSOPN sale in June. He races for Heiligbrodt Racing Stable.

The gelding won his debut on Aug. 18 at Hoosier Park, wiring a maiden special weight field by more than five lengths; a field that included runner-up and fellow debuting sales-tip Category Killer, who returned to Hoosier in similar company his next out to win by more than 15 lengths.

Pulgarcito then shipped to Oklahoma's Remington Park, where he finished second to a stakes-placed horse named Brickyard Fast (who would later race unsuccessfully in Grade 1 company) in a $75,000 optional-claimer. In his third start, Pulgarcito trailed early and never recovered in finishing fifth in the Kip Deville Stakes at Remington.

More forwardly placed Sunday, as he had been in his first two starts, he performed in similar, strong fashion.

I broke a rule of mine (so maybe it's more a "guideline") in recommending Pulgarcito, whose sire, Greatness, was a winning racehorse, but could boast no stakes-quality performances at the track. Still, Greatness as the son of Mr. Prospector -- one of the 20th century's prepotent sires -- and of the mare Harbour Club (Danzig), a sharp juvenile and track record-setting Grade 3 stakes winner, was undeniably well-bred. He's passed some of those good qualities along to his get, as well. Going into the sale, Greatness had sired 75 percent runners and 53 percent winners from all foals -- though only one prior stakes winner.

Among those prior winners by Greatness is a full sibling to Pulgarcito, named Great Attack, who won twice in 2009 at age 2. So particularly after Pulgarcito blazed a 10-flat eighth at the OBSAPR under-tack show, all signs pointed to an early winner.

After the weekend's action, 99 of the 187 sales tips have now made at least one start as a juvenile; that's 52.9 percent. There are 34 winners, for 18.2 percent of all selections and 34.3 percent of those to race.

The class has now won 45 of 282 starts, and though the pace of victories has declined a bit, that's still 16 percent. (Well, 15.9574468 percent, to be a bit more precise. At that point, we can round up.)

They've placed another 55 times and were the show-finishers in another 27 races, for 35.5 percent in the exacta and 45 percent on the board.

Total earnings are inching closer to $2 million, with $1,968,603 banked by the 99 starters. That's $6,981 per start, and an average of $19,885 per starter.

Besides Pulgarcito, stakes winners from my sales recommendations include: RIGOLETTA (Oak Leaf S.-G1, $180,820); two-time stakes winner GOURMET DINNER (3-for-4 lifetime, 1st Florida Stallion Dr. Fager S., 1st Florida Stallion Affirmed S., 2nd Florida Stallion In Reality St., $209,660); REPRIZED HALO (1st Florida Stallion In Reality S., handing Gourmet Dinner his only loss, $254,016); and FISCAL POLICY (Coca-Cola Bassinet S., $54,080).

Of the six additional stakes-placers, five of those have come in graded company, with seven second-place finishes. They include: Alienation (2nd Spinaway S.-G1, 2nd Adirondack S.-G2, $104,000); still-a-maiden Rockin Heat (Summer S.-G3T, Grey S.-G3A, $119,845); Delightful Mary (2nd Mazarine S.-G3, $112,377); Stopspendingmaria (2nd Schuylerville S.-G3, $59,167); Rough Sailing (2nd Arlington-Washington Futurity-G3, $36,200); and non-blacktype-placed Blue 'Em Away (2nd Osiris S.-N, $16,053).

Follow the exploits of all my sales picks, and a few pans, in the lengthy list at the bottom of this former post.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Whither Gio Ponti in Breeders' Cup?

It's a curious question. Why take a champion grass horse and run him off the turf in two straight Breeders' Cups?

But that might happen with Gio Ponti.

Discussion at Facebook prompted me to consider the options along with the connections of this horse, who seem to be mulling whether to go on grass (and from there, in the Mile or the 12-furlong Turf), or whether to run in the Breeders' Cup Classic like last year -- albeit this time on dirt at Churchill Downs rather than Pro-Ride synthetic at Santa Anita.

The connections have said their plans as of today are to cross-enter him in the Mile and the Classic. But I think it's worth a full discussion of the particulars on all three races anyway.

I have noticed comments in a Facebook discussion from those who project Gio Ponti will go in the mile (to face two-time defending champion Goldikova, Europe's best mare) because the distance of the other races is too far. This puzzles me a little, considering Gio Ponti has five graded-stakes wins at 10 furlongs (the distance of the Classic) and beyond. He hasn't won at a mile and a half -- the distance of the Breeders' Cup Turf. But he was only asked to run 12 furlongs once, and while he didn't win (upset by Interpatation), Gio Ponti still finished second. It isn't like he faded to seventh. With a pair of wins in the 11-furlong, Grade 1 Man O' War the past two seasons, I'm not sure why the extra eighth of the Breeders' Cup Turf would be a panel too far. (Though his sire, Tale of the Cat, was at his best sprinting; more on him later.)

The allure of the Breeders' Cup Classic on the main track is simple. Not only is it a $5 million race, but if Gio Ponti wins it, his stallion syndication value skyrockets.

Through the prism of residual value, the horse has accomplished virtually all he can on grass. He is a turf champion, and champion older male last year without running a step in his life on actual dirt (a relative rarity). His gutsy runner-up finish to Zenyatta on Pro-Ride at Santa Anita in last year's Breeders' Cup Classic helped seal the older male title. He's the likely U.S. turf champion again unless unseated by a horse like Paddy O'Prado, who could do so by upsetting in the B.C. Turf. (Which, according to this story, he won't be trying, as Donegal Racing opts for the Classic, as well.)

If Gio Ponti were to win the 12-furlong Breeders' Cup Turf -- a distance at which American races are rarely run -- it does nothing to spike his stud fee above the range of former turf champions now at stud like English Channel ($25,000) and Kitten's Joy ($40,000). Gio Ponti is already in that territory (probably more in English Channel's proximity) as a stallion prospect based on his prior work.

Even unseating Goldikova in the Mile likely does him no good as a syndication prospect. (I've seen Gio Ponti described as having "no chance" against Goldi. But she's lost six of 20 lifetime, so she isn't unbeatable. And if anyone is going to do it, a horse like Gio Ponti -- 11-for-22 lifetime, 18-for-22 at least second place, is as likely as any in the race to do it.)

But "figuring" at all in the Breeders' Cup Classic on the real-dirt main track at Churchill -- even third place -- gives his potential customers at stud the hope that they might get a dirt horse from their mating, especially depending on the pedigree and prior production of their mare.

So what are Gio Ponti's chances in the Classic?

For starters, how can it be easier to win in that race against unbeaten Zenyatta than it would be in the Mile against Goldikova? (Although we've established Gio Ponti wouldn't necessarily need to win, for his connections to heavily benefit financially.)

Beyond that, for any horse that has never raced over a given surface, it's just a roll of the dice.

Considering there is more money and more prestige on dirt in American racing, if trainer Christophe Clement and owner Castleton Lyons Farm really thought they had a legit main-track horse, I'm surprised they haven't tried him on dirt already. But perhaps they've just been trying not to mess with success, and with consecutive Breeders' Cups run on Pro-Ride at Santa Anita, there wasn't any need until now to consider dirt.

Gio Ponti is hardly bred against the dirt. His sire, Tale of the Cat, was a main-track runner, with his best victory coming in the Grade 2 King's Bishop, sprinting at Saratoga. And Gio Ponti's dam, Chipeta Springs (Alydar-Salt Spring, by Salt Marsh), has produced two other stakes horses in G2-placed stakes winner Bon Jovi Girl and 11-furlong G3 victor Fisher Pond, both of whom have done their running on dirt. Second dam Salt Spring was Grade 1 placed on both dirt and grass behind the likes of Princess Rooney and Fact Finder.

One source I read elsewhere online stated Gio Ponti carries a 399 Tomlinson rating for a wet track. (Half-brother Fisher Pond's win in the G3 Lawrence Realization was in the slop, as supporting evidence.) So if the track comes up a little bit (or a lot) "off" at Churchill on Breeders' Cup weekend, that could play into Gio Ponti's hands in a one-off try over a real, live (non-synthetic) main track.

While winning is always the primary objective, it would appear that from the perspective of residual value, the connections of Gio Ponti have little to gain by the horse winning the Breeders' Cup Mile or Turf (other than a spiffy trophy, worldwide acclaim and a pretty good purse). Meanwhile, even being beaten by any (but not all) of the likes of Zenyatta, Blame, Quality Road, Lookin at Lucky or whomever in the Classic could elevate his value -- provided Gio puts in the kind of gritty performance he offered in last year's Breeders' Cup Classic, losing only a length to The Unbeaten One herself, on her home surface.

And even if he runs up the track, Gio Ponti has all the excuse he needs -- first time on dirt. Provided he comes out of the Classic in one piece, there's probably nothing to be lost, even by finishing last.

As his racing career comes to an end and a much lengthier and potentially far more lucrative stallion career beings, there appears to be little but up-side to running in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

I'm starting to think that's where he'll go.

Lost Webos helps Class of 2010 relocate maiden mojo

It had been 16 days since this blog's Sales-Tip Class of 2010 celebrated a maiden-breaker.

R Canadian Academy was a winner in maiden special weight company on Oct. 4 at Beulah Park. The drought since then was the longest my slate of 187 recommended horses had gone without getting a new first-time winner since it took a month -- from May 15 to June 16 -- between maiden-breakers 1 and 2 (Code Dancer and Lime Rock Revenge), at a time of the season when 2-year-old races are only just beginning to appear on the cards at American tracks. (Though seven horses from the class had finished second in maiden company worldwide in the interim.)

Lost Webos put an emphatic end to the skein Wednesday at Penn National, dropping all the way down to maiden-claiming $10,000 and winning like he didn't belong there. (But escaping unclaimed.)

The Formal Dinner colt debuted with a respectable fourth in maiden special weight company, but finished fourth again when dropped to maiden $32K. So the connections -- owner Sylmar Farm and trainer T. Bernard Houghton -- obviously went for the aggressive drop to get that first victory and a check for $12,240, running the Lost Webos bankroll to $15,480 from three starts.

He was sent off as the 8/5 favorite in a field of nine. David Cora positioned the eventual winner just a length or so off the brisk fractions of 22.27, 45.88 and 58.62 set by eventual place-finisher Safe Back. Lost Webos took over in the final sixteenth to win by a widening three and three-quarters lengths, covering five furlongs on dirt in 1:05.30. It was another six lengths back to third-place R H Centenario.

Lost Webos was bred in Pennsylvania by Norman and Peggy Dellheim, the later of whom was the consignor when he failed to sell both as a yearling at the OBS August sale ($1,500 RNA) and at age 2 at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Sale of 2-year-olds in training, where the unsuccessful top bid was $19,000.

I recommended Lost Webos to a client as Hip 141 at EASMAY. In fulfilling the client's request for a bidding list of bargain-priced horses who still should be useful at the track, I liked the Formal Dinner colt because his sire pretty consistently produces horses that will stand up to training and give their auction-buyers a chance for a win (or a few) without breaking the bank when acquired at the sale. I was also pleased that while his dam, the Proud and True mare Fountain of Truth, was only a modest winner, his minor stakes-winning second dam (Noble Pardner) was a 100 percent producer of winners from foals. Many didn't run out for a lot of money, but they raced and they won, and you can't be a great racehorse or even a good one without first being a winning one.

We were already out of the bidding when the hammer fell just a grand shy of $20,000, without the colt selling. But his RNA price was still well below the sale's nearly $50,000 average and -- though dropped aggressively to do it -- Lost Webos has accomplished something few from that sale yet can say.

He's a winner.

Lost Webos is the 34th maiden-breaker from the 187-member sales-tip class; that's 18.2 percent of all selected horses and 35.4 percent of the 96 selections to have made at least one start. (With 96 runners, the class now has eclipsed the 50-percent-starters mark, as well, with 51.3 percent to race.)

Lost Webos is the seventh horse from my 48-horse bargain list at EASMAY to become a winner; that's 14.6 percent. Of those seven winners, even the highest-priced to go through the ring brought less than the sale average, and that horse -- $40,000 Rough Sailing -- is Grade 3-placed in the Arlington-Washington Futurity.

The victory is the 44th for the class out of 274 starts, for a strike rate of 16.1 percent. The group also has finished second a combined 53 times (35.4 percent in the exacta) and third another 27 (45.3 percent on the board). Their earnings have reached $1,899,426, for $6,932 per start.

You can follow the progress of all 187 sales-picks -- and a few pans (including $350,000-purchase Jaeger, who was fifth beaten nearly 40 lengths on a wet track at Delaware Park Wednesday) -- in the list at the bottom of this former post.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Dinner is served: Reprized Halo cleans up Florida Stallion Series stakes plate at Calder

Undefeated and heavily favored GOURMET DINNER looked to be in trouble through the far turn on Saturday in the $350,000 Florida Stallion In Reality Stakes at Calder Race Course.

Sent off at 3/5 in the six-horse field, the Trippi colt, ridden by Sebastien Madrid, on this day seemed to lack the late kick that had thus far made him 3-for-3 with a pair of stakes wins against restricted company. He felt the whip early, on the turn, and didn't initially seem to respond. But in the stretch run of the mile and a sixteenth event, Gourmet Dinner dug in and eventually wore down early leaders Little Drama (half-brother of G2 winner Big Drama) and Decisive Moment. Finally Gourmet Dinner edged in front.

And then, from out of the blue and a deficit of nine lengths with five-sixteenths to go, came Jose Alvarez and REPRIZED HALO. Full of late run down the middle of the track and diving to the rail in the last sixteenth to avoid the fading leaders and maintain his stride, Reprized Halo -- at more than 46/1 -- swept to victory in the rich event and handed Gourmet Dinner that bitter spoonful of his first defeat which, seconds earlier, it had appeared the favorite had averted. (Recap and video at

In the process, Reprized Halo became the ninth stakes horse and fourth stakes winner from my 187 juvenile sales recommendations of 2010 -- a group of which Gourmet Dinner also is a member and was the first to win a stakes race.

It isn't the first time two sales-tips from the group have finished in the exacta of a race -- Pulgarcito over Category Killer at Hoosier Park and Just Chillin Boss over Soldier's Tune at Calder, both races in maiden company, spring to mind. (All are now winners.) But it's the first time a "sales-tip exacta" has occurred in a stakes race, and provides by far the priciest return.

Four bucks bet on a $2 exacta-box of my two sales-tips -- the odds-on favorite and longest-shot in this six-horse field -- paid $220 for the In Reality Stakes.

Reprized Halo paid $94.60 to win, though just $16 to place and $7 to show, making apparent that most of the money wagered on him was in the "place" and "show" pools. Bettors thought he might figure; they never dreamed he'd win. Meanwhile, Gourmet Dinner paid $2.40 to place and $2.10 to show. Finishing third (paying $4 and rounding out a $1,004.40 trifecta) was Decisive Moment. Red Hills, the fading Little Drama and Aldomear finished out the running.

Reprized Halo was bred by Debra Backlinie and Bill Backlinie, and was trained for the upset win by Manuel Azpurua. Gourmet Dinner, bred by Ocala Stud and William J. Terrill, is now trained by Steven Standridge, who is formerly an assistant to Peter Gulyas, the trainer of record for the colt's first three starts.

For the win, Reprized Halo, who only broke maiden last-out in his seventh start -- by more than 12 lengths going two turns in the slop -- earned $214,830, running his career total to $254,016. Gourmet Dinner's $69,300 consolation prize also swells his bankroll above the $200K mark at $209,660.

I recommended both colts before they sold at this year's April sale of 2-year-olds in training at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. You might have bought the pair for seventy grand, as Gourmet Dinner brought $40,000 from Bruce Brown as Hip 277, and Reprized Halo only commanded $23,000 from Roger Urbina a day later, as Hip 331.

Brown was an agent for Terrill, who bid at the sale on the colt he co-bred in a successful effort to gain full ownership of the horse.

I touted Reprized Halo (Halo's Image-Reprized Angel, by Reprized) after a 21.3 quarter-mile breeze and in spite of the fact that he's the first foal out of an unproven broodmare. His dam could run a bit, though, winning five times from ages 2 through 5, earning nearly $85,000, and placing in two non-blacktype stakes races at the former Woodlands Racetrack in Kansas City. More important, she is the full sister to Tropical Park Derby-G3 winner VALID REPRIZED, and the half-sister of Buena Vista H.-G2 winner CONVEYOR'S ANGEL.

Though Reprized Halo's second, third and fourth dams all were unraced (as was his dam-sire) -- usually a very bad sign in my book -- his dam ran a bit, and his second dam managed to produce eight winners from nine to race. At a price that was 18 percent below a modest sale average, he was certainly worth a shot.

I groused about his being sent out against stakes horses a couple of times before ever gaining the confidence of breaking his maiden, but when he finally did clear that first hurdle -- emphatically, as it happened -- I wrote that Reprized Halo appeared "capable of moving forward off that victory."

Did he ever.

I plugged Gourmet Dinner at the Ocala Sale off an equally quick 21.3 breeze, and because his dam was a proven broodmare, despite being unplaced at the racetrack herself. The colt by Trippi-Potluck Dinner, by Pentelicus is a half-brother to two stakes horses, GASTON A. and I'mroyallymecke'd, and two other half-siblings were major non-blacktype winners, with On The Rail winning nine of 38 for $219,166 and Crazybrook going 15-for-67 for $163,931.

Gourmet Dinner is also from the immediate female family of another key sales-tip of mine this year. He shares a second dam (Romantic Dinner) with RIGOLETTA, the recent $67 upset-winner of the Oak Leaf S.-G1 at Hollywood Park, over highly regarded Tell a Kelly.

Gourmet Dinner had previously won Florida Stallion Series events in the Dr. Fager Stakes and the Affirmed Stakes.

The three aforementioned stakes winners that I tipped out of that OBSAPR sale were purchased for a combined $98,000, or $32,667 per horse. They now have seven wins from 16 starts, four stakes wins (one a G1), two other stakes-placings (one a G1) and $632,319 in earnings. (Addendum: And actually, the fourth stakes winner in the class also is an OBSAPR graduate, FISCAL POLICY, who broke maiden at second asking and won the Bassinet Stakes at River Downs in her third start. She was a pricier purchase at $140,000, more than I thought she would bring.)

Of interest perhaps to pedigree enthusiasts, both of the sales-tipped horses to fare so well in today's In Reality Stakes are inbred to the very horse after whom the event is named. Bred and raced by Frances A. Genter, In Reality, a key descendant of the dwindling male line of the great Man O' War, was a top sire for many years in Florida.

Reprized Halo's sire was out of the accomplished racemare Sugar's Image, a daughter of sire Valid Appeal (a son of In Reality), who also sired 51-race, 17-win Prince Valid, the sire of the winning colt's second dam, Supreme Angel. That makes Reprized Halo "officially" inbred 3x4 to Valid Appeal. (He is also inbred 2x5 to Halo and 3x5 to Halo's sire, Hail to Reason, the other strain of Hail to Reason being through his son Roberto.) The newly stakes-winning colt carries a third strain of In Reality through fifth dam Really Supreme, an "own-daughter" of that sire, meaning Reprized Halo is linebred 4x5x6 to In Reality. All-told, Reprized Halo carries 10 strains of Man O' War, four on his sire's side and six on his dam's.

Gourmet Dinner is inbred 4x4 to In Reality through Valid Appeal, dam-sire of his sire, Trippi, and the mare Charedi, dam of Gourmet Dinner's own dam-sire, Pentelicus. He carries a third generation of In Reality's sire, Intentionally, through the mare Expectancy in his dam's pedigree, making Gourmet Dinner 5x5x5 to Intentionally. (He is also inbred 4x4 to Mr. Prospector.) In all, Gourmet Dinner carries a dozen lines to Man O' War in his nine-generation pedigree, three on his sire's side and the other nine on his dam's.

It had been nearly two weeks since the last victory from the sales class, though the group had scored three seconds and three thirds this week from 15 starters. The 187 selections now include 91 starters (48.7 percent) and 33 winners (17.7 percent of all selections, 36.3 percent of runners). They have won 43 of 266 starts (16.2 percent), placed 51 times (35.3 percent in the exacta) and have finished third on 27 occasions (45.5 percent in the money).

The In Reality Stakes duo's whopping payday at Calder run the Class of 2010's combined earnings to $1,873,385, or $7,043 per start and $20,587 average per runner.

Besides the aforementioned, other stakes horses from the class include G1/G2-placed Alienation, twice G3-placed Rockin Heat, G3-placed Rough Sailing, G3-placed Stopspendingmaria and non-blacktype stakes-placed Blue 'em Away.

Follow the progress of all 187 sales-tips in the list at the end of this former post.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

WinStar's Woodbine whipping boys

Those sons of Bluegrass Cat are doing right well at Woodbine lately.

Good for my slipping entry in the Thoroughbred Times Freshman Sires contest, in which I tabbed Bluegrass Cat to be a success with this, his first crop.

Not so good for my 2010 juvenile sales tips.

On Monday, that sales-tip Class of 2010 suffered its second straight day with a runner-up finish at Canada's premier track to a son of first-year sire Bluegrass Cat. Placing second for the second time in as many lifetime tries was Surprise Strike -- a Stormy Atlantic colt I recommended to a client (who bought a different horse) at Fasig-Tipton's Midlantic Sale of 2-year-olds in training. He was beaten by Bluegrass Dreamer, but held on gamely to save second over Energized.

On Sunday, Rockin Heat (now 4-for-4 lifetime at finishing second, including Grade 3 races on turf and Polytrack) was beaten a half-length by Blue Laser in a four-horse blanket finish in the Grey S.-G3. It was the second time Blue Laser has beaten Rockin Heat, as my Rock Hard Ten-sired sales-tip was second a length to the Bluegrass Cat progeny in a Woodbine maiden special weight back in August.

Both Bluegrass Dreamer and Blue Laser are bred and owned by WinStar Farm, which stands their sire and also campaigns this year's Kentucky Derby winner, Super Saver.

Surprise Strike has now earned $18,273 from two starts. He is owned and trained by Jeremiah C. Englehart, who acquired him after the colt failed to sell at EASMAY, bringing a bid of $34,000 that resulted in an RNA. (That's "Reserve Not Attained," for those who, Google tells me, are occasionally coming to this blog trying to figure out what those initials mean).

While I'll have to keep waiting for Rockin Heat and Surprise Strike to break their maidens, it's hard to consider these results too disappointing.

After all, when the prospects you recommend at the sales are frequently finishing second at a top North American venue, behind only WinStar Farm homebreds, that's probably a sign you were "on" the right kind of horse.

Follow the entire, 187-member sales-tip Class of 2010 at this link.

Monday, October 11, 2010

He's getting warmer ... warmer ...

Whenever and wherever you next see Rockin Heat entered for a race, bet him to place. Though he must soon be destined to win.

The Rock Hard Ten colt is among the most consistent of my juvenile sales-tip Class of 2010. He's a gutsy, talented horse who -- by trackside reports -- is really growing into a good-sized frame.

But in the four times he's raced as a 2-year-old, he hasn't quite found enough at the finish, to finish first.

After getting beat a head and a length during August in maiden special weight company on the Polytrack at Woodbine, Bear Stables entered the colt in the Grade 3 Summer Stakes on the turf. He again finished second by just a length, to the Todd Pletcher-shipper Pluck.

Back on the main track Sunday at Woodbine, Rockin Heat contested the Grey S.-G3 against a strong field of juveniles. And in a four-horse blanket finish, Rockin Heat finished with a rush on the outside to -- yet again -- finish second, this time by a half-length to WinStar Farm's Blue Laser, one of the horses who handed him a prior defeat in the maiden ranks.

It was the best result for the 187-horse sales-tip class on a Sunday that saw a third, two fourths, a fifth and a ninth in various maiden races, a fourth-place finish by Hold Still in a Grade 2 race in Puerto Rico, and stakes winner FISCAL POLICY scratched-out as the morning-line favorite of the E.L. Gaylord Stakes at Remington Park by her trainer, Tom Amoss.

Rockin Heat was an $85,000 purchase when catalogued as Hip 97 at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. April auction of 2-year-olds in training. I like the early work by his young sire, Rock Hard Ten, the colt's dam, Makin Heat, was a stakes winner at Laurel and Delaware Park, second dam Warmedbythesun won 15 races out of 93 starts from ages 2 to 8, and third dam Tongario bore nine winners, including (besides Warmedbythesun's 15 wins) the victors of 17, 10, 10 and eight career races.

I could tell on the breeze video that this colt was going to be a big horse. Yet he breezed 21.3, showing he was precocious, too.

And he just keeps getting better. Surely that will eventually result in victory.

But, after a slow week, the win percentage of the class is in decline.

So far, 89 of the 187 selected horses have made their debut; that is 47.6 percent to race. Of those, 33 are winners, for 17.7 percent of all recommended horses and 37.1 percent of those to race.

The class has made 249 combined starts, winning 42 (16.9 percent), placing another 47 times (35.7 percent in the exacta) and showing 24 times (45.4 percent in the money). They have earned a combined $1,553,534, which averages $6,239 per start.

Click here to follow the careers of all 187 horses I recommended from selected juvenile sales.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Finding the bright side in a disappointing weekend; Delightful Mary now graded stakes-placed

Heading into the Columbus Day weekend, I had high hopes for my blog's sales-tip Class of 2010.

Beginning Thursday, the class of 187 runners -- which have already achieved a few impressive accomplishments -- had 15 maidens going in 12 races on two continents, two winners seeking their second and third lifetime victories, respectively, and five horses with live chances in six stakes races, four of those graded.

After Saturday's racing, the group had gone winless from a dozen starts. There were a couple of good efforts in the mix; three maidens finished second and another third, for instance. And the two winners were each beaten less than a length for third place in steps up against tougher, non-stakes company.

But from three stakes starts, a trio with real potential came home empty-handed (win-wise, anyway) with Pulgarcito a distant fifth in the Kip Deville Stakes at Remington Park Friday (a race won in barely more than 1:09 flat for six furlongs) and Rough Sailing a wide and troubled sixth in the Grade 1 Dixiana at Keeneland on Saturday.

The only stakes-placing was a new addition to the stakes-horse list, Delightful Mary, who finished second as the heavy favorite behind Wyomia in the Mazarine S.-G3 at Woodbine in Canada.

Delightful Mary was the $500,000 sales-topper from the April Ocala sale of 2-year-olds in training. She came into the Mazarine off two victories by open lengths at Woodbine, going six furlongs among maidens and at a mile-seventy while hand-ridden in allowance company. But Wyomia got the jump on everyone Saturday -- after a late veterinarian's scratch at the gate caused the field to be unloaded and reloaded -- and after setting moderate fractions, she had plenty in the tank to hold off Delightful Mary at the wire.

The Grade 3 placing did pay more than $44,000 in U.S. currency, elevating Delightful Mary's earnings from three starts to a tidy $112,377. ... A start, at least, toward paying back the sum plunked down for her at OBSAPR on behalf of owner John Oxley. And she should have plenty of good, winning days ahead.

We'll discuss her more at length on those days.

On Sunday and Monday of the holiday weekend, eight more maidens get a chance to collect their first victories, one of those in stakes company. Rockin Heat is 3-for-3 at finishing second, including his last start in the Grade 3 Summer Stakes on turf at Woodbine. Today, he'll take a shot at breaking maiden in the Grade 3 Grey Stakes on Woodbine's Polytrack, though he seems to be drawn-in amongst the toughest company of his life.

Other stakes starters include FISCAL POLICY -- one of the class' three stakes winners thus far -- trying to run her overall win-streak to three in the E.L. Gaylord Stakes at Remington, and dual-winner Hold Still in the Grade 2 Clasico Dia de la Raza at Hipodromo Camarero in Puerto Rico.

The class of 2010 includes 33 winners. Through 243 starts, they have combined for 42 wins (17.3 percent strike rate), 46 second-place finishes (36.2 percent in the exacta) and 23 show finishes (45.7 percent in the money). Collective earnings have reached $1,495,772, or $6,155 per start.

Follow the entire sales-tip Class of 2010 in the list at the bottom of this former post.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Stately Victor: Ontario sire in the making?

A discussion on Facebook today prompted me to take a look at the records of several horses from this year's North American 3-year-old crop, and in reviewing the labors of one, a thought popped to mind.

Stately Victor just might be positioning himself as a stallion prospect for Ontario.

I realize that even with the swollen purses north of the border -- a maiden special weight on Saturday paid more than $40,000 U.S. to the winner -- the first thought in a stallion prospect-owner's mind is, "Can my colt make the grade in Kentucky?" In the past (and hopefully future) Florida has offered a warm welcome to those who don't quite make the cut in Kentucky, either as freshmen or after establishing themselves as good, but not great, sires. California has its own rich breeding history. And now states with slots, namely Pennsylvania, are attracting some solid stallion talent as well.

But those big purses do permit Ontario to gain momentum. When the grass in Florida began to seem less green than that under the snow in Canada, Adena Springs shifted its stallion operations, packing in its picnic basket a bit of Alphabet Soup and some Milwaukee Brew for a road trip to the Great White North, eh. Old Forester of Ontario's T.C. Westmeath Stud Farm stands No. 2 on the North American freshman sires list on the strength of his first crop's performance at lucrative Woodbine.

So how does Stately Victor fit in?

For starters, he's regally bred. And, most important for the purposes of this recommendation, his performance seems to lean heavily toward Polytrack, which is the main-track surface at Woodbine.

Stately Victor's lifetime mark of three wins and only one other placing from 12 starts (thus far) is hardly one that suggests a top stallion prospect, despite the fact that he's a Grade 1 winner. But it's where those performances have occurred that's catching my attention.

The colt's only on-the-board finish besides his three wins came in his debut, on dirt at Saratoga, where he finished a respectable second to the brilliant, but fragile, Winslow Homer (three starts at 2, three more at 3, sidelined by a condylar fracture).

Stately Victor broke his maiden next out, still at Saratoga, this time going two turns on turf. Sent to Keeneland next out, he ran sixth in the Dixiana Breeders' Futurity-G1 (won by Noble's Promise over Aikenite) but was very wide around both turns and was improving his position all the way to the wire.

The colt, owned by Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, made his next start at Churchill (last of seven when heavily favored in a dirt allowance) before running ran thrice at Gulfstream (fifth in a dirt allowance, eighth and fifth in allowance company on grass).

Then came April 10 at Keeneland.

There, Stately Victor shocked ... well, just about everybody ... in winning the Blue Grass S.-G1 at odds of 40/1. He'd earned his way into the Kentucky Derby, as did second place, turf-to-synth-switcher Paddy O'Prado. (First Dude was third and would not race in the Derby, but returned to run gamely in the Preakness.)

On Derby Day, Stately Victor came home mid-pack, in eighth. Skipping the Preakness, he ran in the Belmont Stakes, finishing seventh of 12. Tried back on grass, the surface over which he'd broken his maiden, Stately Victor ran fifth behind Paddy O'Prado in the Virginia Derby-G2.

Shelved for two months, where does Stately Victor return in September with a victory?

In the Ontario Derby at Woodbine, over Polytrack, drawing off by three and a quarter.

While 3-for-12 -- and 8-for-12 off the board -- isn't the typical stallion resume, Stately Victor has pedigree on his side to enhance his attractiveness.

His sire is Horse of the Year Ghostzapper, a son of the successful (and Canadian-bred) stallion Awesome Again, from the distinguished line of Deputy Minister. While Ghostzapper didn't get off to a blazing start with his first-crop 2-year-olds in 2009, finishing 21st among all North American freshman sires in progeny earnings, I'm not sure why anyone would have expected him to get precocious foals. He was only 1-for-2 himself as a juvenile, didn't win a stakes race until well into his 3-year-old season, and only truly came into himself at 4. His foals are performing better as sophomores, with four new stakes winners besides Stately Victor (three of those, surprisingly to me, are on grass). Ghostzapper sits in fourth place at present on the second-year sires list, a huge improvement over his mark of 21 from last year.

Stately Victor's pedigree strength doesn't end with a Horse of the Year for a sire. His dam, Collect the Cash, by Dynaformer, was a Grade 1 winner in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Stakes at a mile and an eighth on turf. She has already produced another stakes-placer in Money My Honey (Red Bullet), and a $100,000-earner from a stout 52 starts in Senor Enrico (El Prado).

Second dam Worldly Possession (Valid Appeal) was a stakes winner sprinting on dirt and Grade 3 placed going short on grass. In addition to the G1-winning Collect the Cash, she produced a stakes-placer bred by Adena Springs in Super Case, and the gelding Montezuma's Gold, who earned $254,763 non-blacktype. Worldly Possession was out of the stakes-winning Dr. Fager mare Cricket Club, who bore three other stakes winners.

So there's a lot of pedigree and performance standing behind Stately Victor. His success on Polytrack, including right there at Woodbine, would bode well for his main-track progeny seeking lucrative Ontario-bred purses. And his Grade 1-winning turf dam and a sire who is getting a surprising number of grass stakes winners (plus his own maiden-breaking win on turf) suggests that breeding turf-oriented mares to Stately Victor might result in runners who could handle Woodbine's grass.

As a potential sire of synthetic runners, why Ontario? Why not California? ... In no small part because Santa Anita is switching back to a true-dirt main track. In either location, horses who don't race at the marquee venues will end up running on courses that have traditional dirt; either Los Alamitos or the fair circuit in California or at Fort Erie in Ontario. But I wouldn't stand the horse in a state where one of the three top tracks (one of the premier tracks in the country) might not prove at all accommodating to his state-bred progeny.

Certainly Stately Victor has more to prove. He's a two-turn horse and the type who should actually be better at 4 than at 2 and 3. So I hope to see him stage a campaign next year (and maybe even the next), racking up many starts to prove he can outrun the 11-race, injury-ended career of his sire, and a few more distinguished wins to prove he's not just occasionally a top-notch performer.

And, if the horse were mine, he'd be running most of those resume-enhancing races on the Polytrack surfaces at Woodbine, Keeneland and Arlington Park. If they want to be adventuresome, perhaps try a couple of California classics, like the Gold Cup at Hollywood Park and the Pacific Classic at Del Mar -- where the "dirt" will still be "plastic."

Monday, October 4, 2010

R Canadian Academy is R Thirty-Third Winner

Talk about a step down in class.

But, like most people in the horse racing realm -- be they owners, trainers or bettors -- we'll take a winner, wherever we can get her.

After spending Sunday night reveling in the upset win by my 2010 juvenile sales-tip Rigoletta in the Oak Leaf Stakes at Hollywood Park (becoming my list's first graded winner and first Grade 1 winner in the process), my focus shifted to the upper Midwest, and a bit down the ladder in the racing world. On Monday afternoon at Thistledown in Cleveland, R Canadian Academy became the sales-tip Class of 2010's 33rd member to break her maiden.

The filly scored in her fourth lifetime start, which have been divided between "Thistle" and Presque Isle Downs in Pennsylvania. R Canadian Academy broke alertly, a sign of some experience perhaps, and pressed the pace along the rail before running into trouble at the five-sixteenths pole. There, she had to be checked and then angled out three wide to find running room. Still, the filly made the lead by the eighth pole and was two lengths clear on the wire.

R Canadian Academy won the $25,000 maiden-claimer in a time of 1:07.38 for five furlongs over a dirt track rated as "good." She was trained for the win by Jeffrey Radosevich and ridden by Scott Spieth.

The filly was bred in Florida by Donald R. Dizney, and was purchased as Hip 1109 by Bruno Schickedanz at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. April auction of 2-year-olds in training for the bargain-basement price of $5,000. At the time, I was excited for the filly, as Schickedanz in the past has won owners' titles both at Woodbine in his native Canada, and while wintering with his horses in Florida. I hoped R Canadian Academy might get a chance to run on the lawn -- which she's undoubtedly bred to handle (more on that in a bit) -- or on synthetic at Woodbine. She breezed a promising 10.2 on synthetic at the under-tack show, and I felt she'd improve on turf, which she's yet to get.

That lack of a start on grass might in part be influenced by Schickedanz's fall from grace among the racing community in Canada earlier this year. The owner made an ill-advised decision to send his long-retired stallion Wake at Noon back to the track at the age of 13, when the former Canadian Horse of the Year's stud career was obviously sputtering, and the champion died on the track at Woodbine when he broke a leg in a workout mishap. Schickedanz and trainer Tom Marino were both ordered off the grounds at Woodbine, and are yet to be allowed a return.

So, whether or not this was the original intent, R Canadian Academy filtered her way into Radosevich's barn at Thistledown, where there is no turf course.

That's a crying shame, because R Canadian Academy is a daughter of Royal Academy, who won the Breeders' Cup Mile-G1 on grass. Her dam, Good Intentions (Anet-Orena, by Runaway Groom), was a juvenile stakes winner around two turns on turf at Calder in Florida. (A stakes winner in the strangest way, as well, dead-heating for second with Survicat and then both were elevated to first when Mia's Reflection, who crossed the wire first, was taken down to third.)

Additional immediate family includes second dam Orena's full sister RUNAWAY CHOICE, a turf-sprint stakes winner who won six times from ages 2 to 6 for $254,950; Orena's half-sister, GUESS, a Suffolk dirt-stakes winner of $130K; and stakes-winning third dam Diamond Sunjet's half-brother, millionaire WEKIVA SPRINGS.

That's a lot of female family and a pretty decent breeze for a filly who only brought $5,000.

Here's hoping Schickedanz ships her south for the winter, where she can run among fellow Florida-breds -- hopefully at least a few times on grass, and for better purses -- at Tampa or even Gulfstream.

Ninety-one of my 187 sales picks have made starts thus far at age 2; that's 48.7 percent. With the 33rd maiden-breaker, 17.7 percent of all selections and 36.3 percent of those to race, are now winners. The Class of 2010 has won 42 of 230 starts for a strike rate of 18.3 percent, placed a like number of times (that is, 42) for an in-the-exacta mark of 36.5 percent, and added 22 third-place finishes for a total of 46.1 percent on-the-board.

Total earnings for the 91 runners have now reached $1,427,242. That's $6,205 per start and $15,684 average earnings per runner.

Track the class in its entirety via the list at the bottom of this former post.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Run tell that! ... Sales-tip Rigoletta at nearly 33/1 upsets odds-on Tell a Kelly in Grade 1 Oak Leaf Stakes

When odds-on favorite Tell a Kelly tried to bull her way through between the leaders and onto the lead at the top of the stretch in the Oak Leaf Stakes at Hollywood Park Sunday afternoon, track announcer Vic Stauffer said the Darley Debutante champion "(had) momentum."

But 33/1 Rigoletta was having none of it.

The Dan Hendricks-trained, David Flores-ridden underdog battled back on the outside (as did early leader Indian Gracey on the rail) and it was a three-horse head-knocker to the finish. The eighth-mile gut-check was won by the long-shot, Rigoletta, by a half-length, making her the first graded stakes winner of my sales-tip class of 2010 -- and a Grade 1 winner at that. (Race video at

I was shocked when the morning-line odds were posted for this race. Rigoletta was installed as the co-long-shot at 12/1, despite her third place finish behind Tell a Kelly in the aforementioned Darley Debutante. Izshelegal, a graded-placed maiden who was fourth in the Debutante, was just 4/1 on the morning line. And that was just the beginning.

I e-mailed a friend about the race; subject line: "WTF on odds for the Oak Leaf?"

I understood 8/5 on Tell a Kelly. I could get that Rigoletta's fellow sales-tip, Alienation, was 7/2, although I thought she'd be a bad bet here. That filly's early speed was likely to be tested by Indian Gracey (but wasn't, since Alienation made an awkward break and never quite caught up to the pace). But my mind was boggled that G1-placed (on synth) Rigoletta would have the same odds as Fairplex maiden-breaking stakes-winner True Way of Grace, whom Rigoletta defeated (considerably) in breaking her maiden.

And there was simply no possible explanation for why Pacific Pride was 4/1 on the morning line off 78 and 79 speed figures at Del Mar in finishing fourth and first at the maiden level. Rigoletta debuted at Hollywood with an Equibase speed figure of 68 when she was unplaced at first asking. But her maiden-breaking win at Del Mar scored an 81, and she improved to 89 in finishing third in the Debutante. (By contrast, Tell a Kelly scored a 101 for her Debutante win.)

As I told my friend, in essence, if Rigoletta kept improving as she had each race prior, and Tell a Kelly bounced even a little, an upset wasn't out of the realm of possibility.

Imagine my amazement as I watched the Oak Tree meeting live at and Rigoletta drifted higher and higher -- at one point not far from post time sitting at 44/1, highest on the board, while a horse she'd beaten in their mutual last race, Izshelegal, was still at 6/1.

Rigoletta ended up going off as the second-longest price at 32.7/1, while True Way of Grace was 34.5/1. Tell a Kelly was sent away at 1/2.

When the gates opened, Indian Gracey sprang to a length and a half lead, aided in no small part by Alienation's clumsy beginning. Rigoletta, who had closed from deep to break her maiden and to place third in the Debutante, was running second in this one. I thought Rigoletta might be closer to the pace in this race, as she'd been working very quickly of late. But even Hendricks and Flores were surprised at how keen she was to go on.

"She was in the bridle the whole way," Flores said. "She's got one of those long strides, so I was surprised she was so aggressive early."

Alienation pulled at Martin Garcia and hustled her own way into third, but would eventually fade to sixth of seven. Indian Gracey was game on the rail, but couldn't quite keep up. And while Tell a Kelly did gain a momentary lead, it was Rigoletta who prevailed.

"When Tell a Kelly bumped her, it got her into the race more," said Flores of Rigoletta. "... She got aggressive and fought back. I thought I was going to get beat, but that seemed to make her madder."

And "madder" made her a winner.

I recommended Rigoletta on this blog before she sold for a comparatively affordable $35,000 as Hip 726 at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. April auction of 2-year-olds in training. She was bred in Florida and consigned to the sale by Ocala Stud, and now races in the colors of Thor-Bred Stable LLC.

I was drawn to the daughter of Concerto-Almost Aprom Queen, by Montbrook, for several reasons. Most eye-catching was her 21-flat breeze for a quarter. But just as important, she already had a stakes-placed full brother, Evening Concerto, and their dam was a winning half-sister to 10-win, G3-placed SEA OF GREEN ($651K) and LADY GIN ($227K).

This also happens to be the female family of another of my sales tips, GOURMET DINNER (Trippi), whose dam, Potluck Dinner (Pentelicus) is likewise a winning half-sister to Rigoletta's dam and the aforementioned stakes horses. Gourmet Dinner so far is 3-for-3 with victories in the Dr. Fager Stakes and the Affirmed Stakes, both at Calder, for $137,390. That colt, campaigned by Our Sugar Bear Stable, was a bargain just like his cousin, costing $40,000.

"Pretty much a racehorse family," I wrote in recommending the filly who later would be named Rigoletta.

And it's pretty much a good year for this accomplished, under-valued, Florida-rooted female family.

Rigoletta's victory qualifies as a "win and you're in" for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. But there's a catch. She isn't Breeders' Cup-nominated. So Thor-Bred Stable will have to foot a supplemental nomination fee equal to 9 percent of the race's total purse -- that is, $180,000, since the race is valued at $2 million -- if they want their girl with the automatic bid, to actually be allowed to use it.

"My vote is we run. No guts, no glory," said her trainer, Hendricks. "You're going for the championship. I'd love to go."

And of course, I'd love to cheer for Rigoletta at Churchill.

I also hope to see Alienation there, but I think Bob Baffert should switch his wife Natalie's horse back to the grass, where she broke her maiden. Alienation, a $60,000 OBSAPR buy, was G1- and G2-placed on dirt (once in the slop) at Saratoga, as well. The sixth-place finish Sunday, when she was compromised a bit at the start, is the first time she's finished worse than second in four starts. But I think the daughter of Rock Hard Ten-Alienated, by Gone West, stands a better chance in the Juvenile Filly Turf, where her early speed might control the race, than in the Juvenile Fillies, where there's always one or two or three others who are likewise quite keen to go on early.

Rigoletta's victory means my 187 juvenile sales tips of 2010 now boast their third stakes winner. Apart from Rigoletta and Gourmet Dinner, FISCAL POLICY is the other black-type winner. Alienation (G1, G2) is one of five stakes-placers, three others also graded, including Rough Sailing (G3), Stopspendingmaria (G3), still-a-maiden Rockin Heat (G3), and non-blacktype-placed Blue 'em Away.

The victory by Rigoletta is the 41st from 229 starts by the Class of 2010, a strike rate of 17.9 percent. The selections have also placed second 42 times, or 36.3 percent in the exacta. With 22 show finishes, the in-the-money rate for the group is 45.9 percent.

Combined earnings have now reached $1,423,282, or $6,215 per start.

Follow the progress of all 187 sales picks, and a few pans, in the list at the bottom of this former post.