Monday, August 29, 2011

Hard Rock Candy finally tastes sweet victory

For eight consecutive starts, Hard Rock Candy had been a hard luck racehorse.

Eight times the filly from my 2010 sales-tip list went to post. Five times, including her first four straight, she came home in second place, and once she missed second by a neck.

  • June 19, 2010, Calder Race Course, by a length to Greatest Dream, who since has made five stakes starts with a best finish of fourth in the Tropical Park Oaks.
  • Aug. 1, 2010, Philadelphia Park, by a half-length to future allowance winner Parvenu.
  • Aug. 29, 2010, Monmouth Park, by 7 1/4 lengths to After Later, who would contest the G1 Frizette Stakes at Belmont in her next out.
  • Sept. 18, 2010, Philadelphia Park, by 3 1/2 to Floating Dream.
  • May 31, 2011, Parx Racing, third by 4 to fellow Fugue sales-selection Circumstance, a neck out of second behind race-favorite Deflate the Bubble.
  • Aug. 1, 2011, Parx Racing, by 1 1/4 to another of my sales selections, Shipwreck Cove.
On Monday, it finally was Hard Rock Candy's turn.

Sent off as the prohibitive favorite among a field of $40K-$35K maiden-claimers at Parx, Hard Rock Candy and Kendrick Carmouche stalked the early leaders through opening fractions of 22.57 and 45.57, then surged in the stretch to gradually draw clear and win the race by a length and a quarter over Lyle's Angel. Final time for 6.5 furlongs over a fast strip was a brisk 1:16.18.

Hard Rock Candy was bred in Florida by Brent Fernung and Crystal Fernung. She is owned by Barbara Armstrong and Gavin-Ty Racing LLC, and trained by Richard Vega.

I tabbed the chestnut daughter of Wildcat Heir-D. D. Rocks, by Tactical Advantage, among my top prospects prior to her failing to sell at a high bid of just $32,000 as Hip 940 at last year's Ocala April sale of 2-year-olds in training. Though it has taken her awhile to break maiden, the clocking of her win on Monday suggests the filly has the ability to move forward from this victory.

A similar move forward has been made by sales-tip Admitit ($20,000 OBSAPR Hip 1046), who took 10 tries to break maiden at Woodbine, with five places and three shows in her first nine starts, but now has won three straight and earned $121,750 from 12 lifetime starts.

Neither of those two quite hold the record for seconditis among the sales-tips. That honor goes to Mugsy Dehere ($40,000 EASMAY Hip 323) who is 7-for-9 finishing second in maiden special weight company at Charles Town. He's earned $35,880 without winning, but hasn't run since May 14 nor worked in the last 60 days, so I'm left crossing my fingers he'll make a comeback.

Others who keep knocking on a door that's yet to open include:

  • Rockin Harbor ($35K RNA, KEEAPR Hip 36), 0-3-1 from seven starts for $18,000, back on the work tab at Santa Anita.
  • Elusive Land ($25K RNA, ADSSPR Hip 11), 0-3-0 from three maiden special weight starts at Woodbine for $34,881.
  • Heir to Dare ($62K RNA, OBSAPR Hip 934), 0-3-0 from three starts in Florida, $26,241.
  • Surprise Strike ($34K RNA, EASMAY Hip 380), 0-3-0 from six starts at Presque Isle, Woodbine and Saratoga, $29,749.
  • After Words ($30K RNA, EASMAY Hip 281), 0-2-1 from four starts in the Mid-Atlantic, $15,110, in Tuesday at Parx.
Including Mugsy Dehere, that's 21 seconds from 32 starts for those six.

Regardless, Hard Rock Candy becomes the 103rd maiden-breaker among the 187 prospects I selected from various 2-year-old sales last year. That's 55 percent of all selections and 66.5 percent of the 155 to have made at least one start.

Click here to see the statistics on all 187 selections, plus nine horses whose high prices I criticized.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sea Why wins her first, has much more to do

When the hammer fell on Hip 632 at last year's Ocala April sale of 2-year-olds in training, I gasped.

I liked the fleet-breezing chestnut filly by Whywhywhy-Vermilion Sea, by Boundary. I didn't quite like her $150,000 worth.

The Illinois-bred filly opened eyes with a 32 4/5 breeze at the under-tack show prior to OBS April, and I knew that she wouldn't be among the cheapest of my mostly bargain-minded selections out of that sale. It certainly didn't hurt her, either, to be out of a stakes-placed mare and already half-sister to a multiple stakes-placer named Big Lou, who eventually retired late last year with six wins from 32 starts for more than $200,000.

Before she sold, I conceded that speed "might just crush among IL-breds."

But $150K seemed awfully much for the offspring of a stallion who now stands for $3,500 and whose average 2-year-old filly sells for about $22,000. And after all, blistering breezes at under tack shows can be deceptive.

Subsequently (and cleverly) named Sea Why, she finished third once from three starts as a juvenile.

Coming off the shelf on Saturday at Arlington Park, and in for a $10,000 tag among maidens, Sea Why went to the front under E.T. Baird and stayed there, winning by three lengths as the roughly 5/2 favorite in a field of 11. Her fellow sales-tip of mine Cat Has Claws was sixth after stumbling at the gate or breaking awkwardly (not reported on the Equibase chart) and then being used up chasing the pace.

Bred in Illinois by T/C Stable, Sea Why remains the property of Silverton Hill LLC. She is trained by Larry Rivelli.

She's now banked $10,970 on the long road to recouping $150,000 plus the associated costs of training. Though her time for 6.5 furlongs on Polytrack Saturday was a pedestrian 1:21.10, maybe this first-off-the-layoff effort is one she can build from, and we we'll eventually Sea Why" I liked her, and why Silverton Hill loved her enough to pay her Ocala ransom.

Sea Why also becomes the 102nd of my 187 sales selections to break maiden; that's 54.6 percent.

Click here to see all 187 horses, plus nine whose high prices caused me to pan their purchases.

Grey Goddess breaks through at Charles Town

Grey Goddess, a filly I selected from last year's Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Sale of 2-year-olds in Training, broke maiden in her fifth lifetime start, scoring Wednesday night among special weights at Charles Town.

Travis Dunkelberger kept the filly close to early leader Second Market in the opening stages of the race, took over by a length and a half at the top of the stretch, and maintained that margin to the finish in a 4 1/2-furlong race run in 53.02. Another of my sales selections, Gallop Girl ($45,000 as OBSAPR Hip 1079) finished fifth in her second lifetime start.

Grey Goddess (Mizzen Mast-Bet Birdie, by Bet Twice) was bred in Kentucky by N.J. Samford, and is now owned by Winners Circle Partners II and trained by Hugh McMahon.

I shortlisted the filly for a client at EASMAY 2010, where she sold for $50,000 (rather more than I expected) to Pewter Stable as Hip 36. Her current connections claimed the filly in her last out at Parx Racing in Philadelphia for $40,000 and she quickly paid dividends.

Grey Goddess has now earned $23,510 from a win and a place in five starts.

She becomes the 101st winner worldwide from my 187-horse list of 2-year-old prospects catalogued at 2010 juvenile sales. That's 54 percent of all selections.

Elsewhere Wednesday, sales-tip Code Dancer collected his second lifetime win in a Penn National upset.

Code Dancer, a $13,000 RNA as Hip 1187 at OBSAPR 2010, was actually my first sales selection to break his maiden, doing so on May 15 last year for a $50,000 tag at Presque Isle Downs. He followed that start with an effort in a stakes race at Woodbine, where he was last of six and shelved until turning 3.

On Wednesday, making his sixth lifetime start, Code Dancer and rider Arienne Cox stalked the leaders and pounced in the stretch, paying $25.60 to win a $7,500 claimer run in 58.63 over the Tapeta synthetic surface. Finishing third was another of my sales tips, Wild Alley Cat, at nearly 11/1. The trifecta of my sales tips sandwiched around heavy favorite Tandem Axle paid $189.70.

Code Dancer (Omega Code-Jocey's Dance, by Seattle Dancer) was bred in Florida by Brambly Lane Farm, is owned by Clyde D. Race, and is trained by Wayne W. Rice. He has earned $25,982 from a pair of wins in six starts.

Wild Alley Cat (Flower Alley-Winner's Ticket, by Jolie's Halo) was bred in Kentucky by Needham-Betz Thoroughbreds Inc., Kidder, Blackburn, Lamantia and Halecky. He is owned and trained by Burton K. Sipp. The gelding broke his maiden for the Sipp family at first asking at Turf Paradise and has hit the board in each of his last two starts at Penn National, earning $12,340. He was purchased for just $6,000 as Hip 401 at Fasig-Tipton's Midlantic Sale in May 2010, where I considered him a Priority 2 prospect for a client seeking bargain runners.

Catching up with Calder winners

A week on the road taking my daughter to college was followed by a hectic week in the workplace, and I have been remiss in reporting several victors from my 2010 list of juvenile sales selections.

Two of the better ones had their pictures snapped again at Calder Race Course in Florida last weekend. On Aug. 20, a week ago today, stakes-placed Bessie M prevailed under the guidance of rider Daniel Centeno as the short-price favorite in an optional-claiming field that was cut from eight runners to four due to scratches.

It was the third win in seven starts for Platinum Equestrian Corporation and trainer Antonio Sano, who claimed Bessie M for $25,000 at Gulfstream in January. She's never finished worse than third for the connections, including a show finish in the Regal Gal Stakes at Calder on May 28 and second by a head in the Leave Me Alone Stakes over the same course on June 11. Bessie M now has four wins, three places and three shows from 12 starts for $93,604.

I shortlisted Bessie M (Medallist-Catalita, by Mountain Cat) for a client seeking bargain prospects at the May 2010 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale of 2-year-olds in training. She was purchased for $35,000 by William H. Harris, for whom she broke maiden in a dead-heat with Feelin Abit Frisky at Monmouth on Aug. 20 as of her 2-year-old season. Bessie M was bred in Maryland by Mr. and Mrs. Charles McGinnes.

On Sunday at Calder, inconsistent two-time stakes-winner REPRIZED HALO decided to bring his A-game in an optional-claimer in which he was in for the $25,000 tag. That race was also riddled with scratches when it came off the turf, but the Manuel Azpurua-trained and Daniel Coa-ridden Reprized Halo -- who broke his maiden in the slop -- still paid $19 to win.

Reprized Halo was bred in Florida by Debra and Bill Backlinie. He has now won four times from 19 starts for $340,644.

I selected Reprized Halo in a search for mostly bargain prospects out of the 2010 Ocala April sale of 2-year-olds in training. The son of Halo's Image-Reprized Angel, by Reprized, where he sold to his current connections for a mere $21,000. It took the colt seven tries to break maiden, then on his eighth, he shocked the field in the $365,000 Florida Stallion In Reality Stakes, paying $94.60 to win and handing the very talented GOURMET DINNER (another of my OBS April tips) his first lifetime defeat in four starts.

Reprized Halo would later win the $100,000 OBS Championship Stakes as a 3-year-old.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Scenic City 'Storms' to maiden win in final strides; two prior winners collect second lifetime victories

It's fitting, perhaps, that while traveling to Boulder, Colo., the 100th winner arrived from my 2010 juvenile sales tips, and her name is Scenic City Storm.

Boulder, after all, in the shadow of the Flatirons, is about as beautiful as cities get. And I even forged our way down I-70 through a thunderstorm on our drive.

Scenic City Storm broke through on Thursday in her third start, and did so among special weights at Calder in a race taken off the turf. She'd been a game second despite being bumped at the start in her second lifetime effort, on grass. This time, sent off as the third-favored among nine at about 3/1, she rated in sixth under Eduardo Nunez, and was still fifth at the top of the stretch, but wore down the leaders to gain victory by three-quarters of a length. Final time for five furlongs on an always-heavy Calder track that was rated as "good" was 1:01.27.

Scenic City Storm was bred in Florida by Bridlewood Farm. She is trained by Brian Cleary and has now earned $25,320 for owners Dale Howard and Mark Hamilton.

I tipped the bay daughter of Stormy Atlantic-Godmother, by Show 'Em Slew at Ocala's April sale last year, where she was purchased for $35,000 as Hip 1093. Her solid efforts on both turf and dirt reflect the versatility I hoped we'd find from the offspring of Stormy Atlantic. She also shows some talent inherited from her dam, winner of the Safely Kept S. and two other added-money events on her way to earning $373,341.

With 100 winners on the books, 53.5 percent of my 2-year-old selections have now broken their maidens.

Later on Thursday, another sales-selection of mine collected her second lifetime win among claiming company at Charles Town. I shortlisted My Reward (Grand Reward-Leelu, by Carson City) as a Priority 3 horse for a client at Fasig-Tipton Midlantic in May 2010, where she failed to sell as Hip 217 on a top bid of $16,000. She prevailed by a length Thursday at CT, but it was reported by stewards that she did bleed during the race.

My Reward was bred in Pennsylvania by E&D Enterprises and Grand Reward Syndicate, was ridden by Rodney Soodeen who picked up the mount from Antonio Lopez, and is owned and trained by Melissa L. Hunt. The filly has now won twice and placed three other times from nine starts for $28,261.

Also comes word that Little Man Arran (Golden Missile-Ms Copelan, by Copelan) won for the second time after being sent to Barbados from Canada, where he made his first few starts at 2. He won Saturday going 1,570 meters on turf in 1:35.6. With about $12,960 earned (U.S.) in foreign currency, he's about halfway to paying back the $25,000 Bill and Hayley Blevin spent on him as Hip 169 at OBSAPR.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Good Chemistry best medicine among Hoosier maidens

I've been remiss in reporting the latest member of my 2010 juvenile sales tips to find his way to the winner's circle.

Good Chemistry did just that Thursday evening, winning a competitive maiden special weight heat at Hoosier Park.

The dark bay gelding by More Than Ready-Sister Swank, by Skip Away was sent off as the third choice at slightly more than 3/1 odds in a good-betting race that saw six of the seven entries go off at odds of 6/1 or below. He was in contention throughout, gained separation from the field along with 5/2 favorite Tingaleo, then wore that rival down in deep stretch to score by three-quarters of a length. Final time for a mile over fast dirt was 1:36, and with the runner-up some 5 1/2 lengths clear of third-place Street Talk'n Man, it would be hard to argue that "Chemistry's" performance was anything other than "Good."

That might be especially so considering what was paid for the youngster -- a paltry $10,000 as Hip 113 at Keeneland's April 2010 auction, prompting me to label him one of my "steals" of the sale. I singled out the prospect for praise based on his solid sire and the then-colt's up-side as the first foal out of a Grade 3-winning mare who earned $389,989, was half to a pair of additional stakes winners, and whose dam was a stakes-placed producer of nine winners from 11 foals. The horse even breezed 21 4/5 for a quarter.

Good Chemistry didn't race at 2, and didn't fare too well in his first three races upon his debut at age 3. He was sixth among special weights in his unveiling at Gulfstream Park, then seventh and eighth in Polytrack and turf tries among special weights at Arlington.

Back on real dirt for the first time since his debut, however, he nearly collected a win in maiden-claiming company going a route of ground at Churchill on June 25, setting the stage for Thursday's winning effort.

Good Chemistry was bred in Kentucky by Aleyrion Bloodstock Ltd. and is owned by Thomas Meites and Richard S. Trent, for whom he has now earned $25,984. He is trained by Doug Matthews and was ridden to victory (quite well, I might add) by Orlando Mojica.

With the win, Good Chemistry brings my 187-horse Sales-Tip Class of 2010 to within one maiden-breaker of the century mark. The 99 winners from 187 prospects equals 52.9 percent of all selections.

The sales-tip class collected another foreign victor on Friday as Sand Hi was victorious for the second time in nine starts at South Korea's Busan racecourse. Sand Hi (Stormy Atlantic-Hay Lauren, by Hay Halo) was shortlisted as a "Priority 3" horse among 48 prospects recommended to a client at the May 2010 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Sale of 2-year-olds in training. He sold there for $20,000 as Hip 171 to the KOID, Korea's racing authority, which exported him for resale. Sand Hi has now earned the equivalent of $65,833 at Busan.

Sand Hi's earnings last week also have bumped that Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Sale group into the realm of profitability. About $1.13 million was bid on the 46 of 48 horses to go through the ring (two were withdrawn, only one of which has raced), and their collective earnings now approach $1.2 million. I'm about to issue a full update on that 48-horse shortlist and how they've fared vs. the remainder of the catalog; look for that by the end of the month.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I say Lasix, you say Salix; oh, and I say 'Use it or don't'

I've neglected commenting much about this sport for the past few months, restricting my blog posts to reports of the successes (mostly) of my 2-year-old sales selections from 2010. But news that the American Graded Stakes Committee will ban the use of Salix in graded races for 2-year-olds next year prompts me to react.

When it comes to Salix -- still known pretty much everywhere as Lasix, and scientifically known as furosemide -- make a choice, America. Use it or don't.

OK, I understand that sometimes progress takes baby steps. (More about that later.) But weaning the U.S. racing thoroughbred population off Salix (which is used almost nowhere else) a handful of horses at a time, that is, only 2-year-olds in graded stakes, is like a toddler taking his first step on a walk from New York to Los Angeles. Maybe he'll get there before he's old enough to vote.

I'm not entirely convinced (maybe not at all convinced) that Salix itself is definitively detrimental to the breed. Some people believe it makes the horses brittle, or cuts down on their number of starts per year and lifetime (which indeed are declining), but there isn't much conclusive science on those fronts. The evidence is anecdotal and the conclusions mostly speculative.

On the other hand -- and this isn't fence-riding on my part -- I am a proponent of American horses competing without any race-day medications. I can make that statement despite having also made the prior statement because trainers and jurisdictions everywhere in the world have shown horse racing can take place (at a very high level) without race-day use of medications, particularly in this case Salix. Thus, I don't really need science to tell me Salix is "bad," because I already know the drug isn't absolutely necessary for horses and horse racing to survive, even thrive.

Meanwhile, science does suggest that EIPH -- that's exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage, or "bleeding" -- is inherited in horses. So it is best that we breed with the horses least likely to be carrying this trait, and by running them without Salix, we'll know horses perform better without pharmaceuticals masking an inherited flaw. (Although as Sid Fernando explored in this recent blog post and his story in North American Trainer magazine, what do you do when those who don't bleed as runners, sire those that do?)

Though the debate over Salix has brewed for awhile and has reached a boiling point, the problem of EIPH in thoroughbreds is hardly new. In the United States, the highest honor for a racehorse is to win an Eclipse Award. That honor is named for the undefeated Eclipse (1764), a horse to whom some 80 percent of all modern thoroughbreds can trace its lineage -- and a great-grandson of Bartlett's Childers, a horse whose original nickname was "Bleeding Childers."

Breeding was one of the chief reasons cited by the AGSC for its decision to ban Salix.

"We view this as a positive step for the elite-level horses that will race in graded stakes, the ones most likely to perpetuate the breed," said Dr. J. David Richardson, chairman of the AGSC.

Which would be well and good if only 1 or 2 percent of all fillies retired to be broodmares, or if the propensity to pass along the EIPH trait is entirely the responsibility of the sire, not the dam. (I don't know the answer to that; if someone does, tell me.)

Then there is the question of how a handicapper should handle next year's biggest 2-year-old races. Once again, the racing industry takes action without considering (or at least without acknowledging that it has considered) the plight of the sport's most ardent fans -- those willing to wager on these races.

Last year, there were 6,410 2-year-old races in the U.S. and Canada. Of those, just 49 were graded-stakes events. There were 14,976 2-year-old starters in the United States and Canada, who made a combined 59,998 starts. A virtually imperceptible fraction of those were in graded-stakes.

Unless all U.S. jurisdictions follow the lead of the AGSC (which is, admittedly, trying to be a leader), next season's juveniles it seems could break their maidens on Salix, collect allowance victories and ungraded stakes wins on Salix, then suddenly be entered against one another in a race where that race-day medication is banned.

What will those past-performances you purchased be worth?

If running without race-day medication is worthwhile in the United States and Canada -- and I think that it is -- then let's just pick a date and start doing it. Granted, it might make sense to break that ground with a shovel and not with a backhoe, thus doing so with a class of 2-year-olds (i.e., not withdrawing all horses in competition, tomorrow) is the best way. But make that an entire class of 2-year-olds; get them all started off on drug-free careers together, and consider "grandfathering" those older horses running on Salix, which is just about everybody these days, so that a horse doesn't have to be withdrawn from something to which his system has become accustomed.

Within just a few seasons, it will be the horses who are listed as running on Lasix in the Racing Form who are in the distinct minority, not the other way around.

And, like most things in horse racing, it is the trainers and breeders who will need to adjust their ways; not the animals.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Today was the day for Be That It May

She didn't sell at Ocala's 2010 April sale of 2-year-olds as no buyer was willing to offer more than $18,000 for her, which wasn't enough to meet her sellers' reserve. And she didn't break maiden among special weights at a major meet like Gulfstream Park in the winter or Saratoga in the summer.

But as of this afternoon, Be That It May is a winner, and the 98th to break maiden among my 187 sales selections from various 2010 juvenile auctions.

Be That It May placed twice in five starts at Philadelphia Park/Parx Racing before shipping north and dropping "south" to the $5,000 level to find her friends at Suffolk Downs. But she dispensed with those new playmates handily Monday, despite stumbling at the break and drifting out on the turn for home. The bay filly led at every call and covered a muddy 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:07.51 to defeat 6-year-old debuter (yes, you read that right) Classy City Lady by 5 1/2 lengths under Jacqueline Davis.

The daughter of Proud Accolade-Miss Angel T., by Talc, was bred in Florida by Norman Casse. She is now owned by Nicole Hedus and trained by William C. Hedus. She has earned $10,720 from six starts.

I recommended Be That It May prior to her going through the ring as Hip 136 at OBSAPR 2010. She only brought a top bid of $18,000 despite a 10-flat breeze and her being both the daughter of a stakes-winning dam and half-sister to G2 winner PROFIT OPTION. Her family displays considerable soundness: Her dam raced 43 times, and her sturdy dirt/turf-routing son (Be That It May's half-brother) Super Twenty Five (Valid Appeal) raced 62 times, Profit Option made 27 starts, and several others made starts numbered in the 20s and 30s. So even if she stays at this low level, perhaps Be That It May can run on as a useful, if modest claimer for years to come.

Regardless, as winner No. 98 from the class, 52 percent of my 187 selections have now broken their maidens.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Weekend results: 0-for-USA, 4-for-6 worldwide

It was a fruitless weekend Stateside, save for a few places and shows, but the horses I tabbed from last year's 2-year-old sales garnered four wins and two seconds from six foreign starts this weekend.

Winners Sunday included Admitit -- victorious for the third straight time in Canada after taking 10 tries to break maiden -- and Viva Ace, who is now 6-for-10 lifetime running among very good company in South Korea. The other two wins came Saturday in the form of a daily double at Hipodromo Camarero in Puerto Rico, where Australis Dream broke his maiden in Race 4 and stakes-placed Goldenrod Road collected his second lifetime victory among claiming company in Race 5.

Australis Dream becomes the 97th horse to break maiden worldwide from the 187 prospects I selected on this blog from selected juvenile auctions of 2010. He sold for $28,000 as Hip 728 at Ocala's April sale last year. The dark bay son of West Acre-Always a Dream, by Always a Classic, was bred in Florida by Gilbert G. Campbell, is owned by Luis Hiraldo, and is trained by Ramon Morales.

Goldenrod Road sold for $23,000 as Hip 423 from that same OBS April 2010 sale. He broke maiden in his second start and was third in Puerto Rico G3 company in his fourth try, but it took until his 14th start to clear the NW2L condition. (He was second twice and third three times in his last five starts.) The bay colt by Montbrook-Special Report, by Notebook, was bred in Florida by Centaur Farms Inc., is owned by Carlos Oyola Stable and is trained by Allison Escobar.

Updating the earnings for those two will have to wait until the charts arrive at Equibase from San Juan, apparently via carrier pigeon.

On Sunday, Viva Ace added to his considerable Korean accomplishments as we in the States were nestled in our beds, and did it by upsetting Korean Derby champion Cheonnyeon Daero. The native-bred Cheonnyeon Daero was sent off as the 7/5 favorite, but 4/1 second-choice Viva Ace wore him down in the final furlong of the 1,600-meter feature handicap at Busan, drawing off to win by 2 1/2 lengths.

I shortlisted Viva Ace for a bloodstock client seeking bargain prospects from the 2010 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Sale in Timonium, Md. The dark bay gelding by Macho Uno-Dancing Lake, by Meadowlake, sold for just $20,000 as Hip 90, and was shipped-off with many other U.S.-auctioned 2-year-olds to race at the Seoul and Busan tracks in South Korea. Viva Ace has won six and placed second three other times from 10 lifetime starts for $209,555, with his only off-the-board finish coming in his lone try against stakes company and older horses.

With his haul, Viva Ace pushes the 48-horse list from EASMAY precariously close to paying for themselves. The whole group cost a shade over $1.1 million (minus two that were withdrawn from the sale, one of which hasn't raced and maybe never will), and now are within a cheap win or decent placing from cashing-out with several months left to run as 3-year-olds.

Much later on Sunday, Admitit as noted collected her third straight victory by a length among $40,000 claimers at Canada's premier track, Woodbine. Bred in Kentucky by Hot Pepper Farm, she is now 3-5-3 from 12 starts, for $121,750 for owner Saffie Joseph and trainer Ricky Griffith. I recommended the bay filly by E Dubai-Fine Day, by Fantastic Light, as Hip 1046 at OBSAPR 2010, where she likewise sold for a bargain $20,000. ... Mr. Joseph has certainly gotten his money's worth with the filly -- you'd have to Admitit. (Rim-shot, please!)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Decennial arrives just in time at the Spa

Experiencing trouble not once, but twice in a field of six, Decennial nonetheless benefited from a masterfully patient ride by Ramon Dominguez to score by less than a length on the wire Thursday in a starter handicap at Saratoga.

On Thursday, Decennial went forth as the 6/5 favorite in the 8.5-furlong test on Saratoga's inner turf. Usually full of run late, she tracked along patiently under Dominguez and behind the other five runners for the first six furlongs. Endeavoring to move up, Decennial was forced to check at the quarter-pole, then, as the Equibase chart puts it, found herself "mired behind a wall spreading from the rail into the five path." She was checked-up again with three-sixteenths to go when To The Point under John Velazquez lugged in, letting David Cohen and Higher Incentive surge to the lead as early leaders Margaret Smile and Classical Fashion spit their respective bits.

It looked as though Cohen and Higher Incentive were home free, leading by a length and a half in mid-stretch, with Decennial still two lengths in arrears, in third. But when Dominguez asked Decennial for more, she found it, and overhauled the leader just short of the wire. Final time for the trip was 1:42.82.

It was the third consecutive win and the fourth in five tries on turf for Decennial, whose only unplaced effort was on the inner dirt during Aqueduct's winter meeting. The Florida-bred chestnut filly by Trippi-Romantic Dinner, by Who's For Dinner, has made all six of her lifetime starts at age 3 on the New York circuit, and has earned $80,500 for Blue Devil Racing Stable. She was bred by Ocala Stud and is trained by Carlos Martin.

I recommended Decennial out of last year's Ocala April sale of 2-year-olds in training, where sold for just $26,000 as Hip 349. She was one of three closely related Florida-breds that I recommended from the same sale: The other two turned out to be GOURMET DINNER (also sired by Trippi, 1st Delta Downs Jackpot S.-G3, 2nd Fountain of Youth S.-G2, etc., $989,660) and RIGOLETTA (by Concerto, Oak Leaf S.-G1, $184,070). Decennial is a half-sister to the dams of both Gourmet Dinner and Rigoletta.

The three sold for a combined $101,000. Though Rigoletta is already retired due to injury, the trio have won 10 of 20 lifetime, including four stakes (two graded), for $1,254,230.

Also Thursday, the 187-horse Sales-Tip Class of 2010 nearly collected two wins in more modest claiming company. A pair of Grand Reward fillies I shortlisted for a client at last year's Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Sale in May each finished second in their respective races Thursday night.

Reward The Lady (Grand Reward-You're A Lady, by Youmadeyourpoint) who sold for just $6,000 as the first horse through the ring at that Maryland sale, was second beaten three-quarters at Presque Isle Downs in her effort to collect a third lifetime win, this time for a $7,500 tag. She now has two wins and two seconds from seven starts on the Pennsylvania circuit, her home state, for $39,580.

About an hour later, My Reward (Grand Reward-Leelu, by Carson City) was a hard-closing second by a head for an $8,000 tag at Charles Town. My Reward was a $16,000 RNA at EASMAY 2010, and after placing just once from her first eight lifetime starts has managed a win and two second-place finishes from her last three efforts, for combined earnings of $18,661.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Bernardus breaks through at Mountaineer

Most of the time, breaking maiden for a $5,000 tag is only considered "better" than not breaking maiden at all. In the case of Bernardus, the tag is still two-thirds more than the horse himself cost at auction.

The 3-year-old dark bay gelding was among my mostly bargain-seeking recommendations out of the 2010 Ocala April sale of 2-year-olds in training, where he changed hands for just $3,000 as Hip 766.

The son of Pleasantly Perfect-Aunt Dot, by Capote, showed promise at higher levels in his first two starts, finishing fourth beaten 5 1/2 for a $32,000 tag at Tampa in his debut and fourth beaten 3 3/4 for a $25,000 tag on turf at Arlington Park. But dull eighth- and fifth-place efforts on Arlington's Polytrack apparently prompted a sharp drop in class and thus Monday night's effort on the Mountaineer Park main track.

Sent off as the 6/5 top choice among the betting public, Bernardus won as though he should have been 3/5, bolting to a quick lead that widened throughout. Bernardus won by seven lengths under T.D. Houghton, despite covering 5 1/2 furlongs in a modest 1:07.40.

Bernardus was bred in Kentucky by Courtlandt Farm. He is trained by James R. Barker for Kenneth O. Smallwood. The gelding has now earned $6,270 from five starts.

I thought and still think that Bernardus has a chance to be a useful racehorse -- even when nobody else did, even though he only galloped rather than breezing at the sale, and even though he's been dropped to $5,000 at this point -- on his relative good looks and the evidence that his siblings were able to outrun the poor career of their dam, who was unplaced in her only start. Bernardus has a half-sister, Aunt Dot Dot (Gulch), who won six of 49 lifetime for $213,915. His half-brother Cassoulet (Distorted Humor) was stakes-placed and had five wins from 25 starts for $209,902. Cassoulet's full sister Global Gala only raced four times, but did break maiden among special weights at Churchill.

And this is the (distant) female family, after all, of CHRIS EVERT and WINNING COLORS.

Bernardus will not match the exploits of those famous females; 3-year-old champions and in the latter's case, one of only three fillies to win the Kentucky Derby. He might not prove to be as good as Aunt Dot Dot or Cassoulet. But for $3,000 he really doesn't really have to be.

The second maiden-breaker on the day for my "sales-tip Class of 2010," Bernardus is the 96th horse overall from that 187-horse list to become a winner; that's 51.3 percent.

Sales-tip Shipwreck Cove latest to break maiden, and to deny hard-luck Hard Rock Candy

Someday, I have to believe, Hard Rock Candy is going to win a race.

Just when I thought that might be today -- and so did bettors, sending her off as the favorite at nearly even money in a 5.5-furlong test at Parx Racing in Philadelphia -- one of her fellow "sales tips" of 2010 stepped up to deny her on a day when nobody else could.

Shipwreck Cove, previously 0-for-2 in a pair of starts at Monmouth Park, appeared for the first time at Parx on Monday and cleared her maiden hurdle in sharp, front-running style beneath jockey Erilius Vaz. She ran a blistering first quarter in 21.85, set a split of 45.05 for the half and finished the race in 1:04 flat. Hard Rock Candy, who had to be steadied at the sixteenth-pole by Kendrick Carmouche, settled for second -- again, for the fifth time in eight starts.

The race was for maidens carrying a $40,000 claiming tag. It was also at least the fifth time in about 13 months of following my 187-horse list of sales tips that two of "my" horses ran in the same race, and finished in the exacta. This time it was worth $38.40 for $2.

Both fillies were sales recommendations of mine on this blog from various juvenile auctions of 2010. Shipwreck Cove, a gray or roan daughter of Stormy Atlantic-Coquettish, by Not For Love, sold for just $18,000 as Hip 895 at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. April auction of 2-year-olds in training. Hard Rock Candy, a chestnut, Florida-bred daughter of Wildcat Heir-D. D. Rocks, by Tactical Advantage, failed to sell at that same auction as Hip 940 when the $32,000 top offer for her did not meet her consignor's reserve price.

Shipwreck Cove was bred in Kentucky by Susan Shipp and Cynthia Polk. She is owned by Rayzin The Bar Stables and Hilltop Winners Circle Stables. Her trainer is Michael Lerman. The filly has now earned $22,070 from three starts. I touted her not only off a good 10.1 breeze at the sale, but because her stakes-winning dam (who was half to two other stakes winners) had already produced a stakes-placer Taking a Chance (by Stephen Got Even, now four wins, 2nd Tippet S. at 2, $103,834) and an older brother who was a first-out winner on turf in Roguish (Arch).

Her connections would be wise not to ignore the turf proclivities of this family. Her half-sister was stakes-placed on turf, her half-brother a grass winner, her dam (while a stakes winner on dirt) was stakes-placed once on grass, and her dam's half-sister MISS LOMBARDI won the Maryland Million Ladies' S. at a mile and an eighth on turf. Since this filly's sire Stormy Atlantic can certainly get a grass horse, it could be worth sending Shipwreck Cove to the turf course sooner rather than later.

As for Hard Rock Candy, she's earned $61,340 from five places and a show in eight starts. And, she's hardly the only hard-luck maiden among my 187-horse list of prospects from last season

Mugsy Dehere has finished second seven times from nine starts, all in maiden special weight company at Charles Town. Elusive Land didn't debut until age 3, and has finished second in all three of her starts at Woodbine, on grass and on Polytrack. Another Wildcat Heir filly from my list, Heir to Dare, is 3-for-3 second-place, all among maiden special weights this winter and spring at Gulfstream Park. Surprise Strike is 3-for-5 finishing in second place, with a recent sixth in a blanket finish at Saratoga in which the margins between the first six places were head-neck-half-neck-neck.

I'd even argue that a fellow banished to Assiniboia Downs, Rain Dance, is a hard-luck maiden. He's 6-for-11 finishing third (never even second), and I'm afraid won't win a race until he gets a rider who understands that the shortest way around the track is on the rail. On Monday, the horse rated patiently and saved ground in maiden-claiming company and the rail opened up for him like Moses parting the Red Sea, but he'd already been taken widest of all (five-wide, per the chart, I'd say six) on the turn for home. Rain Dance ultimately lost by 2 3/4 lengths to Gimmea Can Do It and Regina Sealock, who led gate-to-wire and thus had an inside trip, and missed by a length to second-place-throughout Molinaro Irishline and Krista Carignan; a fairly close third despite Rain Dance's running perhaps 30 to 40 feet further than either of those horses by the finish. In his previous two races Rain Dance was six-wide and seven-wide on the turn for home.

The more I follow racing, the more I realize and appreciate (and wager upon) the rare combination of skill and courage it takes to skim the fence like Calvin Borel.

That frustration side, the aforementioned Shipwreck Cove hereby becomes maiden-breaker No. 95 from my 187-horse list of sales recommendations; that's 50.8 percent. The class has one more chance tonight as the ultra-cheap ($3,000 at OBSAPR) Bernardus goes forth in maiden-claiming company within the hour at Mountaineer Park.

Click here to see them all, complete with updated statistics.