Thursday, May 14, 2009

2009 Preakness Stake Preview

The 2009 Preakness Stakes (gr. I) hasn't been this intriguing in quite some time. The purchase and recent additon of super filly Rachel Alexandra into the entry box by wine maven Jess Jackson is only one of the interesting features of the 134th running of the Preakness. A 50-1 Derby winner returns for respect, and six of his defeated foes return for another shot at a classic.

When Calvin Borel weaved his way through the field 2 weeks ago to shock the world on Mine That Bird, all sorts of questions were raised. Where did he come from? Who is this trainer in the black hat? Was that the work of a biased rail, or an extra push from the vet? Well, we know that Bernie Wooley, Jr. drove his horse from New Mexico by van, and that the Kentucky Derby was only his 2nd win of the year. On Saturday, he won't have the luxury of Calvin Borel riding his horse who opted to ride Rachel Alexandra, in an unprecedented move of leaving the Derby winner to ride a filly facing colts for the first time. Wooley may likely be found on Friday night doing rain dances in the infield, as the sloppy Churchill surface definitely helped him in victory, and may be his only shot to repeat.

The morning line favorite is the filly, Rachel Alexandra who enters off a scintillating performance in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I). Originally her trainer Hal Wiggins wanted to run Rachel in the Acorn Stakes (gr. I) on Belmont day, but she was sold last week to Jess Jackson's Stonestreet Stables and transferred to Steve Asmussen's barn. Jackson avoided some collusion shenanigans by rival owners trying to prevent his filly from running in the race and fortunately for viewers, she's in.

Six rivals from the Derby including the 2nd through 4th place finishers as well as race day favorite Friesan Fire look to turn the tables on Mine That Bird. Of the returnees, I like Pioneerof the Nile the most. He tracked a decent if not quick pace and looked like a winner before Mine That Bird staged his improbable rally. I think the Pimlico surface is not friendly to dead closers and the horse that can emerge in front at the top of the lane stands a good chance to win. I also like General Quarters a little bit, as he seems to only run his best every other race. After having much trouble in the Derby, look for GQ to run much better Saturday.

Of the newcomers, #1 Big Drama looks the toughest. He wired the field in the Grade II Swale at Gulfstream earning a 108 Beyer. More importantly, I think he's the controlling speed, which usually works good at Pimlico, and starting from the rail you know he'll be gunned for the lead. I also thinks he hurts Rachel Alexandra's chances as she likes the lead as well. Rachel is starting from the outside, the 13 post, so Borel will have to decide whether to gun for the lead or pull her back and save ground. His ride will be key to her success. He knows her well piloting her to the recent 5 wins in a row stretch, and he picked her over the Derby winner so you know he loves her chances. But the tough post, the tough pace conditions, and wheeling back in 2 weeks are all negatives for her. She's raced back 2 weeks before both times losing, running subpar races. At 8/5 she just doesn't offer value.

The Pick

Pioneerof the Nile outkicks Rachel Alexandra and a hard charging General Quarters.

Bet Pioneer over Rachel/GQ

Click Here to Read More..

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Get Well Soon Bobby Gonzalez

Golden Gate Fields journeyman jockey Roberto "Bobby" Gonzalez suffered a terrible spill in a 2-year old race this past Wednesday April 29th (article here) breaking vertebrae in his neck. The 54 year old jockey is a consummate pro and winner of over 4,000 races.

I've met Bobby numerous times and he was aboard my horse Dead Solid Perfect when he broke his maiden on the Golden Gate Fields turf beating eventual stakes winner Putmeinyourwill. He was always friendly in the paddock and gave his best in every race.

Here's hoping you get well soon Bobby. Click Here to Read More..

Okay - I'm back - and calling BS.

Can we all agree the derby is a joke and the focus of real fans of our sport should be on the Breeders Cup? A horse that's 50-1 -- and should be 500-1 -- fools us with a ridiculous rags to riches story. A trainer with a single win this year, with a horse that hadn't run a beyer figure north of 81 -- suddenly can storm from about 30 lengths back to win by 7.

We'll see the truth emerge in the coming days. And it'll probably be another black eye for the sport. As much as it's fun to watch the big money get crushed on derby day - you have to hope this win was remotely legit. I'm saying it wasn't. Click Here to Read More..