There's no doubt that a stakes victory at Saratoga stands alone on its own merits as an accomplishment. But, those same races become key preps when analyzed for the Breeders' Cup. The final weekend in Saratoga featured the Woodward Stakes and a competitive field of familiar older horses created the promised great race and an exciting photo finish!
A trip to the race course would not be complete without a visit with The First Lady of Saratoga, Mary Lou Whitney and her husband John Hendrickson. Mary Lou Whitney, the legendary Saratoga Springs socialite and philanthropist, was the feature character in this year’s ad campaign celebrating Saratoga’s 150th Anniversary. At 87-years-old, Whitney pokes fun at herself saying in the ad "I think the only thing older than me, in Saratoga, is the race track! Everyone loves a party, darling. So don't miss Saratoga's biggest celebration in history."
The same may be said about the Breeders’ Cup as both Mary Lou and John have announced their plans to attend.
This is the margin of victory of Alpha over Flat Out in the Woodward Stakes
Eventual winner of the Woodward Stakes, Alpha, in the paddock. Alpha won the race in wire-to-wire fashion on a sloppy track. With his victory, Alpha becomes one of only a few horses to win both the Travers Stakes and Woodward Stakes in consecutive years. The Travers and the Woodward are two of the most prestigious races at the Saratoga Race Meet.
Woodward Stakes runner-up Flat Out. As a physicality handicapper, Flat Out looked like the clear winner in the paddock prior to the race. Based on his appearance factors of weight, condition of his coat, daples, attitude and focus while in the paddock and warm up, I ended up wheeling him in an exacta on the top and bottom of the ticket and received a handsome pay-off as Alpha left the gate as the long shot of the race. Flat Out made a huge stretch run but came up a nose short of victory.
Both horses will be pointed toward the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita this Fall!
Fort Larned White Hot at Churchill Downs
Fort Larned was glowing on his own beyond the night lights at Churchill Downs on Saturday.
He made his entrance into the paddock with authority and was literally dragging his handlers to the saddling stall. The always affable trainer Ian Wilkes and his wife Tracey (Fort Larned’s exercise rider) were equally focused. There were no smiles and kidding around for this pair – their gaze was focused on their horse, jaws tight and intense.
Brian Hernandez quickly found his own game face upon entering the paddock too. Fort Larned warmed up like a machine and from the sharp break from the gate, it was apparent to me that no one was going to catch him.
Fort Larned effortlessly clicked off fractions in magnificent huge strides with his ears pinned back against his head just waiting for Brian to chirp or even move his hands. At the top of the stretch he just extended his stride as Brian sat motionless. Dominant. Awesome.
In the winner’s circle, Ian could now take a breath but he still looked a bit in shock by the performance he just witnessed from his horse. For a man who is typically quite talkative, he could only muster a humble “thanks, he’s one special horse,” as a response to my congratulations. Fitting. Awesome. Get ready for a show in November!
Animal Kingdom - A Horse of the World!
My alarm clock will be set for Tuesday morning to watch Kentucky Derby-winner Animal Kingdom attempt to win the Queen Ann Stakes – the first race on the card opening day at Royal Ascot.
My friend, racing partner and former boss at Visa, Carl Pascarella and his wife Yurie, have flown over to watch their beloved AK. The couple is part of the ownership within Team Valor International and they have rarely missed seeing him run in person.
I’ve had the unique opportunity to live vicariously through Carl and Yurie with a ring side seat as they immerse themselves in this horse of a lifetime. There hasn’t been a Christmas card or correspondence that hasn’t included his name/photo on it – a framed, commissioned portrait hangs in my office and my monthly calendar includes candid snapshots of AK with Carl and Yurie; and AK’s half brother named Thursby now resides outside my kitchen window here at Deerfield.
I’m more than a fan and more than a little biased, but since I know the horse, I also have the benefit of saying that I have never seen him look better! He knows he’s good but he’s amazingly still willing and “trainable.”
Like his trainer Graham Motion, AK still has the ability to be humble and approachable despite his incredible success. Few stars – be it humans or horses – are often able to handle their success without becoming intolerable on some level with attitude. Animal Kingdom has been successful running on every kind of surface and the added fact that he’s done it all on a world-wide stage is even more incredible.
Understandably and probably appropriately, the connections involved with Animal Kingdom are trying to plan only as far out as ”the next race” as their goal. But, if he can win at Ascot with the same dominance he did in Dubai, we may all get the chance to see this grand horse back in the United States at Breeder’s Cup!
Our thoroughbred racing expert Loren Hebel-Osborne is back to share her recap of the 2013 Belmont Stakes:
The three jewels of the Triple Crown have it’s own unique characteristics and qualities. This year’s series yielded three different winners – each horse having it’s own unique strengths highlighted for that specific race. While the crowning of a 12th champion remains elusive, it is important to recognize that both Orb and Oxbow displayed toughness and tenacity in all three legs. As many doubters may say the Triple Crown can’t be done, I remain optimistic that it is still possible! Having horses compete in all three legs successfully only supports my belief.
I salute Palace Malice for his victory in the Belmont Stakes and his training connections who realized that an equipment change was probably responsible for his “over-anxious” effort in the Derby. This was an important handicapping element that I shouldn’t have missed. The colt’s ability to stay the distance and prevail was due to his ability to relax.
Palace Malice did look more relaxed in the post parade too as compared to Derby but I just wasn’t “listening” with my eyes. While it may feel counter intuitive to want a horse to be more relaxed in competition versus “hyped-up,” the cadence of breath during the race is what is paramount. A relaxed cadence allows for maximum air/oxygen exchange into the lungs and muscles. The track composition is deep and often quite tiring depending on it’s condition. Belmont isn’t called “Big Sandy” for it’s view of the beach. Congratulations to all the horses that competed, the finishing standings are:
2013 Belmont Stakes
|Belmont Stakes Finish
||Kentucky Derby Finish
||D. Wayne Lukas
||Irad Ortiz Jr.
||Will Take Charge
||D. Wayne Lukas
Loren's Belmont Superfecta (Prediction given 6/7/2013):
Will Take Charge
Your next chance to experience the thrill of thoroughbred horseracing will be at Santa Anita this fall where the 2013 Breeders' Cup World Championship will be taking place. Will you be there?
The prestigious 1 1/8-mile Stephen Foster will be run under the lights in prime time for the second straight year and will showcase many of the nation’s top horses: reigning Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Fort Larned; Take Charge Indy, the six-length winner of the Alysheba (GII) on Kentucky Oaks Day; Successful Dan, the 7-year-old brother of Horse of the Year Wise Dan who has won 8 of his 12 starts including the Ben Ali (GIII) at Keeneland in late April; defending champ Ron the Greek; Travers (GI) winner Golden Ticket; and 2011 Foster champ Pool Play.
In addition to an estimated $300,000 payday, the Foster winner is entitled to an automatic entry into the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) on Nov. 2 at Santa Anita. The nominated winner of the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Classic Division Challenge Race will have pre-entry and entry fees waived for the 1 ¼-mile Classic and receive a travel stipend of $10,000 if traveling from a location in North America.
Two-time Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic (GI) winner Royal Delta will make her return to the races on the undercard to defend her title in the Grade II, $175,000 Fleur De Lis Handicap Presented by Etihad Airways for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles (Race 6 at 8:30 p.m.). This will mark only the fourth time – but first in the winter, spring or summer – that defending Breeders’ Cup Classic and Ladies Classic champs will compete on the same program. The last occurred Sept. 27, 2008 at Belmont Park when Curlin won the Jockey Club Gold Cup (GI) and Ginger Punch finished second in the Beldame (GI).