In this weekend’s Horse Racing Race of the Week, we will be purely focused on Saturday’s card at Churchill Downs for three exciting reasons. First off, race #4 marks the possible debut of the highly touted Mr. Besilu, race #6 has two time Eclipse Award winner Royal Delta and, of course, our highlighted race (race #8) is the 2013 Stephen Foster Handicap, where four of the six entrants are 3-1 or less, led by morning line favorite Successful Dan.
Looking at race #4 first, I said Mr. Besilu’s debut was possible because, at this writing, he is on the also eligible list so he’ll need a little help (someone to scratch out) to get in.
Mr. Besilu, who is huge and absoltuely stunning to look at, is about as well bred a horse that you’ll ever find. He is by the great A.P. Indy out of Balance, who was a three time grade one stakes winner and a half sister to the great Zenyatta.
Owner Benjamin Leon plunked down $4.2 million at the Keeneland’s 2010 September yearling sale to aquire him and first sent him to Todd Pletcher. But shortly after, Mr. Besilu was transferred to Leon’s farm near Ocala, Fla., when Leon and Pletcher parted ways at the end of 2011. The colt is now with Bill Mott, who had Mr. Besilu at Payson Park over the winter before moving him up to New York (Belmont Park).
Mr Besilu will make his debut as a 4-year-old because he had a soft tissue injury in one of his legs and was given plenty of time to recover from it.
Looking down the list of published works (He shows seven in all), the most visually impressive one was either the five furlong move he logged on May 19 (1:01.4) or the four furlong work he recorded just a week later (:47.3)
He’s worked two more half miles since then (June 4- :49 flat and June 9- :48.3)
“He had a lot of time off, then went back into training,” said Besilu Stables manager Fabricio Buffolo. “Hopefully everything goes right for the next couple weeks leading up to the 15th. The plan is to run him then at Churchill. He’s ready, he’s fit, so we just need to run.”
Shifting over to race #8 at Churchill on Saturday, Royal Delta will try to defend her Fleur de Lis title when she takes on just four others in the Grade: 2, one and one eighth mile event.
Royal Delta, who really needs no introduction with her two pieces of hardware already in the trophy case and her outstanding 10 for 17 career record, looks to lay over this field. She is listed as the 2-5 morning line favorite and I’ll go ahead and tell you, if she gets beat it’ll be one of the biggest upsets of 2013.
Churchill Downs – Saturday, June 15, 2013
Race 8 – 9:39 PM
Stephen Foster Handicap (Grade I)
For Three Year Olds and Upward
One And One Eighth Miles
|1||1||Golden Ticket||4/C||L||J Rosario||117||K G McPeek||
|2||2||Fort Larned||5/H||L||B J Hernandez, Jr.||121||I R Wilkes||
|3||3||Ron the Greek||6/H||L||J Lezcano||120||W I Mott||
|4||4||Take Charge Indy||4/C||L||R Napravnik||119||P B Byrne||
|5||5||Pool Play||8/H||L||M Mena||115||M E Casse||
|6||6||Successful Dan||7/G||L||J R Leparoux||121||C LoPresti||
1) Successful Dan– this now seven year old gelding is a half brother to 2012 Horse of the Year Wise Dan and although he’s run just 12 times in five years of racing, he has recorded a very impressive eight wins and only finished worse than third once.
He returned from a 10 month layoff this past April and, even though he went wire to wire with ridiculously slow early fractions (:25, :50 and a molasses like six furlongs in 1:16), he won the Ben Ali Stakes at Keeneland as a prep for this.
His past history does show he runs well off layoffs and, more importantly, he improves leaps and bounds in his second start off a layoff (which is the situation here).
Combine that with the three for four record over the Churchill Downs surface and a series of fast recent workouts (May 25- 6F- 1:12, June 1- 6F- 1:11.3 and June 8- 4F-:48.3) and you have a tepid choice in a wide open race.
2) Ron the Greek– I love the late running style this now six year old horse possesses and his one and only start over this surface was a (of course) come from behind win in last years Stephen Foster (He ran down Wise Dan in the process).
Aside from apparently liking the surface, he also shows nine of 11 starts on the board at this distance. (You have to respect any horse who likes the distance and track surface regardless of where they run and in what race.)
The troubling part, to me, is his consistency seems to be tailing off a bit since the Jockey Club Gold Cup at BelmontPark last September.
If you put aside his Sunshine Millions romp (over a sloppy Gulfstream Park surface) and his last race (he came third, but was charging hard late to get beat a half length by top older horse Game on Dude in the Charlestown Classic), he hasn’t done all that much at all….that, readers, is a far cry from the eight race streak he had where he was either first or second back in 2011 and 2012.
He’s still a dangerous opponent, but he will, once again, be at the mercy of the pace.
3) Take Charge Indy– good looking and well bred colt (A.P Indy-Take Charge Lady) finally snapped a 5 race, 15 month losing streak when he absolutely buried the field in his last race (He won the Alysheba Stakes over this track by 6).
You have to like that half mile work last week too (4F- :47 flat)
But he is another is plagued with winning consistency issues. Midway thru his 4 year old year, he still shows just three career wins (out of 12 races), including being just 2 for 8 in 2013 and (so far) 2103. Nice horse….I like him…I just like others more.
Fort Larned’s 2013 has been nothing short of a nightmare. In his 2013 debut in the Gulfstream Park Handicap in March, this winner of the 2012 Breeders Cup Classic stumbled at the start, unseating jockey Brian Hernandez, and proceeded to race around- the track without a rider.
“He could have hurt himself real bad” trainer Ian Wilkes said. “It was a sigh of relief when he came back fine. The important thing was that he was OK and Brian was OK”.
In his second start of the year in the Oaklawn Handicap, Fort Larned showed some speed and was amongst the early leaders thru the first five or six furlongs, but finished fifth as the 1-2 favorite in the field of 10.
Wilkes said he expected a better performance.
“He didn’t show any signs of being fatigued and I thought he was on top of his game,” Wilkes said. “I was a little surprised.”…so was I Mr. Wilkes.
His last work (June 10) was very impressive. Fort Larned breezed five furlongs in 1:01 2/5 over the Churchill Downs (muddy) main track.
Under Hernandez Jr., he went in fractions of :13 4/5, :26 2/5, :38 1/5 and :49 4/5. He galloped out six furlongs in 1:14 3/5.
He was a multiple graded stakes winner last year (Skip Away Stakes, Cornhusker Handicap and the prestigious Whitney Handicap at Saratoga), so you know he has immense talent, and if he puts it all together (like he’s proven he can) I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if he wins this race easy. Golden Ticket came from way back with a strong three wide run on the turn for home to annihilated $80,000 optional claimers in his prep race for this. But, again, that was just his second win in almost a year since his thrilling dead heat win (with Alpha) in the 2013 Travers Stakes. He is 4 for 16 overall in his career and these are much tougher than $80,000 claimers…
Record: 9-29 = 31%
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Little Bets N’ Pieces
**** Three-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey Ramon Dominguez announced his retirement from riding yesterday (Thursday) morning, saying injuries sustained in a Jan. 18 fall prevent him from continuing his career.
Dominguez led North America in purse earnings the past three years and was second in wins each of the past four seasons.
Here’s Dominguez’s statement released by the New York Racing Association:
“Riding thoroughbreds has always been my passion and my calling. When I was 13 and watched my first horse race in Venezuela, I knew that I would become a jockey, and my riding career has brought happiness and success beyond what I ever expected”.
“Thus, it is extremely difficult for me to announce that due to the severity of the injuries I sustained in an accident at Aqueduct Racetrack on January 18, 2013, my professional riding career has come to an end. While I hoped and even expected to be able to return to the saddle, as a result of my injuries and upon the advice of my treating physicians, it has been determined that I will no longer be able to pursue my career as a jockey”.
“I want to personally thank my family, fans, and fellow riders for overwhelming support in the months since my accident. I chose to make this statement to end speculation about my future”
Dominguez ranks 14th all-time in purse earnings at $191.6 million, with just shy of 5,000 wins (4,985) out of 21,267 mounts
**** In perhaps one of the greatest comebacks I’ve ever witness in my 34 years of watching this sport, Zayat Stables’ 2012 Haskell Invitational winner Paynter will return to the races for the first time since suffering near death illness and ensuing surgery.
The now 4 year old Paynter will make his first start since last July 2012 for trainer Bob Baffert in a seven-furlong allowance race at Hollywood Park today (Friday, June 14)
Paynter will face seven and it’s the seventh race on the program
“He is as healthy a horse as you want to come into the race,” said owner Ahmed Zayat.
If you recall, Paynter was sidelined from racing after the Haskell when he spiked a temperature at MonmouthPark. He was then sent to a New Jersey clinic, then to upstate Equine Medical Center in New York, and finally to the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center of Veterinary Medicine to remove an abscessed area of his colon at the beginning of October. He recovered at Fair Hill Equine Therapy and was returned to Baffert Dec. 29.
“He hasn’t run since the Haskell, it’s a start. We have been trying to find the right spot,” Zayat said. “We are very excited but I can’t tell you how nervous I am. I’m very proud of him, I’m so happy we got him a race.”
Paynter has been in regular training with Baffert since April. He has three wins and two seconds from six lifetime starts with earnings of $952,224.
“I would never have dreamed when we went to the clinic that we’d ever see him in a race again,” Baffert said. “He’s just an amazing animal, probably the toughest horse I’ve ever been around in my life. It’s incredible what he’s been through and what he looks like now.”
**** Trainer Todd Pletcher, fresh off his 2013 Belmont Stakes win with Palace Malice, sent out a plethora of his string for works early last Sunday morning.
The string included Kentucky Oaks winner Princess of Sylmar (4F- :49 2/5) and Dreaming of Julia (4F- :48)….both are aiming for the Coaching Club American Oaks.
Verrazano (4F- :47 2/5) and will go next in the Sunday’s Pegasus Stakes at MonmouthPark, Discreet Dancer (4F- :48 3/5) and Kauai Katie (4F- :49 2/5).
**** In what will be the last published workout of his career, Dubai World Cup and Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom breezed five furlongs in 1:03 in Lambourn, England this past Wednesday
Trainer Graham Motion equipped the big chestnut with a shadow roll for the work and will consider using the added equipment in Tuesday’s (June 18) Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot, which will be Animal Kingdom’s final career start. (During a previous work at Ascot, Animal Kingdom jumped a worn patch of grass near the finish line.)
Animal Kingdom is odds-on favorite with British bookmakers in the 15-horse field for the Queen Anne.
He will then will stand in Australia for Aus$38,500 (or about $40,000 American dollars) when he enters stud at Arrowfield in September. He is to return to the U.S. (Darley Stud in Lexington, Ky.) for the 2014 Northern Hemisphere breeding season.
**** 2012 two year old colt champion Shanghai Bobby has rejoined trainer Todd Pletcher’s barn at Saratoga.
According to (owner) Starlight Racing’s website, the good looking dark bay, almost black colt, had a full ultra sound done recently and it “came back clean”.
Shanghai Bobby has been on the sidelines since his abysmal Florida Derby finish, after which it was discovered he came out of that race with a pelvic stress fracture.
***** Win-Star Farms Revolutionary has been sent back to his home farm in Kentucky to await a 4 year old campaign farm president Elliot Walden announced this past week.
Walden was quoted as saying “with no championship on the line (from going 0 for 2 in the Triple Crown races), we are going to turn him out for rest and to let him fill out more with hopes of bringing back a bigger stronger horse next year.”
**** Sir Henry Cecil, one of the most successful international trainers over the last four decades, died of cancer last Tuesday at age 70.
A statement on Cecil’s website states: “It is with great sadness that Warren Place Stables confirms the passing of Sir Henry Cecil earlier this morning.
Among Cecil’s many accomplishments were saddling four winners of the Epsom Derby (Slip Anchor, Reference Point, Commander in Chief, and Oath)
In the U.S., Cecil saddled Midday to win the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf
But of all, Cecil will perhaps best be remembered for training super-horse and unbeaten Frankel, who Cecil guided to a 14- for 14 record in his illustrious career
****Wood Memorial runner-up Normandy Invasion has been shipped to Saratoga and has been bedded down in trainer by Chad Brown’s barn. He will begin training for some of the Saratoga’s 3-year- old stakes.
“We moved Normandy Invasion up to Saratoga as planned and he is galloping over the Oklahoma Training Track beautifully,” owner Rick Porter posted on his website. “All is well with him. He is eating well and has settled in well at Saratoga. We have his first work tentatively scheduled for June 16th in preparation for The Jim Dandy.”
**** The Green Monkey, the most expensive thoroughbred ever sold at public auction at $16 million, was represented by his first stakes winner on Saturday when Kinz Funky Monkey captured the Manhattan Beach Stakes at HollywoodPark.
Trained by Peter Eurton for owner Always Believe, Inc., the 3-year-old filly won the six-furlong turf contest by a half-length.
The Green Monkey, a nine-year-old son of Forestry, ran three times without winning for the Coolmore team. He was then retired and stands at Hartley/De Renzo Thoroughbreds in Florida for a fee of $5,000.
Thank for reading….