Monthly Archives: November 2013

Luck Be A Lady Bug

In a sport dominated by men, Hawthorne Racecourse in Chicago gets a gold star for exercising equality and diversity.  The jockey colony at Hawthorne has 30 regular riders, and six of them are women (Heidi Rose, Samantha Colvin, Stephanie Slinger, Rosemary B. Homeister, Jr., Taylor Rice and Aymara Rivero).  Five of the six females are bugs; Lady Bugs, that is.

In horse racing, an apprentice jockey is called a “bug” or a “bug boy.”  This nickname comes from the asterisk that is placed next to the apprentice’s name in the race program.  When you look at the program you can identify a bug rider because they are given a “footnote” next to their weight in the program.  This footnote designates the amount of extra weight the jockey is carrying in order to be able to ride that particular horse.  (During the Breeders’ Cup, you may have heard Laffit Pincay refer to the “plus 5” rider, meaning Santa Anita’s Bug Boy.)

An apprentice is allowed a 10-pound weight allowance until they get their fifth win, after that the allowance is dropped to seven pounds for the next year, or until they reach 35 wins, whichever comes first.

These Lady Bugs at Hawthorne know how to steal the show! On October 20, an all-women trifecta came in with Heidi Rose, Samantha Colvin and Rosemary B. Homeister, Jr. (who is currently ninth in the jockey standings and the only veteran female rider).  Although not the first in the history of horse racing, it was the first in Hawthorne’s history.


(Heidi Rose)

On November 17, history was made again, only this time by the Lady Bugs at Hawthorne.  Heidi Rose, Taylor Rice and Samantha Colvin all hit the money in the 9th race.


(Samantha Colvin)

Hawthorne may be groundbreaking for female riders, but it’s been a long road to get there.  A road paved by Julie Krone, Rosie Napravnik, Donna Brothers, to name a few.  Even though incredible strikes have been made, many trainers are still reluctant to give a female rider a chance on a horse.

Taking a look at Friday’s race card, the Lady Bugs get a mount in every race but the 8th.

Race #1 should be a fun call.  Track Announcer Peter Galassi refuses to say the word “Hell” so the #6 horse in this race is always called “Givem Heck Harriet.”  Unfortunately for Mr. Galassi, he’s probably going to be calling this horse’s name a lot in this race.  Lady Bug Taylor Rice gets the mount, but will have a hard time getting past the early morning line favorite, the Scherbenske horse, La Enfermera Roja with Timmy Thornton and his blue boots in the irons.  The Haran barn brings in the #1 Sarabreeze with one of the top jocks, Israel Ocampo, aboard.  As you know, if there’s an Israel in the race, he’s on my ticket.  Fortunately for me, Ocampo is damn good.  Sorry Galassi … darn good!  I like the little filly Deeveeare too.  I keep hearing her name, but she never makes it to the Winner’s Circle.  She’s at an early 4/1 here.

In Race #2, Heidi Rose is on 20/1 Franklin County, the longest shot in the race. But what she did with Fifth of April in the slop on Sunday… dangerous.  Alex Canchari gets his first mount of the day on the favorite #1 Peso.  He likes the rail and should get in the money on this one.  One of my favorite runners is #5 Laythatpistoldown, who did well last time out.  Seth Martinez and Kirby team up on He’s Dann Good (no problem for Galassi here) at an early 9/2.  Of course, this is a turf race … which could result in only a few horses remaining if it moves to the main track.

Race 3 troubles me … Clay Brinson is one of my favorite trainers.  He has #3 Bethany Belle in this one and went with Canterbury’s Bug Israel Hernandez (who’s the lone bug BOY at Hawthorne) instead of Canchari who has ridden her in the past.  Hinsley went with #2 jockey Raf Hernandez on Thecushmaker, another Canchari drop.  Two Lady Bugs are in this race, Colvin and Slinger, with Colvin having the best chance on The Best Option for Mike Reavis.  The favorite of course is the connections of Midwest Thoroughbreds/Brueggemann and Ocampo on the #5 Berry Knoll.  For this one, I’ll go down the middle:  5, 3, 4.

Race 4 has four bugs with mounts.  Lady Bug Samantha Colvin again has the favorite here with Sea of Change, but I’m going to stay to the bottom with two Yanez trained horses Hello Chas (Ocampo) and Gimme a Double (Canchari) and the Berndt horse E Z Entry with another Lady Bug in the irons.

Race 5:  All Illinois-bred geldings at six furlongs and I’ll take the tough guys Grand Stag (Ocampo) and Gita’s Mahal (Hernandez) both of which sport blinkers in this race.  I filled the Tri with #4 French Colonel at 8/1 but Lady Bug Taylor Rice has a shot on the Kirby horse Perfect Breeze on the rail.

Race 6:  I’m skipping the analysis on this one.  Take the Super right down the middle 2, 4, 6, 7.

Race 7 and 8:  Well the juggernaut gets on the card for both Race 7 and 8:  Midwest Thoroughbreds/Brueggemann have Mr. Num Num in the 7th and Princess Freebie in the 8th (currently at even money).  So why drag out the analysis:  Race 7:  Mr. Num Num, Lethal, Fun On the Bayou and would like to put Lassell in there too. For Race 8:  Princess Freebie, Rattlin Gypsy and Bent Missile.

Race 9:  Colvin and Israel Hernandez both get on 20/1s in this one and I’ll shy away.  Have to go with seasoned horses  –  Miles and Miles (7-year old gelding) and Geocache (8-year old gelding).  Kentucky horses Name Dropper and Blazing Finish should be in the Super as well.  Canchari gets on Gaelic Breeze, a horse that has been running well at Hawthorne.  Let’s hope this breeze takes him straight to the Winner’s Circle, a place that hasn’t been all that familiar to him at Hawthorne as it was in Canterbury this past summer.



With jockey John Velazquez out for the remainder of 2013 due to an injury he suffered at the Breeders’ Cup, it has brought to light the unpredictable nature of racing thoroughbreds and the dangers jockeys face.

Leading Hawthorne rider, Tim Thornton, is certainly no exception to the risk of injury when going 40 mph on a 1,200 pound animal with nothing more than your toes holding you in the stirrups.  Tim has suffered numerous injuries over his 10 year career but maybe none more horrific then the accident at Canterbury Park this past summer.

Tim flew in from Chicago to ride a favorite for trainer Joel Berndt and visit his buddy, Tanner Riggs, who works for Berndt.  Tim was on Key the Code when the horse was bumped hard, clipped heels with the horse in front and went down.  The horse running behind Tim’s was also involved in the accident.  Jockey Justin Sheppard was thrown from his mount in the incident and was the first to get to Tim, whose face was covered in blood.  He suffered two fractures in his skull, both on his forehead; another above his right eyebrow, and fractured his sinus cavity, not to mention a clean break of his humerus and a mild concussion.  Fearless, resilient and determined are a few adjectives used to describe Tim Thornton.  After his accident, he was out of racing for five weeks but was able to ride in Arlington’s Fall meet.

Dealing with injury and setbacks is nothing new to this 26-year old.  He is from a family of rodeo riders, and as a young teenager Tim was a bull rider in local rodeos in his hometown of Utopia, Texas and in Louisiana (hence his passion for crawfish boils).




In 2012, Tim starred in a video blog entitled “Behind the Silks” produced by Arlington Park’s TV analyst Jessica Pacheco.  Tim wore a helmet cam for every race during Arlington’s meet and allowed viewers inside the life of a jockey (early morning workouts, the jockey room, and he even sat down for a Q&A with track handicappers – which never happens).  In researching for this feature, I watched all 20 episodes of Behind the Silks. I would encourage any race fan or horse player to watch the series.  Tim Thornton is infectious – with his floppy, long hair, his way of speaking, his mannerisms, charisma, cool, yet mischievous attitude, his layered Polo shirts (with all the collars popped), and his genuine love of racing horses and for his young daughter, who is featured in the Father’s Day episode.  And, yes, the explanation of those iconic blue boots!


In one episode, Tim is asked to throw out the first pitch at the White Sox game.  I checked to see if there had been any other jockeys who were given this sporting honor, and indeed there have been.  Mario Gutierrez and Garret Gomez, both threw out first pitches at L.A. Dodgers games.  I hope they did better than Tim, who looked goofy and awkward – a few more adjectives that make you want to spend a day hanging out with him and in Behind the Silks, you get to do just that!

Tim is currently riding in Chicago at Hawthorne Racecourse and is the leading jockey with about six weeks of racing left (six wins ahead of Rafael Hernandez and 10 ahead of Israel Ocampo).  Tim consistently takes mounts for leading trainer Roger Bruggemann as well as Mike Reavis and Larry Rivelli, both of whom helped Tim get good mounts when he was a young rider.  Tim won the 2013 Spring riding title at Hawthorne and looks to be on his way for a sweep at Hawthorne.

Checking the Miss Stakes

Hawthorne will be running two stakes races on Saturday, November 9; the Showtime Deb and Sun Powers Stakes each with a $100,000 purse.

I’m hoping Alex Canchari gets back the few steps he lost after leaving an amazing summer at Canterbury and setting foot in Chicago.  He has a couple chances on Saturday’s card.

Sun Power Stakes:  A small field of two-year old colts and geldings go six furlongs in this one for a chance at the $100,000.  Five will head to the gate with the early morning line favorite the #1 Solar Flair ridden by Rosemary Homeister.  The Rivelli horse, Rambling Richie, gets the next pick followed by Bad Boy Peter with Seth Martinez in the irons.  I’ll take Bad Boy Peter for the win.  (3, 1, 2)

The Showtime Deb Stakes is the 7th race on the card and Canchari will have to pull out one of those long shot miracles he has in order to win on the #8 Immoral Lifestyle who goes off at 20/1.  I hope he can beat the odds on this one but it’s a big field of 12 and lots of contenders.  The Illinois favorite is the always-dependable, Cow Catcher.  Wayne Catalano has Alittlebitofcandy with Israel Ocampo getting the mount.  Prairie Vista is another one to watch with leading Hawthorne jockey Tim Thornton aboard.  But, I’m going with the #6 Church Road at a cool 5/1 on the line.  (6, 4, 9)

The best races on the Saturday card are the #5 and #6.

In Race 5, fourteen $25,000 claimers (including the also-eligibles) go for the $20,000 purse. Canchari picks up Kentucky bred Stig’s Deputy.  Two other Kentucky horses are also here, Artful Bee and Oh My Todd, all of which are racing well in Chicago.  Canchari is also listed on the also-eligible IfoundmyMojo (let’s hope he has).  Other Florida shippers include Yankee Injunuity and Wekiva Wachee.  The morning line favorite is Minnesota’s Jost Van Dyke at 7/2.  The home-state horses are Uno Pecador, Big Looie, Sahm Like It Hot, Peters Rock and Luck With a Kiss.  Luck With a Kiss is a Reavis horse ridden by Thornton.  I have to go with this one and also put the lone Iowa entry, Jifquick, on my ticket.  This will be a good race.  They all run well at Hawthorne.  If Jost Van Dyke makes it to the gate, I’ll put him and Stig’s Deputy in my Super.


(Alex Canchari on Devil and a Half)

Race 6 reunites Alex Canchari with the horse that gave him his first stakes victory.  He remounts Devil and a Half for Hugh Robertson.  Canchari and Devil and a Half won the Arkansas Breeders’ Stakes at Oaklawn on April 7.  This horse has one victory on its record and that was the Arkansas Breeders with Canchari aboard.  Devil has been in Chicago but finally Canchari gets the leg up.  I want a win for both of them.  It would be good for Devil and good for Alex.  Unfortunately, they’ll have to deal with Runaway Pepper, Jack’s Tiger (MN), Part’n Parcel, When Willy Win and Stunning Split (the favorite), to name a few.

Runaway Pepper just might be my horse to watch and am hoping he gets out of Chicago.  Trained by Dale Bennett, Runaway Pepper has 12 starts in 2013 and has been in the money all 12 times!  Five of the 12 were first place finishes.  He recently joined the Hawthorne stables from Keeneland with a victory on October 19.  Runaway Pepper is normally ridden by Calvin Borel but Edgar Perez will get the mount at Hawthorne.



(Turf Paradise, Phoenix, Arizona)

Several Minnesota riders and trainers drop tack in Phoenix, Arizona for the winter.  The winter in Minnesota is long and at Turf Paradise so is the racing season!  Live Racing from October 5, 2013 – May 6, 2014 which means riders can finish the Canterbury meet in September and move straight to Phoenix and be back to Canterbury for the start of the summer meet again.  Riders who don’t like to gather up their gear every three or four months, head for Phoenix.

Turf Paradise hosts some familiar names.

Trainers, David Van Winkle, Dickie Martinez, Miguel Silva, Valorie Lund, Dan McFarlane, Sherri Laing and Louis Canchari all have horses running at Turf Paradise.

Minnesota-connected jockeys Scott Stevens, Anne von Rosen, Patrick Canchari, Giovanni Franco, Marcus Swiontek, Juan Rivera and Jake Barton (even though he came to Canterbury from Canada, we still claim him as ours) all ride in Phoenix and are having a successful meet as the current standings indicate:

1.  Jorge Carreno
2.  Scott A. Steven
3.  Geovanni Franco
4.  Jake Barton
5.  Anne Von Rosen

Veteran’s Day at Turf Paradise brings out several Canterbury connections.  Parris Island Babe, Sixtysix Margaux, Mancala, Maj’r Ruler, and Chisenau get on the card. Familiar horses in the heat include, Contact, trained by Dan McFarlane, takes to the Turf Paradise track on November 10.  Contact hasn’t been able to find the Winner’s Circle – like never.  His best performances were a second place on Oct. 20 at Turf Paradise and a second place finish on August 23 at Canterbury.  Contact – always the bridesmaid.

Sixtysix Margaux certainly knows her way to the Winner’s Circle!  She’s been there three of her last three starts.  Her most recent win coming on Oct. 14 on this track.

Mancala is in Race 5 on the card and needs to show some improvement.  One thing about Mancala – he’s consistent.  Consistently in fourth place.

Maj’r Ruler, trained by Miguel Silva, had his best finish at Canterbury winning on May 27.  He’s improving at Turf Paradise with a second place finish on October 9.

Ah, Chisenau.  I always like Chisenau.  His last win was June 15 at Canterbury.  In 16 starts, he has hit the board nine times.  Giving him a 56% chance of getting in the money and he has always been in the top 4 finishers.  Good bet on a Superfecta ticket.

Some of the best show up on November 12:  Borealis Way, Hava Cigar and Claypool are all in.

Borealis Way had an impressive meet at Canterbury, hitting the board three out of four start and finished fourth in the H.B.P.A. Distaff Sprint at Canterbury as well.  However, Borealis Way must not like the heat in Phoenix.  Best finish is sixth at Turf Paradise back on Oct. 23.

Claypool, however, is the complete opposite.  With Scott Stevens aboard, Claypool got the only two wins of his career at Turf Paradise.  A dismal ninth place finish in the Manitoba Lotteries Derby made this horse look towards the West early!

Hava Cigar is also a consistent runner.  Ran only four times at Canterbury and got in the money four times!  So far in 2013, Hava Cigar has finished either first or second in 6 out of his 9 starts.  This is a horse to watch.  Anne Von Rosen is his usual rider and she keeps that mount in Race 6.

Good luck!  Be sure to follow my next blog.  Miss Post Parade will be back with the first jockey feature.  I know I promised Paco Lopez, but am going to finish out the Hawthorne meet with top rider Timothy Thornton.  Let’s hope I don’t put the “Sports Illustrated” curse on him!

Chills and Spills on Day 2 of the Breeders’ Cup

Several people have asked how I did with my picks for the Breeders’ Cup races so I thought I’d give a quick recap.

The Breeders’ Cup Classic proved to be a thrilling race to the wire down the stretch!  Mucho Macho Man barely getting past fast-closers Declaration of War and Will Take Charge for the $5,000,000 purse.  Game On Dude and Palace Malice did not even make it to the money on the tote board. (I did pick Mucho Macho Man.)


(Mucho Macho Man narrowly defeating Will Take Charge)

Last year’s Horse of the Year, Wise Dan, won on the turf mile and, in this horse player’s opinion, should repeat as Horse of the Year.  He is an impressive horse and ridden to perfection by Jose Lezcano in the absence of John Velazquez who took a nasty spill in the first race.  I realize that the track was fast at Santa Anita, but this field was led at the quarter pole by Obviously, who hit that mark at 21 seconds.  That’s 0-40 mph in 21 seconds!  That’s really fast people.  I thought I’d seen the fastest quarter mile the day before on Goldencents when he reached the pole at 22!  These horses were top notch and a thrill to watch.  (Of course, I had Wise Dan in this race.)

The Sprint was kind of a surprise, to me anyway, that the Baffert horse Secret Circle crossed the line first.  I had Justin Phillip in this one, but had Johnny V. been on this mount maybe the outcome would have been different.

The Turf mile was dominated by Irish shipper Magician.  Next year, I’ll pay more attention to the European horses in the turf races!

I’m most proud of the Juvenile race.  I suggested that the spoiler in this race would be New Year’s Day, and it was!  This horse had a 100 yard kick that was like a shot out of cannon!  The horse had not even reached the Winner’s Circle at Santa Anita yet and people were talking about sending it to the Kentucky Derby in May 2014!  Martin Garcia had a helluva ride and definitely should be a top consideration.


(Martin Garcia on New Year’s Day)

In the Turf Sprint, Mike Smith and Mizdirection handled the downhill turf without a problem and with another classic ride by the Breeders’ Cup’s most-winning jockey.  I had Mizdirection and it was no great handicapping feat.

The Filly & Mare Sprint was one of my favorite races of the day!  Groupie Doll got revenge on Judy the Beauty in a BIG way by repeating a win at the Breeders’ Cup at this distance.  I thought the expert analysts were jumping ship too early with Groupie Doll, and I was right!


(Rajiv Maragh on Groupie Doll)

Filly and Mare Turf, well its turf, so who do you think won?  Yep, another European horse named Dank.  That is all.

The Juvenile Fillies race is where the tragedy took place.  Three things happened in this race that you know exist in the sport but you never want to see.  In the first race of the Breeders’ Cup on Saturday, John Velazquez was on Bob Baffert’s Secret Compass.  Around the far turn, Secret Compass stumbled (no inquiry was posted by the stewards as to the cause of the stumble) and fell on John Velazquez.  The horse had broken its leg in two spots.  John managed to get himself free from the horse and walk away only to collapse on the dirt moments later.  Secret Compass was euthanized on the track.  John was rushed to a Pasadena hospital with internal bleeding and received emergency surgery to remove his spleen.  John had eight more mounts on Breeders’ Cup Saturday. Fortunately for the trainers, the jockey pool at Santa Anita that day was full of World Class jockeys.  John is still in the hospital recovering from surgery and will not race again this year.  He was to ride Wise Dan but the reigns were handed over to Jose Lezcano who rode him to victory.

Also in this race, a first for Breeders’ Cup stewards, a disqualification of the winner, which was She’s a Tiger ridden by Gary Stevens.  Had Gary been awarded the win in this race he would have tied Mike Smith in total 2013 Breeders’ Cup wins with three.  But the stewards cried foul when She’s a Tiger slightly (and I mean ever so slightly) bumped Ria Antonia down the stretch.  Jockey Javier Castellano pled his case to the stewards and the win was overturned, placing She’s a Tiger in second.  I did NOT have Ria Antonia to win this race.


(The bump that cost Gary Stevens the win on She’s a Tiger.)

Mike Smith picked up a remarkable win on the colt, Outstrip, in the Juvenile Turf.  Turf, so guess where this horse is from?   Mike Smith ran a brilliant race.  He’s an amazing jockey and well-deserving of the accolades he has received over the years.  This should be a training video for all the up-and-coming jockeys.  I didn’t have Outstrip, but I can’t hate, it was just that good!

The Juvenile fillies Turf was won by Chriselliam … from Ireland.  Richard Hughes was aboard Chriselliam and gave him a good ride on the turf.  Just a bit of trivia, English jockey Richard Hughes is one of the tallest jockeys currently racing.  He’s 5’10”.  Joseph O’Brien who finished third in the Classic on Declaration of War is 20-years old and six feet tall.  He won a Breeders’ Cup at the age of 18, riding for his father who is trainer Aiden O’Brien.  He goes down in history as the youngest rider to ever win a Breeders’ Cup challenge.  And he may go down in history as the tallest jockey to ever ride in the Breeders’ Cup as well!  Pretty sure there aren’t any six foot American jockeys currently riding , but I’ll look into that when I begin my jockey feature this month.

A “Breeders’ Cup Hangover” strikes Hawthorne Racecourse.

Seriously, I don’t know what’s going on at Hawthorne.  This is my first time watching this track and I don’t know why any jockey would want to ride outside in Chicago in the Winter/Fall.  When the turf races are moved to the main track due to poor conditions, there are so many scratches it feels like poison ivy.  When a race of 13 is scratched down to five if you can’t get three out five horses, then you have no business calling yourself a horse player!  Lucky for me, I did have the trifecta on that one, but it’s nothing to brag about.

However, the second race of the day did prove to be more challenging.  As you will learn from following me, if there’s a jockey named “Israel” in the race, he’s usually on my ticket.  This time I went with Canterbury Bug Boy Israel Hernandez on Clay Brinson’s Bethany Belle.  It was a thrilling finish with Bethany Belle just nipping Ten Sweet Kisses at the wire.  Ten Sweet Kisses was the Brueggemann/Midwest Thoroughbreds’ horse and the favorite.  Timothy Thornton had a heck of a stretch run to pull up third to complete my trifecta.  (Thank you, Tim!)

Clay Brinson has some of my favorite horses.  Very impressive barn.  One favorite which hasn’t done well over the past several weeks is Hawkeye Jimmie.  Brinson’s go-to jockey, Alex Canchari, again got the mount and this time won by several lengths.  The distance between horses was so great that the track announcer had to fill dead air until the second place finisher crossed the finish line!

The meet at Hawthorne ends December 29, 2013.  Here are the jockey standings as of today:






Timothy Thornton





Rafael Manuel Hernandez





Alex Canchari





Israel Ocampo





Florent Geroux





This month, I plan to begin my featured Jockey section as well as introduce some basic horse racing terminology.  I’m going to continue handicapping Hawthorne’s weekend races until the end of the meet. Good luck!

Miss Post Parade

Breeders’ Cup – Prime Time on NBC


My, oh my, did Day 1 of the Breeders’ Cup turn out to be a good one?!  Mike Smith picked up two surprising wins (even for him) yesterday on London Bridge in the Marathon and Outstrip in the Juvenile Turf.  Gary Stevens did indeed convincingly upset the “Royal Court” by beating Princess of Sylmar (who stumbled out of the gate) and Royal Delta on Beholder in the $2,000,000 Distaff.  Goldencents took care of Verrazano in the Dirt Mile.  Goldencents set a track record for the first quarter mile in this race and never let up!  As Donna Brothers put it, “Rafael Bejarano was on a rocket out of the gate.”  That horse was going so fast that Peruvian jockey Bejarano wasn’t even sure how fast he was going when they reached the first pole but he knew was in for a winning ride! (P.S.  That’s how you come out of the gate, Princess Sylmar!)

Today, the races can be seen on NBC Sports and tonight the Breeders’ Cup Classic will be shown on NBC at 7:00 p.m. CST.   The Classic has the biggest payout in any sport: $5,000,000.  (And no, that’s not a typo.)  Not a bad day at the track!  It’s a mile and a quarter which should take about about a minute and a half (or less) for most of these horses, considering the records set yesterday.

Two of the top five horses in the country are in this race:  Will Take Charge (#3) and Game On Dude (#2).  Palace Malice and Ron the Greek are ranked 7 and 10 respectively.  However, Ron the Greek recently suffered an injury and scratched from this race.  Which is really too bad … Ron the Greek beat Palace Malice in the qualifying Jockey Club Gold Cup  Not so coincidentally, another Mott trained horse, Flat Out, was third in the J.C. Gold Cup.  Of course all the big riders and trainers are in this one for the 5 mill but I’m going with an oldie but a goody… Mucho Macho Man with the 50-year old sensational jockey Gary Stevens on board.  Mucho Macho Man finished second in this race last year and is very comfortable on the Santa Anita track.  Here’s the breakdown of the contenders:

Mucho Macho Man (Ritvo/Stevens)

Palace Malice (Pletcher/Velazquez)

Game On Dude (Baffert/Smith)

Will Take Charge (D.W. Lukas/Saez)

Flat Out (Mott/Rosario)


(Palace Malice)

I am hoping for a battle down the stretch between long-time jockeys and friends Mike Smith and Gary Stevens.  Mike Smith is 48 years old and rides with the soul of a young jockey.  Stevens stepped away from racing seven years ago and was a TV analyst for several years, even tried his hand at acting in a little movie called “Seabiscuit.”


(Gary Stevens and Mike Smith)

The $2,000,000 turf mile.  The #4 horse in the country gets in this one, Wise Dan.  I’m still mad at Silver Max for beating Wise Dan in the qualifier Shadwell but that was not on turf!  This one is, and Wise Dan won it last year.  John Velazquez picks up the mount again.  Right behind Wise Dan will be He Be Fire N Ice ridden by Victor Espinoza.  This horse has a late run and will definitely be the trigger for the rest of the field.  I’m concerned about these two getting pinched in the number 7 and 8 spots, which might make room for Silver Max and Obviously.


(Wise Dan)

The Sprint is an exciting race!  $1.5 mill at six furlongs.  Should take about 70 seconds (or less)!  I had Gentlemen’s Bet in the qualifier but will back off in this field.  I’m going on the rail with a five-year old, Justin Phillip, going off at 4-1 and ridden by Johnny V. (who is due for a win).  I’ll also take the D. Wayne Lukas horse, Fast Bullet, with Joel Rosario in the irons.  The returning champ is Trinniberg but is at 8-1 in this field.  The boys at DRF (Daily Racing Form) are all over the #7 here Private Zone.  The only issue is this horse likes to be lazy in the front half of the race and then sprint to the wire.  I don’t think that will be an option in this field.

The Turf, one and a half miles for $3,000,000.  I had Little Mike in the qualifier and he did not disappoint.  Mike Smith again gets in the saddle.  At 6-1 that’s a good price.  I’m also going with Big Blue Kitten, who will be one of the favorites.  Big Blue Kitten doesn’t like traffic, and there are 12 in this race.  But if she can get to the lead, it will be a good stretch.  Just a note, the talking heads at TVG are gushing about #9 Indy Point, an Argentinean shipper, with Stevens aboard.


(Mike Smith)


(Mike Smith on Zenyata)

The Baby Race!! The juveniles hit the track at a mile and a sixteenth for $2,000,000.  I had Smarty’s Echo in the Breeders’ Futurity and he was beaten by a surprising Todd Pletcher horse, We Miss Artie.  Never mess with Pletcher on a good day!  That race was on Polytrack so neither of them is convincing me on dirt.  I think I’ll take the #6 Tap It Rich (Baffert/Smith) who has more than enough speed to be a contender.  The spoiler in this race might be the #4 New Year’s Day (Baffert/Garcia).  He beat the analysts pick, Bond Holder, and can hold his own over the dirt.

The Turf Sprint:  6 and ½ furlongs over the turf.  Don’t blink, this will be quick.  Santa Anita has a slight dogleg on the turf and then scoops DOWNHILL.  That’s right, thoroughbreds running DOWNHILL.  Trainers and handicappers hold their breath when the horses reach that point … for a handicapper, ya just never know, it’s a whole lot of nasty that we have to consider.  With that said:  Mizdirection is the #12 here and won this race last year.  This horse is also 5 of 5 on the downhill course at Santa Anita!  That’s all I need.  #3 Chips All In has actually had experience running downhill as well.  I’m a little curious about the #14 Unbridled’s Note.  Corey Nakatani is riding very well lately but drew the outside post of 14.


The ladies go for the $1 mill at 7 furlongs in the Filly & Mare Sprint!  Oh, Judy the Beauty is back again to mess with Groupie Doll.  All the professional analysts and handicappers count Groupie Doll out of this one.  I feel she’ll be in the money regardless.  I’ve got to go with Johnny V. again on Judy the Beauty, but keep an eye on Groupie Doll, and the Baffert horse, Book Review, with Rafael Bejarano (who is Santa Anita’s top jock) in the saddle.

$2,000,000 on the Turf:  The big girls take to the turf in the 1 ¼ furlong Filly and Mare Turf.  Emollient is my qualifier in this and I’m sticking with her!  (Mott/Smith)  Laughing is the #7 who is 4 of 4 in stakes races this year.  Kitten’s Dumplings with Joel Rosario has a very strong late kick but will have to pass some tough ladies to win!  The #3 Tiz Flirtatious is a favorite here at 7/2 morning line and looks to be in perfect form for this race.  Julien Leparoux gets the mount.  This will be Julien’s last meet at Santa Anita, as he permanently relocates to the East Coast after the Breeders’ Cup.

The little girls are up at one and a sixteenth in the Juvenile Fillies.  Everyone is on board with Sweet Reason and Artemis Argotera with little to believe in, I feel.    Sweet Reason is questionable at two turns, so it must be the jockey, Alex Solis. In my research for this blog, it’s become apparent that some expert analysts think you can put a top jockey on a donkey and it will win.  Not true!  Plenty of top jocks have been on duds.  In the qualifier, I had Rosalind and she shows up here again but is out of her league.  Gary Stevens is on She’s a Tiger and looks good to win it.  However, the only horse in this race to beat She’s a Tiger is Concave but she’ll have to work much harder this time around.  I’m also looking at Untapable with the veteran jockey Rosie Napravnik.  This horse can go the mile and sixteenth with ease and I’d like to see a woman jockey win one in the 2013 Breeders’ Cup.

The 2013 Breeders’ Cup and $25 million up for grabs!


If you’re a horse racing fan this is exciting stuff!  Big purses bring out the big names!!  The Best of the Best are lining up at Santa Anita. 

First up, the Marathon.  At a mile and ¾  on the dirt with a purse of only $500,000 (yes, ONLY, they get bigger from here), this is a race the most physically fit of the group.  Suns Out Guns Out is my pick in this one, ridden by Julien Leparoux.  This horse impressively won at this distance his last out, actually described as a “blowout” win.  He can take the distance for sure.  Commander also won at a mile and 3/8 last out.  These two have the chops for this type of race. 


(Julien Leparoux)

One Million for One Mile on the Turf:  Ah, the Juvenile Turf.  The youngsters get a go at it.  Here come the big-name trainers … Todd Pletcher and D.Wayne Lukas each have a horse in this one.  I’m taking the Pletcher horse, Bashart, ridden by top jockey in the U.S., John Velazquez.  Bobby’s Kitten is the sentimental favorite in this one but is also a good horse!  Has huge power down the stretch, could be right on Bashart’s heels.  Bon Accord finished just behind Bashart on turf only two races back.  Watch out for this one down the stretch as well.

John V

John Velazquez

Now we go to One Mill on the Dirt and it brings out all the big boys and should be a race for the ages.  Verrazano is in this race, Verrazano!  Todd Pletcher announced this week that this would be Verrazano’s last race.   Verrazano is currently ranked the #5 horse in the country and will exit the game at top of his form and of course is favored in this race.   Johnny V. will take his last ride on this horse.  If anyone can give Verrazano a run for the money is Goldencents ridden by Rafael Bejarano, my only concern is he’s last in the gate and Bejarano tends to ride wide anyway.  But, Goldencents won the Santa Anita Derby and is very familiar with this track.  I also gotta mention the #11 Pants on Fire, ridden by Paco Lopez (who will be in my Jockey feature next month).  This is a million dollar horse in a million dollar race.  He has to perform well right?  Two turns might be a bit much for this race.  Keep note on Taptowne and Hymn Book (both 15-1).  Both of these fit nicely in this race and like a faster pace.  It will definitely come with the three big boys going full steam ahead. 


The fillys hit the turf for the $1,000,000 mile: My Conquestadory is in this race and the obvious favorite.  I’m mad at this horse and don’t want to go with it.  I’m gonna take a few “long shots” in this one.  Testa Rossi, Clenor, Kitten Kaboodle and Dancing House.  Let me explain:  Testa Rossi is a horse from France who won big on the Belmont track in her debut on U.S. grass.  She also is on a four-race winning streak!  But this would be the race to break a streak!  Clenor is also a shipper, from Ireland.  Irish horses do well in the U.S. and this one is undefeated on California turf.  Santa Anita should fit well with Clenor.  Kitten Kaboodle has Johnny V. in the irons and is 12-1 here, but has been getting good results in the last three and could shine here.  And then, Dancing House.  I pick this horse for two reasons (1) Mike Smith and (2) Tap It.  This horse is sired by the great horse Tap It, who has so many winning foals it’s hard to keep track.  Dancing House also finished third in the same Belmont race that Testa Rossi won. 


Tap It

And last but certainly not least … the $2,000,000 Distaff.  (That’s right, count the zeros.)  Pletcher and Mott each have two here, and they are doozies!  Mott has Royal Delta, described by DRF analysts (Daily Racing Form) as the “Queen” on numerous occasions.  But, the other royal entry is Pletcher’s and the #6 horse in the country and certainly the most talked about – Princess of Sylmar.  And for good reason!  This is a grudge match for sure.  The “Queen” lost to the Princess in the Beldame and Mott didn’t like it.  Her training has been upped and they want a piece of the 2 mill.  But wait … Close Hatches is the only Mott horse to ever beat Princess and she’s in this race as well, but running with the big girls won’t be easy this time.  The other Pletcher horse is Authenticity and Johnny V. gets the mount.  The boys at DRF call her the spoiler in this one.  And then there’s Beholder!  The only non-Pletcher/Mott trained horse in the race and ironically, the favorite.  Beholder has never been beaten at two turns on the track at Santa Anita and veteran jockey Gary Stevens is on one of the hottest comebacks in racing … well in any sport!  He’s the Peyton Manning (or Adrian Peterson) of the Jockey world.  I’m routing for Beholder to disrupt the “royal court” in this one!


Gary Stevens