What a busy weekend.
Not only were there college basketball tournament games everywhere, there were several major prep races for 3-year-olds around the country. In addition, the European flat season started to rev up, with their first group race of the season, the Prix Exbury (Fr-III) at Saint-Cloud. So, where to begin??
Basketball–I’ll go ahead and admit that I only care about the Midwest bracket of the NCAA tournament. That’s where both Louisville and Michigan State landed, as number 1 and 2 seeds, respectively. I’m proud to say that I’m an alumna of both universities (although, technically, I’m still a few credits shy of my degree at U of L…which is not to be confused with being a ‘few pickles shy of a barrel’). If both schools are fortunate enough to make it to the Elite 8 for a head-to-head showdown, I think my head will explode. Deep down, though, my heart will always be with Tom Izzo and the Spartans. Go Green! Go White!
Racing/Stateside–Like everyone else in the country, I was very impressed with Friesan Fire‘s Louisiana Derby (gr. II) win. He’s always been one of my favorites, along with his stablemate, Old Fashioned. Now, as we all know, Old Fashioned had a bit of a hiccup on Saturday, finishing second in the Rebel Stakes (gr. II) to 56-1 shot, Win Willy. Yes, that’s the colt’s name. Making just his fourth career start in the Rebel, the son of Monarchos relished the off-going, roaring from far back to roll past a tiring Old Fashioned to win comfortably. Before anyone gets too excited about this colt and his humble beginnings (being purchased for $25,000 on the last day of the 2007 Keeneland Sept. sale, and making his first start at Canterbury Park), remember…..he’s out of a mare by Carson City. Combined with Monarchos on top, well, 1 1/16-miles is as far as he probably wants to go. Now, having said that, watch him win the Derby by 20…
As for Old Fashioned, I wouldn’t throw him out just yet. Many ‘experts’ (and I use that term loosely) feel that this son of Unbridled’s Song doesn’t want anything to do with races over a mile. That’s due to the fact that his dam, Collect Call, is by Meadowlake. However, his second dam, Native Pledge, is by Alleged, who captured the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I)….TWICE. Keep in mind, too, that Old Fashioned captured the 1 1/8-mile Remsen Stakes (gr. II) last fall by a comfy 7 1/4-lengths. With his size and scope, the 10 furlongs of the Derby won’t be a problem.
Pioneerof the Nile did just what he had to do in winning the San Felipe Stakes (gr. II). I so want to like this colt. Really I do. I mean, he’s by Empire Maker, who I just love. However, having Bob Baffert as his conditioner is a major strike against him in my book. Why couldn’t Zayat Stables keep him with Bill Mott? Sigh….Also, I’m not a fan of his name. I’m not sure why, exactly. It just kinda bugs me.
Musket Man looks like a nice colt. However, with his breeding (Yonaguska x Fortuesque, by Fortunate Prospect) he looks to be a better fit for the Preakness, not the Derby.
Rachel Alexandra–Wow…what a nice, nice filly! She was ultra-impressive in the Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II), winning while being “geared down” by 1 3/4-lengths over a late-closing Flying Spur. The winning margin would’ve been larger had hayseed jockey, Calvin Borel, not spent the last sixteenth of a mile turning around every-which-way in the saddle, to see where the competition was. He also started celebrating, waving his index finger and doing the “number 1” sign. Guess it’s a good thing for him that I’m not the filly’s owner, because he’d be off that filly so fast, it’d make your head spin (which, ironically, is kinda what Borel’s head was doing while he was riding…but I digress). Celebrate after you cross the finish line, not beforehand, you moron.
Another thing that annoyed me (and believe me, I get annoyed quite easily) is that the HRTV reporter (can’t remember his name) kept calling her Rachel AlexanDER. Every single time. I wanted to clunk him over the head with the microphone.
Oh, I wanted to say something about the filly, Flying Spur….I don’t think it’s right that this name was allowed by the Jockey Club. “Why?” you ask? Well, the ‘original’ Flying Spur is a multiple group I-winning son of Danehill, who is now a leading sire in Australia. That’s why. It’s a matter of principle, dammit.
One more note on the fillies. Trainer Kenny McPeek has the lofty goal of sending Dream Empress over to England to race in the Vodafone Oaks (Eng-I) in June. Now, I’m all for racing in the British Classics, but Kenny, it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee.
Dream Empress is a nice filly, who won the Darley Alcibiades (gr. I) last fall, and was second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I). However, in her 3yo debut on Sunday, she finished up the track in the Herecomesthebride Stakes (gr. IIIT), beating just one other filly. So, to race her over 12 furlongs against the best fillies in Europe (or at least England and Ireland) over the demanding Epsom course…..I wouldn’t waste the plane fare.
Europe–The European season is beginning to get underway, and Saint-Cloud played host to 3 stakes races on Sunday, highlighted by the first group race of the flat season, the Prix Exbury (Fr-III). Run over 10 furlongs over a course listed as ‘heavy’, the contest was captured by Court Canibal. It was the first stakes victory for Court Canibal, a 4-year-old son of Montjeu trained by Mikel Delzangles.
This Wednesday all eyes will be on Kempton Park as they host the “Kentucky Derby Challenge Stakes”, a nine furlong event run on the all-weather course. Whoever (or is it whomever?) wins this race will have an automatic berth in the Kentucky Derby (I refuse to type ‘sponsored by Yum!Brands’. Hey, since I no longer work for a magazine, I don’t think I should have to say all that garbage. So there.). A field of 14 will go to post.
The colt whose name might be somewhat familiar is Deposer, a son of Kheleyf trained by John Best. Deposer finished 4th in the Lane’s End Breeders’ Futurity (gr. I) won by his stablemate, Square Eddie. In his next start, also at Keeneland, he finished seventh of eight in an allowance race.
Mafaaz is one to keep an eye on. The chestnut son of Medicean is trained by John Gosden for Sheikh Hamdan. In his 2nd career start last October, Mafaaz finished fifth, beaten just 2 1/4-lengths by former stablemate Donativum in the Tattersalls Timeform Million. Donativum then captured the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf in his next start.
Markyg enters the race on a 2-race winning streak, both wins coming at Kempton. By Fusaichi Pegasus out of Spring Pitch, by Storm Cat, this colt has a tremendous female family. His second dam, Annie Edge, also produced champion and leading sire Selkirk, along with group/graded stakes winner Seebe.
My choice is Close Alliance, a son of Gone West out of the A.P. Indy mare, Shoogle. Shoogle is a full-sister to grade I winner Aptitude. Bred and owned by Juddmonte Farm, Close Alliance has made only one previous start, winning an eight furlong maiden race at Lingfield last fall. Trained by John Gosden, however, this colt should not be overlooked.
Hopefully either HRTV or TVG will at least show the stretch run of this race. I don’t know if we’ll be lucky enough to see the race in its entirety.
Alrighty then, I think I’ve gone on long enough. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!