Jessica Chapel / Railbird

Breeding

Interventions

Alicia Wincze talks with breeders and buyers about corrective surgery:

“I think if they’re talking about weakening the gene pool with medication, then they’re also weakening the gene pool by doing (corrective surgery),” said trainer Charlie Lopresti. “They’re taking mares that produce crooked foals, cosmetically fixing them and selling them for a lot of money at the sale. It used to be back in the old days, only the strong survived, and if they were crooked and they could run through it, they were good horses.

“I don’t think it’s a bad thing, but I think we all need to get on the same page. And if they’re going to try and clean up the racing act, they need to clean up their act too.”

Odds and Ends

IHA lives a life of comfort.” The Kentucky Derby winner at Big Red Farm (via).

Azeri, Ginger Punch, Lethal Heat, Moscow Burning, Stardom Bound … Kate Hunter on the Yoshida brothers’ starry broodmare band (PDF).

But the horse will tell us what he wants to do. “It’s an absolute crock. Frankel has been saying all year I can do what YOU want me to” (via).

It’s not about the surface. What Dullahan really wants is distance. Given his one-run style, this makes sense. It doesn’t raise his prospects in any of the three Breeders’ Cup races he might enter, though.

East vs. West, Sid Fernando, March 2012: “… it’s striking that even cheaper dirt tracks in the East have lower overall rates than most anything out West.” Hm.

The Must-Reads, 2011

As each year comes to its end, I go through all the racing stories I’ve bookmarked or shared over the past 12 months and pluck together a short list of pieces that stand out, whether for great reporting or great storytelling. If you haven’t read the stories linked below yet, take a few minutes to enjoy some of the best turf journalism from 2011 before 2012 begins:

As 10-year ban hangs over Rick Dutrow, opinions vary about controversial horse trainer.” The definitive profile of the New York trainer, handed a record suspension this year, by Jerry Bossert for the New York Daily News.

For Pletcher, managing a training empire is all in a day’s work” Joe Drape on how he does it, for the New York Times.

Pletcher was an assistant to trainer D. Wayne Lukas, dubbed “The most interesting man in racing,” by Gary West this spring, in one of the last posts published on his Star-Telegram blog. That the formidable turf writer with the superb flapdoodle detector was let go by the newspaper was a loss for Texas racing. Fortunately for readers, West now appears on ESPN.

Claire Novak won her first Eclipse award this year with “Pressure off Durkin at Belmont,” about the announcer’s decision to step down from calling the Triple Crown races on NBC, but I’m biased toward her terrific Kentucky Derby week story, “The Inside Scoop: Why Calvin Borel owns the rail,” which appeared on Kentucky Confidential. For fun, and a touch of Gay Talese, Novak’s recounting of a New Orleans cabbie’s racetrack story can’t be beat.

At Suffolk Downs, a rider reached a significant milestone: “Piermarini gets win 2000 on Sugar Trade.” Susan Salk of Offtrack Thoroughbreds talked to Tammi Piermarini about becoming only the fifth female jockey in racing to crack 2K.

Ryan Goldberg added context and depth to this year’s intense (and ongoing) Lasix debate with his well-researched and matter-of-fact story for the Daily Racing Form, “Lasix: Demystifying the drug, methods of training without it.”

DRF photographer Barbara Livingston shared some marvelous historic racing photos from her private collection this year, as in this post: “Man o’ War’s funeral: Remarkable final tribute for majestic champion.” The great horse was laid out in a casket for viewing; thousands filed past to pay their respects.

In search of the Kelco.” Bill Christine, at HRI, on the handicapping gizmos of yesteryear (which gave me an excuse to post about the Race-o-meter).

Gray Thoroughbreds, a precious relic of the breed’s earliest days, became a rarity on the racecourse for a good part of the 19th century.” I had no idea. Kellie Reilly on the revival of grays in the 20th century, on BRISnet.

The Factor’s Figure

A preliminary Beyer speed figure of 103 for The Factor in the Rebel Stakes, the sole graded Kentucky Derby prep this weekend. As DRF Derby tweeted, that figures ties “with Soldat for best Beyer by a 2011 3-year-old going mile or longer.” Soldat just happens to be the other War Front colt on the Derby trail, casting doubt on claims by pedigree handicappers that The Factor can’t get the Derby distance. Count me among the skeptical, but on the matter of pace, not breeding. The Derby isn’t kind to front-runners.

Trainer Bob Baffert said that the April 16 Arkansas Derby is a likely next start, but that all options are open to The Factor. “I could go anywhere. He’s nominated everywhere. You never know where I’m going to go.”

Mike Watchmaker favorably compares the Rebel to the Azeri Stakes, impressively won by Havre de Grace: “… you can argue that The Factor had the more demanding trip, and yet still ran almost as fast as Havre de Grace.”

Azeri’s Daughter

Arienza is off to a promising start after winning her debut following a strong gate work at Oaklawn. “Well, she looked like her mother this morning.”

Thursday Notes

You’ve probably heard? Zenyatta will be bred to Bernardini. If you’re into nicks, it’s a match that gets an A++ or a B+, depending on methodology. And while the most anticipated foal of the 21st century hasn’t even been conceived yet (that’ll probably happen in February, if all goes as planned), it’s apparently not too early to think of names. (Bernyatta? Zendini?) I don’t know enough about breeding to call the mating conservative or not, but from a handicapping perspective, it’s an intriguing mix of flash and substance, class and speed. Bernardini’s first-crop runners were precocious and versatile juveniles; Zenyatta was sound through a three-year career and never faltered on track.

Early Kentucky Derby favorite Uncle Mo is listed as the 128-pound highweight on the 2010 Experimental Free Handicap, announced today by the Jockey Club. That’s the highest assignment since Favorite Trick was weighted 128 in 1997.

Boys at Tosconova will miss the Holy Bull at Gulfstream on Sunday. The Rick Dutrow trainee hasn’t seemed himself since a work on January 13. Santiva will also pass on the Holy Bull. The Kentucky Jockey Cup winner, just getting back into training, could make his first start of the year in the Fountain of Youth.

Recovered from the hind ankle injury that knocked him out of Saratoga and a fall campaign, Sovereign Default returns on Saturday at Gulfstream in race five, a seven-furlong allowance for 3-year-olds over the main track that drew seven starters. The colt attracted attention after winning his well-bet debut by two lengths at Belmont Park last July 15, a maiden race that yielded two next out winners in Stay Thirsty (who followed his maiden win with a second to Boys at Tosconova in the Hopeful) and Air Support (who won the Pilgrim Stakes).

I suppose this story’s good news is that 84 past-posters weren’t able to cash.

4:30 PM Addendum: Entries are now up for Sunday’s Holy Bull and Forward Gal Stakes. As often in recent years, the potential Oaks fillies look like a more interesting bunch, with Pocahontas Stakes winner Dancinginherdreams and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies runner-up R Heat Lightning, both making their first starts since November, topping the seven-horse Forward Gal field. The Holy Bull drew nine, including Dialed In, Mucho Macho Man, and Major Gain.

Ascot Sensation

Frankel could be a superstar. “A lashing, slashing hunk of horse, he looks the part and acts it too,” gushed Steve Dennis of the Henry Cecil-trained colt who’s done everything right in his three starts, picking up fans with every easy win. Watch him open up 10 lengths on his four rivals in the Royal Lodge Stakes at Ascot on Saturday (the segment begins at :38 seconds):

The Royal Lodge was a Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In race for the Juvenile Turf, but Cecil won’t be shipping the colt to Churchill Downs. The trainer plans one more race this fall, at Newmarket or Doncaster in mid-October, then a break until spring. “I’d rather finish his season in the earlier race, the Dewhurst, but if he tells us he needs more time after today, then he’ll get it.”

Bettors responded to yesterday’s win by making Frankel the 2-1 early favorite for the 2011 2000 Guineas, 4-1 for the Epsom Derby. Cecil, agreeing the juvenile is “exciting,” tempered enthusiasm by expressing doubts about Frankel’s potential stamina:

“It’s difficult to say whether he could get a mile and a half. There’s no guarantee that he would. The dam was a six-furlong filly, and the dam is important in a horse’s pedigree. If he did stay a mile and a half, he would be something out of the ordinary,” he said.

Oh, to have to worry whether a horse can get 12 furlongs; it is a different game across the Atlantic. But is it a different breed? That’s the provocative question Scott Giles poses over on the Blood-Horse MarketWatch blog.

9/27/10 Addendum: Chris McGrath on Frankel. “A saviour is constantly sought, constantly imagined, but seldom arrives in the manner expected. And that will never be as true as when you depend on the random agency of horses. Take the emergence of this coruscating animal, Frankel. The ‘narrative’ could scarcely be richer, or more satisfying.”

Frankel wasn’t the only buzz baby to run this weekend. In the Fillies’ Mile at Ascot, White Moonstone kept her record perfect with a win over Together and Theyskens’ Theory. Both ‘Moonstone and ‘Theory are unlikely for the Breeders’ Cup. At Monmouth on Saturday, Curlinello, Astrology, and Tiz Blessed finished 2-3-4 to Sweet Ducky in the Garden State.

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