Preakness winners 2001-2012, where they finished in the Kentucky Derby, and their Preakness odds / Kentucky Derby winners, where they finished in the Preakness, and their Preakness odds / * = Preakness post-time favorite
About a dozen have been declared as likely starters in the Preakness Stakes, with seven plus Orb coming out of the Kentucky Derby. Looking at the last dozen runnings of the Preakness, one of that group is most likely to beat Derby winner Orb (if he can be beaten). Non-Derby starters have won the Preakness only twice since 2001, both in years of exceptional circumstance.
Kentucky Derby winners have a mixed record over the period listed above, with one DNF, six losses, and five wins. Assuming Orb is the favorite in the Preakness as he was in the Derby, the odds tilt back in his favor with the performance of Derby favorites as Preakness favorites since 2001 — three of the four in that group (Point Given, 1.80 KYD; Smarty Jones, 4.10 KYD; Street Sense, 4.90 KYD; and Big Brown, 2.40 KYD) won the second leg of the Triple Crown. Street Sense finished second to Curlin, the eventual 2007 Horse of the Year. All of which is to say, if you like Illinois Derby winner Departing for the Preakness upset — well, you have to hope Orb’s former Claiborne pasture buddy proves exceptional in more ways than one.
There was some grumbling on Twitter about 2006 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner and Horse of the Year Invasor, with his career record of 11 wins from 12 starts, being among this year’s inductees into the Racing Hall of Fame — “No offense to Invasor, who was very good in several races,” tweeted Marcus Hersh, “but if he’s a Hall of Famer, I kind of fail to see the point of the HOF” — but this Invasor fan heartily approves that the world-traveling, world-beating Argentine-bred will be enshrined in Saratoga. Nine of his wins were in Group 1/Grade 1 races, spread across three continents. That’s exceptional.
Back in 2007, Hall of Fame voter Bill Finley wrote, “When the time comes, I will have a hard time voting for horses like Invasor …” Earlier this year, writing of his ballot, his position seemed less conflicted: “Invasor’s career was a brief one but he was the dominant horse of the middle half of the last decade.” Finley was obviously not alone in his evolution — that Invasor was a first-ballot Hall of Fame pick suggests that as careers have grown shorter, more guardians of the game’s history have begun to rethink what makes a horse plaque worthy.
When Wise Dan makes his first start of the year at Keeneland on April 12, don’t bet against him. Returning Horses of the Year are 16 for 21 since 1972:
Favored returning HOTYs are 16 for 20. With a return of $43.50 on $40 bet, that makes favored returning HOTYs just about the surest bet in racing.
(The chart above is an updated version of one that appeared in a lengthier post about betting returning champions in March 2010.)
1:15 PM Addendum: So, how might you play Wise Dan? Hello Race Fans has some tips on factoring favorites, and singling and spreading.
A few of the 2012 Breeders’ Cup contenders I’ve spotted around Santa Anita …
Animal Kingdom (Mile)
Groupie Doll (Filly and Mare Sprint)
Sky Lantern (Juvenile Fillies Turf)
Game on Dude (Classic)
Richard’s Kid (Classic)
Ron the Greek (Classic)
Pool Play (Classic)
Point of Entry (Turf)
The problem with the Breeders’ Cup from a handicapper’s perspective is: Few if any horses are hurt, or sore. Few trainers are incompetent hacks, or probably crooked. Few jockeys are bums. Oftentimes during the two-day event, all the horses appear remarkably similar in ability. What it often comes down to is eliminating horses that shouldn’t win because of personal handicapping preferences, long layoffs, surface changes, jockey changes, running styles. That should pare each field down to eight or nine that look exactly alike.
The Breeders’ Cup: A test for handicappers as much as horses.
Andrew Beyer mentions something that’s been on my mind as I start thinking about how to play this year’s Belmont Stakes:
Forget about handicapping; if you bet every starter in every Belmont Stakes for the last 15 years you’d have almost doubled your money.
Last year, I looked at the win payouts for each of the Triple Crown races and the five Grade 1 Kentucky Derby preps over a decade, and the Belmont was the race that offered the greatest opportunity:
Only one favorite has won the Belmont Stakes in the past 10 years, and that was Afleet Alex in 2005. Handicappers look for longshots in the Derby, but the Belmont has delivered a higher average price ($43.61) and a healthy ROI in recent years — if you had bet $2 to win on all 110 Belmont starters since 2002, you would have almost doubled your money.
There’s a lot to like about I’ll Have Another on Saturday, but the Belmont is the classic race to look for an upset with a rewarding payoff.
Next Saturday, at a racetrack hundreds of miles away and before a crowd many times larger, another beloved record-setting distaffer known as the Queen may be brought into the winner’s circle for the last time and cheered by fans who have adored her for years.
But stars can be found at every track, and this Saturday, it was Ask Queenie’s time to be celebrated at Suffolk Downs in front of the hometown fans who have followed the 9-year-old mare through an eight-year career in which she won 27 races, finished in the money in 56 of 63 starts, and earned $780,365 — more than any Massachusetts-bred in history.
A winner of 20 state-bred stakes, seven of those against males, and a five-time winner of the Isadorable Stakes, Ask Queenie won races short and long, over turf and dirt. In 2005, she was voted New England’s Horse of the Year by the New England Turf Writers’ Association, picking up additional championship honors that year and in 2006, 2007, and 2009.
In recognition of her accomplishments, Suffolk held a winner’s circle ceremony for the recently retired “Queen of the Mass-Breds” before the day’s fifth race.
“I’ve been around her all her life,” said groom Cindy Thorpe as she rubbed Queenie’s dappled coat in preparation for her final photo. “It’s been an honor.”
Outside Queenie’s stall before the ceremony, balloons — a traditional reward for the mare after a stakes win — twirled on their ribbons in the breeze. “It started when she was a 3-year-old,” said owner Laurine Barreira. “We wanted to get her carrots, but they [the neighborhood grocery] were out, so we got her a balloon and a flower. She was so excited! She tried to break through her webbing.” Barreira kissed Ask Queenie on her nose. “She’s spoiled.”
By 1995 Suburban winner Key Contender out of the stakes-placed Time to Ask, Queenie was bred by Barreira’s grandfather, Lloyd Lockhart, and trained by her mother, Lori Lockhart. Her success at Suffolk has been especially meaningful to the Lockhart family, which has deep roots in Massachusetts racing. “She has meant everything to us — financially, emotionally,” said Barreira. “You can’t say enough about her.”
Decked out in Mardi Gras beads and a pink and purple racing bridle, the colors of the family stable, Ask Queenie walked to the paddock, where she paraded before the audience gathered along the fence and posed for photos, gamely wearing an “Officially Retired” tiara. She lost her composure only when the gate opened for the fourth — the one-mile John Kirby Stakes for state-breds, a race she won in 2004 — in front of the grandstand. Tossing her head at the bell, she watched intently as the field ran into the clubhouse turn.
“She thinks she should be running,” laughed an observer.
Laurine Barreira (left), Ask Queenie, and Lori Lockhart (right).
Following the Kirby Stakes, Ask Queenie was brought into the winner’s circle, where Barreira and family were presented with a framed photo collage honoring Queenie as “The All-Time Richest Mass-Bred.”
Her racing days over, Ask Queenie will begin her new career as a broodmare at one of the Lockhart farms in Massachusetts or Florida. The mare may be bred to Smarty Jones in 2011, and while her first foals may be sold, the family plans to keep at least one of her later foals for racing. “That’ll be fun,” said Barreira.
2/4/11 Update: From Ask Queenie’s Facebook page: “Excited to announce that I will be bred to Awesome Again, who stands at Adena Springs in Kentucky!“
Oh, hell. Yesterday, she worked a bullet four furlongs in :48.45 in possible preparation for the Beldame Stakes. Today, owner Jess Jackson announced reigning HOTY Rachel Alexandra has been retired. From the press release:
“As you know, despite top training and a patient campaign, Rachel Alexandra did not return to her 2009 form. I believe it’s time to retire our Champion and reward her with a less stressful life. We are delighted that she will retire healthy and happy to our beautiful farm in Kentucky.
“Rachel Alexandra owes us nothing. As a 3-year-old, she set standards and records that no filly before her ever achieved. And I suspect it will be quite a while before a three year old filly ever equals or surpasses her achievements. Although her fans were thrilled by a series of spectacular victories, I believe they, as we, were simply awed time and again by her sheer beauty, courage and athleticism,” said Jess Jackson….
“I have been blessed to have been part of history. We are all very fortunate that Rachel carried the banner following Curlin’s amazing success story. The fans adored her, we all did, “ said Steve Asmussen. “She had the most fluid and beautiful stride of any horse I have every seen. It’s been quite a ride.”
Rachel Alexandra exits with a career record of 19-13-5-0 and earnings of more than $3.5 million. If I were an 8-year-old girl, I’d add, and my heart … but I’m too grown-up for that kind of silliness. (How I’ll always remember her.)
5:00 PM Update: A statement from NTRA president Alex Waldrop:
“Rachel Alexandra waged a three-year-old campaign that was nothing short of historic — both for its flawlessness and its ambition. We commend all those who played such a large part in her greatness, most notably co-owners Jess Jackson and Harold McCormick, trainer Steve Asmussen and jockey Calvin Borel. Rachel Alexandra provided countless thrills to fans all around the world, and all of us now undoubtedly look forward to the racing exploits of her offspring.”
Jackson said that Rachel would be bred to 2007-08 Horse of the Year Curlin.
On Flickr: A gallery of Rachel Alexandra photos.
From Equineline: Lifetime past performances.
6:00 PM Update: The Fair Grounds has renamed a stakes race for Rachel Alexandra. “She is one of the all-time legends not only of Fair Grounds but of our sport,” said Fair Grounds VP Eric Halstrom, explaining the decision to change the name of the Silverbulletday Stakes, a prep for the Fair Grounds Oaks, to the Rachel Alexandra Stakes.
On Youtube: A video playlist including the Personal Ensign, Woodward, Haskell, Preakness, Kentucky Oaks, and her maiden win (or watch below).
From the archives: Rachel Alexandra in Vogue.
An appreciation: Rachel fans, unconditionally (Ernie Munick).
“A lot of people are expecting an awful lot, but realistically I just hope we go there and have a good meet, the horses run well and we win our share of races, have good racing luck and try not to embarrass myself.”
Since her history-making win last summer, Rice has picked up a few new clients, but she’s still seeking owners offering the sort of financial backing that would allow up her to acquire and train top-class horses. Somewhat ironically, her current stock, largely comprising turf horses and NY-breds, may actually better position her for a repeat title than would a barn full of champions, as 2009 runner-up trainer Todd Pletcher tacitly acknowledged:
“What we need to be successful at Saratoga is to be able to participate in open allowance races. If the cards are weighed heavily with a lot of New York-bred races and sprint races on the turf, we just don’t have the horses to participate in those categories.”
The headline says it all: “Rachel towers over Lady’s Secret field.” Monmouth anticipates the reigning HOTY will go to post “at the absolute minimum price” of 1-20. “I think we are running for second,” said trainer Patrick Biancone, who will saddle Queen Martha on Saturday. “But second would be good.”
I knew I was in trouble with It’s Tea Time when her name kept surfacing in blog posts and tweets Saturday morning as a top Oaks pick. It was shades of Sweetnorthernsaint in the 2006 Kentucky Derby, watching the hype build. “It’s official: the first ‘blogger steam’ horse in history is It’s Tea Time,” remarked @HRFattheTrack. At 7-1, well down from her morning line odds of 15-1, the filly went into the gate as the third favorite.
Blind Luck, of course, was the favorite, and there was no doubt she was a deserving 6-5 at post time as she did her thing in the stretch, ranging up on the outside and nailing the win at wire by a nose over 13-1 Evening Jewel:
Final time for the race was 1:50.70 (chart), for which Blind Luck was given a Beyer speed figure of 94. The official teletimer photo:
It’s Tea Time? She finished ninth.
Earlier on the Churchill card, disappointment for HOTY fans: Rachel Alexandra lost her second start of the year, finishing a head behind 9-1 Unrivaled Belle in the LaTroienne Stakes, prompting Bill Finley — who must have had this piece already written, so quickly did it go up on the ESPN site — to opine,
The prudent course will probably soon become obvious to Asmussen and Jackson, and Rachel Alexandra will be retired. That sure seems like the right thing to do.
But Jess Jackson, in a post-race visit to the press box, said the 4-year-old filly appeared to come out of the race well and would remain in training:
While Jackson’s statements may seem a little rushed, I can’t fault him for wanting to check any speculation about retirement; Rachel Alexandra deserves another start. To paraphrase Jay Hovdey, she’s not running badly, she’s just not winning, and there are plenty of races remaining in the year.
11:00 AM Addendum: A final time of 1:42.97 for the LaTroienne, a Beyer speed figure of 103 for both Unrivaled Belle and Rachel Alexandra.