JC / Railbird


Wrong-Way Goes Okay

Neat — Woodbine tested a clockwise turf race on Monday:

“There were no major problems, and that was one of the key things,” [jockey Emma-Jayne] Wilson said. “That’s the biggest thing. We wanted to make sure that everything would go smoothly. This was as close to a race scenario as possible and everyone handled it well. There is still a learning curve to it. The horses that have never done it will take a second to say, ‘Ok, now I get it, I’ve got to take a right turn.’”

Woodbine management will run as many as 40 clockwise turf races during the 2016 meet. The intent is to spice up the racing programs and to use a part of the turf course (the clubhouse turn) that is rarely run over since most normal races over Woodbine’s expansive grass course are run around one turn. The first clockwise pari-mutuel race is scheduled for June 10.

Sounds as though the “wrong-way” races could be dramatic:

“It’s a very short homestretch,” Ramsammy said. “You are looking for a horse that has a good spurt early, definitely a speed horse.”

The Bright Side

Greg Wood finds something positive in the retirement of dual champion and defending Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Main Sequence:

… the loss of Main Sequence from this year’s Breeders’ Cup, which will be staged at Keeneland for the first time, is a definite setback for the event. From a European point of view, however, it does leave the Turf looking very open indeed. Fabre may feel he has some unfinished business where Flintshire is concerned, and if it looks as though his five-year-old is likely to find at least one opponent too good at Longchamp in early October, it is at least possible that the race in Kentucky will assume greater significance.

Lady Eli’s Foot

Four months from the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf, and Lady Eli looks unbeatable in her likely year-end race. “She certainly has the most devastating turn of foot I’ve ever worked around,” trainer Chad Brown said after the 3-year-old filly brought her undefeated career record to six with a 2 3/4-length win in the 1 1/4-mile Belmont Oaks. Her final time of 1:59.27 earned a Beyer speed figure of 98. Her TimeformUS figure is 120.

The Belmont Oaks finish time was almost two seconds faster than the Belmont Derby, run at the same distance, which Force the Pass won in 2:01.16 (92 Beyer, 118 TimeformUS). It’s interesting to think that Lady Eli could have won the age-restricted race with its larger purse ($1.25 million versus $1 million), and she might have. Pace complicates the comparison. According to Trakus, Lady Eli won the Oaks with quarters of :23.92, :24.27, :24.30, :24.21, and :22.77. Force the Pass went :24.97, :25.77, :25.05, :23.58, and :22.07. The first three-quarters in the Derby, with Bolo as leader, was 1:15.58. The same fraction for the Oaks, with Lady Zuzu in front, was 1:11.80*. Watch the replay:

*Trakus time; Teletimer/chart time is 1:11.71.

7/13/15 Update: Heartbreaking news from trainer Chad Brown — Lady Eli has laminitis. Brown’s statement is below:

“We have some unfortunate news to report from our barn. Following Lady Eli’s impressive victory in the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks on July 4, she sadly stepped on a nail on the horse path on the way back to our barn and injured her left front foot. Despite our efforts, including a talented team of veterinarians, Lady Eli’s injury has led to her developing laminitis. Thankfully, we have assembled the best possible team of veterinarians and farriers to stabilize her and assist her through these difficult times. I ask that all of her fans keep this magnificent racehorse in their prayers and hopefully she will be back on the racetrack flashing her brilliance again.”

Laminitis is a vicious disease. “If you’re an optimist, you’d say she’ll race again. If you’re a pessimist, she could be battling for her life,” co-owner Jay Hanley told the Blood-Horse.

7/24/15 Update: Encouraging news via the Daily Racing Form (DRF+):

Brown, back in Saratoga for opening day Friday, said Thursday that doctors are “extremely pleased with her progress, and they’re cautiously optimistic she’s putting this behind her.”

Brown said the veterinary team caring for Lady Eli has established a set of goals for the filly to achieve on a weekly basis, and thus far she has met them.

“I am personally pleased with how she’s moving and her overall condition and attitude,” Brown said.

Odds and Ends

Dick Jerardi doesn’t care where a single comes in a bet sequence: “The way I look at it, there are two possibilities: I am going to be right or I am going to be wrong. When that is determined is irrelevant.”

Can you be the best ever if you need a rabbit?

Breeders’ Cup Turf Trends: It’s all about the finish.

As much as I’d like to think Excelebration will be the second-favorite to Wise Dan in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (and available at 3-1 or better), raceday betting will probably look more like the current ante-post odds.

Appreciating Frankie Dettori, “global proponent of la dolce vita.”

Canadian International Live

12:30 PM: Hello from Woodbine!

Because I’m here, and because I’ll be running around today to catch the Win and You’re In action for the Breeders’ Cup (follow @breederscup or like the Breeders’ Cup), I thought I’d try something I haven’t done in a while — live blogging. I might be rusty — we’ll see how it goes this afternoon.

Anyway, the post times for today’s Challenge stakes are 3:04 PM ET (Nearctic, Win and You’re In the Turf Sprint), 4:38 PM ET (E.P. Taylor, Win and You’re In the Filly and Mare Turf), and 5:44 PM ET (the main attraction, the Canadian International, Win and You’re In the Turf). For even more on-track International coverage, follow @woodbineracing or @tripledeadheat.

12:45 PM: Despite rain that fell until about 11:00 this morning, only Al Khali has scratched from the International. Trainer Bill Mott cited the altered turf condition — it’s currently listed as GOOD — as the reason. There are no scratches in the Nearctic or the Taylor.

1:18 PM: About the turf … Ernie Munick talked to track superintendent Irwin Driedger on Friday about the grass. One part of the conversation that didn’t make it into Munick’s very informative video was about the backstretch rise, which apparently sounds more daunting than it actually is. According to Driedger, a retired Sovereign Award-winning jockey who knows the Woodbine grass on and off a horse, the ground slopes up about 3 1/2-4 feet over five eighths starting in the chute, but the rise is so gentle neither horse nor rider notice. Also of interest — the backstretch is always a little softer than the stretch. Something to keep in mind today.

1:30 PM: There are two things I always enjoy about visiting new tracks: Checking out the food (Woodbine’s is super), and the photos, posters, and ephemera that decorate the place (especially in the out-of-the way corners), like this old DRF poster hanging in the press box:

Or this one, honoring Deputy Minister, 1981 Horse of the Year:

2:06 PM: A horseplayer’s lament, overheard in the press box: “When you hit the ALL button, the chalk always wins.” The G3 Durham Cup, coming up at 2:31 PM, is the start of the guaranteed $100K Pick 4. I’m looking at a fresh Vertiformer for a little upset.

2:33 PM: Slow fractions, lone speed. Sometimes it doesn’t pay to stand against the favorite. Delegation, 6-5, wins the Durham … and I decide now is a good time to head toward the paddock for the Nearctic Stakes.

3:50 PM: John Velazquez comes to Canada to get beat by Ramon Dominguez. Next Question was 16-1, not the longest shot in the Nearctic field (that was Super Chunky at 33-1), but not well regarded coming off a win in a turf AOC, in which he was not claimed, at Belmont. The Nearctic horses were running in lane two of the turf course; the temporary rail has already been taken down for the E.P. Taylor and International, which will be run over pristine lane one.

4:05 PM: The Nearctic replay (chart).

4:10 PM: Back down to the paddock. Because one of her French connections ran a circuit around the International eve cocktail party, French flag streaming behind, I may take a flyer on Pagera. She’s 12-1, 26 minutes to post.

5:00 PM: Hey, second! That wild stab did better than most of my handicapped picks lately. (Oh, Fantasy ‘Capping! My $0 standing haunts me.) It doesn’t sound as if E.P. Taylor winner Siyouma will be taking her guaranteed spot in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf. Trainer Francois Doumen said after the race that she would be shipped home, and then might start next in Japan.

5:20 PM: The E.P. Taylor replay (chart).

Siyouma in the Woodbine winner’s circle.

5:22 PM: And back to the paddock for the Canadian International …

They’re off in the Canadian International!

7:15 PM: Joshua Tree is the third horse to win the Canadian International twice. Frankie Dettori is the second jockey to win the Canadian International three times. History was satisfied. The 5-year-old horse led from the start and quickened when asked — more than Dettori expected, which made the rider a little nervous, he said in the press box scrum after the race. “He gave me too much too quick.” And when the other horses mounted their challenges in the final furlongs? “I could hear the wind … I know what it’s like. I was the hare and the hounds were coming.” But wire-to-wire was the plan, and as they came down the stretch, “I knew I had plenty of horse left.”

(I would really like to quote what Dettori said in the elevator, as he made his way from the track to the press box, and his adrenaline was still running, and he felt free to be a little giddy and profane as he described the race to Sandy Hawley. But I didn’t capture his exact words, and I don’t want to paraphrase. There’s truly nothing like the excitement of a top-class race, and to see someone else feeling that much joy after winning one is wonderful.)

Joshua Tree parading in his International garland.

The Breeders’ Cup Turf is a day less than three weeks from the International, and the connections aren’t sure whether Joshua Tree will start at Santa Anita. It’s one of three races being considered for the horse. (The other two are the Japan Cup and the Hong Kong Cup, and the Japan Cup seems the likeliest. 10/15/12 Update: He’ll go to the Japan Cup next, it was announced.)

7:27 PM: The Canadian International replay (chart).

7:35 PM: Faces of the day:

The lad who led Dandino to the Woodbine paddock watches as the 25-1 shot finishes second. He’d been shouting, “C’mon, Jim.” And then he went silent.

Dettori is mobbed by autograph-seeking fans as he makes his way from the track. “Help, help,” he jokingly called as he shook hands and signed programs.

← Before