Jessica Chapel / Railbird

Racing Archive

Rebel Possible for Brandi

Owner Willis Horton and trainer D. Wayne Lukas are considering entering filly champion Take Charge Brandi in the March 14 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park, the same race American Pharoah is expected to make his first start in since last September. Lukas told Mary Rampellini that the Kentucky Oaks is still Brandi’s goal, but Horton likes the idea of keeping her options open: “If we win the Rebel we get the 50 points for it, and it puts us in a position where we can either go to the Kentucky Oaks or the Kentucky Derby.” And if she finishes second, she’ll get 20 points, which would likely put her on the bubble for a Kentucky Derby entry. The returning 2-year-old male champion looks formidable; he’s also been out with a foot injury. Add in the larger purse and that, aside from Pharoah, the Rebel is expected to draw “names that shouldn’t strike fear into the hearts of anyone,” starting Brandi in this race, instead of the Honeybee, looks like a pretty good (and sporting) move.

Vance Hanson isn’t so sure:

From what I’ve witnessed from my seat on the backbenches, Take Charge Brandi would seem better served going for the Honeybee rather than the more difficult Rebel hornets’ nest. If her connections ultimately choose the latter, though, it would probably be no less useful a prep for the Fantasy …

She has 40 points towards the Oaks — there’s really nothing for her to lose.

Mr. Z, another Lukas trainee, is one of the defectors from the Rebel Stakes after finishing third in the Southwest. He’ll start next instead in the March 28 Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds. He’s also getting an equipment change:

Itsfiftypoints for a Star

Kentucky Derby preps moved into the 50-point round with the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream and Risen Star at the Fair Grounds yesterday, and Itsaknockout and International Star both essentially secured places in the starting gate at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May with their respective wins. Charts, replays, speed figures, and the updated leaderboard are all available via the big Kentucky Derby prep schedule.

Itsaknockout was given a Beyer speed figure of 90 for the Fountain of Youth; he technically remains undefeated. Upstart, first to the wire, but disqualified and placed second for interfering in the stretch with the official winner, earned a Beyer of 95. Trainer Rick Violette called the stewards’ decision “very, very questionable,” and is considering sending Upstart to the Wood Memorial for his final prep, instead of starting him in the Florida Derby as planned.

For the Risen Star, International Star was given a 93 Beyer. He’s owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, yet not one of their many Kittens, being by 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus. (A little note for Suffolk Downs players: He’s also a half-brother to a familiar name in the 2013-2014 entries — Jet Pack.)

The Big C(hange)

How to end winter racing at Aqueduct:

As the saying goes, it would be a shame to let such a good crisis go to waste. Bill Finley wrote a great column today, calling for the end of winter racing in New York. The editorial board of the Times has already provided their political cover on the issue. If ever there was a chance to get out from under the ill-advised, tax-starved decisions from forty years ago that brought us this bush-league racing product in the first place, this is it.

Here’s how it could go down. You can’t expect Christopher Kay to play a leading public role, as he’s a businessman with a politician who just got re-elected to another 4-year term for a boss. What he needs to do is drop the “enhanced guest experience” crap for a minute and whisper into the appropriate ear that what NYRA has is a “branding problem” (I hate this business-speak, but, when in Rome). Winter racing, and all the calamities that come with it, are dragging down the NYRA brand. Eliminate state-mandated winter racing dates and ordinary levels of caution will soon become sufficient, leaving NYRA to lavish its abundances upon their guests, with goodness and tribute destined to ensue …

Safety is tops among the several good reasons it may be time to curtail winter racing in New York, but one I haven’t seen mentioned elsewhere is that it would also eliminate cold weather as a reason for not consolidating the NYRA circuit by moving all non-Saratoga racing to Belmont Park — a track that’s built for June, not February. It would open up the state-owned land Aqueduct sits on for development, which has to be a tempting secondary effect.

Joe Clancy asks if it’s time to change the claiming game:

… think like an outsider. You really want to try to explain claiming to an animal-rights activist, a state legislator or a 60 Minutes host? “So, let me get this straight Horse Racing Person … a trainer can run a horse he or she no longer wants because it’s slow or has an ailment that really doesn’t look like one, and hope some other trainer claims it? No questions asked?”

This has nothing to do with Hendrickson or Navarro or Trombetta or the Morrises, or people who play the claiming game. It has everything to do with the racing model the industry provides for its participants. We can do better.

The outcry over Grade 1 winner Monzante’s death following a claiming race in 2013, or the spike in inner-track fatalities at Aqueduct in 2012 (and again, this winter), is but a preview of the crisis to come if one of these stories about claimers not only crosses over into mainstream media, but sticks.

Mis- Names

I noticed Pain and Misery’s name among the early Triple Crown nominations and asked the obvious question, “Why?” Jay Hovdey has the answer:

“Ray and I have had a few horses together, but I’ve always named them,” [co-owner Dr. Leonard] Blach said. “I told him it was his turn with this one, but he kept procrastinating. By the time the name was due he’d come down with the worst case of shingles you ever saw, the poor guy. So he just wrote ‘Pain and Misery’ on the papers and sent them in.”

Here’s the punchline:

Hopefully, then, the Mandella crew has a kinder, gentler nickname around the barn for their new shooter.

“Sure,” the trainer said. “We call him Shingles.”

In his most recent start, Pain and Misery finished second to Bench Warrant in the February 15 Baffle Stakes over the downhill turf course at Santa Anita.

Now, this is funny:

Nightly News is a 2-year-old colt bred by Hal Earnhardt, like his champion half-sister, and you can assume from his name that someone takes a low view of NBC news anchor Brian Williams “misremembering” an incident aboard a helicopter during the Iraq war, for which he was suspended from the network.

Winning Legende

Legende has a ways to go before he reaches the rarefied level of his full sister, two-time Japanese Horse of the Year Gentildonna, but the 3-year-old colt made an auspicious career debut at Kyoto Racecourse on February 15. Michele MacDonald recaps the race for Thoroughbred Daily News:

Legende (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}) … entered the starting gate as the even-money favorite in a field of 14 maidens going 1800 meters (about 1 1/8 miles) on turf. After breaking without incident, he rated kindly in second under jockey Keita Tosaki while the filly Kurseong (Jpn) (Empire Maker) set the pace for much of the trip.

When Tosaki rounded the far turn on Legende, he asked the colt for more and his mount bounded quickly to the lead. Tosaki tapped his flank twice in the stretch and Legende proved clearly best, defeating Kurseong easily by three-quarters of a length in 1:52.4 on a course rated firm, and he galloped out with his ears pricked. Fillies Gold Glory (Jpn) (Harbinger {GB}) and Juwelen (Jpn) (Deep Impact) finished third and fourth.

Watch the replay:

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