JC / Railbird


Saturday Notes

The Factor is back in training after missing three days due to a foot bruise. “He had a little setback,” said trainer Bob Baffert, noting that the San Vicente Stakes on February 20 is still a possibility for the 3-year-old colt. But the Kentucky Derby may not be, reports Brad Free. After setting a main track record at six furlongs winning a maiden special on opening day at Santa Anita, The Factor didn’t work again for three weeks. “I will not fry him to make the Derby,” said the trainer. Baffert has other Derby prospects, including one he thinks quite well of, tweeted Sid Fernando:

Bob Baffert’s best Derby hope he just told me is Jay. “He’s by Victory Gallop, who beat me w Real Quiet. The mother Fu*ker owes me,” he said

Jay = Jaycito, the Norfolk Stakes winner moved into Baffert’s barn from trainer Mike Mitchell’s shedrow by owner Ahmed Zayat last fall (with the Derby in mind). Since the start of the year, he’s worked four times, most recently going seven furlongs in 1:25.20 at Santa Anita, and could start in the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn on February 21. Despite blowing the turn into the backstretch during last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (in which he finished seventh, 16 lengths off Uncle Mo), the Victory Gallop colt is one of my early Derby favorites, largely on the strength of his for-the-distance pedigree.

In case anyone was wondering about BC Juvenile fourth-place finisher Biondetti as a Derby prospect, the Downey Profile reports that they contacted Godolphin and confirmed that the Bernardini 3-year-old will not be prepping for the first Saturday in May. “He will return to Europe for a summer campaign” (scroll down to the news for Thursday, February 3).

There aren’t enough 3-year-olds to fill races at the Fair Grounds. The Louisiana route to the Derby, which Jason Shandler argues has become less relevant in recent years, is a lot less crowded without trainer Steve Asmussen.

A third claim of copyright violation kills the Partymanners YouTube channel, an incredible source of race replays. Jim Conti, aka Partymanners, said on PaceAdvantage that the video files were mostly backed up and will be uploaded to a second account. Which is … good? When the account was suspended last year, users rallied to save the videos, headed by Thorobase developer Robin Howlett. That’s one reason Conti will be able to restore the channel, but I hope he’ll reconsider where. For all the benefits of the service, posting the replays on YouTube again raises the possibility that new copyright claims will result in another takedown, depriving fans of a valuable resource.

Randy Cohen is out as the New York Times magazine Ethicist columnist, Ariel Kaminer is in, and the only reason I mention the moves is because there’s an unexpected Railbird connection to both. Way back in 2004, when I was a new handicapper, I wrote to Cohen asking about the ethics of betting on horses that may have been mistreated (he thought it best not); last year, I visited NYC OTB parlors with Kaminer as she researched a City Critic column.

BC Pre-Entry Day

And on the NY Times’ Rail Blog, back for the Breeders’ Cup, I take a look at the 10 Euro juveniles pre-entered in this year’s races, including the two very interesting Bernardini buzz babies Biondetti and Theyskens’ Theory. Although I mentioned both were cross-entered in their divisions, I left out that that both have first preference for the dirt races. Trainer Brian Meehan seems quite set on the Juvenile Fillies for ‘Theory,’ but what Godolphin will choose for Biondetti is a little less clear. They’re giving nothing away. Mark Simon, writing in the Thoroughbred Times, speculates that the Juvenile purse and prestige (and a possible championship) will be a factor in their decision. If the two start on dirt, they’ll make four, with Marathon prospects Bright Horizon and Precision Break, the number of Euro contenders running in main track races.

The Big Three

Saturday’s Dewhurst Stakes drew a dozen possibles, including undefeated Frankel, Dream Ahead, and Saamidd, whetting interest in “the most eagerly-awaited two-year-old race of the modern era,” or, if you prefer, “the best race for two-year-olds in living memory.” Oh, my, that is hype. It makes all the post-Champagne Stakes twittering about the anticipated Uncle Mo and Boys at Tosconova match-up in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile look staid by comparison (for example, see Dick Jerardi, John Pricci). Some hype is certainly justified — it’s undeniably an intriguing scenario shaping up at Newmarket, with the flawless reputations of the Dewhurst Big 3 on the line.

Aside: Don’t worry about Frankel’s jockey, Tom Queally, who fell from a horse at Goodwood on Sunday. “He’s not concussed,” said the rider’s agent.

A few other buzz baby items to note: Wickedly Perfect, winner of the Alcibiades Stakes at Keeneland on Friday, and AZ Warrior, winner of the Frizette Stakes at Belmont on Saturday, were the second and third fillies to come back from the Debutante Stakes at Del Mar last month to score a stakes win. Rigoletta, third in that race to Wickedly Perfect and Tell a Kelly, won the Oak Leaf Stakes at Hollywood last week. The Debutante has also yielded a next-out allowance winner, with sixth-place finisher Sugarinthemorning winning at Hollywood on Sunday … Wickedly Perfect won’t make the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. A bone chip was discovered in her knee after the Alcibiades … AZ Warrior was one of two G1 winners for freshman sire Bernardini over the weekend. His other was Biondetti, taking the Gran Criterium in Milan for Godolphin. The colt is possible for the Breeders’ Cup, said trainer Mahmood al Zarooni … Aidan O’Brien trainee Together, second to undefeated White Moonstone in the Fillies’ Mile, could start in the Turf Fillies.

Housekeeping: Taking advantage of Equibase’s improved features, including the new horse profile pages with charts and workouts info, the spreadsheet’s been cleaned up (and should be much easier to use).