JC / Railbird


From Chantilly

Honestly, these French.” Honestly, have I mentioned lately how much I enjoy reading Chris McGrath’s Independent columns? Today’s piece comes from Goldikova’s barn, where trainer Freddie Head took questions about the 5-year-old mare who may beat Zenyatta to the punch as the first horse to win three consecutive Breeders’ Cup races. Not that anything is to be assumed. “Gio Ponti, if he runs, will be the one to beat this year I suppose,” Head told the Racing Post, speculating on possible challengers in the Mile.

Awards Trivia

Goldikova has surpassed Canford Cliffs in the running for this year’s Cartier Awards Horse of the Year. A record third win in the Breeders’ Cup Mile will clinch it, just as a second straight win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic will assure Zenyatta of the Eclipse Awards Horse of the Year title. If both win, it’ll be the first time in the 20 years that the European and American awards have existed concurrently that mares are named HOTY in the same year. It’ll also be the second time in three years for both the Cartier and Eclipse awards that a female horse is named Horse of the Year. Not quite two years after Foolish Pleasure dubbed 2008 the first “Year of the Chick,” distaffers are still on a roll.

What It’s All About

1) Zenyatta running her record to a perfect 19 in the G1 Lady’s Secret Stakes. “Everything was a blur to me,” trainer John Shirreffs told Steve Andersen after the race. “Where’s the wire? You’re looking at her, looking at the wire. I can’t begin to describe it.” Much like the 2009 Clement Hirsch at Del Mar, the Lady’s Secret looked lost in the final yards. Until it wasn’t.

2) Goldikova winning her eleventh Group/Grade 1 race in the Prix de la Foret. Challenged by Paco Boy and Dick Turpin in the stretch, she gamely dominated going over soft ground. She’s now headed to the Breeders’ Cup, where she’ll attempt to win the Mile for an unprecedented third time.

We are living in a small ‘golden age’ — let’s call it a gilded age,” writes Steve Dennis. “We had Zarkava, Sea The Stars, Rachel Alexandra. We have Zenyatta and Goldikova. These are true champions, these horses who win again and again, beating the best around.” Let’s enjoy.

A Few Quick Links

… and notes before I check out for a few days …

Jittery Saratoga fans? Reports the Troy Record: “[Tom Federlin] brings in about $1.3 million annually renting homes during track season. This year, for the first time, he has had to include escape clauses in the leases guaranteeing renters refunds if the track doesn’t open.”

Thank you, Saratogian editorial board: “For the umpteenth time, NYRA isn’t looking for a bailout. It’s looking for a loan for operating cash that it wouldn’t be asking for had it been receiving the money owed by NYC OTB as well as its promised cut from the so-far nonexistent slots at Aqueduct.”

Not quite right, Associated Press: “NYRA, plagued for years by poor management and sinking revenues, emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2008 with the help of a $105 million state bailout that sent $75 million to creditors and $30 million to help NYRA until the Aqueduct ‘racino’ opened.” Take note, anonymous reporter, that was no bailout in 2008 — it was cash for land, and the state got a sweet deal on valuable parcels as part of the franchise agreement it made with NYRA.

Regarding a similar error in a story about the current situation, Ed Fountaine asks, “Is this use of the incendiary term ‘bailout’ just shoddy journalism, or a willful disregard for the truth?” Neither answer is a good one, for anyone who cares about journalism or New York racing.

In New Jersey, Monmouth Park has momentum and attention. Saturday, opening day for the rich experimental meet, drew a crowd of 17,903 (an increase of 74% over 2009) and attracted $9,357,444 in handle (more than double last year, and a record for a non-Haskell day). There was more good news for the track on Sunday, with 8500 in attendance and $7,046,389 in handle (an increase of 126% over the same day in 2009). Trainers are enjoying the “bargain hunting possibilities” brought on by horses priced so low, running for so much. Out of six claiming races on Saturday, 11 horses went to new barns. The pace picked up on Sunday, with 19 horses claimed out of five races.

Goldikova returns triumphant: Watch the Prix d’Ispahan replay. The 6-year-old mare will start next at Royal Ascot. “I think she’s better than last year, when she just hated the heavy ground,” said trainer Freddie Head.

Belmont buzz horses: On Saturday, Afleet Express, a 3-year-old son of Afleet Alex, made an impression winning a seven-furlong allowance by 7 3/4 lengths in 1:21.72 as the 7-5 favorite for trainer Jimmy Jerkens. He was given a Beyer speed figure of 115, the best for any age sprinting, and second, at any distance or age, only to the 121 given Quality Road for the Donn Handicap. [5/25/10 Update: BSF revised to 107.] On Sunday, Flawless debuted with a 13 1/4 length win in a seven-furlong maiden special, zipping through a first quarter in :22.80 and a half in :46.57 as the even-money favorite. And get this: “She wasn’t cranked,” said trainer Bill Mott.

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