JC / Railbird


Saturday Line-Up (Updated)

Oaks prep, Derby preps, and two big stars making their first starts of the year:

The NTRA, which unveiled a fresh new web site look last Friday, launches a new feature, NTRA Live!, a series of webcasts hosted by Randy Moss, this Saturday. Beginning at 6:00 PM, racing fans with an Internet connection anywhere in the world will be able to watch a live video stream — free! — of both the New Orleans Ladies and Santa Margarita Handicap. Very cool. (And not just because the video venture was inspired by “Take Back Saturday!“)

Also Saturday: 2009 Tampa Bay Derby winner Musket Man tries something new, starting in the five furlong Turf Dash Stakes at Tampa (4:57 PM). Musket Man, making his second start off a long layoff, has never finished out of the money, but he’s also never raced at less than six furlongs or on turf. [9:50 AM: Just saw this post on PaceAdvantage, in which someone familiar with the connections’ intentions reports Musket Man has breezed over turf once before and that the race is a prep (a prep they expect to win) for the Carter at Aqueduct. DRF shows trainer Derek Ryan with a .38 percentage (out of eight starters) in turf sprints; Musket Man is the 5-2 morning-line favorite.]

Three potential Omnisurface Stars to watch: In the New Orleans Ladies, Zardana — trained by John Shirreffs, shipped in to take Rachel Alexandra’s measure — makes her first start on dirt [in the US]. The 6-year-old mare won the 2009 G2 Bayakoa Handicap at Hollywood (Cushion Track) and the Swingtime at Santa Anita (turf). Also trying dirt for the first time is Noble’s Promise, who makes his first start of the year in the Rebel Stakes. Noble’s Promise won the G1 Breeders’ Futurity last fall at Keeneland (Polytrack), and broke his maiden over the Ellis Park turf. At Santa Anita, Interactif makes the move to synthetics in the San Felipe Stakes. The Todd Pletcher-trainee won his maiden debut on the Monmouth dirt and boasts two 2009 turf stakes wins, the G3 With Anticipation at Saratoga and G3 Bourbon at Keeneland.

Weekend Notes

– Racing has a new Omnisurface Star: Colonel John, winner of the 2008 Santa Anita Derby (Pro-Ride) and Travers Stakes (dirt), made his 2009 debut a winning one, taking the ungraded Wickerr Stakes (turf) at Del Mar by two lengths in a fast 1:32.77 (just missing the track record). Trainer Eoin Harty now has some options for the 4-year-old Tiznow colt: “He can do anything.”

– The lack of TV coverage for this weekend’s fantastic racing “amounts to a blackout,” says Steve Crist. Count it also as a lost opportunity.

– Maybe part of the problem with getting coverage is that apparently even the NTRA doesn’t follow the sport that closely. “The Haskell Invitation is today at 6:15PM … http://bit.ly/grQoo,” reads an official tweet. Dear NTRA tweeter, note: The Haskell Invitational is scheduled for tomorrow, Sunday, August 2.

– Bill Finley sees into the future: “Munnings is going to beat her.” [Oops!]

– Monmouth photos: There’s something in the air, and check out that filly.

– Jess Jackson may have the best 3-year-old running, and his wife, Barbara Banke, the best 2-year-old: Hot Dixie Chick was given a Beyer speed figure of 103 for her visually impressive Schuylerville Stakes win on Wednesday. Backtalk, an undefeated son of Smarty Jones attracting some attention, received a BSF of 82 for his hard-fought Sanford win on Thursday.

– Discreetly Mine, a half-brother to Discreet Cat who made an impression on me in his debut, returns in the sixth at Saratoga this afternoon. The 3-1 morning line favorite in a field of 13, he gets blinkers on and boasts a bullet work for trainer Stanley Hough. Also entered is Krypton, a first-time starter by freshman sire Rock Hard Ten (one of my old favorites) out of Kiaran McLaughlin’s barn. Rock Hard Ten is off to a decent start with his offspring: Of the seven that have run so far, two have won, both in their debuts.

Quick Hits

– Following up on his Letter to the Editor in the New York Times, Alex Waldrop presses his response to Joe Drape’s drugs-in-racing commentary of last week with a Blood-Horse column and a short blog post, both of which amp up the defensiveness of the original reaction to little effect, other than to make the NTRA and the Safety Alliance appear as irrelevant as critics charge and to expose the limits of industry self-regulation. (It doesn’t help that Waldrop outlandishly claims in the Blood-Horse, “Race-day medications have been virtually eliminated nationwide,” when Lasix remains legal everywhere and phenylbutazone is widely used in California and elsewhere.) That’s unfortunate, especially as racing heads into a season of increased scrutiny.

– Yesterday’s news: David Lanzman sells 50% of I Want Revenge to IEAH. Today’s news: IEAH sells 25% of Stardom Bound to David Lanzman. Foolish Pleasure questions if the deal — which, according to one report, was for $2 million + the share in Stardom Bound + bonuses — is a sign that IEAH is struggling to muster capital. I wondered if Joe Talamo would really retain the mount on the Gotham winner, as the press release announcing the deal stated. Asked during the Tuesday NTRA teleconference about just that point, Lanzman vehemently replied, “It’s Joe’s horse … I can’t imagine taking the kid off.” Note to Talamo: Don’t screw up in the Wood.

– The first HANA sponsored buy-cott was a success, with total handle on the selected race up nearly 100%. Well done, horseplayers.

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