JC / Railbird


Zenyatta Connections

Dazzling praise for Zenyatta’s 2-year-old half-sister by Bernardini:

“She has as much presence as any young horse I’ve ever been around,” Robinson said. “It scares me. She’s completely herself, very independent, but in a good way. She’s sweet, but not sugary. Very businesslike. She was definitely the dominant one, but in a kind way, with the other yearlings. I watched Zenyatta at Lane’s End several weeks ago when they first introduced her to the other maidens, and it’s the same thing. It’s not a kick-your-ass kind of dominance, but it’s like they just knew who the boss was. Eblouissante is very much that way.”

Here’s a photo of Eblouissante from last summer, giving a look that’s very like her Horse of the Year sibling. She’ll go to trainer John Shirreffs later this year.

Uncle Mo is on Facebook and Twitter and owner Mike Repole credits Team Zenyatta. “I’ve always connected with products that connected with me.”

3/1/11 Update: Eblouissante now has her own Facebook fan page.

Thursday Notes

Wait, Forever Together might not be done yet. Trainer Jonathan Sheppard, who said after the champion finished sixth in the Flower Bowl, “It’s no fun watching her run like that,” and suggested the 6-year-old mare would be retired, told Alicia Wincze Forever Together might get another race. “If we get firm ground [for the Breeders’ Cup] we might go on. We haven’t ruled anything out.”

Jaycito should have the stamina for the Kentucky Derby, and that’s the race trainer Mike Mitchell has his eye on. “The ultimate race we want to run in is the Derby,” he said after Jaycito broke his maiden in his third start, last Saturday’s Norfolk. In his two previous efforts, the juvenile finished second to JP’s Gusto in the Del Mar Futurity and second to Indian Winter, third in the Futurity, in a maiden special. Like Stay Thirsty, entered but unlikely for the Champagne unless stablemate Uncle Mo scratches, he’s a colt on the upswing. [Re: that last link, it goes to trainer Todd Pletcher’s ATR blog, on which he also mentions that Frizette starter Tap for Luck, “is probably the one that’s bred the best to get more distance. Unfortunately, she’s only had one race and it was five furlongs so we’re stretching out more than you would like.”]

With the Southern California horse population down, Santa Anita will try a less-is-more schedule this winter. The track plans four-day weeks, with racing Thursday through Sunday. The change, said track president George Haines, “should make the quality better on the weekends.” Fuller fields are something to look forward to; a shame about the takeout increase.

Kerry Thomas talks equine psychology. “Herd dynamics have an impact on a horse’s ability to maintain pace over a distance. Where they fit in a herd is where they’re naturally inclined to move in any group.” Fascinating stuff.

Someone’s having a little fun on Twitter.

Progressively International

Chris McGrath applauds the recent Breeders’ Cup changes:

… there is a case for wondering whether the latest such initiative will prove one of the most significant in the history of the international sport. For with a single stroke, the Breeders’ Cup has dismantled the barriers that have historically confined European participation to a minority blessed by unusual luck or resources.

The main criticism of the Challenge series, from the start, was the asterisk attached to Win and You’re In. Removed, the event truly goes global.

I’ve been looking forward to seeing several Euro juveniles at Churchill Downs this November, none more than Frankel, so dominating in his first two starts. But I may have to wait another year, writes Nick Luck on BC360: “Given the colt’s likely intended path through European Classics in 2011, however, an appearance at Churchill this time around is pretty unlikely.”

Real-time gets richer: Twitter unveiled significant updates to the service last night, which will be in place for all users in the next couple weeks. The new right pane will display videos and photos alongside the stream, which opens up some intriguing possibilities for on-the-scene tweeting from Louisville.

The Return of Dublin

Dublin, dropped from my PDI top 10 after the Arkansas Derby, returns this week at #1, a move driven by Eskendereya’s withdrawal from the race and a few hours with the past performances. Last week, when the field was looking set, I was intent on figuring out who would run behind Eskendereya — I know, I should feel more embarrassed to admit that. Every wise guy out there has been complaining about how with the loss of Esky, all the odds on the horses they were really planning to play have plunged. Whatever. The colt had the two best Beyer speed figures of this bunch, a perfect prep season, a fitting pedigree. He’s also physically impressive — watching at Aqueduct on Wood Day, I was struck by how much more mature and robust he looked than the other starters (check out his chest and shoulders in this photo by Sarah K. Andrew). Watching the Wood replay, what grabbed my attention was how much he reminded me of Big Brown (and I wasn’t even a Big Brown fan), exhibiting a similar control and ease as he took the lead and drew away. I was going to bet the chalk on Saturday, and happily.

As for Dublin, I still have some concerns he won’t relish the Derby distance, but then, ten furlongs seem questionable for several of this year’s expected starters, who, for the most part, haven’t made much of an impression on me. His track work this weekend could also suggest problems: After attempting to bolt during a Saturday gallop, Dublin drifted out around the final turn in his Sunday work. What’s more, DRF clocker Mike Welsch noted, “the failure to gallop out with any serious energy cannot be taken as positive signs less than one week out from the big event.” A factor in his favor, though, is the relative toughness of the Oaklawn preps, in which Dublin ran well. Off a second in the Southwest, a third in the Rebel, and a fast-closing third in the Arkansas Derby,* he could be poised to move forward.

Devil May Care, coming into the Derby with a competitive profile and a slightly faster time in G2 Bonnie Miss Stakes than Ice Box in the G1 Florida Derby on the same day, moves to #2 and Sidney’s Candy to #3. Lookin at Lucky remains at #4, despite his exceptional qualities. I would rate him higher, but for his tendency to find trouble, and he’s only had two preps this year. There’s also the matter of blinkers-on, blinkers-off: Trainer Bob Baffert is still trying to figure out the colt, and he’s running out of time. But then, the new Derby favorite worked brilliantly this morning. (Trying to sort it all out this evening, Bill Finley’s see-no-works, hear-no-works approach to Derby week suddenly seems a very sensible one.)

PDI top 10 for 4/27/10: 1) Dublin 2) Devil May Care 3) Sidney’s Candy 4) Lookin at Lucky 5) Endorsement 6) Awesome Act 7) Jackson Bend 8) American Lion 9) Discreetly Mine 10) Stately Victor

Call it the Twerby? The 2009 Derby was the first in which Twitter played a real role, even if it was mostly to inspire an ongoing debate about the usefulness of the service. This year, however, Twitter has been a source of fast-changing news (see Ed DeRosa’s tweets Sunday on Eskendereya skipping work, doubtful for the Derby, out of the Derby), close-ups of contenders (see Frances J. Karon’s pictures of Dublin and Devil May Care), as well as workout times. Thanks to Dana Byerly of Green But Game for pointing out this Blood-Horse article on Monday’s Derby works, which cites tweets from Churchill’s media department. Observed Vic Zast, by tweet of course,

Not amazing that Esky out of Derby. Favs can drop out in last week. What’s amazing is how fast social networking sites passed news along.

How much a scene can change in just a year, and for the better.

*I was asked last week about column 15, “Key Derby Preps,” on the historical criteria spreadsheet. The numbers that appear there are simply how many such races a horse started in while prepping. Qualifying races were determined by the total number of Derby starters that emerged from each race, as well as the total number that finished ITM in the Derby, 1998-2008. A dozen races rated highly on both counts. It’s a quick measure of contenders’ preps, based on recent trends. Kevin Martin of Colin’s Ghost has done much deeper research on Derby preps: I recommend his work for more insight into using historical trends for judging prep races.

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