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Thursday, 31 January 2013

New Mexico regular to run in G2 Arcadia Stakes

When we think of major turf stakes races, we picture European shippers coming in to face some of our favorite turf stars. We look at pedigrees and at who can handle the turf, and we cheer for our locals to beat the foreigners, although it doesn't always work out that way. We think about the Breeder's Cup Turf, the Canadian International and the Stephen Foster Handicap, among others. However, we don't think about New Mexico, a state with 5 race tracks, none with a turf course. But the 'Land of Enchantment' will be represented on Saturday in the Grade II, 1-mile Arcadia Stakes at Santa Anita by Forest Mouse.  
      Forest Mouse spent his 2012 campaign running in the New Mexico Handicap division, and has spent his entire career as a stakes regular in Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico. The 5 year-old horse is coming off of back to back victories in the $200,000 Zia Park Distance Championship and the $50,000 Winsham Lad Handicap at Sunland Park.
Forest Mouse in the $200,000 Zia Park Distance Championship
        Forest Mouse is the kind of horse that confuses me in these kind of races. His form is incredible, he didn't finish worse than 2nd in his 8 starts in 2012, and throughout his 28 race career he's notched 12 wins, 8 seconds and 2 thirds. He's earned over $400,000, which is impressive for a horse who's never raced at a major track (with one exception, one start at Arlington in 2011.) His turf form is also very good, 4-for-6 with multiple stakes wins at Turf Paradise on the lawn. Speed figure wise, he's very competitive here. If this were the next handicap at Sunland, he'd likely go off under even money.
       But this isn't a New Mexico handicap race. This is a Grade II at Santa Anita. He's got to face the big boys today. Who are the big boys? There's Irish-bred Vagabond Shoes, a multiple Group III winner in France who's been working steadily on the Santa Anita turf for John Sadler. How about Gary Mandella trainee Silentio, who's only been beaten once in his 4 start career, and is coming off of a victory in the Grade II Sir Beaufort Stakes about a month ago. Then there's multiple Group I winner in Argentina Suggestive Boy, who's exiting the Breeder's Cup Mile. It's not an easy spot for a horse who hasn't touched the grass in over a year.
       But I'm a believer in cheering for the underdog. The little horse who could. Forest Mouse is a big fish in the small pond that is New Mexico, but that doesn't mean he can't be a winner in the big lake. It may not be as great a tale as Mine That Bird, but I'll be cheering all the way for Forest Mouse to pull the upset in the Arcadia, and remind everybody to take some time to think about and enjoy the racing from the Land of Enchantment.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

El Paso Times Stakes comes up tough

Saturday's card at Sunland features the El Paso Times Stakes, the first local prep for the Sunland Park Oaks. Before 2013, no one cared, and there was a good reason not to care. No one cares this year either, but now there's an actual reason to care. The Sunland Park Oaks, despite being ungraded, is worth 50 points for the Kentucky Oaks. Watching this prep is a good way to get an edge on the Sunland Oaks, which may spring a surprise Kentucky Oaks winner. Hell, Mine That Bird won the Derby after prepping here, so you never know.
       The El Paso Times Stakes features a field of 8 fillies to go 6 1/2 furlongs. Of the 8 runners, there are 4 in the field that look very competitive. From a betting perspective, this might turn out to be an interesting race. Often at Sunland, and other New Mexico tracks, we see false favorites. I could see this happening here, which could lead to some good value.
     #2 Challenging is making her 2nd lifetime start for Alex Hartman and Foxpointe Thoroughbreds. She absolutely romped in her Maiden Special Weight debut at this distance. She's had two half-mile works since that race, the first in 49.20, average, and the 2nd in 51.40, slow. I don't know why that work was so slow, but I doubt Hartman would enter her if he was concerned, so I'll trust his judgement. Ry Eikleberry, my personal favorite New Mexico jockey, will be riding, so I'll take this filly to win, hoping she doesn't bounce off of her debut.
     Steve Asmussen is taking a shot here with #7 Melody Lady, a Maiden Special Weight winner at the Fair Grounds, which is definitely a class edge compared to a New Mexico MSW. Melody Lady is the 5-2 Morning Line favorite, and this the filly I see being the 'false favorite' here. Of course she looks good here, but she can be beat. The ship from New Orleans to Sunland is a long one, and that might be stressful and lead to a poor performance. The filly that finished 2nd to her at Fair Grounds, Anahauc, came back to finish 4th as a 4-5 favorite, being beat by 3 first time starters. Are all 3 of those horses bound to be talented stakes runners? I doubt it. I respect this filly, but if the price is too low, which I think it will be, it's worth trying to beat her, cause it very well can be done.
      Followers of the California Fair Circuit may remember #4 Shesatopattraction, who was a dominant 9 length winner in her debut at Pleasanton for $12,500. 8 days later she ran against stakes company, 4th beaten 12 3/4 lengths, but only beaten 1 3/4 lengths for 2nd. She then shipped to New Mexico, joined the Henry Dominguez stable, and pulled off a 7-1 upset in the Truth or Consequences Stakes at Zia Park, where she managed to beat Flamboyance, who is running here. That start was her first in 150 days. My concern: she was a vet scratch on January 6th in the Allowance that Flamboyance came back to win. She worked a half in 49.80 the next day, so most likely it was minor, but I never like to see vet scratches. She should be tough, she is the only Stakes winner in the field.
      Now, a Thoroughbred stakes in New Mexico would feel incomplete without a Justin Evans runner. #5 Flamboyance looks like the speed here to me, but that's not a guarantee, given her last 2 races. Since coming to New Mexico she's 2 for 3, with wins in a Zia MSW and an Allowance Optional Claimer here at Sunland, and a runner up finish behind Shesatopattraction in the Truth or Consequences. She loses Ry Eikleberry and picks up Miguel Hernandez. Will she prove better than Shesatopattraction this time? Maybe. One thing for sure, Justin Evans doesn't run horses that he doesn't think can win, and his 32% win percentage at this meet shows that. We'll see.
     The other runners in this field are #1 Comic Kitty, who broke her maiden in a $15,000 claimer before finishing 3rd behind Flamboyance, #3 Oneotwo, who's yet to finish in the money in 3 starts since her Maiden Special Weight win at Arapahoe in June, #6 Bubba's My Name, who bombed last time out in the Arizona Juvenile Fillies at Turf Paradise, and #8 Fraudulentfootnote, who's yet to break her maiden in 6 starts, and has never been closer than 3 1/2 lengths. 
     This race is an interesting puzzle. After this, we'll see the Sunland Oaks picture develop further in February, when the Island Fashion Stakes is run as the 2nd local prep. As I said earlier, the Sunland Park Oaks is worth 50 points for the Kentucky Oaks, so you may just see a future Kentucky Oaks starter in this race. Hell, you might just see a future Kentucky Oaks winner, stranger things have happened.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

AQHA Racing Championship Titles Announced

The AQHA Racing Championship Awards were held tonight at Heritage Place in Oklahoma City. Quarter Horse Racing's best were recognized for the racing triumphs that made 2012 a great year.
     There weren't many big surprise winners, but it was a good way to go back and remember some of the great races of the year. A few of my personal favorite horses were recognized tonight, and I'm going to take a stroll down the memory lane of 2012 Quarter Horse Racing.

Distance Champion: All About Larry
All About Larry in his track record setting Lone Star  Distance Challenge
He may not quite be Gone to the Mountain, but All About Larry was dominate in the 870 yards division this year. He won 6 of 8 starts, ending the year with a romp in the Red Cell Distance Challenge Championship at Prairie Meadows. He set back to back track records in his final two starts of the year, winning the Lone Star Distance Challenge by 9 lengths in 44.206 and the Red Cell Distance Challenge Championship in 44.581. He was also only 0.165 short of setting the track record for 1000 yards at Turf Paradise back in January. All in all, All About Larry was a fun horse to follow, and I'm looking forward to his 6 year old campaign.

Aged Stallion Champion: Prospect to the Top
Prospect to the Top wins the Zia Park Quarter Horse Championship
Prospect to the Top only raced 5 times this year, beginning his campaign in August, but he showed his class. He secured 3 victories, 2 of which were Grade Is. In the Grade I Zia Park Quarter Horse Championship, he was an impressive 1 3/4 length winner in a field full of classy runners. He re-asserted his dominance in the Grade I Championship at Sunland Park, winning by 1 1/2 lengths, and bumping his 2012 earnings to $275,500. Not bad for a horse who raced 5 times, and 1 of his 3 wins was in the $40,000 All American Gold Cup, not exactly a big purse. All in all he showed that he's one of the classiest older runners right now and should have a great 2013 campaign, assuming he's not retired to stud.

Canadian Champion: Zoomin After Six
Zoomin After Six wins the Maple Leaf Derby at Ajax Downs
Even though Ajax Downs, or the Alberta tracks for that matter, isn't exactly the great quality racing, I'm a Canadian and I have to give some love to the Canadian Champion. Zoomin After Six won 6 of his 8 starts this year, winning 2 of Ajax's Derby races, the $59,200 Maple Leaf Derby and the $60,000 Ontario Bred Derby. He was also only beaten a neck in $95,400 All Candian Derby. Sure, he's nowhere near a horse like Ochoa on the scale of 3 year olds, but he was a force to be reckoned with at Ajax, and as a 'patriot,' I had to talk about him here.

Aged Champion: Rylees Boy
Rylees Boy rallies to grab the Champion of Champions at Los Alamitos
He may not have gotten World Champion, but Rylees Boy is the Champion to me. This is his 2nd consecutive Aged Champion title, and he definitely deserved it. He won 4 of 7 starts this year, including a 2 Grade Is and a Grade II. He ended the year with wins in the 2 biggest Invitationals of the year, the Grade I Bank of America Challenge Championship at Prairie Meadows, and then came back to take the $750,000 Grade I Champion of Champions at Los Alamitos. He's a monster at the classic distance of 440 yards, earned over $600,000 in 2012, and he really showed his class this year, proving two years in a row that he is the force to be reckoned with among older runners.

World Champion: One Dashing Eagle
World Champion One Dashing Eagle in his All American Futurity victory
 I'm a little sad about the retirement of this monster. One Dashing Eagle was a superstar, only being defeated in his Maiden debut, and winning 3 Grade Is, the Ed Burke Million Futurity & Golden State Million Futurity at Los Alamitos, and most importantly the $2.4 million All American Futurity at Ruidoso Downs. You don't see many 2 year olds earn over $2 million, and especially when 3 of their victories were in trial races worth $3,500 or $4,000. Not only did he win the races, but he won them in fast times, and he won them dominantly. There was no stopping him, he broke fast and just cruised. Everybody who followed this horse was looking forward to his 3 year old campaign, I was especially anticipating him running in the All American Derby. But the racing career for this freak is over, and it's time for him to move on to stud. Maybe one day we'll see another monster by this tremendous horse, but one thing's for sure; One Dashing Eagle will be a name that will be remembered fondly by Quarter Horse fans everywhere.

Complete list of winners
One Dashing Eagle: World Champion, Champion 2 year old, Champion 2 year old colt
PJ Chick in Black: Champion 2 year old filly
El Duero: Champion 2 year old gelding
Ochoa: Champion 3 year old, Champion 3 year old gelding
Hez Our Secret: Champion 3 year old colt
Flame N Flash: Champion 3 year old filly
Rylees Boy: Champion Aged Horse, Champion Aged Gelding
Prospect to the Top: Champion Aged Stallion
Fredaville: Champion Aged Mare
All About Larry, Champion Distance Horse
Zoomin After Six: Champion Canadian Horse
SJ Banko Aguerrido: Champion Mexican Horse
Dash Glory Ease: Champion South American Horse
Jose and Gustavo De La Torre & San Gregorio Racing Stable: Champion Owner
Allred Bros.: Champion Breeder
Paul C. Jones: Champion Trainer
G. R. Carter Jr.: Champion Jockey

Congratulations to all the winners for a great 2012, and good luck to every horse, trainer, owner, breeder, jockey, and bettor in 2013!

Friday, 11 January 2013

Who should be World Champion?

Much like Thoroughbred racing's current debate about whether Horse of the Year should go to Kentucky Derby & Preakness winner All Have Another or Turf-mile Superstar Wise Dan, the title for World Champion Quarter Horse is up for grabs.The candidates: One Dashing Eagle, who took 3 Grade I Futurities, including the All American Futurity, or Rylees Boy, a now 8 year old who won the 2 major Invitational's for older horses, the Bank of America Challenge Championship and the Champion of Champions.
     Now there are several arguments for both.
One Dashing Eagle wins the $2.4 million Grade I All American Futurity
     One Dashing Eagle earned $2,079,065 this year alone, which is over $700,000 more than what Rylees Boy has made in his entire career. One Dashing Eagle also sports a record of 6 wins in 7 starts, only being beat in his debut. His major Futurity wins were all Grade Is, the Ed Burke Million & Golden State Million, both at Los Alamitos, and Quarter Horse Racing's richest and most prestigious race, the All American Futurity at Ruidoso Downs. These victories make him the one to beat in the running, and if I had to bet I'd put my money on him, but there are arguments to be made for Rylees Boy.
     Rylees Boy ran against older, well raced horses all year as opposed to the lightly raced 2 year olds the One Dashing Eagle faced. So while the horses One Dashing Eagle faced may have been trial winners, Rylees Boy was running against multiple stakes winners. In the Bank of America Challenge Championship at Prairie Meadows, his runner up was a horse called Llano Teller, who in 2011 won the Ruidoso Derby and the All American Derby, both at Ruidoso, both Grade Is, and 2 out of 3 legs of the Derby Triple Crown. In the Champion of Champions at Los Alamitos, Rylees Boy defeated 2011 World Champion Cold Cash 123, and Super Derby winner Deniro. It shouldn't be forgotten that Rylees Boy also notched a Grade II win in the  New Mexico Challenge at Sunland Park, which was the race that qualified him to run in the Bank of America Challenge Championship.
Rylees Boy wins the $750,000 Grade I Champion of Champions
     So who does it go to? The young superstar with massive earnings and more Grade Is, albeit against (arguably) easier company, or the veteran, who who earned considerably less money and less Grade Is, but faced the classy, older runners?

     Now like I said earlier, I put my money on One Dashing Eagle to win, but I'm hoping Rylees Boy gets the title. Either way, it should be interesting to see how the 2012 World Champion fares in their 2013 campaign.