Secretariat

A Triple Dose of “Curl” Power in Breeders’ Cup Distaff

Although everyone will be anxiously awaiting the reappearance of Flightline in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and his showdown with Life is Good and the nation’s top 3-year-olds, the truly historic moment could come in the Distaff where the three likely favorites will be daughters of Curlin, whose fascinating back story will also be discussed in this week’s column. ~ Steve Haskin

A Triple Dose of “Curl” Power in Breeders’ Cup Distaff

By Steve Haskin

Left to right: Malathaat, Nest, and Clairiere

 

Is there anyone who can knock off Todd Pletcher’s dynamic daughters of Curlin, Malathaat and Nest, in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff? How about, uh, a daughter of Curlin? With Clairiere appearing the main threat to the Pletcher pair it is safe to say no sire has ever been more dominant in a single race, especially one of this magnitude, than Curlin will be if Malathaat, Nest, and Clairiere all make it to the race.

Curlin, who resides at Hill ‘n’ Dale at Xalapa Farm near Paris, Kentucky, is having an amazing year, both on the track and in the sales ring. Not only does Curlin have a stranglehold on the Distaff, another Hill ‘n’ Dale stallion, Violence, will be represented by Hopeful and Breeders’ Futurity winner Forte in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Although the undefeated and untested Cave Rock looks to be the solid favorite in the Juvenile it is worth noting that Forte received a faster Thoro-Graph number (2 3/4) at Keeneland than Cave Rock (3) did in the American Pharoah Stakes.

But getting back to Curlin, not only is he holding a strong hand in the Breeders’ Cup, at this year’s Keeneland September yearling sale, in the first two sessions alone he had yearlings sell for $1.7 million, $1.2 million, and $1.1 million. At the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sale, he topped all sires in average price with eight yearlings selling for an average $1,071,875, including a $2 million filly and a $1.75 million colt.

Now, here he is going into the Breeders’ Cup Distaff with three fillies who have earned a total of $6,559,467, ranging from Malathaat’s $2,750,825 to Nest’s $1,873,050. They have won a total of 10 Grade 1 stakes and placed in eight others.

Going into the Spinster Stakes, the 4-year-old Malathaat and the 3-year-old Nest were polar opposites of each other. Malathaat was a battler who loved a good fight. With the exception of her easy score in the Tempted Stakes early in her career, all 11 of her starts (seven wins, three seconds and a third) were decided by less than two lengths and eight of those were decided by less than one length. In two of her defeats, in which she was beaten a head and a half-length, she was forced to come from 13 lengths back and 9 1/2 lengths back, despite being a stalker who liked to sit just off the pace. And in another defeat, she wound up battling on the lead with Clairiere in a paceless four-horse field, only to be beaten a head by outsider Maracuja, while finishing almost six lengths ahead of Clairiere.

Nest on the other hand, with the exception of her hard-fought victory in the Demoiselle Stakes last year, has won her six races by an average margin of over seven lengths, with her narrowest margin of victory being 4 ½ lengths and her largest being 12 ¾ lengths, 9 ¾ lengths, and 8 ¾ lengths, so she likes to annihilate her opponents and assert her superiority. But she will also be remembered for her gallant performance in the Belmont Stakes, in which she finished second to stablemate Mo Donegal despite having a rough trip, stumbling and getting bumped after the break and losing valuable position.

Returning to Malathaat and the Spinster, something happened to her in that race that bears watching when handicapping the BC Distaff. She stalked the pace as usual, two lengths behind the pacesetting Letruska. But this time when John Velazquez asked her on the far turn she quickly accelerated and blew right on by Letruska, drawing off to a 5 ¼-length victory. That was something we have not seen from her. So was this a case of Malathaat getting so sharp at this stage of her career that she has learned how to put her opponents away or catching a noticeably declining Letruska who now appears to be over the top at age 6? It’s just another interesting aspect of the Distaff to consider. What can be more intriguing than Malathaat and Nest eyeballing each other in the stretch and seeing which one has the true killer instinct.

But let’s not forget Clairiere, who finished behind Malathaat in all four of their meetings last year as three-year-olds. However, since her victory in the Grade 1 Cotillion and her fourth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, in which she closed from 11th, 15 lengths back, to be beaten three-quarters of a length and a head behind Malathaat, she has been a different filly, knocking off her nemesis in back-to-back races this year, the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps Stakes at Belmont and the Grade 2 Shuvee Stakes at Saratoga. In her last start, the Grade 1 Personal Ensign Stakes, she was sent off as the 8-5 favorite over Malathaat, but surprisingly just ran around the track the entire race, finishing fifth in the five-horse field, well behind Malathaat. But at the start she hit the front of the gate twice, cutting her tongue, and just wasn’t herself after that. She’s been training steadily since, including a sharp five-furlong breeze over the deep Saratoga training track in 1:00 4/5, and has already had several solid breezes at Keeneland.

So now it is time to see which of the whirlin’ Curlins proves to be the best filly in the country in a race that will determine the winners of the Eclipse Awards for 3-year-old filly and older filly and mare.

Many of you remember Curlin’s career as a racehorse and all his victories and awards and eventual induction into the Hall of Fame, but his early days before he became a two-time Horse of the Year were quite eventful and affected a number of lives and are a major part of his story.

So, using past material from 10 to 15 years ago and new material, here is Curlin’s back story.

No one can really predict Hall of Fame greatness after one start, but there have been a number of fortunate trainers who have had the thrill of foreseeing potential greatness in a young horse. Most of those visions, however, fade away after their sure-fire star descends into mediocrity.

For trainer Helen Pitts and her assistant and exercise rider Hanne Jorgensen, the potential greatness they foresaw in their 3-year-old colt Curlin following his career debut did indeed become reality, but sadly they would never share in it.

On Feb. 3, 2007, Pitts, longtime assistant trainer for Kenny McPeek, and Jorgensen both saw those visions of greatness as they watched their colt demolish a maiden field at Gulfstream by nearly 13 lengths, running the seven furlongs in a snappy 1:22 1/5, earning a 102 Beyer Speed Figure. Unfortunately for Pitts, others with deep pockets were watching as well.

Prior to his career debut Pitts had taken over most of the horses trained by her old boss after McPeek announced he was giving up his stable, at least for a while, to pursue other avenues in racing, mainly bloodstock work. It was McPeek who had picked out Curlin as a yearling at the Keeneland September sale for a modest $57,000. The son of Smart Strike had an OCD lesion removed from his left ankle as a weanling, and it wasn’t a pretty sight at the sale. Although it turned off most buyers, McPeek felt it would be a non-issue. But when his buyers, Shirley Cunningham and Bill Gallion, became angry with McPeek about having to spend $57,000 on a horse with physical issues that no one wanted and having received reports from the farm how bad the ankle looked, McPeek offered to take the colt back and find another client. He felt the colt was a steal at that price and believed he would have gone for $300,000 if his ankle didn’t look so unappealing. Cunningham and Gallion began having second thoughts and decided to keep him.

Pitts had already shown a good deal of success with the McPeek horses, especially with the top grass horse Einstein, and appeared to be a new force in training. Jorgensen had exercised and taken care of Sarava every day at Belmont Park prior to his shocking victory in the 2002 Belmont Stakes at odds of 70-1 until McPeek arrived several days before the race. When Pitts took over many of the McPeek horses and went out on her own, Jorgensen, who had become a good friend, went with her.

After spending several years focusing on bloodstock work, McPeek decided he wanted to get back to training and politicked to get Curlin, but Cunningham and Gallion had already promised him to Pitts and didn’t want to renege on their word.

Curlin was sent to Gail Garrison, manager of Cunningham’s Hillcrest Farm near Lexington, and he immediately began working on the colt’s physical problems. Curlin was at the farm for 60 days, where he was turned out in a paddock and allowed to eat grass each day. Garrison could see he was still a “big, playful kid who was full of vinegar.” He just needed time to grow up and settle into that big effortless stride of his. As McPeek had said all along, the OCD lesion was a non-issue and was never discussed again.

Finally, the colt was sent to Pitts, and it didn’t take long for her and Jorgensen to start seeing those visions of greatness. When Jorgensen worked him, she came back and told Pitts, “I’ve never sat on a horse like this before.”

On July 29, 2006, the Southern Legislative Conference convened at Churchill Downs, where the legislators were treated to a night at the races, which included three exhibition races. When Churchill Downs’ senior vice president of racing, Donnie Richardson, asked Pitts to help out and put a couple of her 2-year-olds in the races, she chose Curlin, who wound up finishing third behind the Bernie Flint-trained Speedway, who had already broken his maiden by three lengths, but was still green and needed more experience.

Riding Curlin that night was Hanne Jorgensen’s husband, Mick Jenner. They had been going together for several years when they faced each other as competitors in the 2002 Belmont Stakes. Jenner was the regular exercise rider for Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner War Emblem. But it was Jorgensen who got the better of that battle, winning the Belmont with the little-regarded Sarava.

Jenner recalled his ride aboard Curlin that night at Churchill Downs. “Curlin had worked a couple of half-miles, but he was just a big ol’ 2-year-old who had never been asked to do anything at that point,” he said. “Everything he’d done was on the bit. The race was only a quarter of a mile and he was bucking and rearing, and I was hanging on for dear life. So I not only got Curlin beat, I got him well beat.” But it at least gave him a taste of competition under race conditions.

As Curlin matured he began to convince Pitts and Jorgensen that he could be something special. They were expecting big things first time out, as, apparently, was everyone else, with Curlin being sent off as the 2-1 favorite. For a new trainer like Pitts, it’s a very fine line between joy and dread when a young 3-year-old runs off the screen in his debut. The crashing sound you usually hear afterwards is that of the rich folks breaking open their piggy banks. You know the million-dollar offers are going to start pouring in for that brilliant ready-made Derby horse, and that a sale is most likely going to result in the horse being given to the buyer’s trainer, especially if he’s Pletcher or Asmussen or Mott or Baffert.

So, when Curlin rocked the Derby trail in his debut, Pitts knew there was a good chance she could lose the horse. Ironically, at the time of Curlin’s victory, Steve Asmussen just happened to be stabled in her barn, preparing Leprechaun Racing’s Gunfight for the 6 1/2-furlong Swale Stakes, his only starter at the meet. Asmussen had recently lost his big Derby horse, Tiz Wonderful, owned by Jess Jackson’s Stonestreet Stables, to injury and had no idea how he was going to replace a horse of that caliber, one who was undefeated and had already won the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs.

Because Asmussen was stabled in Pitts’ barn, he had gotten to see Curlin close up on a daily basis and was impressed with everything he saw. When Curlin romped in his debut, it set the wheels in motion. Watching the race on simulcast at the Ocala Breeders 2-year-old sale was John Moynihan, who was Jess Jackson’s bloodstock manager. Watching from his home in San Francisco was owner George Bolton. Both had the same reaction – “Wow!” Asmussen after seeing the race, watched the colt cool out and said to himself, “We’ve got to get that horse.”

Bolton contacted someone at the Ragozin Sheets and found out Curlin had run a “5 3/4,” an extraordinary number for a first-time starter. The pieces were beginning to come together.

Moynihan knew that the offers would start to pour in for the colt, so he drove down to Gulfstream to see the horse and then contacted Cunningham and Gallion. As he figured, an offer had already come in, this one from Barry Irwin, president of Team Valor, who offered $1.75 million, but, as Irwin put it, his bid was “blown out of the water” by subsequent bids. As it turned out, there were 15 bids on the horse, each with different stipulations.

Cunningham and Gallion wanted to stay in for a minority interest, and the day after the race, Super Bowl Sunday, Moynihan began negotiations, representing Jackson, Bolton, and another interested party, Satish Sanan. By 2 a.m. Monday morning, the deal was completed.

Although Cunningham and Gallion had received larger offers for the whole horse, the Moynihan group’s selling point was allowing them to stay in as minority partner.

The only thing left to be done was for Moynihan to look at Curlin on the racetrack to see how he had come out of the race and to make sure he was sound. So, Pitts brought him to the track that morning and when Curlin began bucking and squealing the deal was finalized for a reported $3.5 million. That would be the last time Pitts would lead him to the track.

Asmussen was delighted, having found his Derby horse. He felt everything was meant to be, because if Tiz Wonderful hadn’t gotten hurt, Jackson would not have been looking for a Derby horse to replace him, and, as he put it, he’d be trying to figure out how to beat Curlin instead of training him.

Pitts and Jorgensen were devastated, especially having to watch their dream horse depart after devoting so much time and effort getting him through some physical issues and becoming so close to him.

“I cried my eyes out when they sold him,” Jorgensen said shortly after the sale. “We babied him for such a long time. He bucked his shins twice and we tried to get him through it and worked hard with him. And then, one big race and he’s gone. We felt he was something special before he even started, we really did. I understand it’s hard to turn down that kind of money, and they did keep a piece of him, so it wasn’t hard for them. But it’s hard for us, because you get so attached to them.”

Curlin, of course, set off on his meteoric rise to stardom, winning the Rebel Stakes by 5 1/4 lengths and the Arkansas Derby by 10 1/2 lengths before finishing an excellent third in the Kentucky Derby after encountering traffic problems at a key point in the race which was a terrific effort considering it was only the fourth start of his life, and the last horse to win the Derby with only three starts was Regret in 1915.

Pitts and Jorgensen, meanwhile, had to move on, and they did have Einstein still in the barn. And it was Einstein, also owned by Cunningham and Gallion’s Midnight Cry Stable, who brought Pitts to Pimlico on Preakness Day to saddle the horse in the Dixie Stakes on the grass. As if it weren’t tough enough being stabled near Curlin and watching all the media flock to him and the Derby winner Street Sense, she had to then endure a horrific trip by Einstein.

When he moved up to challenge down the backstretch in the Dixie, a horse went down in front of him, causing Einstein to stumble so badly he unseated jockey Robby Albarado, who was also Curlin’s rider. So, here was Pitts having to watch Einstein run loose the rest of the race, returning with a grabbed quarter.

But her emotionally draining day was far from over. She then retreated to the hospitality tent at the end of the stakes barn and watched Curlin, who appeared to be beaten at the top of stretch, stage a sensational late rally to win the Preakness by a head over Street Sense. Although she wanted only the best for Curlin, having to suffer the anguish of Einstein’s misfortune and then see her dream horse win a classic for someone else had to tug hard at her emotions.

“I have mixed feelings,” Pitts said following the Preakness. She was trying hard to say the right things, but it was obvious she was struggling to deal with her feelings, especially the trauma of the Dixie and Einstein’s injury.

“Horses like this are hard to come by” she added,  “and I feel honored to have been a part of him at some point. But what can you do? It’s hard.”

Curlin went on to have a famed career winning the Breeder’s Cup Classic, Dubai World Cup, Jockey Club Gold Cup, Woodward Stakes and several other races, retiring in 2008 with record earnings of $10,501,800.

Now 15 years after losing one of the greatest horses of this century, Hanne Jorgensen, who has moved back to her native Norway, living outside Oslo, can only look back and be grateful for the part she and Pitts played in the emergence of Curlin as a superstar.

“It goes without saying that Curlin still ranks as number 1 in my heart,” she said. “I’m so happy that his career at stud has been so successful. Malathaat is just so impressive and I loved her Kentucky Oaks win in particular. Now I can’t wait to see how Nest will do. And of course Clairiere. It was hard to miss out on the great racing career he had, but it was special just to have been a small part of his beginning. I went to visit him early in his stud career and it was terrific to see how well he looked. I wish I could be at Keeneland and see his three daughters run.”

On a personal note, at the end of the month I will be visiting Curlin, as well as Violence and two of my favorites, Vox Populi Award winner Mucho Macho Man and champion Ghostzapper at Hill ‘n’ Dale at Xalapa. Please note on October 22 there will be tours of the historic farm as part of Secretariat.com’s Paris-Day Fest – one to visit the stallion barn and the rest of the farm and one just to visit the stallion barn. I for one am looking forward to seeing Curlin, knowing that in November he could very well be making history.

Photos courtesy of New York Racing Association/Coglianese, Hill ‘n” Dale Farm

 

Racing historian, author, and award-winning retired journalist for the Daily Racing Form and The Blood-Horse, Steve Haskin was inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame’s Media Roll of Honor in 2016. Known for his racing knowledge and insightful prose, he has been an exclusive contributor to Secretariat.com since 2020.


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186 Responses to “A Triple Dose of “Curl” Power in Breeders’ Cup Distaff”

  1. Jimmy says:

    Search results, turns the tables!

  2. mark f kennedy says:

    Thanks Steve

    GREAT article

    We all know i have been a huge supporter and fan of Curlin and now his offspring since day one.

  3. Sheila L says:

    I would not bet against all 3 fillies making the HoF. Only a question of who gets there first.

  4. Lynda King says:

    Just announced that 2.5% interest in Flightline held by West Point Thoroughbredsv will be auctioned off at the November Keeneland Bloodstock Sale.
    Flightline will be standing at Lanes End but his fee has not been announced.

  5. Matthew W says:

    Count me as one who is glad to see Bob bringing his horses to Keeneland! Cave Rock will be an even money favorite, Laurel River is going to be one of the Dirt Mile favorites he is a good horse….Messier also, which adds spice! Bob has another two year old, National Treasure, I saw him on Pacific Classic Day, he went :44 1/5 and persevered, then ran very well in the ‘Pharoah….a well balanced smaller (than Cave Rock) colt, a GOOD one …

  6. Lynda King says:

    Blacbeard has been retired. Injury (chipped knee).
    Loved this horse, was looking forward to him coming to the Breeders Cup.
    But in his best interest of course. Thankful for that.

    • Davids says:

      Lynda, I know how deflating it is reading this kind of news about horses who have stolen your heart. I was hoping Blackbeard would win for at Keeneland. Just bad luck. At least he’s safe.

      • Lynda King says:

        Hello Davids,
        No expert by any means on leg injuries in horses other than splints, tendons, DSLD, absences, hoof bruises etc bit this curable. Many Thoroughbreds have chips and usually after orthoscopic surgery they can return to training and racing in 6 months.
        Some, well quite a few actually in Ireland saying that this was a business decision on Coolmore”s part. He will serve the small breeders market that want a precouscious 2 year old but cannot afford NNN’s fee.

        Read too that Stradavarius will be standing for the equivalent of $10,000 USD. Have not confirmed tha

        Who ate you liking in the Melbourne Cup. Been trying to keep up with the final draw, but that is a lot of horses, HA, HA.

        • Davids says:

          Lynda, the Coolmore ‘business decision’ fits well into their modus operandi. Standing precocious, Group 1 winners at 2 years & 3 years if Classic performers that have international appeal for shuttling. Early ROI. The model is extremely successful.

          With the Melbourne Cup, weather plays a crucial part so often I wait for the Monday to decide. The Melbourne Cup is always run on the first Tuesday in November and it’s a public holiday here in Melbourne. The whole city is engulfed in racing, the rest of the country to a lesser extent, for that week – Oaks day Thursday is when I go to the track.

          When picking a winner: if it’s a hot day and the track is like cement – a light weighted gelding with an inside draw. Wet day, look for a mud lark and preferably a light weighted mare with an inside draw. Cool day softish track – best bred horse/colt, filly/mare with a sound record of going the distance and having an inside draw.

          The jockeys with outside draws will cross right in front of the path of others to get good position – the prize money is too good.

        • Davids says:

          However, at this stage though, I’d go for Loft or Duais.

          • Lynda King says:

            Loft’s name is being mentioned a lot. Just for the fun of it, probably going to check out the mares and fillies.
            Thank you for the info.
            As to Coolmore, their business model is repeated ad nauseum year after year here in the US. Might be good for business but not the sport.
            Steve wrote a great article for Blood Horse some years back about the demise of the small private stable. Was excellent, wish he would publish it again.
            I am used to it all now, it has happened so many times. Guess I have no choice but to accept it if I am going to continue to follow the sport.

            • Davids says:

              Lynda, it’s always a little bit more special when a filly/mare wins the Melbourne Cup. Here’s a gem for you, go to YouTube and search for the 1988 MacKinnon Stakes (prep for the Melbourne Cup) and the 1988 Melbourne Cup both won by the monster mare Empire Rose. Empire Rose was extremely charismatic, the fans loved her.

              If you want a potted history on how racing changed and by whom search for Robert Sangster on Wikipedia. Modern racing was all down to his influence. It’s a short read.

              • Lynda King says:

                Davids, I knew bits and pieces of the backstory on Coolmore and the article on Wikipedia that I read this morning about Robert Sangster filled in the gaps.
                When I Googled Sangster a link came up to a book written in the 90’s about the rise and fall of Thorougbred horse racing and Sangster with a caption about the bankruptcies of thousands of breeding farms.
                Will probably download the Kindle version to see what the author has to say.

                • Davids says:

                  Lynda, introducing the syndications of stallion prospects by Sangster et al at one stage seemed that not only could you have your cake at eating too but amass a fortune on the side. Northern Dancer being the golden gander behind the scene.

                  • Lynda King says:

                    Sangster’s millions, Magnier’s vision and O’Brien’s talent and ability to pick yearlings that would win certainly resulted not only in a mega empire but a paradigm change from sport to industry.
                    Sad thing is the collateral damage they left in their wake with thousands of small breeding farms going bankrupt.
                    The competition between Coolmore and Godolphin (including Darley, Shadwell etc) is also interesting.
                    I would say at the moment Godolphin is ahead because of Frankel.
                    Not impressed with American Pharoah crops so far. The 2022 mares bred report just came out. Have not looked at the list yet so do not know how many mares AP covered this year.
                    Just going by Justify’s first ravingcrops, I would have tonsay he will be the superior of the two in the breeding shed eventhough I do not like him.
                    Wonder which one will win the Derby or possibly the Triple Crown first, Godolphin, Coolmore or Japan?
                    A real shame was the loss of Arrogate at such a young age. I have been impressed by his foal crops.
                    Still, the best horses on dirt, however, are coming from the small breeding farms.
                    The Shiek’s daughter (Shadwell) is making a lot of purchases at the sales. She supposedly has a good eye for horses and is very knowledgeable. She was very close to her father snd shared his love of the sport and the horses.
                    Still think Coolmore made a mistake about Carravaggio, LOL.
                    Just some random thoughts as we await the Breeders Cup.

    • Ms Blacktype says:

      Gawd, I just realized EARLY VOTING has retired. Rich Strike is the only winner of a Triple Crown race this year who is still racing.

      Linda and Davids, I really enjoy your back-and-forth discussions on international racing!

      • Lynda King says:

        Yes, his retirement was announced about ten days ago.
        Guess we will see the usual numerous retirements after the BC.
        Good news is that Nest will be back next year.

    • Terri Zeitz says:

      Lynda, I love Blackbeard’s sire, No Nay Never. I felt so badly when Wesley Ward’s Strike The Tiger died in a barn fire. He used to bring him to accompany his horses to Royal Ascot every year.

      • Lynda King says:

        Terri, I did not know that about Mr Ward’s horse. So sad.
        I too love No Nay Never and adore Mendelsson.
        Just do not know how to explain it. Some horses just take hold of one’s heart and don’t let go.

  7. TommyMc says:

    Who goes off as the 2nd favorite in the BC Classic? Life Is Good’s BSFs are trending downward. Admittedly, with excuses. Epicenter and Taiba are both trending upward with their BSFs. I think that one of those two 3-year olds can go off as the 2nd choice and that Life Is Good could drift up to maybe 10-1 if people go crazy on Flightline. This will only be Life Is Good’s 2nd try at a mile and a quarter. He can improve off of his Dubai World Cup performance at the distance and I think he will. I think that it will be Life Is Good battling it out with Flightline in the stretch. Then, the question becomes: Will we ever see either one of them race again? Probably 10% for Life Is Good and 40-50% for Flightline that they race next year from what I’ve read.

    • Matthew W says:

      Epicenter will be second choice…IF..track is fast—Expect TWO horses under 10-1, everything else INCLUDING Life Is Good a $20 horse….that is IF a fast surface, I am hearing rains are predicted (wah..)..

      • Liam says:

        I believe big money will come in on Life is Good. I see him being in the 4-1 or 9/2 range. Someone once gave me some advice and it was, “if you can find the race to toss, you’re the boss.” And the race I’d toss is the one in Dubai.

  8. TommyMc says:

    It looks like the Breeders Cup Classic will be the 11th race on Saturday. So, even if Flightline wins, we’ll have an undercard race as the 12th race giving us a chance to “get out”.

  9. TommyMc says:

    I remember a couple of Japanese horses winning at Del Mar last year. One paid a whopping price. I haven’t heard of any Japanese runners coming this year. We’ll find out on Wednesday. Unless somebody leaks the information early.

  10. Gary says:

    From HRN “Reed did not rule out the possibility of Rich Strike going to both races. They fall 20 days apart. Reed and Dawson famously decided not to run back in the Preakness two weeks after winning the Derby.”

    Guess what? If for some reason Flightline does not fire and Rich Strike wins the BCC, then there is a good possibility of him running in the Clark and go after that once in a lifetime chance of HOTY.
    That should be great for racing

  11. Terri Zeitz says:

    Hi Steve, Did you get to stay for another day or two in Lexington and make a visit to Keenland? I hope you got to speak to some of the trainers entering in the Breeders Cup. And that you took photos of some of the horses entered in the Breeders Cup.
    It looks like Tyler Gafflione and Johnny V are riding this season at Keenland.
    I hope Johnny V gave Sonny Leon a strong talking to. He is respected by all of the jockeys in the US. He’s a gentleman on and off the track and is a class act.

    • Gary says:

      I think Leon did not do that intentionally. Why would he? he practically had the race won.
      Yes, there is doubts that the saddle did not slip, but he could have simply lost his balance.
      Never heard of him not the connections before the derby, so I am willing to give him a chance.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      I havent left yet. We’ll be there Thursday.

  12. Todd Vaughn says:

    Rich Strike’s entry in the classic could have been the continuation of a great underdog story, but in my eyes his connections have squandered much of the goodwill. It won’t be the first time connections have done a little too much talking, think California Chrome. Rich Strike has run well, but the excuses are wearing thin. He had every chance to get second in the Travers but wasn’t good enough. In the Lukas, he hung. Maybe if Leon had ridden his own horse, he could have won. Leon’s ride in the derby was miraculous,but subsequent rides revealed himself as not up to the task. His antics in the Lukas were a disgrace. Eric Reed’s defense of Leon and his participation in toe grab gate have left a bad taste. Personally, i am over Rich Strike.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      To defend Rich Strike, he was out almost 3 months going into the Travers and was coming off a bad race. I can excuse him for hanging a little at the end, but I give him credit for running a strong race and almost getting second. As for the Lukas, you criticize the excuses but you gave him a great one by saying Leon blew it, which I believe he diid. He keeps him straight and I believe he wins.

      • Steve Haskin says:

        Hi Steve, welcome back from Lexington. I hope you and Joan enjoyed your trip.
        I was curious if the famous farm that bred, raised, and named Rich Strike has expressed interest in standing him.
        It’s been so many years since Calumet bred a Kentucky Derby winner.
        What a wonderful gift for the owner, Brad Kelly. I like that Mr. Kelly thinks outside the box. He’s very much like Mr. Stronach in that regard.
        P.S. It was very astute that the Japanese purchased Caravaggio from Coolmore. When Coolmore advertised and listed his pedigree there was no mention of his dam sire: Holy Bull; they mentioned his dam and his sire, Scat Daddy. As Holy Bull never ran in the Breeders Cup and was compromised in the Derby I don’t think they knew who Holy Bull was. And Caravaggio looks like his grand pop, Holy Bull. I don’t think they realized his potential as the bull could run and win in races multiple distance races.

        • Steve Haskin says:

          Hey Steve, it’s you again? I must be losing it, welcoming myself back from someplace I havent been to yet.

        • Lynda King says:

          Hi Steve 1 or is it Steve 2?
          Totally agree with you about Carrivaggio. I think Japan is getting a stallion with so much potential and a great pedigree that sound cross really well with the broodmare band they have assembled.
          Agree too about Brad Kelly. I so appreciate his mission for his breeding operation.
          Hope you (and Joan) had great time in Lexington and if you have hot been yet, you do have a great time.
          Either way, looking forward to photos and your impressions about the BC entries.

          • Terri Zeitz says:

            Oops Lynda. Somehow, they put my comment under Steve’s name. LOL. Crazy things do happen n the internet.
            By the way, Jimmy Bell (who used to be in charge of Darley) used to say about Holy Bull; he was able to run any distance and on any surface. I also like what Mike Smith said about him; he was holy and he was a bull.
            PS, I thought that Steve and Joan went to attend the festivity in honor of Secretariat on October 22nd.

            • Lynda King says:

              Terri, that has happened to me more than once.
              Like what Mike said, described him perfectly.
              Did you see those gorgeous photos of Flightline arriving at Keeneland?
              Do not know who took them, but the trees behind him in their full orange glow and him standing there, ears up, with that look of eagles just took my breath.
              Jane Lyon posted one thus afternoon and she mentioned he is 16.2 or 16.3.
              He looked as someone said like Man O ‘War.
              Trying not get too excited about the race, might jinx it. I cannot jinx the race of course but I am sure you know what I mean.
              It going to be one of those races when I hold my breath for two minutes.

      • Steve, In both the Travers and Lukas I felt Leon moved Rich Strike too soon. Now whether he was under orders by Reed to do so it is unclear, but Reed has stated he is trying to get “more” early speed into Rich Strike. Not sure why he is as horse did his best race as a closer. From the pictures I saw I could see the concern about possible toegrab but it also looked like it could have been a build up of dirt between the shoe. It seems to have been investigated and cleared up and is done with.

        • Lynda King says:

          Toegate is not over Downthestretch. Rich Strike connections are appealing the HISA decision.
          I am trying to stay out of this. I have my opinions but choosing to keep them to myself. Have not read the HISA report.

          • Thanks Lynda, apparently that story of appeal just hit today. From what I read the shoe put on HRC was a toe grab plate but before put on HRC the toe grab had been ground down to match the rest of the shoe. Apparently, there were no non-toegrab shoes available at the time of the shoeing so they had to do that to make it conform. So for now TOEGATE continues. So Steve , while in Kentucky can you check on how tracks will be checking horses before races on having the proper shoes since HISA has made them illegal. Tracks are granted Licenses and given permission to allow pari-mutuel wagering they should be protecting the public. Your thoughts?

  13. Cave Rock worked a crisp 6 furlongs in 1:11+ … still no work for Country Grammer, a little strange there. Rich Strike is confirmed for the BCC set to work on Tuesday, Reed said that would be his last work before the Classic, I hope it is a quick one, would love to see 6 furlongs in 1:11+. Epicenter had a workmanlike 5-furlong work in 1:00+, a mile out in 1:40+, I was expecting a little faster. Cyberknife a nice 6-furlong work in 1:12+ right now headed for the dirt mile… good spot for him and I like his chances there. Chad Brown gave his BC horses works today… Nothing to write home about. Hot Rod Charlie a workmanlike work 5 fulongs in 1:00+ just an OK work was expecting a faster and longer work… Maybe O’Neil saving that for next weekend.

  14. TommyMc says:

    Speaking of Cave Rock, the American Pharoah Stakes on 10-8-22 was kind of strange. Strange because the first four horses across the line were all trained by BB. It was basically a BB Stable training race. Cave Rock won easily, and National Treasure finished 2nd. But, behind them there were 6 other horses strung out all the way back to the top of the stretch seemingly. In a strange way, it reminded me of Flightline’s Pacific Classic. When Flightline hit the wire, wasn’t the rest of the field just turning into the stretch? OK. Maybe that’s an exaggeration. But not much of one.

  15. TommyMc says:

    I’ve been thinking about how to bet the BC Classic. Last year, they offered a 2-day Daily Double on the Juvenile and the Classic. This year, that would feature Cave Rock at something like 4-5 and Flightline at maybe 2-5. If you got even-money on Cave Rock, and that’s a big “if” IMO, the parlay would pay something like $5.60 for each $2 wagered. So, maybe you could get $6 for the Daily Double. Not my kind of bet, but if you like both Cave Rock and Flightline, it could be a way for you to get 2-1. Two to one could be iffy. IMO, Cave Rock and Flightline will be the 2 lowest priced horses over the 2-day event. They are likely to get hammered in that Daily Double wager if it’s offered this year. This could be one of the rare times that the “Double” pays less than the Parlay. I guess Golden Pal could also go off at pretty low odds. We’ll see.

    • TommyMc says:

      Speaking of Cave Rock, the American Pharoah Stakes on 10-8-22 was kind of strange. Strange because the first four horses across the line were all trained by BB. It was basically a BB Stable training race. Cave Rock won easily, and National Treasure finished 2nd. But, behind them there were 6 other horses strung out all the way back to the top of the stretch seemingly. In a strange way, it reminded me of Flightline’s Pacific Classic. When Flightline hit the wire, wasn’t the rest of the field just turning into the stretch? OK. Maybe that’s an exaggeration. But not much of one.

  16. TommyMc says:

    I’ve been watching race replays and thinking up bets for the Breeders Cup while trying not to mess up my BC Bankroll. Anyway, I ran across something interesting. I learned something new. I was looking at Highfield Princess who is getting lots of buzz for the Breeders Cup Turf Sprint. Her win 2 races back at York she beat a 2-year old filly named The Platinum Queen who ran 2nd and appears to be greased lightning. I don’t remember ever seeing 2-year olds racing against older here in The U.S. It was a strange race that featured the 2-year old filly, The Platinum Queen. The 5-year old Mare, Highfield Princess, and various other Colts and Geldings. The key was the weights. Highfield Princess carried 138 lbs. and The Platinum Queen 114.

    Highfield Princess has won races at distances from 5-furlongs to 7-furlongs and at tracks in England, Ireland, and France. Her trainer has her firing on all cylinders right now. She’s adaptable. She wins on the lead or stalking. She could give Golden Pal some trouble. The negatives are that she has already had 7 races this year and the 3 races that I watched were all on straightaways. Can she handle the turn at Keenland? But, she’s been around the block a couple of times and strikes me as the kind of horse that can adapt to almost anything.

    As for The Platinum Queen, she’s really fast. Again, the question is the turn. Will she handle it if she shows up for the Juvenile Turf Sprint? Also, she has raced only at 5-furlongs. Can she handle an extra 1/2 furlong and a turn?

  17. Matthew W says:

    Flightline should be arriving at Keeneland any moment now….just watching the Classic, not betting! Very much like when I was at the 1980 Strub, I did not bet I just enjoyed a great horse….this is a horse to enjoy…yesterday at Clockers Corner everyone was there to enjoy watching a horse work…now it’s Keeneland’s turn.

    • TommyMc says:

      NO BET??? Are you crazy? Just kidding, Matthew. I admire your restraint. The key to winning at the track is “discipline”.

    • Liam says:

      Matthew – did you happen to see the results from Los Al last night? 1st time I’ve seen this in awhile with the place pick all bet. 8 out of 10 was the best anyone could do.

      • Matthew W says:

        The Los AL place pick all is a great wager! Because of smaller pools, sometimes it pays a bunch! That’s because few hit it. ..I’ve cashed on 8 of 10, and big! Total surprise! I usually put ip a PPA wager, at Los Al, when I play….

    • Davids says:

      Matthew, you should bet on Flightline just for posterity. Could be the last great horse of this caliber.

      I was thinking this morning what does Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Spectacular Bid, Bernardini, and Flightline all have in common – Bold Ruler sire line. That is not a coincidence.

  18. TommyMc says:

    Even if it rains at Keenland on November 4th & 5th, could it ever be as bad as that Breeders Cup that they had at Monmouth? I bet they never go back there again. If I remember correctly, I think that the Breeders Cup is back to Santa Anita next year. I’d love to see Belmont and Churchill Downs get back into the rotation. But, who knows what’s going on with that Churchill turf course? When last seen for the “Arlington Million”, it was in horrible shape IMO. Lots of sand or dirt flying up in the air. I hope they can get it squared away for Oaks/Derby Days in May.

    • Lynda King says:

      14 day is calling for high in 70’s and low in 40’s and sunshine for the BC.
      However the weather can be unpredictable year round in Southern states.

    • Matthew W says:

      I heard Belmont stopped applying….

      • TommyMc says:

        Maybe they will start applying again after they complete their remodel.

      • Lynda King says:

        The main threat in November here is heavy rains that are the result of tropical depressions that come up from the Gulf of Mexico
        I can remember snow in early November in the mountains in Virginia but it is rare. Typically we had snow, sleet, freezing rain etc during December, January and February. Sometimes snow as late as April amd early May.

    • Matthew W says:

      Horses were stopping in the stretch, at Monmouth, the very good George Eashington broke down in front of yhe grandstand, in the Clasdic….it got too deep, with mud….