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NTRA Thoroughbred Notebook

News and notes from around the Thoroughbred racing world, compiled by NTRA Communications.

Just more than two year’s after 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro had to be euthanized due to complications from his injuries in the Preakness, a 3-year-old full brother to Barbaro named Nicanor will make his racing debut in Saturday’s eighth race at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Fla.
As was the case with Barbaro, Nicanor is owned by Roy and Gretchen Jacksons’ Lael Stables, trained by Michael Matz and ridden by Edgar Prado. Saturday’s eighth race is a maiden event at one mile on the dirt. Nicanor is by Dynaformer, out of the mare La Ville Rouge. Nicanor is named based on a painting of foxhounds that the Jacksons own. One of the foxhounds depicted in the portrait is named Barbaro. Another is named Nicanor.
Also on Saturday’s momentous Gulfstream card are renewals of the Grade I, $500,000 Donn Handicap for older horses and the Grade III, $150,000 Holy Bull Stakes for 3-year-olds. Both races will be run at 1 1-8 miles.
Einstein and Albertus Maximus are the marquee names entered in the Donn. Einstein will be making his first start since winning the Grade II Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs on November 28. Albertus Maximus, meanwhile, ships East for his first competition since capturing the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile on October 25 at Oak Tree at Santa Anita.

A burgeoning rivalry between 4-year-old Eclipse Award winner Indian Blessing and 5-year-old mare Ventura, who took the champion’s measure in last October’s Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, escalates on Saturday when the two are scheduled to collide in Santa Anita’s 52nd running of the Grade I, $300,000 Santa Monica Handicap at seven furlongs over the Arcadia, Calif., main oval.
Just three days after being voted a 2008 Eclipse Award as outstanding female sprinter, Indian Blessing was a surprise entrant in the Santa Monica by her trainer, Bob Baffert, who had won two of the race’s three previous runnings. Baffert hedged somewhat, however, when he said, “I entered, but I don’t know yet if she’ll run. I’m just going to see how the race shapes up.”
Indian Blessing’s inclusion in the entries appeared to even have caught Bobby Frankel, the trainer of Ventura, a bit off guard. “Even if she runs six lengths slower than she did in the Breeders’ Cup, she still should win,” the Hall of Fame trainer was saying of Ventura to Daily Racing Form earlier in the week.
As the 5-2 second-choice, Ventura dusted 9-5 favorite Indian Blessing by four lengths in Oak Tree’s Oct. 24 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint while running seven furlongs over Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride surface in a blistering 1:19 4/5. The Santa Monica stakes record is 1:20 3/5.
The setback notwithstanding, Indian Blessing proceeded to win Santa Anita’s Grade I La Brea Stakes over the Pro-Ride footing on Dec. 27 for her sixth graded stakes victory of the year. She wound up with 138 votes in the Eclipse Award voting for champion female sprinter compared to 88 for runner-up Ventura.
The complete field for the Santa Monica Handicap, in post position order, is: Tizzy’s Tune (jockey: Joel Rosario, weight: 114); So Long Sonoma (Mike Smith, 112); She’s Cheeky (Alex Solis, 113); Indian Blessing (John Velazquez, 122); Wake Up Maggie (Tyler Baze, 115); Jibboom (Rafael Bejarano, 115); Ventura (Garrett Gomez, 123); and Baroness Thatcher (Joseph Talamo, 115).

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Midshipman received the high weight assignment of 126 pounds on the 2008 Experimental Free Handicap, released today by The Jockey Club and available at
The filly division is headed by Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Stardom Bound at 124 pounds.
The Experimental Free Handicap, published annually by The Jockey Club since 1935, is a weight-based assessment of the previous year’s leading 2-year-olds, with the weights compiled for a hypothetical race at 1 1-16 miles on dirt.
The committee weighted a total of 104 males and 87 fillies. Eligible for weighting were all 2-year-olds of 2008 that finished among the top four in graded or other unrestricted races with an added value of at least $75,000, run in the continental United States.
Midshipman won three of his four starts last year for earnings of $1,380,200. In addition to his 1 ¼-length victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, he also won the Del Mar Futurity and finished a close second in the Norfolk Stakes.
The 126 pounds assigned to Midshipman is 1 pound less than the assignment on last year’s high weight, War Pass, and is the standard impost for top Experimental colts.
Midshipman is weighted 2 pounds higher than Vineyard Haven, also a winner of three of his four starts in 2008, including the Champagne Stakes and Hopeful Stakes. He earned $419,000.
At 123 pounds is J. Paul Reddam’s Square Eddie, winner of the Lane’s End Breeders’ Futurity and runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He won two of his six starts on the year and $767,366.
Street Hero is weighted at 122 pounds. His lone victory from six starts came in the Grade I Norfolk Stakes. He also finished third in both the Del Mar Futurity and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and earned $419,360.
In the filly division, the 124 pounds assigned to Stardom Bound is one pound above the assignment on last year’s high weight, Indian Blessing. Stardom Bound’s three victories from five starts all came in Grade 1 races — the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, the Oak Leaf Stakes and the Del Mar Debutante. She ended 2008 with earnings of $1,420,600.
Stardom Bound is weighted four pounds higher than Dream Empress , who won the Darley Alcibiades Stakes and was runner-up to Stardom Bound in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. She won two of her five starts on the year and banked $756,914.