News and notes from around the Thoroughbred racing world, compiled by NTRA Communications.
RACHEL VS. ZENYATTA WILL HAVE TO WAIT
The connections of Rachel Alexandra informed Oaklawn Park officials yesterday that the 2009 Horse of the Year would not compete on April 3rd, the announced date of the Apple Blossom Invitational. The track had offered a $5-million purse if Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta met on that day.
“Out of respect for the level of competition and the importance of this race, I have told Mr. Jackson it was not in the best interest of the horse to race on April 3. Getting to this level of fitness after a six-month layoff takes time. If all goes according to schedule, and we do not have any further weather delays, the earliest we could have a prep race would be the middle of March. It is then not fair to Rachel to ask her to race again three weeks later,” said Rachel Alexandra’s trainer Steve Asmussen, referring to Rachel Alexandra co-owner Jess Jackson.
Jackson, meanwhile, called for a racing series between now and November in which the two phenomenal female race horses would meet.
“The fans have spoken. The media has spoken. Everyone wants to see Rachel race against Zenyatta – including me,” Jackson said. “In fact, I want it to happen several times this year. We have been in discussions with Alex
Waldrop, President and CEO of National Thoroughbred Racing Association, with the hope of coordinate training schedules, racing schedules, purses and all ancillary factors, so that we can all agree upon three dates and three venues for what will be a racing series to rival the Triple Crown.”
“The NTRA will continue to do everything possible to facilitate a meeting or series of races between Champions Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta,” said Waldrop. “We look forward to further discussions with the connections of both horses.”
KENTUCKY DERBY FUTURES POOL OPENS TOMORROW
Champion 2-year-old Lookin At Lucky is the favored individual horse, but Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia is confident that the mutuel field, or ‘all others’, will again be the favored wagering interest in the opening pool of the 2010 Kentucky Derby Future Wager (“KDFW”) that opens its three-day run tomorrow.
Battaglia has installed ‘all others’, which consists of all 3-year-old Thoroughbreds other than the pool’s 23 individual betting interests, as the 5-2 morning line favorite for KDFW Pool 1. Champion Lookin at Lucky, America’s Eclipse Award Champion 2-year-old of 2009, is the favored individual horse at odds of 8-1. The three-day pool opens at noon (all times ET) tomorrow and wagering will continue at racetracks, satellite wagering outlets and online through 6:00 p.m. on Sunday, February 14.
Other individuals likely to attract solid Pool 1 support include Remsen winner Buddy’s Saint, unbeaten San Rafael winner Conveyance, Holy Bull runner-up Jackson Bend, and unbeaten Delta Jackpot winner Rule. Those horses are all listed at 12-1. Next in line at 15-1 come Hopeful winner Dublin, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile third-place finisher Noble’s Promise, and Kentucky Jockey Club winner Super Saver. Members of that trio are listed as 15-1 risks.
The wager provides an opportunity for fans to wager weeks in advance on contenders for the Kentucky Derby – which will be run at Churchill Downs on Saturday, May 1 – and often at odds that are more attractive than those they would receive on the day of the event. Exacta wagering, a popular addition to the Kentucky Derby Future Wager betting menu in 2009, is back for all three pools in 2010. The Derby Future bet is a $2 minimum “win” wager. The minimum wager for a straight exacta, which requires the bettor to select the Kentucky Derby’s top two finishers in the exact order of finish, is $2, while the minimum for exacta boxes and wheels is $1.
The ‘all others’ interest has been the strong favorite in all opening pools during the Future Bet’s previous 11 years – and that interest has been a winning wager in Pool 1 five times. It happened again in 2009 when Mine That Bird, a 3-year-old that was not an individual betting interest in any of last year’s three KDFW pools, rolled home at odds of 50-1 in the Kentucky Derby. Other horses that were members of the mutuel field but went on to win the “Run for the Roses” include Charismatic (1999), War Emblem (2002), Smarty Jones (2004), and Big Brown (2008).
“While setting the mutuel field as the favorite in the opening pool of the Kentucky Derby Future wager is pretty much a given, it has gotten more difficult to assign odds to the individual horses,” Battaglia said. “So many of those horses have raced extensively or exclusively on synthetic tracks, while the Derby is run on traditional dirt. That’s still a relatively new wrinkle in Derby preparations, but it adds to the fun and the challenge of a making a successful choice in the Kentucky Derby Future Wager.”
The winning payouts in all KDFW wagering pools are determined by the odds in place at the conclusion of each respective pool. There are no scratches or refunds on any wagers made during the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks future pools.
Real time odds and full entry information on the Kentucky Derby Future Wager will be available online at www.kentuckyderby.com. Pool 2 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager is set for March 5-7, while the final pool is scheduled for March 26-29.
LIFE IS SWEET’S RETURN AT SANTA ANITA SWEETENED BY TRIO OF RESCHEDULED GRADED STAKES
Excitement over Saturday’s anticipated run by Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic champion Life Is Sweet in Santa Anita’s Grade II, $250,000 Santa Maria Handicap has been bolstered by the addition of three graded stakes races washed out by the previous Saturday’s severe storm.
Resurfacing on Saturday’s 10-race program are the Grade I, $250,000 Las Virgenes Stakes featuring stellar 3-year-old filly Blind Luck, the Grade II, $200,000 Strub Stakes with likely choice Misremembered prepping for the March 6 Santa Anita Handicap, and the Grade II, $150,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes at 1 1/16 miles for 3-year-olds.
With the heightened interest in 3-year-olds this time of year, the 72nd running of the Lewis may well be the afternoon’s most compelling attraction as American Lion and Tiz Chrome, consensus picks among this year’s top ten Kentucky Derby prospects, gain their baptism around two turns in their respective seasonal debuts. They will be challenged by four others. Both colts are sons of 2000 Horse of the Year Tiznow, and as such, American Lion and Tiz Chrome seem well-suited to demonstrate their distance capabilities.
“He’s been a standout from the very beginning because he’s very imposing physically,” says Bill Casner of WinStar Farms, which owns American Lion. “He’s been very immature, but he’s just so talented, he’s getting it done despite the immaturity.”
Unbeaten Tiz Chrome has raced but twice, but is expected to be a slight favorite over American Lion. He won his six-furlong debut at Churchill Downs last Nov. 1 by 3 ¼ lengths. Then transferred to the barn of Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, Tiz Chrome performed spectacularly in wining Hollywood Park’s Stuka Stakes by four lengths on Dec. 19 while covering 6 ½ furlongs in 1:14 2/5.
“He’s a pretty serious horse,” said Baffert, who has likened Tiz Chrome to his 1997 Kentucky Derby winner, Silver Charm. “He’s very laid back, but once he gets into the starting gate, he becomes a different horse.” Garrett Gomez rides Tiz Chrome, whose unusual body markings suggest a chrome finish.
The 68th running of the Santa Maria at 1 1/16 miles marks the return to action of Life Is Sweet following her 2 ½-length triumph under Gomez at odds of 8-1 in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic on Nov. 6. She will carry high weight of 123 pounds against eight challengers who will be getting at least five pounds from the champion.
Blind Luck, a female who is nominated to the Santa Anita Derby, is expected to be an overwhelming favorite among six 3-year-old fillies in Saturday’s 28th running of the Grade I Las Virgenes Stakes at one mile.
An $11,000 yearling purchase, Blind Luck earned $709,050 in 2009 with two Grade I triumphs, including a dazzling, seven-length win in Hollywood Park’s Grade I Starlet Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on Dec. 20. “Blind Luck will have to regress quite a bit for anyone to have a chance [of beating her],” noted Eric Kruljac, who trains Las Virgenes rival La Nez.
The fourth major stakes race on the revamped program is the historic Strub Stakes with a guaranteed purse of $200,000 for 4-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles. Misremembered, winner of Hollywood Park’s Swaps Stakes last July is the probable choice in a field of 10.
MUNNINGS RETURNS IN GULFSTREAM SPRINT CHAMPIONSHIP
Munnings ranked among the best of his age sprinting last year. He launches his four-year-old campaign Saturday as the likely favorite in the Grade II, $150,000 Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship at seven furlongs at the Hallandale, Fla., oval
Jockey Javier Castellano will be aboard Munnings for trainer Todd Pletcher as the son of 2004 Eclipse champion sprinter Speightstown makes his first start since a third-place finish behind Champion sprinter Kodiak Kowboy in the Vosburgh Stakes at Belmont Park on Oct. 3.
Munnings faces nine rival older horses in the Sprint Championship, including the uncoupled entry of Motovato and You and I Forever, both accomplished 5-year-old graded stakes performers for trainer Marty Wolfson.
WITH SUPER BOWL WON, BREES AND PAYTON CAN NOW FOCUS ON THEIR THOROUGHBRED
Maggi Moss, one of Thoroughbred racing’s leading owners, was rooting for the New Orleans Saints in last Sunday’s Super Bowl, and with good reason. After she won an allowance race at Delta Downs on December 5 with a horse named Daddy Forty Nine, she sold the then-two-year-old gelding to a partnership called Last Mango Stable, which includes Saints quarterback Drew Brees, Saints head coach Sean Payton, plus singer Jimmy Buffet, Monday Night Football announcers Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden and Ron Jaworski, Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis and Saints Vice President of Communications Greg Bensel. “I was rooting for them,” Moss told Dan Johnson of the Des Moines Register. “I was really into the game. Having been to New Orleans, how could you not root for them?” Moss and the Last Mango group met at Fair Grounds in 2007 because both she and Last Mango employ Tom Amoss as their trainer. Late last year, Mango Racing was hoping to find a horse that might be good enough to run in the Louisiana Derby. Moss told the Des Moines Register that she doesn’t know if Daddy Forty Nine will be a major stakes horse, but he should be a useful horse. He has lost his last two starts but is still four-for-seven lifetime. “I liked the little horse,” she said. “They were looking to something they could run in the Louisiana Derby. I never represented him as that type of horse.” “Our owners are the kind of guys that love thoroughbred racing, but most can’t tell the difference between a furlong and a gelding,” Bensel told Johnson. “Drew’s a huge horse fan. For years, he attended opening day at Del Mar.”