Sunday, March 28, 2010

Blockbuster Weekend: Dubai World Cup, Terrific Tweets and Kentucky Derby Double Takes

Saturday's Dubai World Cup was a blockbuster event for horse racing. It had a little bit of everything required for a uniquely entertaining experience.

Need drama? Gloria de Campeao's nose victory in the $10M World Cup was breathtaking.

Brazilian-bred Gloria de Campeao nosed Lizard's Desire in the $10 million Dubai World Cup

Need laughter? Trainer Carl O'Callaghan's railbird river dance for Kinsale King conjured tears of joy.

The race was almost as good as trainer Carl O'Callaghan's railbird dance

Need speed? Joy and Fun demonstrated fearsome movement capturing California Flag in the late going.

An exhilarating sprint to the wire for Joy and Fun

Confrontation? How about jockeys Willie Supple and Christophe Soumillon's heated exchange in the jock's room after Soumillon's risky rail dive aboard Musir nearly toppled Supple and Izaaj in the UAE Derby.

Watch carefully as Musir makes a late rail move

Extravagance? The breathtaking Meydan track was simply stunning.

A quicky video of Meydan at night

All that was missing is a love story. Though I suppose you could argue that several of the equine winners of these events will get to make a little love in the less that romantic confines of a stud farm in the very near future.

From a handicappers perspective, there was every opportunity to get as rich as the horse owner's assembled in the desert. When longshot Al Shemali raced through the wire in front, he set off an outstanding set of payouts. My HorsePlayer Interactive results page listed Al Shemali as a $292 winner. The exactor with Bankable paid $2,754.50. The triactor was worth more than $23K.

One would argue that was an impossible race to pick. Actually, the DRF's Steven Crist argued the whole event was impossible to handicap.

The richest horse race in history was staged in Dubai earlier today, and it was a $10 million advertisement for how synthetic surfaces can make a complete mess of so-called world-class championship racing. For all that it proved about the quality of the contestants either individually or as a group, the results of the Dubai World Cup might as well have been drawn out of a hat.

That posting brought strong words in return from blogger The Dresden File in a post entitled, The Passion of the Steven.

Steven Crist is often one of the first and most effective in pointing the finger at some of racing's ills. Even if you disagree with him, his columns and posts are usually informative.

Unfortunately, he also has a tendency to become excessively adamant on some of his pet causes, to the point where his repeated articles on the subject not only become repetitive, but where his passion for the cause gets the better of his reasoning.

I find there's truth in both writer's perspectives.

The main issue I have with handicapping these multiple ship-in events is that there is no main point of reference for all horses. There's a lot of guess work involved in trying to sort out which horse might like a particular surface. Throw in a lack of local workouts, long layoffs for most horses involved and almost zero coverage of the post parade and gallops leaves me well outside my comfort zone.

To effectively handicap such events you need to put a lot more emphasis on the ability of the trainer and the experience of the jockeys. Especially those that work in Dubai regularly. Oh - and you better expect to build a bigger, more expensive ticket which is just not in my handicapping repertoire.

It's an awful lot of interpretation and guess work, but the pools are so big how can you not at least dip your toe in?

From a personal standpoint, I was having an incredible morning of handicapping. I picked the winners of the opening two races - Joy and Fun paid $38.40 to win the Al Quoz Sprint. Calming Influence paid $29 to win the Godolphin Mile.

Of course, I was playing cheapy exactors rather than betting to win and managed to pick first and third in both those events as California Flag and Skysurfers let me down. Those exactors paid $921.20 and $389.60 respectively. Oops.

Particularly enjoyable was watching all of these incredible races from the comfort of my own home while having breakfast, sipping on a cup of tea and Tweeting with fellow racing fans.

Here's a sample of some of my favourite Saturday Tweets:

Jessica Paquette, handicapper at Suffolk Downs, found the silver lining in waking up early on a Saturday.

I love watching world class racing in my pajamas.

Lady LongShot also enjoyed the early morning exacta experience:

Woke up to my longshot winner in Dubai ^___^ then hit the 14-10 exacta (while I slept) I'm in such a daze- holy jumpin easter bunny!

Colin's Ghost yearned for more insight into the life of the rich and famous following a trackside interview:

Sheikh says the day is the highlight of his WEEKEND! Wonder what he's got going on next weekend...

EJXD2 aka Ed DeRosa, news editor for Thoroughbred Times, was having the day of his life hitting Win/Place plus the Exacta in the richest race in the world.

Playing the aforementioned Crowded House with Gloria de Campeao. I can't ignore 25-1 on the latter.

The Brock Talk appreciated the partying lifestyle of Kinsale King.

"Keeping the horse happy back in quarantine eating grass and drinking Guiness." -- Carl O'Callaghan, trainer of Kensale King.

Kevin Stafford who was on an 80s kick all morning sung a winning tune following Gloria De Campeiao's brilliant win:

In keeping with my 80's theme today: "Gloria, Gloria, I got your number!"

Vic Zast loved the Dubai World Cup, especially in comparison to the Breeder's Cup:

DWC Night's best moments: Carl O'Callaghan's jubilatory jig and GdeC's win by a whisker. Why is Dubai so much fun and BC so dull?

The Tweets would continue on into the afternoon as the online community settled in for two Kentucky Derby preps - the Louisiana Derby and the Lane's End.

Larry Zapeye just seconds before post-time popped up with a lucrative tweet on the undercard.

Turfway Park...race 7...#7 Orchestrator is the first of some live McPeek / Solis ridden horses...7-1...must beat the 4

When USA Network lost their signal to Turfway Park before the Lane's End, Gary Stevens jumped in to make the race call much to the amusement of SuperTerrific.

wow, Gary Stevens has been a jock, a trainer, a TV personality and now he's a race caller!

ThoroughbredZone fills out the triactor for those that felt Mission Impazible could pull off the assignment in the Louisiana Derby:

I Think Both Drosselmeyer & A Little Warm Will Run Good Races Today

Valerie of Fillies First
quickly recognized that trainer Todd Pletcher is neck deep in Derby contenders following Mission Impazible's LD win:

If Pletcher doesn't win Derby this year, he never win. Period.

A dejected Triple Dead Heat looked for solace following Hotep's 11th place finish. (And if you watched Sunday's Sunland Derby it's not too hard to imagine Endorsement following Mine That Bird's path to the Kentucky Derby.)

dang it. cheered for hotep, wasnt happening. ah well, we all know derby goes through sunland anyway

For race videos from the Dubai World Cup, click on the link below and you'll be taken to the underlined race on Youtube.

Joy and Fun upsets California Flag in the $1 million Al Quoz Sprint.

Calming Influence with an assured win in the Godolphin Mile.

Musir, "Yes Sir" in the UAE Derby

Kinsale King rules in the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen

Longshot Al Shemali shocks the $5 million Dubai Duty Free

Dar Re Mi won big "do" in the $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic

Gloria de Campeao by a nose to take the Dubai World Cup

* * *

Sam-Son Farm colt Hotep tried his best in the Louisiana Derby but faded in the stretch finishing 11th as Mission Impazible stormed to victory over A Little Warm and Drosselmeyer.

One lucky on-track fan was awarded $10K to wager on the event before the race and selected Hotep taking his odds from 46-1 down to 20-1 not long before post time. An ambitious selection but at least he didn't wager on the favoured Discreetly Mine who finished fourth.

Hotep will likely be freshened and then pointed towards the $1M Queen's Plate.

Mission Impazible out duels A Little Warm and Drosselmeyer to win the 2010 Louisiana Derby

The Lane's End Stakes was over for Connemara at the opening bells when breaking in air from the inside post. To top it off, the horse beside him in the gate stepped left immediately closing in the morning line favourite. Conversely, Dean's Kitten had a beautiful stalking trip and proved strongest down the lane fending off Northern Giant to win convincingly.

However, those that watch the replay will be far more impressed with the late close from Connemara who ran wide down the lane to finish third galloping out strong.

Dean's Kitten wins the Grade 2 Lane's End Stakes at Turfway Park

In 2009, Mine That Bird finished fourth in the Sunland Derby (won by Kelly Leak) and nobody cared. In 2010, there was a captive audience watching as Endorsement made a huge statement while ridden for the first time by Robby Albarado.

Endorsement stalked the favoured Conveyance on the final turn and took control at the eighth pole to win by three lengths. The final time for the 1 1/8-mile event was an excellent 1:48.46.

Of the three Derby preps this weekend, Endorsement's was by far the most visually appealing. It was the Distorted Humour colt's first time facing winners and only his fourth lifetime start.

Welcome to the Derby Contender list!

Endorsement upsets Conveyance to win the Sunland Derby

* * *

A great blog post on Bloodhorse.Com's Triple Crown Talk discusses the multiple Kentucky Derby contenders for trainer Todd Pletcher. Click here to read the full post entitled, Eight in the Gate?

As of Saturday, Pletcher already has three horses that seem to be locks for the Derby: Rule, Mission Impazible, and Discreetly Mine. All three are done prepping and have plenty of graded earnings to get in. Mission Impazible punched his ticket with his Louisiana Derby upset and Discreeetly Mine ran a good enough fourth to merit a trip.

Pletcher has four other horses with one Derby prep remaining: Interactif and Aikenite in the Blue Grass, Super Saver in the Arkansas Derby or Wood, and Eskendereya in the Wood. Both Interactf and Aikenite have plenty of earnings to get in. Pletcher would need to see solid efforts from both in the Blue Grass, especially from Aikenite, but if both hit the board there is a chance both will earn a bid.

* * *

While Hotep may have disappointed in Louisiana, there was plenty for Woodbine folks to cheer about at the Fair Grounds this past weekend.

Eugene Melnyk homebred Porter's Gate was an impressive winner in a turf sprint for trainer Malcolm Pierce. Jockey Patrick Husbands coolly watched the speed burner Atticus Kristy and waited until the last possible moment to swoop for victory.

Patrick Husbands guides Porter's Gate to victory for Malcolm Pierce and Eugene Melnyk

In the final race on the card, Josie Carroll's Where is Em? got up in the nick of time to win by a nose. Where is em" is owned by Mark and Tina Casse.

Where Is 'Em won by a nose for trainer Josie Carrol in Saturday's 12th race

Roger Attfield's Lady Shakespeare finished a hard fought second to Speak Easy Gal in Sunday's Orchid Stakes at Gulfstream. The following report can be found on Bloodhorse.Com

Lady Shakespeare, who had fallen back on the final turn for John Velazquez, charged through the lane while closing between Nehantic Kat and Mushka. But she ran out of time as Speak Easy Gal hit the wire just in front. The final time was 2:28.46.

“There wasn’t much speed in the race and I knew I was going to go right to the lead," Trujillo said. "Every time she runs, she breaks sharp, and I was able to slow things down on the lead and get away from them a little up front. She was always going along very comfortable, and it was a slow pace; very easy going for her.”

I will update this post with race video once available.

* * *

I hope you enjoyed this weekend as much as I did. Over the next few days I will be revamping the order of my Queen's Plate contender list and expect to have some news updates regarding at least one of the contenders.

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