Friday, January 7, 2011

Too Early To Be A Contender?

It's January, and it's snowing, so if you think it's too early to be talking about Kentucky Derby contenders (it is), then it is definitely too early to be talking about Queen's Plate contenders - - a race that was held on the 4th of July in 2010.

Some of us would be happy to race in the snow!

However, as I kept an eye on the encouraging Gulfstream meet on Friday, I was surprised to watch a rather inexpensive Ontario-bred rush to the lead and keep on running to win by more than two lengths in a one-mile $51,500 allowance event. That colt, Black N Beauty, a three-year-old Ontario-bred by Devil His Due just might have earned himself a shot at the G3 Holy Bull according to a Blood-Horse report:

The fractions were :24.20, :49.91, 1:12.02, and 1:37.48 for the mile. Black N Beauty, a winner in his career debut at Churchill Downs in November as a 2-year-old, paid $7.80 to win.

“He’s one of those horses who goes to fast, seemingly, and then takes off,” Desormeaux told Gulfstream officials after the race. “So, yes, he’s very talented. He goes at a speedy canter. Most horses are fighting to go as fast. His natural cruising speed will drive most horses into the ground—that’s a sign of true talent.

Black N Beauty was purchased for just $2,500 at the 2009 Keeneland September Yearling Sale for owner Ahmed Zayat. Whether or not the colt can stretch out to the classic distances against quality competition remains to be seen, but the Dale Romans trained fellow sure looked the business running away from the field on Friday. Congrats to another Adena bred winner who were recently distinguished as Top Breeder for the Eighth Straight Year.

A story by Jennie Rees in the Louisville Courier-Journal noted:

Black N Beauty, who previously broke his maiden at Churchill Downs last November, was purchased as a yearling at the 2009 Keeneland September Sale for $2,500.

“I wish I could take credit for it, but I had nothing to do with it,” Romans said. “They said he was one of the last in the ring and went with no reserve, and they would have paid a lot more.”

Canadian punters working hunch bets on Friday's Gulfstream card were well rewarded in the late double as Mike De Paulo sent out Cozy Cabin, bred in Ontario at Windfields Farm, to a rousing victory in the finale for owner John E. Russell in a one-mile turf tilt. The four-year-old Forest Camp filly got up late to win in a time of 1:37.45. I'm pretty sure I saw Tino Attard in the winners circle as I waited for payouts of $10.80 to win and the All-Canadian double of $48.40.

There's lots to like about the Gulfstream meet which is enticing bettors with a variety of new wagers with reasonable takeout and easy antes. Richard Eng wrote the following for the Las Vegas Review-Journal:

Meanwhile, Gulfstream has been creative in offering a 10-cent pick 6, a 50-cent pick 4 and pick 5 and $1 minimums on all other wagers.

The takeout in the pick 5 is a low 15 percent, making it one of the best bets in horse racing. It mirrors the Monmouth Park pick 5 in that regard plus has a similar carry-over provision if no one correctly selects all five winners.

I think a low-priced, low-takeout pick 5 is a good way to market to everyday horseplayers for this simple reason:

Suppose I take the time to handicap the five races in the pick 5. Not only will I play a pick 5, but I will bet many of those races individually, increasing my overall handle. That's good business.

The Pick 5 paid (for $0.50) $924.40 on Friday with a consolation payout of $14 on tickets with four winners. I just wish I could get in on the action at the $0.50 ante through my HorsePlayer Interactive account which keeps me to a $1 minimum.

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The Eclipse Awards, to be dished out January 17th at the Fontainebleau Miami, are edging ever closer and will finally put an end to the excruciating Horse of the Year debate. Jay Privman reported for ESPN on the announcement of Blame, Goldikova and Zenyatta as Horse of the Year finalists.

The three brightest lights in racing in North America in 2010 -- Blame, Goldikova, and Zenyatta -- on Thursday were announced as finalists for 2010 Horse of the Year by the three sponsoring organizations of the awards, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, Daily Racing Form, and the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters.

Blame did beat Zenyatta in their only meeting this year, a close victory in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs. Blame, Goldikova, and Zenyatta also are finalists, and heavy favorites, in their respective divisions. For Horse of the Year, though, the battle is likely to come down to Blame vs. Zenyatta.

Blame, the winner of the Breeders' Cup Classic, won four times in five starts in 2010. His other Grade 1 victories were the Whitney and Stephen Foster. He is also an overwhelming favorite to be named champion older male. The other two finalists in that category are Quality Road, whose biggest win last year came in the Metropolitan Mile, and Richard's Kid, the winner of the Pacific Classic.

Frankly, I'd like to see a lady win the award. *Cough*

Notable amongst the list of Eclipse Award finalists is Woodbine-based apprentice Omar Moreno who won 144 races, best of all the bugs, and over $5.3 million in purse earnings - - more than double his nearest competitor, Angel Serpa. Moreno finished fifth in the 2010 standings at Woodbine and won three stakes races to boot. The El Salvador native is a former junior national boxing champ and a graduate of the jockey's course at Olds College in Calgary. Needless to say, Moreno can beat you in the ring and on the oval.

Omar Moreno with Jack Lauzon and Sandy Hawley at the Sovereign Awards

The well-regarded jock was a Sovereign Award winner as Canada's top apprentice in 2009 and should be honoured as such at the Eclipse Awards in a week's time.

His competition comes from New York based Angel Serpa and Maryland-based Forest Boyce. The prolific David Grening profiled Serpa for the DRF in a piece entitled, Poise sets Serpa apart from other apprentices:

He is beginning to draw rave reviews, including a bold comparison made by veteran trainer John Toscano. "He reminds me of Steve Cauthen," Toscano said, referring to the then-teen sensation who as an apprentice in 1977 took New York by storm before winning the Triple Crown aboard Affirmed the following year. "Cauthen had that knack of winning every photo. You watch this kid ride, he's in 10 photos, he wins nine. I see a big future for this kid, I really do."

Toscano wasn't far off. Eight of Serpa's 25 victories in New York since Oct. 29 have come by a nose, head, or neck. Five more came by three-quarters of a length.

"The kid's cool," said trainer James Bond, for whom Serpa has ridden three winners. "A lot of apprentices I see leave there running or want to be dead last. They don't have a gauge of timing. The kid does a good job with timing. He sits chilly on a horse, and when a horse comes
to him, he's still got some horse left. He doesn't go crazy and start wailing away."

The Blood-Horse compiled the following report, Boyce Has Chance to Join Top Maryland List:

Boyce credits her support system, including agent Jay “Shug” Burtis, for much of the success. She began working for the late conditioner Mikey Smithwick at the age of 11 and galloped horses for trainer Dickie Small at Pimlico before making her professional debut in the summer of 2009. Former riders Jimbo Bracciale and Mario Verge serve as mentors.

Boyce is the first local rider on the final Eclipse Award ballot since Rosie Napravnik was the runner-up in the same category four years ago. Trainer Richard Small compared Boyce to Napravnik, currently one of the top female riders in the country.

“To be mentioned in the same sentence with her is an honor,” Boyce said. “She has done great wherever she goes. That is my goal moving forward.”

Good luck Omar!!

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