Monday, February 11, 2013

Weekend Recap

The big race of the weekend was not the Donn, but an earlier stakes on the same card: the Kitten's Joy Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap. It was the first race of the year for 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom, and his last in this country before heading to Dubai for the World Cup. He will not return to the United States--the remainder of his international life has been mapped out with a stop at Ascot Racecourse in England before taking up stud duty in Australia. I will confess that I've never hopped on the Animal Kingdom bandwagon. Instead, I liked Point of Entry for the Kitten's Joy. A Phipps Stable homebred, the son of Dynaformer and grandson of Seeking the Gold has a pedigree strong with two of my favorite stallions. Something of a late bloomer, the 5-year-old Point of Entry has been racking up the wins in recent months, including the Man o' War, Sword Dancer, Joe Hirsch Turf Classic and a good second to Little Mike in the Breeder's Cup Turf.

Dynaformer, sire of Point of Entry, in 2008. Died 2012

Seeking the Gold, damsire of Point of Entry, in 2008.

 After a slow first half of :50.52, Animal Kingdom made a huge move to the lead; I sensed that jockey Joel Rosario realized how slow the pacesetters were going and had a mild panic. He passed Point of Entry, who had been stalking the lead to the outside. Point of Entry then responded and rallied back while going three wide on the turn for home. Animal Kingdom had the shorter route to the inside but was unable to hold off Point of Entry's strong stretch drive. It was a thrilling race! I later read that many people think Rosario's early move cost Animal Kingdom the race. But I disagree; I think he was simply outrun by a more classy turf horse.

Other personal racing highlights of Saturday include Fort Loudon's win in the Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship and watching Gary Stevens nab his first stakes win since 2005 atop Slim Shady, who wired the San Marcos at Santa Anita. Gary won his second stakes on Sunday but I missed seeing it live, unfortunately. Arlington Park regular Romacaca raced in the Suwannee for fillies and mares at Gulfstream Park on Saturday but did not finish well in a closely-contested race.

This is one weekend too late, but Verrazano's win on February 3rd is noteworthy. He won his first race in a 6.5 furlong MSW on January 1st and I immediately added the colt to my list of Kentucky Derby prospects. His most recent win in a two-turn allowance race was impressive, to say the least--he handily blew away the field by over a dozen lengths and earned a 105 Beyer Speed Figure for his performance, the highest of any three-year-old colt to date this year. He's certainly cemented his spot on my list of Kentucky Derby hopefuls!

By More Than Ready (whom I saw race in the 2000 Kentucky Derby, the only Derby I've attended in person) and out of the Giant's Causeway mare Enchanted Rock (also the dam of 2012 Kentucky Derby hopeful El Padrino), whether Verrazano has the pedigree for the Derby's 10 furlongs is questionable. But he just might have the class to overcome his genetics.

In other news, Hall of Fame trainer John Nerud's 100th birthday was on Saturday. Few have done more for the sport of Thoroughbred racing than Nerud. He is best known as the trainer of Dr. Fager, one of the more brilliant horses of the 20th century. The speedy colt was named for Dr. Charles Fager, the surgeon that saved Nerud's life after a bad fall from his pony caused a grave head injury. Nerud also played a hand in breeding and training various champion Tartan Farm runners and descendants, including Dr. Fager's half sister Ta Wee, Rough N' Tumble, Minnesota Mac, Intentionally, In Reality, Fappiano, Unbridled and Cozzene. Nerud is also one of the founding members of the Breeder's Cup World Championships. More information on Nerud and his life can be found on a newly-created website for his 100th birthday:

Lastly, one of the most popular off-track Thoroughbreds on Facebook, Blue Blue Sea, passed away on Saturday. I first learned of his story when I was scrambling to raise funds for Oil Money's Dream last spring. There were many parallels between Limerick and Blue Blue Sea. Blue's owner even followed and helped rescue a half-brother of Blue, which reflected what I was trying to do for Oil Money's Dream, who is related to Limerick. You can read more about Blue Blue Sea and his half-brother Gran Huracan here and here. Rest in peace, Blue Blue Sea.

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