The Morning Line: 2014 Jerome Stakes

It’s been thirty three days since Honor Code turned heads in the Remsen and Tapitureprevailed in the Kentucky Jockey Club. It may seem longer ago than that but keep calm the scoring resumes on Saturday.

We begin the New Year at a familiar yet once forgotten place. The good news is that it only took Churchill Downs one year before they recognized that the Jerome Stakes deserves to be an official qualification race. And so now it is and eight derby hopefuls are ready to go.

We begin with the heavy favorite that will be breaking from post position 1, Noble Moon. The son of Malibu Moon and Mambo Bell returns to Aqueduct after he finished 3rd last time out in the G2 Nashua Stakes on 11/3. Trained by Leah Gyarmati, Noble Moon gets most of his attention on the morning line with pretty good reason.

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The Morning Line: Wood Memorial Stakes

Gem of a Wood Memorial

Gemologist Romps Home in 2012 Debut

Trends have played a major role in handicapping over the last thirty years concerning the Kentucky Derby.  Several trends have steered handicappers away from certain horses because they don’t fit the dosage index or they are the morning line favorites.  Others stay away from geldings, polytrack horses, BC Juvenile champions and recently Wood Memorial winners.  Some horses have broken these curses over the last several years, but the amount of Wood winners is almost nonexistent.

It has been 12 years since the last winner of the Wood Memorial went on to win the Kentucky Derby.  Fusaichi Pegasus was the overwhelming favorite in both races and proved he was worthy of the derby crown.  Since Pegasus’ victory, the only Wood winner to make some noise in the Triple Crown was Empire Maker in 2003.  Empire Maker ran 2nd to Funny Cide (3rd in the Wood) in the Kentucky Derby and won the Belmont Stakes five weeks later.  In fact the last three Wood winners (I Want Revenge, Eskendereya, and Toby’s Corner) haven’t even made it to the starting gate on the first Saturday in May.  So why would anyone want to win the Wood Memorial Stakes and hope to win the Kentucky Derby?  (more…)

The Morning Line: The Gotham Stakes

Gotham Boasts Champion Hansen

When is enough enough?  When a trainer, jockey, or horseman scores their first win may be one answer.  But then that win makes the person want a second and then a third and then a fourth and so on.  To win your home track’s premier race of the season may be another possibility to say enough is enough.  But what if your home track is Churchill Downs?  For the current crop of 3 yr. olds in training, enough is a secured post position in the 138th Kentucky Derby.  In two months, 20 of the best will line up as individual beings in search of the most prestigous crown in all of racing.  One horse has already punched his ticket, doing so in dramatic fashion last November in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.  His name is Hansen and as great of champion as he is, he still has a little more to prove before claiming a 3 yr. old crown.

New York City serves as the backdrop to the electric energy that will likely be radiating from Aqueduct on Saturday.  A sizable winning purse will be up for grabs as a field of 13 take to the post in the G.2 $400,000 Gotham Stakes.  Run at 1 1/16 on the inner track at Aqueduct, Hansen has drawn the 12 hole and has been installed as the 6-5 morning line favorite.  The field of 13 is one of the larger fields for the Grade 2 race in recent years and the allure of a $400,000 purse is mainly to blame. (more…)

The Morning Line: Withers Stakes

Goldolphin Sends Their Alpha Male

According to folk etymology, the word alpha is connected to the term “to invent” thus alpha is the first letter invented.  It is the first letter in the Greek alphabet and in Greek numerals it has a value of 1.  That is exactly where trainer Kieran MacLaughlin hopes his talented young colt Alpha finishes in Saturday’s Grade 3 Withers Stakes at Aqueduct.

Owned by Godolphin Racing, Alpha looks to capitalize on a small Withers field and maintain his winning ways.  Despite only one workout since his 2 3/4 win in the Count Fleet Stakes last month, Alpha appears to be the one to beat under jockey Ramon Dominguez.

Previously the one-turn mile Withers was run in late April at the New York track.  However the NYRA placed the stakes race on hiatus last year.  After deciding to bring it back in 2012, the race was able to retain its graded status, upped its distance to 1 1/16 miles, and was rescheduled for early February in lieu of the ungraded Whirlaway Stakes.  A win today will give the winning connections a $120,000 check to bank in graded earnings and inch closer to the starting gate at Churchill Downs.  (more…)

The Morning Line: Wood Memorial Stakes and Bay Shore Stakes

Aqueduct Racetrack

The New York trail to the Kentucky Derby ends today with the biggest star in the racing world taking on nine rivals in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial Stakes at AqueductUncle Mo seeks to keep his undefeated streak intact as he marches on to Kentucky in dominating style.  But the big question is will recent history be working against him? 

Inaugurated in 1925, the Wood Memorial was named after New York state politician Eugene D. Wood.  In addition to his political interests, Wood was also a horse racing enthusiast and founder of Jamaica Racetrack.  The Wood Memorial was run at Jamaica until 1960.  At 1 1/8 miles, it is one of the most prestigious derby preps in the country.  11 horses after winning the Wood went on to capture the blanket of roses in the Kentucky Derby; the last being Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000.  However in the last 10 years, three Wood Memorial winners who figured to be noise makers in the derby never made it the starting gate on the first Saturday in May: Buddha (2002), I Want Revenge (2009), Eskendereya (2010).

Owned by Queens native Mike Repole and trained by Todd Pletcher, Uncle Mo is coming off an easy victory in the Timely Writer Stakes.  He is without a doubt the class act in today’s field and he shouldn’t have any problems handling the distance or the outer track.  However, track conditions may play a part in how he runs; early rain is expected in the forecast.  Toby’s Corner has proven he can win over a sloppy track and I look for him to bounce back after the Gotham.  He also is the son of Bellamy Road, a past Wood Memorial winner, and he will be adding blinkers this time around.  If Toby’s Corner finishes second, he will stamp his ticket to Kentucky and could be a horse to watch. 

$1 million Wood Memorial  (gr. I, Race 10, 5:48 p.m.), 3YO, 1 1/8 Miles (Dirt)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Starship Caesar (FL), C H Velasquez, 123, B Parboo 50-1
2. Toby’s Corner (FL), E Castro, 123, H G Motion 8-1
3. Full of Scoundrels (NY), C C Lopez, 123, N Chatterpaul 50-1
4. Arthur’s Tale (KY), R A Dominguez, 123, T Albertrani 12-1
5. Uncle Mo (KY), J R Velazquez, 123, T A Pletcher 1-5
6. Preachintothedevil (NY), J Alvarado, 123, G C Contessa 20-1                                               7. Duca (KY), J K Court, 123, D W Lukas 20-1
8. Norman Asbjornson (PA), J Pimentel, 123, C W Grove 15-1
9. Isn’t He Perfect (KY), C Hill, 123, D Shivmangal 50-1
10. Son of Posse (KY), F Z Maysonett, 123, R Vitiello 99-1

With a very short price on Uncle Mo, I’d stick to exotics.  With such big numbers on the board and a possible, but not likely upset, bettors can expect a decent payoff. 

                  Tri box 2, 5, 7                         Tri box 2, 5, 8

Also on the card will be the Grade 3 Bay Shore Stakes.  At seven furlongs, the Bay Shore offers a $200,000 purse and features a strong field of 8 three year olds.          

  1. Justin Phillip, R. Dominguez, 116, S. Asmussen 15-1
  2. Buffum, D. Cohen, 116, S. bin Suroor 5-2
  3. JJ’s Lucky Train, J. Ferrer, 118, W. Anderson 3-1
  4. Dr. Disco, M. Luzzi, 116, B. Brown 15-1
  5. Harlan’s Hello, C. Hill, 116, D. Shivmangal 20-1
  6. Smoke It Right, C. Velasquez, 120, B. Chatters 6-1
  7. Vengeful Wildcat, C. Marquez, Jr., 118, B. Perkins, Jr. 4-1
  8. Royal Currier, E. Castro, 118, P. Farro 12-1

Smoke It Right is 4 for 4 and figures to be on the lead early with Dr. Disco.  Vengeful Wildcat is coming off a second place effort in the Caposseia Stakes, his first start in 6 months.  JJ’s Lucky Train has run well at Aqueduct and is my choice to win.  This figures to be an exciting race with possible triple crown contenders outside of Kentucky. 

Good luck to all the competitors this afternoon. We look forward to an excellent day of racing in New York to add to the derby allure in California and Chicago.    

Written by Big Brink

Race Recap: Stay Thirsty Takes Gotham, Positive Response Wins Battaglia with Ease

I once heard that a bad day at the races is better than a great day anywhere else.  On my end, it was a bad day going 0 for 2 in the Gotham Stakes and John Battaglia Memorial Stakes.  But on the other hand, it was a great day for the winning connections of Stay Thirsty and Positive Response as they elevated their status and put themselves in contention for a spot in the derby field. 

Stay Thirsty scored a big win for his owner Mike Repole and trainer Todd Pletcher in the G.III Gotham Stakes (race replay).  Forced 4 wide on the first turn, Ramon Dominguez sat patiently and worked his colt into the steady pace.  Making his move on the final turn, Stay Thirsty edged toward leaders The Fed Eased and Norman Asbjornson and exploded on the final stretch to win by 3 1/4 lengths. Stay Thirsty covered the 1 1/16 distance in 1:44.78 and added $150,00 with his first graded stakes win. 

Race Results

  1. Stay Thirsty                 $3.80         $3.30           $2.10
  2. Norman Asbjornson                       $18.60         $5.10
  3. Toby’s Corner                                                      $2.30

 Pletcher now has a dominant one-two punch leading to the Kentucky Derby with Stay Thirsty and Uncle Mo and both are owned by Repole.  With Uncle Mo pointing toward the Wood Memorial, look for Stay Thirsty to start next in either the Arkansas Derby or the Florida Derby. 

Positive Response added a win to his derby resume with a  victory in the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes at Turfway Park.  Coming off a 3rd place finish in the El Camino Real Derby, trainer William Morey decided to switch from the synthetic surfaces of California to the synthetic surfaces of Kentucky.  His decision paid off.  Jocky Julien Couton sent Positive Response to the lead and was never really tested, cruising to a 7 length victory.  Positive Response covered the 1 1/16 distance in 1:45.13.  This talented colt has now earned over $200,000 for his owners, but has only earned $24,ooo in graded earnings.  Look for him start next in the Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes later this month. 

Race Results

  1. Positive Response         $6.00         $3.60          $3.00
  2. Taptowne                                          $8.60          $5.20
  3. Son of Posse                                                          $13.80

We would like to congratulate all of the winning connections in this weekend’s races.  Stay Thirsty’s win solidified himself as a legit contender for the derby crown and he also stepped out of the looming shadow of his stablemate Uncle Mo.  The first weekend of March has come and gone and the road to the derby continues to provide great excitement.  We look forward to final round of racing from Aqueduct and Turfway Park in the coming weeks.  Until then, keep your eyes on your programs as the derby field begins to take shape. 

Written by Big Brink

Pletcher Continues to Stay Thirsty

Todd Pletcher

As the derby world anxiously awaits the debut of last year’s 2 yr. old champion Uncle Mo, his trainer Todd Pletcher sends out his stablemate Stay Thirsty in this weekend’s G. III Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct. 

Stay Thirsty, a dark bay colt sired by 2006 Preakness winner Bernardini, will make his 3 yr. old debut on Saturday going two turns at 1 1/16 miles.  With Ramon Dominguez in the irons, Pletcher should be looking for a strong performance off of a long lay off; he finished 5th behind Uncle Mo in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.  With an accomplished pedigree, distance should not be a problem.  Stay Thirsty has been training stride for stride with Uncle Mo drilling five furlongs in 1:00 3/5 on Feb. 27.  But with such a long lay off, will the horse be ready to shine in the Big Apple or will the time between races hold him back?  He needs the race and with time ticking away, now is the time to run.

Standing in Stay Thirsty’s way is the current king of New York, Toby’s Corner.  This talented colt is coming off of an impressive victory in the Whirlaway Stakes over a sloppy track at Aqueduct.  It was also his third victory in a row.  Trainer Graham Motion worked Toby’s Corner once since his last victory going five furlongs in 1:02 2/5. 

Pletcher has a fearsome threesome with Uncle Mo, Stay Thirsty, and Brethren.  However, only Brethren has raced this year.  With Uncle Mo pointing toward the Wood Memorial, it will be interesting to see how Stay Thirsty performs in New York because it is very unlikely that the he returns to the Empire State after this weekend. 

So, will Stay Thirsty become the new king of New York or will Toby’s Corner win his 4th straight race and solidfy himself as a derby threat? Or will one of the other 7 horses in the field score an upset win en route to Kentucky? 

$250,000 Gotham Stakes (gr. III, Race 10, 5:12 p.m.), 3YO, 1 1/16 Furlongs (Dirt)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. The Fed Eased (FL), J Valdivia Jr., 116, R A Violette Jr.
2. Nacho Saint (KY), J Bravo, 116, K J Breen
3. Starship Caesar (FL), E R Da Silva, 116, B Parboo
4. Toby’s Corner (FL), E Castro, 120, H G Motion
5. Stay Thirsty (KY), R A Dominguez, 116, T A Pletcher
6. Isn’t He Perfect (KY), J Rodriguez, 116, D Shivmangal
7. Preachintothedevil (NY), J Alvarado, 116, G C Contessa
8. Norman Asbjornson (PA), J Pimentel, 120, C W Grove
9. Dawly (KY), C H Velasquez, 116, S M Asmussen 

We will be covering the Gotham Stakes and the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes from Turfway Park in our weekly edition of the Morning Line.  Strap yourselves in, it’s going to be another great weekend of racing.

Written by Big Brink

Race Recap: Whirlaway Stakes

It’s been two weeks, two significat derby prep races, and two horses that ran similar races.  As we noted last week, Dialed In gave a dazzling performance in the Holy Bull Stakes.  The 3 yr. old colt defeated a strong field of eight other competitors in dramatic fashion charging down the stretch from last to first.  This week, Toby’s Corner gave a similar performance, last to first, over a muddy track at Aqueduct.

Under jockey Eddie Castro, Toby’s Corner, trained by H. Graham Motion, defeated a short field. Sky Music was scratched that morning and the late scratch of Norman Asbjornson left five horses breaking from the gate in the Whirlaway Stakes (replay).  JJ’s Lucky Train and Preachintothedevil broke sharply and set the pace with quick fractions.  However, Toby’s Corner sat back patiently and struck at the right moment.  JJ’s Lucky Train tried to hold on for the win, but Toby’s Corner was too much in the stretch winning by two lengths.  Toby’s Corner, now winner of three in a row, covered the 1 1/16 mi in 1:45.66.

Final Results

  1. Toby’s Corner                       $11.60                 $4.70                 $3.20
  2. JJ’s Lucky Train                                                $3.30                 $2.50
  3. Preachintothedevil                                                                       $3.00

Also on Saturday, the WEBN Stakes (Replay) was held under the lights at Turfway Park.  This is a prep race for the Spiral Stakes (G.III) held at Turfway on March 26.  Twinspired and Taptowne battled on the turn and into the stretch leaving the competition behind.  As the two horses continued down the polytrack stretch, Twinspired, under jockey Jozbin Santana, took command and never looked back finishing 4 1/4 lengths ahead of R Fast Cat and Taptowne.  Tained by Mike Maker, Twinspired coverd the 1 mile distance in 1:41.57.

Final Results

  1. Twinspired                      $5.00                  $3.60                 $2.60
  2. R Fast Cat                                                    $15.20               $8.20
  3. Taptowne                                                                                $4.00

We here at The Derby Post would like to congratulate the winning connections of both Toby’s Corner and Twinspired and we look forward to seeing both compete very soon.  We hope that all of the horses in both races returned to their respective barns in good health and we hope to see them on the trail to the derby as well.

Written by Big Brink

The Morning Line: Whirlaway Stakes

Choosing winners can be a tough task.  Once you think you’ve handicapped a race, you may have to take in some small considerations before making your final wager.  One small consideration that may prove to be a large factor this weekend is the weather.

There is an unseen force high in the heavens known as the Derby Gods.  They carefully watch over this great sport and choose a winner on the first Saturday in May and they are present throughout the derby campaign.  However, Mother Nature is blatantly trying to squeeze her mighty fist into racing this weekend across the country, disrupting the course of the derby trail.  

But the show must go on.  We here at the Derby Post will be watching the weather throughout the course of the day.  At Aqueduct, the Whirlaway Stakes is set for a 3:49 pm (ET) post.  Weather conditions call for a wintry mix with a high temperature of 38 degrees and 80% precipitation.  The race is 1 1/16 mi. on the inner track.  The track is listed as good.  According to NYRA, Sky Music is scratched, leaving six horses to enter the gate.  The field is as follows:

Horse                                      Jockey             Trainer                     Odds

  1. Toby’s Corner                 E. Castro          H. Motion                 6-1
  2. Arthur’s Tale                  C. Lopez            T. Albertrani           6-1
  3. Rescind the Trade          A. Garcia          R. Violette, Jr.         2-1
  4. Norman Asbjornson       J. Acosta          C. Grove                  20-1
  5. Preachintothedevil         J. Alvarado      G. Contessa             4-1
  6. JJ’s Lucky Train             J. Ferrer           W. Anderson          5-2
  7. Sky Music                        D. Cohen           T. Pletcher             Scr.

With the recent scratch and the weather conditions, we are picking the favorite Rescind the Trade to capture the Whirlaway Stakes.  Alan Garcia is one of the top jockeys on the New York circuit and we feel it is his race to lose. We wish all of the competitors luck this afternoon and hope that they cross the finish line safely.  Bundle up it’s going to be cold out there. 

Horse racing is a test, a fight to the finish, a chance to discover who is the mightiest on a given day.  The only question to remain is who will win the battle today? Mother Nature or the Derby Gods?

Written by Big Brink

New York Racing Gets Underway with the Whirlaway Stakes

I want to wake up in that city that doesn’t sleep.

New York City. The Big Apple.  The Metropolis of the United States.  This great city impacts finances, media, culture, art, fashion, entertainment, and food all over the world.  It is also home to great sports franchises including the Mets, the Jets, the Giants, the Knicks, the NY Rangers, and possibly the greatest sports franchise of all time the New York Yankees.  New York also boasts terrific horse racing from historic tracks such as Belmont Park, Saratoga, and Aqueduct.  Cold temperatures and dreaded storms rocked the east coast this week, and New York racing looked to be in jeopardy.  However, recent cancellations have given maintenance crews ample time to prepare the track at Aqueduct for live racing this weekend; highlighted by the $100,000 Whirlaway Stakes Saturday afternoon. 

Named for Calumet Farm’s prized colt, Whirlaway, who was trained by Ben A. Jones, swept the Triple Crown in 1941 under jockey Eddie Arcaro.   The race has been a staple on the New York racing scene since 1980 and is a stepping stone to the Wood Memorial Stakes.  Interesting to note, no winner of the Whirlaway Stakes has gone on to win the Kentucky Derby.  The closest to accomplish this task was Prairie Bayou in 1993 finishing 2nd to Sea Hero

Despite history, seven three year olds will enter the gate for a chance to move on to future prep races and break the 31 year old curse.  The early favorite is Rescind the Trade, trained by Richard Violette.  Rescind the Trade has a win over the track but will be tested by second choice JJ’s Lucky Train (2nd in the Count Fleet) and third choice Preachintothedevil (winner of the Champagneforashley Stakes).  Trainer Todd Pletcher will send New York Bred Sky Music; winner of 2 of 4. 

It will be a tough race considering the weather conditions, the distance (1  1/16 mi.), and the maturity level of the seven starters.  We here at the Derby Post will once again be keeping a close eye on all of the horses as it is still early in the derby season.  However, we look to see Sky Music bounce back from two disappointing starts and possibly Toby’s Corner to show signs of his bloodline (his sire is Bellamy Road) while going two turns.  Also, we have to pull for JJ’s Lucky Train for our hometown family friend Jimmy Jackson.

$100,000 Whirlaway (Race 8, 3:49 p.m.), 3YO, 1 1/16 Miles (Inner Track)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1 Toby’s Corner (FL), E Castro, 118, H G Motion
2 Arthur’s Tale (KY), C C Lopez, 116, T Albertrani
3 Rescind the Trade (FL), A Garcia, 118, R A Violette Jr.
4 Norman Asbjornson (PA), J D Acosta, 122, C W Grove
5 Preachintothedevil (NY), J Alvarado, 118, G C Contessa
6 J J’s Lucky Train (KY), J C Ferrer, 120, W D Anderson
7 Sky Music (NY), D Cohen, 118, T A Pletcher

Good luck to all of the owners, trainers, jockeys and other connections of the seven starters this weekend.  We hope that all of the horses finish strong and return to the barns in good health.