Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Stable Mail Alert: 2yo Maiden Watch

--Steve Sherack

TDN’s Racing Editor Steve Sherack reveals a group of four well-bred 2-year-old maidens to keep an eye on this fall. You can follow Steve on Twitter at @SteveSherackTDN.

PRETENTIOUS (c, 2, Super Saver--Turkappeal {MSW & MGSP, $280,440}, by Turkoman) Lifetime Record: 1-0-0-1, $9,000. O-DP Racing LLC; B-Farfellow Farms Ltd. (KY); T-James Cassidy. *$200,000 2yo ‘14 OBSAPR. **1/2 to Pink Champagne (Awesome Again), GSW, $145,957; and Z Appeal (Ghostzapper), SW.
   Hailing from the first crop of red-hot leading freshman sire Super Saver, Pretentious stamped himself as a very promising prospect with an impressive stretch rally to finish third going 5 1/2 furlongs over the Del Mar Polytrack Sept. 3 (video). Not given much respect at the windows at 15-1 in his unveiling despite sporting a flashy win-early pedigree (mare was a 2yo stakes winner and has also produced two debut winners), Pretentious was outsprinted early in ninth through fractions of :22.14 and :45.37. Still with plenty to do as they straightened for home, the dark bay found another gear when finally switching over to his right lead in the stretch and finished like a rocket on the outside to come within five lengths of smart wire-to-wire winner All Indians (Latent Heat). The $200,000 OBSAPR graduate continued to run on impressively after the wire as well, galloping out past the top two finishers on the clubhouse turn. Pretentious returned to the worktab with an easy five-furlong move in 1:02 2/5 at Santa Anita Sept. 17 and has been entered in a 6 1/2-furlong dirt test in Arcadia Saturday. Would love to see him eventually stretch out over grass down the line.

PROVEN COMMODITY (c, 2, Bernardini--Sahara Gold {GSW, $248,742}, by Seeking the Gold) Lifetime Record: 1-0-0-0, $4,150. O/B-Darley (KY); T-Tom Albertrani. *1/2 to Better Lucky (Ghostzapper), MGISW, $1,018,950; 3/4 to Sahara Heat (A.P. Indy), GSW, $170,858.
   Overlooked at 28-1 in his Aug. 9 Saratoga debut (video), Proven Commodity certainly gave his backers a good run for their money. Flashing some decent early speed from third for a barn not known for cranking up its firsters, the Darley homebred was hung out four wide on the far turn and gave the well-meant firster Requite (Warrior’s Reward) (subsequently a well-beaten fourth in the GI Hopeful S.) a brief challenge in the stretch before tiring to finish fourth, beaten 7 1/2 lengths. Should move forwardly nicely with that one under his belt for his patient barn.

RED GUARD (c, 2, Bernardini--Rose of Summer, by El Prado {Ire}) Lifetime Record: 1-0-0-0, $3,750. O-Lane’s End Racing; B-Graceville Breeding (KY); T-Shug McGaughey. *1/2 to Laragh (Tapit), GISW, $581,877; and Summer Front (War Front), MGSW & MGISP, $874,140.
   The well-bred Red Guard--a half-brother to GI Hollywood Starlet heroine Laragh and classy turfer Summer Front--caught the eye with a debut fourth for Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey going seven furlongs over the Belmont turf Sept. 13 (video). Void of any early speed, the 14-1 shot was out of the picture for most of the way through somewhat easy early fractions of :22.92 and :46.58 over the firm going. Swung out to the center of the course at the top of the lane, Red Guard finally got going in mid-stretch and finished up with huge strides while racing on his incorrect lead to come within 2 1/2 lengths of the winner. Red Guard has worked once since, firing a three-furlong bullet in :35.74 at Belmont Park Sept. 24. Couldn't be in better hands.

WAGING WAR (c, 2, War Front--Sidle, by Seeking the Gold) Lifetime Record: 2-0-0-0, $7,840. O-Columbine Stable LLC; B-Claiborne Farm (KY); T-Al Stall Jr. *$350,000 yrl ‘13 KEESEP.
    After making a flashy five-wide move on the far turn when a debut fourth at Saratoga Aug. 2 (video), Waging War certainly looked like he’d be on his way to graduating at second asking. The Aug. 23 (video) crowd at Saratoga agreed and he was well-backed as the 9-5 chalk, but he failed to deliver, reporting home a well-beaten fifth behind the GI Champagne S.-bound Bayerd (Speightstown) (he was already in deep water before altering course to avoid an ill-fated foe in the stretch). Produced by a winning half-sister to GI Woodford Reserve Turf Classic S. hero Stroll (Pulpit), a switch to grass should help this son of War Front reach his full potential. He’s been training up a storm over the Churchill Downs main track since, most recently firing a best-of-36 five-furlong bullet in 1:00 2/5 Sept. 22.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Guest Post: Bringing Kids Back to the Cup

--Carly Silver

   As a preteen living in Connecticut, I knew that very few of my peers shared my love of horse racing. While I pored over Edward L. Bowen's weighty tomes on great sires and mares of the past, other kids read comic books or Judy Blume novels. While I scoured pages of past performances in The Blood-Horse, my partners in puberty searched the racks for Juicy Couture. Needless to say, I was in search of kindred spirits.
   So I was thrilled when my mother found an organization called Kids to the Cup (KTTC), which took young racing fans to major races and behind the scenes on the backstretch. Finally, a people with whom I could share my love of Thoroughbreds! And KTTC didn't disappoint. With this group of like-minded people, I traveled across the country to Breeders' Cups. In particular, the 2002 rendition at Arlington Park and 2004 edition at Lone Star Park were highlights.
   I also attended Triple Crown races, and, in the process, met some of my all-time heroes. Where else could I have met trainer Bob Baffert and had the opportunity to ask him why he put War Emblem's 2002 Preakness Stakes trophy on his head in the winner's circle? His reply, "Because I'm a damn fool!" was priceless.
   It's also thanks to KTTC that I met Blood-Horse writer Steve Haskin and former NBC racing analyst Charlsie Cantey. I took down their contact information; when I drew up an in-depth pedigree analysis of a 2004 Derby contender named Smarty Jones that showed the potential to get the mile-and-a-quarter distance, I sent it to them. Smarty came in first, and The Blood-Horse offered me, at age thirteen, my own digital column called "Teen Tracks." The rest, as they say, is history.
   In 2006, KTTC's founder, Trudy McCaffery, had to shut down the organization due to lack of funds. She passed away in 2007, leaving a void not only in the racing and philanthropic worlds, but also the lives of many young racing fans. Without her tireless efforts on our behalf, we never would have been able to experience the track first-hand and had our love of the sport nurtured to such a degree.
   I didn't grow up in Kentucky or on a farm with horses. No one in my family owned racehorses. I didn't live particularly close to a track. Therefore, it wasn't like I could easily become involved in racing by myself. Thanks to KTTC, I engulfed myself in racing lore and learned the ways of the track--and today, I am fortunate enough to still be just as in love with this sport as the day I watched my first Kentucky Derby.
   My generation of racing enthusiasts was fortunate enough to have the likes of Ms. McCaffery and KTTC's director, John DeSantis (fondly known to us as "Johnny D."), to encourage our love of the sport. But what about today's fledgling fans? What organizations do they have to have them meet their equine and human idols, to take them to the backstretch, to be thrilled by the stories of champions gone by?
   There has been some movement to create more fan support. In particular, America's Best Racing and Horse Racing Nation are excellent examples of building digital communities for racing enthusiasts. But talking about horses online is one thing. Getting to chat with trainers in the flesh, walk the backstretch, pet a future champion--these real-life experiences are far more valuable than sitting behind a computer.
   Ms. McCaffery was generous enough to donate her time and money to KTTC. But, going forward, more than one person should pioneer an effort to get young fans to the track. In a day and age where publications claim that horse racing isn't a viable sport, we need to cultivate the next generation of fans to ensure that Thoroughbred racing stays alive.
   Horse racing doesn't have a single commissioner (yet). But, along with medication issues, our diverse leaders need to agree upon how to encourage fan development. Tangible time at the track isn't realistic for everyone without some help from the industry itself, so let's make it happen.
   For example, the Breeders' Cup is in six weeks. Every year, KTTC would show fans from around the country the ropes at the Cup; they could experience the thrill of races live. It's too late to revive KTTC for this Cup, but why not make this an active item on the Jockey Club's agenda for next year? In 2015, the Cup will be run at Keeneland, heart of the Bluegrass State.
   I can tell you firsthand that nothing delights a kid who wants to eat, sleep, and breathe horses than actually doing so at a seminal event at one of the greatest tracks in the country. Meeting Wise Dan would be a thrill for any racing fan. Since we'll be in Kentucky next year. What if stud farms donated tours of their facilities? Kids could see what Tiznow or Orb look like up close, rather than watching their wins on YouTube.
   Bobby Frankel, D. Wayne Lukas, Todd Pletcher, Bob and Beverly Lewis... meeting these luminaries of 1990's and early 2000's racing became memories forever ingrained in my mind. Each individual kindly took time out of his or her day to welcome us into the sport, answer our questions, and show us around the backstretch. We truly were a herd of horse lovers unto ourselves, but I wouldn't have had it any other way.

The author with Bobby Frankel

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Guest Post: A 'Dream' Encounter

--Carly Silver

   Like every other horse racing fan, I rejoiced at the birth of the Chosen One, the Savior of Equine-
kind: Jess's Dream. Born Jan. 22, 2012, the Curlin--Rachel Alexandra colt carries some of the best genetics possible in today's world. The product of two Horses of the Year (to be fair, Curlin earned that honor twice), Jess's Dream also carries the name of his sire and dam's mutual owner, the late Jess Jackson. With all of these high hopes, Jess's Dream has a lot riding on his withers.
Jess's Dream
   During my annual trip to Saratoga last week, I spent much of my trip pounding the racetrack pavement. Moving from the press box to the rail and back again--in between admiring glances at retiring announcer Tom Durkin's brightly-colored attire--I soaked up every dusty molecule of track life. But a Saratoga summer wouldn't be complete without seeing the horses themselves.
   Doing my best to blend in with dark sneakers, jeans, and a Saratoga cap, I made my way to the backstretch. I began in one barn where a kind groom invited me in after I explained I just wanted to admire his horses. A bright chestnut with a slender white blaze contentedly munched his hay, while a stunning gray filly, whose Arabian ancestry showed through in the delicacy of her face and arched neck, submitted to gentle forehead scratches.
   When I wandered a bit more, I found myself at a particularly quiet shed row. Peeping into two freestanding stalls, I saw a pretty bay filly who quirked her ears forward at my approach. The groom at that stable told me quietly whose stable this was. Though I had to strain my ears to hear him, I eventually heard the magic words: "Kiaran McLaughlin."
   For a racing fan, this was like discovering the Holy Grail. McLaughlin has some of the pre-eminent horses in the world in his stable, as well as the most beautifully bred runners this side of Keeneland. Besides Stonestreet Stables of Jackson's widow, Barbara Banke, his other owners include the likes of Darley/Godolphin and Shadwell Stable. But perhaps the most exciting horse in his barn is a Stonestreet 2-year-old--the aforementioned Jess's Dream.
   I knew that Jess's Dream was stabled at Saratoga, but I wasn't sure if His Royal Highness was currently receiving visitors. After all, I was a huge fan of both his mom and dad, but let's be honest, who wasn't? That didn't mean that Jess would grant me an audience. The groom, thankfully, said I could say a quick hello to the colt, but I'd have to remain clear of his teeth. Like most other youngsters, he had a habit of nipping, and the last thing I wanted was to end up on the wrong end of a Thoroughbred's teeth, although getting a bad bite from the son of two champions would definitely be a story to tell in the emergency room.
   Like most other horses in the McLaughlin barn, Jess's Dream had a simple brass nameplate with his name and pedigree on it. Was it my imagination, though, or was his burnished extra brightly? Or maybe it glowed from within from all the potential future Eclipse Awards looming on his horizon. Either way, there was one handsome young man in that stall.
   Keeping the groom's advice in the back of my mind, I avoided Jess's teeth as he flung his head back and forth. I crept within speaking distance, talking in a soothing voice as I looked him up and down. He's an imposing colt, but his brawny good looks don't signify a lack of brains. Jess kept a wary eye on me as I stood nearby.
   "Do you know who you are?" I said quietly. "Your mom and dad were champions, you know. That's a lot of weight to carry. And that's not even counting the ones the handicappers put on you." Jess didn't seem to care, though. Maybe, like his sire, he'd grow up to be a top older horse who could shoulder heavy weights while taking on the best of two different crops. Either way, the statuesque bay exhibited every sign of a horse who knew he's something special.
   At one point, the statuesque bay with a small white star stopped shifting about his stall for a moment or two. He gave me a look that said, "Yes, I'm aware of who my parents are. Thanks for being the umpteenth person to remind me. And just watch me run, coming soon to a track near you!" Though I could tell he hadn't yet filled out completely or matured mentally, his beautiful lines and intelligent eyes indicated that he had the potential to be a stellar individual.
   Smiling, I shuffled off back to the track. I was just another in a long line of humans who would dote on Jess, I was sure, but maybe I could be one of the few to say they met him way back when…before Jess's Dream became a reality.