Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Showdown at the Spa: Day 11

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We have given our two TDN crack handicappers, Brian DiDonato and Steve Sherack, a mythical $1000 bankroll and told them they can bet no more than 5% of that on any given day at Saratoga on a straight win bet. The winner, at the end of the meet, gets $100 in a TVG betting account, along with bragging rights until next July.

DiDonato: Monday - River Cruising showed good early speed to press the pace before completely stopping in the stretch. I guess that’s the danger of stats plays--you never know when you’re getting one who just can’t win despite how good the numbers look. I still think horses like that have a positive expectation in the long run, so we’ll try again, though I’ll tread lightly today as I struggled to find any horse who I really liked on this card.

Today - Race 4 - Mdn 25000, 3yo/up, 1 1/16mT - #8 Lawyer Jim (12-1)
    Lawyer Jim overcame a disastrous start before running on late for third when debuted on the dirt for this claiming price at Gulfstream on New Year’s Eve. His move might have been a bit of an optical illusion as the pace was quick and the runner-up also came from very far out of it, but it was at least somewhat interesting despite the 42 Beyer Lawyer Jim earned for his effort. The chestnut followed trainer Lisa Lewis up to Woodbine, and returned going a mile on the turf for a $50K tag July 18 for Wayne Green, who was filling in for Lewis as she served a suspension. Lawyer Jim showed a quick work on the turf July 1 and took early money before drifting up, but did little in the lane in his second go after racing a bit wide (just 13 feet more than the winner according to Trakus). It’s hard to really have confidence in Lawyer Jim off that effort, but Lewis has some intriguing numbers to consider--even before she upset Monday’s feature with 19-1 shot Rosa Salvaje. She does very well at the Spa (I guess we all should have had Monday's winner), and now has a 6-for-31 record (19%) and $5.92 ROI over the past five years, according to DRF Formulator. She also excels second off the bench--$2.18 in general and $3.75 when restricted to maidens. So, while Lawyer Jim needs to step it up to contend with this suspect group, there are strong reasons to believe he will at a decent price. Play: $15 Win (Turf Only). Alternate 1: Race 5 - $10 Win on #7 Liquid Lunch. Bankroll: $785.  

Sherack: Monday - Backdown had to work too hard to show the early way while pressed through fractions of :22.31 and :44.99, and tired in the stretch to finish fifth.

Today - Race 6 - OC 25k/N2X, (S), 3yo/up, 1mT - #5 Unbridled Command (8-1)   Unbridled Command gets a chance to turn the tables on likely chalk Ampersand after finishing a well-beaten third to that one as the 8-5 favorite in their May 26 encounter at Belmont Park. The gray was up against it from the git-go that day, breaking a bit tardy and racing uncharacteristically toward the back of the pack in eighth. Unbridled Command made an eye-catching middle-move to reach contention while traveling four wide on the far turn, but flattened out in the stretch, finishing 7 1/4 lengths behind his aforementioned rival. Switching pilots to Julien Leparoux in his latest, the Lakland Farm colorbearer was sent to the lead, and made all the running through easy fractions to impressively annex his first-level state-bred condition by 4 1/4 lengths going 1 1/8 miles June 23. Unbridled Command boasts a runner-up finish as a maiden over this course last term, and also has a solid third-place finish (Ampersand was a neck back in fourth) behind a pair of subsequent stakes winners in Fox Rules and King Kreesa in his sophomore debut at Belmont May 5. The very tactical Unbridled Command has proven that he doesn’t have to be on the early lead to be effective, and will certainly have a nice jump cutting back to a mile on the stone-closer Ampersand in a race void of early speed on paper. An aggressive ride by Leparoux (holding my breath) can go a very long way here. Play: $35 Win (Turf Only). Alternate 1: Race 7 - $20 Win (Turf Only) on #6 Princess Malia. Bankroll: $1,141.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Showdown at the Spa: Day 10

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We have given our two TDN crack handicappers, Brian DiDonato and Steve Sherack, a mythical $1000 bankroll and told them they can bet no more than 5% of that on any given day at Saratoga on a straight win bet. The winner, at the end of the meet, gets $100 in a TVG betting account, along with bragging rights until next July.

DiDonato: Sunday - My opponent is putting on a very impressive display--well done, Steve. Another overly patient ride on Unbridled’s Note didn’t help my cause Sunday--he’s no worse than second if ridden with the any sense of urgency.

Today - Race 3 - Md 75000, 2yo, 5 1/2f - #2 River Cruising (6-1)
   It's back to the stats-based plays with River Cruising, who has the right pedigree and trainer for debut success. The bay is a son of Five Star Day, who is a very profitable first-out sire. Since 2009, the speedster's progeny have won on debut 22% of the time with a $3.37 ROI (all wins came in sprints). Trainer Al Stall, Jr. also quite does well with his newcomers. According to DRF Formulator, he has gone 7-for-30 (23%) with a $3.62 ROI over the past year with juvenile firsters in sprints. He had a 25-1 winner and a 7-1 winner in the past month or so alone, and could be adding to those gaudy stats if River Cruising runs to his precocious pedigree. Play: $25 Win. Alternate 1: Race 5 - $25 Win on #2 Jane of All Trades (turf only). Alternate 2: $15 Win on #9 Saponetta Bobo. Bankroll: $810.  

Sherack: Sunday - Talk about a gift. Alaura Michele came through for us and also made it a very happy birthday for Bill Mott, paying a generous $15.60 to win in the scratched-down Nani Rose. Big things on the horizon for this daughter of Arch.

Today - Race 6 - Md 35000, 3yo/up, 7f - #2 Backdown (10-1)
   The John Terranova barn has quietly gotten off to a good beginning at the Spa without booting home a winner (7-0-1-3), including a second-place finisher at 9-1, and a pair of thirds at 24-1 and 11-1, respectively. Backdown showed promise early in his career, finishing a close fifth behind Brethren at two (77 Beyer), then kicked off his sophomore campaign with a strong second to Rattlesnake Bridge (76 Beyer). The chestnut was a distant second to the promising R King of the Road at the Spa last term, but failed to duplicate any of his prior form when a well-beaten fifth to Emcee in a Belmont maiden in September. Subsequently sidelined, Backdown prepped on grass for this with a seventh-place finish at Belmont July 5, a move Terranova strikes at a 27% rate from a 30-horse sample. The lightly raced 4-year-old can only benefit from the drop to maiden claimers here, and takes on a group comprised of mostly 3-year-olds, which should also work to his advantage. Seventh start will be the lucky one for this son of Gulch. Play: $25 Win. Alternate 1: Race 5 - $14 Win (Turf Only) on #3 Mariel N Kathy. Alternate 2: Race 6 - $14 Win on #10 Towering. Bankroll: $1166.  

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Showdown at the Spa: Day 9

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We have given our two TDN crack handicappers, Brian DiDonato and Steve Sherack, a mythical $1000 bankroll and told them they can bet no more than 5% of that on any given day at Saratoga on a straight win bet. The winner, at the end of the meet, gets $100 in a TVG betting account, along with bragging rights until next July.

DiDonato: Saturday - I think I scared my neighbors with an audible shriek after checking changes and seeing that my top pick was scratched again, but felt a bit better later after the nightcap came off the turf--Towner was a ‘turf only’ play, and I’ll be keeping an eye out for his name in the entries as the meet wears on. Speculative alternate Law of The Range looked terrible at every point in the Diana, and I wonder if they brought her here in search of firmer going--they certainly didn’t get it. Does anyone want to give me a price on getting shut out for the meet? That might be the only bet I could cash right now.

Today - Race 10 - GII Amsterdam S. - #3 Unbridled's Note (8-1)
    My first glance at this field made me think it would be a 'pass' race both here and in my personal wagering, but upon further review, I think the favorites might be vulnerable. Currency Swap could be the toughest to dismiss, as his recent runner-up effort behind Trinniberg in the GII Woody Stephens looks excellent on paper and comes up with a very fast pace on the Moss Pace Figure scale and a solid 102 Beyer. But that race was run as a total merry-go-round, with the 1-2-3 finishers traveling that way from start to finish. I didn't like Currency Swap's 3-year-old form coming into the Woody Stephens, so I'm going to take that last race as the exception rather than the rule. Doctor Chit has done little wrong this year, but he didn't face much resistance in the Western Larla S. last time against a very suspect field. Fort Loudon's defeat of Trinniberg in the GIII Carry Back at Calder last time was simply too much of an improvement for me to take it at face value--especially at a quirky venue like Calder. It doesn't help that trainer Nick Zito has been very cold so far at the Spa. Gun Boat looks good on paper, but his big-fig allowance win last time came on Betfair Hollywood Park's synthetic surface, and Bob Baffert's ROI in graded stakes here over the past five years is $0.81 (courtesy of DRF Formulator). That leaves Unbridled's Note as the best alternative. He has done nothing wrong in two career sprints, and took a reasonably tough and paceless Churchill allowance last time while displaying some greenness. He should get the right set-up here, and offers by far the most upside at what should be an attractive price. Play: $20 Win. Alternate 1: Race 2 - $10 Win on #6 No Nukes. Alternate 2: Race 7 - $10 Win on #7 Desert Storm (Turf Only). Bankroll: $830.

Sherack: Saturday - Seriously, Leparoux? Atigun looked loaded throughout while getting completely strangled for the majority of the Jim Dandy, but came up empty in the stretch to finish a disappointing sixth. Bombs away in the Travers with a new rider.

Today - Race 9 - Nani Rose S., 3yo, f, 1mT - #2 Alaura Michele (12-1)
   Concerned about the condition of the turf course after all of the rain Saturday, but hoping this one stays on the lawn. Alaura Michele looked like she could be any kind last year after transferring to the Bill Mott barn and switching to grass. The Siena Farms homebred was a bit headstrong when impressively wiring Belmont maidens going six furlongs in late June (shaded :12 in her final eighth), then showed the ability to settle and pounce when annexing the P. G. Johnson S. in style over the Saratoga lawn Aug. 31. Those two victories stamped Alaura Michele as a leading candidate for the GII Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Churchill Downs, but the wheels came off at 3-5 over a soft going in Belmont’s GIII Miss Grillo S. Oct. 2, and she hasn’t faced the starter since. Love that Mott has the confidence to kick off her sophomore campaign in this aggressive spot, and the steady worktab, dating back to mid-April at Payson, should give her a nice foundation to fire in her first try off the bench. It won’t be an easy task for Alaura Michele facing the likes of Grade I winner Karlovy Vary, but if she runs back to the promise that she flashed as a juvenile, Mr. Mott will be celebrating his 59th birthday in style. Play: $20 Win (Turf Only). Alternate 1: Race 4 - $20 Win (Turf Only) on #7 Why Not More. Alternate 2: Race 10 - $20 Win on #6 Politicallycorrect. Bankroll: $1030.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Showdown at the Spa: Day 8

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DiDonato: Friday - Scratched all the way through my alternates, leaving me at the mercy of the Sherack Express. A rough start and a promising Pletcher firster kept me safe from further abuse, however, and I’m thinking the momentum’s about to shift.

Today - Race 11 - CLM ($20K), N2x, 3yo/up, 5 1/2fT - #12 Towner (12-1)
   The reasons to like Towner fall so perfectly into place that it almost seems too good to be true. He debuted for trainer Darrin Miller for $50,000 over the Keeneland Polytrack going 6 1/2 furlongs Apr. 20, and scored by a nose against a group that has flattered that performance in subsequent efforts. The then-Silverton Hill colorbearer tried to stretch out against a tough group of allowance foes on the turf at Churchill May 18, but faded after pressing the pace. Miller dropped the chestnut back in for $30,000 sprinting on the dirt in Kentucky June 24 and, after some bad behavior in the gate and a rough trip proved too much to overcome (he was a distant fourth of six), Towner was haltered by Brad Cox for claiming powerhouse Midwest Thoroughbreds. Cox, who boasts a 31% win rate and a $2.39 ROI off the claim according to DRF Formulator, clearly claimed a number of horses for this meet, presumably because of the bloated purses. From three previous runners at the stand--all off the claim for Midwest--Cox has a second and two thirds. Those considerations might be enough to entice a play at 12-1, but Towner's pedigree puts his appeal over the top. Out of the all-turf mare Piconeach (NZ), he's a half to Silverton's Havelock (Great Notion), a MGSW turf sprinter who ran poorly in his one try over a conventional main track. Towner should get plenty of pace to run at here, and he won't have to be half as good as his big brother to mow them all down late on a surface that he is very likely to prefer. Play: $36 Win on #12 Towner (Turf Only). Alternate 1: Race 9 - $20 Win on #2 Law of The Range (Turf Only) . Alternate 2: Race 8 - $10 Win on #6 Dancing Winner (Turf Only). Bankroll: $850.

Sherack: Friday - Stage Street was hammered down to even-money (what else is new; he was the 7-2 third-choice on the morning-line!) once the rains arrived, and ran a big one to finish a solid second after nearly tossing Leparoux courtesy of a very hard bump shortly after they sprung the latch... First “profitable” afternoon for DiDonato, who broke even on the day after ducking me at the windows.

Today - Race 10 - GII Jim Dandy S., 3yo, 1 1/8m - #3 Atigun (8-1)   Landed on Atigun after watching him train with authority all week in preparation of the GI Belmont S., and the son of Istan gave me quite a run for my money at 20-1. Love that McPeek decided to freshen him a bit since that solid third-place finish behind Union Rags and Paynter, and the Shortleaf Stable colorbearer seems to have come out of the effort in top form, posting four solid drills including a five-furlong bullet in 1:00 4/5 at the Spa July 21. Hard to make excuses for his performances at Oaklawn in the GII Rebel S. and GI Arkansas Derby earlier this term, but he just has the look of a late-developing 3-year-old, who is clearly on the improve in his last two starts. Expecting a very big performance if he doesn’t fall too far back early. Play: $35 Win. Alternate 1: Race 5 - $30 Win on #5 Associate. Alternate 2: Race 6: $10 Win on #6 Adriatic Spirit. Bankroll: $1,065.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Showdown at the Spa: Day 7

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We have given our two TDN crack handicappers, Brian DiDonato and Steve Sherack, a mythical $1000 bankroll and told them they can bet no more than 5% of that on any given day at Saratoga on a straight win bet. The winner, at the end of the meet, gets $100 in a TVG betting account, along with bragging rights until next July.

DiDonato: Thursday - I hated the ride/trip that Geisha Gal got in the seventh, and I doubt she’ll be a maiden for long. She was taken further back than she had to be early and was forced to go very wide around the home bend before coming home in :22.99 vs. the winner’s :23.23. Look for her to return later in the meet, but I don’t expect 7-1 again.  

Today - Race 7 - Alw/Opt. Clm ($25K), (S), 3yo/up, f/m, 1 1/16mT - #9 Color Blind (30-1)
   To call Color Blind's 2011 dirt form 'ordinary' would be very generous, but she showed an immediate affinity for the grass first off the lay-off at Belmont May 6, blowing up the tote at 38-1 against fellow New York-breds. The turf was yielding (it may very well come up that way again here if they even stay on the turf), but everything else about her performance is pretty tough to discount. She was back off an average pace, covered a lot of ground on the turn when making her run and beat a decent enough first-level allowance field. Two also-rans came back to win, including fourth-finisher Elusive Rumour, whose fairly close eighth in Wednesday's GII Lake George S. would make her plenty competitive here. Color Blind returned against open company back in Elmont July 7, and was simply in too tough, finishing eighth, beaten 4 1/2 lengths. Her trip certainly didn't help matters, as the dark bay was hung very wide and without cover at all points in the race. Finger Lakes-based trainer Anthony Ferraro scored with a 22-1 winner on the turf here last year, and he could be poised for another longshot victory if Color Blind runs back to her good turf race stepping back into restricted company. Play: $15 Win (Turf Only). Alternate 1: Race 9 - $10 Win on #1 Relentless Road (Turf Only). Alternate 2: Race 8 - $15 Win on #8 Morgan’s Guerrilla. Bankroll: $850.

Sherack: Thursday - Thought I hooked another live one after watching my selection All Class get hammered down to 7-2 from his 12-1 morning-line quote, but he failed to run to the money after setting a pressured pace and folded to finish a disappointing eighth.

Today - Race 4 - Msw, 2yo, 5f - #1 Stage Street (7-2) Making my biggest bet of the young meeting in this one. If not for Shane Sellers falling asleep at the wheel on Stage Street in his 4 1/2-furlong Churchill Downs unveiling June 1, the speedy son of Street Sense would already be looking to take on stakes company at the Spa. The $300k KEEAPR graduate flashed sharp speed after breaking from post six, looked home free while being extremely confidently handled in the stretch, but never saw the fast-closing Malibu High coming (yet to return to the races or worktab), and was beaten by a half-length. The well-beaten fourth-place finisher that day Sky Captain has since returned to graduate by daylight in an 11-horse field beneath the Twin Spires July 1. Stage Street has been patiently handled since the debut, posting a typical Steve Asmussen worktab, capped by an easy five-furlong move in 1:03 3/5 over the Oklahoma training track July 16. The always-dangerous Asmussen barn is off to a great start at Saratoga, and always seems to improve with its second-time starters. Will gladly take my chances against the surprisingly cold Pletcher barn (he has two entered here), and the likely favorite from the D. Wayne Lukas barn, who had no real excuses when registering a third-place finish at first asking. It’s not much of a secret what Julien Leparoux’s game plan is going to be from post one here. Come and catch me. Play: $50 Win. Alternate 1: Race 8 - $20 Win on #1 Politicallycorrect. Bankroll: $1115.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Showdown at the Spa: Day 6

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We have given our two TDN crack handicappers, Brian DiDonato and Steve Sherack, a mythical $1000 bankroll and told them they can bet no more than 5% of that on any given day at Saratoga on a straight win bet. The winner, at the end of the meet, gets $100 in a TVG betting account, along with bragging rights until next July.

DiDonato: Wednesday - Can’t believe Knock Rock kept going... He’s never done that when I needed him to. He must really like Saratoga--unlike me right now. Luckily, the Sherack steam kept the price down. Of course, in my race, My Happy Face had to run up against a track record breaker. She wins a very large majority of maiden races here and was clearly well-meant. Steve, please go easy on me today.

Today - Race 7 - Msw, 3yo/up, f/m, 1 1/16mT - #4 Geisha Gal (12-1)   I found two very potent trainer angles in this race, so I’m sure whichever one I go with, the other one will come in. In fact, I’ve already changed my mind once. Bill Mott does very well with maidens coming off lay-offs and trying turf for the first time, and he sends out the intriguingly bred Geisha Gal off a fifth-place finish in the slop on debut at Belmont May 25. According to DRF Formulator, over the past two years, Mott is 4-for-17 (24%) with a gaudy $5.59 ROI making this move. Geisha Girl is by Japanese Group 1-winning turfer Agnes Tachyon (Jpn) (Sunday Silence), who was the leading sire in his native land in 2008. She’s out of a full-sister to European GSW and sire Ishiguru (Danzig), making her second dam the GI Spinaway and Matron winner Strategic Manuever (Cryptoclearance). Geisha Girl appears to have worked six furlongs on the turf here alongside Grade II-winning turf horse Newsdad (Arch) recently, which is certainly another positive. Other stat: After Da Mi Basia Mille scored at 8-1 Monday, trainer Christophe Clement is hitting at a 28% strike rate with a $4.12 ROI over the past year with his firsters going long on the turf. His other runner in the same category on opening day was a solid third at 6-1. Flower Mart, who’s well-bred for turf top and bottom, will be my first alternate for that reason. Play: $25 Win (Turf Only). Alternate 1: Race 7 - $25 Win on #7 Flower Mart (Turf Only). Alternate 2: Race 8 - $10 Win on #3 Single Malt Mac (Turf Only). DiDonato Bankroll: $875 - Record: 5-0-1-1

Sherack: Wednesday - Had DiDonato immediately shook after Serling backed up my selection Knock Rock ($13.80) during NYRA’s handicapping show Wednesday morning, and the smart money came pouring in. Didn’t get anywhere near the 20-1 that was quoted on my boy on the morning-line, but we’ll gladly cash another ticket ($20 win) while my opponent continues to get blanked through the first five days of action. Alternate pick Chief Gaga was also a good second at 12-1 in the seventh.

Today - Race 6 - Clm 20000, 3yo/up, 5 1/2fT - #4 All Class (12-1)   All Class figures to have plenty of company on the front end, but I’m banking on him to be the speed of the speed over a course playing quite kindly to front runners at the moment. The gray son of Value Plus returned from a December layoff in top form, clearing his n2L condition ($20k) in style by running a field of 11 off their feet over the Belmont lawn June 17. He was immediately flattered by the runner-up that day in Thomas Hill, who has since returned to win at 19-1 in a $35k tagger at Belmont June 27, and also place a close third at 18-1 in a $50k optional claimer July 13. All Class graduated over the same course-and-distance in a New York-bred maiden special weight at the Spa last August, and is a perfect two-for-two with Cornelio Velasquez in the irons, who returns to the saddle today. Play: $30 Win (Turf Only). Alternate 1: Race 2 - $25 Win on #1A Believe in A. P. Sherack Bankroll: $1,145 - Record: 5-2-0-0

Thewifedoesntknow Training Blog: Week 5

Trainer Carole Davison and Thewifedoesntknow share a sweet and relaxing moment together before she is bridled for the day's ride
Part 6 in a weekly series of training blogs about Thewifedoesntknow, a Thoroughbred mare made famous by a viral YouTube video and who is now in training to be a show hunter with New Jersey-based trainer Carole Davison.

Summertime fun is not without its occasional minor perils. Thewifedoesntknow, aka The Wife, aka Ally-Gator, earned herself a mini-vacation from training when she got bitten behind her withers by some sort of giant New Jersey bug. A protective fly sheet, some soothing ointment, and a few days off from riding were just what the doctor ordered, and Ally's training is back on track.

Liz Davison, Carole's 16-year-old daughter, rode Ally for this week's photo session. In addition to assisting in Ally's training, Liz currently competes in jumper classes with Suzie (Dance All Nite Jess), another talented chestnut Thoroughbred mare in Carole's barn. Riding jumpers requires catlike reflexes and the ability to maintain a horse's impulsion and balance throughout an entire course of jumps. When I watched Liz ride, it was clear that the time she spends in the jumper classes also helps her to work with green horses like Ally.
With soft hands and a steady, textbook leg, Liz rode Ally in a slightly looser frame than her mother Carole does. When they trotted and cantered, I saw the results of the past few weeks of Carole's hard work: Ally is learning how to relax her topline and engage her hind end. For the first few weeks, Carole encouraged Ally to stretch her neck down and out and learn how to reach for the bit. Contact was sometimes inconsistent as Ally learned how to stretch and trot. Now that she has built up more muscle in her engine, she is capable of more self-carriage and she is quite comfortable in a slightly more advanced frame. She is still asked to stretch frequently during rides, but she is also capable of seeking contact and maintaining it for longer stretches of time at both the trot and canter.
Below is a short video clip of Liz's trot work with Ally. I shot the video at the end of the ride, and shows Ally's comfort with her rider, as well as a good example of her current trot work.

During their canter work, Liz rode Ally at a slightly more forward pace than I have seen before. Liz's confidence and light seat allowed Ally to focus and produce a rhythmic, swinging canter. The quality of the mare's gaits improves with each week of training.
Once Ally was warmed up, she and Liz worked on some more advanced schooling. They trotted a line-diagonal-line-diagonal "course" of trot poles, which is excellent prep work for her jumping training. Over the poles, Ally was forward and tidy with her feet.
After their trot pole work, Carole coached Liz through the first few steps of training a turn on the forehand. Carole placed emphasis on asking correctly and slowly, rather than rushing through the exercise. It is better to get a few steps of a correct turn on the forehand than it is to get a dozen sloppy steps. To the right and to the left, the turn on the forehand schooling was a success.

While Liz cooled the mare out, she was all smiles and Ally seemed quite happy with her rider. In this family, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree- like her mother, Liz has the tact, talent, and confidence to train Thoroughbreds off the track and help them blossom in their second careers.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Showdown at the Spa: Day 5

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We have given our two TDN crack handicappers, Brian DiDonato and Steve Sherack, a mythical $1000 bankroll and told them they can bet no more than 5% of that on any given day at Saratoga on a straight win bet. The winner, at the end of the meet, gets $100 in a TVG betting account, along with bragging rights until next July.

DiDonato: Monday - Letshootpool could not have run any worse. Luckily, Mr. Sherack has been equally cold after his successful start. Going to stick to stats-based plays and be a bit more conservative, letting him come back to me before I make my big late run... or have to be eased.

Today - Race 5 - Msw, 2yo, f, 5 1/2f - #2 My Happy Face (8-1)   Rudy Rodriguez boasts excellent numbers with his 2-year-old firsters, and My Happy Face’s pedigree suggests she can win on debut. According to DRF Formulator, Rodriguez is 4-for-18 (22%) when unveiling juveniles in dirt sprints, good for a $4.23 ROI. All four winners came in maiden special weight company, boosting Rodriguez’s stats in the relevant category to a downright absurd 4-for-7 (57%) with a $10.90 ROI. Two of those three non-winners ran second, with one losing by just a head at 15-1. The other one was fourth at 23-1 here. My Happy Face’s freshman sire Tiz Wonderful was a super-impressive debut winner here in 2006, and he has done well with his first babies to hit the track. The Spendthrift resident has a 5-1 winner, a 5-2 narrow runner-up and an 18-1 show horse from six progeny to make their first starts. My Happy Face’s dam Summer Star (Siberian Summer) didn’t win first out, but she had some speed and her first foal, My Boy Jimmy (Teton Forest), broke his maiden for a tag at Pimlico in April, paying $15. Play: $25 Win. Alternate 1: Race 7 - $10 Win on #14 Seminole County. Alternate 2: Race 8 - $20 Win on #6 Cease. DiDonato Bankroll: $900 - Record: 4-0-0-1

Sherack: Monday - My Big Brown firster Aventurine failed to land a blow in the fifth race Monday, but didn’t run that terrible either, making up a decent amount of ground to finish sixth, beaten 3 1/2 lengths. Can’t complain getting 10-1 on Pletcher and Dominguez, that’s for sure.

Today - Race 3 - Md 50000 (50-40), 3yo/up, 1 1/16mT - #4 Knock Rock (20-1)   We’ll be putting up the blue screen for DiDonato at TDN’s Red Bank office Wednesday after Knock Rock lights up the tote board here. Yes, Knock Rock has been awful in his last two runs at this level downstate, and is 0-for-14 lifetime. And yes, trainer Scott Schwartz is somehow one-for-53 (hard to believe) this term. But trust me, it gets better. Knock Rock, a $40K OBSAPR grad, was once thought of so highly by his connections that he contested the GII With Anticipation over this course and GII Pilgrim at Belmont as a maiden last term, and didn’t embarrass himself. He finished only 4 1/4 lengths off the mark in the With Anticipation, placing a solid fourth behind State of Play, Optimizer and Dullahan, and was also a decent fifth in the Pilgrim over a soft going. Granted, the son of Corinthian needs to run back to his much more appealing 2011 form to make an impact here--which also includes a couple of solid efforts behind Shkspeare Shaliyah and Liquidity Trap--but based on the horses that will be taking money, he certainly has a chance at a huge price in a pretty bad field. Seems to run better when ridden a bit more aggressively early, and has a favorable inside draw. Watch out if Junior catches a flyer out of the gate. Play: $20 Win (Turf Only). Alternate 1: Race 7 - $25 Win on #7 Chief Gaga. Alternate 2: Race 4 - $20 Win on #10 Salvar. Sherack Bankroll: $1,027 - Record: 4-1-0-0

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Showdown at the Spa: Day 4

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We have given our two TDN crack handicappers, Brian DiDonato and Steve Sherack, a mythical $1000 bankroll and told them they can bet no more than 5% of that on any given day at Saratoga on a straight win bet. The winner, at the end of the meet, gets $100 in a TVG betting account, along with bragging rights until next July.

BD: Yesterday - Scratched into Vicki’s Dancer, who was a no-excuse third, in the first. I’m not panicking yet. . . Well, maybe a little.
Today - Race 3 - Opt. Clm ($50K), N2x, (S), 3yo/up, f/m, 5 1/2fT - #2 Letshootpool (15-1)
   Letshootpool took her debut two years ago at odds-on over this course for Linda Rice, besting this race's 3-1 morning line second-choice Eden's Burning. She's bounced around a bit since then, but could be back in career form. The bay was claimed for $12,500 by trainer Mike Lecesse out of a runner-up effort at Finger Lakes May 14, and romped by 7 1/2 lengths last time in an allowance at that oval July 2. Obviously she wasn't beating much, but it was a visually impressive effort. The 73 Beyer Speed Figure she earned puts her close to being in contention with these, and there's reason to believe she's better on turf and may be capable of running significantly faster. The 4-year-old projects to be on or near the lead in a race with little pace, and she deserves a shot returning to the venue where her somewhat disappointing career started off promisingly. Play: $30 Win (Turf Only). Alternate 1: Race 7 - $20 Win on #4 Goodtolook. Alternate 2: Race 5 - $10 Win on #1 (Turf Only). Bankroll: $930.

SS: Yesterday - Yuck. Think I could’ve outran Irishtocat Sunday. My pick was a mile out of it early, and never lifted a hoof at 26-1. Back to the drawing board.
Today - Race 5 - MSW, 2yo, f, 1 1/16mT - #8 Aventurine (8-1)  
   It's only a matter of time before Todd Pletcher begins to win races in bunches at the Spa, and we’ll go for the longer priced of his two runners here. It’s impossible to forget Big Brown’s eye-catching debut win over the Saratoga lawn back in 2007, and Aventurine will attempt to emulate her promising freshman sire in this one. While her more-fancied stablemate on the morning-line Citizen Emma (4-1) clearly appears to be the quicker of the two based on the duo’s quite comparable worktabs, I have no problem with my filly’s slower, and hopefully stamina-building moves--which includes a trio of five-furlong breezes over the Oklahoma turf around the dogs--with this race being contested around two turns. The $130k KEEAPR buy’s multiple-stakes placed dam Julie Truly was winless in three attempts over the infield, but Aventurine does get a pedigree boost under her hard-knocking stakes-winning second dam Truly Needy, who annexed seven of 21 career attempts on the spinach and also produced MGSW Truly a Judge. Having the red-hot Ramon Dominguez signed on to ride can’t be a bad thing. Play: $25 Win (Turf Only). Alternate 1: Race 5 - $20 Win on #3 Citizen Emma (Turf Only). Alternate 2: Race 6 - $10 Win on #2 Born Bullish. Bankroll: $1052.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Showdown at the Spa: Day 3

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We have given our two TDN crack handicappers, Brian DiDonato and Steve Sherack, a mythical $1000 bankroll and told them they can bet no more than 5% of that on any given day at Saratoga on a straight win bet. The winner, at the end of the meet, gets $100 in a TVG betting account, along with bragging rights until next July.

BD: Yesterday - Dead-on-the-board Holden On showed a bit of late interest to be a non-threatening fifth. Of course, my two alternates won and paid $15 and $31. You’re a lucky, lucky man, Sherack.
Today - Race 9 - GII Sanford S. - #7 Good Tickled (15-1)
   You almost always hear talk of how much pace there is in every early 2-year-old stakes race, but meltdowns rarely materialize as many graduates simply find themselves on the lead in maiden races because they are running against horses who they're much classier than. The early pace figures earned by some of these make me think that there's real speed signed on, however, so I tried to get a bit creative and find a longshot who figures to be far back. Good Tickled showed the ability to rate when second in his Keeneland debut Apr. 26, and would have cut the winner's margin of victory down significantly had he not been forced to wait for clear sailing in the lane. He bested Joha, who returned to graduate convincingly over the Belmont turf before taking Woodbine's Colin S., in a photo that day. Good Tickled subsequently earned his diploma on the Churchill dirt May 18, defeating Sanford foe John Gordon and well-regarded Positively, who finished second in the GIII Bashford Manor S. The fourth-place finisher in that heat, Show Some Magic, returned to run second to Bashford Manor winner Circle Unbroken before filling the same slot in yesterday’s second race. You can toss out Good Tickled's fifth-place run in the Bashford, as he was left at the break and forced to rush up. He fired a bullet four-furlong drill for this at Churchill July 16, and attracts Ramon Dominguez, who figures to find a good spot off the leaders. Play: $20 Win. Alternate 1: Race 1 - $20 Win on #6 Vicki's Dancer. Alternate 2: Race 3 - $20 Win on #3 Ezzy. Bankroll: $950

SS: Yesterday - Papa Tom set a pressured pace and enjoyed the lead as they kicked for home, but had little left in the tank when the real running began... Will gladly drop $25 on an 8-1 shot any day in exchange for another round of watching DiDonato’s featured selection finish up the track, and his back-up picks get the money.
Today - Race 7 - MSW, (S), 3yo/up, f/m, 1mT - #3 Irishtocat (15-1)  
   Taking a nice swing for the fences on a live longshot here. If stone-closer Irishtocat can take a step forward in her second start following a layoff, she is more than capable of lighting up the tote board. The dark bay made up a ton of ground and encountered some adversity in her first two starts when a very respectable third and fourth over the lawn downstate Oct. 16 and Nov. 4, respectively, then was placed on the shelf after failing to land a blow at the Big A in December. The 4-year-old daughter of Tomorrows Cat wasn’t given much of a chance at 38-1 in her June 17 comebacker at Belmont, but ran a sneaky-good race to finish eighth in a 12-horse field, beaten only 3 3/4 lengths. Immediately up against it after encountering an awful break, the David Duggan trainee was checked down the backstretch to trail the field by no fewer than 15 lengths, but still came alive in the stretch to finish with interest, reporting home within a couple of lengths of two horses likely to take a ton of money here in second- and third-place finishers Bunhead (3-1) and Madame Johar (5-2). It also doesn’t hurt that the co-fourth-place finisher that day Alwaysinmycircle returned to deliver a game victory at 5-2 on opening day. Play: $35 Win (Turf Only). Alternate 1: Race 2 - $20 Win (Turf Only) on #1 Film Shot. Alternate 2: Race 2 - $10 Win (Turf Only) on #9 Our Entourage. Bankroll: $1,087.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Showdown at the Spa: Day 2

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We have given our two TDN crack handicappers, Brian DiDonato and Steve Sherack, a mythical $1000 bankroll and told them they can bet no more than 5% of that on any given day at Saratoga on a straight win and/or place bet. The winner, at the end of the meet, gets $100 in a TVG betting account, along with bragging rights until next July.

BD: Yesterday - My Schuylerville pick Brown Eyes Blue faded after failing to make the lead, but Mr. Sherack nailed it--good job, chalk lover. I knew I was in trouble as soon as the odds opened--that money was very telling. Did better with other picks on Twitter, so follow me there too @BDiDonatoTDN for slightly less terrible insight.

Today - Race 2 - MSW, 2yo, 5 1/2f - #8 Holden On (8-1)
   This wasn't my favorite Saratoga opening Saturday card, to be honest. I didn't have many strong opinions, so I'll fall back on a stats-based play--Holden On seems to offer a positive expectation based on both trainer and pedigree data. While conditioner Chad Brown has been in a bit of a slump with his first timers recently (one for his last 24 according to DRF Formulator), he has excellent numbers with his 2-year-old newcomers at the Spa. Brown has won at an exceptional 30% (11-for-37) clip with a gaudy $3.56 ROI since 2009 with juvenile firsters here. Holden On's sire Dehere, champion juvenile way back in 1993, is perhaps the best debut broodmare sire on the planet and a very solid debut sire as well. His debut ROI has been over $2.50 with recent North American crops, and his numbers were even better before he was exported to Japan in the early 2000s. Holden On was a $62,000 OBSAUG yearling to $165,000 OBSMAR 2-year-old pinhook for Becky Thomas's Sequel Bloodstock after working an eighth in a solid enough :10 1/5. Play: $20 Win. Alternate 1: Race 2 - $20 Win on #4 Spurious. Alternate 2: Race 7 - $10 Win on #5 Image of Disco. Bankroll: $970.

SS: Yesterday - Was expecting to get some value on Philly shipper So Many Ways (5-1 on the morning-line), but apparently the TDN faithful immediately knew who to back in this contest and crushed my selection down to 5-2. In any case, I’ll gladly wipe the chalk off my hands, cash my $40-win ticket, and enjoy the lead at first call. Will be keeping a close eye on Twitter to see if DiDonato can reveal the feature’s last-place finisher for the second straight day.
Today - Race 4 - MSW, (S), 3yo/up, 1 1/16mT - #1 Papa Tom (10-1)
   I’m going to have to learn how to pronounce trainer Rodrigo Ubillo’s name properly if he delivers with Papa Tom for me here. The low-profile barn has connected with only six of its 61 previous starters in 2012, but most notably struck with a pair of bombs upstate last term at 26-1 and 16-1, respectively. This 3-year-old son of Utopia (Jpn) has taken a nice step forward in his last two at Belmont with the addition of blinkers, flashing some early interest and staying on for a pair of well-beaten fourth-place finishes versus older horses at 55-1 and 27-1. Gets an advantageous inside draw with not too much early speed entered, and also receives a major rider upgrade from seven-pound apprentice Wilmer Garcia to Edgar Prado. Barn has three others entered on the card--hopefully we’re on the right one. Play: $25 Win (Turf Only). Alternate 1: Race 1 - $20 Win (Turf Only) on #2 Great Mills. Bankroll: $1,112.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Showdown at the Spa: Day 1

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We have given our two TDN crack handicappers, Brian DiDonato and Steve Sherack, a mythical $1000 bankroll and told them they can bet no more than 5% of that on any given day at Saratoga on a straight win and/or place bet. The winner, at the end of the meet, gets $100 in a TVG betting account, along with bragging rights until next July.

BD: Race 9 - GIII Schuylerville S. - #3 Brown Eyes Blue
   Brown Eyes Blue might not quite match up on speed figures with most of her rivals, but virtually every handicapper knows by now that early 2-year-old figures are pretty much irrelevant. Hopefully that 60 debut Beyer will keep her price up. The $180,000 KEEAPR buy does have something going for her that nobody else in the field does--she's shipping in from Churchill Downs. The last five winners of the Schuylerville were all doing the same, scoring at average odds of 5.6-1 despite two chalky winners (Georgie's Angel and Hot Dixie Chick). Brown Eyes Blue faced 11 foes in her successful June 30 unveiling, whereas no other runner in the field beat more than six opponents in their respective maiden tallies. The spring/early summer 2-year-old races in New York tend to be weaker and include fewer runners than those held in Kentucky, as New York horsemen presumably save their bullets for Saratoga, whereas Kentucky-based trainers have earlier graded stakes at which to point their best babies. Brown Eyes Blue is also the only runner in the field to have already gone this six-furlong distance, and the pace she set was hot, as opposed to expected favorite Baby J (J Be K), who got away with murder on the front end in her graduation. Play: $30 Win. Alternate 1: Race 10 - $20 Win on #12 Tough All Day. Alternate 2: Race 10 - $20 Win on #4 Way of the West.

SS: Race 9 - GIII Schuylerville S. - #7 So Many Ways
   I'm banking on Tony Dutrow to pick up where he left off at the Spa after saddling Grace Hall to a win in last September’s GI Spinaway S. While he shipped that one upstate after a smart win first out at Delaware, this time he will be represented by a runaway Parx debut victress. Backed as the 2-1 second choice in that 4 1/2-furlong heat June 9, So Many Ways broke like a rocket, was ridden hard to set a pressured early pace, and leveled off quite nicely in the stretch to score by eight good-looking lengths. With plenty of speed signed on to her inside, the well-drawn Maggi Moss colorbearer figures to sit a perfect stalking trip, and should relish the added real estate here as well. Adding Lasix, the bay sports a much flashier worktab with a race under her belt now, firing a pair of four-furlong bullets in Bensalem July 6 and 14, respectively. A rider upgrade to Javier Castellano is another major plus. Play: $40 Win. Alternate 1: Race 1 - $20 Win on #8 Writingonthewall. Alternate 2: Race 2 - $20 Win on #1 Alwaysinmycircle.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Thewifedoesntknow Training Blog: Q&A with trainer Tim Shaw

Thewifedoesntknow heads to the track before a race in May 2012. Photo © Mike Carroll

Part 5 in a weekly series of training blogs about Thewifedoesntknow, a Thoroughbred mare made famous by a viral Monmouth Park YouTube video and who is now in training to be a show hunter with New Jersey-based trainer Carole Davison.

Recently, I've met a few hunter/jumper Thoroughbreds who were trained by Timothy Shaw when they were at the track.  Each of these horses are sound, athletic, and full of personality. I contacted Tim about his former trainee, Thewifedoesntknow; he was kind enough to share his thoughts about her, as well as provide some insight about the transition from racetrack to show ring.    

TDN: How did you get started training Thoroughbreds and how long have you been training?

Shaw: I was always been drawn to animals. As a child in Ireland, I would spend every moment I had at a friend's family farm. I couldn't get enough of it. That changed when we moved back here. I went to college and had a "normal" job. I went to the races one day... I bet a horse... she won... and I met the trainer (Dan Perlsweig), who invited me to the barn the next morning and BOOM. Next thing you know, I'm back in a barn and couldn't get enough of it again. I've been training for 12 years now. Life just has some strange twists.

Trainer Tim Shaw and dearly-departed canine companion, Flynn
 TDN: What kind of personality did Thewifedoesntknow have when she was in training with you?

Shaw: She always had a classy way of handling herself. She never got upset about much and was very professional and easy to work with. She knew her job every day and was eager to do it. Her favorite hobby was eating and she pursued it with vigor. I was just happy to have a filly that loved to eat.

TDN: If a horse has potential to be a show horse, is it something you can see when the horse is still in training at the track?

Shaw: I'm learning more and more about what makes a good show horse. My girlfriend Alicia Morgan has a show barn and she taught me about what she looks for. It basically comes down to being a natural athlete. When I deal with a horse on the track that has beautiful movement, and good head carriage, and engages the hind end without us teaching them to do it... that's a good sign. Usually Alicia just punches me and says "That one when it's done." She really wanted to work with The Wife but we have gotten involved with a couple of broodmares and a few retirees already. We wouldn't have had the proper time to devote to her and she deserved it.

TDN: For our readers who are unfamiliar with racing, can you give us an example of a typical schedule for a horse who is in your barn?

Shaw: The track opens at 5:30am, so our first horses hit the track very early. At about 4am, the stalls are cleaned and water buckets and feed tubs scrubbed. We have a couple of round pens and try and get a few out for 30 minutes or so. We are a bit restricted at the track as far as facilities. We don't have traditional paddocks. We try and get the horses who have raced the previous day, or had a hard workout, in the round pens to kick up their heels a bit. Every horse gets bathed after turnout or training, then walked about 30 minutes, followed by about 15 minutes of hand grazing. Then it's back to the stall for an alfalfa snack followed by a good grooming, liniment, and at about 10:30, morning grain. Generally, if it's not a race day, the barn is peaceful and quiet by 11am.

TDN: With all the recent news articles, Thoroughbreds are getting more attention both in the media and in the show ring. What can owners and trainers do at the track and upon retirement to ensure that their horses make a successful transition into their second career as pleasure/show horses?

Shaw: Be careful about where your horse goes. Finding a home for a horse is very easy. Finding a proper home is not. This horse, no matter at what level it competed, ran its heart out for you. Check references and be sure that the people are qualified and knowledgeable about horses. In addition, as in the case of The Wife, if the horse's form deteriorates for no apparent reason, it's trying to tell you something. Don't "drain the lemon". Give the horse a chance at another career.

TDN: Once a horse is retired from racing and is in a new home, do you have any advice for helping the horse get acclimated to the new lifestyle?

Shaw: Treat it with respect, but don't fear it because it's a "hot" Thoroughbred. Remember where it has come from. It's trained for speed, is fed a high-energy diet, and for the most part, has limited turnout. On the other hand, the track is full of noises. For example, what track do you know of that has a train that runs right through the stable area? We have that at Monmouth. This is in addition to the cars, trucks, trailers, loudspeakers and every conceivable noise you can imagine. If a horse can get used to that, your barn with the scary vertical is a piece of cake. Use common sense and listen to the horse. It will tell you.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Guest Post: The Growth of Suburbia and the End of Racing

--Mark Cramer

What if there’s a hidden connection between the gradual banishment of horse racing from public-media consciousness and the gradual banishment of agriculture from suburban areas?
I visit two daughters who live in suburbia and I see no farms around, and no horses. Since the 1950s, little by little, suburban farmland was sold to housing tract developers, while local communities were not able to, or did not want to, keep farms around. Ironically, the ideology of suburbia, that is, to be closer to “Nature,” was actually a way to eliminate a more authentic type of nature from the landscape.

In most suburban areas, children grow up seeing thousands of cars zooming by per day, and not a single horse. No wonder NASCAR makes more sense to them than the Triple Crown.
Of course, the consequences of this evolution go beyond racing. Local agriculture (called ‘periurban’ in France) means less transport of food and fewer inputs, and therefore less use of fuel and less pollution.

In France, we have the AMAPs, a loose network of “Associations for the Maintaining of Peasant Agriculture,” whose principle is “to create direct links between food producers and consumers.” In the USA, farmers’ market networks operate in a similar way. Accompanying this structure, periurban agriculture reintroduces farming to suburban areas. The food tastes better and the environment gains a few lengths.

Horse farms and riding stables have also been the victim of expanding suburbia. Back in 1999, the New York Times’ Long Island Journal wrote that “suburbia puts the squeeze on horse country.” A 2006 edition of Savvy Equestrian referred to the fact that “horse farm owners are suddenly surrounded by suburban home owners with idealized notions about rural life and who object to the realities of adjacent farms and stables.”

The American Farmland Trust wrote that “every year in the U.S., more than 6 million acres of agricultural land, an area the size of Maryland, are lost to development.”

But nowadays, increasing numbers of citizens are trying to reverse the trend, with projects for urban and suburban agriculture. In “Lawn to Farm: Suburbia’s Silver Lining,” Wylie Harris writes that, “without some miraculous new energy source, muscle power could soon again be a cheaper alternative to fossil fuels.” Articles abound about individuals and families who are turning their static lawns into active farmland.  

Back in the late 1970s when I first heard of an oil crisis, I took off for a year outside Los Angeles, on a small farm. At the start I applied for a license, but the Department of Agriculture rep told me, with a broad grin on his face, that my place was far too small, and too primitive. “Just go ahead and sell your fruit, vegetables and eggs to Korean grocers. No need for a license.” 

Jared Flesher’s film, The Farmer and the Horse: a new generation of farmers, tractors optional follows three young people trying to get into agriculture in New Jersey, each of whom has a passion for working with horses. This DVD will probably fall through the cracks, and the reviews are sparse and mixed, but it’s another piece in an expanding network of experiments with renewing small farms in places where farms have been pushed out.

I cannot prove that new generations, if exposed to farms in the neighborhood and horses on the farms will be more likely to partake of the thrills of horse racing. But the connection is there. A 2009 seminar in Michigan called Horses and the Environment was purposely scheduled on the first Saturday in May, so that the participants could view the Kentucky Derby.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Thewifedoesntknow: Training Blog, Week 3

Part 4 in a weekly series of training blogs about Thewifedoesntknow, a Thoroughbred mare made famous by a viral Monmouth Park YouTube video and who is now in training to be a show hunter with New Jersey-based trainer Carole Davison.

When I walked into the barn at San Sue Acres in Howell, NJ, I was greeted by the familiar, friendly face of Thewifedoesntknow. After just three weeks of training, she had the appearance of a seasoned pro. While she was tacked up, she nonchalantly stood on the cross ties, with one hind foot cocked, as if she had lived at the barn all her life. Ally-Gator then went through a series of elaborate yawns and kept her ears perked toward me with casual curiosity.

My favorite part of trainer Carole Davison's tackup routine is just before bridling: after removing the halter, Carole gently cradles the mare's face, lightly massaging her delicate cheeks. With each training session, Ally is learning that this is a time to relax and to prepare for work.

When I looked at Carole's latest training notes, I saw a really nice balance between patience and ambition. She introduced Ally to new things when the mare showed her that she was ready.

On June 27, Ally was so balanced and confident that Carole took her over a little cross rail. The first time in, she was a little green in her approach, wiggling a little to the left and the right.  The second time, she was straighter, but tapped the rail with her feet on the way over.  The next time, she went straighter, and she jumped up bringing her body off the ground, rounding her back without lifting her shoulders or hips.  The final time, she relaxed and took the crossrail very quietly, her thick tail flipping up with her hind end, and she cantered softly away from the jump.

On July 4, they embarked on their first trail ride at the local reservoir, accompanied by Liz, Carole's daughter, and Suzie, Carole's Thoroughbred jumper mare. The mares took turns leading and encountered the many new sights and sounds, from dogs to bicycles to joggers.

For each of these exciting landmark rides, Carole puts in twice as many confidence-building rides. There are days when the mare needs consistent work, schooling with the leg and rein aids, and these rides make her light, forward, and ready for the next steps.

While Carole warmed Ally up for our photo session last Friday, I could already see positive changes in her demeanor since the last time I saw them work. She was more confident in her new job, and that confidence translated into a more relaxed, supple topline and a more steady rhythm in her gaits.
 Ally began her trot work eagerly and a little rushed. Rather than relying on rein aids alone, Carole slowed the tempo of her posting and the mare responded by relaxing into her trot. Like Tiffany Catledge's training sessions during the Retired Racehorse Training Project Trainer's Challenge, Carole worked diligently to ask her mare to loosen her topline and encouraged the mare to work long and low.
I saw glimmers of Ally learning to telescope her neck and engage her hind end.
 In addition to working on contact, Carole also introduced Ally to work on a loose rein. It was a good way to monitor the mare's self carriage and it encouraged her to learn how to travel with different amounts of rein contact.
 Sometimes, Ally rushed a little with her new-found freedom, and sometimes, she stretched into the bit, chewing thoughtfully.
Ally stepped into a nice canter from a trot, properly picking up both leads with the guidance of her trainer. She looked a little more balanced to the right.

 Carole cooled the mare out at a relaxed trot, working on some big circles and stretch work, and then they walked to finish up the ride.

 Farrier Craig Farrell shod Ally last Friday. With the first shoeing, he already began to bring her toes back and work on her heels. They took off her hind shoes; it looks like she will be able to stay barefoot behind for now. Carole said that she stocked up just a little bit in her hind legs, which is not uncommon for horses who are off the track and have had hind shoes for a while.
 Ally continues to gain weight and muscle. She was in very good condition when she retired from racing, with excellent muscle tone and good weight, but now the work will begin to build her topline and hind end. I can already see a little more rounding in the muscling in her hind end.

Please stay tuned each Wednesday for more updates and interviews from the connections of this promising mare.