In this weekend’s action in the sport of Horse Racing, we focus in on Parx Park in Bethlehem, Pa. for the 2013 Pennsylvania Derby. Will Take Charge and Moreno who finished one-two, respectively, in a thrilling, yet very controversial Travers Stakes last month at Saratoga, will spearhead the $1 million, Grade: 2, nine furlong test on Saturday.
A total of eight were entered in the race, but let’s face it, all eyes will be on Will Take Charge and Moreno, who finished just noses apart in the Travers, when Will Take Charge used a furious late rally to catch Moreno about 2-3 strides from the wire.
After the race Moreno’s trainer Eric Guillot (upon advice from his brother) accused Will Take Charge’s jockey (Luis Saez) of using an electrical device on his horse during the last several yards of the race.
“After the Travers you can see Saez clearly take something from one hand, put it in the other and then tuck it under his saddle” Guillot said.
“To me, the horse was dead in the water four jumps out from the wire when he hit him with the machine, he surged,” Guillot added.
I was able to find (thanks to my buddy Nathan in Canada) a :51 second close up view of Saez during the gallop out. I apologize in advance that could not get the video itself to post, but here is the link: (and you may have to hit “reload”)
Travers Gallop Out
New York officials confirmed that they have received the complaint and are reviewing it, but would not disclose further details. Saez, a native of Panama, vehemently denied the accusations.
The other major race this weekend, also at ParxPark and one race before the Pennsylvania Derby, is the prestigious Cotillion Stakes for three year old fillies going a mile and a sixteenth.
Close Hatches, who is a winner of four of six career starts including a monster 7 ½ length win over Dreaming of Julia in the Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont Park (June 22) in her last, looks like the one to beat in that race.
I also expect good performances from My Happy Face, Sweet Lulu and especially Seaneen Girl.
Parx Racing – Saturday, September 21, 2013
Race 11 – 5:45 PM
Pennsylvania Derby (Grade: 2)
For Three Year Olds
One And One Eighth Miles
I Ortiz, Jr.
K P McLaughlin
E Plesa, Jr.
J L Ortiz
E J Guillot
T A Pletcher
J R Leparoux
M E Smith
Will Take Charge
D W Lukas
1) Will Take Charge – certainly appears to be coming into his own judging by his last two races (The Jim Dandy and the Travers).
In the Jim Dandy, at 18-1, he really didn’t get a great break and was fifth early on. But he launched a bid leaving the half mile pole and sustained it into deep stretch, coming up just a length shy of catching Belmont Stakes winnerPalace Malice in a very impressive performance (one I totally underrated).
In the prestigious Travers Stakes, and at 31-1, he ran an almost a duplicate race (except he had a good start). He started his run at about the three eighths pole, hung a little bit in mid stretch before exploding in the final 100 or so yards to get up by a nose.
Plus you have to like that 5 furlong work on the notoriously slow Saratoga training track last week too. (1:00.4)
I’m going to go ahead and take him as my pick (even though this race is crying out for a long-shot to win it) but I’m not completely sold that he is an elite three year old just yet…a very good one…yes….but championship material? Well, he’s going to have to prove that to me just a little bit more….and he could start on that by winning Saturday afternoon.
2) Moreno- speedy gelding by the wickedly fast Ghostzapper has improved leaps and bounds since shipping over from the west coast.
In his 4 subsequent races, he broke his maiden by 6 ¼ lengths, won the Grade: 2 Dwyer by 7, set the pace to deep stretch (albeit clearly tiring at the end) and hung on to finish third in the aforementioned Jim Dandy Stakes. He then lost an absolute heart breaker in the Travers, where he was allowed to coast along on an uncontested early lead only to get beat by the top pick in the final couple of strides.
“He’s doing very well; he’s better than he’s ever been,” said Eric Guillot, trainer of Moreno after watching his final work for this race, which was a strong five furlongs in :59.4.
“I I think he’s a good horse getting good at the right time. Whether he likes that surface, who knows? I wouldn’t trade places with any of them.” Guillot added.
Overall, I’m a little torn about this horse. On one hand, (for the most part) he looks to be the lone, dominant early speed and if he gets to coast along on an easy early lead again, he could be long gone late. But, on the other hand, he’s blown clear leads down the stretch in his last two races and in one of them (The Travers) he was cruising along early yet still got beat with no apparent excuses…grant it….the Travers is a furlong longer than this race but still…technically, he should have won that race but didn’t.
But what really seals the deal for me is this…..among all the controversy in the Travers, his big improvement since heading east, the lone speed in the race etc….the fact still remains that is 0 for 2 again Will Take Charge. I know both of those losses weren’t by much, but it looks like Will Take Charge is a slightly better horse right now.
3) Speak Logistics- shows 6 of 9 career starts on the board including his last which was a “just missed” second in the Smarty Jones Stakes over this very (albeit muddy) track in what was probably his best race to date.
So was it the ParxPark surface he liked or the muddy ParxPark surface he liked? Either way, based on his consistency (especially lately) he should hit the board again come Saturday.
Honorable Mentions: Fury Kapcori, remember that long-shot that I mentioned this race was crying out for? Well…It could be him…this colt, by game back to back Breeders Cup Classics winner Tiznow, ran a very good “just missed” second in a Del-Mar Stakes race in his last. I know he’s done most his running on the synthetic surface (Parx Park is conventional dirt), but a look back in his past performances shows a win in his one and only dirt try. Other than that, the only thing that stands out to me (negatively) is he’s never run this far in his entire career. But even that, when trainer Jerry Hollendorfer was asked about it said ““If I didn’t think he was ready to go a mile and an eighth, I wouldn’t have sent him.” Hollendorfer then added “He can be real tactical if we want him to be, lay back off the pace or show some speed if we want him to.”…I don’t know about you folks by I respect Hollendorfer immensely. Lastly, this horse ripped 5 furlongs in :59.2 at Hollywood Park which, in turn, signals readiness to me. Java’s War, hasn’t done all that much since his absolutely spectacular Bluegrass Stakes win back in April. In fact, coming towards the end of his three year old campaign (and two years of running) he’s hasn’t won over a traditional dirt surface yet….perhaps the trainer change (from Kenneth McPeek to Barclay Tagg) will wake him up again?
Record: 17-45 = 38%
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Little Bets N’ Pieces
**** On a personal note, I own a small piece of a horse entered in tomorrow’s (Saturday’s) second race at BelmontPark. King Kongrats will break from the #1 hole with apprentice rider Vargas aboard in a Maiden Special Weight six furlong sprint on the dirt. “King” is listed as an outsider at 20-1 on the morning line and will face seven others while making his racing debut. Post time is 1:36 PM (EST).
King Kongrats makes his racing debut on Saturday
**** Klassy Briefcase, a world record-setting sprinter, died this past Thursday at Old Friends, a Thoroughbred retirement home in Georgetown, Ky. She was 28.
Of the thousands of Thoroughbreds I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, Klassy Briefcase probably ranks #1 as the kindest, gentlest horse I’ve ever met. She ranks right up there with 3 year old colt champion Afleet Alex, stakes winner Eddington and champion older horse The Wicked North
I first laid eyes upon her back on a cold winter night in February of 2010 when my friend, and tour guide at Old Friends Tim from Indiana, was doing his normal good job of walking me around and showing me all the horses at Old Friends.
When we approached Klassy’s stall she had a farm hand trying to get some knots out of her mane. I approached her in the stall, and with her lazy bottom lip, she tucked her head under my arm….I was hooked immediately.
Of course, I stroked her head and neck and she just looked at me with these soulful eyes that I’ve never seen before or since….call me crazy but it was almost as if she was saying “please don’t hurt me”.
I stood there several minutes stoking her head, nose, and chin and she seemed to genuinely enjoy it.
I snuck away for a second and grabbed a bag of carrots. I expected her to get riled up when I returned with the bag but she didn’t….she just stood there…and again she looked at me with those amazing eyes and said “Listen, I can’t move because this person is brushing my mane, but can I have a carrot please?”….needless to say, I gave her 10-12.
From that night on we became fast friends, everytime I went to Old Friends i always tried to see “Klassy” first.
It always baffled me how this mare, who was so docile around people, was an absolute terror on the racetrack.
In 1990, she set a 5-furlong record at Pimlico in winning the Park Heights Handicap in :56 3/5. She went on to set a new world record at Monmouth going 5 furlongs in a mindboggling :54 4/5. She was an eight time stakes winner including the Primonetta Stakes, the Princess Rooney Stakes, and the Fair Haven Haven Handicap.
Overall, Klassy Briefcase won 18 of her 42 starts and earned $362,959. Her career is celebrated annually with the running of the Klassy Briefcase Stakes at MonmouthPark.
As a broodmare, she produced four winners including Bayakoa Handicap winner Briecat.
The chestnut mare was pensioned from breeding in 2008 and was donated to Old Friends by her owners.
“Klassy with a K was classy with a C as well,” said Old Friends president Michael Blowen. “Her intelligent demeanor and kind disposition made her one of Old Friend’s most popular retirees. She will be missed.”
Rest in peace Klassy Briefcase….your first name was very fitting.
Klassy Briefcase probably the most gentle horse I’ve ever been around.
**** 2012 two year old champion male Shanghai Bobby will make his first start in more than five months today (Friday) when he returns in the six and one half furlong, $100,000 Aljamin Stakes at Belmont Park.
It’s been a tough year for Shanghai Bobby. He came second in the Holy Bull Stakes January and fifth in the Florida Derby March 30, both at GulfstreamPark.
However he came out of the Florida Derby with a pelvic stress fracture that forced him to miss the Triple Crown races. With a strong performance Friday, Shanghai Bobby could target the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita or the Cigar Mile Handicap at Aqueduct Racetrack, trainer Todd Pletcher said.
“We’re very pleased with the way he has been coming back,” Pletcher said of Shanghai Bobby, who has been training at Saratoga. “He’s grown up a bit, and it’d be good to get him started on a positive note. The first thing we need to see is a solid run from him on Friday.”
“Even though it’s an overnight stakes, it drew a competitive field,” Pletcher added. “There are several nice horses in the race, and I hope (Shanghai Bobby) is not rusty and that he’s ready to go.”
2012 two year old colt champion Shanghai Bobby returns to the races on Friday at Belmont Park
**** In case you missed it, and I doubt you did, 2013 Horse of the Year Wise Dan set a track record while recording his ninth straight win in the Woodbine Mile last Sunday at Woodbine Racetrack.
With jockey John Velazquez aboard, Wise Dan cruised under the wire by three lengths and stopped the clock in an eye popping 1:31.3 for owner/breeder Morton Fink and trainer Charles LoPresti.
“He’s a dream come true,” LoPresti told TVG afterward. “He makes us very proud. What a wonderful horse!”
Velazquez, who took Wise Dan back to third position for most of the race early, called on the chestnut gelding at the top of the stretch and when he did Wise Dan just exploded into deep stretch where Velazquez, sensing the race was over and who kept looking around for the competition, just rode him to the wire almost easing up in the final strides .
“I compare it to the horse I sat on, Leroidesanimaux, when he won over here (in the Woodbine Mile), but I always said he was a freak,” Velazquez said. “This one is a much bigger freak than the other one. He’s a much better horse. Always wins. Horse of the Year, you can’t change that.
“The only thing that kind of concerned me a little bit, I think I did a little too much with him in the post parade. He was kind of quiet and then he broke well and I put him right behind the other two horses (Excaper and Dimension) and he got rank with me behind the other two horses and I thought, ‘Come on buddy, please come off the bridle a little bit.’
“Once he did that I waited until the five sixteenths pole and let him ease out from those two horses and as soon as he saw the wire he just went on.”
Za Approval was second, 1 1/4 lengths in front of Trade Storm who was third.
“I don’t have the right word to tell you how much it means to me,” Fink said. “He is a super horse but he’s there because Charlie takes care of him. When you handle a horse that can run like this, the temptation is to run him every couple of weeks. He is a money machine. It will never happen as long as Charlie and I have anything to do with him.”
“You try not to do too much with him, LoPresti said.”You just really got to keep him fresh between races. He is such an incredible workhorse that you don’t want to work him too many times and once you get him to this level you just got to maintain him”.
“I hope he is around for a lot more years, I tell you.”…so do I Mr. Lopresti…..so do I
**** Hopeful Stakes blowout winner Strong Mandate breezed (a bullet) half-mile in :47.2 last Friday at Churchill Downs, leaving trainer D Wayne Lukas impressed.
Strong Mandate went the first quarter of :24 1/5 and galloped out five furlongs in 1:00.1.
“I don’t time them, but when he went by me I thought it looked like a good little maintenance work and it was just about what we wanted,” Lukas said. “Then when I rode by the clocker on my saddle horse and was told he went seven-and-two, I was really surprised.”.
Lukas said he “wasn’t looking for anything special in the workout” but that’s exactly what it was as his gallop out time was nearly a full second (or almost 5 lengths) faster than the five-furlong work of 1:01 by Grand Giant, which was the best of 27 who went the same distance that morning.
“That horse has the ability to do that so easy,” Lukas added. “I don’t know if I’ve had one like him for a long time. It’s the same thing when he runs. You think he’s just in a high lope, like he was in the Hopeful. Next thing you know he’s up in :47-and-two.”
Lukas said Strong Mandate would probably have “a couple more” works at Churchill Downs before departing for New York to run in the Oct 2 Champagne Stakes at BelmontPark.
Thanks for reading…