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Friday, May 28, 2010


Return of the Belmont


Star Wars, Episode IV, A New Hope, Luke Skywalker finds out who he is, blows up the Death Star.

Star Wars, Episode V, The Empire Strikes Back, Han Solo frozen, Luke loses a hand, Darth Vader owns up to his paternity and foils the Rebel’s chance at the Triple Crown.

Star Wars, Episode VI, The Return of the Jedi, Luke comes into his own, fails to cede his soul to the Dark Side, Vader redeems himself by throwing the Emperor down, down, down.

Things are just better in threes. Trust me, I went to college.
Trilogies, the ultimate three-act play, are the construct for the best drama. First act sets up characters, ends on a high note. The second act puts our protagonist in a compromising position begging the question: How will he get out of THIS jam? Act Three pits good and evil against one another one last time.

The Kentucky Derby gave us a new hero in Super Saver (Super Light Saber?). Well, when Super Saver Struck Back there was no amount of Viagra to spring him back to life. Stablemate Devil May Care said, “I love you.” To which Super Saver was quoted as saying, “I know,” this before being frozen and sent to Pletcher the Hut.

The Third Act can make or break the season. The Matrix Trilogy told us, if anything, that the first movie was head and shoulders the best. Reminds me a lot of the 2006 Triple Crown season. Derby (Barbaro, great first movie). Preakness (Paging, Dr. Richardson). Jazil (Bravo! Neo is Jesus. Nice sunset, by the way.)

Spider Man! He’s always been my favorite hero, he wins by a nose over Batman. Here’s a case where the first movie was decent, followed by a killer second movie, with a third that lost its identity with too many villains and too much hubris. How do you waste a villain like Venom on Topher Grace by sharing the stage with Lowell from Wings? This was one of the all-time worst casting disasters right up there with George Clooney as Batman and Scarlett Johansson as a bad-ass-in-a-push-up-bra in Ironman 2.

The Spiderman Trilogy is a lot like the 2009 Triple Crown season. The underdog comes through the mud in Act One, and he’s a gelding! Horse racing has a new hero who can’t possibly be ushered off to the breeding shed. At least he’s gone on to win more races since then ... hmmm ...

Spider Man 2 is when Mary Jane finds out that Peter Parker is Spider Man. Great, great movie. One of my all-time favorite scenes. Reminds me of the 2009 Preakness with Rachel Alexandra fending off the Little Gelding That Could.

Naturally the 2009 Belmont was somewhat uninspiring with Tim Ice’s former prodigy Summer Bird sweeping past Dunkirk and Mine That Bird to win the Belmont. (Perhaps I’m bitter because I had written down my picks for the Pick 3 ending on the Belmont without placing the bet. For $1 it paid close to $1,200.)
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With the Third Act just a week away, what are we to expect? If you love Return of the Jedi, you’re likely to forget about Endor and the Ewoks. If you hated Return of the Jedi, you’re likely to flog George Lucas for Ewoks, Endor, and not enough Princess Leia in her slave bikini.

The casting call for the Return of the Belmont this year would start with Dale Romans as Luke Skywalker. Let’s get him a black robe.

In this instance, with two horses and the likely favorite, Nick Zito has to be the villain with Ice Box, who just whipped through a half-mile at the Oklahoma Training Track in 46.65, and Fly Down.

“He finished with good energy,” said Zito of Ice Box, “and he looked good doing it. That’s the main thing. Sometimes you got to have a little zip in him, even if he’s going a mile and a half. This is the exact workout he had coming into the Kentucky Derby. Hopefully, everything goes good.”

Make Music for Me trainer, Alexis Barba, will play Leia. Fortunately for Barba, she missed kissing her brother in the first act since she wasn’t adequately cast. Romans and Barba? Spinoff television series.

Let’s give Han Solo to Kiaran McLaughlin. Uptowncharlybrown can be Chewbacca.

There was the Bourne Trilogy, Austin Powers, and others. The third leg is rarely the strongest no matter how powerful the story. Matrix Revolutions? The Bourne Ultimatum? Goldmember? Revenge of the Sith? Godfather III?

The precedent for a solid third leg is weak. Will we get Ewoks or Lando Calrissian blasting out of an exploding Death Star? Can there be a harmonious end with the ghosts of Obi Wan Kenobi, Yoda, and Anikin Skywalker laughing at the final barbeque?

The last time we saw anything of the kind was a long time ago at a racetrack far, far away.

Brendan O’Meara blogs about horse racing here at HRI and at The Carryover. He also blogs about narrative nonfiction and his book project “Six Weeks in Saratoga” at The Blog Itself. His Web site is http://www.brendanomeara.com.

Written by Brendan O'Meara

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Friday, May 14, 2010


You’re the Preakness, and you’re worth it!


SARATOGA SPRINGS — In response to someone's comment that a Pick 4 was hit on The Carryover: was this a first? I'll give you the short answer-yes.

The Carryover 2.0's most recent column gave you this year's winner of the Kentucky Derby. It would seem that The Carryover plus Good Ol' Pete is the exacta you've been waiting for.

My man! Calvin Borel. He's a stud. He's a Derby hit man. You want to slay that race you best get him on your horse. Also, here's a clue to other jockeys with live horses: try riding the shortest distance around the track. It takes NFL coaches one week to start copy-catting their competition. What's taking riders with live mounts so long to figure out that the rail rules? I'm no scientician, but c'mon people.

I feel bad for The Preakness. It's seems to be the red-headed stepchild of the Triple Crown, the estranged middle child. This despite the fact that it almost always gets the Derby winner.
The Kentucky Derby is the confident older child, has intelligent conversations with the adults, occasionally babysits.

The Belmont simply hangs out. It gets more attention should there be a Triple Crown on the line. I should say that it demands the most attention as the baby of the family. The parents had their tubes tied, or severed, or abstained, or found something better to do than sleep with one another after the Belmont. As a result there is no Quadruple Crown with a fourth leg being a quarter-mile sprint. Maybe Spanish Chestnut could win that race.

Oh, but the Preakness. It sits around, lights fireworks, fires bottle rockets at squirrels, gives wedgies to the Belmont, and gets the hand-me-downs from Churchill—namely the Derby winner, but also Gayego. Sounds like a too-small pair of Osh-Kosh overalls.

So what if the Pimlico grandstand looks like Shutter Island. So what if Tiger Woods couldn’t find a mistress there. However, there is one monster that shows up year in and year out.

Mike Gathagan, press secretary for Pimlico and Laurel, is a stud. He puts on a helluva show for media types like myself.

Is the Preakness really that bad? Hell, no. (Why is it so easy to make fun of? Am I alone? Despair.com: If you find yourself struggling with loneliness, you’re not alone. Yet you are alone. So very alone.)

How about the last ten Preaknesses?

2009: Rachel ... mmmm, hmmmm.
2008: Big Brown romp, Kent Desormeaux looking through his legs.
2007: Street Sense v. Curlin.
2006: Bernardini win overshadowed by Barbaro suicide attempt.
2005: Afleet Alex clips heels with Scrappy T.
2004: Smarty Jones breaks a record.
2003: Funny Cide makes Barclay Tagg even MORE uncomfortable.
2002: War Emblem makes his infertility even more staggering.
2001: Point Given bounces back.
2000: Fu-Peg flops.

This is a great race with epic stories and memories. How spectaculous have those runnings been? Four had Triple Crown bids, two won the Preakness and Belmont (Afleet Alex and Point Given). Curlin nearly did.

And this year it looks as if there will be yet another full field. New shooters, Derby returnees and the perfunctory Maryland-based horse (hey, the Pittsburgh Pirates are given a slot on the All Star Team, right?).

It looks like Mr. Bo-Rail will have yet another shot at winning this thing with the Derby winner. He won on Rachel from Post 13 yet got nosed by the Rick James Superfreak Curlin in 2007.

What are we to make of this year’s renewal? Seems kind of boring. Super Saver isn’t exactly this eye-popping specimen. His name is lame and he came into the Derby out of the Pletcher Machine, which automatically makes him speak in monotones. Perhaps I should be rooting for WinStar since, it is my belief, WinStar folks or WinStar sympathizers live right near me here in Saratoga Springs. The SUV’s that pull out of the driveway all have that logo on their front license plates.

This I do know: if Super Saver doesn’t win this race the Belmont will be the weakest edition since Barbaro wussed out and Bernardini said, “Eh,” in 2006. Who remembers that wonderful little tike named Jazil. That’s right, only Kazua Fujisawa, the trainer of Casino Drive who shares the same Muddah, Better Than Honour, as Jazil and Rags to Riches. How’d that work out? Sweet hoof problem morning of the 2008 Belmont. Big Brown looked mighty scary that day. By the way, nice bid in the Dubai World Cup.

Is it in bad taste to taunt a horse?

The Preakness should not be known solely for its party. It's time we give it some self esteem and take it off its medication.

So what if you're shorter than the Derby and not as big as the Belmont? You're the Preakness, and you're worth it!

Brendan O’Meara blogs about horse racing here at HRI and at The Carryover. He also blogs about narrative nonfiction and his book project “Six Weeks in Saratoga” at The Blog Itself. His Web site is http://www.brendanomeara.com.

Written by Brendan O'Meara

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Friday, April 30, 2010


The Carryover 2.0 presented by Yum!


The Kentucky Derby, the only thing presented by Yum! that tastes better than a Grilled Stuft Burrito is here. Go on, pat yourself on the back, you made it!

The blinkers are off now. Lookin’ at Lucky will be buried faster than Tony Soprano (yes, I think Tony got it in the end). Todd Pletcher’s two minutes will potentially make the next 525,598 minutes agonizing. And the weather could bring in another 50-1 bomb (any closers out there who like the mud, this may be the time to spread a few bucks over those nukes.)

Devil May Care gets five pounds on the rest of the field and she has the co-highest Beyer Speed Figure in the field with Sydney’s Candy—the only two to hit 100.

What!?

There’s only two horses in the field of the Kentucky Derby with 100 Beyer? It happened!
This field is as inspiring as a prison sentence so what are we to do? Why not think of all the things we can in two minutes.

Lose your shirt.

Eliminate Stately Victor, Dean’s Kitten, Paddy O’Prado, and Conveyance from you selections.

Second guess Conveyance (394 Tomlinson figure).

Think about speed horses like Smarty Jones and what they can do in a sloppy Derby.

Find Calvin Borel.

Lose your virginity.

Pound a mint julep.

Question all the your bad decisions.

Watch the final 10 seconds of an NBA playoff game.

Watch the final two minutes of a World Cup soccer match.

Watch an Albert Pujols home run.

Take a look at those lovely ladies in their big hats in the Churchill Downs clubhouse.

Think about how Eskendereya would’ve Big Browned this field if his leg didn’t swell faster than Mike Iavarone’s ego.

Box two classy speed horses and two closers (Smarty Jones-Lion Heart-Imperialism-Limehouse).

That means Sydney’s Candy-Super Saver-Ice Box-Devil May Care. And don’t forget Dublin.

Line of David is sired by Lion Heart.

American Lion is not sired by Lion Heart.

Think about Jackson Bend and that his last two losses came against Eskendereya. JB has never finished worse than second.

Second place is the first loser. No Fear.

Save 15 percent on your car insurance.

Rethink the direction of this column.

You know it’s a lousy Derby when the biggest headline is “Lookin’ At Lucky draws the rail.” Really?

A lot of guff has been made that a horse hasn’t won from Post 1 since Ferdinand (and we all know where he ended up. Too soon?).

Let’s look at Post 1 of the past ten renewals West Side Bernie, Cool Coal Man, Sedgefield, Jazil, Sort It Out, Limehouse, Supah Blitz, Johannesburg, Songandaprayer, and Anees. Three of these horses finished fourth. Not too bad.

Then, of course, there’s “Todd’s Wad.” Perhaps that’s inappropriate, but, hey, this is the Internet. I cite the June 29, 2004, 5-4 Supreme Court decision in Ashcroft v. ACLU, II. Moving on ...

Even if Pletcher wins he will be 1-for-28. Gotta start somewhere. And how would you rank his horses? The filly is the fastest. Super Saver has the best jockey and an impressive win over the surface as a two year old. Misison Impazible is well-rested and Discreetly Mine is, um, also well rested.

Borel has a shot at saving ground and being in a spot as comfortable as Edgar Prado was aboard Barbaro in 2006. Devil May Care ran a faster nine furlongs than Ice Box did on the same Gulfstream card. That was a long time ago so she will have been recovered from that 100 Beyer. I’d be very surprised if she’s not in the Top 3.

It’s easy to over think this race. They are all very nice horses, all great athletes worthy of our respect, shpect!

But let’s whittle it down.

Twenty horses. Let’s scratch all the horses who are turf/Polytrack horses. That’s Dean’s Kitten, Paddy O’Prado, Make Music for Me, and Stately Victor.

Sixteen horses. Now let’s scratch the horses who have yet to crack a 95 Beyer as a three year old. That’s Jackson Bend, Mission Impazible, Discreetly Mine, Backtalk, and Homeboykris.

Down to 11 horses. American Lion was on the Santa Anita track, exploded forward on dirt, and will now bounce like Pioneerof the Nile.

Down to 10. Half the field is gone already!

Sidney’s Candy is good, but he’s not Big Brown breaking from grandstand. Lata!

Down to nine. Who’s left? Lookin’ At Lucky, Ice Box, Noble’s Promise, Super Saver, Line of David, Devil May Care, Conveyance, Awesome Act, and Dublin.

Line of David has only one win on dirt—a big one, but only one win and one start. Strike.

Devil May Care is faster than Ice Box. Scratch Ice Box.

Conveyance is going to face an eager Joe Talamo aboard Sydney’s Candy. Scratch Conveyance.

Noble’s Promise couldn’t close into a 46 half-mile pace in Arkansas. Strike.

Dublin lacks the killer instinct. He looks like Curlin. They share the same daddy, but he’s no Curlin. I truly applaud D. Wayne Lukas for keeping Dublin sound through his two-year-old year and getting him to the gates for the Derby (Think about that. This horse won the Hopeful and he’s in Louisville nine months later.) Strike.

Awesome Act slipped down in the Wood with a 93 Beyer. Can he blow up another 10 points or so? That’s a ton of improvement. I don’t see it happening here.

Three left. I’m not ruling out the filly. Won’t do it. Can’t do it.

Lookin’ At Lucky is doomed to finish fourth. Garrett Gomez will be buried. He thought he won this race last year when ...

Calvin Borel slipped on by.

Hmmm ... guess that leaves just one horse, eh?

Brendan O’Meara blogs about horse racing here at HRI and at The Carryover. He also blogs about narrative nonfiction and his book project “Six Weeks in Saratoga” at The Blog Itself. His Web site is http://www.brendanomeara.com.

Written by Brendan O'Meara

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