Vic Zast

From the perspective of being an owner, an industry pioneer in corporate sponsorship, a track president and fan, Vic Zast writes the "Destinations" column for The Blood-Horse. His five-star ratings of international events have shed light on racing in all corners of the globe - from England, Australia, Hong Kong, Dubai to Japan.

Vic is a regular contributor to, a columnist for the Illinois Racing News and has written on racing for, National Public radio and The Age, Australia's leading daily.

Vic makes his home in Chicago and lives in Saratoga Springs in August.

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Rare Display of Sportsmanship Down Under

A real rarity occurred in Australia a top thoroughbred was sold for $22 million to a breeding operation and hes going to be kept racing.

Coolmore lost the bidding to Darley for a half interest in Haradasun, a two-time graded stakes winner at the prestigious Autumn Festival in Sydney, but co-owner Frank Tagg decided that his group would rather keep the three-year-old bay son of Fusaichi Pegasus racing than have the $8 million extra that Sheikh Mohammed offered. Darleys plans were to retire Haradasun immediately.

Tagg and Coolmore are planning to race Haradasun in the Group I Cox Plate at Moonee Valley this October and perhaps once more Down Under this fall. They then want to travel the horse to Dubai for the World Cup or the Duty Free, to England for Royal Ascot, to France for the Prix de lArc de Triomphe, and, finally, to Santa Anita for the Breeders Cup.

If Haradasun even makes it to two or three of these races, hell be a true world-class superstar. But, as for now, for simply being sportsmen, Tagg and his partners are.

Written by Vic Zast

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Friday, June 29, 2007

Few Foes to Choose from

Octave, second to Rags to Riches in the Kentucky Oaks, runs on Saturday in the $250,000 Grade 1 Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont Park against only three challengers. Then Corinthian, heir apparent to Invasor as Americas top handicap horse, takes on five other horses in the $600,000 Grade 1 Suburban.

Neither horse is a world-beater. But, from the number of their foes, youd think they were invincible.

Its no wonder that Belmont Park will be lucky to attract 8,000 fans to its stands on Saturday. Sure, there are full fields of eight to 10 horses for most of the races on the support card. But even in the $65,000 Say Florida Sandy Stakes, the third stakes race on the afternoon, there are only six contestants.

It must be harder to find a good horse than imagined. Only finding a stakes race in New York which affords you a good chance to make money by betting is more difficult.

Written by Vic Zast

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Defining the “Super Horse”

Invasors sudden departure from racing brings to mind some interesting what ifs and too bads. What if Barbaro wasnt injured in the Preakness could he have beaten Invasor in the Breeders Cup Classic? Too bad Invasor didnt last long enough to face Street Sense and Curlin was he truly the super horse when testing his skills against the best of another generation?

Well, what makes a super horse is defined by all kinds of criteria. Invasor did indeed win 11 of 12 career starts and was Horse of the Year on two continents. Born in Argentina and victorious in all three Triple Crown races in Uruguay, Invasor offered the charisma of a soccer star to all South America. Owned by a sheikh from Dubai, he won, in his last horse race ever (the Dubai World Cup), on the same sandy soil that he lost his only horse race ever (the UAE Derby to Discreet Cat).

Regardless, Invasor never warmed American hearts to the extent of a horse he defeated - Bernardini. And, he had the unfortunate bad timing to race in the era of Barbaro, an icon. He didnt run very fast. He wasnt flashy in the same way as Secretariat. He just figured out the way to win.

Kiaran McGlaughlin said, Hes obviously the best horse Ill ever train. Was he the best horse you ever saw?

Written by Vic Zast

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

American Trainers Look North in Search of Easy Money

Is there an easier $1 million purse to win than the Queens Plate? Restricted to Canadian-bred three-year-olds, North Americas oldest stakes is the equivalent of a high-class state-bred allowance race.

The Queens Plate, Canadas Kentucky Derby, will be run at Woodbine Racecourse outside of Toronto this Sunday and trainers of three American-raced runners will be making the trip north with eligible, albeit questionably-qualified, contenders.

Jiggs Coz, a locally-based charcoal grey horse that easily won the Plate Trial Stakes at Woodbine on June 3, will be the favourite. But dont be surprised if the Kiaran McGlaughlin-trained Daaher, a son of 1997 Queens Plate winner Awesome Again, pulls an upset. Daaher has won only a maiden race at Belmont, although hes owned by the mighty Dubai-owned Shadwell Stable and has the look of a horse to watch in the division this late summer and fall.

If Daaher wins big on Sunday, McGlaughlin will be facing the choice of keeping his horse north of the border for Canadas remaining Triple Crown races or bringing him back to the States to run in the Jim Dandy, Haskell or Travers. Then, of course, if Daaher loses on Sunday, hell still be eligible for non-winners of one other than.

At 10-1, hes worth a two-nie.

Written by Vic Zast

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Hall Buys into Pitino as Speaker

The National Museum of Racing in Saratoga Springs, NY announced yesterday that Rick Pitino, owner of stakes winners AP Valentine, Halory Hunter and The Groom is Red, will be its featured speaker at this years Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, scheduled for August 6.

Pitino became interested in thoroughbred ownership when he coached the University of Kentucky basketball team a dozen years ago. He fell prey to the recruiting tactics of Lexington horse sellers then and, as a result, today, as coach at the University of Louisville, also operates Ol Memorial Stable with horses in the care of four trainers.

Like some of the teams that Pitino has led, the Museum has had bad years and good years with its induction ceremony speakers. Some, like entertainer David Cassidy, have been merely cheerleaders. Others, like Tom Durkin, were comedians. Given the PPs on Pitino, its more likely, however, that hell rank with Frank Deford and D. Wayne Lukas among the best that the Halls had by the time that his speech is over.

Regardless of what Pitino says, like a gangly high school point guard, youre going to buy whatever hes selling.

Written by Vic Zast

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