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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, September 17, 2021 — The timing of the prep schedule could not be timed any better for the modern day horseman.

For those racing this weekend, it’s seven weeks to Breeders’ Cup which with a few exceptions will effectively conclude on October 9, leaving 27 or 28 days, depending on age, to the championships. The babies will be up first on Friday, November 5.

Speaking of babies, fillies and colts will be on display Saturday at Churchill Downs. The girls are up first in the G3 Pocahantas where brilliance will meet more brilliance and legitimate two-turn types. Part of that, as always, will pit precocity vs. experience.

In the filly event, the question is whether Hidden Connection is as good as her winning debut suggests–and just how does one equate 5-1/2 furlongs at Colonial Downs to 1-1/16 miles at Churchill, anyway?

Reylu Gutierrez had his filly stalking comfortably under his confident handling, drawing off as much the best, in hand at the post. Trainer Bret Calhoun is profitable first-time going long and her 47 1/5 blowout was third fastest of 110 juveniles to work the week of SEP 12.

The favorite for the G3 Iroquois Stakes is Stellar Tap, the colt who broke maiden impressively in Saratoga, giving all-time record setting Steve Asmussen career victory 9,446.

Stalking fast fractions throughout going 7 furlongs, he separated himself from the group when Ricardo Santana asked him soon after straightening away and the colt complied by 5-1/4 lengths, galloping out very well into the clubhouse turn. He’s worked purposefully four times since and owns a distance-meant, two-sided pedigree.

Our friends north of the border are giving lots of money away in a pair of Grade 1s, and don’t you know, a handful of Europeans are crossing the pond in search of black type and the money.

Walton Street is the 8-5 Canadian International favorite, trained by Charlie Appleby and will be ridden by Frankie Dettori. Not all Grade 1s are equal, of course, and the 7-year-old marathoner faced much better in both recent starts: Dubai’s Sheema Classic, won by highly rated Mishriff, was followed up by the Grosser Preis von Berlin, a German Group 1.

Prior to those two efforts he won three straight going a mile and a half, today’s trip. The Grade is not the incentive for the gelded import; it’s the $600,000. First-time Lasix comes with this classy package.

The big attraction in Toronto is the storied Woodbine Mile. Per usual, this renewal is an interesting, open scramble. Canadian and American Hall of Famer Mark Casse has three in here but Chad Brown’s Raging Bull is the 2-1 early line choice followed closely by Set Piece (5-2), a much improved gelding at 5.

In the Big Apple, the Jockey Club Oaks and Jockey Club Derby are on the docket. Appleby and Andre Fabre will saddle two of the seven ladies, while Appleby, Satoshi Kobayashi and Aidan O’Brien will have three of eight Derby entrants.

Yibir won a Group 2 at this trip at York recently and should appreciate the firmer American ground, looming a worthy favorite.



A: 7-Harajuka (4-1), 2-Higher Truth (3-1), 1-Creative Flair (7-2)

B: None

C: 6-Shantisara (7-2), 3-Baby Blythe (9-2)


A: 2-Yibir (2-1), 8-Bolshoi Ballet (5-2), 4-Soldier Ring (5-2)

B: 3-Tokyo Gold (8-1)

C: 6-Experienced (15-1)



A: 9-Hidden Connection (9-2), 5-Magestic d’Oro (8-1), 8-Miss Chamita (30-1)

B: None

C: 1-Code for Success (20-1), 3-Mama Rina (12-1), 4-Ontheonesandtwos (5-2)


A: 6-Stellar Tap (3-1), 5-Midnight Magnolia (12-1)

B: 9-Guntown (9-2), 8-Major General (4-1)

C: 4-Strike Hard (10-1), 3-Roger McQueen (10-1)



A: 2-Walton Street (8-5)

B: 6-Fantasioso (8-1), 3-Desert Encounter (3-1)

C: 1-Corelli (4-1), 8-English Conqueror (15-1)


A: 5-Set Piece (5-2), 3-March to the Arch (8-1)

B: 4-Ride a Comet (5-1), 7-Raging Bull (2-1)

C: 2-Olympic Runner (10-1)

This is a live column that will be upgraded regularly, and will include A-B-C betting grids for all six races.

All plays derived from these gradings should be at minimums available, notwithstanding win wagers at $2 level. When multiple horses are listed in any category, preferences read left to right. Churchill Downs and Woodbine will be posted shortly. Handicappers can adjust grades up or down, but not to exceed one level

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⚠ Before you comment

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10 Responses

  1. ? on why you rated Miss Chamita so highly John. I boxed her in the exacta for the fun of it all, but am curious at the 30-1 ML.

    (Senior moment keyboard error as Magnolia is only in the Iroguois. Just trying to keep the IRS auditors away from Hallandale, lol.)

    1. That’s OK, just corrected the colt race at CD; the Iroquois, not the Jockey Club Stakes, that’s NOV I think, off the top.
      As to your question; big improvement with blinkers/Lasix PLUS two-turn experience. 30-1 is laughable, whatever the company lines.

  2. Didn’t even notice what you picked up on. I only wanted to highlight that you have “Magnolia Midnight” as an A selection in the Pocahontas, and also posted “Midnight Magnolia” as an A selection in the Iroguois. Pete and Repeat, Repeat and Pete?

    P.S. Your finished out well comments on today’s FRA post have me recalling past columns from Mark Berner. I sincerely hope that he is in good health and doing well of late. A good man, and I understand his exit from HRI. Should the sport ever rid itself of all the self inflicted abuse, maybe one fine day he’ll return. Unlike many, Mark’s issues were never partisan.

    1. Exchanged many tests with Mark this week. He’s doing well, growing his vegetables and downloading his blues tunes. Will tell you asked.

      You buried the lede, should have pointed out my error sooner! Anyway, made the correction; thanks for the heads up.

      Think my handicapping subconscious is trying to tell me something?

  3. Here come the Brits on Turf Routes just like chosen mercenary sharpshooters connections with their jockey and trainer ! Why do they have so much success in these races ? Is it the soft traning,light schedule, different diets,breeding ? What are these trainers doing differently ? With speed being so prevalent in most races,I hope that they will have less ‘ Fortune ‘ in both races,nothing against them,of course, but if their batting average is so good why don’t they stay in the USA longer or at least for the summer- fall ,unless they got larger purses awaiting them in Europe ? I know,traveling is a bitch but with the ever present big races on Turf on this side of the Atlantic it Has to be worthwhile for some British connections.. Am I wrong ? That Belmont turf looks attractive,or is it just my discriminate glasses ?

  4. No question that money is the big attraction here, and that trend will continue. The prestige events for the Euros remain in Europe that’s why they return home. It’s a shorter season over there and drugs are less prevalent nut their horses are trained with stamina in mind and Euro pedigrees on balance are healthier and less speed oriented. Like Americans, Euro horses could need a run coming off a long layup but generally lack sharpness, not stamina. Like it or not, the trend in international in scope and foreign horses, most especially on grass, make the American sport better.

    1. Excuse my ignorance on races that I would not bet But what are ‘ Waiver Maiden Claiming ‘ races ? Any similarities with optional claimers in Allowance races? Saw it today at Churchill Downs.Something recent ?

      1. It’s meant for horses coming off long layoffs in which trainer is allowed to place the horse in the claiming level of his choice, usually a lot lower, and gets one free shot and not to be claimed from the comeback race. Next time out, usual claiming rules apply.

  5. Thanks x the info ! Kind of trying to win a race even if the horse could be claimed,or.. ” It’s Now or Never ” as Elvis sang that adaption of ” O Sole Mio “.🐴🐎

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